Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Girl barred from British Government job...because she is English

A teenage science student has been banned from applying for a training programme with the Environment Agency because she is white and English. The recruitment agency handling the scheme told Abigail Howarth, 18, that there was no point in her submitting an application because of her ethnic background. But bizarrely she could have applied if she had been white and Welsh, Scottish or Irish.

Abigail, who wanted to join the Agency's flood management programme, saw an advert in a local newspaper offering positions in the Anglia region where she lives, complete with a o13,000-a-year tax-free grant. It made no mention of the ban on white English applicants, merely noting that candidates from ethnic minorities, such as "Asian, Indian' and "White Other, e.g. Irish, Welsh, Scottish', were encouraged to put themselves forward.

Abigail, of Little Straughton, Bedfordshire, said: "I was really disappointed. To be told being "White English" ruled me out in my home county shocked me. I know why there are positive action training schemes to assist those who are genuinely discriminated against but when it's broken down to this level it seems crazy to me. "I really wanted to work for the agency and I was very excited - followed by feeling very disappointed. "I would not have minded had I been beaten for the position by somebody better able than me."

Abigail, who is awaiting the results of A-Levels in environmental science, geography and geology, emailed PATH National Ltd, the company handling applications. She asked: "Am I correct in assuming that as I am English (White) I need not apply as the preference is for the minorities you have listed, or can I apply anyway?' Three days later, PATH recruitment officer, Bola Odusi, replied: "Thank you for your enquiry unfortunately the traineeship opportunity in ... targeted towards the ethnic minority group to address their under representations in the professions under the Race Relations Act amended 2000."

Such a policy may breach Race Relations legislation as employers must prove ethnic groups are under-represented before using positive discrimination strategies. The Environment Agency admitted it had 'no evidence that white Welsh, Scottish or Irish workers were under-represented' in the Anglia region.

South West Bedfordshire Tory MP Andrew Selous said: "I think this is complete nonsense and the Environment Agency should be taking the best people, irrespective of their background. "This is obviously borne out of some idiotic quota system. Abigail should have been able to apply and been judged on her own merits. I will raise this when I have a meeting with the Environment Agency next month."

PATH National's organisational development manager, Mary McDowell, said: "The "White Welsh", "White Irish" and "White Scottish" is a technicality in law - if they are a minority, they are entitled to places on these schemes - they are not part of the majority group, which is "White English". "The "White English" in this area are the majority group and hence could not apply. "That is the way the law is laid. This is a chance for people who might be less employable to gain experience, just experience. Public-sector organisations have a duty to ensure they reflect the make-up of the society they serve."

The Environment Agency says 387 of its 12,000 workers claim BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) status. A spokesman added: "The Commission for Racial Equality has confirmed we are acting legally." A CRE spokeswoman said: "The Commission will be checking with the Environment Agency to clarify the current situation regarding their positive action initiatives. "Positive action can only be used to encourage or train particular under-represented groups."


Police seek 14 who escaped British immigration centre

Police using dogs and a helicopter were last night still searching for 14 detainees who escaped from a troubled immigration centre in Oxfordshire. Officers in riot gear were called to disturbances at the Campsfield House centre after a fire was started near propane gas canisters outside the kitchen on Saturday. In the aftermath, 26 inmates escaped but 12 were caught.

Tensions over conditions had been growing all week. Detainees held a one-day hunger strike and twice refused to return to their rooms at night. Problems had been increasing since Campsfield started to house foreign prisoners awaiting deportation, alongside people still appealing for asylum. One inmate said detainees evacuated from the main building had forced open a gate in the perimeter fence. "Some of them set a fire by the gas canisters as a decoy. The alarms went off and as soon as they took us outside, people were climbing over the fence and pushing at the gate. The guards were caught with their pants down; they didn't know what to do."

Superintendent Robin Rickard, of Thames Valley Police, said: "I urge members of the public to contact us immediately if they see anyone they believe could be one of those involved." Damian Green, the shadow Immigration minister, said: "This is an inevitable consequence of the Government filling immigration detention centres with foreign prisoners they have failed to deport. Until the Government gets a grip on prison overcrowding, the problems will continue to spill over and cause dangerous tensions in immigration detention centres."

After a fire and riot at Campsfield this March, in which several staff and detainees were injured, a Home Office report concluded that overcrowding, poor physical conditions and bureaucratic delays could lead to more rioting at such centres. It also warned that foreign prisoners may be tempted to join in disturbances because, facing deportation, they consider they have little to lose. Campsfield, formerly a young offenders' institution, has been prone to rooftop protests, riots and hunger strikes since it was converted into an immigration detention centre in 1993.

It is the only one of Britain's 10 immigration detention centres to be run by the American company Global Expertise in Outsourcing (GEO). The company also has a contract to run a "migrant operations centre" at the US prison camp in Guantanamo Bay. GEO describes itself as a "world leader in the privatised management of correctional facilities". But campaigners say that conditions in Campsfield have deteriorated since GEO took over, and warned that this weekend's uprising was unlikely to be the last. Bob Hughes, of the Campaign to Close Campsfield, said: "Since GEO arrived, there has been a marked reduction in the association time for detainees, and a deterioration in both food and medical attention."

Built to hold 196 prisoners, the centre is almost always at full capacity, with reports of three or four detainees in cells designed for one. A detainee said: "There are three of us in my cell with no ventilation. We are just boiling in here. This is worse than prison. At least in prison you know when you're getting out; here we don't know where we stand."

Donna Covey, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: "Reports keep telling us Campsfield and other detention centres are horrible so it is not surprising that these people - who are often detained for long periods - are desperate to escape." Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrat MP whose Oxford West and Abingdon constituency includes the Campsfield centre, called for an inquiry into the use of private companies to run detention centres. GEO did not respond to an interview request.


Don't get arthritis in Britain

Thousands of arthritis sufferers will be denied treatment with proven benefits by a decision not to pay for a new drug. Guidance issued by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the watchdog that controls access to drugs on the NHS, will recommend today that the drug does not represent value for money, although it has been shown to improve dramatically the severest symptoms of arthritis in almost half of patients.

The draft ruling comes on the day that Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, will announce that he is tearing up a price-fixing agreement with pharmaceutical companies in an attempt to reduce unneccessary waste of drug funds. The Times has learnt that the Health Secretary has decided to take on pharmaceutical giants as the NHS’s 8 billion pound annual drugs bill comes under pressure from expensive new medicines.

Abatacept, which has the brand name Orencia, is the latest of a new generation of drugs to be blocked by NICE on the ground that it is not cost-effective. About 400,000 people in the UK have rheumatoid arthritis, of whom a tenth (40,000) have a severe form. Many benefit from a class of drugs called anti-TNFs but about a third do not. This group, of around 12,000 patients, could potentially benefit from new drugs such as abatacept. Its manufacturer, Bristol Myers Squibb, estimated in its application to NICE that around 3,500 patients a year would benefit. Published data shows that in trials abatacept produced a 50 per cent reduction in symptoms in about 40 per cent of the patients who used it in conjunction with an older drug, methotrexate.

The cost would be about 9,300 a year for an average patient, but all would be sufferers who had already been treated unsuccessfully with anti-TNF drugs, which are equally expensive. Those who gained no benefit would have been taken off the drug swiftly. The NICE decision was described by patient groups as devastating. Ailsa Bosworth, chief executive of the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS), said: “This is extremely bad news for people living with severe rheumatoid arthritis. “Denying patients the option of abatacept leaves some of them with the unacceptable choices of being put back on to treatments they have already failed on, palliative care or taking large doses of steroids, which have unacceptable side-effects over the long term.”

The NICE ruling will be open to consultation, and final guidance is not expected until the end of the year. A spokesman said: “Having examined cost-effectiveness analyses on the drug against a range of comparators, the committee concluded that abatacept could not be considered a cost-effective use of NHS resources.” The problems of balancing drug costs against benefits have led a growing number of patients who are denied treatments to resort to legal action.

The Government hopes to free more money for treatments by renegotiating the five-year profit control agreement that it signed with drug companies just two years ago. The move comes after a report by the Office of Fair Trading recommended that the NHS move to a new system that matched the price it pays for drugs to how effective they are, after finding widespread evidence of overcharging.

Some of the most inflated prices are for treatments for blood pressure, cholesterol and stomach acid, which are prescribed to millions of patients a year. Although some cost ten times as much as alternatives they offer little or no extra benefit, the report found. It concluded: “We have identified hundreds of millions of pounds of expenditure per year that could be used more cost-effectively under value-based pricing, allowing patients greater access to drugs and other healthcare benefits they are currently being denied.” Representatives of pharmaceutical firms were warned by Mr Johnson that he was intending to tear up the agreement. A statement from the Department of Health will seek to strike a conciliatory tone, emphasising the contribution made by drugs giants to the economy and in developing new medicines.

Nevertheless, the drugs industry is likely to fiercely resist attempts to renegotiate the price regulation scheme. In the wake of the competition watchdog’s report this year Richard Barker, the director-general of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said: “The UK gets its life- improving and life-saving medicines at a fair and reasonable price.” A Department of Health official told The Times that Mr Johnson could not ignore the findings of an independent watchdog after a thorough 18-month investigation that compared the prices paid in Britain with those paid abroad. He added that the Health Secretary had not yet decided whether to accept the recommendations in full.


Moronic NHS salary management

A DAMNING official report to be published this week will show doctors are working significantly fewer hours for more pay. The GPs' Workload Survey, the first such study for 15 years, has found that after the introduction of a new contract three years ago, doctors are working on average about 15% fewer hours. During the same period pay has risen by nearly a quarter. The report is likely to generate a backlash among nurses, who the study found are taking up much of the slack.

Gordon Brown is set to accelerate moves to force GPs to open weekend surgeries and to hold more early morning and late evening sessions. The report will show that although GPs tend to spend longer with each patient, it is nurses who are filling in on many occasions.

Another finding is that almost one-third of GPs, who earn an average of more than 100,000 pounds a year, are working part-time. The public is becoming increasingly concerned that GPs have received such large pay increases while many patients still struggle to book advance appointments and are unable to consult a family doctor out of hours. Some doctors have argued that the pay rises are to the detriment of patient care because they permit GPs to work fewer hours.

The figures will strengthen Brown's determination to make GP appointments more convenient for patients. The prime minister is understood to be concerned that patients are currently forced to take half a day off work to attend a GP surgery. Businesses say they lose 3.5m working days a year because of doctors' appointments.

A government survey found that a quarter of patients still cannot book an appointment more than two days in advance. Katherine Murphy of the Patients Association, said: "The huge pay rises they are now getting have not been reflected in the care patients are receiving.


You can't win with the Greenies: Now cars beat walking!

And "Don't buy anything from the supermarket". Apparently we should all live on beans. I wonder if he has factored in the gas emissions that would arise from that!

Walking does more than driving to cause global warming, a leading environmentalist has calculated. Food production is now so energy-intensive that more carbon is emitted providing a person with enough calories to walk to the shops than a car would emit over the same distance. The climate could benefit if people avoided exercise, ate less and became couch potatoes. Provided, of course, they remembered to switch off the TV rather than leaving it on standby.

The sums were done by Chris Goodall, campaigning author of How to Live a Low-Carbon Life, based on the greenhouse gases created by intensive beef production. "Driving a typical UK car for 3 miles [4.8km] adds about 0.9 kg [2lb] of CO2 to the atmosphere," he said, a calculation based on the Government's official fuel emission figures. "If you walked instead, it would use about 180 calories. You'd need about 100g of beef to replace those calories, resulting in 3.6kg of emissions, or four times as much as driving. "The troubling fact is that taking a lot of exercise and then eating a bit more food is not good for the global atmosphere. Eating less and driving to save energy would be better."

Mr Goodall, Green Party parliamentary candidate for Oxford West & Abingdon, is the latest serious thinker to turn popular myths about the environment on their head. Catching a diesel train is now twice as polluting as travelling by car for an average family, the Rail Safety and Standards Board admitted recently. Paper bags are worse for the environment than plastic because of the extra energy needed to manufacture and transport them, the Government says.

Fresh research published in New Scientist last month suggested that 1kg of meat cost the Earth 36kg in global warming gases. The figure was based on Japanese methods of industrial beef production but Mr Goodall says that farming techniques are similar throughout the West. What if, instead of beef, the walker drank a glass of milk? The average person would need to drink 420ml - three quarters of a pint - to recover the calories used in the walk. Modern dairy farming emits the equivalent of 1.2kg of CO2 to produce the milk, still more pollution than the car journey. Cattle farming is notorious for its perceived damage to the environment, based on what scientists politely call "methane production" from cows. The gas, released during the digestive process, is 21 times more harmful than CO2 . Organic beef is the most damaging because organic cattle emit more methane.

Michael O'Leary, boss of the budget airline Ryanair, has been widely derided after he was reported to have said that global warming could be solved by massacring the world's cattle. "The way he is running around telling people they should shoot cows," Lawrence Hunt, head of Silverjet, another budget airline, told the Commons Environmental Audit Committee. "I do not think you can really have debates with somebody with that mentality." But according to Mr Goodall, Mr O'Leary may have a point. "Food is more important [to Britain's greenhouse emissions] than aircraft but there is no publicity," he said. "Associated British Foods isn't being questioned by MPs about energy. "We need to become accustomed to the idea that our food production systems are equally damaging. As the man from Ryanair says, cows generate more emissions than aircraft. Unfortunately, perhaps, he is right. Of course, this doesn't mean we should always choose to use air or car travel instead of walking. It means we need urgently to work out how to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of our foodstuffs."

Simply cutting out beef, or even meat, however, would be too modest a change. The food industry is estimated to be responsible for a sixth of an individual's carbon emissions, and Britain may be the worst culprit. "This is not just about flying your beans from Kenya in the winter," Mr Goodall said. "The whole system is stuffed with energy and nitrous oxide emissions. The UK is probably the worst country in the world for this. "We have industrialised our food production. We use an enormous amount of processed food, like ready meals, compared to most countries. Three quarters of supermarkets' energy is to refrigerate and freeze food prepared elsewhere.

A chilled ready meal is a perfect example of where the energy is wasted. You make the meal, then use an enormous amount of energy to chill it and keep it chilled through warehousing and storage." The ideal diet would consist of cereals and pulses. "This is a route which virtually nobody, apart from a vegan, is going to follow," Mr Goodall said. But there are other ways to reduce the carbon footprint. "Don't buy anything from the supermarket," Mr Goodall said, "or anything that's travelled too far."


Islamic education for all in Britain

Plan would move toward 'religion of state'

A new government study is being condemned by the Christian ministry the Barnabas Fund because its proposals would move closer to imposing Islam in the United Kingdom as "a religion of state." Among the proposals from the study being considered for implementation is the provision by universities for Islamic studies for all students. The report was initiated by Bill Rammell, the minister of state for higher education and lifelong learning, officials said. He appointed Ataullah Siddiqui, senior research fellow at the Islamic Foundation, to write it.

The Barnabas Fund, in an analysis, said the report "signals another step toward the Islamisation of Britain and its education system" "Should this report be implemented, education will be handed over more and more to Muslims who will train and shape the next generation," the analysis said.

The Barnabas Fund, which works primarily with Christians in Muslim-majority environments by channeling money from Christians, through Christians to Christians for projects developed by local bodies of believers, said the appointment of Siddiqui, at the outset, signaled a problem. "It is well known that the Islamic Foundation is an Islamist institute founded by high ranking members of the Pakistani Islamist party, Jama'at-I Islami," the group said. "However, in answer to questions in the House of Commons about possible links between Ataullah Siddiqui and Jama'at-i-Islami, Rammell stated that 'Dr Siddiqui has assured me categorically that he has no links to the Jamaat-e-Islami Party.' . This reveals that Rammell does not understand how Islamists use dissimulation (taqiyya) to hide their real goals while claiming to be moderate and liberal," the analysis said.

Among the other recommendations are that universities should employ Muslim scholars to teach Islamic theology, all universities must employ Muslim chaplains and provide Muslim prayer rooms, Islamic Student Societies should be better recognized and encouraged, and universities should cooperate with Islamic schools and colleges to break down the divisions between British society and the Muslim community. The study also recommended Islamic studies should be linked to job opportunities such as teaching, chaplaincy and Islamic banking, and guidance should be given to all universities on Friday prayers, Ramadan and halal food.

The Barnabas Fund said it's simply a demand for a "privileged position for Islam in the universities." "It would seem to aim at transforming Islamic studies in Britain into a Muslim monopoly, a Muslim enclave in which the vast majority of staff and students are Muslim. It is implied that non-Muslim scholars cannot teach Islam because they do not unquestioningly accept its basic premises regarding the revelatory nature and divine authority of Quran and Hadith." If that happens, the teaching faculty soon would be limited to Muslim and Islamist lecturers, the group said. "It is most likely that censorship would develop, affecting choice of staff, teaching methods and acceptable subjects for research and publication," the group said.

It's a part of the larger goal, the Barnabas Fund said. "The aim is to expand Islamic domination into all spheres. The whole system of Western academic education must, say the Islamists, be recast and remolded on Islamic lines as it is tainted by Christian and pagan influences." "Implementing these recommendations, as the British government has promised to do, would be likely to narrow the scope of university Islamic studies and make them more intolerant and radical," the critique said. The organization said one of its goals is to inform and enable Christians in the West to respond to the growing challenge of Islam to the church, society and mission. Reports said the government already has pledged several million dollars to universities in order to boost Islamic studies.


Traitorous British politician: "Britain's seat at the UN Security Council will eventually be handed to the European Union, Lord Malloch Brown, the Foreign Office Minister, has suggested. The former diplomat was brought in by Gordon Brown to help to overhaul foreign policy was already under fire for suggesting that Britain and America would no longer be "joined at the hip". He faces fresh controversy after it emerged that last October, when he was Deputy General Secretary of the UN, he spoke approvingly of growing EU representation on a visit to Brussels last October. According to a report by the EU Observer, he told Brussels diplomats that the EU was heading toward one single seat within the UN institutions. He said: "I think it will go in stages. We are going to see a growing spread of it institution by institution. It is not going to happen with a flash and a bang." He added that he hoped that it would happen "as quickly as possible. I'm a huge fan of it."

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