Friday, August 17, 2007

"Offensive" to Say Anything Negative about Lesbians

We read:

"Britain's bestselling crime writer found himself condemned as "offensive" by a leading female rival yesterday after suggesting that women authors, and gay ones in particular, are more bloodthirsty than men. The acclaimed writer of the Inspector Rebus novels said in an interview last year: "The people writing the most graphic novels today are women. They are mostly lesbians as well, which I find interesting."

Speaking to an audience at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Val McDermid quoted the remark almost word for word, attributing it to "a very prominent Scottish male writer". She then dismissed it as "arrant rubbish". The author, who is a lesbian, added: "I find that statement so offensive, I can't even begin to start"


Note that there is no attempt to present evidence one way or another -- just an emotional response. Reminiscent of the response to Harvard's Larry Summers. And women don't want men to think of them as emotional and illogical!

Filthy NHS kitchens

Nearly half of all hospital kitchens and canteens in England could be failing to meet basic standards of cleanliness and hygiene, according to official inspection reports. Cockroaches, medical waste on food-handling equipment, mouse droppings and poor hygiene among catering staff were all cited as problems.

The findings were revealed after a freedom of information request for health inspection reports from a quarter of all local authorities.Of the 377 hospitals included, 173 displayed poor cleanliness and 68 fell below the legal requirements for food storage. A total of 107 did not have correct food safety documentation, 66 stored food at incorrect temperatures, 25 had inadequate staff training and 57 had staff with poor personal hygiene.

Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrats' Shadow Health Secretary, who collected the findings, said that they painted a shocking picture. "It is simply unacceptable that such terrible practices are taking place in an environment where hygiene and safety should be paramount," he said."The worst performers should be named and shamed - while those doing well would stand as an example to drive up standards."

In six hospitals, inspections high-lighted five or more areas of concern. The institutions were: Farnham Road Hospital in Guildford; Churchill Hospital in Oxford; Blackpool Victoria Hospital; Derby City General Hospital; Ipswich Hospital and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in Norwich. At the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, "full-grown adult" cockroaches were found in kitchens according to the 2006 report. The 2007 report stated that there had been "regular reports of an infestation of oriental cockroaches in the kitchen". At the Countess of Chester Hospital in Chester, milk was found stored in the drug freezer in the radiology department and inspectors found a syringe on a supper tray at the May-day University Hospital in Croydon.

An official from the Department of Health said: "Failure to meet hygiene standards is unacceptable and where there are problems we expect the local authorities responsible for inspecting and enforcing food hygiene regulations to take action." The trust that runs Derby City General defended its hygiene regime, suggesting the report may have been based on out-of-date results. Julie Acred, chief executive, said: "Based on the report we have had most recently we don't have any significant cleanliness issues in the hospital."


British dumbing down continues

Pressure for a reform of A levels [High School diploma] has led to a surge in support for rival qualifications

With a record crop of A-level results expected today, one of Britain's leading examination boards has said that it will introduce a new exam in dozens of schools from next month with a view to offering it nationally from next year. The new "AQA Bacc", from the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance, is designed to offer sixth-formers a broader range of studies than A levels so that university admissions staff can select the brightest students for their most popular courses.

A big criticism of the A-level system is that so many students get A grades it is impossible to tell the really brilliant from the merely well-drilled. In response, many universities have introduced their own admissions tests to identify the top candidates, and the Government has promised to introduce a new A* grade at A level from next year for students gaining 90 per cent or more.

With the AQA baccalaureate, students will still study three A levels but will take a further paper in critical thinking, citizenship or general studies. They will also complete an extended essay, project or thesis designed to show their ability to develop an argument and their writing skills. The new qualification will also highlight any community work they have done.

John Mitchell, director of Qualifications Development and Support at AQA, said: "To achieve this award, students have had to demonstrate planning, research and self-management skills alongside academic ability. In developing such important skills, AQA Bacc students are well placed for progression to further study or employment." Results of the first students to take the new qualification, in a trial at Farnborough Sixth Form College, will be published today. John Guy, the college's principal, said: "The extended project has encouraged students to undertake real research in an area above and beyond their A levels, providing evidence of real stretch and challenge."

The AQA's decision to bring in a new qualification follows growing interest in the highly academic international baccalaureate (IB), which the Government has supported. Last year Tony Blair said that more state schools would offer the IB to ensure that students could choose the courses that best met their individual abilities and needs.

The IB offers a much broader curriculum, in which students study a range of seven subjects rather than just the traditional three for A levels. The number of schools offering the IB in Britain has doubled in the past decade and is expected to reach 100 by 2010.

Growing numbers of private schools are also expressing an interest in the rival Pre-U qualification, which is being developed in Cambridge. Due to be taught from next year, the Pre-U will involve a return to final exams after two years, rather than the "bite-sized" modules of A levels. Support for the new exams reflects growing concern among university admissions officers about grade inflation at A level. A survey of 56 universities, published yesterday, found that nearly 40 per cent of admissions officers thought the Government's decision to back the IB was an acknowledgement that it is a better preparation for university than A levels.

Last night the Liberal Democrats called for an independent review of exam standards. Jim Knight, the Schools Minister, accused them of trying to undermine young people.


Britain: Now EVERYBODY has to observe Ramadan

DOCTORS and health workers have been banned from eating lunch at their desks - in case it offends their Muslim colleagues. Health chiefs believe the sight of food will upset Muslim workers when they are celebrating the religious festival Ramadan. The lunch trolley is also to be wheeled out of bounds as the 30-day fast begins next month.

But staff and politicians branded the move political correctness gone mad and warned that it was a step too far. Bill Aitken, the Scottish Conservative justice spokesman, said: "This advice, well-meaning as it may be, is total nonsense. "It is the sort of thing that can stir up resentment rather than result in good relations."

The new guidance comes in the wake of the failed terror attacks on Glasgow and the death of suspect Kafeel Ahmed, 27. Health chiefs in Lothian and Glasgow will give all employees time off to pray and to celebrate Eid, which marks the end of Ramadan. But Greater Glasgow and Clyde as well as Lothian NHS boards also issued the advice, warning workers not to take working lunches, and said all vending machines should be removed from areas where Muslims work.

One senior consultant said: "What next? Are we going to have advice on how to deal with Catholics during Lent? "This kind of thing does more harm than good."

The guidance, which was sent round many organisations, was produced by Glasgow consultancy Meem, which advises on Muslim issues and counts the Scottish Parliament among its clients. Na'eem Raza, a senior consultant with the firm, said he was thrilled that the health boards had formally adopted the guidance. He added: "The idea is to get faith in the workplace out in the open. "In the current climate, people need to understand where communities are coming from and what people are feeling. "After the Glasgow attack this is very important. This is about educating people and making them more aware and more confident when dealing with issues surrounding the Muslim community. "People have stopped talking over the garden fence and we need to break down the barriers so that people can talk comfortably to each other. "It would never stir up resentment. Faith is an important issue. Why not have guidance on all of the issues that affect us, including different faiths?"

Health chiefs defended their use of the guidance and said it was important to promote a positive and tolerant culture at work. A NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde spokesman said: "As a large organisation we recognise that many of our staff, patients and visitors will be participating in Ramadan. "We have therefore made information available to our staff to raise awareness of Ramadan and help to answer any questions they may have." NHS Lothian said: "We have recently agreed a quality and diversity strategy and as a responsible and pro-active employer we will continue to promote a positive culture which recognises and respects diversity both in our workforce and in the people we serve."


Politically correct Britain spiralling out of control

This cop has got a cheek. Stupid policing is a major cause of the problem. When the "rights" of criminals constantly trump common sense, this is what is to be expected

ONE of Britain's top police officers called for urgent moves to stem a rising tide of youth violence yesterday after a 47-year-old father of three was kicked to death by a group of young drunks. The man, a company director from Warrington in northwest England, had tried to remonstrate with the group when he saw them damaging a vehicle and other property outside his home. It was the latest in a series of violent, and frequently deadly, attacks by abusive, drunk young people in Britain.

"We cannot have a society where adults feel scared to go out and challenge youngsters up to no good," said Peter Fahy, the chief constable of Cheshire, the county which includes Warrington. "Every night of the week Cheshire officers are engaged in a constant battle against anti-social behaviour and alcohol-induced violence ... it breeds fear and isolation."

Hardly a day goes by in Britain without another alarming report of alcohol-fuelled teenage violence. On Monday, a 23-year-old Turkish immigrant died after being attacked by two hooded boys he argued with when they threw a half-eaten chocolate bar through the window of his sister's car.

While the phenomenon of unruly youth is hardly new in Britain, there are concerns the social breakdown is intensifying, as those involved get younger and the violence seems to worsen. Constable Fahy's comments were widely applauded on news programs and radio call-in shows yesterday, but the Government did not immediately respond to his suggestion that the drinking age be raised from 18 to 21.

The Sun newspaper, the country's most-widely read, ran an editorial saying it was time for parents to take responsibility. "Should parents be arrested if they let their kids run wild? Should benefits be reduced or even stopped for those who won't work?" the paper asked. "It is another signal that the 'Great' is going out of Great Britain."

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair pledged a decade ago to be "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime", and later pioneered the introduction of so-called ASBOs - anti-social behaviour orders - to try to control unruly youths. But 10 years on, statistics show scant improvement.

Sociologists say British youth do not spend enough time with adults, spending free time with friends unsupervised. In Europe, young people spend much more time under supervision. "Our young people drink more and take more drugs than others partly because they can," Julia Margo, a researcher at the IPPR think tank, said. "Young people need to interact with adults to socially develop, and those that spend time away from adults will more rapidly fall into bad behaviour, or very bad behaviour."


And here's a big part of the problem:

But Mr Fahy also made another claim. "We cannot have a society," he said, "where adults feel scared to go out and challenge youngsters up to no good." Fair point. But is fear of retaliation by unruly youths the only thing holding people back? In recent years, the police have increasingly arrested and charged victims of crime for "taking the law into their own hands".

One infamous case occurred in Penzance in June, when the owner of a hardware shop tried to stop three youths from stealing cans of spray paint. One kicked him in the groin, which provoked him to punch and kick the youth in self-defence. The police arrived, gave the youths fixed penalty notices for shoplifting, then charged the shopkeeper with assault. He was conned into pleading guilty by police officers, who told him he could face six months in jail if he didn't.

In February, a Bridlington chip-shop owner had a similar experience, but luckily for him the crown court judge had more sense than the police. When a youth smashed his shop window, the owner and his son, a former Royal Marine, chased the boy, caught him and flagged down a police car. The boy lied to the police, who then arrested both men and charged them with kidnap, when all they had done was to detain the youth in their car until the police arrived. The judge threw the case out because a lawful citizen's arrest had been made.

In both instances, the criminal was able to turn the police against a law-abiding citizen, and the police were all too willing accomplices in each criminal's triumph. If Mr Fahy truly thinks that adults should not be frightened to challenge youths, he should take a glance at the "nine principles of policing" framed by Sir Robert Peel in 1829.

One says that the police should "maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen". In other words, the police should remember whose side they are on.

There is also a comment of surprising good sense on the Leftist Indymedia site. Note also that the authorities have been most zealous in releasing NO identifying details about those charged with the murder -- suggesting that they are black. The fact that they are described as part of a gang tends to reinforce that idea


A leading scientist with the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research has warned that "doing nothing is better than offsetting" on the grounds that there is a serious risk that the practice is leading to increased emissions. Dr Kevin Anderson, an academic at the University of Manchester and energy programme leader for the Tyndall Centre, said that the failure by many offset firms to look at the wider implications of investing in carbon reduction projects in developing economies meant that they were guilty of inadvertently increasing carbon emissions. "Many of these schemes are not accounting for the economic multiplier effect of the offset investments," he said.

"For example, if you take one popular offset project in the form of donating low energy bulbs to a Jamaican hotel you have to ask, what is the full impact of that investment? Electricity in Jamaica is expensive, so what does the hotelier do with the money he saves? He may use it to pay for a flight for himself or he may invest in extending the hotel, both of which could cancel out the initial emission reductions." Anderson argued that there is no way that offset providers can guarantee that their investments will not spark significant multiplier effects that would ultimately lead to increased emissions.


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