Sunday, November 25, 2007

Dads 'make young sons dumber'

The original paper is here. It is a long (155 pages), verbose and exhausting paper to read and I do not remotely have the time to read it all but two things I note is that we are primarily talking about lower class (unemployed) fathers here and that the analysis was very "lumpy". Appendix D shows that only two categories were used to examine the amount of time fathers spent with children. That very effectively obscures any possibility of discovering curvilinear relationships -- which are certainly not a possibility that can be excluded a priori in this case.

I also note that the author seems to contradict herself in the first and last paragraphs below. Amusing. Easy to see why, though. We are not allowed to come to conservative conclusions and the paper does come to the thoroughly conservative conclusion that children are best cared for by their mothers! Horrors!

YOUNG boys end up being dumber when it is the father who looks after them as toddlers, a study from Bristol University in the UK has found. A researcher from the University of Bristol in the UK has found that boys are doing worse at school when it was their fathers who spent at least 15 hours each week taking sole care of them.

According to Elizabeth Washbrook's study of more than 6000 children found that "some fathers appear not to provide the same quality of intellectual stimulation as mothers, at least to their sons". "I find robust evidence that boys - but not girls - who spend at least 15 hours a week in paternal care when they were toddlers performed worse on academic assessments when they started school," Ms Washbrook wrote in the Research in Public Policy journal. "This cannot be explained by the economic or psychological characteristics of parents in these families, nor by the characteristics of the child."

Ms Washbrook said that the findings suggest that fathers may be more inclined to believe that taking care of their son was more about "monitoring the child" than devising creative activities. She said that two possible reasons why daughters were not affected by similar time with their fathers were because dads may behave differently around them and girls may be less sensitive to a lack of creative activities - although she also said that there was no definitive proof that supported either argument.

But Ms Washbrook said that the introduction of paid paternity leave in the UK may have led to greater social abilities in children of both genders. "If paternity leave encourages fathers to undertake moderate childcare responsibilities when their children are toddlers, this may have beneficial effects on children's social development."


UK abandons "offensive and inappropriate language" such as "war on terror"

We read:

"Counter-terrorism officials are rethinking their approach to tackling the radicalisation of Muslim youth, abandoning what they admit has been offensive and inappropriate language. They say the term "war on terror" will no longer be heard from ministers. Instead, they will use less emotive language, emphasising the criminal nature of the plots and conspiracies. The government in future, they add, will talk of a "struggle" against extremist ideology, rather than a "battle".

"We hadn't got the message right," said one senior official. He added: "We must talk in a language which is not offensive." Another said that the terrorist threat must not be described as a "Muslim problem".


Calling a spade a spade is just not British! A spade would have to be an "excavation implement" in Britain, I guess.

Yes. I do know that "spade" has been deemed incorrect too.


John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt's campaign to expose the power of Washington's Israel lobby through the promotion of their book, "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," has now completed its tour of Britain, with more sinister consequences than they perhaps realize.

The two professors are adamant that they bear no hostility to Israel, and that both Israel and America would benefit from the removal of the lobby's control over their relationship. Their concern for Israel's wellbeing will be appreciated by its citizens, but what should we Brits make of them?

This is not an incidental question. "The Israel Lobby " was first published in the London Review of Books, and Britain has a strong and vigorous anti-Zionist campaigning movement, which has managed to persuade several British trade unions to support a boycott of Israeli goods. Mearsheimer and Walt may have written about America, but their book leaves its imprint on Britain.

The professors have strongly rejected the frequent accusation by their critics that they are merely mainstreaming the core idea of modern anti-Semitism: that Jews, in whatever form, conspire to control governments, provoke wars and so on. They insist that the Israel lobby in America is "only doing what other special interest groups do, but doing it very much better."

The problem on this side of the Atlantic is that British politics lacks anything approaching the American system of openly declared political lobbies; a similar, AIPAC-style operation in Westminster would not just influence policy, it would also subvert fundamental democratic mechanisms.

This has not stopped people from making similar claims about pro-Israel influence in Britain. In 2003, Labour MP Tam Dalyell claimed that former prime minister and party leader Tony Blair was unduly influenced by a "cabal of Jewish advisers."

More recently, Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Tonge claimed that "the pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the Western world... its financial grips." Those who assume that Zionism has a global reach and unlimited power cannot but assume that what they now "know" - thanks to Mearsheimer and Walt - is done in Washington must have its equivalents in London, Paris and elsewhere.

So the might of Jewish organizations is inflated, conspiracies imagined, to fill the gap between the reality of a Jewish community trying to do its best for Israel, and the fantasy of politicians and prime ministers bowing their knee to the power of the almighty Lobby.

And what does this power consist of? The most recent evidence presented concerns a debate that was held at the Oxford Union in October, on the question "This House believes that one-state is the only solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict."

To argue for the motion, three well-known advocates of the Palestinian cause. And to argue against it, amongst others, Norman Finkelstein, author of The Holocaust Industry and Beyond Chutzpah, and hardly known as a supporter of Israel. When several people informed Luke Tryl, the President of the Oxford Union, that Finkelstein was not normally considered an advocate for Israel, Tryl withdrew the invitation, sparking the predictable claims that this was evidence of the lobby silencing one of Israel's critics.

How do Finkelstein's supporters know that the Israel lobby was behind Tryl's change of mind? Because Tryl, in an email to Finkelstein, revealed that, "Many people expressed concern that the debate as it stood was imbalanced and people felt that as someone who had apparently expressed anti-zionist sentiments that you might not be appropriate for this debate. I tried to convince them otherwise but was accused of putting forward an imbalanced debate and various groups put pressure on me. I received numerous emails attacking the debate and Alan Dershowitz threatened to write an Oped attacking the Union. What is more he apparently attacked me personally in a televised lecture to Yale."

Had Finkelstein originally been billed to speak FOR the motion, nobody would have objected and the debate would have gone ahead as planned; as in fact happened at the Union in May of this year, when he spoke, ironically enough, for the motion that "This House believes the pro-Israeli lobby has successfully stifled Western debate about Israel's actions." He has already been invited back for 2008. Three invitations to the Oxford Union in two years: so much for being "stifled." Finkelstein made his name writing about the finances of Holocaust compensation. (He should try getting a book about Saudi funding for terrorism past the British libel courts to really feel what it means to be silenced.)

In Britain at least, Israel gets more media coverage than any other ongoing overseas story. The case against Israel is frequently aired in the mainstream media and debated at the conferences of Britain's biggest trade unions. The idea that critics of Israel are in any way gagged is absurd. Yet British anti-Zionists see themselves as holders of a hidden truth, struggling against a mighty and terrifying conspiracy to silence them, and now they have confirmation from the highest levels of American academia. If there is a Jewish conspiracy, it is remarkably ineffective.



(Formerly also known as "world leaders in climate policy")

Ruth Kelly's announcement in favour of further expansion at Heathrow Airport has been condemned by Green Party Principal Speaker and MEP Caroline Lucas as an act of "climate vandalism", and she accused the government of being "in denial" over climate change. "How it can be possible for the Prime Minister, just a few short days ago, to say that climate change was 'an immense challenge to the world', to which he promised to give utmost priority, in his first major speech on climate change since becoming Prime Minister - and now just a few days later, to give the green light to a major expansion of aviation, the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions? "Such behaviour isn't just pathological, it demonstrates a monumental failure of political leadership.

"The problem is the government is simultaneously committed to two completely contradictory policies. One is to cut dramatically greenhouse gas emissions. The other is to expand the aviation industry. The success of the first policy has been limited. The success of the second has been remarkable. "But it's time to challenge the political establishment to stop trying to inhabit two parallel worlds, and to accept that it simply isn't possible to expand aviation and simultaneously reduce aviation emissions. Efficiency gains via technological improvements are dwarfed by the overall growth rates, and the bottom line is simply this: the aviation industry has to stop expanding."

"Expansion at Heathrow is also likely to to breach mandatory EU air quality limit values that will apply from 2010 - I will be raising this with the Commission", she said.

Dr Lucas, who was the European Parliament's Rapporteur, or spokesperson, on aviation and environment last year, has been instrumental in developing EU legislation to try to reduce aviation emissions. Just last week, the European Parliament voted on the Commission's proposal to put the aviation sector into the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Dr Lucas said: "If emissions trading is to have a hope of reducing aviation emissions, there has to be a rigorous overall emissions cap, and serious limits to the amount of extra permits aviation is allowed to buy from other sources (ie, other industrial sectors, or projects abroad). Sadly, these two provisions were conspicuous by their absence in the commission proposal, but on the latter at least, I'm very pleased the Parliament has accepted my amendment to introduce such limits."


Meet the women who won't have babies - because they're not eco friendly

Gullible fools

Had Toni Vernelli gone ahead with her pregnancy ten years ago, she would know at first hand what it is like to cradle her own baby, to have a pair of innocent eyes gazing up at her with unconditional love, to feel a little hand slipping into hers - and a voice calling her Mummy. But the very thought makes her shudder with horror. Because when Toni terminated her pregnancy, she did so in the firm belief she was helping to save the planet.

Incredibly, so determined was she that the terrible "mistake" of pregnancy should never happen again, that she begged the doctor who performed the abortion to sterilise her at the same time. He refused, but Toni - who works for an environmental charity - "relentlessly hunted down a doctor who would perform the irreversible surgery. Finally, eight years ago, Toni got her way. At the age of 27 this young woman at the height of her reproductive years was sterilised to "protect the planet".

Incredibly, instead of mourning the loss of a family that never was, her boyfriend (now husband) presented her with a congratulations card. While some might think it strange to celebrate the reversal of nature and denial of motherhood, Toni relishes her decision with an almost religious zeal. "Having children is selfish. It's all about maintaining your genetic line at the expense of the planet," says Toni, 35. "Every person who is born uses more food, more water, more land, more fossil fuels, more trees and produces more rubbish, more pollution, more greenhouse gases, and adds to the problem of over-population."

While most parents view their children as the ultimate miracle of nature, Toni seems to see them as a sinister threat to the future. It's an extreme stance which one might imagine is born from an unhappy childhood or an upbringing among parents who share similar, strong beliefs. But nothing in Toni's safe, middle- class upbringing gave any clues as to the views which would shape her adult life. The eldest of three daughters, she enjoyed a loving, close-knit family life. She excelled at her Roman Catholic school, and her doting parents fully expected her to grow up, settle down and start a family of her own.

"When I finished school, I got a job in retail and at 19, I met my first husband," says Toni. "No sooner had we finished our wedding cake than all our relatives started to ask when they could expect a new addition to the family. "I always told them that would never happen, but no one listened. "When I was a child, I loved bird-watching, and in my teens that developed into a passion for the environment as well as the welfare of animals - I became a vegetarian when I was 15. "Even my parents used to smile and say: 'You'll change your mind one day about babies.' "The only person who understood how I felt was my first husband, who didn't want children either. "We both passionately wanted to save the planet - not produce a new life which would only add to the problem."


Pathetic British emergency medicine

More than half of trauma patients are not receiving good care, experts say. The National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death looked at the care given to 795 patients, many with head injuries from falls and crashes. It found medical staff in 200 hospitals in England, Wales and Northern Ireland often did not appreciate the severity and displayed little urgency. It said care would improve if services were centred at fewer sites - something which is already government policy.

NCEPOD said many of the problems identified in nearly 60% of patients treated across 200 hospitals were associated with staff being too inexperienced. In particular, they found patients were not always given essential tests such as CT scans or assessed by hospital consultants, especially during the night.

Researchers said most hospitals would only deal with one trauma patient a week and this meant staff did not get the necessary experience to keep skills up to date. They also said about 800 trauma patients each year needed to be transferred to other hospitals - often in an "ad hoc" manner - because of a lack of specialist facilities such as neurological services.

Ambulance crews were also criticised for failing to always unblock airways and alert hospitals of incoming cases. But the researchers said in hospitals which dealt with more than 20 cases a week the care was classed as good. The report said this in itself was a good argument for centralising services in regional centres. This is already a government policy, but it is proving controversial because of the aim of a whole host of other services such as maternity and A&E being centralised as well. Campaigners say such a move would lead to many local hospitals being stripped of key services.

Report author Dr George Findlay said: "The number of patients seen has a direct bearing on the experience and ability of clinicians to manage challenging cases. "It is not possible for all hospitals to have a trauma team on call with the necessary experience, organisation and support structures. "We need to look at how we can organise trauma care on a regional basis."

The Royal College of Surgeons said care urgently needed to improve. A spokesman said: "Our mortality rates are among the worst in the developed world, and yet trauma care remains a low priority for the government. "This a national health service and what we need is a national trauma system."

Health Minister Ben Bradshaw said: "We have argued for some time that it is not the proximity of the nearest A&E that matters to most trauma victims but the care they receive from ambulance and paramedic staff and the quality of care they receive once they arrive at hospital. "Concentrating trauma treatment in specialist centres can arouse opposition from some people concerned about 'downgrading' of their local A&E facilities, but what the opponents often fail to recognise is that lives will be saved and the quality of care improved, as this report makes clear."


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