Wednesday, November 07, 2007

New jobs in Britain are for immigrants

Few Australians would be surprised. They commonly perceive Brits as work-shy

MORE than 80% of the jobs created in the past 10 years have gone to foreigners - many more than the government admitted last week - according to statistics presented by the Treasury to parliament. They also show that in the past five years the number of foreigners in work in Britain has risen by nearly 1m, while employment among the UK-born population has dropped by almost 500,000. The figures are a further embarrassment for the government, which last week was forced to admit it had seriously underestimated the number of migrant workers in Britain.

"They are in a state of complete confusion over the figures for migrant workers," said Chris Grayling, the Conservative shadow work and pensions secretary. "Another day brings another completely different set of statistics. They are floundering and nobody has any idea what is going on."

Peter Hain, the work and pensions secretary, announced last week that previous estimates showing that migrants accounted for 800,000 out of 2.7m jobs created in Britain over the past 10 years were wrong, and that the true figure was 1.1m out of 2.1m. The share of jobs going to foreigners was thus 52%, rather than under 30% as originally estimated.

Gordon Brown was infuriated by the mix-up over the data, which has undermined government claims that immigration is a big benefit to Britain and provided David Cameron with a platform on which to attack the government's record. Downing Street aides said the prime minister was irritated by what they described as a "cockup". But the new figures, given by the Treasury in a written Commons answer last month, suggest the picture is even worse. Alistair Darling, the chancellor, was asked for estimates of the number of migrant workers in Britain since 1997.

In a written response, Angela Eagle, a junior Treasury minister, published a letter from Karen Dunnell, the National Statistician and head of the Office for National Statistics (ONS). In it she said the number of foreign-born workers in Britain rose from 1.904m in mid1997 to 3.269m in the middle of this year, an increase of 1.365m. Over the same period, there was a rise in working-age employment among UK-born people from 23.638m to 23.948m, a rise of just 310,000. The ONS figures thus show that 81% of jobs went to people born abroad. Since 2002 the number of foreigners working in Britain has climbed by 964,000 while UK-born employment has dropped by 478,000.

"The government's welfare to work programme is proving to be an abject failure," said Grayling. "UK employment has barely increased over the past 10 years and it is now falling."


Genes and breastfeeding

This could be a rather pesky finding for the breastfeeding enthusiasts. Its conclusion is that breastfeeding is helpful in only some cases. And it does appear to be a very well-controlled study. The abstract is here. The authors do however rather overgeneralize the significance of their findings. The last sentence of their abstract is particularly silly. It is: "It also shows that genes may work via the environment to shape the IQ, helping to close the nature versus nurture debate". Nobody has ever questioned that IQ is a product of both genes and the environment -- but you do have to have the right genes to start with for an optimal result. The study would in fact appear to have identified one of the genes concerned

Children who are breast-fed go on to have slightly higher IQs than those who are not, but only if they carry a particular genetic variant, a British-based research team has found. The findings, from a group at King's College London, also provide new evidence that breast milk's nutritional content has a positive effect on infants' intellectual development, if only in those whose DNA lets them benefit.

While previous studies have linked higher IQ to being breast-fed as a baby, questions have been raised as to whether breast-feeding itself is responsible for the increase. Mothers who themselves have higher IQs are more likely to breast-feed in the first place, creating the possibility that genes that directly influence intelligence explain the link.

The new research, led by Professors Terrie Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi, makes it more likely that the nutritional content of breast milk has an active role, as it reveals a physiological mechanism that could account for the effect. The genetic variant carried by children whose IQ is improved when they are breast-fed is known to improve the way in which the body processes fatty acids that are critical to early brain development.

The findings suggest that a combination of the variant and breast-feeding increases the supply of these key acids to the brain, leading on average to greater intelligence. Without breast-feeding, or without the beneficial genetic variant, there is no effect. "Our findings support the idea that the nutritional content of breast milk accounts for the differences seen in human IQ," Professor Moffitt said. "But it's not a simple all-or-none connection: it depends to some extent on the genetic make-up of each infant. "There has been some criticism of earlier studies about breast-feeding and IQ, that they didn't control for socioeconomic status, or the mother's IQ or other factors. But our findings take an end-run around those arguments by showing the physiological mechanism that accounts for the difference."

The research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, adds to the consensus that genes and the environment rarely work in isolation, but often combine to influence human development.

A separate study yesterday suggested that women who continued to drink alcohol during pregnancy would have badly behaved children. Brian D'Onofrio, of Indiana University, said that the children of mothers who drank less than once a week during pregnancy had virtually no behavioural problems, but women who drank on more than five days a week were storing up trouble for the future.


Grammar schools by another name?

The British Labour party has always done its best to abolish Grammar (selective) schools on the grounds of "elitism" but have now rediscovered the virtues of selectivity. Now they are trying to plant a mini-grammar-school within each "comprehensive" school! But the Grammar schools provided a total environment very much like a private school and that is sadly missing in a rowdy and dangerous comprehensive school. So the new approach is still second-rate

England's million brightest pupils will be targeted by a new champion for gifted and talented children, under plans to ensure that the most able youngsters make it to university regardless of their social background. The first priority for John Stannard, a former director of the National Literacy Strategy, will be to target the 300 secondary schools that up until now have refused to take part in the government's gifted and talented (G&T) programme - often because of ideological opposition to selection.

Mr Stannard's appointment, made under the personal direction of Gordon Brown, is part of a drive to extend massively the reach of the G&T programme by raising the proportion of children selected in each school from 5 to about 10 per cent.

The move reflects government disappointment at progress in the scheme, set up in 1999 amid concerns that middle-class parents were abandoning the state sector for private schools because comprehensives were failing to nurture the most able.

Latest figures show that a significant minority of schools - 9 per cent of secondaries and 35 per cent of primaries - have still failed to identify any G&T children, leaving the number benefiting from the extra tuition offered under the programme stuck at 733,000. The Prime Minister is determined that all schools should take part to bring students numbers up to one million of Britain's eight million state school population.

Mr Stannard told The Times that his appointment should send out an important message that state schools would make every effort to cater for the needs of the brightest pupils. "There is a purpose in reassuring middle-class parents that goes beyond the intrinsic value of doing so. "If you keep depleting the state sector of the more able students then that depletes the sector right across the board. It means that schools that do well have a much greater struggle to do so. With a wider range of pupils, you have a greater pool of ability for raising aspirations," he said.

Mr Stannard is keen to ensure that bright pupils from socially disadvantaged backgrounds benefit from the programme. Previous research has suggested that most participants come from better-off families who can afford fees and fares to the extra tuition offered under the programme. He also wants to ensure that those who may be regarded by teachers as underachievers or even troublemakers are picked up by the scheme.

Current government criteria for identifying G&T children states that they may "not necessarily be well behaved", that they may "be bored by routine tasks" and may "appear arrogant or socially inept". "Kids who are very bored can be very stroppy because they do not have enough to do and they are not catered for by their school. They may not be recognised as gifted, particularly in areas of social disadvantage," he said.

The criteria for identifying children for the programme will include teacher assessments and diagnostic tests as well as national Key Stage tests that children sit at the ages of 7, 11 and 14. The scheme applies to children who are academically gifted or who have a talent in the arts or sport. The scheme will apply to children as young as 4. They will qualify for summer schools at universities, as well as extra online tuition, Saturday morning masterclasses and activities with bright children from other schools.

Lord Adonis, the Schools Secretary, emphasised that there was no hard and fast criteria for identifying G&T children and said that it would be left to individual schools to decide precisely how many children to identify. However, he said that secondary schools should pay particular attention to the Key Stage 2 results attained by children in the last year of primary school. He denied that this would put extra pressure on primary school children, effectively making tests at primary school a university entrance exam. "It is vital we do more to support able pupils in state schools, particularly those schools which currently have low numbers going to university," he said.


Lucky Britain reaps the rewards of multiculturalism and mindless tolerance

The new head of security service MI5 has said the number of people involved in terrorist activity in the UK has risen to 2,000 - and that some are as young as 15. Jonathan Evans, in his first public speech since taking the job, called Islamic terrorism the "most immediate and acute peacetime threat" in the 98-year history of MI5. He also said there were as many Russian secret agents in the UK now as during the Cold War.

Referring to Islamic extremism, Mr Evans said: "The more that this ideology spreads in our communities, the harder it will be to maintain the kind of society that the vast majority of us wish to live in. "As I speak terrorists are targeting young people and children in this country. They are radicalising, indoctrinating and grooming young, vulnerable people to carry out acts of terrorism. "This year, we have seen individuals as young as 15 and 16 implicated in terrorist-related activity."

Mr Evans, speaking in Manchester, said a year ago MI5 had identified about 1,600 individuals who posed a "direct threat to national security and public safety". He said: "That figure today would be at least 2,000." He added: "Al Qaeda has a clear determination to mount terrorist attacks against the United Kingdom. This remains the case today, and there is no sign of it reducing." He said there appeared to be an increase in terrorist-related conspiracies being plotted from foreign countries, such as Somalia.

Mr Evans also warned about the number of Russian spies in the UK.



Warnings about the effects of climate change have made most Britons aware of the crisis, but few are willing to make major changes to the way they live, a survey showed on Friday. The Department of the Environment's annual survey of Attitudes and Behaviours in relation to the environment also suggested that while older people were pessimistic about the climate's future, the younger generation were less concerned. "Government is determined to make it possible for people to choose greener lifestyles and to provide advice and encouragement through our Act on CO2 campaign," said Environment Minister Joan Ruddock.

The survey comes days after the government said it may consider deeper reductions to its current carbon emissions target, which aims to cut them by at least 60 percent by 2050. The survey, the sixth since 1986, found that six out of 10 people said they knew a lot or a fair amount about climate change and many were willing to do something to help. But nearly half declared they would not make changes that impinged on their lifestyles and less than three in 10 said they had switched to using a more fuel-efficient car, cut car usage or taken fewer flights.

Contradictory responses also came through in a question on satisfaction with lifestyle, with nearly half replying they were doing enough to help the environment and only 40 percent prepared to do a bit more.

A separate consumer survey found people over 50 -- among the most climate-aware and affluent group -- were deeply suspicious of any government move to raise green taxes, viewing it as a money-making mechanism. People between 16 and 29, especially men, were most likely to say the environment was a low priority for them. They offered a range of reasons for not changing their lifestyles. The survey by Millennium, an agency specialising in marketing to the mature, found 84 percent believed the government was capitalising on climate fears to raise funds and also found little willingness among respondents to change lifestyles much -- if at all -- to benefit the environment. "Our research clearly shows ... the overriding sense of cynicism with which they approach those attempting to jump on the 'eco-friendly' bandwagon," said Millennium managing director Fiona Hought.

The DEFRA survey found there was an overriding sense of guilt about the environment. The most popular corresponding actions tended to be recycling, giving old clothes to charity shops or changing light bulbs. "The most encouraging finding in this survey is the majority of people believing that it's up to individuals to accept responsibility by making lifestyle changes," said Ruddock. "This is vitally important as 40 percent of climate change emissions come from our actions as individuals."


British Less Hysterical about Slang Term for Homosexuals

"Poof" is the British and Australian word that is roughly equivalent to the American "F*ggot". Ofcom is the regulator of the communication industries in Britain:

""Poof" may no longer be a derogatory word when used on television, Ofcom has said, after rejecting 200 complaints over Big Brother.

A contestant twice used the term on the Channel 4 show - but the first comment went unchallenged and the second earned her only a reprimand in the programme's "Diary Room". A number of viewers complained that the word "poof" is just as offensive to homosexuals as "n*gger" is to black people.

But Ofcom cleared the programme of discrimination and double standards, adding that the word presented some difficulties for regulators.


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