Saturday, March 31, 2007

"Pedophile" hysteria

Men are being scared away from joining the teaching profession by a wave of "paedophile hysteria", a leading Tory has warned. Boris Johnson said school staffrooms are increasingly dominated by female teachers because men are afraid of attracting false child abuse allegations. He spoke out after figures revealed women now outnumber men by 13 to one in primary schools - which have been worst-hit by the male recruitment slump.

Mr Johnson, Conservative higher education spokesman, declared that young boys needed male role models to aid their intellectual development but "potentially brilliant" teachers were deterred from entering the profession because they feared being branded paedophiles. Even bumping into a child could cause them to run into difficulties, he warned.

Mr Johnson, speaking at a conference of the Independent Schools Council in London, insisted he "did not want to go into bat for paedophiles". But he claimed society may now be over-egging the problem as he recounted his own experience on a recent British Airways flight. He said a flight attendant had directed him to sit away from his children, apparently without realising they were his own. When she did, she apologised but said the airline did not allow lone men to sit next to children they were unrelated to. "I do think one problem we have got is that we do have a kind of paedophile hysteria in this country and I find it very worrying," he said. "I think the whole thing has been ever so slightly over-egged. I don't want to attack BA unnecessarily but I think it's pretty bonkers that a grown man can be asked to move away from his children. "I do think we are over-doing the whole thing and the result is that a lot of brilliant potential male teachers think 'do I want to go through all of that malarky about what I can and can't do'. "What happens if you bump into someone?

"The result is you have got a ratio of female to male teachers in state primary schools of 13 to 1 now. "That is a huge social change and the effects of that are very damaging, or potentially very damaging on young male minds. "Young male minds do need the intellectual inspiration of a male teacher, not because males are any better than females, but it may help them if there's a male model who can help them with their intellectual development." He added: "I don't want to go into bat for paedophiles but it is a factor in deterring male teachers from thinking about this brilliant profession."

The Mail revealed last year that fewer that 10 per cent of primary teachers are men in some parts of the country. Meanwhile, in the space of a generation, the proportion of secondary school male teachers has dropped from 55 per cent to 41 per cent. The figures prompted concern that the lack of male role models is having serious consequences for boys' performance in exams. Boys now lag behind girls in every major school examination. However teachers' leaders claim that studies show boys do just as well [at what?] when taught by women.



For Jewish students, Leeds university has for some time been a source of growing concern. Such students have been forced to run a gauntlet of anti-Jewish prejudice dressed in the familiar camouflage of anti-Israel sentiment, as in the notorious (and now beaten off) attempt to gag the Jewish society. Last week, a more significant controversy erupted there. A non-Jewish German academic, Dr Matthias Kuentzel, was shocked when his planned lecture, `Hitler's Legacy: Islamic Antisemitism in the Middle East', was abruptly cancelled by the university along with two smaller scheduled seminars.

The university insisted its decision had nothing to do with freedom of speech; nor was it bowing to threats or protests from interest groups. The meeting had been cancelled on safety grounds alone, and because `contrary to our rules, no assessment of risk to people or property has been carried out, no stewarding arrangements are in place and we were not given sufficient notice to ensure safety and public order.' But there was no security risk. No threats had been received. The only ripple was a couple of protests from Muslim students, who claimed the lectures would increase hatred and threaten their `security and well-being' on campus. The university's excuse was absurd.

Indeed, Kuentzel delivered his speech outside the university twice without security problems. Although the university secretary Roger Gair claimed in a letter to the Times that these were the two seminars that were going ahead `as planned', Kuentzel says that, on the contrary, after the cancellation they were hastily convened by private initiative off campus, in Hillel and at a hotel.

Now, fresh information has reached me which reinforces the view that the cancellation was indeed designed to suppress Kuentzel's views. After meeting the university authorities the head of the German department, Professor Stuart Taberner, told his staff that, although he didn't think censorship was the issue, if Kuentzel were to be re-invited the university would have to `look closely' at the subject of his talk. `Having now found the text of what I take to be his talk on the web,' he said, `I'm convinced that the university would want to be reassured that it was striking the correct balance between free speech - the expression of ideas - and its obligation to be mindful of the language in which these ideas are framed'.

The real reason for the cancellation was thus laid bare. It was because of what Kuentzel was saying. The implication was that his language was somehow inflammatory. But his lecture - which he previously delivered in January at Yale - is merely a scholarly and factual account of the links between Nazism and Islamic antisemitism. He argues that the alliance between the Nazis and the Arabs of Palestine infected the wider Muslim world, not least through the influence of the Nazi wireless station Radio Zeesen which broadcast in Arabic, Persian and Turkish and inflamed the Muslim masses with Nazi blood libels laced with Arabic music and quotes from the Koran. Subsequently, this Nazified Muslim antisemitism was given renewed life by both the Egyptian President Nasser and the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the intellectual inspiration for both Hamas and much of the current jihad against the west.

So what exactly is the `correct balance' that this account fails to strike? Indeed, Kuentzel makes the eminently balanced claim that this history shows there is nothing inevitable about Muslim antisemitism, which is merely Nazism in new garb. The link he makes is no more than the demonstrable truth. But clearly, it is not possible to speak this truth at Leeds university. And the reason for this is surely that it draws a straight line between today's Islamic world and Hitler's Germany.

Indeed, Kuentzel sees a seamless connection between Nazism and the jihad against the west. Hitler, he says, fantasised about the toppling of the skyscrapers of New York, the symbol of Jewish power. And the Hamburg trial of terrorists associated with 9/11 heard evidence that New York had been selected for the atrocity because it was a `Jewish city'.

For Islamists, however, such a connection threatens the image they have so assiduously cultivated for themselves as the victims of prejudice. For their appeasers, it destroys the illusion that Islamist extremism arises from rational grievances such as the war in Iraq or `Islamophobia'. Worse still, those on the left who march shoulder to shoulder with radical Islamists are thus exposed as the allies of Nazism.

The result is that Leeds has now joined the growing list of universities which have spinelessly given up the defence of free speech, and thus, in the great battle for civilisation against barbarism, run up the campus white flag.



Lloyd's of London, the world's biggest insurance market, on Thursday reported a pretax profit of 3.66 billion pounds (5.4 billion euros, US$7.2 billion) in 2006, a year of few global catastrophes. That reversed Lloyd's 2005 result of a loss of 103 million pounds (152 million euros, US$202 million) because of hurricane damage claims.

"During the year, we benefited from strong underlying conditions and an exceptionally low level of catastrophes," said Lord Levene, Lloyd's chairman. "However, it would be unrealistic to expect such a favorable claims experience this year."

The 2005 season was the most destructive in recorded history, with 27 named storms and 14 hurricanes, including Katrina, which devastated Louisiana and Mississippi in the U.S. and killed more than 1,300 people.



Thousands of prisoners are being given keys to their cells in the latest farce to hit the criminal justice system. They can roam in and out virtually at will under a scheme designed to give them more "respect and decency". The astonishing measure prompted a furious response from MPs last night, who warned that the human-rights culture was out of control.

It will provoke a furious public backlash at a time when prisons are overflowing and dangerous offenders are being tagged and freed into the community. Official figures revealed that 5,747 of the 9,577 offenders in Yorkshire prisons have keys for 'privacy locks' to protect themselves and their belongings. Although many of them are at open prisons and youth offenders' institutes, others are in standard closed prisons for those who have committed serious crimes such as muggings, burglary and theft. It also emerged that some youth prisons now call offenders 'trainees' or 'residents'.

Governors in other parts of the country are also understood to have introduced the key scheme. Shipley Tory MP Philip Davies accused the Government of "turning prisons into hotels". He said: "People will be horrified to know so many prisons give inmates their own keys. It will reinforce their views that the regime is far too lax and cushy. "These people are banged up for a reason. But the Government seems more concerned about the human rights of criminals than those of their victims, who are footing the bill to keep them in increasingly pleasant surroundings."

Blair Gibbs, director of the Tax-Payers' Alliance, said: "It is hard to believe we live in a serious country any more when you hear lunacy like this. Our politicians are clearly not capable of running anything that resembles an effective criminal justice system."

Home Office Minister Gerry Sutcliffe said: "It's mainly used for people who are soon going to be released or in open prisons. "It's all part of providing incentives to encourage them to take more responsibility for themselves, to give them a little bit more respect and decency." He stressed that the prisoners' locks could be over-ridden by staff keys and insisted: "There are no security issues about this. The keys are for their own cells and nowhere else."

The revelation will still reinforce concern that prisoners' 'rights' are increasingly being pandered to. In the financial year that ended last March, 8.8 million in compensation was paid out to prisoners - almost 15 times as much as just two years earlier. Cases included:

2.8 million for medical treatment for a prisoner who failed in a suicide bid.

750,000 for nearly 200 drug addicts who suffered withdrawal symptoms after they were forced to go 'cold turkey'.

80,000 for three illegal immigrant convicts who were not deported quickly enough, opening the door for hundreds of similar claims.

200 each for prisoners whose DVD players were taken away because they watched pornography.

There was also the case of Gerry Cooper, who sued the Home Office after falling out of a bunk bed in his cell. Inquiries by Mr Davies showed that of Yorkshire's 15 prisons, six give keys to all their inmates and three based the decisions on category of offence and personal circumstances. The six who deny them to all offenders, include top-security Wakefield, where Soham murderer Ian Huntley is serving life.

Governors at Hull Prison, where 50 per cent of inmates have keys, suggested the practice was there to help prisoners protect themselves from others. The prison said: "The facility is overridden by staff keys and is seen as of additional benefit to vulnerable prisoners by providing extra protection."

The inquiries also unearthed the fact that young prisoners at Askham Grange prison are called 'residents', while at Wetherby they are 'trainees'. Earlier this year, Derbyshire chief constable David Coleman was accused of 'madness' after refusing to release pictures of two escaped murderers amid fears it might breach their human rights. He claimed they posed 'no risk' to local people.


I have just put up another lot of postings from Chris Brand on his usual highly "incorrect" themes.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Britain: New concern at impact of record immigration

After 10 years of record immigration, the Government is to set up a high-level forum to assess its impact on communities. The move marks a significant change of approach by Labour, which has justified the four-fold increase since 1997 almost entirely on economic grounds. David Blunkett, a former Home Secretary, once said there was no obvious upper limit to the numbers that could come from outside the EU. But the Home Office said yesterday that it was establishing a Migration Impacts Forum (MIF) alongside another new body advising on skills shortages that immigrants might be able to fill.

The announcement was part of a package of measures that included the prospect of a 1,000 pound fine on families whose relatives failed to go home when their visas expired. It is already an offence punishable by a 5,000pound fine to retain a nanny who has overstayed. It also envisaged further curbs on forced marriage by raising the minimum age for bringing a spouse to the UK from 18 to 21. It will be a requirement for spouses to learn English before they can join their wife or husband.

Liam Byrne, the immigration minister, who will chair the MIF alongside Phil Woolas, the communities minister, said: "I want to make sure that when ministers decide how high the hurdle should be set, they have got a clear understanding of where in the British economy migration is needed and where it isn't. They also must have access to information about the impacts that immigration is having on communities. "We need to ensure that we are making decisions with our eyes wide open."

The forum will consider evidence that schools, hospitals, housing and transport infrastructure are all feeling the strain of a growing population. Doctors have complained that their surgeries cannot cope with the number of new patients now registering, largely from Eastern Europe. Many were women who were seeking assistance with a pregnancy or who were seeking an abortion.

Figures published today by Migrationwatch, which has campaigned for the wider impact to be considered, - suggest that at least 73,000 new homes would be needed every year to house England's rapidly growing immigrant population. Council chiefs have already warned the Government that local services are coming under huge strain as a result of unprecedented levels of immigration. Over an 18-month period, about 9,000 new National Insurance numbers were issued in Slough, Berks, of which just 150 went to British nationals. Yet the Office for National Statistics recorded only 300 international migrants settling in the area. Net immigration in 2005 was close to 200,000 - four times the number when Labour took office in 1997.

The latest measures foreshadow a new visa regime for tourists, whose length of stay could be reduced from six months to three months. Officials said only two per cent of visitors stayed longer than three months and these could be people who worked illegally or breached their visa terms.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, said: "It is high time that the wider picture was considered, including the widespread public concern that we are losing our own culture. "But this forum will be useless if it includes only the usual suspects from the immigration industry and employers who stand to gain from immigration."


NHS crisis is forcing cuts to maternity care, charity warns

Support for pregnant women is being cut because of the NHS's financial troubles, a healthcare charity has warned. The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) says it is receiving "increasing reports" that NHS antenatal classes, breastfeeding services and postnatal visits are being cancelled.

NHS antenatal classes have been cut or suspended in at least 10 areas in England and Wales, according to the NCT. These are Romsey in Hampshire; Worcestershire; Newham in London; Watford; Gwent in south Wales; south-west Kent; Nottinghamshire; Gloucestershire; Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire; and Wiltshire.

The NCT said it also understood that postnatal home visits have been stopped or are facing cuts in Wiltshire and in east and north Hertfordshire, which would mean new mothers have to travel to a clinic in order to receive after-birth care. An NCT spokeswoman said: "These cuts in maternity services may reflect a more widespread pattern. "The NCT is concerned that these short-term measures to ease financial deficits are having a negative effect on new parents and parents-to-be, preventing them from getting the information and support they need at this important stage in their lives."

The Department of Health (DoH) said it expected local NHS trusts to follow guidelines set down in the children's national service framework which says good antenatal care will include access to parenting education and preparation for birth "as classes or through other means".

A DoH spokesman said: "The soon-to-be-published maternity strategy will set out how we will achieve services that provide real choice and support for women in all settings, from antenatal care through to the early child years."



Muslim GPs fail to respect the confidentiality of Muslim women patients, Patricia Hewitt, the Health Secretary, has claimed. Ms Hewitt, who represents a constituency in Leicester with a large ethnic minority community, said: "I have had Muslim women give me chapter and verse on very distressing breaches of confidentiality by Muslim GPs. "Some women patients feel they cannot trust their own GP. If they talk to him about a very difficult situation concerning domestic violence or sexual health problems they fear that he will share that with other members of the community." Ms Hewitt had touched on the issue earlier in a speech to the Fabian Society but elaborated her concerns in an interview in Pulse.

A report published last year by the Muslim Women's Network lends some support to Ms Hewitt's charges. It said: "Women did not trust professionals from within their own communities to be always bound by professional rules of confidentiality." The report is based on conversations with Muslim women throughout the country.

But Asian GPs reacted strongly to Ms Hewitt's remarks. Dr Vijoy Singh, chair of Leicestershire and Rutland Local Medical Committee, which covers Ms Hewitt's constituency, said: "No GP would break confidentiality because if they break it, they are liable to be sued. She's out of touch." Prakash Chandra, Local Medical Committee chairman in Newham, which has many Muslim residents, told Pulse: "It surprises me that Patricia Hewitt would make such a statement. This is not a problem I have come across."

A spokeswoman for the General Medical Council (GMC), which investigates complaints against doctors, said: "The GMC is aware that some groups of patients may have added concerns about the confidentiality of their personal information." In the past year, she said, 11 doctors had been referred to a fitness to practise hearing for allegations involving the intentional disclosure of patient information. A spokeswoman for the British Medical Association (BMA) said: "Breaching confidentiality is extremely serious and any doctor who does must be prepared to justify their actions to the General Medical Council."

Jo Haynes, editor of Pulse, said: "These are serious accusations. You would hope Patricia Hewitt has some firm evidence to back up her decision to single out Muslim doctors in this way." Ms Hewitt said: "This is not a direct accusation against Muslim GPs - it is a call for sensitivity from all parts of the health service."

Haleh Afshar, professor of politics and women's studies at York University and chair-woman of the Muslim Women's Network, said she believed that Ms Hewitt had been commenting on issues raised in its own report. "We said that this is a concern that is shared by all women, but the difficulty for Muslim women is that sometimes they don't have the option of going to a GP outside their community." Dr Reefat Drabu, a GP in Southampton, said that she found the accusations offensive. "I'm a Muslim doctor" she said. "Confidentiality is paramount not just for the GP, but for the whole practice. To breach confidentiality in my practice is a sackable offence."


What Britain's politically correct policing and gun restrictions have achieved: "Scores of worried parents are buying body armour for their children in a desperate attempt to keep them safe as street violence escalates. A firm that supplies stab- and bullet-proof vests to government agencies around the world has sold 60 jackets, at a cost of between 300 to 425 pounds, to concerned parents who have flooded the company with inquiries after several murders of teenagers on London streets. The company has received more than 100 calls from parents in the capital over the past few weeks. The company, VestGuard UK, usually gets one or two calls of this type per year. The fatal stabbings of Adam Regis, killed three days after 16-year-old Kodjo Yenga, are the latest in a series of violent incidents involving teenagers in recent months. One mother, whose 13-year-old daughter goes to a school where a pupil has been shot to death, has saved up to buy her child of the best vests available after she was targeted by a gang of older girls. She is now saving up for another vest for her 11-year-old daughter who has also been abused by the gang. Too scared to give her or her daughter’s real name, the woman, a chemical engineer, explained why she felt she had to resort to buying body armour. “My daughter is being attacked by girls who are much older than her and the problem is continuing. I have never seen them with a knife but you never know when they are going to use a gun or knife until it is too late. “The vest is very expensive and we do not have a lot of money but I have no choice. My daughter has been attacked five times in a few weeks and I would rather be safe than sorry... The mother has been to the police but nothing has happened." [She should say her daughter was racially insulted. That would produce a swarm of police immediately]

Thursday, March 29, 2007


With the current breastbeating about slavery in Britain (no-one would guess that it was actually Britain that ENDED slavery), it seems important to get clear just what was actually happening before 1807. I think that the following extract from The Encyclopedia Britannica would be a total surprise to 99.9% of Brits:

Black slaves exported from Africa were widely traded throughout the Islamic world. Approximately 18,000,000 Africans were delivered into the Islamic trans-Saharan and Indian Ocean slave trades between 650 and 1905.

In the second half of the 15th century Europeans began to trade along the west coast of Africa, and by 1867 between 7,000,000 and 10,000,000 Africans had been shipped as slaves to the New World.

Although some areas of Africa were depleted by slave raiding, on balance the African population grew after the establishment of the transatlantic slave trade because of new food crops introduced from the New World, particularly manioc, corn (maize), and possibly peanuts (groundnuts).

The relationship between African and New World slavery was highly complementary. African slave owners demanded primarily women and children for labour and lineage incorporation and tended to kill males because they were troublesome and likely to flee. The transatlantic trade, on the other hand, demanded primarily adult males for labour and thus saved from certain death many adult males who otherwise would have been slaughtered outright by their African captors

I guess I am naive but is there not some cause for THANKS somewhere in there?


Of all the stories I have covered about what is now called the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, few have been more remarkable than the disaster that has just befallen David Dobbin, a 43-year-old Cheshire farmer, who derived his entire livelihood from a large dairy herd. His 567 cows, including pedigree Ayrshires and Holsteins, had won prizes, and were worth upwards of 500,000 pounds.

In 2005 Cheshire trading standards officials, acting for Defra (one hopes Cheshire's taxpayers do not mind officials whose salaries they pay acting for a government department) began a long series of visits, to inspect the documentation required for Mr Dobbin's cattle under EC rules. The more they attempted to check the animals' eight-digit ear tags against their EC "cattle passports", the more they claimed to have found "irregularities", although they failed to explain how many or what these were.

Last November, on Defra's instructions, the officials seized all Mr Dobbin's passports, making it illegal for him to move animals off his farm and all but wiping out his income. Last month, serving him with a "notice to identify", they removed his herd to another farm, stating that, under EC regulation 494/98, it was their intention to destroy all 567 animals.

Dating back to the BSE panic, this diktat says that "if the keeper of an animal cannot prove its identification in two working days, it shall be destroyed without delay" and "without compensation". These powers, as I noted when the regulation was issued in 1998, were unprecedented. Nevertheless the regulation permits officials to destroy only animals that cannot be identified. Defra has never claimed that the paperwork for most of Mr Dobbin's cows was not in order, only that the officials had found "what they believed to be an unacceptable level of non-compliance with the regulations", and that this "could have serious implications for the protection of the human food chain".

Less than an hour before slaughter was due to begin, Mr Dobbin's combative Liverpool lawyer, David Kirwan, got a High Court injunction, giving the cows a stay of execution. He also won leave from Mr Justice Goldring for judicial review, on the grounds that Defra was acting beyond its powers. But this month, as the injunction expired, Defra insisted that, unless Mr Dobbin could prove the identification of every one of his animals, they must still be destroyed. Since all his passports, the most obvious means of identification, had been confiscated, this was impossible.

Defra told the court that Mr Dobbin would instead have to provide DNA identification for each animal, within two days. This would have been technically impossible, even if Defra had not moved the cows elsewhere and refused him access. The need to proceed with the slaughter, Defra argued, was urgent, because it had no resources to look after the cattle properly, causing severe "animal welfare" problems. The judge felt he had little option but to give the go-ahead, and on March 8 and 9 the cows were destroyed.

All Mr Dobbin can now hope for is that the judicial review may confirm that Defra acted outside the law. The officials agreed in court that they had never used these powers on anything like such a scale before. It has not been claimed that Mr Dobbin's animals posed any health risk (BSE this year is down to a single case). His only alleged offence was "non-compliance" with complex bureaucratic procedures, to an extent which Defra still cannot specify. For this he has seen his livelihood go up in smoke, without a penny in compensation.


Changing a bulb is risky at the BBC

With a few simple precautions, thousands manage it every day. Yet BBC staff have been stopped from replacing lightbulbs because of concerns for their health and safety. Instead, the corporation is paying up to 10 pounds for each replacement bulb to be fitted.

The situation came to light when Louise Wordsworth, a learning project manager with the BBC, complained. "I called up to ask for a new lightbulb for my desk lamp and was told that this would cost 10 pounds," she wrote in a letter to Ariel, the corporation's magazine. "On telling them I'd buy and replace the bulb myself (bought for the bargain price of 1 pound for two bulbs) I was told that it was against health and safety regulations. So guess how many BBC colleagues it finally took to change a lightbulb (risking life and limb to do so)?"

A BBC spokesman confirmed that there had been a number of complaints, but said that each request was judged on its merits to save staff time.

As for Ms Wordsworth's unanswered question, three years ago it was calculated how many people it takes to change a BBC lightbulb. The member of staff left in the dark would need to find a clerk to get a reference number so that the repair could be paid for, then report the fault to a helpline. An electrician would ask the store manager for the part and install the bulb, making a total of five people.


Wonder drug NHS bosses can't afford to offer cancer victims

CASH-strapped NHS bosses are denying thousands of Midland kidney cancer patients two new 'wonder drugs' that could prolong their lives. A Birmingham oncologist has likened the scandal surrounding Sutent and Nexavar to that of breast cancer treatment Herceptin, which was denied to sufferers until a public outcry last year. Professor Nicholas James revealed that Midland health chiefs are refusing to fund some of his patients with the kidney cancer treatments, licensed for use in Britain last August.

Trials have shown that Sutent and Nexavar can offer patients a dramatic improvement in quality of life - and increase life expectancy by two years. That compares favourably to Interferon-alpha, the kidney cancer treatment currently available on the NHS, which lengthens lives by just five months on average.

But Sutent and Nexavar cost 3,000 pounds a month to fund, and have not yet been approved as 'cost-effective' by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE). As a result, funding decisions are currently being taken by individual Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), who are said to be rejecting most NHS patients. Kidney cancer sufferers are so desperate to experience the drugs' life-extending benefits that they are cashing in pensions and selling homes to fund the treatment themselves.

Prof James, a clinical oncology expert from Birmingham University's Wellcome Institute, said: "Around 6,000 people in Britain are diagnosed with kidney cancer every year, and it kills up to 4,000 people every 12 months. "Initially, you can be treated with radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery. But, until August last year, if it came back there was no hope. "The approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) of Sutent and Nexavar, licensed last August, has changed all that.

"It was a big step forward in terms of treatment options for kidney cancer patients. "But although the drugs had been approved by the Agency, NICE has not yet given them the go-ahead as being cost-effective for NHS patients. "This is where our problem lies. We have drugs available to treat our patients, but they are not routinely available on the NHS because they have not been approved by NICE. "This means I have some patients who were involved in the trials for these drugs who can continue treatment. "But others have to rely on decisions of their individual PCTs to see if they will fund them.

"When this happened with Herceptin, there was a huge uproar. NICE eventually approved the drug. "Up to 40,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in Britain, so the numbers affected were far greater and they could kick up a bigger fuss. "Meanwhile, there are thousands of kidney cancer patients who could benefit from these new drugs, but who are finding it difficult to make their voices heard."

Two men for every woman is diagnosed with kidney cancer, which tends to affect those aged from 30 to 60. Prof James added: "It's a ridiculous situation. If a drug is approved by the MHRA, it should automatically be approved by NICE. "It is unfair that some patients can have access to the drugs, which have proved to be highly effective at prolonging life and improving life quality, yet others aren't.

"It is a ghastly decision for the PCT to have to make. "There are several Midland patients who can't afford the drugs, while others have remortgaged their homes and cashed in their pensions so they can be treated."

Radio presenter James Whale, who has kidney cancer, is backing the campaign to have Sutent and Nexavar offered free to NHS patients. "In the past, people with advanced kidney cancer had little hope," he said. "Now, drugs like Sutent and Nexavar are their only chance of precious extra months of life."

A Department of Health Spokesman said: "Our guidance makes it clear to NHS organisations that they should not refuse to fund a treatment simply because NICE guidance does not yet exist. "Until NICE has issued final guidance on a treatment, NHS bodies should continue with local arrangements for the managed introduction of new technologies, taking into account all the available evidence."


Green Fascism just around the corner in Britain

Something disturbing and ominous is happening in Great Britain as the country embarks on an all-out fight against the threat of global warming. Intent on making Britain the world's first "green" economy, the government will soon introduce legislation designed to take SUVs and other "gas guzzling" vehicles off the road. By sharply increasing driving levies, the authorities intend to force car owners into making "more sustainable travel choices, including greater use of public transport, walking and cycling."

At the same time, homeowners will be asked to make their homes "carbon neutral" and required to draw their energy primarily from low or zero carbon sources such as wave, tide, solar or nuclear power. To ensure compliance, the government will send out inspectors to scrutinize everything from how a home is insulated to the kind of appliances it uses. Those who fail to meet the decreed standards will be fined and penalized. Just how serious the government is about enforcement can be sensed from the words of Environment Secretary David Miliband who stated -- while unveiling the program -- that it would be "painful" for home owners to continue to have an "energy inefficient home."

These sentiments were echoed by a group of cabinet ministers who said that complying with the new regulations will necessitate sweeping changes in lifestyle across the board. Everybody in Britain, they concurred, will have to "live, work and travel differently."

It is essential that we see these developments for what they really are: A thinly-veiled attempt by devotees of the state to take over a western society the like of which has not been seen since the Soviet-sponsored revolutions of the late 1940s.

The practical consequence of these plans -- should they succeed -- will be a radical empowerment of the state which will end up with virtually unlimited powers to regulate nearly every facet of life. Everything from the way people travel to the manner in which they furnish and maintain their homes will now be subject to governmental decree and oversight. Those who refuse to comply will be punished -- and severely so -- if the words of Miliband are anything to go by.

This is precisely why the idea of man-made global warming so appeals to those on the political left. Being ideological cousins of erstwhile socialists, they share a desire to expand government regardless of the cause or issue they ostensibly espouse. In global warming they have sensed the perfect opportunity, for if the underlying claim is true and the planet is indeed headed for destruction, then the impending catastrophe can only be averted by united action on a grand scale. And such action can only be taken by a strong state which has been granted a wide range of powers to deal with this life-or-death crisis.

What makes the global warming scenario even more appealing is that the chief perpetrator is none other than the left's perennial villain -- the business establishment. After all, most of the pollutants are emitted into the atmosphere by unscrupulous businesses as a by-product of their relentless pursuit of ever greater profits. Close second on the list of culprits are us the people whose excessive consumption, runaway appetites and outright recklessness further exacerbate the already critical situation.

The way to safeguard our survival, then, is for government to exercise strict control over both business and the masses. This will be done through taxation and regulation, which, admittedly, will have to be severe at times. But no one should object or complain, since it is only to be expected that this extreme emergency calls for extreme measures. Thus the alleged threat of man-made global warming is used as a means of realizing the left's perennial dream of society administered by a powerful state.

Those on the left have sought to affect this state of affairs for many decades, but until now their efforts have met with vigorous resistance throughout much of the Western world. Not surprisingly, given that it is a world built on the ideals of economic and individual freedom and the principle of limited government.

But by invoking the specter of global warming, the left no longer has to fight tooth and nail for every tax increase or additional regulation. Alarmed by apocalyptic predictions, the frightened populations will now voluntarily and even eagerly turn over their money, freedoms and rights. Fearing for our lives, no tax will seem too excessive or regulatory burden too intrusive. After all, no decree or law can seem too extreme if our very survival is at stake. Believing we face an imminent doom, we shall readily submit to a governmentally mandated compact we would never agree to under normal circumstances.

This time there will be no resistance to this revolution as the state refashions almost all existing relations and usurps the rights and powers that properly belong to the private sphere. There will be no fierce street fighting such as accompanied the bloody revolutions of the past. This time around people will give up their freedoms willingly and even with gladness.

Even Karl Marx himself could not be wholly displeased with the state of affairs toward which the global warming alarmism is inexorably inclining: A vastly empowered state exercising tight oversight over virtually every dimension of life. The only departure from Marx's original vision is the means by which this will be achieved. It will not come about as a result of bitter class struggle, but of a crusade by environmental activists to save the planet.

The tremendous efficacy of the global warming frenzy in advancing the left's agenda can be seen in Britain where state zealots are in the process of taking over one of the world's oldest democracies. Above all, no one should make the mistake of assuming that this is the work of environmental extremists who have somehow managed to worm their way into positions of power and influence. Rather it is the inevitable consequence of accepting the claim of man-made global warming. As such, it is a dire warning of what lies in store for all those who receive this left-induced hysteria as unassailable truth.

When similar measures are finally proposed in America -- as they inevitably will be -- we must be prepared to expose and call them for what they really are: A ruse to bring about the socialist dream of an all-powerful state in charge of every aspect of our lives.



If you could divide Europe's nations and regions into "red" and "blue" states on the American model, very few would be colored "red" -- Poland, some other East European countries, rural regions across the continent, etc. Most nations would be cheerfully "blue." But all Europe would be ''green.'' Green is the universal sign of conspicuous virtue, of concern for planet, of a new paganism that worships the goddess Gaia and treats the Earth as itself a single living organism.

Anyone who questions this newly fashionable faith is regarded as a dangerous heretic to be cast into the outer darkness. A minister in the British government suggested to the BBC that it should not allow air time to any scientists who doubted ''global warming'' (a minority of scientists but a distinguished group). Other high priests of the creed have called for "Nuremberg trials" of "climate change deniers."

In this ovebearing moral atmosphere politicians are likely to salute any green flag that the environmentalists run up. And, sure enough, in 10 days there has been in succession:

1. A "summit" of European Union leaders that pledged to cut Europe's carbon emissions by 20 percent from their 1990 levels and, if other countries (especially America) follow their example, by 30 percent.

2. The publication in Britain of a Climate Change Bill, supported by all major parties, that would set legally binding targets to cut Britain's carbon emissions by 60 percent by 2050.

3. A proposal by the supposedly free-market Conservative Party to "allow" every citizen one untaxed air flight a year but then to levy heavy taxes on additional flights in order to discourage air travel.

4. Leaks from Whitehall that Finance Minister Gordon Brown will double fuel taxes in Wednesday's budget as another green measure.

All this is likely to be applauded by the voters -- who are swept up in this green tornado quite as much as the media and politicians -- but will they applaud its effects, large and small, when they pinch? Take small effects first. Under the EU summit agreement, the familiar light bulb is to be outlawed in the next few years in favor of a more carbon-neutral one. Unfortunately, the new bulb is several times more expensive than the existing one and it sheds much less light. Those who can afford the (considerable) expense will use more bulbs to illuminate the same space. Poorer people will develop eye problems and push up health costs. Such are the unintended consequences of thoughtless legislation.

What of large matters? The idea underlying the EU proposals and the British climate change bill is that governments will both impose binding limits on the carbon emissions that industries emit and instruct them to use low-carbon fuels such as wind and solar power. In other words, the EU and Britain are embracing a new form of central planning based on energy-use quotas rather than output quotas. But central planning is a synonym for economic inefficiency and waste. These things happen when green daydreams encounter realities or what Al Gore calls inconvenient truths. Here are a few more of them:

* Almost all the European countries have already failed to meet much lower carbon emission targets under Kyoto than the new targets they adopted 10 days ago.

* When Brown increased fuel taxes six years ago in Britain, nationwide blockades by truck drivers almost brought down the government.

* The British economy accounts for only 2 percent of global carbon emissions. If it were to close down entirely, it would have little or no impact on the world's total carbon output -- and even less impact on the willingness of the Indian and Chinese governments to cut back on building power stations that they consider essential to their nation's prosperity but that are now the main drivers of increased carbon usage.

Britain and Europe's governments are committing themselves to systems of carbon rationing bound to run up against strong consumer and voter resistance within a few years for very little practical gain. Why? Europe's green establishment believes that global warming is caused by carbon usage and thus can be solved only by its massive reduction.

But global warming has several possible causes, some of which, such as the activity of the sun, are unrelated to humans.

While we are seeking to understand global warming scientifically, we should adapt to it -- shoring up coasts against erosion, changing the use of agricultural land to suit the changing climate, building dams, developing new technologies. Adaptation would include measures to encourage the use of cleaner fuels, notably nuclear energy. It would be a practical solution to the effects of warming, whatever science eventually established definitively as its cause.

To be sure, adaptation would be expensive. Not nearly so expensive, however, as trying to close down the free market in Europe and to reverse the Industrial Revolution in Asia. But Gaia is a jealous goddess and does not consider costs.



Lipitor is a common statin. There is a "Cholesterol Skeptics" site here

A doctor accused of wittingly prescribing useless or possibly lethal drugs would vehemently - and understandably - deny it. This makes it rather difficult to oppose the prevailing medical consensus on statins - the cholesterol-lowering drugs prescribed to four million people in Britain at a cost of 1 billion pounds a year. That's quite a sum. It could pay the salaries of 700,000 nurses or build two spanking new teaching hospitals.

An even bigger sum is 15 billion. That is the profit the pharmaceutical industry made last year from this, the most profitable class of drugs ever invented. They are so profitable that the latest statins to reach the market came with a 600 million promotion budget, to "promote" the notion to family doctors and policymakers that the lower the cholesterol the better, and that at least half the population would benefit from the drugs.

But it is not so. Statins are useless for 95 per cent of those taking them, while exposing all to the hazard of serious side-effects. Hence my ever-growing file of letters from those who regrettably have had to find this out for themselves, illustrated by this all-too-typical tale from Roger Andrews of Hertfordshire, first prescribed statins after an operation for an aortic aneurism (that he had cleverly diagnosed himself).

Over the past few years Mr Andrews had become increasingly decrepit -what can one expect at 74? - with pain and stiffness in the legs and burning sensations in the hands so bad that when flying to his son's wedding in Hawaii he needed walking sticks and a wheelchair at the transfer stops. However, he forgot to pack his statins, and felt so much better after his three-week holiday that when he got home he decided to continue the inadvertent "experiment" of not taking them. Since October most if not all of his crippling side-effects have gone. Several friends can tell a similar story, and they have friends too.

The take-home message is that statins are only of value in those with a strong family history of heart disease or men with a history of heart attacks. For everyone else they are best avoided as they seriously interfere with the functioning of the nerve cells, affecting mental function, and muscles. This is all wittily explained in a recent book by a Cheshire family doctor, Malcolm Kendrick, "The Great Cholesterol Con" (John Blake Publishing, 9.99). There are, I suspect, many out there, like Mr Andrews, wrongly attributing their decrepitude to Anno Domini, when the real culprits are statins.


British man denied "too expensive" heart surgery

Health insurance that isn't

A seriously ill man has been told he cannot have a potentially life-saving operation on the NHS because his local primary care trust will not pay for it. Paul Carter, 66, of Malvern, was told by a specialist he needed biventricular pacing fitted for his enlarged heart. But Worcestershire Primary Health Care Trust has refused, saying the advanced pacemaker surgery would cost 8,000 pounds. It said it could not afford the 400,000 pounds it would cost each year to provide the surgery to patients.

The primary care trust's Dr Richard Harling said: "Any funding would have to come from other services. "For the PCT to justify introducing (biventricular pacing) we would have to be sure that it was a better use of this money than our other local services."

Mr Carter's wife Marjorie said: "We are very upset. Working all your life and having to face an operation and then you can't get it done is a bit distressing."

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), which offers guidance to primary care trusts over whether a treatment is cost effective, is due to make a decision over the treatment in July. The Department of Health said, until Nice's guidance was published, the final decision on funding lay with individual trusts.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007


We read:

The British government was advised against publicly criticising a report estimating that 655,000 Iraqis had died due to the war, the BBC has learnt. Iraqi Health Ministry figures put the toll at less than 10% of the total in the survey, published in the Lancet. But the Ministry of Defence's chief scientific adviser said the survey's methods were "close to best practice" and the study design was "robust".

The Lancet medical journal published its peer-reviewed survey last October. It was conducted by the John Hopkins School of Public Health and compared mortality rates before and after the invasion by surveying 47 randomly chosen areas across 16 provinces in Iraq.

Shortly after the publication of the survey in October last year Tony Blair's official spokesperson said the Lancet's figure was not anywhere near accurate. He said the survey had used an extrapolation technique, from a relatively small sample from an area of Iraq that was not representative of the country as a whole.

But a memo by the MoD's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Roy Anderson [A zoologist], on 13 October, states: "The study design is robust and employs methods that are regarded as close to "best practice" in this area, given the difficulties of data collection and verification in the present circumstances in Iraq."

To see what statisticians experienced in the research method concerned say, see here and here. I am myself a much published user of that research method and I made the following comments last year:

None of the comments I saw appeared to be by people who are experienced users of cluster sampling -- the method used for the Lancet study. I am a VERY experienced user of cluster sampling -- with many of my academic publications based on it. And the glaring error which rather explains why the study appeared in a medical journal rather than a more statistically sophisticated journal is that there was NO VALIDATION of the survey results. That your survey-takers might just sit down under a tree and "make up" their "interview" results is a routine peril and it is routine to take precautions against it -- usually by going back on a later occasion and checking with the alleged respondents a proportion of all interviews handed in. Just the awareness that a sample of the respondents will be re-interviewed tends to keep the interviewers honest -- though not always so, regrettably. So the results reported in the Lancet study have no credibility at all and must be regarded as garbage.

It is astounding that the authors of the study were so naive. Perhaps they WANTED their interviewers to "fudge" the results -- making clear what the desired results would be, of course.

Another oddity in the Lancet article that suggests something peculiar about the authors is the claim that their interviewers were all DOCTORS -- and not just any doctors but doctors bilingual in Arabic and English. I have never seen the like of that before. Experienced interviewers of some kind were what was needed and that is what is usually used, not doctors. Can we really believe that a whole corps of these rare doctors abandoned their medical duties for so long in order to do something outside their normal expertise? If true it certainly suggests a heavy political committment on the part of the doctors concerned -- exactly what one would NOT want in a study claiming to be objective. To me the whole claim seems like the sort of "gilding the lily" that con-men engage in.

Other critics have noticed other vast implausibilities in the results reported -- the amazingly high (98%) success-rate at getting people to consent to an interview, for instance --- garbage, garbage garbage. And the lie about the death certificates actually shows how bogus the results were.

"Those guys were not even trying to do real research. It was just a propaganda circus. I strongly support Moore's point about the survey's lack of demographic information. That is so unthinkable in survey research that the article would never have been published in an academic journal that knew anything about survey research. The Lancet should stick to medicine.

And as Iraq Body Count note:

"Between January and June 2006, there were 91 violent deaths recorded by the Lancet survey. This would correspond to over 180,000 deaths in the first 6 months of 2006, and an average rate of 1,000 per day. The daily death rate over the same period based on UN reports (which sum Baghdad morgue and Ministry of Health data) is 80 violent deaths per day. Cumulated media reports provide a somewhat lower figure. If the Lancet extrapolation is sound, this would imply a further 920 violent deaths every day (1000 minus 80) which have been recorded by neither officials nor the media. As these are averages, some days would see many more deaths, and others substantially fewer, but in either case, all of them would remain unnoticed."

Strange NHS priorities

Tom and Donna (not their real names) are professional shamen. They teach classes in shamanism at a “foundation”, where you can learn “soul retrieval healing”, help the dead “continue their journey into the Hereafter”, and investigate “the Fairy Kingdom”. These soul retrievers and Fairy Kingdom investigators also work for the NHS — where, according to Tom’s foundation profile, they “use complementary therapies to help those with mental health difficulties”.

Shaman therapies are not the only unorthodox treatments for which the NHS will gladly pay. Taxpayers are also subsidising Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) “therapy”, in which, according to one NHS trust, “subtle energies” are reordered via “tapping with the fingertips to stimulate certain meridian energy points while the client is ‘tuned in’ to the problem”. The inventor of EFT notes on his website that he “is not a licensed health professional”, which doesn’t stop him promoting it as an effective treatment for diabetes — unsurprising, since it works for “just about every emotional, health and performance issue you can name”.

If EFT doesn’t do the job, an NHS foot massage might help. Reflexologists believe that each part of the foot maps to a different organ, and that massaging a particular point can treat that organ. Medical doctors think it’s absurd. This is not to say that the NHS doesn’t have a sceptical side — even it is dubious about homeopathy, pointing out that “no evidence has been found” to support the key homeopathic principle that water retains a “memory” of molecules that have been filtered out of it, and that pure distilled water is an effective treatment for a host of conditions.

Since the NHS believes that the entire basis of homeopathy is “contrary to scientific knowledge”, the obvious question becomes: why is it funding five homeopathic hospitals? Most depressing of all for the rational taxpayer is the NHS Directory for Alternative and Complementary Medicine, which aims to promote “dowsers”, “flower therapists” and “crystal healers”.

We’ve just learnt that some hospitals are removing every third light bulb to save money, and that nurses are being paid half the minimum wage — or being asked to work for nothing — at others. That’s how bad the financial crisis has become. Meanwhile, the National Health Service is employing shaman fairy enthusiasts as psychological counsellors, enthusiastically providing treatments invented by “an ordained minister and a personal performance coach” who thinks tapping your body can cure diabetes, promoting dowsers and crystal healers and spending vast amounts on therapies that can’t be scientifically supported.



UCAS challenged over proposed new application form

A civil liberties group has asked the Commission for Racial Equality [CRE] to intervene over the University and Colleges Admissions Service’s [UCAS] proposal to provide data about potential students’ ethnicity to Admissions Officers before rather than after the selection process is complete.

Liberty and Law director Gerald Hartup has written to CRE chair Professor Kay Hampton complaining about the proposal on the grounds that it would be in blatant breach of good equal opportunities practice propounded by the CRE over many years.

Monitoring forms the CRE has always argued should be anonymous, kept separate from any application form and from the entire selection process.

Where they are not this can and does allow ruthless discrimination at the selection process. This was evidenced notoriously by the use of equal opportunities data about their race being used last year to reject 289 white male applicants from consideration with Avon and Somerset and Gloucestershire Police Services.

Mr Hartup stated: “We must learn our lesson. We cannot trust Chief Constables with confidential information but they were at least breaking the law. How can we possibly allow the careers of students to depend upon the self denying integrity of Admissions Officers under pressure to come up with the results necessary to achieve maximum funding.”

“Should UCAS go ahead with their misguided policy they must expect legal action by students who can never be sure that the reason for their failure to obtain a place at their preferred institution was because their race did not fit the Education Secretary’s matrix.”

Liberty and law has written to UCAS Chief Executive Anthony McClaren urging him to drop the scheme. It has also written to OFFA [Office for fair Access] that has “a role in identifying and disseminating good practice and advice connected with access to higher education.”

More here

Green pain coming to Britain

Homeowners who refuse to make their properties energy efficient will face financial penalties under drastic government plans to transform Britain into the world's first 'green' economy. Ministers yesterday promised deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions that they warned would mean everyone in the country having to 'live, work and travel differently'. They compared the scale of change that was necessary to reduce emissions by 60 per cent by 2050 to the industrial revolution of the 18th century.

The Government said that every new home should be 'carbon neutral' within ten years - and existing properties subject to a 'home energy audit' to assess how green they are. Householders would be given access to 'hassle-free' renovation services to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. They would be able to 'buy now, pay later' for green improvements as their fuel bills decreased. Zero carbon homes are insulated to reduce heating costs, use solar panels, windpower or other renewable energy sources, are made with environmentally friendly materials and use energy efficient light bulbs and appliances.

Critics said the plans raised the prospect of 'eco-snoopers' inspecting homes. Blair Gibbs, of the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: "It's bad enough that politicians want to take so much of our money away in tax. For them also to intrude into our homes in order to have the ability to penalise us even further is simply unacceptable."

Unveiling the plans, Environment Secretary David Miliband said it would be "painful" to continue to have an "energy inefficient home". Those that did would face higher bills, he added. Transport will also undergo radical overhaul as Britain moves towards becoming a "low- carbon economy", the Government said. Vehicles will be made more fuel efficient, effectively forcing current gas-guzzling models off the road. The Government is to work with the EU on new laws setting a new average emissions target of 130g of carbon dioxide per kilometre - well below most of today's models - with further reductions to follow.

People are to be encouraged to make 'more sustainable' travel choices, including greater use of public transport, walking and cycling. The Government is also to invest in solar, wind and wave power. A draft Climate Change Bill published yesterday dismissed sceptics, insisting there was 'no longer any real debate' that climate change was happening and man-made emissions were the main cause. In a sign of the importance the Government attaches to the legislation, the Prime Minister, his expected successor Gordon Brown, and Mr Miliband, touted as a future Labour leader, unveiled the Bill together in Downing Street.

Mr Blair compared the fight against climate change to the battle against fascism. Labour's legislation sets an interim target of a 26 per cent to 32 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020, and 60 per cent by 2050. It will make Britain the first country in the world with legally binding targets. A panel will advise ministers on carbon targets every five years. If they miss the figure, future governments will face court action. The draft Bill will now be subject to consultation, but the Government hopes it will be law by Easter 2008. Mr Brown, who doubled air passenger duty last year, said he would not impose further 'green taxes' on aviation in next week's Budget.

But airlines suggested fares may have to rise anyway under the Government's plans. British Airways bosses told MPs ticket hikes could result from plans to include airlines in an EU emissions trading scheme - in which firms receive credits which allow them to emit specific amounts of greenhouse gases, but have to buy more if they exceed their limit.

Opposition politicians and green campaigners said the Government's proposals did not go far enough, insisting binding targets on emissions should be annual. Tory spokesman Peter Ainsworth said: "There is a danger that the fiveyear approach will enable responsibility for failure to be shunted on from one government to another."


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Hero fireman faces official punishment for risking his life in a rescue

This really IS the Unhinged Kingdom

A fireman is facing disciplinary action after plunging into a river to rescue a drowning woman. Tam Brown, 42, is the subject of an internal investigation by Tayside Fire and Rescue because he breached safety rules during the rescue in the River Tay in Perth. He spent eight minutes in the cold water and at one stage feared that he would be swept to his death. But after dragging the 20-year-old woman to safety he was told by his employer that he had acted improperly by risking his life.

Mr Brown, who has 15 years' experience as a fireman, was hailed as a hero by the young woman's family but Tayside Fire and Rescue said that he had broken the brigade's "standing instructions" on safety procedures.

He said yesterday: "I was expected to watch that young girl die in front of me. As a father and a caring human being, I couldn't live with myself if I'd had to do that."

The woman, who has not been identified, is believed to have jumped into the river on March 6 as "a cry for help". A member of the public called 999 and she was thrown a rope, but she was in danger of being sucked under by the current.

Many drowning victims die before the emergency services arrive. Mr Brown said: "We had seconds to act. The girl was losing consciousness. We had one harness, so I put that on and went down 20ft on a safety line, grabbed her and held her out of the water. My colleagues tried to pull us towards steps, but the current was so bad and the rope was pulled so hard it snapped. "My own life hung in the balance as I swam for the steps with her in my arms. But we got there and were pulled out. I was in the water for eight minutes and it was heart-stoppingly cold, but we saved her."

The brigade's rules state: "Personnel should not enter the water." The fire crew should instead have tried to haul the woman out using poles and ropes. Stephen Hunter, chief fire officer of Tayside Fire and Rescue, admitted that fire engines in Perth were not equipped with the correct poles and ropes, but insisted that Mr Brown had broken the rules. He said: "Firefighter safety is of paramount importance to us. Although our duties include rescues from flooding, there is no statutory obligation to carry out rescues from moving water. "We know they broke procedure because we know he went into the water. We are investigating exactly what happened, and once that is concluded we will consider what action is necessary. That could include disciplinary action."

Steve Hill, chairman of the Perth branch of the Fire Brigades Union, said: "Not one senior officer has congratulated Tam or the other officers who attended that night. They should be elated they saved a life but are traumatised that they face disiplinary action instead." He added: "Contradicting an order can lead to dismissal. If Tam hadn't gone in, the public might have tried to save her and we could have ended up with several dead."


UK Regulations Barring Religious Schools from Teaching Against Homosexuality Approved

Sexual Orientation Regulations Pass House of Lords

The UK's Sexual Orientation Regulations, that will make it illegal for Christian schools, services and businesses to operate according to their religious principles, passed its last hurdle last night in a vote in the House of Lords. A last minute attempt to defeat the legislation failed. A motion by Baroness O'Caithain that would have scrapped the Regulations on the grounds of anti-religious discrimination was voted down 168 votes to 122. The regulations will be implemented at the end of April.

During the brief debate, Baroness Detta O'Caithain said the SORs are seriously flawed and drew attention to the now notorious breaches of proper democratic procedure by the government who, she said, did not allow proper parliamentary scrutiny. The Peers were not allowed to change the wording of the law but only to vote yes or no. With the passage of the SOR's, she said, the state had decided that "a citizen's right to manifest sexual orientation is absolute, but the right to manifest religious belief is not."

Hundreds of Christians and others concerned for democratic freedom of religious expression attended a prayer rally outside the Houses of Parliament while the debate took place in the House of Lords. While they were given little time in Parliament or the Upper House, the SOR's have been the subject of months of debate in the media since the beginning of January when the Catholic Church, the Church of England, Evangelical, Muslim and Jewish groups warned they would spell the effective end of freedom of religious expression in Britain.

In early January, Cormac Cardinal Murphy O'Connor, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, made international headlines when he said that attempting to force Catholic adoption agencies to adopt children to homosexual couples would leave the Church no choice but to close the agencies. Others said that there was more at stake than only one group or social service, but that the democratic principle of freedom of religious expression was under direct threat. Since the January decision by Prime Minister Tony Blair, a government document was released indicating that the school curriculum would be included and faith-based schools would not be allowed to teach traditional social mores "as if they were objectively true."

While Cardinal Murphy O'Connor indicated that he still held out hopes that some form of accommodation could be found in the twenty-one month "adjustment period" granted churches, others were less sanguine about the government's good will. spoke to Fr. Timothy Finigan, a priest of the Archdiocese of Southwark and the founder of the Association of Priests for the Gospel of Life who said, "I don't think it will be productive to negotiate with the government over this. Clearly the regulations are as they are and they have shown that they are not prepared to negotiate or make concessions. The offer of the adjustment period shows that."

While the exemption requested by the Church for the adoption agencies was turned down by Tony Blair, what they got with the government's offer of a delaying period, said Fr. Finigan, "was a kind of stay of execution. But there's nothing there for them. In the meantime, they still have to refer children to be adopted to homosexual couples." Militant gay activists, he said, will almost certainly now move on to the next phase of test legal cases against smaller Christian or Muslim institutions such as schools or boarding houses. "The one thing the government doesn't want to see right now is priests and ministers in prison. That means they are going to start with schools or businesses. They've been pushing hard in education for years," Fr. Finigan said.

Since 1944, Catholic schools in Britain have been partially subsidized by the government. Lord Pilkington of Oxenford said that inasmuch as the SOR's assert that individual "human rights" trumped the rights of voluntary societies, they challenge the democratic foundation of the state. "It is absolutely wrong for a democratic state to assert that the churches and their voluntary societies cannot follow their doctrine merely because the state pays the money. In this, as I say, they break 200 years of tradition." Lord Pilkington said.


British kids sentenced to rot in their failed schools

`An education ought to be very good, to justify depriving a child of its liberty." I copied this down as an angry schoolgirl, when I was reading John Stuart Mill, though I am no longer sure it was he who wrote it. In any case, it is true. There can be no justification for sentencing children to long hours in schools that are no good to 11 years of compulsory boredom, mismanagement and bad influences. There can be no justification for spending billions on this long incarceration only to let the prisoners out, having blighted their best years, unfit to deal with the world. Yet that, in this rich country, is precisely what we do.

All too many children leave school at 16 - and later - barely literate and numerate. Employers complain about school-leavers' "skills gap", meaning the wretched young things are so ignorant, incompetent and ill-disciplined that they are useless in a job, and need basic remedial training.

Colleges and universities complain that students arrive unable to construct a sentence, let alone write an essay. The brightest of undergraduates - the cream of our education system - need remedial teaching at university. Meanwhile the number of Neets - young people not in education, employment or training - has risen by a quarter since Labour came to power. Surely the disgraceful failure of education in this country is now an established fact?

Yet what is the response of the education secretary to this astonishing failure? It is to make it compulsory for all children to stay in our abysmal education system until the age of 18. Alan Johnson announced plans last week to raise the school-leaving age from 16 to 18. Children must choose between school, college, apprenticeships or work-based training. Teenagers who refuse to do so will face on-the-spot fines, Asbos and even jail. Employers who do not comply with work-based learning schemes will face sanctions, as will parents who put their children between 16 and 18 to work, without offering them training.

It beggars belief. Of course in an ideal world, all children should receive education until at least 18. Tertiary education or training ought to be available to everybody, according to his or her interests and abilities, and I firmly believe the taxpayer should pay for that. However, in the real world of British education, it makes little to sense to impose, by compulsion, the tedium and misery of British schooling for two more long years on those whom it has already failed and humiliated.

If the Department for Education and Skills cannot now make people literate and numerate by 16, if our schools cannot avoid producing disorderly children who wreck classes or play truant, how does it expect to change anything by enforcing two more benighted years of the same damn thing?

Bright schoolchildren and their teachers often talk of the relief they feel when the Asbo set leaves school at 16, so they can get on with their A-level classes in relative peace and quiet. Forcing class-wreckers to stay around would damage still further the chances of those children who want to study. The same applies to sending unwilling teenagers to colleges; they will undermine them. As for workplace training, the government has been making ambitious promises about apprenticeships for 10 years; why does it expect, suddenly, to be able to fulfil them now?

It is hardly fair to anyone to impose angry and unwilling 17 and 18-year-olds on schools and colleges they don't want to go to. School is simply all wrong for some children. It is economically unsound to impose them and their needs on employers who would rather not hire them. Though these teenagers need help and attention, forcing them to stay in education against their will is not the answer.

The real answer, which seems beyond this government or its predecessors, is to make early education work. What all children need is basic literacy, numeracy, good manners and self-discipline. Everything can follow from that, in or out of school, whatever the child's abilities. Since, however, we must despair of schools producing children who are educated in this fundamental sense, we are I suppose looking at damage limitation.

What do you do with problem teenagers of 16 to 18? Clearly it is a good idea to give them something constructive to do, and keep them off the streets. I often think it would be a good idea to offer them something that was fun, along the lines of what privileged children do. I mean extreme sports or adventure holidays. People usually harrumph with indignation at delinquents being taken by social services on expensive rock-climbing and whitewater rafting adventures, like rich kids. But these things develop character and confidence. They teach cooperation (which is why rich parents pay for them).

It is particularly good for children who have been neglected on sink estates to have some good clean fun - something more interesting than drugs and gangs. If I were education secretary I would be funding activity clubs for the Asbo set, like the Rugby Portobello Trust near me in central London, which would be so much fun that Neets would go to them willingly, and maybe get a little education by stealth. The Rugby Portobello offers sessions in music, IT, cooking and even mentorship for young people in running a charity.

Above all, as education secretary, I would consider why so many children, particularly boys, come to hate school. I do agree with the suggestion that the model of schoolroom teaching is unsuitable, after a certain age, for some children, many of them boys, and many of them the least bright or the most bright.

Mixed ability teaching is of course a nonsense, and so I suspect for many children is the feminised, politically correct conventionality and Gradgrind tedium of what passes for liberal education. So are the national curriculum and the mark-grubbing GCSE and A-level. I wouldn't blame any child of mine for opting out.

The education secretary, clearly a fairly able man, ought to understand this. He opted out of school at 15, without any qualifications. Forcing teenagers into this nonsense for still longer, until 18, is an unjustified assault on their freedom.


Just Say No to this `radical rethink' on drugs

The latest British review of the drug problem peddles dangerous myths about helpless addicts, and suggests making the state drugdealer-in-chief

After a two-year review of the drugs problem in the UK, a prestigious commission established by the UK Royal Society for the Arts (RSA) has come up with a `radical rethink' aiming to influence the impending major government review of the National Drugs Strategy (1). Another current campaign against addiction - the `Get Unhooked' TV and cinema adverts featuring smokers impaled on fish-hooks - reveals the prevailing contempt for those regarded as being in the grip of a chemical dependency that also pervades the RSA report (2).

The common theme is that the user of drugs (whether nicotine, heroin or alcohol) is an automaton, a being without intentions and unable to make choices, a physiological system that requires pharmacological correction. To pursue the official metaphor, the drug user is on a par with a fish, a level of vertebrate life so low that only the most fundamentalist of animal rights activists can be bothered to protest against fishing.

The `Get Unhooked' adverts offer a powerful endorsement of the myths underlying both current drugs policy and the RSA's radical rethink. These myths are exposed by Theodore Dalrymple, whose devastating critique of `pharmacological lies and the addiction bureaucracy' is informed by the experience of working as a psychiatrist at a British prison (3).

The first myth is the notion that addiction is the result of an unfortunate accident: one minute the hapless victim is swimming happily in the pond of life and the next is impaled by the hook of the malign substance. The apparently random victim is instantly at the mercy of whoever holds the rod and line - and in the advert is agonisingly dragged along the floor. But, as Dalrymple shows, becoming addicted to heroin requires effort and discipline, determination and time. Though the notions that the drug is the active agent and the addict the passive victim are popular among users and drug workers alike, they deny both the responsibility of the individual for adopting this lifestyle and the possibility of rejecting it. The image of the pathetic addict squirming on the hook is also contradicted by the reality of the busy and purposeful life required to sustain a drug habit.

The second great myth is that withdrawal from drugs is a deeply traumatic process - like removing a barbed hook from your mouth. This myth has reached a high pitch of histrionic exaggeration in relation to heroin, in the familiar `cold turkey' horrors dramatised in novels and films. Reporting both extensive professional experience and the medical literature, Dalrymple confirms that heroin withdrawal is an uncomfortable, but not a serious condition, with a much lower rate of complications than withdrawal from alcohol, barbiturates or benzodiazepines.

A third myth is that once the victim is ensnared on the hook, addiction immediately becomes a chronic disease requiring medical treatment - in the forms of diverse regimes of detoxification and rehabilitation. This is contradicted by the familiar experience that many users of drugs abandon the habit spontaneously - if supply is interrupted (by imprisonment) or by some change in circumstances (a new relationship, having a baby). As Dalrymple observes, `a motive is both a necessary and a sufficient condition for them to give up'. This does not work for chronic diseases such as tuberculosis or rheumatoid arthritis. The `treatment' of opiate dependency with methadone - the mainstay of medical management of heroin addicts for decades - has had such a low success rate (in terms of achieving abstinence) that the goal of treatment has largely shifted to achieving `maintenance' on an indefinite supply of this stupefying drug.

Methadone has been associated with a steady expansion of heroin use (and a large number of deaths from methadone overdoses). The RSA's answer is more, but `better and more consistent' methadone prescribing, and - the ultimate badge of radicalism in drugs policy - `heroin prescribing wherever appropriate'. This is popular with the police who believe that it may reduce crime, but not with GPs who will be expected to do the prescribing. It is difficult to think of measures more likely to encourage both the scale of heroin abuse and the mortality and morbidity associated with it (apart, perhaps, from the provision of `shooting galleries' for intravenous drug use and rewarding addicts with residential rehab programmes of the sort promoted by celebrities - both measures approved in the RSA report).

The RSA report proclaims as the essence of its innovative approach its emphasis on `harm minimisation' as the central theme of drugs policy. Of course, `harm minimisation', the mainstay of official drugs `guidelines' since at least 1991, has been another spectacular failure (4). Depriving self-indulgent actions of their worst consequences is likely to encourage them to spread. Dalrymple is alert to the wider implications: `[I]f consequences are removed from enough actions, then the very concept of human agency evaporates, life itself becomes meaningless, and is thenceforth a vacuum in which people oscillate between boredom and oblivion.' The concept of harm minimisation assumes that the authorities take over responsibility for the consequences of individuals' behaviour. It is `inherently infantilising'.

The dogma promoted by the RSA report, that drug addiction is a chronic disease, is both absurd and irresponsible. Drug addiction, as Dalrymple insists, is `a moral or spiritual condition that will never yield to medical treatment'. The medicalisation of drug abuse is a combination of `moral cowardice, displacement activity and employment opportunity'.

I would heartily endorse Dalrymple's radical first step towards tackling the drugs problem: close down all clinics claiming to treat drug addicts (on the basis of my experience as an inner-city GP, I would also recommend closing down drug treatment programmes in primary care). Addicts would then have to face the truth: `They are as responsible for their actions as anyone else.' This measure might help to set them free - and it might also help to release doctors from the corrosive deceptions underlying current drug policies. It is striking that while the RSA report is piously non-judgmental towards drug users and eschews coercive policies, it seethes with righteous indignation at GPs who might refuse to follow its dogmatic approach and insists twice in the five pages of its executive summary that GPs should not be allowed `to opt out of providing drugs treatment'. The notion that doctors should be coerced into providing dangerous treatments for their patients in the hope that this might reduce the crime rate reflects the damaging effect of drug policy on the ethics of medical practice.

Dalrymple concludes with a discussion of the case for the legalisation of drugs, which he concedes is `not a straightforward matter'. After considering both philosophical and prudential arguments, `on balance' he does not favour legalisation - the only point on which he is in accord with the RSA. While recognising the enormous cost to individuals and to society of our relationship with our most familiar intoxicant, alcohol, I believe that we have to learn to live with other `substances', too, without resorting to criminal legislation. However, I strongly agree with Dalrymple's emphasis that `far more important in the long run than the question of our attitude towards addiction'.

The radicalism of the RSA's rethink of drugs policy is symbolised by its bold insistence on the repeal of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act - and its replacement with a Misuse of Substances Act. But changing the labels - while perpetuating the myths about drug use - will do nothing to tackle the damaging effects of drugs on individuals and society. The RSA report concedes that `drugs education' - a concept scarcely less mind-numbing than heroin addiction - has failed. The answer? Never mind that `there has been too little evaluation for anyone to be certain what works', we need more of the same, with the heart-sinking rider that it `should be focused more on primary schools'.

Why not teach children something interesting and inspiring, that might give them the truly radical idea that culture and society have more to offer than drug-induced oblivion?


Medical Leftism

No wonder the intellectual standard of many medical journal articles is so low when we have the sort of shallow thinking displayed below. That lives are saved when tyrannies are deposed or faced down by democratic forces is obviously too deep a thought for these would-be wise ones

Physicians from around the world urged the publisher of The Lancet medical journal to cut its links to weapons sales, calling on the editors to find another publisher if Reed Elsevier refused to stop hosting arms fairs. The doctors made their appeal in the latest edition of The Lancet, released Friday. Editors at The Lancet responded by backing the doctors, calling the situation "bizarre and untenable." They wrote in Friday's edition that - in the interest of health - they may have to consider an "organized campaign" against their own publisher. "The Lancet is one of the most respected international medical journals and should not be linked to an industry involved in weapons designed to cause physical harm and death," wrote Dr. Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians, and Dr. Michael Pelly, the association's international adviser.

Some scientists have called for a boycott of journals published by Reed Elsevier Group PLC. Editors at the British Medical Journal have appealed to researchers to stop sending certain studies to The Lancet and other Reed Elsevier titles. On Friday, The Lancet published three pages of protest letters from leading doctors and organizations, including the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Doctors for Iraq and the People's Health Movement, a public health watchdog.

Reed Elsevier said it supported The Lancet editors' right to free speech, but had no plans to stop its involvement with arms fairs. "We accept that Reed Elsevier publications may occasionally take editorial positions which are critical of their owners," the company said in a statement. "We do not, however, see any conflict between Reed Elsevier's connections with the scientific and health communities and the legitimate defense industry."

The Lancet first learned of its publisher's involvement in the arms industry in 2005. Supported by Britain's Ministry of Defense, Reed Elsevier hosts arms fairs around the world that have showcased weapons - including a 1,100-pound cluster bomb, one of the deadliest known bombs. At the time, editor Richard Horton informed the journal's international advisory board, which urged Reed Elsevier to divest itself of its arms trade business. Last month, criticism of the company gained renewed prominence when the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust withdrew $3.9 million of its investment from the company, because of the publisher's ties to the arms industry. "The Lancet has a particular commitment to child survival, and cluster bombs are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in children, and cause horrendous disabilities," Horton said. "It is completely incompatible for Reed Elsevier to be in this business and also to be a health science publisher." The Lancet's editors said they spoke regularly to Reed Elsevier about their concerns, and have asked for further meetings, but have yet to receive a response.


Britain: Any shade of politics you like, so long as it's green

The dangers of the new consensus around the politics of global warming

Listening to this week's statements about global warming made it sound as if the political climate is the one experiencing rapid change. UK prime minister Tony Blair claims his government's new Climate Change Bill is `revolutionary' and compares the challenge of global warming to the struggle against the Nazis and the Soviet Union. Prime minister-in-waiting Gordon Brown declares that it will require a `new world order' to save the planet from man-made global warming. David Cameron, Conservative Party leader and favourite to win the next General Election, says he will `open up a second front in the green revolution' to combat climate change. Meanwhile, commentators talk of global warming as `the key battleground in British politics' and warn that the parties are `set for war over climate change'.

Blimey. Revolutions, political wars and new world orders? Rarely do we hear such passionate talk in the dull world of managerial politics today. So what revolutionary measures are the political leaders fighting for? Behind which banners are they fighting their civil war over the future of the planet? Err, Blair and Brown's New Labour wants to abolish incandescent lightbulbs and standby switches on television sets. And Cameron's Conservatives want to tax us more for flying. To the barricades!

This week's explosion of hot air over global warming marks a new record in the denigration of political language. Behind the overcooked talk about changing the world and saving the planet, the crusade against global warming represents the latest stage in the politics of low expectations and small-mindedness. And far from climate change being a battlefield for any big political `war', the issue is being used to confine debate to an even narrower, more conformist strip of ground.

We have been told many times by political leaders that ours is the era when `choice' is king. Now we can see what they meant. We can choose any shade of politics we like, just so long as it is green. This fits into the pattern of what they call `informed choice', whereby we are expected to make the choices that they inform us are the correct ones.

If we hope to live in a democratic society, any attempt to limit political debate or banish alternative views must be seriously put to question. And there are good reasons for questioning this new political consensus that are quite separate from any debate about the science of climate change. First because, despite the bold talk of all the party leaders, it represents the abdication of political leadership. And second because it reflects an underlying anti-humanist mood in public life.

What we normally call a political consensus is not formed by different parties spontaneously reaching the same conclusions. It comes about when one party imposes its principles on the political agenda, shifting the middle ground and forcing its opponents to accommodate to its programme. That was what the postwar Labour government achieved in the 1940s, and what Margaret Thatcher's Tory governments managed in the 1980s.

Today's consensus around the politics of global warming is different. Nobody could seriously suggest that the UK's invisible Green Party has redrawn the political map. Instead the major parties have all gravitated towards greenery on global warming because they lack any political principles of their own.

With their public standing at an all-time low, politicians are attracted to the issue of climate change because it allows them to scramble out of the mire and back on to the moral high ground. Rather than fending off endless allegations of sleaze or trying to explain why they cannot run a decent health service, Blair and Brown are set free to make portentous speeches about saving the planet. And instead of tackling the tricky issues of coming up with alternative policies on the economy or Iraq, Cameron can strike statesmanlike poses while hugging a glacier.

Blair's remarks this week hinted at how he has suddenly seized upon the global warming issue to provide an ersatz sense of mission for his faltering government. `People that have been in Downing Street over the years have faced issues to do with the Cold War, the Depression and the rise of fascism', the prime minister told a group of teenagers. `Climate change is a bit of a different type of challenge, but a challenge I believe is the biggest long-term threat facing our world.' By recasting climate change as a sort of Nazi or Soviet threat facing the current generation of leaders, Blair elevates himself on to a higher plane of history.

The rise and rise of the politics of global warming also reveals another big problem with leaders today. Lacking any of the political authority of their predecessors, they are continually looking for something else to lean on as a source of public legitimacy. Here they have sought to latch on to the science of climate change. They are dragging scientists on to the stage to try to justify their own petty authoritarian policies, in an echo of the way that the tobacco industry once used men in white coats to advertise its wares.

I am all for the elevation of science and respect for scientists. But this attempt to use science to lend some respect and authority to politicians who lack it represents something far less noble: the abdication of political leadership. Rather than forging and fighting for their own political vision of the future, party leaders are hiding behind scientists and claiming that the science proves that the time for debate is over.

Let us leave aside for now the vexed and complex question of the actual science of climate change. I am no climatologist, but then you surely do not need to be to see that the simplistic, conformist politics of global warming are about something else. Even if we were to accept that some of the far-reaching expert predictions about climate change were true, there would be no necessary straight line from those scientists' estimates to the sort of policies now being proposed by Brown or David Miliband or Cameron. Instead, they are using the language of science to express their own politics of low expectations and policing our behaviour.

When humanity has been faced with great challenges in history, the solution has been to go forward, to apply human ingenuity and endeavour to overcoming problems by advancing society. There is no record of tackling future problems by going backwards or restraining development. Yet that is what is effectively proposed through the politics of global warming.

It is about rationing, giving up the gains of the past, flying less and making do and mending more - a message captured in Brown's typically penny-pinching statement that in future people will have to `count the carbon as well as the pennies'. And as for the developing world, they can forget about getting anywhere near the semi-civilised standards of living achieved in the West. It is strikingly ironic in this context to hear the likes of Cameron talk about a `green revolution' - a term which, only a few years ago, described the use of new science and technology to revolutionise industrial food production in Africa, an advance that the new green (counter-)revolution of `sustainable agriculture' frowns upon.

The adoption of these attitudes across the political class represents something far more important than the cynical tax grab which some critics have claimed it all is. The crusade against manmade global warming is underpinned by a much broader loss of faith in our manmade society and its once-proud accomplishments, from industrialised farming to flying the world. You only had to listen to Cameron, supposedly the great white hope of UK politics, sounding off this week about how many species are threatened with extinction `because of mankind's relentless grab for the finite resources of our shared home' to realise how mainstream mankind-bashing has now become.

Forget the revolutionary rhetoric; these ideas are deeply conservative, backward, and reactionary. To challenge them is not a job for scientific inquiry, since that is not really what such prejudices are based upon, but for political argument. The pressing need is to recast notions of human agency, and develop a future-oriented vision based on a belief in our ability to tackle problems through economic and social advance.

For starters, here is one straightforward historical idea that might sound `revolutionary' today: the more control humanity is able to exercise over nature, and the larger the `footprint' we make on the planet, the better the future is likely to be.