Saturday, January 19, 2008

The brutality of "Multicultural" Britain again

In a north London suburb last week, a schoolgirl was beaten, gang-raped and then had drain-cleaning fluid poured on her body apparently to destroy DNA evidence. In the eternal cesspit of senseless urban crime, I feel that a dreadful nadir of sorts has been reached, a benchmark of slaked lust and casual, sadistic cruelty. Police sources say the 16-year-old will never fully recover from the injuries caused by the caustic soda and, at the time of writing, she remains under heavy sedation in a burns unit, fighting for her life.

One could weep an ocean for this young woman, her life ruined by these savages, who hunted in a pack like animals and dragged her to an empty house, caring nothing for her wellbeing or future. Drain cleaner? The callous premeditation is shocking, and underlines the fact that some of the rootless delinquents who roam the London streets are now scraping the bottom of the barrel of humanity. I'm almost embarrassed to say that the attackers have been described as "five black youths", in case you think I'm being racist in highlighting this crime.

Yes, these are the peculiar times we live in, particularly in a week when Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, has pointed out that "white flight is accelerating" as Britain becomes increasingly polarised along ethnic lines.

Following the controversy started by the Bishop of Rochester, who said that some Muslim enclaves were "no-go areas" for Christians, it all seems to suggest a country that is becoming increasingly fragmented; a patchwork of rigidly delineated little pockets of race and religion, knots of unyielding humanity who just can't rub along with each other.

This is not a Britain many of us would care to recognise, or even want to live in, although it is true that certain sectors of the middle class are fleeing from inner London like pashmina-wrapped lemmings, desperate to escape the creeping spread of urban decay. Last year, nearly a quarter of a million decent, law-abiding citizens packed their bags and left the capital for good, seeking what they hope will be a better life elsewhere. They moved to outer boroughs, other city suburbs, rural areas, abroad, the back end of beyond, anywhere but here.

While their fairytale, roses-around-the-door belief in the safety of the countryside and the romantic ideal of a thatched cottage for two is touching, it does point to an underlying urban unease. I would rather take my chances in the city than the country, but one can hardly blame them for wanting to move.

Elsewhere in London this week, a medical student was stabbed to death in a row over an orange in a Brixton fruit shop. A pupil who was expelled for allegedly having a knife took his school to the High Court. And about the time most of us were sitting down to dinner, watching The Bill on television or putting the children to bed, a teenage girl underwent an unimaginable ordeal in an ordinary suburban street.

What is going to happen to those of us left to live here if youths across the city continue to feel quite comfortable and confident in running amok? That's before you even factor in the older, more professional criminal gangs from more than 25 countries, who operate prosperous drug trafficking, people smuggling, prostitution, money laundering and fraud rackets on the capital's streets.

London is a welcoming city, where home-grown and particularly international criminal networks are flourishing nicely. Somewhere in the city, a great termite nest of law-breaking and corruption grows by the day, nourished by immigrants, some of them illegal, from Algeria, Nigeria, Jamaica and Pakistan, among others.

Is it racist to point that out, too? I don't know any more. All I know is that London has room to absorb them all, particularly as so many of its citizens have recently left in a hurry. And while cosy family evenings by the fire remain one of the few benefits of a wet British winter, how alarming that fewer and fewer people feel safe doing this inside their own homes.


Leftists trying to destroy Britain's remaining good schools

They have given up on improving bad schools because they know from experience that it cannot be done. So they want to destroy the good schools by busing in the problem children that any sane parent would want to avoid. Fortunately, the government is not so far going along with that -- as it realizes how unpopular that would be

Middle-class parents obsessed with Ofsted reports and league tables are colonising the best primary schools, forcing poorer children into failing schools and ruining their chances in life, researchers claim. The Cambridge Primary Review – the biggest study of primary schools for decades – recommends that catchment areas should be scrapped because only wealthy parents can afford to buy houses next to the best primaries. Instead, oversubscribed schools would use a lottery system.

The research, by Stephen Machin and Sandra McNally, from the University of London, found that admissions procedures exacerbated inequalities. Their report said: “Some aspects of primary education are geared in favour of helping higher income groups. Current admissions policies favour parents who not only know how to use published information about school standards such as Ofsted inspections and performance tables but can also afford to choose exactly where to live. “Prohibiting schools from discriminating on the basis of residence would do much to level the playing field in terms of educational opportunities. It would reduce the large inequalities that appear later in terms of wages and intergenerational mobility.”

The report said that a person’s success in the labour market was influenced by his or her primary education. It said: “Differences in educational progress start very early, widen as children age and lead to substantial differences in later attainment levels.” Dr McNally told The Times that schools should be banned from choosing pupils according to where they live. “They could still give preferential treatment to siblings of pupils already at the school, but then there should be a lottery system,” she said. “That was adopted in the whole of Brighton & Hove as a fairer system. Quite how far children could be bussed to other schools would need to be worked out, but the local authority could organise some help with that. It’s a really vital area and an obvious way of making things fairer.” She admitted that scrapping catchment areas would upset a lot of people, “particularly those who had bought houses near schools”.

The report also criticised the market-based approach to education, backed by successive governments, which encourages competition between schools. “Choice and competition may exacerbate educational inequalities,” it said. “The inability to exercise choice can lead to educational segregation, with children from disadvantaged families having to make do with the schools that more advantaged parents do not want to send their children to. “Schools are not like businesses: they do not close down when they no longer make a profit.”

John Dunford, of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “There’s strong evidence that collaboration between schools raises standards, whereas excessive competition and market-based policies create polarisation, which makes the task of some schools particularly difficult.”

Another report for the review studied the history of primary education. It found that 100 years ago schools “played down intellectual aims and put more stress on practical activities, particularly those required by an industrious and unselfish workforce”.

Jim Knight, the Schools Minister, said: “Of course, all children should attend a good school and have the opportunity to secure the best jobs in later life, regardless of their background. That is precisely why we have introduced the new statutory School Admissions Code. Catchment areas must reflect the broader local community and must not exclude particular areas to penalise low income families. A ban would undermine the right of schools and councils to decide their own admissions policies – and there is no way parents will support this.”


British cancer patients let down on fertility

Cancer patients are being denied access to NHS fertility treatment, leading specialists say today. In spite of a recommendation in 2004 that patients facing chemotherapy should be given universal access to sperm, egg and embryo storage, there is no consistency and no national policy on funding such techniques. Patients who are treated for cancer can become infertile, so storing sperm, eggs or embryos can be their only hope of becoming parents later.

A new report by experts from the Royal Colleges of Physicians, Radiologists, and Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, recommends that the NHS funds these services, including setting up research-based centres for egg and ovarian tissue storage. About 11,000 patients aged between 15 and 40 are diagnosed with cancer each year in the UK - 4 per cent of the total. A separate survey for the charity Cancerbackup highlighted the "postcode lottery" in accessing procedures.

In 2004 the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) said that cancer patients should be given universal access to sperm, egg and embryo storage. The Royal Colleges' working party found this was not happening. "There is currently no national policy for funding any of the techniques which aim to preserve fertility or treat the effects of gonadal damage, demand for which will always be very limited. "The working party strongly recommends that an agreed national policy and funded nationwide equity of access to resources be available."

The report says that sperm banking should be widely available and noted the success of embryo storage. The study also called for patients to be fully informed of the risks of treatment at the time of diagnosis.

Dr Michael Williams, Vice-President of the Royal College of Radiologists, said: "It is shocking that arguments over funding still limit patients' access to fertility-preserving treatments. Sperm freezing is well established, simple and effective."

The Cancerbackup survey of 84 out of 152 primary care trusts (PCTs) revealed that access to fertility services is patchy across England. The East of England was found to have the best provision, while PCTs in the South West failed to implement many of the Nice recommendations. About a third of men questioned by Cancerbackup said they had never been offered sperm storage. The survey also revealed that only half of the PCTs funded embryo storage.

Joanne Rule, the chief executive of Cancerbackup, said: "It is unacceptable that access to fertility services for cancer patients is dependent on where you live. Some PCTs are denying patients the option to preserve their fertility. All cancer patients should be informed of the potential impact of cancer treatment on their fertility before treatment starts."

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "There are Nice guidance documents which recommend that cancer patients should have access to appropriate trained personnel at the time of diagnosis to discuss fertility issues. Implementation of Nice guidance is a standard which the NHS is expected to achieve over time."


Scotland: Great-grandmother sues over MRSA

A great-grandmother who contracted the MRSA superbug in hospital is suing NHS Greater Glasgow for 30,000 pounds, in a move that could pave the way for hundreds of other sufferers to claim millions of pounds in damages. Legal arguments began yesterday at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, where a judge is to decide whether the case brought by Elizabeth Miller, 71, should proceed to a full hearing.

Mrs Miller, who was not in court, told The Times last night that her life had been devastated by weakness and breathlessness since she acquired the infection after a heart operation in the Royal Infirmary, Glasgow, in 2001. The case is believed to be the first of its kind in Britain. Mrs Miller, from Kilsyth, near Glasgow, had MRSA diagnosed nine days after an operation to replace her aortic valve. Her legal team blames the infection on staff not washing their hands, a lack of soap and paper towels and faulty sinks and taps at the hospital. They say that a nasal swab taken from their client proves that she did not have MRSA before her operation.


Leukaemia hopes

Identical twin sisters have led British scientists to a breakthrough in leukaemia research that promises more effective therapies with fewer harmful side-effects. By comparing Olivia Murphy, 4, who is in remission from acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, and her healthy sister, Isabella, researchers have traced the tumour stem cells that drive the most common form of childhood cancer. The discovery will enable doctors to screen young leukaemia patients to establish the severity of their illness and spare some the harrowing side effects of aggressive chemotherapy.

Olivia, from Bromley, southeast London, is a prime example of how hazardous this can be: although her treatment has been successful, it left her unable to fight off a chicken pox infection that blinded her in one eye. Chemotherapy has such harsh effects on children with leukaemia that between 1 and 2 per cent die because of the drug regime, according to Philip Ancliff, the consultant who treated Olivia at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.

The stem-cell advance, from a team led by Tariq Enver, of the University of Oxford, and Mel Greaves, of the Institute of Cancer Research in London, will also open new approaches to treating the disease more effectively. It should allow the scientists to develop ways of targeting the stem cells that drive the blood cancer and cause relapses, so that patients can be cured. This form of the disease accounts for about 85 per cent of the 450 childhood leukaemias diagnosed in Britain each year.

The study, published in Science, could have further implications for the cancers that cause lung and colon tumours, as these are also thought to be propagated by rogue stem cells. Another application could be preventive treatment for children like Isabella who are known to be at high risk of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, whose “pre-leukaemic” cells could be killed before they cause any damage.

Professor Enver said: “This research means that we can now test whether the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in children can be correlated with either the disappearance or persistence of the leukaemia stem cell. Our next goal is to target both the pre-leukaemic stem cell and the cancer stem cell itself with new or existing drugs to cure leukaemia while avoiding the debilitating and often harmful side effects of current treatments.”

Professor Greaves said: “This study of a twin pair discordant for leukaemia has identified the critical stem cells that initiate the disease and maintain it in a covert state for several years. We suspect that these cells can escape conventional chemotherapy and cause relapse during or after treatment. These are the cells that dictate disease course and provide the bullseye to target with new therapies.”

The twins have been crucial to the new research, as they are genetically identical but one has developed cancer whereas the other has not. The scientists found that the girls’ blood contains genetically abnormal cells known as pre-leukaemic cells. These were formed by a mutation known as translocation, in which two genes fuse to create an abnormal new one. This random event happened in a single cell in one of the twins — it is impossible to tell which one — while they were still in the womb. As the twins shared a placenta, the original mutant’s daughter cells populated the blood of both sisters.

Analysis of Isabella’s blood suggests that about one in 1,000 of her lymphocyte blood cells is preleukaemic. About 1 per cent of these pre-leukaemic cells are also stem cells that can start and sustain the cancer. As Isabella is still healthy, it is clear that the translocation cannot trigger leukaemia by itself. About one in 100 children has the translocation, but only one in 100 develops cancer. “The crucial question is in which cells does this start,” Professor Enver said. “What is the critical hit? Isabella gave us an opportunity almost to look back in time, to see which cells the cancer begins in.”

They did this by comparing the twins’ blood. In Olivia, but not in Isabella, some pre-leukaemic stem cells had acquired a second genetic mutation that turned them cancerous. This could have begun in a single cell, possibly because of an infection.

The discovery will help doctors to monitor Isabella, and children like her, so that further genetic damage in her pre-leukaemic stem cells is caught early. Her risk of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia is estimated at one in ten, compared with one in 10,000 among children with no family history. It will fall with every year that she remains healthy. By the time she is 14, her pre-leukaemic stem cells should have died naturally. “Pre-leukaemic cells are still evident, so the sword of Damocles is still hanging there,” Dr Ancliff said. “Hopefully, we will see them disappear.”

The study also identifies precisely the cancerous stem cells that propagate the cancer. This should enable doctors to adjust the strength of chemotherapy to match a child’s condition. As cancer stem cells can survive conventional chemotherapy, the research could also help scientists to design drugs that kill cancers.


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