Thursday, February 07, 2008

'Lolita' bedroom set for girls withdrawn

I know that many conservative bloggers have expressed outrage over this but the libertarian response here is: "If you don't like it, don't buy it". The story is fictional but in it Lolita was an attractive and naturally feminine young girl. Lots of girls are. It was not her fault that some inadequate creep slavered over her.

"A British retailer has withdrawn a bedroom set targeted at young girls that was branded under the name "Lolita" after a furious campaign by a mothers' group, The Times has reported.

Staff at the Woolworths retail group were unapparently unaware that the brand of the bed set was the same as the title of Vladimir Nabokov's famous novel, which told the story of a middle-aged man who became sexually obsessed with his 12-year-old stepdaughter.

"What seems to have happened is the staff who run the website had never heard of Lolita, and to be honest, no one else here had either", a Woolworths spokesman told The Times. "We had to look it up on Wikipedia. But we certainly know who she is now."

The bed set, which included a wooden bed with a pull-out desk and cupboard, was intended for girls aged six, and retailed for $877.

The campaign was sparked after a mother noticed the product on Woolworths's website and posted a message on the internet site that read: "Am I being particularly sensitive, or does anyone else out there think it's bad taste for Woolies to have a kiddy bed range named 'Lolita'?''


British police lose SIX MILLION hours a year to red tape

The Blair legacy. As Lenin said: "Account must be taken of every single article, every pound of grain, because what socialism implies above all is keeping account of everything"

Up to six million police hours a year are being wasted on bureaucracy, says a damning review. Officers are "straitjacketed" by red tape and reduced to arresting the most minor of offenders to meet crime targets. The withering verdict is passed by Sir Ronnie Flanagan in his bombshell review of the state of the police service. His conclusions - due to be published tomorrow but leaked to the Daily Mail last night - are an indictment of Labour's record on policing and insistence on targets. Sir Ronnie claims that three to six million police hours a year - the equivalent of 3,000 frontline officers - are being squandered on bureaucracy.

Despite a string of promises and reforms since Labour's election in 1997, the former chief constable describes the police as so afraid of getting in trouble they are "risk averse" and reluctant to use their initiative. Sir Ronnie paints a picture of a police service drowning in form-filling - which takes a fifth of officer time - regulations and 'perverse' Government targets. He reveals one officer even charged someone who had built a snowman on a footpath with a public order offence because it helped meet goals imposed by Whitehall.

Sir Ronnie says: "The 21st century police service is in danger of becoming a slave to doctrine and straitjacketed by process." The "needless drain of unnecessary bureaucracy" and the emphasis on targets had led to "poor professional judgment" and the criminalising of people who had not committed any offence.

Other findings include the fact that - despite five years of Labour promising change on bureaucracy - up to 70 per cent of information is entered into police computers more than once. Forty one new pieces of doctrine have been introduced in the last two years alone. A staggering 500,000 hours of officer time are spent each year on internal audits.

Yet Sir Ronnie's recommendations stop well short of the Conservative blueprint unveiled over recent weeks and are likely to leave rankand-file officers dismayed. The review was supposed to set down a blueprint for the future of the police service. But the stop and search form - which takes 25 minutes to complete - will stay. Officers will simply be given hand-held computers to make it easier to input the details. The Tories would replace the form with a simple call to the station.

The proposals for replacing the stop form - which Mr Brown had indicated would be scrapped altogether - will also cause bemusement among police. Sir Ronnie said they should hand over a "business card" containing their details to anybody who they question about their movements - enabling them to later ring to complain. There is also no reference in the 106-page document to giving police more powers to stop a person if there is no suggestion of wrongdoing. Last week, Downing Street spin doctors were suggesting this would be the case.

Plans for a bonfire of red-tape by moving to a single set of forms across the country have also been shelved. Tory police spokesman David Ruffley said of the leak: "This review simply does not go far enough in cutting red tape and risk aversion in the police force. "It does not follow our pledge to abolish the 40 question stop and search form and allow officers to radio in the basic details of a search which will be digitally recorded. "After five Labour red tape reviews in ten years, this lags way behind already announced Conservative plans for tougher law and order."

Sir Ronnie wants targets which give police a "perverse incentive" to catch minor rather than serious criminals to be ditched. The rules, which rank solving a murder in the same way as fining a litter bug, have been blamed for police targeting normally law-abiding citizens. As well as the snowman case, Sir Ronnie highlighted a child prosecuted for chalking on pavements. Some of these offences should no longer be classed as "notifiable", he says, which means police will not be rewarded for solving them. He also warns the police must be less "risk averse", a process which would require the Government to accept mistakes will occasionally be made.


British teachers ordered to 'police children's lunchboxes'

The intrusion of the British State into people's lives grows daily. They make Hitler and Mussolini look like amateurs in some respects

School lunchboxes could soon be monitored by dinner ladies to ensure children are eating healthy meals, ministers said. Under the Government's obesity strategy, all schools will be expected to design a "healthy lunchbox policy" on what makes a nutritional packed lunch over the next year. Some parents may even be asked to sign a form agreeing to ban unhealthy foods from their children's lunches.

If a packed lunch is deemed to contain too much fat and sugar, parents could be sent warning letters or their children's meals confiscated. Although the Government has already unveiled proposals to make canteen lunches much healthier, it is concerned many parents do not have clear advice about what should be included in a healthy packed lunch.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson and Schools Secretary Ed Balls praised a Hertfordshire school which has designed lunchbox menu ideas for parents. These include falafel and houmous pitta bread with a tomato and avocado salad, followed by fruit yoghurt. The Government has also called on heads to stop children from leaving schoolgrounds during lunchtimes.

But critics have attacked the plans, claiming it is a gimmick. Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat's health spokesman, said: "Childhood obesity begins in the home, so the proposed lunchbox police won't tackle the problem's root causes." Margaret Morrissey, of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, said: "Many parents will say these are our children and we know what we're doing. "We don't need politicians to tell us what to put in our lunchboxes."


British villagers fight plans for huge 'eco towns'

Grand plans to build a host of eco-friendly, carbon neutral towns hit another snag yesterday as hundreds of locals turned out in Warwickshire to protest against a development in their area. Dozens of proposed sites have been put forward across the country for what the Government hopes will be a new generation of environmentally friendly developments, and ministers want building to start on 10 projects by 2020. But protesters nationwide say the schemes will put too much pressure on local services.

Yesterday it was the turn of 300 people living near a proposed development of former Ministry of Defence land at Long Marston, near Stratford, to air their grievance in a march. "It would be devastating for the villages of south Warwickshire. It would be putting a new town smack bang in the middle of nowhere where there's no infrastructure at all," said the group's spokesman, Myles Pollock, who lives in the nearby village of Clifford Chambers. "We all need houses. In this district we have already built the number of houses required by the Government by 2011. You can't say we are not against building houses. It's just a matter of where."

Developers want to construct 6,000 homes on the site, exploiting what officials describe as "the potential to create a complete new settlement to achieve zero carbon development and more sustainable living using the best new design and architecture". Villagers fear this will lead to congestion in the area and say tens of millions of pounds would be needed for new roads, schools and doctors' surgeries to make the scheme viable.

Izzi Seccombe, a Warwickshire county councillor, said: "Eco may be eco within its community, but they all have to travel outside, and there is a very large rural area they will have to travel through to get to any employment or major leisure centres or towns. This area is a thread of very many rural villages. We have a lot of cohesion within those communities. Planning 6,000-plus houses on a piece of paper does not build community cohesion in an instant like that."

This is the latest in a string of protests. Opposition has been voiced in places such as Grovewood in Derbyshire and Stoughton in Leicestershire.

The Government has set out a range of criteria for the towns, which will have up to 20,000 new homes. They should be carbon-neutral, using the latest environmental design and technology to create more sustainable homes. They should set a standard in at least one area of environment technology, and provide affordable housing within 30 to 50 per cent of the site. The new towns should have "a separate and distinct identity" but good links to surrounding towns and cities in terms of jobs, transport and services, as well as a range of facilities including a secondary school, shopping, offices and leisure centres.

Responding to Conservative criticism of the plans, Harriet Harman, Leader of the Commons, told MPs: "We believe that it is a priority that we have more affordable housing. There are too many people who can't afford to rent the housing they need, can't afford to buy the home they aspire too. We are going to back people's aspirations that they can have the housing they need, and it would be very disappointing if the official Opposition try and stand in the way of people's aspirations for decent housing."

John Deegan, from one of the developers involved in the Long Marston plans, said: "The proposal is for a completely new settlement involving 6,000 new houses, new secondary and primary schools, lots of new employment. There will also be investment of well over œ100m in infrastructure to support the town and to relieve Stratford."


Immigrants 'should learn how to queue'

Newcomers to Britain should receive welcome packs containing advice such as not to spit in the street and how to queue [line up] in shops, a minister said. The packs would also urge them not to play music too loudly, not to touch people without permission and not to throw litter, said Communities Secretary Hazel Blears.

She said local councils should provide the information packs to help immigrants better integrate into British society. "It is only right that we expect migrants to play by our rules. In return we have a role in explaining just what those rules are," Ms Blears was quoted as saying by the BBC. "Information packs are a way of getting that info across - providing a rough guide to the country, the county and the city and helping to ensure that new arrivals avoid doing or saying things that might upset local settled communities or getting into trouble with the law."

Britain has long welcomed immigrants, whether from its former colonies in Asia and the West Indies, or more recently from the new European Union member countries of central Europe, notably Poland. But concern has grown in recent years about the integration of new arrivals and immigrant populations, with the spotlight in particular on Muslim communities amid concern over the growth of Islamist militancy.

The new information packs - which will be consulted upon before the final versions are produced - would include advice on basic values such as respect for the law.

Ms Blears acknowledged that teaching people to queue - often seen by foreigners as a quintessentially British activity - might not seem as important as, for example, as fighting crime involving minority communities. "There may be cases where it is legitimate and necessary to target resources at dealing with a specific issue like working with young men to tackle gun crime in the black community," she said. "But overall we need a rebalancing in how we focus resources with much greater importance placed on integrating different communities," the minister added.


Poor NHS leadership and chasing targets `hampers patient care'

Patient care has suffered repeatedly because of poor management and bureaucracy in the NHS, according to a report by the healthcare watchdog. A lack of leadership, inadequate team-working and focusing too much on government targets emerged as common themes in the Healthcare Commission's review of its 13 major investigations between 2004 and 2007. It concluded that some boards were focused on mergers between organisations after a shake-up of NHS trusts, or on meeting targets at the expense of patient care.

At Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Hospitals NHS Trust, appalling hygiene standards contributed to more than 90 deaths from the bug Clostridium difficile, and at Sutton and Merton Primary Care Trust serious neglect of people with learning disabilities was found. In areas such as mental health services, the number of managers and administrators has doubled since 2000, hindering patient care and wasting resources, said Sir David Goldberg, an emiritus professor of psychiatry.

Writing in the British Journal of Psychiatry, Sir David said that there were 6,275 managers and administrators in mental health services, and 99,052 other staff - a ratio of one manager/administrator for every 15 staff. "Something is seriously wrong. The Department of Health is constantly introducing new regulations that require a report." He said that medical staff spent a growing proportion of their time attending meetings with managers, clinical governance meetings and carrying out audit activities.

Gill Morgan, of the NHS Confederation, said: "Organisations must be given the real autonomy necessary to enable them to take ultimate responsibility, rather than . . . being dominated by central targets."


Cheapskate Brits run out of machinesguns, ammo: "The Army has run out of machine guns. The crisis is unlikely to be solved before JUNE, a leaked report reveals. British troops “desperately” need 400 of the jumbo 0.5in calibre heavy machine guns – the weapon most acutely missed. The Army has also run out of the 7.62mm GPMG and Minimis. Supply has collapsed partly because of a dispute with the manufacturers, Manroy – which also provides weapons to Saudi Arabia. The leaked report – prepared for the Army’s command centre in Wilton, Wilts – reveals that generals have urged the Ministry of Defence “to prevent Manroy delivering Saudi weapons ahead of our requirement”. Generals asked the US to help but were snubbed by the Pentagon – who have dubbed British colleagues “The Borrowers”.

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