Monday, February 18, 2008

Would you "Adam and Eve" it?

Comment on the censorship obsession of the modern age by Prof. Stott below. See the original for links

The London Underground has just banned a stunning poster for the Royal Academy of Art's forthcoming exhibition of the works of the great German (Northern Renaissance) painter and engraver, Lucas Cranach der Aeltere (c.1472-1553) [`500-year-old painting banned from Underground for being "too racy"', The London Paper, February 13]. Why?
"... the painting in question, of Venus wearing nothing but two necklaces, a gauze slip and a jewelled headdress, has been deemed too sexual and likely to cause offence by Tube advertising bosses. She has fallen foul of guidelines set out by CBS Outdoor - the firm who vet London Underground's advertising. The rules state that ads should not `depict men, women or children in a sexual manner, or display nude or semi-nude figures in an overtly sexual context'."

Oh my goodness! One just loses the will to live! I have never heard such twaddle. And this comes at a time when the Government has just decreed that school children must engage in the arts for at least 5 hours each week.

The wonderful work in question is Venus (1532), oil and tempera on red beechwood (37.7 x 24.5 x 0.5 cm), from the Staedel Museum, Frankfurt am Main. Please, please put two fingers up to the stupid, stupid Underground, and view this masterpiece here on the RA's web site. And why not visit the Exhibition yourself [it runs from March 8 - June 8, in the Sackler Wing of the Gallery]? Then buy a big poster of Venus, and travel around the Underground unfurling it for all to see.

I am sick, sick to death of people banning things because someone somewhere might be offended. It really is time to grow up. PC-ness from `global warming' to banning fine art will be the death of our culture. I really can't "Adam and Eve" that we are letting these things happen to us.

*N.B. For non-Brits: "Adam and Eve" is Cockney rhyming-slang for "to believe". I have no doubt that this too will be banned very soon, as a problem for non-English-speaking visitors to East London.


NHS patient starved to death

A hospital trust will have to pay damages after a patient who had undergone a successful operation for cancer was then inadvertently starved and poisoned to death. Roy Hodgson, 66, a retired pub landlord, underwent a surgical operation to remove a tumour in his throat at the Cumberland Infirmary, in Carlisle, and was given a good chance of making a full recovery. But he suffered weeks of starvation after a nurse failed to insert a feeding tube correctly into his stomach, and senior medical staff failed to spot the mistake.

Mr Hodgson, a father of three grown-up children who ran the Three Tuns pub in Cleator, West Cumbria, for 20 years, suffered such hunger pangs that he attempted to flee the hospital and was discovered near its entrance clutching his stomach.

It emerged at his inquest that several days after his operation on October 16, 2004, the feeding tube came out and the nurse put it back in the wrong place. A radiologist who examined a scan of the area did not spot the error. When nurses fed him through the tube with liquid nourishment, they were effectively poisoning him. He died two weeks later after developing peritonitis.

At the time Karen Hodgson, his daughter, described how her father kept asking for something to eat and drink, and showing them how swollen his stomach was. He would have to write notes to explain his hunger. She said: "A couple of days before he went back into intensive care, the nurses found him in the hospital foyer with his coat on, crouched by the wall and holding his stomach."

The National Health Service Litigation Authority, which handles major claims against NHS hospitals, has written to the family's lawyer confirming that the trust accepts medical negligence. There is yet to be an assessment of the level of damages. Markus Nickson, the family's solicitor, said that the hospital had admitted that staff failed to give Mr Hodgson the care he needed and that he died as a result. He said: "What Mr Hodgson and his family have gone through was appalling."

The hospital, part of the North Cumbria Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, has insisted that it has learnt the lessons of Mr Hodgson's death. The hospital has changed its protocols and any reinsertion of a feeding tube is now only carried out by specialist staff.

Mark Hodgson, 28, the dead man's son, said that the family had not pursued legal action for the money but said that they did not want a similar thing happening to anyone else. He said: "We have been told that they have changed the procedure nationwide. That is the best thing we could have got from this."

Mr Hodgson, an electrical engineer, described his father as a happy, outgoing and caring man who had every hope of a recovery. "What happened was an absolute disgrace," he said. "We wanted justice. We had no idea that he was not being fed properly."

The family's grief was compounded at the time by having to leave the pub that was also their home. They said that the brewery had asked them to leave if they could not open the pub for business. The family, which was running the pub, were forced to raise money through a garage sale of their possessions. Mr Nickson said: "Not only did they lose a loved father because of a ghastly mistake, they were told by the brewery which owned the pub that they would have to get out within a week."

At the inquest last November, John Taylor, the Coroner for West Cumbria, concluded that Mr Hodgson had died as a result of an accident. The coroner was assured by medical staff that procedures at the hospital had been changed in the light of the patient's death. Feeding tubes are no longer put in after surgery, but between diagnosis and the start of any treatment. Nurses would no longer reinsert feeding tubes so soon after an operation when the hole in a patient's stomach was not properly established.


Starting school at 4 'no help to children'

Children in England start school lessons earlier and sit more tests but still perform no better than in other countries, researchers say today. They find school "stressful" as they are subjected to academic lessons in English and maths at the age of four. In countries such as Sweden and Finland, where children do not start school until seven, pupils often outperform English children by the age of 11.

English primaries are also bigger than in most other countries - with an average of 224 pupils against 128 in Scotland - and make pupils sit exams more often, at a younger age and in more subjects.

In a damaging conclusion, it is claimed more parents educate their children at home or in alternative Steiner schools because they believe schools are "too constrained by the imperatives of performativity".

The findings - made as part of a two-year review of primary education by Cambridge University - will fuel fears that the target-driven nature of modern schooling is damaging childhood.

Steve Sinnott, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, described the findings as "devastating". He said: "When it comes to testing in England, the tail wags the dog," he said. "It is patently absurd that even the structure and content of education is shaped by the demands of the tests."

The Department for Children, Schools and Families said it had commissioned a "root and branch review of the primary-level curriculum". This will attempt to ease the transition from early years into school and will also "consider whether it would be appropriate to allow greater flexibility in school start dates", said a spokesman. She added: "The idea that children are over tested is not a view that the Government accepts. The reality is that children spend a very small percentage of their time in school being tested. "Seeing that children leave school up to the right standard in the basics is the highest priority of government."

In a further conclusion, today's report shows that English schools focus more lessons on politically correct themes such as "diversity, tolerance and multi-culturalism" than in other nations. A study by Glasgow University said this was "especially evident" in RE, history, geography and citizenship. France and Japan were more prepared to celebrate home-grown values in the curriculum.


Britain: Ban on bottled water coming?

Drinking fizzy water is a perfectly reasonable choice. People tend to like bubbles in ALL their drinks. But drinking still bottled water is just posing in most localities. And posing is mostly a bad thing. But if we outlawed all posing that would be the death of Leftist politics! So principles are taking as back-seat here

Drinking bottled water is almost morally indefensible, a government minister has suggested in a scathing attack on the industry. Phil Woolas, the Environment Minister, said it was daft that six million litres of bottled water were drunk every day in Britain when safe tap water was universally and cheaply available. His comments echoed concerns among environmentalists, who believe that the packaging, transportation and disposal of bottled water products creates unnecessarily high carbon-dioxide emissions.

But they provoked a furious response from the industry, which is worth œ2 billion annually. Representatives demanded an immediate retraction of his remarks. Mr Woolas has further riled the industry by giving his backing to a campaign to persuade the public to use the tap as their primary source of drinking water.

Next week Thames Water, supported by Friends of the Earth and Mr Woolas, will start a campaign to persuade restaurants, pubs and hotels to make tap water more easily available to customers. By persuading people to switch back to tap water the organisers of the initiative hope to reduce the impact on the environment by cutting out the carbon-dioxide emissions from transportation and manufacture of the bottles.

Bottled water has been calculated to have a carbon footprint more than several hundred times bigger than tap water for some brands. Many bottles are transported thousands of miles to get to Britain from countries including the United States and Fiji.

The minister was particularly concerned about water being imported to Britain because of the potential damage to supplies in other countries. "It borders on morally being unacceptable to spend hundreds of millions of pounds on bottled water when we have pure drinking water, when at the same time one of the crises that is facing the world is the supply of water," he told the BBC Panorama programme. "There are many countries in the world who unfortunately haven't got pure tap water. We should be concentrating our efforts on putting that right in my opinion."

He received unexpected backing from Peter Ainsworth, the Shadow Environment Secretary, who agreed that the industry and consumers had big moral questions to answer. "I don't think Phil Woolas is wrong," he said. "Huge amounts are imported from other countries - some now ludicrously from the Far East. This is an ecological nightmare and it doesn't make economic sense either. It certainly raises questions about the basis on which we have constructed our economic lives. By any rational standard it's crazy to be importing water from countries far away when there's perfectly good water in our taps. "It looks like the epiphany of any unsustainable human activity. I think as consumers we should consider the impact we have on the environment. If they think about it they might change their behaviour."

Steve Webb, the Liberal Democrat environment spokesman, said that the environmental impacts caused by the bottled-water industry were sufficiently worrying that the Government should introduce taxes to pay for damage to be put right. Taxes, either directly on the sales of each bottle or through mechanisms such as landfill tax, would put pressure on consumers to change their behaviour. A Swedish study calculated that the environmental impact of bottled water was 90 to 1,000 times greater than tap water, and could be higher.

Jill Ardagh, director-general of the Bottled Water Information Office, led the industry's angry response to the minister's remarks. "Mr Woolas is clearly ill-informed about bottled water and the role it has to play in society, either in this country or other parts of the world," she said. She said that an estimated 20,000 jobs depended on the bottled water trade and demanded that he retract his comments.


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