Wednesday, April 30, 2008

More BBC censorship

"Separatist" and "moderate" are apparently bad words:

"The BBC is facing a High Court challenge over its decision to censor a party political broadcast in the run-up to Thursday's local elections. A Christian party has begun legal action after the corporation insisted on changes to a short film in which the party voiced opposition to the building of Europe's biggest mosque next to the site of the 2012 Olympics.

Tablighi Jamaat, the Islamic missionary group behind the 75 million pound Abbey Mills mosque, opposes inter-faith dialogue and preaches that non-Muslims are an evil and corrupting influence. One of its British advocates has said that it aims to rescue Muslims from the culture and civilisation of Jews and Christians by creating "such hatred for their ways as human beings have for urine and excreta".

The Christian Choice election broadcast would have described Tablighi Jamaat as "a separatist Islamic group" before welcoming that some "moderate Muslims" were opposed to the mosque complex.

Alan Craig, the party's candidate in the London mayoral election, also on Thursday, said that he was forced to change the wording at the insistence of lawyers at the BBC and ITV, which will also feature in the court action.

The BBC refused to accept "separatist" - the corporation asked for "controversial" instead - and barred the use of "moderate Muslims" because the phrase implied that Tablighi Jamaat was less than moderate.


As the BBC is compulsorily supported by the taxpayer (and even some non-taxpayers are made to cough up), one would hope it had some obligation to speak the truth rather than cover it up. Silly of me to think that, I guess.

Supermarkets must accept being libelled?

The British literary luvvies are venting their hatred of big business:

"A group of Britain's leading authors has accused Tesco of using "deeply chilling" tactics to silence its critics. Nick Hornby and Mark Haddon are among the writers who have signed a letter in The Times today condemning the supermarket for prosecuting a Thai business leader for making a speech that decried Tesco's expansion. If the supermarket is successful Jit Siratranont could be jailed.

Hornby and Haddon - together with Marina Lewycka, the author of A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, and Deborah Moggach, who wrote Tulip Fever - have also put their names to a longer open letter arguing that a criminal libel prosecution and two civil actions against journalists represent a breach of their human rights....

A spokesman for the supermarket said that Tesco stood by its Thai subsidiary, which would have informed its superiors in Britain of its actions. "All three of these actions follow a sustained period of attack on Tesco Lotus in Thailand. It is our fervent wish to reach agreement. We are seeking a public apology. It is very regrettable that we have had to take legal action in Thailand. We had hoped that the individuals concerned would apologise for the false and highly damaging allegations they had made about our business over a sustained period of time but despite numerous attempts to get them to set the record straight, this has not happened.


Tesco is a bit like a British Wal-Mart -- that friend of the poor that all good Leftists hate! It seems to me that Tesco are in fact being moderate about this.

Hatred of Technology

But it's all theory. Who cares about silly old facts?

Susan Greenfield's lower lip pouts as if to blow a raspberry. Then, in soothsaying mode, the solemn utterance: "The global cyber world promises a more reassuring, safer option than the messy world of in-your-face three-dimensional life. But the IT technologies are already blurring the cyber world and reality." The hooded eyes readjust from Delphic oracle to larky chick as she flashes a face-splitting grin. "There are people," she chortles, "who can't believe, eh! that the planes crashing into the twin towers were actually real, eh!" The punctuating "eh!" prompts you to agree.

Professor Greenfield, promoter extraordinaire of science, has written a book that makes routine auguries - global warming, economic downturns - look like mere gloomy hand-wringing. A specialist in brain degeneration, Greenfield is predicting that our teen generation is headed for a sort of mass loss of personal identity. She calls it the Nobody Scenario. By spending inordinate quantities of time in the interactive, virtual, two-dimensional, cyberspace realms of the screen, she believes that the brains of the youth of today are headed for a drastic alteration. It's as if all that young grey cortical matter is being scalded and defoliated by a kind of cognitive Agent Orange, depriving them of moral agency, imagination and awareness of consequences.

"They are destined to lose an awareness of who and what they are: not someones, or anyones, but nobodies, eh!" That expressive mouth widens again, the lower lip ripens. "The time is well nigh," she says, "to explore the impact of these technologies." ....

Greenfield has elaborated a theory about the influence of IT on young brains. Given the time young people spend gazing into screens, small and large - reckoned to be from six to nine hours daily - she believes the minds of the younger generation are developing differently from those of previous generations. "The brain," she says, "has plasticity: it is exquisitely malleable, and a significant alteration in our environment and behaviour has consequences."

She sets out a catalogue of repercussions: the substitution of virtual experience for real encounters; the impact of spoon-fed menu options as opposed to free-ranging inquiry; a decline in linguistic and visual imagination; an atrophy of creativity; contracted, brutalised text-messaging, lacking the verbs and conditional structures essential for complex thinking. Her principal concern is how computer games could be emphasising what she calls "process" over "content" - method over meaning - in mental activity.

Her theory goes like this. The more we play games, the less time there is for learning specific facts and working out how those facts relate to each other. This can result, she maintains, in a failure to build highly personalised individual conceptual frameworks - the whole point of education and the basis of individual identity. If the purpose of a game, for instance, is to free the princess from the tower, it is the thrill of attaining the goal, the process, that counts. What does not count is the content - the personality of the princess and the narrative as to why and how she is there, as in a storybook. Greenfield avers that emphasis on process in isolation becomes addictive and profoundly mind-changing.

Here is her hypothesis. A natural brain chemical called dopamine is involved in all forms of addiction. Dopamine contributes to feelings of wellbeing on attaining a goal, especially when gratification repeatedly deferred is finally delivered. Falling levels of dopamine accompany the opposite situations, when gratification has been frustrated (for example, waiting for a phone call that never comes).

The area of the brain crucial to the dopamine hits is called the nucleus accumbens, which is associated with the prefrontal cortex, an area at the front of the brain. An under-functioning prefrontal cortex is linked with types of behaviour marked by total absorption in the here and now, and an inability to consider past and future implications. According to Greenfield, excessive dopamine can reduce the activity of brain cells in the prefrontal cortex, leading to its partial shutdown. She is speculating that the intense subjective "here and now" feeling, prompted and accompanied by dopamine "rewards" in computer play, creates a euphoric, self-centred ego boost, the pleasure of which can lead to craving and addiction.

What lasting effect does this repeated neglect in the prefrontal cortex have on the brain, and hence the mind? "Excessive dopamine hits might reduce activation in the prefrontal cortex, and in so doing tip the balance away from awareness of the significance, the meaning, of our actions," she says. So playing games in which I slaughter scores of all-comers with my trusty sword, as in the Tarantino movie Kill Bill, deals not with the significance of beheading and disembowelling of hordes of Japanese villains, but with the process - the action separated from meaning and consequences. "When those teenagers kicked that goth girl to death in the park recently," she says, "was it like a computer game for them? The buzz of the moment? Were they thinking of her as a person with feelings, with parents and siblings? Were they thinking of the implications for themselves the next day?"

For the mind to operate fully, Greenfield asserts, the prefrontal cortex must be active, and content must be a high priority. The world and oneself are then redolent with meaning. How do the young attain unique and enriched identities? "Through the world of focused conversation, nursery rhyme repetition, recitation and rote learning, of reading and writing interspersed with bouts of physical activity in the real world, where there are first-hand and unique adventures to provide a personal narrative, personalised neuronal connections. This is education as we have known it."

And what if "education as we have known it" fails? It will lead, she predicts, to the ultimate triumph of process over content: the Nobody Scenario. "For the first time in human history, individuality could be obliterated in favour of a passive state, reacting to a flood of incoming sensations - a `yuck' and `wow' mentality characterised by a premium on momentary experience as the landscape of the brain shifts into one where personalised brain connectivity is either not functional or absent altogether." .....

Greenfield tells me that she has friends who have faith and she quizzes them endlessly - Ed Stourton, the broadcaster, Jack Valero, Opus Dei's spokesperson in Britain, and a neighbour whose faith is helping him and his family overcome a serious illness. She pauses outside New College. This is the college of Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion and professional antagonist of religion.

That Delphic lower lip is active again. "I'm not at all saying that all religious believers are fundamentalists; but what distinguishes the believing brain of the extreme kind - I mean the fundamentalist and the totalitarian - from the non-fundamentalist brains," she ventures, "is the emotion of disgust, eh. "The anti-Semitic imagery of the Nazis was associated with a virus, a stealthy and elusive infection [What complete and utter nonsense! The Nazis just applied German thoroughness to a belief that had been normal in Europe for centuries]. So combating such a difficult enemy in the struggle for community hygiene isn't just a punch-for-punch slugging it out. The enemy is a sickness. You've got to be on constant guard. You don't just get angry with disease - you destroy it, exterminate it." She nods towards New College. "The invisible viral foe could invade your body and, most importantly, your brain. That's the language used by Dawkins, who's developed non-belief into a belief system all of its own, and who constantly refers to religion as a virus." ....

For people in midlife, she asserts, the identity problem is affluence. "The reason we crave more clothes, cars, goods, brands, is that they'll say something about us, symbolise our distinct, preferably superior identity." [Typical Leftist boilerplate]


The packed-lunch police

How four British schools are waging war on home-produced forbidden food

Hmm, what's it to be? A lentil korma with brown rice and salad, then fruit and a yoghurt for afters, or a High School Musical bag stuffed with crisps and a couple of bars of chocolate? It sounds absurd but in some schools children sitting next to eat other could be eating such contrasting lunches.

While school dinners have come on nutritionally in leaps and bounds, and thanks to more money for ingredients and training for the dinner ladies, they taste a whole lot better too, there's nothing to stop pupils in many schools bringing in junk from home. A survey last year lifted the lid on lunchboxes to reveal the unappetising truth: what's inside them contains too much saturated fat and up to half the daily allowance of of salt. [Kids under 7 should have no more than 3g of salt a day.] Salads are scarce and only half the children brought in a portion of fruit and vegetables.

Children who aren't eating school dinners are losing out - that's about 60 per cent of primary school kids. And this is why, as part of the Government's attempt to tackle obesity, Alan Johnson, the Health Minister, has suggested that schools should check lunchbox contents.

The School Food Trust, the body set up by the Government to turn round school dinners, suggest drawing up a policy for packed lunches - a few basic rules to bring them in line with a healthier school environment - and make sticking to it part of a code that parents have to agree to. Others say it is impossible for schools to police what children bring in to eat. Margaret Morrissey, of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, says: "Many parents in this country will feel that it is their decision what they feed their children."

Joe Harvey, of the Health Education Trust, a charity involved in the Better School Food campaign, agrees. "You can't search kids for Kit Kats," he says. So what can schools do about it? "There has to be a process of education and consultation or they'll get the burgers-through-the-fence brigade. It should be part of a whole school food policy." He advises schools to build food rules into any contract the school makes with new parents; do everything possible to make sure children know what's going on in the school kitchen; and make the meal service as attractive as possible.

More here

The free market beats the tyrants -- as ever

The tyrants call it a "black market" but it is their arrogance and ignorance that is black

Students are operating a black-market trade in food banned in schools, including burgers and chocolate, in a backlash against healthier canteen menus such as those espoused by the celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. Newly installed healthy menus in school canteens and the removal of junk food from vending machines have created a gap in the market that students have been quick to fill. Some of the most sophisticated operations are taking place at business and enterprise schools.

The move to healthier meals in schools was prompted by Oliver's crusade in 2005 against Turkey Twizzlers and other unhealthy foods. The following year the Government published a report setting definitive nutritional standards for school lunches. One young smuggling mastermind, when finally caught, said to his school's headmaster unapologetically: "But we were only doing what you taught us in business studies, Sir."

After a tip from a head teacher at a Dorset secondary who broke up a "seriously big smuggling operation" run by a schoolboy, The Times has uncovered several similar contraband schemes. The head, who did not want to identify his school, was convinced that the switch to a healthy menu and the policy of keeping pupils on the premises at lunchtime had created an opening for entrepreneurs. He became suspicious when he noticed two 14-year-old boys approaching the school weighed down with Lidl carrier bags. "The thin wiry creatures, in full uniform but with shortened ties, shirts hanging out, were walking a heavily laden bicycle. The bags were dripping off the bike's handlebars, crossbars and saddle like a scene from some desperate endeavour on foot and mule to reach a lost city in the Peruvian mountains," he said.

A teacher nicknamed Columbo tracked down the boys and their illicit cargo: 60 cans of fizzy drinks and piles of milk chocolate. "We discovered they were just the buyers. Someone else had funded the purchase, a player who in turn was funded by unknowns, who were taking the lion's share. "Getting to the core of the operation was like peeling an onion, there appeared to be no centre," the head added. He suspects that similar operations are happening to a greater or lesser extent in most schools.

Sure enough, when The Times appealed to head teachers for similar tales, the response was rapid and clear. "It has happened to us. Kids with motorbikes buying McDonald's burgers in bulk and flogging them in the playground. We are a business and enterprise school in Essex so I guess I should not be surprised," one said. "When challenged, the boy at the centre said he was just being enterprising."

Another, this time from Wales, said: "The `McDonald's run', where sixth-formers with cars take orders for the lower school who are locked in at lunchtimes is one of the best bits of student enterprise I have seen for a long time."

It is not just business studies teachers who have been giving children ideas; it is also the parents. Two mothers from Rotherham gained publicity for feeding burgers to their children through the school railings after the introduction of a healthy new menu.

Brian Lightman, president of the Association of School and College Leaders and head teacher at St Cyres School in Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan, said that the healthy eating initiative would only succeed if students were allowed a say. "Because these changes have been imposed without allowing time for them to gain a sense of ownership, schools are reporting cases of students finding innovative ways around the new regulations," he said. Of course, if today's teenager crisp smugglers really want a good excuse when caught, they might be well advised to point to Jamie Oliver himself. As an enterprising 11-year-old he used to lease school-lockers from fellow pupils, from where he would sell sweets he had bought at the cash-and-carry. Alternatively, students could also point to the teachers who regularly sneak out at lunch time for burgers and chips, now that they are no longer on the menu.


UK: Elections "vulnerable to fraud": "Elections in the UK fall short of international standards with the system vulnerable to fraud, a report by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust claims.Measures to improve choice for voters -- such as postal and electronic voting -- are actually risking the integrity of the electoral process, it said."

The lazy British police: "A family who dialled 999 when eight men wearing balaclavas burst into their home at 11.15pm were told by the police that they were too busy to come. Mathew Sims, 24, his partner Sarah Barham, also 24, and their two children, aged 6 and 5, ran upstairs when the men, one brandishing an axe, smashed the glass in a door that Mr Sims was trying to keep closed. Eventually the burglars left in two cars after stripping the downstairs rooms of electrical items. Three hours later the police turned up at the house - barely a mile from a police station - in Arnold, Nottinghamshire. Mr Sims said: "The minute we knew these people were in the house we rang the police, but they said it would be at least half an hour before they could come out. "No one from the police had turned up half an hour later, and when we rang again they said there was no one they could send." In a letter to the couple, Chief Inspector Andy Burton said that they deserved an apology and confirmed that an inquiry was under way." [If he had said that somebody had called him a queer, they would have been right out]

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

British Muslim 'bullied' for converting to Christianity

British police no help, of course. Muslims are a protected class

A British citizen who converted to Christianity from Islam and then complained to police when locals threatened to burn his house down was told by officers to "stop being a crusader", according to a new report.

Nissar Hussein, 43, from Bradford, West Yorkshire, who was born and raised in Britain, converted from Islam to Christianity with his wife, Qubra, in 1996. The report says that he was subjected to a number of attacks and, after being told that his house would be burnt down if he did not repent and return to Islam, reported the threat to the police. It says he was told that such threats were rarely carried out and the police officer told him to "stop being a crusader and move to another place". A few days later the unoccupied house next door was set on fire.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a British human rights organisation whose president is the former Cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken, is calling on the UN and the international community to take action against nations and communities that punish apostasy.

Its report, No Place to Call Home, claims that apostates from Islam are subject to "gross and wideranging human rights abuses". It adds that in countries such as Britain, with large Muslim populations in a Westernised culture, the demand to maintain a Muslim identity is intense. "When identities are precarious, their enforcement will take an aggressive form."


British nurses are engulfed by a tide of NHS paperwork

Ass-covering via paperwork trumps patient care in a socialized system

Nurses spend more than a million hours a week on non-essential paperwork, according to the Royal College of Nursing. A survey found that of the 1,700 nurses questioned, 88 per cent believed that the time needed for such paperwork had increased in recent years. Only one in five had seen a corresponding rise in administrative support. One in four said they had no access to clerical support.

The union called on NHS trusts to employ administrative staff to relieve the burden on nurses. Peter Carter, the general secretary said: “The danger is that this is undermining their ability to care for patients and support relatives.” The poll was published as nurses gathered in Bournemouth for the union’s annual conference.

Nurses working in the community and in out-patient departments were most burdened, two-fifths saying they had to do all their own clerical tasks.

A separate poll suggested that 80 per cent of nurses had felt distress at being unable to treat patients with due dignity. In particular, hospitals could not guarantee patients single-sex accommodation.


British bureaucratic tyranny tightens

Post below recycled from Prof. Brignell. See the original for links

To get the following into context it is important to remember that it refers to a time when violent crime is worse than ever. Children are shooting and stabbing each other in the streets and burglaries, theft and shoplifting are carried out with impunity in the almost total absence of police on the streets. We are governed not by elected representatives, but by officials.

In the Democratic Socialist Republic of Hull a mother was fined œ75 for dropping a piece of sausage roll when feeding her toddler. It was immediately gobble up by pigeons.

Draconian laws that were forced through Parliament as being absolutely necessary to track criminals and terrorists have been used for a variety of quite different purposes. A couple and their three children were put under surveillance without their knowledge by Poole Borough Council for more than two weeks. Their crime (of which they were innocent) was to be suspected of the grievous middle class sin of trying to do their best for the children in defiance of rules of socialist equality.

The common characteristic of these tawdry tales is the employment of enormous numbers of people at the taxpayers' expense, a non-productive army who are dragging down the already precarious economy. They have no connection with police or judiciary, yet are empowered to act as judge and jury in the imposition of fines on a scale that is out of all proportion to those imposed for what were once real crimes.

For this is Envirocrime, Orwellian Newspeak for a whole new raft of offences, mostly inspired by EU directives (but don't let the public know that, because our leaders like to maintain the pretence that they are still in charge) which have given rise to an era of surveillance and oppression that realises Orwell's nightmare. This leads us to:

A father of four in Cumbria now has a criminal record. His crime is to overfill his refuse bin so that the lid was ajar by all of four inches. The prosecution claim that this was in fact seven inches (clearly a hanging offence). Perhaps his offence would have been mitigated if it were for ten centimetres.

Here in West Wiltshire we received a full colour leaflet with the mind-numbing headline Exciting developments in recycling. One of the pleasures of moving here had been to find that the binmen were so helpful; nothing was too much trouble. Then recently, they were accompanied by a man with a clipboard, clearly teaching them how to be intractable. We are not only to have two different bins, but we are provided with plastic crates for recyclables. How is anyone who walks with a stick supposed to carry a crate? A separate large refuse vehicle, fully manned and spouting dreaded pollution, collects cardboard only. One poor old lady was seen this week struggling down to the community recycling bins with a large plastic bag in one hand, because she could not carry a crate through her house. In some areas people who leave for work before 7 am are faced with fines for putting out their rubbish too early.

Elderly people live in fear of breaking complicated rules that they do not understand and do not seem to make any sense. They do not realise that the whole purpose is to force them into ritualistic behaviour for reasons of religion. Madness, or what?

Immigration undermines education

And it is the leader of Britain's wishy washy party that says so!

Rising immigration is putting pressure on schools and undermining education standards, Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, warns today. Mr Clegg says an influx of children who do not speak English is hampering the work of teachers and proves that ministers failed to plan for current levels of migration. We must acknowledge that rising migration is putting pressure on schools at all levels," he will say.

Mr Clegg's comments mark his party's strongest criticism of Labour's open-door immigration policy, and may spark speculation that he is moving to the Right. In a speech to the 4Children conference in London today, Mr Clegg will reveal figures showing that nearly 800,000 pupils - 12 per cent of the total - are registered as having a first language other than English. That marks a 60 per cent rise since Labour came to power in 1997. The Daily Telegraph revealed in December that children with English as their first language were now in the minority in more than 1,300 schools.

"The latest wave of migration has brought large numbers - of Eastern Europeans in particular - to parts of the country that have little experience of dealing with speakers of other languages in schools," Mr Clegg will say. "Even a few children in a class can be a real challenge for a teacher used to strong English language skills, especially if children are arriving in the middle of a school year - and in unpredictable numbers. "It's a challenge for native English speakers, as well - because their learning suffers too when a class can't move forward together, learn together and share experiences fully."

Mr Clegg's aides say he has chosen to raise the issue of immigration and education after receiving complaints from head teachers who say their biggest challenge is coping with the number of languages spoken at their school. He will insist that his party will never support calls to end mass immigration, saying: "The problems stem from our failure to plan for population changes, not from the existence of migrants."

However, his speech could still raise suspicions among Lib Dem activists that Mr Clegg is trying to shift to the Right to counter a resurgent Conservative Party. Some analysts say the third party will be badly squeezed in Thursday's local government elections, perhaps losing as many as 200 seats as the Tories advance. Although the Lib Dems' poll ratings are steady at about 17 per cent, the party has reaped no clear benefit from Gordon Brown's recent troubles.

Mr Clegg has been testing the waters for a shift to the Right, even hinting that the Lib Dems could fight the next general election on a promise of cutting the tax burden


Monday, April 28, 2008

Superbug fears hit British playgrounds

Panton and Valentine associated the toxin with soft tissue infections in 1932 so the NHS has had time to think of something to do about it

A superbug to which children are particularly vulnerable is spreading in Britain and specialists say the government is failing to take action to stop it. A Sunday Times investigation has found at least 10 youngsters aged between six and 13 have been left fighting for their lives after contracting the infection. Doctors are concerned because they appear to have caught the bug in playgrounds and parks.

The children were all hit by Panton-Valentine leukocidin (PVL), a toxin that combines with MRSA, the bacteria that cause thousands of infections, sometimes lethal, in hospitals. Mark Enright, professor of molecular epidemiology at Imperial College London, said: “This infection can kill healthy children in one to two days, but the authorities are continuing to treat MRSA as purely a hospital problem and trying to assuage public opinion.”

Other specialists accuse the government of ignoring warnings about the seriousness of PVL-MRSA, failing to mount adequate infection surveillance and blocking the use of a treatment to tackle it. Professor Richard Wise, a leading microbiologist, says that he warned a government health minister three years ago of the threat, but little has been done.

The phenomenon of PVL-MRSA was identified in America several years ago. British doctors have now reported cases from the south coast to the Midlands. They include a six-year-old girl left brain-damaged after she fell off her scooter and contracted the infection in her shin bone, from where it spread throughout her body, and a nine-year-old boy who was crippled after a graze playing football.

The mother of a 10-year-old boy in London who caught the bug said: “One day he was playing happily and the next day he couldn’t see, speak or move. The doctors didn’t know what was happening. It was terrifying.” Official figures show that the number of recorded PVL infections rose from 224 in 2005 to 496 in 2006.


Poor white boys are victims too

By Trevor Phillips (The black chairman of Britain's Equality and Human Rights Commission)

To be sure, the problems of racial discrimination against minorities haven't gone away - black and Asian young men are still up to seven times more likely to be arrested by the police; Pakistani men will earn more than a quarter of million pounds less than their white equivalents over a lifetime; and young Bangladeshi women are having to settle for jobs for which they are overqualified. But we are also confronting for the first time in my lifetime an equality deficit not much talked about at Westminster. I am referring to the growing underclass of poor white boys - a forgotten group who also face a kind of institutional racism. I am deeply worried that they will grow into poor, disillusioned, alienated white men.

Why should the Equality and Human Rights Commission care? Many people, including our friends, think that it exists largely to shout the odds for anybody who is not male, white, straight and able-bodied. But that is wrong on every count. We aren't a minorities' pressure group. We work for the whole of society, not just those at the margins - though those who suffer most disadvantage have a right to come first in the queue for our support. (And let's remember that some of those who face systematic inequality aren't small minorities - women are a majority, most of us will become parents and virtually all of us will get old.)

What we are is a body that attacks unfairness wherever it sees it. That's why some of the wider trends that may be leading to greater inequality are right at the top of our agenda - economic change, the skills gap and, above all, migration.

Let me be unambiguous about this last issue. I am pro-immigration. The British people's experience is that managed migration has brought great advantages to the country, not the tide of hate that Powell prophesied. But immigration has also raised important issues - not least that if we aren't careful, the benefits from it will fall into the hands of employers, shareholders and middle-class professionals, while any burdens are left to be borne by the poorest in society.

So we have to ensure that the positive impact of migration is not offset by the costs - such as public services under increased pressure and an infrastructure that is struggling to cope. Let these issues languish in the tray marked "too difficult to talk about", and resentment will grow. We also need to be clear that worrying about the consequences of immigration does not make you antiforeigner. And we must tackle a vital question: why are some groups in society not getting the chances they deserve? Last week two reports highlighted again the issue of underachievement. A report by the Bow Group, the Conservative think tank, showed that in the past 10 years almost 4m pupils left school without gaining the basic qualifications of five good GCSEs.

The cost to the economy of low educational attainment - and low social mobility - is 32 billion pounds a year, or 1,300 to the average family, according to Reform, the independent think tank. Its report spoke of the "why bother?" generation - people who feel shut out by the system. If people feel shut out, they will try to find someone easy to blame: the outsider, the immigrant.

At the commission, we are doing research on educational underachievement and its link to ethnicity. Initial findings reveal that, for example, Bangladeshi and black African students at school outperform their white peers from comparable economic and social backgrounds. Statistics also show that black African, Bangladeshi and Pakistani students achieve higher GCSE scores than equivalent white students. We know that it is not only white children from poorer background who are struggling. Black Caribbean children are also underachieving.

In the autumn, after our research is published, we will host a conference on white working-class boys. We want to listen to the pupils themselves, the teachers and the parents. And we need to demonstrate that fairness is about equal treatment for all - black, white or Asian. It is only in tackling these issues that we take the toxicity out of debates on immigration, race and socio-economic underachievement. Fair treatment and equal chances are everyone's right. No one should feel the work of the commission is "not about me".


British bureaucrats eat crow: "The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has issued an unprecedented apology to Wm Morrison for wrongly suggesting that Britain's fourth-largest supermarket group was guilty of fixing prices for butter and cheese five years ago. The competition watchdog agreed today to pay 100,000 pounds to settle a defamation case brought by the retailer over "serious errors" published in a press release last September. The OFT has also agreed to pay Morrison's costs in relation to the defamation case and a judicial review the supermarket launched in the wake of the OFT's strongly worded press release, which accused supermarkets of ripping off shoppers to the tune of 270 million. The OFT said in a statement today that its September release incorrectly stated that Morrison was the subject of a provisional finding of infringement in relation to the supply of butter and cheese in 2002 and 2003."

The corrupt EU again: "A British whistleblower who exposed alleged corruption at a European aid agency faces the sack after he told EU fraud investigators that his boss was involved in the scam. Terry Battersby, 53, from Manchester, has been removed from his job as head of information technology at the Brussels-based Centre for the Development of Enterprise (CDE) and placed on a short-term contract. Battersby uncovered evidence that the agency's former director, Hamed Sow, who is now the energy minister of the west African country of Mali, approved the award of lucrative European Union contracts to a company in which he had a financial interest. Sow is alleged to have arranged for the CDE to back a loan of nearly 3m pounds to a textile company in Mali, without disclosing that he owned up to 20% of the company and was receiving payments from the firm. The CDE, set up to support the private sector in poor countries, receives more than 14m a year in taxpayers' money from the EU."

Sunday, April 27, 2008

More British Catholic Adoption Agencies to Close Doors instead of Bowing to Sexual Orientation Regulations

When the Labour government's Sexual Orientation Regulations were passed last year, the leadership of the Catholic Church in England and Wales warned that the new law would spell the end of Catholic involvement in social service, particularly adoption. Now the first of the UK's Catholic adoption agencies affected are announcing they will close their doors for good rather than betray religious principles and their guiding principle of the good of the child.

Bishop Malcolm McMahon said his diocese of Nottingham would be cutting ties with the their adoption agency, the Catholic Children's Society, because of the law that forces them to consider homosexual partners as equally qualified to adopt as people in natural heterosexual relationships. "We have been coerced into this, I am not happy about it at all," the bishop told Catholic News Service April 18. "The regulations have coerced the children's society into going against the church's teaching, and we don't wish to do that."

The Nottingham agency, together with that of the Northampton Catholic diocese, will become a secular institution "with a Christian character" by merging with the adoption agency of the Anglican Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham in October. The parish churches of the diocese will no longer solicit funds to support the agency. The Nottingham agency was founded in 1948 by the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace and placed 25 children a year with adoptive families.

Contrary to common accusations that Catholics are trying to unjustly discriminate against homosexuals, the Catholic Church holds that its motivation is rather the desire to protect the best interests of children. The Church teaches, according to recent documents from the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, that allowing a child to be adopted by homosexual partners "would actually mean doing violence to these children" by placing them into a situation where their full social and spiritual development would be threatened.

Homosexual partners have had the legal right to adopt children in Britain since 2002. The new law, however, removes the right of Catholic and other Christian agencies to decline to consider homosexuals for adoption.

The move by the Nottingham diocese follows similar decisions made elsewhere in Britain. In the summer of 2007, shortly after the legislation was passed, the Leeds-based Catholic Care, which placed 20 children a year with adoptive families, voted to pull out of adoption services. Bishop Patrick O'Donohue of Lancaster announced at the same time that the Catholic Caring Services, an adoption agency working in Lancashire and Cumbria, will likely close rather than bow to the regulations.

When the legislation passed in 2007, Cormac Cardinal Murphy O'Connor, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, attempted to find a compromise in which Catholic adoption agencies would be exempt. Tony Blair, later to be received into the Catholic Church by the same Cardinal, refused to consider an exemption. Instead Blair offered his own version of a compromise: Catholic agencies had a year to adjust to adopting children to gay partners or close. That deadline comes at the end of this month.

The conflict comes at the same time that local branches of government continue to discriminate against Christians who volunteer to take in foster children. In November 2007, Vincent and Pauline Matherick, a Christian couple who had fostered children for years, were told by their Somerset council that they would no longer be allowed to continue because of their religious objections to homosexuality. They were later reinstated but only after a media furor and notices to the council by a Christian lawyers' group.

In February this year, it was reported that a Christian couple in Derby, Eunice and Owen Johns, is suing the local council after their application to foster children was refused because of their religious objections to homosexuality. In addition, the Labour-controlled council adoption panel was said to be "upset" that the couple insisted that children in their care would be required to accompany the family to church on Sundays.

In September 2007, an independent investigation revealed that a local council's fear of being labelled homophobic had allowed a total of 19 boys to be placed with a pair of homosexual child molesters. Despite growing reservations by staff and complaints from the mother of two of the boys, the Wakefield council placed the children into the care of Ian Wathey and Craig Faunch who were convicted in May 2006 of molesting and filming eight-year-old twins and two 14 year-old boys.


Greenies lose one

Plans for Britain's biggest land-based wind farm were turned down by the Scottish government yesterday, in a landmark decision with wide implications for the future development of renewable energy in the UK. The 181-turbine development on the Hebridean island of Lewis was vetoed by Scottish ministers because it was at odds with tough protection for wildlife sites afforded by European law. The site was designated as the Lewis Peatlands special protection area under the EU's birds directive to protect its rare breeding birds including the golden eagle, merlin, red-throated diver, black-throated diver, golden plover, dunlin and greenshank. As the wind farm would have "significant adverse impacts" on the wildlife site and its birds, it was in effect legally impossible to approve, said Jim Mather, the Scottish Energy Minister.

The decision sends a clear signal to developers seeking to take part in the "wind rush" expected as part of the massive expansion of renewable energy signalled by the EU earlier this year. It means their proposals will have to be in the right place, and they are likely to be refused if they conflict with the two EU wildlife laws - the birds directive and the habitats directive - which offer the strongest protection for wildlife sites in Britain.

But Mr Mather emphasised that the verdict on Lewis was not meant to block renewable energy expansion in the Hebrides and the rest of Scotland. "This decision does not mean there cannot be onshore wind farms in the Western Isles," he said. "I strongly believe the vast renewables potential needs to be exploited to ensure that the opportunities and benefits of new development can be shared across the country in an equitable fashion. That's why we will urgently carry out work on how to develop renewable energy in the Western Isles, in harmony with its outstanding natural heritage."

He added: "Nor does today's decision alter in any way this government's unwavering commitment to harness Scotland's vast array of potentially cheap, renewable energy sources. Even allowing for [planning] refusals, we are well on the way to meeting our ambitious target to generate 50 per cent of Scotland's electricity from renewables by 2020."

The o500m scheme rejected yesterday, put forward by Lewis Wind Power, a joint venture between the energy giants Amec and British Energy Renewables, was extremely controversial on the island. In outline the biggest land-based wind farm in Europe, it had been slimmed down from a proposal for 234 turbines.

Although in February last year the Council of the Western Isles voted by 18 to 8 for the project - leaving the Scottish government to take the final decision - many people in Lewis felt that even the slimmed-down development would damage the island, despite the community benefits and jobs it would have brought. The Scottish government received 98 support letters - and 10,924 objections.

It would have involved 88 miles of road, eight electrical substations, 19 miles of overhead cables, 137 pylons, 18.3 miles of underground cables, and five rock quarries. Two Labour politicians who supported it, the island's MP, Calum MacDonald, and MSP, Alasdair Morrison, lost their seats, and were ousted by Angus MacNeil and Alasdair Allan respectively, who are both Scottish Nationalists and opponents of the wind farm.


Surge of illegals into Scotland

Police have caught more than 1,000 people later identified as illegal immigrants at ports in south west Scotland over the past four years. Numbers of foreign nationals detained at Stranraer and Cairnryan have more than doubled between 2004 and 2007. Crimes including people trafficking for the sex trade have also been detected.

A spokesman for Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary said the figures should deter people from trying to use the ports without the proper documents. Police say the ports are the fourth busiest points of entry to Scotland after airports in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. About 1.9m passengers and 900,000 vehicles pass through the facilities each year. People from 67 different countries have been stopped by police and subsequently identified as illegal immigrants. There were 117 such cases in 2004 but that rose to 259 last year. The total number detected over the four-year period is 1,007.

Among the nationalities without proper documents were people from Pakistan, Sudan, Iraq, Romania, Nigeria and Afghanistan. Det Ch Insp Steven Carr, who works at the ports unit, said it was always looking out for any immigration offences. "Our primary function is protection of UK security," he said. "But during the course of our work we come across other offences." These include drugs and motoring crime as well as immigration issues. "The staff here are multi-skilled because there is a multitude of offences," said DCI Carr.

The police effort is backed up by three officers seconded to the UK Border Agency (UKBA). "They have the power of immigration officers up to the point of sending somebody back to their own country," he explained. Police believe that thanks to that facility and a good working relationship with ferry operators in Dumfries and Galloway they have been able to foil organised crime. "We have reported a number of people to the fiscal for the facilitating of people into the UK," said DCI Carr. "It is a well-documented process that organised crime groups make a lot of money out of charging people extortionate amounts to come into the UK. "Organised crime groups are very proficient at it - in many ways it is safer than drugs or other forms of contraband."

The force has also been part of a number of national operations. "We were also involved in Operation Pentameter on the trafficking of people for use in the sex trade," said DCI Carr. At least a couple of young women who police believe were destined for prostitution were discovered by the Stranraer ports unit. Dumfries and Galloway Police believe it demonstrates that the region's ferry terminals are not a "soft touch" for illegal immigration. "The smallest force in the UK still gets to deal with the biggest issues," said DCI Carr. "If you come through the ports of Stranraer and Cairnryan you are taking a risk - we monitor the ports 24 hours a day. "You will be found out, detected and reported or handed over to the UKBA."


British Leftist government Takes From the Poor: "This was another bad week for Gordon Brown. Not even a year in office, the Prime Minister has already been in the soup for mishandling a banking crisis and for chickening out on early elections and an EU Constitution referendum. Now the Tories are taunting the Labour leader - who had made fighting poverty his No. 1 issue - as a tax oppressor of the poor. The charge has stuck and stung. Mr. Brown was forced Wednesday by backbenchers in his own party to mollify more than five million low-wage earners and pensioners who have seen their income taxes double to 20% this month. Even worse for a Labour leader, the tax hikes, which he passed last year when he was still Chancellor of the Exchequer but which came into force only this month, coincided with tax cuts for the middle class."

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Britain, Spain To Combat Illegal Immigration

Sounds like a lot of bull but maybe there is something to it

The British and Spanish governments agreed to enhance cooperation to combat illegal immigration from Africa into the European Union (EU). "Spain and the United Kingdom can work together to help the EU deal effectively with the human tragedy of illegal immigration, and we can stimulate the EU into becoming a model power and promoter of human and economic development across the globe," Britain's minister for Europe Jim Murphy said during his speech at a lunch at Spain's New Economic Forum.

According to Murphy, Britain and the other EU members can learn a lot from Spain's experience on the issue particularly in North Africa. Spain has signed deals with seven West African countries in a bid to control the flow of migrants.

Based on estimates of national statistics institute INE, the number of immigrants living in Spain soared from around half a million in 1996 to 4.5 million by the end of 2006 out of a total population of 45.12 million people.


NHS fight against MRSA going nowhere

The government's drive to combat MRSA superbug infections in NHS hospitals faltered in the final quarter of last year, figures from the Health Protection Agency revealed yesterday. The number of infections in England had fallen sharply for three years, but increased slightly from 1,080 cases between July and September to 1,087 between October and December. John Reid, the former health secretary, promised in 2004 to halve the number of MRSA infections by the end of March 2008. When Gordon Brown became prime minister in June, he made hygiene a priority for the NHS. In September, he said every ward should be deep-cleaned by the end of March.

The agency said: "Over the last year cases of MRSA bloodstream infection have been steadily falling. We would obviously like to have seen the trend continued in this quarter." To achieve Reid's target, the NHS would have to reduce the number of cases from 642 a month in 2004 to 321 a month between April and June this year. In the final quarter of last year, there were 362 a month.

Ann Keen, the health minister, said: "The MRSA target remains within reach. However, one case of avoidable infection is one too many and I am challenging the NHS to make full use of the resources at their disposal to eradicate avoidable infections."



By Dominic Lawson

When the political wind changes direction, it can leave a Prime Minister looking very silly - almost as if what mothers used to warn their children about not pulling faces was actually true. Thus Gordon Brown's last Budget, which removed the concession of a 10p in the pound tax rate for millions of the least well paid, was thought perfectly acceptable at the time, including by the vast majority of Labour MPs, who had cheered the then Chancellor in the House of Commons. Now - as its measures are just about to come into force - it is almost universally excoriated: how could Gordon have been so insensitive?

The reason for this near-180 degree shift in sentiment is not hard to find. Food prices have risen sharply since Brown's final Budget - and so, even more, has the price of heating a home. These are items which form a very significant percentage of the domestic budgets of the least well-off, so they now feel understandably furious to be faced with a government-imposed drop in take-home pay.

This bitter atmosphere lends particular piquancy to a long-arranged meeting later this week between the Business Secretary, John Hutton, and the country's six largest suppliers of energy - the so-called "fuel poverty summit". The Government is understandably concerned about further imminent increases in electricity bills, especially against the background of consumer groups such as energywatch loudly protesting that "an increase in utility bills of 25 per cent will consign another million households to fuel poverty".

Up until now, it has been possible to blame such increases in costs on the rise in the wholesale price of the main raw materials - oil and gas. Now, however, rather as in the style of Gordon Brown's tax changes, it is the Government which is becoming an active agent in the imposition of ever-higher costs on the consumer.

As part of an EU directive designed to combat climate change, Britain is committed to generating 20 per cent of its energy by 2020 through "renewables" - a tenfold increase in the current figure. Yet even the prevailing historically high prices of oil and gas provide domestic heating at between a half and a fifth of the cost of similar amounts of energy from renewables.

By chance, I spoke about this last week to the head of E.ON UK, the British arm of Europe's biggest supplier of wind power. Paul Golby explained to me that, because it was very hard to envisage much of a contribution from renewables for energy used by transport , this means that we would need to generate about 45 per cent of our domestic electricity bills from such sources - principally wind power - in order to conform with the EU directive known as the Renewables Obligation.

According to Mr Golby, meeting such a commitment will involve an increase in electricity generating costs of about 10 billion pounds per year; this is equivalent to almost 400 pounds per household - or, in the roughest terms, an increase of about 40 per cent in annual electricity bills. Try selling that to the British public; and, of course, the Government hasn't. As Mr Golby told me, with understandably diplomatic understatement: "The politicians have not been entirely honest about the cost of our renewables commitment, and so the public don't really know what's coming their way."

I told Mr Golby that I thought he was being somewhat naive if he genuinely expected any government to volunteer to the public that it was responsible for a swingeing increase in energy bills, especially if it thought it could get away with blaming the increase on anyone else - such as Mr Golby and his colleagues.

So far, the likes of E.ON - perhaps because they also stand to make what amount to large heavily-subsidised revenues from wind-power - have been very careful not to blame the Government. I forecast that this gentlemanly conduct will not last. Soon each side will be blaming the other, in a desperate attempt to avoid the full force of the public's anger.

The British public might become even more furious when it learns that one reason for the extra cost of wind power is that its inherent variability means that we will still need to retain our entire existing network of conventional power stations as back-up. That is because it is not a good idea for us to endure what happened two months ago in Texas, America's biggest wind-power producing state: a sudden drop in wind combined with a fall in temperatures led to what was described as "an electric emergency" - customers in west Texas were deprived of power for 90 minutes.

One thing is clear; the British public does need educating about this: even one of The Independent's most intelligent commentators wrote here last week that "The mini-windmill on David Cameron's new house is an economical way for an individual household to generate electricity, even contribute to the national grid". Well, that's if you consider it economical to spend thousands of pounds on a roof-top turbine that produces - even according to its supporters - no more than 1 megawatt hour per year, worth œ40 unsubsidised on the wholesale electricity market. As a contribution to reducing CO2 emissions it's about as cost-effective and meaningful as cycling to the House of Commons while having your chauffeur-driven car follow you with your briefcase, suit and black lace-up shoes.

If a serious economic downturn does hit this country, then such extravagant gestures, far from attracting praise, might begin to seem Nero-like in their irrelevance to an economy threatened by the flames of recession. Some Ipsos-Mori polling data published last week by the Financial Times showed that over the 12 months to January 2008, the proportion of those in Britain declaring "the environment" to be their biggest concern fell from almost 20 per cent to just 8 per cent.

On a more long-term sweep, it was fascinating - though perhaps not surprising - to see that concern about the environment rose and fell in direct inverse proportion to concern about the domestic economy. The headline on the FT's article was: "Greens fear voters will turn selfish in difficult times". That's one way of looking at it; but I don't think any mainstream politician will risk calling the electorate "selfish" if the public rise up against a state-imposed increase of up to 40 per cent in the cost of their domestic electricity bills.

In fact, after his taxing experience of the past few weeks, I imagine that Gordon Brown will be wondering just how to get out of the Government's commitment to do exactly that, as part of the EU Renewables Obligation. He'll be in company, of course - the company of every other European leader. The only uncertainty is whether they'll admit it - even to each other, in private.


British prison absurdity: "Prisoners are passing up opportunities to escape because they are more comfortable inside jails where there is a plentiful supply of cheap drugs, according to a prison officers' union leader. Staff morale is at rock bottom and many jails are close to anarchy because of underfunding, said Glyn Travis, assistant general secretary of the Prison Officers Association. He gave warning yesterday that the drug problem was now "out of control" and said that even prostitutes were sometimes smuggled in. Mr Travis told of one institution in Yorkshire where members of the public were climbing over the prison walls to take drugs inside. "They put up ladders to climb over the walls, but prisoners were so comfortable in the environment they were living in that none tried to climb up the ladders and escape," he said, in a reference to Everthorpe Prison in East Yorkshire."

Friday, April 25, 2008

House of Lords blocks "hate speech" law

We read:
" A bill to toughen Britain's hate speech law banning attacks on gays has been defeated in the House of Lords. The bill would have provided for jail sentences up to seven years for anyone convicted of using threatening language on the basis of sexual orientation. The legislation already had passed the House of Commons. The Lords voted 81 to 57 to strip prison sentences from the bill, leaving it toothless.

The vote leaves the Labor government with two choices: either let the bill die, or use a procedural vote in the Lower House to override the Lords. Even some gay rights advocates, including Peter Tatchell, opposed the bill, saying it would hamper free speech. Church leaders also fought the legislation claiming it could be used to silence any criticism of homosexuality from the pulpit.

Comedic actor Rowan Atkinson said that if the bill were enacted it would bar humorists and comedians from caricaturizing gays. The bill was put together with the help of LGBT rights group Stonewall.


Mother's diet can influence baby's sex

This sounds pretty crazy. It is a gene on the Y chromosome contributed by the MALE that determines sex. I suppose the woman could do some sort of spontaneous selective abortion, though. Note: It is entirely possible that diet-type is a proxy for something else (such as social class) rather than itself being the causative agent for what do seem to be some rather interesting differences. So if you decide to eat up big on the basis of these findings, you could well be wasting your time

Oysters may excite the libido, but there is nothing like a hearty breakfast laced with sugar to boost a woman's chances of conceiving a son, according to a new study. Likewise, a low-energy diet that skimps on calories, minerals and nutrients is more likely to yield a female of the human species, says the study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Britain's de facto academy of sciences.

Fiona Mathews of the University of Exeter in Britain and colleagues wanted to find out if a woman's diet had an impact on the sex of her offspring. So they asked 740 first-time mothers who did not know if their unborn fetuses were male or female to provide detailed records of eating habits before and after they became pregnant. The women were split into three groups according to the number calories they consumed per day around the time of conception.

Fifty-six per cent of the women in the group with the highest energy intake had sons, compared to 45 percent in the least-well fed cohort. Beside racking up a higher calorie count, the group who produced more males were also more likely to have eaten a wider range of nutrients, including potassium, calcium and vitamins C, E and B12. The odds of an XY, or male outcome to a pregnancy also went up sharply "for women who consumed at least one bowl of breakfast cereal daily compared with those who ate less than or equal to one bowl of week", the study reported.

These surprising findings were consistent with a very gradual shift in favour of girls over the last four decades in the sex ratio of newborns, according to the researchers. Previous research had shown - despite the rising epidemic in obesity - a reduction in the average energy uptake in advanced economies. The number of adults who skipped breakfast had also increased substantially.

"This research may help to explain why in developed countries, where many young women choose low calorie diets, the proportion of boys is falling,'' Ms Mathews said. The study's findings could point to a "natural mechanism'' for sex selection. The link between a rich diet and male children might have an evolutionary explanation. For most species, the number of offspring a male can father exceeds the number a female can give birth to, but only if conditions are favourable.

Poor quality male specimens may fail to breed at all, whereas females reproduce more consistently. "If a mother has plentiful resources, then it can make sense to invest in producing a son because he is likely to produce more grandchildren than would a daughter,'' thus contributing to the survival of the species, Mathews said. "However, in leaner times having a daughter is a safer bet.''

While the mechanism is not yet understood, it is known from in vitro fertilisation research that higher levels of glucose, or sugar, encourage the growth and development of male embryos while inhibiting female embryos.


Illegal immigrants sent on way by British police

Illegal immigrants are being released by police and given directions to the nearest immigration office, despite a government pledge that they would be detained, the Conservatives say today. Ten out of 27 police forces said that if the immigration service was unavailable, illegal immigrants who claimed asylum were released.

The figures were obtained by the Conservatives under freedom of information laws. The police forces who send illegal immigrants on their way are Dorset, Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, South Yorkshire, Northamptonshire, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Thames Valley, Suffolk and Bedfordshire.

Liam Byrne, the Immigration Minister, said last month that illegal immigrants would be detained. But Damian Green, the Tory immigration spokesman, said: “He says the system has changed, but in many parts of the country there is the same old inability to enforce the law.”


Five cases of lost personal data a week : "Five security breaches a week have been reported to the privacy watchdog since the loss last year of two government discs containing details of 25 million families. Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, said he had been notified of 94 data breaches over the past five months. Two thirds - 62 - were committed by government and other public sector bodies. The material included a wide range of personal details, including health records. The data was recovered in only three of the 94 cases. Mr Thomas described the scale of the incidents, which come after HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) mislaid discs carrying details of child benefit claimants in November, as "alarming".

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Greenie tyranny: British father of four taken to court and fined ... because he overfilled his wheelie-bin by just four inches

With his rubbish collected only once a fortnight, Gareth Corkhill's wheelie bin was so full the lid wouldn't shut. And for that, the father of four finds himself with a criminal record. Magistrates convicted the 26-year-old bus driver after hearing evidence that the lid was four inches ajar, which is against rules to stop bins overflowing. He was ordered to pay 210 pounds - a week's wages - after he declined to pay an on-the-spot fine imposed by the local council's bin police, who visited him wearing stab-proof vests and carrying photographic evidence of his crime. To add insult to injury he was told to pay a 15 pound victim surcharge to help victims of violence - despite there being no victim - and threatened with prison if he failed to pay. Rapists, murderers and other violent criminals who have earned a jail sentence rather than a fine are immune from the penalty.

Yesterday the council, Copeland in Cumbria, said that Mr Corkhill's family had caused problems for "the battle to reduce waste".

His penalty compares with the typical on-the-spot fine of 80 pounds given to shoplifters - even repeat offenders. For failing to pay his fine Mr Corkhill, from Whitehaven, will now have a criminal record which he will have to disclose if he applies for a job, credit or a mortgage over the next five years. Even after that he will have to reveal his crime if he applies for a job in the NHS, working with children, in a bank, or as a security guard. "I can't believe I now have a criminal record for simply putting rubbish in my bin," he said. "My only crime was to leave the lid slightly open. Now I might go for a job interview and be better than someone else but the employer will see that officially, I am a criminal. "They won't know the details of what I did. They won't know that I only put a little too much rubbish in the bin."


Thalidomide returns

Thalidomide, the drug that blighted a generation of children half a century ago, is back on the market in Europe as a powerful cancer treatment. The European drug agency yesterday gave clearance for thalidomide to be sold on prescription for treating newly diagnosed multiple myeloma. It has been available, in a limited way, for some years since its powerful effects on cancer and leprosy were identified.

But campaigners, including those damaged by the drug when they were still in the womb, are anxious that its new-found popularity does not lead to more babies being harmed. Freddie Astbury, the president and founder of the campaign group Thalidomide UK, said that since the drug resurfaced, hundreds of damaged babies had been born in Brazil, where it has been used since 1985 to treat leprosy. There had been no such cases in the US or Europe, he said, but admitted that he was worried by the increased availability of the drug. “The trouble is that some hospitals in Europe have chosen to get the drug from Brazil, where it is cheaper,” he said.

Thalidomide UK and other patient groups had been working with the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) for more than five years on a plan to control access to the drug once it was licensed, Mr Astbury said. “We’re never fully going to know how the plan will work until the drug is used on a large number of patients,” he said. “I’d never say there will never be another thalidomide child in Europe, but I think they are the best guidelines we could have achieved.”

The approval given by the EMEA means that the US company Celgene will be the only licence-holder in Europe, and will be responsible for ensuring that the guidelines are observed. No other manufacturers and distributors of thalidomide can now supply the drug across the EU.

Thalidomide was originally marketed in the late 1950s as a treatment for morning sickness in pregnant women. It was only when babies began being born disabled that the dangers became apparent. The catastrophe was a landmark in the development of safer systems for approving drugs.


"Gun free" Britain again: A 17-year-old was sentenced to three years in a secure institution after she admitted hiding a machine pistol under her bed at her family home. Police said that the case was part of a growing trend for criminals to use vulnerable teenage girls from respectable families to look after their weapons. Lindsay Shinkfield, of Huyton, Liverpool, was 16 when police found the Czech-made Scorpion gun in her bedroom in December. The weapon is favoured by drug gangs in Liverpool. She told officers that she was "minding" the weapon for another person whom she has refused to name. Detectives believe the gun was used in an incident in 2006 in which a person was injured. A police investigation is continuing. Detective Chief Inspector Michael Shaw, part of Merseyside Police's gun crime unit, said: "This was the perfect example of the type of young, vulnerable female of good character being targeted by criminals to assist them in the concealment of illegally held firearms." He added: "They [Scorpions] are as serious a weapon as one would expect to come across."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Teenagers blame eating disorders on health messages

As usual, Leftist nuts hurt people under the pretext of helping. It should be noted that the very severe eating disorder known as anorexia is clearly just a type of OCD and, as such, the sufferer would have a substantial genetic susceptibility. Most psychoses do however need to be "triggered" by environmental factors and there is no doubt that the obesity war would have caused all incipient anorexia to become full-blown

SCHOOLGIRLS with eating disorders are blaming the fight against the obesity epidemic for their illnesses, researchers have found. Many teenage girls with eating disorders "strongly believed that their illness was nurtured, exacerbated or sometimes even caused by the well-meaning action in schools", UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph reported.

John Evans, a professor of Sociology of Education and Physical Education at Leicestershires Loughborough University, told the newspaper that many girls said the fight against obesity caused their illnesses. The tales they told were incredibly revealing about what schools were doing, in good faith, that was propelling these girls towards this damaging relationship with food and exercise, Professor Evans said.

One girl told how, in class, the PE teacher pointed to a broomstick and said, 'That's the shape we are aiming for. He said another girl had told him about a class weigh-in. The whole class got weighed and the teacher said, 'Oh, it's the big one,' and I was the heaviest in the year."

Prof Evans said some children were being given the wrong message by their teachers. But he also said those teachers may have formed their opinions on obesity from elsewhere. "I've heard prominent spokesmen compare obese people to the so-called freaks that used to appear in circuses in the 1920s and 1930s," he said. The message being passed down is that obese people can be legitimately laughed at, stigmatised and considered irresponsibly abnormal."

The results of the four-year study will be published in a book later this year.


Immigration among top social evils in UK

Immigration and responses to the phenomenon are among the 10 social evils afflicting British society, a survey released on Sunday by a major think-tank said. According to a survey by Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the British people feel a deep sense of unease about some of the changes shaping British society. The 10 social evils pointed out by the respondents were: individualism, greed, decline of community, decline of values, drugs and alcohol, poverty and inequality, decline of the family, immigration and responses to immigration, crime and violence and young people as victims or perpetrators.

On the social evil of immigration and responses to immigration, some participants felt that local residents lost out to immigrants in competition for scarce resources. Others criticised negative attitudes to, and lack of support for immigrants and thought society should be more tolerant and inclusive. Besides, it was felt that the British society had become more greedy and selfish, at a cost to its sense of community.

Respondents to the consultation carried out by the foundation said that Britons no longer shared a set of common values and that they had lost their 'moral compass'. The four social evils which emerged as the cause for most worry among the respondents were individualism, greed, decline of community and decline of values.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation is one of the largest social policy research and development charities in the UK. It supports a research and development programme that seeks to understand the causes of social difficulties and explore ways of overcoming them.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

British government obliged to give prisoners heroin substitute

Taxpayers have footed a 1 million pound compensation bill after almost 200 drug-addicted prisoners sued the Government, claiming that denying them a heroin substitute breached their human rights. The prisoners claimed that their rights were infringed when they were deprived of methadone and had to go "cold turkey". A High Court test case involving six prisoners was going ahead two years ago but the Government agreed to settle out of court and pay 750,000 to 197 inmates in jails in England and Wales. The compensation payments averaged 3,807 pounds per prisoner, with four in Wymott jail in Lancashire receiving a total of 15,228 and three at Preston prison 11,421. The overall bill to the taxpayer of 1 million includes the compensation payments plus the estimated lawyers' fees.

The Government decided against fighting the compensation claims to minimise costs. It had been warned that if the case had gone to court the prisoners could have won even larger amounts of compensation. The prisoners had been using methadone paid for by the Government but it was decided that they should go through cold turkey detoxification instead. They claimed that their human rights had been breached under Articles 3 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which bans discrimination, or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

At the preliminary hearing in 2006 Richard Hermer, a human rights lawyer specialising in group actions against the Government, told the court: "Many of the prisoners were receiving methadone treatment before they entered prison and were upset at the short period of treatment using opiates they encountered in jail. Imposing the short, sharp detoxification is the issue." The addicts said that their treatment was handled "inappropriately" with the consequence that they "suffered injuries" and had "difficulties" with their withdrawal. They claimed that the treatment constituted trespass and accused the Prison Service of clinical negligence.

A Prison Service spokeswoman said that the payments made were in response to a minority of the claims. "We successfully defended the majority of claims. We make payments only when we are instructed to do so by the courts or where strong legal advice suggests that a settlement will save money," she added. Latest figures show that compensation payments to prisoners have fallen from a total of 4.4 million in 2005-06 to 2 million in 2006-07.


A Leftist argues for English nationalism

Good to see in many ways -- as long as it does not go down the Fascist path. I tend to think that only conservatives can be trusted with nationalism. Leftists take to extremes anything that they adopt -- and we have already seen where one brand of national socialism ended up. Note: Wednesday is St George's Day, the day of England's patron Saint and the English flag (of St. George) is below. There is a discussion from a conservative viewpoint of the need for an English parliament here

There are certainly plenty of reasons to be suspicious of nationalism, and plenty of historic examples of its dark side. There are reasons, too, to be concerned about some of those who take on the mantle today, many of whom do come from a dark political place. But wait a minute: how have the Scottish managed to get themselves a government that is both nationalist and left-wing? How is it that the French are able to invoke '‚tat from the left as well as the right? Why do the Zapatistas in Mexico, who talk proudly of their Mexican as well as their indigenous identity while conducting armed insurrections against the state, attract the admiration of young English radicals? Why is nationalism good in Venezuela or Cuba but not here? And why is talk of identity and culture admired among our ethnic-minority communities, yet when the English as a whole discuss such ideas, the spectre of Enoch Powell and the British National Party is immediately conjured up?

It is customary at this point to invoke George Orwell, who wrote, nearly 70 years ago, that "England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality". The average English liberal, he observed, was so out of touch with popular culture that he considered it "a duty to snigger at every English institution, from horse racing to suet puddings". Orwell is still worth the reference, because this attitude is one of the few things that doesn't seem to have changed much in England in seven decades.

Still, among some of the more regressive strands of the English left, the self-loathing continues. We will probably see it on 23 April, Shakespeare's birthday and St George's Day, as ageing liberals are wheeled out to instruct us that "English culture" does not even exist, that everyone is an immigrant anyway, that morris dancing was invented by the Victorians, that St George was Lebanese and that, besides, we're all "multicultural" now, so talking about it will probably offend somebody (though it will never be specified exactly who).

But decades of such cultural self-harm have had three dangerous consequences. The first is that the far right has been able to colonise Englishness for itself, conflate it with whiteness and make us all even more nervous about discussing it. The second is that the genuine political injustices under which England currently labours are not being addressed by the left. And the third is that the door has been flung wide open for global capitalism to gleefully tear up what remains of the English landscape, both physical and cultural, and replace it with strip malls, motorways, corporate farms and gated communities for the rich. England is losing its soul, and the left has had far too little to say about it.

I would argue that there are two strong cases for an English nationalism of the left: a political case and a cultural one. Since 1997, the political landscape within the UK has changed dramatically as a result of devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These devolutions were the right thing to do. They responded to a desire, particularly in Scotland, for increased self-governance, a desire which sprang both from a sense of national identity and a sense of injustice and which was articulated in Scotland by the Scottish National Party and in Wales by Plaid Cymru, both nationalist parties of the left.

Yet the devolution process was flawed because it confused Britain with England. The UK contains four nations. Three of them now have governments separate from, though answerable to, the British government. The fourth - England - does not. The English, as a result, have a problem.

Instead of our own elected parliament or assembly, England today is governed by eight unaccountable, undemocratic and largely unknown "regional assemblies", stuffed with corporate shills and political placemen, which make hugely important decisions on housing, spatial planning and transport. Meanwhile, at Westminster, Scottish and Welsh MPs are making decisions about the future of England for which they will never have to answer to their constituents - though English MPs cannot do the same in those countries.

This, the hoary old "West Lothian question", has already had a gravely undemocratic impact on the people of England. In 2003, for example, Tony Blair's controversial bill creating foundation hospitals, rejected by the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly, was imposed on the English despite the opposition to it from a majority of English MPs: new Labour drilled its Scottish and Welsh MPs into the lobbies to force upon the English something their own people had already rejected. The next year, university top-up fees (also rejected in Scotland and Wales) were forced down the throats of the English by just five votes - the votes of Scottish MPs.

England, the only British nation without any form of democratic devolution, is also, startlingly, the only nation in Europe without its own parliament or government. It receives less money from the Treasury per head of population than the other British nations (the poorest part of Britain, incidentally, is in England; it is Cornwall) and has fewer MPs per head of population, too. Despite devolution, the British government has ministers for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - but no minister for England.

Growing numbers of English people are angry about this, and Gordon Brown's clumsy campaign to promote "Britishness" should be seen as a deliberate attempt to fend off growing English demands for political justice, which would torpedo new Labour's (largely Scottish) power base. Yet the point here is not to criticise the Celtic nations, to be "anti-Scottish" or anti-anyone. The point is to be pro-justice and pro-democracy.

Then there is the cultural case. In today's England we are losing what makes us who we are, at a frightening rate. Some of the world's most rapacious corporations, in a cosy alliance with an overcentralised government in love with the notion that business values are national values, are tearing meaning and character from the landscape. The independent, the historic and the diverse are everywhere being replaced by the corporate, the bland and the controlled.

Consider some of the casualties. The English pub, probably the best-known international symbol of our folk culture, is dying; 57 pubs shut up shop every month. Under new Labour we have lost 30,000 independent shops (including half of our independent bookshops), half of our orchards, a quarter of all our post offices (with many more to come) and 40 per cent of our dairy farms. The number of out-of-town shopping centres has increased fourfold in 20 years. We are seeing the streets of our major cities sold off to private corporations. Inner-city markets that serve poor communities are being cleared to make way for executive flats. Property prices have risen so sharply since 1997 - in some places by almost 400 per cent - that entire communities have simply shrivelled and died. This is a huge, and in some cases irreversible, cultural loss, a loss of the everyday culture of the people.

Political justice for England, then, and economic and cultural justice, too: this should be the rallying cry for a new breed of English nationalists. Most of us, Tory or Labour or anything else, would agree that the BNP should not be allowed to hijack our national identity (the BNP, as the name makes clear, is a British, not an English, nationalist party).

But if this is the case, why should we also allow the more respectable right-wingers to have it all to themselves? English folk culture belongs to all of us; the political injustices of the current constitutional settlement are injustices whoever you vote for. Why should those who consider themselves "left-wing", however they define that term, not be able to consider themselves English nationalists, too?

In truth, there is no good reason, other than fear and prejudice. It is time to reclaim both England and the proud tradition of radical nationalism, rooted but not chauvinistic, outward-looking but aware of our past, attached to place not race, geography not biology. The need to belong - the need for a sense of place and culture - is a basic human impulse. It should not be denied, and neither is it a bad thing unless it is perverted. If we don't want it to be perverted we need to see that it isn't, by claiming it for all of us.

More here

Powell has won: A view from India

As people from India were a major source of Enoch Powell's unease, one might expect him to be hated there. The following article from The Times of India actually defends him in some ways

The late Enoch Powell, controversial British politician, poet, linguist and once-aspiring Viceroy of India, would surely have laughed to see the kadhai and rice bowl protests in London on Sunday. Exactly 40 years ago, to the day, Powell made his infamous 'rivers of blood' speech in newly-multicultural Birmingham. Using his oratorical powers and vast knowledge of the classics, Powell predicted uncontrolled immigration would raise racial tensions in UK the same way the Roman poet Virgil described "the river Tiber foaming with much blood".

Four decades later, the streets of the capital of politically-correct Britain were foaming with an estimated 45,000 South Asian, Chinese and Turkish catering workers protesting against strict new immigration controls. The new measures for non-European workers effectively keep the curry, chow mein and kebab chef out of Britain unless he speaks good English and has educational qualifications of the sort you don't normally find in halwai or czar of the tandoor.

If anything, the caterers' public ferment shows that Powell's controversial, if divisive, views about British multi culturalism and open-door immigration policy had finally been dignified by officialdom. The immigration controls Powell wanted have finally come to pass.

Powell quoted the registrar-general's statistics to estimate Britain would have five to seven million 'coloureds', or one-tenth of the total population, by the year 2000. By any reckoning, that was magic maths. Britain's office of national statistics says that in 2001-2002, 7.6% of the UK's population consisted of non-white ethnic minorities, which is only a bit more than Powell's predicted one-tenth.

But it was not his number-crunching that made, in his own words, his speech "go up 'fizz' like a rocket; but whereas all rockets fall to the earth, this one is going to stay up". Powell gave voice to the deepest fears of the Mr and Mrs White Average when he declared, "We must be mad, literally mad, as a nation to be permitting the annual inflow of some 50,000 dependants, who are for the most part the material of the future growth of the immigrant-descended population. It is like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre".

The speech had severe political consequences for Powell. He was sacked from the shadow cabinet by a Conservative Party, which privately agreed with parts of his politically incorrect demagoguery even as it felt publicly unable to endorse it. And yet, just three days after the speech, 1,000 dockers went on strike to protest against Powell's dismissal. Their placards said 'Back Britain, not Black Britain'. By early May, Powell had received 43,000 letters and 700 telegrams supporting him. A Gallup poll found 74% of UK agreed with Powell's premise and 69% felt he should not have been dismissed.

Forty years on, the luxury of hindsight allows Britain to ruminate on the rights and wrongs of the strange saga of Enoch Powell's predicted rivers of blood. First and foremost, those rivers do not run and may be, never will.

Second, Powell was not an insular racialist. He loved India and worked hard to achieve fluency in two Indian languages. But he firmly believed it wrong to impose a mammoth immigrant community on a small island, with all the attendant perils for social cohesion.

The new immigration controls show that Britain agrees with Powell. It just doesn't have Powell's guts to say so, straight off.


Scientists discover drops of truth in medieval belief in urine

Urine testing is not exactly new in modern medicine either -- but the idea that more information can be extracted from urine analysis does sound interesting. I doubt that it could give dietary information with a high degree of certainty, however. A background article is here

Medieval physicians believed that they could diagnose disease by holding up a flask of the patient's urine to the light and squinting at it. According to scientists at Imperial College London, they could have been on to something. A team there has completed the first worldwide study of the metabolites (breakdown products) that are found in urine, reflecting the diet, inheritance and the lifestyle of the people from whom it came. They call such studies "metabolomics" by analogy with genomics, which looks at all the genes that make up the human species, and proteomics, which does the same for proteins.

The study used nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to compare racial and national groups by the composition of their urine. From Japan, Beijing, Corpus Christi, Belfast and West Bromwich, urine differs in subtle ways that could provide a powerful new way of linking diet and health. The metabolites they found come from microbes in the gut, from diet and from the metabolism of the host.

The team believes that the research may provide the basis for a "metabolome-wide association" approach to help to understand interactions between lifestyles, environment and genes and how they determine diseases. The metabolic fingerprints show that people in the US and Britain who share a tendency to high blood pressure and heart problems have similar patterns. Writing in the science journal Nature, the team identifies metabolites linked to high blood pressure, such as the amino acid alanine. Hippurate, another by-product of gut bacteria, is found in people with lower blood pressure who drink less and eat more fibre in their diet.

Scientists from Imperial College, the US, Belgium, Japan and China took samples from 4,630 volunteers aged between 40 and 59. Professor Jeremy Nicholson, from Imperial College, said: "Metabolic profiling can tell us how specific aspects of a person's diet and how much they drink are contributing to their risks for certain diseases, and these are things which we can't investigate by looking at a person's DNA. What is really important is that we can test out our new hypotheses directly, in a way that is not easy with genetic biomarkers."


'Thousands of English patients go to Wales for free prescriptions'

More NHS weirdness

Tens of thousands of English patients could be registering with Welsh GPs and making day-trips to the country to obtain free prescriptions, it was claimed yesterday. Statistics show that three million people are registered with Welsh GPs, about 100,000 more than the official population. Wales is the only part of Britain not to have prescription charges. England has the highest at 7.10 pounds, followed by Northern Ireland at 6.85 and Scotland at 5 pounds.

The Conservative Party in Wales claimed that the figures pointed to patients from England travelling to Wales and called on the Welsh Assembly executive to stop "prescription tourism". Darren Millar, a Tory member of the assembly, said: "It has long been my suspicion that prescription tourism is rife in my constituency. We must tackle it sooner rather than later." The Tories suspect that English people could be using the addresses of friends and relatives in Wales to register.

However, David Bailey, the British Medical Association chairman in Wales, said: "The extra patients may be students or people who have come to Wales to work." An assembly spokesman said: "There is no evidence to suggest that patients are coming to Wales to benefit from free prescriptions. There has historically been a difference between the number of people registered with GPs and the population. "It is a long-standing problem across the UK and is mainly caused by people registering with a new practice before de-registering with their existing practice."


Bureaucratic Brits keep denying an old lady her social security payments: "A blind and deaf woman has been forced to live off her savings for almost a year because the Post Office will not let her withdraw her pension as her signature does not match the one in its records. Joan Hopton, who is deaf and blind, has not been able to collect her pension for over a year Joan Hopton, 81, of Cheltenham, Glos, lost her pension card in May last year. However, when she applied for a new one she was told by the company that it could not be issued because the name on the bottom of the letter did not match her original signature. She used to collect a pension of 104 pounds a week and is now owed about 4,000 pounds since she lost her card. Despite repeated attempts by members of her family to come to some arrangement with Post Office Ltd the company will not let her access the money"