Wednesday, April 16, 2008


An email below from Michael Schewitz []

Attached, please find a letter that I sent to the BBC. I posted the letter to Ceri Thomas, editor of the Today program as well as a copy to Roger Harrabin at the beginning of October last year. I never received a response to this letter. Certainly nothing was discussed on the topic that I raised with the BBC.

This was brought to mind by your recent highlight of the email exchange between Roger Harriban and an environmental campaigner. I was amazed at how ready they were to accommodate an environmental campaigner given the fact that my letter was apparently completely ignored.

The issue discussed in the letter seemed to me to be an open and shut case. When an article on climate stability in the past (and therefore proof that current warming is highly anomalous) by Osborn and Briffa appeared in "Science" the BBC Today Program ran the story as a lead story. However, when a refutation of this article was later published in precisely the same journal no mention of this was made on the BBC.

My understanding was that, given the publicity given to the first Science article, the BBC would have felt an obligation (or indeed have a legal obligation in terms of their mandate) to at least discuss the second article. Apparently this was not so.


In 2006, when Osborn & Briffa published an article in Science that argued that warming in the late 20th century was anomalous, the Today program gave this article considerable coverage. In addition the general news service of the BBC also gave this article considerable exposure.

Attached please find a piece (off the blog World Climate Report) that discusses an article also published in Science by a prominent European statistical climatologist (Gerd Burger) from a respected institution that pretty much debunks entirely the Osborn & Briffa article.

This article was published a few months ago, but there appears to have been no coverage of it anywhere on the BBC. Thus, while the first Science article was brought to your attention, this one seems to have slipped through the net and, for this reason, I have taken the liberty of bringing it to your attention.

As mentioned earlier, the Burger article to which I refer was published in exactly the same journal in which the Osborn & Briffa article was published. Consequently, I feel that the BBC in general and the Today program in particular have a strong obligation - in line with the BBC's policy of objectivity - to give this article the same coverage that the Osborn & Briffa article was given.

I assume it would be appropriate (indeed necessary) in terms of your stated guidelines on balanced reporting to investigate this further, report on it, and maybe interview the relevant authors if they are available.

Incidentally, the attached piece also discusses an article from Earth-Science's review on Lake Baikal's Paleo Climate Record. You may also find this of interest.

I have no connection whatsoever with either the blog, or any of the authors of any of the articles discussed above. I am interested in the debate on climate modelling and so, if you run a story on this, I would greatly appreciate it if you could let me know when this may be.

Foreigners carry out one in every five killings in Britain, police figures reveal

One in every five murders or manslaughters in England and Wales is committed by a foreigner, police figures revealed. In one area of London, the figure is one in three. This is despite the fact that foreigners represent only around one in 16 of the general population. The statistics are so alarming that Home Secretary Jacqui Smith will hold a migrant crime summit on Thursday amid worries that police are struggling to cope.

According to figures revealed under the Freedom of Information Act, the 96 foreign nationals convicted of homicide last year were from 28 different countries. They were involved in 21 per cent of the total of 461 murder and manslaughter cases. Critics blame the Government's failure to deport foreign criminals. Recent cases have involved foreigners who had already been convicted of robbery and assault but were allowed to remain after serving their sentences.

Conservative MP David Davies, a member of the Commons home affairs committee, said: "These extraordinary figures demonstrate the failure of the Government's immigration policy, which has seen all sorts of undesirable characters being able to get into this country and use the Human Rights Act to escape deportation."

The figures show a wide variation between areas. In London, as many as 76 out of 231 identified killers were foreign nationals. In Manchester, it was eight out of 42, and in Bedfordshire, three out of seven. But in West Yorkshire, it was none out of 47.

In many cases, the figures reflect the influence of immigrant crime gangs. Scotland Yard said half of the organised crime gangs in London are "ethnic", or bound by a common language or homeland-The most common nationalities for foreign killers were Pakistani, Indian and Jamaican. Foreigners were also more likely to be victims. According to the figures, 15 per cent of those who died were from overseas. In many cases, both victim and killer were from the same immigrant community, reflecting internal feuding.

Not all police forces responded to requests for information but the figures available cover more than half of the 755 homicides in 2006-2007. Among the most high-profile cases was that of Roberto Malasi, an 18-year-old Angolan asylum seeker who shot dead a 33-year-old woman as she cradled her baby niece at a christening in south London. Malasi went on the run and two weeks later stabbed to death an 18-year-old pastor's daughter who he felt had "disrespected" him.

Other cases include Yusuf Jama, a Somali asylum seeker, who was in the gang that shot dead PC Sharon Beshenivsky in Bradford in 2005. The revelations are likely to feature on the agenda for Thursday's summit, which was called by the Home Office earlier this year. It is the first of its kind, and follows letters of concern from Chief Constables. Cambridgeshire's Julie Spence warned as long ago as 2005 there was "community tension" involving migrants which had the "potential for large-scale public disorder". She was forced to write again last year, saying the problem had "clearly magnified". Kent's Michael Fuller has also warned that the size of his force has not kept pace with an explosion in migrant numbers.

A Home Office spokesman said: "Last year, we deported a record number of foreign national criminals. Anyone convicted of a serious crime, such as murder, will be automatically deported."


Stupid Leftist domestic violence laws in Britain

Thousands of women are at risk of assault because new laws to curb domestic violence have backfired, deterring victims from seeking help,The Times has learnt. Since legislation was introduced in July to criminalise domestic abuse at least 5,000 women have failed to report violent partners, judges have claimed. Under the Domestic Violence Act 2007 a breach of a non-molestation order is now a criminal offence and not dealt with in the civil courts. But battered wives, and sometimes husbands, are reluctant to seek an order for fear of giving their partners a criminal record and, potentially, a prison sentence of up to five years.

The judges' concerns have prompted talks at the highest level between Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, and Sir Mark Potter, President of the Family Division. The alarm was raised by both circuit judges and the Association of District Judges, whose members deal with domestic violence cases. A Ministry of Justice spokesman said that an urgent meeting with Sir Mark would be held to discuss his fears. "We would be concerned if the courts were not making protecting orders," he said. A spokesman for Sir Mark said: "The president is very concerned that, for whatever reason, the legislation appears to have led to a reduction rather than an increase in the protection afforded to victims of domestic violence as a result of the change of the law." Sir Mark felt it important that judges "at the sharp end seeing its impact" were able to flag up their concerns, he added.

Judge John Platt, a circuit judge with more than 20 years' experience of domestic violence cases, has drawn up a report reflecting the judges' views for the president. He told The Times that he estimated that the number of [mostly] women seeking non-molestation orders had fallen by between 25 and 30 per cent since July 2007. Judges were doing their own informal surveys and "every judge I have spoken to thinks there has been a drop", he said. In 2006 there had been 20,000 such applications - so a 25 per cent drop meant 5,000 women had not come forward to ask for the courts' protection. "Obviously this is a very worrying figure. Either offenders have changed their behaviour - which seems extremely unlikely - or the victims do not want to criminalise the perpetrators."

Victims in a close relationship with a violent partner, who was perhaps the father of their children and the bread-winner, would not want them to have a criminal record, he added. "It's human nature." Women were deterred from the moment they walked into a lawyer's office and were told what the new laws meant. "It is obviously very worrying," he said.

Formerly, judges could add a power of arrest to a non-molestation order. A victim could then ring the police and complain of a breach and the man would be arrested, he said. Some simple breaches were dealt with within 24 hours but most within 14 days in the county courts as a contempt of court. Offenders might be given a second chance and ordered to report back to court, he said. They could be given a suspended sentence of up to two years, jailed for up to two years or, rarely, fined. Now, however, there appear to be few prosecutions, and some offenders are being dealt with by conditional cautions, said Judge Platt. "What we can say is that there are far fewer prosecutions than there would have been arrests if the old legislation was still in place."

The Crown Prosecution Service denied that prosecutions had dropped. A spokesman said that the most recent figures showed that both numbers of cases and the conviction rate were up on previous years. However, these predate the new Act. The spokesman added that conviction rates had risen from their lowest recorded point of 46 per cent in 2003 to 59 per cent in 2005, up to 66 per cent in 2006 - up year on year by 7 per cent and 20 per cent over three years. The spokesman added: "The fact that the Government has increased the number of specialist domestic violence courts to 64 is an indication of the number of cases that are being prosecuted and the seriousness with which it's regarded."

Judge Platt said that a third problem was severe delays in special domestic violence treatment programmes, which judges felt were effective. He added that a community penalty was often best in a family context. But without the special programme, either the woman would remain at risk or the offender would have to be jailed.


British couple who spank their daughter as 'last resort' cannot be foster parents

A couple have been prevented from fostering children after insisting on the right to smack their own daughter "as a last resort". David and Heather Bowen told an adoption panel that they would never smack a foster child but might physically chastise their own daughter "once or twice a year". Despite initially being recommended as good candidates by social workers, the couple were turned down for fostering after refusing to reconsider their position. The couple, from Taunton, Somerset, were told by the panel that they would not be allowed to take in children because of their approach to "behaviour management".

Mr and Mrs Bowen, who are both volunteers at their church and local schools, are appealing against the decision by Somerset county council. Mr Bowen, 42, said: "Based on the evidence presented to the council, we cannot understand why we are unsuitable and it seems that we have been excluded on the basis that we physically chastise our birth child, in accordance with our beliefs and UK law. "I'm sure other parents would have just lied."

He added: "Our birth daughter is only chastised physically as a last resort amongst a whole range of other forms of behaviour management strategies which include rewards and sanctions. The council has made us feel we are bad parents and yet we do nothing that hundreds of thousands across the UK do as loving and responsible mothers and fathers." Parents are legally allowed to smack their children if it is considered a "reasonable chastisement" and provided they leave no more than a "transitory" mark.

The Government ruled out a total ban after reviewing the law in 2000. Mr and Mrs Bowen fear that the ruling against them will mean thousands of children will be denied access to good foster care because potential foster parents smack their own children. The Bowens have a nine- year-old daughter, Emma, and felt they were good candidates for fostering after failing to conceive following the death of their second child, Jonathan, from a rare illness.

They were turned down last month following a 14-month approval process. Mrs Bowen, 47, said: "We felt we had room to give more love to other children. As the outcome sank in we began to grieve again, feeling a tremendous sense of loss that we would not be allowed to complete our family and provide a loving home to a child in need."

The British Association for Adoption and Fostering said it believed smacking was generally inappropriate, particularly for vulnerable children who may have been abused in the past. John Simmonds, its director of policy, research and development, said: "The expectation is that you treat foster children as one of your own. You can't set one standard for your own children and another for the foster child."

Linda Barnett, the head of children's services at Somerset county council, said: "In common with most other local authorities, Somerset has a Foster Carer's Agreement which describes our belief about parenting. Where carers have a very strong personal belief that differs from the Foster Carer Agreement, it is potentially unfair to expect them to operate to a set of guidelines which conflicts with this."

Smacking remains legal but the law on it was toughened up in 2004 in response to pressure from children's campaigners. The Children Act removed the defence of "reasonable chastisement" from parents who left more than a "transitory mark" on their child. Causing a bruise, reddened skin or psychological injuries can result in an assault charge and five years' jail. However, earlier this year the Sentencing Guidelines Council, which sets down rules for magistrates and judges, appeared to signal a change of opinion. It called for leniency, recommending light sentences for parents who are prosecuted for smacking but did not intend to hurt their child.

Campaign groups such as the NSPCC and the National Children's Bureau continue to press for tougher laws, however. The Children Are Unbeatable! alliance wants an outright ban.


Beware of the dog: you may catch MRSA

They might be man's best friend, but dogs should be sold with a health warning, a study suggests. Letting a dog lick your face, picking up its mess or allowing it to sleep on your bed could put you at risk of catching salmonella, campylobacter or MRSA.

Research commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) from the University of Liverpool Veterinary School, has identified health risks in the interaction between man and dog. The findings, published in The Veterinary Record, may enrage the country's 6.5 million dog owners. Men, in particular, may have to learn cleaner habits because it seems they have a problem picking up dog mess.

Risks of infection from dog to Man at present are low. Carri Westgarth, a researcher on the project, insists that she has no wish to create a scare. Owning a dog has positive health benefits ? people who walk them tend to be fitter and have lower blood pressure.

The research has irritated dog lovers. Caroline Kisko, secretary of the Kennel Club, said that Defra should be spending resources on policies to help to tackle animal welfare. She said: "It has told us nothing, except perhaps to use a bit of common sense."

Carolyn Menteith, a dog behaviourist, was also dismissive. "You are more likely to catch a disease from a child than a dog. I do agree owners should clear up after their dogs, otherwise they cause a social nuisance. Men are worse at it and somehow think it's unmanly to be walking around with a nappy sack. But if you can't do that, don't get a dog, get a stuffed toy."


The ever-meddling British government: "The government may tighten planning laws to end concentrations of student houses in England's university towns. The Department of Communities and Local Government is considering building on the introduction of licensing for houses in multiple occupation. It says 'studentification' makes some areas 'ghost towns' during holidays."

Vicious British bureaucracy: ""A woman who helped to set up the NHS Organ Donor Register says it was wrong to stop a mother who needs a transplant from using her daughter's kidneys. Rachel Leake, 39, of Bierley, West Yorkshire, was told that her daughter Laura Ashworth's dying wish to donate her organs could not be honoured. The 21-year-old's kidneys and liver went instead to three other patients."

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