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".

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