Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Squatters taught to pick locks by council leaflet

Squatters are being given advice on how to break into empty properties and set up home without paying rent, in a council-recommended handbook. The booklet, issued by the Advisory Service for Squatters, gives tips on removing locks, and suggests that those caught breaking in to a property should claim they are “clearing drains”. In a section on legal advice, squatters are told to put a notice on the door warning it is a criminal offence to evict the new residents, and to threaten any homeowner who objects with the words: “You may receive a sentence of up to six months’ imprisonment.”

A number of councils across the country are steering local people who do not have a home to the Advisory Service through links on their websites. They include Hackney, Islington, Brent and Camden in London, as well as Durham and Doncaster.
The Home Office also consults the group on its equality policies.

The guide positively encourages people to become squatters, with advice such as: "Only a small minority of squatters ever get nicked - squatting is not a crime. "If anyone says it is, they are wrong. "With a few exceptions, if you can get into an empty building without doing any damage, and can secure it, you can make it your home. "Private houses may provide years of housing to lucky squatters."

Eric Pickles, the Conservative local government spokesman, said he was appalled that councils were helping potential squatters get advice on breaking into empty properties. He added: "Homeowners will be horrified that town halls are giving squatters the green light to break into law-abiding citizens' homes."


NHS turns away women about to give birth in Manchester

UNDER-pressure maternity units are being forced to close their doors almost three times a week - because they cannot cope with the numbers of expectant mothers. Health bosses say turning pregnant women away is a `last resort', but the M.E.N. has learned there were 150 closures in Greater Manchester last year. This was due to severe staff shortages and because all their beds were full. Staff also had to divert pregnant women to other hospitals because they were trying to cope with complex births, including a woman having triplets.

Figures show St Mary's hospital, in Manchester city centre, was worst affected, shutting its doors to admissions 54 times for up to 33 hours at a time. Senior doctors are `disappointed' with the high number of closures, but hope a plan to reorganise maternity units from 13 to eight sites, called Making it Better, will reduce them. Consultant obstetrician Mike Maresh told of their disappointment and said they were `upset' that mums are not delivering where they planned. He said: "Mums should have their baby at their planned hospital, and the Making it Better changes will help make sure this happens. "We are confident that having fewer, bigger, maternity units will resolve the problem of unplanned closures by concentrating staff and expertise.

The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) branded the closure figures as *unacceptable'. Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the leading charity, for parents, which offers advice and support to both pregnant women and new mums, others, said: “It is simply appalling to close a maternity unit. I know that hospitals do it for safety reasons, but babies do not wait. “Hospitals also know in advance when babies are expected and know how many women are due to give birth. To get into this situation is not acceptable.”

Mrs Phipps said midwives were leaving leaving the profession in *droves' because they were unhappy with conditions and NHS changes. to maternity provision. She added: “They like to work in small midwife-led units, not ever-bigger and bigger units.” Sarah Davies, a midwifery lecturer at Salford University, said: “The gold standard is one midwife to one woman – and this is not happening.”

Figures obtained under Freedom of Information laws show that Wythenshawe Hospital had the next-highest number of closures with 28. Other hospital closures in the year were Tameside General (5), Royal Oldham (19), Rochdale Infirmary (6), Fairfield in Bury (26), Salford Royal (4), Royal Bolton (2) and Stockport (4). There was only one at both the North Manchester General and Trafford General hospitals and none at the Wigan's Royal Albert Edward Infirmary.

A St Mary's spokesman said they were spending 900,000 pounds on extra delivery rooms and staff. And Pennine Acute Trust, which runs hospitals in Rochdale, north Manchester, Bury and Oldham, said closing units was due to 'high levels of clinical activity at a particular time' and *diverts' were a last resort.


Why does it take Bishop Nazir-Ali to tell Britain how it really is?

Why is it that nobody in our own elite actually likes or understands this country or its people or its traditions? Why did we have to wait for Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, born and raised in Muslim Pakistan, to remind us that, as he put it, `the beliefs, values and virtues of Great Britain have been formed by the Christian faith'?

Just as important, why did we have to wait for him to urge us to do something about restoring that faith before we either sink into a yelling chaos of knives, fists and boots, or swoon into the strong, implacable arms of Islam? Most of our homegrown prelates are more interested in homosexuality or in spreading doubt about the gospel or urging the adoption of Sharia law.

Then again, why did it take the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, to explain to us that our parliamentary system was the best guarantee of liberty in the world and to remind us of the courage and valour of our people in war? This is not what British leaders say or even think, not least because they are busy pulling the constitution to pieces. It is not what our children are taught in schools. In fact, any expression of national pride is viewed with suspicion by the state, by the education system and above all by the BBC.

It was not always so. Half a century ago, we had churchmen, broadcasters, academics and military men who thought it normal to love their own country, normal to support the Christian faith which made us what we are, and were willing to defend it. The question of what happened in the years between is one of the most interesting in history.

We know, thanks to their endless memoirs and the dramas about them, that this country's foreign and intelligence services were maggoty with Communist penetration. I am sometimes tempted to wonder if the same organisation targeted both political parties (especially the Unconservatives), the Church of England, the BBC, the Civil Service, the legal profession and the universities. The Communist leader Harry Pollitt certainly urged his supporters back in the Forties to hide their true views and work their way into the establishment. An organised conspiracy could not have done much more damage than whatever did happen.

We have a country demoralised in every sense, its people robbed of their own pride, its children deprived of stability and authority, terrifyingly ignorant of their own culture, its tottering economy largely owned from abroad, its armed forces weak, its justice system a sick joke, its masses distracted by pornography, drink and drugs, its constitution menaced, its elite in the grip of a destructive, intolerant atheism. Ripe, in fact, for a foreign takeover.


Can't-do attitude to mathematics has cost the British economy big

A "lost generation" of mathematicians has cost the economy 9 billion pounds, while GCSE maths has become a "pick `n' mix" test rather than the key staging post it once was, according to a report. The decline in standards threatens the future of the economy, say the authors, and is having a devastating impact on the City [financial district], with some firms recruiting most of their maths graduates from overseas.

The report, by the Reform think-tank, accuses the Government of marginalising the interests of employers, teachers and students. It claims that ministers are focusing on exam results, rather than educational outcomes, and are trying to get pupils to pass any five GCSEs to meet targets, rather than concentrating on the core subjects of English and maths.

A culture shift is needed so that people no longer boast about their lack of maths skills but are instead embarrassed, the authors say. "The UK remains one of the few advanced nations where it is socially acceptable, fashionable even, to profess an inability to cope with maths," they add. "Society needs to build on its new interest in maths-based puzzles such as Su Doku to expel the myths about maths and change the image of the subject from geek to chic."

Holders of an A level in maths earn, on average, 10 per cent more, or 136,000 pounds, over a lifetime than those without it, Reform claims. About 440,000 people have been put off taking A-level maths since 1989, at a cost to the economy of 9 billion.

Explaining this downturn, the report said: "Concerns over poor teaching in the 1970s led to a massive extension of government involvement in the subject since the mid-1980s. "The unintended consequence has been demotivation of teachers, less enjoyment on the part of students and the distancing of employers and universities from education policy." The highest maths achievers are "at the pinnacle of the City hierarchy, making them the new `masters of the Universe' ", the report said, but these are increasingly recruited abroad. China and India are producing hundreds of thousands of science and maths graduates each year.

Maths exams are much easier now than 30 years ago, Reform says, because of efforts to make them more relevant to the workplace. This means that children are not being taught key skills such as problem solving. As a result, it is "now possible to achieve a grade C in GCSE maths having almost no conceptual knowledge of mathematics" and by scoring less than 20 per cent in the top paper. "A coherent discipline has changed to `pick `n' mix', with pupils being trained to answer specific shallow questions on a range of topics where marks can be most easily harvested." The report calls for independence of the examination system and a reversal of the trend towards modularisation.

David Laws, the Liberal Democrat Shadow Schools Secretary, said: "Our education system is too often failing to get the basics right, which risks damaging the national economy."

Jim Knight, the Schools Minister, said: "GCSE and A-level maths are rigorous qualifications [What bullsh!]. Standards are carefully monitored by a watchdog, which is independent of ministers, and they tell us maths is a nationally important priority."



A protest from the plain-spoken North of England

SO-CALLED "green" taxes are a con. They have absolutely nothing to do with saving the planet, or changing people's behaviour. It is all about raising revenue. Governments around the world have realised that environmentalism gives them an easy way of squeezing yet more tax out of hard-working people. And if you object, you are supposed to feel guilty about drowning polar bears.

"Green" taxes also impact most heavily on the poor. This isn't an accident, it is a deliberate policy. Take, for example, motoring. The only way of reducing the numbers of cars is by forcing the less-affluent off the roads. This is what increases in fuel duty and car tax are partly designed to achieve. Of course, some people will simply give up driving, but for many, they have little choice - particularly those with large families, or who live in a rural area, or who need a car to get to work.

Tough, say the environmentalists, pay up and stop moaning. Think of the polar bears.

Same with air travel. The green agenda is to stop the less-affluent from flying by making it so expensive that only the rich can afford it. But it won't stop Al Gore jetting around the globe lecturing us lesser mortals about the evils of flying.

A perfect example of this "green" tax con is the 200 pounds increase in car tax on so-called "gas guzzlers" due to be introduced next year. It will be imposed not just on high-performance cars and vast 4x4s, but on ordinary family vehicles, too. It is also retrospective, so if you bought a car seven years ago and can't afford to change it, you'll be hit by an enormous tax rise. As I said, it is nothing to do with changing your behaviour. It is all about making you pay more tax.

Richer people won't be put off driving by a few extra pence on fuel duty. Prince Charles won't be giving up the Aston Martin any time soon, and don't expect to see well-heeled eco warriors such as Jonathon Porritt or Lord Melchett shivering at the bus stop at six on a winter's morning.

Last year, a study by the Taxpayers' Alliance found that "green" taxes raised 21.9bn pounds in 2005 (the figure will be much higher today), but the social cost of carbon emissions was estimated at just 11.7bn. The difference - a whopping 10bn a year - was simply pocketed by the Chancellor. Not a penny of it went to the polar bears. Green issues are just an excuse to tax us more. They are not trying to save the planet - they just want to pick your pocket.



Comment from the "Financial Times". Good to see a mainstream outlet getting it

The science of climate change is increasingly confronted by profound disagreements and re-adjustments. The rise in temperatures that occurred during much of the 1980s and 1990s appears to have stalled for much of the past 10 years.

Meanwhile, global carbon dioxide emissions have been accelerating considerably. Greenhouse gas emissions increased on average 3 per cent a year from 2000 to 2005, compared with a growth rate of 1 per cent a year on average during the 1990s. Yet global temperatures failed to rise as a result of accelerating emissions.

A study published last month in the scientific journal Nature even predicted a slight cooling trend of up to 10 years as a result of shifting ocean currents. The report's publication triggered widespread confusion among climate modellers. After all, the climate models published only last year by the IPCC foretold a significant and relentless warming trend as a result of increased carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. None predicted that global warming would be arrested for a decade.

Even though it is likely that moderate warming will recommence, nobody knows for sure when this might occur. Unless there is a dramatic speeding of global temperature rise, climate science will be increasingly relegated to the margins of policymaking and economic considerations will become the dominant factor in the decision-making processes.

Conversely, as long as temperatures remain flat (or fall), politicians and the general public will become more sceptical. As a result, policymakers are likely to regard costly climate policies as a political liability and an economic risk that should be evaded as much as possible at both a national and international level.

It seems increasingly doubtful that a new, Kyoto-style climate treaty will be agreed at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen next year. The current cessation of global warming and the prospect of more years of stagnation will provide legislators with a respite for a sober reconsideration of cost-effective climate policies. What remains uncertain, however, is how long the slowdown will last and what will happen once temperatures start to rise again.


BritGov gets tough on employers of illegals

Employers who hire illegal immigrants can be fined 10,000 pounds per worker from today in cases involving negligence, compared with a previous figure of 5,000 pounds. If the employer acts knowingly, the penalty could be an unlimited fine or jail. Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, described the moves, which include a points-based immigration system for people from outside the European Union, as "the biggest changes to British immigration policy in a generation".

Highly skilled migrants who wish to extend their stay will have to have suitable employment. The points-based system, based on a system already in place in Australia, will be tested for highly skilled migrants applying from India in April, and extended to the rest of the world by the summer. The system will then be extended to skilled workers with a job offer, students, and temporary workers. A tier for low-skilled workers is not planned while vacancies can be filled by migrants from Eastern Europe.

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, said: "The introduction of our Australian-style points system will ensure that only those with skills the country needs can come to work and study. "Today's proposals are part of the biggest changes to British immigration policy in a generation, which include a new deal for those migrants seeking citizenship here, a new UK Border Agency to strengthen controls at the border and the introduction of ID cards for foreign nationals."

The system puts in question the scheme under which Commonweatlh citizens with a British grandparent are allowed to settle in this country. The Labour MP Austin Mitchell said that any proposal to scrap "ancestral visas" would cause anger.

Ministers also revealed that businesses which want to sponsor and employ migrants must be licensed by the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA). A licence will be required from the autumn, when the second tier of the points-based system is due to come into effect. Employers can begin applying for licences from today.

Sponsors will be rated "A" or "B" according to criteria set by the Home Office. Their activities will be monitored, and poor performance could lead to them being downgraded or removed from the register.

The points-based system replaces 80 existing migration routes to the UK. Tier One requires highly skilled workers to achieve a total of 75 points, with various amounts awarded for education, age and their level of previous earnings. About 40,000 people applied under the previous scheme for highly-skilled migrants in 2006, with about 20,000 being successful. Separately, about 14,500 highly-skilled migrants applied to renew their stay in 2006, of whom about 14,000 were successful.

Net migration to the UK was 191,000 in 2006, the lowest level for three years and more than 50,000 down on the 2004 record. A record number of people came to live in the UK for at least a year - 591,000, up slightly on the previous record set in 2004. The number of people leaving Britain for 12 months or more also reached a record high of 400,000.

Just over half (207,000) of emigrants were UK citizens - the first time the annual number of British emigrants had exceeded 200,000. Net immigration of people from New Commonwealth countries was the highest of all foreign groups - and of the 115,000 net inflow in 2006, 80 percent came from the Indian subcontinent.


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