Thursday, July 31, 2008

British Sikh girl beats anti-religious ban

With good British hypocrisy, the ban was not overtly anti-religious but there is little doubt that that was part of the underlying motive

A Sikh teenager excluded from school for breaking a "no jewellery" rule by refusing to remove a wrist bangle which is central to her faith was a victim of unlawful discrimination, a judge ruled today. The victory in the High Court for Sarika Watkins-Singh, 14, means that she will be returning to Aberdare Girls' School in South Wales in September - wearing the Kara, a slim steel bracelet. Her lawyers had told Mr Justice Silber that the Kara was as important to her as it was to England spin bowler Monty Panesar, who has been pictured wearing the bangle.

Sarika, of mixed Welsh and Punjabi origin, of Cwmbach, near Aberdare, was at first taught in isolation and eventually excluded for refusing to take off the bangle in defiance of the school's policy, which prohibits the wearing of any jewellery other than a wrist watch and plain ear studs. Today, the judge declared that the school was guilty of indirect discrimination under race relations and equality laws.

After the judgment, Sarika's mother, Sinita, 38, said: "We are over the moon.It is just such a relief." Afterwards, a spokeswoman for the family hailed it as a "common sense" judgment. Sarika said: "I am overwhelmed by the outcome and it's marvellous to know that the long journey I've been on has finally come to an end. "I'm so happy to know that no-one else will go through what me and my family have gone through." She added: "I just want to say that I am a proud Welsh and Punjabi Sikh girl."

Anna Fairclough, Liberty's legal officer who was representing the Singhs, said: "This common sense judgment makes clear you must have a very good reason before interfering with someone's religious freedom. "Our great British traditions of religious tolerance and race equality have been rightly upheld today."


It's certainly difficult to see what harm she was doing. I wonder whether this will prevent bans on Catholics wearing crosses too? Very annoying that the "purity ring" case was not similarly decided. The British government claims to be concerned about teenage promiscuity and pregnancy but Christian efforts to combat it were disallowed in that case! That Left-run Britain is an anti-Christian country is however now rather well-established.

"Unhealthy" to display the flag of England in England??

A retired teacher says she was banned from waving her Cross of St George flag during a Proms performance on health and safety grounds. A steward told Rosalind Hilton to put the five foot flag away during the Last Night of the Halle Proms event at Manchester's Bridgewater Hall.

She and sister Susan Stanyard were preparing to hoist the flag above their heads for Land and Hope and Glory in the rousing finale, having unfurled the flag over the balcony by her seat. She was later told it could have been a danger to those below. Mrs Hilton, 58, from Chester, said: "Every year I always go with my sister Susan. We make a real deal of it and dress up in red, white and blue. "Every year I take the flag which is quite large. There are English, Scottish and Welsh flags and towards the end, when they play Land of Hope and Glory, everyone stands up and waves them around. It's a fantastic atmosphere. "But in the second half after about five minutes a steward arrived and asked me to take it down. She said: 'You can't have that flag up.'

"When I asked the manager why, he said it was policy in the Bridgewater Hall that you can't have anything hanging from the sides. I told them they were just being kill-joys." Ridiculing the assumption that dangling flags were dangerous, she plumped the furled-up standard on the manager's head and asked him: "Would that really hurt if it fell on your head?"

She said the interruption last Saturday "ruined the whole evening" and commented: "Who wants to get up and sing, 'Britons never, never shall be slaves,' when the health and safety Nazis are making a mockery of our freedom?" Her party was offered eight-inch plastic Union Jacks instead, leading her husband Keith to conclude: "They are trying to suppress us using the English ensign." Mrs Hilton has vowed to get an answer on why her flag was banned: "I have asked them to look in their policy document and send me a photocopy of where it says you can't hang flags."

Popular anthems from the Last Night of the Proms include Thomas Arne's Rule Britannia and Edward Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1.

But such flag-waving patriotism has come under attack before. In March Margaret Hodge, the culture minister, criticised the BBC Proms for not being multicultural enough. She said the BBC Proms, which run from July to September at the Royal Albert Hall, did not do enough to encourage a British sense of "shared identity". She said: "The audiences for many of our greatest cultural events - I'm thinking in particular of the Proms - is still a long way from demonstrating that people from different backgrounds feel at ease in being part of this." Her comments were roundly condemned. Gordon Brown's spokesman said: "The Prime Minister's position on this is quite clear - he thinks the Proms are a good institution."

Nick Reed, chief executive of the Bridgewater Hall, said: "No-one was refused admission to the concert because of a flag, and flags were in abundance as they always are at proms concerts. "We do not allow large flags to be draped across the balconies in case they fall on patrons below and we take exactly the same approach with coats, bags and other items. "The Halle proms concert was enjoyed by a capacity audience and we received no other comments."


Poor NHS nutrition 'harming patients'

The number of errors relating to poor nutrition in NHS hospitals has almost doubled in two years, figures obtained by the Tories show. The number of incidents rose 88% between 2005 and 2007, from 15,473 to 29,138 across England. Such errors are reported by NHS staff to the National Patient Safety Agency and relate to incidents "which could have or did lead to harm for one or more patients receiving NHS care".

The figures showed big regional variations, with a 248% rise in the North East Strategic Health Authority (SHA) and a 178% jump in the West Midlands SHA. The rise was lower at 46% in the North West SHA and 63% in the Yorkshire and the Humber SHA.

A poll last year from the Royal College of Nursing found that patients are at risk of malnutrition because there are not enough nurses to make sure they are properly fed. Almost half (46%) of nurses said there were not enough staff to help patients who may need help with eating and drinking. A similar number (42%) said they do not have enough time to make sure patients ate properly.

A report in 2006 from the charity Age Concern revealed that 60% of older patients - who occupy two thirds of general hospital beds - are at risk of becoming malnourished or seeing their health get worse. Those aged over 80 are particularly at risk, having a five-times higher rate than the under-50s.

The figures were released in a parliamentary answer to the Conservatives by health minister Ann Keen. Shadow health minister Stephen O'Brien said: "This is a further disgraceful statistic from a Government which has failed patients and the public. "People go to hospital expecting to get better, yet in 2007, 29,000 people suffered unnecessary and completely avoidable harm from poor nutritional care."


Alzheimer's sufferers given hope by new generation of drugs

Millions of Alzheimer's sufferers have been given fresh hope after a new generation of drugs were shown to reverse the symptoms of the disease

The treatment can bring the "worst affected parts of the brain back to life" and scientists say it is twice as effective as any medication currently available. They even suggested the drug works so well it might be given to patients in the future to prevent the onset of the illness. The results of the human trials were hailed a "major new development" in the fight against the disease, which threatens to overwhelm the NHS within decades. Alzheimer's currently affects more than 400,000 people in Britain and the number of sufferers is expected to rise rapidly as the population ages. The cost of treating the condition will double from $34billion to $70billion by 2026.

The researchers say that if further tests of the drug, called rember, are successful it could be available within four to five years. "We appear to be bringing the worst affected parts of the brain functionally back to life," said Prof Claude Wischik of Aberdeen University, who carried out the trials on 321 people with the illness. He added: "It's an aspiration for us to develop a drug that we could give preventatively from a certain stage."

Jimmy Hardie, 72, from Aberdeenshire, was one of the patients who took part in the trials. He used to put sugar in the fridge and suffered mood swings caused by his disease. But his wife Dorothy, 69, believes that his condition has improved enormously since he started taking rember in 2006. "Two years ago if Jimmy had gone to his shed he may have forgotten what he was about to do," she said. "Now he is able to plan what he wants to do, go and get the tools he needs and do the task. It is encouraging."

Helen Carle, 68, of Cove, near Aberdeen, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2003 after becoming forgetful and panicky. She says that she has seen a great difference since she began taking rember three years ago. "I still have the same personality and I think I am more alert," she said.

Those involved in the human trial and were divided into four groups - three were given a different dosage of the drug, called rember, while the fourth group took a placebo. Even after 19 months, patients receiving the highest dose had not experienced significant decline from original position.

"This is a major new development in the fight against dementia," said Prof Clive Ballard, head of research at the Alzheimer's Society. The results were the "first realistic evidence" that a new drug can improve cognition in people with Alzheimer's by targeting a leading cause of brain cell death and suggested that it could be "over twice as effective as any treatment that is currently available," he said.

Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Research Trust, said, "This is an encouraging development in the fight against a devastating disease. In this exploratory trial, rember reduced the decline in blood flow to parts of the brain that are important for memory. She added: "We need more human trials to assess the treatment's possible side-effects."

Larger trials - phase three trials on around 1,000 people - of the best dose are still needed to establish the benefit and safety of the drug, which means it could be five years before it is available. The drugs are expected to cost the same as current treatments for the illness such as Aricept, which are $5 a day.

However, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) the Government's drugs watchdog, ruled that Aricept, which has been shown to improve the memory and day-to-day life of those in the late stages of the disease, was too expensive for widespread use in Britain. Terry Pratchett, the best selling author who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, disclosed earlier this year that he was being forced to pay for the drug himself.

The latest breakthrough will lead for increased calls for Nice to reconsider its policy on dementia drugs. A spokesman for the Alzheimer's Society said: "NICE remit needs to be take into account the wider benefits of treatments to society and the way the drugs can save money in other areas such as Social Care in order to cater for conditions like dementia."

Previously Alzheimer's treatments have targeted the formation of protein molecules, or plaques, in the brain of patients which clump together to wreck the networks that hold memories, enable us to perform tasks or knit together when we learn something new. The new family of drugs works by preventing the build up of different molecules called tau protein inside brain cells.

Prof Wischik has been working on the link between Alzheimer's and tau protein for more than 20 years. His work was presented today in Chicago to the International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease.


Increasing number of British children being taught by classroom assistants

Children are being increasingly taught by untrained classroom assistants, despite fears over lesson standards, teaching union leaders claim.

Schools are relying on poorly-paid assistants - most of whom do not have full teaching qualifications - to plug gaps in the teaching workforce leading to accusations of teaching on the cheap. Some physical education lessons are even being taken by staff without training in how to use heavy equipment - fuelling fears that children are at risk of serious injury.

But Lord Adonis, the schools minister, insisted that schools should be allowed to leave classes in the hands of assistants, provided they are properly supervised by trained teachers.

It followed claims by Voice, the 35,000-strong teaching union, that assistants were being "routinely abused" by schools who demand they work as full teachers for just a fraction of the wage. Speaking at the union's annual conference, delegates said it was cheaper for schools to use support staff than pay for supply teachers - if regular teachers were absent. Most earn an average of just $100 a day, compared to supply teachers who earn $300.

Rhena Sturgess, a school nursery nurse from Leicestershire, said: "Teaching assistants are professionals who play a key role in our schools but their hard work, dedication and knowledge of the children should not be taken advantage of by schools that are using them as cheap labour A as cut-price teachers." She said schools were "exploiting them because it's cheaper than bringing in supply teachers and because they can't say 'no'".

In the last 10 years, the number of teachers in England has increased by ten per cent from 399,000 to 440,000. At the same time, the number of classroom assistants has soared almost three-fold from 61,000 to 177,000. They are supposed to be used - under the supervision of a fully-qualified staff member - to give teachers more time to plan lessons and mark children's work. But Mrs Sturgess said assistants were often providing lesson cover for teachers, even in PE, where many lack specialist health and safety training.

Lord Adonis said: "Provided teaching assistants are properly managed by both teachers and headteachers we don't think it is right to unduly constrain the roles they do in schools."

Nick Gibb, the Tory shadow schools minister, said: "Teaching assistants are a very helpful addition in schools to enable teachers to focus on the core task of academic teaching, but they should not be used to take classes. It can only serve to reduce standards of teaching and therefore the quality of education children are receiving."


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pesky gene

The power of do-gooder propaganda seems unlikely to alter this:

A gene linked to obesity causes people to put on weight by keeping them hungry, scientists say. Previous research had shown that the gene, known as FTO, was strongly associated with obesity. But it was not clear whether this was to do with increasing appetite or burning calories.

The new study of 3,337 children shows that the gene's effects are due to a lack of normal appetite control. Usually the act of eating "switches off" the appetite and creates a feeling of satiety or "fullness". The FTO gene stops this happening, scientists at University College London found. Children with two copies of a high-risk version of the gene were less likely to have their appetite suppressed by eating. FTO is the first common obesity gene to be identified in Caucasian populations.

Jane Wardle, the study leader, said: "People who carry the risky variant of this gene are more vulnerable to the modern environment with big portion sizes."

The new findings are published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.


The BBC goes too far (?)

We read:
"During the Beeb's normally sedate and contemplative Thought For The Day, journalist Clifford Longley mused on the subject of Africa. The problem with the continent was: "African culture has always lacked a developed sense of common humanity," before going on to claim that Africa suffered from a propensity to "turn to massacre and genocide".

Of course, no genocide has ever occurred in Africa. The mass murders in Rwanda, the Congo, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and countless other African countries are actually our fault, and the West must take all the blame.

Quite rightly, such insensitive comments led to the BBC's Black and Asian Forum to complain that the comments were "racist and xenophobic" as well as the usual rot about Longley being insensitive to other people's hurt feelings.

There's just one flaw -- Longley wasn't making these points himself. He was actually quoting a Nigerian theologian who has long bemoaned the refusal of African countries to take responsibility for their own actions. Ooops...


British doctors criticise surgery bonuses

Doctors' leaders have warned that plans to pay bonuses to surgeons based on the outcomes of operations could discourage doctors from treating high-risk patients. The country's largest hospital trust, Imperial College Healthcare Trust in London, is discussing a pilot scheme in which doctors would be rewarded financially for operations that are particularly successful.

But the British Medical Association, the professional association which represents doctors, warned that this could deter doctors from carrying out complex surgery or operations on frail and elderly patients. It added its voice to other critics of proposals to extend NHS cash reward schemes to reflect performance against a number of quality indicators such as mobility after surgery. Dr Jonathan Fielden, chairman of the BMA's consultants committee, said: "The outcome of an operation is based on multiple factors ... Other members of the medical team would also have fundamental roles in the care a patient receives and the outcome achieved."

A spokesman for the Imperial College trust would not say which operation the scheme would apply to, but he added: "It's about rewarding excellence." Katherine Murphy, from the charity the Patients Association, said: "Patients will be horrified."


Cadet forces in schools would restore discipline says British union

Military cadet forces should be set up in schools to restore discipline and control unruly pupils, a teaching union will hear this week. Voice, which has 38,000 members, will discuss a motion that it should welcome the establishment of cadet units in state schools. This clashes with the stance of the NUT, the biggest teaching union, which voted in March to oppose military recruitment campaigns in schools. One teacher told that debate that military cadet forces should be barred from schools because they were used for recruitment.

But two months later, a report commissioned by Gordon Brown said more cadet corps should be set up in schools, and recommended the inclusion of lessons on the Armed Forces’ role in society in the national curriculum. It also said more military personnel should visit schools. This has found favour with Peter Morris, the retired teacher who is making the latest proposal. He will tell the Voice annual conference on Wednesday that a military presence at school would foster patriotism, integrity, loyalty and courage. “Society as a whole is becoming less disciplined,” he is due to say. “As a profession, we continually complain about the indiscipline of pupils. The establishment of cadet units will, I am sure, help with discipline in our schools. They will give pupils an insight into the role of the armed forces.”

Mr Morris will tell the event in Northamptonshire that having a cadet force on site will help prevent low-achieving pupils from dropping out of school and drifting into crime. He is expected to say: “I have seen a pupil lift a computer monitor above his head ready to throw it at a teacher. I have seen pupils barring the way of a teacher along a corridor. “Pupils are well aware of their rights these days and exercise those rights to the full, often leaving teachers with little or no power to restore discipline.”

An IT teacher for 15 years, Mr Morris was formerly a policeman, but retired after suffering assault while on duty. In an apparent allusion to the NUT stance, he will tell delegates: “No doubt left-wingers in our profession will try to sabotage the government’s plan for cadet units, just as many colleagues in another teaching union recently voted to ‘actively oppose’ the army making visits to schools. “The structure which is lacking in the lives of so many young people today is offered by cadet units, and there is nowhere better to house these cadet units than in schools. “These units can work well for high achievers as well as those who will drop out of school early - with the consequential risk of falling into a life of crime.”

Mr Morris will tell the conference that cadet forces will “inculcate some of the values which we, as a society, are missing: self discipline, self-reliance, loyalty to one’s comrades, to one unit and to one’s country, courage, respect and integrity.”

Voice, formed from what was the Professional Association of Teachers, and other unions, counts teachers, lecturers, heads, support staff, nannies and childcare professionals among its members. Speaking to The Times, Mr Morris said many discipline problems in the classroom were caused by having mixed-ability lessons, during which both high and low achievers became bored. He said cadet units could engage some pupils by giving them a sense of purpose and achievement, and showing them how a career in catering or music could be pursued within the military. They could also be used to help schools provide after-hours activities. The Government wants all schools to become “extended” by opening from 8am to 6pm.

Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, said at the time of the report to Gordon Brown: “I believe combined cadet forces can make a huge difference to the young people who join them and the schools and communities in which they are based.”


Madness: British appeals court outlaws hitting delinquent children in custody

Someone should confine these judges to one of the "training" centres concerned. They would soon change their tune

Controversial methods of disciplining young people in custody have been abolished by the Court of Appeal today, only a year after they were introduced by the Government. Three judges ruled that the Secure Training Centre (Amendment) rules - which included advice to hit unruly children on the nose or ribs, or bend back their thumbs to distract them if they were disobedient - breached human rights.

Sally Keeble, Labour MP for Northampton North, who has been campaigning for a change in the law over physical restraint methods since 15-year-old Gareth Myatt died in custody in Northamptonshire four years ago, said she was delighted at the ruling She said: "This court victory is absolutely stunning. The Government has ducked and dived and refused to recognise the fact that these holds are barbaric and have no place in the British system."

Ms Keeble said that at their peak, the holds, which included a karate chop to the nose, were used up to twice a day in the four secure units in England and Wales run by private companies on behalf of the Department of Justice "These inhumane methods should be withdrawn and a new, safe system introduced for managing behaviour of young people in detention," she said. [Like what?] "There also needs to be a proper training system for staff, better monitoring and oversight by the Ministry of Justice of what happens in these privately-run secure training centres."

Adam Rickwood, 14, was on remand in Hassockfield Secure Training Centre in Co Durham in 2004 when he became the youngest child in Britain to die in custody. He hanged himself with his shoelaces shortly after being restrained for the first time. Gareth Myatt, 15, who weighed six and half stone, was asphyxiated whilst being restrained by three members of staff. He was three days into a six-month sentence at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre in Northamptonshire. The Equality and Human Rights Commission, which has been involved in a test case about physically restraining young people in custody in the wake of the two deaths, said today that the inquests had showed that staff at the STCs employed restraint as a way of maintaining order.

Yet despite grave concerns about the two deaths, the Ministry of Justice had chosen in 2007 to extend the use of restraint at Oakhill, Hassockfield, Medway and Rainsbrook STCs. Until June 2007 staff at STCs were only permitted to use physical restraint when it was necessary for the prevention of escape, damage to property or injury. The new rules, brought in after the deaths, allowed restraint when it was thought necessary to ensure good order and discipline.


Wind power is responsible for a LOT of CO2 emissions!

The Brits have a goal of getting 30% of their electricity from the wind in 12 years. But the wind is not reliable. A backup will be needed. Which led to a study headed by James Oswald, an engineering consultant and former head of research and development at Rolls Royce Turbines.

He said: "Wind power does not obviate the need for fossil fuel plants, which will continue to be indispensable. The problem is that wind power volatility requires fossil fuel plant to be switched on and off, which damages them and means that even more plants will have to be built. Carbon savings will be less than expected, because cheaper, less efficient plant will be used to support these wind power fluctuations. Neither these extra costs nor the increased carbon production are being taken into account in the government figures for wind power."

Lewis Page of the Register interviewed Oswald. Page wrote: "The trouble is, according to Oswald, that human demand variance is predictable and smooth compared to wind output variance. Coping with the sudden ups and downs of wind is going to mean a lot more gas turbines - ones which will be thrashed especially hard as wind output surges up and down, and which will be fired up for less of the time."

Every generation wants to save the world from some calamity, usually depicted as karma for man's sin. The nature of the sin varies - Sodom and Gomorrah had no SUVs - but the call is the same: Repent and sin no more and save the world.


Bungling Iranian hostage commander fired: "The captain of the [British] ship at the centre of the Iranian hostage debacle last year has been removed from his post, the Minstry of Defence said today. Commander Jeremy Woods was in charge of the frigate HMS Cornwall when 15 sailors and Royal Marines were seized by Iranian forces in the Persian Gulf last March. They were detained at gunpoint and held for 13 days after Tehran claimed they had strayed into Iranian waters. A parliamentary inquiry in December called the episode a "national embarrassment" and said formal action has been taken against a number of service personnel. The MoD said Commander Woods would keep his rank but has been moved "to a post where his talents and experience can be used to best effect". A spokesman said: "We can confirm that Commander Jeremy Woods, Commanding Officer of HMS Cornwall, has been removed from command. This is an internal administrative matter between the individual and his senior officers and we will not give further details of the removal."

British Labour Party doomed with or without Gordon Brown: "Voters are increasingly writing off Labour as fewer people believe that a change of leader or policy would help the party to win the next general election. A Populus poll for The Times, undertaken over the weekend after Labour's defeat in Glasgow East, suggests that its dramatic slide in popularity is being driven by a collapse in economic confidence. Labour is on 27 per cent, down one point on the last Populus poll three weeks ago, and about the level it has been for the past three months. This is the lowest since the early 1980s. The Conservatives are on 43 per cent - up two points - with the Liberal Democrats down one point at 18 per cent. Other parties are unchanged on 12 per cent. Ministers plotting to remove Gordon Brown receive a warning that barely half the electorate (52 per cent) believe that it would improve the party's fortunes"

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hey kids! Be a "Climate Cop" - rat on your family, friends, and classmates

Note: I don't normally allow the discussion of things related to Nazi Germany here, including discouraging the use of the word "denier" due to it's "Holocaust Denier" connotations. But this full page ad in the Sunday papers in Britain, touting "climate crime" and "climate cops" is just a bit over the top, and deserves some attention. It is particularly relevant since the sponsoring website has a teachers section, and we've just seen some sensibility from Schwarzenegger in Sacramento on this very issue.

I find this method of indoctrinating school children to normal everyday living being harmful to the earth with the "climate crime" connotation as distasteful and wrong-headed. I have no problems with energy conservation, in fact I encourage it. But combining such advice with a "climate cop" idea is the wrong way to get the message across. Can you imagine what sort of reaction the neighbors will have to the kids hanging this door hanger on their front door? Will the result of this now be hiding your electric dryer behind false walls so the kids and neighbors don't see it?

Reposted from the website EU referendum:

Can I be the only one more than a little disturbed by the latest campaign to be fronted by energy company npower? Launched today with large colour ads in the Sundays, it appeals directly to children, urging them to enlist as "climate cops", to root out "climate crimes", and thus "save the planet".

In a luridly-designed website, mimicking the style of "yoof" cartoons, it offers a bundle of downloads, including a pack of "climate crime cards", urging its recruits to spy on families, friends and relatives, inviting each of them to build up a "climate crime case file" in order to help them ensure their putative criminals do not "commit those crimes again (or else)!"

Quite what the "or else!" should be is not specified, but since the "climate cops" are being encouraged to keep detailed written records (for those who can read and write), there is nothing to stop these being submitted to the "Climate Cops HQ" for further sanctions, the repeat offenders being sent to re-education camps. And for those "climate cops" that successfully perform the "missions" set (or turn in their own parents), there is the reward of "training" in the "Climate Cop Academy".

In a system which has echoes of Hitler's Deutsches Jungvolk movement, and the Communist regime Pioneers, perhaps successful graduates can work up to becoming block wardens, then street and district "climate crime Fhrers", building a network of spies and informers. How nicely this ties in with James Hansen's call to put the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, accusing them of actively spreading doubt about global warming.

No doubt, with a willing band of "climate cops", the prosecutors can spread their nets wider, reaching into the homes of all climate change deniers, until the insidious virus of doubt is exterminated (final solution, anyone?). Then we can all march on the sunlit uplands of a "carbon-free" planet - to the tune of Ode to Joy no doubt.


The disgusting British police again: They say they have no duty to protect anyone

The anger and frustration felt by people who are the victims of crimes to which they have already alerted the police can be imagined. But when a loved one is murdered because the police failed to act in time, despite warnings that something terrible might be about to happen, the feelings of relations and friends can only be guessed at. Spare a thought, then, for the parents of Giles Van Colle, who will on Wednesday learn if a legal battle they have waged since he was murdered nearly eight years ago has been successful. If it is, the implications are profound. Irwin and Corrine Van Colle sued the police for failing to protect their son, who was a witness in a court case.

However, this is not a story of gangland intimidation: Mr Van Colle, 25, was simply preparing to do his duty as a responsible citizen in what should have been a straightforward case of theft. But it was to turn into a nightmare - and the police did nothing to stop it unfolding. Mr Van Colle was an optometrist with his own business, GVC Opticians, in Mill Hill, north London. He had employed as a laboratory technician an Iranian whose real name was Ali Amelzadeh, but was known by the alias Daniel Brougham. He had obtained the job using a false CV and when he was challenged about his National Insurance number and the disappearance of equipment from the clinic, he left. Subsequently, stolen property, including glasses and frames belonging to Mr Van Colle, were found at Brougham's home and he was charged with theft.

Mr Van Colle was asked to identify the property as a court witness. Until now, this was fairly unexceptional case. However, Mr Van Colle began to receive threats to his life and his family from Brougham, to which the police were alerted. Then his car was set ablaze outside his home. Yet nothing was done to protect him. In November 2000, two days before the trial was to start, Brougham lay in wait for Mr Van Colle as he left work and shot him three times at close range.

Most murders happen out of the blue and there is always a danger of accusation by hindsight. But that was not the case here. A witness in a court case was specifically threatened on a number of occasions by the man against whom he was giving evidence. It should have been relatively straightforward for the police to have offered him protection or to have revoked Brougham's bail.

Since Brougham lived in Stevenage, that job fell to Hertfordshire constabulary and specifically Det Con David Ridley. At a disciplinary tribunal in 2003, he was found guilty of failing to perform his duties diligently, failing to investigate thoroughly the intimidation of witnesses, and failing to arrest Brougham. He was fined five days' pay.

Mr Van Colle's parents considered it was important to establish where the duties of the police lay and invoked the European Convention on Human Rights, claiming a violation of Article 2 - which enshrines the "right to life" - and Article 8, which guarantees everyone's right to respect for their home and family life. In the High Court, Mrs Justice Cox awarded them $100,000 in damages against Hertfordshire Police. She said that, had Mr Van Colle been placed in a safe house or given other protection after Brougham threatened his life, there would have been "a real prospect of avoiding this tragedy". The award was reduced in 2007 to $50,000 by the Court of Appeal; but the judgment against Hertfordshire Police was upheld. This is where the case stands.

The chief constable appealed to the Law Lords, who will rule on whether the police can be sued for failing to carry out their duties properly to investigate a crime. The police say that unless it is overturned, they - and other public services - will face a flood of similar claims. But is that true? Are they simply not being required to do their job properly? After all, Mr Van Colle's case is not an isolated one.

Alex and Maureen Cochrane died and their daughter, Lucy, was seriously injured in an arson attack on their home in Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester, in 2006. The attack had been preceded by an incident at the Cochranes' home in which a fluid was poured on to the front door and a tree uprooted in the garden. Police, who were aware of a feud with another family subsequently convicted of the killings, failed to act. Last year, an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) found Greater Manchester Police guilty of "individual and systemic failings" over the tragedy.

Scotland Yard is investigating complaints that it failed to respond to threats made against a schoolgirl a few weeks before she was killed. Last year, the same force apologised for doing nothing to protect a young father shot dead after confronting a gang in the road where he had been stabbed just months earlier.

Wiltshire Police were strongly criticised by the IPCC for failing to protect Hayley Richards, a pregnant woman who was murdered by her boyfriend a week after he attacked her. Even though police were told where he was, officers who could have responded were dealing with a report of a dog locked in a car.

In all these cases, the police say that the murderous intent of the killers could not have been foreseen. But that is not the point. It is the fact that they did nothing that is so appalling. People can understand if, despite their best endeavours, some dreadful criminal act occurs; but it is the first principle of policing to prevent crime, not investigate it after it has happened.

In the Appeal Court, Sir Anthony Clarke, the Master of the Rolls, said the duty of the police to protect Mr Van Colle was "not an onerous one"; and nor was he persuaded that the court's ruling would "threaten police resources" or "open the floodgates to baseless claims against the police". "They should have done everything that could reasonably have been expected of them," added the judge. That is all that Mr and Mrs Van Colle, and the rest of us, are asking.


Study Finds Lesbians 50 Times More Likely to Self-Harm than General Population

Hard to know what the causal chain is here but it shows that Lesbians are not the paragons of mental health that feminist theory says they are. I found something similar long ago

The habit of "self-harming" is 50 times more likely to occur in lesbians than in the general population of women, a Scottish study has shown. 20 per cent of lesbian and bisexual women, of a total of 500 women surveyed in Scotland had deliberately harmed themselves in the last year, compared to 0.4 per cent of the general population.

The study, Prescription for Change, was conducted by the homosexual lobby organisation Stonewall. It also showed that five per cent of lesbian and bisexual women have attempted suicide in the last year.

Homosexual activists commonly interpret such statistics as support for the doctrine that it is the lack of "acceptance" from the non-homosexual world that causes the problems. Calum Irving, director of Stonewall Scotland, said, "For lesbian and bisexual women the experiences of prejudice, misunderstanding and at times hostility can damage long-term health and wellbeing."

But other research has shown that approaching homosexuality as a serious mental disorder also explains the severe depression, elevated levels of drug and alcohol abuse and self-destructive behaviour that are common among homosexuals.

Even though homosexuality was removed as a disorder from diagnostic manuals in the early 1970s, many in the psychiatric community maintain that homosexuality causes misery and that homosexual activity is a dangerous and emotionally degrading experience.

Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons, a principal contributor to the Catholic Medical Association's statement on "Homosexuality and Hope", told Zenit Catholic news agency that the mental disorder of homosexuality was removed from the diagnostic manuals in 1973 because of political pressure.

The other common assertion of the homosexual political lobby, that Christians hate and fear homosexuals, was refuted last month when a priest of the Russian Orthodox Church expressed his sorrow over their chronic unhappiness. Father Vsevolod Chaplin, said in an interview with newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, "Such people are deeply unhappy".

"I know it from confessions and numerous life stories. It's not by chance that they die earlier and there are more suicides, drug addicts and alcoholics among them," he said. "The Church lovingly accepts everyone, including those who have passion for people of the same sex. But just because she loves them, she says unisexual love is a sin. A destructive sin," said Fr. Chaplin.

The Catholic Church holds that homosexuality, and any sexual activity outside of marriage, has natural consequences, regardless of religious belief. This Natural Law teaching is said to be based on reason and observation of the consequences of human behaviour.


Monday, July 28, 2008

British hip and knee patients face delays due to emphasis on cheap cataract surgery

Thousands of patients could be facing unnecessary delays for hip and knee operations because the NHS is concentrating too much on cataract surgery, an expert has warned. More fiddling in response to targets. Cost instead of clinical need becomes the criterion for doing a procedure

The eye surgery has made up almost one fifth of all "extra" operations carried out using the additional cash ministers have pumped into the health service in recent years, figures show. As a result there has been a significant fall in waiting times for the procedure. But recent evidence suggests that surgeons could be carrying out cataract operations unnecessarily early on some patients, according to The King's Fund, the independent health think tank which collated the statistics.

Waiting times for other operations, in particular hip and knee replacements, have not fallen so fast, said John Appleby, the organisation's chief economist. "In reducing these waiting times we have done the easier operations and left the more difficult ones to last," he said.

The King's Fund calculates that of an estimated 605,000 "extra" operations carried out between 1998 and 2005, 115,000 were for cataracts. "I think that if you looked back from 1998 to now that many people would be surprised just how many of these extra procedures have been one operation, cataracts," Mr Appleby said. "Although the number of other operations being performed have increased as well, the figures show they have not risen nearly as much as cataract operations." He added: "There is also evidence that now some people are being admitted with rather good vision who would normally not be admitted for the operation so soon."

The think tank estimates that while a cataract operation costs the NHS around $1200 to $1400, the cost of a hip or a knee replacement is around 10 times that, at between $12,000 and $14,000.

Although cataracts can ultimately cause blindness some patients do not require surgery for months or even years after their initial diagnosis. Ministers have set a target that no patient should wait more than 18 weeks for treatment by the end of this year. Government spending on the NHS has more than doubled to $180 billion since the turn of the century.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "In England, by the end of December 2008, no patient will have to wait more than 18 weeks from the time they are referred by their GP for any treatment unless they choose to do so, or it is clinically appropriate. "Latest figures show the majority of patients are already being seen within 18 weeks and that the NHS nationally has achieved its milestones for March 2008.

"The increase in supply of cataract services has enabled the NHS to massively reduce waits for cataract surgery. Average waiting times for cataract operations 10 years ago were as long as 2 years, now it is around 3 months. The number of cataract operations have also nearly doubled in the last ten years. Ultimately, commissioning decisions are a matter for local primary care trusts."


Third of Britain's Muslim students back killings

Radicalism and support for sharia is strong in British universities

ALMOST a third of British Muslim students believe killing in the name of Islam can be justified, according to a poll. The study also found that two in five Muslims at university support the incorporation of Islamic sharia codes into British law.

The YouGov poll for the Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC) will raise concerns about the extent of campus radicalism. "Significant numbers appear to hold beliefs which contravene democratic values," said Han-nah Stuart, one of the report's authors. "These results are deeply embarrassing for those who have said there is no extremism in British universities."

The report was criticised by the country's largest Muslim student body, Fosis, but Anthony Glees, professor of security and intelligence studies at Buckingham University, said: "The finding that a large number of students think it is okay to kill in the name of religion is alarming. "There is a wide cultural divide between Muslim and nonMuslim students. The solution is to stop talking about celebrating diversity and focus on integration and assimilation."

The researchers found that 55% of nonMuslim students thought Islam was incompatible with democracy. Nearly one in 10 had "little respect" for Muslims.

In addition to its poll of 1,400 Muslim and nonMuslim students, the centre visited more than 20 universities to interview students and listen to guest speakers. It found that extremist preachers regularly gave speeches that were inflammatory, homophobic or bordering on antisemitic. The researchers highlighted Queen Mary college, part of London University, as a campus where radical views were widely held. Last December, a speaker named Abu Mujahid encouraged Muslim students to condemn gays because "Allah hates" homosexuality. In November, Azzam Tamimi, a British-based supporter of Hamas, described Israel as the most "inhumane project in the modern history of humanity". James Brandon, deputy director at CSC , said: "Our researchers found a ghettoised mentality among Muslim students at Queen Mary. Also, we found the segregation between Muslim men and women at events more visible at Queen Mary."

A spokesman for Queen Mary said the university was aware the preachers had visited but did not know the contents of their speeches. "Clearly, we in no way associate ourselves with these views. However, also integral to the spirit of university life is free speech and debate and on occasion speakers will make statements that are deemed offensive."

In the report, 40% of Muslim students said it was unacceptable for Muslim men and women to associate freely. Homophobia was rife, with 25% saying they had little or no respect for gays. The figure was higher (32%) for male Muslim students. Among nonMuslims, the figure was only 4%.

The research found that a third of Muslim students supported the creation of a world-wide caliphate or Islamic state.

A number of terrorists have been radicalised at British universities. Kafeel Ahmed, who drove a flaming jeep into a building at Glasgow airport last year and died of his burns, is believed to have been radicalised while studying at Anglia Ruskin university, Cambridge.

Wes Streeting, president of the National Union of Students, condemned the study. "This disgusting report is a reflection of the biases and prejudices of a right-wing think tank - not the views of Muslim students across Britain," he said. "Only 632 Muslim students were asked vague and misleading questions, and their answers were wilfully misinterpreted."

Some of the findings amplify previous research. A report by Policy Exchange last year found that 37% of all Muslims aged 16-24 would prefer to live under a sharia system. Baroness Warwick, chief executive of Universities UK, said: "Violence, or the incitement to violence, has no place on a university campus."


The return of Killer Chlorine

Numberwatch After many mind-sapping years of trawling through the morass of health scare stories, I formulated a number of laws, one of which was the Law of Beneficial Developments:
The intensity of the scaremongering attack on any new development is proportional to the level of benefit that it endows.

Unbelievably, the Chlorine Scare has returned. According to the science editor of the Daily Telegraph, Babies exposed to chlorinated water are at risk of heart problems.

The first chestnut here is the appearance of a Trojan Number, so called because it is the stratagem by which authors infiltrate their findings into the columns of the media. In this case it is an impressive 400,000, which is the number of babies said to be involved in the study. In fact, almost all of them have no part in the study at all, as they are normal, healthy births.

As I wrote in a book called Sorry, Wrong Number! in 2000, chlorine is essential to life on earth, not only in the form of its sodium salt, but as a constituent of more than more than 1500 vital compounds in plants and animals, including our digestive juices. The chlorination of drinking water has saved more human lives than any other hygienic measure.

However in 1991, Greenpeace activist Christine Houghton said: "Since its creation, chlorine has been a chemical catastrophe. It is either chlorine or us." Even by Greenpeace standards this was a pretty remarkable piece of ignorant, hysterical nonsense. When chlorination was stopped in Peru in 1991 as a result of pressure from the EPA and Greenpeace, an epidemic broke out that spread through Latin America. Some 800,000 people became ill with cholera and 6,000 people died. Millions of people are still dying all over the world because of dirty water.

The anti-chlorine movement was one of the many legacies of Rachel Carson. It was intensified by an EPA study in the mid 1980s that purported to show that one of the by-products of chlorination (trihalomethanes) was carcinogenic. This involved subjecting hapless rodents to very high concentrations. That was a classical piece of junk epidemiology, based on accidental correlation, of the sort that editors cannot resist. Take just one of the conditions mentioned:

Anencephalus is so rare that most people have never heard of it. Its frequency is less than two per ten thousand of live births, so the impressive number whittles down to something under 80 actual cases. These are then divided into at least two groups - those who are exposed to the putative cause (at an arbitrary threshold) and those who are not. So the whole claim is based on a group of less than 40 babies - unlikely to produce a significant result, even with the debased statistical standards used by modern epidemiology.

Then there is the measure of exposure itself. How much of the dreaded fluid did the pregnant women drink? How did the boffins distinguish between a thirsty mother in a low dosage area and a non-thirsty mother in a high dosage area? The other glaring defect is that this is clearly a Data Dredge, given away by the fact that three conditions are mentioned. How many others were looked at we are not told.

The abysmal standard of significance in modern epidemiology is a one in 20 chance of the result having occurred by accident. But if you look at ten different diseases, this standard means that the probability of at least one crossing a given threshold of risk level becomes 40 per cent, which should be adjusted for, but isn't. As for the threshold itself, for a variety of reasons such as confounding factors, most scientists would be looking for more than a doubling of risk before claiming significance.

Who now believes that drinking tap water causes cancer? Yet 6,000 Peruvians died because of that claim, which was subsequently withdrawn. Fortunately, such scares (and miracle breakthroughs) are now so frequent that ordinary people have become blase about them - they yawn and turn to the sports pages. But there is no accounting for what politicians will do.

Like footballers, epidemiologists talk in cliches. After a while you can predict what they are going to say:
"The biological mechanism for how these disinfection by-products may cause defects are still unknown"

"...more research needs to be carried out to determine these side-effects."

The establishment media go through the ritual of publishing this nonsense. Hardly a day goes by without at least one scare or breakthrough. They are just page fillers, but there is always the danger that someone will take them seriously. As for the epidemiologists, irresponsible is an inadequate word. Reel off a few acronyms (DDT, HRT, MMR for example) and you uncover stories of millions of unnecessary deaths and lives turned to misery, all caused by the rejection of the boons of scientific research because of mindless attacks.



Labour faces being kicked out of office by angry motorists if it continues to 'unfairly demonise' the car, a top Government adviser warned today. Families are 'rebelling' against unfair car taxes, restrictions on their freedoms, and attacks on 4X4s and luxury cars by politicians and campaigners driven by 'ideological dogma' rather than hard-facts, Richard Parry-Jones claimed.

Mr Parry-Jones was appointed by the government to look at how technology can be used to cut pollution. But the former Ford Motor Company executive turned on his new employers yesterday urging them to stop the war on the motorist. Unfair motoring taxes and attacks of family runarounds were the result of 'muddled thinking' based on prejudice and dogma rather than hard scientific facts, he said. 'If you price consumers out of their cars, they will probably throw you out at the next election,' he said.

He added that Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his ministers must 're-assess the political bias against cars'. He accepted that cars did have some impact on climate change - but pointed out that they represented only 8per cent of the problem while appearing to get 100 per cent of the blame. Tax raised from motorists and motoring was 'disproportionately high', he said.

Mr Parry-Jones is a world-renowned motor industry expert who has just been appointed as a ministerial adviser to John Hutton's Department for Business. He is chairing Mr Hutton's Automotive Industry Growth Team, looking at how to create 'greener' cars and cut costs. His speech follows a visit this week by Mr Brown, Mr Hutton, and Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly to the British International Motor Show in London's Docklands where the PM met motor industry bosses to discuss 'green' cars. Mr Parry-Jones recently retired as chief technical officer and head of research at Ford.

He said politicians must carry the confidence of Britain's 30 million voting motorists if they want achieve or maintain office:''If politicians go too fast, ultimately they get detached from the electorate and get thrown out.' He noted: 'What on Earth are we doing allowing our elected representatives to decide for us what we should be allowed or encouraged to drive, or what should be banned or penalised in the name of climate change.'


UK: Painter fined for smoking in own van: "A painter and decorator from Ceredigion says he is 'dumbfounded' after being slapped with a $60 fine for smoking a cigarette in his own van. Gordon Williams says he had popped to the shops earlier this month, when he was pulled over by council officials. 'I was told that because my van is my place of work I had broken the smoking laws,' he said. ... The grandfather decried the on-the-spot penalty as the 'Big Brother state going too far.' He added: 'I respect anyone who chooses not to smoke, but I would also ask for the same respect to have the freedom to smoke in my own private vehicle.'"

Bungling British bureaucrats again: "Confidential tapes and internal documents have exposed bullying and bungling in Gordon Brown's flagship tax-credit scheme that will cost the taxpayer up to $5.6 billion. More than 1.5m people have been told that they were overpaid tax credits and should now give back the money. Tax officials told them it was their own fault and informed some victims they had no right of appeal. However, many victims have turned the tables on the tax-man, using evidence from their own case files, obtained under data protection laws, to prove officials' errors were to blame. This has revealed government offices in disarray, random errors inserted by computer into claimants' files, and officials misleading claimants about the right of appeal. HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is now preparing to write off $5.6 billion"

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rejoicing in death. Why is the Left so full of hate for Lady Thatcher?

The Letters page of The Guardian, seldom the sanest of arenas, has this week descended to virulent venom. In place of the customary corduroyed bores calling for unilateral disarmament, rainbow-nation multiculturalism or celebrations of Castro's Cuba, there have appeared several letters which gloated at the prospect of Margaret Thatcher's death. Their vengeful tone, though hurtful about the still very much alive Lady Thatcher, has been instructive. It was a timely reminder that no one does viciousness quite like the Left. Far from the Conservatives being 'the Nasty Party', Labour's preachy brothers and sisters have long deserved that title.

The Guardian letters were sparked by reports that Lady Thatcher will be given the rare honour of a state funeral. Even to discuss such arrangements is, let us be honest, a difficult matter. The widowed, octogenarian Lady T is in fair health. Long may she remain so.

Some Guardian readers have taken a markedly less charitable line towards the former Prime Minister. Typical of the response was that of one Chris Gibson, who said that on seeing the headline about a state funeral for Lady Thatcher: 'I thought that the week had got off to the best possible start.' Charming. Another contributor, Chris Hardman, wrote: 'Just a couple of questions: 'Does that include the grave/dancefloor combo?' and 'When is it booked for?' Guardian reader Rob Watling suggested that the contract for any state funeral should be 'put out to compulsory competitive tender and awarded to the lowest bidder'.

On one level, these letters are merely the prattish words of small minds - people unable to accept that many of the battles of the Eighties were lost for good by Labour and that Lady T was a remarkable election winner whose titanic will reversed Britain's post-war decline and, incidentally, destroyed the class structure so loathed by the Left. But the fact such horrible letters were written, let alone published in a national newspaper, tells us something else. The vituperative tone was even less restrained on The Guardian's internet website, and those of other Left-wing publications such as The New Statesman.

It is all of a piece with other instances of shrill intolerance by the Left. Why is it that socialists, in contrast to their professed humanity and Methodist origins, are so remarkably malevolent? Why is the Left so mean?

Look at the way Labour hardliners reacted to the idea of Boris Johnson becoming Mayor of London. A moderate Tory, socially liberal, urban, pro-gay, generally pro-minority, he has more in common with middle-class London Labour than he does with old-fashioned provincial Tories. Yet the last days of his campaign saw near apoplexy among Left-wingers - not least with some ludicrously skewed coverage in The Guardian. Genial Boris was depicted as little short of a rapist and Ku Klux Klansman.

Look at the way Labour portrayed Edward Timpson, Conservative candidate in the recent Crewe and Nantwich by-election. A barrister specialising in family disputes, an area of the law which exposes practitioners to terrible examples of social breakdown, Mr Timpson is no goose-stepper. He is a well-informed Centrist from a family which has done much charity work in Cheshire. So how was he depicted by the caring, sharing Left? As an early 20th century fop, a political opportunist, a figure to be hated. A hit squad of hecklers was hired to pursue him. Labour spent thousands of pounds on negative campaigning.

Left-wingers like to talk of ' progressive politics', by which they suppose they mean open-mindedness, but historically they are far more dogmatic than the Right.

Factionalism and drunken intrigue were rampant in the trades unions of old. On immigration, Left-wingers have been exceptionally illiberal. Commentators and politicians who questioned the pro-immigration consensus were shouted down as racists. The thoroughly decent former Tory leader Michael Howard was cast as something close to a Nazi for daring to suggest that immigration was becoming a problem. His assailants were not shamed by the fact that Mr Howard is of Jewish emigre stock. He'd had the temerity to oppose the Left. He had to be destroyed.

Tony Blair's regime was infamously unpleasant to people who tried to stand in its way. Government scientist David Kelly paid for his independence with his life - suicide, we were told, although he was pushed into any such suicide by Labour-ordered briefings. Other refuseniks, from Cabinet ministers who refused to do grubby deals or military commanders who questioned bad orders, had their reputations traduced. Civil servants who did not 'fit' were sacked by Blair's thugs. Some people tried to claim smiling Tony's nastiest piece of work, Alastair Campbell, was no worse than Sir Bernard Ingham, Mrs Thatcher's press spokesman. But Ingham never wielded the power - or malevolence - of the spitting, table-thumping Campbell.

How depressing it is that even now Blair has gone, the Labour Government continues to show a vindictive streak. The treatment of General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of General Staff, is the latest example of a good public servant being shafted by rancorous Leftists, furious that an 'old school' figure should try to oppose their sway.

One of the Left's great propaganda achievements over the years has been the idea that it was somehow kinder to support Labour than to be Conservative. Think a little harder, though, and you may start to see that Left's attitude depends on the suppression of tolerance. It demands communal conformity rather than independent freedom. It seeks to dictate supply rather than allowing the market to find a level. It places the state above the citizen.

Here are the philosophical roots of the harshness of discipline which fuel the unpleasantness. Those Guardian letters spring directly from Left-wing orthodoxy. It is hard to imagine any Conservative worth that name rejoicing at the death of a Labour opponent. The Tory instinct does not work like that. When the then Tory party chairman, Theresa May, told her activists they were 'seen as the nasty party' she was probably right - even though it was unfair.

Labour's cleverness has been to hide its vindictive streak. If anything, the Tories have not been nasty enough. Let's hope it stays that way. I'd hate to think any of us would descend to the level reached by the Left - the REAL nasty party.


`The only certain thing is the science is uncertain'

Lord Lawson on the difficulty of publishing a contrarian book on global warming and why huge cuts in CO2 emissions would be `madness'

`This is my fourth book. I've never had any difficulty getting a publisher. In fact, I've got the contracts before the books were written. But this one - I couldn't get a publisher anywhere in this country. it shows the unhelpful and unhealthy climate, in a different sense, there is over this issue.'

Nigel Lawson, former UK chancellor of the exchequer and energy secretary in the 1980s Conservative government, has become a high-profile critic of current orthodoxies on climate change. In a week when the legitimacy of criticising the mainstream view has been called into question following the UK television regulator's censuring of the Channel 4 documentary, The Great Global Warming Swindle, a debate featuring Lawson looked likely to be lively. And so it proved.

Lawson was speaking on Tuesday evening at the latest Bookshop Barnie, a series of rowdy discussions organised by the Future Cities Project at the Waterstones store next to the London School of Economics (LSE). It's not exactly one of those Borders monsters, over four floors with a Starbucks in the middle. The LSE store is a much smaller affair, with the walls lined with serious tomes about economics and social science. But it does make an excellent and intimate venue if you want to have a well-informed row - which is what followed.

The subject of the discussion was Lawson's book, An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming. In a cheeky introduction, the chairman of the discussion, Austin Williams, told the audience: `Nigel Lawson, Lord Lawson of Blaby, speaks from a position of eminent authority on the issue of carbon reduction. He was responsible for the biggest reduction in carbon emissions in this country when he presided over the slashing of the coal mining industry.' Apart from raising laughter, the introduction was a pointed nod to the fact that the old lines of left and right in society have disappeared today, replaced by new divisions over climate change and the environment more broadly.

As a former finance minister, Lawson does not pretend to be an expert on the details of atmospheric physics. But, as he pointed out, many scientists and noisy commentators on the subject have no special expertise in the particular disciplines required to understand climate, either. More importantly, the politicians charged with making the big policy decisions on the subject must do so on the basis of limited knowledge, too.

`The one thing that is absolutely clear about the science is that it isn't certain, far from it', began Lawson. That is not to say that there isn't plenty of common ground between sceptics and mainstream views of the science, as Lawson pointed out. `Most people would agree there have been huge increases in concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere'; `there is no real argument that the major contributor to that has been man, through the burning of carbon'; and `there is no doubt there is such a thing as the greenhouse effect or that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas'.

For Lawson, the real uncertainty is around how big the effect of carbon dioxide will be on temperatures. While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests that most of the warming over the past 100 years has been due to human activity, Lawson argued that the consensus isn't as complete as is usually suggested. He pointed to a survey conducted by the German climate scientist, Hans von Storch - someone who has supported the mainstream view of the science while being critical of much of the presentation of it in the media. The survey asked 500 climate scientists, under strict promise of anonymity, for their view on the debate. Of those surveyed, 70 per cent supported the view that global warming was mostly caused by humans; 30 per cent did not. While science should never be `conducted by a head count', said Lawson, it is clear that the much-vaunted unanimity is absent.

But Lawson's real beef is with the other aspects of the IPCC's report. Moving on to the effects of climate change, Lawson noted that in many respects, the IPCC's forecasts are not that scary. `Even if you look at the IPCC's own estimates you find, both in the particular and the general, it really is much less alarming than the flesh-creeping things that are written in the Independent newspaper or by the people who run the IPCC, as opposed to the scientists and economists who produce the reports.'

Lawson pointed out that `there are many benefits as well as harms from global warming. So, what is the net effect?' On health, the only thing that the IPCC is `virtually certain' of, said Lawson, is that there will be fewer deaths from cold-related diseases if the planet gets warmer; a rise in temperatures of up to 2.8 degrees would, says the IPCC, be beneficial for food production. These net benefits are declared despite what Lawson called the IPCC's `very curious treatment of adaptation' - in other words, the assumption that people would behave pretty much as they do now as temperatures rise, rather than changing the way they live and the crops they grow to suit climatic conditions.

The bottom line for Lawson, drawing out the IPCC's own conclusions, is that even at the worst end of the projections the IPCC posits as reasonably likely, those who might suffer the most - people in the developing world - would be 8.5 times better off than they are now rather than 9.5 times better off if warming were more limited. There were, concluded Lawson with understatement, worse catastrophes imaginable. .....


Key-fob gunman jailed for 9 years in "gun free" Britain: "A man was jailed for nine years for shooting a fellow clubber with a key-fob gun. Police say that about 100 of the four-inch Bulgarian-made weapons are still believed to be in circulation. Marcus Henry, 27, of Clapham, South London, fired two shots, one of which hit Yaw Darko-Kwakye in the shoulder. It followed a row over the victim's girlfriend in the Departures nightclub in the City of London.

Incredible pettiness in bureaucratic Britain: "A shop manager has criticised a council after she was issued with a fine for using the wrong coloured bin bags. Haringey council in North London issued Dora Panagi with a $600 fine after she put rubbish in black bags. The council encourages shopkeepers to put rubbish in grey sacks. Mrs Panagi, 41, who manages a boutique in Muswell Hill, said that she used black sacks after the council failed to deliver the grey sacks. A spokesman for the council said that the fine would be cancelled."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Qualified British GPs forced to drive taxis due to lack of work as doctors

Socialist Britain sure knows how to manage its health workforce. This amid frequent claims of a doctor shortage and long waits to see a doctor

One fully qualified GP is driving a taxi because he cannot find enough work as a doctor despite Government pledges to increase access to primary care and extend surgery opening hours. Next week 2,500 doctors will qualify as GPs and the vast majority have not found full time jobs and will have to live 'hand to mouth', the British Medical Association has warned.

It costs the taxpayer around $500,000 to train each graduate to junior doctor level and many are considering travelling abroad or working in another speciality even though there is predicted to be shortage of GPs.

Dr Alex Smallwood, chairman of the GP trainees sub-committee at the British Medical Association said the problem was rife and was a 'huge betrayal' of junior doctors who had been encouraged into general practice. He said: "Doctors will be stacking shelves, cleaning and driving taxis to make ends meet. If they can't get work as a doctor they have got to do something."

Dr Smallwood said the general perception of GPs earning anything from $200,000 to $500,000 was nowhere near reality for many. He said there are huge numbers of under-employed GPs who can only get one and half or two days work a week. Under the new GP contract there is little incentive for a partner in a practice to take on another partner to expand the practice or replace one who leaves. Instead, in order to maintain their own income and that of the practice, the partners take on a salaried doctor on around $100,000 to $120,000 full time, but most are employed only part-time and earn significantly less. Other practices are based in such old premises that they physically do not have the room for more doctors. The problem is risking the future of general practice as the best and brightest candidates either enter other specialisms or leave to work as a GP abroad, he said.

Some areas of the country are worse than others, with virtually no partnerships on offer in London whereas the situation is not so bad in poorer areas in the North of England.

Dr Smallwood said: "I can't say it is greed but there is an element of being unfair to younger colleagues. There is a certain amount of protectionism from some doctors. "There are vast numbers of people who can't get full time work and it is not just about getting a partnership it is about getting any job. There is a panic." He said the trend of taking on salaried part-time GPs will affect patient care as it will mean they are less likely to see the same doctor with whom they can build up a trusting relationship. Dr Smallwood said it is vital that a scheme where the upfront costs of taking on a partner are paid is reinstated.


The evil British police again

Grandmother arrested on race charges after telling rowdy Asian students to 'go home'

After being woken for the third time in one night by a group of drunken and noisy students, Jo Calvert-Mindell was at her wits' end. The former policewoman got dressed, went outside and shouted at them: 'Why can't you go back to where you come from and make some noise there? I bet your families and neighbours wouldn't put up with it. 'You don't care about us and do just as you like. What gives you the right to frighten my elderly neighbours, cause damage and keep us awake at night?'

She also reported the incident to police, who came and dispersed the eight students. The 51-year-old grandmother was astonished when four months later she was arrested and accused of being a racist. It turned out that two Asians in the group had complained to the police. In April, Miss Calvert-Mindell, who has never been in trouble with the police before, was charged with using racially aggravated threatening words or behaviour under section 5 of the Public Order Act. In May, she appeared at Folkestone Magistrates' Court in Kent, where she denied the charge.

The case hung over her until the Crown Prosecution Service decided to drop it last week, admitting there was little chance of conviction. Now she is filing a complaint about the way the police treated her.

Yesterday, Miss Calvert-Mindell, a Liberal Democrat councillor and community volunteer, said: 'The last thing I am is a racist. 'I have a totally inclusive attitude to different races and cultures - I don't care if you are black, white, green or a Martian. 'Their colour had nothing to do with it - it was their behaviour. 'I think there is something very wrong in our society when a resident can't go out and try and prevent crime and disorder and encourage the defendants to go back home and that they can then play the race card to completely absolve themselves of responsibility for that behaviour. 'The authorities today are so sensitive to being criticised for being racist that any claims of racism just raises their antennae, instead of using common sense.'

The incident that led to her court appearance happened in the early hours of November 8 last year on the Hales Place estate in Canterbury. Miss Calvert-Mindell, who has a daughter and three grandchildren, was woken three times by students from the nearby University of Kent, who were shouting drunkenly and kicking bins. Fed up after months of sleeplessness caused by noisy students she put her clothes on and went down to tell them to be quiet.

She said that when she shouted at the students 'all I meant was that they would not do that at their family homes wherever they had come from in England.' But one of the students said she was being racist. Two Asians in the group later complained to police.

Assistant district crown prosecutor Carol Chastney said: 'Following a review we decided to discontinue the proceedings against the defendant as there was no longer sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.' Kent Police refused to apologise. Superintendent Chris Hogben said: 'An allegation was made that was fully investigated. A case was presented to the CPS and the decision was made to prosecute. 'If Miss Calvert-Mindell would like to discuss our response and the conduct of officers I would urge her to contact me direct.'


British photography paranoia reaches new peak (1)

No photos of even EMPTY pools!

A council has apologised to two women after a worker ordered them to stop photographing a deserted paddling pool over fears about child protection. Southampton City Council said it was trying to safeguard youngsters on the city's common but added staff would now be advised to use more discretion. Betty Robinson, 82, and Brenda Bennett, 69, were taking pictures when they were ordered to stop by a female worker. Mrs Robinson said: "It's pathetic, bureaucracy gone mad."

"I said is it because we might be paedophiles? There were no children in the pool but she pointed to a man and boys in the distance and said we could come back later at 6pm when the park was closed. "We are just a couple of old ladies who wouldn't hurt children and we are certainly not paedophiles."

Mike Harris, head of leisure and culture at Southampton City Council, said in a statement: "I'm sorry if we have caused any offence on this occasion. "We have to walk a fine line between protecting the children who use this popular paddling pool and the interests of the community as a whole. "A lot of people are more concerned about the safety of their children these days so it is appropriate that our staff are aware of who is taking photos."


British photography paranoia reaches new peak (2)

Must not photograph offenders -- is "assault"

A householder who took photographs of hooded teenagers as evidence of their anti-social behaviour says he was told he was breaking the law after they called the police. David Green, 64, and his neighbours had been plagued by the youths from a nearby comprehensive school for months, and was advised by their headmaster to identify them so action could be taken.

But when Mr Green left his $2 million London flat to take photographs of the gang, who were aged around 17, he said one threatened to kill him while another called the police on his mobile. And he claimed that a Police Community Support Officer sent to the scene promptly issued a warning that taking pictures of youths without permission was illegal, and could lead to a charge of assault.

Last night Mr Green, a television cameraman, said he was appalled that the legal system's first priority seemed not to be stopping frightening anti-social behaviour by aggressive youths, but protecting them from being photographed by the concerned public. Mr Green, a father-of-two, lives with his programme-maker wife Judy in a penthouse flat close to Waterloo station. He said: 'We've had problems with this group shouting abuse and throwing stones for months, and were asked to identify them. 'When I went to take photographs of eight of them throwing cans of Coke around, six of them ran away, one threatened to kill me, and another one started phoning the police.

'A couple of hours later, a Police Community Support Officer told me I had been accused of assault, though no such thing occurred, and told me I was not allowed to take photographs of teenagers on the street. 'I think it's wrong that when teenagers are running riot and the police are called, it's about me, and I'm treated like a criminal. 'In South London we all know how many stabbings there have been, and I think the police should be busy catching the real bad people.'

Mr Green said he handed his pictures to a deputy headmaster at the nearby Nautical School, and was promised the matter would be investigated. A Metropolitan Police spokesman said the force had no record of the incident.



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 œ10bn per year; this is equivalent to almost œ400 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.


Deprived white boys inspired by action stories, British regulator says

Goody-goody feminist pap useless

White boys from deprived backgrounds need action-packed stories about danger or sport to inspire them in lessons, Ofsted, the education regulator, said yesterday. They do worse at school than any other group, which has increased concerns that white, working-class boys are becoming an educational underclass.

Advice on how schools should engage with such pupils was published yesterday by Ofsted after it looked at 20 schools where white boys from low income families had done comparatively well. It recommended rigorous monitoring but also teaching boys how to communicate and express emotions. They needed active involvement in lessons, explicit targets to work towards and approachable teachers, the report said. "In the most successful literacy activities, teachers took care to choose texts that interested the boys," Ofsted said. "These tended to focus on action-packed narratives which emphasised sporting prowess, courageous activities in the face of danger and situations where characters had to overcome challenges."

The report said schools that successfully raised the attainment of white boys from poor backgrounds shared features including developing boys' organisational skills, emphasising the importance of perseverance, a curriculum structured around individual needs and listening to pupils' views.

Emotional support was also important, with one school appointing teaching assistants who kept a "mood watch" on the most vulnerable pupils. Another school had success with boys after asking a group that was being rewarded with cakes for doing well why it was predominantly made up of girls. One girl said: "It's not that boys are not clever. They mostly are, but they need quick results. You just have to be showing them the cakes."


Passport checks between UK and Ireland restored

Travellers between Britain and the Republic of Ireland face passport checks for the first time since the 1920s, amid fears that the free travel arrangements between the countries could be exploited by terrorists and smugglers. The Common Travel Area (CTA) was set up in 1925 after Ireland gained independence and had survived intact during the three decades of the Troubles. But London and Dublin announced yesterday that border controls would be introduced on air and sea routes to prevent Islamist terrorists, illegal immigrants and smugglers using them as easy routes between Britain and Ireland.

Full immigration controls will be brought in for foreign travellers, while British and Irish nationals will have to prove their identities, either by showing a passport or a driving licence. And while there are no plans for full immigration controls on the meandering frontier between Northern Ireland and the Republic, immigration officials will step up spot-checks on vehicles moving crossing the border.

The new controls will be phased in over the next six years. They are being brought in as Britain overhauls its system of immigration checks, including the introduction of its e-Borders programme screening all new arrivals to the UK. The plans do not cover travel between Northern Ireland and the mainland UK, which is still being examined by the Home Office with a view to announcing proposals by the end of the year

Details of the plans were set out in a Home Office consultation paper yesterday. It suggested that British and Irish residents travelling between the two countries will be separated into separate queues from foreign passengers. Airlines and ferry operators could face fines if they allow passengers on board without the relevant documents.

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, and Dermot Ahern, the Irish Justice Minister, said in a joint statement: "It is crucial our two countries work closely together to ensure our borders are stronger than ever." But they added that both governments fully recognised the "particular circumstances of Northern Ireland" and insisted there are "no plans to introduce fixed controls on either side of the Irish land border for immigration or other purposes".

They added: "We will tackle the challenges we face head-on through the use of state-of-the-art border technology, joint sea and port operations and the continued exchange of intelligence. We are both introducing electronic border management systems so we can count people in and out of the country and identify those people who may be of interest to our law enforcement authorities."

The CTA also includes the Crown Dependencies, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, which will also face the new checks.

The Home Office said the CTA was an "important component of the special relationship" between the two countries, but that the arrangements were "out of date". It said the moves had been prompted by worries over security, illegal immigration and smuggling, but added there were no specific events that had led to toughening the checks.

Its consultation paper said London and Dublin would work more closely on a range of initiatives to "reduce the risk of abuse of the CTA arrangement". It added: "These include a number of intelligence-led operations and further co-operation on data sharing to protect the integrity of our border controls." Nearly 16 million passengers travelled between Ireland and the UK, and the Crown Dependencies, in 2006.


Confused British minister

Says people should not be told that it is their fault for being fat -- which is fair enough. Geneticists would say the same. But he then goes on to warn people (falsely) that fat will shorten their lives. So it appears that he DOES expect people to take responsibility for their own fatness and reduce it

Alan Johnson sparked a political row over obesity last night by accusing David Cameron of holding “Victorian” views that blamed people for being fat. The Health Secretary called for a national movement to tackle obesity after complaints that ministers had not done enough to reduce the nation’s growing waistlines. This month the Conservative leader suggested in Glasgow that the obese should take more responsibility for their lifestyles, attacking the notion that some people were “at risk” of obesity through no fault of their own.

In a speech in London to the Fabian Society, Mr Johnson said that “hectoring and lecturing” the public would not work. “Vilifying the extremely fat does not make people change their behaviour and the healthy eating message has to be delivered more intelligently,” he said. “It’s easy for politicians to stand on the sidelines accusing the impoverished, the fat and the excluded of only having themselves to blame. But before we evoke the Victorian notion of the deserving and undeserving poor . . . we should take a moment to consider how complex these issues really are.”

Instead, parents should be told that children could have their lives cut short by 11 years because of dangerous levels of fat in their arteries or around their organs, he said. Mr Johnson argued that obesity was not just an issue for Government and that everyone, from individuals to big supermarkets, should do all they could to help people to lead healthier lives. The Health Secretary said that the Government had rejected both the “nanny state” approach and the “neglectful state”, which “wags the finger in the direction of the most vulnerable families in the vague hope that they will do as they are told.”

“The Conservative Party have apparently chosen this approach,” he added. The Government was criticised last month for slow progress in tackling obesity, as well as alcohol abuse. Despite England having the most obesity among adults in Western Europe, a government strategy on the issue was published only this year, the Healthcare Commission and the Audit Commission noted.


Huge downer for British Labour Party: "British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's worst nightmare was realised today as one of Labour's safest seats was lost in a key by-election. Labour's disastrous run of electoral setbacks continued when the Scottish National Party 's John Mason achieved the enormous 22 per cent swing required to topple the longtime stronghold of Glasgow East. The nationalists overturned a Labour majority of 13,507, triumphing by 365 votes, after polling a total of 11,277 to Labour's 10,912. While Mr Brown is not under immediate threat, it was the worst possible result as he prepares for a summer holiday and tries to chart a plan for his own and Labour's recovery. The result will intensify doubts among Labour MPs about Mr Brown's ability to win a general election and could spell trouble at Labour's conference in the autumn when a weakened Prime Minister will have trouble getting his way on a range of policy issues."