Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sack race is banned as health risk in British school

The sack race and three-legged race have been banned from a school sports day because the children might fall over and hurt themselves. Parents and campaigners described the move as “completely over the top”. Teachers at John F. Kennedy Primary School in Washington dropped the events after discussions with Beamish Open Air Museum, where the Edwardian-themed sports day is being held today.

About 375 children are dressing up in period costume for the event. Running, hopping and throwing table-tennis balls into buckets will be allowed.

Laura Midgley, founder of the Campaign Against Political Correctness, said: “It’s health and safety rules gone mad. I think it’s completely over the top. The worst thing that could possibly happen is the children fall over.”

Simon Woolley, head of education at Beamish in Co Durham, said: “We looked at a three-legged race and a sack race but what we want to do is minimise the risk to the children. We thought we would be better to do hopping and running instead because there was less chance of them falling over.”


Seeing Red Over "Green" Taxes

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is about to get raked over the coals in parliament over his latest greenmail scheme. The proposed "green" change to road taxes will subject a huge number of Britons to a massive tax increase - retroactively - for driving cars with larger engines. British MPs are furious.
The Treasury admitted on Wednesday that almost half of all drivers will be hit with significant rises in Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) on cars with larger engines. Less than 20 per cent will be better off because of tax cuts on cars with lower emissions.

But only last month in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister told David Cameron, the Tory leader, that if he looked at the VED plan, "he will see that the majority of drivers will benefit from it." George Osborne, the Tory shadow chancellor, has said that Mr Brown "misled" parliament, and called on the Prime Minister to explain his remark...

..The plans - against which The Daily Telegraph has campaigned - are especially controversial because they are effectively back-dated, applying to cars that are already on the road. Treasury figures slipped out in a parliamentary answer show that of the 21.9 million cars that will be on British roads by 2010/11, 43 per cent - or 9.4 million - will pay higher VED in real terms than they do now. Another 39 per cent - 8.4 million - will be left no better off. Just 18 per cent - 4.1 million - will actually benefit.

Of the 9.4 million who will be worse off, 1.18 million motorists will be dragged into the highest two tax bands, where the annual cost is upwards of $800.

How bad is it? Well, even Greenpeace is saying the scheme gives "green" taxes a bad name. Just a quick prediction here. The scheme will get changed before it take effect and Gordon Brown will be gainfully unemployed when he next faces the voters.


From here to (better) maternity: A long road for Britain

The experience of giving birth is getting worse. Mothers need greater choice, not bigger hospitals

In between the tea ceremonies, the cruises and learning to fold kimonos, the wives at the G8 summit in Lake Toya have been campaigning against maternal mortality. It's the perfect choice for the spouses, a subject surely as uncontentious as gazing at waterlilies. No one wants mothers to die in childbirth. Everyone must be shocked that a woman dies every minute giving birth and that there is a global shortage of four million midwives. Yet no one does anything about it.

The British should know. We are increasingly bad at giving birth. In the past ten years spending on maternity services has gone up by a quarter in real terms. Yet the satisfaction rates have plummeted, Britain's maternal death rate is one of the highest in Europe at 7.3 per 100,000 births compared with an average of 6.8, and the free-market think-tank Reform says that maternity care now accounts for more than half of all negligence claims against the NHS.

According to a study into maternal care published by the Healthcare Commission yesterday, most units do not have enough beds or showers and two thirds of trusts still offer no choice of how to deliver baby, leaving women feeling powerless. But the real problem is that the money has been directed at building projects rather than people. The proportion of the NHS workforce represented by midwives has dropped from 2.1 per cent to 1.7 per cent in ten years and some midwives are now in charge of a quarter more births than they were in 2001.

When I had my first child, in 2000, I gave birth in the cramped Queen Charlotte's Hospital in London in the same room where I had been born. The paint was peeling off the radiators, the blinds were stuck in a June heatwave and you had to import your Jaffa cakes from the local garage. Yet the system worked. You had your own midwife who followed your every twinge and came to celebrate your baby's first birthday. “This is not a hotel,” the midwives would say when you asked for more than one piece of toast on the ward, but they had the time to teach mothers how to feed their babies and change their nappies.

When my second baby was born two years later, the hospital had moved to a gleaming new site overlooking Wormwood Scrubs, with cappuccinos in the canteen - but the experience was harrowing. The midwives appeared as exhausted as the patients and rotated faster than the fans. They had to follow a raft of directives rather than their intuition. I got down on my knees just minutes after the birth to clean the floor before my parents arrived because nobody else had time to clear up the mess.

When my fourth child arrived, I brought in a bucket and brush but I didn't need it. The hospital was so overstretched that I was sent home within two hours of giving birth.

The postnatal experience has deteriorated even more rapidly. Terry, my first health visitor, had been looking after new mothers for more than 20 years. While she made us both tea, she was quietly working out whether I was elated or depressed and how many bottles of wine were stacked in the bin. But she had given up by the time I had my second child because she couldn't stand the doubling of her workload. She never saw the same mother twice; instead her job was to collate information on the religion and ethnicity of every baby. Our last health visitor spent an hour filling out forms and never touched our baby, which is presumably why she registered my son as a girl on every document.

Although under Lord Darzi of Denham's plans more money will be spent on building new supersize units, in recent years 41 small maternity units have been closed or are now under threat. Yet Britain already has the biggest maternity units in Europe, and these have shown no improvement on maternal mortality. The bigger the unit, the more impersonal and daunting the service will become. There may be more consultants for emergencies but most women will never see one. The Government has promised it will solve this by returning to one-to-one midwife care but there is already a shortage of 5,000 midwives and there isn't the money to fund such a specialised system.

It's easy to think that pregnant women don't matter: they are not ill (as I was constantly told) and they are not going to come back often. Very few actually die in childbirth or of postnatal complications, so all they need is a building, a nameless face shouting “push” and an ability to cross their legs until they actually make it - sometimes miles away - to their nearest super-hospital.

But for many women this is the first time they have ventured into a hospital since they were born and the weeks after their baby's birth can be crucial in helping them to cope with motherhood. Instead of queueing up to drop their children in supersize baby battery farms, they need to feel that someone cares about this new life. So let women go free-range and choose the type of care they want - whether in smaller units, at home or in a larger hospital with a consultant on hand - and give them a friendly face to guide them through the process.


The penny drops: British equality laws `are now holding women back'

Maternity rights damage chances of hiring and promotion

The radical extension of maternity leave and parents' rights is sabotaging women's careers, according to the head of the new equalities watchdog. Nicola Brewer said that it was an inconvenient truth that giving women a year off work after the birth of each child - soon to be paid throughout - was making employers think twice before offering a job or promotion. The chief executive of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission was speaking to The Times on the eve of a speech in which she will call for a significant rethink of family policy.

Ms Brewer said that generous maternity benefits had entrenched the assumption that only mothers brought up children and failed to hasten a social revolution where both parents were equally responsible for caring for their family.

British fathers have the most unequal rights in Europe, entitled to only two weeks of leave compared with 52 for mothers. At the moment, nine months of maternity leave is paid, but this will rise to a year by the end of the current Parliament.

Ms Brewer said that calls to the commission's helpline from women who had lost their jobs after becoming pregnant suggested that they were paying a heavy price for their new rights. She said that her fears deepened earlier this year when the entrepreneur Sir Alan Sugar claimed that many employers binned the CVs of women of childbearing age. Business leaders have criticised the new maternity laws, saying that they are a headache for employers and that it is difficult to plan the workforce if parents go part-time. But this is the first time that a criticism has come from an organisation that campaigns on behalf of women.

Ms Brewer said she feared that plans to extend the right to request flexible working hours until children were 16 could hamper women's employment prospects further. Of the one million parents who have made use of flexible hours so far, the overwhelming majority are women. "There has been a sea change on maternity leave and flexible work and we welcome that," she said. "But the effect has been to reinforce some traditional patterns. The Work and Families Act has not freed parents and given them real choice. It is based on assumptions, and some of the terms reinforce the traditional pattern of women as the carers of children." She added: "We have come a long way but after winning all these gains it is worth asking: are we still on the right track? The thing I worry about is that the current legislation and regulations have had the unintended consequence of making women a less attractive prospect to employers."

Although the latest legislation allows for the last six months of maternity leave to be transferred to the father if the mother goes back to work earlier, but that misses the point, she says. "The way it is framed means it is up to the women to transfer the leave to the man. It is not his right," she said. Ms Brewer said that it was not a case of taking away the new rights from mothers but of extending them to fathers. In her speech today she will ask why men should not be entitled to 12 weeks of leave on 90 per cent of their earnings following the birth of a child - the same as women.

She questioned the way in which the Government and opposition parties always tried to make a business case for each piece of family-friendly legislation. "Of course, there is a business case for these changes and many companies are going further," she said, "but this is a social argument as well as an economic one. There may well be a cost [to business], but as a society we are already thinking in terms of wellbeing as well as take-home pay."

Officials at the commission say that they are studying research from Sweden that has found that fathers who take up to two years off work after the birth of a child are 30 per cent less likely to get divorced. A six-month consultation exercise is to be launched today through the online chat rooms Mumsnet and

Katherine Rake, director of the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for equality between women and men, said that she shared the commission's concerns about the effect of legislation on women's careers. "Under EU law employment rights once given cannot be taken away, so there is no point regretting past decisions," she said. "The Government should both better protect pregnant workers and introduce paid parental leave that supports mums and dads to share care."

The commission has in the past been accused of courting controversy. Trevor Phillips, the chairman, said in April that a lack of control over immigration had led to a "cold war" between rival ethnic communities. He also criticised the Archbishop of Canterbury for saying that Sharia should have a role in the legal system.


Climate Sensitivity Reconsidered

From Physics & Society: July 2008, Volume 37, Number 3

By Christopher Monckton of Brenchley


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007) concluded that anthropogenic CO2 emissions probably caused more than half of the "global warming" of the past 50 years and would cause further rapid warming. However, global mean surface temperature has not risen since 1998 and may have fallen since late 2001. The present analysis suggests that the failure of the IPCC's models to predict this and many other climatic phenomena arises from defects in its evaluation of the three factors whose product is climate sensitivity:

1. Radiative forcing deltaF;
2. The no-feedbacks climate sensitivity parameter kappa and
3. The feedback multiplier f

Some reasons why the IPCC's estimates may be excessive and unsafe are explained. More importantly, the conclusion is that, perhaps, there is no "climate crisis", and that currently-fashionable efforts by governments to reduce anthropogenic CO2 emissions are pointless, may be ill-conceived, and could even be harmful.

More here

There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.

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