Sunday, August 10, 2008

Aggressive Greenie "protesters"

Coercion and self-publicity are the stock in trade of the Green/Left. They NEED to be noticed

Hundreds of riot police pushed back protesters at the Kingsnorth coal power station "climate camp" in Kent yesterday, as officers raided the site and made eight arrests. Kent Police seized four men aged between 24 and 45 for public order offences in dawn skirmishes. A 27-year-old man was also arrested for obstructing police and a 40-year-old man was held on suspicion of possessing a prohibited weapon.

Scuffles broke out as shield-carrying officers moved in to surround protesters in the afternoon after the high-profile arrival of five campaigners who are trying to breach a court order banning them from entering the site. Police also stopped food deliveries to the camp.

The five protesters - Paul Morozzo, Jonathan Stevenson, Ellen Potts, Mel Evans and Oli Rodker - were among 29 that were arrested in June for stopping a coal delivery train outside Drax power station in North Yorkshire. Their bail conditions ban them from going near any British power station and from attending the climate camp but they phoned ahead to warn the local police commander of their arrival aboard the 1.33pm train from London Victoria to Chatham, Kent.

Mr Morozzo, 41, was arrested after being identified as a bail-breaker but the other four managed to sneak inside the camp despite the police sealing off the perimeter and holding identity checks. Another man was arrested at the time. Lawyers warned the group they are likely to face prison by entering the site. A spokeswoman for Kent Police said: "Police are investigating the arrival of campaigners believed to have breached their bail conditions but we cannot confirm how many arrests have been made."

About 700 protesters were on site yesterday; police sources said they expect about 2,000 this week, gathering to show their disapproval at plans by the plant's owners, E.ON, to build a new coal-powered station on the site. Protesters have promised to shut down Kingsnorth on Saturday.

Before arriving at the site, Mr Morozzo said: "I'm pretty nervous about being arrested because I've never been to prison. It will be bad but the worst thing about being arrested will be that I won't get to go to an event that I have been planning for a long time. This is one of the most important issues of our generation and it's vital that we are allowed to discuss it. It's tragic that the police seem to want to stop that."

Mr Stevenson, 26, who remained at large last night, had prepared for arrest by posting his father a birthday card and texting his parents: "I'm sorry I haven't said anything before, but I didn't want to worry you. It looks like I might be arrested at climate camp. It is my choice and it's something I feel strongly about. Please don't be angry." Ms Potts, 32, added: "We are also doing this because we feel our bail conditions are disproportionate to our supposed offences. I can see the logic in keeping us away from power stations, but to keep us away from this event, where people are meeting to discuss how to tackle climate change, is wrong."


Why I'm not a good Samaritan

Britain today: Dangerous

Well, what would you have done? Linda Buchanan, 58, was verbally abused by two louts after she had asked them not to smoke on a crowded railway platform. They did the same the next day. On the third day, these big brave men shoved her off the platform and on to the rail tracks. It was only then that other commuters intervened.

I like to think I would have stepped in the first time. But, realistically, I can't be sure. Only the other day on a Tube, I saw two young men swigging wine from a bottle. Boris Johnson has outlawed consumption of alcohol anywhere on the Underground network. But the trouble is that he has not provided the resources to police the ban. I decided to say nothing, unlike a gentleman further down the carriage. He was braver than me and told them to pack it in.

You can imagine the result. "What the ---- are you going to do about it?" One then lit a cigarette. The passenger, wisely in my view, backed off. It was after 10pm; there were no staff in sight; there were no other passengers. We both got off at the next station to a chorus of abuse.

Both these incidents happened in a week when the 22nd teenager was murdered in London. Ryan Bravo, 18, was in a supermarket when he became caught up in a street gang feud. Another lad in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And so I have changed my pattern of behaviour. Would I walk late at night in certain areas? Never. Catch a night bus? Never. The last time I did, I dozed off and woke to the sound of four men kicking the hell out of an American tourist in the seat behind me. They stole his wallet. The driver connived in the crime by opening the door to let the gang off the bus. He didn't want any trouble, either.

A few years ago in east London, where I used to live, I was attacked by two hoodies. I fought back as best I could by wielding my briefcase at them. To my amazement, one hoodie went down. I grappled with the other, all the time shouting for help. A passerby who heard the commotion stopped at the gates of the park, but kept his distance until the boys had run away. He told me he felt guilty for not intervening. When I got home, I discovered the reason for my strength was not my regular work-outs, but a forgotten bottle of champagne in the bottom of my bag.

Would I do the same again? Never. I'd hand over my wallet today, because I would be scared the hoodies would have knives. In one of his most thoughtful speeches, David Cameron said: "There is a danger of becoming quite literally a de-moralised society, where nobody will tell the truth any more about what is good and bad, right and wrong." He's right. But I think there are many more people like me who fear that we have lost the courage to do the right thing.


Correct spelling under attack

Just because students can't spell `their' and `truly' doesn't mean we should accept variations that break all our useful rules

So English spelling is in the dock once again. This time it's students who write "thier", "ignor" and "arguement" (and obviously don't know how to use a spell checker). The solution? According to Ken Smith, an academic at Bucks New University, we should now tolerate variant spellings. Students are now incapable of learning the spellings of "their" and "truly" that countless millions have mastered over the centuries. So let's change our attitudes to spelling to help this deserving minority.

Two important things are left out of this argument. One is that English spelling does have a system. The silent "e" in "tone" shows that the preceding "o" is long; the lack of "e" in "ton" show the "o" is short.

And so on with all the other vowels: "Dane/Dan", "pin/pine" etc. (The exception is TV commercials for Danone that pronounce the name to rhyme with "salmon" in breach of the silent "e" rule.) If we allowed odd variants like "ignor/ignore", this would obscure the silent "e" system in English. Better to teach people the real rules of English spelling, not folk myths about "i" before "e", which at best affects 11 common words.

The real advantage of a sound-based system like English is indeed that anything can be read aloud - as newsreaders demonstrate with foreign names, such as Solzhenitsyn and Pervez Musharraf in the past couple of days. As the system has been around for centuries, it has stuck with various anomalies, like the 11 ways of saying "a" - "age", "bad", "bath", "about", "beat", "many", "aisle", "coat", "ball", "beauty" and "cauliflower". The only languages that don't have such problems are those with "shallow" spelling systems that were standardised comparatively recently, such as Finnish.

English is called a "deep" spelling system because of rules like silent "e" and because it treats words as wholes. When we're reading silently, we don't read words like "the" and "of" letter by letter; we recognise them as wholes, just as we recognise a Nike swoosh or McDonald's golden arches. We go straight from the whole word to its meaning without passing through the sounds. We recognise the two hundred or so most frequent words of English as shapes - and we couldn't read silently at speed if we didn't. But reading whole words also applies to the famous oddities like "lieutenant" and "yacht": we store them as one-offs and don't work out their pronunciation letter by letter.

If we made the spelling of "they're", "there" and "their" interchangeable, we would be ignoring all the aspects of English writing other than sounds. The three forms fit into sentences in very different ways; the difference in spelling helps us to see the structure of the sentence. Spelling makes distinctions that are impossible in speech, such as "whole" versus "hole" or "beech" versus "beach". Reducing writing to a pale shadow of speech is impoverishing the English language.

There's nothing very unusual about using whole words: it's how Chinese works. Speakers of the different Chinese dialects can understand each other in writing even if they have different words for the same character. An educated Chinese speaker knows about 5,000 characters; a dictionary has 40,000. Surely we can manage a few hundred unique words in English? Memorising the spelling of the hundred most common words of English would mean that you spelt at least 45 per cent of the words correctly in any piece of typical writing, quite a useful start.

The panel (above right) shows some of the words that English-speakers are most likely to get wrong, the variants that people produce and the percentage of web pages that get them wrong. Would accepting all these variants make life easier?

One type of variation is between styles of spelling. Look up "judgment" or "minuscule" and the preferred spelling varies between North American and British dictionaries and from publisher to publisher. It's a matter of identity; use "color" and you're American, use "colour" and you're British.

The most common type concerns the consonant doubling rules of English - "embarrass", "accommodate", "desiccate". "Supersede" and "definitely" are probably examples of one-offs where you have to remember the word as a unique whole.

Before adopting greater tolerance to spelling, we need to take many factors into consideration, not just how letters go with sounds. And we need to take far more people into consideration than UK students.

The majority of people using English in the world are not native speakers and live outside English-speaking countries. Any change will have to take their needs into account, in particular the need for a consistent spelling system with constant word forms rather than something based on native speakers' pronunciation and characteristic spelling mistakes.


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