Friday, August 29, 2008

Europe of the future: Germany shrinks, France grows, but UK population booms

Britain to be biggest country in EU by 2060. Population falls predicted in many other countries. Quantity is not quality, however. The British population includes a a large sub-group of African ultimate origin who have a high rate of crime, insanity and welfare dependancy -- and they account for a disproportionate number of the births. Any assumption that that sub-group will be net economic contributors in the year 2060 would be incautious

Britain will overtake Germany and France to become the biggest country in the EU in 50 years' time, according to population projections unveiled yesterday. A survey of demographic trends finds Britain's positive birth rate contrasting strongly with most other large countries in Europe.

The impact of population shrinkage, coupled with the ageing of key European societies, spells big problems for pensions, health and welfare systems across much of the union, says the report, published by Eurostat, the statistical service of the European commission. But Britain, it says, is likely to suffer less because of its strong population growth and the younger average age of British society.

Immigration is singled out as the sole mitigating factor, seen as crucial to maintaining population growth. But the report says this probably will not be enough to reverse the trend of population decline in many countries. The survey predicts that Britain's population by 2060 will increase by 25% from the current figure of just over 61 million to almost 77 million.

Germany is the biggest country in the EU, with more than 82 million people, but it is likely to shed almost 12 million by 2060, says the report. The widely praised family policies and support of working women in France means that the French population will rise to almost 72 million by 2060.

With the British birth rate now at its highest in a generation - 1.91 children per woman according to the Office for National Statistics last week - the UK has less to fear about any "generation wars" brought on by the "demographic timebomb" of ageing and shrinking populations where those in work cannot support the pension needs of retired citizens. "With climate change and globalisation the ageing of the population is one of the major challenges Europe must face," said Amelia Torres, a commission spokeswoman.

Of the biggest six EU countries (Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Spain and Poland) Britain has by far the greatest birth rates. Only Luxembourg, Cyprus, and Ireland are growing faster than the UK.

The average age of Europeans is now just over 40; this will be 48 by 2060. The average age for Britons is 39 and will be 42 in 2060 - the lowest age in Europe with the exception of Luxembourg. The EU's population now stands at 495 million and is projected to rise to more than 520 million by 2035, before falling to 505 million by 2060. "From 2015 onwards deaths would outnumber births, and population growth due to natural increase, would cease," says the survey, assuming a net migration inflow to the EU of almost 60 million over the next 50 years. "Positive net migration would be the only population growth factor. However, from 2035 this positive net migration would no longer counterbalance the negative natural change."

Across the EU's 27 countries there are now four people of working age for every person over 65, but by 2060 that ratio will be 2:1, causing stress on welfare and pension systems. Torres said pension and health systems had to be reformed.

Fourteen of the 27 countries are projected to have smaller populations in 50 years' time. The survey reveals striking contrasts, between eastern and western Europe and between the north and south, with Scandinavia and Britain comparing positively with Mediterranean Europe, while central and eastern Europe see chronic population depression.

The number of people aged 65 or more broadly doubles across the EU, with Britons of retirement age being almost 19 million. While the number of Germans of working age is predicted to decline from 54 million now to 39 million by 2060, in Britain the figure rises by more than 4 million.

Across the EU, the number of children under 14 will drop from 77 million to 71 million, but in the UK the number rises by 2 million. In Britain the proportion of over-80s will double to 9% while across the EU it will triple to 12%.

The UK population is increasing at a rate of around 1,000 people a day according to figures released by the National Statistics agency earlier this month. Children aged under 16 represent around one in five of the total population, around the same proportion as those of retirement age. UK fertility rates dropped steadily during the 1980s and 1990s but began to increase again from 2003.

The strongly Roman Catholic countries of Europe are having fewer babies. The Italian population will stay the same over the next 50 years, while Poland's and Lithuania's will shrink considerably. Spain's population is forecast to increase by 6 million. Life expectancy is also rising. In Ireland, women will live to 89 and men to 85. Almost one in three Europeans will be of pensionable age if 65 remains the threshold


"Dangerous" board game seized by moronic British police

A War On Terror board game designed in Cambridge has been seized by police who claim the balaclava in the set could be used in a criminal act. The satirical board game was confiscated along with knives, chisels and bolt cutters, from climate protesters during a series of raids near Kingsnorth power station, in Kent, last week.

The game's creators, Andrew Sheerin and Andy Tompkins, web designers from Cambridge, have expressed total shock at the inclusion of their toy among "criminal" items. Andrew, 32, said: "I saw pictures of the board game in papers and was absolutely baffled. "Surely no member of the public is going to believe that a board game could be used as a weapon?"

War on Terror, similar to games like Risk, revolves around creating empires that compete and wage war. But there is a twist - players can poke fun at the rhetoric of world leaders like George Bush and Tony Blair. The game was born from the frustration of its creators as they sat watching the news in the run up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Each player starts as an empire filled with good intentions and a determination to liberate the world from terrorists and from each other.

Then the reality of world politics kicks and terrorist states emerge. Andrew said: "The terrorists can win and quite often do and it's global anarchy. It sums up the randomness of geo-politics pretty well."

In their cardboard version of realpolitik George Bush's "Axis of Evil" is reduced to a spinner in the middle of the board, which determines which player is designated a terrorist state. That person then has to wear a balaclava (included in the box set) with the word "Evil" stitched on to it.

Kent police said they had confiscated the game because the balaclava "could be used to conceal someone's identity or could be used in the course of a criminal act".

Andrew fumed: "It's absurd. A beard can conceal someone's identity. Are the police going to start banning beards?"

All High Street retailers declined to stock the controversial game. But more than 12,000 copies have been sold online or through independent stockists.


England's surveillance state at work

Dreary old England is suffering mightily under the weight of the authoritarian government of the Labour Party. Labour has been working assiduously to impose a total surveillance state trampling on traditional British freedoms. First, here is a video of the local police randomly stopping people and demanding to search them. As they make clear, if you do not "consent" to being searched you will be arrested. Of course, once they arrest you they can search you. In other words, in England, the police may search anyone they wish, anytime they wish without any probable cause.

One British "subject" has filmed this sort of police state mentality. It is hard to understand some aspects of the video as the sound is not totally up to par. Please note that these these officers are not only searching the man's belongings but frisking him, going through his pockets, looking in his wallet, and flipping through the books he reads. Notice the lie they tell. They argue that they are looking for anything that can be used by terrorists. But they start going through his credit cards and looking through his wallet. And then, when they find nothing wrong, they send in his details to check up on the man.

Basically the cops end up arguing that anything a "terrorists" could use can be inspected by them at any time they wish. Of course the terrorists can use anything. Also watch as people walk by and look over at this poor man being searched. You know that many of them are wondering what this man did that was illegal to be apprehended by the police.

The last time I was in the UK I saw a thug harassing an older woman inside the local McDonalds. I complained to the staff who did nothing. I went outside and told the police. The thug walked out and I pointed him out. The police REFUSED to do anything saying they didn't want to "embarrass" him in "front of his mates". Apparently guilty people shouldn't be embarrassed but innocent people deserve to be frisked, searched and checked out on some central data base. Sieg heil! The one thing I will say is that, as disgusting as this is, in the U.S. merely asking the police the questions this man asked would have gotten him beaten, perhaps tasered and possibly shot.

Meanwhile the Telegraph reports that the local councils are using the antiterrorism surveillance systems to spy on "couples' sleeping arrangements." Taxes are based, not only on the value of property, but also on the number of people living there. So councils "undertake `surveillance' of cars registered to addresses `to substantiate the allegation of living together.'" Documents from one council show they are checking to see if couples are living "as husband and wife."

In Thurrock single residents are required to sign a document giving blanket permission to local bureaucrats "to enter their home as part of an inspection" to determine if they really are single or in a couple. If they have a partner their tax rate increases by one-third. A spokesman for the Conservative Party said:
Day by day under Labour, the country is sleepwalking into a surveillance state, where spying on citizens has become the norm. Laws which were originally intended to tackle the most serious crimes and safeguard the public are now being deployed routinely and without hesitation.

Councils will naturally wish to ensure that council tax discounts and benefits are not wrongly claimed. But I am concerned that innocent citizens will be spied on through heavy-handed and disproportionate use by town hall snoopers. There are far less intrusive and more cost-effective ways of vetting council tax, such as through data matching, rather than paying town hall officials to camp out overnight outside people's homes.

The fact such snooping is already over-used by local authorities bodes ill for the planned powers for town halls to access communications data. There are insufficient checks and balances to prevent people's sex lives being habitually monitored by state bureaucrats, purely because they claim a council tax discount for living alone.

Bureaucrats with the Local Government Association have a unique stand on the matter. They say "Pretending to live alone to defraud the taxpayer is not a victimless crime." This goes on the assumption that your wealth belongs to the government and they let you keep some of it. If you keep more of your own income then the government has to take more of other people's income. So it is your fault that they are confiscating more wealth from other people. Thus keeping your own money is a crime against others.

Already it has been shown that government powers initially created to "stop terrorism" have been used by councils to arrest people whose dog took a shit in the wrong place or who dumped trash in the wrong location.

But one government official, with the title of Interception of Communications Commissioner, Paul Kennedy, complained that the local councils were not using their spying powers enough. He suggested that more councils spy on people to fight crimes "such as skipping work and filing fraudulent overtime claims." The Telegraph reports: "Councils across the country were criticised last month as it emerged that they used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act up to 10,000 times a year to investigate such petty offences as dog fouling and under-age smoking."

And while the Conservative Party is, this now, whining about the surveillance state, only days ago they were demanding that police powers be expanded to do more surveillance. Then another Tory spokesman said: "It is not right that we charge our police with combating crime and disorder and then tie their hands behind their backs.... the police should be given both the resources and the freedom to use those resources to do their job." In that incident the Tories said that restraints to protect citizens from spying were "red tape" and promised to make it easier to spy, including putting in wire taps, without any court permission required.


Kindly old NHS decides not to let people go blind after all

Thousands have gone blind while the authorities spent over two years dithering, though

For the first time a drugs company will pay to top up patients' treatment where the level of care paid for by the Health Service is not enough. In a decision that marks a climbdown for the National Institute for health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the first 14 injections of the sight-saving drug Lucentis will be paid for by the NHS. If the patient still needs further treatment then Novartis, the manufacturer, will pay for any additional doses.

The ruling overturns previous draft guidance that patients would have to go blind in one eye before receiving treatment with Lucentis, which costs more than $20,000 per eye, on the second. It also paves the way for other new drugs for which top-up doses may be required to be funded in the same way in future.

Richard Barker, director general of the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry suggested other medicines the NHS cannot afford to pay for in full could be provided through cost sharing schemes between the NHS and the drugs industry. A similar approach has been suggested for kidney cancer drug Sutent, which costs $48,000 a year, and three other drugs after Nice issued draft guidance saying that they were not "cost effective" despite extending life by two months.

NICE has been severely criticised in recent months by health campaigners, who have accused them of condemning patients to "an early grave" by denying them the drugs. It has also been at the centre of a previous controversy over its decision to deny the $5-a-day drug Aricept to victims of Alzheimer's in the early stages of the disease.

Lucentis can stop the deterioration in sight caused by the condition wet age related macular degeneration (AMD), which affects about 250,000 people in the UK including 26,000 new cases each year. It can cause blindness within three months. Up until now around 40 per cent of primary care trusts have refused to fund the drug while others have approved its use only in 'exceptional cases' although the drug was approved in Scotland last year.

Nice has taken over two and a half years to issue its final guidance on the drug in which time many thousands of people have already gone blind as a result of the condition. The drug has no effect on the condition once the patient has gone blind.

Andrew Dillon, NICE Chief Executive, said the decision would be justified by both the improved quality of life for patients and cost savings in the long run. "Lucentis is an expensive drug, costing more than $20,000 for each eye treated," he said. "But that cost needs to be balanced against the likely cost savings. AMD results in reduced quality of life and increased risks of illness, particularly in relation to accidents - especially falls - and psychological ill-health. "Studies have also demonstrated that patients with visual impairment tend to have longer hospitalisations, make greater use of health and community care services and are more likely to be admitted to nursing homes.

"It has been estimated that the costs related to sight impairment for patients treated with Lucentis are around $16,000 cheaper than for patients who receive best supportive care over a 10 year period. Our guidance means that patients who are suitable for this treatment will have the same access to it, irrespective of where they live."

Steve Winyard, Head of Campaigns at Royal National Institute for the Blind, said: "We've been waiting for this for over two years. It is a victory for thousands, bringing overwhelming relief to desperate people across the country. Finally the torment faced by elderly people forced to either spend their life savings on private treatment or go blind, is over. "NICE's guidance will finally bring an end to a cruel postcode lottery." Primary care trusts in England and Wales now have three months to fund the treatment for all eligible patients....

The ABPI's Mr Barker said drug companies were being flexible and suggesting cost sharing schemes but Nice had to be flexible also.

The decision comes after Health Secretary Alan Johnson ordered an investigation into the policy of denying NHS services to patients in England who top up their care with private treatment. Currently, anyone who pays for any private care can be barred from receiving the normal package of NHS care but the review will look at whether such co-payments should be allowed in future.

In July, RNIB also backed three pensioners in landmark High Court action against Warwickshire PCT for denying them treatment. Tom Bremridge, chief executive of The Macular Disease Society said: "Those responsible for NICE should be aware that during the cumbersome two year review process 152 PCTs have individually had the power to decide whether to let patients go blind or to save their sight. The resulting stress and suffering has been cruel and unnecessary. "Many hundreds of vulnerable patients have been subjected to an appalling emotional rollercoaster ride for the past two years - during which many of them have lost their remaining sight."

He called for Nice to speed up drug appraisals in order to avoid primary care trusts around the country making different decisions on funding drugs that have not yet been through Nice....

Dr Rafiq Hasan, Director of Market Access and Ophthalmics at Novartis said the new agreement was "an innovative approach which shows how pharmaceutical companies can work together with Nice and the Department of Health to ensure patients do get access to treatments on the NHS." He said: "Wet AMD is a debilitating eye condition that can result in a rapid loss of sight if left untreated. Lucentis is a treatment for a key unmet medical need and it has the potential to save many peoples' sight. "Rapid implementation of the guidance is now needed to ensure that patients receive the treatment they need as soon as possible."


Some interesting history

It is well known that the American Founding Fathers were profoundly influenced by England's "Glorious Revolution" of 1688, which had overthrown a reactionary British monarch in the name of Enlightenment principles, religious liberty and representative institutions. Yet were those truly the ideals of the 1688 Revolution? If not, "the spirit of 1776" was based on a false premise.

Lisa Jardine, a professor at the University of London, pursues this theme in "Going Dutch," a thoroughly researched and provocative revisionist study. She argues that the Glorious Revolution was far from glorious and less a revolution than a blatant invasion. Nor was it a great blow for liberty: 1688, she contends, was a naked power grab by the Statholder of Holland, William of Orange, who sought to oust his father-in-law, King James II, for the sake of his own interests and those of the Dutch Republic; all the talk of liberty and high ideals was just Dutch propaganda.

If Ms. Jardine is right, men like Jefferson, Franklin and Adams were duped, for, as Michael Barone recounted last year in "Our First Revolution," 1776 was a conscious re-run of 1688. Was the U.S. created at least partly out of piety toward a slick Dutch con job?

Ms. Jardine presents a close analysis of the plotting going on in William's court before his fleet of 500 ships and 30,000 men set sail for England on Nov. 1, 1688; months of preparation, she shows, went into creating the right political conditions for the invasion. She persuades us that, in part, a fear that France would invade Holland led William to attempt the attack on James II, hoping to use London to foil Louis XIV's designs. In part, she argues, William sought to exploit England's maritime power on behalf of Holland, or at least to negate British hostility to Dutch global expansionism, especially in the East Indies....

Once William had landed on the south coast of England on Nov. 5, 1688, and found himself cheered in the streets, he marched swiftly on to London, while James II fled, dropping the Great Seal of England into the Thames and burning parliamentary writs, vainly hoping that such efforts might stymie William's legislative legitimacy. English regiments such as the Coldstream Guards were deftly negotiated out of London, and only Dutch troops were allowed to keep order in the capital.

It is a beguiling thesis, but flawed, for the simple reason that William was invited to invade by the English Whig aristocracy and that his "Declaration," far from being "spin," was the only basis on which he was allowed to set foot in England. If the domestic Protestant governing classes had not effectively chosen William over James, the Dutch invasion fleet would have met the fate of the Spanish Armada.

The 1688 revolution was indeed glorious, and also a revolution, because it replaced -- without bloodshed, until James sought to reverse the outcome two years later -- an obscurantist would-be dictator of alien religious views with William III, the savior of English liberties, commercial practices, religious beliefs and world-outlook. That he was Dutch was immaterial ... William of Orange's "Declaration," then, was an honest document, as his benevolent rule -- and that of his wife, Mary -- would prove. Together they passed a Toleration Act and a Bill of Rights, furthering religious and political liberty. They founded the Bank of England, greatly increased trade and stayed out of war with France until Louis XIV rashly recognized James Stuart, James II's son, as England's rightful king. The reign of William and Mary, in short, was a golden age in British history. The Founding Fathers were right to draw inspiration from it.

More here

Britain's education rat-race

Are you a pushy parent? Am I a pushy parent? Once upon a time we all knew what the term stood for. It was Violet Elizabeth Bott's father in a Roller demanding his spoilt darling got the best of everything. [Violet Elizabeth Bott is a character in the "Just William" stories]. In classic children's literature you can tell a good parent by their desire, above all else, that their offspring should not become "big-headed". It was all so deliciously unambiguous back then.

Cut to 2008 and being pushy is an arch crime in some quarters and a supreme virtue in others. Earlier this year, aggressively ambitious parents were blamed for the cancelling of Hickstead's junior show-jumping events. But few accusations come as loaded with bile as the suspected crime of shoving your angel to the top of the educational pile. Middle-class parents who "play the system" are so frequently blamed for the failings of the state system you'd think teachers and the Government played no part at all.

In 1996, a Labour politico called Andrew Adonis protested that, "securing places in popular church schools is an art form for the professional classes". What a difference a decade makes. On Sunday Lord Adonis, schools minister, said: "I want every parent to be a pushy parent. It is a jolly good thing." Is it, by Jove? Even if few things make you reach for an axe quicker than an acquaintance citing their child's IQ or violin grade?

My little boy starts school next month and I'm already daunted by the middle-class angst that surrounds all educational decisions. Most trips to the playground now involve a lengthy discussion - or justification - about our choice.

Some parents seem mystified that we chose our local state primary (good to average Ofsted report), others tell me with pinched expressions that our son is in the "better" reception class, with smarter parents "where fewer languages" are spoken. (How on earth do they know? Term hasn't even started.)

Lord Adonis now believes that parents who abandon deficient schools and fight to get their children into the best establishments boost the whole system. Yet this is nearly as fatuous an argument as the old one that blamed pushy parents for dismal state schooling. What has happened under this Government is that when ambitious parents have bolted for enclaves of academic excellence, children from less motivated backgrounds have been left ever further behind.

And for all the vote-winning exhortations to parents to enjoy a guilt-free sprint for the golden prizes, nobody's found a convincing rescue package for the illiterate stragglers in our educational ghettoes.

A good old-fashioned race is now, of course, an approved activity. Gordon Brown used the Olympics to admit that old Labour got things badly wrong when it waged a war on competitive school sports. With luck this means an end to the sports day cited by a friend that consisted of children in circles chucking beanbags through hoops. But Brown's new-found enthusiasm for hearty sporting competition raises a bigger question.

Will he admit that the loony Left did an even greater disservice when it tried to smother academic competition? Boys in particular have failed to thrive in an educational arena that stifles naturally combative tendencies. Of course, where there are winners there will also be losers; but can't we return to the days when dunces found compensation in sporting glory and weeds found consolation in A-grade Algebra?

As term starts, parents face an additional hurdle - how to keep children nit-free. Head-lice have become resistant to most chemicals, which at least means your children can evade the night-time ritual of a head coated in vile Prioderm. My cousin's wife, a mother of five, offers a top tip - she swears by Clairol hair dye. Choose the shade closest to your child's natural tone and this coats the hair shafts, which deters lice and prevents eggs sticking. Stylish, cool, and they won't stink of nit shampoo.


'Man on the street' is offensive to women

Or so says a document put out by Chichester District Council, West Sussex, in England:
"The document claims the popular saying is based on the assumption that the world is male and makes the views or work of women invisible. It suggests that town hall officers should use "general public" a positive and less offensive alternative. The guide also kills off the phrase "manning the switchboard" and suggests "staffing" or "running the switchboard" instead

The council said that the document, which is distributed to all staff and council members, is not a rulebook but a guide to help staff and members find the correct words. A spokesman said: "We introduced the guide because as community leaders we must be aware of what modern society requires of the public sector. This includes the sensitivity of various individuals and groups, and current thinking in society in general.


No comments: