Saturday, August 16, 2008

Paperwork more important than saving a life?

Only in Britain: Coastguards face reprimand for using "uninspected" boat to rescue girl

A volunteer coastguard crew face disciplinary action after going to the rescue of a teenage swimmer in a boat that had recently been repaired and was awaiting a seaworthiness inspection.

The four crewmen were on duty at Hope Cove in South Devon when the 15-year-old girl was swept out to sea by a powerful rip tide. They braved heavy surf to launch their 17ft rigid inflatable. The girl was rescued by a diver and the coastguard crew brought her ashore. But within hours their boat had been confiscated and the station officer and his crew had been threatened with disciplinary action.

The boat had been out of service since June and the 11-strong crew, fed up with waiting for it to be repaired by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), spent $4,000 of their own money on the work. But the repairs had yet to be approved and the boat - which has rescued more than 120 people since 2000 - was languishing in the boathouse at the pretty fishing village awaiting a further inspection.

Ian Pedrick, 49, the station officer, radioed for permission to launch the boat because the girl was already 150 yards out to sea but the crew lost radio contact with coastguard headquarters at Brixham and went ahead with the rescue.

Within three hours the boat was towed away by a senior MCA officer and is now locked in a garage at their office five miles away in Kingsbridge. Mr Pedrick, who runs the Hope and Anchor pub near the beach, said that he had been ordered by the MCA not to comment on the incident. Dave Clark, aged 54, a recently retired coastguard, said: "Everyone in the village is very angry. They feel the crew are being punished for trying to save a life. "The boat at Hope Cove is vital because it takes 25 minutes for the lifeboat to get from Salcombe and a swimmer could easily drown. When the MCA withdrew the boat in June they said it would be for six weeks but the crew wanted it back as soon as possible so they paid for the repairs themselves.

"They were then told it had to stay off service until it was surveyed and that would have taken it out for the whole of the summer season. Anyone would have done the same thing when they saw the girl in trouble."

A spokesman for the MCA said: "The health and safety of the boat crews and those who they may render assistance to is of paramount importance." He added: "Search-and-rescue effectiveness will not be compromised by the suspension of the general purpose boat. These general purpose boats are additional facilities and are not generally used as part of the first response to an incident. "We have identified serious breaches of health and safety procedures and they are currently being investigated. The boat has been stood down for a further eight weeks while we investigate the possibility of repair or replacement." [I'd like to shoot that c*nt!]


Stupid EU rules lead to huge waste of fish

A UK fishing boat has been caught on film dumping tons of unwanted fish into the sea. A Norwegian coastguard vessel took video footage of a Shetland boat discarding about 80 per cent of its catch. Under EU rules the trawler Prolific had no choice to but to get rid of the fish because they were the wrong type. The film of the discard at a time of diminishing fish stocks and food shortages has caused outrage in Norway which is not an EU member.

Norway bans the dumping of fish in its own waters but the Prolific - which caught the fish legally in Norwegian waters - waited until it reached British waters in the North Sea before dropping an estimated five tons of fish overboard. In the film a steady stream of fish mostly saithe - a relative of the cod - can be seen being pumped out of the hold and hands are also seen emptying boxes of fish over the side.

Norwegian Fisheries and Coastal Affairs Minister Helga Pedersen slammed the incident and said she will now demand that all foreign vessels fishing in Norwegian waters must land all fish caught at whatever port the boat docks in. She described discard as one of the most serious threats to sustainable management and added: "Discard is a terrible practice. In addition to the moral aspects of this sheer waste of food, discards lead to unrecorded catches, which lead to incorrect fisheries statistics, which again disrupt the basis for scientific assessments of stocks and scientific advice on management."

Greenpeace Oceans campaigner Willie MacKenzie said: "The best scientific advice is that we shouldn't be fishing for cod at all because stocks have been so depleted in the North Sea and yet here we have tons of fish being dumped overboard. "Discard is happening all the time but normally it takes place at sea where nobody can see what is happening. This incident has to be multiplied many, many times to get an idea of the scale of the waste. "The fishermen would say it happens because quotas are too small and they have to throw fish back but you would have to be insane to agree with that argument."

The incident on August 2 has also led to angry exchanges on websites with one Norwegian claiming: "It is morally wrong and its just p***ing in your own bed. This has been illegal in Norway since the eighties and the boat would have been arrested had it done it in the Norwegian sector. It is just calculated environmental criminality. The whole thing is very provocative, disappointing and shocking."

But Hansen Black, chief executive of the Shetland Fishermen's Association, said the Prolific had been caught between a rock and a hard place. "The system forces fishermen to go to a place they are unfamiliar with to seek the fish they have quotas for. Unfortunately in this case they landed a quantity of saithe which they didn't have a quota for. "If they had dumped it there and then they would have been breaking Norwegian laws and if they had landed it back in the UK they would have been fined. "They did the only think they could do which was to steam 100 miles away - wasting time and fuel - to an area where they hoped to find the type of fish they are entitled to catch and where they could legally dump the saithe. "This is a horrible indictment of the system fishermen have to operate under. These are young men under massive pressures trying to make a living. No fisherman wants to dump fish - his job is to find fish for people to eat - not to see it thrown over the side."

A Defra spokesperson said: "Throwing dead fish back into the sea is a waste that nobody wants to see, but there is no easy answer. "UK fishermen have shown that they are committed to finding new ways of protecting vulnerable stocks, and the European Union has backed a UK action plan designed to reduce the amount of discards. "The UK is keen to ensure more effective and sustainable fisheries by reducing by-catch and discards, and the Government is working closely with fishermen to achieve that."

Mark Anderson, skipper of the Prolific's sister boat, Copious, returned to Shetland after five weeks at sea, and said he had not yet seen the film footage. He said the vast majority of the fish that was dumped by the Prolific was not cod, as reported in the national media, but low value coley or saithe. He said it was not too small to land but had it been brought ashore part of their fishing quota would have been lost. Mr Anderson condemned the European quota rules which force fishing boats to dump vast quantities of fish by only giving permission to land small quantities. "This is all about quota management. They give us so little that we have to do crazy things just to make a living. Two years ago when we came with the Copious the quotas were better, but what they have done is whittled it away," he said.


NHS discriminates against the old

i.e. those who need medical care most. Great system!

Hospitals have been accused of age discrimination after a study found that they failed to provide basic standards of care to many patients aged 50 and over. Health experts found shortfalls in the quality of care offered to patients with conditions such as osteoarthritis, incontinence and osteoporosis. They also found that doctors paid particular attention to assessments that earned them extra money, including heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Nick Steel, senior lecturer in primary care at the University of East Anglia, who led the study, said: "One of the conditions that came out worst was osteoarthritis, where we asked people if they'd received basic advice such as doing exercises to control the condition, and whether they had effective pain relief. "At the more severe end of the scale, for those with severe osteoarthritis, we asked if they had been given the opportunity to see a specialist to talk about joint replacement. There were also issues around whether elderly patients had been asked the reason for their falls. These types of areas did not fare so well in the study."

The research, published in the British Medical Journal, found that the quality of healthcare for people with common health conditions "varied substantially by condition". The researchers quantified what treatments for 13 different conditions - including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, depression and osteoarthritis - could be expected. In total, these numbered more than 19,000 different opportunities for care to be delivered to people, but actual care was given only in 11,900 (62 per cent) of those cases. Scores on the quality of care ranged from 83 per cent for heart disease to 29 per cent for osteoarthritis.

The researchers found that substantially more care was provided for general medical conditions (74 per cent) than for geriatric conditions (57 per cent), including falls, osteoarthritis, urinary incontinence, cataract problems, hearing problems and osteoporosis.

Campaigners said that patients with arthritis were often being "fobbed off" by GPs and accused the NHS being guilty of a degree of ageism. Gordon Lishman, director-general of Age Concern, said: "These figures show that age discrimination within the NHS is still rife. "The rewards system for GPs to treat particular conditions has worked - but this hasn't included health problems older people particularly suffer from like depression, falls and vision and hearing problems. The system is therefore clearly failing thousands of older people."

The study involved a series of questionnaires and face-to-face interviews with 8,688 people.

Kate Jopling, head of public affairs at Help the Aged, called the results depressing. "This is extremely shortsighted in an increasingly ageing society," she said. "This kind of ageist treatment is precisely why legislation against age discrimination is needed."


Meaningless British High School qualifications

97% of students get a High School diploma

Increasing numbers of teenagers believe that three good A levels are no longer a passport to a university degree and are opting to take four or more subjects in an attempt to stand out from the growing crowd getting three A grades. A-level results published yesterday showed that more than 11 per cent of teenagers now get three A grades, increasing parental and school pressure on the most able students to go the extra mile with an extra A level to impress university admissions officers. This year's record crop of A-level results showed that the pass rate has exceeded 97 per cent for the first time, with the percentage of pupils achieving A grades up to nearly 26 per cent.

The results, published yesterday by the Joint Council for Qualifications, representing exam boards, also show that while the number of A-level candidates this year remains stable at around 317,000, the number of A levels taken has risen by more than 22,000. The number of candidates studying further mathematics, usually taken as a fourth A level to accompany maths, rose by 15.5 per cent with more than 9,000 entries.

Howard Loh, a pupil at Abingdon School, Oxfordshire, yesterday celebrated seven A grades. Similar tales abounded throughout the country. Tom Morley and Clarence Frank, pupils at City of London School, got six grade As each, as did Jenny Crowhurst, a pupil at Sutton High School in southwest London.

University admissions officials said last night that they were seeing a steady increase in the number of candidates with four or more A levels, excluding general studies. But many questioned the wisdom of such a move. Wendy Piatt, director-general of the elite Russell Group of research- intensive universities, said: "In many cases all candidates have three As - and increasingly four As."

Geoff Parks, director of admissions at Cambridge, said that taking four subjects was a growing trend, given that three As was now virtually a minimum requirement. "Some talented pupils do more than three A levels because they enjoy the work and the challenge. But you can see how some pupils might think that doing more might make them stand out from those with three As. "In fact they might be disadvantaging themselves by taking the edge off their overall performance by doing so much," he said. Dr Parks said that he hoped the introduction of the new top A* grade from 2010 would reverse the trend and persuade more students to take three because the key discriminator will be quality rather than quantity.

Angela Milln, head of admissions at Bristol, said that growing numbers of pupils with four A levels were applying to the university, which attracts a record 12 applications per place (rising to 40 for drama places). "Some do it just to stretch themselves," she said. "But I'm sure there are those who think that offering something extra will give them extra credit with universities. It won't."

Richard Cairns, head of Brighton College, said: "Increasingly pupils have opted for four or five as a way of distinguishing themselves from other candidates. Sixty per cent of our pupils do four A levels for this reason. "My own feeling is that pupils should not be encouraged to do too many A levels because it eats into time that should be devoted to all those other important aspects of an education such as sport, public speaking and the performing arts." He agreed that the A*, to be introduced next month for testing in 2010 as part of a package of reforms to make A levels harder, would ease the pressure on students.

Yesterday's record results meant that more pupils than ever met their university offers, but this also led to renewed concerns that the exams were getting easier. For the first time the exam board released a regional breakdown, examining pass rates and the proportion of students getting A grades in various areas of the country. It showed that the greatest improvements in the past six years have been in the South East, and the North East appears to be lagging behind. Between 2002 and 2008, the number of A grades in the South East rose 6.1 per cent, while in the North East there was an improvement of 2.1 per cent. Mike Cresswell, director-general of the AQA exam board, said that the figures suggested a worrying "long-standing historical pattern" with causes beyond what went on in school.

The results showed signs of a revival in traditional subjects, such as sciences and languages. The number of maths candidates rose from 60,093 last year to 64,593 this year. There are more candidates doing mathematics than at any time in the past. Entries rose by 2.7 per cent in biology, 3.5 per cent in chemistry and by 2.3per cent in physics, although numbers are still down on what they were in the early 2000s.

Fears that languages would undergo a slump in popularity proved unfounded as the number of candidates taking A levels in French rose to its highest level since 1993. Spanish entries were the highest they had ever been at 7,055.


Google blocks blog because of reference to Down's syndrome

It was a reference in the "Comments" section:
"Google has unblocked Scamp, the UK's most popular advertising industry blog, following the removal of comments containing "hate speech". The comments, in a post on dating in the advertising industry, were removed after complaints were made to Google's "hate crimes" division. Scamp, which is run by advertising executive Simon Veksner, had been blocked since Friday by Google-owned blogging platform Blogger.

Veksner speculated that the post that triggered the complaints was called Sauce Poll on the subject of "who in an ad agency you would prefer to date?". He said that while Google did not refer to which post or posts had caused the blog to be blocked, he assumed that it was an offensive comment, which has now been deleted, "along the lines of how they would rather have sex with someone with Down's syndrome than an advertising professional".

Veksner said that while the post, made on Friday, did draw a backlash from the online community he at first left it on the blog. "A lot of people were offended, but I decided not to delete the comment," he told "My policy is I do delete comments where the commenter is intending to be offensive, but I don't delete comments where the commenter's primary intention is to be witty, even if what they say ends up offending people." Veksner said that he moved to edit the posts following the official blocking of the website.

"I've deleted all the comments on here relating to sex with people who have Down's syndrome," he said in a post on Scamp. "Although Google haven't informed me exactly which post on this blog caused the activation of their hate crimes division, the strength of feeling in the comments section here leads me to believe it was this one."


Must not regard the mentally defective as undesirable, apparently. Where does this end? What about ugly women? Is it forbidden to regard them as undesirable?

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