Monday, August 25, 2008

Why I refused to let my child be weighed

The British government's fat-headed policy on obesity should be boycotted

It appears my wife and I have upset the Government, as part of the small minority of parents who refused to have our 11-year-old child weighed and measured in school last term. The authorities worry that it was the parents of fat children who opted out. Or it could have been parents like us, who object to being conscripted into a fat-headed crusade against child obesity that is heavy on political intrusion and light on proven effectiveness.

Letters are to be sent to parents whose children were weighed, giving a "mark" ranging from "underweight" through "healthy weight" to "very overweight". There has been a predictable PC-gone-mad reaction to the Department of Health's predictably stupid decision to drop the word "obese". But whatever words they use, the message is clear: that the authorities have the right to decide whether or not our children are living "healthy lives". They want to measure not only body mass but moral worth, to decide whether our children fit the State's model. The most likely results will be to produce miserable kids and anxious parents.

Despite overegged talk of a child obesity "epidemic", the real extent, causes and health consequences of children being overweight remain uncertain. What is more certain is the lack of hard evidence that campaigns of intervention in school or family life have any beneficial effects. But whatever the intentions, they do single out kids for more pressure, harassment and ridicule - which is all that our body-conscious pre-teens need.

Yet the authorities throw their substantial weight behind every stunt from policing lunchboxes to weighing children like little piggies. At a time when governments have lowered horizons from creating the Good Society to moulding the Healthy Citizen, the anti-obesity crusade legitimises public monitoring of private behaviour. Ours is an age when bullies can no longer call children fatty in the playground. Yet it is deemed legitimate for government to bully them and their parents, using obesity as a bogeyman in scary stories about how we are killing our kids.

It will be a joyless world for children if we turn the pleasures of food, drink and play into problems of "healthy living". At the Museum of London yesterday, my daughters learnt about the statue Fat Boy of Pie Corner, erected where the Great Fire of 1666 ended to warn Londoners that it was caused by "the sin of gluttony". Today the pious warn us about our unhealthy lifestyles rather than our sins. Back home, the children borrowed a neighbour's Wii Fit game. The first thing it does is decide whether you are ideal, overweight or obese. What fun!


UK Scientist: Recent weather is 'stark reminder' global warming 'has now stalled'

By UK atmospheric scientist John Kettley, formerly of the Met Office and the Fluid Dynamics Department at the Bracknell headquarters

Atrocious weather has seriously delayed the harvest this year - by now oil seed rape, barley and oats should already have been gathered. The delay could mean either a loss in yield or drop in quality, with a subsequent fall in income for farmers for the second year running.

But this is not a symptom of so-called `global warming'. These conditions are not unique and are more like the poor August weather Britain saw during the Twenties and Sixties. It is more likely a stark reminder that the warming trend we recorded in the last part of the 20th Century has now stalled. Globally, 1998 remains the warmest of the last 150 years.

Of course, we have seen very hot months in the UK recently, but we should be under no illusion about global warming. We are not suddenly about to be catapulted towards a Mediterranean climate. We are surrounded by water, with the vast Atlantic Ocean to our west, while the jet stream and gulf stream will forever influence our daily weather and long-term climate.

So, this year's Sixties-style August has seen bad weather in many places. Northern Ireland suffered particularly from serious flooding last weekend, but it has been the cumulative affect of cool, wet and dull conditions which has really hampered farmers' progress.

For every loser there are always winners. Lerwick in Shetland has largely stayed north of the rain-bearing jet stream and in the past week alone saw almost 40 hours of sunshine. Further south, mainland Scotland was not so blessed, as storms brought 2in (50mm) of heavy rain to many places, including Edinburgh, on Wednesday and Thursday. There will be more rain for the west of Scotland in the next few days, but at long last much of the country can look forward to a change in fortune. Late August should see warm picnic weather - which I think will last through September, in line with recent years.


Anger as British veterans' parade cancelled while gay pride march goes ahead

About 3,000 former and current servicemen and women who served in wars ranging from World War Two to Afghanistan proudly marched through Doncaster town centre last August on the town's inaugural Veterans' Day. But this year the local Royal British Legion branch claims it has been shunned by the council, and told the event could not be staged because of a "lack of amenities." Yet Doncaster staged its first gay pride parade last Sunday, and a few weeks before hosted a civic parade in which dignitaries, community workers and the public took part.

Ken Wood, 46, a Coldstream Guards gunner who served in the Gulf War and is the district secretary of the Royal British Legion said: "All the Doncaster branches of the Legion are disgusted that there will not be a Veterans' Day parade. "The council do not seem to care about the achievements of servicemen and women. "I am not homophobic but the council supported both Doncaster Pride and the Mayor's civic parade."

The veterans assumed they would be allowed to hold a parade this month but were astonished to discover they had little civic support. Mr Wood said: "One of our Legion members spoke to an official at the civic offices who told him we couldn't have a parade this year because the council did not have the amenities. "I rang the official and she effectively told me the police couldn't afford the staff to block off the roads. It's crazy, I went on the parade last year and only saw two community bobbies stopping the traffic. "It's hardly down to finance or manpower is it? I asked her to put what she told me over the phone in writing so I could read it out to my members but I'm still awaiting a reply. "I wrote to say I was sorely disappointed that we were not being allowed to parade in our own town. We just wanted to parade our standards and colours."

Doncaster Council initially said that the police would only provide officers for Remembrance Sunday, the St George's Day parade and the civic parade. But now the council and the police have issued a joint statement saying they had not received an official request to stage the Veterans' Day parade.

Local war veterans were so upset they boycotted the civic parade in protest at the council's handling of the situation. Diane Dernie, the mother of Doncaster paratrooper Ben Parkinson whose compensation fight following his horrific injuries in Afghanistan made national headlines, said: "It is a terrible shame. We've seen in the past that people in general have been very supportive of the Armed Forces. "Ben would have been very keen to take part. He is Army through and through."

Veterans' Day was introduced by the Government on June 27 in 2006 to celebrate the contribution of ex-servicemen and women but events can be held throughout the year. Doncaster Council said: "It is not a matter of finance or the council not wanting to do it. "The police look into the number of parades being held and give the go-ahead on a case-by-case basis. We are quite happy to hold the Veterans' parade provided the police are happy." Acting Chief Insp Andy Kent of South Yorkshire Police added: "Each request is assessed on an individual basis. We have not received a request this year about the Veterans' Day parade."


VERY sad news about Margaret Thatcher's decline.

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