Monday, September 22, 2008

Incorrect goggles in the British nanny State

For thousands of years people have swum with NO goggles. How shockingly unsafe!

A swimmer has been banned from his local pool because of his unusual goggles. Roland Grimm, in his late 60s, said: "I'm very upset because it seems mad. I've used these goggles in more than 100 pools and no one else has ever complained. After you've been swimming for 40 years all over the world you know what works best for you and what's safe."

Gary Dark, manager of the leisure centre in Swiss Cottage, northwest London, said the goggles were a health and safety risk because the glass was not shatter-proof and the nosepiece could cause breathing difficulties.


Junk food ad rules “not working”

How frustrating for the Fascists!

Adverts for unhealthy foods are still appearing during TV programmes seen by children, despite curbs introduced in January, a consumer watchdog has said. Which? said the five programmes with the most child viewers and only four of the top 20 most popular children's shows were covered by Ofcom's rules. These state that ads for "less healthy” foods are not allowed in or around programmes which "appeal" to under-16s.

But advertisers said Which's list included shows "not aimed" at children. A programme is defined as being of particular appeal to children if the proportion of those under 16 watching a programme is 20% higher than the general viewing population. This means shows like The Simpsons and SpongeBob SquarePants are covered, while shows like Beat the Star, Animals Do The Funniest Things and Emmerdale are not, even though they are watched by thousands more children.

A two-week analysis by Which? found that ads for products including Coca-Cola, Oreos and Kellogg's Coco Pops were broadcast during programmes popular with children but not covered by the restrictions. It said ITV's Beat the Star attracted more than half a million child viewers during the monitoring period, but had contained ads for Coca-Cola, Dairylea Dunkers, Nachos and Sprite.

Which? food campaigner Clare Corbett said: "The ad restrictions may look good on paper but the reality is that the programmes most popular with children are slipping through the net. "If these rules are going to be effective, then they have to apply to the programmes that children watch in the greatest numbers." She added: "We're not anti-advertising, we're just against the fact that most of the ads children see are for unhealthy products, rather than the healthier foods they should be eating more of."

But the Advertising Association said Which? seemed to want to unfairly restrict companies' ability to deliver commercial messages. Chief executive Baroness Peta Buscombe called its report "sensationalist, unconstructive and missing the point" and said the advertising industry took a "responsible approach" to food advertising. She added: "Their list includes programmes clearly not aimed at children and films screened after 10pm. "There clearly has to be an element of parental responsibility on which programmes they allow their children to view."

A Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesman said: "For the first time, TV adverts for foods high in fat, salt and sugar are banned during programmes aimed at or of particular appeal to children under 16. "Although children still see some of these advertisements, the current Ofcom regulations mean that the viewing of these adverts by children is reduced by an estimated 50%, an impressive amount." He added: "We appreciate that there are calls for further restrictions on UK TV advertising but these should be considered once we have had a chance to assess the impact of current measures."

Ofcom is set to report to government on the success of its restrictions in December. The Food Standards Agency, which drew up a model for deciding if a food was unhealthy, is also to assess how well it is performing.


Good luck is ours. But bad luck is everyone else's

Why do other people expect us to bail them out when things go wrong?

By Stephen Pollard, writing from Britain:

A while ago, I had a puncture. I was on my way home and suddenly I was stranded. For some reason it never occurred to me that I could hail a taxi to take me home and expect you to pay for it.

According to reports at the weekend, taxpayers - you and me, in other words - will be stiffed to the tune of o20 million to pay for the flights home of some people caught out by the collapse of XL. The Civil Aviation Authority runs a compensation scheme to take care of stranded holidaymakers and to refund forthcoming holidays that won't take place. But the scheme is already 21 million pounds in deficit. So guess who is going to pick up the tab? You and me.

There's a warm glow inside me knowing that, as I type this, a portion of the fee will be taken from me by the Inland Revenue to pay for someone else's holiday. Actually it's not a warm glow so much as a red hot rage. I've yet to see a sensible explanation of why the rest of us should be forced to put our hands in our pockets to pay for someone else's bad luck on holiday.

It's sad. It's tough. It's annoying. And it should be - unfortunately - expensive. If I was a victim of XL, I'd be mighty angry that I am not going to get home as planned. But I would not expect the rest of the country to pay for my journey. Just as good luck is not something we can expect as of right, so bad luck happens and we sometimes must suffer the consequences - especially when, as in this case, we are either too stupid or too cheapskate to take out holiday insurance to cover such an eventuality. But the idea that good luck is ours to enjoy and bad luck is everyone else's problem is now endemic.

I picked some tomatoes yesterday. I'd been looking forward to eating them for weeks. Lovely, juicy Marmande. But they were rotting, ruined by too much rain. It never occurred to me that I should be compensated. But then I'm not a farmer. Last year was record-breaking for grain farmers, with prices at 180 pounds a tonne. The recent rain, however, has flattened this year's crop. Some farmers say that they will lose a third of their expected earnings. So the Government's Rural Advocate is asking the Prime Minister to bring forward payment of subsidies due in December under the Common Agricultural Policy.

Farmers embody the worst of all worlds - subsidised to the hilt to distort the market, and then screaming for compensation when things do not go as planned for them. It's the same story. Good luck is a private boon; bad luck is the taxpayer's cost.


Why today's British children just can't win

With the Olympics still fresh in their little minds, my daughter and a few more seven-year-olds staged their own truncated athletics gala in the back garden recently. I almost choked on my coffee when I heard the words: "You're the loser. Here, have the bronze." When I explained to her later that medals are only for the winners and that losers get no awards, she was incredulous. Bronze, being the least exciting prize, must surely be for the person whose performance is the worst, she explained. Is it any wonder that she might labour under this misapprehension? For today's British child, life is one long awards ceremony. It's not whether you win or lose, it's the taking part that gets you the trophy.

At any children's party, it's often hard to work out who is the birthday boy or girl. Every child is weighed down with gifts from stage-managed pass-the-parcel games and overflowing loot bags. It's everyone's special day.

Yesterday we learnt that the results of children's football matches will no longer be published and there will be no league tables in case it makes the mini soccer players too competitive. I could write everything I know of the beautiful game on a postage stamp in large letters, but I am pretty certain that the competitive aspect is something common to many sports and sometimes known as The Whole Point. Yet the Football Association has said the results of matches for seven- and eight-year-olds will not be disseminated and there will be no silver cups.

Talk about moving the goal posts; in this case they've disappeared. The FA handbook says: "Under-sevens and under-eights are not permitted to play in leagues where results are collected or published or winner trophies are presented."

The reason for the move, according to the organisation, is that children ought to learn to play the game without facing the pressure to win. The FA is not trying to ban winners - in fact, it appears it wants all the players to enjoy a sort of diluted victory. It is losing that is feared here and non-competitive football is a natural consequence of the non-competitive culture being forced upon children.

Contemporary child-rearing mores conspire against all forms of losing. The amateur psychologist in all of us tells us it is bad for a child's confidence. Everything from coming last to spelling in indecipherable text lingo must, we are told, get a "Well done!" sticker. As a consequence, the taste of genuine victory and the thrill of true excellence is a rare and illicit treat for today's children.

It is grown-ups, however, not children, who fear defeat. Children, particularly younger ones, are the greatest champions of the school of hard knocks and hierarchy - often frighteningly so. Though our education system tries to conceal it, every child knows who is "top of the class". On the CBBC website yesterday, young commentators were largely up in arms about the FA spoilsports. Some blamed the scourge of pushy parents for the ruling: "Parents are very competitive and I think this spoils the game. But this shouldn't be taken out on the kids as it is not fair. It is the parents."

Parents of my generation have, quite rightly, largely given up forms of chastisement that involve humiliating little people. Most of us agree that smacking children and bullying them is wrong. The idea that we must avoid telling them anything they don't want to hear has somehow become tacked on to this. Wouldn't we do more for their self-worth if we let them win? Wouldn't we teach them more about life if we showed them how to recover from losing?

"Some you win, some you lose" is not the harshest of truths and we do our children no favours in protecting them from it. It's a lazy kind of love that doesn't teach a child to win with grace and lose with courage. Everybody loses if nobody can win.


1 comment:

Deb Acle said...

Maybe it's late and I'm feeling particularly paranoid here, but...

the UK does social engineering to the nth degree, mostly with disastrous results it has to be said. What if this is another PC social engineering project?

It's blatantly clear that a ruthless streak of competitiveness is essential for political office, City jobs, big business.

Not content with dumbing down our kids educationally, is there a project to dumb them down as to the REAL requirements for getting to the top?

It would certainly keep the plebs in their places. Just like the feudal servitude these same top people enforced up to the second World War.