Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The vastly incorrect Jeremy Clarkson on the difficulties of charity

He has recently been to Cambodia, it seems

Since we're told charity begins at home, it's better, I've always thought, to give 1m pounds to a hapless British person than 10 cents to an organisation that provides sandwiches for prisoners in Turkey. Now, however, I have decided that, actually, charity begins in Cambodia.

Some people get all dewy-eyed about Africa. That's jolly noble, but I don't see the point because I fear that no matter how much money you pump in, the bejewelled pigs that run the place will pump it straight back out again, into the coffers of Kalashnikov and Mercedes-Benz. The only thing I'd send to the dark continent is a team of SAS hitmen to shoot the likes of Mr Mugabe in the middle of his face.

Others would say that we have enough problems on our own shores without getting all teary over the children of Mr Pot. I disagree, because these days, every time I think of underprivileged people in Britain, the hideous face of Shannon Matthews's mum pops into my head, all greasy, fat and stupid, and it's hard to summon up any sympathy at all.

Cambodia, though, is different. It's a country of 14m people but between them they have only about 5m legs. In fact, there are 25,000 amputees, the highest ratio per capita of any country in the world. This is not because Cambodians are especially clumsy. It is because of landmines. Nobody knows how many mines were laid during the endless cycle of warfare, but it's sure to be in the millions. What we do know is that since the Vietnamese invaded in 1979 and drove the madman Pol Pot into the hills, 63,000 people have trodden on one. One man has had his left leg blown off four times. They gave him a good prosthetic after the first and second explosions, but since then he's had to make his own out of wood.

And it's still going on today. In most places in the world, you can get three rice harvests per year from your paddy field. In Cambodia, it's one. This is partly because the Khmer like a weird sort of rice that's harder to grow, but mostly it's because you set off with your plough and within minutes there's a big bang and your water buffalo has become a crimson mist. As a result of the ordnance lying in every field, no one is fighting for a right to roam in Cambodia. They have no equivalent of the Ramblers Association. They have no concept of Janet Street-Porter. In fact they have no concept of England.

Because the education is so poor, most people there believe the world is made up of four countries: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Everywhere else is France. All white people are therefore French. Angelina Jolie, who adopted a Cambodian baby, does much to help clear the landmines and has been made a Cambodian citizen, is French. I was French. And every night, most of the men settle down to watch Manchester United and Chelsea slug it out for honours in the French Premier League. I'd never met an adult anywhere in the world (apart from America) who'd never heard of Great Britain. In Cambodia nobody had.

What's more, you will never see a Cambodian person wearing sunglasses. Mainly this is because the average wage in Cambodia is less than $800 a year and so Ray-Bans are a bit out of range. But also it's because Cambodians all have flat noses. So sunglasses simply fall onto the floor every time you hop to the shops, and every time your buffalo explodes.

That's what did it for me. The sunglasses. Not the education. Not the notion of living in a country where there is no Janet Street-Porter. The landmines made my eyes prickle, but my heart just mushroomed over the idea that they can't afford to wear shades. And that even if they could, they'd keep falling off. I have therefore decided that I must do something. Unfortunately, however, we all reach a point like this when we decide we must help, and then it's so very hard to know what should be done next.

Secretly we all know that for every pound we donate to a large charity, only 2p actually reaches the people we have in mind. The rest is spent on adverts for highly paid co-ordinators in The Guardian and expensive offices in London's glittering West End.

You always feel you want to go to the root of the problem. But in the bee that's come to nest in my roost, that'll be hard. Earlier this summer a team of Australian doctors happened upon a little girl in the town of Siem Reap. Her face had been horribly disfigured, by a bloody landmine I suppose, and they were overwhelmed with a need to help. They went to meet her parents, and her father was keen that his daughter be sent to Australia for plastic surgery. Her mother, however, went ballistic when she discovered the poor child would once again look normal. "How will she be able to beg then?" she asked. And the Aussie medics were sent packing.

I can't even ring the Cambodian government for help because I fear it would be extremely enthusiastic and then all the money I sent over would be spent on fixtures and fittings in the finance minister's next luxury hotel. That's if I could raise any money in the first place. It's hard when money's tight here and everyone else has their own pet project.

I suppose I could write to Ray-Ban asking it to design a cheap pair of shades that can be worn by someone who has no nose. But I think it'd be better if I started work on some designs for the most brilliant mine-clearing vehicle the world has ever seen. I'm thinking of strapping some ramblers together, and then . . .


British government's neo-Marxist education policy punishes excellence

By Simon Heffer

When I went up to Cambridge University almost 30 years ago, I didn't think I was going to spend three years in a laboratory staffed by social engineers. I thought I was about to have the privilege of getting a world-class education, with no hidden agenda. Happily, the university's vice-chancellor, Alison Richard, takes the same view, and this week, thanks to some welcome and outspoken remarks on this subject, she has entered into a confrontation with the Government over its neo-Marxist education policy.

I can think of few greater hypocrisies than Labour criticising our old and great universities for taking, in its view, too few people from "disadvantaged" backgrounds. Every time someone from a public or grammar [selective] school gets into Oxbridge, the Leftists (many of whom went to one of these universities from just such a school) wince at the "inequality" that has been perpetuated. They cannot bear to acknowledge the truth: that more people from "their" comprehensive schools would get to Oxbridge, beating the competition in a fair fight, if "their" comprehensive schools were better.

Thanks to the determination of Labour to stick to Marxist educational practices in these schools, with their emphasis on anti-elitism and their fear of stretching pupils, children who go through them have at least one hand tied behind their back from day one. Some are lucky to live in areas served by one of our 164 grammar schools, but with all the main political parties now opposed to these magnificent institutions, that lifeline will not be made available to a wider clientele. This is sad, not least because if there were grammar schools in every town, everywhere - even the meanest council estate - would be in a catchment area.

Having put these obstacles in the way of children whose parents cannot afford to have them privately educated, or to live in a grammar-school catchment area, the Government compounds the nightmare. It has in many cases made an education at the best universities financially beyond the reach of students from poor families.

My college at Cambridge is currently raising funds to offer financial help to those from poor families who feel they cannot afford the education they have earned by merit, so low is the family income above which one qualifies for no state help.

As Labour wastes money on poor universities with vacuous degree courses in order to boast that more people get into higher education, some students are too intimidated by the size of the debt they would have to incur to take up places at Oxbridge. In fact, because of subsidised college rents, Oxbridge can be less expensive than other universities. However, some students feel their only option is to attend a university near home, cutting costs by living with their parents. How a government that brings about this situation can turn round and lecture Oxbridge on elitism is beyond me.

Cambridge has a point only if it continues to be a university for very bright undergraduates who can benefit from the teaching of often brilliant dons who work there doing research. Admitting people on a quota system based on social class can only drag down Cambridge's standards, driving quality elsewhere, and ultimately harming the future of the country. There is no snobbery about class at Cambridge. There is a desire to give the best education to those best equipped to benefit from it.

If the state schools could produce more suitable candidates, and if the funding system enabled them to afford to go to such a university, there wouldn't be a problem. That one exists is not Cambridge's fault. It is the Government's. And until its education policy ceases to serve the outdated ideological obsession of the Left, and starts instead to serve the best interests of our children, that will remain the case.


Climate change chicanery

By Christopher Booker

Recent events have seen the scare campaign over global warming descend to the level of a Monty Python sketch. Much publicity was given, for instance, to Lewis Gordon Pugh, who set out to paddle a kayak to the Pole to demonstrate the vanishing of the Arctic ice. At 80.5 degrees north, still 600 miles short of his goal, he met with ice so thick that he and his fossil-fuelled support ship had to turn back. But this did not prevent him receiving a congratulatory call from Gordon Brown, nor boasting that he had travelled "further north than anyone has kayaked so far".

It took the admirable Watts Up With That blog, run by the American meteorologist Anthony Watts, to point out that in 1893 the Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen found the Arctic so ice-free that he was able to kayak above 82 degrees north, 100 miles nearer the Pole than our hapless campaigner against "unprecedented global warming".

Then there was the much-publicised speech to Compassion in World Farming by Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, pleading for people to give up meat, on the grounds that the digestive methane given off by cattle contributes more to greenhouse gases than all the world's transport.

Although hailed by the BBC as "the UN's top climate scientist", Dr Pachauri, who holds PhDs in economics and engineering, is nothing of the kind, but just an apparatchik. A vegetarian Hindu, Dr Pachauri not only used highly tendentious figures to promote his cause but said nothing about the contribution made to global warming by India's 400 million sacred cows, which presumably would still be free to vent wind even if the rest of humanity is converted to eating veggieburgers.

There has also been an acclaimed new paper by Michael Mann, the creator of the iconic "hockey stick" graph, purporting to show that the world has recently become hotter than at any time in recorded history, eliminating all the wealth of evidence to show that temperatures were higher in the Mediaeval Warm Period than today.

After being used obsessively by the IPCC's 2001 report to promote the cause, the "hockey stick" was comprehensively discredited, not least by Steve McIntyre, a Canadian computer analyst, who showed that Mann had built into his computer programme an algorithm (or "al-gore-ithm") which would produce the hockey stick shape even if the data fed in was just "random noise".

Two weeks ago Dr Mann published a new study, claiming to have used 1,209 new historic "temperature proxies" to show that his original graph was essentially correct after all. This was faithfully reported by the media as further confirmation that we live in a time of unprecedented warming. Steve McIntyre immediately got to work and, supported by expert readers on his Climate Audit website, shredded Mann's new version as mercilessly as he had the original.

He again showed how selective Mann had been in his new data, excluding anything which confirmed the Mediaeval Warming and concentrating on that showing temperatures recently rising to record levels.

Finnish experts pointed out that, where Mann placed emphasis on the evidence of sediments from Finnish lakes, there were particular reasons why these should have shown rising temperatures in recent years, such as expanding towns on their shores. McIntyre even discovered a part of Mann's programme akin to a disguised version of his earlier algorithm, which he now calls "Mannomatics".

But Mann's new study will surely be used to push the warmist party line in the run-up to the IPCC international conference in Copenhagen next year to agree a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, temperatures continue to drop. The latest Nasa satellite readings on global temperatures from the University of Alabama, one of four officially recognised sources of temperature data, show that August was the fourth month this year when temperatures fell below their 30-year average, ie since satellite records began. The US National Climatic Data Center showsis showing that last month in the USA was only the 39th warmest since records began 113 years ago.

It is high time, however, that we took all this chicanery and wishful thinking seriously - as was evidenced in Maidstone Crown Court last Wednesday, by the acquittal of six Greenpeace campaigners tried for criminal damage to Kingsnorth power station. They were attempting to stop a new coal-fired power station being built, to produce 1,600 megawatts of electricity (two and a half times as much as is generated by all the 2,300 wind turbines so far built in Britain). As gleefully reported on the front page of The Independent, and at length by other promoters of warming alarmism such as the BBC and The Guardian, the jury agreed that the damage they had perpetrated was lawfully justified - because the damage done by the new power station, in raising global sea levels and contributing to the extinction of "a million species", would be far worse.

The court was swayed to this remarkable verdict by the evidence of two "expert witnesses" for the defence: Zac Goldsmith, one of David Cameron's envrionmental policy advisers and a prospective Conservative MP, and James Hansen, head of Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Dr Hansen, who has been the world's leading global warming campaigner for 20 years (along with his ally Al Gore), claimed that the proposed Kingsnorth power station alone would be responsible for the extinction of "400 species".

It is extraordinary that two such partisan witnesses were accepted by the court in this role, since the rules, as defined by Mr Justice Cresswell in 1993, insist that the function of an "expert witness" is only to give "objective evidence". He must not be an "advocate" for one side or the other on any issue on which experts are divided.

This should have ruled Dr Hansen out at once. Question marks are raised over his institute's temperature data. Last year he was forced by Steve McIntyre to revise his figures for US surface temperatures, to show that the hottest decade of the 20th century was not the 1990s, as Hansen claimed, but the 1930s. He has also campaigned tirelessly for the scrapping of all coal-fired power stations.

Yet we are critically dependent on coal-generated power: it supplies 35 per cent of Britain's needs and 50 per cent of America's. Thanks to EU rules, we will be forced to close six coal-fired power stations before long, and without new ones, such as that proposed for Kingsnorth, our economy will judder to a halt.

David Cameron could well be prime minister by then. That one of his closest advisers believes that criminal damage is justified to stop coal-fired power plants being built is just as alarming as that the British courts now seem to agree with him.


British TV host says "bus is full" on immigration

TV game show host Noel Edmonds has made controversial comments about immigration, saying there are too many migrants to Britain and they are draining national resources. "We can all go down the pub and go, 'Oh it's terrible, all these immigrants.' But what are we going to do in Britain to change this toxic culture if we don't say, 'Enough is enough,'" the popular presenter told the News of the World on Sunday. "I'm very straightforward on immigration. The bus is full," he said. "We haven't got enough energy, we haven't got enough electricity, we haven't got enough of a health service."

The comments by one of the country's most widely watched entertainers are likely to spark debate. Britain has welcomed millions of new migrants to its shores in recent years, especially those from east European countries that are now members of the European Union. The influx has given a substantial boost to the economy as new arrivals have taken on many of the undesirable jobs, often for low wages, that Britons generally no longer want to do.

But as the economy has slowed in the last year and the credit crisis has taken a toll, polls show most Britons think there are too many immigrants in the country and want to see new restrictions imposed on the influx. A YouGov poll last week showed 57 percent of adults thought there should be less immigration.

Edmonds, 59, the host of popular game show Deal or No Deal, said he not only wanted to crack down on immigration, but on crime and youth violence, saying he would like to build more prisons and overhaul the police force.

More here

Nasty British socialists determined to grind everyone's medical care down to a low level

A naval commander's wife is being billed for all her NHS care after paying for a drug privately

A LIEUTENANT-COMMANDER awarded an MBE for services to the Royal Navy is preparing to hand back his decoration in protest after his terminally ill wife had her free NHS cancer care withdrawn for buying a drug privately. Diane Winston, 53, who has kidney cancer, is being billed by her local trust for all her NHS care, including scans and hospital appointments, after paying privately for the drug Nexavar, which her health service consultant recommended.

Winston's husband, Lionel, 57, is so disappointed at the way his wife has been treated that he is prepared to give up the MBE, which he hangs with pride on his wall. "If this situation is not changed, in protest, I will formally return my MBE," said Lionel. "I am so disgusted by the government, and the nation that I have given the last 37 years of my life to, and for which they have awarded me the MBE, that I would give it back."

The Winstons have fallen victim to the government ban on "co-payment", under which a patient who pays privately for any treatment cannot receive free state care for the same condition.

Lionel Winston was awarded his Member of the Order of the British Empire decoration by the Queen in 1994. The ceremony was attended by his proud wife and their two sons, Sonny, now 30, and Tel, 28. Lionel, who was born in Dominica, worked his way up from the lower decks to become an officer. "From extremely humble beginnings, Lionel has come a very long way and for him to have that medal is hugely important to him. I am extremely proud of what he has achieved," said Diane. "To even think about giving it back shows the extent of his disgust."

In addition to the Nexavar, which costs about 3,000 pounds a month, Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, where Diane is being treated, has also issued bills for scans costing up to 480 each. Diane's consultant is so sympathetic to her plight she has given her time for free, but the trust charges an administrative fee for every appointment.

Last week, the couple, from Gosport, Hampshire, discovered that a deposit they had paid of about 3,700, which they believed had contributed to the cost of the drugs, had been used to pay for NHS care such as scans and appointments.

Kate Spall, campaigner at the Pamela Northcott Fund, a kidney cancer group, said: "This couple have had to rely on family, friends and fundraising to buy drugs to keep Diane alive. They are now in a position where they need to pay not only for the drug their NHS consultant desperately wants Diane to have, but also for NHS services, which is absolutely scandalous."

The trust insists it advised the Winstons that their deposit would be used to pay for scans and hospital appointments and not medication. A spokeswoman said the trust was following guidelines by charging for the routine treatments.

On October 2, Lionel will hold a fundraising dinner and auction on HMS Victory in Portsmouth to raise more money for his wife's care. Diane is one of thousands of patients with advanced kidney cancer who have been denied medication on the NHS that could prolong their lives. Last month, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), the government's drugs rationing body, ruled that four drugs to treat kidney cancer, Sutent, Nexavar, Avastin and Torisel, are not good value for money despite admitting they are effective.

The decision prompted 26 leading professors of cancer medicine to write, in a letter to The Sunday Times, that the current system for assessing new drugs was not working. The Sunday Times has been campaigning to end the government ban on co-payments.

Public outrage at the way patients have been treated prompted a review of the policy. The inquiry, by Professor Mike Richards, the national cancer director, is widely expected to allow patients to top up their care. Leading health insurers are preparing to offer policies that would enable patients to buy life-saving drugs not funded by the NHS. Axa PPP and Saga are drawing up plans for the policies in anticipation of an end to the NHS ban on patients "topping up" free care by paying for private treatment.

One company, WPA, has already launched its health top-up policy, showing that the NHS ban on co-payment has begun to crumble in the face of patients demanding the right to buy the latest drugs. Fergus Craig, commercial director for Axa PPP healthcare, one of Britain's biggest medical insurers, said: "We are considering introducing policies to enable people to top up their NHS care with privately funded treatment." A spokesman for Saga added: "We are looking at how Saga health insurance might be able to provide payment for drugs that the NHS won't pay for."


A small victory for free speech

Naughty novel to be published after all

"Gibson Square, a British publishing house, has announced that it will soon release "The Jewel of Medina," a novel by American author Sherry Jones whose publication in the United States was recently canceled by Random House for fear of triggering violence by Islamic fanatics. Bravo.

The novel fictionalizes the relationship between the Prophet Muhammad and his youngest bride, Aisha. After paying the author a significant advance and making plans for the release of the book, Random House sent copies of the galleys to various scholars, some of whom told the publisher that the content distorted history, would inflame Muslims and could cause much trouble. Security experts were also consulted. Random House decided to cancel publication of Jones' work, invoking reasons of "safety."

Many people in the West misunderstand what freedom of expression means. They associate it with the restriction on the power of the government to interfere with the freedom to express oneself. It is really a restriction on the power of anyone to interfere with anyone else's right to free expression, including but not limited to the government. If a business decision is made under extreme fear-directly or indirectly caused by force from a third person rather than the government-freedom of expression also suffers.

I am not interested in the reasons why Gibson Square has decided to publish the book-whether opportunism, greed, love of scandal, a dislike of the prophet, or a belief in the merits of the novel. But the fact that someone, somewhere, is willing to run the risk of not letting the threat of violence inhibit free expression is tremendously comforting


There is a good and sympathetic background story about Sarah Palin's growing up in Alaska in a BRITISH paper. All that American papers seem to want to do is dig dirt on her. Don Surber is disgusted at that it takes a British paper to do such a story.

A rare bit of sanity from the British government: ""Families in cramped homes are to benefit from a scheme to scrap planning permission for many extensions and loft conversions, the government has said. The regulations, effective in England from 1 October, will mean 80,000 fewer applications and save up to 50 million pounds, Housing Minister Caroline Flint said. She said families struggling to move due to the credit crunch would benefit."

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