Some kids are just naturally fat. It's in their genes
At least seven morbidly obese children were taken into care last year by social services. [i.e. removed from their families]. A boy of six who was seriously overweight, a girl of seven with a Body Mass Index three times higher than normal, and an eight-year-old girl who weighed nine stone, were among those taken from their parents. They were joined by a boy of 12 from London who had a BMI of 28 to 60 per cent above the 17.5 average for his age.
The figures were released by councils following a request under the Freedom of Information Act. Dr Colin Waine, former head of the National Obesity Forum Charity, said more needed to be done to monitor vulnerable children before social services were forced to intervene.
Meanwhile, health minister Dawn Primarolo has hailed Disneyland for offering healthy side dishes in its fast food outlets. Ms Primarolo told the Food Standards Agency she wanted to see all food outlets 'making healthy choices a default option'. She also praised Tesco for using the characters Tigger and Mickey Mouse to promote fresh fruit, juice, cereal and yoghurts.
Self-righteous British legislators fail to look out the window
Snow blankets London for Global Warming debate
Snow fell as the House of Commons debated Global Warming yesterday - the first October fall in the metropolis since 1922. The Mother of Parliaments was discussing the Mother of All Bills for the last time, in a marathon six hour session.
In order to combat a projected two degree centigrade rise in global temperature, the Climate Change Bill pledges the UK to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. The bill was receiving a third reading, which means both the last chance for both democratic scrutiny and consent.
The bill creates an enormous bureaucratic apparatus for monitoring and reporting, which was expanded at the last minute. Amendments by the Government threw emissions from shipping and aviation into the monitoring program, and also included a revision of the Companies Act (c. 46) "requiring the directors' report of a company to contain such information as may be specified in the regulations about emissions of greenhouse gases from activities for which the company is responsible" by 2012.
Recently the American media has begun to notice the odd incongruity of saturation media coverage here which insists that global warming is both man-made and urgent, and a British public which increasingly doubts either to be true. 60 per cent of the British population now doubt the influence of humans on climate change, and more people than not think Global Warming won't be as bad "as people say".
Both figures are higher than a year ago - and the poll was taken before the non-Summer of 2008, and the (latest) credit crisis.Yet anyone looking for elected representatives to articulate these concerns will have been disappointed. Instead, representatives had a higher purpose - demonstrating their virtue
And for the first 90 minutes of the marathon debate, the new nobility outdid each other with calls for tougher pledges, or stricter monitoring. Gestures are easy, so no wonder MPs like making them so much. It was all deeply sanctimonious, but no one pointed out that Europe's appetite for setting targets that hurt the economy has evaporated in recent weeks - so it's a gesture few countries will feel compelled to imitate.
The US Senate has Senator James Inhofe, but in the Commons, there wasn't an out-and-out sceptic to be found. It was 90 minutes before anyone broke the liturgy of virtue. When Peter Lilley, in amazement, asked why there hadn't been a cost/benefit analysis made of such a major change in policy, he was told to shut up by the Deputy Speaker.(And even Lilley - one of only five out of 653 MPs to vote against the Climate Bill in its second reading - felt it necessary to pledge his allegiance to the Precautionary Principle.)
It fell to a paid-up member of Greenpeace, the Labour MP Rob Marris, to point out the Bill was a piece of political showboating that would fail. While professing himself a believer in the theory that human activity is primarily the cause of global warming, he left plenty of room for doubt - far more than most members. The legislation was doomed, Marris said. MP Rob Marris had previously supported the 60 per cent target but thought that 80 per cent, once it included shipping and aviation, wouldn't work. We could have a higher target, or include shipping and aviation, but not both.
He compared it to asking someone to run 100m in 14 seconds - which they might consider something to train for. Asking someone to run it in ten seconds just meant people would dismiss the target. "The public will ask 'why should we bother doing anything at all?'
The closest thing to a British Inhofe is Ulsterman Sammy Wilson, Democratic Unionist Party, who'd wanted a "reasoned debate" on global warming, rather than bullying, and recently called environmentalism a "hysterical psuedo-religion". Wilson described the Climate Bill as a disaster, but even colleagues who disagree with his views of environmentalism are wary of the latest amendments. The Irish Republic is likely to reap big economic gains if it doesn't penalise its own transport sector as fiercely as the UK pledges to penalise its own in the bill. Most Ulster MPs were keenly aware of the costs, and how quickly the ports and airports could close, when a cheaper alternative lies a few miles away over the border.
Tory barrister Christopher Chope professed himself baffled by the logic of including aviation and shipping. If transportation was made more expensive, how could there be more trade? "As we destroy industry we'll be more dependent on shipping and aviation for our imports!" he said. "When the history books come to be written people will ask why were the only five MPs... who voted against this ludicrous bill," he said. It would tie Britain up in knots for years, all for a futile gesture, Chope thought.
However, Tim Yeo, the perma-suntanned Tory backbencher who wants us to carry carbon rationing cards, said it would "improve Britain's competitiveness". He didn't say how. Lilley impertinently pointed out that no cost/benefit case had been made for handicapping shipping and aviation. It was the first mention in the chamber of the cost of the commitments being discussed. Estimates put the total cost of the Climate Change Bill at 210bn pounds, or 10,000 per household - potentially twice the benefits.
Quoting Nordhaus, Lilley noted that Stern ("Lord Stern - he got his reward") had only got his front-loaded benefits by using improbable discount rates - and then only half the benefits of making drastic carbon reductions will kick in by the year 2800. The government has said it wasn't using Stern's discount rates to calculate the cost of shipping and aviation restrictions, but a more sensible and traditional rate of 3.5 per cent instead - yet it refused to reveal the costs.
Lilley asked:"I ask the house - is it sensible to buy into an insurance policy where the premiums are twice the value of the house?" Lilley was "building a broad case on a narrow foundation", the Deputy Speaker told him. "I really must direct him to the specific matter that's included in these clauses and amendments."
Earlier, the Tories had said they would be tougher on carbon than Labour, and the Lib Dems the toughest of the lot. Much more representative of the tone of the debate was Nia Griffith, the NuLab MP for Lanelli. Her comments are worth repeating (Hansard link to follow today) because language tells us a lot - not only about the bureaucratic ambitions of the exercise, but how the modern politician thinks about governing. Griffith told the House that the Bill was "a process not an end in itself", and had great value as a "monitoring tool". MP Nia Griffith "It's the targets that make us think," she said. She also used the phrase "raise consciousness" - as in, "it must raise consciousness amongst nations that follow suit."
In other words, if you take a gesture, then pile on targets and penalties, you will change people's behaviour. Maybe she hasn't heard of Goodhart's law. Yesterday, however, it seemed that the only MPs exhibiting enough "consciousness" to actually think - and ask reasonable questions about cost and effectiveness of the gesture - got a good telling off.
The Bill finally passed its third reading by 463 votes to three.
THE BIG BBC MELTDOWN: It was once a model of high standards and decorum -- but no more
Now that the Left have got hold of it, any garbage is fine and "standards" is a stupid old-fashioned concept. Tearing everything down is what the Left are all about. After just about everyone from the Prime Minister down condemned them, the principal offenders have now been suspended and one has resigned but how the BBC allowed such a foul and hurtful programme to be broadcast is the real issue. Two articles below on the matter. One from 29th and one from 30th
The BBC is under unprecedented pressure to crack down on offensive material after an intervention by the Prime Minister and 10,000 complaints over its decision to broadcast obscene phone calls made by two of its biggest stars. Mark Thompson, the BBC Director-General, maintained his silence on the conduct of Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand for a third day despite a growing clamour for an explanation as to how pre-recorded taunts directed at Andrew Sachs, the 78-year-old Fawlty Towers actor, went on air.
The radio transmission on October 18 included Ross shouting on to Sachs's answerphone that Brand had slept with his granddaughter Georgina Baillie, 23, and Brand joking that the actor might kill himself. Ms Baillie has called for the pair to be sacked.
Gordon Brown swung behind the flood of public outrage, saying that the incident was clearly inappropriate and unacceptable. David Cameron, the Tory leader, demanded to know who had given the green light to the broadcast. Andy Burnham, the Culture Secretary, described the incident as a serious breach of broadcasting standards.
The BBC has rejected calls to suspend the pair and Ross, who is paid 6 million pounds a year, was expected to record this week's edition of his chat show, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, tonight. However, Sir David Attenborough, who was due to appear on the show, was in discussions with the BBC last night. Frank Skinner, the comedian, and the American actress Miley Cyrus were also on the guest list.
Mr Thompson has been ordered by the BBC Trust to present a "formal report" to its monthly meeting on November 20, as to how the offensive material came to be aired. The trust also demanded an interim report to be presented next week at a meeting of its editorial standards committee. Ofcom, the broadcasting watchdog, was also investigating the material under Section 2 of the Broadcasting Code, relating to harm and offence.
The row led every major BBC news bulletin yesterday. Tim Davie, the corporation's director of audio and music and the most senior executive to comment, admitted that the programme that went out was "unacceptable". He said that the BBC would conduct a full investigation and decide the appropriate action and that it would be wrong to apportion blame at this stage.
The suspension of the foul-mouthed Jonathan Ross and the forced resignation of his equally disagreeable sidekick Russell Brand marked an extraordinary historic cultural victory. For the first time in living memory, the BBC has signalled that there are boundaries of decency it must not cross. But, my goodness, didn't this admission take a long time coming? No one at the BBC appeared to realise that the original show broadcast by Radio 2 on October 18 was so offensive.
Ross and Brand's vulgar abuse of the actor Andrew Sachs was passed on the nod by a 25-year-old Radio 2 producer, even though Mr Sachs had refused his permission. That young man evidently did not know any better. But nor did his bosses. It took several days of mounting Press coverage, and critical remarks by David Cameron, Gordon Brown and other politicians, before the BBC's management finally responded. Even then the person whose head was pushed above the parapet was that of Tim Davie, the 'director of audio and music', of whom none of us had ever heard.
Only yesterday did Mark Thompson, the BBC's director-general, and the man ultimately responsible for the Corporation's output, break his holiday and announce that he was suspending Ross and Brand. His statement was certainly everything one might have wished for, referring as it did to 'a gross lapse of taste that has angered licence payers', but it had to be wrung out of him.
Mr Thompson is a deeply symbolic figure of our times. He is not a bad man. He is civilised and well-read, having taken a first in English at Oxford. As a devout Roman Catholic, he adheres to moral values that are a million miles from those of Ross and Brand. And yet he has made no attempt to stem the tide of clod-hopping filth that pours out of their, and others', mouths whenever they broadcast.
Why should this be? Perhaps Mr Thompson believes that Ross and Brand are popular figures who will attract a large audience. Although the BBC is protected from commercial realities, it increasingly conducts itself as though these are the only realities that matter. Shielded from the market, the Corporation often strives to outdo the market in offering dumbed-down programming, and appealing to the lowest common denominator.
But I fancy there is a deeper psychological explanation for Mr Thompson's indulgence of so-called entertainers against whose vulgarity and ignorance he must privately recoil. Whereas some on the Left embrace Brand for his nihilism and for what they regard as his welcome flouting of bourgeois values - he seems eager to copulate with anything that moves - Mr Thompson is a more elevated, as well as a more interesting,
Like so many modern liberal-minded intellectuals, he has a horror of being judgmental. He knows that Jonathan Ross is a coarse figure, but he reasons that if there are people who enjoy his crudeness and lavatory humour and peppering of four-letter words, he is not going to prevent them from having what they desire. There is a fissure in him that permits this moral relativism. For himself and his family he wants culture and standards of decency, but if there are others who prefer dross, he is not going to stand in their way.
Yet, more than any other organisation, the BBC should not be in the business of providing dross. It is protected from the market. It was founded on high and noble principles. It does not have to follow the worst trends - far less take the lead - and lure us into the gutter. Mr Thompson might not be fitted by background or temperament to edit the Daily Smut, but he has all the attributes to guide the BBC towards higher ground. And yet he does not do so.
The French philosopher Julien Benda famously coined the phrase 'La Trahison des Clercs' - the betrayal of the intellectuals. He was thinking of French and German 19th-century intellectuals who had become apologists for militarism and nationalism. The modern trahison des clercs is that of liberal intellectuals like Mr Thompson who can recognise goodness and truth but, out of fear of appearing judgmental or proscriptive, will not help others to find them.
This moral dereliction amounts to a fatal arrogance. Mr Thompson knows why it is wrong to scatter four-letter words on television. He can see that the kind of humour purveyed by the likes of Ross and Brand does not raise people up but often pushes them down. But, because he is terrified of being seen imposing his values - which are, in fact, almost indistinguishable from the old values of the BBC - he has so far said: let them have what they want. Then he returns to the books and music and culture of his pleasant house in Oxford....
BBC bosses were not able to see what was objectionable about Ross and Brand's outpourings, but thousands of ordinary people, once alerted, could. It was the shocking realisation that many licence-payers had had enough - that they still defended standards of decency and proper behaviour - that finally jerked Mr Thompson out of his holiday reveries....
Will this historic cultural victory stick? Yesterday's Mail reported that, in April, a BBC1 comedy drama called Love Soup showed a woman being 'raped' by a dog. The BBC still pumps out many programmes that offend against decency and taste, and are often particularly offensive to women. We should not imagine that the tap will be turned off in a trice. But, maybe the affair of those unfunny and grossly overpaid vulgarians Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand will show Mr Thompson and his senior colleagues that the BBC has become dangerously out of step with many of the people who pay its bills.
If Mr Thompson does not have the courage to act on his moral convictions, he will be wise to listen to the outrage of those who do.
Outrage as British council makes pupils stand on chairs and pledge to be nice to gypsy children
Villagers opposing plans for a travellers site have accused a council of attempting to 'brainwash' their children. Pupils aged between six and 11 were requested to stand up and promise to 'welcome newcomers' and not bully them. The incident happened at a workshop for youngsters that was part of Local Democracy Week, where talks were organised by Norwich and Norfolk Racial Equality Council.
A large proportion of the scores of children present were from Spooners Row Primary School, near Wymondham, Norfolk. Residents there are battling plans by South Norfolk District Council to build a permanent travellers' site with eight pitches. One parent, who asked not to be named, said: 'It appears as if the council was targeting children with propaganda to try to get them on side. My first thought was that it was disgusting to target children in such an underhand way when so many people oppose the new site.'
Another parent said: 'It's out of order that the council has done this.' They added: 'If I had been there I would have stood up and said, "Stop this". It's in breach of the children's rights, surely?' Another parent complained the workshop was planting thoughts about bullying into the minds of children who had probably not thought of it.
The primary school's headmaster, Simon Wakeman, has made an official complaint to the council. He said yesterday that a council official connected with the plans for the travellers' camp had been at the workshop-The two people taking the workshop asked the children if they wanted to stand up and make a pledge,' he said. 'None of the children stood up because I suspect they felt awkward, but the pledge was read out anyway. 'They were asked to make a series of promises to be kind to gipsy and traveller children, welcome them into the community and not bully them. The children were encouraged to put their fingers in the air or their hands on their hearts to signify their acceptance.'
He added that he supported talks to 'build bridges in society', but opposed having children make pledges, particularly in light of their parents' anxiety over the travellers' site. Mr Wakeman said the workshop had left the school in an 'invidious position' as it had gone to lengths to remain objective about the proposals but parents were now questioning its neutral stance.
The talk, on October 17, was one of several on offer to schoolchildren at the council's offices in Long Stratton. Headmasters chose which ones their pupils attended. No one from the Norwich and Norfolk Racial Equality Council was available to comment yesterday.
John Fuller, South Norfolk Council leader, has sent a personal apology to the school but yesterday he insisted that the council was not responsible for what the equality council told the youngsters. 'The workshop was run by the local racial equality council who are experts in this particular field and the council had no direct input in what was said.
"Holocaust denier" wins first round
Germany is trying to prosecute an Australian citizen for things he said in Australia:
"CONTROVERSIAL Australian historian Frederick Toben has won the first round of his fight against extradition to Germany from Britain. A London judge ruled overnight that the European arrest warrant used to detain Dr Toben in Britain for extradition earlier this month was invalid because it did not provide enough detail.
However, the case appears far from over, with lawyers representing German prosecutors, who want to try Dr Toben for his alleged anti-Semitic views, preparing to appeal to Britain's High Court.
Dr Toben's solicitor Kevin Lowry-Mullins described today's ruling as a victory and said the academic, who has been granted bail, looked forward to the High Court hearing his case.
Dr Toben was arrested while in transit at London's Heathrow airport on October 1 under a warrant issued by Germany, which accuses him of racism and publishing anti-Semitic views.
Unlike in Britain, Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany and offenders can face up to five years in jail.... The High Court is expected to hear Dr Toben's case early next year.
UK immigration reforms make visas easier to get for Australians
Young Australians wanting to work in the United Kingdom should find it easier under new visa rules being introduced by the British government. Britain is revamping its working holiday visa scheme to allow 18-to-30-year-old Australians to find jobs in their chosen profession for a full two years. They will also for the first time be able to line up jobs to go to in Britain before leaving Australia. Under the old scheme, Australians faced a host of restrictions before being granted a working holiday visa, including how long they could stay in the one job.
British high commissioner to Australia Helen Liddell said the changes would make working in the UK even more attractive for Australians. "Some of the old restrictions are going and the visas will be cheaper by half,'' she said. "Britain's immigration system rewards those who come, work hard, bring their skills and strengthen cultural ties and Australians fit the bill very well.''
The new youth mobility visa scheme will come into force on November 27 and cost STG99 ($255.85), down from STG200 ($516.86) price of the working holiday visa. Those applying for the new visa will also have to show they have the equivalent of STG1,600 ($4,134.9) to cover living expenses for the first few weeks in the UK. Australia is one of just four countries Britain is allowing to take part in the new visa scheme. The others are New Zealand, Canada and Japan.
During the last financial year, the British High Commission in Canberra issued 15,204 working holiday visas to Australians. "Because of the changes, we wouldn't be surprised if those numbers increase next year,'' a British High Commission spokesman said. The changes are part of wide-ranging alterations Britain has been making to its immigration policies, including introducing an Australian-style points system for would-be migrants.
BRITISH ACADEMICS THREATEN TO SUE UNION OVER ISRAEL BOYCOTT
The University and College Union (UCU) is facing a court threat if it doesn't retract its decision to encourage members to question the ethics of contacts with universities in Israel. A group of as yet anonymous litigants, who are UCU members, are demanding repayment of any union funds spent on carrying out a national conference resolution which asked academics to consider the moral and political implications of their links with Israeli institutions. Via their solicitors, Mishcon de Reya, the litigants warn UCU that they will sue its four trustees individually for recovery of the money.
A year ago UCU accepted legal advice that its 2007 national conference motion for an academic boycott of Israel was unlawful and could not be implemented. At this year's conference in May, lecturers voted overwhelmingly to call on colleagues to "consider the moral and political implications of educational links with Israeli institutions, and to discuss the occupation with individuals and institutions concerned, including Israeli colleagues with whom they are collaborating".
Their general secretary, Sally Hunt, had warned delegates before the debate that UCU would need to take legal advice on what steps it could take to carry out the motion. The motion sparked off a heated debate and a succession of resignations from UCU members.
In a House of Lords debate, the former independent adjudicator for higher education, Baroness Deech, called on universities to derecognise the union. "These efforts to boycott, or to come as close as possible to a boycott, are contrary to race relations legislation and ultra vires the powers of the union," Deech said. "The UCU has created an atmosphere hostile to Jewish academics and to quality academic research and freedom in this country," Deech added.
On September 26, Mishcon de Reya wrote to Hunt warning her that unless UCU accepted within 14 days that the latest conference resolution was "ultra vires" - beyond its powers - a group of unnamed members would take it to court. As UCU members, its clients were entitled to sue the union and its trustees - Professor Neil Macfarlane, Fawzi Ibrahim, Dr Dennis Wright and Paul Russell - to force it to declare the resolution null and void, the letter said. And they would sue the trustees for the repayment of any money spent on implementing the resolution. If legal action is taken, the union members taking it will be identified, their solicitors say. The 14-day deadline for UCU to reply passed on Friday.