Monday, November 03, 2008

Labour party split on immigration

Labour has been plunged into a deepening row over immigration as a senior MP publicly took issue with a minister's pledge to cap the number of migrants coming to Britain

Keith Vaz [Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee and possibly Britain's most corrupt politician] said it was "totally untrue" that Labour would seek to restrict the number of foreign workers entering the country, as suggested by the immigration minister Phil Woolas. Mr Woolas's call for a tough new approach earlier this month sparked a furore in the Labour Party and led to the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith banning him from a planned appearance on BBC Question Time.

Friends of the minister have since insisted that he was speaking with the Prime Minister's backing. His removal from the public arena after his comments sparked dissent amongst left wing MPs resistant to any tightening of the rules was a knee jerk reaction and "totally unfair", they said.

Mr Vaz, chairman of the home affairs select committee, voiced unhappiness at Mr Woolas's comments during a visit to India where he told business people there that contrary to the minister's remarks there would be no cap on the number of people allowed to migrate to the United Kingdom. He is quoted on several Indian news websites as saying: "There is a wrong perception that the new system will cap the number of migrants, but that's totally untrue." According to the Economic Times of India, Mr Vaz said that the number of skilled migrants entering the UK under the new points based system brought in by Labour would now actually increase.

The Leicester East MP was in India leading an inquiry by the select committee into how the new system was working since being introduced in April this year. It assesses applicants based on criteria such as age, earnings, education and language ability and India was the first nation where it was introduced. During meetings with business people, Mr Vaz pledged that the system would help the UK curry industry by allowing it to recruit more skilled employees from India.

Mr Woolas hit back last night saying: "The points based system is the biggest shake-up in immigration for 50 years and whilst we don't support any specific figure it does allow you to control numbers."

The stand-off is the latest twist in a saga which began four weeks ago when Mr Woolas said that Government policy should reflect the need for an upper limit on the size of Britain's population in order to provide confidence that migration is "under control". He suggested a 70 million limit on the population, saying: "On a common sense level there has to be a limit to the population. You have to have a policy that thinks about the population implication as well as the immigration implication." His comments signalled a significant shift in government thinking. Ministers have previously insisted that it is not practical to set an upper limit.

But Mr Woolas said: "On the one hand is the rationale that we have got to strengthen our economy. But we have got to provide reassurance to communities that the numbers coming in are not bad for us. Community cohesion is crucial. After the economy, this is probably the biggest concern facing the population." The approach is understood to be backed by Gordon Brown, and a growing number of MPs who have contacted Mr Woolas to voice their support, but it is opposed by other Labour figures. Lord Hattersley said the idea of a population cap was "not Labour policy and nor will it be".

The Tories claimed the row showed that Labour pledges of a tougher immigration system were misleading. Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, said: "Keith Vaz has blown Phil Woolas's cover. The new points based system does not provide a limit, so all Mr Woolas's tough talk since he become immigration minister is just hot air. The Conservative Party has argued all along that we need an annual limit as well as the points based system and that's what we would introduce."

Clarifying his comments, Mr Vaz said: "The Government's immigration policy appears to be in a bit of a mess. A cap of 70 million people as suggested by the immigration minister, but not supported by the Home Secretary is not enforceable.

"The points based system is not about numbers but about skills. The committee has just begun its enquiry but nothing that we have seen so far suggests that the new system talks about a definite number of people coming in. If there is a skill shortage then people will be allowed to enter. Those are the rules. We have asked the immigration minister to appear before us on the 20th of November and the Home Secretary to publish all her proposals on the new Immigration Bill before we conclude our scrutiny of it. At the moment she has not sent us the full Bill to scrutinise."


NHS lifts ban on `top-up' medicine at last

A socialist evil finally bites the dust

National Health Service patients are to be allowed to pay privately for life-prolonging cancer drugs that the state does not supply. Alan Johnson, the health secretary, will end the practice of with drawing care from patients who pay privately for better medicines in an announcement expected to be made to parliament this week. The U-turn, confirmed by Whitehall sources, follows a year-long campaign by The Sunday Times.

The double injustice of denying NHS patients cancer drugs widely available elsewhere in Europe and then preventing them from paying for the drugs has also led the healthcare rationing body, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), to review its method of assessing if medicines are good value for money. Last week Nice announced it would reconsider a decision to deny patients four kidney cancer drugs - Sutent, Nexavar, Avastin and Torisel - that have been proven to extend life. In August Nice said the drugs were not cost-effective. The institute says it will issue a fresh ruling in January.

The government has previously banned the practice of NHS patients buying extra drugs privately (known as "topping up") as ministers claimed it would lead to a two-tier NHS.

Ministers will try to avoid the embarrassing possibility of two patients on the same ward receiving a different quality of care for the same illness by asking those paying for supplementary drugs to have them administered at private clinics or in the private wings of NHS hospitals.

The anticipated lifting of the ban was welcomed by Brian O'Boyle, whose wife Linda died in March aged 64 after her NHS care was withdrawn because she paid for cetuximab, a bowel cancer drug. O'Boyle's story, first told by The Sunday Times in June, prompted a government inquiry into the ban on "top-up payments" by Professor Mike Richards, the national cancer director. The results are expected to be announced by Johnson this week. O'Boyle, from Billericay, Essex, said: "Linda would have been delighted. Linda was so upset by what happened to her. This would be a fantastic legacy. All Linda ever wanted was to be able to top up."

Senior medical figures who have backed the change include Professor Karol Sikora, medical director of CancerPart-nersUK, a private cancer care company. He said: "I welcome the ditching of this outdated ideologically driven concept."


Quick march to school success

Ex-servicemen are helping to turn around unruly pupils in Britain

Keith Green isn't rattled when a boy kicks a door or swears and hurls a book. He even kept his cool during a seven-mile march with a group of teenagers when one of them staged a sit-down protest and said he wasn't budging. Nor does Green betray any emotion if one of his pupils elbows another in the face, starting a fight in the classroom. A former soldier with the Royal Highland Fusiliers, he has dealt with far worse. Nine years in the army, including four tours of duty in Iraq, has effectively inured him to teenage tantrums.

"Iraq was extremely hot, extremely tough, extremely dangerous," says Green, 32, who spent 11 months in Basra. "The riskiest incident was when we drove over a bomb and set it off. Everyone was safe but although we weren't sure if we were a target or not we had to get our drills out under threat of attack and fix the vehicle."

Living through such experiences, he thinks, gives former soldiers special skills when it comes to dealing with truculent teenagers. "Army instructors can be much more tolerant of bad behaviour than main-stream teachers," he says. "And there's a sense of humour that comes from being in the forces. It's very rare that you'll see one of us yell: `Get out of my class'." Green, who leads a team of nine ex-servicemen and women working with teenagers in eight comprehensives in North Lanarkshire, is one of hundreds of former soldiers square bashing in schools - with remarkable results.

Under the scheme, launched eight years ago, former military staff spend one day a week for two years teaching children everything from first aid and team work to how to fill in a curriculum vitae or excel at sport. Since Skill Force started it has grown to 41 teams working with 9,000 children a year - as far afield as Bath, inner city London and the Scottish Highlands. By the end of the courses the proportion of participants who are at risk of being expelled is cut from 36% to 6%, according to Jonny Gritt, the programme's leader.

One of Gritt's biggest success stories is Keri-Anne Payne, who won a silver medal at this year's Olympics in Beijing. She has said that her life was transformed by the two-year programme. When she arrived in Britain from South Africa as a teenager Payne's school suggested that she join the programme to help settle in. Although she was never badly behaved the programme gave her confidence during a time of upheaval.

The Tories are so impressed with Skill Force that they want to expand it fivefold, sending more ex-servicemen like Green into classrooms to become role models for bored, disaffected and shy children. "These men are heroes," said Michael Gove, the shadow schools secretary, announcing the party's plans this year.

So why does the scheme work? Green says that it's all down to the military approach. "All the way through an army career you learn how to motivate people, which buttons to press to get the best out of them," he says. " The army philosophy is to look after your guys, the people in your charge. That instinct makes our instructors bond with the kids and gives them the feeling that we're going to get through this together. "We don't take any lack of respect. We try to find out why a child is acting up and get him to understand the impact his action has on others. The military brings self-discipline - the best form of discipline - and that's what we try to show them."

The instructors delve into the backgrounds of their charges, says Green. "Children might be from a home where Mum doesn't get up in the morning or make breakfast. We build up the picture." He is proud of the many success stories. "There was one kid who was very quiet in the classroom - yet when he went on a Duke of Edinburgh trip with us he came to life. It showed him what he was capable of, and he's gone on to look at joining the marines."

Another teenager, 16-year-old Peter Hamilton, a pupil at Graeme high school in Falkirk, is enthusiastic about the course - and says it has transformed him. "I was like a bad boy when I was 14 - backchatting teachers, not paying attention in class," he says. "The course made me a better person." Instead of abandoning his education at 16 he now has his sights set on going to college and embarking on a career in sports coaching. "The instructors were much better at dealing with our class than ordinary teachers," he says. "You could talk to them about anything." He liked the way they rewarded good behaviour, giving points that could be collected and swapped for treats. "Ten points and you could go on a trip," says Fraser. "It worked for me."

Yet not everyone is happy with the arrival of soldiers in schools. Green says that when his team visits pupils' homes to deliver awards or certificates, the reception is sometimes frosty. "There is suspicion from some families, yes," he admits. "It may be that one of their worries is that we might try to recruit their son into the army."

Earlier this year the army came under attack from the National Union of Teachers, which accused it of targeting pupils in deprived areas. The union said it would back any teacher who boycotted armed forces material in schools, claiming it was based on "misleading propaganda".

Green notes that many of the children in his charge come from coastal villages where career options are limited because of the decline in the deep-sea fishing industry, so a small number do join the forces. But more opt for what he calls "the uniformed services" - the police, the fire brigade and nursing. "We don't talk to the kids about the military," says Green. "I think the army is a fantastic organisation, and I would never discourage them from joining up - but I am careful about what I say about it in the first place."

Of course, for the servicemen, too, the move into schools reaps rewards. With a recession looming and 7,000 soldiers leaving the forces every year it can be tough to find jobs. Gritt wants his instructors to be able to take a one-year teaching certificate course - a move supported by the Tories, who would give 9,000 pound bursaries to ex-servicemen who are graduates to train as teachers. They have also proposed the introduction of a British "GI bill", which would pay for soldiers to take a degree after discharge.

"I do think it would be good if more people from the forces came into schools," says Green. "Our instructors come from the same backgrounds as many of these children and speak the same language. Some teenagers can't identify with teachers who are straight A-grade students and went from school straight to university. [Our] guys have been a success outside academia - they show the kids what can be achieved."


Naughty British Muslim

We read:
"Muslim artist, Sarah Maple has been criticized in the past for how she depicts her religion in her work, but her latest exhibition in London has triggered a new wave of intimidation, death threats and even violence. Since putting the 23-year-old's exhibit on display on Oct. 16, SaLon gallery in Notting Hill has received a string of violent emails and phone calls about the artist and her family, according to the British Broadcasting Company.

Maple's exhibit is filled with controversial self-portraits of the artist wearing a headscarf posing in provocative ways, the BBC reported. In one painting she also bares a breast. But gallery owners believe it was a painting of the artist in a headscarf holding a pig that triggered the violence, according to the BBC. [LOL!]

The gallery itself was also targeted when woman wearing a burka threatened gallery workers earlier this week, and again when the glass front of the gallery was smashed on Tuesday, the London Telegraph reported. SaLon has since enlisted 24-hour police protection.


Global cooling hits England again

Surrey enjoys first October snowfall in 121 years

Up to an inch of snow greeted East Surrey residents today (Wednesday, October 29) following the earliest October snowfall in the county for 121 years. The snow blanketed parts of Surrey after Arctic winds turned Tuesday night's rain into a mini-blizzard. As temperatures plunged from 9C during the afternoon to freezing point by 11pm, the rain turned to snow.

The first flakes began falling at about 10pm and by midnight, roads had become treacherous in the hilly villages of both Tandridge district and the borough of Reigate and Banstead. Particularly snowy were Chaldon, Woldingham, Banstead, Tadworth, Burgh Heath and Kingswood.

By the morning, many roads were like skidpans and some drivers found their vehicles turned into frozen igloos. Buses in Caterham inched their way along icy streets while on the railways, trains from London to Surrey were delayed by frozen points and equipment.

Mirror weatherman Ian Currie, who has studied the climate for more than 40 years, said it was the first October snowfall in Surrey since 1887. "This is as rare a weather event as the Great Storm of 1987," said Mr Currie, 57. "There has been snow observed in 1974 and 1981 but such a covering has not occurred since 1887.

"In Victorian times it was more common to see snow in October. With all the global warming and seas being much warmer than they used to be, it is even more remarkable and I shall be studying this event in great detail."


"Green" car goes bang as British driver lights up

A motorist has vowed to steer clear of green driving after his gas-powered car exploded when he lit up at the wheel.
Peter Tidbury, 50, had a "miraculous" escape when his Peugot 607 blew up after he lit a cigarette. The businessman thought that he was saving money and the environment by switching to a car that ran on liquid petroleum gas, which is cheaper and less polluting than petrol or diesel.

A suspected leak in the vehicle's pipes led to an explosion that blew the windscreen 50ft down the road and forced the evacuation of nearby houses. The incident happened after Mr Tidbury, who works for an energy-saving company, stopped at a service station in Barnsley to fill up with gas. He said: "I was doing about 30mph and as I lit the cigarette there was an almighty explosion. The windows went out, the bonnet went up and the boot went up just as you see in the Hollywood movies."

Mr Tidbury, who was treated for flash burns at Barnsley District Hospital, is now looking for another car. It will be a diesel.


"Artic Icecap is Melting, Even in Winter"

Leaky Jonathan is an old science fraud from way back. His latest effort is demolished below

The scare: Jonathan Leake, in The Times of London on 26 October 2008, says:

1. The Arctic icecap is "shrinking at record rates" even in the winter;
2. "The period in which the ice renews itself has become much shorter";
3. The "even more alarming" cause of the thinner ice is warmer seas rather than warmer air;
4. "The Arctic is likely to melt much faster than had been thought";
5. "The summer icecap could vanish within a decade", according to unnamed "experts";
6. The Northwest Passage was open in the summer of 2008 for the first time in 30 years;
7. Arctic sea ice is half of its 1976 thickness;
8. "Now the ice is just collapsing". as shown by "satellite-based observations";
9. In September 2007 the Arctic icecap had "lost an extra 1.1 million square miles;
10. The icecap was "43% smaller than it was in 1979, when satellite observations began";
11. Less ice means less sunlight reflected harmlessly back to space and so more warming;
12. "The process accelerates until there is no more ice to melt"; and
13. A scientist has said: "This is one of the most serious problems the world has ever faced".

The truth: This article, like so many on "global warming", is rooted in the naive fallacy that the fact of warming tells us that the cause is anthropogenic rather than natural. We begin this Scarewatch, therefore, with a few truths about how much warmer the climate was before humankind could possibly have affected it significantly (or at all).

Today's temperatures are below normal

In the Cambrian era, 550 million years ago, global temperatures were usually 7 degrees C (12.5 F) warmer than the present. The natural state of the planet for most of past half billion years has been entirely ice-free. Humankind cannot have been to blame. We were not there.

In each of the past half dozen ice ages over the past half million years, Antarctic (and by implication global) surface temperatures were up to 5 degrees C (9 F) warmer than the present. We were still not there. In the interglacial period about 850,000 years ago, the entire Greenland ice sheet melted away. It is inconceivable that there could have been any Arctic icecap then. We were not to blame. There were very, very few SUVs or coal-fired power stations at that time.

What about more recent history? For 6,500 of the 10,000 years since the end of the last ice age, temperatures have been warmer than the present. Today's temperatures, therefore, are not unprecedentedly high. They are below normal.

In the Bronze Age, Roman, and mediaeval warm periods, temperatures were warmer than the present. The largest mediaeval Viking settlement in Greenland, at Hvalsey in the south-west, prospered in the warm weather that allowed Eric the Red to dub Greenland Greenland.

Today, the Viking graveyard at Hvalsey is under permafrost. The Vikings could not bury their dead in permafrost. So the permafrost was not there during the mediaeval warm period.

What about more recent history still? As recently as the 1930s to early 1940s, the Arctic was warmer than the present. Yet humankind at that date was less numerous and less industrially active than today.

Now that we have established that today's temperatures are not exceptional, it follows that we cannot attribute any temperature changes in the Arctic exclusively or even primarily to humankind. What, then, are the natural influences on the Arctic climate?

Natural influences on the Arctic climate

The Sun: The first and most important of the natural influences on climate is the Sun. Soon (2004) has demonstrated a remarkably close correlation between solar activity and Arctic temperature changes. Scafetta and West (2008) say that the influence of the Sun on the climate is far greater than the IPCC finds it expedient to imagine: they calculate that more than two-thirds of the warming that ceased in 1998 worldwide was caused by solar activity, and they conclude that the influence of increasing carbon dioxide concentrations on temperature is many times less than the IPCC would like us to think.

The sea: Next, the great ocean currents sometimes direct vast bodies of tropical warm water up towards the Arctic, causing a considerable warming of the Arctic ocean and a consequent melting of ice. A paper by NASA in 2007 found that anthropogenic "global warming" had very little impact on the Arctic in comparison with the effect of global changes in patterns of currents such as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, which has recently been moving unusually large volumes of tropical water into the Arctic, assisted by the wind.

Seabed volcanoes: Finally, researchers have recently discovered that subsea volcanic activity in the Arctic region has increased. Early in 2008 a paper was published explaining that in the Greenland-Iceland Gap the ocean bottom had reached temperatures as high as 573 degrees F.

Taking factors such as these into account, it is simply not scientifically credible to attribute the current temperatures in the Arctic to anthropogenic "global warming". Interestingly, the Sunday Times article is noteworthy for not mentioning humankind as a culprit at all.

The alarmism on which newspapers thrive is present: but it is clear that a very much more cautious approach to "global warming" has been taken. To this extent, and to this extent only, the Sunday Times article begins to reflect the truth.

With this background, we turn to the individual scares itemized in our summary of Mr. Leake's rather hysterical article -

1: The Actic icecap is "shrinking at record rates" even in the winter

At the Science and Public Policy Institute we do not proselytize. We make the scientific facts and data available and allow readers to draw their own conclusions. The image below shows the extent of Arctic sea-ice cover on 25 October 1979, the first year of the satellite record (no image for the 26th is available), compared with 26 October 2008, the date of the Sunday Times article -

2: "The period in which the ice renews itself has become much shorter"

Once again, we shall provide real data rather than hollow debating points. The graph below shows the past year's sea-ice area compared with the mean for 1979-2000 -

It is self-evident from this graph that the "period in which the ice renews itself" will be considerably longer this year than it was last year, when the anomalous natural conditions described in NASA's paper about the influence of ocean currents had occurred.

3. The "even more alarming" cause of the thinner ice is warmer seas, not warmer air

Here, Mr. Leake confirms what NASA had found: that ocean currents and winds taking warmer water from the tropics to the Arctic have made the Arctic Ocean warmer. So has the subsea volcanic activity in the Greenland-Iceland Gap. There is nothing "alarming" about this. It is an entirely natural phenomenon, over which humankind has no influence and no control.

We know that, overall, the oceans have not in fact been warming. See, for instance, Lyman et al., 2006, whose study of ocean temperatures is one of the most detailed of its kind; or Gouretski and Koltermann (2007). Just as the air temperatures have shown no appreciable increase in the past decade, worldwide sea temperatures have shown no increase either. In short, there has been no "global warming" going on. That is a very powerful reason why it is imprudent to attribute the recent warming of the Arctic waters to anthropogenic "global warming". It is instead attributable to natural, local warming against a background of prolonged and intense global cooling.

4. "The Arctic is likely to melt much faster than had been thought"

In April 2007, the UK Met Office issued its long-range forecast for the British summer. It said the summer would be the hottest, driest, most drought-prone summer on record because of "global warming" (and, if we've scared you enough, please can we have a smart new computer at taxpayers' expense?). Just six weeks later, in June 2007, the coldest, wettest, most flood-prone summer since records began came in - and was of course blamed on "global warming".

If our forecasters cannot get a general forecast correct six weeks in advance, on what rational scientific basis can they claim that "The Arctic is likely to melt faster than had been thought"? We were told earlier this summer that it might be possible to reach the North Pole by kayak for the first time since recent records began: but a lavishly-funded expedition had travelled only two days northward from its starting-point in Svalbard before being halted by impenetrable ice and intense cold.

The launching of the expedition was heavily reported in The Times and other news media, especially because the organizers fatuously said they were kayaking to the North Pole "to raise awareness of global warming" (presumably this was the only way to do it in the absence of any actual warming compared with 28 years ago). Gordon Brown, the UK Prime Minister, bizarrely telephoned the kayakers after they had become ice-bound, to congratulate them on their achievement. What achievement? They claimed they had kayaked further north than anyone had ever done before. Like most claims to do with "global warming", this was false: an expedition half a century previously had done considerably better.

In short, there is no scientific basis for the article's declaration that "the Arctic is likely to melt much faster than had been thought". Currently the Arctic is freezing much faster than had been thought - which is why the kayakers and their stunt became icebound after just two miserably cold days.

Much more here (See the original for links, graphics etc.)

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