Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christian words deleted from influential British dictionary

We read:
"For generations, schoolchildren have been captivated by the magic of nature, gripped by tales from British history and fascinated by learning about our Christian traditions. Today, however, crucial words used to describe these traditional topics have been stripped from an influential children's dictionary in favour of more 'modern' terms. Among the entries which have disappeared from the latest edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary are disciple, coronation, empire, piglet and acorn. In their place come the likes of MP3 player, broadband, biodegradable, committee and celebrity.

Publishers Oxford University Press say the dictionary needs to evolve to reflect the fact that Britain has become a modern, multicultural, multi-faith society in which fewer children grow up in rural environments. But academics and headteachers said the changes to the 10,000-entry volume - aimed at over-sevens - would deprive a new generation of links with their heritage. The changes were highlighted by a mother-of-four who noticed that words like moss and fern had vanished from the latest edition while helping her son with her homework.

Lisa Saunders, from County Down, Northern Ireland, compared six editions since the 1970s and was horrified to discover that a whole range of words relating to Christianity, nature and British history had been axed over the years. 'The Christian faith still has a strong following,' she said. 'To eradicate so many words associated with Christianity will have a big effect on the numerous primary schools who use it.'....

And Anthony Seldon, the master of Wellington College, a leading private school in Berkshire, said: 'I am stunned that words like "saint", "buttercup", "heather"and "sycamore" have all gone and I grieve it. 'I think as well as being descriptive, the Oxford Junior Dictionary has to be prescriptive too, suggesting not just words that are used but words that should be used.


Andrew Bolt has more.

Human rights: British government to get tough and reform 'villains charter'

Jack Straw plans to overhaul the Human Rights Act amidst concerns that it has become a charter for criminals. The Justice Secretary wants to reflect complaints that the act protects rights but says nothing about responsibilities. In an exclusive interview with the Daily Mail, he says he is 'frustrated' by the way the legislation he introduced ten years ago has sometimes been interpreted by the courts. He blames 'nervous' judges for refusing to deport extremists and terrorist suspects despite assurances by ministers that their removal is in the national interest. A decade after it was passed at the height of New Labour's enthusiasm for constitutional reform, this is the first explicit acknowledgment of the Human Rights Act's flaws by its chief architect.

In a move which will alarm the civil liberties lobby, Mr Straw reveals that he is studying whether the act can be tightened and has taken legal advice. 'In due course I could envisage that there could be additions made to to work in the issues of responsibilities,' he says. The Justice Secretary sympathises with those who complain that the act has become used by prisoners to avoid punishment or by Islamic extremists to avoid deportation. He tells the Mail that he wants to ' rebalance' the rights set out in the Human Rights Act by adding explicit 'responsibilities', specifically to obey the law and to be loyal to the country. He is also looking at ways of promoting social rights such as access to health care, as well as social responsibilities such staying healthy or the education of children.

He said: 'I fully understand that Mail readers have concerns about the Human Rights Act. There is a sense that it's a villains charter or that it stops terrorists being deported or criminals being properly given publicity. I am greatly frustrated by this, not by the concerns, but by some very few judgments that have thrown up these problems.'

His offer to overhaul the act could form a cornerstone of the next Labour manifesto, making rights and responsibilities a battleground issue at the general election. It will be seen as a calculated attempt to outflank the Tories, who have promised to scrap the act altogether and replace it with their own British Bill of Rights.

Critics of the Human Rights Act say it has been exploited by unscrupulous lawyers to promote a culture of compensation, and to defend those who promote their rights at the expense of others. They complain that it has had a sweeping effect on the legal system by giving protection to spurious compensation claims, demands for privileged treatment and outright abuses. In recent times, it has been cited by travellers [gypsies] and squatters as a defence against the threat of expulsion. There are also concerns that it has put the rights of prisoners and criminals ahead of those of their victims. Last month Home Secretary Jacqui Smith admitted the act has made it difficult to remove terror suspects from the country. Mr Straw echoes her concern, but argues that even without the act it would be difficult to deport them.

In a separate development, he reveals that he has told his officials to fight workplace compensation claims at the Ministry of Justice, prisons, the probation service and any other sections under his control rather than settle out of court. And he urges the private sector to do the same to discourage what he dismisses as 'unscrupulous ambulance chasers'. He has been highly critical of so-called 'no win no fee' agreements, in which lawyers go unpaid but charge heavy costs if they win an action.

The arrangements were introduced a decade ago to make access to justice cheaper for claimants, but the growth of rogue firms which encourage clients to file inappropriate claims, in particular for personal injury, prompted Mr Straw to set up a Government review of charges. He accuses some lawyers of imposing costs which are 'nothing short of scandalous'.

A long-delayed Green Paper is likely in January, which will set out Mr Straw's ambitions for what responsibilities could be set out in a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, or added to the Human Rights Act. As the act is part of a law passed by Parliament, UK legislators have a perfect right to amend it - although any such move is likely to be subject to furious legal protests.


New ‘Report cards’ on schools to help parents to choose

Parents choosing a state school for their child are to get help in the form of a report card that will award schools a grade from A to F, based on factors such as pupil satisfaction and exam scores. Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, said that the report cards, modelled on a system used in New York, aimed to cut the “detective work” that parents have to do, by bringing together information on academic achievement as well as other criteria. These may include ratings of pupil and parental satisfaction, child well-being and a measure of how the school is doing in narrowing the achievement gap between children from rich and poor households.

Mr Balls said: “There is lots of useful information out there for parents on how schools are performing – like performance tables and Ofsted reports - but the volume of data can be confusing and difficult to navigate.”

Report cards will grade primary and secondary schools in England on an annual basis, although individual measures could be updated through the year. They will also provide “signposts” to other information, such as Ofsted reports. If successful, the cards are likely to prove a useful alternative to league tables based only on exam results, which have been criticised heavily for providing a crude and partial measure.

Teaching unions gave the report cards a cautious welcome. Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said they represented an “interesting opportunity”, but that the measures used to compile the reports needed to be robust.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The balanced report card has the potential to reflect better the performance of the school than any single set of examination statistics, but it must replace league tables, not be in addition to them.”


IQ in early adulthood and later risk of death by homicide: cohort study of 1 million men

By G. David Batty et al.

Background: Risk factors for homicide are emerging; however, the predictive value of IQ, for which there is a strong prima facie case, has yet to be examined.

Aims: To examine the association between IQ and risk of death by homicide.

Method: A cohort of 968 846 men, aged 18-19 years, were administered an IQ test battery at military conscription and then followed for mortality experience over two decades.

Results: There were 191 deaths due to homicide during follow-up. In age-adjusted analyses, a high total IQ test score was associated with a reduced rate of homicide (hazard ratio (HR) per standard deviation increase in IQ score=0.49, 95% CI 0.42-0.57). A step-wise gradient was apparent across the three IQ groups (P-value for trend <0.001). After adjustment for indicators of socio-economic position and illness at conscription, this gradient was marginally attenuated (HR=0.57, 95% CI 0.49-0.67).

Conclusions: High IQ test scores in early adulthood were associated with a reduced risk of death by homicide.

The British Journal of Psychiatry (2008) 193: 461-465.

In other words, it is dummies who are most likely to get murdered. Not terribly surprising but it shows once again how far-reaching are the effects of IQ. Leftists who try to trivialize IQ have a mountain of evidence against them

How untrained NHS GPs are missing two-thirds of dementia victims

Hundreds of thousands of dementia sufferers remain undiagnosed - largely because of a lack of GP training, it can be revealed. Research shows two-thirds of victims have not been identified by the NHS - meaning they get no drugs, home help or other vital assistance. And a separate survey of family doctors found that their inadequate training, and a shortage of support services for sufferers, is mostly to blame for the health service's failings.

There are at least 700,000 people living with Alzheimer's or a related condition in Britain, with 575,000 of those in England, according to Government-recognised research. GPs are expected to compile lists of all those diagnosed. But according to an analysis of those lists in England by the Liberal Democrats and the Alzheimer's Society, only 220,000 are registered. It means around 355,000 - 62 per cent - of dementia sufferers live without any support from the NHS.

Meanwhile, in the survey of GPs by the Daily Mail, 29 per cent admit they have not had enough training to diagnose and manage dementia. Some 60 per cent said there was a reluctance to diagnose because of a lack of support services, while 40 per cent felt hesitant to make a diagnosis because of the dearth of drug treatments. Worryingly, 10 per cent feel nothing can be done for victims, so do not bother to diagnose at all. Overall, more than two-thirds said funding shortages were to blame for care failures.

Neil Hunt, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society, said: 'Without a diagnosis, people can't understand frightening symptoms and can't make plans for the future or access support. 'GPs get very little time and we hear cases of people being told they are stupid and sent away. 'Others have a five minute session and are basically told, "good luck, I don't envy you but there's nothing we can do". 'It's no wonder people give in to depression and give up. But the evidence is many can have a reasonable quality of life if the disease is diagnosed early enough.'

The LibDem research into undiagnosed sufferers found 95 per cent of PCTs have fewer than half the registered dementia patients expected. It also unveils a postcode lottery, with some health trusts having far fewer registered patients than others. The worst is Heart of Birmingham PCT, which covers the centre of the city. An estimated 82 per cent of sufferers there are undiagnosed. The best is Islington in North London. But even there, some 32 per cent go undiagnosed.

LibDem health spokesman Norman Lamb said: 'These findings beg the question - why are so many going without the help their GP can offer? 'Too often people assume nothing can be done and it is a part of ageing. 'We must challenge this view, because a great deal can be done to delay the onset and progression of the condition. 'The NHS must do more to ensure people are encouraged to seek early help and that they have access to care from their GP, specialist assessment and accurate diagnosis. 'But the problems go wider with a social care sector under massive pressure. 'The Government has been slow to acknowledge these problems and there's a risk that urgently-required reform will be knocked in the long grass as economic problems grab attention.'

But Care Services Minister Phil Hope promised investment into dementia research will 'continue to grow'. He added: 'We recognise that the key to improving the diagnosis rates is firstly to increase public and professional awareness. 'Secondly, we must ensure professionals involved in diagnosis have the skills and knowledge to do so effectively.'


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