Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Incorrect British jelly to be axed after 144 years on the shelves

We read:
"Robertson's jam, a breakfast table fixture for generations and a symbol of controversy over its use of the Golly character, is being axed. The makers of the jam have decided to concentrate on another brand, Hartley's, instead. Robertson's has been part of British life since 1864, when the business was started by Scottish grocer James Robertson behind his shop in Paisley.

The Golly character, a black-faced minstrel doll with colourful clothes, was on the label for the best part of a century. It spawned badge collections and dolls but was condemned by some as an offensive caricature of black people, based on slave dolls. The Golly was axed from TV adverts in 1988, and disappeared from the labels in 2002.

Now Premier Foods, which bought the brand last year, is getting rid of Robertson's jam, although Golden Shred marmalade will survive. A spokesman said: 'We took a decision that Robertson's and Hartley's were similar products and so the focus has been on Hartley's.' Robertson's will go by the end of next year, said the industry magazine The Grocer.


Must not mention Nazi sex?

We read:
"The Oscar aspirations of Kate Winslet, the British star, have been threatened by critics' claims that nudity in her latest film, The Reader, has "trivialised" the story it tells about the Nazi Holocaust.

Winslet, who plays a former concentration camp guard with a voracious sexual appetite, was believed to be a certainty for her sixth Oscar nomination next month until an attack by Charlie Finch, an influential New York critic, spread across the internet and raised doubts among Oscar voters in Hollywood.

The furore began at a private screening last week hosted by Stephen Daldry, the film's British director. Finch, who contributes to several New York newspapers and magazines, accused him of creating a "dishonest and manipulative" vision of Nazi war crimes and postwar Germany which, because of its sex and stars - including Ralph Fiennes - would "crowd out" many better films about the subject.



JIM RATCLIFFE, the reclusive billionaire behind Ineos, Britain’s largest private company, has warned Gordon Brown that hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost if the prime minister commits Britain to tougher EU curbs on carbon emissions.

Ratcliffe issued the warning in a letter last week that was also signed by Paul Thompson, chief executive of GrowHow, the UK’s last remaining fertiliser manufacturer, and Steve Elliott, head of the Chemical Industries Association.

It is part of a feverish, last-ditch effort by the chemicals industry and other big energy users to force changes to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) ahead of a summit of EU leaders this week in Brussels, where they are expected to sign off on a bloc-wide climate-change package.

The industry argues that the next phase of the ETS — which proposes to incorporate industries now excluded from the programme such as chemicals, cement and glassmakers from 2013 – will lead to “carbon leakage” as companies relocate to countries where they are not forced to pay to pollute. The chemical industry employs, directly and indirectly, 600,000 people in the UK.

In its current form, the ETS will impose carbon-emissions caps on industrial polluters from 2013 and force them to pay for 100% of their permits by 2020. Ratcliffe said that doing so would be “truly horrendous” for the industry and make it uncompetitive. Instead, he says that chemicals manufacturers should be allocated permits for free and agree on less stringent pollution caps because they compete against rivals in countries not subject to such rules.

Ratcliffe, who has been locked in crisis talks with banks after a sharp downturn in business put his company in danger of breaching covenants, said: “We believe there is a significant danger to our 60 billion pound industry if phase three of EU ETS becomes law in its current form. "Chemical businesses situated throughout the UK, especially in the north of England and central Scotland, with 80% of them foreign-owned, will be ‘decimated’, putting almost 200,000 jobs at risk,” he added.

Emissions permits go for 15.49 euros per tonne, but are expected to roughly triple when phase three of the ETS begins in 2013. The energy industry, one of the largest polluters, has already accepted that it will have to pay for 100% of its permits from 2013.

It is thought that EU leaders may have been persuaded by the industry’s arguments and will soften their stance. An increase in free allocations to polluting sectors will bring howls from environmentalists who claim that the industry is overdramatising the threat posed by the ETS.

Ed Miliband, the energy and climate change secretary who met European ministers in Poznan, Poland, for talks on climate change last week, said: “The [climate] package must retain its environmental integrity. This means a commitment to reducing our emissions by 30% following a global deal.

“It means a tough and declining cap in the ETS and an ambitious increase in the auctioning of ETS allowances. It means addressing competitiveness, but only on the basis of firm evidence of sectors at genuine risk of carbon leakage.”


Another feedback mechanism that is not in the climate models

Collapsing antarctic ice sheets, which have become potent symbols of global warming, may actually turn out to help in the battle against climate change and soaring carbon emissions.

Professor Rob Raiswell, a geologist at the University of Leeds, says that as the sheets break off the ice covering the continent, floating icebergs are produced that gouge minerals from the bedrock as they make their way to the sea. Raiswell believes that the accumulated frozen mud could breathe life into the icy waters around Antarctica, triggering a large, natural removal of carbon dioxide from the at mosphere.

And as rising temperatures cause the ice sheets to break up faster, creating more icebergs, the amount of carbon dioxide removed will also rise. Raiswell says: 'It won't solve the problem, but it might buy us some time.'

More here

Traditional subjects go in British schools shake-up

Primary pupils switch to "theme-based" learning

Traditional subjects such as history, geography and religious studies will be removed from the primary school curriculum and merged into a "human, social and environmental" learning programme as part of a series of radical education reforms. Under the plans, information technology classes would be given as much prominence as literacy and numeracy, and foreign languages would be taught in tandem with English. The reforms are the most sweeping for 20 years and aim to slim down the curriculum so that younger children can be taught fewer subjects in greater depth.

Sir Jim Rose, author of the interim report to be published today by the Schools Secretary, Ed Balls, said that the changes were aimed at producing a curriculum for the 21st century. His proposals are to undergo further consultation but are understood to have the backing of the Government. Sir Jim said that combining traditional subjects in themed "learning areas" and introducing more practical and applied teaching would help pupils to make use of their knowledge in real-life situations, such as in managing their own finances.

He said that traditional subjects needed to be taught in a different way to make lessons more relevant to children. "We are certainly not getting rid of subjects such as history and geography," he told The Times. "We are trying to give primary schools flexibility to do less, but to do it better. The history they will be doing will be more in-depth."

The six learning areas defined by Sir Jim are: understanding English, communication and languages; mathematical understanding; scientific and technological understanding; human, social and environmental understanding; understanding physical health and well-being; and understanding arts and design.

While some teachers will welcome the proposals as giving them more flexibility and a chance to move away from a system first imposed in 1904, others have said that abandoning traditional subjects could lead to a dilution of specialist knowledge.

History, geography and religious studies would come under the banner of human, social and environmental understanding. The advantage of not having them as distinct subjects would allow teachers to introduce them in other parts of the curriculum, Sir Jim said. "The starting point of a lesson could be a historical point of study, but it could lead to other elements too, such as geography or citizenship," he said. Similarly, an English lesson could include French through a comparison of English and French words with common roots.

Sir Jim is particularly keen that children learn more practical skills for everyday life. "In maths, we often teach children to do sums, but then when they are faced with a problem in real life they don't know what sum to do. We should teach knowledge and skills as thoroughly as we can, and then we get in lots of applications and uses," he said.

He will also recommend that children in the last two years of primary school - years five and six - should have more lessons from teachers with specialist subjects, who could be hired from neighbouring secondary schools or the private sector.

Although his review did not cover testing, he said that he hoped that the Government would continue to explore alternatives to the key stage 2 tests for 11-year-olds.


British cop forced to quit after 15 years over views on homosexuality, says the service has a 'bias against faith'

The Christian policeman sacked after a row over gay rights has told how his dismissal after 15 years in the force has `devastated' his family. As The Mail on Sunday revealed in the summer, Graham Cogman objected to being `bombarded' at work by emails and posters promoting events such as Gay History Month. He responded to the `politically correct' campaign by sending emails to colleagues quoting Biblical texts suggesting that homosexual sex was sinful. But he faced accusations of homophobia and a series of disciplinary hearings, culminating 12 days ago in his sacking by Norfolk Police for misconduct.

The twice-commended officer said yesterday: `I am totally devastated. It was a job I loved. This is destroying me and my family.' He admitted he had `stupidly' breached a ban by using the internal communications system to post a link to an American Christian organisation, but said the force's decision to sack him was `harsh and disproportionate'. Mr Cogman, 50, accused the police service of becoming so sensitive to the rights of gays that Christians could no longer safely express their views.

Speaking at his home in Sea Palling, Norfolk, which he shares with his wife Elaine, 46, and his two children, Mr Cogman said: `In the service in general there is a feeling of fear. There is a definite bias against faith - any faith - if it takes a critical view of homosexual sex. `The easy option for me would have been to keep quiet but when there is such prejudice towards one point of view, how can that be right? That doesn't sound like equality and diversity to me. `I don't have any worries with what people do in their private lives - if they are gay, that's fine. I haven't gone after anyone maliciously.'

Mr Cogman, backed by the Police Federation, is appealing against his sacking and is planning to take his force to an employment tribunal next year, funded by the Christian Legal Centre. He said he had received a huge amount of support both from within and outside the force. Last week the Rev Martin Young, vicar of St Andrew's church in Norwich, wrote an open letter to Norfolk Police protesting that it had `manifestly failed to uphold PC Cogman's right to express his Christian faith'. The vicar added: `His views are not extreme or unusual. They are consistent with the published understanding of the Church of England, of which he is a member.' Mr Cogman said he had no problems with colleagues until gay liaison officers circulated an email to officers in early 2005 encouraging staff to wear a pink ribbon on their uniforms during Gay History Month.

He emailed colleagues suggesting they might want to read biblical texts suggesting homosexual sex was sinful. As a result, he was ordered to stop using the internal messaging system for failing to show `tolerance and respect' for fellow officers. The following year, when officers were encouraged to wear rainbow ribbons during Gay History Month, Mr Cogman said it was `inappropriate, thoughtless and insensitive' as the rainbow symbolised God's faithfulness. He was accused of unlawfully using the internal messaging system and victimising another gay liaison officer by saying: `Love the sinner, hate the deed.' He was docked 13 days' pay.

In April this year, he was questioned again after circulating a link to a helpline for people struggling with their sexuality on a website headed by the controversial American preacher Pat Robertson. At the misconduct hearing, overseen by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, a panel found that Mr Cogman had ignored an order banning him from using the police computer system and had failed to treat a colleague with politeness and respect.

Mr Cogman said: `I felt physically sick when I heard the ruling. If I hadn't posted that link I would still have a job. That was my downfall, my stupidity, however you want to put it. But my intention was to help.' He claimed a small group of pro-gay officers had been determined to oust him. `They have their own agenda and now they have my scalp.'

Norfolk Police said: `The issue is not about Mr Cogman's beliefs but about his behaviour. He ignored repeated warnings about his behaviour and was dismissed for failing to obey a lawful order and required to resign for failing to show politeness and tolerance to colleagues.' [If he had quoted the Koran rather than the Bible, those who criticized him would be in the gun]


Welfare mothers to be forced to work

Britain trying to catch up with the USA

ALMOST all benefit claimants will be forced either to look for a job or prepare for work if they want to continue to receive state handouts, under a shake-up of the welfare state. Single mothers of children as young as one and people registered unfit for work will be compelled to go on training courses and work experience or risk cuts to their benefits. In an interview with The Sunday Times, James Purnell, the work and pensions secretary, said: "Virtually everyone will be doing something in return for their benefits."

The welfare reform white paper, to be published this week, is set to provoke anger from rebel Labour MPs and campaign groups who believe such measures are unfair in a period of rising unemployment.

The conviction of Karen Matthews for kidnapping her daughter Shannon has shown the perverse consequences of the welfare system. Matthews, who had seven children, had never worked and was existing on 400 pounds a week in benefits.

The government will also announce plans to:

- Reform housing benefit to ensure the jobless can no longer live in large houses courtesy of the taxpayer.

- Allow companies to bid for contracts to place the long-term unemployed in work.

- Introduce a medical testing regime for people on incapacity benefit.

- Impose US-style "work-fare" schemes forcing those who refuse to take jobs to work in return for benefits.

At the core of the reforms is the proposal to divide benefit claimants into three groups. The first group is made up of unemployed people on jobseeker's allowance. From 2010, single mothers whose youngest child is aged seven or over will be moved from income support to the allowance. Lone parents now remain on income support until their children reach 16.

The second group will include about 400,000 single parents whose youngest child is aged between one and six, and more than 2m people claiming incapacity benefit. These claimants will face job centre interviews before being forced to undertake training courses or unpaid work placements.

A third group, including seriously disabled people and mothers of young babies, will continue to receive "unconditional" benefits.

There is expected to be legislation next year detailing the powers to be given to benefits advisers to compel claimants to attend official interviews. Those who fail to turn up could have their benefits cut. Under one proposal being considered, a first offence would result in a claimant losing 12 pounds, rising to 24 for a second offence. Repeat offenders could forfeit all their benefits for four weeks and would have only essential bills paid. The basic rate of income support and jobseeker's allowance is 60.50 a week.

Purnell said his scheme was "not about stigmatising anybody". He said sanctions would be a last resort and the thrust of the reforms was to provide "personalised advice". Purnell sought to reassure parents of young children that they would be given assistance finding childcare. "The conditionality would be very different for a one-year-old compared to a six-year-old," he said. The new approach would make women like Matthews work rather than rely on welfare, he said.

Terry Rooney, the Labour chairman of the work and pensions select committee, warned that Purnell's plan would prompt a backbench rebellion when it was debated in the Commons. "This will lead to a bureaucratic nightmare with tens of thousands of people being called in for interview and then being sent home again," he said. "The key question on lone parents is whether childcare is available. In most cases, it is not."

The Conservatives expressed doubts about the clampdown on lone parents. Chris Grayling, the shadow work and pensions secretary, said: "I don't think these measures will actually work. Britain urgently needs real welfare reform to end the entitlement culture."


British parents who block estranged spouses from seeing children face community punishment

Parents who prevent their estranged spouses from seeing their children will have to carry out community service. Only a small step towards justice but better than nothing

Under new laws that come into effect next week, divorced or separated mothers and fathers will be hit with tough punishments for breaking contact orders handed down by family courts. They can be sentenced to up to 100 hours of unpaid work in the community for breaking the orders, with the penalty doubling to 200 hours and a fine if they fail to abide by the punishment. In addition, parents can be forced to attend therapy sessions and parenting lessons in the terms of the contact orders.

The new rules come into effect from Monday in provisions of the Children and Adoption Act 2006 that aim to strengthen the power of the authorities to deal with parents who block contact. They are being welcomed by some legal experts as a way of ensuring that parents who separate are able to keep in touch with their children.

Barbara Reeves, a partner in the family department of leading law firm Mishcon de Reya, said: "Any measures that support parental contact following the separation of a child's parents are to be supported. "These latest measures allow courts far greater powers to facilitate contact by imposing conditions to contact orders which will compel parents to attend family therapy, parenting classes and the like. "Also, where one parent frustrates contact, the court now has a practical enforcement power in that it some circumstances the recalcitrant parent can be compelled to take unpaid work. "It remains to be seen however, just how far the courts will take advantage of these new powers and move us towards the ideal situation whereby children are brought up always knowing both parents and honouring agreements or orders that facilitate contact."

But others claim the new sanctions will criminalise mothers and fathers unnecessarily, and point out that single parents will struggle to find the time to attend courses as well as meeting the costs, which could reach 2,500 pounds.

Chris Goulden, of the family law group Resolution, said: "The principles behind these new powers are laudable but they are unlikely to bring about any meaningful improvement unless the new services are up and running, properly funded and readily available for the courts to refer families to. "At the present moment there is a disturbing lack of clarity as to what activities will be available, where, when and who will pay for them."


There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.

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