Sunday, August 31, 2008

"Doing something" in Britain

What a crock! Enforcement as theater! A huge raid to grab a couple of hard-working, harmless Chinese kitchenhands -- when Britain already has thousands of illegals who have been ordered out of the country but who just stay on -- usually getting welfare as well! The Chinese were an easy grab for lazy bureaucrats, that's all it was about. Totally useless camouflage for chaotic immigration control

Two people were led away by police and immigration officers following a raid on a Chinese restaurant in the city centre last night. Police officers were joined by about 12 immigration officials from across the south-east in the "intelligence-led" operation at the Gourmet Plaza, in Cowgate. The raid was organised and carried out by the Border and Immigration Agency's Enforcement Unit, based in St Ives.

Five unmarked people carriers swooped on the restaurant just after 6pm yesterday as diners were preparing to enter the premises for an early meal.

The "closed" sign remained up at the Gourmet Plaza as prospective customers were turned away by police and asked to come back at a later time.

Seconded Cambridge police Inspector Trevor Tendall said: "We are acting on information received by a source. "This is a joint operation involving police and immigration officers from across the county." As prospective diners and onlookers watched, officers led out two men of Chinese origin in handcuffs, just before 7pm. The pair were put into separate people carriers and driven away from the scene. [LOL! A people-carrier each!] After the raid, an immigration officer, who did not want to be named, said: "We have acted and carried out the plan, and we are satisfied with the results today."

As the last of the officers left, five members of staff rushed out of the restaurant and across Cowgate to confront an officer in what was believed to be a dispute about a warrant. When another member of staff found the piece of paper they were seeking, the staff filed back into the eaterie.

Customers, who had been told to go and have a drink in the nearby Drapers Arms, waited patiently on the street to see if the popular restaurant, with its all-you-can-eat $13 supper deal, would open its doors. It re-opened at about 7.30pm.


Black doll sparks outrage

We read:
"Binmen who drove round with a large golliwog mascot strapped to the front of their truck have outraged residents. But passersby in the town, which has residents of many different racial origins, were horrified by the prank - one said the council workers were smiling and laughing at the reactions the lorry invited.

The refuse truck was owned by Woodend Municipal Services - but leased to Reading Borough Council, whose staff used it to collect rubbish from the streets of the Berkshire town.

Local resident Tim Rhodes said that he was shocked when he saw the bin lorry driving towards him in the town centre's Milford Road. 'My reaction was one of complete shock and disbelief. It is the sort of thing you would see in the 1960s but I thought we had all grown up a bit now,' said 40-year-old Mr Rhodes.

A spokesman for Reading Borough Council apologised for the golliwog incident and said action was being taken against the binmen involved. 'The council has investigated this matter and spoken to the lorry driver,' he said. 'The employee has been informed of the serious nature of this complaint and his management colleagues are giving further consideration to how the matter will proceed. 'In its role as an employer and a provider of public services in Reading, the council has a responsibility to directly and consistently tackle exclusion, disadvantage and discrimination.


Jokes are becoming very risky in sourpuss socialist Britain. Previous uproar in Britain about golliwog dolls covered here. I had a golliwog myself when I was a little kid. They are a stylized representation of a black man but kids loved them. Is that bad? I would have thought that teaching kids to have warm feelings towards blacks would be acclaimed by the do-gooders. Silly old me!

The undead

Trapped inside their bodies, apparently switched off to the world, but still alive: they are the undead. Or so we thought. Forty per cent of patients in a `vegetative state' are misdiagnosed. Now British scientists are leading the field in trying to put that right

Kate Bainbridge is a lively 37-year-old former schoolteacher. We are communicating in the conservatory of her parents' home in south Cambridge. She has expressive eyes and a broad and ready smile, but she can utter only occasional single words with difficulty. She sits in a wheelchair "speaking" with the aid of a letter-board, using her left forefinger to spell out words individually.

Ten years ago, Kate went into a deep coma and was on a ventilator for several weeks. She had suffered severe brain inflammation after contracting a viral infection. When she came out of the coma, she opened her eyes and could breathe naturally, but she was unresponsive to speech and visual stimuli, and appeared to lack all conscious awareness. She was still in this condition four months after falling ill, and was later diagnosed to be in a persistent vegetative state, or PVS: in other words, persistently unaware. But the diagnosis was wrong.

Although Kate could not speak, or hear properly, or make any kind of signal, or take in sustenance except through a tube into the stomach, she was sometimes aware of herself and her surroundings. She had a raging thirst that was not alleviated by the ward staff. She was racked with pain. Sometimes she'd cry out, but the ward staff thought it was just a reflex action. Kate suffered so much pain and despair that she tried to take her own life by holding her breath.

Then a Cambridge neuroscientist called Dr Adrian Owen put her in a special kind of scanner and performed an unprecedented experiment. It revealed evidence of fluctuating levels of brain activation when she was presented with pictures of her parents. From that point, she started her long journey back into the world. This is a story about brain-impaired patients who come gradually out of coma into "minimal awareness" after being misdiagnosed as being in PVS: breathing, appearing to be wakeful, yet deemed to be dead to themselves and the world. It is also about the disastrous consequences of such misdiagnoses, estimated in the UK and other countries to be running at two in five cases. And, crucially, it is about a neuroscientific research programme that is set to transform the prospects of diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of brain-injured people the world over.

Only an estimated 20% of patients return, like the Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond after his car crash in September, to fully functioning normality after serious brain injury. The range of disability following brain damage is hugely varied in type and severity. It is not known how many PVS and minimally conscious patients there are in this country, since no central registry exists. It is likely, according to a canvass of many neurology professionals, to be in the tens of thousands. More certain is the grim reality of hospital wards and long-term care homes where the persistently vegetative and the minimally conscious languish, sometimes for decades.

To write this article I have had the sobering experience of witnessing the plight of patients with severely impaired consciousness - the intubations, the double incontinence, the stricken semicircle of wheelchairs parked before the unwatched day-room TV. And I have met the anguished families of those who are denied final grieving and closure for a loved one condemned to what appears a living death. All too often I have spoken to a wife or husband, or mother or father, who will travel anything up to two hours each way by taxi, every day, to spend time with an unresponsive child or spouse.

But here's at least one mordantly amusing and true story told to me by a psychologist at Putney's Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability. "Young man with motorbike head injury in a coma. His mum, a keen evangelical, comes every day with friends to sing Onward, Christian Soldiers by his bedside. She's hoping to stimulate his brain into action. It works: he comes round, but he can't speak. So they fit him up with one of those Stephen Hawking-type laptops, and the first words he speaks are: "For God's sake, Mum, shut it!" That's about as funny as it gets on a brain-injury ward, but there's a serious take-home message. Even minimally aware patients can retain emotions, personality, a capacity to suffer - and, as the young biker showed, attitude.

The biggest, most tragic clinical myth about brain injury today is that PVS can be reliably diagnosed by bedside observation alone. It has in fact been known for at least a decade, ever since a key survey of brain-injured patients, that misdiagnosis of the condition runs at more than 40%, a statistic originally calculated by Professor Keith Andrews, former head of the Putney hospital, and confirmed by recent surveys in Europe and North America. This means that valuable rehabilitation strategies are routinely neglected, and misdiagnosed patients end up on unsuitable wards or in care homes where their needs are neither understood nor met.

Up to 12,000 people under 40 in this country suffer traumatic brain injury every year, and there are serious deficiencies in their rehabilitation, according to Professor John Pickard, head of neurosurgery at Addenbrooke's hospital, Cambridge: "The tendency for patients to be left to languish on general medical, surgical and orthopaedic wards continues to their detriment." The shocking term being used by campaigning neurologists and neurosurgeons is that unknown numbers of patients are being just "warehoused".

Christine Simpson, a mother of two in her mid-fifties, and her husband, Colin, encountered the PVS misdiagnosis phenomenon two years ago. After suffering a brainstem stroke, Christine was first admitted to the intensive-care unit at the Princess Alexandra hospital, Harlow, then transferred to a general respiratory ward, where she remained for about a month.

"I was told that she would probably get a chest infection and not survive more than a few weeks," says Colin. "Even on the respiratory ward I was told she was still in coma, though she was communicating with me at times through her eye movements. Only because myself and our two grown-up sons were constantly at her bedside did she get proper attention. "On one occasion I found her lying flat with a deflated tracheotomy cuff. She was blue in the face and having difficulty breathing."

Other instances of poor care, Colin claims, involved a catheter bag infrequently changed, and a gastric tube not replaced routinely according to clinical guidelines. He also contends that Christine was prematurely discharged from intensive care as a result of the PVS misdiagnosis. His formal petition that the hospital has not done enough to resolve his complaints was upheld by the Healthcare Commission on November 9.

Much more here

A conservative approach to poverty

Last week, George Osborne made a speech about fairness in which he castigated the Government for its failure to deal with poverty. A Tory Shadow Chancellor attacking Labour's record on poverty: that really is a raid into enemy territory. In the long run, however, it could leave the Tories open to a counter-attack.

In the short run, Mr Osborne did not rely on rhetoric. His arguments were reinforced by statistics that gave them added bite. Although the Shadow Chancellor was happy to concede that many Labour MPs were sincere in their abhorrence of poverty, any Labour supporter who reads the speech will wince at the dissection of Labour's inability to realise its ideals.

But Mr Osborne was not merely trying to add to Labour's miseries: hardly necessary these days. His speech had a serious purpose. He was outlining a new Tory theory of poverty and the state. He insisted that this Government was not failing because it did not care enough and had not spent enough. It was failing because its strategy was fundamentally misguided.

The author of that strategy was Gordon Brown. His insistence that "only the state can guarantee fairness" has both underpinned and undermined Labour's approach to social policy. By stifling initiative and imposing central direction, not least through the target culture, it had ensured that much of the extra money devoted to health and education was wasted.

This helps to explain why only 176 pupils who received free school meals gained three As at A level this year and why half of all children in care leave school without a single GCSE. There is a direct relationship between that last statistic and social misery. Many of those uneducated victims of care will be busy acquiring diplomas in mugging, burglary, prostitution and drug-taking.

Instead of Gordon Brown's great clunking state, the Tories want to empower churches, charities and social action co-operatives to help the needy. They also propose a radical change in the supply of education, ending the Government's monopoly over state schooling. To improve opportunity for the poorest, argues Mr Osborne, society and the state must work together.

A dramatic programme for social reform, this is the basis of David Cameron's approach to government. Shortly after he became Tory leader, he met Nicolas Sarkozy, who told him how much he admired the Tories' economic reforms of the 1980s. Mr Cameron hopes that in the 2030s, a French president will be telling a Tory leader how much he admires the social reforms of the 2010s.

The Tory party always has two great tasks: to defend the integrity of the nation and to solve the pressing questions of the day. Apart from the economy, two intractable and related problems have now forced themselves onto the agenda: how to redeem the underclass and how to ensure that the public services serve the public. Mr Cameron will not duck either challenge.

Well and good, but enthusiasm will not be enough. Contemporary British poverty is not just an economic phenomenon. It arises from cultural demoralisation. In the EU, Britain has the highest proportion of children living in households where no adult works. Though many hereditary peers have been banished from the House of Lords, hereditary unemployment is flourishing in the inner cities.

London is one of the mightiest engines of wealth creation in the whole of history. There is no reason why any able-bodied youngster who looks willing and trustworthy should not find a job. Yet a short Tube journey from the Bank of England, there are housing estates where no one thinks in terms of finding work.

David Cameron is determined that this will change. Yet even if he succeeds, it will take years, and the middle classes will not be idle. As the economy recovers, opportunities will increase. The middle classes will take them. Economic innovation will create new, well paid jobs. Middle-class children will rush to fill them.

That should not dismay sensible Tories. As the middle classes grow richer, they create the wealth to fund social programmes. In order to clear up Gordon Brown's toxic economic legacy, the Cameron government will depend on the efforts and tax contributions of the middle classes, and those efforts will be forthcoming only if they are adequately rewarded.


UK Coal is seeking to cash in on rising energy prices through higher production and the end of long-term, low-priced legacy contracts. The company is already investing œ55m each in its collieries at Thoresby in Nottinghamshire and Kellingley in West Yorkshire to open up new reserves and is expected to decide within the next six months whether to reopen the Harworth mine near Doncaster, which has been mothballed for more than two years.

Chief executive Jon Lloyd said he believed it was accepted that in the face of higher energy prices, and despite the impact of the large combustion plants directive, which limits power station emissions, coal would play a "significant and perhaps major part in the UK's energy mix over the next two decades".

"There will be environmental challenges but frankly it's a political must to keep the lights on," Lloyd said. He said the company would decide on Harworth either late this year or in the first quarter of 2009. If it was reopened, at a cost of up to œ175m, it would eventually provide another 2.2 m to 2.3 m tonnes of coal a year. The key factors would be the geology, which would determine the cost of accessing the reserves, and their size - thought to be 25m to 40m tonnes.

More here

Top doctors slam NHS drug rationing

Britain's top cancer consultants have accused the government's drugs rationing body of ignoring the plight of patients forced to sell their cars and remortgage their houses to pay for cancer treatments freely available in Europe. Twenty-six professors blame the severe restrictions imposed by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) on its failure to "get its sums right".

Nice refuses, on grounds of cost, to recommend some drugs for patients with advanced kidney cancer. The consultants, who include the directors of oncology at Britain's two biggest cancer hospitals, the Royal Marsden in London and Christie hospital in Manchester, claim there is enough money in the NHS to pay for the drugs.

Their letter to The Sunday Times states: "We now spend similar amounts to Europe on health generally and cancer care in particular, but less than two thirds of the European average on cancer drugs. It just can't be that everybody else around the world is wrong about access to innovative cancer care and the NHS right in rationing it so severely." They say: "The time has come for a radical change in how the NHS makes rationing decisions for cancer."

This weekend Andrew Dillon, the chief executive of Nice, and Sir Michael Rawlins, the chairman, challenged the cancer experts to explain which acutely ill patients should be sacrificed to free resources for cancer sufferers. They said: "There is a finite pot of money for the NHS, which is determined annually by parliament. If one group of patients is provided with cost-ineffective care, other groups - lacking powerful lobbyists - will be denied cost-effective care for miserable conditions like schizophrenia, Crohn's disease or cystic fibrosis."

This week patients from the Kidney Cancer Support Network will demonstrate outside the Nice offices in London against the refusal to fund the kidney cancer drugs Avastin, Sutent, Nexavar and Torisel.


No good economic news in socialist-run Britain: "Britain's Treasury chief has told a newspaper that the country is suffering its worst economic crisis for 60 years, and more pain is yet to come. The Guardian newspaper has quoted Alistair Darling as saying the slump is ``going to be more profound and long-lasting than people thought''. In an interview for the paper's weekend edition, Darling said the economic conditions faced by Britain and the world ``are arguably the worst they have been in 60 years''. Darling also acknowledged that voters were angry with the governing Labour Party, which has been in power for 11 years."

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Regulating quack medicine makes me feel sick

If alternative remedies are either untested or ineffective, why are we promoting them?

It is fashionable to think things are true for no better reason than you wish it were so. The latest sign of this trend is a report to the Department of Health from Professor Michael Pittilo, Vice-Chancellor of the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen. His May report - on acupuncture, herbal medicine, traditional Chinese medicine and the like - recommends that these therapies should have statutory regulation run by the Health Professions Council, and that entry for practitioners should "normally be through a bachelor degree with honours". Consultation is supposed to begin around now.

Both of the ideas in the report are disastrous. The first thing you wanted to know about any sort of medical treatment is: "Does it work?" One of the criteria that must be met by groups aspiring to regulation by the HPC is that they "practise based on evidence of efficacy". That evidence does not exist for herbal and Chinese medicine, which remain largely untested. For acupuncture the evidence does exist and it shows very clearly that acupuncture is no more than a theatrical placebo.

Placebos can, it is true, make you feel better; and if there is no better treatment, why not use them? That's fine, but it raises huge ethical questions about how much you can lie to patients, and how much you can lie to students who are training to use the placebos.

New Labour has often said that its policies are guided by the best scientific evidence, but the problem is that the answer you get depends on whom you ask. Pittilo's committee consisted of five acupuncturists, five herbalists and five representatives of traditional Chinese medicine (plus eleven observers). There was not a single scientist or statistician to help in the assessment of evidence. And it shows: the assessment of the evidence in the report was execrable.

Take one example, the use of a herbal preparation, Gingko biloba, for the treatment of dementia. On page 25 of the report we read: "There have been numerous in vitro and in vivo trials on herbal medicine... which have established the benefits of single ingredients such as gingko...for vascular dementia". That is totally out of date. The most prestigious source of reliable summaries of evidence, the Cochrane Collaboration, says: "There is no convincing evidence that Ginkgo biloba is efficacious for dementia and cognitive impairment". The NHS Complementary and Alternative Medicine Specialist Library (compiled by alternative medicine people) says: "The evidence that ginkgo has predictable and clinically significant benefit for people with dementia or cognitive impairment is inconsistent and unconvincing." Since then another large trial, funded by the Alzheimer's Society, concludes: "We found no evidence that a standard dose of high purity Ginkgo biloba confers benefit in mild-moderate dementia over six months."

The Government's answer to the problem is, as always, to set up more expensive quangos to regulate alternative medicine. That might work if the regulation was effective, but experience has shown it isn't. It makes no sense to regulate placebos, especially if you don't admit that is what they are. The Government should be warned by the case of chiropractors about the dangers of granting official recognition before the evidence is available. The General Chiropractic Council already has a status similar to that of the General Medical Council, despite it being based on the quasi-religious idea of "subluxations" that nobody can see or define. Recent research has shown it to be no more effective, and less safe, than conventional treatments that are much cheaper.

The problems that Professor Pittilo's recommendations pose for universities are even worse. You cannot have universities teaching, as science, early 19th-century vitalism, and how sticking needles into (imaginary) meridians rebalances the Qi so the body systems work harmoniously. To advocate that degrades the whole of science.

The vice-chancellors of the 16 or so universities who run such courses presumably do not themselves believe that vitalism is science, or subscribe to the view that "amethysts emit high yin energy", so it is hard to see why they accept taxpayers' money to teach such things. Thankfully, the University of Central Lancashire abandoned its first-year homoeopathy course this week because of low numbers.

Fortunately there is a much simpler, and probably much cheaper, solution than Pittilo's: enforce the laws that already exist. It is already illegal to sell contaminated and poisonous goods to the public. It is already illegal to sell goods that are not as described on the label. And, since May 2008, new European laws make it explicitly illegal to make claims for any sort of treatment when there is no reason to believe the claims are true. At the moment these laws are regularly and openly flouted on every hand. Enforce them and the problem is solved.


Britain: Deaths linked to hospital infection Clostridium difficile double in two years

The number of deaths linked to the hospital infection Clostridium difficile has more than doubled in the last two years, official figures show. Last year in England and Wales 8,324 people died either from C. diff or were infected with it when they died from other causes - this is a rise of 28 per cent in just one year. The infection which particularly affects elderly people has increased four times over since 2001 when 1,804 deaths were linked to the superbug, data from the Office of National Statistics shows.

Deaths linked to MRSA rose steadily between 2003 and 2005 but have levelled off. In the last year there has been a slight drop of 3.6 per cent in deaths either directly from MRSA or linked to it to reach 1,593.

Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, said the 'vast majority' of these deaths could have been avoided with better prescribing of antibiotics and proper isolation of infected patients. Critics say Labour's waiting list targets have encouraged hospitals to rush through patients leaving wards overcrowded with time for cleaning patient areas between cases.

The data is collected from death certificates where doctors note down one underlying cause of death and can mention any number of other factors that may have contributed. In recent years doctors have been encouraged by Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, to mention hospital infections on death certificates where patients have them even if it was not the underlying cause of death. The figures show of the 8,324 death certificates that mentioned C.diff, around half noted it as the underlying cause of death.

C.diff is mainly a disease that affects the elderly who have been in hospital for other reasons and who have received broad spectrum antibiotics. These drugs cut the natural flora in the stomach allowing C.diff to multiply and produce a toxin which causes diarrhoea. The ONS figures there was one death per million people aged under 45 but 2,000 deaths per million people aged 85 and over. The number of actual cases of reported cases of C difficile in the over-65s - the main age group affected - fell by nine per cent from 55,635 in 2006 to 50,392 in 2007.

The Clostridium difficile bacteria is a major cause of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea and the intenstinal infection colitis. In most cases the infection is mild and a full recovery is made. Although elderly and vulnerable patients may become seriously ill through dehydration caused by severe diarrhoea. The more serious symptoms include ulceration and intenstinal bleeding and it can be life-threatening.


The tragedies that prompted `our massive wake-up call'

Bacteria will be present in hospitals as long as people are, but vital lessons in infection control have been learnt since outbreaks of Clostridium difficile caused the death of at least 90 patients at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust in Kent.

Sara Mumford, formerly of the Health Protection Agency, the watchdog for infectious diseases, helped to bring attention to how much bad hygiene and poor staffing had contributed to hundreds of infections during the outbreaks of 2005 and 2006, which were later the subject of a high-profile investigation by the Healthcare Commission.

Now the director of infection control at the trust, Dr Mumford has an array of tools and procedures to keep superbugs at bay, she told The Times yesterday. "Unlike MRSA, there is no way of screening for C. difficile, so the most important thing to get right is cleanliness," she said. "Patients, staff and visitors can carry the bacteria into a hospital without knowing it, or become infected in the community. That's why handwashing is so important."

After an infection had been identified, soap and water were not enough, she said. "We use chlorine-based cleaners and have antimicrobial disposable curtains that we remove after an infected patient has been in a ward. During the `deep clean' we evacuated every ward and subjected everything to ultra-sonic baths or other cleaning. "It was so thorough that afterwards the wheels on the beds seized up - they would not run properly because they'd been cleaned of oil. "The most important thing when you suspect an infection is to isolate the patient quickly - even before you get the test results back from the lab," she said.

The isolation facility at Maidstone - introduced only after the notorious outbreaks - is a dedicated 12-bed ward. Dr Mumford said it helped recovery if patients with the same condition could talk to each other. Patients with a C. difficile infection required specialist nursing and treatment, she said, because other factors could also cause avoidable illness. "Antibiotic use in particular is really, really important," Dr Mumford said. "If you give patients broad-spectrum antibiotics designed to kill all bacteria, they get rid of even the types that help keep C. difficile at bay."

The three hospitals run by Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust are now reporting rates of C. difficile that are below the national average. "Maidstone has had a tragic wake-up call and had to undertake a crash-course in infection control, but some trusts still have work to do - it's something that they ignore at their peril," Dr Mumford said.


Britain's Polish experience

SUPERMARKET aisles offer amateur ethnographers rich opportunities for fieldwork. American pockets in London can be identified by the Thanksgiving displays in November; sour cherry juice suggests that Turks are close at hand. Now great rows of tinned borscht announce a newer arrival. Recent immigration from eastern Europe has been on a truly grand scale: Tesco, Britain's biggest retailer, now runs a groceries website in Polish.

Just over a million people have so far come to Britain from the eight central and east European countries that joined the European Union in 2004. John Salt, a geographer at University College London, reckons it is the biggest influx in British history, at least in gross terms (immigration by French Huguenots in the 17th century may have been bigger relative to the population at the time). Poles, who have made up about two-thirds of the newcomers, are now the largest group of foreign nationals in Britain, up from 13th place five years ago.

They might not be for much longer. The insatiable job market that sucked them in is beginning to tire. Work in hospitality and construction is becoming scarcer in Britain, while Poland's economy is growing by over 5% a year. And earnings do not translate as well as they did: the pound, which bought seven zlotys at the beginning of 2004, now fetches four (see article).

Last quarter saw the lowest number of east Europeans registering for work since 2004 (see chart), even though summer months tend to be the busiest. And as arrivals fall, departures seem to be increasing. There is no reliable official count of the numbers leaving Britain, but in April a think-tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), carried out its own "poll of Poles" and found that about half of the newcomers had already gone home. It predicts that departures will start to outweigh arrivals within a year.

This is bad news for borscht lovers, as well as for the Catholic church, which reckons its numbers have been swelled by some 10% in the past two years, in large part by Poles. But east European migration will leave lasting marks, however brief an episode it turns out to be.

Most noticeably, it has gone some way to decoupling the issue of immigration from that of race. Since the 1950s large-scale immigration to Britain has mainly been from Africa, the Caribbean and South Asia, meaning that arguments about immigration have been racially charged (indeed, plenty of politicians have deliberately conflated the issues). Now, with the arrival of a million white, mainly poor, foreigners, immigration is being analysed in more purely economic terms.

There is a sensible argument to be had about immigration and population (see article), and whether this wave of low-paid workers has put pressure on wages. David Cameron, the Tory leader, has shaken off his brief reluctance to discuss the subject and now casts it in terms of demography. Labour has toughened up too: last year Gordon Brown, the prime minister, called for more "British jobs for British workers," a rallying cry that once only the far right used. Some critics still touch on the old ugly themes: this month the Daily Mail agreed to remove some negative articles from its website following a complaint from the Federation of Poles in Great Britain. But even when the east Europeans have departed, debating the merits of immigration will no longer be off-limits in polite society.

The brevity of the east Europeans' spell in Britain-if such it proves to be-is the second distinctive thing about it. Past waves of immigrants have nearly always stayed put, or at least aimed to. Unencumbered by visas because their countries belong to the EU, east Europeans do not have to stick around once they are in. Cheap airlines enable some even to split their time between Britain and their home country. This flexibility should give Britain a softer landing if the economy slows further, since migrants can head home rather than swell the unemployment figures. But it has also changed the way that Britons think about immigrants. Once seen as a charge on the state (especially when asylum applications were high, at the start of the decade) they are now more likely to be considered a threat to jobs. Laura Chappell of IPPR has spotted that people tend to describe east Europeans as "migrants", whereas non-European settlers are called "immigrants".

Finally, east Europeans have fanned out across the country far more than earlier arrivals, manning Lake District retirement homes, East Anglian farms, Scottish fish-processing plants and Channel Island guest houses. In all, 21% live in London, compared with 41% of other foreign nationals resident in Britain. Their arrival in areas that had little prior experience of migration-Boston, Northampton, Peterborough and others-has exposed problems with how money is disbursed by the central government, and is prompting reform. Funding for public services such as health, police and fire services relies on population estimates, which undercount short-term visitors and those who live at business addresses, such as hotel staff. The government is setting up a (mainly symbolic) pot of about œ15m ($28m) a year, funded by a levy on visas, to bail out councils that fall short, and it has promised to improve its counting. More tweaks may follow.

As the Poles pack their bags, those who came to rely on them to paint their walls or fix their computers are feeling the loss. Reinforcements could be on the way: Romanians and Bulgarians will be able to work freely in Britain from 2013 and could come earlier if the economy picks up. But Ms Chappell points out that those countries have strong links with Italy and Spain, and other western European countries have more open labour markets than they did in 2004. Britain may not look as attractive a destination a second time around.


Stupid do-gooder learns about reality the hard way: "A British woman has been raped by a gang of asylum seekers in Calais, it has been alleged. The journalism student wanted to highlight the plight of migrants who sleep rough in a squalid camp at the French port before trying to sneak into Britain. She was subjected to a horrific attack by six Afghan men she intended to write about, it was claimed. French riot police rounded up 200 migrants for questioning. Ten remained in custody tonight and police said it was possible all had been involved in the rape, which detectives described as 'extremely brutal'. Police said the 31-year-old victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was a London student who had travelled to France 'to highlight problems surrounding clandestine immigration'... The victim remains in Calais, with police hoping she will be able to identify her attackers. Tonight she was described as 'utterly traumatised and receiving counselling'."

Friday, August 29, 2008

Europe of the future: Germany shrinks, France grows, but UK population booms

Britain to be biggest country in EU by 2060. Population falls predicted in many other countries. Quantity is not quality, however. The British population includes a a large sub-group of African ultimate origin who have a high rate of crime, insanity and welfare dependancy -- and they account for a disproportionate number of the births. Any assumption that that sub-group will be net economic contributors in the year 2060 would be incautious

Britain will overtake Germany and France to become the biggest country in the EU in 50 years' time, according to population projections unveiled yesterday. A survey of demographic trends finds Britain's positive birth rate contrasting strongly with most other large countries in Europe.

The impact of population shrinkage, coupled with the ageing of key European societies, spells big problems for pensions, health and welfare systems across much of the union, says the report, published by Eurostat, the statistical service of the European commission. But Britain, it says, is likely to suffer less because of its strong population growth and the younger average age of British society.

Immigration is singled out as the sole mitigating factor, seen as crucial to maintaining population growth. But the report says this probably will not be enough to reverse the trend of population decline in many countries. The survey predicts that Britain's population by 2060 will increase by 25% from the current figure of just over 61 million to almost 77 million.

Germany is the biggest country in the EU, with more than 82 million people, but it is likely to shed almost 12 million by 2060, says the report. The widely praised family policies and support of working women in France means that the French population will rise to almost 72 million by 2060.

With the British birth rate now at its highest in a generation - 1.91 children per woman according to the Office for National Statistics last week - the UK has less to fear about any "generation wars" brought on by the "demographic timebomb" of ageing and shrinking populations where those in work cannot support the pension needs of retired citizens. "With climate change and globalisation the ageing of the population is one of the major challenges Europe must face," said Amelia Torres, a commission spokeswoman.

Of the biggest six EU countries (Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Spain and Poland) Britain has by far the greatest birth rates. Only Luxembourg, Cyprus, and Ireland are growing faster than the UK.

The average age of Europeans is now just over 40; this will be 48 by 2060. The average age for Britons is 39 and will be 42 in 2060 - the lowest age in Europe with the exception of Luxembourg. The EU's population now stands at 495 million and is projected to rise to more than 520 million by 2035, before falling to 505 million by 2060. "From 2015 onwards deaths would outnumber births, and population growth due to natural increase, would cease," says the survey, assuming a net migration inflow to the EU of almost 60 million over the next 50 years. "Positive net migration would be the only population growth factor. However, from 2035 this positive net migration would no longer counterbalance the negative natural change."

Across the EU's 27 countries there are now four people of working age for every person over 65, but by 2060 that ratio will be 2:1, causing stress on welfare and pension systems. Torres said pension and health systems had to be reformed.

Fourteen of the 27 countries are projected to have smaller populations in 50 years' time. The survey reveals striking contrasts, between eastern and western Europe and between the north and south, with Scandinavia and Britain comparing positively with Mediterranean Europe, while central and eastern Europe see chronic population depression.

The number of people aged 65 or more broadly doubles across the EU, with Britons of retirement age being almost 19 million. While the number of Germans of working age is predicted to decline from 54 million now to 39 million by 2060, in Britain the figure rises by more than 4 million.

Across the EU, the number of children under 14 will drop from 77 million to 71 million, but in the UK the number rises by 2 million. In Britain the proportion of over-80s will double to 9% while across the EU it will triple to 12%.

The UK population is increasing at a rate of around 1,000 people a day according to figures released by the National Statistics agency earlier this month. Children aged under 16 represent around one in five of the total population, around the same proportion as those of retirement age. UK fertility rates dropped steadily during the 1980s and 1990s but began to increase again from 2003.

The strongly Roman Catholic countries of Europe are having fewer babies. The Italian population will stay the same over the next 50 years, while Poland's and Lithuania's will shrink considerably. Spain's population is forecast to increase by 6 million. Life expectancy is also rising. In Ireland, women will live to 89 and men to 85. Almost one in three Europeans will be of pensionable age if 65 remains the threshold


"Dangerous" board game seized by moronic British police

A War On Terror board game designed in Cambridge has been seized by police who claim the balaclava in the set could be used in a criminal act. The satirical board game was confiscated along with knives, chisels and bolt cutters, from climate protesters during a series of raids near Kingsnorth power station, in Kent, last week.

The game's creators, Andrew Sheerin and Andy Tompkins, web designers from Cambridge, have expressed total shock at the inclusion of their toy among "criminal" items. Andrew, 32, said: "I saw pictures of the board game in papers and was absolutely baffled. "Surely no member of the public is going to believe that a board game could be used as a weapon?"

War on Terror, similar to games like Risk, revolves around creating empires that compete and wage war. But there is a twist - players can poke fun at the rhetoric of world leaders like George Bush and Tony Blair. The game was born from the frustration of its creators as they sat watching the news in the run up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Each player starts as an empire filled with good intentions and a determination to liberate the world from terrorists and from each other.

Then the reality of world politics kicks and terrorist states emerge. Andrew said: "The terrorists can win and quite often do and it's global anarchy. It sums up the randomness of geo-politics pretty well."

In their cardboard version of realpolitik George Bush's "Axis of Evil" is reduced to a spinner in the middle of the board, which determines which player is designated a terrorist state. That person then has to wear a balaclava (included in the box set) with the word "Evil" stitched on to it.

Kent police said they had confiscated the game because the balaclava "could be used to conceal someone's identity or could be used in the course of a criminal act".

Andrew fumed: "It's absurd. A beard can conceal someone's identity. Are the police going to start banning beards?"

All High Street retailers declined to stock the controversial game. But more than 12,000 copies have been sold online or through independent stockists.


England's surveillance state at work

Dreary old England is suffering mightily under the weight of the authoritarian government of the Labour Party. Labour has been working assiduously to impose a total surveillance state trampling on traditional British freedoms. First, here is a video of the local police randomly stopping people and demanding to search them. As they make clear, if you do not "consent" to being searched you will be arrested. Of course, once they arrest you they can search you. In other words, in England, the police may search anyone they wish, anytime they wish without any probable cause.

One British "subject" has filmed this sort of police state mentality. It is hard to understand some aspects of the video as the sound is not totally up to par. Please note that these these officers are not only searching the man's belongings but frisking him, going through his pockets, looking in his wallet, and flipping through the books he reads. Notice the lie they tell. They argue that they are looking for anything that can be used by terrorists. But they start going through his credit cards and looking through his wallet. And then, when they find nothing wrong, they send in his details to check up on the man.

Basically the cops end up arguing that anything a "terrorists" could use can be inspected by them at any time they wish. Of course the terrorists can use anything. Also watch as people walk by and look over at this poor man being searched. You know that many of them are wondering what this man did that was illegal to be apprehended by the police.

The last time I was in the UK I saw a thug harassing an older woman inside the local McDonalds. I complained to the staff who did nothing. I went outside and told the police. The thug walked out and I pointed him out. The police REFUSED to do anything saying they didn't want to "embarrass" him in "front of his mates". Apparently guilty people shouldn't be embarrassed but innocent people deserve to be frisked, searched and checked out on some central data base. Sieg heil! The one thing I will say is that, as disgusting as this is, in the U.S. merely asking the police the questions this man asked would have gotten him beaten, perhaps tasered and possibly shot.

Meanwhile the Telegraph reports that the local councils are using the antiterrorism surveillance systems to spy on "couples' sleeping arrangements." Taxes are based, not only on the value of property, but also on the number of people living there. So councils "undertake `surveillance' of cars registered to addresses `to substantiate the allegation of living together.'" Documents from one council show they are checking to see if couples are living "as husband and wife."

In Thurrock single residents are required to sign a document giving blanket permission to local bureaucrats "to enter their home as part of an inspection" to determine if they really are single or in a couple. If they have a partner their tax rate increases by one-third. A spokesman for the Conservative Party said:
Day by day under Labour, the country is sleepwalking into a surveillance state, where spying on citizens has become the norm. Laws which were originally intended to tackle the most serious crimes and safeguard the public are now being deployed routinely and without hesitation.

Councils will naturally wish to ensure that council tax discounts and benefits are not wrongly claimed. But I am concerned that innocent citizens will be spied on through heavy-handed and disproportionate use by town hall snoopers. There are far less intrusive and more cost-effective ways of vetting council tax, such as through data matching, rather than paying town hall officials to camp out overnight outside people's homes.

The fact such snooping is already over-used by local authorities bodes ill for the planned powers for town halls to access communications data. There are insufficient checks and balances to prevent people's sex lives being habitually monitored by state bureaucrats, purely because they claim a council tax discount for living alone.

Bureaucrats with the Local Government Association have a unique stand on the matter. They say "Pretending to live alone to defraud the taxpayer is not a victimless crime." This goes on the assumption that your wealth belongs to the government and they let you keep some of it. If you keep more of your own income then the government has to take more of other people's income. So it is your fault that they are confiscating more wealth from other people. Thus keeping your own money is a crime against others.

Already it has been shown that government powers initially created to "stop terrorism" have been used by councils to arrest people whose dog took a shit in the wrong place or who dumped trash in the wrong location.

But one government official, with the title of Interception of Communications Commissioner, Paul Kennedy, complained that the local councils were not using their spying powers enough. He suggested that more councils spy on people to fight crimes "such as skipping work and filing fraudulent overtime claims." The Telegraph reports: "Councils across the country were criticised last month as it emerged that they used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act up to 10,000 times a year to investigate such petty offences as dog fouling and under-age smoking."

And while the Conservative Party is, this now, whining about the surveillance state, only days ago they were demanding that police powers be expanded to do more surveillance. Then another Tory spokesman said: "It is not right that we charge our police with combating crime and disorder and then tie their hands behind their backs.... the police should be given both the resources and the freedom to use those resources to do their job." In that incident the Tories said that restraints to protect citizens from spying were "red tape" and promised to make it easier to spy, including putting in wire taps, without any court permission required.


Kindly old NHS decides not to let people go blind after all

Thousands have gone blind while the authorities spent over two years dithering, though

For the first time a drugs company will pay to top up patients' treatment where the level of care paid for by the Health Service is not enough. In a decision that marks a climbdown for the National Institute for health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the first 14 injections of the sight-saving drug Lucentis will be paid for by the NHS. If the patient still needs further treatment then Novartis, the manufacturer, will pay for any additional doses.

The ruling overturns previous draft guidance that patients would have to go blind in one eye before receiving treatment with Lucentis, which costs more than $20,000 per eye, on the second. It also paves the way for other new drugs for which top-up doses may be required to be funded in the same way in future.

Richard Barker, director general of the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry suggested other medicines the NHS cannot afford to pay for in full could be provided through cost sharing schemes between the NHS and the drugs industry. A similar approach has been suggested for kidney cancer drug Sutent, which costs $48,000 a year, and three other drugs after Nice issued draft guidance saying that they were not "cost effective" despite extending life by two months.

NICE has been severely criticised in recent months by health campaigners, who have accused them of condemning patients to "an early grave" by denying them the drugs. It has also been at the centre of a previous controversy over its decision to deny the $5-a-day drug Aricept to victims of Alzheimer's in the early stages of the disease.

Lucentis can stop the deterioration in sight caused by the condition wet age related macular degeneration (AMD), which affects about 250,000 people in the UK including 26,000 new cases each year. It can cause blindness within three months. Up until now around 40 per cent of primary care trusts have refused to fund the drug while others have approved its use only in 'exceptional cases' although the drug was approved in Scotland last year.

Nice has taken over two and a half years to issue its final guidance on the drug in which time many thousands of people have already gone blind as a result of the condition. The drug has no effect on the condition once the patient has gone blind.

Andrew Dillon, NICE Chief Executive, said the decision would be justified by both the improved quality of life for patients and cost savings in the long run. "Lucentis is an expensive drug, costing more than $20,000 for each eye treated," he said. "But that cost needs to be balanced against the likely cost savings. AMD results in reduced quality of life and increased risks of illness, particularly in relation to accidents - especially falls - and psychological ill-health. "Studies have also demonstrated that patients with visual impairment tend to have longer hospitalisations, make greater use of health and community care services and are more likely to be admitted to nursing homes.

"It has been estimated that the costs related to sight impairment for patients treated with Lucentis are around $16,000 cheaper than for patients who receive best supportive care over a 10 year period. Our guidance means that patients who are suitable for this treatment will have the same access to it, irrespective of where they live."

Steve Winyard, Head of Campaigns at Royal National Institute for the Blind, said: "We've been waiting for this for over two years. It is a victory for thousands, bringing overwhelming relief to desperate people across the country. Finally the torment faced by elderly people forced to either spend their life savings on private treatment or go blind, is over. "NICE's guidance will finally bring an end to a cruel postcode lottery." Primary care trusts in England and Wales now have three months to fund the treatment for all eligible patients....

The ABPI's Mr Barker said drug companies were being flexible and suggesting cost sharing schemes but Nice had to be flexible also.

The decision comes after Health Secretary Alan Johnson ordered an investigation into the policy of denying NHS services to patients in England who top up their care with private treatment. Currently, anyone who pays for any private care can be barred from receiving the normal package of NHS care but the review will look at whether such co-payments should be allowed in future.

In July, RNIB also backed three pensioners in landmark High Court action against Warwickshire PCT for denying them treatment. Tom Bremridge, chief executive of The Macular Disease Society said: "Those responsible for NICE should be aware that during the cumbersome two year review process 152 PCTs have individually had the power to decide whether to let patients go blind or to save their sight. The resulting stress and suffering has been cruel and unnecessary. "Many hundreds of vulnerable patients have been subjected to an appalling emotional rollercoaster ride for the past two years - during which many of them have lost their remaining sight."

He called for Nice to speed up drug appraisals in order to avoid primary care trusts around the country making different decisions on funding drugs that have not yet been through Nice....

Dr Rafiq Hasan, Director of Market Access and Ophthalmics at Novartis said the new agreement was "an innovative approach which shows how pharmaceutical companies can work together with Nice and the Department of Health to ensure patients do get access to treatments on the NHS." He said: "Wet AMD is a debilitating eye condition that can result in a rapid loss of sight if left untreated. Lucentis is a treatment for a key unmet medical need and it has the potential to save many peoples' sight. "Rapid implementation of the guidance is now needed to ensure that patients receive the treatment they need as soon as possible."


Some interesting history

It is well known that the American Founding Fathers were profoundly influenced by England's "Glorious Revolution" of 1688, which had overthrown a reactionary British monarch in the name of Enlightenment principles, religious liberty and representative institutions. Yet were those truly the ideals of the 1688 Revolution? If not, "the spirit of 1776" was based on a false premise.

Lisa Jardine, a professor at the University of London, pursues this theme in "Going Dutch," a thoroughly researched and provocative revisionist study. She argues that the Glorious Revolution was far from glorious and less a revolution than a blatant invasion. Nor was it a great blow for liberty: 1688, she contends, was a naked power grab by the Statholder of Holland, William of Orange, who sought to oust his father-in-law, King James II, for the sake of his own interests and those of the Dutch Republic; all the talk of liberty and high ideals was just Dutch propaganda.

If Ms. Jardine is right, men like Jefferson, Franklin and Adams were duped, for, as Michael Barone recounted last year in "Our First Revolution," 1776 was a conscious re-run of 1688. Was the U.S. created at least partly out of piety toward a slick Dutch con job?

Ms. Jardine presents a close analysis of the plotting going on in William's court before his fleet of 500 ships and 30,000 men set sail for England on Nov. 1, 1688; months of preparation, she shows, went into creating the right political conditions for the invasion. She persuades us that, in part, a fear that France would invade Holland led William to attempt the attack on James II, hoping to use London to foil Louis XIV's designs. In part, she argues, William sought to exploit England's maritime power on behalf of Holland, or at least to negate British hostility to Dutch global expansionism, especially in the East Indies....

Once William had landed on the south coast of England on Nov. 5, 1688, and found himself cheered in the streets, he marched swiftly on to London, while James II fled, dropping the Great Seal of England into the Thames and burning parliamentary writs, vainly hoping that such efforts might stymie William's legislative legitimacy. English regiments such as the Coldstream Guards were deftly negotiated out of London, and only Dutch troops were allowed to keep order in the capital.

It is a beguiling thesis, but flawed, for the simple reason that William was invited to invade by the English Whig aristocracy and that his "Declaration," far from being "spin," was the only basis on which he was allowed to set foot in England. If the domestic Protestant governing classes had not effectively chosen William over James, the Dutch invasion fleet would have met the fate of the Spanish Armada.

The 1688 revolution was indeed glorious, and also a revolution, because it replaced -- without bloodshed, until James sought to reverse the outcome two years later -- an obscurantist would-be dictator of alien religious views with William III, the savior of English liberties, commercial practices, religious beliefs and world-outlook. That he was Dutch was immaterial ... William of Orange's "Declaration," then, was an honest document, as his benevolent rule -- and that of his wife, Mary -- would prove. Together they passed a Toleration Act and a Bill of Rights, furthering religious and political liberty. They founded the Bank of England, greatly increased trade and stayed out of war with France until Louis XIV rashly recognized James Stuart, James II's son, as England's rightful king. The reign of William and Mary, in short, was a golden age in British history. The Founding Fathers were right to draw inspiration from it.

More here

Britain's education rat-race

Are you a pushy parent? Am I a pushy parent? Once upon a time we all knew what the term stood for. It was Violet Elizabeth Bott's father in a Roller demanding his spoilt darling got the best of everything. [Violet Elizabeth Bott is a character in the "Just William" stories]. In classic children's literature you can tell a good parent by their desire, above all else, that their offspring should not become "big-headed". It was all so deliciously unambiguous back then.

Cut to 2008 and being pushy is an arch crime in some quarters and a supreme virtue in others. Earlier this year, aggressively ambitious parents were blamed for the cancelling of Hickstead's junior show-jumping events. But few accusations come as loaded with bile as the suspected crime of shoving your angel to the top of the educational pile. Middle-class parents who "play the system" are so frequently blamed for the failings of the state system you'd think teachers and the Government played no part at all.

In 1996, a Labour politico called Andrew Adonis protested that, "securing places in popular church schools is an art form for the professional classes". What a difference a decade makes. On Sunday Lord Adonis, schools minister, said: "I want every parent to be a pushy parent. It is a jolly good thing." Is it, by Jove? Even if few things make you reach for an axe quicker than an acquaintance citing their child's IQ or violin grade?

My little boy starts school next month and I'm already daunted by the middle-class angst that surrounds all educational decisions. Most trips to the playground now involve a lengthy discussion - or justification - about our choice.

Some parents seem mystified that we chose our local state primary (good to average Ofsted report), others tell me with pinched expressions that our son is in the "better" reception class, with smarter parents "where fewer languages" are spoken. (How on earth do they know? Term hasn't even started.)

Lord Adonis now believes that parents who abandon deficient schools and fight to get their children into the best establishments boost the whole system. Yet this is nearly as fatuous an argument as the old one that blamed pushy parents for dismal state schooling. What has happened under this Government is that when ambitious parents have bolted for enclaves of academic excellence, children from less motivated backgrounds have been left ever further behind.

And for all the vote-winning exhortations to parents to enjoy a guilt-free sprint for the golden prizes, nobody's found a convincing rescue package for the illiterate stragglers in our educational ghettoes.

A good old-fashioned race is now, of course, an approved activity. Gordon Brown used the Olympics to admit that old Labour got things badly wrong when it waged a war on competitive school sports. With luck this means an end to the sports day cited by a friend that consisted of children in circles chucking beanbags through hoops. But Brown's new-found enthusiasm for hearty sporting competition raises a bigger question.

Will he admit that the loony Left did an even greater disservice when it tried to smother academic competition? Boys in particular have failed to thrive in an educational arena that stifles naturally combative tendencies. Of course, where there are winners there will also be losers; but can't we return to the days when dunces found compensation in sporting glory and weeds found consolation in A-grade Algebra?

As term starts, parents face an additional hurdle - how to keep children nit-free. Head-lice have become resistant to most chemicals, which at least means your children can evade the night-time ritual of a head coated in vile Prioderm. My cousin's wife, a mother of five, offers a top tip - she swears by Clairol hair dye. Choose the shade closest to your child's natural tone and this coats the hair shafts, which deters lice and prevents eggs sticking. Stylish, cool, and they won't stink of nit shampoo.


'Man on the street' is offensive to women

Or so says a document put out by Chichester District Council, West Sussex, in England:
"The document claims the popular saying is based on the assumption that the world is male and makes the views or work of women invisible. It suggests that town hall officers should use "general public" a positive and less offensive alternative. The guide also kills off the phrase "manning the switchboard" and suggests "staffing" or "running the switchboard" instead

The council said that the document, which is distributed to all staff and council members, is not a rulebook but a guide to help staff and members find the correct words. A spokesman said: "We introduced the guide because as community leaders we must be aware of what modern society requires of the public sector. This includes the sensitivity of various individuals and groups, and current thinking in society in general.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Binge-drinking mother jailed after crying rape against devout Muslim taxi driver

A binge-drinking mother has been jailed after falsely accusing an innocent taxi driver of raping her. Joanne Rye, who kept up the lie for 20 months, was told by a judge her behaviour was despicable and was handed an eight-month prison sentence. [The bitch should have got what he would have got]

The mother-of-one caused great shame and disgrace to devout Muslim Sherekhan Kali and his family after claiming that he dragged her down an alleyway and assaulted her. Maidstone Crown Court heard Rye, then 18, was known as a troublemaker and had been banned from using the All Night Car Hire in Dartford, Kent where Mr Kali worked. The court also heard the week before she made the rape allegation, she had used racially insulting language to Mr Kali.

Valeria Swift, prosecuting, said Rye was very drunk and was taken to hospital claiming she had suffered an asthma attack on the night of October 21, 2006. Ms Rye became aggressive and police were called and it was then she made the rape claim, giving a detailed account of the attack. She claimed she was waiting for taxi in Dartford when she was grabbed and a pellet gun was fired into her kneecap. She said her attacker then dragged her into an alley and raped her. But she said there would not be any DNA because he had used a condom. She also told how she had recognised Mr Kali because he had taken her in his taxi a week before.

The part-time cabbie was arrested at his home and taken to the police station where intimate samples, DNA and fingerprints were taken. His boss Nicholas Morris confirmed that Ms Rye had been banned from using the firm's cabs because of racist abuse to drivers. Miss Swift revealed a check of the satellite navigation system in Mr Kali's cab showed he had been nowhere near the area where Rye said she was attacked. CCTV footage of her drunken behaviour on the night she said she had been raped also proved it could not have happened in the way described. The prosecutor said the only motivation for the false allegation was the incident a week earlier when the fare was disputed.

Rye continued to maintain she had been raped up to the first day of her trial in June, accused of perverting the course of justice. Miss Swift said of Mr Kali: 'This case has had a very profound effect on him indeed.' Sarah Morris, defending, said Rye, now 20, would go out and get drunk, smoke cannabis and behave in an anti-social manner. But she had since settled down with a boyfriend and had a child, now aged five months. 'The prospect of a custodial sentence is frightening for her,' said Miss Morris. 'She has put herself in the position where her child will be without the mother. 'Of course, many people would say well, tough, that is your doing. You have brought this on yourself and must face the consequences. 'What she did was thoroughly reprehensible. But it has not been every case where a woman who has cried rape has gone into custody.'

Miss Morris said Rye, who worked in catering for the elderly, knew her boyfriend was not equipped to deal with a young baby. Her mother would have to give up her job to care for the child. But jailing Rye for a 'modest' eight months, Judge Crawford Lindsay, QC, said he had no doubt the matter was so serious there had to be an immediate prison sentence. 'I consider this to be a despicable offence,' he said. 'You made an allegation that this entirely innocent taxi driver had raped you. 'It was fully investigated with the consequences that police time and doctors' time was wasted in the investigation.'

It was not until the first day of her trial in June this year that she 'faced the inevitable' and owned up. 'This is a case where the victim is a strict Muslim, who regularly attends to his beliefs and prays regularly,' said Judge Lindsay. 'At the police station, intimate samples were taken. Having another female touch a part of his body is forbidden. It would bring shame on his family. As a consequence, he left this country for a period.' When he returned to work, Mr Kali was frightened of having women in his cab and would go home. 'So we have a man of blameless character who is subjected to your dishonesty and trumped up allegation,' said the judge.

'It is clear when you are in drink, you are loud-mouthed. You have a young child but that is a matter which does not in my judgment prevent a penalty for an allegation that is easily made and had a serious effect on the victim. 'He suffered the suggestion there is no smoke without fire.'


Senior British doctor accuses Government of destroying NHS

One of Britain's most senior doctors has criticised the Government for leading the NHS into "catastrophic meltdown". Professor Paul Goddard, a former president of the Royal Society of Medicine, said Labour's obsession with bureaucracy and political correctness had resulted in dire care for patients. The radiology specialist also hit out at the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, NICE, claiming the organisation put finances first.

Prof Goddard, 58, said: "If they think a patient will gain an extra year of life, but it will cost more than $40,000 they think it is not cost-effective. Yet if the patient wants to pay for it themselves they are denied NHS treatment. It's an outrage."

The senior doctor, who has quit the NHS, claimed the Government had lost sight of the basic principles of a national health service. "The NHS was built on the foundation of caring for the community. It was designed to help those who needed help, care for those who needed care and treat those who needed treatment. "Those basic principles have been lost as the Government takes us down a dangerous path that can only be a catastrophic meltdown of the system."

But a spokesman for the NHS said record levels of investment had led to dramatic improvements in areas like waiting times. "Ten years ago waits of 18 months were not uncommon, but by the end of this year no-one should wait longer than 18 weeks. None of this would have been possible without the hard work and dedication of everyone working into he NHS."

It comes after a group of 26 professors wrote to a Sunday newspaper claiming NICE had "poorly" assessed a decision to deny patients four kidney cancer drugs. Earlier this month Nice issued guidance rejecting the drugs Sutent, Avastin, Nexavar and Torisel even though trials found the treatments could prolong life in kidney cancer patients by up to two years. Nice said the drugs were too expensive and would mean the health service was less able to afford more cost-effective drugs for other illnesses.

But the professors, who include directors of oncology at Britain's two biggest cancer hospitals, said the latest guidance would force patients to re mortgage their homes, give up pensions and sell cars to fund their own treatment


Education in life skills missing

Two years ago I was driving home from work when I swerved to avoid a low-flying pigeon, veered into a hedge and punctured a tyre. Having pulled over, I jumped out and opened the boot with purpose, all the time trying to ignore the fact that I hadn't a clue how to change a car tyre. There I stood, jack pointlessly in hand, sporting a half-ironed shirt, poorly tied tie and shaving rash. To cap things off, a burly man in a four-wheel drive drove past and shook his head. My manliness wasn't just dented; it was battered with a sledgehammer.

I had no alternative but to call Dad, who came out and rescued me. I was a 24-year-old male damsel in distress. "You're useless," said Dad as he effortlessly manoeuvred my spare tyre into place, and I had to agree.

The experience got me thinking. I realised that it wasn't only practical, traditionally manly things like how to change a tyre (or tie a tie properly, iron my shirt and shave like a pro) that I didn't know how to do. I was clueless about pretty much every skill I perceived to be key to coming of age as a modern man. Sophisticated stuff, such as how to hold a baby, give a speech, speed-date successfully, end a relationship without being a git, or grapple with the idea of regular visits to the sexually-transmitted-diseases clinic.

While girls share magazines with dog-eared problem pages, men are offered the choice of perusing breasts or salivating over gadgetry even NASA doesn't need. Don't get me wrong, I love girls and gadgets, but such magazines don't show you how to put up shelves, let alone help you through a divorce. There's no manual, no instruction leaflet to modern manhood. I wasn't even sure what being a 21st-century man meant. So I decided to make my own manual, in the form of a website called 21st Century Boy.

But before I could start, I needed to find out what state 21st-century man was in. So I questioned my male friends and sent out emails asking people to send me lists of things they'd felt expected to know how to do, but had never been taught.

Times have changed a lot since my dad's generation was in its prime - but quite how much was something I'd never really considered. Dad's role was charted out for him: "Be the main breadwinner and leave the wife to look after the kids. Be strong and silent, with biceps the size of your girlfriend's beehive." Clear-cut. Simple. Then things got confusing. Men started growing their hair long and singing about flowers and San Francisco. Then we had "new men" reasserting their masculinity with phallic-shaped car-phones; ladettes chasing lads; and metrosexuals who moisturised more than their missus. Forty years on from my dad's youth, manhood is more confusing than ever. Despite his dismay at my tyre-changing ineptitude, my dad acknowledged that life was a maze for my generation.

My research began to highlight just some of the advanced life skills that today's young man is expected, but frequently ill-equipped, to navigate. A friend of mine trying to impress a new girl, for example, was doing his best to be neither patronising nor sexist by taking his date to see the horror film Hostel - and was surprised when it failed to work as an aphrodisiac.

Then there was the emailer keen to learn some massage skills for the bedroom, but clueless as to where or how to start. A university friend asked my mum how to fry an egg.

Along the way I discovered we're also meant to know how to hold our baby nephews when our sisters nip to the loo; be our mothers' iTunes, eBay and email advisers; sort out our dads' diets and training regimes because we're scared that if we don't, his ticker won't tick for much longer; be agony uncles to our female friends when their boyfriends dump them; book a restaurant but split the bill whenever we take our girlfriends out, not to mention cook them a gourmet meal every Saturday night; and last but not least, pop into the pub and down a pint in less than 30 seconds.

To help my fellow man via my website, I then had to get the inside track on how to do all this stuff. So I asked all the men in my family to share their old-fashioned man skills, I talked to my mum for the first time about girlfriends, talked to ex-girlfriends about how I could have been a better boyfriend, Googled late into the night and braved a clinic to find out what a sexual health check-up involved.

My uncle told me that shaving with cold water cured razor rash. After studying tie fan sites - yes, tie fan sites - I mastered the vicious "V" of the perfectly tied Windsor knot. I endured speed-dating, swiftly followed by internet dating, swiftly followed by a mini-breakdown after I went on a date with a woman old enough to be my mum.

My brother-in-law taught me that the secret of sturdy shelves is to use the right Rawlplugs.

I've succeeded in making testicular cancer a non-taboo topic, and now know how to control aggression in a relationship (tell your girlfriend when she's hurt you rather than bottling it up), as well as mastering mundane tasks such as ironing a shirt in a hurry (start while it's damp and hang it up while still warm) and cleaning a bathroom properly (it's all about the right tools). Along the way I learnt that, while it's not easy dealing with the things you don't necessarily want to deal with, you become more of a man by doing so.

And I'm pleased to say others have followed in my wake. The response to my two-month-old website has been brilliant. It has more than 70 tried-and-tested life skill tips posted so far. The "how to check for testicular cancer" video has resulted in at least two men finding a lump, and the forum has answered delicate questions on penis size and chat-up lines.

When I started this journey I set out to prove to myself that I could get to grips with a world that was passing me by. I took control of my life and I hope my website will encourage other young men to do the same - or at least change a tyre or two.


Noted British weatherman dismisses global warming

John Kettley is one of the UK's iconic weathermen - he has even featured in a UK pop song which reached number 21 in the UK Singles Chart. Kettley used to work for the Met Office, but he is now famous as BBC Radio 5 Live's "intrepid weatherman", appearing mainly on `Breakfast' between 6 and 9 am. He is also an intrepid Yorkshireman, having been born in Todmorden in West Yorkshire, and, like all Yorkshiremen, he likes to tell it as it is, which is precisely what he has done today with respect to Britain's lousy summer weather [`Awful August has delayed this year's harvest but global warming is not to blame', Daily Mail, August 24]:

"Atrocious weather has seriously delayed the harvest this year ... But this is not a symptom of so-called `global warming'."

And: "These conditions are not unique and are more like the poor August weather Britain saw during the Twenties and Sixties. It is more likely a stark reminder that the warming trend we recorded in the last part of the 20th Century has now stalled."

Finally: "We are not suddenly about to be catapulted towards a Mediterranean climate [idiotic BBC 2 gardening programmes, please note]. We are surrounded by water, with the vast Atlantic Ocean to our west, while the jet stream and gulf stream will forever influence our daily weather and long-term climate."

Common sense at last. Thank goodness for down-to-earth forecasters like John. And thank goodness, too, for the parts of the BBC beyond BBC 1/2 and Radio 4. Like a Yorkshireman, these bits of the Beeb tend to tell it as it is, not as the bien pensant would have it be.

There is thus no cognitive dissonance [see: `Cognitive Dissonance' (August 19) and `More On Cognitive Dissonance' (August 20)] for John Kettley. This summer's dreadful weather, cold and wet, cannot be conveniently forced into the `global warming' cognition simply to ease the dissonance of our more PC media. It's time to call a spade a spade - or even a bloody shovel. It's time to call cooling - er - cooling.

And today? More chill rain in the morning.... It's just like my soggy visits to Torquay as a child. This scene is perfectly recaptured by Eleanor Mills [`The wind, the rain, the child-hating waiters...', The Sunday Times, August 24], as she describes her family's `summer' holiday this year in Dorset and on the British Riviera: "Last week I came back from my two-week summer holiday spent under growling grey skies, sheltering behind a windbreak, where my garment of choice wasn't my new swimming costume but a trusty North Face waterproof. Sunglasses? Pah. A sundress? Are you joking? I wore my thermals." Her five-year old neatly renamed Dorset, `Pour-set'.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

British cancer patients kept in dark about `too expensive' drugs

Doctors are deciding against telling cancer patients about expensive new treatments to avoid causing distress when they find out that the NHS is unwilling to pay for them. A quarter of specialists questioned in a survey admitted to hiding the facts about new drugs for bone marrow cancer that may be difficult to obtain on the NHS. According to the poll, nearly all the doctors who chose not to mention such expensive drugs said that they did so because it might "distress, upset or confuse" their patients.

Three quarters said that cost issues were a consideration, 40 per cent cited "lack of evidence" and 29 per cent argued that there was "no point" discussing treatments that their patients were unlikely to receive.

It is believed that thousands of patients with various types of cancer could gain extra months or years of life from the latest, most effective drugs. In many cases they are being denied the treatments on the NHS because of a lack of approval by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which assesses the cost-effectiveness of new medicines in England and Wales.

The poll, by the charity Myeloma UK, comes after patients with advanced kidney cancer were denied four treatments on the NHS under guidelines issued by NICE. These and other new drugs for cancers of the lung, pancreas, colon and breast, and for multiple myeloma, are available widely throughout Western Europe, and in some cases in Scotland, but campaigners say that patients in England are being "left to die" if they cannot persuade their local trusts to fund treatment.

A total of 103 myeloma specialists in England, Wales and Scotland took part in the survey, with a quarter admitting that they avoided telling patients about licensed drugs that were still awaiting approval by NICE, which local health authorities were reluctant to pay for. Myeloma affects about 3,800 people each year in Britain and, of these, 2,600 are likely to die from it. NICE is reviewing treatments for the disease, including the drug Revlimid, which in clinical trials was found to be able to extend the life of some patients by up to three years.

The drug obtained its UK licence in June last year and is available across Europe, but NICE is not expected to make a final decision on whether it should receive NHS funding in England and Wales until early next year. The drug, which costs $72,000 for one year of treatment, has been rejected as not cost-effective by the Scottish Medicines Consortium, NICE's counterpart north of the Border.

NHS trusts have a legal obligation to provide treatments that are approved by NICE. In the absence of such approval, if a doctor thinks someone would benefit from a new medication, the patient can appeal to a committee at the local trust. Those who are refused must settle for less effective treatments or pay for the drugs.

In a statement, the Department of Health said that it had "issued guidance to the NHS which makes it clear that funding for a treatment should not be withheld simply because NICE guidance does not exist".


Treatment blocked despite years of pain: Case study

Colin Ross, 55, of Horsham, West Sussex, found that he had multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood cells, in May 2004, and has been told that unless he is given the drug Revlimid he will not survive beyond the autumn. Mr Ross, a former engineer in the oil and gas industry, has suffered years of pain and disability because of the disease, which has been slowly eating away at his vertebrae and other bones, making them brittle.

Despite the exhortations of doctors treating him at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, Britain's leading cancer hospital, Mr Ross's local NHS primary care trust in West Sussex has refused repeatedly to fund the treatment, even though patients in East Sussex and elsewhere have access to the drug on the NHS. "I've broken bones several times, feeling very weak and tired all the time. It's got to the point where my bone structure can't support my own weight, it takes ten minutes just to get out of bed and I can't stand unsupported in front of the mirror to clean my teeth," he told The Times yesterday. "I was told from the start that it was incurable, that treatment could only hold it at bay, but it now seems that Revlimid is my last resort."

Although the drug is readily available to patients across Europe and in the United States, it has not yet been granted approval for use throughout the NHS in England and so is being provided only by some NHS trusts in "exceptional circumstances".


Another "artistic" attempt to offend decent people

Childish attention-seeking behaviour

London Olympic organisers are at the centre of an extraordinary row after an image of Myra Hindley, the Moors Murderer, was included in a montage of images of British achievements designed to promote the upcoming Games.

The clip, a portrait of Hindley made out of children's hand prints by the artist Marcus Harvey, was screened as the Prime Minister and Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, welcomed British medal winners at a party to celebrate the capital taking over from Beijing as the official Olympic host city. It was immediately condemned by the Mayor and Gordon Brown.

While the two men each delivered a short speech to around 500 guests, a video screen behind them showed a series of quintessentially British images. Party-goers at the event at London House, a trendy outdoor temporary nightclub in down town Beijing used during the Games by athletes and officials to unwind, were stunned when the portrait of Hindley appeared on the screen.

A spokesman for Mr Johnson said that the montage had been compiled by Visit London, an agency responsible for attracting tourists to the capital which had been commissioned by the Mayor's office to carry out the work, and was meant as a showcase of all things British. He added: "The Mayor knew nothing about this. He is appalled."

Visit London said that the portrait was among a number of images of British art used in the short promotional film, which had been used before and received no complaints. A spokesman added that the inclusion of the controversial work showed that there was no "censorship" in the UK but promised to withdraw it immediately. "This is a general three minute video of London in which an artwork by Marcus Harvey at the Tate very fleetingly appears," said the spokesman. "The video is not for general public use and has been used many times over the last few years to show to the tourism trade. There has never been a complaint made about the video up until this point. However, if any offence has been caused, we will withdraw it from use with immediate effect."

The series of clips ran through the day at London House, and the image is said to have appeared on the screen as Mr Brown was making his speech, to the fury of watching Downing Street aides.

Downing Street said the image was "in extremely poor taste" and should not have been used to promote London. A No 10 source added: "It is a total disgrace that this proud night for Britain has been sullied by this grotesque prank. "Whoever was responsible must be found and fired immediately."

Many officials and athletes' relatives had gathered at London House from late afternoon to watch the closing ceremony on the large screens, but apparently did not notice the image of Hindley in the series of clips, which were allowed to run into the evening as they were joined by those who had participated in the ceremony. As well as gold medal winners including Chris Hoy, the party was attended by previous British Olympic athletes such as Jonathan Edwards, the triple jumper, along with David Beckham, the former England football captain, and the singer Leona Lewis, who had both featured in the Olympic closing ceremony. Guests were treated to a barbecue and free champagne bar, with dancing until late into the night.

Myra Hindley died of cancer in prison in 2002, while Ian Brady, her partner in the deaths of at least four children, remains in jail.

The portrait of Hindley caused uproar when it was first shown to the public at the Sensation exhibition, a showcase of Young British Artists held at the Royal Academy of Art between September and December in 1997. The 11ft by 9ft painting of the Moors Murderer, based on her infamous police mugshot, was particularly chilling because the artist, Marcus Harvey, created it using hundreds of stencil outlines of children's hands.

Winnie Johnson, the mother of one of Hindley's victims, asked for the 1995 portrait to be excluded from the exhibition to protect her feelings. She picketed the first day of the show along with supporters to protest against the work, which was part of a collection owned by Charles Saatchi. Even Hindley sent a letter from jail suggesting her portrait be removed from the exhibition because it had "a sole disregard not only for the emotional pain and trauma that would inevitably be experienced by the families of the Moors victims but also the families of any child victim." But despite the protests the painting remained in place, prompting more drastic action. Windows at Burlington House, the Academy's home, were smashed and two demonstrators hurled ink and eggs at it


British Submission

Foot baths for Muslim students at Michigan universities? Muslim cabbies in the Twin Cities who refuse to carry seeing-eye dogs? The FBI and other government agencies taking sensitivity training from radical Muslim organizations? You think we’ve lost the plot over here? Take a look at British submission to Islamofascist demands and threats, as that once great nation succumbs to creeping dhimmitude.

It has reached the point that in mid-April, the British Foreign Office instructed the Royal Navy not to return pirates to jurisdictions sporting sharia law (such as Somalia) for fear that their human rights will be violated. They have even been discouraged from capturing pirates, because the freebooters might ask to be granted asylum in Britain, a request with which the UK might have to comply under international and European Union human rights law.

This for a Navy that almost singlehandedly defeated piracy in the early 19th century, and a nation that retained the death penalty for this scourge of the high seas until the late 20th century. Welcome to Britain today.

Another recent outrage involves special handling of a traffic violation. Seems that a Muslim driver was stopped by police while speeding between two homes in the north of England. When he appeared in court, he explained his high speed – over twice the speed limit – was necessary to accommodate his two wives. His explanation was accepted, and he was allowed to keep his license.

That comes fast – very fast – on the heels of a decision by the British government to grant full spousal benefits to multiple wives. It won’t affect more than an estimated 1,000 individuals. And it mercifully won’t affect the indigenous Christian, Hindu or Jewish population, as traditional bigamy laws apply. Britons may rest easy, as it will only cover multiple wives married in a jurisdiction that practices Sharia law, such as Pakistan or Saudi Arabia.

These are not isolated instances; there are a myriad more: Swimming periods at pools restricted to Muslims only; the establishment of a BBC Arabic language station staffed by Arab broadcasters and managers with track records of being anti-American, anti-Israel and anti-Western; the refusal of female Muslim medical students to wash their arms as that practice might reveal the forbidden flesh between wrist and elbow; an attempt by a national union of university lecturers to call for a boycott of Israeli academics; and, a local Council ban on pig-themed toys, porcelain figures and calendars on workers’ desks because it might offend Muslims.

No comment from the Home Office or No. 10 Downing Street. No comment from the government, because it has been their policy to appease Britain’s large Muslim population in response to menacing behavior up to and including the bomb outrages of July 7, 2005.

It’s no coincidence that Muslims constitute a substantial portion of the Labour Party’s electoral support in London and in much of its heartland in northern England. In the expected close election for Parliament that will be held by mid-2010, an increasing Muslim population may be the difference between victory and defeat for the Labourites.

But Labour’s bien pensant hardly needs convincing. Like most on the left today, they fancy themselves champions of the underdog and the oppressed, and sympathy for Islam, and Arab and Muslim causes fits neatly into their intellectual program. Along with America and Israel-bashing, it goes to the very heart of how liberals view themselves and, more important, how they wish to be viewed by others. It supplies them with the appearance of a self-abnegation that is supposed to relieve their Western, middle-class guilt with a cleansing humility but is nothing but moral exhibitionism; and, as always, involves other people’s money, other people’s freedom, and other people’s comfort – never or very rarely their own.

A classic of political correctness run amok, wonderful as a burlesque if it weren’t slowly undermining Britain’s way of life and its will to oppose extreme Islamism.

Worse is that acceding to this nonsense gives Islamofascists confidence that they are on the winning side of history. That if they just shout a little louder and push a little harder, they may expect more of the same that becomes increasingly normative until it convinces the longer-settled among the UK’s population that they have no power to stop, let alone reverse, the process.

One might have become inured to the gutless behavior of France or Italy, but many in the U.S. are still under the impression that, like other countries in the Anglosphere, the British remain clear-eyed, realistic and most importantly resolute about the threats with which the West is confronted. But they aren’t; and while these cultural changes are in the realm of the comical right now, they are beginning to affect British public policy, domestic as well as foreign.

Why is this important to us? Because the ZaNuLabour Party’s tendency to pacifism and appeasement, and its devotion to political correctness, victim ideology, cultural relativism and liberal guilt is shared by our own Democrats. Look for more of it in Britain, and don’t be surprised when it arrives full force here in America.


Blaming affluence for crime? That's a bit rich

David Lammy's `explanation' for the teenage stabbings in London is a pointed attack on aspiration and prosperity.

The stabbing of Nilanthan Murddi in Croydon last weekend brought the number of teenagers who have met a violent death in London this year to 23. This spate of attacks seems to bring out the pop sociologist in MPs and newspaper columnists. Rather than interpreting such grim incidents as rare, isolated crimes, there's a tendency to imagine an all-encompassing social influence on which to hang a catch-all explanation.

David Lammy, described by some as the nearest British equivalent to Barack Obama, and by everyone else as a New Labour hack, has put forward his own theory - and it's a pretty trite one. Writing in the current issue of British political weekly the New Statesman, Lammy, the parliamentary under-secretary for innovation, universities and skills, believes he has identified the root `causes' of teen-on-teen male violence: the influence of consumerism and affluence, and the lack of identifiable `role models' for young men.

Now, whenever I hear the phrase `lack of role models', I'm tempted to reach for an illegal firearm myself. It's one of those banal, daytime TV platitudes that suggests young people are simply passive automatons waiting for the correct `on-message' individual to point them in the right direction. In education circles, this sort of thinking is everywhere. There's a genuine belief that, say, if black boys were taught by black, male teachers (the much-fabled `role models'), they would make better progress at school. Lammy expands on this simplistic and wrong-headed notion to suggest that if only there were more male teachers in primary schools, then boys would grow up to `identify' with more `acceptable' ideas of masculinity. And apparently, this would lead to less anti-social behaviour on the streets of London. Fantastic!

But teenage boys aren't likely to behave or perform better if their teacher wears trousers or has the same skin colour. Teenagers of all stripes will seek to be oppositional to any teacher in order to undermine them and attempt to exert control in the classroom. This is partly because teenagers crave autonomy and independence and will thus instinctively see how far they can push against `the line'. What a teacher looks like isn't remotely a determining factor on pupil behaviour or academic performance.

Of course, it's essential that adults do play a role in socialising teenagers into adulthood. But that process isn't based on ticking gender or ethnic group boxes, but on the ideas and knowledge of adults and how they articulate them. If there's an identifiable problem today, it is that society lacks a confident set of ideas and a recognisable adult framework through which teenagers can be socialised. Lammy is on to something when he says some teens are prone to outbursts of emotionalism and infantilism today, but he is less forthcoming in identifying his own political party's role in contributing to the current culture of blubbering emotionalism as well as infantilising teenagers.

Incredibly, even though she was UK prime minister before many of today's teenagers were born, Lammy insists that Margaret Thatcher is somehow to blame for anti-social behaviour. What he implies is that Thatcher's supposed blueprint for a 'consumer society' has turned today's generation into selfish, amoral monsters. Traditionally, the left always cited grinding poverty as a contributing influence on anti-social behaviour; now the likes of Lammy are insisting that affluence and materialism are leading youngsters astray.

Lammy quotes an allegedly popular saying amongst today's youth - `get rich or die trying' (itself the title of the debut album of American rapper 50 Cent) as proof that they are morally bankrupt. But since when was it advisable to take youthful bravado at face value? And is simply saying such a thing really the same as being an underworld crime lord? It is conveniently forgotten how most young rap fans see through the absurdity of hip-hop's pantomime excesses. At a further education college in Hackney where I once taught, the `rapper' most of the kids were obsessed with wasn't Tupac Shakur, but Fur Q - Chris Morris' spoof gangsta rapper in satirical TV comedy The Day Today.

Rather disgracefully, it seems Lammy is using the bogus cover of bling-bling rap to demonise consumption and the everyday, normal desire for prosperity. In this way, Lammy is following psychologist Oliver James' cranky idea that material aspiration is a pathological problem in need of therapeutic correction. And to this end, Lammy is proposing tighter regulation on the types of advertisements, films and videos that young people might watch and be influenced by. He also implies that the state should be barging its way even further into the family home and supervising how parents raise their children.

To pathologise healthy consumption is one thing, but Lammy wants to go one step further and criminalise it as well. His crass implication is that affluent societies such as Britain, and our attendant `culture of consumerism', lead inexorably to violent attacks and even murder by our young. Thus, endless consumption somehow creates selfish and feckless individuals who don't appreciate the value of human life. This is tantamount to blackmailing poorer sections in society to keep their heads down and `make do' with hardship, lest material aspiration sends their errant offspring on a random killing spree.

Sociologists such as Stanley Cohen also made the connections between the cultural influence of `the American dream' and how some people in US society achieved that goal through organised crime. But for Cohen and others, that was not a justification for slamming material aspiration, but rather showed how `conventional' routes to success are closed off to certain sections in society.

Lammy's argument also doesn't add up on closer inspection of the murders involving teenagers in London. On the whole, the incidents reported did not feature street robberies that have gone horrifically wrong. More often than not, they involved petty arguments amongst groups of youths that spilled over into fights and fatal stabbings. As dreadful and shocking as these incidents are, street fights and casual violence amongst young people are hardly a new phenomenon. As Mick Hume has argued, the amplification of street crime into a generalised threat means that more teenagers are more likely to carry knives than before - and with sometimes tragic consequences (see Knife crime panic reaches crisis point).

The logic of Lammy's anti-consumption, anti-prosperity argument doesn't add up in another way, too: if rich societies automatically raise feckless and amoral thugs, then how come the number of murdered teenagers is far higher in poorer countries like Brazil or Mexico? Surely the lack of affluence and consumption in those country's shanty towns should mean they are harmonious and trouble-free places, at least in Lammy's worldview? The fact that the teen murder rate in those areas runs into the thousands, rather than double figures, suggests that it is still miserable poverty that has a destructive impact on young people's lives. This doesn't simply translate as poverty forcing people to rob others; but it shows how poverty fuels listless boredom as well as generating a fatalistic and even nihilistic outlook on life in general.

Far from materialism leading to a breakdown in morals, as Lammy disingenuously argues, material prosperity enables people to develop morally as well as intellectually. It provides the very basis through which individuals can begin to live like humans and not act like animals. Instead, Lammy attempts to turn reality on its head and blackmails the poor into accepting their miserable lot in the process. To put this forward as a proposal for combating random and rare violent crime, well, Lammy's a bit rich for even trying.


Against all booze bans

There have always been different social rules for drinking in public: sometimes it's okay, at other times it is definitely not. In some places, sipping beer in the street is considered acceptable and sociable; in other places, it marks you out as a disrespectful low-life.

Over the past few years, though, cracking open a can in the street became not just rude, but illegal. For the first time in Britain, police gained powers to confiscate your bottle of lager or wine, or to ask you to tip it down the drain, and to arrest you if you refused to comply. The state became the arbiter on a question of social etiquette that had previously been decided by individuals and communities themselves.

The new London mayor Boris Johnson's ban on Tube drinking is an infamous case, but the illiberal regulation of public drinking now stretches the world over. Booze bans have cast a shadow over both the Fourth of July celebrations on San Diego beach and the Christmas celebrations on Australia's Bondi beach - these traditionally jolly festive occasions now continue only under the cloud of prohibition.

The land of Hogmanay has fared no better. Drink was banned from many Scottish town centres and beaches this summer, after the Scottish Executive pressured councils to pass booze-banning bylaws covering particular areas. These draconian laws are now pasted on lampposts throughout Scotland: one bans people from carrying around an empty drinks carton, while another prohibits carrying a drinks container `when it could be reasonably assumed they would want to drink it in a "designated public place"' (1).

Areas of towns and cities in the Czech Republic are designated no-drinking; New Zealand has gone so far as to ban driving through `no-drink zones' if you have booze in the boot of your car (police officers say they have the right to stop and search, though if you are caught red-handed you have the option of tipping it down the drain, which is very generous of them) (2).

It was in opposition to this trend that the Manifesto Club - the organisation I head - launched the Campaign Against the Booze Bans. We set up a campaign Facebook group, where more than a thousand people from all over the world have registered their objection to booze bans. In a week's time, on Bank Holiday Monday, we will launch a report on the rise of booze bans at our Provocation Picnic in Hyde Park, London.

The right to drink in public may not be considered a classic civil liberties issue, such as the right to free speech or the right to protest - but it is just as important now. In many ways, the regulation of public drinking is a litmus test for the state of public freedoms. With the erosion of the right to drink, we see how public space is being organised more around the whims of police officers, and less around the desires and morals of free citizens.

In the UK over the past few years, there has been a creeping growth of drinking-control legislation. Where communities once set the rules on when and where one could crack open a can, police officers and councillors now write those rules from scratch.

Booze bans first started in the late 1980s, when some councils - such as Coventry - passed bylaws against public drinking. But these laws were sporadically enforced, and police officers had no powers of arrest. In 1997, the Confiscation of Alcohol (Young Persons) Act gave police powers to confiscate alcohol and containers from under-18s. This law was extended from minors to adults in 2001: the Criminal Justice and Police Act introduced Designated Public Place Orders (DPPOs), which allowed officers to confiscate drink from adults, and gave powers of arrest if the person refused to surrender their can or bottle.

At first, DPPOs grew only gradually, but from 2004 they started to take off rapidly with a rush of applications from councils and police forces for the right to confiscate booze from local residents. There are now 613 Designated Public Place Orders in England and Wales, covering parks, stations and beaches the length and breadth of the country (3). Every new drinking control zone seems to create more, as councils emulate each other's regulations, and zones are extended bit by bit throughout towns and cities.

Meanwhile, government legislation has tightened. The 2003 Licensing Act allowed `sealed' as well as open alcohol containers to be confiscated; it also allowed for an emergency blanket ban on alcohol (police recently showed off this power when they threatened to shut down all pubs and off licenses in Torbay in July 2008, after the idea of a beach party was floated on Facebook) (4).

These new regulations don't reflect a switch in public morals, but a switch in the ideology of the state. The control of public drinking is really the result of officials' concerns about social order, their fear of uninhibited groups of people. They look at unregulated groups relaxing and drinking in public and imagine a threat to law, civilisation, and much else besides.

We start to see the return of a very nineteenth-century idea: that crime is the result of unruly and uninhibited crowds. Police have implicated public boozing in crimes ranging from murder to domestic violence to robbery. Inspector Colin Mowat from Aberdeenshire said that bans on public drinking could help stop `under-age drinking, drink-driving, domestic abuse and street disorder' (5); after the 2007 murder of Cheshire man Gary Newlove by a gang of drunk youths, the leading police officer called for a blanket ban on public drinking (6). The role of the police is exposed for all to see: not just to identify and prosecute for criminal offences, but also to control and manage groups of people.

Booze control laws are produced entirely from above, and as such they are erratically enforced. There are few guidelines for how the police should use their drinking-confiscation powers, so they tend to use them as they please. During the Merseyside Police's Operation Beach Safe, officers decided to confiscate booze at the beach entrance in June 2008. Richard Clarke, acting sergeant of Operation Beach Safe, welcomed visitors with the words `If you're coming to the beach to drink don't bother, go and drink in your gardens or somewhere else', and his officers posed for trophy photos with their confiscated cans of Fosters (7).

Police also take alcohol away from people they think of as troublesome types - younger people, football supporters, or alcoholics - and, unlike with an arrest for a crime, they have no obligation to justify their actions. If you contest an officer's request to tip your Carling down a drain, you are committing an offence and could be arrested and fined up to $1,000. There is no luxury of a defence lawyer.

One post on our Facebook wall discusses the uneven-handed way in which drinking controls are applied in Brighton: `Here. the booze ban, extends to basically the homeless. Community Support Officers [CSOs] do not take drink off you on the beach and ignore you basically if you look well-to-do. One homeless man I met the other day says he had his unopened can of cider in his pocket taken from him by CSOs because they "thought" he was "about to" or had "reason to believe" he would drink it in a public place. He was on his way to drink it at his hostel!' (8)

This shows how the police are playing fast and loose with these powers. At the Manifesto Club, we call for these drinking laws to be challenged and rolled back, and for police powers to be kept on a very tight leash. This is not so much a campaign for public drinking, as a campaign for the public to set the rules for acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. Basically, for Community Support Officers to butt out of communities.

If you are free on Bank Holiday in London, join us for a drink and picnic in the park. It may not always be the done thing to crack open a can in public, but it should never be illegal.


The private sector could save British schools

I wouldn't want to frighten the horses this early in the day, or cause you to choke on your All-Bran, but I have to admit to always having had a sneaking regard for Lord Adonis, the education minister. This is partly based on my belief that he is not stupid, and is genuinely motivated to improve our schools system. Also, I have had surprisingly good reports of him from several headmasters at our leading public schools.

How my heart sank, therefore, when, in trying to divert attention from the fact that a large proportion of our youth leaves school without anything approaching a qualification in either maths or English, he came up with the traditional, and very unclever, PR line: that any criticism of the GCSE results was an insult to those students who had worked so hard to get "good grades". This mantra was designed some years ago - I first heard it when our would-be prime minister David Miliband was a schools minister - to stop people like me from being rude about these increasingly devalued qualifications. Sadly, we won't be stopped.

If a grade A at A-level these days is the same as a grade C 20 years ago, then heaven knows what a GCSE pass represents in terms of the old O-level. The ability to turn up and write your name without too many mistakes in it seems nearly enough in several subjects: this year's pass rate is an otherwise improbable 98.4 per cent.

I do not insult children who have just piled up GCSE passes, for they are the victims of the system. But it is important that they and their parents realise that having a clutch of A* results does not make the holder the next Einstein. And having a pile of less exalted passes means that, in the days when their parents were taking O levels, they probably wouldn't have passed any.

As I mentioned last week when writing about A-levels, the reasons for this - and for Lord Adonis's embarrassment - are clear. The pass rate is set so low because in many cases the teaching these children get, and the schools in which they attempt to learn, are awful. This is the Government's fault. It has devalued teaching systematically over the years with the result that only the most saintly and vocational of high-quality people now wish to enter it. Many that do find the experience of teaching in one of our comprehensive schools so demoralising that they soon clear off and do something else. Teachers are routinely assaulted and abused by pupils and by their parents.

Not only is there barely any discipline, there are not the means to enforce discipline. The children, meanwhile are left to the attentions of a series of supply teachers, with whom they can never form the relationship needed for successful learning, or to the products of our Marxist-inspired teacher training colleges. God help them, for no one else will.

When the whining starts about the "inequality" between private and state schools, it is not said often enough that it is hardly about money. It is about the quality of teachers in the private sector, many of whom have not been soiled by the state teacher training system, and who are given the means to do their jobs properly. It is also about supportive parents - supportive both of the child and of the teacher. Above all, it is about an attitude towards learning that seems not to exist in much of the public sector, where teachers are forced to be a combination of child minders and social workers.

If Lord Adonis wants to put this right, the route appears simple. He should ask the private schools to use their expertise to set up schools to replace those that are failing. He should pay them to run them and give them carte blanche to manage them.

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Don't blame parents for `cotton-wool kids'

Comment from Britain

Today is Playday, a celebration of children's `right to play' - and an ideal time to have a kickabout with the culture of fear that imprisons our kids

An ICM survey commissioned by Play England for Playday - the annual celebration of children's right to play, which takes place today, 6 August - reportedly shows that over-cautious parents are `spoiling' children's playtime. `Children are being denied adventurous play because their parents are nervous about exposing them to risk', warns BBC News (1).

The Playday poll shows that half of children aged 7 to 12 years (51 per cent) are not allowed to climb a tree without adult supervision, and 42 per cent are not allowed to play in their local park without an adult present.

`Constantly wrapping children in cotton wool can leave them ill-equipped to deal with stressful or challenging situations they might encounter later in life', said Adrian Voce, director of Play England, a charity that promotes `free play opportunities'. `Adventurous play both challenges and excites children and helps instil critical life skills,' he said.

According to Play England, this year's Playday theme - `Give us a go!' - highlights children's need to `experience risky and challenging play' in order to ensure they are able to `manage risk in their daily lives' (2). Playday is supported by Persil, the washing powder manufacturer, whose website says the aim is `to shake off the "cotton wool" culture that can limit children's play' (3).

These are commendable aims. There is a real danger that by cocooning, over-protecting and over-supervising children, society might be denying the next generation the opportunity to grow up and become capable, confident adults. This is one of the reasons I decided to write Reclaiming Childhood: Freedom and Play in an Age of Fear, which will be published early next year in the UK and the US (4). I feel strongly that children are losing out on many childhood experiences that my generation took for granted.

Children need space away from adults' watchful eyes - in order to play, experiment, take risks (within a sensible framework provided by adults), test boundaries, have arguments, fight, and learn how to resolve conflicts. Today, they are increasingly denied these opportunities.

But I also feel that in pinning the blame on individual parents and their `over-cautious' anxieties, as Play England is doing today, those who decry the decline of outdoor play are being unfair - and naive. The cause of the cotton-wool kids phenomenon is a broader cultural obsession with risk, which has had a major impact upon policymakers, public institutions and media debate, as well as upon teachers and parents. And in challenging this culture, it is important to be clear about where the real problem lies, and to resist pat explanations for its cause.

In his book Paranoid Parenting, spiked writer and sociologist Professor Frank Furedi described the culture of fear that has led parents to restrict their children's freedom to roam. He showed that parental fears must be understood in the context of a generalised sense of anxiety and risk-aversion, which is particularly strong when it comes to the lives and futures of children.

The fact is that parents are continually told to be `better safe than sorry', and it is far from easy for parents to go against the grain and give their children more freedom than society currently deems acceptable. In April 2008, the New York Sun columnist Lenore Skenazy wrote an article entitled `Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride The Subway Alone'. She gave her son a subway map, a MetroCard, a $20 bill, and several quarters, `just in case he had to make a call', waved him goodbye, and told him she'd see him at home.

She wrote: `I trusted him to figure out that he should take the Lexington Avenue subway, and the 34th Street crosstown bus home. If he couldn't do that, I trusted him to ask a stranger. And then I even trusted that stranger not to think, "Gee, I was about to catch my train home, but now I think I'll abduct this adorable child instead."' (5)

Skenazy later described how she suddenly became `a lightning rod in the parenting wars': `Mention my story and millions of people not only know about it, they have a very strong opinion about it, and me, and my parenting skills - or utter, shameful lack thereof.' In an interview with spiked in April, she described how she became branded `America's worst mom' simply for allowing her child to do what most people her age had done routinely when they were young.

But there were also many parents who applauded her decision to let her son travel alone. In her spiked interview, Skenazy stressed that many people reacted positively to her column. She has now set up a blog - Free Range Kids - which is filled with stories from parents who give their children the freedom to do things on their own, and with the concerns of parents who would like to give their kids more freedom, but don't (see `I've been labelled the world's worst mom', by Nancy McDermott).

The root of the problem is not parental fears but the fact that parents are continually discouraged from entrusting their children to other adults. In the UK, it is a crime to work with children without first being vetted by the authorities. The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act, which was passed into law in England and Wales in 2006, requires that millions of adults whose work involves coming into contact with children must undergo Criminal Records Bureau checks. The message this gives to parents and children is to be suspicious of any adult who comes into contact with young people.

Also, it is almost impossible in Britain today to take photos of one's children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews in public places if they are surrounded by other children. The rules governing the use of cameras and camera-phones in swimming pools, parks, at children's parties, pantomimes, school sports days and any other place where children might be present are ubiquitous, and strictly enforced. The kind of photos that have traditionally appeared in many a family album are now treated as being akin to potential child pornography.

In this climate of institutionalised fear and suspicion, it is little wonder that parents do not feel confident about letting their children play unsupervised in the streets or in local parks - especially when it is assumed by many that any parent who does let their child run around is a Bad Parent, and possibly the `worst mom in the world'.

Ultimately parents will only give children the independence they need if they have sufficient trust in other adults - trust in them not to harm their children, but to look out for them. When we grew up our parents assumed that if we got into trouble, other adults - often strangers - would help out. Today that trust does not exist - or, at least, it has been seriously damaged by government policy, media debate and a rising culture of suspicion towards adults' motives.

Only by challenging the safety-obsessed culture that depicts every adult as a potential threat can we start to build a better future - and present - for our children and ourselves. Today's Playday should involve a lot of fun and freedom for children, which is great; let us now build on it by standing up to the paralysing climate of fear and make every day a Playday for youngsters.