Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Israel is Right to Defend Its People

Comment from Britain

Hamas are a bunch of murderous thugs. Over the past few years they have fired 5,000 rockets on Israel from residential parts of the Gaza strip, killing and injuring dozens of innocent Israelis. Israel has done its best not to react, but in the end their patience has snapped - and understandably so. They have acted using the only kind of force Hamas can understand.

According to Conservative Friends of Israel, over the past week more than 300 rockets, missiles and mortar rounds have been fired from Gaza by Hamas and other militants at Israeli villages and towns. More than 560 have been fired since Hamas escalated rocket firing on 4 November. This is on top of the 5,000 which have been fired from Gaza this year. The media seem to think these rockets are fairly harmless. They are not. They are weapons of terror.

BBC reports suggest that in recent days none of these rockets has resulted in any Israeli deaths or injuries. Not true. CFI report today that: "An Israeli man was killed and four others were seriously wounded when a missile hit a house in Netivot. Another man was seriously wounded when a rocket struck at the community of Mivtahim later this afternoon." Over the last four years, 92% of Sderot residents (a town of 20,000 people) have experienced a Qassam rocket falling on their or an adjacent street. Sixteen Israelis have been killed by Qassam rockets and hundreds have been injured and maimed.

Israel should have dealt with this situation long before now. Instead, it allowed itself to be persuaded to call a truce with Hamas. It may have gone down well in the international community, but all it achieved was to allow Hamas time to regroup and rearm. According to CFI:
Under cover of the truce, Hamas engaged in a major campaign to upgrade its terrorist capabilities, manufacturing and smuggling massive quantities of weapons into Gaza - including rockets, explosive charges and machine guns - and constructing a network of underground tunnels for combat purposes. Israel cannot acquiesce to the presence of a Hizbullah-like organization on its southern border.

Hamas broke the ceasefire by firing more rockets into Israel. Imagine if this had happened here. Imagine if France fired rockets onto Dover from Calais. Would the British people expect its government to stand idly by and do nothing? Of course not.

British politicians are calling on both sides to act with restraint. Fine words, which are totally hollow. It is not right to treat both sides equally. Israel is a democratic ally, while Hamas are nothing more than an Iranian backed terror group, which is subjugating the people of Gaza in order to radicalise them. Once they have done that they intend to repeat the experience on the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority, led by Fatah's Mahmoud Abbas are well aware of this and their condemnation of the Israeli action is notable for its reticence. It's easy to understand why. They know full well what Hamas is like, and what its endgame is. This report is from the Press Association...
In a news conference today from Cairo, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas placed the blame for the violence in the Gaza Strip squarely on the shoulders of Hamas. He described how he repeatedly made contact with Hamas and implored them not to break the ceasefire. He lamented that the violence in the Gaza Strip could have been avoided had Hamas not broken the ceasefire. The following is Mahmoud Abbas's statement at a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu al-Gheit.

"I say in all honesty, we made contact with leaders of the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip. We spoke with them in all honesty and directly, and after that we spoke with them indirectly, through more than one Arab and non-Arab side... We spoke with them on the telephone and we said to them: We ask of you, don't stop the ceasefire, the ceasefire must continue and not stop, in order to avoid what has happened, and if only we had avoided it."

The US ambassador to the US Zalmay Khalilzad has suggested Hamas held the key to restoring calm. "We believe the way forward from here is for rocket attacks against Israel to stop, for all violence to end," he said. CFI reports that Khalilzad was "implicitly backed up from Cairo by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who claimed the current situation could have been avoided had Hamas renewed the ceasefire before it lapsed and ceased all violence towards Israel."

If you doubt my interpretation of Hamas's motives and are deluded enough to think that they are genuine freedom fighters, just click HERE. To the horror of the Egyptians Hamas are not even allowing ambulances in to Gaza to treat the injured.
Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the wounded were "barred from crossing" and he blamed "those in control of Gaza" for putting the lives of the injured at risk.

And we shouldn't forget who funds Hamas - the Iranians. Without their money and weapons Hamas wouldn't be half the force it is today, either in Gaza or in the Lebanon. Hamas is classified as a terror organisation by the UN. Virtually every Middle East country won't have any dealings with Hamas, yet in this country they seem to be treated by many as a legitimate organisation with whom the Israelis should negotiate. The only country which exalts Hamas is the one to whose President Channel 4 disgracefully gave a platform on Christmas Day.

People blame Israel for the terrible state of living standards in the Gaza Strip. They are wrong. Hamas is to blame for keeping its people in abject poverty. Israel handed over the governmental administration of the Gaza Strip in 2005 to the Palestinian Authority. They had an opportunity to run it themselves. Instead, since Hamas took power, they have done everything in their power to keep their people in poverty and use it as an excuse to radicalise those who are inclined to believe their propaganda. But even despite this, Israel was providing huge amounts of humanitarian aid to Gaza - more than 4,000 truck loads a month as well as fuel and electricity (despite the ongoing rocket attacks). Conditions were by no means good, but there was no humanitarian crisis, according to Khaled Abdel Shaafi, director the United Nations Development Programme in Gaza. He said this month that "this is not a humanitarian crisis... It's an economic crisis, a political crisis, but it's not a humanitarian crisis. People aren't starving."

It is highly regrettable that more than 250 people have been killed over the last few days. If Hamas hadn't been firing their rockets from residential areas the death toll would have been much lower. But Hamas have sited them there deliberately, so they can portray any Israeli response as heartless and disproportionate.

Gordon Brown was absolutely bang on with his response to what's happening in Gaza. He said: "I call on Gazan militants to cease all rocket attacks on Israel immediately. These attacks are designed to cause random destruction and to undermine the prospects of peace talks led by president Abbas. I understand the Israeli government's sense of obligation to its population."

William Hague, though, was perhaps a little less unequivocal, which I think is a shame. He said: "We deeply regret the loss of civilian life in Gaza today. We call on the Israeli government to show restraint. At the same time we call on Hamas to stop the rocket attacks which are an unacceptable threat to Israel's security, so that the ceasefire, which Hamas failed to renew, can be urgently restored."

The trouble is that any Hamas backed ceasefire isn't worth the paper it is written on. If we have learned nothing from recent history, surely we have learned that. Israel will only be able to restore open borders with Gaza and cease its military action when it is clear that no further rockets are being fired. In the meantime they should have the backing of every right thinking democrat in destroying the sites from which rockets are being fired and the tunnels through which Hamas are smuggling arms from Egypt.

As you can tell, I support Israel 100% in their actions in Gaza. But I fully recognise that there is an opposing viewpoint, which others are espousing on other blogs - mostly on the left. Whenever I write about Israel or the Middle East it provokes the loonies to come out of hiding. Let's keep the debate moderate and insult free in the comments please.

UPDATE: Courtesy of Dizzy...

Quote of the Day by the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit
The Israelis have been warning you that this was coming if you continue your cross border rocket attacks. Egypt has been imploring you to stop firing rockets into Israel, but you ignored our words. We have been urging you to renew the cease-fire with Israel, but you refused. You have brought this upon yourselves. You are responsible for what is happening to the people of Gaza.


British council disregards objections to gypsy camp from 3,000 residents -- as 'they are racist'

When residents were asked to provide feedback on council plans to build traveller camps on their doorstep they dutifully responded. More than 3,000 homeowners filled in forms outlining their views, many raising concerns over a possible increase in noise, traffic, rubbish and a detrimental effect on property prices. However, such objections were not appreciated by Mid-Bedfordshire District Council, which partially or fully rejected nearly nine in ten of the replies for including comments 'of a racist nature'.

Weeks after asking for residents' views earlier this year, the council posted an article on its website entitled 'Racist Comments Not Welcome'. It claimed the council's 'duty of community leadership' meant it had to crack down on the use of racial stereotypes, and revealed that while 400 responses would be considered, 3,100 were in some way racist and would be rejected. The council even sent letters to objectors telling them their views had been deemed offensive and would not be taken account of.

Retired company secretary Lucy Clarke from Stotfold - one of the six small towns and villages mooted as sites for the 25 traveller families - was astounded to receive her letter. Mrs Clarke, a grandmother of three, said: 'As far as I am aware I objected to the camp for entirely reasonable grounds. And yet I then get this letter from the council. 'They even accused me of incitement to racial hatred. It's ridiculous - like putting me on a par with Abu Hamza.' She added: 'I am not racist, but I am concerned about what one of these camps could do to our town.'

Even the local town council could not avoid falling foul of the censors. Brian Collier, chairman of Stotfold council said: 'We wrote a detailed response in which we summarised locals' concerns. 'There is another gipsy site not far from here that has a well-known crime problem. 'As part of our response we echoed people's worries that the same may happen here. 'We were totally shocked when we then received a letter from the district council saying that was racist. There are lots of people here who have had the same treatment.'

The district council's attitude has been criticised by local campaigners, politicians and civil liberties groups. Tory communities spokesman Eric Pickles said yesterday: 'I hope that they write a letter of apology to everyone they have accused of being racist. Otherwise, people simply aren't going to feel able to object to these camps without the fear of being branded racist.'

When contacted by the Daily Mail, a spokesman for Mid-Bedfordshire council admitted that it had been 'somewhat overzealous'. He said: 'We were worried that many of the letters contained racist slurs and objectionable comments that we felt could not be published under current race relations legislation. 'We had no intention of offending those who took the time to respond to the consultation and certainly were not trying to label residents as racist. 'Only a small proportion (around 5 per cent) of the comments were actually discounted in their entirety. The remainder were taken into consideration, either in whole or in part.'


British children banned from carrying candles in church - it may be safer, but isn't life supposed to be fun?

You may be sick of health and safety stories, but I am going to tell you a new one anyway. And this one is particularly monstrous. There is a very pretty disused estate church in Northamptonshire where an annual carol service is held on Christmas Eve, attended by some 250 people. Everybody holds aloft a candle, which makes a lovely sight. This year, however, this little event was blighted by a decree from the church commissioners that no child under the age of 15 could be allowed to hold a lighted candle: the safety risk was deemed unacceptable. As if that wasn't enough, the service then started with the reading of formal instructions about exits in the event of fire, a completely potty notion in a tiny old church with only one door.

And here's another story just as farcical. A few months ago, an engineer called at our house to correct a telephone line fault. He eventually announced that he must go away and return another day because the job would require a long ladder. I told him he could use our ladder. Sorry, he said, he would need another man to hold it while he climbed. I volunteered. 'Sorry,' he said again. 'You're not trained.'

Trained? To hold a ladder? This is madness, but a madness which all of us experience almost every day. It is sometimes claimed, not least by that iniquitous Stalinist body the Health & Safety Executive, that stories such as these are invented or exaggerated. They are not. Such things are happening all around us. Visiting the Army in Afghanistan in October, I was dismayed to hear that even on the battlefield, the spectre of health and safety rears its head, adding severely to the burden of commanders trying to conduct an exceptionally rough campaign.

The Oxfordshire coroner who conducts most of the inquests into British soldiers killed in action, and often delivers fierce criticisms of the Ministry of Defence in his judgments, thinks that he speaks and acts in the interests of our soldiers and their families. In reality, however, he often makes pronouncements that reflect his own ignorance of the realities of war. And in so doing, he makes the task of fighting the Taliban that much harder.

Let me give you an example. Weighed down with body armour, helmet, pack and rifle, it is hard to run for any distance in the intense Afghan heat - especially when under fire. Earlier this year, commanding officers discussed whether, in special circumstances, men might be allowed to discard their body armour for short periods to enable them to move faster against a lightly-clad and nimble enemy. The final verdict was that this was unacceptable. They decided that if a soldier should be killed when not wearing full protective gear, the Oxfordshire coroner would have a field day. He would almost certainly denounce the irresponsibility of officers who had failed in their duty of care.

It is hard to fight battles under such constraints. Air Marshal Lord Tedder, Eisenhower's deputy in World War II, said wisely: 'War is organised confusion.' And he was right. British officers care passionately about the welfare and survival of their men. The pain of losing a comrade is very great. It is harsh to superimpose upon this the prospect of being denounced in a coroner's court by a civilian who has never heard a shot fired in anger. And it is absurd to apply to the circumstances of the battlefield the same sort of criteria that are applied to a factory accident.

But wars aside, we must keep exposing and denouncing such follies as a ban on children carrying candles at a carol service. If we allow them to pass unremarked, the excesses of health and safety will go on and on, each day squeezing some new little moment of pleasure out of our existences. What is at stake is common sense. We must be allowed to live our lives without constant interruptions from an officialdom obsessed with the belief that every detail of the domestic round needs regulation.

Much of the trouble lies with the courts. If, for example, my telephone engineer falls off his ladder, he will almost certainly sue his employer and anybody else in sight. If regulations are found to have been breached, if there is the smallest hint that anybody in a position of responsibility was negligent, massive compensation will be awarded. Judges often seem willing to strike bold attitudes, for instance in sticking up for the rights of Muslim extremists to preach jihad, who then escape deportation, and receive generous cheques from social services into the bargain. Yet those same judges, together with tribunals which adjudicate in many compensation cases, lack the courage to fight for common sense.

Many claims deserve to be kicked straight into the long grass. But the view prevails that cash paid out by public bodies or insurance companies is not real money. It can be distributed with reckless abandon to victims of misfortunes, often in amounts larger than they could have earned in a lifetime of labour. Thus fear of litigation causes public bodies and private companies alike to impose ever sillier and more draconian restrictions on people's daily behaviour. They are terrified of being held responsible if somebody trips over a paving stone on their patch.

We, the British, often claim to take pride in our warrior heritage. Yet we are making ourselves ever more timid and cowardly. Many of us in our teens did Outward Bound courses - I myself once ran one at school. They were tremendously popular with the young because they fed our enthusiasm for adventure. I tremble to imagine what today's Outward Bound courses are like.

After a fatal canoeing accident at a school in the John Major era, new legislation was introduced. And such activities are now hedged by thick entanglements of rules designed to strip out any of the risk which we so loved. One day when, as a newspaper editor, I met the Prime Minister, I suggested that the new law was too restrictive. He responded: 'Can you imagine what everybody would have said if there had been another Outward Bound accident and we had done nothing?'

For once, I sympathised with Major. The blame culture was not invented by governments, but they feel compelled to respond to its reality. I suppose it is a sign of retarded adolescence, that even at my advanced age I still love taking risks, a joy enhanced by the feeling that I am striking back at the Health & Safety Executive. I relish ladders and chainsaws, working on the roof, and bicycling without one of those hideous helmets.

When my children were younger, I hope that I was not an irresponsible parent. But I encouraged them to climb trees, bungee jump - and carry candles at carol services. Life is supposed to be fun. In any sensible society, learning to accept responsibility for our own actions, and sometimes for painful consequences, is an essential part of growing up. Unless we fight every new manifestation of the health and safety brigade's excesses, we may become a fractionally safer society - but we shall also evolve into an unbearably dull one.


The welfare system is a monster that is slowly destroying Britain...

The year that lies ahead threatens to be one of the most grim in all British history. Hundreds of thousands of us look certain to lose our jobs, most through absolutely no fault of our own. According to some estimates, that figure may even reach a million. For some of us, the prospect is grimmer still. We will not be able to keep up our mortgage payments, and so lose our homes, as well.

This series of disasters, however, is likely to befall only those who have made the mistake of working in the private sector. Those employed in Britain's bloated public sector are pretty well immune from the effects of the economic downturn. The same applies to that section of the population-an estimated 4.8 million people-who are already dependent on out-of-work benefits.

Some of these, of course, live in genuine poverty and deserve all the help they get. But others enjoy a surprising level of affluence. As the Daily Mail revealed yesterday, an amazing 140,000 households collect more from the benefit system than they would if they earned the national average wage. Each of these families receives state handouts worth 20,000 pounds a year, or even more. However, they are not taxed on this income, meaning that their real take-home pay is worth the equivalent of someone bringing home the national average salary of 25,100 before tax-and in some cases it is considerably higher even than that.

This is obscene. Nobody-apart from a handful of deranged free-marketeers who yearn for a return to the brutality of the Victorian era-is opposed to state benefits. Our modern welfare state, drawn up by William Beveridge during World War II, is the mark of a truly civilised society. Its purpose is to ensure that Britain should never return to the horrifying levels of poverty and suffering that were part of ordinary life during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Indeed, we have rarely needed Beveridge's system of social protection as much as we do today, facing as we do the greatest economic catastrophe for three- quarters of a century.

However, it has been clear for some time that something has gone desperately wrong with William Beveridge's system. During the years immediately following World War II it admirably performed the task it was supposed to do-and gave temporary protection to those workers who, through no fault of their own, were made unemployed. Instead of being forced into the workhouse, as might have happened in the 1930s, they were allowed to maintain their human dignity. But, slowly, the system was distorted.

Partly, this was the fault of politicians. National insurance payments, for example, were soon debased so that it ceased to be a pool of money set aside for a rainy day, and instead became just another form of income tax. And, inevitably, idle and feckless workers started to take full advantage of the benefits system. Rather than use it as a system of social insurance, they started to regard it as a well-paid alternative to going out to work.

A good example is the British system of disability benefit. This was set up from the most noble and splendid of motives-so that people who were unable to work for health reasons should not suffer financially because of their disability. Unfortunately, the work-shy soon spotted that disability benefit was also the perfect excuse for idleness, while being paid for staying at home-and often doing a little extra on the black market. Today, an astonishing 2.7 million men and women are claiming incapacity benefit-equivalent to one in 15 people of working age in Britain. Many of these disability claims are obviously fake.

Indeed, David Freud, the former banker who advises the Government on welfare issues, reckons that approximately two-thirds of those claiming incapacity benefit are capable of going out to work. Freud estimates that a staggering number-he reckons about 185,000-work illegally while on benefit. Tragically, no government has ever tried to make them go out to work legally. Some ministers have actually preferred to collude with a system which effectively defrauds the public. The reason is utterly shameful-people who are claiming incapacity benefit do not register as unemployed. They therefore keep the jobless figures down, enabling governments to boast about their economic success.

Another scam is housing benefit. Once again, no decent person would ever complain about the idea behind housing benefit-namely to keep people who cannot fend for themselves off the streets. Yet, once again, the system has been milked by the feckless and greedy, often with the collaboration of incompetent or corrupt local councils-consider the recent case in West London where an immigrant family lives in a large townhouse worth approximately 2,000 pounds in rent a week.

Last week a report by the Institute Of Fiscal Studies concluded (unsurprisingly) that the over-generous benefits system has created a baby boom. It estimated that an extra 45,000 children a year have been born to young mothers since the 'unprecedented rise' in child benefits, free housing and family tax credits made it 'economically attractive' to have more and more babies.

This complex situation of benefits has created a situation which was the exact opposite of what Beveridge intended. He aimed to create a system which would enable men and woman to get by while they looked for another job. But the modern British benefits system is now so complex, so incompetently administered, so corrupt and, in some cases, so generous that it is actually a disincentive to people going out to look for work. The rewards for staying idle are so great that, perversely, men and women on benefits can be better off staying at home.

A recent study showed that around 60,000 poorly paid workers offered the choice of working more hours would effectively be taxed by an extra 90 per cent on the extra income. In other words, the welfare system Britain has devised today rewards idleness and punishes hard work. The effects of this are already being felt. It is scarcely 60 years since the end of World War II, and yet there are already housing estates where practically no one goes to work. The only source of income is the State, and there are generations of families none of whom have ever had experience of the workplace.

This is not merely immensely damaging to the British economy. It is also desperately unfair. Those people who have always worked hard and paid their taxes find themselves being heavily penalised for their efforts-while those who cheat and skive get rewarded. In the long term, this is a very dangerous situation. It brings the British system of social insurance-one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century-into disrepute. Ordinary, decent, hardworking people will start to ask whether they can support a system which so blatantly rewards the workshy and the idle.

Eleven years ago, when Labour first came to power, Tony Blair claimed that only Labour could reform the welfare system-and he promised to do so. But he never had the guts. He and his Chancellor Gordon Brown preferred to keep the blatant sham of disability benefit because it so conveniently hid the true level of unemployment. It is a tragic wasted opportunity. It would have been fairly easy to prune the bloated welfare state when jobs were plentiful over the past decade-but next to impossible now that that the job losses mount.

Writing more than 2,000 years ago, a Roman politician made the following observation: 'The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.' These words were uttered by Cicero in 55BC. Today they are every bit as apposite.


Ahmadinejad Christmas message on Britain's Channel 4

The Left are always banging on about the importance of sensitivity and making people feel "comfortable" but display precious little of any of that themselves

Channel 4 has long revelled in its puerile desire to shock but now it has plumbed new depths of indecency, perpetrating an act of sickening and gratuitous -offen-siveness. On the most -significant day in the Christian calendar it broadcast a so-called "alternative Christmas message" by Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an -Islamic fundamentalist whose regime is notorious for oppression, cruelty and anti-Semitism.

C4 has displayed utter contempt for the values of our Judaeo-Christian civilisation, treating a precious moment in our religious heritage as an opportunity for the usual anti-Western, Marxist point-scoring which passes for thinking in Left-wing circles. In the context of issuing a Christmas broadcast it is hard to imagine a less appropriate figure than President -Ahmadinejad, whose vicious theo-cracy has never shown the slightest inclination towards peace and goodwill.

To hear him last night preaching about justice and the need to fight tyranny was nauseating in the extreme. His government has promoted a brutal form of militant Islam, persecuted women, hounded Christians, and sponsored terrorism. - Despite presiding over mass poverty it has sought to build its own deadly nuclear arsenal, creating permanent tension in the Middle East. Ahmadinejad, himself drenched in the crudest form of anti-Semitism, has called for Israel to be "wiped off the face of the earth" and questioned whether the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews ever took place.

Others accused of Holocaust denial, such as historian David Irving, end up in prison. Ahmadinejad is given a prime-time Christmas Day slot on C4.

The station has an -unedifying track record of deliberately stirring up rows, particularly through the psychological freak show known as Big Brother. It has also frequently used Christmas Day as a chance to parade its disdain for the traditional -values of our culture. Two years ago the Christmas message came from a Muslim woman trumpeting her right to wear the full veil. But the -Ahmadinejad broadcast is a desperate new low. The -channel has moved from mere controversy into a sneering, treacherous rejection of all that decent Britons hold dear at this time of year.

Only in the warped mindset of an ultra-trendy, oh-so--progressive TV executive would it be deemed suitable to allow one of world's most dangerous and fanatical leaders to spout his deceitful nonsense about peace. What do C4 have lined up for next Christmas? Robert Mugabe on compassion? Kim Jong Il of North Korea on -freedom and democracy? One can imagine the excited conversations which must have taken place within C4's management before the decision was made to invite the Iranian President. "What can we do for a real outrage this year? -Ahmadinejad?

The Holocaust denier, talking on the day of -Jesus's birth? Brilliant. That'll really make a stir." The -station's executives are like a bunch of adolescent, Left-wing students, titillated by the justifiable -anger they provoke, revelling in their self-created image as -daring iconoclasts who -challenge the establishment. The absurdity of their stance is that they are an integral part of the establishment. After all, C4 is a public corporation, owned by the Government. But instead of receiving a genuine public service we have these continual displays of immature rebellion by over-paid attention seekers who think there is something original about their predictable anti-British dogma.

In 1940 George Orwell wrote of the classic Left-wing intellectuals who felt "that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution." He -described these anti-patriots as occupying "a sort of island of dissident thought". Tragically, they are no longer dissidents but are running C4.

What is equally repulsive is their epic hypocrisy. They delight in undermining Christianity and Judaism but then display a fawning reverence for Islam. They would not dream of -allowing a Muslim holy day to be hijacked by a message from a Christian fundamentalist. The same appalling double standards are just as clear in the utterings of Ahmadinejad. While lecturing us about spiritual faith, he would not tolerate for a moment an address from an Israeli rabbi about Iran's -duties to the world.

Moreover, he had the nerve to claim that if Jesus were alive today he would be campaigning against supposed Western imperialism. Yet no one in Britain can utter a squeak about Prophet -Mohammed without the threat of riots, mayhem and jihads.

It is grotesque to be hectored about peace by the world's most outspoken political advocate of a violent creed that has brought such terrible carnage over the past decade. "Love thy neighbour," the central message of the Christian gospel, is an idea -entirely alien to Islamic hardliners bent on the global -triumph of their dogma. There is an alarming parallel between the Nazis of the Thirties and today's Islamist zealots.

Morbidly anti-Semitic, stuck in a mentality of grievance, wallowing in manufactured victimhood, obsessed with submission to dictatorial authority, wailing about the iniquities of American-led capitalism, consumed by superstition and brutish -ritual, Nazism was as much a menace as Islamism is today. Like Ahmadinejad, Adolf Hitler ranted about his desire for peace but warned this could never be achieved until the "Jewish problem" was resolved.

For C4 to broadcast a message of "peace" from Ahmadinejad is the modern equivalent of the Thirties BBC giving a Christmas Day slot to Hitler. The morality of broadcasting in Britain has been sinking rapidly in recent years, as reflected in the scandal over Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross. But it has never before reached such levels of soullessness as C4 did last night.


British schools too much for British teachers

Negligible disciplinary options means high stress

Teachers are calling in sick at the rate of 15,000 a day. Almost three million working days were lost last year, up from 2.5million in 1999. Some 311,000 teachers took at least one day off.

Tories called the official figures 'very worrying', linking them with mounting bureaucracy and disruptive classroom behaviour.

The Government's school workforce statistics, which cover full and part-time teachers and classroom assistants, show the average number of sick days has risen from 5.1 a head in 1999 to 5.4 in 2007. The overall number of days lost was 2.9million. This equates to almost 15,000 teachers off sick on each school day. The total of 311,770 who took sickness absence is well over half the number working in English schools.

The rising levels of sick leave mean more pupils have to be taught by unfamiliar supply teachers who may not be specialists in the subjects they are teaching.

Tory children's spokesman Michael Gove said the cost of teacher absence could run into hundreds of millions. Schools have to pay œ103 to œ210 a day for supply teachers.

Teaching unions said stress was 'endemic' to teaching in Britain. NUT acting general secretary Christine Blower said: 'Given the enormous pressures teachers are under, it is remarkable they have so little sick leave. 'The vast majority of teachers, sometimes unwisely, go into school, even though they may be ill, because of their commitment to the children. 'Unfortunately, too much stress is endemic to the job and it is the responsibility of not only the Government but the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats to explore ways of reducing the excessive numbers of initiatives faced weekly by schools.'

Despite record education spending under Labour, teaching vacancies have risen by a quarter in the past year - with four in ten new teachers quitting within a year. Critics say they are weighed down with too many initiatives, too much form-filling and too much bad behaviour.

Mr Gove said: 'It's very worrying that the number of sick days has risen so dramatically. 'The Government needs to investigate the reasons so we can make sure there is as much stability as possible in every child's education.'

According to the General Teaching Council for England, there are 465,672 registered teachers currently working in England's schools. The figure does not include classroom assistants. The highest sickness rate was in London, where 50,840 full and part-time teachers took leave. The lowest rate was in the North East of England, with 13,360 teachers taking sickness absence.

Mark Wallace, from the TaxPayers' Alliance, said last night: 'Taxpayers and pupils are the real victims of this epidemic. Teachers clearly need firmer rules and better management to both reduce stress and stop people getting away with taking sickies.'

But the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: 'Teacher sickness levels remain low and stable and well within industry norms. 'Of course, teaching is an incredibly rewarding but also very challenging role and we have worked hard to reduce the pressures on teachers. 'We have employed record numbers of support staff, given teachers a half-day a week outside the classroom to plan and prepare lessons, given teachers the full support of the law in dealing with unruly pupils and removed admin tasks from the list of activities which they can be asked to do.'

A spokesman for the largest teaching union, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: 'Teachers are highly dedicated to their jobs and to the children they teach. 'We would question the release of these statistics if their intended purpose is to seek to undermine or call into question the hard work of teachers, who on a daily basis raise attainment and help children reach their full potential.'


Gravely ill man goes to NHS emergency room. Not attended to until 6 hours later. Dies

Individuals don't matter in socialized medicine

A hospital trust is facing questions after a man died having waited more than six hours to be seen in an accident and emergency department. Medway NHS Foundation Trust said it was saddened to hear of the death of Stewart Fleming but said that its emergency ward was experiencing long waits because of a high number of admissions.

Mr Fleming, 37, of Rainham, Kent was taken to the Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham on December 12 by his wife Sarah. He had a note from his GP requesting immediate admission after a suspected viral infection failed to clear with antibiotics but, the father of two faced a reported six-hour wait before he was assessed again.

By this time his condition had deteriorated. He was eventually admitted and transferred a week later to the Harefield Hospital in West London but died last Saturday. Mrs Fleming said: "Why wait three hours for a triage when a doctor had already done it and put it in writing what was going on?"

A spokeswoman for Medway NHS Foundation Trust said: "The trust is saddened to hear of the death of Stewart Fleming. Due to patient confidentiality we are unable to discuss any details."


Scrooge was a people hater
"Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned: they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.'' "Many can't go there; and many would rather die.'' "If they would rather die,'' said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."

That phrase--surplus population--is what first tipped me off to Dickens' philosophical agenda. He's taking aim at the father of the zero-growth philosophy, Thomas Malthus. Malthus' ideas were still current in British intellectual life at the time A Christmas Carol was written. Malthus, himself, had joined the surplus generation only nine years before. But his ideas have proved more durable.

Malthus taught the world to fear new people. An amateur economist, he created a theoretical model which allegedly proved that mass starvation was an inevitable result of population growth. Populations grow, he said, geometrically, but wealth only grows arithmetically. In other words, new people create more new people, but new food doesn't create new food.

Malthus' influence, unfortunately, grew geometrically and not arithmetically. His ideas provided fodder for Darwin, and Darwin's lesser mutations used the model to argue for the value of mass human extinction.

Hitler's hard eugenics and Sanger's (founder of Planned Parenthood) softer one, both owed a great debt of gratitude to Thomas Malthus. So do the zero-growth, sustainable-growth, right-to-die, duty-to-die, life boat bio-ethicists who dominate so much of our intellectual discussion. Malthus turned out to be, ironically, right in some sense. His prediction of mass death has taken place; not because he was right, but because he was believed.

Dickens, I think, saw it first. Ebenezer Scrooge was clearly a Malthusian. When he turns away an opportunity for alms giving, he uses the zero growth rationale. When he meets the Ghost of Christmas Present, he reiterates it:
"You have never seen the like of me before!'' exclaimed the Spirit.

"Never,'' Scrooge made answer to it.

"Have never walked forth with the younger members of my family; meaning (for I am very young) my elder brothers born in these later years?'' pursued the Phantom.

"I don't think I have,'' said Scrooge. "I am afraid I have not. Have you had many brothers, Spirit?''

"More than eighteen hundred,'' said the Ghost.

"A tremendous family to provide for!'' muttered Scrooge.

At this, the Ghost rose in what I presume is indignation. Scrooge cowers and submits. Then the ghost raises his torch (in the shape of a cornucopia) and leads Scrooge to the public market, brimming with food from all around the world. Dickens especially emphasizes the fruits of trade: almonds, Spanish onions and oranges (in winter, no less). The message is clear: The dirge-ists of the day are wrong. England, even with its poor classes, is a prosperous society. The world is abundant. Rest is possible. So is generosity.

Scrooge's philosophy is not one based on the evidence; he ignores the evidence. He keeps setting aside the evidence of his senses with reference to the secular philosophy of his time. When he sees a spirit, he says that it's just a piece of undigested beef causing him to hallucinate. He denies the realm of the spirit until it becomes simply undeniable.

Scrooge is not following reason; he's following trauma. His mother died when he was young. He was sent to a boarding home where he and the other children were poorly fed. By the time he was brought back from exile to his home (which his sister said is 'like heaven'), the damage to his core personality was done.

Dickens' message is clear enough: The Malthusians of his day did not need evidence (which they ignored every day in the marketplace) or reason. They needed conversion. They needed healing. They needed to be reminded on the day where the world celebrates the birth of a child whom Rome and Herod try to assign to the role of 'surplus population,' that the frightened men who rule the world in the name of scarcity should not be followed, but saved.


Britain to censor ADULT access to porn

The do-gooders usually say that censorship of porn is "for the children" but Left-run Britain seems to feel no need for that pretence.
"To some people it is exactly the kind of protective legislation that Britain needs in a world where access to a vast array of pornography is available at the click of a mouse. To others, a new law banning "extreme" pornography gives the Government unprecedented powers to police bedrooms (and basements).

Critics, including at least two lords, say that legislation coming into force next month forbidding the possession of "an extreme pornographic image" will criminalise thousands of previously law-abiding people who have a harmless taste for unconventional sex."


There was a time when Leftists were vigorous defenders of porn but when some of that lovely CONTROL is within their reach all that is forgotten

The Church of England turns the Bible on its head: "The Church of England has reached an historic agreement on the consecration of women bishops. After years of struggle to avoid schism, bishops have agreed a formula that enshrines the principle of equality for male and female bishops while appeasing opponents of women's ordination. The first women bishops could take their place in the Church of England within three years. The deal, published in a new report yesterday, provides for a class of "complementary" traditionalist bishop for parishes that refuse to accept a woman diocesan bishop. Such "flying" bishops would have to abide by the authority of the woman bishop, according to the accompanying code of practice." [Maybe they should get themselves a new holy book. "Das Kapital", perhaps]

British airport security. The expected efficiency: "Security at one of the UK's biggest airports has been branded 'a total failure' after a man flew to Pakistan using his little sister's passport. Businessman Kasim Raja went unchallenged through three security checks at Birmingham International Airport using his sister Samina Raja's ID. He then boarded a Pakistan International Airlines flight to Islamabad, where he was finally spotted. He said the wrong passport was checked at the first desk and also at the boarding gate before he was waved through. It was only when the 26-year-old finally reached the Pakistani capital that border control staff there noticed the mistake and ordered him home. Despite pleading with them to contact the British Embassy to try to sort out the mix-up, they bundled him on to a flight back to the UK because he had no valid passport. Mr Raja said he had been staggered Birmingham International Airport had not noticed he was carrying his sister's ID, which he had picked up by mistake. The local businessman questioned how many others had slipped through the net. He said: 'It's frightening. It is a total failure in security and I could have been anyone trying to escape the country."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Global cooling bites Britain: 'set for shockingly cold weather'

It's time to get out the thermal underwear and thickest pullovers - Britain is set for shockingly cold weather for at least the next couple of weeks. After a glorious Christmas, with not a hint of a snowflake, temperatures have been slipping steadily downwards, with minus 11C (12F) recorded in Aviemore, in the Highlands, on Saturday night. The plunge into a Siberian blast of cold will worsen in the coming week as raw easterlies freeze the country. "This coming week, maximum daytime temperatures will be between 2C (36F) and 4C (39F) but temperatures at night could be well below zero for many places," said Stephen Holman, forecaster at the Met Office.

The freezing conditions are being swept down from a strong high-pressure system anchored close to Scandinavia. Like a boulder firmly stuck in a river, this anticyclone is refusing to budge and sending our usual wet and windy winter weather on a wide detour, a system known as a blocking weather pattern.

Although it will feel bitterly cold, conditions will also largely be dry, at least for the next few days, and no significant snowfall is expected, although northern and eastern regions could experience some snow. Exactly how cold it will become largely depends on where the high pressure sits and how much cloud it drags off the North Sea. And cloudy skies are needed, because they act like a duvet cover, helping to prevent some of the heat loss from the ground. If the nights turn clear and winds are light, though, temperatures could plummet as low as minus 10C (14F) even in the South of England in the next fortnight.

In winter, low pressure tends to dominate over Iceland and high pressure to the south, over the Azores. These two pressure systems dance in tune with each other and drive our winter weather, in what is known as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). When the Icelandic low and Azores high are strong, they steer wet and mild weather over the UK; but when they slacken off in a negative phase, that turns the UK bitterly cold. At present the NAO is turning negative, sending a powerful signal that the weather is set to continue cold.

How bad could this winter sink? The weather maps are a chilling reminder of some our most savage winters, such as the notorious 1962-63 winter, the coldest for 180 years. This was when the sea froze around the coast of southeast England and crops were dug out of frozen ground with pneumatic drills and blizzards paralysed the nation. Even if next month is freezing, the Met's long-range forecast predicts that the winter will melt away into warmer conditions in February.


Skeptical scientist profile: Dr. John Brignell

I've been wanting to do this for sometime, because I've linked to Dr. Brignell's warmlist page a countless number of times. From his CV:
Professor Emeritus (ESD) John Brignell was educated at Stationers' Company's School and began his career as an apprentice at STC. He studied at Northampton Engineering College (which became The City University, London) and took the degrees of BSc(Eng) and PhD of London University. He joined the staff at Northampton and was successively Research Assistant, Research Fellow and Lecturer. He worked in a number of areas including dielectric liquids and computer aided measurement, co-authoring a book "Laboratory on-line computing" in 1975.

He was for ten years Reader in Electronics at The City University and held the Chair in Industrial Instrumentation at Southampton for twenty years from 1980. He has researched and written extensively in the area of sensors and their applications, and in 1994 co-authored a book with Neil White on "Intelligent sensor systems". He had an extensive private consultancy practice for many years and has advised some of the larger international companies, as well as many small ones in the UK, on all aspects of industrial instrumentation. He pioneered the use of a number of technologies in sensing, such as thick film, and latterly turned his attention to the considerable possibilities of micro-engineering.

He was elected Fellow of IOP, InstMC, IEE and RSA. In 1994 he was awarded the Callendar Silver Medal by InstMC. He served on the ISAT Committee of IoP from its inception and was the founding chairman of the first joint professional group of the IEE (J1), having served on both its predecessors (E1 and C11).

What Dr. Brignell has done is simple genius--keep a linked list of actual media stories and articles that purport to show the horrors--both past, present, and future--associated with manmade global warming and climate change. Simply reading the mass of links is mind-boggling; in my opinion, visiting this one page is all that one needs to do to understand how stupid this global warming hoax is.

Dr. Brignell goes further with his entire Number Watch site--he's showing us how the media can misbehave when using numbers and statistics. Thank you, Dr. Brignell, for being brave enough to stick your neck out in this politically correct environment. As he says: Number Watch - All about the scares, scams, junk, panics, and flummery cooked up by the media, politicians, bureaucrats, so-called scientists and others who try to confuse you with wrong numbers.


British schools reject assistance from parents

New theory-based and union-supported guidance discourages parents from going on school trips. For some schools it may mean no trips at all. But having parents present might dilute that wonderful CONTROL that Leftists get off on

Imagine the scenario. You're a mother who has volunteered to accompany your seven-year-old son's class on a trip to the Science Museum in west London and are in charge of a group of five boys, including your son. On the journey home, there's a problem. As you are waiting to board the Tube, the fire alarm sounds and there is an order to evacuate the station. What do you do? According to new government health and safety guidelines, there's a risk you'll snatch up your son and make a dash for the nearest emergency exit, neglecting the four other boys in the process. As a spokesman for the Department for Children, Families and Schools put it: "There is the potential for divided interest in the case of an emergency." By contrast, a teacher would try to look after the entire group.

Understandably, parents are outraged that they can no longer accompany their own children on school trips. "I loved taking my eldest daughter and her class on a school trip because it gave me a chance to see how the children interact together," says Tessa Park, a mother of two, who has accompanied class excursions to the London Aquarium in the past. Now, with parental involvement being scaled back, her volunteering days are in jeopardy. Just as ministers have published a manifesto calling for more "learning outside the classroom", Park has received a letter dissuading mothers and fathers from accompanying their own children on trips. "It's a very odd attitude," she says. "I'd like to see the evidence to support this claim that schoolchildren are less safe when they are looked after by a parent. Quite frankly, in the event of an accident I would feel safer if my children were in the hands of a mum who knows their names."

Park, whose children attend Bute House prep school in west London, is not alone in believing the government has taken a wrong turn. Another parent at the same school, who wished to remain anonymous, is even more vociferous. "Statistically, how many pupils have died on school trips because a parent has saved their child first?" she asks. "There is a greater chance of my child dying crossing Hammersmith Broadway. There are quite a few parents who think this is just the nanny state gone mad." She added: "Parents have been going on school trips since time immemorial. If you are a responsible parent, you will manage. This isn't white-water rafting down the Zambezi; it's a walk to a museum."

Bute House was one of several prep schools that attended a course on the issue run earlier this year by Roger Smith, a consultant who is a member of the government's outdoor education advisers panel. So far Smith has briefed about 600 private schools on the updated guidance. He says that while it is not yet statutory, it is already considered "best practice" not to include parents as supervisors on trips involving their children. "If a trip did go pear-shaped, a school would be asked why it had not complied with this advice," he says. Indeed, the consequences can be severe.

Fines and even manslaughter charges have been brought in the past against schools, councils and teachers who have failed to protect pupils on trips. In 2002 a teacher was jailed for manslaughter after an accident in Cumbria when a boy of 10 drowned in a river. In 2003 Leeds council was fined 30,000 pounds after admitting to flawed safety measures on a trip during which two teenage schoolgirls drowned. The turning point, however, was a tragedy more than a decade ago. In 1993 four sixth-formers died on a canoeing trip in Lyme Bay, in the West Country, in one of Britain's worst canoeing disasters. Peter Kite, the director of the outdoor centre responsible for the trip, was convicted of manslaughter and jailed for three years. After this, one teaching union, the NASUWT, told members to be wary of supervising trips for fear of being sued, and nationally the number of excursions fell drastically.

The union has now changed its stance, but insists that children be accompanied by teachers rather than parents. Longstanding guidelines suggest that one adult should be in charge of six seven-to-nine-year-olds on an outing; the ratio is one adult to three for children aged under five. Chris Keates, general secretary of the union, explains. "We have long had serious reservations about school trips. More and more schools were counting parents in the ratio of adults to children required for a trip, when they should really only be including trained staff. "While parents can be helpful, it can be hard for staff to get them to understand the safety aspects. Schools are taking a risk if they don't use qualified staff." Even on a trip to Kew gardens? To a museum? "On any outing," she says. Keates acknowledges that "some people might say that not counting parents as part of the adult-pupil ratio will jeopardise trips going ahead but we say that if you can't get enough qualified staff to accompany them, you shouldn't be going in the first place". [Translation: "We want more jobs for teachers"]

Several head teachers spoke out against the guidance last week. Dilys Hoffman, head of Beckford primary school, in north London, said: "I don't think it's okay for the government to be interfering with schools' practice. Sometimes it's quite a good thing for a parent to accompany their own child, especially if the child has special needs or behavioural issues. Children love having them there. "Provided parents are given guidance and have had police checks, I don't think it's a problem." Karen Coulthard, head of Berger primary school, in east London, agrees. "Today our nursery children are going to a pantomime and the ratio is 1:1, so we ask for one parent to accompany their child," she said. "It's very important to get the youngest children out and accessing the wealth of resources on our doorstep". For decades parents have helped schools to do just that.


The NHS will look after you -- as long as you are not a patient

Public money totalling 1.6 million pounds has been paid out in redundancy settlements to seven senior employees following a merger of NHS trusts in Staffordshire. South Staffordshire Primary Care Trust (PCT), which took over the functions of four previous trusts, has given the money to two chief executives, three directors, a deputy director and a senior manager during the shake-up. Had the money been given to support frontline services, it would be enough to pay the wages of 50 nurses at the average NHS nursing salary of 31,600 including overtime.

Stuart Poyner, chief executive of South Staffordshire PCT, said the payouts, revealed in a Freedom of Information request, were a legal requirement. Other health organisations making big payouts to former employees including NHS West Midlands, the strategic health authority which manages a budget of 7 billion. It spent 2.2 million paying off 97 staff in the two years to August 2008.

Health chiefs are spending 360,000 of public money in an attempt to reduce the high level of sickness and absenteeism among NHS workers in Scotland, where absence rates are 60 per cent higher than in the private sector and are still on the rise. Sick leave in the NHS in Scotland currently costs the taxpayer 222 million a year. However, critics said there was no guarantee that the campaign to combat the problem would produce results, and claimed that managers should be tackling absenteeism in the normal course of their work without incurring extra costs in doing so.

Mark Wallace, of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "Spending even more money on the problem is not a solution. If so many staff are taking sick leave, it is a sign that either people are getting away with sickies or they are being mismanaged to the point of illness." Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish health minister, said the funding of 360,000 from the government at Holyrood would help health boards to meet a target of reducing sickness rates to four per cent by April 2009.

Figures show that in 2007-08 there was a sickness absence rate of 5.28 per cent in the NHS in Scotland - equivalent to 12 days off a year per person - compared to a private sector average of 3.3 per cent, or seven and a half days. Low morale and overwork has been blamed for the problem, which cost the taxpayer 10m more than the previous year. The figures cover all NHS staff, from doctors and nurses to cleaners and porters.


A woman on every fire engine ... the latest demand from the British PC brigade

Fire chiefs will have to put at least one woman on each fire engine to meet diversity guidelines. New targets say that at least 15 per cent of those in operational roles should be female. That means they will fill one of the five or six places for crew on each engine. Officials at the Local Government Association, which is pressing the quotas on fire authorities, said that an increased number of women firemen is necessary 'to meet the needs of local people'.

But critics warn that they are placing their targets above the need for fitness and strength. Susie Squire, of the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: 'Introducing this sort of quota to the fire service is a big mistake. If ever there was a job that should be awarded on merit and physical fitness, it is that of a firefighter. 'It is ludicrous that political correctness is being put above the ability to save lives.' She added: 'This quota system will not only cost taxpayers money by introducing additional and unnecessary administration, but could risk the safety of all of us in the long run.'

At present fewer than one in ten firemen are women even in the brigades with the highest proportion of females in operational jobs. Those with the least women employ proportions of around 3 per cent. In an attempt to address this, local councillors who are appointed to serve on the fire authorities will be asked to sign up to the 'diversity charter'. One of the pledges they are expected to make is to 'work to achieve recruitment targets of at least 15 per cent for women in operational roles'. They are also asked to work towards minority ethnic representation at the same level as that in the working age population of the area. At present just over 3 per cent of firemen are from ethnic minority groups.

Anthony Duggan, head of fire services at the Local Government Association, said: 'The fire service needs to be representative of the area it serves. It is important that the fire service attracts more women and ethnic minorities so that it can work more effectively in partnership with local authorities and other organisations to meet the needs of local people.' Mr Duggan called for a 'culture change' and said that asking authority members to sign the diversity charter 'will show that those who are making the strategic decisions are serious about getting a greater mix of people working in the service'.


Morally corrupt: Britain's bishops deplore Labour's scandalous rule

There is no denying the reality of what the Bishops describe

Leading Church of England bishops have accused the British Government of being "morally corrupt" and delivered a damning verdict on Labour's rule. Five of the church's most senior figures said the Government presided over a country suffering family breakdown, an unhealthy reliance on debt and a growing financial divide. The bishops of Durham, Winchester, Manchester, Carlisle and Hulme said government ministers had squandered their opportunity to transform society, introducing policies that exacerbated inequality and hardship. Labour had sacrificed principled politics and long-term solutions to win votes, they argued, describing the Government as tired and its policies as scandalous.

Meanwhile, the Opposition Leader, David Cameron, accused the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, of leading the country to the brink of bankruptcy, saying the "debt crisis", which he blamed solely on the Government, would serve as Mr Brown's political epitaph.

Although speaking independently in a series of newspaper interviews, the bishops' common criticisms reflect the deepening rift between the Government and the church on social and moral issues. Relations have become increasingly fractious following condemnation of Mr Brown's spending plans by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and a report accusing the Government of marginalising the church.

The Bishop of Durham, the Right Reverend Tom Wright, said ministers had not done enough to help the poor. "When a big bank or car company goes bankrupt, it gets bailed out, but no one seems to be bailing out the ordinary people who are losing their jobs and seeing their savings diminished."


A new twist on the free-radical craze

Trying to quash free radicals with vitamins turned out to be more counter-productive than anything else so I think the whole theory is flawed. This application of it should therefore fail

In a back room of New Scientist's offices in London, I sit down at a table with the Russian biochemist Mikhail Shchepinov. In front of us are two teaspoons and a brown glass bottle. Shchepinov opens the bottle, pours out a teaspoon of clear liquid and drinks it down. He smiles. It's my turn. I put a spoonful of the liquid in my mouth and swallow. It tastes slightly sweet, which is a surprise. I was expecting it to be exactly like water since that, in fact, is what it is - heavy water to be precise, chemical formula D2O. The D stands for deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen with an atomic mass of 2 instead of 1. Deuterium is what puts the heavy in heavy water. An ice cube made out of it would sink in normal water.

My sip of heavy water is the culmination of a long journey trying to get to the bottom of a remarkable claim that Shchepinov first made around 18 months ago. He believes he has discovered an elixir of youth, a way to drink (or more likely eat) your way to a longer life. You may think that makes Shchepinov sound like a snake-oil salesman. I thought so too, but the more I found out about his idea, the more it began to make sense.

The story began two years ago, while Shchepinov was working at a biotechology company in Oxford, UK, and using his spare time to read up on the latest ideas about what causes us to age. The most widely accepted idea is the free-radical theory. This holds that our slide into decrepitude is the result of irreversible damage to the biomolecules that make up our bodies. The main agents of this destruction are oxygen free radicals, aggressive chemical compounds that are an unavoidable by-product of metabolism.

The reason oxygen radicals are so dangerous is that they have a voracious appetite for electrons, which they rip out of anything they can lay their hands on - water, proteins, fats, DNA - leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. This damage gradually builds up over a lifetime and eventually leads the body's basic biochemical processes to fail.

One of the worst types of damage is something called protein carbonylation, in which an oxygen radical attacks vulnerable carbon-hydrogen bonds in a protein (see diagram). This has been linked to many of the worst diseases of old age, including Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, cancer, chronic renal failure and diabetes (The EMBO Journal, vol 24, p 1311). Other important targets of free-radical attack are DNA and the fatty acids in cell membranes. The human body produces legions of antioxidants, including vitamins and enzymes, that quench free radicals before they can do any harm. But over a lifetime these defence systems eventually fall victim to oxidative attack too, leading to an inevitable decline. Many anti-ageing medications are based on supplementing the body's own defences with antioxidant compounds such as vitamin C and beta-carotene, though there is scant evidence that this does any good (New Scientist, 5 August 2006, p 40).

Shchepinov realised there was another way to defeat free radicals. While he was familiarising himself with research on ageing, his day job involved a well-established - if slightly obscure - bit of chemistry called the isotope effect. On Christmas day 2006, it dawned on him that putting the two together could lead to a new way of postponing the ravages of time. The basic concept of the isotope effect is that the presence of heavy isotopes in a molecule can slow down its chemical reactions. This is because heavy isotopes form stronger covalent bonds than their lighter counterparts; for example, a carbon-deuterium bond is stronger than a carbon-hydrogen bond. While the effect applies to all heavy isotopes, including carbon-13, nitrogen-15 and oxygen-18 (see chart), it is most marked with deuterium as it is proportionally so much heavier than hydrogen. Deuterated bonds can be up to 80 times stronger than those containing hydrogen.

All of this is conventional chemistry: the isotope effect was discovered back in the 1930s and its mechanism explained in the 1940s. The effect has a long pedigree as a research tool in basic chemistry for probing the mechanisms of complex reactions.

Shchepinov, however, is the first researcher to link the effect with ageing. It dawned on him that if ageing is caused by free radicals trashing covalent bonds, and if those same bonds can be strengthened using the isotope effect, why not use it to make vulnerable biomolecules more resistant to attack? All you would have to do is judiciously place deuterium or carbon-13 in the bonds that are most vulnerable to attack, and chemistry should take care of the rest.

In early 2007 Shchepinov wrote up his idea and submitted it to a journal called Rejuvenation Research. Unbeknown to him, the journal's editor is controversial gerontologist Aubrey de Grey of the Methuselah Foundation in Lorton, Virginia, who is well known for supporting ideas other gerontologists consider outlandish. De Grey sent the paper out for review and eventually accepted it (Rejuvenation Research, vol 10, p 47).

In the paper, Shchepinov points out that there is masses of existing science backing up his ideas. Dozens of experiments have proved that proteins, fatty acids and DNA can be helped to resist oxidative damage using the isotope effect. Shchepinov's paper brought the idea to a wider audience, including successful biotechnology entrepreneurs Charles Cantor and Robert Molinari. Impressed, they teamed up with Shchepinov to set up a company called Retrotope, with de Grey as a scientific advisor.

It was around this time that I first got in touch with Shchepinov. I'd never heard of the isotope effect, and de Grey's involvement made me cautious. But there was something in the idea that intrigued me, and I kept on coming back to it. There were obvious objections to the idea. For one, how do you get the isotopes to exactly the sites where you want them? After all, the human body contains trillions upon trillions of chemical bonds, but relatively few are vulnerable to free-radical damage. And what about safety - swallowing mouthfuls of heavy isotopes surely can't be good for you, can it? That, of course, is how I ended up sharing a teaspoon of heavy water with Shchepinov.

Neither, it turns out, is a big problem. Some heavy isotopes are radioactive so are obviously ruled out on safety grounds - hydrogen-3 (tritium) and carbon-14, for example. Others, notably deuterium and carbon-13, are just as stable as hydrogen and carbon-12. Both occur in small amounts in nature and are a natural component of some biomolecules in our bodies (see "Heavy babies"). Deuterium and carbon-13 also appear to be essentially non-toxic. Baby mice weaned on a highly enriched carbon-13 diet are completely normal, even when 60 per cent of the carbon atoms in their body are carbon-13. Deuterium also has a clean bill of health as long as you don't go overboard. Decades of experiments in which animals were fed heavy water suggest that up to a fifth of the water in your body can be replaced with heavy water with no ill effects.

Similar experiments have been done on humans, albeit with lower levels of deuterium. One recent experiment kept humans on a low-level heavy-water diet for 10 weeks, during which their heavy-water levels were raised to around 2.5 per cent of body water, with no adverse effects (Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, vol 1760, p 730). The researchers also found that some deuterium became incorporated into proteins.

Heavy water, however, isn't completely safe. In mammals, toxic effects start to kick in around the 20 per cent mark, and at 35 per cent it is lethal. This is largely down to the isotope effect itself: any protein in your body has the potential to take up deuterium atoms from heavy water, and eventually this radically alters your entire biochemistry. You'd have to drink a vast amount to suffer any ill effects - my 5 millilitres did me no harm whatsoever - but even so, Retrotope is not advocating heavy water as an elixir of youth.

Instead, it wants to package up heavy isotopes in what Shchepinov calls "iFood". This method has huge advantages, not least because it allows the heavy isotopes to be targeted to the most vulnerable carbon-hydrogen bonds. Of the 20 amino acids used by humans, 10 cannot be made by the body and must be present in the diet. That means if you supplement your diet with essential amino acids that have already had their vulnerable bonds strengthened, your body's proteins will have these reinforced amino acids incorporated into them. Some of the building blocks of fats and DNA can also only be acquired via your diet, which means they too can be targeted using the iFood approach.

What's more, this approach ought to be completely safe, says Shchepinov. Deuterium atoms bound to carbon in amino acids are "non-exchangeable" and so don't leak into body water. Another possibility is to produce meat, eggs or milk enriched with deuterium or carbon-13 by feeding deuterated water or isotope-enriched amino acids to farm animals. For now, though, iFood remains on the drawing board as nobody manufactures the right compounds. To solve that problem, Retrotope has signed up the Institute of Bio-organic Chemistry in Moscow, Russia and Minsk State University in Belarus to make customised amino acids and fatty acids. "There are a lot of good isotope chemists in Russia," says Cantor.

Another hurdle Retrotope will have to overcome is cost. At current prices, a litre of heavy water will set you back $300. "Isotopes are expensive," says Shchepinov. "But there's no need for them to be. Methods are there to extract them, but nobody wants them." Unless demand rises, there is no incentive to produce them in bulk, and this keeps the price high.

These obstacles haven't stopped Retrotope launching a research programme to test Shchepinov's big idea. A team at the Institute for the Biology of Ageing in Moscow recently fed various amounts of heavy water to fruit flies to see if it had any effect on longevity. Though large amounts were deadly, smaller quantities increased lifespans by up to 30 per cent. It's a promising start, but it's too early to say whether the human lifespan can also be extended in this way, or how much deuterium-enriched food you would have to eat to get a beneficial effect. "This is preliminary and needs to be reproduced under a variety of conditions," says Shchepinov. "It's possible that the flies don't like the diet, and what we're seeing is the effects of caloric restriction [the only proven strategy for extending lifespan in experimental animals]. We need to do a lot more experiments. But still..."

Retrotope has signed up some heavyweight gerontologists to join de Grey as scientific advisors, including Jan Vijg of the Albert Einstein College Of Medicine in New York and Cynthia Kenyon of the University of California, San Francisco. Kenyon recently started work on Retrotope's second round of experiments, giving a deuterium-enriched diet to nematode worms. "It's a beautiful idea," says Vijg. "It gives us a serious chance of retarding ageing." He cautions, however, that Shchepinov's ideas hinge on free radicals being at the root of ageing. While this is still the leading theory in the field, many researchers argue that free-radical damage alone cannot account for all the biological changes that happen as we get old (Nature, vol 451, p 644).


UK: Web sites could be given "cinema-style age ratings"

The first step to government control and censorship?
"In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Andy Burnham says he believes that new standards of decency need to be applied to the web. He is planning to negotiate with Barack Obama's incoming American administration to draw up new international rules for English language websites. The Cabinet minister describes the internet as `quite a dangerous place' and says he wants internet-service providers (ISPs) to offer parents `child-safe' web services."


Pornography is already being used by the Australian government as an excuse for a proposed new internet censorship system. Looks like the Brits are following suit.

Another reason why NOBODY should trust the British government with personal information: "More than one Government computer goes missing every day, ministers have admitted. Since the start of 2002 nearly 3,000 computers have been lost or stolen across Whitehall, which equates to eight every week. In total 1,774 laptop computers and 1,035 desktop computers have been lost or stolen, a rate of nearly five a week and three a week respectively. This year alone 238 laptops and 40 desktops have gone missing. The past seven years have also seen 676 mobile phones, 202 hard drives and 195 memory sticks lost or stolen. The worst offender is the Ministry of Defence, which handles some of the most sensitive information in Government. It has had 866 laptops stolen and has lost 178 - more than half the total of missing laptops. The MoD is losing laptops at a rate of nearly three a week and has also had 157 desktops stolen and lost seven. The Department of Work and Pensions, which processes details of millions of bank accounts, national insurance contributions and benefit and pension payments, is not far behind. The DWP has had 828 desktops mislaid or stolen - 80 per cent of all those lost to the Government since 2002 - as well as 271 laptops."

Monday, December 29, 2008

British dogs must not chase sticks

And balls are suspect too. The British safety mania never lets up

Fetch, doggy – but not before listening to some vital safety information. One of Britain’s most eminent vets has warned that dogs suffer as many injuries chasing and catching sticks as they do on Britain’s roads. Owners are being advised that to protect their pets from accidental stabbing or choking, they should never throw sticks. Instead they should use rubber throwing toys or a suitably sized ball.

Dan Brockman, professor of small animal surgery at the Royal Veterinary College, has catalogued dozens of serious injuries and infections, almost all the result of animals being stabbed as they rushed after a sharp stick. “When I see people throwing sticks for their dogs in the park I just get so frustrated,” said Brockman. “I want to go and tell them to stop.” His new study, co-authored with Zoe Halfacree, a fellow small-animal expert at the college, will detail some of the injuries suffered by pets when a game of fetch goes wrong. They include:

— Dogs left paralysed after being stabbed in the back of the throat by a stick that then enters the spinal cord.

— Animals left with serious internal injuries when a spinning stick jams between the foreleg and chest as they try to catch it on the move.

— Dogs who suffer a slow death as infection spreads from tiny fragments of wood left lodged in a wound.

His advice will surprise many of the nation’s 7m dog owners. Even the Kennel Club includes pictures of dogs carrying sticks on its website. Many veterinary practices say they have become familiar with the risks because of the number of dogs they treat.

Brockman said that for owners there is another problem with throwing sticks for dogs – the huge cost of treating injuries. “I have seen injuries that have cost up to 5,000 pounds in treatment fees – but where the dog has still died in the end,” he said. Brockman added that people who get their pets to chase after balls may also be behaving irresponsibly. “You must make sure the size of ball is right for the dog,” said Brockman. “I have had to operate on dogs that have swallowed tennis balls too.”


Peek inside Britain's schools and shudder

If you want to know how bad the future will be, take a look at our schools, and shudder. We know that they are nurseries of ignorance, which is why we have to import disciplined, hard-working, competent young Poles to do so much of the work in this country. We should also be concerned that they are places of fear and violence, where authority is nothing but a joke.

The police have admitted (under Freedom of Information laws) that they were called to violent incidents at least 7,000 times in English schools last year. Since FoI disclosures are about the only Government statistics we can trust, I think we should take this seriously, though - since not all police forces replied - the figure is probably much higher. There is no reason to think that things are much better in Scotland or Wales.

The Sixties revolution, which destroyed the authority of parents and teachers alike, will soon reach its long-cherished goal. Everything stuffy, traditional, repressive, old-fashioned and boring has been swept away in the world of the young. They are all free now. The trouble is that they do not know how to be free, because they have also been taught that morals are `judgmental', religion is `outdated' and that adults are just obsolete ex-teenagers groping their way to the grave, a nuisance to be ignored or violently shoved aside.

They have discovered that the law is not just feeble (though it is) but that it frequently punishes those who try to uphold what used to be the rules of civilisation. And that, while we now have armed policemen licensed to kill virtually at will, our authorities recoil in horror at the very idea of an adult smacking a child. Listen to this slightly edited account of a day in a supposedly reputable school in a prosperous and middle-class area of one of the Home Counties. It is written by a highly experienced teacher, returning to work after a few years away.
`The class turned up totally out of control... it was similar to controlling a riot ... it took about 15 minutes to sit them down and make them do some work. `A boy in the front row turned his back on me and decided that he would try to wind the class back up into a frenzy, by calling out, waving his arms and by completely disregarding my presence. 'I thought he was going to mount the desks in front of him and cause other pupils - or himself - some damage. I had no intention of smacking him, but to restrain him from his own actions I went to grab him.'

The result of this was that the teacher concerned was accused, by another pupil, of the heinous crime of `smacking'. Thanks to this, the person involved has given up teaching and is - quite reasonably - worried in case the Useless Police and the CPS are called in and mount one of the zealous life-ruining prosecutions of innocent teachers that they so much enjoy.

Now, listen carefully, to see if you can hear any Sixties liberals admitting that they were wrong to dismantle adult authority. And listen even more carefully to see if you can discover a `Conservative' politician with the courage to say that this must be put right, that marriage is miles better than non-marriage, that a man without a conscience is wilder than any beast, that fathers should be respected, that parents must be allowed to smack, that teachers should be able to cane.

All you will hear is silence, mingled with the sound of boots kicking a human head as if it were a football, the head of another poor fool who tried to stand up for what was right, and thought he could appeal to the better natures of people who have been brought up feral, and have no better natures.


Home for retired British missionaries loses grant - because it won't ask residents if they are lesbians

Apparently, respecting the privacy of elderly ladies is not included in socialist "caring"

A care home where elderly Christian residents refused to answer ‘intrusive’ questions about their sexuality is at the centre of a bitter legal battle after its council grant was axed. Brighton & Hove Council told the home to ask pensioners four times a year about their sexual orientation under its ‘fair access and diversity’ policies, which stem from New Labour equality laws. Council chiefs also accused the charity that runs the home of ‘institutional discrimination’, before cutting a 13,000 pound grant towards warden services.

Pilgrim Homes, which operates ten schemes for elderly Christians across the UK, says it has never breached the law and is now suing the council, accusing it of religious discrimination. Andrew Jessop, the charity’s chief executive, said: ‘The council has taken overzealousness to the extreme. People in their 90s are very vulnerable and shouldn’t be treated in this way.’

Tensions began last year when the council imposed stricter criteria on organisations it supported to ‘comply’ with the Equality Act 2006 and the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007. It circulated a questionnaire to the Pilgrim Home in Egremont Place, Brighton, which houses 39 single Christians aged over 80, including former missionaries and a minister. Phil Wainwright, director of human resources for Pilgrim Homes, said he was told by the council the home had to ask residents if they were lesbian, gay, bisexual, heterosexual or ‘unsure’, even if they objected. Many of the elderly rebelled, however, and the home wrote to the council saying residents did not want to participate. Mr Wainwright said: ‘There was a strong feeling among people in the home that the questions were inappropriate and intrusive. They felt they had come to Pilgrim Homes because of its Christian ethos and were upset they were not protected from such intrusions.’

But Brighton & Hove Council complained about the home’s ‘negative response’ and argued that because the home had a Christian ethos, gay people might be deterred from applying. It cited the ‘resistance’ to using images of elderly gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people in the home’s leaflets, saying this meant gays and lesbians ‘would not feel comfortable’ applying for a place. The council then announced it was axeing the grant because there had been ‘limited progress’ in making the home accessible to the homosexual community.

Mr Wainwright said the charity was open to anyone with orthodox beliefs. He said: ‘We have every reason to believe that we have given places to gay Christians, and no questions were ever asked. The council hasn’t demonstrated any discrimination on our part. We believe it is Brighton Council that is institutionally discriminatory.’

MPs last night backed the charity, which fears other councils that provide it with grants totalling more than 100,000, could follow Brighton’s lead. Ann Widdecombe, former Tory Home Office Minister, said: ‘The equality law does not oblige anyone to ask intrusive questions. This sort of thing needs to be nipped in the bud.’ David Davies, Tory MP for Monmouth, said: ‘It is absolutely disgraceful that the council has tried to get 90-year-olds, from a generation that wasn’t obsessed with sex, to put intimate information on to one of its forms.’

But Brighton & Hove Council said: ‘We have never expected any residents to answer questions about their sexuality if they preferred not to do so. ‘The Government specifically states the home must be open to the gay and lesbian community and that it must demonstrate this to qualify for funding. In the absence of any willingness to do this, funding has been withdrawn.’


Patient safety at risk as NHS repairs ignored

Patients are being put in danger because of a backlog of hundreds of millions of pounds of urgent repairs at hospitals

More than half of hospital trusts have a backlog of repairs which the NHS says need to be urgently completed to ensure patient safety. The NHS defines the work is so pressing that it "must be addressed with urgent priority in order to prevent catastrophic failure, major disruption to clinical services or deficiencies in safety liable to cause serious injury and/or prosecution". Yet despite the urgency of the work, the new figures show that the level of outstanding urgent repairs rose last year, by 11 million to 310 million pounds.

Crumbling buildings and failings in the infrastructure of hospitals have been repeatedly linked to risks to patient safety. Last year, the official investigation into Britain's deadliest outbreak of the infection Clostridium Difficile, which killed more than 90 patients at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells hospitals cited its high maintenance backlog as a contributing factor in the spread of the disease.

The figures obtained by the Conservatives reveal that more than 120 of England's 210 hospital trusts admitted to a backlog of urgent repairs in the financial year which ended in April 2008. Imperial College Healthcare trust, which runs Hammersmith and St Marys Hospitals, had an urgent repair backlog of 27 million pounds, a figure which was almost matched by the bill at Guys and St Thomas foundation trust. Hospitals in North West London, Worthing and Southlands and Nottingham also reported an urgent backlog of more than 10 million.

Eight years ago, the Government pledged to reduce the total NHS maintenance bill, which then stood at 3.1 billion, by one quarter. The new figures show in fact the total bill has soared to more than 4 billion, including a 29 per cent increase in the last two years. The only category of repairs where the bill fell during 2007/2008 was among those defined as carrying the lowest risk to patients and services.

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley described the findings as "very disturbing". He said: "Over the last eight years the Government has done nothing to address this problem and things are going from bad to worse. The Government has no excuse for needlessly putting patients and NHS staff at risk like this." Mr Lansley said the Government could not pretend it was unaware of the issue, since hospitals reported their figures to the Department of Health each year.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said hospital trusts were responsible for prioritising their investment decisions, and said the Government had invested 12bn in NHS buildings since 2000.


Illegal immigration and soft-touch Britain

They know that once they set foot in Britain they are there to stay. Britain finds heaps of reasons why it cannot deport them. It might violate their right to a good family life, for instance. I'm not joking! Google "Chindamo" if you doubt it

Britain was last night warned to brace itself for a new wave of illegal immigrants from France as thousands prepared to cross the channel. More than 2,000 are in and around Calais and the surrounding area and all are determined to claim asylum in the UK. And only a change in Britain’s open door immigration and asylum policies will stop more coming, the French charity C’Sur claims. Spokesman Father Jean-Pierre Boutoille told the Daily Express: “There are more than 2,000 migrants in the Calais region and they are all determined to get to Britain. “They will keep coming for as long as Britain maintains its strange asylum and immigration systems. He added: “Many are ill with tuberculosis and scabies.”

And last night the Immigration Minister Phil Woolas was urged to make good his promise to crackdown on illegal migrants. UKIP Leader Nigel Farage said: “We will now see if Phil Woolas is serious about getting tough on illegal migrants.” He added: “What is France doing allowing these camps to be set up in northern France. "There is no reason for them to be there other than for the facilitation of migrants into the UK illegally.” Matthew Elliott from the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: “The British immigration system needs urgent reform – at present it is costly, inefficient and badly administered.

“Returning asylum seekers in a speedier and more efficient way would be better for everyone – fairer to taxpayers, who foot the bill and fairer to genuine asylum seekers who want a speedy resolution to their claim and more effective at deterring false claimants who will be removed quickly. Without reform our immigration system will buckle as new waves of illegal immigrants seek to exploit the system.”

Small camps have sprung up close to the ferry ports of Calais and Dunkirk, but also next to important road transport routes to Britain. There are also groups in Cherbourg and in Ostend, Belgium. Yesterday the Daily Express found migrants from Iraq and Afghanistan at the new camps close to the main Brussels to Calais motorway at Grande Synthe and Teteghem and migrants from Ethiopia and Eritrea at a new camp close to the main Lille to Calais motorway at Steenvoorde.

All told how they had spent thousands of pounds getting so far and who they were determined to start a new life in Britain. In Dunkirk Afghan Iqbal said: “I was a soldier for the Northern Alliance in the war against the Taliban. Now I must get to Britain. I cannot go back to Afghanistan.” In Grande Synthe Iraqi Mahmed said: “I had to leave my home in northern Iraq because my life was in danger. I will go to England. I have spent a lot of money getting this far and I will not stop until I get there.”

Last night the Home Office said the immigration services were working to stop illegal immigrants getting into the country. A UK Border Agency spokesman said: “We already have one of the toughest borders in the world and we are determined to ensure it stays that way.”


2008 was the year man-made global warming was disproved

Looking back over my columns of the past 12 months, one of their major themes was neatly encapsulated by two recent items from The Daily Telegraph. The first, on May 21, headed Climate change threat to Alpine ski resorts, reported that the entire Alpine "winter sports industry" could soon "grind to a halt for lack of snow". The second, on December 19, headed The Alps have best snow conditions in a generation, reported that this winter's Alpine snowfalls "look set to beat all records by New Year's Day".

Easily one of the most important stories of 2008 has been all the evidence suggesting that this may be looked back on as the year when there was a turning point in the great worldwide panic over man-made global warming. Just when politicians in Europe and America have been adopting the most costly and damaging measures politicians have ever proposed, to combat this supposed menace, the tide has turned in three significant respects.

First, all over the world, temperatures have been dropping in a way wholly unpredicted by all those computer models which have been used as the main drivers of the scare. Last winter, as temperatures plummeted, many parts of the world had snowfalls on a scale not seen for decades. This winter, with the whole of Canada and half the US under snow, looks likely to be even worse. After several years flatlining, global temperatures have dropped sharply enough to cancel out much of their net rise in the 20th century.

Ever shriller and more frantic has become the insistence of the warmists, cheered on by their army of media groupies such as the BBC, that the last 10 years have been the "hottest in history" and that the North Pole would soon be ice-free - as the poles remain defiantly icebound and those polar bears fail to drown. All those hysterical predictions that we are seeing more droughts and hurricanes than ever before have infuriatingly failed to materialise.

Even the more cautious scientific acolytes of the official orthodoxy now admit that, thanks to "natural factors" such as ocean currents, temperatures have failed to rise as predicted (although they plaintively assure us that this cooling effect is merely "masking the underlying warming trend", and that the temperature rise will resume worse than ever by the middle of the next decade).

Secondly, 2008 was the year when any pretence that there was a "scientific consensus" in favour of man-made global warming collapsed. At long last, as in the Manhattan Declaration last March, hundreds of proper scientists, including many of the world's most eminent climate experts, have been rallying to pour scorn on that "consensus" which was only a politically engineered artefact, based on ever more blatantly manipulated data and computer models programmed to produce no more than convenient fictions.

Thirdly, as banks collapsed and the global economy plunged into its worst recession for decades, harsh reality at last began to break in on those self-deluding dreams which have for so long possessed almost every politician in the western world. As we saw in this month's Poznan conference, when 10,000 politicians, officials and "environmentalists" gathered to plan next year's "son of Kyoto" treaty in Copenhagen, panicking politicians are waking up to the fact that the world can no longer afford all those quixotic schemes for "combating climate change" with which they were so happy to indulge themselves in more comfortable times.

Suddenly it has become rather less appealing that we should divert trillions of dollars, pounds and euros into the fantasy that we could reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 80 per cent. All those grandiose projects for "emissions trading", "carbon capture", building tens of thousands more useless wind turbines, switching vast areas of farmland from producing food to "biofuels", are being exposed as no more than enormously damaging and futile gestures, costing astronomic sums we no longer possess.

As 2009 dawns, it is time we in Britain faced up to the genuine crisis now fast approaching from the fact that - unless we get on very soon with building enough proper power stations to fill our looming "energy gap" - within a few years our lights will go out and what remains of our economy will judder to a halt. After years of infantile displacement activity, it is high time our politicians - along with those of the EU and President Obama's US - were brought back with a mighty jolt into contact with the real world.