There is actually some evidence that chocolate is beneficial to health but Britain's many mini-Hitlers just KNOW what is good and bad. Evidence be damned!
Lydia has contacted me to express her anger at being "named and shamed" because of what she put in her child's lunch box. She, horror of horrors, packed her son off to school today with chocolate spread sandwiches and received a telling off from the teacher in return. "It is our school's policy to encourage healthy eating," said the letter her son brought home. "We would prefer it if your son would bring in a nutritious, healthy sandwich for his lunch."
Lydia is not happy, for two reasons. One is that today is her son's birthday and the chocolate spread was a "special treat." Two is that she considers peanut butter a "healthy nutritious" option, but her son isn't allowed it because of what she calls the "nut obsession" (all nut products are banned at her son's school). And he has told her that he is sick of cheese and tuna!
There is clearly a big problem with packed lunches. Even if you make them healthy, it's hard to make them interesting. But should treats be banned, and should teachers be getting involved with what a parent packs in her child's lunch each day? The whole issue, bizarrely, is reminiscent of a thread I was reading on mumsnet last week. It was from a mother whose child had his jam sandwiches banned! She wasn't too thrilled either.
So, have we gone healthy eating mad, is this actually sensible advice, or is it, as Lydia grumpily points out "teachers just flexing their muscles and showing us that in school, they're the boss!"
Old Dutch tradition comes under fire in Britain
It's a Dutch version of the "blackface" controversy except that the character in the Dutch tradition did not "black up" as an imitation of an African. It is part of a traditional Dutch Christmas. "Black Pete" is the companion of the Dutch Santa Claus (Sinterklaas), as you see above.
"A celebration held by Dutch students at University College has been condemned as "racially insensitive, and arguably racist" by prominent members of the MCR. Both the Vice-President and Treasurer of University College's MCR have condemned the celebration and attacked the "endemic apathy towards racism in the Oxford community."
Micaela Owusu, the MCR treasurer, wrote an open letter to the college, condemning the "Zwarte Piet" celebration which was held in the college at the end of last November. Owusu has stated that she saw two students in black face make-up sitting within a crowd of students to mark the Dutch holiday celebration.
Traditionally, the "Zwarte Piet" feast is held on the 5th of December in Holland and celebrates "Black Peter" as the companion of St. Nicholas. It has frequently involved "blacking up" in imitation of the character. Owusu stated that as "one of a literal handful of black students at University College" she felt "extremely isolated and targeted in such a scenario."
I believe Piet is black because he does the climbing down chimneys in Holland
More of the violent black crime that now is running riot in Britain
It seems that in Britain too these days a "teen" refers to a BLACK teen. The picture below was NOT included in the news report that I reproduce below. In response to events such as that below, British commentators often ask where "we" have gone wrong. The "we" is misplaced. It should be "they". The fact that American jails are stuffed to the gills with blacks is just coincidence, of course
Two teenagers were given life sentences today for the murder of schoolboy Lyle Tulloch who was stabbed 13 times during an argument over a mobile phone at a birthday party. Damien Solowabe, 18, and Tobi Peters, 17, both of London, will serve a minimum 12 years after being found guilty at the Old Bailey last December.
Lyle, 15, from Peckham, had been at a party in Southwark, south-east London, last May when his friend asked to use Solowabe's phone. When Solowabe could not find it an argument began and Lyle was chased outside and into a stairwell where he was stabbed in the chest and thigh.
"This is another tragic example of what can happen when knives are used to settle arguments," said Scotland Yard's Detective Inspector David Willis, in a statement after sentencing.
Council tax levy for being middle class: Labour plan to base bills on social background
Homeowners may have to pay more council tax than local authority tenants in identical properties under plans that could lead to 'class war', the Conservatives warned last night. At present, they would be in the same tax band. But the Government wants to base bills on the social background of homeowners, it is claimed. Privately-owned homes would be penalised because they are not in 'social ownership', according to the Tories.
Ministers are developing a computer database with details of all four million council properties in Britain - and handing the details to council tax inspectors. The news comes as Labour seeks to introduce 'Harman's Law' - a proposal that would force all public bodies to consider social background as well as race, age, gender, disability and sexuality.
The blueprint, unveiled this month by deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman, prompted fears that the better-off could see a squeeze on their access to everything from health care to school places. Shadow local government spokesman Caroline Spelman said: 'No one would dispute that council tax for a large detached house should be more than for a small terrace. 'But it is unfair to hit families with higher council tax bills purely because of who they are. 'Labour's only response after a decade of failing to help poor families is to hammer everyone else with higher taxes. Taxing hard work and success is just the hypocritical politics of envy and will do nothing to improve social mobility. 'Ministers have been watching too much Life on Mars and want to drag the whole country back to the Seventies. 'Gordon Brown's plans to reignite class war and bring back socialism are a desperate and cynical move to win back his disillusioned core vote.'
Parliamentary questions have revealed that all council housing will be logged on the National Register of Social Housing by April. The data transferred to tax inspectors includes the address, location, floor space, number of living rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms for each council house. Since social housing is only available to people with lower social and economic backgrounds, it acts as an accurate benchmark for the Government's explicit aim to 'address socio-economic disadvantage'. Under the current council tax system, those on low incomes are eligible for up to 100 per cent council tax benefit. But the Tories warn that when the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) revalues homes to update tax bands, council housing could also be put in lower bands than similar, privately-owned homes.
A spokesman for the Communities and Local Government department said: 'Revaluation will not happen in this Parliament. 'The purpose of the register is to provide a better evidence base for developing housing policy through up-to-date information on, for example, the size and age of a property and its energy efficiency. 'It will be centrally held and so reduce the burden of data collection that landlords face. 'Tax banding has always been determined on the value of the property at April 1, 1991. 'The principles of valuation for council tax are exactly the same as they were when council tax was first introduced in 1993. 'The VOA is merely keeping existing council tax records up to date - that is their job, which has not changed since council tax was introduced. 'Any claims to the contrary are misleading and unfounded.'
British government trying to water down European emissions law
The UK government is lobbying to water down proposed EU legislation to impose tough new emission limits on power plants in order to guarantee Britain's energy security and keep down electricity prices. Whitehall is warning, according a briefing document leaked to green campaigners and seen by the Guardian, that electricity prices would increase by 20% if the proposed legislation isn't changed. It is also concerned that the new rules would threaten the security of the UK's electricity supply.
The proposed European directive would pose a serious threat to the construction of the Kingsnorth power station in Kent - the UK's first new coal plant for three decades. Campaigners accuse ministers of "planning for failure" by seeking to expand coal generation capacity and keep "dirty" coal stations open when they should instead focus on hitting renewable energy and efficiency targets. Coming just days after the decision to expand Heathrow by adding a third runway, they see it as the latest example of the government not living up to its rhetoric on climate change (see panel).
Tomorrow the environment committee of the European Parliament will vote on more than 500 amendments tabled to the proposed new legislation - the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) directive.
The proposed IPPC directive incorporates changes to current legislation such as the large combustion plant legislation (LCPD) and lays out tighter limits, for example on sulphur dioxide emissions. The 4-page leaked Whitehall paper is a briefing note prepared for MEPs. It says that the LCPD directive "raises potentially serious issues about security of electricity supply" and could even damage "moves to low-carbon electricity generation".
Current EU laws allow power stations that are not fitted with equipment to remove sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide to operate for a limited period each day, but only until 2015. This affects around a seventh (10.5GW) of Britain's electricity generation capacity. Whitehall says that up to a further 8GW of generating capacity may close if the proposed tougher rules in the IPPC directive are applied - meaning that in 2015 around a quarter of capacity would shut at the same time. According to the document this would reduce the margin for error at times of high power demand. "With projected new investments, electricity capacity margins (spare capacity to meet exceptionally cold winters or temporary plant shutdowns) are projected to fall from around 10% to around 7% from the beginning of 2016 and remain depressed for some three years after," the paper says.
It adds: "That period of reduced security margin will be reflected in electricity price increases of some 20% above those which are predicted in the absence of the proposed [Large Combustion Plant] provisions." The paper sounds a drastic warning that it may prove impossible to build and operate replacement plant by the end of 2015, saying this would "exacerbate the risks and shortfalls" outlined.
"Moreover, since investment decisions and design need to be completed within the next two years to meet a 2016 deadline, such plant is therefore almost certain to be built using currently commercialised technologies which, of course, do not currently include carbon capture and storage (CCS)," says the document, which is entitled "UK Concerns on the Proposed Recast Industrial Emissions (IPPC) Directives Provisions Concerning Large Combustion Plants.
The government is calling for greater flexibility to be introduced into the proposed IPPC directive, which covers some 500 power plants across Europe, so that UK electricity and gas supplies are not threatened. It has won some backing from other EU countries which would like the new law to take effect from 2020.
90% of failed asylum seekers remain in UK... and backlog of undecided cases doubles in a year
As many as nine out of ten failed asylum seekers are being allowed to stay in Britain despite having no right to remain, a report from a Government watchdog reveals today. The backlog of illegal immigrants awaiting deportation is growing fast as the UK Border Agency fails to keep pace with the number of rejected applicants. The number of unprocessed cases is also growing. And Government rules stating that all successful asylum seekers must have their cases reviewed after five years - to see if their country is now safe enough to return to - have descended into farce, because the Border Agency has no way of tracking those living in Britain and no plans for a review.
Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling called the report, from the National Audit Office, a 'shocking indictment of the shambles that is our immigration and asylum system'. Meanwhile, the Commons Public Accounts Committee, to which the NAO reports, claimed the Agency was 'struggling to cope.'
Last year, the Home Office introduced the 'New Asylum Model' in a bid to streamline Britain's chaotic asylum system, by assigning each case to a single civil servant from start to finish. Today's report acknowledges that the œ800million-a-year system is now 'better organised than before', but highlights grave problems which in many cases are getting worse. A surge in the number of asylum claims saw the backlog of undecided cases more than double in a year, to almost 9,000. The NAO tracked more than 25,000 claims lodged from January 2007 to February 2008, of which almost 14,000 were refused. But of 10,719 cases processed in the seven regions around the UK, only 918 - less than 10 per cent - had actually been deported by the following August. The rate was higher for 3,000 false claimants who were fast-tracked in detention. Including these claims, the overall removal rate was just one in four.
A severe shortage of detention spaces is making removals harder, the report warned, with much of the available capacity taken up by foreign criminals who have completed their sentences and are awaiting deportation. The NAO also highlighted glaring inefficiencies, including:
Seventy per cent of planned deportations - where security staff accompany deportees on flights home - are cancelled, often due to lack of proper coordination, leading to 'additional work and costs'.
The Agency often has to buy emergency travel documents from foreign governments to deport failed asylum seekers, but 13,000 of these have been wasted because individuals absconded, or because the papers expired.
Since 2005, Britain has granted asylum for five years only - after which cases should be reviewed in the hope that some immigrants will be able to return home.
But astonishingly the Border Agency 'has no process' to track refugees living in Britain and 'no plans in place to review these cases'. There are 8,000 due for review next year. Last night, the Agency's chief executive Lin Homer confirmed there was 'no requirement' for asylum seekers to tell officials when they move house.
Sir Andrew Green, of MigrationWatch, said: 'This is a shameful performance for the expenditure of hundreds of millions of pounds. It is no surprise that asylum seekers, many of them bogus, are queuing up in Calais.'
How hysterical mothers have driven men out of teaching in Britain
As endangered species go, this one is especially alarming: so rare has the male primary school teacher become that one in ten schools has none at all, while across the country they account for barely 15 per cent of those who teach under-11s. At a time when unprecedented numbers of children live with single mothers, this means that more and more of them have little or no contact with any male role model at all. So parents have decided, as a survey this week shows, that they aren't happy about it. They think, correctly, that it is good for children to have a man to look up to; that many pupils, especially boys, behave better with a man in charge. They think that their children are being shortchanged by the imbalance.
I agree. But I also think that too many of these 'concerned parents' have only themselves to blame. There are two reasons given to explain the slump in male teacher recruitment. The first is that men tend to view the profession as 'women's work'. But if that were true, then why are nearly half of all secondary school teachers men? Nor does it explain why, given the far more rigidly sex-divided jobs of my youth, most of my primary school teachers were men.
So let's hazard a guess at what has changed since then. My old teachers were free to enjoy their jobs because they were exempt from the second, and more truthful, of the reasons given by the Children's Workforce Development Council (which commissioned the survey) for the decline in numbers. It is that these days, men are scared of teaching young children because they are scared of false allegations of child abuse. And if you want to know who is largely responsible for creating an atmosphere in which such a fear is all too horribly realistic, look no further than the twittering bunch of over-protective, over-excitable mothers clustered around our school gates.
These are the people who have bought, wholesale, into the myth of the sexually predatory bogeyman on every corner; the people who have, in a single generation, swept us from the sensible 'don't take sweets from strangers' to the absurd 'all men are paedophiles'. These are the people who breathe the fire of the name-and-shame campaigns of the scurrilous end of the Press; the people who have propelled sensational memoir after memoir of child sex abuse to the top of the bestseller charts. These are the people who declare such abuse to be appalling, but who slavishly follow the titillating thrill of 'kiddie-fiddler' storylines in soaps or films - the same soaps and films that their children also watch.
And that, of course, is the point: observant, clever and calculating as most children can be, they note the drama that thrills Mummy so very much and, sometimes, they spot their chance of a leading role in it. Robbed as they have been of their innocence, familiar with concepts and even words that most of us would not have known at their age, they join in. This is not mere speculation on my part. I have personally known a false allegation to have happened and seen the desperately unfair consequences of it.
Let us call him Roger, this committed and dedicated teacher at an inner-city school. He was impeccably behaved and adored by pupils, staff and the head, who is a close friend of mine. So she was utterly taken aback when an eight-year-old, known already to be disturbed, complained that Roger had touched him 'inappropriately'. But no matter the head's disbelief, rules are rules and, no doubt, rightly so. So Roger was suspended and sent home with his future hanging in the balance until the necessary inquiry could be arranged. In the event, there was not only a lack of proof of his guilt, there was incontrovertible proof of his innocence, as he had never been alone with the child in question.
Back at school, however, this was not enough for the twitterers at the gates. There was much over-excitable chit-chat concerning 'no smoke without fire' - chit-chat picked up by the children until, just a few months later, it happened to him again. Another allegation, another suspension, another inquiry, another total exoneration. But this time, with Roger and his wife racing each other towards mental breakdown, he left teaching: everyone, but everyone, was a loser.
There was an 'abuse counsellor' whom I once interviewed whose immovable principle was that children never lie about such things. That is rot. They do lie. And the question is not why they do, but why shouldn't they? It's a he-said/she-said game. They think they stand a chance of winning it, they get to be the centre of attention, wielding a power unusual (and unhealthy) for a child, and fully aware that if they get caught out in the lie they won't even be punished for it. They know what rattles Mummy's cage so, not surprisingly, they rattle it.
If Mummy really wanted to do her child a favour, she would forego the thrills and spills of paedophile hysteria, complete with its marches, banners, petitions and idiots, and opt for a more rational assessment of the relationship between children and male adults. First, she might look closer to home. When the NSPCC reported this week that the police estimate some 50 allegations a day of sexual abuse against children, they meant, overwhelmingly, abuse at the hands of family or of parents' friends. Mummy should be rather more vigilant about the new boyfriend she allows into her home than she need ever be about a stranger, let alone a professional one. She might also like to monitor far more closely the menace of the internet and its 'grooming' chat rooms in which the real monsters lurk.
But as for the fear of a male primary school teacher turning out to be one of them, she can forget it: so rigorous are today's checks upon teachers that a Home Office spokesman boasts of 'the most comprehensive vetting service anywhere in the world'. In short, the chance of a predator sneaking through is up there with camels and eyes of needles.
We need more male primary school teachers for all our children. For boys, they provide a glimpse of potential for their own futures: a reason to work hard, to play fair, to demand respect from the world around them. It matters, too, for girls. If the first proper contact a girl has with men is as a teenager, when her hormones are raging, the consequences of her lack of experience of them are already too obvious.
But if, back in their formative years, Mummy's fevered and irrational obsession with paedophilia leads her to say - and, believe me, I've heard it said - that there must be 'something funny' about men who want to work with small children, their numbers will continue to fall until there are none left at all. If she cannot look at a teacher like Roger without suspicion, she may think she's only doing her best to keep her precious babies safe. In fact, she might be paying a price they can't afford.