In a previous post I discussed the way that the media hypes stories that support the theory of anthropogenic global warming. They will take singular, odd weather events and purport that they prove that catastrophic warming is happening. Similar events, which lean the other way, are immediately dismissed and the media reminds everyone that singular events don't prove anything. It's the double-standard that bugs me.
One such example was the absurd Washington Post article that had a headline connecting a tornado in New York City to warming. As I noted that article seems to have vanished from the Washington Post site. So the embarrassing article just disappeared from their site as if never written.
But if you want pure chutzpah you have go to England's Met Office. I saw a mention of these posts at Watts Up With That. but I found this so astounding I had to verify each post myself.
Let's start with their weather forecast from September, 2008. The Met "forecast for the coming winter suggests it is, once again, likely to be milder than average."
Of course, as we reported, this winter in England was particularly bitter. So what did the Met say later about their earlier forecast? On December 12 the Met admits "that the UK has had the coldest start to winter in over 30 years." No one will fault them for not getting it right. But what I found astounding was that this statement claimed: "The Met Office seasonal forecast predicted the cold start to the winter season with milder conditions expected during January and February..."
That's chutzpah. They send out a press statement claiming the winter will be mild and when they get it wrong they send out another press statement claiming they predicted it would be unusually cold. In the same statement they told everyone that January and February, however, would be "milder" .
Unfortunately the beginning of January has remained quite cold and didn't turn mild as they forecast. But never fear. The Met Office released another press statement and ended it slapping themselves on the back. "The Met Office correctly forecast the spell of cold weather and kept the public informed via our various forecasts."
BritGov wants to improve "social mobility" but has no clue how to make it happen
Now that all their numbskull theories about the matter have failed, all that they can now come up with is to enforce equality by the weight of the law
In 1999 Tony Blair told the Labour Conference: "If we are in politics for one thing, it is to make sure that all children are given the best chance in life." A decade on, the Government has had to admit that billions of pounds of investment in nurseries and schools and on training has failed to bridge the class divide, and that social mobility in Britain has stalled.
Yesterday ministers from various departments put forward measures to try to get it moving again. From schemes to help poor mothers, through offers to help teachers stay in the schools where they are most needed, to the creation of more apprenticeships, the Government described the White Paper as its "agenda for capturing the jobs of the future and investing in families, communities and citizens throughout their lives to help them get on and ahead".
In the most controversial move, discrimination on the ground of class could be made illegal, just as it is with race and sex, and public services would be ordered to fight "the persistent inequality of social class". That was immediately dismissed by critics as meaningless.
Pregnant teenagers and mothers living in the most deprived areas will be allocated a family nurse to help them through the first two years of their child's life. Free nursery care will also be extended to more two-year-olds from poor backgrounds.
Gordon Brown, who has promised a social mobility "crusade", avoided mentioning Labour's poor record when he presented the New Opportunities White Paper. Instead, the Prime Minister said that the policy initiatives would mean that Britain was better placed to take advantage of the economic upturn, when it came. "We want to prepare the UK to grasp new opportunities in the global economy and enable every individual to realise their potential, whatever their background," he said.
Ed Balls, the Education Secretary, came closer to admitting the problem. "No child should be held back by their background, so we will now do more to break the link between disadvantage and achievement," he said.
But it is widely accepted that social mobility has ground to a halt in recent decades. The key study alerting ministers to the problem was published in 2005 by the Sutton Trust. It found a significant decline in upward mobility between those born in 1958 and those born in 1970. The study focused on income mobility and concluded that people born in 1970 were far more likely to earn the same as their parents than those born 12 years earlier. The Sutton Trust attributed this not just to a persistent class divide, but to the growing income inequality of the 1980s and the vast expansion of higher education, which was monopolised by the middle classes. Both trends continued into the new millennium. Between the early 1980s and the late 1990s the proportion of poorer children who graduated from university rose by 3 per cent, compared with 26 per cent from wealthier families.
Also the huge expansion of managerial and professional jobs in the postwar era tailed off in the 1970s, which meant there was less room at the top. And the decline of manufacturing in the 1980s meant that the shop floor-to-boardroom route to success went into decline. In the financial services industry that largely replaced it, it is less likely that a receptionist ends up as a high-earning trader.
Recent research has indicated that all the billions spent on schools may have little impact on improving poorer children's prospects. It found that middle-class children are far ahead even before they arrive at school, thanks to music, ballet and language lessons. Poor children have fallen behind in cognitive skills and vocabulary by the age of 3 [which strongly indicates that the difference is hereditary], making it almost impossible for schools to help to them catch up.
A report last year by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development found that in the UK children struggle to escape the income levels of their parents more than in almost any other country in the group. "There is less social mobility in the UK than in Australia, Canada and Denmark," it said. "What your parents earned when you were a child has much more effect on your own earnings than in more mobile countries."
Ministers are pinning their hopes on one study that suggests that their record investment may be bearing fruit. Data provided by Bristol University, the London School of Economics and the Institute of Fiscal Studies for a government report last autumn indicated that children's academic achievement, measured by the number of GCSEs they pass, is becoming less dependent on their family's wealth. [That's because the exams have been dumbed down]
But the Sutton Trust, while welcoming the measures outlined yesterday, said Mr Brown would have to be far more radical in his reforms if he wanted to improve the life chances of every child. It wants private shools to be opened up to all. [Right. Privatise education completely. Abolish the "sink" government schools] "The aspiration of making every school a good school is, of course, right, but there also need to be more moves to open up the highest-performing schools as powerful engines of mobility, leading to top-ranked universities and prestigious professions," said Lee Elliot Major, research director at the trust. Such a move would require an admissions shake-up including ballots and means-tested fees, he said. [Too much of a shake-up might destroy what they aspire to]
Harriet the hater
Today's White Paper on social mobility should concern anyone who cares about justice and liberty, for it is not about social mobility at all. It is in fact a blueprint for imposing `equality' through every single arm of government. Already, every public authority in Britain is legally bound to ensure that policies do not unfairly discriminate on grounds of race, gender, disability or sexuality - a requirement which has actually brought about much injustice. Now they will be similarly bound to bridge the gap between rich and poor.
And how are they going to do this? Inescapably, by taking away from the better off what they have achieved on the basis that this is unjustified `privilege', and giving it to the poor on the basis that they are unable to achieve by themselves. And this from a government which has itself spent the last decade destroying the life chances of millions of poor people by undermining the nuclear family, bringing the education system to its knees and trapping more and more people in welfare dependency. Instead of genuinely helping those who have been unable to make it, they will instead punish those who have. And they call that `fairness'!
Social mobility is actually the antithesis of equality, because if people are able to progress higher up the social and income ladder it follows that others will be left behind. Social mobility inevitably rests upon a meritocracy in which people are rewarded for what they have achieved. This is the only fair system. Imposing `equality' - which is really a kind of `identicality', a belief that everyone must end up in exactly the same place - is monumentally unfair. It amounts to institutionalised discrimination based on the highly subjective and ideological prejudices of those in power to decide just who deserves to be privileged and who to be discriminated against.
Accordingly, any moves to apply it are inevitably deeply coercive and in the end unattainable - as was proved so appallingly under Soviet communism. For the British government to introduce this Orwellian agenda is not just sinister - it is positively unhinged.
The person said to be behind this is that middle-class paragon, the Equalities Minister Harriet Harman, who is said to have convinced her Cabinet colleagues of the need to enshrine the class war in law. In a speech this weekend, she will hail this move as a step towards `a new social order'. `We want to do more than just provide escape routes out of poverty for a talented few. We want to tackle the class divide,' she will say.
This is but the latest bit of cack-handed injustice from Harman, an ultra-feminist gender warrior who has spent much of her political career trying to institutionalise injustice against men and privilege women on the basis of `sexual equality'.
Much is made of Gordon Brown's unreconstructed redistributive socialism. But in fact Harman is the most conspicuous example of another important characteristic of this government: its state of fossilised adolescence. After all, listening to her is a bit like entering a time-warp and being subjected to some ghastly student radical circa 1970 nasally boring on about the class/gender/race struggle. That's because she - and a number of her ministerial colleagues - were indeed part of that generation of privileged baby-boomers who indulged in adolescent fantasy politics about changing society and human nature - but who, crucially, never grew out of it.
What then happened was that between 1979 and 1997 they were kept out of power by three successive Conservative administrations. And when they finally clawed their way into government, they were then in a position to put into practice the adolescent politics which had been stored in aspic and beyond which they had never progressed.
The way forward is obvious. The Equalities Minister must put her money where her mouth is. By her own lights, the best way the public school-educated Harman could do her bit to `tackle the class divide' would surely be to step down as an MP forthwith so that a working-class person could take her place.
The privileged life of hypocrite Harperson
Who better to 'tackle the class divide' and move Britain 'towards a new social order' than Harriet Harman who is both the most upper class and the most hypocritical member of the cabinet. Some of her colleagues were educated privately but Harman had the smartest education of all, at St Paul's Girls School in London. But that wasn't surprising, because she comes from a very grand family. Her father was a Harley Street doctor and her mother a lawyer. Her aunt married the left-wing social reformer the fifth Earl of Longford, and her cousin is Lady Antonia Fraser, the author who was married to the playwright Harold Pinter.
No doubt she would acknowledge that she had a fine start in life, but she could have put all that behind her when she married the left-wing firebrand and political agitator Jack Dromey. But it seems that Harman, while determined to iron out class privilege for others, was not prepared to subject her own children to the local comprehensive. Her eldest son was sent to the selective Roman Catholic secondary school, the Oratory, where Tony Blair also educated his children. At the time she dismissed the accusation of hypocrisy by claiming it was because her husband was a Catholic.
Next, however, she sent her second son to St Olave's - an Anglican selective grammar school in Orpington, Kent, a good long way from her deprived South London constituency. There was a huge row of course, as not everyone in the Labour party understood how Harman was able to square this with her class-warrior opposition to selective education. But that didn't worry the woman who is now Labour's deputy leader, nor did it stop her sending her daughter to Grey Coat school, yet another selective grammar in Westminster.
So this child of privilege, who has been determined to give the same gilded start in life to her own children, now wishes to instigate a class war pogrom across the public sector, requiring every state institution to take class background into account in all of its decisions. It's hard to know which is more exasperating. The stupidity of wasting huge amounts of time and money on a political crusade that would have been out of date in the Seventies or the hypocrisy that this appalling policy has been suggested by Harriet Harman.
This is, after all, the politician whom her late colleague Gwyneth Dunwoody once called 'one of those certain, particular, women who are of the opinion that they had a God-given right to be among the chosen'.
British Independent schools weathering the recession
It is going to hurt. We all know it is going to hurt. But how much is it going to hurt? As the rest of us brace ourselves for a bruising recession, independent schools, outwardly anyway, are calmness personified. "Right now, this does not really feel like a middle-class recession," says David Lyscom, chief executive of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), which represents more than 1,300 fee-paying schools. "It is business as usual for most of our members. We are certainly not looking over the edge of some kind of precipice."
In theory, independent schools are no more immune than anyone else from economic vicissitudes, but the experience of the last recession, in the early Nineties, suggests that any impact is likely to be significantly delayed. "At times of belt-tightening," explains Lyscom, "parents give top priority to continuity of education for their children. They don't do anything drastic unless they absolutely have to." Statistics bear him out. The last recession started in the third quarter of 1990, with negative growth lasting until the start of 1992. At first, according to an ISC census, pupil numbers held firm. It was not until the end of the recession, in 1992, that they began to decline. There were further small falls in 1993 and 1994. If that pattern were to be repeated, one would not expect pupil numbers to fall appreciably until 2010-11. But savvy schools and parents will certainly not be burying their heads in the sand until then. Budgets are being reviewed and, in some cases, trimmed.
"Schools are used to living in the real world," says Lyscom. "They know how to adapt to hard economic times. The canniest schools will also realise that as one door closes another opens." The plummeting pound, he believes, is a case in point. For parents in Geneva or Hong Kong, the cost of sending a child to an English boarding school has suddenly fallen, not risen. There is a new market out there, waiting to be tapped. "The recession will have all sorts of knock-on effects, not all of them negative," agrees Paul Smith, headmaster of Hereford Cathedral School. "The fees at this school are 10,000 pounds a year, which compares favourably with other independent schools in the area. It is not difficult to foresee parents with a child at one of those more expensive schools electing to send a younger sibling here."
Not all schools, inevitably, are going to survive the recession unscathed. In November, two private preparatory schools, Bramcote Lorne in Nottinghamshire and Brigg in Lincolnshire, announced they would be closing at the end of the term and merging with nearby schools. There will no doubt be other closures and mergers. But then there always are, in good times and bad. "It is the small schools that are most vulnerable," says Jonathan Cook, general secretary of the Independent Schools' Bursars Association. "If they lose, say, 10 pupils from a school roll of 150, that is a potentially crippling blow. At larger schools, economies of scale are possible. You can raise class sizes from 14 to 16 or trim the number of A-level subjects from 42 to 40 without doing lasting damage."
Some capital building programmes may have to be put on hold, according to Cook, although even that is not a foregone conclusion. "Borrowing is cheap at the moment. You can get a builder and strike a good deal. Financially, independent schools are pretty straightforward operations compared with other businesses. They establish how many pupils they are likely to have in the next school year, then plan accordingly."
Pupil numbers for 2009-10 cannot be anticipated at this stage, but there is already plenty of anecdotal evidence, says Cook, of parents struggling to pay fees on time. "They are asking for fees to be deferred or paid in stages and, where possible, schools will do what they can to help."
If education professionals are bullish, many parents are clearly twitchy. There has, for example, been a boom in applications for grammar schools (up 20 per cent in Kent alone). In October, at Wallington County Grammar School, Surrey, there was such a scrum of applicants, more than 10 per place, that police had to be called to keep order during the entrance exam. But it is not panic stations yet. Prudent housekeeping by schools and careful planning by parents should keep the damage to manageable proportions.
Common sense suggests that, despite the optimistic noises coming from the independent education sector, there will be schools that cut their fees in a bid to retain the loyalty of parents. But they are likely to be in a small minority.
British Royal family set to gain new admirers
The many people who are sick and tired of the pursed-mouth reaction to any reference to race have had Prince Harry to applaud lately -- and now Prince Charles sets an example of harmless frankness too:
"Britain's royal family is embroiled in another race row after reports the Prince of Wales calls a friend "Sooty". Prince Charles used the "affectionate nickname" to address Kolin Dhillon, whose family come from the Indian subcontinent, at Cirencester Polo Club, Britain's The Daily Telegraph reported. "Charles, along with both of his boys, have called this chap Sooty because it is his nickname and he is perfectly comfortable with it," an un-named member of the club told the newspaper.
Leftist hatred of Christianity on British TV
"When millions of viewers tuned into Tyrone and Molly's wedding on Coronation Street this week, they probably did not notice anything amiss with the beautiful 14th-century church. The rector was not among them.
It was not the absurd storyline that so incensed the Rev James Milnes, of St Mary's Church, Nether Alderley, Cheshire. Nor was it the ornate horse-drawn carriage, the dry-ice machine used to create atmosphere or even the harpist in the nave.
The clergyman was furious that the show's producers had decided to hide the solid brass cross that formed the centrepiece of the altar for fear that it would cause offence to viewers. Denouncing the decision to hide the cross behind a garish candelabra and artificial flowers, Mr Milnes wrote in his monthly parish magazine that Granada Television had "emptied the church of the very thing that makes it a church".
If the sight of a cross is offensive, Britain must be boiling over with offended people. How do people ever manage to drive past a church in a calm state of mind these days?
Given the wishi-washiness of the Church of England, the most surprising thing may be that clergyman objected.
Incompetent Indian doctor kills woman in NHS hospital
A doctor killed a patient being treated for an infected bunion by injecting her with adrenaline against the advice of colleagues, a court heard yesterday. Priya Ramnath ignored two doctors' and a nursing sister's express instructions and failed to speak to a consultant anaesthetist before administering the fatal dose to 51-year-old Patricia Leighton in 1998, a jury was told. Mother-of-two Ramnath moved to America soon after. She denies the manslaughter of Mrs Leighton by gross negligence.
Ramnath, now 40, was working as a registrar in the intensive therapy unit at Stafford District General Hospital where Mrs Leighton was being treated for septic shock from the infection on her left foot. Ramnath, who was on a seven-week placement at the hospital, became concerned about Mrs Leighton's weak pulse and low blood pressure. She says she thought adrenaline was necessary because she believed the patient was about to go into cardiac arrest, the court heard.
Her colleagues advised her not to use adrenaline as they believed Mrs Leighton's condition could have been controlled without it. But Ramnath gave her a 3ml injection of it, Birmingham Crown Court was told. Prosecutor Michael Burrows QC, said: 'The effects of adrenaline are unpredictable and can be fatal. In the case of Mrs Leighton, they were fatal. 'Within moments of the injection, Mrs Leighton jerked forward and sat bolt upright in her bed. She shouted out "What's happening to me? I am going to die".' Mrs Leighton, of Burntwood, Staffordshire, then lost consciousness, her heart stopped and she died despite attempts to resucitate her.
Mr Burrows said: 'Mrs Leighton was not in cardiac arrest, the injection of a bolus of adrenaline was not necessary and should not have been given. 'She owed Mrs Leighton a duty of care, that duty was breached by giving her the adrenaline. There was no clinical indication that such treatment was necessary.' Mr Burrows said the Crown would call an expert witness who believed that Ramnath's alleged decision to ignore advice was arrogant and reckless.
He added that when writing up her notes Ramnath said she injected the adrenaline after Mrs Leighton went into cardiac arrest. He said: 'When someone does something wrong they may seek to conceal what they have done wrong. 'This is a case where you will have to consider whether Dr Ramnath sought to conceal what she has done and whether others helped her.'
Ramnath handed in her resignation less than a week after Mrs Leighton's death stating she had been planning to move to the US with her husband. Mr Burrows told the jury: 'You will have to consider whether she fled the country in order to hinder or escape the investigation into Mrs Leighton's death.' Ramnath, whose address cannot be published for legal reasons, came back to Britain in February last year after dropping her opposition to extradition proceedings.
Britain worse off for hospital beds than Macedonia
The provision of hospital beds in Britain has plunged in the past eight years to one of the lowest levels in Europe. The number of beds per person has dropped 14 per cent since 2000 - to below the rate for Latvia, Estonia and Macedonia. The UK has only 389 hospital beds per 100,000 inhabitants, even when taking into account both private and NHS beds. This is well below the EU average of 590 beds per 100,000 inhabitants.
The UK is ranked 25th out of 32 European countries. Only Cyprus, Portugal, Denmark, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and Malta perform worse. In 2000/01 the NHS had 186,091 beds, falling to 160,297 in 2007/08. Maternity beds have almost halved in number in some parts of the UK. In 2000/01 the NHS had 186,091 beds, falling to 160,297 in 2007/08. Maternity beds have almost halved in number in some parts of the UK.
Tory health spokesman Andrew Lansley, who obtained the figures from the European Commission, said: 'The objective of the NHS is to deliver world-class healthcare, not to maintain a certain number of hospital beds. 'It is madness to cut beds when wards are overcrowded, there aren't enough isolation rooms to control hospital infections and patients are still in mixed-sex accommodation. 'In 2000 Labour said that bed numbers needed to increase but these figures demonstrate again how badly they have failed.'
Health Minister Ben Bradshaw said: 'Given that the Conservatives are pledged to cut NHS funding, we await with interest a commitment by Andrew Lansley to increase expenditure on this or any other aspect of the work of the NHS that he frequently criticises.'
A Department of Health spokesman said: 'Bed numbers have fallen because people are being treated much more quickly - spending less time in hospital - and for many conditions medical advances mean they do not need to go to hospital at all. 'Detailed analysis of the past three years' MRSA and bed occupancy rates has shown no correlation between the two.'
British politician dumps on dyslexia
This is not as shocking as it seems. Dyslexia is undoubtedly overdiagnosed -- particularly when the kid's problem is no more than an inability to cope with the idiotic Leftist teaching methods that have been in vogue for decades now. But there are real cases of dyslexia too
A Labour MP has provoked anger among literacy campaigners by calling dyslexia a "cruel fiction" that can often lead to criminal behaviour. Graham Stringer, the Labour MP for Manchester Blackley, wrote in his column for Manchester Confidential magazine: "Dyslexia is a cruel fiction, it is no more real than the 19th-century scientific construction of `the aether' to explain how light travels through a vacuum."
Mr Stringer, 58, also argued that there is a causal link between illiteracy and criminal activity. He wrote: "Children who cannot read or write find secondary school a humiliating and frustrating experience. Their rational response, with dire consequences, is to play truant. Drugs, burglaries, robberies and worse then often follow."
Kate Griggs, founder of the Xtraordinary People dyslexia charity, said that such comments would increase the struggle that dyslexic children have in coping with their learning difficulty. She said: "It amazes me that people can make comments like that when there is so much evidence about dyslexia. It causes great upset and distress. I think comments like this are so unhelpful for the millions of dyslexic children and their parents who are struggling in schools." Ms Griggs conceded, however, that there was a link between dyslexia and young offenders, but said that the focus needed to be on identifying and supporting dyslexic young people, rather than denying that dyslexia was a problem.
She said: "There is so much scientific evidence both from MRI brain imaging and scanning and genetic evidence across the board that quite conclusively says dyslexia does exist. It's a different wring of the brain in children who are dyslexic. They need to be identified and supported."
Mr Stringer's perceived insensitivity has come as a surprise after his lobbying in the Commons to institute an "early intervention" programme in schools to help children with autism and prevent them falling behind. In the same column, Mr Stringer argued: "The reason that so many children fail to read and write is because the wrong teaching methods are used." He accused Ed Balls, the Education Minister, of wasting nearly 80million pounds in disability benefits given to dyslexic children, when government policy should target an overhaul of the way that children are taught to read.
Mr Stringer pointed to the synthetic phonics method of teaching, whereby children were taught to associate letters with their phonetic pronunciation (reading "ee" for "y", for example). He said: "It is time that the dyslexia industry was killed off and we recognised that there are well known methods for teaching everybody to read and write."
Ms Griggs agreed that synthetic phonics was an effective way of teaching children to read, but argued that problems associated with dyslexia went far beyond reading. She said: "One of the big confusions is that dyslexia is all about reading. Some 60 per cent of dyslexic children struggle with maths, yet 20 per cent are mathematically gifted."
Mr Stringer, who was the first MP openly to call for Gordon Brown's resignation as Prime Minister, pointed to countries, such as South Korea and Nicaragua, that do not recognise dyslexia and where near 100 per cent literacy rates had been achieved. He said: "I am not, for one minute, implying that all functionally illiterate people take illegal drugs and engage in criminal activities, but the huge correlation between illiteracy and criminal activity is striking."
Ring finger length linked to City stockbrokers' success, claim scientists
Stockbrokers with long ring fingers make far greater profits than their counterparts, claims new research. There are many studies showing significance for long ring-fingers but the effects below seem particularly large
A study of highly pressured London traders, whose jobs requires risk taking and quick responses, found the most successful had long ring fingers in relation to their index fingers. The trait - which is associated with higher exposure to testosterone in the womb - is thought to be linked to attributes such as confidence, risk-taking ability, extra vigilance and quick reactions.
Such qualities could provide traders making snap decisions on high-risk deals with a competitive edge, the research suggests. Not only did traders with long ring fingers make on average six times more money, they survived more years in a cut-throat world which weeded out the weak and unprofitable.
All 44 men taking part in the study, some of whom made upwards of 4 million a year, worked on a City of London trading floor that specialised in "high frequency" business, buying and selling securities worth billions but holding their positions for only minutes or even seconds.
The Cambridge University scientists, led by Dr John Coates, himself a former Wall Street broker, compared the profits of the traders over a period of 20 months with their finger-length. They found that second digit (index finger) to fourth digit (ring finger) ratio predicted a trader's long-term profitability as much as the number of years he remained in the business. Traders with long ring fingers made up to 11 times the earnings of their counterparts. On average they made six times as much, and the legnth of their ring finger was as influential as their experience.
The research mirrored previous studies which link finger ratios with performance in competitive sports such as football, rugby, basketball and skiing. Dr Coates, reporting in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said the findings show that success on the financial markets is influenced by biology as much as mental ability and experience. "We were surprised to find that exposure to hormones in the womb had such a strong influence on future trading performance," he said. "But we should not conclude from this that only people with long ring fingers should be employed in the stockmarket. "That is a bit like only training tennis players who are tall. It may be advantageous for their serve but that would exclude such players as John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors,"
Testosterone, a steroid hormone, surges between the 9th and 18th week of gestation in the womb, exerting powerful organising effects on the developing body and brain. According to studies, these effects may include increased confidence, risk-preferences and persistence, as well as heightened vigilance and quickened reaction times.