Saturday, February 28, 2009

Triumph for human rights and psycho jihadists

Comment from Britain by Rod Liddle

This has been an excellent week for Muslim psychopaths. First, Abu Qatada - "Osama Bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe" - has been given leave to stay in Britain by the European Court of Human Rights - and has also been bunged some money to compensate him for having been banged up in the first place.

And no sooner have we cleared the champagne flutes away and banished our hangovers after this celebration than it is reported that Binyam Mohamed is on his way back too. Binyam has been in Guantanamo Bay for a while, having been accused by the Americans of wandering around the Hindu Kush looking for infidels to murder, like a sort of well-armed Norman Wisdom with a grievance. He says he's innocent and has been tortured by America's flunkeys.

Binyam is an Ethiopian who was never awarded full citizenship here, so it's a real stroke of luck that we end up with custody of the man. Old Abu, meanwhile, is wanted on terrorism charges in half of Europe and Jordan as well, but the European Court has decided in our favour: we can keep him while it mulls things over for a while.

Qatada was the supposed inspiration and spiritual guide for the fabulously inept shoe bomber Richard Reid, the chap who tried to blow up an aeroplane with explosives hidden in his trainers but forgot to take a lighter with him and couldn't manage to strike a match properly. Qatada also believes that Muslim states should have no truck with infidel cockroach western democracies, although he seems to have quite enjoyed living here these past few years, denouncing the Jews and playing jihadist war games on his PC.

In this he is a little like the giggling, bearded Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, who railed against our filth and decadence for years until he was peremptorily deported to Lebanon, whereupon he immediately pleaded to be allowed to return home to his semi in Edmonton, in case he was blown to pieces by an Israeli shell. No, mate, you stay where you are: should have been a bit nicer while you were here, shouldn't you? There is a certain train of thought that insists all these people should be either imprisoned indefinitely or deported to one or another dusty Middle Eastern satrapy, where their views might accord with those of a greater proportion of the population. My own view is that they shouldn't have been allowed into the country in the first place.

In almost all cases we knew they weren't the sort of people with whom you might share a convivial weekend, but were implacable Islamists who loathed us even more than the countries from which they fled. But in most cases we couldn't send them back because those countries might treat them in an uncivilised manner - pulling out their fingernails, shooting them in the back of the head and so on.

The fact that each arriviste yearned for regimes in their native countries even more unpleasant than the ones from which they had escaped, and also to blow us up at the same time, cuts no ice with international law. International law, then, must change. It was constructed in less barbarous times - the times of Hitler, Stalin, people like that.

Once here, though, and granted citizenship, they should be given due process. Treating people decently and with due process is about our only trump card in this wearying and debilitating battle against the jihadists. They, of course, think our adherence to the letter of the law is a weakness to be derided, which is why it is such a propaganda coup when they really are transgressed against, when they are treated differently from how we would treat any suspected criminal. So much for your democracy, they say.

Abu Qatada should not have been allowed into the country, but once here he should not have been imprisoned indefinitely when there was clearly insufficient evidence to convict; the same applies to Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Masri, still incarcerated in Belmarsh while the Americans cobble together evidence against him by fair means or foul. If we are stupid enough to let them in, then we should be stupid enough to treat them like normal human beings too.


Cure for peanut allergy closer

This again shows that exposure to peanuts has a major role in preventing peanut allergy

A group of children with severe peanut allergies have had their conditions successfully treated, allowing them to eat nuts without suffering any reaction for the first time. The success of the preliminary clinical trial, conducted by Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, eastern England, shows the possibilty of modifying an allergy by desensitising the sufferer. Scientists say that the development brings them one step closer to curing nut allergies.

Researchers gave small daily doses of peanut flour to children with severe peanut allergy to help them to build tolerance to the nuts over a six-month period. By the end of the trial, the children could eat up to 12 nuts a day without suffering a life-threatening reaction in the form of anaphylaxis.

Peanut allergy is increasingly common, affecting an estimated 2 per cent of British schoolchildren. Reactions can range from itching, rashes and swelling to breathing difficulties caused by a narrowing of the airways, and severe asthma. It is the most common serious allergic reaction but, unlike other childhood food allergies, it rarely recedes over time.

Pamela Ewan, a consultant allergist and lead researcher, said that the trial offered hope for sufferers. "Until now there has been no treatment that has modified the disease," she told The Times. "There has only been effective management of the problems. "We do not like to talk of cures, but that is what we are aiming for. If you can switch off the allergy, you can claim you have cured the person." Andrew Clark, a consultant in paediatric allergy who worked on the trial, said that further studies were planned into different types of nuts, as well as other foods, including kiwi fruit.

In the study, published in the journal Allergy, four children were given daily doses of peanut flour, starting with 5mg mixed into yoghurt. Over six months the dose was increased every two weeks until the children could tolerate 800mg of the protein. This was 160 times the starting dose and equivalent to five peanuts. A larger study by Addenbrooke's, involving 20 children aged 7 to 17, is showing similar results. A total of 12 patients have completed treatment and none has shown signs of reaction to peanuts. Some of them were showing tolerance reaching 12 peanuts a day. The original four children are keeping up their tolerance with a "maintenance" dose of five peanuts a day.

Mr Clark said: "If they were to stop there is some evidence that tolerance would be lost and they may have a reaction." He said that the children's tolerance levels would be monitored and future studies would assess whether the dose could be given as a daily pill. After three or four years, the body may have adjusted and there could be a more "permanent cure" to the allergy, he said. "Every time people with a peanut allergy eat something, they're frightened that it might kill them. Our motivation was to find a treatment that would change that and give them the confidence to eat what they like. "All of these children say it has improved their quality of life and they've lost that fear of having an acute reaction if they accidentally eat a peanut."

Mr Clark warned families not to try to replicate the study at home. Previous trials in the 1990s, which used injections rather than oral doses, produced serious side-effects. The Addenbrooke's study was sponsored by the Evelyn Trust, a Cambridge charity supporting medical research.


Friday, February 27, 2009

A great French ship visits Sydney

The Queen Mary 2 was built in the Alstom Chantiers de L'Atlantique shipyard in Sainte-Nazaire, France.

Details of the visit here

Why do so many people hate Gail Trimble?

Britain has a TV quiz show called "University Challenge", in which teams from various universities compete against each other to answer some very obscure questions. The team from Oxford's Corpus Christi college has just won. They won because one member of their team, Gail Trimble, seemed to know just about everything. As a much-published academic, I think I have some claim to being bright and knowing a lot but I would not have been able to answer a single one of the questions that Miss Trimble answered even before the question was finished.

Knowledge and intelligence are not the same but her prodigious knowledge is a byproduct of stratospheric IQ. She was reading at age one. And early language mastery is one of the best indices of IQ. Confirming the disjunction between knowledge and IQ, however, Miss Trimble failed utterly at answering "Pub Quiz" questions about film stars, TV shows and the like. She knows as little about popular entertainment as she knows a lot about academic things.

Since it is high IQ people who are responsible for the many scientific and technical advancements that have made our lives so much easier than the "nasty, brutish and short" lives of our ancestors, one would think that high IQ people would always be celebrated and admired. And they do often get recognition of various sorts, the Swedish (as distinct from the Norwegian) Nobel prizes, for instance. But I guess it will be no surprise that high IQ people also attract dislike and hatred. Envy is a very common human trait and it is not only higher incomes that are envied but many other things as well. And Miss Trimble has certainly attracted lots of dislike and abuse as a result of her abilities. See the insert below.

And that ties in with politics. The nonsensical and incoherent claim that underlies so much Leftist discourse is "all men are equal". And that is the envier's gospel. It makes not a scrap of sense and shows no contact with reality but it is something that enviers resort to as a way of soothing their envious feelings. They deny the very differences that give them so much heartburn. "Denial" was long ago indentified by Freud as a maladaptive psychological defence mechanism and "All men are equal" is a prize example of that. Whatever one thinks of his theories, Freud was undoubtedly an acute observer of people and very few psychologists today would doubt the maladaptive nature of denial as described by Freud.

So Gail Trimble by her very existence offends Leftists. Her existence pushes down their throats the falsity of their central dogma. Reality is SUCH a problem for Leftists! And because their central dogma is not rational, they can only respond to inconvenient reality by hatred and abuse. Conservative bloggers know from their email and the comments that they get on their blogs how most Leftists respond to any presentation of facts that are inconvenient to them. A rational comment backed up by facts is very rare. It is almost all assertion and abuse. If you are very lucky you may get selective attention to the facts but that is all.

Envy has always been with us and the envier's gospel has therefore had many outings throughout history. One thinks of the "Levellers" of Cromwell's day, for instance. And it also appears in the American Declaration of Independence, of course. There were enviers among the American revolutionaries too. But the declaration was of course a compromise document and Jefferson inserted into the envier's creed the word "created" ("all men are created equal"), which removed it from everyday reality and made it clear that the dogma was a matter of faith, not fact.

I think it must be because of that one word "created" in the Declaration that some Christians claim that God suffers from poor sight. They say "all men are equal in the sight of God". As the Leftist FDR said in his January 6, 1942 State of the Union address: "We are fighting, as our fathers have fought, to uphold the doctrine that all men are equal in the sight of God."

That is, however, very poor theology. The Bible makes it clear that God treats saints and sinners very differently. Homosexuals are accursed and condemned to death, for instance (Romans chapter 1). All men are NOT equal in God's eyes. I have seen Galatians 3:28 quoted in support of the equality myth but that text quite clearly refers to committed Christians, not to all men.

More about the brilliant Miss Trimble here and here

One in nine people living in Britain now born overseas as 300,000 more foreigners settle in the UK

More than one in every eight people in England were born abroad, according to an official breakdown of the population. It showed that in the middle of last year there were 6,486,000 people in Britain who were born abroad, with just over six million of them in England. The figures suggest the impact of immigration on numbers in England, already the most crowded country in Europe, may have been underestimated until now.

Numbers of those born abroad have been rising at more than 300,000 a year - a rate of increase far in excess of the level of immigration noted by other surveys accepted by Government ministers. Over the past four years the population of people living in Britain who were born in Eastern Europe has gone up by between 400,000 and 500,000, while the ranks of those in Britain who were born outside-Europe have swelled by just under 700,000. According to the new statistics, published yesterday, foreign-born people make up one in nine of the population of the UK as a whole.

However although the figures from the Government's Office for National Statistics show an increase in numbers of foreign born people they still fail to record the true impact of immigration because they record their children as British rather than second or third generation immigrants. The Labour Force Survey, from which the information has been obtained, also fails to include people who live in hotels, boarding houses, hostels or caravan sites, as large numbers of migrants do. Nor does it include students in halls of residence.

The dramatic new population estimates come alongside fresh evidence that much higher numbers of foreign citizens have been allowed to settle permanently in Britain over the past decade. Around 400 foreign nationals a day are being given permission to settle in Britain - nearly three times the number given the right to stay when Labour took power in 1997.

The Migrationwatch think tank said the series of immigration and population figures published by Whitehall were 'cause for real concern' and heralded a ' population explosion'. The new figures showed that while the foreign-born population shot up between 2004 and 2008, the population of those born in Britain stayed steady, rising by just 62,000 people. The foreign-born population rose by 290,000 last year and has risen by an average of 313,000 each year since 2004.

This conflicts with official immigration figures, which are based on different methods of calculation, which say immigration pushed up the population by 237,000 in 2007. On the basis of official immigration figures, ministers say the total population will reach 70million by 2028. But if yesterday's new estimates are correct, the population may be closer to 75million by then.

Sir Andrew Green of Migrationwatch said: 'These figures are a cause for real concern. They are much higher than official immigration figures have indicated. They may mean that we face a population explosion.'

Tory immigration spokesman Damian Green called for new curbs. 'It is the rate of growth that disturbs people when immigration is badly controlled as it has been over the past ten years,' he said. 'The chaos of the immigration system over the last decade has meant too much change too quickly.'

A Home Office spokesman said: 'This is in line with the other figures published by ONS showing the number of foreign-born workers. 'But this includes British nationals born overseas and those who are here and have settled or gained citizenship. 'Migrants continue to make an important contribution but it is right that in these current times that we control the numbers coming to the UK to work.'

The Labour Force Survey questions 130,000 people every month - far more than the surveys at ports and airports used to count immigration. The population figures came as a Home Office analysis showed the number of foreigners being given the right to settle in the UK permanently has almost trebled under Labour. Last year, 145,965 foreign nationals were granted settlement rights, or 400 every day. This compares with only 58,725 in 1997.


British paramedic refused to take man with broken back to hospital 'because he was on his break'

A paramedic refused to help a man in agony with a broken back because he was on his lunchbreak, a tribunal was told. Robert Chambers was approached by the man's desperate friends as he filled his ambulance with fuel. To their horror he told them to wait for another ambulance before driving off. Yesterday the paramedic appeared before the Health Professions Council accused of misconduct and lack of competence. He could be struck off if the case is proved.

The patient, who had been taking part in a fox hunt on the Sussex Downs on Boxing Day 2006, had suffered a jolt to his back, the hearing was told. His friends took him to a Tesco car park in Lewes but could go no further because he was in such pain. 'A friend called the emergency services and he was assessed as a category B patient - which was not life threatening,' Emily Carter, solicitor for the council, told the hearing in South London.

'However at that moment a friend of the patient noticed an ambulance refuelling at a nearby petrol station. 'He approached that crew and spoke to Robert Chambers who was refuelling. He explained that his friend had hurt his back but was told that the crew were off duty.' The ambulance crew, which had been on duty for six hours, had been given their half-hour break at 1pm, the hearing was told. 'This did not prevent him from voluntarily assisting should the need arise,' Miss Carter said.

Mr Chambers was approached for help 16 minutes into his break. But instead of helping the patient, waiting with him until help arrived or clarifying which ambulance was on its way, he simply drove away, the hearing was told. A transcript of a conversation between his ambulance and the control centre was read out. The operator said: 'I know you're off the road at the moment but it looks like you're there - I thought I would let you know in case you were approached.' Chambers is said to have replied: 'I believe it's a gentleman who has hurt his back - I explained there's probably an ambulance on its way.'

However, in another blunder, an ambulance car - which did not have the space or equipment to transport a patient with back injuries - was sent to the scene. It took a further 40 minutes for a proper ambulance to arrive.

Mr Chambers, who works for South East Coast Ambulance Service, admitted his actions were 'wrong' and apologised at a disciplinary hearing in March 2007. At yesterday's hearing he admitted a lack of competence but denied misconduct. The case continues.


In batty Britain, a BALLOON is now a health & safety risk!

Alex Pearson was thrilled with the balloon she had been given while having a meal at a restaurant. She was happily carrying it as she walked into a nearby Tesco store with her mother. But the nine-year-old girl, who has learning difficulties, was left bewildered when a security guard told her she could not come inside with the helium-filled balloon because it was a health and safety risk.

Alex's mother, Marion, said: 'This whole health and safety thing is just getting silly. You keep hearing more and more reasons why you can't do this or that. 'This is just another ridiculous rule that we have to follow. Why is it that Tesco sells balloons if they are such a risk?'

Alex had been given the balloon by staff at the Chiquito Mexican restaurant on the Tower Park retail park in Poole, Dorset. She had been having a meal there with her mother and grandmother, Martha Talbot. Afterwards, Alex wanted to spend her pocket money in the Tesco superstore, which is also on the retail park. Mrs Pearson tied the balloon to her wrist so it would not blow away. As the family tried to enter the store at 5pm on Monday, they were told it was 'company policy' that the balloon could not come in.

Mrs Pearson, 44, a carer, from Upton, Poole, said: 'Alex loves balloons and she was desperate to keep it. The security guard stopped us and told us we couldn't come in because of it - some idiotic reason about security. 'Alex didn't understand why she wasn't allowed in and I told the security guard to explain it to her. He couldn't even look her in the eye - I think he was too embarrassed. 'She would have been so upset to let the balloon go, so we had to go home. I won't be using the shop again.'

A Tesco spokesman said: 'A restaurant near the store was handing out helium balloons. A number of children had come into the store and released them inadvertently or on purpose. 'Unfortunately they were getting trapped on the ceiling and blocking the sprinkler system, and they are pretty difficult to retrieve. The managers decided to use their discretion. 'There is not a set policy on helium balloons at the store - it's just common sense really.'


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Amazing British discovery: "Back to basics discipline in school would curb bad behaviour"

Schools should adopt back-to-basics discipline methods to curb bad behaviour and improve results among pupils, according to the Government's education watchdog. Traditional rules such as banning children with shaven heads and those wearing designer trainers or gang colours have proved effective in maintaining order at the best comprehensives, according to a report by Ofsted. Formal assemblies, regular patrols of corridors, frequent school trips, strong values and appointing good teachers are also successful methods of raising standards, the study says.

The report examined how state schools in the most deprived areas improved standards, describing how one head teacher tackled troublemakers by suspending 300 pupils in a week. Parents of all children barred from school were also ordered to meetings - often at anti-social hours such as 6am or 11pm - to be given a dressing-down. Ofsted said the approach had proved successful and that poor-performing schools in England should mimic the methods to turn themselves around.

According to the watchdog, four in 10 secondary schools in England are still not good enough. Christine Gilbert, chief inspector of schools, said: "Although there has been some improvement in the last year, two secondary schools out of five are still judged to be no better than satisfactory. I commend this report to those who lead and govern these schools."

Michael Gove, the Tory shadow children's secretary, said: "These schools demonstrate that disadvantage should not mean low standards. Schools that have excellent head teachers with strong discipline policies and high expectations can help children thrive regardless of their economic background. We should celebrate this achievement and give parents the power to ensure that these approaches are adopted more widely across the state sector."

The Conservatives claim attempts by many heads to control pupils have been undermined in recent years with some parents over-turning heads' decisions to expel.

Figures published in December showed police were called out to deal with 40 violent incidents in schools every day, while a separate report suggested gang membership among pupils had become "more overt" in recent years.

In its report, Ofsted investigated 12 successful inner-city state secondary schools with high numbers of pupils from "poor or disturbed home backgrounds" and examined how they had approached school discipline. Inspectors said they ensured "the street stops at the gate" by imposing tight rules on behaviour and focusing on the basics. Many of the schools had police officers permanently stationed within the grounds, inspectors said.

Middleton Technology School, Rochdale, which is surrounded by neighbourhoods "beset with alcohol and drugs in one direction and gangs in the other", imposes strict uniform rules, said Ofsted. It bans students with "shaven heads or emblematic patterns in their hair, trainers with brand marks and conspicuous designs and other manifestations of group or gang culture".

Inspectors said Robert Clack School in Dagenham dealt with troublemakers "swiftly and severely". Some 300 were suspended in just a week and Paul Grant, the head teacher, once personally drove the school minibus around nearby streets looking for truants. The head also introduced formal assemblies "to explain to students how he expected them to behave".

At Greenwood Dale School, Nottingham, staff are "smartly dressed as professionals, and students reflect as well as respect this", said the report.

Margaret Morrissey, from the campaign group Parents Outloud, said: "Most parents will be pretty shocked if this sort of thing is not already happening in other schools. If schools don't have good discipline and expectations of youngsters then something is going very wrong. Teachers in many schools are clearly not being allowed to get on and do their jobs - they are spending too long being tied down by Government edicts."

Ofsted said all the schools in its study also focused on a system of praise and rewards for outstanding work. Other schools improved behaviour and exam results by focusing on the basics of literacy and numeracy in the classroom and refusing to "jump on bandwagons" by introducing every Government initiative. It said the schools had "generally not been rushing into" the Government's new diplomas, which are being introduced as an alternative to GCSEs and A-levels, although "this is likely to change".

Ofsted said the regular exodus of good teachers was "the scourge of many urban schools" and was one of the most "disruptive influences" on children's education. But these schools, including Bartley Green School in Birmingham, Harton Technology College in South Tyneside and Lampton School in Hounslow, London, reversed the trend. Some embarked on "worldwide recruitment" drives to find the best teachers.

Jim Knight, Schools Minister, said: "We should never shy away from celebrating success, especially when that success has been achieved in challenging circumstances. "We should continue to learn from our variety of successful schools in this country - this moment is theirs to enjoy."


Senior citizen trying to report burglary turned away from British police HQ... as all the officers were playing POKER

They take very little interest in burglaries anyway. It takes insults to blacks, Muslims or homosexuals to get them moving

A pensioner trying to report a burglary was turned away from a police headquarters - even though officers were inside playing poker. Retired financial adviser Graham Hall, 69, walked to the head office of Thames Valley Police after discovering thieves had broken into a rental property he owns nearby. But after first asking Mr Hall if he was there for a card game involving 14 officers that was about to start in the social club, a security guard on the front desk told him no one could help.

Instead he was informed that the station was not open to the public and was handed a fridge magnet with the force's non-emergency telephone number, which he was told to ring. Mr Hall spoke to an operator who promised that a police officer would get in touch - but he was still to hear back from them, nearly a week later. The father of four said: 'When I got there a security guard popped up from behind the desk and said, "Good evening, are you here for the poker?". 'I said, "I've got it wrong. I thought this was a police station, not a casino". 'I told him I had come to report a crime, but he said I couldn't do that here. I said, "I'm sorry I wasted your time" and left.

'I was flabbergasted - you can't even report a crime at the police headquarters. 'The fact is that a crime had been committed on their doorstep but not one person could be bothered to come out and talk to me because they were gambling. At first I thought it was a joke but it really is no laughing matter. I've got no confidence in the force whatsoever.'

Mr Hall, of Oxford, discovered the break-in when he visited a rental property he owns in nearby Kidlington at 6.45pm last Wednesday. The thieves had smashed into a games room annexe and made off with hundreds of pounds' worth of snooker equipment. The semi-detached house was empty at the time after his daughter Joanna, 38, who had been letting it, moved out a few weeks earlier.

Mr Hall first went to Kidlington police station but a sign on the door said it closed at 5pm every day, so he went 150 yards down the road to Thames Valley Police HQ. The pensioner - who will have to fork out 150 pounds to replace both doors and a padlock - is furious. He said: 'Not only do I have to pay for new snooker balls and cues as well as the two doors but no one from the police has even bothered to contact me. 'I was going to leave the doors for the police to examine but it doesn't look like they're bothered. 'I feel extremely let down by the police who would rather play cards than catch criminals.'

A spokeswoman for Thames Valley police has confirmed that a poker game had taken place with a maximum stake of 2.50 a game. But she said that players at the regular event were off-duty. As for reporting a crime, she said the headquarters was not an 'operational police station' and that this was stated on a sign below the entry buzzer, along with directions to the nearest stations and opening times. The spokesman added that officers had not been dispatched to the scene as a matter of urgency because the incident is classed as a 'non-dwelling burglary'. However, an officer will now be in touch with Mr Hall as soon as possible, she added.


British policeman hauled before court and suspended for 20 months for defending himself against yob who headbutted him

Another example of British prosecutors being on the side of the criminal

A police officer told of his anger yesterday after being taken off front-line duty for a year and hauled before a court for defending himself against a suspect who he thought was about to headbutt him. Sergeant Bob Woodward spoke out after the case against him collapsed at the start of his trial when it emerged the supposed victim would not appear - because he was on the run after skipping bail over a separate violent attack.

The officer, a married father of three with 30 years' unblemished service, retires in April but said the episode had soured his last year in the force. Condemning the criminal justice system, he claimed his experience - the second time he has been wrongly accused of assaulting a drunken suspect - would make other officers think twice about confronting violent individuals.

Sergeant Woodward, 52, said Ashley Pearson had lashed out at him in July 2007 as they stood together in a custody suite at Cannock police station in Staffordshire, where Pearson had been taken after being arrested for an alleged breach of bail. The 6ft 8in policeman said he blocked the blow and pushed his attacker on to a desk, chipping Pearson's front tooth.

Pearson did not make a formal complaint but Staffordshire Police launched an investigation following an anonymous tip-off. Details were passed on to the Crown Prosecution Service which decided to prosecute Sergeant Woodward. He was taken off front line duties early last year when formally summonsed for assault and has since been doing other work or been on sick leave. The officer has now been fully reinstated after the case against him collapsed at Birmingham Crown Court on Monday.

Sergeant Woodward had previously been acquitted over an incident in July 2002 when he tried to stop a drunken yob spitting at him by pushing his face away. On that occasion, he had to endure seven months of anxiety before he was cleared.

The sergeant, from Hednesford, Staffordshire, said yesterday: 'There is something wrong when police officers end up in the dock for doing their job while thugs are left free to laugh at the justice system. They were ludicrous prosecutions. When they told me I was being charged I could hardly believe my ears. 'I had to keep it secret from my 80-year-old mother or it would have worried her to death.'

Announcing the CPS would offer no evidence against Sergeant Woodward, Zaheer Afzal, prosecuting, told Judge Sean Morris on Monday: 'Regrettably our main witness is not here today, and we have not been able to find him.'

David Mason, defending, said he found it ' staggering' that the case had taken so long to get to court, telling the judge: 'The officer thought he was going to be headbutted and was using reasonable force to protect himself from a clearly drunk, violent and aggressive man.' Pearson, from Cannock, Staffordshire, ended up in jail for an unrelated matter. He was released and has been on the run since February after being bailed on suspicion of being involved in a pub 'glassing' attack.



Britain must build new nuclear power stations if it is to meet climate change targets, according to leading environmentalists.

It is the first time the green lobby has decided to embrace the technology after years of opposition. Campaigners have traditionally been against nuclear power because of the fear of proliferation of weapons and the problem of disposing of waste. However with Britain facing a major energy crisis in the next few years - as coal-fired power stations and old nuclear power stations close down - and with the UK Government committed to cutting greenhouse gases by 80 per cent by 2050, many in the environmental movement are changing their minds. They argue that while nuclear power still has problems, climate change is a greater threat and that nuclear is a better option for keeping the lights on than building new coal-fired power stations.

The four leading environmentalists who have come out in favour of nuclear power are Stephen Tindale, former director of Greenpeace; Lord Chris Smith of Finsbury, the chairman of the Environment Agency; Mark Lynas, author of the Royal Society's science book of the year, and Chris Goodall, a Green Party activist and prospective parliamentary candidate. Mr Tindale, who described his turn-around as a "religious conversion", said many more in the environment movement think "nuclear power is not ideal but it's better than climate change".

Around 10 power stations could be built in the UK in the next 30 years. The Government is currently consulting on sites that might be suitable for new nuclear stations and companies have expressed interest in starting to build in 2013, with the first plants coming on stream in 2018.

However environmental groups remained adamant that nuclear power can't solve the problem of climate change. Greenpeace argue that even if new nuclear stations are built it will not stop countries like China and India burning huge amounts of coal and the only way to reduce the threat of climate change is to improve efficiency and revolutionise energy generation with cheap and green renewables.

A spokesman for Greenpeace said: "Imagine if the billions wasted on the nuclear industry had been spent instead on energy efficiency and renewable energy. Then we'd really be matching our big problems with big solutions."


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Greenfield shoots her mouth off again

"Social websites harm children's brains". She said much the same nearly a year ago -- with a similar lack of proof. She does have a research background in brain function but she is primarily a science popularizer and can be relied on to support the wisdom of the day -- which is why she has been much honoured in various ways.

Not long ago she was selling a "brain training program" called "Mindfit" but such programs have subsequently been found to be of very questionable use and may do more harm than good. She appears unaware of the contradiction of promoting a computer-based brain training program while otherwise warning of the harm that computer use does.

She has also bad-mouthed Larry Summers for his truth telling about mathematical ability and mocks Christians. So wait for the double-blind studies of social networking websites rather than trust the mere "fears" of this attention-seeker.

Social networking websites are causing alarming changes in the brains of young users, an eminent scientist has warned. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Bebo are said to shorten attention spans, encourage instant gratification and make young people more self-centred. The claims from neuroscientist Susan Greenfield will make disturbing reading for the millions whose social lives depend on logging on to their favourite websites each day. But they will strike a chord with parents and teachers who complain that many youngsters lack the ability to communicate or concentrate away from their screens. [Given the dumbed-down education they get today, that has to be expected]

More than 150million use Facebook to keep in touch with friends, share photographs and videos and post regular updates of their movements and thoughts. A further six million have signed up to Twitter, the 'micro-blogging' service that lets users circulate text messages about themselves. But while the sites are popular - and extremely profitable - a growing number of psychologists and neuroscientists believe they may be doing more harm than good. Baroness Greenfield, an Oxford University neuroscientist and director of the Royal Institution, believes repeated exposure could effectively 'rewire' the brain.

Computer games and fast-paced TV shows were also a factor, she said. 'We know how small babies need constant reassurance that they exist,' she told the Mail yesterday. 'My fear is that these technologies are infantilising the brain into the state of small children who are attracted by buzzing noises and bright lights, who have a small attention span and who live for the moment.'

Her comments echoed those she made during a House of Lords debate earlier this month. Then she argued that exposure to computer games, instant messaging, chat rooms and social networking sites could leave a generation with poor attention spans. 'I often wonder whether real conversation in real time may eventually give way to these sanitised and easier screen dialogues, in much the same way as killing, skinning and butchering an animal to eat has been replaced by the convenience of packages of meat on the supermarket shelf,' she said.

Lady Greenfield told the Lords a teacher of 30 years had told her she had noticed a sharp decline in the ability of her pupils to understand others. 'It is hard to see how living this way on a daily basis will not result in brains, or rather minds, different from those of previous generations,' she said. She pointed out that autistic people, who usually find it hard to communicate, were particularly comfortable using computers.

'Of course, we do not know whether the current increase in autism is due more to increased awareness and diagnosis of autism, or whether it can - if there is a true increase - be in any way linked to an increased prevalence among people of spending time in screen relationships. Surely it is a point worth considering,' she added.

Psychologists have also argued that digital technology is changing the way we think. They point out that students no longer need to plan essays before starting to write - thanks to word processors they can edit as they go along. Satellite navigation systems have negated the need to decipher maps.

A study by the Broadcaster Audience Research Board found teenagers now spend seven-and-a-half hours a day in front of a screen.

Educational psychologist Jane Healy believes children should be kept away from computer games until they are seven. Most games only trigger the 'flight or fight' region of the brain, rather than the vital areas responsible for reasoning.

Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood, said: 'We are seeing children's brain development damaged because they don't engage in the activity they have engaged in for millennia. 'I'm not against technology and computers. But before they start social networking, they need to learn to make real relationships with people.'


War hero defeated by NHS after hospital stay left him with three infections and fractured pelvis

He survived the vicious conflict with the Japanese in the jungles of Burma. But veteran Albert Marriott has been reduced to a wheelchair-bound shell by a spell in the care of the NHS. Mr Marriott, 90, was admitted to hospital after a fall at home. He then picked up superbugs Clostridium difficile, E.coli and MRSA - and fractured his pelvis in a fall from a hospital bed.

By the time he was finally released 20 months later and transferred to a nursing home, he was unable to even get dressed without help. There is little chance he will get better. His daughter, Sue Davies, 57, told how the independence her father once cherished had been 'taken away by the inadequate standards of cleanliness and care in the NHS' at two separate hospitals. He must now use his pension and savings - and may have to sell his home - to pay for his weekly 384 pounds care home bill.

Miss Davies said the family had made formal complaints about his care at both Clay Cross Hospital in Derbyshire and the Royal Chesterfield Hospital and may seek compensation. 'It has beaten him. He used to be active, read the papers and have a view on things and now he is a shell and does nothing,' she said. 'Hospital is a place you go in to be looked after, not where you go to get fractures and infections. It's so hard for him, he's a man of dignity and pride and I feel it's all been taken away from him.'

Mr Marriott fought in Burma during the World War II before working as a joiner. A father-of-two, with four grandchildren and three great grandchildren, he has lived alone since his wife Lillian died at 63 in 1981. In June 2007 he was bruised after a fall at home and was admitted for three weeks to Clay Cross community hospital. However, his health began to deteriorate. He developed pancreatitis and had to have a catheter because of other problems. He was then struck by the first of a series of infections and ended up going backwards and forwards between the two hospitals.

According to Miss Davies he had E.coli and C.diff at the same time. After a month of treatment in the Royal he was well enough to return to Clay Cross. But in January 2008 he fractured his pelvis falling from a bed and was sent back to the Royal. The fracture was missed by doctors, who believed he was simply bruised. Miss Davies said: 'He was in so much agony he was crying.' The pensioner was sent back to Clay Cross with morphine to help with the pain and two days later the fracture was diagnosed by another doctor and he was sent back to Chesterfield.

Once on the ward again his condition deteriorated fast. 'He was so poorly I was asked if I wanted him to be resuscitated if anything happened. He became delirious.' Miss Davies said she believes his deterioration was down to the infections. 'He looked like he was dying and we were told more or less that he was,' she added. She claimed he had another bout of C.diff and later had a minor MRSA infection too.

Eventually Mr Marriott was moved to a ward which had just had a 'deep clean' and his health improved. He went back to Clay Cross and after months of looking for a suitable nursing home he was discharged.

Miss Davies said: 'He can't do anything for himself now, apart from feed himself. The NHS hospitals are responsible for this and should pay for his care.' Tracy Allen of Derbyshire Community Health Services said: 'We are very sorry that Mr Marriott and his family feel that we have let him down.' She insisted he only had one episode of C.diff, was known to have E.coli 'on admission' and was 'colonised' with MRSA while in hospital. The Chesterfield Royal Hospital said Miss Davies' complaint would be investigated


Leading British Labour party politician to attack political correctness

Hazel Blears is to attack the "creeping tendency" of political correctness which has led to Christians being targeted for practising their beliefs. In a hard hitting speech, to be made in the last week of February, the Communities Secretary will suggest that the pendulum has "swung too far" in favour of not offending minorities. Her remarks will be seen as a thinly veiled attack on Harriet Harman, the Commons leader, who has made a series of left wing speeches and announcements in recent months about equal rights for minorities. Ms Harman has faced accusations of manoeuvring herself for the leadership if Labour loses the next election.

It comes after a community nurse, Caroline Petrie, was suspended from after offering to pray for a patient. The story led to widespread criticism of her employer, North Somerset Primary Care Trust, who later offered Mrs Petrie her job back.

Ms Blears, who last week called on jostling cabinet minsters to "get a grip", will say that public policy-makers are too anxious about offending people and need to be more robust in their approach. She will point to a number of judgements recently which she feels were spurned by an overzealous commitment to political correctness. A text of her speech, released to this paper, said: "This country is proud of our tradition of fair play and good manners, welcoming of diversity, tolerant of others. This is a great strength. "But the pendulum has swung too far. It seems that every week we hear a new story - the nurse suspended because she offered to pray for a patient, the school banning Christmas decorations, the town hall reluctant to fly the Union flag - about people getting into a panic because someone, somewhere, might get offended.

"Worse, at times leaders have been reluctant to challenge absolutely unacceptable behaviour - forced marriage, female genital mutilation, or homophobia - because they are concerned about upsetting people's cultural sensitivities. "This flies in the face of another of our traditions - open debate, rational inquiry, and plain old common sense. "We would do well to be a little less anxious and a little more robust."

Ms Blears will say that minority beliefs and traditions should not go unchallenged in Britain when they break the law or harm others. "There is a line when respect for other cultures is crossed and a universal morality should kick in."

The tough stance from the former Blairite comes as a number of female ministers are said to be considering standing against the left wing Ms Harman if she does go for the leadership. Yvette Cooper, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, was said to be one minister approached to be a "stop Harman" candidate. However some Labour insiders believe this rumour may be an attempt to disrupt Ms Cooper's husband Ed Balls, a likely candidate in a leadership contest.


British Tories pledge to end police 'caution culture'

The Conservatives have pledged to end the "caution culture" in Britain's police forces and to ensure that all youths who carry out violent attacks are prosecuted. Chris Grayling, the Shadow Home Secretary, said he will stop the practice of simply warning youths who are involved in assaults and then sending them on their way. In his first announcement since taking over in the role, Mr Grayling said all those involved in violent attacks or found with knives in city centres would end up behind bars as part of a radical shake-up of policing planned by the Conservatives.

The pledge comes after it emerged that the number of young people given cautions by the police for indictable crimes, including robbery and other violent offences, has increased by 28 per cent in the last five years. Despite Labour promises to crack down on violent attacks, the number of assaults using a knife has risen starkly. Last week, two teenagers were stabbed to death in separate attacks within hours of each other in London.

Mr Grayling said: "If you are found carrying a knife, if you attack a stranger in the street, you should end up in the courts and then behind bars. You should not get a caution, or as I heard recently, a o65 penalty notice for carrying a three foot Samurai sword around. That must stop." Mr Grayling will outline plans this week to give police charging powers of their own so that they can charge youths in custody with offences such as carrying knives rather than referring the cases to prosecutors.

The Tories are also looking to change the police targets system so that issuing someone with a caution does not count as a crime solved, and a case taken to court counts as a bigger success than a caution. Currently, cautions and prosecutions are deemed equally successful outcomes to investigations. Mr Grayling said it was "madness" that cautions for violent attacks had more than doubled since 1998.

In 2007, 60 per cent of under 18s cautioned or convicted for an offence received only a caution, up from 56 per in 2003. There were 75,300 youths cautioned in 2007 compared to 58,600 in 2003. The cautioning rate has increased in all age groups. In 2007, 90 per cent of 10-11 year old offenders dealt with by police were cautioned, compared to 84 per cent in 2003. The rate of 12-14 years olds being cautioned is up by 29 per cent while the number of 15-17 year olds cautioned has increased by 10,000.

Mr Grayling said police were issuing cautions because it meant "case closed, a tick in the box, a crime solved for the official figures to be sent to the Home Office. "That's just not good enough. Giving someone a caution should not be a way of scoring an easy win in the case closed league table. "No wonder young offenders think they can get away with it. That must become a thing of the past."

Despite claiming that there has been an overall fall in the number of people caught carrying knives and that those found guilty of possessing knives were receiving longer sentences the Government has been unable to support this with official figures. The Home Secretary Jacqui Smith apologised to Parliament two months ago for the premature release of data suggesting that police were making headway against knife crime.

In October last year, the Home Office was forced to admit that serious violent crime is much worse than they had been claiming because police forces had been failing to record offences properly. A Home Office spokeswoman said: "As the Home Secretary announced last year, anyone over the age of 16 caught carrying a knife should expect to be prosecuted. Those using knives can expect to go to prison."



Britain's efforts to cut carbon emissions have been hampered by government infighting and a reluctance to stand up to industry, according to the UK's former climate change minister. Elliot Morley, head of the new energy and climate change select committee, said tensions between different government departments had undermined moves to cut greenhouse gas pollution. Policies to cut carbon and help the environment were dismissed inside Whitehall as "idealistic and not giving enough attention to the pragmatic needs of industry", he said.

In an interview with the Guardian, Morley, a minister in the environment department Defra from 2003 to 2006, said: "I think there has been a failure to get complete cross-government buy-in." He added: "Defra did its best, but unless you get action from all the other ministries including the Treasury, you're never going to get anywhere." Crucial changes to building standards to make homes more energy efficient were delayed because of industry lobbying, he said.

Last year's government restructure to form a new Department of Energy and Climate Change will make a "huge difference" but will not solve the problem. "No one department is going to be able to deliver the kind of change that we need."

He said government squabbling had derailed efforts to reduce UK carbon dioxide emissions by 20% by 2010 - a key Labour target from the 1997 manifesto which ministers have admitted they will miss. Carbon dioxide emissions have risen by 0.3% since Labour came to power, though Britain remains on track to meet a separate greenhouse gas target under the Kyoto protocol.

"It came down to this argument about the costs to industry, which is what the energy people thought was their priority," Morley said. "Defra would sometimes be presented as a department that was too idealistic and not giving enough attention to the pragmatic needs of industry."

Morley praised the UK's "ground breaking" climate change bill, which commits the government to binding carbon reduction targets, but said there had been significant failures elsewhere. "Why on earth are we still building hospitals without combined heat and power? The answer is the tendering process and the private finance initiative."

He said it was "impossible to say" if he lost his ministerial role because of his doubts over on nuclear power. He is "sceptical" that nuclear can deliver more power than renewables for the same cost.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

British foster carers not told if babies are HIV positive 'to protect the child's human rights'

What about the human rights of others who suffer needless exposure to the virus?

Foster carers have been put at risk by not being told that the babies they are looking after could be HIV positive. Social workers decided that the human rights of a mother wanting to keep her child's status confidential were more important than protecting foster parents, it is claimed. In one case a foster mother, with three young children of her own, was given a new-born baby to look after and not told that he could have HIV. This exposed her, her husband and their children to risk of infection.

Baby J was born last November to a mother known to be HIV positive. During his birth doctors and nurses wore masks, goggles, boots, protective clothing and double sets of gloves to cut the risk of infection. His elder brother had already been taken into care, and social services did the same for Baby J when he was a few days old.

Midwife Tricia McDaid, who questioned social workers about the practice when she became aware of the case in Newham, East London, said: 'This is appalling. Both the babies, the foster carers and their families were put at risk as they were not told. 'The foster parents were asked to administer anti-viral drugs to combat the baby developing HIV but were not told what they were.' Mrs McDaid, 47, says that when she raised the issue with social services she was then moved from her job as a midwife in the community.

Although it is highly likely that babies who are born to HIV positive mothers will also be infected, it is not possible to know for sure until they are 18 months old. So as soon as he was born Baby J was given daily anti-viral drugs to boost his immunity. But crucially the foster family with whom he was placed were not told they were at risk of catching HIV. One of the three children was just two years old.

Mrs McDaid said: 'Newham takes the view that the foster parents don't need to know. 'This happens all the time and it's putting foster carers and their children at terrible risk. 'I was also told by the head of child protection at Newham Hospital that if the foster parents asked me what the drugs were for I would have to lie. 'In my opinion that is breaking the law and breaking the midwife and nursing code of conduct. It also puts the baby at risk as anyone administering drugs to a young baby needs to know exactly what they are and what dosage it should be. 'When I raised difficult questions with the council they ostracised me and tried to freeze me out as they didn't want this getting out.'

Mrs McDaid believes that the council is using Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights - the right to respect for one's private and family life - to protect the mother and child. She said: 'Putting the human right of the mother's confidentiality about her HIV status above the right of the foster carers to know is wrong. 'It's playing Russian roulette with people's lives.'

A Newham council spokesman said: 'Foster carers would normally be expected to be provided with full information, but we admit that this did not happen in this instance. 'The circumstances in this case are complex and we acknowledge that it could have been handled differently. 'Our procedures and protocols are now subject to revision. 'We are launching an investigation and we do not know if any other cases have occurred. 'The pan-London child protection procedures, which we are signed up to, contain guidelines that are primarily aimed at protecting children and ensuring children and their parents who may be HIV positive are not discriminated against.'


Open season on free speech in divided Britain

The right to speak your mind is under growing attack as society splits into ever more special-interest groups all too quick to take offence

It is becoming impossible to keep up with the number of groups and "communities" feeling offended nowadays. In the past week alone, Jews have been offended by Caryl Churchill's play Seven Jewish Children, and Irish and Muslims by Richard Bean's play England People Very Nice. The author Margaret Atwood has been offended by the Dubai literary festival's decision not to invite the obscure author of a novel about a gay sheikh, called The Gulf Between Us, and has pulled out of the event in protest.

As our society fragments into more and more special-interest groups - I'm sorry, I mean, as our society blossoms into an ever more vibrant and diverse "rainbow nation" - these competing groups find more and more reasons to feel offended, and to demand that the law protect them from feeling offended again. This is missing a fundamental point about a democratic state: the right to freedom of speech far outweighs the right not to feel offended. As George Orwell said, "If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."

I criticised Seven Jewish Children last week in my review for this newspaper as a ludicrous, dishonest and grossly antiIsraeli rant. In response I have been accused of hating anything that "smells of Palestinians", of being "rabidly pro-Zionist", "lazy and stupid" and of having something called "a pan-European complex". The first two accusations are false, though I certainly have my moments of laziness and stupidity and am secretly rather proud of having a "pan-European complex".

So far, so good. Critics need to be fairly cheery and thick-skinned souls. As AA Gill put it, if you want to be loved, work with puppies. In one sense, though, Seven Jewish Children, with its outrageous portrait of modern Israel, along with all the criticism and counter-criticism surrounding it, has been quite heartening. Despite all the offence given and taken, nobody has suggested it should be banned. Even Howard Jacobson, who thought the play blatantly antisemitic, a "hate-fuelled little chamber piece" and "wantonly inflammatory", nevertheless remains strictly opposed to censorship.

Meanwhile Jacqui Smith, our dim housewife of a home secretary (is that allowed?), has been banning outspoken foreigners left, right and centre - although mostly right. First there was Geert Wilders, the unfathomably hypocritical Dutchman with the mad hairdo who insists on free speech and wants to ban the Koran.

And then last week, Smith banned Pastor Fred Phelps, the Kansas preacherman who was hoping to fly to England and picket The Laramie Project, a school play in Basingstoke. The play dramatises the true murder of, as Phelps puts it in his robust way, one of the "sodomite damned". In a rare outburst of theatre criticism, Phelps has dismissed the play as "a tawdry bit of banal fag melodrama". He hates Sweden, runs a website called God Hates Fags and believes that predatory homosexuals lurk behind every tree and bush. I suspect the pastor has unresolved issues.

What exactly is Smith trying to achieve by banning the nutter? Does she really think her own electorate are so stupid and easily led as to require protection from him? Does she really think that the good citizens of Basingstoke, if they should be exposed to Phelps in full rant, are suddenly going to think, "Golly, actually, you know, I think he might be right. Now he mentions it, I think God probably does hate fags"? There is no doubt that Phelps is full of hate, but that has never been a crime. And our tradition of freedom of speech exists precisely to allow such people to speak in public, so that we can make up our own minds.

Smith is wrong to ban Wilders and Phelps, just as Wilders in turn is wrong to want to ban the Koran. These busybodies have proven themselves enemies of free speech. Besides, there are so many better, more imaginative, more efficient and even more amusing ways of disarming the loonies than simply banning them. If Smith had thought about it for one minute, even she might have realised that the spectacle of Phelps shrieking, "God hates fags!" outside a school play in Basingstoke would not have constituted a serious threat to anyone, but on the contrary might have added considerably to the gaiety of the nation.

Our political leaders should toughen up a bit, and encourage some of the electorate to toughen up as well. There's nothing dumb about freedom of speech.


Foreign workers could be barred from entering UK

More tokenism. The British authorities are attacking a small number of unfortunate Indians because their treaty obligations mean that the large number of immigrants arriving from Europe (many of whom are not of European origin) must be ignored. Typical British bureaucratic logic: The unrest among the native British workforce has been about Portuguese and Italian workers -- so crack down on Indians!

New measures to bar tens of thousands of foreign workers from outside Europe coming to work in Britain as the recession bites deeper were outlined by the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, today. The package includes possible moves to prevent the families of skilled migrants working in Britain and restricting skilled migrants to taking jobs only in occupations with shortages. It represents a significant tightening of the new Australian-style points-based immigration system only four months after its introduction last November in the face of mounting "British jobs for British workers" protests and fears that the far-right British National Party, will win seats for the first time in June's European elections.

The government has already banned the legal movement of unskilled economic migrants from outside Europe to Britain and the package outlined by the home secretary represents the first move to cut the number skilled migrants coming to work. Smith signalled that raising the qualification levels for tier 1 - the most highly skilled migrant route - could cut the numbers from 26,000 to only 14,000 a year. The new criteria will require a master's rather than a bachelor's degree and a job offer with a minimum salary of 20,000 pounds rather than 17,000. Smith has also asked the government's migration advisory committee to assess the economic case to restrict skilled workers under tier 2 to shortage occupations only. This could cut the numbers from an estimated 80,000 to only 20,000 to 40,000 a year.

The migration advisory committee, chaired by LSE professor David Metcalf, has also been asked to assess the economic impact of banning the spouses and other dependants of foreign workers from taking jobs in Britain. This move could also affect tens of thousands of people who come to work each year mainly from India, Pakistan and parts of Africa. "These measures are not about narrow protectionism," Smith said. "Just as in a growth period we needed migrants to support growth, it is right in a downturn to be more selective about the skill levels of those migrants, and to do more to put British workers first."

The home secretary said the action she was taking "to be more selective" combined with the economic circumstances. As migration levels tend to fall during periods of recession she expected the number of migrants outside of Europe to fall during the next financial year.

The points-based immigration system does not cover the movement of workers from within the European Union to Britain but official immigration figures to be published on Tuesday are expected to confirm that the number of Poles and other eastern Europeans coming to work continues to fall, especially since the decline of the pound against the Euro. Other measures outlined today/yesterday include:

* Employers must advertise tier 2 skilled jobs in JobCentres before they can bring in a worker from outside Europe.

* Migration advisory committee to assess economic contribution made by dependants of those who come under the points-based immigration system and their role in the labour market.

* Each shortage occupation declared by the committee to trigger a skills review of the British labour force and how they can be developed to meet the shortage.

Damian Green, the Conservatives' immigration spokesman, said Smith was just "tinkering around the edges" of the system and said if she wanted to control migrant numbers she should introduce an annual limit.


Latest weapon in War on Fat — dancing classes in school

Sounds harmless and provides a useful social skill

Ballroom dancing is set to become the latest craze in classrooms across Britain, as part of an effort to harness the success of the television show Strictly Come Dancing to combat childhood obesity. In the scheme to be launched tomorrow, schoolchildren in both primary and secondary schools will take part in Strictly Come Dancing-style sessions in school hours. The scheme, which will be piloted in 26 schools across the country, aims at improving youngsters’ health and self-esteem as they learn a range of dance styles. If it proves successful, it will be offered to all schools nationwide from this summer, and slotted into the national curriculum as part of the PE syllabus. Two teachers at each participating school will themselves be given lessons in ballroom dancing techniques so they can lead the sessions. The youngsters will then be put through their paces as they attempt the cha-cha-cha, waltz, jive, salsa and quick step – and other styles of ballroom and Latin dancing.

It will be launched by two of the professional dancers who have partnered celebrities on the BBC show, Darren Bennett and Lilia Kopylova. Darren partnered the actress Jill Halfpenny when she won the competition in 2004, and Lilia danced with the rugby player Matt Dawson – who lost to cricketer Mark Ramprakash in the finals of the 2006 television series. Darren, who first learnt to dance when he was just six years old, said: “Not everyone who learns ballroom dancing is going to take it up as a profession and win trophies, but that’s not the point. “It’s about having fun, getting fit and mixing socially with your peers.” The scheme is being launched by the Aldridge Foundation – an educational foundation which is planning sponsorship of two of the Government’s flagship academies – and City Limits Education.

The chairman of the Aldridge Foundation, Rod Aldridge, said the scheme was “about inspiring the nation’s young people to get off their feet to enjoy the physical exercise and confidence you can gain from ballroom dancing. “Ballroom dancing used to be seen as something old-fashioned and inaccessible – but by making it part of the national curriculum we can break down those barriers and give young people from all backgrounds the chance to benefit.” Mr Aldridge, who founded the Capita Group outsourcing business in 1984, and set up the foundation to concentrate on charitable activities after quitting as the group’s chairman in 2006, spoke of how learning to dance had changed his life.

“I was not particularly good at school. I didn’t do very well,” he said. “I was good at sport, though, and my father and mother introduced me to dance. My confidence and self-esteem were massively high as a result of being able to do it. “Dance wasn’t something a young lad should be doing in those days because it was considered a bit out of character. I did it through a dance school that my mother introduced me to. “Hopefully, those days have changed, now that Strictly Come Dancing has become so popular. I danced competitively until my early twenties and then – sadly – gave it up,” he said.

However, as a special surprise for his 60th birthday party, he invited Darren and Lilia – and trained with Lilia so he could stun guests by putting on a dance show. “It was from there that this started,” Mr Aldridge said.

The introduction of the scheme in primary and secondary schools follows an exhortation from the Health Secretary Alan Johnson for adults to consider taking dance classes as a means to improve their health and fitness and crack down on obesity. The scheme, called “Essentially Dance”, also mirrors a project pioneered in New York public schools, which was featured in the film Take The Lead starring Antonio Banderas. Academic experts who evaluated that project found that engaging young people in the discipline of ballroom dance gave students who struggled academically an outlet of expression that boosted their self-esteem, confidence and improved classroom behaviour.

The UK project will be evaluated by researchers at Roehampton University. Some of the schools involved in the pilot scheme have already been putting pupils through their paces in preparation for tomorrow’s launch.


Irish jokes no longer funny

It had to come. British phone company BT is leading the way
"BT has suspended 30 of its call centre staff after they were caught forwarding an email joke poking fun at the Irish. Bosses at the telecoms firm did not see the funny side of the story, which involves four Irishmen, and an investigation is under way.

But the probe was today branded a waste of time and money, and a cynical ploy to axe staff during the recession. One worker said yesterday: 'Either BT have no sense of humour whatsoever or the bosses are deliberately trying to get shot of people without having to pay any redundancy money.

'The joke was sent around the office as a bit of fun. Everyone is worried about their jobs but we all try and cheer each other up.

The quip involves the death of three Irishmen. The first leaps with a budgie thinking he's budgie-jumping; the second kills a parrot thinking he's parrot-shooting and the third leaps off with a hen, believing he's hen-gliding.

Managers suspended every worker who had forwarded the joke to someone else and warned them they face disciplinary action.


One Brit has the right idea: "Plans to axe new laws that would increase costs for businesses, including enhanced maternity leave and tougher equality legislation, are threatening to blow open a Cabinet rift over how Labour should respond to the economic downturn, The Times has learnt. The proposals, outlined in the Queen's Speech just two months ago, and championed by Harriet Harman, the deputy Labour leader, are at risk after Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, and the Chancellor called for a moratorium on any measures that would add to the current financial pressure on businesses. Right-to-roam legislation and powers to allow councils to ban alcohol promotions are also under threat as the Government prepares to gut its legislative programme in the face of the recession. Lord Mandelson's attempt to purge antibusiness measures comes after a meeting of the Economic Development ministerial committee last week. In a confidential memo ministers have been asked to "advise on a moratorium on legislation and legislative announcements made but not yet implemented that will entail additional costs for businesses".

Monday, February 23, 2009

British police abandon anti-white racism

Police are to scrap controversial race 'diversity' targets that made it harder for white men to win jobs. The decision could end the positive discrimination which has seen ethnic minority applicants selected where white rivals were at least as well qualified. The targets were imposed after police were labelled institutionally racist in the 1999 Macpherson Report into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. Forces were told to recruit ethnic minority officers in direct proportion to the make-up of their local community. The targets, dictated by Whitehall, left many forces under severe pressure to employ thousands of black and other minority groups as soon as possible.

Some overstepped the mark into positive discrimination. Gloucestershire Police even went to the extent of 'deselecting' more than 100 potential recruits purely because they were white. The force later admitted it had acted unlawfully.

Now police minister Vernon Coaker has decided central targets can be dropped, even though few areas have met them. Individual forces will be able to decide their own recruitment pattern. The news came as the Association of Chief Police Officers insisted the service was no longer guilty of institutional racism. ACPO said repeating the charge now was 'unfair and unhelpful'.

Since the blistering Macpherson Report, ten years ago on Tuesday, the number of ethnic minority officers nationwide has doubled. But it is still only around 4.1 per cent, compared to seven per cent in the population as a whole.

Steve Otter, ACPO's lead officer on race and diversity, welcomed the decision to axe the Whitehall targets. He said: 'There is no doubt that the targets set in 1999 were very ambitious and the scale of the challenge they posed has acted as a catalyst for change across the police service. 'As with all targets, crude measures can drive output but come to the end of their usefulness eventually.'

Asked if it was still fair or accurate to describe the police service as institutionally racist, ACPO said: 'The short answer is no. 'That is not to say that racist incidents within the police service never take place. Regrettably, they do. 'But in the years since Stephen Lawrence, the police service has shown it is willing to listen and learn from past events. 'When prejudice does occur there is a firm desire throughout the service and especially among its leadership to tackle it robustly. 'As a term, "institutionally racist" attempts to sum up in two words the entire experience of thousands of men and women across the police service who daily do their best on the public's behalf. 'That is both unfair and unhelpful, and it fails to take any account of the very real progress which has been made.'

Mr Otter said he agreed with recent remarks by equalities watchdog Trevor Phillips that it was time to move on from focusing on the single issue of race and from a 'box-ticking culture' around racism law.

The tenth anniversary of Macpherson will be marked by a special conference on Tuesday. Justice Secretary Jack Straw, who commissioned the Macpherson inquiry when he was Home Secretary in 1999, will say he is 'proud' of the progress that has been made over the past ten years.

Stephen Lawrence, 18, was stabbed to death in Eltham, South-East London, in a racist attack by five white youths in April 1993. No one has ever been convicted of the murder. The Macpherson Report said the Metropolitan Police investigation had been 'marred by institutional racism'. It was accepted at the time that the charge of institutional racism applied to the police nationwide.

Today Mr Straw said Macpherson had been 'a watershed'. He added that, while recruitment had dramatically improved, there was still much work to be done on the retention and promotion of ethnic officers.

Mr Coaker said: 'We are determined to work with the police service to offer fair and equal opportunities to all its members, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or background.'

Gloucestershire Police pursued its discriminatory recruitment policy in 2006. Chief Constable Dr Timothy Brain's force confessed it had acted unlawfully by dashing the men's hopes because of their sex and skin colour. White women who applied were not discriminated against because of a separate policy, unrelated to Macpherson, aimed at encouraging the recruitment of women.

Earlier this week, however, the Runnymede Trust said problems in the police service meant the criticism of institutional racism still applied. The report said: 'Ten years after the publication of the inquiry report, there is still significant progress to be made - notably in relation to the career experiences of black and minority ethnic officers and the disproportionate use of stop and search procedures against black groups. 'It is difficult, in light of these continued challenges, to argue that the charge of institutional racism no longer applies.'


British government determined to destroy any good schools in their sector

It takes good pupils to make good schools. Feral children will make any school a sink school. To preserve good education for the able poor, what is needed is a totally different policy: Separating out disruptive pupils and sending them to schools designed to deal with their problems. That's not blue sky. Something similar is already being done under Labor party governments in some parts of Australia. If it keeps on its present course, the British government will simply ensure that only privately-educated kids will be equipped to take leadership positions in Britain -- which is the opposite of what they claim to want

Thousands of children must take part in random lotteries for school places in a Government attempt to break a middle-class stranglehold on the best schools. Schools in a quarter of council areas are allocating places by lottery or "fair banding" – in which the school uses test results to deliberately select a proportion of pupils of poor ability. The move could cause difficulties for affluent families who have dominated successful schools by buying houses within their catchment areas, often paying a premium of tens of thousands of pounds.

Last year, Brighton became the first area to allocate places at all oversubscribed schools through lotteries after Government reforms gave councils and schools the power to do so. The policy is designed to make all state schools truly comprehensive by ensuring they contain pupils of mixed abilities and social backgrounds, rather than being dominated by those who can afford to live nearby.

The Daily Telegraph has found that lotteries and fair banding are in widespread use across the country. At least one of the methods is being used by state secondary schools in a quarter of the 150 council areas with responsibility for education across England. This means that up to 150,000 pupils applying for places this year could effectively have their futures decided "by the roll of a dice". Critics said that the methods amounted to social engineering and threatened misery for many middle-class families. Children can be forced to travel several miles every day after being turned down by their local school.

Michael Gove, the shadow schools secretary, said the Tories would prevent local authorities from enforcing lotteries in future, calling them an "unsatisfactory" way of assigning places. "The real problem is the lack of good schools," he said. "Far too many parents are denied a chance to educate their children in high quality schools."

Robert McCartney, the head of the National Grammar Schools Association, said: "There is something mildly offensive about a child's future being decided by nothing more than the roll of a dice." Margaret Morrissey, of the campaign group Parents Outloud, said the increasing use of lotteries was evidence that the Government was going back on its pledge to offer parents more choice.

The Daily Telegraph surveyed all 150 councils in England with responsibility for education. Of the 135 that responded, 25 said that some secondary schools in their area were using lotteries to assign places this year, while 22 said some of their schools were using "fair banding" to deal with oversubscription. Some council areas had schools using both methods, meaning that in total 37 councils had schools using at least one of them.

Juliette McCaffrey, a Labour councillor who was removed from Brighton & Hove council committee because of her opposition to lotteries, said they had failed to bring about the cultural diversity that their proponents promised. "If you look at the free meals statistics it didn't change the social make-up of the schools. It didn't benefit the people with lower educational aspirations – all it did was force some middle-class families to send their children to schools miles away."

Approximately 600,000 children are applying for places this September, and will find out in a fortnight if they have a place at their chosen school. Mark Willimott, a senior assistant principal at Brooke Weston Academy in Corby, Northamptonshire, which adopted random allocation last year, said: "It's the only way of giving every child a fair chance. If you are just going to draw a straight line from the school you are going to get the problem of rich parents buying houses on the local estate and sending up house prices."

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said that random allocation and fair banding were options open to schools to ensure fair admissions.


University policy goes full circle in Britain

The former polytechnics are to take back much of their previous role of providing adult education and vocational degrees rather than trying to ape leading academic institutions under reforms being drawn up by John Denham, the universities secretary. The change will mark a shift in policy for the government, which for years has tried to promote the research credentials of “new” universities alongside those of traditional institutions. It follows the eruption of “class war” between vice-chancellors this year over how to share 1.5 billion pounds of research funding. Universities created since 1992 claim they are entitled to a far higher share than in the past.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Denham also signalled an easing of Labour attacks on Oxbridge “elitism” long pursued by ministers including Gordon Brown. Denham instead wants to encourage the emergence of an elite including Oxford, Cambridge and a handful of others. These would receive most research funding, although “pockets of excellence” in the post1992 group would also get a fair share. Denham will launch a strategy for higher education this summer and will give indications of its direction in a speech this week.

The concrete changes will include a fresh form of vocational degree. This will be offered mainly by new universities and will benefit teenagers who take specified vocational qualifications rather than A-levels. For example, those serving apprenticeships in hotels and restaurants could earn degrees in hotel management, while those with vocational qualifications in building could study part-time for a degree in construction while working on site. “I want to nurture the different parts of the system,” said Denham. “[For example] research-intensive universities and the ones who do most for part-time and adult education.” He added: “The truth is that a classics degree at a traditional university is not the same as a degree in mining and engineering at another.”

Denham has told friends that a country this size can probably support no more than five to 10 universities as an equivalent to America’s Ivy League. His remarks will come as a relief to leading universities. Labour has been putting them under relentless pressure to increase the proportion of students they admit from poorer backgrounds.

Denham, who attended a comprehensive in Lyme Regis, Dorset, and Southampton University, acknowledged that post1992 institutions must take the lead in bringing more working-class pupils into higher education. “Institutions that take most of the students who would not traditionally have gone to university are in a different position from those that are most research-intensive and selective,” he said. “We are not expecting those places to be the major places for widening participation.” He added: “We can’t expect universities to put right the whole welter of social disadvantage, low aspirations, lack of tradition of going to higher education.” The minister does, however, believe leading universities should put strenuous efforts into encouraging more applications from the 10,000 or so highly able teenagers from poorer families who never even apply “perhaps because nobody inspired them”.

Denham’s approach is likely to anger vice-chancellors of former polytechnics and dozens of other institutions that have been turned into universities in the past 16 years. Last week Malcolm Mc-Vicar, vice-chancellor of the University of Central Lancashire, warned that dividing institutions by role was “outdated” and could “lead to a row that will make the 2005 fees row look like a Sunday afternoon tea party”.


British parents told by government: avoid morality in sex lessons

PARENTS should avoid trying to convince their teenage children of the difference between right and wrong when talking to them about sex, a new government leaflet is to advise. Instead, any discussion of values should be kept "light" to encourage teenagers to form their own views, according to the brochure, which one critic has called "amoral".

Talking to Your Teenager About Sex and Relationships will be distributed in pharmacies from next month as part of an initiative led by Beverley Hughes, the children's minister. The leaflet comes in the wake of the case of Alfie Patten, the 13-year-old boy from East Sussex who fathered a child with a 15-year-old girl and sparked a debate about how to cut rates of teenage parenthood. It advises: "Discussing your values with your teenagers will help them to form their own. Remember, though, that trying to convince them of what's right and wrong may discourage them from being open."

The leaflet suggests that parents should start the "big talk" with children as young as possible, before they pick up "misinformation" from their peers in adolescence. The best way to raise the topic may be while performing mundane tasks such as "washing the car . . . washing up, watching TV, etc", it says. The leaflet provides technical information on different forms of contraception, from condoms to implants, and will reignite the row over the government's "value-free" approach to sex education.

Simon Calvert, deputy director of the Christian Institute, attacked the leaflet, saying: "The idea that the government is telling families not to pass on their values is outrageous. "Preserving children's innocence is a worthy goal. We would like to see more of that kind of language rather than this amoral approach where parents are encouraged to present their children with a smorgasbord of sexual activities and leave them to make up their own minds."

Linda Blair, a clinical psychologist, said educating older children and teenagers about sex had to be a process of negotiation. "We do not know what is right and wrong; right and wrong is relative, although your child does need clear guidelines," she said.

Hughes said the government "doesn't bring up children but . . . it does have a role to play in supporting parents and giving them access to advice and information".

Labour's attempts to cut the rate of teenage pregnancy through education are showing signs of faltering. From 1998 to 2006, the under-18 conception rate fell by 12.9% to its lowest level since the mid-1980s. But last year it began to edge up again. New figures will be announced this week.


NHS blunders are behind a spate of 'vaccine overloads'

Children are being given the wrong vaccinations and repeat doses of jabs they have already had due to mix-ups at GPs' surgeries. Nearly 1,000 safety incidents involving child immunisations were reported in a single year. Of those studied in detail, more than a third involved babies and children given a different vaccine to the one they were supposed to have. Other blunders included delays to children having important vaccinations, infants given drugs that were out of date and allergic reactions. It is said all of the incidents could have been avoided if doctors or nurses had checked medical records or drug details thoroughly.

Last night campaigners said these mistakes were the `tip of the iceberg' and expressed fears of a `vaccine overload' from Britain's growing childhood immunisation schedule. A report by the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA), the watchdog which monitors NHS errors, looked at 949 incidents involving jabs reported in 2007. A detailed study was made of 138 of these cases, picked at random. Eight caused children `moderate harm'.

In 36 per cent of cases a child was given the wrong vaccination. If the sample is representative, it means that hundreds are given the wrong immunisation every year. And, as the reporting of incidents by medical professionals is voluntary, the true number could be much higher.

In 23 per cent of incidents there were errors in documenting the vaccine, while there were delays in 17 per cent of cases. Other problems included incorrect storage of the jabs or out-of-date vaccines having to be thrown away.

GP Dr Richard Halvorsen, of the Babyjabs clinic in Central London, said: `These cases are probably the tip of the iceberg. It's worrying when children are getting the wrong vaccines at the wrong times but it's an inevitable consequence of the vaccination schedule, which is one of the most complex in the world. `Of course things are going to go wrong - it's a recipe for mistakes.'

Children receive 32 immunisations before they reach four. And the Government is now discussing whether also to give chickenpox and flu jabs. The most controversial vaccine is combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).

Jackie Fletcher, of campaign group Justice, Action, Basic Support (JABS), said: `Children are sometimes given MMR when they go to get their pre-school booster for diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough, even if parents have explicitly said they do not want them to have it. To think mistakes occur time and time again is horrendous.'

Previously healthy Jodie Marchant, who is now 17, was left severely brain-damaged and with a gut disorder after being given seven vaccines in a single jab at 14 months. Her parents, Bill and Pat, from Southampton, had requested that she was given only MMR. A claim for damages failed because there was not enough research into the vaccines. The Marchants are now suing their GP practice. Mr Marchant, 68, said: `To think so many other children suffer vaccine mix-ups is appalling.'

The NPSA said new packaging guidelines for jabs would `eradicate' errors. The Department of Health said: `Staff are trained to administer vaccines safely, follow the childhood immunisation schedule and to record it all.'


Yesterday's history is today's politics (Comment from Britain): "The Petrograd Strikes, which heralded the start of the 1917 Revolution in Russia commenced on 22 February; find a moment for reflection this Sunday. Even though the Soviet system of Communism lasted for 69 years, its ideology is evidently still very much alive and well: the British government now spends half the nation's income. Yesterday's history is today's politics, to adapt the adage. This Thursday our very own Nicholas II went to see the Pope. Perhaps he asked the Vicar of Christ to pray for a miracle - huge monetary expansion without hyperinflation - or perhaps he asked for the economy to receive the Last Rites. Ironically, one of the things the Prime Minister did discuss was freeing the world from poverty. He can contribute best to this desirable goal in Great Britain by the near abolishment of the State."

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