Friday, March 27, 2009

Negligent NHS hospital nearly gets healthy baby aborted

Baby Deacon Lewis is a lively, healthy baby who sleeps right through the night and is a joy to his proud parents. But Deacon, who is now six months old, was almost aborted after doctors told his mother he almost certainly suffered from a chromosome disorder that would eventually kill him.

Dawn Lewis, 26, says she was advised to have an abortion when a routine 12-week scan showed her child had Edward's syndrome. The condition causes serious heart and kidney problems with less than half of babies surviving beyond eight weeks.

After four years of trying for a baby, Miss Lewis and her partner Jonathan Blemmings, 26, a construction worker, were devastated. But Miss Lewis, a childminder, refused to have an abortion and decided to seek a second opinion on her baby's condition. She was referred to the specialist maternity hospital where a more sophisticated test found no evidence of the disorder. She said: 'I was absolutely delighted to find my baby was healthy but also horrified that I could have had him aborted. 'I was shocked that I had been advised to have a termination without first being offered a second scan and further tests. 'Thankfully we decided to pursue a second opinion because if we hadn't then Deacon may not have been here today.'

The couple have now made an official complaint to Rochdale Infirmary in Greater Manchester over the severe distress caused by the alleged mistake. They also want to warn other prospective parents that medical advice to terminate a pregnancy may not always be correct.

Miss Lewis, who has a six-year-old daughter Ayla, said: 'Many people would have taken the doctors' advice and never have known they had aborted a healthy child. It is only because of our determination to have another child that our son is with us today. 'We are really shocked that the experts we trusted got this so badly wrong and we think it's important to let other people know they don't always get things right.'

The saga began in March last year when Miss Lewis, of Rochdale, went to the hospital for a routine 12-week scan. As well as checking the baby's heartbeat and size, the scan also measures the amount of fluid at the back of the baby’s neck. Known as the nuchal translucency test, the measurement, along with the mother's age, the age of the baby and the presence or absence of the baby's nasal bone, can calculate the likelihood of the baby having a chromosomal abnormality.

'The doctor told me he was 99 per cent sure my baby had a chromosome 18 abnormality which was Edward's syndrome,' Miss Lewis said. 'He told me there would be absolutely no quality of life for my baby and told me the best thing to do would be to have a termination. 'But Jonathan and I had been trying for a baby for four years and we were not going to have an abortion so we sought a second opinion.'

A scan at St Mary's Hospital in Manchester followed four days later. She added: 'Because my pregnancy was too early for a amniocentesis test, doctors tested a tiny sample of tissue from the placenta. After a nail-biting two days the results came back that my baby did not suffer from the abnormality.'

The boy was born in Rochdale in September without complications and is now doing well

Edward's syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all or part of an extra chromosome resulting in heart abnormalities, kidney malformations, and other internal organ disorders. It affects around one in around 3,000 babies with less than 10 per cent of sufferers surviving beyond their first year.

Mr Blemmings said: 'Even after the tests at St Mary's it was always in the back of our minds that our baby might be seriously ill, even when he was born we were really anxious. It took me a few weeks to accept he was really okay.' Deacon was born at Rochdale Infirmary and the couple have no complaints about their treatment during the birth.

A spokesman for Pennine Acute Hospitals, which runs Rochdale Infirmary, said: 'We will be conducting a full investigation into this complaint. We will make a formal response to Miss Lewis when our investigation is completed.'


Will they lock me up for playing Widow Twankey?

A British homosexual actor rejects the need for new speech laws

During the dark days of Soviet oppression, there was a joke that did the rounds in Russia. ' Homosexuality is a crime and the punishment is seven years in prison locked up with other men. There is a three-year waiting list.' Don't laugh too loudly. It could soon be illegal to repeat a joke like that.

I'm not kidding. In the name of challenging 'homophobia', the Government is planning to push legislation through Parliament that will make it a serious crime to use any language which could be construed as offensive to gay men and women. The new law will even override the basic requirements of freedom of speech, one of the pillars of our democracy.

All comedy, entertainment, TV, books and radio will be subjected to this new regime if it comes into existence, no doubt rigorously enforced by an army of boot-faced, unsmiling commissars desperately trying to find some infringement of their rules. The politically correct censors will be our own British version of the East German Stasi. Under this proposed new orthodoxy, almost any colourful display of theatrical high camp could be presented as stereotyping of gay life and would therefore fall foul of the law.

So no more repeats of Are You Being Served. In place of John Inman's deliciously shrill battle cry, 'I'm free', there would be only the silent void of Puritanism. No more showings of Carry On movies with Kenneth Williams and Charles Hawtrey, no more Matt Lucas sketches of the Only Gay In The Village.

Those of us who have made something of a habit of taking to the stage as pantomime dames will be living in fear of the knock at the door, wondering whether we will be charged with wearing wigs, high heels and lipstick in a public place. Widow Twankey might have to be performed in secret locations to groups of brave dissidents.

This might all sound absurd. The proposers of the new law would, no doubt, claim they are only seeking to ban extreme abuse of gays and lesbians. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions. New laws so often have unintended consequences, especially when they are introduced not to combat a genuine crime but to establish the state's view of orthodox thinking.

If this legal change really came into practice, there is no doubt it would create a new climate of fear, stifling creativity and restricting the scope for humour. This is exactly the point made by Rowan Atkinson, the comedian who has campaigned heroically to protect freedom of speech in this country from the interfering busy-bodies. Speaking to members of the House of Lords last week, he warned that if the legislation became law, then writers and performers would adopt a form of self-censorship to avoid falling foul of the authorities.

In such a world, it is unlikely that Rowan would dare to come up with some of the dazzling performances that made his reputation - like the wonderful sketch in Blackadder Goes Forth, where he was being held in prison and sent for Bob Massingberd, the finest lawyer in England, to secure his liberty. Outlining the brilliant courtroom gifts of Massingberd, Blackadder recalled the lawyer's role as prosecutor in the trial of Oscar Wilde: 'Big, bearded, butch Oscar - the terror of the ladies; 114 illegitimate children, world heavyweight boxing champion and author of the pamphlet Why I Like To Do It With Girls. And Massingberd had him sent down for being a whoopsie.'

You can just imagine the outraged intake of breath from officialdom at that word 'whoopsie'.

In fact, even before the legislation is introduced, the censors have been at work, as I discovered to my own cost. In 2007, the BBC showed repeats of that wonderful sitcom Porridge, in which I was lucky enough to play the rather effeminate prisoner nicknamed Lukewarm. But in its determination to uphold fashionable thinking, the Beeb decided to strike out one passage where Ronnie Barker's character Fletcher, in response to a remark that Lukewarm always kept his cell clean, said: 'Well, that sort do, don't they?' I thought the whole thing was utterly ludicrous. Far from being homophobic, Porridge handled the whole gay issue with sensitivity as well as humour - indeed, with far more sensitivity than the clod-hopping zealots show today.

I sometimes have to ask myself what is happening to dear old Britain. Humour is meant to be part of our national DNA. Yet the politically-correct brigade are behaving like a bunch of Cromwellians, cracking down on any signs of laughter. In these times of mass unemployment, economic recession and financial crisis, hasn't the Government got anything better to do than waste taxpayers' money on this killjoy campaign?

Supporters of this change like to pose as the protectors of the gay community, but they are nothing of the sort. The idea that we are all such enfeebled victims that we cannot take a single joke is actually an insult. Most gay men and women love self-deprecating humour and camp exaggeration of stereotypes. That is why drag artists are so popular on the gay scene. It can hardly be a coincidence that the two greatest wits of the modern English theatre, Oscar Wilde and Noel Coward, were both gay, since the glamour of showbusiness and quickness of dialogue has such an appeal to large numbers of gays.

The great American comedienne Joan Rivers once put it well: 'Gay people were the first to find me out, they're so sharp. I'll look out in the audience and I see three or four gay guys in the front row or a couple of lesbians and I know it's going to be a good show.'

Camp humour is an integral part of British culture, as epitomised in the pantomime dames of the old music hall.

Even when homosexuality was illegal in Britain, the popularity of the BBC radio show Round The Horne, featuring the camp solicitors Julian and Sandy, or the performances of drag artist Danny La Rue, showed that the public was not nearly as intolerant as the political establishment believed. Showbusiness and comedy provided a route to acceptance, not oppression.

Recently, I read of a remarkable instance of such tolerance during World War II, on one air base of Bomber Command. You could not get a tougher, more hardened masculine environment, yet one flier, 'queer as a coot', used to provide uproarious entertainment by going on stage at the station in drag under the name 'Miss Dillis Fixey', an inversion of the famous female stripper of the time, Phyllis Dixey. To wild cheers, he would then perform his own striptease, only to reveal, on shedding the final garment, the slogan emblazoned across his chest: 'Not tonight, darling.' I suppose the modern censor would disapprove of that act, condemning it as nothing more stereotyping.

Showbiz, camp theatrics and dazzling wit helped to pave the way for gay rights. They should be cherished, not suppressed. It is bitterly ironic that, in the name of tolerance, the Government should be marching towards such a culture of intolerance.

The politically correct bigots should not be allowed to have it both ways. They cannot say, on one hand, that gay lifestyles should be accepted as a perfectly normal part of life, and then, on the other, demand special treatment for gay people to shield them from everyday humour. We are more grown up than that. But just as importantly, we must not be allowed to lose the ability to laugh at ourselves. In these times of crisis, laughter is more vital than ever.


Crucial medical research 'threatened' by EU animal welfare plan

Important medical research into conditions such as autism, Parkinson’s disease, strokes and Aids will be “closed down” if a European Union directive on animal experiments is passed in its current form, leading scientists said yesterday. Vital studies of brain and cell function that promise new therapies for serious disorders would be blocked by the proposed regulations, turning Europe into a “scientific backwater”, a coalition of research organisations warned.

The directive also threatens the capacity of European countries to defend against a flu pandemic, it was claimed. It would bring hens’ eggs, which are critical to the production of flu vaccines, under the scope of vivisection regulations, creating costs and bureaucracy that could drive vaccine manufacture out of Europe.

The proposals from the European Commission and the European Parliament would create new bureaucratic burdens for scientists without delivering benefits for animal welfare, and sometimes increasing suffering, the experts said. The new rules would impose stringent restrictions on monkey experiments that would effectively ban research intended to improve understanding of neurological conditions and infectious diseases.

Nine British research groups, including the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council and the Association of Medical Research Charities, issued a “declaration of concern” about revision to Directive 86/609. The European Science Foundation, the European Medical Research Councils and the Pasteur Institute in France also protested about its contents before a European Parliament debate that begins next week.

Sir Mark Walport, the director of the Wellcome Trust, Europe’s biggest biomedical research charity, said that the directive “would simply close down some aspects of medical research that can only be addressed by animal models”. He added: “It will increase the costs of research and the bureaucracy of research, and I’m afraid we think it will bring little or no benefit for animal welfare at all.”

One of the chief concerns is a clause that bars the use of nonhuman primates in research intended to investigate basic brain or immune system functions rather than to test new therapies for particular diseases. Primate experiments would be allowed only if they directly examined “life-threatening or debilitating” conditions. This would have blocked studies that have transformed understanding of the brain, such as the discovery of cells called mirror neurons that are involved in autism, the experts said. Roger Lemon, Professor of Neurophysiology at University College London, said: “Blocking basic research in nonhuman primates would render the EU a scientific backwater.” Research with implications for Parkinson’s disease, strokes, malaria and HIV/Aids would suffer.

Tim Hammond, of the drug company AstraZeneca and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, said that the extension of animal regulations to cover eggs would be disastrous for vaccine production. “It would encourage companies to move outside the EU, which would give us real issues in terms of access to vaccines in a flu pandemic,” he said.

The directive was published by the Commission last November, and a European Parliament committee will vote on amendments next Tuesday. Animal rights groups urged MEPs to resist the campaign to amend the draft directive. Emily McIvor, the policy director of the Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research, said: “The revision of [the directive] is a great opportunity to make a better deal for animals in laboratories.”


Hunt supporters say decision to drop charges against three hunt masters proves ban has failed

Hunt supporters have hailed a decision to drop charges of illegal hunting against three members of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds as evidence that the ban has failed and leads to "confusion, cost and conflict". The case against joint-master Maurice Scott, huntsman Donald Summersgill, and whipper-in Peter Heard was dropped on Friday.

The Crown Prosecution Service said that, in the light of a High Court ruling in February, it was for the prosecution to prove a hunt was not carrying out exempt hunting. The case was the second under the Hunting Act to be dropped by the CPS this month. The three men were charged with illegal hunting in 2006, and pleaded not guilty on the basis that their hunting was "exempt" and therefore legal.

Mr Scott said: "This is a huge relief, not just for myself, and others facing the charges but for hunting as a whole."

Simon Hart, the Countryside Alliance chief executive, said: "There have only been three successful prosecutions of hunts, involving five people, since the Act came into force in February 2005. "The decision to drop this case suggests that prosecutions under the Hunting Act will now be even rarer. "It could not now be more obvious that this Act has failed and all it now promotes is confusion, cost and conflict."

The CPS dropped four charges of illegal hunting against a huntsman, Julian Barnfield, of the Heythrop Hunt, in Oxfordshire, earlier this month. That decision followed a High Court ruling that the use of dogs to search for a wild mammal in order to stalk it or flush it out was not in breach of the Act.


St. Andrews University: Global Warming Loses in Formal Debate

AGW supporters could not argue facts, had to insult instead -- as usual

By Richard Courtney

I write to report on a debate that defeated the motion "This House Believes Global Warming is a Global Crisis" during a meeting of the St Andrews University Debating Society. It is difficult to arrange a debate of anthropogenic (that is, man-made) global warming (AGW) because few proponents of AGW are willing to face such debate. They know from past experience that they always lose such debates because there is no evidence that AGW exists and much evidence that it does not.

However, on Wednesday 4 March 2009, the St Andrews University Debating Society held their debate of the motion, "This House Believes Global Warming is a Global Crisis" in the Old Parliament Building, St Andrews. The debate was organized and presided over with exemplary efficiency and professionalism by the Speaker of the Society, Ms Jessica Siegel. It was conducted with all the pomp and ceremony that could be expected of an ancient society of so ancient and prestigious a university.

And the debate was lively, informative and entertaining. It got emotional at times. Some of the contributions from the floor were of exceptionally high quality. But, it was somewhat spoiled by the weakness of the proponents of the motion. (I have good reason to suspect this weakness is because stronger speakers could not be obtained to propose the motion. If so, then it is yet another example of leading proponents of AGW fearing to face their critics in open debate).

The proponents of the motion were Ross Finnie MSP, former Scottish Government Minister for Environment and Rural Development; Mike Robinson, Chief Executive of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society and Chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland; Gregory Norminton, Novelist `Serious Things', Environmental Activist, Founder of `Alliance against Urban 4x4s'

The motion was opposed by myself, and Nils-Axel Morner, Leader of the Maldives International Sea-Level Project who was awarded the `Golden Contrite of Merits' by Algarve University, Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, Former advisor to then UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and now an Investigator of Scientific Frauds.

Each speaker was given a strict maximum of 7 minutes to speak. The speakers would alternate between proponents and opponents of the motion until all 6 had spoken. No speaker was allowed to speak more than once except to raise a point of information, order, or etc.

The proponents had clearly not prepared. They were not co-ordinated in their presentations, they each lacked any significant knowledge of the science of AGW, and they each assumed that AGW is a fact. None of them made a substantial presentation of arguments supporting the motion, and they all (including the politician!) lacked adequate skills at public speaking. The opponents of the motion were a sharp contrast to that. They each have significant expertise in their subject, and they had agreed the case they were to put and how they were to put it. Also, they are all very competent public speakers and their very different styles made their presentation much better than the sum of its parts.

Finnie spoke first. He argued that AGW is a fact because the United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has published its Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) that says the IPCC is "90% certain" that AGW exists. From this he claimed there is a "crisis" because governments are failing to give the matter sufficient importance. It is necessary for governments to decide a treaty that would follow-on from the Kyoto Ptotocol that intends to constrain emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) but ends in 2012. The decision needs to be made at a meeting later this year.

I replied by outlining the case for the opposition. My speech is copied here. It asserts that governments do need to have policies on climate change but empirical evidence denies the existence of AGW and so there is no need to constrain fossil fuel emissions. Indeed, the harm caused by the emission constraints would be greater than any harm that AGW could induce if it were to exist.

Robinson's response was very angry. He seemed to think attacking the opposition speakers would provide a victory for the motion. Almost his entire speech was attempted defamation of the opposition speakers. Within seconds of starting to speak he had accused them of being "like supporters of the Nazis in 1930s Germany" (my family lost everything in the blitz so I did not take kindly to that). The speakers on the opposition side "could not get anything published in peer-reviewed journals" (Morner and I each shouted out that we have and we do). And much of the same. He said people and governments must act to stop global warming (but he did not say how they should act) because - according to him - if a person had an elevated temperature of 2 degrees then he would die so we cannot let the Earth get 2 degrees hotter in case that kills the Earth.

Morner then gave a witty, entertaining and informative lecture on sea level change. The major potential threat from AGW is severe sea-level change. He interacted with the audience and selected one individual to jape with (his skill at this selection was later demonstrated when that individual stood and gave a speech that won the prize - of a Society neck-tie - for best speech from the floor). Morner presented data that showed sea level is not rising as a result of AGW at a detectable rate anywhere.

Norminton then spoke to conclude the case for the proponents of the motion. Like Finnie he seemed to be extremely nervous: both were shaking during their presentations. Norminton's hand was shaking so much he put it into his pocket. (I know others interpret this to be nervousness, but I think it was extreme anger: Norminton had not expected any opposition to the motion, and the assertion of clear evidence that AGW does not exist was - to him - an outrage too hard to accept.) Also, like Finnie, he did not address the motion. He said he was not a scientist so he had to accept the word of scientists about global warming and scientists agree that global warming is real and man-made. He said, the speakers on the opposition side were "not scientists". Lord Monckton interjected that "Courtney and Morner are". And Norminton replied, "So was Mengele." Monckton raised a Point of Order demanding withdrawal of the remark. Norminton lacked the wit to withdraw and move on, so he refused to withdraw. Monckton persisted pressing the Point of Order and Norminton continued to refuse to withdraw. Only moments before Morner had made himself the lecturer the students would most like to have, and support for Norminton drained away as he insisted that Morner was akin to a murderer operating in a Nazi concentration camp. Norminton continued by saying the threat of global warming was real, and it was killing polar bears, but it is not clear that anybody was listening to him.

Monckton then summated the case for the opposition. He had not prepared a speech but took notes of the proponents' speeches with a view to refuting arguments of the proponents that Morner and myself had not covered, and by defending the opposition case against rebuttals of its arguments. This was a deliberate use by our side of Monckton's debating skills. But he had a problem because the proponents of the motion had not made a case and they had not addressed any of our arguments. Instead, they had made personal attacks on the opposition speakers, and they had asserted - with no evidence or argument - that the IPCC is right. So, Monckton's summarizing speech consisted of evidence that the proponents of the motion had merely provided errors of logic and fact but they had not a case. He pointed out that polar bears had quadrupled their number in recent decades and this was not a sign that their species is threatened. And he cited and named each of the logical fallacies utilized by the proponents of the motion.

The debate then opened to the floor. Four persons each spoke well. One gave a balanced presentation and the other three spoke in favour of the motion. But by then the debate had been settled. Prior to the debate the opponents of the motion had expected to lose the vote because the students have been exposed to a lifetime (i.e. their short lifetime) of pro-AGW propaganda. We consoled ourselves with the certainty that we would win the arguments because opponents of AGW have all the facts on our side. But in the event we won both. The motion was defeated when put to the vote.



Two reports below:

Exit Winston Churchill, enter Twitter ... Yes, it's the new British primary school curriculum

Primary schools could ditch traditional lessons in favour of teaching children how to use social networking sites such as Twitter, it emerged yesterday. The usual Leftist fear of knowledge at work

In the biggest education shake-up for 20 years, pupils would no longer have to learn about the Romans, Vikings, Tudors, Victorians or the Second World War. Instead, under the blueprint for a new primary curriculum – which was drawn up by former Ofsted chief Sir Jim Rose following a request from Children's Secretary Ed Balls – they would have to be able to master websites such as Wikipedia, as well as blogging and podcasting. Compulsory sex education will start from five and children as young as nine will be taught to make 'informed decisions' about taking drugs and drinking alcohol.

As swathes of prescribed knowledge in science, history and geography are stripped back, schools will be encouraged to put a big emphasis on internet skills, environmental education, healthy eating and well-being. 'English will cover 'media texts' and 'social and collaborative forms of communication' alongside traditional works of literature.

These should include 'emails, messaging, wikis and twitters'. Wikis, as in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, are information databases that rely on being edited by the public, regardless of whether they have any specialist knowledge in the subject being discussed. Twitter is the latest phenomenon in social networking that entails writing short messages of just 140 characters to update other users of one's activities, feelings or thoughts.

Sir Jim's proposals are the biggest shakeup of primary schooling since the Tories introduced a national curriculum in 1988. But the final draft, which was leaked yesterday, was last night branded 'dangerous' and an assault on knowledge, while critics said children were accustomed to using modern media at home and needed no encouragement at school.

Robert Whelan, deputy director of the Civitas think-tank, which published a damning critique on the curriculum two years ago, said: 'This is yet another step on the journey to drain all academic content from the school curriculum and to replace discrete bodies of knowledge, which have been organised under subject headings for hundreds of years, with a lot of social engineering and flabby attempts at feelgood philosophy. 'These proposals will only serve to increase the educational apartheid between the state and independent sector, because the latter will retain traditional subjects.'

Pointing out the need for greater historical education, not less, he said he had recently asked a group of pupils in their late years at primary school when Shakespeare lived, and the answer came back as '50 years ago'.

Sean Lang, senior lecturer in History at Anglia Ruskin University and secretary of the Historical Association, said: 'This is part and parcel of a general trend both at primary and secondary level to downgrade knowledge, as if all you need is techniques, and knowledge is just stuff you get from the web.'

The Conservatives' education spokesman, Michael Gove, said: 'Sir Jim Rose's review of the primary curriculum has already promised to teach our children less. Now it proposes to replace solid knowledge with nods towards all the latest technological fashions.'

Under the proposed curriculum, children must also gain 'fluency' in keyboard skills as well as handwriting, and learn to use a spellchecker as well as learning to spell. Meanwhile a physical development, health and wellbeing programme will make sex education compulsory in primaries for the first time. From around the age of five, pupils will be taught about gender differences while at nine, they will learn about 'the physical changes that take place in the human body as they grow and how these relate to human reproduction'. They will also be told 'how new relationships may develop'. Under this section, schools will be required to cover healthy diets but will able to offer less variety of competitive sport.

Schools Minister Jim Knight said: 'Sir Jim Rose's report has not been completed let alone published yet – but we are already getting stories about dropping this or removing that from the curriculum. The bottom line is that we are working with experts to free up the curriculum in a way that teachers have asked us to do but British history has, and always will be, a core part of education in this country. 'Of course pupils in primary schools will learn about major periods including the Romans, the Tudors and the Victorians and will be taught to understand a broad chronology of major events in this country and the wider world.'


British grade-schools will teach seven-year-olds to speak properly

Primary school pupils will be taught to speak properly and recognise how to use standard English in formal settings, under proposals to overhaul of the curriculum for seven to 11-year-olds. The proposals will place strict emphasis on teaching children to “adjust what they say according to the formality of the context and the needs of their audience”. The reforms, to be finalised in April, follow similar changes to the secondary curriculum, which aimed to banish expressions such as “I ain’t” from pupils’ presentations.

They will also be taught how to create multimedia products, such as blogs, using moving images, text and sounds and to “share information with people and audiences within and beyond the school”. Crucially, they will also be taught to “make judgements about the reliability” of information gleaned on the internet, so they understand that cutting and pasting someone else’s work from the the internet does not constitute independent research.

The reforms aim to declutter the curriculum and to give teachers more control. The 13 traditional subjects would be merged into six learning areas and cross curricular learning would be the order of the day. These are: understanding English, communication and languages; mathematical understanding; scientific and technological understanding; human, social and environmental understanding; understanding physical health and well-being; and understanding arts and design.

In history children will no longer have to study both the Victorians and World War Two, as there will be greater flexibility over content. But they will still have to learn about “two key periods of history” significant to the UK and will study “a broad chronology of major events in the UK and the wider world”.

Flora Wilson, education manager of the Historical Association, which represents historians history teachers, said she believed that many teachers would welcome the more flexible approach of the reforms. Cross curricular teaching could enable more history teaching to take place than at present. An example may be a course on ‘the role of women in World War 2’, which would combine teaching about the war with lessons on food production and nutrition, she said.

John Bercow, Conservative MP, and author of a government backed review of communication skills, welcomed the report’s emphasis on oracy. “In a world where the job for life has disappeared, there is a premium on communications skills - speaking and listening, which in turn promote social mobility,” he said.

But Michael Gove, the Shadow Education Secretary, expressed scepticism about Sir Jim’s emphasis on technology. “Information technology is hugely important, but it should be a means, not an end in itself,” he said.


British food faddist regulations put hot school meals at risk

The future of school meals is in jeopardy because only half of secondary schools are on course to comply with stringent government standards, catering leaders will say today. This could bring about the demise of hot meals in secondary schools, as caterers struggle to cope with the expensive and time-consuming restrictions. From September they will have to buy costly computer equipment to calculate the nutritional content of every meal. Each dish must meet 14 standards, including calorie content, fat, proteins and vitamins.

Caterers say that the obsession with raising the quality of school food, begun by the TV chef Jamie Oliver, has been taken too far by ministers. At best they will have to restrict choice, by scrapping the cafeteria-style buffet common in most schools in favour of a set two-course menu that places greater emphasis on nutrition than pupils’ tastes.

An example of dish that would meet the nutrition requirements is a chicken and vegetable stir fry with brown rice and green cabbage. A typical portion would contain 411 calories, 6.3g fat and 20.6g protein. Burgers with chips and baked beans will disappear.

Caterers say that teenagers will vote with their feet, choosing to eat elsewhere. They predict that this will lead to redundancies and say that the service will be under threat. The Government has banned schools from selling crisps, chocolate and fizzy drinks.

The Local Authority Caterers’ Association, which holds its conference in London today, surveyed its members and found that only half were prepared for the nutrient standards at the start of the next academic year. A sixth will not have any in place. The standards became law in primary schools last year but this was much easier to introduce because a set meal is the norm for younger pupils.

Neil Porter, chairman of Laca, said these were a “step too far”. He said: “We will have to put menus and recipes through a software system which produces a graph to show whether they are compliant. These will be externally monitored and checked. “Secondary schools have an average 30 to 40-minute lunch break, and 1,000 pupils. How can you feed upwards of 1,000 students set meals, with the added complication of kitchen and dining areas not being able to cope with new food preparation and the increased numbers? And let’s not forget the other important point: that teenagers will not choose the new food on offer when, before, they had multiple choice menus. “We have to meet 14 nutrient standards and will have most problems with zinc and iron. Liver and spinach are the best sources but these aren’t the most popular items in school. We would be providing something that they shun, in order to tick a box.”

Mr Porter said that the changes would “inevitably lead to a loss of posts within kitchens and could finally result in the school meals service, as we know it, ceasing in secondary schools.” A statement issued by Laca said: “Together with a number of other leading organisations, academic researchers, dietitians and health experts, we believe that nutrient standards could bring the demise of the secondary school meal service in this country.”

The survey found that almost three quarters of caterers believed that the standards would result in high food costs and an increase in meal prices. Four fifths thought it would cause a decline in the uptake of school lunches.

A spokeswoman for the School Food Trust, which devised the nutrient standards, said: “They are challenging but there is a very valid reason for them. It is important that they are in place to ensure we promote the health, wellbeing and achievements of children. The School Food Trust has worked with caterers from a number of different school settings. All have proved that through hard work and engagement with students they have been able to produce a compliant, appealing, tasty and varied menu.”



The Obama administration has embarked on a spree of borrowing that eclipses anything seen in world history. The Democratic Congress is nervous, but seems willing to go along. But this borrowing is not occurring in a vacuum; many other governments are also floating debt. So, who's going to lend the trillions of dollars that governments need to disguise the fact that their ideas are bankrupt? Maybe nobody.

Yesterday, the British government offered its "gilt-edged bonds" for sale. For the first time in over a decade, the auction failed as not enough buyers appeared to cover the bonds that were offered:
Fears are growing on the financial markets that Britain may not be able to repay the billions of pounds in debt it is amassing to rescue banks and revive the economy. The Government admitted yesterday that, for the first time since 1995, investors had been unwilling to buy the full complement of its so-called gilt-edged bonds at one of its official auctions.

Britain's failure roiled Wall Street, as Noel Sheppard reports:
Wall Street got rocked Tuesday by a "debt bomb" economists have worried about for decades. Hours after the United Kingdom failed to attract enough buyers for its auction of $2.5 billion of 40-year bonds, the United States Treasury had similar difficulties with its sale of $34 billion worth of five-year notes and was forced to raise their interest rate to a much higher yield than had been anticipated. Such problematic debt offerings came on the heels of Germany having two failed auctions of its bonds already this year.

The amount of debt the Obama administration intends to float dwarfs any historical experience. More from Bloomberg:
Treasury 10-year note yields rose the most in more than two weeks after an auction of $34 billion in five-year notes drew a higher-than-forecast yield, spurring concern record sales of U.S. debt are overwhelming demand. ... President Barack Obama's government is selling record amounts of debt to revive economic growth, service deficits, and cushion the failures in the financial system. Debt sales will almost triple this year to a record $2.5 trillion, according to estimates from Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

What most Americans may not yet understand is that the vast majority of the debt that the Obama administration intends to incur, not just this year but for years to come--assuming it can find the requisite creditors--has nothing to do with the present financial crisis. Rather, Obama intends to finance a grotesquely swollen federal government, with socialized medicine just one item on the agenda, by borrowing the money. How to pay it back? Hey, not our problem--Obama will be out of office by 2017 at the latest, so paying off trillions in needless debt will be up to our children.

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Sir David Jason forced to say sorry after making a 'racist' joke on live radio

From Britain:
"It was meant to be a bit of harmless fun. But when Sir David Jason made a joke about Pakistanis on a live radio show some didn't see the funny side.

Last night, the award-winning actor found himself accused of making inappropriate remarks and being out of touch with reality after his joke on Christian O'Connnell's Breakfast Show. The 69-year-old star was appearing on the Who's Calling Christian feature - where celebrities ring Absolute Radio with a chance to win £20,000 for charity.

Sir David, best known for his role as the gaffe-prone Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses, got into hot water when he was asked to leave a question for the next guest. He replied: 'What do you call a Pakistani cloakroom attendant?' Following a pause, he then delivered the punchline: 'Me hat, me coat.'

It is a play on words around the name of the political and spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi - who was from India, not Pakistan.

But last night Mohammed Shafiq, of Muslim charity the Ramadhan Foundation, said: 'These are inappropriate remarks about a stereotype that may have held a little water in the 50s and 60s but is not true to today. He should've known better.'

A spokesman for Absolute Radio said there had been no complaints to the station from listeners, but O'Connell would apologise on-air today. The joke was edited out of the show's podcast.


David Jason is a brilliant character actor whom I have long admired but that must be the weakest joke I have ever heard. Perhaps you had to be there. But ANYTHING he said about Pakistanis would have been "racist", of course.

Capitalism is morally superior: “People say that capitalism is based on greed, which must be restrained. No it isn’t. It’s built on self-interest — which is perfectly natural to us all, and beneficial to our community. Markets are about free people, voluntarily exchanging cash for goods or services. You can only prosper in the market if you give your customers what they want. In every transaction, both sides benefit — they wouldn’t do if they didn’t — and with millions of sales and purchases going on every day, that spreads benefit through the whole society. Capitalism is a vast, worldwide collaborative system. It doesn’t need political arguments to decide what should be done. It doesn’t need force to make people produce things. It produces enormous variety and plenty without any conflict or coercion at all.”

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