Thursday, April 30, 2009

British family courts system accused of hiding evidence from parents

Parents fighting in the family courts for contact with their children are being denied access to their personal files by a corrupt system, a leading parental rights campaigner has said. Alison Stevens, head of Parents Against Injustice, has called for Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, to force social services and individual courts to comply with the Data Protection Act. She said: “Local authorities have to send the requested files within 40 days . . . but they are often not following public law guidelines. It’s corruption within the system. They are playing God, and there must be some reason why — perhaps to hide things they have got wrong in the cases.”

Evidence is gathered from a variety of sources before children are taken from their parents in family courts. Tracking down and obtaining these documents can be very difficult because they are held by various bodies and must be applied for in different ways.

Ms Stevens said: “Parents should be entitled to their files — not just social services files but all files: from health visitors, GPs, different hospitals, the ambulance trust, psychologist reports, paediatrician notes and so on.”

The Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming has written to all MPs calling for a parliamentary review into the operation of the family courts. He said: “One of the ways legal practitioners prevent parents from fighting cases is by not giving them the paperwork. Often the paperwork doesn’t add up, so if parents got hold of it they would see what was going on.”

Many parents have welcomed the call for greater accountability. Roland Simpkin (not his real name) received his social services files seven years after his children were taken into care in 2001 amid allegations of abuse. When the allegations were shown to be unfounded, he sought to obtain the evidence held on him by social services to find out why he was still not allowed to see his children. He was sent his files last year, after pursuing his case through a series of letters, complaints and court orders, but he found that parts of the notes had been crossed through with black pen, words had been deleted and sections of paragraphs had been removed during photocopying.

Mr Simpkin said: “Despite being repeatedly found not to have harmed or posed a risk of harm to \ children or anybody else’s, the sheer amount of delay introduced by the sluggishness of the social services department to share information is likely to be a serious negative factor in any potential repeated contact \.”

In another case, Marc Tufano, an actor who has appeared in EastEnders and The Bill, has not seen his two sons for seven years because he cannot obtain the documents that he needs to bring his case to appeal. His children were given residence with his partner in 2003 after their relationship broke down. Though he immediately tried to launch an appeal, he said that he had found it impossible to obtain transcripts of the original court hearings because the court authorities had been slow to reply to his requests and had since claimed to have destroyed the documents.

Mr Tufano said: “I have begged these government agents to leave me alone so as I can see my sons without being harassed by endless arguments over the paperwork they require. It is made impossible for parents to get hold of the documents they need.”

Sezgi Kapur’s two daughters were taken from her in 2003 amid allegations that her violent attitude towards care professionals could be harmful to her children, allegations she denies.

Before the hearings in the family court, her requests for her social services files were ignored or denied, and she was forced to apply for court orders to disclose the documents. Without them, Ms Kapur was unable to respond to the evidence gathered against her by social services and care workers, and so was unable to fight her case effectively.

After the files were provided, she discovered that the minutes from high-level social services meetings about her case had been withheld and that memos had been circulated to those who attended asking them to “destroy all previous copies” of notes from the meeting.

Ms Kapur said: “These meetings painted a picture of me as a volatile, aggressive, threatening individual who was alienating professionals, who might one day emotionally harm my children through this purported alienation. It was incredible to read this. “I fired six sets of solicitors because they failed to get disclosure of all my documents. If the parents do not get a fair trial, the children do not either.”

Shaun O’Connell, a lay adviser working on behalf of Environmental Law Centre, said: “If you’re not familiar with the Data Protection Act and you don’t know the format and structure, it’s impossible.”


British court rules that environmentalism is a religion

A former executive of a top property company has been told he can claim at a tribunal that he was sacked because of his "philosophical belief in climate change".

In the landmark ruling Tim Nicholson was told he could use employment law to argue that he was discriminated against because of his views on the environment. The head of the tribunal ruled that those views amounted to a philosophical belief under the Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations, 2003. The case is the first of its kind and could open the way for hundreds of future claims to be made in the same fashion, the newspaper reported.

Mr Nicholson, 41, was made redundant while head of sustainability at Grainger plc, Britain's biggest residential property investment company, in July last year. He is now suing his former employers for unfair dismissal, arguing that his beliefs on the environment prompted clashes with other senior executives at the firm, and led to his sacking.

Mr Nicholson told the tribunal that he clashed with other executives over the way it adopted its policies on the environment and corporate social responsibility. He said he tried to get the company to act in a more environmentally responsible way, but was obstructed by senior company executives. Mr Nicholson said that his frustrations were exemplified by an occasion when the company's chief executive, Rupert Dickinson, "showed contempt for the need to cut carbon emissions by flying out a member of the IT staff to Ireland to deliver his BlackBerry that he had left behind in London."

At a pre-hearing review at an employment tribunal in London, tribunal head David Sneath ruled on a point of law that: "In my judgment, his belief goes beyond a mere opinion." The full employment tribunal is now set to take place from June 4. Grainger might consider an appeal against the ruling, the company's lawyer said.


The TRUTH about all those dodgy health claims, by one of Britain's top researchers


From vitamin supplements to detox kits, alternative medicines to supermarket foods, we are bombarded every day with extravagant claims about the health benefits of the products we put into our shopping baskets. But can we trust those claims? That's what renowned scientist Professor Lesley Regan sets out to discover in a fascinating new television series.

She's the researcher whose investigation into anti-ageing products caused shockwaves in an industry built around impressive claims that are rarely properly researched - and sparked a stampede for Boots No 7 Protect and Perfect serum, which she identified as one of the few beauty creams that actually worked.

Now, Professor Regan is applying her trademark scientific training to examine the health credentials of an even wider range of products for her latest BBC2 series. And not only has she discovered some bestsellers have little evidence backing them up, she believes many companies are, in fact, touting spurious claims. Here, she shares a few of her intriguing findings...


In Britain, we now spend £10 million a year on diet pills and patches. But while prescription weight loss tablets have real science behind them, do over-the-counter varieties too? When I set about trying to find out by asking the producers of popular diet products to send me details of their research, many companies flatly refused.

The Pink Patch said no evidence of its effectiveness actually exists, while Formoline L112 said they couldn't provide a copy as their research hasn't ever been published. Lipobind sent research results showing the tablets do bind with fat - but admitted they were yet to investigate whether the pills actually help people lose weight.

Only one company sent a paper showing a clear link between weight loss and their product - a herbal diet pill, called Zotrim, which makes you feel full. Their research had been published in a reputable journal and conducted with a control group to compare any placebo effect. Although statistics were not included, these are said to be significant. Yet I would still like to see more evidence as the study has never been repeated.

But even when diet pills are shown in studies to help weight loss, the results can still be meaningless. The secret is in the small print. For the instructions usually say that pills must be taken alongside a low-calorie diet and an exercise plan. They even say they should be taken before meals with a large glass of water - which will act as a bulking agent and stop you eating so much.

To prove this point, I developed my own diet pill and asked 17 overweight people to try it for a month, alongside a balanced diet and a sensible exercise plan. More than 70 per cent of the volunteers lost weight and believed the tablets had worked. Unbeknown to them, though, the tablets were simply sugar, a placebo - which shows the power of mind over matter. Yet I could easily use my results to launch an impressive marketing campaign, - as many companies do.

Diet and nutrition books are another minefield. There are 54,000 such books published worldwide, yet the authors need no qualifications and their diets are rarely scientifically proven. Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. Readers must bear in mind that just because a diet book is published, doesn't mean the plan actually works.


Foods marketed at dieters are proliferating, with supermarket shelves stocked full of foods for different eating plans - low fat, low carb, low calorie, high protein. But consumers must make sure they carefully read the label as these claims can be very misleading. We assume products labelled 'reduced fat' and 'light' will be better for us - but they can still be relatively high in fat and calories.

The only regulation in place is that foods labelled 'low fat' must contain 3 per cent or less fat, and 'fat free' must not contain more than 0.5 per cent fat - so these are usually a good buy. It's worth comparing nutrition labels, though, as 'low fat' could still contain more calories than standard versions.

Food manufacturers are always trying clever ways to make their foods appear healthy. An advert for Jaffa Cakes claiming they only contain one gram of fat each was recently banned by the Advertising Standards Authority because a cake weighs only 10 grams - meaning they actually contain 10 per cent fat.

And processed foods marketed as healthy are often anything but. This is because they contain large amounts of sugar and salt, and, through processing, have lost many of their nutrients.

'Whole grain' is another marketing craze, and although whole grain foods are healthy, just because something contains fibre doesn't mean much. A product must be high or rich in fibre to have any real benefit.

But some prepared foods can actually be a healthier option than fresh. For example, frozen peas contain more nutrients than fresh peas. This is because fresh peas lose a lot of their goodness during the time it takes to transport them from field to shop to dinner plate.


As a population, we also spend millions of pounds on vitamin supplements. But the simple truth is that people with a balanced diet don't need them, as even manufacturers admitted to me. Yet it is usually consumers who already have a balanced diet - the worried well - who take them, while those who have poor diets, and so could benefit from supplements, don't bother.

The result is that often people taking vitamin supplements end up getting far more of a vitamin than they actually need - which can do more harm than good. Evidence shows some nutrients have a range of adverse effects at high doses. A study of pregnant women taking 1,000mg of Vitamin C showed they gained no benefit but had an increased prevalence of premature delivery.

And the evidence which vitamin manufacturers cite as showing the benefits can be rather more complicated than it seems. For example, Immunace, which reportedly boosts the immune system, claims to have been proven in a 'ground breaking trial' - but when I asked for this research, I discovered it had actually been carried out on HIV positive people in Bangkok.

Another Vitabiotics product, Visionace, a supplement to maintain good eyesight, claims to have been independently verified, but again the research was not done on healthy recruits but on people with a specific eye condition called Marginal Dry Eye. Experts say you can't compare the benefits of someone with a damaged immune system or poor eyesight to healthy people.

The only vitamin worth taking is folic acid for pregnant women. That is scientifically proven to be beneficial: nothing else is.

Yet standing in a pharmacy, staring at the array of different varieties, even I sometimes start wondering about them myself. That is the result of the mass hysteria which clever marketing has created.

One supplement which has grown increasingly popular is fish oils, which people now generally believe can make you smarter. Yet the evidence is far from unanimous. EYEC market their fish oils as being beneficial for all children - yet their data comes from a study showing the supplement boosted the performance of a group of children with special needs.

Indeed, a new marketing trend which causes me some concern is the targeting of children. Or rather their parents, who are led to believe certain breakfast foods can improve their children's performance. In fact, the crucial thing is for kids to eat something in the morning, and it doesn't much matter what . .


The power of perception means a lot of products succeed where, scientifically, they should fail. The marketing is so powerful that people actually believe the benefits are occurring when they are not. This is particularly obvious in painkillers. Aspirin, paracetamol and ibuprofen can be bought very cheaply, yet people choose expensive branded versions which cost ten times as much yet have the same basic ingredients.

Some luxury brands promise to perk people up but simply contain added caffeine. People would be just as well off buying the cheap paracetomal and drinking a cup of coffee.

Often, painkillers are said to target different issues such as migraine, period pain or back ache. Yet as far as I can see, there is actually nothing different about them.

Again, with pain relief, it is often perception that matters. I carried out a study on a rugby team which took two painkillers, believing one to be their usual favourite brand and one a cheaper version. They thought the former worked much better - but in fact they were both their favourite painkiller.

Research shows, too, that the larger a pill the better it is perceived to work, and the reason most painkillers are sold in packs to be taken two at a time - rather than simply double the dose in one tablet - is because people believe two pills work better than one. It is quite extraordinary the effect perception alone can have on pain - and manufacturers know that.


I believe that similar effects explain the burgeoning alternative medicine industry. A popular part of this is homeopathy, which nine million people trust to work for them. But, in fact, the solution sold is a highly diluted liquid, meaning only a very slim chance of the dose containing any active ingredients. And while practitioners wear white labcoats and surround themselves with an aura of science, there is in fact no real scientific backing for their remedies.

Again, I tested the placebo effect of homeopathy, giving insomniacs my own 'homeopathic sleep remedies' - in fact simply sugar balls. Yet the volunteers reported 'remarkable' effects and actually slept better, simply due to believing in the tablets and wanting them to work.

Herbal supplements, on the other hand, can be highly effective. Echinacea is proven to help fight infections and garlic can lower cholesterol - though the benefits of Evening Primrose Oil and Ginseng are rather less certain.

But because herbal remedies are so powerful, they can have sideeffects and need to be treated with respect. Consumers' belief that natural means safe is wrong. They can also interfere with normal medication. For example, St John's Wort can interfere with the body's ability to absorb the contraceptive pill, and so stop it from working.


Detox products that claim to work through herbal ingredients should be treated with suspicion as most appear ineffective. When I spoke to people who design these products, nobody could even tell me what these packs are actually supposed to be detoxing. After all, our kidneys and liver are brilliantly effective at detoxing themselves already.

The packets tell people to stop drinking alcohol or caffeine and to eat healthily while taking them - which is likely to bring far more health benefits than the actual detox supplement. People would be better off simply following the advice and forgetting the product. Detox products are typical of the way many health and beauty companies are not interested in basing their developments on science - only their advertising campaigns. Yet customers assume the products they are buying are properly proven and researched. That is why we all need to be more enquiring about the products we buy. If the claims sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Although I have investigated as a scientist, anyone can seek out information about what they are being told by companies about a product. When spending money we should ask ourselves: 'What is the science behind this? Where is the evidence?' If there is none, then step away. If consumers become savvier and more questioning, then manufacturers will soon realise they need to provide better science - and better products.


British reservists to be trained for quick move to front line: "The Territorial Army is to be overhauled so that it can be deployed overseas more quickly, the Ministry of Defence has announced, a recognition of the military’s growing dependence on reservists in the war in Afghanistan. News of the overhaul came after months of speculation that the reserve force would be cut drastically to make savings in the defence budget. Bob Ainsworth, the Armed Forces Minister, told Parliament yesterday that there would be no drop in numbers, but that reservists would be relieved of “burdensome training that they don’t really need to do”, making them ready for deployment within three years. About 18,000 of Britain’s 33,000 active reservists have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003 and reservists make up 8 per cent of Forces deployed in theatre".

Britain upstaged by Poland: "Gordon Brown's attempt to put the economic misery of Britain behind him on a whistle-stop world tour were stymied today when Poland's Prime Minister embarrassed him with a lecture on the perils of excessive public borrowing and culture of debt. Speaking after a breakfast meeting between the two leaders in Warsaw, Donald Tusk, the Polish premier said that while he did not want to comment on any other economy, the Poles had fared so well because they behaved with "full responsibility in terms of their deficit". While Britain is struggling to cope with the effect of three quarters of economic contraction, Poland is basking in 12 years of consecutive, uninterrupted growth. With Mr Brown standing next to him, Mr Tusk said that one of the main reasons Poland has so far managed to avoid the ravages of the credit crisis was because Warsaw had "efficient supervision to banks and sticking to the rules.... not exaggerating with living on credit. These are the most certain ways of avoiding [the consequences] of financial crisis."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A big climbdown from Britain's Greenest newspaper below

The missing sunspots: Is this the big chill? Scientists are baffled by what they’re seeing on the Sun’s surface – nothing at all. And this lack of activity could have a major impact on global warming. David Whitehouse investigates:

The disappearance of sunspots happens every few years, but this time it's gone on far longer than anyone expected - and there is no sign of the Sun waking
Could the Sun play a greater role in recent climate change than has been believed? Climatologists had dismissed the idea and some solar scientists have been reticent about it because of its connections with those who those who deny climate change. But now the speculation has grown louder because of what is happening to our Sun. No living scientist has seen it behave this way. There are no sunspots.

“This is the lowest we’ve ever seen. We thought we’d be out of it by now, but we’re not,” says Marc Hairston of the University of Texas. And it’s not just the sunspots that are causing concern. There is also the so-called solar wind – streams of particles the Sun pours out – that is at its weakest since records began. In addition, the Sun’s magnetic axis is tilted to an unusual degree. “This is the quietest Sun we’ve seen in almost a century,” says NASA solar scientist David Hathaway. But this is not just a scientific curiosity. It could affect everyone on Earth and force what for many is the unthinkable: a reappraisal of the science behind recent global warming.

Our Sun is the primary force of the Earth’s climate system, driving atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns. It lies behind every aspect of the Earth’s climate and is, of course, a key component of the greenhouse effect. But there is another factor to be considered. When the Sun has gone quiet like this before, it coincided with the earth cooling slightly and there is speculation that a similar thing could happen now. If so, it could alter all our predictions of climate change, and show that our understanding of climate change might not be anywhere near as good as we thought.

Sunspots are dark, cooler patches on the Sun’s surface that come and go in a roughly 11-year cycle, first noticed in 1843. They have gone away before. They were absent in the 17th century – a period called the “Maunder Minimum” after the scientist who spotted it. Crucially, it has been observed that the periods when the Sun’s activity is high and low are related to warm and cool climatic periods. The weak Sun in the 17th century coincided with the so-called Little Ice Age. The Sun took a dip between 1790 and 1830 and the earth also cooled a little. It was weak during the cold Iron Age, and active during the warm Bronze Age. Recent research suggests that in the past 12,000 years there have been 27 grand minima and 19 grand maxima.

Throughout the 20th century the Sun was unusually active, peaking in the 1950s and the late 1980s. Dean Pensell of NASA, says that, “since the Space Age began in the 1950s, solar activity has been generally high. Five of the ten most intense solar cycles on record have occurred in the last 50 years.” The Sun became increasingly active at the same time that the Earth warmed. But according to the scientific consensus, the Sun has had only a minor recent effect on climate change.

Many scientists believe that the Sun was the major player on the Earth’s climate until the past few decades, when the greenhouse effect from increasing levels of carbon dioxide overwhelmed it. Computer models suggest that of the 0.5C increase in global average temperatures over the past 30 years, only 10-20 per cent of the temperature variations observed were down to the Sun, although some said it was 50 per cent.

But around the turn of the century things started to change. Within a few years of the Sun’s activity starting to decline, the rise in the Earth’s temperature began to slow and has now been constant since the turn of the century. This was at the same time that the levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide carried on rising. So, is the Sun’s quietness responsible for the tail-off in global warming and if not, what is?

There are some clues as to what’s going on. Although at solar maxima there are more sunspots on the Sun’s surface, their dimming effect is more than offset by the appearance of bright patches on the Sun’s disc called faculae – Italian for “little torches”. Overall, during an 11-year solar cycle the Sun’s output changes by only 0.1 per cent, an amount considered by many to be too small a variation to change much on earth. But there is another way of looking it. While this 0.1 per cent variation is small as a percentage, in terms of absolute energy levels it is enormous, amounting to a highly significant 1.3 Watts of energy per square metre at the Earth. This means that during the solar cycle’s rising phase from solar minima to maxima, the Sun’s increasing brightness has the same climate-forcing effect as that from increasing atmospheric greenhouse gasses. There is recent research suggesting that solar variability can have a very strong regional climatic influence on Earth – in fact stronger than any man-made greenhouse effect across vast swathes of the Earth. And that could rewrite the rules.

No one knows what will happen or how it will effect our understanding of climate change on Earth. If the Earth cools under a quiet Sun, then it may be an indication that the increase in the Sun’s activity since the Little Ice Age has been the dominant factor in global temperature rises. That would also mean that we have overestimated the sensitivity of the Earth’s atmosphere to an increase of carbon dioxide from the pre-industrial three parts per 10,000 by volume to today’s four parts per 10,000. Or the sun could compete with global warming, holding it back for a while. For now, all scientists can do, along with the rest of us, is to watch and wait.


British children to be taught to speak properly amid growing 'word poverty'

Children will have lessons on how to speak proper English in formal settings, under an overhaul of the curriculum for 7 to 11-year-olds. The proposals, from Sir Jim Rose, a former head of Ofsted, place a strong emphasis on teaching children to “recognise when to use formal language, including standard spoken English”. They include how to moderate tone of voice and use appropriate hand gestures and eye contact.

The reforms come in response to concern that an increasing number of children suffer from “word poverty” and are unable to string together a coherent sentence by the time that they start school. A government-backed report by the Conservative MP John Bercow found last year that in some areas up to 50 per cent of the school-age population had speech and language difficulties.

There are also growing demands from employers for schools to emphasise skills in spoken English, amid evidence that some school-leavers lack confidence in basic tasks such as speaking confidently on the telephone to a stranger. A draft copy of the Rose reforms, seen by The Times, says that primary children should learn to “adjust what they say according to the formality of the context and the needs of their audience”.

Sir Jim has been appointed by ministers to overhaul the primary curriculum in response to concerns that it was overly prescriptive and “cluttered”. His review is expected to be published on Thursday. Yesterday he said that schools should pay serious attention to speaking and listening as subjects “in their own right”. This would help children from poor homes, who may start school already having to catch up because they do not have the right vocabulary. This in turn can have severe effects on their ability to learn and make friends.

“I will be making a very strong play on this. There’s more and more evidence coming from research and practice to establish the need for support for the children from certain backgrounds that don’t offer the right kind of development of speaking and listening. It needs to be put right,” he told The Times. He added that his recommendations will build on the £40 million Every Child a Talker programme launched last year to provide intensive language support for nursery-age children.

Anna Wright, director of Children’s Services at Reading Council, which has introduced intensive language support in its primary schools, said: “Children from poor homes have smaller vocabularies, which don’t contain many abstract ideas. “This makes it more difficult for them to make connections between words and to move to abstract concepts and to higher-order thinking about causes, effects and consequences.”

Other sections of the review will recommend that information technology classes are given as much prominence as literacy and numeracy. As well as classic fiction and poetry, children should study texts drawn from websites, film, newspapers, magazines, leaflets and advertisements, as well as “wikis and twitters”.


British pupils aged 11 compelled to learn about homosexual sex

Campaigners say the sex education review for children needs to go farther

Compulsory sex and relationships lessons for 11-year-old children are to include classroom discussions on gay unions and civil partnerships. Secondary pupils will learn about contraception and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), while primary school children will learn about their bodies and friendships, a review of sex education has concluded.

The review was ordered in October after ministers announced that sex and relationships education (SRE) lessons should be made compulsory to help primary and secondary pupils to “navigate the complexities of modern life” and to ensure that children learnt their sex education from the classroom, not the playground.

The changes to personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) classes mark the culmination of decades of campaigning by sexual health organisations, who believe that the patchy nature of sex education in schools is helping to fuel a record level of teenage pregnancy and STIs in England.

Last night campaigners welcomed the review, conducted by Sir Alasdair MacDonald, a secondary head teacher in Tower Hamlets, East London. However, they suggested that its recommendations did not go far enough.

Although the new PSHE classes will be compulsory from 2011, faith schools in England will be given licence to provide sex and relationships education within the context of their own values. This could mean that children will be taught that their religion regards the use of contraceptives as a sin. Parents will also have a legal right to withdraw children from SRE classes. Currently one in 2,500 parents withdraws children from nonstatutory sex education classes.

Sexual health charities warned that allowing parents to opt out, even if it involved only a small number, was an infringement of young people’s rights. Julie Bentley, chief executive of fpa, formerly the Family Planning Association, said that while religion and sex education were not incompatible, schools should not be allowed to interpret the report “to mean they can tell young people, for example, that contraception isn’t a matter of choice – it is simply wrong”.

She added: “We would like further assurances that when SRE becomes statutory, all schools will teach it responsibly, ethically and factually as a core subject.”

Simon Blake, national director of the sexual health charity Brook, said: “Young people need to understand the law – that you can get contraception, that you can have an abortion – and understand the health benefits of practising safer sex. It would not be right for anyone to tell them that this is wrong, but it is OK for them to be told that some people believe it is wrong.”

The Catholic Education Service for England and Wales welcomed the opt-out. “This is a crucial right in a community where parents are the first educators of their children, because parents are responsible for bringing up their children, and not the State,” it said.

Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, accepted Sir Alasdair’s review, subject to a four-month consultation that will look again at the content of SRE lessons, but told MPs that he would keep the right of nonacceptance under review.

Sir Alasdair said that making PSHE compulsory would help the quality of teaching. “There is probably greater variability in teaching and learning in this subject than in most other subjects,” he said.


British "equality" law promotes inequality

The U.S. Democrats are pretty good at giving misleading names to their bills but the British are learning fast:
"Employers will be given legal powers to discriminate in favour of women and black job candidates under a controversial equality shake-up. Harriet Harman unveiled plans for firms to choose them ahead of equally-qualified white male applicants without risking being sued. Miss Harman, Labour's deputy leader, hopes to boost the proportion of female and ethnic minority staff, as well as pushing more of them into senior roles.

But the Equality Bill, which brings together nine major laws, yesterday prompted grave concern that white men could miss out unfairly on jobs. Business chiefs and opposition MPs reacted furiously to the plans, which have been described as 'socialism in one clause'. They warned it would burden firms struggling to cope with the worst recession in 60 years with more red tape and leave them open to 'costly and damaging' exployment tribunals.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

EU judges want Sharia law applied in British courts

Judges could be forced to bow to Sharia law in some divorce cases heard in Britain. An EU plan calls for family courts across Europe to hear cases using the laws of whichever country the couple involved have close links to. That could mean a court in England handling a case within the French legal framework, or even applying the laws of Saudi Arabia to a husband and wife living in Britain.

The Centre for Social Justice think tank today attacked the so-called Rome III reform as ludicrous. It warned it would slow down cases, increase costs and lead to unjust results. However, in a report it says existing arrangements are 'anti-family'.

Currently, a couple from different EU states can have their divorce heard in the first country where one of them files divorce papers. Because different states offer varying financial advantages to spouses in terms of division of wealth, the resulting 'race to court' in the best jurisdiction discourages couples from trying to save their marriage, it says.

The report calls for a simpler solution, with each country applying its own laws and cases being heard in the country where the couple have the closest connection. At least nine EU states - not including the UK - are said to want to push ahead with the Rome III plan.


British grandmother is refused cancer drug

The NHS thinks it has already spent enough money on her

Grandmother Beryl Jarvis, who is battling cancer for the fourth time, has been refused a drug that could save her life – because the NHS says it has already spent enough money on her treatment.

Mrs Jarvis has been told a drug cleared for use last November could help reduce a tumour in her lungs. But the NHS says it is not cost-effective to prescribe the drug. Mrs Jarvis, 66, said: "They are saying that for the sake of £10,000 a year my life is not worth saving. How could they put that price on my life?" Her daughter has described the decision as handing her mother a "death sentence".

Mrs Jarvis first contracted ovarian cancer in the early 1980s. She overcame the disease after she underwent a course of chemotherapy. But in January 2004 she was diagnosed with lung cancer. The former cleaner had a round of chemotherapy, followed by radiotherapy, and was free of the cancer for three years.

Early in 2007 the disease returned and Mrs Jarvis, of Home Close, Southmead, was given another round of chemotherapy. Last spring, her tumour grew again and she underwent more chemotherapy. In November the cancer increased in size and her consultant at Bristol Oncology Centre recommended a drug called Tarceva. He believed it could help reduce the size of the tumour. He applied to NHS Bristol – which is in charge of health spending in the city – to see if they would treat her as an exceptional funding case, but was turned down.

Mrs Jarvis said: "When I heard that Tarceva had been approved I thought I might be entitled to it." But she was turned down because the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) had not approved it for cases like hers. Other treatments were tried by Mrs Jarvis but she suffered side-effects. She said: "I did not know then that if you had already had two chemotherapy treatments you could not have it. "It seems as though if you have had cancer for so long they don't want to pay money."

Despite this, Mrs Jarvis is determined to continue battling the disease. She desperately wants to attend the wedding of her grandson Lee Brewer in July. It was this determination to see him grow up and get married which got her through her first battle with cancer in the 1980s. Her husband, Nigel, 59, said: "Beryl has been fighting for five and a half years now because she won't give up. The fight is there, why should she be denied this?"

Mrs Jarvis' daughter, Nikki Brewer, said: "When they sent the letter saying they would not pay for the treatment it was a death sentence. They call it exceptional funding, but we are also facing exceptional circumstances."

The drug hit the headlines last year with the case of Carol Rummels, from Stoke Lodge, who was eventually given Tarceva just before the change of guidelines.

Mrs Jarvis, and her husband have been in contact with Mrs Rummels and have also written to their MP, Doug Naysmith. He has passed their concerns on to Bristol South MP Dawn Primarolo in her capacity as a health minister.

A spokesman for NICE said: "The guidance does not recommend erlotinib (Tarceva) for the second-line treatment of locally advanced or metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer in patients who are intolerant of docetaxel, or for third-line treatment after docetaxel therapy because it is not a cost-effective use of NHS resources when used in this way."

NHS Bristol spokeswoman, Julie Hendry, said: "While NHS Bristol has sympathy for Mrs Jarvis, NICE guidelines state that Erlotinib (Tarceva) therapy is not recommended for patients undergoing third- line treatment after docetaxel therapy and our local network of experts have endorsed this guidance. "Every application NHS Bristol receives for this treatment is considered using this guidance in order to ensure fair and equitable treatment for all patients."


Doctors attack embryo screening 'postcode lottery'

The NHS is contributing to needless abortions and the avoidable birth of children with inherited diseases because of a postcode lottery in embryo screening, medical experts said today. Couples who know they are at risk of passing on serious genetic diseases to their children are often refused funding for IVF tests that can detect affected embryos, according to doctors and nurses from Guy’s Hospital in London. This has led to cases in which couples have terminated pregnancies following the results of prenatal tests and incidents where children have been born with a genetic disease that could have been picked up with embryo screening.

When prospective parents know they are at risk of having children with a serious heritable disease, they can use an embryo screening test known as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to ensure they have a healthy baby. Though such couples are generally fertile, they conceive by IVF and a single cell is removed from each embryo for genetic analysis. Only embryos that do not carry the faulty gene carried by the family are then chosen for transfer to the womb.

The service, which costs about £7,000, is available for hundreds of genetic conditions, including cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s disease and muscular dystrophy, and several hundred PGD babies have been born in the UK. The only alternatives are prenatal testing, in which a foetus is tested several months into pregnancy, offering the parents the opportunity to have an abortion if it is affected, or taking no tests at all. All primary care trusts fund prenatal tests during pregnancy when there is a risk but many will not pay for PGD, even though this can prevent abortions.

Alison Lashwood, consultant nurse in genetics and PGD at Guy’s, said: “There are couples we have seen who have not been given funding, who have gone on to have affected children. Others have had to go down the prenatal testing route and some have had terminations.”

Speaking at the launch of Guy’s Hospital’s new Assisted Conception Unit and PGD centre, which opens tomorrow, she described one couple who had been refused PGD on the NHS, who had gone on to have a stillbirth and a baby with a severe inherited disease.

Some PCTs, Ms Lashwood said, apply the same eligibility criteria as they do to IVF for infertility even though it is not a fertility treatment. This means that couples can be refused on grounds of age or because they already have children. The latter is particularly unfair on couples who discover they need the procedure because they have already had a child with a genetic disease. “They cannot get the idea that PGD is an early approach to prenatal diagnosis, not a type of fertility treatment,” Ms Lashwood said. She urged trusts to set up common rules, as are already operated by a consortium of PCTs in south east England.

Yacoub Khalaf, head of the Guy’s unit, said: “More trusts than not understand the need for PGD and that it is not to be mixed up with fertility treatment, but some trusts say they offer prenatal diagnosis, so why don’t you have that? It denies patients a choice.”

Professor Peter Braude, of King’s College, London, said: “Some PCTs regard PGD as a bolt-on to IVF, but it should not be seen that way. Most patients who have PGD are not infertile.”


Britain: Give us back our private lives

As Labour unveils plans to monitor every one of our phone calls and emails, it is time to demand an end to state snooping. "Your moves are monitored by your bus tickets. There are CCTV cameras on every building and computer chips on the rubbish bin – and they can tell a lot about your life by studying your rubbish ...Security has got absurd."

The Russian journalist Irada Zeinalova wasn't talking about Putin's Russia. She wasn't even talking about life in the old Soviet Union. She was talking about Britain today.

Mrs Zeinalova has lived in Britain for several years. But she doesn't like the level of intrusion into her private life that she experiences. Many native Britons take the same view. An increasing number of people resent the constant surveillance that has become common in many cities in Britain. Britain has more security cameras per head of population than anywhere else in the world: each one is justified, at least by those who have installed it, by the role it plays in detecting and reducing crime.

Just as insidious is the amount of data the state now holds on its citizens – and the Government last week unveiled plans to hold still more, because your every phone call, email and visit to a website will be monitored by the state.

Some of the material the state collects, such as tax and pension details, is an unavoidable part of the bureaucracy necessary to run a modern state. Other databases are also, in principle, uncontentious: doctors cannot treat you effectively if they do not know your medical history, for instance, so the keeping of medical records is beneficial rather than harmful.

Still other databases – the violent offender and sex offender registers, for example – can be said to have a role in fighting crime. But there is a slippery slope here, and it leads to a state of permanent police supervision of everyone. "Preventing and detecting crime" can be used as a justification for expanding databases and surveillance almost indefinitely. And it has been. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) defines and regulates spying by government bodies. As the Home Office's latest consultation paper on RIPA reveals, at least 42 government departments and organisations are entitled to spy on the public. They include such bodies as the Charity Commission, the Department for Environment, and the Department of Work and Pensions. If you include local authorities who are also allowed to spy on you, there are more than 400 government agencies entitled to snoop.

The Government says that such organisations are involved in ensuring that people comply with the law. It adds that the police cannot be required to do everything: they simply do not have the resources. Ministers stress that we have no reason to be worried. They insist that those "with nothing to hide have nothing to fear". The problem is that everybody has something to hide: some degree of privacy is necessary for human dignity – as Jacqui Smith, of all people, should now know, after what happened to her husband. [Exposed as a porn addict]

The protections against any government department using surveillance unjustifiably are, in theory, considerable. Public authorities have to be "satisfied" that surveillance is "necessary and proportionate". Officials are meant to "consider the impact of these techniques on the privacy of those under investigation". Public authorities who use surveillance are "subject to independent inspection". The practice, however, has been very different. Officials frequently seem to think that they are justified in spying on private citizens if they suspect them of any violation, however apparently insignificant. That explains the hundreds of hours spent secretly observing whether people have been recycling correctly, or have let their dogs foul the pavement.

But it has not been the independent inspectors who have revealed such abuses. It has been newspapers such as The Sunday Telegraph. The checks and balances have clearly not worked: 183 councils have used surveillance powers 10,288 times over the past five years. Only in one in 10 cases has the result been a successful prosecution, caution or even a fixed penalty notice.

Given past practice, is it possible to believe that an effective system of regulation can be put in place? If you think it is, you will accept the ministers' argument that surveillance can be restricted to cases where it is "necessary and proportionate". If you do not, then you will agree that the only way to halt our slide towards a version of Orwell's Big Brother is to curb the power of state officials to order surveillance, restricting it to cases where national security is clearly at stake, and to the agencies that are dedicated to that purpose.

The increasing amount of spying raises another problem: how to ensure that the data will not fall into the wrong hands. The Government promises to safeguard our privacy but it has not been able to do so. For example, even Gordon Brown's medical records have recently been accessed by a doctor who had no reason to look at them. Officials also enter data wrongly into data bases. People have been wrongly identified as criminals, as benefit cheats or frauds.

The fallibility of state officials may be the biggest threat. In the 18 months since computer disks containing the records of all 25 million families receiving child benefit were lost by officials, at least a dozen other departments have admitted to losing vital personal data on millions of people. Should the data fall into the hands of criminals, the potential for damage is immense.

Neither of these problems has deterred the Government from increasing the spying powers of state organisations. Under the rubric of "data modernisation", Labour is committed to expanding the databases it holds on the population, and so the state's capacity for surveillance. The "Intercept Modernisation Programme" will store details of all of our phone calls, text messages, emails and visits to internet sites; the "National Identity Register" will store biometric data on each of us; "eBorders" will keep a record on each time anyone leaves or arrives in Britain ... The list of "data modernisation" programmes continues to grow. If all of them come to fruition, it will mean that in Britain private life, at least as we know it, will become a thing of the past.

We might all be safer. But the price of that greater security will be the destruction of privacy – and a significant amount of human dignity.


Suicides “unchanged by antidepressant pill ban”

So they'll relax the ban now? Not likely! That would mean admitting that they jumped to conclusions and so hurt a lot of people

Restrictions on teenagers' use of antidepressants have had no measurable impact on suicide rates, a study says. In 2003, regulators warned against use of the drugs in the under-18s after concerns from clinical trials that some patients may become suicidal.

Bristol university analysis of suicide rates among 15 to 19-year-olds in 22 countries from 1990 to 2006 found no change in the wake of the restrictions. Antidepressant use in young people in the UK fell by 50% after the warnings.

The expert committee put together to assess the safety of the drugs said at the time of the restrictions that the harmful effects of most SSRI antidepressants outweighed the benefits in young people. Only fluoxetine (Prozac) should be used and only then in severe cases, the committee said.

Some mental health experts have raised concerns that limits on prescribing antidepressants may have led to increased levels of untreated depression.

Research into the effects of the changing use of antidepressants has been hampered by the fact that suicide in teenagers is a relatively rare event and trends are subject to random fluctuations.

In an attempt to get a clearer picture, a team from the University of Bristol looked at suicide rates in 15-to-19 year olds from 22 countries between 1990 and 2006. Overall, they could not detect any differences after antidepressant use was restricted, they reported in the journal Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety. Study leader Dr Ben Wheeler said the team had set out with the hypothesis that restrictions on antidepressant use would have caused a reduction in the rates of suicide. But the results showed "no clear beneficial effect" of the regulation on youth suicide rates, he said.

Some other studies in the US and Canada had suggested that falling use of the drugs had caused an effect of increasing teenage suicides after rates had previously been going down, but there was no evidence of that in this data, he added.

Professor Ian Wong, a paediatric medicines expert from the London School of Pharmacy, said a survey they had done a few years ago suggested that over half of specialists disagreed with the stricter regulations. "The evidence is not that strong regarding SSRIs causing suicide but they restricted it because they said there's no clear evidence they work. "We're just starting another survey to see if they have changed their minds."

Professor David Cottrell, spokesman for the charity Young Minds and dean of medicine at the University of Leeds, said the results could suggest the risk of suicide with antidepressants was all a "big red herring", but also that the change in advice and more careful monitoring had mitigated any risk associated with reduced prescribing. "It depends which way you look at it but I think it's good news. "There's no evidence of a rise in suicide which means young people are still being treated; there's no evidence it made things worse."


'Cancer risk of nicotine gum and lozenges higher than thought'

Nicotine chewing gum, lozenges and inhalers designed to help people to give up smoking may have the potential to cause cancer, research has suggested. Evidence for the link does seem rather nebulous, however

Scientists have discovered a link between mouth cancer and exposure to nicotine, which may indicate that using oral nicotine replacement therapies for long periods could contribute to a raised risk of the disease. A study led by Muy-Teck Teh, of Queen Mary, University of London, has found that the effects of a genetic mutation that is common in mouth cancer can be worsened by nicotine in the levels that are typically found in smoking cessation products.

The results raise the prospect that nicotine, the addictive chemical in tobacco, may be more carcinogenic than had previously been appreciated. “Although we acknowledge the importance of encouraging people to quit smoking, our research suggests nicotine found in lozenges and chewing gums may increase the risk of mouth cancer,” Dr Teh said. “Smoking is of course far more dangerous, and people who are using nicotine replacement to give up should continue to use it and consult their GPs if they are concerned. The important message is not to overuse it, and to follow advice on the packet.” Most nicotine replacement products have labels advising people to cut down after three months of use and to stop completely after six months.

Mouth cancer affects nearly 5,000 people each year in Britain and is usually linked to smoking, chewing tobacco or drinking alcohol. It is often diagnosed at a late stage, and consequently has a poor prognosis.

Although nicotine is acknowledged as the addictive element in cigarettes its role in cancer has long been disputed. It is not as potent a carcinogen as other chemicals found in tobacco smoke, such as tar, but some previous research has suggested that it may also contribute to the formation of tumours. Nonetheless, it is much less dangerous than cigarettes and is therefore used in a wide variety of smoking cessation products that allow addicts to satisfy a craving for the chemical without smoking.

In the new research, published in the journal Public Library of Science One, Dr Teh’s team has investigated the role of a gene called FOXM1 in mouth cancer. A mutation that raises the activity of this gene is commonly found in many tumours, and is also present in pre-cancerous cells in the mouth, the scientists found. This raised expression can then be worsened by exposure to nicotine, according to Dr Teh. “If you already have a mouth lesion that is expressing high levels of FOXM1 and you expose it to nicotine, it may add to the risk of converting it into cancer,” he said. “Neither the raised FOXM1 nor nicotine is alone sufficient to trigger cancer, but together they may have an effect. “The concern is that with smokers, you are looking at people who are already at risk of oral cancer. I’m worried that some may already have lesions they don’t know about in the mouth, and if they keep on taking nicotine replacement when they stop smoking products they will not be doing themselves any good.”

The findings could also lead to new ways of diagnosing mouth cancer while it is still in its early stages and easier to treat.

Dr Teh emphasised that smokers should not stop their attempts to give up. “There is no doubt about the harmful effects of smoking, so smokers should make every effort to quit.”


Why boys are held back by girls in English and should be taught separately

Children should be taught in single-sex classes for English because boys are being held back by the presence of girls, a study suggests. It found that many boys are left 'hiding in the background', and perform up to a 10th of a grade worse when they are placed in mixed lessons. And it claimed that the more girls there are, the worse boys do.

The researchers from Bristol University found that the trend was particularly marked in primary schools but may also apply in secondaries. The study, which is being presented this week at the annual conference of the Royal Economic Society, also found that in maths and science, primary school girls benefit from being taught in single-sex groups.

However, boys do better in those subjects with girls present, suggesting there is no way of organising classes to maximise exam results for both sexes. The report said: 'It is not possible to increase the proportion of girls for both boys and girls, implying that a mix of the genders is optimal in both maths and science.'

For the study, researcher Steven Proud analysed the exam results of boys and girls at every state school in England between 2002 and 2004. Most state primary schools are mixed-sex, although there are more single-sex ones in the independent sector.

Mr Proud found that, during English lessons, boys gained 'significantly' lower scores when there were girls present. However, it made no difference to girls whether they were taught with boys or not. 'These results suggest that it may be beneficial to teach boys in single-sex classrooms for English,' Mr Proud said.

One explanation is that boys may feel they can 'hide in the background' in English classes if there are large numbers of girls, he added. 'Alternatively, the class may appear to be performing at an acceptable level while the boys are left behind,' Mr Proud said. 'An alternative mechanism could be that, since girls and boys learn in different ways, if the majority of the pupils are female, then the teaching may be focused towards learning styles that benefit girls more than boys.'

Schools minister Sarah McCarthy-Fry has suggested boys and girls should be taught separately for key subjects after expressing concerns that boys 'hog the limelight'.


Crisis for new British High school exams

The Government’s new exams that will replace GCSEs and A-levels are in crisis.

A letter signed by every exam board in England and Wales has urged ministers “in the strongest terms” to delay their new academic diplomas, or face a potential disaster. The qualifications will be introduced in the next two years to thousands of secondary schools across the country and will signal the death knell for GCSEs and the gold standard A-level because they cover the same subjects. In an emphatic warning to the Government, the exam boards said that introducing the academic diplomas too quickly will destroy their “standards and quality” and leave them potentially valueless to universities and employers.

But despite the letter, sent on March 16 to Ed Balls, the Children’s secretary, the Government is pushing ahead with virtually all the diplomas in humanities, languages and science.

The academic diplomas come on top of 14 vocational diplomas which began to be phased in to schools last September. The unprecedented pace and extent of change in the exam regime is threatening a complete meltdown in the system, academics and head teachers have said.

The clash over academic diplomas is the latest crisis to rock England’s examinations system. On Wednesday, Ken Boston, the former head of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, accused ministers of “sexing up” evidence to the independent inquiry into last summer’s Sats fiasco so that ministers could not be blamed for their role in the crisis. Mr Boston said his warnings that the national tests taken by 1.8 million children were a “high-wire act” went unheeded. Now Mr Balls is accused of “steamrollering” through academic diplomas.

Michael Gove, the shadow children’s secretary, said: “Ed Balls is playing fast and loose with our exam and qualification system. He must think again before embarking on diploma plans that will threaten academic excellence.”

Mike Brookes, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “It is high time the Department listened to its professional bodies instead of pushing through a political timetable that will compromise the quality of these qualifications.”

The academic diplomas will initially be introduced alongside GCSE and A-levels in 2011 but ministers have repeatedly refused to guarantee a future for A-levels. The letter from the Joint Council for Qualifications, which represents Britain’s major exam boards, said: “The original timescale could only be achieved if we now compromise the quality of development in the areas of assessment and standards,” the letter said. “We urge you in the strongest terms to defer implementation.”

Despite the letter, the Department for Children, Schools and Families is pushing ahead with the “fourth phase” of diplomas. There will be nine in total, with courses below GCSE and at GCSE and A level-standard in humanities, languages and science. Only the advanced level science diploma will be held back for a year.

Graham Stuart, a Conservative MP on the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee, said: “If Mr Balls does ignore the advice, as he seems determined to do, I hope that on this occasion, ministers do not seek to smear the reputation of public servants so that they take the blame for what are ministerial decisions.”

Jim Knight, the schools minister, said: “I’ve always been clear that we cannot afford to rush the development of Diplomas – which is why I announced last week that we are phasing in the advanced science diploma. “Our recent consultation demonstrates strong backing from employers, experts and higher education for the current timetable. We have involved exam boards fully throughout the development of diplomas.”


Bullets meant for bankers could kill the British welfare state

Note: "The City" is shorthand for London's financial services district. But it is the people there, not the geography, that matters and Britain's new higher taxes seem set to drive many of them abroad

My first reaction to Wednesday’s Budget was to focus on the increase in the top tax rate, rather than the explosion in public borrowing that horrified other commentators. On examining the Budget documents in greater detail, I am more confident than ever that the tax rise was Alistair Darling’s biggest blunder; but I have to concede that some other decisions and numbers hidden in the small print were far worse than I first thought....

The eye-catching measure in this respect was the increase to 50 per cent in the top tax rate, but there were several equally damaging changes, mostly relating to pensions, in the fine print. In terms of Treasury revenues, these reforms are likely to be self-defeating, or at best, utterly futile.

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, behavioural changes, such as changes in work patterns, relocations abroad and conversion of wages into corporate profits or capital gains, will mean that the Treasury raises much less than the £2 billion of revenue predicted. And even in the unlikely event that Mr Darling’s pre-election tax gesture did manage to raise the odd billion, these sums would be far too small to have any impact on public borrowing projections running at £150 billion to £200 billion a year...

Hopes of the quick improvement in UK economic conditions assumed by Treasury forecasts rely more than ever on maintaining the City’s role as the dominant centre of global financial and business services and on reviving the top end of the housing market. The Budget Red Book says the financial sector provided 25 per cent of the £47 billion in Britain’s total corporation tax before the recession, plus a “significant” proportion of income tax and national insurance receipts....

Yet the Budget tax measures seem deliberately designed to ensure that Britain’s financial and business service sectors never return to the global dominance they enjoyed... That, in turn, means that the growth of government revenues and the solvency of the British welfare state will depend largely on what happens to the international competitiveness of the financial sector. The logic of the Budget is simple: those who want to punish the bankers could end up destroying the welfare state.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Rising fees and loans make British students ask whether higher education is worth it

Student debt is spiralling because of increasing tuition fees and the use of some commercial loans at very high rates, a report commissioned by the Government suggests.

More than half of the students questioned said that money worries had affected their academic performance. One in 12 full-time students had considered dropping out because of financial problems. Fewer students thought that higher education was worth the expense when their responses were compared with similar research conducted three years earlier.

Although the number who had jobs while taking their degree had decreased, it was still a popular choice. For many students it had a negative impact on their studies.

Researchers from the Institute of Employment Studies and the National Centre for Social Research interviewed more than 2,600 students about their finances for the Student Income and Expenditure Survey.

They said that the average debt in 2008 of students at the end of their first year was £3,500, compared with £2,400 three years earlier. The report said: “Some full-time students had borrowed from commercial or higher cost sources, such as commercial credit companies and via bank overdrafts. Where students had made use of these sources, the average amounts involved were substantial.”

The direct cost of going to university for first-year students had risen by almost 70 per cent between 2005 and 2008, the report found.

Students were deeper in debt than their predecessors, because they were less reliant on their families and more dependent on loans. This was particularly evident for students from working-class backgrounds.

Concerns about debt nearly stopped a quarter of full-time and almost a third of part-time students from going to university. The report said: “It is expected that students in their first or second year of study, under the new student finance system, will on average graduate with greater debt.

“One in three students said that the availability of funding and financial support affected their decisions about higher education.”

The researchers found that having a job was essential for many students to survive, but this came at a cost. They said: “Income from paid work was important for full-time students, representing 20 per cent of their total average income, and it was critical for part-time students. Half of part-time students and around one third of full-time students who worked during the academic year reported that this had affected their studies.”

Three quarters said that they had less time available to study and read, three fifths were more stressed and the same proportion said that the quality of their university work had suffered. Almost half were getting by on less sleep because of their paid work.

Wes Streeting, president of the National Union of Students, said: “It is not acceptable that a third of students have to base their decisions about which university to attend or which course to study on the amount of financial support which will be available to them.

“We need a national bursary scheme, so that all financial support is based on how much a student needs it, not where they happen to be studying. We cannot leave this in the hands of individual institutions any longer.”

David Lammy, Minister for Higher Education, said: “Higher education remains one of the best pathways to a rewarding career, and it is good to see that students recognise it as a good investment for their future.

"We firmly believe that finance should never be a barrier to good education. This is why we continue to make generous loans and grants available to students.”


Appalling: NHS Hospital used wrong sperm to fertilise eggs -- kills embryos

The usual bureaucratic carelessness

WOMEN undergoing fertility treatment have had their eggs fertilised with the wrong sperm in a series of mix-ups at one of Britain’s most famous hospitals. Embryos belonging to three couples had to be destroyed and their cycles of treatment abandoned after the errors were discovered at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital in London earlier this year. In a separate blunder, a woman had the wrong embryo implanted at the same hospital in 2007.

Fertility experts say the errors, along with similar mistakes at other hospitals, raise serious concerns about the way IVF clinics are regulated. They believe the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the watchdog, is failing to deal with serious problems. [That's because they are too busy persecuting Dr Taranissi, Britain's most successful IVF practitioner, who is, unforgiveably, a PRIVATE doctor]

The mistakes have raised concerns about a “casual approach” to the 37,000 British couples who seek fertility treatment every year. Critics point out that inspection reports from 2007 and 2008 warned that Guy’s and St Thomas’ was carrying out “risky” procedures in the preparation of sperm samples for fertilisation.

A February 2007 report by the HFEA warned that embryologists at the hospital were running the risk of confusing sperm samples from different men by preparing them in the same container. Yet errors were still being made earlier this year.

One of the recent cases was discovered when the embryologist realised she had used a sample from the wrong man to fertilise a patient’s eggs. Within days of this mistake, scientists carrying out tests designed to ensure that babies are free of hereditary diseases found genes showing that the embryos could not belong to the parents they had believed to be the owners.

In 2007 a patient at Guy’s had been implanted with the wrong embryo. The treatment failed to result in a birth and embryologists later discovered that they had put back a weak embryo – despite the patient having created a stronger one that had a greater chance of developing into a baby.

Documents seen by The Sunday Times show a series of mistakes at other clinics that led to general warnings being issued. In one incident, a surrogate mother was given embryos from a couple who had a similar-sounding surname to the couple who had hired her. The surrogate did not become pregnant. The HFEA warned clinics about the mistake in March 2007, but the incident was not made public.

At another unidentified clinic, a woman became pregnant after she was implanted with embryos belonging to another couple with the same surname. The HFEA told clinics about the mix-up in May 2007 but the public was again not informed. The pregnancy ended in miscarriage. At about the same time, treatment for two other couples had to be abandoned after their embryos were mixed-up.

Josephine Quintavalle of the campaign group Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said: “It is horrifying that this information is not available to the public. I didn’t realise the extent of this. The casualness is just dreadful.”

Sue Avery, consultant embryologist at Birmingham women’s hospital and a former chairwoman of the Association of Clinical Embryologists, said the sperm mix-ups at Guy’s were “very serious”. She said it was disappointing that clinics had not learnt lessons from the mistakes that had led to the birth of black twins to a white couple in Leeds in 2002.

Despite the repeated mistakes at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital, the HFEA has not carried out an investigation. Avery said: “We would expect in the case of repetition that the HFEA might want to investigate unless they can be thoroughly satisfied that the centre has taken sufficient action.”

The assisted conception unit at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital said a thorough internal investigation had been carried out and the HFEA was informed of the mistakes.

The HFEA said that while IVF was a delicate procedure and it was impossible to eliminate human error, only 0.5% of treatments resulted in problems. It added: “The HFEA takes incidents very seriously. When incidents are reported to us, we will investigate and take action where necessary. The risk of mix-ups is a serious concern for patients, clinics and the HFEA.”


'What makes you think it's natural to be heterosexual?': British Christian teacher suspended over homosexual rights

A senior teacher has been suspended from his £50,000-a-year job after he complained that a training day for staff was used to promote gay rights. Kwabena Peat, 54, was one of several Christian staff who walked out of the compulsory session at a North London school after an invited speaker questioned why people thought heterosexuality was natural.

The presentation was given by Sue Sanders, a co-founder of the Schools Out organisation which campaigns for gay equality in education. According to Mr Peat, Ms Sanders, herself a lesbian, said that staff who did not accept that being gay was normal had ‘issues’ they had to deal with.

Mr Peat, a history teacher who is also a head of year, said he was upset that people who disagreed on religious grounds had no chance to respond. He wrote privately to the three staff members who organised the session, complaining about Ms Sanders’ ‘aggressive’ presentation. In his letter, he cited the Bible and warned that practising homosexuals risked God’s ‘wrath’.

But the staff complained to the school’s principal that they felt ‘harassed and intimidated’ by the letter and, after an investigation, Mr Peat was placed on paid leave. He is now being supported by the Christian Legal Centre. ‘I am very disappointed, although not shocked,’ the married father of three said last night. ‘I am the one who has been harassed and intimidated – for expressing my religious views.’

Mr Peat, who has spent most of his career teaching in inner-city London schools, joined Park View Academy, a large secondary comprehensive in Tottenham, three years ago. He said he was very supportive of ‘equality and diversity’ programmes.

The row erupted in January when the school held an In-Service Education and Training (Inset) day, during which staff were required to attend a session on child protection issues. Ms Sanders, 62, founded the voluntary organisation Schools Out in 1974. However, the £850 training session was organised by Chrysalis, a training team that specialises in diversity issues.

Mr Peat said he had expected her merely to provide information to help teachers handle homophobic bullying, but she had gone much further. ‘She started promoting homosexual lifestyles and suggesting those who had objections should sort out their prejudices. She said, “What makes you all think that to be heterosexual is natural?” It was at that point I walked out.’

In a statement last night, headteacher Alex Atherton said: ‘An allegation of intimidation and harassment is currently being investigated.’

Ms Sanders said her training sessions were designed to ‘raise awareness’.


Prominent British Labour politician hits out over immigration levels

The United Kingdom will have to build one house every six minutes, day and night, seven days a week for the next 20 years to meet the current scale of immigration, Labour MP and former minister Frank Field warned yesterday. He said immigration would account for 70% of population growth in the next 20 years – that is seven million, or seven times the population of Birmingham. In 2007, immigrants were arriving at the rate of almost one every minute.

Field, MP for Birkenhead, issued his stark warning in an article in parliament's The House Magazine. He recalled that he and Tory MP Nicholas Soames had established a cross-party group on balanced migration, designed to stimulate and inform a non-partisan and calm debate about the issue. "For many years, probably a generation, immigration has been a no-go area to British politics. 'Racist', 'Little Englander', 'xenophobe' – those who have raised the subject have been insulted, abused and, all too often, silenced."

Field went on: "The beneficiaries of this have been the extremists, lurking in the wings, eager to piggyback on the public's concern for their own despicable ends. The losers have been the citizens of this country."

He said that over the past few years immigration had reached unprecedented levels. "Net migration – the number of people coming to the UK minus the people leaving – has more than quadrupled since 1997." In 2007, 502,000 migrants arrived in the UK – almost one every minute, Field said. "Our population is officially projected to reach 70 million by 2028 and 80 million in mid-century, with immigration the main driver and the only one that the government can directly influence.

Field said that these projections were based on the Government's own net immigration assumptions. "But cold statistics do not paint the whole picture," he said. "Delve beneath 'seven new Birminghams' and we see that in the next 20 years, one-third of projected household formations will be a result of immigration, meaning we will need to build 260 houses a day for the next 20 years to meet the requirement."

And he warned: "If the Government does not adopt the policy of balanced migration, or something close to it, our population is set to rise to a level to which the vast majority of people are strongly opposed. They are not opposed to immigration or immigrants, but to the present scale of immigration, which is bound to have a negative aspect on life in Britain."


Typical: British spy loses secrets in a handbag: "A BRITISH agent has thrown the war against drug traffickers into chaos by leaving top secret information about covert operations on a bus in South America. In a blunder that has cost taxpayers millions of pounds and put scores of lives at risk, the drugs liaison officer lost a computer memory stick said to contain a list of undercover agents’ names and details of more than five years of intelligence work. It happened when the MI6-trained agent left her handbag on a transit coach at El Dorado airport in Bogota, Colombia. Intelligence chiefs were forced to wind up operations and relocate dozens of agents and informants amid fears the device could fall into the hands of drugs barons. The incident, which was hushed up by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), the agent’s employer, is an embarrassment for the government. It is another blow for Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, who has ultimate responsibility for Britain’s anti-drugs operations and the safeguarding of criminal intelligence."

We’re fleeing high-tax Britain, say City tycoons: "Two of Britain’s best known entrepreneurs are considering leaving Britain in protest against Alistair Darling’s new 50% tax rate, as leading figures from business and the City line up to warn of a talent exodus. Hugh Osmond, the pubs to insurance entrepreneur, is thinking about a move to Switzerland. Peter Hargreaves, the £10m-a-year co-founder of Hargreaves Lansdown, the financial adviser, is looking at the Isle of Man or Monaco. More are likely to be follow. Osmond, whose net worth is estimated at £230m, said: “A lot of people will be off. It’s highly unlikely that I will continue to have the UK as my country of residence. It’s just as easy to work from any close location — Switzerland or wherever.” Hargreaves, facing an extra £500,000 on his tax bill, warned: “I won’t pay, I’ll leave.”

Commonwealth cousins prop up the British Army: "The British Army’s “foreign legion” of soldiers recruited abroad to fill its ranks has expanded to more than one in 10 of all troops. NonUK nationals now number about 10,430, just less than 11% of the army’s full-time troops, excluding reserves, according to new figures released under the Freedom of Information Act. Some nationalities have become so numerous that they could form their own units in the manner of the Nepalese Gurkhas. The number of Fijians has reached 2,110, the strength of a small brigade. Other nationalities such as Ghanaians and South Africans have also increased to 700-800 each, enough for a battalion apiece. Some fears have been voiced that burgeoning numbers of nonUK soldiers could foster a “mercenary” image, while other critics believe the armed forces’ British identity could be endangered... The army has now put a cap on the number of Commonwealth recruits in some units at 15% “in the interests of operational effectiveness”. The influx of foreigners has helped compensate for the army’s problems in retaining British-born soldiers. The number of Fijians in the forces as a whole has grown from just 10 in 1999 to 2,220 in January, the figures show. One attraction for the army is the Fijians’ prowess at rugby. Last year the army’s 12-man sevens squad included 10 Fijians and a South African. Its captain, Mark Lee, was the only British player."

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Thought Police Muscle Up in Britain

By Hal G. P. Colebatch

BRITAIN appears to be evolving into the first modern soft totalitarian state. As a sometime teacher of political science and international law, I do not use the term totalitarian loosely.

There are no concentration camps or gulags but there are thought police with unprecedented powers to dictate ways of thinking and sniff out heresy, and there can be harsh punishments for dissent.

Nikolai Bukharin claimed one of the Bolshevik Revolution's principal tasks was "to alter people's actual psychology". Britain is not Bolshevik, but a campaign to alter people's psychology and create a new Homo britannicus is under way without even a fig leaf of disguise.

The Government is pushing ahead with legislation that will criminalise politically incorrect jokes, with a maximum punishment of up to seven years' prison. The House of Lords tried to insert a free-speech amendment, but Justice Secretary Jack Straw knocked it out. It was Straw who previously called for a redefinition of Englishness and suggested the "global baggage of empire" was linked to soccer violence by "racist and xenophobic white males". He claimed the English "propensity for violence" was used to subjugate Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and that the English as a race were "potentially very aggressive".

In the past 10 years I have collected reports of many instances of draconian punishments, including the arrest and criminal prosecution of children, for thought-crimes and offences against political correctness.

Countryside Restoration Trust chairman and columnist Robin Page said at a rally against the Government's anti-hunting laws in Gloucestershire in 2002: "If you are a black vegetarian Muslim asylum-seeking one-legged lesbian lorry driver, I want the same rights as you." Page was arrested, and after four months he received a letter saying no charges would be pressed, but that: "If further evidence comes to our attention whereby your involvement is implicated, we will seek to initiate proceedings." It took him five years to clear his name.

Page was at least an adult. In September 2006, a 14-year-old schoolgirl, Codie Stott, asked a teacher if she could sit with another group to do a science project as all the girls with her spoke only Urdu. The teacher's first response, according to Stott, was to scream at her: "It's racist, you're going to get done by the police!" Upset and terrified, the schoolgirl went outside to calm down. The teacher called the police and a few days later, presumably after officialdom had thought the matter over, she was arrested and taken to a police station, where she was fingerprinted and photographed. According to her mother, she was placed in a bare cell for 3 1/2 hours. She was questioned on suspicion of committing a racial public order offence and then released without charge. The school was said to be investigating what further action to take, not against the teacher, but against Stott. Headmaster Anthony Edkins reportedly said: "An allegation of a serious nature was made concerning a racially motivated remark. We aim to ensure a caring and tolerant attitude towards pupils of all ethnic backgrounds and will not stand for racism in any form."

A 10-year-old child was arrested and brought before a judge, for having allegedly called an 11-year-old boya "Paki" and "bin Laden" during a playground argument at a primary school (the other boy had called him a skunk and a Teletubby). When it reached the court the case had cost taxpayers pound stg. 25,000. The accused was so distressed that he had stopped attending school. The judge, Jonathan Finestein, said: "Have we really got to the stage where we are prosecuting 10-year-old boys because of political correctness? There are major crimes out there and the police don't bother to prosecute. This is nonsense."

Finestein was fiercely attacked by teaching union leaders, as in those witch-hunt trials where any who spoke in defence of an accused or pointed to defects in the prosecution were immediately targeted as witches and candidates for burning.

Hate-crime police investigated Basil Brush, a puppet fox on children's television, who had made a joke about Gypsies. The BBC confessed that Brush had behaved inappropriately and assured police that the episode would be banned.

A bishop was warned by the police for not having done enough to "celebrate diversity", the enforcing of which is now apparently a police function. A Christian home for retired clergy and religious workers lost a grant because it would not reveal to official snoopers how many of the residents were homosexual. That they had never been asked was taken as evidence of homophobia.

Muslim parents who objected to young children being given books advocating same-sex marriage and adoption at one school last year had their wishes respected and the offending material withdrawn. This year, Muslim and Christian parents at another school objecting to the same material have not only had their objections ignored but have been threatened with prosecution if they withdraw their children.

There have been innumerable cases in recent months of people in schools, hospitals and other institutions losing their jobs because of various religious scruples, often, as in the East Germany of yore, not shouted fanatically from the rooftops but betrayed in private conversations and reported to authorities. The crime of one nurse was to offer to pray for a patient, who did not complain but merely mentioned the matter to another nurse. A primary school receptionist, Jennie Cain, whose five-year-old daughter was told off for talking about Jesus in class, faces the sack for seeking support from her church. A private email from her to other members of the church asking for prayers fell into the hands of school authorities.

Permissiveness as well as draconianism can be deployed to destroy socially accepted norms and values. The Royal Navy, for instance, has installed a satanist chapel in a warship to accommodate the proclivities of a satanist crew member. "What would Nelson have said?" is a British newspaper cliche about navy scandals, but in this case seems a legitimate question. Satanist paraphernalia is also supplied to prison inmates who need it.

This campaign seems to come from unelected or quasi-governmental bodies controlling various institutions, which are more or less unanswerable to electors, more than it does directly from the Government, although the Government helps drive it and condones it in a fudged and deniable manner.

Any one of these incidents might be dismissed as an aberration, but taken together - and I have only mentioned a tiny sample; more are reported almost every day - they add up to a pretty clear picture.


Pregnant mother is refused free NHS maternity dental care after staff said bump, ultrasound and doctor's notes are NOT proof

A woman with most severe dental problems still cannot get treatment in socialized Britain

A mother-to-be has been turned down for free dental treatment - because the surgery will not accept that she is expecting. Sarah Luisis, 27, who is five months pregnant, has been told she needs to provide more proof that she has a baby on the way. That is despite the fact that she has a big bump, a doctor's certificate, antenatal notes and ultrasound pictures of her unborn child.

Miss Luisis, of Hornchurch, Essex, is desperate to see a dentist after enduring weeks of agony with bleeding gums. But the only way she can afford crucial treatment is through maternity cover from the NHS. But the mother of one was turned away from St John's dental practice in Romford because she did not have a Maternity Exemption Certificate. She said: 'I filled in a form to get the certificate when I found out I was pregnant and sent it off. 'But I've discovered that the form was never received in Newcastle where the certificates are issued. 'I now have to fill in another form but that could take up to four weeks to be approved.'

She added: 'I've got a letter from my doctor confirming my pregnancy, my antenatal notes, ultrasound scans and I'm very big for five months anyway. 'You'd think that would be enough.'

Miss Luisis's gums are so bad she wakes up with a mouth full of blood every morning and she fears she has an infection. She has been on the waiting list to see a dentist for the past ten weeks. 'I was recently told that an appointment had finally become available,' she said. 'But it was devastating to be told I'd not be treated because I didn't have the Maternity Exemption Certificate proving that I'm pregnant.'

The part-time admin worker says she cannot afford the £40 fee for the initial appointment, and the cost of further treatment could run into hundreds of pounds. A spokesman for the dental surgery said: 'This is not our policy. It comes from the health authority. 'The PCT have said to us, "We will not pay you if you don't have this information". 'It's not up to us, and we used to take people's word.'


British whistleblower fired

Must not give to the public immigration facts that the lying British Leftist government is trying to suppress

A civil servant arrested for leaking Home Office documents to Conservative MP Damian Green has been dismissed. Christopher Galley, who had signed the Official Secrets Act, was sacked from the Immigration Nationality Directorate for gross professional misconduct.

Mr Galley and Mr Green were told last week they would not be charged, after a five-month inquiry. Mr Galley, who once stood for election as a Conservative councillor, denied he had acted in a partisan fashion.

A series of leaks in 2007 and 2008 included information about illegal immigrants and crime in the recession. The junior official, who lost his job after a disciplinary hearing, has said he does not regret the leaks as he believes they were in the public interest. "I actually did this as a public servant for the actual country," he told BBC News.

He said he had no inducement from the Conservatives, in the form of money or a job offer, to leak the information and his actions were not influenced by his political sympathies. "I think my civil service colleagues were actually aware of my sympathies towards the Conservative party. But I never actually made those, never actually let that affect my work in any way." Mr Galley also said he was responsible for just four of the 20 documents leaked.

Conservative immigration spokesman Mr Green said his arrest followed ministerial embarrassment about the stories he revealed.

Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer said there was not enough evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction of either Mr Galley or Mr Green. He said the material "was not secret information or information affecting national security".


The British Left have disgraced their country

The Left hate the Gurkhas because they are brave warriors but most British people love them for that reason. So the British government is fighting tooth and nail to keep them out of Britain -- despite two court ruling that they should be admitted. There could hardly be anyone of better character than the Gurkhas. They should be given a blanket right to settle in Britain regardless of when they served in Britain's armed forces

Gurkhas who risked their lives for Britain suffered a major blow today in their attempts to win the right to settle here. The Home Office announced that after a High Court ruling 10,000 more former soldiers and family members would be eligible to live permanently in Britain, but campaigners say that in reality the new rules may help fewer than 100 men. David Enright, a solicitor acting on behalf of the Gurkhas, said: “They have set criteria that are unattainable. They require a Gurkha to serve for 20 years – but a rifleman is only permitted to serve for 15 years. “It’s a sham and an absolute disgrace. It’s far more restrictive than the old policy.”

The Home Secretary agreed to announce a new policy on the right of Gurkhas to settle in Britain after campaigners returned to court last month to enforce a legal ruling won at the Royal Courts of Justice in September. A High Court judge had ruled that the Government’s existing immigration policy, excluding veterans from settling, was unlawful.

Campaigners, including the actress Joanna Lumley, said that today’s announcement was disingenuous and offensive. “The Gurkhas cannot meet these new criteria. It makes me ashamed of our government,” Lumley said. “We will fight on. We don’t stop. This has been a setback but that is all.”

The Home Office said that it would will allow in around 4,300 more former Gurkhas out of a total of 36,000 who served in Britain’s Armed Forces prior to July 1997. Phil Woolas, the Immigration Minister, said: “This guidance honours the service, commitment and gallantry of those who served with the Brigade of Gurkhas. Now, another 10,000 Gurkhas and family members will be able to benefit from our revised guidance.”

He denied that the Government had betrayed the Gurkhas. “What we’ve done today is to allow even more people in without setting a precedent that would create a massive pressure, in my view, on the immigration service, which I don’t think the public would want me to grant,” he told the BBC.

Rules introduced in 2004 allowed serving Gurkhas with at least four years’ service to settle in the UK but they did not apply to Gurkhas discharged from the British Army before July 1, 1997.

Under the new guidelines Gurkhas and their families will be allowed to settle if they meet one of five criteria: they have three years' continuous residence in the UK during or after their service; they have close family in the UK; they received a level 1-3 bravery award, including the Victoria Cross, the Distinguished Service Order and the Military Cross; they served for 20 years or more; or they suffer from a chronic or long-term medical condition caused by, or aggravated by, service in the brigade.

In addition Gurkhas will normally be allowed to settle in Britain if they meet two or more of the following criteria: they were previously awarded an MoD disability pension but no longer have a chronic medical condition; they were mentioned in dispatches; they served for 10 years; or they received a campaign medal for active service in the brigade.

The brigade was formed after the partition of India in 1947, but Nepalese Gurkha soldiers have been part of the British Army for almost 200 years.

More than 200,000 Gurkhas fought for the Allies during the First and Second World Wars, with 43,000 giving their lives. There are currently around 3,500 serving Gurkhas.


World cooling has set-in warns astrophyicist - BBC & 'Global Warming apologists' challenged to end 'cover-up'

"Official data shows the world passed its peak temperatures 10 years ago, but sadly the BBC and 'Global Warming apologists' are now attempting to cover up the facts" said Piers Corbyn, 'climate realist', astrophysicist & long range weather & climate forecaster, 24 April, in response to the BBC's 'Quiet Sun baffling astronomers' report.

"In timely backing of the UK Government's £1billion Carbon budget and similar moves in the USA, the BBC and Prof Lockwood of Southampton University distort the facts in an attempt to cover-up the proven centrality of the sun in controlling world temperatures", said Piers.

"They make the ignorant and loaded claim that '...Current slight dimming of the sun was not going to reverse the rise in global temperatures caused by the burning of fossil fuels'. This is treble confusion because (1) the world is already cooling even though CO2 is rising; (2) there is no evidence that the burning of fossil fuels ever did or ever will drive world temperatures and (3) reputable and informed solar scientists know that there is a lot more to the sun's influence on the world than its dimness or brightness."

"It appears the BBC and Prof Lockwood hope to coax the public into believing coal burning drives climate by telling us that another discredited theory - that of solar dimming - doesn't work. This approach is disingenuous. It is astounding that such arguments as bizarre as 'It's not a dog so it must be a cat' emanate from a member of the UK Natural Environment Research Council.

"It is well known that world temperatures primarily follow the sun's magnetic cycle of 22 years, so obviously half the time temperatures will move oppositely to the 11 year cycle of tiny solar dimming and brightening. Prof Lockwood has been reminded of this fact on a number of occasions yet he is still recycling this old chestnut. With scientific leadership of this calibre what hope has the UK of clawing its way out of recession on the back of sound investment in science and technology?"

"The latest advances in Sun-Earth relations show not only the primacy of magnetic-particle links between the sun and the earth but that these are modulated by lunar effects to give the observed 60 year cycle in both world and USA temperatures. This means that the world will continue general cooling at least to 2030 (see ++). Neither the 60 year cycle, nor the 22 year cycle nor any fluctuations in world tempertaures over the last 100 years, thousand years or million years can be explained by changes in CO2. Furthermore advances in understanding of Sun-Earth magnetic and particle activity are being applied to succesfully predict dangerous weather and climate change events months and years ahead; whereas all predictions of the CO2-centred theory have failed and will continue to fail and anti-CO2 taxes and measures will never stop a single extreme weather event. The UN's Climate Change committee (the IPCC) have still failed to respond to requests from an international group of scientists to provide data evidence for the CO2 theory (see+*).

"Tragically the BBC is driven by a political agenda to propagate failed science rather than report on front-line advances in this field of key scientific and political import. The BBC and NERC boycotted the International Climate Change Conference New York 8-10 March which is a great pity because they missed sound refutations of the theory of man-made global warming and many world-class reports on scientific advance"

"One wonders if Prof Lockwood's place on the Natural Environment Research Council and the well-known opposition of its Chief Executive to 'Climate Sceptics' are not dimming his scientific faculties" queried Piers (See NERC-Register of interests)

The above is a press release from Enquiries:

Democrats afraid of what a British aristocrat might say

UK's Lord Christopher Monckton, a former science advisor to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, claimed House Democrats have refused to allow him to appear alongside former Vice President Al Gore at high profile global warming hearing on Friday April 24, 2009 at 10am in Washington. Monckton told Climate Depot that the Democrats rescinded his scheduled joint appearance at the House Energy and Commerce hearing on Friday. Monckton said he was informed that he would not be allowed to testify alongside Gore when his plane landed from England Thursday afternoon.

“The House Democrats don't want Gore humiliated, so they slammed the door of the Capitol in my face,” Monckton told Climate Depot in an exclusive interview. “They are cowards.”

According to Monckton, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), Ranking Member on the Energy & Commerce Committee, had invited him to go head to head with Gore and testify at the hearing on Capitol Hill Friday. But Monckton now says that when his airplane from London landed in the U.S. on Thursday, he was informed that the former Vice-President had “chickened out” and there would be no joint appearance. Gore is scheduled to testify on Friday to the Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment's fourth day of hearings on the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. The hearing will be held in 2123 Rayburn House Office Building.

According to Monckton, House Democrats told the Republican committee staff earlier this week that they would be putting forward an unnamed 'celebrity' as their star witness Friday at a multi-panel climate hearing examining the House global warming bill. The 'celebrity' witness turned out to be Gore. Monckton said the GOP replied they would respond to the Democrats 'celebrity' with an unnamed 'celebrity' of their own. But Monckton claims that when the Democrats were told who the GOP witness would be, they refused to allow him to testify alongside Gore.

“The Democrats have a lot to learn about the right of free speech under the US Constitution. Congress Henry Waxman's (D-CA) refusal to expose Al Gore's sci-fi comedy-horror testimony to proper, independent scrutiny by the House minority reeks of naked fear,” Monckton said from the airport Thursday evening.

“Waxman knows there has been no 'global warming' for at least a decade. Waxman knows there has been seven and a half years' global cooling. Waxman knows that, in the words of the UK High Court judge who condemned Gore's mawkish movie as materially, seriously, serially inaccurate, 'the Armageddon scenario that he depicts is not based on any scientific view,'” Monckton explained. Monckton has previously testified before the House Committee in March. [So they know he would wipe the floor with Gore]


It takes private schools to foster excellence in England

Prestigious private schools are vying to offer scholarships to Tom Daley, the Olympic diver, after his parents took him out of a state school where he was being bullied. Plymouth College, the alma mater of Dawn French and Michael Foot, and Brighton College, a leading independent, are competing to educate the 14-year-old, whose skills earned him a place in the Beijing Olympics.

Tom’s parents took him out of school before Easter because bullying had reached an “intolerable level”. Rob and Debbie Daley are now in discussions about a place at Plymouth College, which is home to an elite swimming club and charges up to £18,000 a year.

Mr Daley, 38, told The Times last night, “They understand the requirements of elite athletes. Academically, Tom’s doing well and we need to concentrate on his education.”

The college said Tom would be offered a “very significant scholarship” to enable him to attend. Dr Simon Wormleighton, headmaster, said he would fit in well at the school, which has experience of dealing with pupils who are high-level athletes.

Tom, who finished seventh in the men’s 10m platform event in Beijing, has also been offered a full scholarship to the £25,000-a-year Brighton College. “Tom is just the sort of young person we welcome here and I am confident he would fit in very well,” said Richard Cairns, the headmaster at Brighton.

But Mr Daley dismissed the generous offer. “Brighton is out of the question because it is too far away,” he said. Tom is aware of the discussions with Plymouth College and is very keen to leave Eggbuckland Community College, in Devon. Tom will go to Plymouth College when he returns from competing in Florida next month if the abuse does not stop. He has been plagued by bullies since the Olympics, who allegedly threatened to break his legs.

Mr Daley said: “Tom’s not big headed, he doesn’t even talk about it at school. But some kids don’t realise what the Olympics are, or the scale of what Tom’s doing.”

His parents complained to the school 11 times but removed Tom from classes because the abuse had become unbearable and was threatening to affect his diving.

Katrina Borowski, head of Eggbuckland Community College, said: “Tom’s extremely high profile has led to a minority of students acting in an immature way towards him. “It is difficult for Tom to have a ‘normal’ school life, but immediate action was taken to address concerns. We have a clear policy for dealing firmly with any incidents.” [A failed policy, unfortunately]


Tony Blair opposes new 50 pence tax rate for high earners: "Tony Blair believes the new 50 per cent top rate of income tax introduced by Gordon Brown is a "terrible mistake". The former Prime Minister has privately expressed his despair at the Labour government's decision to target the wealthy in the Budget. Some of the leading architects of New Labour have also savaged the move, which they believe has cost Labour any hope of winning the general election. The revelation that Mr Blair has privately indicated his opposition to the headline 50 pence tax rate for people earning over £150,000 will cause consternation in Downing Street. One of Mr Blair's closest allies said: "The 50p tax move is a disaster. Blair would have cut taxes, not increased them." The hostile public reaction to the Budget, which signalled a return to the politics of class warfare, has intensified speculation that Mr Brown could face a leadership challenge. The mood of despair among Labour MPs deepened after figures published yesterday showed the economy contracted far more sharply in the first quarter than the Chancellor Alistair Darling predicted in his Budget statement only two days earlier."

The British police State: "Every phone call, email or website visit will be monitored by the state under plans to be unveiled next week. The proposals will give police and security services the power to snoop on every single communication made by the public with the data then likely to be stored in an enormous national database. The precise content of calls and other communications would not be accessible but even text messages and visits to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter would be tracked. The move has alarmed civil liberty campaigners, and the country's data protection watchdog last night warned the proposals would be "unacceptable". Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, will argue the powers are needed to target terrorists and serious criminals who are taking advantage of the increasing complex nature of communications to plot atrocities and crimes."