Friday, April 03, 2009

Earth population 'exceeds limits'

The Leftist eugenicists of the early 20th century are back again. They gave us Uncle Adolf last time. But this little Fascist is in favour of GM crops so it's an ill wind ....

There are already too many people living on Planet Earth, according to one of most influential science advisors in the US government. Nina Fedoroff told the BBC One Planet programme that humans had exceeded the Earth's "limits of sustainability".

Dr Fedoroff has been the science and technology advisor to the US secretary of state since 2007, initially working with Condoleezza Rice. Under the new Obama administration, she now advises Hillary Clinton.

"We need to continue to decrease the growth rate of the global population; the planet can't support many more people," Dr Fedoroff said, stressing the need for humans to become much better at managing "wild lands", and in particular water supplies.

Pressed on whether she thought the world population was simply too high, Dr Fedoroff replied: "There are probably already too many people on the planet."

A National Medal of Science laureate (America's highest science award), the professor of molecular biology believes part of that better land management must include the use of genetically modified foods. "We have six-and-a-half-billion people on the planet, going rapidly towards seven. "We're going to need a lot of inventiveness about how we use water and grow crops," she told the BBC. "We accept exactly the same technology (as GM food) in medicine, and yet in producing food we want to go back to the 19th Century."

Dr Fedoroff, who wrote a book about GM Foods in 2004, believes critics of genetically modified maize, corn and rice are living in bygone times. "We wouldn't think of going to our doctor and saying 'Treat me the way doctors treated people in the 19th Century', and yet that's what we're demanding in food production."

In a wide ranging interview, Dr Fedoroff was asked if the US accepted its responsibility to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be driving human-induced climate change. "Yes, and going forward, we just have to be more realistic about our contribution and decrease it - and I think you'll see that happening."

And asked if America would sign up to legally binding targets on carbon emissions - something the world's biggest economy has been reluctant to do in the past - the professor was equally clear. "I think we'll have to do that eventually - and the sooner the better."


Siblings benefit from sister presence

Sounds reasonable. Peer pressure is the strongest socialization agent and girls are very sensitive to peer pressure

GROWING up with a sister makes people more balanced, ambitious and optimistic, research suggests. A study of 571 families comprising brothers, sisters, a mixture of both and single children found that having a sister in the home led to siblings of either sex scoring more highly on a range of standard tests for good mental health.

They were found to be better at coping with setbacks and more highly motivated than those who grew up with just brothers. They also had more friends and a better social life.

The research, to be presented today at the British Psychological Society's annual conference in Brighton, was conducted by psychologists at De Montfort University in Leicester and the University of Ulster.

Liz Wright, a research fellow at De Montfort, said that the study began after previous research showed that girls with sisters appeared to experience less distress when they encountered trouble in their lives. "We wanted to see if the positive impact of sisters went farther than just girls and found that it did," she said. "One of the most interesting findings was the impact of female siblings when parents split up. It seems their natural inclination was to express themselves, talk about the separation and encourage other family members to do so as well. It seems to help keep family relationships going. There was markedly less distress in broken homes with a sister."

Psychologists have long believed that "emotional expression" at times of upheaval is fundamental to good psychological health. "Sisters appear to encourage that," Ms Wright said. "However, brothers seemed to have the opposite effect, perhaps discouraging others to talk."

The tests covered how much social support and control over their lives people felt they had, optimism, achievement motivation and ability to cope with setbacks.

The researchers said that the difference when a sister was in the home were "significant". It may help to explain the success of the Williams sisters, who have coped with huge upheaval and pressure in their lives on the professional tennis circuit.

The mental health of only children lay between that of children with a sister and those with only brothers. "It seems many only children had built up significant social support outside the home by the time they reached their late teens, which helped them in a crisis and in other areas of life," Ms Wright said.

The findings suggest that parents who separate should be aware that their sons may struggle to come to terms with the family break-up. The research will also be used in the treatment of eating disorders. The next research will seek to identify more precisely what sisters contribute to family life that makes such a positive difference.



Sent by Peter Lilley [], a British Conservative Party Member of Parliament

You recently slipped out, without notifying Parliament, a massive revision of the estimated costs and benefits of the Climate Change Act. I hope that on consideration, you will agree that changes amounting to nearly £1 trillion require both discussion in, and explanation to, Parliament. This is particularly important given the extraordinary way the government treated its own original estimates of the costs and benefits of the Climate Change Bill during the Bill’s passage through Parliament.

You will recall that your original estimates of costs and benefits of the Climate Change Bill showed that its potential costs (1) at some £205 billion were almost twice the maximum benefits of £110 billion. This was embarrassing for you because the reason governments are required to publish an Impact Assessment giving estimates of costs and benefits of any Bill is to enable Parliament to “determine whether the benefits justify the costs” (2).

In this case, on the basis of your figures, they clearly did not. Moreover, your initial calculations were based on the original target of reducing emissions by 60%, which was increased to 80% during the passage of the Bill. Normally each extra percentage reduction will require increasing marginal costs and generate declining marginal benefits. So the higher target was likely to make the disparity between costs and benefits even worse. You nonetheless ignored your own department’s figures, refused to discuss them and proceeded to drive the Bill through – surely the first time any government has recommended Parliament to vote for a Bill which its own Assessment showed could cost far more than the maximum benefits?

However, you promised to produce revised estimates though, rather bizarrely, not in time for Parliament to consider them but after Royal Assent. Five months have passed since then. Inevitably such a lengthy delay arouses suspicions – aggravated by the scale of the changes – that the figures have had to be heavily massaged to remove the original embarrassment. The new figures for both costs and benefits have indeed been changed dramatically. As so often in the debate on Global Warming – when the facts don’t fit the theory they change the facts.

As recently as your last departmental question time on 5th March your Minister of State, Joan Ruddock, suggested to me that the original estimate of potential costs of up to £205 billion might be too high. She said “We are likely to find that the costs, which covered a very large range, were exaggerated…” Yet despite correcting for any previous downward bias the revised figures you have now published are not lower but substantially higher. The bottom of the new range for costs is in fact £324 billion – nearly 60% higher than the highest figure I have been quoting. And the top of the range is now £404 billion. In other words the government now estimates that the Climate Change Act will cost every household in the country between £16,000 and £20,000 each.

When it comes to your revised estimates of the benefits, however, we enter Alice in Wonderland territory. Even though costs have broadly doubled, the embarrassment of them exceeding your own estimate of the maximum benefits has been eliminated. The benefits have been dramatically increased tenfold from £105 billion to over £1 trillion. I congratulate on finding nearly £1 trillion of benefits which had previously escaped your notice.

But surely such an astounding discovery merits explanation? The one element of the revision which is mentioned appears, of itself, to justify doubling estimates based on the previous methodology. But where did the rest of the newly discovered benefits arise from?

As you know, having studied physics at Cambridge, I do not dispute the existence of a greenhouse effect, though I am sceptical about the model building which seeks to amplify it. I support sensible measures to reduce CO2 emissions, economise on hydrocarbon use and help the poorest countries adapt to adverse climate change whatever it cause – as long as the measures we adopt are sensible and cost effective. But we cannot judge what is sensible and cost effective if we do not have reliable figures, and subject them to proper parliamentary scrutiny.

When the Department slips out figures which it appears to be unable to explain, unwilling to debate and which are so flaky they vary by a factor of ten - it can only provoke scepticism. I should be grateful if you could answer the following questions:

1) When will Parliament be given an opportunity to discuss these new figures?

2) What is the explanation of the huge revisions in costs and, more particularly, benefits?

3) Why has it taken five months to produce these revised figures?

4) What is the purpose of publishing Impact Assessments which are ignored or not available until after Parliament has considered a Bill?

5) Which minister signed off the required declaration that the original Impact Assessment “represented a reasonable view of the likely costs, benefits and impact”?

6) Can you confirm that the costs of the Climate Change Act amount to between £16,000 and £20,000 for every UK household?

7) Can you confirm that the revised cost estimates still exclude transitional costs (which could amount to 1% of GDP up to 2020), ignore the cost of driving British firms overseas, and assume that all businesses identify and immediately apply the most carbon efficient technology available?

8) Can you confirm that although the costs of the Act will fall on UK households the benefits will largely accrue to the rest of the world?

9) Can you confirm that the Climate Change Act binds UK governments to pursue the targets regardless of whether other countries follow our lead (or indeed whether the climate warms or not)?


(1) Cost estimates exclude transitional costs which were put at about 1% of GDP until 2020, omit the cost of driving carbon intensive UK industries abroad which was said to be significantly likely, and assume that businesses will identify and implement immediately the optimum new carbon efficient technologies.

(2) Impact Assessment Guidance - BERR

Bogus colleges are 'Achilles Heel' of immigration system, says British government

This is just more tokenism from Britain's Leftist government. Huge numbers of people illegally in Britain that they know about but seem unable to deport are the real "Achilles heel". Still, I suppose we must be thankful for small mercies

Bogus colleges that help illegal immigrants slip in to Britain are the "Achilles Heel" in the immigration system, Home Office minister Phil Woolas has admitted. The immigration minister said fake colleges and language schools are the "biggest loophole" in the system as figures showed almost one in four applying to sponsor students under new rules are potentially bogus.

Hundreds of colleges were barred from taking in foreign students under the new points-based system. But ministers have softened their stance on foreign students having to show they can financially support themselves while here. Initial proposals would have meant they had to demonstrate they had enough money for a year but that has now been cut to nine months.

Mr Woolas said: "In my estimation abuse of the student visa has been the biggest abuse of the system, the major loophole in Britain's border controls. "I believe that the new system will benefit major institutions, colleges and private universities, but the backstreet bogus college is being exposed."

New visa rules, that began yesterday, mean international students need to be accepted by genuine institutions before they can come here. Officials estimate up to 2,000 "bogus" colleges will be forced to close because of the changes. All colleges and universities who want to take foreign students now have to register with the Home Office. Of the 5,000 thought to take foreign students only 2,100 have so far applied to have their credentials checked. And of those 460 have been rejected.

Frank Field MP co-chairman of the Cross Party Group on Balanced Migration, said: "This is a worrying but not totally astonishing revelation. While Ministers are right to tighten the immigration system, this uncovers the shambles that they have allowed to develop – a huge number of dodgy colleges, some of which are simply designed to get round immigration controls."

His co-chairman Nicholas Soames MP added: "Given there are nearly a quarter of a million non-EU students in British higher education institutions, the question this poses is 'how many are here under false pretences?' Ministers need to answer that question now in Parliament."

Dr Sharon Bolton, head of international student support at Imperial, said she was concerned about bureaucracy in the new system. The 17-page application form for existing students to renew their visas was now 55 pages long, she said.

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, said: "These new measures make sure people who come here to study - and the people who teach them - play by the rules. "This new tier of the points based system allows us to know exactly who is coming to the UK to study and crack down on bogus colleges. "I have made it clear that I will not tolerate either the fraudulent applicants trying to abuse Britain's immigration rules, or the dodgy colleges that facilitate them. However Britain will always welcome legitimate students who are coming here to receive a first-rate education."


British ban on Dutch politician backfires

We read:
"The hasty ban on Wilders, which was obviously adopted by Gordon Brown's government as a gesture of appeasement to the very active Muslim fundamentalist wing in British politics, thereupon made it almost inevitable that the same government's decision to invite some representatives of Hezbollah to London would itself have to be reversed. The plan had been to get some civilian spokesman of the party's Lebanese wing to meet with officials and academics to discuss possible areas of common interest—this was in line with the British government's recent decision to resume contacts with Hezbollah in Beirut, on the assumption that a distinction can be made between its elected parliamentary wing and its military one. Even if you think that this is based on a naive assumption, the British are at least entitled to try it.

But now they find that one ban leads to another, for the sake of appearances and "even-handedness," so that having refused hospitality to one Dutchman, they are compelled to deny themselves the pleasure of sitting down with one or two Lebanese.


Logical reply "homophobic"

A British councillor's gender joke led to a dressing down by police
"The question-and-answer session had started in unremarkable fashion. As the 50 members of the public at the police liaison meeting were handed their electronic handsets to take part in a survey, an official told them: 'Let's start with an easy question to get us going. 'Press A if you're male or B if you're female.'

But it seems nothing is ever that simple. Someone asked: 'What if you're transgendered?' 'You could press A and B together,' quipped Conservative councillor Jonathan Yardley.

And that's where the problems started. Unbeknown to Mr Yardley, the person who had asked the question was partner to a transgendered individual, also at the meeting. And although Mr Yardley believes others found his quip amusing, this couple certainly did not.

A complaint was made - and as a result, he was spoken to by police for his ' homophobic' remark. Yesterday, the 48-year-old councillor said: 'I went to meet a sergeant and an inspector who told me what I said could be homophobic and started giving me advice on what sort of humour I should engage in. 'They put me through the mill and asked me to confirm what I'd said and told me that a complaint had been made and I could be prosecuted.

'I find it ridiculous you can get in trouble over an off-the-cuff remark, with no malice intended. I didn't even know there was a transgender person there.

The married father of one, who was not arrested, added: 'I've been trying to get more police into my ward, Tettenhall Regis, where there are the usual problems of anti-social youths, burglary and car crime. It just adds to my frustration that the police have to deal with petty complaints like jokes.


False rape accusation causes great distress and damage

Women don't make false rape accusations: Any feminist will tell you that. Good if it were true

Are there worse things for a man to be called than a rapist? If so, Peter Bacon - who still has the word ringing in his head and surely will for the rest of his life - struggles to think of them. 'Rapist. It's up there with paedophile, isn't it?' he says. 'Rape is one of those things for which there are no excuses. Socially, it's one of the worst crimes because no one can ever justify rape. 'I'd say it is worse even than murder, because there can be circumstances where you can attempt to justify murder. Personally, I'd have preferred to be in that dock accused of murder than rape.'

Of course, Peter isn't a rapist. This week a court said so. A jury declared he was nothing more than an ordinary young man who once had a drunken one-night stand - albeit one which went horribly, terrifyingly wrong. And yet the 26-year-old found himself accused: first, by the woman he slept with - a respected lawyer no less - who opened her eyes the morning after and screamed. Then by the authorities, who agreed that charges should be pressed.

It took more than a year for the case to come to court, and that has meant 13 months of whispers, finger-pointing and the assumption that everyone you encounter is thinking just one word. 'I can't even begin to describe how horrible that is,' he says, in his first interview since walking free from court on Thursday. 'Everywhere you go, you feel there are eyes boring into you. It was there in court, obviously, with the jury, the judge and people in the public gallery. I was thinking: "These people think I am a rapist. My God, they think I am capable of that." 'Outside court, too. People in the street. I was even paranoid of the builders in the car park. My friend would say "They are not looking at you", but in my eyes they were. Everyone was.'

And still are? He nods. The worst thing about a rape accusation, he points out and rightly so, is that it isn't shaken off easily. 'I'm an innocent man, but those charges are out there, for ever, on the internet. And these things stick. Some people will remember that I was actually acquitted, proved innocent. But for others, I'll just be yet another man who got away with rape, and that is devastating.

'What makes it worse is that she was the person she was. Imagine being accused of rape by a lawyer, for goodness sake? She knew the courts system. 'I was just this nobody - the accused. I was the lowest of the low.'

Peter admits that he harboured his own preconceptions about rape charges before 'all this'. Only a certain type of man would even find himself on a rape charge in the first place, wouldn't he? 'Exactly. And that man wasn't me. I'm not aggressive. I don't treat women badly. In fact, 80 per cent of my friends are women. It had never occurred to me that I needed to be worried about a one-night stand. I just never thought in a million years that I would be anywhere near a rape case. And yet I was, right in the middle of it.'

And how. His account of his ordeal should be read by every unattached young man heading for a night out. And every woman who might be tempted to mix alcohol and sex, then think of the consequences too late.

'At one point I thought I'd go to prison,' says Peter. 'When I first saw a lawyer, I said: "How bad could this get?" And he said: "You could be looking at 25 years." 'I just cried in the police cell, and that isn't me. I don't cry. But I pulled a blanket over my head, turned away from the security cameras to face the wall and just sobbed my eyes out. 'I cried again a year later, in the toilets of the courtroom, on the third day of the trial. My face had been all over the papers that morning. I couldn't get a grip. The security guard was just standing there as I cried myself stupid.'

In between those two sobbing fits, there were plenty more anguished moments. Peter was the first member of his social group to go to university, but he dropped out of his sociology course because he couldn't bear facing his fellow students after the charges were brought. 'I was at university in Kent, but got on the bus back home to Coventry the day after I was charged. I wanted to run away because I was so ashamed. Not because I'd done anything wrong, but because I knew people wouldn't see it like that.'

He still wonders if his life, as he had planned it, might be over, even though it took a jury only 45 minutes to return with an emphatic 'not guilty' verdict. He may be back at university, but his romantic life has pretty much ground to a halt since that February night of last year. 'I'd like to have a girlfriend, but it's been impossible. You get chatting to a girl in a bar and you have to tell them sooner rather than later, don't you? How the hell do you start that conversation?'

The career he had planned is pretty much in tatters, too. 'I'd been thinking of teaching, but that's out the window. 'My DNA is on a database. There are records. I don't know if this case would be brought up on an initial search, but if they go digging it will be there. And who would let me work with children? 'If it was a choice between someone with a rape charge lingering in the past or someone without, which one would you choose? I'd do exactly the same.'

So how on earth did an obviously bright young man, with impeccable manners, find himself in this situation? The first thing he seems desperate - perhaps understandably so - to stress is that he is no womaniser. Before the romantic encounter in question, he'd had three serious relationships, each lasting between a year and two-and-a-half years. 'I do get female attention, yes, but I'd say I am the sort of bloke who is happier in a relationship, but I'd split up with a long-term girlfriend just before that night, and, yes, I was single. 'People have assumed I was out there looking for sex. I wasn't; I was just having a good night out. But when things happen, well, I wasn't going to say no.'

His accuser was not a stranger. They had met twice before that night, having been introduced by a mutual friend. In her 40s, she was several years his senior, and from the off he had been intrigued by her. One night, having a few drinks after work, he received a text from his friend, inviting him to the woman's house. He, of course, was only too happy to go along. 'I was fascinated by her, yes, of course. She was a lawyer. Successful. Attractive. She had great taste, liked good music. 'But I didn't go there thinking it was going to end in sex with her. It was a social thing, really. I thought I'd like to try moving in those circles, meeting important people. I wanted to get on.'

That the attention he received from this woman had a sexual edge was flattering, though. 'Of course. She's an attractive woman. What young man wouldn't be flattered by that?' When he arrived at the house, he'd already had three beers. He can't remember how much wine he went on to consume, but the woman told the court that she had something approaching four bottles of wine.

In a sober courtroom, these sorts of events can sound like hedonistic orgies, but Peter says it was nothing of the sort. 'It was just your typical get-together. Music. Dancing. Everyone a bit merry. That's how I would describe her. She was on great form, chatty. She'd obviously been drinking, but was she paralytic? Absolutely not.'

There was flirting, and lots of it, he says. When the other friend left, leaving Peter and the woman alone, things got physical. They went upstairs. She performed a sex act on him. Then there was full sex. He is embarrassed about going into the nitty gritty. For good reason, too. However nice a guy he seems, there is something repellent about the idea of a man pursuing sex with a woman who has consumed four bottles of wine. It isn't gentlemanly, is it?

'But she didn't seem drunk to me. Merry, yes. Off her face, no. If she'd been all over the place, falling, not making any sense, I wouldn't even have thought about sleeping with her, of course I wouldn't. It would have been disrespectful to her, and to me.' Instead, he says she was 'fully cooperative' and the liaison was ' reciprocal'. 'Yes, she enjoyed it as much as I did, or she seemed to.' Did she do the seducing? 'I'd say it was a mutual thing. We were adults. It was two adults doing what two adults do.'

Was it always going to be a regrettable sort of one-night stand, though? He says, not necessarily. 'I'd say I regarded it as a one-night stand with potential. I don't know if it would have led anywhere, but the possibility was there.' He certainly wasn't planning to bolt out of the house at the crack of dawn, though. 'Absolutely not. There was the expectation that I'd have a coffee, chat a bit, help her tidy up the house, which was in a mess after the night before. Instead, it just became . . . madness.'

What he means is that the woman opened her eyes, took one look at him and became hysterical. 'She was just screaming at me, saying that because she didn't remember anything I must have raped her. She was going on about how the law had been changed to protect women from people like me. I was completely thrown, just bewildered. 'She was screaming at me to get out, and I was running round trying to find my clothes. I got my trousers and shoes, but I couldn't find my socks. They tried to make something about that in court, but my God, what did socks matter in all of that?

'I remember her going on about how she needed her phone, so I went to the kitchen and got it for her. I knew I was going to leave, but I thought she would be safe if she had her phone and could call for help. 'I just wanted a minute to think.' On the doorstep, he says he needed only ten seconds to realise how serious things were. 'I did the only thing I could think of doing, which was to call 999. Afterwards, I did think: "Was it an emergency?" Well, yes, at that moment I thought it was. I just wanted the police to come and, I don't know, sort it out. I remember saying: "You have to get here."'

Did he call the police for the woman's sake, or his? 'I don't know. A bit of both, I guess. She was in a terrible state and I didn't know what else to do.' The 999 operator told him it was not an emergency and he needed to contact his local police station. He walked straight there - only to find it closed. 'It was all a bit farcical, looking back. I couldn't even find the door, then realised it was a glass thing that was locked.

That afternoon, the police did turn up and arrested Peter. He was allowed to make his one call from the police cell before he was questioned. 'I called my dad and said: "Dad, I've been arrested for rape." I tried to explain more, but they said: "No, that's it." My poor dad. For four hours that was all he knew. He was going out of his mind.'

And so began what he can only describe as 'this unimaginable nightmare, from which there was no waking up'. 'At every step, I thought: "Someone will realise how mad this all is and stop it." But that never happened, until, thank God, the jury came back.'

'The thing I've come to feel angry about is how powerless men like me are. Traditionally, there have been very strong feminist voices lobbying about rape issues, but there is no male equivalent, and maybe that is needed.'


Another deliberately false rape accusation in Britain

Man cleared of rape after court shown phone footage of woman 'actively' taking part in sex. The bitch should be sued for false accusation. The Brits have occasionally put women away for that

A businessman was cleared of raping a university student today after jurors were shown video footage of their sex session. Gary Taylor, 41, was accused of attacking the 27-year-old woman after turning up at her flat with cocaine and a bottle of red wine. The woman, who can't be identified for legal reasons, told jurors that Mr Taylor forced her to perform a sex act on him and then raped her in her living room.

But during cross-examination she was shown footage Mr Taylor had taken on his mobile phone during the encounter on September 26, 2008. Mr Taylor's barrister Karen Holt said the footage showed the woman 'actively' performing a sex act on him.

Judge Christopher Moss QC closed the public gallery before a graphic clip filmed by the woman was shown to the jury. The judge warned: 'You are going to see a clip which from what I have been told you may find extremely distasteful. To avoid making it a peep show, I have ordered the public gallery to be cleared.'

After the footage was screened, Miss Holt said to the alleged victim: 'You and Mr Taylor were very familiar with each other and comfortable in each other's presence.' The woman said: 'I don't think I was happily talking to him.' She also denied 'actively' performing a sex act on Mr Taylor.

The prosecution offered no evidence following advice from the judge. Mr Taylor, who runs a multimedia company, was cleared of four charges of rape and walked free from court.

The Old Bailey heard police had arrived at the victim's flat in Wood Green, North London, in the early hours of the morning after reports of a disturbance. She made a complaint of rape and Mr Taylor was arrested at the scene. Giving evidence she told the court: 'He wanted to be intimate. Maybe he thought he could force me into it but he went too far. 'He thought he could be persuasive and it went too far. He kept trying to kiss me that evening and I was saying no. 'I was quite drunk. He was on top of me at some point with his hand on my mouth.'

Mr Taylor, from Hornsey, North London, denied four counts of rape, including two of rape by oral penetration. The woman had not seen the film of her having sex with Mr Taylor before it was shown to the court.


Are women sexually liberated, or just confused?

Are we living in an age of sexual freedom, or are women more confused and unfulfilled than ever?

We live in a highly sexualised society, one that has handed women the ostensible right to be as free, as wild and as pleasured as they wish. From the cultural looks of things, you’d think women were having sex round the clock. Agent Provocateur is a brand like no other. Soon it will add furniture and bed linen to its sales of erotic books, £175 handcuffs and the sort of sellout frillies seen on your favourite female fashion icons.

In China, vibrator manufacturers are one of the few industries weathering a global recession. Rampant Rabbit enthusiasts rave about the latest model, the bumper stickers on their cars proclaiming, “My other ride is a rabbit”. Sex toys are chic lifestyle accessories. Recently, a PR punting JimmyJane’s Little Something line of precious-metal vibrators closed her pitch with “Kate Moss bought the gold one”.

Older women are characterised as foxes or, the more predatory American term, cougars. Just work at it and you fortysomething pluses can retain a plumptious, fecund look well into middle age. If you don’t find that older-lady-loving junior down the pub, meet him online at the unequivocally named

We appear to be living in a golden age of female sexual awareness and fulfilment, doing anything and everything on top of what our sexually naive mothers and grandmothers apparently did out of duty or for a washing machine. Our favourite lady authors have written In Bed With, a collection of erotic stories that its editors, Kathy Lette and Imogen Edwards-Jones, call “female masturbatory material”. Nike sells sport to women with the promise that it will improve their sex lives. Even our favourite blusher, by Nars, is called Orgasm.

Performance anxiety

Yet, in among the glossy portrayal of our intimate moments, the truth about our sex lives is notoriously difficult to track — not least because people lie in surveys that are already suspect in their mission. What is clear is that women find the cultural environment a gigantic cause for performance anxiety. It wasn’t hard to find someone who had actually experienced the following scenario, outlined to me by Brett Kahr of the Society of Couple Psychoanalytic Psychotherapists: couple in bed, wife “down there” performing an “oral sex act”, husband neatly propped up on the White Company best, answering e-mails on his BlackBerry. And this very obvious example of the modern world entering the bedroom is only the proverbial tip. The window of Agent Provocateur is not the window into the sexual soul of British women, more’s the pity.

Kahr’s study of 14,000 British people found that 21% of us have no sex at all, 32% have it once a month and 44% once a month to once a week. According to these figures, women are having less of everything than men, except celibacy. And while the April cover of Cosmo screams, “Your orgasm! The secret to super satisfaction every time”, a Stanford University study found women in sexual liaisons orgasm only 80% as often as men, when, in theory, they could easily beat men hands down, as it were. Finally, in totally unscientific cyber-noseyiness, I posted something on Facebook asking women if they were “getting enough”. Most answered, “no”, citing the obvious, such as tiredness, stress, kids and lack of time and/or men.

Selling sex

Fifty years ago, in The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir described womanhood as a socially constructed activity; today, after several waves of feminism, and a recognised right to contraception, sexual pleasure and all that, we still find our sexuality defined by pop music, glossy magazines, advertising and pornography. Dr Petra Boynton, a sex psychologist, sees the very commercialisation that makes us seem so free as the reason we’re not satisfied. “The scented candles, the lingerie, the stuff — it doesn’t explain how anything works, it just presents a dream,” she says. “Sex has become mandatory, competitive and commercialised. Vested commercial interests suggest it could be great, if only you had their product.”

Are the women walking down the street proudly swinging their pink-and-black AP bags empowered, sexually charged and free, or are they just... shopping — our sexual empowerment often seems all about the bucks and not the actual bang. Joe Corre, the owner of Agent Provocateur, sees the brand as empowering — and on a fundamental level, who isn’t going to give three cheers for nice knickers? “Our ideal is to create a sense of sex and power, of celebrating femininity,” he says. But the pressure can be crushing. “Two years ago, on my birthday, I spent a lot of money in Agent Provocateur,” says a thirtysomething on her second marriage, including “handcuffs, stockings and several sets of lingerie. It was memorable for all the hope I pinned on it. My husband and I stayed in a hotel and I remember a great sense of disappointment that the sex wasn’t perfect”.

The idealised body

At Beautcamp Pilates, a chain of exercise studios that serves the very women who like to swing by AP to see what’s new in, there are whispers about women having the odd orgasm during class. Its workout machines, called reformers, involve taking a very coital position, legs spread wide in the air, in something like gynae stirrups. The owner, Dominique Day, is circumspect, however. “A few yummy mummies have admitted they come here as a replacement for sex,” he says, “because they are not getting any from their stressed husbands.” Meanwhile, Rowan Pelling, the sex commentator and writer, says the reason women aren’t getting enough is that they’re “too busy going to the gym when they should burn off those calories in bed”. The attempt to hone an idealised sexy body is certainly part of the passion-killing zeitgeist. Boynton says the commercialisation of sex as status symbol “sets up the idea that sex only happens in really pricey knickers. It excludes women. It’s an elitist model from which women without money or a certain body shape are excluded”.

A lovely-looking make-up artist in her mid-thirties agrees: “It’s all so competitive. Women are made to feel they have to look the part for ever, you can’t just let it go. My partner left me eight months after I had a baby, saying he ‘couldn’t feel a thing’. Deserted, I felt fat, saggy and unattractive. I find everyone, from Madonna to Kerry Katona, totally depressing, with their sparkly looks put down to ‘lots of fruit and veg’, when we all know it’s personal trainers, Botox and retouching.”


Overnight NHS hospital beds fall 10% in just three years

DESPITE a growing population

The number of overnight beds in NHS hospitals has plummeted by almost 10 per cent in just three years. Experts say the falls have exacerbated overcrowding on wards, which is putting patients at increased risk of infection. And the pressure to discharge elderly patients quickly because of the low number of beds was endangering their health, they warned.

The official figures show the number of beds remained virtually constant over the early years of Labour control, but began to fall in 2005 - the year of the financial crisis which engulfed the NHS and forced the closure of dozens of wards and the cutting of hundreds of jobs.

There were 198 overnight beds per 100,000 people in 2007/08. This is down from 219 per 100,000 in 2004/05, the year before the financial crisis, and 222 when Labour came to power.

Ministers say fewer overnight beds are needed because medical advances mean people are no longer kept in hospital for as long. But patients groups claim beds and sometimes entire wards are being shut for cost reasons, while doctors warned the NHS will be unable to cope in times of crisis such as a big flu outbreak. There are also concerns that low numbers of beds lead to high occupancy rates - putting people at risk of catching superbugs because there is not enough time to clean wards properly.

The pressure to free up dwindling numbers of beds has also led to fears that elderly people are being discharged too early, putting them at risk. Last year nearly 150,000 people over the age of 75 had to be re-admitted as emergency admissions within 28 days.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said: 'The loss of beds is putting hospitals under an impossible strain, with many seeing increases in emergency admissions. 'It is complete mismanagement to cut the number of NHS beds when the number of emergency readmissions and the number of cancelled operations are on the rise. 'Hospitals across the country are full to overflowing, and staff are being put under impossible pressure thanks to this Government's mistakes.'

Conservative health spokesman Andrew Lansley said the bed cuts would also make it harder for the Government to meet repeated pledges to eradicate mixed-sex wards. 'It is madness to cut beds when wards are overcrowded, when there aren’t enough isolation rooms to control hospital infections and patients are still placed in mixed sex accommodation,' he said. 'Labour’s complacent assumption that there would not be any more winter crises is now having disastrous consequences for patients. 'In 2000 Labour said that bed numbers needed to increase, but these figures demonstrate again how badly they have failed. The Government needs to explain why our hospitals have so many fewer beds than hospitals in other European countries.'

Michael Summers of the Patients Association said: 'In an ageing population we need a proper number of beds available, but what we are seeing is beds being cut to save money, leaving patients to suffer - as we saw in Mid Staffordshire. 'It can be no accident that the number of beds began to fall after the time of hospital deficits. 'Overcrowding in wards makes them more difficult to clean and encourages the spread of infections. It means the NHS will be less likely to be able to cope if there is a big outbreak of flu or something like that. 'And elderly people could end up being discharged earlier than is good for them, which is counter-productive. These bed cuts are silly, short term decisions by managers.'

A survey out earlier this year showed that the UK had far fewer beds than almost any other country in Europe, with less than half the number per head of population than Germany. The study in the Lancet found that overcrowding in hospitals was linked to superbug outbreaks, and 71 per cent of hospitals had occupancy rates of more than 82 per cent - a recognised safe level. Around a quarter of trusts exceeded 90 per cent.

The new figures, revealed in a parliamentary answer and published in Pulse magazine, show that in only one part of the country has the numbers of beds stayed constant over the past year. This was the South Central region, covering Oxfordshire, Hampshire and neighbouring counties, where there are 164 beds per 100,000 people - one of the lowest rates in the country.

There were wide regional variations, with people in deprived areas like the North East having two thirds more beds per head of population than those in East Anglia - 245 to 151 per 100,000. Across the country, the rate was 222 per person in 1997/98, when Labour took office. It remained constant until 2004/05, when a financial crisis hit the NHS and dozens of hospitals were forced to make cuts to jobs and close wards to save money. From then on, the numbers started to fall.

Answering the parliamentary question, health minister Ben Bradshaw said the fall in the number of hospital overnight beds was the result of dealing with patients more efficiently and releasing them more quickly. 'Experts all agree this is the best way to deliver healthcare,' he said. 'Advances in medical technology and shorter stays for routine operations mean fewer beds are needed. This is part of a long-term downward trend in the average length of stay in hospital. 'But where the NHS needs more beds, there are more beds.' There were 47 per cent more day beds, he said.

However, Dr Jonathan Fielden, chair of the British Medical Association's consultants' committee, said funding cuts meant specialists were relying on already stretched GPs to pick up the slack. 'While we have hospitals with this limited capacity - as we saw this winter - we will have more delays in getting patients in and we will be much more reliant on our GP colleagues to look after patients a bit longer and take them that little bit earlier.'

Dr Paddy Glackin, a GP in north London, said primary care trusts were cutting costs and leaving GPs to pick up the pieces. 'It's a rolling door. Every day, GPs have to see patients who have been hurtled out of hospital too quickly. Every single Friday one local hospital is on an emergency beds system and we are fighting to get our patients accepted. We are under pressure continually to manage patients at home.'

Richard Hoey, deputy editor of Pulse, said: 'Moving patients out of hospital more quickly is great if it's genuinely justified on medical grounds, but it's certainly not acceptable just as a way of saving money. 'The Government must also ensure that if patients are increasingly managed in primary care, rather than in hospital, that there is a concurrent shift in resources. At the moment, hospitals continue to soak up too much of NHS funding.'


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