Monday, April 13, 2009

Fined £75, the man who pinned up a sign and 'harmed a living tree'

After losing two of his prized paintings, Anton Cataldo decided to make a direct appeal to the public. The 28-year-old artist, who specialises in pet portraits, made posters of his missing paintings and pinned them to half a dozen trees in his local park. He included his phone number and email address as well as the offer of a £100 reward for their safe return.

But the only message he received was from a council official who took exception to Mr Cataldo's use of the local fauna - and fined him £75 for harming the 'living' trees. The email said the council had been made aware of the artist's decision to search for his lost property and said: 'Some of these posters had been stapled to trees. You appear to have little understanding that trees are living things. 'Wounding the bark of a tree in any way can lead to attack by airborne fungal spores which, in the worst-case scenario, could lead to the loss of the tree.'

The email, from a Brighton and Hove City Council enforcement officer, went on to inform Mr Cataldo that while several of his posters had already been taken down by the council, he should make every effort to remove the rest himself. It read: 'Whilst we accept that the subject matter of these posters has sentimental value to you, we simply can not allow every person who loses property to resort to the kind of actions as taken by yourself. 'The city council will, on occasions, permit residents or charities to attach posters to its property in cases, for example, where pets go missing or to raise funds, but, as I have said, not for the purpose of trying to locate lost property.' The email ended: 'We genuinely hope that the paintings are found and returned to yourself.'

Mr Cataldo, a Brighton resident whose artistic endeavours supplement his income as a part-time carer, painted the portraits of his parents' labradors, Oscar and Sam, last October and said they had added sentimental value after 17-year-old Sam later died. He then gave the 8in by 12in wood-framed pictures to his parents - Mario, a 56-year-old IT consultant, and Dwenda, 58 - to put up in their home in Uckfield, East Sussex. He later borrowed them to take to a job interview as part of his portfolio. It was on his return that they went missing.

He said: 'I put them on my car roof while I unlocked the door outside my studio in Brighton but then drove off with them still on the roof. 'I feel really stupid. The paintings obviously slid off on the way to my parents house about 20 miles away but there is no way of knowing where. I did everything I could think of to find them. I put adverts on websites, left flyers in pubs and put up posters. I really had no idea I might be doing anything wrong.

'I found the council email quite patronising. I'm not an expert but I doubt very much that a staple could cause so much damage to a tree that it would actually die.' He continued: 'I'm quite a considerate person and I would never knowingly do anything to harm a tree. I didn't realise there was a law about putting posters up, as you often see them around.

Mr Cataldo complained to the council about the fine, which has since been cancelled. A council spokesman said: 'This was probably a case of an officer who was a little bit over-zealous.'


Failure to get connected means "renewable" British electricity projects may never be turned on

Energy companies are having to shelve projects that would help Britain to meet its 2020 renewables target because they cannot connect them to the national grid. With waits of several years, and in one case almost a decade, before connections can be built, several wind farm projects might have to be put in abeyance.

Delays for land-based turbines caused by grid connection dates are a longstanding grievance of the on-shore wind industry and now threaten to affect the off-shore sector. To avoid a repeat of the delays on land the national grid has called for the off-shore sector to be split into regions to allow for a strategic approach. Under the present system a tender to connect off-shore wind farms is put out for each project, which executives at National Grid plc believe puts costs up and discourages potential investors.

Dividing the off-shore developments into regions would allow for strategic planning that could consider which part of the seas to concentrate on rather than skip back and forth between individual projects hundreds of miles apart. “There is a lack of joined-up thinking, particularly in the current economic climate,” Stewart Larque, of National Grid, said. “Having transmission regions would allow better economies of scale, which is good in the current climate for raising financing. It is generally a much better way to ensure we are best placed to meet the country’s renewables targets.”

Attempts are also under way to introduce a strategic approach on land after pressure from renewable energy companies frustrated at costly delays. Talks between National Grid, renewables companies, the Government and the regulator have identified several wind farm projects that could have their grid connection dates brought forward. Among them is a scheme by Renewable Energy Systems to build 21 wind turbines at Drummuire, Caithness, which has been given a grid connection date of 2016 despite having been given planning permission in 2005.

Richard Ford, grid connections manager for RES, is awaiting a final decision but said it appeared that some progress was being made. Nevertheless, another project that the company is planning in Scotland has been given a connection date of 2018 and it is thought likely that it will slip back to at least 2020. Mr Ford said: “If we really believe there is no prospect of better, whether or not we get planning approaval, we have to question whether it is appropriate to put it through planning.”

National Grid is responsible for organising grid connections and for deciding when they can be put in. Delays inherent in the planning system have been among the biggest problems, with the connections being subject to the same rules as the projects, often attracting intense local opposition.


Britain's ruling elite have put themselves in a class apart

They don't send their own kids to the sink schools they have created for "the masses"

It is easy to see why a cynical Tory leadership might have secretly wanted to destroy Britain's excellent grammar schools. Once selection by ability was abolished and replaced by comprehensives based on catchment areas, the best state schools would be in the wealthiest parts of town, and the Conservative-voting middle classes need no longer fear competition for scarce places from the bright children of poor homes. And so it has turned out, more or less.

But it is much harder to work out why Labour - supposedly the party of the working class --should have tried so hard and for so long to deprive the poor of good schools. If you can understand why this happened, then you can begin to grasp what has gone so wrong with British politics since the Second World War.

For the crisis in British state education is the direct result of the takeover of the Labour Party - once a working-class, Christian and socially conservative party - by dogmatic, well-off, middle-class cultural revolutionaries. They saw, and still see, education as the new nationalisation, their most effective weapon for levelling our society and forcing the rest of us - but not them - to be equal. It is their real Clause Four, the thing they will never give up. Those who have fooled themselves into thinking New Labour is really a conservative party should observe the dogged way that Labour never budges on this subject.

Modern British socialists - and modern British Tories - openly and actively support a school system that ensures the children of the rich and influential are privileged, while the offspring of the poor and weak are deprived. Why?

The evidence for all this is quite clear. The odd thing is that so few realise what it means. Since this is the system that we have, and since socialists do support it, and with some vigour, it is amazing that this question is not asked more often. All around us we see proof of it. We also have strong evidence that they know what they are doing. They pretend, when they must know they are fooling nobody, that they have not watered down the exam system to conceal the general drop in standards. And above all, they all try to avoid the schools they force on their voters. They usually do this through a variety of obvious fiddles. Sometimes they quite blatantly buy themselves out of the mess they have created. What they do not do is suffer the results of their own dogma.

This obvious, repeated hypocrisy is a reliable source of embarrassing scandals. But they are not like other scandals because, however many times they are exposed, the wrong is never put right. These events play for a little while in the Press, flare, flicker and die.

News is meant to shock, because it reveals a state of affairs that is plainly wrong. Normally, wrongdoing is in some way righted or at least expiated once it has been exposed. If it is the disclosure of a crime, the story usually ends with the trial and punishment of a culprit. If it is the revelation of an injustice, it generally ends in some sort of restitution. Fat cats are forced to ration their cream. Dirty hospitals are made to clean filthy lavatories and scrub bloodstained floors. Sordid broadcasters are forced off the air. The Monarchy, found to be privileged, is compelled to pay tax and to forgo much of its privilege and grandeur.

But if it is the exposure of socialist hypocrisy and privilege, there are no consequences. This hypocrisy is allowed.

Let us go through just some of the exposures of this kind. Back in the Sixties, prominent socialist politicians such as the Labour Lord and Minister C.P. Snow made no apologies about sending their children to Eton. Snow, himself a state-school product, said loftily that he 'didn't believe in cutting down the tall poppies'.

Nowadays it is slightly more complicated. Ruth Kelly, once in charge of forcing poor comprehensive schooling on others, while issuing massaged statistics to pretend it was good, was found to be sending one of her own children to a private school --on the grounds of 'special needs'. She tried tenaciously to prevent the news being published at all.

The Blairite Labour Cabinet Minister Paul Boateng got away with educating some of his children privately, perhaps because of his sparkling Left-wing credentials in other areas. Anthony Blair's friend Charles Falconer, forced to choose between educating his children privately and becoming a Labour MP, chose private education. But Mr Blair then made him a Lord, so allowing him to have a political career anyway.

Baroness Symons, another Labour Minister and former Leftwing trade unionist, quietly sent her son to an independent school. Diane Abbott, a militantly Leftist Labour backbencher, likewise sent her son to a private school. Astonishingly, she admitted that her action was 'indefensible' but went ahead with it anyway. Nothing has happened to her.

But for the more ambitious, other methods had to be used. It is simply impossible to find out how many Labour Ministers did as the Blairs did, and hired private tutors to coach their children through crucial exams. If nobody talks, the truth stays secret. But the general liberal elite method of obtaining a privileged and special education - while supporting egalitarian schooling for everyone else - appeared in many subtle and different ways.

Harriet Harman, a fierce upperclass radical married to Leftist union official Jack Dromey, managed to get one child (supposedly on the grounds of his religion) into the Oratory, a Roman Catholic secondary that is a grammar school in all but name. Soon afterwards, she got her second child into St Olave's, an openly selective grammar school (but not Catholic) far from her home. On this occasion, faith seemed to matter less.

Mr Blair himself, thanks to the Catholic faith of his wife, was able to escape bad local comprehensives and get his children into the Oratory, miles from his London home. This upset his Press secretary, Alastair Campbell. It also annoyed the pointedly unmarried mother of Mr Campbell's children, Fiona Millar. These fierce radicals were educated in selective grammar schools but are now passionate advocates of comprehensive schools. Miss Millar has publicly criticised Ms Harman over the St Olave's incident. Yet Mr Campbell and Miss Millar just so happen to live in the costly and very small catchment area of a group of London's most exceptional state schools, including two rare single-sex comprehensives. Others, too, just so happen to live in such desirable catchment areas.

To hope for a place at Camden School for Girls, you must dwell almost within sight of its gates. Local estate agents know to the yard where the catchment area begins and ends, and there is an agreeable gentrified square nearby, conveniently situated for middle-class buyers. It is not cheap to live there. Once again, it just so happens that, discontented with the state schooling available for their daughters elsewhere in London, the Blairite Pollster Philip Gould and his fashionable publisher wife Gail Rebuck moved to a property close to this excellent school - which is officially a nonselective comprehensive but has most of the features of an old-style girls' grammar school (with boys in the sixth form) and regularly gets plenty of pupils into Oxbridge. Nearby also live former Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt and her husband, the one-time communist, now a judge, Bill Birtles. Their daughter also attended Camden Girls.

Another prominent Labour MP, Jon Cruddas, was recently found to have used his parliamentary allowance to buy a second home in Notting Hill, which just so happens to be in the catchment area of the superb - and exceptional - Cardinal Vaughan Roman Catholic state school. I think we can be sure there are many others who happen to have made similar housing choices, but we have not heard about them yet.

Since David Cameron's Conservatives finally stopped pretending to defend grammar schools and accepted the egalitarian agenda of New Labour, Tory politicians have been going through similar contortions. Mr Cameron's wife Samantha has been working busily on the parish magazine of a fashionable West London church. So has Sarah Vine, the journalist wife of Shadow Education Secretary Michael Gove. It just so happens that attached to this church is one of London's very best Anglican primary schools, and that a little Cameron and a little Gove just so happen to have won rare places there: three children apply for every one.

This sort of secret privilege is standard procedure in countries where socialism is in power, and the most blatant example of George Orwell's deadly accurate satirical comment in Animal Farm that all are equal but some are more equal than others.

In communist Moscow, those with Red Power - much more useful there than money - used it to get their young into the famous School Number One, a great deal less equal than most Moscow comprehensives, but officially just the same. The Lenin High School in Havana is for the sons and daughters of Fidel Castro's revolutionary elite. In Pyongyang, North Korea's capital, the Mangyongdae Revolutionary School is at least as exclusive as Eton, though not perhaps in exactly the same way. The children of the communist Chinese leadership often turn out to be studying at major American universities. They did not get there through the normal Chinese state school system. Here the same process happens. It is not secret, but when it is found out, it does not stop. It is too important for that.

You might think that at some point someone had shown that comprehensive schools were better than what went before them. The opposite is true. Experts knew they would make things worse. The largely unknown father of the idea of comprehensive schools in Britain - who also invented the term - was a war veteran and onetime teacher at Eton called Graham Savage, later knighted. His 1928 study of high schools in the United States was the first shot in the campaign to go comprehensive.

But Savage admitted from the start that while comprehensive schools were more 'democratic', they would also hold back the brightest pupils. Before he died in 1981, he began to express regrets about the destruction of grammar schools. Too late. By this time Labour had been captured by militant levellers, especially the zealot Anthony Crosland, who in 1965 sent out the circular that set wrecking balls swinging against the walls of hundreds of grammar schools.

Crosland, it turns out, did not really know what he was doing. In his 1956 book, The Future Of Socialism, it is clear that he had no idea what comprehensive schools would be like. He, like Graham Savage, admits that American-style high schools 'would lead to a really serious levelling-down of standards'. He explicitly ruled out the mixed-ability classes that would in fact become common. He supported selection within schools, instead of between them. But he did not reckon with the revolutionary zeal of the teachers themselves, many of them products of the Sixties campus revolution. Too bad for the rest of us.

But the liberal elite would always find a way out of the educational hell it had made for everyone else. It is a perfect illustration of what is wrong with modern British politics, that this shameful hypocrisy, combined with grave damage to our educational system, goes unchallenged by any major party.


NHS bureaucracy spending doubles

Government spending on central bureaucracy in the health service has more than doubled in five years, research has found.

Opposition politicians said the figures demonstrated that the NHS had become a "bureaucratic black hole" under Labour, with money diverted away from the front line to pay an increasing army of administrators. The analysis by the Conservative Party shows that funding for the Department of Health, its quangos and regional authorities reached more than £12 billion last year, a rise of 103 per cent since 2003.

The £12.6 billion budget for central administration was seven the amount spent on either maternity services or dentistry, which each received £1.8 billion, or Accident and Emergency departments, which received £1.7 billion. Billions more was spent on administration at hospitals and primary care trusts across the country, for which specific administration figures are not compiled.

Mike Penning, the shadow health minister, said he was horrified by the findings of the report, which was drawn up by the Conservatives' research team. He said: "I am absolutely appalled, particularly at a time of such economic difficulty, by the Government's continued failure to deliver value for money for the NHS."

The report found that while staff numbers rose by 18 per cent in five years, the amount spent on them rose by 48 per cent. The rise in the number of administrators outstripped the rise in numbers of doctors and nurses. Mr Penning described the report as evidence of a "bureaucratic black hole" which was attracting billions away from patient care. "It appears that the further staff are away from the patient, the more costs rise," he said.

Government figures show there are now more than twice as many bureaucrats as midwives, and 5,000 more managers than hospital consultants. Last year the number of managers rose by nine per cent while nurse numbers increased by just 2 per cent. The average pay for a chief executive running a foundation hospital trust reached £157,000 last year.

Katherine Murphy, from the Patients Association, said: "Of all the billions poured into the NHS, it is just sickening to see how much of it has been soaked up by this ever-expanding bureaucracy, particularly these quangos and authorities who have proved unable to prevent appalling patient care seen in the scandals at Stafford Hospital, or the hundreds of deaths from Clostridum difficile at Maidstone Hospital and at Stoke Mandeville Hospital before that."

The dozens of NHS quangos funded by the taxpayer include NHS Professionals, which was set up in 2004 with a remit to reduce the amount spent on agency nurses. It spent more than £1 million employing two senior managers in just two years. The agency paid a private company £1,700 a day for chief executive John Faraguna and £1,150 a day for director of operations Stephen Dangerfield, even though body was created in order reduce the amount of money wasted by the NHS on private agencies.

Other agencies include NHS Connecting for Health, in charge of the long-delayed programme to computerise health records which has caused repeated problems in the hospitals which have tried to introduce it.

The DoH, which employs more than 2,000 civil servants, has created dozens of "arms-length" agencies and committees, including a Cosmetic Surgery Steering Group, Advisory Board on Registration of Homeopathic Medicines, Alcohol Education and Research Council, Herbal Medicines Advisory Committee, Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV, and the Leadership and Race Equality Action Plan Independent Panel. Eleven regional health authorities are responsible for managing performance at 200 hospital trusts and 150 primary care trusts.

Mark Wallace, campaign director for the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "The figures demonstrate that the only boom this country is enjoying is in NHS bureaucracy, and I think people are fed up with paying increasing taxes to fund a succession of quangos and back office functions when the money is needed at the front line."

The DoH described the Conservatives' interpretation of figures comparing spending on the DoH, its "arms length agencies" and health authorities in 2003 and 2008 as "fundamentally flawed" because the central budgets included some services that directly benefited patients, such as funding for childhood vaccinations and grants for social care. A spokesman said the 2008 figures also included £2.5 billion passed on to hospitals to subsidise a system of "payment by results" for operations carried out. He added: "Administrative and clerical staff form only eight per cent of the NHS workforce of over 1.3 million, and are essential to the day-to-day running of the organisation."


The evil of an incorrectly used bus ticket in Britain

If your car is stolen or you are burgled, the politicized British police can't be bothered -- But use your bus ticket incorrectly and you have their undivided attention!

Mostly, I like to be in a trance on the bus, and I was when I found myself next to a guy playing his guitar very loudly. It was not unpleasant but it did mean that when I put my Oyster Card on the machine to pay my fare I don’t know if it beeped. When the inspectors got on en masse (they daren’t do it alone) I was relaxed, but then the transport police hauled me off the bus. My Oyster was topped up but I had apparently breached Rule 4. [The machine must beep]

Do I look like a knife wielder or bomber? No matter. They wanted ID. I produced a credit card, a Press card, a business card for this newspaper and, to top it all, a Matalan card. How amazingly normal could I be? But it wasn’t good enough. By now I was mystified. And late. And annoyed. ‘We want a driving licence or a passport.’

‘Do most people get on the bus with a driving licence?’ I asked. Another guy came over and said ‘Is she being difficult?’ Apparently I was. So the real police had to come and sort me out. My ID wasn’t good enough, though I was checked by the Criminal Records Bureau last year in order to go on a school trip with my own child.

The officers checked me out. I had indeed given my real address, but I wouldn’t hand over the 25 pound fine then and there and made the mistake of saying if they hit me on the back of my legs they had better hope I didn’t have a weak heart. [A reference to a recent killing by British riot police]

‘Not a great week to be a policeman is it?’ If I was going to be difficult, they would have to take me ‘out of this situation’. Right.

Now this was over a 1 pound bus fare but several things were in play here. Policing depends on trust and a certain amount of goodwill from those not committing crimes. Already many different communities feel that the police are not on their side. Photographers at the G20 protests have told me how many of the bussed-in support officers had their numbers covered up. Not because they are all murderers but because these guys were there for trouble.

That’s the truth. What they got were a few window smashers and a lot of extras with camera phones. That’s it. We can never know about supposed terrorist plots, but my Oyster Card mistake hardly signalled red alert.

What most angered me was their idea of what they were entitled to ask for. We do not have or want ID cards. I was doing nothing wrong by not carrying around a passport. But they acted as if I was. The police do not have the right to demand this and a ticket inspector certainly doesn’t. Civil liberties are infringed incrementally, and through ignorance and compliance. Casually, I told one policeman I was a journalist and might write about this. He actually said: ‘Yeah, well, it’s a free country, love.’

But I’m just telling you, it isn’t.


Number of migrants caught trying to sneak into Britain on trucks DOUBLES in a year

Migrants trying to reach Britain by stowing away on lorries in Calais have doubled in number in the past year, French authorities revealed yesterday. More than 2,000 a month are now trying to smuggle themselves over the Channel, their figures showed. French ministers are said to be considering bringing in the army to beef up port security in response to the growing pressure.

The number of illegal immigrants trying their luck has risen to 6,031 in the first three months of this year. This compares with 2,919 caught by port security services trying to gain access to trucks queuing for ferries between January and March last year.

The disclosure of the rapidly climbing numbers brought warnings that the developing crisis is reminiscent of 'the worst days of Sangatte'. A Red Cross refugee centre at the village just outside Calais was shut down in 2002 amid a row over its role as a magnet for would-be illegal immigrants. Britain was eventually forced to accept many of its residents as asylum seekers in return for a French decision to shut the Sangatte site.

Labour ministers have been involved in controversy in recent weeks after a botched announcement by Immigration Minister Phil Woolas that talks were underway between Britain and France to establish another migrant hostel near Calais. But French immigration minister Eric Besson insisted he had no knowledge of any talks and described a new migrant camp as 'out of the question'.

Numbers now trying to break into lorries around Calais bear comparison with figures published at the height of the controversy over the Sangatte camp: In the 14 months before the hostel closed a single ferry line, P&O, said it had found 6,800 stowaways in the backs of lorries. This meant that around 500 a month had succeeded in penetrating security. The Red Cross hostel itself, designed to house 900 migrants, was regularly home to 2,000 in its final months.

The latest figures were made public by Calais port security chief Herve Couret, who told regional paper Nord Littoral that three out of four migrants arrested were caught trying to break into or board lorries. A further 1,501 were caught on video surveillance trying to jump fences, he said. Mr Couret said: 'It's very serious. But this is not the most worrying thing. 'I am really angry about the rise of another phenomenon - 1,304 unauthorised people were caught in 231 refrigerated lorries. These people are getting sick in the lorries.' Migrants are also risking their lives trying to cross the Channel in the back of tanker HGVs transporting petro-chemicals. Mr Couret said: 'This is quite new - people smugglers don't have any feeling.'

The pressure on the port of Calais is being matched at the Channel tunnel terminal outside the town, which has reported a 50 per cent rise in migrants over the past year. Most are also trying to get onto lorries waiting for freight trains. Despite 11 miles of barbed wire security fences, officials at Eurotunnel said they are now catching around 5,000 migrants every year.

Eurotunnel chief Jacques Gounon said he is preparing to ask the French army to guard the 700 hectare site. And the French immigration minister is reported to be considering bringing in the military to guard both port and tunnel. Mr Gounon said: 'We are ready to welcome them on the site and to provide shelter for them. 'We are not frontier guards and we need to reinforce surveillance measures on the edge of the site.'

Yesterday Tory immigration spokesman Damian Green said the figures were 'alarming'. He said: 'It shows that potential illegal immigrants believe that Britain's borders are not secure and that their attempts to enter the country will be successful. 'It's going back towards the worst days of Sangatte.'

Promising that the Tories would establish a specialist border police force, Mr Green added: 'Until we develop this kind of expertise there will always be a problem at our borders.'


How the shape of your brain shows what kind of personality you have

Was phrenology right after all? Psychologists have long known that personality is highly hereditary so the findings below are not very surprising

Scientists may one day be able to find out what a young child’s personality will be like by simply scanning their brain, new research has shown. New research has found that the shape of your brain gives a clue to what type of person you are.

The differences in the shape of the brains of 85 people were scanned and measured. They found that larger or smaller amounts of tissue in certain areas of the brains were linked to specific personality traits. The discovery raises the startling possibility of being able to discover a young child’s future personality by analysing the shape of their brain.

The four main personality types were classified by psychiatrists as ‘novelty-seeking’, ‘harm avoidance’, ‘reward dependence’ and ‘persistence’. Those with a novelty-seeking personality had an area of the brain above the eye sockets which was larger than in other people, according to Professor Annalena Venneri of the University of Hull. ‘Novelty seekers’ were likely to act impulsively while those bracketed in the harm avoidance group were usually pessimistic and shy.

Those who were hard-working were part of the ‘persistence’ group while inveterate gamblers with an addictive personality were likely to be part of the ‘reward dependence’ category. People with ‘reward dependence’ personalities had brains with far less tissue in the fronto-striatal section of the brain. Damage to the fronto-striatal area is often linked to autism.

People with harm-avoidance personalities had significantly smaller volumes of tissue in brain regions called the orbito-frontal area and the posterior occipital region. The research suggests that children are born with certain personalities and also indicates that their brain develops differently depending on the type of person they become.


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

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