Wednesday, June 17, 2009

British school bans bananas because one teacher has life-threatening allergy to them

This sounds pretty cockeyed. How does somebody ELSE eating a banana affect the allergy sufferer?

Nutritious and delicious, bananas are a lunchbox favourite. But they have been banned from a primary school because a teacher is allergic to them. The school has forbidden pupils to eat bananas because a female staff member suffers from the rare and potentially lethal condition 'latex fruit syndrome'. Any contact with the fruit could result in anaphylactic shock - which in extreme cases can cause collapse or even death.

The ban, introduced two years ago at Stoke Damerel Primary School in Plymouth, has divided parents. 'When it was first brought in we couldn't believe it,' said Mary Williams, 54, as she dropped her grandchild at the school. 'Banning bananas because a member of staff - not even a pupil - is allergic is ridiculous. 'A lot of us feel this is a massive overreaction. But another parent said: 'It does seem a little silly, but then if it was my child who was allergic I would be relieved that they would not be in danger.'

Latex fruit syndrome is related to latex allergy. Experts say up to 50 per cent of those allergic to natural rubber latex are also sensitive to fruits, particularly bananas.

A spokesman for the school said the ban would be lifted in September when the affected teacher is leaving the school. She added: 'These are very unusual circumstances but the school community has been supportive and understanding over the last two years.'


$6,000 for being a Muslim

£3,000 for Muslim cocktail waitress who had to work in 'sexy' dress (but who didn't mind appearing on Facebook wearing a skimpy top)

You can see as revealing or more revealing dresses at Royal Ascot. It's a disgrace that she got a cent. It's just Muslim pandering. Below are a couple of pictures of very proper English ladies at Ascot

A Muslim cocktail waitress who quit after refusing to wear a ‘sexy’ dress has won almost £3,000 in compensation for sexual harassment. A tribunal accepted that Fata Lemes genuinely believed that the short, lowcut red dress was ‘disgusting’ and made her look ‘like a prostitute’. But the panel rejected her claim that it was ‘sexually revealing and indecent’. Her compensation claim of £20,000 – including £17,500 for hurt feelings – was branded ‘manifestly absurd’.

Miss Lemes told London Central Employment Tribunal that she ‘might as well be naked’ in the dress, adding: ‘I was brought up a Muslim and am not used to wearing sexually attractive clothes.’ However, a photo on the Facebook social networking site shows her wearing a lowcut T-shirt.

She was awarded £2,919.95 for hurt feelings and loss of earnings. It is not known whether the panel saw the Facebook photo before making their judgment. The tribunal panel ruled that bosses at Rocket bar and restaurant in Mayfair should have made allowance for her feelings and their insistence that she wear the dress amounted to sexual harassment.

It concluded that the Bosnian Muslim ‘holds views about modesty and decency which some might think unusual in Britain in the 21st century’. However, it found that Miss Lemes, 33, ‘overstated’ her trauma at being asked to wear the sleeveless dress. Her claim that she was left with no choice but to walk out of her job at the bar after only eight days was rejected by the panel.

Miss Lemes, who was paid £5.52 an hour, also said she was pestered for sex by clients at the bar. She alleged that bosses ran Rocket ‘like a sex club’ and allowed clients to think that ‘waitresses could be treated as prostitutes’. She told how on one shift two men told her they were looking for a blonde ‘for one or more nights’. ‘I considered the company must be indicating to guests that the bar was the type of bar where they could make sexual offers to staff,’ she said.

Tom Grady, the lawyer for the Spring & Greene-owned bar, told the tribunal: ‘There is no evidence to support the suggestion that it is a sex club or some sort of seedy brothel.’

The panel said Miss Lemes’s perception that wearing the dress would make her feel as if she was on show ‘was legitimate and not unreasonable’. But it rejected her claim of constructive dismissal, saying the employment was ended by mutual consent ‘once it became clear that there was no prospect of the differences over the dress being resolved’.

Miss Lemes, of Camden, North London, was also judged to have overstated the injury to her feelings. ‘We do not accept that it was reasonable for her to decide, as she told us she had done, not to consider any form of waitressing again,’ the panel said. ‘Her sincere feelings about being required to wear a red dress when working in a Mayfair bar could not reasonably have caused her to rule out employment in, for example, a cafe or fast-food restaurant.’

The company failed to pay Miss Lemes for her shifts but handed over £255 during the hearing at the suggestion of the tribunal panel.


Climate change nonsense

British taxes on airline flights have already been doubled for "Green" reasons. Not enough, apparently. Yet another tax on airline flights proposed for Britain

An awful lot of nonsense about climate change is spouted, as we know. I think the thing that bugs me the most though is that people don't seem to be understanding the very reports they rely upon for their logic and calls to action. You know, things like various greenies insisting that we should revert to local and regional economies....when the very IPCC report they rely upon for predictions of climate change states that this would make things worse, not better. Today's example comes from the private sector:

Airline passengers should pay a global tax on carbon and accept an increase in the cost of flying for the sake of the environment, the chief executive of British Airways has told The Times. The airline is the first in the world to propose that all airline passengers should pay an additional sum which would be likely to rise steadily over time.

BA is proposing that the tax should raise at least $5 billion (£3 billion) a year to be used to combat tropical deforestation and help developing companies to adapt to climate change.

That there should be a price for carbon emissions, as there should be for other externalities, I have no problem with, indeed welcome. And as the Stern Review pointed out, we can do this either by Pigou taxation or by cap and trade. We'll leave aside the bit where that report points out that it doesn't matter what you spend the taxes on, it's simply the addition into market prices of those costs that does the work.

But what I would like Bill Walsh (for it is he suggesting this) to understand is that the very same report/review which provides logical support for this position also gives us what that price should be. And as a result of that suggestion, Gordon Brown has doubled Air Passenger Duty. As far as Stern is concerned, as far as both the price and logic of the argument are concerned, the external costs of aviation are already included in the market prices people pay to fly from or to the UK.

It's already been done, no more taxes are needed. It would be fine to call for a different system, but not to call for an additional one.



Our politicians haven't noticed that the problem may be that the world is not warming but cooling, observes Christopher Booker

For the second time in little over a year, it looks as though the world may be heading for a serious food crisis, thanks to our old friend "climate change". In many parts of the world recently the weather has not been too brilliant for farmers. After a fearsomely cold winter, June brought heavy snowfall across large parts of western Canada and the northern states of the American Midwest. In Manitoba last week, it was -4ÂșC. North Dakota had its first June snow for 60 years.

There was midsummer snow not just in Norway and the Cairngorms, but even in Saudi Arabia. At least in the southern hemisphere it is winter, but snowfalls in New Zealand and Australia have been abnormal. There have been frosts in Brazil, elsewhere in South America they have had prolonged droughts, while in China they have had to cope with abnormal rain and freak hailstorms, which in one province killed 20 people.

None of this has given much cheer to farmers. In Canada and northern America summer planting of corn and soybeans has been way behind schedule, with the prospect of reduced yields and lower quality. Grain stocks are predicted to be down 15 per cent next year. US reserves of soya - used in animal feed and in many processed foods - are expected to fall to a 32-year low.

In China, the world's largest wheat grower, they have been battling against the atrocious weather to bring in the harvest. (In one province they even fired chemical shells into the clouds to turn freezing hailstones into rain.) In north-west China drought has devastated crops with a plague of pests and blight. In countries such as Argentina and Brazil droughts have caused such havoc that a veteran US grain expert said last week: "In 43 years I've never seen anything like the decline we're looking at in South America."

In Europe, the weather has been a factor in well-below average predicted crop yields in eastern Europe and Ukraine. In Britain this year's oilseed rape crop is likely to be 30 per cent below its 2008 level. And although it may be too early to predict a repeat of last year's food shortage, which provoked riots from west Africa to Egypt and Yemen, it seems possible that world food stocks may next year again be under severe strain, threatening to repeat the steep rises which, in 2008, saw prices double what they had been two years before.

There are obviously various reasons for this concern as to whether the world can continue to feed itself, but one of them is undoubtedly the downturn in world temperatures, which has brought more cold and snow since 2007 than we have known for decades.

Three factors are vital to crops: the light and warmth of the sun, adequate rainfall and the carbon dioxide they need for photosynthesis. As we are constantly reminded, we still have plenty of that nasty, polluting CO2, which the politicians are so keen to get rid of. But there is not much they can do about the sunshine or the rainfall.

It is now more than 200 years since the great astronomer William Herschel observed a correlation between wheat prices and sunspots. When the latter were few in number, he noted, the climate turned colder and drier, crop yields fell and wheat prices rose. In the past two years, sunspot activity has dropped to its lowest point for a century. One of our biggest worries is that our politicians are so fixated on the idea that CO2 is causing global warming that most of them haven't noticed that the problem may be that the world is not warming but cooling, with all the implications that has for whether we get enough to eat.

It is appropriate that another contributory factor to the world's food shortage should be the millions of acres of farmland now being switched from food crops to biofuels, to stop the world warming, Last year even the experts of the European Commission admitted that, to meet the EU's biofuel targets, we will eventually need almost all the food-growing land in Europe. But that didn't persuade them to change their policy. They would rather we starved than did that. And the EU, we must always remember, is now our government - the one most of us didn't vote for last week.


Britain: Capable students to miss out on university as clearing places cut

British universities have the rather weird system of accepting students on the basis of their "predicted" results in their final High School exams. Places left over after that process are later filled on the basis of actual exam results. Those places are called "clearing" places

Two thirds of A-level students who would normally get into university through the clearing system will be left without a place this year, according to research by The Times. In the biggest squeeze on higher education for 20 years, tens of thousands of capable students will miss out on higher education after a huge rise in applications and an effective freeze on university places.

Almost two thirds of clearing places have been cut at universities that accept large numbers of students looking for a place after A-level results in August. The figures from a survey by The Times indicate that some of the biggest recruiters will have to halve their clearing intake, while others say that they will have no clearing places at all.

Universities are also saying that they will be far less lenient this year on those who fall slightly below their predicted grades, as they have been told by the Government that they will face financial sanctions if they overrecruit.

Pam Tatlow, of Million+, which represents new universities, said: “It’s clear this could be a very sticky summer if the Government doesn’t think more carefully and positively about what it can do to prevent potential students from joining the dole queue.”

The Times contacted 60 universities that usually take the highest numbers through clearing. The ten that were able to confirm the number of spaces that they expect to have left this August have lost 2,300 places between them — 58 per cent down on last year.

Northumbria University, which has experienced an 11 per cent rise in applications this year, will have 60 per cent fewer spaces on offer in August compared with last year, when 500 students got last-minute places. Goldsmiths, University of London, the University of the West of England and the University of Surrey all predict a significant reduction in clearing places. If this drop is applied to the 44,000 places available through clearing last year, only 18,480 places will be available this summer.

By April there were 524,151 applications for full-time undergraduate courses compared with 481,784 at the same time last year. At least 58,000 more applications are expected before the end of the June deadline, Ucas, the university admissions service, said. The sector has experienced an 8.8 per cent rise in prospective students, but many of the 30 universities who responded to The Times survey — those that are most popular with clearing candidates — have seen far bigger increases. The Government has made provision for only 10,000 more places this year, including those taken by postgraduate and part-time students.

Wes Streeting, president of the National Union of Students, said that the Government’s cap on extra places would mean that at least 28,000 good candidates would be disappointed. “Applicants are clearly making the correct assessment that it is better to invest now in their education and training, and it is very disappointing that the Government is limiting their ability to do that,” he said. Vocational and business-orientated subjects are increasingly popular, with huge rises in the number of applications for nursing, economics, engineering and business-related degrees.

A spokesman for Ucas said: “If an applicant cannot find a suitable place through clearing, all is not lost. They can reapply again for the next year, take a gap year or do some voluntary work.” [How consoling!]


A British Liberal politician goes to an NHS hospital

Even though he got VIP treatment he could still see lots of problems

Last weekend, when the heart was being ripped out of Gordon Brown’s Government by angry voters, I was having bits of my insides cut out by surgeons. Fortunately, my bits were less essential - merely an appendix. And the voters seemed angrier than the appendix.

The unplanned, emergency hospital visit to St Thomas’s, London, did, however, do me a valuable service - providing first-hand experience of what the NHS now calls ‘the patient journey’ (though much of it was actually second-hand, via my family, as I spent a fair proportion of my time unconscious).

Overall, I came away very impressed and reassured. I was released in good shape 36 hours after surgery under general anaesthetic. I had benefited from recent advances in diagnostics - the acute appendicitis was picked up on a CT scan - and keyhole surgery techniques. The consultants and hospital doctors were highly professional. Nursing care was meticulous and friendly. Staff repeatedly cleaned their hands with MRSA disinfectant. I even enjoyed good hospital food. [They must have sent out for it]

This positive experience reflects, I think, a bigger change. A decade ago, as a newly elected MP, I was deluged by complaints about NHS hospitals. Long waiting times. Slapdash treatment. Bolshie nurses.

Dirty wards. Local and national surveys showed that health care was top of voters’ concerns. Health remains an issue, of course, especially around such big, intractable problems as mental illness and geriatric care. But with a few dramatic, recent exceptions, such as Stafford General Hospital, the sense of crisis which centred on the country’s hospitals has lifted.

One reason is that vast amounts of taxpayers’ money have been spent, and it shows. The worry is that the taps will now be turned off again as we head for a new era of cuts. Last week there were warnings of severe financial curbs as Government tries to rebalance the budget after the terrible damage inflicted on public finances by the collapse of the banking system and recession.

My short experience told me that there is now excellent quality care in the NHS provided by some first-class people. I also sensed that the services are potentially fragile if put under financial stress.

My own adventure began when I collapsed in a heap several times after dinner at a friend’s house. The initial theory was food poisoning - a House of Commons crayfish sandwich eaten earlier in the day was chief suspect.

When the ambulance team arrived, within seconds of the predicted time, they were worried about the fainting and wanted me checked out at the nearest hospital. I hadn’t appreciated ambulance staff have advanced paramedic skills. When you are feeling half dead it is reassuring to know that the first contact with the NHS is with people who really know what they are doing.

There followed the almost obligatory long wait on a trolley in a cubicle in A&E. I am told this violates one of the numerous targets hospitals have to meet. But it wasn’t a problem. There were higher priorities: desperately ill old people and victims of assaults guarded by the police. I was safe and comfortable and the medical staff were calm, efficient and kind.

I was fortunate to have my wife with me who spotted details that the system somehow overlooked - such as dirty toilet floors and missing loo rolls. As morning broke I discovered that my lab tests showed a worrying abnormality and I must stay.

It also transpired that someone had recognised the grey-faced, middle-aged man in the cubicle. A smart lady appeared with a clipboard - Management - and I was taken to a beautiful room with a view. I was getting five-star treatment and felt too weak to insist on equality. My wife later overheard a conversation: ‘I can’t believe it! We’ve actually got an MP here on the NHS.’ It is quite possible that my favourable experience owes something to this observation. But I think the outstandingly good practice I encountered ran much deeper. As did the inefficiencies.

While I was waiting for surgery the next day, long after the appointed hour, my son and daughter were waiting for me, chatting to the surgeons and anaesthetists.

They waited and waited. There was a problem. No porter. No manager to sort it out. I discovered that such waits occur constantly. There aren’t enough porters. But we are in a recession and there are alarming levels of unemployment in Inner London which provides the hospital with its staff. So why is there a porter shortage?

I also discovered that a new multi-million-pound building next door had been poorly designed so that doors are too narrow for porters to take trolleys through.

The underlying problem seems to be a preoccupation with the glamorous ‘frontline’ roles rather than the equally essential backroom systems. Or perhaps funds are rationed in ways which starve these less visible activities. Armies win battles, however, not just because of brave soldiers but because someone is organising supplies of ammunition, lorries, food and drink. Good businesses also understand logistics.

Public services are often woefully deficient in this area. The problem is called management. In the NHS, management seems to mean highly-paid officials sitting in big offices, attending meetings, burnishing their mission statements and issuing edicts to operational staff based on Government targets.

In St Thomas’s I gathered management was insisting on commandeering a doctors’ rest area for new offices - alienating the very people who make the NHS so remarkable.

The problem, as I saw it, is a lack of the NHS equivalent of hands-on supermarket floor managers, factory fore- men and Army sergeant majors: the cogs who make the machine work.

When I was ready to leave, my worries were confirmed. I was told there was a three-hour wait for straightforward drugs from the pharmacy. I was happy enough reading a book but my bed and room, and nursing staff, were likely to be immobilised for a morning. Someone made a fuss and this cut the wait to three minutes. But when my wife visited the pharmacy there were harassed staff too busy to answer the phone, attend the front desk or supervise distribution. Management was nowhere.

In numerous, passionate debates about the future of the NHS I have never heard mention of porter shortages, pharmacy management, hospital transport or trolley logistics. But unless the inefficiencies are sorted the cuts will reverse the NHS improvements of the past decade.

We have been here before. The financial screw tightens. Hospitals are told to make economies. There are cuts in ‘beds’ (in other words medical staff). Key vacancies aren’t filled. Non-emergency cases are pushed back (and their condition deteriorates). Then someone decides that the hospital isn’t ‘viable’.

Protests, barricades, petitions. In the battle for resources, valued local community hospitals and less glamorous bits of the NHS are trampled underfoot. But it needn’t be like that. Sensible steps have to be taken now to ensure the high-quality people who work in the NHS are properly used.


British "Big Brother" State under attack

ID cards will come under further high-level attack today. A retired law lord will today make a withering attack on the Government's 'ridiculous' and far-reaching attacks on civil liberties.

Lord Steyn reserves his most stinging criticisms for the £5billion ID cards scheme, which he will say are 'unnecessary' and un-British and should be scrapped. But he will also fired a broadside at the DNA database and the use of surveillance cameras, including CCTV.

In a London memorial lecture, Lord Steyn will warn that ID cards, and the national identity database which will store the personal data, are steps towards a 'Kafkaesque' society.

He accuses the Home Office of introducing the cards step by step as a way of 'conditioning' and 'softening up' public opinion. The cards, already in use for foreign nationals coming to Britain, will be available to anyone living in Manchester from later this year. Trials are also due to begin at Manchester and City Airport in London this autumn.

Ministers say the scheme will help fight terrorism, crime and illegal immigration and help people easily prove their identity. But Lord Steyn says there is 'absolutely no evidence' they would protect the country against terrorism. Their introduction was an unjustified 'invasion' of civil liberties, the former judge adds. He will say: 'The commitment, by and large, of the British people to European constitutional principles and ideals does not require us to adopt an ID card system. 'In my view a national identity card system is not necessary in our country. No further money should be spent on it. The idea should be abandoned.

'The Home Office now proudly asserts that comprehensive surveillance has become routine. If that is true, the resemblance to the world of Kafka is no longer so very distant.' 'To illustrate the scale of the surveillance, one can refer to the estimated 4.2 million CCTV cameras in operation in this country. It is said that a person living and working in London is likely to be filmed about 300 times on an average day. 'The cost to the taxpayer is several hundred millions of pounds. No doubt CCTV coverage has, in some cases, proved effective in combating crime. But it is unclear how cost effective generally the system is. Some of the types of surveillance introduced by the State border on the ridiculous.'

In a speech today, Shadow security minster Baroness Neville-Jones will launch her own withering attack on the Government's privacy record. Miss Neville Jones will promise to 'substantially curtail' the number of people who can make use of the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act - used by councils to spy on dog foulers and people putting their bins out on the wrong day. She will also pledge to move away from huge centralised databases containing vast amounts of the public's most sensitive personal information.

Miss Neville-Jones said: 'The individual is the rightful owner of personal information and the state is merely possessor and should behave as a responsible custodian. We need to roll back the advance of Big Brother and restore this fundamental right of our citizens. 'Restoring privacy today must mean a clear statement on the part of those who have custody of personal information of their purpose in retaining it and of their commitment to its proper management. 'This will involve a review of most of the Government’s centralised databases.'


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