Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The C of E (Church of the Environment) is still dribbling

Most of the Anglican episcopacy may not believe in God but they sure believe in Warmism. They are the Pharisees of today. Note the indented straw-man argument

We may all be damned -- in this world and the next -- by our environmental misdeeds and heedlessness, according to a stern warning from the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, last week.

Mankind is rebuffing the divine love of God and, by its refusal to face "doomsday" environmental damage, it is choking, drowning and starving God's creation, Williams said. He ties it all in to salvation season, when thoughts of Easter and forgiveness from sin loom large, saying
...to suggest that God might intervene to protect us from the corporate folly of our practices is as un-Christian and un-biblical as to suggest that he protects us from the results of our individual folly or sin.

Would you agree? Even if we step up our conservation efforts one by one, are we responsible, even eternally, for our group/national actions? What would be "enough" to stay high and dry in heaven?


Bungling NHS hospital overdose leaves girl, 3, fighting for her life

A girl of three is fighting for her life after doctors allegedly gave her a massive overdose by accident. Renee Healey was given double the prescribed dose of drugs by doctors treating her kidney condition at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital in Pendlebury, her family claims.

Renee, from Wythenshawe, in south Manchester, was transferred to the intensive care ward on Wednesday and is now in a critical condition after her kidneys failed and she was put on dialysis. Her parents, Tina and Clive, are staying with her in the hospital, where she is on a life-support machine to help her breathe.

Renee was diagnosed 18 months ago with a condition in which tiny filtering units in the kidneys are damaged. Renee’s grandmother, June McKerrall, said her granddaughter was given an overdose of a drug that helps purify the blood, causing her lungs to fill up with fluid which nearly killed her. She said: ‘We can’t understand how someone could make a mistake like that with a child’s life.’

A spokeswoman for the hospital said that the incident was being investigated.


Stem cells to grow bigger breasts

Technique finally gets to Britain. Our "betters" don't like the idea

A STEM cell therapy offering “natural” breast enlargement is to be made available to British women for the first time. The treatment could boost cup size while reducing stomach fat. It involves extracting stem cells from spare fat on the stomach or thighs and growing them in a woman’s breasts. An increase of one cup size is likely, with the potential for larger gains as the technique improves.

A trial has already started in Britain to use stem cells to repair the breasts of women who have had cancerous lumps removed. A separate project is understood to be the first in Britain to use the new technique on healthy women seeking breast enlargement.

Professor Kefah Mokbel, a consultant breast surgeon at the London Breast Institute at the Princess Grace hospital, who is in charge of the project, will treat 10 patients from May. He predicts private patients will be able to pay for the procedure within six months at a cost of about £6,500. “This is a very exciting advance in breast surgery,” said Mokbel. “They [breasts treated with stem cells] feel more natural because this tissue has the same softness as the rest of the breast.” He said the treatment offered the potential of considerable improvement on implants: “Implants are a foreign body. They are associated with long-term complications and require replacement. They can also leak and cause scarring.”

Although the stem cell technique will restore volume, it will not provide firmness and uplift.

Mokbel believes the stem cell treatment may be suitable only for modest increases in breast size, but will conduct research to find out whether larger augmentations can be achieved: “We are optimistic we can easily achieve an increase of one cup size. We cannot say yet if we can achieve more. That may depend on the stem cells we can harvest.”

The cells will be isolated from a woman’s spare fat, once it has been extracted from her thighs or stomach, using equipment owned by GE Healthcare, a technology company. The concentrated stem cells will then be mixed with another batch of fat before being injected into the breast. It takes several months for the breast to achieve the desired size and shape.

Until now, when fat was transplanted to the breast without extra stem cells, surgeons had difficulty maintaining a blood supply to the new tissue. Surgeons believe the double concentration of stem cells under this technique promotes the growth of blood vessels to ensure a sufficient blood supply circulates to the transplanted fat.

The same technique has been used in Japan for six years, initially to treat women with breast deformities caused by cancer treatment and, more recently, for cosmetic breast augmentation in healthy women.

Mokbel is confident the therapy is safe and that, after carrying out about 30 procedures, the London Breast Institute will be able to offer the procedure to private patients.

The use of stem cells in healthy women undergoing cosmetic surgery is controversial. Medical bodies have warned that the breast enlargements should not be offered to healthy women until large-scale trials in cancer patients have shown that the new technology is safe and effective. The treatment is not yet routinely available to women solely for cosmetic purposes.

Eva Weiler-Mithoff, a consultant plastic surgeon at Canniesburn hospital in Glasgow, is leading the British arm of a European trial of stem cell therapy for women who have been left with breast deformities following removal of cancerous lumps. So far more than a dozen British cancer patients have been treated and Weiler-Mithoff is impressed with the results. She does not believe this justifies offering the treatment to healthy women, however.

She said that while breast cancer patients regularly attend follow-up appointments, young women who have had cosmetic surgery are less likely to do so and complications could be missed. [What a pathetic excuse!]


Cowardly British police kill three people

In the name of Britain's notorious "health & safety" rules. There are a lot of males in the British police force but not many men

Police held back would-be rescuers as three people died in a house fire, angry neighbours said last night. They said they could see heavily-pregnant Michelle Colley at an upstairs window, screaming 'please save my kids'. But police said they had to wait for firemen to arrive. By then, however, Mrs Colley, 25, her husband Mark, 29, and their three-year-old son Louis were dead. Their daughter Sophie, five, is fighting for her life in hospital.

Family friend David Davis, 38, said: 'It was the most harrowing thing I have ever seen. 'Michelle was at the bedroom window and we wanted to help but the police were pushing us back and not allowing us near. 'We were willing to risk our own lives to save those children but the police just wouldn't let us - and there was no way they were going to try themselves. 'Tempers were running high but the police were saying we have to wait for the fire brigade because of health and safety rules.' He added: 'When a family is burning to death in front of your eyes, rules should go out of the window - especially when children are involved.' Neil Cotterill said he heard another neighbour shouting for people to bring ladders. 'We could have helped,' he said.

The fire broke out shortly after midnight on the ground floor of the family's three-bedroom terraced home in Highfields, near Doncaster. Mrs Colley, who was expecting her third child in a fortnight, and her husband had spent a quiet evening at home before going to bed. They were woken by the fire and a 999 call was made at 12.26am. Police were the first to arrive.

Mr Davis said: 'There were four or five officers. We heard the sirens and went across to help but they wouldn't let us. 'I thought the police were there to protect lives. Years ago they would have gone inside themselves to try a rescue. But all they seemed bothered about was health and safety rules. 'It's unbelievable that it could happen like that. Everybody wanted to try and help. You can't have respect for police if they have no respect for other people's lives. It might have been different if it was one of their own. 'Mark and Michelle were a great couple. A real family - they loved their kids and the kids were smashing.'

Another witness said some friends and neighbours ignored the police warnings and tried to reach the family with ladders and a hosepipe. But again the police intervened and stopped them. Chris Richardson, 37, said: 'It was shocking. I couldn't believe the police were acting like that. 'One woman climbed over the garden fence and went to the house but there was a policeman at the back who stopped her.'

Firemen using breathing apparatus-found Mr Colley, a DIY store supervisor, in the master bedroom with his wife. Sophie was in another bedroom and Louis on the landing. Witnesses said police arrived 'several minutes' before firemen but South Yorkshire police refused to give the exact time, citing 'data protection' rules.

Detective Superintendent Peter McGuinness said: 'I would like to commend our officers. The Fire Brigade were only minutes away [How many minutes? Odd that they won't say. Minutes matter in a fire] but our officers were faced with a raging fire. They handled the incident as professionally as we would expect and then worked long into the night.' Experts said the blaze was not suspicious.


Are school trips a thing of the past in Britain?

Now that spring has sprung and the evenings are getting lighter, children may be aching to get outside the classroom. What better way to burn off some of that youthful energy and excitement than on a school trip?

Sadly some teachers no longer share their enthusiasm. New research suggests a fifth of teachers never - or rarely - take children on educational school visits, because of the burden of red tape and the cost to parents during a recession.

The survey had responses from 400 primary and secondary school teachers. It found the majority (57 per cent) arrange excursions only once or twice a year. One in eight teachers undertakes visits only every few years, and one in 10 never does so.

Paul Gilbert, chief executive officer of Education Travel Group, which commissioned the research, said: “Our review of teachers’ opinions found that teachers agree education visits are vital. “They give students a broader understanding and provide a fun, first-hand experience of their subjects as well as facilitating team building and socialising. “But the biggest barrier we found to arranging excursions is now concern about costs for parents – nine out of ten teachers we spoke to said the current economic climate would make it harder to arrange trips in future.”

The survey also discovered that two fifths of teachers were put off school visits because they involved too much paperwork, too much organising and raised fears about litigation should the worst possible scenario happen.

More than a third felt they put a burden on staff, a quarter said there were not enough teachers to take children on trips, 17 per cent were concerned about disciplinary action and 15 per cent worried about accidents. Half of teachers felt they could do more to encourage school trips by helping parents to understand their value.

However it raises the question of whether parental encouragement would revive the fortune of school trips, in the face of such fear and reluctance by teachers.


British eco-migrants flee to New Zealand

The 60s all over again. Way back then lots of Brits and Americans moved to NZ to escape "The Bomb". Mostly they eventually went back to Britain and the USA. The present lot of agonizers will likely do the same in time as the prophecies of doom fail. Amusing that they are moving to a country where the government in unusually unsympathetic to Warmism, though!

NEW ZEALAND is seeing its first influx of British eco-migrants, environmental refugees who have quit the UK because they fear the long-term impacts of climate change.

The country’s islands, renowned for their temperate climate, clean environment and low population, have often been put forward by greens as potential “lifeboats” for a world suffering serious warming.

Recently, James Lovelock, the scientist and creator of the Gaia theory, said in his new book, The Vanishing Face of Gaia, that New Zealand could be one of the world’s last havens as climate change fundamentally changes the planet.

Such effects are expected to take years or decades to happen but some families are already trying to anticipate them. Among them are Lizzy and Mike Larmer-Cottle who have moved their family from London to Albany, half an hour north of Auckland on North Island, surrounded by rolling hills and beaches.

Britain’s recent climate of summer droughts and warm, wet winters was becoming alarming, said Lizzy. She added: “England was just having more and more flooding — if that continues, half of it is going to be underwater.”

The couple stress there were other factors too, such as lower traffic, less pollution and cheaper property. Before moving to New Zealand their sons Milo, 10, and Theo, 12, had, for example, never been able to ride their bikes on local roads.

They are, however, part of a rising tide of Britons heading for the New Zealand. Statistics NZ, which collects data for the country’s government, said more than 18,000 British residents moved there last year alone.

Among recent arrivals was John Zamick who also believes climate change will tip Britain into long-term environmental decline. The businessman, who now co-directs a biodiesel company in Nelson, a town on South Island, points to East Anglia, where rainfall is now so low it is classed as semi-arid, while its coasts are threatened by rising sea levels.

What such eco-migrants have in common is not so much a fear of Britain becoming warmer but that climate change could destabilise the global economy, causing shortages of food.

At the Copenhagen climate science conference earlier this month, scientists set out the latest research on how climate change could affect crops. This showed that, as heat and water shortages took hold, many equatorial regions in Africa and Asia would become unable to grow enough food, creating global shortages of staples like wheat and rice.

Zamick said New Zealand's low population density, agricultural independence and availability of farmland were all prime attractions, along with its English-speaking population.

Americans have also spotted New Zealand’s potential. Adam Fier and his wife Misbah Sadat moved their family from Maryland in the United States to New Zealand late last month. Fier, a computer security expert who used to work at Nasa, told the Washington Post the decision was made because of his two girls. “I am not going to predict how the climate might change and how it might affect New Zealand,” Fier said. “But quite honestly, I feel in 100 years, one of my daughters is still going to be alive and this planet is going to be a mess.”

Scientists agree that New Zealand is likely to be more resilient to any global warming than many other countries — but that could lead to problems with immigration. Dr Vicky Pope, head of climate change advice at Britain’s Met Office, said: “A lot of countries in temperate zones could come under pressure to take eco-migrants.”

Immigration specialists say climate is an increasingly important issue for Britons trying to emigrate. Liam Clifford, a director of the British-based GlobalVisas, described how clients increasingly wanted to move to “a temperate country that will escape extreme climate.”

James Hardy shared such views. He used to live in lush Buckinghamshire but became increasingly concerned at how he and his family might cope on such a crowded island if the global climate underwent sharp changes. Three years ago he moved to New Zealand with his wife and their three children. “New Zealand has land, New Zealand has wind, New Zealand has a far more sustainable climate,” he said.


How Britain gets people out of their cars: "Overcrowding will worsen on several of Britain's busiest rail lines because the Government has quietly cancelled plans for more than 300 additional carriages. Southern and South Eastern, two of the largest commuter franchises, are likely to bear the brunt. The Government will save about £70 million a year from the decision, which reverses a commitment in the rail White Paper published in July 2007. The network's most overcrowded trains have more than 70 people standing for every 100 sitting, according to Department for Transport figures released under the Freedom of Information Act. The 7.15am from Cambridge to King's Cross carries an average of 870 people but has only 494 seats. The 8.02am from Woking to Waterloo carries 865 and has 492 seats. Passenger groups criticised the White Paper for promising only 1,300 new carriages by 2014, an increase of about 13 per cent, despite forecasting a 22.5 per cent rise in rail journeys. They said that the extra carriages would fail to keep pace with demand, much less alleviate the high level of overcrowding."

UK: “How to break through police lines” : “G20 protesters are circulating detailed pamphlets advising people on how to win street battles against riot police and what to do if arrested. Thousands of people are expected to bring the City of London to a standstill on Wednesday and Thursday, as popular anger over government bailouts of the banking sector reaches fever pitch. The vast majority of protests are likely to be peaceful but the Metropolitan Police claims extremist and anarchist groups might resort to violence. The online pamphlets suggest certain groups are advising their followers on how to beat the police should things turn rough. One document, called ‘Guide to Public Order Situations,’ explains how to breach lines of riot police using a ’snow plough’ human formation; throw rape alarms to make it hard for the police to give orders; resist baton and horse charges using nets; and ‘de-arrest’ seized protesters.”

Monday, March 30, 2009

Britain's Leftist government has emasculated the police

Police efforts to deal with anti-social behaviour are being crippled by Government diktats, a hard-hitting report by ‘Robocop’ Ray Mallon has found. Mr Mallon, who became famous for his zero-tolerance policing as a Detective Superintendent in Hartlepool and Middlesbrough, warns that officers are in the grip of an ‘arrest or ignore’ culture. He warned that police priorities have become distorted, leading to a collapse in public confidence.

Mr Mallon, who is now Mayor of Middlesbrough, makes his claims in a report released tomorrow by the Centre for Social Justice, a think tank set up by former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith.

In an article for Mail Online today (below), Mr Mallon says that officers’ discretion has been removed by strict operational guidance from the Home Office and a need to hit arrest targets, while the real problems of anti-social behaviour are not being tackled. It means officers have to make a snap decision to either arrest a suspect or let them go instead of giving them an old-fashioned clip round the ear and a stiff talking-to.

He quotes one policeman as saying: ‘Prisons are full, detections are up, but go to any High Street in the country and ask anyone: do you feel safer? The answer is a resounding no.’ He adds: ‘Over the last ten years, policing has become far too complicated and needs to be made simple again. More and more, the police find their actions constrained by tight Government prescription, set down in complex action plans, performance indicators and targets.’

Mr Mallon’s report coincides with a drive by the Conservatives to toughen up the party’s law and order policies. Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling says the Tories would introduce a number of measures to combat anti-social behaviour, including allowing the police to ‘ground’ children who cause trouble.

Research carried out for the report found that more than three-quarters of people did not think there were enough police on the streets or that they were doing enough to combat anti-social behaviour.

Taking Back the Streets

By Ray Mallon

Over 28 years as a career police officer and now as an elected mayor, I have seen how important it is for police to challenge unacceptable behaviour on the streets. When I talk to the public I find it isn¹t the fear of burglary that worries them but what might happen on their way home from work. It¹s when they have to cross the road to avoid a crowd of violent yobs or when they wait at home concerned because someone they love is late back from the bus.

That's when their heart rate rises and the fear of their streets sets in. This is the essence of what policing should be about. For that rising heartbeat is the fear of crime.

Despite the Home Office saying year after year that crime is going down, two out of three people think it has gone up. As one police officer told us: 'Prisons are full, detections are up but go to any high street in the country and ask anyone: 'Do you feel safer?' The answer is a resounding 'No'.' The public just don't trust crime statistics that tell them they are safer now than ever because that isn't their experience in the street.

It was because of my concerns about what has been happening to the police that when Iain Duncan Smith at the Centre for Social Justice asked me to help by getting to the heart of what's gone wrong with policing, I agreed. We started by commissioning national polling which told us what any Government should already know. Eighty-five per cent of people said that there are not enough police on the streets.

Seventy-two per cent of people said that it is unacceptable for police officers on duty, not to intervene when they see a crime. and seventy-six per cent said that the police don't deal with antisocial behaviour.

These are worrying numbers which show the public have become dissatisfied, losing their faith in a once proud force. Is it any surprise they feel like that, when police officers spend less than a fifth of their time on street patrol – that's under seven hours a week for a full-time police officer.

They patrol in pairs and in cars, making them half as visible and stopping them from interacting with the public. In the end, only one per cent of an officer's time is spent on foot patrol. How can the police intervene, if they aren't even on the streets? The public want a Force to police the streets. Instead, we have been de-policing them.

This is because over the last ten years, policing has become far too complicated and needs to be made simple again. More and more, the police find their actions constrained by tight government prescription, set down in complex action plans, performance indicators and targets.

During the course of this report, my team and I met so many officers who felt they were being forced to police in a straight jacket, unable to use their discretion. They knew that without the ability to use discretion, when on patrol, they couldn't provide a proper service to the public.

Discretion allows officers to judge when to make an arrest and when to use an informal approach. The public will judge the officer's intervention not by whether it achieves some government target but by whether it makes their street a better and safer place to live.

While I want to see a police force committed to intervene against every crime, disorder or act of antisocial behaviour that doesn't mean they have to arrest every kid who causes trouble.

I believe most of the public want the police to send a strong message about what is and isn't acceptable in their towns and streets. To break up the fight, to make the litterer pick up their mess - a voice of authority yet also a voice on the side of the law abiding in their community.

They should be encouraged and resourced to talk to parents and to schools, to use commonsense, to make the drunken college student repair or work off the shop window that he smashed. To make this happen, we need to tear up the excuse book. We have to get rid of these central targets, no one out there, not the police or the public wants the hand of central government on their shoulder, they are desperate for local policing driven by local priorities.

Too many times officers told us in desperation, 'We've been politicised. We don't police to do what we think is important, we police to do what someone up there wants.' They're right. Too often the public feel as though the police have become the agents of an over centralised state and of course the police know this.

What makes it worse is that as their methods have become less responsive to local needs, the dead hand of the health and safety lobby has emasculated the police further still. Stories about police unable to enter the scene of a shooting in case they got injured or unsure whether to save a drowning child because the risks were to great. This is madness on stilts.

I want police officers to be under orders to put themselves in harm's way if the safety of the public is at risk. That's why I joined and I know that is why those young men and women join today. They have joined to protect and serve the public and to make a difference. Surely It's time to free them and give them that chance.

If policing is going to improve, it needs to become a true profession, strongly led by effective Chief Officers who are liberated from petty political interference and have genuine operational independence.

Those Chief Officers must put the needs of the community they serve first ahead of careers and awards. To do this they will need to be overseen by effective and truly local governance, to hold not only the Chief Constable to account but also all of the agencies who combine together to make our streets safer.

Good policing is a basic expectation for every citizen and the recommendations in our report will make sure that it happens. They must become effective if they are to regain the trust of a sceptical public and through this trust they will regain the consent of the public. When the police reclaim the streets they will become, once again, a Force to be reckoned with.


British Exam regulator finally admits: Science exams are dumbed down

GCSE boards must act immediately to improve the quality of science questions in order to stretch and challenge students, the exam regulator said yesterday. It said that the qualification had been dumbed down, with too many multiple choice papers and superficial questions.

A controversial new GCSE in single science, which was intended to make the subject more relevant to teenagers, raised “significant cause for concerns” about standards, Ofqual said.

Many of the multiple choice questions were too easy because the wrong options given were “too obviously incorrect”, it said. There were also too many “short-answer questions that were fairly limited in their requirements or in the scientific content that they addressed”. The GCSE physics paper had replaced the testing of physics concepts with questions about the advantages and drawbacks of CCTV, mobile phones and the internet, it said. The regulator called for tighter marking criteria to ensure that “only answers deserving of the marks are credited”.

A separate study found a “decline in the standard of performance” in GCSE physics. Papers had got easier because fundamental principles of science were removed from the syllabus.

The reports have reignited a fierce public debate over the nature of science teaching. The new applied single GCSE in the subject, introduced in 2006, aimed to create scientifically literate citizens and ensure that all students got at least a toehold in the discipline by focusing on scientific processes. But purists complain that this approach results in the squeezing out of “proper” science, adding that efforts to make the subject seem relevant and trendy had not attracted more students to it.

Kathleen Tattersall, chairwoman of Ofqual, said: “Our monitoring shows that the revisions to the GCSE science criteria in 2005 have led to a fall in the quality of science assessments.” She added that improvements had been made to exams being set from this year and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) was reviewing the GCSE science criteria for courses starting in 2011. “Science is a vitally important subject and it is essential that these new criteria and specifications should engage and challenge all learners, particularly the most able,” she said.

For coursework completed under teacher supervision, which can represent up to a third of marks, standards were too variable, the regulator said. Exam boards should collaborate to ensure that grades were comparable.

On GCSE physics, Ofqual found a “significant reduction in content” from GCSE exams between 2002 and 2007 so that “fundamental explanations of phenomena were not tested”. It added: “Boyle’s law, the use of a capacitor as a timing device and detailed consideration of the optics of the eye and the projector were also removed. The content that was added tended to be concerned with the social implications of technological applications, rather than physics concepts.”

Candidates were required, for example, to discuss the advantages and drawbacks of CCTV, mobile phones and the internet, which “did not add to the candidates’ knowledge and understanding of physics”.

The Schools Minister, Jim Knight, said he was concerned about the findings and wanted to make sure that the most able students were stretched. He added that the Government was investing in measures to increase the numbers of both specialist science teachers and students who can study the triple individual sciences.

Nick Gibb, the Shadow Schools Minister, said: “This is a terrible indictment of the Government and the QCA at a time when scientific education has never been so economically vital, and it shows why private schools are abandoning the GCSE.”

Mike Cresswell, of the AQA exams board, said he was disappointed that the regulator did not address the inevitable conflict between the need to create a scientifically literate population at the same time as training world-class scientists.

Richard Porte, of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said the report confirmed the society’s findings that brighter students were no longer being stretched by the system and candidates were almost walked through the questions. “No fault lies with students or teachers. It is the system that is at fault and that system requires early, radical surgery,” he said.


Bungling NHS hospital overdose leaves girl, 3, fighting for her life

A girl of three is fighting for her life after doctors allegedly gave her a massive overdose by accident. Renee Healey was given double the prescribed dose of drugs by doctors treating her kidney condition at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital in Pendlebury, her family claims.

Renee, from Wythenshawe, in south Manchester, was transferred to the intensive care ward on Wednesday and is now in a critical condition after her kidneys failed and she was put on dialysis. Her parents, Tina and Clive, are staying with her in the hospital, where she is on a life-support machine to help her breathe.

Renee was diagnosed 18 months ago with a condition in which tiny filtering units in the kidneys are damaged. Renee’s grandmother, June McKerrall, said her granddaughter was given an overdose of a drug that helps purify the blood, causing her lungs to fill up with fluid which nearly killed her. She said: ‘We can’t understand how someone could make a mistake like that with a child’s life.’

A spokeswoman for the hospital said that the incident was being investigated.


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

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Why children do best with strict parents

British findings

Children are more likely to grow into well-adjusted adults if their parents are firm disciplinarians, academics claimed yesterday. Traditional 'authoritative' parenting, combining high expectations of behaviour with warmth and sensitivity, leads to more 'competent' children. It is particularly important for girls, who can suffer from a lack of confidence and may turn to drugs if care is merely adequate, said researchers from London's Institute of Education, a body widely viewed as Left-wing.

The findings, from a Government-funded study into parenting qualities, raise questions about whether parents leading hectic lifestyles need only be 'good enough'. 'Contrary to the notions of "good enough" parenting, a wealth of research indicates that better parenting leads to better-adjusted, more competent children,' the report said. 'The notion of "good enough" parenting may seem ideal in today's hectic world, yet the realityis that "good enough" parents will most likely produce "good enough" children at best. 'Considering this, we need to provide support to parents to be more than just "good enough" to ensure that children are not at risk.'

The best parenting was characterised by high expectations that children would act with the maturity befitting their age. Supervision and discipline was also key, as was responsiveness to children's needs. 'Multiple studies have documented that children who have authoritative parents - that is, both firm disciplinarians and warm, receptive caregivers - are more competent than their peers at developmental periods, including pre-school, school age and adolescence,' said the report.

It drew from studies which had shown that girls whose parents were 'mediocre' were more likely to experience 'significantly more internalising problems such as low self-esteem or the use of illicit drugs'.

Principal author Dr Leslie Gutman is research director of the Institute's Centre for Research On The Wider Benefits of Learning.

The findings, which will fuel parental angst over the best way of bringing up children, were handed to Children's Minister Beverley Hughes yesterday. The conclusions, based on a review of studies on parenting, were reinforced by the centre's own study. This involved observing more than 1,000 mothers reading to their children at age one, and again at five. It found that mothers who breast-fed, had strong mental health and well-developed social networks were more likely to score highly on the task. These mothers were also more likely to show warmth towards their children, and communicate effectively with them.

'We would therefore recommend that maternal mental health, breastfeeding and social networks form the focus of intervention efforts to boost parenting capabilities,' the report added. 'Both who you are and what you do are important in terms of parenting - personal characteristics such as interpersonal sensitivity and education and behaviours such as breastfeeding are significant predictors.'

The claims are the latest salvo in the fiery debate over child-rearing. The Good Childhood Inquiry recently claimed a culture of 'excessive individualism' among adults was to blame for many of children's problems. It said 30 per cent of adults in the UK disagreed with the statement that 'parents' duty is to do their best for their children even at the expense of their own well-being'.


More tedious BBC political correctness -- at the expense of historical accuracy

Friar Tuck has been viewed for centuries as a roly-poly, comic addition to Robin of Sherwood's band of merry men. But in the latest BBC series of Robin Hood, which begins tonight, he has been reinvented as a black martial arts expert, to the fury of historians. David Harewood, the new Friar Tuck, who starred in the BBC thriller Criminal Justice, admitted that this reincarnation of the character had seemed ridiculous to him at first. “I actually laughed,” he said.

Historians are less amused about the casting of Friar Tuck, who is usually played by short, fat, balding white men. There had been rumours that Matt Lucas, the star of Little Britain, would get the role. Helen Phillips, Professor of English at Cardiff University and an expert in medieval literature, said: “Sub-Saharan Africans wouldn't have been converted by that point, they would have had other religions. North Africans would have mostly been Muslims. “Also, friars came from upper-class families, as did monks. The kind of families from which friars were drawn wouldn't have been in any sense African.”

Harewood, who was the first black actor to play Othello at the National Theatre, said that he had been persuaded of the merits of the radical interpretation of the character. “They sent me the character breakdown and it was very different from what I expected. It was a welcome change and something I really felt was going to be exciting,” he said. “Funnily enough, when I first saw Robin Hood when it started three years ago, I thought they'd missed a trick and that they should have had a black character in it. It turns out that I am the black character, so I think it adds a modern dimension to it, as well. I think viewers will really take to it: at least I hope they will.”

In the first episode of the new series, at 6.50pm on BBC One, Tuck has abandoned his mission to the Holy Land and returns to England with the hope of resurrecting the legend of Robin Hood. However, he finds the country a different place. Harewood said: “He wants England to be a place of hope but he comes back to find that the people are slightly broken, much like they are now with the credit crunch. “The people need a hero, and that's what Tuck very much wants: to stand behind a symbol of good.”

But viewers will at first be led to believe that the friar is a tricksy, brooding character with more on his mind than simply helping the battle against the Sheriff of Nottingham. “If he did have an ulterior motive, I think it would be to make the country a republic,” Harewood said. “He's not necessarily in love with the country at all. He's very much for the people, by the people, and, if it was up to him, he'd get rid of the monarchy and make it a republic. He wants the people to govern and the people to be happy.

“Tuck is very much his own person. Many times he will go against Robin, argue with Robin and talk Robin into doing things he doesn't want to do. I think he's going to be a challenge to the whole group.”

The actor underwent gruelling fighting lessons for the role, in line with historic interpretations of Friar Tuck as being proficient with “clubbes and staves”. He said: “My stunt double was a kind of a capoeira [a Brazilian combination of martial arts and dance] champion, and there's quite a lot of martial arts that my character does later on in the series, which was really, really fun to do and very physical.”


NHS bosses award themselves inflation-busting 7.5pc rises (but nurses get just 1.9pc)

The socialist version of Wall St.?

Top NHS managers awarded themselves inflation-busting pay rises last year, as private sector staff faced a pay freeze. Average pay for trust chief executives soared by 7.5 per cent in just one year to £142,450, while nurses are having to make do with just 1.9 per cent. And this was despite guidance from the Department of Health that raises for senior managers should be no higher than 1.3 per cent.

The best-paid hospital boss is on £230,000 - enough to pay for more than ten nurses, while two saw their pay rise by more than 30 per cent. Since Labour came to power, Health Service chief executive pay has almost doubled (up 98 per cent).

The shocking details of pay hikes given to senior bureaucrats in the NHS between 2007 and 2008 comes a day after it was revealed that the number of managers has soared quicker than the number of nurses. There are now 39,900 managers in the NHS - up 9.4 per cent in one year. But there are 6,000 fewer GPs and 15,00 fewer midwives than managers. Meanwhile the number of health visitors and nursing assistants also fell.

Michael Summers, of the Patients Association, said: 'The news keeps getting worse. Yesterday we found out there are an ever increasing number of managers and today we find out their pay is climbing. The NHS needs pay increases for nurses, not managers.'

Conservative health spokesman Stephen O'Brien said: 'Why is it that NHS bosses think it is acceptable to award themselves generous perks and inflation-busting pay rises while hard-working nurses are being forced to take what is effectively a pay cut?' 'Labour needs to think again whether now is really an appropriate time for them to be playing fast and loose with taxpayers' money.'

LibDem health spokesman Norman Lamb said: 'Those at the top who have benefited in the past have got to lead from the front. There has to be a sharing of the pain.'

The salaries were revealed in the NHS Boardroom Pay report from research group Incomes Data Services. Average chief executive pay is £142,450, up from £132,500 the year before and £72,000 in 1997. Elite foundation trust chief executives earn even more - £157,000 on average. Other directors on NHS trust boards have seen their pay go up by 6.4 per cent. Finance directors earned £102,850 on average, while medical directors were on £165,000.

The report also found that pay increases in England were much higher than in Scotland or Wales. The highest paid chief executive was Robert Naylor at University College Hospital trust in London. His pay soared to £230,000 - a rise of 30 per cent in a year. Other high earners were the chief executives of the Heart of England trust's Birmingham hospital and Newcastle upon Tyne hospital, on £227,500 and £222,500 respectively. The biggest rise was seen at the Airedale trust in West Yorkshire, where chief executive Adam Cairns' pay soared 33 per cent to £137,000.

Steve Tatton, editor of the report, said: 'The earnings of NHS trust directors are continuing to move ahead at a faster pace than the rest of the economy. 'In the current climate the remuneration of NHS directors, like any top executives working in the public sector, is subject to intense public scrutiny, particularly when unease about the widening gap between senior executives and the rest of the workforce is growing in both the public and private sector.'


Very hot tea and coffee linked to raised oesophagus cancer

This seems entirely reasonable. Note that, unlike most epidemiological studies, the effect found was large: An 800% rise versus the 30% that seems to be the average for the studies I see

You may be gasping for that freshly brewed cup of tea or coffee, but waiting five minutes before drinking it could save your life. Researchers have found that a taste for very hot drinks may be linked to cancer of the oesophagus and that the risk of contracting the disease may increase eightfold as a result of drinking tea hotter than 70C (158F).

The oesophagus is the tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach and such cancers kill more than half a million people around the world every year.

In Europe and America it is usually caused by smoking or alcohol, but a study published in the British Medical Journal found that there was a particularly high incidence of the disease in northern Iran, where smoking and alcohol consumption is low. The people of Golestan province do, however, drink large amounts of very hot tea - at least 70C.

Researchers studied the tea-drinking habits of 300 people with the cancer and a group of 571 healthy people from the same area. Compared with drinking warm or lukewarm tea (65C or less), drinking it at 65-69C doubled the risk of oesophageal cancer, while drinking it at 70C or more was associated with an eightfold increased risk.

Drinking tea less than two minutes after pouring, rather than waiting four or five minutes, led to a fivefold increase in the risk. There was no correlation between the amount of tea — after water the most widely consumed drink in the world — and the risk.

In an accompanying editorial, David Whiteman, from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Australia, said: “We should follow the advice of Mrs Beeton, who prescribes a 5-10 minute interval between making and pouring tea, by which time the tea will be sufficiently flavoursome and unlikely to cause thermal injury.”

Britons may also take comfort from the fact that most of us prefer our tea at between 56 and 60C.


Dodgy British crime statistics again: "Ministers were last night caught up in an embarrassing new row over crime figures. The Ministry of Justice was forced to withdraw a set of already delayed sentencing statistics because of errors. They contained a series of mistakes over how many criminals were being sent to jail, rather than escaping with a fine or community punishment. For some crimes, the figures showed the number being jailed had fallen as low as 10 per cent, when in fact it had remained steady at around 40 per cent."

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Teachers attack 'absurd' British plans to measure pupil happiness

Plans to grade schools based on pupils' happiness have been branded "meaningless" and "absurd". Headteachers said Government proposals for a radical overhaul of school inspections were too bureaucratic and would lead to schools in deprived areas being "castigated".

Under plans, schools will be rated on a range of measures including the take-up of lunches in canteens, the proportion of pupils doing two hours of sport a week, the quality of sex education lessons and relationship advice. Schools will also be measured on truancy, exclusions and the ability to promote "emotional resilience" in their pupils. The so-called wellbeing indicators could also be used in a "report card" system being proposed by the Government as a new way of ranking schools.

It follows a recent report from the Children's Society that said that competitive schooling, league tables and selfish parenting was creating a generation of miserable young people.

But the "happiness" measures are being opposed by teachers' leaders, who claim they are almost impossible to quantify. In response to an official Government consultation on the plan, the Association of School and College Leaders, which represents more than 14,000 secondary heads and deputies, said they were creating "widespread anxiety" in schools. The use of school lunches as a proxy for pupil wellbeing was "absurd", claimed the association, while exclusion rates said little about whether pupils were happy. Officials also warned that schools in the poorest areas would suffer because they admitted large numbers of problematic pupils.

The National Association of Head Teachers, which represents primary heads, said the plans were "fundamentally flawed".

The National Union of Teachers said the proposals would "simply reduce schools' work in this area to a checklist of Ofsted indicators". Another union, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "We are disappointed that the Government is spending time and money developing indicators which will indicate nothing of any substance."

But Phil Revell, chief executive of the National Governors' Association, said: "The aim behind what the Government is trying to do – that schools should be reporting to parents on the basis of more holistic indicators than simply pupils' exam performance – is right. But the current set of measures are not good enough."

The comments come days after Carol Craig, chief executive of the Centre for Confidence and Wellbeing in Glasgow, said that teachers' drive to build their pupils' self-esteem had gone too far, with many parents unwilling to have their children criticised for fear it might damage their feelings.

Ofsted and the Government are due to respond to their consultation by the end of the month. An Ofsted spokeswoman said: "Early analysis of the consultation responses shows broad support for many aspects of the consultation. Many of the indicators proposed, including those derived from surveys of parents/carers and pupils and information about attendance and exclusions, are invaluable. They will help schools to evaluate and compare aspects of their own practice with schools nationally, as well providing evidence for Ofsted inspections."



One by one, the energy giants that hoisted green flags and trumpeted their conversion to renewables are ducking and diving and hiding behind the curtains. Iberdrola, a big investor in wind farms in Spain and the owner of ScottishPower, is slashing its spending on renewables by 40 per cent. Shell said recently it would no longer invest in wind turbines, preferring to focus its efforts on new biofuel technology, while BP has opted out of the UK renewables market, deeming it to be a poor bet.

It is tempting to see the great push for renewable energy in Europe as a fair-weather phenomenon. The performance of Britain's turbines is a case in point - for much of January they were operating at about 10 per cent of capacity.

That should be no surprise, given that periods of severe cold (or heat) coincide with lack of wind, but it doesn't help when a utility is trying to deliver power into the grid, not to mention returns to its shareholders. These issues are critical, because we need to begin building more power capacity today if we are to avoid blackouts by 2015 when we are committed to closing old coal-fired power stations.

All of this is embarrassing for a Government that likes to portray itself as the champion of green causes. But it is pointless for Ed Miliband, the Minister for Energy and Climate Change, to berate utilities for not building stuff that is uneconomic and, anyway, cannot be relied upon to deliver the power we need at the flick of a switch.


Gurkhas win 'legal first' against law-defying British Government

Gurkha veterans who have fought for Britain will be given the right to stay in this country following a "legal first" in which the High Court had to enforce its own ruling against the Government.

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, has now been forced to abide by a High Court order that will give the previously excluded former soldiers from Nepal who served in the British Army the right to apply to settle in Britain. She is expected to make the announcement to Parliament in three weeks, the court heard.

The news came as the Gurkhas returned to court to enforce a legal victory they won last September, when a High Court judge ruled that the Government's existing immigration policy excluding them was unlawful. Campaigners, including the actress Joanna Lumley, whose father fought with the Gurkhas in Burma during the Second World War, said the Government had "delayed and delayed" since the court decision. Ms Lumley has previously called the Government's position a "stain on our national character".

The court heard that in the hiatus since the September ruling a number of veterans had died waiting for resolution of the case. The most recent was Rifleman Prem Bahadur Pun, who died on Sunday, March 15. A statement seen by the judge said: "It appears that his death - as well as being deprived of cheap modern drugs to bring him comfort in his final months - is linked to the Secretary of State's failure to comply with her assurances to publish the policy and complete the reconsideration of over 1,000 stayed cases by December 30 2008."

Gurkha campaigners described today's return to the courts as "a legal first" in which a litigant had to return court to enforce a judgment against a Secretary of State. Surrounded by Gurkha veterans, David Enright, a solicitor representing the veterans, said: "The Government has delayed month upon sorry month, allowing your fathers to die while their sons served in Afghanistan and Iraq. "The Government has had to be shamed, kicking and screaming, back to court again."

In September's ruling, the judge said Government immigration policy in the case of the Gurkhas "irrationally excluded material and potentially decisive considerations" or "was so ambiguous" as to mislead applicants, entry clearance officers (ECOs) and immigration judges alike.

Six claimants brought the case to challenge the lawfulness of the Government policy that Gurkhas who retired prior to July 1997 - the date that the Brigade of Gurkhas moved its base from Hong Kong to Britain - did not have the necessary "strong ties" to be allowed entry.

A Home Office spokesman said: "The revised guidance is currently under consideration and will be published by 24 April. "Since 2004, over 6,000 former Gurkhas and family members have been granted settlement in the UK under immigration rules."


Illegal to wake up a dormouse??

Batty Britain again

When Dreamy the dormouse was pictured in the Mail sleeping peacefully on a red rose, he became a very small celebrity. Not that he knew, of course, because he was busy hibernating. But his celebrity status became a big problem for staff at his rescue centre home after Jonathan Ross showed the picture on his BBC1 chat show.

Ross suggested Dreamy must have been woken from hibernation at some point during his photographic session, an offence under the Animal and Welfare Act. Some viewers believed him and rang police. When an officer went to investigate at the Secret World Wildlife Rescue Centre in Somerset, staff were horrified. After all, they had originally saved Dreamy when he was found in a greenhouse with wounds thought to have been inflicted by a cat. Spokesman Jamie Baker said: 'We told them the dormouse had never been woken up. '

Avon and Somerset Police later said no offence was committed. The following week, on Friday Night With Jonathan Ross, the presenter apologised, adding: 'The charity who provided that picture have been raided by the police for allegedly disturbing the dormouse during its hibernation, which is illegal. The dormouse stayed asleep during the whole thing and was fine.'

Mr Baker said: 'I think people meant well but they should have got the whole story first.' A spokesman for Avon and Somerset Police confirmed that a complaint was made over the dormouse and that an officer was sent out to investigate. He added that no offence was committed.


British elite hatred of the middle class again

'Equal Justice Under Law' are the words chiselled in stone above the entrance to the United States Supreme Court building in Washington. I did not notice whether any similarly stirring sentiment adorns the somewhat less impressive frontage of a certain magistrates' court in East London but I rather suspect that it does not.

My wife and I are three months behind with our council tax payments to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and as a result we had to appear in court. We hoped that if we promised to clear our debt of 549 pounds by March 31, the end of the fiscal year, the magistrates would waive the additional 75 cost of our summons. As most of our food shopping involves the 'Last Day Of Sale' shelf - we walk a fine line between nourishment and food poisoning - that sum represents more than two weeks' worth of groceries for us.

We felt we had a chance. After all, the two magistrates on the bench had been magnanimously lenient in the four cases that preceded ours. However, it was not to be.

Our financial troubles had started when the credit crunch began to affect our already irregular incomes, necessitating the selective paying of bills. My wife, Vahni, is a sporadically employed ballet dancer and I am a sporadically employed actor. We have always resorted to various day jobs to get by between engagements: market stalls, telesales, product demonstration and a host of other badly paid, short-term posts ranging from the boring to the unbearable. Now even those were becoming few and far between. One firm we had worked for had closed its doors without notice, owing us money.

So our cardinal rule has been never to sign on or to claim any form of social assistance. I'm Canadian, naturalised British, Vahni is American, and although we've lived here for many years and are eligible for benefits, we would find it embarrassing and presumptuous burdening a 'foreign' country with the responsibility of subsidising our artistic ambitions...

On our day in court, the magistrates, both of whom had public-school accents, worked slowly and carefully through each case preceding ours and were punctiliously fair to all the defaulters, who were of many different nationalities. Interpreters were provided, all sorts of holy books were made available for oath-taking and a lawyer was present to explain the finer points of the law. In two instances, the magistrates gently admonished those before them for obvious lies and evasions.

It didn't seem to bother them that not a single defendant was completely self-supporting. Employed or not, all were on some sort of benefits and the magistrates carefully took this into account when assessing repayments. In each of the four cases, thousands of pounds had been owed over a considerable time but the magistrates generously charged no interest, wrote off a significant proportion of the arrears and made no mention of court costs. The most flagrant evader was ordered to repay 20 pounds a week - he'd owed 5,000 for some years - the others were let off with repayments of 10 pounds per week.

We were easily distinguishable from the other defendants because we'd made the effort to dress in a manner we felt appropriate for a court appearance. Also, our case involved just a few months of arrears rather than years, we were not on benefits and we spoke English as our native language.

Our turn. Into thy hands, Blind Justice. I rose and politely stated our case. I freely admitted the money was owed, explained our impecunious circumstances, promised repayment as soon as possible, and asked only that court costs should not be charged.

The magistrates smiled, and one thanked us for being so straightforward and honest. 'Are you aware,' he asked with a vulpine grin, 'that your appearance today means a further 20 pounds in costs, in addition to the 75 previously assessed?' I was not - and I sensed with some unease that the magistrates seemed almost to relish our discomfort.

'We will,' the second magistrate pronounced in lordly tones, dripping with munificence, 'waive that 20.' A pause. 'The 75 will stand.' 'Yes,' said the first. 'You should realise many people are suffering financial hardship these days. We can't make exceptions for everybody. Kindly make arrangements with the council to pay this off as quickly as possible.'

Undoubtedly their predecessors would have hanged me and sold my remains to an anatomist. The court usher sighed as he showed us out. 'Can't say I'm surprised,' he said. 'Sometimes they seem to come down hardest on the well-spoken ones.'

On the way home to our privately rented flat, we tried to work out what had gone wrong; why we were the only people the court had stigmatised. Was it because we were the only ones who had respected the court and dressed accordingly, perhaps making us look affluent? Was it our assurance that we'd do everything we could to pay off the debt as soon as possible? Or had we simply made too much of the fact that we'd never succumbed to the lure of benefits?

Not for the first time I wondered why our society seems dedicated to the punishment of those who are trying to pull their own weight. Is it because liberal democracies know that without the taxes extracted from those of us who concede the necessity to pay them, their mad social engineering schemes would vanish in a puff of brimstone?

But I'm not bitter: everything is grist to an actor's mill. If I am ever asked to play a victim of injustice, I can always draw on the memory of this experience.


More NHS incompetence

IVF mother died during caesarian birth after 'doctors starved her brain of oxygen'. The NHS relies heavily on overseas doctors who are often poorly trained. "Prasad" is an Indian surname

A mother who spent years undergoing IVF treatment died after a bungled birth and never saw the baby she longed for, an inquest was told yesterday. Joanne Lockham had a Caesarean operation to deliver baby Finn but her brain was starved of oxygen for up to 30 minutes, it was claimed. Within moments of the birth she suffered a heart attack and she died two days later after sustaining massive irreversible brain damage. Her husband Peter is now bringing up Finn on his own.

The inquest jury heard that Mrs Lockham, a 45-year-old nurse from Wendover, Buckinghamshire, had been through countless rounds of failed IVF treatment when she finally became pregnant. Her baby was six days overdue when she went into Stoke Mandeville Hospital to have her labour induced on October 9, 2007.

Because doctors were concerned about the slow progress of the labour, they decided to perform a Caesarean with the assistance of an epidural anaesthetic. But later Mrs Lockham was told that further complications involving foetal distress meant she needed a general anaesthetic. She sobbed as she was told of the change of plan but midwives assured her that she would soon be holding her first child.

Jacqueline Hall, a consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology, said she did not anticipate any complications when she 'strongly' advised the Caesarean at 6pm. However, problems arose in the operating theatre. The jury heard that three attempts were made by anaesthetist Dr Prasad to insert a tube to give Mrs Lockham oxygen before it was eventually believed to have been successful.

Dr Prasad broke down in the witness box as he told how he repeatedly tried to intubate Mrs Lockham. He told the jury that on the first occasion on which he tried to provide a tube to get air to her lungs, he was unable to do it sufficiently. On the second try, the equipment was not working as he believed it should. Dr Prasad then made a third attempt to insert a tube using a mask and thought he was successful. Dr Prasad said: 'I was doing my job, but I was in a complete state of shock, I couldn't think, I was trying to be useful in anything I could. 'I went in at that point in time with a particular plan and it didn't happen. 'It was completely out of the blue and the equipment was not giving way, so I didn't know what to do, it completely numbed me, it was not what I was expecting.'

The inquest was told that just before 7pm the obstetrician started the operation and the baby was delivered. Then Mrs Lockham went into cardiac arrest. When consultant anesthetist Dr Bogdanov arrived at the hospital at 7.30pm after being paged because of the complication, he was unhappy with the placement of the intubation tube and removed it. He used the same piece of equipment that Dr Prasad believed was faulty to re-intubate Mrs Lockham.

When Dr Prasad was asked if he was blaming the equipment for his own inadequacy, he replied: 'No, I am not.' Mrs Lockham was transferred to intensive care but following brain stem tests, the decision was made to switch off her life support machine.


Racist talk OK if you are brown

We read:
"Gordon Brown’s efforts to smooth a path to international agreement at next week’s G20 summit in London hit a bump in Brazil yesterday when he was told that the financial crisis was the fault of the “white and blue-eyed”.

President Lula da Silva [above] of Brazil warned that there would be spicy discussions and “tough confrontation” next Wednesday as world leaders faced up to who should pay the costs of the banking crisis.

As Mr Brown looked on during a press conference, Mr Lula da Silva said that action was urgent since it would be intolerable for the poor — who were blameless for the collapse of financial markets — to suffer the most from its effects.

“This was a crisis that was fostered and boosted by the irrational behaviour of people who were white and blue-eyed, who before the crisis they looked like they knew everything about economics, but now have demonstrated they know nothing about economics,” he said, mocking the “gods of wisdom” who had had to be bailed out. “The part of humanity that is responsible should be the part that pays for the crisis,” he added.


President da Silva is a long-time Leftist so he would be well aware of Leftist shrieks about racism

Friday, March 27, 2009

Negligent NHS hospital nearly gets healthy baby aborted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Will they lock me up for playing Widow Twankey?

A British homosexual actor rejects the need for new speech laws

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Crucial medical research 'threatened' by EU animal welfare plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


St. Andrews University: Global Warming Loses in Formal Debate

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

By Richard Courtney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Two reports below:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


British food faddist regulations put hot school meals at risk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

SOURCE (See the original for links)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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