Friday, July 31, 2009

British schoolchildren now discouraged from skipping

The little girls twirl their skipping ropes while the boys gather round to bash each other's conkers. In the corner, another group of children scramble up a tree. For many parents, it is a picture of the perfect playground scene.

But it is not one they are likely to see today. It lives on only in memories of their childhood, while their own school-age children are more likely to be glued to a computer screen. More than three in four of today's little girls do not play with skipping ropes, a survey has found.

The figure compares with 94 per cent of their mothers who remember skipping to rhymes and songs when they were at school. Little more than 33 per cent of boys play conkers, while 83 per cent of their fathers have fond memories of glorious conker battles at the same age.

A growing appetite for computer games and television is not the only reason that traditional games appear to be passing the present generation by. The survey shows that parents believe today's 'cotton-wool culture', in which children are molly-coddled and not allowed to take any risks, is to blame. Eighty per cent of parents said modern health and safety regulations were behind the demise of traditional playground favourites such as skipping, conkers, hopscotch, British bulldog and climbing trees.

More than 4,000 parents were questioned for the survey on how childhood freedom is being curtailed. They felt children were missing out on exercise and developing social skills by not being encouraged to play traditional games.

There were also concerns that parents themselves can be over-protective of their children, which means fewer are allowed to play outdoors out of school hours.

Overall, 59 per cent of parents said childhood today was worse than when they were young. Independent child psychologist Emma Kenny analysed the results of the survey which was carried out for a soft drink company. 'Many treasured children's activities are becoming rare, but it's the implications of this that are the cause for concern,' she said. 'Traditional children's play activities such as hopscotch, climbing trees or playing tag provide learning experiences based on imagination. 'These all help kids develop key skills such as team playing, counting and creativity that are crucial to their future development.'

Recent research suggests teachers are equally concerned and that almost half believe pupils are negatively affected by the ever-tightening grip of health and safety rules. Under these rules some schools have banned snowball fights, sports-day sack races and even nature walks for fear of injury and the chance of being sued for compensation by parents.

Emma Kenny added: 'This "Big Mothered Britain" mentality is in fact restricting opportunities for our children to learn and play freely. 'Ultimately, we're seeing a gap emerge in today's younger generation in the "fun" skills that we learn through a wide variety of physical and mental activities. 'This in turn, is not giving our kids the best opportunities for their future.'


Greenie bird and landscape lovers stymie Greenie warming-haters

There's no such thing as a happy Greenie

Europe's largest onshore windfarm project has been thrown in severe doubt after the RSPB and official government agencies lodged formal objections to the 150-turbine plan, it emerged today. The setback adds to the problems facing the government's ambition to install 10,000 new turbines across the UK by 2020 as part of its plan to cut the carbon emissions causing climate change.

The proposed 550MW windfarm, sprawling across the centre of Shetland's main island, would add almost 20% to existing onshore wind capacity. But the objectors say the plans could seriously damage breeding sites for endangered birds, including a rare wader, the whimbrel, which was unexpectedly discovered by the windfarm developer's own environmental survey teams. Other species at risk include the red throated diver, golden plover and merlin.

The RSPB heavily criticised the proposal from Viking Energy after initially indicating it could support the scheme. The RSPB also claims now that installation of the turbines could release significant carbon dioxide from the peat bogs affected, undermining the turbines' potential to combat global warming. The group's fears have been endorsed by the government's official conservation advisers, Scottish Natural Heritage, and SNH has also objected to the "magnitude" of the scheme, claiming it could kill many of these birds through collisions with the 145-metre-high structures.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa), which oversees pollution and waste laws in Scotland, has also formally objected, making it inevitable the scheme will now go to a full public inquiry and intensifying pressure on the developers to alter the scale of the project.

In a detailed critique of the proposal, Sepa has asked Viking Energy to significantly rethink its plans to cut out and dump up to 1m cubic metres of peat during construction, and asked ministers to impose tough conditions to protect local water quality and freshwater species .

Bill Manson, a director of Viking Energy, the community-owned company which is collaborating with Scottish and Southern Energy on the scheme, said it would be prepared to negotiate. "I believe there's a dialogue to be had, which will assuage their fears, I hope," he said.

A Scottish government consultation on the £800m scheme closed yesterday, with more than 3,600 of Shetland's 21,000 islanders signing a petition calling for the project to be scrapped. The Shetland Amenity Trust, a local heritage and archaeological charity, and one of Scotland's major countryside access organisations, the John Muir Trust, have also objected, arguing that the proposal would have a "hugely damaging detrimental impact" on the treeless, hilly landscape.

The dispute has highlighted the conflicts arising over the siting of major windfarms on land, between the need to exploit the most windy locations and the desire to preserve the rural environment.

The government wants to have an additional 6,000 onshore and 4,000 offshore wind turbines installed by 2020 to meet its legally binding target of generating 15% of all energy from renewable sources . There are currently about 2,400 turbines. Ed Milliband, the energy and climate change secretary, has set out an ambitious plan to transform the UK to a low-carbon economy. But the plans to change the planning system to make windfarm approvals quicker and give priority to renewable projects in granting national grid connections prompted significant criticism on the siting and cost of windfarms.

Within a week, the newly formed National Association of Wind Action Groups pledged to campaign against the harmful impact of wind turbine developments on communities and landscapes. Another blow came from the decision of Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas to close the UK's only blade manufacturing plant on the Isle of Wight. The company said the UK wind market was not growing fast enough and that projects had been slowed down by planning objections.

Existing windfarms have 3,000MW of capacity, but another 9,600MW is in the planning process. A further 6,000MW has planning permission but no funding and on Monday the government announced a £1bn loan package to try to fill that funding gap. It argues that the UK has the largest potential for wind power in Europe and already has more offshore wind installed than any other country. Miliband has said that climate change poses a greater threat to landscapes than windfarms and that opposing them should be "socially unacceptable".

Scotland is already home to more than half the UK's onshore wind capacity and Shetland is a key location. The islands reputedly experience the highest and most consistent wind speeds of any comparable place on earth. One small turbine at Lerwick, known as Betsy, is believed to be the world's most productive, reaching 59% of its potential output.

The Viking scheme, if approved by ministers, would alone generate a fifth of Scotland's domestic electricity needs and earn up to £37m a year in profits for Shetland. Manson said yesterday that the scheme had to be large-scale for the energy regulator and National Grid to agree to lay the £300m interconnector cable that would carry the electricity to the mainland. A scheme even half its current size would not be commercially viable. But opponents claim that the scheme is far too large and that, with a further 62 miles of access roads, it would significantly affect a fifth of the main island's desolate interior and industrialise the landscape.

"We can't simply build our way out of climate change," said John Hutchison, chairman of the John Muir Trust. "It is both cheaper and less destructive to reduce energy need and waste, rather than cover the wild landscapes that define Scotland and its people with wind turbines."


British teachers put on the spot

A teaching union is to campaign against the new code of conduct for teachers, which it says intrudes on their private lives. The code, which will come into force in October, states that teachers must “demonstrate honesty and integrity and uphold public trust and confidence in the teaching profession”.

Teachers are also expected to “maintain reasonable standards in their own behaviour” or face disciplinary procedures, according to the General Teaching Council, the profession’s watchdog, which drew up the code.

The actions of teachers while off duty will now be under the spotlight — a move that the NASUWT, a teaching union, said set “unreasonable expectations of how people should conduct themselves”.

The teaching council has said that, for example, those who drink heavily and disgrace themselves face discipline for bringing the profession into disrepute, even if it is outside school hours and they have not broken the law.

Chris Keates, chief executive of the NASUWT, said that there was a lot of anger among teachers about the revised code. The union is to ask members to protest against the code in the coming months. “Teachers are entitled to a private life,” Ms Keates said. “It will lead to teachers being put in a position that no other workers are put in. Their conduct outside work is under a scrutiny that no one else’s life would be under.”

The NASUWT is calling for the code to be abandoned because, it says, teachers are already subject to professional standards, capability and disciplinary measures for their conduct in school.

The General Teaching Council said that the code “sets out expectations of reasonable standards of behaviour but does not limit a teacher’s right to a private life”.


Organic food 'no better for health than factory-farmed food' says U.K. government report

Which has outraged the faddists. How nasty of science to debunk superstition!

Organic food is no healthier than other produce, according to the Government’s food watchdog. The largest ever review into the science behind organic food found that it contained no more nutritional value than factory-farmed meat or fruit and vegetables grown using chemical fertilisers. The findings challenge popular assumptions about the organic industry, worth £2 billion in the UK. Consumer groups said that shoppers may now think twice before buying organic.

The report, commissioned by the Food Standards Agency, was carried out by experts from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who studied data collected over 50 years.

Organic groups were incensed by the findings. The Soil Association accused the FSA of ignoring up-to-date evidence and pre-empting EU research for political reasons. Lord Melchett, its policy director, said that he had urged the FSA to delay its report. “They have jumped the gun,” he said.

The FSA researchers were led by by a public health nutritionist, Dr Alan Dangour. They found that there was no significant benefit from drinking milk or eating meat, vegetables, fruit, poultry and eggs from organic sources, as opposed to the products of conventional farm systems.

Pro-organic groups criticised the findings of the year-long review, which cost £120,000. They said that the conclusions, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, failed to take into account the impact of pesticides and herbicides. Organic farming bans artificial chemical fertilisers and has stricter animal welfare rules than conventional farming.

Dr Dangour said that, as a nutritionist, he was not qualified to look at pesticides. “There is a possibility that organic food has less pesticide residues, but this was not part of the review,” he said. “Potentially this may be an area for further research.” He added: “A small number of differences in nutrient content were found to exist between organically and conventionally produced crops and livestock, but these are unlikely to be of any public health relevance. “Our review indicates that there is currently no evidence to support the selection of organically over conventionally produced crops and livestock on the basis of nutritional supremacy.”

Among the differences identified by the study was a higher phosphorous content in organic food. Dr Dangour said: “Phosphorus is an important mineral and is available in everything we eat. It is important for public health but the difference in the content between organic and conventional foods was not statistically relevant in terms of health.” He added: “Acidity is also higher in organic produce but acidity is about taste and sensory perception and makes no difference at all for health.”

Nitrogen levels were found to be higher in conventional produce, but this was not surprising given the use of nitrogen as a fertiliser in commercial agriculture. But the levels posed no better or worse impacts on human health, the research said.

A study of 52,000 papers was made, but only 162 scientific papers published between January 1958 and February last year were deemed relevant, of which just 55 met the strict quality criteria for the study, Dr Dangour said.

Twenty-three nutrients were analysed. In 20 categories there were no significant differences between production methods and the nutrient content. The differences detected were most likely to have been due to differences in fertiliser use and ripeness at harvest, and were unlikely to provide any health benefits.

The Soil Association challenged the conclusions that some nutritional differences between organic and conventional food were not important. It said it was particularly concerned that the researchers dismissed higher levels of beneficial nutrients in organic food — such as 53.6 higher levels of beta-carotene and 38.4 per cent more flavonoids in organic foods — according to the mean percentage difference of samples analysed. Dr Dangour was adamant that these were not relevant because of the level of standard error in the research — which was 37 per cent for beta-carotene and 10.6 per cent for flavonoids.

The authors said in their conclusion: “No evidence of a difference in content of nutrients and other substances between organically and conventionally produced crops and livestock products was detected for the majority of nutrient assessed in this review, suggesting that organically and conventionally produced crops and livestock products are broadly comparable in their nutrient content.”

Gill Fine, the FSA’s director of consumer choice, said: “This study does not mean that people should not eat organic food. What it shows is that there is little, if any, nutritional difference between organic and conventionally produced food and that there is no evidence of additional health benefits from eating organic food.”

In reaching their conclusions, the report's authors were accused of pre-empting a Brussels study being carried out by Carlo Leifert, Professor of Ecological Farming at Newcastle University, which is due to be published this year. [A Professor of ecological farming! Well. He would be an unbiased source to go to wouldn't he? But for all he knows about farming, does he know anything about nutrition?] Professor Leifert told The Times that his research found higher level of antioxidants — which help the body to combat cancer and cardiovascular disease — in organic foods. He said that the FSA did not want to admit that there was anything good in organic food. “The Government is worried they will then have to have a policy to make organic food available to everyone,” he said.


Hundreds of thousands of migrants in Britain for handouts, says senior judge

Hundreds of thousands of immigrants come to Britain just to get welfare benefits, a senior judge declared yesterday. Judge Ian Trigger said the cost of the handouts has helped to double the national debt. He spoke out as he gave a two-year jail sentence to a Jamaican drug minder who disappeared from the notice of immigration authorities after claiming asylum.

He told Lucien McClearley, 31, at Liverpool Crown Court: 'Your case illustrates all too clearly the completely lax immigration policy that exists and has existed over recent years.' Sentencing McClearley, he added: 'People like you, and there are literally hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people like you, come to these shores to avail themselves of the generous welfare benefits that exist here.

'In the past ten years the national debt of this country has risen to extraordinary heights, largely because central Government has wasted billions of pounds. Much of that has been wasted on welfare payments. 'For every £1 that the decent citizen, who is hard-working, pays in taxes, nearly 10 per cent goes on servicing that national debt. That is twice the amount it was in 1997 when this Government came to power.'

McClearley arrived legally in Britain in November 2001 on a visitor's visa. He was arrested in October 2002 after it ran out but claimed asylum and was released while this was being processed.

He then 'disappeared from the radar of the authorities', the court heard. His application was rejected in 2004 but he was only arrested this February after police stopped a car he was driving and noticed it smelled of cannabis. A search of the house where McClearley was staying in Everton uncovered cannabis worth £7,200, a gram of cocaine and a fake passport.

He admitted taking a vehicle without consent, possessing cannabis and cocaine, possessing a class-B drug with intent and two counts of possessing false identity documents.

Judge Trigger, who is also a part-time immigration judge, told McClearley: 'The fact that it took nearly two years to process your claim shows how desperate the situation in this country has become.' The 65-year-old judge said he 'hoped and trusted' McClearley would be deported immediately on release.


Even very clever politicians can fall foul of speech rules

Yes. I know about Joe Biden but who ever said he was clever? This is about the head of the British Conservative party, a graduate of Eton and Oxford:
"It was meant to be the ideal low-risk, softball interview before he headed off to France for his holidays. But yesterday David Cameron’s last media appearance before the summer break ended in awkward apologies after he used an inappropriate word during a breakfast radio programme favoured by his wife, Samantha.

The Tory leader used the word “twat” as he explained to Christian O’Connell, a presenter on Absolute Radio, why he did not use the Twitter social networking service. “The trouble with Twitter, the instantness of it — too many twits might make a twat,” he said. In the studio his remark was greeted with laughter. Mr O’Connell said: “That’s fantastic.”

However, according to the Collins English Dictionary, the word can refer to female genitals, a girl or woman “considered sexually”, or a foolish or despicable person. Shortly afterwards Mr Cameron risked making the situation worse by saying people were “pissed off” with politicians — although he added hastily: “Sorry, I can’t say that in the morning.” ...

According to Mr O’Connell, the Conservative leader was ticked off by Gabby Bertin, his press secretary, as he left the studio. The presenter described the exchange between Mr Cameron and Ms Bertin in a podcast released shortly after the broadcast. “She leapt out of her skin after the first part of the interview,” the presenter said. “He said [to her] ‘That seemed to go OK’. She said, ‘Yeah, apart from the language’.

“He said ‘Oh, yeah, pissed, sorry about that, I’m really sorry’ . . . She said ‘No, it was the twat’. “He said, ‘That’s not a swearword’. I think he must be posh, where a lot of them don’t think twat is a swearword. His press secretary went, ‘It is’.”

The presenter hailed Cameron as “a good bloke” who had been as relaxed as if he were “down the boozer”. Mr O’Connell joked that the t-word was not viewed too seriously by radio regulators: “In terms of the fines we can get, it is not one of the big ones.”


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Elderly Brits kept impoverished by a socialist government that spends most of its money on a myriad of bureaucrats

Retired elderly better treated in Romania and Poland!!?? That's "caring" British socialism for you

Britain has a higher proportion of pensioners living below the poverty line than Romania, figures show. The elderly in this country are among the poorest in Europe, according to a breakdown by charities. Only in Estonia, Latvia and Cyprus are the aged more likely to be among the poorest in society. The comparisons, based on EU figures, follow a decade in which pensioners have been slipping down the league table of wealth in Britain.

This is largely because state benefits for the worst-off pensioners have slipped behind those available to the other poorest group in society, single mothers. Ministers have also acknowledged that elderly people with their own incomes and homes suffer because of the impact of soaring council tax bills.

The figures from Eurostat, the EU’s statistical arm, were compiled by the charities Age Concern and Help the Aged. They reveal the proportion of pensioners in each EU country who live on incomes below 60 per cent of average.

The measure does not identify how many older people have plentiful material goods such as houses and cars despite low incomes, and is often regarded as a measure of equality rather than real poverty. But the charities said they were useful to show the number of older people who are at risk of living in poverty.

In Britain nearly one in three over-65s, or 30 per cent, are on incomes below the poverty threshold. That is lower only than the 51 per cent in Cyprus, 33 per cent in Latvia, and 33 per cent in Estonia.

Britain’s 30 per cent is equal to the 30 per cent poverty risk rate in the other Baltic republic, Lithuania. In comparison, only 19 percent fall below the threshold in Romania and in Poland that figure is just eight per cent. The elderly also fare considerably better in Germany where the proportion below the poverty line is 17 per cent, in France 13 per cent and Holland 10 per cent.

Least likely pensioners to be poor are in the Czech republic, where only one in 20, five per cent, falls below the 60 per cent poverty line.

The figures also show that pensioners are more likely to be poor in Britain than other groups. While pensioners here come fourth from bottom of the table, for child poverty Britain ranks fifth from bottom and for poverty risk among adults under 65 ninth.

The study comes ahead of a major Government review of pensioner poverty due to be published this week. The charities said other research has shown that older people are skipping meals to save money and two out of five cannot afford to buy essential items.

Age Concern director Michelle Mitchell said: ‘Even before the recession set in, many older people were not keeping up with the pace at which the general wealth of the nation has increased.’


Special privileges for gypsy children in Britain

More than a thousand gipsy and traveller children have been given laptop computers to help them with their schoolwork. The free equipment and wireless internet access is estimated to be worth up to £750 per pupil, and is costing the taxpayer £300,000 a year. Some children are also being handed printers and digital cameras under a controversial Government-backed scheme aimed at encouraging them to stay in education.

Figures have revealed that free IT equipment has been handed to 1,317 pupils from gipsy and traveller families since 2004. However, ministers have admitted that some of the laptops have been used by parents to buy and sell goods, and book foreign holidays online.

Last night, the Conservatives, who obtained the figures, warned that the scheme risked fuelling resentment among taxpayers. Only days ago it emerged that gipsy and traveller children are being given priority admission to popular state schools. In addition, gipsy and traveller families are getting priority to see GPs and dentists.

The Electronic Learning and Mobility Programme (E-LAMP) is designed to offer 'quality distance learning opportunities' to gipsy and traveller children who regularly change schools and are on the move throughout large parts of the school year. Under the scheme, being run in 330 schools, the children are given laptops with, for example, 3G wireless internet software, which enables them to study while travelling and keep in touch with their 'base' school.

There are an estimated one million children from around 350,000 gipsy and traveller families in the UK, but fewer than 9 per cent obtain five good GCSEs including maths and English.

Studies have shown that children who relocate regularly quickly become demotivated with learning and disengaged with their school friends and school life. In addition, many traveller parents provide little support for their children's academic learning, with a small number believing that formal education offers little or no value to their children's futures.

In a written Parliamentary answer, schools minister Jim Knight said 1,317 laptops were issued from 2004 to 2009. He said: 'The vast majority are still out on loan to the students. There have only been seven incidents of minor accidental damage. One laptop was sold by the family, but recovered quickly as it had been tagged.'

A survey by the National Association of Teachers of Travellers has found adult travellers are using their children's laptops to book holidays, shop and sell goods online. It said: 'Initially the restriction on data transfer allowed, due to shared group tariff packages, caused issues when the students became more confident workers and their parents discovered the joys of Amazon, eBay and booking flights online.'

Tory local government spokesman Bob Neill said: 'However well-meaning, I am concerned the Government's policies on travellers threaten to undermine community cohesion and inflame community tensions. 'The British people believe in fair play - it's not fair that one small group get privileged access to public services, whilst hard-working families who struggle to pay their bills and taxes are pushed to the back of the queue.'


British Met Office/CRU Finds the Mole

Climate data must be kept secret!

by Steve McIntyre

Late yesterday (Eastern time), I learned that the Met Office/CRU had identified the mole. They are now aware that there has in fact been a breach of security. They have confirmed that I am in fact in possession of CRU temperature data, data so sensitive that, according to the UK Met Office, my being in possession of this data would, “damage the trust that scientists have in those scientists who happen to be employed in the public sector”, interfere with the “effective conduct of international relations”, “hamper the ability to protect and promote United Kingdom interests through international relations” and “seriously affect the relationship between the United Kingdom and other Countries and Institutions.” [Wow! If that's not a confession that they deceive the public about their data, I don't know what would be]

Although they have confirmed the breach of security, neither the Met Office nor CRU have issued a statement warning the public of the newCRU_tar leak. Nor, it seems, have they notified the various parties to the alleged confidentiality agreements that there has been a breach in those confidentiality agreements, so that the opposite parties can take appropriate counter-measures to cope with the breach of security by UK institutions. Thus far, the only actions by either the Met Office or CRU appear to have been a concerted and prompt effort to cover up the breach of security by attempting to eradicate all traces of the mole’s activities. My guess is that they will not make the slightest effort to discipline the mole.

Nor have either the Met Office or CRU contacted me asking me not to further disseminate the sensitive data nor to destroy the data that I have in my possession.

By not doing so, they are surely opening themselves up to further charges of negligence for the following reasons. Their stated position is that, as a “non-academic”, my possession of the data would be wrongful (a position with which I do not agree, by the way). Now that they are aware that I am in possession of the data (and they are aware, don’t kid yourselves), any prudent lawyer would advise them to immediately to notify me that I am not entitled to be in possession of the data and to ask/instruct me to destroy the data that I have in my possession and not to further disseminate the sensitive data. You send out that sort of letter even if you think that the letter is going to fall on deaf ears.

Since I am always eager to help climate scientists with these conundrums, I’ll help them out a little here. If, prior to midnight Eastern time on Thursday, a senior executive of the Met Office or the University of East Anglia notifies me that I am in wrongful possession of the data and directly requests me to destroy my copies of the CRU station data in question and thereby do my part in the avoidance of newCRU_tar proliferation, I will do so.

I will, of course, continue my FOI requests since I do not believe, for a minute, that their excuses have any validity nor am I convinced that the alleged confidentiality agreements actually exist nor, if they exist, am I convinced that they prohibit the provision of the data to me.


British Air passenger tax is just another burden for families that will stop those nasty average people from messing up tourist spots

WITH so much grim news at home, from the recession to swine flu, plenty of us are hoping that summer holidays will be a much needed respite from the doom and gloom. Unfortunately, even when we try to get away from it all and take a holiday, the Government uses that as another excuse to raid our bank account. Last summer, the TaxPayers' Alliance revealed that a family of four travelling to Florida for a summer holiday faced a £200 tax bill before they even got on the aircraft.

Part of that big tax bill is the Air Passenger Duty (APD) that is charged on airline tickets. You would hope that the Government might try to help out and cut the burden on ordinary families when the country is in recession. Since 2006, however, APD for one-way, short-haul flights to Europe has doubled to £10 and it is set to rise to £12 by the end of next year – that means we'll have had a 140 per cent increase in four years.

This week we've discovered that APD isn't just pushing up the cost of travelling abroad. It is also contributing to a cut in the number of flights available, making it less likely that we can go where we want, when we want. The no-frills airline Ryanair, Europe's largest operator, has announced that it is to cut flights from UK airports. These cuts, which amount to a 40 per cent reduction in capacity, are most likely to fall on London Stansted, the start of many families' holidays.

Michael O'Leary, Ryanair's chief executive, blamed the "Scottish misers", as he described the Chancellor and Prime Minister, and said the move was a protest against plans to increase Air Passenger Duty on short flights, which he branded "insane and damaging". It is not just Ryanair which has criticised excessive APD rates. Easyjet, Ryanair's chief rival, has attacked the tax, branding it "certifiably bonkers".

Virgin Atlantic has also come out against the tax and started printing anti-APD messages on their e-tickets. BALPA, the airline pilots' union, has said that the rise will cripple the industry and put long-haul holidays out of reach of ordinary families while the Association of British Travel Agents has said the rise in APD will have a substantial impact on the airline industry.

Attacking the airlines like this will have serious consequences for the British economy. Ryanair's cuts are set to cost 2,500 jobs – from its own staff and among workers such as baggage handlers.

Air Passenger Duty isn't just hurting airlines and travel agents. With the pound so low against the dollar and euro, we should be attracting more tourists, but visits from abroad are down by 32.8 million. Big taxes on flights put off people from visiting the UK.

Ironically, earlier rises in APD probably increased emissions from air travel. Air Passenger Duty encourages people to fly further within its "bands", to Sydney instead of New York or the south of Italy instead of the north of France for example, and that means higher emissions. That issue has been addressed to a certain extent by the new bands introduced this year, but it is still doing little to reduce emissions.

There are other anomalies, too. For example the distance is measured to each country's capital city, so flights to Barbados, an eight-hour flight from London, are charged at a higher rate than flights to Los Angeles, which is 11 hours away. That can mean punishing extra bills for families – for example a family of four travelling to Egypt, just a couple of hours from Europe, will pay an extra £240 from 2010.

APD is supposed to be a green tax designed to correct negative externalities. Put simply, the Government makes polluters pay for the costs they impose on everyone else by increasing the level of climate change in the years to come, that way they will only pollute if the benefits of doing so really outweigh the costs.

TaxPayers' Alliance research has shown that we are already being charged more than we should in green taxes to compensate for the greenhouse gases that Britain produces. The Department for Transport itself has produced research which shows taxes on flights are higher than necessary to compensate for the environmental harm created by aircrafts' emissions.

It is clear that Air Passenger Duty is functioning not as a green tax but as another means to raise revenue. All that is achieved by increasing the cost of air travel is to make it harder for ordinary families to enjoy a much-needed break, as the higher taxes mean not just more expensive flights but fewer options over when and where to fly.

It really is sad that the people who suffer the most are those who were able to enjoy foreign holidays for the first time when budget airlines made them affordable.


Some wind power disillusionment from Britain

An aquarium in Devon has taken down two wind turbines after seagulls were killed when they collided with the blades.

The 15m (50ft) high 6kW turbines at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth were installed in 2006 for a £3.6m sustainable energies project. But the Hoe-based attraction has taken them down after several birds died, it said. The aquarium also said they had not produced as much electricity as hoped.

Caroline Johnson, of the aquarium, said: "The major problems included where they were positioned. "The eddying effect of the wind meant they weren't producing as much energy as they potentially could have. "The loss of life of seagulls flying into the turbines was also a problem and, following a gale, the turbines were damaged."


Cut size of chocolate bars to fight obesity, says British food watchdog

Some people will never learn. Such cuts tend to cause people to buy TWO amounts of the shrunken food item -- with a total INCREASE in the amounts consumed

Chocolate fans, be warned: your sugary snack is set to get smaller. The Food Standards Agency wants manufacturers to reduce the size of chocolate bars by about a fifth to help to cut calorie intake. It proposes that by 2012 standard-sized bars should be no more than 50g. Currently, Mars bars are 58g and twin Bounty bars are 57g.

Manufacturers have also been asked to sell bite-size bars as single items, of 40g or under, instead of in multi-bar bags. The agency hopes to discourage companies from marketing giant-sized bars and will urge manufacturers to promote lower-calorie treats. The aim is to help consumers to reduce the number of calories and the amount of saturated fat that they eat.

By 2050, 60 per cent of Britons will be obese unless the nation’s diet is improved, according to health chiefs, with the cost to the National Health Service estimated to reach more than £8.4 billion. Officials decided to push for smaller bite-size bars rather than developing healthier recipes because European Union rules restrict sugar and fat reductions in chocolate.

Restrictions on the size of carbonated drinks were also put forward yesterday as part of the consultation with the food industry. It is also proposed that, within six years, fizzy drinks should be sold in smaller containers, with 250ml (8.8 fl.oz) suggested as the norm instead of the current standard 330ml for most brands. Added sugar levels to drinks should be reduced by 4 per cent within three years — the idea being that consumers will be weaned off very sweet drinks without noticing the lower sugar content.

Gill Fine, of the agency, said: “We are not telling people what to eat. We want to make it easier for people to make healthier choices — to choose foods with reduced saturated fat and sugar — or smaller portion sizes.” Saturated fat should be cut by 10 per cent in cakes, biscuits, and pastry. The agency is hoping for voluntary action by the industry but if companies fail to respond, ministers might force their hand by threatening to legislate.

The Food and Drink Federation expressed disappointment at moves to set what are seen as arbitrary targets for specific nutrients in certain foods, rather than encouraging consumers to follow a balanced diet and lifestyle


Pay donors to end the shortage of IVF eggs, says British watchdog

Official authoritarianism wilting under the pressure of reality

A longstanding ban on selling sperm and eggs should be reconsidered to address a national shortage of donors, the head of the Government’s fertility watchdog says.

Payments to donors could cut the number of childless couples travelling abroad for treatment, Lisa Jardine, of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, told The Times.

The removal of anonymity for donors in 2005 and strict rules against payments have provoked a crisis in fertility treatment, forcing many couples to wait years for the therapy they need to start a family. A recent study showed that access to eggs and sperm was the main reason why hundreds of British couples became “fertility tourists” each month.

The number of treatment cycles using donated eggs fell by 25 per cent between 2004 and 2006; the number of women using donated sperm fell by 30 per cent. These trends have convinced Professor Jardine that the authority should reconsider its 2006 ruling that donors can get up to £250 in expenses but no direct payments.

Her move will raise concerns about a market in human tissue and exploitation of women as egg donation is invasive and involves an element of risk. In countries that allow payment, such as the United States, Spain and Russia, young women often donate to wipe out debts or to fund university fees.

Professor Jardine said that the law already treated eggs, sperm and embryos differently from other tissues, so there was no danger of setting a precedent for the sale of organs such as kidneys. Payment would also ensure that more women were treated in licensed domestic clinics, rather than in countries with less stringent regulations.

“I’m not saying the decision arrived at before I became chair wasn’t the right one at the time,” she said. “But given the evidence that egg shortage is driving women overseas, I feel a responsibility to look at it again.”

She said the principle that women could be compensated for donating had been established already through egg-sharing schemes, in which women were offered cheaper IVF for agreeing to give away some of their eggs.

The professor also called for a debate on the ethics of sperm and egg donation across generations and within families. She pointed to a case in which a lesbian couple had conceived with eggs donated by one partner, which were fertilised by the other woman’s brother. Each partner had one of the resulting embryos implanted and carried to term.


Britain's Left-run NHS deliberately kills off older people

Do you really think Obamacare will be different?

Older women with breast cancer are less likely to receive “standard” treatments such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery than younger women, a report says today. Only 16 per cent of patients over 65 received chemotherapy compared with 77 per cent of patients under 50, according to an audit of British health services by the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer. A total of 48 per cent of women aged 80 and over did not receive any type of surgery, compared with 3.5 per cent of women aged under 50. Only 42 per cent of women aged 65 and over received breast-conserving surgery, compared with 51 per cent of women under 65. Meanwhile, only 31 per cent of breast cancer patients over 80 received radiotherapy, compared with 78 per cent of patients under 50.

The audit, which was published in the British Journal of Cancer, analysed 48,983 cancer patients from 11 regional cancer networks. Breakthrough Breast Cancer said that although some of the findings could be accounted for by some women not wanting some of the treatments or surgery, the figures were too high to be explained through patient choice alone.

Maggie Alexander, the charity’s director of policy and campaigns, said: “Breakthrough is concerned that there appear to be significant differences in treatment given to patients depending on their age. “All women should be offered appropriate treatment options no matter what their age, and that’s why we are now investigating this issue to find out what lies behind these differences.”

Gill Lawrence, the director of the West Midlands Cancer Intelligence Unit, who led the project, added: “We encourage breast units to review their services and to identify ways in which they can be improved. “Although the data in this report are for breast cancers diagnosed in 2004, we are confident that the data highlight issues that still exist today.”


British police must not wear British flag -- but homosexual flags are OK

This shows how far Leftism has gone in Britain. They despise their own country.
"Scores of Scotland Yard officers are in open revolt after being banned from wearing Union Flag badges in support of British troops. Met chiefs have decreed that the tiny emblems – which cost £1 with proceeds going to charity – must be removed after a complaint that they are offensive. But furious junior officers are continuing to wear them in defiance at the politically correct stance.

The row started when 200 officers at Heathrow Airport were barred from wearing the badges last month on the grounds that they were in breach of the Met’s strict dress code.

The order is thought to have followed a complaint from a member of public that the symbol is ‘offensive’. But about 70 officers, many of whom have been in the Services or have relatives fighting in Afghanistan, have ignored the directive despite warnings of disciplinary action.

Mr Smyth, who represents more than 30,000 rank and file officers, said staff in the Royalty and Diplomatic Protection Group, CO19 firearms squad and dog units have joined the revolt. In a statement on the Metropolitan Police Federation’s website, he said: ‘As the country mourned the deaths of young soldiers and saluted the heroism of the men and women fighting in Afghanistan, Met officers at the airport were ordered to take off small, one-inch square Union Flag badges because someone had complained they were offensive.’

Officers at Heathrow were also ordered to take down a Union Flag hoisted on June 27 – Armed Forces Day – because it was not an ‘approved ensign’. Strict rules are in place about when the Union Flag can be flown at individual police stations.

In February, Scotland Yard was hit by another row over political correctness after the Union Flag hanging outside a police station was replaced by a gay rights flag to mark Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) history month. This is despite Met rules stating that only the Union Flag and its own flag can fly from force buildings.


An utterly disgraceful British bureaucracy: "The Ministry of Defence faced mounting public anger yesterday as it tried to cut the compensation awarded to a soldier who is fighting in Afghanistan after recovering from a gunshot wound that left him with one leg shorter than the other. Bob Ainsworth, the Defence Secretary, also wants to reduce the payout to a Marine who fractured his right thigh while on a training exercise. The case at the Court of Appeal could prevent hundreds of servicemen and women from receiving larger compensation packages for their injuries. If the MoD fails in its appeal, it could lead to the rewriting of the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme, a tariff listing sums to be awarded for different types of injury. Critics have accused the MoD of failing in its duty of care towards soldiers."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

British dictate: universities must do more for the working class

One confused man below. How is it going to help the working class by making fees more expensive? The only way is if the universities give more students free tuition. But that would negate what they gained through higher fees. So why bother? Leftist non-logic very much in evidence here -- as is a Nelsonian blind eye to the fact that it is failing schools that are hurting the poor -- not the universites

Universities must recruit more working-class students to justify an increase in tuition fees, Lord Mandelson said yesterday. He also admitted that a long-awaited review of top-up tuition fees, to begin this autumn, would not conclude before the general election. This means neither political party will face the wrath of middle-class voters if the review decides — as expected — that the current £3,000 cap on fees should rise.

Lord Mandelson set out his vision for higher education in his first speech to leading vice-chancellors since taking responsibility for universities as the Business Secretary.

It heralded an end to universities’ reputation as ivory towers catering for full-time, young undergraduates living away from home. The future lies in mature and part-time students taking shorter or alternative degrees, such as two-year honours degrees, part-time degrees and modular programmes that do not result in a degree, he said. This was reflected in his choice of setting for the speech: Birkbeck — which offers only part-time degrees. It is part of the University of London.

Universities’ efforts to attract students from poor backgrounds had not been good enough, Lord Mandelson said. He “intended to turn up the spotlight on university admissions”.

He described a university education as a ticket to the best-paid employment and said access to it would “inevitably define the degree of social mobility in Britain”. He added: “Any institution that wants to use greater costs to the student to fund excellence must face an equal expectation to ensure its services remain accessible to more than just those with the ability to pay.”

Universities are desperately trying to widen access by providing bursaries, setting up summer schools for disadvantaged teenagers and visiting primary schools. While this has improved the breadth of intake, many older institutions, such as Oxford and Cambridge, remain dominated by middle-class and independent school students.

Lord Mandelson had a dig at elite universities, asking: “Why, for all the work in the sector and all the seriousness with which it has tackled this question, are we still making only limited progress in widening access to higher education to young people from poorer backgrounds — especially at our most selective universities? It is not enough for universities simply to confer life advantages from one generation of professionals to their children.”

He wanted going to university to become a “peer group ambition” among pupils, but refused to be drawn on the detail of how he thought universities should widen access — or whether they should accept lower grades from applicants from disadvantaged families.

Rather than operating as remote institutions, universities should be forging links with local business and exploiting their talent for commercial gain, Lord Mandelson said. He accepted that they were not “factories for producing workers”, but said more could set up companies that market the expertise of their postgraduates and professors.

Foreign students — who account for 8 per cent of income earned by universities — are vital to the economy, Lord Mandelson said, although he revealed that several vice-chancellors had contacted him with concerns about a points-based visa system that makes it more difficult for some potential students to come to Britain.

Universities emphasised the key role of schools in widening participation in higher education. Wendy Piatt, of the elite Russell Group of universities, said: “Evidence shows that academic achievement at school continues to be key factor in determining whether a student will go on to university.”

Diana Warwick, of Universities UK, said: “While we recognise the importance of universities having strong links with employers and schools in raising aspiration, we are clear that greater attainment at 16 is still the critical factor in achieving wider participation in higher education.”

Paul Wellings, of the 1994 Group of research intensive universities, said: “It is crucial that universities work in partnership with schools to provide advice and raise aspirations.”


Another crime-fighting bright idea flops in Britain

There's nothing nearly as effective as locking them up for a LONG time -- as they do in many parts of the USA. Bright new ideas for penal reform never stop coming but they never work -- as I have noted previously

A radical US-style court initiative in which judges monitor each criminal’s progress after sentencing has failed to cut reoffending rates. The results are a blow to supporters of specialist community justice courts who had hoped for better results in preventing criminals returning to a life of crime.

Community courts involve a hands-on approach by judges who monitor offenders once they have left the dock and on-site agencies to help to deal with the underlying problems behind criminal behaviour such as drugs or housing. But reconviction rates for offenders dealt with by the North Liverpol and Salford community courts were marginally worse than those who went through an ordinary court in Manchester.

Of offenders who went through the North Liverpool court, 38.7 per cent were convicted of a further crime within a year and 38.3 per cent of those dealt with at Salford, compared with a reoffending rate of 37 cent in the Manchester court.

The position was even worse on breaking the terms of punishment. “Those in North Liverpool and Salford combined were significantly more likely to breach sentence conditions than those in Manchester,” said a report.

One reason for the higher breach rate in North Liverpool may be linked to tougher monitoring of offenders by probation officers, who adopt a more rigorous approach than those in Manchester, it suggested. However, the official study said there was an indication that the initiative might reduce slightly the number of crimes committed when a criminal reoffends.

The North Liverpool Community Justice Centre opened in September 2005, and cost £5.4 million to establish and costs £1.8 million a year to run. The smaller project in Salford cost £150,000 to set up and cost £100,000 a year to run.

Based on the Red Hook Community Justice Centre in New York, the courts use a multi-agency approach, referring offenders on-the-spot to professionals who deal with their specific problems, from housing to addiction. They also seek local residents’ views on particular problems and appropriate punishment.

The idea was supported enthusiastically by Lord Woolf when he was Lord Chief Justice and by David Blunkett, when Home Secretary, who both visited the Red Hook centre, were impressed with its work and decided to create a similar community justice court in England. The Ministry of Justice said: “This report looked at reoffending in the first year of the initiative when community justice was in a very early stage of development — the initiative will need more time for the effects to bed in to give a true picture of reoffending rates.” Ministers have already abandoned plans for a network of the community courts, saying there was no money to fund them.


British regulators don't know how to regulate social workers

Now tell us something we didn't know already

The competence of Ofsted to inspect children’s services and help to protect young people from abuse and neglect has been challenged by the Government’s child protection chief. Sir Roger Singleton used his first interview in the post to warn ministers that too many Ofsted staff lacked the skill and experience to hold social workers to account and drive up standards. If matters did not improve and inspectors failed to win the respect of social workers it would be “all too easy” for their judgments and recommendations to be ignored, he warned.

Ofsted took responsibility for inspecting children’s services in April 2007. Concerns over its performance were raised a year later when it emerged that inspectors had given Haringey a clean bill of health months after the death of Baby P, who was on the child protection register and under the watch of its social workers. He died of horrific injuries in August 2007. Ministers refused to accept that the death meant Ofsted was not up to the job of inspecting children’s services, although a new system of regulation was swiftly adopted.

Sir Roger, who was made the Government’s first chief adviser on the safety of children in March, welcomed the changes but said that problems remained. “Obviously, it makes it all too easy for those who are inspected to ignore the results if they don’t have respect for the inspectors. It is important Ofsted works to build its regard and respect in this area. It is not in any of our interests to have a view that they are not competent,” he said.

He said that he had heard “quite a lot of dissatisfaction from the field” about the work of inspectors that could no longer be ignored. The main complaint was the “high rate of variability” in what they knew about vulnerable children and safeguarding in particular. “It is difficult to think there is not some substance to it,” he said.

Sir Roger, a former chief executive of Barnardo’s, noted that Ofsted had recently announced plans to hire 20 or more inspectors with direct experience of children’s social care as a sign that it recognised its problems. Ofsted also announced that it has appointed John Goldup, a former senior social worker from Tower Hamlets, as a director. He is the only person with experience of child protection to reach board level. “It will be necessary to improve the range of skills and experience that Ofsted inspectors have in relation to children’s social care,” Sir Roger said.

Fears over Ofsted have also been sounded by MPs including Barry Sheerman, the Labour chairman of the Commons Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families, who has twice asked Christine Gilbert, the chief inspector, to give evidence on the performance of children’s services.

The Conservatives are reviewing Ofsted’s future and do not rule out taking away its role to inspect children’s services. “Ofsted is basically a schools’ inspectorate that is conducting a paper exercise when it goes to children’s services departments,” said Tim Loughton, the Tory children’s spokesman. “They don’t go out on the beat. They stay in the office and look at files. They simply don’t have the right people.”

Ofsted rejected any suggestion that it needed to improve its performance. Roger Shippam, its director for children, said: “We do not recognise the criticism that Ofsted lacks social care expertise. It is understandable that there is much anxiety surrounding the inspection of social care at the moment, especially following the death of Baby Peter.”

SOURCE. More details of how hopeless and corrupt the system is here

What Does & Does Not Cause Climate Change and the threat to integrity in science

by Piers Corbyn

A letter to Professor Sir Peter Knight, Senior Principal at Imperial College for research strategy and deputy to the Rector

Dear Peter

Further to the very interesting discussions we had at the Imperial College centenary dinner event in 2008 on matters of Climate Change and the integrity of Science I attach my updated presentation on What Does & Does not Cause Climate Change. This extends the points I made to you to include new findings I presented at the RCSA Centenary dinner on Dec 9th 2008 and the New York International Climate Change Conference on March 10th 2009 and also new graphs from USA scientists showing continuing decline in world temperatures despite rising CO2 levels.

The point I made that the CO2 driver theory of Climate Change is refuted by the evidence and will be cast aside by solar-based science and therefore it would be better for Imperial to lead its demise and advances in new science rather than lose credibility by defending the indefensible, stands more strongly than ever.

The CO2-centered Climate theory and all that stands with it in business and politics is doomed; or if it is not doomed then the integrity of science itself is surely doomed. It is incumbent on scientists of with moral fibre to defend evidence-based science and the integrity of science.

I recall that 40 years ago this week I and other students at Imperial stayed up all night to watch the Moon landing on 20th July 1969. That was an historic moment. If science and engineering then had been conducted at the abysmal level of integrity now displayed by 'Climate Science' & the theory of man-made Global Warming, the Moon landing would never have succeeded and neither would much of the advances of science since then.

Please have a look at and feel free to circulate the presentation and also the information I include therein about the proven significant skill of our solar-based method of long range forecasting (Solar Weather Technique) and let me know of any comments you may have.


Fancy a British passport? Just move to Scotland: Home Office's 'absurd' new plan to tackle immigration

Immigrants who want a British passport will have a better chance if they agree to move to Scotland under ‘absurd’ new Home Office plans.

Concerns about a huge expected increase in the population over the next 20 years have forced the Government to propose a points-based system for those seeking citizenship. The population of 61million is expected to hit 70million by 2029 and ministers want to make it harder for migrants on work permits to stay permanently.

But yesterday, the Scottish Secretary revealed that if immigrants were willing to live in under-populated parts of Britain, they would find it easier to pass the test. Jim Murphy said: ‘Having lived and worked in Scotland is proposed as one way to earn points.’

The move, contained in a draft consultation to be released in the next few weeks, means prospective British citizens already settled in Britain may flock north of the border to ensure they have enough points to be successful. But it is unknown what measures will be taken to police the system and prevent abuses.

Critics point out it will be extremely difficult to check that an applicant is living and working in Scotland and whether they will stay there. Also, once a passport application is approved, the Government has no control over the person’s movements.

Shadow immigration minister Damian Green said: ‘This is completely absurd. Is the Government proposing to rebuild Hadrian’s Wall to prevent people from crossing the border? ‘It is a completely inappropriate idea for solving problems in Scotland or the rest of the UK.’

Campaigners said it could damage a sound Home Office policy that is designed to make it tougher for migrants to settle in Britain. At present, there is a firm link between a migrant obtaining a visa to work here, and going on to receive a British passport. Under these rules, the number of British passports given to migrants is set to hit a record of almost 220,000 this year. During the first three months of 2009, 54,615 citizenship applications were rubber-stamped by the Home Office – up 57 per cent on the same period a year earlier, and the equivalent of nearly one every two minutes. At current rates, the number of immigrants receiving passports – and with them the right to claim full benefits – will obliterate the previous record of 164,540 approvals, set in 2007. Last year, the number of passports granted was 129,310, and when Labour came to power in 1997, just 37,010 people were given citizenship.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the campaign group Migrationwatch UK, said: ‘It is an excellent scheme to split economic migration from the right to settle, but it makes no sense to treat Scotland differently. ‘A condition requiring residency in Scotland is completely unenforceable. ‘England receives over 90 per cent of immigration, and faces 95 per cent of the extra 10million population now projected for the next 20 years. We cannot allow the tail to wag the dog on a matter that is so important to the future of our society.’

A Home Office spokesman said: ‘The points system has already proved to be a powerful tool for controlling migration, which is why we are now looking at applying its principles to the path to citizenship. ‘The measures require migrants to earn citizenship. ‘This is the first step towards breaking the automatic link between temporary residence and permanent settlement. ‘But, we want to look at raising the bar even more.’


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

British "organic" farmer goes broke

These jerks always think that they are so holy, that they know it all and that everyone else is a fool. Reality has a way of intruding, however

It is The Good Life dream that turned sour. Just months after landing a job as the “food champion” of the London mayor Boris Johnson, Rosie Boycott has had to wind up her organic farm after it failed to make a profit. The demise of the smallholding, set over eight acres in Somerset, left Boycott, a former editor of the Daily Express, and her husband £200,000 out of pocket and has resulted in the couple falling out with their former farm manager.

Boycott launched the venture more than four years ago in an attempt to grow healthy, locally produced, affordable food. She charted her progress as townie-turned-country dweller in a book called Spotted Pigs and Green Tomatoes.

It was Boycott’s passion for sustainable living which inspired Johnson, the capital’s Tory mayor, to appoint her as his principal food adviser in September last year. Boycott said at the time: “There are many aspects of our current food system which are damaging the environment through wasteful practices and producing poor-quality food. “It simply does not need to be the case that Londoners cannot have access to locally produced, top-quality food but we have to have a radical rethink to find ways to make this happen.” Since taking up the role, for which she is paid up to £20,000-a-year, Boycott has been busy drawing up plans to convert unused plots of land in London, including the roof of the Hayward art gallery, into public vegetable patches.

However, her own rural idyll appears to have been unravelling. The Gloucestershire old spot pigs and chickens Boycott once kept have long gone and the site of her farm, Dillington Park Nurseries, has now been converted into allotments. Accounts filed at Companies House show that the farm never made a profit. Early on, monthly outgoings were £2,329 and income a meagre £1,544. The last published set of accounts, for the year ending 2007, reveal a loss of more than £41,000.

Boycott, a former alcoholic, and her second husband, Charles Howard, a barrister, paid £70,000 to set up the farm at the end of 2004 on the site of a Victorian walled garden on the Dillington estate near Ilminster. It was located close to the Dairy House, a weekend retreat that the couple rented since 2002. Boycott wrote in her book: “We were looking to make every square inch as productive as possible and we were looking to find as many ways as possible to generate an income. “Our friends all too often refer to our farm as a hobby but I realise that has changed. It’s not just a hobby any more, it’s something that matters very much to Charlie and me and our life together. Somehow it has to succeed.”

To smooth their way, the couple recruited David Bellew to manage the farm. Last week, however, it emerged that Bellew, who is listed as a director and shareholder of Dillington Park Nurseries, has fallen out with Boycott and moved on to another job. A local shop owner said: “David worked his fingers to the bone. He was the unsung hero. Yes, Rosie financed it, but it was David’s expertise that got it off the ground and kept it going. He came very close to pulling it off.” Bellew refused to elaborate on the acrimony this weekend. “With hindsight I wish I had never got involved,” he said. “Ironically, I’m better for the experience. I’ve learnt the true value of things and people.”

When asked about the farm’s collapse and her relationship with Bellew, Boycott referred inquiries to her lawyers at Harbottle & Lewis, a firm which acts for the Prince of Wales, Kate Moss and David and Victoria Beckham. The lawyers sought to deflect a series of questions from The Sunday Times and threatened to sue on grounds of privacy, citing the European Convention on Human Rights.

Boycott claimed through her lawyers that the decision to convert her farm into new plots for up to 18 families had been mutually agreed between herself, Lord Cameron, the owner of Dillington estate and a former head of the Countryside Agency, and the Allotments Association, which controls the project. Boycott and Howard have retained one of the allotment strips.

A spokeswoman for Boris Johnson said the mayor thought Boycott was doing a “terrific” job. “She seizes opportunities in the most unlikely corners and through her force of personality and uncompromising commitment will leave a lasting legacy in London of thousands of extra food- growing spaces,” he said.


British university education for the wealthy only?

That seems to be where Britain is heading -- despite repeated claims that they want more working class kids at university. Does the left hand know what the right hand is doing?

STUDENTS face tuition fees of £7,000 a year by 2013 under plans being developed by both Labour and the Conservatives. Both parties are studying an overhaul of the system under which top universities would be allowed to lift fees above the current legal limit of £3,225, while many former polytechnics would offer no-frills degrees for free.

The proposal was handed by John Denham, the former universities secretary, to Lord Mandelson, the business, innovation and skills secretary, who has taken over responsibility for higher education. Vice-chancellors say a £7,000 maximum fee is the “consensus” figure — the minimum to rescue university finances without being so high as to be politically unacceptable.

There is a legal obligation on the government to consider the future of the current fee system, which was introduced in 2006, after its first three years of operation. Mandelson is due to launch the review this autumn. It is thought highly unlikely it will be finished before the next election, which must be held by next June.

Both Labour and the Conservatives are anxious to avoid fees becoming an issue with voters. Labour blamed its loss of marginal seats in university towns at the 2005 election on its recent legislation for the previous increase in fees.

One vice-chancellor said: “A simple rise in the cap to £7,000 could be put through soon after this election and it would have the advantage of letting the government cut the amount it puts into universities.”

It has emerged, however, that Mandelson is also studying options that go far beyond simply deciding whether fees can be increased. Denham’s idea calls for a wholesale restructuring of higher education. Some post-1992 universities and further education colleges could offer free, government-funded “walk to study” degrees, often in vocational subjects, to local students living at home. Elite research institutions, meanwhile, would be allowed to charge far higher fees than at present, with students paying for future earning power.

Denham did not put a figure on fees in his scenario, but experts who worked closely with him said it could eventually mean a ceiling of £15,000, including a £2,000 “levy” to fund bursaries for poorer students.

David Willetts, the shadow universities secretary, has also studied Denham’s plan. He said the Conservatives would not decide their policy in advance of the review, and cautioned: “Just putting up fees has a series of problems. Charging more at the bottom of the recession will be tough, and universities would have to show any extra fees were going to help the quality of education — a challenge to which I don’t think they have yet risen.”

Supporters of an increase believe university funding has become an emergency. Cuts of 5%-20% in government funding for higher education are expected whoever wins the next election, despite increasing numbers of students.

Seven universities, including London Metropolitan and Thames Valley, are on a secret official list of institutions at risk of financial failure, a total expected to reach as high as 30 next year.

Paul Wellings, vice-chancellor of Lancaster and incoming chairman of the 1994 Group of research institutions, warned of a “valley of death” over the next few years until fees could be raised, with universities forced into severe cutbacks.

Another source said political considerations were bound to hamper the funding review. “Mandelson is nowhere near knowing how he wants to fund universities,” he said. “This is not a government that believes it will actually be making decisions, but it is thinking about how to box the Tories in.”

He added: “A few months ago I would have thought it inconceivable for any change to come in before 2013. Now I see the possibility of George Osborne [the shadow chancellor] putting it into a ‘days of misery’ package after the election. It would technically be possible to bring in change for 2011.”

A condition of freeing universities to charge higher fees is likely to be that better-off students are charged a levy on fees to subsidise bursaries for those on lower incomes. Further cross-subsidy could be provided by money from overseas students and alumni.

Luke Johnson, the Channel 4 chairman and entrepreneur who is a member of Oxford’s fundraising committee, said: “It is inevitable there will be higher fees and more independence, but it has to go hand in hand with much more for bursaries. There is a disproportionate number of private school undergraduates at Oxford and it is by no means ideal.”

Alan Ryan, retiring warden of New College, Oxford, said his college was drawing up bursary plans to ensure no family on an income of less than £35,000 would be worse off if fees were raised from their current level.

Birmingham University, meanwhile, is one of those planning in the long term to offer “needs-blind” admission, in which bursaries for poor students are provided mainly from a levy on better-off students.

Last week Alan Milburn, the former cabinet minister, wrote in a report commissioned by Gordon Brown that such an arrangement could promote social mobility by drawing more people from poorer families into university.

Tomorrow, in a speech to Universities UK, an association of vice-chancellors, Mandelson is expected to take up Milburn’s theme and warn that institutions need to step up efforts to bring in more students from poor backgrounds through their admission and bursary policies.

Some universities are already making preparations for an increase. Exeter is understood to be one of several preparing an aggressive strategy of charging fees of at least £7,000. It will also offer generous bursaries in addition to non-means-tested awards — including sports and academic scholarships — to lure the best students regardless of income.

The result will be far higher debts for those whose studies are not covered by bursaries. Recent research by Universities UK has found that raising fees to £7,000 would bring average debts of £32,400, compared with the current £20,000.


Official kangaroo courts in Britain

The kangaroo is native to Australia but Britain is hard to beat for kangaroo courts. The divorce courts have recently had their veil of secrecy partly lifted after huge newspaper campaigns about their injustices but the immigration courts would do Soviet Russia proud. I suppose it is to be expected. Britain has now been run by the Left for 12 years. Combine malice, chronic bungling and indifference to justice and you are in deep trouble if the authorities notice you for any reason -- just like the old USSR

Today the latest session of Britain's secret trials begins at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) in London. The appellants coming up before the SIAC over the next week are seven of the Pakistani students arrested before Easter under suspicion of terrorist activity. There was blanket media coverage at the time, helped by the intervention of the Prime Minister, who felt the need to declare: "We are dealing with a very big terrorist plot."

Two weeks later all 12 students originally arrested were released without charge to far less fanfare. It was then announced that 10 were to be deported on national security grounds. One returned to Pakistan while two others were released last week, pending visa issues being investigated. The remaining seven, however, now face Britain's secret system of justice overseen by the SIAC and operating under the aegis of immigration law.

The SIAC deals with appeals against decisions made by the Home Office to deport or exclude individuals from Britain on national security grounds. The process has all the appearance of a court, but operates more like a star chamber.

Secret evidence plays a big role in the process, with the appellants not told what they are accused of to justify their deportation. Neither are their lawyers allowed to know this information. Instead special advocates are appointed, who are allowed to see the evidence against them. A damning indictment of the process comes from Dinah Rose QC, who acted as a special advocate. "I heard the appellant ask the judge the question: 'Why are you sending me to prison?' To which the judge replied: 'I cannot tell you that.' I could not believe that I was witnessing such an event in a British court. I could not believe that nobody protested or made a fuss. They simply took him to jail, without any explanation at all," said Rose.

This system of justice overseen by the SIAC has come to prominence since 9/11, when the Government turned to immigration law as a means of holding foreign nationals without trial, pending deportation. Following 9/11, the Government rushed through the Anti-terrorism Crime and Security Act, which allowed foreign nationals to be detained without trial indefinitely. In 2004, the law lords ruled that it was unlawful under the Human Rights Act to detain people without trial. It was as a result of this ruling that control orders were devised.

These effectively amounted to being detained under house arrest. There were short periods of time when the individual could go outside into a prescribed area. They were also required to wear a tag and ring up the tagging company a number of times a day.

One of those originally detained under this process in December 2001 was an Algerian man known only as "G". He was imprisoned, then released on house arrest-style bail conditions then re-arrested after the London bombings, and served with a deportation notice. While in prison he then tried to kill himself using wire. Today, "G" continues to live with his wife and two young children under house arrest conditions on deportation bail. "No one here has ever told me what I am accused of. I have no rights here it seems. In Britain animals have rights. I have less rights than an animal," he said.

It is onto this conveyor belt of injustice that the seven Pakistani students enter today. The one way out of this nightmare is to agree to leave the country. This, though, is not an option for most who fled their home countries like Algeria as refugees in fear of their lives. Were they to return, as some have, they would be likely to face torture, prison or death.

The Pakistani students case is somewhat different to that of the others being detained in that they did not flee their home country. However, it is not an appetising prospect to return to Pakistan under the cloud of terrorist suspicion. To their credit the students remain committed to resuming their studies in the UK.

There have been some encouraging signs of progress in the effort to roll back the operation of this secretive system of injustice. Last month, the law lords ruled that control orders breached the Human Rights Act in that the reliance on secret evidence denied the appellants a fair trial. Meanwhile, some 90 MPs have signed an early day motion calling for an end to the use of secret evidence.

In the case of the students, the government may just be about to score a PR own goal. It created such a public fuss around the initial arrests, only to then declare no charges were being brought. As a result there is sure to be more interest about the plight of the students as they enter the SIAC process. It can only be hoped that, come the end of this week, a little more light has been shed on this secret system of justice. It must also be hoped that all those students who want to can resume the studies that were so brutally interrupted back in April.


"I've recently read that cranberry juice doesn't help to prevent cystitis after all. Should I stop drinking it now?"

An interesting contrary view to a recent knockback

The answer, in a word, is no. The news story that you are referring to arose when Ocean Spray submitted research to a new EU body, the European Food Safety Authority, in the hope that it would be allowed to make the health claim on its cartons that drinking a certain amount of cranberry juice each day would prevent cystitis. The panel agreed that while research does show this to be the case in laboratory studies, more studies were needed to be sure of the exact “dose” needed in humans.

Professor Stuart Stanton, Emeritus Professor of Urogynaecology at St George’s Hospital in London, who is versed with the EU panel and the research submitted, has been recommending cranberry juice to his patients for more than 20 years. He says that it is necessary for us to appreciate that much of what is recommended in everyday medicine is founded on years of experience and anecdotal findings, as well as clinical research.

In his view, cranberry juice is beneficial in preventing urinary infections and he makes the rather timely point that if women who have read about the panel’s findings suddenly stop drinking it, GPs, who are already overburdened with the demands of swine flu, could see more patients presenting with what had previously been well-controlled urinary infections.

It is also important to remember, however, that cranberry juice is not a medicine. While the latter are man-made and very specific dose-response mechanisms can be determined for them, it is frequently very hard, if not impossible, to achieve the same in food products that contain naturally functional ingredients.

That said, from the work that has already been carried out, scientific thinking suggests that two glasses of cranberry juice, containing 80mg of proanthocyanidins (PACs), is roughly the amount needed for it to “do its job” — ie, to stop cystitis-causing E. coli bacteria from attaching to the walls of the urinary tract and setting up infections.

It is thought that the PACs may work by wrapping themselves directly around the E. coli so that the bacteria cannot grab on to receptors in the lining of the bladder and urethra, or that they may block the receptors themselves so that there is no room for the E. coli to dock.

Either way, the result is that the bacteria leave the body without the opportunity to set up infections. This prevents patients from needing constantly to take antibiotics, which is good news, because you do not get the risk of building up antibiotic resistance.

The important point to bear in mind is that PACs in cranberry juice work in helping to prevent infections taking hold, which is why if you are prone to them, it is a good idea to drink some of the juice each day. If the E. coli do get their little “claws” into the lining of your tracts, they bind securely and at this point antibiotics are the only real option.

Test-tube experiments suggest that cranberry juice extracts may also be able to fight salmonella infections. Test-tube work also has found that they appear to prevent the ulcer-causing Helicobacter pylori from attaching itself to the stomach lining.

The red antioxidant pigments in cranberry juice also seem, again in laboratory tests, to help to stop platelets in blood from clumping together. If this happened in our bodies, this would assist in keeping blood thin and potentially lower the chances of clots forming that can trigger heart attacks and strokes.

Other interesting super nutrients present in cranberries include EGCG found also in green tea and linked with possible disease-fighting properties including cancer.

The tart taste of cranberries is down to the PACs, which give them their potential health benefits and are present in nature to stop insects feasting on them. For us to be able to tolerate the taste, sugar or sweeteners need to be added to cranberry juice drinks.


British "elf 'n safety" madness even hits the Greenies

What has been "safe" for years suddenly became unsafe

Organisers of Europe’s biggest eco-awareness event have had to cancel their 15th annual festival after police and the local council raised safety fears days before it was to start. The Big Green Gathering (BGG), which was due to be attended by up to 20,000 people paying £125 per ticket, may now have to go into receivership, leaving thousands out of pocket.

Described as a “celebration of our natural world” in a village fĂȘte atmosphere, the festival combines practical advice and demonstrations on sustainable lifestyles combined with entertainment powered by the wind and the sun. Visitors to the event are shown how to become self-sustaining, including how to build their own houses and grown their own food.

The five-day festival was due to open on Wednesday but the organisers surrendered their licence yesterday after concerns, including issues involving road and fire safety, could not be resolved with police and the local council.

Directors of the BGG, which has been running since 1994, are furious. Penny Kemp, a director, told The Times: “Our barrister has said it appears the council, police and regulatory authorities have leaned heavily on the road closure people to make sure we don’t get the order.”

She added that some of the reasons given for not allowing the event included the fire precautions not being good enough, even though they were the same as last year when the festival went ahead.

An inspector at Avon and Somerset Police refused to say what exactly their concerns were. Mendip District Council was due to go to the High Court in London today to apply for an injunction to stop the gathering in the Mendip Hills going ahead.

Thousands of adults had paid £125 for a ticket and £50 for their children to attend. The Big Green Gathering is designed for people within the green movement who wanted a festival focused on green issues. According to its website, The Big Green Gathering is for “people who care about health, the environment, sustainability, our children’s future and life in general. It is a celebration of our natural world and our place within it. As such it is a place for enjoyment, learning and fun. Unhealthy activities are not encouraged. The only things taken in excess should be love, peace, joy and friendship.”

This year, Gardener’s World, BBC’s Ethical Man and many other environmental experts were said to be going to help people to reduce their carbon footprint.

Ms Kemp added that they had a multi-agency meeting on Thursday and as far as they were concerned everything was still going ahead. But as they had to cancel the event at such a late stage they may have to go into receivership as they had paid out hundreds of thousands of pounds, including £27,000 to the police. She said: “We hope to be able to pay people back, but I just don’t know. It is desperately sad that a peaceful event enjoyed by thousands of people over many years has been stopped by the police and the council for what I think are unjust reasons.”

The directors of the Big Green Gathering issued a statement saying that they had “taken extensive legal advice from a prominent QC and other eminent lawyers” and had been left with “no option” but to surrender their licence. “The event will now not take place and the directors advise and request that no one who was intending to attend the event should attempt to do so as the site is now closed and it is likely that they will be turned away by the police. “It is our intention to avoid any confrontation or public disorder in regards to this and it is our earnest hope that all of those involved will follow this advice. “It is with great sadness that we have been forced into this position and we express our profound apologies to all concerned.”

Avon and Somerset Police would only say: “It has been cancelled. The reasons are on our website.” The statement said: “Police are warning people planning to attend the Big Green Gathering 2009, that the event has been cancelled due to a number of contributing factors that could not be overcome. “Today (Sunday, July 26) organisers of the Big Green Gathering surrendered their licence to Mendip Council. “Avon and Somerset Police worked with the event organisers as well as our multi-agent partners, and subsequently went above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that this event took place. However, due to a number of issues including road and fire safety that could not be resolved the event organisers surrendered their licence. “Police would now like to advise any persons planning on travelling to the area for this event not to, they will be turned away.”

Big Green Gathering Chair Brig Oubridge said: "At the multi-agency meeting on Thursday 23rd July, we were still negotiating with the police and the council under the genuine belief that things were progressing and we were continuing to spend money on infrastructure, wages and security. "If they knew they were going to cancel the event, we can only conclude that this drive to increase expenditure appears to be a deliberate attempt to bankrupt the Big Green Gathering. "The injunction served on the Big Green Gathering was primarily addressing the fact that the Big Green Gathering did not obtain the necessary road closure despite the fact that the Highways Agency had previously indicated that this would be done.

"The Big Green Gathering has been running an event since 1994 and never before has public safety been an issue. The BGG has an exemplary record on health and safety and crime levels have always been low for the number of people on site."


British bureaucracy runs amok yet again

A surfboard is a ship?

Canoes, surfboards and dinghies are to be given the same legal status as cruise liners and oil tankers in a clampdown on reckless behaviour at sea. Unpowered craft including sailboards and bodyboards are to be reclassified as ships to bring their users within regulations for merchant shipping.

Users face prison and fines of up to £50,000 if they are held liable for any accidents. A family in a dinghy or a beginner oarsman could be prosecuted if they collided with a swimmer. Anyone out on the water would be liable to a random breath test. The change was initially prompted by pressure to reduce accidents involving reckless use of jet skis, which have caused nine deaths in the past ten years. But the Department for Transport has infuriated many of Britain’s four million water sports enthusiasts by proposing to extend the regulations to unpowered craft. All watercraft would be classed as “ships” and thus bound by safety regulations enshrined in the Merchant Shipping Act, 1995. Surfers and canoeists in particular are adamant that they should not be subjected to such legislation.

Mark Wesson, a member of the British Surfing Association’s executive council, said: “We shall certainly be opposing this, and goodness knows what holidaymakers are going to make of this. It may put a lot of people off investing in a surfboard.”

Rob Barber, owner of a bodyboarding school in Newquay, Cornwall, suggested that the plan was too bizarre to enforce. “Common sense says you don’t go out on a surfboard when you are drunk — it’s not something you do,” he said.

Jason Smith, editor of Canoe and Kayak magazine, said: “There is a clear difference between a powered and an unpowered craft and it seems draconian if someone is in the sea in a beginner’s-style kayak after drinking a beer and then they may be prosecuted. I don’t think readers will like it one bit.”

Gus Lewis, legal officer at the Royal Yachting Association, the governing body for dinghies, yachts, rigid inflatable boats and sailboards, said everyone at sea should follow the same safety rules. But he said the association did not support new drink-driving rules for amateur sailors, since it is already an offence to behave in such a way as to endanger a ship or an individual.

Mr Lewis questioned whether the laws should apply to canoes and surfers. “We would include windsurfers, though, for we would say they navigate waters. If you got injured by a windsurfer or a dinghy, you’d be angry if they were somehow above the law.” The proposals, in a consultation paper, are intended to close a legal loophole identified in the Court of Appeal four years ago. Judges overturned the conviction of Mark Goodwin, of Weymouth, Dorset, who nearly killed a man when riding a jet ski. They ruled a jet ski was not a seagoing ship, so not subject to the merchant shipping legislation. The new rules would bring Britain into line with a Convention on International Regulations for Prevention of Collisions at Sea.

Most yacht and speedboat owners already comply with the equivalent of a highway code for the sea, and until the judgment most people thought both motor and sailing boats were governed by the rules. A spokeswoman for the DfT said the intention was to “prevent the irresponsible few from spoiling the fun of everyone else”. She added: “Everyone should be free to enjoy themselves on the water in the knowledge that there are sanctions to deal with those who would put their safety at risk.”


British government drips losing in their attack on Michael Savage

His accusation that he was attacked on racial grounds has now been confirmed
"Former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has suffered a major setback in her legal battle with American 'shock jock' Michael Savage after her officials were accused of banning him from the country on racial grounds. Emails written by Home Office officials privately acknowledged the ban on Mr Savage would provide 'balance' to a list dominated by Muslims - and linked the decision to Gordon Brown and Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

The officials admitted their action could look 'duplicitous' and cited his 'homophobia' as a reason the move would receive public support. The Right-wing radio presenter, whose hardline views on Islam, rape and autism have caused outrage in the US but whose show, The Savage Nation, has eight million listeners, was identified in May by Ms Smith as one of 16 people barred due to their political views.

Mr Savage, who had not even applied for entry to Britain, claimed his name had been 'plucked out of a hat' because he was 'controversial and white'. He has since served a £100,000 libel writ on Ms Smith, who announced his ban on television.

Now, correspondence released under Freedom of Information legislation suggests the banning of Mr Savage, whose real name is Michael Weiner, was based on a party political calculation made at the highest level of Government. One message, sent by an unidentified Home Office official on November 27 last year, said that 'with Weiner, I can understand that disclosure of the decision would help provide a balance of types of exclusion cases'.

The documents include a draft recommendation, marked 'Restricted', saying: 'We will want to ensure that the names disclosed reflect the broad range of cases and are not all Islamic extremists.'