Tuesday, June 17, 2008

British health and safety zealots tell youngster her 2ft paddling pool needs a lifeguard

And they're not backing down

For nearly a quarter of a century, Lourdes Maxwell has celebrated the arrival of summer by putting a paddling pool in the garden. This year, however, her two grandchildren and the children of her neighbours may have to find another way to cool off in the heat. Miss Maxwell's local council has decided that the pool - which is only 2ft deep - needs a lifeguard. The 47-year-old divorced mother of three has also been told she must have insurance before she can inflate the toy outside her house in Portsmouth.

The health and safety edict came after she wrote to the city council asking for permission to put a bigger pool in the communal garden outside her home. Not only was she told it was too dangerous, but the council told her to empty the existing pool.

After her MP intervened, the local authority softened its stance, saying Miss Maxwell could have a pool if she paid for insurance and ensured supervisors were on constant watch. Residents near the communal gardens already have to obey a raft of rules governing their use. They are even supposed to ask the council for permission before having a barbecue.

Miss Maxwell, who is a full-time carer to her son Aiden, said yesterday: "It is absolutely pathetic. "I have had a paddling pool outside the front of my flat every summer for 24 years, ever since Aiden turned one year old. "Neighbours' children would come and enjoy the pool and I would give them ice lollies. It was always a very social occasion."

She added: "Now suddenly I'm not allowed. "I asked around for insurance and they just laughed at me. No one offers insurance for paddling pools. "I'm always there to supervise but they're trying to tell me I need lifeguards for a kiddies' pool as well - it's crazy."

Nigel Selley, Portsmouth Council's neighbourhood manager, defended the ruling yesterday. He said: "We did not have sufficient assurances that the risks associated with providing such a facility would be well-managed. "We have since spoken to Ms Maxwell and she is aware of our concerns for child safety and the risks associated with drowning." Steven Wylie, the councillor in charge of housing, added: "I want to encourage people to enjoy the communal gardens. "We want to help where we can to ensure that it is a fun and safe place for everyone to use."



By Jeff Jacoby

The agonies being inflicted on Zimbabwe by its corrupt and brutal president grow ever worse. Earlier this month, the government of Robert Mugabe ordered international aid agencies to halt the operations that have been keeping hundreds of thousands of Zimbabwe's people alive. With most of the country's population out of work and in dire poverty, the food and other humanitarian assistance provided by groups like CARE and Save the Children are more desperately needed than ever. By shutting them down, Mugabe and his henchmen have knowingly condemned countless vulnerable Zimbabweans to death.

Mugabe claims, preposterously, that the humanitarian agencies were trying "to cripple Zimbabwe's economy" and bring about "illegal regime change." Actually, it his own demented and dictatorial misrule that has destroyed the country, turning what was once a fruitful and prosperous land into the world's most rapidly collapsing economy. And it is his determination to cling to power by any means -- including starving and terrorizing voters who support a change in government -- that has filled Zimbabwe not just with hunger and sickness but with savagery and bloodshed as well.

Less than two weeks remain until the presidential election runoff between Mugabe, Zimbabwe's autocratic president for the last 28 years, and the popular opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who leads the Movement for Democratic Change. Tsvangirai and the MDC won the first round of elections in March, and supporters of Mugabe and his ZANU-PF ruling party have been waging a vicious campaign of intimidation and violence against them ever since.

Opposition rallies have been obstructed by police, and Tsvangirai has repeatedly been detained for hours at a time. On Thursday, the MDC's secretary general, Tendai Biti, was arrested and charged with treason. Thousands of opposition supporters have been attacked, arrested, or forced to flee for their lives. Homes have been torched; scores of people have been killed.

International aid workers say they were shut down to keep them from witnessing the government's increasingly lethal crackdown. The depravity of those attacks is suggested by UNICEF, which has said that 10,000 children have been driven from their homes by the violence, and that schools taken over by pro-government forces are being used as torture centers. Peter Osborne, in a dispatch from Zimbabwe for a British newspaper, The Mail on Sunday, itemizes some of the methods of abuse favored by Mugabe's men: pouring boiling plastic on victims' backs, burning their extremities, nearly drowning them in vats of water, and administering whippings violent enough to transform an adult's buttocks into a horrifying "mess of raw flesh."

The latest description of Zimbabwe's reign of terror comes from Human Rights Watch, which in a new report documents numerous cases of brutal repression by Mugabe supporters. "ZANU-PF and its allies have . . . established torture camps and organized abusive 're-education' meetings around the country to compel MDC supporters into voting for Mugabe," the report says. Hundreds of voters have been flogged with sticks, whips, bicycle chains, and metal bars. In one "re-education" meeting May 5, "ZANU-PF officials and 'war veterans' beat six men to death and tortured another 70 men and women, including a 76-year-old woman publicly thrashed in front of assembled villagers."

In other meetings, military officers have threatened to kill anyone who votes for the opposition. "Each villager would be given a bullet to hold in their hands. Then a soldier would say, 'If you vote for MDC in the presidential runoff election, you have seen the bullets, we have enough for each one of you, so beware.' "

We must assume that Mugabe's savage onslaught is likely to achieve its goal. Faced with starvation, dispossession, and threats of revenge, how many Zimbabweans will muster the courage to stand against him?

But why do the rest of us do nothing? Why is the free world so indifferent to the enormities committed by Mugabe and his bullies? Where are the worldwide demonstrations outside Zimbabwe's embassies? Where are the international boycotts, the UN resolutions, the presidential and papal condemnations? Where is the International Criminal Court indictment of Mugabe for his long career of murder, torture, and other crimes against humanity?

Let us be honest: If the people of Zimbabwe were being terrorized by a white despot -- if it were a white ruling party whose goons were beating them and burning their homes -- the whole world would be aroused on their behalf. Surely they deserve no less just because their oppressor is black.

Homosexuals have brain differences

Scientists investigating human sexuality have found that the brains of homosexuals have structural and functional differences from those of "straight" people. Lesbians appear to have a lower proportion of grey matter in their brains than straight women, giving their brains a more "male-like" structure.

The brains of gay men appear to have structural similarities to those of heterosexual women. They also exhibit the same powerful response as straight women to the sex hormones released in male sweat.

The research comes amid growing interest in how variations in brain structure are linked to human behaviour. It is known, for example, that the greater size of male brains and the higher proportion in females of grey matter - the cells that process signals from the senses - are caused partly by sex hormones released during foetal development. These hormones are also involved in determining sexual orientation. Scientists have long thought this meant there should be differences in the brains of homosexuals. Brain scanning equipment has only recently become powerful enough to seek them out, however.

In one study, researchers at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London used magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, to look at the brains of 80 men and women, including 16 gay men and 15 lesbians. They found that lesbians had a "male-like" proportion and distribution of grey matter in their brain when compared with heterosexual women. In a paper published in the Public Library of Science, the researchers said: "In homosexual women the perirhinal cortex grey matter displayed a male-like structural pattern." The perirhinal area is associated with social and sexual behaviour.

In another study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Ivanka Savic of the Karolinska Institute, Sweden, asked 12 gay men, 12 heterosexual women and 12 heterosexual men to smell hormones found in male sweat while she measured their brain responses. She found that the anterior hypothalamus, an area linked to sexual behaviour, responded strongly in both heterosexual women and gay men. Straight men showed little response. This implies the brains of gay men have functional similarities to those of straight women. Savic also measured the brain responses of 12 lesbians who were asked to smell male and female hormones. The lesbians responded much more strongly to female hormones.

The research suggests sexual orientation is largely programmed into people early in life, according to Savic. However, other studies have shown a person's lifestyle can lead to structural brain changes.


Liar loses

A French media liar was so brazen that he sued a truth-teller for libel. Luckily, he lost the case and the truth-teller won

Charles Enderlin is not going quietly into the night. On May 23 a French appeals court dismissed the libel suit he and France2 brought against media critic Phillippe Karsenty, arising out of the latter's charge that Enderlin and France2 had duped the French public with their September 30, 2000 broadcast of the "death of Muhammed al-Dura" at Netzarim Junction. In his voice-over that night, Enderlin, who was not at Netzarim Junction during the events in question, unambiguously claimed that the boy in the film clip had been killed by Israeli fire that deliberately targeted him.

With the dismissal of his suit, Enderlin joined Oscar Wilde and Alger Hiss in the pantheon of those who brought libel suits and ended up destroying their own reputations. He has announced, however, that he will appeal to the French Supreme Court. And his friends in the French journalistic community are circulating a petition claiming that he is the victim of insane conspiracy theorists.

My friend Larry Derfner apparently shares that view. He wrote in the Jerusalem Post on May 28 that anyone who believes that France 2's broadcast was a hoax belongs in an asylum along with 9/11 deniers. According to Derfner, Karsenty, Boston University history professor Richard Landes, and Luc Rosenzweig, former editor-in-chief of Le Monde, are victims of Jewish paranoia.

Larry admits that every word Enderlin said in his voice-over was false: There is no evidence that the boy and his father were targets of Israeli fire. Nor was he killed by Israeli fire. Yet, he writes, evidence of a journalistic hoax does not amount to .001 percent of the evidence that Shimon Peres masterminded the Rabin assassination. At most, Karsenty, Landes, et al. have gathered a few of the "oddities" favored by wacked-out conspiracy theorists.

Enderlin distributed the France 2 clip free of charge, and it was subsequently broadcast thousands of times. The image of the terrified boy cowering behind his father quickly assumed iconic status. It featured prominently in mass anti-Israel demonstrations in Europe, where it was juxtaposed to the image of the Jewish boy with his hands raised in the Warsaw ghetto.

To heighten its impact, Palestinian TV cropped into the France 2-clip pictures of an Israeli soldier firing. The image of "Muhammed al-Dura" beckoning other Palestinian children to join him as martyrs in paradise features prominently in the Palestinian death cult. His name was invoked by the Ramallah mob that disemboweled two Israeli reservists, in Osama bin Laden's 9/11 video, and in that of Daniel Pearl's beheading.

One would have thought that those who doggedly exposed one falsehood after another and provoked Enderlin and France 2 into their ill-fated libel suit are deserving of praise, not ridicule. At the very least, we would expect their accusers to show some minimal familiarity with the evidence they have amassed and to make some attempt to refute it.

Let's consider some of the "oddities" that are firmly established. Palestinians regularly fake media images and lie shamelessly. Recall Hamas legislators meeting by candlelight with the curtains drawn in what turned out to be the middle of the day, or the 5,000 Palestinians reportedly massacred in Jenin, or the family of eight supposedly killed by Israeli fire on Gaza Beach, who turned out to have stepped on Hamas-laid mines. Professor Landes coined the name Pallywood for these Palestinian media hoaxes, and documents a slew of them at his Web site Second Draft.

For the Palestinians, media is a pure propaganda tool. Thus Riccardo Cristiano of Italian national TV felt compelled to compose a craven letter to the Palestinian Authority stating that his station would never have broadcast the Ramallah lynch because it fully understands the rules of reporting from the PA.

From the general to the particular. The sole footage of "Muhammed al-Dura's death" was that of Palestinian cameraman Talul Abu-Rahmeh working for France 2. Abu-Rahmeh is a liar. On October 3, 2000, he testified under oath to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights that there had been 45 minutes of sustained Israeli fire directed at the man and boy. As an experienced war reporter, he could verify that they could have only been hit by Israeli fire. Abu-Rahmeh claimed to have filmed 27 minutes of the fusillade. Later he told German documentary filmmaker Esther Schapira that he had filmed six minutes.

We now know that the boy could have only been hit by Palestinian fire. The story of a 45-minute fusillade was on its face laughable: Had Israeli soldiers wanted to kill Palestinians, they had dozens of rioters immediately in front of the Israeli stockade from which to choose. Moreover, Abu-Rahmeh's entire footage of the man and boy consisted of 58 seconds comprised of six spliced scenes.

The rest of his 27 minutes of footage - only 18 minutes of which France2 produced when ordered to do so by the French appeals court - consists of obviously staged scenes, according to three veteran French journalists who viewed it. The "al-Dura" footage was shot in the same area that Abu-Rahmeh and other Palestinian cameramen spent the day shooting such staged scenes.

Abu-Rahmeh once declared, "I went into journalism to carry on the fight for my people," and was certainly not above employing his camera for a bit of deception. A Reuters clip from the day shows him filming another staged scene involving a Molotov cocktail. That scene was inexplicably omitted from the rushes produced in the French court.

Whether Charles Enderlin knew from the first that his voice-over was false is unclear. That he lies is certain. He drew for gullible journalists a false map of Netzarim Junction, which wrongly placed the Israeli position in a direct line of fire to the man and the boy. Worse yet, he repeatedly claimed that he had edited out the last three seconds of the "al-Dura" footage because the boy's death throes were too painful to watch.

There were no such death throes. In those last three seconds, the boy lifts his head, peeks out from under his arm (with which he is shielding his eyes) prior to resuming a prone position -- albeit with his leg still held aloft. A nearby mob chants, "the boy is dead, the boy is dead," before he even lies prone the first time. Enderlin drew twitters of laughter in the French courtroom when he offered that perhaps the crowd was anticipating the boy's death.

Not only is there no dead boy on the film. There is no sign of blood or wounds of any kind. In other footage from the scene, civilians are seen passing by the crouching man and boy - some running, some strolling but all apparently oblivious to any rifle fire. (See Nidra Poller, "Myth, Fact, and the al-Dura Affair," Commentary, Sept. 2005).

Over the years, more holes have developed in the al-Dura story. Phillipe Karsenty revealed that Jamal al-Dura had been treated many years earlier in an Israeli hospital for the same wounds later shown to journalists as corroboration. And Sami el-Soudi, a Palestinian journalist working for Metulla News Agency, found records of a boy named Muhammed al-Dura admitted to a Gaza hospital four hours before the filming at Netzarim Junction.

As his original tale unraveled, Enderlin adopted a fallback position: Even if his voice-over was totally wrong, it still reflects the "reality" of the Israeli occupation: Israelis killing Palestinian children. That too appears to be Derfner's position: Nothing must be allowed to absolve Israel of guilt for the occupation. The al-Dura affair, it turns out, was not just about Israeli culpability, but about the very concept of Truth itself. Fortunately, this time the good guys won.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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