Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Plastic flowers banned from British cemetery for posing a 'health and safety risk'

Only in Britain. Watch out for that dangerous plastic flower!

Grieving families have been told not to put plastic flowers in a garden of remembrance because they pose a health and safety risk. Council officials have banned plastic memorials in case they get caught in mowers. Workmen removed several displays from a cemetery in Keynsham, near Bristol, and moved them to the chapel of rest for collection by loved ones.

Retired school teacher Graham Lees, 60, regularly visits the Garden of Remembrance in Keynsham Cemetery, near Bristol, to pay his respects to his late father Ernest. He said Keynsham Town Council's plan had been 'very upsetting' for his entire family and is now demanding the decision is overturned. 'In the 42 years since I started visiting my father's final resting place I have always seen artificial flowers placed on graves throughout the cemetery, so to say it is unsafe now is total rubbish,' he said.

'Their sudden removal was very upsetting for my mother, who is in her 80s and has placed flowers, both real and artificial, in memorial vases continuously since my father died in 1966 and my stepfather in 1996. 'My mother hates the idea of leaving an empty vase as it seems the loved one is forgotten and the thought of the dead flowers left, smelling of putrid water, is very upsetting. 'The council really needs to rethink this decision as it is upsetting for all concerned.'

Mr Lees added that many elderly people were being forced to buy artificial flowers as they were looking at ways to save cash during the effects of the credit crunch. 'Most artificial flowers are left because financially the elderly can't afford to continually buy real ones, and since the bus stop outside the cemetery has been removed it makes it even harder for them to visit frequently,' he said. 'Many of the artificial flowers that people place are very new, life-like and obviously bought at some expense,' he added. 'They could be no way called unsightly.'

The ban applies only to the cemetery's Garden of Remembrance where ashes and memorial plaques are placed - not to the main graveyard where the plots provide enough room for flowers so they do not get in the way of mowers. The council says it has always had a ban on plastic flowers in the garden but had not enforced it fully until staff complained that cutting the grass was becoming difficult. Warning signs went up in June and the plastic floral displays were removed last month.

A spokeswoman said: 'It became more of a problem over time with more people leaving more and more mementoes, which makes it difficult for staff to carry out maintenance. 'We also have heath-and-safety reasons to consider: if the flowers get caught up in the lawnmower the bits of plastic flying around could be very dangerous.' In June Croydon Council banned plastic flowers from an elderly accommodation block because they were also deemed to be a health-and-safety risk.



No one knows just how many Muslim girls and women are murdered each year in the name of family "honor," since their deaths frequently go unreported and unpunished. The cases that do come to light are ghastly. "Women and young girls are set ablaze, strangled, shot at, clubbed, stabbed, tortured, axed, or stoned to death," a United Nations report noted in 2004. "Their bodies are found mutilated with their throat slit, or they are chopped into pieces and thrown in a ditch."

The report singled out as especially horrifying the honor killing in Pakistan of "a 16-year-old girl who was reportedly electrocuted to death after being drugged with sleeping pills and being tied to a wooden bed with iron chains." Her offense: marrying a boy from the wrong community. Countless others have lost their lives for refusing an arranged marriage, wearing Western-style clothing, having a boyfriend, or even being raped.

Recently, the Saudi human rights activist Wajeha al-Huwaidar wrote a scathing essay characterizing honor killings as a scourge peculiar to the "Greater Middle East," with its entrenched culture of misogyny and male supremacy. Her article, which appeared on the Arab reformist website, was prompted by the lynching of 17-year-old Du'a al-Aswad, a Kurdish girl stoned to death by a mob of Iraqi men. (The essay has been translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute, which also provides a link to a gruesome cellphone video of the lynching.) "From Pakistan and Afghanistan through Iran, the Middle East, and all the way to Morocco," Huwaidar wrote, "this entire part of the world [is full of] defeated and dejected men, whose only way to gain some sort of victory is by beating their women to death."

Sadly, evidence is not hard to come by. In the last few months, there have been news reports of a Jordanian man murdering his daughter "to cleanse the family's honor" after she kept leaving home without permission; another Jordanian, 22 years old, who gave the same reason -- "family honor" -- for killing his pregnant sister; a Saudi woman beaten and shot by her father after he discovered her having an online correspondence with a man on Facebook; and two Arab brothers in Israel, who strangled their sister after learning that she was involved in a romantic relationship.

But while honor killings may be more prevalent in the Middle East, no longer are they unknown in the West. In the Atlanta suburb of Jonesboro last month, a Pakistani immigrant allegedly strangled his 25-year-old daughter with a bungee cord because she was determined to end her arranged marriage and had gotten involved with a new man. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Sandeela Kanwal's father, Chaudhry Rashid, "told police he is Muslim and that extramarital affairs and divorce are against his religion [and] that's why he killed her." In court last week, a detective quoted Rashid: "God will protect me. God is watching me. I strangled my daughter."

In upstate New York a few weeks earlier, Waheed Allah Mohammad, an immigrant from Afghanistan, was charged with attempted murder after repeatedly stabbing his 19-year-old sister. The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported that Mohammad was "infuriated because his younger sister was going to clubs, wearing immodest clothing, and planning to leave her family for a new life in New York City" -- she was a "bad Muslim girl," he told sheriff's investigators.

On New Year's Day in Irving, Texas, the bullet-riddled bodies of the Said sisters -- Sarah, 17, and Amina, 18 -- were found in an abandoned taxi. Police issued an arrest warrant for their father, an Egyptian immigrant named Yaser Abdel Said, who had reportedly threatened to kill them upon learning that they had boyfriends. According to the Dallas Morning News, Yaser Said was given to "gun-waving rants about how Western culture was corrupting the chastity of his daughters."

While many authorities say that Islamic religious tradition does not sanction honor killing, it has long been accepted in many Muslim societies all the same. Perpetrators are typically punished lightly, if at all. In 2003, Jordan's parliament overwhelmingly defeated a proposal to impose harsher penalties for honor killings; Islamists objected on the grounds that more severe punishment would violate religious traditions and damage Jordanian society. "There must be violence against women," proclaimed the headline on a column in the Yemen Times earlier this year. The beating of wives and sisters, the columnist argued, is sometimes necessary "to preserve the morals and principles with which Islam has honored us."

It is appalling that such lethally barbaric attitudes could persist anywhere at this late date -- and all the more alarming, now that the shame of honor killing has made its way here.


Fair-trade coffee: not worth a hill of beans

It's a noble cause, but it's a bad deal for coffee growers

Fair-trade coffee is everywhere. Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts - even Wal-Mart - proudly feature beans they bought at a higher, "fair" price that pays growers a living wage. You get good coffee. Farmers get out of poverty. Corporations get goodwill. Everyone wins, right? Actually, fair trade is a bad deal. The intention is noble enough, but the impact on human lives is tragic. Instead of lifting exploited farmers out of debt and poverty, fair trade tends to diminish their prospects and hurt overall economic development. [Funnily enough]

The problem with fair trade is the problem with just about every so-called progressive economic policy: it ignores the laws of supply and demand. Say you live in Colombia. You know demand for Colombian coffee is high. Should you become a coffee farmer? You might, if other coffee farmers were making a profit. If they weren't, you'd conclude there are too many farmers already and pursue a more promising line of work. That's one critical function of prices and profits: They steer all of us - from the poorest farmer to the richest CEO - to pursue the most productive use of our energy. And that's what makes fair-trade coffee so misguided.

If there were just 10 small coffee growers worldwide, the price per pound of beans would be astronomical, and many people would rush to become coffee farmers. The current market price is "low" by comparison because there are already so many growers competing. By paying more than the market price for coffee - the authentically fair price - fair traders send a signal to people in developing countries to join an already overcrowded field. In doing so, they artificially lure them away from pursuing better-paying jobs that would enrich the diversity of a developing country's economy. A caffeinated price means more growers, more land destruction, more dependency on a single cash crop. It's a subsidy that undercuts the very sustainability fair traders want to promote. Yet fair traders evidently believe that growers who cannot make a profit at the market price ought to be helped to stay in business anyway.

Advising struggling coffee farmers simply to abandon their trade and find another way to make a living may seem flippant and heartless. Yet continuing to operate a money-losing business in the absence of a scheme that could reverse its fortunes merely makes one's financial predicament worse. People who persist in a money-losing occupation are free to do so - but they're not entitled to be supported in that obstinacy by the rest of society. In a free society and a free market, all capable adults must pull their own weight. Why should coffee growers be exempt?

That doesn't mean we lack sympathy for the real hardships that growers would face if they abandon the one occupation they know well for the uncertain promise that they can do better elsewhere. But what's more compassionate? Using your funds and energy to help them learn a new, more viable trade - or using it to support fair trade, thus postponing the harsh day of reckoning?

Fair traders want to see all coffee become fair-trade coffee, to ensure that all growers enjoy the benefits of a higher price. It's a hopeless cause, because it violates the laws of economics. As price rises, demand drops. So if fair traders succeeded in achieving a universally higher price of coffee, consumers would drink less of the beverage and the current glut of coffee farmers would be exacerbated. The belief that any group with power - government officials, economic experts, or social activists - can establish a price that's "fairer" or "more just" than the actual market price is a fallacy that bedeviled communism for decades and it's bedeviling the fair-trade movement today.

The good news? There are some genuinely promising alternatives to fair trade that support development. One way is to persuade consumers to purchase "shade-grown" coffee. Such farming is far friendlier to the environment. And consumers who buy shade-grown coffee at a higher price than that of coffee grown on a monocultural plantation are not attempting to supplant the market process with their own, arbitrary judgments about what various goods "ought" to cost, but are acting through that process to express their preference for a healthier, more vital environment.

We should remain keenly aware there is no "silver bullet" with which to slay the beast named Third World Poverty. Today, coffee growers must contend with abundant competitors, market distortions from government subsidies and other favoritism, and the legacy of colonialism and theft. That situation is certainly deplorable.

But consumer action isn't a promising way to rectify those inequities. How can a coffee shopper be expected to keep track of just which producers are getting just what advantages due to government policies, and correctly calculate just what price he should pay to offset the effects of those state-granted privileges? The only sensible approach is to fight against the unfair policies directly, while letting the free market steer peasants to the most productive opportunities.

If those who seek a fairer society come to recognize that moving toward genuinely free markets will advance, and not hinder, their goals, then their efforts will achieve much better results, to the benefit of everyone.


Anti-life 'Peace and Justice' Catholics Are Anything but Catholic

In the summer of 1993, a young woman on my staff came back from lunch one afternoon screaming mad. I had just started as president of the Catholic League and wanted to know what her problem was. It so happened that over lunch (in the New York Archdiocese's cafeteria) she was berated by a young man for her pro-life views. He worked for a social-justice organization.

It is no secret that the "peace and justice" crowd is soft on abortion. Sr. Helen Prejean and others like her can get quite worked up about the rights of serial murderers on death row, but they never seem to be quite as excited about the rights of innocent unborn babies. That's because too many of them see abortion as merely unfortunate: They positively do not believe it is "intrinsically evil."

On July 25, Catholics for Choice paid for an ad in Italy's largest newspaper - the money was laundered via the Ford Foundation and other anti-Catholic establishment institutions - denouncing the Catholic Church for its teaching on contraception. One of Pax Christi's chapters signed the ad, and so did a chapter of Voice of the Faithful. Dignity and the Women's Ordination Conference were also signatories.

None of these groups was founded to protest the Church's teaching on contraception. Pax Christi professes an interest in peace; VOTF was established to address the sexual abuse scandal; Dignity is a gay-rights group; Women's Ordination Conference wants women priests. But all are integral to the social-justice wing of the Catholic Church, and all reject the Church's teachings on sexuality (not just artificial birth control). To top it off, they have no problem signing an ad sponsored by an organization that was twice condemned by the bishops' conference for being a fraud.

How can groups that are nominally Catholic join with a group that is the most notoriously anti-Catholic organization in the nation? The answer is obvious: They are ideologically compatible. They would argue, however, that their commitment to helping the poor and promoting peace makes them more Catholic than most pro-life groups. But what does their commitment entail?

Social-justice Catholics love to tout organizations like Bread for the World. But the fact is that this group does nothing but lobby for welfare programs - it has never given any poor person a job, never helped them to get a job, and never once put food on the table for them. But it is good at lobbying, and what it lobbies for is more handouts.

In 1996, President Bill Clinton reluctantly signed the most comprehensive welfare reform bill in American history. It is now acknowledged, even by the New York Times, that it did more to break the back of dependency than any other piece of legislation. And who worked hard against it? The social-justice crowd.

Peace through strength is the most efficacious way to avoid war. Self-reliance and hard work is the best way to help the able-bodied poor to become upwardly mobile. Laws protecting the unborn are the most reliable means of stopping abortion. This is something those in the pro-life wing of the Catholic Church already know, and it is something they can pursue without ever being bankrolled by anti-Catholic front groups.



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 is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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