Tuesday, December 22, 2009

BBC succumbs to feminist pressure over age of onscreen presenters

Not allowed to do what they think will get them most audience

First she swapped her newsreader’s chair at ITN for a Scottish ancestral seat, becoming Lady MacGregor of MacGregor, wife of the Gregor clan chief. Now Fiona Armstrong is one of three middle-aged women being hired by the BBC to counter claims of ageism. Armstrong, 53, who also spent time on the GMTV sofa, joins Julia Somerville, 62, a former presenter of ITN’s News at Ten, and Zeinab Badawi, 50, who used to anchor the Channel 4 News with Jon Snow.

It is an about-turn by the BBC which angered viewers by dropping Moira Stuart from her newsreading role after more than 30 years. “I’m delighted that the BBC has gone for such talent,” said Joan Bakewell, the broadcaster and government adviser on older women. “They are all supremely qualified to interview, say, Hillary Clinton one minute and Clint Eastwood the next.”

Last summer Bakewell went directly to the BBC’s director-general, Mark Thompson, to tell him that it was wrong to employ many men over 50 to present TV news or current affairs programmes, but just a couple of women.

Yet there is some disappointment that none of the three new recruits will front a main bulletin such as the Six or Ten O’Clock News or a current affairs programme such as Newsnight. Initially, at least, all three will be presenters on the BBC News Channel. None of the three recruits applied for the post, though hundreds of others from inside and outside the BBC did. All three women were approached. The BBC said: “It’s important not to rest on our laurels and to reflect the public we serve.”


Muslim whiner loses out in Britain

He was just playing the "Muslim card" in hope of a payout. Now he will be paying

A Muslim chef who lost a claim of religious discrimination against Scotland Yard after complaining he was forced to cook sausages and bacon faces a legal bill of more than £75,000. Hasanali Khoja accused the Metropolitan Police of failing to consider his Islamic beliefs when he was asked to handle pork products as a catering manager at a police station. The £23,000-a-year chef claimed suggestions by his bosses that he should wear gloves and use tongs left him 'stressed and humiliated'. Muslims are banned from eating pork under Islamic law. But Mr Khoja, 62, lost his claim in May after a police employee told an employment tribunal how she saw Mr Khoja eat bacon rolls and sausages.

The Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) has now won a ruling ordering Mr Khoja to pay its costs, which total at least £76,200. In its costs claim, the Met said Mr Khoja 'knew that he had asked for a bacon roll two or three times for personal consumption before bringing his claim and throughout the conduct of his claim'. 'The fact that he had knowingly come into contact with pork products before bringing the claim shows that the claim had no reasonable prospect of success from the outset.'

Judge Michael Southam agreed and ruled Mr Khoja should pay costs, though these would be determined at a later date at a county court.

Mr Khoja, from Edgware, North London, who is still employed by the Met, claimed at a hearing in Watford that he could afford to pay only £80 a week as he has little income, lives in rented property and is struggling with £30,000 legal bills of his own. But the court discovered he had sold another home last year, splitting profits of almost £200,000 with his wife and two sons.

The decision is another setback for the police chef, who believed he was on course for a large settlement when he launched his case in 2007. Mr Khoja, who sits on a Foods Standards Agency advisory committee on Muslim issues, decided to take action after Scotland Yard chiefs placed him on unpaid leave for a year after his refusal to work with pork. He said he was then given work in a different building but his role was downgraded.

But his case fell apart when another caterer, Mary Boakye, told the court she served him bacon rolls 'two or three' times at the Met canteen at Heathrow in West London. When she told him she was surprised because his religion banned him from eating pork, Mr Khoja allegedly replied: 'I eat them once in a while.' Another chef said he saw Mr Khoja once happily eat a sausage dish and told the court 'he was not as strict as some Muslims'. Judge Southam also heard how Mr Khoja had made 'wild and baseless' allegations about a human resource manager, allegedly making racial facial gestures.

Mr Khoja is one of several ethnic minority staff to launch racial discrimination claims against Scotland Yard. The most high-profile was former Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, who last year accused Sir Ian Blair of excluding him from the upper echelons of the force because of his skin colour. Mr Ghaffur retired after receiving an out-of-court settlement and dropped the allegations.


Men ARE better than women at parking: Feminist scientists proves what sexist motorists have known all along

Male drivers have long boasted they are superior to women, particularly when it comes to parking. And now their claims have been borne out by the first scientific study into the subject. Psychologists asked 65 volunteers to park a £23,000 Audi repeatedly in a sealed-off university car park.

The results, which are bound to reignite long-running arguments between couples, found that women took up to 20 seconds longer to park in the same space. But although they were more cautious about edging into position, it did not make them any more accurate, and they tended to end up much closer to the edge of the bays than the male drivers.

Scientists from Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany, found men were better at driving both head-on into the space and reversing into it. However, the biggest difference was in parallel parking, where men were found to be five per cent better in their handling and positioning of the vehicle. Researchers concluded the men had better co-ordination and spatial awareness because their brains could process the changing speed and position of the car more quickly.

Dr Claudia Wolf, who co-wrote the study, said she was prompted to investigate the subject after getting fed up with chauvinistic jokes about female drivers. She told The Mail on Sunday: ‘These prejudices exist and as a scientist I decided to find out if they are true or based on myth. ‘I don’t think that feminism or the cause of women is in any way set back by these findings. It only proves what previous studies about the spatial differences between men and women have shown. ‘Besides, it is not as if there was a massive failing by women. It is just about parking - not the triumph of men over women.’

The drivers - who had varying degrees of driving experience, but were of similar ages and intelligence - were asked to park an Audi A6 Limousine automatic, a large, family saloon, in a 15ft by 6ft space. The scientists measured both the time between the car’s first movement and the driver turning off the engine and how close the car ended up to the white tape marking out the bays. The more central the car ended up in the space, the better.

The psychologists admitted they were surprised that females’ extra caution did not bring better results. Their paper noted: ‘The marked difference in parking duration could be explained in terms of general driving habits. Several studies prove that men take greater driving risks. ‘However, a sex difference in risk-assessment leading to women parking more cautiously, and thus more slowly, does not explain why women’s final parking position was less accurate than men’s, especially for parallel parking. Slower driving should lead to a better and not worse result.’


When 'Spiritual Elevation' Is the Law

Authoritarianism is not dead in Germany either

The Germans are so strong on their family values they want the state to enforce them. They're debating now whether shops should be shuttered on Sunday by law. It's a burning issue in coffee shops, on the street and in the newspapers, hotter than whether Angela Merkel should send more troops to Afghanistan.

Germany's highest court has ruled that keeping Sunday a day of rest benefits everyone, like it or not. So buying a head of lettuce, repairing a bike or purchasing a pair of shoes is not for Sunday. The ruling is especially disappointing to Berlin shopkeepers who find flexible Sunday hours particularly profitable.

Most clergymen, eager to reach the multitudes (the more parishioners in the pews, the louder the hymns), have greeted the ruling with enthusiasm if not awe. The initial complaint against extended Sunday hours was filed by leaders of both Protestant and Catholic churches, who argued that a clause in the German constitution supports the day of rest as important to "spiritual elevation." The labor unions pushed for Sunday as a family day that even atheists could enjoy. Under the ruling, shops will no longer enjoy Berlin's expansive policy of staying open 10 Sundays a year, including the four consecutive Sundays before Christmas, although it did not completely overturn the principle for some Sunday openings. Curbs on hours are expected in other cities, too.

Fortunately for the thousands of tourists who flock to Germany from all over the continent for the traditional Christmas markets, the new regulations aren't effective this Christmas season -- and they can visit retail shops on Sunday, too. More than 2,500 such markets have opened across Germany this year, and shoppers are expected to leave a lot of Euros behind. A typical shopper to a Christmas market spends about 30 Euros, almost $50, and if my own haul of scarves, toys and jewelry is typical, that's a modest estimate.

Dozens of little wooden huts, or stalls decorated with tiny, twinkling Christmas lights, typically stand in neat rows on town squares and plazas. They're tucked into alleys, courtyards and side streets, traditionally offering wooden toys, tree ornaments, nativity scenes and an enormous array of holiday food: gingerbread in Munich, figurines fashioned of dried plums in Frankfurt and stollen, a Christmas cake, in Dresden. It's even possible occasionally to find a hand crafted Hanukkah menorah.

In a typical Christmas market in Dortmund, Hans-Peter Arens sells famous hams, and his son nearby offers mulled Gluewein, the popular seasonal wine. They're among four generations of the family operating a Christmas market. "I know that the church encourages reflection," he tells der Spiegel, the German news magazine, "but I can only be reflective when the cash register is ringing."

It's easy to see why the state-enforced day of rest is not popular with merchants. The Chamber of Commerce scoffs that the court is "out of touch with reality" and argues that eliminating shopping days in a recession doesn't make business sense. Tourists who come to the city only on weekends will take their Sunday business elsewhere, or buy online where there are no restrictions.

"This ruling is like Marie Antoinette saying, 'Let them bake cake,'" complains a querulous patron at a bakery counter, eager to return to buy fresh bread on his day of rest. But support for the ban cuts across political and religious lines, left and right. Many Germans, religious and not, support Sunday's "specialness," if not its sanctity.

"The judges did not just endorse the division of time marked by Christianity," observes Die Welt, a conservative newspaper. "We people as social animals are duty bound and justified in dividing our time (by being) together." The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung agrees, noting that those who want "to play cards, go for a walk or simply laze around" can use a quiet Sunday, too. The center-left Suddeutsche Zeitung concedes the decision sounds antiquated because it runs against the "economic liberal zeitgeist." But that's all right because the enforced day off is a benefit to everyone.

Germans, like other Europeans, often sneer at American capitalism for commercializing culture around the clock, but as in so much other attitudinizing, where you stand always depends on where you're sitting. Europeans generally don't like to work as hard as Americans, who demand marginal tax rates and economic incentives that Germans, French and Italians can hardly fathom.

Americans prize family values, too, and attend church and synagogue at much higher rates than anywhere else in the world. Fights over Sunday closing, enforced by "blue laws," were once a staple of small-town America, too. We no longer rely on the government to tell us how to enjoy our Sundays, but it's hard to find figurines of dried plums in Peoria.



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 or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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