Friday, April 16, 2010

Girls are naturally drawn to dolls as soon as they can crawl

Baby girls make a beeline for dolls as soon as they can crawl - and boys will head for the toy cars, a study has shown. With no prompting, they will choose the stereotypical toys for their gender.

The findings - the first to show consistent differences in very young babies - suggest there is a biological basis to their preferences.

This indicates that 'politically correct' efforts to steer children towards things they wouldn't normally play with are doomed to failure.

Psychologists Dr Brenda Todd and Sara Amalie O'Toole Thommessen from City University London carried out an experiment involving 90 infants aged nine months to 36 months. The babies were allowed to choose from seven toys. Some were stereotypically boys' toys - a car, a digger, a ball and a blue teddy.

The rest were stereotypically girl toys: a pink teddy, a doll and a cooking set. The infants were placed a metre away from the toys, and could pick which ever they pleased. Their choice, and the amount of time they spent playing with each toy was recorded.

Of the youngest children (nine to 14 months), girls spent significantly longer playing with the doll than boys, and boys spent much more time with the car and ball than the girls did.

Among the two and three-year-olds, girls spent 50 per cent of the time playing with the doll while only two boys briefly touched it. The boys spent almost 90 per cent of their time playing with cars, which the girls barely touched.

There was no link between the parents' views on which toys were more appropriate for boys or girls, and the children's choices.

The researchers presented their study yesterday at the British Psychological Society's annual conference in Stratford on Avon. Dr Brenda Todd said: 'Children of this age are already subject to a great deal of socialisation. Boys may be given "toys that go" while girls get toys they can nurture which may help shape their preferences. But these findings are consistent with the idea of an intrinsic bias in children to show interest in particular kinds of toys.

'There could be a biological basis for their choices. Males through evolution have been adapted to prefer moving objects, probably through hunting instincts, while girls prefer warmer colours such as pink, the colour of a newborn baby.'


British science writer wins bitter libel battle -- but at a huge cost

"Chilling effect", anyone?

The science writer Simon Singh stands to lose £60,000 in legal costs despite winning a case against chiropractors who sued him for libel over his criticism of their medical claims.

The British Chiropractic Association (BCA) dropped its action against the journalist yesterday after a Court of Appeal ruling two weeks ago found that Dr Singh’s “honest opinion” was entitled to a fair comment defence. The judgment noted that: “Scientific controversies must be settled by the methods of science rather than by the methods of litigation.”

The BCA had sued Dr Singh for libel over a newspaper article in which he alleged that the organisation promoted “bogus treatments”, such as chiropractic for childhood asthma and colic, that were not supported by evidence.

Although Dr Singh’s lawyers will pursue the BCA for costs, he is likely to recover only 70 per cent of the £200,000 he has spent on defending himself.

Dr Singh said that the bill he faced, even after being vindicated, highlighted the “chilling effect” of English libel law on freedom of expression. “My bill for a clear victory could be £60,000,” he said. “That explains why people don’t fight libel cases: even if you win, you lose. My victory does not mean that our libel laws are OK, because I won despite the libel laws.

“English libel law is so intimidating, so expensive, so hostile to serious journalists that it has a chilling effect on all areas of debate, silencing scientists, journalists, bloggers, human rights activists and everyone else who dares to tackle serious matters of public interest.”

His solicitor, Robert Dougans, of Bryan Cave LLP, said: “In the game of libel, even winning is costly and stressful. Until we have a proper public interest defence, scientists and writers are going to have to carry on making the unenviable choice of either shying away from hard-hitting debate, or paying through the nose for the privilege of defending it.”

The Court of Appeal reversed a ruling by the High Court last May that Dr Singh’s comments were factual assertions rather than expressions of opinion, which meant that he could not use the defence of fair comment.

In a statement the BCA said: “The decision provides Dr Singh with a defence such that the BCA has taken the view that it should withdraw to avoid further legal costs being incurred by either side.”

Mr Dougans said that the Court of Appeal judgment would help other scientists and science writers to defend libel actions, such as Peter Wilmshurst, a cardiologist who is being sued for raising concerns about research into a heart device. It will not now be reviewed by the Supreme Court. “It is going to become increasingly difficult to sue over public debate of scientific issues,” he said. “Dr Wilmshurst is going to have a cast-iron defence now.”

Mr Dougans noted, however, that defendants rarely recovered more than 70 per cent of their costs even when libel actions were dropped.

Dr Singh could also incur further costs if the BCA does not have the funds to reimburse him. Had he lost the case at trial, he could have been liable for costs of both sides of up to £1 million. He said that he had spent 45 full weeks working on the case over the past two years, adding: “That is essentially a year’s worth of work and earnings.”

He said that he felt a huge relief. “Fortunately the case has ended when my son Hari is only three weeks old, so I can now relax and enjoy being a father.

“The good news is that all three main parties this week committed to a libel reform Bill in the next Parliament. But libel reform has to be radical. Cutting costs by a half means that a trial will not cost £1 million but cost £500,000, but this is still extortionate. Costs need to be cut by a factor of 10 at least.”

He added: “The Court of Appeal judgment says that when a science journalist is sued for libel for criticising evidence, the defence of fair comment should be the default position. But that doesn’t stop libel tourism, or huge companies suing individual scientists, journalists or bloggers to silence them.”


Lord Carey warns of ‘unrest’ if judges continue with ‘dangerous’ rulings

Lord Carey of Clifton, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, warned today of future “civil unrest” if judges continue with “disturbing” and “dangerous” rulings in religious discrimination cases.

He intervened in a case being brought by a Bristol solicitor and relationship counsellor who wants a special panel of five senior judges to hear his appeal against being sacked for refusing to counsel homosexual couples.

Lord Carey, who was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002, attacked the courts over a series of “disturbing” judgments and accused judges of being responsible for some “dangerous” reasoning which could, if taken to extremes, lead to Christians being banned from the workplace.

“Recent decisions of the courts have illuminated insensitivity to the interests and needs of the Christian community and represent disturbing judgments,” he said in a witness statement.

Lord Carey said it was “but a short step from the dismissal of a sincere Christian from employment to a “religious bar” to any employment by Christians.”

Lord Carey, who said he had the support of several other Anglican bishops and other leading churchmen, also attacked recent decisions by the Court of Appeal on the right of Christians to wear crosses in the workplace. These displayed a “worrying lack of awarness of Christian religious and cultural manifestations, he said.

“This type of ‘reasoning’ is dangerous to the social order and represents clear animus to Christian beliefs. The fact that senior clerics of the Church of England and other faiths feel compelled to intervene directly in judicial decisions and cases is illuminative of a future civil unrest.

“The effect of these decisions is to undermine the religious liberties that have existed in the United Kingdom for centuries. If there is to be a limitation of Christian liberties in Britain, this should be a matter for Parliament.”

His intervention came in an appeal being brought by Gary McFarlane, a member of a Pentecostal church, who says he will have no chance of a fair hearing if his case is conducted by judges who have already made rulings that show “a lack of understanding of Christian beliefs.”

He and other Christians say they are specifically concerned by a ruling of Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, Master of the Rolls, and other appeal judges that a registrar who refused to conduct civil partnerships because they were against her Christian beliefs could no longer carry on in her job.

Mr McFarlane, 48, is challenging an employment tribunal ruling that supported his sacking for refusing to give psychosexual counsellling to homosexual couples.

His counsel, Paul Diamond, a leading religious rights barrister, said that Mr McFarlane wants a special panel of five judges “under the direction of the Lord Chief Justice” so as to have a chance of “fair” ruling. Judges who have already shown a “lack of understanding of Christian beliefs” should stand down, he said.

With Lord Carey’s backing he also wants a permanent panel of judges to be established, with a “proven sensitivity and understanding of religious issues.”

Mr Diamond today told Lord Justice Laws, a senior Court of Appeal judge, that the case was a “seminal” one, “not just for the law but for the direction of the United Kingdon, and whether we are going to be a secular state or neutral state holding the ring between competing values. It was not for the courts to set themselves up as “ominicompetent lawmakers” but to hold the balance between competing rights, he added.

Mr McFarlane and other Christians are specifically concerned by a ruling of Lord Neuberger, the Master of the Rolls, and other appeal judges, that Lillian Ladele, a registrar who refused to conduct civil partnerships ceremonies – because they were against her Christian beliefs – could no longer work as a registrar.

They claim that the effect of the ruling in December now means that the right to express the Christian faith must take second place to the rights of homosexuals under Labour’s equality laws.

The ruling about the registrar, Lillian Ladele, “does not justice to freedom of religion issues and to millions of belivers in this country and worldwide,” Mr Diamond said. “You can understand why religious leaders found that judgment unacceptable, demeaning and insulting.”

The Christian Legal Centre which is backing Mr McFarlane’s case is also running the case of Theresa Davies, a professional colleague of Lillian Ladele, the registrar who also felt unable to officiate over same sex civil partnerships as a matter of conscience.

One was Shirley Chaplin, 55, a nurse living near Exeter who had worn the cross every day for 38 years, and who recently lost her case.

She said: “I have just lost my case in the Employment Tribunal. It was held that I had not been discriminated against, even though I was not allowed to wear my cross whilst other colleagues were allowed to wear their religious symbols. I hope that the judges make it clear that Christians are to be protected from discrimination, just like anybody else.”

The Master of the Rolls is the second most senior judge in England and Wales, after the Lord Chief Justice. The Master of the Rolls, a position which dates back to the 13th century, is the presiding officer of the Civil Division of the Court of Appeal.

Lord Carey said that that in a world of conflicting rights, both need to be considered and accommodated. It is therefore not acceptable that the Christian view is considered “discriminatory” by the courts, with Christians likened to “bigots”.

Lord Justice Laws reserved his decision at the end of the hour-long hearing and said he would give his reasons in writing later.

Mr McFarlane, a father of two who was in court, said that the case was a crucial one for the future and would determine “the way society is going in terms of secularisation.”


A dangerous silence

by Ed Koch

I weep as I witness outrageous verbal attacks on Israel. What makes these verbal assaults and distortions all the more painful is that they are being orchestrated by President Obama.

For me, the situation today recalls what occurred in 70 AD when the Roman emperor Vespasian launched a military campaign against the Jewish nation and its ancient capital of Jerusalem. Ultimately, Masada, a rock plateau in the Judean desert became the last refuge of the Jewish people against the Roman onslaught. I have been to Jerusalem and Masada. From the top of Masada, you can still see the remains of the Roman fortifications and garrisons, and the stones and earth of the Roman siege ramp that was used to reach Masada. The Jews of Masada committed suicide rather than let themselves be taken captive by the Romans.

In Rome itself, I have seen the Arch of Titus with the sculpture showing enslaved Jews and the treasures of the Jewish Temple of Solomon with the Menorah, the symbol of the Jewish state, being carted away as booty during the sacking of Jerusalem.

Oh, you may say, that is a far fetched analogy. Please hear me out.

The most recent sacking of the old city of Jerusalem - its Jewish quarter - took place under the Jordanians in 1948 in the first war between the Jews and the Arabs, with at least five Muslim states - Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq - seeking to destroy the Jewish state. At that time, Jordan conquered East Jerusalem and the West Bank and expelled every Jew living in the Jewish quarter of the old city, destroying every building, including the synagogues in the old quarter and expelling from every part of Judea and Samaria every Jew living there so that for the first time in thousands of years, the old walled city of Jerusalem and the adjacent West Bank were "Judenrein" -- a term used by the Nazis to indicate the forced removal or murder of all Jews..

Jews had lived for centuries in Hebron, the city where Abraham, the first Jew, pitched his tent and where he now lies buried, it is believed, in a tomb with his wife, Sarah, as well as other ancient Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs. I have visited that tomb and at the time asked an Israeli soldier guarding it - so that it was open to all pilgrims, Christians, Muslims and Jews -- "where is the seventh step leading to the tomb of Abraham and Sarah," which was the furthest entry for Jews when the Muslims were the authority controlling the holy place? He replied, "When we retook and reunited the whole city of Jerusalem and conquered the West Bank in 1967, we removed the steps, so now everyone can enter," whereas when Muslims were in charge of the tomb, no Jew could enter it. And I did.

I am not a religious person. I am comfortable in a synagogue, but generally attend only twice a year, on the high holidays. When I entered the tomb of Abraham and Sarah, as I recall, I felt connected with my past and the traditions of my people. One is a Jew first by birth and then by religion. Those who leave their religion, remain Jews forever by virtue of their birth. If they don't think so, let them ask their neighbors, who will remind them. I recall the words of the columnist Robert Novak, who was for most of his life hostile to the Jewish state of Israel in an interview with a reporter stating that while he had converted to Catholicism, he was still a cultural Jew. I remain with pride a Jew both by religion and culture.

My support for the Jewish state has been long and steadfast. Never have I thought that I would leave the U.S. to go and live in Israel. My loyalty and love is first to the U.S. which has given me, the son of Polish Jewish immigrants, so much. But, I have also long been cognizant of the fact that every night when I went to sleep in peace and safety, there were Jewish communities around the world in danger. And there was one country, Israel, that would give them sanctuary and would send its soldiers to fight for them and deliver them from evil, as Israel did at Entebbe in 1976.

I weep today because my president, Barack Obama, in a few weeks has changed the relationship between the U.S. and Israel from that of closest of allies to one in which there is an absence of trust on both sides. The contrast between how the president and his administration deals with Israel and how it has decided to deal with the Karzai administration in Afghanistan is striking.

The Karzai administration, which operates a corrupt and opium-producing state, refuses to change its corrupt ways - the president's own brother is believed by many to run the drug traffic taking place in Afghanistan - and shows the utmost contempt for the U.S. is being hailed by the Obama administration as an ally and publicly treated with dignity. Karzai recently even threatened to join the Taliban if we don't stop making demands on him. Nevertheless, Karzai is receiving a gracious thank-you letter from President Obama. The New York Times of April 10th reported, "...that Mr. Obama had sent Mr. Karzai a thank-you note expressing gratitude to the Afghan leader for dinner in Kabul. ŒIt was a respectful letter,' General Jones said."

On the other hand, our closest ally - the one with the special relationship with the U.S., has been demeaned and slandered, held responsible by the administration for our problems in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. The plan I suspect is to so weaken the resolve of the Jewish state and its leaders that it will be much easier to impose on Israel an American plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, leaving Israel's needs for security and defensible borders in the lurch.

I believe President Obama's policy is to create a whole new relationship with the Arab states of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, and Iraq as a counter to Iran - The Tyrannosaurus Rex of the Muslim world which we are now prepared to see in possession of a nuclear weapon. If throwing Israel under the bus is needed to accomplish this alliance, so be it.

I am shocked by the lack of outrage on the part of Israel's most ardent supporters. The members of AIPAC, the chief pro-Israel lobbying organization in Washington, gave Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a standing ovation after she had carried out the instructions of President Obama and, in a 43-minute telephone call, angrily hectored Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Members of Congress in both the House and Senate have made pitifully weak statements against Obama's mistreatment of Israel, if they made any at all. The Democratic members, in particular, are weak. They are simply afraid to criticize President Obama.

What bothers me most of all is the shameful silence and lack of action by community leaders - Jew and Christian. Where are they? If this were a civil rights matter, the Jews would be in the mall in Washington protesting with and on behalf of our fellow American citizens. I asked one prominent Jewish leader why no one is preparing a march on Washington similar to the one in 1963 at which I was present and Martin Luther King's memorable speech was given? His reply was "Fifty people might come." Remember the 1930s? Few stood up. They were silent. Remember the most insightful statement of one of our greatest teachers, Rabbi Hillel: "If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?"

We have indeed stood up for everyone else. When will we stand up for our brothers and sisters living in the Jewish state of Israel?

If Obama is seeking to build a siege ramp around Israel, the Jews of modern Israel will not commit suicide. They are willing to negotiate a settlement with the Palestinians, but they will not allow themselves to be bullied into following self-destructive policies.

To those who call me an alarmist, I reply that I'll be happy to apologize if I am proven wrong. But those who stand silently by and watch the Obama administration abandon Israel, to whom will they apologize?



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 is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


No comments: