Sunday, November 14, 2010

Christmas crackers: child banned from buying festive favourites

Insane British nanny-state laws

A shop assistant refused to let a six-year-old girl help her mother buy a box of Christmas crackers – because of laws banning the sale of "explosives" to children. The cashier told Lisa Innes, 36, that taking the box from her daughter Tia-Rose for scanning at the till was illegal due to the "snap" in the crackers.

Mrs Innes was told that the rules still applied even though she was the one paying for the £4.99 box of ten crackers at the QD store in Stowmarket, Suffolk. The assistant insisted that the Deluxe red and silver crackers could only be bought if they were handed over by an adult for scanning.

Mother-of-three Mrs Innes said the ruling left Tia-Rose in tears because she thought she might end up in jail for breaking the law. She said: "The whole thing was just bizarre. It was just an example of the ridiculous nanny state we live in. "Tia-Rose loves pulling crackers on Christmas Day like any other child and she has never managed to blow herself up yet."

The incident happened after she and her daughter carried several items to the till for payment while out shopping with her 15-year-old son Brandon. Mrs Innes of Buxhall near Stowmarket said: "There was a huge display of crackers in the store and Tia-Rose was attracted to them straight away. "I was not planning to buy any, but I agreed to get some because they were such a reasonable price.

"Tia-Rose asked if she could hold the crackers and I said 'yes' as I didn't see an issue. Nobody batted an eyelid as we walked around the shop a few times. "But when we got to the till the lady told me, 'Do you realise you have been breaking the law'. "I looked behind me thinking she was talking to someone else – but then she stated that allowing Tia-Rose to walk around with the crackers was against the law. "She said that she couldn't take the box from her as she was under 16 and the crackers were classed as explosives. "I could have understood if they were fireworks – but they were just harmless crackers.

"It was also obvious that Tia-Rose wasn't paying for them – but the lady still refused to take them from her. "I was really shocked and my son Brandon was speechless which doesn't happen an awful lot. "I ended up putting down the things I was carrying and giving her the box of crackers myself. "Then the assistant scowled at me when I said I would be giving the box back to my daughter."

She added: "I have to say it upset Tia-Rose so much for two reasons. Firstly, she thought that she couldn't have a Christmas cracker on Christmas day. "Secondly, she also thought that I was going to get sent to prison as the lady said, I had broken the law. She was inconsolable. "The only way I could stop her cry was by insisting that nobody was going to jail and taking her to the bakery for a pink bun.

"I wish stores would think before saying such things to parents with young children around."

A QD Stores spokesman defended the assistant's actions and said the crackers, along with knives and fireworks, were restricted items. He said: "This item is designated as an age-related sale due to the snap inside the cracker. "It's trading standards legislation that such purchases cannot be sold to a person under 16 and in this case we couldn't sell them to a child."

The spokesman accepted that Tia-Rose was not actually making the purchase, but he said the assistant could not be seen to accept the item from her. He added: "Sales assistants and companies can incur very heavy fines in these cases."

The Pyrotechnics Articles (Safety) Regulations introduced in 2010 reinforced laws banning the sale of explosive items to children. The regulations ban all Under 18s from buying outdoor fireworks – but Under 16s are also banned from buying crackers, novelty matches and indoor fireworks. Anyone breaching the rules can face prosecution by the Heath and Safety Executive with a maximum penalty of a (pounds) 5,000 fine or three months imprisonment.


Tribunal fight for Christian doctor axed by panel in gay adoption row

A Christian doctor ousted from a council adoption panel after refusing to endorse gay couples is taking her case to an employment tribunal, claiming religious discrimination. In a case that could go all the way to the European courts, Dr Sheila Matthews said there was ‘no reason’ the council could not find a compromise to accommodate her views.

She has now resigned from her £72,000-a-year post as a community paediatrician, claiming her career has been irreparably damaged.

Dr Matthews blames political correctness for creating a ‘hostile climate’ for Christians, adding: ‘It is getting really scary. ‘The anger I feel is not only for me but for lots of other people of faith who feel they have to choose between their beliefs and their job.’

Her case, which starts tomorrow in Leicester, follows that of Eunice and Owen Johns, a couple from Derby who were banned from fostering because of their traditional Christian views about homosexuality.

Dr Matthews says her objections to gay adoption are based on scientific findings as well as biblical teachings.

The 50-year-old mother-of-one was appointed as medical adviser to one of Northamptonshire County Council’s two adoption panels six years ago. She medically examined couples who applied to adopt to make sure they were healthy enough to provide a child with long-term care. She then reported to the ten-strong panel made up of councillors, social workers and lay people, of which she was a full member.

The panel then interviewed applicants before members voted on whether the prospective adoptive parents should be recommended.

But the final decision in all adoption cases was made by the council’s head of children and young people’s services, who was not bound by the panel’s advice.

Dr Matthews’s problems arose in January 2009 when a gay
couple applied to adopt, the first such case since the introduction in 2006 of equality laws that required adoption agencies to consider homosexual candidates in the same way as hetero¬sexual ones.

Dr Matthews, a Christian since she was a teenager, said she
had concluded after years of research that gay households were not as good for vulnerable children as a father and mother. Rather than voting against the gay applicants, however, she told the head of Northamptonshire’s adoption team that she would abstain.

In April last year, however, she was summoned to a meeting with the head of children’s services. A month later, she was removed as a full member of the panel. In August, the NHS Primary Care Trust, which had allowed her to continue as the medical adviser without voting rights, replaced her in this role. In March this year she resigned.

Dr Matthews said the council had acted unreasonably as only a tiny number of cases involved gay couples, and it would have been easy to allow her to abstain or find a substitute for her on the panel on those occasions.

Her case is being backed by the Christian Legal Centre and she is being represented by human rights lawyer Paul Diamond. Andrea Williams, of the Christian Legal Centre, said: ‘It cannot be right that a doctor of such standing is forced from her role on an adoption panel just because of her professional and Christian views.’

A Northamptonshire County Council spokesman said: ‘It is inappropriate to comment on this matter at this stage’.


The right to speak out: British doctor who questioned efficacy of 'breast-boosting' cream threatened with libel action

A cream that claims to give women bigger breasts was last night at the centre of a major legal row that threatens the rights of doctors and scientists to speak their minds without fear. The attempt by the cream’s makers to silence experts’ criticism of their product is the latest attack on freedom of speech under Britain’s increasingly controversial libel laws.

The cream, called simply ‘Boob Job’, is advertised with the claim that it will increase a woman’s bust size by half a cup size. It costs £125 for a 100ml jar.

It is one of several major cases in recent months involving legal threats to doctors, scientists and science writers who have criticised commercial organisations. Cases have included a battle over whether a writer could question the effectiveness of chiropractors, a vitamin manufacturer’s bid to penalise a doctor who doubted claims that vitamins could treat HIV/Aids patients, and an action against a doctor who queried clinical trials of a medical device.

The latest row involves legal threats against plastic surgeon Dr Dalia Nield, who voiced her reservations over Boob Job.

Makers Rodial said natural chemicals in the cream, would, if rubbed on a woman’s chest in a ­circular motion every day for 56 days, increase the number of fat cells in the breasts and improve their ability to store fat. Dr Nield said in remarks published by the Daily Mail last month that it was ‘highly unlikely’ the cream would increase bust size.

She also questioned the amount of information provided by Rodial and warned that the gel ‘may even harm the skin and the breasts’, adding: ‘We need a full analysis.’

Chelsea-based Rodial was founded in 1999 by Greek businesswoman Maria Papageorgiou, 40, also known as Maria Hatzistefanis. It claims to have an annual turnover of more than seven figures, while its beauty and skincare products are sold in 200 stores in ten countries worldwide.

Hegarty, a legal firm representing Rodial, has written to Dr Field to demand detailed explanations of her remarks and warning her to ‘seek independent legal advice’.

The move has come despite a resounding Appeal Court judgment in April in favour of science writer Simon Singh, who called chiropractors’ claims that they could treat colic, ear infections and feeding problems in babies and toddlers ‘bogus’.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge said anyone considering it a libel would be acting as ‘an Orwellian Ministry of Truth’. Medical organisations rallied round Dr Nield yesterday. Fazel Fatah, of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, said: ‘Doctors, who have a duty of care to patients, and the public at large, should be able to give their considered opinions and show scepticism, without fear of libel suit.’

Senior libel lawyer Rod Dadak, head of defamation at Lewis Silkin solicitors, said: ‘They’re trying to gag her. These proceedings are completely misplaced. Her defence is that it’s fair comment. ‘To try to stop such comments being made is not in the company’s interest or that of the members of the public – certainly not the users of the cream.’

Let's be clear about this; the very basis of science is the ability to say ‘No, you are wrong’ without fear or hindrance. That is how science progresses – by discovering new things and pouring cold water on old certainties. If it starts to be seen as defamatory to contradict a claim, then the very heart of scientific inquiry, not to mention basic freedom of speech, is under threat.

Last year, the science writer Simon Singh was sued by the British Chiropractic Association after pointing to the lack of evidence for some of the claims made by its practitioners. After a storm of protest, the case was dropped, but not before Dr Singh had suffered months of stress wondering if he was going to lose his house and everything he owned if the courts found against him.

Because England’s laws are so generous to litigants, ‘libel tourists’ who feel they have been wronged in newspapers and scientific journals use the fact that these publications are usually published in English online (and hence ‘published’ here) to cash in and silence criticism at the same time.

Sadly, our libel laws are being used even by ‘respectable’ institutions that want critics silenced. Dr Peter Wilmshurst, a consultant cardiologist at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, is being sued by American company NMT Medical for voicing concerns about some of NMT’s research. NMT recently threatened to sue Dr Wilmshurst a second time for going on Radio 4’s Today programme last year to talk about his case.

Ornithological charity the RSPB, meanwhile, is currently being sued by two conservationists, Gordon and Christine Bowker, for criticising their scientific research on population decline in black grouse.

And a Portuguese professor of linguistics, Francisco Lacerda, was sued by Nemesysco, a lie detector manufacturer, after he wrote a peer-reviewed paper in an international journal suggesting that their machines do not work.

Professor Lacerda works in Sweden; the lie detectors are made in Israel. But it was English libel laws that were used to try to silence him, in what Dr Singh has called the ‘global chill’ caused by our legal system.

Worse, because the most insidious form of censorship is self-­censorship, editors of the leading scientific journals now consult their lawyers for every edition and some have rejected papers they would otherwise want to publish.

Scientific disputes are not matters for the courts. If I wish to say your potion does not work I should be free to do so, even if it turns out that I am wrong.

The irony is, of course, that by reaching for their lawyers these people have massively increased the likelihood that you will read about the debates and conclude, in all probability, that Boob Job sounds like a waste of money. It is called the law of unintended consequences; a law which holds true whatever nonsense is peddled in court or written on a bottle of snake oil.


"The long-run trajectory for Aborigines (blacks) in Australia is integration", says Labor Party figure, Gary Johns

Any amendments to the Constitution to recognise Aborigines should be minimalist. THE Gillard government's intention to discuss the wording of a constitutional amendment to recognise Australians of Aboriginal origin provides the opportunity to ask where we are headed in Aboriginal affairs.

Should this amendment be seen by activists as a chance to settle old scores, they had better think again. The long-run trajectory for Aborigines in Australia is integration. The experiment with separate development in the past 40 years has been a dismal failure.

To appreciate the nihilism of Aboriginal Australians sitting on their land being fed by the Whiteman, just watch the film Samson & Delilah. Two black kids sitting on their land eating from tins, drinking bore water and staring into space is not much fun.

That does not mean there has not been a flowering of the talents of people of Aboriginal descent, but do these people warrant a special mention in the Constitution?

To make up for this failure of separatism, the Aboriginal lobby, led as it is by wholly integrated Aborigines of mixed descent, is desperate to have every Australian recognise their culture.

The trouble is, Aboriginal culture, in any sense in which the original inhabitants practised it, is long gone. Elements of the original that remain, such as polygamy and underage sex, are illegal or, in the case of sorcery, re-emerging around places such as Yuendumu and Groote Island, is just plain evil.

The fact is, with Aboriginal intermarriage rates at more than 70 per cent and most Aborigines living in the cities and regions and fast integrating, the question of identity is looking very thin. Much more important, Aboriginal identity and culture is a matter for those who claim its ownership, it should not be force-fed to the rest of the nation. If children are to be taught Aboriginal culture, I want for them the full unexpurgated version, not the pretty commemoration of recent invention that one can pick up on the bookshelf at the ABC shop or a university politics department.

The census question "What is this person's racial origin?" has not been asked since 1971. Since then the census has asked, "Is the person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait origin?" As has been observed across the Anglo settler countries, growth in census numbers reflects the movement of ethnicity from the biological to the social realm. Being an Aborigine just isn't what it used to be.

This is fine, as long as no privileges arise from that identity. Already we see the complaint from fair-skinned Aborigines that they are being refused jobs reserved for Aborigines. Those, who because of their looks could never have suffered prejudice, are denied the assistance specifically meant for those who may have suffered prejudice. Identity politics should not be used for people who suffer no prejudice greater than any other.

Be wary that the constitutional amendment is not used to privilege those Aborigines who have made it in the modern world, in the name of those who have not.

Here are my suggestions for the committee considering the constitutional amendment.

The present preamble to the Australian Constitution begins: "Whereas the people have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Constitution hereby established." We could add the words: "Whereas those who came to Australia after the act of settlement by the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland recognise that this land was first settled by Aboriginal people."

Such minimal treatment is not to diminish the Aboriginal people; rather, it is to understand that no one receives a mention in the Australian Constitution. It is also important to reinforce that setting up a constant reiteration of "we were here first" undermines the task that every inhabitant of this land has: to get on with it.

In the Constitution proper, section 25, which states, "if by the law of any State all persons of any race are disqualified from voting at elections", thankfully no longer applies and should be removed.

Perhaps section 51. xxvi, "The people of any race, for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws", should remain, although the suggestion by Mick Gooda, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, that this power has been used to discriminate against Aboriginal people is laughable.

A statement in the preamble that recognises the original inhabitants is all that Australians will agree to. Any amendments that acknowledge a special relationship with the land or the culture will invite critical scrutiny.

The nonsense that was forced through the Victorian and ACT parliaments in various acts of rights and responsibilities by Labor (and some Liberal) dreamers will not pass muster at a referendum. If you want a large yes vote at the referendum, the amendment must be minimalist.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). 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.


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