Sunday, April 30, 2006


Illegal to criticize the Prime Minister??

A Tory activist who wore a jacket with an offensive slogan about Tony Blair was told to take it off or face arrest. Julia Gobert had been handing out fliers at Earl's Court Tube station, west London, on Tuesday morning, when she was approached by two officers. She was told to remove it or face questioning after a complaint was made, said Tory councillor Barry Phelps.

Labour said it was in bad taste, Greens applauded the sentiment, not the words, and the Lib Dems have yet to comment. Councillor Phelps, who was with Ms Gobert that morning, told the BBC News website: "One Labour gentleman complained to the station staff and so two British Transport Police came along and were clearly embarrassed. "They said a member of the public complained and unless she desisted she will have to be taken in for questioning. "I said to the officer: 'We are not in the business of making life difficult for you - Miss Gobert will take the top off'. "It's not what I would have chosen to wear but there is no doubt that it captured the public mood."

A British Transport Police spokesman said: "People are of course free to wear what they like, but if a police officer receives a complaint about offensive language, they are bound to act upon the complaint." The Public Order Act 1986 prevents the display of words or signs that could cause offence.



Nothing could be easier than easement. You just sit there, flicking through The Sun, checking that the bathroom door is locked and waiting for nature to do its business. Nanny society though we are, the mature adult does not expect to be told how to eat or to breathe. Up in Dundee, however, the local NHS trust has issued an instruction book on how to do the other thing that all species do; in our case, usually once a day.

Potty training is a near-universal experience of early childhood in civilised societies. That NHS Tayside feels obliged to issue a four-page leaflet entitled Good Defecation Dynamics, complete with a diagram, suggests there may be a gaping cultural black hole in a well-populated part of eastern Scotland. Still, let us not fall into the trap of typical Edinburgh nose-in-the-air superiority; we are always ready to learn, from the bottom up. The advice is sound; while sitting on the throne, it counsels, don’t forget to breathe. And, in a hint rarely taught to two-year-olds, it is apparently a good idea to keep your mouth open.

No reason is given for this; perhaps it is to guard against a potentially damaging build-up of pressure that might blow off one or other end of the digestive tract. No recent cases of any such accident have been reported in Tayside, possibly because the population reaches for the prunes before matters reach such a head. But what matters most is posture: not quite balancing a book on your head, as though you were at modelling school, but at least sitting upright. “Do not slump down but keep the normal curve in your back. Keep your mouth open as you bulge and widen,” the booklet says. “You should aim to do this every time you open your bowels.”

Have you ever, while sitting there in silent contemplation, thought about your feet? No, we thought not, but NHS Tayside has. “When you sit on the toilet make sure your feet are well supported; you may need to use a small footstool.” This cannot apply to the young, whose next stage after the potty is to sit on the real thing with little legs swinging in the air while a yellow labrador puppy steals the toilet roll.

Even though they probably don’t know the meaning of “defecation” in Dundee, preferring a more Anglo-Saxon term pronounced in the Scottish way to rhyme with “bright”, the leaflet has been distributed to clinics and GPs’ surgeries in the region. A spokeswoman for NHS Tayside turned the other cheek to accusations that the leaflet was a waste of money and would be better employed hanging on a nail behind the bathroom door. “One in three people suffers from bowel and bladder dysfunction, and this can be extremely debilitating and distressing for individuals,” she said. “These patient information leaflets contain advice for those people who suffer from this condition, and are based on national guidance from the Association for Continence Advice.” The cost of producing the leaflet, she added, had been minimal.

By the strange vagaries of the internet, the text of the leaflet has appeared on a website in Poland, a country of fine peasant customs that should have no need of such advice and where they would instantly dump it


Australian Catholics prepare for fight on homosexual adoption

A law banning gay and lesbian couples from adopting children will be reviewed by an inquiry into NSW adoption legislation. The Minister for Community Services, Reba Meagher, said individual homosexuals could adopt under current laws but the review would consider proposals to remove a ban on same-sex couples. In the past five years similar bans have been overturned in Western Australia, Tasmania and the ACT. "This is an area of government policy that generates emotion on both sides of the debate," she said. "The review process is a fair way to canvass those views and look at the issue in a systematic way." Ms Meagher said she did not want to pre-empt the review's findings by expressing her opinion on same-sex adoptions.

The Catholic Church is likely to staunchly resist any attempt to endorse gay adoption. The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, told the Herald this week that children had a right to a "mother and father". Dr Pell said the church would present the review with "sociological findings" on children who grew up in marriages, de facto heterosexual relationships and same-sex partnerships. He said there was "significant evidence about the benefits of marriage" over same-sex partnerships. Dr Pell said he could "never anticipate" the church's welfare and adoption agency, Centacare, working to place children with same-sex couples.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, also opposes adoptions by same-sex couples. The NSW Government overhauled adoption laws in 2000 but rejected a recommendation by the NSW Law Reform Commission to extend adoption rights to gay couples. The resulting Adoption Act 2000 requires the minister to report to Parliament within six years on whether the law fulfils its aim of serving the best interests of children. The Department of Community Services is conducting the review and will report to Ms Meagher by November. "We want to place as many vulnerable children as possible into homes that are loving and stable," Ms Meagher said. "That is why our policy does not preclude unmarried people in same-sex relationships from adopting if they are able to care for a child and provide a safe, secure and loving environment."

The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby is preparing a submission to the inquiry, saying current laws cause uncertainty for families with same-sex parents and prevent homosexual step-parents from making legal decisions about their children's medical condition or inheritance. "The act needs to be modernised and reflect the fact that gays and lesbians are parents and there is no difference between our families and other families in society," said a spokesman, David Scamell.



A barmy building society has stopped using Lego to keep customers’ children amused — because it says the toy is a health hazard. Bosses at The Saffron Walden, Herts & Essex Building Society told all 13 branches to remove the building bricks. One shocked mum who uses a branch at Ware, Herts, said: “My son always plays with the Lego and went straight for where the toys usually are — but they had been cleared away. “A cashier said they got rid of them all because of health and safety regulations. “I was incensed. The world has gone crackers. I really couldn’t believe what I was hearing.” A building society source said: “They’re worried about somebody tripping over a piece of Lego. It’s just risk assessment gone mad.” The society agreed the Lego had been removed for “health and safety”.


Saturday, April 29, 2006


A Good Samaritan has spoken of his disgust after a dying man was heckled by yobs. Travis Marshall, 42, tried in vain to save an elderly driver who had a heart attack at the wheel and careered into a bus. But as the victim took his last breath, sick youths in tracksuits and hoods clashed with police and yelled: "He is just a white man."

Mr Marshall, who performed emergency CPR on the man in St James's Road, Bermondsey, last Friday, said: "It was sickening. Here you had a dying man, people trying to save him and police trying to clear the scene. "Then there were these black youths and all they wanted to do was fight the cops. They were saying, `You think I am scared of you because of your uniform'. "I told them to have some respect because a man was dying and they shouted, `Who cares-it's just a white man'."

Mr Marshall told how a black woman next to him pleaded with cops to arrest the youths. He said: "These people should be ashamed to walk the streets. "I would try to help someone whatever their colour. "You can't print what I really think of them. They are scum-scum of the earth."

Mr Marshall was driving for a quiet weekend with sister Terry Choeb at her home in Peckham when he arrived at the crash scene at 4.20pm. He said: "People were just standing around. The man was bleeding from the mouth and was hardly breathing." He talked to the ambulance service on a mobile while checking the man's pulse, but when it started to fade he made the decision to lift him from his car and lie him on the road. Mr Marshall, a former private ambulance driver, then tried to give the kiss of life. Paramedics arrived 10 minutes later but could not save him. Mr Marshall, formerly of Peckham Rye but now from Canterbury, Kent, said: "It is sad, but all you can do is your best."



"Disability" insanity

Rail passengers are used to bizarre excuses for delays or overcrowding, but even the longest-suffering commuter will be stunned by the latest reason to be given by South West Trains. It is having to withdraw a modern fleet from one of its busiest routes because the letters on information screens are 3mm too small to comply with disability regulations.

The digital displays in each carriage, which show the stations that the train will stop at, are supposed to have letters at least 35mm high. The 28 trains in the Juniper fleet, introduced only seven years ago by SWT, have 32mm-high lettering.

The Government's disability advisers have persuaded ministers that the trains must be mothballed, even though thousands of passengers on the Reading to Waterloo route may have to cram on to shorter trains as a result. The Disabled Persons' Transport Advisory Committee argued that the size of the letters could make it difficult for rail users with sight impairments or learning difficulties to distinguish the words. The committee recommended that SWT's application for a longer exemption from the regulations be rejected even though the train's audio system automatically announces each station in advance.

SWT's existing exemption runs out on July 31 and it had sought to extend it by six months while it introduced a new fleet. The company wrote to the Department for Transport in January expressing concern that, because of teething problems with new trains, it may be left with too few carriages in peak periods if the Junipers were withdrawn in July. Passengers who normally catch eight-carriage trains might find only four, already crowded, carriages turning up at their station. John Horncastle, SWT's mobility and inclusion manager, wrote: "Justifying the withdrawal of these trains on the basis of 3mm shortfall in the letter height on the internal information systems might be difficult, especially as this shortfall would have no discernible impact on journey quality for the majority of passengers."

SWT said that it would cost 750,000 pounds to install new screens. It was unwilling to pay this to extend the trains' service by six months before returning them to Porterbrook, the leasing company that owns them.

The Junipers were ordered in 1997, a year before the existing rules on letter size were agreed.

Roger Ford, technical editor of Modern Railways, said: "It is political correctness gone mad and will cause problems for disabled people because they suffer more on overcrowded trains than ordinary passengers." But Leonard Cheshire, the disabled charity, welcomed the DfT's decision, saying that it had been concerned by "the tendency to grant exemptions too lightly". Guy Parckar, the charity's parliamentary officer, said: "Passengers should blame overcrowding on SWT for not carrying out the work they said they were going to. Three millimetres might sound tiny but the rules are there for a reason. Disabled people face great difficulties in accessing the rail network and the regulations must be adhered to if the situation is to improve."

Porterbrook described the decision as ludicrous. SWT said that it hoped to avoid any shortage of trains by the early introduction of new carriages.

More here

Paternity fraud under legal test in Australia

Comment by Janet Albrechtsen:

Some issues are so fraught with emotion and hurt, they don't bear thinking about. It's tempting to put paternity fraud in that basket. But science is putting pressure on the law to confront this vexed issue. When a woman dupes a man into believing he is the father of a child she conceived with another man, increasingly, DNA tests end up delivering the shattering news. A father loses a child he thought was his, one he raised, loved and cared for as his own. A child loses a father and a family collapses. When that happens, what is the law to do?

The High Court is confronting that issue right now. Liam and Meredith Magill were married in April 1988. A son was born in April 1989. Unknown to her husband, a few months later Meredith began an affair with a man, having unprotected sex until early 1995. In July 1990 a second son was born. Then, the next year, a daughter. After separating, Meredith admitted to Liam her concerns over paternity. A few years later she agreed to DNA tests. Liam learned that the two younger children were not his.

He was left devastated, suffered chronic depression and was unable to work. He sued Meredith for the tort of deceit, claiming financial compensation for his pain and suffering, but not for money spent on the upbringing and maintenance of the children.

While the Victorian County Court found that Meredith had deceived Liam when she nominated him as the father on birth registration notices, that was overturned last year by the Victorian Court of Appeal. The High Court will now decide whether the tort of deceit will hold Meredith accountable for her actions.

There are few hints as to which way the High Court will go. But few will be surprised to hear that at the hearing a few weeks back, Justice Michael Kirby pointed to international law as the guiding light. He cited Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and said it means that the starting point in any matter that comes before the court must be determining what is in the best interests of the child.

Up in the rarefied atmosphere of international law, it's a neat sounding slogan. But down in the trenches, trying to apply it to the specifics of a case like this is another matter. Kirby suggests that the "best interests of the child" test applies for the simple reason that this case involves the depletion of family income: were Liam Magill to win, Meredith Magill would be forced to pay. It's a novel argument. Taken to its logical conclusion, it would prevent any legal action against any person who also happens to be a parent. After all, any legal payout drains the family income to the detriment of a child.

Note that Kirby's focus on the best interests of the child did not extend to a child knowing their biological father. Given that adoption laws are now premised on this rationale, one might think it should also apply here.

In any event, the High Court will need to probe a little deeper than the fine sounding but vacuous provisions of international law. And the question is simple: should the law of deceit apply where a mother and wife has deceived a husband into believing he is the father of a child? The court need not mess with the law of deceit. The principles are clear. Only the facts are new because science - DNA testing - is now revealing the deceit.

Those who claim there is a public policy argument in letting sleeping dogs lie assume that preventing litigation of this kind will make for happy families. It will do no such thing. It will only encourage women to perpetrate fraud in an age when science can uncover the truth. And there is no turning science back. Legal disputes over paternity fraud do not create the unhappiness. They are merely the aftermath of mothers deceiving men.

As in every other sphere of life, the only way to encourage responsibility is to make people accountable for their actions. The law has an important role in sending powerful messages capable of shaping behaviour in the future. Far from creating more unhappiness, legal sanctions for paternity fraud will, in the long run, encourage mothers to be honest about paternity.

That is why, if the High Court decides that the laws of deceit do not apply, in effect allowing women to engage in paternity fraud at will, parliament will need to step in. As the Australian Medical Association has said, this is a time bomb ready to explode; the AMA suggests that in Australia there are 200,000 families where the "presumptive father is not the biological father".

Unfortunately some feminists refuse to acknowledge the reality of paternity fraud. Following the Victorian Court of Appeal's decision against Liam Magill, the former Victorian convener of the Women's Electoral Lobby, Lisa Solomon, announced: "Women are moral, reasonable, rational beings. It would be a very rare instance where a woman would name someone who wasn't the father of the child."

For Solomon, it was about vindictive men using DNA tests to avoid paying for children. Get the picture? Women, good. Men, bad. Phew. Nothing like a little sex stereotyping when it suits. Leave aside the rank hypocrisy of feminists resorting to the kind of sweeping generalisations that would send them ballistic if made in the reverse. The real problem is that gender-blinkered statements get us nowhere in sorting out what to do when paternity fraud happens.

If a mother gives birth to a child and is negligently given the wrong baby in hospital, no one would question her right to claim damages. Deliberate paternity fraud should be no different. It's not a person's sex that matters. It's the damage caused by another that counts.

One suggestion is that paternity testing be made mandatory whenever a birth is registered. A correspondent from University College in London emailed during the week with the following idea: "As long as BDM [Births, Deaths and Marriages] registries are kept, they might as well be kept accurately. I would give about 10 months' notice before the new regulation or legislation takes effect. That's enough time for people to adjust their behaviour (or improve their contraceptive methods). With complete transparency and accountability, responsible adults will be better empowered." It's an interesting idea. Short of that happening, paternity fraud is here to stay. And so the question is whether we condone it or condemn it. If the High Court or parliament shies away from the issue, that will amount to society, in effect, condoning fatherhood founded on fraud. And that has to be the worst of two difficult options.


Friday, April 28, 2006


The Left wants all sorts of groups respected -- but not American Southerners

Historic preservationists are clashing with a civil rights group and at least one Congressional budget hawk over plans to spend millions of dollars to restore the former home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Hurricane Katrina caused an estimated $25 million in damage to the house, called Beauvoir. It was built in the 1850s and served as Davis' retirement home after the Civil War.

At the behest of the National Trust and other historic preservation organizations, Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran, R-Miss., has included $80 million to restore storm-battered historic property in a $27 billion emergency hurricane package the Senate is scheduled to debate this week. "These funds are important to ensure the full economic and cultural recovery of the coast," says Jenny Manley, Cochran's press secretary.

Mississippi NAACP President Derrick Johnson disagrees: "We adamantly oppose the restoration of Beauvoir. It is one of the most divisive symbols in this state and in this state's history."

The money to restore historic places may be challenged by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. "He would be concerned about this not being a true emergency," says John Hart, Coburn's press secretary. "When people are homeless, that should be the first priority." Beauvoir officials also are seeking private money for the rebuilding effort.


Presumptuous Amsterdam mayor lectures other EU mayors on homosexual rights

But fails to mention the huge numbers of homophobic Muslims in his own city

The mayor of Amsterdam has sent letters to his counterparts in eight European cities warning that gay intolerance is on the increase and asking them to uphold homosexual rights such as allowing gays to get married and to hold demonstrations. Job Cohen said he is "particularly concerned by the news that homophobic attitude and behaviour is propagated by measures and policies of local authorities in some of the new EU-member states," according to the AFP news agency.

The Netherlands introduced gay marriage five years ago, and Mr Cohen is urging other countries to do the same. Mr Cohen's letter was sent to mayors in Warsaw, Prague, Lisbon, Dublin, Vienna and in the Baltic capitals of Riga, Tallinn and Vilnius, as well as to EU justice commissioner Franco Frattini. The move comes after a motion by city councillors, concerned by recent attacks on homosexuals in Europe.

In the letter, Mr Cohen says he is alarmed by measures in some cities to ban gay demonstrations. He calls on his colleagues to "adhere to the universal declaration of human rights, and to do everything in your political power to open up marriage for same-sex couples and safeguard the right of public demonstrations in your city."

When he was mayor, Polish president Lech Kaczynski tried to block a gay pride march in Warsaw in June while Portugal recently turned down a lesbian couple's request for a marriage licence. Recently the Latvian and Lithuanian parliaments decided to table amendments to their constitutions prohibiting same-sex marriage. But countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and the UK have recognised same-sex marriages or partnerships. On 1 April 2001, Mr Cohen became the country's first public official to wed same-sex couples. The Netherlands was one of the first country in the world to allow gay and lesbians to legally marry. Official statistics show that 8,000 same-sex marriages have taken place in the Netherlands since they became legal.



Two reports:

Experts stunned by tubby tots

Children as young as four are battling obesity, research shows. And children appear to be losing the fat fight as they get older. A Royal Children's Hospital study found almost one in five kindergarten kids (19.5 per cent) are overweight or obese. And just a year later 21.1 per cent were battling the bulge. Dr Joanne Williams, of the hospital's Centre for Community Child Health, said young overweight children were likely to still have weight problems as adults. "We're just watching the rates go up and up and up, and nothing's being done about it," Dr Williams said. "These kids get teased at school, their self-esteem is low, they have a poor quality of life and there are huge consequences later on in life."

Researchers measured the waistline, height and weight of 340 children aged four to six for the study, which has been submitted to the International Journal of Obesity. Dr Williams said advertising led parents to falsely believe they were feeding kids healthy foods when their diet was packed with sugar and fat.

Health Minister Tony Abbott has refused to crack down on junk food ads during children's television hours. He said parents, not the Government, should be responsible for what their children ate. But Deakin University nutrition lecturer Dr Tim Crowe said junk food TV advertising should be outlawed from 4pm-6pm to remove some temptation from households. "We have to acknowledge we are dealing with a health problem so serious that a group of children are not going to outlive their parents," he said.

Many parents did not seem to recognise when children were overweight. "We are not sure of the reasons why. Perhaps it is because they look at other kids and think their own are not fat," he said. [It's because the mothers themselves are fat!]

More here.

OF COURSE kids are getting fatter on average. It is predominantly overweight working class women who are giving birth these days. Huge numbers of slim bourgeois women now consider themselves too grand to have kids. And obesity is highly hereditary. So the increasing prevalence of fat kids is exactly what you expect now that fat women are the main ones having kids. Going on about the evils of junk food or the wickedness of advertisers is flailing at the air.

Schools to put cap back on soft drinks

Water and milk will be the only drinks allowed in some Victorian schools. The primary schools plan to scrap sugary soft drinks this year. Children will be urged to bring water bottles to class in the government-backed trial. Parents will be encouraged to pack only water and milk with lunches. Program co-ordinator and child health researcher Dr Lisa Gibbs said regular water drink breaks would improve students' attention span. Promoting water and milk was also good for teeth, Dr Gibbs said. Six government and private schools in the western and northwestern suburbs will be selected for the trial under the Go For Your Life campaign. The project could spread if successful.

"The idea in the first stage will be that if a student brings a drink into the classroom it can only be water," Dr Gibbs said. "If you have brought a soft drink, it will have to be kept in your bag during class times and only drunk at lunch time. "The eventual aim would be that you would only be allowed to bring water or milk to school." The plan coincides with a ban on sales of high-sugar soft drinks from canteens and vending machines in government primary and secondary schools by year's end.

More here

And what good is that going to do? Milk is extremely calorific and hence fattening. The kids would probably get fewer calories out of drinking fizzy drinks

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Yep! The hair of blacks is just the same as the hair of whites, believe it or not

Almost three years after Vaughan Thomas says she paid an inflated price at a Montgomery, Ala., hair salon simply for being black, lawyers for Dillard's beauty salons went to court Tuesday to defend the department store from allegations of what Thomas and others call "race-based pricing." Thomas is one of eight black women suing the department store for racial discrimination after she allegedly was told that Dillard's beauty salons charge black customers more than whites because of the "kinky" nature of "ethnic" hair.

"Hair is hair regardless of what color you are, and the prices should be the same for everybody," Thomas told "This is a practice that's still being done in the 21st century, and it should be stopped."

While lawyers for Dillard's deny that the retailer practices "race-based pricing," they claim that scientific evidence supports the theory that "ethnic" hair requires more effort to treat - and therefore should be subject to higher pricing. A defense brief submitted in Alabama federal court cites numerous supposed characteristics of black hair that make treating it more "time consuming and technically demanding than fulfilling the minimal (or non-existent) conditioning needs" of the typical white customer. "The rendering of professional hair care is a personal service typically tailored to the specific needs and preferences of the individual," Dillard's scientific expert, Mort Westman, said in a deposition. "Numerous factors exist and must be considered during the process of cleansing, conditioning and styling, rendering the resultant treatment somewhat unique."

The brief, which is based in large part on Westman's declaration and a study published in 2003 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, highlights the "highly brittle, tightly curled" texture of ethnic hair as a factor that prolongs the cleansing portion of the treatment. The brief also refers to "lack of resiliency" and the frequent use of "intricate coiffures" and extensions as other factors that affect the complexity of drying and styling the hair of black customers. "These factors would typically indicate that the pricing for the shampooing, conditioning and styling of the African-American client would normally be higher than that of the Caucasian client," Westman claims.

The cosmetic chemist is expected to appear in Birmingham federal court this week to testify on Dillard's behalf in a hearing on whether the individual lawsuits should be consolidated under one class-action lawsuit. The lead attorney for Dillard's, Brian Bostick, said he expected to finish his case by Thursday. He declined to comment further, citing orders from Dillard's. The company's in-house general counsel did not return calls for comment.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs presented their case two weeks ago in support of their argument that Dillard's alleged pricing scheme was part of a systematic effort to charge customers across the country solely on the basis of race. One of the advantages to class-certification would be the plaintiffs' ability to seek an injunction against Dillard's from continuing its race-based pricing, said lead attorney, Patrick Cooper. "It's amazing to me that a Fortune 500 company would use this kind of pseudo-science in court to prove that it takes longer to wash African-American hair," Cooper said. "The day they can show me that every black woman in the country has the same hair is the day I'll ask the judge to dismiss the case immediately," he said.



It came almost two years after the Boston Globe exposed it, but the Washington Post on April 6 acknowledged that the number of HIV/AIDS cases in Africa has been grossly exaggerated by the United Nations in order to generate money through the world body to spend on the disease. In an April 10 editorial, the Post admitted, "The United Nations' credibility on AIDS will now suffer." So should the credibility of the media for taking the world organization seriously.

The Post editorial declared, "It's been clear for a while that UNAIDS, the agency responsible for these statistics, was reluctant to contemplate good strategies for fighting AIDS lest these undermine global support for expanded funding." The Post found the U.N. guilty of publishing "dubious AIDS data."

The FAIR Foundation, which stands for Fair Allocations in Research, had known about and exposed the dubious data. On its website, it highlighted how the UN AIDS office, the World Health Organization (WHO), the National Institutes of Health, and AIDS activists "continually speak of AIDS decimating the world and use that argument to argue for more research funding." It had posted the John Donnelly Boston Globe article of June 20, 2004, explaining how the figures had been exaggerated. "Recent studies in Kenya have confirmed millions of Africans previously thought to have AIDS are disease free," noted the FAIR Foundation. In Kenya, as the BCC reported on January 9, 2004, estimates had put the figure at 15 percent, when a subsequent survey found only 6.7 percent infected.

That's January 9, 2004-more than two years before the Post published its correction of the record. What the Post didn't acknowledge is the role it played in this fiasco. But writing in Human Events, Tom Bethell commented, "Back in 2000, the Washington Post was one of the main sources of hype about AIDS in Africa."

He explains: "The wildly exaggerated claims promoted by the mainstream media created an atmosphere of crisis. Guided by U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and Secretary of State Albright, the Clinton Administration took the issue of impending population collapse to the U.N. Security Council. African countries weren't going to be able to field armies or defend themselves because so many young men would soon be on their death beds." Bethell says his new book, the Politically Incorrect Guide to Science, deals with this manufactured "crisis" over AIDS.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006


To the patriots of Bromham, a hearty English breakfast seemed the perfect way to celebrate St George's Day. Some 300 villagers were planning to tuck in to the fry-up in their community centre. But yesterday's charity event was cancelled at the last minute - because of a health and safety warning against frying eggs. The local council's guidelines state that volunteers should not prepare "protein-based foods" without proper training. Furthermore, the centre did not have the correct facilities to "chill, prepare and store" the food. Faced with not being able to serve eggs, cheese or milk, organisers abandoned the event.

They had been hoping to raise 500 pounds for St Nicholas Primary School in the village near Chippenham, Wiltshire. Peter Wallis, 39, chairman of the school's parents and teachers association, said: "I was astonished to discover that we had to adhere to health and safety regulations to cook people breakfast. "We have to provide evidence that whoever is handling the food has been trained to do so. "We spoke to other schools in the area and decided that because people were not properly qualified in food preparation we had to cancel the event. "This is just plain daft. These breakfasts have been going on for many years and we've never poisoned anyone. "We are looking at sending some of our parents on training courses but with the turnover of members each year that could be too expensive."

The school, which has 85 pupils aged between four and 11, has held fundraising breakfasts for some 15 years. This year ten parents had promised to help cook and serve the fry-ups. School governors now fear the guidelines could lead to the cancellation of their summer fetes and Christmas parties. The events raise 2,500 pounds a year to be spent on books and teaching equipment.

Tory MP Philip Davies said the guidelines were "bonkers". "It is barmy that parents who want to celebrate St George's Day and raise a bit of money for their local school are prevented from doing so by ridiculous rules and regulations," he said. "Do mums and dads really need to spend valuable time learning how to fry an egg? I'm sure they do it most mornings without training. "These potty rules are one reason people are discouraged from celebrating St George's Day."

Mr Wallis, whose seven-year-old son Sam attends the school, added: "The regulations also say the eggs have to be chilled literally from when we buy them to when they are cooked to be eaten. "What we have done for years and years is to buy them and take them home overnight to someone's home but that is not allowed any more. "Keeping them at some parent's house overnight is not sufficient evidence they have been stored properly." Councillor Mark Baker, vice-chairman of education on Tory-held Wiltshire County Council, said the authority's health and safety guidelines were not legally-binding.

The breakfast rumpus is the latest in a string of healthy and safety controversies. Last week grandfather Brian Heale, 73, was ordered off a bus in Cardiff because he was carrying a tin of paint. Earlier this month a lifeguard instructor and her husband were banned from taking their three children into the toddlers' pool at Sedgemoor Splash in Bridgwater, Somerset. Keren and David Townsend were told their children needed individual supervision.



A brothel in Cologne was forced to black out the flags of Saudi Arabia and Iran from a huge World Cup soccer-themed advertising banner after angry Muslims complained and threatened violence. The 24-metre-high by 8-metre-wide (78 by 26 ft) banner displayed on the side of the building features a scantily-clad woman and the slogan: "The world as a guest of female friends," a variation on the World Cup slogan: "The world as a guest of friends." The flags of the 32 nations taking part in the month-long soccer tournament which kicks off in June are shown below.

Those of Saudi Arabia and Iran have been covered with black paint, according to a worker at the brothel who would only give his name as Peter. "Some people turned up and demanded that we remove the flags," Peter told Reuters. "First they were sensible but then they became threatening. The management here decided to do it so that we didn't get any more trouble." "They didn't want these two flags to be associated with this go-go girl on the banner as it's a brothel and it offended their religious feelings," said a spokeswoman for the Cologne police. "The owner removed the flags even though he wasn't legally obliged to as no crime had been committed."


Rhapsody of babies

A wise woman tells you what no feminist will:

My mother called from Melbourne the other day with big news. She's going to be a grandmother again. "That'll make 10," she said. I quickly did the maths: there are already eight little ones plus one of my sisters-in-law is pregnant for the third time, so that makes nine grandchildren for mum. But who could be carrying No.10? Sadly, neither me nor my sister, or my brother's wife, so who? "It's Nick!" she said.

Nick? But Nick - my stepbrother - only just turned 21. Have we even returned the tap for the keg and the spit we hired for his party in the backyard? I didn't know he had a girlfriend, let alone they were doing ... well, that. "They've only been together a few weeks," Mum said. "She's just turned 19." Nineteen!

"What can you do?" Mum said. "It happens," I agreed. "Nineteen is plenty old enough ... for that." "They'll manage," Mum said. "They'll have to." I agreed. We both understood that some people would see this as a problem in need of a solution, so we felt very pleased and grateful that Nick's new girlfriend - I still don't know her name - has decided to have the baby.

"It's not like they won't have help," Mum said. She will pitch in when she's needed (and butt out when she's not). Also, critically, the other grandma - Nick's girlfriend's mum - is reportedly over the moon. Apparently, she isn't yet 40 and this grandchild will be her first. "See, she must have had her first when she was still a teenager or maybe only 20," Mum said. "It didn't used to be so strange. I had three by the time I was 21. That's how it used to be."

Indeed, country girls have always started young and many suburban girls still do. Hospitals on the outskirts of Sydney and Melbourne regularly have mums in their 20s on the wards. It's different in the city. I'm 35 and both my children are at school, which makes me positively freaky in my profession. Many of the 33 and 34-year-olds in my office haven't married, let alone started families.

Lately, however, I've noticed a change. My friends are starting to catch up. One by one, as they get into their mid to late 30s, even early 40s, they are getting pregnant and having babies, their lives suddenly transformed. Others are confiding an itch, a nagging feeling, tugging at their soul, a song that sounds like: "Baby, baby, have a baby, quick, now, before it's too late." It's the ticking of the biological clock. "It's not that I'm suddenly dying to have a baby," says one woman in her 30s. "But I am thinking, well, if not now, then never, and I'm not sure I want to miss out." Another says: "I had a dream the other day that I had a daughter and it was fine. I mean, it wasn't a nightmare."

To all the women who are lucky enough to be able to have children, I unashamedly say: "Have the baby! Instantly! It will make you happy." "We are happy," they say. "What we're worried about is doing something that will cost a lot and make a great deal of noise."

I tell them: "You will be overcome by a love so powerful it will leave you speechless. Every feeling that you previously regarded as love will feel like something less."

"But what about the sleepless nights?" they say. "I like my sleep." I say: "In the dark sleepless months that follow the birth, the only relevant thing in your life will be your child, your baby, your heir, your genes, your creation, the greatest love of your life, lying their swaddled so innocent, so pure. You will find yourself thinking: 'Oh my goodness, I really would lay down my life for this baby."' For the first time, you will completely understand those stories about mums who find superhuman strength, able to lift the four wheels of a car clear off the ground to rescue their trapped child.

From time to time - maybe once in six months - you and your husband will drag yourselves, half-willingly, away from your baby to have a night out. You'll spend the whole time talking about your baby: "Have you seen the way he stretches his fingers out like stars when he wakes up? Isn't it the most divine thing?" You'll get home feeling like you wasted money on the babysitter. You'll find a bridge to humanity, a whole world of shared experiences with other parents, a feeling of companionship and solidarity that does not exist in the single world.

You will have no clothes to wear and you will not care, not while the baby looks so gorgeous in their new romper suit. You will stop on the street to share intimate notes with complete strangers simply because they happen to have a baby the same age as your own. You will be amazed to find that all the babies are sleeping beautifully, yet somehow none of the mums are getting any sleep at all. People will ask you how it's going and you will say, wistfully: "We wish we'd done it five years ago."

Nobody else will think your baby is anywhere near as precious as you do and this you will find incredible. Single friends will call you with their relationship dramas and their problems with office politics, and you won't care. They'll accuse you of coming over all strange since you had a baby and you will look at them, thinking: "Don't you get it? I've had a baby." And no, they won't get it. You'll wake up every day knowing that all your energy, all your love, labour and its rewards, belongs to somebody else. I say: "It will feel divine!"

They say: "God, you're nauseating." I say: "Nauseating? My friend, get pregnant. Then let's talk about nauseating."


Tuesday, April 25, 2006


A Tory MP has presented David Cameron with the first real test of his pledge to create a more tolerant Conservative party. Philip Davies claimed voters were turning to the BNP because political correctness had left white Britons afraid of being 'sacked or locked up' for expressing their feelings on race. Davies said politicians were failing to debate asylum and immigration enough, prompting voters who felt ignored to turn to the far right. And he cited the suspension of a university lecturer who suggested whites were cleverer than black people, plus the unsuccessful prosecution of BNP leader Nick Griffin for allegedly inciting racial hatred, as incidents that caused voters to reject mainstream politics.

Davies, the MP for Shipley, North Yorkshire, said he would 'obviously' like his own party to talk more about the issue, but added that he believed Cameron agreed with him that tough immigration policies were crucial to good race relations. 'People feel nobody is standing up and talking about [asylum and immigration] issues. This whole thing about political correctness is a key driver of that. They feel the only way they've got now to express their opinions is to put a cross in a secret ballot for the BNP,' he told The Observer. 'The fear is if you are white and you say something that may be considered derogatory by somebody about an ethnic minority, you are going to be sacked or locked up.'

Labour MPs demanded the Tories disown Davies's views. 'If David Cameron wants to show that his party has genuinely changed, then he needs to take action against the extreme right wing in his own party,' said Martin Salter, the MP for Reading West. A Tory party spokesman said Davies was 'entitled to his views' but added: 'We don't accept that we haven't really dealt with immigration.'

Davies's intervention follows an agonised debate within the Labour party over the BNP, after the Employment Minister Margaret Hodge warned that eight out of 10 white voters she canvassed in her Barking constituency in east London had at least flirted with backing the extremist party - citing competition with asylum seekers for homes as a flashpoint. Some colleagues accused her of unwittingly worsening matters by publicising the BNP threat.

Former Home Secretary David Blunkett said it would have been 'slightly more helpful' to have debated the issue well before next month's local elections. He conceded people were 'confused' about how council housing was allocated, telling The Observer: 'Over the last 20 years, we have moved away from the time-based entitlement for public sector housing to a points-based system or even a bidding system. That has confused people in terms of who is entitled to what.' Blunkett also called on judges to consider the political consequences before making decisions such as overturning restrictions on so-called bogus marriages or ruling that Britain must house jobless people from other countries, including those recently granted asylum. 'Far from giving people rights, it's more likely to give people justification for voting for a party or parties that would take away rights,' he said.

More here


The Brits in general are bird lovers so no wonder it had to be done while most people were still in bed

Pigeons at a market in Bolton were shot dead by marksmen using high-powered air rifles in an early morning cull. The 90-minute licensed cull followed complaints by traders and managers at Farnworth Market about high levels of droppings. A total of 40 birds were shot dead from 6am on Wednesday. Usually poison or even birds of prey are used to control roosting pigeons. Special nets were also put up at the market to cover its stalls. But Bolton council said it had no choice but to order a cull as a last resort after the situation worsened.

The council said the cull was carried out with the knowledge of the police to protect the public from health risks associated with bird droppings. It ended at 7.15am - and the council said another one could be necessary. A spokesman said: "It was decided to carry out the operation at 6am on a day when the market was not open to ensure there was no risk to the public or traders. Pest control officers were called in at the request of market management and traders."



Some excerpts from a BIG article:

In 1945 the British public sector abandoned the marriage bar, which had required female teachers and civil servants to stay single or resign in favour of male breadwinners. In the 60 years since, women's lives have been transformed, and, with them, family and community.

You might not think it-given the media focus on pay gaps and glass ceilings, and the Women and Work commission's recent finding that women in full-time work earn on average 17 per cent less than men-but for the first time, women, at least in developed societies, have virtually no career or occupation barred to them. The people most affected by this change, and the main subject of this essay, are professional and elite women. Women used to enter the elite as daughters, mothers and wives. Now they do so as individuals.

This marks a rupture in human history. It is one that has brought enormous benefits to many people, and to many women in particular. But its repercussions are not all positive, either for society as a whole, or for all women. We are no more likely to return to the old patterns than we are to subsistence agriculture, so we need to understand what the new female labour market means for all our lives.

Three consequences get far less attention than they deserve. The first is the death of sisterhood: an end to the millennia during which women of all classes shared the same major life experiences to a far greater degree than did their men. The second is the erosion of "female altruism," the service ethos which has been profoundly important to modern industrial societies-particularly in the education of their young, and the care of their old and sick. The third is the impact of employment change on childbearing. We are familiar with the prospect of demographic decline, yet we ignore, sometimes wilfully, the extent to which educated women face disincentives to bear children.

In the past, women of all classes, in all societies, shared lives centred on explicitly female concerns. Today it makes little sense to discuss women in general. Instead, they divide into two groups. A minority of well-educated women have careers. A majority do jobs, usually part-time, in order to make some money. For the former, there is very little, if any, disadvantage associated simply with being a woman. If they are equally qualified and willing to put in the hours, they can do as well as any man. Of course there are still individual chauvinists around, but the statistics are clear: among young, educated, full-time professionals, being female is no longer a drag on earnings or progress. But for the majority of women, this sort of life remains a fantasy. Their families are their top priority, they dip in and out of the labour market, and they are concentrated in heavily feminised occupations, such as retailing, cleaning and clerical work. Their average earnings-per hour and over a lifetime-are well below those of males. Ambitious graduates generally belong in the first group; all other women in the second.

This is a caricature-but not much of one. Academic experts on the female labour market occupy very different points on the political spectrum, but they agree on the polarisation of women's experiences. The feminism of the 1960s and 1970s, reflecting and feeding into a revolution in women's lives, spoke the language of sisterhood-the assumption that there was a shared female experience that cut across class, ethnic and generational lines. The reality was that at that very moment, sisterhood was dying.

Gender politics still encourages us to talk about women as a group with common interests and demands. Yet this is far less true today than when, as Kipling observed, the "Colonel's Lady an' Judy O'Grady" really were sisters under the skin. In The Gentleman's Daughter, her fine study of 18th-century elite women's lives, Amanda Vickery quotes one of her feminine subjects, writing that "my time is always imployed and if I do take a pen I always meet with some interrupsion." Once childbearing began, this would have been true for all classes. Only in a tiny number of very wealthy homes did servants free wives and mothers from the running of a household, in which the vast bulk of food and clothing was prepared from scratch. Nursemaids were a supplement to the mother, not a replacement; before aspirin, let alone antibiotics, women could expect to spend much of their time, wracked with anxiety, tending the sick....

One could interpret today's feminist assumptions as reflecting the appetite of global capitalism for all talent, female and male, at the expense of the family. Certainly our current economic arrangements offer precious little support to family formation. On the contrary, they erect major barriers in its way. We all know by now that in most developed countries, birth rates are well below replacement level. Less recognised is the massive change in incentives to have children. In the past, adults had no tax-financed welfare state to depend on. Their families were their social insurance policies: children paid. Today, they expect the state to take care of their financial and health needs when ill or retired, regardless of whether they have six children or none. The benefits we get are completely unrelated to whether or not we contribute a future productive member to the economy.

Moreover, our labour market, with its greater gender equality, makes childbearing a very expensive prospect for successful professionals. Rearing a healthy, balanced child requires intensive attention and large amounts of time, and is not something that technical progress is going to alter. The price of that time is especially high for high-earning, busy elite parents-female or male. If they give up or cut down on work, the opportunity cost in terms of income forgone and careers stalled is far greater than for an unskilled 16-year-old school-leaver. In addition, elite children are expensive. Children are dependent for longer, high-quality childcare is costly and formal education has become increasingly important as the route to success. Parents know this, and it explains why the professional classes devote so much money and attention to their children's schooling.

As the American economist Shirley Burggraf has pointed out in The Feminine Economy and Economic Man, the financial disincentives to childbearing have become so high for upper-middle income families that the puzzle is not why professional women have so few children but why they have any at all. She observes, "no society until recent times has expected love alone to support the family enterprise. To put it another way, parental love has never cost so much."

Value-based volunteering is giving way to professionalised organisations with public sector contracts, and personal fulfilment for both sexes is increasingly evaluated in economic terms. Yet we still rely on traditional values and emotions to produce the next generation. It is fortunate that children are so intrinsically rewarding or our birth rate would be far lower still.

The hard economics tells us that professional women will have to give up most if they have children, and so will be least inclined to do so. Highly educated women overwhelmingly stay in work and so pay little or no earnings penalty when they have children. But more and more of them in the developed world have no children at all. "The rich get richer and the poor have children" still applies; but this time around, it is women specifically that we are talking about. About 30 per cent of graduate women born in the early 1960s entered their forties childless. For graduate women born in 1970 (a substantially larger group) the expected figure is 40 per cent.

Unlike professional graduates, childbearing is a rational career choice for academically failing girls and one that a good many duly select, especially in countries where they are supported by the state. Among British women born in the late 1970s, almost half of those with no academic qualifications at all had their first child by the age of 20, compared to 1 per cent of those with degrees. Only 20 per cent of the first group, compared to 85 per cent of the latter, were still childless by their late twenties. There is no reason to believe that teenage and uneducated mothers are any less loving and devoted than others. But there is plenty of evidence that their children are likely to be relatively unproductive future citizens, less skilled in their turn, and more likely to experience unemployment.

Birth rates have been low before. The average proportion of women bearing children, and the average number of children per mother, is pretty much the same for those born in 1910 and those born in 1970. In between, of course, there was a baby boom. What is different this time, however, is the pattern of child-bearing. Today there is a very strong inverse relationship between education and childbearing. Last time around there was not.

Authors on the left find it especially hard to recognise that the occupational emancipation of women may create intransigent problems for the future of our societies. The IPPR think tank illustrates the problem. One of its most recent reports, "Population Politics," recognises the demographic crisis and calls sensibly for clear population policies. But in doing so, it manages virtually to ignore the well-established relations between education and childbearing.

Burggraf, in contrast, argues that the tension between the modern workplace and family wellbeing is real and irresolvable so long as our societies place no financial value on the activities that take place within the home. In her view, feminists and economists share the blame. For the feminist, unpaid home-based activity is labour performed under the lash of patriarchy. For the economist, unpaid work does not contribute to GNP and so does not exist .

Politicians, journalists and businessmen often emphasise the negative economic consequences of any barriers to female participation in the workforce, and of losing half the country's best brains to the kitchen sink. Of course they are right, and I am in no hurry to go back there myself. But it is striking how little anyone mentions, let alone tries to quantify, the offsetting losses (or "social externalities") when women choose work over family. This is stupid.

Women today are no more homogeneous a group than men, and the service ethic that traditionally supported civil society and public service has weakened. Families remain central to the care of the old and sick, as well as raising the next generation, and yet our economy and society steer ever more educated women away from marriage or childbearing. The repercussions for our futures are enormous, and we should at least recognise this fact

More here

Monday, April 24, 2006


Very puzzling -- unless you know of the wide-ranging effects of IQ differences

Swimming-pool drowning cases involve a disproportionate number of black boys and young adults, and public pools appear to be the primary danger zone, U.S. government researchers have found. In one of the most extensive studies to look at the issue, investigators found that nearly half of the swimming-pool drownings they tracked occurred among African Americans - with males being at particular risk. The findings, published in the American Journal of Public Health, not only confirm past research showing that a large number of young drowning victims are African American, but also identify where these deaths are happening.

Nationally, between 1995 and 1998, 51 percent of drownings among blacks ages 5 to 24 happened in a public pool. Most often, it was a hotel or motel pool. That stands in contrast to white children and young adults, 55 percent of whom drowned in a residential pool. It's not clear why young African Americans, males in particular, are more likely than other racial groups to drown. But the new findings point to the places where prevention efforts are most needed, according to the investigators, led by Dr. Gitanjali Saluja of the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Hotel and motel pools, they point out, often lack lifeguards. So it's vital for children to always have an adult with them.

The study findings are based on federal data for 678 swimming-pool drownings among 5- to 24-year-olds between 1995 and 1998. Overall, three-quarters of the victims were male, and black males were at greatest risk. Their rate of drowning was anywhere from 5 to 12 times higher than that of white males, depending on the age group. Hispanic males were also at greater risk than whites, but the difference was much smaller. Among females, African Americans had a higher drowning rate through the teen years. White and Hispanic females had similar rates at all ages.

Researchers have speculated that the higher drowning risk among African Americans has to do with income; lower-income families are less likely to be able to afford swimming lessons. However, Saluja's team found that the racial discrepancy persisted even when they factored in income. More research, they say, is needed to understand the underlying reasons.

The researchers lacked information on whether drowning victims had ever had swimming lessons, but they point out that pediatric experts recommend that all children age 6 and older learn to swim.



Sometimes vulgarity is not just acceptable but necessary in the workplace, the California Supreme Court ruled as it threw out a sexual harassment case by a former assistant on the "Friends" TV show. The justices, ruling 7-0 Thursday, agreed with Warner Bros. Television Productions that trash talk was part of the creative process and, therefore, the studio and its writers could not be sued for raunchy writers' meetings. No jury would believe the writers' assistant was the target of harassment during profanity-laced script sessions "for an adult-oriented comic show featuring sexual themes," Justice Marvin Baxter wrote. "Most of the sexually coarse and vulgar language at issue did not involve and was not aimed at plaintiff or other women in the workplace," Baxter wrote.

Amaani Lyle, 32, alleged six years ago that raw sexual remarks peppering work sessions and conversations added up to harassment against women. Lyle said she was offended by repeated references to the actors' sex lives and to the writers' own sexual exploits as they penned the successful NBC sitcom rife with bawdy banter about six New York City friends. She was fired after four months on the job, allegedly because she could not transcribe meetings fast enough or capture the flavor of the meetings.

Jeffrey Winikow - an attorney for the California Employment Lawyers Association, which filed a brief in support of Lyle's suit - said the high court should have let a jury decide whether the behavior was harassment. "There was absolutely no evidence to link any of the conduct at issue with anything that occurred on the show," Winikow said. Warner Bros. acknowledged that some of the sexually explicit talk took place but said it was vital to the show's chemistry. The justices noted that Lyle had been warned when she was hired that explicit discussions were part of developing the sexually charged comedy.

Still, the court added that the same dialogue and behavior might be illegal elsewhere. "Language similar to that at issue here might well establish actionable harassment depending on the circumstances," Baxter wrote.

Adam Levin, an attorney for Warner Bros. who argued the case before the justices in February, said the decision was a boon for Hollywood and other fields that thrive on creativity. "I think employers in the motion picture industry and other industries are going to breathe a collective sigh of relief," Levin said. Warner Bros. Television Productions is a division of Time Warner Inc.

Los Angeles employment law attorney Anthony Onicidi speculated that a ruling in favor of the former assistant have made it virtually impossible to produce TV programs or other creative works. "If your concern is with every statement or gesture, you could be subject to a lawsuit, that is going to inhibit the creative process," Onicidi said.



"America is fat and getting fatter. Today 140 million American adults are overweight or obese. Their bodies carry 4 billion pounds of excess fat, the result of eating 14 trillion excess calories. Numbers of this size belong in the domain of economists, not physicians. And therein lies the solution.

Medical and public health attempts to control obesity should continue, but it is time to add marketplace approaches. The first step is realizing that, nationally, weight gain is not a medical problem, it's a pollution problem.

Food calories are so pervasively and inexpensively available in our environment that they should be regarded as a pollutant. Just as an asthmatic can't help but inhale pollutants in the air all around him, we Americans cannot help but ingest the calories present in the environment all around us. Our Stone Age biology is optimized to survive famine by triggering eating at the slightest provocation. We are not optimized to eat prudently in an environment of cheap and easy calories.

Public policies have succeeded in reducing air pollution. They can teach us how to reduce calorie pollution. Tradable emission allowances, for example, establish markets where permits to emit air pollutants can be bought and sold. Market forces then provide incentives to reduce pollution emissions.

A program for tradable emission allowances could target foods with a high caloric density, that is, foods with a high number of calories per ounce. These foods are more likely to produce weight gain than foods with a low density of calories. It's easier to eat 1,000 calories in dessert than in vegetables, because the calories in dessert are concentrated.

A food's caloric density generally depends on its water and fat content. Dry, fatty foods have the highest caloric density, because water has weight but no calories and because fat has more calories per ounce than proteins and carbohydrates. For example, butter, which is fatty and dry, has 195 calories per ounce. Frozen spinach has seven calories per ounce.

A specific example illustrates how tradable emission allowances could work. Suppose the calorie-emission allowance is set to 100 calories for each ounce of food emitted into the environment (i.e., sold). A four-ounce food item having more than 400 calories could not, therefore, be sold unless "calorie credits" were purchased to cover the excess calories. So a standard four-ounce stick of butter, containing 780 calories, could not enter the marketplace until the butter producer acquired 380 additional calorie-credits from someone having credits to sell.

On the other hand, the producer of a four-ounce block of frozen spinach would emit only 28 calories into the environment and could sell the unused 372 calorie-credits to the butter producer.

With such a program, high-density foods would become more expensive and low-density foods would become cheaper. Unlike a tax, the program could be designed so the net cost change to consumers was zero. Thus, consumers who alter their eating habits need pay no more to eat the same number of calories. The hope, which should be tested, is that the number of calories eaten would drop, owing to the difficulty of consuming large numbers of calories from low-density foods. This would then reduce food costs and, ultimately, health-care costs."

More here

Sunday, April 23, 2006


Two residents of a Southern California senior mobile home park are suing the homeowner's association for barring prayer and Bible study meetings in common areas. For 17 years, residents met weekly in the Warner Springs Estates clubhouse for a prayer and Bible study meeting, most recently led by local pastor Andy Graham. But in August 2004, after new leadership took over the homeowner's association, Graham was told in a threatening letter posted at the clubhouse to stop the Wednesday night meetings, according to the United States Justice Foundation, or USJF, which represents residents Susan Eva-Marie Heraver and Catherine Lovejoy.

Colette Wilson, the lead attorney in the case, told WND the letter essentially said, "Anybody who tries to defy us, we're going to sue your pants off." Just prior to that, when the Bible study group gathered for its regular meeting, tenants and mobile home park staff were allowed to harass, threaten and interfere with the meetings, Wilson said. During other events scheduled during the week, such as Bingo on Tuesdays, it's understood that others in the room should be respectful and not in interruptive, but during the Bible study, the hostile residents acted in a "threatening manner," with antics such as blasting the volume on the TV and talking loudly, according to Wilson. One woman threatened meeting participants with a pool cue, and when she was videotaped, grabbed the camera, called police and claimed she was attacked, Wilson said.

After the threatening letter, the attorney noted, the Bible study group gave up and began meeting in each other's homes. But Wilson said it limited them, because they couldn't accommodate the up-to-40 people who met in the clubhouse, where there also was adequate parking and handicapped access. Wilson said the meetings were nondenominational and included people of many different backgrounds, including Catholics, Jews and Protestants.

Responding to an attempt by USJF to resolve the dispute without litigation, the defendants argued the residents have no right to have prayer services. The homeowners association, they insist, can determine who will use the common areas and under what conditions. Wilson contends this is contrary to the constitutions of the U.S. and California and the Unruh Act. She argued "numerous case precedents bar discrimination against people wishing to use commons areas in mobile home parks, in condominium complexes, and in other areas from holding Bible meetings or prayer meetings." "The attempt by the homeowners association to discriminate against those who wish to hold such prayer or Bible meetings, and the support of the homeowners association of the attempts to intimidate tenants out of having such meetings, is not only inexcusable, but illegal," Wilson said. The homeowners association passed resolution against religious meetings then revoked it, she explained, but in practice, the ban remains in effect.

At the association's monthly meeting, residents ask about whether they can have a religious group and the head of board always says no, Wilson explained. She plans to file a new preliminary injunction in court asking that the meetings immediately be allowed to resume.



Georgia became what is believed to be the first state to offer government-sanctioned elective classes on the Bible, with Gov. Sonny Perdue signing a bill into law Thursday. The governor also signed a bill permitting the display of the Ten Commandments at courthouses, an issue that has raised thorny constitutional questions. Critics say the measures blur the line between church and state. National civil rights groups said they want to see how the laws are implemented before deciding whether to challenge them in court.

The Bible is already incorporated into classes in Georgia and other states, and some local school districts have passed measures permitting classes devoted solely to the Bible. But education analysts say the law in Georgia is the first time a state government has endorsed such courses. The new law allows elective classes on the Bible to be taught to high school students. Local school systems will decide whether to teach the courses.

The state Education Department has until February to craft curriculums. The law requires that the courses be taught "in an objective and nondevotional manner with no attempt made to indoctrinate students."

The state's new Ten Commandments law was prompted by controversy over the posting of the commandments at the Barrow County Courthouse. A federal judge ordered the display removed in July. Backers of the law made clear they were trying to craft a statute that would survive any constitutional challenges. In a split decision last June, the U.S. Supreme Court declared exhibits of the Ten Commandments constitutional if their main purpose was to honor the nation's legal, rather than religious, traditions, and if they didn't promote one religious sect over another. Both bills passed the state Legislature by comfortable margins.


Muslim women demand single-sex gym workouts

Never mind that this is a business that caters to both men and women and there are women-only fitness companies operating in this area that they could go to. Even providing separate exercise areas is not enough, apparently. Men have to be banned from the premises altogether on certain days. Dearborn, Michigan is home to one of the largest populations of Arabs outside of the Middle East. Another step on a slippery slope that will make us all follow the rules of Islam.

About 200 Muslim women have asked the Fitness USA chain to honor what they say was its promise to provide separate exercise times for women and men. They say they need single-sex workout times to accommodate Islam's standards of modesty. Arrwa Mogalli, 28, of Dearborn said that she agreed to buy a $1,465 lifetime membership with the chain after being promised that its Lincoln Park facility would be open only to women on certain days. This month, the gym in this southern Detroit suburb decided to open up part of the center to both sexes every day. "I felt like all the money I just spent ... has gone to waste," Mogalli said.

Mogalli is among about 200 women with Fitness USA memberships who have signed a petition asking the chain to restore single-sex exercise days for the entire gym or to put up a divider so men and women cannot see each other while exercising. Fitness USA officials met Tuesday with petition drive supporter Ammerah Saidi and Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, at the company's corporate office in West Bloomfield. "We don't want to punish" Fitness USA, Walid said. "We just want to make matters right."

The company is reviewing the women's concerns, said Jodi Berry, administrative director for Fitness USA. But the company said that the women's written contracts say nothing about gender.

Southeastern Michigan, home to about 300,000 Arab-Americans, has undergone some changes because of the growing Muslim presence. Public schools in Dearborn offered single-sex physical education classes for several years in response to requests from some Muslim parents. "In Islam, there are codes of modesty for both genders," Saidi, a 23-year-old lifetime Fitness USA member from Dearborn, told the Detroit Free Press this week. "When you're working out, you're not dressed modestly, and you're bending in provocative ways, so you can't be working out with the opposite gender."

Saidi said she joined Fitness USA last year because managers repeatedly gave oral promises that there would be single-sex workout days at some facilities. She said people of other faiths, including Orthodox Jews and some Christians, share similar concerns.

At the Dearborn location, women can work out without men on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. In Lincoln Park, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday are women's days. There also are women-only days on alternate Sundays in Westland.


Saturday, April 22, 2006


Jail bosses are rebuilding toilets so Muslim inmates don't have to use them while facing Mecca. Thousands of pounds of taxpayers money are being spent to ensure lags are not offended. The Islamic religion prohibits Muslims from facing or turning their backs on the Kiblah - the direction of prayer - when they visit the lav. Muslim lags claimed they have had to sit sideways on prison WCs. But after pressure from faith leaders the Home Office has agreed to turn the existing toilets 90 degrees at HMP Brixton in London. The Home Office refused to reveal the cost of the new facilities - part of an "on-going refurbishment".

One Muslim former inmate said: "The least the Prison Service can do is make sure people can practise their religion correctly in prison." But a Brixton jail officer said: "If they didn't get locked up for committing crime they would not have this problem. Yet we have to sort out their loos. If we weren't paying for it as taxpayers I'd laugh my socks off." Around a quarter of prisoners at the Category B jail are Muslims.

Labour MP Khalid Mahmood said: "As far as I understand this rule only applies in a place of worship." Tory MP Ann Widdecombe said: "Some common sense needs to be applied."



Lexington public school officials have told Rob and Robin Wirthlin that since "gay marriage is legal" they may describe homosexual relationships to their son in second grade, without notice, and that parents may not opt their child out of such discussions. The Wirthlins are livid.

On March 24, their second-grade son came home from the Estabrook Elementary School and repeated to his mother the story read to him earlier that day about men getting married to each other. His teacher had read the book "King and King" to the class, in which a prince doesn't want to marry any princesses, but instead falls in love with a princess's brother and marries him in a big palace wedding. The Wirthlins immediately contacted the teacher, Heather Kramer, who acknowledged she had read the book to the class, and admitted that it was not part of the curriculum.

Several days later, the Wirthlins met with the teacher and principal, Joni Jay, to discuss the matter. Kramer told them that the theme of the day was "weddings" and that since "gay marriage is legal," she wanted to present all points of view. Jay told the Wirthlins that they cannot opt their son out of these discussions, and no notice will be given, and that she cannot guarantee it will not happen again. She added that has no plans even to inform parents after the fact that such incidents have taken place.

"We are outraged," said Mrs. Wirthlin. "This is a highly charged social issue. Why are they introducing it in the second grade? And we cannot present our family's point of view to our children if they don't tell us what they're saying to them." The emails between the Wirthlins and school officials can be read here

According to other parents in the school, Kramer attended a presentation last year by the Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) on promoting homosexuality in the classroom. Lexington school officials continue to claim that homosexuality and homosexual relationships do not does not constitute "human sexual relationships" [!!!!!] and thus do not trigger the Massachusetts parental notification law - Ch. 73 Sec. 32a.

Joni Jay and Estabrook Elementary School were in the news last year when David Parker, father of a kindergartner, spent the night in jail over notification of discussions of homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism in his son's class.

Source. Another report on the same story here

Friday, April 21, 2006

Equal rights for unwed fathers

While the ''Roe v. Wade for men" lawsuit filed in Michigan earlier this month seeks the right for men to terminate their financial obligations to a child in case of unwanted pregnancy, another dispute over male reproductive rights has been making news as well. Last week, a front-page New York Times story explored the plight of unwed fathers who fight for children placed for adoption by the mothers.

One of the men profiled in the article, 23-year-old Arizona resident Adam Clayton Jones, learned that his former fiancée -- who had ended their relationship -- was pregnant and seeking to put up the baby for adoption in Florida, where they had met while attending college. An adoption agency called Jones to ask for his consent to the adoption. He refused, fully intending to raise the baby himself. But Jones did not know that in order to exercise his parental rights, he had to register with the state registry for unmarried fathers. Because he missed the deadline, he lost all his rights and has never seen his child, now 18 months old.

Sadly, this case is all too typical. While divorced fathers complain that they are often treated as second-class parents, never-married fathers are much lower on the totem pole. True, their situation has improved since the 1970s, when an unwed father's children could be given up for adoption without his consent even if he had raised them.

Today, partly as a result of several legal controversies in which unmarried fathers successfully contested adoptions, the majority of states have ''putative father registries" by means of which a man can assert his paternity. But the purpose of these registries often seems to be less to protect the rights of the father than to protect the rights of everyone else: the mother who wants to give up the baby, the adoption agency, and the adoptive parents. Some would say that they also protect the rights of the child. But that depends on whether you believe that a child is better off being adopted than being raised by the biological father.

In most states, the unwed father has to file with the registry either within a certain period of the child's birth -- from five to 30 days -- or, as in Massachusetts, at any time before the adoption petition is filed. But neither the mother nor the adoption agency has any obligation to notify the man of the adoption, or of the fact that he is a father or father-to-be. Even when the father is notified, he may not be told about the putative father registry -- which is what happened to Jones, whose attorney, Allison Perry, refers to the Florida registry as a ''well-kept secret." That is the situation in most states. Not only are most men unaware of the registries' existence, even some lawyers don't know about them.

Amazingly, many specialists believe that it's too much of a burden on the woman or the adoption agency to require that a man be notified of his paternity. Instead, they argue that it should be his responsibility to file with the putative father registry every time he enters a sexual relationship with a woman, on the off-chance that a pregnancy may result -- a requirement that, if nothing else, smacks of a humiliating invasion of privacy. Surely, it is far more efficient and less invasive to limit the notification requirement to cases in which a pregnancy actually happens, and to place the burden on those who are aware of the pregnancy.

You would think that, unlike men who seek to avoid their paternal responsibilities, fathers who want to be responsible for raising their own children would at least encounter societal sympathy and support. Sadly, that has not generally been the case. Unwed fathers who contest adoptions are often faulted for not taking affirmative steps to find out about the child's existence, and in some cases are blamed even if they were actively deceived by the mother. Often, they're suspected of being abusers whose real hidden motive is to control the mother.

The issues of men burdened with responsibility for unwanted pregnancies, and of men who are not allowed to be fathers to wanted children, are linked by a common thread. Biology has made men and women unequal with regard to reproduction. In recent decades, thanks to both technology and social change, we have made strides to alleviate the inequality for women, helping them avoid unwanted childbearing. But we have lagged far behind in equalizing the situation for men. We cannot ask men to be equal parents while giving virtually all the power in reproductive decisions to women.


Justice for men coming in Australia?

A looming battle that could allow cuckolded men to sue deceitful wives for the cost of raising children conceived outside their marriage has been described by High Court judge Michael Kirby as opening a "Pandora's box". If the full bench of the High Court rules in favour of Victorian father Liam Magill, the court will set the ball rolling for dozens of new compensation cases, including those brought by men who learn they are not genetically related to their children and who want to recover child-support payments and other damages. Mr Magill has alleged he was tricked into paying tens of thousands of dollars to his unfaithful former wife in support of two children that were not his own.

However, Justice Kirby said the court would have to take care in deciding the case. "This is the Pandora's box we open ... every case where the male, hurt and having to pay child support, is unhappy about it, they are going to sue and claim minutiae of time they spent with the child who turns out not to be their genetic child," he said. "We all know that in the family law situation, it is not just an ordinary case about money, it is often a case that involves a lot of emotion."

While the Liam Magill case could pave the way for dozens of new compensation cases, the same principle could also be used by an embittered "ex" who claims to have been duped into marriage because their partner said they were a millionaire, or they "owned a country castle". Claims for damages could even arise if a partner committed bigamy as a result of their spouse lying about a previous marriage.

Justice Kirby, one of six judges hearing the case, told a hearing in Canberra this month that the law of deceit could be used vindictively by emotionally wounded couples. Historically, the law of deceit, which is related to fraud, has only applied to commercial relationships, not those on a personal nature. Justice Kirby said three important social changes appeared to be pushing the need for legal reform in this area: availability of quick and discreet tests to establish paternity, the rising rate of marriage breakdown and the end of laws allowing spousal legal immunity. A decision in favour of Mr Magill would mean family issues involving the tort of deceit would be heard in the civil courts and not the Family Court.

Lawyers for Mr Magill's ex-wife Meredith argued it would be wrong to apply the law of deceit to family relationships, and warned that a finding for her husband would cause a rush of litigation against women.

Mr Magill learned he had not fathered two of his supposed children after he applied to the Family Court in 2001 for a DNA test to be carried out. He married Meredith in 1988, but 18 months into the marriage she began a long-term affair. The marriage ended in 1992 after Ms Magill had given birth to three children, only one of whom was Mr Magill's. He continued to give 32 per cent of his income as child support for all three children until 1999, believing they were all his.

The court heard that the US has allowed such civil suits for years, dubbing them "heart-balm" actions. But judge Ken Hayne pointed out that some US states were considering halting all spousal claims for deceit.


Thursday, April 20, 2006


With every day that passes the world seems to go increasingly mad. It has just gone particularly bonkers on a Cardiff bus. In a vivid demonstration that who really runs Britain is not the Government, the Civil Service, big business nor Labour Party donors but the health and safety police, a man has been thrown off the No 9 service from Heath Hospital via city centre to Prospect Place for carrying a tin of paint. There are some items that it is inadvisable to carry on a Cardiff bus, such as an England rugby shirt. And there are some that are forbidden, such as guns, swords, gas cylinders or cans of petrol. But when Brian Heale got on board with his purchase for a DIY job at home he found that “antique cream” emulsion had been added to the list of undesirable luggage.

Mr Heale, 73, an RAF veteran who suffers shortness of breath after a heart attack, could not manage the 20-minute walk from the paint shop to his home in the Leckwith district of the city so, naturally, he caught the bus. But the driver caught Mr Heale in the act of carrying a can of emulsion and ordered him off. “When he told me I couldn’t take the paint on the bus I thought he was joking. But he parked the bus and called head office. He told me carrying the paint was against new health and safety regulations and told me to get off,” Mr Heale said yesterday. “It’s crazy and hysterical. Next thing, you won’t be able to take a wet umbrella on in case it drips water on the floor. Health and safety rules are one thing but this is just daft; it was a No 9 bus not a dangerous building site.”

Ejected on to the rainy street, Mr Heale took shelter in a cafe and ordered a cup of tea to steady his nerves. There the manager took pity on him and gave Mr Heale, and his paint, a lift home.

New health and safety rules governing public transport do indeed list paint as a “hazardous article”. It can be taken on the bus only if it is “carried in two containers, ie, a sealed pot and a bag, and is not left unattended on a parcel shelf where it could slide and tip, burst open and spread across the floor”.

Cardiff Bus admitted that it may have been a little hard on Mr Heale. A spokesman said: “We apologise to Mr Heale for the obvious inconvenience caused. The safety of our passengers is our No 1 priority, which is why the company takes regulations on health and safety very seriously.” The company admitted, however, that there were times when it needed to display a little more flexibility when enforcing the rules.

More examples of loony British safety regulations:

Paper napkins being handed out with meals-on-wheels in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, were suspended by the council after fears that pensioners and disabled people might choke on them

After a woman caught her foot in the new doors at BBC Birmingham the corporation issued a memo “Revolving Security Door User Instructions”, advising staff on how to use a revolving door

Police called to investigate a broken stained-glass window at a church in Rochdale in March 2005 refused to inspect the damage because they did not have specialist “ladder training”

Moscow State Circus was warned in July 2003 that any acrobat performing at a height above that of the average stepladder would have to wear a hard hat or risk losing its insurance cover

Plans to chop down 20 horse chestnut trees were announced by Norwich City Council because it claimed that passers-by risked head injuries from sticks thrown up by children to knock down conkers

Gardeners working for Cheltenham council, in Gloucestershire, were banned from planting pansies under town centre trees because workers digging with trowels risked spraining their wrists in the root-filled soil



A new breed of educated women has discovered the secret of a happy marriage - opting to stay at home instead of pursuing a career. The phenomenon, in which wives prefer their husbands to be the main breadwinner, has been identified by American sociologists and is now gaining a foothold in Britain. Unlike the housewives of the 1950s, who had little choice over rearing children and acting as homemaker, this generation of women is building on the advances of the feminist movement to determine their optimum lifestyle. The women are predominantly drawn from the middle classes and have young offspring. They regard themselves as "at-home mothers", seeing their prime responsibility as bringing up the children rather than housekeeping. They include women who have given up jobs altogether as well as those who have taken extended career breaks to be with their children throughout their upbringing.

According to research by academics at the University of Virginia, 52% of modern housewives describe themselves as "very happy" with their marriages compared with 41% of working women. Other key ingredients to matrimonial bliss include an attentive and emotionally responsive husband, a sense of fairness in a relationship and a lifelong commitment to the institution of marriage. Women who go to church with their husbands also claim they are happier than those who do not, according to the study, which is based on the responses of more than 5,000 couples. "Progressive women with kids at home feel it is a legitimate choice," said Brad Wilcox, co-author of the report, which has been published in the Social Forces journal.

In a second study that has not yet been published, Wilcox found that even wives who described themselves as feminists claimed they were happier staying at home to raise children. The research shows fairness is seen as vital, although this need not mean splitting domestic chores down the middle. In most marriages, wives do twice as much housework as husbands, yet only 30% of women in the study thought their relationship was unfair. "They tend to think things are fair, either because the man is taking the lead in breadwinning and/or he is taking care of the car and other household affairs," said Wilcox.

With divorces in Britain reaching a seven-year high in 2004, the latest year for which figures are available, some couples might heed the example of Jessica Renison, a self-declared "liberated" housewife. Renison, 33, a former English teacher from Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, has chosen to stay at home to raise her 16-month-old son George, while her husband Mark continues to teach physics at a secondary school. "I certainly feel a woman has a right to work if that is what she feels is right for her family," said Renison. "But I am happier than I would be if I was working. If you are working, you can be torn between professional and home life. "It is a difficult decision to make from a financial standpoint, but I do feel liberated."

Kirsty Robeson, 32, from Wolsingham, County Durham, gave up her job in financial public relations to raise daughters, aged one, three and five. "If your mind is fully occupied with other things and you don't put the effort into marriage, then it can go awry," said Robeson. "My husband Simon is involved emotionally with everything that happens at home and everything to do with the domestic side."

The University of Virginia study does, however, have its critics. Claire Fox, director of the Institute of Ideas in London, said: "What makes a happy marriage is likely to be people engaging with each other. If the full extent of your relationships with the external world is the toddlers' group, daytime TV and ironing, it has got its limits."