Friday, 25 April 2008

Bishop of Chelmsford speaks in Lords on International Aid, Post Offices

Credit to 'They Work for You' for these links:

International Aid:
My Lords, on behalf of a whole variety of development agencies, I, too, welcome the Minister to his post. On effectiveness, does the department accept that the partnerships that it can develop, not only with development agencies in this country but, through them, with a whole variety of civil society and voluntary agencies across the world, are one of the most effective ways in which we can tackle poverty and ensure that resources get to where they are needed?

Post Offices:
My Lords, many communities across our country will be grateful to the noble Baroness for giving us an opportunity to give a public airing to an issue that is of concern to a lot of people in many communities across Britain. The House has already been made aware of the excellent proposals being pursued in Essex through the county council; I, too, am looking forward to the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, on all this. I understand that in our county we have already lost more than 30 post offices, a number of which the county council want to engage in business relationships. They are now shut and awaiting the outcome of those negotiations. I simply ask: what needs to be done to get a sense of urgency into the process of consultation so that we might get on with it and find out whether this is a model that can be made to work, not only in Essex but elsewhere? I understand that lots of local authorities are interested in this model. ...

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BNP second in latest bye election

The British National Party polled second place in the bye election yesterday for Hinckley Castle Ward, beating the Conservative and Labour candidates into third and fourth place respectively:

COE, Ian Douglas (Conservative Party Candidate) 226
MITCHELL, Clark James (Labour Party Candidate) 116
SHORE, Mike (British National Party) 264
WITHERFORD, Bronwen Mair (Liberal Democrats) 802 ELECTED

Turnout: 29.58%

That is 18.75%. Their average this year in local elections is 17.5%. By comparison, the Greens poll 4.5% average.

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Thursday, 24 April 2008

Daily Mail: As teenage pregnancies soar, meet the thirtysomething grandmothers

It wasn't the life Tara Bailee had in mind. Pregnant at 20, she had to resign herself to growing up quickly and learning about motherhood.

Then, at 36, she became a grandmother.

Her story may sound surprising, but Miss Bailee's is not an isolated case.

As a result of Britain's high teenage pregnancy rate - the worst in Europe - many women are becoming accustomed to looking after their grandchildren while still in their thirties - and without any sign of a husband.

The new phenomenon raises questions about the social consequences of generations of children being brought up without fathers. Read more
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The Independent: Is it time to give up the search for an Aids vaccine?

Most scientists involved in Aids research believe that a vaccine against HIV is further away than ever and some have admitted that effective immunisation against the virus may never be possible, according to an unprecedented poll conducted by The Independent.

A mood of deep pessimism has spread among the international community of Aids scientists after the failure of a trial of a promising vaccine at the end of last year. It just was the latest in a series of setbacks in the 25-year struggle to develop an HIV vaccine.

The Independent's survey of more than 35 leading Aids scientists in Britain and the United States found that just two were now more optimistic about the prospects for an HIV vaccine than they were a year ago; only four said they were more optimistic now than they were five years ago.

Nearly two thirds believed that an HIV vaccine will not be developed within the next 10 years and some of them said that it may take at least 20 more years of research before a vaccine can be used to protect people either from infection or the onset of Aids. Read more
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Guardian: Shops ration sales of rice as US buyers panic

The global food crisis reached the United States yesterday as big retailers began to ration sales of rice in response to bulk purchases by customers alarmed by rocketing prices of staples.

Wal-Mart's cash and carry division, Sam's Club, announced it would sell a maximum of four bags of rice per person to prevent supplies from running short. Its decision followed sporadic caps placed on purchases of rice and flour by some store managers at a rival bulk chain, Costco, in parts of California.

The world price of rice has risen 68% since the start of 2008, but in some US shops the price has doubled in weeks. Read more
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Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Archbishop of Canterbury: Better Bishops for the sake of a better Church

The Archbishop of Canterbury today set out his hopes for this year’s Lambeth Conference in a video message addressed to Bishops and Dioceses across the worldwide communion. Read the text and watch the video here

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Daily Mail: The Devil's Swimming Pool is aptly named

(Ed: I post this only because, as someone who, like Ian Botham, really doesn't do heights, I find it so terrifying, especially in the YouTube video link that you have to watch. Do scroll down for the video!)

If you are looking for a taste of life on the edge, this just has to be the place.

Only a slippery, submerged lip of rock stands between these bathers and a 100m drop over the world's largest waterfall. Read more

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The Times: Stop pandering to stay-at-home mums

(Ed: I found this article really annoying, which is why I'm publishing it. I saw in a friend's house the other day the application booklet for Tax Credit - 58 pages of language that made filling in a Tax Return look simple.)

[...] You have children, you give something up. That's the deal. It might be income, it might be friends, it might be expensive holidays. And if you are really, really lucky you might be able to afford not to work for a few years. What you do not have is the right to expect to be paid by the taxpayer to stay at home. Especially when you do not really need the money.

For it's not a zero-sum game, a woman leaving the paid workforce. She - and now her children - still uses public services, doesn't she? The doctor and the subsidised trains, the schools, the roads, the health visitor, the library. And she has stopped paying for them. So you see, every non-working mother already gets a large subsidy from the State; less, perhaps, if she has a working husband, but still a subsidy. Have you seen how mothers of young children guzzle public services?

There is another argument why the State should not be encouraging women not to work: it is very bad for them. Mothers who haven't worked, not even part-time, for three years, or longer if they have had more than one child, will find it very difficult to go back into the workplace. They lose confidence and the routine of work. They have fallen behind their peers. They have forgotten how to do it. They may never go back. That isn't good for the mother and ultimately it isn't a good example for the children either.

I understand the reluctance of mothers with young children to farm them out to nurseries. Much of the problem with that, though, stems from the standard of care in the nurseries themselves, and the amount of time the babies have to spend in them. Encourage more flexible and part-time working, as the Government is doing, and pay childcare workers more to get a higher standard of care and slower turnover of staff. That would be a better investment of the £5.4 billion that the parental care allowance would cost. Read more
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Queerty: Robinson’s Righteous “Honeymoon”

Gene Robinson’s politics are personal.

The Anglican Archbishop, whose 2003 ascension sparked outrage in the international Anglican Communion, will have a quite a summer as he married his long time boyfriend, Marc Andrews, and then heads to England to protest not being included in the church’s Lambeth Conference, an every-ten-year-event during which Anglican leaders discuss their evolution. Robinson, of course, wants the Church to expand its guidelines to include the gays, but senior leaders are skittish over the idea, which led to Robinson’s exclusion. Read more
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Pink News: Gay bishop to attend Lambeth conference despite previous rejection

The most senior openly gay cleric in the Anglican Communion, Gene Robinson is due to enter into a partnership with his long term boyfriend, Mark Andrew, in June and intends to attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference to be held in Caterbury despite previously refusing to attend.

The once a decade Lambeth conference of the 800 leaders of the Anglican Communion will be held this July and the Archbishop of Canetrbury, Dr Williams is keen to ensure that he can avoid further splits before the gathering. In March, it was reported that Bishop Robinson would not appear due to restrictions that he feared wouild be placed on him.

Bishop Robinson will be in London next week in order to promote his new book In the Eye of the Storm and is due to speak to Read more
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The Telegraph: On St George's Day, EU wipes England off map

(Ed: I keep reading these things which ought to be April Fools but aren't. Maybe the Church of England could become the Church of the Manche region, though, with all the opportunities for evangelism that presents.)

England has been wiped off a map of Europe drawn up by Brussels bureaucrats as part of a scheme that the Tories claim threatens to undermine the country's national identity.

The new European plan splits England into three zones that are joined with areas in other countries.

The "Manche" region covers part of southern England and northern France while the Atlantic region includes western parts of England, Portugal, Spain and Wales.

The North Sea region includes eastern England, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and parts of Germany.

A copy of the map, which makes no reference to England or Britain, has even renamed the English Channel the "Channel Sea". Read more

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Dying to see Gregor Schneider's latest work? Don't worry - you could be in it

The prizewinning artist Gregor Schneider, enfant terrible of the German cultural scene, is looking for a volunteer who is willing to die for his – that is, Mr Schneider’s – art.

He wants someone whose dying hours will be spent in an art gallery with the public admiring the way the light plays on the flesh of a person gasping for the last breath.

Politicians and curators are in a state of uproar about Mr Schneider’s plans. The 39-year-old artist has been concerned with death for much of his career. He gained critical acclaim for a sculpture, Hannelore Reuen, of a dead woman. He has been hatching his current idea since 1996, and now has a sympathetic pathologist and art collector to help to find a candidate who wants to become a work of art in the final days of his or her life.

“The dying person would determine everything in advance, he would be the absolute centre of attention,” said Mr Schneider. “Everything will be done in consultation with the relatives, and the public will watch the death in an appropriately private atmosphere.” Read more
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The Independent: Zimbabwe's church leaders warn the world: intervene to avert genocide

Zimbabwe is a deeply religious country. Daily discussions of the country's crisis end with Zimbabweans, black and white, saying: "We can only pray." So when the leaders of Zimbabwe's churches unanimously warn that the country faces "genocide" unless the international community intervenes, it is an important moment.

The clerics were speaking more than three weeks after a presidential election whose result President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party refuse to disclose, almost certainly because he was soundly defeated by Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). A recount of 23 parliamentary seats is under way in an apparent attempt to restore Zanu-PF's lost majority, and a wave of violence and intimidation has swept the country ahead of any possible presidential run-off. Read more
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Scottish comments on the Solicitor General's 'ignorance'

(Ed: Scots wha hay - for a change!)

Not much constitutional law can have been taught at Newcastle Polytechnic if Vera Baird, MP, the English solicitor-general, thinks the royal succession is determined by the English Act of Settlement of 1701 (The Herald, April 21). The royal succession is determined by the Treaty and Acts of Union of 1706-1707 and, accordingly, is not subject to unilateral action by the UK parliament.

Further, the word "Catholic" is not mentioned in either the treaty or the acts, which is just as well as the Church of Scotland declares itself to be a "Catholic Church" - a declaration confirmed as lawful in the 1921 Church of Scotland Act. Read more

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Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Labelled a criminal for overfilling a bin

A householder has been left with a £225 bill and a criminal conviction after over-filling his bin.

Gareth Wilson-Corkhill, of Whitehaven, Cumbria, was initially given a written warning by officers from Copeland borough council. But when he re-offended six months later, they fined him £110.

When Mr Wilson-Corkhill refused to pay, he was taken to court where magistrates found him guilty of failing to comply with the Environmental Protection Act. They ordered him to pay a £15 surcharge and £100 prosecution costs.

The 26-year-old claims that the bin was overfilled by four inches, although the council says it was "more like six". The father of three said: "I'm more annoyed now that I know I've got a criminal conviction. I might go for a job interview and be better than someone else, but the employer will see that I'm officially a criminal.

"If I'd just gone and thrown all the rubbish over a field I'd have got an £80 fine. It's laughable." He added: "We recycle everything we can, including plastics, cardboard, tins, glass and paper." Read more
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Monday, 21 April 2008

Canadian Primate asks Venables to cancel visit

April 21, 2008 -- The following is the text of a letter from Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, to Archbishop Gregory Venables, Primate of the Southern Cone, asking him to cancel a planned, unauthorized visit to Canada.

Archbishop Hiltz wrote the letter after consulting with the House of Bishops. Read more
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Solicitor-General condemns current Act of Succession

(Ed: Thereby showing that she understands little about her country's constitution, and cares even less.)

The Solicitor-General has called for a repeal of the 1701 Act of Settlement, saying the ban on the monarch marrying a Roman Catholic, or becoming a Roman Catholic, is contrary to the spirit of modern British life.

In an interview published in the Sunday Times, Vera Baird said the “ban on Catholics” ascending the throne “should be abolished because it is discriminatory.” Her comments came in a discussion of the government’s proposed Single Equality Bill, which seeks to unify anti-discrimination laws.

Ms. Baird, the Labour Member of Parliament for Redcar, also denounced as "unfair and a load of rubbish" provisions of the 1701 Act that grants preference to male heirs of the monarch in the succession to the throne.

"I have always thought that what we have to do with the royal family is integrate them as far as possible into the human race,” Ms. Baird said. Read more
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The Independent: Government should pay mothers to stay at home, says study

Stay-at-home-mothers should be paid by the Government to raise their children, an influential think-tank says.

Parents of under-threes should be given up to £60 a week per child to enable them to stay at home or to pay for child care of their choosing, according to the Policy Exchange.

Its report, Little Britons, criticised the Government's early-years policy, saying it puts too much emphasis on getting mothers back to work by placing very young children in nurseries, despite evidence that most families would prefer their children to be cared for at home.

Natalie Evans, the head of research at Policy Exchange, said: "A simple payment through the child benefit system... [would] allow women who want to work to do so, and give women the option to stay at home if that is what they believe is in their child's best interests." The proposal would be funded by scrapping the childcare element of the working tax credit, electronic childcare vouchers and the one-off Sure Start maternity grant, and providing instead a universal parental care allowance to parents with children under three years old. Read more
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The Independent: Scout numbers see biggest rise in 20 years

It boasts the film director Steven Spielberg, newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky, footballer David Beckham and rock star Keith Richards as former members and has left behind its reputation for camp fires and knot-tying with a new focus on snowboarding and whitewater rafting.

And the Scout movement's change of image seems to be paying off: 2007 saw the biggest increase in its membership for 22 years. Some 15,000 extra people joined the 100-year-old organisation last year. Today the Scout Association is launching an appeal for volunteer leaders after the growth in membership left it short of adults to run local groups. Waiting lists have surged by 3,000 over the past year because of a shortage of older people willing to help. Read more
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Tonight's Great Debate: Do the Letters Exist?

Thanks to BabyBlue's blog for this somewhat American, but very funny, spoof on the Great Debate in Anglicanism. For those unaware of the background, Bp Tom Wright 'revealed' at the Fulcrum Conference a couple of weekends ago that letters from ABp Rowan Williams were in the post to certain bishops of the Anglican Communion pointing out that if they weren't on board with the Windsor and Covenant process they might like to reconsider whether they should be packing their bags for the Lambeth Conference. Unfortunately, no such letters appear to have been written - or have they? Now go to BabyBlue's blog.

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No Contrition, No Penalty

Hard cases make bad law, no doubt, but bad law also makes hard cases. Certainly the thugs of Great Britain, of whom there are now terrifyingly many, may take comfort from the sentences passed recently on two young men, Dejon Thompson and Patrick Rowe, for the killing of a young Turkish man named Evren Anil. The case shows how little thugs have to fear from the law.

Anil, a man of 23 with a bright future, was in his car at a traffic light with his sister when one of the two young men threw a half-eaten chocolate bar into the car. Anil got out of his car to throw it back at them, but one of the young men held a knife to his throat and the other punched him in the face, knocking him to the ground and fracturing his skull. He died of his injuries eight days later.

The two men were each sentenced to four years behind bars, but having already served a year in prison waiting for the trial—and having been automatically granted remission of sentence, once a reward for good behavior—they will get out within 18 months. Anil’s sister, who not surprisingly has since emigrated, said, “If that’s the message we want to send out to our kids, then we should stop moaning about people being stabbed all the time.” Read more
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Sunday, 20 April 2008

Was World War Two just as pointless and self-defeating as Iraq, asks Peter Hitchens

To provoke your thoughts ...

[...] I had always thought the moment we might have stopped Hitler was when he reoccupied the Rhineland on March 7, 1936. But Buchanan records that nobody was interested in such action at the time. Nobody? Yes.

That includes Churchill, who said fatuously on March 13: "Instead of retaliating by armed force, as would have been done in a previous generation, France has taken the proper and prescribed course of appealing to the League of Nations."

He then even more wetly urged "Herr Hitler" to do the decent thing and withdraw.

Buchanan doesn't think that Britain and France could have saved Czechoslovakia in 1938, and I suspect he is right.

But this is a minor issue beside his surgical examination of Britain's guarantee to help Poland in March 1939. Hitler saw our "stand" as an empty bluff, and called it.

The Poles were crushed and murdered, and their country erased from the map. Hitler's eventual defeat left Poland under the Soviet heel for two generations.

We then embarked on a war which cost us our Empire, many of our best export markets, what was left of our naval supremacy, and most of our national wealth - gleefully stripped from us by Roosevelt in return for Lend-Lease supplies.

As a direct result we sought membership of a Common Market that has since bled away our national independence.

Would we not have been wiser to behave as the USA did, staying out of it and waiting for Hitler and Stalin to rip out each other's bowels?

Was Hitler really set on a war with Britain or on smashing the British Empire?

The country most interested in dismantling our Empire was the USA. Hitler never built a surface navy truly capable of challenging ours and, luckily for us, he left it too late to build enough submarines to starve us out.

He was very narrowly defeated in the Battle of Britain, but how would we have fared if, a year later, he had used the forces he flung at Russia to attack us instead?

But he didn't. His "plan" to invade Britain, the famous Operation Sealion, was only a sketchy afterthought, quickly abandoned.

Can it be true that he wasn't very interested in fighting or invading us? His aides were always baffled by his admiration for the British Empire, about which he would drone for hours.

Of course he was an evil dictator. But so was Joseph Stalin, who would later become our honoured ally, supplied with British weapons, fawned on by our Press and politicians, including Churchill himself.

By Christmas 1940, Stalin had in fact murdered many more people than Hitler and had invaded nearly as many countries.

We almost declared war on him in 1940 and he ordered British communists to subvert our war effort against the Nazis during the Battle of Britain.

And, in alliance with Hitler, he was supplying the Luftwaffe with much of the fuel and resources it needed to bomb London.

Not so simple, is it? Survey the 20th Century and you see Britain repeatedly fighting Germany, at colossal expense.

No one can doubt the valour and sacrifice involved.

But at the end of it all, Germany dominates Europe behind the smokescreen of the EU; our Empire and our rule of the seas have gone, we struggle with all the problems of a great civilisation in decline, and our special friend, the USA, has smilingly supplanted us for ever. But we won the war. Read more

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The Times: Equality obsession puts vulnerable at risk

[...] The question here is not what people do - of course a person with LDs could do something bad - but how responsible they are for it. To commit a crime, and by extension to be guilty of it, you must in law have a guilty mind, mens rea in Latin. A guilty mind means the understanding and intention of wrongdoing. Clearly most people with LDs would not have mens rea in the same way as someone of normal intelligence. They would not be equally guilty, and probably not guilty at all. As the 18-year-old’s mother said: “How could my boy be racist? He has a mental age of five.” She is entirely right.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the learning disability activists dislike the idea of a “mental age”, which links LDs with children and the status of minority. In their loyal and admirable support for people with LDs, they insist on their equality and their equal rights, which has led to a mentality of denial. The recent Mental Incapacity Act, for instance, which affected people with LDs among others, was suddenly, and tellingly, changed under lobby pressure to the Mental Capacity Act. This struck me an unmistakable sign of denial. The universal phrase “learning disability” is itself a form of euphemistic denial.

As usual a cry has gone up for more training for the police to deal better with cases like last week’s. Personally I think more training – of the sort offered these days – would only make things worse. The prevailing orthodoxy in which public servants are trained is one of aggressive egalitarianism, mixed with an obsession with racism, which is all too likely to deflect them from truth, compassion and common sense. This orthodoxy created this mess in the first place. Read more
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