08 August 2008

Devastation and despair - there is hope

20 teenagers have been stabbed in London this year.

In The Saturday Times Faith Register, Sir Jonathan Sachs recalls George Orwell's comment in the 1940's that 'The gentleness of the English civilisation is perhaps its most marked characteristic'. What has gone wrong with us since then?

In recent years, we have seen family breakdown, loss of community and 'an almost total collapse of respect for authority'. And sometimes it is hard to see how we can get out of this mess. What hope is there of moving from this grey and desolate landscape of devastation and despair?

But we have been here before.

In the 1820's, the streets of London were so dangerous that Sir Robert Peel set up the Metropolitan Police. Gang culture, murder, theft and drunken violence were rampant. The percentage of children born out of marriage was rising dramatically.

And yet, by 1940, George Orwell was painting a picture of gentle civility. What happened?

This radical change was the combined effect of new institutions such as temperance societies, state schools, youth groups like the YMCA, voluntary groups, charities, friendly societies and, above all, Sunday schools. All of these changed the people who attended them, from the inside out, and so put in place the foundations for a law-abiding society.

And underpinning all these initiatives? Christianity - a relationship with the living God who created every one of us and whose heart's desire is for us to know Him and so to be all that we are created to be.

So, there IS hope.

As we see the Church rising, stepping up to her responsibility and her authority; as Christians come to know the heart of God and begin to work with Him to reach those around them, those He loves so much.

As we do this, we will see this nation transformed.

07 August 2008

Ryanair CEO so refreshing

It is so refreshing to learn that Ryanair's Chief Executive, Michael O'Leary is not retreating in the face of rising oil prices and talk of recession. On the contrary, he plans to cut his prices and expects a rise in passenger numbers this year. He reasons that, offering the cheapest flights, 'We are the perfect airline for the recession'.

His recent interview with Alice Thomson and Rachel Sylvester was a delight to read. Direct, confident, wonderfully politically incorrect, it is like a fresh wind blowing away the dust of depression and doubt.

Go for it, Michael!

06 August 2008

Times investigates family court system

So good to see The Times taking up the cause of parents who have their children taken into care against their wishes, with a Leading article as well as a 2-page spread by Camilla Cavendish in last Saturday's paper. The media gets a bad press very often, what with paparazzi becoming ever more aggressive in their pursuit of celebrities, and the propagation of what is essentially gossip with the flimsiest connection to reality.

But this is the proper arena for investigative journalism - bringing into the open the secretive world of the family court system. My heart goes out to those parents who have lost their children. I know that sometimes unspeakable things are done to children by those closest to them. But I also know that to remove children from their parents, their roots, their security and their very identity can be the worst crime of all.

Well done, The Times. May your actions result in a radical overhaul of this archaic and oppressive system.

01 August 2008

Police force needs to be national

I was asked to complete a survey recently, asking whether I thought the Primary Care Trust and the Police should be run by the local Council. My response was that the two were so different that we should not be contemplating the same solution for both.

In my opinion, the non-acute work of the PCT should, indeed, be combined with social care and run by the (county or unitary) council. But the police are completely different. Their job is to enforce the law. The law is set nationally. The same law applies to all citizens throughout the nation. This is vital, as has been expressed in recent responses to the suggestion that 'sharia law' should apply to certain people in certain places.

And this is why the proposal, in the government's recent green police paper, to have a majority of directly elected representatives on local police authorities is so misguided. By all means, improve the awareness and responsiveness of the local police force to local issues and priorities. But do not make them a locally elected, and therefore political, entity. This would set them up in direct competition to the council, which is the local body with a democratic mandate and responsibility for the well-being of the local area. It would make the police vulnerable to control by extremism and pressure groups rather than being the objective upholders of the rule of law.

31 July 2008

Courageous Conservatives To Celebrate Christian Great Britain

Interesting article by Melanie Phillips in the Daily Mail this week, urging the Conservative Party to stand up and be counted, to stop kow-towing to prevailing opinion and to provide a 'clear and principled alternative'. She cites issues such as devolution, EU plans to reduce nations to mere sub-regions and massive and growing public debt. And she highlights the threat of a nationalist protest vote which. in the absence of a mainstream political party offering a real alternative to Labour's failed policies, may turn to a distinctly unpleasant tribalism.

I agree with all this and would go one step further. The issues we face as a nation ALL, without exception, stem from one thing. One fundamental thing. The loss of our sense of identity and cohesion as a nation, the disintegration of family life and the profound alienation of our young people, the rising level of crime, the falling standards of education, long-term dependency on the welfare state. All of these result from our rejection of our spiritual foundations.

This nation IS a Christian nation.

It just is. That is who we are.

And we need, we desperately need, to recognise this, to acknowledge this, to celebrate and declare this. And then, as we bring our policies, social and economic and environmental, in line with the worldview on which this nation is founded, the relationship with the living God which weaves through the very fabric of our nation, we will find that we thrive, we start to prosper and we remember who we are.

30 July 2008

Young people are part of a family

PC Griffin has got it right.

Explaining the introduction of a voluntary summer curfew in Redruth, Cornwall for all those under the age of 16, he says, 'Young people are allowed out. We are requesting that they have a purpose for being out. We are just trying to bring some common sense and structure back into what they are doing... In essence, this is simply about parents being aware of where their children are and, where necessary, taking responsibility for them.'

If young people are just hanging aroung on street corners, then PC Griffin and his team will ring their parents, or visit them. The aim is to 'put the responsibility back in the family home'

At a time when the latest Schott / Mori poll shows that 83% of us, across the age range, are worried about anti-social behaviour by young people, this is the approach that is so badly needed.

Yes, PC Griffin, absolutely yes.

29 July 2008

Mosley - privacy or integrity?

I am torn in my response to the recent High Court ruling that Mr Mosley's privacy was infringed by the News of the World reporting of his orgy.

On the one hand, I think that it is high time that the press got its come-uppance. In recent years, it has become judge and jury, self-appointed arbiter of what is right and what is wrong, wielding great influence but without the accompanying responsibility, and invading people's lives with neither respect nor compassion. So, good, that this unbridled bullying be brought to a shuddering halt.

But, on the other hand, I do wholeheartedly agree with the Archbishop of Canterbury that there is a clear link between private behaviour and public conduct. What a person does when he or she thinks no-one is looking is the most reliable indicator of their real character. And, if that person holds a position of power, accountable to the public, then we need to know what they are really like.

So, on balance, it is vital that the press be able to dig out those things which public figures would rather we didn't know. This need not give them carte blanche to persecute us all. Perhaps some definition of public figure would be helpful? I am actually not terribly interested in the private peccadillos of a motorsport executive but when it comes to our MPs, who have power to decide on the creation of animal-human embryos or to commit this nation to war, I desperately want to know what really makes them tick.

16 July 2008

got a lot; gives a lot

Frank McKinney - all respect to him. Apparently, this millionaire is celebrating his 45th birthday, not just with a lavishly extravagant party in a glitzy hotel but, as a second part of the celebration, took his guests to the slums of Haiti, where he has built more than 500 homes for about 4,000 people who live in extreme poverty.

Frank said, 'Here I am providing propery to the world's most wealthy; should I not be providing it to the world's poorest and homeless too' and
paraphrased Luke 12:48,

'To whom much is entrusted, much will be expected'.

15 July 2008

'Muslim Council' wants equal stake in Britain's future

Strange article in the Saturday Times Register this weekend by the Secretary General of the 'Muslim Council of Great Britain'. He bemoans what he perceives as the anti-muslim bias of the press and public in the UK, complaining that his efforts have been 'criticised as an attack on free speech or as ingratitude and disloyalty to Britain - even as a failure to understand what being British means'. I confess that he did not elicit much sympathy from me as I tend to agree with this criticism, certainly of the MCOGB.

But it was his final sentence that really took my breath away. 'All we are asking for is an equal stake in Britain's future'.

And from deep within me came a resounding 'No!'

No, you cannot have an equal stake in the future of a nation which has a long history rooted in Christianity, going back to Augustine and beyond; a nation whose very legal system is founded on biblical principles, whose most prominent leaders over centuries have found their inspiration and motivation from their relationship with God - the God of the Bible.

Yes, you can live here, freely, and follow your own conscience. We respect freedom of conscience because we understand that it is God who gives us free will, the right and responsibility to follow our own path, and we must honour that. But you do not have the right to attempt to shift the very foundations of the nation to which you freely chose to come. Because the reasons this nation is an attractive place to which to come - its respect for the individual, respect for the rule of law, its economic prosperity - are inextricably bound up with respect for God, a God who reveals Himself through the Bible and through Jesus Christ.

14 July 2008

Altruism wins over financial gain

'Out of the goodness of his heart' is a much mocked motivation for good deeds. But, according to research by the Stockholm School of Economics, it is often a more powerful incentive than financial gain. When Swedish women were asked to give blood, some voluntarily and some for a small sum of money, 52% were willing to do so for nothing, and only 30% for the money. And this echoes work by the University of Zurich with volunteers for political organisations: those who are not paid work more hours than those who are paid a little.

Apparently, the offer of money changes the nature of the action. What was the outworking of a desire to do good becomes a mere calculation of self-interest, as to whether the amount of money offered is sufficient to compensate for the inconvenience of doing good.

So, human nature - not so bad after all?

11 July 2008

Safety net - or suffocating web

I watched, with a morbid fascination, as the bee struggled to free itself from the sticky spider's web, buzzing desperately, rolling this way and then that, trying in vain to move a leg. It lasted about fifteen minutes and then it was over, completely trapped, life gone.

For many people, the safety net of the welfare state, designed to protect them, has become a suffocating web from which they cannot break free. And, at last, this has been officially recognised as James Purnell introduces his 'work-for-dole' programme. In his own words, 'Work works. By requiring people to work, you get the welfare bills down but you also address a massive social injustice of people being written off'.

Yes, because we all need to contribute something, we need to know that the world is a better place because we are in it. It is something to do with being a human being, creative, full of potential - made in the image of God, no less.

10 July 2008

Cut-price condoms

Condoms just got cheaper, thanks to brothers Shandip and Ketan Shah who are offering a new brand of cut-price condoms, packaged to make them attractive to young women. Apparently, in their pharmacy, over the last few years, there has been 'a big increase in the number of girls coming in looking for the morning-after pill'. And they are concerned about the high rate of teenage pregnancy and poor sexual health in Britain. So, they are selling cheaper condoms.

Am I alone in thinking this is not the answer?

We also have an appalling level of mental health problems and tragic record of family breakdowns. Might this be connected? Would it not be better to address the causes of apparently irresponsible promiscuity, rather than alleviating the symptoms?

It is time to raise the aspirations we have for young people, to encourage them to value themselves highly, to recognise that they need and deserve affection and love and that random sex is not the way to find it.

There is a better way and we should say so.

09 July 2008

'Secret state that steals our children'

Very disturbing article by Camilla Cavendish in Times2 this Tuesday about the many cases in which parents have had their children taken from them by the state, supposedly for the children's protection. She cites the case of a mother who sought protection for her daughter from her ex-husband only to herself become the object of suspicion. The result was that the girl was given into the custody of the very man from whom she had sought to protect her...

What is most worrying is the lack of due process in all this. The burden of proof seems to have been on parents to prove their innocence of the charges put against them, rather than the other way round. I know that horrific things do happen in the home and we need to be sure that children can be protected BUT we must remember that these are in the minority. The vast majority of parents strive, however imperfectly, to do the best for their children.

And, as Camilla says, 'to sever a child from its family without due cause is licensed state oppression of the worst kind. It is, in fact, child abuse'.

If you want to find out more and/or press the government for a change in the way we deal with these sensitive issues, go to

08 July 2008

The real church is rising

Enjoy your final fling, liberal bishops of the C of E, because it is your last. Your time is over. A new church is rising, a church of people who believe God, who know that Jesus rose from the dead because He touches the very core of their being, who experience the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives every day. A church who know that they belong to God and to no other.

As the chrysallis falls to the ground, empty and lifeless, while the beautiful butterfly within rises, colours resplendent, drawing gasps of admiration from all who behold; so those who deny God, His word, His power, His truth and His love will just drop away, useless, while the real church will arise, confident in the God she serves and adores, and drawing to her many who are desperate for reality, for truth, for love - for God.

And in this nation we will see, at last, the heart of God, burning, passionate, on fire, a God whose love is stronger than death, a God who longs for us, who longs for us, who longs for us to come to Him, to know Him, to revel in His love.


03 July 2008

What to do about the NHS?

A 60th birthday is a good time for a reappraisal - of purpose, scope, impact. Since its inception in 1944, much has changed, the challenges we face have changed and the NHS as it is just cannot meet them.

The percentage of the population over 60 is growing rapidly. The percentage of the population who are disabled is also growing. New technologies and medical advances have produced an ever increasing range, complexity and cost, of treatments which can be made available. Decades of consumerism has resulted in a mentality of 'rights' not responsibilities. There is an increasing prevalence of family breakdown, teenage pregnancy, and obesity.

The NHS as it is currently conceived just cannot meet these challenges. We need to rethink the following issues:

1. Whose responsibility are we?
The line of responsibility between state and the individual needs to move.

Elderly people are the responsiblity of their family, first and foremost. The state (aka NHS) should be involved as a support for these primary carers. It should not cast itself in the role of primary carer.

Teenage pregnancy, family breakdown, obesity - these are all the result of choices. Choices which have consequences. We need help, information, and equiping to make wise choices. We should not be protected from the consequences of our choices - or they are not really choices. We have free will, we need to take responsibility for our own life-styles.

The service offered by the NHS needs to change from 'what the NHS can do for you' to 'what the NHS can enable you to do'. The NHS has moved us from 'I need' to 'I want'. It now needs to move us to 'I can'.

2. State or society?
Government has grown rapidly since 1944 and now impinges on almost every area of our lives. Yes, we want help, information and tools to help us make better choices. But should this be provided by government? Or should it be provided by our families, friends, church, our local community?

3. National or Local?
The NHS is very good at acute care. It is not very good at care in the community. Social care and non-acute health care are two sides of the same coin - they should be combined. Let's apply the principle of subsidiarity. Specialist and acute care needs to be governed and operated at a national level. Non-specialist, non-acute community care can and should be governed and operated at a local level, combining with social care and responding to local needs, working with, and accountable to, local people.

Let the National Health Service do what it does best - acute, specialist medical treatments. Let a local health and social care service, working alongside the voluntary sector, do what it does better - caring for people in the local community.

01 July 2008

Political Correctness? You ain't seen nothing yet!

OK, so we think we're bad when it comes to political correctness - but take a look at Sweden. Apparently, an 8-year old boy who gave out invitations to his birthday party had them confiscated by the teacher because he had not invited the whole class.

A member of the Swedish Liberal party said 'the staff acted correctly, in a model way'. A newspaper poll showed that 56% believed a child should be free to choose who attends his party - and 44% backed the teacher...

You have been warned!

29 June 2008

Making God in our image

Interesting issue highlighted this week in 2 different places.

Joel Edwards (IDEA magazine) writes of the gay and lesbian Christian movements that, despite their obvious sincerity and acts of service, 'their version of God is one I simply do not recognize from 2,000 years of Scripture and tradition'. He is 'concerned that there is an attempt at trying to remake God in our image'.

Rabbi Miriam Berger (Saturday Times Register) hopes that the new gender-neutral prayerbook for Reform Jews 'allows people to construct their own belief and their own concept of God'.

We all know that we live in a consumerist society and this affects our attitudes to many other aspects of life. Relationships, for example, or time. But God? Surely He is in a different league?

Apparently not. It is uncomfortable for us to realise that God is sovereign. That we are subject to His reign, not He to ours; that He sets the rules, not us; that the definition of 'good' comes from Him and is applied to us, rather than the other way round.

The Bible tells us that God made us in His image. And therefore we have dignity and value and (inestimable) worth. This is a very different starting point from a secular worldview, which also ascribes dignity, value and worth to human beings but is less clear as to whence that value derives.

And this different starting point leads us along a very different path. We are not gods, we are creatures, created by God, for His pleasure. And He sets boundaries, moral boundaries, on our behaviour.

At first glance, this may seem to make us smaller but actually the very opposite is true.

As we realise that God is the centre of the universe, rather than ourselves, we become aware of someone far greater than we are - infinitely good, indescribably lovely, unutterably beautiful. Then, and only then, can we aspire to be who we truly are: human beings, fearfully and wonderfully made.

26 June 2008

Headlong hurtle into a federal Europe?

What will it take to stop the government's headlong hurtle into a federal Europe? The government's refusal to hold a referendum on the ratification of the EU treaty, despite a clear promise to do so, is the subject of a legal challenge. The Irish have rejected the treaty. The Czech's are not prepared to bet £3 that their Senate will say Yes.

And yet Gordon Brown continues blithely on, as he had some overriding mandate to do so. Which he does not.

I have never understood the enthusiasm of any British Prime Minister for making agreements which undermine, and threaten eventually to remove altogether, the sovereignty of this nation. We are a sovereign nation. We have a Queen and a Parliament. Why would we want to subsume ourselves under some other entity?

24 June 2008

carbon-dating: science or fiction?

Revealing answers in the Times Register this Saturday on the subject of carbon-dating and how scientists know whether is it correct.

The first writer tells us that, previously, other techniques of dating, such as rock-stratigraphy, indicated that the age of the Earth was several hundred million years. But, when carbon-dating was introduced, the Earth's age 'overnight, as it were, leapt to several billion years'.

And yet, according to writer number two, carbon-dating is only reliable for objects up to about 60,000 years old.

So, we are basing our understanding of the age of the Earth on what, exactly??

22 June 2008

Gay clergy - what are we doing?!

Very telling juxtaposition on the Faith pages of the Times this Saturday. Top of the page, Rev Dr Geoffrey Rowell on the Bible: 'the scriptures are normative for testing new teaching both normative and ethical'. I do agree. But directly below, Rev Richard Haggis is busy defending gay clergy and suggesting we put the matter to a vote of local lay members of the C of E.

Are we mad?

Can we not read the Bible, in which God tells us, in no uncertain terms, and through different people, centuries apart, that he finds the practice of homosexuality detestable? Not the people, let's be clear, but what they practice.

Do we not understand who the Church is? The bride of Christ, pure and holy. We are made for Jesus. Our highest calling is to worship Him and glorify Him. What right do we have to say that things are OK when He says they are not?

We are called to love and honour God. Number 1. And then we are called to love the people He has created and loves more than life itself. But we are not called to become like those who don't yet know God - if we do, then really we have nothing to offer them that they could not find elsewhere.

Let's honour God and let His light shine...

19 June 2008

What is the proper role of Government / Family / Church / Economy?

I went to a most interesting talk recently by Stuart Etherington, NCVO Chief Executive, on whether 'Civil society is in danger of being hugged to death by government, local and national'.

He described the growing importance of 'civil society', meaning those activities which are governed by neither the state nor the market and made up of both charities (rooted in philanthropy) and co-operatives (based on mutuality and self-help) and highlighted the focus by politicians in Great Britain on understanding how government should be engaging with civil society.

Should the state simply be smaller? Or do we need a radical rethink of the role of the state, especially in areas such as building communities and social capital, where the work of civil society , or 'the voluntary sector', is so effective.

Perhaps the role of the state in such areas is one of 'enabler' rather than 'doer' . If so, then the question is: How do we do this, what mechanisms can government use to enable the voluntary sector to do what it does best? How can government help us to help ourselves, and to help our neighbours?

Listening to all this, I thought back to a talk I heard many years ago, describing the various institutions of society - family, church, government and economy - each of which have their proper area of operation. If any of them expand to exceed this area or, indeed, shrink so that they no longer fulfil their role, then the whole of society suffers.

The speaker's contention, with which I agreed, was that the economy had gained an importance far greater than it should, and that the influence and status of both the family and the church had shrunk, to our detriment. This is reflected in David Cameron's speeches in recent months, suggesting that happiness rather than economic growth should be the measure of our success.

I think that the state has also exceeded its boundaries and is intruding into areas in which it should not be.

When the welfare state was set up in 1944, the state usurped the role of the church and, to some extent, that of the family, rather than complementing them. Now, faced with the challenges of an ageing population, advances in medical technology, widespread family breakdown and an increasingly fragmented society, the government is finding it cannot cope alone and is turning to the voluntary sector for help.

Clearly, the family, church government and market all need to work together for the benefit of us all. The national debates currently taking place, on the interaction between the state and the voluntary sector, on the scope and the remit of the NHS, and on the place of Christianity in our national life, are all attempts to address this fundamental question:

What is the proper role and remit of the institutions of society: the government, the family, the church and the economy?

Mary Douglas

17 June 2008

42 day detention - Protection v. Freedom

Tony Robinson's Crime and Punishment programme does it again! How topical can you be. Tony describes the setting up of the Magna Carta, which decreed that no-one can be detained without trial for more than 24 hours. 24 hours! And here we are considering 42 days...

The BBC website points out that it was as recently as 2000 that we introduced the basic 48 hours detention, with the ability to extend it to 7 days if the courts gave permission. In 2003 this increased to 14 days, in 2006 to 28 days.

So, in just 8 years, we have moved from 24 hours to a possible 42 days.

What are we thinking? Do we hold our freedom so lightly that we are prepared to throw it away.

Who needs terrorists to take away our freedom. Just intimidate us for a few years and we will do it all by ourselves!

16 June 2008

Drug free prisons are 'impossible'

There is a chilling sentence in the recent report on drugs in prisons: 'The creation of drug free prisons is an expensive option and was not considered to be practical in the current resource climate'.

Any government which accepts this does not deserve to govern.

Firstly, if the 'current resource climate' is preventing us doing something important which needs doing then let's change the climate! Let's stop wasting money on countless consultations and conferences and quangos and spend the money instead on something which really will make a difference to the lives of some of the most desperate individuals and their families.

Secondly, this statement is flawed even on its own terms. The same report estimates that, over their lifetime, a drug addict costs the taxpayer more than £800,000. So, let's have an 'Invest To Save'. Invest money now in drug treatment and rehabilitation and therapy and joined-up management and save the taxpayer countless millions of pounds in the long-term. Not to mention the radical impact this would have on the lives of the people and communities a government is elected to serve.

12 June 2008

Good news for street children in Asia

A bank run for street children by street children...

I was delighted to read recently that Children's Development Banks are springing up in some of the most needy parts of Asia, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

First set up in 2001 by the NGO 'Butterflies', they enable street children to save whatever money they earn, rather than having it stolen. They also help the children to pick up valuable life skills, proritising their needs, setting goals and learning how to use their money to achieve those goals.

11 June 2008

Changing attitudes in Japan?

Anyone who has visited Japan and, like me, been deeply impressed by the sense of tradition and respect and self-discipline, will have been shocked by a new book by Professor Yoshihiko Morotomi of Meiji University describing the unruly behaviour of parents of school children across Japan. Teachers tell of a major change in the attitude of parents. Instead of respectfully supporting teachers, they are now far more likely to plot together to sack a teacher who has complained about their child.

Apparently, the parents think of themselves as consumers, standing up for their rights...

I think of them somewhat differently. Never mind the academic success they so clearly seek for their offspring. What values and attitudes, exactly, are they passing on to their children?

10 June 2008

Moral, Without a Compass

The title says it all. The Church of England report published this Monday and entitled 'Moral, Without a Compass' was featured in the Saturday Times this weekend, on the front page, leading article and a two page spread.

Researchers for the 180-page report approached every C of E bishop and more than 250 MP's, peers and academics. Every respondent agreed that there was a deep 'religious illiteracy' on the part of government. The report paints a picture of a government so committed to a seculaer agenda that it wilfully ignores the enormous contribution of Christians, both as congregations and as individuals, to Britains's civic and charitable life.

The Times' Leader points out that, before the welfare state, it was the Church who provided healthcare, education, housing and protection. And recognises that the Church 'was, and is, fundamental to Britain's values and identity'.

Well done, The Times. Now all we need is politicians who have the courage to recognise that Christianity is the foundation of this nation we love.

09 June 2008

Innocent until proven guilty - unless you're on the DNA database

Apparently the only protection for innocent people who have had their DNA details stored against their will is the European Court. The EC's Grand Chamber of Human Rights is to hear the case of two men in Sheffield who were arrested in 2001 and had their fingerprints and DNA samples taken. Although they were cleared of any crime, their samples were not removed from the database.

Mr Lake, Lincolnshire's Chief Constable and former chairman of the database, is concerned that the removal from the database of the DNA details of all those who were arrested but not convicted will prevent the detection of some of the most serious crimes.

I am concerned about the principle which underpins our system of justice - that we are innocent until proven guilty. If Britain's National DNA database is populated primarily by those who have committed crimes, it is not unreasonable for those who, in the eyes of the law, have not committed any crime to want their details removed.

The purpose of the database is clearly to help find criminals. The more information the police have, the better they can do the job of finding criminals. The issue is of balancing one human right (to privacy) against another (freedom from harm).

The question is: Do we want a database which holds the DNA details of every one of us - or not?

05 June 2008

Blair's bid to unite religions totally misses the point

Tony Blair misses the point totally, completely and utterly in his bid to unite the world's religions to do good for the world.

For 2 reasons.

Firstly, religion is the formal expression of man's search for truth, the man-made overlay of a spiritual urge deep within all of us. To try and harness 'religion' to serve some other end, however worthy, is to put the cart before the horse. God made man, not the other way round. The most important thing each of us can do is to seek God. Seeking God is not a means to some other end.

Secondly, to try and unite Christianity with any other religion is to betray the core tenet of Christianity - that God, as Christ Jesus, came into this world to live and die and rise again, and that He needed to do this for us to be able to regain the relationship with God for which we were created but have each thrown away through our desire to be god of our own life.

When Jesus said, 'I am the way, the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father but through Me', it was not empty words. If there were any other way for us to get to God then Jesus would not have had to die on the cross. And, for sure, if it was not absolutely necessary for Him to die on that cross, to suffer the physical agony of crucifixion and the spiritual agony of separation from His Father, He would not have done so.

For Blair, or anyone else, to try and 'unite' a religion which tells of God coming to mankind, of God making the first move, of God making the ultimate sacrifice in order to win back the people He created and loves so so so much, with any other religion, none of which, however sincere their followers may be, can make that claim, is the deepest insult imaginable.

Justice being restored

Excellent first programme in a new series on Channel 4 this week (Tony Robinson's Crime and Punishment 1st June 7pm), describing how the legal system has developed in Great Britain over the centuries. I was particularly interested to hear him say that, from around 597 AD with the arrival of St Augustine, Christianity was a major influence and that our system of law was built on the Ten Commandments.

And fascinated to learn that around 924 AD, when all England was united under one legal system, the primary method of law enforcement was the 'Hue and Cry'. If anyone saw a crime being committed, they were legally obliged to shout 'stop thief' (or murderer or whatever) and everyone over the age of 15 was legally obliged to form a possey to catch the thief. The programme then showed a 'have a go hero' as being the 21st century equivalent. Indeed.

Furthermore, if the criminal escaped the 'Hue and Cry', then they were outlawed - literally, outside the law. If found, they no longer enjoyed the protection of the law.

I am glad to see that the attitude which has prevailed in recent years of political correctness, where it has seemed that the law affords more protection to the perpetrator of a crime than to the victim, is changing. And we are beginning to understand again that each and every one of us is responsible for the well-being of our own community.

The tide is turning in this nation. Justice is being restored.

04 June 2008

Helping children to stay with their families

I was very encouraged by an article in the Saturday Times this weekend (31 May P4), describing a scheme whereby volunteers with no experience of social work are helping families of children on the at-risk register.

All the children in the families who have been helped have been taken off the risk register. Most importantly, in contrast to the national average whereby 2/3 of children go back onto the register, ALL the children have remained off the register.

The scheme, 'Volunteers in Child Protection', is being piloted in Bromley and Sunderland by the charity Community Service Volunteers. They are now talking to several other local authorities wanting to implement this in their area.

The volunteers are a total cross-section, of all ages, male and female, and from all parts of the community. They support the parent(s), helping them to develop a routine at home and work out how best to manage their children's behaviour. CSV requires a commitment of at least a year, usually four hours a week at whatever times suit the family they are working with. They say that the key is to help the mother to do things for herself, working our her own solutions, and not become dependent on the volunteer.

I do hope this spreads and is equally successful across the country. I remember talking to a very experienced foster carer who said that, however well the children she fostered were doing, she was still aware that what they actually wanted was to go home. The very best thing for a child is to remain with their own family and the more we can do to help that the better.

Mary Douglas

02 June 2008

Belief in God

I watched the Channel 4 Dispatches programme 'In God's Name' recently, originally broadcast on 19th May. As a committed Christian myself, I was encouraged in some parts and dismayed in others. We do not always do ourselves a favour in what we say, or do not say, and in the way we say it.

However, what really disturbed me was the voice-over from the interviewer. It was biased and patronising, and did not convey any real attempt to understand, but rather to alienate. I am so aware that to understand a world-view different from our own is very hard. But if a TV programme is to help us to do that, then it needs to let the people being portrayed speak for themselves, not undermine everything they say even as they say it.

Believing in God is not a minority activity. The majority of people in this world do so. It is only in the Western world, and especially in Great Britain at the moment, that we seem to find ourselves in a society where to believe in God, to really believe in God, is belittled as somehow delusional, or dangerous, or inadequate or old-fashioned.

And the consequences of this are clear for all to see - broken families; young people, disillusioned and aimless, roaming the streets engaging in violent and anti-socail behaviour at a time of their lives when they should be at their most idealistic and passionate; older people, alone in the world, alienated and separated from their families and communities who, in other societies, value and honour people in their old age.

But this is only a recent phenomenon. Up until about 60 years ago, there was a common understanding that our lives are rooted in God, that we depend on Him for our very existence, that His words are words of wisdom, to be treasured.

And what can change so rapidly in one direction can change just as rapidly in another. In the grand sweep of history, this secular worldview is just a temporary blip.

Children need a mother and a father

How can this nation expect to thrive when those who govern us do not understand that every child needs a father?

I struggle to understand how a majority of MP's could reject Iain Duncan-Smith's amendment on 20th May, seeking to ensure that children conceived through IVF have a father figure in their lives. Common-sense apart, the evidence given to the Joint Committee on the Human Tissues and Embryos (Draft) Bill, the precursor to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, was so clear.

The Centre for Social Justice, in the report to the Committee, said that the state should not deny the child’s need for a father, citing numerous social research studies which challenge the notion that deliberately planning to have fatherless children can be in their long-term interests. Some of them:

Carlson (2006): father – but not mother – involvement is a key predictor of teenage behavioural problems

Amato (1994): regardless of the quality of the mother-child relationship, the closer children were to their fathers, the happier, more satisfied and less distressed they reported being. This holds for both sons and daughters

O’Neil (2002) a longitudinal study which took a life-course perspective, showed that children living without their biological fathers are twice as likely to be in poverty and/or in poor health; teenagers without their fathers are more likely to be teen parents, offend, smoke, take drugs, play truant, face exclusions and leave school early; and young adults who grow up not living with their fathers are more likely to be unemployed, have low incomes, experience homelessness, go to jail, enter and dissolve cohabiting unions and have children themselves outside marriage.

Many eminent people had wise words to say to the Committee.

Professor Almond, Emeritus Professor of Moral and Social Philosophy at the University of Hull urged caution when tampering with something as fundamental as having parents of each sex.

Dr Andrew Fergusson of the Christian Medical Fellowship: God’s ideal intention for life is for a child to have a mother and a father; having a child is not a right.

The Bishop of Swindon, Rt Revd Dr Lee Rayfield: this Bill relates to a deliberate decision to bring a child into the world without a father.

Professor John Haldane, Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Centre for Studies for Ethics, Philisophy and Public Affairs at the University of St Andrews: 'To engineer a situation in which one of those [mother or father] is to be absent is to wrong a child'.

All this is NOT discriminating against those who are doing their best to raise a child on their own. It is simply recognising that there is increasing evidence that children thrive best in a family with both a mother and a father.

If the best interests of children is the main concern of legislation, it is our duty to recognise such differences and frame the law accordingly. We owe it to these children.

Mary Douglas

07 May 2008

The taboo delusion

The atheist author Sam Harris makes a remarkable statement in the middle of this article on Huffington Post website:

I could list other examples of encounters with editors and publishers, as can many writers, all illustrating a single fact: While it remains taboo to criticize religious faith in general, it is considered especially unwise to criticize Islam.

He certainly provides plenty of examples of why it might be unwise to criticise Islam, or at least extremists variants of Islam, but he provides no evidence at all for the idea of a taboo on criticism of religious faith in general.

Sam Harris, along with Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins have together sold millions of books by attacking religion in the most vituperative terms. Their works have been heavily promoted by major publishers and reviewed extensively throughout the mainstream media. So where exactly is the taboo?

Self-proclaimed rationalists like Mr Harris should take care not to make such blatantly irrational statements.

30 April 2008

Compare and contrast

Yesterday's Times reported on BBC censorship of a party political broadcast by a small Christian political party standing in tomorrow's London elections.

The BBC is facing a High Court challenge over its decision to censor a
party political broadcast in the run-up to Thursday’s local elections.

A Christian party has begun legal action after the corporation insisted
on changes to a short film in which the party voiced opposition to the building
of Europe’s biggest mosque next to the site of the 2012 Olympics.
The BBC demanded a number of changes to the broadcast:
The Christian Choice election broadcast would have described Tablighi Jamaat as
“a separatist Islamic group” before welcoming that some “moderate Muslims” were opposed to the mosque complex.

The BBC refused to accept “separatist” — the corporation asked for “controversial” instead — and barred the use of “moderate Muslims” because the phrase implied that Tablighi Jamaat was less than moderate.
No doubt, the BBC would say they are only being sensitive to a minority religious group. But contrast this sensitivity with the BBC's treatment of another minority religious group, in this case the Catholic organisation Opus Dei: The Spectator has the full story.

13 February 2008

Another good day for free speech

Last July, a court rejected a libel case against a Danish politician who had accused some Islamic Faith Community members of treason when they travelled to the Middle East to publicize a Danish newspaper's publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.

This blog hailed it as a good day for free speech. Well today was yet another good day for free speech as the cartoon that sparked violent protests was reprinted today.

Danish Muhammad cartoon reprinted

Danish newspapers have reprinted one of several caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad which sparked violent protests across the Muslim world two years ago.

They say they wanted to show their commitment to freedom of speech after an alleged plot to kill one of the cartoonists behind the drawings.
Campaigners for freedom worldwide should rejoice at the move by the newspaper, which was emulated by national television and other newspapers also showing the cartoon. The editor's say that they will always remain defiant:
"We are doing this to document what is at stake in this case, and to unambiguously back and support the freedom of speech that we as a newspaper will always defend."
It is good to see that the over-the-top p.c. madness has not reached every newspaper in the world!

Our Chinese "masters"?

Is the West being effectively being placed under Chinese rule?

British Olympic chiefs are to force athletes to sign a contract promising not to speak out about China's appalling human rights record – or face being banned from travelling to Beijing. The move – which raises the spectre of the order given to the England football team to give a Nazi salute in Berlin in 1938 – immediately provoked a storm of protest.

The Mail on Sunday is certainly giving that impression - but surely this isn't China's doing? It's us, right? Surely China would have better sense than to appear to be gagging British athletes?
Chinese Olympic officials said yesterday they supported bans on athletes engaging in political protests ... Chinese dictators, no matter how obsessive or efficient, will be unable to stage a politics-free Games on their own. They will need help in suppressing democracy advocates, Tibetan activists, and Falun Gong adherents, and so far some Western nations seem willing to lend a hand.
Gordon Chang over at commentarymagazine.com says otherwise. China has been able to suppress it's opposition thus far becaus they have been left largely on their own. Now, though, with the eyes of the world on them, they need a little help, from us. And so it seems as though the choice is clear for our athletes: shut up or stay at home!

And here's me thinking that we lived in a Country which championed free speech!

12 February 2008

Illegal downloading

People in the UK who go online and illegally download music and films may have their internet access cut under plans the government is considering. A draft consultation Green Paper suggests internet service providers would be required to take action over users who access pirated material.
The BBC is reporting that the Government at last appears to be heading into doing something about people who illegally download material off the internet.

It is a long way from fruition, however I hope that this legislation is passed. Illegal downloading is nothing short of theft - which is illegal under both British law and God's law - and more needs to be done to stop such behaviour.

I do wonder, though, if this will be an effective deterrent. Perhaps rather cynically, I doubt it.

08 February 2008

Biofuel Emissions Undercounted

If 10,000 square metres of Brazilian rainforest is cleared to make way for soya beans – which are used to make biodiesel – over 700,000 kilograms of carbon dioxide is released. The saving generated by the resulting biodiesel will not cancel that out for around 300 years. In the case of peat land rainforest in Indonesia, which is being cleared to grow palm oil, the debt will take over 400 years to repay.
The New Scientist reports on two more studies that show again how mistaken the environmental lobby have been to campaign for more widespread use of biofuels. Somehow I doubt that will stop the madness quite yet, however...

ABC's Shari'a Row

The Archbishop of Canterbury has clearly overstepped the mark, once again, with his latest misunderstanding of the nature of Islam. However, Conservative MP Mark Pritchard is surely equally mistaken to suggest that the church should not get involved in politics.

The Bible is full of political guidance with contemporary significance on issues as diverse as education and economics, criminal justice and land reform, welfare and international relations — and, indeed, immigration and social cohesion. Rowan Williams' mistake was not his getting involved in politics, but his apparent confusion over some fundamentals of religion.

06 February 2008

Wind Power - Cui Bono?

The cost of a kilowatt hour of electricity from an onshore wind turbine, including the cost of stand-by generation, was 5.4p. The corresponding figure for an offshore turbine is a daunting 7.2p. Gas, nuclear and coal-fuelled power stations can do it for 2.2p, 2.3p and 2.5p respectively...

While the turbine owners count their profits, the consumers foot the bill via increased energy prices. When Alistair Darling recently banged the table about the 15% rise in bills of N-Power (amongst others) he kept quiet about what they said in return – that about half the increases are directly attributable to the Government's green agenda.
Following the surprise discovery that wind farms make overflying planes invisible to radar, the Spectator Coffee House had yet another interesting post on the government's favoured renewable energy source yesterday.

03 February 2008

Britain's Islamic Rule

Husbands with multiple wives have been given the go-ahead to claim extra welfare benefits following a year-long Government review, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.

Even though bigamy is a crime in Britain, the decision by ministers means that polygamous marriages can now be recognised formally by the state, so long as the weddings took place in countries where the arrangement is legal.

The outcome will chiefly benefit Muslim men with more than one wife, as is permitted under Islamic law.
In actual fact, the latest guidelines reflect no change on the old guidelines, about which we commented last April.

The Conservatives are surely right to accuse the Government of offering preferential treatment to Muslims, and of setting a precedent that will lead to demands for further changes in British law, as we noted last year:
Presumably there are also (or soon will be) implications for things such as pension rights and exemption from death duties? Once the state recognises these, surely it is only a matter of time before "legislative creep" forces a change in the law upon us.
Like the rest of the Islamic world, our once-Christian country now has one law for Muslims and another for non-Muslims. Allāhu Akbar?

31 January 2008

BBC's Atlantic Stirrings

I was amused by a story on the Today programme just before 7am this morning highlighting a new study in Nature that claims to show a link between the frequency and severity of Atlantic hurricanes and rising sea temperatures. Amused on three counts: Firstly, no attempt was made to ask how this study sits with contradictory claims made last week that actual records of hurricanes over the last 150 years show an inverse relationship between the two; i.e. that increasing temperature in fact results in fewer hurricanes.

Secondly, no attempt was made to ask how this study can be reconciled with another published also by Nature last year showing that there is little correlation between Atlantic hurricanes and temperatures in the Atlantic but that there is, again, an inverse correlation with El Niño-related warming in the eastern Pacific.

Thirdly, that the scientist interviewed categorically asserted that there was no demonstrable link to claims of anthropogenic global warming but rather the observed 0.7°C warming was within natural fluctuations known as the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation.

Thus the BBC's latest evidence in support of its position on human-induced global warming evaporated before anyone could even complain about the lack of rigour in its questioning...

28 January 2008


Not that anyone is dumbing down, of course, but if new vocational qualifications were going to be credibly introduced, you would have thought the companies selected to launch the scheme would have considerably better reputations than a junk food chain, a rail service that has not exactly enjoyed the most positive media coverage over the years, and a virtually unknown airline that sounds like freebee.

Or is it April fools' day and I've simply missed the joke? What next - Buy one qualification, get one free? ( Will that be a first class or a double, sir? - Actually, I was rather hoping for a K or P...)

27 January 2008

Labour's Ethical Rebels

In the latest tussle over the government's controversial Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, that would allow the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos and allow children to be born by IVF without a father's involvement, the Observer reports that senior Labour Catholics are demanding a free vote when the bill returns to the Commons after Easter, claiming that the ethical issues it raises are matters of conscience. Among the those wanting to be led by their consciences rather than blindly following the party line are Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly, Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy, and Defence Secretary Des Browne. Others apparently include a Northern Ireland Office minister and three Labour whips.

Even though our party machines do not like their members to think freely, on this issue perhaps more than any other under current debate, it would surely be right for our elected representatives to be allowed to stand up and be counted for their own personal beliefs.

26 January 2008

Climate Science Is Settled

Certain authorities keep trying to convince us that the science of climate change is settled. So why is it that climate scientists continue to reach opposing conclusions?

You may remember research from last spring indicating that increases in vertical wind sheer – differences between the upper and lower levels of the atmosphere in wind direction and speed – could counter-balance the effects of warming waters. Although conventional wisdom suggests that global warming could result in more powerful storms, examination of 150 years of hurricane records in fact reveals a small decline in hurricanes making landfall in the United States as oceans warmed. This latest inconvenient observation apparently triggered "lively debate" at the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society.

Little wonder the majority of people remain sceptical† about the severity of claims made by politicians and the media!

† A global survey conducted last year concluded that just one in five believe human causes are the main factors driving climate change.

24 January 2008

Beyond Consent

At a time when an “opt-out” system for organ donation is attracting strong opposition, it is extraordinary that deriving a clone or other embryo from a non-consenting child or older patient should be seen as acceptable ethically. There is a big difference between authorising research on one’s own cells alone, as with standard adult stem-cell research, and authorising the creation and destruction of human embryos or hybrid human entitites. Consent for the latter, highly controversial practices should never be presumed.
On Monday, a group of scientists wrote a letter in The Times objecting to a proposed ban on the generation of embryos in stem cell research using cells for which the donors did not, or could not, give specific consent. Today the paper publishes an excellent group response, picking up on some of the same ethical issues this blog highlighted earlier this month on the possible use of stem-cells from non-consenting adults and children.

Read the whole letter at Times Online.

23 January 2008

Do You Laugh Or Cry?

Three Little Cowboy Builders [Credit: BBC]

Is it true that all builders are cowboys, builders get their work blown down, and builders are like pigs?
Well, obviously, no. But that doesn't mean we should ban the classic fairy tale Three Little Pigs or its digital retelling, Three Little Cowboy Builders, does it?

Unless, of course, you're a politically correct government agency paranoid that Muslim fanatics are about to burn down your building or call for your death. In which case, you would be quite right to be concerned that "the use of pigs raises cultural issues" and would be "too offensive" to the Muslim community.

As the book's creative director, Anne Curtis has said, does that mean that secondary schools can not teach Animal Farm because it features pigs? Once again, it is quite clear that some religions animals are more equal than others.

Source: BBC

Family Flat-Earthers

  • Two-thirds of people (66%) think there is little difference socially between being married and living together.
  • Only one in four people (28%) think married couples make better parents than unmarried ones.
Reading parts of the British Social Attitudes 24th Report, published today by the National Centre for Social Research, reminds me of those in the past who insisted the world was flat, despite any evidence to the contrary.

People may like to think there is little difference socially between marriage and cohabitation or that unmarried couples provide parenting as good as married ones, but the facts do not support such misplaced impressions. As I have noted previously, children born to married parents have significantly better chances in life than those born to unmarried parents: just 8% of married couples split up within five years of the birth of a child compared to 25% of those who marry after birth and 52% of cohabitees. The evidence increasingly shows that children born to married parents tend to be physically and mentally healthier than other children, less accident-prone, and less likely to self-harm. They perform better in school, become sexually active at a later age, are less likely to have behavioural problems, suffer depression, or turn to drugs, smoking or heavy drinking, or to become involved in criminal activities. Furthermore, children from cohabiting households are 33 times more likely to suffer serious abuse than where the child lives with married parents and children under two have a 100 times greater risk of being killed by step-parents than by genetic parents.

Perhaps this is why other surveys indicate that 94% of teenage girls want to get married by the time they are 25, 89% want to get married before they have children, and half of sexually active teenage girls say they regret the experience.

Where To Start?

Sometimes there's so much going on, it's hard to know where to start ... the three year delay of ID cards, the global stock market crash, the effective nationalisation of Northern Rock and unwinding of the government's "stable" economy, the not so liberal LibDems to vote against any referendum on the European Constitution Lisbon Treaty. What do you think of the week's big issues?

20 January 2008

Collective Worship in Schools

Commenting on government proposals that will most likely abolish the statutory obligation upon schools to hold a daily act of collective worship, Cranmer asks, "is it any coincidence that those schools which take the Christian daily act of collective worship seriously, and do it very well, are invariably those with the highest educational standards, yielding best academic results, turning out some of the most reasonable and most excellent contributors to society?"

As we noted last month, the question is why this should be so. The Church of England's chief education officer suggested it "helps embed strong discipline, a caring attitude, and a sense of purpose." Looking for political guidance, we find that when he was Education Secretary, Alan Johnson noted collective worship in schools "can provide an opportunity not only to worship God but also to consider spiritual and moral issues and to explore their own beliefs. Collective worship can also help to develop community spirit, promote a common ethos and shared values and reinforce positive attitudes."

Assuming that still to be the case, don't we need this for our children now even more than ever?

16 January 2008

Anyone Remember Sudan?

Last summer seems such a long time ago. Riding high on a tide of misplaced hope, the Prime Minister hailed the "historic and unprecedented" UN resolution that we were supposed to believe would bring peace to Sudan. Now, in the cold depths of winter, just a fraction of the promised peacekeeping (sic) "force" have been deployed and government planes continue to drop bombs on Darfur, turning some areas into "no go" zones for aid workers:

Sudanese government planes bombed rebel positions in Darfur, rebels and international sources said on Monday of the latest violence that has turned parts of West Darfur into a "no go" zone for aid workers. [Reuters]
Just last week the Sudanese military admitted that its forces were involved in an attack on peacekeepers in Darfur. America and Britain have again accused Sudan of blocking the UN mission. It wasn't supposed to be this way...

13 January 2008

State Sanctioned Grave Robbing?

I see the Prime Minister has now backed the controversial proposals I referred to earlier this week for everyone to be placed automatically on the organ donor register.

I merely repeat the question I posed when England's chief medical officer suggested the idea last July: Do we really want to give the State presumed ownership of our body parts?

Next thing you know, Big Brother will be after our identities...!

08 January 2008

Phillips on Barack Obama

I notice a lot of people are visiting this site by searching for information about Barack Obama. You might therefore be interested in a piece in the Spectator by Melanie Phillips entitled Princess Obama. Here are the central paragraphs:

Welcome to Planet Diana. It was only with the death of the People’s Princess that the extent of Britain’s transformation from a country of reason, intelligence, stoicism, self-restraint and responsibility into a land of credulousness, emotional incontinence, sentimentality, irresponsibility and self-obsession became shatteringly apparent. Princess Diana was an icon of the new Britain because she embodied precisely those latter characteristics.

It became clear that politicians could score remarkable short-term success if they too got in touch with their inner trauma and felt everyone else’s pain. Bill Clinton (hideous irony for Hillary) was the first to realise this and made it his political signature. Tony Blair, whose lip periodically quivered with precision timing, had it in spades. David Cameron has it; so too does Obama.

The effect is electric, but short-lived. That is because Dianafication is essentially empty, amoral, untruthful and manipulative; eventually voters see through it and realise they have been played for suckers. But while it lasts -- and it creates presidents and prime ministers -- reason doesn’t get a look in. Warm fuzzy feelings win hands down because they anaesthetise reality and blank out altogether those difficult issues which require difficult decisions. Obama appears to be on the wrong side of just about every important issue going; indeed, were he to be elected president he would be a danger to the free world. But hey – the guy makes people feel good about themselves; he stands for hope, love, reconciliation, youthfulness and fairies at the bottom of the garden.

Umbilical Cord Blood Use

MP David Burrowes wants doctors to offer parents the option of storing their baby's umbilical cord blood. At present, the NHS takes about 2,000 samples each year and around 10,000 people are said to have been cured of blood cell disorders using this cord blood. However, there have been cases where the cord blood bank has struggled to find matches, especially among ethnic minority groups. From that perspective, increasing the size of the bank seems like a sensible proposal.

I note, though, that it is also hoped that the stem cells contained in cord blood might one day be used to treat diseases such as leukaemia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Given the questions that many still have over stem cell research, as with proposed ideas to tackle the shortage of organ donors, there is an issue of presumed consent. There would therefore need to be a clear distinction made between permission for storage only and additional permission for use of the cord blood in research.

06 January 2008

Free Speech Under Threat

Apologies to everyone who has visited during the past week, expecting to find new comment for discussion and debate. I started a new job and had hoped to be able to continue blogging but have been to do anything very much on the computer at all! Life should settle down again in about a week though whether I'll be able to keep up the daily posts remains to be seen. So if anyone is interested in joining a team of bloggers for The Difference, do contact me via email.

In the meantime, my most recommended blog post of the past week is Archbishop Cranmer's British blogger to be arrested?:

While British mosques are free to distribute books and other materials that contain hate and disdain towards non-Muslims (and do so with impunity); and imams quote from the Qur’an vast passages which preach hatred, violence and paedophilia (and do so with impunity), a British blogger is to be arrested for daring to criticise Islam and Islamism. ...

It is actually difficult to see how Lionheart may be arrested for stirring up racial hatred, but there may be prima facie evidence under the Religious Hatred Bill . This could easily be deployed to challenge what may be termed the ‘Counter-jihad’ blogosphere. And even more concerning is the fact that as we move towards a ‘harmonised’ legal system throughout the EU, Lionheart could be arrested in the UK under an EU warrant and extradited to any EU country province which happened to find his writings ‘xenophobic’.

01 January 2008

NHS Bill of Rights

A new constitution for the NHS, proposed by the Government, would set out for the first time the rights and responsibilities linked to entitlement to NHS care. However, as we enter the year of the health service's 60th anniversary, does transforming it into "an NHS which is more personal and responsive to individual needs" really mean it will cease being free at the point of delivery for all and become a conditional provider of health services — more personal and responsive only to the needs of those who do not struggle with issues such as over-eating and smoking? Or, if the NHS is to survive, is this a necessary compromise in an age when an increasing number of patients expect their taxes to entitle them to access an ever-increasing range of expensive treatments and an ever-increasing choice of optional extras?

Unashamed Hypocrisy

Benazir's death may offer new hope for democratic values: rights, the rule of law, and law enforcement.

Benazir Bhutto gave Pakistan false hope of these enlightened values two decades ago. In a shocking display of ineptitude, Pakistan's first woman prime minister failed to pass a single piece of major legislation during her first 20 months in power. According to Amnesty International, Bhutto's particular brand of democracy while in office - in the words of historian William Dalrymple, "elective feudalism" - brought some of the world's highest numbers of extrajudicial killings, torture, and custodial deaths. Transparency International characterized hers as one of the world's most corrupt governments.
For an alternative analysis of the implications of Benazir Bhutto's assassination for Pakistan, check out Bhutto's true colors in the IHT.