Archive for category Politics

Different refugees, same scare story

A few weeks ago, the Daily Star ran a fairly shameful piece which claimed that “Thousands of illegal immigrants will flee riot-torn Egypt and flood to Britain, the leader of Nato has warned” even though the Nato Secretary-General had been talking about what may happen to the whole of the EU (not Britain in particular) if unrest in North Africa damaged the Middle East peace process. Tabloid Watch has a very good takedown of that story.

Anyway, today its stablemate the Daily Express has a very similar piece, this time about the situation in Libya: UN tells Britain to open its doors to refugees.

BRITAIN faces a wave of migrants from Libya after a demand from the UN yesterday that Europe opens its borders to refugees.

The article appears to be based to be based on an interview with Baroness Amos, who leads the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, on the Today programme yesterday. As quoted by the Express, she said:

“In asking for the borders of neighbouring countries like Tunisia and Egypt to stay open, it is important that EU borders also stay open.

“I know the EU countries are going through a difficult financial time but they are still much better off than people who are fleeing a violent and difficult situation in Libya.

“We will continue to ask the EU and neighbouring countries to keep their borders open.”

This is a less a “demand” and a more a very politely worded “If you wouldn’t mind…“; the European Union’s borders are already open to refugees fleeing Libya, and have been since the start. More importantly, she doesn’t mention Britain once. Nothing here supports the Express‘s claim that a “wave” of Libyan migrants is heading that way – it would after all be very difficult for anyone displaced by the fighting (almost certainly without access to much money) to, at short notice in a country with virtually no infrastructure, travel all the way from Libya to Britain, when there are other countries much nearer – not just Tunisia and Egypt but Italy and Spain as well.

Indeed, the question she was answering makes it clear that this isn’t about Britain at all, it’s about Mediterranean countries who actually would expect to receive some refugees from the conflict:

What about the role of the European Union, both in the short and in the longer term? If there’s going to be a large number of people who are displaced and who are very close to the European Union’s southern border, it does sort of raise a whole set of new questions, doesn’t it, over the way in which the EU deals with people who are often very desperate and trying to get into the EU?

Unless the UK has suddenly become part of Europe’s southern border, none of this has anything to do with migration to Britain. The Daily Express has co-opted an ongoing human rights crisis and turned it into yet another immigration scare story. Even the Daily Mail, not normally known for its balanced coverage of stories about refugees and asylum, has managed to be reasonable about the situation in Libya.

Sure enough, while the Mail has a mixture of comments both sympathetic and unsympathetic to the refugees, only one comment on the Express‘s article doesn’t demand that we “SEND EM ALL BACK”* – and that comment is just pointing out that the UN asked, it didn’t demand. The other comments look like this:

I’d like to tell the UN where they can stick this proposal – and it wouldn’t be anywhere pleasant. Libya & its people are not our problem; we have a shortage of decent jobs & affordable housing for our own people, so letting in yet more foreigners is preposterous. These people need to stay in Libya & weather the storm.

If this does happen,people we must act not just chat on paper sites.This country is dieing and cameron is no doctor.More mouths more human rights to pander to and more death on our streets.The world can go stuff itself my england has had a running sore since labour got into power,IMMIGRANTS.Increase foreign aid dave,well his big society must refer to the big foreign society that darkens our shores.Their will be blood,I really hope the bnp in power sends them all packing,I’ll be there waving them a good british clear off.Two fingers optional.

NOW IS THE TIME TO TELL THESE MIGRANT WORKERS TO GO BACK TO THEIR OWN COUNTRIES. WE IN THE UK ARE FED UP OF BEING DUMPED ON BY THE REST OF THE WORLD AND ESPECIALLY THE EU.
THE ROMANS HAD A GREAT IDEA A CENSUS MAKING ALL IT’S PEOPLE GO BACK TO THEIR PLACE OF BIRTH SOMETHING THAT LEADING POLITCIANS SHOULD THINK ABOUT FOR TODAYS SOCIETY.

Oh joy. Why is it always us that get told what to do regarding refugees? We already have 1.5 million from labors criminal actions plus a further 1 million illegals. The vast majority of these are Muslim and the chances are that Libyan, Egyptian and Tunisian are Muslim as well. We can no longer support the huge number of migrants that want to come here and seriously put the religious balance at risk. I have a suggestion for the UN. Get Russia to take them. I would think that if the immigrants were not going to Western Europe but to some place out on the Steppes they might prefer to stay where they are and rebuild their country.

I’m sure that has nothing to do with the misleading headline, which seems carefully calculated to rile people up, right?

* There’s one other comment that’s sort of sympathetic, but, err…

However, refugees are refugees – not ‘asylum seekers, potential residents, parasites on society or disruptive elements’; they should be treated as guests and behave as such.

Moreover, while guests in a country they should be looking to return home as soon as possible – and if the international community deems that their home country is run by an ‘oppressive regime’ then these refugees sould be armed, trained and sent back to their home countries as the spearhead of a UN force to liberate their kinsmen.

That would definitely prevent the situation escalating into civil war, right? Right?

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The Daily Mail guide to being a crappy person

Sometimes I wonder if the papers are specifically trying to legitimise being a rubbish romantic partner by misinterpreting scientific studies. Last month we had  The Telegraph suggesting that fathers should leave parenting to the mother, today we’ve got The Daily Mail telling us that “Behind every successful man is a woman keeping out of the way” (no, I don’t know who’s supposed to be behind successful women, gay men or single men either).

Luckily, for once, the study this is based on is freely available online: Outsourcing Effort to Close Others by Gráinne Fitzsimons and Eli Finkel.

The researchers carried out three experiments, only one of which is actually relevant. Women were asked to think about how their partners supported them in achieving either their health goals or their career goals, answered a questionnaire about their fitness regime, then were then asked how committed they were to their partner. They found that women who thought about how their partner helped them with their fitness planned, on average, to spend less time on exercise, especially if the women were close to their partners.*

It’s modestly interesting, but it doesn’t suggest that “behind every successful man is a woman keeping out of the way” for a number of reasons.

First of all, it didn’t measure whether being supported actually made people less motivated. Thinking in depth about a partner’s support may make you less motivated, but the actual support doesn’t.

Secondly, this is only in the extreme short term. Women were asked to think about how their partner supports them, and then straight away asked what their fitness plans were. If this was a long term effect, all women who were close to their partners should have had low goals, not just the ones mulling over how they were supported.

Third, this data is only about women. It says nothing about men! There was another experiment involving men, but that didn’t measure how close the partners were or how much support they got.

Fourth, it doesn’t measure success, it just measures how big the goals people are willing to set for themselves are. Of course, there’s no way of knowing whether they achieved these goals or not. The researchers suggest this might be caused by “outsourcing effort” – people relying on a partner to provide some of the motivation instead of having to do it all themselves.

Fifth, they found this “outsourcing” effect was overwhelmed by the other benefits of providing support – for example, “he watches the baby so I can get to the gym”.

Finally, the report itself quotes other studies which found that:

individuals who have romantic partners who are strongly supportive of their individual goal pursuits (e.g., in academics and fitness) feel more confident about their ability to achieve those goals and are ultimately more likely to achieve them than do individuals who have romantic partners who are less supportive (Brunstein, Dangelmayer, & Schultheiss, 1996; Feeney, 2004)

Partners who see the individual as already possessing his or her ideal characteristics, and who behave in ways that affirm those characteristics, tend to promote or facilitate the individual’s growth toward those ideal self goals (Drigotas, Rusbult, Wieselquist, & Whitton, 1999; Rusbult et al., 2010).

Thus, in addition to making individuals feel more positively about their relationships and more valuable and loved by their partners, supportive partners also help individuals achieve their goals (Brunstein et al., 1996)

In other words, the bulk of the science out there, including this study, shows the “shocking” truth that receiving support and motivation from ones partner (and indeed other close friends and family members) helps people achieve their goals. In short, the exact opposite of what The Mail suggests!

* The study is annoyingly short on numbers; though they do say the results were statistically significant, I don’t know to what level or how strong the correlation was.  According to ScienceDaily, there were only 90 women involved, all of whom were selected anonymously online. Given how many factors were involved (there were three groups of women, and each was then divided up into smaller groups depending on how close they were to their partners), I’m not convinced you could get especially good data here, but I can’t find the numbers so I can’t be sure.

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More “Battle of the Sexes” BS

Genetic tests prove the ‘fairer sex’ is kinder too, according to today’s Independent.*

Women have a stronger genetic predisposition to help other people compared with men, according to a study that has found a significant link between genes and the tendency to be “nice”.

Funnily enough, the study in question (“A common heritable factor influences prosocial obligations across multiple domains“, Gary Lewis and Timothy Bates, Biology Letters) didn’t find that women were genetically kinder than men at all. In fact, it wasn’t really looking at men and women at all.

The researchers were looking at whether different types of “prosocial behaviour” (i.e., behaviour that helps society as a whole, rather than just helping the individual) were inherited and what roles nature and nurture played. There were three factors they looked at – civic duty, commitment to work and concern for other people’s welfare – and to check whether they were inherited they looked at identical and nonidentical twins; the idea being that if it’s mostly genetic, identical twins should be more similar in their “kindness” than non-identical twins, while if it’s caused by your environment growing up there should be little difference between the two.

In general for females, there appeared to be a clear genetic variance – in other words, those who were “kind” tended to have kinder twins – while for males the water was a bit muddier; the sample wasn’t large enough to tell conclusively one way or the other whether kind males had kind twins. This doesn’t mean that women were all kind however, or that there is a gene which means women are kinder than men!

Instead, it just means that the difference in kindness between different women is fairly likely to be affected by their genes (they found that around 48% of the difference in kindness between women could be caused by genetic difference, with the rest being caused by upbringing), while in men it’s not quite as clear just how much of an effect their genes have, which is why they’re holding onto the data to analyse it more thoroughly.

Just to add to the confusion, there was a significant genetic effect in males when looking specifically at concern for people’s welfare, though again, this doesn’t mean that men are any more empathetic than women are, just that genes play a big role in deciding precisely how empathetic each particular man is.

In short, this research says very little about the differences between men and women, and what it does say isn’t massively important to anyone who’s not a geneticist, and yet that still hasn’t stopped The Independent turning it into another “battle of the sexes” piece. Funnily enough, they actually quote the researcher behind the piece quite extensively – I wonder if he knew what they were twisting the study into.

* The comments are… about what you’d expect, really.

Edit: Thanks to Press Not Sorry, for pointing out that The Mail has spun the research into “Why women are nice by nature… but for men it’s more of an effort“. The research doesn’t show that men have to make an effort to be nice – or that women don’t – it just shows that “niceness” in women is more likely to be genetic than it is in men (although upbringing causes the majority of the variation in everyone, male and female). This doesn’t mean that it takes effort to be nice just because it’s not genetic, by the way, any more than it takes effort to speak your first language or to be scared of spiders; it means that the tendency to feel empathetic towards people (or not) is ingrained into your personality at the deepest level.

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A survey? How romantic!

Blah blah romance is dead, say The Express and The Mirror. Why?

Only nine per cent of those surveyed had ever sent a letter – and most of those were over 50 – while more than two-thirds prefer to say “I love you” by text.

An additional 24 per cent would rather send an email to express their feelings, while 14 per cent said they would post a message on their lover’s Facebook wall.

In further shocking news, very few couples surveyed courted via telegraph, and fewer still stood on hilltops furiously waving sweet nothings in semaphore. The Express quotes relationship expert Jo Barnett saying this shows that “[people] want an instant relationship with instant physical contact, they feel they’ve not got enough time to romance their partner” rather than the more immediately obvious conclusion that people are just sending fewer letters in general.

If the love letter is dead, then it seems male chivalry is also on its last legs as just four per cent of men said they would send flowers to their partner’s place of work. Only five per cent stand up when their partner stands from the dinner table, while only 12 per cent have booked a surprise weekend away.

This is the same rubbish that comes out every few months; pearl-clutching panic about how “chivalry is dead” (a phrase which appears 49 times on The Mail‘s site, incidentally) when it would be more accurate to say “society’s norms about how men should treat women are (slowly) changing to be less infantilising” (a less snappy headline, I’ll admit). After all, I’m pretty sure if I stood every time my girlfriend left the table, she wouldn’t find that chivalrous but instead rather creepy.

Anyway, I’m sure there was a perfectly valid, academic reason this survey was done, right?

The study was to mark the DVD release of romantic comedy Going the Distance.

Going the Distance is released on Blu-ray Triple Play and DVD today, from Warner Home Video.

Oh.

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Peter, don’t be a martyr

(H/T @RopesToInfinity)

Shylock didn’t ask for 454g of flesh…and no one wants to drink a litre of wine, says PETER HITCHENS

Because of course the traditional English pint of wine is much more convenient.

Anyway, most of the article is either scaremongering, rubbish, or doesn’t make sense, so here are the highlights.

Would it really be so difficult for those of us who still feel British to say: ‘No, thank you, please measure that in pounds and ounces,’ to the trader who offers us kilos, and to complain when the national broadcaster uses foreign expressions to replace perfectly good English ones.

It already is legal to offer to measure goods in pounds, as long as there as there is a kilogram measurement available too. The “metric martyrs” didn’t get in trouble for selling objects in Imperial, they got in trouble for not offering metric.

In truth, the only properly non-metric nation on the planet is America, the most technologically advanced, economically successful country in human history – and the most free.

Regardless of whether America is the most technologically advanced or the most free – how you’d measure either of these is beyond me – surely it would be difficult to say that metric Japan is not technologically advanced, or that metric Sweden is not free, and the metric EU is a larger economy than America. Whether or not a country is free or wealthy probably has very little to do with what they write on their rulers.

Besides, American scientists? They use metric. Every scientist does – metric forms the basis of the SI system; a rational, universal system of measurements based on the fundamental properties of the universe.*

I cannot imagine a kilogram, let alone a gram, or a metre or a litre or a hectare. I work out what they mean by converting them into the proper measures that have their roots and origins in the land, as I do – an acre is a day’s work at the plough, a fathom the width of a man’s outstretched arms.

For those of us who don’t plough fields with oxen, that might be a little less useful.

Why? Because our customary measures are a sign that we – almost uniquely among the nations – still run our own lives. These measures are rooted in daily life, are human, and honest, because they are polished in use, sound like what they are (can’t you hear a gallon sloshing in its bucket?) and because you can use them in poetry.

There are miles, inches and fathoms in the Bible and Shakespeare, and if you converted them it would sound ludicrous. Imagine Hamlet jeering as he holds Yorick’s skull: ‘Now get you to my lady’s chamber, and tell her, let her paint 2.5 centimetres thick, to this favour she must come; make her laugh at that.’

Why stop there? Bring back the lovely poetic bushel! The hogshead! The shaftment! The ell!

You see, this is the big problem with Hitchens’s argument. For all that he complains about “totalitarianism”, and measures “made up in an office”, the modern Imperial system is every bit as artificial as the metric system. Once upon a time, there were hundreds of different units, all created by people in different trades, in different parts of the country, and each one was pretty convenient for them.

Of course, that system was such a mess. Over the years – starting with the Magna Carta – the number of units was slowly whittled down (bye bye Scots measures) and the ones that were left were standardised (no longer was the Cheshire acre twice the size of the standard acre), culminating in the Weights and Measurements Act 1824. Measurements across the whole country were unified, and it became illegal to sell goods using the older units – more or less exactly what happened when metric was introduced.

Outside the oompah-band and leather-shorts regions of Germany, you will not see anyone drinking beer in litres either. This is because a litre is a measure made up in an office, whereas the old-English ‘bottle’ (equivalent to about 72 centilitres) and the old-French ’bouteille’ (the same) were enough for two people to share over a meal.

It has now been rationalised into 75 centilitres, three-quarters of a litre, but no further. And that is itself a significant departure from the metric system, which is based on counting our toes and doesn’t like quarters because ten can’t be divided by four (or three, for that matter).

Of course not, a litre of beer is rather massive. Anyway, metric doesn’t care what you divide things into. The whole point of metric is that it’s based on the decimal number system, so you can divide it however you like. If you want to split it into fours, that’s easy. If you want to split it in thirds, or fifths, or even sevenths, that’s no problem. On the other hand, if you want to split a mile into 7 pieces, how do you do that? It’s 0.143 miles, but how many feet is that? The answer is a bit more than 754 feet and 3 inches, but that’s an absolute bastard to work out in your head, unless you know your 5280-times tables off by heart.

The metric system officially doesn’t have such a thing as a foot. It scorns this useful measure, going straight from the metre down to the centimetre. But here’s a funny thing. School rulers in metric countries are not one metre long, but 30 centimetres, which is almost exactly a foot. Timber and building materials are often sold, in metric countries, in 30cm units. Just don’t call them feet.

So, err, why is measuring things in 30 cm units a defeat? Again, the metric system doesn’t care how you divide your measurements, so 30 cm is a perfectly valid length for a ruler… so is 50 cm, or 10 cm, or 87 cm, or any other length that takes your fancy.

It is almost invariably forced on people and nations by dictators, revolutions or invasion. It may have its uses in international commerce and science, though Man went to the Moon in feet and inches. But nobody ever wanted it in private dealings.

And NASA’s decision that it, and it alone, would continue to use U.S. customary units instead of metric resulted in the crash of the Mars Climate Orbiter. At any rate, every measurement system has been imposed by force by some people – why do you think India used Imperial until after it declared independence?**

Long story short, we use metric because it is more convenient than Imperial, not less – though, as Hitchens’s past record shows, given a choice between foreignness and inconvenience, he’ll take inconvenience every time.

* Except for the kilogram, which is admittedly still based on a chunk of platinum in a bank vault in Paris. Hopefully not for much longer though…

** Wikipedia also mentions occupied Japan using American units, but I can’t find an independent source for that so I’ll leave it in this footnote.

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The Telegraph gives parenting advice, fails miserably

I bet The Telegraph‘s science desk leapt for joy when they realised they could have a run a story with the headline “Men should concentrate on playing with their children and leave the care to women“.

Trouble is, the actual study didn’t say that. Instead, it showed that parents* whose roles overlap tend to be more competitive, and sometimes that competitiveness can undermine the support given to the child. For couples who can avoid letting that rivalry get the better of them, there’s no reason both parents can’t share caregiving duties.

Incidentally, the paper doesn’t seem to mention couples where the men did the majority of the caregiving and women just focused on playing; since there’d be no competition in these couples, there’d be none of the undermining behaviour seen in the study.

The Telegraph‘s article seems to quote heavily from this Science Daily article, though curiously they forget to neglect to quote the author’s conclusions:

Overall, [study leader Sarah] Schoppe-Sullivan said the results show that each couple has to decide for themselves which way works best when it comes to taking care of their children.

“There is more than one path to an effective co-parenting relationship,” she said.

“Effective co-parenting is not necessarily synonymous with equally sharing caregiving duties.”

In other words, this study isn’t saying “men are bad parents”, it’s saying “every couple is different”. There’s a big difference between the two.

* All the parents in the study were in couples, most were married, all lived in Midwest America, and they all had 4-year-old children; hardly a definitive sample of all parents anyway. I don’t have access to the paper, unfortunately, so I don’t know where all the parents involved were the birth parents of the children, whether any of the children were adopted, whether any of the couples were same-sex, etc.

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My hovercraft is full of “PC gone mad” scares

Sunday has always been a slow day for newspapers, hence the venerable old tradition of the Sunday document leak. The newspapers find a few fairly uninteresting reports, blow them out of all proportion, and voilà! Instant front page (picture via @JonathanHaynes).

Today’s Mail on Sunday exclusive, which took the joint efforts of both Jonathan Petre and Chris Hastings to write, can be summed up by its over-long headline:

EQUALITY MADNESS: Government spends £30m to discover whether preserving fish stocks harms ethnic Chinese, or hovercraft discriminate against gays

Gays on hovercraft? Chinese fishermen? How mad!

The gist of the article is simple enough: the Mail claims that because of the Equality Act 2010, the government has wasted taxpayers money on “bizarre reports” – supposedly to the tune of £30 million. But how “mad” are these reports, anyway? Let’s go through each of the documents the Mail calls “bizarre” and see.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) paid £100,000 to consultants who produced a report investigating how efforts to boost Britain’s coastal fish stocks would affect minority communities including the Chinese, homosexuals and Welsh speakers.

That refers to this document: Draft UK Marine Policy Statement: Equalities Impact Assessment Screening report. The only time Chinese people, gay people and Welsh speakers are mentioned is once in a piece of boilerplate listing various groups that live in Britain (and yes, that includes white people and men) and asking whether any of them might be affected, with the answer of course being “No”. According to the Mail, “the assessment was a ‘small part’ of the total work by Hyder Consulting, for which it was paid £111,477,” though that doesn’t stop them insinuating that every single penny of that hundred grand was spend ticking one checklist.

Next.

The Department for Transport issued a study this month looking at harassment and discrimination on ships and hovercraft. The report covered a range of groups, including transsexuals.

So it’s ships and hovercraft? Why are you just focusing on hovercraft then, Mail on Sunday? Oh wait, it’s because hovercraft are inherently silly, which means homophobic or transphobic abuse on board them is also silly!

The study itself mostly seems to be dealing with clarifying whether the Equality Act should apply to all British flagged vessels, whether it should apply to all vessels in British waters, that sort of thing. A bit of space is also dedicated to making sure disabled people have access to ships – as you can imagine, ships are often not very wheelchair friendly. Transgender people are only mentioned once, in some standard boilerplate, which, again, is just saying “We foresee no special problems for transgender people using ships, no further action is necessary.

Officials at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport [carried] out a so-called ‘equality impact assessment’ to ensure minority groups are able to take a full part in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations next summer.

This seems to be based on a piece that the Mail got caught plagiarising from a blog last month (the report itself is not out yet). Not sure why that’s meant to be bizarre. After all, The Mail‘s always going on about how immigrants should integrate with British society more. You’d think they’d love the idea!

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Is dodgy neuroscience in journalists’ nature or their nurture?

(Hat-tip to This Wicked Day for the link, and for pointing out that I can’t spell)

Another story exclusive to all papers: The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent, The Daily Mail, The Mirror and The Daily Express have all churned out a story based on this morning’s Today (two parts, sound only).* The show was guest edited by Colin Firth, who decided to use this as an opportunity to commission some research into whether political views are visible in brain structure.

The results are fairly interesting – though the only place they’ve so far been published is on the Today show’s blog, which means I can’t really comment on them in any detail. As far as I can tell, this is what they found: people who self-identified as left-wing or liberal were found to generally have a thicker anterior cingulate – the part of the brain believed to deal with empathy and decision making – while people who described themselves as right-wing conservative had a larger right-hand amygdala – the structure which seems to be do with anxiety and higher emotion processing. There seems to be some confusion on the Today show blog about whether it’s a “strong correlation” or “a weak but statistically significant correlation”.

The problem is that, just as with the so-called “liberal gene“, there’s nothing here which proves that these structures actually cause people to be left or right wing. For one thing, we don’t know which way the correlation runs; in other words, whether having a larger amygdala causes people to be right wing, or whether being right wing just makes the amygdala grow – or whether there’s something else hidden in the body which affects political views and brain structure.

Secondly, again, just like with the liberal gene, it’s possible that political views are only indirectly linked to brain structure – the fact that the correlation between the two was weak would seem to back this up. For example, if people with a thick anterior cingulate are generally better at empathy, and more empathic people are generally more liberal, then there might be a small correlation between cingulate size and left wing leanings. This would not mean that one causes the other however! It would be perfectly possible for someone with a thin cingulate to be empathic, and for someone with a thick cingulate to be self-centred. Our brain structure isn’t the only thing that affects our personality – nor are our political views driven entirely by our empathy and our anxiety.

* Interestingly, the reliably right wing Mail goes for the self-deprecating headline “Tory voters found to have larger ‘primitive’ lobe in brain” while the similarly leaning Express runs with the exact opposite: “Lefty? Blame the shape of your brain“.

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Not-so-searching journalism

(Hat tip to Press Not Sorry and Trans Media Watch)

Not wanting to be left out by recent events in the papers, The Sun has a leak of its own (and by a leak, I mean a document that’s been freely available online since mid-October): prison search guidelines. The rules cover everything from whether or not to search religious clothing, to the proper use of metal detectors, to when it’s appropriate to search a baby’s nappy; there’re any number of angles The Sun could have taken with its coverage. What does it go for?

STRIP SEARCH AXED FOR SEX SWAP LAGS*

The underlying message of The Sun‘s article (and its hastily churned-out sibling in the Daily Mail) is clear: transgender people are supposedly getting special treatment and smuggling weapons/drugs into prison.

The Sun says:

PRISON bosses have been told not to order intimate strip searches on sex swap lags, it was revealed last night.

The new rule has been drawn up by officials working for Justice Secretary Ken Clarke – who has already been slammed for going soft on sentences.

And the “squat” search ban does not only apply to prisoners who’ve had a sex change. Officials have ruled that gender swappers are now exempt even if they haven’t yet had any surgery. Angry prison officers say the naked searches are the only way jails can detect drugs or weapons that prisoners have hidden inside their bodies.

(The Mail’s article is essentially identical – imagine the above put through a de-slanging translator)

Note that they don’t quote any of these “angry prison officers” and that “intimate strip searches” quickly gets replaced by one specific type of search.

The Sun never actually quotes from the “leaked” document, so you just have to take their word that that’s what the guidelines say. Or you would, if prison search guidelines weren’t already freely available online (.doc). The actual advice they give is a little more prosaic:

Where it is suspected that an item has been hidden in or around the anus, a male prisoner must be asked to bend/squat as part of a full search, to enable the officer to visually examine the area more closely.  Female prisoners must not be asked to squat.  The basic principle here is that anyone who is legally a female (from birth or acquired via a GRC) must not be asked to bend or squat neither should anyone who has a vagina (regardless of legal gender).

In fact, search rules for trans people work more or less exactly the same to how they work for cis people. Admittedly, there is an exception – presumably for medical reasons – of trans men who haven’t had GC surgery, but this is an exception for anyone with a vagina, trans or cis; it would be impossible to abuse this to smuggle anything into a prison.

The other rule that The Sun finds “bizarre”?

Male lags who want a sex change can demand to be given a nude search by a woman – while women awaiting a sex swap can demand a male officer. Governors must draw up a “voluntary contract” with all transsexuals before they can carry out a “rub down” or full body search.

And the rules add: “Procedures must be sensitive both to the needs of prisoners and staff and they must remain lawful in order to avoid potential litigation.”

Searches must be lawful? Outrageous!

Anyway, ignoring The Sun‘s mix-up of male and female here, once again all the guidelines actually do is clarify that someone who is legally a woman should be treated like, well, a woman. Since for reasons that should be reasonably obvious, male officers can’t strip search female prisoners, all women must be searched by female officers. It’s not something they “can demand” but a statutory requirement (which means the guidelines go into detail about what effect gender recognition certificates have).

More importantly though, what the guidelines make clear is that it’s important that the prison guards and the prisoner agree if possible, and that the search is carried out with reasonable sensitivity – exactly the same as how a cisgender prisoner should be treated. In other words, trans prisoners receive (at least in theory) the same treatment as everyone else. The Sun and The Mail apparently have a big problem with this.

* “Sex swap”, incidentally, is one of Trans Media Watch’s inappropriate or offensive words to avoid.

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Another unwinnable Crusade from the Express

This is the Platonic Ideal of a Daily Express front page.

The idea that the Daily Express would somehow be able to change Britain’s timezone was stupid. The idea that the Daily Express can single-handedly tear Britain out of the EU however is just plain cute. It’s a bit like watching a puppy try to take part in an Olympic marathon. You know it hasn’t a hope in hell of succeeding, but simply the idea that it thinks it can win makes you go “Aww” against your better judgement.

Just as last time, they claimed that 29 million people supported them based on a survey of a few thousand, the Express is once again overstating support for its crusade – which I remind you only started today – by quoting a few Eurosceptics and claiming that they represent a huge groundswell of support … gathering behind the Daily Express Crusade“, and that the Daily Express running a front page piece about how it doesn’t like Europe is “a turning point in the battle to win back Britain’s independence“.

Edit: Now they’re claiming that “99 per cent of people agree we should quit the European Union“, when of course what they actually mean is that 99% of Express readers with a strong enough opinion to ring a premium rate number buried somewhere in the newspaper agree. Via Primly Stable and Enemies of Reason.

Anyway, as you might expect, the Express gets maybe a wee bit overenthusiastic, claiming that unemployment is high in EU because politicians are for some reason deliberately sabotaging recovery with “new job-destroying regulations” and running with a “what have the Romans ever done for us?” argument that “Almost nothing the EU has proposed or enacted has benefited Britain“.

Perhaps the ‘best’ part of the article though is when they move past mangled memories of Black Wednesday and the claims that the only difference between us and Switzerland is EU membership, and move onto history. Now, the Daily Express is always complaining that schools aren’t teaching history properly, but instead twist it to their own ideological ends. Well, I’m sure the Express won’t stoop to that lev…

The creation of the EU is explained by the perfectly understandable desire to avoid further conflict on a continent that had been the scene of two world wars.

But Britain is a land apart: A precious stone set in the silver sea, as Shakespeare so evocatively put it; a realm with a glorious island story stretching back a thousand years, with links to every continent and a language taken up throughout the world.

You know, completely unlike a France, a realm with a glorious story stretching back a thousand years with links to every continent and a language taken up throughout the world.

Or Spain, a realm with a glorious story stretching back a thousand years, with links to every continent and a language taken up throughout the world.

Or Portugal, a realm with a glorious story stretching back a thousand years, with links to every continent and a language taken up throughout the world.

Or the Netherlands, a realm with a glorious story stretching back a thousand years, with links to every continent and a language taken up throughout the world.

Anyway, I’m surprised the Express, usually rather big on the whole remembrance thing, forgets which country suffered massive economic damage as a result of those two world wars, and therefore may have a bit of an interest in preventing another one happening. Here’s a hint, it was us.

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