Gove condemned by teaching union for putting knowledge at the heart of the National Curriculum. They’d prefer children to be taught how to walk

Quelle surprise. The Association of Teachers and Lecturers has passed a „vote of no confidence” in Michael Gove and the new head of Ofsted Sir Michael Wilshaw, accusing them of failing to improve education and not treating teachers and parents with respect.

Exhibit A in the case for the prosecution is the new National Curriculum, the subject of last week’s letter from 100 education „experts”. Far too much emphasis on knowledge, not enough on skills… yada, yada. So what „skills” would the ATL have children learn if it was in charge of the National Curriculum

The answer’s obvious, according to Martin Johnson, the union’s deputy general secretary. They should be taught how to walk. That’s right – how to walk. „There’s a lot to learn about how to walk,” he told the Guardian.

If you were going out for a Sunday afternoon stroll you might walk one way. If you’re trying to catch a train you might walk in another way and if you are doing a cliff walk you might walk in another way.

If you are carrying a pack, there’s a technique in that. We need a nation of people who understand their bodies and can use their bodies effectively.

Er, what about facts Times tables, the Periodic Table, the Kings and Queens of England, that sort of thing No. Absolutely not. Stipulating what facts children ought to learn is tantamount to fascism, according to the ATL. „For the state to suggest that some knowledge should be privileged over other knowledge is a bit totalitarian in a 21st century environment,” said Johnson.

So there you have it. In its topsy-turvy, Left-wing universe, the ATL thinks Michael Gove is being „disrespectful” to parents and teachers for having the temerity to suggest that all children should be introduced to the best that’s been thought and said, regardless of background or ability. Doesn’t he realise that nonsense is just for public school toffs No, ordinary children should be taught how to walk.

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Memo to all radical campaigners: please stop exploiting suicidal people for political ends

There’s a nauseating new trend in campaigning circles: the exploitation of suicides for political gain. All sorts of activists are indulging in this most ghoulish political behaviour. They’re claiming that the thing they hate and campaign against – whether it cuts to welfare benefits, student debt, or Daily Mail articles – is causing people to kill themselves and therefore it must be brought to an immediate end. They think their suicide exploitation adds weight to their arguments, but really it exposes their intellectual cowardice and their barrel-scraping morals.

There was an ugly spate of radical suicide exploitation over the weekend. First, transgender and gay rights activists turned the tragic suicide of Lucy Meadows, a schoolteacher who had undergone a sex change operation, into a battering ram against the Daily Mail, and in particular its columnist Richard Littlejohn. Last December, Littlejohn had written a critical article about Ms Meadows, or rather about the wisdom of a school allowing a male teacher to return as a female teacher; and almost as soon as it was announced that Ms Meadows had been found dead, commentators and campaigners were pointing the finger of blame for her death at him and his “evil, hate-filled” newspaper.

The speed with which the case of the tragic Ms Meadows was marshalled to the cause of attacking the Daily Mail was extraordinary. Even before it had been confirmed that she had committed suicide, far less why she might have done so, observers were drawing a direct causal link between Littlejohn’s words and Ms Meadows’s demise. They recognised that they were rushing to judgment, but didn’t care. As a writer for the New Statesman put it, “we have no idea why Ms Meadows is dead”, which might make it seem unfair to hold Littlejohn responsible for her death, but “screw unfairness” because the publication of Littlejohn’s article in December and the death of Ms Meadows this month is at least “one of the unhappiest coincidences of all time”. In short, facts don’t matter; the question of what might have caused Ms Meadows’ mental anguish, or how long she may have been suffering from it, is immaterial in the greater scheme of getting one over on journalists we don’t like.

The milkers of Ms Meadows’s death have now launched a petition to get Littlejohn sacked, and more broadly are campaigning to tame the allegedly feral tabloids. It all brings to mind the similarly opportunistic exploitation of the suicide of the nurse Jacintha Saldanha after she was duped by two Aussie DJs pretending to be Prince Charles. Then, too, liberal observers grotesquely use the late Ms Saldanha to mouth their concerns about low-rent media outlets. They went very quiet when it was later revealed that Ms Saldanha had suffered from deep, dark, suicidal depression for years, and had attempted suicide in the past. We may possibly discover that the same was true of Ms Meadows. We could at least have the decency to wait to find out what nurtured her suicidal behaviour rather than exploiting her death for fleeting moral gain. As the Samaritans pointed out after the death of Ms Saldanha, suicide is complex and is “never the result of a single factor”.

Also this weekend, The Guardian published a long feature about two students who committed suicide after getting into money troubles, and said the suicides may have been down to “rising [student] debt and fewer employment opportunities”. Cue a Twitterstorm about how student debt apparently causes student suicide. This echoes suicide-focused campaigning against David Cameron’s welfare cuts. Anti-cuts campaigners now go so far as to claim that Cameron is causing “appalling carnage” across the UK as they hold up pretty much every poor person who kills himself as a victim of the PM’s welfare-chopping policies. They talk about the “death toll” caused by the Tories, as if there is a direct, causal link between Cameron’s policymaking and the decisions made by clearly mentally imbalanced people who take their lives. Also, consider how internet activists have held up the suicide of hacker of Aaron Swartz as a cut-and-dried case of government “murder”: it was the authorities’ decision to threaten Swartz with a prison sentence that drove him to suicide, they say, and now there must be reform of how hackers are dealt with by the police and courts.

In each of these cases, the spectre of suicide takes the place of clear-headed or decent political arguments. Having failed to win the living over to their political causes, campaigners seek to stir up the dead instead. This isn’t politics: it’s emotional blackmail. Stop cutting welfare or people will die. Stop publishing Richard Littlejohn or vulnerable people will perish. Stop arresting hackers or genius webby people will kill themselves. The key problem with this most cynical way of seeking to win an argument is that it normalises suicide; it depicts suicide as a rational, predictable response to government policy or newspaper agitation. But suicide isn’t rational; it is irrational, extreme, thankfully rare, and deeply complex. The danger is that in promoting the idea that suicide is inevitably what happens when governments do things we don’t like or newspapers say things we don’t like, we make suicide into a political act, almost into a form of protest, potentially encouraging other depressed people to join the army of suicides cynically being marshalled by today’s radical campaigners.

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EU migration has to be managed better, but overall, it has benefited the UK and Europe

Germany’s Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich put it well when he said of EU migration:

If people in Germany feel that their openness is being abused and our welfare system is looted then there will be legitimate anger.

In the UK, EU free movement is effectively one controversial issue, Europe, laid on top of an even more controversial issue, immigration. This is also why it’s simplistic to say that “Europe” ranks low down amongst a list of voters’ priorities and therefore isn’t electorally relevant.

So it wasn’t surprising that David Cameron today launched a „crackdown” on EU migrants’ access to benefits, which largely amounts to better enforcing the existing EU rules. Nor is it surprising that other party leaders have fallen over themselves to talk tough on immigration. But as James Kirkup argued earlier, a cool-headed, evidence-based discussion would benefit everyone. Now, I appreciate that it’s easy to opine about immigration when sitting with a caffe latte perspective in Westminster, but, warts and all, EU free movement has been beneficial for the UK and Europe.

There are usually two broad concerns people have about intra-EU migration: benefit abuse, and loss of job opportunities for domestic workers. Both are legitimate, but often misunderstood (not least due to patchy stats).

Access to benefits and public services need to be handled with extreme care. The sheer perceived unfairness of, say, an EU immigrant sending child benefits back to his or her home country, with UK taxpayers effectively “topping up” the maximum benefit amount allowance, is absolutely explosive – on this issue, Cameron pledged to negotiate a change to EU rules and is likely to get support of other northern member states, but it could yet be easier said than done. The European Commission is also scoring a spectacular own goal with its challenge to the UK’s “right to reside” test – the filter the UK applies to make sure that people come here to work, not to claim benefits. Also, no one can deny that the previous Labour government got its estimates completely wrong leading up to the last round of enlargement; local public services were unprepared for an influx of migrants in some areas.

But at the same time, it’s simply not right to talk about a “crisis” of welfare tourism, which Ian Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, has. Yes, Romanians and Bulgarians will have freer access to the UK labour market from next year (when transitional controls end), but speculation about hundreds of thousands of Romanians/Bulgarians rocking up to claim benefits from day one is wide of the mark. First, it’s far from clear how many will actually come – in 2004 with the “Big Bang” enlargement, the UK was one of three countries to open up its labour market. This time around, some countries have already opened up their labour markets to Romania and Bulgaria, while all the rest will open up at the same time as the UK. We need to put EU migration into perspective. According to the ONS’s provisional figures for the year ending June 2012, non-British net migration to the UK was 242,000, of which 72,000 were EU nationals.

What’s more, the Government’s own figures show that only between £10 million and £20 million of the NHS’s total £100bn budget goes on treating EU migrants and only 13,000 of around 2 million migrants from Central and Eastern Europe claim unemployment benefit (though these figures could suffer from misreporting and should be be treated with care). Most studies show that EU migrants pay substantially more into the welfare system via tax and National Insurance then they claim back. But it is also true that the speed of change in specific areas and the lack of necessary infrastructure, such as school places, can be a problem, and better statistics would enable government to better support local authorities.

On the “British jobs for British workers” question, it’s true that EU migration can exert downward pressure on wages in some areas and/or sectors and that an influx can cause short-term shocks. Nonetheless, the number of jobs in an economy is not fixed, and evidence suggests that migrants often perform work that would otherwise go unfilled. Since 1998, at least three million new jobs were created in the UK but they have increasingly been filled by EU and non-EU workers. This points to domestic problems with skills and incentives.

Immigration is just as much about perception as reality. YouGov polling has found that there is a big gulf in how immigration is perceived as a national issue, with between 40pc and 50pc listing it as one of the most important issues facing the country, and how its direct impact is perceived by individuals, with only 12pc listing it as one of the top issues that matter most to “you and your family”.

But perceptions need to be addressed, and politicians in Westminster are right to talk about this issue. Simply ignoring it – or worse, dismissing public concerns as bigotry – is to invite even greater ammunition to anti-immigration forces.

At the same time, though, some politicians must dare to point out that, yes, it should be managed better, and yes, we hear your concerns, but overall, free movement of workers has been good for both the UK and Europe.

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Mass immigration and the housing market – two Ponzi schemes that benefit the wealthy

David Cameron has given a speech on welfare and immigration, and as always when a Tory talks tough on the subject, it has been panned by the commentariat of Left and Right.

That’s because this is a subject that cuts across the political divides. Various opinion polls attest that the real division over migration is between social classes, with the London media set the most in favour.

In David Goodhart’s new book The British Dream he argues that “Hampstead liberals” like himself got it wrong over immigration and chose universalism (looking after the whole world) over looking after their fellow citizens.

I’ve also got a book out (I might have mentioned it once or twice), and in it I argue that the Right is also responsible, too willing to see mass immigration as an economic benefit while ignoring the social costs.

The pro-globalisation Conservative view of immigration tends to be that:

a. If we have free markets we must have free movements of people.
b. Fears about jobs are based on the lump-of-labour fallacy.
c. If we’re short of houses, we should build more houses (besides which immigrants account for a small proportion of social housing).
d. In order to grow, the economy requires more immigrants.

Although many Liberal Democrats and a small number of Labour politicos hold this opinion, I would argue that it’s an economically liberal, Right-wing view.

Look at it this way: imagine that Britain had had mass immigration from the 1860s onwards. How do you think the rights of British workers would have panned out over the late 19th and early 20th century Would housing conditions have universally improved as far as they did Would inequality have declined Would a workers’ party have ultimately come to power Would trades unions have become so powerful and popular Would we have got a welfare state and NHS Extremely unlikely, any of these scenarios, because immigration and diversity weakens worker power, something acknowledged since ancient times, when slaves from the same tribe were kept apart on latifundia.

It’s been too easy for Conservatives to see immigrants simply as good workers at reasonable prices, without looking at the short-term economic or long-term social costs.

Regarding to wages, most of the commentariat are not threatened by immigration, because to become a columnist or radio presenter requires culturally specific skills that immigrants do not posses. But in many industries the availability of cheap immigrant labour has kept wages down.

Likewise, many Conservatives feel that if we have free trade we should have free movement of people. Why, exactly Japan’s foreign trade is worth $1,678 billion a year, and they manage to do without much immigration. Britain’s trade expanded exponentially in the 19th century without much internal movement. Out of principle The reason it’s okay to move around goods but not people is because once we’re finished with goods we can chuck them out; we can’t do the same with people, who marry and have children and have rights and agency and humanity.

One of the arguments I often hear is that, although immigration over the last 15 years has been wonderful and smashing and everything, what we didn’t do is prepare for the expansion by building the houses. And yet the people expressing this view tend to live in upmarket parts of London, exactly the areas that will not be troubled. Few people want more housing on their back door; almost no one wants social housing. You can’t just say, “hey presto, build!”

And immigration has played a part in the housing shortage. Currently one in ten new social housing lets nationwide are to foreign nationals, according to MigrationWatch, and the English Housing Survey estimates that around 20 per cent of all social housing stock in London is occupied by foreign nationals. MigratonWatch has tried to find out from London councils what proportion of their tenants are foreign-born, but most won’t reveal the statistics, although MW estimate it may be up to half in some boroughs. It doesn’t matter that most people come here to work hard – of course they do. But any welfare state must put the needs of nationals first.

These things may not matter for the commentariat, but if you can’t find a home in your hometown and you see properties going to people from other countries, you’d feel a bit angry about it, surely And it’s not just numbers; various studies have found that, the more ethnically fragmented a society becomes, the less willing people are to pay for social housing. So it’s not just a matter of building more units; if people don’t feel a sense of solidarity, those struggling will struggle more.

Finally, we have the argument that the economy will only continue to grow if we import more people. I can see one small problem with this idea. Like all Ponzi schemes, it has to end at some point. The closest parallel is that other Thatcherite yellow brick road, the housing market; last week Chancellor George Osborne signalled his cunning plan to revive our fortunes by re-inflating the housing bubble and so make housing ever more unaffordable for millions of people.

Many Conservatives have put their faith in a low-wage, high-churn economy based on the twin get-the-rich-richer-quick-schemes of mass immigration and property inflation. Both of these policies continue to lead to ever expanding inequality levels, static or even declining spending power towards the bottom of society, and shifting sands for those struggling in the middle. Personally, that’s not a society I feel very comfortable living in.

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Global warming: if only we’d listened to the experts, eh

Sir John Beddington, the government’s retiring Chief Scientist has been doing the media rounds today, telling anyone who’ll listen how „Climate Change” is still a serious problem about which we should all worry greatly.

Has he looked out of the window recently

Looking out of my window just now, I noticed that the Northamptonshire landscape was completely blanketed in Dr David Viner. Just like it was yesterday. And the day before that, when we rescued two orphaned lambs from the frozen fields. Which isn’t something you normally expect in March, is it

I’m sure I know what Beddington would say in reply to this. „Weather is not climate.” No, indeed. But it’s an argument which would surely carry a lot more weight if Beddington and his alarmist brethren hadn’t spent most of the Nineties and Noughties citing the hot summers and mild winters as evidence of man-made global warming. Later, as we know, they amended their scare-phrase to the more inclusive „climate change”. Then, growing more desperate as global mean temperatures stubbornly refused to rise with the alacrity their dodgy computer models predicted they would, they even had a stab at popularising „global climate disruption” and „global weirding”. Had these caught on (which they didn’t, really) it would have been a brilliant coup because what it would have meant is that whenever the weather did anything weird anywhere in the world (which weather does, by the way, all the time) the alarmist movement would have scored another propaganda victory.

Actually, though, if you’ll look at the facts – something that the Warmists appear increasingly loath to do – what you’ll realise is that our winters ARE getting colder. That there has been no statistically significant warming since January 1997. That the CAGW hypothesis is looking increasingly threadbare. And that, therefore, the billions if not trillions that Britain and the other Western industrialised economies have spent „combatting climate change” have very likely been utterly wasted.

This is what I find so puzzling about Beddington’s media circus antics today. If I were in his shoes, if I’d been involved in promulgating a disgraceful scam whereby the global depression was prolonged and deepened, where thousands of people died in artificially induced fuel poverty, where some of the world’s most beautiful scenery had been ravaged with wind turbines and solar panels and I had then been found out by events, the very last thing I’d be doing was traipsing round the BBC studios crowing about my achievements. What I’d actually be doing is retiring to my study with a bottle of whisky and my trusty service pistol, there to do the only proper and decent thing a chap should do when he has brought shame on himself and caused untold suffering to millions.

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The farce of UK immigration policy: letting in parasites, turning away entrepreneurs

So, another week, another bad week to be an immigrant in the UK.

On Friday, we had Nick Clegg calling for £1,000 „security bonds” for immigrants – a policy sure to put off poor legitimate migrants, like students or holidaymakers, but equally one that sounds great to the sort of people who want to disappear into the welfare state. Cleggbonds are cheaper than the average gangmaster, and the Lib Dems won’t peel your skin off with a rug-cutter if you don’t repay them. This was his attempt to „wrest the issue of immigration out of the hands of extremists and populists”, which, of course, you must be if you oppose unlimited migration.

Never to be outdone, Cameron has come back today boasting that net migration has fallen drastically under his premiership. Am I the only person in Britain that thinks if you make lots of British people leave the country, and lots of foreigners not want to come, you’ve clearly made the country manifestly worse and shouldn’t be boasting about it Of course, there’s also Labour’s lamentable record on immigration, talking tough while simultaneously opening the floodgates, allowing in two million extra people without any thought of the pressure this would put on services.

So, all the major parties have failed, and all of them have been dragged to the Right by Ukip. To be honest, I’m the sort of metropolitan liberal who doesn’t mind having my coffee served to me by someone called Slavoj as opposed to someone called Steve. I’ve got a lot more time for Slavoj, who was willing to move from Novgorod and work, as opposed to Steve, who isn’t willing to move from Newcastle and lives on benefits. Indeed, if Steve is a Geordie, I’m more likely to understand Slavoj in conversation as well. I’m quite happy with sensibly controlled immigration, especially if it’s implemented in a pro-business way, but it strikes me that a lot of the politicians who want supply-side reforms in other areas are mysteriously silent on the immigration issue.

If you ask businesses, especially tech businesses, the one supply side reform they would like, it’s not making it easier to sack people, or being able to pay less than the minimum wage: it’s a simplification of non-EU visa rules.

It’s all fine if you want to hire a developer who is from the EU, but as soon as you want to take on a Yank, or a Russian or an Indian, it all becomes incredibly complex, bureaucratic and expensive. While the concerns about immigration are all about a flood of cheap labour, and people vanishing into the welfare state, the people we’ve actually have clamped down are skilled, hard-working valuable migrants, like students who have studied here who want to stay on.

Things are even worse for foreign entrepreneurs. In the first year of the Coalition, the rules for visas were changed – essentially, if you had £50,000, and were coming to the UK to start a business, you got let in, no questions asked and all you had to do was prove you had the cash. There was a small amount of fraud, with fake businesses being created and so on, which the Government rightly realised was a problem. Unfortunately, the solution they have come up with is a total disaster.

Now, an entrepreneur who wants a UK visa has to attend an interview where he has to pitch his business plan to an immigration officer, in a sort of Dragon’s Den where Theo Paphitis is replaced by some hopeless bureaucrat. Inevitably, the fraudsters present a wonderful scheme and get waved through, whereas real entrepreneurs – especially ones with complex tech business – get pooh-pooed and turned away. I can’t help thinking: if people were good at picking and backing businesses to succeed, they wouldn’t be civil servants in the Home Office. And there’s no appeal. If Mark Zuckerberg sat down with a Home Office drone, could he sell him the concept of Facebook If he couldn’t, that’s it: no entry to Britain.

At the same time, the Government is bending over backwards to lend money to small firms. Tech City now has a colony of small quirky startups, many of which are legitimate, but many of which are chancers, leeching off the real tech businesses. You know, „social media consultancies” run by two guys who know each other from Eton called Jolyon and Percival. Ask any entrepreneur around the roundabout, and they’ll tell you they get four or five calls a day from these bottom-feeders, often recruitment consultants or web-based magazines, charging you £10,000 for a page of advertorial.

There are plenty of great foreign entrepreneurs in the UK – Taavet Hinrikus, the Estonian who was the first employee at Skype, who’s since set up his his own money transfer business, Transferwise, springs to mind. He’s Estonian, so it was fairly easy for him to live and work in the UK; but if he was from say, Finland or Iceland, he might not have come here, as our climate for foreign entrepreneurs is stupidly harsh.

In conclusion, we’re cracking down on the wrong kinds of migrants. Forcing wealthy Shanghai holidaymakers to pay an extra £1000 to come here isn’t going to stop gangmasters importing cockle pickers from Jungshau autonomous province. Reaching a target of net migration of 100,000 when more than 100,000 students come here a year is a Sisyphean task. And barring real entrepreneurs from coming while helping parasites is going to help no one. The trouble is, we have an unstoppable tide of cheap labour from the EU; and until politicians do something about that, they will be limited to cracking down on non-EU migration, which hurts all of us.

Vince Cable is often bashed for being anti-business, but ask any entrepreneur which politician’s immigration policy is the most business-friendly. It should worry us that one lone unpopular Lib Dem is making the supply-side reform argument that the City, the tech industry and business in general want to hear.

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Eurozone Crisis Creates Another Challenge for Merkel

As opposition to the euro continues to build within the eurozone, Germany, the motor of the eurozone—frankly, the only thing holding it all together—is not immune.

Recently, a new political organization has formed in Germany called Alternative for Germany. So far the group is only a collection of like-minded euro-skeptic German intellectuals with a politically populist message looking to mobilize a movement in opposition to the euro. They will reportedly seek to form a political party next month.

The front page of Alternative for Germany’s website makes plain the group’s dissatisfaction with the euro by stating: “We call for the reintroduction of national currencies or the creation of smaller and more stable monetary collaborations.”

The movement correspondingly calls for the ability of countries to leave the euro. While the group does not advocate for the dissolution of the European Union, it does argue for greater sovereignty of individual states within the EU. The group’s supporters have even praised British Prime Minister David Cameron on his recent call to bring more powers back to the national capitals.

That such a political movement questioning the single currency and EU monetary and economic policy sprouted in Germany is significant. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been the staunchest defender of the single currency, and she continues to press for austerity measures in many EU nations while using German economic might to subsidize less responsible member states. Alternative for Germany resulted in large part from a belief among the group’s members that the country needs to stop subsidizing the debt of other European nations.

The eurozone remains hampered by high unemployment, excessive government spending, and political uncertainty and upheavals evident in the recent Italian election. As Heritage’s Luke Coffey remarks in a recent lecture on the future of the EU:

It is not just the euro-skeptic Brits calling for a change. The newly formed coalition government in the Netherlands is also calling for more powers to be brought back to the member states. Buried deep in the “program for government,” agreed by the parties forming the ruling coalition, is a line that states, “The Netherlands will ask the European Commission to list the policy areas that…could be transferred to national governments. We will also make proposals ourselves.” This is the mood across the European Union.

The likely emergence of a new euro-skeptic political group in Germany, of all places—even one that does not call for an end to the EU—would certainly indicate that Europe’s attitude toward the European Project is changing.

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North Korea: A Neglected Human Rights Crisis

North Korea has been making headlines for its threats of preemptive nuclear attacks on the United States. In addition to North Korea’s belligerent military actions, the international community cannot turn a blind eye to the regime’s appalling record of human rights violations and its economic stagnation resulting from three generations of dictatorial reign.

While some speculate that change is afoot, Kim Jong-un’s recent actions offer little hope of reform. The “Hermit Kingdom” remains closed to the outside world as a defense against the contagion of foreign influence. A slowly increasing flow of information is opening North Koreans’ eyes to the outside world while simultaneously allowing the western world brief glimpses into the shrouded regime. But a few Instagram photos are incapable of telling the whole story.

Fortunately, a few defectors from North Korea have been willing to speak. Shin Dong-hyuk has put a face to the perilous plight of North Korean’s imprisoned in our modern day equivalent of the Soviet gulag. Born into prison camp life, Shin is one of few to escape, and his story has touched many.

Fear and hunger are the defining emotions that dominate North Koreans’ lives. Shin recalls the pang of hunger as a familiar feeling that led him to betray his mother and brother in the camp, ultimately leading to their execution before the young boy’s eyes. He felt no remorse until much later in life, and says he did it for food, a reward that he ultimately did not receive.

In desperation, some Koreans have resorted to the unthinkable, even going so far as cannibalism. Contrary to popular belief, food shortages did not end with the 1990s famine that took the lives of over a million Koreans, but continue today, where widespread hunger plagues the peninsula.

But Shin’s ordeal is not unique. The average North Korean is forced to attend multiple “organizational” government-instituted propaganda sessions per week. And the life of a North Korean is coordinated, cradle to grave, by the government. Children learn that everything they receive is a gift from the “Dear Leader.”

The average North Korean citizen has no access to news agencies that provide alternative perspectives. Instead, the regime force feeds them information through government-run media. The Internet is not available to North Koreans; thus, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and even Google are foreign to a North Korean citizen. To criticize the government is to put oneself and one’s family in imminent danger. Simply criticizing the government can result in three generations being sent to the gulag for the “crime” of one family member.

Despite western knowledge of prison camps, religious persecution, food shortages, and the widespread suppression of basic human liberties, North Koreans are rarely granted refugee or asylum status in the U.S. Since the North Korean Human Rights Act was passed in 2004, only 122 North Koreans have been granted legal status in the U.S., with a minimal number granted asylum or refugee status.

Many experts speculate that the U.S. does not grant refugee status because all North Koreans are given automatic citizenship upon their arrival in South Korea. But defectors from North Korea are rarely able to directly enter South Korea because border security is strictly monitored between the two countries. Instead, asylum seekers must risk a perilous journey of thousands of miles through China, Mongolia, or Southeast Asia to reach South Korea.

While an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 defectors from North Korea reside within South Korea, countless others are in hiding in China or forced to go to Southeast Asia. Various aid organizations have provided support, but many people remain caught in the middle, either as stateless individuals in China, trafficking victims across Southeast Asia, or as a citizen in a country utterly foreign to them.

Even though U.N. sanctions were recently increased, their effects are negligible since sanctions are rarely enforced by China. It’s time to hit North Korea where it really hurts, at its expansive network that props up the regime and enables it to perpetuate its large scale campaign against its people.

North Korea is our modern-day horror story. History should prompt us to act and not repeat the mistakes of the past. The present spotlight on the regime should remind the international community that North Korea is not just a hypothetical security threat to the outside world, it is also a threat to itself. Without serious actions that provide a cushion for the people of North Korea, there is little hope for a peaceful resettlement once the regime falls.

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As a voter in a democracy, am I responsible for the debts of the state?

       Many people in the UK are alarmed at the rate of increase in state debt. We are worried because we fear that we will be responsible for paying the interest and repaying the capital one day. We do not want the state to 0verextend us, at the very time when the private sector has learned an expensive lesson and is reining back on its debts.

        We see amongst our European neighbours how a state can overextend its own credit with bad results. The people of Greece have elected successive governments that spent and borrowed too much and followed the wrong economic policies. They reached the point where they told the custodians of the state that they did not feel inclined to pay the bills for past debts. As a result to Greek state reneged on a big portion of its debts.

         We now see a similar battle in Cyprus, with the voters telling their representatives there are limits to how much they can put in to pay for past excesses. Elsewhere states renege on their debts in more gentle or devious ways. They cut the value of their currency, reducing the amount of money foreign lenders get back. They inflate their price level, cutting the real value of the money domestic lenders to the state get back. They raise taxes, taking more money off the people who have been lending to the state.

           The message from Greece and Cyprus is a harrowing and sobering one. The truth is that the debts incurred by the state are debts that we all collectively owe. If you stay in the country you pay. When it becomes clear a state has borrowed too much and will find it difficult to borrow more, the political choices all become unpleasant. They revolve around one simple issue – how do you share out the pain of paying. In Cyprus savers with deposits have seen the state simply help itself to some of their savings. In Greece the state has helped itself to an ever bigger proprotion of taxpayers’ incomes. In the UK the state is taxing more and more activities in a bid to stave off a worse financial positon born of the level of spending.

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Stanford Kills Popular Course on Free Market

Universities have long been considered hotbeds of liberalism. Radical protests, dreary PC speech codes, far-left professors and outright attacks on conservatism are not just common but expected. Academia has become so stridently left-wing, faculty views even a single ember of center-right thought as a dangerous wildfire.

For the past three years, Stanford University had allowed one tiny exception to their monolithically liberal course catalog. In 2009, Professor John McCaskey began teaching “Moral Foundations
 of Capitalism” at the Palo Alto, Calif. institution. The seminar explored and evaluated historical arguments for the free-market
 model, presenting
 the views of economists such as Milton Friedman, of Protestant and Catholic defenders, and of Ayn Rand-influenced Objectivists.

The course proved more popular than Stanford expected, drawing double the planned number of students with even more sitting on the floor outside, trying to
 get in. So what does a university do with a runaway academic hit Cancel it, of course.

Stanford’s Center on Ethics in Society discontinued the course this month, blaming “a restructuring 
of Stanford’s general education requirements.” Professor Rob Reich, director of 
the ethics program, told the Stanford Review that his center “will play a role in supporting the creation of new courses and
 existing courses in ethical reasoning, and the Center decided to allocate its limited resources 
(human and financial) to this task in the coming years.”

Apparently “restructuring” didn’t touch another Ethics in Society course titled “Moral Limits of the Market,” which highlights liberal critiques of capitalism. Neither did it force the cancellation of Stanford’s many other student loan-funded attacks on conservatism.

Stanford’s Department of History presents such essentials as “Capitalism and Its Discontents: From Adam Smith to Adbusters” and “Social Democracy from Marx to Gross National Happiness.” The English Department offers “The Literature of Inequality: Have and Have-Nots from the Gilded Age to the Occupy Era,” which steeps young minds in the “profound gap between those who have and those who do not” through “literary and artistic explorations of social and economic inequity.”

Students can still sign up for “Noam Chomsky: The Drama of Resistance,” “The Personal is Political: Art, Activism and Performance,” and that old liberal arts classic, “Black (W)holes: Queering Afro-Futurism.” The only pariah that had to be shutdown was the single course that might help college students transition to the real world. When creating your résumés, be sure to list that C+ in “A Post-Hip Hop Search for a Black Feminist Politics of Pleasure!”

Stanford University’s motto is “the wind of freedom blows.” By canceling their only conservative-friendly course, the university blotted out the first three words.

Follow me on Twitter at @ExJon.

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