medicine

Before You Vote Tory, Think: Can You Afford £50 for Medicine? Or £50,000 for an Operation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 05/12/2019 - 5:24am in

Corbyn’s factual statement that the Tories are considering selling off the NHS to the Americans clearly has got both them and Trump rattled. The Sun’s headline today followed in that wretched rag’s long, ignoble tradition of deceit. It denied furiously that the NHS was for sale, and that Trumped had definitively refuted it. In fact it shouted that he had ‘thumped’ Corbyn ‘the chump’. In fact he hadn’t. Zelo Street has produced a devastating refutation of its own, which demolishes the Scum’s lies. It quotes Trump and his wretched UK ambassador, Woody Johnson, who both side that they wanted the NHS on the table. As well as a report from Sky, which also said they did.

The piece concludes

‘Tory cheerleaders can stamp their feet and cat-call all they want. Trump has already said that the NHS would be on the table in future trade talks. No amount of propagandist knocking copy can change that. Nor can it make Bozo The Clown a competent PM.

The Murdoch mafiosi is now beyond desperate. But you knew that anyway.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/12/bozo-and-trump-nhs-denial-busted.html

The Scum would lie about this, as recent biographies of Murdoch have shown that he, as well as the Tories and Trump, want the NHS privatised.

To anyone considering voting Tory anyway, I strongly advise you to think. I’ve friends, who have trained in medicine. And they told me the real price of what some services we so far get free or at least cheap, would cost if we had to pay for them if the NHS was privatised. Some prescription cough medicines actually cost as much as £50, or so I’ve heard. And an operation can cost £30-50,000. These are the kinds of prices you would expect to pay if the Tories, Trump and Murdoch have their way and privatise the NHS, following long-term plans that started with Thatcher.

The leading cause of bankruptcy in America is medical debt. About 40,000 people die every year because they cannot afford proper treatment. In Virginia, people wait overnight in their cars for that one weekend every month when dental treatment is available free. And in some areas people are so poor that they are forced to hoard medicine or get animal medicines from the vets’.

This is what you would get here, if the Tories, Trump, and their backers in private medicine, private equity firms and hedge funds get their way.

We cannot let that happen.

Vote Corbyn to keep the NHS nationalised and free from charges.

 

‘I’ Newspaper: Tories Selling Off Mental Health care to Americans

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 04/12/2019 - 5:41am in

And it’s a disaster.

This is another story from yesterday’s I, this time written by Ian Birrell. It’s titled ‘NHYS for sale? Our mental health services are’ with the subtitle ‘Fatcat US operators already have their claws into our psychiatric services’. It’s a comprehensive discussion how big American private medical companies are acquiring British healthcare companies and NHS contracts, and how patients are suffering through the deplorably bad care they provide.

Birrell begins with Jeremy Corbyn’s statement last week that the documents of the negotiations between Trump and Johnson showed that the NHS were being sold off to private American companies. Birrell denied this, and instead stated that not even Boris would dare sell off the NHS went it is so highly valued by the British public. He then moved on to the strenuous denials by the Tories that they were planning any such thing, before attacking them in turn as lies when it came to mental health. He wrote

Yet hang on a second. One key slice of the NHS is already lying in a distressed state on the operating table, where it has been chopped up for profit-hungry private firms. And giant US health corporations, along with hedge funds and private equity firms, are already here and bleeding dry this profitable of the corner of the NHS – with often disastrous consequences for some of our most desperate patients. Sadly, no one seems to care much since it is “only” the mental health sector – for so long the neglected Cinderella service.

Yet in recent years a small cluster of fatcats have got their claws into Britain’s psychiatric services, exploiting the struggles of the health service to cope with surging demand. These operators have grabbed nearly £2bn of business, providing almost one quarter of NHS mental health beds and soaking up close to half the total spend on child and adolescent mental health services.

This means they own many NHS-funded units holding people, such as teenage girls who self-harm and adults with suicidal thoughts, along with hundreds of people with autism and learning disabilities scandalously locked up due to lack of support in their local communities. These firms benefit as overloaded mental health services and risk-averse officials send more and more troubled citizens into secure units. It is a lucrative business when it costs up to £730,000 per patient a year. Bosses can pocket millions – but many frontline workers earn little more than minimum wage and the use of agency staff is routine, despite the need to develop patient relationships.

Acadia, a Tennessee-based health giant, spent £1.3bn buying the Priory Group and now boasts of earning more than £188m in just three months from British public services. “Demand for independent-sector beds has grown significantly as a result of the NHS reducing its bed capacity and increasing hospitalisation rates,” said its last annual report.

Operating profits at Cygnet, owned by another huge US firm, have surged to £45.2m due to deals with 228 NHS purchasing bodies after it bought a rival group last year. Another outfit called Elysium, backed by private equity through a Luxembourg firm, only launched three years ago, but is already earning revenues of £62.2m from at least 55 units.

But a study by the Rightful Lives campaign group has found these three firms alone own 13 of the 16 mental health settings judged “inadequate” by the Care Quality Commission watchdog, since it found some teeth after the furore over abusive detention of people with autism and learning disabilities exploded a year ago. Cygnet runs eight of these “inadequate” units, although its US boss is reportedly the richest chief executive in the hospital industry, who collected more than £39m in one year from pay, bonuses and stock. Priory and Cygnet also owned hospitals exposed by disturbing undercover television documentaries over the past year.

I have heard a stream of horror stories from despairing families and former patients involving solitary confinement, forcible injections, abuse and overuse of restraint, during investigations into this area. Some were detained in NHS psychiatric units. But most involve privately run units. People such as Megan, who was sectioned for self-harm, suicidal thoughts and later found to be suffering post-traumatic stress from childhood traumas. She was in four clinics – but in one run by the Priory, aged just 16, she was even held stark naked for one month to prevent self-harm until her parents delivered a “safe suit”. “It was the most degrading time of my life,” she told me. The firm was fined £300,000 earlier this year for failings after the suicide of a 14-year-old girl at the same unit.

Despite the ample demonstration that private healthcare doesn’t work and is just simple profiteering, Birrell is at pains to say that he has nothing against the involvement of the private sector in state healthcare. He just wants it to be better regulated. He ends his piece with these two paragraphs

Unlike many voters, I have no problems with private providers in healthcare if the service remains free at the point of use, especially after seeing their role in European systems with superior patient outcomes to our own health service. But seeing these mental-health firms has shaken my faith.

Clearly all private operators need to be effectively regulated, especially when providing sensitive frontline services. Sadly, it seems our politicians on all sides prefer to posture over whether the NHS is really for sale to “mega-corporations” while ignoring those that have already arrived and are pocketing vast sums while offering inadequate services to so many despairing citizens. Once again, we see how little Westminster really cares.

Actually, I think these paragraphs say much about the I and the political ‘centrism’ it supports. The NHS has been privatised piecemeal since the days of Thatcher, who was prevented from privatising it outright by a cabinet revolt. Blair’s government did much to hand it over to private firms, though much had already been done in this direction by the Private Finance Initiative introduced by the Tories and Peter Lilley. The Conservatives haven’t reversed the policy of privatisation, and are instead ramping it up even further.

The result is massively poor performance. Jacky Davis and Ray Tallis argue very strongly in their book on the privatisation of the NHS, NHS-SOS, that on their own private healthcare can’t compete with state. The service provided will always be inferior, as the profit-motive doesn’t work when it comes to the long-term sick or those with acute conditions. Private hospitals have fewer beds than state hospitals. And those who cannot afford healthcare are simply left to sicken and die. A few years ago the private healthcare system in America nearly collapsed. It’s why the American healthcare giants are so keen to acquire pieces of ours.

Yes, continental healthcare which often does involve the private sector can perform better than ours. But that’s because our National Health Service has always received comparatively less funding than theirs. It’s been the case, sadly, since the NHS was set up. On the other hand, our healthcare results are far, far better than Americas and were comparable to those on the continent. Until the Tories took over, and decided to cut things back and privatise even more.

But Birrell cannot criticise private medicine, because privatisation is still part of ‘Centrist’ political dogma. Moreover, the press is now owned by immensely rich men, often with commercial interests in other sectors of the economy. As a result, the supposedly liberal I and Guardian continue to flog Centrist economics even though these are so well-past their sale-by date that they’ve been dubbed ‘zombie economics’.

As for Corbyn, I believe very strong that rather than playing political football with the issue of NHS privatisation, he’s very aware of what’s going on and how it is failing Britain’s sick and ill. That’s why he wants to end it and renationalise the NHS. Birrell tries desperately to avoid that conclusion, because like all Centrists he wants the NHS privatisation to continue thanks to the Thatcherite dogma he’s imbibed and promotes.

But Thatcherism has had its day. It is bringing nothing but misery, deprivation and death. It’s time the Tories were out, Jeremy Corbyn was in, and the NHS renationalised. 

Now!

Labour Promises Inquiry into Deaths Caused by Tory Benefit Cuts

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 03/12/2019 - 8:43pm in

Mike put up a very encouraging piece last Thursday reporting that, according to the Disability News Service, the Labour Party will, if elected

“set up an independent inquiry into the deaths of disabled benefit claimants linked to the actions of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and its private sector contractors.”

This is excellent news. So far, an estimated 130,000 people have died due to victimisation by the Department for Work and Pensions due to the reforms brought in by the Conservatives and their coalition partners, the Lib Dems. Mike, however, points out that this is probably the minimum number, and the real figures almost certainly are shockingly higher.

This is exactly what Mike and the other disability rights activists and campaigners have been fighting for. Mike says he’s been doing so almost since he set his blog up in 2011. And he had despaired of any such inquiry ever occurring. The Tories would definitely try to stop it, just as they did everything they could to prevent Mike getting hold of the information on the number of people, who had died after being declared ‘fit for work’. Mike requested this information under the Freedom Of Information Act, as his readers will recall, and the government did everything they could not to give this information to him. Even going so far as to challenge his appeals to the Information Commissioner. Eventually they released some information, though they interpreted his request in a manner so that they could avoid giving him the precise information he wanted.

Mike states that he felt Labour would also do its best to avoid confronting the problem, and points to the ‘dark days’ when Rachel Reeves was Work and Pensions Secretary. But Jeremy Corbyn’s accession to the leadership of the Labour party has given him hope. Hope that could be fulfilled if Labour gain power. He states that under Labour, we might just see the people responsible for those deaths brought to justice.

He concludes

So if you don’t have any other reason to support Labour, do it for this.

The families and friends of the dead need this.

Vote Labour for justice.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/11/28/labour-will-hold-an-inquiry-into-all-the-benefit-related-deaths-overseen-by-tories-vote-labour/

And Trev, one of the great commenters on this blog, has pointed me in the direction of a piece by the Disability News Service reporting that a five year long investigation by them into the deaths of five people found ‘fit for work’ – Mark Woods, David Barr, Michael O’Sullivan,  Paul Donnachie and a woman known as ‘Ms DE – has provided them with ‘strong and clear evidence’ for the prosecution of the two ministers responsible for the Tory policies – Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling – and the senior civil servants who share that responsibility – for misconduct in public office.

It’s a lengthy report, going into the circumstances of the deaths of these five people, four of whom killed themselves due to mental health problems and the first, Ms DE, starved to death. I’ve done no more than skim it and am not a legal expert by any means. But it does seem to be a substantial piece of research.

https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/dwp-the-case-for-the-prosecution/

If this was possible, and actually went ahead, so that IDS and Grayling found themselves in the dock it would be utterly fantastic. I’ve made several comments expressing my utter disgust at their culpability, exacerbated by their flagrant lying and denials, that they should face prosecution for murder. They won’t, but this is clearly the next best thing, and perhaps the best we can hope for.

I’m not sure such a prosecution will ever get off the ground, for the same reason that attempts to prosecute Blair and George ‘Dubya’ Bush for war crimes for the illegal invasion of Iraq were frustrated. But I hope I’ll be surprised. Even if they aren’t convicted, the trial should be very interesting and extremely revealing.

In the meantime, if you want to stop the Tories killing more disabled people, who could be your friends, relatives or even you yourself, then I urge you:

Vote Labour.

Because Tory policies have killed over a hundred thousand victims. And will kill a hundred thousand more.

But your vote for Labour will help stop them.

Astronomer Vladimir Firsoff’s Argument for Space Exploration as a Positive Alternative to War

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 02/12/2019 - 11:58pm in

Vladimir Firsoff was a British astronomer and the author of a series of books, not just on space and spaceflight, but also on skiing and travel. He was a staunch advocate of space exploration. At the end of his 1964 book, Exploring the Planets (London: Sidgwick & Jackson) he presents a rather unusual argument for it. He criticises the scepticism of leading astronomers of his time towards space exploration. This was after the Astronomer Royal of the time had declared that the possibility of building a vehicle that could leave the Earth’s atmosphere and enter space was ‘utter bilge’. He points out that the technology involved presented few problems, but that ordinary people had been influenced by the astronomers’ scepticism, and that there are more pressing problems on Earth. Against this he argued that humanity needed danger, excitement and sacrifice, the emotional stimulation that came from war. Space exploration could provide this and so serve as a positive alternative, a beneficial channel for these deep psychological needs. Firsoff wrote

The traditional planetary astronomy has exhausted its resources. No significant advance is possible without escape beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. The orbital observatories to come will reveal much that is now hidden about the other planets. Space travel is a short historical step ahead. The basic technical problems have been solved, and the consummation of this ancient dream is only a matter of a little effort, experiment and technical refinement. When Bleriot flew the Channel the Atlantic had already been spanned by air lines. And so today we have already landed on Mars – even Triton and Pluto have been reached.

But do we really like to have our dreams come true?

Possibly that happy extrovert the technologist has no misgivings. He sees the Solar System as an enlargement of his scope of action, and has even suggested preceding a descent on Mars by dropping a few bombs, “to study the surface” (this suggestion was widely reported in the press). Yet the astronomer does not relish the prospect of leaving his ivory tower to become a man of action. He is troubled by this unfamiliar part, and a small voice at the back of his mind whispers insidiously that his cherished theories and predictions may, after all, be false. The dislike of space travel is psychologically complex, but there is no mistaking its intensity among the profession.

The general public shares these enthusiasms  and apprehensions, more often than not without any clear reasons why. The Press (with a very capital P) feeds them with predigested mental pulp about what those ‘wonderful people’ the scientists have said or done (and not all scientists are 12 feet tall). At the same time the scientist is a ‘clever man’, and the ‘clever man’ is traditionally either a crank or a scoundrel, and why not both? Whatever we do not understand we must hate.

Of such promptings the fabric of public opinion is woven into varied patterns.

“Space flight is too expensive. We can’t afford it”… “What is the point of putting a man on the Moon? It is only a lifeless desert.”… “We must feed the backward nations, finance cancer research” (= in practice “buy a new TV set and a new care”)…

Wars are even more expensive and hugely destructive, and cars kill more people than cancer and famine put together.

And yet before 1939 Britain ruled half the world, her coffers were stuffed with gold, she also had 5 million on the dole, slums, an inadequate system of education, poverty and dejection. Came a long and terrible war, a fearful squandering of resources, the Empire was lost, and in the end of it it all the people “had never had it so good”, which for all the facility of such catch-phrases is basically true. Not in Britain alone either-look at West Germany, look at the U.S.S.R.! One half of the country devastated, cities razed to the ground, 30 million dead. BHut in Russia, too, the “people had never had it so good”.

In terms of ‘sound economics’ this does not make any sense. 

The reason is simply: ‘sound economics’ is a fraud, because Man is not an economic animal, or is so only to an extent. He needs danger, struggle, sacrifice, fear, loss, even death, to release his dormant energies, to find true companionship, and-oddly-to attain the transient condition of happiness … among or after the storm.

That German soldier who had scribbled on the wall of his hut: “Nie wieder Krieg heisst nie wieder Sieg, heisst nie wieder frei, heisst Sklaverie” (No more war means no more victory, means never free, means slavery) was a simple soul and he may have survived long enough to regret his enthusiasms among the horrors that followed. Yet the idea, distorted as it was, contained a germ of truth. For heroic endeavour, which the past enshrined as martial valour, is as much a necessity as food and drink. We must have something great to live for.

Hitler’s ‘endeavour’ was diabolical in conception and in final count idiotic, but it cannot be denied that it released prodigious energies both in Germany and among her opponents, and we are still living on the proceeds of this psychological capital.

What we need is a noble uplifting endeavour, and even if we cannot all take direct part in it, we can yet share in it through the newspapers, radio and television, as we did, say, in the epic rescue operation during the Langede mining disaster. It became a presence, everybody’s business-and I doubt if it paid in terms of £ s.d…

You will have guessed what I am going to say.

Mankind needs space flight. Let us have space ships instead of bombers, orbital stations instead of ‘nuclear devices’. The glory of this great venture could do away with war, juvenile delinquency and bank raids. It could be cheap at the price.

It is a fallacy to imagine that money spend on developing spaceflight is lost to the nation; it is only redistributed within it, and it is much better to redistribute it in the form of real wages than in unemployment relief. Besides, real wealth is not in a ledger; it is the work and the willingness to do it.

Yet if we go into space, let us do so humbly, in the spirit of cosmic piety. We know very little. We are face to face with the great unknown and gave no right to assume that we are alone in the Solar System.

No bombs on Mars, please.

For all that they are well meant and were probably true at the time, his arguments are now very dated. I think now that the majority of astronomers are probably enthusiasts for space flight and space exploration, although not all of them by any means are advocates for crewed space exploration. The Hubble Space Telescope and its successors have opened up vast and exciting new vistas and new discoveries on the universe. But astronomers are still using and building conventional observatories on Earth. Despite the vast sums given to the space programme during the ‘Space Race’, it did not solve the problems of crime or juvenile delinquency. And it was resented because of the exclusion of women and people of colour. Martin Luther King led a march of his Poor Peoples’ Party to the NASA launch site to protest against the way money was being wasted, as he saw it, on sending White men to the Moon instead of lifting the poor – mainly Black, but certainly including Whites – out of poverty. And as well as being enthused and inspired by the Moon landings, people also grew bored. Hence the early cancellation of the programme.

And people also have a right to better healthcare, an end to famine and a cure for cancer. Just as it’s also not wrong for them to want better TVs and cars.

But this isn’t an either/or situation. Some of the technology used in the development of space travel and research has also led to breakthroughs in other areas of science and medicine. Satellites, for example, are now used so much in weather forecasting that they’re simply accepted as part of the meteorologists’ tools.

But I agree with Firsoff in that space is an arena for positive adventure, struggle and heroism, and that it should be humanity’s proper outlet for these urges, rather than war and aggression. I think the problem is that space travel has yet to take off really, and involve the larger numbers of people in the exploration and colonisation space needed to make it have an obvious, conspicuous impact on everyone’s lives. There is massive public interest in space and space exploration, as shown by Prof. Brian Cox’s TV series and touring show, but I think that to have the impact Virsoff wanted people would have to feel that space was being opened up to ordinary people, or at least a wider section of the population than the elite scientists and engineers that now enjoy the privilege of ascending into Low Earth Orbit. And that means bases on the Moon, Mars and elsewhere, and the industrialisation of space.

But I think with the interest shown in the commercial exploitation of space by Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, that might be coming. And I certainly hope, with Firsoff, that this does provide a proper avenue for the human need for danger and adventure, rather than more war and violence.

Of Course the Tories Are Privatising the NHS

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 30/11/2019 - 6:13am in

More lies from the party of smear and bully: they’re denying they’re selling off the NHS. At around 10.00 O’Clock on Wednesday Jeremy Corbyn appeared, brandishing a copy of the documents of the negotiations between Donald Trump and his British counterpart, Boris. And two minutes after he made his speech, the Tory spin machine trundled into action using what Peter Oborne has called its paramilitary wing, Guido Fawkes. The site stated that they had all six of the documents Corbyn had seen, and one didn’t mention the NHS at all. And the second, he declared, showed that Britain was heading for cheaper drugs through the deal with the Americans.

The Torygraph’s Christopher Hope then claimed that Corbyn was a threat to national security, as those documents had been marked secret. Zelo Street has pointed out how hypocritical this is, coming from the man or the paper that leaked ambassador Kim Darroch’s confidential views on what a massive imbecile Trump is. Tory chairman James Cleverly decided to add his tuppence worth’s, a declared that this breach of confidentiality by Corbyn showed his wasn’t fit to be Prime Minister. This was then refuted by Aaron Bastani of Novara Media, who pointed out that if that was true, then what about Fawkes, which had uploaded the documents with the civil servants’ names attached. Which Corbyn hadn’t done. And Pete tweeted that the documents actually showed that NHS access to generic drugs is an issue for the US.

This was confirmed by Steve Peers, who cited the relevant texts to disprove the Fawkes’ lies utterly. Peers tweeted

This is either ignorant or dishonest about Trump’s trade policy on drug pricing. It’s the other way around – Trump’s policy is to *increase* the prices paid for drugs outside the US … Here’s Trump’s policy on drug pricing in his own words, objecting to ‘unreasonably low prices’ outside the US – from the House of Lords library briefing on ‘the NHS and future trade deals’, 4 July 2019.

Some have objected to Corbyn saying that Trump seeks ‘full market access’ for medical products. But this phrase is found in the Trump administration’s own public document setting out its objectives in the US/UK talks … this falls short of the claim that “the NHS is for sale” in the trade talks with Trump. But we do know: a) patents/NHS drug pricing is under discussion (although we can’t be certain what final FTA would say on this) … b) Trump’s objective is NHS paying *more*, not less.

Zelo Street concluded its coverage of this with the comment

‘Labour’s revelation has cut through. The Tory boot boys have confirmed it. Game changer.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/labour-nhs-leak-validated-by-tory-spin.html

But the Tories are still pursuing a policy of NHS privatisation even without the wretched trade negotiation with Trump.

They and the Blairites have been doing it for forty years, ever since Thatcher got into power in 1979. She really did want to privatise the NHS completely, but was only prevented by a cabinet revolt. So she contented herself with privatising the ancillary services by opening them up to private tender, and trying to encourage a target of 15 per cent of the British population to take out private health insurance instead.

This piecemeal privatisation continued under John Major, who introduced the private finance initiative, in which private firms would cooperate with the government to build hospitals. A few years ago Private Eye published a piece on this, revealing that its architect, Peter Lilly, saw it as an opportunity to open up the NHS to private enterprise.

Then in 1997 Blair’s new Labour came to power, and the process of privatisation was ramped up. Blair was no kind of socialist. He was an ardent Thatcherite, who the Leaderene in her turn hailed as her greatest success. He immediately pushed through a series of reforms in which the management of hospitals would be opened up to private healthcare companies. At the same time, the NHS could also contract in private healthcare providers like hospitals. The new polyclinics or health centres that the Blair regime established were also to be privately managed by companies like BUPA, Circle Health and Virgin Healthcare. And the Community Care Groups of doctors, which were supposed to be responsible for allowing doctors to manage their own funds, were part of this policy. They could raise money through private enterprise and contract in private healthcare companies.

One of Blair’s Health Secretaries wished to reduce the NHS to nothing more than a kitemark on services provided by private companies.

And this policy was continued and expanded in turn by the Tories.

They have done nothing to repeal any of this legislation. Instead they have taken it further. Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill is particularly obnoxious as underneath its convoluted verbiage it absolves the Health Secretary from the responsibility of ensuring that everyone in the UK has access to proper healthcare. This overturns one of the core principles of the NHS that has been there ever since it was set up by Nye Bevan and the Labour Party in 1948.

And it has gone on. The Tories wanted to give whole regions over to private healthcare providers, which would have brought the NHS’ complete privatisation that much closer. At the moment the majority of medical contracts have been given to private healthcare providers. Mike revealed on his blog that about 309 contracts had been given out, thus refuting the Tory claim that they aren’t selling the Health Service off.

Let’s be clear: Corbyn is not wrong and the Tories ARE selling the NHS – now

This is a process that has been going for decades. But it is extensively covered by books like Raymond Tallis’ and Jackie Davis’ NHS – SOS. I’ve also written pamphlets on it, one of which is still available from Lulu. See my publications’ page on this site. And there are other books. Many others.

The Tories are selling off the NHS, and it is only Corbyn and his team that oppose it. The Blairites in Labour and the Lib Dems are utterly complicit in it.

If you still value the NHS, vote Labour.

Tory NHS Lies Now Too Much for Private Eye

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/11/2019 - 8:55pm in

The colossal lies put out by the Tory party about building new hospitals, recruiting new nurses, and expanding the number of GP appointments have been ripped to shreds by leftwing bloggers and news and comment sites like Mike’s, Zelo Street and many, many others. And it seems Private Eye now shares that highly critical views. On page 7 of their latest edition for 29th November to 12th December 2019 there’s this little article, ‘Tory Story’. It runs

It’s hard to rank the Conservative’s NHS pledges in order of ridiculousness.

“40 new hospitals”, but only six existing refurbs named and costed; 50,000 new nurses – when 19,000 of them are already employed by the NHS which is already 40,000 nurses short; or 50m more GP appointments when the number of GPs has fallen despite a previous failed pledge to recruit another 5,000. But dwarfing all of these is the absurd pledge that no one will have to sell their house to fund social care, with nothing in their manifesto to explain how.

In other words, the last is yet another empty Tory election promise that they’ve no intention of keeping. This seems to be a bit of a volte face on the part of Eye’s editor, Ian Hislop. I can remember him making a sarcastic comment about Labour’s opposition to people having to pay for their social care on I Have I Got News For You. Possibly something changed in the meantime, and one of Hislop’s relatives is now having to face the possibility of selling their home to pay for it.

Either way, it shows that people are realising that the Tories’ lies about improving the NHS are just that – lies. While they privatise it.

New ‘Space Hopper’ Device Allows Astronauts to Spend Less Time Exercising in Space

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/11/2019 - 11:04pm in

This is another story from yesterday’s I, this time about a new development in space research. At the moment astronauts have to spend over an hour a day exercising in order to combat the harmful effects of zero gravity. Without the pull of the Earth’s gravity, their muscles waste, including the heart. They also have to take care to try to prevent the loss of calcium from their bodies, which weakens their bones. But now inventor John Kennett has invented an exercise machine that allows them to do many of the exercises at once, thus cutting down drastically the amount of time they need trying to maintain a level of fitness. The article by Tom Bawden, ‘Astronauts jump at chance to use ‘space hopper’ to get fitter quicker’ runs

Keeping healthy in space is so vital that astronauts typically spend up to 90 minutes a day doing vigorous exercises.

But that could be about to change thanks to a new “jumping machine” that will gie them the same physical benefit in three or four minutes, according to its inventor.

Without effective exercise, astronauts’ fitness would quickly decline and their muscles and bones would lose strength.

At the moment, they spend much of their space-day running, cycling and doing strength training – on equipment that takes up a lot of valuable room and can take up to an hour to set up and dismantle.

According to the inventor John Kennett, his machine replaces the existing regime with a smaller, all-in-one device that boosts muscle and bone strength and provides cardiovascular exercise at the same time. it is 1.3 metres long and 20 centimetres thick when folded to be stowed.

The bed has a board that presses up against the bottom of the astronaut’s feet. This exerts a force that replicates the motion of jumping and is a highly effective form of exercise that can be varied to work different parts of the body.

“This piece of equipment has the potential to change the way astronauts travel through the solar system,” Mr Kennett said.

“The equipment they use at the moment is based on being in the gym – things like dead lifting or bench pressing. This is good but, when you jump, you do something incredible effective to the muscle and the tendons because you’re absorbing the landing force and then pushing away,” he added.

The device, known as the High Frequency Impulse for Microgravity, has been specially designed to eliminate vibrations and forces that would normally apply to exercise equipment but have the potential to damage spacecraft.

There’s also an additional snippet reporting that the UK space agency has given St Mary’s University in Twickenham a grant to conduct further research on Kennett’s invention after initial tests proved promising.

This is really interesting, and could be a great step forward. But I’ve heard rumours of breakthroughs in tackling the effects of Zero G on the human body before. About twenty or so years ago I went to see the British expert on space medicine, Dr. Kevin Fong, talk about the some of the problems space causes on astronauts’ physical and mental health. He believed that these problems were near to being solved through a device, a vibrating plate, that astronauts would stand on. I haven’t heard anything about this since, so I presume it didn’t work. But the inclusion of a fixed plate for the bottom of the astronaut’s feet in this decision also suggests that the previous invention made have played a role in the development of this device. And if this does prove effective in combating zero G, it will be a great help in allowing humans to cope better with the long interplanetary voyages necessary to open up and hopefully colonise the solar system.

‘I’ Article on Allegations of British War Crimes in Iraq and Aghanistan

I put up a piece yesterday evening commenting on a trailer for the Beeb’s Panorama programme tonight, 18th November 2019, investigating allegations that British troops have committed war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is also the subject of an article in today’s I by Cahal Milmo, titled ‘Army and UK Government accused of cover-up in war crimes scandal’. This reads

The Government is facing demands to ensure an investigation into “deeply troubling” allegations that torture and murders – including the killing of children – by British soldiers were covered up by senior commanders and officials.

Leaked documents provided to an investigation by BBC Panorama and The Sunday Times detail claims that evidence of crimes committed by UK troops in Afghanistan and Iraq was not fully investigated.

Amnesty International said that rather than sweeping such claims “under the carpet”, Britain needs to ensure cases are “treated with the seriousness they deserve”.

The claims, which include an allegation that an SAS soldier murdered three children and a man in Afghanistan while drinking tea in their home in 2012, arose from two official investigations into alleged war crimes by British forces. The Iraq Historic Allegations Teams (IHAT) and Operation Northmoor, which investigated alleged incidents in Afghanistan, were wound down in 2017 after a solicitor – Phil Shiner _ was struck off for misconduct after bringing more than 1,000 to IHAT.

Neither IHAT nor Northmoor resulted in any prosecutions, a fact which the Government insists was based on “careful investigation”.

But military investigators told the BBC and The Sunday Times that other factors were responsible. One former IHAT detective said: “The Ministry of Defence had no intention of prosecuting any soldier of whatever rank he was unless it was absolutely necessary and they couldn’t wriggle their way out of it.”

The media investigation uncovered claims no action was taken after military prosecutors were asked to consider charges against a senior SAS commander for attempting to pervert the course of justice in relation to the Afghanistan incident. It also found evidence that allegations of beatings, torture and sexual abuse of detainees by members of the Black Watch regiment did not reach court.

The Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab insisted all cases had been looked at and “the right balance” struck in terms of court action.

A spokesman for the MOD said “Allegations that the MoD interfered with investigations or prosecution decisions relating to the conduct of UK forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are untrue. The decisions of prosecutors and investigators have been independent of the MoD and involved external oversight and legal advice.”

Underneath the article is a statement in a box that reads Another investigator said ‘Key decisions were taken out of our hands. There was more and more pressure from the Ministry of Defence to get cases closed as quickly as possible.’

As I wrote yesterday, this is something that no-one really wants to hear. We’d love to believe our girls and boys are far better than this. But I’m afraid that for all their training and professionalism, they are just humans like everyone else, placed in positions of extreme fear and danger. Regarding the killing of children, it also has to be taken into account that the enemy in those areas has hidden behind children and tried to use them to kill allied soldiers. This has resulted in allied squaddies having been forced to shoot them to preserve their own lives.

Falling Off the Edge, a book which describes how neoliberalism is forcing millions into poverty worldwide and actually contributing to the rise in terrorism, begins with a description of a firefight between American soldiers and Daesh in Iraq. The Daesh fighters are losing, and one of them drops a Rocket Propelled Grenade in a house’s courtyard. The fighters then run inside, and throw out of the door two little boys. They boys try to grab the RPG despite the American troops screaming at them not to. One of them makes to pick it up, and is shot by an American trooper.

It’s an horrendous incident, but one in which the squaddie had no choice. It was either himself and his comrades, or the child. It’s a sickening decision that no-one should have to face, and I don’t doubt that it will scar this man psychologically for the rest of his life. One of the complaints Private Eye had about the lack of appropriate psychological care for returning servicemen and women suffering from PTSD was that they weren’t put in the hands of army doctors and medical professionals, who would understand the terrible choices they had to make. Instead many were put in civilian treatment groups, who were naturally shocked and horrified by their tales of killing children. It may well be that some of the accusations of the murder of children may be due to incidents like this. I also remember an al-Qaeda/ Taliban propaganda video from Afghanistan that the Beeb played during the Afghanistan invasion. This was intended for audiences elsewhere in the Middle East. In it, one of the fighters hands a gun to another small boy, who waves it around as if he can hardly hold it, and proudly declares that he will gun down the evil westerners. This seemed to show that the Taliban and al-Qaeda weren’t above using small children as soldiers. It’s evil, and banned under the UN Rights of the Child, I believe. But if the Taliban have been using boy soldiers, this might explain some of the murders.

Even so, these are very serious allegations. I blogged yesterday about how an American diplomat in Iraq was shocked at the conduct of US forces. The mess of one division was decorated with Nazi insignia, mercenaries were running drugs and prostitution rings, and shot Iraqi civilians for sport. And the American army was also supporting sectarian death squads. We need to know if there is similar lawlessness among British troops.

And I’m afraid I have no faith in the ability of the British army or the MoD to investigate these claims fairly. Nearly every fortnight Private Eye’s ‘In the Back’ section has yet more information from the Deep Cut Inquiry into the suicide of three squaddies at the barracks now well over a decade ago. There have been allegations that the initial investigation was appallingly inadequate, that detectives and doctors were taken off the investigation, or prevented from properly examining forensic evidence. And reading some of the depositions makes it appear that there may well have been a cover-up. And this also lends credibility to the allegations that the government and MoD are covering up atrocities here.

This needs to be very carefully investigated with complete transparency. And it also shows how profoundly morally wrong the invasion of Iraq was. It was a war crime, and the criminals responsible were Bush and Blair.

 

Beeb’s John Sweeney Attack Parliamentary Lobby System as Source of Fake News

Very interesting article in next week’s Radio Times for 16th-22nd November 2019. John Sweeney, a former journo with the Corporation’s Panorama, has written a piece attacking the parliamentary lobby system, ‘Time to name your sources’, on page 9. The subtitle states very clearly why he objects to it ‘Why are political reporters feeding us fake news?’

The article runs

As the country gears up for a general election, TV viewers and newspaper readers are being lied to from within a secretive system that reduces political journalists and Westminster correspondents to underbutlers, protects power and poisons our democracy. It’s called the lobby and its two most powerful players are a career psychopath (Conservative) and a neo-Stalinist (Labour).

The lobby was created after an Irish terrorist bomb in 1885 caused MPs to lock out the journalists who used to mingle freely inside Westminster. Reporters complained and a permitted few were allowed back, so long as they followed rule number one: when a source says a story is on lobby terms, you don’t identify that source. 

The lobby’s most elegant defender, Andrew Marr, wrote in his book, My Trade: A Short History of British Journalism, “Sophisticated social animals are necessarily hypocrites… who really wants to know less?”

But Marr wrote that before King Brexit turned everything it touched to Novichok. So where do those political stories based on anonymous oft-quoted “sources close to…” come from?

The PMS (the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman) is a many-headed beast, but one set of jaws is snapped by James Slack, who, as Nick Cohen pointed out in the The Spectator, in a previous life wrote the words underneath the infamous 2016 Daily Mail headline “Enemies of the People”, attacking three judges. Another set of jaws are those of Rob Oxley, Boris Johnson’s press secretary, but the sharpest teeth belong to “career psychopath” Dominic Cummings. David  called him that five years ago. It was an understatement.

Cummings, Slack and Oxley jointly and separately use reporters in the lobby system to tell unattributable whoppers while the system as a whole is given coverage by BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky and the papers. Veteran political reporter Peter Oborne nailed a series of lies about Brexit on “lobby terms” recently. Perhaps the most poisonous was the “lobby terms” claim, reported in the Mail on Sunday in October, that Remainers Dominic Grieve, Oliver Letwin and Hilary Benn were being investigated by the government because of their involvement with foreign powers. The story was a lie. The BBC, etc, didn’t tell that lie. But they prop up the system in which the lie could be told.

That system also encourages acquiescence among political hacks. If you don’t toe the line and ask awkward questions instead you are excluded from the regular drip-feed of anonymous briefings. It was reported that Boris Johnson when Foreign Secretary was considered a security risk by MI6 because of his dodgy private life. But has the lobby asked if Boris will launch an inquiry into himself? Nyet.

Another potential security risk is Jeremy Corbyn’s spin commissar, Seumas Milne. He oversees Labaour’s lobby operation but the system shields his shenanigans behind the arras. In 2014 Milne appeared on a panel at a summit in Sochi alongside Vladimir Putin. Milne, a former Guardian journalist, has in the past bigged up both Stalin and East Germany. Creepy.

Has the lobby asked Putin’s pal Milne if he is a security risk? Again, nyet.

In these toxic times, the lobby has become a lie factory. We need to scrappy “lobby terms”. If power speaks with a forked tongue, we need to know whose tongue it is that’s lying.

Okay, Sweeney’s correct to call out the lobby system. I’m irritated myself by stories that begin ‘sources close to the Prime Minister’ or ‘Ministers are considering’, as quite often this means that the source is sounding out a policy. And that policy is quite often something monstrous. I remember a story in the Sunday Express back in the early 1980s, when AIDS first appeared and everyone really was afraid it would decimate the global population like a new Black Death. It was so strongly associated with gays that a Beeb science documentary on it had the title ‘AIDS: The Gay Plague’. In this climate of fear, the Sunday Depress announced that ‘ministers’ – who were never named – were considering a radical solution to the problem. This was the construction of an ‘AIDS island’ following the Swedes’ example, where AIDS victims could be isolated and treated. It harkens back to the location of lazarettos – leper hospitals – on islands. But it was also frightening coming as it did from a government that had very far right tendencies and a reputation for aggressive homophobia. Maggie had just tried to introduce her law banning the positive teaching of homosexuality in schools. To many people, this seemed like the beginning of a campaign against homosexuals and the left which would end up with internment camps. The nightmare Fascist Britain of Alan Moore’s and Dave Lloyd’s V for Vendetta, running in the comic Warrior, seemed all too possible.

Others have also challenged the very close relationship between the press and the political class. When David Cameron was PM, it was pointed out that many leading journos, including editorial staff at the Guardian, I believe, also lived in Cameron’s village of Chipping Norton. Over on the other side of the Pond, some of the left-wing news shows on the Net, like The Young Turks, Sam Seder’s Majority Report and the David Pakman Show, have also commented on the way the press is content to parrot stories and claims by right-wing politicians, because they’re afraid that if they start challenging them, those politicians will simply stop talking to them and they’ll lose their stories. The result has been a decline in journalistic standards, as papers no longer attempt to hold politicos to account, but simply repeat their lines and lies. I’ve no doubt that this also partly accounts for the utter complicity of the press in repeating the claims and assumptions of the neoliberal right over here.

But this also doesn’t exonerate the Beeb. Despite the protestations of its political editor, the Beeb does platform right-wing figures over the left. Mike put up a graphic from Tory Fibs a few days ago, which showed very clearly how massively biased the Beeb was in its inclusion of figures and spokesmen for the right on its news shows and panels. Its newsroom is stacked full of Conservatives, like Nick Robinson, and Fiona Bruce and her producers on Question Time scarcely hide their right-wing bias. And the Beeb is still under investigation for the massive bias in its Panorama documentary on anti-Semitism in the Labour party.

The lobby system is a major part of the problem, but not the whole. The whole journalistic system and its cosy relationship with right-wing politicians is rotten, and needs to be overturned. And the Beeb is very much part of it.

JOE’s Satirical Video about Farage: ‘I Would Tell 500 Lies’

Here’s another video from those merry funsters at JOE. It’s old, but still very, very relevant: their song about Nigel Farage and his plans for Brexit ‘I Would Tell 500 Lies’. It’s an attack on him and his vehicle, the Brexit party, AKA UKIP: the Reboot through a parody of the Proclaimers ‘I Would Walk 500 Miles’. It comments on their anti-immigration policy, which means that African and Syrian refugees wouldn’t be welcome. This would mean that the British public would have lots of low paid work for them to do, as all the immigrants that do them would have been deported back to the EU. It says there wouldn’t be enough medical professionals and hospital workers, because they would have been deported too. And if you’re sick, you’d have to wait for your medicines and there’d also be food shortages. It states very clearly that he would tell 500 lies to stir up hate and xenophobic bile, and reminds everyone that the squalid little liar has been campaigning for Brexit and stood for parliament many times since 2004, but has never been elected.

All this is true. The Yellowhammer Report stated that the government should act to avoid shortages of food and medicines created by Brexit, or at least a no deal Brexit. When he was head of UKIP, Farage proudly unveiled that post showing a line of refugees from Syria and north Africa, which was almost identical to one used by the Nazis in Weimar Germany to work up hate against Jewish refugees. And I understand that there really is a shortage in medical and ancillary staff in Britain’s health service thanks to the Brexit and anti-immigration policies Farage demanded.

Farage and his ilk, include the Brexiteers in the Tory party, like Boris Johnson, lied to us again and again. They told us we were paying £350 million to the EU. We weren’t. They told us that if we left Europe, that money would spent on the NHS. It wasn’t, and they’ve tried to deny lying to us, saying that they just meant it as the kind of issue we could spend the money on.

As for Farage himself, he has never won a parliamentary seat, which no doubt explains why he isn’t standing in this election either.

And his party’s candidates themselves are as noxious as he is. Despite the party’s attempts to win over Labour heartlands, no one from the working class should touch them with a barge pole. There are some, I’ve no doubt, who are decent individuals with moderate views. But very many of them have been revealed to be extreme neoliberals wanting even more privatisation, including that of the welfare state, the removal of environmental protections for the benefit of the oil industry, the abolition of the welfare state and further attacks on workers’ rights.

The line from JOE’s song is absolutely right: when you’re suffering, he isn’t going to be suffering along with you.

Don’t listen to them, and vote for Corbyn instead.

 

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