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Friday, June 29, 2007

Republicanism, Australian-style

Brilliant story today: “Prince” William, of useless-Royal-offspring fame, has apparently been rejected as a candidate for the post of Australian Governor-General.

It’s funny on many levels. Firstly, because the bloke’s been rejected for a ‘job’ that he has expressed absolutely no public interest in. Secondly, because….well…. what the fuck is an Australian Governor General?

Who knows. All I know is that there is nothing more revealing about the Australian character than when they are given a carte blanche opportunity to slag off Britain and the British. It’s always great fun, because the overblown pompous outrage that usually follows a meaningless story like this in the Australian press demonstrates – more than any referendum ever could – just how much the Australian nation still suffer from a terribly bitter case of ‘filial envy’ where their ‘relationship’ with Britain is concerned.

“Look at those fucking poms, who do they think they are, sending their Royals over here, don’t they know we’re Republicans? Don’t they know we’re better than they are? Yes, YES WE ARE!”….etc.

Oh, look, here we are:

‘Opposition leader Kevin Rudd, whose Labor Party still campaigns for an Australian republic, said it would be "party, party, party" at the governor-general's official Canberra residence if Prince William took on the job.
"Australia overall is probably much better at exporting royals like Princess Mary than importing royals," Rudd told reporters, referring to a former Sydney real estate agent who married Danish Crown Prince Frederik in 2004.

Earlier, Rudd told Southern Cross radio: "There is a great place for the British royals and it's in Britain".’
Bless you, Mr Rudd, but to be honest, we don’t really want him either.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

If Only

Saw this headline on Yahoo News today, and for just one sweet, sweet brief moment, I thought they were talking about two people....

'Mariah hits Paris for show'

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Baby Killers

If ONLY the topic of abortion didn’t get people (primarily of the religious persuasion) so alarmingly heated up: then we would be able to, as a society, have a proper sensible conversation about the subject without the threat of burning in hell or somewhere similar being made.

The fact of the matter is – and, along with many other thousands of people, I’ve said this several times before – nobody enters into abortion lightly; not the women that consider it, the women that have it, the doctors and nurses that perform it…NOBODY.
Rather, the reason why legal abortion exists and should continue to exist is because people will HAVE abortions, and accepting that fact as an unavoidable reality is simply sensible. People need to have abortions in order to live satisfying and fulfilling lives, and so as a society, we have an obligation to provide an abortion service that is safe, legal and non-discriminatory, whether we like what they’re doing or not.

The BMA is not a hysterical organisation prone to emotionally-triggered outbursts, therefore when they say that access to abortion should be made easier for women, I am inclined to listen to them. If women are having to go through surgical termination procedures instead of medical terminations (the latter of which is considerably less invasive and potentially damaging to the patient’s health) purely because of failures in the system, then the system should be changed, no?
And if it COSTS less and is less of a drain on the NHS to boot, everyone should at least consider this as an option and a potentially positive step to make.


Right, so what’s the betting that tomorrow’s Daily Mail (or as I increasingly think of it, ‘Misogyny Today’) includes a screamingly hysterical piece about the BMA being baby killers?

'The British Medical Association conference is to consider a call for quicker and easier access to abortion.
One proposal at the Torquay conference is a call to scrap the need for two doctors to allow an abortion in the first three months of pregnancy.
Doctors will also consider proposals for non-approved premises, such as GP practices, to carry out abortions.
The ideas have angered anti-abortion groups, but the government said there are no plans to change the law.
BMA leaders said it was important to discuss the issue because many women are facing long waits for abortions.
Abortions before the nine-week mark can be done using drugs, rather than surgically.
But with waits of up to seven weeks in certain areas, some women are denied this option.
Dr Tony Calland, chairman of the BMA's medical ethics committee, said medical abortions of this kind represented such a low risk that carrying on with the pregnancy was actually more dangerous.
He said this raised questions about the need for women to prove - as they must currently do - that carrying on with the pregnancy represented a risk to health in order to be granted an abortion.
The two-doctor rule could be interpreted as outdated, he also claimed - as people have more control over their treatment than they did when the Abortion Act was passed 40 years ago.
"Women can now refuse to have a caesarean, even when that may be safer for the foetus, so it raises questions over the abortion requirements," said Dr Calland.'

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

State of the Union

Erm.... forgive me, but if you're a union and you're going on strike, isn't your entire REMIT to screw with things as much as humanly possible to make sure people have to pay attention to you?

On that basis, isn't the timing of this threat really just a simple case of clever tactical thinking?

'Festival anger over rail strike

Scottish rail union members have been slammed for planning strike action which would coincide with the start of T in the Park.
The Rail Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) intends to strike on 6 July in a row over bonus payments.
Network Rail described the union's timing as "appalling".
The dispute involves about 400 Network Rail signallers in Scotland, who claim bonuses were cut following a previous strike in March.
The T in the Park festival will see tens of thousands of music fans heading for Balado in Perth and Kinross from Friday 6 July to Sunday 8 July.'

And again... I said, nobody could accuse Tony of not having a finely tuned sense of comedy.

Blair talks with Schwarzenegger

"Tony Blair has begun his last full day as British prime minister with a visit from California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at Downing Street.
Mr Blair, who will resign after prime minister's questions at lunchtime on Wednesday, discussed environmental issues with the former film-star.
The two politicians agreed a deal last year to commit California and the UK to developing low-carbon economies.
Mr Schwarzenegger and Mr Blair will also visit a school...

At a joint press conference, Mr Schwarzenegger said it was crucial to show leadership is getting other countries to commit to lowering carbon emissions, particularly as the US has 5% of the world's population with 25% of greenhouse gas emissions.
On a personal note, Mr Schwarzenegger thanked Mr Blair for his "great leadership and great friendship".
Austrian-born Mr Schwarzenegger - a former Mr Universe and the star of films such as The Terminator and Total Recall - has been Californian governor since 2003.
He is expected to be the last foreign official to visit Mr Blair in Downing Street."

“I swear this is true, right…”

Having retired as PM, Tony Blair is planning on becoming a peace ambassador for the Middle East region.

At least nobody can accuse him of not having a sense of humour.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Crazy Biscuit

Hmmm.... A couple of weeks in rehab, and it seems that Britney really is ALL BETTER NOW.

Yes, yes she is.

'Pop star Britney Spears is asking fans to help her choose the title of her next album.
The 25-year-old, who made headlines with a spell in a rehabilitation clinic earlier this year, makes the appeal on her website.
Spears suggests a number of titles, including "OMG is Like Lindsay Lohan Like Okay Like"...'

Doing jailtime like Paris

I tell you what, if I ever ended up in prison, could you make it Sudbury?

'A prisoner has absconded from Sudbury open jail in Derbyshire - the sixth to walk out in a week.
George Richard Day, 25, was sentenced at Derby Crown Court in September 2006 to two-and-a-half years for burglary.
Derbyshire Police said anyone who knows where Day is should not approach him and should contact the force immediately.

Christopher Chambers, 23, from Mickleover, Derbyshire, absconded from Sudbury last Friday. He was sentenced to three years for arson endangering life.
Simon Downer, 30, and Lance Wesley Reid, 28, both from Birmingham, walked out of the jail on Saturday.
Downer was jailed for six years for wounding with intent. Reid was given eight years for robbery, false imprisonment and aggravated burglary.
John Christopher Reilly, 34, and Mark Roberts, 34, both from Birmingham, absconded from the prison on 6 June.

More than 660 inmates have walked out of Sudbury in the past 10 years.'

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Catholic guilt

The Vatican has apparently told Catholics to stop supporting (the notoriously big bad and nasty) Amnesty International because AI refuses to condemn abortion.

Only a religion – i.e. a group of people daft enough to believe in the theological equivalent of fairies or Father Christmas – would think that withdrawing support for a HUMAN RIGHTS organisation is a good and reasonable way of demonstrating its interest in human (or, more accurately, foetal) rights.

It’s a shame that the ever-anti-semitic Catholic Church didn’t feel similarly compelled to “speak out” against the Nazi party in the 1930s and ‘40s, really.
Clearly its interest in human rights doesn’t stretch so far as to give a flying fuck about anyone who’s actually…well, you know, been born.

Oh Look….

…it appears that other – considerably more knowledgeable – people agree with me. Jolly good.

‘Obesity has figured as a factor in 20 child protection cases this year and some doctors now think that overfeeding children could be seen as a form of abuse, according to a BBC study on Thursday.
The BBC said its findings were based on a survey of about 50 consultant paediatricians around Britain.
Earlier this year, the case of an obese eight-year-old boy hit the headlines after social workers threatened to take him away from his parents because of concerns about his weight.
Studies show Britain has the worst rate of obesity among children in Europe and the media regulator plans to ban television advertising for junk food aimed at school-age children from next year.
New proposals for cracking down on obesity will be discussed by medical experts at the British Medical Association's (BMA) annual conference this month.
These will include considering obesity in young children as "neglect" and taking obese children under 12 into care, according to the national Obesity Forum, an independent charity that aims to raise awareness of the problem.
Dr Tabitha Randell, a consultant paediatrician from Nottingham, told the BBC it was common to see children entering puberty before they were 10 because they were obese.
"I think the perception of parents is a very real problem," she said.
"If you see every other child in the playground with their belly hanging over their trousers you think that's normal."
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Heath (RCPCH) said parents and children needed to be helped to understand the benefits of living a healthy, active life.
"There may be a few families that give cause for concern where there are other matters of neglect or emotional harm and this is where a paediatrician might have discussions with social services," a RCPCH spokeswoman said.”

The Right to be Fat

Yesterday I found myself reading a Guardian article about the state of the healthcare system in the US – probably a lot more where that came from once Michael Moore’s movie gets its UK release, and not before time.

People’s lives are being lost in the richest country in the world, because they have no health insurance. While it’s clearly not a laughing matter, the case of the man with amputated fingers who was told he could have his ring finger reattached for $13,000 or his index finger for $60,000 was sickeningly funny.

I felt – and not for the first time – proud and relieved to live in a country with a free national health service. To my mind, the NHS is probably this country’s greatest achievement and I loathe the constant bashing it gets in the Nazi end of the media spectrum.

So it’s particularly saddening when the NHS makes decisions to reduce the availability of life saving – or in this case life enhancing – drugs without sufficient explanation. I’ll admit to having a personal bias here (both my grandmother and my mother suffer from AMD) but it really doesn’t make a great deal of sense to restrict AMD sufferers’ access to drugs that can help them keep their sight where otherwise they would almost certainly lose it.
And it’s not human compassion I’m talking about, although a little more of that in society would be nice. As the Scottish health service managed to work out (in their usual good judgement as compared to that of England and Wales), the longterm cost of managing and caring for the needs of 20,000 blind people is FAR greater than…erm…preventing them going blind in the first place:

“Some 20,000 people will be condemned to blindness each year because of a government proposal to allow a vital drug to be restricted on the NHS, it has been claimed.
Draft guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) suggests the use of Lucentis (ranibizumab) and Macugen (pegaptanib) should be restricted.
The drugs treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of sight loss in the UK with 26,000 new cases each year.
Patients in Scotland can already get both drugs, although there is concern that ruling will be overturned in light of Nice's decision.
The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) said it was "outraged".
A final ruling on the drugs is expected in September.”

What’s worrying about all of this kind of stuff is that it illustrates the squeeze that is being put on the NHS. The service is creaking under the weight (literally, when you consider how many of us are obese) of the expectations placed upon it. Something has to be done to preserve and secure the future of the National Health Service, because British society would be vastly diminished without it. The creeping privatization of the NHS exercised by our “Labour” government is not the answer. Nor is it to fall back on Daily Mail-inspired oversimplification and blame immigration.
What we do need to do, however, is begin asking ourselves some uncomfortable self-examining questions. Like, for example, whether we should be feeding our children such utter crap that they’re fat by puberty; whether, actually, it IS unfair for treatment for smoking-related illnesses to be treated only upon the patient kicking the habit.

The NHS should remain a free service for everyone who contributes to British society – but maybe it is time that we stopped thinking about self-inflicted illness being among our rights and freedoms?

Friday, June 01, 2007

In just one fine day... the world of supermarket retailing.

Weellllllll, every little helps.

"A three day strike by over 100 Tesco distribution drivers at Livingston , near Edinburgh, rocked the multinational last week.
The drivers took strike action when they were told that their union would be derecognised in a forthcoming move to a new depot 500 yards down the road.
They would be asked to leave the T&G and join the Usdaw union, and to sign a contract saying that their conditions could be changed at any time.
The proposed changes would mean the drivers would take home £3-£6,000 less each year. They were warned that they faced dismissal if they did not sign the new contract.
Tesco has been buying up similar sites in the near vicinity of all their depots nationwide."

"The Food Standards Agency is advising people who may have bought certain batches of fresh packets of basil from ASDA, Sainsbury's and Somerfield stores not to eat them.
This is because of possible salmonella contamination, which can cause diarrhoea and sickness.
Some of the 'display until' and 'best before' dates on the affected packets will have expired and the product will have reached the end of its shelf life. The affected basil is also labelled as 'wash before use'."

"Asda has been fined a total of more than £80,000 after a Trading Standards probe in South Wales discovered food, including meat products, being offered for sale past their use-by date.
The company pleaded guilty to 59 breaches of the food safety legislation at its branches in Newport and Cwmbran during a hearing before Abergavenny magistrates.
Evidence was given that the worst instance was a pack of lamb chops 31 days past their use by date.
Asda was fined £78,750 with £10,000 costs."