Archive for the ‘Medicine’ Category

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

November 14, 2019

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’

November 7, 2019

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.

 

‘I’ Article on McDonnell Receiving Death Threats

November 7, 2019

Also in Tuesday’s I was a brief article by Patrick Daly reporting that McDonnell had told a meeting of NHS workers that he receives death threats weekly. The article ran

Labour’s shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, said he regularly receives two death threats a week, as he called for calm as the general election campaign gets under way.

He said politicians had “exploited” the Brexit result to “unleash forces” that were “dividing society”.

He made the comments after being told by a migrant NHS worker how he and a surgeon colleague had been verballed abused following the 2016 referendum decision.

Speaking to London NHS workers at Unison’s headquarters, Mr McDonnell said he wanted more politicians to “follow the advice” given by the Archbishop of Canterburty. The Most Rev Justin Welby warned the Prime Minister and MPs last week that it was “extraordinary dangerous to use careless comments” in what he described as a “very polarised and volatile situation”S.

Mr McDonnell said: “We’ve all had continual death threats. I usually get about two a week now.

“That’s the sort of politics we have got at the minute.”

This potentially explosive situation has been fanned by Johnson’s own highly inflammatory rhetoric and that of the Tory press towards anyone, who dares to oppose Brexit, or their version of it. Remember how the Fail slandered the judges, who declared one of their Brexit initiatives illegal, ‘enemies of the people’. Which mirrors exactly the rhetoric used by the Nazis against the democratic Weimar authorities before they seized power in Germany.

But it’s also a notable for a number of other reasons. The first is that it contradicts the Tory, Blairite and media narrative a few years ago that Corbyn’s followers were evil, raging misogynists sending abusive messages to ‘moderate’ – read Thatcherite – Labour women. Like Luciana Berger and the rest. This gave the misleading impression that only these ladies received abuse. But as the I also revealed a few days ago, half of the abusive messages sent to Labour politicians go to Diane Abbott, a close ally of Corbyn. And while I’ve no doubt that some of they did receive abuse and threats, some of the messages they claim to have received, on examination, didn’t exist. But I have no doubt that McDonnell’s statement is absolutely true.

As is the statement by the migrant NHS worker about the abuse he and a surgeon colleague received after the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Not everyone, who voted for Brexit are racist or xenophobic by any means. Some Labour voters did so in some communities because European policies has harmed their industries. The British fishing industry is a case in point, and used as an example of destructive EU policies by the Times sketchwriter, Quentin Letts, in his book Fifty People Who Buggered Up Britain. Some Old Labour voters no doubt voted for Brexit because of the way neoliberalism and privatisation are written into the EU constitution and economic structure. But many others did. They were lied to by the Tories and UKIP, told that by leaving the EU there would be less foreigners taking their jobs and pushing down wages. And that meant Black and Asian immigrants. One of the most noxious examples of this was Nigel Farage and his wretched UKIP poster showing a line of immigrants from Syria and North Africa, which exactly matched Nazi posters against Jewish and eastern European immigration.

Last year I went into hospital for treatment for a form of blood cancer here in Bristol. I received excellent care, as I have done through the process generally, from the doctors, nurses and other medical and ancillary staff. Very many of these are foreign workers, not just from other parts of Europe, but also Africa and the Caribbean. They were conscientious in their care, and in my experience, had an excellent and supportive attitude towards the patients. We are very fortunate to have such people working for us.

But they are being abused. There was a piece on the local news for the Bristol region, Points West, the other day, reporting that one of the city’s hospitals in Southmead has been forced to put in place a zero tolerance policy because of people abusing staff, including, I believe, threats of violence. Threats and abuse to hospital workers and medical professionals isn’t new. There have been posters up warning patients against it for years, as well as reports and denunciations in the press and media. But now it seems it’s becoming particularly serious.

This is disgraceful. It needs to be stopped, now. Before there’s another assassination like that of Jo Cox.

 

Corbyn Warns of Disastrous Consequences of Tory Election Victory

November 7, 2019

The I newspaper on Tuesday carried a report about what Jeremy Corbyn was expected to say in a speech attacking the Tories’ real plans for the country after Brexit. The article by Nigel Morris, titled ‘Corbyn: Tories plan Thatcherism on steroids’, ran

Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit plans will erode food safety standards to American levels to allow maggots in orange juice and rat hairs in paprika, Jeremy Corbyn will claim to day.

He will accuse the Prime Minister of plotting to unleash “Thatcherism on steroids” by using Brexit as cover for pushing an ideological agenda of selling off the NHS and slashing workers’ rights.

Mr Corbyn will insist Mr Johnson wants to strip away consumer, employment and environmental protections as he negotiates a free trade deal with President Donald Trump.

“Given the chance, they’ll slash food standards to US levels where ‘acceptable levels’ of rat hairs in paprika and maggots in orange juice are allowed and they’ll put chlorinated chicken on our supermarket shelves,” he will say in a speech in Harlow.

“And given the chance, they’ll water down the rules on air pollution and our environment that keep everyone safe. They want a race to the bottom in standards and protections.

“Given the chance, they’ll run down our rights at work, our entitlements to holiday, breaks and leave.”

The Labour leader will also claim that Mr Johnson’s Brexit plans would allow American pharmaceutical companies to bid for NHS contracts at a cost to the taxpayer of £500m a week.

Mr Johnson has denied the health service would be ‘on the table’ in po9st-Brexit trade talks with Donald Trump.

However, Mr Corbyn will say: “What Boris Johnson’s Conservatives want is to hijack Brexit to unleash Thatcherism on steroids.”

He will say that the Conservatives want to take Britain out of the EU because they knew voters would back a return to the politics of the 80s.

“Margaret Thatcher’s attack on the working community of our country left scars that have never healed and communities that have never recovered,” he will say. “The Conservatives know they can’t win support for what they’re planning to do in the Thatcherism. So they’re trying to do it in the name of Brexit instead.”

This is all absolutely true. Thatcher led an attack on Britain’s working people through privatisation, anti-union regulation and her attack on the welfare state. She want to privatise the NHS, but was prevented by a cabinet revolt. And the Tories back then made it very clear that they wanted to destroy the welfare state, because they considered it an obstacle to workers getting jobs. At the same time, they despised and attacked workers’ rights, on the grounds that they’re a burden to employers.

The result of his is massive job insecurity and a highly prejudiced and hostile benefits system that has seen millions of unemployed, poor and disabled people denied the money they need to live on. 250,000 people are kept from starvation only through food banks. 14 million households are in poverty. Millions of workers are trapped in a gig economy, where they don’t know if they’re going to have work tomorrow, and have no rights to basic pay and entitlements.

Some of the blame for this must lie with New Labour. But they were following the agenda set by Thatcher. And while the Tories have said that the NHS is ‘off the table’ in debates with Trump, they held six secret meetings with American negotiators in which it was very much included.

Thatcher is a great, molten idol to the Tories, but they recognise that she is bitterly unpopular in some areas. It was most obviously demonstrated in the parties that broke out in some parts of the country when she died. Her ideological legacy, neoliberalism, has been described as a ‘Zombie economy’ – it’s failed, but it’s still being propped up and kept alive somehow by the political and media establishment. And the Tories are using Brexit to push their attack on workers’ rights. As I’ve said before, the Tories hate the EU not because of the single market, which they actually quite like, but because of the Social Charter which lays down basic rights for European working people. That’s why they want to leave the EU: so they can get rid of this, and really start exploiting people.

Corbyn is telling the truth. Don’t believe the Tories lies. Get them out on December 12!

Medical Stunt Tells BoJob his Hospital Visit is a Publicity Stunt

November 5, 2019

As Mike posted a few days ago, BoJob was booed out of Addenbrook’s hospital in Cambridge, when he turned up for a visit. And one medical student, Julia Simons, was so disgusted by this blatant piece of electioneering that she confronted him with it. This video from the Groaniad shows her trying to question our disaster of a PM as he walks out of the hospital to his limo surrounded by his bodyguards and minders, pointedly refusing to answer her questions. She also gives a brief interview explaining her attempt to confront him to the Groan’s reporter afterward.

She asks him, ‘I’d also like to ask you about your awareness of the health crisis and the climate crisis? I won’t be working in a system like the one today … Have you read the IPCC report? Do you understand that? Have you read it? Do you understand the IPCC report?’

She gets no answer, and slams the car door shut.

She says to the reporter afterward:

Basically, I just came out of clinic and I was told that Boris Johnson was coming, and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness’, like as a normal person you never get that opportunity to say something to someone like that. I really want to ask him, ‘What’s next?’ And I was told I wasn’t allowed to ask him any questions. Which is a really good sign, I think, that this is a PR stunt. People who work in this hospital know the reality of cuts, like I’m a medical student, I don’t know the cuts in the way these people do. They were all really angry to hear he’s coming here for a PR stunt, ’cause we know what cuts have done to our NHS. We know the NHS is being privatised even if it’s not explained in explicit terms.   

The reporter asks ‘What’s the mood among the staff at the hospital having had Boris Johnson come in?’

She replies

Oooh, we weren’t told he was coming, which is a really big sign. As a Prime Minister you should be proud of how you’re leading your country. We were told that we weren’t allowed to know he was here. But I think it’s one of frustration because, as doctors we practice evidence-based medicine and politics should be evidence-based too. And yet the health outcomes from his policy changes evidence-wise, that doesn’t work and we shouldn’t keep doing that. And he’s too much of a coward to talk to any real members of staff rather than some random medical student, who happened to get in front of some cameras about the reality of those cuts.

Very well said!

Of course it was a publicity stunt, just as all the Tories’ visits to hospitals and doctors’ surgeries have been. And I’m not surprised that the staff were told to keep schtumm. They know perfectly well that the Health Service is being privatised, and that it is all driven by ideology. The neurosurgeon, Humanist and philosopher Ray Tallis and Jackie Davis make this absolutely clear in their book, NHS-SOS. Despite all the verbiage about introducing private sector discipline and skills into the NHS, the reality is that private medicine and hospitals actually provide a poorer service than state medicine. But Tory ideology, plus their class interest as people with private business interests themselves mean that they are promoting the privatisation of the NHS for all they and their backers in private healthcare companies can get.

When Simons talks about evidence-based medicine, she means, of course, treatment that has been subject to thorough scientific testing and proper statistical analysis. But these are alien to the Tories, who lie through their teeth and won’t release proper statistics on anything whatsoever, because in healthcare, and so often generally, the proper stats flatly contradict their lies. See Mike’s experience of how Iain Duncan Smith and the DWP tried everything they could to refuse him the stats for the number of people, who had died after being declared fit for work by Atos, then handling the fitness to work tests.

Julie Simons is obviously an extremely conscientious student, who cares deeply for the NHS and the care it provides. She should make an extremely good doctor. She also joins a long line of other doctors, surgeons and medical professionals, who’ve also tried to confront the Tories about the catastrophic effect their vile policies are having.

But I am also afraid that, by daring to confront BoJob, she will also have her card marked as a troublemaker and will be subject to some of the appalling harassment and abuse that the Tories and their troll army have inflicted on others, who have confronted them like this.

The only politician and party that will keep the NHS publicly owned, providing free medicine at the point of use, is Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party. Vote for them, and get the Tories and Lib Dems out.

3D Imaging Technology Inspired by Star Wars’ Holochess

November 5, 2019

This is awesome. This video from What the Future on the CNET channel on YouTube discusses Voxon Photonics VXI device. As the video’s host, talking to the company’s CEO, Gavin Smith, explains, this is a that uses a volumetric display to create three dimensional images. However, the device isn’t holographic, like its fictional inspiration in Star Wars, nor does it use Virtual Reality. Smith explains that it uses a very rapidly moving screen on which the image is built up in layers like a 3D printer. The screen moves too rapidly for the eye to follow it, and so the layers all blur into one image. At the moment, the device has a transparent cover to stop people reaching into the image. However, this isn’t necessary and the screen isn’t moving fast enough to do any harm.

The device debuted at the Tokyo Fair in 2018, and has found a number of applications. It comes with various devices that can rotate or otherwise manipulate the image. It’s been used for gaming, medical imagining, education at universities and schools, cars and video conferencing. However, the machine currently retails at $9,800 so they recognise it’s not a consumer device just yet. However, it’s price compares with that of other technologies when they first appeared.

Although it hasn’t happened yet, Smith and his company would like it to feature in the context that inspired it. They’d like it to appear in the Millennium Falcon at Disneyworld as a working holochess table, and they’ve devised a version that would make it possible. This uses a helical spinning screen rather than the type of screen the device normally uses.

This is absolutely amazing. When I was growing up, the SF predicted that we’d have 3D TV, but this definitely hasn’t happened so far. But with this device, we could be well on the way. As Max Headroom said when he briefly reappeared to do the channel ident for Channel 4,, ‘The future is now!’

Does Anybody Really Believe the Tories’ Fracking Halt Isn’t an Election Stunt?

November 5, 2019

I know this story is a few days old, but it bears repeating, if only only to remind everyone that Tories are flagrant liars. On Monday, Mike put up a piece commenting on the Tories’ decision to stop fracking. But only for the moment. It’s just a temporary halt, while they consider the situation. Both Andrew Adonis and Jeremy Corbyn called it out as an election stunt. Adonis said that the ban would last all the way until December 13th, the day after the election. Corbyn added that Labour really would ban fracking. And that would be the real change. He also reminded people that BoJob had called fracking ‘glorious news for humanity’ and that we couldn’t trust him. No, we can’t. And certainly not the people in the areas where they’re drilling for shale gas, who’ve suffered earth tremors and other disastrous environmental effects.

And Labour’s Rebecca Long-Bailey made some very acute observations on the way Andrea Leadsom had phrased the news. She described fracking as ‘a glorious opportunity’ and the decision to halt it ‘a disappointment’. Long Bailey said that usually the Tories wait until after an election before breaking their promises, but this time they’ve made a U-turn within hours of announcing it. She also concluded that this showed they had no intention of stopping fracking, and it was all an electoral stunt.

As did Mike, who wrote

So the choice is simple: A makeshift, make-believe, pretend freeze on this dangerous process under the Tories that will last until just after the general election – or a genuine ban under Labour.

Boris Johnson is a proven liar. Jeremy Corbyn is known to keep his word.

Who do you believe?

Election 2019: Tory halt on fracking condemned as a lie and a stunt

There shouldn’t be any question about it. Johnson’s a liar, and the Tories have lied again and again. Johnson said that the NHS was not on the table in his Brexit negotiations with Donald Trump. Except it was, and there were six secret meetings about it between British and American negotiators. He has said that the Tories intend to build 40 new hospitals, but they’ve only got real funding for six, and about 120 hospitals are also set to close. They’ve also claimed that they’re not privatising the NHS, but the majority of services are now contracted to private healthcare companies. Tweezer lied so much that a London Ska band released a song attacking her for her mendacity, suitably called ‘Liar, Liar’.

And remember when Dodgy Dave Cameron and Iain Duncan Cough were campaigning for the 2010 election, and were leading campaigns to save hospitals from closure? That lasted all the way until Cameron got into No. 10. As did his promise to lead the ‘greenest government ever’. The environment was going to be protected, right up to the point where he became Prime Minister.

And this is another empty promise from a government known for lying.

Tories Planning to Sell Out NHS to Trump

October 31, 2019

Mike covered this story a few days ago, but it’s another one that bears repeating: the Tories want to privatise the NHS and sell it off to American corporations.

This was revealed on Monday night’s Dispatches programme on Channel 4, broadcast at 8 pm. The description of the programme in that day’s I ran

Earlier this year, Donald Trump sparked a row when he said that the NHS would be “on the table” in any future trade talks between the UK and America – swiftly performing a U-turn over his comments. Now Antony Barnett shows that US drug giants are busy lobbying trade negotiators in Washington and London to make the health service pay more for their medicines and to ban cheaper alternatives.

This is another story which Mike covered on his blog, reproducing the tweets issued by Dispatches showing that there had been six secret meetings in both London and Washington about this, and that they began under Tweezer. See https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/10/29/shock-revelation-liar-boris-johnson-has-been-secretly-selling-out-the-nhs/

This should come as no surprise. The Tories voted against Labour’s bill setting up the NHS, even after claiming that they welcomed it. A few years later under Harold Macmillan, the Tory Right tried to privatise it on the grounds that we could not afford it. And Thatcher wanted to privatise it, but was prevented by a cabinet revolt. Since then there has been an encroaching privatisation of the NHS by both the Tories and New Labour. It’s described in Ray Tallis’ book, NHS – SOS, and I’ve self-published a book on Lulu and a small desktop pamphlet discussing this. There have also been a series of short videos presented by Stephen Fry on YouTube against the Tory attempts to sell out our NHS to the Americans. In one of them, the former presenter of QI tells you that under the American private healthcare system, simply being taken to hospital in an ambulance can cost you £200. The Tories have been lying for years that the NHS is safe with them, but the truth is that they have consistently run it down, closing hospitals and A&E departments, all while claiming that they are doing no such thing. Or are actually going to reverse this policy. Remember when Dave Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith were running around protesting against Blair’s hospital closures when they were in opposition? Soon as Cameron got his foot in the front door of No. 10, that policy was reversed and they went on closing hospitals and outsourcing services to private healthcare companies.

You cannot trust the Tories with the NHS – not now, not ever. If you want to continue having a National Health Service that provides everyone in Britain with healthcare, free at the point of service, you have to vote for Corbyn and Labour.

If you vote for the Tories, you are voting for a private system, which will profit the big healthcare and pharmaceutical companies, but will be unaffordable to a large part of the British people. Can you afford private health insurance?

 

Canadian Space Medic Celebrates International Cooperation in Space

October 27, 2019

As I discussed in an article last week, the I carried several stories about the Asgardia conference in its edition for Wednesday, 16th October 2019. Asgardia is an international organisation dedicated to the colonisation of space, and its establishment as a new, independent nation on the High Frontier. It’s somewhat like the artificial nation created by Laibach and their parent artistic collective, NSK earlier this century. Fans of the group were encouraged to join, receiving a special passport identifying them as citizens of the new state when they did.

The organisation was founded by Igor Raufovich Ashurbekli, the former director of one of the Russian state armament companies. However, Asgardia seems to aim at the peaceful, civilian conquest of space. At the conference Ashurbekli denounced Trump’s intention of establishing a military Space Command, pointing out that this violated the 1967 international treaty against the militarisation of space.

One of the other speakers at the conference was a Canadian medical doctor and astronaut, Dr. Robert Thirsk, who had conducted research in space and hailed space research’s role in bringing people of different, competing nations together in peace. This was reported in an article by Michael Day, ‘Space has to be for everyone’, in the same edition of the newspaper. This ran

As an astronaut who s pent six months on the International Space Station, Canadian medic Dr Robert Thirsk, achieved major medical breakthroughs in zero gravity and survived the thrill of take-off and re-entry. But his greatest satisfaction was working in harmony with colleagues from states that were once Cold War foes.

“I still think that the ISS is a research platform with no earthly peer,” he told Asgardia’s Paving the Road to Living in Space Conference.

“It’s brought together former Cold War enemies to pursue a common vision of extending human capability in space and of inspiring the public to take on some of these tough social problems that we still face today.”

The Asgardia micro-nation, which aims to swell to 150 million citizens within 10 years, is committed to including all nations in the development of space. It’s leaders note that only 20 nations now have space capability.

“At the moment you either have to be a billionaire, friendly with a major space agency or you join Asgardia,” said the space nation’s parliamentary speaker, the former Lib Dem MP Lembit Opik. “Space has to be for everyone.”

As a medical researcher, owrking with American, Russian, Japanese and German colleagues on the ISS, Dr Thirsk achieved breakthroughs in protein chemistry that could lead to new treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and robotic advances that have helped hundreds of cancer patients.

Britain’s first female astronaut, Dr Helen Sharman, made the same comment back in the 1990s after her historic mission with the Russians to their space station, Mir. The Russian station’s name translates as ‘world’ or ‘peace’ in English. Her mission was intended to be a landmark breakthrough in international space cooperation following Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost campaign and the attempts to end the Cold War.  In an interview following her mission, Dr Sharman drew attention to the positive benefits of space research in fostering peaceful cooperation between countries. Because of this, astronauts were the least racist people.

It’s interesting to see that Lembit Opik is now Asgardia’s parliamentary speaker. It’s fitting. Opik was not only a Lib Dem MP before losing his seat a few years ago, he’s also the grandson of an Estonian astronomer and himself has an intense interest in space. He was one of the many space experts concerned about the threat of world destruction from asteroid strikes. I met him well over a decade ago at an event on ‘Asteroid Armageddon’ at the Cheltenham Festival of science. He was part of a panel of astronomers and representatives of space corporations, who made it very plain that the threat to our world from rogue asteroids is very real. However, Opik’s justified concern was a source of amusement to the press, who naturally dubbed him ‘the minister for asteroids’. He’s clearly moved into space activism after he lost his seat. I don’t know if he’s still a member, but he’s probably better off with Asgardia than with the Lib Dems, who are now transforming themselves into the Europhile wing of the Tory party.

I also found a plea for the peaceful exploration of space as an alternative to war in a book I read on space technology years ago. This stated that space research provided an outlet for the desire for danger, competition and sacrifice without the mass carnage of conflict. This is true, and regardless of what you make of Asgardia, it has helped bring nations together, and its should be open to everyone, of all nations, in the world.

We don’t need Trump’s – or anyone else’s – dangerous and idiotic space command. We need more peaceful cooperation and the opening up of space and its immense resources and opportunities for all humanity.

The ‘I’ on Labour’s Manifesto Policies

October 12, 2019

Thursday’s edition of the I, for 10th October 2019, carried an article by Nigel outlining Labour’s election promises. The article ‘What will be in the Labour Party election manifesto’, stated that ‘Jeremy Corbyn aims to target areas for radical change’. These were itemised and described as follows

Brexit

The plicy issue likely to be at the heart of the election campaign. One in office, Labour would spend three months negotiating a new Brexit deal with Brussels to enable Britain to remain in customs union with the European Union and be closely aligned to the European single market.

It would then organise a referendum within six months, offering voters a choice between Labour’s deal and remaining in the EU. Labour would hold a special conference to decide which side it would endorse in the referendum.

Taxes

Labour says its tax-raising plans would only affect give per cent of taxpayers. It is currently committed to increase income tax rates to 45 per cent for salaries over £80,000 and to 50 per cent for salaries over £123,000.

Cuts to corporation tax would be reversed and the rate would be fixed at around 26 per cent. 

Infrastructure

Labour is pledging to spend £250bn on upgrading the UK’s transport, energy and broadband infrastructure. Another £250bn of capital would be provided for businesses and co-ops to “breathe new life into every community”.

Nationalisation

Labour would bring the railways, Royal Mail, the water companies and the National Grid into public ownership so “essential services we all rely on are run by and for the public, not for profit.”

Minimum Wage

Workers of all kinds would be legally entitled to a UK-wide minimum wage of £10 an hour. LOabour says the move will make the average 16- and 17-year-old in employment more than £2,500 a year better off.

Free Personal Care

A new National Care Service would help elderly people in England with daily tasks such as getting out of bed, bathing, washing and preparing meals in their own homes and residential care, and provide better training for carers. The £16bn annual cost would come out of general taxation.

Free Prescriptions

Prescription charges would be abolished in England. They are already free in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

More than 80 per cent of English prescriptions are already issued free of charge, but in other cases patients pay £9 per item.

Boost Doctor Numbers

The number of GP trainees in England would rise by 50 per cent to tackle a recruitment crisis. Labour says it would mean an extra 27 million GP appointments per year.

Scrap Tuition Fees

One of the party’s most popular policies at the last election, Labour is committed to scrapping university tuition fees in England and Wales, which currently stand at a maximum of £9,250 a year.

It would also cancel existing student debt, which the party says has reached “unsustainable” levels.

End Rough Sleeping

Labour would end rough sleeping in five years by allocating thousands of extra homes to people with a history of living on the streets.

Outlaw Fracking/ Increase Renewables

Fracking would be banned “once and for all”, with Labour putting its emphasis on developing clean and renewable energy.

The party wants 60 per cent of UK energy from zero-carbon or renewable sources by 2030 and would build 37 state-owned offshore windfarms. it is pledging to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in a Green Industrial Revolution.

Scrap Ofsted

The schools inspectorate, which the party claims causes higher workload and stress for teachers, would be abolished and replaced with a two-stage inspection regime.

A Four-Day Working Week

Labour would cut the average working week to 32 hours within ten years, but with no loss of pay. It would end the opt-out from the European Working Time Directive, which lets firms sidestep EU rules on limiting hours to 48 a week. Zero hours contracts would be banned.

Overturn Union Legislation

Margaret Thatcher’s union legislation would be scrapped as a priority, and moves begun towards collective bargaining in different sectors of the economy.

Reverse Legal Aid Cut

Labour would expand legal aid as a priority with help focussed on housing cases and family law.

These are all policies that this country desperately needs, and so you can expect the Tories, the Lib Dems and the lamestream media, not to mention the Thatcherite entryists in the Labour Party itself, to scream ‘extremism!’ and do everything they can to stop them.

And you can trust that the party is absolutely serious about honouring these promises. Unlike David Cameron, Tweezer and Boris Johnson, all of whose promises about restoring the health service and reversing cuts, bringing down the deficit and ending austerity, have proven and will prove to be nothing but hollow lies.