Thursday, May 31, 2007

NHS knows how to treat war veterans

"Let the B****s die" is the underlying attitude. The fact that he paid his National Insurance contributions for all his working life means nothing to the bureaucrats. When the government is the provider, collecting what you have paid for is a very uncertain business

A 90-year-old war veteran suffering from ten complaints including bowel cancer, dementia and non-Hodgkins lymphoma has been denied NHS nursing care and told that he must pay the 600 pounds -a-week bill himself. Eric Friar, who is almost blind and can hardly walk, served as an RAF navigator in India and Africa during the Second World War. He has been categorised as having "moderate" disabilities by his NHS trust, ruling out state funding for his care.

Mr Friar has been cared for by his wife of 60 years, Norma, since he first suffered from cancer in 1992. She is now unable to care for him as she has osteoporosis. Mrs Friar, 78, has been told that the State will contribute 40 pounds a week to his care, because the couple have too much in savings. Mr Friar, of Highnam, Gloucestershire, is in hospital with pneumonia. While there he has caught MRSA and shingles has been diagnosed. He cannot eat unaided, needs a catheter and is in constant discomfort.

Mrs Friar fears she will not be able to cope when he is discharged and cannot afford the 30,000 pounds -a-year nursing home cost. She said: "How bad has he got to be? We have never asked for anything in our lives. I'm angry, really angry. It's an awful lot to for us to pay. I say to people now - spend the lot and let the Government pay for it." The NHS will contribute the weekly 40 pounds towards costs until Mr Friar's savings drop below 21,500 pounds. Then the State will provide more until his savings reduce to 13,000, when its contribution rises again.

Mr Friar's case is regarded as falling into the third of four bands: critical, substantial, moderate and low. Mrs Friar said that nursing homes that would be suitable for her husband charged about 600 a week.

Gloucestershire Primary Care Trust said that to qualify for "continuing nursing care", which is funded by the NHS, medical needs must be "complex, or intense, or unpredictable". A spokesman for the trust said that it could not comment on individual cases but was sorry to hear that Mr and Mrs Friar were unhappy with the outcome of their case. He added: "We always aim to work with a patient and their family in carrying out an assessment so we can be sure that all of the facts are available and our assessment is understood. "Every assessment is based on individual need and in cases such as these, financial support is provided as a contribution towards meeting the patient's ongoing nursing care. An appeals process is in place and this option is available if the individual or carer believes that the outcome is not the right one." [In other words, "Drop dead!"]


Burgers revival on British school menus

Food freaks forced to back down

England's school food watchdog has denied it is watering down its healthy food guidelines after many pupils opted out of school dinners. Seven months after healthy food guidelines were introduced, the School Food Trust is revising the standards. Canteens will now be allowed to offer manufactured meat products like pies, sausages and healthier burgers four times a fortnight instead of just once. The trust said it was responding to calls for more clarity and flexibility.

New standards were brought into force in September 2006 after TV chef Jamie Oliver revealed the poor nutritional standards of meals on offer in school canteens. But a number of reports and surveys, including one for the BBC, suggest that fewer pupils have been taking school meals.

A trust spokeswoman said the 2006 standards were always going to be refined and clarified, but denied the move was a result of pupils opting for the chip shop instead of the school canteen. "We undertook consultations with cooks, schools and manufacturers and decided clarifications of the standards were needed. "Having listened to people we understand how difficult it is to get from having chips and Turkey Twizzlers every day to not having burgers and chips at all. "There's still a ban on lower quality economy burgers - schools have to serve a good quality one and it might be grilled."

She added: "It's about being informed about making these choices and understanding that having burgers every day is not a choice that is normal. "This is a response to help and encourage children make healthy choices, not because swarms of them are going to the chip shop."

The changes to the meat products restrictions mean canteens will be able, no more than once a fortnight, to offer pupils one item from each of the following four groups:
  • Burgers, hamburgers, chopped meat and corned meat
  • Sausages, sausage meat, link, chipolata and luncheon meat
  • Meat pies, meat puddings, Melton Mowbray pie, game pie, Scottish pie, pasty, pasties, bridie and sausage rolls
  • Any other shaped or coated meat product

Other changes mean kitchens can now serve breadsticks and crackers - as long as they are served with fruit, vegetables or dairy foods. They were previously banned along with crisps, salted nuts and other flavoured snacks, but the trust thought they might encourage pupils to eat more fruit, vegetables and dairy food.

School kitchens are still being encouraged to serve more fruit, vegetables, fresh meat and fish, and deep-fried food should not be served more than twice a week. A small snapshot survey of secondary schools for the trust suggested the take-up of the new healthier, school meals has remained roughly stable. Some 30% of the 74 secondary schools that responded said they had seen a reduction in the numbers of pupils having school meals, while a further 30% said they had seen an increase. The rest said things had not changed.

The survey suggests the results were better in primary schools. A poll of 206 for the trust found half had seen no change, a third had seen an increase and just under a fifth had seen a decrease.


Britain: The rise of the contingent racists

After Margaret Hodge's recent comments, how true is it to say that the working class are more prone to racism than the middle class? Maybe the difference lies in different experiences. As the old New York saying goes: A conservative is a liberal who was mugged last night

Margaret Hodge says that white working-class voters in her Barking constituency are being tempted by the BNP. Mrs Hodge told BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend: "The political class as a whole is often frightened of engaging in the very difficult issues of race and ... the BNP then exploits that and try to create out of a perception a reality which is not the reality of people's lives." She said the area's "difficult" change from a white area to a multi-racial community had caused some people to seek out "scapegoats".

There are more and more respected voices suggesting that the indigenous working classes may not be benefiting from competition in the labour market from immigrant competitors (see, for example, the work of Harvard economist George Borjas).

The left-leaning Young Foundation has controversially argued that administration of local housing policy has benefited newcomers, causing resentment among the white working class and contributing to the rise of racism in Tower Hamlets through the 1980s and 1990s. Ms Hodge's remarks on housing policy, that it should favour those who were born here, even have some pedigree in the left.

So it seems that, arguably, the white working classes might very well not be profiting from immigration in the way that Britain as a whole is said to be benefiting. The middle classes, however, seem to be doing very well from it of course: they must be gleeful at the increased competition in certain quarters of the labour market (such as among waiting staff in restaurants and housecleaners).

My question is about the middle classes. Are we right to keep identifying the white working class as more prone to racism than the middle classes? Are Margaret Hodge and others who use essentially the same language effectively saying that the middle classes do not show racism because they do not have to confront "difficult change" locally, to use her language, because such change never visits the leafy seclusion of comfortable areas of north London or the other tidy neighbourhoods where the middle classes live? When I asked a friend if this was right, her answer was that it was a lack of education that made the white working class seek out scapegoats and that the middle classes had this tendency educated out of them.

But does that ring true or is the truth rather more uncomfortable? Do we all bear a latent tendency towards racism, which manifests itself only when we have personally lost something tangible because of immigrants, such as a job or a housing allocation? If that's the case, then maybe the only thing keeping the middle classes from showing racist proclivities is that their homes are indeed getting cleaned, their restaurant tables being served and their dry-cleaning getting done. In other words, are the middle classes contingent racists, whose racism is held at bay by a decent standard of living, but who could turn nasty the day they have to do their own dirty work.


Britain's new Greenie righteousness: Don't drive your kids to school

For the sake of the planet, let them get attacked by pedophiles and other predators. People are pollution, after all

If there is one thing likely to make parents like me send our children to school in a stretch limo, it is sanctimonious lectures about how not walking risks global destruction. It is government-backed Walk to School Week, billed as "a celebration of how walking to school can reduce air pollution and help save the planet". I admit that, when needs must, my wife, rather than the Devil, drives our daughters to the local junior school. Otherwise, I enjoy walking them - often my most strenuous exercise, and our longest uninterrupted chat. I now discover, however, that it is also meant to be my moral duty.

In the leaflet for Walk to School Week given to children, "Strider", a cartoon talking foot, attacks car-produced "evil pollutants" that increase global warming and are "going to destroy your planet". Strider warns children: "Each time you use a car their army gets stronger and stronger." It's war! So, "Come on mum," say the multi-ethnic kids in the pictures, "let's walk to save the world!"

Let us pass over questions about Strider's scientific expertise at this point, since none of this has anything to do with teaching the complex science of climate change. It is about delivering a simplistic moralistic warning of man-made doom to our children - and through them, to us. The Walk to School website even declares that "We want people to see walking to school as a great way to `do your bit' in the same way as recycling your bottles or turning off lights". When did it become the job of schools to help to forge a pseudo Blitz spirit in the Government's "war" on global warming?

Educational crusaders are using alarmist warnings to re-educate our children in how to behave. Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, plans to make geography lessons even more explicit morality tales about man-made global warming, in order to help to "lock in a culture change that could, quite literally, save the world". So messing around with the curriculum or walking to school can avoid an apocalypse? In the name of global warming it seems that we are now expected to believe "quite literally" anything.

This policy of indoctrination, indoctrination, indoctrination risks raising children's "awareness" at the expense of their education. They can end up "aware" that life on Earth is ending but ignorant of where the planet's great rivers begin; less well-schooled in geography than in guilt-tripping their parents.

Campaigners complain that "only" 49 per cent of primary pupils walk to school. By coincidence, a survey suggests that half of 7 to 11-year-olds often lose sleep worrying about the havoc they have heard climate change will wreak. Maybe they are too scared to get out of bed - or just too tired to walk the straight and narrow path with Strider.


Green attack on British football

What did you do on Saturday, the sunny day of the FA Cup Final between Manchester United and Chelsea which took place at the rather spectacularly done-up Wembley Stadium? Maybe you were one of 89,826 fans jammy enough to get tickets for the game and to watch it underneath Wembley's new gleaming, cathedral-style arc. Or perhaps you were one of the estimated 500million people who watched it on TV (United and Chelsea's fanbases stretch way beyond the white cliffs of Dover into Europe, Africa and Asia). Maybe, like thousands of others, you watched the game over a pint in a local pub. Or perhaps you don't very much care for football and did something completely unrelated instead: shopping, sleeping, sunbathing.

Or.were you one of a small handful of miserabilist windbags who spent the day pointing out how destructive the FA Cup Final is likely to be for the environment? We should have seen it coming. A few hours before the Cup Final kicked off, it was reported that the event would make an `eco-footprint' 3,000 times the size of the Wembley pitch. Academics totted up the number of pies and other unsavoury savoury products the Wembley-attending fans were likely to consume (the fat bastards) and the number of miles they were likely to drive, and worked out that each fan's `eco-footprint' would be nearly 10 times what it would have been if he or she had watched the game from home.

What curmudgeonliness. The anti-FA Cup miserabilism provided a striking (if somewhat unwitting) snapshot of the inherently elitist streak in the politics of environmentalism. Where millions of people around the world were glued to watching a major annual event in that most mass of mass sports, football, certain green-minded individuals seized an opportunity to lecture and hector the nation about its dirty habits. It was the political equivalent of a dirty tackle from behind. It's high time we showed these greens the red card.

Claims that the first FA Cup Final to be played at Wembley in seven years would make a damaging dent in the natural environment emanated from academics at Cardiff University. I know - you would think that a university has better things to do than put the dampers on a big sporting event. And Cardiff? Maybe they're bitter that Wembley has re-assumed its rightful place as Britain's big national stadium, thus kicking Cardiff's Millennium Stadium into touch. According to the Guardian, Cardiff University found that `the average fan's taste for beer and pies makes up a large chunk of the ecological impact [of the FA Cup Final in Wembley]'. Cardiff's Andrea Collins said, `They are highly processed food and drink products which require a lot of energy to produce' (1). She also said that a lot of waste would be `generated outside [Wembley] stadium', especially by fans driving their cars or using up some other breed of `transport miles' (2).

Cardiff's claims were based on a study it carried out of the FA Cup Final of 2004 when Manchester United played Millwall at the Cardiff Millennium Stadium. Back then researchers found that before, during and after the game Man Utd and Millwall fans ate 37,624 sausage rolls, pies or pasties, 26,965 sandwiches, 17,998 hot dogs, 12,780 burgers, 11,502 packets of crisps and 23,909 portions of chips. They rinsed it all down with 303,001 pints of lager, 66,584 pints of beer, 38,906 pints of cider, 12,452 bottles of wine, 90,481 shots and 63,141 bottles of alcopops. This `binge' left a mark on Cardiff city centre: 37 tonnes of glass, eight tonnes of paper and 11 tonnes of uneaten food were left behind, and none of it was recycled! Can you believe it? Football fans watched a game and then went out to celebrate/commiserate over grub and booze and they didn't even take their rubbish home with them to deposit it in their recycling compost machines (3).

During the 2004 Cup Final, fans' use of transport contributed the largest part of the `eco-footprint'. The researchers found that fans travelled an average of 367 miles each (well, if you are going to hold an English Cup Final in Wales.), 47 per cent of them by car, 34 per cent by rail and the rest in coaches or minibuses. Apparently, all this travelling made an `eco-footprint' that measured 1,670 `global hectares' - though quite how you get from miles travelled by football fans to a footprint measured in hectares is anyone's guess (4). Extrapolating from these 2004 findings, the Cardiff boffins now say that Saturday's final at Wembley will have caused an `eco-footprint' 3,000 times the size of the Wembley pitch. Got that? A study of what fans ate and drank during an FA Cup Final in 2004 can throw light on the amount of land (the eco-footprint) required to provide the necessary resources to replenish those used up by fans at an FA Cup Final in 2007. And they say that those who question the green ethos use dodgy science..

Having colonised the educational sphere and the political sphere, the rapacious green ethos is now spreading into the world of leisure. Even that previously purely emotional sphere of football fandom is being subordinated to the demands of the green priests. Last year's World Cup was similarly measured in terms of its ecological impact. The German authorities claimed that the event would emit 100,000 tonnes of CO2, which they tried to offset by investing $1.5billion in environmental protection projects in Africa and Asia. They also `educated' fans attending World Cup games by issuing them with green advice leaflets, making them drink from recyclable and refillable beer cups, and serving hotdogs without any packaging (5). In Britain, the Football Association has set itself the task of making football `carbon-neutral' (6).

Behind the claims that big cup finals are destroying the environment there lurks an old-fashioned fear and loathing of football fans, of their cavalier attitudes and their potentially destructive and violent impact. Old concerns about large gatherings of working-class men (and some women) are now swaddled in PC environmentalist lingo. Where thousands of fans were traditionally seen as a heaving riot waiting to happen (and sometimes still are), now many see them as toxic waste-creators; where fans used to be looked upon as a threat to public order, now they are described as a threat to the natural order. You can see the fear of the masses in those scary-sounding numbers of how many pints they drink and portions of chips they eat: they are not seen as individuals coming together to cheer their team, but as an out-of-control mass, an intolerable blob, eating tonnes of food, drinking tonnes of booze and leaving behind tonnes of shit.

The anti-fan component to the greening of football is clear in the solution put forward: to change mass behaviour. David James, until recently the England team goalkeeper and a leading light in the football world's efforts to make the game more planet-friendly, says the real problem is `habit and tradition': `Football is pure bloke territory: it's still acceptable to spit out gum and chuck bottles on the floor, and the industry mirrors this selfishness across the scale.' James says the football authorities must re-educate people and reshape their `attitudes' - that is, effectively de-bloke them. `We've got to make use of football as a driving force for environmental change. We'd be stupid not to. It doesn't take a think tank to see that the game holds a powerful influence over kids and adults around the world.' (7) In short, the authorities should exploit football to change the way fans think and behave. Even the old fan-hating law'n'order lobby never tried that - they might have whacked fans across the head, but they didn't try to change what was inside their heads.

It takes a killjoy of the highest order to hector football fans for not thinking about the consequences of their behaviour while they're watching a game. Like Catholic priests of old, the greens demand that we stop and think before doing anything potentially `destructive' or `immoral'. They seem not to understand that there are moments in life when we simply lose ourselves in passion or fury and throw `good sense' and `good behaviour' to the wind. No self-respecting football fan is going to think about recycling a hotdog napkin when his team is 1-0 down and there are only five minutes left; no fan whose team has just won the FA Cup is going to collect together all his beer bottles as he drinks himself silly and put them in a bottle bank on the way home. Life, love, football: they just don't work like that. And if you can't see why, then maybe you'd be better off watching bowls.


Attempt to destroy the unique Oxford University system underway

Fabulous success must be levelled down

Funding reforms will put at risk the one-to-one tutorials in Oxford colleges, according to dons and students. They say that the proposals risk turning the university into a two-tier system. The row over the change in funding rules comes after John Hood, the vice-chancellor, was defeated last year when dons threw out his plans to hand the strategic control of the university to business and political outsiders.

In a letter to undergraduates, union representatives from 23 colleges are urging the student body to reject the funding plans, which could come into effect in October next year. Under the joint resource allocation mechanism, the university will distribute government money “as earned” between departments and colleges, so that research-intensive colleges receive more. Colleges will also be compensated for taking more graduates and overseas students.

The students’ college representatives say that poorer colleges, such as St Catherine’s, Keble, Hertford and Pembroke, will lose funding to richer colleges and face having to cut their distinctive one-to-one tutorial system. This will be divisive, they say, splitting the university between the rich and poor colleges.

“Richer ‘mixed’ colleges such as St John’s and Christ Church, while subject to the same incentives to turn to research, will be rich enough to subsidise their tutorial systems,” they wrote. “The evident result of some colleges maintaining the tutorial system, while others are forced to move to classroom-based teaching, is that Oxford will fragment.” Since 1998 colleges and departments have shared out the government block grant, based partly on research and partly on student numbers, so that no college should suffer. Oxford wants to change the system to reward research. Donald Hay, the chairman of the funding committee for the new system, said that it was being phased in over a decade and that the university would subsidise tutorials.


Tony Blair Still Gets It: "I was stopped by someone the other week who said it was not surprising there was so much terrorism in the world when we invaded their countries (meaning Afghanistan and Iraq). No wonder Muslims felt angry. When he had finished, I said to him: tell me exactly what they feel angry about. We remove two utterly brutal and dictatorial regimes; we replace them with a United Nations-supervised democratic process and the Muslims in both countries get the chance to vote, which incidentally they take in very large numbers. And the only reason it is difficult still is because other Muslims are using terrorism to try to destroy the fledgling democracy and, in doing so, are killing fellow Muslims. What's more, British troops are risking their lives trying to prevent the killing. Why should anyone feel angry about us? Why aren't they angry about the people doing the killing? The odd thing about the conversation is that I could tell it was the first time he had even heard the alternative argument."

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