Sunday, January 06, 2008

Is "Donkey" the New N-word? ("n*gger")

It sounds like it is in this report from Britain:

"An officer at Lindholme immigration removal centre near Doncaster has been sacked over allegations of racism.
He regularly referred to North African detainees as "donkeys" and made animal sounds, a report by the Home Office's Border & Immigration Agency says.


"Donkey" just means "stupid" or "stubborn", as far as I know.

Human rights vanish in NHS

IF you need evidence that the NHS has badly lost its way, look no further than the treatment meted out to 58-year-old Colette Mills. The former nurse, from Stokesley, in North Yorkshire, has been diagnosed with breast cancer that has spread to the rest of her body. Her best chance of survival is to take the new "wonder drug", Avastin. But, because of waste and bureaucratic incompetence, the South Tees Hospitals NHS Trust says it can't afford to give her the life-saving drug. That fact alone helps explain why UK cancer survival rates lag so far behind our European neighbours - despite record amounts of taxpayers' cash being poured into the health service.

But it gets worse. Mrs Mills offered to pay the o4,000-a-month cost of Avastin out of her own savings. Fine, said the NHS, but if you do, you will be treated as a private patient and will be charged the full cost of all your treatment - about o15,000 a month, which Mrs Mills cannot afford.

So, Mrs Mills is trapped in a Kafkaesque nightmare - the NHS won't give her the drug for free, but it won't let her pay for it either. That's what you get when you allow a centralised, Soviet-style bureaucracy to run healthcare - an inflexible, lumpen, one-size-fits-all, style of treatment, not driven by patient need or any notion of fairness, but motivated by the sort of rigid, outdated ideology that should have been buried under the rubble of the Berlin Wall.

Patient choice, anyone? It is not as though allowing Mrs Mills to pay for the drugs would disadvantage anybody else. And the argument put forward by the Department of Health, that allowing patients to combine NHS care with private "top-ups" would create a "two-tier health service", is nonsense on stilts. There always has been a two-tier health service. I can't help thinking that a government minister's spouse would get Avastin in the blink of an eye if they were unlucky enough to be diagnosed with cancer.

And isn't it decidedly odd that when a normal taxpayer is discriminated against and bullied in this manner, there's not a peep from the usually vociferous human rights lobby. Don't ordinary people have human rights, too?


Ban that became a boon for fox hunting

THE law of unintended consequences is the curse of well-meaning lawmakers around the globe. You set out with high ideals of achieving some lofty goal - and end up doing precisely the opposite. So it is with the banning of hunting with dogs. Almost three years after the ban was imposed in 2005, the sport of fox hunting has never been healthier. This Boxing Day more than 250,000 hunt supporters gathered at over 300 meets around the UK - the numbers apparently swollen by people who previously had no interest in hunting, but who now turn out in protest at what they see as an illiberal and nanny-statist law.

So those people who set out to destroy fox hunting have succeeded only in reinvigorating it. Those who wanted to save foxes from the hounds have engineered a situation where more of them are killed than ever before. You'd need a heart of stone not to laugh.

Before the tree huggers start accusing me of being a bloodthirsty animal killer, I should declare a lack of interest. The only thing I was hunting on Boxing Day was the television remote control that was lost down the back of the sofa.

The only time I attended a meet was as a reporter to cover a noisy protest by hunt saboteurs a few years ago. The passions - and occasional violence - aroused on both sides frankly baffled me. But as a general principle I reckon the state has absolutely no business banning an activity that many people enjoy and which causes no harm to anybody else.

What I do resent is the 700 hours of parliamentary time that was devoted to the hunting ban - more than was spent discussing the Iraq war. I've never seen MPs so animated since the last time someone suggested cutting their expenses. Can anyone honestly argue that at a time when our health and education systems are in a meltdown, Britain is threatened by jihadist lunatics and people's pensions have gone down the tubes, this was the best use of valuable parliamentary time?

The result is a law that is such a mess that it is widely ignored - and the police believe is virtually impossible to enforce. Meanwhile, the net impact on animal welfare of the hunting ban is precisely zero. Farmers still need to control the fox population and more are being killed than before the ban was imposed.

But, of course, the hunting ban was nothing to do with animal welfare - it was all about politics. How else could you explain why other "cruel" pastimes, such as fishing, horse racing or factory farming, have been left well alone? Labour's old Left had swallowed the dumping of Clause 4 and Tony Blair's aping of the Conservatives in order to woo Middle England. As a reward they were tossed a bit of red meat in the shape of the hunting ban so they could imagine themselves sticking it to the toffs.

How pathetic. The hunting ban is as nasty a piece of naked class warfare that has ever disgraced the statute books. Let that be a lesson to other busybodies who want the state to ban everything they disagree with. I for one am glad it has backfired so spectacularly. Tally Ho!


Energy-saving light bulbs blamed for migraines

The energy-saving light bulbs that will be made compulsory in homes in a few years can trigger migraines, campaigners have claimed. The Migraine Action Association (MAA) said some of its members alleged the fluorescent bulbs had led to attacks of the powerful headaches.

By 2011, Britain will be the first European country to phase out traditional bulbs as part of a strategy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The MAA is calling on the Government to avoid a complete ban on old-style bulbs, by providing an opt-out for people with health problems.

Last year it was claimed that the "green" bulbs can cause people with epilepsy to experience symptoms similar to the early stages of a fit. There have also been complaints from people with lupus, a chronic immune disease that causes pain and extreme tiredness.

Low energy light bulbs use only a quarter of the energy consumed by traditional versions and are estimated to save 2,000 times their weight in greenhouse gases. They are often five times more expensive but the greater efficiency means they can pay for themselves within months. Several versions use a technology similar to fluorescent strip lights and some migraine sufferers say they produce a flickering effect that triggers their condition.

Karen Manning, from the MAA, said: "When the Government announced that traditional light bulbs would be phased out, we were inundated with over 200 calls and emails from members who said the flickering had caused migraines. "This is a debilitating condition which can often leave people bed-ridden for days. "The bulbs do not necessarily affect every sufferer, but we are talking about up to six million people in the UK who suffer migraines - so this is a serious concern. "We would ask the Government to avoid banning them completely and leave some opportunity for conventional bulbs to be purchased."

The Lighting Association, which represents manufacturers, denied that modern designs produced a flicker. A spokesman said: "A small number of cases have been reported by people who suffer from reactions to certain types of linear fluorescent lamps. These were almost certainly triggered by old technology."


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