Tuesday, April 22, 2008

British government obliged to give prisoners heroin substitute

Taxpayers have footed a 1 million pound compensation bill after almost 200 drug-addicted prisoners sued the Government, claiming that denying them a heroin substitute breached their human rights. The prisoners claimed that their rights were infringed when they were deprived of methadone and had to go "cold turkey". A High Court test case involving six prisoners was going ahead two years ago but the Government agreed to settle out of court and pay 750,000 to 197 inmates in jails in England and Wales. The compensation payments averaged 3,807 pounds per prisoner, with four in Wymott jail in Lancashire receiving a total of 15,228 and three at Preston prison 11,421. The overall bill to the taxpayer of 1 million includes the compensation payments plus the estimated lawyers' fees.

The Government decided against fighting the compensation claims to minimise costs. It had been warned that if the case had gone to court the prisoners could have won even larger amounts of compensation. The prisoners had been using methadone paid for by the Government but it was decided that they should go through cold turkey detoxification instead. They claimed that their human rights had been breached under Articles 3 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which bans discrimination, or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

At the preliminary hearing in 2006 Richard Hermer, a human rights lawyer specialising in group actions against the Government, told the court: "Many of the prisoners were receiving methadone treatment before they entered prison and were upset at the short period of treatment using opiates they encountered in jail. Imposing the short, sharp detoxification is the issue." The addicts said that their treatment was handled "inappropriately" with the consequence that they "suffered injuries" and had "difficulties" with their withdrawal. They claimed that the treatment constituted trespass and accused the Prison Service of clinical negligence.

A Prison Service spokeswoman said that the payments made were in response to a minority of the claims. "We successfully defended the majority of claims. We make payments only when we are instructed to do so by the courts or where strong legal advice suggests that a settlement will save money," she added. Latest figures show that compensation payments to prisoners have fallen from a total of 4.4 million in 2005-06 to 2 million in 2006-07.


A Leftist argues for English nationalism

Good to see in many ways -- as long as it does not go down the Fascist path. I tend to think that only conservatives can be trusted with nationalism. Leftists take to extremes anything that they adopt -- and we have already seen where one brand of national socialism ended up. Note: Wednesday is St George's Day, the day of England's patron Saint and the English flag (of St. George) is below. There is a discussion from a conservative viewpoint of the need for an English parliament here

There are certainly plenty of reasons to be suspicious of nationalism, and plenty of historic examples of its dark side. There are reasons, too, to be concerned about some of those who take on the mantle today, many of whom do come from a dark political place. But wait a minute: how have the Scottish managed to get themselves a government that is both nationalist and left-wing? How is it that the French are able to invoke '‚tat from the left as well as the right? Why do the Zapatistas in Mexico, who talk proudly of their Mexican as well as their indigenous identity while conducting armed insurrections against the state, attract the admiration of young English radicals? Why is nationalism good in Venezuela or Cuba but not here? And why is talk of identity and culture admired among our ethnic-minority communities, yet when the English as a whole discuss such ideas, the spectre of Enoch Powell and the British National Party is immediately conjured up?

It is customary at this point to invoke George Orwell, who wrote, nearly 70 years ago, that "England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality". The average English liberal, he observed, was so out of touch with popular culture that he considered it "a duty to snigger at every English institution, from horse racing to suet puddings". Orwell is still worth the reference, because this attitude is one of the few things that doesn't seem to have changed much in England in seven decades.

Still, among some of the more regressive strands of the English left, the self-loathing continues. We will probably see it on 23 April, Shakespeare's birthday and St George's Day, as ageing liberals are wheeled out to instruct us that "English culture" does not even exist, that everyone is an immigrant anyway, that morris dancing was invented by the Victorians, that St George was Lebanese and that, besides, we're all "multicultural" now, so talking about it will probably offend somebody (though it will never be specified exactly who).

But decades of such cultural self-harm have had three dangerous consequences. The first is that the far right has been able to colonise Englishness for itself, conflate it with whiteness and make us all even more nervous about discussing it. The second is that the genuine political injustices under which England currently labours are not being addressed by the left. And the third is that the door has been flung wide open for global capitalism to gleefully tear up what remains of the English landscape, both physical and cultural, and replace it with strip malls, motorways, corporate farms and gated communities for the rich. England is losing its soul, and the left has had far too little to say about it.

I would argue that there are two strong cases for an English nationalism of the left: a political case and a cultural one. Since 1997, the political landscape within the UK has changed dramatically as a result of devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These devolutions were the right thing to do. They responded to a desire, particularly in Scotland, for increased self-governance, a desire which sprang both from a sense of national identity and a sense of injustice and which was articulated in Scotland by the Scottish National Party and in Wales by Plaid Cymru, both nationalist parties of the left.

Yet the devolution process was flawed because it confused Britain with England. The UK contains four nations. Three of them now have governments separate from, though answerable to, the British government. The fourth - England - does not. The English, as a result, have a problem.

Instead of our own elected parliament or assembly, England today is governed by eight unaccountable, undemocratic and largely unknown "regional assemblies", stuffed with corporate shills and political placemen, which make hugely important decisions on housing, spatial planning and transport. Meanwhile, at Westminster, Scottish and Welsh MPs are making decisions about the future of England for which they will never have to answer to their constituents - though English MPs cannot do the same in those countries.

This, the hoary old "West Lothian question", has already had a gravely undemocratic impact on the people of England. In 2003, for example, Tony Blair's controversial bill creating foundation hospitals, rejected by the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly, was imposed on the English despite the opposition to it from a majority of English MPs: new Labour drilled its Scottish and Welsh MPs into the lobbies to force upon the English something their own people had already rejected. The next year, university top-up fees (also rejected in Scotland and Wales) were forced down the throats of the English by just five votes - the votes of Scottish MPs.

England, the only British nation without any form of democratic devolution, is also, startlingly, the only nation in Europe without its own parliament or government. It receives less money from the Treasury per head of population than the other British nations (the poorest part of Britain, incidentally, is in England; it is Cornwall) and has fewer MPs per head of population, too. Despite devolution, the British government has ministers for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - but no minister for England.

Growing numbers of English people are angry about this, and Gordon Brown's clumsy campaign to promote "Britishness" should be seen as a deliberate attempt to fend off growing English demands for political justice, which would torpedo new Labour's (largely Scottish) power base. Yet the point here is not to criticise the Celtic nations, to be "anti-Scottish" or anti-anyone. The point is to be pro-justice and pro-democracy.

Then there is the cultural case. In today's England we are losing what makes us who we are, at a frightening rate. Some of the world's most rapacious corporations, in a cosy alliance with an overcentralised government in love with the notion that business values are national values, are tearing meaning and character from the landscape. The independent, the historic and the diverse are everywhere being replaced by the corporate, the bland and the controlled.

Consider some of the casualties. The English pub, probably the best-known international symbol of our folk culture, is dying; 57 pubs shut up shop every month. Under new Labour we have lost 30,000 independent shops (including half of our independent bookshops), half of our orchards, a quarter of all our post offices (with many more to come) and 40 per cent of our dairy farms. The number of out-of-town shopping centres has increased fourfold in 20 years. We are seeing the streets of our major cities sold off to private corporations. Inner-city markets that serve poor communities are being cleared to make way for executive flats. Property prices have risen so sharply since 1997 - in some places by almost 400 per cent - that entire communities have simply shrivelled and died. This is a huge, and in some cases irreversible, cultural loss, a loss of the everyday culture of the people.

Political justice for England, then, and economic and cultural justice, too: this should be the rallying cry for a new breed of English nationalists. Most of us, Tory or Labour or anything else, would agree that the BNP should not be allowed to hijack our national identity (the BNP, as the name makes clear, is a British, not an English, nationalist party).

But if this is the case, why should we also allow the more respectable right-wingers to have it all to themselves? English folk culture belongs to all of us; the political injustices of the current constitutional settlement are injustices whoever you vote for. Why should those who consider themselves "left-wing", however they define that term, not be able to consider themselves English nationalists, too?

In truth, there is no good reason, other than fear and prejudice. It is time to reclaim both England and the proud tradition of radical nationalism, rooted but not chauvinistic, outward-looking but aware of our past, attached to place not race, geography not biology. The need to belong - the need for a sense of place and culture - is a basic human impulse. It should not be denied, and neither is it a bad thing unless it is perverted. If we don't want it to be perverted we need to see that it isn't, by claiming it for all of us.

More here

Powell has won: A view from India

As people from India were a major source of Enoch Powell's unease, one might expect him to be hated there. The following article from The Times of India actually defends him in some ways

The late Enoch Powell, controversial British politician, poet, linguist and once-aspiring Viceroy of India, would surely have laughed to see the kadhai and rice bowl protests in London on Sunday. Exactly 40 years ago, to the day, Powell made his infamous 'rivers of blood' speech in newly-multicultural Birmingham. Using his oratorical powers and vast knowledge of the classics, Powell predicted uncontrolled immigration would raise racial tensions in UK the same way the Roman poet Virgil described "the river Tiber foaming with much blood".

Four decades later, the streets of the capital of politically-correct Britain were foaming with an estimated 45,000 South Asian, Chinese and Turkish catering workers protesting against strict new immigration controls. The new measures for non-European workers effectively keep the curry, chow mein and kebab chef out of Britain unless he speaks good English and has educational qualifications of the sort you don't normally find in halwai or czar of the tandoor.

If anything, the caterers' public ferment shows that Powell's controversial, if divisive, views about British multi culturalism and open-door immigration policy had finally been dignified by officialdom. The immigration controls Powell wanted have finally come to pass.

Powell quoted the registrar-general's statistics to estimate Britain would have five to seven million 'coloureds', or one-tenth of the total population, by the year 2000. By any reckoning, that was magic maths. Britain's office of national statistics says that in 2001-2002, 7.6% of the UK's population consisted of non-white ethnic minorities, which is only a bit more than Powell's predicted one-tenth.

But it was not his number-crunching that made, in his own words, his speech "go up 'fizz' like a rocket; but whereas all rockets fall to the earth, this one is going to stay up". Powell gave voice to the deepest fears of the Mr and Mrs White Average when he declared, "We must be mad, literally mad, as a nation to be permitting the annual inflow of some 50,000 dependants, who are for the most part the material of the future growth of the immigrant-descended population. It is like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre".

The speech had severe political consequences for Powell. He was sacked from the shadow cabinet by a Conservative Party, which privately agreed with parts of his politically incorrect demagoguery even as it felt publicly unable to endorse it. And yet, just three days after the speech, 1,000 dockers went on strike to protest against Powell's dismissal. Their placards said 'Back Britain, not Black Britain'. By early May, Powell had received 43,000 letters and 700 telegrams supporting him. A Gallup poll found 74% of UK agreed with Powell's premise and 69% felt he should not have been dismissed.

Forty years on, the luxury of hindsight allows Britain to ruminate on the rights and wrongs of the strange saga of Enoch Powell's predicted rivers of blood. First and foremost, those rivers do not run and may be, never will.

Second, Powell was not an insular racialist. He loved India and worked hard to achieve fluency in two Indian languages. But he firmly believed it wrong to impose a mammoth immigrant community on a small island, with all the attendant perils for social cohesion.

The new immigration controls show that Britain agrees with Powell. It just doesn't have Powell's guts to say so, straight off.


Scientists discover drops of truth in medieval belief in urine

Urine testing is not exactly new in modern medicine either -- but the idea that more information can be extracted from urine analysis does sound interesting. I doubt that it could give dietary information with a high degree of certainty, however. A background article is here

Medieval physicians believed that they could diagnose disease by holding up a flask of the patient's urine to the light and squinting at it. According to scientists at Imperial College London, they could have been on to something. A team there has completed the first worldwide study of the metabolites (breakdown products) that are found in urine, reflecting the diet, inheritance and the lifestyle of the people from whom it came. They call such studies "metabolomics" by analogy with genomics, which looks at all the genes that make up the human species, and proteomics, which does the same for proteins.

The study used nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to compare racial and national groups by the composition of their urine. From Japan, Beijing, Corpus Christi, Belfast and West Bromwich, urine differs in subtle ways that could provide a powerful new way of linking diet and health. The metabolites they found come from microbes in the gut, from diet and from the metabolism of the host.

The team believes that the research may provide the basis for a "metabolome-wide association" approach to help to understand interactions between lifestyles, environment and genes and how they determine diseases. The metabolic fingerprints show that people in the US and Britain who share a tendency to high blood pressure and heart problems have similar patterns. Writing in the science journal Nature, the team identifies metabolites linked to high blood pressure, such as the amino acid alanine. Hippurate, another by-product of gut bacteria, is found in people with lower blood pressure who drink less and eat more fibre in their diet.

Scientists from Imperial College, the US, Belgium, Japan and China took samples from 4,630 volunteers aged between 40 and 59. Professor Jeremy Nicholson, from Imperial College, said: "Metabolic profiling can tell us how specific aspects of a person's diet and how much they drink are contributing to their risks for certain diseases, and these are things which we can't investigate by looking at a person's DNA. What is really important is that we can test out our new hypotheses directly, in a way that is not easy with genetic biomarkers."


'Thousands of English patients go to Wales for free prescriptions'

More NHS weirdness

Tens of thousands of English patients could be registering with Welsh GPs and making day-trips to the country to obtain free prescriptions, it was claimed yesterday. Statistics show that three million people are registered with Welsh GPs, about 100,000 more than the official population. Wales is the only part of Britain not to have prescription charges. England has the highest at 7.10 pounds, followed by Northern Ireland at 6.85 and Scotland at 5 pounds.

The Conservative Party in Wales claimed that the figures pointed to patients from England travelling to Wales and called on the Welsh Assembly executive to stop "prescription tourism". Darren Millar, a Tory member of the assembly, said: "It has long been my suspicion that prescription tourism is rife in my constituency. We must tackle it sooner rather than later." The Tories suspect that English people could be using the addresses of friends and relatives in Wales to register.

However, David Bailey, the British Medical Association chairman in Wales, said: "The extra patients may be students or people who have come to Wales to work." An assembly spokesman said: "There is no evidence to suggest that patients are coming to Wales to benefit from free prescriptions. There has historically been a difference between the number of people registered with GPs and the population. "It is a long-standing problem across the UK and is mainly caused by people registering with a new practice before de-registering with their existing practice."


Bureaucratic Brits keep denying an old lady her social security payments: "A blind and deaf woman has been forced to live off her savings for almost a year because the Post Office will not let her withdraw her pension as her signature does not match the one in its records. Joan Hopton, who is deaf and blind, has not been able to collect her pension for over a year Joan Hopton, 81, of Cheltenham, Glos, lost her pension card in May last year. However, when she applied for a new one she was told by the company that it could not be issued because the name on the bottom of the letter did not match her original signature. She used to collect a pension of 104 pounds a week and is now owed about 4,000 pounds since she lost her card. Despite repeated attempts by members of her family to come to some arrangement with Post Office Ltd the company will not let her access the money"

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