Sunday, November 30, 2008

St. Andrew's Day

As most Scots will be aware, today (30th) is St. Andrew's Day. Saint Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland and St. Andrew's Day is Scotland's official national day, although Burns' Night is more widely and lavishly celebrated. It is a "bank holiday" in Scotland. So I have just hoisted the Saltire of St. Andrew on the flagpole at the front of my house. I encourage others with Scottish loyalties to do likewise. I am also hoping that I will be having something Scottish for dinner tonight. I seem to be out of haggis but I do have some Forfar Bridies in my freezer -- to be had with tatties, of course.

Below is one of the great Scottish patriotic songs. Play the music, read the words and sing along:


1). Hark when the night is falling,
Hear! hear the pipes are calling,
Loudly and proudly calling,
Down thro' the glen.
There where the hills are sleeping,
Now feel the blood a-leaping,
High as the spirits of the old Highland men.

Chorus: Towering in gallant fame,
Scotland my mountain hame,
High may your proud standards gloriously wave,
Land of my high endeavour,
Land of the shining river,
Land of my heart for ever,
Scotland the brave.

2). High in the misty Highlands
Out by the purple islands,
Brave are the hearts that beat
Beneath Scottish skies.
Wild are the winds to meet you,
Staunch are the friends that greet you,
Kind as the love that shines from fair maidens' eyes.


3). Far off in sunlit places
Sad are the Scottish faces,
Yearning to feel the kiss
Of sweet Scottish rain.
Where the tropics are beaming
Love sets the heart a-dreaming,
Longing and dreaming for the hameland again.


4). Hot as a burning ember, (This verse is not always sung)
Flaming in bleak December
Burning within the hearts
Of clansmen afar!
Calling to home and fire,
Calling the sweet desire,
Shining a light that beckons from every star!


British Gestapo defeated: Freedom of the press upheld in court

Apparently, British newspapers can report "leaks" from officials as part of a right to freedom of expression under article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights:
"The 1 million pound prosecution of a local newspaper journalist and the police source who "leaked" stories to her collapsed yesterday after evidence gathered against them in a police bugging operation was declared inadmissible.

The 18-month-long case and investigation - monitored at senior levels in Whitehall and described in court as "Orwellian" - was thrown out when a judge ruled that operations mounted to identify the reporter's sources were a violation of human rights....

Ms Murrer's defence team argued successfully that her right to freedom of expression under article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated.

Gavin Millar, QC, told the court: "The measures used by Thames Valley Police against Sally Murrer are familiar in authoritarian states where the police are used to discourage the media from reporting on issues of public interest using confidential sources. Thankfully because of article 10 they are almost unheard of here. This case is, sadly, a rare exception."


What England Means to Me

By The Rt Hon Lord Tebbit, Conservative politician and former Member of Parliament for Chingford.

We are who we are by our parents' genes, by our inheritance of history and culture and our own experience of life. That inheritance of history may reach back to a time before one's family came to this island - in the case of my father's line, in the 16th century. So, to be English today is to be an inheritor of the most powerful language in the world - literature, art, science and technology, even sport, which have done so much to shape the world, and a philosophy or culture of government which has permeated not just the Anglosphere but great countries such as India.

We English are not an introspective people. We rarely think about England (except in the field of sport) unless something malfunctions. As for Britishness, that wider concept is a way of sharing with others living in this kingdom their history and culture and our own. It provides a banner around which we can all rally for mutual aid and strength.

Since the English have influenced and been influenced by almost every other nation we know that how others see us is as much about what they are as what we are. From time to time, if it seems to affect our interests we become anxious about that, especially if we are seen as weak, a soft touch or an unreliable friend, but being mostly content within our collective English skin we are neither extrovert nor introspective and leave others to make of us what they will.

Tolerant as we are, we do not require outsiders who come to live there to put on an English identity - but we do ask that they respect not just us but our English house - its fabric and its customs. Should they not like it we would not wish to detain them there - but if they and their children wish to join our tribe we see no reason to discriminate either against them or in their favour.

Quietly, as we look back at what the English family has done, what it has given to the wider world, we take pride - not arrogant nor puffed up pride, but honest pride in our history. That pride is patriotism and without it societies disintegrate into no more than crowds jostling for shoulders in one place.

For the English the modern cry for devolution sounds like a struggle to put back the clock and chop up the United Kingdom which has been of mutual benefit to all us British islanders. If that is what the others want so be it, but they should not think that they can have both their independence bun and their halfpenny too.

However, the concept of England is changing. The false doctrines of multiculturalism and the authoritarians preaching the doctrine of the big state ruling a citizenry denied the strengths of family and of religion and of history, has ruptured the English consensus. A growing underclass, the like of which England had not seen for centuries, rootless, feckless, ill educated and violent, has begun to infest England's great cities. The ballast of the respectable working and middle class families is shifting.

They may look for a while at outsiders from the Continent of Europe to resolve our difficulties - as the Romans and Normans did in their time - and the political classes of Brussels are eager to do today. Or they may look to an English hero - a twenty first century King Alfred - to define as he did what it meant to be English. His victory at Edington was the birth of England and the English which led through to the Magna Carta, the Tudors, the Empire, the Reform Acts and the 20th century wars to the flowering of an English culture whose power and reach has been rivaled only by that of China at its greatest. The English must soon choose. To succumb like Italy after Rome - or to rediscover what Alfred found in Wessex a thousand years ago.



Many elderly and poor people are struggling to afford heating, now that utilty bills are so high. And cold is deadly

Last winter 25,300 more people died in the winter months than in the summer, an increase of seven per cent on the previous year, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show. Most of these are due to circulatory and respiratory diseases and the majority occur among the elderly in a situation which has been condemned by campaigners. There are fears the death toll will be higher this year as forecasters predict lower temperatures than last year, utility bills have risen and the credit crunch means many households are struggling to make ends meet.

The UK has traditionally had a worse record on so-called excess winter deaths even when compared with countries that have colder climates like Finland and Norway, according to the World Health Organisation, but the last comparison was carried out when there were unusually high deaths in the UK due to flu epidemics.

Help the Aged said the number of deaths were still at unacceptable levels. Mervyn Kohler, special adviser, said: "This year's winter deaths figures are a continuing disgrace to a Government who are there to protect the most vulnerable in our society. "Older people are struggling on a daily basis, with the rising cost of living leading to real hardship.

More here

British immigration boss rejects 'immorality' claim

Phil Woolas has rejected criticism from the Archbishop of York about his stance on immigration and asylum issues, saying "being tough is not immoral". Dr John Sentamu attacked "unmerciful" immigration policies in a speech on Thursday and comments by Mr Woolas about asylum lawyers. Although he took the criticism "very seriously" Mr Woolas said it was moral to have a "fair and efficient" system.

Mr Woolas has sparked much controversy since becoming immigration minister. Dr Sentamu condemned his "tough talking" rhetoric and said attitudes to Zimbabweans seeking asylum in the UK lacked mercy. And he singled out recent comments by Mr Woolas that many lawyers for asylum applicants undermined the system by dragging out appeals and did "more harm than good", saying they were simply wrong. Dr Sentumu also suggested the language used by Mr Woolas on sensitive issues since being appointed to the job in October had muddied the waters in the immigration debate.

Mr Woolas has said he was appointed to raise the profile of the government's immigration policy and get its message across to readers of tabloid newspapers. In a recent interview in the News of the World, he vowed the government would "kick out" more illegal immigrants next year. He has also said he wanted to reassure people that Britain's population will not reach 70 million as some experts, including the office for national statistics, have predicted although he has said he does not favour a "cap" on immigration.

"May I be forgiven for suggesting that the honourable member in question does not advance his stated desire to have 'a mature debate about immigration' by this carry on?" Dr Sentamu argued. Mr Woolas told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that he did not believe his comments on immigration and asylum polices were either "unmerciful or authoritarian". "I don't accept the central charge that being tough is being immoral," he said. "I would argue the opposite." "I think the morally right thing to do is to have an efficient and fair immigration and asylum system."

Mr Woolas said he would not back down from his argument that some delays in the asylum process was caused by lawyers "frivolously" dragging out the appeals process. Dr Sentamu had said Mr Woolas' stance was "worrying" given the number of initial decisions refusing asylum subsequently overturned. But the minister said unnecessary delays in the process "perpetuated" the suffering of applicants and said he believed it was moral to ensure decisions were taken faster.

However, he pointed out that he was not accusing the majority of lawyers of such behaviour and accepted that some delays in the asylum process were the result of failings in the system itself. "You cannot manage a system unless it is efficient. That is fairer for the immigration and asylum seekers who are using the system."


Prime Minister's promise of 'British jobs for British workers' rings hollow, statistics show

Migrant workers have more than accounted for the increase in employment in the last two years while the number of Britons in work has plummeted. Jobs filled by foreigners has soared by almost half a million over the period while the number of UK-born employees has slumped by 149,000.

It shows the huge influence immigration is having on the workforce and critics said it makes a mockery of Gordon Brown's pledge of "British jobs for British workers". Young migrant workers and those over 50 also now earned more, on average, than their British counterparts.

Figures last week showed net immigration has hit its second highest level on record after increasing five-fold under Labour. And a report by one of Prince Charles' official charities warned rural communities are struggling to cope with the unprecedented number of overseas workers descending on their towns and villages.

The shadow home secretary, Dominic Grieve, said: "This makes a mockery of Gordon Brown's ill-advised comment that he would create British jobs for British workers. "As well as being a ridiculous thing to say it has shown he does not have any credible answers to the problems we face, which are being made worse by the recession."

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show the overall level of employment increased by around 320,000 between September 2006 and September this year - up from 29.17 million to 29.49 million. However, during the two year period the number of UK workers in jobs fell by 149,000 while the number of migrant employees increased by 469,000. Similarly, in the years since Labour took power, non-UK born workers have made up around two thirds of the growth in employment. Total employment grew by 2.79 million between September 1997 and September 2008 but 62 per cent of that was made up by an increase of 1.7 million migrants in work.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, said: "The number of jobs in the economy is not fixed but it is striking that there have been a major increase in the employment of economic migrants of nearly half a million while the number of British people in employment has fallen by 149,000 in the same period. "It is hard to believe that these two developments are entirely unconnected."

Separate statistics from the ONS show UK workers earn more a week, on average, than their foreign counterparts (438 pounds a week), with only Americans (635), those from Australia and New Zealand (577) and western Europeans such as the French and Germans (510). However foreign workers in the 18 to 24 age bracket now earn more than their British counterparts (290 a week as opposed to 288), as do those aged over 50 (469 a week compared to 462 for Britons).

MPs warned last week that public services will be unable to cope after immigration rose to its second highest level on record. Despite the Government's pledge to cut numbers, net immigration has increased fivefold since 1997 to 237,000 last year and means immigration has added more than 1.85 million to the population in a decade.

A separate report for one of the Prince of Wales's official charities last week also warned a threefold increase in the flow of migrant workers into the countryside has had a "disproportionate impact'' on small rural towns and villages, which lack the necessary resources and infrastructure to adapt. Housing, health care, education and policing have come under increasing pressure, according to the study for the Business in the Community charity.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "Government and independent research continues to find no significant evidence of negative employment effects from migration. "The tough new points system will ensure only those foreign workers we need - and no more - can come here to work. It is also flexible, allowing us to raise or lower the bar according to the needs of the labour market and the country as a whole."


Fears that more dentists will quit NHS as thousands billed over missed targets

Dentists will be required to refund 120 million pounds to the health service because they failed to treat enough NHS patients last year, The Times has learnt. About half of dental practices have fallen short of targets for NHS treatment agreed with local health authorities, meaning dentists will have to pay back tens of thousands of pounds each.

In the latest repercussion of the troubled dental contract, clawbacks are threatening to put some practices out of business and may persuade many more dentists to leave the NHS, the British Dental Association (BDA) says.

Thousands of patients across England are still said to be struggling to find NHS treatment, and yet about five million fewer treatments were carried out in 2007-08 than were budgeted for by the health service, figures show. This represents a 5 per cent rise in the amount that dentists will be expected to pay back, in the second year of a new pay contract that has been heavily criticised for creating a "drill and fill" culture and failing to improve access to NHS treatment.

In the past dentists were paid a fee for each treatment they provided but, under the dental contract introduced in 2006, they receive an annual income for carrying out an agreed amount of NHS work, measured in "units of dental activity" (UDAs).
Dentists, however, say that the only way to reach targets is to take on quick jobs, such as extracting a tooth rather than carrying out root canal surgery to save it, because both treatments have the same UDA value. [Amazingly idiotic!]

About 1,000 dentists opted out of providing NHS services when the new contract came into force, meaning that 900,000 fewer patients were seen in 2006-07 than under the old system, a report by MPs found this year. The Health Select Committee suggested that dentists were being set unrealistic targets for NHS work and that a failure to meet targets in the first year of the contract meant a loss of revenue for the second.

The latest figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by DPAS, a company that provides private dental plans, suggest that some regions have experienced particular problems. In Leicester, for example, more than 50 per cent of UDAs have not been delivered and 21 dental practices face repayments of 50,000 pounds or more. Across the country, 89 per cent of primary care trusts responded to a survey that found a total of 411 contracts where targets were missed by 50,000 or more.

Peter Ward, the chief executive of the BDA, said that dentists who failed to meet their targets in the first year were likely to have failed to do so again last year, creating a "roll-over effect". He said: "Once again this highlights problems with a target-driven contract that contains one crude measure of performance, which has long been criticised by the profession and patient representative groups."

Quentin Skinner, the chairman of DPAS, said: "For those dentists who fell rather short of the mark, the future for them in the NHS certainly looks bleak."

Barry Cockcroft, the Chief Dental Officer for England, said: "The Government is committed to growing NHS dental access year on year. This is why increasing the number of patients seen has been made a national priority for the NHS - and backed up by an uplift in funding of 11 per cent (209 million) this year." "The increased focus and funding is already starting to show results, with 655 more dentists working in the NHS in 2007-08 than the previous year and 36 million courses of treatment delivered compared with 35.1 million in 2006-07," he added.

Mike Penning, a Conservative health spokesman, said: "It is extraordinary that [these clawbacks are] happening at a time when over one million people have lost access to their NHS dentist in the last two years. These figures show, yet again, why we need to rip up Labour's botched contract and move towards a registration system based on clinical need, one that is targeted at preventing dental ill health rather than reacting to it."


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