ModernityBlog

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Archive for February 2010

Walk Away.

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I had thought that my increasingly low opinion of the Stop the War Coalition could go no lower, but I was wrong.

For some inexplicable reason they are supporting Baroness Tonge:

Jenny Tonge has been dismissed from her post as health spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats because she suggested that Israel investigate charges which have been made regarding Israeli aid workers in Haiti. Petition…”

I would have thought that the political activists within the StWC would have enough sense to walk away from the Offal libel, but apparently not. They are encouraging people to support Baroness Tonge by signing a petition, as shown below:

“We, the undersigned, object to the dismissal of Baroness Jenny Tonge from her post as health spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats simply because she suggested that Israel investigate charges made against it.

The party’s action is a serious threat to the principles for which our country is known — democracy and free speech. Even more specifically, it makes a mockery of your party’s claim to “give power back to people.” Instead of encouraging openness and the search for truth no matter how uncomfortable the accusation or who is accused, you are demonstrating to your constituents that the powerful and the “status quo” will be protected.

The comment for which you are punishing Jenny Tonge merely illustrated her commitment to your party’s founding principles. An independent investigation would be the most ethical response to serious charges that Israel is continuing to practice an illegal act (organ theft) that it has already admitted to committing in earlier years.

By firing Baroness Tonge instead of backing her call for an investigation, or at least supporting her decision to do so, you make evident that the party only believes in the search for truth when powerful allies are not involved.

Please demonstrate that the Liberal Democrats are indeed — as your Web site states — “brave enough to make a fresh start.” Reverse your decision and reinstate Jenny Tonge.”

So hang on, the StWC want an investigation to be held on some idiotic claims that Israelis came half way around world to steal organs and not to help Haitians, as most people think.

What next? Will they call for an investigation as to whether or not Jews caused the Black Death or poisoned wells too?

Will the StWC campaign for an investigation to the truth of ritual murder? I hope that the StWC read up on the Damascus Affair before commenting.

Here’s a tip, StWC walk away from this racist filth, walk away.

(Hat tip: Ana Spencer)

Update 1: Just in case, here’s a screen shot of it:

StWC support Offal libel

Apple’s Child Labourers.

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More slack blogging from me, but this awful story of Apple’s use of child labour in its products needs repeating:

“Apple said the child workers are now no longer being used, or are no longer under-age. “In each of the three facilities, we required a review of all employment records for the year as well as a complete analysis of the hiring process to clarify how under-age people had been able to gain employment,” Apple said, in an annual report on its suppliers.

Apple has been repeatedly criticised for using factories that abuse workers and where conditions are poor. Last week, it emerged that 62 workers at a factory that manufactures products for Apple and Nokia had been poisoned by n-hexane, a toxic chemical that can cause muscular degeneration and blur eyesight.

Apple has not commented on the problems at the plant, which is run by Wintek, in the Chinese city of Suzhou.

A spokesman for Wintek said that “almost all” of the affected workers were back at work, but that some remained in hospital. Wintek said n-hexane was commonly used in the technology industry, and that problems had arisen because some areas of the factory were not ventilated properly.

China Labor Watch is always worth a read on these issues.

Phones review puts it more concisely:

“It has come to light that that iPhone you are carrying may well have been manufactured by the usage of child labour as apparently Apple has stated that 3 of their suppliers used eleven underage children to work on building the iPhone, Mac computer and iPod reports an article over on Bloomberg.

The word is an Apple investigation revealed that 3 companies had hired fifteen year old workers is countries which have a minimum working age of sixteen, although Apple has not revealed which companies and what countries where involved. Although Apple visited facilities in the US, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, the Czech Republic, South Korea and the Philippines.

In a 24 page report from Apple they did state however that the underage workers where no longer in active employment at the time of the Apple audit. Apple ceased doing business with at least one supplier who wasn’t named due to repeated violations and inadequate actions to get their house into order.

The Apple audit also uncovered 3 cases where suppliers falsified records to hide the usage of underage workers, and in excess of 60 companies worked their employees beyond the maximum 60 hour week, and 24 Apple partners where found to be paying less than the required minimum wage.”

Written by modernityblog

28/02/2010 at 14:47

Nuclear Seagulls.

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If you ever follow the British nuclear industry, as it calls itself, you might be struck by the complacency, poor management and an inability to do relatively simple things competently.

Equally, you might be astonished that the management at Sellafield still haven’t realised that the British coast has seagulls, the Times reported:

“Sellafield, the nuclear plant that is Western Europe’s most heavily contaminated industrial site, is facing an unexpected environmental challenge.

The 262-hectare (645 acres) plant in West Cumbria is being overrun by seagulls, mice and stray cats, and managers are battling to contain the problem. Things have become so serious that a cull of seabirds is being considered. There are concerns that some have been swimming in open ponds containing plutonium and radioactive waste, some of which date back to Britain’s atomic weapons programme of the 1950s and 1960s.

“It’s a coastal site so there are thousands of seagulls around,” said Martin Forwood, of Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment. “They fly in and float around on the open waste ponds and act as a gateway to poison the wider area.” ”

Hang on, open ponds? Open ponds of nuclear waste! WTF

It beggars belief that Sellafield’s management couldn’t foresee that seagulls would naturally swim in ponds and if they leave ponds of nuclear waste out, than the seagulls are going to get into it.

Unbelievable. They’ve been there over 50 years and still they can’t cope with their coastal location.

Written by modernityblog

26/02/2010 at 15:16

What Tory Reforms Did To The NHS

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Readers with a longer memory than most will remember the changes instigated by the Tories into the NHS.

The BBC highlights the consequence of internal market reforms, vulgar statistics and a management more concerned with pounds and pence, rather than patients:

“The trust had been climbing the NHS ratings ladder during the period in question and was even given elite foundation trust status.

The Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Independent Inquiry site.

“The evidence gathered by the Inquiry shows clearly that for many patients the most basic elements of care were neglected. Calls for help to use the bathroom were ignored and patients were left lying in soiled sheeting and sitting on commodes for hours, often feeling ashamed and afraid. Patients were left unwashed, at times for up to a month. Food and drinks were left out of the reach of patients and many were forced to rely on family members for help with feeding. Staff failed to make basic observations and pain relief was provided late or in some cases not at all. Patients were too often discharged before it was appropriate, only to have to be re-admitted shortly afterwards. The standards of hygiene were at times awful, with families forced to remove used bandages and dressings from public areas and clean toilets themselves for fear of catching infections. “

However, I suspect that those useless feckers in New Labour won’t learn anything from this, and will re-hash more Tory drivel rather than do away with those awful internal markets and the poverty of thought that drives this type of thinking.

Update 1: The Guardian reports:

“About half of the patients and relatives who gave evidence to the inquiry singled out difficulty in obtaining food and drink as a major concern. Some patients never received food at mealtimes; some who did found that it was placed too far away for them to reach it and so was removed, untouched.

Intake of food and water, both vital to recovery, was not encouraged. “Frequently the explanation appears to have been a lack of staff but sometimes staff were present but lacked a sufficiently caring attitude,” the report said.

Breaches of patients’ privacy and dignity included patients left inadequately dressed in full view of passersby; patients moved and handled in unsympathetic and unskilled ways, causing pain and distress; and rudeness or hostility.

“However difficult the circumstances, there is no excuse for staff to treat patients in the manner described by some witnesses,” Francis concluded.

Staff were equally critical about the hospital’s management, and described bosses who bred “an atmosphere of fear of adverse repercussions”, stressed NHS targets were the top priority and were secretive when things went wrong.

The trust’s board, which was meant to hold managers to account and ensure high clinical standards were maintained, were aware of the weaknesses but failed to ensure improvements were made, the report says.”

Update 2: The Press Association coverage:

“The inquiry concluded that the trust’s board – which exacerbated its problems by cutting staff to save £10 million in 2006/7 – was “disconnected” from what was actually happening in the hospital.

Mr Francis said “the scale of failure” was greater than has been revealed to date. While he concluded that Stafford Hospital should not be closed, he recommended that Health Secretary Andy Burnham review whether to remove Mid-Staffordshire’s status as a foundation trust – a supposed marker of excellence in the NHS.”

Update 3: Over at the Torygraph:

No one on the board at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust has faced censure and all of them were either paid off, walked into another job or allowed to remain in post. The man who ran the hospital trust received a large pay-off despite his part in the scandal.

Martin Yeates, the former chief executive, left the trust “by mutual agreement” with a pay-off of £400,000 and a pension worth £1.27 million, it has been alleged.”

Update 4: The Guardian again on the tick box culture:

“The BMA chairman, Hamish Meldrum, said the inquiry pinpointed a “culture of fear” in some hospitals that prevented clinical staff from reporting lapses in standards of care.

He added: “The fact that Mid Staffordshire NHS foundation trust was more focused on meeting government targets, achieving foundation status and saving money, demonstrates very clearly what happens when financial pressures and a tick-box culture are more important than delivering high-quality patient care. I call on the government and all hospital managers to learn the lessons from Staffordshire and to put patients first.””

Update 5: Few case histories and medical understatement:

“When her son left her that night he remembered that she looked bright and well.
The following day she seemed unable to use her arms. The next day she became extremely confused. There was gauze on the back of her head, and a bandage. After the family demanded an explanation, the ward sister said that their mother had fallen during the night. They had found her nightdress in the bedside cabinet and when they got home discovered it was “saturated in blood”.

The following night Mr Bunn received another call to tell him his mother had suffered a further fall, and he was asked to come to the hospital. “My mother was lying… full stretch out on the tiled floor,” he said. “Some effort had been made to remove the blood. It was smeared all over the floor. You could not see a hair on her head. It was completely swathed in bandages. There was a lady doctor holding my mother’s head in her hands.”

Mr Bunn recalled saying, “Oh Mum, what have they done to you…” to which the doctor replied coldly: “I have got a mother too.” The son later remarked: “There was no compassion in that woman whatsoever.”

His mother was sent for a scan. She had a huge bleed on one side of her brain and her brain was swollen. The doctors told the family it was impossible to operate, and that if she regained consciousness then she would not be the same.

Mr Bunn then learnt that his mother had suffered a further previous fall that he had not been made aware of, and a doctor said to him: “We have let you down.”

Update 6: Over in Wales the BBC reports:

“The seven new health boards which run the NHS in Wales are set to go more than £43m over budget, according to research by BBC Wales.

Six are forecasting a deficit for the end of their first financial year, with all under pressure to make savings.

When they were set up in October 2009, Health Minister Edwina Hart said that they “must live within their means”.

The boards control all hospitals and community services, GP and dentist funding.

The new boards were created by integrating the 22 old boards – set up in 2003 based on council boundaries – with seven NHS trusts which were then running hospitals.

The new boards are responsible for deciding which treatments and services are available and they also have responsibility for ensuring hospitals meet targets on waiting times.

LIKELY NHS BOARDS OVERSPENDS
Hospital worker (generic)
1 Betsi Cadwaladr LHB – Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham, Anglesey and Gwynedd – break even
2 Hywel Dda LHB – Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire – £12m
3 Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University LHB – Swansea, Neath Port Talbot, Bridgend – £3.9m
4 Powys Teaching LHB Powys county – £7.6m
5 Cwm Taf LHB – Rhondda Cynon Taf, Merthyr Tydfil – £4.8m
6 Cardiff and Vale LHB – Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan – £5.5m
7 Aneurin Bevan LHB – Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Monmouthshire, Newport and Torfaen – £10m

Research by BBC Wales into the latest combined financial position shows the seven boards have a running deficit of around £67m, which they forecast being able to bring down to £43m. “

Free Books, No Excuse.

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A Book Worth Reading.

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Although I am a book lover I would freely admit that my capacity for reading now is somewhat limited, but perusing the Guardian I came across an intriguing article by Keith Kahn-Harris, where he discusses Anthony Julius’s new book, Trials of the Diaspora: A History of Anti-Semitism in England.

There is a lot to take in, Kahn-Harris is a thoughtful individual and his review deserves reading in full:

“A real debate needs to happen about antisemitism. At the moment positions are so immobile and passions so inflamed that productive dialogue is difficult. Trials of the Diaspora could provide an important resource in opening up conversation if there is the will to do so. Pro-Palestinian campaigners and anti-Zionists who do not see themselves as antisemites need to look seriously at the arguments Julius makes. Zionists and those concerned about antisemitism need to look critically at the book and take on board the more subtle elements of Julius’s book, rather than simply see it as further ammunition in an endless verbal war. Above all, Trials of the Diaspora should be read as a work of scholarship designed to stimulate serious thought, rather than fuel for a new round of polemics.”

Scottish Socialists Invoke Conspiracy Theories.

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Reading this article on the Scottish Socialist party’s web site (reproduced below just in case it goes missing), I am torn between my natural sympathies for Scottish socialists and disgust that one of them would so blatantly invoke conspiracy theories to defend his comrades:

“The trial of the SPSC 5 protesting against a performance of the Jerusalem String Quartet
by Allan Armstrong, SSP International Committee – 25-1-10

Who are the Jerusalem String Quartet? Perhaps a quote from their Israeli state backers will give some idea.

“If one minute they’re in T-shirts and the next in ties and jackets, these days they can just as frequently be seen in army fatigues. Last year they were inducted into the Israeli Defense Forces and endured a month of basic training…
The Quartet now serves as Distinguished Musicians, performing for troops three times a week…
For the three immigrants {one member was born in Israel}, carrying a rifle in one hand and a violin in the other is the ultimate Zionist statement.”
Shelley Kleiman – World Zionist Press Service

Who are the five protestors? Kevin Connor, Neil Forbes, Vanesa Fuertes, Sofia Macleod and Mick Napier, all members of the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) in Edinburgh, disrupted a concert performance of the Jerusalem String Quartet, at the Edinburgh International Festival on August 29th, 2008. This was a protest against the Israeli state’s barbarous treatment of the Palestinians.

Initially the five protestors faced the relatively mild charge of ‘breach of the peace’. However, a few days before the trial, last March, and without any explanation, the charge was changed, at the instigation of the Crown, to ‘racially aggravated breach of the peace’.

This followed stepped-up Israeli state pressure upon the British government to make it illegal in the UK and EU to promote the growing international campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), directed against Israel. The campaign took off after the Israeli savage attack on Gaza, between December 2008 and January 2009, leading to 1417 deaths, 1181 of whom were non-combatants, including 114 women and 313 children, and the continued denial of Palestinian access to the necessities of life. The BDS campaign models itself on the earlier successful international campaign targeted at another apartheid state – South Africa. As members of the SPSC, the five protestors were heavily involved in the BDS campaign.

Of course, none of the anti-racist protestors at the concert shouted any slogans directed against Jewish people. Last November, the defence was allowed access to a BBC televised transcript of the performance. This completely verified the fact that their slogans were directed solely against the Israeli state. In court, on January 21st and 22nd, the Crown shamefacedly withdrew its accusation that this had been an anti-Jewish protest. Amazingly, however, when the defence called for the charges to be dropped, the Crown still appeared to want to proceed. The case was adjourned until March for the Crown to make its case, before the judge makes a ruling in April.

If the Crown case was to be upheld, this would make any effective protest against Israel illegal, on the grounds that to criticise Israel is to attack the Jewish people (63% of whom don’t even live in Israel!) Theoretically it would also make protests against Chinese state actions in Tibet, anti-Chinese; US actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, anti-American. However, much the current government might like the latter to be the case, this isn’t going to happen. However, it wouldn’t be the first time that blatant hypocrisy was enshrined in British law.

This highlights the ridiculousness of the ‘racially aggravated’ charge, made at the behest of Israel, one of the last states in the world with a racist constitution. It also shows the lengths to which British government will go to protect their murderous ally from facing any effective sanctions for its longstanding war crimes and systematic repression of the Palestinian people.”

I don’t think any socialist should be proud of being arrested on this racially aggravated charge, for attempting to attack Israelis.

I think it is even worse that socialists push barely disguised conspiracy theories, were they assume that the Procurator Fiscal’s Office in Edinburgh cooked up the charges “at the behest of Israel”.

I will let readers pick this awful article apart, but thinking on this trial should be worth following, if only to hear the nonsense arguments put forward.

(Hat tip: entdinglichung)

Update 1: More on the Jerusalem String Quartet.

Update 2: Edinburgh Evening News covered this story in August 2008.

Update 3: Adam Holland touched on these issue in July 2008.

Update 4: Engage provided some background to those involved in March 2008.

Update 5: Greens Engage on Thoughts from an SPSC (Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign) supporter.

Written by modernityblog

22/02/2010 at 15:16

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