Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Grim Reaper at War

Click to enlarge image

According to the Daily Mail the RAF has used an unmanned drone to kil a Taliban leader for the first time.

Two 'pilots', controlling the robot via satellite from an airbase outside Las Vegas, spotted a target thousands of miles away in southern Afghanistan. They ordered the £10million Reaper drone to carry out an airstrike. Sources at the Ministry of Defence said the strike, which took place in the last ten days, killed a 'high value' Taliban target, but officials would not confirm the insurgent's identity.

The RAF recently signed an urgent deal to buy three U.S-built Reapers and send them to the frontline in Afghanistan, where spy-drones have proved vital in giving allied forces an edge over the Taliban. Flying from Kandahar Airbase in the south of the country, Britain's Reapers can cover the entire area where UK forces are locked in battle with the Taliban.

The drones are about the size of a small executive jet, and they take off from conventional runways. They can fly above a battlefield for up to 14 hours, beaming high-definition images to commanders on the ground. They are used to act within seconds against targets such as key terrorist leaders - instead of waiting up to an hour for a conventional strike jet to arrive. They are guided via satellite link by RAF 'pilots' sitting 7,000 miles away in a control centre at Creech Air Force Base near Las Vegas.

The RAF is due to buy its own control system for the Reapers, and in future the drones will be 'flown' by aircrew based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire. Defence chiefs also hope to buy another nine drones in the coming months, with the overall project costing around £500million.

Anyway we can fight this war safely is a great investment and the current use of the "Reaper" may just be the tip of the iceberg in terms of war by remote control. This article in The Register
shows the "Transformer" Battle droid that has just been shipped.

RAF first as Taliban leader is killed by plane ... piloted remotely in Las Vegas | Mail Online

Pretty Polly Toynbee is looking after the poor people again

Let them eat Cake - Polly at work

Last night I saw this article by the esteemed Polly in the Guardian about GP's and the set up of Polyclinics and pointed Dr Crippen to it though no doubt he would have seen it or had it brought to his notice fairly quickly. I would have had a go at it but I thought someone who really knew the facts would do better a job and Dr Crippen has done just that. Do go and look at the whole article. A quick extract below to whet your appetite
When I started NHS BLOG DOCTOR a couple of years ago, I soon came across the DK, the ageing Greek and Tim Worstall. All three seemed mysteriously unified in their hatred of Polly Toynbee. As Polly increasingly frequently turns her champagne socialist hand to the NHS I begin to understand why she was so disliked. Today, she has produced a tendentiously headlined concatenation of half truths, misrepresentations and down right lies about GPs.
Dr Crippen finishes off with the following which gets to the heart of what Ms Toynbee is
Her article is offensive, full of hate. Like every other man and woman in the country, doctors want to improve their income. Her imputation that doctors are lazy, uncaring and cynically chasing money at the expense of their patients is outrageous. It is also upsetting and demoralising. Most doctors are decent, honourable people trying to do a good job in increasingly difficult circumstances.

The worst thing about Polly is that she has prostituted her journalistic credentials for a cheap headline. She purports to know what “ordinary people”, to her the “common folk”, want and need from their doctors. Heavens, she has even pretended to be poor for a few weeks. Gosh, that’s brave, Polly.

She has not got a clue. Ignorance is bad enough for someone in her position. But it is worse than that. She is dishonest. She is a hypocrite. She has no understanding of ordinary people, or their needs, When she is not in her Italian villa, she sits in her spacious Victorian house in one of London’s most desirable suburbs, regally handing out pieces of intellectual cake to the poor folk.
Polly a True champagne Socialist at work!

NHS Blog Doctor: Pretty Polly Toynbee is looking after the poor people again

Friday, June 06, 2008

Queen moves to Aviemore

Click to view larger image

Now I know Aviemore has had a wee bit of an investment recently but the website shown here seems to think it's a major city in the UK. I quote
Aviemore; one of the world’s most important business and cultural centres, with worldwide influence in many spheres. There is a huge amount to see in Aviemore, and a huge amount of Aviemore accommodation to choose from, weather you are looking for a Aviemore flat to rent for a weekend break, or a Aviemore house for a few weeks. Aviemore’s culture is hugely varied with over 300 languages spoken, and the atmosphere changes from street to street. Aviemore has a huge depth of historic attractions, including 4 UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, the Tower of Aviemore, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace.

Aviemore also boasts a variety of active attractions and galleries. The Aviemore Eye is a great starting point to get your bearings in this massive city. The Aviemore Dungeons, British Museum, National Gallery and the Tate Modern Gallery are all huge attractions in their fields. The River Thames is the heart of Aviemore, and taking a cruise down the River also lets you see many of Aviemore’s most renowned points of interest.
Not the Aviemore I remember from last weekend!

Update 1: As Big Bro says Aviemore appears to have moved to England as well.
Update 2: The website has been changed to be a bit more like the right place but still in England. The image still show the original

Aviemore Holiday Rentals, Aviemore Holiday Rentals by Owner England-UK

Thursday, June 05, 2008

42 days may be illegal - Brown turns a blind eye

Seems strange that only the Scotsman has picked this up, but apparently MP's have ruled that the law changes proposed to the detention rules to extend them from 28 to 42 days may be illegal as they don't comply with the European Convention on Human Rights.

This is not the first time that a proposed new law has faced this problem but it does seem to be something that Labour keeps falling foul of.

The report says the longer period could be triggered too easily, noting that under the Convention this should happen only when there was a

"public emergency threatening the life of the nation".
There was no new judicial protection preventing suspects from arbitrary detention, and the government had failed to provide evidence that the terror threat was growing.

Andrew Dismore MP, the committee chairman, said:
"The proposed extension to 42 days would almost certainly not be lawful."
What this means to the Prime Minister is that even if he does manage to get these laws through the Common he may still face attacks on them from two other places as it is highly likely that the House of Lords will reject the changes as well.

What I don't understand is why the Prime Minister is fighting this fight. It does nothing for him. It does not show him being a man of "courage" or "strong" all it shows is an obstinate fool who can't take advice from others.

The Prime Minister just not have the courage to admit when he is wrong as we have seen on a number of occasions. This is a deeply worrying trait in a man who could be in charge of the country for a further two year. I worry that when the Tories do get elected to govern that this country will be in an almighty mess because of the rule of this deeply flawed supposed Leader.

John Kampfner writing in the Guardian puts it nicely

For all Brown's more emollient style, the end result will be the same. Britain will continue its sleepwalk to becoming one of the most policed, bugged, watched and imprisoned "democratic" nations on earth.

What is most tragic is that I have seen no evidence from people close to Brown that he actually believes any of this. He has been sucked into this position by fear, by his habit of media triangulation. Instead of standing up for what he believes to be right, he seeks to second-guess one or two influential media barons. In that respect he is indistinguishable from Blair, except that Blair's personal hubris gave him more leeway. Politicians who lack moral courage are rarely rewarded. Forget the policy; this is stupid politics.

MPs rule terror law changes are illegal - News

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

MoD accused of Chinook 'cock-up'

This is not a new story but the National Audit Office report is due out in public today on the £422m waste of money that are 8 Chinook Mk3 helicopters that have never seen active service despite being ordered in 1995. In 2004, an NAO report described the purchase as

"one of the worst examples of equipment procurement"
it had seen.

It is worth remembering that these 8 Chinooks (now being converted back to Mk2's) are amongst the 14 helicopters that were promised as additional support for our Troops in Iraq/Afghanistan by the current Labour Government in 2007. These are not now due in service until late 2009/10, which based upon the prior history is perhaps a little bit of wishful thinking. A written ministerial Statement on May 20th 2008 has more details.

For a good discussion on the problems and issues see here.

Also worth looking here to see what helicopters we have available for use in the Forward Fleet. This shows that only roughly 60% of helicopters are available for active use. Table is produced below.
Helicopter Type Departmental total (total fleet) Number available (forward fleet) Number current and qualified pilots
Chinook 48 29 109
Merlin 70 41 108
Puma 45 34 95
Sea King 135 69 223
For the purposes of MOD reporting, the definition used for the number of helicopters available for use is the number in the Forward Fleet. This figure excludes any aircraft undergoing programmed upgrades, major repair or awaiting disposal.

BBC NEWS | UK | MoD accused of Chinook 'cock-up'

Britishness Holiday - Another Labour Cock Up

LIAM BYRNE: 'Just trying to promote a debate on issue.'
LIAM BYRNE: 'Just trying to promote a debate on issue.'
Early on yesterday the Guardian reported that
The August bank holiday could be turned into a "Great British weekend" that would allow people permission to celebrate everything they like about the country, and help frame the "progressive case for controlled immigration".

In a speech today Liam Byrne, the immigration minister, will set out the proposals drawing on Home Office research which shows public support for a Britishness day running at two to one.

Nowhere in this article did it mention that the August Bank Holiday weekend is not celebrated at the same time in Scotland - Oops. Perhaps Mr Byrne and his staff didn't realise this, but you would have thought that when dealing with something about Britishness they might have done some basic checking.

This is typical of Labour's attempts at being British and a god send to the likes of the SNP who complained later in the day that Scotland has it's August Bank Holiday on the first Monday in August rather than the last as it is in England.

In the Herald Liam Bryne is quoted as saying
"I myself have become convinced that the August bank holiday - what someone has called the Great British Weekend' - has the virtue of being in the summer and already being a bank holiday."
In fact even the SNP are wrong as the August Bank Holiday is not even celebrated in all parts of Scotland as many regions and cities such as Aberdeen take other holidays as each local authority in Scotland has powers to designated certain days as 'local' public holidays rather than celebrating the "National" holidays.

The Scottish Government has this to say on the difference between bank holidays and public/local holidays
It is important to draw a distinction between bank holidays, and public or local holidays in Scotland. As the dates for bank holidays are set out in statute or are the subject of proclamation, it follows that they are the same across the whole of Scotland. On the other hand public or local holidays in Scotland are determined by local authorities, based on local tradition (not statutory authority) and after consultation with local business interests.

There is no legal or statutory definition of public holiday in the United Kingdom and it is questionable whether public holidays exist in Scotland. The term is often confused with bank holidays. In England and Wales a bank holiday tends automatically to be a public holiday, in that the majority of people have the day off and the day is generally observed as a holiday. In Scotland this is not always the case.

So even if the UK government decided on a Brittishness Public Holiday it still might not apply in Scotland.

August bank holiday could be celebration of Britishness | UK news | The Guardian:

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Injured Troops must get Better Treatment

A British soldier patrols the northern suburbs of the southern Iraqi city of Basra

A British soldier patrols the northern suburbs of Basra. Photograph: Dave Clark/AFP/Getty images

The Telegraph reports that Lieutenant-General Louis Lillywhite, the Surgeon General, has said
Double the number of troops are now surviving serious injuries than would have done during the Falklands conflict. But while they receive high-quality emergency care while still on the frontline, the focus now needs to shift to improving follow-up treatment in British hospitals.

The article continues
Those who are capable of surviving, we are making survive. Three or four months ago that was our main effort. We have now got to turn to the quality of that survival. Adding it was impossible for all injured servicemen to be dealt with in military facilities because of a lack of manpower. There is much to do he admitted.

Apparently the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) now routinely logs every detail of injuries in theatre, from the type of injury and its severity, the length of time the casualty remained in a battlefield and, if deaths occur, whether it was possible to prevent them, given the safety of the scene and the injuries.

The figures show that by mid-February, the Armed Forces had suffered in Afghanistan,
  • 87 fatalities
  • 114 personnel were seriously or very seriously injured
  • 1,133 injured personnel were admitted to field hospitals
  • 880 were evacuated to the UK.
In Iraq,
  • 212 had died by mid-February
  • 212 were seriously or very seriously injured
  • 2,695 were admitted to field hospitals
  • 1,347 were evacuated to the UK.
These figures are probably the first to be released to the public showing the casualty rates in these two theatres for UK forces.

A journal published by the RAMC reported that of the 76 deaths from trauma related injuries which occurred in Iraq and Afghanistan in the 12 months to April 2007, none could have been prevented.

Statistical evidence from Britain and the US suggested that the death rate from serious injuries was now between 12 to 15 per cent - roughly half the rate which occurred in the Falklands or Vietnam.

Most seriously injured service personnel brought back to the UK are treated in civilian hospitals at first, although many will later be transferred to the military rehabilitation centre at Headley Court in Surrey.

There has been repeated criticism of the standard of care servicemen - most of whom have suffered head injuries, severe burns or lost limbs - receive in the civilian system. At Selly Oak in Birmingham, troops have complained of dirty, mixed wards and of abusive treatment from staff.

Last month, Afghanistan veteran and paratrooper Capt Martin Hewitt said the "truth'' about the continued poor care for troops back in the UK had to be exposed as it was "unacceptable''.

Not only is standard of care unacceptable but the compensation paid to injured troops is also woeful. Take a look at this story on Rogue Gunner's blog, which highlights the case of
A hero British soldier left severely crippled by an Iraqi sniper has been awarded a paltry £35,000 in compensation from the Army.
Jon Le Galloudec, 27, was picked off on the streets of Basra almost a year ago. His brave comrade Rodney Wilson came to his aid and was shot dead in front of him. The bullet that hit Jon ripped through his spine leaving him paralysed in his left leg and from the knee down in his right leg.

Contrast this with the record £2million compensation to an Iraqi teenager paralysed by a stray British bullet or the £484,000 awarded to an RAF typist who injured her thumb.

Currently the NHS and this government do not do enough for out injured personnel. They are now relying on public donations and help to get vital rehabilitation facilities. Have a look at the very worthwhile "Help for Heroes" organisation's website which has now raised over £6m for facilities in just over 8 months or donate via the sidebar link.

Injured troops must get better NHS treatment - Telegraph

Monday, June 02, 2008

Union chief calls for oil windfall tax

Derek Simpson is co-head of the Unite union and has suggested that Gordon Brown should set up a Windfall Tax on the profits of Oil companies. The 57-year-old is a former Communist who has been a Labour Party member for the past 10 years. Unite are Labour’s largest contributor with 1.9m members.

Now obviously this is a good idea because Oil Companies in the UK are making billions of pounds of profit and this is not good for anyone especially the non-union (mostly) workers they employ. Mr Simpson reckons

This was the type of policy that would chime with the electorate, in contrast to more esoteric measures such as increasing terror suspect detention or giving workers more flexible working. “Neither addresses the concerns of real-life people,”
Of course what Mr Simpson hasn't quite worked out is that if Oil Companies are taxed like this then they will just change the course of their future investments and naturally enough they will change them to other countries that have a more stable tax regime. This will mean greater reliance on foreign Oil and Gas, reduced employment and lower Tax income. We have already seen this when Gordon Brown increased the Corporation Tax take from Oil companies back in 2005, the result, a cutback in investment just after he had asked for an increase in the supply from the same Oil Companies.

Also, a minor point that Mr Simpson might have missed is that Gordon Brown is already receiving a rather substantial £6bn windfall from the increased tax take that the increased cost of oil is currently delivering to the Exchequer. It is currently estimated by Vince Cable of the Liberal Democrats that Government tax revenues from North Sea oil could rise this year from £10bn (based on oil prices of $84 a barrel) to £16bn (at $128) mainly from oil company profits and petroleum revenue tax.

Then again this tax windfall might just be reduced if the SNP's Alex Salmond gets his way. He has sent Alistair Darling a£500m invoice, He reckons this is 10% of the windfall going to the Chancellor since basing his Budget on much lower oil prices than now prevail.

It is exactly this sort of short-term thinking that has caused many of the problems we are now seeing in our economy. Decisions taken for short-term gain versus long-term stability. / World - Union chief calls for oil windfall tax

Jonah Brown Saves the World

Ok then it's only in a comic book but surely it'll soon be coming true otherwise why do we need 42 days detention.

Have no fear, Brown is here to help save the world - but only in new comic book 'Captain Britain' | Mail Online

Labour's legacy to GP's

Dr Crippen highlights the fact that Carole Malone is a dishonest, androgynous, peri-menopausal, publicity seeking, ex lard bucket after she wrote this column titled "Lazy Docs make me feel Sick" in the News of the Screws this week.

What he is actually doing is highlighting the fact that Journalists and the public are being invited to have a go at GP's nowadays beacuse this Labour govenrnment has in it's usual fashion managed to destroy the respect that GP's used to be held in.

They (the government) have managed to do this with their own truly spectacular failure to understand how the whole NHS system works and in particular General Practice. They have in the short time of 11 years managed to destroy many peoples faith in the system and to have reduced the system to a meanlingless litany of "targets" and dumbing down of the work of GP's. GP's are now to be the whipping boys for this failure rather than the government with its ignorance and denial of any wrongdoing.

This is strikingly similar to what they have done to the police as I said last week, it is also strikingly similar to what they are doing to the Ambulance Service. I have no doubt there are many more areas of Public Services that are in a similar situation.

We should, instead of castigating GP's, look at how we have arrived at this situation. The government have defined targets and set about molding the GP service to how they thought it should be run rather than taking the advice of those who knew how it should be run. Now having been caught out with this wholesale destruction they make the GP's the target of their failures. This is typical of Gordon Brown's view of Courage.

The only good thing is that the public have now become wise to Labour's failures and have started to look behind the headlines at the actual detail. The detail that shows it is not "Lazy GP's" but lazy and stupid government that is the problem in this case. Unfortunately there are still lazy and stupid journalist out there who do not have the intelligence to actually check up on the details that they have been spoon-fed.

This is the problem with Labour they keep going for the targets and style rather the substance and actions. They have now been caught out too many times and the public have become wise to their inadequacies.

NHS Blog Doctor: Carole Malone : the dishonest, androgynous, publicity seeking, ex lard bucket in the News of the World