The wonder of the world it is

Elderly people are being denied life-saving operations because of age discrimination within the NHS, the Royal College of Surgeons has warned.

New data reveal for the first time that across large areas of the country, almost no patients above the age of 75 are receiving surgery for breast cancer or routine operations such as gall bladder removal and knee replacements.

Charities said it was “alarming and inexcusable” that pensioners could be left to die prematurely because of a lack of surgery while others were left immobile and in pain.

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, said such discrimination was “unacceptable and illegal” while health officials pledged to tackle variations in care.


Don’t forget, everyone else in the world envies us our NHS.

Clearly this research did not involve men

Orgasms aren’t just good for your sexual relationship; they may also promote good communication. Results of a new study reveal that in the aftermath of having experienced an orgasm, people are more likely to share important information with their partners. And, that communication is likely to be positive.

Women, maybe, but men just snore.


An absolutely glorious story

In 1935, with the city rife with anti-semitic attacks, Pauline Levinsons took her six-month-old daughter Hessy to a well-known Berlin photographer to have her baby photograph taken.

A few months later, she was horrified to find her daughter’s picture on the front cover of Sonne ins Hause, a major Nazi family magazine.

Terrified the family would be exposed as Jews, she rushed to the photographer, Hans Ballin. He told her he knew the family was Jewish, and had deliberately submitted the photograph to a contest to find the most beautiful Aryan baby.

“I wanted to make the Nazis ridiculous,” the photographer told her.

He succeeded: the picture won the contest, and was believed to have been chosen personally by the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.

No, really, the winner of the Nazi contest to find the perfect Aryan baby was a Jewess.

The universe really does have a sense of humour.

Anything could happen in French politics

In fact, anything and everything probably has:

France’s former president Nicolas Sarkozy has been charged with corruption and influence peddling, French prosecutors said Wednesday, a dramatic move in a criminal probe that could wreck his hopes of a political comeback.

The decision came after Mr Sarkozy was questioned for 15 hours, marking the first time a French ex-head of state had been taken into custody in a criminal investigation.

I wouldn’t say I would be horribly surprised if it was found that there had been some odd goings on. But nor would I be all that surprised to be informed that there hadn’t been but that investigating loudly and publicly was thought to be a good way of getting Sarko out of the way.

It’s People Power What Does It

On October 7, the 40th anniversary of the founding of the GDR, St Nicholas was closed, but some 4,000 people gathered outside and tried to march on the city’s ring road. The demonstration was broken up violently by police using batons, water cannon and dogs. There were many injuries and arrests.

In preparation for the weekly vigil scheduled to take place two days later, police warned that protests would be put down “with whatever means necessary”. In anticipation of violence, paratroopers were flown in and hospitals cleared for an expected influx of patients, specifically ones with gunshot wounds.

On the evening of October 9, what began as a few hundred gatherers at the church swelled to more than 70,000 in the streets outside. At the urging of Führer and other speakers, however, the protest remained nonviolent and the crowd, clutching candles and flowers, marched through the city in a peaceful demonstration, chanting the slogan Wir sind das Volk! (“We are the people!”) as armed soldiers looked on.

Although there were some arrests, without precise orders from East Berlin and surprised by the size of the demonstration, local police and political leaders shied away from causing a massacre. “We were ready for anything, except for candles and prayer,” an East German official was quoted as saying.

The following week, 120,000 people turned up for the vigil and the week after that, 320,000. On November 9 the Berlin Wall tumbled down.

Frabjous day, eh

My word, this is a surprise!

Four fifths of Britain’s schools are being used “beyond their life cycle” and should be replaced with buildings which provide a healthier learning environment, a new report claims.

Britain’s children are being failed by schools which “aren’t fit for purpose”, according to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

People who would make a lot of money rebuilding schools think we should rebuild schools.

Stunning stuff, eh?

Julie Bindel does get political over sex, doesn’t she?

Lesbians behaving badly is, unfortunately, nothing new. In 2000, Candy Bar, a lesbian club in London, organised a group trip to the Greek island of Lesbos, the birthplace of the poet Sappho, and the top lesbian holiday destination. Flyers advertising a “Wet Pussy Party” flooded the town of Eressos, prompting the then mayor to attempt to stop the women disembarking. Candy Bar, which has since closed down, had regular events featuring women stripping in front of crowds of baying lesbians, some pushing banknotes into the dancers’ underwear.

Paying for this type of entertainment is exploitation. One young lesbian I interviewed for a research project told me she regularly visited lesbian strip clubs and believed that the dancers working for a pittance in such clubs were lesbians and definitely enjoying themselves.

People attracted to the female form like looking at the female form.

It’s just so terribly difficult to understand, isn’t it?

Bollocks dear, you’re spouting bollocks

Thirty-five years ago, cultural critic Ellen Willis wrote, “it is depressing to have to insist that sex is not an unnecessary, morally dubious self-indulgence but a basic human need, no less for women than for men”.

If it was depressing in 1979, it looks downright miserable today.

Because let’s be clear: While Monday’s US supreme court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby was officially about religious freedom, the real issue at stake is sex – namely, if women should be able to have it as freely as men.

The court ruled – in a 5-4 decision in which all the female justices dissented – that a closely-held company does not have to cover contraception under the Affordable Care Act.

Nobody at all has said anything at all about whether women should have sex, be able to have sex, enjoy it when they do or anything else.

The decision was purely about who has to pay for the contraception that some men and women will desire to use when they do have sex.

And given the joy and pleasure that does come from sex, that private pleasure, it’s a bit arrogant to insist that someone else must pay the $30 a month necessary to make sure no pregnancy results from that joy and pleasure.

All of this being quite apart from the fact that insurance is an entirely insane manner to pay for a regular, routine and ongoing cost like contraception. It’s one of those things that should be out of pocket, not buried in an insurance contract.

Combining NI and income tax

Obviously this is an idea that should go ahead.

But there’s two important provisos.

1) What’s going to happen to investment and pensioner income given that those don’t currently pay NI? For the logical reason that NI is supposed to pay for the work related elements of the welfare state (unemployment pay, pensions etc). Simply combining NI with income tax would raise the tax rate upon capital income by nearly 25 percentage points. That’s probably not a good idea.

2) It’s vital that employers’ NI be wrapped in as well as employees’. For it’s clearly and obviously a tax that falls on the workers. So the workers should be able to see that it does.

Of course, the major point of doing this is to explode, once and for all, the idea that we have low income tax rates in this country. And given that everyone will see the burden they’re already paying make it more difficult for tax and spend to be a popular programme.

He doesn’t understand, does he?

Thirdly, Ed Balls is looking at an “allowance for corporate equity” as part of reforms to encourage more long-term attitudes in business. I admit that this one does cause me concern. There can be no doubt that the UK’s very generous tax relief for interest paid by companies has been significantly abused. We have seen takeovers of football clubs, like Manchester United, funded almost entirely by debt which has been loaded onto the companies themselves, with the result that massive tax subsidies have been given to the buyers. The same is true of mainstream companies. Indeed, this is the whole allegation about tax avoidance at Boots. What worries me about the approach that Ed Balls is looking at is that instead of tackling this abuse it seeks to give an equivalent tax allowance to those companies that fund their activities using shareholder money instead of borrowings.

I have three problems with this approach. Firstly, it does not tackle the problem of excessive debt funding or the tax relief given upon it. Secondly, it simply creates another corporate tax giveaway, and big business has enjoyed a whole raft of these over recent years meaning that this is the one sector of the economy as a whole that has enjoyed tax cuts. Thirdly, this is another arrangement that favours big business over small enterprise. No small company has significant shareholder funds so this relief is going to leave them almost unaffected whereas large companies do, however much their debt, tend to have a significant value of shareholder funds. That means they’re bound to get this tax relief, so upsetting the balance between small and large business yet again, with the bias being, once more, against small business.

Tax relief on interest is not a tax subsidy. It’s simply a determination of who is legally responsible for paying the tax.

Corporate profits are taxed at the level of the company with (in effect) and extra rate applying to higher rate taxpayers who receive dividends.

Interest is not taxed at the company level: it is taxed when it reaches the recipients. Who is legally responsible for the payment of that tax doesn’t particularly matter. It’s still being taxed. The so called “relief” is simply a determination of who, legally, has to pay said tax.

As to what Balls is suggesting: that looks like a desire to tax economic profits rather than accounting ones. An “allowance for shareholder funds” would mean that, or at least could mean in one formulation, that you measure the normal rate of return to capital (aka “the cost of capital”) and ignore that for tax purposes. Only companies making in excess of this, making those economic profits, would be charged tax on only the portion of profits that is above that normal rate of return.

This is, of course, a thoroughly good idea and is one of the recommendations of the Mirrlees Review.

So how can they punish Wonga now

When the government is doing the same thing?

Warnings sent by ‘Smith Lawson and Company’ to graduates for the last nine years carry a banner in red stating ‘Do Not Ignore This Letter’, with a demand for payment within seven days and a threat of legal action.

They gave the impression of a separate company with the line: ‘We are instructed by our client, in connection with the sum outstanding shown above.’

But the supposed firm does not exist and is little more than a masthead designed to intimidate.

The Student Loans Company (SLC) is a subsidiary of the Government and reports to Vince Cable’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The firm said it introduced Smith Lawson as a ‘cost-saving exercise’ because the use of conventional debt collection agencies required payment of commission.

Last week City watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) revealed Wonga would have to pay £2.6million compensation to 45,000 people sent letters from two invented debt recovery firms.

Bit tricky that, isn’t it?

It seems that we need to cut Perrier prices

An investigation by Channel 4′s Dispatches found three supermarket chains selling lager cheaper than sparkling Perrier water.

Tesco sold multipacks of Fosters, Carlsberg and Carling lager at 69p a pint and Strongbow cider for 65p a pint. This compared with Perrier mineral water costing 73p a pint.

In Asda, the same beers could be bought for 72p a pint, compared with 76p a pint for Perrier.

And at Sainsbury’s, 20 cans of Fosters lager was 72p a pint while 15 cans of Strongbow cost £8, equating to 69p a pint, 7p less than a pint of sparkling water.

Clearly the bastards are profiteering.

Seems fairly obvious really

Children conceived through fertility treatment like IVF are one third more likely to have psychiatric problems such as autism or schizophrenia than those born naturally, research suggests.

Although the increased risk was described as “modest” researchers found it persisted throughout childhood into adulthood.

However researchers believe that it is not fertility procedures that are to blame but rather mothers who struggle to get pregnant are passing down faulty genes to their offspring.

Dr Allan Jensen of the University of Copenhagan said fertility doctors needed to be aware of “the small, but potentially increased risk of psychiatric disorders among the children born to women with fertility problems.”

However, this knowledge, he added, “should always be balanced against the physical and psychological benefits of a pregnancy.”

For some, at least, of the women who struggle to become pregnant the problem will be that the genes they’re trying to become pregnant with aren’t very good. So, if extra care is taken to make sure that they do become pregnant then one might expect more faulty genes along the way.

“It is known, for example, that psychiatric disorders to some degree have a genetic component.

“It is perhaps thus likely that that these damaged genes coding for psychiatric diseases are overrepresented in women with fertility problems, and, if transferred to their offspring, this may at least partly explain the increased risk of psychiatric diseases.”

Juncker the Drunker

The newspaper Letzebuerg Privat (Luxembourg Private), has referred to him as the country’s ‘drunken stupor premier’.

Last year it ran a front-page report, accompanied by a photo of him guzzling drinks, in which it was alleged that he quaffed ‘a Campari, three glasses of wine and three Sambucas in only two hours’.

Sounds like a reasonable dinner party that. Might be a bit much for lunch unless there’s a serious siesta planned tho’

The cost of the Royals

Catherine Bennett tells us all that the Royals are simply too, too, expensive.

And yet nowhere does she consider the contrary. What would be the cost of moving to a Presidential Republic?

The palaces will all still exist, they will all still need to be maintained. Elected politicians require security and transport. State banquets will still happen.

I’ve heard but cannot confirm that the Italian presidency (a purely ceremonial one, as we would get, rather than an executive one like France) is actually more expensive than our own dear Royals, the whole damn family of them.

It’s not immediately obvious that changing the system would cost less cash.

And this is all to ignore what I regard as the essential point of it all. That symbol of the nation thing. Which I boil down to: who gets to pin the VC on that occasional hero that we produce?

Can anyone at all imagine the world being a better place if Beharry received his from a grinning President John Prescott?

I rest my case.