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Monday, 5 December 2016

New Agenda on Sunday. is out! Edition of 04 December 2016

Good morning everyone.

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Where did it go?
It is now December. I have still not discovered where the rest of the year 2016 has disappeared to. It seems only yesterday that I was commenting on Junior Doctors, Snow, National lottery record roll over jackpot and Condor promising that "the technical problems which have plagued Liberation (their flagship) since it came into operation will be significantly reduced in 2016" (and they got that wrong as well!).

You may recall the story I reported regarding our experience on the overcrowded and (in my opinion) dangerous transport arrangements for passenger transfer between the airport terminal and the waiting aircraft at Southampton airport.
I reported this experience and apparent normal working practice to the Health and Safety Executive who have now sent the following reply:

"We have reviewed the information you provided and concluded that on this occasion we will not follow-up this matter. The reason is that the issues you have raised have already been addressed and there is no on-going health and safety issue that requires HSE’s involvement".

So the next time that you are jammed into a clearly overloaded bus with other standing passengers, between terminal building and aircraft, (whether it be at Southampton or any other UK airport), you should recall that the HSE considers that, "........ there is no on-going health and safety issue that requires HSE’s involvement".

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Andrew Sachs or even "Manuel"
We have by now probably lost count ot the number of "personalities" who have passed away since January of this year. Sports personalities, entertainers, singers, film and television actors, politicians, journalists, musicians and others, (and of course those people known to each of us as friends or relatives). Perhaps it is my imagination, but 2016 seems to be a year more than any I can remember, when the news has almost daily, certainly weekly, been announced that another celebrity has died. The latest name to be added to this growing list is that of Andreas Siegfried "Andrew" Sachs. probably best known to everybody as Manuel the general dogsbody at the Fawlty Towers Hotel and Basil's long suffering victim, has died aged 86. Manuel was from "Bathelona" while Andrew Sachs was born in Berlin in 1930.
Of all the hilarious scenes with Manuel, this one for me any way, just shades it for top spot. But then again, "I Know nothing. I am from Bathelona" (copy and past for link.)

or even (copy and paste for link.)

"Andrew" Sachs (7 April 1930 – 23 November 2016) R I P

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Not amused.
Theresa May ordered a crackdown on unauthorised leaks by ministers and civil servants with a warning that culprits will face instant dismissal if they are caught. A copy of the memo was immediately leaked to the media.
A leaked document reveals a crack down on leaks. Hilarious. A pantomime of this governments and of the Prime Ministers trail of incompetence and ineptitude. You could not make this up.

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The Chinese are building a replica of the Titanic in Sichuan Province with a Labour Peer travelling to China to heap praise on the plan. Rebuilding the doomed passenger liner in a landlocked Chinese county more than 1,200km from the sea with Peter Benjamin Mandelson, Baron Mandelson on board (probably in the Café Parisien for first class passengers) seems a reasonable thought.
No chance of an iceberg that far from the coast though.

They are still forecasting snow, but it is getting warmer. Yes. I am confused too.

Have a nice week

Sunday, 4 December 2016

A dilemma of her own making

Top Tories warn: hard Brexit stance could lose us next election

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Close on the heels of my piece from yesterday (3rd December 2016), suggesting that the days of Theresa May are numbered, comes today’s story in the Guardian, reporting that a group of former Conservative ministers and MP's are urging the Prime Minister to spell out her EU strategy as the conservatives could lose the next general election if she alienates its core of moderate supporters by imitating UKIP and pushing through a hard Brexit.
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Dominic Grieve

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Alistair Burt

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Clair Perry
This latest piece of "advice", coming from former cabinet minister Dominic Grieve, former Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt, former transport minister Claire Perry and MP's Neil Carmichael and MP Ben Howlett, will not have been very welcome for the Prime Minister who has been bombarded recently by contradictory "advice" from those members of her government and elements of the media, pushing for a "Hard Brexit", without further delay.
This places the Prime Minister in a very difficult position. Should she adopt the "soft Brexit" line in favour of the United Kingdom not being part of the European Union but keeping unfettered access to the European single market, where goods and services would be traded with the remaining EU states on a tariff-free basis and financial firms would keep their "passporting" rights to sell services and operate branches in the EU, she will alienate nearly half of her cabinet and backbench MP's together with large sections of her party and conservative voters around the country. However, should she choose the "Hard Brexit" option, as urged by Michael Gove, Iain Duncan Smith, John Whittingdale and Theresa Villiers Peter Lilley, John Redwood amongst others and also by elements of the British media, she will alienate the other parts of her MP's and conservative members.
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Peter Lilly

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Iain Duncan Smith
It is a position for which she only has herself to blame. I have compared her dithering and inability to make decisions to that of Stanley Baldwin in the 1930's. I was wrong. She is not that good.
Her position is not helped by the impending hearing at the Supreme Court of the governments appeal against the High Court ruling that the government did not have the power to trigger Article 50 using what is known as "prerogative powers". The indications are that this appeal too will be rejected and the government will have to return to Parliament to debate the trigger for Article 50 negotiations. This should have been the course in any case without the cabinet seeking to bypass Parliament by employing the "Royal Prerogative" to commence Article 50. This gross error of judgement was further compounded when Theresa May chose to appeal the High Court decision and build in further delays to her self imposed time-scale. Even now, senior Conservative MP's such as Oliver Letwin, are urging the Prime Minister to abandon the appeal and go to the Commons with clear and definitive proposals outlining the United Kingdom’s position. Clearly, such proposals do not exist, which again emphasises the Prime Ministers ineptitude, both on the outcome of the referendum and on the course of implementing, or not implementing, the decision arising from the result of the June 23rd vote.

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Oliver Letwin

The Prime Minister has painted herself into a corner, where her position within her own government and party is fast becoming untenable. She is faced with contradictory and irreconcilable "advice" where which ever option she chooses is inevitably, the wrong one. The time has now arrived where for the good of the country and for the benefit of the people, the Prime Minister must invoke section 2 of the Fixed Term Parliament Act and trigger a General election, with Brexit as a central issue. Only in this way can the mess created by this government on the issue of Great Britain's continued membership or exit there from, be clearly and finally resolved.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

The writing is on the wall.

Theresa May faces growing criticism

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There are a number of small snippets of information or suggestions in the media, on television or on line, which taken in isolation from each other are quite innocuous and might easily be passed over amongst the latest reports from celebrities in the jungle or from speculation of appointments to President elect Trump's new cabinet. However, when these small pieces of the jig saw are put together, a very clear picture emerges and it is a picture which some people may find either disturbing or the best news since the relief of Mafeking in 1900. The emerging impression is that the days of Theresa May are numbered.
The most significant problem facing the Prime Minister is that from within her own government ranks and is the problem of Europe which has been a very large thorn in the side for conservative leaders for many decades. There is also the associated question the Prime Ministers handling of Brexit generally and the triggering of Article 50 in particular, which many eminent conservative politicians have labelled as disastrous.

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Her performances at the dispatch box during Prime Ministers Questions has been poor over may weeks and have even drawn some writers to describe her responses as pathetic. After less than 180 days occupying Number 10 as Prime Minister, she is receiving mounting criticism and "advice" from cabinet and former cabinet ministers regarding her performance at the dispatch box and elsewhere and more importantly in respect of Welfare reforms, the economy and the NHS to mention just three areas. The criticism and advice has not yet burst into open rebellion, but former allies have voiced concerns with Theresa May's leadership. Boris Johnson David Davis Liam Fox Michael Fallon Priti Patel Justine Greening Oliver Letwin Liz Truss and others including the governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney, are to a greater or lesser extent offering their sometimes contradictory "advice", and seem to have become even more frustrated over recent weeks as the Brexit and Article 50 arguments reach greater levels of rancour.

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Mark Carney

The Prime Ministers penchant for dithering and being unable to reach any decision, is more reminiscent of Stanley Baldwin than Margaret Thatcher, and has led to some speculation that a change may be in the air. There is little doubt that the Conservative party has little stomach for another leadership election that would undoubtedly be bloody and a distraction from the current crisis and in any case the British public would not take kindly to yet another unelected conservative Prime Minister being imposed upon them.
However, the conservative government may consider, particularly in the light of their diminishing majority in the House of Commons, that a general election under a new leader would be an elegant solution to their current predicament. The perceived "disarray" within the Labour Party, the apparent changing view amongst the British public regarding continued membership of the European Union and the prospect of UKIP splitting the opposition vote and thereby ensuring a conservative victory with an increased majority, may be too tempting for the conservatives to resist.
Under these circumstances, the Labour party must be ready to respond to the general election triggering on what may be a very short time-scale. The party must reach out to all those voters who feel that they must turn to the Liberal Democrats or even UKIP for their representation in Parliament.
The Labour Party is now the only party which represents ordinary people in this country. The sick, disabled, senior citizens and vulnerable sections of society by protecting workers rights, welfare, civil liberties and the NHS.
The conservatives may have their coup, depose their leader and call a snap general election. The Labour party must react positively to such an eventuality.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

A fair and balanced article from a very surprising source.

I came to Cuba a commie-hater ready to bury Castro, so why have I ended up praising him as a dictator whose people are in some ways freer than we are? Says Katie Hopkins

Students of Havana University pay tribute to the late leader with a march. They carried signs to thank him for what he done for the country 

The rantings of Katie Hopkins invariably leave me speechless or seething with rage, or even both.
I was therefore stunned and left speechless (but for quite different reasons) when I came across this story in my daily search through the on line newspapers for the stories of the day.
Since the death of Fidel Castro last Friday (25th November 2016), the media and television have be full with reports emphasising every negative aspect of Fidel Castro's life, the dictatorship and his record on civil liberties and human right. Not one of the media reports or the television programmes made any reference to the abuses, corruption and despotism of the Batista regime which Castro and the 26th of July Movement and its allies overthrew. No mention either of education for all children, the reduction of unemployment and corruption, the improvements in hygiene and sanitation. The media have also ignored the introduction of free health care, free education, building schools, hospitals and public utilities together with other reforms introduced by the Castro government which have elevated Cuba to first-world levels of literacy and life expectancy. All this against a background of crippling trade and economic sanctions and embargo's enforced by the United States for almost 50 years as some form of collective punishment for the removal of Batista and Cuba's refusal to toe the American line.
The culmination, for me at least, of this incessant anti Castro, anti Cuba propaganda, was an article in yesterdays (29th November 2016) Guardian by Zoe Williams under the heading of "Forget Fidel Castro’s policies. What matters is that he was a dictator". The blatantly biased and in many ways inaccurate piece of "journalism" moved me to post the following blog:
"We cannot detract from the policies and achievements".
It was therefore equally stunning, surprising and perhaps even refreshing, to read this Mail on line article from a journalist who I have frequently criticised. Katie Hopkins has managed to achieve balance and perhaps more importantly has given a voice to the people of Cuba, who are genuinely and generally, as many of us have always known, appreciative and supportive of the man who overthrew a tyranny to bring improvements and reforms to the people of Cuba, notwithstanding his record on civil liberties and human rights.
Young children were among those who waited through the night in central Havana to pay their respects. Above, a girl in the town of Guanabacoa, on the city's outskirts, leaves a kiss for him at another shrine
Young children were among those who waited through the night in central Havana to pay their respects
The following extract taken from the Hopkins story, says much of the feelings of sadness and mourning amongst the Cuban people for the loss of a man who the vast majority of Cubans considered as a great national hero
"I found the Cuban people to be strong, and fiercely proud of their way of life.
Queuing in their thousands at the Revolution Square, I stood with them through the night as they waited in line. Queuing without complaint. Young and very old. Tiny babies in their Sunday best. Politely joining the back of the line, without hint of wanting to put themselves before others.
Many appeared to shed genuine tears.
'I'm devastated because it's as if my own father had died, he was like my second father. Everything we have, my education as a doctor, it's thanks to him,' said Maria del Carmen, 57, who had been standing in line since before dawn. 'I am very sad. I came to pay homage to our father, friend, commander,' Meireles said. 'He was a man who freed us and sent doctors and teachers everywhere around the world.'

Katie Hopkins poses in front of a shrine to  Che Guevara and Fidel Castro in Havana, where thousands are mourning the latter's death
Katie Hopkins poses in front of a shrine to Che Guevara and Fidel Castro in Havana

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Syrian government forces make gains in Aleppo

Pro-Assad forces seize third of east Aleppo in rapid advance

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The battle for Aleppo, which has been raging since July 2012, as just one theatre of the Syrian Civil War, seems now to be drawing to a conclusion as Syrian government forces retake vital areas of the East and North East of the city making rapid advances into rebel held areas. Forces loyal to Bashar Al-Assad now control large areas of Syria's second city, having seized much of rebel held East Aleppo, meeting little resistance in their advance northwards.

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The Americans are of course furious. Furious because the rebels now taking huge reversals in Aleppo are the "good rebels" who have been supported and encouraged by America and Great Britain since the start of this civil war back in 2011. It has always been the American objective, supported by the United Kingdom governments of Cameron and now Theresa May, to remove Bashar Al-Assad and the government in Damascus and bring about regime change in Syria. The problem which "the west" has created for itself, is the plethora of "rebel" groups operating in the country, some created and supported by the west, with the objective of removing the Syrian government, some having the same ultimate objective but not supported by the west as they will not accept western influence in a post civil war Syria, most fighting against each other as well as the Syrian regime. Added to this potpourri of conflicting interest, is the continued presence of ISIS intent on creating an Islamic State in the whole of the middle east and is fighting all conflicting sides to achieve that objective.

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The Russians do not have any such difficulties in this complicated labyrinthine mess created and perpetuated by the western powers. They have one very clear, and very credible position. They support the Syrian government and will attack any and all rebels seeking to overthrow Bashar Al-Assad. The west remains intent on bringing about regime change in Syria and will no doubt over the coming months, redouble its efforts to create "no fly" zones over areas of Syria, increase logistic, financial and military support for the "good rebels", and to consolidate the ground it is rapidly losing to government forces.
In the meantime of course, it is the Syrian civilian population who bear the hardship of destruction of their towns and cities, the food shortages, the lack of medical supplies and medicines, the constant fear from the skies and the despair that comes from 6 years of civil war. The west can stop this conflict simply by ending their obsession with regime change (accepting the loss of face that this would involve) and work towards the defeat of all rebel factions including ISIS, opposed to the Syrian government.

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Without such a change of objective in Washington, the end of this tragic civil war seems to be a very distant prospect.

Monday, 28 November 2016

We cannot detract from the policies and achievements.

Forget Fidel Castro’s policies. What matters is that he was a dictator

Zoe Williams says, "Forget Fidel Castro’s policies. What matters is that he was a dictator". In one sense of course, she is right as Fidel Castro was a dictator, albeit that the description could be interpreted in a number of ways. However, to say "forget Fidel Castro's policies", ignores and trivialises the predominant truth of the Cuban revolution and its subsequent social structure.
On the 1st January 1959, the 26th of July Movement and its allies, finally overthrew the corrupt and despotic President Fulgencio Batista and his authoritarian government, after some 6 years of sporadic fighting.

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Fulgencio Batista, Cuban president and crime syndicate chief?

The Batista government had political, financial and military support from the United States after seizing power in a military coup just prior to the 1952 Presidential elections. He quickly established a corrupt and repressive government, profiting from the exploitation of Cuba's commercial interests and establishing very close relationships with American business interests and organised crime in the form of the American Mafia who controlled the drug, gambling, and prostitution businesses, flourishing in Havana and dominating the Cuban economy

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The Batista government was in fact held in office by the military but perhaps more importantly by organised crime. The "Bureau for the Repression of Communist Activities", a state run terrorist organisation employing a number of Mafia operatives, carried out wide scale violence, torture and public executions against the people of Cuba, ultimately killing hundreds of thousands of people, men women and even children.

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The majority of ordinary Cuban people at that time, lived in abject poverty with very low life expectancy, no health care, little education and an illiterate population. In many ways, the Cuban people were in a worse situation than most other "third world" countries.
Following the 1952 coup, Fidel Castro, at that time a young lawyer, petitioned for the overthrow of Batista, whom he accused of corruption and tyranny. However, Castro's constitutional arguments were rejected by the Cuban courts. After deciding that the Batista regime could not be replaced through legal means, Castro resolved to launch an armed revolution.
Following the overthrow of the Batista regime, the Castro government introduced a wide range of social reforms, introducing equality for black Cubans and greater rights for women and implementing improvements to communications, medical facilities, health, housing, and education.
By the end of the 1960's, all Cuban children were receiving education, unemployment and corruption were reduced, and great improvements were made in hygiene and sanitation.
Free health care, free education, building schools, hospitals and public utilities together with other reforms introduced by the Castro government have elevated Cuba to first-world levels of literacy and life expectancy. All this against a background of crippling trade and economic sanctions and embargo's enforced by the United States for almost 50 years as some form of collective punishment for the removal of Batista and Cuba's refusal to toe the American line.

Zoe Williams may well brand him as a dictator and criticise his human rights record, but she cannot detract from Castro's policies or achievements.

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Zoe Williams

New Agenda on Sunday. is out! Edition of 27 November 2016

Good morning everyone.

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It has been some time since I commented on that awful television garbage filling many screens on Saturday nights, followed by another shorter slot on Sunday nights for the "Results show". Not that I watch this contrived nonsense of course as I am normally too busy washing my hair, but with the amount of television media coverage through out the week with analysis, instant replays, explanations and "Celeb" interviews etc. coupled with the speculation of press and media as to who will win the "contest" it is difficult if not impossible to avoid any contamination. (I always have a sneaky feeling that the results of each programme, and the ultimate winner are determined at some secret meeting immediately after the first show, and everything following that is just hype and publicity for the celebs). I learn today, that the next show is the quarter finals which may or may not have the former shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer doing his stuff. Last night, (Saturday) apparently had him strutting around "dancing" a Tango to the tune of, "I can't get no satisfaction". A performance which propelled him and his partner to the bottom of the leader board. It is to the constant amazement of thousands around the country that he remains in the contest. Who knows, he may even actually take the trophy in next months final. Those faceless people at the secret meeting may have decided that the former MP for Morley and Outwood is, "good television" whether he can dance or not.

Fidel Castro was a South American revolutionary who together with Che Guevara freed the people of Cuba from the despotic and corrupt Mafia controlled rule of Fulgencio Batista in the late 1950's.
Castro created a socialist society in Cuba building schools, hospitals and public utilities and improving living standards, providing free health care and education and improving adult literacy. Against a background of perpetual American sanctions and embargo's in place for almost 50 years, together with numerous assassination attempts, Castro maintained programmes which have led to Cuba now having first-world levels of literacy and life expectancy.
Loved or hated the world over, Fidel Castro was a giant on the Latin American and world political stage.
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz August 1926 – November 2016 RIP

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Black Friday. An American "event" imported to this country by shops and retail businesses driven by possibilities of making even more profits.
Black Friday soon to be followed by Cyber Monday, yet another American phenomenon rather than "a UK tradition" as the Sun (who else) would have us believe, giving consumers the opportunity to purchase products at ridiculously reduced prices.
However, these two now annual events, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, arise in the middle of November and continue at an ever increasing pace right through until Christmas Eve!
(Read the full story at Copy and paste link)

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There will be a recount of the US presidential vote in Wisconsin
The prospect of reliving and having to sit through wall to wall media coverage of huge chunks of the American Presidential election, fills me with dismay. The prospect arises due to a bid from Jill Stein, the Green Party Presidential Candidate, demanding a recount of the votes results reported by Wisconsin as well as Michigan and Pennsylvania. Theoretically of course, this could result in the election results being changed, a reallocation of the electoral college votes and Clinton being declared as winner. The consequent constitutional crisis in America, the backlash from Trump supporters, the celebrations of Clinton supporters will undoubtedly be endlessly and hysterically covered by Sky News (and their sister channel Fox News) and the rest of the media circus. We shall just have to endure the interruption of normal programmes to to bring us a "Special News update from Washington" every 15 minutes.

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Every evening at 10:30pm and again at 11:30 pm Sky News have their preview of the following days papers. There are some "reviewers" seated on the sofa, who actually have sensible and enlightening views or comments to offer on the news on the front pages of tomorrows pages. However, there are other "reviewers" who only ever come across as patronising, arrogant and clearly lacking in any knowledge of the subject upon which they are offering an opinion. Last night's (Saturday) occupants of the sofa were no exception. Arrogant reviewer in chief was the odious Christina Patterson who shared the sofa with Mathew Sayed as they reviewed, amongst other stories, the story covering the death of Fidel Castro. Without once referring to free health care, free education, improved living standards for the people of Cuba or the crippling sanctions and embargoes imposed on Cuba over the last 50 years Patterson especially managed to demonstrate a complete ignorance of the subject particularly when she confused the botched and abortive "Bay of Pigs" invasion of 1961 with the "Cuban missile crisis" of October 1962 describing the Bay of Pigs as the greatest threat of nuclear war the world has ever seen. She did not even mention theCuban missile crisis, which leads me to the view that she has probably never even heard of it. I reiterate my plea to Sky News, that they at least try to invite reviewers onto the sofa who have some knowledge of their subject, are not arrogant and patronising and are able to offer balance rather than bias in their opinions.

Next week it will be December. If anyone finds out where the rest of 2016 has vanished to, please let me know.

The weather is sometimes wet, sometimes cold sometimes mild. The weather forecasters could do with some new seaweed.

Have a nice week.