Friday, 24 March 2006

Chickens come home to roost

Little bit more on THAT rescue and it's background.

After the release of Mr Kember, Mr (Terry) Waite said he applauded their motives but cast doubt on their methods.

He was responding to the news that another member of Christian Peacemaker Teams was planning to return to Iraq.

Jan Benvie, from Edinburgh, defended her right to go to the kidnapping hotspot against Foreign Office advice, saying: "In general, we allow adults to make their own decisions about their lives."

But Mr Waite told GMTV that going to Iraq could end up involving other people.

He said: "The first thing I would say is I applaud the motives of anyone who wishes to work for peace.

"The situation in Iraq is dreadful, the ordinary civilian population are suffering terribly and it is something to be commended to go and stand alongside such people. I question, though, the tactic because I think the situation in Iraq is so vastly different to when I was negotiating 20 years ago.

"It has become so much more polarised and anyone, any foreigner, particularly from the West, given the history of the West in Iraq in recent years, is exposed to very grave danger, not only for political reasons but for criminal reasons also."

Mr Waite added: "The only problem with that is that as you take that stance, you do involve other people in the situation, and in your situation, and that might be a problem. As I say, I applaud the motive but at this stage I question the tactic."

Ms Benvie, who has been to Iraq before, said she would be returning despite what happened to Mr Kember. And she said if she was kidnapped, it should not put British soldiers at risk.

"We make it clear that if we are kidnapped, we do not want there to be force or any form of violence used to release us," she told GMTV.

Well, bully for you lady. Just make sure that your relatives here and the general public are aware of this and know which Church they should use to pray for intervention of a Superior Being.


Rachel from North London is one of survivors who gave evidence to yesterday's 7 July Review Committee hearings. She's been writing about her life since the bombing on her blog and yesterday revealed more detail of her own experience immediately following the attack:
Meanwhile as I was walking the other way out of the tunnel, I told my frightened fellow passengers 'Keep going, there will be water and nurses and doctors, ambulances and helpers when we arrive, just keep going...'. And we walked, reassuring each other, trusting that there would be help when we got out. There was none, just a white-faced LU staff member handing us water. Outside the station, where I went to look for help, there were angry commuters trying to get in, and people photographing me, with my black face and bloodied stinking clothes, and a Japanese man filming the scene. An off duty nurse called Anna tried to help me, I asked her to go and help the injured inside the station. Someone called an ambulance. It was 9.18am. I looked at the bone poking out of my wrist, the glass and metal embedded in the bone, and I called a friend to get me in a cab. The cab arrived at 9.40am. I tried to get others to come in the cab with me, but they did not hear me. Most people had blood coming out of their ears; they were deaf, like me, from the blast which had gone off in the middle of our carriage. Passengers stayed at Russell Square, in shock, whilst the injured were carried from the bombed train. Station staff, passers by, and blasted passengers tried to help them. I feel guilty to this day that I did not. The grille doors of the station closed behind me. I got in the cab, and almost fainted.

The government and police are keen to tell us that fresh attacks are imminent, so perhaps it would be a good idea to publicly address the shortcomings of the rescue operation revealed through the evidence of people like Rachel. No matter what the outcome of the Review Committee we should already be looking to put systems in place that mean bomb victims don't have to rely on public transport to find medical assistance.

Computerised searches

Amazon came up with this as a recommended book.
Tell me these things sometimes make mistakes - please please please.
Although, might be something of interest there come to think about it!

Read and weep

Shopkeepers get annoyed at gangs of youths who congregate in front of their premises and instal a device to emit noises that can only be heard by adolescents. Works and all is well. All is well that is, until ................

Mother's Day

Whatever you do for Mother's Day, you MUST remember these five essential things:
1. Wear a vest
2. Tuck in your shirt
3. Stand up straight
4. If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all
5. You can never do anything right, and your mother is never wrong

Thursday, 23 March 2006


The BBC WhistleBlower programme recently showed an expose on Estate Agents. One mortgage arranger was shown fixing a large mortgage for an unemployed man and his services included false payslips and a false passport. All on real headed paper.
I knew the ins and outs of getting the passport but had some doubts about the pay slips.
So, Sheer Luck Holmes back into operation.
Dead simple really. Didn't even have to leave my chair or hang around any dodgy pub. These people offer that very service. What is the world coming to?

Shipman bungler escapes action

He has still to face a drugs handling charge though.

The detective whose failings probably left Harold Shipman free to kill three more times learned yesterday that he will not face trial on a charge of perjury.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has decided there is insufficient evidence to pursue Det Insp David Smith, despite the fact that he lied on oath to a High Court judge.
The decision, which may allow the officer to retire following a two-and-a-half year suspension from Greater Manchester Police, has enraged relatives of Shipman's victims.
Britain's most prolific serial killer had already murdered more than 250 of his patients by the time Det Insp Smith was called in. He failed either to speak to Shipman or to check whether he had a criminal record. He then lied both to his superiors and to the inquiry headed by Dame Janet Smith.
Det Insp Smith, who has been paid more than £100,000 in wages since his suspension on full pay, was also criticised by another judge over his role in a separate murder investigation. David Barnshaw, a drugs dealer, was murdered in 1999. Six men were later charged, but their trial was halted when it emerged that police had deliberately withheld evidence and failed to disclose information to the defence.
During that case Judge Penry-Davey, sitting at Preston Crown Court, accused Det Insp Smith of "not telling the truth''. The officer was suspended in relation to both matters on August 1, 2003. He has yet to appear before an internal disciplinary panel.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission confirmed in January that neither he, nor four other officers involved in the Barnshaw murder trial, would face criminal charges.
A spokesman said at the time: "We will now wait for Greater Manchester Police to submit a decision outlining what disciplinary proceedings, if any, are appropriate.''
Det Insp Smith, 48, was asked to investigate Shipman in March 1998. A partner in a neighbouring medical practice in Hyde, Manchester, had expressed concerns to the local coroner, who called in the police.
During the investigation Det Insp Smith failed to ask for autopsies and toxicology tests on two victims, and denied having been told by Shipman's whistle-blowing colleague, Dr Linda Reynolds, that the bodies would have been available for testing at the time.
The Shipman Inquiry concluded that many of his mistakes were made because of a lack of experience and supervision and that he was "out of his depth''. Dame Janet said he lied about what Dr Reynolds had told him "in an attempt to evade responsibility for his failure to arrange an autopsy".
The detective's failure left Shipman free to kill three more of his patients. Danny Mellor, whose mother, Winifred, was one of Shipman's later victims, reacted with fury to the decision.
"It's astonishing that the CPS had the words of a High Court judge to go on and they still couldn't find enough evidence," he said. "I feel that at least a jury should have been given the chance to come to its own conclusion." Mr Mellor said there seemed to be "an inordinate reluctance" to prosecute police officers.
Jayne Gaskell, who believes she lost both her parents to Shipman, said she was appalled that Det Insp Smith's case had yet to be resolved. "I can't believe that this man has been paid so much for so long to do nothing while families like ours are denied justice."
Mrs Gaskell's father, Sydney, is thought to have been murdered in 1979. Sixteen years later Shipman gave her mother, Bertha, 69, a lethal injection of diamorphine. Mrs Gaskell said: "People probably died because Mr Smith didn't carry out that first investigation properly. He should not be being paid and I'd like to see him cut out without a pension."
A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said disciplinary action against Det Insp Smith was still under consideration. Mr Smith, who is believed to live in the Glossop area of Derbyshire, could not be contacted last night.

Size matters!

Now I have your attention................
This is constructive use of ones time I think.

In the following extract from Words, Words, Words, language expert David Crystal shows how to estimate the size of your vocabulary...

As adults, our passive vocabulary is usually a third larger than our active vocabulary. We understand far more words than we routinely use.

How can we find out what our active and passive levels are? Most people are intrigued by the question, and would like to know how large their wordhoard is. One method of calculation is given below.

i. Take a dictionary, any dictionary...

Take a medium-sized dictionary - one between 1,500 and 2,000 pages. Aim for a sample of pages which is 2 per cent of the whole. If the dictionary is 1,500 pages, that means a sample of thirty pages; 2,000 pages will give you forty. Ensure the sample is exactly 2 per cent, to make the final calculation easy (see below).

ii. Spread the sample

Break the sample down into a series of selections from different parts of the dictionary - say (for a thirty-page sample), six choices of five pages each, or ten choices of three pages. It isn't sensible to take all pages from a single part. If you chose letter U, for instance, you would find yourself flooded with words beginning with un-. But do make sure you include some prefixes. A representative sample would look like this: words beginning with CA-, EX-, JA-, OB-, PL-, SC-, TO-, and UN-.

iii. Check the words

Begin with the first full page in each case - in other words, if you are looking for EX- and you find a few EX- words at the bottom of the page, ignore them and start at the top of the next page.

Go through all the words on each page of your sample. Divide your page margins into two columns. (Alternatively, you can write the headwords out on a separate sheet of paper.) If you think you know a word, but would not use it yourself, put a light pencil tick in the left-hand column. If you think you would, in addition, actively use the word, put a tick in the right-hand column. This is the difference between your passive and active vocabulary. You may need to look at the definition or examples given next to the word before you can decide. Ignore the number of meanings the word has: if you know or use the word in any of its meanings, that will do.

In a more sophisticated version, you can have three columns under each of these headings. For passive vocabulary, you can ask yourself: 'Do I know the word well, vaguely, or not at all?' For active vocabulary, you can ask: 'Do I use the word often, occasionally, or not at all?' If you are uncertain, use the final column.

Make sure you don't miss any words out. Some dictionaries cluster (or 'nest') words together in bold face within an entry, just showing their endings, as in nation, ~al, ~ize. Don't ignore these. They are different words. Also include any phrases or idioms, such as call up and call the tune. Ignore alternative spellings: an example like Caesarean/Cesarean counts as just one word.

iv. Add up the ticks

Add up the ticks in each column, and jot the totals down at the bottom of each page. Then add up all the page totals. Multiply by 50 (if your sample was 2 per cent of the whole). The result will be, more or less, the size of your personal vocabulary.

The procedure, of course, doesn't allow for people who happen to know a large number of non-standard words, such as dialect words, which won't be in this kind of dictionary. And if you are, say, a scientist, it will underestimate your specialist vocabulary too. But the figure it gives will be an approximation of your everyday wordhoard. And it will be larger than you think.


Reading through a web page about development of language and came across this
Anecdotal dotage; that advanced age where all one does is relate stories about "the good, old days."

This word really means "anecdotes considered as a whole." But I stumbled across it in the dictionary today, and the "anecdotal dotage" idea just sort of leaped out at me. However, I've subsequently discoverd that The Oxford English Dictionary not only lists this sense of the word — and defines it, succinctly, as "garrulous old age" — but it has a citation that dates all the way back to 1835!
That is me defined then!

Wednesday, 22 March 2006

That question/

From today's Telegraph.

Could it be that one day, not too far off, the English will embark on a boycott of Scotch whisky, turning instead to the Irish or the American or, if all else fails, the Spanish stuff? Might a time come when English housewives exile Scottish products from their trolleys? Could the Scotch egg have had its day?

I ask these questions as a British journalist resident in Barcelona who has spent time in Britain recently talking to people about the West Lothian question. And I ask not in a fanciful spirit, because I have seen how here in Spain people have set about an aggressive, organised and extraordinarily effective boycott of Catalan goods on grounds rather less pressing than the undemocratic Westminster practice of allowing Scottish MPs to vote on English laws over which they manifestly should have no say.

Tuesday, 21 March 2006

Plain speaking

Don't know who wrote this - it is an anonymous comment on a blog that I regard as rubbish so I'm not linking it. However, I do agree with what the nameless person says.
That Sadaam was evil, and that life in Iraq under his rule was hellish is beyond denial. But the continued survival of Sadaam accomplished one major thing: a lid was kept on the perpetually bubbling tensions between shiites and sunnis. As in all dictatorships, internecine ethnic/religious conflicts are put on the back burner, as all can at least agree that the man in power is opressing everyone. Once the tyrant is deposed, all those long-simmering hatreds bubble over, and that is the case at present in Iraq. Forget the nespapers that report we are "crawling toward" civil war in Iraq---we are there already, babe. As Iraqi seeks to kill Iraqi, it begs the question, "What are we doing there anymore?" We're certainly not stopping or slowing down the slaughter, as dozens or hundreds die every week through car bombs or rocket attacks. How long can we remain there, before both sides realize that what they have in common a desire to get us out, once and for all? Then, it will be open season on American troops to an extent we haven't yet seen there. Are we supposed to babysit this country for the next several decades? We must at some point say, "Look, we've done all we can do. We got rid of your dictator. The rest is up to you." Will it continue to be a bloodbath there? Of course. But this fight started long before we got there, and buzzwords like "democracy" really don't count for much in an 800-year-old family squabble.

Oh dear!

This does not seem to have hit the airwaves just yet but it seems that dear old Ken Livingstone is being his cuddly self again. This guys stuff is normally - I think I can say this without a problem - kosher and he reports thus:

During the course of a press conference this morning in which the Stratford City Consortium was being discussed, Ken Livingstone apparently expressed the following views on the Reuben brothers - a pair of jewish property developers who are involved in the project:

"If they're not happy here perhaps they could go back to Iran and try it under the Ayatollahs"

I haven't the full context of the quotation: but it seems to be connected to a falling out between two of the property companies involved in developing the Olympic Village site in Stratford: one of which is headed by the Reuben brothers. Ken Livingstone seems to be backing the other property company in the dispute. Some background on that story is here.

This seems to me to be unfortunate, at least, for the following reasons:

1. The "Ayatollahs" have a record of doing this sort of thing to Iranian jews; while Ahmadinejad says this sort of thing.

2. Ken is in the process of appealing against the Standards Board's suspension, which arose from his comparison of a jewish reporter to a "concentration camp guard". A sensible person might think now was a good time not to go round making quips about jews and the sorts of people who might want to do them in.

3. The Reuben brothers were born in Bombay to Iraqi parents of Jewish descent. Indeed, a quick search suggests that they are supporters of the charity Medical Aid for Iraqi Children.

4. It is a bit off when politicians go round telling any immigrant to "go back" to anywhere "if they're not happy here".

I wonder what the Ken spin on this will be. My money is on:

(a) I had no idea that these well known jewish property developers were jews;

(b) They are plutocrats, and the plutocrats supported Hitler, dontchaknow; or

(c) This all is really about Israel.


I've spoken to somebody who was at the press conference.

Basically, the context of this quotation is the business deal that I mentioned above.

Livingstone started by talking about other transactions in whcih the Reuben brothers have been involved. He goes on to suggest that, whereas other property developers he has worked with - and he names two with jewish names - are genuine Londoners, who care about jobs and creating great buidlings - the Reuben brothers are all about "how much money they can squeeze out of every single deal".

In the next question on the Reuben brothers, Ken Livingstone says that they have never come to see him personally. Then he speculates that they are "not happy" and suggests that they go back to Iran and see if they do better under the Ayatollahs.

I expect there will be an official transcript against which this can be checked.

Requiat the cat

RIP Humphrey. The 'house cat' employed as a mouser at 10 Downing Street until the arrival of the B Liars has died in retirement at the home of the civil servant to whom he was banished. Apparently Mrs B Liar said that cats were unhygienic. Apart from having doubts on her ability to recognise hygiene given the company she keeps, I would say that cats are far more hygienic than politicians - they only lick their own arses!

Exercise your mind

4 Noble Truths

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Four Noble Truths (Pali, "cattari ariya saccani") are taught in Buddhism as the fundamental insight or enlightenment of Sakyamuni Buddha (the historical Buddha), which led to the formulation of the Buddhist philosophy.
  1. Dukkha: There is suffering and impermanence in life for all beings.
  2. Samudaya: There is a cause for Dukkha, which is attachment and desire (tanha).
  3. Nirodha: There is a way out of Dukkha, which is to eliminate attachment and desire.
  4. Magga: There is a path that leads out of Dukkha, called the Noble Eightfold Path.

This outline form is exactly that used by doctors of the Buddha's culture when diagnosing and prescribing for a disease: identify the disease, its cause, whether it is curable, and the prescribed cure. Thus the Buddha treats suffering as a "disease" we can confidently expect to cure.

Because of its focus on suffering, Buddhism is often called pessimistic. But since Gautama Buddha presented a cure, Buddhists consider it neither pessimistic nor optimistic but realistic.

The Four Noble Truths was the topic of the first sermon given by the Buddha after his enlightenment. He gave the sermon to the ascetics with whom he had practiced austerities.

If I have any readers of these missives, I commend the Noble Truths as worth of further examination. They may use a form of words with which we are unfamiliar but the ideas strike a chord with me. Dukkha only says that life is hard. Don't I know it! The cause of most of this can be established and, once that is done, there is a way to improve things. Go on - open your mind. I dare you.

Monday, 20 March 2006

Nice stamp

Back in the day, when I had to submit police reports and case investigation papers, it would have been nice to have had the ability to add such a stamp to the paperwork.

Sunday, 19 March 2006

Are we there yet?

Back in the days, I used to deal quite often with people who were running skim-off funds, slush funds, building improvement trusts - they had a variety of names. What they had in common was a source of funds that was kept very confidential and were controlled by one or a few persons only. Whilst they were fiddles, they were more short-circuits of fiscal controls.
However, sometimes, the guy in charge found themselves in need of a temporary - or longer - boost to their funds. Ah! the good old slush fund. That is when things got dirty. Suppose it still goes on really. Nice young couple find themselves a bit short of the mortgage money. Put in extra effort but still a bit hard-up and not rewarded as they feel they deserve.
The picture is just here as a joke you understand. No connection with the story of course.