Here is a shocking Christmas story that everyone should want to see remedied – where WWII Veteran banned from visiting his own wife for three years by her care home…
Here is a shocking Christmas story that everyone should want to see remedied – where WWII Veteran banned from visiting his own wife for three years by her care home…
The UK government has given the green-light to the resumption of the controversial gas-drilling technique, known as fracking. The UK government has given the green-light to the resumption of the controversial gas-drilling technique, known as fracking.
Dec 11, 2012
Having been tipped off last week about the pulling together of a Government plan to attack bloggers via McAlpinesque legal threats, The Slog received in short order a series of requests from a variety of blogospherists, asking for links to articles about leading politicians to be deleted. Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson were the anti-free speech fanatics most often cited. Now more details of a new Bill to complement that strategy are starting to surface. It isn’t looking pretty.
Useless legislator and empty suit Nick Clegg may be about to pull off the one achievement of his risible Deputy Premiership: new powers to monitor email and internet use need a “fundamental rethink”, he says. And he “vowed” (always beware the vow) to block the draft Communications Data Bill, instead pushing alternative plans that would reduce liberty infringement to a minimum.
His comments came as a committee of MPs and peers criticised the bill’s scope, with several voices on all sides at Westminster increasingly prepared to view the Leveson Report as a Trojan Horse crammed with new laws to stifle online debate, revelation and speculation. Leveson himself was notably quick to cite the Aussie DJ phone-call prank as another example of the need for tougher privacy laws….an interesting comment given that it has nothing whatever to do with the internet or the press media. (See a new Slogpost asking valid question about this case)
Justice Leveson blew all his credibility when he released the ‘finding’ that Jeremy Hunt had acted fairly and without bias in the BSkyB takeover saga. If he acted fairly at all, then it was a mode he was forced into as post-Dowler public pressure grew for the entire Murdoch clan to be put down. The takeover of BSkyB was thus abandoned. There remain at least four question-marks over Hunt’s behaviour before and during this time: none of them have been satisfactorily answered or investigated. And lest we forget, Hunt himself was involved in the choice of Leveson: his signature is on the appointment confirmation.
So while Clegg’s hour may have come, we can all assume that his interest in this issue is purely opportunistic. The broader policy (which I am sure he privately supports) will be to put the legal frighteners on anyone telling the truth about contemporary issues, while using GCHQ as a means of reminding site owners that Big Brother is watching. Already, it seems clear to me the strategy is working.
We need to stop and think here about the sheer variety and volume of bogus news being fed to the MSM at the moment. The Syrian conflict, the EU-UK negotiation standoff, the move towards an EU referendum, the emphasis on McAlpine’s heart bypass rather than systemic paedophile abuse, the hijacking of the Rotherham scandal by pointless UKip speculation, endless NHS spin hiding a reality of preparing for privatisation….there is a lot at stake for those who wish to hide rather than share.
But I wouldn’t hold your breath looking for support from the MSM: this sort of stuff will suit everyone from the Guardian via the Mail and the Mirror to the Telegraph and the Times: none of the Rusbridger-Trinity-Dacre-Barclay-Murdoch axis want to sustain a vibrant internet. For one thing, it doesn’t follow their agenda of complicity; for another, we’re putting them out of business…
(…) I confess to being at the stage with Fellows where I suspect he’s living in a film script written by his namesake, but on the other hand there’s a reasonable chance he’s being fed this stuff with a view to delivering more scare-tactics into an already hyperventilating blog community…
Britain’s so-called “snooper’s charter” bill is heating up debates among MPs as parliamentary reports on it are being prepared. The bill’s initiator has just released an emotional verbal offensive against the opponents, equaling them to criminals.
By Lewis Smith
Earlier this week, The Independent revealed how young women were lured to meetings with the man through the SponsorAScholar.co.uk website.
An undercover reporter recorded a meeting with the man who told her that sponsorship was dependent on a “high level of sexual intimacy” with men in two-hour sessions in hotel rooms up to four times a term.
The man filmed by The Independent was said last night to go under the name Mark Lancaster, but when contacted by a television programme refused to speak about the Sponsor a Scholar scheme. He had previously claimed to have arranged for 1,400 young women to win sponsorship.
When he met the undercover Independent reporter, he told her that to qualify for the scheme she would have to undertake a “practical assessment” with him to prove she would offer “the level of intimacy” that would be demanded by sponsors.
There were concerns last night that the scheme may have been a front to allow him to take advantage of young women. A student, whose identity was kept secret, told Channel 4 News that when she went to a rented flat with the man for an interview, she had been encouraged to dress up in a schoolgirl outfit before being pressured to have sex.
After he told her, “It’s time now for the practical,” she froze and felt unable to fight off his advances: “Then he just kissed me before I really had time to think about it or ask any questions … and I just froze because I really didn’t know what to do. Then he started undressing me.
“I was in a different city, and he’d picked me up from outside the place and walked me in so in my mind I was, like ‘I can’t leave right now because I don’t know where I am and if I do leave and he chases me, I don’t know what to do’. So I just froze and went along with what he was doing.”
Despite having had sex with the man, she was sent an email telling her that she had failed to secure sponsorship but that she could reapply in a couple of months. The student said she had contacted the Sponsor a Scholar scheme because she was struggling to pay her tuition fees.
Since being exposed by The Independent the SponsorAScholar website has been taken down. It had claimed to offer students up to £15,000 a year for meetings with wealthy businessmen in search of “discreet adventures”.
By Matt Chorely
Schools are free to give lessons in pornography, an education minister has admitted despite concerns about the impact of hardcore images on children.
Campaigners have warned that growing numbers of youngsters are hooked on graphic films found online.
While lessons on pornography would focus on the impact and dangers of graphic images online, they could backfire by alerting children to what can be easily accessed on the internet.
David Cameron is preparing to make it easier for parents to block online porn from new computers.
But Liz Truss insisted lessons in porn can form part of ‘age appropriate’ studies.
Some teaching unions have called for students to be taught about porn from the age of 10.
But an alarming study last month revealed children as young as 11 are becoming addicted to internet pornography giving them ‘unrealistic expectations’ of sex.
Counsellors at Childline also report a surge in calls from youngsters traumatised after seeing adult images online.
The intervention by Miss Truss comes a month after a teaching union called for students to be taught porn from the age of 10, so that they know about the dangers and can protect themselves from stumbling across adult images.
The green light from a minister could encourage more schools to institute lessons in pornography – a development which will alarm many parents.
She said: ‘The Government wants all young people to have high quality, age appropriate sex and relationships education.
‘The current non-statutory programmes of study for Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education, which include sex and relationship education, can provide opportunities for schools to teach about pornography.’
PSHE, which includes sex and relationships education, is not compulsory in England unlike other parts of the UK.
British ex-Defense Minister, Lord Gilbert, has threatened militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan with a neutron bomb. The UK could create “cordons sanitaire along various borders where people are causing trouble”, he said.
By Erik Larson and Kristen Schweizer
A former UK politician wrongly named on Twitter as a paedophile after a false report by the BBC may expand the reach of libel law with his threat to sue thousands of people over online posts.
Alastair McAlpine, 70, a former Tory party treasurer, has said he’ll take legal action against about 10,000 people who he says tweeted or retweeted defamatory posts after the BBC wrongly implied he sexually abused a boy in the 1970s.
The cases may correct the view that libel on social media isn’t as bad as in print publications, said Ruth Collard, a media lawyer at Carter-Ruck in London.
“It’s no defence to say you had no idea.”
– Ruth Collard, media lawyer
“With Twitter and the internet generally, people think it’s not the same as publishing a newspaper, book or magazine, but if you are the author, then you take responsibility for it,” said Collard, who isn’t involved in the dispute. “It’s no defence to say you had no idea.”
The BBC, the world’s biggest broadcaster, agreed to pay McAlpine £185,000 pounds ($284,096) after the November 2 error on its Newsnight report, which gave hints about the ex-politician’s identity without naming him. Before the mistake was uncovered, Twitter postings accusing McAlpine were already spreading, setting the stage for the biggest case of its kind in Britain.
McAlpine, who was deputy chairman of the UK Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher, wants Twitter users with fewer than 500 followers to apologise and donate to the BBC Children in Need charity, said Charlotte Offredi, a spokeswoman for McAlpine’s lawyers.
Twitter users with more than 500 followers, including a journalist at The Guardian newspaper and Sally Bercow, the wife of House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, should also apologise for naming him, she said, though McAlpine hasn’t decided what legal action to take against that group.
McAlpine’s libel dispute has caught the attention of the Metropolitan Police Service in London. Officers are meeting with “interested parties” to determine whether a crime may have taken place, the service’s press office said.
Until now, the highest-profile Twitter libel in Britain involved former New Zealand cricket captain Chris Cairns suing Lalit Modi, ex-chairman of an Indian league, for tweeting that he fixed matches. Modi failed to prove the claim in court and was ordered in March to pay £90,000 ($138,202) in damages.
As McAlpine brings the threat of such legal claims to average citizens, the former politician who now lives in Puglia, Italy, may create a “tipping point” in the public’s view of defamation, including libel, said Andrew Terry, a media lawyer at Eversheds in London, who isn’t involved in the cases.
“What the extreme nature of this situation shows is how easily reputations can be damaged by social media and why it is so important that there can be redress, whether those defamed are public figures or not,” said Terry.
While newspapers can defend mistaken reports by showing they tried to get it right, Twitter users don’t have the same standards and may have a hard time defending postings that are later proved wrong, Collard said.
Twitter limits postings to 140 characters and users can share another person’s tweet with a few clicks.
“At least if you’re writing an article you can ask the other party to comment and you can be balanced,” said Steven Heffer, a media lawyer at Collyer Bristow in London. “But in a short tweet you’re taking a risky step if you allege something, but you can’t prove it.”
It doesn’t matter if the Twitter users believed they were spreading correct information at the time, because the “good intention or honest belief of the publisher doesn’t help”, said Eddie Parladorio, a media lawyer with PSB Law in London.
Although tweets that name McAlpine and accuse him of crimes are clearly defamatory, Parladorio said, a tweet doesn’t even need to cite him or the word “paedophile” to give him a case if a “reasonable reader” of the post would link him to the BBC report.
After the BBC report, Bercow tweeted, “Why is Lord McApline trending? *innocent face*”. She later tweeted that the tweet wasn’t libellous.
John Bercow’s office in Parliament declined to give out Sally Bercow’s phone number and said she could only be reached through standard mail delivery. She didn’t immediately reply to an email to her husband’s office and her Twitter account has been turned off.
If the threatened cases make it to court, the defendants may be helped by a provision of English law allowing judges to reduce damage awards based on how much money someone has already received from other sources, Heffer said.
McAlpine’s potential lawsuits are “an unusual approach, particularly when he’s received a large award from the BBC,” Heffer said. McAlpine may also have a hard time identifying users who don’t name themselves on their Twitter pages and may have to sue Twitter to do it, Heffer said.
Twitter, based in San Francisco, is often resistant to requests for users’ personal information. Helen Prowse, a spokeswoman for the company, declined to comment on McAlpine.
The scandal started when Steve Messham, a victim of abuse at a children’s home in Wrexham, north Wales, alleged involvement by an unnamed senior figure in the Tory party. He said he was “sold” to men for sexual abuse at a nearby hotel.
McAlpine issued a statement on November 9 denying subsequent internet rumours he had been part of a paedophile ring, complaining of a “media frenzy” and saying he “must publicly tackle these slurs and set the record straight.”
“A lot of people who made the allegations were just repeating what had come to them,” Collard said. The McAlpine case “may make people think more cautiously about sending on rumours or gossip without really knowing anything about it”.
This is the world we live in, let us not forget who we are…
The NHS is “sleepwalking” into a nursing crisis with thousands of frontline posts lost and training positions axed, the Government is warned today.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said that despite the Coalition’s promise to protect frontline staff from cuts the NHS workforce has fallen by almost 21,000 since the Coalition Government came to power. This includes a loss of more than 6,000 qualified nursing posts – from a total of 312,000 nursing posts in the NHS.
The RCN’s report also warns that parts of the health service face the prospect of nursing shortages within three years as thousands of training posts are slashed, meaning trusts will have to recruit from overseas.
Patient safety will be seriously undermined by falling numbers of nurses, with the RCN’s chief executive warning that standards of care “are going to get a lot worse”.
The nursing union has been tracking job cuts since the Coalition came to power in May 2010. It has found that about 1,000 posts are being earmarked as “at risk” by NHS trusts every month as they try to find savings of £20bn during this parliament.
As well as job losses, the number of new nurses being trained has fallen sharply, by 14 per cent in just two years. In London, training places for adult nurses have fallen by 21 per cent, which will lead to substantial shortages by 2015 – highlighting failures in long-term workforce planning, warns the RCN. District nursing is heading towards crisis, as numbers of nurses have plummeted by a third since 2001 to 8,000.
The RCN questions how the NHS can re-focus care from hospitals to the community – essential for improving patient outcomes and saving money – if the cull of district nurses continues.
Nurse leaders warn today that the Government will soon be stranded in a “perfect storm” of an ageing population with increasing numbers of long-term conditions without enough nurses safely to care for patients.
Peter Carter, the RCN’s chief executive, said: “London is facing a workforce crisis within three years. The remedy will be to go overseas to countries like the Philippines to raid their workforce again, and an over-reliance on agency and temporary staff – in order to bail out the Government’s poor workforce planning.” He added: “The standards of care are under huge strain across England and if this trajectory continues unchecked then things are going to get a lot worse. There is no rogue information in our data. This is not the worst-case scenario: it is the declared scenario from trusts.”
The pledge to protect frontline staff was a key Coalition promise even as it announced the need to save £20bn to cope with increasing healthcare demands as budgets flatline after years of record investment.
But official figures reveal that there were almost 6,150 fewer full-time equivalent qualified nurses in July this year compared with May 2010 despite Coalition promises to protect frontline staff. In total, there are 20,790 fewer NHS staff, but the number of doctors has increased by 7,000, according to the NHS Information Centre.
The long-awaited report into the Mid Staffordshire hospital scandal is expected to recommend minimum nursing levels to improve patient safety in hospitals. On average there is one qualified nurse to every four paediatric patients, but only one for every nine elderly patients.
Yet there is compelling evidence from King’s College London that patient outcomes improve when science is applied to nurse-patient ratios – in short, making sure there are enough nurses safely to care for patients in different settings.
The Government has repeatedly dismissed the RCN’s figures as scaremongering, but does not monitor proposed cuts by NHS trusts centrally. Furthermore, the growing number of NHS contracts being awarded to private companies such as Circle, Virgin Health and Care UK will soon make it even more difficult to track job losses. Private companies do not submit such data to the NHS Information Centre, nor will workforce plans be available for public scrutiny.
The Health minister Dr Daniel Poulter said: “NHS performance is strong: waiting times and infection rates are at record low levels. To say that the NHS is in ‘crisis’ is scaremongering and doesn’t reflect reality.
“The health service is changing – the workforce is changing to reflect this, but changes must be decided at a local level, based on evidence that they will improve patient care.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health added: “In the past, governments have failed to give workplace planning the priority it needs. Health Education England [a new training organisation] is the first of its kind and will give training [and education] unprecedented clarity and focus.”