Monday, 31 August 2015

"Electromagnetic Fields Linked to Asthma in Kids"

Quote: "Aug. 1, 2011 -- Researchers seeking to explain the rising number of asthma cases in children have fingered a new suspect: electromagnetic fields (EMFs), energy that can’t been seen or felt that is generated by household appliances, electronic devices, cars, and power lines.
In a study, they found that babies born to women who are exposed to stronger EMFs during pregnancy had more than triple the risk of developing asthma compared to babies born to women exposed to weaker EMFs.
In other words, about 13% of children born to women in the group with the lowest EMF exposures developed asthma compared to about 33% of children born to women who had high EMF exposures.
“That’s a striking figure,” says David Savitz, PhD, a professor of community health and obstetrics and gynecology at Brown University in Providence, R.I. “That magnitude of association we don’t see very often. If it was correct, and that’s a big ‘if,’ that would be really startling.”
Savitz, who has studied the health effects of electromagnetic fields but was not involved in the research, says that while the finding is interesting, there’s no reason to give up using a hair dryer or microwave just yet.
He says that unlike contaminants like cigarette smoke or lead that are known to be dangerous, there’s little evidence that low-frequency EMFs, the kind measured in the study, are harmful.
“This has been very, very thoroughly studied, and it really is questionable whether it causes any health effects at any reasonable level,” Savitz tells WebMD. “It’s certainly not something that falls into the category of a known hazard.”
But Savitz and others acknowledge that all research has to start somewhere.
“There are a lot of important topics that started out looking pretty flaky and pretty unlikely. There was a time when it made no sense that smoking could be bad for you,” he says.
Other experts agree.
“The study appears to be well executed and the finding is surprising,” says Jonathan M. Samet, MD, a pulmonologist and epidemiologist at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles." Go to: http://www.webmd.com/asthma/news/20110801/electromagnetic-fields-linked-asthma-kids

Also see: "Ecosia" search, go to: https://www.ecosia.org/search?q=EMF+and+Asthma

Is David Cameron Actively Seeking to Destroy the Lords?

Quote: "Yesterday’s new peerage appointments attracted almost universal criticism for further adding to the inexorable growth in size of the House of Lords under David Cameron. But could the gradual erosion of the Lords’ reputation actually benefit the government by weakening parliament? Might it even be a deliberate plan? And – given that the Prime Minister holds all the cards – what can be done about it? Meg Russell comments.

This post has an eye-catching title, but it isn’t a joke – my question is deadly serious. David Cameron’s list of 45 new appointments to the Lords, announced this week, has attracted predictable wails of outrage – from the media, from opposition parties , and indeed from myself. His Lords appointments in the last five years have been completely disproportionate. As I demonstrated in a report earlier this year, he has created new peers at a faster rate than any other Prime Minister since life peerages began in 1958. Although growth in the size of the chamber has always been a problem, since 2010 it has escalated to new proportions. As is clear from my well-rehearsed graph, updated for this week’s appointments, the upward trajectory increased sharply from 2010. In the 11 years of Labour government from 1999-2010 the chamber grew by 40-70 members (depending how you measure it); in the five short years since Cameron took office, it has grown by two to three times as much.

HoL Aug 15 1

Note: ‘Actual eligible membership’ includes those on leave of absence and otherwise temporarily excluded from the chamber, all of whom could potentially return. Source: House of Lords Information Office figures from January each year, updated with 2015 appointments.
Cameron’s latest list of appointments was long anticipated. A few weeks ago, the Prime Minister appeared to conjure up a new convention, that the Lords should be rebalanced to reflect the politics of the Commons – I pointed out that this was a non-convention, and in an interview on the Today Programme (1hr 15min) explained why it would also be a terrible idea. For the Lords to reflect the Commons politically would make it a far less effective institution. It is precisely because no government since 1999 has had a Lords majority, and ministers have had to justify their policies there on the basis of argument, rather than simply partisan loyalty, that the Upper House has done a good job of holding government to account. The Blair and Brown governments had to navigate policy and negotiate with the Lords, in a chamber where the Conservatives remained the largest party for nine years. It is precisely its ‘no overall control’ character – with the balance of power held by Liberal Democrats and Crossbench independents – which revived the previously moribund Lords post-1999, and in doing so both strengthened parliament and led to better government.
It was widely anticipated that Cameron wanted to use these new appointments to strengthen the Conservatives’ position in the Lords, in line with his comment above. But this is not actually what he has done. His list of 45 new appointees includes 26 Conservatives, 11 Lib Dems and eight Labour nominees – giving him an increased advantage of just seven. It seems quite inexplicable that he would appoint so many Liberal Democrats, given that party’s collapse in the national vote share and in Commons seats, and that before this week it already had 101 seats in the Lords (compared to eight MPs). This makes even less sense when you consider that new Liberal Democrat peers will largely use their positions to vote against the government. This week’s appointments were packaged as ‘resignation honours’, and hence include various former MPs. But several of the Liberal Democrat nominees have never been MPs at all, so why appoint them? In a report supported by numerous senior cross-party figures four years ago I argued that dissolution honours lists were a luxury that could no longer be afforded given the Lords’ growing size. But while Cameron might have felt that he had an obligation, in line with past precedent, to senior retiring figures like William Hague, any such obligation extends to barely a handful on this list. So why not simply appoint seven Conservatives and no others? Or perhaps ten Conservatives, two Labour nominees and one Liberal Democrat? The net outcome in terms of Lords votes would have been the same, and the media outrage could have been avoided.
Given how strange this seems, is it possible that the media outrage is actually part of the strategy? Next week we will publish new research showing definitively that media coverage of the Lords has grown increasingly negative since Cameron became Prime Minister. Such coverage reflects badly on him, but the primary damage done is to the reputation of the Lords. And if the Lords’ reputation is damaged, this weakens its ability to credibly challenge the government. The chamber’s ballooning size is patently becoming absurd, as the newspapers frequently remind us. The 101 Liberal Democrats (40 of them appointed by Cameron himself, by the way) already looked disproportionate. This week’s appointments simply add to the absurdity. The Prime Minister may take a short-term media ‘hit’, but the long-term damage will be to the Lords.
This may sound like an over-elaborate conspiracy theory. That it should be a Conservative Prime Minister, of all things, who would seek to damage the Lords is counterintuitive. But the latest round of appointments (not to mention previous ones) is puzzling, until considered in this light. And these are not simply isolated musings. I have spoken to journalists who claim to have been told by senior Conservative sources that there is indeed a deliberate strategy to undermine the Lords. Such suggestions have started to creep into the newspapers (para 21). Other events in recent years have also contributed to an undermining of the chamber’s reputation. It is notable that the House of Lords Appointments Commission, responsible for proposing expert independent peers, has been invited to make only eight nominations since 2010 – compared to the 31 in the period 2005-10 (in the context of a far smaller total number of peerage appointments). The presence of independent members and experts are among the most popular features of the Lords with the public, and it has previously been widely agreed that Crossbenchers should be maintained at 20%. Instead, this group is being undermined.
Whether by accident or design, David Cameron as Prime Minister is clearly failing in his constitutional duty to appoint responsibly to the Lords, and to protect and maintain the reputation of parliament. No modern Prime Minister has made peerage appointments with this degree of recklessness. There is enormous concern inside the Lords itself about the situation, and there are rumours that this concern is shared in Whitehall as well. But until something is done to constrain his powers, the Prime Minister maintains complete control over the system – in terms of how many peers are appointed, when, and with what party balance. If such powers are abused this becomes extremely serious, given the lack of external constraint – and presents others in the system with a major constitutional challenge. Some may argue that the answer is ‘big’ reform: most obviously the introduction of election. Indeed for some the reaction to my headline could well be “destruction of the Lords: hooray!” But this all depends on what comes in its place. A move to election would require action by government, and this government clearly has absolutely no intention to bring forward a bill. So the risk is instead descent towards a moribund and discredited institution, as existed in the 1950s, with ever weaker ability to hold the government to account. Until some bigger Lords reform happens, the priority must be to maintain the integrity of parliament, and its capacity properly to do its job.
So what can be done? This is a serious crisis for the Lords, and demands serious action. The Lord Speaker has apparently convened a cross-party working group to come up with proposals by October – which could be crucial. The House of Lords Constitution Committee could also step in and express a view. There are options for motions, standing order changes and private members’ bills – to cap the size of the chamber, the numbers coming in, the proportion of party peers against independents, and even completely to overhaul the appointments process. One of the obstacles to second chamber reform – not only in the UK, but around the world – is that it is not in government’s self-interest to strengthen parliament. But when the driver of the bus seems intent on sending it careering out of control and heading for a cliff, there comes a point when the passengers must seize the wheel. In other words, parliament itself now urgently needs to act. The Lords should do so with determination and force – if it is not to simply sit by as a spectator, observing its own destruction." Go to: http://constitution-unit.com/2015/08/28/is-david-cameron-actually-seeking-to-destroy-the-lords/

Arafel Comment: You are missing the obvious too, he (not unreasonably), has rewarded those Liberal buddies with a Golden Handshake, he’s bought Lockean Neo-Conism into The Lords whilst also trying to undermine its traditional “liberal” consensus..Thank you for your analysis..it makes sense..such closet fascists have long experience of the sting in Maam's “tale”! Is it any wonder they are coming-out now (“oooops did I say something wrong?”), …………"

Sunday, 30 August 2015

"Israeli Army Blocked Netanyahu's Plans to Attack Iran"

Quote: "Israel's former defence minister says three plans to attack Iran - backed by himself and the premier - failed to secure security cabinet consensus
Israel's former Defense Minister Ehud Barak (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (AFP)

Israel's former defence minister Ehud Barak has said in an interview that three Iran attack plans backed by both himself and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were blocked by the military.
Barak, defence minister from 2009 to 2013, told the privately run television station Channel 2 overnight Friday that the plans were drawn up between 2009 and 2010.
They were approved both by him and Netanyahu, but the response of the then chief of staff, General Gaby Ashkenazi, "was not positive".
Ashkenazi's successor, Benny Gantz, told the country's political leadership that "the possibilities [for an attack on Iran] exist, but you know its limitations and risks," Barak said.
He said the military's reservations convinced two members of the eight-member security cabinet - Moshe Yaalon and Yuval Steinitz - not to back such a plan, depriving the premier of the necessary majority to proceed.
Yaalon, the current defence minister, had the strategic affairs portfolio at the time, while Steinitz, who is now infrastructure and energy minister, was then finance minister.
Barak said an opportunity in 2012 to attack Iran was shelved as it would have coincided with large joint military exercises with the United States, "which was likely to embarrass Washington and give the impression the Americans were directly involved in the attack".
In 2013, former prime minister Ehud Olmert accused his successor Netanyahu of spending nearly $3 bn on preparations for an attack on Iran that never materialised.
For years, Netanyahu has trumpeted the threat to use the "military option" to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
He categorically opposes the agreement reached in mid-July between the Islamic republic and major powers which will lead to the lifting of economic sanctions against Tehran.
Netanyahu and a large majority of Israeli politicians believe the agreement is not strict enough to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons which they could use against Israel.
Tehran has constantly denied its nuclear programme has a military dimension, saying it is for purely peaceful purposes." Go to: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/israeli-army-blocked-netanyahus-plans-attack-iran-barak-1126283964

"UN launches investigation into "grave" violations of disabled people's human rights over welfare reforms"

Quote: "UNITED Nations officials will visit the UK in the next few months to investigate whether Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms have led to “grave or systematic violations” of disabled people’s human rights, the Sunday Herald can reveal.
A formal investigation has already been launched by the UN’s Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. UN investigations are conducted confidentially, but a leading Scottish disability charity has told the Sunday Herald it has been advised a visit by the Special Rapporteur and members of the committee on the rights of persons with disabilities is expected in the “near future”.
Only last week, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith unveiled plans to launch a fresh attack on sickness benefit. He outlined aims to get one million people off the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) disability benefit, claiming too many people with “common” mental health conditions are reliant on the state.
The SNP will today attack the “callous” plans, saying new statistics show this will affect nearly half - 43% - of all disabled people currently claiming ESA.



Shocking statistics published by the DWP last week showed thousands of people have died after being declared “fit for work”. The figures, which did not detail the cause of the deaths, revealed that 2,380 people died between December 2011 and February 2014 after a work capability assessment (WCA) found them fit for work.
Bill Scott, director of policy at Inclusion Scotland, a consortium of disability organisations, said: “The UN have notified us they will be visiting Britain to investigate ... and want to meet with us when they come, sometime in the next few months.”
Inclusion Scotland has also made a submission to a study being prepared by the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Catalina Devandas-Aguilar, which is examining the right of disabled people to social protection.
It warned the UK Government’s welfare reforms are “jeopardising disabled people’s right to life” by increasing the risk of suicide after loss of benefits. Last week, the Sunday Herald revealed that DWP staff had been given official guidance on how to deal with suicidal claimants left penniless after suffering benefit sanctions.
The Inclusion Scotland submission also highlights a series of shocking findings, including that disabled people in some areas of Scotland are waiting for up to 10 months to access Personal Independent Payment disability benefits, due to delays in assessments taking place.
By 2018, more than 80,000 disabled people in Scotland will lose some or all of the help with mobility costs they were previously entitled to, according to the statistics from Inclusion Scotland.
And most families with disabled children will lose around £1,500 a year as a result of changes to child tax credits under the new Universal Credit system.
Scott said: “It is the cumulative impact that is so serious, because the government seems to have assumed that different disabled people would be affected by different cuts – but that is not the case. There are a lot of individuals who are affected by three, four, five - sometimes six or seven different benefit cuts.
“Because disabled people are less likely to be in work, they are more likely to also be reliant on benefits which aren’t specifically for disabled people, but which are claimed by people on low income - like housing benefit and council tax benefit.
“So if there are cuts to those, it affects disabled people disproportionately, because they are more likely to be on low income.”
Scott said he hoped the UN visit would help, pointing to a report published last year by the UN's special investigator on housing, Raquel Rolnik, which called for the suspension of the bedroom tax.
He said there had been an approach taken to "stigmatise" disabled people for not working in recent years.
But he added: "In fact one in three of working age really cannot work - and of the remainder, the vast majority want to work but cannot get jobs because of the discrimination in the labour market."
SNP MSP Christina McKelvie, member of Holyrood’s welfare reform committee said: “Just this week it was revealed that 2,380 people had died after a work capability assessment found them fit for work and this comes as the DWP is set to further cut support for up to 1 million disabled people – a staggering 43% of those who receive ESA."
She added: “We have consistently raised grave concerns about the impact and extent to which the UK Government is prepared to cut support for disabled people. The fact that the United Nations is now set to launch an inquiry into the issue simply underlines the gravity of the situation facing many of the most vulnerable people in Scotland and the rest of the UK.
“The DWP has questions to answer and the Scottish Parliament and its committees should welcome and support any investigation by UN representatives.”
Dr Simon Duffy, director of think tank The Centre for Welfare Reform, said independent research carried out since 2010 had shown the UK Government has targeted cuts on people in poverty and people with disabilities.
He added: “In fact the people with the most severe disabilities have faced cuts several times greater than those faced by cuts to the average citizen. This policy has been made even worse by processes of assessment and sanctions that are experienced as stigmatising and bullying.
“The government has utterly failed to find jobs for the people they target - people who are often very sick, who have disabilities or who have mental health problems.
"Instead we are seeing worrying signs that they are increasing rates of illness, suicide and poverty."

Saturday, 29 August 2015

"States with Legal Marijuana see 25% Fewer Prescription Painkiller Deaths"

Quote: "One unexpected benefit of medical marijuana legislation appears to be a decrease in painkiller overdoses, perhaps because some chronic pain patients are turning to cannabis instead of powerful opioid drugs.
States with Legal Marijuana See 25 Percent Fewer Prescription Painkiller Deaths
In states with laws legalizing medical marijuana, new research shows there are nearly 25 percent fewer deaths from painkiller overdoses. Opioid painkiller overdoses are a growing problem nationwide. More than 16,500 Americans died of opioid drug overdoses in 2010, and the numbers continue to rise.
Although a casual relationship hasn’t been proven, there appears to be a significant association between marijuana legislation and a fall in overdose deaths.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania reported that in states that enacted medical cannabis laws between 1999 and 2010, there was a 24.8 percent lower annual opioid overdose death rate, compared to states without medical marijuana laws. The study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Center for AIDS Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.
Find Out About the 9 Most Addictive Painkillers on the Market »
“We found it surprising that there was such a large difference in opioid painkiller overdose rates associated with implementation of a medical marijuana law,” said lead study author Dr. Marcus Bachhuber, a VA Scholar at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Researchers think that lower overdose rates could be due in part to other things states were doing to address prescription painkiller overdoses during the same period, such as providing public education on painkiller abuse.
Null

According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, 1.5 billion people worldwide suffer from chronic pain. Opioid painkillers have long been an option for treating that pain, but their use comes with an inherent risk of addiction and death from an overdose. Chronic pain is also a major driver of medical cannabis use, which is why the researchers wanted to see whether medical marijuana laws and deaths from opioid overdoses were linked at the state level.
Researchers analyzed medical cannabis laws and death certificate data from 1999 to 2010. In 1999 three states — California, Oregon, and Washington — had medical marijuana laws. Ten more states enacted medical marijuana laws between 1999 and 2010.
Primary care physicians take care of people with chronic pain. It’s inevitable that at some point, a patient will come down with aches and pains and head in to see a doctor. As a primary care provider, Bachhuber sees patients living with chronic pain, some of whom tout the benefits of medical marijuana use.
Discover 7 Simple Ways to Manage Your Chronic Pain »
“I've even seen people who would tell me that they had tried prescription painkillers like Vicodin, Percocet, or OxyContin,” Bachhuber said. “But the only thing that worked for them was marijuana.”
Null

Bachhuber and his colleagues wondered how having access to alternative options for pain relief would impact painkiller use.
“We thought maybe, if people chose marijuana over prescription painkillers on a large scale, medical marijuana states might see relatively lower rates of painkiller overdoses — and even overdose deaths,” Bachhuber says. It turned out that his hunch was correct.
As more states and physicians navigate the legality and use of medical marijuana, it will be important to consider its risks as well as its positive fringe benefits.
“Many medical providers struggle in figuring out what conditions medical marijuana could be used for, who would benefit from it, how effective it is, and who might have side effects,” Bachhuber said. “More studies about the risks and benefits of medical marijuana are needed to help guide us in clinical practice.”" Go to: http://www.healthline.com/health-news/states-with-legal-marijuana-have-fewer-overdose-deaths-082614#3

 I did some work on this subject for The Legalise Cannabis Campaign in the late '80s and wrote a consultation/lobbying piece for Parliament. Interestingly there appears to be a direct correlation between illegality and over-use, using the Dutch figures the perecentage of regular users went down not up following decriminalisation, it was found that users were less stressed and that consequently they did not require the same quantities or regularity of use as before. There appears to be a direct endocrinic relation between adrenaline production and the need for marijuana (in those who would benefit from its therapeutic effects); "but hey like we knew that man!" Illegality throws the law-abiding into the hands of the criminals is it any wonder "joe-public" gets tense?

Friday, 28 August 2015

"Death has Become Part of Britain's Benefit System"! The Guardian

Quote: "More than 80 people a month are now dying after being declared ‘fit for work’. The safety net that used to be there for the most vulnerable is being torn to shreds
Go to your local benefits office and desperation can be boiled down to a six-point plan, mounted on pink laminated card. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has assembled written guidance on suicide for its “frontline staff” – a euphemism for workers hired to call people and break it to them that they’ve been rejected for benefits. One section of the guidance – that is to be reported to managers to alert them of “a suicidal intention” – instructs jobcentre staff to find out what the person plans, when it is planned for, and whether “the customer has the means to hand”.
I don’t know at what point social security and a risk of suicide became inevitable partners. Or when government “supporting people” – as the DWP described the guidance this week – began to mean, not helping people build their lives, but checking that they do not want to die.
Death has become a part of Britain’s benefits system. That is not hyperbole but the reality that the stress caused by austerity has led us to. Shredding the safety net – a mix of sanctions, defective “fit for work” tests, and outright cuts to multiple services – has meant that benefit claimants are dying; through suicide, starvation, and even being crushed by a refuse lorry when a 17-week benefit sanction forced a man to scavenge in a bin for food.
This morning, the government released mortality statistics – or rather, was forced to after several freedom of information requests – that show more than 80 people a month are dying after being declared “fit for work”. These are complex figures but early analysis points to two notable facts. First that 2,380 people died between December 2011 and February 2014 shortly after being judged “fit for work” and rejected for the sickness and disability benefit, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). We also now know that 7,200 claimants died after being awarded ESA and being placed in the work-related activity group – by definition, people whom the government had judged were able to “prepare” to get back to work. Notably how or why each of these people died was not recorded – meaning it’s impossible to say whether a death was linked to an incorrect assessment. But for the government, distortion is key and it is not restricted to faked benefit sanction leaflets. If we needed a sign of the DWP’s intentions, as it prepared to release today’s mortality statistics it was seemingly hedging its bets by finalising the details for a tribunal where it had planned to try to repress some of them.
How can a government have such disregard for death? It is worth looking at how it expects some of us to live. Until a few months ago in Bootle, Merseyside, a 48-year-old severely disabled man was being washed in a paddling pool in his front room. Rob Tomlinson, who has cerebral palsy, had used a purpose-built walk-in shower in the specially converted four-bed council house he shared with his carers, his brother and sister-in law. The bedroom tax saw the family evicted and until a new property was found a year later, Rob lived with only a child’s pool and hose to stay clean.

There is a reason, in the age of austerity, that politicians and much of the media has stopped using the term social security and replaced it with “welfare”. It sets expectations much lower. A sense of security for members of society in need bumped down to mere subsistence.
Today’s mortality statistics do not simply point to the death of disabled, poor, and ill people but of the system that was meant to protect them. Before our eyes the principle of a benefit system is being reduced from opportunity, respect, and solidarity to destitution, degradation and isolation.
Six-point plans to avoid people on benefits killing themselves do not exist in a society that has hope for their lives. The welfare state was built on the idea of “the cradle to the grave”. Now for thousands, all they receive is help to that grave." Go to: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/aug/27/death-britains-benefits-system-fit-for-work-safety-net

"Mother's Death was Hastened by Long Delay in Processing her Benefits"

Quote: "Moira Drury died less than fortnight ago aged 61. She suffered from combination of illnesses, including depression and cancer, but her daughter believes that a seven-month delay in processing her benefit claim hastened her death.


“She was incredibly determined, resilient, strong and warm-hearted,” said her daughter, Nichole Drury. “She was such an amazing lady.”
According to Nichole, her mother’s demise was hastened by the decision of jobcentre officials earlier this year to stop her benefits. “She told me the day before she died that the stress of having her benefits removed contributed to her decline,” said Nichole, who is a veterinary surgeon based in Sussex.
“Stress and anxiety lowers your immune system and ability to fight disease. I am absolutely certain that the stress she endured caused her to give up her fight against her illnesses. Without the stress this caused she would have had a little more precious time.”
Her benefits saga started when she was told by her local jobcentre in Essex to undergo a fit-work-test, known as a work capability assessment (WCA), on 15 January to assess whether she should continue to be eligible for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), a benefit awarded to people judged unable to work.
Bed-bound and suffering from flu and a chest infection, she telephoned to say she was not well enough to attend. Illness also prevented her attending a rescheduled WCA just over two weeks later on 3 February.
On 16 February she received a letter from Basildon benefit centre saying it had examined her reasons for not attending the WCA. Presumably it did not accept that she was genuinely ill. The letter only says tersely that it considered she was capable of work and that she was no longer entitled to ESA.



“Having considered all the available evidence, I am unable to accept that a good cause has been shown for not attending the medical assessment … and you cannot be treated as having limited capability for work. As a result, you are not entitled to employment and support allowance.
The DWP aims to process benefit claims within 16 days, but the reality can be very different. Moira’s claim was stuck in the system, and had still not been completed when she died. As a result, for the last seven months of her life, as her health deteriorated, she received no income.When Nichole telephoned the DWP to check on the process of the application, she was told they were awaiting medical records from Moira’s GP. When Nichole checked with the GP practice, they told her they had not received any such request. The lowest point came just over a month before Moira died, when she received a court summons for non-payment of council tax. As her ESA had been suspended, her local council had automatically stopped her council tax benefit, meaning she was liable for full council tax. Moira was not told. The shock arrival in July of a council tax bill for nearly £2,000 came the day after she received the results of a hospital biopsy that detected cancer on her lung.“That was the point that pushed her over the edge,” says Nichole. Ministers are fighting a permanent battle against critics from across the political spectrum concerned at how welfare cuts and reforms and benefit processing delays have hit the poor and vulnerable, causing illness and stress, and driving those affected to food banks and loan sharks. On Thursday the government finally released statistics relating to ESA claimants who have died after claiming benefits. It is under pressure to release internal reviews into 49 benefits-related deaths since February 2012, 40 of which followed a suicide or apparent suicide. Moira certainly did not fit with the crude media characterisations of benefit claimants. She was working as a nurse and bringing up three young children in the West Midlands in the 1980s, when her abusive husband attacked her with a hammer, an assault that put him in prison and her in hospital with a serious head injury.
When she recovered, she refused to sign on for sickness benefit, says Nichole, and returned to work doing night shifts at the local hospital. She later took time out to look after her daughters and subsequently worked as a receptionist until 2007, when a combination of limited mobility, mini-strokes, epilepsy and depression forced her to give up.
The DWP told the Guardian that its sympathy was with the Drury family but indicated that its files said it had proved difficult to assess her claim. “It’s important that people supply sufficient evidence – including medical evidence – when making a claim, as it could affect their benefit entitlement. That is why we contacted Ms Drury several times to try and gather further evidence. People also have the right to ask for a reconsideration of their case or appeal if they don’t agree with a decision.”
However, Nichole, who described her mother as proud and often unwilling to admit that she needed assistance, tried in vain to help her to navigate a benefits system she calls an “administrative assault course”. For her, a successful professional, who had had no personal dealings with the benefits system, her encounter was eye-opening.
“Nobody wants to see people exploiting the welfare system. But we don’t want a system which leaves people by the wayside. The way it works is crude and it’s cruel, and seems deliberately designed to get the weak and vulnerable off benefits to save money. It’s people who can’t fight back who are the victims.” " Go to: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/aug/27/my-mothers-death-was-hastened-by-long-delay-in-processing-her-benefits?CMP=share_btn_tw

My Mother's death was "hastened", by Ramipril, one of the "new generation" ("flash-in-the-pan"), blood pressure drugs..Check out The Patient's Forum, go to: http://patient.info/forums/discuss/browse/ramipril-3132

Assess Full Impact of Cuts to Support and Social Care for Disabled People: Petition

Quote: "Govt has ignored calls for a full assessment of the impact of Welfare, Social Care & NHS reform on disabled people and their families. The number of households with a disabled family member living in “absolute poverty” increased by 10% between 2013 & 14." Go to: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/106068 

"The Phantom Benefit Booth" Re: "ATOS" Assessment.

Quote: ".."Ohh that's clever there's a "pop-up-shop" selling "pips" look sweethearts I wonder if it will be our friend?" ..The only things in there were two receptacles one for "trash" one for "recycling" (he, he), a large flat screen tv. (not on), a reception desk and receptionist, chairs, security guard and water dispenser (oh, and some "Red Tops" in a rack), no CLOCK (check out Post Offices -Tm-, they don't have 'em n'more either),..I am reminded of "The Phantom Toll Both" ("ware plague! WARE PLAGUE.............!"), ......."  Posted by Gerardon August 28, 2015, 6:33 pm to Medialens' message board.

"Cynicism....cyniscism!" 

Thursday, 27 August 2015

CRIMINAL Courts Charges Punish Vulnerable.

Quote: "This month, a woman who stole a 75p packet of Mars bars was fined £328. She hadn’t eaten in days, had no money for food due to her benefits being withheld, and was so desperate that she stole the cheapest food item in the shop.
If it hadn’t been for a generous online observer, who campaigned to fund the fine, she would eventually have been hauled in front of the court again and potentially faced a prison sentence for failing to produce the money.
Her story caused outrage at the lack of compassion and common sense that the court’s decision revealed. But the most sinister part of this news is that such ridiculous stories are cropping up in courts all over the country, due to a new legal fee the government included in the Criminal Justice and Courts Act, which passed in February.
Other examples include a homeless man charged £900 for shoplifting, multiple cases of people charged £150 for begging, and one man hit with £300 worth of costs for stealing three bottles of baby milk (see below).
The criminal courts charge is a fee adult offenders have to pay towards the cost of administering a criminal court case if they are convicted of, or plead guilty for, a crime. A blanket fee that cannot be changed according to the severity of the offence, the criminal courts charge is not means-tested, and cannot be waived.
It’s not up to the judge or magistrates’ discretion whether or not to apply the charge, and the court cannot take the charge into account when it decides on a sentence.
The minimum £150 charge comes on top of fines, prosecution costs, victim surcharges, and compensation costs that already hit those who are convicted. The woman who stole a Mars bar had to pay an £150 criminal courts charge.
Here is a rundown of the charges, from the Sentencing Council website:

The charge came into effect for offences committed on or after 13 April, and, due to the five or six months’ lag time for cases going through the Crown Prosecution Service to the courts, the cycle of these trials has recently begun, with magistrates only just beginning to realise what the charge means for justice – particularly in relation to vulnerable people who end up in court.
Thirty magistrates across the country have already resigned in protest against the charge. An insider at the Magistrates Assoc" Go to: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/welfare/2015/08/it-feels-absolutely-rotten-new-legal-fee-forces-courts-punish-poor-and

"The House of Lords appointments are so horrible it's Difficult to Comment"

Quote: "I return from summer break with a shock as the UK hits moral rock bottom. On the day that it is revealed that 2,380 people in three years died within 14 days of being declared fit to work by an ATOS assessment and having benefit stopped, we also have 45 of the most appalling members of the political class elevated to trough it for life in the House of Lords, at a possible cost to the taxpayer of 67,500 pounds per week in attendance allowances alone.
It is worth remembering that it was the Red Tories who brought in ATOS, and Yvette Cooper, to be precise, who ordered the extreme tightening of the unfit to work assessment which has resulted in death for thousands and dreadful stress and misery for hundreds of thousands. Ian Duncan Smith may have also gleefully implemented it, but this particular horror was entirely inherited from the Guardian’s favourite leadership candidate.
The House of Lords appointments are so horrible it is difficult to comment. The most utterly objectionable of all is one of the least known to the public. Stuart Polak becomes a Lord for services to the Conservative Friends of Israel. That you can, unelected, become a legislator of the UK based on your loyalty and service to another state is appalling.
Others are more obviously dreadful. Lord Hogg now has a title that befits the moat of his home, which he had cleaned by the taxpayer prompting much rage in the expenses scandal. Tessa Jowell benefited from hundreds of thousands of pounds of corrupt money from the sordid Berlusconi, claiming she did not read the mortgage documents in which his cash paid off her house, before she signed them, and going through an entirely risible pretence of temporary separation from her husband, David Mills, who escaped a corrupt Italian justice system. David Willetts was rejected by his constituents because of extreme expenses scamming, and walks grinning back into the Lords.
Michelle Mone is rewarded for her opposition to Scottish independence. The woman sold out the workforce who made her fortune by expensively covering her crotch and now comes out as a Tory knicker saleswoman. Darling also is ennobled for services to the union, after being too cowardly to face the electorate in May. The Lib Dems get more legislators today than they could manage at the general election. That is simply astonishing*.
The conduct of the political class is utterly shameless. Meantime they indulge their fantasies of stripping workers of all protection and of stopping aid to the needy, and while the politicians gorge and gorge, the poor are quietly being slipped away to die." Go to: https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2015/08/the-uk-hits-moral-rock-bottom/

*For "services rendered" old boy!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Leaked: Israel's Plans to Strike Iran

Nb. Nowhere in the following Los Angeles Times article does the author mention that these strikes would probably have utilised the high-tech tactical nuclear weapons gifted to Israel by The Bush Administration (and the international community), ..If Israel "released the- jinni" of war with Iran itself it would be fully aware that there would be no way to reinsert it!

Quote: "Accounts published in Israel over the weekend suggest that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu planned to strike Iran more than once in recent years but met with internal opposition.
On Friday, Israel's Channel 2 news broadcast excerpts from a taped interview that former Prime Minister Ehud Barak gave to the authors of his upcoming biography. Barak, who served as defense minister in Netanyahu's second government during 2009 and 2013, described three occasions from 2010 to 2012 when plans to strike Iran fell through for different reasons.
Israel's top leaders at the time -- Netanyahu, Barak and then-Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman -- reportedly believed that Iran would soon enter a "zone of immunity," beyond which a strike would be more complicated and less effective. In advance of what would have been the next stage of government decision-making, the three held a meeting with Israel's top security chiefs, including the chief of staff and the heads of the country's intelligence agencies: Mossad, Shin Bet and military intelligence.
"At the decisive moment, the army's answer was that [Israel's] cumulative capabilities did not pass the threshold of an operation," Barak said in the interview with Danny Dor and Ilan Kfir, authors of his new biography. In other words, the military was not ready to strike Iran.
When the matter next came up in 2011, the military's new chief of staff, Benny Gantz, said the army did have the necessary capabilities and a wider security cabinet of eight ministers was convened, according to Barak. At that point, he said, two of Netanyahu's more hawkish ministers, Moshe Yaalon and Yuval Steinitz, objected that the potential losses Israel could face were too great.
The following year, plans coincided with a joint military exercise with the United States and Israel did not want to implicate its important ally and get into diplomatic trouble, Barak said. He added that he persuaded U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to postpone the exercise by several months but that ultimately, the new timing was inconvenient as well.
Accurate or not, Barak's detailed account of such sensitive discussions caused anger and concern among Israeli leaders and defense observers.
Netanyahu's office did not issue an official response. Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said in a statement that he would not comment on the matter, particularly not on deliberately "distorted versions" of events. A statement from Steinitz said he would not comment on matters discussed in closed meetings and that he regarded revealing information from cabinet meetings "very gravely."
The timing or purpose of the publication was not immediately clear and subject to speculation. Barak reportedly objected to broadcasting the recordings and tried to prevent Channel 2 from airing the sensitive tape, although he had given the interview willingly for the book.
Tzahi Hanegbi, head of the parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, which oversees sensitive security discussions, was surprised that military censors permitted the publication and said he intended to summon the chief censor to the committee in the near future.
"I can't understand what reasons could have possibly justified the publication," he told Israel Radio.

The censor, entrusted with screening information for potential harm to national security, often permits Israeli media to publish sensitive information that appeared previously in foreign reports. According to Hanegbi, however, 90% of what Barak said had not been published before at all. He wouldn't say whether he believed that Barak had caused damage to Israel's security but said the publication "does not serve Israel."
Interior Minister Silvan Shalom expressed concern that sensitive discussions could be tainted if security and political officials avoided speaking their mind for fear of being "outed" in the media.
Most sensitive material is cleared for publication after 30 years, although some remains under wraps even longer. "If everything comes out of intimate forums in two, three years, this changes the game rules dramatically," Shalom said." Go to: http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-israel-reports-planned-attacks-iran-20150823-story.html

Infact studiously avoids mentioning nuclear weapons at all!

Monday, 24 August 2015

Treading the Boards







The first three images are me as High Priest Calchas in "The Golden Masque of Agamemnon" part of the Oresteia sacrificing to the gods (before sacrificing Iphigenia -"an Iphigenia a tooth for a tooth I always say!"- unfortunately I have no pictures of that!). The rest are from "The Royal Hunt of the Sun" by Peter Schaffer where I am Atahualpa "God Emperor" of The Incas. Check out the sets (good story about that Inca Sun Temple set involving one of the triple sun rays and my naked foot), ...! Go to: http://www.wilsonsschool.sutton.sch.uk/about/activities/drama/
 I've only got the highest of praise for the people I worked with (Eddy Applewhite's performances as both Agamemnon and Pizarro were immense and the supporting cast made me stretch too), not one poor performance with The Wallington High School for Girls providing the female members as always and never letting us down, great stage management and ambitious sets.

"Splut" Goes the Weevil!

"Hitler"
Large black and white (pamphlet/A4), print of Heinz baked bean can, the top panel reads; "What you..?", underneath in the middle panel is the famous "pouting" photograph of Hitler in lederhosen with his hands on his hips, the bottom panel reads: "talkin' 'bout?!"

Carved wooden bust of Bob Marley (in ebony), all his dreadlocks are used tampons dyed black/red with menstrual blood..untitled..

"Threat!"
 Idealised (as in traffic sign), human sized figure in outline against a white background. Figure is made up of images of tank warfare, the face is notable for a slightly off-centre image of a tank gun barrel head-on (Challenger probably), revealing the deep black at the bottom of the barrel (image covers over half of face), in the guts (somewhere), is the famous picture of the blond German soldier with his head in his hands at the battle of Kursk. I don't know about the other images yet (collage of-course -have I seen this one somewhere before though?-).

"Sabotage"
In the centre of a large room stands a glass case in which there are two substances, sand and metal. The sand provides the base within the glass case on which a projectile sits pointing to the sky. The projectile is bright and shining, reflecting beams of light upon the walls.
The metal is platinum, the projectile is an armoured piercing tank shell.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

"Benefit Staff are Getting Guidance on How to Treat Claimants Threatening Suicide"!

Quote: "The SNP and Labour have hit out over claims that frontline benefits staff are getting guidance on how to deal with claimants threatening suicide.
The Sunday Herald reported that the advice has been given to Scottish Department for Work and Pensions staff.
The SNP said it highlighted the "devastating impact" of benefit cuts and sanctions, while Labour said cuts were hitting the vulnerable.
The DWP said staff can refer claimants for support and this was "nothing new".
The guidelines for call centre staff are designed to help staff deal with unsuccessful applicants for Universal Credit who are threatening to self-harm or take their own life, the newspaper reported.

'New approach'

SNP MSP Dennis Robertson said: "The evidence reported today shows that there is a clear link between a person's income and their health and wellbeing - particularly their mental health.
"That the UK government are issuing suicide guidance to their frontline staff is an acknowledgement by them of the devastating impact of their social security cuts on people's lives - it's not new guidance they need, it's a new approach."
Labour's equality spokeswoman Jenny Marra said: "The Tory's welfare cuts have hit some of the most vulnerable people across Scotland - many who are struggling to find work and are suffering because of an unfair sanctions regime.
"Government policies should not be pushing people into a position where they feel they have nothing left to live for."
A DWP spokesman said: "As you would expect, our frontline staff have always been trained to look for signs of vulnerabilities.
"They can refer individuals to specialist support - including specialist teams at Jobcentre Plus - and this is nothing new."" Go to: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-34034326

The Horrific War Crimes and Abuses Perpetrated by Israel in Gaza (pictures)

I would post these pictures here for immediate public view, however although I credit myself with a strong stomach I cannot view these images everyday (and neither should anyone else),..

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CM1wZO8U8AArKpY.jpg
https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CM1w4htUAAUtw8a.jpg
https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CM1xda_U8AIPy2d.jpg

"Saudi War on Yemen Worse than Israel's on Gaza"

Quote: "
Tue Apr 21, 2015 6:8AM
A Yemeni man carries his belongings after his family house was hit during a raid by Saudi Arabia on April 20, 2015. ©AFP
A senior Iranian Foreign Ministry official has described the Saudi crimes in Yemen as worse than those committed by Israel during its 2014 war on the Gaza Strip, saying the Riyadh regime even refuses to allow humanitarian aid delivery to the people.
Saudi Arabia has committed “unprecedented crimes” in Yemen and refused to allow humanitarian aid by the Red Cross, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Iran's deputy foreign minister for Arab and African Affairs, said on Monday.
“The UN and the Red Cross could not even implement a two-hour ceasefire for the delivery of vital medicines [to Yemen], and these Saudi acts are worse than the Zionists’ crimes,” he added.
Amir-Abdollahian said Israel had at least agreed to a UN request for the transfer of the wounded to hospital during the regime’s attack on the Gaza Strip last summer, but the Saudi regime has not even so far cooperated with the UN on humanitarian causes.
The senior Iranian diplomat warned that Saudi Arabia will suffer the consequences of its acts in due time.
Yemeni men check a damaged street following a Saudi airstrike on a nearby missile depot on the Fajj Attan hill in southern Sana’a on April 20, 2015. ©AFP
 Saudi Arabia launched its airstrikes against Yemen on March 26 - without a United Nations mandate - in a bid to restore power to the country’s fugitive former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh.
According to reports, over 2,700 people, including women and children, have so far lost their lives in the attacks.
Earlier this month, Iran unveiled a four-point peace plan on Yemen in an attempt to end the bloodshed in the impoverished Arab country.
The plan includes hammering out a ceasefire, sending humanitarian assistance to the people affected by violence, launching an intra-Yemeni dialog, and establishing a broad-based government with the participation of all Yemeni factions." Thank you PressTV, go to: http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2015/04/21/407292/Saudi-Yemen-raid-worse-than-Gaza-war

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

"Agmatine" Key to the Brain Chemistry of the Near Death Experience?

Quote: "The twenty-first century search for a scientific explanation of near-death experiences (NDEs) is likely to benefit from the rapidly growing knowledge base generated by neuroscientists and other researchers. To date, the most plausible theory has been outlined by Dr. Karl Jansen (1996). Conditions that may induce NDEs (low oxygen, low blood flow, low blood sugar, temporal lobe epilepsy, etc.) have also been shown to cause excess extracellular levels of glutamate to accumulate in the brain; when high concentrations of glutamate bind to N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors, excitotoxicity can result (Jansen, 1996). Jansen (1996) has proposed that an endogenous NMDA antagonist may be released under certain conditions to protect cells from excitotoxicity. An exogenous NMDA antagonist, ketamine, is known to be able to reproduce all of the features which are commonly associated with NDEs; thus, an endogenous NMDA antagonist with a primarily neuroprotective function may also induce NDEs under certain circumstances (Jansen, 1996).
Jansen (2004) has suggested that the identity of the endogenous NMDA antagonist may be NAAG (N-acetyl-aspartyl-glutamate), kynurenic acid, or magnesium. NAAG, however, has been shown to lack both antagonist and agonist activity in cerebellar granule neurons (Losi et al., 2004). If NAAG does interact with NMDA receptors, it is likely to be a weak partial agonist rather than an antagonist (Valivullah et al., 1994). In addition, kynurenic acid is an antagonist at the glycineB binding site on NMDA receptors rather than at a site within the NMDA channel pore (Harsing et al., 2001). Based on experiments involving rats, Karcz-Kubicha et al. (1999) have suggested that glycineB antagonists have a low psychotomimetic potential. With regards to magnesium ions, little evidence exists to support a role for these ions in near-death experiences.
To date, the only neurotransmitter or neuromodulator known to exhibit antagonist activity at NMDA receptors at a non-glycineB site is agmatine. In rat hippocampal neurons, agmatine has been shown to block NMDA channels because of an interaction between agmatine's guanidine group and the channel pores (Yang and Reis, 1999). Furthermore, in neurons and PC12 cells, agmatine blocks the induction of excitotoxicity by glutamate (Zhu et al., 2003). Agmatine also acts as an agonist at imidazoline receptors, inhibits nitric oxide synthase, and interacts with alpha-2-adrenoceptors (Berkels et al., 2004). In neonatal rats exposed to hypoxic-ischemic conditions, levels of agmatine increased 2- to 3-fold (Yangzheng et al., 2002). Yangzheng et al. (2002) have speculated that agmatine reduces brain injury in neonatal rats exposed to hypoxia and ischemia as a result of its inhibitory effect on nitric oxide synthase. In addition, Gilad et al. (1996) found that agmatine is neuroprotective in both in vitro and in vivo rodent models of neurotoxic and ischemic brain injuries. Because of its multiple interactions with receptors and enzymes, agmatine represents a neurotransmitter that could increase in concentration during conditions such as cardiac arrest to prevent a variety of injurious brain activities.
Agmatine may offer protective benefits such as neuroprotection and anxiolysis in response to certain stressful conditions (Aricioglu et al., 2003). In rats and mice, agmatine induces antidepressant-like effects (Li et al., 2003). In addition, agmatine reduces anxious behavior in rats exposed to the elevated plus maze task (Lavinsky, 2003). Halaris et al. (1999) have found that plasma agmatine concentrations are significantly elevated in depressed patients compared to healthy controls. Greyson (1986) reported that 16 of 61 (26.2%) patients admitted to a hospital for attempted suicide had experienced a near-death episode after the attempt. Thus, a role for agmatine as an anti-stress factor that could induce near-death experiences when released in sufficient quantities in a subset of individuals seems plausible.
Where in the brain might agmatine induce the features of a near-death experience? A key feature of many near-death experiences is the out of body experience. Penfield (1941) found that electrical stimulation of the right superior temporal gyrus in a patient with epilepsy could induce an out of body experience. Blanke et al. (2002) demonstrated that electrical stimulation of the right angular gyrus in a patient with epilepsy could induce an out of body experience as well. Both sets of stimulation sites lied in the right temporo-parietal region posterior to the post-central gyrus (Tong, 2003). In five patients that experienced out of body experiences of neurological origin, brain damage or brain dysfunction was localized to the temporo-parietal junction (Blanke et al., 2004). In patients with epilepsy, a small area in this region has been shown to have an integrative function for inputs from the somatosensory, auditory, and visual modalities (Matsuhashi et al., 2004). Blanke et al. (2004) suggested that ambiguous input from proprioceptive, tactile, visual, and vestibular sensory systems to the temporo-parietal junction could be involved in the precipitation of out of body experiences. Considering the fact that electrical stimulation to the right temporo-parietal junction can result in out of body experiences but not near-death experiences, a localized influence of agmatine on near-death experiences seems unlikely.
The NMDA receptor plays a critical role in a phenomenon known as auditory mismatch negativity; selective current flow through open, unblocked NMDA channels is likely to mediate mismatch negativity (Javitt et al., 1996). Ketamine, an NMDA receptor antagonist, has been shown to induce auditory mismatch negativity deficits in healthy volunteers (Umbricht et al., 2000; Kreitschmann-Andermahr et al., 2001). Visual mismatch negativity is a similar phenomenon that detects stimulus change in the visual modality; when standard visual stimuli are repeated, infrequently presented deviant stimuli produce an event related potential known as mismatch negativity (Stagg et al., 2004). Astikainen et al. (2001) found that mismatch negativity is likely to detect changes in somatosensory input as well. Although mismatch negativity has not been demonstrated for other sensory systems, it may play a similar role in detecting changes in vestibular and tactile input. Thus, the ambiguity of sensory input to the right temporo-parietal junction during out of body experiences as proposed by Blanke et al. (2004) may be a result of agmatine- induced NMDA antagonism in individuals undergoing near death experiences.
In conclusion, a variety of evidence seems to suggest that excess extracellular agmatine may induce near-death experiences in susceptible individuals. Because agmatine is an NMDA antagonist released in substantial quantities in hypoxic-ischemic conditions, it satisfies the two key criteria that must be satisfied by any potential endogenous mediator of near-death experiences. Future research should help to further clarify the role of agmatine in near-death situations.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

DWP admits making up quotes by "benefit claimants" saying sanctions helped them.

Quote: "The Department for Work and Pensions has admitted making up comments from supposed "benefit claimants" that appeared in a leaflet about sanctions.
The leaflet, which has now been withdrawn, included positive example stories from people who claimed to have interacted with the sanctions system.
In one example, titled "Sarah's story", a jobseeker is quoted as being "really pleased" after a cut to her benefits supposedly encouraged her to re-draft her CV.
"It's going to help me when I'm ready to go back to work," the fabricated quote reads.
Another, by a benefit claimant supposedly called "Zac", details the sanctions system working well.
But in response to a freedom of information request by the Welfare Weekly website the DWP said the quotes were not actually real cases and that the photos were not of real claimants.
 “The photos used are stock photos and along with the names do not belong to real claimants. The stories are for illustrative purposes only," the department said.
The leaflet, a copy of which is available in full at Welfare Weekly, contains no suggestion that the stories are not real.
The revelation is controversial because the sanctions system has been criticised for causing extreme hardship and being operated in an unfair and arbitrary way.
In March this year Parliament's Work and Pensions Select Committee said there was evidence that sanctions were geared towards punishing people for being unemployed and might not actually help them find work.
The MPs said there was evidence that the benefit cuts for unemployed people caused more problems than they solved and might be "purely punitive".
Previous widely-criticised decisions include people being sanctioned for missing jobcentre appointments because they had to attend a job interview, or people sanctioned for not looking for work because they had already secured a job due to start in a week’s time.
In one case a man with heart problems was sanctioned because he had a heart attack during a disability benefits assessment and thus failed to complete the assessment.
Charities including Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation say the sanctions are responsible for a significant increase in homelessness and rough sleeping in Britain under David Cameron's government.
Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the PCS union, told the Independent that the department's actions were "sinister".
Another example shows the system working well "It's disgraceful and sinister that DWP has been trying to trick people into believing claimants are happy to have their benefits stopped or threatened. Sanctions are unnecessarily punitive and counterproductive, and should be scrapped," he said.
Dan Scorer, Head of Policy at the learning disability charity Mencap said the DWP had misled the public.
"DWP's made up case studies present an unrepresentative view of the sanctions regime and its impact on disabled people. Benefits are a lifeline to many people with a learning disability who rely on them to make ends meet.
"We know many people have been sanctioned because Jobcentre staff don't understand their needs and place unrealistic demands on them while not providing support they need. To mislead the public on the effects of benefit sanctions in this way is unacceptable.”
The DWP added in the FOI response to the website: “We want to help people understand when sanctions can be applied and how they can avoid them by taking certain actions. Using practical examples can help us achieve this.
“We have temporarily changed the pictures to silhouettes and added a note to make it more clear that these are illustrative examples only.
“We will test both versions of the factsheet with claimants and external stakeholders to further improve it in the future. This will include working with external organisations.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman told the Independent: “The case studies were used for illustrative purposes to help people understand how the benefit system works. They’re based on conversations our staff have had with claimants. They have now been removed to avoid confusion”." Go to: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/dwp-admits-making-up-quotes-by-benefit-claimants-saying-sanctions-helped-them-10460351.html

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Petition to Debate a Vote of No Confidence in Ian Duncan Smith M.P

Quote: "For denying the existence of, and refusing to publish data on the deaths of claimants of incapacity benefit and employment and support allowance between November 2011 and May 2014. This is despite the rulings of the Information Commissioner and public pressure resulting in a 200,000 strong petition." Go to: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/08/01/sign-the-petition-to-debate-a-vote-of-no-confidence-in-iain-duncan-smith/