Licences For Cyclists: As Contentious As Brexit?

Did you watch ITV’s “Good Morning Britain (GMB)” programme on 1st April? If yes, you’ll have seen the furious argument that erupted between one of the presenters, Piers Morgan and Stanley Johnson, father of Boris, the Conservative MP and former London Mayor. They were discussing the proposal made by the IVF specialist, Professor Lord Robert Winston, that cyclists should be required to display licence plates. As the Sun journalist, Phoebe Cooke, reported on 29th March, Winston had claimed that two days previously, when he challenged a woman in the Bloomsbury area of London for riding her bicycle on the pavement, she became very antagonistic, swore profusely, snatched his mobile out of his hand, threw it into the road, kicked him, then rode off. Winston explained to Cooke that he hadn’t reported the incident to the police because it would be impossible to identify the cyclist.

Subsequently, on GMB, Morgan lambasted what he depicted as the “completely unaccountable cyclists creating havoc on the road”. Johnson’s response was that introducing licences for cyclists would be “crazy” and that the costs involved would be huge. The Manchester-based criminal defence lawyer, Nick Freeman has noted that the relationship of cyclists not only with pedestrians but especially with motorists has become “combustible and likely to get worse”, due to the booming popularity of cycling: More than 2 million people in Britain cycle every day. He acknowledges that many cyclists are “lawful road users” but is critical of the ones who “swathed in balaclavas or dark helmets, weave in and out of traffic with impunity, who feel untouchable because they remain anonymous”. He advocates a compulsory proficiency assessment for intending cyclists as well as the equivalent of the annual MOT test for motor vehicles: “Brakes, tyres, they all need to be checked”.

Freeman also cites the conclusions of the “Sharing The Road” survey conducted by the Halfords Bicycle company on behalf of YouGov and analysed by the “This Is Money” correspondent, Rob Hull: 59% of the 2,042 people questioned want all bikes to have registration plates, four out of five consider there should be tougher penalties for riders who jump red lights, 35% support the idea of a roadworthiness test for bikes and 65% feel strongly that cyclists should wear reflective clothing at all times to ensure that they are clearly visible to motorists and pedestrians. However, 80% also called for penalties to be increased for motorists behaving aggressively towards cyclists and 45% would like to see dedicated cycle lanes on all UK roads to “guarantee the safety of these vulnerable road users”.

Brian Canty, a contributor to “” has identified some of the situations that most annoy cycling commuters, such as: pedestrians, buses and cars encroaching on bike lanes (“stay away from them unless you are on two wheels”); other cyclists, for example, those who brake suddenly or are not completely focused because they are wearing earphones, are talking to friends, are still half asleep or simply admiring the scenery; Bike lanes which suddenly end for no reason. Grant also concedes that some “smug and self-righteous” cyclists attract hostility because they profess to be saving the world by pedalling to work every day, ignore red lights, mount kerbs, ride down one-way streets the wrong way and think that sounding their bell and saying “sorry” is a sufficient apology.

The Independent columnist, Tom Batchelor, has meanwhile pointed out that cycling campaigners and some motoring groups are totally opposed to

the introduction of numbers plates on bicycles. Edmund King, President of the Automobile Association (AA), has dismissed the idea as both “impracticable and unnecessary” and has observed that the police anyway already have the power to detain cyclists who are breaking the law. The “Cycling UK” organisation similarly regards compulsory licensing and cycling training as unworkable and unjustifiable, not least because it’s unrealistic to expect children as well as adults to acquire licences. The Cycling UK campaigner, Sam Jones, told Batchelor that registration would be very costly to implement, a bureaucratic nightmare to administer, would deter both newcomers and occasional cyclists and that it makes no sense to put obstacles in the way of taking up an activity which is clearly so healthy and environmentally-friendly.

The Cycling UK website highlights the fact that other countries and cities such as Toronto and Switzerland have experimented with but then abandoned a variety of regulatory systems for cyclists. The organisation affirms that it doesn’t condone unlawful cycling on pavements but urges the police in such circumstances to make a distinction between “those whose behaviour is dangerous and antisocial and those who are acting out of concern for their own safety without presenting any threat to others”.

The Government, as Lord Ahmad confirmed while he was a Minister with the Department of Transport, has no plans to make insurance compulsory for cyclists, but does encourage them to take out liability insurance. Cycling UK emphasises that all its members are automatically covered for up to £10 million third party insurance and that they offer a discounted rate to members of affiliated groups.

Filed under: Healthcare, Society | Posted on April 9th, 2019 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

The Money In Your Pocket: Genuine Or Counterfeit?

Do you ever worry whether the banknotes or coins you have with you are fake? Perhaps you should. It seems that, despite all the efforts of the Bank of England and the National Crime Agency, there’s still a considerable amount of bogus currency circulating in Britain . The Daily Star Sunday journalist, Joe Hinton, has asserted that false £20 notes have been flooding the UK and that in the first half of 2017, more than 237,000 counterfeit banknotes with a “value” of more than £4.88 million were seized by the police.

On 13th March, the London Evening Standard’s Court Correspondent, Tristan Kirk, reported the conviction of a gang that had been running an “Amazon-style factory” in east London producing phoney identity documents, passports and and driving licence along with enough material to create 40,000 sham bank cards and £15,000 in cash. As the local commentator for BBC News, Cormac Campbell, noted on 7th February, there was a similar scenario in Northern Ireland: Seven men were sentenced for their role in a “unique” £1 million pounds counterfeiting enterprise whereby they had been printing forged sterling and euro banknotes “which were good enough to beat the counterfeit pen test”.

Just before Christmas, Amy Fenton, Business Editor of the North-West Evening Mail, publicised the case of a shop owner in Barrow-On-Furness who had spotted that an imitation £10 note was being used to purchase items in his store. He’d realised that the logo on the bottom left of the note was orange instead of holographic silver. Another recent incident, highlighted by Jess Clark, a contributor to the south London publication “News Shopper”, involved a man from Orpington in Kent who had been helping to distribute more than £135,000 worth of fraudulent banknotes.

The Bank of England has issued an “Easy To Follow Guide To Checking Banknotes” encouraging us all to take a closer look at currency which comes into our possession. This includes a warning apparently directed in particular at shop and supermarket employees that the common practice of using detector pens which react to the starch present in “normal” paper (which is still used for printing £20 notes) isn’t always effective and is no help at all in identifying counterfeits printed on polymer.

In the opinion of Trevor Mogg, an Associate Editor with “Digital Trends”, the more robust structure of notes made of polymer, a thin and flexible plastic material, not only renders them extremely resistant to dirt and moisture, so they last much longer than the previous ones, but has enabled the Bank of England to introduce a range of innovative security features. Around 440 million new £5 notes were produced in 2016, followed by polymer £10 ones in 2017, though the changeover for £20 banknotes won’t take place until next year.

The Sun journalist, Jane Denton, has pointed out that the “scam artists” have not been deterred by the fact that the new notes are supposed to be impossible to reproduce. If your £5 note is genuine, she emphasises, the image of the Queen looking at the Elizabeth tower will be gold on the front and silver on the back. When it’s tilted at an angle, the word “Five” changes to “Pounds” and a multi-coloured rainbow effect is visible. The printed lines and colours should be “sharp, clear and free from smudges or blurred edges”. If you happen to have a magnifying glass with you, you’ll be able to see the lettering below the Queen’s portrait detailing the value of the note written in small letters and numbers and on the back there should be a circular green foil patch containing the word “Blenheim”.

In addition, we are advised to feel for the raised print across the words “Bank Of England”, hold the note up to check the watermark and look for the metallic thread running through every genuine paper note. Likewise, the News Shopper’s Jess Clark suggests we examine the front of a £10 note under a good quality ultra-violet light: The number 10 should appear in bright red and green whilst the background remains dull in contrast.

The main problem with all of this, of course, is that few of us have the time or inclination to stand around in a shop or supermarket analysing whether the change we’ve just been given by the cashier is bona fide. Nor are we likely to be carrying around with us the ultra-violet (UV) lamp that the Bank Of England recommends as ideal for checking the fluorescent features on all notes.

The old round-shaped £1 coin, which was apparently very easy to imitate, with an estimated 45 million forgeries in circulation, was replaced in 2017 by the current 12-sided version. Although the Royal Mint has claimed that it’s “the most secure coin in the world”, according to Joe Hinton, gangsters have already worked out how to mimic it, apart from a few minor details such as the fine markings on the head of the thistle emblem on the reverse side. “Anything can be copied”, they told him.

Filed under: Society | Posted on March 26th, 2019 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

The Laws On Finding Lost Money & Buried Treasure:

What would you do if you discovered a bag of money in the street? Try to hide it under your jacket & hope no-one else saw you, take it to the nearest police station, or just put it back wherever it was, perhaps next to a letter-box or lamp-post or on a pavement bench? As the Sun journalist, Gemma Mullin, pointed out on 2nd March, that was a decision an employee of the Cordant company had to make when she found £300,000 in a brown envelope while she was cleaning a London bus. She handed the money to the police, though the Sunday Times observed on 3rd March that it wasn’t yet clear whether she would be rewarded for her honesty.

The temptation to keep mislaid cash and use it to pay off debts, go on holiday or share it with friends is perhaps understandable in this era of austerity and restricted finances – but, in the opinion of Mullin’s colleague on the newspaper, Sarah Barns, “You should never pick up money someone’s dropped on the floor”. If it’s a substantial amount, doing so may be particularly inadvisable, as it could represent the proceeds from illegal activities. Whoever it “belongs to” will undoubtedly look for whoever has taken possession of it. That was the scenario in episode two of the BBC TV’s current Sunday evening fictional drama, “Baptiste”, in which a criminal gang based in Amsterdam, Holland, was determined to recover the million euros which had been stolen from them.

When a bag of £20,000 in cash, consisting of £20 and £10 notes tied together by red rubber bands, was discovered by the West Mercia constabulary in Telford, Shropshire, it was never reclaimed, reported the Birmingham Mail columnist, Mike Lockley, because it was drug money and had been “flung from a car amid fears it was being pursued by the police”.

The case of Nicola Bailey, a 23-year-old woman from Blurton, Stoke-on -Trent with no previous convictions, has attracted particular media attention. She was filmed on CCTV picking up £20 from a floor in a local shop. It emerged later that it had been accidentally dropped by a man who’d recently withdrawn it from a cash machine. Bailey was prosecuted and was ordered to pay £20 in compensation, a £20 victim surcharge and £135 in court costs – equalling a total sum, noted the BBC News correspondent, Alex Homer, which was more than eight times as much as she’d pocketed.

Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers”, commented Homer, is an old adage that these days doesn’t actually stand up to legal scrutiny. He quoted the view of Professor Robert Chambers, an expert in private law at King’s College, London, that if you are in the street, you could reasonably believe you don’t have a chance of finding the person who lost what you found, whereas if you find a lost object in a shop it may not be so difficult to find the person who mislaid it.

According to the Theft Act 1968, a person is guilty of theft if they “dishonestly appropriate property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it”. However, a person’s appropriation of property belonging to another is not to be regarded as dishonest if they do so in the belief that the person to whom the property belongs cannot be discovered by taking reasonable steps.

The definition of what constitutes “sufficient effort”, declares Professor Chambers, varies according to the location where the discovery is made. Furthermore, “if you make a reasonable attempt to find the person who lost it and they don’t come forward, you can keep it with a clear conscience”. Lost property, so Daniel Wise, an associate solicitor with the Slater Heelis law firm, informed the Metro contributor Ashitha Nagesh, continues to belong to another unless it has genuinely been abandoned by the owner: “The fact that cash has been dropped in the street doesn’t necessarily mean it has been abandoned”.

Meanwhile, the rules regarding looking for buried treasure are governed by The Treasure Act 1997, since when the number of reported treasure finds – sometimes worth in excess of £1 million – has grown every year. The Daily Telegraph’s Laura Silverman has cited estimates that there are now 10,000 treasure hunters in the UK with metal detectors. They are, states BBC News, searching mainly for coins that are older than 300 years and other objects which contain at least 10% gold or silver and are also at least 300 years old.

If they do find any of these, they are legally obliged to report it to their local police within 14 days, otherwise they risk a heavy fine or three months in prison. A coroner and the Treasure Valuation Committee will then assess its worth in order to determine how much should be paid to the finder by a museum if it wants to acquire it.

Eligibility for a reward is based on whether the finder is themselves the owner of the land or had the agreement of the tenant or freeholder to be there. As has emphasised “Whether it’s a public park, a friend’s back garden or the local beach, all land belongs to someone. Not asking for permission before you start metal detecting could see you getting charged with trespassing or may affect any reward if you’re lucky enough to find something”.

Filed under: Society | Posted on March 12th, 2019 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

London Fashion Week AW19: Fresh Faces On The Catwalks:

MATTY BOVAN AW19 Show at London Fashion Week February 2019


Is there a risk that the twice yearly London Fashion Week is becoming a bit too predictable and routine? The press release issued by the British Fashion Council (BFC) prior to the latest LFW (Friday 15th – Tuesday 19th February) – which emphasized that the event would feature the very best of both the established and emerging names within the industry – indicated that the BFC is aware of this possibility and determined to ensure that it doesn’t happen. It welcomed back the long list of internationally celebrated designers who appear at LFW on a regular basis, but also highlighted the new additions to the schedule such as 16Arlington (founded by the Italian couple Marco & Kikka), Asai (of Chinese / Vietnamese heritage) and Symonds Pearmain (“a complex London-based collaboration between designer Anthony Symonds and stylist Max Pearmain”)

As the BFC pointed out, the UK fashion industry continues to make a significant contribution of £32.3 billion to the country’s GDP and it “employs almost as many people as Britain’s financial sector with 890,000 jobs”. The London Evening Standard columnist Richard Gray, observed in the ES special Fashion Edition on 15th February that the world’s fashion media and buyers would be descending on the capital for LFW AW (Autumn/ Winter)19 in their thousands but that it would be “the new generation, those young designers and graduates from our world-beating fashion colleges and art schools” who would be sparking the most interest”. Despite adversity and cuts in government arts education funding, he added, the capital’s fashion innovators are finding new ways to create and collaborate on clothes.

Gray cited as examples Asai “who creates bold and beautiful dresses by mixing tie-dye silks with overlooked fabrics” and Ahluwalia Studio,”meshing youth cultures from around the world to create a new and truly unique take on streetwear”. Gray’s ES colleague, Sabrina Carder, likewise focused on “the emerging designers to watch out for at LFW AW19”, namely the debut of British designer Bethany Williams, “who tackles social issues through fashion” (Tuesday 19th February), the “bright and bold knitwear” of Katie Ann McGuigan from Ireland (Saturday 16th February) and the presentation by Supriya Lele (Monday 18th February), whose designs “explore the cross-cultural points of her Indian heritage and British cultural identity”.

Although 180 The Strand is now the established HQ for LFW , Somerset House – just a few minutes walk away – has become the venue for the International Fashion Showcase, which takes place simultaneously to LFW, though for longer (11th – 24th February). The purpose of this event – organised jointly by the BFC, British Council, London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London (UAL) and Somerset House – is to nurture and present work from the best up-and-coming fashion talent from around the globe. This time,in a new format called “Brave New World”, 16 designers – from Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, India, Georgia, Italy, Kenya, Lebanon, Lithuania, Netherlands, Rwanda, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Uruguay and Vietnam – had been selected to exhibit “ a series of compelling installations” from their respective countries.

Colombia was represented by the Bogota-based designer Laura Laurens, whose “Wraparound” display of intricate beaded Okama necklaces had been created together with two LGBTQ+ members from the indigenous Embara community. The contribution of the Uruguayan womenswear designer, Clara Aguayo, from Montevideo was titled “Anxious Memories From the End Of The World”and reflected her predisposition for using “fabrics rescued from the past glory days of Uruguay’s textile industry”. A pivotal objective of Brazilian David Lee, another of the chosen 16, is to “explore the dual notions of masculine strength and fragility”. The centrepiece of his display was crochet and sportswear from Ceara in north-east Brazil.

Emerging brands, however, according to the Northern Irish designer Jonathan Anderson, are struggling to gain exposure on social media because it is saturated by the established labels. There was a moment, he told the ES journalist Lizzie Edmonds on 13th February, when social media was great for young brands because the big brands weren’t using it. Now newcomers are being “squeezed out” by the large fashion houses who are buying up a huge market share of celebrity content. Anderson acknowledged that Brexit is causing uncertainty in the industry. At the official opening of LFW on 15th February, the BFC Chief, Caroline Rush, declared her priority was to prove London fashion is open and to counter the “closed-off” image the UK may be suffering.

Meanwhile, the Guardian correspondent Zoe Wood has reported that big clothing retailers such as Primark, Boohoo and Misguided have been criticised by some MPs for “fuelling a throwaway fashion culture linked to the exploitation of low-paid workers in UK factories”. If shoppers are paying only £2 for their T-shirts, they are more likely to view them as “disposal”. The result, noted Wood, is that about 1 million tonnes of clothes are discarded each year in Britain – 700,000 tonnes of which is collected for reuse and recycling. The remainder is sent to landfill or incinerated, at an estimated cost of £82 million.

Roberta Einer                        Junne      LFW AW19










Filed under: Media, Society | Posted on February 25th, 2019 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

The Political Cliches That Dominate Brexit:

An Englishman, Scotsman and an Irishman walk into a bar. After a while, the Englishman decides he doesn’t want to stay any longer and insists the other two leave with him”. That, according to the “Independent” newspaper, is one of their favourite jokes about Brexit, “because everyone needs to laugh at what’s happening”. It’s of course a reference to the fact that on 23rd June 2016, Scotland voted by 62% – 38% to remain in the European Union, as did Northern Ireland by 55.8% – 44.2%, but the English & Welsh voted to leave and so provided an overall UK anti-EU majority of 51.89% to 48%.

The fortnightly satirical magazine, Private Eye, regularly publishes what it calls a “EU-phemism” cartoon. In it’s latest edition, it shows two Brussels bureaucrats agreeing that they can’t allow Brexit to distract them from the EU’s “main mission”, namely “bankrupting member states” – a clear allusion to Italy’s budget dispute with Brussels and the possibility (says the Independent) that the country’s latest financial crisis could “blow up the single currency” (the euro).

Some media commentators, however, are distinctly unamused by the Brexit situation. The Spectator columnist, Matthew Parris (a former Conservative MP), has written that the “whole ridiculous thing is driving me slightly mad” What’s the point, he has asked, of “waking up at 3 am and fretting sleepless until sunrise that we are leaving the European Union”. His counterpart at the Guardian, John Grace, has speculated whether “some days it really is better not to get out of bed” . The Mail on Sunday reported on January 13th that many British constituents are telling their MPs they are “sick of the sight and sound of Brexit”.

The London Evening Standard (currently edited by former Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne) on 6th February portrayed Prime Minister Theresa May as “living in a bubble, trying to hold back time – but Brexit reality is ticking to a different clock”. Grace has caustically depicted the PM as a badly programmed “Maybot”  incapable of coherent thought who has turned the UK into an international laughing stock. The reason the UK is in its current mess, he declared, is “because of the EU’s insistence on maintaining a withdrawal agreement that she had negotiated and signed up to”.`

The opinion expressed by Grace’s colleague, Ros Howard, is even harsher: She acknowledges that “politicians and empty rhetoric are no strangers”, but considers May to have gone to an even higher level: “She gives the impression of having direction, delivering her words with intense breathless conviction, often reiterating principles and hopes. These can sound like plans but aren’t” Many of May’s phrases, notes Howard, are “vague and aspirational, and become indistinguishable from platitudes”.

None of this will come as a surprise to Peter Bull, a psychologist with York University who has conducted research into how and why politicians avoid giving direct answers to questions. As he explained to another Guardian correspondent, Zoe Williams, “It’s primarily to do with face: Positive face is concerned with making sure they themselves don’t look bad and negative face is about keeping one’s freedom of action and not committing to anything”.

Theresa May’s “signature evasion”, notes Bull, is to answer a specific question with a non-specific answer. She rephrases the question, then answers it as she posed it. In one interview on the BBC’s Sunday morning Andrew Marr Show, analysed by Bull for “”, May gave a straight answer only 14% of the time.

The “Media Helping Media” website offers trainee journalists advice as to how politicians should be interviewed: Political organizations, it points out, “spend a fortune on hiring media training consultants (often former journalists) who coach politicians on how to avoid answering questions and ensure they get their message across. There’s a big business in manipulating the media”.

Raf Weverbergh and Kristien Vermoesen on “” have listed 35 evasive techniques that politicians use during interviews. Among them: Ignoring, querying or attacking the question; Repeating the answer to the previous question; Making a political point (such as criticising the opposition); Refusing, delaying or giving just a fraction of an answer; Implying that the question has already been answered.

Carla Callaghan of the “Daily Record”, the Guardian contributor Sarah Hall and the BBC’s Amy Stewart have all provided a list of politicians’ preferred cliches that the electorate “can’t bear to hear” and many loathe. These include; “We’re all in it together”, “Let me be clear”, “The Great British people”, “There are no easy answers”, “Let me be absolutely open and honest”, “It’s going to take time”, “The dire situation we inherited from the previous administration”, “Our long-term economic plan”, “There’s no instant solution”, “We’re putting in more money into the NHS in real terms than any previous administration”, “Not fit for purpose” and “There’s a job of work to be done”.

Meanwhile,  perhaps the PM should stop arguing that her Brexit withdrawal deal with Brussels (even if there’s a change to the Irish “backdrop”) is the only one available. Neither Parliament nor much of the British public seem prepared to accept this any more.

Filed under: Politics | Posted on February 11th, 2019 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

Tinnitus: The Noises That No-One Else Hears:

What do the American singers Bob Dylan, Neil Young and have in common, apart from having had successful careers? They all suffer from a condition known as “tinnitus”. According to “”, Dylan developed it “after a lifetime playing loud music at concerts worldwide, it forced Young to stop recording for a while in the nineties and, a rapper, producer and actor, has announced in a Youtube video that he “doesn’t know what silence sounds like anymore”. There are many other celebrities who have this problem: The actor Steve Martin blames his on a “pistol-shooting scene” for the movie “The Three Amigos”, Barbra Streisand has suffered from it since early childhood and William Shatner believes his was the result of standing too near to the speakers when he was being filmed for his role as Captain Kirk in the Star Trek series.

The British musician, Pete Townsend, achieved fame as the lead guitarist with “The Who”, renowned for being “one of the loudest bands in rock history”. Apparently, along with tinnitus, he’s now completely deaf in one ear and has only partial hearing in the other. “” has cited suggestions that the German composer Ludwig Van Beethoven may have developed the condition around 1796 “due to his habit of submerging his head in water to stay awake”. There has even been speculation that it might have contributed to the Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh cutting off his left ear: He was known to have impaired hearing, an intolerance of loud noises and to have been troubled by “the ringing and roaring in his head”.

The British Tinnitus Association (BTA) has estimated that the condition affects at least 10% of the UK population. Its counterpart in the USA (the ATA) calculates that 45 million Americans “are struggling with tinnitus” and in Germany (states the “Deutsche Tinnitus-Liga), 19 million people have had some experience of it, 2.7 million of them persistently & one million severely.

So what exactly is it? As the Daily Mail journalist, Isla Whitcroft, has noted, although the word originates from the Latin for “ringing”, the noise can be a buzz, hum or even whistle, heard in one or both ears or the middle of the head and has no obvious source. She quotes Dr Veronica Kennedy, consultant audiovestibular physician with the NHS Foundation Trust in Bolton, North-West England, as emphasizing that, for many people, when they have a “mild episode”, their brain screens it out, so they can ignore it. However, “if something happens to exacerbate it – such as exposure to prolonged loud noise – they suddenly notice it and it becomes an issue”, The condition, Whitcroft reports, can be caused by “injury to the complex auditory pathways in the ears and brain, a build-up of ear wax, infection, a perforated ear drum or a head injury”.

Thomas Goulding, a correspondent for the “Independent” has highlighted a campaign called “All Ears” launched in 2018 by three “music lovers”, Matt, Oli and John, who are convinced that the problem is often self-inflicted. They strongly recommend that any “raver” intent on going to a crowded nightclub or a rock concert should wear ear plugs, “to avoid the risk of damaging the hair cells in the inner ear”. Two of them suffer from tinnitus, so they founded “All Ears” to prevent anyone else getting it. They work with live music venues, festivals and other music organizations across the UK to promote safe listening environments.

For anyone who has or acquires the condition, observes Whitcroft, there’s no specific cure. Treatments range from relaxation techniques to sound therapy, although there is now a new invention: “A handheld ultrasound device placed behind the ear for one minute and designed to give temporary relief”. Meanwhile, a University of Nottingham survey has revealed that a third of tinnitus patients are unhappy with what they consider is their doctor’s lack of knowledge and sensitivity regarding this ailment. The BTA’s Chief Executive, David Stockdale, has complained to Whitcroft that sufferers are “either being told to learn to live with the condition or being given inaccurate information”.

The BTA advises that if the wax in your ears is not causing you any problems such as tinnitus, you should leave it alone: It keeps the ear canal lubricated and and protects the ear against dust, dirt and bacteria. If though, it starts to feel blocked, then you should either get some ear drops from your local pharmacy or, preferably, use olive oil to soften the wax. It should then come out after a few days. If not, your local surgery might remove it for you, usually by ear syringing. However, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recently declared that this procedure is unsafe because it’s difficult to control the water pressure and there’s a risk it will harm the eardrum. Microsuction is now the recommended alternative method – but the NHS doesn’t usually provide this service, so you’ll have to have pay between £65 – £85 to have it done at a private clinic.

* TINNITUS WEEK 2019 will be from Monday 4th February to Sunday 10th February.*


Filed under: Healthcare | Posted on January 28th, 2019 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

“Taking Back Control”: Reality or Illusion For Post-Brexit Britain?

What’s the difference between the European Court of Human Rights (EctHR) and the European Court of Justice (ECJ)? As the “Politico” analysts, Annabelle Dickson and Quentin Aries, have pointed out, many people are confused about the distinction between these two organisations and hardline “Brexiteers” instinctively dislike them both because they have “Europe” in their titles. The ECtHR was set up in Strasbourg, France, in 1959 under a Convention drafted mainly (affirms the “Law & Religion” website) by British lawyers “ to monitor respect for the rule of law and human rights” and is completely separate from the European Union. Dickson and Aries have noted that several unpopular judgements issued by the ECtHR (such as allowing prisoners the right to vote and making it harder for British politicians to deport terrorist suspects) have been wrongly attributed to the ECJ, which was established in 1952 and is based in Luxembourg.

Among the ECJ’s principal roles, highlighted by the BBC News commentator, Chris Morris, are: Deciding whether the institutions of the EU are acting legally, settling disputes between them and ensuring that the member states of the EU are complying with their legal obligations as specified in the EU treaties. “Taken altogether, this means that the ECJ interprets and enforces the rules of the single market and pretty much everything that the EU does”.

Which is precisely why, according to Dickson and Aries, “some Brits hate the ECJ” and are determined to “take back control” from Europe’s highest court. They quote the view of the Conservative MP, Peter Bone, that during the Referendum of 2016 it became clear that British people “want our Parliament, not foreign courts, to make and interpret our laws”. By contrast, the former Labour Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, believes that 95% of British people “don’t give a toss about the ECJ and 75% haven’t the slightest idea what it is”.

During the referendum campaign, Michael Gove, currently Environmental Secretary and a supporter of the deal with Brussels that Prime Minister Theresa May has been trying to push through the UK Parliament, declared that “it’s hard to overstate the degree to which the EU is a constraint on ministers’ ability to do the things they were elected to do. Your Government is not, ultimately, in control of hundreds of areas that matter”.

Holger Hestermeyer, an expert in international dispute resolution at Kings College London, meanwhile considers that “The UK’s particularly strong aversion to the ECJ stems from the fact that, whereas most other EU countries have codified law systems, Britain’s common law has been developed by judges in court, applying statute, precedent and case-by-case reasoning”.

The “Spectator” columnist, James Forsyth, agrees with Hestermeyer that “the most important UK constitutional doctrine is sovereignty of Parliament”. This definition, he emphasized in the magazine’s December edition, has always rested uncomfortably with EU membership: “If Parliament can do what it wants, why could it not do something that goes against EU rules?”. An anonymous British official has complained to Politico that the EU’s demands regarding the ECJ represent an ‘unprecedented’ attempt to impose a foreign court’s will on a third country and could be construed as a form of “judicial imperialism”.

So, asks the BBC’s Chris Morris, is it possible for the UK to achieve a “clean break” and get rid of the ECJ entirely? Not for quite some time after Brexit, he concludes, if Britain wants to negotiate a period of transition and smooth the path towards a full exit from the EU. Moreover, if the UK wishes to stay in the European Air Safety Agency, or the European Arrest Warrant, or the European Medicines Agencies or any number of other bodies that regulate various aspects of our lives, it will have to accept that the ECJ will have a role to play in UK affairs”.

For sure, asserts the Queen Mary University of London law lecturer, Davor Jancic, on, the ECJ isn’t just going to go away and it’s likely to rule on any future UK-EU trade agreement: “Even in the hardest possible Brexit scenario, ECJ case law will continue to matter because for UK businesses to sell their products and services in the EU single market, they will have to respect the standards set by the ECJ. This operates as a permanent limit to the control that Britain can take back and the degree of sovereignty it can restore”.

The eminent barrister, Martin Howe QC, writing in the Spectator, has described the Prime Minister’s Brexit plan as “atrocious”. The transition period, he insists, could run indefinitely, thereby prolonging uncertainty about the future: “During all this time, we would be bound by EU law and by whatever quotas and rules Brussels decides to impose on us; our  fishing industry, for example, would be subject to EU boats in our waters. We would be throwing away in advance our two strongest negotiation cards: The £39 billion that the EU insists we should pay and future access to our market for EU goods”. Why, he queries, is the Prime Minister “so desperate for a deal that she is willing to humiliate her country in this way?”

Filed under: Politics | Posted on January 6th, 2019 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

The Enduring Popularity Of Christmas Trees:

Have you bought your Christmas tree yet? If not, you’ve still got plenty of time to acquire one and decorate it. The Guardian estimated on December 8th that there will be around eight million of them on sale around the UK this year, so it won’t be difficult to find one even if you leave it until the last moment. Most of them have been grown on the 320 tree farms belonging to the members of the British Christmas Tree Growers Association (BCTGA) which – as in the past 20 years – supplied the 6.70 metre tree switched on outside the Prime Minister’s official residence at 10 Downing Street on 6th December.

The 20 metre tree inaugurated that same evening in Trafalgar Square by the Mayors of Westminster and Oslo, however, originated from the forests surrounding the Norwegian capital, was transported by sea to Immingham in North-East Lincolnshire and then brought to London by road. As the London Evening Standard noted, it’s a tradition which dates back to 1947 and is a symbol of Norway’s gratitude for Britain’s support during the 2nd World War. It will remain there as a focal point for both Londoners and tourists until January 5th, when it will be taken down and recycled.

There’s rather less enthusiasm, though, in parts of the country, for the Christmas trees provided by some municipal authorities. The Evening Standard journalist, Ben Morgan, reported on December 3 that the “puny spruce” put up in St James’s Square, Muswell Hill, North London, is so tiny that “it barely peeps over the wooden fence that surrounds it, prompting ridicule on social media”. Rebecca Rowland, a resident in Tyldesley, Greater Manchester, quoted by the Sun columnist Jon Rogers on November 23, believes that the title of “ The Worst UK Christmas Tree 2018” applies more to her own local council’s “half-dead, forlorn looking conifer, sparsely adorned with only a few baubles”, a photo of which she has posted on Twitter. The Council acknowledged that it had not yet been properly decorated but insisted that it is a “living tree” which still has to grow.

Meanwhile, inhabitants of Scartho, North-East Lincolnshire, according to Roger’s colleague, Annabel Murphy on November 27, have described as a disgrace the “pathetic, three-foot tree with just a few bright lights and a tin foil star on top” that has been set up on a roundabout at the edge of the town. On December 6, Gemma Mullin, another Sun correspondent , highlighted the criticism of the Christmas tree installed in Birkenhead, Merseyside, which was being mocked by shoppers as “appalling” and as looking like “a bit of scaffolding” due to its hollow, cone-shaped metal frame. Many councils have attributed their lower expenditure on Christmas trees and accompanying celebrations to the cuts in local authority budgets imposed by the UK Government since the financial crash in 2008 , which have reputedly resulted in local services being slashed by almost 24% in England, 12% in Wales and 11.5% in Scotland.

So, if you are going to get a Christmas tree, what type should you choose? The BCTGA is adamant that real trees help protect the environment and have a much lower “carbon footprint” than artificial ones, most of which are imported from China. It cites Carbon Trust assertions that a real pine or fire tree naturally absorbs C02 and releases oxygen, whereas “if you have an artificial tree at home, you’ll need to re-use it for at least 10 Christmases to keep its environmental impact lower than that of a real tree”.

Nowadays, 80% of Christmas trees sold in Britain are of the “Nordmann Fir” dark-green foliage variety, mainly because they have better “needle retention” than the previously more popular, tidy, pyramid-shaped “Norway Spruce” alternative, which retains 10%-15% of the remaining market share. BCTGA’s advises avoiding the “roadside cowboys who are giving the public a bad deal”. You’ll know if a tree is fresh because it will have a healthy green appearance with few browning needles: “ Run your hand through a branch, then raise the tree a few inches off the ground and drop it on the butt end. Very few green needles should drop off”.

The Daily Telegraph has pointed out that, in the opinion of the experts, trees which are sold with nets on are less likely to last as long. That’s because the net strains the branches, causing the tree to dehydrate sooner and can also be used to conceal imperfections – so you should select one which is loose and is only netted when you are ready to take it home. Furthermore, remember that the stand you’ll require will add 15 cm to a tree that’s already between 1.82 – 2.13 metres high.

What should you do with your tree after 5th January? Most boroughs publish on their websites the various locations where you can take it for recycling and composting. The other option is to leave it outside for the rubbish collectors – but it mustn’t obstruct the pavement and you should first remove all decorations, pots and nets.

Filed under: Society | Posted on December 10th, 2018 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

How To Stay Legally Young:

At what age, in your opinion, should someone be classified as “old”: 40, 50, 60, less or more? Your answer – as the University of Kent’s psychology specialist, Professor Dominic Abrams, has pointed out to the Daily Telegraph – will probably depend on your own age. Renee Fisher, a contributor to the Huffington Post, agrees. For a 5-year-old child, she observes, old age begins at 13, for a 13-year old teenager, it’s 30, for 30-year-olds it’s 50, for 50 year-olds it’s 75 and anyone of 75 or above will tell the questioner it’s none of their business and please go away.

The British actress, Joan Collins, and the Spanish film-maker, Luis Brunel, have both been quoted as declaring that age is totally irrelevant unless you are a bottle of wine or a piece of cheese. Ms Collins, now 85 and currently married to the 65-year-old American film producer, Percy Gibson (her 5th husband), has queried why people are anyway so obsessed with age: “I mean, 90 is the new 70, 70 is the new 50 and 50 is the new 40, so what is this whole ‘act-your-age’ thing?”

The Dutch TV personality, Emile Ratelband – unlike Joan Collins – is not at all happy with his age. At the moment, he’s 69, but wants to be younger. As quoted by the Washington Post commentator, Isaac Stanley-Becker, he considers himself to be physically fit, has low blood pressure, his joints are working well, his eyesight is clear and his mental health is in top shape. All this considered, he feels he’s in his 40’s, not his 60’s – so he’s asked a court in his home town of Arnhem, southeast of Amsterdam, for permission to change his birth certificate details from March 11th 1949 to March 11th 1969”.

The court’s verdict will be issued in a few weeks’ time, but whatever it is, as the Sunday Times’ columnist, Rod Liddle noted in the newspaper on 11th November, “It will be interesting: If a transgender person can insist that their gender, as specified on their birth certificate, is false, then why should someone else not be able to challenge their ‘given’ age. We are what we believe ourselves to be”.

Ratelband applied to the court because the officials in the Arnhem town hall had rejected his request as “crazy”. It apparently wasn’t the first occasion he’d clashed with them: Several years ago they refused to allow him to name his twins Rolls and Royce, after the car manufacturer. This time, he’s more determined, because, as BBC News has reported, he feels discriminated against because of his age, it’s affecting his employment chances and his success rate on the dating app, Tinder: “When I’m 69, I’m limited. If I’m 49, I can ask for a mortgage, get a new house, drive a different car, take up more work. When I’m on Tinder and it says I’m 69, I don’t get an answer. When I’m 49, with the face I’ve got, I will be in a luxurious position”. He’s also emphasized that the Dutch Government could benefit financially if his age demand is accepted, as he’ll be happy to forfeit his monthly pension of around 1,200 euros.

Helen Mead, a journalist with the Bradford publication Telegraph & Argus, would also like to change her age – but in the opposite direction, to add a decade. Her official retirement age is November 30, 2027, when she’ll be 66 and three months. If she becomes officially ten years older, she’ll be immediately eligible for a pension and be “free to do what she wants when she wants”.

Perhaps the main problem for Ratelband is that, even if the court grants his application, he still won’t really achieve his wish to be considered “young” again. It may take him less time to scroll down for his year of birth when booking a flight with Ryanair or Easyjet – but within a year, he’ll be officially 50 years old, which will place him in or close to the “middle-aged” category. Indeed, a survey cited by Richard Alleyne, the Daily Telegraph’s Science editor, has asserted that”the average Briton believes that youth ends at 35 and old age begins at 58. The 23 years in between are your middle age”.

A different study, however, commissioned by the healthcare provider Beneden Health and highlighted by the Daily Mail correspondent Louise Eccles, has suggested that the traditional notions of middle age have started to change, that the lines between what constitutes “young” and “old” have become blurred and “what age you are has become less important in determining how young you feel”.

More than half the people questioned, nevertheless, did acknowledge that the “ tell-tale signs of impending middle age” are: Being frustrated with modern technology, forgetting people’s names, thinking that teachers, doctors and policemen look very young, listening to Radio Two instead of Radio One, falling asleep after one glass of wine, misplacing your spectacles, car keys or bag, not knowing which songs or music bands are in the Top Ten charts and re-reading old novels because you’ve forgotten how they end.


Filed under: Society | Posted on November 26th, 2018 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

World Travel Market 2018: The Unsustainable Boom In Global Tourism:

If you’ve started to plan where to go on holiday in 2019, which possible destinations are on your list? Perhaps Barcelona,Venice, Paris, Mallorca or somewhere much further away such as Machu Picchu in Peru. You’ll assume, quite reasonably, that wherever you choose to go, you’ll be welcome as these places are all competing with each other to attract visitors – which is presumably why they paid to have a stand at the recent World Travel Market (WTM) held in London’s Excel Centre from 5th – 7th November. WTM statistics show that this annual event now “facilitates £2.8 billion in industry deals, caters for 5,000 exhibitors and travel trade professionals from 182 countries and is attended by more than 51,0000 participants”.

It’s clear, however, that the WTM organisers are acutely aware of the growing concern regarding the potentially adverse worldwide impact of mass tourism. Although they provided seminars on topics such as “How Podcasting Can Strengthen Your Brand”, “Instagram And Travel” and “Opportunities For the Travel Industry”, the three-day event focused mainly on the issue of “Responsible Tourism”. On the Tuesday, for instance, the delegates from Barcelona outlined how they are dealing with the challenges posed by the continual influx of visitors into the Catalonian capital and there was a discussion about the effect that the burgeoning numbers of Chinese tourists are having on the most popular global holiday venues.

As the CityLab contributor, Richard Florida, noted on 7th August, many of the world’s cities are witnessing a backlash against tourism: In Venice, Barcelona, San Sebastian and Mallorca, there have been anti-tourism protests accompanied by graffiti slogans proclaiming “Tourists Go Home”. Venice and the Croatian coastal resort of Dubrovnik want to introduce restrictions on cruise ships, Amsterdam is trying to stop tourist shops selling over-priced souvenirs and waffles, the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik is clamping down on the “inappropriate behaviour” of tourists arriving on discounted flights and Rome has prohibited people from eating at, cavorting in or having access to popular sites such as the Trevi fountain.

According to the Barcelona publication “The Local” on July 4th, the battle against “overtourism” in the city began in July 2017 when masked protestors attacked a tour bus,slashing the tyres and writing “El Turisme Mata Els Barris” (Tourism Kills Neighbourhoods”) on the windscreen. Fabiola Manchinelli, Professor of Urban Tourism at the University of Barcelona, quoted by “The Local, has described the situation as “El turismo de borrachera (The drunks’ party). If numbers continue to rise, Barcelona could die of success”.


Richard Florida attributes this development to the fact that tourism has become more affordable and accessible, with cut-price airfares and cheap accommodation made possible through online booking services such as Airbnb: “International tourism exploded to 1.billion trips in 2017 – and this is expected to rise to 1.8 billion in 2030. Much of this growth has been driven by Chinese tourists who made about 130 million trips abroad last year.” The Guardian columnist, Martin Kettle, believes that we are all part of the problem, that unless we rethink our holiday choices, the damage and destruction to global beauty spots can only get worse.

The Daily Telegraph journalist David Chazam emphasized on 7th July that France remains the world’s most popular tourist destination, but is now struggling to cope with record numbers of visitors. Christian Mantel. Head of Atout France, the national tourism development agency, told Chazam that they are close to crisis point: “Above a certain quantity of tourists, sites will be forced to turn people away”. Meanwhile, the Guardian’s Rome correspondent, Angela Giuffrida, reported on 2nd November that the Vatican is considering limiting visitor numbers due to fears that overcrowding could provoke a stampede and the claim by tour guides that 10 people a day faint while making their way to the Sistine Chapel.

A somewhat controversial phenomenon has been the growing popularity of “slum / poverty tourism”. This is marketed by the tour operators, explains the “Tourism Concern” commentator Mark Watson, “as an alternative to traditional tourism and a more realistic form of experiencing a country – getting in touch with real people and the local culture”. An estimated 40,000 tourists visit favelas in Rio de Janeiro each year and 300,000 the townships in Cape Town, South Africa. However, when residents were asked by Watson what benefits these tours make to their communities, the most common answer was “none”.

In the opinion of Paul Goodman, a writer for “Soapbox”, the main advantage of tourism is that it brings in finance which creates employment for local people and provides an incentive for investment in infrastructure such as roads and rail networks, as well as funding for medical and educational facilities. The principal negative factors include the potential environmental damage (for example, pollution and forest fires), the insecurity implicit in the seasonal nature of tourism work and the commercialisation of culture that can undermine the soul of a tourist destination: “ Local traditions that have a rich cultural heritage are reduced to wearing costumes and putting on acts for the tourists in return for money”.

Filed under: Travel | Posted on November 12th, 2018 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »


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