Category Archives: UK

Virginia Mason Hospital: Where staff are proud to blow the whistle on themselves

Nick Allen reports for The Telegraph:

‘One day recently, Andrea Sangrey, an oncology pharmacist, mixed up two chemotherapy drugs while preparing a prescription. She could easily have kept quiet about her mistake: the error was caught by a colleague before the medicine reached the patient, and no one needed to be any the wiser. Instead, she immediately reported herself to the hospital management.

“Yes, I reported myself,” she says. “I put in a drug called Paclitaxel and it should have been Docetaxel. It could have caused harm to the patient. I was a little nervous filing a report on myself, but the reaction didn’t feel punitive. It was refreshing really, because I was actually thanked for calling myself out. They looked at how it happened and how you fix it.”

At Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle such honesty is far from unusual. A decade ago the hospital adopted a revolutionary approach that encourages all its 5,600 staff to report problems without fear of repercussions.’

READ MORE…

Banks To Overhaul Gold-Fix Amid Rigging Fears

Mark Kleinman reports for Sky News:

Stacked gold bars‘The banks which set the global price of gold are to open the process to independent scrutiny amid evidence that it has been subject to the same manipulation as other crucial financial benchmarks.

The 95-year-old gold fixing mechanism is poised to seek an independent chairman and third-party administrator for the first time, under plans to be unveiled by its current operators. A new code of conduct for participants in the fixing process is also being finalised and is expected to be published shortly.

The reforms will represent a crucial step towards protecting a globally-recognised mechanism set in London and used across the world’s gold industry to set a reference price for bullion.’

READ MORE…

British intelligence services ‘creating vast databases’ of intercepted emails

Owen Bowcott reports for The Guardian:

GCHQ‘The intelligence services are constructing “vast databases” out of accumulated interceptions of emails, a tribunal investigating mass surveillance of the internet has been told.

The claim emerged during a ground-breaking case against the monitoring agency GCHQ, MI5, MI6 and the government at the investigatory powers tribunal (IPT).

[...] The court heard that the intelligence services might be accumulating databases in that way about persistent security threats. Lawyers for the government would not confirm nor deny this but conceded it would be permissible under Ripa.’

READ MORE…

Police chiefs were aware six years ago that undercover unit ‘had lost moral compass’

Vikram Dodd and Rob Evans writes for The Guardian:

‘The Scotland Yard undercover unit that gathered intelligence on 18 grieving families was known by police chiefs six years ago to have been so out of control it had “lost [its] moral compass” and become a “force within a force”.

The claims from a source closely involved in discussions on winding up the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) in 2008 came as a report for the Metropolitan police revealed intelligence was gathered across three decades on family campaigns challenging the Metropolitan police. In several cases the families’ struggles exposed the force as failing and telling untruths.’

READ MORE…

Doctors often do more harm than good in a culture of over-investigation and over-treatment

Dr. Aseem Malhotra writes for The Guardian:

‘Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine last year, Dr Harlan Krumholz, professor of medicine at Yale, described a syndrome that starts to develop close to discharge from hospital. Physiological systems are impaired, reserves are depleted, and the body cannot effectively mitigate health threats. It is instructive to note that this syndrome – created by the stressful hospital environment – is a significant contributor to hospital re-admissions. It is estimated that 10-20% of patients discharged from hospital in the UK and US will be re-admitted within 30 days, often with a condition entirely unrelated to their original admission. Poor sleep and inadequate nutrition have an adverse effect on physical performance and co-ordination, cognitive function, immunity, and even cardiac risk. The elderly are particularly vulnerable to being re-admitted with falls and infection, with one study revealing that a fifth of hospitalised patients over 65 had an average nutrient intake of less than 50% of their daily requirements.

[...] A culture of over-investigation and over-treatment is now one of the greatest threats to western health. In the US it is estimated that a third of all healthcare activity brings no benefit to patients. Examples include excessive use of antibiotics, imaging for non-sinister headaches, use of surgery when watchful waiting is better and unwanted intensive care for patients at the end of life who would prefer hospice and home care. In the US, a fee-for-service model encourages high volume and expensive procedures. But we should be alert to similar possibilities here: the UK’s “payment by results” – which in reality is a payment-by-activity model – potentially incentivises “doing more” on the part of physicians. As a profession we have also been guilty – unwittingly or otherwise – of exaggerating the benefits of medications often perceived as magic pills by patients when their benefits are often modest at best. This also detracts from more meaningful lifestyle interventions by giving the public the illusion of protection.’

READ MORE…

Poor doors: Segregation of London’s inner-city flat dwellers

Hilary Osborne writes for The Guardian:

One Commercial Street development‘Multimillion pound housing developments in London are segregating less well-off tenants from wealthy homebuyers by forcing them to use separate entrances.

A Guardian investigation has discovered a growing trend in the capital’s upmarket apartment blocks – which are required to include affordable homes in order to win planning permission – for the poorer residents to be forced to use alternative access, a phenomenon being dubbed “poor doors”. Even bicycle storage spaces, rubbish disposal facilities and postal deliveries are being separated.

The Green party accused developers of showing “contempt for ordinary people” by enforcing such two-tier policies.’

READ MORE…

Sick chicken: The dirty truth about food and the UK’s poultry industry

‘Two-thirds of fresh retail chicken in the UK is contaminated with campylobacter, a nasty bug that affects about 280,000 people a year.’ (The Guardian)

New broadband users shun UK porn filters, Ofcom finds

From BBC News:

‘The vast majority of new broadband customers in the UK are opting out of “child friendly” filters when prompted to install them by service providers.

The industry watchdog Ofcom found fewer than one in seven households installed the feature, which is offered by BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media.

The filters block pornographic websites, as well as pages promoting self-harm or drug taking.’

READ MORE…

Cameron’s Big Society in tatters as charity watchdog launches investigation into claims of Government funding misuse

Oliver Wright reports for The Independent:

A marked difference was found between what Big Society Network projects claimed they would achieve and what they did (Getty Images)‘David Cameron’s flagship Big Society Network is being investigated by the Charity Commission over allegations that it misused government funding and made inappropriate payments to its directors – including a Tory donor.  The organisation, which was launched by the Prime Minister in 2010, was given at least £2.5 million of National Lottery funding and public-sector grants despite having no record of charitable activity.

The Independent has learnt that it has now been wound up, having used much of the money on projects that came nowhere near delivering on their promised objectives. Two senior figures on government grant awarding bodies have also made allegations that they were pressured into handing over money to the Big Society Network despite severe reservations about the viability of the projects they were being asked to support.’

READ MORE…

UK definition of terrorism ‘could catch political journalists and bloggers’

Alan Travis reports for the Guardian:

‘The current British definition of terrorism is so broadly drawn that it could even catch political journalists and bloggers who publish material that the authorities consider dangerous to public safety, said the official counter-terrorism watchdog. David Anderson QC, the official reviewer of counter-terrorism laws, said Britain had some of the most extensive anti-terrorism laws in the western world, which gave police and prosecutors the powers they needed to tackle al-Qaida-inspired terrorists, rightwing extremists and dissident Northern Irish groups.

“But if these exceptional powers are to command public consent, it is important they need to be confined to their proper purpose, and recent years have seen a degree of ‘creep’ in parliament that could be reversed without diminishing their impact” In his annual report to be published on Tuesday [July 22nd], Anderson is expected to give three examples of how the terror laws were too widely drawn. They included “actions aimed at influencing governments”, hate crime and what he called the “penumbra of terrorism”.’

READ MORE…

War tourism: Tour operators taking advantage of growing interest in travel to conflict zones

Moshe Gilad reports for Haaretz:

‘It’s a thin line between morbid curiosity about the catastrophes of others and a genuine desire to understand the world’s most sensitive areas. It’s what separates war tourism from deep journeying into a region in conflict. Nicholas Wood, a former New York Times Balkans correspondent who founded the study-tour company Political Tours five years ago, insists that his firm’s activities fall into the latter group. You want to get a nuanced and complex understanding of the situations we see on the television news, he said, adding, that the idea is not to be voyeuristic, but rather to gain a deeper understanding.

[...] Political Tours’s list of destinations is long and varied. It includes North Korea, Bosnia, Kosovo, South Africa, Russia, Georgia, Libya, Northern Ireland and Scotland, where the focus is on the referendum on independence from the United Kingdom. A tour of Israel and the Palestinian Authority is planned for October.’

READ MORE…

Undercover police spied on grieving families of De Menezes, Groce and Reel

Rob Evans and Vikram Dodd report for the Guardian:

Scotland Yard HQ‘[...] Scotland Yard claimed that the families were not the target of the operations but information on them was gathered and wrongly retained as part of the covert infiltration of political groups. The revelations come as an internal police investigation into the Met’s undercover Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) is poised to severely criticise the force for a lack of regard to the rules and law covering the deployment of undercover officers.

The report, to be published on Thursday will say that the information collected by the controversial undercover unit “served no purpose in preventing crime or disorder”. Among those who have been contacted by the police are the family of De Menezes, the Brazilian electrician who was shot dead by police in 2005 after being mistaken for a bombing suspect in the aftermath of the 7 July attack on London.’

READ MORE…

London gangs draw up lists of girls to rape as proxy attacks on rivals

Mark Townsend reports for the Guardian:

Gang‘London gangs are drawing up and disseminating lists of teenage girls whom they consider to be legitimate rape targets, as sexual violence is increasingly used to spread fear and antagonise rival groups.

The so-called sket lists (sket is street slang for “sluts”) have, according to youth workers, prompted attacks so brazen that girls have been dragged from school buses and sexually assaulted. Police and charities say they have recorded an increase in the use of sexual violence by gangs, including incidents of revenge rape, where the sisters and girlfriends of rival gang members are targeted. Claire Hubberstey, interim chief executive of Safer London Foundation, a charity working with young people to reduce crime, warns that gangs are using sexual violence in the same way that they use dangerous dogs to parade their masculinity.’

READ MORE…

British government announces investigation into death of former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko

Serious Fraud Office launches criminal probe into forex manipulation

Ben Chu reports for The Independent:

‘The Serious Fraud Office has launched a criminal investigation into allegations London bankers rigged key foreign exchange benchmarks for profit, the agency announced today [July 21st]. Traders found guilty of illegally manipulating the $5.3 trillion-a-day currency market could face jail and the banking institutions for which they work could also face prosecution.

America’s Department of Justice announced its own probe into alleged manipulation of the $5.3trillion a day foreign exchange market last October. At the same time the Financial Conduct Authority, Britain’s principal financial regulator, launched an investigation. Market watchdogs in Europe and Asia are also involved. The SFO is understood to have been gathering information for several months before formally launching its investigation. Sources at the SFO said they are working closely with other agencies, both in the UK and abroad, although they stressed the decision on whether to bring criminal charges would not depend on the outcome of parallel investigations.’

READ MORE…

Len McClusky: The NHS is being taken over by Wall Street, and Cameron won’t stop it

Len McClusky, leader of Unite, writes for the Guardian:

Brighton TTIP demo‘Will David Cameron go down in history as the man who gave away this country’s greatest achievement to Wall Street, the man who enabled big American healthcare access to our hospital wards? The answer will be yes – unless the prime minister makes it clear once and for all that he will protect the NHS from the world’s largest bilateral trade negotiations, happening right now in Brussels.

Make no mistake, we are in the fight of our lives to save the NHS from being sold off lock, stock and barrel. But to make matters even worse a trade deal called TTIP (the transatlantic trade and investment partnership) will mean that reversing the damage done by this government could be impossible unless Cameron acts.’

READ MORE…

Are Students Who Protest Against the Cuts ‘Extremists’?

Josh Allen writes for Vice:

‘Letters to parents requesting a meeting to discuss “concerns that have been raised” usually only happen at school to the parents of kids with the foresight to realise that smoking while your lungs are still developing is totally badass. When you’re an adult, you don’t have to worry about your parents finding out what you get up to, unless you’re stupid enough to get duped into taking a free holiday by BBC3.

So you can imagine the surprise University of Birmingham Politics student Pat Grady’s parents felt when a letter from counter terrorism police, landed on their doormat inviting them “into the local police station” to “discuss concerns” that their son “[might] be involved with domestic extremism”.’

READ MORE…

UK terrorism laws so broad it has begun to ‘catch those it never intended to’

From The Independent:

‘UK anti-terrorism laws are so broadly drawn they are in danger of catching journalists, bloggers, and those it was “never intended to cover” the counter-terrorism watchdog has said. David Anderson QC has called on the Government to revisit its definition of terrorism in his annual report published today as the UK’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation.

The UK has some of the most extensive anti-terrorism laws in the western world, Mr Anderson said, giving ministers the powers they need to combat violence perpetrated by al-Qa’ida inspired terrorists, right-wing extremists and dissident groups in Northern Ireland. They also enable prosecutions to be brought for activities in other countries including Syria and Iraq. But if these exceptional powers are to command public consent, it is important they should be confined to their proper purpose, he said.

“The problem is that our definition has begun to catch people that it was never really intended to catch,” Mr Anderson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.’

READ MORE…

Ethical Journalism Network Director Speaks to Russia Today About Ethics in Journalism

Tony Blair sees his millions as modest – only in the world of the super rich

Simon Jenkins writes for the Guardian:

Tony Blair Marks The 20th Anniversary Of His Election As Labour Party Leader‘How rich is Tony Blair? What are the needs of an ex-prime minister with grown-up children, a working wife, £25m in property and bodyguards costing the state £1m a year? Blair protested yesterday that he is not worth £100m, “not half of that, a third of that, a quarter of that, a fifth of that, and I could go on.” That gets us down to below £20m. In addition, he pleaded that, “I spend two-thirds of my time on unpaid work,” such as bringing peace to the Middle East. How dare anyone suggest he was motivated by money?’

READ MORE…

MH17: Tony Blair calls for EU defence plan to stand up to Putin

Matthew Holehouse reports for The Telegraph:

‘The EU urgently needs a common defence policy in order to stand up to Russian aggression “on its doorstep”, Tony Blair said today. Europe is “powerless” without the help of the United States in the face of crises threatening the region because its militaries do not co-operate, Mr Blair said. In an apparent endorsement of David Cameron’s approach, he urged European leaders to match the wide-ranging sanctions imposed on Russian companies by the United States, saying the West needs to have a shared position.

…Mr Blair said: “There is such an urgent need today for Europe to have a strong foreign policy and indeed defence policy. If you look at any of the crises that are happening, whether it’s in Syria on the doorstep of Europe, Libya on the doorstep of Europe, Ukraine on the doorstep of Europe, we are completely dependent on the United States. I’m a great fan of the US and it’s important we remain strong allies of the US, but it’s important we develop the capability to be able to handle the problems on our own doorstep.”‘

READ MORE…

Chilcot inquiry: Blair and Straw to get warning letters ahead of publication of report into Iraq invasion

Mark Leftly reports for The Independent:

‘Sir John Chilcot, chair of the public inquiry into the 2003 invasion of Iraq, is poised to send formal letters to those whose conduct he criticises in his final report.

The then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, are among those expected to be sent what are known as “Salmon” or “Maxwellisation” letters in the coming weeks. Anyone criticised in public inquiries is entitled to see and challenge extracts related to them before publication. The letters are named after Lord Salmon, who held a public ethics inquiry in the 1970s, and the late newspaper baron Robert Maxwell, who challenged the way criticisms of his dealings were handled in a public report.’

READ MORE…

David Cameron pledges £1.1 billion to fight cyber terrorists

From The Telegraph:

David Cameron‘The Armed Forces must adapt to deal with “unseen enemies”, David Cameron says as he announces a £1.1 billion investment in the military to tackle new threats to national security.

The Prime Minister will say that spending on “intelligence and surveillance” equipment, such as drones, is a “national necessity”.

Mr Cameron, writing in The Telegraph, warns that Britain faces changing threats in the form of global terrorism and unseen cyber criminals who can target the country from abroad.’

READ MORE…

Charlie Brooker: What is Drip and how, precisely, will it help the government ruin your life?

Charlie Brooker writes for the Guardian:

Dripping tap‘[...] Drip is the most tedious outrage ever, right down to the dreary acronym, which is why they’ll get away with shoving it through the Commons. Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband are in cahoots with Cameron on this. All three men are, I assume, pretending to have read and understood the bill, which seems unlikely given its dry impenetrability. Siri would fall asleep halfway through. You could swap it with the technical specifications documentation for a Netgear AV 500 Powerline Adapter and no one would notice.

Whenever there’s a state-sanctioned-invasion-of-privacy issue knocking around, a few chirpy types pop up to say: “Hey, I don’t mind if the government wants to spy on me – I’ve got nothing to hide and I’m quite boring really.” That’s your prerogative, but Jesus Christ, how did you get so beaten down, Mr Cog-in-the-Wheel? Mr Pebble-on-the-Beach. Is that really how you see yourself? As a worthless microbe content to be plucked from the stream, examined for a moment and tossed back like an unremarkable, unwanted sprat? An insignificant fluffspeck wafting through the vast aircraft hangar of life, buffeted hither and thither by the nonchalant farts of the powerful?

Yeah, me too. But nonetheless, a close, careful examination of the Drip bill’s various clauses and sub-clauses reveals alarming consequences for the average Joe.’

READ MORE…

Philip Hammond Succeeds William Hague As Foreign Secretary In Cabinet Reshuffle

From The Huffington Post:

‘Philip Hammond has replaced William Hague as foreign secretary after Hague’s shock departure from the cabinet, in a reshuffle dubbed the cull of “middled aged-white men”.

William Hague surprised Westminster on Monday evening by announcing he would quit as foreign secretary, as David Cameron culled male ministers of all ranks as part of a wide-ranging reshuffle expected to see the promotion of several women to top jobs.

Hammond, previously defence secretary, was announced as the new foreign secretary on Tuesday morning. He will take over as Cameron looks to begin negotiating for Britain a looser relationship with the EU ahead of an in/out referendum in 2017.’

READ MORE…

Call for curbs as UK executive pay reaches 180 times average wage

From AFP:

‘The government on Monday faced a call to impose legal caps on executive salaries after a study found top pay in Britain has reached 180 times average wages. The High Pay Centre said that since the late 1990s executive pay has grown from 60 times that of the average British worker to nearly 180 times.

It wants the government to consider requiring companies to cap executive pay at a fixed multiple of their lowest-paid employee. Last year the government gave shareholders the power to vote down executive pay policy at company AGMs if they thought the proposed pay package was too large.

So far, however, every vote at a FTSE 100 company has seen a majority of shareholders support the company policy on top pay, the Centre said. Last year pay received by the average FTSE 100 chief executive increased to £4.7 million, up from £4.1 million in 2012, it said.’

READ MORE…

Latest NSA leaks show extent to which ordinary Web users are caught in the surveillance net

Barton Gellman, Julie Tate and Ashkan Soltani report for The Washington Post:

‘Ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by the National Security Agency from U.S. digital networks, according to a four-month investigation by The Washington Post. Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.

Many of them were Americans. Nearly half of the surveillance files, a strikingly high proportion, contained names, e-mail addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents. NSA analysts masked, or “minimized,” more than 65,000 such references to protect Americans’ privacy, but The Post found nearly 900 additional e-mail addresses, unmasked in the files, that could be strongly linked to U.S. citizens or U.S.residents. The surveillance files highlight a policy dilemma that has been aired only abstractly in public. There are discoveries of considerable intelligence value in the intercepted messages — and collateral harm to privacy on a scale that the Obama administration has not been willing to address.’

READ MORE…

TSA targets mobile phones and electronics in new security policies

Jon Swaine reports for the Guardian:

Transportation Security Administration screeners check passengers as they prepare to board flights. tsa‘Passengers using airports that offer direct flights to the US may be forced to switch on their mobile phones and other electronic devices to prove to security officials that they do not contain explosives, it was announced on Sunday.

“During the security examination, officers may also ask that owners power up some devices, including cell phones,” the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said in a post on its website. It warned: “Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft. The traveller may also undergo additional screening.”

The TSA did not disclose which airports would be conducting the additional screening. It was reported last week that passengers at British airports travelling to the US were facing extra checks on phones. Belgian officials said passengers there would also have devices checked. Britain’s Department for Transport (DfT) advised that the new restriction meant any electronic device with a flat battery would not be allowed on flights, the Press Association reported.’

READ MORE…

Britain’s economy forecast to stay on global A-list

Phillip Inman reports for the Guardian:

Canary Wharf Skyline ‘Forecasters have good news for those fearing that Britain faces a long, slow decline into economic mediocrity: the UK will still stand tall among the world’s biggest economies in 2030, having overtaken France and even made progress on closing the gap with Germany.

Only India will leapfrog the UK on the rich list of nations, according to the report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), as the previously fast-growing countries Russia and Brazil struggle to make ground on the global league table.

According to the report, the youthful vigour of the UK economy, with its high birthrate and flexible labour market, will contrast markedly with the ageing populations of mainland Europe. Ignoring the potential for Scotland to spoil the party by voting to separate in September, the report forecasts that Britain will remain “a significant member of the global economic A-list”.’

READ MORE…

Food bank Britain: can MPs agree on the causes of poverty in the UK?

Amelia Gentleman writes for the Guardian:

“We have found that welfare reforms play a huge part in this,” Reverend Alan Dickinson from the North Tyneside food bank told 60 food bank managers and charity workers gathered in a church hall in South Shields yesterday afternoon.

A group of MPs from the all-party parliamentary inquiry into hunger and food poverty listened for two hours as food bank staff described why people in the area around Newcastle were increasingly demanding their help.

The MPs, both Labour and Conservative, making a rare joint excursion from Westminster, were trying to shed light on one of the most contentious issues of the coalition administration: why is it that use of food banks has exploded in the past four years, and how extensive is food poverty across the country?’

READ MORE…