Saturday, 29 August 2009
His conclusion, paraphrasing Winston Churchill, was: "The French have the worst health system in the world, except for all the other ones that we have tried." He points out that Canada, the Netherlands and Italy, as well as France come out ahead of Britain in World Health Organisation league tables.
He balances the account by pointing out the drawbacks: the French system is not free at the point of access (though there is now available a carte vitale, a kind of health credit card, which simplifies payments) requiring the patient to pay up-front and claim back the officially-agreed rate for the treatment; and the system costs the state about a third more than the NHS does the UK (currently €157.6bn as against £100bn). The French system also positively encourages patients to shop around for treatment, as opposed to the NHS (and Dutch health service) where the point of contact is a general practitioner.
Friday, 28 August 2009
It is alleged that patients are being put at risk because medicines intended for UK patients are being diverted for export. The BBC report covers UK as a whole, but there is anecdotal evidence that users of Welsh pharmacies have experienced shortages.
Incidentally, the Welsh authorities appear to be more at fault in a related issue. A report states that delays in receiving treatment are aggravating the state of substance abusers in Wales.
He and his sister were featured in a BBC Radio documentary which unfortunately is not available online, presumably for copyright reasons.
Wednesday, 26 August 2009
It's good to see the county borough council extending its WWW presence. Too many people outside the borough believe that it is totally industrial, whereas the truth is the opposite: the heavily industrialised part is confined to a strip by the coast, and the hinterland is rural (apart from one or two sites where coal mining on a small scale is taking place). Of course, there was once much industry in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries up the valley, but these sites, now long silent and often overgrown, are picturesque in their own right.
[For declaration of interest, see right-hand panel]
I would draw readers' attention particularly to the section of http://www.visitnpt.co.uk/which describes walking in the county borough. There is a downloadable booklet, which describes a selection of the many good routes. The Sarn Helen walk is particularly rewarding. It is tough going, not helped by churning by the motor vehicles which are allowed on the route for part of the year, but there are some spectacular views. It is also possible to see original Roman legionary road construction in a few places.
Putting my constituency hat on, I must also mention the work of Blaenhonddan Community Council and the Friends of Craig Gwladus, who have each produced pocket maps of various walks in and around Cadoxton and Aberdulais. Copies should be available in Neath & Port Talbot civic centres, and at the Aberdulais Falls visitor centre.
Monday, 24 August 2009
The Sydney Morning Herald report also says: "All the huff and puff of making amends for 2005 came to nought with Australia comprehensively outplayed over four days against an English side resolute in its belief, despite suffering a humiliating third Test defeat. Set an improbable world-record chase of 545, Australia were dismissed for 348 late in the day as long shadows crept across the Kennington outfield.
"The shadows will now creep over Australia’s selectors, coaches and players. Ricky Ponting's side has now lost three of its past four series, but this one will hurt most. How England were allowed to come back into the series following their innings and 80-run loss at Headingley is difficult to fathom."
England are not yet the complete item, but this series has brought on some younger players who will develop further, as will Strauss's captaincy.
Now attention turns to Northampton in midweek. Can Glamorgan produce another win on the back of the thriller in Swansea, and thus climb into the promotion zone?
Saturday, 22 August 2009
I'd like to have seen the party go further, and open this facility to all people with email. After all, if journalists, most of whom are not party members (some very clearly not party members!) can conduct televised interviews on the stage at conference, and also chair events on the party fringe, many of which are excerpted for broadcast, why shouldn't the ordinary voter get a look-in?
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Now Peter Black AM points out an even more immoral consequence of the current financial set-up: the credit unions, which we are rightly pressing on ordinary folk as a safe and legal alternative to loan sharks, could be put in the same boat as the building societies.
Peter Ricketts, Chairman, Neath and Tennant Canals Trust. MBE. For services to heritage conservation in Wales.
This also gives me the opportunity to point out an authoritative comment from one of the canal societies to an earlier post here.
Housing is a complicated subject, and I don't know enough at this stage to evaluate the Times article or the implications for council housing, but it is clearly going to repay study.
Wednesday, 19 August 2009
Tuesday, 18 August 2009
2012: England v West Indies one-day international (ODI); England v South Africa ODI
2013: England v Australia ODI
2014: England v Sri Lanka test match; England v India ODI
2015: England v New Zealand ODI
2016: England v Australia Twenty20 international
Yesterday, the Evening Post printed a two-page celebration of the win against Essex which virtually sealed the county championship forty years ago. I have a special reason for remembering that summer, because I was setting up the family home in Ynysforgan then, while snatching every opportunity to watch the cricket in Swansea. (At that time, the county had roughly equal numbers of matches in Swansea and Cardiff.) I didn't actually watch the final day, but was keeping up-to-date via my tranny.
It was great to see Eifion Jones and Ossie Wheatley still spry enough to re-enact the throw which ran out John Lever to clinch the win. If Lever had made his ground, and the last pair had made another few runs, the result would have gone the other way.
In a pretty comprehensive article, the Post missed Tony Lewis's comment after the match. Contemplating the likely wild and disastrous result in the emotionally-charged situation if "one of us" had fielded the ball, he remarked: "That was a very Anglo-Saxon throw".
Monday, 17 August 2009
He was writing about film, but the general message seems appropriate to governance as well - in particular the loan-fuelled boom which finally collapsed last year.
(The source is a preface which Lang wrote for a proposed book of articles on silent cinema which the late HAV Bulleid was hoping to publish after the war. Sadly, paper rationing prevented it then, but the collection has now appeared in electronic form, thanks to Kevin Brownlow, on the silentsaregolden website.)
Saturday, 15 August 2009
I couldn't recognise the picture of our National Health Service as painted in some of the TV commercials quoted on BBC News recently. Certainly, there are faults (many introduced by the cack-handed attempts to privatise parts of the system, in my opinion), but one can practically guarantee being treated, whether one "is a prince or a pauper" as RMT's Bob Crow put it on "Any Questions?" yesterday. This is clearly not the case for large numbers of US citizens, as today's front page story in the Independent shows.
I can quite believe that, if one had ample means or continuing health insurance, care would be more timely and more pleasant in the US than it is in some parts of the UK. (Again, the anti-socialized medicine lobbyists always choose the extremes, like overstretched inner city surgeries, to illustrate their point.) But most British people are happy with the care they receive from the NHS, especially in an emergency. Indeed, the NHS is probably at its best dealing with emergencies; it is the routine which is open to criticism.
And there are no death squads, terminating people who are too expensive to treat, as Prof. Hawking attested on his recent visit to the States.
Comparing Apples and Oranges
Not only are the "anti" commercials traducing the NHS, but they also attack the wrong target.
The solution which Obama favours, and which is, as I understand, implicit in the two (!) Bills going through Congress at present, is one not of "nationalised" health care, but of social health insurance. This is the method preferred by France and Germany. One can understand the anti-Obama lobbyists avoiding discussion of these countries, because they provide a Rolls-Royce service. Indeed, the major complaint is that more money is spent on them than is absolutely necessary, that there is over-provision.
Most glaring of all is the absence in the debate (at least, as it has reached us over here) of Canada. This seems to me, as an outside observer, to be the best model for the USA. There is there a strong presumption from the centre of health provision for all residents, but the detail is left to the individual provinces. It struck me at the time of Hillary Clinton's abortive attempt to reform health care that the scale - the whole nation - was too large for the scheme proposed. Devolution to States (a good Liberal proposal!) could well be the way to go.
Friday, 14 August 2009
I never met him, but I remember his face being picked out for me on one of those panoramic school photographs. The school in question was Oldershaw School for Boys (shortly after to be Oldershaw Grammar School) in Wallasey, one of the first truly public grammar schools, which I attended in the 1950s. My uncle Harry (himself quite a character) had been part of the initial intake in 1920, along with Towers.
The reason for his being identified for me was that Towers had taken advantage of the sudden increase in demand for material by the introduction of commercial television. He had set up a production company named (presumably with an eye to the transatlantic market) "Towers of London". This produced half-hour episodes of a crime series for either ABC Weekend or Granada TV. I can remember few details of this, except that it was formulaic and every segment ended in a chase, usually up to the roof of a building.
After that, it all seems to have gone downhill - or perhaps not. Towers was probably one of those characters who will never settle down to safe, moderate, prosperity but enjoy dodging authority.
Update 2009-11-8 : it seems my informant had the wrong Towers - or H.A.T. lied about his age. The Independent has just published his obituary, from which it appears he was born in SW London in 1920.
Once the problem of security of boats has been solved, the way is open for a regular summer service of boat trips through the beauties of the Neath valley. We residents have long known about these; it is time to publicise them in England and further afield to people who up until now have only associated the word "industrial" with South Wales.
The reinstatement of the aqueduct, and the reconstruction of three locks on the canal, was made possible by grants from the European Union.
Thursday, 13 August 2009
No. 10 has now responded to a petition on the subject. Although the government has not yielded to the demand to repeal the offending clause, it has promised not to activate it until after a "stakeholder group" has reported on the difficulties raised. At least, that's how I interpret their reply. See for yourself at http://www.number10.gov.uk/Page20309.
Tuesday, 11 August 2009
It also reduces the amount of hard information available for Freedom of Information requests and court hearings, but perhaps I am unduly cynical. ;-)
Experts say that there is nothing to suggest that this is a nuclear installation. However, it does seem likely that the plant has some purpose which the undemocratic Myanmar administration does not wish to publicise.
There are people in this country who want the West to invade Burma because of its human rights abuses (such as the latest imposition on Aung San Suu Kyi). I couldn't subscribe to that - it was what got us into Iraq, at bottom - but if the junta is concocting something which threatens Burma's neighbours, then it must be put a stop to.
Saturday, 8 August 2009
For most of Thursday afternoon, it looked like the old story was going to be retold. A good start by the top order was wasted as the nominal batsmen seemed merely content to match Leicestershire's first innings total, rather than pass it and go on to build a match-winning total. Fortunately, the old hand Robert Croft and the apprentice Adam Shantry read the situation aright and put on 197 for the ninth wicket. Croft and Harrison (who has in the past not batted too responsibly) added another 73 for the last wicket, giving plenty for the attack to bowl at. Croft on his own scored more than England managed over roughly the same period in Leeds.
Then Shantry and the spin attack of Cosker and Croft administered the final blows. Croft's ability is well-known, but Cosker must be the most underrated bowler in the county championship. Today he finished with the remarkable figures of three wickets for twelve runs, off twelve overs, eight of them maidens.
The full scorecard is at http://www.cricinfo.com/countycricket2009/engine/current/match/383026.html.
Where I would agree with the general is that the West should not attempt to impose a particular form of governance on the country.
Friday, 7 August 2009
"the British reveller took down his trousers and started acting obscenely. He then 'forcefully fondled' the Greek woman, who has been dubbed the 'Cretan heroine' by local media.
"After asking him to stop harassing her, she told police, she poured Sambuca, an aniseed liqueur, on him."This again allegedly failed to stop his advances, so she seized a lighter and set fire to the alcohol, local press reports said"
I confess geekily to looking forward to having BBC-Parliament available in my living-room, as well as Channel 4 News. Less worthy is the desire to see whether 5 still runs those cheesy day-time soaps like "Sunset Beach", which I used to revert to when I lived in Pontardawe and wanted to put my brain into neutral after some hard programming.
I rather jumped the gun by buying a DTV receiver cum recorder through Radio Times' readers offers when it was announced, a year or so ago, that Kilvey Hill would be transmitting a digital signal alongside the analogue. Unfortunately, it soon transpired that, for technical reasons, digital could not be transmitted at full power while analogue was in operation, so I had only tantalising glimpses of what digital could do. Now I understand that the signal standard has changed subtly so that some of the early digital receivers do not work. Fortunately, I also have a more recent dual-standard portable.
The Burry Port pilot scheme went so well, that I am confident that the transmitter company and BBC will manage the changeover smoothly. However, even established digital providers can get it wrong. The Sydney Morning Herald reports a cock-up by Channel Nine down under:
"Channel Nine went dark for digital television viewers across the country this week after the network switched on its new digital channel, Go!
"The new entertainment channel, which will air shows including Weeds and Curb Your Enthusiasm, is scheduled to launch officially on Sunday, but Nine switched it on on Wednesday.
"Viewers with digital TV tuners found the standard and high-definition versions of Nine went blank as soon as they picked up the new Go! channel."
Tuesday, 4 August 2009
Before computer manipulation, there was the literal airbrush, which was in turn an improvement on the retoucher's pencil. That this could give deceptive results in the hands of a master is shown by the famous photograph of Lenin haranguing a meeting with Trotsky by his side. After Stalin seized power, Trotsky mysteriously vanished from official versions of the photograph.
Making movie stars look better than they are is also not new. There are the marvellously overblown Asian and Middle Eastern posters advertising their dubbed or subtitled versions of Hollywood movies, or, in the case of India, local product. Men, as well as women, could suffer from a sense of inferiority if we took these depictions seriously.
Saturday, 1 August 2009
As a member for forty years on and off, I am proud of the way Glamorgan won over the media in its handling of that test match, when so many things could have gone wrong. The fact that Sophia Gardens (as I still think of it) is within striking distance of Cardiff's many watering-holes may have had something to do with it; it certainly commended itself to the Australians in the crowd.
I am now looking forward to the Sri Lanka test in 2011, when the weather will, I hope, be better than the last time the Sri Lankans played in Cardiff. Sangakkara brightened the sole, dismal, day then with a century. I hope he is still around in two years time to entertain us - though, please, not at the extortionate prices we had to pay for the Ashes test.