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Member since: Mon Sep 7, 2009, 12:57 AM
Number of posts: 886

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Court finds Benefits Cap unlawfully discriminates against disabled people's carers

The High Court has today ruled that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has unjustifiably indirectly discriminated against unpaid carers for disabled family members by failing to exempt them from the Benefits Cap. The Court upheld the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s submission that carers’ Article 14 rights under the European Convention on Human Rights had been contravened by not considering the impact on disabled people.

Commenting in response to this ruling, Rebecca Hilsenrath, CEO at the Equality and Human Rights Commission said:

"We are pleased that the court has found the impact on disabled people of losing a family carer had not been properly considered. The effect could be profound and the loss of a trusted carer devastating."

"The substantial reduction of income could jeopardise the ability of those affected to continue to care for severely disabled relatives. The court noted that the Secretary of State did not provide any information to Parliament about the effect on disabled people if their family carer were unable to continue."

"The court also held that, rather than saving public money, it would cost considerably more for the care to be provided by local authorities or the NHS."


An inquiry into breaches of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which saw a team of investigators visit the UK earlier this year has yet to report: http://www.democraticunderground.com/10888636

chipmunkson16speed: Marvin & The Chipmunks Go Trip-Hop

Brian Borcherdt, a musician from Toronto, has been playing around with old Marvin & The Chipmunks 45s and took the radical step of playing them back at 16 r.p.m. to reveal the vocals as they would have been sung - and contributions by some pretty high-quality session singers in the process.

The results are ... variable, and some songs work better than others.

The star appears to be the epic cover of the Bangles' "Walk Like An Egyptian":


though Tom Petty's "Refugee" has a certain woozy charm.

More here if you can take it: https://soundcloud.com/alvin-thechipmunkson16sp/sets/sludgefest

Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring"?

Look here: http://seanmunger.com/2013/10/23/stravinsky-in-space-the-classic-fight-music-from-star-trek-audio/

If you’re a fan of the old Star Trek TV show, you probably know before you even click the above video what it’s going to be. If someone so much as mentions the words “fight music” or “Amok Time,” you can already hear it in your head: the harsh bass line, the savage slices of the brass, and the pounding bongos and shaking tambourines. Indeed, aside from the Star Trek theme song itself, the classic “fight music” is probably the most instantly-recognizable audio cue from the entire series.

Although many people recognize the “fight music,” not very many people know the story behind it–either historically or musically. The music, which is officially called “The Ritual/Ancient Battle/Second Kroykah,” was composed in July 1967 by veteran Hollywood composer Gerald Fried for the second-season opening episode, “Amok Time.” This is one of Star Trek’s most classic episodes, depicting the descent into madness by Vulcan scientist Mr. Spock, who ends up in vicious hand-to-hand combat with his best friend Captain Kirk as part of an ancient Vulcan mating ritual. In addition to appearing in “Amok Time,” Fried’s “fight music” was also used in various other Star Trek episodes, including “The Omega Glory” and “The Gamesters of Triskelion”–and always during a fight sequence.

Once you’ve listened to the “fight music,” take a listen to this much older piece of 20th century classical music. You may notice some interesting musical and structural similarities.


The above piece is from the 1913 symphony “The Rite of Spring” by Igor Stravinsky, one of the most important composers of the 20th century. Musically and emotionally, “The Rite of Spring” comes from the same sort of place that Gerald Fried’s music for “Amok Time” does: a primal ritual, violent and dangerous, brimming with emotions incapable of being tamed. There is an obvious thematic commonality, and I’m surprised more people don’t see the parallel.

Well, old Guido the Elder wasn't exactly a unionist ...

... some might even describe him as an insurgent, or worse.

He also wasn't that keen on the Scots, as scurrilous sources like Wikipedia will attest:

He denounced Scotland, and the King's favourites among the Scottish nobles, writing "it will not be possible to reconcile these two nations, as they are, for very long."


Fawkes gave his name as John Johnson and was first interrogated by members of the King's Privy chamber, where he remained defiant. When asked by one of the lords what he was doing in possession of so much gunpowder, Fawkes answered that his intention was "to blow you Scotch beggars back to your native mountains."

Staines is presumably aware of this, unless - heaven forbid the thought - he's just an ignorant, bought-off establishment troll, inadvertently following in his namesake's footsteps.

Stolen from Twitter

Crickhowell: Welsh town moves 'offshore' to avoid tax on local business

A BBC2 documentary due to be screened next year will describe how a whole town has decided to troll Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs and hopes its "Powys tax rebellion" will spread to other conurbations:

... local businesses in Crickhowell are turning the tables on the likes of Google and Starbucks by employing the same accountancy practices used by the world’s biggest companies, to move their entire town "offshore".

Advised by experts and followed by a BBC crew, family-run shops in the Brecon Beacons town have submitted their own DIY tax plan to HMRC, copying the offshore arrangements used by global brands which pay little or no corporation tax.


Crickhowell residents want to share their tax avoidance plan with other towns, in a bid to force the Treasury into legislation to crack down on loopholes which allowed the likes of Amazon to pay just £11.9m of tax last year on £5.3bn of UK internet sales.


Jo Carthew, who runs Crickhowell’s Black Mountain Smokery, which sells local artisan produce, with her family, said: "We were shocked to discover that the revenue generated by hard-working employees in these British high street chains isn’t declared. We do want to pay our taxes because we all use local schools and hospitals but we want a change of law so everyone pays their fair share."

Full article here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crickhowell-welsh-town-moves-offshore-to-avoid-tax-on-local-business-a6728971.html

Never gets old:

bbbbbbut JOBS!!!!

Sorry. I'd assumed that was the priority we started from on defence spending, never mind any identified strategic requirements.

The rivalry between the forces has always been a terrible basis for setting priorities and planning ahead.

Mhairi Black: Ask why does TV attack benefit claimants – but not tax evasion?

IT seems like every mainstream television channel these days has indulged in “poverty porn”, where they produce programmes focusing on those who rely on benefits. Usually, but not always, the focus of such programmes is on those who are abusing the benefits system.


According to Age UK, pensioners are missing out on £5.5 billion of income-related benefits every year, vital income that could help many pensioners from facing the annual fear of winter and the choice whether to “eat or heat”. This includes 1.58 million pensioners failing to claim Pension Credit to which they are entitled and 2.23 million pensioners failing to claim the council tax benefit which they are due. Just imagine how many winter deaths could be avoided, particularly in this age group, if there was a real campaign to promote entitlement to all benefits.

The Ipsos Mori survey found that the take-up rate on some benefits was around 70 per cent. Compare that to the actual fraud of 0.7 per cent. The real issue isn’t so much benefit fraud – although that does need addressed – but the lack of any decent campaign to make sure that everyone who is on benefits gets all that they are entitled to.


The media prefer to make the public focus on those claiming benefits. Yet the scale of tax avoidance within the UK dwarfs the level of benefit fraud. According to the UK Government, tax evasion is around £35 billion per year but, according to a report commissioned by the union PCS and researched by Tax Research Associates, tax evasion in the UK in 2014 was around £119.4bn. This report complains that the UK Government’s figures massively underestimate the issue and use accounting sleight of hand to diminish the actual problem. However, the chances of collecting this money are diminishing as the UK Government are on schedule to decrease staffing within HMRC by 43 per cent over 10 years.

Full article here: http://www.thenational.scot/comment/mhairi-black-ask-why-does-tv-attack-benefit-claimants-but-not-tax-evasion.9705?

Let's look at just a few of those issues.

Milford Haven (what you refer to as Haverfordwest) has deepwater berthing, but is rather remote (good for isolation, but with poor road links), with extensive existing oil and gas installations and difficult topography (a problem also faced at Coulport, where the warheads have to be transported up and down a precipitously steep winding road to the explosives handling jetty, but where availability of 3,000 acres of what was once open moorland allowed the demarcation of a large buffer zone around the red area); accommodation for personnel would also be a significant problem; direct sea access would be to the south of the Irish Sea rather than to the Western Approaches, which is a strategic consideration; the MoD vetoed the idea of stationing Polaris there in the 1960s for "safety reasons" due to the newly built oil refinery; since then another refinery has been added and it's become home to two liquefied natural gas facilities and will soon host a new power station; the LNG facilities supply 30% of the UK's gas.

Barrow-in-Furness has a superficial appeal, but problems of tidality in the Walney Channel make its existing operations, which only require occasional access and egress, difficult (subs are very restricted in when they can gain access to and leave the existing facilities and have to make a break for it when the going's good, currently around once a month) and there's a shortage of land for expansion, especially to allow the safety clearance distances needed for any successor to Coulport; it's a long way to water deep enough for as sub to safely submerge, let alone reach operational sea areas.

Devonport has extensive dry dock and other facilities and with substantial investment would probably be able to duplicate what Faslane has to offer if the MoD were willing to write off the extensive recent investment as Faslane, but duplicating Coulport would pose major problems due to the proximity to a major population centre and again the issue of an adequate safety zone; again, it's a long way from the Atlantic patrolling areas, often through quite crowded sea lanes.

Any nuclear sub facility also needs the co-existence of Z-berths, and relocation of the fleet would need to expand that provision outside Scotland, where there are numerous deepwater lochs and other "suitable" locations; Z-berths are supposedly primarily to allow recreation and re-supplying of nuclear-powered subs, but subs have been known to use them in emergencies and when sufficient accommodation is unavailable at Faslane.

Contrary to your assertion, attack submarines don't just escort the boomers, they have other roles - some deploy Tomahawk cruise missiles, as used in attacks on Libya and elsewhere, and current doctrine sees them focusing more on integrated fleet defence operations and sonar surveillance. There would be strategic arguments for not putting all the UK's eggs in one basket by co-locating them along with the Trident successor.

The minesweepers (MCM Squadron) are widely deployed in the Gulf or wherever their services are required; their primary role is not, as you claim, to protect the "security of the bombers" - they could be stationed anywhere, but they have comparatively empty sea lanes up here in which to conduct their exercises (which they also often do outside my house!).

I don't underestimate the petulance a UK government might display by taking all its toys away if denied a base for the Trident successor, but finding a new home for that alone would be far from simple and would take a hell of a long time to get through design and planning, environmental impact assessment hearings etc., then the subsequent building, as the above explains, let alone relocating the facilities for the other submarines, the minesweeper squadron etc. etc., which could be dispersed, but have been concentrated where they are for a reason.

Faslane also regularly hosts ships and occasionally submarines from NATO and other forces, especially during annual exercises which focus on activities in the Atlantic. Its strategic location and necessity (whether one approves of it or not) would not change in that respect.

I doubt anyone would shed too many tears if we lost the Royal Marines. They're accommodated within the base, have access to NAAFI and other facilities that mean they don't support the local economy much anyway, and we generally only notice them when one of them runs amuck in a local bar and maims a resident or two or three.

Numerous voices among the armed forces have deplored the concentration on the "cuckoo in the nest" that is Trident, which has sucked up resources to the extent that we barely have a functioning surface fleet able to provide lower-level strategic responses (remember the scramble during the Falklands War?), and the debacles over the aircraft carriers and maritime surveillance capabilites have been widely reported. Staff recruitment and retention have also become serious problems. It's proving very hard to find people willing to serve on Trident, and what were once the elite among the submarine staff now see new raw recruits stationed on the subs, some of whom aren't psychologically suited to that role.

Like-for-like re-employment for those directly employed would be nigh impossible, but many within the navy retrain or develop their existing skills in civvy street or invest their payoffs in setting up new businesses unrelated to their MoD work on retirement anyway - I know some people locally who've done that.

As for the directly employed civilian workforce - the government's own figures put the numbers at 500-600 - given the employment issues we all face, the base unions risk taxing people's patience if they act as if they're entitled to incredibly expensive jobs for life (and longer!) when very few others have that luxury. We all have to adapt, and we've all contributed to keeping these folks employed over the years when many of us have been struggling along with little state support or concern when our circumstances change and we have to adapt. As a long-time local pointed out to me, when you sign up with the forces or military civil service, you'd be daft or very shortsighted not to realize that the future of your job hinges on purely political decisions. The unions have also been incredibly unresponsive over the years to any initiatives to explore alternative employment (I was involved with the Alternative Employment Study Group back in the 1980s, when we looked at all these issues)- it's been far easier to dig their heels in and try to hang on to the status quo, which has largely been a slow, losing battle anyway as contractorization has taken hold and conditions have deteriorated under cost-cutting. Being contractors, a fair proportion of the base workers don't have local roots, so the impact of any direct job losses would be spread around the country.

Nobody doubts that there would be an impact on indirect employment in the locality, but the most catastrophic predictions exaggerate its scale and assume that nothing would replace the current work on offer. Bear in mind the Faslane base has its own supply lines and extensive facilities on-site that restrict the amount of money pumped into the local economy.

There are also opportunity costs due to the location of the bases - the west of Scotland largely missed out on being able to service the oil industry because the navy didn't want the Clyde cluttered up with extra installations and traffic. On a more minor level, the area around Faslane and Coulport was excluded from the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park when it was set up - some tourists might get a kick from seeing subs and other military hardware and miles of razorwire and weldmesh and watchtowers and armed guards and nuclear warhead convoys etc., but most of those I've spoken to have been disturbed.

Have to stop there because I need to get back to work!
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