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PostPosted: Sat Nov 06, 2021 6:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

They used to say of women in the workplace that they had work twice as hard to be thought half as good. Well the same applies to old people I can tell you.

Last night I worked with a guy who had been taken on by my company as a temporary staff member at the outset of the pandemic. He had worked in my shop for a couple of months before moving on to other shops in the chain closer to his home. He took a shift in my shop to cover sickness yesterday and we had a chance to catch up. He was, he informed me, going up through the ranks like a helium balloon. Already a supervisor in his regular shop and contracted to 35 hours per week (I remain on the twelve I was taken on at and pick up extras like a dog scavenging for bones), he was he told me, in line to be given his own store as soon as one became available.

We worked our shift together during which I went extra hard at the job to get what needed to be done finished, and he served intermittently behind the till and when not doing so, toyed with his phone or stood outside the door using his vape pen. At the point where I said, "you must be fed up standing at the counter - do you want to go and work stock for a bit?" he did so briefly before gravitating back to his phone and the door, and when I returned to the shelving I found that the small amount he had covered was poorly done and minimal in quantity.

We finished our shift, and I said that it had been good to catch up (I wasn't going to start complaining - he was covering for sickness at short notice after all) and we parted. As I went home I had cause to remember the oft repeated quotation by Gandhi. "There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Join the first group - you will find that there is less competition."

Wink

Now for a brief scan of the news, when the Express start's criticising Boris Johnson you know he's in trouble - and that is just what is on their front page today. He's loosing it with the voters, warns the paper, having polled their readers in the wake of the recent days events catalogued in my earlier posts. The same is true of his MPs according to the 'i', who tell us that they have "rounded on him in fury" following the debacle.

The FT has a story that won't make for widespread coverage in the more generally read or broadcast media, but should flag up warning signs as to what might be ahead this winter. The Government, it tells us, has struck a deal with gulf state Qatar to supply us with liquid gas in the event of likely shortages over the colder months. The country has already directed five such tankers our way in recent days, and is poised to sign up as a supplier of last resort (for a price no doubt) in the event of serious shortages later in the year. If this Government has been galvanized to act to allay such risks with preemptive action then they must be high indeed. The Guardian tells us that there are renewed calls to investigate the two hundred thousand pound refit of Johnson's Downing Street accomodation and also that he has refused to disclose the cost of his recent Marbella holiday, given as a gift to him and Carrie by the wealthy and influential Goldsmith family. In fairness to Johnson, I think that he has every right to the same privacy as the rest of us in respect of his holiday arrangements, and as long as the inland revenue are satisfied that he is paying the necessary tax on such gifts and they are not being given on the understanding of recieving return favours in the future then I don't see a problem.

And lastly, a few papers are covering the dropping of the ex-England cricket captain from his show on BBC radio due to his purportedly having used a racist word in reference to one of his teammates twelve years ago (apparently used more in banter than in intended insult, but such a distinction carries little weight in these pc days). I know that he shouldn't have done this, but isn't it a bit late for his accuser to dredge this up now. Why not do it at the time, rather than wait for an unfeasible amount of time to elapse and then bring it up? Clearly there is no 'statute of limitations' that the BBC have to worry about in such cases, but I tend to think along the lines of Hamlet when he asked, "Use every man according to his just dessert and who should 'scape a whipping?" Not perhaps the right approach but that's just me.

Have a good day.

Smile
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 07, 2021 8:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Patchy old affair in this morning's papers, but Johnson is by far from being let off the hook, with the Observer publishing the results of an opinion poll that show the Tory lead spectacularly reduced and Johnson's personal ratings at an all time low. Besides this (which won't be too significant because all of the people polled will be pretty anti Tory at the off) they have simply rehashed the old material from their sister weekly the Guardian, in order to keep the anti-government momentum going.

Of more significance to the Tory Party and Government is the Sunday Times leader which tells us that three million quid is the price of a seat in the House of Lords under this administration. Apparently there is an 'omerta' in the Tory Party about this practice, that goes on in open sight, but about which no parliamentary Tory MP dare speak. A number of 'scources' have spoken to the paper telling of their deep unease at the practice (significant because the Lords have a role in making legislation and are by far from being simply honourary positions), but are bound by a combination of fear and party loyalty from speaking up openly on the subject. Since 2010 no less than 22 major Tory donors have been ennobled compared to 2 Labour and 5 Lib-dem. This, story, while not a new one- the situation has been reported on many times before - still has the power to ruffle feathers with the voting public, and I suppose that the ST thought that it was a good time to wheel it out again in the face of the unfolding events of this week. In another front page leader the same paper tells of the PM leaving a "toxic mess" behind him, following his weeks activities, and for the first time mention of MPs "sharpening their quills" in preparation for writing to the chairman of the 1922 committee (who has the power to call a Tory PM in and demand he stand aside) is made. Not happy reading for BoJo this morning then.

What else have we got? The Mail on Sunday telling us that that the right to travel and not quarantine is to be tied to ones having had a third (booster) vaccination - no surprise there (but surprised - or perhaps not - that no paper has reported on the BMJ's recent publishing of a paper calling the Pfizer vaccination trial protocol into question). The People has a heart-rending story of a baby born who will never know her mother (who died of Covid) and telling all mothers to be to get jabbed, and the Telegraph has a really serious story about the damage being done by the ongoing feud between the UK and Brussels to R&D projects in which ongoing collaboration post brexit is supposed to have been agreed. The EU, they claim, has, in retaliation for our leaving, been restricting access of our scientists into three collaborative projects (scientific, satellite and nuclear) to the point where the Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and Brexit Bully-boy Lord Frost have been discussing the viability of our staying within the programs at all. This situation will no doubt have researchers up and down the country tearing their hair out, both from the academic hold ups they are suffering and from the fear and uncertainties surrounding their continued work should such collaborations break down.

And Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has set out a vision for Britain as "the beating heart of a global network of liberty". Yes, well - tell that to Julian Assange Liz!

Chow folks.

Wink
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 08, 2021 8:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yesterday a bus was burned in Northern Ireland.

Thankfully no passengers were present and the driver, held at gunpoint while two men wearing face-coverings performed the act, was released without harm. He said later that the men had muttered something about the "Northern Ireland Protocol" as they had fired up the bus.

The Northern Ireland Protocol is the section of the deal between the EU and the UK that deals with the passage of goods between the province and mainland UK, and is necessary because in order that there should be no border on the island of Ireland, Northern Ireland must be treated as part of the EU customs zone. This is highly unpopular amongst the unionist community because it effectively puts a trade barrier down the Irish Sea and threatens (they believe) to drive a wedge between NI and Great Britain (ie, mainland UK).

So problematic has this area of the overall treaty between the UK and EU become that the issue has become toxic to quite possibly the whole post brexit trade agreement, and vigorous negotiations between the two sides have been ongoing in order to attempt to bridge the difficulties it is throwing up. The UK's main concern appears to be the rigour with which the EU is conducting its checks on goods entering the province, which is having a serious effect on the availability of many products on NI supermarket shelves - a rigour that they (the UK) say is entirely outwith the spirit of the Agreement. The EU respond by saying that the checks are simply part of the negotiated conditions, and absolutely necessary to maintain the integrity of their customs area. They consider that the UK was nieve if it believed that the rules of the protocol would not be followed - how could they not be if the EU is to maintain control of goods entering its trading area.

Lord Frost, the Minister of State responsible for negotiation with the EU over this problem is taking a pretty hard line, and threatening to trigger the so called Article 16 of the Protocol if the EU do not soften their approach to applying their checks. Article 16 is a section of the Protocol which allows for the unilateral suspension of the same by one side or the other if it is found to be causing serious economic or other difficulties as a result of its application. This would be a very serious step on the part of the UK because it would effectively force the EU to reintroduce a border between Northern Ireland and the South - a condition that would cause it serious problems with one of it's members (ie the Republic of Ireland) and quite possibly rekindle the so called 'troubles' that were effectively laid to rest only after many years of anguish and the hard won Good Friday Agreement (a condition of which is that there should be no such border).

The EU has said that should the UK take this drastic step (ie, the triggering of Article 16) their response would be rapid and significant. They have not said what this might entail, but it could go from the lesser action of the imposition of tariffs onto goods entering the EU from the UK, through slowing up and making difficult the passage of goods in both directions (which could have devastating effects on the supply chains upon which our food supply - and possibly security - depend) right up to the nuclear option of termination of the post brexit trade agreement altogether.

The UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (to give it its full title) is currently being operated on a provisional basis but has not yet been fully ratified by the EU. As such it's full and complete adoption by both sides is by no means guaranteed, and the issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol could easily be the rock upon which the entire deal founders. Ireland's Foreign Minister Simon Coveny implied as much yesterday (I think it was yesterday anyway) when he said that we were once again back into the possibility of no-deal territory.

Given that there are also serious ongoing problems with one of the other key problem areas of the original negotiations, that of fishing rights, it has to be said that the whole plan is starting to look decidedly rocky. The dispute over access to UK fishing waters (not actually all that difficult to solve were the will to do so present in Johnson's negotiater) looks likely to run on for a while as well, and in the face of these two challenges one wonders if the deal can indeed survive at all. In fact one wonders if it even should survive; could it just be causing more problems with our relationship with the EU than it is worth? Might it not be better, having voted - and acieved - our leaving of the EU, to make a clean break of it. Sure it would be both damaging and difficult, but this ongoing friction between us and our neighbors can be doing no good and perhaps it's just time to put it to bed. Seems ridiculous, but this is the place where our Government have brought us to.


(Edit; I begin to question whether UK negotiator Lord Frost actually wants a deal at all. A pretty hard brexiteer if I recall correctly, Frost would not be alone in his party in preferring a 'clean break brexit' (if this is indeed what he wants) and it would go some way toward explaining the very hard stance he is taking. It might be that unless he can get a deal on such favourable terms that the EU could never really agree to them, he might prefer to just walk away and allow for his master to then throw all of the blame onto the EU for their 'intransigence'. This would be to effectively throw Northern Ireland under a bus, but this might be collateral damage that the Tory Party (or at least some of them) are prepared to accept in order to achieve their desired ends. Sounds a bit extreme, but is actually a real possibility in this situation.)
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 08, 2021 7:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Y'know, the more I think about it the more I believe that Frost and Johnson between them are going to trigger Article 16 and precipitate a no-deal brexit.

It would explain, as I said above, the intransigent approach of Frost to the negotiations (and at what point is 'not in the spirit of the agreement going to stand up as a reason for breaking the conditions of the treaty - C'mon!); it would explain why the fishing controversy which could be easily solved by allowing the small EU boats that have traditionally fished UK coastal waters licences to continue to do so - their catch is minimal at best and could not damage UK waters fishing stocks in the slightest. It might explain why the Government is making preparations for liquid gas to be shipped in from Qatar and why the two countries have recently signed an agreement for Qatar to be the last-case supplier of gas in the event of continental supply problems. And lastly, it would satisfy the behind the scenes promise that Johnson made to the ERG that he would never allow the protocol to be put into practice if only they would support him and get his deal voted through parliament.

I'm possibly missing something here, but if this is not the PM's game here then I can't really see what is.

Brexit strikes me as being a really odd thing in that it seems to be a weird amalgam of backwards and forwards thinking. The politicians and people who pushed for it always went on about the future, but seemed to tap into a nostalgia for the past in order to get their vision of leaving the EU realised. Were the old school individuals who were persuaded to vote for it hoodwinked into thinking that they would go back to the old England of their past ? Hoodwinked indeed by people who had not the remotest interest in taking the country back to its old pre-seventies days. Was this how it went?

And the more I think about it, the less I understand about where all of this came from? I mean, not upwards from the people themselves. I've spent a whole life mixing with people since our joining the common market in my youth and I can assure you it was not a big thing in the majority of people's minds for the whole of that time. Whence then did it spring?

Obviously Farage and his ukip party had an influence, the drip, drip, drip of anti-immigrant reportage in the Mail and Express - but these things are the means by which our leaving was achieved - not the actual source of the desire to leave. Sure, it's always been grumbling away in the Tory Party, but how and under what pressure did it come to a head? Put it like this; who stood to gain, or who was so conversant with the detail of the various conditions under which our membership was operational - even those who drafted things like the Mastricht treaty would each have been only familiar with the various constituent parts they worked on - that they maintained this pressure to leave over decades. I ask again, from whence did this come. Who were the invisible movers and shakers, who wielded the invisible force behind the momentum to leave? I don't believe we understand what has happened here even now (certainly not what the people intended or voted for) - even as it is well on its way to fruition. We, I believe, are pawns in a bigger game that we don't even know is being played.

The times, they are a'changing, but as yet we the people have no idea what they are changing into.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 09, 2021 7:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yesterday, James O'Brien asked listeners to his LBC talk show to phone in with answers to the question "What is the difference between sleaze and corruption?"

O'Brien, a hard-line anti-tory to the core, was using his show/platform to maintain the pressure on the PM and Government over the failed attempt to support their barred colleague, MP Owen Paterson and simultaneously overturn the independent House of Commons Committee on Standards in Public Life, which today continues to cause the PM difficulty in the press.

Clearly the answer to O'Brien's question is simply that it is a matter of degree. I think most of us would agree that an MP, whose job it is to impartially represent his constituents interests in the House of Commons, trousering over half a million quid in order to press the interests of undeclared parties beyond his constituency is an example of the latter - but the real question is at this point, where are we going from here?

The Liberal Democrats, normally pretty ineffectual in the House these days, managed to get an emergency debate on the whole issue scheduled for yesterday and it might have been expected that the PM would show up in order to apologize to both the House in general, and his parliamentary MPs in particular, for the debacle in which the entire political system in the UK had not emerged exactly smelling of roses, but it was not to be. Rather than face the music for his disrespectful and disreputable behaviour, the PM carried out "a longstanding engagement" pressing flesh (not in Johnson's usual manner I hasten to add) in a hospital in the North of England.

His MPs, it is reported this morning, are furious - and well they might be. Against their better judgement, scores of them followed the party whip and voted for an egregious attempt to both loosen the chains that limited their behaviour in terms of lining their pockets, overturn the judgement of the independent Commission on one of their peers and indirectly help the PM in respect of an ongoing investigation into himself by the same Commission, by putting a stay on its ongoing work while its continuance was investigated. They knew that this had a stink about it, but large numbers followed the whips instruction to support the amendment anyway - only to have the PM and Government then pull the rug from under their feet by a quick reversal of tack on the matter when the media sh*t hit the fan. This made the MPs who supported the motion at the Government's insistence look corrupt and self-serving, and many reported a serious kick-back in their constituencies. For the Government to then simply drop the intention to proceed with the successfully passed motion because of the press storm it had generated simply hung them (the MPs) out to dry.
They would better have been among the few who rebelled against the instruction and voted against the motion, they thought, but rather their principles had been compromised to no purpose whatsoever.

For this reason they expected the PM to be in the House for the emergency debate, and to apologize for his leading them astray - but it was not to be. To cat-calls of "Run Boris, Run!" Johnson's deputised fall-guy of the day Stephen Barclay (Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster) stepped up to the podium in his place to explain that the PM was engaged elsewhere and would not be attending. He did make an apology in Johnson's place, but it was not what the incensed Tory MPs expected to hear. They wanted the perpetrator himself up there and let it be known so.

But does all of this amount to anything? Is this a "storm in a teacup" (as Agriculture Minister George Eustace put it at the weekend) or could it actually bring Johnson down? In truth the latter is not likely, but it isn't a done deal by any means. The post 2019 parliamentary Tory Party is a very different beast from what has gone before - the large number of 'red-wall' seats have made this so - and although he holds a whopping majority, Johnson's MPs are well aware of his limitations as a leader. They will tolerate these limitations up to a point, but not indefinitely - and definitely not to the point where it damages their own constituency standing and chances of being re-elected. Most of them are new entrants into the House of Commons: they don't want to see their political careers stifled at first term by an inept PM and most are fully aware of how slender the vote margin was that actually got them into the House. Johnson, if he is not careful, may yet find himself being called in by the men in grey suits and instructed to step aside.

And outside the bubble of Westminster - what of that? Well, same rules apply really. A Government operating with a large majority in the House is in a strong position, but only until the day of the next election. At this point the cumulative effect of all of those seats held by tiny majorities that gives such power in the House, can dissipate like a puff of wind. A stench as bad as the one Johnson has caused could well linger on as far as the next election (the left wing media and the Labour Party will do everything they can to ensure that it does) and then the effects of it become suddenly palpable. This is a wave that with the right balance and direction, Kier Stamer could ride all the way into Downing Street.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 09, 2021 6:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Couldn't help chuckling earlier on when I saw a picture of the British Antarctic Survey vessel the RRS Sir David Attenborough, and remembered that, on taking receipt of their new vessel, the National Environmental Research Council (perhaps unwisely) decided to put the naming of the boat out to a public vote. The British public rose immediately to the challenge and voted for the name 'Boaty McBoatface' by a significant majority.

The National Environmental Research Council, rather huffily declined to adopt the winning name, choosing instead to name the vessel after the well known TV presenter and environmentalist.

This it should be remembered was the same British public who voted for brexit and to put Boris Johnson into Number 10 Downing Street, but that is perhaps by-the-by.

A brief follow up to the story that I only learned while checking out the detail of this post was that, following the NERC decision to use the alternative name which the ship now sails under, a petition quickly arose which received 3,800 signatures calling for Sir David to change his name by deed-poll to Boaty McBoatface. To the best of my knowledge, to date he has declined to do so.

Big Grin
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 11, 2021 8:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You see, this is the problem. The media never knows when to stop when it digs its teeth into a problem and then, by digging up spurious follow up stories with little connection to the first, ultimately only finishes up watering down the force of the original revelations in the minds of the recieving public who are following the story.

Take today's continuation of the Tory sleaze story, which has shifted focus from the egregious behaviour of the PM and whips office in trying to distort our democracy ("What democracy?", they call) to the MP for Torridge and West Devon, Geoffrey Cox, who it emerges has earned near six million quid 'moonlighting' at his 'second job' as a barrister while supposedly simultaneously putting his best efforts into representing his constituents in parliament.

Now don't get me wrong; this is clearly beyond the pale - you would have to be dead from the neck up not to see that Cox is taking the piss and has relegated his job as a member of parliament to a secondary position, inferior in his interest to that of his primary job in the legal profession - but that is up to his constituents to sort out. If they are stupid enough to tolerate this, so disinterested in what their MP is up to in the allocation of his time on their behalf, then so be it. Perhaps they are entirely happy with what he has achieved for them, albeit treating them as an afterthought in his career path? This is their business and clearly, since they have been re-electing him to be their MP since 2005 they have no complaints. It bears no relationship to the case of Owen Paterson who was attempting to use his platform in the Commons to influence legislation in the favour of parties who were paying him under the counter as it were, to do so.

Cox it has been revealed, recently spent a month in the British Virgin Islands working for clients (the islands themselves as it happens, who are engaged in a dispute with the UK over some issue or another), while simultaneously and intermittently appearing via Skype in the Commons debates and remote voting in the divisions from afar when called upon to do so. He missed twelve votes altogether in this period. As an aside he appears to have been using his parliamentary office when at home for a bit of work on the side which is against the rules, and Sajid Javid yesterday said on TV that this should not be tolerated - the use of House of Commons stationery and whatnot for private work (surely he was being sarcastic or something, but he didn't sound like it).

Now this swanning off for a month might seem to you and me like taking the piss - I can't do this from my job and neither can you - but it isn't against the rules. Cox sought permission, and was given it, for the trip from the Chief Whip (who today is also in the firing line in the press), and while it might be obvious that this is not what constituents might expect from their MPs, this is between the two of them and no-one else.

The papers do their very genuine case about the Government and its behaviour (a long catalogue of disreputable and boarder line corrupt behaviour as Kier Stamer pointed out a day or two ago) no favours at all, by focusing their attention on the small fry while the big fish swim away toward the safety zone of 'elapsed time'.
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 12, 2021 10:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, far too much to comment on individually. Very Happy

First off I guess is that, despite all claims etc. by COP26, we have pretty much indisputably blown past the 1.5C limit already, and a best case scenario is probably somewhere around 2.4C instead. (With attendant disasters of course.) And as you say, nobody is going to do anything about it anyway, other than talk of course.

(And yes, continue to contribute to the issue by travelling around the world and amassing bigger and bigger carbon footprints.)

As for Brexit / EU Trade / Etc. apparently even if Article 16 is triggered, it will take a year to extricate yourselves from the agreement.

All the EU has to do to make even "normal" trade unbearable is start to carefully and scrupulously check every single shipment to / from every single port and point of entry / exit and your supply chain will be hopelessly fubar'ed.

MP's and sleaze, I'm cheerfully reminded of Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe, who famously said that when he wanted a peerage, he would buy one like an honest man. Very Happy

Seems Johnson has created 96 peers since taking office, the majority of whom have been significant Tory donors. Give the Tories 3 million quid and pretty much guaranteed to become a peer of the realm. Very Happy

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 13, 2021 6:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

An interesting development to the ongoing brexit row with France in particular and the EU in general, has not been much reported, but may be highly significant in influencing how the UK Government proceeds.

In a pretty unflinching address, President Biden has weighed in saying that the US will not tolerate any moves on the part of the Johnson administration that would jeopardize the hard won peace agreement that ended the sectarian violence of the troubles - and this includes threats of triggering article 16, seen by the US as destabilising in themselves, let alone actually doing it.

The normally bullish Lord Frost, reporting to the House of Lords the day after Biden's interjection, was heard to use language of a much more conciliatory tone than is his usual style, with no mention of the said triggering.

Frost has been wheeling out this threat now periodically since the trouble over the EU trade checks on goods entering Northern Ireland began, since it is a good 'low-cost' option to employ in order to rein the EU into line. To date he has been able to do so with relative impunity, but this interjection by Biden changes all of that. And this is not a republican versus democratic issue in the States. Trump was equally adamant that nothing in the post-brexit agreement should jeopardize the NI peace process, and the Irish lobby in the USA is sufficiently powerful that neither party is going to ignore its position on the issue.

That this is bad news for Johnson and Frost is putting it mildly. So many of the promises that Johnson has made about our future outside the EU rests absolutely on our ability to maintain good relations with the US, that anything that calls this into doubt must have him sweating bullets and Frost's sudden switch to a more mollified approach is a reflection of this. We have effectively burned our bridges with the EU; to simultaneously do so with the US would be disaster. We need that trade deal so badly that, under threat of its dissapearing down the pan, Biden can effectively tell Boris Johnson to jump, and he has little option but to ask, "how high?".

So the threat of an imminent triggering of Article 16 seems for the moment to have been averted, but at what cost to Johnson. There are elements within his own party that will be deeply unhappy if they do not see a rapid return to business as usual in terms of the flow of goods between NI and the mainland, and they are in a position to exact a heavy price from Johnson if he does not deliver. The removal of the nuclear option of triggering article 16 seriously weakens Johnson's bargaining position with the EU and they will be in no frame of mood to do anything which will make his life easier. His policy of doing whatever has to be done in order to secure his passage through the crisis of the day, of promising everything to everybody as long as they just trust him to deliver, may be about to collapse about him as it has always threatened to do. His entire premiership has been based on a series of squaring circles, the bill for which has been pushed ever forward in front of him day to day. Biden's intervention could signal the arrival of the Piper expecting payment for his playing of the tune.
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 14, 2021 7:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Right - let's have a look at what the Sunday papers have cobbled up for today's current affairs menu.

Talking about affairs, the PM will not be pleased (and neither, I expect, will 'er indoors Carrie Johnson) to see American Blonde Jennifer Arcuri rearing her ugly head (metaphorically of course, though.....) in the Observer, with extracts from her diary about how Boris was positively drooling about promoting her career in his attempts to get into the clinches with her. Lot's of stuff about "thrusting her career forward" and being the "throttle" by which she could accelerate forward. Yes - I bet he wanted a bit of thrust to enter her life; conscious of having to maintain his record of not having "had a w**k for thirty years" he'd need a good supply of fresh meat to keep his hands occupied.

Next, in a few of the papers, we have a tearful Alok Sharmer winding up the COP 26 talks in Glasgow. Accompanied by photos of the President of COP fighting back an oncoming attack of the blarts, we are told that he apologized to the assembled delegates about the last minute watering down (no pun intended) of the wording in the deal, due to China and India not being prepared to agree to "phase-out" the use of fossil fuels. Instead the words "phase-down" were inserted, which as everyone there was aware, effectively means nothing. Not sure however, if Sharma was all lachrymal over the last minute changes or the fact that a deal had been drawn up at all. Still, at least his emotion seemed genuine in comparison to the weird laugh-cry ex-Health Secretary Matt Hancock utilised in announcing the development of a Covid vaccination back in the heady days of the pandemic.

Much is being made that an agreement has been reached and a deal struck - but let's face it, it always was going to be wasn't it. The reality is however, that while, yes, it's good that countries are still on board and that the agreements of Paris have been augmented, the aim of the 1.5 degree limit on temperature rise is all but dead in the water. With countries who are such big greenhouse gas contributors as China refusing to commit to an ending of their use of fossil fuels (it doesn't accord with the current five-year plan apparently) and developing nations such as India claiming that they must be allowed a "fair share of the growth benefits of using fossil fuels" (as the developed countries have previously enjoyed) - to be frank the whole thing is a bit of a waste of time. Truth is we're screwed and they all know it. It won't be Governments that will make this happen: if it happens at all it'll be people themselves that make it so - but I won't hold my breath.

Foreign Secretary Lizz Truss has weighed in on the developing crisis occuring on the Poland-Belarusian border where thousands of migrants are sandwiched into a no-man's land between the two countries (still in Belarus I believe) seeking to enter Poland via non-official crossing points. Truss has apparently told Putin that he must act to stop this "manufactured crisis", engineered by Belarus in order to put pressure on the EU and destabilise the region. No doubt Putin will be picking up the phone to make issue the necessary instructions as we speak Liz. Rolling Eyes he won't want to get on the wrong side of you. More seriously, this is a region of deep instability already and with signs that the Russians might just be thinking about another foray into the Ukraine, and both western and Russian troop "manoeuvres" going on, things are starting to look a bit sketchy. As one who lived in the era when nuclear war was a real possibility (it hang over our heads at all times (not that as a child I much worried, but my parents....), I'd say that the risk now is higher than it has been for a long time. Not much is made of it in the media, but it's there nevertheless.

The Star have a story that Bigfoot has been "found" in Cannock Chase (in deepest Staffordshire, rather than the usual deep forests of British Columbia or wherever). Unfortunately the grainy pictures of the beast on the front turn out to be a man in a suit and the "evidence" itself is somewhat more prosaic. A footprint and some deep scratches on a tree and Bob's your uncle - front page of the Star on Sunday. But no more ridiculous, it has to be said, than much of the other stuff that is out there for the viewing.

Mmm.......

Meghan's sister wanted to sue her, Sunday Express is going to cure motor neurone disease - that's about it folks.

Enjoy your Sunday dinner!

Wink
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 16, 2021 6:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm an avid gaming fan - PS 4 at present, but started with a Dreamcast many years ago - and I'm very interested in the history of gaming. In particular I'm interested in how the epic world building fantasy of Tolkien has found a continuation in the realm of gaming, in essence the fusing of two streams, that of the Tolkien, Dungeons and Dragons epic fantasy building worlds, and the computer gaming line stretching back to the first introduction of the Atari ping-pong games that so fascinated us those many years ago.

I've not played much outside the realms of the Elder Scrolls, and haven't yet gotten into the online side of gaming, but have no cause to doubt that games like World of Warcraft continue this trend to deeply crafted worlds with the back-stories and rich histories which lend them believability.

It seems inevitable to me that the future of gaming will see the creation of evermore realistic environments for gamers to enjoy, the apogee of which will be immersion in a virtual world that will be indistinguishable from the movement and participation in a real-world environment (without the terminal dangers and consequences of action that real life entails). Ultimately the avatars we inhabit will be as real to us as those in Cameron's film were to his participants (at least in appearance and effect) and if current gaming can be addictive in its effect, I can see the gaming of the future being ever more so. Think individuals whose actual lives are those of their avatars, who only emerge to perform the activities and functions vital for the continuance of life, and whose gaming lives become enmeshed in their real lives to the point where they effectively replace them altogether.

This is not a new vision - it was explored in the film Ready Player One (which I believe was taken from an earlier book) - and can seem good or bad according to your point of view, or indeed quite reasonably both simultaneously. But the point is that gaming is important. It soaks up huge amounts of human time, effects how people feel, their moods and outlook - how their lives progress. And the importance of gaming is only going to increase as the technology with which we interface with it becomes ever more sophisticated. It will be realised that it doesn't simply have to be about competition - that it can be about simple simulation: that worlds you could never experience in a million years can become everyday realities for you, or that you might find all of the things that life denies you, richness of relationships or simple richness itself, within the gaming bay in which you spend your days.

Perhaps this is the future then? One where the Matrix is not some behind the scenes conspiracy which requires a blue pill (or a red one) to see through - but a voluntary one in which you step into quite happily every day, not in the slightest bit perturbed by its ersatz nature, and about which you care not how your energy is being harvested, by whom and to what purpose it is being put.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 16, 2021 2:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, given the recent name change of Facebook, (or at least the creation of it's holding company) to "Meta" with the stated goal of focusing on the creation of a "Metaverse" (a term lifted from Neal Stephenson's excellent 1992 novel "Snow Crash") I would not be so quick to dismiss the idea of a behind the scenes "conspiracy" (or at least mega-corporation) when it comes to the future of a virtual reality internet. Wink

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 17, 2021 5:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Already I believe Av, that there are people who 'mine' in games like World of Warcraft for gold (or whatever it is called) that is convertible into real world money by the selling of the commodity to other players. I read another of Neil Stephenson's books that featured such a plot device. It seems inevitable that the world of gaming and the real world will become ever more interwoven as the technology develops, and business is never going to let this go unexploited. Indeed it will be inherent in the very development of the tech in the first place.

----------------------------------------0---------------------------------------

Much space and wind is currently being addressed toward the issue of MPs second jobs, with Kier Stamer and PM Johnson vying to outdo each other in their attempts to demonstrate that they are leading the charge against this (some think) questionable practice. Both are recommending that paid consultancy work (from which the dubious practice of lobbying can easily develop) be banned, but on the broader issue of second jobs in general they are less strident. Hardly surprising this, since Stamer himself does a nice little side-line in legal work, while Johnson (not given to doing more work than he has to, even in his first job, let alone bothering to do a second) is surrounded by colleagues with their snouts deep in the trough who would not take kindly to his being over enthusiastic in his measures to curb the practice.

But the question remains: should our MPs actually be doing these second jobs? Is not conflict of interest an almost inevitable by-product of the practice, let alone the argument that a voted in public servant should rightfully spend their time attending to the very important roles of representing their constituents and issues pertaining to business within parliament. How could it be that there would be sufficient time left over from these duties for the pursuance of other remunerative occupations, if time were not being 'stolen' from the first?

MPs would argue that their income is not sufficient to meet their needs and so they must supplement them with other outside interests to make up the shortfall, but this argument falls short against the observation that even at basic level without any expenses added in, the pay puts them into the top three percent of earners in the country. Another argument is that many have built up thriving professional or business interests that have to be maintained even while they serve as MPs; fair enough - serve them and leave the job of being a public servant to those who have the time and committment to devote to the job. "But this would (the argument will run) prevent many of the best and brightest from entering into public service." Fair comment - but equally fair would be the argument that if MPs were prevented from doing a second job altogether, it would serve to keep out many of the individuals of the type you really don't want getting into these places where the power and influence they bring can be turned so easily into a means of serving ones own interest as opposed to that of the constituents one is elected to represent.

One woman I heard commenting on the subject said that MPs should be allowed to do any job, as long as any salary they received over and above that of minimum wage was donated to charity. Nice idea (though I think in reality it was spoken in jest) but the truth is that this is a difficult subject. There are strong arguments both ways, but in general I feel that the practice would better be discouraged, if not barred altogether. It would take much of the corruption out of politics and ensure that those who entered the sphere did so for the right reasons and were prepared to put in the dedicated work that the position demands. In return, the remuneration that MPs receive should be maintained at a level proportionate to the significant responsibility they bear.

And in respect of the sketchy practice of paid consultancy work; for once I find myself in agreement with both Stamer and Johnson - it should go.

(As an aside to the above, I'd just observe how well the media has slipped away from the thorny issue for the PM, of how he tried to pervert parliament and overturn the punishment of MP Owen Paterson, and elided almost seamlessly from the issue of sleaze and corruption into the easier area of second jobs. This shift of attention is not accidental; the PM was on the ropes and desperately needed the focus to move elsewhere - and the Tory friendly media duly obliged.)

------------------------------------0------------------------------

Another story that is making the news today is the paying off of a 1.5 million pound debt to a bank owed by Prince Andrew, by a tycoon mate of his whose family just happens to own the bank.

Funny that. When the rest of us get into the cart with the banks they come down on us like a ton of bricks and rinse us for every penny they can squeeze out of our already depleted funds. In the case of a member of one of the richest families in the world they pay off the loan and take the hit themselves. What are we to take from that I wonder?
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 18, 2021 6:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Call me an old crusty, but I find (to my surprise) that I'm not in favour of it.

A few days ago I was told that the cathedral in my city was to hold a new years eve party - a ticketed event to which anyone who chose could purchase entrance - which would include dancing to a disco, a cocktail bar and ordinary bar, light show and lasers! The only thing missing as far as I can see will be the foam and wet T-shirt contest.

In short, the cathedral is to be turned into a nightclub for the new year celebrations, netting the Church of England no doubt a nice little profit from the youngsters who will rush to get the much sought after tickets.

Well okay. The Church is struggling to keep itself relevant in today's world, struggling to make ends meet as well, and no doubt feels that such an event will serve not only to bring in much needed dosh, but will also be an introduction to itself to many people who would normally never cross its threshold. I can see where it is coming from, but I have deep reservations. I know the type of people who will be buying tickets for this one off extravaganza - and my fear is that while most will probably restrain their worst impulses in view of the nature of the place they are in, there are significant numbers that will not. Nooks and crannies within the symbolic House of God will be sought out for the thrill of .......well, I don't need to spell it out for you. Booze will fuel this behaviour, and people will be people. After the event there will be an anguished wringing of hands and furious backlash in the papers- and all the worst stories will come out.

Now I have no problems with cathedrals and churches opening their doors to the wider public for events outside their normal religious functioning; but New Year's Eve parties are by convention pretty bachanalian in natute and I just feel a wave of sympathy for the cathedral's older and regular worshipers who will simply not understand the movement into this type of event. It seems to me that in our modern age, every institution is queuing up to be as relevant and 'hip' as it can be, forcing often square pegs into round holes in the process - but of the thoughts and feelings of the older, slower generation - no-one seems to feel the need to pay their opinions any mind. Any criticism from this quater will simply be viewed as being from old-fashioned 'stick-in-the-mud's' whose opinions count for nothing. They, I think, will be horrified by the use to which their place of worship is being put - but no-one will care about that.

Bad move Church of England - bad move.
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 19, 2021 10:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

LOL, yep, sounds like a recipe for disaster to me...

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 20, 2021 6:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

On Sunday I'm booked in for my third Covid vaccination - the six month booster shot that the Government is currently pushing as part of its strategy for supporting the overstretched NHS through the difficult winter months.

This time however, rather than being given the AstraZeneca brand which I was previously vaccinated with, I will be given one of the alternative licenced products, ostensibly because the mRNA technology of these products elicits a better response than the DNA based tech utilised by AZ.

Well okay - I am no virologist or vaccine expert so must take them at their word - but given the somewhat frosty reception that the AstraZeneca vaccine has received in other parts of the world (it is still awaiting approval for its use in the USA and has been ruled out by several other countries), one cannot but wonder whether the UK decision not to use it in its booster program has some other unspoken reason behind it of which we are not being told.

Because let's face it, if (as I contended at the time) in the race to get the first Covid vaccines onto the shelves and into the arms, protocols that were in place for very sound reasons were set aside allowing hitherto unsuspected problems to potentially slip through the net, then no Government - and certainly not the one we have in the UK - is ever going to admit to it.

Despite assurances that the AZ vaccine is safe, ongoing reports of abnormal blood-clotting events, persistent headaches, and myocarditis, together with decisions not to use the vaccine in this group, ot that country, can only serve to undermine the confidence of those of us who have received the vaccine.

But of course we are not to be taken seriously. We are vaccine deniers, swivel eyed loons that because we raise such questions probably don't believe that NASA landed a man on the moon either.

But irrespective of this, Government, do me a favour. Next time you bully and cajole me into having a vaccine with a mixture of carrot and stick techniques, of behavioural nudges and propoganda promoted to raise fear in the population you are supposed to be serving, try to use a product that does not come with such baggage and unresolved questions that no one who takes it will ever know whether a) it is efficacious and b) if they have not opened up the door on themselves to a series of future medical problems unexposed at the time of delivery by virtue of circumvention of the accepted protocols of clinical trialing.
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 22, 2021 8:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As barricades burn and police vehicles are targeted across wide swathes of Europe, our Government continues to use the threat of loosing Christmas as a spur to get more people to come forward for their booster vaccinations.

In Austria, unvaccinated individuals were locked down in their houses, except when going to work or shopping for food, as the vaccinated went unconcernedly about their business giving it little thought, or indeed approving of the measure. The irony of the fact that the very people who were serving them in the restaurants would not be allowed to sit down in the same bars in which they were working did not seem to even cross people's minds. Meanwhile their Government crosses the final barrier in respect of denying people personal autonomy with respect to their own bodies, and announces that as of next March, vaccination will become mandatory, like it or not. These are countries that understand where the demonisation of minority groups as a deflection of blame for more widespread ills leads - or they should do. No wonder they are out rioting on the streets.

Here at home I served a woman in the shop last week; she was doing shopping for an elderly lady, a neighbor who had not left her home since the beginning of the first lockdown. I listened as two other people railed at the people they had travelled with on the bus who didn't wear masks. "I wish people would stop being so complacent," one woman said to the other. My boss, a fit man in his forties, in conversation with a customer said that he was "terrified" of getting Covid.

I heard on the radio a man say that we had resisted totalitarian rule in WW2 to simply give in to a coronavirus dictatorship now; when I hear stuff about mandatory vaccination and lockdown used as punishment for non-compliance I wonder if he is not right.

I seem as I post, to live in a country that I barely recognise. People are factionalized in a manner that I have never experienced before. They are split over their response to Covid - should authoritarian rules and lockdowns trump individual freedoms and rights? Is it the sword of Damocles hanging over our heads or should we just ignore it and carry on with life. They are divided (still) over brexit; good or bad, going well or disastrously. They are woke or old-school, environmentally minded or casual about it, pro-Johnson or anti, ....... the list goes on. And amid the complexity of all of these conflicting positions in which every person becomes a one-man political party, no consensus develops and like a million peas in a collective whistle the Government simply contains us and constrains us as it will.

I've got no idea where all of this is going, and to be honest I'm no longer sure I care. I rue the day that I have lived to see the certainties and sureties that I have so taken for granted all of my life dissapear like so much smoke in the wind before my eyes; where the optimism and feeling that the world was opening up getting better, was a more accessable and more tolerant place than the one of my childhood, suddenly seems to have shimmered away to nothing before my eyes. But it is what it is. Nothing I can do will change it and like many generations in the world before me, mine must pass with the knowledge of a dark cloud approaching on the horizon, of which it is powerless to prevent. The dealing with what is to come must be the job of the generations following mine and I wish them with all of my heart the best of fortune and strength in the doing so. They have a formidable task ahead of them in getting this world back on track for chaos and turmoil rule the day and these genies once released, do not easily return to the bottle.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 23, 2021 7:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ouch!

Bacon sandwiches all round in this morning's breakfast reading of the PM's disastrous speech yesterday to the Confederation of British Industry conference in South Shields. Not satisfied with comparing himself with Moses and making noises like a revving car engine, Johnson then proceeded to loose his speech notes, spend thirty seconds fumbling with his sheets of paper while mumbling "forgive me" and then, giving up entirely, to spin off on a wildly off-track tangent on the benefits of a visit to Peppa Pig World, a venue which he has recently visited with his wife Carrie and their young son Wilfred.

Sorry Boris, it doesn't look as if they are going to - forgive you that is.

This morning's press is full of the furious reaction to the train-wreck speech by back bench Tory MPs, with quotations saying that the PM must "get a grip" - and quickly - or go to the wall. My particular favourite moment was when, answering a few questions after the speech, Johnson was gently asked, "Is everything okay Pm?" - a question to which he mumbled a semi-coherent response of, "Went very well...." before beating a hasty retreat.

But the truth is it didn't go very well; it didn't go very well at all. In fact it was a car crash. Johnson gave all the signs of a man loosing the plot, of a man whose marbles were spilling out across the floor in every direction you could see. If ever a man was more visibly out of his depth, more awash on a sea of events of which he had surrendered all control, I've yet to see it. His back bench MPs are scenting blood, are circling like wolves and sharpening their knives in anticipation of the feeding frenzy to come. There is only one circumstance in which Tory MPs are more blood thirsty than when attacking the Labour Party - and that is when they are piling in on a group-kill of their own Prime Minister. It is at this point that ambitions trump loyalty, when chances to inch a bit higher up greasy pole present themselves, and when the true nature of the Tory animal becomes briefly visible for all to see. At this point all of the behind the scenes manoeuvring, all of the carefully hidden lust for power becomes momentarily thrown under the spotlight and the true nature of the beast is revealed.

Will Johnson fall then? No, not for a while. Downing Street will attempt to pull him back from the edge, his advisors - not brilliant it must be said since Cummings quit the field and Carrie took over the prime role - will rally around him and attempt to rescue some of his shredded credibility. He is still level pigging, sorry pegging, with Labour in the polls and with a by election in the near future to contend, the party will want to present as united a front as possible. But the truth is that Johnson is quietly loosing it with his troops and has some very serious ground to make up if he is to remain at the helm for any length of time. David Frost, his influencial Brexit minister has made a speech saying that the Tories must get back to their low-tax core values or risk the failure of the brexit experiment altogether. Johnson's shortly to be voted on changes to the social care funding policy are causing waves amongst his back benchers and could turn into a rebellion in the ranks that would do him further damage. So all in all, things do not look good. He'll stay in power for the moment: ride out the storm of the past few weeks of setbacks - but his longevity is by no means assured. It's going to take a good period of successes and a hefty spoonful of luck for him to slither beyond the current shit-storm he finds himself in. But this is Johnson: If anyone can fall face down in the shit and come up smelling of roses then it is him.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 23, 2021 8:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

LOL, I have seen speculation that he was drunk. Very Happy

As for the vaccine stuff...well, speaking as somebody who has not yet gotten around to being jabbed, (no particular reason, just a visceral aversion to any admin-type tasks), I don't have much problem with making vaccines mandatory.

Don't know about there, but here vaccines like the polio one already are mandatory, so don't see much difference to this (apart from it not actually being a vaccine in the traditional sense of course). It's a public health issue.

As I pointed out recently to a young Dutch acquaintance who frequents another Discord I belong to, "rights" and "freedoms" are illusory anyway. We're only as "free" as our governments (who make the laws) decide we can be.

Of course, they've sold the illusion to us so well that people started to think it existed outside of the framework of governance. Wink

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2021 7:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes and no Av; certainly we have little power to exercise personal autonomy in the face of Government decision to the contrary - but we do retain the option to build alternative candidates to the administration of the day and then vote them into power (ostensibly at least). And there always remains the 'nuclear option' of non-compliance. Was it Martin Luther King who said that it was a crime of itself to obey an unjust law.

And in respect of compliance - how is a Government to enforce such a mandate? Will those who fail to come forward be pulled from their homes and held down while being forcibly injected? Or punished with fines and ultimately detention until the cost of their defiance becomes simply too much to bear? This is a swamp into which no Government should willingly wade - unless it actually intends to cross the Rubicon of pretending to people that they actually have some personal freedom, some power to decide for themselves what will, and will not be put into their own bodies. I contend that once a Government ceases to even bother to maintain this pretence, then the citizenry is already in deep trouble. It will be but short steps from here to places where we do not want to go.

No. The clever money is for the state to work via the means of persuasion and guile. The promotion of the view that acquiescence is the socially responsible course to follow, plus the stigmatisation of the non-compliance position (as we have seen with the attachment of the term 'denier' to the individuals who don't get the jab, with all of its holocaust associations) is the way to go - and this is what the UK Government has been doing. I think it unlikely that they will change tack now: their vaccine uptake rate has been really successful, so why would they.

But all of this notwithstanding, there are very serious and perfectly reasonable reasons why people might be resistant to the taking of the vaccines. Contrary to what the message is from Government to the mass populace, it is a falsity to make the claim that "these vaccines are safe." Closer to the truth is that "these vaccines have not been seen to induce any clinically observable side-effects in the short term following administration." No time has been allowed, or has indeed yet passed, for the former claim to hold weight.

In fact, as we speak, evidence might be emerging to the contrary. A research paper recently produced in Sweden showed evidence that the spike proteins used in the vaccines were showing up inside the nucleus (where they definitely are not supposed to be). Once in there, they were impeding the function of a particular nuclear protein (whose name I can't recall, being a string of letters and numbers) whose job it was to repair the many occurrences of damage to the DNA strands that occur on a daily basis inside of every cell. This is but a first foray into the long term effects of these vaccines (effects that would have come to light in the extensive protocols that were jettisoned in our haste to get a vaccine into mass production) and will need to be validated by repetition and further investigation, but if confirmed they would be potentially very concerning. DNA damage repair is central to the body's ability to control the development of cancers, and any interference with this mechanism is likely to have serious consequences in later life, beyond the point at which our current Covid vaccination trials have 'ended' and the provisional licences under which they currently sit have been issued.

A further, perfectly reasonable, reason why one might be concerned pertains to the use of whole spike protein chains in the mRNA vaccines we are using. This has never been countenanced before - indeed before these vaccines were produced, numerous workers in the field warned against such use on the basis of its unpredictable consequences. Previously, only the particular protein fragment or domain concerned with actual attachment to the host cell surface was used, but in the case of the Covid vaccine development this protocol was not enforced (presumably because the time required for the section by section investigation of the whole protein chain in order to isolate the required domain would have been too lengthy in the face of the rapidly spreading pandemic). Thus, in the face of a combination of the desire of Governments to get a functional vaccine to hold up before the public, alongside a desire of the big pharmaceutical companies to get the jump on their competitors and get into the serious profit harvesting that rollout of such a vaccine would bring, the incentive was all in the direction of allowing circumventions and practices that would not have been countenanced under normal circumstances.

It is concerns such as these - perfectly reasonable and deserving of serious answers - that many who are reticent to have the vaccine hold. I saw a young lady, a clinical epidemiologist at one of our leading hospitals asked why individuals who work in the NHS would not choose to have the vaccine, and she replied, "Exactly! That is the most significant question you should be asking - why should people who you would assume would know best about the dangers of Covid be choosing not to have the vaccine." At the time I didn't quite get her meaning, but in the light of the above questions I think I now understand where she was coming from.

Anyways, it will be years, and only after large-scale data on the occurrence of cancers in different age groups etc have been analysed, before these questions have been answered - but in the meantime our Governments will keep telling us that vaccines are safe and we have little choice but to believe them.

(Edit; I was pleased to see Professor Karol Sicora, ex-president of the WHO Chief of the Cancer Program and highly respected oncologist, currently Professor of Medicine at the University of Buckingham, stating without reservation, that the enforcement of a medical procedure upon a non-consenting adult of sound mind flew in the face of the most basic foundation upon which the ethical structure of modern medicine rests. He was horrified at the idea of mandatory vaccination and made no bones about saying so.)
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