16 December, 2006


Quote of the week

In this week's New Scientist, in an article on the cognitive skills of the higher (non-human) animals, we read in a description of an learning experiment:
... He noticed that when the answers were easy the dolphin sometimes seemed super-confident, enthusiastically lunging for the button and soaking the precious electronic equipment.

His ingenious solution was to waterproof the switches with condoms, which gained him quite a reputation at local stores – if you ever need to purchase vast numbers of condoms, Smith advises, note that it doesn't help to say you need them for your dolphin research.


Henri Paul

Though I would not have wished such an end upon them, I have no sympathy for Dodi al Fayed, who seems to be a spoilt chip off his father's tedious block, and little sympathy for the scheming Diana, despite her appalling and cynical treatment by the Royals as a brood mare to ensure the succession, an arrangement which I am sure she entered into with eyes wide open. But while the lives of these spoilt aristobrats have been pawed over by the meejah ad nauseam, their driver Henri Paul has been allowed to assume the role of handy villain by default.

This piece by the ever-reliable Janice Turner deserves to be widely read, as I'm sure the Stevens report on which it is based will inevitably not be. Perhaps Monsieur Paul was neither a victim of MI6 machinations nor quite the evil drunken thug we were alternatively led to believe – cruelly stealing away from us the sainted life of our dear Princess of Hearts – after all.

Incidentally, now that Lord Stevens has hopefully laid the Diana business to rest for everybody but the Phoney Pharaoh and the rest of the lunatic fringe, perhaps he can be persuaded to stand as Tory candidate for the London mayoralty. Next time, if the Tories can put up somebody credible, and I don't mean a fucking Cameroon, I'm going to break the habit of a lifetime and vote for them. Desperate measures are needed to get rid of the Newtfucker and his posse of PC thugs.

06 December, 2006


More un-PC naughtiness at the Standard

In yesterday's London Evening Standard, Rachel Johnson writes a short piece extolling the solid and constant virtues of the John Lewis Partnership, with an acknowledging nod towards Peter Jones thrown in as an afterthought.

Among the Partners' many virtues alluded to is this gem:
The bedlinen is among the best in the world - everyone says so – their staff are helpful and – how do I put this politely? – often appear to speak English as a first language, which makes asking for help a pleasure rather than an ordeal.
What can she mean?

02 December, 2006


Round up the usual scapegoats

I don't wish to seem harsh, but how does this personal tragedy represent a failure of immigration and asylum policy? The parents had access to a GP; they seemingly knew about and managed to take him to A&E without difficulty. The unfortunate child was misdiagnosed, something that happens quite frequently.

How would a "support network" in Bury, presumably of other Sinhalese, have helped? Perhaps there were language difficulties, but given the names of the various medical staff involved, I expect even a native English-speaking indigenous Brit would have encountered language difficulties. And the father, Mr Krishnakumar, seems to be a professionally trained man who has had no difficulty subsequently resettling in Leicester and probably has an adequate enough command of English.

No, I suspect that the coroner's comments represent little more than the reflex Government-bashing by the Liberati whenever anything unpleasant happens to an asylum seeker.

And another thing strikes me. On what basis can a Sri Lankan seek asylum? This family is, judging by the surname, Sinhalese. The Sinhalese are not under threat in (most of) Sri Lanka. Even the Tamils are not under threat in their bit of Sri Lanka, and if they were, then Tamil Nadu is just across the Palk Strait. Is he fleeing political oppression? Then he should be a little more circumspect in his political activities. Is he fleeing religious persecution? Then he should move to another part of the Subcontinent where his religion is predominant.

I find it difficult to understand how anyone from the Subcontinent can justify seeking asylum in the UK. Even where they are under genuine threat, there is always somewhere in that vast and, if you will forgive the term, supremely diverse place where they will find a sympathetic reception.

Perhaps if Mr Krishnakumar had remained in his homeland, rather than using the cover of asylum to "seek a new life" here, his child might still be alive. Or again, the little boy might have died anyway for the same essentially accidental reasons.


Asylum shopping for beginners

The Times launches its Christmas charity drive and gives as an example of the sterling work of its chosen beneficiary, the British Red Cross, the case of Hamid Haiky. Mr Haiky had the misfortune of living in Darfur. Mr Haiky, finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, managed to evade the attentions of the Janjiweed and put himself in the hands of a people trafficker. In due course he arrived in the UK and was granted refuge. Subsequently, the Red Cross was able to locate his wife and child in a refugee camp in Chad and bring them to join him in London.

All good stuff, but I have two questions.

1. Why did Mr Haiky spend £20,000, a significant sum for a West European, never mind a Sudanese, in being carried half-way across the world to the UK, when with less trouble and at lower cost he might have found sanctuary elsewhere in East Africa, perhaps in the relative safety of Uganda or Kenya?

2. The Red Cross were able to locate and gain access to his wife and child in the relative safety if admitted discomfort of a Darfuri refugee camp in Chad. Since it was clearly safe for him to do so, why did Mr Haiky not join them there in the expectation of a return to his Darfuri homeland when the current nastiness is eventually resolved?

I am reminded of piece in the London Evening Standard a year or two ago. The piece was not actually about asylum seekers; it was a feature in the paper's jobs section on training opportunities, and described the case of a woman from a small upcountry town in Uganda. She was a senior nurse or matron. Her husband had been murdered in some local politics-related squabble. Perceiving herself to be under threat from her husband's enemies, she fled, taking the youngest of her three children with her. In due course she wound up - where else - but the good old UK. Here she was undertaking retraining in some or other paramedic function.

So far, so par for the course. Now, she had left her two elder children back in Uganda. It seems they were away at boarding school in a different part of the country, where they were apparently safe from her late husband's enemies. A few years after the lady's arrival in the UK, the older kids having graduated from the boarding school at the age of 18, she was now in the process of applying for them to come and join her in London.

If I recall correctly, the Home Office was for once demonstrating a bit of bottle and telling her where to stuff her application. Although, knowing our fit-for-purpose IND, I expect they caved in in the end.

So, if her kids were safe elsewhere in Uganda, then the danger was presumably localized and she could have reached safety simply by relocating within Uganda. Her asylum claim in the UK was clearly both unfounded and cyncically deceitful; she should have had her leave to remain withdrawn and have achieved reunification with her children by returning to Uganda.


Nasty moment of the day

Yesterday a colleague sent me a Powerpoint slideshow about ATM fraud using the Lebanese loop, complete with CCTV stills of the scam in action. So I was musing about this and banking security in general while drawing out some money this morning. That little moment of uncertainty and tension when you wonder if the machine is actually going to disgorge your card passed without incident.

Then the receipt emerged. I glanced at the receipt, sanity-checking the balance as I customarily do, only to find that I was several thousand pounds short. Not only that, I had seemingly acquired a substantial overdraft facility. Shock! Panic! Had my account been raided? Was my hard-earned moolah already on its way to Romania? As I began to examine the receipt more closely I glanced at the ATM again. A second receipt had appeared. An altogether more welcome one. Clearly the previous customer's receipt had got stuck in the machine and mine had pushed it out.

Phew! They say an occasional adrenalin hit is good for the system.

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