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- 11/14/13--10:45: _Phone-hacking jury ...
- 11/15/13--02:15: _Are Lib Dems doing ...
- 11/15/13--02:24: _The internet won't ...
- 11/15/13--03:02: _In the Frame: At ho...
- 11/15/13--03:44: _"I suppose this is ...
- 11/15/13--04:24: _On this week's New ...
- 11/15/13--04:37: _Hacking is easy if ...
- 11/15/13--07:23: _Why can't we accept...
- 11/15/13--07:32: _There's only one pe...
- 11/15/13--09:36: _Sponsored post: Ess...
- 11/16/13--00:19: _Morning Call: pick ...
- 11/16/13--02:18: _Cameron finally cha...
- 11/16/13--02:56: _Hard Evidence: is t...
- 11/16/13--07:41: _Pop has substituted...
- 11/17/13--00:58: _Morning Call: pick ...
- 11/17/13--02:51: _The problem with Cl...
- 11/17/13--05:38: _The most worrying t...
- 11/17/13--06:09: _How the Balls-Milib...
- 11/17/13--23:30: _Morning Call: pick ...
- 11/18/13--00:34: _Why Miliband-Balls ...
- 11/15/13--03:02: In the Frame: At home with the Bear and the Hare
- 11/15/13--04:24: On this week's New Statesman Podcast: Episode Twenty-Six
- 11/15/13--04:37: Hacking is easy if you lure security contractors with fake flirting
- 11/15/13--07:23: Why can't we accept that women enjoy casual sex too?
- 11/15/13--09:36: Sponsored post: Essential tips for maintaining eye health
- Eat the right foods: The things you eat can have an impact on many areas of your health, such as your weight, blood pressure, health of your heart, and cholesterol levels. In addition, your diet can have an impact on the health of your eyes, with certain foods and nutrients linked to good eye health. Foods that are rich in omega three fatty acids along with those rich in vitamins C and E can aid eye health. Green leafy vegetables, oily fish, eggs, nuts and citrus fruits are amongst the foods that are recommended.
- Give up smoking: Smoking can be the root cause of many health problems, some of which are serious and even potentially fatal. When it comes to your eyes, smoking can increase the chances of cataracts as well as optical nerve damage. By giving up smoking, you can decrease the chances of eye problems, which will enable you to maintain good eye health and vision. It will also reduce the risk of other diseases and save you a huge amount of money on eye care in the long run.
- Protect your eyes from UV rays: When you go out in the sunshine for long periods of time, it is important to wear sunscreen in order to protect your skin from burning and damage. However, it is not only your skin that is at risk of damage from the sun; the UV rays can also damage your eyes if you do not take steps to protect them. You should therefore invest in a good pair of sunglasses with UV protection so that you can enjoy the sun safely without risking damage to your eyes and vision.
- Have regular eye tests: It is important that, if your vision does start to slide, you get appropriate eyewear or treatment to address the problem. With this in mind, it is important to attend regular eye tests, particularly if you spend a lot of time working on or using computers or in front of the TV. The tests that are carried out can help to determine the health of your vision, enabling appropriate action to be taken if you do have any eye health issues. If any problems are picked up, make sure you act swiftly with regards to getting treatment.
- Get plenty of sleep: Getting a good night's sleep is essential to our general health and well-being. It also aids eye health, ensuring that you do not put too much strain on the eyes and helping you avoid a range of conditions. Some studies have linked lack of sleep with an increased risk of glaucoma, so getting plenty of sleep is a proven part of maintaining good eye health.
- Avoid eye irritation from heating: The heating systems that we use in offices and even in our homes can cause dryness and irritation when it comes to the skin and eyes. In order to try and combat this, invest in a good humidifier that moistens the air, helping to prevent irritation and dryness of the eyes.
- 11/16/13--00:19: Morning Call: pick of the papers
- 11/16/13--02:18: Cameron finally challenges the Tory climate change deniers
- 11/16/13--02:56: Hard Evidence: is there still gender bias in journalism?
- 11/16/13--07:41: Pop has substituted 'newness' for innovation
- 11/17/13--00:58: Morning Call: pick of the papers
- 11/17/13--05:38: The most worrying thing about the Balls-Miliband story for Labour
- 11/17/13--06:09: How the Balls-Miliband emails really leaked
- 11/17/13--23:30: Morning Call: pick of the papers
- 11/18/13--00:34: Why Miliband-Balls won't be a repeat of Blair-Brown
These are two voicemail messages left by Andy Coulson on Hannah Pawlby’s mobile phone that were played to the jury at the Old Bailey today.
In the messages, Coulson claimed he wished to speak to former Home Secretary Charles Clarke urgently about an important story.
Prosecutors allege that journalists at the News of the World (NoW) accessed Pawlby's voicemails in 2005 after hearing a rumour that the pair were having an affair.
The party's conference voted overwhelmingly that it was the wrong thing to do, but does that get across to the average voter?
I was spending a pleasant evening last week in front of the box, shouting via the medium of Twitter at the Tories in general (and Anna Soubry in particular), when a Labour supporting follower engaged in a spot of good natured leg pulling by telling me Ms Soubry was "my Minister". When I demurred, he added . . .
“Do you agree with the present coalition? If so, she IS your minister. If not, call on your party to dissolve . . .”
I’m presuming he meant to add "the coalition" (well I’m choosing to interpret it like that – it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to) and it's been preying on my mind all week, given the context of Bedroom Tax vote which took place on Tuesday.
Now, of course using an Opposition Day motion to make the junior party in the coalition feel uncomfortable is a trick used by Labour before, to little effect - but this time was different. It's one thing trying to play games around the Mansion Tax - which no matter how clever your procedural chicanery may be, you’re never going to persuade anyone that it isn’t a Lib Dem policy. It’s quite another thing to turn the focus onto the Bedroom Tax (sorry HQ, I meant "spare room subsidy") - because the party, let alone the country, doesn’t seem too sure if is "ours" or not.
It’s a Tory policy – well actually it’s a Labour policy extended by the Tories but let's not quibble - that our MPs supported in the Commons. Then Lib Dem conference decreed overwhelmingly that it was the wrong thing to do– almost the sole defeat for the leadership in Glasgow. This seemed to engender a change of heart in Nick Clegg – who announced an investigation into the implementation of the tax. Then, when invited to vote on it again this week, two Lib Dem MPs voted with Labour – including the party president. Four more Lib Dem MPs put down their own early day motion condemning the Bedroom Tax. And 22 members of the Westminster party abstained on the motion – including more than half the cabinet, one of whom was the Deputy Prime Minister. Sure they were probably paired. But if they cared that much. . .
On the other hand, more than half the Parliamentary party in the Commons merrily marched into the government lobby with the Tories.
Together with at least 23 of our MPs and most of conference, I’d like to think the Bedroom Tax, as it currently stands, isn’t "our" policy . . .but I’m not sure we’re doing nearly enough to turn our face away. And if our MP and activists don’t know - what hope for the average voter?
If you delete all the speeches and programmes where you promised a better, fairer country from your archives and attempt to prevent anyone from accessing them without somebody noticing and asking why, the people serving you dinner are not going to pretend they can't hear your lies.
The throne was golden and the lectern was golden and the speech was very clear: austerity will not be temporary policy in Tory Britain. It will last forever. Addressing a roomful of diplomats and business leaders who had just dined lavishly at the Lord Mayor's banquet, the Prime Minister this week promised a "leaner, more efficient state". "We need to do more with less," said David Cameron, looking comfy in his white tie and tails. "Not just now, but permanently."
But he hadn't counted on Ruth Hardy, a journalism student, who was working as a waitress that night. "The contrast of the two worlds was striking; someone said it was like a scene from Downton Abbey," wrote Hardy in a viral piece for the Guardian. "Maybe Cameron didn't see the irony; perhaps he forgot about the army of waiting staff, cleaners, chefs and porters who were also present at the banquet. Perhaps he thought he was in a room of similarly rich people, who understood the necessity for austerity. Perhaps it didn't occur to him that this message might not be as easily comprehended by those who hadn't just enjoyed a four-course meal. Perhaps he forgot about those of us, disabled or unemployed or on the minimum wage, for whom austerity has had a catastrophic and wounding effect."
The decimation of higher education funding was one of the first cuts the coalition imposed, in direct violation of their election promises, after taking office in 2010. Undergraduates are now facing tens of thousands of pounds of debt, and it is likely that the Prime Minister will find many more disgruntled students serving him dinner before he leaves office. Of the many kinds of revenge angry waiting staff can take, a Guardian article strikes me as amongst the most considerate.
We are no longer living in an era where power is permitted to speak only to itself without pushback. It is significant that the speech in which Cameron chose to announce permanent austerity - a clear contradiction of his earlier position that his party "didn't come into politics to make cuts" - was delivered not to parliament, or to a press conference, but to the guests at the Lord Mayor's banquet. Business leaders, captains of industry and diplomats - unelected power and privilege at its most scoffingly self-congratulatory.
The Lord Mayor's banquet is the date in the calendar of the City of London when the Prime Minister is invited to tell the well-fed business community how wonderful they are. The press and public are allowed to know what goes on, but we're expected to show proper British deference. Cameron really shines at this. There are many points on which the former PR man falls down but when it comes to stuffing a tailcoat and telling big business what it wants to hear, Call Me Dave really comes into his own.
The next day, the world found out that the Cameron government hasn't just lied for years about its true intentions- it has attempted to delete the evidence of those lies from the internet. Ten years of speeches and press releases about how the new Tories were all about modernising conservatism, how they cared about the environment, the NHS, the poor. All gone. Not just from the Conservatives' website and YouTube page, but from the Internet Archive, the world's digital library. As Mark Ballard commented at Computer Weekly:
Conservatives posted a robot blocker on their website, which told search engines and the Internet Archive they were no longer permitted to keep a record of the Conservative Party web archive...The erasure had the effect of hiding Conservative speeches in a secretive corner of the internet like those that shelter the military, secret services, gangsters and paedophiles.
Cory Doctorow reminds us at Boing Boing that now-deleted WebCameron videos were...
...launched by the Tories in 2006 with great fanfare and were billed as a way for the public to see a more natural image of the then-leader of the opposition ... The message of transparency was echoed in one of the speeches now removed from the party's website. George Osborne said in 2007: "We need to harness the internet to help us become more accountable, more transparent and more accessible – and so bridge the gap between government and governed."
Well, that bridge just got burned. The gap between the government and the governed, the gap between rulers and ruled, has not been so stark in a generation. The Prime Minister puts on a tailcoat, dines on fillet of beef and "a celebration of British mushrooms" and announces that he has lied to the public for three years. He has lied to them before, during and after the election at which he promised to be the most "transparent" leader ever, lied in a way that will make this country a harder, meaner, more unequal place to live for generations, and he expects not only to stay in power, but to finish his tasting plate of patriotic fungus first.
This is no longer the Nanny State. Labour may have treated us like children, but the Tories treat us like animals, like dull penned beasts bred out of every brain cell and trained not to stampede. And the Liberal Democrats?
There is unlimited space for discussion online, and I still refuse to waste a paragraph on the Liberal Democrats. Here, instead, is a video of a weasel playing on a duvet.
It is distracting and will make you feel very briefly better, so it serves roughly the same political function.
Accusing Conservative politicians of cowardice is not technically illegal yet. We know this because a recent attempt to prosecute a university lecturer for doing just that was overturned this week. I can therefore state with only very slight fear of arrest that I believe the Conservative party in government and their pusillanimous coalition partners to be cowards of the worst order. They are the sort of craven invertebrates who will wait three years before even beginning to be honest about their intentions and then try to destroy uncomfortable evidence that they ever said anything different. They are the kind of petty tyrants who will wave around the threat of a D-notice when a newspaper insists on publishing details of its gross surveillance programme. They are the type of cowards who insist on their right to scrutinise, track and spy on activists, protesters and ordinary citizens, then kick into a censorship fit when they are scrutinised in turn.
No. The Conservatives do not get to send ten years of lies down the memory hole. They do not get to erase the commitments to green investment, to healthcare spending, to fairness, tolerance and transparency without pushback. They do not get to pretend that they weren't pretending austerity would be temporary, would be bearable. They do not get to claim that this world of hopelessness, poverty and plummeting living standards is what anybody voted for three years ago.
They do not get to stab us in the back and call it a shoulder rub.
This is not the 1980s. History cannot simply be rewritten. If you delete all the speeches and programmes where you promised a better, fairer country from your archives and attempt to prevent anyone from accessing them without somebody noticing and asking why, the people serving you dinner are not going to pretend they can't hear your lies. This is not Downton Abbey. The student pouring out the Burgundy for you to raise a toast to permanent spending cuts has a laptop and an opinion.
We have not always been at war with Eastasia.
Just because the government has retracted its tepid commitment to transparency, just because the Tories have tried to destroy evidence of their own deceit, doesn't mean we can't keep track of what they're doing. The internet does not forget hypocrisy, and neither will a nation that's sick of politicians lying flagrantly and in public over and over again. The Prime Minister had better enjoy those posh mushrooms while they last.
Now listen to the team discussing why and how the Conservatives have tried to erase their pre-2010 pledges on the NS Podcast:
Tom Humberstone's weekly observational comic for the New Statesman.
Click to zoom into a larger image
An interview with Eimear McBride, winner of the £10,000 Goldsmiths prize for fiction, on rejection, childhood and religion.
This interview is an exclusive preview from the Winter 2013 issue of New Humanist magazine, which is published by the Rationalist Association and relaunches on Thursday 21 November, with a new editor, new design and new contributors. You can subscribe here.
Eimear McBride was born in 1976 and grew up in western Ireland. Her stream-of-consciousness debut novel, A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing– about grief, sexuality and life growing up in a stifling religious household – won this year's inaugural Goldsmith's prize for fiction. It was reviewed for the New Humanist by Toby Lichtig last month.
Toby Lichtig: We know very little about you other than a brief line of blurb at the back of your book. Tell us about your early life.
Eimear McBride: When I was three we moved from Liverpool to rural Ireland, a tiny, terrible village. And then to Castlebar in County Mayo. By the time I was seventeen I had to get out of Ireland, so I escaped to London to a hardcore method acting school. Then I did a lot of crappy temping jobs before starting my novel.
Had you written much before then?
I'd been making notes for around two years. Then I got married and my husband [the arts festival director William Galinsky] got a gig in Japan. The plan was for me to take some time off to write when we returned. But just before we left, our house got broken into. My handbag was stolen along with all my notes.
You didn’t have anything backed up?
I didn't even have a computer! This was in 2004.
What did you do?
I spent about three days looking through the bins and hedges of Tottenham. I was devastated. But it was probably a good thing for me to start afresh.
It's true though. By the time we returned I had a real sense of urgency. I needed to finish it before I began temping again. I wrote the first draft in about two months.
That's impressive. And it's an urgency reflected in your prose. But that was nine years ago. So I'm guessing the process of getting published was less urgent.
Yes. After I'd finished two more drafts I sent it off to agents. And then the long journey of failure commenced.
Were there positive rejections – if there is such a thing?
By and large yes. Someone scrawled across one of the standard rejection letters "I suppose this is some kind of masterpiece." But no one felt able to take the risk. And that was it. Occasionally someone else would read it. But nothing.
So what was the bridge between nothing and success?
A few years later we moved to Norwich and I met Henry Layte of Galley Beggar Press. He loved it but said they had no money. And then, finally, they bought it. For £600. They bargained me down from £1,000!
Did you feel you'd moved on from it by then?
Yes. I hadn't even looked at it in seven years.
Were you pleased with what you found?
No! When I first went back, I read the wrong draft. And I thought this is terrible. And then I worked out that it was the wrong one and the real one wasn't as bad as all that.
Was it hard territory to revisit? Both then and originally. Your brother, like the brother in the book, died from a brain tumour.
Yes. I hadn't originally wanted to write about the brother-sister relationship, but the story just kept coming back to that point. Going through the proofs, over and again, was the hardest part.
Was it difficult to show to your family? The mother character is rather fierce.
Yes. None of them even knew what it was about until this year. Thankfully my mother really liked it. She appreciated the writing.
The novel is very critical of religion. Did you grow up in a religious household?
Oh yes. We were brought up stern Catholics. I had to go to mass every week, confession every second week. There were pilgrimages. We used to have to say the rosary at night. It was a real pain in the arse.
Did you always feel that way?
When I was a child I was very taken by the romance of it. Then my father died when I was eight and it was a useful thing to cope with that. The idea that I would see him again. But as I got older, I got bored and annoyed.
Was that difficult for your mother?
Yes, we argued a lot. Later she became disillusioned with the Irish Catholic Church. She's more interested now in faith than in organized religion.
You're fantastically funny about religious hypocrisy in Girl. But there's also a lot of anger.
I was a lot angrier when I wrote it than I am now. I felt strangled. Religion was supposed to help. And it never did.
Ireland has changed a lot in recent years. Once copies of Edna O'Brien were publicly burned. Now I hear stories of nuns queuing up to buy A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing in local bookshops. Are you surprised by this?
Well I don't know if any of the nuns have actually read it! But it's true, Ireland is completely different from when I was growing up. After I left, the boom happened and then no-one gave a shit about God any more. But I think many people from my generation identify with the childhood they see in the book.
The Conservatives' internet woes, an interview with the writer of Borgen, and a look at why Nobel Prizes don't really work anymore.
On this week's podcast, Rafael Behr and George Eaton discuss the Conservative Party's attempt to erase their pre-2010 speeches from the internet; Caroline Crampton interviews Adam Price, writer of Danish political drama Borgen; and Ian Steadman reviews a new Science Museum exhibition about the Large Hadron Collider.
Want to give us feedback on our podcast, or have an idea for something we should cover? Visit newstatesman.com/podcast for more details and how to contact us.
Two hackers have shown how easy it is to get around sophisticated security systems by going for the weak point - human nature.
There are many ways to approach breaking into a computer network at a government or corporation to grab some sensitive information. One of those is, arguably, easier than the others, and more effective, and requires little in the way of technical skills. It's pretending to be an attractive woman and flirting with the right people.
Seduction has been used for espionage for years. In the Cold War, so-called 'honeypots' were a crude but effective way of trapping foreign agents in compromising situations and using as a way to blackmail them for information. The human capacity to let our genitals override our heads is never worth underestimating.
Aamir Lakhani and Joseph Muniz created a fake female profile on Facebook and LinkedIn, established their credentials - things like fake job histories, making friends, soliciting endorsements, and messaging people in character - and found it was remarkably easy to get people to trust them with confidential information.
Their fake woman, "Emily Williams", was created in 2011 with the specific aim of hacking into a specific government agency. "She" had graduated from the University of Texas, and had a profile picture voluntarily given by a waitress at a branch of Hooters a few blocks down the street from the target building. ZDNet has the story:
Before zeroing in on the government target's employees, Lakhani and Muniz built up Miss Williams' presence on social media, netting her hundreds of connections, with only one man flagging her as suspicious.
Another man asked how Emily might know him, and when the researchers answered with information they obtained in the man's profile, he said he did indeed remember the imaginary girl.
Once Wiliams had friends, the hackers updated her Facebook and LinkedIn profiles with just-hired status at the government target, and gave her an engineering title. The attractive, imaginary young woman connected with the target's employees via social media and connected with Human Resources, IT Support, Engineering and those in executive leadership roles.
The congratulations for "her" new job rolled in.
The so-called "penetration test" was meant to take 90 days, but it only took a week for Emily Williams to be accepted as real by colleagues who had never even met her. Then, the fun began.
"Emily" sent e-cards to colleagues near Christmas, containing a link that downloaded malware onto their computers that let the hackers figure out peoples' passwords. Male employees, convinced that they were flirting with a real woman, circumvented normal channels to give "her" access to the internal work network, and one man even sent "her" a company laptop. Lakhani and Muniz, presenting their work at RSA Europe 2013 last month, claim they managed to access documents that were above the clearance level for an entry-level employee like Emily Williams quite easily.
The two hackers were influenced by Robin Sage, an infamous fake profile created by security specialist Thomas Ryan in 2009. After creating social media profiles for Robin - an attractive, young woman with unusually impressive IT security experience - and messaging around 300 technology and military firms, "she" was offered consulting jobs and dates by some who failed to verify her identity.
In these cases it's clear that the security protocols and encryption methods used by these firms - firms that have some very sophisticated tools to try and fed off cyber-attack - are absolutely useless once unreliable, emotional humans get involved. Security is only as good as the weakest link, but there's quite a fundamental problem if that weakest link is human nature.
According to an article in the New York Times, women only truly enjoy sex when they're in a long term relationship. But the piece appears to have a hidden agenda.
According to the newest ground-breaking research appearing in the New York Times (as cited in an article by Natalie Kitroeff), women only get proper orgasms when they’re in long term relationships. Well jeez Louise, isn’t that just so incredibly convenient? All this time (read: in the last fifty years) women have been participating openly in hook-up culture and brazenly walking down aisles in white dresses on their wedding days without being proper, fully hymen-clad virgins, all in the name of pleasure and experimentation. And now science says that the silly slags haven’t even been having fun while they’re doing it. Time for a meek retreat into the world of formal courting for you, ladies – march right back into the Serious Relationship Only box with your tail between your legs (but not somebody else’s.)
Natalie Kitroeff’s piece starts off by way of an anecdote about Natasha Gadinsky, a woman who once had a one-night stand and didn’t achieve orgasm. Natasha ‘says she doesn’t have any regrets from her years in college,’ writes Kitroeff. ‘But the time she hooked up with a guy at Brown University does come close.’ And from this opening, which heavily and straightfacedly implies that one crap shag and absent orgasm could besmirch the entire experience of higher education for women, it’s all downhill.
Despite the fact that many of us might have had much more traumatic orgasmic-failure experiences (an aborted wank when your mum suddenly walks in definitely scores higher in the humiliation stakes, surely), we’re all supposed to take Kitroeff’s article extremely seriously. At one point, she wheels out a 26 year old software technician (ironically, someone who is employed to push buttons the right way) who admits that he can’t bring himself to go through the whole embarrassing rigmarole of finding out what a woman he’s in the middle of having sex with actually wants: ‘with women he’s just met, he said, it can be awkward to talk about specific needs in the bedroom. “You’re practically strangers at that point.”’ (strangers who are rubbing their naked bits together for pleasure). But the awkward part is the chatting, rather than the sweaty, naked gyration thing. Gotcha.
But if you thought the software technician’s sexual manners were head-spinning, wait until you get to the views of Debra Herbenick, a research scientist at Indiana University. ‘She compared a hookup with having dinner at a friend’s house,’ Kitroeff informs us, quoting Herbenick as saying: ‘You wouldn’t be like, “This is what I want and this is how I want you to make it, and I want you to use only this amount of basil.”’
But the thing is, you would be completely justified in a food-based, food-centric arrangement to demand from your host a particular amount of basil (bear with us.) If your only purpose for seeing your ‘friend’ and indeed the only basis of your relationship was the consumption of pesto, then you’d be perfectly entitled to stipulate specifics. Similarly, the booty call or casual shag is a sex-based, sex-centric arrangement between two people, and so, if anything, it can act as a vehicle for your wildest fantasies (sorry to go all Cosmo on you for a moment). It is precisely for this reason that many women find one night stands and short-term casual flings a sexually liberating experience: not because an all pervasive ‘lad culture’ demands that they give the boys what they want, and not because they’re trying desperately to enjoy it when they don’t, but because they’re enjoying a space where they are free to experiment and make demands, no strings attached or relationship ramifications guaranteed. The willingness with which Kitroeff and her interviewees ignore this facet of women’s sexual experience makes for a patronising and horrendously conservative article that seems to do little more than to tell women to keep it in their pants while the boys sow their wild oats, and serves as an excellent example of how that bullshit sexual double standard still exists.
Despite decades of female testimony, the myth that women need romance and rose petals to get off, that they are somehow less sexual than men, still pervades the media. It’s a bit of an odd one, as most sexually active adults will know this not to be the case. While women who have only slept with their husbands are held up by right wing tabloids as curiosities to be admired and emulated, women who love sex and don’t mind too much who it’s with provided it’s good and it’s fun either don’t exist or are lying sluts. There are, of course, women out there who feel they have better sex when they are in a long term relationship, just as there are men, because, duh, people’s sexual desires and preferences don’t fit into conveniently constructed boxes. If that’s you, then that’s fine, though expect a knock on the door from a newspaper reporter pronto. And Natalie: if you ever want to write a truth-telling piece about the joys of casual sex, you know where we are.
The problem for the Tories is that the truth isn’t on their side.
The Tories would have us believe that the A&E crisis has nothing to do with them. Nothing to do with the £3bn they wasted on a pointless re-organisation, the loss of 6,000 nurses from the NHS since David Cameron became Prime Minister or the dismantling of alternatives to A&E like walk-in centres and social care support for the elderly at home.
Instead they claim that changes made to 2004 GP contract are the cause of the crisis in A&E.
The problem for the Tories is that the truth isn’t on their side and senior people in the NHS have been lining up to rubbish their claim.
First, Stephen Dorrell, chairman of the Health Select Committee, and former Tory Health Secretary no less, said the GP contract “is not why pressures exist.” Then, Clare Gerada, from the Royal College of GPs said:
I think it’s lazy to blame the 2004 GP contract. They’re blaming a contract that’s nearly 10 years old for an issue that’s become a problem recently.
Finally, Dr Vautrey from the BMA’s GP Committee said this morning:
I don’t think there’s any evidence to suggest that the changes ten years ago have had an impact on what’s happening in Accident and Emergency departments today.
The truth is revealed by this graph: Labour eliminated the winter crisis in A&E, but under David Cameron we saw a winter A&E crisis last year and an unprecedented summer A&E crisis this year.
In the last 12 months, a million people have waited more than four hours in A&E. Four-hour waits in A&E are up, trolley waits are up, ambulance queues are up, delayed discharges are up and we’re even seeing people being ferried to hospitals in police cars because ambulances aren’t available.
There’s only one person responsible for the A&E crisis, and that’s David Cameron.
Andrew Gwynne is the Member of Parliament for Denton and Reddish, and Shadow Health Minister
The health of our eyes and vision is something that many of us are guilty of taking for granted. Here are some valuable tips to help aid your eye and vision health.
The health of our eyes and vision is something that many of us are guilty of taking for granted. For those who have never had to cope with eye or vision problems, it is all too easy to forget how valuable this sense is until it is too late. Taking your eye health for granted could be risky: a lack of eye care increases the chances of problems going unnoticed and untreated.
There are many people who do not have perfect vision and therefore wear glasses or contacts, or opt for treatments such as Optimax laser eye surgery. By making sure you maintain your eye health, you may be able to enjoy better vision for longer. There are many ways in which you can maintain good health when it comes to your eyes and vision, and many of these are simple yet effective methods.
Valuable tips to aid eye and vision health
Healthy eyes and vision are important to everyone, particularly as you start to get older. This is when your eye health, along with other areas of your health, can start to deteriorate. However, with some care and consideration on your part, you can continue to enjoy good eyes and vision for many years to come.
Some valuable tips to help aid your eye and vision health include the following:
These are just a few of the ways in which you can help to avoid a range of eye-related problems and promote good eye health.
The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.
1. We can’t afford to ignore climate change (Financial Times)
As the Philippines recovers, fossil-fuel lobbies focus on the short term, writes Jeffrey Sachs.
2. Why even atheists should be praying for Pope Francis (Guardian)
Francis could replace Obama as the pin-up on every liberal and leftist wall, says Jonathan Freedland. He is now the world's clearest voice for change.
3. Steady at the helm there, Mr Cameron (Times)
If the PM is feeling the pressure from the Tory right, he needs to quell the ranks and steer the ship, writes Matthew Parris.
Jack Straw's admission of guilt over deciding to allow economic migration in 2004 is disingenuous, and sidesteps the real mistakes they made, says Deborah Orr.
Shining through the new document is Mr Xi’s determination to retain and bolster the Communist Party’s hold on power, writes Peter Popham.
6. The coalition is steadily coming undone (Independent)
Ed Miliband's pledge last month to freeze energy prices has not only dominated headlines, it has driven a wedge between the Tories and the Lib Dems, says Andrew Grice.
7. Is the economic recovery built to last? (Times)
Instead of a Germanic economy built on manufacturing, our recovery risks resembling Spain’s property boom, says Stephen King.
8. The lessons gone unlearnt at Westminster (Daily Telegraph)
The fallibility of MPs Nadine Dorries and Nadhim Zahawi is regrettably familiar, writes Vicki Woods.
9. A bet against London is no sure thing (Financial Times)
There is far more to the British capital than hot money and hot air, writes Tim Harford.
10. Why does a brush with death make people turn to religion? (Daily Telegraph)
Sir John Tavener’s final broadcast brought home with force the truths of faith, argues Charles Moore.
The PM says "scientists are giving us a very certain message" but will his policies match his rhetoric?
Since telling the public to "vote blue, go green" in 2006 and pledging in opposition to lead "the greenest government ever", David Cameron has had little to say on climate change. In the three and a half years since he entered No. 10, the PM hasn't made a single speech on the subject, nor attended a UN environmental summit. Emboldened by his silence, Tory climate change deniers have rushed to fill the void. Energy minister Michael Fallon has described climate change as "theology" and Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has declared: "People get very emotional about this subject and I think we should just accept that the climate has been changing for centuries." [The 12 warmest years have all come in the last 15.] Tory MPs have put forward a bill to abolish the Department for Energy and Climate Change, and George Osborne has repeatedly posited a false choice between growth and green energy investment.
But confronted by the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan, which some attribute to climate change, Cameron has found his voice again. He told reporters during his trip to Sri Lanka:
"There is no doubt there have been an increasing number of severe weather events in recent years. And I'm not a scientist but it's always seemed to me one of the strongest arguments about climate change is, even if you're only 90 per cent certain or 80 per cent certain or 70 per cent certain, if I said to you there's a 60 per cent chance your house might burn down do you want to take out some insurance? You take out some insurance. I think we should think about climate change like that.
"Scientists are giving us a very certain message. Even if you're less certain than the scientists it makes sense to act both in terms of trying to prevent and mitigate.
"So I'll leave the scientists to speak for themselves about the link between severe weather events and climate change. The evidence seems to me to be growing. As a practical politician I think the sensible thing is to say let's take preventative and mitigating steps given the chances this might be the case."
Admirable words, but will they be supported by policy? At present, the UK's greenhouse gas emissions are rising, not falling, with investment in clean energy at a seven-year low and Britain forecast to miss its carbon reduction targets. Against the advice of the climate change select commitee, Cameron refused to include a 2030 decarbonisation target in the energy bill, despite an estimated saving of £958 to £1,724 for each household and the potential creation of up to 48,000 new jobs.
More recently, in an attempt to counter Labour's proposed energy price freeze, he has pledge to "roll back" green taxes, with no apparent consideration given to the environmental consequences. The energy and climate change commitee warned in response: "Backtracking on these legally binding contracts will damage policy credibility, seriously undermine investor confidence and could increase the cost of capital for new energy investments – thus pushing up energy bills".
But with the PM's green conscience stirring again, is he about to perform another volte-face? As ever with Cameron, one can never be sure what he really believes.
Women in journalism still cluster around particular subjects with few reporting on politics, business and sport.
Journalism is changing, and so is the role of women in the workplace. But the two are not always evolving in harmony. Women substantially outnumber men in journalism training and enter the profession in (slightly) greater numbers, but still only a relative few rise to senior jobs. The pay gap between male and female journalists remains stubbornly wide, and older women - especially if they have taken a career break - find it difficult to retain a place in the industry.
Women in journalism still cluster around particular subject genres. Historically, they were almost totally confined to “pink ghettos”, but as more women entered the industry, there was an expectation that their opportunities would expand and that they would duly embrace areas that had been traditionally male, like hard news, crime or politics.
But a byline analysis of UK national newspapers in 2012 indicates that some areas still have very few women, in particular politics, sport and opinion writing. These findings are also supported by qualitative interview data. There are similar lacunae in the US press.
So, in addition to the problem of vertical segregation, where women are not reaching the highest ranks of journalism, there is a continuing problem of horizontal segregation: gender division by subject matter.
In the autumn of 2012, a gender analysis of bylines in UK newspapers, which also coded the different sections of the papers, was conducted at City University London. The survey looked at five national papers over seven days, during two separate weeks, a month apart.
The total ratio of male to female bylines was not dissimilar from previous Women In Journalism surveys in 2011/12, which recorded a 78:22 split in favour of men. But what was of interest was the breakdown of topics, which showed a huge variation.
In some cases, especially but not exclusively the softer lifestyle areas, there were reasonable representations of women - but in other places, the number of bylines was scarce to non-existent. This wide difference in gender bylines by subject demonstrates what is apparent from interviewing and anecdotal evidence: women in news organisations frequently talk about how they are encouraged to do the softer feature lifestyle stories and discouraged from the harder end of news.
The number of female political reporters in Westminster has increased since the 1980s, but there are still relatively few of them. When UK Press Gazette published the 50 leading political reporters in 2012 it included only three women, ranked at numbers 16 (chief political reporter of the Financial Times), 36, and 39. And according to the byline survey, on some papers the imbalance in political reporting in late 2012 was overwhelming, with the vast majority of political stories reported by men.
Overall, the percentage of women journalists in the parliamentary lobby is 23% – almost exactly the same as the proportion of female MPs in Westminster. But there is only one female political journalist listed among magazines and periodicals and none of the daily papers, broadcasters or main political websites has a female political editor (although at the time of the survey, three Sunday newspapers had female political editors). Women, generally, are not finding their way to the higher strata in significant numbers.
After politics, a second area where female bylines are pretty much invisible in the content analysis is sports journalism. Maybe this is unsurprising, because sport, even more than politics, is perceived as an overwhelmingly male activity. In 2011 a wide-ranging German survey on press coverage of sport across 80 newspapers in 22 countries revealed that 8% of the articles were by women.
In the UK it appears that this figure is even lower – fewer than 5% of sports journalism in the national press is written by women. In 2012 only two of the Press Gazette Top 50 sports reporters were women. That said, in March 2013 Alison Kervin was appointed by the Mail on Sunday as the first female sports editor of a UK national newspaper.
A third significant area with a noticeable gender imbalance is opinion writing. Just as the obituary columns give an impression of a world far more than 50% male, the same is true in the comment columns. This pattern is demonstrated in the same two-week content analysis from autumn 2012, which also analysed the gender of comment piece bylines. This is confirmed on the Guardian datablog, which analysed three national papers and associated websites and found that women had written a mere 26% of the opinion pieces.
In the US, such is the dearth of female opinion writing that a pressure group and website, The Op-Ed Project, was set up to highlight the issue. The Op-Ed Project figures claim that only 20% of comment pieces in the US media are by women and they campaign for the publication of a greater range of voices so that the proportion of comment writers who are female can grow.
The Columbia Journalism Review published a lengthy analysis of this deficit entitled: “It’s 2012 already: why is opinion writing still mostly male?”
It compared “legacy” and new media, and found that women had a better chance of publication in digital form (33% compared to 20% in print) – but there was a sting. The online comment written by women on sites such as the Huffington Post was twice as likely to focus on “pink topics”, described as the “four Fs” (family, food, furniture and fashion), plus of course the discussion of women and gender. In contrast, only 14% of women’s opinion pieces in “legacy” media were on these topics. It attributed this to the “silo tendency” of new media, where writers are more likely to be writing for like-minded individuals.
Over the past decade, areas such as conflict reporting and economic journalism have seen far more women take prominent roles. But this evidence shows that there still remain a number of subjects – softer lifestyle features on the one hand, and politics, business and sport on the other – that have overwhelmingly disproportionate numbers of one gender. Journalism might be better served if there was a more conscious effort by editors and managers to counter such horizontal segregation in the workplace.
This article was originally published on The Conversation, where it forms part of Hard Evidence, a series of articles that look at what the data say about some of the trickiest public policy questions we face.
Suzanne Franks is professor of journalism at City University London
Just because an artist is newly signed or newly promoted on the radio, it doesn’t mean that their music is reaching beyond formulas that are already in place.
The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.
The Tory leader's lack of deep convictions has been good for coalition relations, but bad for dealing with his party, says Andrew Rawnsley.
2. Of course a privileged background matters, and it's not the politics of envy to say so (Sunday Telegraph)
Tories addressing social mobility must accept the scale of the problem, writes Matthew d'Ancona.
3. The big freeze is here, so George cosies up to voters (Mail on Sunday)
Osborne knows that his challenge is to show that the proceeds of growth will be shared, writes James Forsyth.
4. It’s getting better; the Tories just can’t convince us (Sunday Times)
Major, Miliband, Milburn — not one of them is making it any easier for the prime minister to frame the argument his way, writes Adam Boulton.
5. Interest rates rules have been turned upside (Independent on Sunday)
A rise is expected next year, making savers happy and plunging the heavily mortgaged into despair, writes Hamish McRae.
6. The one place we don’t need a visionary leader: on the throne (Sunday Times)
There was another King Charles who believed that his divine right trumped all other opinions, writes Dominic Lawson. It did not end well.
The chancellor's reckless use of taxpayers' money to boost borrowing on housing is anti-Conservative and will end in disaster, says Nick Cohen.
The blocking of the Chilcot report underlines how the powerful shield their activities from the public, says Henry Porter.
9. Maoist class war wrecked our state schools (Sunday Telegraph)
For too long teachers have thought it wrong to transmit 'posh' standards of literate speech, says Janet Daley.
The lowest-paid five million workers will not benefit from an increase in the income tax threshold to £10,500. Cutting VAT or National Insurance would be more progressive.
When the Lib Dems' plan to raise the income tax threshold to £10,000 by 2015 was discussed in the televised leaders' debates, David Cameron told Nick Clegg: "I would love to take everyone out of their first £10,000 of income tax, Nick...We cannot afford it." The PM has rather changed his tune since then. He now leads a government that will meet that pledge in April 2014, a year earlier than promised, and a party that lists its greatest achievement as "a tax cut for 24 million hardworking people".
With the £10,000 threshold due to take effect when the new tax year begins, there is room for the coalition to go further in the two Budgets that remain before May 2015. Today, in an attempt to reclaim ownership of the policy, Clegg has called on George Osborne to deliver a pre-election tax cut by increasing the allowance to £10,500 and delivering a "workers' bonus" (note the smart framing).
Interviewed on The Andrew Marr Show this morning, he boasted that his plan would mean "an extra £100 in everybody's pocket". Except, of course, it wouldn't. Raising the personal allowance will do nothing for the lowest-paid five million workers, all of whom earn less than £10,000, or the unemployed, the disabled and the retired. As the IFS has shown, those in the second-richest decile gain the most in cash terms from the policy (mainly due to the greater number of dual-earning households), followed by the richest tenth, who gain marginally less due to the gradual removal of the personal allowance after £100,000 (a brilliant piece of stealth redistribution by Alistair Darling). As a percentage of income, it is middle-earners who gain the most, with those at the bottom gaining the least.
Marr failed to challenge Clegg on this point, but Labour and other parties should. Progressive alternatives to raising the income tax threshold include increasing the National Insurance threshold, which currently stands at £7,748, or cutting VAT, which stands at a record 20 per cent and hits the poorest hardest. These policies might not be as politically attractive as a cut in income tax, but they will do more to get money where it is most needed.
The key point about the email by a Miliband adviser describing Balls as "a nightmare" is that it was leaked in the first place.
Update: I've now learned how the email was really leaked.
The Tories have leapt gleefully on today's Mail on Sunday story revealing that Miliband staffer Torsten Bell, Labour's director of policy and rebuttal, referred to Ed Balls as a "nightmare" in a private email. After Balls's special adviser Alex Belardinelli wrote in a group email on the shadow chancellor's planned response to the Bank of England's upgraded growth forecasts, "Could we get this out pls? cleared at this end and essentially the same script as we had on GDP day the other week", Bell (a former special adviser to Alistair Darling during his time as Chancellor) wrote to fellow Miliband adviser Greg Beales: "As an example of why we're having problems on EB messaging-this is his current three part argument: cost of living, recovery built to last, economy works for working people. Nightmare." Beales replied: "When did built to last become a part of our thing?"
That there are tensions between Miliband and Balls has long been an open secret in Westminster. The Labour leader's team have privately accused the shadow chancellor, who was not Miliband's first choice for the job, of being insufficiently committed to his responsible capitalism agenda and too focused on defending the record of the last Labour government. There also differences between the pair over HS2 and the proposed third runway at Heathrow, with Balls openly favouring the latter over the former, the reverse of Miliband's position.
What is peculiar about the disagreement revealed by the emails is that it is so minor. Miliband himself has regularly used the phrase "built to last" (a key part of Barack Obama's 2012 campaign) and even the most dedicated Labour Kremlinologist would struggle to spot any difference between Balls's three-part argument and Miliband's. Indeed, I'm told the pair met before the publication of the recent GDP figures to discuss and agree on Labour's response, which last Wednesday's quote from Balls (on the BoE's growth forecasts) was almost identical to.
A Miliband spokesman has responded by effectively stating that Bell was wrong: "Ed Balls was entirely right. After three damaging years of flatlining, there is no recovery for millions of families. Prices are rising faster than wages, and figures this week showed that people are on average £1,600 a year worse off since David Cameron came to office."
That this apparently trivial disagreement (what Freud called "the narcissism of small differences") led Bell to refer to Balls as a "nightmare" is evidence of how great the mistrust is. The mutual suspicion will be compounded by the key point of the story: that the emails were leaked in the first place. Assuming that the leak was intentional (and not the result of a lost phone or misplaced documents), this is a red-on-red attack, delivered via a hostile newspaper. If history is not to repeat itself, both sides would be wise to ensure it is the last.
And as Balls comes under increasing attack, largely prompted by the false belief that he has been proved wrong by the return of economic growth, it's worth remembering that there is no one better qualified to perform the job of Chancellor.
Miliband's adviser Torsten Bell accidentally copied in Conservative MP James Morris, rather than the Labour pollster of the same name.
As I noted in my earlier blog, the most worrying thing for Labour about the email by Miliband adviser Torsten Bell describing Ed Balls as a "nightmare" is that it was leaked at all (to the Mail on Sunday). If one or both sides have decided to go public with their disagreements, it doesn't bode well for party unity.
But I'm now told by a Labour source that the leak was an "unfortunate cock-up, rather than conspiracy". In his email on Balls's response to the Bank of England's upgraded growth forecasts, Bell intended to copy in Labour pollster James Morris but accidentally copied in Conservative MP James Morris instead (an episode worthy of The Thick Of It), who saw it fit to pass on the exchange to the Mail on Sunday's political editor Simon Walters. Fortunately for Miliband, this wasn't a red-on-red attack.
That's not to downplay the tensions between the Labour leader and Balls, but a deliberate email leak, reminiscent of the worst days of the Blair-Brown feud, would have marked a new level of hostility.
The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.
1. Slandering Britain's Roma isn't courageous. It's racist (Guardian)
The arrival of marginalised people is challenging not because of who they are, but because they are poor, writes Gary Younge.
2. The Obama presidency is failing (Financial Times)
With the exception of the debt ceiling debacle, he has fallen at almost every hurdle, says Edward Luce.
3. At last, a Plan B to stop global warming (Times)
Existing renewable energy hurts economies, writes Bjorn Lomborg. We should follow Japan and find cheaper forms of clean power.
While Germany focuses on forging a government, populist anti-EU parties look set to do well at next year's elections, writes Timothy Garton Ash.
5. The real poison is to be found in Arafat's legacy (Independent)
He placed vain trust in Israel and the US - mistakes that his people are still paying for, writes Robert Fisk.
Britain can’t win the global race if taxes remain such a burden, says Dominic Raab.
Call-me-Dave’s unclassy to urge people to dream as he entrenches division, says Kevin Maguire.
8. We should be humbly thanking the super-rich, not bashing them (Daily Telegraph)
As well as creating jobs and giving to charity, the wealthy should be hailed as Tax Heroes, says Boris Johnson.
9. Typhoon Haiyan must spur us on to slow climate change (Guardian)
The damage caused by extreme weather events bring home the need to curb carbon emissions and combat global warming, says Chris Huhne.
10. Sykes and Ukip could put Labour into No 10 (Daily Telegraph)
Cameron should be wary of Ukip, says a Telegraph editorial. The 2015 election could be decided not by a clash with Labour but a feud within the right.
Having witnessed the original feud at first hand, both men are conscious of the need to avoid an irrevocable split.
Appearing on Daybreak this morning, Ed Miliband was inevitably asked about the email sent by his aide Torsten Bell describing Ed Balls as a "nightmare". He replied:
It’s fair to say that people send silly emails in offices and this was one of them. Ed and I are working really well together. I'm really proud to have him as the shadow chancellor, working alongside me. He is someone who I think has been right in his criticism of the government's economic policy and he's also leading the way on this cost of living crisis.
He will want to prepare a condensed version of that answer for this week's PMQs, when he can expect David Cameron to mention the incident at every opportunity.
The leak (the result of Bell accidentally copying in Tory MP James Morris rather than the Labour pollster of the same name) means that there will be even more scrutiny of Balls and Miliband's words in an attempt to find differences between the two men.
There are genuine tensions. As I wrote yesterday, the Labour leader's team have privately accused the shadow chancellor, who was not Miliband's first choice for the job, of being insufficiently committed to his responsible capitalism agenda and too focused on defending the record of the last Labour government. There also differences between the pair over HS2 and the proposed third runway at Heathrow, with Balls openly favouring the latter over the former, the reverse of Miliband's position.
But if comparisons with Blair and Brown are inevitable, they are also wide of the mark. Perhaps the most important difference is that Balls has no intention of seeking to dislodge Miliband. Unlike Brown, he was beaten in a leadership contest and is now focused on becoming Chancellor, the job for which he is supremely qualified.
The experience of the Blair-Brown fued, which both men witnessed at first hand as advisers to the Chancellor, also means that they are more conscious than they might otherwise be of the need to avoid an irrevocable split. As Miliband remarked after appointing Balls as shadow chancellor: "We have seen that movie before and had front row seats. We are determined that there will be no sequel. It was a formative experience for both of us. It is something we are absolutely determined to avoid and we will avoid."
While tensions and differences of emphasis (hardly unusual between a leader and his shadow chancellor) are likely to remain, those Tories hoping that history will repeat itself are likely to be disappointed.