A half hour Channel 4 dispatches program, Britain on the Sick, aired July 30, 2012, made for shocking viewing. Having heard our Coalition witter on about people fiddling benefits and wrongly claiming sickness benefit you may have thought it would feature "scroungers". Those people who abuse the system and live a life of luxury on the "sick"
Well we are not naive enough to not know that such people exist. However we also know that the majority of people who are not fit for work are just that. Not fit for work.
A Dispatches undercover doctor joined a team for training to assess those trying to claim sickness benefit. The firm which does the assessing is French firm Atos. It seems that as the coalition try to boot people off welfare and save money they are wasting money using a French company rather than one in the UK.
The training was an eye opener. The trainer was not, by her own admission, a properly qualified Doctor. As she explained the grounds for declaring fit to work, one wondered if any person is ever assessed as unfit. The scoring system is such that if the patient is blind and can read basic braille, enough to read a safety sign, they will be deemed fit.
The UK Work Capability Assessment has improved lately, according to the government. Doctors however hold a different opinion. Some of the patients included in the program were blind, receiving Chemotherapy, on regular morphine pain treatment, and in a wheelchair. All were deemed fit for work.
This cunning plan to remove people from welfare has been ongoing for some years. It started with reducing unemployment benefit from one year to six months. As this was paid for by way of National Contributions this was the first "rip off"
Then the tightening of eligibility for sickness benefit began.The sole purpose of the current assessment is to declare people fit for work. There are few jobs and UK unemployment is high. Of course once removed from sickness benefit unemployment may not be payable, The callous trainer explained though that once removed from sickness benefit it was someone elses problem, namely a job centre adviser.
Of course those assessors shown in Dispatches may have not been the norm, but we doubt it. A representative from DWP, department of work and pensions declined an interview. Assurances were made along with promises that checks would be made and if necessary changes.
Welfare is a safety net. We all never know when we may need it. We all hope that we will never need it. However should the worst happen it is comforting to know that you are not out on a limb. Sadly that will no longer be true.
Vulnerable and honest people will be intimidated away from claiming what they have paid for. That has to be wrong.
In 2012 there have been many calls from disabled people, charities, doctors and more to scrap the work capability assessment scheme as it stands. All have said the scheme is responsible for sending the sick and the disabled back to work, or rather unemployment.
It is funny that a government which has U Turned more times than a learner driver, is unable to do so when it comes to the sick and the disabled. Now if it concerned the wealthy they would not have a problem doing so.
It seems that the knives are out for Michelle Obama following Friday's Olympic bash, held at Buckingham Palace. Mrs Obama represented her country at the event and so it would only be fitting that she looked the part. Whilst many in her country struggle to make ends meet that may seem crass. However it is much the same with all countries and their leaders. When they attend such functions they aim to stand out from the crowd.
Of course Ms Obama could have toned down her garb and gone for a more simplistic outfit. We wonder then what the press would have said. No doubt she would have been criticised for dressing inappropriately, causing offence to the Queen and the UK, or shaming the USA. She was after all in a no win position, unless you are a Democrat and Obama supporter.
She was damned either way. Would wearing sackcloth and ashes have helped? No.
It is funny how so often it is the wives of leaders who are lambasted, when all they are is an unelected Presidential, or Prime Ministerial wife. If the roles were reversed would it be the same? We think not
How often do you hear Mr Clinton has got fat, Mitt Romney has a big chin, Mr Biden dresses in suits that are too expensive and more. You get the point by now we assume.
The fact that wives of leaders are singled out for personal attacks is sexist. If it does not happen to husbands, such as Bill Clinton or Dennis Thatcher it has to be.
The Olympic Banquet on Friday included a host of so called dignitaries. All were vying for media attention. None would court "bad press". Michelle Obama was also representing her husband and one assumes hoping to prove that both he and she are excellent ambassadors for the USA.
Perhaps if she wants to appease her critics she could auction said outfit, and others from the UK tour, for a charity back home. That of course would be up to her. It also depends who stumped up the cash for the clothes.
Banquets such as the one in question have no place in the 21st Century, really. However as long as they exist they will be used to bolster political campaigns and more. For the UK it was about showing our strengths.
In the US people such as Rush Limbaugh will continue to criticise Mrs Obama, not because she needs to be criticised but because she is seen as fair game. She is seen as a way to hit the President and his election campaign. Employing pathetic tactics though is cheap.
Perhaps some of the criticism however smacks of envy. After all Michelle Obama during her UK visit last week proved herself more of an American ambassador than Mitt Romney. He fell far short of the mark.
Mitt Romney has left the UK. His brief stay was mainly about fundraising with publicity thrown in. It is fair to say he came, he saw, he gaffed. Before he even left the US his mouth was running off about the UK and their Olympic efforts. He may have been taken out of context, or read wrong, but he showed he is not Statesman material. Not yet that is. He may prove to be should he be elected as US President in November 2012 but that remains to be seen.
He has now left the UK and is already in Jerusalem. Once more it is all about fund raising. When politicians travel abroad to raise funds you have to ask why? Then of course you have to answer that they are selling the role of President or selling power.
What is unsettling about Romney's Jerusalem fund raiser is that it will be held behind closed doors. If we were feeling generous we may assess that is being done to prevent Mitt putting his foot squarely in his mouth once more. If we were being more realistic we would assume that deals will be brokered. Deals that may not sit well with the US electorate.
Of course once Romney has stuffed his campaign coffers to overflowing he will be one step closer being elected as POTUS45.
Currently there is the usual pre election spin and propaganda doing the rounds online and in the media. President Obama is being painted as something of a Dark Lord by some and Romney as a Fool by others. Your political leanings and social standing may determine which description you believe, if any.
The fund raiser is being held at the King David Hotel. No media representatives will have access. Back in April 2012 Mitt Romney's team negotiated some basic rules regarding his future fund raising events. Blocking the media from his Jerusalem fund raiser violates those rules. Prior to today the only Romney fundraisers that blocked the media were held in private residencies. The King David Hotel is not a private residence.
Guests who will be attending the Monday fund raiser include Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. Sheldon has personally pledged to boost the Romney campaign by millions of dollars. Now why would Sheldon do that?
The Monday fund raiser will include many wealthy individuals who will have flown in from the US. The only conclusion is that they want the chance to listen to Mitt without press intrusion. Listen to the real Mitt that is.
Mitt is no stranger to yo-yo politics. In the past he has changed his tune many times to suit those listening in. The Washington Post has reported that: At a closed-press fundraiser in Florida this spring, reporters from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, without Romney’s knowledge, overheard the candidate outline new tax policy proposals and suggest that he might dramatically downsize the Department of Education and eliminate the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Well that says it all. Let's hope someone spills the beans after this Jerusalem shindig is over. Prior to the fundraiser Mr Romney is meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
US Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is visiting the UK and the Middle East this week, as part of his ongoing transformation into World Leader. Whether the US electorate will agree and vote him into the White House in November 2012 remains to be seen.
Currently both sides, that is the Democrats and the Republicans, are attempting to carry out a thorough character assassination of each candidate. In addition both of their track records in business is under the microscope. With more than a touch of spin both candidates appear to be left wanting. If you were to believe both camps the only conclusion would be that neither are fit to rule a hen-house let alone the USA.
The US electorate will "pick the bones" out of the propaganda and choose their man for the next four years. If it is President Obama he is now a recognised figure on the World Stage. It is Mitt Romney he is a newbie.
Still we all have to start somewhere and Mitt's six-day tour this week will give him valuable exposure and experience.
We well remember President Obama visiting the UK when he was in this position. He appeared charismatic, winning fans from all walks of life. We also remember Obama's assessment of David Cameron, the then leader of the opposition. It was that Cameron was a "lightweight". In due course Dave Cameron became the UK's PM dealing with President Obama many times. Now they appear equally respectful of each other.
When Romney visits the UK will he meet with the opposition as well as members of the Coalition Government. If the past is anything to go by he should.
Mitt will visit Britain, Israel and Poland in all. It will be his first overseas official tour since becoming heir apparent to the US Presidential role. His visit will include propaganda and spin speeches aimed at undermining President Obama. Mr Obama will no doubt reciprocate on the home front. Romney's team will cry foul and on it goes. Like reality TV that is out of control.
Romney's election campaign now has the capability to outspend Barack Obama's. If money wins the day in America he could be home and dry. He may have a good track record in big business but he is far from open and transparent.
Wonder what we in the UK will make of this one?
Romney has been attacked by the Obama camp for his apparent lack of knowledge as regard to World affairs. He will therefore have a lot to prove and no doubt will attempt to put the record straight. He is due to attend to opening of the Olympics on Friday, July 27, and meet various Ministers. One of these will be Chancellor George Osborne. It is expected that these two will have plenty in common, not least a desire to implement austerity.
If you thought the EU crisis was under control, think again. Out of sight, out of mind may be true, and reporting on the crisis in recent days has been almost non existent. However today July 24, 2012, there is more bad news for Europe.
Generally the German economy has been admired as strong and invincible. Now it seems that even the "powerhouse of Germany" maybe be under threat. Credit agency Moody's has been quick to consider down rating Germany. If Germany's triple A rating is cut it will be disastrous for Germany and the EU.
With country's such as Spain still needing more bail outs the EU will look to Germany for a lead and for money. This time its looks may be in vain.
Today July 24, 2012, the Troika, that is the European Commission, The European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund are set to assess whether or not Greece has done enough to receive the next installment of its bail out. There are reports that the Greek government will ask for more time to enforce the austerity package demanded from the EU. Having imlemented many cuts already they still have quite a way to go.
If the next installment of the bail out is not forthcoming expect the worst to happen. Greece will be in an untenable position in the Eurozone and left with few alternatives.
The only sensible out come still appears to be an exit from the Eurozone for countries such as Greece and maybe even Spain. Perhaps the best option would be the dissolution of the Eurozone and the EU dream. After all it became a nightmare long ago. One that people desperately need to wake up from.
As Arab League Ministers call for President Bashar Assad to go, even offering safe passage for Assad and his family, Syrian rebels close in. The situation in Syria continues to worsen by the hour and life for ordinary citizens must be a daily struggle.
As rebels press ever closer to the current seat of power in Syria once again questions are raised about just who the rebels are?
In the West mainstream media tends to report on the Free Syrian Army (FSA), as the only rebels gaining ground. They are not alone though. There is also the Salafis, a rival group made up of hardline Islamists. They are looking for the creation of a Syrian Sharia Sate if and when Assad steps down or is ousted. These two groups of rebels are each made up of two factions, working against each other.
Those in Syria and in the West who want Assad ousted must surely be considering what his exit could mean. Currently the alternative to the Assad regime is conflict. Conflict to remove him and conflict between warring factions until the strongest force wins. The FSA claim that the opposing rebels have the benefit of foreign money which is swelling their arsenals. Do we believe that the FSA is not getting money and more from the West? No we do not.
Both rebel sides will have their foreign supporters. So will the Assad regime, although right now they also have the wealth of Syria.
As Assad continues to ignore calls for him to step down regime Forces have today, July 23, 2012, gone on the offensive once more. They have been driving FSA rebel forces out of Damascus.
Whilst the West purports to support the rebels at least verbally there are many causes for concern.
Israel has voiced its worries over the stash of chemical weapons it believes the Assad regime to hold. These include mustard gas and sarin nerve agents. Its fear is that if the Assad regime topples an "unknown quantity" will have access to or control of such weapons. If those who replace Assad are hardline Islamists will they want to attack Israel or is that just scaremongering?
The West will look to Russia who has exercised its veto all too often in UN votes regarding Syria, to provide Some form of control of armaments.
The Assad regime has also threatened that outside aggression against them may be met with chemical warfare. A frightening prospect. It could be bluff but who would want to take the risk? The regime continues to maintain that such weapons will not be used against its own people though.
European arms embargoes placed on the Assad regime have been tightened today. How much effect they will have is not known.
A heavy presence of US forces in the strait of Hormuz are aimed at sending a clear message to Iran. Many believe that Iranian leaders could see a political vacuum in Syria as a positive.
Countries such as Turkey, that border Syria, are waiting with bated breath. They are expecting refugees and more. They too have a reason to fear a hardline Islamist neighbour it seems.
All in all Syria is in a state of virtual collapse. Still Assad clings to power. It is doubtful that he will accept today's offer of a safe exit from the Arab League. Where he would go is unknown.
Time is running out for Assad but he may, like a ship's captain, choose to go down with his ship. If he does he will take many with him.
Aurora, Colorado was officially one of the safest places to live in America. That is it was prior to Friday July 21, 2012, when James Holmes dressed as something of a Dark Knight himself, opened fire in a packed movie theatre in the town, killing at least 12 people.
As America dusts itself down once again many are questioning what went wrong. Inevitably gun control is at the forefront of some people's minds. In an election year in America this will probably be as far as gun control changes goes. Both Romney and Obama will not want to ostracise the gun toting communities of the US but now could be the perfect time to take a step back and try a re-think on gun controls.
Americans continue to cling to their right to bear arms which inevitably will lead to such mass killings. Tighter restrictions may not prevent a person on the edge wreaking havoc but it could have stopped Holmes being able to arm himself in the way that he did.
The veritable arsenal which Holmes was able to use had been acquired legally. He may not have been able to purchase all of the weapons in some States of the US but in Colorado he broke no laws. During the last 6 - 8 weeks Holmes stock piled ammunition and weapons.
When he entered the cinema which was premiering the Dark Knight Rising he was carrying two handguns, a shotgun and a semi-automatic rifle. He needed no license in Colorado to purchase these weapons. In light of his previous good record he would have easily passed the police checks made.
He had purchased thousands of round of ammunition in recent weeks, without any retailer apparently batting an eyelid.
Holmes apartment is still inaccessible by authorities due to the complicated series of booby traps he had set. Police have said that a controlled explosion will be the only way to resolve that issue. The traps include chemicals so it seems that Holmes had spent a small fortune on amassing what he felt he needed.
Why is still not known.
A previous honour student who dropped out of medical school a short time ago for an unknown reason, he may fit the profile of other shooters. Mental illness could be at the root of the attack but we may never know exactly what went wrong.
Being able to buy 6,000 rounds of ammunition, weapons and chemicals without drawing any attention to yourself beggars belief.
After the event the authorities can pay lip service as much as they want to the victims of this tragedy but gun control inaction will mean that another massacre will happen in time. Surely the very least that will happen is a change in the purchasing of weapons and ammunition.
Latest: 12 people died at the scene. 11 remain in a critical possibly life threatening condition.The tragedy is the worst in American modern history.
Holmes' father has flown to Aurora. His parents have asked for privacy at what must be a shocking time for them too. Thoughts go to the victims and their loved ones. RIP
Tags: Aurora, James Holmes, Dark Knight Rising, Colorado gun laws, gun control, NRA, US election
Eileen Kersey manages TEK Staff Blog