Thursday, 2 July 2020

Fauci Puts Out The Facts

Brad Pitt as Dr Anthony Fauci takes time out of his busy schedule to explain why Donald Trump is such a giant asshole.


10 Album Challenge - Day 8

Ian Dury is another 'diamond geezer' from London who occupies a special place in my heart.

Back in the 1980s Ian Dury and the Blockheads had a lot to say, many of their songs were very challenging and in your face, unsurprisingly given the times.

But if I had to pick just one I would choose 'There Ain't Half Been Some Clever Bastards' - because if you can't laugh at Dury's imagination and incredible use of words, you can't laugh at anything I'm afraid.  

'There Ain't Half Been Some Clever Bastards' - Ian Dury and the Blockheads 
Noel Coward was a charmer.
As a writer he was brahma.
Velvet, jackets and pyjamas,
had a gay divorce and other dramas.

There ain't half been some clever bastards
(Lucky bleeders, lucky bleeders)
There ain't half been some clever bas-tards.

Van Gough did some eyeball pleasers.
He must have been a pencil squeezer.
He didn't do the Mona Lisa,
That was an Italian geezer.

There ain't half been some clever bastards
(Lucky bleeders, lucky bleeders)
There ain't half been some clever bas-tards.

Einstein can't be classed as witless.
He claimed atoms were the littlest.
When you did a bit of splitting-em-ness
Frighten everybody shitless

There ain't half been some clever bastards.
Probably got help from their mum 
(who had help from her mum).
There ain't half been some clever bastards.
Now that we've had some,
let's hope that there's lots more to come.

There ain't half been some clever bastards
(Lucky bleeders, lucky bleeders)
There ain't half been some clever bastards.

Da-laa la-laa da-daa da-lee
De dump di dump de dump-dump-diddle li-lee.

There ain't half been some clever bastards
(Lucky bleeders, lucky bleeders)
There ain't half been some clever bastards
(Lucky bleeders, lucky bleeders)
There ain't half been some clever bastards
(Lucky bleeders, lucky bleeders)
There ain't half been some clever bastards.

10 Album Challenge - Day 7

Sade burst on to the music scene with her debut album Diamond Life when I lived and worked in London during the 1980s.

I remember my time in London (my two children were born there) and all the friends I made with great affection - in fact I'm still in touch with many of them to this day.

'Smooth Operator' is such a classy number.


10 Album Challenge - Day 6

I've always liked Bruce Springsteen, but my appreciation of his music only really took off after I saw him play 'live' with the E Street Band.

As always there are so many great albums and tracks to choose from, but 'Waiting' On A Sunny Day' from The Rising captures the energy of The Boss, and his incredible stage act, just perfectly.


10 Album Challenge - Day 5

Another Canadian makes it into my top 10 - this time Neil Young and his 'After the Goldrush' album.

Back in the 1970s Neil Young was a very committed political figure, unafraid to speak his mind on controversial issues which I suppose is why I like this particular track so much - 'Southern Man'. 


10 Album Challenge - Day 4 (28/06/20)

I love to cook and listen to Van Morrison - it's one of my very favourite ways to relax before sharing the company of good friends and family.

'Hard Nose the Highway' is not as well known as some Van Morrison albums, but I love his rendition of the Irish/Scottish ballad 'Purple Heather'. 

I'd really like to interview Van Morrison, even though he can be very grumpy, allegedly, because I've previously interviewed two of his young school friends.

Brian Keenan, who wrote a book ('An Evil Cradling') about being held hostage in Lebanon for several years and David Ervine, the former politician and leader of the PLP who was involved in the Good Friday Agreement which brought peace to Northern Ireland.


10 Album Challenge - Day 3 (26/06/20)

The soundtrack of 'A Clockwork Orange' features lots of classical music which never featured much during my schooldays, except for The Planets by Gustav Holst.  

So I was really taken when I first heard Beethoven and Elgar being used as the backdrop to Stanley Kubrick's  controversial movie.

The song that sticks in my mind though is 'I Wanna Marry A Lighthouse Keeper' by Erika Eigen.


10 Album Challenge - Day 2 (25/06/20)

Joni Mitchell is one of my favourite singer/songwriters and her 'Blue' album has so many great tracks it's hard to choose one over another.

But 'California' always brings a big smile to my face because its words are so full of hope and youthful exuberance.

I read a comment about Joni Mitchell many years ago which said 'she paints pictures with words' and that still hits the nail on the head for me.


10 Album Challenge - Day 1 (24/06/20)

My friend Andy Wright from Auburn, northern California nominated me for the challenge to name 10 albums which influenced my taste in music.

So here goes with Number 1 - 'Fill Your Head With Rock' - a double album from the early 1970s featuring a whole host of famous and not so famous names including Chicago, Santana, Moondog, The Byrds and Al Stewart.

Now for some reason people are not supposed to say anything about their choices, but I think that's a bit mad so here's a video of Al Stewart and 'A Small Fruit Song'

And because it's impossible to pick a favourite from an album featuring so many great artists, here's a bonus track - 'Listen' a big band sound by Chicago.


'Astonishing and Shameful' vs 'Shameful and Unacceptable'

While Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon traded barbs yesterday over whose government is more 'astonishing', 'shameful' and/or 'unacceptable' the big unanswered question remains:

"Why is the wearing of face masks not being made compulsory in public spaces where social distancing is difficult or impossible?" 

Now I was out and about in Glasgow yesterday and it's pretty clear that life in the city is getting back to normal, as it should because the bulk of the population can't stay at home indefinitely.

Here's a queue for Primark 'around the block' on Argyll Street which speaks for itself.

So the emphasis going forward should be on social distancing, wearing face masks and high standards of personal hygiene to help stop the spread of the Coronavirus.

Yet despite all the evidence our politicians continue to drag their feet and follow a different path from our neighbours in Europe or New York City.


Glasgow and 'The Duke'

Now here's a sight you don't see every day - Glasgow's famous Duke of Wellington statue without a traffic cone on his head.

I'm surprised some of the Glasgow's self-righteous statue 'protesters' haven't called for the Duke to be toppled because he has a much more chequered history than Robert Peel whose statue stands in George Square.

But I suspect Glaswegians would respond furiously if the Duke and his war horse (Copenhagen) were really threatened so the statue 'bampots' are likely to leave well alone.

Here's how the Duke normally looks - so is it any wonder that Glasgow has grown to love the guy?


Glasgow - Scooters, Bikers and Pedestrians

I invite readers to consider this report from the BBC on the news that from Saturday onwards people will be able to use E-scooters on the public highway.

Now I get the point being made by the RNIB, but the real problem for me is that these E-scooters, just like bikes, will soon be zooming along public footpaths and pedestrianised areas - instead of staying on the road or cycle lanes where they belong.

Yet who believes that the authorities in Glasgow will deal properly with this behaviour from anti-social bikers and users of the new E-scooters?

E-scooters' UK speed limit 'shocks' blindness charity

Image copyright - AFP Image caption - E-scooters are a common sight in cities like LA - but are illegal in the UK until the weekend

The UK's blindness charity says e-scooters remain a "real and genuine threat" ahead of their legalisation.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) said that the government's safeguards, announced this week, had failed to assuage its fears.

Other witnesses at a parliamentary transport committee hearing said the top speed and weight of the e-scooters were higher than they should be.

It will become legal to ride e-scooters on Great Britain's roads from Saturday.

The change, which comes amid pressure on the public transport system from social distancing requirements, applies only to rentals. Private scooters will remain illegal.

Earlier this week, the government revealed that the speed limit would be 15.5mph (25km/h), and that users would need a driving licence to take part.

Eleanor Southwood, chair of the RNIB board, told the committee: "It's really clear that even with all of the safeguards… we do consider e-scooters to be a real and genuine threat to the ability of blind and partially sighted people to move around independently and safely."

She said the RNIB was "really surprised to see the 15mph speed limit yesterday, which is a lot faster than we had anticipated".

Electric scooters are much quieter than cars, she said. And she added that evidence of pedal bikes being used on pavements suggested that "without robust enforcement", e-scooters would probably be used on pedestrian walkways.

Undocked e-scooters left on the street could also be a trip hazard.

"We were hoping that speeds would be limited, ideally to as close to walking as possible, but if not, to an absolute maximum of 12.5mph," Ms Southwood said.

"So we are really shocked by the speed limit."

Weight, speed, power

Philip Darnton, director of the Bicycle Association, told politicians his group had no set view on e-scooters, because some of its members were fiercely against them while others sold them.

But he said that the power and weight allowed by the government went far beyond what was expected.

"The power, again, was very surprising - 500 watts," he said, referring to the motor.

"Most scooters in the world, and all the most popular brands are rated up to 250 watts. 500 watts will give you formidable acceleration, much, much faster than any cyclist or e-bike - which is also rated at 250 watts - could possibly do."

That acceleration increased the risk to riders, he said.

He added that the Bicycle Association had recommended a maximum weight of 20kg (44lb). But the government had approved more than twice that - 55kg - to accommodate bigger batteries and lower the cost of constant recharging by the commercial operator.

"The combination of speed, power, and weight has to be looked at," he warned.

Rachel Lee, of the Living Streets walking group, said she was concerned about the speed - and also about people using them while drunk.

But the broader problem was that "our infrastructure currently is not up to the job", she said - pointing to a lack of segregated cycleways as an example.

"At the moment I just fear that people who are using these for the first time, are getting scared on our busy roads, and then jumping up on the pavement - and then before you know it someone who's vulnerable, elderly, maybe can't see - or even children - are being knocked over."

Two academics, however, spoke about the potential positive impact e-scooters could have.

"I can see the benefits in terms of environment, and health, and also social inclusion," Graeme Sherriff from the University of Salford said.

"It depends on the rest of the system in a way, but they could very much encourage people away from cars."

Jillian Anable, a transport expert from the University of Leeds, echoed the positive sentiments.

"If we can't do some bold things now, then when can we do them, with respect to the transport sector?" she said.

She also questioned the need for users to have a driving licence.

"Its greatest merit is for those who do not have a driving licence, and don't aspire to have one," she said.

How to Save £10 million (28/05/20)

The Scottish Government has announced a new £10 million fund to create new 'pop-up' walking and cycling routes during the Coronavirus lockdown.

Now I have to say I can't see the case for additional cycling routes, as opposed to walking routes, because there are far fewer cars on the road than normal these days - and long may this last.

What I would do instead is to ensure that cyclists behave with more courtesy and consideration by insisting they:
  • Slow right down around pedestrians
  • Be extra vigilant around young children
  • Stay off the pavements and public footpaths
  • Use the road if there's no designated cycle lane
  • Give pedestrians a 2 metre wide berth in shared spaces
  • Wear a face covering or mask while lockdown continues 
I love cycling myself, but have to admit that these selfish, boorish cyclists give the rest of us a really bad name.

If I had my way, I'd redirect these funds into turning more of Glasgow city centre into 'car free' and 'bike free' pedestrian zones. 


Face Masks On/Off?

Here's some sound advice on where to buy a face mask via my Icelandic friend Arni Thor Arnason - you just never know where they've been!


Face Masks On! (18/06/20)

The HIGNFY (Have I Got New For You) team on Twitter suggest that government advice on wearing face masks should be much clearer.

I have to say, I agree - they should be compulsory in all public spaces where social distancing is difficult.


Me, A Show Off? (08/05/20)

My namesake friend from Vancouver, Mark P, has kindly shared some samples of face masks for the discerning man-about-town.

I've got to admit Mark P has got me thinking, but I'll probably go for something a bit less flashy if and when a trip to the pub is on the cards again.


Coronavirus and Face Masks (02/06/20)

The Times reports that Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon was apparently unaware that carriers of the Coronavirus were able to spread the disease - even if they displayed none of the usual symptoms including a high temperature, dry cough, headaches, loss of taste and smell.

Now I'll be interested to see how this plays out because home carers in Glasgow were complaining weeks ago that they were only required to use PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) - if and when their clients started to display Covid-19 symptoms.  

The sensible move would obviously have been to assume that everyone was a potential carrier of Coronavirus once 'lockdown' began back on 24 March, yet the Scottish Government's advice remained firmly opposed to the wearing of face masks - see post below 'Better Safe Than Sorry' dated 08 April 2020.

"Where the person is neither suspected to be, nor confirmed as COVID positive, care at home staff carrying out personal care should wear what they have always worn – that is, an apron and gloves; and no mask.

"This applies regardless of the 2m distance. The same would apply to a community nurse visiting the same client: they too would wear gloves and apron, and no mask.

"Furthermore, home care workers and community staff going into people’s houses should only wear a mask when they suspect the person has COVID, and they cannot keep a 2m distance.

"If this is not suspected – or if they can keep a 2m distance – then they do not need to wear a mask."

Even now the wearing of face masks by home carers remains 'voluntary' whereas the wearing of hi-vis jackets and safety helmets is mandatory on building sites. 

Coronavirus in Scotland: Sturgeon’s ignorance of science advice on carriers questioned

Nicola Sturgeon and Jeane Freeman are facing calls about their treatment of care homes - 

By Mark McLaughlin - The Times

Nicola Sturgeon is facing calls for a public inquiry into care home deaths after she claimed to be unaware of evidence from her advisers that asymptomatic carriers could infect others.

About 900 hospital patients were transferred to care homes in Scotland to free up beds for the NHS but were not routinely tested until April 22. They have since become the front line of Scotland’s coronavirus pandemic.

The first minister told Sophy Ridge on Sunday on Sky News that had she known about asymptomatic transmission earlier in the outbreak she may have made different choices.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), the UK government panel regularly attended by Scottish government scientists and officials, has warned of asymptomatic transmission since January, according to minutes that were declassified last week.

Miles Briggs, the Scottish Conservative health spokesman, said Ms Sturgeon must clarify what she knew about asymptomatic transmission and when or launch a full public inquiry.

Boris Johnson, the prime minister, is facing similar questions over hospitals discharging patients to care homes after issuing advice that infection of residents was “very unlikely” in the early stages of the outbreak.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Back then the view was that people who didn’t have symptoms, either because they were pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic, didn’t shed the virus. If I were to take what we know now about asymptomatic transmission and apply that to that period [prior to April 22], we may well have taken different decisions.”

Jim McMenamin, interim clinical director at Health Protection Scotland, attended the second meeting of Sage on Covid-19 on January 28. Minutes stated: “There is limited evidence of asymptomatic transmission, but early indications imply some is occurring.”

On February 18, Andrew Rambaut, professor of molecular evolution at Edinburgh University, advised Sage that “more comprehensive swabbing of returning global travellers during isolation would be useful”.

On March 13, the day Scotland recorded its first coronavirus death, Jeane Freeman, the health secretary, told MSPs that swabbing at airports was “not the scientific or clinical advice”.

An employee from Nike’s European headquarters in the Netherlands is thought to have triggered Scotland’s first coronavirus outbreak at a conference in Edinburgh in February.

The Scottish government launched a covert effort to contain the outbreak through isolation and contact tracing, despite the advice of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling a month earlier that there was “a realistic probability” contact tracing would not contain outbreaks outside China.

Evidence of asymptomatic transmission grew and on April 7 Sage discussed a study on school closures by Joe Hallgarten, of the Education Development Trust, published one week earlier, that stated: “Unlike ebola, transmission of Covid-19 is asymptomatic.”

That day the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act came into force, empowering councils to move adults lacking capacity from hospitals to care homes, even if they or their families objected.

A requirement to conduct two negative tests before a patient is discharged to a care home was not implemented until April 22.

Ms Freeman defended her decisions at the Scottish government briefing.

“We didn’t dismiss any concerns at any point where those concerns were raised with us, in any respect whether it was around discharge to hospital or any other matter around handling of the pandemic where those concerns were evidenced.” she said.

Jason Leitch, the Scottish government’s national clinical director who last week apologised for claiming that ministers wanted to increase gradually the number of people infected in March to reach herd immunity, said: “We now know that asymptomatic carriage is a challenge and people do shed some virus, but nothing like as much as when they have symptoms. The pre-symptomatic phase is not as dangerous as the symptomatic phase.”

Mr Briggs said: “Everyone knew pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic could carry and spread the disease. Sage knew about it. Nicola Sturgeon’s advisers were there. So I’d be interested to know whose view she is promoting.

“If Sturgeon simply misspoke, I’d ask her and the SNP health secretary to correct this now. If this is being offered as an excuse as to why hundreds of vulnerable people were transferred into care homes without testing, this is a matter for an urgent public inquiry.”

Ian Murray, the shadow Scottish secretary, said: “This raises further questions about the decisions taken by the Scottish government.”

Better Safe Than Sorry (08/04/20)

The Scottish Government's official advice to Home Care staff is to wear a face mask only if a client is suspected to be, or is confirmed to be, Covid-19 positive. 

The official advice goes on to say:

"Where the person is neither suspected to be, nor confirmed as COVID positive, care at home staff carrying out personal care should wear what they have always worn – that is, an apron and gloves; and no mask.

"This applies regardless of the 2m distance. The same would apply to a community nurse visiting the same client: they too would wear gloves and apron, and no mask.

"Furthermore, home care workers and community staff going into people’s houses should only wear a mask when they suspect the person has COVID, and they cannot keep a 2m distance.

"If this is not suspected – or if they can keep a 2m distance – then they do not need to wear a mask."

What puzzles me is how individual carers are supposed to know the state of every client's health before going into their homes - and how is it even possible for Home Carers to keep 2 metres distance from vulnerable clients whom they are helping to keep out of hospital?   

So why not put everyone's safety first - the safety of both the carers and their clients - by ensuring that the official advice is changed and that face masks are worn until further notice, as a matter of course.

After all these are very scary and unprecedented times and if the carers feel safer - their clients are bound to feel the benefit as well.

Glasgow home care service Cordia accused of not providing PPE for care workers

By Catherine Hunter - Evening Times

A GLASGOW care service has disputed claims that staff are not being provided with protective equipment as they carry out home visits to vulnerable people.

Cordia, which is delivered by the City Council under the management of Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership has been accused of not providing enough PPE (personal protective equipment) by worried Glaswegians.

Some members of the public say they have spotted staff going into homes without adequate PPE.

One concerned constituent, who doesn’t want to be identified, said: “I have a family member who works as a carer for Cordia.

“She was promised she would have protective equipment supplied as she has to care for elderly patients which also means going into their house.

“She has not been provided with a mask, gloves, hand sanitizer and was given only three aprons. She works seven days on and seven days off.

“How are three aprons going to last? She is in her mid-50s and is at an increased risk because of this.

“Cordia and putting the lives of their carer staff at risk as they are not providing the necessary equipment. I am extremely worried for my family member.”

Glasgow’s Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) has confirmed that they are following all the guidelines issues by Public Health Scotland by providing enough equipment.

No member of staff should be working without the protection that is appropriate for their role.

A spokesman said: "Glasgow HSCP is following guidelines issued by Public Health Scotland in providing staff with the appropriate PPE equipment required to safely carry out their duties in the community.

"There is currently sufficient supply of PPE so that no member of HSCP staff should be working without the protection that is appropriate for their role."