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Notes for… Debbie Purdy

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It’s not a choice of life or death, it’s a choice of dignified death or painful death

You have lived now for around 15 years with multiple sclerosis – how are you physically?

How did you manage to engage in such a lengthy legal battle and balance this with the care you need?

Just to clarify here, are you or how close are you to reaching a place where you believe you will travel to Dignitas in Switzerland? Due you believe as Claudia Smith points out tha this a fundamental right of yours to decide?

Let’s go back to 1995, how did you react when you first found out you have this incurable and degenerative illness?

Describe how life has changed? Do you believe that it has changed the person you are or in fact made you stronger?

You write in your book about the ‘Big Four’ – immobility, incontinence, sex and pain.

What I wonder though, you physical abilities have deteriorated gradually – how would you have coped if it had all happened at once? Do you feel you would have already gone to Dignitas?

In those first few months and even years, you must have sometimes got so down that life didn’t seem worth living – had Dignitas been so easily available then do you believe you would have gone?

So Omar, you took on a lot by falling in love with a woman with MS whom you hardly knew. You appear quite a calm and charismatic guy, how have you approached Debbie’s illness? How was it when Debbie told you she was thinking about going to Dignitas?’

If you don’t mind let’s talk about the possibility of taking Debbie to Switzerland, how does this prospect make you feel?

Clearly you two have an incredibly amount of love and friendship – What have you learnt from Debbie during these 15 years?

Do you feel that had the law not been clarified, the authorities may have made more of an example of you. Do you think that because you a black man from a foreign country (as Debbie puts it) that this would have mattered?

You say you are yet to hear an argument against assisted suicide that can’t be addressed, but as Richard Jones points out on facebook

I’m in favour of assisted suicide in principle, in the sort of cases people have already described. I just don’t know how you would go about introducing a system by which it could operate. Clearly having people going to Switzerland isn’t satisfactory, but I’m not clear about the mechanics of how assisted suicide would work here.

Who decides when someone is a suitable case? What criteria do they use to come to that decision? Who administers the fatal dose of drugs? Where does the assisted suicide take place? I’d like to hear some suggestions on that.

– So what about the ‘slippery slop’ argument? To ways – people either go to early or are pushed into it my family members.

What about faith arguments?

You have debated this issue with all three party leaders, now public opinion approved massively on by my facebook note, is greatly in support of the right to die with dignity – why do you believe the politicians unwilling to reform the laws on suicide? Is it, as Claudia Smith wrote, that they simply don’t have the ‘balls?’ Racheal Seabrook This issue urgently needs calm, rational, public debate. Is it getting it?

Now I want to end with talking about what this whole experience has taught you both about society in general. Debbie regarding your wheelchair you say ‘life in a chair is undoubtedly fraught with obstacles, ignorance and patronising attitudes, but like many difficult journeys the view is breathtaking. Negotiating the difficulties can be heartbreaking and draining, but then you get a glimpse of the human spirit and you feel privileged to be a witness.

What has this experience taught you?

I’d like to end on what I think is the most inspiring sentence in your book ‘it’s important always to consider what you can do, rather than mourn what you can’t.

Written by Robert Dale

August 16, 2010 at 11:51 am

HELP ME INVESTIGATE: How many destitute asylum seekers are there in the UK? Should destitution be a part of the asylum seeking process at all?

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www.helpmeinvestigate.com

I’m currently taking part in this investigation as I have deep concerns over the political tactics that currently enforce destitute upon thousands of people. Over the past year I have made several enquiries to the Home Office about this issue and each time they told me that the people I am speaking about do not as exist. As far as public-facing politics is concerned then there is no problem at all, however beneath the rhetoric there is quite clearly a huge population living in abject poverty in our backyard.

HMI: A place where you can collaborate with other people to investigate things

HELP ME INVESTIGATE: How many destitute asylum seekers are there in the UK? Should destitution be a part of asylum seeking process at all?
The Home Office refuse to put a figure on the number of destitute asylum seekers living ‘underground lives’ in Britain. Estimations from Amnesty and the Refugee Council put the number somewhere between 200,000 – 500,000.
In 2007 the House of Lords deemed that by ‘refusing permission for asylum seekers to work and operating a system of support which results in widespread destitution, the Governments treatment of asylum seekers in a number of cases reaches Article 3 ECHP threshold of inhuman and degrading treatment’.
According to the Refugee Council, half of all recorded destitution cases come from only four countries, Iraq, Iran, Zimbabwe and Eritrea – all places of conflict or that have human rights records. Many destitute asylum seekers are in poor health, both physically and mentally. Seventy-five percent of those who use the PAFRAS centre in Leeds have been diagnosed with clinical depression.
Around 95% of destitute asylum seekers are from affluent professional backgrounds including lawyers, teachers and television presenters. So the question must be asked, has Britain created a humanitarian disaster in our own backyard with its policies on asylum seekers.
DEFINITELY WORTH A WATCHDocumentary maker Nick Broomfield has made a short film for Amnesty International to highlight the issue of destitute refused asylum seekers in the UK.

Key findings from research done in Leeds during 2008/9 are;

– the overwhelming majority of the interviewees came from wealthy and/ or professional backgrounds in their home countries;
– their fears of return appear well-founded, as over two-thirds of those interviewed had experienced torture in their home countries, and over half had been imprisoned;
– the average period of time living destitute among those interviewed was two years and five months; one interviewee has lived destitute for seven years;
– almost three-quarters are sleeping outside or have done so. Over a third of these have been physically attacked by English people and over a third of women sleeping out have been sexually attacked, including rape. All are terrified of the police;
– most of them are surviving on less than £5 per week.
‘Underground Lives’ points out that the government’s emphasis on tough enforcement, trumpeted in press releases such as that put out in November 2008, ‘Third quarter removals at a six year high’, which boasted that ‘last year someone was removed every eight minutes’, involves starving refused asylum seekers into accepting voluntary removal, because forced removals are so expensive and can attract bad publicity when force is used. Three weeks after appeals are rejected, asylum support is cut off for those without children.
They are prohibited from working, access to health care is restricted, and they are obliged to leave asylum accommodation. Only by agreeing to return voluntarily, or by showing that it is impossible for them to return to their country of origin, can they access basic, cashless sub-subsistence level support. Refused asylum seekers don’t appear in homelessness statistics since they are ineligible for homeless persons’ accommodation; they are invisible. At least 26,000 live off Red Cross food parcels.
At the same time, asylum claims are at a 14-year low, less than a quarter of the over 100,000 claims made in the ‘peak’ year of 2002, and they represented only four per cent of total immigration applications made in 2007.

Written by Robert Dale

June 30, 2010 at 11:16 am

Notes for article on Wikileaks and transparency in government

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Most source material can be found at delicious.com/robdaleworks. This article is being produced for http://www.dontpaniconline.com/.

Here’s the brief I have been given by my Editor – Something to discuss could be Wikileaks – with the outing of the founder and the recent bill passed in Iceland, there’s mileage to be got out of it. Part discussion of what it achieved through leaking material, part forecast of the future of information freedom given these two related events.

There are 4 elements that need to be discussed here I feel. The first is the currently secretive political climate that exists – this can be highlighted from drawing on Heather Brooke’s five year battle that eventually clawed out the information needed for the ‘Expense’s Scandal’ to ever exist. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/may/15/mps-expenses-heather-brooke-foi. Insight from her wonferful book ‘Then Silent State’ also needs to be brought out.

This data would have never come out though had it not been for a whistleblower. A discussion about the value of these people , who they are and what they have given society over the years will set a nice context for an overview of Wikileaks. http://www.worldwidewhistleblowers.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&layout=blog&id=6&Itemid=58

Wikileaks is currently in the news quite a bit with a recent U.S. intelligence officer handing over a reported 260,000 cables to the site. This included video footage of a U.S. air strike that reportedly killed 100 civilians.The officer, Bradley Manning, is also believed to have handed over this astonishingly disturbing video of  a US Army attack in Iraq in 2007 that left 12 people dead (including two employees of Reuters). http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/apr/05/wikileaks-us-army-iraq-attack – I strongly recommend you watching this video.

Manning has since been removed from Afghanistan and is currently being held at a military base in Kuwait, whilst Julian Assange, the creator of Wikileaks, is keeping a low profile in a hideout in Belgium. http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-06-21/wikileaks-founder-julian-assange-speaks-his-outreach-to-the-pentagon/?cid=hp:mainpromo8

Assange has been in Iceland over recent months assisting politicians there with the planning of a bill that would see the country become a ‘freedom of expression haven.’ It’ll become like what Belize or the Bahamas are to billionaires basically. http://www.countercurrents.org/assange170610.htm

So a round-up of these plans and what they say about the future of transparent government will hopefully be a nice ending to the piece.

If you have any ideas, thoughts or tit-bits of information, or if you would like to mull over any of the issues then please get in touch. Email me at robdaleworks@gmail or call me on 07854 138517.

Written by Robert Dale

June 27, 2010 at 9:35 am

www.socialjournalism.co.uk

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I’ve recently taken a little break from ‘interviewing interesting people’ and have been focusing my attention on a new project I’m working on with @fergb called Social Journalism.

The website is still in its very early days but any feedback you would like to offer will be very gratefully received.

Thank you – @robdaleworks

What is Social Journalism?

We believe that new social communications technology has huge potential to improve newsgathering and broadcast capabilities.

Social Journalism combines new techniques with traditional journalism to enhance existing content, react faster to breaking news and maintain editorial quality. The Social Journalism blog publishes comments and analysis on developments in social networking sites and discusses how these can be used by journalists to improve reporting.

Written by Robert Dale

June 17, 2010 at 10:28 pm

the Optimum Population Trust

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this interview was meant to happen a few weeks back but I had a few transport problems on my way to meet Roger and I had to call it off at the last minute. I’ve got a break after exams now so all being well I’ll get the interview this time around.

Optimum Population Trust
The OPT’s main aims are to
– educate the public in issues relating to human population worldwide and its impact on environmental sustainability.
– advance, promote and encourage research to determine optimum and ecological sustainable human population levels.
– promote policies that contribute to a stable human population level.
Roger Martin – the OPT Chairman – says that ‘there is not a single environmental problem that would not be easier to solve with fewer people’.
The OPT argue that rapid reduction in fertility-rates can arise through better education, healthcare, contraception and good community and government leadership. One argument of the OPT then is that every person not born in the future means there’s more carbon for the rest of us.
But not every human emits the same amount of carbon dioxide during their life – compare an average westerners lifestyle to someone in sub-Saharan Africa for example.
Friends of the Earth argue against the OPT by saying that ‘the idea of paying for birth control in developing countries to offset carbon-intensive lifestyle in rich countries is repugnant’.
The other side of the argument then is that an increasing population pales into insignificance when compared with the effect of increased consumption and economic growth.
Quite interesting is that Sir David Attenborough is Patron of the Trust.
Links to other interesting stuff
http://www.optimumpopulation.org
the OPT on facebook
George Monbiot’s piece in the Guardian arguing against the OPT
as ever, i want to know your questions and queries on the work of the OPT. This means I can ask question that better serve the ‘public interest’.
i interview interesting people
this interview was meant to happen a few weeks back but I had a few transport problems on my way to meet Roger and I had to call it off at the last minute. I’ve got a break after exams now so all being well I’ll get the interview this time around.

Optimim Population Trust
The OPT’s main aims are to- educate the public in issues relating to human population worldwide and its impact on environmental sustainability.- advance, promote and encourage research to determine optimum and ecological sustainable human population levels.- promote policies that contribute to a stable human population level.
Roger Martin – the OPT Chairman – says that ‘there is not a single environmental problem that would not be easier to solve with fewer people’.
The OPT argue that rapid reduction in fertility-rates can arise through better education, healthcare, contraception and good community and government leadership. One argument of the OPT then is that every person not born in the future means there’s more carbon for the rest of us.
But not every human emits the same amount of carbon dioxide during their life – compare an average westerners lifestyle to someone in sub-Saharan Africa for example.
Friends of the Earth argue against the OPT by saying that ‘the idea of paying for birth control in developing countries to offset carbon-intensive lifestyle in rich countries is repugnant’.
The other side of the argument then is that an increasing population pales into insignificance when compared with the effect of increased consumption and economic growth.
Quite interesting is that Sir David Attenborough is Patron of the Trust.
Links to other interesting stuff
http://www.optimumpopulation.org
the OPT on facebook
George Monbiot’s piece in the Guardian arguing against the OPT
as ever, i want to know your questions and queries on the work of the OPT. This means I can ask question that better serve the ‘public interest’.

Written by Robert Dale

May 20, 2010 at 8:07 am

Posted in notes

Notes for… interview with Greg Mulholland MP

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Here are the notes I’ll taking in to today’s interview with Greg Mulholland MP

Greg Mulholland, Lib Dem MP for Leeds North West

West Yorkshires only Liberal democrat MP in last parliament – won with 37.2%, Labour 33%, Tory 25.7%. Turnout 62.4%

Outer Leeds suburbs, professional middle-class residential and students.

Yesterday morning on BBC Leeds you said ‘we need to rip up the British constitution and start again’ yet only voted moderately for a transparent Parliament. Claims that the people of Yorkshire are crying out for ‘real change’ – what ‘real change’ does he believe is necessary for his constituency?

What are the key issues in NW Leeds?

Health care – A local campaign, the local NHS has periodically cut services to the hospital which has led to fears amongst the local populace that the hospital may be closed. A lot of the services have been transferred to an Independent Treatment Centre in Bradford which has led to Greg raising the issue of the Government’s relationship with ISTCs more widely – closing of bethel?

Land banking prevention

Transportation infrastructure

Policing

Leeds high speed rail

Clegg in leaders debate – Immigration – fair workable immigration

Restore exit controls, 3rd element – regional immigration

Good immigration/bad immigration

DOES THIS APPLY TO LEEDS?

What are the student issues?

Better protection from Landlords – so what about the £5,000 donation received from Park Lane Properties

HMO’s – Use Classes Order – Richard Tyler – what’s your take.

What this means in practice, is that in future planning permission will be required before a property can be let to three or more unrelated people sharing.

What is your take on ‘studentification?’

Mephedrone – you’ve voted strongly in favour of criminalising the drug – do you think this will help clear up the drug problem this area has?

Richard Jones – Do you feel you’ve benfitted from the student vote?

Seen to have benefited by targeting the large student population – highest density of students in the UK. Key policies of opposing tuition fees and Iraq War were key

• Voted very strongly against greater autonomy for schools – not sure where he stands on the City of Leeds school though if he’s against schools autonomy because theyre on about making that into an academy/trust school.

What are your religious views? Never voted on equal gay rights, rejected several invitations to speak at LGBT events at Leeds University and have consistently voted in favour of changing the time limit for abortions. Someone who believes that medical procedures such as euthanasia, assisted killing, abortion and embryo destruction should be illegal would have voted like this…

Transport

Greg has been a leading campaigner for Yorkshire to be included in a High Speed Rail network. He has also protested the lack of Government investment in public transport in Yorkshire, which often finds itself at the bottom of national league tables in terms of transport investment. Train carriages are overcrowding and the Government rejected the supertram scheme.

Greg’s Facebook status ‘Good presentation of the NGT (Trolleybus!) at the North Hyde Park Neighbourhood Assn then lovely chicken curry at my friends the Chaudrys!’

Abi Foster – Community Exec Officer Leeds Uni ‘ all through the meeting/presentation he was texting/playing on his phone, then when it got to the Q&A he asked something about light railway, something about he believes it’s eventually definitely coming to Leeds so would they be able to adapt the plans to suit that

then he got the answer- which was ‘probably’- and he walked out

it was just annoying because he was sat 2 chairs away from me and his phone buttons noisy

Digital Economy Act – FB status ‘Today I signed up to join, if reelected, the cross party group of MPs to raise concerns about the Digital Economy Bill #DEbill post election’

According to ‘did my mp show up or not’ he didn’t turn up to vote – why???

Did the leaders debate just clarify that people don’t want to vote for any of the ‘big three’?
Why do you spend so much time campaigning for CAMRA? You have two kids – what does you’re wife say? To this?

Greg is the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Save the Pub Group and has lobbied the Government over several issues currently affecting the domestic pub industry including: Above inflation duty increases, cheap supermarket pricing policies, the beer tie, live music licensing. Greg has been a vociferous critic of the business practices of some of the bigger pubcos.
Lib Dem Manifesto summary

* Cutting taxes for millions of working people by increasing the income tax threshold to £10,000, paid for by tackling tax avoidance and by a “mansion tax” of 1% on properties worth over £2 million.

* Setting a £400 pay rise cap for all public sector workers, initially for two years, ensuring that the lowest paid are eligible for the biggest percentage rise.

* Scrapping ID cards and the next generation of biometric passports, and removing innocent people from the DNA database.

* Reforming prisons by reducing the number of short-term prison sentences. There would be a “presumption against” jail terms of less than six months, with “rigorously enforced” community sentences favoured.

* Making prisoners work and contribute from their prison wages to a compensation fund for victims.

* Immediately restoring the link between the basic state pension and earnings and giving people more flexibility by allowing them to access part of their personal pension fund early.

* No like-for-like replacement of the Trident nuclear deterrent. The Eurofighter Tranche 3B would be cancelled and there would be a full defence review to establish Britain’s future security.

* Introducing a banking levy so that banks pay back taxpayer support, until they can be split up in order to insulate retail banking from investment risks.

* Increasing funding for the most disadvantaged pupils, around one million children, by investing £2.5 billion in a “pupil premium”. Headteachers would be free to spend this on cutting class sizes, attracting the best teachers or offering extra one-to-one tuition.

* Scrapping “unfair” university tuition fees for all students taking their first degree, including those studying part-time.

* Cutting the size of the Department of Health in half and abolishing unnecessary quangos.

* Giving a pay rise to the lower ranks of the Armed Forces so their pay is brought into line with the starting salary of the emergency services.

* Getting 3,000 more police on the beat and reducing time-wasting bureaucracy at police stations.

* In Parliament, introducing a “single transferable vote” system of proportional representation, where candidates are ranked in order of preference, and reducing the number of MPs by 150.

* Lowering the voting age to 16 and bringing in a recall system to sack MPs who have broken the rules, allowing constituents to force a by-election in cases of “serious wrongdoing”.

* Capping political donations at £10,000 and limiting election spending; replacing the House of Lords with a fully-elected chamber with “considerably fewer members”.

Our 6 point timetable for scrapping tuition fees:

Year Action
1 Scrap fees for final year full-time students
2 Begin regulating part-time fees
3 Part time fees become regulated and fee loans become available to part time students
4 Expand free tuition to all full-time students apart from first year undergraduates
5 Expand free tuition to all part-time students apart from first year undergraduates
6 Scrap tuition fees for all first degree students

How Greg Mulholland voted on key issues since 2001:

• Voted for removing hereditary peers from the House of Lords
• Voted strongly for a wholly elected House of Lords
• Voted very strongly against greater autonomy for schools – (not sure where he stands on the City of Leeds school though if he’s against schools autonomy because theyre on about making that into an academy/trust school)
• Has never voted on equal gay rights – personal or political beliefs – voted for cutting down the abortion time too
• Voted very strongly against introducing ID cards
• Voted moderately for a transparent Parliament
• Voted very strongly for laws to stop climate change
• Voted strongly against allowing ministers to intervene in inquests
• Voted very strongly against Labour’s anti-terrorism laws
• Voted very strongly against replacing Trident
• Voted very strongly for an investigation into the Iraq war
• Has never voted on introducing a smoking ban

3% Abortion, Embryology and Euthanasia- Against
98% Civil aviation pollution – For limiting
3% Control Orders
50% Crossrail – In favour
86% Fully Elected House of Lords
99% Gambling – Against permissiveness
100% Hold a UK referendum on Lisbon EU Treaty
50% Homosexuality – Equal rights
0% Identity cards – For introduction
100% Iraq Investigation – Necessary
15% Ministers Can Intervene in Coroners’ Inquests
100% No detention without charge or trial
0% Nuclear power – For
38% Parliamentary scrutiny – Reduce
0% Post office – in favour of Government policy
100% Post office closures – against
100% Remove Hereditary Peers from the House of Lords
0% Schools – Greater Autonomy
50% Smoking ban – In favour
97% Stop climate change
100% Termination of pregnancy – against
2% Terrorism laws – For
67% The UK should not ratify the Lisbon Treaty
61% Transparency of Parliament
0% Trident replacement – In favour
100% Voting age – Reduce to 16
100% War – Parliamentary authority not necessary

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Written by Robert Dale

April 15, 2010 at 11:52 pm

Posted in notes

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