UK

Great Tastes of America: The Mississippi Stack

DISCLAIMER: The following blog is written totally independently from McDonald’s CorporationGreat Tastes of America is a registered trademark and I am not associated with the product line in any way. I am not seeking to promote or disparage the American fast food giant in any way, shape or form. All opinions expressed below are personal to me and my Socialist background. I should add that anything written on these blogs should be taken with a pinch of salt – sachets available from McDonald’s counters. 

In the second of a new series, I will be eating and reviewing the Great Tastes of America range of burgers from popular fast food chain, McDonald’s.

I am unhappy about this for a number of reasons – from calories to Capitalism – but it is a good writing mechanism for me to hang my anger at modern society upon. I will be forcing fast food meals down my fat face for the next 12 weeks (one every fortnight) while discussing everything that I find unappetising about the modern world we live in.

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The Mississippi Stack is made up of two 100% British and Irish beef burgers with bacon, mild cheddar, tomato and onion relish, rich and sticky BBQ sauce, red onion and lettuce in a toasted ciabatta.

Mississipi Stack

I demolished the Mississippi Stack in the car at the side of the road on my way to the pub to watch Newport County v Tranmere Rovers in the League Two Play-off Final. This was a contest between two teams that most Wrexham fans – myself included – have reason to dislike. Both teams have recently won promotion from the National League while Wrexham have proved hapless also-rans who seem destined to a future of non-league football.

With feelings of justified bitterness and a hint of jealousy, I tucked in to my fortnightly taste of America that did little to lift my spirits. It was devoid of the sharp pickle that had made the New York Stack so enjoyable. Instead, there was a minimal layer of  onion relish and a BBQ sauce that proved slightly spicy, but ultimately underwhelming. There was just not enough of the BBQ sauce and the outer edges of the slimline burgers were dry, uninspiring and tasteless.

If I had been in a better mood before indulging in this burger, my review may have been more positive but I was gripped  with envy – something that was not helped by former Wrexham forward, Connor Jennings, scoring the winning goal for Tranmere Rovers deep into extra-time. If only he had stayed loyal to the Red Dragons and not been tempted to our Scouse rivals by the smell of filthy lucre.

The hunger pains are still biting as I type whilst generally irritated and dismayed at all around me. Satisfaction will never be found in the selfish modern world that we are stuck in…

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This long bank holiday weekend is one to forget. The results of the EU Elections have been pouring in and suggest worrying times ahead with the rise of right-wing ignorance across the continent.

No where was this more obvious than in the UK with the supposed rise of the Brexit Party and typically biased reporting by the BBC who merely paint a picture to support the prevailing status quo. This was summed up in the following tweet by Timothy Garton Ash (@fromTGA):

I am also sharing a Facebook post from my friend and comrade Adam Samuels, who has sensibly reflected on the election results and made the following observations:

Re the Euro elections from a Labour POV… So far, what this says to me is that people are even more entrenched in their views. The country is even more split if that were possible. People are pig-headed and not willing to compromise. It’s f**k the other side. There is no good solution. We should also remember this is not a General Election. It was also PR and not FPTP. I am saying of course we should listen and respect the comments and votes, but we must get all the information in first and then digest everything. No knee jerk reactions. No bold statements of “If Labour don’t do XYZ I am leaving, not campaigning, not voting etc”.

We take stock and reason things out. There are no easy answers, no matter what extreme Leavers and Remainers will tell us. The two things we must never forget, and we must remind emotional, passionate, good comrades is that we need our Manifesto put into practice. But, and we must never underestimate this, we need someone strong enough to take the crap and attacks to allow those policies to get through. Of course, that is Jeremy Corbyn. 

This story will continue to develop and expand as the hours pass. This is a truly explosive time to be involved in politics and it is taking all of our energy and resources to continue the good fight. However, no one should be in any doubt that we will all continue pushing for justice for the many, not the few while ensuring everyone is protected in a fair and equal society.

The fight goes on…

Persons with Disabilities: 10 reasons to vote in the European elections

The following article has been written by the European Disability Forum and can be read via PDF by clicking here.

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“The EU? They are only bureaucrats. Why should I vote for them?” A question (statement?) that we are used to hearing again and again.

It is not true. The EU has a big impact in the lives of persons with disabilities. It has several initiatives that have directly improved, or that have led EU countries to improve, the lives of persons with disabilities.

The next elections for the European Parliament will take place 23-26 May (depending on the country). Here are ten reasons on why you should go and vote (if you are not one of the 800,000 citizens currently unable to vote due to discriminatory laws):

1. Because the EU fights for accessibility

EU institutions have been working hard to assure that both the physical and virtual world are more accessible for persons with disabilities. Public transport and public websites, among others, have become more accessible (for example, it obliges airports to provide assistance to persons with disabilities. It also obliges EU countries to make all new train stations accessible). The EU also recently agreed on a law that will make many products and services more accessible to us!

These laws, some of which then need to be put by EU counties into their national laws, have not only improved accessibility throughout the EU but also inspired some countries to go the extra mile.

Important to know: The laws the EU passes are “minimum standards”. This means that (unlike some people think) an EU law cannot reduce the rights you already have. For example, the EU obliges countries to make all new and refurbished train stations accessible, but of course Member States can also do more than that and include old stations in the law.

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2. Because the EU protects you at work

In 2000, the EU passed a law that prohibits discrimination at work. This means that we are protected against discrimination when we work or have work-related training. It also means that employers need to adapt the work place to employees with disabilities.

While the situation is far from perfect, it is because of this law that you can go to court or ask the support of an anti-discrimination institution if, for example, you were discriminated when applying for a job, when you are fired from your job or when your employer refuses to grant you the adaptions needed to do your work.

3. Because EU money supports the inclusion of persons with disabilities

EU money helped Selina find her dream job in Austria. EU money funded Nicolas participation in a project between France and Spain, on the right to vote for persons with disabilities. It supports Greek persons with disabilities in living independently. It builds hospitals in Portugal. It is used to renovate houses and make them more accessible. Many Europeans are unknowingly supported by EU funds. In fact, despite their complaints, even the richest countries rely on EU money to support persons with fewer opportunities and at risk of exclusion. .

4. Because you can use your parking card in all EU countries

If you have a disability, you might be entitled to the EU parking card. This parking card is recognised in all EU countries and allows you to park in reserved spots all throughout the EU. This means that if you decide to travel or live in another EU country, you don’t need to apply for a disability parking card time and time again! A true example of “bureaucrats” reducing bureaucracy.

You can get your parking card from the relevant authority in the country you live in.

5. Because you can live in another country and still receive (some) social security benefits.

If you are an EU citizen, you can move to another EU country and still be entitle some social security benefits. For example, you can move to another EU country and keep your original old age pension. For disability benefits, it’s more complicated: you are entitled to disability allowances on the same level as a national of that country, but you have to apply for them and pass a new disability assessment process.

This is because, while the EU coordinates social security systems, some EU countries are still not totally on board: for example, a few weeks ago they denied new rules that would provide a more integrated system! This is why you need to vote and to vote for politicians that care about freedom of movement for persons with disabilities!

The positive impact of this assurance can sadly be seen by the negative impact that losing it brings: EU citizens living in the UK are in a limbo, not sure if they can receive their contributions after Brexit.

6. Because you can go to the hospital in another EU country

If you have an accident or are ill when visiting another EU country, you can go to the hospital or doctor under the same conditions as a national from that country, thanks to the European Health Insurance Card. That way, you don’t have to cut your travel short due to unaffordable health costs.

Attention: the Card cannot be used for planned treatment abroad.

7. Because of the EU Disability Card

Right now, if you visit another EU country, your disability documents may not be recognized due to a number of practical reasons (different formats, languages, assessment of what constitutes disability). The EU Disability Card, a project that is ongoing in 8 EU countries, will avoid all this by creating a card in the same format everywhere. This means that you can have access to discounted cultural and leisure services: museum, sports facilities, transport, etc.

While the card only exists in 8 EU countries, you can convince the EU to extend it to all the countries. How? By voting in May!

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8. Because you can volunteer and/or study abroad – and get support for it.

The well-known ERASMUS+ programme, provides financial support to students that want to spend a semester or year in another EU country. This programme considers the extra needs of persons with disabilities: we are entitled to financial support to cover extra costs, such as the need for personal assistance or accessible housing.

The European Solidarity Corps is a programme that financially supports volunteering opportunities in another EU country.

9. Because 800,000 people want to vote but can’t

If all the above reasons didn’t convince you, maybe this one will: 800,000 Europeans cannot vote due to discriminatory laws that exclude them because of their disability. We need your vote to help change this.

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10. Because we can fight better together

Can things improve? Definitely!

The EU can, and should, have more accessibility legislation. It can, and should, channel more funding for persons with disabilities. It can, and should, approve laws that protect us from discrimination in all areas of our life. This is why we need you to go out and vote! By voting, you are telling politicians that you want a Europe that cares about us, and that they should do more to achieve it.

Who to vote for?

We will not say “vote for this or that party”. What you can do is check the candidates that signed a commitment to disability. You can contact them and let them know that you will vote for them (also) because of that. If your favourite candidate is not on the list, easy: contact them and tell them to sign the pledge.

How to vote?

You can check European Parliament’s guide on how to vote in your country. To see for your country, selected your countries main language in the button on the top right of the website.

 

BBC Report: Wales disability support cuts: People experiencing ‘real distress’ – #SaveWILG

Journalist Paul Martin really has played an important part in the #SaveWILG campaign by increasing awareness of the issue with the general public. He has always delivered well balanced articles that clearly show the failings of Welsh Government policy and Local Authorities.

His latest article on WILG can be read below or by clicking this link He has also produced a feature that will appear on BBC Wales Live this evening (23/01/19).

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A woman who cares for her severely disabled brother has said funding cuts have negatively affected her life, as pressure to change the system grows.

Jayne Newman, from Newport, said she was given “no reason” for a loss of support, which saw 15 hours of care for her brother Tommy cut.

MP Ian Lucas said changes to support for people who used to get a special grant were causing “real distress”.

Newport council said Mr Newman received a “generous” support package.

The Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) was introduced in Wales to replace the UK-wide Independent Living Fund (ILF), which was closed down by the UK government in 2015.

But WILG is being scrapped and the funding and responsibility for more than 1,000 people who received it transferred to Wales’ 22 local authorities, leading to fears of cuts to support.

More than 100 of the first 600 people who were assessed by their councils had their support reduced.

Jayne Newman
Image caption Jayne Newman said the level of care her brother needs was akin to looking after a baby 

Ms Newman, whose brother lives with her, said she was given “no reason” for the cuts of 15 hours per week, which equates to paying a carer for an overnight stay and five hours of day care.

“He needs total care, so he needs to be washed, dressed, shaved,” she said.

“He is now on a liquid diet which means it’s a bit like having a baby, we’ve got to give him hourly feeds to maintain his weight and wellbeing.

“As long as somebody is there he doesn’t really understand whether it’s me or one of the carers, so he doesn’t understand that the cuts have made a difference to my life.

“It’s like I have to be in every night by nine o’clock. I still want to have a life as well as look after my brother.

“They said they would work with you and not have it done to you and that’s not what happened.”

 

 

But Newport council said Mr Newman’s care package was “over and above” what he would have been allocated as a new case.

A spokesman said: “Although certain elements of the original package of care have been removed, they have been replaced with a more flexible package.

“There has been no significant reduction in the overall level of care that has been provided to the extent that it no longer meets his eligible needs.”

The minster responsible for overseeing the transition from WILG to council-run support, Huw Irranca-Davies, left government in December in new First Minister Mark Drakeford’s reshuffle.

Julie Morgan
Image caption Julie Morgan campaigned for a change in the system as a backbencher 

His replacement as deputy minister for health and social services, Julie Morgan, called for a review of the policy while on the backbenches, and Mr Drakeford said during his leadership campaign changes would be made if people were losing out.

Mr Lucas, the Labour MP for Wrexham, suggested a possible solution could be for those who have lost out to apply for a top-up from Welsh Government.

“I don’t think we’re going to have the same scheme that we had previously but I do expect a big improvement in the scheme as it exists at the moment,” he said.

“I think this is causing real distress for people who need help.

“We know that local authorities are under a lot of pressure and I don’t think they’re the right people to be administering those schemes.”

Welsh Government emails seen by BBC Wales Live show government officials were told by a “number” of councils “the overall cost of the support provided to people who have transitioned (to council funding) is more than the WILG funding transferred (from the Welsh Government to councils)”.

The Welsh Government said it was “reviewing progress rigorously to achieve a fair outcome” for all.

“It is paramount that a person’s ability to live independently is not compromised by the change in the way care and support is arranged for people previously in receipt of the WILG,” it said.

It added all money had been passed on to councils, and none had been reclaimed despite the number of eligible recipients falling.

Wales Live is on BBC One Wales at 22:35 on Wednesday.

UK Web Archive

I received the following email through the Contact page of this blog.  It sounds positive news to be archived by the National Library of Wales though I am unsure of how much credibility such an achievement holds? Are any old sites given this honour?  I prefer to think not and would like to think I can be proud that my blog has come to the attention of such an esteemed organisation.

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 The National Library of Wales would like your permission to provide public access to copies of your website held within the UK Web Archive.

The Library, working with our legal deposit partners, archives UK websites under the terms of the Legal Deposit Libraries (Non-Print Works) Regulations 2013. This content is collected at least once a year, building up an archive of UK websites as they change over time. Under legal deposit legislation, access to the archived content is restricted to the premises of the legal deposit libraries.

To highlight the importance of the archive, and to widen access to the archived content, we seek permission from selected website owners to provide public access to their content within the archive. Where permission is granted, access to the archived websites is made available freely across the web. The public archive can be seen at http://www.webarchive.org.uk.

If you are happy for your site to be made publicly accessible via the archive, please send an email to alb@llgc.org.uk in order for us to send you an online licence form.

Once your permission is granted, this will require no further effort on your part.

Information about legal deposit, copyright and how your archived website will be made available can be found in our FAQ pages at http://www.webarchive.org.uk/ukwa/info/faq.
Should you require any additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us.
We look forward to your hearing from you.

Kind regards

Aled Betts
Llyfrgellydd Cynorthwyol/Assistant Librarian
Datblygu Casgliadau/ Collection Development
Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru/National Library of Wales Aberystwyth Ceredigion
SY23 3BU

(Something Inside) So Strong #SaveWILG

Dedicated to #SaveWILG campaigners everywhere.

To be fair to new First Minister Mark Drakeford, he is listening and making positive changes in the right direction. Solidarity to him and we look forward to working with the new look Welsh Labour in our quest to #SaveWILG.

The following song is about Apartheid in South Africa. Although I am not, in any way, trying to disrespect this, I do feel that this song has excellent lyrics that can also apply to the plight that disabled people find themselves in 21st Century Britain. I just feel it is a good rallying call to the 1,300 WILG recipients in the calamitous countdown to the end of the Welsh Independent Living Grant.

Things may look bleak at the moment, but the campaign is still going strong and we have some crucial irons with which to stoke the fire in the weeks ahead. Do not lose hope as things are certainly happening behind the scenes.

Please do not hesitate to contact me via the contact page above, or via Facebook or Twitter if you feel you can add to the campaign or would just like to find out more information.

 

According to Wikipedia, “(Something Inside) So Strong” is a 1987 single written and recorded by British singer-songwriter Labi Siffre. The song was one of the biggest successes of his career, and peaked at number four on the UK Singles Chart.[1]

The song was written in 1984, inspired by a television documentary on Apartheid South Africa seen by Siffre in which white soldiers were filmed shooting at black civilians in the street.[2] He told the BBC’s Soul Music programme in 2014 that the song was also influenced by his experience as a homosexual child, adolescent, and adult and his inner Chi.[3] Siffre originally intended to give the song to another artist to sing, but could find no one suitable and was convinced to release it himself.[2]

The song has remained enduringly popular and is an example of the political and sociological thread running through much of Siffre’s lyrics and poetry. It won the Ivor Novello Award for “Best Song Musically and Lyrically”, and has been used in Amnesty International campaigns, a television advertisement and Alice Walker‘s film against female genital mutilationWarrior Marks.

The song has been covered by many artists, including country singer Kenny Rogers who featured it on his 1989 best selling album of the same name, and also by Pop Idol contestant Rik Waller who reached #25 in the UK Single Charts with it in 2002.

The song was featured in an advertisement for the Peugeot 307 in 2001.

“(Something Inside) So Strong”

The higher you build your barriers
The taller I become
The farther you take my rights away
The faster I will run
You can deny me
You can decide to turn your face away
No matter, cos there’s….Something inside so strong
I know that I can make it
Tho’ you’re doing me wrong, so wrong
You thought that my pride was gone
Oh no, something inside so strong
Oh oh oh oh oh something inside so strong

The more you refuse to hear my voice
The louder I will sing
You hide behind walls of Jericho
Your lies will come tumbling
Deny my place in time
You squander wealth that’s mine
My light will shine so brightly
It will blind you
Cos there’s……

Something inside so strong
I know that I can make it
Tho’ you’re doing me wrong, so wrong
You thought that my pride was gone
Oh no, something inside so strong
Oh oh oh oh oh something inside so strong

Brothers and sisters
When they insist we’re just not good enough
When we know better
Just look ’em in the eyes and say
I’m gonna do it anyway [x4]

Something inside so strong
And I know that I can make it
Tho’ you’re doing me wrong, so wrong
You thought that my pride was gone
Oh no, something inside so strong
Oh oh oh oh oh something inside so strong

Brothers and sisters
When they insist we’re just not enough
When we know better
Just look ’em in the eyes and say
I’m gonna do it anyway [x4]

Because there’s something inside so strong
And I know that I can make it
Tho’ you’re doing me, so wrong
Oh no, something inside so strong
Oh oh oh oh oh something inside so strong

WALESPOSTCARDFRONT001

Pete Shelley Tribute: Day 2

On my Facebook page I am posting a week long tribute to the late, great Pete Shelley and I thought I would post these on my Blog as well so that as many people as possible can enjoy his music.

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Day 2 of my tribute to the late, great Pete Shelley features the first Buzzcocks album I ever bought. It signalled the start of my love affair with the band and specifically the bittersweet lyrics of Shelley. This album was the soundtrack to my teenage years and I seemed to be able to relate to every song…

According to WikipediaSingles Going Steady is a compilation album by English punk rock band Buzzcocks, first released on I.R.S. Records in the US on 25 September 1979.[2] It was the first Buzzcocks album to be released in North America and intended as an introduction to the band for the American public, coinciding with a US tour. After healthy sales on import in the UK over the next two years, and following the group’s split in early 1981, the album was belatedly released in the band’s home country on United Artists Records on 16 November 1981[3] as a ‘greatest hits’ album. However, as in the US, the album failed to chart.

Side one of the original release of the album featured their eight UK single releases from 1977 up to the time of Singles Going Steady‘s release in 1979 in chronological order, while side two featured their corresponding B-sides, also in chronological order. The album was reissued in expanded form on compact disc in 2001 with an extra eight tracks, featuring the A-sides and B-sides of Buzzcocks’ four singles released between Singles Going Steady and the group’s break-up.

Disability News Service: Ministers ‘failing to uphold a UN disability convention they do not understand’

The following article was taken from the excellent Disability News Service website, written by John Pring.  This blogger takes no credit for the article below:

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Government ministers are failing to uphold the rights of disabled people, ignoring the need to engage with disabled people’s organisations, and do not understand the UN’s disability convention, according to a new report.

The highly-critical report has been compiled by disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) across the UK and submitted to the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities.

It analyses how the UK and devolved governments have responded to key parts of last year’s highly-critical report by the committee on the UK’s progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

The new report includes some criticism of the devolved governments of Scotland and Wales – and raises concerns about the impact of the continuing political impasse over the Northern Ireland Executive – but most of its concerns are directed at the UK government in Westminster.

The UK government, the report says, is responsible for “continuing retrogression and re-institutionalisation” of disabled people and continues to disagree with the UN committee’s findings and recommendations.

It adds: “We have concerns that the UNCRPD is not embedded within government and is poorly understood at all levels, including ministerial.”

It provides the example of international development secretary Penny Mordaunt, who appeared to try to redefine the meaning of inclusive education at the government’s Global Disability Summit in July, telling the international audience that inclusive education meant “that everyone has an education and it is done in a way to reach their full potential”.

The report says that many of the concerns raised by DPOs last year in their evidence to the UN committee remained a “significant problem”, with disabled people still subject to “tightening eligibility” for support, the removal and sanctioning of benefits and the bedroom tax.

It also raises concerns about the continuing rollout of universal credit (UC) and says DPOs are “gravely concerned” at the failure to assess the access needs of disabled people due to be moved onto UC and the lack of the necessary data to monitor its impact.

It warns that the social care funding crisis has led to the removal of further essential independent living support for disabled people and the closure of community services for people with mental distress, while increasing social care charges are leaving thousands of disabled people in debt or choosing to pull out of receiving support completely.

The DPOs also point to the chronic shortage of accessible housing in England, with new housing for disabled people often limited to segregated supported housing complexes.

And the report says that the number of disabled children being forced into special schools is rising, while budget cuts are reducing the quality of inclusive education, and the number of disabled pupils left without any educational placement at all has risen, as has the number of disabled pupils excluded from school.

Among the DPOs that contributed to the report are the Alliance for Inclusive EducationDisability Action (Northern Ireland)Disabled People Against CutsDisability WalesInclusion LondonInclusion Scotland, the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance and Sisters of Frida.

They make 22 recommendations of their own that are aimed at the UK government, including calling for: a new legal right to independent living; the abolition of charging for social care; an end to the practice of placing disabled children and young people in long-stay hospitals; and a new social security system that is based on “an accurate analysis of need” and is “consistent with a human rights approach to disability”.

There are also four recommendations for the Welsh government – including a call to incorporate the UNCRPD into Welsh law – and six for the Scottish government, including the need for a national strategy on the provision of accessible housing.

The DPOs conclude that examples of “progressive” policy-making have been restricted to the devolved governments of Scotland and Wales, although the two executives are “not without room for improvement” themselves.

There is also repeated criticism in the report of the UK government’s “inadequate engagement” with DPOs and its failure to recognise the importance of consulting disabled people.

The report says that “engagement with non-user-led charities is continuously prioritised over engagement with DPOs”, while requests by DPOs to meet ministers “are frequently turned down”.

It also says that engagement with the UK government is “undermined by an increasing lack of trust”, and warns that “without trust, consultation and engagement cannot take place in ‘good faith’”.

The report does welcome one measure taken by the UK government, the increased funding for disabled facilities grants, although it warns that “delays in processing applications can still be a problem for under-resourced local authorities”.

This week’s report follows the publication of the government’s own progress report last month.

The DPO report is highly critical of the government’s progress report, accusing it of effectively ignoring many of the UN committee’s recommendations.

One of the recommendations ignored, it says, was to carry out a cumulative impact assessment (CIA) of its cuts and reforms on disabled people, with the UK government continuing to insist that this is not possible.

It points out that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published a CIA earlier this year, while the Greater London Assembly is conducting its own CIA for London “using the same methodology as the EHRC”, and both the Scottish and Welsh governments are “exploring carrying out their own”.

There is also frustration at the government’s failure to follow up the UN committee’s recommendation that it should devise a “comprehensive” plan aimed at the “deinstitutionalisation” of disabled people, in “close collaboration” with DPOs.