By the end of the Second World War, the Nazis had organised the murdered of more than six million Jews and more than 10 million other non-combatants including Poles, Czechs, Yugoslavs, Russians and Roma. In addition, they slaughtered tens of thousands of gay and lesbian people and tens of thousands of what they described as “mental defectives”. The industrialised portion of this terrible slaughter was carried out through the use of gas chambers, employing the poison Zyklon B.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer has spat on the graves of the millions who were murdered in the Nazi Holocaust with his disgusting claim that Hitler did not use “gas on his own people”. It is yet further proof that Donald Trump’s administration is corrupt.
Given this, does Theresa May’s invitation to Trump to attend a state visit to the UK later this year still stand? Does Theresa May still welcome Trump and all that he stands for?
Sean Spicer is on thin ice. His bungled attempt to stigmatise Syria and Russia by making inept and ill-conceived comparisons with Hitler shine a light on the much more recent history of the US itself. Its deployment of Agent Orange on an industrial scale in the Vietnam War, as a part of a decade-long campaign of herbicidal warfare, caused widespread environmental damage, illness among an estimated one million people and genetic deformities in succeeding generations. The lesson for any self-respecting press secretary? Know your own history before trying to pick on that of others.
The public performance of President Trump and his team, responding to their first major foreign policy challenge, hardly inspires confidence. Just days before the strike on Syria, Trump and his close associates all stated that Syria’s civil war was no longer a major US concern. Then, days later, Trump backtracked and launched missile strikes in Syria.
The strike harkens memories of the disasters wars in Vietnam and Iraq, which started in much the same way. It also raises troubling questions of their legality. According to the US Constitution, the President may only take unilateral action without congressional approval if there is an imminent threat to the US. This is an extremely dangerous precedent. Let us remember one strike does not make a strategy.
If Trump’s compassionate genes have finally kicked in then he should immediately lift the travel ban on Syrian refugees, otherwise his actions will be interpreted as self-serving.
The temptation to unleash America’s war machine is both seductive and addictive and extremely dangerous in the hands of Trump, who operates more on impulse than intellect. What is urgently required is the application of soft power not mighty hammers.
Los Altos, California
'Rape clause' an immoral policy
Like many, I found the introduction of the so-called “rape clause” last week as horrifically cruel and immoral, a truly damning indictment on the direction in which the UK Government is currently heading.
The policy came into force as part of welfare reforms limiting claims for child tax credit and universal credit to the first two children. An exemption requires rape victims to prove a third child was born as a result of non-consensual sex or while in a coercive relationship in order to claim tax credits to support that child.
The impact of rape on a woman is truly devastating, no more so than on her mental health, and the way in which this rape clause is to be administered will cause significant psychological harm. Given that a major reason that survivors of rape do not come forward is a legitimate fear of not being believed, it is unhelpful that the new process will ask women to provide evidence to support their claim. It forces women to disclose details of their personal history to professionals for administrative reasons. This may cause flashbacks, renewed shame and emotional turmoil, and consequently affect how mothers bond with their children.
For those children and adults who have been born of rape, finding this out and managing the identity crisis it can cause carries significant psychological risks too. To force mothers to remember the circumstances of conception for administrative reasons is unethical and potentially damaging to both the mother and the child, who is ultimately denied a right to privacy.
This is a morally repugnant and barbaric policy. One can only plead with the UK Government to rethink its approach on this vile clause.
Boris is right to stay at home
If Boris couldn't get the G7 to authorise sanctions, what could he have hoped to achieve if he had met with the Russians? Answer: nothing. He did right not to attend.
NHS workers speak out
A historic decision was made by the Royal College of Nursing last week to have an indicative ballot of their members for industrial action over pay. As a nurse for under a year, nothing could have prepared me for the challenges in our profession that come as a direct result of political choices by the Government.
Since 2010, pay restraint has caused loss of 14 per cent in real terms. The Government capped our pay again this year at 1 per cent despite a huge rise in inflation.
The workforce is in crisis: we have a 24,000 shortage of nurses, a 23 per cent drop in applications to nursing this year since the bursary to study was cut, a huge reduction in the number of migrant nurses applying to the NHS and 40 per cent of our workforce heading to retirement in coming years.
Underfunding in the NHS means we work under intense and exhausting conditions. Combine this with mass staff shortages and our pay and conditions and anyone can see that nursing is at breaking point. Our patients are suffering due to cuts; their care being rationed or they are being left to wait for hours on trollies.
Our goodwill has been taken advantage of. We have been pushed into a corner by a Government intent on destroying the service that has touched all of our lives. Our only option now is to strike for our patients, profession and our NHS. This is why I will vote and be encouraging members to vote for industrial action. Like with the junior doctors, we will need the public behind us every step of the way.
I retired from NHS general practice in 2008 at the age of 55. The job that I joined to do, trained to do, and enjoyed doing had been abolished by successive Governments' ideological interference. It was no longer possible to perform it safely and effectively.
The tasks remain largely unchanged, but, with every politician and pundit confident that they know better than the people who actually do know better, the outcome has been predictable for decades. Lack of resources, fragmentation of previously coherent primary care teams, the imposition of damaging structures and processes and the remorseless attacks from Westminster have all played their parts too.
Healthcare, correctly delivered, is not and never can be a commercial undertaking. It requires a coherent, unified team approach with autonomous professionals performing their proper roles in seamless synchrony and without interposed managerialist barriers. If I were to be allowed to work properly, I would go back to work this morning.
By chance, I have lately encountered two teachers who are abandoning teaching mid-career for comparable reasons. For our society to function it is necessary to allow the vocationally inspired to do their work and recognise their contribution.
A very modern crisis
In her latest political broadcast, Theresa May said: “As we leave the European Union we have the chance to shape a brighter future for Britain.” With self driving cars being introduced to the roads of Manchester next year, I see a terrible future.
When Britain won the Second World War, it was largely a caring, sharing and compassionate nation, and the bicycle played a significant part: it got people to work and out into the countryside. Along with the effects of rationing, and living off the land, Britain was healthy if not well-off.
Then along came the motorcar. Today, everything is in crisis: thousands suffer and die from air pollution, £12bn is needed to fix our roads, we are one of the worst congested countries in Europe and congestion will cost the UK economy more than £300bn over the next 16 years. On top of this, our NHS, police, prisons, and schools can’t cope; 900 care workers a day leave the profession; disability benefits have been cut; suicides are increasing, and the misery goes on.
Britain might be one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but if not for charity, its frail and disadvantaged would be “dropping like flies”. Put Britain under a microscope, and it would show a nation plagued with aggression and stress. As much as people want to be caring and sharing, millions can’t afford to be.
To save money and stay healthy, I ride a bicycle. At age 68 I doubt whether self driving cars will trouble me, but with millions of parked vehicles blocking our roads and thousands of potholes to have to “swerve” around (plus sunken grids, broken glass and tonnes of other rubbish), they will surely become a problem. The best way to test their safety would surely be to have them follow the Manchester to Blackpool charity cycle ride.
If Britain doesn’t return to its caring, sharing and compassionate way of life very soon, given global warming and the crisis in the Middle East, at some point in the 21st century, Britain, if not the world, will surely witness far worse than the Second World War.