Sunday, April 11, 2010
NHS relaxes safety rules for Muslim staff... just days after Christian nurse is banned from wearing crucifix for "safety" reasons
This is blatant hypocritical defiance
Muslim doctors and nurses are to be allowed for religious reasons to opt out of strict NHS dress codes introduced to prevent the spread of deadly hospital superbugs. The Department of Health has announced that female Muslim staff will be permitted to cover their arms on hospital wards to preserve their modesty.
This is despite earlier guidance that all staff should be ‘bare below the elbow’ after long sleeves were blamed for spreading bacteria, leading to superbug deaths.
The Department has also relaxed its ‘no jewellery’ rule by making it clear that Sikhs can wear bangles, as long as they can be pushed up the arm during direct patient care.
The move contrasts with the case of nurse Shirley Chaplin, who last week lost her discrimination battle against Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital Trust, which said the cross she has worn since she was 16 was a ‘hazard’ because it could scratch patients.
Mrs Chaplin, 55, had worn the silver cross on a necklace since her confirmation. But the employment tribunal told her that wearing a cross was not a ‘mandatory requirement’ of her faith, even though Muslim doctors are allowed to wear hijabs or headscarves.
Last night she said of the sleeve concession to Muslims: ‘I don’t believe my cross is a danger so this is double standards. What can you say? It seems that life is stacked up against Christians these days.’
Politicians and Christian leaders, including former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, added that it showed the Government was prepared to accommodate minority faiths while Christianity was marginalised.
Lord Carey said of grandmother Mrs Chaplin: ‘The Muslim voice is very strong, so politicians and others are scared of it. We can only deduce that the hostility aimed at her is because she is a Christian.’
The revised rules, which health officials insist will not compromise hospital hygiene, were drawn up after female Muslim staff objected to exposing their arms in public.
Since the original guidance was announced by the then Health Secretary Alan Johnson in 2007, many hospitals have insisted that staff involved in patient care wear short sleeves at all times. Mr Johnson’s initiative came amid growing concerns about the number of patients catching superbugs such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile. Hundreds of people have died.
The guidance required staff coming into contact with patients to have their arms bare below the elbows, outlawing the traditional doctors’ white coat.
Jewellery, other than plain wedding bands and ear studs, watches and false nails, were also banned to cut down the spread of bacteria. But Muslim doctors and medical students said baring arms conflicted with the Koran’s teaching that women must dress modestly in public.
In 2008, several universities reported that Muslim medical students objected to the rules. Leicester University said some Muslim females ‘had difficulty in complying with the procedures to roll up sleeves to the elbow for appropriate handwashing’, while Sheffield University reported a case of a Muslim medic who refused to ‘scrub’ as this left her forearms exposed.
Birmingham University revealed that some students would prefer to quit their course than expose their arms. A Muslim radiographer quit at Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading over the issue. Yet Islamic experts are divided about how Muslim women should dress as the Koran is ambiguous on the matter.
The revised rules, issued on March 26, make clear that staff can wear uniforms with long sleeves as long as they roll them up securely above their elbows to wash and when they are on the wards. They add that staff who want to cover up completely when dealing with patients will be able to use special disposable ‘over-sleeves’.
The guidance says: ‘Where, for religious reasons, members of staff wish to cover their forearms or wear a bracelet when not engaged in patient care, ensure that sleeves or bracelets can be pushed up the arm and secured in place for hand-washing and direct patient care.
‘In a few instances, staff have expressed a preference for disposable over-sleeves – elasticated at the wrist and elbow – to cover forearms during patient care activity. ‘Disposable over-sleeves can be worn where gloves are used but strict adherence to washing hands and wrists must be observed before and after use.’
The Department was unable to say last night how much extra it will cost the NHS to provide the disposable sleeves. But 18in polythene over-sleeves are already on offer on the internet for about £7 for a pack of 200.
The Department admitted in its new guidance that it had reviewed its rules because ‘exposure of the forearms is not acceptable to some staff because of their Islamic faith’. It added: ‘We recognise that elements of the additional guidance could be seen to be introducing differing requirements for those to whom “baring below the elbows” presents no significant problem.
‘We have considered the implications of this possibility but concluded that the overall purpose of the guidance, to ensure patient safety by adherence to good hand hygiene, is not prejudiced by the additional dress options that have now been identified.’
Health officials drew up the revised rules on the advice of Islamic scholars and a group called Muslim Spiritual Care Provision in the NHS (MSCP), which is part of the Muslim Council of Britain.
A working party was set up comprising two Health Department officials, a member of the Health Protection Agency, two female Muslim hospital chaplains, an Imam and two members of MSCP. Yet campaigners for the rights of Christian nurses to wear crosses said the Health Department had failed to consult them adequately.
Mrs Chaplin lost her case on Tuesday despite being backed by the Christian Legal Centre and human-rights lawyer Paul Diamond. She is not the only nurse to fall foul of health-and-safety laws. Last year, Roman Catholic Helen Slatter, 43, resigned as a blood collector at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital rather than remove her cross which her bosses said ‘could harbour infection’.
Lord Carey, one of seven bishops to sign a letter supporting Mrs Chaplin at her tribunal, said the Government was guilty of ‘double standards’. ‘The NHS, British Airways and all the big companies seem to be tilting in one direction,’ he added. ‘If Muslims are getting these concessions, why not Christians? There should be the same rules for everyone.’
Lord Carey, whose wife Eileen is a former nurse, added: ‘In the case of Shirley Chaplin, she has been wearing her cross for 38 years and it has never injured anyone. ‘So the argument for health and safety is very weak, very tenuous indeed.’
Derek Butler, chairman of MRSA Action UK, a campaign group headed by respected microbiologist Professor Hugh Pennington, said: ‘We welcomed the introduction of baring-below-the-elbows because we know that anything – whether it’s jewellery, watches or wedding rings – can harbour bacteria which can in turn transfer superbugs between patients.
‘My worry is that by allowing some medics to use disposable sleeves you compromise patient safety because unless you change the sleeves between treating each patient, you spread bacteria. Scrubbing bare arms is far more effective. ‘I’ve seen doctors and nurses fail to change their gloves, and I’ve no doubt this will see exactly the same thing happening. These sleeves are just another risk, and you cannot take risks with patient safety.’
Former Tory Minister Ann Widdecombe said: ‘I don’t mind if a Sikh nurse can wear a bangle if a Christian nurse can wear a cross. If you have a rule you have to have it for all. ‘There is no evidence that crosses are a serious health-and-safety risk. That is just an excuse to discriminate against people of faith. ‘Minority groups are unquestionably getting more sensitive treatment than Christians and this is yet more proof.’
Dr Andrew Fergusson, of the Christian Medical Fellowship, which represents 4,000 doctors, said: ‘For some reason, Christians in health care seem to be particularly vulnerable at the moment.’
The Department of Health said: ‘The revised workwear guidance gives further clarity to frontline staff about the need to have good hand hygiene when in direct patient care. It does not change previous policy. ‘The guidance is intended to provide direction to services in how they can balance infection-control measures with cultural beliefs without compromising patient safety.
Religious tolerance has put a fatwa on our moral nerve
Religious freedom has turned out to be a mixed blessing. The idea was once an article of faith with me, irreligious though I am. But my faith is beginning to weaken. Religion has turned out to be different from what tolerant people of my monocultural childhood understood by it — a system of private belief and devotion that did not intrude into the public space except through charity and uncontroversial good works.
Now, by contrast, religion is constantly claiming attention in the public space and demanding special treatment. It is also abused in the name of divisive identity politics. All this makes even the most tolerant liberal think twice about freedom of religious expression.
Last week’s case of the self-styled “crucified” nurse is a perfect example of the problem. Shirley Chaplin, an experienced ward sister and devout Christian, discovered at an employment tribunal that — despite the support of seven bishops and a mention in the Easter sermon of the Archbishop of Canterbury — she had lost her battle to be allowed to wear a crucifix at work in the wards of the Royal Devon and Exeter hospital. Her crucifix is on a long chain and although she has worn it at work for many years, a recent hospital risk assessment found that it breached health and safety rules. This decision was upheld by the employment tribunal.
“I don’t use the word crucified lightly,” said Chaplin, “but in one sense I have been crucified by the system. Every Christian at work will now be afraid to mention their beliefs.” What on earth can she mean? The reverse is the truth. The hospital suggested to her as a compromise that she might indeed wear her crucifix openly at work, but pinned to her uniform rather than on a chain — rather as nurses wear watches pinned to their frontage for reasons of hygiene — thus publicly displaying her beliefs at all times.
One can, however, sympathise with something else she feels. Commenting that Muslim hospital staff have been allowed to continue wearing head coverings, she said that “Muslims do not seem to face the same rigorous application of NHS rules”. There’s certainly some truth in that.
At the end of March it emerged that female Muslim doctors and nurses are indeed to have special treatment on National Health Service wards. Non-Muslim staff in direct contact with patients must keep their arms bare to the elbow for important hygiene reasons — to make sure their sleeves do not become contaminated and so they can wash their hands thoroughly on ward rounds.
Their Muslim female counterparts, however, have been given a special dispensation by the Department of Health. Because some Muslims consider nudity of the female forearm to be immodest, Muslim doctors and nurses are to be issued with disposable sleeves, elasticated at wrist and elbow, to cover up the erogenous zone that lies between. This is absurd, unfair, wasteful and yet another example, as Chaplin and her episcopal supporters (and I) all feel, of the bias in favour of a vociferous religious minority.
The truth is that special dispensations for such reasons are not acceptable. Everyone ought to abide by the same rules. Disposable hospital sleeves for Muslims, full veils, long dresses in public pools and ceremonial knives at school are not acceptable in the public domain. They may be unhygienic; they may be dangerous; they may be a security risk. Yet the main argument for prohibiting all these supposedly religious symbols is that they are socially divisive and disruptive without being a religious requirement at all. I applaud the decision of the General Medical Council in 2008 that Muslim doctors must not veil their faces when with patients.
To me, one of the most heartening aspects of the case of Chaplin’s dangling crucifix was the tribunal’s finding that there is no mandatory requirement in the Christian faith that a Christian should wear a crucifix. That is correct, of course. Wearing a crucifix is entirely optional and indeed historically some Christians have actually disapproved of them as graven images.
This same criterion could and should be applied to comparable claims for special treatment on religious grounds, such as the wearing of supposedly Muslim clothing. Saying this will bring protests down upon my head, but, as far as I can understand, there is no mandatory Islamic requirement for women to wear a particular kind of garment; there is merely a requirement for them to dress modestly. If it weren’t for the spirit of tolerance in this country, combined with politically correct cowardice, officialdom would have acted accordingly long ago.
Beyond all this, the awkward fact remains that there is nothing to stop anyone insisting that a certain practice — whether it is circumcising little girls or teaching creationist nonsense or turning homosexuals away from B&Bs — is indeed a requirement of his or her religion, no matter what any theologian may say.
It is useless to argue: the problem is with religion itself. Religion is a word that can be used to silence argument, not least because religious faith is by definition beyond the reach of rational argument. Yet somehow in this country we have encoded that irrationality into law — into recent human rights law and anti-discrimination legislation — with the result that we are all defenceless in the face of antisocial demands made in the name of religion.
We have put ourselves in a position in which we cannot discriminate between religions and between religious practices; even joking may be against the law now. Not taking religion very seriously ourselves, we failed until recently to understand that others do and do not consider it a private matter. At the same time, we seem to be in a state of cultural moral funk, in which even the Archbishop of Canterbury could recommend that aspects of sharia should be incorporated into English law and then wonder at the fury he aroused.
Beyond a certain point in a liberal society, religious tolerance is a loss of moral nerve.
Israel the strong horse
Much of what the West misses about the Arab world is spelled out for us in a new and masterful book. The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations by Lee Smith, is a unique and vital addition to the current debate on the Middle East because rather than interpret the Arabs through the ideological lenses of the West, Smith describes them, their cultural and political motivations as the Arabs -- in all their ethnic, religious, ideological, national and tribal variations -- themselves perceive these things.
Smith, a native New Yorker, was the literary editor of The Village Voice when Arab hijackers brought down the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Propelled by the attacks, he headed to the Middle East to try to understand what had just hit his city. Smith moved to Cairo where he studied Arabic and drank in the cultural and political forces surrounding him. After a year, he moved to Beirut where he remained for another three years.
The Strong Horse speaks to two Western audiences, the Left, or the self-proclaimed "realists," who ascribe to the belief that the Arabs have no particular interests but are rather all motivated to act by external forces and specifically by the US and Israel; and the neo-conservatives who believe that at heart, the Arabs all yearn for Western-style liberal democracy.
Smith rejects both these notions out of hand. Instead, by recounting the stories of men and women he met during his sojourn in the region, and weaving them into the tales of Arab cultural, religious and political leaders that have risen and fallen since the dawn of Islam 1,400 years ago Smith presents a few basic understandings of the Arab world that place the actions of everyone from Osama bin Laden to Jordan's King Abdullah in regional and local contexts. The localization of these understandings in turn opens up a whole new set of options for Westerners and particularly for Israelis in seeking ways to contend with the region's pathologies that involve policies less sweeping than grand, yet futile designs of peace making, or fundamental restructuring of the social compacts of Arab societies.
Smith develops six central insights in his book.
* Arab political history is a history of the powerful ruling the weak through violence.
* Islamic terror and governmental tyranny are the two sides of the coin of Arab political pathology.
* Liberal democratic principles are unattractive to the vast majority of Arabs who believe that politics is and by rights ought to remain a violent enterprise and prefer the narrative of resistance to the narrative of liberty.
* Liberal Arab reformers are unwilling to fight for their principles.
The 1,400 year period of Sunni dominance over non-Sunni minorities is now threatened seriously for the first time by the Iranian-controlled Shiite alliance which includes Syria, Lebanon, and Hamas.
And finally, that it is intra-Arab rivalries and the desire to rule and be recognized as the strong horse that motivates jihadists to wage continuous wars against Israel and the West and against regimes in Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia alike.
As Smith explains, today, Arab leaders view Israel as a possible strong horse that could defeat the rising Shiite axis that threatens them. And now, as the US under Obama abdicates its leadership role in world affairs by turning on its allies and attempting to appease its foes while scaling back America's own military strength, Israel is the Sunnis' only hope for beating back the Shiite alliance. If Israel does not prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, then the likes of Kings Abdullah of Jordan and Saudi Arabia and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak are going to be forced to accept Iran as the regional hegemon.
The recognition that a strong Israel is the most stabilizing force in the region is perhaps the main casualty of the Left's land for peace narrative and the two-state solution paradigm which wrongly promote the weakness of Israel as the foremost potential contributor to stability in the region. Because Israel is everyone's convenient bogeyman, it cannot form permanent alliances with any of its neighbors and as a consequence, it cannot gang up against another state.
Because it will always be the first target of the most radical actors in the region, Israel has a permanent interest in defeating them or, at a minimum denying those actors the means to cause catastrophic harm. Finally, although no one will admit it, everyone knows that Israel has neither the ability nor desire to acquire and rule over Arab lands and therefore there is no reason for anyone to fear its strength. For the past 62 years, Israel has only used force to protect itself when it was convinced it had no other option and it holds only territories designated for the Jewish homeland by the League of Nations 90 years ago and lands vital for its self-defense.
Smith was living in Beirut when Hizbullah launched its war against Israel in July 2006. As he tells the story, "When the government of Ehud Olmert decided to make war against Hizbullah in the summer of 2006, all of Washington's Arab allies...were overjoyed. With the Americans having taken down a Sunni security pillar - Saddam - and then getting tied down in Iraq, Riyadh, Cairo and the rest sensed the Iranians were gaining ground and that they were vulnerable. Even though they were incapable of doing anything about it themselves, the Sunni powers...wanted to see the [Iranian] bloc rolled back."
Unfortunately for them, Olmert and his government were incompetent to lead Israel in war and within weeks showed that they had no idea how to accomplish their stated aim of crushing Hizbullah. When this reality sunk in, and the Arab masses rallied behind Iran, Hizbullah and Syria against their own governments, "the Sunni regimes could abide no longer and demanded the United States move to a ceasefire immediately."
No doubt, in part as a consequence of their disappointment with Israel's military performance in Lebanon and subsequently in Gaza, today leaders like Abdullah of Jordan are pessimistic about the future. But there is also no doubt who they are rooting for. And this has profound significance for Israel, not only as it prepares its plans to contend with Iran but also as it considers it national priorities.
For too long, Israel's leaders have believed that to thrive regionally, it needs to convince the West to support it politically. But the fact is that Israel is in Asia, not in Europe or North America. To survive and thrive, Israel needs to rebuild the faith of the likes of Jordan's Abdullah that it is the strong horse in the region. And once it does that, with or without formal peace treaties, and with or without democracies flourishing region-wide, Israel will facilitate regional peace and stability for the benefit of all.
White & guilty: ‘Whiteness’ workshop helps expose your inner racist
Crazy assumptions produce crazy conclusions
Sandy, Jim and Karen work at a downtown community centre where they help low-income residents apply for rental housing. Sandy has a bad feeling about Jim: She notices that when black clients come in, he tends to drift to the back of the office. Sandy suspects racism (she and Jim are both white). On the other hand, she also notices that Jim seems to get along well with Karen, who is black. As the weeks go by, Sandy becomes more uncomfortable with the situation. But she feels uncertain about how to handle it. Test question: What should Sandy do?
If you answered that Sandy's first move should be to talk to Karen, and ask how Jim's behaviour made her feel, you are apparently a better anti-racist than me.
That, for what it's worth, was the preferred solution offered by my instructor at "Thinking About Whiteness and Doing Anti-Racism," a four-part evening workshop for community activists, presented earlier this year at the Toronto Women's Bookstore.
My own answer, announced in class, was that Sandy should approach Jim discreetly, explaining to him how others in the office might perceive his actions. Or perhaps the manager of the community centre could give a generic presentation about the need to treat clients in a colour-blind manner, on a no-names basis.
The problem with my approach, the instructor indicated, lay in the fact that I was primarily concerned with the feelings of my fellow Caucasian, Jim. I wasn't treating Karen like a "full human being" who might have thoughts and worries at variance with the superficially friendly workplace attitude.
Moreover, I was guilty of "democratic racism" -- by which we apply ostensibly race-neutral principles such as "due process," constantly demanding clear "evidence" of wrongdoing, rather than confronting prima facie instances of racism head-on. "It seems we're always looking for more proof," said the instructor, an energetic left-wing activist who's been teaching this course for several years. "When it comes to racism, you have to trust your gut."
I felt the urge to pipe up at this. Racism is either a serious charge or it's not. And if it is, as everyone in this room clearly believed, then it cannot be flung around casually without giving the accused a chance to explain his actions. But I said nothing, and nodded my head along with everyone else. I'd come to this class not to impose my democratic racism on people, but to observe.
Most of the other 13 students were earnest, grad-student types in their 20s -- too young to remember the late 1980s and early 1990s, when political correctness first took root on college campuses. The jargon I heard at the bookstore took me back to that age -- albeit with a few odd variations. "Allyship" has replaced "solidarity" in the anti-racist lexicon, for instance, when speaking about inter-racial activist partnerships. I also heard one student say she rejected the term "gender-neutral" as sexist, and instead preferred "gender-fluid." One did not "have" a gender or sexual orientation; the operative word is "perform" -- as in, "Sally performs her queerness in a very femme way."
The instructor's Cold War-era Marxist jargon added to the retro intellectual vibe. Like just about everyone in the class, she took it for granted that racism is an outgrowth of capitalism, and that fighting one necessarily means fighting the other. At one point, she asked us to critique a case study about "Cecilia," a community activist who spread a message of tolerance and mutual respect in her neighbourhood. Cecilia's approach was incomplete, the instructor informed us, because she neglected to sound the message that "classism is a form of oppression." The real problem faced by visible minorities in our capitalist society isn't a lack of understanding, "it's the fundamentally inequitable nature of wage labour."
The central theme of the course was that this twinned combination of capitalism and racism has produced a cult of "white privilege," which permeates every aspect of our lives. "Canada is a white supremacist country, so I assume that I'm racist," one of the students said matter-of-factly during our first session. "It's not about not being racist. Because I know I am. It's about becoming less racist." At this, another student told the class: "I hate when people tell me they're colour-blind. That is the most overt kind of racism. When people say ‘I don't see your race,' I know that's wrong. To ignore race is to be more racist than to acknowledge race. I call it neo-racism."
All of the students were white (to my eyes, anyway). And most were involved in what might broadly be termed the anti-racism industry -- an overlapping hodgepodge of community-outreach activists, equity officers, women's studies instructors and the like. Most said they'd come so they could integrate anti-racism into their work. Yet a good deal of the course consisted of them unburdening themselves of their own racist guilt. The instructor set the tone, describing an episode in which she'd lectured a colleague of colour about his job. "When I realized what I was doing, I approached him afterward and apologized," she told the class. "I said to him. ‘I'm so sorry! I'm unloading so much whiteness on you right now.' "
Another woman described her torment when a friend asked her to give a presentation about media arts to a group of black students -- an exercise that would have made a spectacle of her white privilege. "Should I say yes? Or is it my responsibility to say no?" she said. "But then [my friend] may say, ‘I want you to do it -- because you have a particular approach ...'
"But wait! Could it be that the reason I have that ‘particular approach' is that I've been raised to think that I could have that particular approach, that I have the ability, that I am able to access education in a particular way? All these things are in my head, in my heart, not really knowing how to respond. On the other hand, I also recognize that the person asking me has the agency to decide that I'm the right person ... so I say yes! ... But then I'm still thinking ‘I don't know if I did the right thing.' I still struggle with this all the time ..."
An especially telling moment came when someone raised the subject of Third World nannies who immigrate to Canada under government-sponsored caregiver programs. The instructor told the class that the practice was inherently "super-exploitative." She also pointed us to an article included in the week's reading, "Black Women and Work," in which Canadian author Dionne Brand argues that cynical employers use appeals such as "You know that you're part of the family" to emotionally blackmail nannies, housekeepers and elder-care workers into the continuation of abusive work relationships.
One of the students -- I'll use the name "Chris" (having promised not to identify any attendee by name) -- interjected, apologetically. Chris couldn't help but confess that her own family had employed just such a nanny, who truly did seem "part of the family." For several minutes, Chris gave details, describing all the touching, intimate ways in which the nanny's family had become intermingled with Chris's own.
This speech from the heart caused a ripple of discomfort. One woman suggested that the nanny has adopted a "coping mechanism" to deal with her subordinate situation. This led to a discussion about how we must recognize the nanny's "agency" -- a popular buzzword signifying that minority members must not be seen as passive victims. The instructor listened attentively -- but didn't offer much more except that the example demonstrated the "contradictary-ness" of anti-racism studies. We moved on while Chris sat there, looking somewhat confused, and attracting my sympathy.
In fact, I felt sympathy for just about everyone in that class. In private conversation, they all seemed like good-hearted, intelligent people. But like communist die-hards confessing their counter-revolutionary thought-crimes at a Soviet workers' council, or devout Catholics on their knees in the confessional, they also seemed utterly consumed by their sin, regarding their pallor as a sort of moral leprosy. I came to see them as Lady Macbeths in reverse -- cursing skin with nary a "damn'd spot." Even basic communication with friends and fellow activists, I observed, was a plodding agony of self-censorship, in which every syllable was scrutinized for subconscious racist connotations as it was leaving their mouths.
While politically correct campus activists often come across as smug and single-minded, I realized, their intellectual life might more accurately be described as bipolar -- combining an ecstatic self-conception as high priestesses who pronounce upon the racist sins of our society, alongside extravagant self-mortification in regard to their own fallen state.
As I watched, I tried to detach myself from this spectacle, and imagine what this unintentionally comic scene -- a group of students sitting around, self-consciously egging each other on to be ashamed of their skin colour -- would look like to, say, civil rights protesters from a half-century ago. If the instructor and her students ever allowed themselves to laugh, they might have found it funny.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.