Sunday, May 25, 2014
Multicultural welfare fraud
A shameless father is facing jail after he claimed almost £50,000 in child benefits for 11 years after his daughter died.
Jem Bakalej, 56, swindled thousands of pounds of taxpayers' cash in the decade-long scam, in which he pretended to be the single parent of Grace, who tragically passed away in 2001.
A court heard that between June 2001 and November 2012 he pocketed a total of £49,000 in state handouts for his daughter.
Prosecutor Richard Dewsbury said Bakalej made a claim for benefits as a single parent of Grace - who was born prematurely on June 16, 2001.
But the child was actually living with her mother in Northampton and tragically died a month after her birth, on July 21, 2001.
At Northampton Crown Court last week, Bakalej pleaded guilty to three counts of cheating the public revenue.
The court heard Bakalej also applied to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in March 2002 for income support as a lone parent of Grace, eight months after his daughter died.
He continued to claim income support until November 2010, stealing a total of £35,359.64 from the taxpayer.
Bakalej also claimed child tax credits as a lone parent of Grace after August 2010, worth a total of £6,806.21.
As a result of his false statements he also received £6,826 in child benefit, which he claimed until March 2011.
Mr Dewsbury told the court: 'The child benefit should have ceased to have been paid the first Monday after the child’s death in July 2001.
'But he failed to inform Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs about Grace's death, and payments continued until 2011.'
Mr Dewsbury added: 'They only ceased when he failed to respond to enquiries from HMRC.'
Bakalej was told to expect a prison term when he is sentenced at Northampton Crown Court next week
The court heard he has not worked since 2000 and is repaying the money back at £120 a month - which will take him 34 years to do.
Catholic family branded 'bigoted' by social workers for not wanting their children to be adopted by gay couple
A Catholic family were labelled bigots by social workers after they complained about the adoption of their children by a gay couple.
The parents, of Slovak Roma origin, protested after they discovered that their two youngest boys, aged four and one, were not going to be adopted by the Roman Catholic family they had asked for.
They claimed the gay adoption would humiliate the children and deprive them of their Roma heritage and Catholic faith, and said the decision amounted to ‘social engineering’.
Yesterday, the country’s most senior family judge upheld the adoption plan. But he criticised social workers from Kent for the way they condemned the parents because of their views.
Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, said in a High Court judgment: ‘It was, in my view, unfortunate that the local authority should have referred at one stage in the proceedings to the parents’ views on homosexuality in such a way as to suggest that they are bigoted. The label is unnecessary and hurtful.’
His criticism is understood to follow a report submitted to the court by social workers which said: ‘The attitude of the parents could be perceived as bigoted.’
The row comes at a time when social workers are under pressure from the Government to abandon rules which have meant that adopted children can be placed only with new families of the same ethnic or cultural background.
The doctrine has been blamed for preventing ethnic minority children from being adopted by a stable family, because there are two few people from ethnic minorities are willing to adopt.
Four children of the Roma family were taken into care last year while the family were living in a four-bedroom house in Kent arranged for them by a charity.
Social workers found the children were not going to school or getting medical care, and were ‘over-chastised’, dirty and unkempt.
They said the parents failed to keep one of the younger boys in a ‘smoke-free area’.
Protesting against the adoption of their two youngest boys, the parents said in a statement to the High Court that the adopters ‘are a homosexual couple and as such their lifestyle goes against our Roma culture and lifestyle'.
They added: 'The children will not be able to be brought up in the Catholic faith because of the conflicts between Catholicism and homosexuality.'
The parents said that if when the children were older they discovered ‘the huge differences’ between the Roma culture and the couple who brought up, ‘this is likely to cause them great upset’.
The parents said the adoption ‘would cause the children great psychological harm as homosexuality is not recognised in the worldwide Roma community. Having Roma children live with homosexuals or being adopted by them would be found to be humiliating’.
They added: ‘This is social engineering and is a conscious and deliberate effort by Kent County Council to transform our children from Slovak Roma children to English middle class children.'
But Sir James rejected their pleas, saying: ‘The children’s welfare needs outweigh the impact that adoption would have on their Roma identity.’
He said the future of the two boys should be finally settled by judges at the Family Court in Canterbury.
A Kent County Council spokesman said: ‘We are pleased that the court has recognised that... our paramount consideration has been the children’s long-term welfare.’
Police launch probe into church sign that suggested non-Christians will burn in hell after ONE person complained
A baptist church was at the centre of a police probe after a sign which suggested non-Christians would 'burn in hell' was investigated as a 'hate incident'.
The offending sign at Attleborough Baptist Church in Norfolk, pictured burning flames below words which read: 'If you think there is no God you better be right!!'.
Now the church has been forced to remove the sign after a passer-by complained to police that it could 'not be further' from the Christian phrase, love thy neighbour.
Robert Gladwin, 20, said: 'It is my basic understanding that Christianity is inclusive and loving in nature.
'The message being displayed outside of the church could not be further from the often uttered phrase ‘love thy neighbour’.'
Mr Gladwin said he was 'astounded' when he spotted the poster by chance as he was walking home.
He said: 'I was just astounded really. We live in the 21st century and they have put that message - that non-Christians will burn in hell - up to try and scare people into joining their mentality.'
The strongly-worded sign - which was put up next to a notice board which promises that visitors 'can always be sure of a very warm welcome' - was taken down by Pastor John Rose, 69, after police launched an investigation into the complaint.
Mr Rose said he 'regretted' how the poster could have been interpreted.
He said: 'Attleborough Baptist Church offers a variety of ways in which people are able to engage with the Christian message. 'Jesus encourages us to love God and to love our neighbour and we therefore regret that the poster has been seen as inciting hatred.
'Indeed, we want to assure all members of our local community that they would be made to feel very welcome at any of the church's activities.'
Mr Rose said he changed the posters on his notice board every two weeks. The poster has now been replaced by another one with the message : 'God loves you!' and a picture of a meerkat and a speech bubble saying: 'Simples'.
But despite the sign now being removed, it has still caused controversy in the church's local area.
Chris Copsey, from Norfolk Humanists, branded the sign 'pernicious nonsense'. He said: 'I believe the people of Attleborough have more common sense than to give this sign any credence.'
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, also defended the church and said police involvement was the equivalent of 'banning the Bible'.
He said: 'Personally I don’t find it offensive. But we did fight a long battle of freedom of speech together with Christian groups because we believe that freedom of speech is essential to a functioning society.
'If you don’t give free speech to everybody then it isn’t free speech and as long as they aren’t inciting violence then I think it is acceptable to say whatever you want to say.'
But the Reverand Simon Ward, of the Diocese of Norwich, said: 'I guess they are trying to open a conversation and cause people to think. 'However, I think there are more positive conversations that you could have and more positive reasons for coming to church.'
A Norfolk police spokesman said: 'Norfolk Constabulary received a report regarding a poster outside a church in Attleborough which was deemed offensive by the complainant.
'National guidance required us to investigate the circumstances and the matter has been recorded as a hate incident. 'Having spoken to the pastor of the church, it has been agreed the poster will be taken down.'
The controversy has echoes of a freedom of speech debate sparked in January 2009, after the British Humanist Association launched an anti-religion advertising campaign on London buses.
The campaign was made up of posters disputing the existence of god, which read: 'There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.'
The campaign was originally intended for buses in London, but the appeal spread across the country because it became so popular.
Opera is getting better -- even if that is "sexist"
I must say that poorly cast singers have reduced my enjoyment of opera on various occasions -- JR
Suspension of disbelief is hard-wired in to opera as an art form. Everything is implausible, from the basic fact that everyone is singing rather than talking to those wild implausible plots full of exaggerated coincidences and long-lost relatives. To ask "why" at every juncture is missing the point: there’s no "why". The music should tell you everything. Yet, the narrative of an opera, however ludicrous, cannot be divorced entirely from the music. Ideally a staging should bring music and story together as close as possible.
A certain implausibility seems to have sparked this week's big row about Tara Erraught’s Octavian in Glyndebourne’s new production of Der Rosenkavalier. In reviewing the piece, the international press have used words such as "chubby", "dumpy", "unsightly". The fact that these notices were all from male writers has created a row about sexism.
In defence of his review, Rupert Christiansen of this paper puts forward his argument ("I stand by every word") that Erraught "falls on the wrong side of dramatic plausibility". Opera is as much a visual art form as audio – so visual coherence must be carefully considered.
Body-shaming is not new in opera. Verdi’s premiere of La traviata was an unmitigated flop because his rather stout Violetta, Fanny Salvini-Donatelli, looked nothing like a woman wasting away in the last stages of consumption. One audience member shouted "I see no consumption, only dropsy!" on the opening night.
But in the last 30 years or so things have ramped up to to another level. What I really want to know is what made us demand less of this area of plausibility (a singer’s physical shape) when Dame Joan Sutherland, Luciano Parvarotti, Monserrat Caballe and Jessye Norman were active on the international stage. We have moved from unquestioning devotion to overweight or notably plain singers to modern ones who must look like movie stars – glamorous creatures such as Jonas Kaufmann, Anna Netrebko, Angela Gheorghiu and Renée Fleming, to name a few. There’s also a whole breed of singers collectively known as "barihunks" with gym-fit bodies.
What created this culture of Hollywood charisma in the opera world?
The collapse of the classical CD recording industry has something to do with it. In the past, most of us encountered singers through audio recordings. It’s not always geographically possible, or economically viable, to attend live performances. Most people listened to Pavarotti. A small portion of people worldwide get to see "Big Lucy" playing the love interest.
These days recording companies don’t bother with all-star studio recordings. Instead they put out HD discs. Recording a performance and then capitalising on it is the only financially viable way. At the same time opera houses are bringing music to cinemas via live simulcasts. Excerpts of these performances then find their way on to YouTube.
Suddenly everybody around the world is up close and personal with opera singers. The business of selling opera becomes a much more visual affair. Presentation is vital. Collectively we expect visual and audio to link up more in the service of story telling.
So what of Miss Erraught’s appearance? I’ve watched her singing Rosina on YouTube and she’s feisty, winsome and delightful. In fact her press pictures are positively glamourous.
I don’t think the press sets out to destroy a young artist at the beginning of her career. I think the reaction would be far more unforgiving if she couldn’t sing. But we have to accept this: some people just don’t look right in drag – men or women. I think better styling, as Dame Kiri has suggested, is a start. It seems daft for a mezzo with her ability to avoid trouser parts. Will she look plausible as Giulio Cesare, or Cherubino? I’m afraid you’ll have to wait to find out
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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.