Recently by James Treadwell
Yesterday the Birmingham Mail newspaper ran the story of a man rushed to hospital after drinking fake vodka spiked with methanol, and warned that 'consumer chiefs' feared 'other bottles of the potentially deadly drink may be on sale in shops across the city'. It told how the police seized 120 bottles of Glens Vodka from Select & Save off-licenses, in Frankley Beeches Road, Northfield, and of those seized bottles passed to trading standards officers; ten were found to be counterfeit.
It is likely that these bottles were sold small scale by counterfeiter's cold-calling smaller off-licenses', but the while this example might seem rare, counterfeiting is increasing. It is part of the sprawling instance of crime that occurs daily in the U.K, but that is so routinely overlooked. For example Birmingham City Council suggest that:
'Trading Standards Departments are increasingly finding inferior, illegally copied and often unsafe goods on sale to the public which have been produced or imported by unscrupulous businesses or individuals capitalising on well-known company names and brands, or the original work of others. The practice of 'counterfeiting' has serious adverse effects on traders selling genuine goods and is prejudicial to companies and individuals whose names are illegally applied to goods or who own the brands or the legal right to reproduce original works'
Yesterday the Daily Mail announced what they, no doubt regard a victory for their somewhat peculiar brand of 'common sense'. The paper proclaiming its vitriolic view that the result of continual pressure that they exerted on the issue 'Gordon Brown is to take personal responsibility for toughening the law on cannabis'. The same day, the PM appeared on GMTV and spoke on the evils of the weed, hinting as to his returning it to its former Class B status. For the Mail, long campaigners against re-classification to Class C status under Blair's regime some 4 years ago, 'The U-turn' could only be regarded 'a damning admission that Labour's soft policy of recent years was a mistake and will bring down the curtain on a disastrous experiment'.
For the rest of us, however, it might be time to ask whether Daily Mail journalists, and Gordon (the 'clunking fist') Brown for that matter, have been smoking something?
The publication of quarterly police recorded crime figures in January highlighted a general fall in crime, with a drop of some of 9% in overall recorded crime in the period concerned. While crime figures are notoriously unreliable, and should always be read with caution these seemed initially to be showing something positive. Yet these statistics were blemished by a 4% rise in gun crime and a 21% rise in drug offences.
Yesterday we heared that police investigating the murder of Rhys Jones had made a number of arrests. His is but one death in a series of youth deaths and injury's linked to firearms in recent months, which in turn, are often linked directly or indirectly to the drugs trade. Yet the headline grabbing stories of murder and violence are but a tip of an iceberg when it contrasted to the unreported crime involving weapons, and increasingly guns. Last year doctors at Birmingham's City Hospital talked in the pages of the Birmingham Post about the number of cases of violent injury they were treating, but which never make it into crime statistics.
So how do we deal with the problem of carrying weapons? Well for one, we could examine where the firearms come from, and try to prevent young men getting them.
Last week witnessed something of a media outcry accompanying the publication of details regarding a number of prominent MPs expenses. Some clever use of the Freedom of information act by the BBC meant that we, the taxpaying public, were made aware of just what our politicians claim. It made for quite an interesting read. For example one of the headline grabbing facts was that Tony Blair claimed £116 to pay for his Televisions licence fee. He was lucky to have a job where you can do that.
The purpose of the licence fee is to provide income for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) radio and television services - and it seems only fair that Blair should have given the BBC something. Perhaps an apology would be too much to expect, and maybe the campaign for the publication of expenses data was a belated act of payback from the BBC to the former PM given the unresolved issue between the government and the BBC (something to do with the words 'sexed up' and 'dossier' I seem to recall...).
Last Sunday the Express newspaper launched a vitriolic campaign to 'ban the hoody'.
By 'hoody' what the paper actually meant was not the garment of clothing. They were quick to note that hooded garments were quite appropriate when walking ones dog on a blustery day on the local common, braced against a chill wind. What it seemed to me they actually meant was they wanted to ban anyone under the age of twenty-one. More specifically anyone under the age of about twenty-one who wants to follow a contemporary trend and wear a hooded top. So what the Express were actually doing, (Trinny and Susanna style) was determining what is sartorially appropriate attire for young people in contemporary Britain. Beyond that, they seemed to me, to be engaging in one of the most pernicious and lamentable instances I have seen recently of indiscriminately labelling many young people thugs. It seems to have passed the Express by that a lot of kids wearing hoods are not knife wielding thugs.
It has been revealed that the costs of operations by British Armed forces in Afghanistan have risen to more than £1.6bn, a year-on-year increase of 122%. More surprisingly, given a reduction in troop numbers in Iraq, the cost of Britain's military presence there has also increased to some £1.6bn. This costing revealed by the Commons Defence Committee comes not long after the newspapers celebrated the heroics of Prince Harry Wales of England's during his short stint of military service on the frontline in Afghanistan. While perhaps we should rightly be concerned about the financial cost of the war, and the individual sacrifice of our royal. But should we not consider the real cost to Britain, the hidden casualties?
There is the cost of the service personnel whose lives lost should not be forgotten. However, they do get some recognition (never enough, but can there be enough?). Other forces personnel though receive scant attention. There will be a cost though for many forces personnel that many people ignorant of. Serious and debilitating injury is one, and the compensation those seriously injured receive might need serious redress. But the cost is deeper still. Some might expect me now to talk of the innocents and civillians who lose their lives in war zones. While also worthy of attention, that is not the focus of this piece.