Thursday, November 26, 2015

Demonstration outside Parliament by Bangladesh minorities

My letter to Minister Hugo Swire MP:

From Lord Avebury                                                                                                     P1524112

November 24, 2015

 Dear Mr Swire,

I attach a letter from the Bangladesh Human Rights Alliance about a demonstration opposite Parliament on November 18 which I attended. As I'm sure you know, although in the past there has been reasonable harmony between the various faiths in Bangladesh including those of no faith, there has been a downward trend in recent years, with violent attacks on persons and property by Islamist terrorists, including the hacking to death of five secular bloggers. The government hasn't been able to bring the perpetrators of these attacks to justice, or to dismantle the terrorist organisations that spread religious hatred. I do understand that we can't tell the Bangladesh government how to deal with these issues but I hope we could tell them of the strong feelings expressed by representatives of the minorities in the diaspora on the subject.

Hugo Swire Esq MP
Foreign & Commonwealth Office,
London SW1P 3BT

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

How not to eradicate the Daesh

When the Lord Privy Seal Baroness Stowell of Beeston repeated the Prime Minister's statement in the Commons on the G20 and the Paris Attacks last week I asked her if as part of the comprehensive strategy for eliminating the Daesh in Syria the Government would supply armaments and logistics to the YPG (Official Report November 17 Col 58), her answer was:

"We are supporting the moderate opposition groups in the area so that they can combat ISIL and Assad, and we will continue to do that".

Patrick Cockburn writing in The Independent today [ that the moderate Syrian opposition to Assad 'barely exists'. The effective ground forces combatting the Daesh in Syria are the Syrian army and the Kurdish YPG, and we are risking failure by ignoring the greater  contribution they could make to eradicating the terrorists so-called 'caliphate'


Blood test just a week after the previous one:

25.1 18.1 21.10 5.10 18.09 10.09 3.07 17.06 Normal
Hb 86 87 107 95 106 81 104 107 130-180
WBC 1.47 1.76 1.8 1.95 2.53 2.39 2.85 2.85 4.5-10.0
N'phils 0.48 0.46 0.57 0.87 1.05 1.02 1.16 1.17 2.0-7
Plt 187 221 202 225 2.41 2.41 249 232 150-450

Considering that the Hydroxycarbamide was originally prescribed to reduce the very high Platelets, it was counter-intuitive that they are sharply down a week after knocking off that medication. Maybe it takes a while to kick in, but we'll see in two weeks' time. The Neutrophils are still below the level of 0.5 which defines 'severe neutropenia', see previous post. WBC are at a new low, meaning less resistance to infections.

Anyway, I had one unit blood transfusion at King's College Hospital following the test, and that should at least bring Hb over the 100 mark, still a lot short of the normal range.

I didn't see one of the consultants, so haven't asked about a Plan B, and haven't heard from the ulcer nurse.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


Blood results

18.1 121.10 5.10 18.09 10.09 3.07 17.06 9.06 Normal
Hb 87 107 95 106 81 104   107 93 130-180
WBC 1.76 1.8 1.95 2.53 2.39 2.85  2.85 2.55 4.5-10.0
N'phils 0.46 0.57 0.87 1.05 1.02 1.16  1.17 1.14 2.0-7
Plt 221 202 225 2.41 2.41 249  232 296 150-450

October 21 Neutrophils were incorrectly recorded last time, corrected in this post, and they have now fallen below 0.5. Consultant decided I should take a holiday from Hydroxycarbamide for the next three weeks and then review the results again. He thought Hb might also recover a bit, an opinion I don't share. Its at about the level I had the last transfusion, and I will be surprised if I don't need one again after the next test.

I raised the problem of the ulcer on my left ankle, which has continued for 6 months, and the consultant is referring me to the specialist ulcer nurse.

PS Friday 15.00: on returning from the House just now, I found a message on my answerphone asking me to come in next Wednesday for a blood test and possible transfusion. Neutrophil count of less than 0.5 x 10^9/L is classified as severe neutropenia. I've cancelled the meeting I had on statelessness that morning, a second meeting to discuss the UK's policy on Eritrea, and an evening meeting I was scheduled to chair on Gypsies and Travellers.

PPS Letter from consultant to GP (in part):

I note a gradual drop in his white cell count despite the gradual reduction of his Hydroxycarbamide dose. His neutrophil count is 0.46 and he understands that he is neutropenic and he will require prompt medical attention if he should feel unwell or have fevers. We shall withhold Hydroxycarbamide from today.. He is okay with his current level of haemoglobin at 87 but if his symptoms of tiredness worsen he knows to contact us to organise a blood transfusion.

With regard to his chronic leg ulcer I shall write to the tissue viability nurse specialist to organise a clinic review......

We shall review him again in three weeks' time to see if his counts have picked up after stopping the Hydroxycarbamide completely. If there is no further improvement we shall consider doing a bone marrow aspirate/trephine biopsy. I will check his blood film today, to look for any circulating blasts and report back.

With regard to his chronic leg ulcer I shall write to the tissue viability nurse specialist to organise a clinic review......

Blood film showed macrocytosis [see}, aniso-poikilocytosis [see}, neutropenia and adequate platelets with no evidence of clumping. (amended: Left shifted neutrophils with occasional myelocyte and circulating blast seen.

The problem with this plan could be that my platelets will go through the roof, the reason why hydroxycarbamide was prescribed in the first place. So far that strategy had worked, juggling the dose after each consultation, but clearly the time has arrived when a Plan B is necessary.

The last sentence in red above does mean that there ian increase in the number of immature leukocytes in the peripheral blood, and the circulating blasts (immature cells) indicate  that the disease is getting to a new stage. The blasts release chemicals that cause the bone marrow to fill with scar tissue, further impairing its ability to produce healthy cells.

The median survival of all patients with myelofibrosis is slightly higher than 5 years, so I have been lucky to get to four and a half years without having to give up working. Anyway, watch this space.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Family graveyard

Today we had lunch with Sue and Lyulph, and visited the family graveyard. Unsurprisingly, as its a small area within land owned by Bromley Council, it hasn't been looked after and is sadly unkempt. The memorial stones to my grandfather and some of his descendants were vandalised at some point in the past, and the ones that could be salvaged were moved into the church graveyard 100 m or so away. Now that I expect to be a new resident in the family patch within nine months or so, we thought it would be good to have it cleared, and for the boundary to be demarcated - by coordinates, I suggest. Lyulph has had some preliminary conversations with Bromley Council and will pursue the matter in the near future.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Sheikh Ali Salman's trial postponed again

 Statement by the main opposition in Bahrain, Al-Wefaq, about Sheikh Ali Salman's trial
The Bahraini regime courts have adjourned the hearing of Sheikh Ali Salman, opposition leader and Secretary General of Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, to December 14 citing reason that only part of the bench attended.
Sheikh Ali Salman was not brought into the court to attend his hearing. Lawyers said this gave negative signals as to the nature of the trial.
Salman is being tried for political activism and expression of political opinion. He was sentenced to four years in prison last June.
The defense team reiterated its requests before the court to allow Sheikh Salman to see the lawsuit papers after the prison administration violated his right to confidentiality of communication with his lawyers, that is, besides standing on the prosecution side and building the case and accusations against him.  
Al Wefaq stressed that the continuation of the trial which was described by international human rights organizations, observers and states, to be lacking the fundamental standards of a fair trial indicates the malicious motives behind the case. It must also be taken into consideration that the defense team was prevented from doing its job prior to the issuance of the sentence and during the appeal process; these facts make certain that the trial is politically-motivated.   
The adjournment of the hearing is aimed to buy time for developments.
Al Wefaq is demanding the immediate and unconditional release of Sheikh Ali Salman who is a patriotic national figure and should not be in jail. The continuation of his trial and imprisonment clearly demonstrates political reprisal, especially as consecutive international calls condemned the arrest.
The statement of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in which it said Salman is being arbitrarily imprisoned, and the statements made by the Department of State’s spokesperson who called on Bahrain to drop the charges and respect freedom of expression and assembly, make clear that there is no justification for the continuation of his detention. Further, they highlight the fact that the Bahraini Authorities are insisting to walk in the wrong direction.  
Sheikh Ali Salman enjoys a popular position between his people and wide respect by the international community, thus, the authorities should not take uncalculated and reckless decisions. Such vengeful methods only complicate the crisis and move the nation farther away from an inclusive and genuine political resolution. Bahrain needs a comprehensive national review based on the interests of the country and its citizens.
The release of Sheikh Ali Salman would represent the first step to a suitable environment for a real dialogue to reach a political settlement.
Prominent human rights organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Federation for Human Rights have all called for the immediate release of Salman, naming him a prisoner of conscience. Bahrain is yet to respond to Prince Zaid, the High Commissioner of Human Rights at the UN, who also urged for Salman’s release.
I have asked Foreign Office Minister James Duddridge MP to demand Sheikh Ali's unconditional release, as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the US State Department had already done. The UK's policy has always been that Bahrain's constitutional and human rights problems can only be resolved by a meaningful dialogue between government and opposition. This can't happen when the Leader of the Opposition is in custody on trumped-up charges.

London Bach society's 25th anniversary Bachfest, on the Leipzig Inheritance

To St John's Smith Square for a memorable LBS concert, dedicated to the memory of their late and much-loved  cellist Jennifer Ward Clarke, who died in May.

Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid (O God, what manifold distress) BWV 58, was followed by Suite No 2 in B minor BWV 1067 with Rachel Beckett on the flute.

After the interval we had Ich habe genug (My cup is full) BWV 82 with Peter Harvey (bass). Listen to him singing the aria Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen (Fall asleep, weary eyes), one of my all-time favourites:

And finally, Ich geh' und suche mit Verlangen (I go in search with longing) BWV 49 with Peter Harvey again and Ruby Hughes, soprano.


Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Incorrect advice by the Government on citizenship

A correspondent has drawn my attention to the failure of the Government to post amendments that were made to the British Nationality Act 1981 by Parliament in the Immigration Act 2014 on the official Government website. The amendments were to add Sections 4E to 4J, enabling certain children whose parents weren't married at the time of their birth to acquire British citizenship.

I am tabling a question asking the Government to update the advice on their website, and to amend the site

It is unacceptable that false information is allowed to remain on the web on such an important matter as entitlement to citizenship.

Investigatory Powers Bill

In 2012 Theresa May and the Tories tabled plans to force internet service providers to keep a record of all your texts, emails and every website you visit.

That was a huge invasion of our privacy, an unprecedented a precursor attempt to get hold of everybody's personal data.

The Liberal Democrats were clear then, and are clear now, a snooper’s charter has no place in Britain, so we blocked it.

Theresa May’s revised plans that are published today are another attempt to sneak these provisions back in again.

The Liberal Democrats will fight any attempt to bring back the so-called Snooper’s Charter under a different name.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

In March 2013 Parliament decided to make caste a protected characteristic in the Equality Act, after the Government were defeated twice on the issue in the House of Lords, and there was no time for them to reverse that decision in the Commons before the Dissolution. But they made no secret of their antipathy to the proposal in their dealings with the Hindu Forum, a powerful lobby group which defends the caste system by pretending that discrimination is non-existent in the UK. It would be remarkable if the large diaspora from south Asia had indeed abandoned such a deeply persistent cultural norm in their travels, and in spite of the formidable obstacles to  litigation against caste discrimination under existing equality law, the recent case of Chandhok & Anor v Tirkey demonstrated that in certain limited circumstances, the courts would find in favour of the victims. The Government then said they were studying the implications of the Tirkey judgement and had to 

"consider carefully whether putting the word “caste” into the Act would actually change or clarify the legal position". []

The fact is that it would remove the barrier to litigation arising from the wording of the Tirkey judgement, which applied only in the particular circumstances of that case. Victims of caste discrimination would have to satisfy the court that they were covered by that judgement, adding to the burden of proof and to their costs. Legal certainty can only be achieved through the implementation of Parliament's two and a half year old decision, which the Government's 'careful consideration' is a preliminary to repealing. 

The Tories have decided, I fear, that the higher castes represented by the Hindu Council need to be placated at the expense of the Dalits, who are generally the victims of caste discrimination here in the UK, as they are still in south Asia. The Government should tell the Hindu lobby that the Equality Act as amended will protect victims of discrimination no matter what their caste in the situations it covers []. High caste Hindus have nothing to fear if they refrain from discrimination, and the amendment is no more a criticism of them as a community than the equivalent sections dealing with racial discrimination are aimed at groups of a particular ethnicity.

Useful article in The Economist