I’m a paramedic – here’s why I’m striking

The government has enabled real-term pay cuts, service overloads and chronic underinvestment within the NHS. - by Anonymous

Source: newstatesman.com

This week, I, along with thousands of fellow ambulance workers belonging to the Unison union across England, have voted to take strike action. We know it’s a shock – but we’re doing it out of necessity: not just for ourselves, but for the future of the NHS.

I’ve been a paramedic for more than 27 years, and I’ve seen the health service in all kinds of states – but this is the worst I’ve ever known it to be. For the past 12 years, my colleagues and I have said to each other “surely, it can’t get any worse?” and yet here we are. 

Diagnosing the issues paramedics face is easy – because they’re the same problems the rest of my NHS colleagues, across various disciplines, are dealing with: dwindling pay, service overloads and a chronic underinvestment in the health service.

Life's Ever Changing Priorities

Don’t let pressure and overwork encourage you to hurry past parts of your life. Whether it’s your children’s early life, whole segments of your marriage, or maybe the last active years of loved parents, they are swiftly past and gone beyond recall. Regret comes too late to save them. 

How many people still cherish an unfulfilled ambition to travel, or start their own business, or enter a new career, and yet do nothing to make it happen? Too many. Time passes. What was once an inspiring idea seems less and less feasible. Yet still they cling to the dream — only not this year. Maybe next year, when things calm down a little. When they’re not so busy. When they have the time.

We are so confused about time. We always have the same amount of it, since we can neither create more, nor save any for later, nor do away with what there is. Yet our perception of time is totally different. Sometimes it seems to drag in endless amounts. Sometimes it appears to flash past. Only our perception changes. Time itself does not.

Of course, what we mean is time free from other demands. But we will never have that either. There are always other calls on our attention and always will be. If you’re waiting for that magical day when nothing else awaits you, only your dream ready for fulfilment, you will wait for ever.


The truth is simple. People confuse what is urgent with what is important; what is pressing today with what is pressing in terms of their whole life. A task stands before you and shouts for your attention because it’s here, now, and must be done by tomorrow. So you set aside far more important activities and choices because they’re not urgent. You can do them tomorrow, no matter. Only that tomorrow never comes.

To live this way is understandable — it is how the vast majority live — but it’s neither sensible nor fulfilling. All those unmet dreams and expectations build up, until you enter the later part of life trailing a vast, sad cloud of “might have beens.” So many people today are filled with regret at the opportunities they missed because there were more urgent claims at the time. As they look back, they see clearly those claims were never as important as the hopes they supplanted. Now it’s too late.

To choose a fulfilling path, you must be clear about your values, so you can see the difference between demands that are only urgent, but otherwise have little importance in the scheme of your life; and those that may lack obvious urgency, yet are crucial to who you are and what you want your life to be. You must have the courage to use your time on important matters and set aside what’s merely urgent.

If there’s a dream in your life — something you yearn to achieve, or merely something it would be so much fun to try — don’t put it aside. If that dream is up there at the top (or very near the top) of your personal values, do it now. Yes, now. Don’t wait another day. Nothing is as important to your long-term wellbeing. But if your dream doesn’t make it to the top of your list, set it aside without regret. Like a pretty toy, it may be pleasant to look at, but it’s not important enough to give time to.

Choice may not remove regret entirely — you may always wonder a little what it might have been like — but at least you’ll know you did choose. You didn’t look back later and realize you’d missed that boat without ever grasping it was ready to leave.

2020 - The Year of Quarantine

2020. A year to set all other years apart. A year to go down in history. Whilst writing this article it was difficult to imagine a time where we weren’t all wearing face masks outside (not the relaxing ‘self-care’ kind) and having Zoom upon Zoom calls, inside. 

We’ve had Ramadan, Eids, Divali, vaisakhi, Passover and Christmas like no other, socially distanced from our loved ones, yet we rose above all odds even whilst in isolation to contemplate on our lives and reflecting on who we truly are. Many literally put their lives on the line to exhibit what can only be considered as selflessness. 

It all started in January where we had heard of the C word affecting hundreds and thousands of people across the globe. Little did we know that two months later we’d be rewriting normality.

Many may feel as if this year has been wasted – with so many WFH (working from home) or on furlough, yet we have developed and adapted to such a difficult year… in the middle of a pandemic. We should give ourselves at least that much credit. We have had to quickly adapt to a completely new lifestyle which we could not have predicted. Alongside this we’ve had to deal with establishing new and different boundaries as well as tackling challenges head on at home and at work. 

When is a refugee not a refugee?

By Shafiur Rahman, a Documentary Filmmaker 

Humanitarian organisations cannot cherry-pick who to serve
Recently, we watched the world applaud as the Thai government and international humanitarian organisations responded to the plight of Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, the teenage Saudi girl who barricaded herself in an airport hotel and took to Twitter to press for asylum.
UNHCR (Thailand) secured the agreement of the Thai authorities and promptly dispatched their representative to Bangkok airport. Rahaf wa provided with UNHCR protection. That allowed her to leave the airport and thwart the counter moves of the Saudi authorities and her own relatives.
The world saw UNHCR at its best. It pro-actively sought and gained access to Rahaf, and helped prevent her deportation. Non-refoulement is a principle championed by this agency and it insists that those in need of protection cannot be returned to somewhere where their life or freedom will be compromised.
The actions of UNHCR were key in Rahaf's case, given that Thailand is not a party to the 1957 UN Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol defining the status of refugees. Additionally, refugees status is normally granted by governments, but UNHCR can grant it where states are "unable or unwilling to do so."
In the end, Canada stepped up to give Rahaf asylum, and she made her way there in the glare of the world's media.
There was no suche media glare nor indeed any initiative by the refugee agency whem it came to 31 UNHCR registered Rohingya refugees who were stranded in No Man's Land between India and Bangladesh. Their predicament, which began less than two weeks after Rahaf's arrival in Thailand, throws a different light on the character of UNHCR's humanitarianism.
The refugee agency did not intervene or secure access to them, nor counsel them or provide them with any kind of aid. In the case of the Saudi teenager, Cecil Pouilly, senior communications officer fro UNHCR, quite rightly expressed concerns for Rahaf's "emotional distress" and understood the need for some "breathing space" for her.
No such expression of concern has been made for the Rohingya men, women, and children -- some as young as eight months old, who spent four nights under the open skies in wintry conditions. Even after their arrest buy the Indian Border force and subsequent jailing on January 22, 2019, and despite repeated requests, the UN refugee agency was still unale to provide this writer with a comment 72 hours later.
We should understand that the UNHCR's primary task as the UN's refugee agency is to protect a person who has crossed an international border due to fear for life or liberty. The 31 Rohingya fulfilled UNHCR's criteria for refugee status when they were in India.
They were outside their country of origin and did not have the protection of the state. That is why they were given UNHCR cards. Their case should have been a cut and dry on given that the paperwork existed. Yet, no assistance was rendered.
The Rohingya in India see no evidence of any kind of UNHCR protection. Nor do they see any durable solution to the current Indian dispensation and its eagerness to round up and repatriate Rohingya.In the recent days, over a thousand Rohingya have crossed to Bangladesh from India. They have been perturbed by news of Rohingya being forcibly repatriated to Myanmar from India.
A group of seven people were repatriated in October 2018 and then a family of five were sent back in January 2019. Both cases received considerable media attention. However, the family of five have not been heard of since and their case, in particular, has caused anxiety amongst the 40,000 or so Rohingya living in India.
Taken together, this information points to an unbalanced and dark side of this agency when it comes to Rohingya refugees. And there is evidence stretching down the decades to support that contention. Just last year, UNHCR agreed a memorandum with UNDP and the government of Myanmar concerning Rohingya repatriation.
Hpwever, it kept its contents entirely under wraps and UNHCR did not discuss or consult the affected community -- the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, as required by its own code on voluntary repatriation processes. This came as no surprise to students of UNHCR repatriation of Rohingya from Bangladesh. UNHCR's well documentd and shameful history in this regard stretched back to 1978.
Fieldview Solutions in their startling report "Time to Break Old Habits" from June 2018 -- concerning the role and behaviour of international agencies in Rakhine state -- wrote the following about UNHCR and its reponse to the crackdown on Rohingya of October 2016.
"After the first rond of massive violence after October 9, 2016, one might have expected the international community and the UNCT (UN country team) to try to ramp up its presence and protective capacity in the north. Shockingly, though, the UN response was the opposite. UNHCR initially proposed during this time period to completely remove northern Rakhine state from the Humanitarian Response Plan adn to scale back its own operations." 
Echoing this, the International Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar explicitly criticised UN entities operating in Myanmar and bemaoned their lack of cooperation with the Fact-Finding Mission and their defensiveness. It urged a review of how UN organisations have performed over the years in the context of the catastrophe that unfolded in Rakhine state. 
Internal reviews exist, and in leaks which have emerged, it seems that the Myanmar regime can count on UN self-censorship on the issue of the Rohingya and Rakhine state. 
It can further count on a narrative that emphasises inter-communal conflicts and development issues rather than the centrally-directed policies of apartheid and disenfranchisement.
Of the 31 Rohingya refugees, 15 are connected to the ill-fated village of Tula Toli, which experienced a massacre on August 30, 2017. Hundreds of men, women, and children were brutally killed. Many women were gang-raped and burned. I spoke to three survivors who are now residing in the camps of Bangladesh and whose relatives are amongst the group in India. Rofique, whose baby was thrown in the fire by Myanmar military, has a brother within the group. He told me:
"I thought they were safe. They went to India via Bangladesh after 2012. I thought their luck was good that they never saw what happened to us. But now if India sends them back, their fate will be the same as ours. They are finished." 
If India is able to repatriate UNHCR registered Rohingya to Myanmar with total impunity, when every single humanitarian organisation has declared it unsafe, then the scope of humanitarianism has not expanded but shrunk for UNHCR and other UN entities. And if the meaning and practice of refugee protection have been transformed to the extent it seems to have been in the countries where the Rohingya flee to, then Rofique's dire prediction is about to come true.

An Obituary

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:
-Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
-Why the early bird gets the worm;
– Life isn’t always fair;
– And maybe it was my fault.
Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge). His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.
Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.
It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.
Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.
Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.
Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.
Common Sense was preceded in death,
-by his parents, Truth and Trust,
-by his wife, Discretion,
-by his daughter, Responsibility,
-and by his son, Reason.
He is survived by his 5 stepbrothers;
– I Know My Rights
– I Want It Now
– Someone Else Is To Blame
– I’m A Victim
– Pay me for Doing Nothing
Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.
If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.

This was first published in London Times in March 2014.

Pakistan's Leadership Follies

By Farooq Sumar
The writer is a businessman and a former chairman of the National Textile Foundation

Be it political, military, socio-economic or cultural affairs Pakistan's leadership has been quite mediocre since independence. The tragedies and setbacks were many. Failure to develop a coherent set of policies to address the  nations pressing needs; to eradicate ignorance, poverty and disease at home and to maintain a dignified image abroad are the result of shortsighted leadership. After Jinnah there is just a continuous and consistent bottomless fall that has now brought the country to its knees.

Some of our decisions or lack thereof need to be revisited to comprehend our follies. The four military interventions-coup d'etats - have retarded democracy and socio-economic developments indefinitely. The military's continuous interference distorts and twists Pakistan completely out of shape, so much so that it is faceless in the comity of nations and an oppressive burden that impoverishes the people. The unacceptable truth is that the military has become the senior partner in governance at all levels, to the extent that separation of powers is totally blurred. The nation experiences medium to violent jerks often that rob it of stability, economic progress, cohesion and comprehension of its destiny.

The arrogance of the military is the basis of its justification that it has a monopoly on patriotism, wisdom, organisation and management skills to rule. This may be true in part today as all other power structures and institutions have been weakened quite deliberately by the military. While major political parties have either been created by them or compromised and corrupted to become followers who receive crumbs for their pimping services.

Disastrous Decade of Democracy & the Sorry state of Pakistan

By Simon Templar

Thug life is a term used by gangsters to glorify their law breaking, heady crime sprees.

Nothing describes the misrule of two successive, so called democratically elected governments in the unstable, underdeveloped 200 million strong south Asian state of Pakistan.

How thieves, plunderers and freebooters came to rule this nuclear armed state is a sad tale in itself.

Ruled by military General Pervez Musharraf who took over in a military coup in 1999, the country became a close US ally after 9/11 and witnessed an era of growth and stability under military rule.

However when Musharraf reached his limits of flexibility, it was decided by the US and British to force him bring back the two tainted, condemned political leaders in exile and to wash away all their sins under a dubious order in the name of national reconciliation.

Dirty water, cholera and malnutrition: deadly mix afflicting Yemeni children

(Photo by Observer and WHO)
More than 10,000 civilians have died in the war that has torn Yemen apart since it started in 2015. The country is now engulfed wide-scale humanitarian crisis, with an estimated 2.2 million children suffering from severe malnutrition and much of the population reduced to drinking dirty water. As a result, starting last May, Yemen has been experiencing the “worst cholera epidemic in the world,” according to the United Nations. It’s a situation proving deadly for children, the most vulnerable victims of this conflict.

Close to 300,000 people in Yemen have contracted cholera, of whom 1,700 died, according to numbers reported in June. This epidemic has, in large part, been caused by the poor quality of the country’s drinking water, which is often contaminated with fecal matter. Moreover, wartorn Yemen lacks the resources to purify the water. And, when people fall ill, they often have no access to medical care. This disease, which is easy to treat, is most deadly when contracted by vulnerable people, like the elderly and, especially. children

Anti-Corbyn Argument Smashed!

One of Britain’s most influential rappers just smashed the entire anti-Corbyn argument in seconds:

British rapper Akala said this:
"So why will I be voting now? The answer will surprise none of you, Jeremy Corbyn.", "We do not need perfect politicians, because we are not perfect people ourselves.

However for the first time in my adult life and perhaps for the first time in British history someone I would consider to be a fundamentally decent human being – that is, someone who does not want to kill the poor and does not routinely make a habit of rationalising the bombing and invasion of other peoples countries under the rubric of humanitarianism – has a chance of being elected."

"I simply think we cannot afford, in this very particular set of circumstances, to not vote.

Our brothers and sisters in America were not given an alternative, their options were one war-mongering lunatic vs. another and many of them (almost half the US electorate did not vote at all), quite understandably could not bring themselves to vote for Hilary Clinton, despite the threat of Mr. Trump.

Were I an American I must confess I would have done the same.

We, however, do have a chance for the first time to vote for the lesser of two evils."

There are a great many other progressive policies that make Corbyn a genuinely different candidate from what we have seen before but another very key area – of literally life and death – is the NHS.

If you want to see what privatised healthcare looks like just ask any poor American.

"There are countless American families mired in a lifetime of debt for basic healthcare that citizens of every other industrial country (and Cuba) receive as standard from public money.

When I was five I got the measles and nearly died!

If I was an American child born into a similarly poor family I would either likely be dead now or my family still paying off the bill."

"When I was 10 my mum got cancer, same story.

The idea and reality of an NHS is one of the most democratic ideas ever invented.

It must be protected at all costs, the Tories have made their intentions in this area quite plain – as has Corbyn."

"If you are so busy hating those pesky ‘immigrants’ (you know the same darkies and foreign nationals that overwhelmingly staff your NHS) that you can’t see that the Trump worshipping Tories are callous enough to condemn millions of ‘their own’ people to slow and early death because they are poor and because it’s profitable, (as the Republicans just have) then you are unlikely to be reading this anyway.

But if you have such people in your family (as I do) please try and talk some sense into them, for their own good."

"The simple fact is, if enough people vote for Corbyn/Labour they will win.

In fact there are enough people that did not vote at all in the last election to tip the scales decidedly."

Westminster Incident

On Wednesday afternoon, our home city of London suffered a hideous attack A palpable sense of anger and outrage runs through us all as well as heartbreak for the victims and their families.

This afternoon's attack on both Westminster Bridge and around Parliament is an attack on what all Muslims (to me terrorists are NOT Muslim) and people of this nation hold dear: freedom, peace and the ability to live our daily lives without fear. Our way of life is enshrined in our religion,  thereby any attack on one is an attack on us all.

The perpetrators of this attack have one objective: divide and stoke fear. Their myth of 'Them and Us' is exactly that, a myth.

All of us have a collective responsibility for identifying and notifying the appropriate authorities of individuals who attack and kill innocents for whatever cause. People who carry out such attacks are an abomination to all of humanity and must be dealt with swiftly and appropriately.

We are grateful for the way our emergency services keep us all safe and continue to do so in difficult circumstances. We stand together strong and united.

Our prayers are with the departed and those they left behind and with the first responders who helped without care for their own safety. In that action alone we see what makes us human: the need to help others and to support goodness over the evil. Today our actions of good over evil start with our oft repeated but very clear message:

“We will not let the terrorists win by dividing us.”