NHS Foundation Trusts – Monopoly Unaccountable Services ?

“The most lucrative Trusts are the 41 mental health trusts, as nearly a quarter of our NHS budget is spent on mental health.

Most likely, as they are the most profitable services, such trusts as with Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust has been, will be converted to private companies, with existing Foundation Trust directors made private company directors and shareholders in charge of their own salaries, and effectively through the CCGs the provision of all NHS mentally related services including residential care in their region.

And as Private Companies, they can rely on ‘commercial confidentiality’ to hold the main parts of their meetings in private and as private companies, they are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

Yet they still maintain the NHS logo, so no one would, or even could know their services were from a private company..”


cAR PARKING FEES article-2683772-1F77638500000578-695_634x293

In 2016/17 NHS England transferred £71.9 billion to CCGs to commission services from Foundation and NHS Trusts.

Foundation Trusts are semi-autonomous bodies not directly accountable to Parliament.

It took years of campaigning to even acknowledge the deaths, neglect and abuse in Staffordshire Foundation Trust, whose public inquiry and insolvency cost the tax payers millions.

Successive governments set target dates for all NHS Trusts to reach Foundation status.

Staffordshire was the ultimate Status that all the expensive management and consultancy aspired to.

Despite Bill Moyes, former NHS Regulator Monitor’s executive chair, urging the NHS in 2014 to reconsider, “whether the model of foundation trusts is sensible”,

He argued,
“If one-third of the hospital system is permanently not demonstrating good viability and good governance, is that telling you something about actually how the system should run as opposed to how we thought it should run?”

But still the NHS went on to…

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Former British EU negotiator says Brexit was a ‘terrible idea’ and even the Government doesn’t understand how bad it will be

Former British EU negotiator says Brexit was a ‘terrible idea’ and even the Government doesn’t understand how bad it will be ~ Ashley Cowburn Political Correspondent, THE INDEPENDENT, 25 July 2017.

 Steve Bullock also accused government ministers of an ‘appalling dereliction of duty’ over a failure to understand the complexities of Brexit

Britain’s chances of securing a deal with the EU in the 20 months left of Brexit negotiations “look minimal”, according to a former UK-EU negotiator.

Steve Bullock, who worked at the UK Representation to the EU from 2010 to 2014, also accused government ministers of an “appalling dereliction of duty” over a failure to understand the complexities of Britain’s withdrawal from the bloc.

In an article for The Independent, Mr Bullock said ministers who were involved in the arduous negotiations had “inserted their heads firmly in the sand, hoping tricky problems will just go away”.

He added: “In my view, the chances of getting any deal, let alone a good deal, in the limited time available look minimal.

“Brexit would have been a terrible idea even if done as well as possible, but for the Government to so blithely march the country towards consequences that they don’t even themselves understand is an appalling dereliction of duty”.

Citing Euratom – the European Atomic Energy Community – he added: “Who knew a fortnight ago that leaving the apparently obscure Euratom Treaty would jeopardise not only the UK nuclear industry, but also the supply of medical isotopes for cancer treatment?

His comments follow the second round of negotiations between David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, and Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator. But as the talks came to a close last week, negotiators failed to produce a breakthrough on key disputes, including the so-called divorce bill and the future rights of citizens in Europe and the UK.


“There are rules and reasons for the rules” as D. Kennedy said, “Legal reasoning refers to interpretative fidelity of judges who are bound by the legal formulation of the right; the duty to be faithful to it in their interpretation and application; this duty is counterbalanced so to speak by legislative duty, which is appealing to the political values of the community.” ~ A Critique of Adjudication, [1997]

Kerry Underwood

Given the Supreme Court decision this morning unanimously to allow the appeal against the Administrative Court’s refusal to judicially review Employment Tribunal fees, this post I wrote at the time needs another airing.


Any solicitor’s office in the country (except the Strand).


So, Ms Peasant you have been sacked because you are pregnant and you have come in for a free interview.  Typical of your sort if I may say so.


It’s so unfair.  I want to bring a claim.  You do no win no fee don’t you?


WE do. The State doesn’t.  Tribunal fees are £1,200.00 win or lose.


I haven’t got that sort of money!  I am unemployed.  I’ve been sacked.


Come, come now.  I am an employment lawyer.  I know the minimum wage is £6.50 an hour.  Easy to remember; it is one hundredth of what I charge – 200 hours work…

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Get in on the Act …

“There are rules and reasons for the rules” as D. Kennedy said. “Legal reasoning refers to interpretative fidelity of judges who are bound by the legal formulation of the right; the duty to be faithful to it in their interpretation and application; this duty is counterbalanced so to speak by legislative duty, which is appealing to the political values of the community.” (A Critique of Adjudication‟ 1997).

National IRO Managers Partnership

Children and Social Work Act 2017

The Children and Social Work Act 2017 (the Act) is intended to improve support for looked after children and care leavers, promote the welfare and safeguarding of children, and make provisions about the regulation of social workers.

The Act sets out corporate parenting principles for the council as a whole to be the best parent it can be to children in its care: largely a collation of existing duties local authorities have towards looked after children and those leaving care.

Local authorities will be required to publish their support offer to care leavers and to promote the educational attainment of children who have been adopted or placed in other longterm arrangements.

The legislation extends the current considerations of the court when making decisions about the longterm placement of children to include an assessment of current and future needs and of any relationship with the…

View original post 28 more words

Syria to UN: We Demand Reparations from the US

“Certain economists are now observing a major global power shift from the West to the East, and of course history tells us that no empire lasts forever, that they all fall sooner or later. The American people should demand of our government that it cease immediately all involvement in the Syrian conflict. Get out. Now. Before even worse crimes are committed that we may at some point be held accountable for.”

Fig Trees and Vineyards

The Syrian mission at the United Nations has submitted a letter demanding reparations from “the so-called international coalition led by the United States of America” for its attacks upon the Syrian nation.

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No, #Channel4: #Islam is not responsible for the #IslamicState!

No, Channel 4: Islam is not responsible for the Islamic State ~ Peter Oborne,  MIDDLE EAST EYE, Tuesday 25 July 2017.

Peter Oborne takes on British historian Tom Holland over the selective facts and misleading implications of his documentary on the origins of IS violence

Unlike most historians, Tom Holland writes books which bring the past to life. This makes him a national treasure.

But I am baffled by his recent documentary about Islamic State (IS), Isis: The Origins of Violence.

I am a longstanding admirer of Holland. However, the arguments he makes in his film are intellectually dishonest

It argues that the extreme violence of self-proclaimed IS should be interpreted in significant ways as a manifestation of Islam itself.

Holland suggests, for example, that the Ottoman army which captured Constantinople in 1453 was a precursor to IS. He thus connects IS to Sunni Islam’s most distinctive political institution, the Caliphate.

He also links IS to texts from the Quran and states that IS atrocities are directly inspired by the teachings of Islamic holy scripture.

He uses the Prophet Muhammad himself, who is regarded by all Muslims as the perfect human being, to help explain the genocidal violence of IS in the 21st century.

Holland compares verses and stories told about the Prophet as “mines waiting to go off, improvised explosives, and they can lie there for maybe centuries and something happens to trigger them, and you get this”.


Isis: The Origins of Violence

On the basis of these arguments, Holland implicitly demands that Islam itself should reform.

We have often heard variations of this thesis – that Islam and Western liberal civilisation cannot coexist – from the English Defence League, Donald Trump’s ideologists, neoconservative think tanks, tabloid newspapers and far-right parties in continental Europe.

But it’s less common from one of our more admired public intellectuals, amplified on what appears to be quite an expensive Channel 4 TV production.

This is why I believe that a sceptical analysis of the claims made in Isis: The Origins of Violence is needed.

(The film was broadcast on Channel 4 to acclaim on 17 May. I delayed this article because of the atrocities in Manchester and London during the general election campaign, and then the attack on Finsbury Park Mosque. It would have been insensitive to discuss at that time and better to wait until time had passed.)

Baathist origins of IS

I am a longstanding admirer of Holland. However, the arguments he makes in his film are intellectually dishonest. He fails to include information which does not fit his thesis and, just as bad, distorts facts which appear to support it.

The first problem is Holland’s account of the origins of IS, for which he ignores the two most important facts.

The spark for the group’s creation was the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and its brutal aftermath.

Saddam Hussein’s Baathist army was disbanded by the Coalition, but its warriors did not disappear. Stripped of their livelihood, many subsequently turned into bitter enemies of the United States and the new regime in Baghdad.

A British soldier watches oil wells burn in southern Iraq in 2003 (AFP)

These fighters entered into an alliance with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Salafi jihadist and leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Although Zarqawi was killed by a US air strike in 2006, his bloodthirsty organisation swiftly evolved into the Islamic State we know today.

Many of its future leaders were held in Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca prison camps, where they established the contacts and evolved the strategy of conquest that exploded across the Middle East a few years later.

This background explains why experts have estimated that one-third of IS commanders were former Ba’athist soldiers.

Experts say that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s two principal lieutenants are Iyad al-Obaidi and Ayad al-Jumaili – former Iraqi army officers under Saddam.

As far as these commanders are concerned, Islamic State is a Baathist renaissance project, a secular enterprise aimed at winning back the status and power of which they were stripped in 2003.

‘Faith, even in its extreme form, is just one of many means to an end. Islamic State’s only constant maxim is the expansion of power at any price’

– Christoph Reuter, Der Spiegel journalist

In the words of Der Spiegel journalist Christoph Reuter, whose revelatory study of IS is required reading: “There is essentially nothing religious in its actions, its strategic planning, its unscrupulous changing of alliances and its precisely implemented propaganda narratives.

Faith, even in its extreme form, is just one of many means to an end. Islamic State’s only constant maxim is the expansion of power at any price.”

Yet Tom Holland’s account of Islamic State contains no reference to the Baathist origins of IS.

An equally significant omission concerns Saudi Arabia. As the former MI6 officer Alastair Crooke has explained, it is impossible to get to grips with IS without knowing about the deal struck after World War One between the House of Saud and the followers of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, founder of the Islamic movement known as Wahhabism.

Wahhab believed that Muslims needed to return to an all-absorbing focus on the One God, and that the widespread preoccupation with the Prophet Muhammad (except as simply the greatest of the various prophets) or his companions, or his wives, or the “saints” and martyrs, amounted to idolatry.

He maintained that Islam had to be cleansed of all accretions (beyond devotion to the One God) and that Muslims faced a choice: either they give up their idolatrous habits (such as celebrating The Prophet’s birthday), or be put to death, with all their property and family falling forfeit.

Wahhabis, and the then-minor tribal leader Ibn Saud, pursued this doctrine through a campaign in 1802 of death and destruction, killing thousands in Karbala and plundering and looting the holy shrines, before repeating the exercise in Taif.

Finally, Mecca and Medina gave themselves up to Ibn Saud’s occupation. It was a cleansing by sword and by fire.

Series of contradictions

The Book of Monotheism, the best known text written by Wahhab, stands as a primary source of teaching for IS recruits.

There was another explosion of Wahhabism after World War One, but a British official, Harry Saint John Philby (father of the spy Kim Philby) offered Abd al-Aziz – then the ruler of Nejd – the prospect of a formidable prize: become king of all Arabia in succession to the Ottomans.

Harry Saint John Philby in an undated photo (Wikicommons)

Wahhabism would be Abd al-Aziz’s tool, but he required the backing of the British government to shore up his dominance. To do this he needed to make his movement look more like a modern state (Philby advised him on the best approach), and his army of head-choppers and shrine destroyers needed to be reined in.

The British helped with the latter, and British machine guns and planes were used to kill most of Abd al Aziz’s Ikhwan brotherhood in 1929.

Philby subsequently converted to Wahhabism and joined (then King) Abd al Aziz’s court.

The contradiction between the worldly cynicism of the pro-Western Saudi royal family, and Wahhabi fundamentalism is profound. The real target of IS is not, as Holland suggests in his documentary, the West. Instead, the rise of Islamic State can, in part, be understood as an explosion of Wahhabi furyagainst the corrupt Saudi royal family.

Islamic State is a deadly combination of the military expertise of former Baathist generals and murderous Wahhabi beliefs

To sum up, IS is a deadly combination of the military expertise of former Baathist generals and murderous Wahhabi beliefs. Yet Isis: The Origins of Violence does not mention Baathism, Iraq, Wahhabism or Saudi Arabia.

This failure leads Holland into a series of contradictions.

For example, Holland stands at the Mar Mattai monastery in northern Iraq, looking south towards Mosul. He notes that 1,200 years ago this region was “the beating heart of Christendom”.

He says that “Christians of the lands out there were enjoying a golden age”. He says there are only a handful of monks left at the monastery, and that if they were to venture down to either of two Muslim villages beneath him, they would be killed “on the spot”.

He says that for the first time in 1,500 years, mass is not heard in Mosul. “And the reason for that,” he says, “is that over there, those lands that were once the Christian heartland are now the Islamic State.”

He frames the decline of the Christian population in terms of an unmistakable dichotomy between Christianity and Islam.

Holland at Mar Mattai looking south towards Mosul (Screengrab)

But what Isis: The Origins of Violence does not mention is that 1,200 years ago, the lands he calls “Christian heartlands” were ruled by Muslims.

The period when Christians enjoyed the prosperity that he correctly mentions was also the period when they were under the rule of the very Islamic power upon which IS pretends to model itself. (The black banner that IS flies was once the flag of the Abbasid Caliphate.)

The era he calls a Christian “golden age” is widely known in the region itself as the Islamic Golden Age.

It is true that this peaceful coexistence was at times uneasy. The arrival of Saladin, a Sunni Kurd who would go on to found the Ayyubid Dynasty after conquering vast amounts of territory, caused the monks to flee in the 12th century, but the monastery soon returned to its former prominence. Then the Mongols partially destroyed it at the end of the 13th century.

It was left abandoned until 1795 when (under Ottoman rule) it was renovated and fence walls built around it. In 1845, additional wings were added.

Christianity did not vanish from Mosul because the region has become Islamic. It vanished because it came under the rule of an authority without religious tolerance. It is IS alone, not Islam, that is to blame for the desperate situation faced by the Christians of northern Iraq.

Holland fails to ask how the monastery enjoyed a resurgence under Ottoman rule. Remember that, according to him, the Ottoman Caliphate was a precursor of Islamic State

Yet Holland fails to ask how the monastery enjoyed a resurgence under Ottoman rule. Remember that, according to him, the Ottoman Caliphate was a precursor of Islamic State.

For his thesis to be consistent, the Ottomans should have destroyed the monastery and driven the monks away after 1453. But the opposite happened: the Ottomans allowed Christians to reinhabit the monastery and restore it to its former splendour.

The Ottoman Caliphate was not intent on persecuting Christians within their domains. The Ottomans saw Christians, like the Jews (many of whom also flourished under Ottoman rule) as “people of the book” and therefore to be protected.

As pre-eminent historian (and severe critic) of Islam Bernard Lewis put it, the position of Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire was “very much easier than that of non-Christians or even of heretical Christians in medieval (Catholic) Europe”.

Failure of scholarship

Holland fails to point all this out to his audience. To have done so would have obliged him to acknowledge that Islam does not pose a more substantial threat to unbelievers than, say, Christianity.

I am a Christian, I belong to the Church of England and attend church regularly. I regret to say that I could easily have made a documentary about Christianity and violence on the same lines as Holland’s work on Islamic State and Islam.

I could easily have made a documentary about Christianity and violence on the same lines as Holland’s work on Islamic State and Islam

I could have dug out verses from the Bible in which God orders death for non-believers. I could have found gruesome verses about homosexuals and the punishment of adulterers, then quoted these out of context.

I could have taken viewers back to the Middle Ages, to compare the slaughter perpetrated by Crusaders when they took Jerusalem in 1099 with the restrained entrance of Caliph Omar to the city 450 years earlier in 637; or Saladin a century later in 1187.

I could have gone to Srebrenica, the site in 1995 of the only genocide in Europe since World War Two. I would have shown that the massacre of Muslims there was carried out by Christians, as Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, pointed out on BBC Radio’s Today programme after the London Bridge atrocity.

I could have gone to the churches planted by the Serbs along the Bosnian-Serbian border in the last few years as a warning to Muslims to keep away. I could have shown how Mladen Grujicic, the Christian mayor of Srebenica, who denies that genocide took place in his town, was invited to President Donald Trump’s first prayer breakfast in Washington in February.

An 1847 oil painting by artist Emile Signol of crusaders taking Jerusalem in 1099 (Wikicommons)

I could have shown how Christian churches turned a blind eye to the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews, while noting that Martin Luther’s virulent anti-Semitism helped sow the seeds of future horror.

I could have demonstrated that the Rwandan genocide two decades ago was carried out with the active complicity of local church leaders.

But this kind of assault on Christianity would have been selective and therefore unfair. When I reported from Srebenica earlier this year, I was careful not to blame Christianity. It would have meant ignoring the wonderful and too often sacrificial work carried out by churches throughout the world, the good they do in countless ways, the eternal truths that I believe we Christians embody.

I could even have carried out the same ruthless exercise with Buddhism, a religion normally associated with non-violence.

A few weeks ago, I went to Myanmar to document the persecution of the Rohingya Muslims. I could have used the term Buddhist violence, given the dreadful role currently being played by Buddhist monks in generating hatred against Muslims.

But that too would have been unfair. Too many other factors are involved.

Holland has no similar scruples. This is not just a failure of scholarship. It means that, perhaps without intending to do so, Holland is vindicating IS’s claim to be a legitimate representative of Islam.

Think about it.

This is not just a failure of scholarship. It means that, perhaps without intending to do so, Holland is vindicating IS’s claim to be a legitimate representative of Islam

IS claims legitimacy on the grounds that it is acting in the name of Islam. The vast majority of serious scholars and religious authorities dispute this, insisting that Islam is a religion of peace.

These scholars say that IS acts contrary to the teachings of the prophet. Then along comes an internationally respected British historian who suggests that the group’s claims can be justified.

Muslim voices

Holland is only able to pursue this line of argument by being selective with the facts as well as his use of Muslim voices.

Two scholars, Shiraz Maher, deputy director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and a member of the War Studies Department at King’s College London, and Jordanian Salafist Abu Sayyaf appear in the film.

Both, Abu Sayyaf more strongly than Maher, support the thesis that the bloodthirsty actions of IS can find justification within mainstream Islam.

Fair enough. But Holland had a serious duty to be balanced, especially in a film as controversial as his. Why has he made no attempt to do so?

Abu Sayyaf answering Holland’s questions about IS (Screengrab)

There are countless mainstream Muslim voices who argue on authoritative theological grounds that Islamic State does not represent in meaningful form the Quran or the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. They have no voice in this film.

Bear in mind that Holland’s underlying target is not Islamic State: everyone, bar a few fanatics, agrees how evil it is. Instead it is Islam itself, which Holland holds in part responsible for IS atrocities.

Holland ought to have rigorously put his thesis to the test against at least one such scholar, if not more.

By not entertaining an opposing opinion, Holland diminishes his own argument.

Holland had a serious duty to be balanced, especially in a film as controversial as his. Why has he made no attempt to do so?

How did Holland get away with it? In the days when I used to present “authored documentaries” (the term used by media executives to describe TV polemics) on Channel 4, it was an unbreakable editorial requirement to present the alternative point of view.

The only circumstance in which this rule was breached was when the opposing side refused to be interviewed or give a statement, in which case this refusal would be made clear to the audience. One can therefore assume that Holland made no attempt to approach any Muslim voice who argued that Islam is a religion of peace.

Search for the hadith

Holland plays fast and loose with the words of the Prophet himself in order to help his case that Islam is inherently violent.

He says, over pictures of the Mar Mattai monastery and the surrounding hills, that:

‘Fourteen hundred years ago monks like Father Yousif provided Muhammad himself with a model of holiness. Islam, though, would give monasticism a novel spin. “Our monasticism,” the Prophet is reported as saying, “is jihad in the cause of God. Our monasticism is the crying of allahu akbar on the hilltops.”

Earlier in the programme Holland tells viewers that in the Quran, jihad did not mean violence but simply “the effort required to be a good Muslim”.

Yet here he quotes a hadith, attributed to the Prophet, in the context of a discussion of IS violence towards Christians.

The implication – and far too much of the film works through suggestion rather than rigorous argument – is that the persecution of monks such as Yousif, and the attack on Sinjar in August 2014 that immediately follows the quotation in the film, are a natural results of, and not divergences from, the Prophet’s teaching.

I was perplexed at the credentials of the hadith cited by Holland. It did not appear to match any of the hadiths attributed to the Prophet. So I emailed Holland, asking him to “provide me with the exact Arabic or even English hadith sources where you got your version in which the terms rahbaniyya (monasticism), jihad, and takbir are mentioned”.

In his response he failed to provide me with a hadith which matches the one cited in the film.

He did, however, direct me to Violence and Belief in Late Antiquity: Militant Devotion in Christianity and Islam, in which, he said, the late Thomas Sizgorich examined “the influence of monasticism on the evolution of religiously sanctioned violence in early Islam”.

I searched as hard as I could, but I could find no hadith in Sizgorich’s book which matched the one used by Holland.

However, Holland did helpfully refer me to page 180, where the following hadith is quoted: “Wandering monasticism was mentioned in the presence of the Prophet of God, and the messenger of God said, “God gave us in its place jihad on the path of God and the takbir from every hill.”’

‘There is no hadith which contains the three words ‘monasticism’ (rahbaniyya), ‘jihad’ and ‘takbir’ (a term for the crying of ‘Allahu Akbar’) together’

– Michael Mumisa, author of studies of classical Islamic literature and PhD scholar at Cambridge University

At this point I consulted Michael Mumisa, author of numerous studies on classical Islamic literature and Special Livingstone PhD scholar at Cambridge University. He told me that Holland’s hadith does not exist: “There is no hadith which contains the three words ‘monasticism’ (rahbaniyya), ‘jihad’ and ‘takbir’ (a term for the crying of ‘Allahu Akbar’) together,” he said.

This matters because Holland uses his hadith to suggest that Islam in some way corrupted the Christian idea of monastic holiness for violent purposes. This is a serious claim: if asserted then it should be rigorously sourced and established.

I’m also disturbed that Holland introduces the words Allahu akbar instead of takbir, the word actually used in the Sizgorich hadith.

To be fair, the meaning of the two phrases is all but identical. Holland would doubtless argue that he used the term to be more explicit to non-specialist audiences.

However, he must know that the phrase has come to signify violence as a result of its recent use by militant jihadists. To use it in this context is inflammatory.

Hadith literature is very detailed and distinguishes between safe hadiths, dubious hadiths and fabricated hadiths. In this delicate territory rigour, accuracy and fairness is paramount.

The hadith which Holland pointed me towards first appeared in the late 8th century in the Book of Jihad, believed to have been written by Ibn al-Mubarak, a warrior-scholar who fought against the Byzantines.

If indeed it was him who produced this collection of hadiths, then it was as part of propaganda literature to justify these wars on religious grounds. Scholars, including Mumisa, doubt it was ever uttered by the Prophet.

But Holland tells his audiences none of this. Instead his film encourages its audience to assume that the Prophet himself condoned violent jihad.

Selective information

This is not the only time that Holland presents selective information.

Take this atmospheric piece to camera, delivered from a railway carriage as it rattles past Vienna, with reference to the Ottoman attempts to take the city:

“We’ve just gone through Vienna. Muslim armies came this far twice. We’ve passed the town where they massacred everyone. The further east across Europe you go, the more people remember things like this. It’s nightmarish and it’s supposed to be. ISIS has a user’s manual, it’s called the Management of Savagery. We need to massacre others, it says. Hostages must be eliminated in a terrifying manner.”

Holland watches a video of an IS execution while riding a night train through Vienna (Screengrab)

It seems to me that Holland is doing something deliberate here. He is seamlessly linking IS violence in the 21st century to the atrocities committed in the Ottoman invasion of Europe in the late 17thcentury.

But Ottoman attempts to conquer Vienna only begin to make sense when placed in the context of a long series of conflicts that began in the early 15th century and intensified after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, with massacres on all sides.

As Joachim Whaley made plain in a recent magisterial history of the Holy Roman Empire, the primary issue wasn’t religion. Rather it was the threat posed first to Venice and then to the Habsburgs by the establishment of an eastern empire. After all, the Ottomans were originally regional commanders in Anatolia, who took control themselves and then expanded north-westwards. They were Muslims whose first conquest was the territory of their own Muslim overlords.

However, Holland confirmed to me that the town where ‘they massacred everyone” is Perchtoldsdorf in lower Austria. Details are scant, but somewhere between 300 and 1,000 are thought to have been killed there in 1683.

But Holland fails to tell TV viewers that there were Hapsburg atrocities too. After the Battle of Buda in 1686, for example, the Hapsburgs took the town back from the Ottomans, who had held it for 150 years. They slaughtered 3,000 Turks, selling thousands more as slaves and killing half of Buda’s Jewish population as well.

The 1686 Battle of Buda depicted by artist Frans Geffels (Wikicommons)

There’s no mention of any of this by Holland. To have provided this kind of context is essential to any serious understanding of the Ottoman/Hapsburg struggle. Holland does not even attempt to provide it. To have done do would have wrecked his thesis.

Indeed, during this bloodthirsty period of European history far worse massacres were carried about by European armies against each other. Historians think that during the 17th-century Thirty Years War, Germany’s population may have sunk by around one quarter.

This means that the Ottoman massacre outside Vienna can only be understood in the context of such contemporary horrors such as the sack of Magdeburg in 1631, when the Imperial Army destroyed a Protestant city, reportedly slaughtering 20,000 out of 30,000 inhabitants. Any responsible historian would provide that background. Holland does not. Once again, to have done so would have undermined his thesis.

Truth distortion

I am also troubled by Holland’s use of the term “Muslim armies” rather than the more accurate but less inflammatory “Ottoman armies”.

Such labels support his argument that Islam has long been at war with other religions. But again, this distorts the truth. The Ottoman empire was a multi-ethnic, multi-religious empire which often protected minorities. For example, the Jews who survived the Austrian armies at Buda fled, if they could, back into Ottoman territory where they were much safer than under the Hapsburgs.

Had he been truthful with TV viewers, Holland’s thesis that Islamic State’s murderous origins can be traced to the Ottoman Caliphate would have been undermined

Holland does not mention that tens of thousands of Hungarian nationalists led by Imre Thokoly, who wanted to resist Hapsburg imperialism, fought with the Ottomans at Vienna in 1683. Perhaps more than half of the Ottoman army was made up of Christians rather than Muslims – Greeks, Armenians, Hungarians, Bulgarians, Romanians, Serbs fighting alongside Arabs and Kurds as well as Turks and other Muslims.

The film also fails to mention that the Ottomans at the gates of Vienna were in an alliance, very much of convenience, with Louis XIV, the (Christian) French King.

Ian Almond has written that these factors reflected how “little use terms such as ‘Muslim’ and ‘Christian’ are to describe the almost hopelessly complex web of shifting power relations, feudal alliances, ethnic sympathies and historical grudges” characterised European history.

For centuries, the Ottomans did have a famous practice of devşirme, which was the conscription and forced conversion of Christian boys in conquered territories, but it is surely wrong to suggest that Ottoman violence was “Muslim” and alien to Europe.


History, not religion, has brought violence on Islamic societies

Though converted, many men who rose to prominence came from old aristocratic Orthodox families. There were Christians in many provincial armies and navies, such as a contingent of Serbs who fought at the Battle of Ankara in 1402.

Yet Holland misleadingly labels the Ottoman army outside Vienna as “Muslim”. Once again, had he been truthful with TV viewers, his thesis that Islamic State’s murderous origins can be traced to the Ottoman Caliphate would have been undermined.

What is missing

There are still more serious issues with this documentary.

He does not explain the difference between Islamic State and al-Qaeda. This distinction is important, especially if the extent of IS’s isolation is to be understood. He fails to examine evidence that Islamic State has been supported by allies of the West.

He creates a Christian-Yazidi-Shia-versus-Sunni narrative, which means he pays too little attention to the thousands of Sunni Muslims who have been murdered by IS.

He fails to stress how often Islam has been synonymous with tolerance rather than violence. He devotes a great deal of attention to the recent IS-linked terrorist attacks in Paris without once mentioning the legacy of appalling French colonial atrocities in Algeria as a possible factor in the terrible IS attacks.

He says the “core of ISIS strategy” involves radicalising Muslims in the West. Untrue: its core strategy has been, at least until the recent series of devastating setbacks in northern Iraq, in building a territorial Islamic state.

He does not mention the latest research (for instance the work of Olivier Roy and Marc Sageman) showing that IS recruits tend to know little about Islam, and are often drifters with a background in drugs and petty crime.

This lack of connection with Islamic movements, of course, makes them more dangerous because potential terrorists are difficult to detect. But it undermines Holland’s central contention that Islamic State’s origins can be found within the tenets of Islam.

A presenter’s responsibility

Isis: The Origins of Violence is well made, with strong camera work, first-class editing and an edge of drama mixed with dark moody music. The settings in monasteries, in devastated cities and by the pyramids are excellent. I have never seen a better presentation of the horror which befell the Yazidis. Holland himself is a gifted and passionate TV performer.

He has, so far as I can discover, received excellent reviews for this work in the mainstream press. The Guardian called it ‘brave and thoughtful’ and predicted that it might win a BAFTA, while Douglas Murray in The Spectator praised the “scholarly truthfulness” of what he called a “deep and seriously important programme”.

It is not good enough to make an argument mainly by stringing together a series of sequences or anecdotes, no matter how upsetting the subject, and then come to a conclusion

I can’t agree. It is not good enough to make an argument mainly by stringing together a series of sequences or anecdotes, no matter how traumatic and upsetting the subject, and then come to a conclusion.

A responsible presenter needs to put forward the counter-argument, present its case fairly, and then refute it. On the rare occasions that Holland alludes to counter-arguments he then brushes them aside.

This lack of balance is especially serious because Holland’s film engages directly with the ancient argument that has taken on new intensity since Samuel P Huntingdon evolved his “clash of civilisations” thesis that Islam is inherently incompatible with, or even at war against, the West.

Numerous scholars, activists, journalists and politicians have bought into variants of this thesis: Bernard Lewis, Daniel Pipes, Douglas Murray, Melanie Phillips, Geert Wilders, Pam Geller, Michael Gove, Tommy Robinson, Donald Trump and many others.

Muslims protest against IS and the use of terrorism in the name of Islam in front of the White House in December 2015 (AFP)

There are, however, many eloquent and powerful voices on the other side, including the majority of Islamic scholars and Imams.

Before I wrote this article, I asked Holland whether his film would have had greater strength, authority and balance if he had interviewed at least one of these experts so his audience could have heard the other point of view.

Holland replied that “we were not making a film about whether or not ‘Islam’ sanctions violence – an issue on which, as we make very clear in the film, there is a huge spectrum of opinion.”

He continued: “Specifically, we were exploring whether there was anything within Islamic scripture and tradition that ISIS (& militant Salafi-Jihadists more generally) felt justified them in their treatment of non-Muslims. Abu Sayyaf, both in his own right, and as a close ally of al-Maqdisi [editor’s note: a leading Jihadi theorist], whose stature as one of the most important radical Muslim thinkers alive today I hardly need to spell out, was a vital witness to this. To provide intellectual and historical context, we also made sure to include Shiraz Maher, himself a Muslim, and author of the definitive study of Salafi-Jihadism. I cannot think of a documentary on ISIS that has featured two such intellectually distinguished interviewees.”

‘This was a film as its title plainly signified – on the historiography of violence, not on Islam tout court’

– Holland in response to author

“This was a film,” Holland insisted, “as its title plainly signified – on the historiography of violence, not on Islam tout court.”

I think Holland goes much further than he claims in his reply. He is not just arguing that IS violence is the tragic consequence of an epic misunderstanding of what Islam teaches: if he was saying no more than that, then he and I would find ourselves, as we often do in other circumstances, in warm agreement.

Instead he locates the origins of IS violence in Islamic scripture and Islam’s most distinctive political institution, the Caliphate.

Surely he is asserting that Islamic State is partly right and that there is something dark in the heart of Islam which makes the religion a threat to the rest of us?


This is how to end Islamic State terror – and stop British foreign policy blowback

It’s not just me that thinks this. So, for instance, does The Spectator writer Douglas Murray. In his favourable review referred to above – which was retweeted without demur by Holland – Murray said that Holland was arguing that Islamic State’s “most important inspiration is a version of Islam whose roots can be traced to the origins of the religion, its foundational texts and the behaviour of Muhammad”.

Holland is, it goes without saying, entitled to advocate his view. The strength with which he holds it gives the documentary its strength and authenticity.

The fundamental problem is that the facts which undermine or mitigate against Holland’s thesis are excluded. Opposing voices are excluded.

And there is an unnerving paradox here. Holland’s interpretation of Islamic State’s relationship with Islam is, as he himself acknowledges, rejected by the vast majority of Muslims.

But it is one with which Islamic State itself murderously agrees.

Additional reporting for this piece was provided by Richard Assheton.

– Peter Oborne won best commentary/blogging in 2017 and was named freelancer of the year in 2016 at the Online Media Awards for articles he wrote for Middle East Eye. He also was British Press Awards Columnist of the Year 2013. He resigned as chief political columnist of the Daily Telegraph in 2015. His books include The Triumph of the Political Class, The Rise of Political Lying, and Why the West is Wrong about Nuclear Iran.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: Tom Holland in Sinjar, making Isis: The Origins of Violence (Channel 4)


Hundreds died in Rohingya camps on Thai-Malaysia border

Asia Middle East Forum

More details have emerged about Thailand’s ugly trade in people now that a marathon trial has ended in Bangkok with 62 people convicted of human trafficking and other serious crimes.

Camps set up by traffickers in the jungle on the Thai-Malaysian border to hold Rohingya and other ‘boat people’ existed for many years prior to government crackdown in mid-2015 that curtailed the brutal trade, a key activist group has said.

Freeland, a Bangkok-based non-government group that fights wildlife trafficking and human slavery, worked with Thai police to identify key figures in the smuggling networks that were rounded up and put on trial.

The group said on Friday it “believes that more than 500 people died in the camps where the people in this particular trafficking chain were held, and that the camps were probably there for at least five years or more.”

It also had “digital forensics experts” able to help…

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Question it!

“The story goes on to talk about a father who is currently trying to get his son back from care after complaining that the council’s actions have emotionally harmed his son.”

Researching Reform

Welcome to another week.

In an unusual article, a Christian publication has accused a local authority of intimidating tactics aimed at parents who refuse to agree to care plans and adoption orders.

The piece begins by detailing a case in which the council in question is now trying to send a mother to prison for speaking out about losing her children to care, even though the children are now adults and the care proceedings are over.

The story goes on to talk about a father who is currently trying to get his son back from care after complaining that the council’s actions have emotionally harmed his son.

Medway Council has repeatedly threatened the father with jail for naming child protection professionals on social media and publicly talking about his son on the internet. The judge in the case has previously stated that the only reason he has not imprisoned the…

View original post 214 more words

5 Toxic People You Should Avoid Like The Plague!

5 Toxic People You Should Avoid Like The PlagueTravis Bradberry ,   CONTRIBUTOR, OCT 11, 2016.

Toxic people defy logic. Some are blissfully unaware of the negative impact that they have on those around them, and others seem to derive satisfaction from creating chaos and pushing other people’s buttons.

As important as it is to learn how to deal with different kinds of people, truly toxic people will never be worth your time and energy—and they take a lot of each. Toxic people create unnecessary complexity, strife, and, worst of all, stress.


“People inspire you, or they drain you—pick them wisely.” – Hans F. Hansen

It’s often said that you’re the product of the five people you spend the most time with. If you allow even one of those five people to be toxic, you’ll soon find out how capable he or she is of holding you back.


You can’t hope to distance yourself from toxic people until you first know who they are. The trick is to separate those who are annoying or simply difficult from those who are truly toxic. What follows are five types of toxic drainers that you should stay away from at all costs so that you don’t become one yourself.

People Who Are One-Sided

Relationships are supposed to be mutually beneficial. They have a natural give and take. In the workplace, this applies to relationships with people who report to you (they should be getting things done for you and you should be teaching them) as well as with people you report to (you should be learning from them, but also contributing). These relationships grow toxic when one person begins to give a disproportionate amount, or one person only wants to take. It could be a manager who has to guide an employee through every excruciating detail, or a colleague who finds herself doing all the work.

If possible, the best thing to do with this type is to stop giving. Unfortunately this isn’t always possible. When it isn’t, you need to have a frank conversation with the other party in order to recalibrate the relationship.

People Who Are Passive Aggressive

This type takes many forms in the workplace, from the manager who gives you the cold shoulder to the colleague who cc’s e-mails to your boss. One of the most common forms of passive aggression is a drastic reduction of effort. Passive aggressive types have great difficulty receiving feedback, and this can lead them to leave work early or not to work as hard. Passive aggression is deadly in the workplace, where opinions and feelings need to be placed on the table in order for progress to continue.

When you find someone behaving passive aggressively toward you, you need to take it upon yourself to communicate the problem. Passive aggressive types typically act the way they do because they’re trying to avoid the issue at hand. If you can’t bring yourself to open up a line of communication, you may find yourself joining in the mind games. Just remember, passive aggressive types tend to be sensitive and to avoid conflict, so when you do bring something up, make sure to do so as constructively and harmoniously as possible.

People Who Lack Forgiveness And Trust

It’s inevitable that you’re going to make mistakes at work. Some people get so fixated on other people’s mistakes that it seems as if they believe they don’t make mistakes themselves. You’ll find that these people hold grudges, lack emotional intelligence, are constantly afraid that other people are going to do them harm, and may even begin nudging you out of important projects. If you’re not careful, this can stifle upward career movement by removing important opportunities for growth.

The frustrating thing about this type of relationship is that it takes one mistake to lose hundreds of “trust points” but hundreds of perfect actions to get one trust point back. To win back their trust, it’s crucial that you pay extra-close attention to detail and that you’re not frazzled by the fact that they will constantly be looking for mistakes. You have to use every ounce of patience while you dig yourself out of the subjective hole you’re in. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

People Who Are Punitive

Punitive relationships are those where one person punishes the other for behavior that doesn’t align directly with their expectations. The major issue with punitive types is that their instinct is to punish, without adequate communication, feedback, and understanding. This belittling approach creates conflict and bad feelings.

To survive a punitive type, you must choose your battles wisely. Your voice won’t be heard if you dive right in to every conflict. They’ll just label you as someone who is too sensitive.

People Who Build Relationships On Lies

These types get so caught up in looking good that they lose track of what’s fact and what’s fiction. Then the lies pile up until they’re the foundation of the relationship. People who won’t give you straight answers don’t deserve your trust. After all, if they’re willing to lie to you, how can you ever really depend on them?

When you remove trust from any relationship, you don’t have a relationship at all. Building a relationship on lies is no different than building a house on a pile of sand. The best thing you can do is to count your losses and move on.

How To Protect Yourself From A Toxic Person

Toxic people drive you crazy because their behavior is so irrational. Make no mistake about it—their behavior truly goes against reason, so why do you allow yourself to respond to them emotionally and get sucked into the mix?

The ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control. One of their greatest gifts is the ability to identify toxic people and keep them at bay.

The more irrational and off-base someone is, the easier it should be for you to remove yourself from their traps. Quit trying to beat them at their own game. Distance yourself from them emotionally, and approach your interactions with them like they’re a science project (or you’re their shrink if you prefer that analogy). You don’t need to respond to the emotional chaos—only the facts.

Maintaining an emotional distance requires awareness. You can’t stop someone from pushing your buttons if you don’t recognize when it’s happening. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in situations where you’ll need to regroup and choose the best way forward. This is fine, and you shouldn’t be afraid to buy yourself some time to do so.

Most people feel as though because they work or live with someone, they have no way to control the chaos. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Once you’ve identified a toxic person, you’ll begin to find their behavior more predictable and easier to understand. This will equip you to think rationally about when and where you have to put up with them and when and where you don’t. You can establish boundaries, but you’ll have to do so consciously and proactively. If you let things happen naturally, you’re bound to find yourself constantly embroiled in difficult conversations. If you set boundaries and decide when and where you’ll engage a difficult person, you can control much of the chaos. The only trick is to stick to your guns and keep boundaries in place when the person tries to cross them, which they will.

Bringing It All Together

We may not be able to control the toxicity of other people, but we can control how we respond to them, and this has the power to alter the course of a relationship.

Have you experienced any of these types of toxic relationships? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.

Travis co-wrote the bestselling book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and co-founded TalentSmart.


#HighCourt finds #ExpertEvidence unreliable and lacking independence!

HIGH COURT FINDS EXPERT UNRELIABLE AND LACKING INDEPENDENCE ~ Herbert Smith Freehills – Litigation notes, 24 JULY, 2017.

A recent High Court decision has highlighted once again the importance of ensuring experts are aware of and comply with their duties to the court. It also demonstrates the potential dangers of repeatedly instructing the same expert and the need to ensure an expert is applying the correct legal standard when giving their opinion: The Governors and Company of the Bank of Ireland and another v Watts Group PLC [2017] EWHC 1667 (TCC).

The court concluded that the written and oral evidence of the claimant’s expert quantity surveyor (“V”) was unreliable and the evidence of the defendant’s expert should therefore be preferred wherever there was disagreement between them. The reasons for this conclusion included:

  • V was not, he considered, a properly independent witness. The Bank was his principal client, providing the vast majority of his work and fees. V had spent most of the last few years acting for the Bank as an expert witness in actions against quantity surveyors arising out of the 2008/9 financial crash.
  • He had shown a lack of realism and his criticisms were based on an unrealistic expectation of what the defendant was required to do. He had also applied the wrong test, substituting the approach he would have taken, and the result he would have reached, rather than considering what a reasonably competent monitoring surveyor would have done in the circumstances.
  • He had attempted to mislead the court with a selective quote from RICS guidance.
  • He had adopted an unreasonable approach, failing to make concessions at the experts’ meeting and when giving evidence.

Instructing the same expert on a number of similar matters can be time and cost effective. This case illustrates however that there may come a point where the independence of the expert is called into doubt because of the closeness of the relationship with the instructing party. It also demonstrates the importance of ensuring the experts comply with their duties at each stage of the litigation process, and that they understand and give an opinion on the correct questions.


The Bank of Ireland lent money to a developer for a residential development in York. The developer later went into liquidation causing a loss to the bank of approximately £750,000. The Bank sought to recoup that loss from Watts, quantity surveyors who had prepared an Initial Appraisal Report (IAR) commenting on the developer’s proposal, the bill of quantities, costs estimates, projected cash flow and the build programme.

In support of its negligence claim against Watts, the Bank relied on expert evidence from a quantity surveyor, V.


The judge (Mr Justice Coulson) observed that although it was commonplace for counsel to submit that “their” expert’s evidence should be preferred wholesale to that of the expert on the other side, that was not usually a justified approach. In this case however he had concluded that the written and oral evidence of V was unreliable, so wherever V disagreed with W, Watts’ expert, he should prefer W’s evidence.


The judge concluded that V was not a properly independent witness. The Bank was his principal client, providing the vast majority of his work (and fees) and he had spent most of the last few years acting for the Bank as an expert witness in actions against monitoring quantity surveyors arising out of the 2008/9 financial crash. Until this case, the cases had been resolved by ADR. V was unaware, the judge thought, of the difference between acting as the Bank’s advocate in a mediation and his duties to the court when giving evidence.

Lack of realism

Watts were paid £1,500 for producing the IAR. V’s reports and associated work to criticise it cost 30 times that amount. This was a clear indication that the criticism made of Watts’ work was based on an unrealistic expectation of what they were required to do. The length and number of V’s reports confirmed the judge in his view that V was prepared to go to any lengths to shore up the Bank’s case.

Attempt to mislead

V’s view was that Watts were obliged to start from scratch and produce their own detailed breakdown of the construction costs. In support of that view, he relied upon RICS guidance which he quoted as saying “the Project Monitor… may have to develop his or her own elemental breakdown of construction costs to prove or disprove the Developer’s figures.” That was misleading as the full quote made clear that this was in the context of smaller developments, inexperienced clients/contractors and hand holding exercises, none of which applied on the facts. This misuse of a source document was contrary to V’s duty to the court.

Wrong test

V’s oral evidence made it plain that he was applying the wrong test. He was not looking to see what a reasonably competent monitoring surveyor would have done in the circumstances and to test Watts’ performance against that benchmark. Instead he was setting out what he claimed he would have done, line by line, figure by figure.


V’s approach was unreasonable. He made no concessions at the experts’ without prejudice meetings and in his reports and oral evidence he sought to maintain criticisms over Watts’ later reports which the Bank had not pleaded. He had on occasion sought to advocate the Bank’s case in his evidence, whether right or wrong.


The judge referred to the well-known passages in The Ikarian Reefer [2001] 1 WLR 603 regarding the duties of an independent expert. He concluded that V did not comply with those duties and he was not confident that he was aware of them or had had them explained to him.

So far as the underlying case is concerned, the judge rejected the allegations of negligence made against Watts. In any event, if there had been negligence, no loss was caused by it and applying the principles from SAAMCO as explained in BPE Solicitors v Hughes-Holland [2017] UKSC 21 no loss had been identified as being recoverable in law from Watts (essentially because Watts would only have been responsible for the financial consequences of the information they provided being inaccurate, not for the financial consequences of the Bank entering into the transaction). Moreover, the true cause of the Bank’s loss was its own errors in making the loan.