Tuesday, September 2

If faking death, try not to visit the doctor

This was hilarious, talk about stupidity....

A man who faked his own death so his former wife could claim a £300,000 payout on their life insurance policy was caught out when he visited his GP six months after he "died".

Ahmad Akhtary, 34, got hold of a fraudulent death certificate from Afghanistan stating he had died of a "brain trauma" after an accident there in 2006.

His ex-wife, Anne, a 43-year-old mother of triplets, then submitted a claim to Norwich Union for the £300,000 payable on their joint life policy if one of them died, a court heard. But it was not long before the unsophisticated plot went wrong because Akhtary continued to live openly in Gloucester and keep appointments with his GP.

Sunday, August 31

UK headteachers 'best paid' in the world

So that's very good news, that

Headteachers in the UK are among the highest paid in the world and England's approach to developing school leadership one of the best globally, according to an international study.

But that doesnt seem to translate into school performance.

Fundamentalism in British Mosques

You might have heard about the furore about the Dispatches programme on mosques of Channel 4. Read the second part of this drama. Some of the comments are hair raising: I quote:

What should be done to a Muslim who converts to another faith? "We kill him," she says, "kill him, kill, kill…You have to kill him, you understand?"

Adulterers, she says, are to be stoned to death - and as for homosexuals, and women who "make themselves like a man, a woman like a man ... the punishment is kill, kill them, throw them from the highest place".

These punishments, the preacher says, are to be implemented in a future Islamic state. "This is not to tell you to start killing people," she continues. "There must be a Muslim leader, when the Muslim army becomes stronger, when Islam has grown enough."

A young female student from the group interrupts her: the punishment should also be to stone the homosexuals to death, once they have been thrown from a high place.

Friendship with non-Muslims is discouraged because "loyalty is only to the Muslim, not to the kaffir [disbeliever]".

A woman who was friendly with a non-Muslim woman was heavily criticised: "It's part of Islam, of the correct belief, that you love those who love Allah and that you hate those who hate Allah."

One preacher even says Muslims shouldn't live in Britain at all: "It is not befitting for Muslims that he should reside in the land of evil, the land of the kuffaar, the land of the disbelievers."

Another, Um Saleem, says Muslims should not take British citizenship as their loyalty is to Allah.

"Some conditions can take you into disbelief, to take the British citizenship, whether you like it or not, for these people, you are selling your religion, it's a very serious thing, it is not allowed to give allegiance to other than Allah."

Channel 4 asked one of these worthies, Sheikh Yasin, to comment via this letter:

"Hardcash Productions Ltd" <hardcash@hardcashproductions.com> wrote:
Private and Confidential
12 August 2008
Dear Sheikh Yasin,
Dispatches TX. 1 September 2008
Hardcash Productions is an independent production company making a programme for Channel 4's current affairs series Dispatches, which is due to be broadcast on 1 September 2008.
The film investigates claims that the Saudi Arabian religious establishment, with the involvement of the Saudi Arabian government, is promoting a theology of intolerance, separatism and extremism around the world and, in particular, in Britain.
As part of the investigation, we have looked into the activities of some mainstream British Islamic organisations which have strong links to the Saudi Arabian religious establishment and government.
As you are aware, in a Dispatches investigation in January 2007 entitled Dispatches: Undercover Mosque, undercover reporters purchased DVDs of your speeches at the official bookshop of the Islamic Cultural Centre and London Central Mosque. These DVDs contained intolerant comments aimed at the beliefs of Jews and Christians, and claims that AIDS was a Western and Christian plot.
At the time, the ICC promised to remove your speeches from the bookshop pending an investigation into the content, but our reporters have returned and found they continue to sell your works. They bought a number of titles by you which continue to contain similar radical, intolerant comments.
In particular, we intend to include within our programme the following comments by you in a DVD entitled "Building a Muslim Community", copyright "One Islam Productions", in which you praise the beheadings practised in Saudi Arabia, saying: "At least I say, we Muslims should have that kind of power all over the world".
You say Muslims all over the world should have the power to implement an extreme version of sharia law, which includes public beheadings, amputations, lashings and crucifixions, saying; "and then people can see, people without hands, people can see in public heads rolling down the street, people can see in public people got their hands and feet from opposite sides chopped off and they see them crucified, they see people get punished they see people put up against the pole ?.. and because they see it, it acts as a deterrent for them because they say I don't want that to happen to me".
We intend to include your comments within the programme in the context of revealing that the ICC/Regents Park Mosque official bookshop continues to sell material which is promoting a radical, intolerant ideology which, amongst other things, promotes an extreme version of sharia law practised in Saudi Arabia. We also note in the film that you learned Arabic in Saudi Arabia.
If you wish to comment on the above please let us have any comments in writing, to be edited into the broadcast programme, by no later than noon on Tuesday, 26 August. After that time, we will not be able to guarantee that your comments are incorporated.
Yours sincerely,
Andrew Smith
Hardcash Productions
Fax: 0207 253 2761
Copy: Jan Tomalin, Controller, Legal and Compliance, Channel 4
(Fax: 0207 306 8367, Email:
Kevin Sutcliffe, Deputy Head, News & Current Affairs
(Fax: 020 7306 8359, Email:
Nigel Abbas, Media Lawyer
nigel.abbas@btinternet.com, Fax: 0871 661 7061)

Now check out what this wonderful chap says in response:

Dear Mr. Smith:
I am replying to you only as a courtesy, and not because I am concerned about your intended broadcast. I expect, in fact, I am certain, that your intended broadcast, will contain the usual anti-Islamic rhetoric and soundbites that are designed to provoke an already conditioned public into a fear about the Islamic system, and a fear and contempt for Muslims in general.
As for the constant use of the words "intolerant" and "extremism", I think that you, and your colleagues at Channel 4, or HardCash Productions, have been indelibly and consistently exhibiting the most vehement and malicious religious intolerance and journalistic extremism, of nearly anyone in the entire television industry of the United Kingdom!
Not only are you inaccurate, but you are scandalous, unethical and merchants of jounalistic vomit. Your motives are not morally driven, nor aimed at the intellectualization of your viewers. Rather, you are resorting to the use of cheap sensational journalism, to exploit an unaware and pre-conditioned public, in order to make the "bottom line" profit that sustains your "Channel 4 - HardCore" vomit factory.
Your allegations of my statements on a DVD, titled "Building a Muslim Community", and I must say allegations, because, in every lecture, writing, or communication of any kind, there is something called the "context", which can only be appreciated when someone objectively, sincerely, and intellectually, forms an opinion, after making a comprehensive and thorough examination.
I want to remind you, that capital punishment, including, but limited to: decapitation, lethal injection, firing squad, gas chamber, electrocution, and hanging by the neck, has been, and is still resorted to by Governments and States throughout the modern world as both a punishment and a deterrent for criminal behavior in the society. It is not a practice limited to Muslim countries, whether past or present.
Whatever statements I made in that lecture was aimed at reforming the Muslim people, the Muslim society, and the Muslim world, to know that Islam is not merely a system of religious rituals and theological observances, but is a comprehensive system of Law and Justice, legislated by Almighty
God, and adjudicated by the Sovereign Islamic State, when there exists such a state.
Due to historically documented conspiracies between criminal Muslim States and the immoral empirical ambitions of countries like Great Britain (as the United Kingdom was referred to at that time) and the United States of America, the legitimate ambition to have and sustain a Sovereign Islamic State in the world, has been almost completely annihilated and in most Muslim countries today, criminalized.
If you call yourselves educating and alarming the UK society about radical, Saudi-based intolerance and extremism, why are you using my alleged words "to Muslims", "about Muslims" and the reformation and development of their countries and societies, to make your *******ized point? I have visited Saudi Arabia for
Hajj and Umrah, and yes, I have learned some Arabic there, but does that make me a purveyor of what you characterize for your illicit media purposes as a "Saudi - based theology based upon intolerance, separatism, and extremism?
Suppose you or some other "good Christian visited Ireland, and studied their language, would that itself an indictment of your support for what used to be at one time, the very criminal, intolerant, separatist, and
extremist Irish Republican Army? Of couse not! So why the double and blatantly hypocritical standards? I am not, and have never been a supporter or a promoter of Saudi Arabian government policy or
religious rhetoric, and most objective intellectuals in the world of multi-media would know that, except you and your ignorant Islamophobic colleagues.
As for the alleged promise of the bookstore in the Islamic Cultural Centre at the Regents Park Mosque, to stop selling my DVD's based upon your now very infamous "Dispatches Series", titled: "Undercover Mosques", if they made such a promise,(which I have no evidence that they did) that would have been very shameful, cowardly, unIslamic, and unconstitutional!
Firstly, because that bookstore is privately owned, and secondly, because it is the constitutional right of every person in a free and democratic society like the United Kingdom, to express any view they wish, so long as it is not politically seditious, inciting hatred, promoting violence, maligning or attacking any lifestyle or religion, or seeking to commit or conspire to commit, any act of terrorism. I can say without the least
reservation - I have never, and will never knowingly support or advocate any such behavior!
Why doesn't "Channel 4, and your HardCore", "Hard4Cash" Group, collaborate and review some of the hundreds of magazines and periodicals that are sold on newstands and bookstores all over the United Kingdom and Europe, promoting and endorsing, pornography, gambling, pedophilia, bestiality, violent sports, mercenary activities, bigotry, and other forms of unsocial behaviors? Why... because, the simple fact is that it freedom of speech, even though most of it is clearly immoral and socially destructive!
You and your colleagues are not only hypocritical and exploitive bigots, you are audacious liars and opportunistic media vermin, who have never allowed anyone whom you attack, the chance to respond on your actual television platform, which is the subject of my concluding remarks. You has cleverly invited me to respond in writing, to what you will be broadcasting by television. What you don't say, is that you will pick and choose from even that written response, to try to find further flaws and ammunition for your "stealth attack" and character assassination!
It doesn't really matter, what part you choose to mutilate, the response in it's entirety will be broadcast on seventeen television platforms around the world, and made available to hundreds of magazines and periodicals, for their comparison edification. I will utilize my relationship with these media platforms to counter your evil intent.
In addition to that, I am challenging "Channel 4 and Hard4Cash (or HardCore) Ltd. to an unedited open-ended interview, to discuss my views and responses to their media productions, past and present! If you do not accept, hundreds of millions viewers will be aware of your one-sided, prejudicial campaigns against Islam and Muslims!
I await your response, whatever it may be...
Shaykh Khalid Yasin
Purpose Media Group

Hmmm, just what is going on in those mosques and just what kind of leaders is that community producing?

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Jenna Delich comes across as an...?

I was away on holiday while this got brewing but seems like this academic (very doubtful nomenclature, what exactly is the academic bits that this lady is doing?) is busy linking to far right websites in their anti Semitic efforts against Israel and the Jews. Yeah, yeah, I know, but basically the British Institution and these people are basically anti Semitic. The day I see them being consistent in their condemnation, i will withdraw my accusation, but basically they are hypocritical anti Semitic's. Not only that, they are now trying to pull down anybody who says otherwise.


Jenna Delich, you are a blot on the landscape. As for your argument, you poor sap. Question is, who on earth hired you? And is still keeping you in employment? I am just wondering about your students. Is this the pap they have to read and hear? This is her public Linked In profile. Hmmm, she has indeed ruined her online and google profile. Bang goes her academic career. Poor girl, but then, given her research abilities, perhaps she should think about becoming a politician where truth and balance do not matter.

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Why is it that only Whites can be racist?

I talked about how Indians in South Africa can be seen to be racist. But here is something curious and not much has been discussed about this aspect. I quote some worrying findings. (More factoids from here and here)

  • Some 29 per cent of people surveyed think public sector workers discriminate against them in favour of other ethnic groups.
  • And many believe they have been passed over for promotion or a job because of the colour of their skin.
  • Seven per cent of white people questioned thought they had failed to win a promotion because of their race, up from three per cent in 2003.
  • And the study reveals that ethnic groups living in the UK feel stronger ties to the country than native whites.
  • Researchers found that whites also felt less able that other ethnic groups to influence decisions affecting the country or their local area. And many believe racial prejudice is on the rise, in stark contrast with other races.
  • The survey found that 29 per cent of white people expect to be treated worse than other groups by at least eight of the public services including police, prisons, courts, Crown Prosecution Service and local housing organisations.
  • One in six white Britons feel only a slight sense of belonging to the nation. Whites also now feel less able than other ethnic groups to influence decisions affecting their local area and the country as a whole.
  • Forty one per cent of black African, 36 per cent of Bangladeshi and 35 per cent of Indian people feel they have a say in decisions affecting Britain, compared to 19 per cent of white people.
  • The proportion of members of ethnic minority groups who expected to face discrimination from one of the eight bodies fell from 38 per cent in 2001 to 34 per cent. But it remains higher than for white people in many categories, particularly the police.
  • Whites identified council housing departments or housing associations as the most likely to discriminate against them.
  • Overall, 84 per cent of people felt they belonged strongly to the country, including 45 per cent who said they belonged very strongly. However, nine out of ten Pakistani and Indian people said they felt a strong sense of belonging, compared to 84 per cent of whites.

Each and every statistic is worrying. If the criterion was replaced, for example, white with black or brown, the headlines would be screaming. But in this case they are not. Curiously, this story was buried and not much discussion about it has happened. But I think that is wrong. The white population of this country is saying something to the grand political parties and senior intelligentsia and they are not listening. Read the comments on this site to see what some people are saying.

See the commonality? In the South African case, the Indian intelligentsia in charge of the schools wanted more cohesion and integration, but the parents do not want to integrate. However, nobody is screaming about racism to them. But here whites are complaining about reverse discrimination and again nobody is talking about it.

People are not talking about this and they are not considering why this is the case. Why are immigrants being given privileges that local citizens are not receiving ? And even if that is not the actual case, people do think so and perceive it as such. So there is a communications problem. Mind you, knowing the spectacular idiots who are in the government, I very much doubt that they will be able to do anything about this. Despite that silly minister Hazel Blears commissioning this survey, I very much doubt anything will come out of it. I mean, it is not even on her own site.

I find this deeply worrying. Perhaps more transparency in hiring, housing allocation and other aspects will help remove this deep seated fear amongst the " whites" of the country. The fear exists, it needs to be addressed quickly.

Technorati Tags: Affirmative Action,Racism,United Kingdom

Degrees in virtual world?

One of the advantages of having friends who are now big grand pooh bahs in the academic world is that one gets a fascinating insight into what the future of our society will be. After all, these professors are putting in place policies and procedures that will impact learning, teaching, research and the development of universities now and deep into the future.

This summer, I was having a conversation with two of my friends who are both senior professors in the United Kingdom, and both in responsible management positions with a huge publication record. The conversation drifted to how universities will be reacting to structural changes such as the internet, the virtual reality world, globalisation of education, reduction in public education subsidy, globalisation per se, the business cycle, change of the student persona from dumb thankful student to demanding educational service recipient customer, and so on and so forth.

It was a fascinating conversation and I learnt a heck of a lot about how universities operate. Given the financial pressures, universities are now moving to get as many students as they can from outside of the EU. Why? That is because they are the students who pay the full whack, sometimes an eye watering 10-20 times the amount paid by local or European students. But then when somebody is forced to mortgage their house, or take a very expensive student loan, then when they come to these Universities, they naturally demand a quality education.

Faced with a university and staff which never had to justify their quality (well, not that much anyway), it is a shocking change in philosophy and operating environments. And from what I am hearing, it is not something that is being accepted easily. Both my friends were talking about how they are finding it difficult to recruit staff, or to motivate them or to keep their students interested with a good pipeline going.

I was obviously coming at this from a different perspective (see here for my previous twittering on universities). I think that the university of today will be very different from the university in say one decade time. For example, the firm where I work in is planning to set up its own business school. The firm where I worked previously had a full fledged campus and its own business schools. Large firms are starting - or already have - their own educational institutions.

But more importantly, in the dim and distant past, I got qualified as a Prince 2 practitioner. It involved me sitting in a class room and then giving examinations, two of them, over an entire week. Now I am rolling this same qualification out to my function, and we will end up with more than 100 people working on this by end of the next year. Guess what the major difference is? 70% of the previous time would now be done electronically. In other words, e-learning will replace 70% of the prior classroom teaching. And then somebody will come in and run an examination which will also be electronically administered. So what happened to the teacher?

Oh!, did I tell you that my function is worldwide, which will be deployed out to anybody who wishes to be qualified as such? Something akin to a global university? Why not? See this story as an example. For the first time, an educational certificate will be granted to people who will be trained primarily via Second Life.

Did you spot the other issue, namely that replication of knowledge delivery is now near cost less (at least to the provider, I still have to pay a few quid for every additional licence). A teacher's main rationale for existing was that knowledge transmission was a 'one to one' or at the most 'one to many', which was not replicable easily. You couldn't just read a book and be done with it, but required additional explanations and practice sessions. But now, it can be replicated and if you do want to see a face, well, you can go on Second Life to get a virtual one.

And the education on Second Life or e-learning is and can be asynchronous. You do not have to be online or active at the same time as that of the teachers, because it can be taped or replicated or delivered irrespective of whether it is night or day.

You might then say that one would still need a degree to get a job. Well, here's another issue, because that is not necessarily the case. If all that I am checking is your ability to do a job, I dont need to see your university degree. For example, if you want to trade in the financial markets and offer investment advice, all you have to prove is that you know the laws, language and know the professional standards (which is what Prince 2 type of courses do). Yes, I know I am talking about a unique type of role, but consider most of the knowledge based industries which require professional non-technical training. This is not relating to stuff like engineering, medicine or architecture.

But what if you wanted to hire a salesman for napkins? How about wanting to hire a software coder? No? How about a graphic artist? What about a weather forecaster on TV? What about a customer service representative? What is the link between t his job, a degree for it, a way of learning, or even a particular university? How will an electronic degree change this job or its earning potential? Points to ponder, eh?

Technorati Tags: Education,Universities,Internet

Does every cloud have a sell order lining?

While my days of sitting in front of a trading screen are now long ago and lost in the dim and distant past, every time I pass a trading screen, the familiar tightening of the chest, thumping of the blood and dampening of the palms still happen. How prices are made in the financial markets is a fascinating phenomenon. The theory is pretty simple. The current price of an asset in the markets is supposed to be best estimate of all the participants of the future performance of the asset. So if the price drops, then the market (or people like you and me) expect that the future performance will be bad. Of course there is much more to it than this.

We are not all Vulcans; we do not have a straight forward unemotional way of judging the future. Strange things do impact us. If I woke up, toddled off to take a shower and found that the hot water has finished, I would be miffed. My day would not be good after this not so good start and frankly I would not be in a good mood. My performance, my duties and responsibilities, my behaviour towards my family, colleagues and friends, howsoever tiny and picayune, will deteriorate. I will go about my day being grumpy and expect the future to be dark.

If I was woken up by my 4 year old little girl who clambered into bed with me early in the morning and then we spent 15 minutes whispering about frogs, princesses, flowers, babies, naughty elder brother, toys, dresses, boyfriends and so on and so forth, then I get out of bed after getting a big hug and a whispered, “you are the bestest daddy”, that’s it, my day is made. I will go through the day with a spring in the step, a smile on my face, a twinkle in my eye, a song on my lips and heart on the sleeve. My behaviour would be good, and I will do my duties with a cheery smile and it would be a great day. I will think the future will be great and wonderful.

So my mood influences how I feel about how the future will be. And this is why good moods, good news and good feelings/emotions push economies and markets up. People feel good about the future so that they go out and purchase stuff, go take up credit, buy houses, spend money and invest in stocks. When the mood goes bad, they stick the money under their mattress, sell their investments, plonk cash into gold and so on and so forth. Governments therefore constantly try to keep giving good news, putting a positive spin on things. That’s why they love big spectaculars, the 100th anniversary of the country’s founding, the Olympics, the Birthday of the President/Queen, the launch of the first hospital, etc.. Good things, things that make you want to celebrate and feel good about the future. (Also if you feel good, you will re-elect the government…)

Since moods influence our perception of the future so much, it is not surprising to hear that stock prices are sensitive to time. For example, did you know that stock prices move differently on Mondays and in January? Or that they move differently between summer and winter? Yep, not only does time influence trading, the weather influences trading as well. And I was reminded of this when I read a recent paper by Chang, Chen, Chou and Lin in the Journal of Banking and Finance (2008, 32, 1754-1766). These doughty chaps went deeper into the weather and trading relationship to explore how prices moved intra day. In other words, is there a relationship between the prices on the New York Stock Exchange and the weather patterns during the day? As it turns out, yes Sir, there is indeed a relationship. Stock returns are lower on cloudier days. You have more seller initiated trades during market open if the weather is cloudy (akin to your hot water running out?). When the skies are cloudy, the price jumps about much more and does not settle down as much all through the day. There is a ton of research on this topic already, human bio-rhythms do drive trading and economic behaviour.

Strange, no? You normally would not expect the valuation of your pension fund or your mutual fund to be influenced by something as silly as the weather, would you? Especially when the offices these days are all air conditioned, with scientifically calibrated lighting and all the modern conveniences, and so on and so forth. And after all that, you find that those highly paid traders are being impacted by cloud cover? And you call yourself as BSD’s? Pah, buy some umbrellas, you wimps!

(PS: this has nothing to do with investment advice at all, please do not invest based upon this essay)