The scary side of Scientology

Try as they might, threatening people, revealing confidential information and harrassing anyone who dares to question their motives is hardly going to endear people to the Scientologists, the cult that masquerades as a religion.

Here is a report from Private Eye:

Former Church of Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder spilled the beans in John Sweeney’s BBC film this week. After half a century inside the church, Rinder now says that it is a cult.

But some public figures in Britain are still happy to give it the benefit of the doubt. “I don’t think Scientologists get a fair deal,” Jonathan Ross wrote in his autobiography. When Tom Cruise repaid the favour by appearing on Ross’s show, the sycophantic host gave him a very fair deal indeed by not asking about Scientology at all.

Another admirer is the coalition’s new minister for climate change, Charles Hendry, a Tory MP whose seat borders the 59-acre Scientology estate in East Grinstead. In 2004 Hendry attended the premiere of Tom Cruise’s film Collateral. “I thought Tom was absolutely amazing,” he gushed. When the star chatted to Hendry’s stepdaughter on the MP’s mobile phone, Hendry said: “Clare thought it was the coolest thing ever.” A year later, in July 2005, Hendry told the House of Commons: “Although Scientology may be very controversial… undoubtedly as human beings they do a great deal of good… certainly as an organisation it’s gone through serious hoops in terms of making sure it has the right to broadcast on TV, satisfying the broadcasting commission that it isn’t a cult.”

The “broadcasting commission” is a reference to the Independent Television Commission, which has since been succeeded by Ofcom. Neither body was in a position to say whether the church was or was not a cult, and neither did. But Judge Latey in the high court in 1984 called it exactly that: “a cult… corrupt, sinister and dangerous… out to capture people and… brainwash them.”

In Britain, the church operates as the Church of Scientology Religious Educational College Inc, a not-for-profit organisation which filed an income of £12,958,196 in 2008. Despite its wealth, and the Charity Commission’s ruling that the church isn’t a charity for religious purposes, the City of London Corporation grants 80 percent rates relief for its “London Org” (ie HQ) on Queen Victoria Street, thus saving it a total of £1,306,363 in rates since the centre opened in 2006. Westminster city council gives 80 percent rate relief on its “London Celebrity Centre” in Leinster Gardens, saving it £165,303 over the past decade. Birmingham city council gives 80 percent rates relief on the Scientology property at Winston Churchill House, as does Sunderland council at the new £5m “Org” on Fawcett Street. Whether the church enjoys rates relief on the most famous Scientology property in Britain, its “stress test centre” on Tottenham Court Road, is a secret: Camden council refuses to answer questions on the subject.

A few brave local authorities haven’t yet been brainwashed. Manchester city council charges the full commercial rate on the £5m “Org” in Deansgate, as does Mid-Sussex district council for the estate at Saint Hill Manor near East Grinstead. With a government minister on the Scientologists’ side, however, can it be long before the dissenting councils cave in to Tom Cruise’s creepy church?


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Filed under Church of Scientology, religion, USA

The JFK way

In recent months I have had cause to travel to the USA a number of times. While I have commented before about the new-approach immigration staff at the airport – they even smile at times – sadly the organisation and attitude of other staff is as appalling as those employed at Heathrow by BAA.

When will the corporations running airports realise that people might spend more and give their employees less grief if in return passengers were treated like human beings and not juvenile delinquents. Bottom of the pile are the humourless driods who scan luggage was you leave the country. They do all they can to belittle punters, barking surly and unhelpful commands while not lifting a finger to help.

They are a disgrace. The USA is a great place to visit. Why does it always finish on such a low?

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Wilshire heads off into a lucrative sunset

So David Wilshire has been found out and forced to stand down. Despite his best bluster, in the end the truth came out. He will still have the last laugh. As he has managed to stay on until the end of this government sometime next year, he will still be entitled to the usual standing-down handout, he has one more visit to the trough at our expense.

It may be two. It is possible his reward for going quietly will be a knighthood if David Cameron wins the election.

In his constituency, the Conservatives will be breathing a sigh of relief. The Liberals has been making gains, although the odious characters they chose to represent them on the local council will hardly have helped their cause. With Wilshire there was every chance of an upset.

Now the Conservatives will pick a new candidate without the baggage Wilshire brought with him.

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Why you should never fly Ryan Air

This is a quite superb summary of all that is wrong/disgraceful with the odious Ryan Air, the low-cost and even lower-quality airline.  Courtesy of The Times.

1. 1p flights are never 1p

Even if you strike it lucky and find a 1p flight you actually want to take, Ryanair charge you for the pleasure of paying for it. To the tune of £4.75. For each passenger. Each way.

And that doesn’t even include…

2. The check-in charge

If you want to book a bag into the aircraft hold you must check in at the airport, which will cost you £4.75 per passenger, per way, if you book online and a whopping £10 per passenger, per way if you pay at the airport or over the phone. And it doesn’t matter if only one person in your party takes a bag, everyone else still has to pay to check in at the airport too.

This week Ryanair announced that it’s all change from May when airport check in will rocket to £20 per person, per way. That is a grand total of £160 for a return flight as a family of four.

All without factoring in…

3. The baggage charge

Which is an extortionate £9.50 per bag, per flight. Or £19 if you book at the airport or over the phone.

4. The sneaky weight limit

Ryanair set its weight limit for hold luggage at 15kg catching the majority of passengers off guard.

You’re not allowed to pool bags either so, even if you have a party of four sharing luggage, if the bag weighs 16kg you will be charged £14 per additional kilo. Nevermind that it makes not a jot of difference to the weight of the aeroplane.

5. Queues glorious queues

If you’re still talking to your partner following the inevitable blazing row about why you shouldn’t just pay the bloody charges listed above, you won’t be after being told to join the back of the enormous queue at the ‘payments’ desk.

6. The additional baggage charge

Probably best to wear all of your clothes at once on the flight if you are travelling somewhere for more than a couple of days (until Ryanair start charging passengers for excess body weight that is). Check more than one bag in and it will cost you another £19 per extra piece of luggage, per way.

7. The website is rubbish. On purpose.

You have no choice but to book a Ryanair flight through its website so the airline may as well make it as stressful an experience as possible. The website is ugly for starters, and it crashes. All the time.

Because you can’t easily browse for dates when cheap flights are available you have to dedicate at least five precious hours of your life to sitting in front of the screen and laboriously trying different combinations to find a good deal.

And if you don’t understand what the hell you’ve just pressed there is no one to e-mail. Because Ryanair want you to spend more money and phone its…

8. Premium rate internet helpline

Calls cost £1 a minute to speak to someone in a call centre. Be amazed if you can explain what your problem is for under a fiver.

9. You can only fly cheap mid week

To get the bargains that make the pain of Ryanair worth the gain you have to be prepared to fly on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, which can rule out the bargain European weekend break. Kind of why you wanted to book with Ryanair in the first place.

10. You have to travel at obscene hours.

Not only are you travelling on a Tuesday you also have to be prepared to wake up at 2am to get to the airport two hours ahead of your 6.55am flight. Or, if you choose a more civilised evening departure time, arrive in your destination at midnight with no where to stay because…

11. The destination airports are in the middle of nowhere.

Don’t expect to fly to Frankfurt if you book a flight to Frankfurt, to name one of many examples. Frankfurt Hahn airport where Ryanair land is 120 km from the city centre.

12. A bottle of water on board costs £3

I know the moral of this story is to buy a drink from WH Smith before you board, but it’s still annoying.

13. Sweaty, plasticky seats

Whatever you do, don’t wear shorts or you might be stuck to your seat forever and forced to listen to…

14. The in-flight musak

Pray that your flight is not delayed before it takes off or you’ll have to put up with the bleepy, computer-game inspired musak that is played on loop as your board, over, and over.

15. The fanfare

Do we really need the shrill fanfare that sounds when/if the flight lands on time? Or does it just ruin the first three minutes of each passenger’s holiday?

16. You can’t book a seat

As if the British holiday ritual of crowding round the baggage carousel isn’t enough to warrant the use of blood-thinning medication, Ryanair invite you to partake in the extreme sport that is racing across the tarmac to get a seat next to your companion. Flip flops are a distinct disadvantage.

17. No refunds, ever

Unless you have a spare few days to waste do not even bother trying.

18. Poor compensation

A report by the UK’s Air Transport Users Council has found that the world’s airlines lost more than one million bags in 2007 and more than 42 million pieces of luggage were mishandled worldwide.

Guess who it named as the worst airline for compensation if your bag goes missing or is damaged?

19. You are always being flogged stuff

No we don’t want your ridiculously overpriced travel insurance, car hire or Ryanair tea-towels. Go away.

20. Michael O’Leary himself

Don’t tell me you can bear to make him any more smug?

By Laura Whateley


Filed under Rip-off Britain, Transport

Snouts in the trough

Derek Conway is a throwback to the Tony’s who oozed round Westminster in the twilight of John Major’s time at No. 10. Self interested and sleezy. Sadly, he has offered little and left politics with any fragment of its credibility – and there’s not much left – removed. But at least he’s been stripped of the whip and forced to stand down at the next election. Good riddance.

In recent months sleeze and snouts-in-the-trough has been a Labour speciality. Blair encouraged it by his refusal to force disgraced ministers from David Blunkett to Steve Byers to Peter Mandelson out. At least Peter Hain quit on his own, but the reality is that he had run out of friends, not that he had many in the first place according to Westminster insiders. His excuses even before the matter of donations received by him was referred to the police lacked any credibility.

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Filed under Labour, politics, Rip-off Britain, Sleaze, Society

David Wilshire … the noose tightens

Now that the full list of MPs claims are revealed, David Wilshire, the Spelthorne Conservative whose protests of innocence have looked increasingly weak of late, has more explaining to do.

It now appears that Wilshire – who owns three houses – claimed £160,542 in 2007-08, including nearly £200 for newspapers, £2,000 on meals and more than £9,000 on “communications”. In March of last year he spent over £2,500 on printer ink!

Between 2004 and 2008 Wilshire was the sixth-highest claiming MP, despite having a fairly compact constituency within 20 miles of Westminster. However, he has a house in Somerset and sees nothing wrong with claiming for travelling between that and Westminster, despite also having homes in his constituency and in central London.

He has refused calls for a constituency meeting, but pressure increased on him with news that Ian Taylor, from the neighbouring Elmbridge constituency, quit this week after a string of embarrassing stories about his spending. Taylor, of course, insisted his decision was unconnected to those stories.

Rumours have been circulating that Wilshire may face opposition from a high-profile celebrity at the next election. If he does, then his explanations will have to get much better than he has managed so far.

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Bob Crow … a vile throwback

London Underground are a far better organisation that in the days of old, although the obnoxious Marxist head of the RMT’s Bob Crow is determined to drag commuters back into the dark days of strikes and disruption.

Crow has few redeeming features. His self-publicising antics leave his members subject to abuse and held in growing contempt. He moans about working conditions, but where else could someone doing a similar job as his members earn close to £40,000pa. He actively seeks confrontation at every turn.

He was a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain and then the Communist Party of Britain after the CPGB’s dissolution, between 1983 and 1995, when he left to join Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party. He remains an admirer of Scargill, and in the 2005 general election, he endorsed Robert Griffiths, the Communist Party of Britain’s candidate in Pontypridd, calling him “a champion of workers’ rights”. Crow now advocates a new working-class political party.

Crow does have a role. His presence reminds us how far we have come since the 1970s and how much we have to lose by taking people like him seriously again. Crow’s support for Millwall, whose fans have a justified reputation for racial abuse and violence, sums the man up.

The latest industrial action will cause massive inconvenience and cost businesses, big and small, millions. Crow demands a pay rise above inflation, a reduction in hours and a guarantee of no job losses. That doesn’t apply to anyone else in the land in this difficult time. But Crow doesn’t care less.

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