The US has given the go-ahead to the delivery of 10 Apache helicopters to Egypt that the Obama administration had withheld since the military-led overthrow of Mohamed Morsi last year.
A spokesman for the US defence department said the helicopters would be sent to help Egypt quell a wave of militancy in the country’s northern Sinai desert, where Islamist extremists have waged a cat-and-mouse insurgency since Morsi’s overthrow last July, and have since made a series of bomb attacks on the Egyptian mainland.
Hundreds of police and soldiers have been killed by their attacks. In turn, Egypt’s security officials have been criticised for its scorched-earth counterinsurgency tactics that have seen innocent Sinai residents killed, and their homes destroyed.
The Apaches’ delivery will please Egyptian military officials who had previously claimed in private that the withholding of the helicopters was in effect siding with the government’s opponents. But it will further anger Morsi’s supporters, who feel the US has always given tacit approval to the ex-president’s overthrow.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the delivery simply recognised Egypt’s commitment to its 1979 peace treaty with Israel, the terms of which dictate that the US supply Egypt with annual deliveries of military aid. But he cautioned that the move should not be seen as a blessing of Egypt’s political process.
“We are not yet able to certify that Egypt is taking steps to support a democratic transition,” said Kirby in a statement that urged “the Egyptian government to demonstrate progress on a more inclusive transition that respects the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Egyptians”.
US state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki issued a similar statement, calling on Egypt to ensure a smooth transition to democracy – “as Egypt will be more secure and prosperous if it respects the universal rights of its citizens.”
Egyptians will elect a new president next month in Egypt’s first election since Morsi’s overthrow – but several prominent candidates have dropped out, citing a lack of free speech. One, the moderate Islamist Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, highlighted the impossibility of campaigning in an environment where political opposition has often been equated to terrorism.
The Tiger Woods effect is well known. But what about the Charley Hull equivalent? Laura Davies, the most successful British female golfer of all time, believes the example of Hull can inspire a new generation. Hull won a first professional victory this year, days before her 18th birthday, and sits inside the top 50 players in the world. The focus is now fully on when Hull will win her first major championship.
“You won’t see what Charley has done for a long time,” Davies says. “She had five second places right off the bat last year, was in a Solheim Cup team after only five months on tour, was the star of the show in that event and now has chances to win a major.
“There are no weak points in her game. She is very confident, without being cocky. She plays golf the way I played golf, and still do really. She gets her driver out on pretty much every hole, goes for pins and isn’t scared of messing things up; because she is trying to win.
“It has to be an inspiration for any young girl watching the Solheim Cup or any of these other tournaments. If you are 12 or 13, Charley is only a few years ahead of that.
“She is setting an example to the young kids to come through and play. That’s what Tiger did; that’s why you see so many young players on tour now, because Tiger made the game interesting.”
Hull and Davies will both perform at this year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open. The event, which was officially launched on Tuesday, takes place in July at Royal Birkdale, immediately before the Open Championship, with a prize fund of £1.8m.
Davies may now be 50, but her golfing appetite remains despite a rankings plummet having a negative impact on the number of tournaments she can compete in. “I am still as enthusiastic as ever,” she adds. “I still think I can win, even if not many other people do, because I know how well I have been hitting the ball. If I didn’t think I could still win, I wouldn’t bother.”
Dawson deserves a positive legacy
Peter Dawson’s successor at the Royal Ancient is likely to come from outside of golf’s governing body, after the chief executive’s upcoming retirement was confirmed on Tuesday.
Dawson, who holds a separate role as the president of the international golf federation, will leave office in St Andrews next September. He had been instrumental in golf’s return to the Olympics, which he will see through to the Games in Rio as part of his IGF commitment.
The recruitment firm Spencer Stuart will oversee the hunt for a new chief executive. The post, which Dawson took on in 1999, will be advertised this weekend.
This September, of course, will see an historic vote held on whether or not female members are to be permitted at the Royal Ancient Golf Club. There is an expectancy – but only that – that the motion will be carried in thereby offering Dawson a positive legacy.
He could never be regarded as one of golf’s great revolutionaries, but Dawson has on the whole done a fine job in hauling the commercial operation of the RA into the 21st century. He is entitled to depart with the sport’s best wishes.
Will Wentworth enjoy McIlroy?
It remains to be seen whether or not Rory McIlroy will appear at the European Tour’s flagship event in England, next month’s BMW PGA Championship. Time is fast running out for confirmation one way or another.
When asked about his participation during a discussion at the Shell Houston Open, the Northern Irishman was unable to provide confirmation either way. To be fair to McIlroy, his 2014 schedule has proved perfectly fluid thus far and will be subject to further alterations.
Two things can be said with certainty here; the Wentworth venue has never been among McIlroy’s favourites, and the European Tour will be using every tactic possible to try and coax its star attraction.
Lily Allen visits the Guardian’s studio to perform a live version of Our Time, the third single from her soon-to-be-released third album, Sheezus. After taking a break following her second album, It’s Not Me, It’s You, Allen returned late in 2013 with Hard Out Here – an exclusive acoustic version of which you’ll be able to hear on the Guardian site next week. Sheezus is out on 5 May
Shall we deal with the Blitzkrieg Bop question first? Yes, it’s their best-known song. Yes, it’s their defining statement, opening their first album. Yes, the “Hey ho! Let’s go!” chant would be heard at every show they played until the very end. Yes, I love it. But, equally, I’ve heard it so many times I don’t actually ever need to hear it again. So let’s have something a little less overexposed from that peerless debut album (and one that contains, for the Ramones, a staggering number of chords).
Broadly speaking, the early Ramones had two types of songs: the ones that took 60s pop as their template, with Joey offering lovelorn tremulousness, and the ones that appeared to have been written after watching trash movies on late-night TV. One song, Chain Saw, was a straight tribute to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, though for the sake of providing a rhyme with “me”, it became a “massacree”. Here, two decades before Kevin Williamson did it with the movie Scream, they deconstruct the horror film, but they only need three lines to do it: “Hey daddy-o/ I don’t want to go down to the basement/ There’s something down there.” They added another four lines, but they added little, and two of them were repeated from those first three (by the way, the 1974 live clip linked to in the heading is a priceless record of the Ramones’s early incompetence). They would repeat the horror movie deconstruction trope on their second album, with You Should Never Have Opened That Door, with its sublime couplet: “You don’t know what I can do with this axe/ Chop off your head so you better relax.” Oh, and other things the Ramones don’t want: to be learned, to be tamed, to walk around with you, to grow up, you, to live this life (anymore). Things they do want: to sniff some glue, to be a good boy, to be sedated, to be your boyfriend, to be well, to live.
And here’s the 60s pop template: Oh Oh I Love Her So is pretty much the classic American teenagerdom of cliche boiled down to its essence. Where did he meet her? At the Burger King. And where did they fall in love? By the soda machine. Their first date, naturally, is at Coney Island, where they go “on the coaster and around again”. There’s even an explicit nod to the Shangri-Las when Joey notes he’s going to give her “a great big kiss“, a more cheery nod than 1981′s 7-11, which was the Ramones’ own “death song” (“Oncoming car ran out of control/ It crushed my baby and it crushed my soul”). Oh Oh I Love Her So is pretty much a perfect pop package – pure bubblegum from start to finish, from the “whooo-eee-ooo” backing vocals to the rare but perfectly judged production flourish that ends the song: a little sprang! of surfy guitar.
Babysitter is a minor song, but makes it to the list by virtue of its relative unfamiliarity, at least to me. Leave Home, the second Ramones album, was originally issued with a substance abuse anthem called Carbona Not Glue, which was rapidly withdrawn for breaching the copyright of Carbona, a stain remover. When I started hunting down the early Ramones albums in the mid-80s, Leave Home was out of print, so the first copy I found was a US import, which replaced Carbona … with Sheena Is a Punk Rocker. I followed that with two secondhand original copies – one with a lyric inner sleeve – that had Carbona. Only at my fourth purchase did I find a copy with Babysitter (to my slight embarrassment, I now have six copies of Leave Home). So, while freshness is a relative concept with the Ramones, Babysitter still sounds fresh for me. And musically? Worth it just for the awesome key change before the final verse, and for the babysitter’s response after being asked if the coast is clear for snogging on the sofa: “She said they’re quiet ‘cept for one little creep.”
OK, I’ll give way to the pressure for an undisputed classic, for arguably the best single to have come out of punk, a template for a million lesser pop-punk bands to follow. Rockaway Beach, in the Ramones’ home borough of Queens, is the largest urban beach in the US (with the only legal surfing in New York), and the song effortlessly captures the need for the breeze and the water on a hot, hot day – “Up on the roof, out in the street/ Down in the playground the hot concrete/ Bus ride is too slow, they blast out the disco on the radio.” For a band whose lyrics were often minimal to the point of cartoonishness – “second verse, same as the first,” anyone? – the Ramones had some startlingly good lines. “Chewing out a rhythm on my bubblegum,” which opens Rockaway Beach, is as terse a summation of teenage ennui as anyone ever managed. No surprise, really, that even the NYC Parks department boasts: “From surfers to swimmers to the Ramones, everyone wants to ‘hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach’.”
By the fourth album, 1978′s Road to Ruin, the formula was starting to creak a little, so changes were rung. Acoustic guitars – acoustic guitars! – were brought in. There was a ballad, Questioningly. And there was a new drummer. Marky Ramone – Marc Bell in real life – was more proficient than Tommy, his predecessor, but that wasn’t always to the Ramones’ benefit. Tommy had been recruited precisely because he offered not even a hint of frills. Even though Marky was hardly Keith Moon, just the few fills he did throw in rather slowed the band’s forward propulsion. But Road to Ruin was actually a pretty good album, and I’m Against It took misanthropy and raised it to new levels, being a simple list of the things the band didn’t like: politics, communists, games and fun, anyone, Jesus freaks, circus geeks, summer and spring, anything, sex and drugs, waterbugs, playing ping pong, the Viet Cong, Burger King, and – again – anything. “I don’t care about poverty,” Joey announced. “All I care about is me.” It was as if they’d looked over at the bands they’d spawned in the UK and decided to highlight the pointlessness of nihilism.
For musical revolutionaries, the Ramones were mired in nostalgia, especially in a golden age of popular culture that really only existed in the imagination, one where every song that came on the radio was great. So it was natural that, sooner or later, they would hook up with the emperor of that golden age, Phil Spector, even if the sessions for the resultant album, 1980′s End of the Century, were a nightmare for all concerned. The record became the band’s biggest yet – though that still meant only No 44 in the US and No 14 in the UK – and gave them a hit single in a string-laden version of Baby, I Love You. But it was a bit of a dog’s dinner. Spector’s production style didn’t suit the roar of Johnny Ramone’s guitar, and it worked best where he was able to dispense with the basic Ramoneness of the songs entirely. So Do You Remember Rock’n'Roll Radio?, introduced by the never-gets-tired trick of a flicking a radio dial across the stations, is far more a Spector song than a Ramones song. He starts by throwing in the kitchen sink, then builds from there, till he’s constructed an edifice that sounds like every noise you might hear at a fairground.
You can hear how much Spector added to Do You Remember … and this, the other great song on End of the Century, by listening to the demos on the current edition of the album. Both are clumsy and skeletal. Where Spector made the first song cruise like a Cadillac on the freeway, this one he makes skate: he makes the Ramones sound delicate. And that’s precisely what they need for the saddest song they ever recorded, a portrait of being lonely on tour, trapped in a cycle of having nothing to do and nowhere to go – and bear in mind that the Ramones never became anything approaching big in the US. So when, on their fifth album, Joey sings: “Danny says we gotta go/ Gotta go to Idaho,” you know the prospect of driving thousands of miles to play a show to a few dozen people, when you and your bandmates don’t really like each other very much, isn’t one that excites him. A side note: the Danny of the title is their former manager, Danny Fields, one of the most important backroom figures in US alternative rock – among his other claims to fame is being the man who signed the Stooges and the MC5 to Elektra.
Horrible production du jour mars 1983′s Subterranean Jungle – Marky sounds like he’s hitting deflated footballs. The number of songs dealing with mental health on Ramones albums – stretching back to Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment – suggested a band mocking the afflicted. In fact, Joey suffered throughout his life from mental illness. As a teenager he had been placed in a psychiatric ward, where the diagnosis offered was: “Schizophrenia, Paranoid type with minimal brain damage … It is strongly recommended that he be in intensive psychotherapy.” Yet through songs such as I Wanna Be Sedated and Psychotherapy, he turned his illness into part of a remarkable statement of pride in his otherness: as tall as a tree, with limbs that seemed to operate independently of his brain, thick dark glasses permanently glued to his face, and a voice that sounded halfway between a crooner and a dying frog, Joey Ramone was no one’s idea of a pop star. He was too different, too alien in every way. And still he managed to become one of the most perfect pop (not rock) stars ever.
In 1985, the Ramones released their best album in years. Too Tough to Die wasn’t perfect – its attempt to engage with current affairs on Planet Earth 1988 was embarrassing: “The solution to peace isn’t clear/ The terrorist threat is a modern fear.” But the band sounded reinvigorated. They had inspired the American hardcore punk scene and responded in kind with Wart Hog and Endless Vacation; they offered two of their best pop songs in years in Daytime Dilemma (Dangers of Love) and Chasing the Night, and a title track that summed up their status. Sadly, it’s not available on Spotify, so we’ll have to make do with this version from 1992′s Loco Live. Older readers may recall the band’s appearance on Whistle Test to promote the album, beginning their appearance with the cameras set to monochrome and a wildly excited Andy Kershaw literally jumping up and down as he back announces them at the end.
The last great Ramones song was this standalone 1985 single, written in response to Ronald Reagan’s visit to a German cemetery where members of the SS were buried. It cropped up on the following year’s Animal Boy album, retitled My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down, because the fiercely Republican Johnny was so upset by its criticism of the president (Johnny and Joey’s tortured relationship is a matter too tangled for this piece: watch the film End of the Century to discover the extent of their mutual loathing). On page, the lyrics don’t really make a whole lot of sense, but on record Joey’s rage burns through: “You watch the world complain, but you do it anyway.”
• What do you think of Michael Hann’s choices? Let us know what he’s missed
and we’ll publish an alternative playlist of your selections.
Beats have always been big, bold, showy headphones that are as much a fashion statement as they are personal listening devices, but you might expect a company founded by a rapper would make sure the product sounds good too. Particularly when they cost £330.
The new design of the Studio headphone line, first introduced in 2013, the Beats styling has been almost toned down a little.
The result is a much more classy, almost understated look. Still big, but in some colour schemes like silver they look decidedly premium instead of gaudy.
The outer shell is all plastic with an inner metal hinged band for adjusting the size of the headband, which collapses down for travel. A rubber strip under the headband pads the top of the head, while the soft leatherette ear cups sit snugly around the ear, making the headphones comfortable to wear without squashing your head or being too heavy.
The left-hand ear cup sports a slim 3.5mm headphones jack for wired connections when at a desk, as well as pause-play and volume buttons. The right-hand ear cup has the microUSB port for charging the battery, as well as the power button and battery level indicator lights – a small strip of five LEDs that light up when the power button is pressed.
Sadly there are no separate track skip buttons, instead relying on a double and triple press of the big “B” pause-play button, which doesn’t always work. The headphones jack is also very narrow meaning that most cables will not fit correctly forcing you to use the included headphones cable.
The included cable does have a music remote on it, however, for pausing music on an iPhone or Android when wired.
Battery life is rated at 12 hours for Bluetooth listening, which in my testing proved to be about right, and is decent for the current crop of large wireless headphones but by no means stellar. Frustratingly, you cannot use the headphones via cable when the battery is flat.
Mid-bass and sharp highs
Previous variants of Beats headphones have focused on bass above all else, which certainly pleases some, but sadly, the new Beats Studio Wireless are style over substance when it comes to sound quality.
They are more balanced than previous Beats headphones, but as a consequence lack really deep bass, producing lows that sound like there is a bit missing – lots of punchy mid-bass with a lack of really low end, even when playing Dr Dre’s own bass-heavy tracks.
As a consequence anything with a solid bass line sounds a little muddy, although vocals are still relatively clear if a little sharp when listening to rap, contemporary soul or pop for instance.
Other music genres do not fare quite so well. Jazz, for instance, sees half the track disappear between overly warm bass and sharp high-end frequencies lacking any nuance or clarity between instruments. Classical music, like Holst’s Jupiter from the Planets suite, sounds dull and muted in the mids, with all but the highs lacking any sort of energy.
Rock and folk are also not suited to the Beats sound. Neil Young’s Harvest Moon is butchered by the headphones. Known for his pedantic love of sound quality, having backed his own high resolution version of the iPod, the Pono Player, Harvest Moon is a track recorded in Nashville, the home of analogue recording perfection and this track is a tribute to that sound – rich, full, dense and rounded. To some it is like a great wine poured into your ear, but the Studio Wireless headphones managed to make it sound thin and flimsy, more Ikea than Conran, if we were talking furniture.
The pleasing nature of sound profiles, balance and quality are, of course, down to personal preference, which is why we had more than one person listen to the headphones and give independent, objective opinions. Everyone who listened to them came to similar conclusions, but your milage may vary.
It is safe to say, however, that the Beats Studio Wireless are not geared up for nuanced music listening, and unlike other decent £300-plus headphones will not show you anything new in the music that you might not have heard before.
As well as being wireless, the new Beats have active noise cancelling, which uses microphones on the outside of the headphones to detect ambient noise and emits sound waves to cancel them out blended with the music.
Combined with the relatively good sound isolation created by the thick, padded ear cups, the noise cancelling does an effective job of blocking out certain background sounds, especially the drone of trains, planes or automobiles. It is less effective at blocking out colleagues or people talking on the street.
It is also not possible to turn off the noise cancelling, which means in silent rooms where it is unnecessary there is a quiet hiss noticeable in the background.
The Beats Studio Wireless cost £329.95, which puts them in the top bracket for Bluetooth headphones, with most priced between £250 and £350. They’re premium looking and feeling, but they do not sound high-end.
Verdict: comfortable, quiet but will murder some music
Beats has made a leap forward in comfort and design with the Studio Wireless. The battery life is decent, the noise cancelling effective, while the folding band makes them compact for travel.
The problem comes to sound quality. Depending on your personal music preference, you might find the lack of deep bass and sharp highs pleasing, but the overall sound quality is not what you’d expect from a £330 pair of headphones.
While it is true that streaming music over Bluetooth can technically impact sound quality, with modern Bluetooth 4.0 technology the difference between wired and wireless music playback is negligible for all but the highest quality of music and highest-end headphones, which the Beats are certainly not.
With the Beats Studio Wireless you are paying for the brand name above all else. Your £330 buys an average pair of Bluetooth headphones with few, irritating controls and sound quality that doesn’t match their price tag, even for the music genres of their creator.
Pros: Comfortable, fold up for travel, OK battery life, active noise cancelling, wireless, optional cable
Cons: Cannot turn off noise cancelling, fiddly controls, weak sound, large profile, cannot be used cabled without battery
It’s really fascinating to see Klopp’s name among contenders. Does anyone really rate this ManU side better than Dortmund?
I’m not sure how many people would take given the opportunity of ManU job, with a below average squad, high expectations and no CL football next year and leave a club like Dortmund? A great history doesn’t really help managers when it comes to getting the results -ask poor Dave.
When the New York police department invited people to tweet pictures of their dealings with “New York’s finest” with the hashtag #myNYPD, what could possibly have gone wrong?
The attempt at public outreach, however, backfired spectacularly when users flooded Twitter with hundreds of photos of police brutality during Occupy Wall Street, one of an 84-year-old man brutalised for jaywalking – and even a dog being frisked.
By midnight on Tuesday, more than 70,000 people had tweeted about police brutality, ridiculing the NYPD for a social media disaster and recalling the names of people shot dead by police.
Police officials declined to respond to questions about the negative comments, which were being posted at a rate of 10,000 per hour, or say who was behind the Twitter idea. But they did release a short statement.
“The NYPD is creating new ways to communicate effectively with the community,” Kim Royster, an NYPD spokeswoman told the New York Daily News. “Twitter provides an open forum for an uncensored exchange and this is an open dialogue good for our city.”
The request for pictures, on the @NYPDNews Twitter page, had said: “Do you have a photo w/ a member of the NYPD? Tweet us tag it #myNYPD,” the message read. “It may be featured on our Facebook.”
It prompted a flood pictures of officers mistreating people and old newspaper headlines about unarmed people being shot dead by police. It also sparked similar hashtag trends – including #myLAPD – and attracted international attention.
Not all the posts were negative. JP Quinn, 40, tweeted a picture from inside the old Yankee Stadium with his brother Michael, 38, who is a detective in Brooklyn South. “I like when they make public efforts like this. It’s a shame that it blew up like this,” Quinn told the Daily News. “I just assumed it would be all roses, like whoever came up with that for the NYPD.”
The NYPD tried to make the best of a botched job by retweeting all the favourable photos.
Last year, Wall Street giant JP Morgan was at the centre of a social media storm when it invited Twitter users to send questions to an executive using the hashtag #AskJPM. The bank was deluged with vitriol. More than 8,000 responses were sent within a six-hour period, two-thirds of which were negative.
David Moyes‘ face has now experienced the fate for which it looks like it was designed. The deep grooves of grief in his brow, his sunken, woeful eyes and dry parched lips a perspicacious sculpture carved in anticipation of this slap of indignity.
Ferguson’s selection of the “chosen one” now looks less like John the Baptist heralding Christ and more like what I would do if invited to select my ex’s next partner; the mendacious dispatch of a castrated chump to grimly jiggle with futile pumps upon Man United’s bone-dry, trophy-bare mound. Moyes, a name that, let’s face it, sounds like a Yiddish word for eunuch, has endured 317 days of celibacy, whilst at Everton his former paramour, under the beguiling matador Martínez, is likely to claim the final Champions League place.
Old Trafford, once the theatre of dreams, is now the setting for a tragedy of unfulfilled expectations. The Glazers must’ve expected that they were getting a wee, ginger, fledgling Ferguson; David Moyes surely imagined that the great day had come after years of stability and prudence at Goodison Park, frugally guarding the Toffees, he was finally to be given the reigns of the all-conquering devils. The expectations of the United players I query. Perhaps a dressing room of potent alphas for decades rendered beta, shackled by the Bordeaux-stained Uncle Joe, sensed that the new incumbent would not be so ferocious with the boot kicking and the hair-drying and, like over-parented teens suddenly in the care of clammy-palmed au pair, decided to kick up a bit of a fuss.
And now from this truculent gaggle of malcontents Ryan Giggs has emerged to lead United into the anti-climactic damp spasm that concludes this season of dismal failure. Giggs, whose untapped managerial prowess evaded Ferguson when he was asked to nominate a successor, the nearest approximation of an Anfield boot-room appointment considered instead to be the translucent Moyes, a pale imitation of himself, so pale in fact his impotent palpitations could be witnessed on a vascular level as United throbbed to a final flaccid loss at Goodison Park.
There is something ominous about the power shift that seems to be occurring as the two great, red dynasties of the north again appear to be exchanging destinies, the Liverbird once more upon its perch, the devils cast once more into hell. These cities locked in grievous conflict since the Mancs burrowed a canal to bypass Liverpool’s docks, in the footballing deck these rival reds, the hearts of Liverpool and diamonds of Manchester can never share the power.
In all likelihood Ferguson’s immediate successor could never be more than a peppery sorbet to cleanse the palate after decades of glorious indulgence. Now the job of following sir Alex is done and the far more favourable position of David Moyes’ heir is vacant. Any son of a great man knows a margin is required, some respite from the preceding magnificence. For a moment Manchester United, its board, owners, players and fans, were willing to yield so wholeheartedly to the myth of Ferguson’s greatness that they believed he could endow with a benevolent swipe of his claymore, greatness upon his “chosen one”.
Moyes’ potency was dependent on Ferguson’s patronage. It appears though that Ferguson’s personal mythology superseded his tribal ties and he nominated not an heir who could carry on his legacy but one who would stumble and stoop and in so doing add greater emphasis to his own already staggering achievements. Perhaps Ferguson the master manager and great socialist recorded his only real failure subsequent to his tenure.
After all what is it that we’re cheering for on our sofas or in the stands? What causes the heart to soar and the eyes to tear? The players and managers move on when the time comes or the money goes. The chairmen and the boards drift with the Dow Jones, even the sanctity of the space, the pasture of the green cathedral can be turfed up and rebadged as Emirate or Etihad.
What is it then that is United? Who do we sing those songs for? In whose name do we curse or chant? It is the union itself that is sacred. Every single component of the game is a commodity. The players, the pitches, the shirts, the gel they put in their hair. But no one can pay me to support another team. No oligarch can bring me to The Bridge or wring out the claret and blue from my veins.
Way down deep in our folk memory, deeper than the canal that bypassed Liverpool, deeper than the spilled blood between Millwall and West Ham or Celtic and Rangers, in a place we cannot name, in words that cannot be spoken, only sung, we know, we know that we are one. Great men leave and lesser men fall but the game, the game belongs to us all.
But the decision was criticised by Roche and some breast cancer charities, which say the drug is needed and that Nice has turned down too many breast cancer drugs already.
The drug, called Kadcyla (generic name trastuzumab emtansine), is already being paid for through the dedicated Cancer Drugs Fund set up by the government. A decision was made to fund it so that women with advanced breast cancer could receive it immediately it was available, without waiting for Nice’s assessment.
But the Nice verdict raises questions about the future of such expensive cancer drugs once the fund ceases to exist at the end of March 2016. At that point, a new pricing scheme for the NHS is intended to be in place, but Nice will still assess whether a drug is worth the price the manufacturer wants for it.
Kadcyla is a new kind of medicine, according to Roche, combining Herceptin (trastuzumab) with a chemotherapy agent. It is designed for women with HER2+ cancer which has spread to other parts of the body and is inoperable.
It is not a cure, but in trials it extended life by a median of 5.8 months, compared with the current combination of lapatinib plus capecitabine.
Nice says the drug does not work well enough to justify the price tag and called on Roche to rethink during the consultation period.
“We had hoped that Roche would have recognised the challenge the NHS faces in managing the adoption of expensive new treatments by reducing the cost of Kadcyla to the NHS,” said Nice chief executive Sir Andrew Dillon.
“This drug is already being funded through the special Cancer Drugs Fund. Our job is to recommend whether it should transfer into the NHS budget. We are very aware of the importance that people place on life-extending cancer drugs and a decision not to recommend a cancer treatment for routine NHS funding is never taken lightly.
“We apply as much flexibility as we can in approving new treatments, but the reality is that given its price and what it offers to patients, it will displace more health benefit which the NHS could achieve in other ways, than it will offer to patients with breast cancer.”
The cost of Kadcyla is tens of thousands of pounds more than existing second-line treatments for this cancer, said Nice.
Professor Paul Ellis, a consultant oncologist at King’s College, London, who worked on the drug trials, said in a statement issued by Roche that it “represents a significant advance in HER2-positive breast cancer, so for Nice to issue negative preliminary guidance is a huge blow.
“The drug tackles the disease in a different way to any other breast cancer medicine and provides women with valuable extra time with their families and loved ones – time that you cannot put a price on. Not only this, Kadcyla is also much better tolerated by women than current standard treatment options, causing much less in the way of traditional chemotherapy associated side effects. As such, the quality of life of women taking Kadcyla is significantly improved.The good news is that patients in England will still be able to access this treatment through the Cancer Drugs Fund, but we are keen to find a more permanent way to effectively assess the value of such drugs to ensure those who need them most can benefit from them.”
Jayson Dallas, general manager of Roche Products Limited, said the company was “extremely disappointed that Nice has failed to safeguard the interests of patients with this advanced stage of aggressive disease”.
Emma Pennery, clinical director at Breast Cancer Care, said: “It’s extremely disappointing news for those living with advanced breast cancer and their families that yet another treatment has not been recommended by Nice.”
Another patient group, Breakthrough Breast Cancer said Kadcyla was a very impressive drug but called for changes to the cost of drugs as well as the appraisal process. “We are now looking to the Department of Health and the pharmaceutical industry to find a way to work together to bring the cost of expensive drugs down and put a sustainable system in place by which new treatments can be made available on the NHS on a routine basis,” said senior policy manager, Dr Caitlin Palframan.
About 1,000 women a month die of advanced breast cancer, although not all of them have the HER2+ variety which the drug targets.
A spokesperson for NHS England said: “The Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) provides an additional £200m each year to enable patients to access drugs that are not routinely funded by the NHS. A number of the drugs available to patients through the CDF have previously been appraised by Nice and are not recommended for routine use. It was for this purpose that the CDF was established.
“A negative Nice appraisal on trastuzumab emtansine will not affect the availability of this drug via the Cancer Drugs Fund.”
Gordon Brown told Scottish voters there are “five big positives” to remaining in the UK that far outweigh the case for independence, as he attempted to quash complaints about the negativity of the no campaign.
The former prime minister told an audience at Glasgow university that a stronger Scotland within the UK would secure state pensions and NHS funding, 600,000 jobs reliant on UK trade, low interest rates and the country’s close cultural ties with the rest of the UK.
“Scotland’s five big positives – the ‘pluses’ for being part of Britain – illustrate the benefits of spreading risks and redistributing resources across nations, making us a model for how different nations can work together in an increasingly interdependent world,” he said, in his first speech for the cross-party, ailing Better Together campaign.
Those positives, he added, should be “emblazoned on every billboard, banner and leaflet.”
Brown’s speech, which included detailed claims that pooling the UK’s resources allowed far higher pensions spending in Scotland than it would afford after independence, follows repeated allegations that the negativity of the no campaign has driven voters to support independence.
A series of recent opinion polls has shown a rapidly shrinking gap between the yes and no vote: an ICM poll for Scotland on Sunday at the weekend showed the yes vote had held steady at 39% while the no vote had declined from 46% to 42%, with more voters, 19%, now undecided.
Buoyed by the shift in the polls, Salmond is due to tell an audience in Carlisle on Wednesday that independence will see a strengthening of northern England’s ties to Scotland and allow Edinburgh to become a powerful counter-balance to London’s substantial influence.
In a speech to mark St George’s Day, the patron saint of England, Salmond said there would be cross-border economic forums set up between Scottish and English local authorities after independence to cement those ties.
Disputing Brown’s claims that Scotland would lose access to the BBC, stating Scottish viewers would still get “many of the same programmes”, Salmond is due to say: “The ties that bind the nations of these islands will continue and flourish after Scotland becomes independent.
“You will remain Scotland’s closest friends, as well as our closest neighbours. Following independence, the social union between the peoples of these islands will remain.”
Claiming London had left the UK “profoundly unbalanced”, Salmond will conclude: “An independent Scotland will be an economic counterweight to London and the south east of England – causing a much needed and fundamental rebalancing of these islands.”
Brown insisted that the yes campaign and Scottish National party were presenting voters with false choices, trying to divide the campaigns between those defending Scotland and those defending Britain.
Scotland already was a nation, with its own distinct institutions and a powerful Scottish parliament set to get more powers, and the pro-UK campaign, Brown said, were just as determined to protect those too.
The key issue was the correct balance between powers held in Edinburgh and those shared with London, particularly over currency and the financial resources to protect state pensions, NHS funding and the UK single market.
“So our case has the right starting point – seeking to meet the needs and aspirations of the Scottish people, the only voters in the referendum. We are posing the right choice – between two competing visions of Scotland’s future,” Brown said.
“Given we are already a nation, have our own distinctive national institutions and have a Scottish Parliament whose powers are about to expand, the referendum comes down to one unresolved issue: do we, the Scottish people, want to sever all political links with our neighbours in the rest of the UK?
“My answer is no. With our partnership for pensions, NHS funding, more jobs, lower interest rates and strong cultural links like the BBC, all the evidence is that we are better together.”