Thursday, March 29, 2007


With the current breastbeating about slavery in Britain (no-one would guess that it was actually Britain that ENDED slavery), it seems important to get clear just what was actually happening before 1807. I think that the following extract from The Encyclopedia Britannica would be a total surprise to 99.9% of Brits:

Black slaves exported from Africa were widely traded throughout the Islamic world. Approximately 18,000,000 Africans were delivered into the Islamic trans-Saharan and Indian Ocean slave trades between 650 and 1905.

In the second half of the 15th century Europeans began to trade along the west coast of Africa, and by 1867 between 7,000,000 and 10,000,000 Africans had been shipped as slaves to the New World.

Although some areas of Africa were depleted by slave raiding, on balance the African population grew after the establishment of the transatlantic slave trade because of new food crops introduced from the New World, particularly manioc, corn (maize), and possibly peanuts (groundnuts).

The relationship between African and New World slavery was highly complementary. African slave owners demanded primarily women and children for labour and lineage incorporation and tended to kill males because they were troublesome and likely to flee. The transatlantic trade, on the other hand, demanded primarily adult males for labour and thus saved from certain death many adult males who otherwise would have been slaughtered outright by their African captors

I guess I am naive but is there not some cause for THANKS somewhere in there?


Of all the stories I have covered about what is now called the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, few have been more remarkable than the disaster that has just befallen David Dobbin, a 43-year-old Cheshire farmer, who derived his entire livelihood from a large dairy herd. His 567 cows, including pedigree Ayrshires and Holsteins, had won prizes, and were worth upwards of 500,000 pounds.

In 2005 Cheshire trading standards officials, acting for Defra (one hopes Cheshire's taxpayers do not mind officials whose salaries they pay acting for a government department) began a long series of visits, to inspect the documentation required for Mr Dobbin's cattle under EC rules. The more they attempted to check the animals' eight-digit ear tags against their EC "cattle passports", the more they claimed to have found "irregularities", although they failed to explain how many or what these were.

Last November, on Defra's instructions, the officials seized all Mr Dobbin's passports, making it illegal for him to move animals off his farm and all but wiping out his income. Last month, serving him with a "notice to identify", they removed his herd to another farm, stating that, under EC regulation 494/98, it was their intention to destroy all 567 animals.

Dating back to the BSE panic, this diktat says that "if the keeper of an animal cannot prove its identification in two working days, it shall be destroyed without delay" and "without compensation". These powers, as I noted when the regulation was issued in 1998, were unprecedented. Nevertheless the regulation permits officials to destroy only animals that cannot be identified. Defra has never claimed that the paperwork for most of Mr Dobbin's cows was not in order, only that the officials had found "what they believed to be an unacceptable level of non-compliance with the regulations", and that this "could have serious implications for the protection of the human food chain".

Less than an hour before slaughter was due to begin, Mr Dobbin's combative Liverpool lawyer, David Kirwan, got a High Court injunction, giving the cows a stay of execution. He also won leave from Mr Justice Goldring for judicial review, on the grounds that Defra was acting beyond its powers. But this month, as the injunction expired, Defra insisted that, unless Mr Dobbin could prove the identification of every one of his animals, they must still be destroyed. Since all his passports, the most obvious means of identification, had been confiscated, this was impossible.

Defra told the court that Mr Dobbin would instead have to provide DNA identification for each animal, within two days. This would have been technically impossible, even if Defra had not moved the cows elsewhere and refused him access. The need to proceed with the slaughter, Defra argued, was urgent, because it had no resources to look after the cattle properly, causing severe "animal welfare" problems. The judge felt he had little option but to give the go-ahead, and on March 8 and 9 the cows were destroyed.

All Mr Dobbin can now hope for is that the judicial review may confirm that Defra acted outside the law. The officials agreed in court that they had never used these powers on anything like such a scale before. It has not been claimed that Mr Dobbin's animals posed any health risk (BSE this year is down to a single case). His only alleged offence was "non-compliance" with complex bureaucratic procedures, to an extent which Defra still cannot specify. For this he has seen his livelihood go up in smoke, without a penny in compensation.


Changing a bulb is risky at the BBC

With a few simple precautions, thousands manage it every day. Yet BBC staff have been stopped from replacing lightbulbs because of concerns for their health and safety. Instead, the corporation is paying up to 10 pounds for each replacement bulb to be fitted.

The situation came to light when Louise Wordsworth, a learning project manager with the BBC, complained. "I called up to ask for a new lightbulb for my desk lamp and was told that this would cost 10 pounds," she wrote in a letter to Ariel, the corporation's magazine. "On telling them I'd buy and replace the bulb myself (bought for the bargain price of 1 pound for two bulbs) I was told that it was against health and safety regulations. So guess how many BBC colleagues it finally took to change a lightbulb (risking life and limb to do so)?"

A BBC spokesman confirmed that there had been a number of complaints, but said that each request was judged on its merits to save staff time.

As for Ms Wordsworth's unanswered question, three years ago it was calculated how many people it takes to change a BBC lightbulb. The member of staff left in the dark would need to find a clerk to get a reference number so that the repair could be paid for, then report the fault to a helpline. An electrician would ask the store manager for the part and install the bulb, making a total of five people.


Wonder drug NHS bosses can't afford to offer cancer victims

CASH-strapped NHS bosses are denying thousands of Midland kidney cancer patients two new 'wonder drugs' that could prolong their lives. A Birmingham oncologist has likened the scandal surrounding Sutent and Nexavar to that of breast cancer treatment Herceptin, which was denied to sufferers until a public outcry last year. Professor Nicholas James revealed that Midland health chiefs are refusing to fund some of his patients with the kidney cancer treatments, licensed for use in Britain last August.

Trials have shown that Sutent and Nexavar can offer patients a dramatic improvement in quality of life - and increase life expectancy by two years. That compares favourably to Interferon-alpha, the kidney cancer treatment currently available on the NHS, which lengthens lives by just five months on average.

But Sutent and Nexavar cost 3,000 pounds a month to fund, and have not yet been approved as 'cost-effective' by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE). As a result, funding decisions are currently being taken by individual Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), who are said to be rejecting most NHS patients. Kidney cancer sufferers are so desperate to experience the drugs' life-extending benefits that they are cashing in pensions and selling homes to fund the treatment themselves.

Prof James, a clinical oncology expert from Birmingham University's Wellcome Institute, said: "Around 6,000 people in Britain are diagnosed with kidney cancer every year, and it kills up to 4,000 people every 12 months. "Initially, you can be treated with radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery. But, until August last year, if it came back there was no hope. "The approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) of Sutent and Nexavar, licensed last August, has changed all that.

"It was a big step forward in terms of treatment options for kidney cancer patients. "But although the drugs had been approved by the Agency, NICE has not yet given them the go-ahead as being cost-effective for NHS patients. "This is where our problem lies. We have drugs available to treat our patients, but they are not routinely available on the NHS because they have not been approved by NICE. "This means I have some patients who were involved in the trials for these drugs who can continue treatment. "But others have to rely on decisions of their individual PCTs to see if they will fund them.

"When this happened with Herceptin, there was a huge uproar. NICE eventually approved the drug. "Up to 40,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in Britain, so the numbers affected were far greater and they could kick up a bigger fuss. "Meanwhile, there are thousands of kidney cancer patients who could benefit from these new drugs, but who are finding it difficult to make their voices heard."

Two men for every woman is diagnosed with kidney cancer, which tends to affect those aged from 30 to 60. Prof James added: "It's a ridiculous situation. If a drug is approved by the MHRA, it should automatically be approved by NICE. "It is unfair that some patients can have access to the drugs, which have proved to be highly effective at prolonging life and improving life quality, yet others aren't.

"It is a ghastly decision for the PCT to have to make. "There are several Midland patients who can't afford the drugs, while others have remortgaged their homes and cashed in their pensions so they can be treated."

Radio presenter James Whale, who has kidney cancer, is backing the campaign to have Sutent and Nexavar offered free to NHS patients. "In the past, people with advanced kidney cancer had little hope," he said. "Now, drugs like Sutent and Nexavar are their only chance of precious extra months of life."

A Department of Health Spokesman said: "Our guidance makes it clear to NHS organisations that they should not refuse to fund a treatment simply because NICE guidance does not yet exist. "Until NICE has issued final guidance on a treatment, NHS bodies should continue with local arrangements for the managed introduction of new technologies, taking into account all the available evidence."


Green Fascism just around the corner in Britain

Something disturbing and ominous is happening in Great Britain as the country embarks on an all-out fight against the threat of global warming. Intent on making Britain the world's first "green" economy, the government will soon introduce legislation designed to take SUVs and other "gas guzzling" vehicles off the road. By sharply increasing driving levies, the authorities intend to force car owners into making "more sustainable travel choices, including greater use of public transport, walking and cycling."

At the same time, homeowners will be asked to make their homes "carbon neutral" and required to draw their energy primarily from low or zero carbon sources such as wave, tide, solar or nuclear power. To ensure compliance, the government will send out inspectors to scrutinize everything from how a home is insulated to the kind of appliances it uses. Those who fail to meet the decreed standards will be fined and penalized. Just how serious the government is about enforcement can be sensed from the words of Environment Secretary David Miliband who stated -- while unveiling the program -- that it would be "painful" for home owners to continue to have an "energy inefficient home."

These sentiments were echoed by a group of cabinet ministers who said that complying with the new regulations will necessitate sweeping changes in lifestyle across the board. Everybody in Britain, they concurred, will have to "live, work and travel differently."

It is essential that we see these developments for what they really are: A thinly-veiled attempt by devotees of the state to take over a western society the like of which has not been seen since the Soviet-sponsored revolutions of the late 1940s.

The practical consequence of these plans -- should they succeed -- will be a radical empowerment of the state which will end up with virtually unlimited powers to regulate nearly every facet of life. Everything from the way people travel to the manner in which they furnish and maintain their homes will now be subject to governmental decree and oversight. Those who refuse to comply will be punished -- and severely so -- if the words of Miliband are anything to go by.

This is precisely why the idea of man-made global warming so appeals to those on the political left. Being ideological cousins of erstwhile socialists, they share a desire to expand government regardless of the cause or issue they ostensibly espouse. In global warming they have sensed the perfect opportunity, for if the underlying claim is true and the planet is indeed headed for destruction, then the impending catastrophe can only be averted by united action on a grand scale. And such action can only be taken by a strong state which has been granted a wide range of powers to deal with this life-or-death crisis.

What makes the global warming scenario even more appealing is that the chief perpetrator is none other than the left's perennial villain -- the business establishment. After all, most of the pollutants are emitted into the atmosphere by unscrupulous businesses as a by-product of their relentless pursuit of ever greater profits. Close second on the list of culprits are us the people whose excessive consumption, runaway appetites and outright recklessness further exacerbate the already critical situation.

The way to safeguard our survival, then, is for government to exercise strict control over both business and the masses. This will be done through taxation and regulation, which, admittedly, will have to be severe at times. But no one should object or complain, since it is only to be expected that this extreme emergency calls for extreme measures. Thus the alleged threat of man-made global warming is used as a means of realizing the left's perennial dream of society administered by a powerful state.

Those on the left have sought to affect this state of affairs for many decades, but until now their efforts have met with vigorous resistance throughout much of the Western world. Not surprisingly, given that it is a world built on the ideals of economic and individual freedom and the principle of limited government.

But by invoking the specter of global warming, the left no longer has to fight tooth and nail for every tax increase or additional regulation. Alarmed by apocalyptic predictions, the frightened populations will now voluntarily and even eagerly turn over their money, freedoms and rights. Fearing for our lives, no tax will seem too excessive or regulatory burden too intrusive. After all, no decree or law can seem too extreme if our very survival is at stake. Believing we face an imminent doom, we shall readily submit to a governmentally mandated compact we would never agree to under normal circumstances.

This time there will be no resistance to this revolution as the state refashions almost all existing relations and usurps the rights and powers that properly belong to the private sphere. There will be no fierce street fighting such as accompanied the bloody revolutions of the past. This time around people will give up their freedoms willingly and even with gladness.

Even Karl Marx himself could not be wholly displeased with the state of affairs toward which the global warming alarmism is inexorably inclining: A vastly empowered state exercising tight oversight over virtually every dimension of life. The only departure from Marx's original vision is the means by which this will be achieved. It will not come about as a result of bitter class struggle, but of a crusade by environmental activists to save the planet.

The tremendous efficacy of the global warming frenzy in advancing the left's agenda can be seen in Britain where state zealots are in the process of taking over one of the world's oldest democracies. Above all, no one should make the mistake of assuming that this is the work of environmental extremists who have somehow managed to worm their way into positions of power and influence. Rather it is the inevitable consequence of accepting the claim of man-made global warming. As such, it is a dire warning of what lies in store for all those who receive this left-induced hysteria as unassailable truth.

When similar measures are finally proposed in America -- as they inevitably will be -- we must be prepared to expose and call them for what they really are: A ruse to bring about the socialist dream of an all-powerful state in charge of every aspect of our lives.



If you could divide Europe's nations and regions into "red" and "blue" states on the American model, very few would be colored "red" -- Poland, some other East European countries, rural regions across the continent, etc. Most nations would be cheerfully "blue." But all Europe would be ''green.'' Green is the universal sign of conspicuous virtue, of concern for planet, of a new paganism that worships the goddess Gaia and treats the Earth as itself a single living organism.

Anyone who questions this newly fashionable faith is regarded as a dangerous heretic to be cast into the outer darkness. A minister in the British government suggested to the BBC that it should not allow air time to any scientists who doubted ''global warming'' (a minority of scientists but a distinguished group). Other high priests of the creed have called for "Nuremberg trials" of "climate change deniers."

In this ovebearing moral atmosphere politicians are likely to salute any green flag that the environmentalists run up. And, sure enough, in 10 days there has been in succession:

1. A "summit" of European Union leaders that pledged to cut Europe's carbon emissions by 20 percent from their 1990 levels and, if other countries (especially America) follow their example, by 30 percent.

2. The publication in Britain of a Climate Change Bill, supported by all major parties, that would set legally binding targets to cut Britain's carbon emissions by 60 percent by 2050.

3. A proposal by the supposedly free-market Conservative Party to "allow" every citizen one untaxed air flight a year but then to levy heavy taxes on additional flights in order to discourage air travel.

4. Leaks from Whitehall that Finance Minister Gordon Brown will double fuel taxes in Wednesday's budget as another green measure.

All this is likely to be applauded by the voters -- who are swept up in this green tornado quite as much as the media and politicians -- but will they applaud its effects, large and small, when they pinch? Take small effects first. Under the EU summit agreement, the familiar light bulb is to be outlawed in the next few years in favor of a more carbon-neutral one. Unfortunately, the new bulb is several times more expensive than the existing one and it sheds much less light. Those who can afford the (considerable) expense will use more bulbs to illuminate the same space. Poorer people will develop eye problems and push up health costs. Such are the unintended consequences of thoughtless legislation.

What of large matters? The idea underlying the EU proposals and the British climate change bill is that governments will both impose binding limits on the carbon emissions that industries emit and instruct them to use low-carbon fuels such as wind and solar power. In other words, the EU and Britain are embracing a new form of central planning based on energy-use quotas rather than output quotas. But central planning is a synonym for economic inefficiency and waste. These things happen when green daydreams encounter realities or what Al Gore calls inconvenient truths. Here are a few more of them:

* Almost all the European countries have already failed to meet much lower carbon emission targets under Kyoto than the new targets they adopted 10 days ago.

* When Brown increased fuel taxes six years ago in Britain, nationwide blockades by truck drivers almost brought down the government.

* The British economy accounts for only 2 percent of global carbon emissions. If it were to close down entirely, it would have little or no impact on the world's total carbon output -- and even less impact on the willingness of the Indian and Chinese governments to cut back on building power stations that they consider essential to their nation's prosperity but that are now the main drivers of increased carbon usage.

Britain and Europe's governments are committing themselves to systems of carbon rationing bound to run up against strong consumer and voter resistance within a few years for very little practical gain. Why? Europe's green establishment believes that global warming is caused by carbon usage and thus can be solved only by its massive reduction.

But global warming has several possible causes, some of which, such as the activity of the sun, are unrelated to humans.

While we are seeking to understand global warming scientifically, we should adapt to it -- shoring up coasts against erosion, changing the use of agricultural land to suit the changing climate, building dams, developing new technologies. Adaptation would include measures to encourage the use of cleaner fuels, notably nuclear energy. It would be a practical solution to the effects of warming, whatever science eventually established definitively as its cause.

To be sure, adaptation would be expensive. Not nearly so expensive, however, as trying to close down the free market in Europe and to reverse the Industrial Revolution in Asia. But Gaia is a jealous goddess and does not consider costs.



Lipitor is a common statin. There is a "Cholesterol Skeptics" site here

A doctor accused of wittingly prescribing useless or possibly lethal drugs would vehemently - and understandably - deny it. This makes it rather difficult to oppose the prevailing medical consensus on statins - the cholesterol-lowering drugs prescribed to four million people in Britain at a cost of 1 billion pounds a year. That's quite a sum. It could pay the salaries of 700,000 nurses or build two spanking new teaching hospitals.

An even bigger sum is 15 billion. That is the profit the pharmaceutical industry made last year from this, the most profitable class of drugs ever invented. They are so profitable that the latest statins to reach the market came with a 600 million promotion budget, to "promote" the notion to family doctors and policymakers that the lower the cholesterol the better, and that at least half the population would benefit from the drugs.

But it is not so. Statins are useless for 95 per cent of those taking them, while exposing all to the hazard of serious side-effects. Hence my ever-growing file of letters from those who regrettably have had to find this out for themselves, illustrated by this all-too-typical tale from Roger Andrews of Hertfordshire, first prescribed statins after an operation for an aortic aneurism (that he had cleverly diagnosed himself).

Over the past few years Mr Andrews had become increasingly decrepit -what can one expect at 74? - with pain and stiffness in the legs and burning sensations in the hands so bad that when flying to his son's wedding in Hawaii he needed walking sticks and a wheelchair at the transfer stops. However, he forgot to pack his statins, and felt so much better after his three-week holiday that when he got home he decided to continue the inadvertent "experiment" of not taking them. Since October most if not all of his crippling side-effects have gone. Several friends can tell a similar story, and they have friends too.

The take-home message is that statins are only of value in those with a strong family history of heart disease or men with a history of heart attacks. For everyone else they are best avoided as they seriously interfere with the functioning of the nerve cells, affecting mental function, and muscles. This is all wittily explained in a recent book by a Cheshire family doctor, Malcolm Kendrick, "The Great Cholesterol Con" (John Blake Publishing, 9.99). There are, I suspect, many out there, like Mr Andrews, wrongly attributing their decrepitude to Anno Domini, when the real culprits are statins.


British man denied "too expensive" heart surgery

Health insurance that isn't

A seriously ill man has been told he cannot have a potentially life-saving operation on the NHS because his local primary care trust will not pay for it. Paul Carter, 66, of Malvern, was told by a specialist he needed biventricular pacing fitted for his enlarged heart. But Worcestershire Primary Health Care Trust has refused, saying the advanced pacemaker surgery would cost 8,000 pounds. It said it could not afford the 400,000 pounds it would cost each year to provide the surgery to patients.

The primary care trust's Dr Richard Harling said: "Any funding would have to come from other services. "For the PCT to justify introducing (biventricular pacing) we would have to be sure that it was a better use of this money than our other local services."

Mr Carter's wife Marjorie said: "We are very upset. Working all your life and having to face an operation and then you can't get it done is a bit distressing."

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), which offers guidance to primary care trusts over whether a treatment is cost effective, is due to make a decision over the treatment in July. The Department of Health said, until Nice's guidance was published, the final decision on funding lay with individual trusts.


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