Friday, April 27, 2007

"Green" garbage collection bad for your health

At the behest of the EU, most of Britain has reduced garbage collection from weekly to fortnightly -- to "encourage" people to recycle!

HANDLING rubbish that has been left out for a fortnight before being collected can increase the risk of health problems including asthma and nausea, a study has found. Researchers found that the level of bacteria and fungal spores in the air above bins that had not been emptied for two weeks was more than 10 times that in locations where there was a weekly collection.

The findings come amid concerns about the public health risks of cutting collections. More than 140 councils in England have moved to fortnightly emptying to encourage recycling and cut costs, despite warnings of an increase in rat and insect infestation.

The spread of fortnightly collections has also raised fears about fly-tipping [illegal dumping]. Government figures show incidents rose by over 10% last year. In 2005/6 there were 1,034,518 cases, up from 926,534 in 2004/5. Caroline Spelman, the shadow local government secretary, said: "Fortnightly collections, designed to be a green initiative, could result in more people driving to the countryside to dump waste." But Ben Bradshaw, the environment minister, said: "There is absolutely no evidence of any connection between alternate weekly collections and fly-tipping."

The new report, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, found rubbish left out for longer periods produced tens of thousands more spores. Dr Tom Kosatsky, a medical epidemiologist at McGill University in Montreal, said: "If rubbish is decaying for two weeks and is heated by warm weather, it provides a fertile breeding ground for spores. "Exposure to fungi on this level can trigger sore throats, respiratory symptoms, faintness, weakness and depression, asthma and other allergic reactions."

Dr Toni Gladding, a lecturer in environmental engineering at the Open University, said: "Councils introduced the change without recognising there may be a risk to occupational health."



Prof. Brignell comments on the British garbage nonsense -- nonsense that is as destructive as almost all current Greenie ideas are. See the original post for links

For the first time since the Great Stench of London in 1858, the steady improvement in Britain 's hygiene has gone into reverse. There are so many reasons why this further disaster is a typical product of modern British politics:

1. It was dreamt up by unelected Brussels bureaucrats

2. The British Government is desperately trying to cover up its lack of authority by pretending that it is defending its own policies, however dim-witted.

3. It is facilitated by the total lack of effective opposition in Parliament.

4. It is being done in obeisance to the new eco-religion.

5. It involves the diversion of control away from elected authorities to unmovable officials.

6. It is justified by the global warming myth (but an even more bizarre version based on methane).

7. It defies all the basic sciences of human hygiene, such as bacteriology and mycology.

8. It involves ordinary citizens in elaborate rituals, with draconian fines it they get them wrong.

9. It exposes ordinary people, but especially those occupationally involved, to greatly magnified risk of serious disease.

10. It is being done in total defiance of mounting anger among the victims.

11. It is being done against the advice of the Government's own expensive consultants.

12. It will lead to a substantial increase in illegal activity that is distressing and dangerous to the general populace.

It is the abandonment of weekly refuse collection, one of the staples of health protection law since the great Public Health Act of 1875. The enfeebled British Government is obliged to enact this gross and murderous folly or be fined by the EU Commissars for failing to reduce the burial of rubbish. It is self evident to anyone with a modicum of general scientific education that this is a route to human disaster, but if people must have "modern" research, see this in the Times.

The bacterial generation time can be as short as twenty minutes. You don't need a calculator to know that after a week one cell can turn into a figure with rather a large number of noughts behind it. After a fortnight the number of noughts is more than somewhat bigger. Then there are the rodents and insects. One common housefly, musca domestica, can convey millions of bacteria on its feet. Houseflies can transmit intestinal worms, or their eggs, and are potential vectors of many serious diseases such as dysentery, gastroenteritis, typhoid, cholera and tuberculosis. In the nutritive warmth of a putrid dustbin, the total reproductive cycle can be as short as a week. Dustbins now contain human excreta, particularly of babies, so houseflies complete the closed loop by settling on food. Rats spread several serious diseases. Overflowing dustbins are rodent heaven. The inevitable increase in illegal fly-tipping [illegal dumping in parks and by roadsides etc.] will distribute uncontrolled, festering sources of pestilence all over the country.

Can any sane person of moderate intelligence believe that this is anything but one of the most insane and dangerous policies ever devised by man?

Hope for autism

It would help to know more about which categories of autism were helped by which aspect of the treatment but the evidence that SOME treatment works for some children is encouraging

Toddlers found to have autism who undergo intensive teaching programmes from the age of 3 can raise their IQ by as much as 40 points, according to a three-year study. The research found that intensive, early education, which costs about 30,000 pounds a year per child, also led to “significant positive changes” in language, daily living skills, motor ability and social skills.

The study, conducted by the University of Southampton, will put pressure on the Government to help to fund early intervention for autistic children. It often costs households more than 30,000 pounds a year as one parent is forced to give up work completely to oversee about 40 hours of tuition a week. Most of the money is spent on hiring tutors and a course supervisor who shapes the programme for the child and assesses its progress.

It is the first major study of its kind in Britain, although thousands of families are known to be using the programme, the best known of which is applied behaviour analysis (ABA). It breaks down learning into tiny chunks, using imitation and reinforcement to encourage autistic children to communicate, then speak and follow commands, before moving on to more advanced skills.

Half the 44 autistic children had the treatment for two years, significantly starting at the age of 30-42 months. That is usually the time at which families who suspect their child may be autistic are struggling to get a formal diagnosis.

The children in the study ranged from the high-functioning, with better communication skills and higher IQs, to the low-functioning with poor speech and few social skills. All had a formal diagnosis of autism.

The researchers found that early intervention was more effective with the higher-functioning children who had a higher mental age and better social skills, although all benefited to some degree. [A possible "fudge" there. Overgeneralized results probable]

The first group of children in the study were given 25 hours of one-to-one treatment a week from between three and five tutors, and also from their parents, all using the principles of ABA. This is fewer hours than the 40 a week most parents sign up to. The control group had received the basic speech or language therapy normally offered by local education authorities.

As well as improved communication and social skills, more than a quarter of the children showed “very substantial improvements” in their IQ. In one case IQ increased from 30 to 70, in another, from 72 to 115. Most of the population has an IQ of between 85 and 115. “This form of teaching can, in many cases, lead to major change,” said Professor Bob Remington, deputy head of the University of Southampton School of Psychology. “In practice, the positive changes we see in IQ, language and daily living skills can make a real difference to the future lives of children with autism.”

With one in a hundred children thought to be suffering from some form of autism, the costs are potentially very high. However, John Wylie, chief executive of TreeHouse Trust, a school for autistic children, said: “It has to be compared with the cost of looking after someone with autism which conservative estimates put at 3 million pounds over their lifetime. Spending the money at a time when it can make a difference is surely better than pouring it about when it can make little difference.”


The misleading attack on boys in Britain

The apparent underachievement by boys in school tests is a distortion caused by a feminised examination system and a higher number of boys suffering behavioural problems, according to research. Academics from Durham University have found that the real average difference in ability between girls and boys from 11 years old to A level is less than half a grade.

Alarm over the academic performance of boys has been mounting. Last year almost 57 per cent of boys failed to get good GCSE grades in English and maths. At A level, 25.3 per cent of girls achieved at least one grade A, compared with 22.7 per cent of boys. Last year 43 per cent of first-degree graduates were men, while 59 per cent of 2:1 degrees and firsts were awarded to women. However, Peter Tymms, the director of the Curriculum, Evaluation and Management Centre at Durham University, and Dr Christine Merrell say that in academic terms boys are not falling further behind.

Professor Tymms said: “The real difference is that boys have a far wider spread — in maths, there are more gifted and talented boys, but also more with special needs.” He added: “If you want boys to do well, you give them a speedy multiple choice. If you want girls to do better, get them to write an essay.” The information was presented at a Royal Society of Medicine conference Boys: Their Nurture and Education.


Foolish British education frenzies

What have been the defining moments of Tony Blair's prime ministership? Last Sunday, the Observer assessed Blair's impact on British society over the past 10 years (1). While the ill-fated farrago of the Iraq war in 2003, the unprecedented `emotional' outburst at the death of Princess Diana in 1997 and the ban on foxhunting were correctly identified as `key moments' of his reign, Blair's insistence - before he was elected to government - that New Labour would be primarily about `education, education, education' was oddly absent from the list.

As the Blair years have rolled on, it seems education really has become a laboratory for trying out `big ideas' that will magically provide internal coherence for the government and outward cohesion in society at large. Indeed, over the past week there has been a veritable `scramble for education', wherein union leaders, policymakers and cabinet ministers have shown that they can only relate to society through the prism of the classroom.

One consequence of today's blinkered obsession with schooling is that it encourages a rather myopic dissection of its every facet. Last year, it was the fat content of Turkey Twizzlers that was of prime concern. Now it's whether schools will become `pressure cookers' as a consequence of `climate change'. Teachers have been demanding this week `the right to walk out of hot classrooms during soaring temperatures' (2). It seems the National Union of Teachers (NUT) can predict future weather conditions with an accuracy that would shame the Met Office. Apparently, in future summers there will be frequent heatwaves and thus `schools should close during the summer'. In the past, the old left mistakenly argued that `education is a right'. Now NUT leaders believe that at the first sight of sunshine, there should be a `right' to forget about education altogether. As one teacher put it, `if temperatures soar then it may be necessary to disrupt children's schooling' (3).

Still, this made a brief respite from stories about children disrupting schooling. Normal service was resumed on Wednesday when the education secretary Alan Johnson said that website providers had a `moral obligation' to stop pupils posting offensive school videos that demean their teachers or other children. He said: `The online harassment of teachers is causing some to consider leaving the profession because of the defamation and humiliation they are forced to suffer.' (4) Now, unwittingly appearing on some jokey YouTube clip would hardly be the highlight of anyone's teaching career. But surely this is simply a more hi-tech version of `defamatory' graffiti or cartoon caricatures of teachers that schoolchildren have long enjoyed executing. The difference today is that New Labour launches a campaign against kids acting like, well, kids - with website providers, rather than teachers or government, forced to be the moral guardians.

The seeming inability of ministers to use words and values to socialise children was also in evidence with Johnson's latest initiative: to reward school pupils financially if they don't play truant or misbehave at school. Incredibly, this was accurately satirised in the inaugural episode of the BBC drama, Party Animals, wherein a junior Home Office minister proposed giving delinquents a `good behaviour bond' (ie, a bribe) to entice them to behave (5). Now life is imitating art.

Improving classroom behaviour, we are told, is vital if we're to tackle anti-social behaviour in wider society. The spate of tragic and needless killings of black teenagers in London this year has inevitably been connected with poor educational attainment. And once again, if only poorly disciplined students (and their parents) learned to love their homework assignments, they'd be less open to the nefarious temptations of `street culture'. Steve Sinnott of the NUT called `for a national investigation into the impact of street culture, amid rising concerns over murders and stabbings'. `There should also be better monitoring of black boys' performance', he said (6).

In a roundabout way, Tony Blair (and Trevor Phillips of the Commission for Racial Equality before him) echoed this view, citing an anti-learning subculture as being responsible for black boys' underachievement and, by implication, for stabbings and murders. It seems neither the government nor the teaching unions bother to read the latest Ofsted statistics. While it is true that black pupils obtain fewer GCSE passes than pupils from other ethnic backgrounds, their attainment rate has increased rather than decreased over the past 10 years (a reflection, perhaps, of the fact that black adults are more integrated into the economy than would have been the case previously) (7). If sections of the British student body are under-performing, those responsible for promoting an `anti-learning culture' are the government and the education authorities themselves.

Increasingly, the UK education system resembles a smorgasbord of anti-aspiration propaganda. If black and other schoolchildren come through the education system believing that the society they live in is both destructive and inherently oppressive, it's little wonder that some students may become fatalistic about their life chances. Bombarded with similar messages in the wider world, too, this will have a more powerfully negative influence on a black student's outlook than the collected works of rappers like the late Tupac Shakur, who are frequently blamed for violence. In fact, many black students I've taught either laugh off the ludicrous excesses of gangsta rap or feel uncomfortable with its decidedly low-rent connotations. The high-profile (but still extremely rare) incidences of teen murders in the capital are born out of social factors rather than songs. Have sociologists and commentators ever blamed Glasgow's gangs-and-knife incidents on the influence of bagpipes or the city's jangly indie bands?

Today, blaming everything on cultural influences means that banal suppositions on gangsta rap somehow influencing teenagers can be taken as good coin. Nevertheless, it's precisely this official belief in cultural determinism that means the education system becomes loaded with ever more demands for `responsibility' (and grounds for meddling) than ever before.

All of these developments have little to do with providing a decent, liberal education system for all. As we've seen over the past week, the classroom becomes both the cause of problems (teacher stress, bullying, even heatstroke) and the solution (namely, getting everyone to behave). For all the current digressions on Blair's 10 years in power, it seems mediating governmental decisions through `education, education, education' has stood the test of time and still largely goes unquestioned. Who needs 10 more years of that?


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