Friday, May 18, 2007

BBC can't take what they themselves dish out

The Beeb was doing a big report on scientology and the scientologists knew what bias they could expect from that. So they filmed the BBC team while the BBC was filming. They watched the watchers. Which of course meant that the Beeb could not do "creative" editing on what they filmed without being shown up as crooks. Filming the Beeb paid off. The Beeb could not bear being subject to scrutiny. The leader of the BBC team lost his cool:

"In the Scientologists' clip of the outburst, which it posted on the video-sharing website YouTube, Sweeney is heard screaming: "Now listen to me! You were not there at the beginning of the interview! You were not there! "You did not hear or record all the interview! Do you understand? "You are quoting the second half of the interview, not the first half. You cannot assert what you are saying!"

His shouting all but drowns out the Scientologist, who simply repeats over and over again: "Brainwashing is a crime against humanity."

On Sunday Sweeney said his behaviour had resulted in him having his "arse kicked" by the BBC. He said: "What I did was wrong and stupid and I am embarrassed about it. I let down the team and I let down the BBC. "It was my seventh day with the Scientologists and I snapped."

More here

I have no brief for the Church of Scientology but it is nice to see revealed the animus behind the anti-religious bias of the BBC.


The BBC reporter concerned had a previous history of abusing scientologists. No wonder they monitored him carefully! It tells you a lot about BBC bias, though -- a bit like sending Ulster's Rev. Ian Paisley to do a story about the Pope.

Massive closure of NHS emergency rooms in sight

Up to half of all hospital accident and emergency departments face cuts or closure under plans to improve patient care, presenting Gordon Brown with a massive dilemma as he takes over as Prime Minister. Ninety-two out of 204 A&E departments are under threat if guidance attributed to the Department of Health by NHS trusts is followed, the Conservatives claimed last night. Some NHS organisations are already using the guidance, which calls for A&E departments to serve a minimum population of 450,000 patients, to justify closures in smaller catchment areas. The average A&E unit currently serves just under 250,000 people.

But the plans are proving hugely unpopular, even though they have been promoted as in the interests of patients and NHS staff. Mr Brown, aware that the closures would come into force around the time of the next election, said last Friday that he would meet front-line NHS staff and patients to discuss health policy. It was clear last night that the Chancellor will not now face a leadership challenge as he prepares to succeed Tony Blair, having gathered a decisive 308th supporter among Labour's 353 MPs.

Last Sunday Mr Brown accepted that people were worried about the potential closure of A&E facilities and maternity services close to their homes, raising speculation that he was pondering a rethink. If so it is increasingly likely that he will move Patricia Hewitt, the Health Secretary, from her post to pave the way for changes.

The Conservative estimate of 92 nationwide cuts was based on figures in a report circulated to NHS trusts in Surrey. It states: "Current Department of Health and strategic health authority guidance suggests that, to be viable in terms of patient need, patient safety, staffing numbers and clinical training requirements, a full A&E department in the future would need to be supported by a catchment population of between 450,000 and 500,000 people." A staff briefing by Surrey Primary Care Trust in March repeated the figures, suggesting that such a catchment population was "national guidance".

Closures could mean seriously ill patients, such as those with heart problems or head injuries, having to travel longer distances to receive care in specialist treatment centres. Patients with minor injuries are expected to be treated in walk-in clinics or smaller A&E units. Such a scenario was supported by two reports published by the Government last year. These suggested that specialist high-tech centres could save 500 lives of people suffering heart attacks and result in 1,000 more stroke victims avoiding death and disability each year.

The changes are broadly supported by doctors' leaders but are fiercely opposed by patients' groups and MPs. Cuts to local NHS services have also been opposed by several senior Labour politicians in their own constituencies. The move to close A&Es comes just as demands on their facilities are rising. The number of attendances at A&E has risen by more than a million in the past three years and the average number of attendances at each is now 67,000.

A report published last year by the Royal College of Surgeons recommended that the minimum catchment population of a fully resourced A&E department should be at least 300,000. But there is debate about whether catchment areas alone should be used to allocate NHS services. Local geography, healthcare needs and staffing levels may have to be taken into account.

A Department of Health spokesman said there was no such official guidance from his department. "It is absolute rubbish to suggest that we are demanding the closure of A&E departments. "Any decisions about the shape of A&E services are taken locally so that services reflect the needs of the local population. Where local health authorities believe that patients can be better served by changing the way services should be delivered, it is right that they make those changes, and they will consult locally on any proposals."

But he admitted that the recommendations were taken from a report by the Royal College of Surgeons supported by Sir George Alberti, the former director of emergency care. He recently recommended the closure of an A&E department in North London. The remaining two A&Es serving the area will be left with catchment populations of 450,000 each.

The Tories claimed that this was evidence of central targets to close units based on the number of patients they served. Andrew Lansley, the Shadow Health Secretary, said: "Access to accident and emergency services is a vital component of the quality of NHS services. The public know that not every A&E department can provide every emergency service. But there is no clinical evidence which would justify shutting down A&E departments simply because they don't serve a catchment population in excess of 450,000. Yet that is the basis on which the Department of Health is seeking now to justify closures."


Vaccine for hypertension?

It sounds most unlikely. As far as I can tell, hypertension is more a symptom than a disease. Do I detect an upcoming iatrogenic disaster here?

British scientists have developed a vaccine to control high blood pressure which could save tens of thousands of lives a year in the UK alone. Based on a protein found in limpets, it would need a course of just three jabs, with a booster every six months.

High blood pressure, which affects a third of all adults, doubles the risk of dying from heart disease or stroke and is blamed for 60,000 deaths a year in Britain. It is currently treated with pills, but they can cause side-effects and some patients simply stop taking them. Now the Cheshire-based drug firm Protherics says its vaccine will make it much easier for people to control their blood pressure. "Improving compliance in this way could save thousands from life-threatening complications such as heart attack or stroke," said the company's Dr Andrew Heath.

The jab, which has been successfully tested on people, uses the limpet protein to attack a hormone called angiotensin, which is produced by the liver. Angiotensin raises blood pressure by narrowing arteries. The vaccine, however, turns the body's immune system against the hormone.

Protherics is planning trials of an improved version of the jab, which is ten times more effective at stimulating the immune system than its original formula. People who have tried it have suffered few side-effects, although one in ten did complain of a brief, flu-like illness. A successful jab would guarantee its manufacturers a healthy share of the 12 billion pounds spent around the world annually on blood pressure medicines.

Ideally, patients would be given an initial course of three injections, with a week or fortnight between each jab. A booster shot every six months, or even once a year, would keep blood pressure low. The Swiss firm Cytos Biotechnology is developing a similar vaccine which uses an empty virus shell to spur the immune system into action. Zurich-based Cytos, which is also developing anti-smoking, obesity and flu vaccines, has already shown that its jab is effective at lowering blood pressure. But the reduction was less than that achieved by tablets already available on prescription. Further trials are due to later this year.

British heart doctors welcomed news of the jab, which should be on the market within five years. Professor Graham Mac-Gregor of the Blood Pressure Association said: "Raised blood pressure is the most important cause of death from strokes and heart attacks in the UK. "If you have to take blood pressure tablets, you have to take them for the rest of your life and some people find that difficult. "Finding other ways and better ways of trying to lower blood pressure without side- effects would be very much welcome."

Dr Mike Knapton of the British Heart Foundation said: "More than one in five heart attacks in Western Europe is caused by a history of high blood pressure. A vaccine is an interesting approach but more research will be needed."

It is not known how much the vaccines will cost but they are not expected to be much more expensive than current blood pressure tablets, some of which cost just a few pence a day. Available privately at first, the jabs will not be offered on the NHS unless the Government's drugs rationing body, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, decides their benefits outweigh the costs. In time, the vaccine may be given to ward off problems in young men and women with a family history of heart disease.

Some blood pressure tablets already available work by targeting angiotensin, either by cutting production of the hormone or by stopping it from working properly. But many people stop taking the daily tablets simply because there are no obvious signs that they are boosting their health. Others give up after suffering side effects. Beta blockers, a major type of blood pressure pill, can cause fatigue, cold hands and feet, nausea, diarrhoea and impotence. They have also been linked to the risk of stroke.

Last month experts from the London School of Economics warned that the stress of modern life could be spawning an epidemic of heart disease, with half of Britons suffering from high blood pressure by 2025. A growing reliance on fat and salt-laden fast food, coupled with long working hours, is blamed for sending blood pressure soaring.



Alarmist messages about global warming are counter-productive, the head of a leading climate research centre says. Professor Mike Hulme, of the UK's Tyndall Centre, has been conducting research on people's attitudes to media portrayals of a catastrophic future. He says strong messages designed to prompt people to change behaviour only seem to generate apathy. His initial findings will be shown to a meeting run by the British Association for the Advancement of Science. "There has been over-claiming or exaggeration, or at the very least casual use of language by scientists, some of whom are quite prominent," Professor Hulme told BBC News.

His concern is that these exaggerations have given the green light to the media to use the language of fear, terror and disaster when covering scientific reports - even when those reports are much more constrained in their description of the course of likely future events. He says extravagated claims simply generate a feeling of helplessness in the public. "My argument is about the dangers of science over-claiming its knowledge about the future and in particular presenting tentative predictions about climate change using words of 'disaster', 'apocalypse' and 'catastrophe'," he said.

The study compared the responses of a group of people shown sensational media coverage with those given the more sober information from scientific reports. The initial findings suggest that those shown doom-laden messages tended to believe the problem could come to a head further into the future. This group also felt there was little they could do to affect the planet's future. "Not only is this not a good way of presenting climate change science, but even in trying to effect change, it's self-defeating," Professor Hulme said.

He is speaking at the British Association's two-day Science Communication Conference in London. He will pick up themes he raised in a Green Room article on the BBC News website last November. These were subsequently echoed by two leading Royal Meteorological Society figures - Professors Paul Hardaker and Chris Collier - in March this year. They said reports of catastrophe and the "Hollywoodisation" of weather and climate were creating confusion in the public's mind. All three men hold the view that human activity lies behind the recent rise in Earth's global average temperature.


1 comment:

Newscounter said...

You might be interested in the health department's criticism of the report in The Times. You can read their response and judge it yourself here: