Monday, June 25, 2007


One gets that impression. See the folly below. The NHS is famous for denying helpful drugs to its patients but has now decided to make one class of drugs widely available -- a class of drug that appears to do as much harm as good. See here and here. "Kill 'em or cure 'em" seems to be their thinking. Note the following crucial sentence in a big review of the evidence on the efficacy of statins: "A second review evaluated only trials in primary prevention and found similar reductions in CHD events and mortality, but a non-significant effect on all cause mortality". In other words, statins saved you from heart attacks but raised your risk of death from other causes -- the two effects cancelling one-another out. THAT is what the NHS now wants to give to millions, regardless of whether they have any current health problems or not. Isn't government wonderful? Note also the negative comments about statins in the first article I cover in today's posts on FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC.

MILLIONS of people are to be prescribed cholesterol-busting drugs on the NHS in Britain’s biggest mass medication programme for adults. The government’s drugs watchdog is expected this week to recommend the systematic screening of all adults at 40, 50 and 60 for heart disease. Those found to have a 20% chance of developing it over the next 10 years will be prescribed statins, the cholesterol-lowering “wonder drugs” that have had dramatic results in preventing heart disease. New research suggests that as many as 14m -- half of all adults aged 40 or over -- could be eligible for the drugs even though they have no symptoms.

Some doctors say a national screening programme could prevent up to 14,000 deaths a year. Heart disease is Britain’s biggest killer, claiming 105,000 lives a year. Other experts fear, however, that a programme of mass medication would make millions of adults dependent on drugs for the rest of their lives. Dr Peter Brindle, a researcher in cardiovascular disease at Bristol University, said: “ This is turning people into patients. They are going to be offered this preventative drug for the rest of their life with all the risks and side effects. There has to be a public debate about whether society feels this should be done.”

Statins are considered to be safe but patients can experience muscle pain or liver problems. Some doctors argue that it is not worth risking these side effects for people who are not suffering symptoms of heart disease.

At present patients who have suffered a heart attack or angina are eligible for statins on the NHS and some of those at risk, but not ill, are already being prescribed statins at their GP’s discretion. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence is expected to argue that a systematic screening programme would pick up millions of other people who could benefit from the drugs. GPs would be expected to do the screening, checking patients’ cholesterol levels, blood pressure and weight and whether they smoke. Men are at higher risk than women.

If 14m people were subsequently prescribed statins, it would cost the NHS at least 560million pounds a year. But, say cardiologists, it could save billions in treatment costs. Research by Dr Ift-ikhar Haq, a consultant cardiologist in Newcastle upon Tyne, shows that if everyone aged 40 and above was screened for heart disease, 47% of those who show no symptoms would qualify for preventative treatment with statin drugs. Statins work by lowering cholesterol, which can cause fatty desposits in the arteries leading to heart disease.


British schools to be dumbed down even further

The Leftists running the show only want the kids to be propagandized. They live in dread of the kids acquiring real knowledge. Facts are fatal to Leftism

STATE secondary schools are being told to ditch lessons in academic subjects and replace them with month-long projects on themes such as global warming. The pressure to scrap the traditional timetable in favour of cross-curricular topics is coming from the government’s teaching advisers, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA). It has provoked anger from traditionalists who believe it marks a return to discredited “trendy” techniques.

Schools piloting the new-style lessons for 11-14-year-olds have merged history, geography and citizenship, with teachers drawing up the lessons in teams. Mick Waters, the QCA’s curriculum director, believes the changes will help spur enthusiasm and cut truancy. He said: “The challenge for schools is to create a nourishing and appetising feast that will sustain learners and meet their needs. “Although the national curriculum is organised into subjects, it has never been a requirement to deliver it entirely as discrete subjects.”

Critics, however, have insisted that the project-based approach, which was popular in primary schools until the 1990s, led to pupils failing to master the basics. Alan Smithers, professor of education at Buckingham University, said: “This will narrow what children learn. People come with up these ideas for the less academic but they wouldn’t dream of letting their own children be taught in this way.”

The first sign of a backlash from teachers has emerged with a petition on the Downing Street website against the removal of some of the academic content from a science GCSE curriculum launched last September. About 130 science teachers have signed the petition, which calls for the course to be scrapped because it requires pupils to discuss issues such as pollution but not to learn “hard science”, such as the periodic table in chemistry. The petition reads: “Many anticipated it as ‘science fit only for the pub’. Now, at the end of its first year . . . science teachers (particularly physics teachers) are indeed judging it to be overly simplistic, devoid of any real physics and inadequate preparation for further study. This GCSE will remove Britain’s technological base within a decade.” Stuart Billington, head of physics at a large comprehensive, said: “I would never allow my own children to sit in my own classroom and be taught such a shambles masquerading as ‘science’ . . . You can imagine how I feel delivering it to 100 other people’s children every week.”

The QCA last week produced examples of what will be expected from state secondary schools next year when the changes to the timetable for 11-to-14-year-olds are introduced. They include a school that has suggested 16-year-olds could be paid to help teachers in class. Wombwell High, a comprehensive in South Yorkshire, has already dropped single subject lessons for a third of its timetable. Teachers work in teams and the projects begin with four classes working together in the hall. Tolworth girls’ school in Surbiton, Surrey, has reclassified English as “communication”.

The project-led approach took hold in primary schools in the 1970s after a report from a government-appointed education committee. Teachers were told to emphasise soft skills and “learning by doing”. Schools were told to scrap projects in 1992 after an inquiry found pupils were missing out on the basics.

Waters has told schools they need to build the timetable around the “needs” of pupils. He said: “At the moment most schools are in the traditional mindset, which means they take content and divide it up into fragments called timetables. They do it as it has always been done. “The idea [of the new timetable] is to offer less prescription and more opportunity to interpret the curriculum. Cutting across all subjects are curriculum dimensions; a set of themes including creativity, cultural understanding and diversity.”


Medieval play threatened by 21st century curse - of political correctness

Since the 14th century, actors and actresses have taken to the streets of York to depict the great moments in Biblical history from the Creation to the last judgment of Christ. But the medieval Mystery Plays are threatened by a 21st century curse - of political correctness. The city council is planning a "multicultural reinterpretation" of the plays as part of a bid for up to 120,000 pounds of Heritage Lottery Fund cash.

Precisely how the age-old stories featuring Adam and Eve and Jesus Christ and his apostles will be "revitalised" for a multi-cultural society has yet to be revealed. However, it has been admitted that refugees and actors from foreign countries could be asked to participate. Traditionalists are outraged that the plays, which are usually performed from wagons in the street, could be re-written for PC reasons. The council is hoping to win lottery funding for the next three performances in 2008, 2010 and 2012.

A report supporting the bid for lottery cash states: "The bid will encompass a production by 16 to 25-year-olds in 2008, a wide-ranging educational programme with schools in 2010, and a commission of a multi-cultural reinterpretation of the Mystery Plays for 2012."

Liberal Democrat councillor Christian Vassie, the council's leisure and culture "executive member", said it was yet to be decided how the plays could be changed to be "multi-cultural". However, he admitted that it was necessary to be "inclusive" to win lottery funding for the next three plays, which will cost up to 200,000 pounds to stage.

The pageant was first recorded in York in 1376. It was both an act of worship and community theatre for the entertainment of the public. But religious upheaval during the 16th Century led to the plays being stopped in 1569. They were revived in 1951 and have remained a popular crowd-puller ever since. Performances in modern times have been held in the streets of York, the city's theatre and inside York Minster. Christopher Timothy, Simon Ward and Robson Green are amongst the accomplished actors who have played the role of Christ in recent years and Dame Judi Dench, who went to school in York, also performed in the Mystery Plays.


The pitter-patter of tiny 'footprints'

Women in Britain are having more children. And for some green miserabilists that can only mean more mouths to feed and more carbon to clean up. The old misanthropic Zero Population Growth attitudes are still alive and well among Greenies and their fellow-travellers

Last week, the UK Office for National Statistics released the latest figures for live births, revealing that the fertility rate - the number of live births per 1,000 women - is at its highest level for 26 years.

The number of babies born rose from 1.8 babies per woman in 2005 to 1.87 in 2006, the fifth annual rise in a row (1). While young, British-born women are having fewer children, older women and immigrant women are more than making up for it. The `mini-baby boom' is perhaps all the more remarkable given the relentless dire warnings about the `risks' for women in having children (2). And yet, the fact that most women are still choosing to have babies is, for some commentators and professionals, problematic and even `irresponsible'.

We can look upon the increased fertility rate as positive for a number of reasons. For one thing, the fact that women are choosing to have children later in life reflects the improved position of women in British society. The postwar peaks in the fertility rate depended on keeping women at home. But as society's attitudes have changed, women have been able to carry on into higher education, establish careers and gain economic independence, too. Of course, even today, women will still be expected to shoulder the burden of childcare, reflecting the market's inability to provide collective assistance in child rearing. But the fact women now plan to have children around their careers, rather than motherhood being the only `career' going, is a development surely worth celebrating.

Not everyone is of the same opinion. Allan Pacey of the British Fertility Society said that although `it's reassuring that more people are getting pregnant and starting to reverse the population decline. I wouldn't want these figures to send the message that it's okay to have babies much later in life' (3). Why not? What happened to choice? Although it's true that it is more difficult for women to conceive in their late thirties and early forties than in their twenties, and there is a small increase in the possibility of birth defects, there have been massive advances in reproductive technologies. When 63-year-old Patricia Rashbrook gave birth in April 2006, it was clear that age is not the barrier to reproduction it once was. Limitations on motherhood seem to have more to do with the views of health professionals than any scientific barrier.

The increase in the UK's fertility rate is positive for another reason: it means the misanthropic overpopulation lobby hasn't won all the arguments just yet. Most adults still see taking on responsibility for raising the next generation as both important and worthwhile, a reflection that maybe the human race isn't such a `lost cause' after all. The rising fertility rate also refutes priggish suggestions that the entire British population are far too addled by drink and drugs to bother with children.

Ironically, though perhaps not surprisingly, there are those who can only read grim negativity into the increased fertility rate. David Nicholson-Lord of the Optimum Population Trust said: `We advocate that people should stop at two or have one fewer child than they planned for environmental reasons. The current population is unsustainable. The closer we get to two births per woman, the more concerned we get.' (3)

Fears about `rising population' are nothing new, of course. Thomas Malthus saw population increases as problematic because he reckoned, wrongly, that agricultural productivity wouldn't be able to cope with greater numbers. `The power of population', he wrote, `is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race.' Without checks on population growth, whether human or natural, there would be famine, he argued.

While Malthus was proved wrong by events, other population worries surfaced. From the late nineteenth century until the 1940s, elitist thinkers constantly fretted that the `wrong' type of people were breeding in greater numbers and thus threatened the `moral fibre' of Western nations (4). Eugenics and forced sterilisation of `inferior people' were championed by elite thinkers, until such ideas and practices were well and truly discredited by the Nazi experience.

The revival of population `concern' by organisations like the Optimum Population Trust is in some ways worse than the old elite's contempt for the masses. At least bourgeois intellectuals in the early twentieth century believed that some humans had distinguishable and worthwhile attributes that needed to be preserved. By contrast, today's environmentalists see all humans as parasites on nature, a uniquely destructive force on the planet whose presence shouldn't be welcomed, let alone encouraged. So David Nicholson-Lord sees no difference between `good' or `bad' people, as previous elite thinkers would have done; rather he thinks that any population increase is necessarily bad because it causes environmental damage. Becoming a parent is reprehensible because it increases the number of `carbon footprints' on the earth.

Environmental policies are often demanded because of the urgent need to tackle climate change and to safeguard future generations. Campaigners insist that reducing carbon emissions is about ensuring the survival of the human race, not just saving endangered species or rainforest trees. This is why critics of environmental orthodoxies are sometimes painted as being `selfish', `short-sighted' and even `anti-human'; apparently to ignore climate change is to be blas‚ about humanity's future. In truth, if environmentalists had their way, there wouldn't be any future generations to `save' - or certainly there would be generations vastly shrunken in number. For Nicholson-Lord, if there's a choice between the environment and humanity, the former must and should take priority. As he tetchily puts it: `people aren't considering the environment when they are planning their family' (5). Want to do `your bit' to stop climate change? Don't have any children!

Unfortunately, these sorts of foul outbursts also reveal the extraordinary political consensus around environmentalism and, by proxy, anti-humanism. So instead of counter-debates and discussions on the gloomy prognosis of climate change alarmists, we merely get various shades of green. As a consequence, `the environment' has gone beyond an `objective reality' to become a subjective moral absolute. Mentioning the magic words `the environment' has become a way of imposing an unquestionable `good' over any issue in human society, whether it is on expanding airport runways, building new homes, improving infrastructure for transport or starting a family.

At root lies a sentiment that humans no longer have a place on the planet. The fewer of us, the better. The increased fertility rate in Britain is something worth celebrating. But safeguarding the prosperity and future of the next generation will require fewer measures to `save the environment' and more arguments to counter environmentalists. Honestly, humanity's survival depends on it.


Pesky that China is now the biggest CO2 emitter. It's their OWN countries that Greenies want to harass. So we read:

The words of Andrew Pendleton, Senior climate analyst, Christian Aid:

Rich countries cannot blame China for climate change when the primary reason for the expansion in its greenhouse gas emissions is producing cheap goods for western markets (China passes US as worlds biggest CO2 emitter, June 20). As most of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere were emitted by rich countries in industrialising, we can hardly lecture China as it tries to develop. Tragically, these finger-pointing politics are being played out while the impact of climate change on the world's poorest is becoming ever more apparent. The new UN figures showing that the number of refugees rose last year by 14% is backed up by recent research from Christian Aid indicating that by 2050, 1 billion people will have been forced to leave their homes.

What we must do with great urgency is share the burden of reducing both rich and developing world emissions in a way that reflects historical and current responsibility and capability.

The words of Dr Victoria Johnson, Climate change researcher, New Economics Foundation:

Carbon footprint data from the Global Footprint Network, which also includes levels of consumption, shows that the per capita carbon footprint of people living in China is still almost one-tenth that of the average person living in the US, and a quarter that of someone living in the UK. The US and other developed nations are increasingly consuming goods produced by other countries, a process driven by globalisation. This has resulted in the geographical displacement of the emissions resulting from the goods we consume, usually to countries with higher carbon intensities.

By ignoring the driver of demand, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency's misleading conclusions simply take us further away from an international climate change agreement based on responsibility. And a recognition that, as consumers, we must not only do things differently, but also do less.


Britain gives up control of its own foreign policy: "While Blair left Brussels insisting he had preserved Britain's control over its foreign policy, the small print of the treaty prepares the way for a powerful new EU diplomatic service with ambassadors worldwide. They will report to a "high representative" who will be vice-president of the European commission and will chair meetings of EU foreign ministers. The treaty commits the EU to a "common foreign and security policy". Member states must support the policy "actively and unreservedly, in the spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity". They are barred from taking any action -- such as launching military strikes or declaring war -- that could damage the EU's standing. Downing Street said an annex to the treaty ensured it would not affect foreign policy. But opposition politicians said the annex was a "declaration" rather than a legally binding "protocol". They demanded the treaty be put to a referendum."

The British airforce is still relying on the military version of the De Havilland Comet -- the first passenger jet ever flown (in 1952): "The station commander of a Nimrod spyplane that exploded over Afghanistan warned a year earlier that an "unexpected failure" was likely with a similar ageing plane already 10 years past its out-of-service date. The comments were made in August 2005 at the end of an internal report into a leak of superheated air in the bomb bay of a Nimrod. In the report, an unnamed group captain says the leak was "a particular concern as the ageing Nimrod MR2 is extended beyond its original out-of-service date" of 1995. The leak of the hot air was not the first time there had been an unforeseen failure of a piece of equipment on board a Nimrod "in recent months" as a direct result of the aircraft's age, he added." [OK: I know the B52 has been going since 1955]

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