Wednesday, July 11, 2007

British bomb plot and Michael Moore-style health care

The legacy of Britain's socialized medical system is a growing reliance on foreign doctors, like seven of the eight suspects arrested in the failed London car bombing and Glasgow airport attack

There are many things wrong with U.S. health care, as there inevitably are with any health care system. The question is whether America wants to go down the British-Canadian-Cuban route, to name three government medical systems that Michael Moore admires in his new film "Sicko." Cuba, of course, is a totalitarian state, and even Hollywood celebrities, though they like to visit, wouldn't want to live there. (Incidentally, the best health treatment available on Cuba is at Gitmo.) The United Kingdom, by contrast, is a free society, but last week's incendiary Jeep Cherokee at Glasgow Airport has shone a rare light on the curious character of its government health system.

Of the eight persons arrested as of Friday in the terrorist plot, seven are doctors with the National Health Service (the eighth is the wife of one, and a lab technician at the same hospital). The bombs failed to go off because a medical syringe malfunctioned. I don't mean it malfunctioned as a syringe (even in the crumbling NHS, the syringes usually work) but as a triggering mechanism, to which it had been adapted, though evidently not too efficiently.

Does government health care inevitably lead to homicidal doctors who can't wait to leap into a flaming SUV and drive it through the check-in counter? No. But government health care does lead to a dependence on medical staff imported from other countries.

Some 40 percent of Britain's practicing doctors were trained overseas - and that percentage will increase, as older native doctors retire, and younger immigrant doctors take their place. According to the BBC, "Over two-thirds of doctors registering to practice in the UK in 2003 were from overseas - the vast majority from non-European countries." Five of the eight arrested are Arab Muslims, the other three Indian Muslims. Bilal Abdulla, the Wahhabi driver of the incendiary Jeep and a doctor at the Royal Alexandra Hospital near Glasgow, is one of over 2,000 Iraqi doctors working in Britain.

Many of these imported medical staff have never practiced in their own countries. As soon as they complete their training, they move to a Western world hungry for doctors to prop up their understaffed health systems: Dr. Abdulla got his medical qualification in Baghdad in 2004 and was practicing in Britain by 2006. His co-plotter, Mohammed Asha, a neurosurgeon, graduated in Jordan in 2004 and came to England the same year.

When the president talks about needing immigrants to do "the jobs Americans won't do," most of us assume he means seasonal fruit pickers and the maid who turns down your hotel bed and leaves the little chocolate on it. But in the United Kingdom the jobs Britons won't do has somehow come to encompass the medical profession.

Aneurin Bevan, the socialist who created the National Health Service after World War II, was once asked to explain how he'd talked the country's doctors into agreeing to become state employees: "I stuffed their mouths with gold," he crowed. Sixty years later, no amount of gold can persuade Britons to spend their working lives in the country's dirty, decrepit hospitals (they spend enough of their nonworking lives there, waiting to be seen, waiting for beds, waiting for operations). According to a report in the British Medical Journal, white males comprise 43.5 percent of the population but now account for less than a quarter of students at UK medical schools. In other words, being a doctor is no longer an attractive middle-class career proposition. That's quite a monument to six decades of Michael Moore-style socialist health care.

So today the NHS is hungry for medical personnel from almost anywhere on the planet, so hungry that the government set up special fast-track immigration programs: Mohammed Asha, Mohammed Haneef and their comrades didn't even require a work permit to come and practice as doctors in state hospitals. You don't have to be the smartest jihadist in the cave to see that as an opportunity, any more than it required no great expertise for the 9/11 killers to figure that the quickest place to get the picture IDs with which they boarded the planes was through Virginia's "undocumented worker" network. Everyone else from the Venezuelan peasantry to the Russia mafia knows the vulnerabilities of Western immigration systems, so why not the jihadists?

Maybe their mistake was trying to blow up the airport instead of wreaking subtler havoc on the infidels. Did you see this week's scare-of-the-week from the Chinese health system? "About 420 bottles of fake blood protein, albumin, were found at hospitals in Hubei province but none had been used to treat patients, said Liu Jinai, an official with the inspection division of the provincial food and drug administration."

Well, this being China, where public lies about public health are routine, we just have to take Liu Jinai's word that "none had been used to treat patients." But imagine what Doctor Jihad could get up to if he stopped trying to use the syringe as a detonator and just resumed using it as a syringe?

But beyond that the Glasgow Jeep story symbolizes a more basic reality. The NHS is the biggest employer in Europe, and it's utterly dependent on imported staff such as Dr. Asha and Dr. Abdulla. In the West, we look on mass immigration as a testament to our generosity, to our multicultural bona fides. But it's not: A dependence on mass immigration is always a structural weakness and should be understood as such. In the socialized health systems of the Continent, aging, shrinking populations of native Europeans will spend their final years being cared for by young Muslim doctors and nurses. Indeed, in the NHS, geriatric medicine is a field overwhelmingly dependent on immigrant staff.

And what of the other end of the medical business? Take Japan, a country with the same collapsed birth rates as Europe but with virtually no immigration. In my book, I note an interesting trend in Japanese health care: The shortage of newborn children has led to a shortage of obstetricians. For in a country with deathbed demographics, why would any talented ambitious med-school student want to go into a field in such precipitous decline? In Japan, birthing is a dying business.

Back at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, three doctors were under arrest, and the bomb squad performed a controlled explosion on a vehicle in the parking lot. Pulled from the flaming Cherokee, Dr. Kafeel Ahmed is now being treated for 90 percent burns in his own hospital by the very colleagues he sought to kill. But at one level he and Dr. Asha and Dr. Abdulla don't need to blow up anything at all. The fact that the National Health Service - the "envy of the world" in every British politician's absurdly parochial cliche - has to hire Wahhabist doctors with no background checks tells you everything about where the country's heading.


British kids refuse to oblige the food Fascists

When Jamie Oliver revolutionised school meals he was lauded by teachers, health-conscious parents and politicians keen for some reflected glory. His campaign has, however, proved less popular with the children. There has been a 20 per cent fall in the uptake of secondary school meals since Jamie's School Dinners was screened two years ago, according to official figures. Numbers have reportedly fallen to about four in ten pupils - thought to be the lowest level since provision became mandatory in 1944. Older pupils in particular are rejecting the organic and healthy meals in favour of packed lunches or takeaways.

The latest figures are from a survey by the Local Authorities Catering Association. The full results will be presented at a conference on Friday. A spokeswoman for LACA said: "There's definitely a drop in secondary school meal numbers. It's not because of Jamie Oliver but because of changes in Government regulations on school foods since 2006. There has been a withdrawal and banning of some foods, such as fizzy drinks.

"From September, all school food will be affected by new regulations. Homemade biscuits and cakes will no longer be available as snacks, instead there will be bread-based products. At the moment it's early days and children are reacting. We've got to have a realistic approach to this. I think the numbers will rise in the long term."


Britain: Do primary schools let boys down?

By the age of seven more than a quarter of boys need special help with their education, the latest figures show. Is there something inherently wrong with a large chunk of one of the sexes - or are primary schools simply letting boys down?

It has long been known [to everyone except the feminists -- who are influential in education] that male and female brains are different - that they mature at different rates and develop in different ways. You only need to look at the way very young boys and girls play to see that often they like different things and approach things in different ways. Experts say girls' brains are more wired up for communicating and reading emotions, while boys like moving, doing and solving practical problems.

Principal of the School of Emotional Literacy Dr Elizabeth Morris says: "Boys like doing things for a purpose and having things that are concrete and relevant to deal with. "Girls will be happier with discussion, relationship building, team activities and reading." She adds: "The teaching profession in primaries is dominated by women who, with the best will in the world, will tend to deliver a larger proportion of the curriculum in teaching styles that make most sense to them - and therefore favour the girls."

Girls tend to be auditory and visual learners whereas boys are more kinaesthetic learners. This means that while girls like to listen and watch, boys like to learn by doing and taking part in discussions in small groups. So teachers need to be aware of the ways in which their pupils find it most natural to learn, says head teacher at the Churchill School in Folkestone, Jennie Carter. "If someone's picking at the carpet when the TV's on - they are not likely to be a visual learner."

To ensure that all pupils are being given an equal chance to learn, teachers at the school ask pupils to rate how clearly they understand what has just been taught to them. If the pupils who say they have not quite grasped things are the ones she knows to be visual learners - then she might show them a picture to help them grasp what's being taught, for example. As a result of this and other measures, of the 43% of children who get extra help at the school, 93% reach the required level in national tests.

Good school behaviour in the early years is often about sitting still, not fidgeting and waiting your turn to answer the teacher's question. "Given that boys in particular need to rough and tumble play as part of their development - and that this is happening less with parents now because they are not around so much - we may be seeing boys trying unconsciously to do what is right for their bodies by being physical," says Dr Morris. "But they have it misunderstood and classified as an emotional behaviour disorder because it doesn't conform to school needs."

Some experts suggest that teachers are deliberately getting pupils labelled as having special needs with reading, for example, because it is an easy way of getting a difficult child out of the classroom for a while. Mrs Carter says if there is a lack of support for members of staff this misuse of SEN labels is likely to happen. She recalls one bright pupil with Asperger's syndrome (ASD). "Some days he would not want to be with people so we would let him lie on the floor under the white board and let him get on with his work. "He did really well and got into a grammar school but they couldn't cope when he got there." Thankfully, the grammar school sent a teacher back to the primary school to draw up a provision map to deal with the different situations he was likely to encounter....

Maybe schools' obsession with conformity is the root of the problem - perhaps our teachers are unconsciously trying to make boys behave more like girls? Dr Morris: "Boys are great - they are full of fun and life. I hate how we take that energy and try to contain it rather than finding channels and opportunities to work with them in ways that fit for them." She says that boys often end up being stereotyped which just creates a self-fulfilling cycle, but she adds that once those working with children are able to see what is going on developmentally or neurologically they see the children quite differently.


Britain: Cosseting bad for kids

Middle-class parents are raising a generation of 'spoilt brats' who are so cosseted that they struggle to cope in the workplace, psychologists have warned. A new breed of 'princesses' and 'little kings' cannot hold down jobs because they are so used to leaving household chores to their parents and throwing tantrums to get their own way. Experts believe a rise in child-centred parenting is to blame. Mothers and fathers are said to be lavishing expensive clothes and gadgets on their children both to keep up with the Joneses and ease their guilt at working long hours. But too much pampering is making many children bossy, demanding and nasty to classmates, experts warn.

The children's charity Kidscape yesterday lamented the rise of the 'brat bully' - a new breed of classroom monster who uses mobile phones and e-mail to subtly victimise other children.

Meanwhile, Professor Cary Cooper, head of psychology and health at Lancaster University, warned that cosseted home lives can leave children ill-equipped for life in the adult world. "Some young people have been so pampered they can't stick at a job when things get tough," he said. "They have no experience of knuckling down to household chores and pulling their weight, because their parents did everything for them." He added: "Working couples have very little disposable time for each other, or their children, so when the kids are younger they outsource them to nannies or childminders, and when they're older, they feel guilty and buy them off by indulging them and never asking anything in return. "By the time they're teenagers, kids see their peer group as their new family and have little loyalty to their parents."

According to the Association of Graduate Recruiters, employers find that many school-leavers are unwilling to perform menial tasks which they consider beneath them. Some also have little idea how to answer phones politely or treat colleagues with respect.

Michele Elliott, director of Kidscape, highlighted the emergence of middle-class 'brat bullies'. "Before, you could say bullies often came from dysfunctional families, were miserable themselves-and were acting out their anger on the people around them," she said. "But some of them now come from what you might call 'good homes' - they are well cared for and their parents love them. "The problem is these children increasingly think they have an entitlement to everything, and are almost like royalty - 'move out of the way, here comes the princess'. Boys as well can be 'little kings'."

Such children often victimise others through Internet chatrooms and text messages, said Mrs Elliott. "Their parents are often unaware of how their child is acting towards others," she added. "Or if they do, they may not care, taking the attitude 'she will get ahead in life because she's assertive'."

The warning came as ministers urged parents to do more to help their children with schoolwork. Research published yesterday by the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust concluded that parents can significantly improve grades and behaviour by 'supporting learning in the home'.


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