Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Queen may be scrapped from UK passports

Anything to undermine a British identity

References to the Queen could be taken out of British passports in a bid to make them more European, it has emerged. The new documents, which could be in place as early as 2010, would bear reference to the EU constitution in order to remind UK citizens that they are part of Europe.

The first page of the British passport has historically featured the royal coat of arms with a message from the Queen beginning: "Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State". The words go on to outline that the citizen has a right to travel freely and has the right to protection and assistance.

Under new changes, however, it has been suggested that the coat of arms are scrapped and replaced by the EU emblem of 12 stars with the message underneath reading: "Every citizen of the Union".

The new version has been taken from Article 20 of the EU Constitution, the treaty that was discredited two years ago after it was rejected by member states including France and the Netherlands. This particular section of the treaty reminded citizens that they were part of Europe and had rights as an EU citizen.

A spokesman from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: "The changes relate to Article 20 of the EU Treaty which proposes EU language to be inserted into British passports. "It's still under consideration and no decision has been taken yet."

The proposals were criticised by the Tories as yet another example of the EU gaining more power over British citizens. William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, said: "People want to be proud to be British and their passports should have a clear association with that. There is no good reason to change the traditional presentation of our passports. "These proposals are yet another illustration of how the British people must be given their say in a referendum before any new powers are signed over to the EU under a proposed new treaty."

The British passports have born reference to the monarch since 1915 when the first blue hardback booklets were handed out to citizens. They remained the same until 20 years ago when they were replaced by smaller burgundy booklets with the words European Union printed across the cover.

Now, the new versions of the passport would state that Britain is obliged to look after the citizens of other EU countries on the same basis as its own nationals. Article 20 of the treaty, on which the revised wording would be based, states that if an EU citizen does not have his own government to look after him he can expect assistance from any other EU state he chooses.


Non-smokers suffer fewer heart attacks after ban

This could be just a statistical blip but it is an interesting straw in the wind

The ban on smoking in public places in Scotland is already beginning to have an impact on the nation's health, a conference in Edinburgh heard yesterday. The number of nonsmokers admitted to hospital after heart attacks fell by 20 per cent in the ten months after the ban came into force in March 2006, compared with the same ten months in the year before, Jill Pell, of Glasgow University, said. Other studies have shown that children's exposure to secondhand smoke has fallen, except among children whose mothers smoke, or those with two parents who smoke.

Professor Pell's study covered nine hospitals, which between them account for two thirds of all hospital admissions for heart attacks in Scotland. In the ten months of the year leading up to the ban, there were 3,235 admissions, while in the matching period after the ban, the figure was 2,684. Patients were asked if they were smokers or nonsmokers, and their answers double-checked through blood tests to detect levels of cotinine, the product into which nicotine is converted by the body. In nonsmokers, the fall in heart attack admissions was higher, at 20 per cent.

Professor Pell said that the reduction among nonsmokers was biologically plausible, because smoke contained a lot of toxins that could trigger heart attacks in people with coronary heart disease. "The difference between our study and earlier ones is that we have been able to show an effect in people who have never smoked. That can only be due to lower levels of passive smoke," she said.

Rates of heart disease are falling everywhere, but not as fast as this. Over the same period of ten months after the ban, admissions in England fell by 4 per cent, and the reduction rate in Scotland over the decade before the ban was 3 per cent per year. Sally Haw, principal public health adviser to NHS Scotland, who collaborated in the study, said she was confident that the figures were reliable. "It's a large study, we have confirmed people's smoking status, and we have used a robust definition to count admissions" she said.

Sir Richard Peto, of Oxford University, an expert in the epidemiology of smoking, said many things could affect admissions for heart attacks, including the weather. Fewer people suffer heart attacks when the weather is mild. "I'd be surprised if this drop were due solely to the smoking ban," he said. "I would like to see cigarette sales figures, to see if there has been any fall."

Jon Ayres, head of the University of Aberdeen environmental and occupational medicine department, said: "It's very difficult to believe there is anything fundamentally wrong with the results. I think the 20 per cent figure is good. If you look at the figures month to month, the effect seems to creep up since last year. This also suggests that the important thing was the smoking ban."

The study has yet to be published, but the conference coincided with the publication online by the British Medical Journal of three other studies. One found a reduction of 39 per cent in exposure to secondhand smoke in 11-year-olds and a similar decrease among adult nonsmokers. Cotinine levels in blood were used to measure exposure, and showed that most children have benefited. But in those with two parents who smoke, or with a mother who is a smoker, the drop was not statistically significant.

A study by Aberdeen University of nearly 400 staff at 72 pubs in Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh also found health improvements in bar staff. The two-day conference at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre has attracted an international audience of health experts and policymakers.



An email from John A [] of Climate Audit

As you've noted, the BBC have declined to bore the license-payers into submission with "Planet Relief" although I think that its a shame that we don't get to save the environment by switching it off and doing something else instead. I think they might not have covered the costs of the "artists" fees let alone paid the cameramen, but that's just me.

So Richard Black and his merry band of "consciousness raisers" (what cute names they have for propagandists these days) will have to fall on the old standbys of reporting every extreme weather event as if it were the last portent of doom and every climate model as the definitive future of the planet. And to round off the good work, peppering every science or nature article with ridiculous non-sequiturs and flourishes of anti-science designed to bamboozle.

So in what can only be described as "Things only climate change can do" we have this story of hope where black-throated and red-throated divers are recovering in numbers in Scotland thanks to some artificial floating rafts. But this being a nature story there has to be a climate change angle and so right at the end a Dr Mark Eaton ends with this chilling warning:

Dr Mark Eaton, an RSPB scientist, said: "We feared the numbers of red-throated divers might drop because the warming of the North Sea seems to be reducing stocks of the fish they feed on. "The black-throated diver could also be at risk in the future, despite the recent increases. If climate change causes loch temperatures to rise, the small fish the birds feed on could grow too large to eat."

So there we have it. Climate change reduces the number of fish in the North Sea, but might make fish thrive in the lochs so much that they become too large to swallow. It's a double-edge sword of doom is climate change. I'm only grateful that in the last few million years climate hasn't changed by anything like the horrendous changes we see today, leaving the poor birds unable to cope. Obviously Dr Eaton is an expert in these matters, which is why nobody will call him on it. Certainly not the BBC.

Bush as Hitler poster in BBC newsroom: "Robin Aitken, author of Can We Trust the BBC?, talks about the fact that a depiction of George W Bush as Adolf Hitler was posted in the main current affairs office of the BBC and no-one objected. Mr Aitken, a BBC journalist for 25 years, discusses the contrasting BBC treatment of George W Bush and Bill Clinton.

British red tape stifles science: "One of Britain's leading scientists has been forced to move groundbreaking organ transplant research to the United States, after he was blocked by red tape from conducting a key experiment in this country. Restrictions on animal research have prevented a company set up by Lord Winston, the fertility specialist, from breeding pigs using a new genetic engineering technique that has the potential to produce "humanised" animal organs for transplant. Instead, the work will take place in Missouri. The ban on the work proposed by Atazoa has raised fresh concern that the brain drain to the US is being revived by an excessive bureaucracy attached to British science. It is also a blow to Gordon Brown's attempts to ensure that British medical research is commercially exploited in this country rather than abroad."

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