Saturday, February 09, 2008

BRITISH GOVERNMENT (formerly known as "world leaders" in climate change policy) REVIVES COAL INDUSTRY

Coal power generation is crucial for the growth of the British economy, Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks said on Wednesday. But he said the government could not yet release a specific policy document on coal-fired electricity. "We can't afford to forget coal which contributes about 35 percent of UK power and has an important part to play in UK power policy," Wicks said.

The fuel source is controversial because it produces more of the planet-warming gas carbon dioxide than any other power source. Protesters from environmental group Greenpeace interrupted Wicks as he addressed a coal conference at the Lord's cricket ground in London. "Coal power stations are out-of-date climate-wreckers," the group said in a statement.


Get lazy, age faster

This seems reasonable enough. We didn't evolve to sit in armchairs all day. But the stuff below is little more than speculation. There's still a lot we don't know about telomeres and their regeneration

People who are physically active in their spare time seem biologically younger than sedentary types, researchers report. Regular exercisers are already known to have lower rates of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, obesity and osteoporosis, according to scientists. But beyond this, "inactivity. may influence the aging process itself," the researchers wrote, reporting their findings in the Jan. 28 issue of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

Lynn F. Cherkas of King's College London and colleagues studied 2,401 white twins who filled out questionnaires on physical activity, smoking habits and socioeconomic status, and provided blood samples for DNA tests.

The researchers measured the length of segments of chromosomes called telomeres. Their length, which decreases throughout a person's life, is seen by some biologists as a possible marker of biological age. [Hmmm... ]

People who were less physically active in their leisure time had shorter telomeres in their white blood cells than those who were more active, Cherkas and colleagues found. "The most active subjects had telomeres the same length as sedentary individuals up to 10 years younger, on average," they wrote. The relationship "remained significant after adjustment for body mass index, smoking, socioeconomic status and physical activity at work."

Sedentary lifestyles shorten telomeres probably through a process called oxidative stress, in which oxygen, although essential to life, causes chemical damage to cells, the researchers said. Exercise may also reduce psychological stress, they added, and this may affect aging.

"U.S. guidelines recommend that 30 minutes of moderateintensity physical activity at least five days a week can have significant health benefits," the authors wrote. "Our results underscore the vital importance of these guidelines. adults who partake in regular physical activity are biologically younger than sedentary individuals."


British Airways blasts EU emissions plan

The European Union is aiming too high with proposals to make all airlines flying into and out of the bloc buy pollution permits and risks a backlash from other countries, the chief executive of British Airways said. Under plans being drawn up in Brussels to fight climate change, airlines using EU airports would be included in the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme from 2012, with a cap on their emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. Airlines would gradually have to buy emissions certificates at auction, starting with 20 per cent of permits in 2013 and rising to 100 per cent in 2020.

From three per cent of mankind's total contribution to global warming in 2005, aviation's emissions are set to rise by a factor of two to five by 2050, the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in a report last year. "What we're saying is by all means be ambitious but don't put the whole system at risk by trying to impose it on other nations at a completely different point in their whole thinking on climate change," BA Chief Executive Willie Walsh said. Walsh said emissions trading within the EU is the best way for the bloc's aviation industry to respond to climate change but extending it further risks undermining the scheme.

The United States and many other countries are deeply opposed to the plan by Brussels, arguing that the move would illegally extend EU jurisdiction outside European territory. "I think to go in and say here's the solution, we're applying it everywhere, you must do what we tell you... You're going to get a backlash," he told Reuters in an interview. "The warning signals are loud and clear."

European airlines could be at risk of retaliation in the form of restricted access to third countries or punitive taxes and non-European airlines might shun the region as a hub for long-haul flights, Walsh said. "We need to be careful that we don't encourage air transport to move away from Europe and move into other hub airports like the Middle East where Dubai is perfect example," he said.

The European Parliament and the council of member states approved a plan late last year for all airlines flying in and out of the EU to join the ETS early in the next decade. The plan has yet to be put to a second vote in the European Parliament, giving airlines such as British Airways a chance to lobby for changes to the final text. Walsh was in Brussels for a series of meeting with EU officials.


Britain: Foreign doctors face competence inquiry

Britain's medical regulator has launched a major inquiry into the competence of foreign doctors after it emerged that they are now twice as likely to face disciplinary hearings as UK medical graduates. Figures seen by The Times also reveal that triple the number of doctors who trained abroad were struck off the UK medical register last year compared with 2005.

The findings, part of a report compiled by the General Medical Council, have prompted the profession's regulator to commission seven research projects, which will cover issues including the competence of foreign doctors and whether they are subject to institutional racism within the health service. More than 5,000 cases were dealt with by the GMC in 2006, 303 of which culminated in fitness-to-practise hearings and 54 doctors were struck off. Of these, nearly two thirds - 35 doctors - had trained outside the UK.

The range of offences included sexual misconduct, dishonesty and failing to provide an adequate level of care for patients. Among the cases in the past three months have been a Hungarian doctor struck off for dishonesty, a Nigerian for clinical incompetence and misdiagnosis and an American-trained doctor who had sexually harassed a nurse. One Spanish-trained psychiatrist was found to have abused his position over the use of prescription drugs.

Last month Gordon Brown pledged to tighten checks on medical staff who trained overseas after three NHS doctors were charged in connection with the attempted car bomb attacks on London and Glasgow.

But medical regulators suggest that patient safety may be compromised by current procedures, which require some doctors to produce no more than a degree certificate and a letter of reference before they can start work. The GMC said there was a growing number of complaints about GPs and hospital doctors, but a "disproportionate" number of overseas-trained doctors were appearing before its disciplinary panels. Strikingly, 30 per cent of complaints against foreign doctors came from other health professionals or the police, who were the source of less than 15 per cent of complaints against UK-trained doctors.

The GMC has commissioned researchers to look into the pattern, for which there is currently "no good explanation", it said. It added that doctors were only struck off when it would endanger patients and the wider public to do otherwise.

One of the projects coordinated by the Economic and Social Research Council is already under way, while six others are due to start in the next few months. They include proposals from academics at the London School of Economics and the universities of Newcastle and Leicester to investigate how doctors come to work in the UK and set out which of them might present a particular risk to patients.

Under current rules, doctors from Europe can register and treat patients in Britain but are not tested for clinical competence and do not have to prove they can speak English, unlike those from Australia or elsewhere who are naturally fluent. The GMC and other regulators fear that patient care may be at risk , and have called for a change in the law to test doctors from the EU.

This week The Times revealed that hundreds of junior doctors who took up posts this month have not been vetted by the Criminal Records Bureau. Hospital trust managers complained that they could not check the criminal records of some applicants because they received the names too late.

Of the 5,085 complaints lodged against doctors last year, a rate of almost 100 a week, nearly 40 per cent referred to overseas-trained doctors - roughly in proportion to their numbers in the NHS workforce. A far greater number of international medical graduates were referred to hearings compared with UK graduates (34 per cent as against 16 per cent last year).

Paul Philips, director of standards and fitness-to-practise at the GMC, said: "The number of fitness-to-prac-tise cases we deal with is going up year on year. Doctors with a primary medical qualification from overseas or within the EU are disproportionately represented, and more are being referred to us than we should be see without a good explanation." The British Medical Association said that the pattern might be accounted for by a culture of institutional racism within the NHS. A Department of Health spokesperson said all NHS doctors were subject to stringent pre-employment checks.


Queer Jesus no good to Muslims either

We read:

"An Islamic group based in the UK has issued a death fatwa against a playwright whose London stage production depicts Jesus Christ as a homosexual. Terrence McNally was sentenced to death by the Shari'ah Court of the UK as his play, Corpus Christi, opened in London on Thursday night.

The play depicts Jesus Christ and his followers as a group of homosexuals. He is seduced by Judas Iscariot, but is later crucified as "king of the queers". It caused an outcry among Christians when it was staged during the Edinburgh Fringe festival during the summer.

Muslims regard Jesus as a messenger of God, and revere his mother, the Virgin Mary. The play was declared blasphemous by the Al-Muhajiroun - The Defenders of The Messenger Jesus.


I wonder when the Archbishop of Canterbury will be issuing HIS fatwa?

Muddled achbishop: "Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the world's Anglicans, said on Thursday the introduction in Britain of some aspects of sharia, Islamic law, was unavoidable. His unexpected comments were welcomed by some Muslim groups, but the government was quick to distance itself from them, saying it was out of the question that the principles of sharia could be used in British civil courts. Williams, speaking to the BBC, said other religions enjoyed tolerance of their laws in Britain and he called for a "constructive accommodation" with Muslim practice in areas such as marital disputes. Asked if the adoption of sharia was necessary for community cohesion, Williams said: "It seems unavoidable. Certain conditions of sharia are already recognised in our society and under our law, so it is not as if we are bringing in an alien and rival system." [Even if you are]

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