Tuesday, June 24, 2008

You cannot be too careful in talking about blacks

We read:
"An Australian political adviser to London Lord Mayor Boris Johnson has been forced to resign over a racism scandal.

James McGrath was accused of suggesting black people should ``go home'' if they did not like the new Mayor.

Responding to claims Caribbean immigrants could leave the UK if Mr Johnson was elected, Mr McGrath said: ``Let them go if they don't like it here.''


If he had been talking about Americans instead of blacks he would have been applauded.

British doctors dubious about new treatment protocols

Nurses doing surgery?? I think I'd be dubious too

The minister in charge of a review of the NHS has accused some doctors of being “laggards” for obstructing the introduction of new treatments. Lord Darzi, who continues to work as a surgeon, says some senior medical staff are so determined to protect “professional boundaries” that, 14 years after his own practice began using nurses to do minor surgery, others have yet to follow.

He said: “In all areas of healthcare you have innovators, people who really want to change things for the better, and you also have, in other areas of the healthcare system, people who are lagging behind and need to catch up. “They will eventually catch up once they know that, if you start thinking about what really matters to patients, how you can improve the care you provide, you get over all these different obstacles.”

Darzi, who has been in bitter conflict with doctors over the introduction of polyclinics, is backed by Sir Liam Donaldson, the chief medical officer. This weekend, Donaldson accused some surgeons of obstructing changes that would make operations safer because they objected to their “professional autonomy” being eroded. He said: “The culture of medicine has been one of clinical autonomy. Doctors are trained to take decisions, to feel they are in charge, to lead teams. They want to do what they feel is best and anything that suggests that they should standardise their practice in any way is sometimes seen as degrading of their professional ethos.”

Donaldson, who as chairman of the World Health Organisation world alliance for patient safety will this week launch an airline-style danger checklist for surgeons, added that one British doctor told him such checks would reduce consultants to “factory workers”. Donaldson said: “I was talking about a way in which standard operating procedures are used in the airline industry and he said: ‘Well, if you bring that into medicine, we might as well go and work in factories.’ “I think it is a new idea for some traditional people holding traditional attitudes in medicine and I think we need to break those down and get people thinking and learning from other industries.”

Darzi, who will publish his review on the NHS at the end of this month, also says doctors and nurses must treat patients as customers. He says that if patients don’t like the quality of care they are receiving they should go elsewhere. His report will include proposals to routinely invite patients to grade the quality of nursing care they receive during their hospital stay, including how comfortable they were made to feel on the ward and if they were treated in a kind and compassionate manner. Results of these questionnaires will be published so that patients can shop around for the hospital with the most compassionate nursing care.

Darzi, who still practises his keyhole surgery specialism two days a week at St Mary’s Hospital in London, said he recently had a patient who requested a referral to his unit from outside its catchment area. He said more details of the most advanced surgery will be made available to patients as part of his review. This will make it easier for patients to find out where the latest technology is used.

Darzi said: “Have patients been treated as customers? When you go to a restaurant you look at a website and find out exactly what people said about that restaurant. In future I want to show which hospitals, doctors and nurses are actually bringing innovation into their healthcare.” Darzi is to set up a new website featuring all the latest innovations in medicine to encourage hospitals to adopt new treatments more quickly.


British equality bill to ban age barriers.

More British wackiness. Fools step in where angels fear to tread

Elderly people would have the right to join youth clubs or go on 18-30 cruises under new equality legislation to be introduced this week. Ministers are to give pensioners new protection against age discrimination. The law would stop insurance companies, 95% of which impose an upper age limit, refusing life insurance or holiday cover to senior citizens or charging more on the basis of their age.

The new law would give teenagers the right to join clubs that have traditionally been the preserve of the elderly, while middle-aged clubbers could not be refused entry to a nightclub on the basis of age alone.

Gordon Lishman, director-general of Age Concern, said: "People are often surprised to learn that ageism is the most commonly experienced prejudice in the UK. But both young and old find they come up against barriers created by their age. People over a certain age pay a huge premium on insurance just because of their age. They can also be denied certain types of health treatment because doctors don't think it is worth treating them. This is unfair and unjust."

The Single Equality Bill will also offer new protection to gays and ethnic minorities. Public bodies will have a duty to promote equality while schools will have to develop strategies to prevent gay bullying.

The bill is expected to stop short of demanding that companies introduce compulsory pay audits that would reveal whether men and women of equal experience and seniority are paid the same, after opposition from business. Less stringent measures to improve transparency on equal pay are to be introduced.


Poll: most Britons doubt cause of climate change

The majority of the British public is still not convinced that climate change is caused by humans - and many others believe scientists are exaggerating the problem, according to an exclusive poll for The Observer. The results have shocked campaigners who hoped that doubts would have been silenced by a report last year by more than 2,500 scientists for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which found a 90 per cent chance that humans were the main cause of climate change and warned that drastic action was needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The findings come just before the release of the government's long-awaited renewable energy strategy, which aims to cut the UK's greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent over the next 12 years.The poll, by Ipsos MORI, found widespread contradictions, with some people saying politicians were not doing enough to tackle the problem, even though they were cynical about government attempts to impose regulations or raise taxes.

In a sign of the enormous task ahead for those pushing for drastic cuts to carbon emissions, many people said they did not want to restrict their lifestyles and only a small minority believe they need to make 'significant and radical' changes such as driving and flying less.

'It's disappointing and the government will be really worried,' said Jonathon Porritt, chairman of the government's Sustainable Development Commission. 'They [politicians] need the context in which they're developing new policies to be a lot stronger and more positive. Otherwise the potential for backlash and unpopularity is considerable.'

There is growing concern that an economic depression and rising fuel and food prices are denting public interest in environmental issues. Some environmentalists blame the public's doubts on last year's Channel 4 documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle, and on recent books, including one by Lord Lawson, the former Chancellor, that question the consensus on climate change.

However Professor Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, said politicians and campaigners were to blame for over-simplifying the problem by only publicising evidence to support the case. 'Things that we do know - like humans do cause climate change - are being put in doubt,' said Lomborg. 'If you're saying, "We're not going to tell you the whole truth, but we're going to ask you to pay up a lot of money," people are going to be unsure.'

In response to the poll's findings, the Department for the Environment issued a statement: 'The IPCC... concluded the scientific evidence for climate change is clear and it is down to human activities. It is already affecting people's lives - and the impact will be much greater if we don't act now.'

Ipsos MORI polled 1,039 adults and found that six out of 10 agreed that 'many scientific experts still question if humans are contributing to climate change', and that four out of 10 'sometimes think climate change might not be as bad as people say'. In both cases, another 20 per cent were not convinced either way. Despite this, three quarters still professed to be concerned about climate change. Those most worried were more likely to have a degree, be in social classes A or B, have a higher income, said Phil Downing, Ipsos MORI's head of environmental research.'People are broadly concerned, but not entirely convinced,' said Downing. 'Despite many attempts to broaden the environment movement, it doesn't seem to have become fully embedded as a mainstream concern,' he said.

More than half of those polled did not have confidence in international or British political leaders to tackle climate change, but only just over a quarter think it's too late to stop it. Two thirds want the government to do more but nearly as many said they were cynical about government policies such as green taxes, which they see as 'stealth' taxes.


Kids should learn to be tough

"Happiness lessons" that are used in many schools to teach children to be sensitive, empathetic and caring are under threat from a new hardline approach that advocates mental toughness. Academics say that instilling a robust attitude among pupils can improve their exam performance, behaviour and aspirations dramatically. Mentally tough children are less likely to regard themselves as victims of bullying and will not be deterred by initial failure. Having this outlook can be learnt, according to Peter Clough, head of psychology at the University of Hull.

Along with AQR, a psychometric-testing company, he is conducting a long-term study of children and evaluating their mental toughness. His ideas - based on sports psychology - have been used in industry. Dr Clough claims that a simple test and follow-up techniques can transform performance. He said: "We know that students with higher levels of mental toughness perform better in exams. They are also less likely to perceive themselves as being bullied and are more likely to behave more positively. "We also know that by using a variety of techniques - many of them very simple - we can increase an individual's level of mental toughness."

Dr Clough is working with 181 pupils aged 11 and 12 at All Saints Catholic High School in Knowsley, Merseyside. He will help to make them mentally tough and hopes this will "open doors of opportunities that they would not previously have considered". Parents and teachers are also being shown the intervention techniques.

Dr Clough said: "There is no point in working with pupils who then go into a classroom environment where nobody understands the process, and home to parents who have no interest. Showing the teachers how the techniques work means that the benefits that pupils are getting from this study can be repeated year after year."

Dr Clough and his team measured the levels of resilience and emotional sensitivity of pupils using a questionnaire. They then picked almost 40 pupils with low scores. They are now using techniques to improve their rating, such as visualisation, anxiety control and relaxation, improving their attention span and setting goals.

It comes a week after two academics said the emphasis on Seal (Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning) was "infantilising" students. Dennis Hayes and Kathryn Ecclestone, of Oxford Brookes University, said that teenagers were encouraged to talk about their emotions at the expense of acquiring knowledge. This left them unable to cope on their own. They pointed to the increased presence of parents on campus, and of counsellors and support officers, saying that "everyone was looking for a disability to declare".

Dr Clough said that he helped children to set realistic goals and used techniques that worked rapidly. These include imagining scenarios and random-number tests that forced them to concentrate. He said: "Really concentrating is a skill a lot of them have never had. We try to get them to realise they are in control of their lives and need to stick a foot in the door when they get the opportunity. No one else is going to make that decision. "They don't recognise that people who are successful sometimes have less ability but more drive. They are drawn to a 'shortcut culture' of instant success and dream of winning The X Factor, but don't see that you need to practise before auditions."

Of happiness lessons, which aim to boost self-esteem, Dr Clough said: "All the positive thinking in the world isn't going to make a third look like a 2:1."


Archbishop Jensen defends keepers of the Bible

Note that unlike "modernists" such as Spong, His Grace does not need to wear a pectoral cross etc. in order to reinforce his Christian identity

SYDNEY'S Anglican Archbishop, Peter Jensen, has defended a breakaway conference of church leaders in Jerusalem as the true keepers of the authority of the Bible. In an interview with the Herald before the opening yesterday of a conference of 1000 conservative Anglican leaders from 27 countries - including 280 bishops - Dr Jensen described the formal separation of the church into conservative and liberal groupings as a tragedy. The split has emerged since the ordination in the United States five years ago of the openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson.

"We're not dealing with the secular world here. We're dealing with the Christian church, and the Christian church has a constitution which is the Bible," Dr Jensen said. "Now the difficulty here is for a person to claim to belong to the Christian church while at the same time breaching the constitution. It's as if you're a member of a clan and you decide to break the rules of a club. That's understandable to the man on the street, surely."

While he remained committed to the Anglican Church - and refuses to describe the present situation as a split - Dr Jensen said the church would not reunite until the divisions over human sexuality were resolved. "I am passionately committed to being Anglican. I respect very much Christians from other denominations and I don't think being Anglican is the greatest thing in the world, but I believe in it and our intention is not to leave the Anglican Communion," he said. "There is no reason why we should leave the Anglican Church because we have not shifted. It is others who have shifted. We are committed to the Anglican church and want to see it do as well as it possibly can."

Dr Jensen said he would not attend the Lambeth Conference, the gathering of Anglican leaders called by the Archbishop of Canterbury in England next month. "I have decided, as have a number of leading bishops, particularly from Africa, that no, we're going attend this conference alone while this crisis remains unresolved. In the meantime we'll be here and we're working on what the future is going to look like," he said.

Dr Jensen said gay men and women had no reason to feel discriminated against by the stance he had taken on human sexuality. "Furthermore, we strongly abhor any violence or unjust discrimination towards those kinds of people in the community," he said.


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