Friday, July 04, 2008


By Ruth Lea. Ruth was Director of the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) for four years until November 2007. She is now Director of Global Vision, and a Non-Executive Director and Economic Advisor to the Arbuthnot Banking Group. Ruth is perhaps best known for having been the Head of the Policy Unit at the Institute of Directors (IoD)

On June 26, 2008, the Prime Minister unveiled his Government's renewable energy strategy for building a "low carbon economy". This will involve the building of 7,000 wind turbines (3,000 at sea, and 4,000 on land) by 2020, expand other renewable energy, such as micro-generation, tidal- and wave-power, and will require œ100bn of investment from the private sector (heavily subsidised by the consumer). Nuclear power will also be encouraged. The centre piece of the strategy is the planned expansion of wind turbines, which are almost universally disliked by those who have to live near to them. But, aesthetics aside, the strategy is unworkable, expensive, and irresponsible.

Absurd and Costly

There is not the faintest chance that 7,000 wind turbines can be constructed in this time, given the construction capacity restrictions and tight timetable. But, even if the turbines were built, this would not be the end of the matter. Britain would still require a considerable back-up of conventional electricity-generating capacity because the turbines would frequently produce no electricity at all, given the fluctuation in wind speeds. Paul Golby, Chief Executive of E.ON UK, has said that this back-up capacity would have to amount to 90% of the capacity of the wind turbines, if supplies were to be reliable. This would be an absurd, and costly, misallocation of resources, with the extra costs falling on households and businesses. But, costs apart, there is yet another problem. And that is whether the necessary back-up capacity is likely to be available.

The current Government has woefully neglected Britain's energy infrastructure, and much of Britain's current electricity-generating capacity is due for closure over the next 10 to 15 years. Most of Britain's ageing nuclear power stations are due to be decommissioned, and half of Britain's coal-fired power stations are due to be retired because of the EU's Large Combustion Power Directive (concerned with controlling emissions of, for example, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides). Under these circumstances, there is a very real risk that there will not be adequate conventional back-up capacity despite the Government's welcome acceptance of the need for nuclear power (there will inevitably be delays in construction) and the operation of new gas-fired capacity (which, incidentally, makes Britain unduly dependent on imports, as our own supplies are dwindling fast).

The prospect of power cuts is, therefore, all too real. Brutally, the lights could go out, and business and the public services, now so dependent on computers, would suffer. The folly of putting so many eggs in the basket of wind power is the height of irresponsibility.

The EU's Renewables Directive: Disproportionate Burden

The Government's `dash for wind' in order to develop a "low-carbon economy" is, of course, part of its climate-change policy of cutting carbon emissions in order to "combat global warming". Any expansion of nuclear power would also curtail carbon emissions, and, indeed, if one believes that a low-carbon economy is a good idea (perhaps for security reasons as well as `saving the planet'), one might ask why not allocate far more resources to nuclear power and far fewer to renewables.

Alas, this would not be permitted under the EU's 2008 Renewables Directive.(1) Under this Directive, the UK has agreed to meet 15% of its energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020. Whilst renewables include biomass, solar power, wind, wave/tide, and hydroelectricity, nuclear power is excluded. Insofar as the Renewables Directive is part of the EU's policy of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 20% by 2020 compared with 1990, this is perverse to say the least.

Whilst the UK has a 15% renewables target for 2020, just 1.5% of energy consumption was met by permissible renewables in 2006.(2) The UK has committed itself, therefore, to increase its renewables share ten-fold by 2020. With the possible exceptions of Malta and Luxembourg, the UK is faced with by far the greatest challenge in reaching its 2020 target. In addition, the unit costs in the UK are relatively high because Britain lacks access to cheap biomass resources in the electricity and heat sectors, and is placing greater reliance on high cost, expensive electricity technologies, such as wind (mainly) and wave/tidal. By contrast several EU countries are well-placed, including Austria, Finland, and Sweden, as are many of the central and eastern European countries.

It is, therefore, unsurprising that the UK is likely to carry a disproportionate burden of the costs of meeting the EU's 2020 renewables target. According to a study by P”yry Energy Consulting, the UK could carry around 20-25% of the total EU costs.(3) P”yry has estimated that the annual cost in 2020 could be around œ150 to 200 pounds per UK household, and the lifetime costs up to 2020 would be 1,800 pounds, even as high as 2,800, per UK household. These are significant sums, and they are likely to be under-estimates.

Given my earlier comment that the Government's plans for 7,000 wind turbines will not be achieved by 2020, there is no chance that we will meet the renewables target. (And, in any case, 7,000 turbines, even if built, are apparently inadequate for Britain to meet the 15% target.) The Government is living in fantasy-land - but it seems hell-bent on pursuing an energy policy which will be costly, will dangerously distort energy policy, and will leave the country vulnerable to black-outs.

The Economic Effects

Even if the lights stay on, it is clear that the Government's current strategy will lead to higher and less competitive energy prices in Britain, other things being equal. For households, especially low income and pensioner households, this will bite into general living standards. Businesses, especially energy intensive industries, will continue to lose competitiveness and will migrate overseas to, say, India or China. The Energy Intensive Users Group (EIUG) estimates that various `green measures' (the Renewables Obligation, the Climate Change Levy, and the costs of the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme) already account for a quarter of total energy costs for their members. The situation will surely deteriorate. Britain's chemicals, cement, and steel industries, to name but three, are likely to shrink, jobs will be lost, and the balance of payments will deteriorate. Yet this has barely been mentioned. Does no-one care?

Britain's Climate Change Bill: Economic Madness

As already mentioned, the EU has a 20% target for cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 2020, compared with 1990. British legislators, however, seem to regard this self-flagellation as insufficiently painful. The Climate Change Bill, currently going through Parliament, includes legally-binding targets of a 60% reduction by 2050, and a 26 to 32% reduction by 2020, compared with 1990.

The Bill is predicated first on the assumptions that `global warming' is "dangerous" and is unquestionably mainly caused by anthropogenic carbon emissions. These assumptions are, of course, inherent in the work of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which provided the quasi-scientific background for the path-breaking Kyoto Protocol of 1997. Secondly, they rely on Lord Nicholas Stern's report, based on the IPCC's apocalyptic projections of a frizzling planet, exhorting us to spend now to prevent this fate, or to fry and/or drown later.(4) Woe betide any foolish soul who dares to speak out against this orthodoxy.

But the notion that there is a scientific consensus on this matter is simply not true. Many scientists, though they risk their funding and the wrath of the Royal Society, are prepared to acknowledge that the sun has an infinitely greater role to play than humankind in climate change. Moreover, climate change in the form of modest warming is likely to be, on balance, economically beneficial. And, inconveniently for the doomsayers, there has been no `global warming' for a decade.

Secondly, the Bill simplistically assumes that climate change can be combated by cutting anthropogenic carbon emissions, as if there were a straightforward, bivariate and uni-causal relationship between carbon dioxide emissions (and concentrations) and temperature. Nothing, I am reliably informed, could be further from the truth.

Thirdly, the Bill chooses to ignore the fact that, whilst Britain attempts to decarbonise her economy, much of the rest of the world will not. Britain accounts for less than 2% of world anthropogenic carbon emissions, whilst China's emissions probably increase by more than our total every 1 to 2 years. We could, however, make our economy uncompetitive and curtail British people's economic freedoms and prosperity, satisfyingly so for the many critics of modern developed economies, by pursuing this policy. But where we lead, others will not follow - not even the other EU member states, if it suits them. It is economic madness.(5)

The Future

The Climate Change Bill will, however, be enacted. All the major political parties are supporting it. But, apart from its unfounded scientific assumptions and economic irresponsibility, it is already looking old-fashioned (there's nothing so old-fashioned as last year's fashions that have ceased to be fashionable) and irrelevant.

Two things are changing the debate. The first is the, already noted, absence of `global warming' since the end of the 20th century. People understand this. The second is the economy. Bill Clinton was right: "it's the economy, stupid". British living standards for many are now falling, and this changes people's priorities. Recent polls show that, first, the British people are sceptical about human-caused `global warming' despite all of the propaganda thrust at them and, secondly, they regard `green taxes' as little more than yet another excuse for Governments to tax them harder. The mood is changing. Politicians please take note.


Australians in Britain returning home

They are the boomerang migrants. Thousands of Australians who settled here are returning down under to escape the UK's economic slowdown and its spiralling cost of living. The Australian authorities have seen a 50% jump in the number of their citizens returning home from Britain since the credit crunch last summer.

Experts say that rising numbers of migrants from Poland, India and Nigeria are also quitting the UK for better jobs and the hope of a higher standard of living back home. Analysis this weekend has shown that the cost of running a family has grown by more in Britain than in any other country in the western world.

The exodus of foreign workers is already harming the building industry and causing alarm in the Square Mile. According to figures kept by the Australian government, 2,600 of their citizens have been returning home each month since last June. That compares with 1,750 a month between 2000 and 2005. Many Australians have been enticed back to their homeland by job opportunities created by a punchy economy that has grown by 3.6% over the past year.

The impact is likely to be much more serious than in previous decades when many Australian migrants to Britain were young travellers content to pull pints. The majority of Australians working in the UK are now employed in financial services and other professions, according to TNT, the magazine for Australians working in Britain.

Jason Cartwright, a director of Link Recruitment, an international employment agency, said the UK was already suffering a "brain drain" of Australian workers from the City. "In the UK's financial services sector, hiring freezes are increasingly common - but opportunities abound in the Australian market," he said. "There is also a belief that Australia is a safer bet while the credit crunch runs its course."

By contrast, City firms in London are expected to shed 6,500 jobs this year, with the economy predicted to grow by 1.7% - its lowest rate since 1992. On Friday, official figures showed that economic growth halved to 0.3% in the first quarter of this year. The Australian dollar hit an 11-year high against the pound in May, meaning Australians' sterling earnings have fallen by 21%in dollar terms over the past year.

Wiriaya Plukavec, 31, came to London from Sydney two years ago to work as a credit controller in the City. She plans to return home in the next few weeks. "I was going to stay another year but just got fed up with the cost of everything going up - bills, food, toiletries, rent, going out - everything," Plukavec said. "Life will just be a whole lot cheaper back in Sydney . . . and the weather will be better."

Chris Hurd, an Australian film-maker, returned to Sydney three months ago after a decade in Brighton. Hurd, 45, and his wife found new jobs easy to find. "We could never have raised a family in London - the cost is prohibitive," he said. "You can't get a rudimentary education in England without paying a fortune."

Nicola Brennan, 35, moved back to Melbourne earlier this year after 10 years working as an accountant for an investment bank. "My husband and I decided to return to Australia because we felt it was a much better place to start a family," she said.

Research published this weekend by the Economic Research Institute think tank shows that the annual housing, food, travel and other costs of a typical middle-class family of three in London has soared to 38,880 pounds - an increase of 2,160 in four months, a bigger rise than in any other main western city. The same standard of living now cost 32,706 in Sydney and 28,664 in Los Angeles.

There are no precise data on the number and nationality of migrants who have left over the past year; however, the Institute for Public Policy Research, the left-leaning think tank, has surveyed hundreds of migrants of all nationalities about their plans to leave. It calculates that half of the estimated 1m Polish plumbers, builders and other labourers who have arrived in Britain over the past four years have now returned home.

Britain's worsening economic climate is expected to drive more migrant workers back to their homelands. The cost of all foods have risen by an average of 6% this year, but the price of staples such as milk, butter, eggs, pasta and bread have risen by as much as 60%. Petrol prices have risen by 22%.

Government figures published on Friday showed that British savers tucked away 2.6 billion in the first quarter of this year - down from 7 billion on the final three months of last year.


EU good for something after all?

Every NHS patient is to be given the right to go abroad for free treatment. They will be able to escape queues and the fear of superbug infections and head anywhere within Europe under a blueprint for 'health tourism'. In almost all cases, they will be able to send the bill to the NHS - prompting fears that its finances could be thrown into chaos. Previously, patients who chose to pay for better treatment in France, Germany, or other EU countries had to mount legal action to make the NHS reimburse them.

But an EU directive on cross-border healthcare, to be published on Wednesday, will let patients shop around freely in all 27 member states. The move is designed to ease congestion in countries with long waiting lists and give patients greater freedom. They would have the right to seek any treatment offered by the NHS - such as cancer care or hip replacements - anywhere which would provide it more quickly.

Patients would have to pay upfront where they were treated, but as long as the cost was lower than in the NHS, they could reclaim it in full. However, patients are likely to have to pay for their travel and accommodation, if they stay outside hospital.

The attractions of EU treatment for Britons are clear. NHS waiting times have fallen dramatically as Labour has poured billions into the system, but they are still longer than in many other countries. The UK also has a higher incidence of hospital superbugs and poorer survival rates for many conditions, including some cancers. For the same reasons, experts say, there is unlikely to be an influx of foreigners to the NHS. Procedures are more expensive and queues longer here, although world-renowned facilities such as the Royal Marsden cancer hospital are potential draws.

The plan could threaten the stability of NHS finances, however, as the health service will lose revenue to hospitals overseas. Budgets could be thrown into chaos by patients jumping queues and then billing the NHS. There is also serious concern about Britons living abroad charging the NHS for all their medical care. Currently, many rely on private medical insurance to cover local treatment.

Keith Pollard, director of Treatment Abroad, a company which helps patients get care overseas, said last night: 'This is the first step to creating a truly European market in healthcare. 'It could revolutionise the way we experience healthcare in this country and throughout Europe. It's very good news for the fast-developing medical tourism industry. The directive will take the concept of patient choice to a new level.'

The Tories predicted that many patients would take up the offer to travel abroad. The party's health spokesman in Brussels, former health minister John Bowis, said: 'We will see people voting with their feet on the Government's handling of the NHS. 'People have been travelling abroad for treatments for years and the procedure needs to be formalised.'

Under the draft proposals, member states will be able to impose the same conditions on cross-border care as they do for domestic treatment - for instance, a requirement to consult a GP or a hospital specialist. The NHS would be obliged to fund all overseas outpatient treatment - such as scans and minor operations - even where patients do not seek authorisation beforehand.

But Health Secretary Alan Johnson is fighting for the right to make patients obtain NHS permission in advance for major operations, which mean a stay in hospital. The health department said: 'We are absolutely committed to ensuring that the NHS retains the ability to decide what care it will fund.' The EU, however, is understood to be insisting that funding for major procedures can be refused only if the NHS can show that services here will suffer as a result. And Britain does not have a veto to stop the plan becoming EU law if a majority of countries back it.

Doctors' leaders said the move would be a spur for the NHS to improve standards - but warned that the well-off and well-educated would be more likely to travel. Dr Terry John, chairman of the BMA's international committee, said: 'Patient mobility must not be just for the wealthy and educated. 'Standards of care for people who choose to stay in their home country, or are unable to travel abroad, must be maintained.' Some doctors are also warning that there could be problems in providing follow-up care, particularly for patients returning from countries where surgical techniques and procedures are different.


Another comment on the latest NHS reforms -- as drafted by Lord Darzi

The management structure of the NHS has always reminded me of a huge pile of spaghetti. The shape is generally conical, like almost every management structure, but so convoluted are the workings between apex and base that trying to track where the money goes or how the ideas move is like tracing the strands of spaghetti as they wind in-out, up-down and around. Some strands are long, some small, some thickly coated with sauce, some almost bare, and no one can possibly work out how the strands interweave without taking the whole thing apart. It is a complete mess and mangle.

Today we learned of Lord Darzi's new plan for the NHS. Not surprisingly much of it is just window dressing wrapped in management speak: "personal care plans", "dashboard", "quality accounts". We know the result of this nonsense already - more form-filling for doctors and nurses, more managers required to audit the forms, more number crunching from Whitehall and an annual statement from the government that things have improved since this time last year. There is no wide-ranging proposal to address the biggest problem with the NHS - government interference in a professional service for political purposes.

We recently saw the most blatant example of this type of interference that i can remember, the Deep Clean. No less than 57million pounds of additional money was promised to pay for all hospitals to be cleaned thoroughly in an attempt to counter the spread of MRSA and c. difficile infections. True though it is that 57m is a drop in the NHS ocean, it is still 57m quid thrown at a gimmick designed purely to show that the government was doing something. Not surprisingly the Treasury did not fund the whole 57m as it had originally promised and the total spent on the project was more than 65m, only about 60% of which was spent on cleaning, the balance being sucked into the bottomless pit of administration. Little effect on infection rates appears to have resulted but a big dent was made in existing hospital budgets. It was, like all such knee-jerk gimmicks, counterproductive. Even if infection rates had been cut substantially it was a one-off exercise and did not look to the main causes of the problem.

Of far greater benefit would have been the introduction of simple old-fashioned accountability. The person in charge of a hospital ward should be accountable for its cleanliness. Ask any nurse with 30 years' experience and he or she will tell you that when they started work the wards were spotless. Matron was responsible. She could lose her whole career if the state of her ward caused illness or death and she made sure that those under her command cleaned everything thoroughly every day. Now who is responsible? The chief nurse no longer has control because he or she is given priorities based on government diktat by the ward manager, complying with the latest priority from Whitehall takes priority over other spending. The ward manager no longer has control because he or she is simply doing what has been passed down the chain; the same for the department manager, the hospital chief executive and the area trust. By the time we reach that level everything is so remote from the dirty ward that it doesn't matter how many more people can pass the buck up the chain. No one is directly responsible so one possible incentive to cleanliness is missing.

There is, of course, a simple solution; move cleanliness of wards to the top of the list of priorities and then apportion the remaining budget between the many other competing claims for funding. That is how things are done in private hospitals and the levels of infection are negligible. But to approach it in that way is impossible because the government has set targets for waiting times and failure to meet those targets will cost votes. Because the government might suffer, so heavy sanctions can be applied to a hospital or trust which misses the targets. Again political interference gets in the way of doing things properly.

Every private sector business which provides goods or services to the public looks to delivery first and tailors its operation to suit the needs of the customer. A company which manufactures hospital beds must make beds which hospitals want to buy, namely beds which have the features required by clinicians for the benefit of the patients. The customer is asked what is needed and the manufacturer must make it in order to stay in business. If the bed maker operated like the NHS the managing director would decide on the design and require that everyone should have access to just that one design. It is a recipe for commercial disaster but within the NHS it would be claimed to be a great improvement because there is no "post-code lottery" over which patients get the best beds.

Lord Darzi goes a small way to addressing this problem in his proposal for a pilot scheme by which people with long-term health problems are given control over their own "personal care budget" (another ghastly slogan, but the benefit is in the substance not the slogan). We wait to see just how much control the patient will have but it is a welcome first step towards making the service respond to the needs of the customer rather than the political interests of the governing party.

Much more will be needed before the NHS turns from a pile of spaghetti into an efficient organisation ... from little acorns etc.


Nutty British schools honcho

Deception is a stock in trade of the Left so I guess we should not be surprised that he wants more of it

Head teachers have expressed their astonishment after Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, suggested that the best way to prevent six and seven-year-olds from getting stressed about exams was simply not to tell them they were being tested. Mr Balls said that he was angry with schools that had informed parents in advance when children in primary school would sit their compulsory Key Stage 1 tests, sometimes known as SATs. “I cannot believe they are doing that. They should not be doing that,” he said in an interview published today in the New Statesman.

“The best head teachers will ensure that no six or seven-year-old knows they are doing SATs. If you are telling pupils in Year 2 that they are doing SATs then that’s the wrong thing. You should not be stressing the children.” He added: “They don’t need to do the SATs in a sit-down environment. It’s something that can be done as part of the school day. Honestly. And there are loads of schools doing that.”

But his remarks drew an angry response from head teachers. David Fann, head of Sherwood and Broughton primary schools in Preston, and chairman of the Primary Committee of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said Mr Balls had very little idea of the daily realities of running a school. “Children very soon work out when the national tests are going on. Parents hear rumours from parents of children at other schools so it makes no sense to keep the dates a secret. That would add to the stress,” he said. “At my schools we invite in the parents in April to explain the procedures. We do it in a relaxed manner. “When the tests do happen, it is in the usual classroom with a teacher the children know, so it feels normal to them,” he added.

Other head teachers said that they routinely informed parents about the Key Stage 1 testsbecause a warning ensured that children were not taken on holiday that week, were given plenty of sleep and were in school on time. Mr Fann said that a little bit of stress could be good for children, if it was well managed. “Head teachers want to keep stress to reasonable levels, but we also want to motivate and challenge children to do their best,” he said.

Mick Brookes, the general secretary of the NAHT, said he was glad that Mr Balls had admitted that children found tests stressful. Mr Balls will announce an ambitious expansion of the newly formed children’s trusts today. The trusts, which are designed to act as a focal point for integrated service, will become a statutory requirement in every area, placing a legal duty on police, youth justice officials, social workers, and health agencies and other children’s services to include at least one representative from local schools on their board.

Mr Balls will argue that schoolchildren are still being let down by the failure of different parts of the public sector to communicate properly. “Many schools still find it more difficult than they should to get support and specialist help when they need it,” he will tell a conference in London organised by the children’s charity NCH. Mr Balls will also announce powers for central government to force local councils to take over underperforming schools. “It’s important these powers are used appropriately, which is why we are going to bring in legislation to require local authorities to consider formal warning notices when these are clearly justified,” he will say.


Scared to Death by Christopher BOOKER & Richard NORTH

Book review by "Ken"

This is an expose of the cost to society of unsubstantiated scare campaigns.

The human race seems to have an inherent need to predict the end of western civilization as we know it. A familiar sight in cartoon corner is the bearded fanatic holding up a sign saying "THE END OF THE WORLD IS NIGH!". The fact that we have a cartoon cliche for the event should alert us to the frequency of such claims. Such portentous predictions have a similar negative outcome to the modern scares of bird flu, global warming etc. but without the enormous cost to society of these latter phenomena. Unfortunately, the actual purveyors of mass hysteria are not the largely ignored hirsute placard wavers, but respectable suited bureaucrats, ambitious self-promoting scientists, sensation-seeking media, and sycophantic politicians who are too scared to back the true science against a rising tide of popular opinion.

The book's authors were personally involved in many of the scares recorded in its pages, either as consultants or scientific investigators, and so have firsthand knowledge of the fallacious reasoning that propagates many of the panics. They have split the text into three sections; part one simply states case studies of food scares that caused financial ruin to many producers through needless draconian legislation, bad science, and overzealous field operatives; part two elaborates on other non-food related scares while the epilogue attempts to question the reasons the human race seeks out these disasters and offers a pseudo-religious hypothesis for our motivations.

While reading about these events it is difficult not to feel your hackles rising in anger at the simple lack of common sense being applied to apparently innocuous situations that bring unbelievable hardship and, in many cases, bankruptcy to the people concerned. The reader's sense of frustration is heightened by the natural desire to confront the officials concerned and demand answers. While in a few cases a follow up report is offered, I felt an overwhelming desire for resolution and a general feeling of anger towards officials who apparently made stupid choices even when faced with logical truths.

Food health scares in Great Britain saw an overreaction that caused a 70 percent increase in the number of statutory instruments issued between 1986 and 2001. Most of these demands for upgrades and changes to premises were prompted by regulations flowing from new legislation or directives from the European Community.

The authors offer a plausible explanation for the mechanism behind this proliferation of regulations, but seem to simply shrug at the inevitability of it, accepting that the motivations are difficult to disagree with. They accept that our society is obsessed with the desire to legislate away any possibility of harm or accident and in the process are causing idiotic precautions the cost of which are way out of proportion to the risk.

All of the cases examined, of course, were investigated in hindsight when it is relatively easy to isolate areas of extravagant precaution and overreaction. Unfortunately scientific confirmation of the causes of mass poisonings require time to investigate, setting up double-blind tests and examining all of the variables concerned while potentially putting thousands of innocent people at risk. This lag in scientific proof can be very dangerous, "lack of proof that long term damage is not caused by mobile phone use is not proof that mobile phone use does not cause long term damage"

It may be that modern life necessitates that we have to accept the ridiculously high cost of panic-driven precautionary measures in order to prevent a real pandemic. Modern communications and technology is moving so fast that there is very little time to verify safety before rolling out new ideas. When a new cancer drug looks promising everyone with cancer wants access to it immediately.

We have to face the fact that we are living in an age of instant gratification. We cover up undesirable side effects by prescribing a fix for the side effects. We are trapped in a cycle of fixes for fixes.

In attempting to explain the inexplicable, the authors delve into man's deep-seated fears and desires, even suggesting that we are seeking out super sensations simply because we live in an age of unprecedented peace and prosperity. The arguments are well put and quite persuasive, especially the thought that the need for a cause to throw our energies behind has supplanted the religious fervour that is rapidly losing its grip on the masses.

Overall the book is an excellent source of controversial material to give ammunition to those wishing to further the cause of rationalism when arguing with bigots.

I was left with a sense of awe and amazement at the obviously massive extent of hysteria-led decisions that are made at huge public expense by people untrained in scientific principles. Decision makers in general seem singularly unsuitable for the jobs entrusted to them.

There is another review of the same book -- by Prof. Brignell -- here

Eating broccoli reduces prostate cancer?

This is little more than speculation. Some proper skepticism expressed below.

EATING broccoli once a week can reduce a man's chances of developing prostate cancer and might even slow tumour growth, a study suggests. Australian cancer experts have welcomed findings from a British study which have confirmed the benefits of the vegetable on cancer in humans, not just lab rats. However they warn it is still unclear how protective the broccoli is or who will benefit most from adding it to their dinner plate.

Researchers from Institute of Food Research in Norwich, in eastern England, gave 22 men 400g of either broccoli or peas a week equal to one or two portions in addition to their normal diet, for a year. Tissue samples were taken from their prostate gland before and during the trial and the results showed that broccoli changed how genes linked to prostate cancer act. This suggests the broccoli-rich diet reduces the risk of developing prostate cancer and also the chance of localised cancer becoming more aggressive. Other studies have shown that cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli may reduce the risk of prostate cancer and other chronic disease, but this is the first to explain why.

Lead researcher Professor Richard Mithen said the results, published in the journal PLoS ONE, were exciting because they indicate benefits from relatively small quantities. "Other fruits and vegetables have been shown to also reduce the risk of prostate cancer and are likely to act through other mechanisms," he said. "Once we understand these, we can provide much better dietary advice in which specific combinations of fruit and vegetable are likely to be particularly beneficial."

Cancer Council Australia chief executive Professor Ian Olver said the result was interesting but larger studies were needed to prove broccoli caused the reduced cancer risk. Dr Michael Fenech, principal research scientist at CSIRO Human Nutrition, warned that studies had yet to show broccoli consumption affected levels of PSA, the main biomarker of prostate cancer risk, or that it changed tumour cell growth. "There is also little direct evidence to suggest that eating more broccoli protects you against prostate cancer if you are susceptible due to any genetic or environmental factor," Dr Fenech said.


Red tape nobbles British police: "Frontline police sergeants spend almost half their time on paperwork and just 10 per cent attending the scenes of crime and incidents, according to a report published today. In it sergeants complained that they were swamped by paperwork related to targets and work performance. One officer said: "Click, click, tap, tap best describes my job; mainly recording performance figures." The finding that frontline sergeants were spending 45 per cent of their time on paperwork is highly embarrassing for the Police Service and the Home Office, which have often pledged to cut red tape to get officers out on the beat. Sergeants also reported that they were afraid to challenge scruffy constables in case they were accused of bullying and that they were not adequately trained or supported to supervise constables"

1 comment:

TheFatBigot said...

How enormously exciting! Someone has cited one of my little missives, and in a blog from down-under. I am hugely flattered.

Please feel free to pop-back and visit my musings again, I have half-baked opinions on a wide variety of subjects.