Saturday, August 23, 2008

Censored: Imam of Dibley is banned from British TV

We read:
"Have you heard the one about the Islamic comedy sketch that ITV ordered its latest star to remove? Katy Brand was the victim of humourless lawyers who instructed her to delete a harmless-sounding spoof called The Iman of Dibley.

"It was not intended to be offensive," says the comedian, whose Katy Brand's Big Ass Show returns on ITV2. "A new iman arrives in a sleepy parish and the comedy arrives from the misunderstandings that causes. But the lawyers said it might be culturally insensitive."

It's no laughing matter, argues Brand, 29, an Oxford theology graduate. "The vast majority of Muslims are able to have a laugh at themselves just like everyone else. Why should they be excluded from comedy? It's funny that ITV had no problem with a new sketch about a pregnant Jesus's girlfriend who has to deal with dating the Son of God."


("Imam of Dibley" is a reference to a popular British TV comedy: "The vicar of Dibley" -- featuring a fat female priest of the Church of England)

Disorganized British paramedics kill woman

A Midland widower whose wife died after alleged delays by paramedics in getting her to hospital has criticised the ambulance service for not apologising four years after her death. Roger Bereza, who lives in Coventry, spoke out after West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) paid an undisclosed six-figure-sum in an out of court settlement earlier this month.

His 41-year-old wife Tracey had suffered asthma since childhood but on April 11, 2004 she had an acute attack and her condition continued to worsen, so Mr Bereza dialled 999 for an ambulance.

As well as complaints about the way the ambulance crew treated his wife at the scene, he said they had to ask him for directions to the nearest hospital and went the wrong way. A crew of two paramedics arrived at the family home at just after 9.20pm but, he said, it took more than 75 minutes to take his wife to hospital during which time she went into respiratory arrest.

Mr Bereza, a 47-year-old RAC patrolman, claimed there was a series of shortcomings in the way his wife's care was handled and once in the ambulance she suffered a respiratory arrest. He said he could only watch as his wife vomited blood, turned blue and arrested in front of him, as his three daughters looked on from the house. "By now I knew I had to do something, so I started doing chest compressions on Tracey's chest while one of the paramedics tried to get the defibrilator to work. Monitors were showing her pulse was at zero, and we were still on the driveway. I couldn't give up on her, even though I realised it was the beginning of the end."

They arrived at Coventry & Warwickshire A&E at 10.35pm. Mrs Bereza never regained consciousness and died four days later after her family took the difficult decision to turn off her life support machine. The couple, who had three daughters aged 20, 19 and nine, were due to celebrate their 21st wedding anniversary in June 2004.

Despite the pay-out from WMAS, the family said they had yet to receive a formal apology or admission of liability. A trust spokesman said: "WMAS first became involved in the treatment of Mrs Bereza on the evening April 11, 2004 when her husband called for an ambulance. Mrs Bereza had suffered an asthma attack after inhaling polish fumes. "The trust wrote to Mr Bereza on July 22, 2008 in regard to his claims about the level of care given to his wife and expressed its `sincere regret'. "WMAS is always learning from its experiences and strives constantly to find ways of improving patient care. "In light of this case, further inquiries into the trust's protocols were undertaken to ensure that the training and actions of staff are appropriate at all times."

Mr Bereza added: "I am still extremely angry. This tragedy should never have happened. "Although Tracey had suffered from asthma since childhood, it was controlled most of the time. We knew that if she had a severe attack we had to get her to hospital as soon as possible. Even though we live just 10 minutes from the nearest A&E, I had always been told to call an ambulance and not to attempt to drive there myself in case we got stuck in traffic or Tracey required emergency oxygen for her nebuliser. "I wish I'd ignored this advice and taken Tracey to hospital myself."

Lindsay Gibb, a medical negligence expert with Birmingham-based law firm Irwin Mitchell, said: "This is a hollow victory for the family because despite agreeing to pay a significant sum by way of compensation, the trust has not apologised to the family or accepted that its paramedics were negligent in any way. "The relevant guidelines state that: .'in a life threatening or acute severe asthma attack - do not delay transportation. Load and go to nearest suitable receiving hospital and provide nebulisation en route'. "This clearly was not the case on this occasion and the evidence suggests these delays were responsible for the fatal outcome."


HRT 'boosts quality of life'

Nice to see an admission of how vanishingly small any risk is

Six years after widespread panic about hormone replacement therapy causing cancer and strokes, research suggests it improves quality of life. One of the world's longest and largest trials of hormone replacement therapy has found it can improve sleep, sexuality and joint pain in post-menopausal women. Published today by the British Medical Journal, the results are from a study by the WISDOM research team (Women's international study of long duration oestrogen after menopause). The study involved 2130 post-menopausal women in Britain, Australia and New Zealand, and assessed the impact of combined oestrogen and progestogen hormone therapy on the quality of life.

The average age of women in the study was 63, and 70 per cent of participants did not have menopausal symptoms of hot flushes and night sweats. University of Adelaide obstetrics and gynaecology Professor Alastair MacLennan, who led the Australian arm of the research, said the results were interesting but he was not recommending that women with no symptoms use HRT. "Our results show that hot flushes, night sweats, sleeplessness and joint pains were less common in women on HRT in this age group," he said yesterday. "Sexuality was also improved. Overall, quality of life measures improved. Even when women did not have hot flushes and were well past menopause, there was a small but measurable improvement in quality of life and a noted improvement in sleep, sexuality and joint pains."

Professor MacLennan said studies such as those conducted by WISDOM enabled the risks of HRT to be reduced and benefits maximised when the treatment was tailored to the individual. Early side effects could usually be eased by adjusting the treatment, he said. For most women with significant menopausal symptoms, the benefits of HRT outweigh the risks.

In 2002, an eight-year HRT trial was stopped after five years because researchers concluded the risks were too great, with evidence of more cancers and strokes. The news caused women around the world to abandon HRT, with Australian women reacting more strongly than most. In Europe, about 5 per cent of women stopped treatment, compared with up to 40 per cent in Australia, although many have since returned.

Professor MacLennan said the most recent analyses of the main long-term randomised control trial of HRT - the Women's Health Initiative - showed breast cancer incidence did not increase with oestrogen-only HRT and was only increased in women using combined oestrogen and progestogen HRT after seven years of use. This increased risk was less than 0.1 per cent [That's one tenth of one percent] per year of use. If a woman feels that HRT is needed for quality of life, then doctors can find the safest regimen for her, Professor MacLennan said. She can try going off HRT every four to five years, and can then make an informed choice about whether she takes and continues HRT.

The WISDOM research is independent of the pharmaceutical industry and has been funded by UK, Australian and New Zealand government research bodies. Australian Medical Association state president Dr Peter Ford said women should weigh up the known risks and benefits of HRT. Those with acute menopausal symptoms could gain considerable relief from the therapy. When people are really in distress from those symptoms, its a godsend, quite frankly, to be able to offer it, he said.


A disgusting example of `junk television'

BBC3 has given us yet another helping of mechanically-generated TV designed to scare us about what we eat.

Cheap food is often not very good. Sometimes it might look the part, but the content is frequently sickly and leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. How appropriate, then, that a programme `revealing' this fact should have been shown on BBC3 - the Beeb's yoof TV channel which produces documentaries that seem like a tasty treat on the outside but are actually stuffed with crap.

Britain's Really Disgusting Foods, presented by the mildly amusing Alex Riley, was the search for the worst thing you could eat that is legally available in shops. Riley has thick, black-rimmed glasses and could probably do with a haircut. He looks like a dork and has a vaguely northern accent, but his management calls him `tall, sleek and unconventionally handsome'. Whatever.

He went in search of foods that had the most `stuff' added to them. Unsurprisingly, this didn't mean organic parsnips, but the kind of food churned out by big food processors and sold in your local cash-and-carry.

His first target was something called `cheese alternative'. This is an `analogue', a substance that contains some of the qualities of cheese - it even contains some skimmed milk - but isn't actually produced in the same way as cheese. Instead, it is created by the block load to pad out cheap supermarket food and takeaway pizzas and is packed full of `E' numbers - that is, artificial additives. And it doesn't taste of anything very much, never mind cheese.

If the `cheese' is full of additives, the chicken breasts are full of water. Riley managed to find some in his local Booker cash-and-carry store (yes, bizarrely, it is the same Booker that sponsors Britain's most famous literary prize) which contained just 60 per cent chicken and lots of water. You won't find chicken breasts like this in the local supermarket, but you might find them in your restaurant-bought chicken fried rice or chicken vindaloo. A trader in Smithfield, London's main meat market, told Britain's Really Disgusting Foods that chicken breasts stuffed full of water are popular with Chinese and Indian takeaways.

Another unsurprising target were sausages. They're absolutely full of rubbish, right? Well, actually, not as much as you might think. Riley was most disappointed to find that eyelids, scrotums, anuses and ears aren't allowed into any product labelled `sausage'. In fact, sausages must be 32 per cent meat at least, and most good-quality sausages contain 80 per cent or more.

However there's lots of other stuff you can put into meat products - like connective tissue - which might otherwise be thrown away. You'd have thought in an era of waste-not-want-not eco-frugality that the efficiency of the meat industry in this respect would have been praised. Many processed products are also bulked out with ingredients that are a hell of a lot cheaper than real meat: rusk, soya, colouring, etc. Confront people with the raw ingredients and they will turn their noses up. Offer samples of such a sausage at the posh nosh exhibition the Good Food Show, as Riley did, and people seem to think they're actually quite nice. Just don't mention what's in them.

This only goes to show the pragmatic attitude we Brits have to our food. As long as someone can assure us that what we eat isn't harmful, we'll happily munch away. Restaurants perform much the same trick. It doesn't really matter what you're eating - if it's cooked with half a pack of butter and seasoned well, it's going to taste good. We just love salt and fat, whether it's fine dining or the local takeaway after a heavy session.

As is often the way with this kind of TV show, Riley pulled in an expert or two to suggest that eating this kind of rubbish is responsible for the `wave of degenerative disease' in Britain, without actually detailing why that might be the case (or even proving that it is true). Like the pies he created to show off the worst of British processed food practices, Riley's film didn't have a lot of meat in it.

He did, however, manage one good thing. Booker's magazine for the Good Food Show featured a column by potty-mouthed celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, which apparently extolled the virtues of Booker's wares to the catering trade. No doubt Ramsay was mortified to be featured in a programme on crap sausages and dodgy chicken; these are the type of catering practices he attacks in shows like Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. But that's what you risk if you whore your reputation as a multi-Michelin starred chef to all-comers - just the kind of thing that a young, up-and-coming chef called Gordon Ramsay was railing against 10 years ago.

Britain's Really Disgusting Foods was another prime cut of the kind of no-need-to-watch factual programming mechanically generated by BBC3 and, indeed, by every other channel these days. From Honey, We're Killing the Kids to It's Shit Being an Indian Sweatshop Worker (okay, I made the last one up), factual television has been reduced to junk telly, as obvious and unsatisfying as a Pot Noodle. Yummy!


Immigration pushes British population to record high

Immigration and a sharp rise in births by non-British mothers have pushed the population to almost 61m, figures show. The total number of people in Britain grew by 388,000 to 60,975,000 in the year up to mid-2007, leaving it more than 2m higher than in 2001. A record 605,000 long-term migrants - those staying longer than a year - settled in the country during the year, according to the Office for National Statistics - 21 per cent more than did in 2001.

However long-term migration out of Britain also reached a record high of 406,000 in the year. This means the number of people leaving Britain is now 30pc cent higher than it was just seven years ago. Statisticians said they were "surprised" to find that net migration - the difference between comings and goings - stood at 198,000 - 11,000 more than in 2001.

Meanwhile rising fertility rates and an increase in the number of women at childbearing age - many of whom are recent arrivals - saw a sharp increase in the birth rate. A total of 758,000 children were born - an increase of more than 12pc on the year before.

The population was also boosted by a fall in the number of deaths, which has decreased from 599,000 in 2001 to 571,000 last year. For the first time ever, there are now more people in Britain of a pensionable age than there are children. Men aged 65+ and women aged 60+ now make up almost a fifth of the population. The oldest age group - those aged 80+ - is also the fastest growing in Britain, and has increased by more than 1.2m since 1981.

The figures also showed that the changes in population vary dramatically across Britain. The areas that have experienced the highest increases to their populations are Westminster, Camden, South Northants, Forest Heath, Colchester and South Derbyshire. All have seen jumps in their total populations of more than 12pc since 2001.

In the same period the largest reductions in population occurred in Sefton, Burnley, Middlesbrough, Rushmoor, Wirral and Sunderland - all of which have seen their headcounts drop by 2pc. Researchers found that Cambridge had the most mobile population in the country - a higher proportion of people have moved in and out of the city since 2001 than in any other part of Britain.


Yet more proof that you can NEVER entrust ID details to British bureaucrats: "Confidential records and sensitive intelligence on tens of thousands of the country's most prolific criminals have been lost in a major breach of data security at the heart of Whitehall. Scotland Yard is investigating the loss of the information, which was taken from the Police National Computer and entrusted by the Home Office to a private consultancy firm. The data had been encrypted for security reasons but was decoded by staff at PA Consulting Group and placed on a computer memory stick that was subsequently lost. The device contains personal details and intelligence on 33,000 serious offenders, dossiers on 10,000 "priority criminals" and the names and dates of birth of all 84,000 prisoners in England and Wales."

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