Tuesday, September 23, 2008


This is an amusing one. Some more cart before the horse logic. The authors find that people are slimmer where there are more doctors. But, despite hailing from good old class-conscious England, they have missed the obvious. Middle class people are slimmer and live in nicer areas. And doctors like living in nicer areas and seeing middle class people. So it is nicer areas that cause both the slimness and the increased presence of doctors. The presence of more doctors is not causal. Abstract follows:

GP supply and obesity

By Stephen Morris and Hugh Gravelle


We investigate the relationship between area general practitioner (GP) supply and individual body mass index (BMI) in England. Individual level BMI is regressed against area whole time equivalent GPs per 1000 population plus a large number of individual and area level covariates. We use instrumental variables (area house prices and age weighted capitation) to allow for the endogeneity of GP supply. We find that that a 10% increase in GP supply is associated with a mean reduction in BMI of around 1 kg/m2 (around 4% of mean BMI). The results suggest that reduced list sizes per GP can improve the management of obesity.


Social class 'determines child's success' in Britain

Given the woeful standards of government schools, it's no surprise. People with a bit of money in Britain send their kids private

Children's social class is still the most significant factor in determining their exam success in state schools, the Government's head of teacher training acknowledges today. In an interview with The Independent, Graham Holley, the chief executive of the Training and Development Agency, said: "The performance of a school and a child in it is highly linked to social class. "If you turn the clock back on pupils in school today 15 years and predict their outcomes from where they were born, you can do it.

"We need to change that. It's not something this government has done. It's not something the last government has done. It's something that has been there since the Second World War and probably even before that."

Mr Holley also warned that as many as three in every 10 secondary schools (around 1,000 state schools) were "arguably still performing unsatisfactorily". But he distanced himself from the claim made by Gordon Brown that schools that failed to get 30 per cent of their pupils to achieve five A* to C grade passes at GCSE were "failing". "I'm not saying they [the three in ten] are failing and I'm not saying that these schools all have a challenging intake. There are some schools whose results do not look bad on paper that are complacent and coasting and they're not doing as well with their children as are schools in very similar circumstances. "We have to ask why is that? It is not down to individual teachers' competence. It is down to they way they are managed."

Mr Holley was speaking after presenting his views to a high level private meeting of senior educationalists in an attempt to improve the impact teaching can have on the quality of children's lives. He called for moves to ensure the most highly qualified teachers were persuaded to teach in the country's most disadvantaged schools.

He said the Training and Development Agency was examining ways of achieving this - including the prospect of paying "golden hellos" and "golden handcuffs" (where newly-qualified teachers are paid extra provided they sign a contract committing themselves to working for a certain period of time in a school). But he insisted: "It's not just about money. We need to ensure they have the professional support to deal with issues as they arise. "It takes some time to manage a class well and control and manage behaviour - including poor behaviour. It is quite possible to tolerate a level of disruption in a class and for there still to be learning taking place. Also, just because pupils have stopped throwing things about, it doesn't mean they're now learning well. "It is a very difficult challenge for a teacher to learn this. They will not have had this experience and they will need continuing professional development."

Mr Holley also called for more investment in schools offering extended services - such as breakfast and homework clubs - to help deprived children overcome the handicaps of working at home. "Children are turning up to school, cold hungry and not in the right frame of mind to learn," he said. "There also may be nowhere for them to do homework at home - their parents may be working or a single parent could be pre-occupied with other things."

He also revealed that the agency is increasing the number of "enhancement" courses to boost the number of maths and science teachers in schools. Under this initiative, graduates with an allied degree - in engineering or, say, oceanography - can spend up to six months topping up their skills to become science teachers. They would be paid a bursary of œ225 a week while on the course.


British bar owners told traditional sign 'encourages drink driving'

Landlords Trisha and Thomas Russell were told to remove the board, which shows an arrow beneath the words: 'The Black Dog, Chilmark, Bar and Restaurant' as it was deemed distracting to motorists. The sign, the size of a sandwich board, was erected two decades ago, as the pub is located away from the main A303 road.

The couple, who took over the tenancy four weeks ago were surprised to hear they needed planning permission for the sign and were then shocked to receive an objection from the Highways Agency for their application. A letter from the agency read: "The sign contains several lines of text and is therefore distracting to motorists. "It is also advertising the use of a public house to motorists, potentially providing the temptation to drink and drive while using a long distance trunk route.

"No alcohol is allowed to be served or consumed in service stations on motorways as a matter of principle. "We would wish to continue this principle by not encouraging drivers to break their journey in a public house."

Mrs Russell, 41, said the objection was ridiculous and the pub in Chilmark, Wiltshire, also serves a range of soft drinks and meals. She believes removal of the sign could lead to a dramatic drop in customers. "Motorists who come in only use the toilet and have a sandwich alongside a glass of lemonade," she said. "We get a lot of our business from the sign and without it I worry that our customer numbers will fall considerably. "We came here from another pub and have never experienced anything as daft as this, " she added.

A spokesman for the Highways Agency said the letter could be "misconstrued" and there was no implication that signs of public houses would lead to an increase in drink driving. "The decision to drink drive is a personal one and not directly the responsibility of the publican or the business." A spokeswoman for West Wiltshire District Council said the planning application was still under-review and that a decision had not yet been made.


Global Warming's Boom Bust

Global warming' is sub-prime science, sub-prime economics, and sub-prime politics, and it could well go down with the sub-prime mortgage.

Despite all the undoubted political and economic gloom, the delightful thing about today's Sunday newspapers is the virtual absence of the phrase `global warming'. `Global warming' has been effectively buried, by collapsing banks and plunging markets, by rising energy costs, by internal battling within the Labour Party, by pitbulls and the American election, by real threats, like knife crime and terrorism in Islamabad, and by the fact that, on nearly every bit of current evidence, the world is likely to enter a cooling phase - the BBC please note.

Interestingly, the final part of BBC 2's dire series, `Earth - The Climate Wars', which is to be shown this evening, has also fallen out of the ratings, not even, for example, being suggested under `Choice' in The Sunday Times television listings [see: `Culture', The Sunday Times, September 21, pp. 60 - 61]. Mind you, as I have already pointed out, this seriously-unbalanced programme has been well and truly `flounced', and rightly so, by BBC 1's new four-part costume drama, `Tess of the D'Urbervilles' [see: `Tess Trumps Trumpery', September 16]. The pretty Morris dancers have pranced all over it. And tonight, thank goodness, it doesn't stand a chance, as Angel Clare carries the four milkmaids, one by one, across that famous swollen stream. Guess which programme I'll be watching? Phwoar!

Double Whammy!

The only exception to all this is a double whammy against `global warming' by Christopher Booker writing in The Sunday Telegraph [`Financial crisis: Lehman misses out on carbon credit scam', The Sunday Telegraph, September 21].

First, we should note that Booker is also scathing about `Earth - The Climate Wars' [see the Section (scroll down): `BBC series stitches up sceptics in counter-attack over climate change' - thank goodness I wasn't interviewed!]: "There was no hint that the `hockey stick' is among the most completely discredited artefacts in the history of science, not least thanks to the devastating critique by Steve McIntyre, which showed that the graph's creators had an algorithm in their programme which could produce a hockey-stick shape whatever data were fed into it.

There was scarcely a frame of this clever exercise which did not distort or obscure some vital fact. Yet the `impartial' BBC is sending out this farrago of convenient untruths to schools, ensuring that the `march of the lie' continues."

Actually, I think that the BBC has made a somewhat more fundamental miscalculation. What strikes me about this programme is how old fashioned the whole concept now seems, how out-of-date the trope and the battle. It is as if world economics and politics have not changed dramatically over the last year. The brutal truth is that the `global warming' boom is bust. Fewer and fewer people are interested. Indeed, even I am bored to distraction by it , and as for Goodwife Stott ....

"The Economics Of The Madhouse"

But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Booker exposes the sheer economic idiocy behind `global warming', claiming: "What is the connection between the bankrupt Lehman Brothers [see left: photo by David Shankbone, reproduced under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation Licence, Version 1.2 or any later version] and the likelihood that in four years' time our electricity bills will jump another 25 per cent (on top of the rises likely from soaring coal and gas prices)?

The answer is that, before its collapse, Lehman was pitching to become the leader in the vast trade created by the new worldwide regulatory system to `fight climate change' by curbing emissions of carbon dioxide."

He goes on: "Advised by some of the world's leading global warming activists, such as Dr James Hansen and Al Gore (a close friend of the firm's erstwhile managing director Theodore Roosevelt IV), Lehman bought their message wholesale. GIM, the company set up by Gore to sell `carbon offsets' in return for planting trees, was a prized Lehman client.

The particular market that Lehman hoped to dominate is centred on the buying and selling of carbon permits, through the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) set up in 2005, the UN's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and the `cap and trade' system proposed for the US by both McCain and Obama. This may still seem abstract but it will affect all our lives, because ultimately we will all be paying for it, through the colossal costs it will impose on industry, not least electricity."

And Booker's overall conclusion is trenchant: "Everything about this grandiose scheme betokens the economics of the madhouse ... What is certain is that it will pile astronomic costs onto everyone in the EU, inevitably impacting most severely on poorer householders that will face bills they cannot afford. The only other certainty - perhaps a consolation - is that those sharing in this bonanza will not include Lehman Brothers, now excluded from cashing in on what threatens to become the maddest scam the world has ever seen."

Now, while I don't know the ins and outs of all this, of one thing I am certain. With a world likely to cool during the next decade, with a world economy set in austere mode, and with the new politics of China, India, Brazil, and the rest, Big Global Warming's boom days are surely coming to an end.


Another drug trial disaster in Britain

A 27-YEAR-OLD man has died in a government-funded medical trial, in which at least two other patients were given overdoses. Gary Foster, a graphic designer who was planning to get married this month, was on seven occasions given double the amount of chemotherapy he should have been prescribed. His mother, Colleen Foster, said: "Gary was slowly poisoned to death."

The mistakes raise questions about the safety of medical trials in Britain two years after the notorious "elephant man" trial, which was supposed to have led to tighter supervision. Six men nearly died after their bodies swelled horrifically after taking the experimental drug TGN1412.

University College London Hospitals NHS Trust (UCLH), one of Britain's largest trusts, has been forced to suspend the trial although it is continuing at other UK hospitals. Foster's death was due to a fundamental error in the setting-up of the trial on the hospital computer system. A second UCLH patient was affected by the same error, but survived.

Another patient, who died at a different hospital, and whose name has not been disclosed, also received an overdose of the drug bleomycin. In that case, the overdose was due to an error by a nurse or doctor rather than a basic flaw in the setting-up of the trial. According to the Medical Research Council (MRC), the government-funded organisation which ran the trial, the drug was not the direct cause of his death.

When the MRC suspected that patients had been given overdoses, instead of calling UCLH immediately, it posted a letter on October 3, 2007. An inquest into Foster's death heard that a nurse failed to open the letter until October 16, two days after his death. The family concede that by October 3 it was too late to save Foster because he was already dying of organ failure caused by the overdoses.

Foster, from Waltham Abbey, Essex, was eager to join the medical trial in June 2007. He had just been diagnosed with testicular cancer, and he had a 60% chance of survival. The disease has a survival rate of about 95% if caught early. Doctors told Foster that, if he was accepted for the trial, his chances of survival would increase.

Colleen Foster said: "The trial sister said: `Good news, Gary, you have been selected for the trial.' At UCLH they said, `Don't worry, testicular cancer is curable. We will monitor Gary for 10 years - you don't have to worry.' They made us feel so confident." His fiancee, Paula Collins, 35, added: "When Gary became involved in the trial, we thought it was fantastic news because we thought Gary's chance of survival would be greater and the care would be better."

The trial, called TE23, was testing whether a combination of five existing chemotherapy drugs was better at treating testicular cancer than the standard treatment of three drugs. Foster was in the group receiving the new therapy. From June until mid-September 2007 he made regular trips to UCLH in central London, to receive the drugs. On seven occasions between July and September last year, he received 30,000 units of one of the drugs, bleomycin, instead of 15,000. Foster and his family had no idea the drugs they believed were saving his life were killing him. Colleen Foster said: "We just thought Gary was getting tired because of the chemotherapy."

Eventually Foster developed a dry cough, a symptom of lung damage, caused by an overdose of bleomycin. An inquest heard that the cough should have been recognised by doctors and nurses as a warning sign that the bleomycin was damaging his lungs. Despite the cough, Foster was given a final dose. The coroner ruled that Foster died as a result of lung damage caused by an overdose of bleomycin. The coroner also found that the instructions for the trial had been wrongly set up on the electronic prescribing system at UCLH.

Colleen Foster said: "An overdose gives the impression that it was a one-off. It was seven times. Every week my poor Gary was going into hospital, we thought he was getting better but, actually, he was being slowly poisoned and poisoned to death." Eventually he became so ill that he was transferred to intensive care and put on a ventilator, but attempts to save him were in vain. Foster's family blame his death on a trial they say was set up in a hurried and piecemeal manner.

Collins said: "Checks should have been carried out. It is incomprehensible that they were dealing with the most dangerous medicines and they were so blase. It was so slapdash. "We had dreams and lots of plans together," she said. "Gary also had his own ambitions. We were supposed to be getting married on Saturday September 6, instead, on the Tuesday before, we were at the inquest. He was such a lovely person. He was so well liked and had so many friends."

"We do need trials but there need to be more controls," Collins added. "I would encourage other people thinking about taking part in trials to proceed with caution. I would hate to think of anyone else going through what we have gone through." .....

The MRC said it had reviewed its trial procedures as a result of the tragedy and introduced additional checks. It said it followed its normal procedures by posting its concerns rather than making an emergency phone call. "During the processing of the forms for the UCLH patients, a possible dosing error for these two patients was spotted. A query form was then returned to the hospital." Dr Stephen Harland, who was in charge of the trial at UCLH and supervised Foster's care, declined to comment....


Must not criticize Islam

British critic to be banned from teaching because of his "intolerance". British teachers are generally very Leftist and so are those who control and represent them.
"A teacher could face being struck off over allegations of racial and religious intolerance. Adam Walker, who taught at Houghton Kepier School, is believed to be the first teacher to be hauled before England's General Teaching Council (GTC) to face the charge. It is believed he is accused of expressing views "suggestive of racial and religious intolerance" in an Internet forum.

The 39-year-old, from County Durham, has stood as a candidate for the British National Party (BNP) in local elections. He claims the allegations against him are driven by "politically motivated spite". Mr Walker, a design teacher, resigned from Houghton Kepier Sports College after the school began disciplinary action in early 2007.


The BNP is an anti-immigration party.

Note the following Leftist comment from another report of the matter:
"But Christina McAnea, of the Unison union, questioned whether BNP members should be allowed to teach. "Schools should be centres of learning and tolerance, not a breeding ground for the poisonous views of the BNP," she said.

Christina sounds pretty intolerant herself. Perhaps she too should be banned from teaching.

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