Wednesday, December 24, 2008

'Sex chip' will have us wired, Oxford University researcher says

Forget Viagra: scientists are working on an electronic "sex chip" that will be able to stimulate pleasure centres in the brain, The Australian reports. The prospect of the chip is emerging from progress in deep brain stimulation, in which tiny shocks from implanted electrodes are given to the brain. It has already been used to treat symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

In recent months, scientists have been focusing on an area of the brain just behind the eyes known as the orbitofrontal cortex. This is associated with feelings of pleasure derived from eating and sex. A research survey conducted by Morten Kringelbach, senior fellow at Oxford University's department of psychiatry, and reported in the Nature Reviews Neuroscience journal, found the orbitofrontal cortex could be a "new stimulation target" to help people suffering from anhedonia, an inability to experience pleasure from such activities. Stimulating this area can produce pleasure as intense as "devouring a delicious pastry", he said.

His colleague Tipu Aziz, a professor of neurosurgery at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, predicted a significant breakthrough in the science behind a "sex chip" within 10 years. "There is evidence that this chip will work," Dr Aziz said. "A few years ago, a scientist implanted such a device into the brain of a woman with a low sex drive and turned her into a very sexually active woman. She didn't like the sudden change, so the wiring in her head was removed."

The wiring remains a hurdle: Dr Aziz says current technology, which requires surgery to connect a wire from a heart pacemaker into the brain, causes bleeding in some patients and is "intrusive and crude". By 2015, he predicts, micro-computers in the brain with a range of applications could be self-powered and controlled by hand-held transmitters.


British government leaflets advise on the dangers of baubles and the terror of tinsel

Whatever you do this Christmas, don't let the children into the kitchen while you are cooking the turkey. Always finish your drink to avoid a youngster having a taste and ending up with alcohol poisoning. And, of course, never hang baubles on the tree. They might break and give someone a nasty cut.

These 'tips', from a list of gratuitous health and safety advice issued yesterday, came not from a misguided town hall jobsworth, but with the authority of Children's Secretary Ed Balls. Mr Balls's officials have printed 150,000 leaflets designed to look like advent calendars, to be distributed through shopping malls and children's centres 'to help make the festive season safe'. The leaflets from the Department for Children, Schools and Families warn of common accidents that can happen at Christmas.

They alert families to the dangers of tinsel. A thousand people each year, the leaflets declare, are 'hurt by trimmings or when decorating their homes'. Another 1,000 people a year have to go to hospital after accidents with Christmas trees, according to the publication. Among the risks families are told to bear in mind are tipsy guests 'crashing to the floor when they miss their seat at the dinner table'.

Parents may stab themselves with scissors should they try to use them as screwdrivers when building children's toys, the leaflets advise. They may cut themselves with knives used to prize open presents quickly. Children could be hurt if they fall off rocking horses or ride their new bikes into walls. Cooks may spill hot fat over themselves or get 'nasty cuts when chopping piles of vegetables'.

Children's minister Delyth Morgan said the leaflet would remind parents of safeguards-around the home so they can 'make sure Christmas is a time for fun and laughter but not tears'. The advice leaflet, titled 'Tis the Season to be Careful, ran into trouble with critics who pointed out that Mr Balls's department is in charge of the 'safeguarding children' system that failed to prevent the death of Baby P.

Tory junior Children's spokesman Tim Loughton said: 'This is yet more evidence that the DCSF really stands for the Department that Can't Stop Fiddling. 'It is ironic that a Government Department which has become accident prone for messing up test results, pouring millions into databases that don't work and failing to protect our most vulnerable children is now spending thousands on producing leaflets to state the blindingly obvious.'

The leaflet, published as part of Mr Balls' Children's Plan which pledges to keep every child safe from harm, has 11 tips for parents.


Another case of abusive homosexuals

California is not alone:
"An aide to the Archbishop of Canterbury has been sacked after writing an insult to a senior bishop into an official document. The Lambeth Palace staff member made an offensive reference to the Bishop of Rochester, the Right Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali, who has been at odds with the Archbishop over the issue of homosexuality. The document in the affair, a list of candidates for job vacancies, included a reference to 'the a***hole Bishop of Rochester'. It was copied to all 43 of the Church of England's diocesan bishops and to Downing Street. The rogue word was noticed only after the paper had been circulated.

A Church of England spokesman yesterday confirmed the Lambeth Palace aide responsible had been sacked. He said: 'When this came to light there was an immediate investigation. The person responsible admitted to it and was summarily dismissed.' The culprit is widely assumed to have been someone who sympathises with the Church of England's gay lobby. The Church has declined to name him or her.


Abuse them and it is homophobia. So is this heterophobia?

Welfare booms under Britain's Labour government

The number of people who have been on benefits for more than five years has increased nearly 30% under Labour. Official statistics show that since 1999 the number of long-term claimants has grown from 1.84m to 2.34m, a 27% rise, despite a fall in the overall number of those claiming from 5.4m to 5.1m. The increase has taken place despite Labour's pledge when it came to power in 1997 to make cutting benefit dependency a priority. Tony Blair, the former prime minister, said: "We want to encourage work, not dependency."

Benefit dependency is highest in former industrial areas. Easington, in Co Durham, has the highest number on long-term benefits relative to population; other hot spots include Swansea and Merthyr Tydfil in south Wales.

Ministers are also increasingly alarmed by fraud. Earlier this year David Freud, a pensions expert and government adviser, published a report which said that fewer than one in three of the 2.7m people on incapacity benefit was entitled to claim it.


The destructive British welfare state: "To most people, I imagine, welfare seems an obviously good thing. But in fact the corrosive and iniquitous side of welfare has been evident for many decades. It's only now that people are poking their heads out of the trench and daring to say so. You can see the devastating effects of welfare in Britain, for example, in the exponential rise in single motherhood. The figures are astonishing. In the 1950s almost all children in Britain were brought up by their natural parents. Today, only around half the children in Britain are brought up by their natural parents. Half! To see why that happened, let me paint you a picture. In the 1950s, the typical working man and his wife In Britain lived in an income-tax free existence. They kept every penny they earned. For an unmarried teenager, there was no council flat (the `projects' I think you call them), no rent rebate, no rate rebate, no housing benefit or anything else. The burden of looking after her and the child fell on her family, friends or charity. Parents who discovered their daughters were pregnant were understandably furious - because they had to pick up the tab. That's why Dad stomped round to the family of the boy responsible, to call him to account. They boy's family understood the full economic implications of making babies and came down on him like a ton of bricks. From the real economic relationships there arose a real moral code - the value and the cost of things were clear. The growth of welfare benefits has been huge since that time. And within that system a pregnant girl gets special treatment (top of the state housing list etc). The fear has gone. The old idea, "Don't, for heaven's sake, get pregnant. It would be a disaster" has gone."

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