Thursday, January 01, 2009

What a wonder!

Brilliant surgical thinking brings about a "miracle"

A girl who had almost a third of her heart removed in a desperate attempt to save her life has made a complete recovery, doctors say. Kirsty Collier was not expected to live long. She was born with abnormal blood vessels, which starved her heart of oxygen. Aged 4 months, she had suffered multiple heart attacks and was on the brink of death. Surgeons at John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, had been unable to restart her heart after a heart bypass operation and warned her parents that she was unlikely to survive. But everything changed when they cut away a huge section of muscle to reduce pressure on the heart, in the hope that it would start beating again.

Kirsty is now a sporty, healthy ten-year-old, and to the astonishment of doctors, her heart appears to have returned to a normal size. Professor Stephen Westaby, who operated on her in 1998, called her recovery miraculous. "She was essentially dead and was only resurrected by what I regarded at the time as a completely bizarre operation," he said. "I tried for a full 90 minutes to separate her from the heart-lung machine." With nothing to lose, he cut open Kirsty's heart, removed a third of her muscle wall and stitched it back together. "I have to confess I never thought it would work," he said. "It [the heart] was an awful lot smaller."

Scans show that her heart is now the normal size and shape for a girl of her age. Surgeons believe that this is the first time a human heart has been shown to heal itself in such a dramatic way. Professor Westaby added: "We were astonished. A recent MRI scan has shown the scar on the heart has disappeared. I find that absolutely fascinating because an adult heart wouldn't do that."

Kirsty's mother, Becky Collier, 38, from Cirencester, Gloucestershire, recalled seeing her daughter in the recovery room: "There she was, my tiny baby, with tubes everywhere. But I could tell by looking at her that she would keep going." Kirsty is now fit enough to play in school rugby and football teams.

Mrs Collier added: "It's amazing what she has overcome. She's such a brave little girl and has never let her condition affect her life at all. She's always out playing something. It's hard to imagine that she was ill." But Kirsty doesn't want a fuss over her recovery. "I don't want to be different to anyone else just because I've had a heart operation," she said. "I like to do sport because it keeps me fit and healthy."


British ambulancemen `decided dying man not worth saving'

Socialist attitudes caught on tape! Most unwise

Two ambulancemen have been arrested by police after they were heard allegedly discussing whether they should bother to resuscitate a disabled man who had collapsed at home and subsequently died. Barry Baker, 59, who lived alone, had dialled 999 saying that he thought he was having a heart attack. An ambulance was sent to his house while a controller kept him talking on the line. By the time the ambulancemen arrived at the house in Patcham, Brighton, Mr Baker had collapsed, but the telephone line was still open and was being recorded.

It is alleged that staff in the control centre heard the two medics making disparaging comments about the state of the house. A police source, who asked not to be named, said that the ambulancemen were then heard discussing Mr Baker and saying "words to the effect that he was not worth saving". The source said that the two men were allegedly first heard commenting on the untidy state of the house and then saying that it was not worth bothering to resuscitate Mr Baker. They are said to have discussed what to tell ambulance control and decided to say that Mr Baker was already dead when they got there.

The controllers were said to be so shocked by what had allegedly been said that they contacted senior managers, who called the police. "Obviously the crew did not realise that the phone was still connected and, of course, the 999 call was recorded on tape," the source said. "The tape recording of what the paramedics allegedly said has been handed over to the Sussex Police Major Crime Team as evidence."

Sussex Police confirmed that two men had been arrested and that a full-scale investigation into the incident was being carried out by the major crime team. A police spokeswoman said: "The men, aged 35 years and 44 years and from the Brighton area, have been arrested and questioned following the death of a man in Brighton. "They were detained on suspicion of wilfully neglecting to perform a duty in public office, contrary to Common Law. They have been released on police bail pending further inquiries." The two men, who are both based at Brighton ambulance station, have been bailed until a date in January and have been suspended from duty.

Mr Baker, who used sticks to help to him walk after undergoing hip replacement surgery, made the emergency call to the South East Coast Ambulance Service headquarters in Lewes in the early hours of November 29. He told the controller that he was suffering from severe chest pains. The ambulance crew from Brighton was immediately sent to his home with blue lights on.

A spokeswoman for the NHS Trust said: "South East Coast Ambulance Service has suspended two male members of staff from duty as police conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the sudden death of a man at his home in Brighton on Saturday November 29. "The men were arrested by Sussex Police on December 5 on suspicion of wilfully neglecting to perform a duty in public office. "We are giving the police our full cooperation in this matter and are not in a position to comment further at this time due to the police investigation taking place."

Mr Baker's funeral has had to be delayed because of the investigation, but a memorial service is due to take place at All Saints Church in Patcham on January 16. Paul Newman, landlord of the Ladies Mile, where a wake is due to be held, said yesterday that Mr Baker was a popular figure. "He used to come to the pub every Sunday morning at opening time. He arrived by bus and met friends here and together they played a few hands of cards. He did it every Sunday without fail and was a really nice chap."

It is understood that a report on the incident has been sent to the Crown Prosecution Service for a decision on whether the two men should be charged.


The interregnum

We are at the moment in a sort of interregnum -- in between the election of the Lightbringer and his enthronement on Jan. 20. I am using that time to explore a little more than usual those issues which transcend the issues of the day. So I have been writing a bit lately on the issue that most transcends time: The Jews. Being part of such an issue is of course often uncomfortable for individual Jews so I do admire the courage and resolution of those who continue to claim a Jewish identity. And I expect that I will continue to touch on that identity for a little while yet. I think I have so far managed to generate an unusually frank dialogue on the matter so that does encourage me to continue.

Below is an email recently received from a Jewish friend that questions one of the points I have made so far. It is in fact not directly about Jews at all but traces back to my comparison of Jews with the English. It challenges in part my description of the English as having survived the last 1000 years "in style". It does not challenge the external achievements of the English but does point to internal problems. I follow that challenge with some more comments of my own.
I wish to add some objections to your core thesis that agues that the English have survived in style for the last millennium and a half.

While on the surface this carries with it an apparent truism it overlooks the fact that English history, despite a popular misconception, has not been in and of itself peaceful. Looking at the period after 1066 (the time when England was last successfully invaded) Albion has witnessed on local soils rebellions by the Saxons against Norman Feudalism, the Baron Wars, Peasant Rebellions, the War of the Roses (which really spanned the era between Richard II and Henry VII), the English Civil War, the Jacobite War and the insurrection of Monmouth. If one adds in the American Revolution (which for all intent of purpose can be looked at as an internal struggle between English speaking people) it is evident that the English have had a long history of warring amongst themselves.

In addition if you add in the numerous English lives (mostly commoners) that have been lost in the pursuit of Empire on a global basis -not to mention those lives foregone in conflicts with Spain, the Netherlands, France, Scotland, Denmark, the United States etc - the idea of surviving with style, at least how it reflects down to the bulk of the populace, is found wanting.

Now I will not deny the fact the English have been very successful in transmitting their culture on a worldwide basis. The dominance of the English language and systems of education and governance attest to this phenomenon but it has come at a price which I believe cannot be swept so easily under the proverbial rug.

The English are a very admirable people (I have been somewhat of an anglophile for most of my life although my enthusiasm has waned as of late as British institutions which I once respected continue to shed ground to the Stealth Jihad) but the accident of geography that has afforded them island status clearly played a large role in their success (yes the Scots and Welsh could harass the English but by sheer force of number were unlikely to ever win the upper hand..).

Winston Churchill was correct in arguing that the island situation was an advantage that could not last forever and that Britain would need to work on establishing alliances to ensure survival. This was not a novel idea at the Empire level (regional alliances with the Iroquois, the Basuto, the Sikhs were common) but in the more critical area of European politics it was particular loathsome to the English mindset. After the Napoleonic Wars and the obvious realization that the European Powers (Russia, Prussia and Austria) were intent on turning back the forces of liberalism and nationalism (via the Concert System) Britain retreated into a type of 'splendid isolation' where it focused on growing its Empire alone without outside interference. With the possible exception of the Crimean War this attitude characterized British geo-politically thinking up to the Second Anglo Boer War. It was only after the South African conflict, where British resources were stretched to breaking point by the guerilla tactics of well organized militia that the need for global allies would become a necessity. In fact one can pinpoint this change in policy to the signing of the Anglo-Japanese Agreement of 1902, a framework that set the foundation for the Entente Cordiale with France and the Anglo-Russian Entente.

However even in this regard the Brits were slow to the post, for one the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy was already well established. Germany also had cultivated an ally in the Ottoman Turks. One could even argue (with hindsight) that Britain's decision to enter into a system of alliances and thereby join the trend was ultimately what caused the weakening of the Empire by forcing London to engage in a vortex of events leading to the disastrous Great War (although I suspect that you will argue otherwise using the pretext that the growing influence of German Naval Power made war inevitable).

I believe that the success of the English people resides with a combination of factors. They are a very resourceful people (their pragmatic creativity during the First Industrial Revolution and beyond bears this out) but so does a commitment to the free inquiry. The former has its structural origins in the English Reformation, but was further augmented by the battle against autocracy during the Civil War and the Hanoverian transfer of power during the reign of George I. These changes were not as forthcoming amongst Britain/England's continental rivals who were forced to delay the coming of modernism to the Enlightenment Period.

However what has most served the English is their ability to adapt - to take the best from the outside and make it somehow English. They did this with the Roman system of laws, Grecian Rationalism, Judeo-Christian Ethics, Stoicism and Iberian naval proficiency. It is this same characteristic that the family branch of the English, the Americans, have utilized with remarkable success today (Another island nation, the Japanese, are similar to the English in this regard).

It is this adaptation that has created the illusion that the English have resisted invasion. While no army since William the Conqueror have overwhelmed the English on the home front since the 11th century (although the Hungarians humbled the English football team at Wembley in the 1950s) it is equally true that the English monarchy has resided in the hands of foreigners since then. The Normans were of a Franco/Norse stock, the House of Plantagenet, and its spin offs in Lancaster and York were all Gallic, the Tudors were Welsh, The Stuarts - Scottish and Hanover, Saxe-Coburg and Windsor were/are all German. Yes not since the ill-fated Harold Godwinson (aka Harold II) has England had a monarch of English ethnicity and before that power was invested for some time with Danish kings such as Canute and Hardicanute.

What is most remarkable though is that within a short period the English turned these foreigners into extensions of England that their ethnicity is more a matter of historical detail than anything else.

However with each addition and influx of change a point of saturation is neared. Changes are rarely neutral with respect to key factors. The utility of adaptation carries with it a double-edged outcome. At what point in a series of changes is the system or the people no longer English?

British Internationalism, the overriding policy of adaptation, that dominates the nation in 2008 is a consequence of this underlying tendency, however in subjecting itself to the relativism of multiculturalism the Brits seem to have shot the bolt and traded away the base in one foul swoop. Could it be that the English will simply wither away? Over-adapted themselves to death? Maybe there is a grace in this style but I am at a loss to find it.

Phew! Where do I start there and where do I finish? The argument is too detailed for most readers to judge so I think I should content myself with some fairly general remarks in reply. I am inclined to make remarks along the lines that that the Jacobite wars were fought mainly in Scotland and that the Monmouth rebellion was trivial but that would just move the debate too far afield.

A major point above, and one I had been waiting for someone to make, is that, although there has been no foreign invasion of any moment, the English have at times fought amongst themselves -- and the Scots also got a bit far South on some occasions.

And I do not for a moment deny the savagery of some of England's internecine wars. There were large areas of civility in the wars concerned but there were some nasty incidents too. My point, however, is simply that foreign invasions would have made things much worse and England managed to avoid those. The English have never had a magic wand that insulates them from all harm but they have done better than almost anybody (Yes. I know about Iceland and Japan) at keeping out foreigners. Internecine wars are regrettably common just about everywhere -- see for instance pre-Tokugawa Japan and the numerous wars that for so long consumed the German states. And see Renaissance Italy and classical Greece for that matter. So the English did little better than others on the internecine front but they did wonders on the foreign front. Life in England would have been a lot nastier and much more destructive if foreign troops had marched through England's "green and pleasant land" as well.

And I will be a little pesky and point out that England's internal strife came to a halt a remarkably long time ago. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 terminated England's internecine wars. Since then there have been lots of nasty internecine wars in other places: Two of them in America in fact. So the English even got the internecine problem under control earlier than most. I can already hear a few roars about my mention of America, though.

I think the next point made above by my friendly critic is that lots of English troops have died in England's wars abroad. That is of course true. EVERY nation has lost sons in foreign wars. But, again, the English have generally got off pretty lightly. In WWII, for instance, English losses were piffling compared to the losses of men (and population generally) suffered by Germany and Russia. Britain's alliance with the Soviets was unpleasant but, as with most of Britain's alliances, it did succeed in getting lots of foreigners to die for English liberty. Clever? You judge.

So I think at this point I will make a concession to my critic above: I may have given an impression of complete tranquillity in England and that would certainly not be justified. But nearly a thousand years of freedom from foreign invasion was still a major achievement and it sure beats almost anything elsewhere. And that seems worth study.

We now move into an area that is a bit fuzzier. How consistent has been Britain's seeking of alliances? I have not the slightest problem in saying that their seeking of alliances has waxed and waned. The seeking of alliances was simply an English tendency, not some rule laid down from on high. So I will not spend too much time on each era of English history. My critic does descry, however, a period in which the enthusiasm for alliances was low but admits that the Crimean war took place during that period.

I cannot let the magnitude of that pass unremarked. In the Crimean war (against Russia), the English were allied with the FRENCH! The enormity of that can hardly be understated. Perhaps a small anecdote will help. Since Norman times, the French have always been England's chief enemy. And when the allied generals in the Crimea were discussing strategy to be used against the Russian enemy, the English generals had the unfortunate tendency of referring to the enemy as "The French"! That did not go down too well with their French allies, of course. So the English propensity for seeking allies was strong enough at that time to cause them to enter into the most unlikely and unpopular alliance which was at that time conceivable. So I don't think that the English enthusiasm for alliances was too far submerged in that era either.

This post is already way too long so I will finish by making a tiny point about the many late 19th century alliances that were negotiated in Europe. It is true that Britain was not an enthusiastic participant in them but there was a good reason for that. The prime mover in the alliances concerned was Germany's brilliant Otto von Bismarck and Bismarck kept playing musical chairs with Germany's alliances as a way of keeping everyone off balance and thus preventing the rest of Europe from ganging up on the new Germany and thus igniting a hugely destructive war. So the British were rightly deeply skeptical of all those manouvres. And when Bismarck was gone we see how right he was about the dogs of war that lay in wait for Europe. Without his mercurial diplomacy to prevent it, Europe entered WWI.

And it is true that I think the German fleet was the main reason for Britain coming in on the side of France in WWI. The battle of Jutland showed that the German fleet was rightly feared. But that is all another story. The rest of my critic's observations I broadly agree with.

By the way: Most readers here will know that I am Australian, not English, but I want to make that clear for any new readers. Thanks to our British forebears, Australia is the only nation that has an entire continent to itself -- which is exceptionally neat. And Australians are probably even more devoted to alliances than the English are. Wherever British or American troops are fighting, Australian troops will normally be there too lending a hand. And in the more than 200 years of our history, we have not seen the campfires of an invader either. Nor have we had any civil wars. So Australia really has had a tranquil past -- lightyears more tranquil than the history of the Jews over the same period. And Australia is a pretty tranquil place today too.

Close encounter with Britain's alienating Jobcentre

Jobless executives be warned: humiliation and incomprehension await you in the State's embrace

A friend of mine - let's call her Gill - was one of six directors recently made redundant by a well-known UK consortium. Once she'd recovered from the initial shock of losing a post that she had held for 18 years, Gill set out to find another. She knew it would take time and someone advised her to register as unemployed so that her national insurance contributions would be paid. So, like you, me or any raw school-leaver, she googled "job centre" and phoned the number on the website. She was given an interview slot at a local centre and told not to be late.

There follows a tale of such humiliation, misunderstanding and Stalinist bureaucracy that, on reading it, the shivers will run up the spine of every white-collar worker in the land. When Gill turned up at the given address, she found that the Jobcentre had been relocated to another part of town. By the time she found the new office, she was five minutes late and had missed her slot. "They made me sit on the naughty chair for a bit," Gill said.

The young woman who interviewed her was ignorant but condescending in manner and kept asking Gill why she was there. She was told that in order to get her national insurance paid, she would have to apply for job seeker's allowance, which she did not want. There was no privacy in the room. All around her, Gill could hear other sad citizens getting the third degree. The offical asked Gill what she used to earn, and then - unbelievably - repeated the figure to nearby colleagues, exclaiming: "Hey, I've never had anyone in here with that salary!"

Things went from humbling to comic. Gill's circumstances did not fit any of the boxes on the official's computer screen. And if she defied classification she could not exist. "Tell me what your job was and I'll do a job search for you," said the official. "Operations director for a Footsie plc," said Gill. "It's not coming up with anything. What about `area manager'?" "Yes," sighed my friend, by this time a broken woman, "area manager will do."

Gill must prove that she was looking for work. "You have to send off three job applications a week and you need to keep an exercise book of what you are doing," said the official. "Have you got an exercise book?" "Yes," whimpered the woman, who had once managed thousands of staff and a budget of millions. "Then she told me that she couldn't really do anything for me and I was told to report back ten days hence," said Gill.

My friend, who is in her forties, went away and did what senior executives do, phoning, networking. On the day she was supposed to return, someone invited her for a speculative interview. She called the Jobcentre to tell them. They told her she must fax proof of whom she was seeing and where. "But it's informal," she said. "I have nothing to fax." "If you don't provide those details it will invalidate your claim," they warned her. Sure enough, a week later she received a formal letter confirming that they were taking back 50 pounds of contributions.

The parable has a happy ending, for Gill at least. Within two months she managed, through initiative and contacts, to create another senior post for herself within a big company. But for thousands of white-collar workers who will, as sure as night follows day, follow in her footsteps, the story will not be so happy. How many, in the dark days of middle-class recession to come, will experience similar treatment from a system that is not so much hostile as simply alien?

There was, apparently, no one at the Jobcentre that Gill visited who was experienced in dealing with her circumstances. She felt strongly enough about it to write to Harriet Harman, but has not received a reply. "I amuse myself thinking, what if it had been her? If they did a job search for her - Cabinet minister or secretary of state - they'd probably come up with cabinet maker or office secretary. "As a businesswoman, I could see a system crying out for reform. They need to step up a gear. They need people working there with a commercial background; they need to make the boxes on the computer system more flexible; they need to retrain everyone. They need basic stuff like links on the government website about paying national insurance contributions."

Recently, it was suggested that the Government was thinking of asking universities to step in to provide facilities and to counsel senior jobless people. Meanwhile, companies sacking executives are spending up to 10,000 a head on job placement consultancies as part of their redundancy package. Such firms, which prepare CVs and seek out unadvertised jobs, are - as my friend also discovered - pretty useless. "Chocolate teapot. I found another job by myself," she said.

Bright, thrusting high-achievers have been warned. Should you fall from grace, through no fault of your own, do not expect the State to offer you a safety net. Just appreciate the ultimate irony: you could build and run a better system yourself. Funny, isn't it, when that's what governments are for?


The Church of the Environment puts its money where its mouth is

Did someone mention the name "Madoff"? I am going to enjoy seeing the outcome of this. "A fool and his money are soon parted"

The Church of England's Church Commissioners have gone green, investing 150 million pounds with former US Vice-President Al Gore's environmentally minded investment firm, Generation Investment Management.

On Nov 18 the First Church Estates Commissioner, Andreas Whittam Smith reported that in late September the Commissioners had placed the funds with Gore's boutique management firm which follows an "environmentally sustainable global equities mandate." Funding for the investment came from "cash and Treasury bills", he said, and not from the sale of UK equities as initially planned.

In Oct 2007 Mr Gore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in raising awareness of the potential threats from climate change. Generation Investment Management was founded in 2004 by Mr Gore and David Blood, former head of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, and had almost o5 billion under management before the market collapse. The firm invests in companies that follow "socially responsible" business model such as insulin manufacturer Novo Nordisk, Swiss food conglomerate Nestl,, and San Francisco's New Resource Bank --- a "green" lender in the US.

Speaking at a press conference last March in Geneva, Mr Gore said private industry should take the lead in creating environmentally friendly market capitalism noting that "more money is allocated by markets around the world in one hour than by all the governments on the planet in a full year." "The principles and ways and values that have an impact on the way markets allocate resources can have an enormous effect" in tackling climate change, he said.

Institutional investors in his fund are "more attracted to the strategy we follow are managing long-term assets toward long-term goals." "Those looking for a quick hit in the market place, to skim the cream and go somewhere else, those are not the investors attracted to this strategy," Mr Gore said, according to wire service reports.


Record cold in Britain

Millions of people are expected to brave sub-zero temperatures tonight to welcome in 2009, in what is forecast to be the coldest New Year's Eve since the mid-1990s. The credit crunch will cast a further chill over celebrations, with tickets being offered at discounted prices in many venues yesterday as promoters struggled to fill events. More than a third of Britons will shun bars and clubs and stay at home to save money, a YouGov survey has found.

The Met Office warned those who do venture outside to wrap up well in readiness for a return to the deep freeze of a few weeks ago, during the coldest start to December for more than a decade. Temperatures could drop to minus 6C (21F) in parts of Scotland and minus 4C (25F) in England. "Many parts will be below zero and very frosty. It's a big contrast to the milder weather we've had in the past five years or so," a Met Office spokesman said.

In London, up to half a million people are expected to gather beside the Thames for one of the world's biggest parties. Having approved a budget for the event of 1.6 million pounds, Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, appears to have the same enthusiasm for fireworks as his predecessor, Ken Livingstone.

The cold outlook was good news for Edinburgh, where heavy rain has forced the cancellations of the Hogmanay celebrations in the past. With clear skies and little wind, the conditions were considered almost perfect. At least 100,000 people are expected to cram into the city centre for the street party. Organisers released extra passes yesterday after the first 50,000 sold out four days earlier than last year, despite doubling in cost from 5 to 10 pounds.


Muslim bigot is made British school inspector

He has objected to carol-singing

A hardline Muslim teacher who caused a furore by denouncing pupils for celebrating Christmas has been made a Government schools inspector. Israr Khan's Ofsted appointment was described by a former colleague as 'absolutely astonishing'.

Mr Khan, now headmaster of an Islamic school, launched into his tirade during a concert rehearsal at Washwood Heath Secondary School in Birmingham in 1996 after the choir including around 40 Muslim youngsters, had sung a number of popular Christmas songs, including carols. He leapt from his seat, yelling: "Who is your God? Why are you saying Jesus and Jesus Christ? God is not your God - it is Allah." As children in the audience began booing and clapping, a number of choir members - both white and Asian - walked out, some in tears.

Mr Khan, a maths teacher, was asked to work from home pending an investigation but there was no disciplinary action. It has been claimed that Washwood Heath school was then a 'hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism'. Rashid Rauf - the airline terror bomb suspect whose extradition is currently being sought from Pakistan - was a pupil there at that time. Mr Khan left Washwood Heath a year later to found the independent Islamic Hamd House Preparatory School in Small Heath, Birmingham, where he is headmaster. Earlier this year, he was appointed as a governor of Anderton Park Primary School, in Sparkbrook, Birmingham.

A former Washwood Heath colleague laughed openly when told of Mr Khan's role as an Ofsted inspector where he has the responsibility for passing or failing schools. He said: "Given the man's history, it's absolutely astonishing. It's just the cheek of the man that he's been able to reach that position. He always was an extremely clever man. "He gave me many insights into the Islamic cause and their hatred of the US and the Western World. He had a big support base among some of the Muslim parents. "But there were some very influential, radical elements at Washwood Heath at that time and Israr Khan was very close to all that."

Earlier this year, Anderton Park, where 99.5 per cent of the pupils are Asian, received a dismal Ofsted report which branded its teaching and its achievements as inadequate. One Muslim father, who asked to be known only as Mohammed, said: "As a governor, Mr Khan will be able to exert a great deal of influence over the school and its policies. "By his previous actions, he seems to represent what I would call a hardcore attitude to Islam."

Mr Khan declined to comment about his appointment, waving questions away at his large home in Moseley, Birmingham. An Ofsted spokesman said: "Israr Khan was appointed as an additional inspector via a highly competitive recruitment and selection process. He has undergone all the relevant security checks."


No comments: