Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Britain: A real medical hero who did what officialdom couldn't

It's a wonder that Britain's notorious health and safety bureaucracy have not prosecuted him for using an unapproved device. They would certainly have prohibited him from using it had they got wind of it in advance

There was little hope that Millie Kelly would live beyond a few weeks. Life-saving surgery on her tiny body had caused her kidneys to fail and she was too small for the hospital's dialysis equipment. But Millie was not fighting her battle to stay alive alone. Her hospital consultant, touched by her plight, went home to his garage and built a miniature dialysis machine from scratch.

After a fortnight attached to the DIY machine Millie started to show signs of improvement and is now, two years later, a fit and healthy toddler. Her consultant, paediatrician Malcolm Coulthard, is hoping a refined version of the machine he cobbled together in his garage will soon be introduced across the NHS to help other children in Millie's predicament.

She was born with gastroschisis in which the bowels develop outside the body. During surgery to return the organs to her abdomen at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle upon Tyne her kidneys began to fail. Without them to cleanse her blood - a process called haemodialysis - she needed a dialysis machine. However, at just over 6lb, she was too small, even for the machines designed for use on children.

'I was devastated when they said she wouldn't make it,' said Millie's mother Rebecca, 21, a student from Middlesbrough. 'We thought there was no hope and that every hour she had was a bonus. So when we heard that people at the hospital were working on a new machine we had no option but to try it. It was the only hope. 'It looked handmade and there were a few paint splodges on it but I thought, if it will save my baby's life, I have to try it.

Millie is now a picture of health thanks to Dr Coulthard, pictured here with his homemade dialysis machine that helped save his young patient's life 'Millie's kidneys weren't working at all but after 15 days on the machine she started to improve. If it were not for that machine then Millie would not be here today. She is a really lovely child.' The device meant Millie's kidneys had a chance to recover and she no longer needs any form of dialysis.

Miss Kelly added: 'Words cannot describe how grateful my family is to Dr Coulthard. 'We owe her life to him. If I won the lottery I would give it all to him, we can't thank him enough. Not only is he a great consultant but now also a great friend.'

Dr Coulthard developed his idea with senior children's kidney nurse Jean Crosier and hopes to make a new version of the machine widely available on the NHS. 'At present we will only use the pilot machine on babies where it is certain that if we don't use it they will die,' he said. He added that with a 'state-of-the-art device' which has been given a European safety or CE mark, 'we will be able to ensure that any child can benefit and it becomes the treatment of choice for any baby that needs dialysis'. A team at Newcastle's regional medical physics department is developing the new machine.

One in 7,000 births is affected by gastroschisis, in which the baby develops a hole in the abdominal wall while still in the womb. Dr Coulthard's work has been recognised with the Special Award for Sustained Endeavour at the North-East's Bright Ideas and Health Awards.


Visit the land that creeps out even its own tourism minister

Bulgaria, Romania, Chechnya, Kazahkstan? No: Britain

Holiday in charming Britain, urges its Tourism Minister:
Tourism minister Barbara Follett backed a campaign today to encourage people to holiday in Britain.

But for gawd’s sake watch out for the locals:
Tourism minister Barbara Follett claimed more than £25,000 for security patrols outside her London home because she did not feel safe there… The Telegraph says Mrs Follett demanded extra protection at her ‘second home’, a four-storey property in Soho, because she had been mugged and followed by a stalker.

Just why Follett needs the taxpayers to fork out for all that security is another mystery, not least because it’s not as if her husband Ken (above, with Barbara), the best-selling thriller writer, is short of several tens of millions of dollars, in the New Labour way. 


Brixton: the depressing symbol of Britain's multicultural failure

By Sathnam Sanghera

The other day I went to the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton and, waiting for a friend to turn up, killed time reading a South London newspaper, which featured a piece about activists marking the tenth anniversary of the Brixton nail bomb and their campaign to stop the BNP winning seats in the European election next month. It contained the following quote from Roger Lewis, of the Lambeth branch of the trade union Unison, who lives in Brixton and heard the 1999 bomb, planted by the far-right fanatic David Copeland, explode: “The BNP are bully boys, trying to affront all minorities, and want to break up all communities. But we weren't divided ten years ago and we won't be divided now.”

As a former resident of Brixton, who covered the aftermath of the explosion as a junior reporter, there was a time I would have seconded Lewis's comments about the indomitable nature of Brixton's community spirit. I drifted into the area after college, but grew to love its edginess and Benetton-advert racial diversity so much that I ended up staying eight years. It seemed life-affirming that so many people from so many different classes, professions and races could live together in a place that was for decades a byword for violent racial distress.

But I realise now I was confusing coexistence with integration. Looking back, not only were my eight years there marked by a retrospectively bewildering number of terrifying incidents, such as the two times I was mugged on my doorstep, the one time a potential flatmate was mugged on the way to inspect my flat, the several times police officers suggested I move out (“If you saw what I see, you'd get out”), the one time I went to throw away rubbish and discovered a vagrant copulating with a local prostitute in the refuse area, the bombing, the mini-riot, the numerous anti-terrorism raids, the stabbings, kneecappings and murders, but also a complete failure to make friends with any local residents. Far from being a symbol of multicultural success, Brixton is an illustration of the opposite: that if you stick lots of people from different backgrounds in one place, they will have nothing to do with one another. Go there on a Saturday and you'll find white people shopping at Tesco for groceries while black people get what they need from the market; black kids hanging out in McDonald's while white kids queue up outside the Academy; with other drinking, eating and dancing venues dividing along racial lines, too.

The last flat I lived in, for instance, was in a part of Lambeth that I described to friends as “Brixton” if I wanted to be precise and impress them with my ethnic credentials, “North Clapham” if I wanted to reassure them with my suburbanism, or “Stockwell” if I wanted to alert them to the most convenient Tube station, there was a pub at one end of the street in which I didn't once see a black person, right opposite an Ethiopian restaurant in which I didn't once see a white person. Being of an intermediate shade, I felt unwelcome in both and spent most of my time in the pub at the other end of the street, which was frequented almost entirely by young professionals.

This kind of social segmentation in London isn't a new development. In 2001, researchers at the University of East London found that, several decades after professionals started moving into London areas such as Hackney, Battersea and Islington, they still tended to socialise with each other. And Brixton was one of the London areas singled out by the research as being popular with the middle classes who claim to be fans of ethnic diversity but mingle only minimally. But the problem is getting worse the more gentrified and “regenerated” Brixton becomes.

Indeed, many of the “regeneration” projects in the area have essentially been exercises in racial cleansing, with previously black areas and establishments being turned white. The former Atlantic, which used to be a black pub, a gathering place for first-generation Jamaicans and younger Brixtonians, was closed down more than a decade ago as part of an attempt to transform the image of the area, and reopened as The Dogstar, now one of several smart venues frequented mainly by white kids.

Near my old flat, when it came for a black nightclub, the J-Bar, to have its licence renewed, the residents living in my block successfully objected. Then there's the Ritzy cinema - possibly the best in London, rebuilt as part of a £4.5 million regeneration project but, despite being one of the main buildings in the spiritual homeland of Britain's black community, the typical customer is about as black as your average member of the Women's Institute.

Does this matter? Not a huge amount. Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, was right when he recently remarked that Britain is “the best place in Europe to live if you are not white”. But it's depressing that groups in Britain's most diverse city still avoid one another and annoying that so many politicians and liberal journalists, among whom I must count myself, hold Brixton up as an illustration of multicultural success when it is no such thing.

I ended up getting a taxi back to North London the other night - in itself a newsworthy event as research published last year revealed Brixton is the worst place in London to hail one (it takes an average of ten minutes for a black cab to go by, compared with five minutes in the City and West End) and ended up in a conversation with the cabbie on the subject. It was interesting that when I originally moved to Brixton drivers would normally remark something along the lines of “bit rough, isn't it?” and I would respond with “it's up and coming, actually”, but this time the driver remarked “it's up and coming, isn't it?” and for the first time I couldn't bring myself to agree.


The strange transformation of the Left

Kenan Malik sees the novel "Satanic verses" by Rushdie as a turning point

In mid-February 1989, following a violent riot against the book in Pakistan, Iran's supreme leader ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling on all good Muslims to kill Rushdie and his publishers. The most famous writer of the day went into hiding, under police protection.

MUSLIM fury seemed to be driven not by questions of harassment or discrimination or poverty but by a sense of hurt that Rushdie's words had offended their deepest beliefs. Where did such hurt come from and why was it being expressed now? How could a novel create such outrage? Could Muslim anguish be assuaged, and should it be? How did the anger on the streets of Bradford relate to traditional political questions about rights, duties and entitlements? Britain had never asked itself such questions before. Twenty years on, it is still groping for the answers.

The Rushdie affair was a turning point in the relationship between British society and its Muslim communities. It was a turning point for me, too. I was born in India but came to Britain in the 1960s as a five-year-old. My mother came from Tamil Nadu in southern India. She was Hindu. My father's family had moved to India from Burma when the Japanese invaded in 1942. It is through him that I trace my Muslim heritage. Mine was not, however, a particularly religious upbringing. My parents forbade me (and my sisters) from attending religious education classes at school because they did not want us to be force-fed Christianity. But we were not force-fed Islam or Hinduism either. I still barely know the Hindu scriptures and, while I read the Koran in my youth, it was only after the Rushdie affair that I took a serious interest in it.

What shaped my early experiences was not religion but racism. I arrived in Britain just as "Paki-bashing" was becoming a national sport. Paki was the abusive name for any Asian and Paki-bashing was what racists called their pastime of beating up Asians. My main memory of growing up in the '70s was of being involved almost daily in fights with racists and of how normal it seemed to come home with a bloody nose or a black eye.

Like many Asians of my generation, I was drawn towards politics by my experience of racism. I was left-wing and, indeed, joined some far-Left organisations in my 20s. But if it was racism that drew me to politics, it was politics that made me see beyond the narrow confines of racism. I came to learn that there was more to social justice than the injustices done to me and that a person's skin colour, ethnicity or culture was no guide to the validity of their political beliefs. I was introduced to the ideas of the Enlightenment and to concepts of a common humanity and universal rights. Through politics, too, I discovered the writings of Marx and Mill, Kant and Locke, Paine and Condorcet, Frantz Fanon and C.L.R. James.

By the end of the '80s, however, many of my friends had come to see such Enlightenment notions as dangerously naive. The Rushdie affair gave notice not just of a new Islam but also of a new Left. Radicals slowly lost faith in secular universalism and began talking instead about multiculturalism and group rights. They became disenchanted with Enlightenment ideas of rationalism and humanism, and many began to decry the Enlightenment as a Eurocentric project. Where once the Left had argued that everyone should be treated equally, despite their differences, now it pushed the idea that different people should be treated differently because of such differences. During the past two decades many of the ideas of the so-called politics of difference have become mainstream through the policies of multiculturalism. The celebration of difference, respect for pluralism, avowal of identity politics, these have come to be regarded as the hallmarks of a progressive, anti-racist outlook and as the foundation stones of modern liberal democracies.

Yet there is a much darker side to multiculturalism, as the Rushdie affair demonstrated. Multiculturalism has helped foster a more tribal nation and, within Muslim communities, has undermined progressive trends while strengthening the hand of conservative religious leaders. Although it did not create militant Islam, it helped create for it a space within British Muslim communities that had not existed before.

I was in a drab Victorian semi near the university that housed the Bradford Council of Mosques, waiting to speak to Sher Azam, when suddenly, I heard a familiar voice. "Hello, Kenan, what are you doing here?" It was Hassan, a friend from London whom I had not seen for more than a year. "I'm doing some interviews about Rushdie," I told him. "But what are you doing in this godforsaken place?"

Hassan laughed. "Trying to make it less godforsaken," he said. "I've been up here a few months, helping in the campaign against Rushdie." Then he laughed again when he saw my face. "No need to look so shocked," he said. He had had it with the "white Left". He had, he said, lost his sense of who he was and where he had come from. So he had returned to Bradford to try to rediscover it. And what he had found was a sense of community and a "need to defend our dignity as Muslims, to defend our values and beliefs". He was not going to allow anyone -- "racist or Rushdie" -- to trample over them.

The Hassan I had known in London had been a member of the far-left Socialist Workers Party (as I had been for a while). Apart from Trotskyism, his other indulgences were Southern Comfort, sex and the Arsenal soccer club. We had watched the Specials and the Clash together, smoked dope and argued about football. We had marched together, chucked bricks at the National Front, been arrested. This was what it was like for many Asians growing up in Britain in the '80s. Hassan had been born, as I had, on the subcontinent (in Pakistan) but grew up in Britain. His parents were observant Muslims but, like many of their generation, visited the mosque only whenever the "Friday feeling" gripped them. Hassan had attended mosque as a child and learned the Koran, but by the time he left school God had left him. "There's a hole inside me where God used to be," Rushdie once said. I had never detected any such hole in Hassan. He seemed to have been hewn from secular rock.

But here he was in Bradford, an errand boy to the mullahs, inspired by book-burners, willing to shed blood for a 1000-year-old fable he had never believed in. Unlike Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha, Hassan sported neither horns nor a halo. But his metamorphosis from left-wing wide boy to Islamic militant was no less extraordinary than that of the antiheroes of The Satanic Verses. In that metamorphosis lies the story of the wider changes that were taking place in Britain and other Western nations, changes that made possible not just the Rushdie affair but eventually 9/11 and the London terrorist attacks of July 7, 2005, changes that trace a road from fatwa to jihad.

ANGELS and devils. Myths and monsters. These are at the heart of The Satanic Verses. The struggle of Saladin and Gibreel, with themselves and with each other, is a struggle of the human imagination against the constraints placed on it. One is a devil, the other an angel, yet they continually betray their natures. When Saladin is arrested, Gibreel, the angel, refuses to help him. When the two meet up again in riot-torn east London, Gibreel appears as Azraeel, the most terrible of angels, wreaking fire and destruction. But even as he is hunted down by Gibreel, the demonic Saladin risks his life to save a family trapped in a burning house. What Rushdie wants us to see is that the distinction between devil and angel lies less in their inner selves than in the roles that humans ascribe to them. If religion creates the divine and the satanic in the image of man, secular society makes men in the image of devils and angels. Religious faiths as well as secular societies deploy their angels and demons to justify their otherwise unjustifiable actions, to create boundaries that cannot be transgressed.

"Angels and devils -- who needed them?" Rushdie asks in The Satanic Verses. The answer seems to be those who wish to subdue the human spirit. Gibreel, despite born-again slogans, new beginnings, metamorphoses, has wished to remain, to a large extent, continuous, joined to and arising from the past. Saladin, on the other hand, has shown a willing reinvention, a preferred revolt against history. Angels, in other words, mean constancy while devils rock the boat. Angels are used to maintain tradition while those who bring about unacceptable change -- secularists to a religious faith, immigrants in a secular society -- are demonised.

But change and transformation, Rushdie insists, are what make us human. "Human beings," he observed in an essay, In Good Faith, "understand themselves and shape their futures by arguing and challenging and questioning and saying the unsayable; not by bowing the knee, whether to gods or to men." The Satanic Verses, he has said, is a "work of radical dissent". What does it dissent from? "From the end of debate, of dispute, of dissent," Rushdie answers. Rushdie's sympathy is clearly with the devil.


The scum that illegal immigration brings to Britain

Adult "asylum seeker" raped girl,13, after he lied about age and was placed in children's home

Birmingham City Council are said to be 'cooperating with police investigations in relation to a young person'. An asylum-seeker has been arrested after the alleged rape of a young girl from a children's home where he had been placed after apparently lying about his age.

The Afghan presented himself to Birmingham Social Services and claimed he was a 13 year-old minor, but staff suspected he was really over 18. He was placed at the council-run children's home after producing medical evidence at an immigration hearing which seemingly backed his claims of being a child. But the Afghan was later arrested following the suspected rape of a 13-year-old girl from the care home and police found an immigration card which appeared to confirm that he was really 19. Social services have now begun an investigation after the asylum-seeker was quizzed about the suspected sex attack, a case which has seen another adult charged with rape.

'The Afghan presented himself some time ago as a minor, seeking asylum,' said a source. 'He claimed to be 13 years old but from the outset social services had doubts. 'Yet if someone's an asylum-seeker and a minor then social services are duty bound to look after them. 'Birmingham social services' experts were involved in challenging his claim that he was 13 at two immigration hearings and at one hearing he was legally declared an adult. 'But at an appeal he produced a letter from a doctor claiming he had some characteristics of a child, so the court had to accept he was a child.'

The asylum-seeker is currently on police bail after being arrested on suspicion of the rape, which is alleged to have occurred in Birmingham last month. Two youths in their late teens were also detained by police. One was later charged with rape and remanded in custody after appearing before Midland magistrates, while the other has also been released on police bail.

The Afghan has now been moved to a 'specialist placement' while police inquiries continue into the alleged rape, as well as his true age. 'The truth is we just don't know how old he is for sure,' said one source. 'Most think he is an adult over the age of 18. It's proving it that has been the problem.'

A Birmingham City Council spokesman said: 'We are cooperating with police investigations in relation to a young person and these investigations are ongoing. 'People referred without documents to support their age present difficulties to all local authorities. 'The Local Authority seeks to verify information through medical and social work assessments and in the interim makes appropriate arrangements for the young people concerned.'



Newsnight is facing a 15% budget cut and two BBC environment and science reporters will also lose their jobs as part of BBC News's latest round of job losses. BBC News insiders are said to be "horrified" by the proposals, which were put to the Newsnight and science and environment teams along with the rest of the division's staff earlier this week. Newsnight is expected to make a 15% budget reduction as part of the cuts.

The BBC2 programme's culture correspondents, Madeleine Holt and Steve Smith, will become general reporters. One general reporter will then be lost from the programme's pool of around seven in total.

The two science and environment jobs will disappear as part of a plan to cut 88.5 posts from BBC News by next April as part of the corporation's five-year saving plan announced in 2007 aiming to save £155m. BBC News's team of science and environment correspondents includes Roger Harrabin, David Shukman, Christine McGourty, Pallab Ghosh, Sarah Mukherjee and Jeremy Cooke, all of whom report for various news programmes across BBC TV and radio services.

"The science and environment beat is a massive growth area and the reporting team are pre-eminent so many there are puzzled to say the very least about it," said a BBC source. "It needs expertise for these stories, a lot of preparation needs to be put in, and to lose two reporters in one go is madness."

The source also pointed at the "huge irony" of the decision given the "importance the organisation places on climate change as part of the news agenda".



The operators of Britain's first "biofuel" power plants are considering burning palm oil, which is blamed for causing rainforest destruction in south-east Asia.

At least four new power stations are being planned around the UK to burn vegetable oils with the assurance that they will generate less pollution than burning climate-change-causing fossil fuels. Two that would power more than 50,000 homes, at Portland in Dorset and Newport in South Wales, are considering using palm oil.

W4B Energy, which has submitted a planning application to build the £30m Portland plant, says it would use only sustainable supplies certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Vogen Energy, behind the plant at Newport, says production of its palm oil would not harm the environment.


Amazing educational realism from Britain

Middle class children are more likely to be clever because they have better genes, according to the former chief inspector of schools. The science has been showing that for decades but to have an educator admit to it is quite a breakthrough

Chris Woodhead, who became the scourge of the teaching profession in the 1990s, said that grammar school pupils would be less likely to come from impoverished backgrounds than the children of teachers, academics and lawyers. The former teacher, known for his frank views, said that middle class children were not only born with better genes but were also more likely to be better nurtured.

He said some children were simply born 'not very bright,' and that politicians should allow them to follow practical educational courses rather than forcing conventional teaching on them. He said there can still be exceptional working-class students, however, such as writer DH Lawrence, who came from a humble background.

Referring to a paper by the novelist, who wrote about a boy named Jimmy who was not very bright, he asked: 'Why do we think that we can make him brighter than God made him?'.

Mr Woodhead, who once demanded that 15,000 incompetent teachers be sacked, argued that the Labour Government had betrayed children by denying that some weren't suited to formal education, and creating a system designed to make learning 'accessible' and 'personalised' rather than rigorous. 'I've taught, and I can still remember trying to interest children who had no interest whatsoever in English,' he said. 'They didn't want to be in the classroom. If I'm honest I didn't want them to be there either because they were disruptive to children who did want to learn.

'What was the point? If we had had a system whereby those young people were able to follow practical educational courses that gave them a sense of worth, a sense that they weren't dull and less intelligent than others, it would have been much better for them.'

Speaking to the Guardian, Mr Woodhead suggested giving all children a basic primary education, like reading, writing and maths, and then sending them to a selective secondary system. He recommends education vouchers so that schools that failed to perform would have to change or eventually close.

Mr Woodhead, who suffers from motor neurone disease but continues to chair Cognita, a company that runs independent schools, admits that this system would not be entirely fair. 'Life isn't fair,' he said. 'We're never going to make it fair.'


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