Monday, May 04, 2009

A letter from a weather forecaster to the responsible Minister in the UK government

To HM Environment Secretary Hilary Benn MP

Re: Long Range Flood Forecasts to assist Flood Warnings for the UK

Congratulations on your continuing work as Her Majesty's Environment Minister.

I am writing from WeatherAction long range weather and climate forecasters to offer practical help to your new Flood Forecast Centre. Our long range forecasts would decisively improve flood warnings and help enable advanced measures to be put in place which will reduce potential disruption and loss of life caused by floods in the UK.

In the recent announcement of the new Flood Centre which arose from recommendations in the Pitt Review into the devastating summer flood of 2007 you said "[It] will help provide the best possible information and support to existing flood warnings and weather warning services".

This statement must mean that you should use the best available long range forecasts to help the public and it follows that you must move beyond that which has been exclusively relied on hitherto and that our forecasts are required. However despite the fact that we can now supply valuable detailed forecasts about flood and other extreme weather risk in the coming months and years we have not as yet been requested for such. As you may know WeatherAction's long range forecasts successfully predicted - in detail - from many months ahead - the serious flood events in both 2007 and 2008 as well as the very costly snow and ice events of winter 08/09. On the other hand the Met Office long range forecasts for summer 08, summer 09 and winter 08-09 were dismal failures and disarmed you, the emergency services and the public at great human and financial cost. Please see attachments and links below for letters to Gordon Brown and various MPs on these matters (1).

Of course I appreciate that you may be concerned that our rigorous scientific analysis has led us to support something other than the 'Climate Change policy' of HM Government. Contrary to the ideology which underlies that policy we fully support the peer-reviewed scientific evidence - using official data going back thousands and even millions of years - that neither CO2 in general nor mankind's CO2 in particular have been, are, or ever will be net drivers of world temperatures or climate change. And on this we note that the IPCC predictions for ongoing warming this century have all failed while all the contrary forecasts of WeatherAction and others for continuing cooling have been confirmed.

You may have been led to believe that the difference between the 'Climate Realist view' which WeatherAction supports and the IPCC ideology is just about differing peer-reviewed 'opinions' over the interpretation of data. This is not so. The peer-reviewed interpretations of the extensive available data all refute the CO2/man-made view. The IPCC on the other hand has no peer-reviewed data evidence which supports their view. They have films produced by politicians and numerous peer-reviewed papers on computer models, theories and opinions that say many things which they often quote, but none which show that their models, theories and opinions have passed the fundamental scientific tests of consistency with the extensive past data or of making confirmed predictions for world temperature change. On this it is notable that the UN/IPCC have still failed to respond to requests for such evidence from an international group of well-qualified scientists including three IPCC expert Reviewers - see (2).

Whatever your view, we must be very clear, that you do not have to agree with anything we have concluded about 'Global Warming' or 'Climate Change' to use our forecasts. For the good of the economy and safety of the public I beg you, in this the year of the 400th anniversary of Galileo sighting mountains on the Moon, to not repeat the errors of those times; and to put science before ideology, public safety before politics and as the Prime Minister has often said use all the best knowledge available for the greatest good.

Above received by email. Enquiries to Piers Corbyn on +44(0)7985734471 or Site here

NHS 'wanted to send me home so I threatened to chain myself to the bed': British swine flu victim's hospital ordeal

He found the viral attack extremely distressing and debilitating but the NHS doctors were not concerned about how he felt and could not be bothered to do any diagnostic testing before they discharged him. Being Italian, however, he protested -- where a British person would almost certainly have done meekly what they were told. The doctors probably thought to themselves: "Bloody wop" ("Bloody" is the British version of "goddam") but it seems to me that they need more "bloody wops" to keep them on their toes. Sending very ill people home is all too common in the NHS -- with death the result on some occasions

A British victim of swine flu had to beg doctors to keep him in hospital while he was still suffering from the virus. Student Stefano Boccino, 22, was taken to hospital on Wednesday after falling ill while travelling back from the Mexican resort of Cancun. Suffering from a fever, dizziness and nausea and barely able to move, Stefano feared he might die in an isolation ward at the Royal Free Hospital in London as fears grew over a potential swine flu pandemic.

But just 24 hours later doctors told him he was being discharged because he ‘looked better’. Stefano, who still had severe symptoms of the virulent H1N1 flu, said he had to threaten to chain himself to his bed to persuade doctors to keep him in for observation. He said: ‘The doctors had told me that they had never dealt with a case like this. But then, just 24 hours later, they wanted to send me home. A doctor said I was looking a lot better, but I said, “Don’t be fooled. Someone with a tan and of Italian descent will always look healthier than most. I’m not leaving. I’ll chain myself to the bed if I have to.” ‘Eventually, they agreed to keep me in and blood tests revealed on Friday that the virus was leaving my system.’

Stefano is now recovering at the home he shares with his parents in Mill Hill, North London, where he has been told he must stay until this evening to avoid spreading the virus. His father Alberto, 50, and sister Rosamaria, 30, were also ordered to remain in the house in case they had become infected.

Stefano, who is in his third year of a human resources and business psychology degree at London Metropolitan University, started to feel ill as he returned home from a luxury two-week break in Cancun. He and his friends Anna Driscoll and Suzanne Buick, both 23, used student loans and savings to pay £1,000 each for the trip. They spent their days relaxing on Cancun’s beach with pina colada cocktails and their evenings dancing in the town’s bars and clubs.

Stefano, who is gay, said that he was mostly the ‘party pooper’, going home alone at 3am while the girls stayed out. But on his two connecting Continental Airlines flights home he began to feel unwell. He had received a text from his father warning him of a flu outbreak in Mexico City, but because it was hundreds of miles away he thought nothing of it. ‘First I developed a bad chesty cough,’ he said. ‘I was getting dizzy and feeling sick. I slept during the first leg of our journey – a two-hour flight to Houston – and I was pretty floored when we got there. Then we had a six-hour transfer window and during that time I felt like I was dying.’

He bought some flu capsules but they had no effect and, crouched in a ball on the airport floor, he asked Anna to look after him. On the flight to Heathrow, Stefano was sweating and nauseous and said that ‘every limb felt like lead’. He asked a flight attendant for water and a cold towel for his burning forehead. Despite the fact that some passengers on the flight had come from Mexico, he said that none of the crew asked him whether he had been there.

Three hours into the flight, he took his temperature with a thermometer he had packed for the trip and was stunned to see it read 40C. A normal temperature is 37C. ‘I thought it must be wrong, so I did it again and it was the same,’ he said. ‘I thought, that’s the reason I don’t feel too good.’ Barely able to walk when the plane landed on Monday, he asked an airport steward if he could use a wheelchair.

He saw posters throughout the terminal building advising passengers returning from Mexico to be vigilant of swine flu symptoms, and assumed that airport staff would be on alert. But a steward suggested only that Stefano visit his GP. ‘I should have been quarantined at the airport,’ he said. ‘Not to do that is terrible. I put so many other people at risk. ‘I didn’t tell anyone I had come from Mexico, but the staff must have had the flight details and would have known that there were people on that plane who had connected from Mexico.’

Stefano was picked up by his cousin, Vivianna, who took him straight home. A self-confessed ‘clean freak’, he began unpacking and washing clothes. But he was soon laid out on the sofa, unable to move, with his muscles in spasm. He was alone at this point. His mother, Cherry, 52, was in hospital having a disc removed from her back and his father was at work. When Alberto returned, he and Stefano’s sister Rosamaria became concerned and phoned their GP.

Alerted by the fact that Stefano had just returned from Mexico, but without a supply of protective masks, she phoned the Health Protection Agency. Staff there sent round supplies of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu and saliva test kits, and warned the family to stay inside as a precaution. Stefano’s mother was not allowed home and instead went to stay with her sister, while Rosamaria’s ten-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, had to stay with a family friend. All were terrified.

On Tuesday morning, Stefano received a phone call from the HPA. ‘A woman told me that the swabs had tested positive for influenza A,’ he said. ‘She said they had to do more tests to confirm swine flu, which is an A type, but she said it was likely I had contracted it. ‘It’s hard to say whether I was in shock or upset because I simply felt like I was dying, I honestly did. I was in a daze. Being Italian, I’m a very big eater. I love my food but I had completely lost my appetite. ‘When the HPA rang on Wednesday, they asked first if I was sitting down. By this point I was feeling really, really bad. I was feverish, dizzy and nauseous. ‘The woman said, “You’ve tested positive for swine flu. You’re the first case in London.”’

Even now, Stefano’s voice is tinged with disbelief. ‘No matter how much I’d considered I might have swine flu, the reality was a real shock,’ he admitted. ‘I kept thinking, I’m going to die, I’m going to die.’

The HPA contacted everyone Stefano had been in contact with. Officials wanted to know where he had stayed in Mexico, his and his friends’ room numbers, the people they had met and his flight details, including seat numbers.

Anna and Suzanne were put in isolation and given Tamiflu as a precaution while they were being tested for the virus. Stefano’s neighbours looked on horrified on Wednesday as was bundled into an ambulance by two paramedics. ‘They were wearing what looked like space suits with visors, goggles, gloves, aprons and jackets,’ he said. ‘The whole thing was bizarre – like something from the film ET.

‘They handed me a mask and said, “You need to put this on.” I had to wave my family goodbye. It was all rather emotional. ‘I was taken to an isolation unit at the hospital, and had to pass through three separate locked doors just to get to my room. Each door had to be opened and locked again before we could go through the next one.’

He spent the next couple of days in isolation, watching the sitcom Will And Grace on a portable DVD player, listening to his iPod and reading books. Doctors did allow him to have a mobile phone to keep in touch with friends and family.

Stefano was treated using Tamiflu, paracetamol, aspirin and anti-sickness drugs and was put on a drip to keep him hydrated. Nurses approached him with caution, appearing only briefly for a chat or to deliver food – having spent ten minutes each time dressing in full protective gear.

Gradually, his symptoms subsided. An ambulance, with paramedics again wearing protective gear, took him home on Friday evening, where his father and sister were still in quarantine. They, as well as Anna and Suzanne, had tested negative for the swine flu virus. ‘My Dad and sister were so glad to see me,’ said Stefano. ‘But I felt guilty that my mum couldn’t come home from hospital because of me. This has all been such a huge inconvenience to our whole family...

A spokesman for the Royal Free Hospital said: ‘We are unable to comment due to patient confidentiality.’


Drugs 'can help mild depression'

These results are well within the range of a placebo effect

Antidepressants can help mild to moderate depression and should not just be used in bad cases, researchers say. Current guidelines urge doctors to avoid antidepressants as an initial treatment in mild depression. But an NHS-funded study of 200 patients from across England found the drugs, called SSRIs, were more effective than GP advice and support alone.

The team hope national advisers will look at their findings, reported on the Health Technology Assessment website. Study leader Professor Tony Kendrick, a GP and researcher at the University of Southampton, said although the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence wants doctors to restrict SSRIs to the most severe cases, GPs frequently prescribe them for milder cases. "Just because someone has mild depression does not mean it is a mild illness, because it can cause them to be off work for months," he said. "And often you don't have psychological treatments to offer because they're not available so you end up prescribing quite frequently."

In the latest study, researchers looked at patients across 115 practices who had depression for at least eight weeks and had not had any counselling or drug treatment. Half of them had usual care of four follow-up consultations with their GP over 12 weeks to talk about how they were coping and half received the same GP support plus antidepressants. Those who had the drugs had better quality of life at the end of the trial and for every seven patients treated, one showed significant improvement by 12 weeks.

Professor Kendrick said although the benefits of the drugs were small, the results showed prescribing them for mild to moderate depression was helpful and "good value for money". He said the findings would help GPs decide when to prescribe the drugs by assessing how long they had had symptoms and by scoring them on a depression questionnaire. "GPs are criticised a lot for missing depression, putting too many people on antidepressants and not putting enough people on antidepressants so they can't win," he added.

Professor Andrew Tylee, an expert in primary care mental health at King's College London, who took part in the study, said the results showed that that it was often worth prescribing SSRIs for people with mild to moderate depression. "The team do hope that NICE will take this finding into account in their current revision of their depression guideline."

But Dr Tim Kendall, joint director of the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health, threw doubt on whether the guidelines would alter. "I think using drugs for mild to moderate depression doesn't make much sense because you're risking a lot of side effects," he said. "Self-help approaches improve people's self-reliance."

He said the evidence base suggested psychological therapies were best in mild to moderate cases of depression and the latest research may have picked up a placebo effect. "Access to psychological therapies has improved hugely, in Sheffield where I work GPs say there has been a noticeable difference."


British government "charity" fraud: "Staff at a government-backed fund supposed to help some of the poorest people in the world have been awarded £65m in bonuses – equivalent to an annual £350,000 per employee. The bonuses have largely come from investments intended to tackle poverty in the developing world. The fund was part of the Department for International Development (DFID) until it was part-privatised in 2004. Charity workers say the government has allowed the fund, Actis, to skew Britain’s priorities overseas in its pursuit of high returns by depriving poor rural communities of investment. Actis manages funds for DFID’s investment body, CDC, tasked with reducing poverty, and has been praised for its success. But it has been awarding staff bonuses of up to £3m out of investments built up over years in developing countries. Average pay for employees in 2007 was on a par with those at Goldman Sachs, the US investment bank. “This is a travesty of CDC’s original mandate,” said John Hilary, head of the charity War on Want. “The bonuses at Actis simply do not square with the job of poverty reduction.”

Britain urged to slash 20% off public spending: "Savage cuts in public spending of more than £130 billion will be needed to solve the growing budget crisis, Tony Blair’s former chief policy adviser claims today. Writing in The Sunday Times, David Halpern, a former senior aide at No 10, says that Britain needs to follow the example of 1990s Canada, which slashed expenditure by 20% to combat a similarly severe deficit. Halpern warns that modest “efficiency gains” being proposed by both Labour and the Conservatives “just don’t deliver what is needed”. In order to control Britain’s £175 billion budget deficit, he argues that government needs to be “reinvented” and some basic services may need to be axed altogether".

Britain ends tank production after 93 years - and future models will have GERMAN guns: "They have fought alongside British soldiers for generations, playing heroic roles on historic battlefields such as the Somme, Cambrai and El Alamein. They have carried famous names such as Centurion, Churchill, Cromwell and Crusader. But now, nearly a century after inventing the first armoured warhorse - to storm through German lines in the First World War - Britain is to stop building its own tanks. BAe Systems, which makes the Army's Challenger 2 tanks, revealed it was closing its tank-making operation at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. It is also shutting its armour business at Telford in Shropshire and at other locations because it sees no prospect of new Government orders. The closures could result in 500 job losses and means the Army is likely to go into battle in future with tanks using German guns and Swedish chassis. The last squadron of British Challengers began returning to the UK from Iraq this weekend, with little chance of them being sent to Afghanistan because of the difficult terrain there. Defence Secretary John Hutton has declared 'a rebalancing of investment in technology, equipment and people to meet the challenge of irregular warfare'. He said he planned to strengthen and enlarge Special Forces but gave no hint of even a medium-weight tank in the Army's future." [A British Challenger tank above]

There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.

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