Friday, July 10, 2009

British Greenie academics say it's time to ditch "cap and trade" climate policies

Just when everyone has decided that "cap and trade" is the holy grail! What a nasty spanner in the works!

An international group of academics is urging world leaders to abandon their current policies on climate change. The authors of How to Get Climate Policy Back on Course say the strategy based on overall emissions cuts has failed and will continue to fail. They want G8 nations and emerging economies to focus on an approach based on improving energy efficiency and decarbonising energy supply. Critics of the report's recommendations say they are a dangerous diversion.

The report is published by the London School of Economics' (LSE) Mackinder Programme and the University of Oxford's Institute for Science, Innovation & Society. LSE Mackinder programme director Gwyn Prins said the current system of attempting to cap carbon emissions then allow trading in emissions permits had led to emissions continuing to rise. He said world proposals to expand carbon trading schemes and channel billions of dollars into clean energy technologies would not work. "The world has been recarbonising, not decarbonising," Professor Prins said.

"The evidence is that the Kyoto Protocol and its underlying approach have had and are having no meaningful effect whatsoever. "Worthwhile policy builds upon what we know works and upon what is feasible rather than trying to deploy never-before implemented policies through complex institutions requiring a hitherto unprecedented and never achieved degree of global political alignment."

The report has drawn an angry response from some environmentalists, who acknowledge the problems it highlights but fear that the solutions it proposes will not work. Tom Burke, from Imperial College London and a former government adviser, said: "The authors are right to be concerned about the lack of urgency in the political response to climate change. "They are also right to identify significant weaknesses in the major policy instrument currently being negotiated. "But nothing could be more harmful than to propose that the world stop what it is doing on climate change and start again working in a different way," Professor Burke contested.

"This is neither practical nor analytically defensible - and it seems to have been born more out of frustration than understanding of the nature of the political processes involved. "This is a far more complex, and urgent, diplomatic task than the strategic arms control negotiations and will require an even more sophisticated and multi-channel approach to its solution. Stop-go is not sophisticated."

G8 leaders will discuss climate change on Wednesday before joining leaders of emerging economies on Thursday for a meeting chaired by President Obama.



Wild sheep on a remote Scottish island are shrinking, and new research suggests that they're global warming's latest warning. But is climate change really to blame for the dip in this mouton célébré's size?

According to Tim Coulson and colleagues at Imperial College London, Soay sheep on the Outer Hebridean island of Hirta shrank by two kilos over the 25-year long study. And it's not because they've discovered the Atkins diet: Professor Coulson says that climate change is shortening Europe's harsh winters, allowing the puny sheep that would normally perish in the cold to survive. 'The Soay sheep provides another example of how far-reaching and unpredictable the effects of climate change can be', he remarks in the Times.

While there's no doubt that Europe's winters have become markedly warmer since the '70s, allowing the sheep to shrink, not all scientists are as sure as Professor Coulson that climate change is pulling the strings. This 2007 study by Dr Anastasios Tsonis, for example, points the finger at natural variability rather than greenhouse gas emissions. The North Atlantic Oscillation, the northern hemisphere's weather-maker, has simply been stuck in 'positive' (a.k.a. winter-warming) mode since the 1970s, he suggests.

'The standard explanation for the post 1970s warming is that the radiative effect of greenhouse gases overcame shortwave reflection effects due to aerosols', notes Dr Tsonis. 'However [our models suggest] an alternative hypothesis, namely that the climate shifted after the 1970s event to a different state of a warmer climate, which may be superimposed on an anthropogenic warming trend', he concludes.

So: William Blake's 'Little Lamb' can still thank the mild and the meek for its existence - but not necessarily climate change.


Warmist critic of vituperative gibberish engages in vituperative gibberish

Below are some comments from the original moonbat himself. He accuses climate skeptics of vituperative gibberish. But what is his article if it is not vituperative? I can see no mention of any single scientific fact in it. It is all abuse: "native idiocy", "infantile blathering" etc. And, as for "gibberish", his paranoid ravings that his critics are "astroturfers" (i.e. in the pay of "big oil" and the like) ignores all the eminent retired and tenured climate scientists (Singer, Lindzen, Kininmonth etc.) who need no pay from anyone to point out that global warming stopped more than 10 years ago. And paranoia is a type of madness, madness that often produces "gibberish" such as Monbiot's

On the Guardian's environment site in particular, and to a lesser extent on threads across the Guardian's output, considered discussion is being drowned in a tide of vituperative gibberish. A few hundred commenters appear to be engaged in a competition to reach the outer limits of stupidity. They post so often and shout so loudly that intelligent debate appears to have fled from many threads, as other posters have simply given up in disgust. I've now reached the point at which I can't be bothered to read beyond the first page or so of comments. It is simply too depressing.

The pattern, where environmental issues are concerned, is always the same. You can raise any issue you like, introduce a dossier of new information, deploy a novel argument, drop a shocking revelation. The comments which follow appear almost to have been pre-written. Whether or not you mentioned it, large numbers will concentrate on climate change – or rather on denying its existence. Another tranche will concentrate on attacking the parentage and lifestyle of the author. Very few address the substance of the article.

I believe that much of this is native idiocy: the infantile blathering of people who have no idea how to engage in debate. Many of the posters appear to have fallen for the nonsense produced by professional climate change deniers, and to have adopted their rhetoric and methods. But it is implausible to suppose that this is all that's going on. As I documented extensively in my book Heat, and as sites like DeSmogBlog and Exxonsecrets show, there is a large and well-funded campaign by oil, coal and electricity companies to insert their views into the media.

They have two main modes of operating: paying people to masquerade as independent experts, and paying people to masquerade as members of the public. These fake "concerned citizens" claim to be worried about a conspiracy by governments and scientists to raise taxes and restrict their freedoms in the name of tackling a non-existent issue. This tactic is called astroturfing. It's a well-trodden technique, also deployed extensively by the tobacco industry. You pay a public relations company to create a fake grassroots (astroturf) movement, composed of people who are paid for their services. They lobby against government attempts to regulate the industry and seek to drown out and discredit people who draw attention to the issues the corporations want the public to ignore.

Considering the lengths to which these companies have gone to insert themselves into publications where there is a risk of exposure, it is inconceivable that they are not making use of the Guardian's threads, where they are protected by the posters' anonymity. Some of the commenters on these threads have been paid to disseminate their nonsense, but we have no means, under the current system, of knowing which ones they are.

Two months ago I read some comments by a person using the moniker scunnered52, whose tone and content reminded me of material published by professional deniers. I called him out, asking "Is my suspicion correct? How about providing a verifiable identity to lay this concern to rest?" I repeated my challenge in another thread. He used distraction and avoidance in his replies, but would not answer or even address my question, which gave me the strong impression that my suspicion was correct.

So what should we do to prevent these threads from becoming the plaything of undisclosed corporate interests? My view is that everyone should be free to say whatever they want. I have never asked for a comment to be removed, nor will I do so. I believe that the threads should be unmoderated, except to protect the Guardian from Britain's ridiculous libel laws. But I also believe that everyone who comments here should be accountable: in other words that the rest of us should be able to see who they are. By hiding behind pseudonyms, commenters here are exposed to no danger of damaging their reputations by spouting nonsense. Astroturfers can adopt any number of identities, perhaps posting under different names in the same thread. We have no idea whether we are reading genuine views or corporate propaganda. There is also an asymmetry here: you know who I am; in fact some people on these threads seem to know more about me than I do. But I have no idea who I am arguing with.

Some people object that verifiable identities could expose posters to the risk of being traced and attacked. This is nonsense. I make no secret of my whereabouts and attract more controversy than almost anyone on these pages, but I have never felt at risk, even when, during the first few months of the Iraq war, I received emails threatening to kill, torture and mutilate me almost every day. For all the huffing and puffing in cyberspace, people simply don't care enough to take it into the real world.

So how could it best be done? Amazon prevents people from reviewing their own work by taking credit card numbers from anyone who wants to post. Is this the right way to go, or is there a better way of doing it? What do you think?


Britain releases criminal illegal immigrants

Ministers were plunged deeper into scandal last night as it emerged almost 200 of the dangerous criminals who are wrongly at large are foreign nationals. Incredibly, a third of the convicts were released from jail on licence despite being told they were liable for deportation. Facing removal from Britain, the men - who include a rapist - went on the run. Critics said it 'beggared belief' that ministers had been prepared to release on to the streets criminals who should have been booted out of the country.

The revelations followed the announcement on Monday that 954 criminals who were released early had been recalled to jail for breaching their licence requirements, but had never been tracked down by police. The Government made no mention of the nationality of the convicts, who include murderers, rapists and paedophiles. But the Daily Mail has discovered that 192 of the 954 are classed as foreign nationals.

Some 64 had committed crimes which were so serious they should have been deported at the end of their sentence. But instead of being held in detention until they could be kicked out, they were allowed to walk free on licence instead.

The scandal for the Home Office now moves significantly closer to the foreign prisoner fiasco, which claimed the scalp of Charles Clarke in 2006. In that year, it emerged that 1,000 overseas inmates were freed without even being considered for deportation. Last night, Tory home affairs spokesman Chris Grayling said: 'This is fast turning into a major scandal. 'The failure to deport foreign criminals after they are released from jail has already cost the job of one Home Secretary, people simply will not understand why ministers have failed to get to grips with this problem.'

Critics said inmates were now being assessed for removal, but this did little good if they were being allowed to walk free.

The Mail reported yesterday how an urgent police manhunt was under way to trace the 954 criminals wrongly at large. They include 20 murderers, 15 rapists and five paedophiles. At least 59 have reoffended, including crimes of rape. One murderer has been on the run for 25 years, and is understood to have escaped abroad, and is living in mainland Europe.

The Government knew little or nothing of the fiasco until after a review of the recall process was ordered two years ago. The findings were made available on Monday, in a statement to Parliament. Criminals freed early on licence can be sent back to jail if they reoffend, or breach the terms of their early release.

Lin Homer, chief executive of the UK Border Agency, said: 'The system for dealing with the consideration and removal of foreign national prisoners has been made more and more secure, with every individual considered before the end of their sentence. 'Any foreign criminal serving more than 12 months in prison is automatically considered for deportation - last year we sent home a record 5,400 lawbreakers. 'We are working closely with the police and probation service to assist in returning to prison those foreign national prisoners who have broken their licence conditions.'

Liberal Democrat spokesman Chris Huhne said: 'The Home Office may have been split in two since the last foreign prisoners scandal but it seems the lessons still haven't been learned.'

At least two police forces have refused to publish the names and pictures of local criminals who had absconded. But last night, the the Information Commissioner's Office said data protection rules should not stop them releasing such details.


How many more teen pregnancies before the British Left admits its sex education has been a disaster?

A £5m programme to reduce teenage pregnancies has failed spectacularly. And so we now have a Leftist arguing for moral education

How many more teen pregnancies will it take before this Government realises what a catastrophic failure its sex education policies have been? That is a question I never thought I would find myself asking. I write as a mother of a teenage daughter and a left-of-centre commentator with an unshakeable belief in the power of education to transform lives. I am - and continue to be - a defender of the rights of women and girls, including their right to an abortion, when needed. There is no U-turn here, no betrayal of what I have always believed in. But the facts can no longer be ignored.

The time has come for an honest reflection on teenage pregnancy rates, a social ill which policy-makers and politicians do not seem capable of tackling. We have just had one more example of this failure. An evaluation of one of many government sex education initiatives (this one named YPDP, the Young People's Development Programme) has just been published in the respected British Medical Journal. This programme, costing more than £5million, focussed on groups of sexually active young girls who were considered most at risk of getting pregnant. The girls were given intensive health education and free condoms in the hope that this would enable them to avoid unprotected sex.

Apparently, similar projects in New York had effectively cut down the number of teen mums. Not so here. Alarmingly, significantly more girls on the course got pregnant than those not on the programme. In other words, the costly scheme achieved the very opposite of what it had set out to do. By any reckoning, it is a monumental failure. Yet I predict that all those on the Left will yet again insist that only more sex education will help free these young women. They will insist that only this can free them from the fate that otherwise awaits them, repeating the cycle of teen parenthood through future generations.

But how can this be right? It makes no sense to me at all, repeating a prescription that is manifestly failing. It is just like a patient who has a terrible headache. You give him or her a supposed painkiller. The pain goes on, so you give them another dose of the exact same medicine. Still the pain continues, so you give them two more and then a specially strong one, refusing to accept the evidence in front of your eyes that the treatment is simply not working, and that if carried on, the treatment will cause a cumulative harm that will probably make the sickness dangerously worse.

Yet that's how the Government has responded to Britain's shamefully high teen pregnancy rates - giving them even more sex education, at a younger and younger age. Although I have no objection to basic sex education in schools, that alone seems unable to prevent teenage pregnancies and might actually be encouraging underage sexual activity. It is surely a mark of desperation when, as was recently announced, ministers plan to introduce sex education for children as young as five years old. Thereby you institutionalise the sexualisation of young children, incontrovertibly one of the main reasons for the alarming teen pregnancy statistics.

British children know enough already about sex; it shouts at them from billboards, whispers to them in magazines and newspapers, entices them on the internet and on TV, and consumes them in modern books for children, too. The problem is that this sexual awareness is received and ingested but with no guidance on consequences, nor any cautionary social mores. And although teenage pregnancies most affect those on low incomes, the valueless universe is affecting all our children.

I have tried to teach my own daughter what I think she needs to survive this culture, but that might not be enough. Like so many others, I can only hope and pray she will pass through the next years without succumbing. I see a number of the girls she went to primary school with, out on the streets, dressed provocatively, smoking and inviting attention. It is both scary and distressing to witness. Not so very long ago, these same children came to birthday parties and sang songs at our house. What the devil got into them?

They would all get full marks if tested on the technical aspects of sex. But they have not learnt how to resist the destructive imperatives of the habitat they live in.

For an old feminist like me, the gains we made were many, but we have failed to equip young females with the tools they need to withstand the pressures put on them to give in to (or seek) sexual activity before they are mature enough to understand the implications.

I have a Danish friend whose partner is English. They have three daughters and he is fighting hard to move to his home country, which, though sexually liberal, is still rooted in stable family traditions that, he says, save girls from early promiscuity. 'That family influence, that wisdom, is lost in England,' he says. And I fear he is right.

Don't get me wrong. I am not a prude, nor do I want the Fifties back again when sex was not discussed at all. There is a tragedy in my own family which hails from those days and continues to haunt us today. When she was only 16, a beloved relative of mine was sent to England to study. She was clueless when it came to sex. In Asian families nobody tells you anything - we don't even have words for intimate body parts or the sexual act. She came into an equally repressed England, got pregnant, had a child, but the shame of it brought on a progressive mental illness from which she will never recover.

What has replaced those buttoned-up, cruel times is serving our young no better. I spend a lot of time talking to families on a housing estate in West London. In the past year, four under-15s in one block alone have got pregnant and want to keep the children. Only one did her GCSEs. When I talked to them they were both nervous and full of bravado. None of the dads was interested. Selina was born to a teenage mum who couldn't remember how she had got into that state. Oh, they know how all the bits work, just not what sex can lead to, in the long term.

Boys behaving badly; girls behaving worse is becoming the norm in Britain. That will not change with free condoms and explicit family planning lessons. Too many young girls, still impressionable and forming into women, feel the need to pretend they are adults. We must find a way to teach them to wait until they mature enough to comprehend the consequences of their actions. We must encourage them to realise that you can have a boyfriend but not 'go all the way'. We must make it clear that virginity is not to be given away cheaply, something to throw at a frisky lad, but a precious rite of passage.

I would go further. I think teachers should be encouraged to provide moral guidance and warn kids of the consequences of children giving birth to children.

The masters of the TV universe who are criminally amoral, who have helped make this world, should be regulated. Teenage mums need to be recruited into education campaigns to tell others how hard it all is to bring up a child. It really is quite scandalous that the fourth richest nation in the world is still unable to find its moral centre and to prevent such levels of sexual incontinence and irresponsibility.

The education young people need is not about sex but about pregnancy, even more so about how to grow self respect. When, in a perverse reversal of traditional values, it becomes shameful for girls as young as 14 not to have had sex, as seems to be the case for too many in our country, then it is time for us all, from across the political and social spectrum, to wake up and do something radical. We simply cannot fall back on the tried and failed responses.


British Justice Secretary promises another increase in media scrutiny of family courts

Long overdue. It might help rein in at least some of Britain's endemic abuses by social workers

Thousands of cases in the family courts will be exposed to increased public scrutiny under reforms to be announced today by Jack Straw. Restrictions on what the media can report are to be relaxed and expert witness reports containing details of child abuse allegations may be published. Mr Straw, the Justice Secretary, will also examine how, subject to safeguards, to allow media access to adoption cases. The reforms build on the opening up of the family courts in April after a campaign by fathers’ groups, politicians and the media led by The Times.

Despite this access, reporting is hampered by a confusing array of restrictions across at least ten statutes. Interviewed by The Times, Mr Straw said that there would be legislation in the next session of Parliament to overhaul the restrictions. In the meantime, the rules would be clarified by a committee headed by Sir Mark Potter, Britain’s most senior family judge, so that the media could report “the substance of children’s cases, while protecting the identity of parties and children”.

The opening of the family courts was marred by concerns that media access was hindered by reporting rules. At present, the Administration of Justice Act 1960 prohibits reporting of the substance of a family case unless a judge indicates otherwise.

Mr Straw said: “The first change was to allow the media into the courts and that came into force at the end of April. The second change relates to the concerns that have been expressed that although journalists can report the gist of proceedings they cannot report the substance without being in contempt of court.”

The changes will be considered next week and are likely to take effect this autumn. Legislation will then be introduced in the Improving Schools and Safeguarding Children’s Bill to rationalise reporting rules across all family courts in line with the regime that applies in the youth courts. Judges would have a discretion to lift anonymity provisions in the public interest at the end of a case. “All of this is turning around a tanker,” Mr Straw said. “But the tanker is turning.”

He added that he also wanted to look at opening up adoption proceedings, although judges strongly oppose media access, regarding adoption as a special case. “To some degree there is a special case and to some degree there isn’t,” Mr Straw said. He added: “What I want, without disclosing the identity of the parties or gratuitously disclosing family secrets where there is no public interest, is to see a light shone on these proceedings because I think that it is in the public interest for that to happen. There is no part of the judicial system that should be private. Confidence in the system suffers if proceedings entirely take place behind closed doors.”

He said, however, that there were “genuine concerns that can’t be dismissed” about protecting the identity of parties and about the disclosure of documents containing “sometimes lurid detail of family secrets”.

Despite a “high level of suspicion” about the media and journalists, Mr Straw said that they had shown themselves to be highly responsible when it came to abiding by reporting restrictions in the youth courts or in any other cases. The regime would be enforced through the contempt of court laws and he was confident that this would work. His family, he said, was subject to a family break-up when he was 10 and his siblings ranged in age from 3 months to 12 years. “If your children or my children were party to proceedings and some pretty unpleasant things were said, would you really want that stuff spilled out?” Mr Straw also delivered a broadside over the rising costs of family legal aid. Spending had risen from £550 million in 2004-05 to about £600 million in 2008-09 with no equivalent increase in the number of cases.

Mr Straw cited reforms to criminal trials and the cut in the number of adjournments. He questioned the need for large numbers of lawyers representing different parties in children’s cases. “A leading practitioner said to me, ‘Is it really in the interests of a child to have all these people in this room?’.”


Another British exam-marking fiasco

Would you believe that some of the markers knew less than the grade-school kids they were assessing? In Britain, SATs are set during and at the end of grade school, usually at ages 11 and 14

Teachers expressed disgust over 'shocking' marking inconsistencies as SATs results arrived in schools yesterday. They claimed one in five grades could be inaccurate because of glitches in the system. They highlighted problems in vetting examiners and pressure to meet strict marking deadlines. Some pupils were marked down for correctly spelling 'distinctive', it emerged. The marker had written in the margin it should be 'destinctive'.

While 99.9 per cent of results were delivered on time, teachers besieged internet forums with complaints of 'unbelievable' marking errors. The revelation raised the prospect of thousands of scripts once again being sent back for remarking. Almost 40,000 results had to be changed last year, in the wake of an administrative fiasco that led to delayed marks for 1.2million pupils. The year before, fewer than 10,000 grades were changed.

Rachel Ross, head of Woolton Hill Junior School, in Newbury, Berkshire, said: 'There are lots of errors. We feel somebody has rushed.'

Teachers' concerns mainly centre around results in the writing test. One told the Times Educational Supplement online forum they had 'watertight evidence of incompetent marking' after comparing pupils' scripts with the marks awarded. Another said a pupil who is brilliant at creative writing was given the same marks as a classmate who cannot write in sentences. A third said a piece of writing that had impressed an A-level examiner was awarded level three - lower than the expected level for 11-year-olds.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said marking inaccuracies was another reason 'to see an end to high-stakes testing and league tables, which distort the education our children receive'.

But the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority said it was confident standards were robust this year. A spokesman said: 'The 2009 mark schemes were carefully designed and test markers received comprehensive training on how to apply them.

Kathleen Tattersall, of exams watchdog Ofqual, said: 'As regulator, Ofqual is continuing to monitor the quality control of the marking of this year's papers.'

Last year SATs descended into chaos as computer problems and administrative failures delayed test marking by several weeks. More than a million 11 to 14-year-olds broke up for summer holidays without knowing results that should have been published on July 8. When the grades did arrive, schools complained that they were wrong or missing, and thousands of pupils were incorrectly marked as 'absent' for tests they actually sat. It emerged that one in three pupils were given the wrong grade.

The Government later banned ETS Europe, the U.S. firm that marked the tests, from checking results. In March 2006 it emerged that some 2005 papers were marked incorrectly because they got wet.


NHS nurse mocked frail old lady as 'drama queen'

By the time Ann McNeill was admitted to Edgware Hospital, in North London, her legs were raw and covered in bandages. The 71-year old grandmother had been diagnosed with the superbug MRSA, and the infection Clostridium difficile at nearby Barnet General Hospital following a succession of major operations.

Having spent decades working as a nurse, Mrs McNeill hated to bother the staff during the 10 months she spent in both hospitals before she died. When the stench of dried urine from a neighbouring bed in her ward in Barnet became overpowering, it was her husband Richard, who asked if it could be cleaned.

When a nurse told the frail pensioner that she "would never be going home" Mrs McNeill said nothing, only weeping later, when her husband visited. In October 2007 she was transferred to Edgware Hospital. The skin on her legs was raw, and partly covered with bandages, both to protect her wounds, and the fragile skin surrounding them.

As a night nurse roughly hoisted her into bed, knocking her legs, Mrs McNeill gasped in pain. "Oh, we've got a drama queen here," laughed the nurse, leaving the pensioner in agony, as blood slowly soaked the sheets. On many occasions, she was left in her own faeces.

Her widower recalls: "She hated disturbing the nursing staff, but she was totally compos mentis and she hated the indignity of it. She would plead with them to change her, but the answer was always firm: 'We will get to you when we have time". Mr McNeill was not convinced that time pressures were the problem. "Often I would wait at the nursing station, for perhaps five minutes, to ask for help for Ann. "They would keep chatting about this and that and I didn't want to interrupt them, I wanted to be polite. "But then when they got to the end of their conversation, they would go off, as though I wasn't there at all. I remember once I felt so desperate, I said to them, 'Are we invisible?'"

On another occasion, he arrived at Edgware hospital to find his wife sitting in a chair, her clothes covered in vomit. He was unable to find a nurse. In the next bed, the heavy breaths of an old woman, whose oxygen mask had fallen off, appeared to go undetected by staff.

On Monday 15 October 2007, less than a week after her surgeon said Mrs McNeill was recovering well, she died of bronchopneumonia, a condition which is closely linked to MRSA.

Her widower, now 75, says: "I know there is nothing I can do to bring Ann back, but it destroys me to think of what she went through, even with me trying my best for her every step of the way."

A spokesman for Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals trust, which runs Barnet General Hospital, extended their apologies to Mrs McNeill's family for additional distress caused by the circumstances surrounding her death. He said the patient was in the hospital's care for an extended period of time, and that the trust would be happy to meet with her widower to hear his concerns. He added: "We are anxious to take the opportunity to make any improvements in the quality of care we provide."

Barnet primary care trust, which runs Edgware Community Hospital, said it worked to maintain high standards of health care and had not received any complaints about Mrs McNeill's care.


This is the sort of nut that the NHS can unleash on you

NHS nutritionist gave 'dangerous' food advice to diabetic patients

An NHS nutritionist told diabetic patients to eat a range of bizarre and trendy foods, including some that were 'dangerous', a disciplinary panel heard yesterday. Katie Peck, 32, recommended dandelion tea, kelp granules, milk thistle, flax seed oil and chromium supplements - all apparently without any clinical reason. She also allegedly recommended expensive vitamin supplements, including co-enzyme Q10, for which there is no evidence of any benefit.

A colleague at the Coxheath Centre Diabetes Clinic, near Maidstone in Kent, told a hearing most of the advice was baffling but harmless - but in the cases of two diabetic patients it was 'dangerous'. One, known as ES, who was on insulin and was also being treated for a thyroid condition, was told to take granules of kelp seaweed - a rich source of iodine. Sally Norris, a specialist diabetes dietician, told the Health Professions Council that extra iodine could dangerously interfere with both conditions. 'There would be a safety issue,' she said.

Another diabetic patient, KA, who was awaiting kidney dialysis and had high potassium levels, was told to eat half a large green banana - even though the fruit is known to be rich in potassium. Mrs Norris told the panel: 'What does that mean? Why does the banana have to be green? 'And I would certainly not expect somebody with high potassium levels to be recommended to eat bananas because it would be dangerous.'

Miss Peck also allegedly forbade some patients from eating grapes or drink coffee, and said one should eat cottage cheese - but never with pineapple. She banned mashed potato and alcohol and said red meat should not be eaten more than once a fortnight. Her other directions included that water must be filtered, eggs must be free-range and the dried fruit on one patient's daily porridge had to be organic, the panel heard.

Mrs Norris said there was no reason for that and it would cost the patients more.

She also said to have inappropriately recommended specific brands of products, including Rachel's probiotic yoghurt, Tilda brown basmati rice and Alpro soya milk.

Miss Peck was hired by West Kent NHS Primary Care Trust to cover for Mrs Norris when she went on maternity leave in 2005. When she returned to work in 2007 she sat in on one of Miss Pecks' consultations and was immediately concerned when Miss Peck tried to measure a patient's waist 'in the wrong place completely'. Mrs Norris then went through files and found dozens of examples of peculiar advice, which she reported to managers. She said: 'I was very concerned that things had been written down that didn't seem to have any explanation behind them and I could not see any clinical reasoning. 'There was no evidence that I could see that was behind what was being recommended.'

Miss Peck faces disciplinary charges in relation to 27 patients. John Harding, for the HPC, said: 'The allegation is that Katie Peck's fitness to practise is impaired by reason of lack of competence. 'It will be seen that in relation to each patient there is a common theme that develops - that the note-keeping was in a poor state and that recommendations made by Katie Peck were without any obvious reasons.'

Miss Peck denies any wrongdoing. The hearing in South London continues.


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