Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Growth yes but productivity has fallen

You would think that economic growth would be accompanied by increased productivity. This has been the case in all previous recoveries from recession. Output per man hour worked increases. But this time the government wants us to believe we are well on the way to recovery. We need to be cautious.

Unemployment is falling. More people are in work. But more people are working part-time on low wages. More people are working for wages that don't meet the cost of living. Furthermore, output per man hour worked is falling and not rising. Productivity is falling. This should ring alarm bells for the government and provides ample room for Labour's attack on rising living costs.

The percentage of workers working part time has increased as has the percentage with more than one job. These are signs of a changed economy and a changed workforce. 






Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Sad News that Pete Seeger has died.

Sad news that the folk singer and songwriter Pete Seeger has died aged 94. He had a long life and influenced many. He certainly influenced me. I used to sing his songs with my friends back in the 1960s. Even more than Bob Dylan, he epitomized the protest song and inspired us to an idealism which has long since been sidelined in the modern politics of dancing in a pin head.

Recalling his songs such as If I Had a Hammer brings a tear to my eye. If only we could bring this idealistic view of justice back. Now we live in the age of greed rather than social justice. Pete Seeger hammered out his warning all over the land. It is time we heeded it. Rest in Peace Pete Seeger and thank you for your songs and your inspiration.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Small size in early pregnancy linked to poor heart health later in life

Poor growth in the first three months of pregnancy is associated with a range of cardiovascular risk factors in childhood, finds a study published on bmj.com today.

The findings add to a growing body of evidence and suggest that the first trimester of pregnancy may be a critical period for cardiovascular health in later life.

The first trimester of pregnancy includes the ‘embryonic phase’ (a period of rapid development when the heart and other major organs start to form). So a team of researchers in the Netherlands decided to examine whether poor growth during this period is associated with cardiovascular risk in childhood.

The study involved 1,184 school age children with first trimester crown to rump length measurements (commonly used to estimate fetal age) whose mothers had a known first day of their last menstrual period and a regular cycle.

Several factors, such as mothers’ age, ethnicity, education, smoking status, body mass index and blood pressure were also recorded.

At around age six, children were assessed for cardiovascular risk factors, including body mass index, body fat distribution, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and insulin concentrations.

Using first trimester crown to rump length, the researchers split the group of fetuses into fifths. Compared with those in the highest fifth, those in the lowest fifth (the smallest fetuses) had, at age 6, significantly more total fat mass and android fat mass (fat stored around the abdomen), higher diastolic blood pressure and an adverse cholesterol profile.

First trimester growth restriction was also associated with an increased risk of clustering of these cardiovascular risk factors in childhood.

The authors acknowledge that some of their associations may have arisen by chance, but suggest that the first trimester might be a critical period for cardiovascular and metabolic function.

“Further studies are needed to identify the underlying causal biological mechanisms and long term consequences,” they add. Future strategies to improve cardiovascular health “may start from early pregnancy onwards or even before conception,” they conclude.

In an accompanying editorial, Professor Gordon Smith and Catherine Aiken from the University of Cambridge say despite some limitations, this study adds to a growing body of evidence that fetal growth restriction is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular – and many other – diseases in later life.

But they add “we need a deeper understanding of the strength, nature and mechanisms of the reported associations before rushing to intervene.”

Monday, 20 January 2014

It Wasn't Always Late Summer

My first novel is out. It Wasn't Always Late Summer is a mystery/suspense story of Mary, a teenage mum living in a tower block on a 'broken' run down housing estate infested with prostitution and drugs, and Annie, a child whose life had been stolen a generation before and whose ghostly presence links the central characters in a thrilling conclusion.


Sunday, 5 January 2014

Sad News that Phil Everly has died

Sad news at the start of the new year with the passing of Phil Everly. The Everly Brothers were a major influence on early pop and rock. Their wonderful close harmonies set the standard with a string of hit singles in the 50s and 60s. There interpretations remain the standards of today. The Everly Brothers were simply legendary. So here is my tribute to them: