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Showing posts from August, 2013

Is the Cameron-Clegg position on Syria crumbling?

It is perplexing. Cameron goes to the UN security council to get a resolution he  knew he had no chance of getting. He can do nothing about the veto of Russia and China. So what  then was it  all about? Once again the US administration is persuaded to go down the UN route against their better judgement. Bush would not have sought a second resolution before invading Iraq without being persuaded to do so by Blair. To help Blair, the Bush administration went for a second resolution.

What is crucial, however, is that Miliband has done what the Tory leadership should have done over the invasion of Iraq; refuse to give backing without conditions. MPs need time to reflect. 'We must act' is not itself an argument. It was repeated by William Hague today. Turning it into a mantra doesn't make it more forceful. This is followed by the slippery slope argument: if we don't act now then it would send a message that chemical weapons can be used with impunity.

In truth, we are always …

Government’s migrant charging proposals impractical, uneconomic and could damage the NHS, warns BMA

The government’s proposals for an extended charging system for migrants and short term visitors attempting to access healthcare in UK are impractical, inefficient, uneconomic and could cause unintended damage to NHS services, the BMA said today (Wednesday, 28 August 2013)

Responding to the government’s recent consultations on migrant and short term visitor access to the NHS, the BMA has outlined serious concerns about these proposals:

There is no evidence that the income derived from charging short term visitors or migrants would be sufficient to cover the significant cost of the increased bureaucracy necessary to administer the system. It is difficult to see how extending charging to general practice could be implemented without ensuring every patient was checked by their GP practice when they register, resulting in inconvenience for all patients and an increased administrative burden on already over stretched GP services. There is no explanation of what documentation patients will n…

What is a 'punitive' military strike against the Syrian regime?

The argument to be put to parliament by Cameron and Clegg and supported by Miliband for a military strike against the Syrian regime is that 'something must be done'. I have never really liked the 'something must be done' line of reasoning. It usually means that the end game has not been thought through. It usually represents a degree of hand wringing. 'We can't stand idly by' is often used when it might be better to do just that. It is of course a difficult choice. To do nothing. But you should only act if by so doing it will be effective in bringing about a better outcome. If it is simply to 'punish' then what really would be achieved? If it is to deter future use of chemical weapons then what kind of action would be sufficient to do so?

The use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime is abhorrent. Of course it is. But at best what is proposed is 'punitive' action to deter future use of chemical weapons. Unless it is well targeted I cannot…

“Why I blew the whistle on the government’s disability assessments” from former ATOS analyst.

We have argued in other articles on this Blog that ATOS work capability assessments are unethical. Now a former Navy Doctor and disability analyst at Atos reveals why he chose to blow the whistle on the government work capability assessment, on bmj.com today.

Dr Greg Wood explains that he made the decision to publicise his concerns about the Atos work capability assessment (WCA) because of interference with reports which he felt “encroached on my professional autonomy and crossed ethical boundaries”, in his BMJ opinion piece.

The system’s implementation, he says, makes it unduly hard for claimants to quality for benefits and therefore overlooks a number of limiting factors of the assessment method that might suggest otherwise.

Dr Wood argues that reports were finalised despite one in five lacking key written evidence, and also reveals that Atos auditors instructed clinicians to change their reports without having examined the patient themselves.

Contrary to the purpose of the WCA – to…

Frankie Sandford says 'It's time to Change'.

The Saturdays singer Frankie Sandford is wearing her heart on her sleeve today (Thursday 15 August) and fronting a new campaign for Time to Change, the mental health anti-stigma programme run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, which aims to stamp out the stigma that surrounds mental health problems.

Alongside a host of celebrities including Ricky Hatton, Russell Kane, Suki Waterhouse and This Morning’s Matt Johnson, the ‘Issues’ and ‘What About Us’ singer has been seen wearing a heart-shaped fake tattoo designed by contemporary British artist Stuart Semple, to support Time to Change’s Time to Talk campaign.

Both Frankie and Matt have talked openly about their experiences of depression to help tackle the discrimination that many people with a mental health problem still face. A recent survey commissioned by Time to Change showed that nearly half of 25-35 year olds (45%) say that people in the public eye, such as Frankie, have made them more aware of the stigma that surr…

Children of obese mothers at greater risk of early heart death as adults

The body of evidence for the developmental origins of health and disease is growing. It has now long been established that maternal diet can influence fetal metabolic development and growth and that this has consequences for health of the offspring later in life.

Now a new study published on bmj.com today finds that children of obese and overweight women have a higher risk of early cardiovascular death as adults.

The findings highlight the urgent need for strategies to prevent obesity in women of childbearing age and the need to assess the offspring of obese mothers for their cardiovascular risk, say the authors.

Rates of maternal obesity have risen rapidly in the past two decades. In the United States, about 64% of women of reproductive age are overweight and 35% are obese, with a similar pattern in Europe.

Many studies have shown a link between maternal obesity and disease later in life, but it is still not clear whether maternal obesity is associated with increased death in offspri…

Regular weekly portion of fatty fish can halve rheumatoid arthritis risk

A study published online today in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases indicates that a regular weekly portion of fatty fish, such as salmon, or four servings of lean fish, such as cod, can halve the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

The benefits of a fishy diet, which needs to be kept up for at least a decade, are largely attributable to its long chain omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) content, confirm the researchers.

They collected information on the dietary habits of more than 32,000 women born between 1914 and 1948, whose health was tracked between 2003 and 2010 as part of the Swedish Mammography Cohort population based study.

The researchers were particularly keen to assess dietary intake of omega 3 PUFAs as previous evidence shows that they have anti-inflammatory properties.

The women, all of whom lived in two counties of Sweden, completed a questionnaire on dietary intake, height, weight, motherhood and educational attainment between 1987 and 1990.

In 1997, the …

Oxford Trobadors: an evening of Occitan songs

Here I go again; another plug for the Oxford Trobadors. The Oxford Trobadors had a great rehearsal this morning in preparation for our Oxford Proms concert tomorrow (Monday evening), an evening of Occitan and Italian songs.  The rehearsal reminded us how beautifully crafted is the medieval troubadour poetry, and no poem demonstrates this better than La Sestina (The Sextine) by Arnaud Daniel (circa 1180).

A difficult poetic challenge: six verses, six lines each, six rhymes, used in each verse. His erotic song, proclaims his firm love (lo ferm voler qu’el cor m’intra) to his unreachable lover in her unreachable bedroom, before he finds paradise, and his joy is doubled (qu’en paradis, n’aura doble joi). The song contains the line tant fina amors com cela qu’el còr m’intra (such noble love as in my body enters). Fin amor is a persistent trobador theme. The Oxford Trobadors arrangement of this song includes the beautiful chorale composed by leading international guitarist Christoph Denoth

Narrower range of helpful bacteria in guts of C-section infants

Increased rates of C-section births has long been a concern, particularly where it is thought to be unnecessary. Now a new study suggests that crucial development of gut bacteria may be delayed in babies born by C-section. 

The range of helpful bacteria in the guts of infants delivered by caesarean section, during their first two years of life, is narrower than that of infants delivered vaginally, indicates a small study published online in the journal Gut.
This has implications for the development of the immune system, say the researchers, particularly as the C-section infants had lower levels of the major group of gut bacteria associated with good gut health, Bacteroidetes phylum, as well as chemicals that help curb allergic responses.
It is already known that infant gut microbiota diversity increases during the first years of life. It is also known that microbiota composition differs between infants born by caesarean section (CS) or vaginal delivery with a delayed colonisation of the g…

Oxford Trobadors, Occitan: la lenga de l'amor, la lenga de cancons

Occitan is often described as the language of love (la lenga de l'amor). It is also a language of songs (una lenga de cancons) and today I have been working on Peire Vidal's Na Vierna for the Oxford Trobadors  concert for the Oxford Proms on 12th August.  As with so many medieval troubadour songs the poet sings of an inaccessible love, in this case Na Vierna who Peire Vidal had to leave behind when he was banished from Tolouse.

The poets have a closeness with their surroundings which often inspires them to sing. On hearing birds singing (La lauzet'e.l rossinhol...comenson premier lur chan) the poet is inspired to sing of his love (ieu chant d'amor de ma dona Na Vierna).  It is also typical of many troubadour songs in being inspired by nature.

This is also true of many Occitan songs such as Se Canta  (it sings). Se Canta is a major feature of Oxford Trobadors concerts. It is one of the most well known songs in Occitan (la cancon mai famosa). Our audiences will often joi…