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Showing posts from February, 2014

'Popular' uprisings are not necessarily popular

We should not make the mistake of assuming that 'popular' uprisings are popular. Or at least we shouldn't assume they represent the overwhelming interests of all the population.

It is instinctive for us to align ourselves with 'velvet' type revolutions - the toppling of oppressive regimes through the shear determination and will of the people expressed through civil disobedience. But the situation in Egypt and now as it develops in Ukraine should tell us that not all outcomes are good. A power vacuum has to be filled and it is often followed by an equally abhorrent regime with equal determination to have its will obeyed.

We now watch the situation as it develops in Ukraine with growing concern. The 2012 election was marred, and with a key opposition leader in prison it was rightly condemned by international observers. But the deposed president was not without popular support. There is a growing unease that Ukraine may split. Prevention of this will require politica…

Did Zoo follow guidelines when it killed Marius?

Remember Marius the giraffe? Copenhagen's scientific director, Bengt Holst, said Marius's genes were too similar to those of other animals in the European breeding programme, and he risked introducing rare and harmful genes to the giraffe population if he had been allowed to breed. This is nonsense. I challenge Mr Holst to tell us what 'harmful' genes Marius had. I doubt if he can. I also challenge him to tell us how he defines these 'harmful' genes.

Nor did Copenhagen's zoo follow fully the guidelines laid down by EAZA, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria. The guideline specifically states that

a post-mortem examination should be performed and biological material preserved for research and gene conservation. The results of the post-mortem should also be passed to the relevant programme coordinator, and full records of any results and outcomes should be archived.  Marius was simply cut up and fed to the lions.

Now I must emphasise that I am not aga…

New English Language Tests for Doctors

Responding to the publication of the General Medical Council’s consultation on introducing English language tests for doctors working in the UK from the European Economic Area, Dr Vivienne Nathanson, BMA Director of Professional Activities, has said:

"The BMA supports the introduction of English language checks for European doctors and new plans from the General Medical Council to set the bar higher for all overseas doctors having to take the tests.

"It is vital for patient safety that all doctors, whether from the European Economic Area or otherwise, have an acceptable command of English to communicate effectively to ensure the safety of their patients.
"Since 2002 the BMA has called for language skills to be made a pre-requisite for any doctors wanting to practice in another EU member state, and while we support freedom of movement it is important that patient safety is paramount at all times."

We all expect our GPs to have good enough English to communicate and …

It Wasn't Always Late Summer

My novel, It wasn't Always Late Summer, is a powerful story of Mary, a single teenage mother living on a housing estate plagued with predatory abuse and prostitution, and Annie, an innocent girl whose ghostly presence links the central characters over two generations, bringing the events that led to her death, the loss of innocence and the unfolding story to a dramatic, thrilling conclusion.

It is a long held view that child abuse is rooted in the cultural heritage of denigrating children  and that most abusers are repeating child rearing patterns they themselves experienced as children.  It wasn't Always Late Summer, explores this thesis in the context of predatory sexual abuse. But it isn't intended to be an academic thesis.



It is a mystery-suspense thriller. It explores through the characters the psycho-social dynamics of the culture of sexual abuse and grooming. Some readers have said they find it compulsive and engaging but they do find it difficult. They put it aside…

Rural GP practices under threat

Changes to the way GP practices are funded in England could threaten the future of at least 98 GP practices, including some that provide vital services to thousands of rural patients, GP leaders have warned today.

Last year the Government decided to begin phasing out the minimum practice income guarantee (MPIG) from April 2014. MPIG provides an important financial lifeline to many smaller GP practices by guaranteeing a minimum level of funding that is not dependent on the number of patients a GP practice has on its practice list.

NHS England have idenitified 98 GP practices that will lose substantial levels of funding that could place their long term survival in question. In addition to the 98, there are a significant number of other practices that will be severely affected. This is compounded by the Government's failure to put in place a national plan to help support the practices affected.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, Chair of the BMA’s GP committee said:

“The government has seriously m…

Is food packaging a threat to health?

Something doesn't taste right. Our food comes in so much packaging. It is even hard to get into. Scissors, knives, fingers pulling and tugging to get excessively hard packaging open. But is that all we have to worry about? Not according to the latest commentary by environmental scientists in the current issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The authors of this commentary warn that the synthetic chemicals used in the packaging, storage, and processing of foodstuffs might be harmful to human health over the long term.

This is because most of these substances are not inert and can leach into the foods we eat.

Despite the fact that some of these chemicals are regulated, people who eat packaged or processed foods are likely to be chronically exposed to low levels of these substances throughout their lives.

The authors of the report suggest that far too little is known about their long term impact, including at crucial stages of human development, such as in the womb, …

No joy from taxing the rich

According to a report in today's Sunday Times many Labour candidates are worried the party will lose the support of business. They are right to be worried but Miliband and Balls will find it difficult to win back the business vote. Blair and Brown worked hard on it when in opposition. It wasn't something that came together in a few months.

Labour is instinctively correct in looking to top earners to contribute or share some of the pain. The problem is that too many of them are immune.  The Tory mantra that taxing the rich is counter productive has not only a ring of truth but a considerable grain of truth. They argue that the rich are paying more in taxes with the top rate reduced than when the top rate was higher and the top 1% of earners pay almost one third of tax revenue.

It is not difficult to see that bashing the poor is easy compared to bashing the rich.

Saving the world from itself

It is reported that US Secretary of State John Kerry is to issue a clarion call for more 'global action' on climate change. This is all well and good but there isn't a 'global body' that can take 'global action'. There are economies competing in a 'global market'. How that translates into 'global action' against climate change I cannot see. Persuading individual countries that they are the ones that need to make a sacrifice for the sake of saving the world is very difficult. For the most part the West has already contributed its share of global emissions. Their damage is done. Now developing countries will have to be persuaded that there are better ways to economic growth and prosperity.

Up to ankles in water does PM no good.

It appears from the opinion polls that the prime minister has misjudged the handling of the floods. All that donning of Wellington boots wading around and looking serious has done little to assuage the mood that too little has been done too late.

I usually find it silly that politicians have to be 'seen to be doing something'. This is why they end up paddling in water and 'coming to see' for themselves the enormity of it all when in truth it provides little they couldn't already understand. Being 'seen' in a crisis is all important. Being 'seen' to be indifferent to people's suffering is highly damaging.

Curiously Miliband's paddling and being 'seen' has been more effective than Cameron's. Voter's minds tend to be made rather early and Cameron was fighting a losing battle with public perception. He just looked like a man out of his depth.

All this is probably distinctly unfair. But it is the nature of politics. I  am sure the…

Sterling scuppers the SNP?

I can understand the arguments for Scotland's independence. They are a proud nation and for too long the politics of Westminster has polarized opinion. I agree with Salmond that if Scotland vote for independence then we will have  to work with it. But whether they can be part of a single currency union if they vote for independence shouldn't be a matter for voters in Scotland alone. Such a union would affect all people in the United Kingdom. It is reasonable therefore for the British government to state now that it would not be possible, or at least it would not be possible without some kind of political union.

It seems that the SNP want to have their independence cake without true economic independence. They want the benefits of being part of the UK economic community without the political responsibility. That is not true independence. It would hand more of their sovereignty to Westminster whilst removing any influence on policies. It is crazy, and it is clear this has not be…

Ban smoking with children in car?

I am not much impressed by the 'libertarian' arguments against a ban on smoking in a car with children. The only argument of value is whether and how it could be enforced.

People should be aware of the real potential damage to children's health particularly when they are trapped in a small space and the air is polluted with toxic chemicals. Secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals. Hundreds are toxic and about 70 can cause cancer. Put that in your libertarian pipe and smoke it!







Hand wringing on Syria

One of the more absurd accusations levelled at former Prime Minister Tony Blair this last week was to blame him for the lack of intervention in Syria. The argument runs that the reason for the West holding back from intervention is the legacy of Iraq. What is somewhat hypocritical is that many of those now adopting this position would have been against intervention at any cost. It is as if the lessons of intervention in Iraq should not be learned: regime change rarely works and it leaves a bloody mess.

But this isn't a criticism of Tony Blair. It is a lesson learned. So we sit back unable to act when hundreds of thousands of Syrians suffer. We wring our hands and cry foul, yet we have no idea what to do. I can't help feeling that Blair and Bush would more likely than not have intervened long before now. I was against intervention. What I no longer know is what is best. Perhaps I should rephrase that: I no longer know which is worse, the bloody cost of not intervening, or the b…