Category Archives: health

Skinny

It’s not often the Oxford English Dictionary fails to trace an etymology, but in this case, it does:

skinny
slang (orig. and chiefly U.S.). With the. Detailed and esp. confidential information about a person or topic, ‘the low-down’; (also more generally) news, gossip.

Though I suspect the Senate vote on the “skinny” Health Care Bill was more about:

orig. U.S. A cup of coffee or a coffee-based beverage made with skimmed or semi-skimmed milk

Meaning: thin, unsustainting, not nutricious, less than stimulating, more for appearance than any real benefit.

Now to Nate Silver on fivethirtyeight.com. The vote has just gone down on the defection of Senators Collins, McCain and Murkowski. We knew two of those would be hold-outs, but we were meant to be surprised by John McCain. As if he hadn’t signalled already …

This is usually the time when FiveThirtyEight would say “let’s not get too carried away …” but, well, this is one of those times when you should maybe get carried away? It’s not really a surprise that the bill failed. It always had a lot of problems, and Republicans didn’t come close to passing straight repeal or BCRA in the Senate in earlier votes. But that it failed in a way that will be so embarrassing to both McConnell and Trump is noteworthy and will have all sorts of implications for Republicans.

Enough already.

But there were a couple of “issues”.

Lisa Ann Muskowski has been around some time — she’s been the Senator for Alaska since 2002. Go to that official web-page and find that she has established clearly her “red lines”:

… many provisions of the ACA that have worked for Alaska that Senator Murkowski believes should be retained. Those provisions are:

  • Prohibitions on the discrimination for pre-existing conditions

  • No annual or lifetime limits

  • Coverage up to age 26

  • Continuation of coverage afforded under Medicaid Expansion

  • Maintaining access to Planned Parenthood facilities

This is a lady who has seen off the Alaskan Republicans previously: they tried to elbow her out in the 2010 Primary, so she went for a write-in campaign, and took out the ‘official’ GOP nominee (a Tea Party and Palin face)  by four clear points. The sheer bone-headedness of the Trump Administration is — yet again — on show trying to rough up the lady. Or, as Silver has it:

the Interior Department’s threats to screw over Alaska — presumably ordered by the White House

See it here:

Another indicator was the way some republican Senators kept their powder dry. Heller (Rep, Nevada) and Sasse (Rep. Nebraska) held their votes back until it was clear they could vote with their party leadership without disturbing the outcome. Ah, c’mon! Done it myself in London Borough politics: once you know the party has the votes, a pointless show of principle becomes easier. In this case, it works the other way: a show of partisan loyalty would be cheap compared to putting the boot into the higher-ups.

So here we are, relishing the aggravation caused Trump and McConnell. It looks as if the weirdo fringes have been consigned back into their boxes. McConnell is begging Democratic input (and — as things stand — it’s only too easy to watch the GOP leadership swivelling in the wind).

But the real Democrat goodies are still there for the taking. This session has not produced the repeal of ObamaCare, and there is no reason to believe much will change. Effectively, then, we are half-way to the mid-terms. There’s something in The West Wing about the short windows of political opportunity in the American system. If a decision doesn’t get actioned in the first six or eight months of a term, it runs up against the next electoral cycle. So: strike one to the Dems.

Then there are 49 GOP Senators and over two hundred members of the House who bear the mark-of-Cain on TrumpCare. Short of actually dumping on twenty million or more suddenly deprived of health-care (and resentful about it) that can’t be bad party politics.

But above all, here’s another aggrieved citizen — but this one with a soapbox:

“Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski is declaring it “Failure Friday” for President Trump, saying that if you want to know what failure looks like, “just take a look at the last 36 hours of the Trump presidency.”

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under health, History, The West Wing, underclass, United States, US Elections, US politics

Going critical

The world’s first self-sustaining nuclear reaction took place in the west stands, Old Stagg Field, of the University of Chicago on 2nd December 1942. Which means that I was born in the atomic age. Just about.

I blanch at Enrico Fermi’s confidence in his own expertise, that one of the most (ahem!) explosive experiments in all science was undertaken alongside East 55th Street.

Coitus interruptus

Translate that to national economics, and today an experiment of comparable magnitude is happening next to Westminster Bridge. The (erstwhile) “Great Repeal Bill”, then down-rated to mere “Repeal Bill”, has now slithered into the light of parliamentary day as the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.

The Mayo Clinic reckons the withdrawal method of “contraception” has, in practice, a failure rate of 22%.

It’s hard, ain’t it hard?

Of course, today is only the First Reading, so little more than a nod-and-a-wink.

The real event will be the Second reading; and there we can expect the Labour Opposition to lay amendments, and vote against any substantive motion. With a nominal majority of a bare dozen (and that’s only achieved with the mercenary aid of the DUP), the work of the government whips will be severely taxing. This is where the business of minority government becomes progressively more onerous. All the Opposition has to do is keep the powder dry, and a cohort floating in and around the Commons chamber, and every single Tory (and paid DUPper) has to available for instant voting service.

The nearest to living through the dying months of the Callaghan Government is James Graham’s drama This House. I saw that in its original at the Cottesloe Theatre, so that must have been in the late autumn of 2012. Philip Glenister (yes, DCI Gene Hunt of Life on Mars) humanised the (more-brutish-in-real-life) Labour Whip, Bob Mellish. The best rôle was Charles Edwards as the Tory Whip (and later Speaker of the Commons) Jack Weatherill. The play was revived in the West End over the past winter. Next tour it will be on tour around the provincial theatres. It’s not just a good (arguably, great) play: it is supremely relevant to our present political predicament.

For anyone with socialist/anarchic tendencies (like myself), the progress of the Brexit legislation is going to somewhere between fascinating and a-laugh-a-minute. There are few things more delightful than watching the natural enemy impaled on a cross of his (or, in this case, her) own construction. As the BBC web-site summarises:

MPs must “work together” on Brexit, the minister in charge of the UK’s EU exit has said, as he published a bill to convert EU law into British law.

The legislation, known as the repeal bill, will ensure the same rules apply in the UK after Brexit, while giving UK parliaments the power to change them.

Brexit Secretary David Davis said he will “work with anyone” to make it a success, but he faces opposition.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron told the government: “This will be hell.”

Labour vowed to vote against the legislation unless there were significant changes to the details previously set out, while the SNP said there needed to be “clarity” over which powers repatriated from the EU should go to the devolved nations.

The Conservatives are relying on Democratic Unionist Party support to win key votes after losing their Commons majority in the general election.

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said there could be “parliamentary guerrilla warfare” on the bill.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “For opposition parties and for Remainer Tories there is a sense today of ‘here we go’. This is government critics’ first big chance, bit by bit in Parliament, to try to put their version of Brexit, not Theresa May’s, on to the statute book”.

Formally known as the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, the draft legislation is a key plank of the government’s Brexit strategy.

Note therein: government critics’ first big chance, bit by bit in Parliament, to try to put their version of Brexit, not Theresa May’s, on to the statute book. This is why Theresa May was induced to go for that General Election, which was supposed to bring in a phalanx of Tory Brexiteers, all grateful to the all-powerful Theresa May for giving them their seat. This is why the Labour Opposition (who, where it counted, exploited the Remain tendency) feel the political wind behind them. This is why the SNP and Lib Dems feel they have a chance to regain lost ground. This is why, for all the Corbyn bounce and froth, the combined Opposition may not — yet — want to bring the whole thing crashing down. Better to watch, wait, and relish the Tories in a terminal agony.

The Tory press

What allowed Fermi’s reactor to “go critical” was withdrawing the control-rods:

A simple design for a control rod was developed, which could be made on the spot: cadmium sheet nailed to a flat wooden strip … The [thirteen-foot] strips had to be inserted and removed by hand. Except when the reactivity of the pile was being measured, they were kept inside the pile and locked using a simple hasp and padlock …

(Herbert Anderson, a research student at Columbia, under John R Dunning, who became Fermi’s assistant at Chicago, quoted by Richard Rhodes, pages 433-4)

The extent to which the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill goes critical, and toxic for the Tories, depends on how the public prints moderate the reaction. The analogy of those cadmium strips is how the “papers of record” record it. Since the UK press is heavily dominated by foreign and Brexiteering owners, I have little faith the delivery will be as honest (and inflammatory) as it should be.

Take, for an example, Iain Martin in today’s The Times.

His main thrust is:

Negotiating Brexit terms with a nascent superstate will require leadership that Theresa May is not equipped to provide

Out of the traps, one recognises a frothing Brexiteer by the travesty of the EU as a nascent superstate. It isn’t. It is a working model of 27 proud and separate nations who have chosen to subsume some aspects of sovereignty in a common enterprise. Martin even goes so far as to nominate the next Tory Prime Minister:

Of the available candidates the Brexit secretary David Davis looks to me the best choice and Boris seems done for. But the chancellor Philip Hammond could emerge, or a compromise candidate such as the home secretary Amber Rudd or Priti Patel, the international development secretary.

We can see we have wandered further into Cloud-Cuckoo-Land when Priti Patel (few come harder rightist) can be suggested as a compromise candidate.

Go forth, or fourth, and stupify

In the middle of Martin’s musings comes this:

Right now, Britain does not have any leadership: it must find it soon or lose badly.

Partly this is because voting to leave a superstate in the making is, it turns out, much easier than actually leaving. The hard Brexiteers had given too little thought to how it would be done, certainly. The softer Brexiteers (me included) cannot agree on what a compromise looks like. And gleeful ultra-Remainers want to try the experiment of telling the voters that last year’s referendum doesn’t count.

Martin elides any distinction between the Tory Party and the wider nation. If Theresa May is not up to the job, the whole national enterprise is rudderless, without leadership. Not so, unless we have truly evolved into an “imperial presidency”. The power in the land should be the collective will of the Commons. If there isn’t a dominating political majority, the various views represented in the Commons have to be sifted until a consensus (actually, no more than a general will of over 320-0r-so MPs) is arrived at.

But Martin’s worst bit of journalistic legerdemain is to assert there are only three possible viewpoints: hard Brexiteers, softer Brexiteers and gleeful ultra-Remainers. The 48% (or, as recent polling suggests, now nearer the mid-50s %) are all gleeful and, like the Irriducibili football hooligans of Lazio, ultras? Catch herself’ on, Iain!

Outside the foetid world of Tory tabloids, one general opinion is closer to a fourth category: soft Remainers.

These are the folk who, regretfully, accept what came out of the 23rd June 2016 referendum,

  • whether or not it was fairly run (the electorate was appropriately pruned),
  • whether or not we voters were told truths, half-truths, or diabolical lies,
  • whether or not a 48.1/51.9 split is final and decisive’
  • whether or not it multiple subsequent interpretations anyhow approximate to what was argued beforehand.

And “soft Remainers” are going to be the crucial mass of MPs and their noble Lordships who will be the equivalent of those cadmium rods, and determine the final shape of  the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.

One practical example

What happened at Stagg Field has had consequences over the intervening three-quarters of a century (Grief! Am I that old?). It led to:

  • Hiroshima, and Nagasaki;
  • deterrence theory, and MAD;
  • some 500 nuclear power plants across thirty countries around the world;
  • Three Mile Island, and Chernobyl;
  • the production of 11 or 12% of global electricity supplies;
  • nuclear and isotopic medicines and advances.

One thing that has been universally agreed is that nuclear power should be controlled and regulated internationally. After various failures (the Baruch Plan, UNAEC, attempts at non-proliferation treaties), for sixty years we have had the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Not perfect, not wholly world-wide, but it largely works.

Gone critical

Across Europe and 29 nations we have Euratom. Originally Euratom was somewhat aside from the Coal and Steel Community, but was pursued as a discrete operation and source of energy. For convenience, Euratom was folded into the 1965 Merger Treaty of the EEC. Even after Maastricht in 1993, Euratom remained a separate entity, not under direct EU control. There is, logically, no reason why the UK should not remain as associated as Switzerland — except the bone-headedness of one, Theresa May, as the thrall of the Tory head-bangers. The objection by these types is the European Court of Justice’s

rare and arcane judgments on nuclear matters… Rules on nuclear energy are not politically sensitive and were not an issue in the referendum campaign. The government does not need to take such a rigid position on the ECJ in this domain.

(The Times, second leader, 12th July 2017.)

In recent days, all and sundry have recognised that the UK needs supplies of isotopes (for which we have no production facilities) through Euratom (which also gives access to 71% of world uranium production).

Then there is the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. It will be owned and un by EDF Energy. That is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Électricité de France. Which, some may think, raises intriguing questions of Euratom oversight.

Leave a comment

Filed under BBC, Britain, Conservative Party policy., DUP, EU referendum, Europe, health, History, Law, Music, Nuclear power, politics, Theresa May, Times, Tories.

Another place with “too much history”

Yesterday to Durham and The Big Meeting (133rd iteration).

The Lady in my Life and myself are there, dead in front of the microphones, and about four rows back. The last time I went was mid-1960s, and the main speaker was Harold Wilson. There were still coal-mines working then. Durham’s very last was Monkwearmouth, where the last shift was worked on 10th December 1993. The site, today, is the Stadium of Light, Sunderland’s home ground.

In 1937 George Orwell was factually stating the importance of coal:

Practically everything we do, from eating an ice to crossing the Atlantic, and from baking a loaf to writing a novel, involves the use of coal, directly or indirectly. For all the arts of peace coal is needed; if war breaks out it is needed all the more. In time of revolution the miner must go on working or the revolution must stop, for revolution as much as reaction needs coal. Whatever may be happening on the surface, the hacking and shovelling have got to continue without a pause, or at any rate without pausing for more than a few weeks at the most. In order that Hitler may march the goose-step, that the Pope may denounce Bolshevism, that the cricket crowds may assemble at Lords, that the poets may scratch one another’s backs, coal has got to be forthcoming. But on the whole we are not aware of it; we all know that we ‘must have coal’, but we seldom or never remember what coal-getting involves. Here am I sitting writing in front of my comfortable coal fire. It is April but I still need a fire. Once a fortnight the coal cart drives up to the door and men in leather jerkins carry the coal indoors in stout sacks smelling of tar and shoot it clanking into the coal-hole under the stairs. It is only very rarely, when I make a definite mental-effort, that I connect this coal with that far-off labour in the mines. It is just ‘coal’ — something that I have got to have; black stuff that arrives mysteriously from nowhere in particular, like manna except that you have to pay for it. You could quite easily drive a car right across the north of England and never once remember that hundreds of feet below the road you are on the miners are hacking at the coal. Yet in a sense it is the miners who are driving your car forward. Their lamp-lit world down there is as necessary to the daylight world above as the root is to the flower.

It is not long since conditions in the mines were worse than they are now. There are still living a few very old women who in their youth have worked underground, with the harness round their waists, and a chain that passed between their legs, crawling on all fours and dragging tubs of coal. They used to go on doing this even when they were pregnant. And even now, if coal could not be produced without pregnant women dragging it to and fro, I fancy we should let them do it rather than deprive ourselves of coal.

Eighty years on, 21st April 2017, Britain went a day without coal, while the lights stayed on.

There have been no active coal-mines, and no coal-miners in the County Palatine this quarter-century. But the Durham Miners’ Gala, the Big Meetin’, goes on, and this year was bigger and brassier than ever.

Durham has too much history for its own good. That’s an expression I have seen applied to Ireland, to the island of Cyprus and to Naples in recent times. It has degrees of truth in every case. In Durham, though, the history is close enough to touch:

… the miners who died in the many pit disasters of the Durham coalfields.

They number thousands, including 164 at Seaham in 1880 and 168 at Stanley in 1909, and are commemorated by a memorial in Durham Cathedral, a spectacular Romanesque landmark that this autumn celebrates the 25th anniversary of its designation as a Unesco World Heritage Site, along with the rest of the historic city. Next to the memorial to the victims of pit disasters is a book of remembrance that the Dean of the Cathedral, the Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove, was at pains to point out to me. “Here’s one 15 years of age,” he said. “J E Scott. Died at Shotton [in 1953]. This is a really poignant place.”

The Dean talked of “the big meeting”, the annual miners’ gala in July when the former mining communities pour through the city behind their colliery banners and wind their way up to the cathedral for the miners’ service. “It’s a kind of echo of the Middle Ages when people would flock into this place and believe they were part of something bigger than they were,” said the Dean.

Any rail journey takes one past acres of rough scrub that not too long ago were coal-tips. Railway yards and sidings stretch far, far further than any conceivable modern need. Few villages lack what once was (and may still be marked as) the Miners’ Welfare hall. In the streets and pubs one brushes past ageing faces and limbs, marked with the blue of coal-dust tattooed under the skin.

Scott and Scot

Yesterday, then, to Durham’s Racecourse. The site stretches past the Wear river-bank, and to its other side the massive ridge (as above):

Well yet I love thy mix’d and massive piles,
Half church of God, half castle ’gainst the Scot …

For sixty-odd years that tag has come to my mind, and mouth, every time I have seen an image or the reality of Durham’s great, looming cathedral. I somehow knew it was Walter Scott. That may be because anything so romantic had to derive from the same source that gave us swash-and-buckle, the Errol Flynn version of Robin Hood and even Tony Curtis’s fictional “Yonda lies the castle of my fodder“. Precisely locating the reference isn’t quite that easy. To save others the sweat, it is found in Canto Third of Harold the Dauntless of 1817.

For contemporary tastes, Scott’s romantic world contains too much “hied me home” or

Wrinkled his brows grew, and hoary his hair

That’s unfair in this case, because the 1817 poem is prefaced by a more-cynical Scott. He deplores O tempora! O mores, as Cicero did Against Catiline: —

Ennui! — or, as our mothers call’d thee, Spleen!
To thee we owe full many a rare device;
Thine is the sheaf of painted cards, I ween,
The rolling billiard-ball, the rattling dice,
The turning-lathe for framing gimcrack nice;
The amateur’s blotch’d pallet thou mayst claim,
Retort, and air-pump, threatening frogs and mice,
(Murders disguised by philosophic name,)
And much of trifling grave, and much of buxom game.

At the moment, the imposing central tower of the Cathedral Church of Christ, Blessed Mary the Virgin and St Cuthbert of Durham has scaffolding all round, and wears a square white cook’s bonnet.

The proceedings

When we finally came to the speechifying, even that have to be after a brass-band rendering of “The Miner’s Hymn”, Gresford:

The story behind that is told here:

Written by a former miner, Robert Saint, to commemorate the Gresford pit disaster in 1934 it has been played at mining events ever since; most notably at the famous Durham Miners’ Gala.

What is too easily forgotten is that, in the days of working pits, the attendees at the Gala would have held silence to that every year and recalled the death-toll.

My first teaching job was in a boys’ grammar school in the County Durham. Male teachers in an all-male (with one brave exception) staff-room constitute a cynical lot. So, morning break, 21st October 1966, was eerily quiet. The news was coming through of the Aberfan disaster and the immolation of Pantglas Primary school. By no coincidence, Alan Plater’s Close the Coalhouse Door (originally intended as a BBC radio play) went on stage in April 1968:

A few years back I was at the packed Richmond Theatre for Sam West’s revival (lightly trimmed by Lee Hall). The same evocative, eye-pricking power was there. All the way from Thomas Hepburn and Peter Lee.

It’s the same tradition as Abide With Me before the Cup Final. It’s very much the mood of “those no longer with us”. But for industrial workers, especially in the heaviest industries, it’s also “those taken from us because of managerial mistakes and incompetence”.

This year the Miner’s Hymn had added plangency:

Not just an Elf

There is a message here; and it’s the box that most of the speakers at the Big Meeting ticked.

Disasters like Gresford in 1934, Aberfan in 1966 and the Grenfell Tower this year are “accidents-waiting-to-happen”. They derive from decisions taken, or studiously ignored, by bureaucratic processes beyond the control of us ordinary folk. What we have to protect us, to some extent, are Health and Safety Regulations. That is, of course, if they are policed and enforced.

Even then there are arrogant twazzles who mock them:

“We could, if we wanted, accept emissions standards from India, America, and Europe. There’d be no contradiction with that,” Mr Rees-Mogg said.

“We could say, if it’s good enough in India, it’s good enough for here. There’s nothing to stop that.

“We could take it a very long way. American emission standards are fine – probably in some cases higher. 

“I accept that we’re not going to allow dangerous toys to come in from China, we don’t want to see those kind of risks. But there’s a very long way you can go.”

The MP’s comments came in the context of a discussion about trade deals with other countries following Brexit.

Said twazzle now fancies himself to chair the highly-important Treasury select committee, and stamp Asian labour practices, and US water standards on post-Brexit Britain.

Too much history? Or not enough yet?

1 Comment

Filed under Britain, Conservative family values, Conservative Party policy., crime, culture, Daily Telegraph, economy, Guardian, Harold Wilson, health, History, Independent, leftist politics., leisure travel, Literature, Music, politics, poverty, Quotations, railways, schools, Theatre, Tories., Trade unions, travel, underclass, working class

This grim and unpleasant land

Anyone who wis or has been a local councillor knows the problem. Mine, may years ago, involved allotment gardens which had been “enhanced” with slurry from the local stage works. The result was vegetables high in toxic heavy metals. Adjacent was a scrap-yard which, some how, in days of yore, had gained planning permission — moreover, planning permission with very little in the way of conditions.

Righting these wrongs involves one commodity: money, and shedloads of it. That is precisely the commodity of which local government is chronically lacking.

So I am acutely aware of the griefs felt by all, residents and officialdom, at Moor Street, Brierly Hill:

rubbish

Six years of to-and-fro-ing, and one of the sites’s owners, Robert McNaughton, ordered six months in the chokey: only by awarding planning permission for 90-odd flats has the thing come closer to reconciliation.

McNaughton, by the way, didn’t offend Mr Justice MacDuff by causing a gross public nuisance. His succession of wilful delays and obstructions finally were deemed contempt of court. Not quite on the level of doing Al Capone for tax evasion, but still a nice try. As McNaughton and his moll remain beneficial owners of the site, they may yet clean up.

Anything the West Midlands can do, South Yorkshire can do bigger and more noxious. It’s at Great Heck, near Selby:

Great_Heck

This one burns, stinks, pollutes and probably can be viewed from low orbit.

Again we find an uncooperative owner, who conveniently went bust last summer.

What is different here is the lack of a substantial local authority, properly resourced. Briefly Hill is in Dudley Metropolitan Borough: Great Heck is in Selby District. The population and revenue base vary by a factor of eight or ten. The Great Heack site is sandwiched between concrete plants, a motorway, and a railway line — industrial land less desirable for profitable development.

This time the financial burden has to fall on the Environment Agency, which means the general taxpayer (or more specifically by a virement from other essential schemes).

Capitalism is a dirty business. 

Oh, and by the way, that anecdotage which started this post has another sting in the tail.

Government and hope-builders cast eyes on the Thames-side marshes. The 1974 Tower Bridge to Tilbury survey for the GLC might merit being dug out of the archives. It mentions how the marshes have been used for all sorts of tipping. Not excluding low-level radio-active waste.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under economy, health, Law, London, politics, Yorkshire

And a merry New Year to all our reader…

Angry. Now, there’s a word.

It’s a well-endorsed truth that all the things that come closest to us use good Anglisch. Those Norman-French and other imports are only for the poncy stuff. So the root here is angr– and that’s rooted deep in Old Norse and elsewhere.

It’s often a good thing. It get things done. It narrows one’s options, and focuses the mind marvellously on what matters. Anger in others tells us as much of their character as we need to know.

An example?

Despite the gloss the schoolmen try to put on him, Shakespeare’s Henry V is a bastard. Not genetically, but psychologically. Shakespeare keeps giving us hints (and the presentation of Hank Cinq stems directly from twisted Prince Hal). Consider the way Henry plays with the conspirators in Act II, scene ii; his cruel joke on the common soldier, Williams, in the fourth Act; his cynical wooing of Katharine. And this:

I was not angry since I came to France
Until this instant. Take a trumpet, herald;
Ride thou unto the horsemen on yon hill:
If they will fight with us, bid them come down,
Or void the field; they do offend our sight:
If they’ll do neither, we will come to them,
And make them skirr away, as swift as stones
Enforced from the old Assyrian slings:
Besides, we’ll cut the throats of those we have,
And not a man of them that we shall take
Shall taste our mercy. Go and tell them so.

No way can that be delivered with bombast.

So, to my own cold anger

It stems from the coincidence of two horror stories — one of the present, one implied for the future — i9n today’s press.

Here’s the one:

Hospital A&E units recorded their worst ever performance in the week before Christmas as NHS emergency care services struggled to deal with an unprecedented number of patients arriving, new figures released today show. 

What the NHS calls type 1 A&Es, emergency departments based at hospitals in England, treated and either admitted or discharged just 83.1% of arrivals within the politically important four-hour target in the week ending Sunday 21 December. 

The NHS Constitution says that 95% of patients should be dealt with within that four-hour timeframe, a deadline ministers have promised to meet. 

The 83.1% is the lowest performance against the target since records began in 2004. It came in the week that emergency departments faced a new record high number of A&E patients – 289,530.

Here’s the other:

Hague_Notes_1_3154981b

Haguenotes

Lay aside the macro-economic Big Issue, the Elephant-in-the-room, or (to deploy the ultimate cliché) David Cameron’s repetitious tripe about his long-term economic plan for hard-working families. Get this, folks: the “plan” extends all the way to Election Day on May 7th — after that you and your family are on their own.

What’s left is what has made Britain tick this last seventy years: Nye’s Health Service, free at the point of need from cradle to grave, and Rab Butler’s flawed-but-visionary education system, which delivered the shift from a predominantly working-class population to the bourgeoisification of suburban Britain.

Both are now being dismembered by the toff-class. As Kevin Maguire (I trust, in anger) declares:

Maguire

Conclusion:

Can the stupid party be this stupid?

The anger that attacks on the NHS and education can generate are just what is needed to motivate Labour grass-roots members to tramp streets, knock on doors, stuff envelopes, work on phone-banks. And the Tories (and their LibDem co-conspirators) are stoking up just that. They do offend our sight And not a man of them… Shall taste our mercy.

That’s a bit of good news, this dull, grey first week of January.

1 Comment

Filed under Conservative family values, Conservative Party policy., Daily Mirror, Daily Telegraph, economy, education, Guardian, health, Kevin Maguire, Labour Party, Tories.

A puff for Ireland

Yesterday’s post [Lethal vaping] was a moment of personal revelation — I hadn’t realised just what a deregulated, and dangerous madhouse the world of e-cigarettes is. As post it seemed to go quite well — the statporn was definitely up.

Today, there’s something of a “next episode”, found in today’s Irish Times:

A Harvard professor has called on the Government to show leadership in the EU by regulating electronic cigarettes as medical devices.

Prof Gregory Connolly, director of the Center for Global Tobacco Control at Harvard, argues that if unregulated, e-cigarettes could be the “panacea” for the tobacco industry’s woes by discouraging quitting and encouraging children to take up smoking…

“The reason why I came here is to tell this nation – you need to go in and show leadership within the EU. You’ve got to pass a law here regulating [e-cigarettes] as medical devices,” he told The Irish Times .

Which would be a way forward, not just in Ireland, either.

Let me recall a quotation from yesterday’s NY Times:

MEPs have rejected calls for a blanket ban on the sale of e-cigarettes across the EU.

However, under a compromise deal, strict limits will be placed on the amount of nicotine they contain, and individual EU member states will be able to introduce a national ban if they see fit.

If three or more member states chose that path, it could trigger an EU-wide ban.

By no coincidence, the Irish Times piece seems to incorporate, without acknowledgement, material from that NY Times one.

As I understand:

  • Denmark found e-cigarettes contained an unapproved form of nicotine, and banned them: that was eight years back.
  • The Dutch public health institute … published a policy paper claiming that electronic cigarettes are as harmful as ordinary cigarettes, warning they are addictive and contain poisonous substances. [Daily Telegraph, 28th November 2013].
  • Local authorities, where they have the power, have banned them. Even in Britain major chains, such as Wetherspoons, ban them.

The issue is not whether they help or hinder the reduction of smoking. It is that, as matters stand, it’s all a bit Wild West out there. Of which, no doubt, the nicotine narco-traders approve:

If unregulated, e-cigarettes could recruit a new generation of cigarette smokers for the industry. A recent Utah study showed that 9 per cent of children in the 12th grade (about 17 years old) were smoking e-cigarettes and 3 per cent cigarettes and they were “transferring over” to cigarettes, [Prof Connolly] said.

Bringing it back home

No government, no political party, seems to have wholly clean hands. It’s just that Tory hands are rather more nicotine-stained than most:

  • Lynton Crosby, the Tory guru, had (perhaps still has, through his firm of Crosby Textor) a strong paid interest in tobacco retailing.
  • David Cameron refused, repeatedly, to admit he had lobbied by Crosby on plain packaging.
  • Several senior Tories, the most famed being Ken Clarke, have close ties to the fag-pushers.
  • David Lidington and other Tory MPs were guests of Japan Tobacco International at the Chelsea Flower Show — then repaid their obligation by voting against smoking controls.

Last word to Professor Connolly:

“The reason why I came here is to tell this nation – you need to go in and show leadership within the EU. You’ve got to pass a law here regulating [e-cigarettes] as medical devices,” he told The Irish Times .

Because of the smoking ban, the State had the “moral virtue” and the “leadership” to do this, he said.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Conservative family values, health, Ireland, Irish Times, sleaze., Tories.

Lethal vaping

UnknownWhy, when every sub-prime shopping street has specialists in e-cigarettes, when my favoured pub invites me to “vape”, did I have to go to the New York Times for this horror story?

Selling a Poison by the Barrel: Liquid Nicotine for E-Cigarettes

By  MARCH 23, 2014

A dangerous new form of a powerful stimulant is hitting markets nationwide, for sale by the vial, the gallon and even the barrel.

The drug is nicotine, in its potent, liquid form — extracted from tobacco and tinctured with a cocktail of flavorings, colorings and assorted chemicals to feed the fast-growing electronic cigarette industry.

These “e-liquids,” the key ingredients in e-cigarettes, are powerful neurotoxins. Tiny amounts, whether ingested or absorbed through the skin, can cause vomiting and seizures and even be lethal. A teaspoon of even highly diluted e-liquid can kill a small child.

I had assumed that UK or EU controls were adequate. The BMA, as of a January 2013 briefing, may not agree:

The legal status of e-cigarettes varies around the world. In some countries (eg Denmark, Canada, Israel, Singapore, Australia and Uruguay) the sale, import, or marketing of e-cigarettes is either banned, regulated in various ways, or the subject of health advisories by government health organisations. In others (eg New Zealand), e-cigarettes are regulated as medicines and can only be purchased in pharmacies. The UK has few restrictions on the sale and use of e-cigarettes.

In the UK, e-cigarettes are subject to regulation under the General Product Safety Regulations 2005, the Chemicals (Hazard Information & Packaging for Supply) Regulations 2009, and by trading standards. There are no regulations on the sale of e-cigarettes as age restricted products, including their sale to children. The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – which is tasked with ensuring that medicines and medical devices work and are safe – is currently considering how e-cigarettes and other nicotine containing products should be regulated. The MHRA have stated that a final decision will be made in Spring 2013, and in the interim, have committed to work with the e-cigarette industry to develop a self-regulatory code.

So these things have been available to children — though as of the end of January this year:

Under-18s in England are to be banned from buying electronic cigarettes, the government has announced.

 It would still seem the sale of e-cigarettes is unlicensed, so they are uncontrolled. A licensing system would mean they could be legally sold only in shops, not in car boot sales or markets. We will have to wait until 2016 when the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency is expected to license e-cigarettes as a medicine in the UK.

All is not lost:

MEPs have rejected calls for a blanket ban on the sale of e-cigarettes across the EU.

However, under a compromise deal, strict limits will be placed on the amount of nicotine they contain, and individual EU member states will be able to introduce a national ban if they see fit.

If three or more member states chose that path, it could trigger an EU-wide ban.

 Controls are most certainly required, as we see from that NY Times piece:

Reports of accidental poisonings, notably among children, are soaring. Since 2011, there appears to have been one death in the United States, a suicide by an adult who injected nicotine. But less serious cases have led to a surge in calls to poison control centers. Nationwide, the number of cases linked to e-liquids jumped to 1,351 in 2013, a 300 percent increase from 2012, and the number is on pace to double this year, according to information from the National Poison Data System. Of the cases in 2013, 365 were referred to hospitals, triple the previous year’s number.

Examples come from across the country. Last month, a 2-year-old girl in Oklahoma City drank a small bottle of a parent’s nicotine liquid, started vomiting and was rushed to an emergency room.

That case and age group is considered typical. Of the 74 e-cigarette and nicotine poisoning cases called into Minnesota poison control in 2013, 29 involved children age 2 and under. In Oklahoma, all but two of the 25 cases in the first two months of this year involved children age 4 and under.

It didn’t take me long to find UK sources for liquid nicotine, including at least one, with “free standard shipping”, that invites me to:

ENTER A NEW DIMENSION OF VAPING WITH OUR PLATINUM AND TITANIUM ICE HIGH STRENGTH NICOTINE E-MIXING LIQUIDS. MADE EXCLUSIVELY … TO HELP YOU CREATE THE BEST TASTING LIQUIDS ON THE PLANET.

That’s the whole point.

You have colourful, aromatic substances around the house, and children will be tempted to try them:

“It’s not a matter of if a child will be seriously poisoned or killed,” said Lee Cantrell, director of the San Diego division of the California Poison Control System and a professor of pharmacy at the University of California, San Francisco. “It’s a matter of when.”

1 Comment

Filed under Britain, health, New York Times