Sunday, 29 November 2009

Diana Watch

I want to begin with a bird feeder update. As you know, because you read this nonsense every week and I thank you for that, I have a birdfeeder and it was being ignored by my local feathered friends and I was wondering how long I should wait before being offended by the tiny little feathery, ungrateful gits.
Well I no longer have to worry about this most modern of dilemmas as I have seen one bird on my new bird feeder; it was a Robin thank you for asking. Of course, just because I have only seen one bird on it doesn't mean that others have not been flocking around it whilst I'm not there or when I’m looking the other way (they are sneaky you know). Now, you may think that I am slightly deluded but just ask any good religious person and they will confirm that, just because no one saw it and there is no evidence for it, in fact there is evidence against it, does not mean that something didn't happen.

I am still keeping up with the “Diana Watch” element of this blog and I have for you one Daily Express front page photo of Princess Diana.

So NICE says we can’t have a bowel cancer drug that seems to work (a bit). This is an emotive subject and I can see both sides of the arguments. If you were dying you would want any chance of increasing the length of your life but is infinite cost ok? Of course it isn't. (Interesting side point, when NICE said no to the £30,000 a year drug the company that makes it offered to renegotiate the price. So that's not how much it costs then? Was it just a number you made up?)
You can't have this drug that has been shown to work (in some cases) on the NHS but you can have some homoeopathy at the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital if you like.
The rest of us use evidence based medicine (but what's the evidence for that?) and we only use treatments and medicines that have been shown to work but one part of the Health Service is allowed to give it's patients little vials of water and sugar pills claiming that it will make them better with no evidence to support that statement. There is actually quite a lot of clear evidence to show that it really, really doesn't work and it's just silly.
So you can't have real drugs that have been shown to work but the NHS is more than happy to fund Quackery.
On the subject of Homeopathy, there was a Parliamentary Science and Technology Select Committee hearing this week that discussed this subject and you can watch it here if you like.
Boots the Chemist were represented at the hearing because they sell some homoeopathic products. Under questioning the representative from the company admitted that they had no proof that it works (not a great surprise there) but they sold it because their customers wanted it and believe it works. Well that's ok then, it not as if you are a trusted Pharmacy that is known for primarily selling medicines that have been shown to work then is it? Oh no, wait a second, you are! Even the anti-dandruff shampoo has to be shown to work before it can be advertised and sold as anti-dandruff shampoo but not so homoeopathic “remedies”.
Pure consumerism in action there. Sell stuff that is known not to work just because some people think it does and completely forget any moral element of separating people from their cash for a useless product. Here is an open letter to Alliance Boots for the Merseyside Skeptic Society.
If it works then let's test it, independently, with double blinded trials and then it can be regulated properly. I'd want in then because the money you can make from selling this stuff would be massive, it's so cheap to produce.

It seems that all you read in the press may not be true. There have been several stories recently that seem to have been, let's say, a little exaggerated. Well, maybe even untrue.
We can start off a little gentle “misreporting”. MP Sir Peter Viggers got a duck house on House of Commons expenses didn't he? Well, no. I know it is only a technicality but he only claimed for it. He filled in a form and asked “might you pay for this?” and the Commons Authority said, “Umm, no. No we won't.”
But that was not how the story was spun in the papers. Ok it was a silly claim but it wasn't paid. When the Express reported it they admitted that the claim was refused but only sort of. They wrote “However, it is not clear whether he was in fact reimbursed for the duck home, as a Commons official wrote "not allowable" by the side of the claim.” So it was not allowed but they tried to insinuate that it might have been paid anyway. Nice.
Then there was that incredibly indecisive Gordon Brown (if you want to see indecisive hand me a menu. Get yourself a snack; this is going to take a while). He was asked about his favourite biscuit on a webchat he did for Mumsnet (for some reason this has become the communication medium of the moment as David Cameron has done it several times) and he didn't answer the question. The press laid into him. All of them. “He can't even decide on a biscuit. This man is a disgrace.” was pretty much what they went with.
The thing is it didn't really happen. Someone on Mumsnet did, indeed, ask Gordon about his favourite biscuit but he didn't receive the question. There was an IT problem at No. 10 and the question didn't get through so he didn't see it and so couldn't answer it. Not many of the papers reported that bit but the lady who runs the website/chatroom confirmed the techy problem.
Do you remember Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross? They rang an old man and left messages on his answering machine. There was a little bit about in the papers, I'm not sure that you would have seen anything about it.
Well it turns out that they probably didn't leave any messages on his machine. Well according to Comedienne Richard Herring who claimed to have heard this when recording “Never Mind the Buzzcocks”.
And then there are the things that they don't tell you. The News of the World was fined £800,000 this week at an industrial tribunal in a case bought by a former Sports reporter for that paper.
If you read most of the UK's daily papers you probably don't know this because they haven't printed it. This little interesting tit-bit is explained here by Alan Greenslade in the Guardian, the only paper that printed the story.
What isn't pointed out in that article, but is in the rest of their coverage of this story, is that the man at the head of the paper when this bullying was taking place is the same man who was in charge whilst the paper was hacking the mobile phones of people that you may have heard of. That man was Andy Coulson. He is currently the Tories Director of Communications & Planning. So he was fired from his paper for mobile phone hacking and now is found guilty of bullying, just the sort of person David Cameron wants to have around.

This is a plea really. Articles in most of the papers this week report that people in the UK is still not donating enough organs. Why not? You don’t need them, you’re dead!
There has been a very large rise, a doubling in fact, in Surgeons using organs from donors that are described as “marginal”. These include the elderly, cancer victims and those with a history of drug abuse. Now, I have nothing against any of these groups of people, actually some of my best friends are elderly, tattooed (higher hepatitis risk), cancer suffering drug addicts, (not fun to be with but they tick so many boxes), but I wouldn’t want their organs.
So to those of you who are not on the donor register, click here and go and do it.

The Award for Heart-warming Sports Story of the Week,

We have joint winners for this as I couldn’t decide between them.
Firstly Gretel Bergmann has had her German National high jump record restored after 73 years. On June 30, 1936, in Stuggart, she jumped 5ft 3in but this record height was removed from the record books by the Nazis because she was Jewish. She was also barred from the German Olympic team. She left Germany in 1937 and emigrated to America.
Whilst it has taken a little bit of time the German track and field association has decided to reinstate her record.

The other story is about Wigan Athletic (who are a football team, sort of). They played last weekend and they lost 9-1. That is not the heart-warming part, unless you are a Spurs fan (the team that beat them). No, the nice bit is that, after this thrashing, the players have said that they are going to reimburse all of their travelling fans who came to the match and who saw their team get royally spanked.

The Award for I’m Not Sure How I Feel About This,

In Nepal they have started their festival to the goddess Gadhimai. The celebrations included fortune-telling robots, a ferris wheel and stalls broadcasting music and offering tea and sugary snacks. Oh and they also sacrifice 250,000 animals. Yes, you read that correctly, I didn’t add any extra numbers. 250,000 animals will be slaughtered, including 10,000 buffalo. That is a lot of buffalo.
I’m not sure how I fell about it because whilst a lot of the animals will just be killed, at least the buffalo will be sold on and used for their meat and hide etc, so they are not going to waste.
If you are going to kill an animal in this coming week, the least you can do is eat it all up.

The Award for Changing It Everytime You Say it,

This goes to Radio 4 and the BBC in general. The family of Jean Charles de Menezes have accepted an undisclosed amount in compensation from the Metropolitan Police. I hope this helps to soothe their pain some what and that they understand that the entire country is sorry for the death of their son. I hope that they feel that they can move on with their lives. I also hope that news reporters can go back to not trying to think up new ways of pronouncing his name. I’m pretty sure that every time I have heard them try, they have said it differently.

Sorry to go on a bit this week. Hope you enjoyed my rambings and are going to register on the Organ Donor thingy, I'm off to obsess over my bird feeder.

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