Nov 19, 2013
…while for a similar number (24%) there should be a warning of MAMIL (middle aged men in lyrca) who often veer across lanes or ride two or three abreast.Picture: Taylor Herring
Nov 19, 2013
…while for a similar number (24%) there should be a warning of MAMIL (middle aged men in lyrca) who often veer across lanes or ride two or three abreast.Picture: Taylor Herring
Oct 13, 2013
Having amassed a 3 trillion dollar warchest – Chinese firms have gone on a shopping offensive, in Europe. Just today, it’s been reported that Beijing is on the brink of a multi-billion deal to snap up shares in the UK’s nuclear industry. And not even iconic London taxis, have been spared the interest of cash-rich businessmen from Beijing. As RT’s Polly Boiko reports.
Follow the money, which according to this short film is concentrated in three main centers of power whereby the Illuminati rule the world. London, Washington, and the Vatican are three city states that are linked together by old schemes and alliances that created the Illuminati. What if this is not a silly conspiracy theory but reality ? Lou
Reseachers say 16% of UK mobile devices and users’ hands contaminated with faecal bacteria due to poor personal hygiene
Researchers said that 16% of the devices were contaminated with E coli, which can cause food poisoning, most probably because people fail to properly wash their hands after going to the toilet. The study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Queen Mary, University of London, also found that Britons tend to lie about their personal hygiene.
While 95% of the 390 people surveyed said they washed their hands with soap where possible, 92% of mobile phones and 82% of hands were contaminated with bacteria.
The study, which took samples from 390 phones in 12 cities, raises serious public health concerns as it found that 16% of hands and the same proportion of phones were contaminated with E coli. A virulent strain of the bacterium has recently been implicated in the fatal outbreak of food poisoning in Germany in June.
Dr Val Curtis, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “This study provides more evidence that some people still don’t wash their hands properly, especially after going to the toilet.
“I hope the thought of having E coli on their hands and phones encourages them to take more care in the bathroom – washing your hands with soap is such a simple thing to do but there is no doubt it saves lives.”
Birmingham has the highest proportion of bacteria-ridden phones (41%) but the highest level of E coli contamination was found in London (28%).
But the scientists also found a north-south divide in the levels of bacteria found on phones, with northern cities the dirtiest. Glasgow was the worst with average bacterial levels on phones and hands nine times higher than in Brighton.
The scientists also found those who had bacteria on their hands were three times as likely to have bacteria on their phone.
Dr Ron Cutler, of Queen Mary, University of London, said: “While some cities did much better than others, the fact that E coli was present on phones and hands in every location shows this is a nationwide problem.
“People may claim they wash their hands regularly but the science shows otherwise.”
Faecal bacteria can survive on hands and surfaces for hours at a time, especially in warmer temperatures away from sunlight. It is easily transferred by touch to door handles, food and even mobile phones.
The research was released ahead of Global Handwashing Day on 15 October.
Food charity FareShare sees a 20% rise in demand, much of it from people hit by unemployment and benefit changes
Britain has seen a sharp increase in the number of people unable to afford to feed themselves at the most basic level, thanks to the worsening economic climate and changes to the benefit system, according to a survey by a leading food charity.
In the past year FareShare, which redistributes waste food from major food manufacturers and supermarkets to social care charities, has seen a 20% rise in the number of people it is feeding – from 29,500 a year to 35,000.
And many of those, blighted by rising unemployment and business failures, are coming from the sorts of stable family backgrounds once considered immune to the worst effects of recession.
The new findings, which are backed up by research from other organisations working in the same field, will make sobering reading for the Conservative party as it gathers in Manchester this weekend for its annual conference, where the direction of the government’s stringent deficit reduction programme will be carefully scrutinised.
The number of charities that have signed up to receive food from FareShare, which operates from 17 sites across the UK, has also risen in the past 12 months, from 600 to 700. More than 40% of those charities are recording increases in demand for their feeding services of up to 50%.
“People in our communities are going to bed hungry because they can’t afford to feed themselves,” said Lindsay Boswell, chief executive of FareShare. “This is a huge problem and it’s right here, in our neighbourhoods, on our streets. This is outrageous enough even before you factor in the thousands of tonnes of good food thrown away each year. It’s illogical and frankly immoral that these problems coexist.”
The food that FareShare distributes would generally end up in landfill sites. It is discarded by major supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s, Tesco and M&S, because it’s out of date, or surplus to demand or as a result of printing errors on the packaging.
It’s estimated that three million tonnes of food like this is being wasted in Britain every year, of which FareShare gets hold of about 1%. “Demand for our food is going up far faster than we can source it,” Boswell said. “As a charity we started out purely interested in liberating waste. We are an environmental charity that gets bloody angry about food being thrown away. However, we’re clear that it is the alleviation of poverty which now leads what we do.”
One of the major changes seen by FareShare and organisations like it is in the type of people they are now feeding. Where once it was single homeless and the chronically destitute now it’s increasingly families and working people who have fallen on hard times.
In the past year, the Salisbury-based Trussell Trust has seen the number of people it is feeding rise from 41,000 to 61,500. It runs more than 100 food banks around the country, distributing emergency food parcels to people in dire need who have been referred to it by social care organisations and charities.
“We’re seeing a big increase in what you could call, for want of a better phrase, normal working people, those who have lost their jobs or seen their own businesses go under,” says Jeremy Ravn, manager of the food bank network. “The big problem is that the welfare state is not reacting fast enough to need.”
An increasing time lag between benefits claims being accepted and the date when payments come on stream is, Ravn says, resulting in some people suffering serious hunger.
A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions denied there had been any changes to the system for paying benefits which could be blamed for the sharp increase in the number of people requiring food aid.
However he said that a series of reforms, including the controversial plan by work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith for a universal credit to replace a slate of existing benefits, was now more necessary. “This will help us get back to a working welfare state where people don’t have to rely on food parcels,” the spokesperson said.
• More than one in five workers now earn less than a “living wage”, says the Resolution Foundation thinktank. Its head, Gavin Kelly, said the research showed how pervasive low pay is.
By Rob Cooper
20th August 2011
A UFO has been filmed speeding across the sky over a motorway – close to where a BBC reporter spotted another mystery object just days later.
Several orbs appear to dart away from the central light in different directions across at high speed.
Scroll down for video
Mystery: White orb can be seen in the distance floating in the air over the M11 in Essex close to the Hertfordshire border
The video was filmed on the M11 on the Essex and Hertfordshire border close to where BBC Radio 5 Live sports journalist Mike Sewell told listeners he saw a disc-shaped aircraft.
The cameraman, who uploaded the footage onto YouTube, can be heard saying ‘Oh my God’ as the white balls of light dart across the sky.
However, critics were suggesting that the UFO can easily be explained – it is a hoax.
Nevertheless, the video, was uploaded on July 29 five days before the BBC reporter said he saw a similar mystery object.
The video was posted online by 36-year-old ‘alvinol’ on the southbound carriageway of the motorway.
UFO expert Nick Pope told the Sun: ‘It’s a really interesting video. Assuming it’s genuine, it’s one of the most bizarre pieces of UFO footage I’ve seen in a long time.’
Strange: Four more balls of light can be seen – in a perfect square. It was uploaded five days before BBC sports journalist Mike Sewell saw another UFO
Odd: There are no military installations close to the spot where the UFO was spotted
BBC reporter Mr Sewell, 41, said he saw a bright light descending towards the ground as he returned to the Midlands in the early hours of the morning.
‘I was probably about 15 or 20 miles from Stansted at 4.15 in the morning and there was this big bright light in the sky descending towards the road,’ he told Radio 5.
‘As it got closer it then banked to the left, and as it banked to the left and went across the countryside I could see underneath it.
‘It wasn’t an aeroplane, and it wasn’t a helicopter. Certainly of a kind of – and I dread saying this – disc shape. It had several lights flashing all around it.
‘It was not the shape of a normal aircraft it was a big disc, round-shaped craft and it didn’t leave.
‘I watched it for two or three minutes before I eventually lost sight of it. I decided to go back again through the village.
‘It’s a very quiet area and I’ve spoken to someone who knows it very well and they said there’s no military installations in that area so I would be intrigued to hear if anybody else saw it.’
By Damien Gayle
Police are using software to track the moves of suspects across the digital world, it has emerged, provoking fury among civil rights and privacy campaigners.
The Metropolitan Police has bought Geotime, a security programme used by the U.S. military which tracks suspects’ movements and communications and displays them on a three-dimensional graphic.
The software aggregates information gathered from social networking sites, GPS devices like the iPhone, mobile phones, financial transactions and IP network logs to build a detailed picture of an individual’s movements.
Full spectrum surveillance: The Geotime software aggregates information from a variety of sources to build a detailed 3D picture of an individual’s movements
Privacy campaigners have expressed concern at the police’s adoption of the software.
‘The police’s decision to adopt technology designed for theatres of war in order to track members of the public is deeply concerning,’ he said.
‘The ability to build up such a comprehensive record of any person’s movements represents a significant threat to personal privacy.
‘The Metropolitan Police must reassure the public that this technology will be used in only the most serious of cases, not as an everyday crime-fighting tool.’
Trouble ahead: Police have refused to rule out using Geotime software during periods of unrest, such as the student riots of 2010
But Val Swain, of the activist group the Police Monitoring Network, said that she was not surprised that the Met had purchased Geotime.
She said the purchase was just the latest development in a strategy of so-called ‘intelligence-led policing’ that has systematically invaded privacy.
‘This is an example of a type of software that enables the police to use a great deal of data to keep track of what people are doing and where they are going,’ she said.
‘There is other software on the market that has been purchased by other forces.’
Miss Swain warned that the roll-out of such new technology was particularly worrying for those concerned about the right to protest.
She said: ‘It’s what the judge in the Andrew Wood case described as the “chilling effect” of police surveillance on public protest. This is inevitably going to add to people’s fears.’
Judges ruled that specialist surveillance units from the Metropolitan Police had breached the human rights of Andrew Wood, an arms trade campaigner, when they photographed him and stored the pictures on a police database.
Miss Swain said: ‘Geotime is not just going to be used to track people’s behaviour, but also to predict people’s behaviour – and it’s a very thin line between policing public protest and preventing public protest.’
The Geotime software displays data from a variety of sources, which users can then navigate using a timeline and animated display.
Oculus, the Canadian developer behind the software, says on its website: ‘Links between entities can represent communications, relationships, transactions, message logs, etc and are visualised over time to reveal temporal patterns and behaviours.’
The software was displayed in the UK earlier this month at the defence industry Counter Terror exhibition in Olympia, West London.
The Metropolitan Police is the only UK police force to have bought the software so far, Curtis Garton, Oculus’s product management director, told the Guardian.
‘There are a few countries that we don’t sell to, but in terms of commercial sales pretty much anybody can buy,’ he said.
Monitoring: An officer watches CCTV cameras at the Met’s Lambeth Specialist Operations Room. The facility could in future be boosted by the new technology
A spokesman for the Met told the Guardian that Geotime had been paid for and the software was being assessed for several uses.
‘We are in the process of evaluating the Geotime software to explore how it could possibly be used to assist us in understanding patterns in data relating to both space and time.
‘A decision has yet to be made as to whether we will adopt the technology [permanently].
‘We have used dummy data to look at how the software works and have explored how we could use it to examine police vehicle movements, crime patterns and telephone investigations,’ the spokesman wrote in an email.
A growing toll of casualties, many involving lorries, has prompted urgent calls to make Britain’s roads safe for cyclists
Friday, 15 April 2011
Campaigners called for hauliers to be compelled to buy equipment which alerts drivers if a cyclist pulls up alongside them and brings the vehicle to an automatic halt if there is a risk of a collision. Julie Townsend, of road safety group Brake, said: “Too many trucks pose an unacceptably high risk to people on foot and bicycle. We’re appealing to all operators to fit the latest technology to reduce blind spots and we’re calling for the law to be tightened up to help prevent more families going through the devastation of sudden, violent deaths and injuries.”
The long-term trend had appeared to show improving safety for cyclists, with the number of deaths nationwide falling from an average of 186 in the mid-1990s to 104 in 2009. But concern is growing that the boom in cycling has started to reverse that trend. Provisional Department for Transport figures show 2,700 cyclists were killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads in the year ending June 2010, compared with 2,673 in the previous 12 months.
Advocates of cycling said the health benefits and accident rates per mile meant the advantages of using pedal power still far outweighed the risks.
However, Chris Peck, policy officer for the national cyclists’ organisation CTC, said: “Per mile travelled in urban areas, HGVs are over 20 times more likely to be involved in the death of a cyclist than a car or a van.”
The problem is not restricted to lorries. A court heard last month how Dorothy Elder, a 22-year-old fashion student, was swept off her bike and under the wheels of a double-decker bus “like a cardboard box”. The driver of the bus was cleared of causing death by dangerous driving following expert evidence that her view may have been obscured by cab fittings.
One of the 10 “ghost bikes” now installed around London was put in place by the family of Eilidh Cairns, a 30-year-old television producer who was killed in February 2009 when a lorry driver failed to see her as the vehicle turned left in Notting Hill, dragging her more than three metres before it stopped. Her sister Kate last month won a written declaration by the European Parliament put forward by the Liberal Democrat MEP Fiona Hall, forcing the European Commission to come up with proposals requiring lorry owners to install safety technology. Ms Cairns, 39, said: “The memorial bike is a symbol of remembrance and respect for my sister. It’s vital that truck visibility is addressed to prevent more needless deaths.”
The Independent understands that Brussels will table changes to pan-European safety legislation by August, while an existing directive requiring all new HGVs to be fitted with cyclist sensors and automatic braking will come into force in 2013.
The haulage industry said it was committed to improving safety for cyclists, pointing out that freight operators had spent £78m since 2008 on retro-fitting mirrors to their fleets.
The Government confirmed this week it is considering the introduction of a new criminal offence of causing death by dangerous cycling following concerns that there is no legislation to deal with riders whose reckless behaviour leads to fatalities.
The most recent reported victim of Britain’s hidden epidemic of cyclist deaths, the 20-year-old student was killed last week in Camden Town, north London, after being knocked over by a lorry. She was described by Paul Dean, a friend she met at a French evening class, as a “kind and open” person who loved travelling and different cultures.
A promising actor who died only days after auditioning for RADA, Mr Poblet, 20, was killed in a collision with a skip lorry in Bermondsey, south-east London, last month. He had appeared in two short films and was on the books of two modelling agencies. He described himself as a “normal boy: not fashionist, keeping his own style”.
The 22-year-old Central St Martin’s College student was killed by a bus two years ago. The driver, who was cleared of causing her death, said she would “live with what happened for ever”. Ms Elder grew up in Devon but was studying womenswear design. According to her sister Natalie, she “joked about making a drama out of anything”.
A 30-year-old television producer, Ms Cairns was killed by a lorry while cycling in Notting Hill, west London, in 2009. Her family have since campaigned for HGVs to be fitted with sensors to reduce the likelihood of such accidents in future. A “ghost bike” at the site of her death was unveiled yesterday, with the Mayor of London’s approval.
Nine steps towards safer cycling
The London Cycling Campaign, which promotes safer cycling in the capital, has produced a nine-point-plan for reducing the toll of death and injury among cyclists:
* Enforce speed limits and clamp down on drivers who use mobile phones.
* Crack down on hit-and-run drivers, who account for a large portion of serious road injuries.
* Introduce 20mph speed limits in all built-up and shopping areas of Britain’s towns and cities.
* Require all lorries to carry full safety equipment to help them avoid collisions with cyclists: six mirrors, sensors and safety guards.
* Require organisations which run lorries and other large vehicles to provide their drivers with cyclist awareness training, as already practised in four London boroughs.
* Include a “cycle awareness” section in the driving theory and practical tests
* Allocate more road space to cycling, as has been done in The Netherlands and Denmark, among other places.
* Provide all children with access to Bikeability cycle training, the current version of the Cycling Proficiency test
* Encourage less car use and more. cycling so that, as in The Netherlands and Denmark, collision rates for cyclists are reduced.
The ground-breaking move was suggested at a UN meeting of more than 190 countries in Nagoya, Japan to discuss the loss of wildlife around the world.
Pavan Sukhdev, an economist based in London, was ordered to look at the value of nature in the same way British economist Nicholas Stern‘s famous 2006 report looked at the financial implications of climate change.
His three year report said ‘ecosystem goods and services’, such as the medicines found in plants or oxygen provided by trees, are worth billions of pounds every year. Allowing nature to remain unaccounted for within the economy would lead to the continuing rapid extinction of species and huge financial losses. At current rates £1.3 – £2.8 trillion pounds worth of damage is done every year just cutting down trees.
But if countries start to calculate the value of services provided by nature, Mr Sukhdev said it will become an explicit part of policy and decision making.
“Teeb‘s approach can reset the economic compass,” he said. “Do nothing, and not only do we lose trillions of dollars’ worth of current and future benefits to society, we also further impoverish the poor and put future generations at risk. The time for ignoring biodiversity and persisting with conventional thinking regarding wealth creation and development is over. We must get on to the path towards a green economy.”
Already India, Japan and Brazil have agreed to publish accounts of their country’s ‘natural capital’. The EU, including Britain, is considering bringing in the measure, that will be used in the same way as gross domestic product (GDP) to calculate a country’s wealth.
“Teeb can have the same impact for biodiversity as Stern had for climate change and will be a useful tool to help reduce the loss of species and habitats … economically, we have to take action to reduce the loss of our natural environment before the cost becomes too high,” she said.
Lucy Adeniji – an evangelical Christian and author of two books on childcare – trafficked two girls and a 21-year-old woman from Nigeria to work as slaves in her east London home. She made them toil for 21 hours a day and tortured them if they displeased her. The youngest girl was 11 years old.
Sentencing her to 11-and-a-half years in prison last month, Judge Simon Oliver said: “You are an evil woman. I have no doubt you have ruined these two girls’ lives. They will suffer from the consequences of the behaviour you meted out to them for the rest of their lives.”
Most people would probably agree with Judge Oliver’s description of Adeniji as evil, but Simon Baron-Cohen, professor of developmental psychopathology at the University of Cambridge, would not be one of them. In his latest book, Zero Degrees of Empathy: A new theory of human cruelty, Baron-Cohen, argues that the term evil is unscientific and unhelpful. “Sometimes the term evil is used as a way to stop an inquiry,” Baron-Cohen tells me. “‘This person did it because they’re evil’ – as if that were an explanation.”
Human cruelty has fascinated and puzzled Baron-Cohen since childhood. When he was seven years old, his father told him the Nazis had turned Jews into lampshades and soap. He also recounted the story of a woman he met who had her hands severed by Nazi doctors and sewn on opposite arms so the thumbs faced outwards. These images stuck in Simon’s mind. He couldn’t understand how one human could treat another with such cruelty. The explanation that the Nazis were simply evil didn’t satisfy him. For Baron-Cohen, science provides a more satisfactory explanation for evil and that explanation is empathy – or rather, lack of empathy.
“Empathy is our ability to identify what someone else is thinking or feeling, and to respond to their thoughts and feelings with an appropriate emotion,” writes Baron-Cohen. People who lack empathy see others as mere objects.
Empathy, like height, is a continuous variable, but for convenience, Baron-Cohen splits the continuum into six degrees – seven if you count zero empathy. Answering the empathy quotient (EQ) questionnaire, developed by Baron-Cohen and colleagues, will put you somewhere on the empathy bell curve. People with zero degrees of empathy will be at one end of the bell curve and those with six degrees of empathy at the other end.
Baron-Cohen provides vignettes of what a typical person with x-degrees of empathy would be like. We’re told, for example, that a person with level two empathy (quite low) “blunders through life, saying all the wrong things (eg, ‘You’ve put on weight!’) or doing the wrong things (eg, invading another person’s ‘personal space’).”
Being at the far ends of the bell curve (extremely high or extremely low empathy scores) is not necessarily pathological. It is possible to have zero degrees of empathy and not be a murderer, torturer or rapist, although you’re unlikely to be any of these things if you are at the other end of the empathy spectrum – level six empathy.
“You could imagine someone who has low empathy yet somehow carves out a lifestyle for themselves where it doesn’t impact on other people and it doesn’t interfere with their everyday life,” says Baron-Cohen.
“Let’s take someone who’s very gifted at physics and they’re focused on doing physics. They might not be interacting very much with other people but they are interacting with the world of objects. They might have low empathy but it’s not interfering. In that respect it’s not pathological and they don’t need a diagnosis. They have found a perfect fit between their mind and the lifestyle that they have.”
Baron-Cohen doesn’t see very high empathy as potentially debilitating. He sees someone with level six empathy as possessing a “natural intuition in tuning into how other are feeling”.
I was intrigued to read a different account of empathy overdrive. In a recent newspaper article, Fiona Torrance described the hell of hyper- empathy. She has a rare condition known as mirror-touch synaesthesia. She first became aware of it aged six when she saw butcher birds hanging mice on a wire fence. “I felt the tug on my neck and spine; it was as if I was being hanged,” Torrance recalled.
Empathy excess, however, is much rarer than empathy deficit. And while people with empathy excess suffer alone, those with empathy deficits cause others to suffer. Or at least some of them do.
At zero degrees of empathy are two distinct groups. Baron-Cohen calls them zero-negative and zero-positive. Zero-positives include people with autism or Asperger’s syndrome. They have zero empathy but their “systemising” nature means they are drawn to patterns, regularity and consistency. As a result, they are likely to follow rules and regulations – the patterns of civic life.
Zero-negatives are the pathological group. These are people with borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. They are capable of inflicting physical and psychological harm on others and are unmoved by the plight of those they hurt. Baron-Cohen says people with these conditions all have one thing in common: zero empathy.
The question is: did people with these personality disorders lose their empathy or were they born that way?
One of Baron-Cohen’s longitudinal studies – which began 10 years a – found that the more testosterone a foetus generates in the womb, the less empathy the child will have post- natally. In other words, there is a negative correlation between testosterone and empathy. It would appear the sex hormone is somehow involved in shaping the “empathy circuits” of the developing brain.
Given that testosterone is found in higher quantities in men than women, it may come as no surprise that men score lower on empathy than women. So there is a clear hormonal link to empathy. Another biological factor is genetics. Recent research by Baron-Cohen and colleagues found four genes associated with empathy – one sex steroid gene, one gene related to social-emotional behaviour and two associated with neural growth.
Does that mean, in the future, we will have gene-therapy to correct for low empathy?
“I’d be very concerned about those sorts of directions,” Baron-Cohen says. “I mean, they are at least plausible from a science point of view, but whether they’re desirable from a societal point of view is another matter. I would probably put more emphasis on early interventions – environmental interventions. I think empathy could be taught in schools for example.”
The other side of the empathy coin is environment. John Bowlby, the British psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who developed “attachment theory”, was the first to point out the lifelong impact of early neglect and abuse. “We think children are very robust, they’ll somehow adapt,” says Baron-Cohen, “but Bowlby showed that children who had what he called insecure attachment – a lack of opportunity to form a strong bond with a caregiver – are more at risk of delinquency and they’re more at risk from a range of personality disorders, which I translate into a lack of empathy because many of the personality disorders, like the psychopath, or people with borderline personality disorder are just operating on a totally self- centred mode. Early attachment is one big risk factor for low empathy.”
With functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanners, it is possible to look at the effect hormones, genes and the environment have on the brain. In his book, Baron-Cohen identifies ten interconnected brain regions that are part of what he calls the “empathy circuit”. People who score low on the empathy questionnaire show less neural activity in these brain regions.
Science is beginning to unravel the mystery of why some people have less empathy than others and the implications are potentially far reaching, not least for the criminal justice system. “The hallmark of a compassionate and civilised society is that we try to understand other people’s actions, we don’t try to simply condemn them,” says Baron-Cohen.
“There is even a question about whether a person that commits an awful crime should be in a prison as opposed to a hospital.”
But if someone endures a neglectful upbringing and they subsequently grow up to be a violent criminal, should they be absolved of any wrong doing because an fMRI scanner reveals low neural activity in their inferior frontal gyrus? “When people do commit crimes there may be determinants to their behaviour which are outside their control,” says Baron-Cohen. “No one is responsible for their own genes.”
Indeed, but we are all capable of making moral choices. Making the right choice may be more difficult for people with compromised empathy circuits, but the choice still exists.
Baron-Cohen wants to move the debate on the causes of evil “out of the realm of religion and into the realm of science”, but I wonder if he is going beyond science and into other domains such as moral philosophy and jurisprudence.
“I don’t see that we have to keep them apart,” he says. “What I’m hoping is that the book will be seen as: how can science inform moral debates. It might even have relevance for politics and politicians, that when we try and resolve conflict, whether it’s domestic conflict or international conflict, issues about empathy might actually be useful. The alternative is that science just does science and doesn’t engage with moral issues or the real world. I think that would be a backward step.”
If you consider the big atrocities in history – the ones we think of as evil – the Spanish Inquisition, the Holocaust, the slave trade, communist purges, Rwandan genocide, apartheid, etc, it took the support of the masses to make them happen. Can we blame evil on this scale on psychopaths (who comprise less than one per cent of the population) and narcissists (also less than one per cent of the population)?
Surely beliefs are a much bigger cause of evil than biology or upbringing? Negative memes are spread by the church or state about the outgroup until they become thoroughly dehumanised. And the thing to restore humanity to the outgroup is not drugs and therapy but re-humanising narratives.
“Whatever your causes of loss of empathy, it’s the very same empathy circuit that would be involved when you show empathy or fail to show empathy,” says Baron-Cohen.
He argues that our beliefs can have an impact on the empathy circuit. Our level of empathy isn’t necessarily fixed for all situations and right across our lives. It can fluctuate, depending on the situation. When people are tired or stressed they may show less empathy than when they’re calm and rested. Baron-Cohen wants to differentiate transient changes to empathy, where empathy can be restored, versus more permanent changes.
“If for genetic reasons, for example, you have low empathy, it might be much harder to restore it but I remain optimistic even in those situations that there are therapeutic or educational methods that could be tried to improve anybody’s empathy,” he says.
So far, science has made little progress in treating empathy deficits. Psychopaths, for example, are notoriously untreatable as are children who present with callousness/unemotional (CU) trait. And trying to improve the empathy of sex offenders is one of the least effective interventions, according to Tom Fahy, professor of forensic mental health at the Institute of Psychiatry.
As someone who works with violent criminals, I wanted to know if Fahy thinks zero empathy is a good explanation for cruelty. “It may be one of the ingredients,” he says, “but it’s not usually an entirely satisfactory explanation for cruelty or acts of serious violence.”
Narrowing the focus down to empathy when trying to prevent repeat behaviour is not a very effective approach, in Fahy’s view. “It’s difficult enough, anyway, to reduce offending behaviour through complex psychological interventions,” says Fahy, “but to put all your eggs in one basket is undoubtedly a mistake.”
Although zero degrees of empathy is necessary for someone to do evil, it is not sufficient to explain it. As Fahy says, there is usually a “complex tree of experiences” that leads to a violent or cruel act. Also, not everyone who has zero empathy will commit evil acts – Baron-Cohen devotes an entire chapter to extricate himself from this dilemma. Zero degrees of empathy requires too many qualifications to make it a satisfactory explanation for evil. And trying to boost empathy using therapy and other non-drug interventions doesn’t appear to have much effect.
I wholly agree with Judge Oliver’s description of Lucy Adeniji as evil. That doesn’t mean I want to shut the conversation down. I think it’s important to know – from a biological, psychological and societal point of view – how someone like Adeniji came to be cruel and uncaring, but I also think it’s important to condemn her actions. I don’t see the two things as being mutually exclusive.
I agree with Baron-Cohen that we shouldn’t use evil as an explanation for why people do bad things, and finding ways to improve empathy, can’t be a bad thing. But, for me, replacing the idea of evil with the idea of empathy-starvation is a simplification too far.
‘Zero Degrees of Empathy: A new theory of human cruelty’ is published by Allen Lane on 7 April (£20). To order a copy for the special price of £18 (free P&P) call Independent Books Direct on 08430 600 030, or visit www.independentbooksdirect.co.uk
LONDON – Scientists have identified a gene that appears to play a role in regulating how much alcohol people drink and say their finding could help the search for more effective treatments for alcoholism and binge drinking.
In a study of more than 47,000 people, an international team of scientists found that people who have a rarer version of a gene called AUTS2 drink on average 5 per cent less alcohol than people with the more common version.
The AUTS2 gene, also known as called “autism susceptibility candidate 2″ has previously been linked to autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but its actual function is not clear, the researchers said.
“Of course there are a lot of factors that affect how much alcohol a person drinks, but we know . . . that genes play an important role,” said Paul Elliott of Imperial College London, who was part of the team conducting the study.
“The difference this particular gene makes is only small, but by finding it we’ve opened up a new area of research.”
According to the World Health Organization, harmful use of alcohol results in 2.5 million deaths a year globally.
It is the world’s third largest risk factor for causing diseases such as neuropsychiatric disorders like alcoholism and epilepsy, as well as cardiovascular disease, cirrhosis of the liver and various forms of cancer.
Gunter Schumann from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London said combining genetic studies and behavioural data should help scientists better understand the biological basis of why people drink, some of them to excess.
“This is an important first step towards the development of individually targeted prevention and treatments for alcohol abuse and addiction,” he said.
In their study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal, the team analysed DNA samples from over 26,000 volunteers to search for genes that appeared to affect alcohol consumption, and then checked their findings in another 21,000 people. The volunteers answered questionnaires to report how much alcohol they drank.
After identifying AUTS2, the scientists analysed how active the gene was in samples of donated brain tissue. They found that people with the version of the gene linked to lower alcohol consumption had higher activity of the gene.
The researchers also looked at strains of mice that had been selectively bred according to how much alcohol they drink voluntarily, and found there were differences in the AUTS2 gene activity levels among different breeds.
In another part of the study using flies, the researchers found that blocking the effect of a fruit fly version of the same gene made the flies less sensitive to alcohol. This suggests AUTS2 seems to be involved in regulation of alcohol intake in a number of different species, they said.
Although most of Saturday’s demonstration was peaceful, riot police clashed with a small groups. More than 200 people were arrested, and police expected that number to rise. Clashes continued into the night as dozens of protesters pelted officers with bottles and ammonia-filled lightbulbs.
Groups set several fires and smashed shop windows near tourist landmarks including Trafalgar Square.
Dozens of people were injured, and several were admitted to hospitals for a range of problems, including shortness of breath and broken bones. Five police officers were also injured.
Teachers, nurses, firefighters, public sector workers, students, pensioners and campaign groups all took part in Saturday’s mass demonstration.
“They shouldn’t be taking money from public services. What have we done to deserve this?” said Alison Foster, a 53-year-old school teacher. “Yes, they are making vicious cuts. That’s why I’m marching, to let them know this is wrong.”
Britain is facing £80 billion ($126 billion) of public spending cuts from Prime Minister David Cameron’s coalition government as it struggles to slash the country’s deficit. The government has already raised the sales tax, but Britons are bracing for big cuts to public spending that are expected next month.
Treasury chief George Osborne has staked the government’s future on tough economic remedies after Britain spent billions bailing out banks. Some half a million public sector jobs will likely be lost, about £18 billion ($28.3 billion) axed from welfare payments and the pension age raised to 66 by 2020.
The demonstration began in the afternoon. Police said one small group of protesters broke away from the main march, scuffling with police officers and attempting to smash windows on two of London’s main shopping streets. Others threw objects at the posh Ritz Hotel in nearby Piccadilly.
The protesters, shouting “Welfare not Warfare!”, outnumbered the police. Some attacked police officers with large pieces of wood. A handful of bank branches were damaged when groups threw paint and flares at buildings.
Still, the day’s protest otherwise had a carnival feel with music, big screen TVs and performers in Hyde Park, one of London’s biggest public gardens.
The Trades Union Congress, the main umbrella body for British unions, says it believes the cuts will threaten the country’s economic recovery, and has urged the government to create new taxes for banks and to close loopholes that allow some companies to pay less tax.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said he regretted the sporadic violence.
“I don’t think the activities of a few hundred people should take the focus away from the hundreds of thousands of people who have sent a powerful message to the government today,” he said.
“Ministers should now seriously reconsider their whole strategy after today’s demonstration. This has been Middle Britain speaking.”
Ed Miliband, leader of the opposition Labour Party, likened the march to the suffragette movement in Britain and the civil rights movement in America. “Our causes may be different but we come together to realize our voice.”
© The Associated Press, 2011
Police will get new powers to evict offenders who seize unoccupied properties
Saturday, 19 March 2011
The days of anarchist collectives living rent-free in Georgian townhouses are numbered: the Government is holding “urgent discussions” to make squatting a crime. Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, has asked his department to devise a law that will save homeowners from having to bring civil proceedings against people occupying properties without permission. Instead, police will be empowered to seize buildings and bring criminal charges against squatters, who will face jail.
The proposed change in England and Wales – squatting is already a crime punishable by 21 days’ imprisonment in Scotland – follows a series of high-profile cases where squatters have invaded properties worth millions in elegant streets in central London.
At present, squatters may legally enter an empty property provided they do not cause damage when gaining access, for example, by breaking windows. Police cannot intervene unless the house was being inhabited at the time of the occupation or criminal damage has been caused. They have to tell property owners to begin a civil court case for possession, which can cost tens of thousands of pounds and take a year.
A source close to Mr Clarke said: “What he wants to do is to enable property owners, particularly householders, to be able to rely on the support of the criminal law and the police when dealing with squatters. And that’s the reason we are seeking to change the law, so people whose property is occupied don’t have to resort to the civil law. A properly drafted law will provide a speedier solution.” They said work on the law was continuing, and added: “It’s under urgent discussion. The Justice Secretary wants to bring forward plans as soon as practicable.”
Existing laws protect squatters by preventing a homeowner forcing their way back into a property by violence. Squatters may also claim possession of a home if they have occupied it continuously for 12 years.
Squatters often say they are making use of properties which would otherwise be empty, at a time of housing shortages. The Squatters Advisory Service (SAS) in Whitechapel, London, which publishes The Squatters’ Handbook, says it advises people only to occupy buildings that have been empty “for some time”. Myk Zeitlin, a volunteer, said: “I don’t think there’s any justification for stopping people making use of empty properties because properties continue to be left empty when there is no need for it.”
Estimates by Shelter, the homeless charity, show that in England 1,768 people a night sleep rough and 48,010 homeless households live in temporary accommodation. At the same time, more than 450,000 properties in the UK are thought to have been empty for at least six months.
The Ministry of Justice said: “We recognise the harm caused by squatters and sympathise with homeowners who find themselves in such a distressing situation. This is why we are considering whether we can strengthen the law, or its enforcement, to help homeowners protect their property.”
A spokeswoman added that any squatter who refused to leave a property after being asked by a resident homeowner was committing a criminal offence under existing law, punishable by up to six months in prison.
On the house…
A group of artists enjoyed a month’s free residency at a £22.5m property in Clarges Mews, Mayfair, before being evicted. The Da! Collective, who renamed the building the Temporary School of Thought, invited passers-by to free classes on treehouse building and Hungarian folk-singing.
The Really Free School occupied a £6m mansion in Fitzrovia, London. The film director Guy Ritchie intended to knock it into a neighbouring house. The squatters posted a legal warning on a window saying: “We live in this house, it is our home and we intend to stay here.” They were evicted after five days.
Activists calling themselves “Topple the Tyrants” took over a £10m mansion in Hampstead Garden Suburb owned by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the Libyan leader. They said: “When we found one of the world’s most brutal dictators owned property in north London it seemed obvious to occupy it.”
The offshore bank account details of 2,000 “high net worth individuals” and corporations – detailing massive potential tax evasion – will be handed over to the WikiLeaks organisation in London tomorrow by the most important and boldest whistleblower in Swiss banking history, Rudolf Elmer, two days before he goes on trial in his native Switzerland.
British and American individuals and companies are among the offshore clients whose details will be contained on CDs presented to WikiLeaks at the Frontline Club in London. Those involved include, Elmer tells the Observer, “approximately 40 politicians”.
Elmer, who after his press conference will return to Switzerland from exile in Mauritius to face trial, is a former chief operating officer in the Cayman Islands and employee of the powerful Julius Baer bank, which accuses him of stealing the information.
He is also – at a time when the activities of banks are a matter of public concern – one of a small band of employees and executives seeking to blow the whistle on what they see as unprofessional, immoral and even potentially criminal activity by powerful international financial institutions.
Along with the City of London and Wall Street, Switzerland is a fortress of banking and financial services, but famously secretive and expert in the concealment of wealth from all over the world for tax evasion and other extra-legal purposes.
Elmer says he is releasing the information “in order to educate society”. The list includes “high net worth individuals”, multinational conglomerates and financial institutions – hedge funds”. They are said to be “using secrecy as a screen to hide behind in order to avoid paying tax”. They come from the US, Britain, Germany, Austria and Asia – “from all over”.
Clients include “business people, politicians, people who have made their living in the arts and multinational conglomerates – from both sides of the Atlantic”. Elmer says: “Well-known pillars of society will hold investment portfolios and may include houses, trading companies, artwork, yachts, jewellery, horses, and so on.”
“What I am objecting to is not one particular bank, but a system of structures,” he told the Observer. “I have worked for major banks other than Julius Baer, and the one thing on which I am absolutely clear is that the banks know, and the big boys know, that money is being secreted away for tax-evasion purposes, and other things such as money-laundering – although these cases involve tax evasion.”
Elmer was held in custody for 30 days in 2005, and is charged with breaking Swiss bank secrecy laws, forging documents and sending threatening messages to two officials at Julius Baer.
Elmer says: “I agree with privacy in banking for the person in the street, and legitimate activity, but in these instances privacy is being abused so that big people can get big banking organisations to service them. The normal, hard-working taxpayer is being abused also.
“Once you become part of senior management,” he says, “and gain international experience, as I did, then you are part of the inner circle – and things become much clearer. You are part of the plot. You know what the real products and service are, and why they are so expensive. It should be no surprise that the main product is secrecy … Crimes are committed and lies spread in order to protect this secrecy.”
The names on the CDs will not be made public, just as a much shorter list of 15 clients that Elmer handed to WikiLeaks in 2008 has remained hitherto undisclosed by the organisation headed by Julian Assange, currently on bail over alleged sex offences in Sweden, and under investigation in the US for the dissemination of thousands of state department documents.
Elmer has been hounded by the Swiss authorities and media since electing to become a whistleblower, and his health and career have suffered.
“My understanding is that my client’s attempts to get the banks to act over various complaints he made came to nothing internally,” says Elmer’s lawyer, Jack Blum, one of America’s leading experts in tracking offshore money. “Neither would the Swiss courts act on his complaints. That’s why he went to WikiLeaks.”
That first crop of documents was scrutinised by the Guardian newspaper in 2009, which found “details of numerous trusts in which wealthy people have placed capital. This allows them lawfully to avoid paying tax on profits, because legally it belongs to the trust … The trust itself pays no tax, as a Cayman resident”, although “the trustees can distribute money to the trust’s beneficiaries”.
Now, Blum says, “Elmer is being tried for violating Swiss banking secrecy law even though the data is from the Cayman Islands. This is bold extraterritorial nonsense. Swiss secrecy law should apply to Swiss banks in Switzerland, not a Swiss subsidiary in the Cayman Islands.”
Julius Baer has denied all wrongdoing, and rejects Elmer’s allegations. It has said that Elmer “altered” documents in order to “create a distorted fact pattern”.
The bank issued a statement on Friday saying: “The aim of [Elmer's] activities was, and is, to discredit Julius Baer as well as clients in the eyes of the public. With this goal in mind, Mr Elmer spread baseless accusations and passed on unlawfully acquired, respectively retained, documents to the media, and later also to WikiLeaks. To back up his campaign, he also used falsified documents.”
The bank also accuses Elmer of threatening colleagues.
THE PEASANTS ARE NOT AMUSED
Pictures of people around the world taking to the streets to show their displeasure of the status quo.
Click play then watch the pics
Actual pictures taken during Dec. 12 week in Europe:
Europeans stage anti-austerity protests(Reuters) – Here are details of recent and forthcoming protests in European countries against austerity policies and other grievances, following clashes in London on Thursday over a parliamentary vote to increase the cost of university education.
BRITAIN:Oct 3 – A 24-hour strike by workers on London’s underground rail system disrupted much of the network and affected millions of commuters. This marked the third such walkout since September in a dispute over 800 planned job cuts. Another 24-hour strike took place on November 28.
October 19 – Trade unions took protests over spending cuts to parliament, promising to fight to protect public services.
November 10 – About 55,000 students protested in London against government plans to raise the cap on university tuition fees almost threefold to 9,000 pounds ($14,000). Windows were smashed and missiles hurled at police at the governing Conservative Party’s headquarters. Around 66 people were arrested.
November 24 – Thousands of students staged walkouts and marches across Britain against planned rises in tuition fees.
November 30 – More than 150 demonstrators in London were arrested during a student protest against the planned rise.
December 9 – Thousands of protesters attacked government buildings and damaged a car carrying Prince Charles after parliament voted to raise the fees.
– Protesters laid siege to the finance ministry, battering open a door as they clashed with riot police. They later smashed store windows in Oxford Street, one of London’s main shopping streets. Mounted police tried to disperse protesters outside parliament.
– Some commentators say the student protests could be a prelude to wider unrest as austerity measures start to bite and hundreds of thousands of jobs are lost in the public sector.
May 4-5 – Public-sector workers staged a 48-hour strike. On May 5, a 50,000-strong protest in Athens led to violence and three people died in a petrol bomb attack on a bank.
June 29 – Police fired tear gas at rioters shouting “burn parliament” in Athens. About 12,000 people joined marches during a strike against raising the retirement age to 65 for all.
July 8 – About 12,000 people marched against pension reform in the unions’ sixth 24-hour strike against austerity measures.
November 22 – Greek private sector union GSEE called for a pan-European strike in 2011 to take joint action against austerity measures.
December 2 – Police fired teargas in clashes with over 1,000 students who tried to break through a police cordon to march on the British embassy in Athens, in solidarity with British students who oppose plans to increase tuition fees, and against austerity and education reforms in Greece.
Fri Dec 10,
December 6 – Greek police clashed with youths hurling petrol bombs in Athens during protests to mark the anniversary of the 2008 police killing of a teenager that provoked the country’s worst riots in decades.
– Three people were injured as thousands marched through Athens. Another rally is planned for December 15 during a nationwide anti-austerity strike.
Dec 8 – Czech public sector workers went on strike against government plans to cut the sector’s wage bill by 10 percent. A union leader said 123,000 workers out of about 600,000 public sector employees joined the strike.
Sept 29 – Spain’s first general strike in eight years, called to oppose spending cuts, disrupted transport and factories but the impact was limited.
December 3 – Spanish airspace reopened a day after a wildcat strike by air traffic controllers paralysed airports and the government declared its first state of emergency in the post-Franco era. The government is pushing through tough reforms and spending cuts to rein in a deficit and ward off market fears it may need a bailout similar to that of Ireland. The walkout disrupted travel for some 250,000 people on one of Spain’s busiest holiday weekends.
November 30 – Thousands of students streamed through Rome towards parliament. Students, who on November 25 occupied tourist sites including the leaning tower of Pisa and the Colosseum, vowed to block proposed changes by Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini.
November 27 – Thousands of Irish took to the streets of Dublin to protest against a looming bailout. The EU approved an 85 billion euro ($115 billion) rescue for Ireland, a day later.
November 24 – Portugal’s biggest unions, the CGTP and the UGT, disrupted transport and halted services from healthcare to banking in protest against wage cuts and rising unemployment in the first joint general strike by the top two unions since 1988.
– A pension reform law was signed into law by President Nicolas Sarkozy on November 9. The reform raised the minimum retirement age to 62 from 60 and the full retirement age to 67 from 65 to balance the loss-ridden pension system by 2018.
– Fierce opposition by trade unions and the public, who staged waves of protests over austerity measures, turned the reform into the biggest battle of Sarkozy’s presidency. The strikes later subsided as the turnout for protests slumped.
(Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit; David Stamp)
As new research reveals antidepressants raise the danger of heart attacks, the disturbing cost of this modern addiction
By John Naish
Last updated at 10:14 PM on 13th December 2010
“In my view, it’s fast becoming one of the greatest medical scandals of our age.”
Dr Mark Hamer, a public health researcher at University College London,
Just as David Cameron launches his campaign to boost national happiness, along comes grim news for the 12 million Britons taking happy pills. London-based researchers have just announced that antidepressants raise the risk of fatal heart attacks.
This research is only the latest wake-up call for a nation hooked on happy pills. Might we finally heed the warnings and shake ourselves out of our pharmaceutical stupor?
It is high time we did: a small mountain of studies shows that antidepressant drugs are largely ineffective. But more than that, they can ruin lives by creating chronic dependency and a grinding hopelessness that sometimes leads to self-neglect and death.
The latest study, by Dr Mark Hamer, a public health researcher at University College London, shows that people on the older drugs — tricyclic antidepressants — are at far higher risk of cardiovascular disease than those taking the newer class of pills, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
But if I were taking SSRIs, I would not be cheered by the findings. Tricyclics were discovered in the Forties and it is only now we have identified these dangerous effects.
Moreover, some SSRI drugs are known to cause serious problems such as stomach bleeding. In addition, the withdrawal symptoms can be so severe that patients may become dependent on them.
Dr Hamer says his findings do not only affect people with depression, because antidepressants are also prescribed to people with back pain, headache, anxiety and sleeping problems.
Last year, according to Dr Hamer’s figures, about 33 million antidepressant prescriptions were dispensed in England.
At some point, surely, there will be no one left to prescribe for. In my view, it’s fast becoming one of the greatest medical scandals of our age.
The most worrying thing about these drugs is not their side-effects, but their widespread non-effect: they just don’t work for most people with mild to moderate depression.
Two years ago, researchers at Hull University concluded that the pills only benefit people who are most seriously, clinically depressed. In these extreme cases, there is often a physical problem in their brain, a result of genetics or accident. But what of the rest?
There is a growing view that many people are being needlessly drugged because the natural state of feeling unhappy is viewed as an illness, rather than a normal part of life that we should experience and learn from.
An American study of 8,000 people who had been treated for depression found that a quarter of them were not clinically sick, but had just undergone a normal life event such as bereavement.
Their symptoms, it said, should be left to pass naturally (that, of course, would be a blow to the drug manufacturers, who profit so handsomely from the mass consumption of their mind-numbing chemicals).
‘For most of us, the healthiest option is to face our problems, rather than disappear down a black hole of antidepressant dependency’
One leading expert, Randolph Nesse, a psychiatry professor at Michigan University, argues that this mild form of depression is beneficial, often interjecting in life to tell us to stop what we are doing and reconsider.
This can help, he says, when something awful happens to us, such as a job loss or relationship break-up, when it makes sense to slow down to grieve, reassess and make changes.
But instead, we live in a world that tells us that when we feel out of sorts we need a pill to recover.
It is this belief that creates queues of patients at the doors of hard-pressed GPs, who often feel they have no option but to hand out happy pills as though they were sweeties.
Many patients later claim they couldn’t have coped without them. They will swear that ‘the drugs make me feel better, so they must be working’. But often the drugs do not actually work as chemicals. Instead, they merely reassure us — the so-called placebo effect.
The drugs improved patients’ sense of wellbeing. So far, so unremarkable.
But many of those involved in the trials were given sugar pills instead of antidepressants.
And their depression scores improved just as much as those on the real pharmaceuticals. In other words, the placebo patients put so much store by the magical (and much-promoted) power of antidepressants that they lifted their own morale without any genuine chemical intervention. Such is the life-enhancing power of human belief.
Everybody hurts: Sadness is a part of life and shouldn’t always be treated as an illness
Everybody hurts: Sadness is a part of life and shouldn’t always be treated as an illness
But this phenomenon also has a dark side: the opposite of placebo, which is called the ‘nocebo’ effect.
This occurs when you convince someone that a particular thing will do them harm, and they begin to feel sick.
Talk to someone about food poisoning while they are tucking into a hearty meal and you will see the nocebo effect at work.
Something similar is happening in our pill-obsessed world. When we are convinced that we need drugs to get us out of an emotional crisis, we stop doing things to help ourselves.
This was clear from the latest research. Dr Hamer found that tricyclic drugs raise a person’s heart attack risk.
But that risk was dwarfed by another danger: the people taking the drugs often lost the will to look after themselves properly. They were more likely to smoke, be overweight and not exercise.
Dr Hamer says that if they started living more healthily they would cut their heart attack risk by three times. Exercise and weight loss would also help alleviate their depression and anxiety.
But people stuck in the role of helpless drug-munchers often cannot make that change for themselves.
They simply sit waiting for their questionable pills to work. And when the pills fail, they become even more demoralised. It’s a vicious cycle, and one that’s sucking in more and more vulnerable people.
Thankfully, this situation is not entirely hopeless. Such patients may be helped by cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Health department guidelines already state that patients on antidepressants should also be given CBT, but many GPs’ budgets will not stretch to providing it.
And what is CBT?
It is a form of talking therapy that encourages depressed patients to exchange their self-destructive thoughts for healthier ways of believing and acting.
It is the modern equivalent of telling people (gently) to shape up, smarten up and take responsibility for their own lives.
Except that you could not possibly convey that time-honoured message with such stark clarity these days. Apparently, we are all too fragile to hear such sage advice: the shock might send us rushing to the medicine cabinet.
That is a terrible shame. All the antidepressant drugs and therapy-speak in the world cannot take away the simple, honest fact that life for all of us can be dismally hard at times.
For most of us, though, the healthiest option is to face our problems vigorously, rather than disappear down a black hole of antidepressant dependency.
That is an especially important message to spread during this economic downturn. Times are getting harder.
But instead of grasping for tablets, we would be far better off being encouraged to rely on our own resources — positivity and self-reliance.
It is sad news for the millions on antidepressants that their drugs may have lethal effects on the heart.
But if such warnings awaken us to the wider damage these pills wreak, they will have done everyone a priceless favour.
Posted on Craigslist R&R,Dec.12.10
“First of all, release Assange from these trumped up charges manufactured by the US and let the truth fall wherever it may.
All Wikipedia did was show the world that the Emperor has no clothes. All these wankers ruling the world (diplomatic mouthpieces of the powers that be) are a bunch of imbeciles just like the rest of us. They don’t know what the hell they are talking about but they imbue themselves with a superior attitude acquired from being born into it (money and knowledge acquired from it).
We need a revolution. We need a world revolution. Enough is enough. 1% of the population controlling 99% of the population is just wrong. Income disparity is at the worse ever, except for the medieval ages.
I hate to say this because they are our friendly neighbors, but the US deserves to go down. They have lost the upcoming war before it even started and their leaders are too busy stealing whatever there is left.
In comes China quietly. But they are now the biggest economy on the planet. (see link below).
Fuck you USA and welcome China.
Where do I learn mandarin ?”
“Bravo. Rumors are that Assange has threatened to release UFO related documents. how much leverage that gives him remains to be seen. the government hired skeptics are playing it down yet many “believers” (self included) can’t wait. however it might be a case of be careful what you wish for…
as to Mandarin learning, can’t say maybe 3 road or Aberdeen mall? BC gov IS giving FREE ESL all over the place.
Forgone conclusion. America has already lost. The wild card is Russia. They are skillfully playing both China and the USA.
“And the most scary. They already own the ports at both ends with security provided by PLA Marines. “
“If you are against Assange for WikiLeaks, and call him names, you are only revealing your ignorance of what he is trying to do. You need to go to the website and read a bit about what they do there. Most people who slam WikiLeaks have no idea what they are talking about.
Go and read their mission statements and rasons and you will feel differently.
Are you in favor of the US Military using depleted uranium bullets?
Are you in favor of helicopter gunships killing Reuters independent reporters?
Do you care if Hilary Clinton and other diplomats are embarrassed because of what they say?
Do you want to know if corporations are causing children to die in African tests of pharmaceuticals?
Do you believe that Rumsfeld and Cheney always told you the truth?
Someone is trying to shut down and control internet free speech. WikiLeaks and others are trying to fight that.
Do some research on your own before you spout off about Assange. “
“You recall the memorable quote from Jack Nicolson in “A Few Good Men” – “You can’t handle the truth!!” That pretty much sums up the situation that the world has found itself in. While we feel that we are entitled to the “truth” (whatever that might be), are we all ready to handle the truth??? Wikileaks is planning to leak some information about UFOs and their presence amongst us. Some of that information will destablize the world as we know it. Are you ready for the truth???”
If this whole Wikileaks thing has taught us anything,
it should be absolutely clear to everyone by now that
governments intend to oppress and install controls over its people
to the degree that reclaiming our freedoms are impossible.
The time for insurrection is now!
Britain’s most senior police officer warned today of a new era of civil unrest as the national campaign against university fee increases and education cuts gathered momentum.
Sir Paul Stephenson, the commissioner of the Metropolitan police, said the two large-scale student demonstrations of the past fortnight had been marred by a previously unseen level of violence, adding: “The game has changed.”
His comments were seized on by critics, who said the hard-line rhetoric risked escalating tensions with students organising the nationwide grassroots campaign against education cuts.
Meanwhile, protesters today occupied 16 university campus buildings around the country. Six of the occupations – in Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds, Plymouth, Edinburgh and London – were expected to continue through the night. The Southwark and Bermondsey constituency office of Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader, was also occupied by around 30 students from the London School of Economics.
More demonstrations are planned for the next month. More than 11,000 students have signed up to another wave of classroom walkouts and marches planned for next Tuesday. The demonstration will coincide with a Commons debate staged by Labour in a bid to expose Lib Dem divisions over the coalition’s plans to dramatically increase tuition fees.
Hughes said today that he had not yet decided how he would vote, but that he was willing to meet students this weekend to discuss it. He told Young Voters’ Question Time on BBC Three this week that he would “like to vote against”, and was deliberating with other colleagues whether to do that or abstain.
Gareth Thomas, the Labour higher education spokesman, said: “Parliament is about to be asked to vote to make British universities some of the most expensive and worst funded worldwide without being allowed to consider in full, through a white paper, how the government’s plans are supposed to work for students and their families. Too many questions remain unanswered.”
Stephenson made his comments at a meeting of London’s Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA). He said that the demonstrations had been characterised by outbreaks of violence that were not typical of student protests, and he conceded police were unprepared during a march on 10 November. But he said large numbers of riot police had successfully contained disorderyesterday . In total, 109 students have been arrested in connection with public disorder this month, suggesting a scale of student unrest unseen in decades.
“We have been going through a period where we have not seen that sort of violent disorder,” Stephenson said. “We had dealt with student organisers before and I think we based it too much on history. If we follow an intelligence-based model that stops you doing that. Obviously you realise the game has changed. Regrettably, the game has changed and we must act.”
In recent years the Met had reduced the numbers of officers deployed to tackle demonstrations, he said. “Regrettably, we are going to have to review that. We are going to have to take a more cautious approach.”
Andrew Dismore, a former Labour MP who last year chaired an influential parliamentary inquiry into the policing of protests, said the commissioner’s comments had been misguided. “I don’t think the game has changed,” he said. “The basic principles on how to police protest will be the same.” Dismore questioned the tactic of containing schoolchildren within a “kettle”, an area enclosed by police, and said Stephenson should resist using language that could inflame unrest.
“There is always a risk [that talk of disorder] becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he added. “He should be trying to de-escalate problems, not escalate them. The way to do that is to say he made a mistake at the demonstration outside the Tory party central office [on 10 November]. But that isn’t then an excuse for overkill the next time protest comes along.”
Dismore was backed by Aaron Porter, the National Union of Students’ president, who said: “I would very much hope that the actions of a very small minority do not lead to an undermining of the public’s right to protest peacefully.”
Michael Chessum, a co-founder of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, the group that called yesterday’s day of action, also rejected Stephenson’s comments. “It is the kind of policing we saw on Wednesday that creates disorder,” he said. “If you refuse to allow people, many of them young, first-time protesters, the right to walk down the streets of their own capital city, and then ‘kettle’ them in Whitehall for eight or nine hours, people are going to get frustrated.” He added that the vast majority of people on both demonstrations behaved peacefully.
Stephenson was also questioned by members of the MPA over the tactic of containing schoolchildren for several hours in freezing temperatures. “When you imprison thousands of people, which is essentially what you did yesterday, you do have a duty of care to them,” said Jenny Jones, a representative from the Green party. “You kept people for nine-and-a-half hours. You punished innocent people for going on a protest. How can that be right? I just do not see it.”
Scientists are hailing a breakthrough that could lead to one of medicine’s holy grails – a cure for the common cold.
They have tested the silver-impregnated bacteria against norovirus, which causes winter vomiting outbreaks, and found they leave the virus unable to cause infections.
The researchers believe the same technique could help to combat other viruses, including influenza and those responsible for causing the common cold.
Professor Willy Verstraete, a microbiologist from the University of Ghent, Belgium, who unveiled the findings at a meeting of the Society for Applied Microbiology in London last week, said the bacteria could be incorporated into a nasal spray, water filters and hand washes to prevent viruses from being spread.
“We are using silver nanoparticles, which are extremely small but give a large amount of surface area as they can clump around the virus,” he said.
“There are concerns about using such small particles of silver in the human body and what harm it might cause to human health, so we have attached the silver nanoparticles to the surface of a bacterium. It means the particles remain small, but they are not free to roam around the body.” The bacteria used, Lactobacillus fermentum, is normally considered to be a “friendly” bacteria that is often found in yogurts and probiotic drinks.
The researchers found that when grown in a solution of silver ions, the bacteria excrete tiny particles of silver, 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair, which stud the outside of the cells.
Although the “friendly” bacteria eventually die, they remain intact and the dead cells carrying the silver particles can then be added to solutions to create nasal sprays or hand washes. The researchers also found they could be fixed to other surfaces such as water filters or chopping boards.
Norovirus causes 90 per cent of gastroenteritis cases and is spread through poor hygiene or in contaminated food. Last winter it affected an estimated one million people in England and Wales and forced many hospital wards to be closed. Influenza is a respiratory infection that normally spreads through the air when infected individuals sneeze and it is breathed in by others.
In large amounts, silver can damage the liver, kidneys and lungs. But Prof Verstraete said that by attaching it to the much larger bacteria, it could not pass into other parts of the body.