SHOOTING THE CORPORATION IN THE FOOT

When the BBC announced that elderly people will be subject to paying a TV licence of 154 sterling pounds beginning from next year, I could not believe the hypocrisy of an institution that spends millions of pounds for its own glory and for the glory of some of its famous employees; whilst willing to penalise people beyond the age of 75, irrespective of their ability to survive the current financial instability that the nation is now facing. I for one, in line with thousands of other people, would rather face jail than succumb to this blackmail and even perhaps throw our television out of the window and live miserably thereafter.

I saw the hypocrisy of the BBC management trying to justify this horrible move on television and thought what a load of brigands they looked, and the cheek of their decision to deliberately penalise the older generation simply for living too long and thus becoming a burden on their institution.

Two days later, 230,000 people were disgusted enough to sign, in one day, a petition, accusing the BBC of double dealing and trying to send the elderly to prison for failing to pay the licence, irrespective of their age beyond 75. The headlines in most newspapers condemned the BBC and accused the corporation of an appalling betrayal, suggesting they should cut their own salaries to start with, and stop squandering money as if they were responsible for printing it.

This latest scandal is that cash from over-75’s forced to buy TV licences will help to top generous BBC staff pensions. Some former corporation bosses are entitled to six-figure hand-outs in retirement as members of a gold-plated payment scheme. The BBC, nevertheless, faces a financial crisis with a black hole in its pension pot, its accountant revealed. It plans to spend two billion pounds to plug the gap by 2028 at a rate of around 200 million pounds a year, some of which will come from licence payments.

Stripping 3.7 million households of the TV licence from June next year will fuel ever more violent backlashes against the BBC to strip. They will live to regret it. All their present supporters will line up against them and I can never see the corporation being able to quell the outcry that will follow.

Shame on you BBC for you have proved unworthy of the task you have been given! The present management lot should now do the honourable thing and resign.

Boris The Gambler

I have no doubt that Boris Johnson will win the present contest to become the next prime minister of this country. However, given his present policies regarding Brexit, his fate with the EU will be similar to his predecessor, Theresa May who unwittingly thought that by her perseverance she would manage to win on the day and cow Parliament into accepting her deal.

However, in line with European negotiators, I do not believe that with his present stance Johnson is unlikely to be able to keep his promise to deliver Brexit by 31 October. This was confirmed by senior EU sources. Political planning in Brussels is now based on the assumption that Britain will not leave the EU on the present deadline, itself an extension from the original date of 29 May.

Even the boldest prime minister for a No Deal will have to demonstrate he has had one serious try to reach a deal and that means an extension, according to a senior EU official. ‘ Johnson will want to last more than few days in power so he will need to try getting it over the line. He, or whoever it is, will not be capable to hide the need for an extension.’

Because of the tight timetable it is unlikely that formal negotiations will open until October, only allowing a few weeks to conclude a deal that has, so far, eluded negotiators for over two years. Despite the magical ability of Boris Johnson, I believe such a goal will elude his ambition to govern as prime minister which he has hankered to achieve over the years.

I would rather wait to see the outcome – If I’m right, his tenure will then be short lived.

IT AIN’T WHAT YOU EAT,IT’S THE WAY THAT YOU DO IT…

I always thought that being overweight is due to overeating. However, we are now told that a gene dating back to the cave men could be to blame for fat people piling on the pounds, a study suggests. Around half of people in modern society have the gene, which also increases the risk of diabetes. The gene was common when our ancestors were hunting mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers – before the invention of farming. When agriculture started, another version of the gene which helps to keep blood sugar low, became more common. This mutation allows us to eat starchy and sugary foods such as wheat and rice without putting on too much weight.

UK researchers analyzed DNA from ancient humans as well as 2,504 people today and found that the split between the caveman gene and the modern gene is around 50/50. But in DNA samples taken from the bones of people before farming was developed, the older variant is more common. Professor Frances Brodsky, head of Biosciences at University College, London said: ‘We found that people differ in how efficiently their bodies can manage blood sugar levels resulting from an evolutionary process that seems to have been brought about by changing diets.’

The gene CLTCL1 produces as a protein that transports sugar out of the blood, taking it to be stored in fat and muscles cells. Study author, Dr Matteo Fumagalli said: ‘The older version of this genetic variant likely would have been helpful to our ancestors as it would have helped maintain higher levels of blood sugar during periods of fasting and this would have helped us evolve our larger brains.’

Eating chicken is just as bad as beef for raising cholesterol levels, researchers have warned. Red meat, which also includes lamb and pork, generally has more saturated fat than white. A new study by scientists in Auckland California, however, shows both white and red have equally harmful effects on blood fat. It found that plant proteins are the healthiest for blood cholesterol.

I always believed that what you eat causes obesity. Meat in general should be eaten in moderation, but farm products as a preference in most cases.

IT’S GOOD BRAZIL’S GOT AN AWFUL LOT…

The more research we do the more likely we are to contradict ourselves. Let’s take coffee as an example. It was always an item which taken in excess was considered to be harmful as a beverage. But now scientists say coffee addicts can rejoice, even when drinking 25 cups a day, since coffee is discovered not to be bad for the heart. Previous studies have suggested the drink can stiffen arteries, with caffeine lovers often advised to cut down on their consumption. But a study of more than 8,000 people across the UK has found that drinking an average of 5 cups a day was actually no worse for the arteries than drinking less than a cup a day.

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The research, which was part funded by the British Heart Foundation, is being presented at the British Cardiovascular Society conference in Manchester. Experts from Queen Mary College, University of London, divided 8,412 participants into three groups for their study. The first group was made up of those who drank less than one cup of coffee a day, the second contained those who drank between one and three cups a day and the third was made up of people who drank more than three. Some people drank up to 25 cups a day in the latter group – but the average was five cups a day.

Researchers found even those drinking the highest daily amounts were no more likely to have stiffening of the arteries than those who drank less than one cup a day. Previous studies have suggested that coffee stiffens arteries, putting pressure on the heart and increasing the liklihood of a heart attack or stroke. All the participants had heart scans and infrared pulse wave tests, and researchers found the results held true after factors such as age, weight and smoking status were taken into account.

Dr Kenneth Fung, from QMC, said: ‘Despite the huge popularity of coffee worldwide, different reports could put people off enjoying it. While we can’t prove a casual link in this study our research indicates coffee isn’t as bad for the arteries as previous studies would suggest.’ He highlighted that as some participants drank huge amounts of coffee, the average among the highest consumer groups was 5 cups a day. He added: ‘We would like to study these people more closely in our future work so that we can help to advise safe limits.’ Professor Hedin Avkiran, associate medical director at the BHF said: ‘The study rules out one of the potential detrimental effects of coffee on our arteries.’

Another study being presented at the conference found people being admitted to NHS hospitals over the weekend with cardiac arrest did not face a higher risk of dying than those admitted during the week. The study led by experts at Aston University in Birmingham, included 4,803 people going to hospital with a cardiac arrest and assessed their five-year’s survival.

For those who read this discovery about coffee will certainly rejoice until such time as they encounter another study which proves the opposite. Until then, they could have a rollicking good time to remember.

A ROAD TO MADNESS

Quite a lot of politicians are in the news these days not for their ability to turn Britain into an independent and prosperous country, but to tell the voters of their cocaine habit which they claim to have enjoyed a few years ago. I’m not in the least surprised, since ordering the stuff has become as easy as hailing a car on Uber, a major report has warned. But the knowledge that the UK is the biggest consumer of the class A drug in Europe is something that should baffle the nation, especially now when the economy is practically at a standstill thanks to the Brexit mania.

One of the reasons for the substance’s increasing popularity is the ease by which it can be obtained via smart phones, the document states, leading to an Uberisation of the market with dealers setting up cocaine-exclusive call centres to supply the drug. The report from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction – an agency of the EU – suggest the UK’s consumption is the worst in the continent, describing the change in how the drug is now distributed.

The document tells how smaller gangs have entered the market by using a range of information technology for ‘dealing’, including social media. It tells that: ‘Entré premiership in the competitive cocaine market is evident from the innovative distribution strategies, such as cocaine-exclusive call centres. The methods reflect trends seen in other areas facilitated by the common use of smart phones – a potential “Uberisation” of the cocaine trade – a competitive market by which sellers compete by offering additional services such as fast or flexible delivery.’

The report reveals how chemical tests of waste water have pinpointed Bristol as having the highest use of cocaine per population out of 10 major cities. The analysis was based on measurements of a chemical called Benzoylecgonine which appears in the urine of cocaine users. These levels were twice as high per 1000 population in Bristol as in Paris, and well above those in Amsterdam, Barcelona and Berlin, although London was not included in the study. Other figures in the report show that almost 5% of 15-34 year olds in the UK used cocaine last year. This was the highest out of four selected countries including France and Spain, which were both at 3% and the Netherlands at 4.5%.

David Raynes, of the National Drug Prevention Alliance, said: ‘Cocaine is a huge problem in the UK and we’re using more than any country in Europe. If you can order a pizza by smart phone then you can order drugs by smart phone. People can advertise via the Internet on the Dark Net.’ Dimitri Auramopoulos, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, said: ‘Drugs remain a constantly evolving multi-faceted threat to our societies. We need a more coordinated approach but we also need to look at the role of digitalisation in the drug market.’

Prolonged cocaine use have been linked to panic attacks, irritability and psychosis – where an individual loses touch with reality and has hallucinations. Regularly snorting the drug can damage the sense of smell and nasal septum, which separates the nostrils. In addition to its personal effects, cocaine distribution has been blamed for the surge in knife crime and the proliferation of county-line gangs. In March, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick declared: ‘Users of the drug have blood on their hands’. She also said, ‘There is misery throughout the drug supply trail.’ The media has highlighted that drugs, including cocaine, are being increasingly distributed by county-line criminal networks which use children as couriers.

Cocaine Britain is no joke. We are going though a phase where nothing is where it should be. We must wake up and stop this terrible decline, or we will fall into an abyss from which it would take years to readjust.

MIND YOUR HEADS

Last March a meteor was seen to explode above the earth with ten times the force of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. It is said to be the biggest since a meteor exploded, above the Russian town of Chelyabinsk seven years ago, weighing 11,000 tons and which screamed into the earth’s atmosphere at 41,000 mph before exploding. This latest fireball hit at 11.50 pm on 28 December, 16 miles above the Baring Sea, in the far north of the Pacific Ocean connecting Asia and North America.

Despite exploding with such force, it was only spotted last March by a meteor scientist from the University of Western Ontario, Canada. Professor Peter Brown noticed the meteor in measurements picked up by at least 16 monitoring stations. ‘Impacts with this energy occurs somewhere on earth every few decades on average,’ he wrote on Twitter. The meteor is said to have been 10 metres across, with a mass of 1,400 tons. The massive fireball it caused came from energy the equivalent of 173 kilotons of the explosive TNT. Japan’s Himawari satellite caught the smoke trail which was almost vertical, showing the meteor entering the atmosphere extremely steeply.

Dr Simon Proud, from Oxford University, also posted pictures of the fireball, writing: ‘The meteor is really clear here – bright orange fireball against the blue and white background. This was over 10 times more powerful than Hiroshima, but it went unnoticed – that’s quite amazing. The meteor seems to have arrived with no warning and with all the sensors, we did not see it. Technology is improving but we have a long way to go before we can detect all meteor hazards heading our way.’

What a frightening prospect if such a meteor of this unbelievable force were to hit the earth especially a huge city like London or New York with such devastating consequences. We must never ignore the forces of nature to which we are exposed at any time and that can bring havoc and destruction at a level which perhaps we’ve never seen so far.

Let’s pray the Lord that this never happens.

KEEP RIGHT ON TO THE END OF THE ROAD…

A landmark trail has found that hypnosis can work better than strong anaesthetic and could eventually become the norm for elderly people undergoing arthritis operations. Doctors have welcomed the result of a study in which anaesthetic powerful enough to put patients to sleep was replaced with a virtual reality experience designed to slow breathing rhythms.

Participants in need of shoulder, hand or knee surgery were given headsets and taken on a ‘submarine tour’ with a soothing female voice pointing out fish and underwater features. They had each been given a local anaesthetic but the virtual reality hypnosis distraction ‘VRHD’ replaced the intravenous sedation such patients would normally have received. This can put people to sleep, but does not induce the full control coma of a general anaesthetic.

Doctors at the CUB Erasmus Hospital in Brussels found the hypnosis successfully replaced intravenous sedation in three-quarters of patients who had the submarine VRHD during the surgery. Meanwhile, 90% of those who had hypnosis for ten minutes before, as well as during the operation, did not require intravenous sedation.

The researchers said virtual reality hypnosis would be ideal for elderly patients undergoing these types of non-major joint operations because they do not come with the risks of heavy sedation and the longer recovery time. Intravenous sedation typically causes side effects such as drowsiness, headaches and dry mouth for several hours.

Dr Delphine van Hecke, who co-led the research, said: ‘While it is not clear exactly how virtual reality works to reduce anxiety and pain, it’s thought that it creates a distraction that stops the mind feeling pain. Further studies should focus on other procedures suited for the use for VRHD, particularly its potential benefit in children as pre-medication or during low pain procedures.’

Presented at the Euro Anaesthesia Congress in Vienna, the results also showed that patients receiving VRHD had similar comfort and satisfaction levels before and during the procedures as those given intravenous sedation. Dr. Dragos Chirnoga, the other lead researcher, said: ‘Given the immersive and distracting nature of the virtual reality experience, this technology has the ability to act as a preventive intervention transforming local anaesthesia into a less distressing and potentially pain-free medical procedure.@

The trial involved 60 adults scheduled for orthopaedic surgery with a local anaesthetic. A control group of 20 were randomly assigned standard intravenous sedation without any virtual reality, while a second group were given VRHD during the procedure and only given intravenous sedation if patients reported pain scores of 3 out of ten. The third group of 20 started the hypnosis before the procedure. Dr Chirnoga said his method would need to be trialled on larger patient bodies before being approved for general use.

The newspaper I read this in headed its report as ‘Look into My Eyes to Help Heal My Knees’. A certainly appropriate title as far as I’m concerned for at the end of last year I was rushed to hospital having seriously experienced a fall that kept me there for eleven gruelling days, and until know I still find even walking with a stick gives me no end of pain in my knees. However, I feel confident that by perseverance I shall overcome my current minor disability.