Reform of cancer scans at last
The present system is designed to save money by making scans as rare as possible. And if you die that saves money too
Family doctors are to be handed powers to dramatically speed up cancer diagnosis in a move which could save 5,000 lives a year. GPs will be encouraged to order cancer tests to ensure tumours are spotted before they become inoperable. For the first time, they will be able to refer patients with possible symptoms of the disease directly for checks, avoiding the time-wasting formality of going through a specialist.
Ministers hope that by improving access to MRI scans for brain tumours and ultrasounds for ovarian cancer, up to 5,000 lives a year will be saved by 2014-15. Labour managed to speed up treatment for cancer patients, but Health Secretary Andrew Lansley believes more needs to be done.
The UK still has some of the worst cancer survival rates in Europe, largely because cancer is more often spotted too late for anything to be done about it. International league tables show the UK is well below average on breast and bowel cancer. In the UK, 79 per cent of women diagnosed with breast cancer are still alive after five years – compared with more than 90 per cent in the United States.
A study last year found that almost a quarter of cancer cases were only spotted when patients underwent emergency treatment.
Speaking ahead of the publication of his new cancer strategy, Mr Lansley said: ‘Everyone will have a story of someone they love battling the disease. ‘We all need to know that the NHS will be there for us. Our ambition is simple, to deliver survival rates among the best in Europe.’
At the heart of the reforms is a greater emphasis on early diagnosis. Delays often occur because patients have to wait to have tumours diagnosed until after they have seen a specialist, who will decide whether to give the test the green light. Mr Lansley wants to cut out the middleman and give GPs greater access to diagnostic tests.
These will comprise chest X rays for lung cancer, non-obstetric ultrasound to support the diagnosis of ovarian and other cancers, colonoscopies and a technique called ‘flexible sigmoidoscopy’ to diagnose bowel cancers, and MRI brain scans to spot brain tumours.
But critics will warn there is a danger that unspecialised GPs will, for example, send people for costly MRI scans if they have a headache.
Some £25million will be put aside to ensure that more diagnostic machines are available. Around £11 million will be allocated for a new campaign to raise cancer awareness. There will also be extra funding to boost the number of specialists – an extra 1,200 by 2012 – to treat cancers once they have been diagnosed. Around £50million will be spent on expanding radiotherapy capacity.
Where are the UK’s 60,000 lost asylum seekers?
Thousands of asylum seekers have been lost to immigration officials, according to a group of MPs looking in to border controls. They say more than 60,000 people will have vanished in a “rush” to clear backlogs.
Where have these people gone?
You might remember the uproar four years ago when it came out up to 450,000 asylum claims hadn’t been processed. There were claims that the Home Office was not “fit for purpose” under the old Labour government.
Ever since, this MPs’ group – the Home Affairs committee – has been keeping an eye on efforts to get things back on track. What’s come out today is their latest report.
So – these aren’t new asylum seekers?
No. All this could go back years.
The accusation is that in the rush to catch up since that backlog about one in seven applications have simply been shelved. They say too much time has passed, and it’s now likely to be impossible to find the people that filled out the forms in in the first place.
It adds up to about 60,000 people living in the UK who initially arrived as asylum seekers and there’s no knowing whether they should be allowed to stay or not.
But they won’t be here legally if they don’t have their paperwork sorted?
That’s right. It leaves them in limbo neither legally settled and able to get a proper job, nor under threat of being removed.
Answering all this for the government, the Immigration Minister Damian Green says the system is “recovering”.
British exam board accused of ‘brainwashing’ pupils with inaccurate climate graph
Near enough is good enough in climate science, apparently
Britain’s largest exam board has been accused of “brainwashing” pupils by forcing them to use an inaccurate temperature graph that exaggerates the scale of global warming.
Climate experts have accused AQA of “scientific illiteracy” and “propaganda” after a graph in its most recent Geography GCSE exam paper contained a series of inaccuracies which magnified the rise in global temperatures.
The graph wrongly presented the current warm period as the hottest on record and pinpointed the world’s current average temperature at 59.5 degrees Fahrenheit (15.3C), when it has in fact never risen above 58.1F (14.52C).
The exam board also overlooked the last ice age, which peaked around 20,000 years ago, instead marking the “previous glacial period” at around 180,000 BC.
AQA ignored the universally-accepted temperature records taken from Antarctic ice core samples over the last 15 years and instead opted to use a graph taken from a children’s textbook first published in 1990.
The ice core data has been used to reconstruct global temperatures going back 800,000 years, showing that the previous four interglacial warm periods were hotter than today.
Kato Harris, head of Geography at South Hampstead High School in north London, has written to the exam board to highlight the errors. He said: “It is demoralising and frustrating when we are trying to be accurate, rigorous teachers, imparting to our pupils the latest scientific knowledge, only for the exam board apparently to show ignorance of scientific developments in the last 15 years.”
The graph published in the exam paper was titled ‘Timeline of the mean world temperatures over the last million years’, even though no such record exists.
Pupils were asked to mark with an X the “recent rapid rise in global temperatures”, as well as the coldest period.
AQA said the graph was simply meant to show “generalised trends” in global temperature and claimed that it displayed a “similar” pattern to the ice core reconstruction.
But Dr Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation and a social anthropologist at Liverpool John Moores University, said the graph contained “shocking inaccuracies”. “I have no idea where they have got their data from, but it’s completely wrong. The graph exaggerates the case of global warming and it shows scientific illiteracy. “I think this is highly misleading and the fact that it was included in an exam papers just shows how suspicious we should be with a lot of the information presented to students.
“There is a lot of pressure on schools and exam boards from government to educate our children in this way, but if we want to have a well educated population children need to know how science works, and they shouldn’t be brainwashed with misleading information.”
The Global Warming Policy Foundation has recently commissioned a report into the way children are taught about climate change in schools.
Piers Corbyn, owner of the independent forecasting business WeatherAction and a vocal climate sceptic, said the inaccurate graph amount to a “dereliction of duty” by the exam board.
“The fact that an exam board is using this type of graph is monstrous and totally unacceptable,” he said. “On one hand, the government and schools claim they want children to be objective, yet in the real world pseudo science is used to propagate an ideology to justify increased taxation and carbon trading, and this anti-science must be stopped.”
The decision to pass over widely accepted climate data in favour of a “simplified” graph will also be seen by some as further evidence that exams are being “dumbed down”.
A spokesman for AQA said: “We always seek to ensure that we use accurate information that is up-to-date and relevant, but just as importantly we need to ensure that figures are fit for purpose, appropriate for the qualification and, as was the case here, applicable for both foundation and higher tiers.
“The figure is a graph showing generalised trends of global temperature. It was taken from a highly regarded and widely used Geography textbook, Geography: An Integrated Approach. We took if from the 3rd Edition published in 2000 but the graph also appears in the 4th edition published in 2009. We therefore expect that many teachers and candidates will be familiar with this graph.
“The ice core data is very detailed and would have had to have been simplified for the purposes of the question that we wished to ask. Therefore we used a graph readily available in the textbook above that showed similar general trends.”
Greenie misanthropy still going strong
The precursor of the OPT was the ZPG movement, which had as its slogan: “People are pollution”. They hide their hatreds a little more now but the thinking is the same
In this post I look at two reports which that show a worrying new trend towards the dehumanization of people by referring to children as simply “carbon emitters” and quite openly arguing that fewer “emitters” would mean lower emissions at less cost.
The first report comes from the London School of Economics, and was sponsored by the neo-Malthusian organization, the Optimum Population Trust (OPT, patron: Sir David Attenborough).
The report, entitled “Fewer Emitters, Lower Emissions, Less Cost,” is a cost/benefit analysis which claims that reducing the future population is the cheapest way to reduce carbon emissions. Although the report stresses that “non-coercive” means should be pursued to reduce births, its terms of reference are somewhat Orwellian in tone:
A Cost/ Benefit Analysis of Reducing the Number of Additional Carbon Emitters as well as Average Per Capita Carbon Emission
OPT Report: Fewer Emitters, Lower Emissions, Less Cost. Appendix A: Terms of Reference.
I don’t know about you, but when organizations with the sort of backing that the OPT has start referring to things like “reducing the number of additional carbon emitters” I find it quite sinister.
The report comes with a statement by the OPT which recommends that climate change negotiators recognize that “population restraint” is a vital part of tackling global warming and says, in part:
All environmental problems, and notably those arising from climate change, would be easier to solve with a smaller future population. Population restraint in rich countries and communities would reduce the future number of major carbon emitters (who will also be victims). Restraint in poor countries and communities would reduce the number of minor emitters and likely major victims
OPT Report: Fewer Emitters, Lower Emissions, Less Cost.
The statement proposes that the “contraction and convergence” targets for Co2 emissions that all countries have accepted in principle (though not formally agreed on) should be on a ‘per capita’ basis to “encourage the adoption of population restraint policies”. What this means in non-jargon terms is that when setting a nation’s Co2 emissions targets in any future treaty, these emissions should be the ‘ceiling’ or maximum allowable amount – if more people are subsequently born, the total emissions allowed for that nation cannot then increase. So, effectively, each individual’s allowed emissions will therefore have to decrease to stay within the emissions target that the nation had previously agreed to.
The other report is ’Reproduction and the Carbon Legacies of Individuals‘ by Paul A. Murtaugha and Michael G. Schlax, published in the journal, Global Environmental Change.
This study looks at now much carbon an individual will generate in their lifetime not only by normal activities, but also the carbon generated by their children and their children’s children. As it takes two people (obviously!) to have children, the authors talk in terms of “genetic units” to indicate responsibility for these future carbon emitters (in other words, your child is 50% your “genetic unit” and 50% your partner’s).
Here is the basic assumption and aim of the study. Consider exactly what their basic premise implies:
“Our basic premise is that a person is responsible for the carbon emissions of his descendants, weighted by their relatedness to him. [p. 14]
Our goal is to quantify the consequences of the child bearing decisions of an individual. The appeal of our weighting scheme is that it provides an accounting of the extent to which a parent’s genetic material propagates through subsequent generations, and it allows the emissions of any individual to be unambiguously traced back and ‘‘assigned’’ to ancestors from any preceding generation. [p. 15]”
The study then proceeds to assign the total carbon emissions of a female alive today under different fertility “constraints”
“Fig. 5 shows trajectories of person years vs. time in the United States, for ancestral females that are constrained to have exactly 0, 1, 2 or 3 children . . . [p. 17].”
They then go on in figure 6 to show how these different projections affect “the average mass of CO2 for which the ancestor is responsible”. The potential for reducing carbon emissions by reducing the number of future “genetic units” was remarkable. Whereas increasing a car’s fuel efficiency from 20mpg to 30mpg saved only 148 metric tons of Co2 emissions over an individual’s lifetime, reducing the number of children by one on a “constant-emission scenario” gave a lifetime saving of Co2 emissions of 9,441 metric tons!
As the study concludes, “Clearly, the potential savings from reduced reproduction are huge compared to the savings that can be achieved by changes in lifestyle” although they caution that reducing the future population on its own is not enough. What is required is that the changes to your lifestyle are then multiplied by you having fewer children who also live a low-carbon lifestyle as well:
“This is not to say that lifestyle changes are unimportant; in fact, they are essential, since immediate reductions in emissions worldwide are needed to limit the damaging effects of climate change that are already being documented (Kerr, 2007; Moriarty and Honnery, 2008). The amplifying effect of an individual’s reproduction documented here implies that such lifestyle changes must propagate through future generations in order to be fully effective, and that enormous future beneﬁts can be gained by immediate changes in reproductive behavior [p.18]”
Like the OPT report, this study does not recommend any coercive measures or legislation. It’s looking at the potential for reducing carbon emissions by reducing the number of “emitters”. These are scientific papers: legislation is not their remit. What’s worrying is this new trend towards discussing children in terms of their emissions. It’s the tacit and unspoken way that the equation of humans/gas is taken as somehow acceptable in modern society because of the supposed threat of global warming.
Oh, and whom do we have to thank for funding this study? The postscript tells us it was “supported by NASA through contract 1206715 administered by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory”. What is NASA doing funding a study into the benefits of reducing the population? Who knew?
The icy grip of the politics of fear
The snow crisis of December 2010: what a striking snapshot of the chasm that separates the warming-obsessed elite from the rest of us.
You couldn’t have asked for a better snapshot of the chasm that divides today’s so-called expert classes from the mass of humanity than the snow crisis of Christmas 2010. They warn us endlessly about the warming of our planet; we struggle through knee-deep snow to visit loved ones. They host million-dollar conferences on how we’ll cope with our Mediterranean future; we sleep for days in airport lounges waiting for runways to be de-iced. They pester the authorities for more funding for global-warming research; we keep an eye on our elderly neighbours who don’t have enough cash to heat their homes.
This isn’t to say that the entire climate-change thesis is wrong. I’m not one of those people who believes snowfall necessarily disproves every claim made by warming-obsessed climatologists. Rather the snow crisis demonstrated, in high definition, the gap between the fear-fuelled thinking of the elite and the struggles of everyday people. It illuminated the million metaphorical miles that now separate the fantasy politics of our so-called betters from the concerns of the rest of us.
Not surprisingly, with snowstorms smothering Western Europe and the East Coast of America, many asked: ‘What happened to global warming?’ On the 20-hour bus-and-boat-and-train-and-car journey I took from London to Galway, surrounded by people forced to make a similar trek because their flights were also cancelled, there was much jocular banter along the lines of: ‘So this is the climate change we’ve been warned about…’ As people made new friends and arranged impromptu carpools for the final legs of their journeys, there was a palpable sense that the world we inhabit is not the same as that inhabited by greens.
That isn’t surprising when you consider that greens have been telling us for the past decade that snow will disappear from our lives. Literally. ‘Snow is starting to disappear from our lives’, reported the Independent in March 2000. It quoted an expert from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (of recent Climategate fame) who said ‘children just aren’t going to know what snow is’. In 2006, the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists said winters had become ‘warmer and less snowy’ thanks to global warming.
Other climate-change campaigners told us to prepare for Saharan weather. A book published as part of Al Gore’s ‘Inconvenient Truth’ jamboree in 2007 – The Global Warming Survival Handbook – said there would soon be ‘searing temperatures, killer storms, drought, plague and pestilence’. Award-winning green theorists told us to prepare for life on a ‘hotter planet’ in which ‘the traditional British winter [is] probably gone for good’. Newspapers provided us with a ‘hellish vision of life on a hotter planet’ where deserts would ‘reach into the heart of Europe’ and global warming would ‘reduce humanity to a few struggling groups of embattled survivors clinging to life near the poles’.
Dramatic stuff. And unadulterated nonsense. The thing that occupied people’s minds at the end of 2010 was not how to explain to their sweating children in the deserts of Hampshire why snow disappeared from our lives, but rather how to negotiate actual snow. Again, this isn’t to say that the snow proves there is no planetary warming at all: if it is mad to cite every change in the weather as proof that Earth is doomed, then it’s probably also unwise to dance around in the slushy white stuff in the belief that it proves that all environmental scientists are demented liars. But the world of difference between expert predictions (hot hell) and our real experiences (freezing nightmare) is a powerful symbol of the distance that now exists between the apocalypse-fantasising elites and the public.
What it really shows is the extent to which the politics of global warming is driven by an already existing culture of fear. It doesn’t matter what The Science (as greens always refer to it) does or doesn’t reveal: campaigners will still let their imaginations run riot, biblically fantasising about droughts and plagues, because theirs is a fundamentally moralistic outlook rather than a scientific one. It is their disdain for mankind’s planet-altering arrogance that fuels their global-warming fantasies – and they simply seek out The Science that best seems to back up their perverted thoughts. Those predictions of a snowless future, of a parched Earth, are better understood as elite moral porn rather than sedate risk analysis.
Indeed, The Global Warming Survival Handbook gave the game away when it encouraged people to see the future through ‘carefully crafted “what if?” stories’. Admitting that it is virtually impossible to predict our climatic future – ‘We can’t even forecast if it will rain next week’ – it advised us to host ‘scenario parties’ to ‘pool the imaginations and experiences of your friends’. It’s the closest we’ve had to an admission by the green movement that its warnings of future desert-spread are based on its own feverish teenage imaginings rather than on scientific forecasts. The snow crisis demonstrated this in Technicolor (well, in bright white): that the expert elites have taken leave of the realm of reality, preferring to seek meaning and momentum in the fantasy notion that they are fighting a hot apocalypse.
Anyone with a shred of self-respect who had predicted The End Of Snow would surely now admit that he was wrong. But no. Perhaps the most revealing thing about the snow crisis is that it was held up as evidence, not that the experts were mistaken, but that the public is stupid. Apparently it’s those who ask ‘Whatever happened to global warming?’, rather than those who predicted ‘no more traditional British winters’, who need to have their heads checked. Because what they don’t understand – ignoramuses that they are – is that heavy snow is also proof that our planet is getting hotter, and that industrialised society is to blame, just as surely as the absence of snow was proof of the same thing 10 years ago.
‘The snow outside is what global warming looks like’, said one headline, in a newspaper which 10 years ago said that the lack of snow outside is what global warming looks like. A commentator said that anyone who says ‘what happened to global warming?’ is an ‘idiot’ because nobody ever claimed that global warming would ‘make Britain hotter in the long run’. (Er, yes they did.) Apparently the reason people don’t understand the (new) global-warming-causes-snow thesis is because they are ‘simple, earthy creatures, governed by the senses’: ‘What we see and taste and feel overrides analysis. The cold has reason in a deathly grip.’
This reveals the stinging snobbery at the heart of the politics of global warming. Because what we have here is an updated version of the elitist idea that the better classes have access to a profound and complicated truth that the rest of us cannot grasp. Where we have merely sensory reactions (experience), they have reason and analysis (knowledge). Our critical reaction to the snow actually revealed our failure to understand The Truth, as unveiled by The Science, rather than revealing their wrongheadedness in predicting an ‘end to snow’. We are ‘simple’, they are ‘reasoned’. In 2011, we should take everything that is said by this new doom-mongering expert caste with a large pinch of salt – and then spread that salt on the snow which they claimed had disappeared from our lives.