Go blind! See if we care!
NHS admits widespread restrictions on cataract surgery
I had a trouble-free cataract procedure just weeks after one eye becoming blurry. Now I rarely need glasses at all. But I had PRIVATE health insurance
Sight-saving cataract operations are being restricted across about half of England, the medical director of the NHS has admitted. Sir Bruce Keogh also said that most local health authorities were not using the “best evidence” to base decisions on whether or not to fund surgery.
Labour said ministers should “act without delay” to remedy the situation.
Sir Bruce’s comments come months after a report by the Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB) found that 57 per cent of England’s 157 primary care trusts used eye test thresholds to determine who qualified for surgery.
In some parts of the South East, a patient’s sight has to be so bad that they struggle to read the large letters on the third line down on a standard eye chart.
Sir Bruce told MPs on the Public Accounts Committee: “We do know that about 50 per cent of PCTs have restricted access to cataract surgery, and we do know that the bulk of policies used by PCTs actually haven’t used the best evidence that’s available in order to ration that care.”
He also said he had been “deluged” with complaints in late 2010 about different authorities setting different criteria for cataracts operations, hip and knee replacements, and other treatments.
Andy Burnham, the Shadow Health Secretary, said: “Finally, the Department of Health has admitted what Labour has been saying for months – that cataract surgery is being unfairly restricted.
“Ministers have promised to lift unfair restrictions. Now that the medical director of the NHS has confirmed it’s happening they must act without delay.”
Health authorities claim they are restricting access to ‘low clinical value’ treatments in cases where there is poor evidence of patient benefit. However, some have admitted rationing surgery for financial reasons.
Steve Winyard, head of policy and campaign at the RNIB, said restricted access to cataracts surgery was “forcing thousands of people to live with serious and unnecessary sight loss”.
He said: “This admission by Sir Bruce Keogh further underlines the need for immediate action.
“We believe PCTs introducing thresholds to restrict access to cataract surgery do so without being able to demonstrate that they will not harm patients.”
However, a Department of Health spokesman said Sir Bruce’s comments “did not concern patient access to cataract surgery on the basis of cost, but on the basis of clinical eligibility, and the kinds of criteria that doctors in different parts of the country have been using”.
He continued: “There is evidence of this going back several years – which is exactly why Sir Bruce is doing important work with the medical Royal Colleges and others, so that the NHS is clear about the evidence base for cataract surgery.”
He added: “Restricting access to services on the basis of cost alone is wrong and compromises patient care.”
Top British universities ‘given powers to recruit more students’
Popular universities will be given more freedom to expand under Government plans to relax controls on places, it was announced today.
Institutions will be able to recruit unlimited numbers of bright sixth-formers gaining the equivalent of one A and two B grades at A-level from September 2013, it emerged.
Ministers will also ease controls on other students – those failing to gain the highest grades – by allowing academics to over-recruit by up by to three per cent without incurring fines.
The move – outlined by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – is designed to stop universities taking a “cautious approach to recruitment” and effectively leaving some places empty.
In a letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England, ministers hinted that number controls would be lifted further in future years to reward sought-after universities and take places away from the least popular institutions.
The letter, signed by Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, and David Willetts, the Universities Minister, said officials should “consider increasing the flexibility for those institutions that have shown strong recruitment patterns in 2013/14 and taper this away from institutions enjoying less demand”.
It comes just 24 hours before the main deadline to apply to university this year through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).
The Government has already radically slashed direct state funding for university teaching. In its place, universities have been given the power to impose student tuition fees of up to £9,000-a-year.
In the letter, ministers said it would result in £8 billion worth of funding for teaching in 2012/13, rising to £9.1bn in 2014/15.
The Government also wants to encourage more competition between universities and reward the most popular institutions.
Last year, they were given powers to recruit unlimited numbers of students with two As and a B at A-level – benefiting around 80,000 school-leavers.
Next autumn, number controls will be lifted for students with ABB, affecting an additional 35,000, it emerged.
Places for all other students – around two-thirds of the total cohort – are subjected to number controls, with universities fined for over-recruiting. But the letter said that “over-recruitment of up to three per cent will no longer incur a financial penalty”.
“This should deter over-cautious behaviour in making offers and recruiting students,” it said.
But the University and College Union, which represents lecturers, suggested that Government reforms to higher education were already proving a turn-off for students.
Figures published last month showed that applications had dropped by 23,000 so far this year, with students deterred by the rise in fees.
Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, said: “The move to allow universities to over recruit is an interesting one and presumably has been introduced after the failings of the government’s recent reforms which left many universities with unfilled places.”
Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students, said: “The introduction of £9,000 per year tuition fees, the imposition on an artificial market for students, cuts to central teaching grants and constant tinkering have left the entire higher education sector in turmoil.
“That the government is making more places available than they previously promised and are going some way to reintroduce leeway for universities that accidentally over-recruit is to be welcomed but this is rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic rather than fixing problems of government’s own making.”
Unsettled science: Warmists Get The Stratosphere Wrong
British Met Office analyses not reproducible
Time and again the proponents of catastrophic climate change use the mantra of “settled science” to shout down their critics. This is nothing less than blind faith that science actually knows what is going on in the complex environment that regulates this planet’s climate. Imagine a part of that system that is literally only 10km from anywhere on Earth, a component of our environment that science thought it understood quite well. Now imagine the embarrassment when a major review in a noted journal finds that previous datasets associated with this component are wrong and have been wrong for more than a quarter of a century. Yet that is precisely what has happened. The area in question is Earth’s stratosphere and the impact of this report is devastating for climate scientists and atmospheric modelers everywhere.
Scientists have been launching instrument packages into the upper portions of Earth’s atmosphere for a long time. Instruments used for such research were standardized decades ago and programs to collect such data on a world wide basis put into place. If any part of atmospheric science was considered well in hand, if not actually “settled” (a phrase seldom used by real scientists) it would be the long term monitoring of global stratospheric temperatures. However, a report in the 29 November 2012 issue of Nature, “The mystery of recent stratospheric temperature trends,” says that things are not so.
The perspective article by David Thompson, et al., reports that what we thought we knew well we hardly knew at all. A new data set of middle- and upper-stratospheric temperatures indicates that our view of stratospheric climate change during the period 1979–2005 is strikingly wrong. Furthermore, “[t]he new data call into question our understanding of observed stratospheric temperature trends and our ability to test simulations of the stratospheric response to emissions of greenhouse gases and ozone-depleting substances.”
What is particularly troublesome about this report is the scope of the damage done. The problem involves two different sets of historical data from two respected agencies: the UK Met Office and America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). How significant the error and the puzzlement over what to do about it is shown in the article’s title, where it is referred to as a mystery. The background of the problem is stated by the authors this way:
The surface temperature record extends for over a century and is derived from multiple data sources. In contrast, the stratospheric temperature record spans only a few decades and is derived from a handful of data sources. Radiosonde (weather balloon) measurements are available in the lower stratosphere but do not extend to the middle and upper stratosphere. Lidar (light detection and ranging) measurements extend to the middle and upper stratosphere but have very limited spatial and temporal sampling. By far the most abundant observations of long-term stratospheric temperatures are derived from satellite measurements of long-wave radiation emitted by Earth’s atmosphere.
The longest-running records of remotely sensed stratospheric temperatures are provided by the Microwave Sounding Unit (MSU), the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU), and the Stratospheric Sounding Unit (SSU). The SSU and MSU instruments were flown onboard a consecutive series of seven NOAA polar-orbiting satellites that partially overlap in time from late 1978 to 2006; the AMSU instruments have been flown onboard NOAA satellites from mid-1998 to the present day.
The widely accepted, continuous record of temperatures in the middle and upper stratosphere going back to 1979 was based exclusively on SSU data. The SSU data were originally processed for climate analysis by scientists at the UK Met Office in the 1980s and further revised as newer satellite data became available in 2008. Here is were things begin to get a bit dodgy.
There are rules that scientists must follow in order for their work to be judged valid. The work must be done openly, transparently—there can be no secret steps or hidden incantations. This is because the work must be reproducible, not just by those who originated it but by outsiders as well. Things began going off the rails when NOAA recently reprocessed the SSU temperatures and published the full processing methodology and the resulting data in the peer-reviewed literature. This is as it should be, NOAA followed the rules. But it soon became obvious that there were grave discrepancies between the new NOAA data and the older Met Office data.
Time series of monthly mean, global-mean stratospheric temperature anomalies.
The global-mean cooling in the middle stratosphere, around 25–45 km in altitude, is nearly twice as large in the NOAA data set as it is in the Met Office data set (see the figure) The differences between the NOAA and Met Office global-mean time series do not occur in a single discrete period of time, but begin around 1985 to increase until the end of the record. According to the Nature article: “The differences between the NOAA and Met Office global-mean time series shown in Fig. 1 are so large they call into question our fundamental understanding of observed temperature trends in the middle and upper stratosphere.”
How did the Met Office get their data so wrong? Well there’s the rub. You see, the methodology used to develop the Met Office SSU product was never published in the peer-reviewed literature, and certain aspects of the original processing “remain unknown.” Evidently the boffins at the Met didn’t bother to write down exactly how they were massaging the raw data to get the results they reported. Indeed, those who did the data manipulation seem to have mostly retired.
“The methodology used to generate the original Met Office SSU data remains undocumented and so the climate community are unable to explain the large discrepancies between the original Met Office and NOAA SSU products highlighted here,” Thompson et al. summarize. And the damage doesn’t stop there.
The data from the erroneous dataset has been used widely to help drive and define computer climate models, the same models used to prop-up alarmist claims of impending catastrophic climate change. According to the report: “Two classes of climate models commonly used in simulations of past climate are coupled chemistry–climate models (CCMs) and coupled atmosphere–ocean global climate models (AOGCMs). By definition, the CCMs explicitly simulate stratospheric chemical processes, whereas the AOGCMs explicitly simulate coupled atmosphere–ocean interactions… A key distinction between the model classes that is pertinent to this discussion is that in general the CCMs resolve the stratosphere more fully than do the AOGCMs.”
One of the predictions made by climate models is that as surface temperatures rise temperatures in the stratosphere should drop. Precisely why this should be so is complex and not important to the point being made here. Suffice it to say, the Met Office version of the SSU data suggests that the models overestimate the observed stratospheric cooling, whereas the NOAA SSU data suggest that the models underestimate it. As the authors put it:
If the new NOAA SSU data are correct, they suggest that the stratospheric mass circulation is accelerating at a rate considerably higher than that predicted by the CCMs, at least in the middle and upper stratosphere (that is, at the altitudes sampled by the SSU instrument). Again, it is possible that the models are correct and that the SSU data are in error. But the fact that the discrepancies between the magnitudes of the simulated and observed cooling in the tropical stratosphere extend to MSU channel 4, which samples the lower stratosphere and exhibits trends that are fairly reproducible from one data set to the next suggest that model uncertainties should not be discounted.
The bottom line here is that models based on this almost universally accepted data are wrong. “If the NOAA SSU data are correct, then both the CCMVal2 and CMIP5 models are presumably missing key changes in stratospheric composition,” the report plainly states. The article goes on to suggest corrective actions to prevent such a travesty being repeated in the future. Alas, the damage has already been done.
What is documented here is simply astounding. That which was thought to be understood is found to be misunderstood. Readings thought to be accurate are shown to be inaccurate. How the data were derived is found to be a secret now lost. The impact of the bogus data ripples through past results and, in particular, climate models, rendering old assumptions invalid. What was that line again about “settled science?”
This is an egregious example of sloppy science, slipshod science, bad science. How other climate scientists blindly accepted the Met Office’s manufactured data, even when their models could not be reconciled with nature, leads one to question the scientific integrity of many of those in the field. This is not acceptable behavior in any realm of scientific endeavor, and when the results of research are used to inflame the public and drive questionable socioeconomic programs the malfeasance could be considered criminal. This is what happens when the race for fame, government funding and political advantage collide with science—the validity of the science is destroyed.
1,500 foreign criminals ‘held beyond sentence’ in Britain
Britain is being forced to pay tens of millions of pounds to keep nearly 1,500 foreign criminals behind bars beyond the term of their sentence as they fight deportation.
The cost could reach the equivalent of £55 million a year as more than 500 foreign prisoners are held in jails after their sentences should have ended while almost 1,000 are being kept in immigration removal centres, figures showed.
Prime Minister David Cameron pledged nearly two years ago to put an end to agreements that mean foreign offenders cannot be returned home without their consent.
Tory MP Priti Patel, who obtained the figures through a parliamentary question, said the number of foreign criminals who can not be deported showed the Government needed to scrap the Human Rights Act.
“Ministers must remove dangerous foreign criminals quickly from Britain,” she said.
“Taxpayers should not be paying for foreign offenders to remain in the UK after their prison sentence has ended. “It’s a disgrace they’re allowed to remain here for such a long time, which is only made worse by the Human Rights Act which must be scrapped so we can send foreign criminals back home as quickly as possible.”
Ms Patel went on: “There’s no doubt that the Government wants to do more to remove foreign criminals from Britain.
“But we have to look at issues like the Human Rights Act which clearly hinders them from doing that. “We can no longer sit back because clearly it’s having a serious impact on the number of foreign criminals in the country.”
Mark Harper, the Immigration Minister, said: “In September 2012, 547 foreign national offenders were detained by the UK Border Agency in prisons following completion of their custodial sentence. “A further 919 foreign national offenders were detained beyond the end of their sentence in immigration removal centres.’
He could not say for how long each prisoner had been detained.
However, the latest figures from the Prison Reform Trust showed the average number of days taken to remove a foreign prisoner at the end of their sentence has fallen from 131 days in 2008 to 77 in 2011.
Each prison place costs an average of almost £38,000 a year, while immigration detention costs £102 per night, the trust’s figures also showed.
The number of foreign criminals awaiting deportation was released on Tuesday as ministers signed a new deal to ensure a wave of Albanian prisoners held in England and Wales will be sent back to their home country to finish their sentences.
The move, which is expected to save taxpayers around £25 million over the next 10 years, should see the first batch of prisoners deported in around two months time.
It is the first agreement providing for transfer from the UK to outside the European Union and Albanian nationals make up the 16th highest foreign national population in English and Welsh prisons.
A total of 77 out of nearly 200 Albanian prisoners who are currently eligible for transfer under the agreement between the two nations have been referred to the UK Border Agency for deportation, the Ministry of Justice said.
Jeremy Wright, the Prisons Minister, said: “The British Government wants more foreign national prisoners to serve their sentences in their home country.”
In April 2010, there were 701 foreign offenders detailed in jail after their sentence, which fell to 516 in April 2011 but rose again to 552 in the same month in 2012, the figures revealed.
The number of people held in immigration detention centres after completing a prison sentence has fallen from 1,213 in April 2010 to 812 in April 2012.
‘Mosque buster’ claims he can stop ‘tide of Islam’ by giving free advice on how to block building plans for new places of worship
A planning lawyer and self-styled ‘mosque buster’ claims he is fighting to stop the ‘tide of Islam’ by successfully blocking plans for the building of mosques across the UK.
Gavin Boby, once linked to the far-right English Defence League, boasts he has already blocked plans for 16 out of 17 mosques being built.
Under the banner of the Law and Freedom Foundation, he calls for people to come to him for free professional legal help in opposing mosque proposals and claims that Islam encourages paedophilia, sexual abuse and pimping.
He claims to help followers resist planing applications for mosque developments by raising opposition with councils.
The 48-year-old says in a video posted online: ‘If anyone out there knows of an application for a new mosque, a cultural centre for some phoney community centre or some multi-faith inter-faith harmony institute then let me know.’
Mr Boby, from Bristol, runs a planning consultancy but also provides legal assistant for those who oppose mosque developments, according to the Sunday Times.
On the foundation website he claims to have stopped the construction of 16 out of 17 mosques in total.
These include mosques in York, Blackpool, Bolton, Ealing and one in Kirklees, West Yorkshire, which was to replace ‘the beautiful old Jolly Sailor Pub’, according to the site.
Mr Boby reportedly launched the service with a mock-up of the Ghostbusters logo – swapped for Mosquebusters – in which the ghost was replaced by hate preacher Abu Hamza.
Vacancies for volunteers were posted on the EDL website.
EDL has since endorsed the Law and Freedom Foundation, saying it is a ‘great organisation’ on Twitter and referring its followers who have a proposed mosque in their area to Mr Boby.
In the website’s ‘about section’ it explains the three threats to the survival of state authority in Britain and Europe.
The third, it reads, is : ‘Ethnic division, particularly between Islamic and non-Islamic society, and the violence at the heart of Islamic doctrine. This is the most visible problem, and the one that people will blame.
‘Political and intellectual elites are undermining law or freedom. So we need to take what action we can to preserve them ourselves.’
Mr Boby has written an online guide that show how local citizens can make a legal case against mosques.
In the guide it reads: ‘Let councils know that they’re on the hook for their decisions. Be relentless. Push.’
He also suggests opposing an Islamic centre on the grounds of ‘parking congestion’, ‘disturbance’ and ‘community relations’.
The Jolly Sailor pub in Kirklees, West Yorkshire, which Mr Boby described as ‘beautiful’ and ‘old’. There were proposals to turn the pub in to a mosque but Mr Boby helped block the plans
The Jolly Sailor pub in Kirklees, West Yorkshire, which Mr Boby described as ‘beautiful’ and ‘old’. There were proposals to turn the pub in to a mosque but Mr Boby helped block the plans
His advice is rooted in legal arguments, as he continues to suggest emphasising the proposed project will ’cause unacceptable pollution’ from traffic and is a hazard to schoolchildren as it will ‘bring outsiders with no connection to the area’.
He appears to be driven by an apparent ideological hatred of Islam, referring in a video posted on YouTube to recent sex abuse cases, and claims mosques are ‘not like churches’ and are instead used to instruct followers to commit acts of paedophilia, sexual abuse and pimping.
He says: ‘Islamic doctrine permits, encourages and to a certain extent mandates Muslim men to take non-Muslim women as slaves to be used for sex.
‘In order to stop the Islamic doctrine, which is the root of this problem, you have to prevent further mosques from being built.’
Councils contacted by the Sunday Times said Mr Boby had not been instrumental in blocking the development of local mosques.
Mr Boby told MailOnline: ‘I are (sic) extremely proud that, when these concerned neighbourhoods approach us for help, we enable them to use the laws and consultation procedures that exist for their protection.’
A spokesman for the EDL said: ‘We support his organisation wholeheartedly and send many people from different communities with different issues concerning mosques in their area.’
I’ll protect faith from attack by militants who hate religion, says British government minister
Traditional religious freedoms are under assault from the ‘intolerance of aggressive secularism’, a Cabinet minister will warn today.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles will today attack court rulings against the right of Christians to wear crosses at work and legal action to prevent prayers before council meetings.
He will insist that faith provides a ‘clear moral compass’ for society and declare that the Coalition does ‘do God’, unlike the last Labour government.
Mr Pickles’s comments come on the day of a crunch verdict from the European Court of Human Rights, which will rule whether four Christians were discriminated against at work – including two women who claim they were forced out of their jobs for wearing the cross.
He is vowing to change UK law to support the right of people to discreetly display a symbol of faith in their workplace if their case is rejected.
Addressing the think-tanks British Future and Policy Exchange in London, Mr Pickles will say: ‘Faith provides a clear moral compass and a call to action that benefits society as a whole. At a time when Christians are under attack for their beliefs in different parts of the world, I am proud of the freedom of belief that exists in Britain.
‘But in recent years long-standing British liberties of freedom of religion have been undermined by the intolerance of aggressive secularism: taking people to task for wearing a cross or a rosary, beginning costly legal actions against council prayers – as if they had nothing better to do.
‘We’re committed to the right of Christians and people of all beliefs to follow their faith openly, wear religious symbols and pray in public.’
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, the former bishop of Rochester, said that it would be ‘clear discrimination’ to allow employers to ban the cross whilst letting those of other faiths wear symbols and clothing from their religions.
He added that it would ‘further accelerate the undermining of this country’s Judeo-Christian foundations by aggressive secularism and naive multi-culturalism’.
In his speech, Mr Pickles will also reiterate previous demands that all immigrants should learn English, saying it is ‘incomprehensible’ that no one speaks the language in one in 20 households. Parents who do not ensure their children learn English are ‘condemning them to a limited life’, he will say.
He will attack the ‘old statist policies’ such as the decision to pay for translation ‘instead of trusting people to learn the language’.
‘People should be able to talk to and understand one and another in a nuanced way. The reality is you need English to succeed. We all miss out, our country is the poorer, if people can’t speak our language, if they are unable to participate or make an economic contribution.
‘English is the passport to prosperity the world over. From Mumbai through to Beijing every striving parent is trying to get their kids to learn English,’ he will add.
CofE ‘will be sued over gay marriage’: Human rights law ‘undermines’ Cameron plans
David Cameron’s plans for gay marriage will leave churches open to being sued under human rights legislation unless they agree to same-sex unions.
Legal advice sent to the Prime Minister says that churches that refuse to marry homosexuals would be banned from using council facilities such as village halls.
The paper, written by Aidan O’Neill – a leading human rights lawyer at centre-left Matrix Chambers – also says that Christian teachers who refuse to take classes discussing gay marriage could be legitimately fired.
Parents who support traditional marriage would be barred from fostering or adopting and would have no right to prevent their children being taught about gay marriage in school.
Most explosively, the document argues that the exemption granted to the Church of England by the Coalition Bill to prevent it having to conduct gay marriages is ‘eminently challenge-able’ in the European Court of Human Rights since the established church has a legal obligation to marry anyone in their local parish.
And it warns that the Government’s insistence that protections are put in place for other religious groups who don’t want to marry homosexuals could be undermined by evolving European human rights law.
It emerged as senior Government sources confirmed that a Commons vote on gay marriage is planned before mid-February.
Details of the legal advice are contained in a letter from former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey to the Prime Minister.
Lord Carey warns that the plans will lead to ‘serious and wide-ranging conflict between religious institutions and local authorities’ and argues that the legal opinion ‘demonstrates why the legislation is unworkable’.
He concludes: ‘These proposals are divisive, have no mandate and are poorly thought-out.’
Mr O’Neill’s legal opinion, which was commissioned by the Coalition for Marriage, points out that local authorities have a legal obligation to uphold the Equalities Act, giving them the right to bar churches and employees who uphold a traditional view.
A Government source said: ‘It is precisely because the Church of England has a legal duty to marry that we have created a legal lock to ensure this doesn’t apply to same-sex couples.’
A Downing Street source said the Prime Minister would ‘press ahead’ with the plans over the next month and that No 10 ‘has legal advice of our own’.
Are Britons now free to say insulting things?
It seems not. The word “insulting” will be removed from the law but the word “abusive” will be retained. So what was once called “insulting” will now be called “abusive” and nothing will change
Ministers agreed to scrap a law outlawing ‘insulting words or behaviour’ last night after a campaign led by comedian Rowan Atkinson.
Home Secretary Theresa May announced a dramatic U-turn yesterday saying the government would ditch the contentious words from the Public Order Act amid fears that they are strangling free speech.
The Blackadder and Mr Bean star led a coalition of campaign groups complaining that the legislation has been abused by over-zealous police and prosecutors to arrest Christian preachers, critics of Scientology, gay rights campaigners and even students making jokes.
Mrs May told the Commons that the word ‘insulting’ would be removed from Section 5 of the Public Order Act, as part of the Crime and Courts Bill.
She told MPs: ‘Looking at past cases, the Director of Public Prosecutions could not identify any where the behaviour leading to a conviction could not be described as “abusive” as well as “insulting”.
‘He has stated that the word “insulting” could safely be removed without the risk of undermining the ability of the CPS to bring prosecutions.