Schizophrenia - search results
Same corporations that manufacture vaccines are killing half a million people annually with deadly...
Jan Brewer is the governor of Arizona and one of her three sons, Ronald, was charged in 1989 with sexual assault and kidnapping of a Phoenix woman. He was diagnosed suffering schizophrenia and, in 1990, was found not guilty by reason of insanity and sent to the Arizona State Hospital in Phoenix where he has been housed for the last two decades. Brewer is one of the lucky mentally ill or criminally insane people in the U.S. not forced to live out their sentence in a state jail or federal prison.
A 2006 report for the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), “Mental Health Problems of Prison and Jail Inmates,” estimated that 1.25 million people suffering from mental health problems were inmates in U.S. prisons and jails. This is a four-fold increase from the BJS’s 1998 estimate of 283,000 incarcerated inmates with a mental illness.
Two recent BJS studies spotlight the horrendous conditions faced by the criminally insane in the American prison gulag. They reveal that U.S. prisons have become the dumping ground for an increasing number of mentally ill people and, more troubling, these people are subject to widespread and repeated sexual victimization. Prisons are coming to increasingly resemble hell on earth, a postmodern version Dante’s 8th level of Hell, Malebolge, an amphitheatre-shaped pit in which panderers, pimps, seducers and others are whipped, ducked in boiling pitch and their feet licked by flames.
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In March 2013, CBS’s primetime Sunday news program, “60 Minutes,” featured an exposé on prison conditions in Chicago. It profiled Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and argued, “with a shortage of mental facilities, jails have become the new asylums.” Sadly, the conditions found in Chicago are relatively humane compared to that found in prisons around the country. This is the sad lesson suggested by two recent BJS reports: “Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates, 2011–12: National Inmate Survey (NIS), 2011–12,” prepared by Allen Beck and others; and “Report on Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails (RSV),” edited by G. J. Mazza.
The NIS findings are pretty alarming: “In 2011-12, an estimated 4.0% of state and federal prison inmates and 3.2% of jail inmates reported experiencing one or more incidents of sexual victimization by another inmate or facility staff in the past 12 months or since admission to the facility, if less than 12 months.” It adds, “an estimated 3.6% of those identified with serious psychological distress reported inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization, compared to 0.7% of inmates with no indication of mental illness.”
In real numbers, incidents of sexual victimization are significant. The total U.S. incarcerated population is estimated at 2.3 million. Using a 3.5 percent victimization rate, about 80,000 men and women, boys and girls as well as those identified as LGBT or suffering a mental health disorder are subject to some form of sexual violence.
More enlightened prison systems offer inmates some form of mental health support. The NIS found “more than a third of prison inmates (35.8%) and jail inmates (39.2%) said they had received some counseling or therapy from a trained professional for these problems.”
Not surprising, those who saw a mental health professional were more likely to report being sexually victimized. Inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization is 3 to 4 times higher among inmates who had received mental health counseling and 2 to 3 times higher among inmates who take prescription drugs. The need for professional counseling is probably greater for those inmates subject to solitary confinement.
In 2005, the Supreme Court found in Wilkinson v. Austin that “no study of the effects of solitary or supermax-like confinement that lasted longer than 60 days failed to find evidence of negative psychological effects.” The mental-health consequences from such confinement take many forms. Inmates report an increase in problems sleeping, irrational anger, rage, lack of impulse control, confusing thought processes, hallucinations and depression, severe and chronic. Suicide and incidents of self-harm or self-mutilation (e.g., swallowing razors and repeatedly smashing his/her head against the wall) increase.
“Report on Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails (RSV)” is an even more revealing indictment of U.S. prison system. It provides detailed information about three so-called “High-Incidence Prisons.” Among the characteristics of those who are most victimized by inmate-on-inmate sexual violence those with the following characteristics: (i) being white or multi-racial, (ii) having a college education, (iii) having a sexual orientation other than heterosexual, and (iv) having experienced sexual victimization prior to coming to the facility. Among the characteristics of those who are most victimized due to staff sexual misconduct included: (i) having a college and (ii) experienced sexual victimization before coming to the facility.
Three prisons deemed high-incident facilities were singled out.
Fluvanna is a maximum-security prison for women in Troy, VA. It suffered a major scandal in 2007 when the former chief of security was charged with having sex with female inmates. He was convicted the following year. Current administration concedes it suffers from short staffing during critical early-morning and late-evening hours, when most sexual victimization takes place.
Allred is a maximum-security prison for men in Wichita Falls, TX. During the 2008-2009 period, its capacity was 3,682. In 2009, 4,693 inmates spent time at Allred; the average length of stay was 1,682 days, the longest stay was 5,306 days. Did someone say overcrowding?
Elmira, located in Upstate New York, is a maximum-security prison for men. During the 2008-2009 period, its capacity was 3,682 and, in 2009, the total number of inmates who spent any time there was 9,396. That year, two inmates committed suicide and 11 people attempted suicide.
The authors of the RSV study take up an advocacy voice, calling for system wide changes. Knowingly, they insist: “We know that sexual assaults can be reduced by changing attitudes toward potentially vulnerable populations, including female, LGBTQ, and physically frail inmates; paying close attention to institutional design and surveillance; providing offender education and staff training; improving operational policies and post orders; and monitoring adherence to established policies.”
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American prisons have become the new mental institutions, asylums for lost souls. In Madness and Civilization, Michel Foucault notes that in 1656 the Hopital General was founded in Paris. It was not a medical establishment, but a juridical institution seeking to instill moral and religious order in those so imprisoned. While ostensibly aimed at the confinement of the insane, it also housed the unemployed or idle, prisoners and the poor. The confined included those identified as “the debauched, spendthrift fathers, prodigal sons, blasphemers” and “libertines.”
We’ve come nearly full circle in the last three-and-a-half centuries. As Rockefeller inspired lock-‘em-up drug-related policies wane in the face of the mounting fiscal crises faced by local and state governments, nonviolent drug offenders are being replaced by the mentally ill. The sad situation is that there are dwindling facilities for the civil confinement of those designated criminally insane or mentally ill.
Writing in the New York Review of Book, David Kaiser and Lovisa Stannow point out, “the asylums where people with serious disorders could once receive care were mostly closed down by the end of the Reagan era.” They point out that a half-century ago, in 1955, there were 558,239 beds for severely mentally ill patients in public psychiatric hospitals. Going further, they argue that, based on population growth, the number of beds should have been 885,000 by 1994. Sadly, the number of beds in public institutions were only 71,619 and “perhaps another 70,000” in private psychiatric hospitals.
The authors conclude, pessimistically, “Indeed, a visit to almost any prison or jail makes it distressingly clear that these institutions now house many of the people who need mental health treatment.” These prisons have become a modern-day hell-on-earth.
Empire Under Obama, Part 1: Political Language and the “Mafia Principles” of International Relations
Triple-Feature: “America Discredited,” “Bradley Manning Verdict Convicts Washington,” and “Hiding Economic Depression With Spin”...
Triple-Feature: “America Discredited,” “Bradley Manning Verdict Convicts Washington,” and “Hiding Economic Depression With Spin” — Paul Craig Roberts Quarterly Call For Donations This is your site. This site will continue as long as you support it. There is nothing on this site except information and explanations that the media does not provide. There is no…
A British health manager warned the boss of the NHS four years ago that his hospital was a threat to patients’ safety. A nationwide investigation into avoidable hospital deaths has found that such warnings from doctors were often silenced or ignored.
Gary Walker, the former chief of United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust, was silenced in 2010 under a £500,000 ‘super gag’ agreement; he is now risking legal action by the NHS by speaking out. Walker reportedly received the payment last year; his former employer now faces a major investigation over its unusually high death rates, in the midst of the Stafford inquiry fallout.
Walker said that the chief of the NHS chief was “not interested in patient safety,” and called on him to resign to end the “culture of fear” he had created in the NHS, Britain’s Daily Mail reported.
Walker spoke to the BBC in an exclusive interview for its ‘Today’ show on Radio 4, in which he explained that his hands had been tied: “I was in danger of losing my house – I have children to support. And one thing you must remember that if you're attacking the very top of the NHS the sanctions are pretty dramatic.”
On Tuesday, shortly after learning of his plans to appear on national radio, the NHS wrote a letter to Walker reminding that, “If you have provided an interview or should this interview proceed you will be in clear breach of the agreement and as a result the Trust would be entitled to recover from you the payments made under the agreement.”
The letter reiterated that he was legally obliged not to inform anyone, besides family, of the terms of the gag agreement. The letter was released by the Lincolnshire Independents, a minor British political party, alongside other correspondences. The party said it was “shocked at the documents we have uncovered.”
Walker was fired in 2010, allegedly for using profanity during meetings. He and his supporters claimed that he was forced out for whistleblowing.
Leaked Letters reveal systemic neglect
New leaked letters have shown that doctor concerns over the Lincolnshire hospital were constantly ignored, despite that medical staff often challenged management about policies that threatened patient safety. The number of ‘excess’ deaths at Lincolnshire Hospital stood at 677 between 2009 and 2012, according to David Bowles, the former chair of United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust. Bowles said he quit over such dangerous target-setting.
In one letter, a doctor described a complex 10-hour medical procedure as a “major operation with major risks attached.” The patient’s operation was then postponed, because there were no Intensive Care Unit beds available at Lincolnshire Hospital in central England.
Another letter outlined the serious threat to the public caused by excessive targets, as well as intimidation from above: “I must make you aware of my concerns about the balance between patient safety and targets and inform you that in my view the current bullish and sometimes ruthless pressure from above on the management team in my Directorate is unfair and unacceptable,” a clinical director told Paul Richardson, NHS Trust Chair of United Lincolnshire Hospitals.
One more anonymous doctor begins, “I am writing in the immediate aftermath of today’s tragic death of an otherwise well patient,” adding that ward staffing levels were inadequate for postoperative care, and that the “enormous pressure” exerted by target requirements resulted in ad-hoc arrangements for short notice surgery.
Lincolnshire Hospital is one of nine others that over the last week were slated to be investigated for unusually high death rates in the wake of the Stafford inquiry results. The Stafford inquiry was part of a long-term investigation into the hospital’s filthy wards, unnecessary deaths and understaffing.
The revelation comes shortly after inquiries into some 1,000 ‘avoidable’ UK hospital deaths in Stafford, central England, which concluded earlier this month that “corporate self-interest and cost-control” were to blame for the wider-scale NHS problems that allowed the deaths to happen.
Inquiry head Robert Francis, QC, urged for greater protection for NHS whistleblowers, as it emerged that many who try to speak out against hospital management are silenced. Many complaints were voiced about standards of patient care at the central England hospital, but they either went ignored or were given no adequate response, despite the approximately 1,000 deaths.
Harrowing accounts of poor standards of care and hygiene and patients dying in undignified circumstances plagued the institution; further reports emerged of patient neglect and the failure to supply basic provisions.
One patient’s relative reported that health and safety rules prevented drinks from being left out at night, leading thirsty patients to drink water out of a flower vase. Relatives of two other patients reported that their family members had been dropped.
Others fell victim to deadly infections rampant in the filthy wards, such as the superbugs C. dificile and MRSA. One relative said that her mother was so badly infected with C. dificile that she had to be buried in a sealed body bag.
There have been serious attempts to discredit, bully, or fire NHS whistleblowers, which resulted in a media scandal last August.
Kay Sheldon, a board member of a UK healthcare watchdog, raised concerns that poor leadership and performance were a threat to public safety. She was diagnosed as possibly suffering from schizophrenia by an external assessor in a clear attempt to discredit her.
Many whistleblowers fear reprisal, as it there is a high possibility that they could be fired by those they raise concerns about. And in September, Labour MP Katy Clarke pointed out that lawyers representing the NHS were all too often silenced using gagging clauses when settling employment cases.
“I warned [David Nicholson, NHS boss] that Lincolnshire was going to become the next Mid Staffordshire. He didn’t investigate those concerns, and now look what’s happened,” Walker said.
“We cannot allow the disgraceful culture highlighted in the Mid-Staffordshire report to put Lincolnshire patients at risk,” said Chris Brewis, an independent politician on the Health Scrutiny Committee at Lincolnshire County Council.
It appears we have a variety of genetic mutations that are associated with sensitivity to the environment-- for better and worse.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/mathagraphics
January 23, 2013 |
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In Psychiatry, there has been a great mystery. We know that virtually every single mental disorder identified thus far has a heritable basis. So we know that many genes are involved. At the same time, whenever we go fishing for the specific genes that are associated with any disorder, we end up with an awful lot of seaweed. Each gene explains only a fraction of the outcome, and very few genes actually replicate. This doesn't mean genes don't contribute to the manifestation of psychological traits and disorders, but it does mean we'll have to look beyond the genetic level if we want a fuller understanding of how we become who we are.
In recent years, studies keep accumulating that show the importance of gene by environment interactions. But researchers aren't just finding that the environment matters in determining whether mental illness exists. What is being discovered is far more interesting and nuanced: Some of the very same genes that under certain environmental conditions are associated with some of the lowest lows of humanity, under supportive conditions are associated with the highest highs of human flourishing.
Referred to by some scientists as the "differential susceptibility hypothesis" or journalist David Dobbs as "The Orchid Hypothesis", these findings shouldn't be understated. They are revolutionary, and suggest a serious rethinking of the role of genes in the manifestation of our psychological traits and mental "illness". Instead of all of our genes coding for particular psychological traits, it appears we have a variety of genetic mutations that are associated with sensitivity to the environment-- for better and worse.
Only a few genetic mutations have been discovered so far that demonstrate differential susceptibility effects. Most of the genes that have been discovered contribute to the production of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. Both of these biological systems contribute heavily to many aspects of humanity, including our cognitive exploration, engagement with the world, positive emotions, anxiety, depression, and mood fluctuations. So far, the evidence suggests (but is still tentative) that certain genetic variants under harsh and abusive conditions are associated with anxiety and depression, but that the very same genetic variants are associated with the lowest levels of anxiety, depression, and fear under supportive, nurturing conditions. There hasn't been too much research looking at differential susceptibility effects on other systems that involve learning and exploration, however. Enter a brand new study.
Rising superstar Rachael Grazioplene and colleagues focused on the cholinergic system-- a biological system crucially involved in neural plasticity and learning. Situations that activate the cholinergic system involve "expected uncertainty" such as going to a new country you've never been before and knowing that you're going to face things you've never faced before. This stands in contrast to "unexpected uncertainty", which occurs when your expectations are violated, such as thinking you're going to a Las Vegas family friendly Cirque Di Soleil only to realize you've actually gotten a ticket to an all-male dance revue called "Thunder from Down Under" (I have no idea where that example came from). Those sorts of experiences are more strongly related to the neurotransmitter norepinephrine.
Since the cholinergic system is most active in situations when a person can predict that learning is possible, this makes the system a prime candidate for the differential susceptibility effect. As the researchers note, unpredictable and novel environments could function as either threats or incentive rewards. When the significance of the environment is uncertain, both caution and exploration are adaptive. Therefore, traits relating to anxiety or curiosity should be influenced by cholinergic genetic variants, with developmental experiences determining whether individuals find expected uncertainty either more threatening or more promising.
To test their hypothesis, they focused on a polymorphism in the CHRNA4 gene, which builds a certain kind of neural receptor that the neurotransmitter binds to. These acetylcholine receptors are distributed throughout the brain, and are especially involved in the functioning of dopamine in the striatum. Genetic differences in the CHRNA4 gene seem to change the sensitivity of the brain's acetylcholine system because small structural changes in these receptors make acetylcholine binding more or less likely. Previous studies have shown associations between variation in the CHRNA4 gene and neuroticism as well as laboratory tests of attention and working memory.
The researchers looked at the functioning of this gene among a group of 614 children aged 8-13 enrolled in a week-long day camp. Half of the children in the day camp were selected because they had been maltreated (sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, emotional maltreatment), whereas the other half was carefully selected to come from the same socioeconomic status but not have experienced any maltreatment. This study provides the ideal experimental design and environmental conditions to test the differential susceptibility effect. Not only were the backgrounds of the children clearly defined, but also dramatically different from each other. Additionally, all children engaged in the same novel learning environment--an environment well suited for cholinergic functioning. What did they find?
Individuals with the T/T variation of the CHRNA4 gene who were maltreated showed higher levels of anxiety (Neuroticism) compared to those with the C allele of this gene. They appeared to be more likely to learn anxious and fearful responses to situations with higher levels of uncertainty. In contrast, those with the T/T allele who were not maltreated were low in anxiety (Neuroticism) and high in curiosity (Openness to Experience). What's more, this effect was independent of age, race, and sex. These results suggest that under normal parenting environments, the T/T allele (which is much rarer in the general population than the C allele) may be beneficial, bringing out lower levels of anxiety and increased curiosity in response to situations containing expected uncertainty.
These results are certainly exciting, but a few important caveats are in order. For one thing, the T/T genotype is very rare in the general population, which makes it all the more important for future studies to attempt to replicate these findings. Also, we're talking vanishingly small effects here. The CHRNA4 variant only explained at most 1% of the variation in neuroticism and openness to experience. So we shouldn't go around trying to predict individual people's futures based on knowledge of a single gene and a single environment.
Scientifically speaking though, this level of prediction is expected based on the fact that all of our psychological dispositions are massively polymorphic (consists of many interacting genes). Both gene-gene and gene-environment interactions must be taken into account. Indeed, recent research found that the more sensitivity ("plasticity") genes relating to the dopamine and serotonin systems adolescent males carried, the less self-regulation they displayed under unsupportive parenting conditions. In line with the differential susceptibility effect, the reverse was also found: higher levels of self-regulation were displayed by the adolescent males carrying more senstivity genes when they were reared under supportive parenting conditions.
The findings by Grazioplene and colleagues add to a growing literature on acetylcholine's role in the emergence of schizophrenia and mood disorders. As the researcher's note, these findings, while small in effect, may have clinical implications considering childhood maltreatment is a known risk factor for many psychiatric disorders. Children with the T/T genotype of CHRNA4 rs1044396 may be more likely to learn fearful responses in harsh and abusive environments, but children with the very same genotype may be more likely to display curiosity and engagement in response to uncertainty under normal or supportive conditions.
While it's profoundly difficult predicting the developmental trajectory of any single individual, this research suggests we can influence the odds that people will retreat within themselves or unleash the fundamentally human drive to explore and create.
A deluge of articles have been quickly put into circulation defending France’s military intervention in the African nation of Mali. TIME’s article, “The Crisis in Mali: Will French Intervention Stop the Islamist Advance?” decides that old tricks are the best tricks, and elects the tiresome “War on Terror” narrative.TIME claims the intervention seeks to stop “Islamist” terrorists from overrunning both Africa and all of Europe. Specifically, the article states:
“…there is a (probably well-founded) fear in France that a radical Islamist Mali threatens France most of all, since most of the Islamists are French speakers and many have relatives in France. (Intelligence sources in Paris have told TIME that they’ve identified aspiring jihadis leaving France for northern Mali to train and fight.) Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), one of the three groups that make up the Malian Islamist alliance and which provides much of the leadership, has also designated France — the representative of Western power in the region — as a prime target for attack.”
What TIME elects not to tell readers is that Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is closely allied to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG whom France intervened on behalf of during NATO’s 2011 proxy-invasion of Libya – providing weapons, training, special forces and even aircraft to support them in the overthrow of Libya’s government.
As far back as August of 2011, Bruce Riedel out of the corporate-financier funded think-tank, the Brookings Institution, wrote “Algeria will be next to fall,” where he gleefully predicted success in Libya would embolden radical elements in Algeria, in particular AQIM. Between extremist violence and the prospect of French airstrikes, Riedel hoped to see the fall of the Algerian government. Ironically Riedel noted:
Algeria has expressed particular concern that the unrest in Libya could lead to the development of a major safe haven and sanctuary for al-Qaeda and other extremist jihadis.
And thanks to NATO, that is exactly what Libya has become – a Western sponsored sanctuary for Al-Qaeda. AQIM’s headway in northern Mali and now French involvement will see the conflict inevitably spill over into Algeria. It should be noted that Riedel is a co-author of “Which Path to Persia?” which openly conspires to arm yet another US State Department-listed terrorist organization (list as #28), the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) to wreak havoc across Iran and help collapse the government there – illustrating a pattern of using clearly terroristic organizations, even those listed as so by the US State Department, to carry out US foreign policy.Geopolitical analyst Pepe Escobar noted a more direct connection between LIFG and AQIM in an Asia Times piece titled, “How al-Qaeda got to rule in Tripoli:”
“Crucially, still in 2007, then al-Qaeda’s number two, Zawahiri, officially announced the merger between the LIFG and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb (AQIM). So, for all practical purposes, since then, LIFG/AQIM have been one and the same – and Belhaj was/is its emir. “
“Belhaj,” referring to Hakim Abdul Belhaj, leader of LIFG in Libya, led with NATO support, arms, funding, and diplomatic recognition, the overthrowing of Muammar Qaddafi and has now plunged the nation into unending racist and tribal, genocidal infighting. This intervention has also seen the rebellion’s epicenter of Benghazi peeling off from Tripoli as a semi-autonomous “Terror-Emirate.” Belhaj’s latest campaign has shifted to Syria where he was admittedly on the Turkish-Syrian border pledging weapons, money, and fighters to the so-called “Free Syrian Army,” again, under the auspices of NATO support.
Image: NATO’s intervention in Libya has resurrected listed-terrorist organization and Al Qaeda affiliate, LIFG. It had previously fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now has fighters, cash and weapons, all courtesy of NATO, spreading as far west as Mali, and as far east as Syria. The feared “global Caliphate” Neo-Cons have been scaring Western children with for a decade is now taking shape via US-Saudi, Israeli, and Qatari machinations, not “Islam.” In fact, real Muslims have paid the highest price in fighting this real “war against Western-funded terrorism.”
LIFG, which with French arms, cash, and diplomatic support, is now invading northern Syria on behalf of NATO’s attempted regime change there, officially merged with Al Qaeda in 2007 according to the US Army’s West Point Combating Terrorism Center (CTC). According to the CTC, AQIM and LIFG share not only ideological goals, but strategic and even tactical objectives. The weapons LIFG received most certainly made their way into the hands of AQIM on their way through the porous borders of the Sahara Desert and into northern Mali.
In fact, ABC News reported in their article, “Al Qaeda Terror Group: We ‘Benefit From’ Libyan Weapons,” that:
A leading member of an al Qaeda-affiliated terror group indicated the organization may have acquired some of the thousands of powerful weapons that went missing in the chaos of the Libyan uprising, stoking long-held fears of Western officials.”We have been one of the main beneficiaries of the revolutions in the Arab world,” Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a leader of the north Africa-based al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb [AQIM], told the Mauritanian news agency ANI Wednesday. “As for our benefiting from the [Libyan] weapons, this is a natural thing in these kinds of circumstances.”
It is no coincidence that as the Libyan conflict was drawing to a conclusion, conflict erupted in northern Mali. It is part of a premeditated geopolitical reordering that began with toppling Libya, and since then, using it as a springboard for invading other targeted nations, including Mali, Algeria, and Syria with heavily armed, NATO-funded and aided terrorists.
French involvement may drive AQIM and its affiliates out of northern Mali, but they are almost sure to end up in Algeria, most likely by design.
Algeria was able to balk subversion during the early phases of the US-engineered “Arab Spring” in 2011, but it surely has not escaped the attention of the West who is in the midst of transforming a region stretching from Africa to Beijing and Moscow’s doorsteps – and in a fit of geopolitical schizophrenia – using terrorists both as a casus belli to invade and as an inexhaustible mercenary force to do it.
The ten things you need to know on Sunday 13 January 2013...
1) WITHDRAW FROM THE EU? 'MAD,' SAYS PM
It feels like the early 1990s, with the papers full of Europe stories this morning. The best one is in the Mail on Sunday, where it seems the prime minister's allies have been briefing against his Europhobic backbenchers. That'll go down well, won't it?
The Mail on Sunday's Simon Walters reveals:
"David Cameron thinks it would be 'mad' for Britain to leave the EU and is secretly backing a move by Tory MPs to warn of the perils of cutting all our ties with Brussels.
"The Prime Minister was also 'pleased' at US President Barack Obama sending a clear signal that the White House is opposed to the UK leaving the European Union."
".. [T]hose close to Mr Cameron say he does not believe withdrawal is 'realistic or desirable'."
Meanwhile, as the Huffington Post reports:
"David Cameron could slash Ukip's support by more than a third if he promises an in-out referendum on EU membership, according to a poll.
"Research by ComRes for the Sunday People found 63% of the public want a vote on whether Britain should remain in the union.
"Some 33% said they would cast their ballot in favour of a full withdrawal - including two thirds of Ukip supporters, 27% of Tories, 25% of Labour voters, and 17% of Liberal Democrats.
"However, more people - 42% said they were against leaving the EU."
The poll also shows that Ukip could push the Tories into third place in 2014's European elections - Cameron's Conservatives would fall to 22%, one point below Ukip. Uh-oh.
2) THE KEN AND MANDY SHOW
It's not just the Spice Girls who are getting back together again to perform their greatest hits. From the Observer:
"Tory grandee Ken Clarke is joining forces with Labour peer Lord Mandelson in a historic cross-party bid to turn back the rising tide of Euroscepticism.
"The two political heavyweights will share a platform to call for an abandonment of plans to disengage from the European project. Clarke, who attends cabinet as a minister without portfolio, is determined to fight back against the clamour for Britain to step back from the European Union or withdraw entirely.
"Along with Liberal Democrat Lord Rennard, Clarke and Mandelson will spearhead a new organisation, the Centre for British Influence through Europe (CBIE), which will support a cross-party 'patriotic fightback for British leadership in Europe'. The organisation will hold its launch event at the end of the month."
Hmm. Will it affect public opinion? Tory Eurosceptics, like the Spectator's James Forsyth, don't seem too scared of interventions from the likes of Clarke, Mandelson and - yesterday - Heseltine:
"Eurosceptics need to get organised and start pointing out that the people claiming that renegotiation will lead to the sky falling in are, by and large, the same people who were pushing for Britain to join the single currency. If this message is rammed home to the public, then it should be a lot easier to persuade them to take these warnings with a pinch of salt."
"The Britain in Europe crowd was wrong on the most fundamental public policy issue of our time. They need to be reminded of this fact every time they enter the Europe debate."
3) ON THE FRONT FOOT
Ed Miliband has had a strong and high-profile start to 2013 - and will be buoyed by the latest polls (see Public Opinion Watch, below).
The Independent on Sunday reports on Miliband's
".. plans to protect tenants from 'rogue landlords'.
"In a keynote speech on the future of his party, Labour's leader revived calls for a national register of landlords - and greater powers for councils to bar the worst."
Miliband was on the Andrew Marr programme this morning, where he said "'One Nation' is about the way I want to govern this country...about responsiblity going all the way to top of society".
On Europe, he said he thought it was "incredibly dangerous what David Cameron is doing..sleepwalking us towards the exit door of the European Union".
On the economy and the deficit, he refused to give any pledges on reversing Tory cuts - to child benefit or anything else - but highlighted the importance of tackling tax avoidance and changing the law to prevent multinations from dodging tax in the UK.
He also resisted calls to support "means-testing" on welfare and said "the tax system is a fairer way" of redistributing from rich to poor and pointed out the "best way" to cut the welfare bill is to cut unemployment.
On the leaders' TV debates, the Labour leader didn't seem too keen on having Ukip's Nigel Farage join the 'big three' but said he was "relishing these TV debates...I hope they happen".
On Ed Balls, he said Balls was "doing a great job" as shadow chancellor - Miliband even reminded viewers of Balls' prescient speech on austerity at Bloomberg's HQ in August 2010. Now there's an endorsement!
"There is no vacancy for shadow chancellor," declared Ed.
4) O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?
David Miliband isn't coming back to Labour's front bench anytime soon, says the Sunday Telegraph's Patrick Hennessy:
"Mr Miliband, who lost his party’s leadership election to his younger brother in 2010, was said last week to be giving 'serious thought' to coming back to the political front line - with the post of shadow chancellor claimed to be in his sights.
"However, it can be revealed that Ed Miliband has no plans to replace the current shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, or to hand his brother the job of masterminding Labour’s preparations for the next general election campaign."
The Sunday Telegraph story says the elder Miliband's supporters were briefing journos that David might return because they're 'spooked' by the meteoric rise of the shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna.
5) UKIP MEMBERS: IN THEIR OWN WORDS?
The Sunday Mirror seems to have set out to prove David Cameron right that Ukip is a party of "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists', containing "some pretty odd people". The paper reports:
"On the [party's official online] forum, senior Ukip member Dr Julia Gasper branded gay rights a 'lunatic's charter' and claimed some homosexuals prefer sex with animals. She added: 'As for the links between homosexuality and paedophilia, there is so much evidence that even a full-length book could hardly do justice to the Âsubject.'
"The former parliamentary candidate and UKIP branch chairman in Oxford now faces the sack over her comments.
"Tackled about her remarks yesterday, she said: 'I'm not going to talk about them. It's none of your business.'
"Lecturer Dr Gasper is just one of many Ukip members who use the forum to vent their controversial views.
".. Another member complained about the impact of immigration on the NHS, writing: 'I am informed by past media that Black Caribbean and not Black African have a higher instance of schizophrenia.
"'I wonder if this is due to inbreeding on these small islands in slave times or is it due to smoking grass.'"
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch this video of a puppy trying to eat an orange.
6) 'KING OF WHITEHALL'
Fascinating piece on top civil servant Sir Jeremy Heywood by James Forsyth in the Mail on Sunday today:
"Sir Jeremy is regarded by friend and foe alike as the most formidable operator in Whitehall," he writes, adding: "Aides who want to give Cameron advice without Heywood's knowledge have been reduced to trying to surreptitiously slip a note into the Prime Minister's Red Box."
"Steve Hilton, Cameron's senior adviser, once tried to wrest control of the box from Heywood by demanding that all the box notes had to go through him as well. Yet the sheer weight of material put paid to this effort. Hilton has since gone on sabbatical, partly in frustration at the extent of Heywood's influence."
"Heywood knows that he is playing a long game. In conversation, he sometimes pointedly refers to the 'current Government'.
"It is a reminder that he intends to be at the centre of power far longer than any politician."
Meanwhile, the Sunday Times reports on how Hilton:
".. has revealed his 'horror' at the powerlessness of Downing Street to control government decisions, admitting the prime minister often finds out about policies from the radio or newspapers — and in many cases opposes them.
"Steve Hilton, who remains one of Cameron’s close confidants, said: 'Very often you’ll wake up in the morning and hear on the radio or the news or see something in the newspapers about something the government is doing. And you think, well, hang on a second — it’s not just that we didn’t know it was happening, but we don’t even agree with it! The government can be doing things ... and we don’t agree with it? How can that be?'
"He described how No 10 is frequently left out of the loop as important policy changes are pushed through by 'papershuffling' mandarins."
7) NORTHERN IRISH GLOOM
It ain't getting any better. The Sun reports:
"A total of 29 cops were hurt in riots over flying the Union flag in Northern Ireland yesterday.
"Police used water cannon and baton rounds after being bombarded with bricks and fireworks as they tried to separate loyalists and republicans.
".. Chief Constable Matt Baggott said cops acted with 'exceptional courage'. Politicians from Belfast, Dublin and London will discuss the protests this week."
8) ROUGE ALERT
From the BBC:
"French President Francois Hollande has ordered security stepped up around public buildings and transport because of military operations in Africa.
"He was responding to the risk of Islamist attack after French forces attacked militants in Mali and Somalia.
"France's anti-terrorism alert system known as "Vigipirate" is being reinforced immediately, with security boosted at public buildings and transport networks, particularly rail and air. Public gatherings will also be affected.
"The alert will remain at red, the second-highest level at which emergency counter-attack measures are put in place."
Is it wrong of me to point out that the chaos and instability in Mali is a direct result of, and spillover from, the west's intervention in Libya, which France pushed hardest for?
Meanwhile, the HuffPost UK reports:
"David Cameron has agreed to help transport foreign troops and equipment to Mali amid efforts to halt an advance by Islamist rebels in a conflict that has already claimed 120 lives."
9) 'GOTCHA' - THE SEQUEL
From the Sunday Telegraph:
"Defence chiefs have drawn up new contingency plans designed to prevent hostile action by Argentina towards the Falkland Islands.
"A series of military options are being actively considered as the war of words over the islands intensifies.
"It is understood that additional troops, another warship and extra RAF Typhoon combat aircraft could be dispatched to the region ahead of the March referendum on the Falkland Islands' future."
The paper adds, however, that
".. the British government believes that Buenos Aries currently lacks both the political will and military capability to recapture the islands."
Phew. That's alright then.
10) KENNEDY JOINS.. KENNEDY CONSPIRACY THEORISTS
Conspiracy theorists of the world: you have a new and important ally!
From the Mail on Sunday:
"Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is convinced that a lone gunman wasn't solely responsible for the assassination of his uncle, President John F. Kennedy, and said his father believed the Warren Commission report was a 'shoddy piece of craftsmanship.'
".. He said that he, too, questioned the report.
"'The evidence at this point I think is very, very convincing that it was not a lone gunman,' he said, but he didn't say what he believed may have happened."
Oliver Stone will be delighted.
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
From the Sunday Times/YouGov poll:
Lib Dems 11
That would give Labour a majority of 124.
From the Observer/Opinium poll:
Lib Dems 7
That would give Labour a majority of 116.
140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
@PeterHain @Ed_Miliband commanding on Marr programme ludicrous to expect detailed Labour tax and spend now: no idea scale of mess we will inherit 2015
@paulwaugh Memories of 'tax bombshell' Saatchi campaign runs deep in Lab psyche. EdM's remarks about 92 prove it. #marr #kinnockyears
@Mike_Fabricant When Hezza attacks David Cameron about Europe, and Norman Tebbit attacks DC about morality, I know we are getting it about right.
900 WORDS OR MORE
Andrew Rawnsley, writing in the Observer, says: "David Cameron should take tips from John Major about Europe."
Janet Daley, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, says: "A system intended to promote social solidarity has had the opposite effect."
John Rentoul, writing in the Independent on Sunday, focuses on Sir Jeremy Heywood: "A civil servant too effective for his own good."
Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (email@example.com) or Ned Simons (firstname.lastname@example.org). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol
Americans under fifty are paying the price. We don’t know exactly why. Even the panel of experts that authored the massive report, U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health, admits that it can’t entirely pinpoint the reasons. But we do know how Americans under fifty, particularly males, are paying the price: with their lives.
The US health disadvantage, as the report calls it, is more prevalent among “socioeconomically disadvantaged groups.” But even if you’re “white, insured, college-educated, or in upper-income groups” and live a healthy lifestyle, you’re less likely to make it to 50 than your counterparts in the other 16 wealthy “peer” countries of the study—Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the UK, and the US. And if you do make it to 50, you’re going to get there in worse shape.
The report, based on mortality studies for the years through 2008, carves out three categories, “Deaths from Noncommunicable Diseases,” “Deaths from Communicable, Maternal, Perinatal, Nutritional Conditions,” and “Deaths from Injuries.” The latter, which I discussed in yesterday’s post, distinguished between deaths from “intentional injuries” and “unintentional injuries.” Grisly statistics. [Read.... How Americans Stack Up In Dying From Violence, War, Suicide, And Accidents].
“Deaths from Communicable, Maternal, Perinatal, Nutritional Conditions” is divided into dozens of categories and subcategories, and every country has its own nightmare. In Portugal for example, 7.4 people per 100,000 die of HIV/AIDS, more than double the rate of the country next in line, the US (3.4), and 246 times the rate of Japan (0.03).
Do the Japanese cover up their deaths from that scourge by declaring a different cause of death, such as pneumonia? Or is their reliance on condoms for birth control responsible for that immense success, at least in the hetero community? For example, in love hotels, and they’re everywhere, there is always a condom near the bed. One. If you need more, bring your own. One of thousands of tidbits I discovered in Japan—that all became the backdrop to an awesome story. And then a book. It started in France with a Japanese girl. Check it out on Amazon.... BIG LIKE: CASCADE INTO AN ODYSSEY.
Yet in Japan, 29.7 people per 100,000 die of respiratory infections, three times the rate in the US (9.7) and almost eight times the rate of Finland (3.9). On the other hand, in Japan, with its socialized healthcare system, the infant mortality rate is only 1.3 per 100,000. In the US, it’s 7.1. Over five times the Japanese rate. By far the worst in the group. But is it an endorsement of socialized healthcare? The second and third worst countries in infant mortality, Canada (5.9) and the UK (5.2), also have socialized healthcare. No easy answers.
Another conundrum: in deaths due to nutritional deficiencies, France is in the hot seat with 2.0 deaths per 100,000, twice the US rate (1.0), and way ahead of third place, Finland (0.14).
Overall, Finland has the lowest rate of “Deaths from Communicable, Maternal, Perinatal, Nutritional Conditions,” with 11.1 deaths per 100,000 people. On the other end of the spectrum: the US (33.7), the UK (36.1), Japan (40), and Portugal (45.5). So the chance of dying from these diseases in the US is three times higher than in Finland; but in Portugal, it’s four times higher.
Non-communicable diseases are the biggest killers. And easy answers remain elusive. For example, melanoma and other skin cancers kill 5.8 Australian per 100,000, the worst in the group. So we speculate about the ozone hole, the brutal sun, and people spending time on the beach. In Japan, the death rate is 0.47, by far the lowest in the group. So we speculate about people wearing gloves, hats, and protective garments every time they step outside. But then Norway has the second highest rate of deaths (4.7), followed by other northern countries, Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands. The US (2.8) is in the middle of the pack. And sunny Italy (2.0) and Spain (1.8) are outdone only by Japan.
Wedged between “Deaths from Neuropsychiatric Conditions,” such as unipolar depressive disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and epilepsy are deaths from “Alcohol Use Disorders.” Danes succumb to it at a rate of 9.9 per 100,000—not including accidents. Next the French (4.0), the Germans (3.9), and the Austrians (3.9). For the latter two, the culprit may be per-capita beer consumption [Beer, A Reflection Of The World Economy?]. The US (1.6) is in the middle of the pack. At the bottom: Spain (0.38), Italy (0.25), and Japan (0.16).
In another conundrum, Alzheimer and other dementias kill Finns at the highest rate (34.9) followed by Americans (24.8)—both countries with relatively low life expectancies. At the bottom, Germans (5.9), Austrians (4.4), and the people who live longer than just about anyone else, the Japanese (2.5).
Cardiovascular diseases are a scourge in all wealthy countries, led by Germany (174.9), Finland (163.6), and the US (155.7). Least affected: Mediterranean countries Spain (115.7) and France (99.2), and finally Japan (97.3).
But there are some areas where Americans are lucky. Stomach cancer, for example, kills 2.76 Americans per 100,000, but six times more Japanese (16.8); and liver cancer kills 3.9 Americans per 100,000, as compared to 11.1 Japanese, almost three times more. Overall, non-communicable diseases kill Danes at a rate of 440 per 100,000, Americans at a rate of 418, and Japanese, the healthiest in that respect, at a rate of 272.
So, life expectancy for Americans is ugly:
“Something fundamental is going wrong,” lamented Dr. Steven Woolf, who chaired the panel. “This is not the product of a particular administration or political party. Something at the core is causing the U.S. to slip behind these other high-income countries. And it’s getting worse.”
The panel tried to nail down the culprits: a health-care system that leaves millions of people uninsured, the highest rate of poverty, education, eating habits, socioeconomic and behavioral differences, cities built for cars not pedestrians.... But it determined that these reasons cannot adequately explain the differences—because even wealthy, educated, insured whites with healthy lifestyles are getting the short end of the stick.
And worse: high infant mortality, traffic accidents, violence, HIV and AIDS, and alcohol-related mortality hit younger age groups the hardest—leaving them with a lower probability of surviving to age 50 than their peers in wealthy countries. And the lucky ones who do reach 50 get there “in poorer health than their counterparts.”
All this despite the costliest of all healthcare systems that eats up 18% of GDP. But now anecdotal evidence is coagulating into numbers that weigh down corporate earnings calls. It appears the wily consumer is having second thoughts about prescription drugs. And is fighting back. A paradigm shift that is causing “unprecedented concerns” in the industry. Read.... The Consumer Revolts Against Prescription Drugs.
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