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The Broken Hut
Working my way up to a full-size building
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I’m getting really fed up and pissed off at these utterly heartless bastards who would sacrifice someone’s health for the sake of their own paranoid fantasies.

By the Daily Mail’s own admission in the article, HPV is responsible for 700 deaths from cervical cancer every year. But they “revealed”, in their best stoke-the-controversy fashion, that the NHS is paying for this treatment “at the cost to the taxpayer of £241 per course of treatment”. So little to prevent death from cancer, but too much for the Daily Mail and the absurd arguments of the “National Family Campaign” or “Family & Youth Concern”.

The argument that being vaccinated against a sexually-transmitted disease makes you leap into bed is so silly on the face of it that it’s difficult to comprehend the kind of person that could believe it. Every single statement made in that article makes me want to reach out and slap someone, hard.

“It could be seen as helping to promote or encourage sexual activity in girls before they are physically or mentally mature.” (Hugh McKinney, National Family Campaign)

There are two points here, neither of which follow from the facts. First, that being vaccinated promotes sexual activity. Strange that the MMR vaccine doesn’t promote teenage pregnancy — even though mumps is a cause of male sterility and rubella causes developmental defects during pregnancy. Second, that vaccine can make someone have sex before they are mature. The only thing that will prevent that is adequate sex education and fewer religious twats turning sex into a forbidden fruit.

“Why should we spend so much money on vaccines against diseases which are totally preventable in other ways? We should be discouraging young people from having intercourse at an even younger age rather than promoting it.” (Dr Trevor Stammers, Family & Youth Concern)

The “other ways” hinted at here are not listed. I can only guess he means that great placebo panacea, abstinence. Of course, abstinence doesn’t prevent HPV transmission, unless what Dr Stammers really advocates is lifelong celibacy. If no-one had sex until the age of twenty five, then it would take longer before infected people spread the virus — but it would spread. There is no magical cut-off point of maturity past which HPV is no longer a threat.

Family & Youth Concern’s statement is completely irrelevant. They’re only there to issue their default opinion — promoting moral panic about the “permissive society” — which happens to align quite nicely with that of the Daily Mail.

Thankfully the commenters on the article are pretty much on the ball (for a change). There is one nutcase who seems to think that Nu Labour (sic) are doing this to “breed” the next generation of voters (!). Even amongst Daily Mail readers that’s a minority opinion. Bookdrunk also has more and some interesting links to previous HPV and sex education stories.

What do you think — are these anti-HPV campaigners seriously deluded or simply scum?

Isn’t it wonderful how easily one can tell how stupid a newspaper article will be from just the first sentence? Today’s Sentence of Dumb award goes to Sarah Ewing of the Sunday Herald (Killer Cocktails, p32, Magazine, 07/01/07); the winning entry was:

Every one of us carries traces of chemicals in our bodies and as the use of chemicals in our everyday life has increased, so too have the cases of cancer, hormonal and reproductive problems and neurological disorders.

OMGZ! Teh chemicalz are coming!1eleventyone!1 Dangerous stuff like dihydrogen monoxide, I don’t doubt! Luckily prehistoric man didn’t have to cope with such terrible stuff, because they lived in a purely natural world. /sarcasm

To be fair to Ms Ewing she is trivially correct in what she says. Incidence of breast cancer was extremely low in the superheated mass of subatomic particles which existed just after the Big Bang. But since the appearance of chemicals in the universe it’s all gone from bad to worse.

I will spare you the rest of the article. Needless to say it can be characterised as a list of unsubstantiated claims with liberal sprinklings of experts claim and according to a recent study.

6th-Dec-2006 02:19 am - Alan Yentob on the World wide web

I watched this evening’s Imagine, (Alan Yentob culture show) for two reasons. One, it had Tom Reynolds on it — all too briefly, in fact. He certainly got less screen time than a man with a mask on, and a guy who put a cravat on to blog.

And two, because it was about the internet: specifically, the world wide web. I find it amusing to watch programs like that as an exercise in culture-watching. You can see how familiar the general populace is with technology by seeing how it is portrayed. And I was happy to note that there were no real technical errors in what was presented. Five years ago that would not have been the case. What’s more worrying is that this show was more grounded and far realler than anything Horizon would put on at the moment.

Read all about the intarwebs here!Collapse )

The Sikh who was assaulted in Edinburgh is getting rather too much attention for an inconsequential aspect of the assault. From the BBC, he was:

  1. subjected to verbal racial abuse
  2. punched
  3. kicked to the ground
  4. threatened with a knife
  5. had his hair cut

For any normal person number five in the list would not be the most important thing. In all probability the story would barely be reported outside the local press if he wasn’t a Sikh.

So what’s the fuss? The boy’s baseless beliefs are the foundation for the escalation in severity of the crime. If a Jedi walking through Pilrig had had his light sabre broken by a bunch of thugs, would anyone care? If someone stole some expensive wine from a Hedonist, would there be such outcry?

If, while walking through a park late at night, a Godless Materialist was attacked and their mp3 player stolen — would they get a candle-lit vigil and a statement from the Chief Inspector?

I want to reassure all members of the community, and the materialist community in particular, that I’m confident we’ll have a positive outcome.

I think the answer to that is rather obvious, sadly. Instead it’s the invented offence against a god that’s given all due respect and not the offence against the person.

It appears that the Archbishop of Glasgow didn’t much like me taking him to task over his poor grasp of the facts, so decided to quote-mine me and another critic of his from the same letters page.

Archbishop demonstrates poor reading abilityCollapse )

Note that he completely ignored the largest substance of my letter where I pointed out how very, very wrong he was; and how his arguments were just warmed-over arguments from the anti-embryonic research campaigners in the United States.

(And yes, it feels deeply satisfying to have riled a full archbishop all by myself!)

28th-Jul-2006 05:32 pm - Stem cells letter in The Herald

Following on from my angry post about stem cells, where I mentioned in particular the specious list of “65 adult stem cell–based treatments”, that very list was invoked in yesterday’s Herald by the Archbishop of Glasgow, Mario Conti.

So I got out my quill pen and finest sealing wax, and sent my servant off on the fastest horse to the presses in the West.

Read the letter from The Herald, Friday 28 August 2006Collapse )

You can see I managed to write more succinctly than in my blog post. I also didn’t feel the need to tread softly. Surprisingly they hardly edited anything. (In the past they have removed whole paragraphs from some letters, so that they make a lot less sense.) The only difference that I could see was omission of the word ‘utter’ from the second paragraph.

10th-Jul-2006 04:26 pm - Shining a light on spottiness

My friends think I’m ugly
I’ve got a masculine face

— Tom Waits, Goin’ Out West

I have, in the past, suffered quite extensively from acne. It’s not an exciting or sexy subject, and I feel it gets further trivialised by Clearasil adverts which perpetuate the feeling (especially among teenagers) that spots are a result of inadequate personal hygiene.

My face and shoulders have considerable scarring from my acne, which will stay with me for the rest of my life. I’m not going to win any beauty contests any time soon.

The appliance of science

The treatments available for acne are pretty straightforward — antibiotics or retinoids. The former are supposed to (combined with a rigorous personal hygiene regime) clear your face of bacteria. I understand that it’s fairly effective for mild acne.

The latter, more hard-core treatment, such as isotretinoin — most commonly known by the trade name Roaccutane — is a completely different ball game. It reduces the oil production of your skin as well as shrinking the sebaceous glands, amongst other things.

It can be devastatingly effective, but it’s also fiercely dangerous. The side-effects, such as hair loss, nose bleeds, skin peeling and photosensitivity are an exciting bunch. The drug requires that your blood be checked out regularly because it has adverse effects on your liver. I can also confirm (and I’m sure h2_the_foodie will testify) that severe mood swings come with the package.

Stepping out with the woo-woo crowd?

But it does work, very well. So it’s with some skepticism that I read (The Herald 10/07/06, Under the spotlight in Section 2) about an acne treatment costing fifty-five pounds a session to shine a blue light in your face.

A quick search of PubMed revealed that there was some science behind it. Rather disturbing, then, that the article was written to highlight anecdotal evidence over clinical trials. Apparently you can provide all the evidence you like, but if 17-year old Gillian from Busby doesn’t say “it works for me!” then it can’t be really effective.

This comment comes from one of the ‘beauty therapists’ offering the treatment:

[She] remains convinced it is the best treatment for acne currently available. “It’s non-invasive and it’s not drugs or pills. It is natural and effective.”

So there you have it. It’s got those magic words — ‘natural’, ‘not drugs’ — so it must be good. Despite not being a qualified dermatologist, this lady is convinced that blue lights are the “best treatment” we’ve got.

I don’t mean to sound overly skeptical, but it’s my natural reaction to articles like this. I’m not qualified to understand the papers which discuss this treatment, and I don’t think the journalist was either. So why should we listen to someone who doesn’t realise their own ignorance, rather than getting an actual expert to explain the details?

The light being used is actually blue, ie in the visible spectrum. So you could always just take a wander outside. I know that one of the few things that helped my acne — other than the drugs, man — was long walks in the sunshine with someone I love. But that may just have been the love.

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