Saturday, 19 December 2009

President Obama destroying special relationship with Britain?

Barack Obama, President of the United States.Image via Wikipedia

There is growing speculation amongst British journalists that Obama sees little value to sustaining the special relationship that America and Britain have enjoyed and continued to forge since the Great War time. It began with President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Since that time the leader of each country has made much effort to sustain this relationship. Now however there are growing reports that this is about to significantly diminish.
President Obama has made it known that he wants to play down the special relationship and court with other key countries so that Americas relationships across other countries can be strengthened.
It makes good sense for America to strengthen its relationships with other countries, as its relationships with some countries is relatively weak, especially after the Bush administration, But one would argue there needs to be some balance between strengthening these and potentially weakening the relationship with Britain to the detriment of future relations.
One of the biggest criticisms comes from Obama's speech to outline his administration's plan for America's involvement in Afghanistan. He made much of the surge of number of troops over the previous 18 months, but failed to reflect any input from Britain, who like America has experienced the highest level of deaths in decades. Britain has 10 000 troops in active service in Afghanistan, which is far more than any of the other allies. Having lost 237 of its soldiers, it was saddening that there was no mention of the sacrifice made in this common goal.
With both the lack of mention of Britain in many speeches and snubs such as the removal of a Winston Churchill bust from the Oval office (a gift from Britain), have all been viewed with wariness. One rumor based upon the apparent poor treatment of Obama's grandfather in Kenya at the hands of Britain, has done little to create any particular warmth towards Britain, Further, Obama has little or no links to Britain via education or visitation. A criticism therefore is that Obama lacks any recognition or understanding of political history.
This has been reflected by his major act on gaining the presidency. He withdrew plans for a missile base to be located in Eastern Europe. Whilst this appeased the Russians, it betrayed the Czechs and Polish, who have only just been released from Russia's control. Both countries are enthusiastic about becoming western allies, so their continued support and engagement is highly important.
There is some irony in the fact that Obama is spending time courting the French and German leaders when these 2 nations did the most to oppose the war in Iraq and have also done little to support with troops in Afghanistan. Is it a case that the thought of a European super state is a threat to America? Does he think that in forging relationships he will be able to get them to support America more in efforts within Afghanistan? The French/German relationship is very strong - I do not see them shifting their opinions very easily. In deed history has shown repeatedly that the only country willing to take decisive military action with America has always been Britain.
In fairness, Britain dropped a ball in the way that they handled the Locherbie Bomber early release. It seemed to do so without good consultation with America. Having said that, could this have been a deliberate move not to intervene against the Scottish Government given the lack of recognition & international respect shown towards the UK. There is a view that Britain kowtows to America, but there was certainly no evidence of this in this instance.
A complication here however is the likely end to Labour's 10 years of leadership. Brown although equipped to deal with an economic crisis has failed to inspire the British public. He has backed down on proposals due to political outcry. This can be seen as listening and responding to the public/back benchers due to poor leadership. The country is tiring of the same political party, and so it looks very much like the Conservatives will come to power in 2010. The Tories have a different view towards Europe than Labour. This may have a stark impact on Britain as a sovereign country. Britain undoubtedly needs the strong relationship with America if it wants to remain an independent country. Therefore there will much to be done to sell the need for this relationship to be re-calibrated with America.
Diplomats remain ever optimistic and hope that the Obama will demonstrate a willingness to listen, making it easier to form friendlier relationships. Opportunists, see that there could a chance to develop a relationship much like the Thatcher – Reagan years. Thatcher was not afraid to speak her mind, but Brown is a shy man and I cannot see him being this forceful or persuasive. Cameron, the Conservative leader may be more dogmatic. Such dialogue may make for better decision-making, but will be reliant on a mutual respect. The challenge will be to sustain a good enough relationship to do this. Having said this Britain needs America as a good ally, as does America need this of Britain. I will hedge my bets that Obama will do enough not to bring irreparable damage, but the development of Europe as a super state will be politically testing. I should mention that we ought not take our eye off China, as it consumes more, its economy strengthens and it becomes more dominant. It may be only a matter of time before we exchange oil in yen not dollars. You can see why Obama must widen his wings. Let’s hope he can keep relationships fruitful and constructive.

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Sunday, 20 September 2009

women's body sizes, then and now

sixty years ago, our bodies were a little different to now. See how average sizes compare with then and now:
                                     THEN                            NOW
Height                              5ft 2                              5ft 4
Weight                             9st 10                            10st 3
Waist                               27inches                        34inches
Breasts                             37B                               38c
Hips                                 39 in                               40in
Feet                                  3                                    6
Life expectancy                70.9                                81.5

So we're 2 inches taler, half a stone heavier and our shoe size is three times bigger!
Height's not a problem, nor footsize, but our weight associated with less exercise could well be - associated problems with joints, diabetes are telling warning signs, which we all need to heed, as these will not only burden our health and well being, but also be added strain to the health service.

As the statistics have changes we've moved from an hour glass figure to a straighter wider figure, we will need to watch with care.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Infections may lead to faster memory loss in Alzheimer's disease

Happy people live longerImage by M@rg via Flickr
This was a fairly small study of 222 people with Alzheimers (with an average age of 83), who were studied 3 times over 6 months. The study found that people who had respiratory, gastrointestinal or other infections or even bumps and bruises from a fall were more likely to have high blood levels of tumor necrosis factor-α, a protein involved in the inflammatory process.
Of these participants a total of 110 people experienced an infection or injury that led to inflammation during the study. Those people experienced memory loss that was at twice the rate of those who did not have infections or injuries.
Importantly there was no evidence to suggest that there was an increase incidence in infection due to having Alzheimers.
Whilst these results are very important and statistically significant, as the study is only small, it will be necessary to repeat/carry out further research that replicates the finding of this study. The implications are that finding a means tocontrol and reduce tumor necrosis factor-α levels which help to preserve memory for longer and provide suffers & their families with a better quality of life, which is to be highly welcomed.
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Alzheimers Disease- key genes found

Cover of "Aspirin"Cover of Aspirin

key genes could point to new treatments

Considered as the 'biggest break-through in 15 years' the UK discovery of 3 potential key genes could help cut the number of people developing Alzheimers by up to a fifth, claim the Alzheimer's Research Trust.
This is very exciting news, as it is said that between 60-80 per cent of a person's risk of developing Alzheimer's is genetic. This could lead to further breakthroughs in treatment.
The research has also found that inflammation appears to be the primary cause of the disease not secondary as initially considered. This means that anti-inflammatory medicines such as Aspirin could be a simple and cheap way of fighting the onset of this terrible disease. In fact adults over 50 are now regularly advised to take Aspirin to reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke, so possibly some retrospective studies to look at incidence of disease development in people who have been prescribed Aspirin, with a family history of Alzheimers maybe a helpful study.
Further a Cancer drug has also been associated with restoring short term memory. As this drug is already approved this coud allow patient trials to begin within the next couple of years, which is very encouraging news indeed.
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Sunday, 6 September 2009

Hospital Blunders Double since 2006

A patient having his blood pressure taken by a...Image via Wikipedia
The latest Nationa Patient Safety Agency report (NPSA) has indicated that the number of reported incidents and near misses has risen by 96%. Of the 86,085 medication incidents only 100 resulted in serious harm and of which 37 resulted in a patient death.

Now the papers would jump up and down and consider that this increase a grave cause of concern. I differ. Given the millions of people that access healthcare it is only natural that there will be some human error. This makes the percentage of risk lower than the 0.04% risk of death from an incident reflected above.

What most of these incidents will be what are referred to as near misses, i.e a mistake picked up and detected through normal process. The rise in figures? Quite simply I see this as better reporting and this is something to be celebrated. It reflects more honest and transparent working by healthcare staff. This allows for discussion,  focused individual and improved staff training programmes. Moreover, due to something referred to as clincial governance, each department will generally review each incident that occurs per month. From this any learning that needs to be taken to reduce future risk of recurrence is acted upon. My prediction is that we won't see continuous rises in these figures

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Saturday, 5 September 2009

Big thighs might be in!!

Having just returned from holidays and a little over indulgence, I was rather pleased to learn that maybe there was hope for my thighs after all! It transpires that a study published in the BMJ has linked upper thigh size as an indicator of risk of heart disease and premature death. What it suggests is that those with thighs less 60cm diameter are at a greater risk of heart disease than somebody with large thighs. But before you get too excited, those with thighs much wider than 60 cms (23.5 inches) didn't fair much better either. So the parameters seem quite limited.

It would seem that smaller thighs have less muscle mass, which can put you at risk of developing type-2 diabetes. As with all research, what is normally required is more research to see if the results can consistently be reproduced preferrably in a larger cohort of people. But this is no small research study taking over 12 years following 2811 men and women. Indeed it is likely that GP's will adopt this as another indicator for risk. This because it is simple and easy to measure in a practice setting. This means it will be 1 contributary factor taken along side other factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and familt history again, to establish a risk profile for the patient.

The underlying message coming through to me is another reinforcement that we do need to ensure we exercise regularly to preserve health, so I'm just going to dig out my trainers and work off my holiday excess as a priority.

Friday, 24 July 2009

RCN - Neutral towards assisted suicide

The One Slide: End of Life QuestionsImage by stevegarfield via Flickr

The Royal College of Nursing has taken the same stance as the medics' British Medical Association briefly also previously took, to neither support or oppose a change in the law over assisted suicide. The decison reached after nursing members showed no strong preference for either stance.

The law surrounding this is complicated and the subject highly contentious. Nurses will not want to compromise care and this result is probably a mix of the need to protect vulnerable adults whilst also supporting a dignified end of life experience.

However this could have a significant addition to the debate that a professional group so heavily involved in the care of terminally ill and dying patients would not have a strong and hardened view to oppose it. Indeed it could be reflective of a change in public opinion in general.

Detailed guidance will now need to be drawn up to consider the clinical frameworks and ethics of assisted suicide. In the meantime given that the recent unsuccesful attempt to change the law and the BMA now firmly against the legalisation, it not likely anything will change in the near future, something the RCN will have been all too aware of when the made this announcement I'm sure.
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