Friday, April 06, 2007

Australia's folate battle

That folate is bad for the elderly does not matter, of course. Let them eat cake!

The humble loaf of bread has become the meat in the sandwich, as health experts and food authorities slug it out over whether our staple food should be put on medication. Now the big manufacturers have entered the bun fight, releasing to the Herald a white paper on why the industry will fight the Government over its plan to introduce synthetic folate into our daily bread. On Monday, Food Standards Australia New Zealand put its final paper up for industry discussion on why mandatory folic acid fortification of the flour used exclusively for bread was needed to cut down the number of neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida.

But George Weston Foods and Goodman Fielder, with backing from the Australian Food and Grocery Council, have amassed a wealth of reasons why mandatory fortification is a bad idea. The industry is raising concerns over the risks to the general population in "medicating the food supply", including cancer scares, and are arguing that there are far more effective means of reducing birth defects than adding 200 micrograms of folic acid to every loaf of bread they produce.

Both sides agree that mandatory fortification would not protect the section of population targeted - women planning to get pregnant and those in the early stages of pregnancy. They would still have to take a folic acid supplement to guard against spina bifida. The bread industry claims that for pregnant women to protect themselves, they would need to eat between 10 and 18 slices of bread per day.

But the food standards agency, which has the support of the Australian Medical Association, is arguing that in the US long-term fortification has shown a marked decrease in the incidence of spina bifida. And while pregnant women would still have to take a supplement, the fortification of bread would act as a "safety net". However, Dr Rosemary Stanton, a nutritionist, opposes the Government move, comparing adding folic acid to bread to "adding vitamins to lollies". "It's just giving people another excuse not to eat fruit and vegetables," she said.


Creeping privatization of government healthcare in Australia's oldest "free" hospital system

It's a process already well underway in Britain

AROUND 10,000 Queensland public hospital patients waiting for elective surgery will now be able to access private health care as the government throws its waiting lists open to tender. Health Minister Stephen Robertson today confirmed a Courier-Mail report that the state was spending $8.5 million to have the patients treated sooner in the private sector through a brokerage service. "Queenslanders who have been identified as waiting too long for their elective surgery will be offered to this brokerage service, who will then go around private hospitals to see who is prepared to take that patient," Mr Robertson told ABC radio today. "They will obviously be paid for taking that particular patient. "That means we will be able to make some real inroads into those numbers of Queenslanders who are waiting outside of the time that it is clinically appropriate for them to be seen for their elective surgery."

Mr Robertson said about 160 of the most urgent category one patients were waiting longer than 30 days. There were between 3,000 and 3,300 patients rated as category two and around 6,000 to 6,600 in the least urgent category three. The service, called Surgery Connect, will target elective surgery for procedures such as hip and knee replacements, hysterectomies and corrective eye surgery. Mr Robertson said private sector doctors already performed elective surgery at the federal government's Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA) rate of payment and there was no reason why they should not do the same surgery on public hospital patients for the same money. Private hospitals had also said they were willing to take the patients.

"Not all private hospitals are working flat out and from my meetings with them, they tell me on a regular basis they would be keen to see more public patients come through their doors, so this is us testing that market," Mr Robertson said.

But AMA Queensland (AMAQ) president-elect Ross Cartmill said morale in the public hospital system would suffer under the new system. "We feel very strongly that it's the doctors working in the public sector who should be doing any of the surgery," Dr Cartmill said. "Secondly, we've made it very clear that they are training the trainees - the doctors of tomorrow. "If you want to undermine the morale of the public hospital system, that's the way to do it."


Climate change report is wrong: Australian professor

Once again, it is only a retired scientist who feels free to speak up

The global scientific report blaming carbon emissions for climate change is based on misconceptions about the Earth's behaviour, says an Australian academic who believes global warming is not caused by mankind. The respected Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released earlier this year said it was very likely climate change was the result of greenhouse gases produced by human activity.

Emeritus Professor Lance Endersbee has accused the scientific leaders of trying to stifle debate over the causes of climate change. Professor Endersbee, a former dean of engineering and pro-vice chancellor at Monash University, says it is highly probable that increased electromagnetic radiation of the sun is behind global warming. "There are several disturbing aspects of the IPCC report which indicate that the conclusions are based on serious misconceptions about the behaviour of the Earth," Prof Endersbee said in the newsletter New Concepts in Global Tectonics. "The report reflects little understanding of the dynamic relation between the Earth, the Sun and the Cosmos. "In these circumstances it is incredible that some leaders of scientific societies and academies have tried to use their authority to demand acceptance of the IPCC report."

Prof Endersbee said air pollution should be dealt with on a regional level as a separate issue to global warming. "It is ridiculous to assume that the health problems of smog in India and China have global causes, and can be solved by carbon trading in the City of London," he said. Carbon dioxide was not a pollutant and there was no need for a risky emissions market as advocated by the IPCC, Prof Endersbee said. "If it comes to be recognised that global warming has a natural cause, and the fears subside, the value of carbon credits will then drop to zero, and the market in carbon trading will collapse."



Such is the hatred that Leftists feel towards their own society that they very often idealize primitive cultures (a rather comprehensive example of that here). They no longer use Rousseau's term "Noble savages" but they share Rousseau's fantasies. To show just how addled such beliefs are, I thought it might be instructive to reproduce part of a report by Louis Nowra about how "noble" one continent-wide group of primitives are: The Australian Aborigines. No-one who knows Aborigines well (as I do) will dispute the reality of what is described below:

In 2005 I spent several days in the Alice Springs hospital after falling ill while attending a friend's wedding. I shared a ward with a middle-aged Aboriginal man who was quite proud that he had raped a 13-year-old girl. As he said, "She wouldn't say yes, so I f---ed her hard." It did not surprise me. A few years before, I was in Alice Springs talking to two Aboriginal men in their early 70s. They were preparing to go into town to buy plastic toy dinosaurs. This was to pay a 12-year-old girl for having sex with both of them at the same time.

What amazed me was their lack of shame or even simple embarrassment. What disturbed me even more was that the most common sight in the hospital was Aboriginal women and girls with severe injuries suffered during domestic violence. Some of their faces looked as though an incompetent butcher had conducted plastic surgery with a hammer and saw. The fear in their eyes reminded me of dogs whipped into cringing submission. The confronting evidence of what men had done to the women was almost unbearable.

About 20 years ago an Aboriginal woman told me she had been raped at the age of seven by her uncle and grandfather on a town rubbish tip. As I was to discover as my circle of Aboriginal friends and acquaintances grew, sexual abuse was not uncommon -- and in some communities it was rife -- from the 1960s onwards. Another friend told me that at the age of 10 he had been thrown into a wardrobe where his uncle masturbated him and then forced him to perform oral sex. Several other "uncles" also abused him through the years. I heard of many more such incidents and not one of these men ever had to go to court for their actions.

After I had recovered from my stay in Alice Springs hospital I was alarmed to read of a middle-aged Aboriginal man who anally raped a 14-year-old girl whom, he said, had been promised to him. Northern Territory Chief Justice Brian Martin sentenced him to detention for the duration of the court session. It seemed to me that Aboriginal men were using the defence of cultural traditions to get away with rape and murder. But it's not only that. The statistics on Aboriginal domestic violence and sexual abuse are so much worse than in the general population, as has been highlighted in the 40 reports produced on the issue since 1999. All the statistics and case studies I refer to in this piece are sourced from federal and state government reports, court proceedings, newspaper articles and books, and are expanded on in my new book, Bad Dreaming (Pluto Press), which also contains an extensive bibliography.

The Alice Springs hospital provides a clear example: about 800 Aboriginal women were treated for domestic assault last year, up from 351 in 1999. The rate of domestic assault in indigenous communities is eight to 10 times that of non-indigenous communities and the sexual abuse of girls is so widespread that one-third of 13-year-old girls in the NT are infected with chlamydia and gonorrhoea. In fact, the situation has become a calamity.

But even more disturbing is that while some Aborigines are being recognised as wonderful painters, photographers, actors, filmmakers, footballers and dancers, indigenous communities are breaking down under the strain of male violence and sexual brutality. As Aboriginal elder Mick Dodson has said: "This is not just our problem; this is everyone's problem."

After the arrival of the First Fleet explorers and settlers wrote about the violence they saw Aboriginal men inflict on women. They also observed how the men kidnapped women from other tribes, raped them and forced them to become their wives.

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