Sunday, January 27, 2008

Quadrant editor Paddy McGuinness dies

A very sad loss. I have been reading his writings on and off for decades. I even met him once at a Sydney "Push" party. He was a relentless devotee of rationality and the facts, brilliant at pricking popular balloons. He was, like his brother Michael, a man of great circumference, so it is amusing that he lived to 69 and died of something quite unrelated to obesity. I think that he himself must have found some small satisfaction in that when he saw the end coming. I have emailed my condolences to Michael this morning

PADRAIC 'Paddy' McGuinness, a former Sydney Morning Herald columnist and editor of Quadrant magazine, has died at his Sydney home aged 69. Mr McGuinness is believed to have been sick with melanoma for some time and it is this condition which prompted his retirement from Quadrant late last year. Mr McGuinness died at his Balmain home this morning.

"We knew he had been sick, but had only discovered in the past few days exactly what the nature of his illness was," a friend of McGuinness said. "He has been very private about his illness."

A journalist for many years, Mr McGuinness was sometimes criticised for his commentary. "He was a bit of an icon Paddy, but I think a lot of people misunderstood him," the friend said.

During an interview with News Ltd late last year Mr McGuinness said he had been able "to 're-establish' Quadrant as a 'sceptical and non-ideological' journal in the conservative spirit of Samuel Johnson, the literary colossus of 18th century England."

He is survived by a daughter.


Mother's diet shapes offspring's future weight?

Another study of rats, not people and another despicable attempt to prey on the anxieties of pregnant women. The full report is not public yet but all these creeps seem to have discovered is the earth-shattering finding that fat mothers have fat children. Anything to do with genetics? No mention of genetics. That would be against the prevailing religion. And do mothers on a restricted diet get all the nutrients that the baby needs? Even if the baby appears to be OK, is the individual concerned OK in the long term? No mention of that! It is totally inappropriate to be making recommendations to the public based on this scrap of unreviewed research. But we see that the article below is full of confident recommendations from attention-seeking knowalls who obviously would not know the meaning of scientific caution

Australian scientists have made the world-first discovery that a pregnant woman's diet determines whether her baby grows into a fat adult or a skinny one. The research suggests women who are overweight before they fall pregnant, and during it, may condemn their children to a life of overeating and obesity. It reveals that a mother's diet during pregnancy affects the baby's brain circuits, determining appetite and energy expenditure in their offspring. "This suggests that mothers should think twice about overindulging, or using the excuse that they're eating for two during pregnancy," University of NSW professor Margaret Morris said.

Unlike previous studies, the groundbreaking work highlights the pre-natal period as a critical time for "programming of post-natal and adult appetite". It found that even before a woman falls pregnant, she is potentially "programming" a child's future appetite. "The major finding is the dramatic increase in body fat in offspring of overweight and obese mothers," Professor Morris said. Mothers fed a high-fat diet had offspring that were heavier, with more body fat and altered appetite regulators in the brain, meaning they overate, she said.

The results are supported by a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition last year. It found that mothers who eat junk food during pregnancy may produce children who crave the same foods. Professor Morris will present her findings at the Australian Neuroscience Society conference in Hobart this week. She said the study was particularly relevant, given that about 30 per cent of mothers enter pregnancy in an overweight or obese condition.

The study was conducted using overweight female rats who mated with healthy males. The females continued to be fed a high-fat Western diet during and after pregnancy, Professor Morris said. "The mums were overeating for that whole period. We found the offspring were a third heavier than the rats fed a low-fat diet," she said. Professor Morris said the brain pathways regulating appetite in rats were similar to those in humans, suggesting similar trends could be expected in people.

Sydney University nutritionist Dr Jenny O'Dea said it had become "quite well accepted" that a woman's diet during pregnancy impacted on the fetus. "We also know that obesity during pregnancy more often than not causes gestational diabetes and high blood pressure," Dr O'Dea said. She said that although nutritional needs were high during pregnancy, women should not be "eating for two".

Professor Morris studied mothers who were already overweight before they fell pregnant. The experiment results also found their offspring were showing signs of developing diabetes at a young age.

The findings are particularly relevant for overweight mothers, highlighting the importance of maintaining a normal weight before and during pregnancy. Further research will examine how methods of intervention during breastfeeding can reverse bad nutritional habits and overeating.

Susie Burrell, a pediatric dietitian at The Children's Hospital at Westmead, said the study sent a powerful message to women planning to fall pregnant. "They need to get their weight under control before conceiving, and those who are pregnant need to have minimum weight-gain during pregnancy," Ms Burrell said. She said an increasing number of women were overweight before they fell pregnant, creating a "snowball effect". "Their babies are more likely to have a high birth weight. This then leads to lifestyle diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease."


Big and dangerous hospital hold-ups for ambulances in Victoria

HUNDREDS of ambulances are out of service each day -- stranded at Melbourne hospitals. Ambulances are stuck at hospitals for up to four hours despite government benchmarks that they be free to leave within 25 minutes. Paramedics are unable to respond to new emergencies because the hospitals are full, documents under Freedom Of Information laws reveal.

The Metropolitan Ambulance Service documents reveal alarming numbers of ambulances waiting at hospitals. On average, more than 29 ambulances across Melbourne wait daily at emergency departments for an hour or more. In the first six months of last year, more than 320 ambulances a day were stuck for longer than 25 minutes. The documents reveal:

AN AMBULANCE delivered its patient to the emergency department at the Austin Hospital in three minutes, but waited three hours because there was no bed.

153 AMBULANCES, almost five a day, spent an hour or longer at Royal Melbourne, Grattan St, in May last year.

40 AMBULANCES were stranded for more than an hour at Frankston Hospital in one week.

MORE than 100 ambulances were stuck for an hour or longer at The Alfred in January.

Ambulance Employees Union secretary Steve McGhie said the down time could cost lives. "The reason they're waiting so long is because they can't get their patients off the stretcher," he said. "There is no room for them at the hospitals and ambos have to wait until they find room. "Every minute they have to wait at a hospital is another minute another patient has to wait for an ambulance."

Opposition health spokeswoman Helen Shardey echoed Mr McGhie, saying the out-of-service time could mean the difference between life and death.


Australian parents make big sacrifices to avoid government schools

HALF the Australian parents who send their children to private school are finding it a financial strain, and one in 10 families spend more than half their take-home pay on their children's education. Research has also found that about a third of parents who send their children to independent (private) and Catholic schools allocate more than 15percent of their household income to their children's education. Close to 12percent of parents with children at independent schools, and 1.3percent of Catholic school parents, reserve up to half their income for school fees, the report, commissioned by BankWest, found. Some parents - Catholic school (4percent) and private (1.3percent) - dedicate between 50 and 75percent of their household income to school fees.

The report said that 53percent of independent school parents and 47percent of Catholic school parents found paying for their children's education was financially tough. A BankWest spokeswoman said the survey dispelled the myth that only the well-off were educating their children at private schools. Figures show more than 369,000 students attended private schools in NSW in 2006. About 739,000 students attend public schools.

The report found that the average cost of sending a child to an independent school was $14,201 a year, more than double that of Catholic schools. It also found that, on average, independent school parents spend an extra $2300 a year on uniforms, extracurricular activities, textbooks and stationery. Parents had to find $1600 for Catholic schools and $1200 for public schools.

Executive director of the Council of Catholic School Parents Danielle Cronin said she was not surprised by the research, and that while Catholic schools tried to keep fees down, they were a strain on some families. "I think Catholic schools have a very diverse population in terms of socio-economic statistics," she said. "I believe that Catholic schools probably aren't enrolling financially needy families simply because the fees are prohibitive, even though some of the fees are quite low compared to independent schools."

In the report, parents cited the standard of education, discipline, better academic record and resources as the main reasons for sending their children to private schools. They also said the better focus on social values, networking opportunities for their children when entering the workforce, religious education and social opportunities for the parents were important.


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