Saturday, February 07, 2009

The unreason about "obesity" never stops

"Obesity epidemic has spread to babies" And it's all due to them watching fast food commercials on TV, I suppose. What's never mentioned is that lifespan is very little affected by how fat you are and people of MIDDLING weight live longest. What you see in babies is clearly the result of genetics. Weight is highly hereditary. And the constant cries of "epidemic" are just attention-getting nonsense too. In both Australia and the USA, average weight in children has plateaued since 1998

BABIES as young as one are being diagnosed as obese, with a major hospital treating youngsters twice the size they should be. Doctors at the Children's Hospital at Westmead are admitting youngsters with severe weight-related issues such as sleep apnoea and diabetes. The problem is so widespread that there is now a 12-month waiting period at the state's only child weight management clinic at Westmead, The Daily Telegraph reports. The clinic, which also has psychologists, dietitians and physiotherapists, has 150 children aged between one and 16 on its books.

Paediatrician and weight specialist Shirley Alexander, who has called for obese children to be taken into the care of DOCS, said it was a shocking reality that the obesity epidemic sweeping the nation is now claiming toddlers under four. "A one-year-old who should be 10kg is actually 18 to 20kg or a two-year-old who should be 12kg who is 25kg,'' Dr Alexander said. [Which they have genetically inherited from fat parents]

She said over-feeding and large portion sizes are to blame for toddlers being overweight, rather than the consumption of junk food. "We are seeing children who can't walk properly or wipe themselves because they are obese,'' Dr Alexander said. Not backing away from her calls for morbidly obese children to be seized by child protection officers, Dr Alexander said she and her colleagues were at the "coalface'' of the obesity epidemic, dealing with children whose health had become so severe they were developing fatal diseases.

At the same time the hospital is reporting an increase in under-10s being admitted for severe hip and joint problems as a result of being overweight. "We are seeing more children with pre-diabetes or under-eights who have serious insulin resistance,'' she said. "We have pre-adolescents who have sleep apnoea and adolescent girls are also having menstrual problems because they are developing polycystic ovary syndrome. "We are beginning to see children younger and more seriously affected.''

Latest figures reveal that one in four children are overweight or obese. Doctors use a series of tests including the Body Mass Index (BMI), which measures their weight-to-height ratio, as well as measuring the weight circumference and also a Z score - which tests their weight distribution against their peers.

The Government declared obesity a priority health issue last year with the problem estimated to have cost $21 billion annually. Parents have been warned to rein in their children's poor diets or risk a lifetime of serious health problems, including heart and liver disease. [Rubbish!] "We are not blaming the parents but they do have to take parental responsibility,'' Dr Alexander said. [A "complex" statement!]

While BMI is used as a guide by most doctors to test if a child is at risk of being overweight or obese, it is not a diagnostic tool and parents who are worried should visit their doctor. In the UK this week, the Government ordered junk food manufacturers such as Nestle to downsize their portions to tackle the obesity crisis. [Which usually in fact leads to people eating MORE -- but you can't expect governments to look at the medical literature. They just KNOW] A spokesman for Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon yesterday said that the British plan was not being considered for Australia. [Good for Nicola!]


Global warming will save people's lives

By Andrew Bolt

More than 30 Victorians died in last week's heat in one of the great scandals of green politics. About 20 more people died in South Australia, but neither state government is telling yet how precisely the victims died, saying they are awaiting coroners' reports. But already warming extremists such as Prof Clive Hamilton are excusing these same governments -- which almost certainly contributed to at least some of these deaths. "Australians are already dying from climate change," shouted this professor of public ethics at the Australian National University, and author of Scorcher. But Hamilton is utterly wrong. Fact: Cold, not heat, is what really kills people, as we see now in Britain. Fact: A warming world would save countless lives, not cost them. And fact: Those who died last week were in less danger from global warming than from the deadly incompetence of green governments trying to "stop" it.

You think that sounds extreme? Then consult the unambiguous evidence that damns the governments of both Victoria and South Australia. We already know a heatwave can kill the very frail, if they aren't protected. In 1939, for instance, 438 people died in the Black Friday heat, not including the 71 Victorians killed by the fires. The temperatures back then were higher than those in Victoria and South Australia last week, but the heat this time hung around for longer. Yet despite our much greater population today, no more than 50 people died from heat, a fraction of the 1939 toll.

What changed? Mostly our ability now to stay cool - most obviously through airconditioning. Airconditioning saves not just sweat, but lives. But what do we now see? South Australia's Government actually asked people to avoid using airconditioners last week, citing environmental reasons. In Victoria, Deputy Premier Rob Hulls had earlier asked people to likewise avoid using airconditioners unless necessary. The Age even campaigned against them, asking readers to toughen up.

But far deadlier than this jihad against airconditioners was that the power in both states last week crashed. On the first day of Melbourne's heat wave, tens of thousands of homes - some with sick people - lost power because our grid cannot cope with cities grown so big and rich that many of us use airconditioners. And the next day 500,000 more homes went black when the cable carrying extra power from Tasmania was switched off. Sure, it had been designed to operate until temperatures reached 45C in Melbourne, but not (for some reason) if they reached just 35C in Tasmania. And so, click.

Who knows how many people then died? In Victoria, the coroner will say only that deaths last week were double the norm. The South Australian coroner said he'd had "more sudden deaths than is usual". Police and ambulance sources suggest tp to 50 extra deaths, possibly from heat.

Of course, Hamilton might argue that this is simply the mounting death toll we must expect when 20th century cities meet 21st century warming. Let's ignore the obvious reply - that in fact the globe has cooled since 2002, although, true, it may soon warm again. Let's look instead at Britain, now having its coldest winter in 13 years. So vulnerable are the elderly to cold that a World Health Organisation report last year estimated that 40,000 Britons died every winter, and these "excess winter deaths are related to poor housing conditions - insufficient insulation, ineffective heating systems and fuel poverty". That's right: 40,000 Britons die each year in the cold, often because they're too poor for warming. Compare that to the just 50 Australians who may have died in the worst heatwave in a century.

The British Facility of Public Health even says it expects 8000 Britons to die for each degree that the cold dips below the winter average. And this winter is so severe that the National Pensioners Convention has warned that one in 12 old people may perish. What's true of England is true everywhere. The British Medical Journal in 2000 reported a study by scientists in Britain, Italy, Holland and France who found that "all regions showed more annual cold-related mortality than heat-related mortality". They concluded: "Our data suggest that any increases in mortality due to increased temperatures would be outweighed by much larger short-term declines in cold related mortalities."

Understand, Clive? Rising temperatures will actually save lives. Indeed, University of London researchers calculated in the Southern Medical Journal that in Britain, at least, a big warming over the next 50 years "would increase heat-related deaths in Britain by about 2000 but reduce cold-related deaths by about 20,000".

So let's agree on the evidence: cold is the real killer, and airconditioning saves us in summer, just as central heating can save the frail in winter. So how mad are our governments? The Rudd Government will next year impose an emissions trading scheme that will "save" the planet by making power for your heaters and coolers more expensive. Victoria is even trialing a smart-meter so it can cut power use on hot days by making your electricity so expensive that you'd have to pay $170 a day to run ducted airconditioning. And all this to "save" a planet from a warming that could save hundreds of thousands of lives.

We're "dying from climate change", Clive? Dying for it, more likely.


Dame Elisabeth Murdoch celebrates a brilliant century

DAME Elisabeth Murdoch pauses to repeat the question, placing her knife and fork carefully aside on her plate, and ponders a while before answering. She has much to ponder. Born in 1909, here is a woman who has lived through two world wars, met kings and queens, and walked and talked with historical figures such as Dame Nellie Melba and Sir Winston Churchill. She's seen nearly two dozen Australian prime ministers come and go - and entertained Billy Hughes, Joe Lyons, Stanley Bruce, Robert Menzies and Malcolm Fraser at her home - among so many other world figures. (The latest prime minister, Kevin Rudd is soon to call on her to look at her garden, and an appointment has been pencilled into the little red leather-bound diary she keeps close by in her large handbag.)

This remarkable woman was alive when Phar Lap won the Melbourne Cup and Don Bradman scored his first century; she has watched wood-and-wire biplanes become jumbo jets and crystal radio sets morph into giant-screen televisions. As a girl she grew up with the wind-up gramophone, Morse code and telegrams, but her great grandchildren send each other text messages on their mobile phones. She has witnessed history, and become a figure of history herself. And yet, and yet . . . events flash through her mind before she gives her considered answer to the original question.

"I think the most significant moment was when I went out on to the tennis court one evening here at Cruden Farm with my son, Rupert," says Dame Elisabeth. "We looked up into the night sky together and there was this white light passing overhead. It was the first satellite." It was October 1957, and the Russians had just launched Sputnik I. It was passing overhead at 29,000km/h. The world listened to the solitary beep, beep, beep from a little ball weighing just 100kg sounding back from space. "Rupert pointed the light out to me and said that this was one of the most exciting indications of what lay ahead for the future."

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch is always looking ahead. She says the secret of living a long and happy life is always to be optimistic. "Be optimistic - and always think of other people before yourself," she says.

On the eve of her 100th birthday she has invited me to Cruden Farm for lunch, greeting me in person after hearing me using the iron knocker at her front door. The electric bell seems to be out of order. Warm and welcoming, with a ready smile and a frequent amused chuckle, she's as alert and observant as ever.

She came to Cruden Farm in 1928 as a 19-year-old bride, the wedding present from her husband, Keith. She tells me, quite unselfconsciously, that the happiest time of her life was the almost 25 years she was married to Sir Keith Murdoch, who died in 1952 aged 67. She was left a widow at 43. "It was a wonderful romance but so much more came from it - my children, and then the opportunity to be useful in so many ways," she says.

To reach Cruden Farm you drive down the long, crunching-gravel driveway, flanked by the lemon-scented gums she and Keith planted together. Around it is the magnificent garden she created, and here is the family home they shared with their four children. The wind sighs through the branches of a huge oak tree near the front door, which stands so strong and sturdy. Time seems to stand still here. It is an enchanted place. The tree, as a seedling, was planted in the early 1930s.

The house, with its white columns, Australian flag flying from the roof, is filled with pictures, old oak furniture, mementoes and memories of such a long lifetime. "You've got to be ruthless in the garden," says Dame Elisabeth, breaking any sentimental reverie and leading the way through the sitting room at a brisk pace with her walker. A huge vase of fresh yellow roses stands in a corner.

"A garden is always changing and there are times you've just got to pull things out. Michael thinks I'm more ruthless than he is - but you've just got to look to the future and take out what's not doing well and plant something that will do better in the future." Michael Morrison has been No. 2 gardener to Dame Elisabeth at Cruden since 1971. Five days a week he and Dame Elisabeth travel around the garden in her electric buggy early in the morning deciding what should be done, what should come out, what should go in. "The garden is all planted up now and coming into its very best time," she says. "It should be pretty good for the party."

WE SIT at a plain oak table in the dining room. Dame Elisabeth pours a glass of cold riesling as poached salmon, together with fresh vegetables picked from the garden, are served.

Actually there are two parties for Dame Elisabeth this weekend. On Saturday, her immediate family is gathering and Rupert is flying in from New York. Then on Sunday, 558 family and close friends will sit down at lunch under a marquee by the lake. "It's so sad - there's so many people I'd love to have, but we simply just can't fit them in," says Dame Elisabeth. "Besides, the family keeps growing, too."

At last count she has 74 direct descendants, including two great-great grandchildren - "with another one imminent". Over the salmon she talks about her life of service, how she was so lucky to have been invited to join the committee of the then Children's Hospital, where she served for 33 years. "I was lucky then to follow on Keith's good service with the National Gallery, and from there I went on to the arts . . . I really have been so very fortunate in my life." Her most satisfying achievement, she says unhesitatingly, was the establishment of the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute - "doing so much for the betterment of the health and happiness of children".

Also without hesitation, she picks husband Keith as the most interesting man she's ever met and, after a moment's thought, names her English friend, the Dowager Marchioness of Salisbury, as the most interesting woman. "We have so many interests in common, she is highly intelligent and we share a passion for gardening," she says.

Fresh raspberries ("I do love them") and ice cream have arrived as we turn to the state of the world today. Is it a happier place than when she was young? "No!" she replies sharply, "there is so much turmoil now, so much unhappiness. "I suppose there have always been wars but now there seem to be so many more." Dame Elisabeth is also firm about her advice for the young Australians of today. "Education! That's the most important thing. And family! I believe the family is everything."

Over coffee and chocolates, she reaches for the diary to check on another appointment. "Busy! I'm always busy! It's quite absurd. I refuse more invitations than I accept but people are so awfully kind and ask me to this and that. "Half the time I shouldn't do it, but there are things to go to that I enjoy. Then there's my lovely occupation of bridge. I'd love to play two or three times a week if I had time, it's my secret vice. And I enjoy people. So I go out far too much. I'm a great enjoyer!"

Dame Elisabeth laughs heartily. She leads the way back through the house, pushing her walker even quicker through to her study - which she still calls the nursery room - picking up a large bundle of mail from a table on the way. "My correspondence, well, it's just . . . appalling! "I have a secretary who comes twice a week for two or three hours but it only really scratches the surface. "You see, I try always to write to people in my own hand . . . "I prefer to do that and I so much enjoy receiving handwritten letters."

It is a chilly day, and Dame Elisabeth settles by an open fire to read her letters and a biography she is also enjoying. She could almost be describing herself as she talks about the book. "It's all about Etty, Lady Desborough. Fantastic woman! She was madly attractive. Had an enormous number of suitors all the time. "She was very happily married and she was very clever and never allowed things to go beyond friendship. She kept all these tremendous men as admirers and also all the women, who also loved her."

DAME Elisabeth may be on the eve of turning 100 but her enthusiasm for life bursts forth like that of a young girl. "I plan to go on living a long time," she says. "I know this is amazing, it's an extraordinary thing and I have to face the fact that my time is running out. But I can't think beyond that. "I don't feel old at all! "And I can't believe I'm ever going to die. That sounds absurd. And that's the amazing thing about life - I mean, I could pop off tomorrow. But I must see in my own 100th birthday party." Again, she chuckles happily. And settles down comfortably by the fire for the afternoon.


'Zombie' copycats hack electronic road signs

ZOMBIE road signs are invading Australia, as vandals take to hacking the electronic displays with simple instructions from the web. "Zombies ahead!" warned one sign on the Gold Coast this week, in reference to a now-infamous message displayed in the US last month. The pranksters also illegally hacked into signs around the area with other messages, including "Nobody has ever loved you," according to Another sign displayed the phrase "All your sign are belong to us," a reference to a popular web video of a poorly-translated Japanese video game.

"I had a good laugh," said Adam Hudson, who spotted the signs on the way to the gym. But the Queensland Department of Main Roads was not laughing and said the prank had the potential to kill. "I am appalled by the irresponsibility of this act," said acting regional director Paul Noonan. "Traffic management messages are essential to alert motorists of changed traffic conditions and upcoming works," he said. "By changing the messages these vandals have potentially put the lives of Gold Coast motorists at risk."

Electronic road signs contain a small built-in computer for editing the display which appears to be easy to hack, according to website The computers often share a common default password and can easily be reset if the password has changed. The Gold Coast signs, property of Coates Hire, were fixed today.


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