Sunday, April 11, 2010

Grouch and grumble: Bring back Bex

I am a terrible skeptic. I don't believe in Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Karl Marx, Barack Obama, global warming, the benefits of a low-fat diet or the evils of obesity. And I put plenty of salt on my fries. So I guess it should be no surprise that I don't believe in the evils of Bex either -- though I know that that is going to raise a few eyebrows.

Let's start from the present: If you have got aches and pains these days, your doctor will always recommend paracetamol (acetaminophen) -- because it is "safer" than apririn. That paracetamol can destroy your liver while aspirin only causes microscopic stomach bleeding seems not to be considered.

Australia used to have an over-the-counter pharmaceutical called Bex, which was hugely popular in Australia, particularly among Australian women. It contained aspirin, phenacetin and caffeine. Everybody knows about two of those ingredients but guess what phenacetin was? It was a analgesic known since the 19th century which broke down in your body to -- wait for it -- paracetamol.

But the do-gooders condemned Bex because it was so popular. It was so popular that some people would go through a whole box (12 powders) in a couple of days. There were labels on the packet telling you not to do that -- saying that long-term heavy usage was harmful but what the heck!

The particular harm that Bex did was thought to come from the phenacetin: A tiny percentage of users -- very heavy users -- got kidney failure and Australia had the world's highest incidence of kidney failure. So the Becker company was told to convert their powders to aspirin only.

The customers however thought that the new Bex was "not the same" so stopped buying it and it is no longer produced. So what's the problem with that?

One problem is that many Bex users went onto Valium instead -- with its attendant risk of making you drowsy when you're driving. So did the ban on Bex kill people in road accidents? Probably.

But the main problem is that something was taken away from people which they found very beneficial -- all because a tiny minority misused it. You can misuse anything by taking it in excess -- even water can kill you if drink too much of it. Google "hyponatremia" if you doubt it. So should we ban water? They would if they could, I suspect.

So why did Australian housewives like Bex so much? Because it gave them a small lift while taking their aches and pains away. They would come home from their shopping, make themselves a cup of tea, take a Bex then have "a good lie down". And after their nap they would wake up refreshed ready to deal with the rest of the day.

That was however only one use of Bex. You basically took Bex for ANY aches and pains. It kept a lot of people away from the doctor when they had colds and flu, for instance.

And a VERY important use of Bex was as an early treatment for what is still a dreaded and all too common ailment: migraines. Migraine sufferers generally get some warning when a migraine is due to strike, an aura, jaw stiffening etc. And as soon as anybody prone to migraines felt the slightest suspicion that one was about to strike, they would grab their nearby packet of Bex and slam one into themselves quick smart. And it did help. If you got the Bex into yourself straight away, the migraine would either not develop or would be less severe than a full-blown attack.

I know an old lady now in her 90s who was prone to migraines in her youth (migraines in women tend to stop after menopause) and she took a LOT of Bex. AND THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH HER KIDNEYS. She would hardly be around at age 92 if there were. So let me note again that it was only a tiny minority of Bex users who got problems from it.

It is true that soluble aspirin can also help with migraines if you take it quickly enough but I suspect that Bex did a better job. I am of the Bex generation. I took it on rare occasions when I had a headache (which I rarely do). And I certainly remember fewer complaints about migraines back then than I hear now. That's pure anecdote of course and Bex probably didn't help all migraine sufferers, but why not test it out properly? Nobody seems to have done so. The simple-minded do-gooders who always know better than ourselves what is good for us just banned it.

Now here's the final kicker: Something that is often prescribed for aches and pains these days is NSAIDS (Ibuprofen etc.). And guess what is a major side effects of NSAIDS? Kidney damage. NSAIDS are hundreds of times more toxic to the kidneys than Bex ever was. So let's ban NSAIDS!

Sometimes the wisdom of the past WAS better than the wisdom of the present.

UPDATE: I suspected that APC preparations such as Bex and Vincent's were not unique to Australia but could find no mention of it. The following comment from a reader does however confirm my speculation:
"Bex... It contained aspirin, phenacetin and caffeine"

Ah yes, the APC pill. I first encountered them when I enlisted in the US Army, 1965. Wonderful, knocked out a headache in fifteen minutes vs the sixty-to-ninety of plain aspirin.

While a prescription drug outside the Armed Services, they were handed out by orderlies more readily than a stick of chewing gum. Now entirely illegal to manufacture in combination.

Sydney's Lebanese Muslim problem

The report excerpted below is authored by a Leftist do-gooder but some reality even gets through to him

The new story in Sydney is the blood trail in the past decade and more spelling out names such as Karam, Assoum, Sande and Chehade.

Sydney has Australia's largest proportion of Middle Eastern-born residents, but in a city of more than four million people they still number only about 120,000. Undeniably the community is disproportionately represented in criminal activity.

You only need to go to the jails to see what NSW prison's officers have come to call their "Gaza Strip".

Inmates of Middle Eastern background are crowding most areas of serious crime. According to Corrective Services Commissioner Ron Woodham, the numbers continue to grow, as do management difficulties. Woodham says they are particularly adept at corrupting his officers.

The next example of disproportion is the number of police assigned to the specialist Middle Eastern Crime Squad. It is the largest in the NSW Police, with up to 120 personnel.

Most of Sydney's Middle Eastern-born residents come from Lebanon, drawn from successive waves of migration - but, as is often pointed out, the trouble is less with these citizens as with their sons and grandsons.

Chief Superintendent Ken McKay, the straight-talking Director of State Crime Command, has made a lot of arrests and, he says, in three years not one of them was a foreign national.

An Arabic cultural expert who advises police and prefers not to be named links most of the crime to a third wave of migration between 1978 and 1982 - fallout from a vicious civil war.

While the generalisation has its limits, many of these newcomers had not regarded Australia as a first choice, seeing the move as temporary. As a result there was less of an effort to assimilate and learn the language.

They settled, as migrants do, in areas where they could find familiar faces, replicating family and village structures in suburbs like Punchbowl and Auburn.

While earlier waves of refugees, better-educated and eager to embrace a new life, had prospered, many in this newer cohort saw a different horizon. They were inclined to mark time. Life moved on, children were born and it soon became clear there was little to go back to.

By then their children were adolescents who had assumed uncommon power. They were the ones to fill out the forms and help mum with the banking. They became a disconnected subculture, a product of a collision of history and geography.

When I worked on a Four Corners investigation into organised car theft I was introduced to this generation. Many were skilled backyard mechanics. Back in Lebanon there is a massive industry in rebuilding cars.

In Beirut, a young man explained, there was little opportunity for schooling and plenty of time to learn how to reconstruct Toyota Landcruisers from an Aladdin's Cave of parts sourced from as far afield as Australia.

By the 1990s southwest Sydney had become an automotive Bermuda Triangle. Large families from small communities helped form gangs that stole to order.

When George Elfar fled to Jordan in 1991 he remained in contact with son Andrew, who helped continue the business. Some members of the Elhassan family were also caught riveted to an industrial-strength scam.

A BMW carjacked in William St was one of many vehicles traced through a jumble of parts found in a container bound for Lebanon. It soon became clear how Brian Elhassan, a celebrity on the show car circuit, could afford to gold-plate the wheels of his Subaru WRX.

Last year 18 members from two more groups formed around some members of two families. It was alleged in court they were rebirthing vehicles, using parts stolen to order.

Police have identified more family-based operations believed to be doing the same. While auto crime is a speciality, as with many ethnic crime groups there is energetic diversification. And as usual drugs are the main attraction.

After Bill Bayeh was busted for heroin and cocaine supply in the late 1990s there was a rush to succeed the deposed king. Danny Karam and Michael Kanaan stepped up, then fell out. Karam was shot dead. Kanaan joined Bayeh in jail.

Further west, there was a long-running feud, with tit-for-tat shootings early this decade started by rivals Adnan "Eddie" Darwiche and Bilal Razzak.

Police made 1100 arrests and laid 2400 charges in the space of one year as they tried to stop the ensuing war....

I would like to say this particular crime wave will, like so many others, soon recede. But that is unlikely. Jails breed a kind of barbed wire psychosis, organising young men into crime networks such as the Muslim Brotherhood Movement.

Recruitment into outlaw motorcycle gangs has altered the accent, let alone character, of the bikie movement.

Worst of all, there is a widespread belief within this community that they are being persecuted by law enforcement. This marginalisation serves to increase the pain for all of us.


Greenies could die of lead poisoning

They already drink a lot of birdshit so what's a little lead? In the old days when Australian country people HAD to use tank water, they used it to make tea, which is, of course, boiled first. But even that won't remove lead. But the lead probably comes from city pollution so that was an unlikely problem for them

PEOPLE who drink from their rainwater tanks may be consuming unacceptable levels of lead, a study says. Scientists from the University of Technology, Sydney, assessed the quality of water stored in household tanks around the city and found that five of the 11 tanks contained lead levels exceeding 0.01 milligrams a litre - the amount considered safe in drinking water by the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

They also found the turbidity, or murkiness, of the water exceeded acceptable levels, as did the pH levels in some tanks.

A lead researcher, Benjamin Kus, said the results of their study confirmed past research that had also found rainwater tanks could accumulate higher than acceptable levels of lead and other pollutants.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 16 per cent of households use rainwater tanks, and more than three-quarters of them use the tanks as their main source of drinking water.

The scientists believe high levels of lead and murky water were making their way into rainwater tanks because not enough of the initial roof run-off was being discarded before water entered the tank. The roof run-off, or first flush, was often the most polluted water and was collected in a pipe attached to the tank, they said.

Mr Kus said most first-flush devices collected about 12 litres to 20 litres of roof run-off but there were no exact calculations on how much first flush should be collected. He also said the exact source of the lead was not known.

In an additional study Mr Kus and his colleagues collected water that flowed into the tank from the roof to determine how much water needed to be bypassed before it was safe to drink.

They found that for an average roof - about 250 square metres - the first 1250 litres of water needed to be bypassed before the levels of lead and the turbidity of the water were acceptable for drinking.

According to drinking water guidelines, published by the National Health and Medical Research Council, lead that is absorbed into the body can make its way to the kidney, liver and bone marrow. Lead is a cumulative poison that can severely affect the central nervous system, and can persist in bone for up to 30 years.

The implications of the study are especially relevant to people living outside metropolitan areas, where rainwater tanks are often the principal source of water. More than 30 per cent of non-capital city households use rainwater tanks, according to the Bureau of Statistics.

In NSW there are no restrictions against the use of rainwater for drinking. However, NSW Health recommends that, where available, people should use the public water supply for drinking and cooking because it is filtered, disinfected and generally fluoridated.

Maintenance of tanks is the responsibility of the owner or user of the tank.

A civil engineer and co- author of the studies, Jaya Kandasamy, said bypassing large amounts of roof run-off water was not ideal in drought-affected countries such as Australia, especially when households were installing rainwater tanks to conserve water. Tank water should be treated or filtered, Dr Kandasamy said.

The study, published in the journal Water Science and Technology, found the levels of other heavy metals, salts and minerals in the tank water were acceptable for drinking.


Throw away the key: worst of worst to stay locked up in NSW jails

This would be a great step forward in protecting the community -- as long as appeal processes against wrongful convictions remain available.

Premier Keneally, below, is American. So she comes from a place known for very long jail sentences. The short sentences usually handed down by Australian judges must be a wonder to her

THE state's worst murderers and violent criminals will be kept behind bars after their sentences have finished under a radical plan by the NSW government that will target prisoners who resist rehabilitation.

Premier Kristina Keneally will today order Corrective Services to begin an audit of the 750 "worst of the worst" prisoners in NSW.

Prisoners refusing rehabilitation programs or judged not to have taken responsibility for their crimes will be detained indefinitely under new powers. The plan will build on the Crimes (Serious Sex Offenders) Act, which provides for the extended detention and strict monitoring of rapists and sexual offenders.

Extended Supervision Orders would be expanded to keep murderers and violent criminals caged in the same way as sex offenders.

Prisoners such as Motekiai Taufahema, who murdered Senior Constable Glenn McEnally in 2002 and is due for release in two years, could be locked up for longer if he is deemed not to have reformed.

It is thought more than 50 inmates could expect to be locked up beyond the end of their sentences after the review is completed. Ms Keneally said: "This is about sending a message to the worst prisoners: 'If you don't do the rehabilitation, you know what? You won't get out.'

"Those prisoners who do the right thing will not be impacted by this review … but those refusing to take responsibility for their actions will be identified."

Civil libertarians said the plan undermined the justice system and would deter prisoners from rehabilitation if their sentences were effectively meaningless.

NSW Council of Civil Liberties secretary Stephen Blanks said: "The rule of law requires politicians to set the framework of justice and for judges to deliver sentences away from political influence.

"The prison system is there to encourage prisoners to reform but, if they know they can effectively be re-sentenced by the government, there is no incentive to reform."


The open door through which one in 20 Australians came

Comment by Andrew Bolt

Andrew Norton says one fast-increasing category of immigrants is slipping in under the radar:
Under a rule-based system, if you meet its criteria you can come to Australia, with no restrictions on total numbers…

There were big increases [between 2001 and 2009] in rule-based long-term visas for students and for people coming to Australia to work, the section 457 visas. A lot of people also came to Australia on working holiday visas.

They were added to another more long-standing group of people with residence rights in Australia, New Zealanders. New Zealand is also a ‘back door’ route to permanent entry to Australia, with about 30% of the ‘New Zealanders’ taking up residence in Australia being born somewhere else.

Put all these rights-based migrants together, and there were about 1.2 million of them in mid-2009.

One in 20 of us. Come in under an uncapped category. Norton puts much blame on Howard.


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