Sunday, July 17, 2016

Australia's First Modern Decline In Life Expectancy Due To Obesity

The headline above is as it appeared in the Puffington Host.  It is a crock.  You would think from it that Australian lifespans HAVE decreased.  They have not.  It is just another stupid Leftist theory that they might decrease -- even though they never have in recent decades.  There are many influences on lifespan, with obesity being only a minor one. 

And a supreme piece of idiocy in the article below is that it takes no account of the TREND in obesity.  It takes no account of the fact that in many populations, obesity has stopped rising, and has even been declining in some populations over the last 10 years.  So even if we treat every word below as gospel, we don't know WHEN it refers to.  It may simply be a description of how things WERE.

Saying that lifespans will be reduced on the basis of a questionable assumption that obesity levels will increase is therefore an unsupported extrapolation and is very likely a wrong one for at least some groups -- a false prophecy.

I append the underlying journal article.  There is much of interest in it.  It is for a start a meta-analysis and it is amazing what people can get and do get out of a meta-analysis -- by selecting what you decide to include or exclude. Authors are very good at excluding from their analysis articles whose conclusions they dislike. 

The original article appeared in the "Lancet", which was once a rightly respected journal.  Sad to say, the "Lancet" these days is Left-led. It even involved itself in propaganda about the Iraq war.  So biased meta-analyses in service of a "good cause" can be expected from it.  The obesity "war" is definitely a "good cause".

Secondly, there is much dispute now over whether BMI is a good index of obesity.  Very fit people can sometimes have a high BMI even though they have virtually no fat on them.

Thirdly, all the effects were very small, with Hazard Ratios below 2.0 except for the grossly obese.  The Federal Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence, Second Edition says (p. 384): "the threshold for concluding that an agent was more likely than not the cause of an individual's disease is a relative risk greater than 2.0."

So the only real concern is for the GROSSLY obese. That is in line with much previous research so the whole article below is just puffery. There are no substantial grounds to be concerned for the health of anybody over nearly all of the weight range

Australia has experienced an unprecedented collective weight gain over the last three decades and it could lead to the first modern decline in life expectancy.

A new mega-study on four million adults proved for the first time that an unhealthy Body Mass Index had a direct correlation with premature death.

The study published in British medical journal The Lancet found that for every increase in BMI unit after the overweight range, there was an increase in the risk of premature death by around one third.

This increased risk related to coronary heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, diabetes complications and cancer.

Deakin University's World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention professor Anna Peeters said the study pointed to a population-wide catastrophe in Australia.

"With two thirds of Australian adults overweight or obese this underscores the seriousness of current obesity rates for future life expectancy in Australia," Peeters said.

"If we needed yet another reason to step up our efforts to prevent obesity, this is it."

Cancer Council Australia chief executive Sanchia Aranda said cancer was one of the ways morbidity increased the risk of mortality.

"Given the unprecedented population weight gain in Australia over the last 30 years, we can expect to see the number of cancers and cancer deaths related to obesity and overweight increase in the future unless we take action," Aranda said.


Body-mass index and all-cause mortality: individual-participant-data meta-analysis of 239 prospective studies in four continents



Overweight and obesity are increasing worldwide. To help assess their relevance to mortality in different populations we conducted individual-participant data meta-analyses of prospective studies of body-mass index (BMI), limiting confounding and reverse causality by restricting analyses to never-smokers and excluding pre-existing disease and the first 5 years of follow-up.


Of 10 625 411 participants in Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Europe, and North America from 239 prospective studies (median follow-up 13·7 years, IQR 11·4–14·7), 3 951 455 people in 189 studies were never-smokers without chronic diseases at recruitment who survived 5 years, of whom 385 879 died. The primary analyses are of these deaths, and study, age, and sex adjusted hazard ratios (HRs), relative to BMI 22·5–<25·0 kg/m2.


All-cause mortality was minimal at 20·0–25·0 kg/m2 (HR 1·00, 95% CI 0·98–1·02 for BMI 20·0–<22·5 kg/m2; 1·00, 0·99–1·01 for BMI 22·5–<25·0 kg/m2), and increased significantly both just below this range (1·13, 1·09–1·17 for BMI 18·5–<20·0 kg/m2; 1·51, 1·43–1·59 for BMI 15·0–<18·5) and throughout the overweight range (1·07, 1·07–1·08 for BMI 25·0–<27·5 kg/m2; 1·20, 1·18–1·22 for BMI 27·5–<30·0 kg/m2). The HR for obesity grade 1 (BMI 30·0–<35·0 kg/m2) was 1·45, 95% CI 1·41–1·48; the HR for obesity grade 2 (35·0–<40·0 kg/m2) was 1·94, 1·87–2·01; and the HR for obesity grade 3 (40·0–<60·0 kg/m2) was 2·76, 2·60–2·92. For BMI over 25·0 kg/m2, mortality increased approximately log-linearly with BMI; the HR per 5 kg/m2 units higher BMI was 1·39 (1·34–1·43) in Europe, 1·29 (1·26–1·32) in North America, 1·39 (1·34–1·44) in east Asia, and 1·31 (1·27–1·35) in Australia and New Zealand. This HR per 5 kg/m2 units higher BMI (for BMI over 25 kg/m2) was greater in younger than older people (1·52, 95% CI 1·47–1·56, for BMI measured at 35–49 years vs 1·21, 1·17–1·25, for BMI measured at 70–89 years; pheterogeneity<0·0001), greater in men than women (1·51, 1·46–1·56, vs 1·30, 1·26–1·33; pheterogeneity<0·0001), but similar in studies with self-reported and measured BMI.


The associations of both overweight and obesity with higher all-cause mortality were broadly consistent in four continents. This finding supports strategies to combat the entire spectrum of excess adiposity in many populations.


Cheeky South Australian Greenies want more interconnetors with other states in order to prop up their windmill-reliant power

They have to to import coal-fired power when the wind is not blowing there and want to export their windpower to other States when the wind IS blowing.  Typical Greenies:  Demand, demand, demand

An energy crisis in South Australia created by an over-reliance on untrustworthy and expensive wind and solar will force the state Labor government to seek greater access to cheaper coal-fired electricity from the eastern states.

This comes amid rising concern that federal renewable ­energy targets will force other states down the path taken by South Australia, which has the highest and most variable energy prices in the national electricity grid.

South Australian Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis, who is also the Energy Minister, yesterday put the eastern states on notice, vowing to “smash the national electricity market into a thousand pieces and start again”.

He warned other states that the energy crisis was “coming to get them”.  “This is coming to Victoria, this is coming to NSW ... every jurisdiction is facing what we’re facing now,” the Treasurer said.

South Australian Labor’s ­admission that it needed urgent reform of the national energy market rules, so that in addition to upgrading connection with Victoria it also could tap into NSW baseload power, reveals the vulnerability of its reliance on ­renewables. The last coal-fired power stations in South Australia closed in May.

Wind and solar make up more than 40 per cent of the state’s ­energy mix under a green policy agenda driven by Labor, in power in South Australia since 2002.

Several major companies, ­including BHP Billiton and Arrium, this week warned Mr Koutsantonis of possible shutdowns because of high energy prices, forcing him to plead for a temporary power spike from a private owner of a mothballed gas-fired power plant. Private energy supplier ENGIE fired up its Pelican Point plant near Port Adelaide for a short time yesterday, bringing an extra 239 megawatts of power into the grid.

Mr Koutsantonis said the federal government had encouraged South Australia, which has the best conditions for wind farms, to chase the energy source as part of Australia’s renewable energy target of about 24 per cent by 2020.

“Wind is paid by the commonwealth to produce power ... if you are going to pay wind farms to produce electricity regardless of demand, you better make sure that is distributed equally across the country because you can’t have a national policy implicating just one state,” he said.

He called on Malcolm Turnbull to immediately appoint an energy minister and schedule an urgent meeting of federal and state ministers to undertake ­energy market reform.  “If you want a true national electricity market, you really need to have all of the states interconnected.

“What we have is a series of state-based markets with very poor interconnection between them,’’ Mr Koutsantonis said.

The market was supposed to integrate the east coast states with South Australia and Tasmania to allow the free flow of electricity across borders via a ­series of interconnecters, he said. It excludes West Australia and the Northern Territory.

An upgraded interconnecter with Victoria is scheduled for completion next month, and South Australia also wants a larger interconnecter with NSW, at a cost of between $300 million and $700m.

“Victoria has multiple markets it can draw from; we have one, NSW has two and Queensland has one. That’s not a national electricity market,” he said.


Identity politics: the triumph of equality over freedom?

 Peter Kurti

The end is nigh for religious exemptions enshrined in federal anti-discrimination law -- if the Australian Greens have anything to do with it. "Australians should be treated the same," Greens senator Nick McKim said recently.

Failing to "treat people the same" has become a secular sin. Only enforced uniformity can secure a new standard of inclusive justice.  It's the language of the 'fair go'; but it's actually the battle cry of the new 'minority fundamentalists'.

Minority fundamentalism has all the features of the various religious fundamentalisms so despised by the latte-sipping Green-Left: ideological fanaticism, intolerance of dissent, and Manichaean certainty about truth and falsehood.

Its playbook includes using intimidation, humiliation, and self-censorship to punish those who think differently. Its purpose is to eradicate all forms of discrimination in the name of liberating the 'oppressed'.

Gender, race, and sexual orientation are the most frequently cited categories of oppression. Safe Schools Coalition campaigners and same-sex marriage advocates all insist their goal is justice.

None of this can be questioned -- and offence can be taken so quickly. Freedoms of speech, conscience and association comprise the very foundations of our common life; but they are now under threat. The right to equality trumps all.

This is because 'equality' has become associated with 'disadvantage': those who bear any burden of incapacity are judged to be less equal in society. Rights such as the right to equality are intended to address that disadvantage.

But as the discourse continues to shift from the realm of reason to the realm of emotion, so the grievances of minority fundamentalists are more likely to take root. As they do so, a 'democratic deficit' is widening.

This deficit arises as democratic institutions fail to uphold the principles of democracy. It is indicative of an increasing readiness on the part of self-appointed moral guardians to privilege the sensitivities of the minority over those of the majority.

By prioritising equality over freedom, identity politics threatens to lock people into specific categories at the expense of individual liberty -- all in its pursuit of democratic egalitarianism.

The rise of identity politics, intended to protect specific minority groups, has had a serious impact on the health of Australian democracy. It purports to act in the name of equality as a buttress against tyranny but, in reality, threatens to foster it. 


Education does not lead to violence
 Jennifer Buckingham 

A lot of people who have never been to Aurukun have opinions about its problems; some have even confidently pronounced a link between the long-term and deep-seated social dysfunction in the town and the Direct Instruction teaching program used in the Cape York Academy in Aurukun for the last five years.

I haven't been to Aurukun, so I am not going to opine on what is happening there. However, it is important to correct some of the misinformation about Direct Instruction. A number of terms are used interchangeably which have some features in common but are substantially different.

Direct Instruction (spelt with capital letters) is a set of copyrighted commercial programs developed in the USA. They consist of carefully planned and sequenced lessons and assessments that are designed to be used by teachers without deviation. Both the content and the instruction are prescribed. DI programs have been evaluated and refined for almost fifty years and are consistently found to be very effective. Many schools around Australia use DI programs such as Reading Mastery and Spelling Mastery.

The other direct instruction (spelt with lower case letters) is a research-based instructional approach that can be used by any teacher in any lesson. The key principles are: revision of previous learning; presentation of new information in small steps with immediate practice; frequent interaction with students to check for understanding; explicit modelling of skills; gradual movement to independent practice; and cumulative review and assessment to achieve long-term retention. Studies of direct instruction strategies show stronger effects than 'inquiry' or 'discovery' approaches.

Similarly, explicit instruction or explicit teaching is essentially similar to direct instruction. It is a general pedagogical approach in which lessons are structured and sequenced to give students a high degree of support and guidance initially and to minimise gaps in knowledge, progressing to independent application. Reviews of high performing schools find explicit instruction to be a common factor.

Explicit Direct Instruction is a specific curriculum and teaching program developed in Australia for use in Australian schools. It is based on the principles of direct instruction and has similarities to Direct Instruction but allows for more teacher discretion. EDI is based on sound research but has not been evaluated to the same extent as DI.

 Despite their strong research basis and an undeniable track record of success, these teaching methods and programs are frequently maligned by education academics and teachers. To reject the evidence of their efficacy is bad enough, but the idea that they lead to violence is patently ridiculous.


Employment rising in Australia

Australia’s jobs report for June has just been released, and it’s largely in line with expectations.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), employment grew by 7,900 in seasonally adjusted terms, slightly missing expectations for a gain of 10,000.

The increase took the total number of employed to 11.94 million, the highest level on record. Over the past year employment grew by 1.9%.

While a slightly disappointing headline result, it was more than offset by the internals of the report with full time employment surging by 38,400, largely offsetting a 30,500 drop in part time employment.

Male full time employment, after several years of tepid growth, jumped by 27,300. This was further bolstered by an increase of 11,100 in female full time employment growth.

Those trends were reversed in part time employment with males accounting for the vast bulk of the monthly decline reported, falling by 28,000.

By state and territory, Victoria and South Australia recorded the strongest jobs growth during the month, rising by 24,200 and 4,600 respectively. This was partially offset by declines of 11,900, 10,300 and 1,400 respectively in New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland.

The lumpiness of the employment change across the country, along with the split in full time and part time employment, will do little to bolster confidence in the reliability of the seasonally adjusted figures.

Indeed, despite the surge in full time employment growth, the number of hours worked fell by 4.3 million hours to 1,640 million hours.

The small gain in employment, along with an increase in labour market participation which rose 0.1 percentage point to 64.9%, saw the national unemployment rate tick up to 5.8%. This was in line with expectations but above the 5.7% level of May.

In absolute terms, the number of unemployed now stands at 734,200, down 3.1% on the levels of a year ago.


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