Tag Archives: Health

Capita – The New Punishers of the Poor


As Atos desperately try to extricate themselves from the Work Capability Assessment contract. Capita stands ready to take up the reins. The coalition government, and IDS in particular, must think that, as Atos have made such a mess of the job, Capita will give them some breathing space, and any difficulties would be described as “teething trouble”.

The problem is, Capita have already blotted their copybook in their dealings with people on benefits. This is the company that’s responsible for Voice Analysis Tests, which several councils are eagerly spending millions of (taxpayer’s) pounds buying.

Lie detectors aren’t noted for their reliability when they’re used in controlled circumstances, but these are telephone tests. They supposedly detect stress in a callers voice but, even if they work, they won’t be able to tell what causes the stress. It might be that the caller is lying, as Capita claim on their website, but people on benefits, at whom this pseudo-scientific technology is aimed, have many other reasons to be stressed and, when you throw illness and disability into the mix, there are even more.

Whether Capita is as bad as Atos, time will tell. There’ll be a lot of us watching.


“This Lent I will eat no food, to highlight the hunger all around us”

“This Lent I will eat no food, to highlight the hunger all around us” says Keith Hebden, in a “Comment is Free” piece for the Guardian on Monday. As an atheist, I have no automatic respect for religious rituals. I think it’s a good idea to eat fish at least once a week, for example, but I don’t see why it should be a Friday.

So a religious man, doing something that ties in with his religion, but taking it a little further, is just a publicity stunt. One that I applaud.

We can probably all recall at least one Tory politician who has spent a week on as much money as someone on benefits gets, to show how, with a bit of planning, it’s possible to adequately look after yourself. These cynical ploys are undermined, either by abject failure, or by revelations of cheating.

Keith Hebden isn’t trying to prove anything by fasting. He isn’t trying to show either how easy it is, or how difficult. He almost certainly won’t suffer any long term health problems, though I hope he has taken, and will heed, medical advice. He isn’t even evangelising for his faith, as he concludes his article with:

“We can all help: whether you are spiritual, religious, or just that wonderful thing called “human”.”

He’s fasting to raise awareness of a very real problem. The phrase “publicity stunt” is usually taken to mean that there’s an ulterior motive, but it doesn’t have to and, in this case, I don’t think there is.



You can follow Keith’s progress on Twitter by clicking here.

The Anti-Smoking Lobby’s Real Agenda


I don’t know whether Arwa Mahdawi is a paid shill of the tobacco or pharmaceutical industry, or merely an incompetent hack, but she’s recently written a ludicrous article, for the Guardian no less, though it reads more like a hatchet job in the Mail, bemoaning the advertising of electronic cigarettes on television, claiming that it “risks renormalising smoking; negating the millions of pounds of taxpayer money that have gone into health campaigns designed to make puffing on a cigarette seem more gormless than glamorous.

Mahdawi seems annoyed that the people in the ad look healthy. No doubt she’d prefer them to be coughing and wheezing, like proper smokers, but the experience of many ex-smokers who’ve switched to e-cigs has been a lot less coughing, and much easier breathing.

The addition of sciencey sounding phrases into the article don’t help her case either. Sure, nicotine is a “parasympathomimetic alkaloid”, but so is caffeine, and using such terms in a scary, patronising way just shows her bias, or she’d be arguing for coffee to be banned, and since you can get e-cigs with no nicotine, that would have to include decaf.

Perhaps a degree of regulation is necessary, and an age restriction for buying e-cigs, say 18, should be imposed. That wouldn’t be a huge burden on retailers, as I am not aware of a single one who sells to anyone under that age. It’s far easier for kids to get hold of real cigarettes, and to use them undetected, but e-cigs are more expensive initially, although they work out cheaper in the long run, and the batteries need recharging, so parents need only pay a little attention to their offspring’s activities.

So if children aren’t able to get their hands on the e-cigs, the ad’s target must be existing smokers. Surely switching from tobacco, which has proven harmful, to e-cigs, which may have long-term (unproven) harmful effects, but which are decidedly less harmful than tobacco, is a good thing.

That’s if you are genuinely interested in promoting health. If you’re more interested in protecting the tobacco or Pharma industries, or simply enjoy being judgemental with no justification, then e-cigs are bad, bad, bad!

Ding Dong! Thatcher’s Dead!

“There is no such thing as society.” Thatcher, 1988
“There is no such thing as Thatcher.” Society, 2013

I’m an Electronic Cigarette “Smoker” – 2 Years On (almost)


The ecig community is growing!

Strictly speaking, my 2 year anniversary of switching to electronic cigarettes isn’t until next month, but so much has happened since my last post on the subject, I couldn’t wail until then.
When I switched, the only source for ecigs where I live, Ellesmere Port in Cheshire, was on-line or mail order (and finding an address or phone number was difficult, so on-line it was!)
A few months ago, not only did some tobacco outlets start selling ecigs, albeit in a limited way, but two dedicated ecig vendors set up their stalls.
The first one sells “ Crystal Clear Vapours” products, and this is the system I’ve settled on. It is the “eGo” battery, with a “Clearomiser” which you fill with the e-liquid that they also sell. The first ecigs I bought came from Mirage, an excellent company with good customer service which I still recommend, and this system is compatible to their “Eros” range.


A few weeks later, another vendor set up, selling “JAC Vapour” cigarettes, a product that looks much like a real cigarette, and which works automatically without having to press a button, as the other one does. For some people, a “cigalike” can help overcome an initial psychological hurdle. I no longer need that, but the JAC stystem is also refillable, as opposed to requiring the purchase of new cartridges so, had I not already decided on the “eGo” system, I probably would have gone for this one. For some people, a “cigalike” can help overcome an initial psychological hurdle.
(They have also now started selling the eGo cigarettes with the clearomiser.)


Both these vendors will let potential customers give their product a try, and neither tries to push anyone into buying, so if you are a smoker in the area, I can heartily recommend a visit to both.

It’s not just locally that the profile of ecigs has been raised. Here’s a television advertisement, for an ecig I’ve not tried, so I can’t comment on its quality. It’s good news, nevertheless, that more people will be made aware of a real alternative to smoking.

Eye Eye! What’s Going On?

Regular and observant readers of this blog might have noticed a few posts in recent months without pictures, or with pictures recycled from earlier posts, and I think I should explain, now that (I hope!) the drama is over.

I mentioned in October that I had been rushed to hospital with acute glaucoma, but that I had got there in time to save my eyesight in my left eye. Alas, though my sight was no longer in danger, because I was regularly attending hospital for check-ups, the pressure in my eye wouldn’t stay down, and the consultant decided I needed an operation to remove the lens and replace it with an artificial one.

This was all very alarming, and the discomfort was such that looking at a computer monitor for long enough to do one of my pictures was painful.

I’m not, however, writing this to garner sympathy.

I was nervous about the operation because, well, it’s THE EYE! The mere thought of being prodded in the eye with surgical instruments made me queasy, and I can’t imagine that I’m alone in that.

So, in the unlikely event that one of my readers has to have a similar operation, let me just say what an absolute piece of cake it was. The reassuring noises made by the medical staff could, after all, be believed. (You only have to be fooled once by the words “this won’t hurt a bit” to be distrustful!) The most painful part was the anaesthetic injection in the cheek just below the eye, but that was far less painful that the needle at the dentist. By the end of the operation I was on the verge of falling asleep.

The first night trying to sleep was a bit uncomfortable, like having conjunctivitis, but that soon passed.

There’s a possibility that I might have to have another operation but, if I do, I won’t be as scared. I’ll just be disappointed that I won’t be able to do many pictures for a while.

And all this care is on the NHS! Without it I would probably be blind by now.

Pro-Life “Science” Failure

In today’s Catholic Herald, Francis Phillips reasserts a supposed link between abortion and breast cancer. Now, as an atheist I am bound to be sceptical of a religious-based source. It doesn’t take much effort, however, to discover the truth, that there is no such link.

Phillips cites a paper by Angela Lanfranchi, M.D., F.A.C.S., as if a medical doctor’s opinion should automatically be accepted as true. This is a tactic also used by creationists in their desperate fight to “disprove” evolution (Look! Look! a SCIENTIST agrees with us!) but, in both cases, the opinions of the overwhelming majority of their opponents, backed up with actual, up-to-date, evidence are conveniently hand-waved away, and bogus “evidence” repeated ad nauseam. In fact, though Lanfranchi is genuinely a medical doctor, she is also a “pro-life” advocate, eager to seize upon any propaganda that helps the cause.

This bogus “evidence” is usually derived from small scale and flawed studies, decades old, which have been superseded by more rigorous experiments, taking into account complete medical records of large numbers of a large cross-section of women, whether or not they have had an abortion or developed breast cancer.

There are many sources that show that a link between abortion and breast cancer has not been demonstrated. I present here just one, from the American Cancer Society.

To insist that the link exists without evidence, and in the face of contradictory evidence, is not only dishonest, it is a cruel deception.

But then, deception is what I’ve come to expect from the “pro-life” lobby.