Daily Archives: July 13, 2009

European geneticists caution India against GM crops

Scientific papers expose health and environment hazards

MyNews.in | Jul 10, 2009

Two leading European geneticists have cautioned India not to accept genetically modified (GM) crops and food. They said that these products were rejected in Europe and were being willfully dumped in India by the multinational corporations as they could not find enough market in Europe.

The chair of the department of molecular biology in the University of Caen, France, Prof Gilles-Eric Seralini shared with the mediapersons on Friday the findings from his latest path breaking research on the adverse impact of herbicides like glyphosate. Results from his research show that this popularly used herbicide is also a part of the package for herbicide tolerant GM crops like Roundup Ready Soybean. The inert ingredients of Roundup Ready Soybeans can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells.  Such cases have already occurred in Argentina were Roundup Ready Soybeans are extensively grown.

Another European geneticist, Prof Michael Antoniou , reader in the department of medical and molecular genetics in King’s College, London said : “The only responsible use of genetic engineering is in a contained clinical laboratory setup. The extreme complexity with which genomic regulation works has not been understood by the best of geneticists and it should be remembered that GMOs released in the environment cannot be recalled. Precautionary approach is the only way forward with this technology.”

Seralini and Antoniou are presently in India addressing conferences of health experts, environmentalists and agriculture scientists.

The new Indian minister of state for environment and forests, Jairam Ramesh after assuming his office had expressed apprehensions about health and environmental hazards of GM crops and assured to take necessary action before final approval for its commercial release.

Seralini, who is also directly associated with the France-based Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering (CRIIGEN),  said : “99% of all GM crops are actually sponges of pesticides – they are either engineered to produce a pesticide or to tolerate a pesticide. This is the case with insect resistant crops like Bt cotton, Bt brinjal and herbicide tolerant crops like GM corn. Given such a technology, the adverse effect on human and animal health is often neglected by developer seed companies and regulatory authorities and this is unacceptable since we are dealing with an irreversible technology.”

“Rats which were GM-fed had diarrhoea, had higher water consumption, suffered from decrease in liver weight as well as decrease in the relative liver to body weight ratio. Feed intake was modified in broiler chickens with glucose in some instances. Average feed conversion and efficiency ratios are changed in GM-fed fish. All that makes a very coherent picture of Bt brinjal to be potentially unsafe for human consumption. It will be also potentially unsafe to eat animals who have these problems. These differences are most often not reported in the summaries of different experiments, but are present in the raw data,”the study added.

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British National Health Service tells school children “an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away”

British National Health Service tells school children of their ‘right’ to ‘an orgasm a day’

NHS guidance is advising school pupils that they have a “right” to an enjoyable sex life and that regular sex can be good for their cardiovascular health.

Telegraph | Jul 12, 2009

By Roya Nikkhah

The advice appears in leaflets circulated to parents, teachers and youth workers and is meant to update sex education by telling students about the benefits of enjoyable sex.

The authors of the guidance say that for too long, experts have concentrated on the need for “safe sex” and committed relationships while ignoring the principle reason that many people have sex.

Entitled Pleasure, the leaflet has been drawn up by NHS Sheffield, but it also being circulated outside the city.

The leaflet carries the slogan “an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away”. It also says: “Health promotion experts advocate five portions of fruit and veg a day and 30 minutes’ physical activity three times a week. What about sex or masturbation twice a week?”

Steve Slack, the director of the Centre for HIV and Sexual Health at NHS Sheffield, who is one of the leaflet’s authors, says that instead of promoting teenage sex, it could encourage young people to delay losing their virginity until they are certain they will enjoy the experience.

Mr Slack believes that if teenagers are fully informed about sex and are making their decisions of their own will in a loving relationship, they have an equal right as an adult to an enjoyable sex life.

Anthony Seldon, the headmaster of Wellington College, which recently introduced classes in emotional wellbeing, said the leaflets were “deplorable”.

Divorcing couples face compulsory ‘cooling off’ period under Tory government

Couples would be forced to undergo a compulsory three month “cooling off” period before being allowed to divorce, under a radical overhaul of family law proposed by an influential Conservative think tank.

Telegraph | Jul 11, 2009

By Melissa Kite, Deputy Political Editor

Couples would be required by law to “reflect” on their marriage and explore the possibility of reconciliation, under plans put forward by Iain Duncan Smith’s Centre for Social Justice.

In a key report being studied by David Cameron, the group also proposes more rights for people to keep the assets they owned before they were married if they later got divorced.

The report said such a move would end one of the major deterrents to people getting married today.

New rights for cohabiting couples, proposed by the equality minister Harriet Harman would be scrapped.

Divorce in England and Wales is currently granted on the basis of the irretrievable breakdown of marriage, on one of five so-called “grounds” – adultery; unreasonable behaviour; desertion; two years’ separation with consent; or five years’ separation without consent.

The new proposals are for a three-month delay before divorce proceedings could begin.

The proposals form part of a major new report called Every Family Matters which aims to bolster family life with new legal measures.

The CSJ is Mr Cameron’s favourite think tank and he has adopted many of its ideas. A previous report calling for tax breaks for married couples two years ago became official Tory policy.

Mr Cameron has repeatedly said he wants an incoming Tory government to restore the status of marriage in the tax system, despite misgivings expressed by senior figures such as Kenneth Clarke.

The latest report includes a YouGov poll which found that 85% of people support the call for married tax breaks while 57% believe the law should promote marriage.

It calls for a major review of family law to be conducted by an independent commission as part of a “concerted effort to stabilise and support relationships within our society.”

A system of state-sponsored relationship counselling is proposed which is based on a scheme in Australia where struggling couples attend Family Relationship Centres.

The proposed British version would be called “family relationship hubs” and couples would be required to attend them by law if they wanted to divorce.

In addition, all couples preparing to marry would be “strongly encouraged” to attend the hubs, although the report stops short of making this compulsory.

It also calls for an overhaul of the law on how assets are divided when couples divorce to better reflect “marital sacrifices”.

Assets would be categorised into “marital assets”, which would be divided equally, and “non-marital assets”, which would stay with the spouse who owned them before.

The court would have the power to make different orders if there was “significant injustice” but otherwise there would be an end to the wide discretion currently allowing judges to carve up wealth.

Recent divorce settlements have heightened concern over the issue, with millions of pounds being awarded to spouses after only a short period of marriage.

Proposals by Labour for cohabiting couples to be given legal rights allowing partners to claim a share of property and income when the relationship breaks down would be reversed in favour of an approach favouring marriage in law.

Ms Harman says cohabiting rights are necessary to safeguard the welfare of children.

But Mr Duncan Smith said: “Instead of giving cohabitees similar legal rights as married couples, which would only undermine marriage, we have to do more to warn people that they can only secure the legal protection of marriage by getting married.

“The cooling off period and the requirement for estranged couples to receive information about the implications of divorce will help to save some worthwhile marriages.”

The report, authored by David Hodson of The International Family Law Group, concludes that whilst there has been a dramatic increase in cohabitation, “this must not obscure the fact that in twenty-first century Britain marriage is still the most common form of partnership for men and women.”

It points out that in 2001 there were more than 11.6 million married couple families in the UK, compared with around 2.2 million cohabiting couple families.

The Office for National Statistics states that the traditional family structure of a married mother and father with a child or children remains the most common family type. More than 8 million, or 64% of dependent children lived with married parents in the UK in 2008.

This compares to 13% living with cohabiting couples and 22% with lone mothers.

Gun sales soar amid fears of Barack Obama weapons ban

President Barack Obama may never have fired a gun but he is turning out to be one of the best firearms salesmen in American history.

Telegraph | Jul 11, 2009

By Toby Harnden in Memphis

obama_snob“I’ve sold probably four times as much in the last six months as I have in 20 years combined,” said Cliff Hunter, owner of Tommy Bronson Sporting Goods in Memphis. “Hand guns and the tactical weapons, they’re absolutely off the charts.”

Most of his gun sales used to be for hunting, or personal protection in a city riddled with crime. But just before the November election, anxiety that Mr Obama would win and enact a radical programme of curtailing gun rights began drove business right up.

“Obama’s a liberal socialist and I think he’s proven quickly how extreme he is,” he said. “When they get through healthcare, guns are on the table. They’re not talking about it but it’s going to happen.”

The FBI recorded a 49 per cent rise in gun background checks during election week compared to the same week a year earlier.

“Sales have been up 50, 60 per cent sinces Osama got elected,” said Jay Hill, owner of the Classic Firearms gun store in Cordova, just outside Memphis, smiling as he deliberately mixed up the name of the US president with the leader of al-Qaeda.

“He speaks with a forked tongue. I don’t trust him a bit.”

Crime would always mean there was a demand for gun, especially in a state like Tennessee which is in the South and where permits to carry a concealed weapon are available.

This week, a travelling jewellery salesman who was ambushed by four men, at least two of them armed, pulled out his pistol and shot two of them. The other two would-be robbers fled as the wounded men lay moaning on the ground.

“Bingo,” said Mr Hill. “They’re in critical condition in hospital last time I heard. He had a hand gun and a legal carry permit, so he’s back at home having dinner with the kids. Mark one up for the good guy.”

While Mr Hill does not believe an outright ban would be attempted, he suspects that a “backdoor” attempt to limit gun ownership might be on the cards.

“What they want to do is limit the amount of handguns you can buy, assault rifles, things like that. The constitution doesn’t say you have the right to keep and bear ammunition. A car’s no good without gasoline so one way you can get to banning or controlling guns is by attacking the ammo.”

Sales of high-end collectible rifles, which cost several thousand dollars, have fallen as the recession has deepened. But the value of military-style rifles such as the AR-15, a variant of the AK-47, had increased by at least 25 per cent.

This has made modern rifles a potentially lucrative investment. Some people are banking on Mr Obama introducing gun control legislation, a move that would lead to a hefty profit as demand soared and people scrambled to beat a ban on purchases.

A week before the election, Mr Hunter bought about 20 Sig .556 calibre rifles. “I’d probably sold six or eight of those in 20 years. I placed one call to an investment firm here in Memphis and within 45 minutes every one had been pre-sold.

“People are afraid they won’t be able to get them in the future. Everybody’s guessing what they [the Obama administration] are going to do. People are stockpiling ammunition. We’re just starting to see more inventory on that but ammo is not slowing down.” Americans, he said, would not allow their Second Amendment right to bear arms to be taken away from them.

“The country’s divided but this is something that’s dear to a true American’s heart. It goes way back to the cowboy days when a gun was a man’s most prized possession.”

Jason Hart, 31, who was buying ammunition from Mr Hill’s store, said: “I was raised not to have a gun. My mum told me to stay away from them. But we get four or five murders a day here in Memphis.

“Everybody else has guns, especially since Obama came in and people got afraid and started buying. I’ve been in a lot of situations where I was able to fight my way out because I’m a martial artist. But everybody has a gun I didn’t want to be the only one without one.”

Climate change: The sun and the oceans do not lie

sunshine_warming

The sun controls our climate Photo: AP

Even a compromised agreement to reduce emissions could devastate the economy – and all for a theory shot full of holes, says Christopher Booker.

Telegraph | Jul 11, 2009

By Christopher Booker

The moves now being made by the world’s political establishment to lock us into December’s Copenhagen treaty to halt global warming are as alarming as anything that has happened in our lifetimes. Last week in Italy, the various branches of our emerging world government, G8 and G20, agreed in principle that the world must by 2050 cut its CO2 emissions in half. Britain and the US are already committed to cutting their use of fossil fuels by more than 80 per cent. Short of an unimaginable technological revolution, this could only be achieved by closing down virtually all our economic activity: no electricity, no transport, no industry. All this is being egged on by a gigantic publicity machine, by the UN, by serried ranks of government-funded scientists, by cheerleaders such as Al Gore, last week comparing the fight against global warming to that against Hitler’s Nazis, and by politicians who have no idea what they are setting in train.

What makes this even odder is that the runaway warming predicted by their computer models simply isn’t happening. Last week one of the four official sources of temperature measurement, compiled from satellite data by the University of Huntsville, Alabama, showed that temperatures have now fallen to their average level since satellite data began 30 years ago.

Faced with a “consensus” view which looks increasingly implausible, a fast-growing body of reputable scientists from many countries has been coming up with a ”counter-consensus”, which holds that their fellow scientists have been looking in wholly the wrong direction to explain what is happening to the world’s climate. The two factors which most plausibly explain what temperatures are actually doing are fluctuations in the radiation of the sun and the related shifting of ocean currents.

Two episodes highlight the establishment’s alarm at the growing influence of this ”counter consensus”. In March, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has a key role in President Obama’s plans to curb CO2 emissions, asked one of its senior policy analysts, Alan Carlin, to report on the science used to justify its policy. His 90-page paper recommended that the EPA carry out an independent review of the science, because the CO2 theory was looking indefensible, while the “counter consensus” view – solar radiation and ocean currents – seemed to fit the data much better. Provoking a considerable stir, Carlin’s report was stopped dead, on the grounds that it was too late to raise objections to what was now the EPA’s official policy.

Meanwhile a remarkable drama has been unfolding in Australia, where the new Labor government has belatedly joined the “consensus” bandwagon by introducing a bill for an emissions-curbing “cap and trade” scheme, which would devastate Australia’s economy, it being 80 per cent dependent on coal. The bill still has to pass the Senate, which is so precisely divided that the decisive vote next month may be cast by an independent Senator, Stephen Fielding. So crucial is his vote that the climate change minister, Penny Wong, agreed to see him with his four advisers, all leading Australian scientists.

Fielding put to the minister three questions. How, since temperatures have been dropping, can CO2 be blamed for them rising? What, if CO2 was the cause of recent warming, was the cause of temperatures rising higher in the past? Why, since the official computer models have been proved wrong, should we rely on them for future projections?

The written answers produced by the minister’s own scientific advisers proved so woolly and full of elementary errors that Fielding’s team have now published a 50-page, fully-referenced “Due Diligence” paper tearing them apart. In light of the inadequacy of the Government’s reply, the Senator has announced that he will be voting against the bill.

The wider significance of this episode is that it is the first time a Western government has allowed itself to be drawn into debating the science behind the global warming scare with expert scientists representing the “counter consensus” – and the “consensus” lost hands down.

We still have a long way to go before that Copenhagen treaty is agreed in December, and with China, India and 128 other countries still demanding trillions of dollars as the price of their co-operation, the prospect of anything but a hopelessly fudged agreement looks slim. But even a compromise could inflict devastating damage on our own economic future – all for a theory now shot so full of holes that its supporters are having to suppress free speech to defend it.

Flying in the face of reason

Even now it is not widely appreciated that in 2003 the power to regulate air safety across the EU was taken over by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Several times I reported evidence that this new EU body in its shiny headquarters in Cologne would be too weak, incompetent and bureaucratic to do the job properly. Since then one of many problems reported to EASA has been a serious fault in the speed probes of some Airbus airliners, which can cause the automatic piloting system unexpectedly to shut down. EASA did nothing to ensure that the fault was corrected.

Last month, when Air France’s Airbus flight 447 plunged into the Atlantic, killing everyone on board, this fault was high on the list as a possible cause. So far, apart from hinting at ‘pilot error’, the authorities have come up with no explanation. But last week Air France pilots demonstrated in Paris, writing a letter to EASA and its French subordinate agency, protesting that ‘appropriate measures from either agency’, forcing the manufacturers to make the necessary changes, ‘would have helped prevent the sequence of events that led to the loss of control of the aircraft’. The real problem with handing over to the EU the power to govern Europe is simply that it doesn’t work.