Saturday, July 30, 2016

Slave labour

The Mandatory Work Activity required 120,000 people to work a 30-hour week unpaid to receive their £73 benefit. Nando's, Tesco, Morrisons, Asda, WH Smith, Poundstretcher, Cash Converters, Boots, DHL and Superdrug were among the 534 employers found to have been using the free labour of benefit claimants. Councils who participated included Essex, Whitby, Leicester, Scarborough, Fenland, Thurrock, Hartlepool and Rochford. The scheme was criticised by the Work and Pensions Select Committee when it was introduced in 2011 and was later scrapped by the government in 2015.

The Court of Appeal overturned the Department for Work and Pension's attempt to keep the names a secret at an estimated cost of tens of thousands of pounds in legal fees.

The Lesser Evil

Introducing the socialists (video)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Carl Sagan (video)

Altruism is best

Altruism has more of an evolutionary advantage than selfishness. Scientists say they have proved that doing good things for no personal gain can have an evolutionary advantage in the long run. Altruism is real and developed because it confers an evolutionary advantage that is ultimately greater than the benefits of selfishness, an international team of mathematicians claims to have proved.

Dr Tim Rogers, a co-author of a paper about the new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, said:
 “If you have two groups of people, one of whom was very altruistic and another group that was more selfish, it’s the altruistic, more social guys, who are better able to survive the bad winter or the drought…But if it’s always better to cheat, why doesn’t everybody cheat? The answer is it brings you bad luck, in a sense…altruistic behaviour is favoured by chance when the benefits of cheating are sufficiently small compared to a, how well the population would do without any cheats, and b, the typical size of random fluctuations in the population.”

The paper could have significant real-world implications.

“Our research suggests if society goes down a more selfish route, then it’s going to be less able to do well and survive the harsh realities of the world we live in,” Dr Rogers said. “Take the behaviour of the banks leading up to the [2008 financial] crisis … people were able to cash in on bad decisions before the big event that triggered the crash in the system.” The bankers were partly influenced by the desire to get annual bonuses. “That short-term thinking means they are not exposed yet to the random fluctuations that would drive the increase in altruism,” Dr Rogers said. He pointed to a suggestion that it might be better if bankers’ bonuses were delayed by a number of years and said this could “help even out that sense of taking really short-term, instantaneous gains” and promote more responsible behaviour.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

The Fungal Infection Threat

Prof Neil Gow, from the University of Aberdeen, said  "Most people know about mild fungal infections, but nobody's ever died from athlete's foot. However, a million people die a year from fungal infections”

Fungal infections kill more people than malaria or breast cancer but are not considered a priority. There are no vaccines and there is a "pressing need" for new treatments.

There are more than five million types of fungi, but only three major groups cause the majority of deaths in people:
 Aspergillus - which affects the lungs
Cryptococcus - which mainly attacks the brain
Candida - which infects mucosal membranes including in the mouth and genitals

A new strain of Candida auris  infection was first detected in 2009 in Japan, but has since been discovered across Asia and parts of south America. Public Health England said "Candida auris appears to be unlike other pathogenic yeast species in its propensity for transmission between hospital patients" and warned it was resistant to the first choice anti-fungal drugs, fluconazole, amphotericin B and caspofungin. U.S. public health officials are urging doctors and nurses to be on the lookout for the dangerous pathogen, which can be fatal in 30 percent to 60 percent of infected patients. Common yeast infections can be identified through conventional testing, but the specialized, molecular detection methods necessary for identifying C. auris are not available to all hospitals.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Facts on Migration

 Fact: In a survey of 15 European countries, the UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO) found that, for every 1 per cent increase in the country’s population caused by immigration, its GDP grew between 1.25 and 1.5 per cent.

Fact: The World Bank estimates that if immigrants increased the workforce of wealthy countries by 3 per cent, that would boost world GDP by $356 billion by 2025. Further, a meta-analysis of several independent mathematical models suggests that removing all barriers to immigration would increase world GDP by between 50 and 150 per cent.

Fact: Just 3.3 per cent of the world’s population are migrants, little more than in 1990. Even within the EU, where citizens are free to live wherever they want, only 2.8 per cent reside outside their own country. “The idea that, without border controls, everyone moves is contradicted by the evidence,” says Phillippe Legrain of the London School of Economics. “Sweden is 6 times richer than Romania and, despite free movement within the EU being permissible, Romania is not depopulated.”

Fact: According to the ILO, low skilled migrants do “dirty, dangerous and difficult jobs, which locals do not want – crop picking, care work, cleaning.” Meanwhile highly skilled migrants fill chronic labour shortages in healthcare, education and IT. Nearly a third of UK doctors and 13 per cent of nurses are foreign born. The NHS would collapse without immigrants. What of the strain “they” put on services? Not borne out by evidence. Immigrants go where there are jobs, not benefits.

Fact: The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, which represents 34 of the world’s richest nations, calculates that its immigrants on average pay as much in taxes as they take in benefits. Research suggests that EU workers in the UK take less in benefits than native Brits do. Based on recent numbers, Britain should conservatively expect 140,000 net immigrants a year for the next 50 years.

Fact: The Office for Budget Responsibility, the UK’s fiscal watchdog, calculates that if that number doubled, it would cut UK government debt by almost a third while stopping immigration would increase our debt by almost 50 per cent.

Fact: Immigrants largely aren’t to blame for housing and school place shortages. These are just as much a direct result of government cuts, underinvestment and austerity. The global economic crash wasn’t caused by immigrants, either.

Ignorant of history

At its height in 1922, the British empire governed a fifth of the world's population and a quarter of the world's total land area. A YouGov poll has found 44 per cent were proud of Britain's history of colonialism. 43 per cent believed the British Empire was a good thing.

1. Boer concentration camps
During the Second Boer War (1899-1902), the British rounded up around a sixth of the Boer population - mainly women and children - and detained them in camps, which were overcrowded and prone to outbreaks of disease, with scant food rations. Of the 107,000 people interned in the camps, 27,927 Boers died, along with an unknown number of black Africans.

2. Amritsar massacre
When peaceful protesters defied a government order and demonstrated against British colonial rule in Amritsar, India, on 13 April 1919, they were blocked inside the walled Jallianwala Gardens and fired upon by Gurkha soldiers.  The soldiers, under the orders of Brigadier Reginald Dyer, kept firing until they ran out of ammunition, killing between 379 and 1,000 protesters and injuring another 1,100 within 10 minutes.  Brigadier Dyer was later lauded a hero by the British public, who raised £26,000 for him as a thank you.

3. Partitioning of India
In 1947, Cyril Radcliffe was tasked with drawing the border between India and the newly created state of Pakistan over the course of a single lunch. After Cyril Radcliffe split the subcontinent along religious lines, uprooting over 10 million people, Hindus in Pakistan and Muslims in India were forced to escape their homes as the situation quickly descended into violence. Some estimates suggest up to one million people lost their lives in sectarian killings.

4. Mau Mau Uprising
Thousands of elderly Kenyans, who claim British colonial forces mistreated, raped and tortured them during the Mau Mau Uprising (1951-1960), have launched a £200m damages claim against the UK Government. Members of the Kikuyu tribe were detained in camps, since described as "Britain's gulags" or concentration camps, where they allege they were systematically tortured and suffered serious sexual assault. Estimates of the deaths vary widely: historian David Anderson estimates there were 20,000, whereas Caroline Elkins believes up to 100,000 could have died.

5. Famines in India
Between 12 and 29 million Indians died of starvation while it was under the control of the British Empire, as millions of tons of wheat were exported to Britain as famine raged in India. In 1943, up to four million Bengalis starved to death when Winston Churchill diverted food to British soldiers and countries such as Greece while a deadly famine swept through Bengal. Talking about the Bengal famine in 1943, Churchill said: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion. The famine was their own fault for breeding like rabbits.”