Posts Tagged ‘ Comment ’

What is the new exercise science fit for?

May 28, 2012

Rebecca Romero Powerade advert, 2008

Exercise science has come a long way, today we have all kinds of gadgets to help us stay on target with our exercise.
We’ve got a treadmill, stationary bicycles, elliptical machines, programmed weight lifting stations, the list goes on
and on.  The industry is a lot smarter than it was a couple years ago and the idea now is to prevent injuries in order to continue training on a more regular basis.  As America is entrenched in this war of obesity, there is no shortage of people looking for resources or help in trying to lose unwanted weight that they have accumulated over the years.  The key here is education, individuals who are wanting to lose weight need to understand their condition and how to properly plan a proper exercise and diet program.  Now many of us out there will require the assistance of a gym buddy,doctor, nutritionist, or anyone with the proper background to help assist you in the quest of losing weight.  There are also many of us out there, that like the idea of tackling our weight problem without the help of anyone.  Although I do not recommend this approach, if you choose to venture out and cool about an exercise program to lose weight, please use the necessary resources at the library, bookstore, and Internet.

That’s my comment, pass it on
Dr. Anthony

Powered by article titled “What is the new exercise science fit for?” was written by Matt Seaton, for on Sunday 13th May 2012 17.43 UTC

When I go to log in to the website managed by the maker of my sports watch, I get a vivid sense of how many people are doing the same thing. A counter – like the one that shows the rising national debt – displays a torrent of tumbling figures as people with the same brand of sports watch as mine clock up miles of running or biking. The total stands at 1.85bn miles – or, as the site helpfully informs me, not quite 4,000 trips to the moon and back. Given all the times I’ve gone running or cycling and forgotten to start my watch and log the workout, I reckon we could claim that 4,000.

But it’s not the miles that mean anything; mere miles are dumb. All those people with such sports watchs are also keeping track of their GPS-located routes, their pace and time, their calorie-burn, their heart-rate telemetry, and so on. A good proportion of those people could also give you decent working definitions of interval training, lactic threshold, the ATP system, VO2max and so on. A few years ago, these concepts belonged to an obscure priesthood of people with PhDs in human physiology. Nowadays, it’s the lingua franca of the fitness coaching page in one of the recreational running or cycling magazine or any of the glossy health and fitness titles that promise “awesome abs” in five minutes a day.

Thanks to an information revolution over the past decade, a formerly arcane, laboratory-based field of human knowledge has passed into the realm of popular science. We are all exercise physiologists now.

I’ve watched this happen in several ways. In the mainstream media, blogs and columns have started up, which rely on culling titbits from academic research journals, translating and interpreting their findings for a lay reader. Among my bookmarks, for instance, are the excellent SweatScience and the New York Times’s Phys Ed blog. Judging by how often the latter’s articles ended up on the NYT’s “most emailed” list, I’m not on my own.

One of my favourite examples of this breakthrough in the mass dissemination of specialist knowledge was the now famous 2009 paper presented at the American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting that found that chocolate milk is better at promoting athletic performance than pricey, purpose-made energy drinks. Not that this message seems to have quenched the marketing success of “scientifically” designed sports nutrition drinks.

At the serious end of the fitness fiend market, it’s become routine for ambitious triathletes, runners and cyclists to subscribe to the services of a coach, either in person or via online correspondence. Training goals are set, workouts meticulously recorded, and performance monitored.

The technology enabling the analysis of all these individual workouts is constantly evolving: the GPS-enabled sports watches get cheaper, apps for smart phones mimic what they do, “democratising” the data-collection still further. Devices like power-meters, which precisely measure a cyclist’s output in watts, were just a few years ago the preserve of professional athletes; now, they’re commonplace among weekend warriors.

And finally, as a consequence of the boom in public demand for knowledge of athletic potential and performance, the hard science itself has become a sexy field. Suddenly, it is awash with research grants for all kinds of niche projects – about, say, how exactly your muscle cell mitochondria react when saturated with hydrogen ions – in order to feed the burgeoning academic journal publishing business, which in turn provides fodder for the popular blogs and newspaper columns.

For example, if, five or six years ago, you had wanted a VO2max test (the gold standard of aerobic fitness attainment, which measures how much oxygen your cardiovascular system can transport and use in a given time), you would have to pay a laboratory a three-figure fee to endure a horrible “ramp” test, aka “test to exhaustion”, to get that number. Nowadays, it’s common for researchers to advertise on cyclists’ and runners’ forums, seeking guinea pigs to hook up in their labs with electrodes.

Human subjects, of course, are not necessary for all studies. Consequently, there are also a lot of very fit rodents in labs these days – which gives a new, literal meaning to the expression “gym rats”. I guess, from a mouse’s point of view, a life on a treadmill beats cancer research.

Animal welfare concerns aside, though, what could possibly be wrong with extending the breadth and depth of human knowledge? It may not be opera or poetry, but it’s useful, valuable even. Especially where health and fitness are concerned, is it not simply an unqualified good that more people know more exercise science?

Yes, and no. In practical terms, I would want to ask who, for instance, is getting the most value from this boom in sports science? Are its benefits evenly distributed? But there is a philosophical dimension also. As with any epistemological event, we should look behind the claims to the value-neutrality of pure science, and examine the ideology implicit in the “new knowledge”. In this case: the proposition that there is an unlimited potential of athletic performance that can be realised with the correct scientific tools has at its kernel the idea of human perfectibility.

The quest for the body beautiful has many noble aspects: an Apollonian dream that can claim a heritage from Plato, through the Renaissance, to the Enlightenment and Modernism. But its fantasy of humanity’s godlike self-actualisation also brought us, variously, racial “science” and eugenics, Leni Riefenstahl’s ode to Hitler’s Olympics, Ayn Rand’s Nietzschean elite and so on.

Do I seriously see the spectre of fascism in contemporary exercise science? No, that would be ahistorical: eugenics-based racial “science” was specifically the nightmare flip side of the mid-20th century’s fantasy of human perfectibility.

Every age gets the science it deserves, in the sense that its scientific interests and knowledge reflect the larger preoccupations, ideological themes and social conflicts of a given epoch. Twenty-first century western society is characterised by a growing gap between rich and poor, with power distributed ever more oligarchically by the market’s “invisible hand”, to the detriment of increasingly dysfunctional and hollow institutions of formal democracy. Since that is the larger context for the new sports science, which is our version of the perfectability trope, what we risk is a dichotomy between the super-fit 1% and the morbidly unhealthy 99%.

On one side of exercise science’s epistemological divide, a fabulously toned elite is getting a perfect balance of carbs, protein and minerals, washed down with potassium-rich “natural” coconut milk in cartons that cost about the same as the hourly minimum wage, which fuels a daily personal trainer-coached session of high-intensity interval training. At 60 plus, the members of this exercise elite still have the body that 99% of the population stopped seeing in the mirror in their teens. Existential reality for the latter is survival against a backdrop of declining real income, indebtedness, time-crunched family life, and heavily marketed, mass-produced instant gratification dietary options.

For the majority of people, better health would be worth having; fitness is a luxury few can afford. To her credit, Phys Ed columnist Gretchen Reynolds implicitly recognises the problematic of privilege and inequality in her new book, with a self-explanatory title that is getting a great deal of play: The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smart, Live Longer. The attempted populism of her message is that the science tells us that you only need to get up off the couch and walk around for 20 minutes to be healthy; you don’t need to work our harder than that to get most of the benefits of exercise. It’s an admirable impulse, but will it by itself bridge the gap between society’s skinny perfectionists and the broad mass of people?

The new sports science is not to blame for our society’s inequalities of health and fitness, but it is a register of them, however we prefer to see our science as value-free and neutral. The dream of human perfectibility always has a strong and unattractive strand of self-congratulation. It is marvelous to be a perfect specimen of scientific fitness; in many ways, it is its own reward. But it is also good to recognise the inherent risk in those swelling feelings of superiority and bear in mind that inquiring into the conditions that produce society’s fitness-“havenots” may be more useful application of knowledge. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Migraines: they are all in the head

May 20, 2012

migraine woman

Migraines are a serious headaches for many people who are afflicted with this disorder. When a diagnosis of migraine has been established, then begins the taunting task of finding the proper management to lessem the severity and frequency of headaches. For some individuals, they are able to link the headaches to environmental factors and others can find certain foods that exacerbate symptoms. In other cases, the culprit behind the migraine eludes doctors and reseachers.  If you suffer from frequent headaches or know of someone that does, please talk to your physician about them.

That’s my comment…pass it on..

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “Migraines: they are all in the head” was written by Eva Wiseman, for The Observer on Saturday 19th May 2012 23.05 UTC

The first time it happened I was in bed with a book, aged maybe 10. And I remember going over the same line again and again, with rising levels of panic, as I realised I had forgotten how to read. I didn’t think it was something you could just forget. Something that, having picked up, you could then one day drop again. I see now it was my first migraine.

Today migraines are in the news and they’re in my head, tightening around my crown like an alice band. The NHS is considering offering Botox to patients with chronic migraines. They don’t know quite how it helps, but they’ve decided it does. The blocking of muscle contraction, which is what the botulinum toxin does to those stunning their wrinkles, hasn’t been proved to relieve headaches, but two clinical trials did conclude that it led to a 10% reduction in the number of patients’ headachey days. In addition, I imagine, to a laboratory paved with clingfilmed foreheads.

I’m writing now through day four of this month’s headache, one that began (as do many) with a flickering blind spot in the centre of my vision. It starts small, a spinning black penny in the middle of a page. I slump in my seat as it spreads darkly over my sight like jam, and I can’t see, or think, or entirely understand speech. It’s the film melting in my projector – it’s a bit like falling. Smells slay me. Noise, fine, but smells – Angel perfume in a lift, for instance, or that dirty spitting rain you get in cities, the kind that smells of apocalypse – will make me retch. And minutes later the headache comes.

The author Siri Hustvedt wrote about a migraine aura phenomenon called Alice in Wonderland syndrome – the migraineur feels parts of their body ballooning or shrinking. For me it’s often my hand. I’ll lie in bed and under my cheek it’ll swell to the size of a football, or a room, or shrink until it’s dust. These episodes when my reality wobbles are not entirely unpleasant.

I half-enjoy the days preceding a migraine when everything feels like déjà vu. When walking home, a series of sights – a smoking schoolgirl, a chained-up bike – are overwhelming in their impact. Everything I see reminds me of something else, but something just out of reach. It reminds me that it’s reminding me, but not what it’s reminding me of. In its un-graspableness, this feeling is similar to one of the factors that brings these migraines on – the reflections from the Regent’s Canal that play on the ceiling above my desk. Ripples of light lead to ripples in my reality, this warm tightness behind my eyes, a grim ache in my jaw.

The pain is sometimes awful, but more often it’s medicated and so simply… saddening. I take these lovely painkillers, so it’s rare I’ll feel the blinding sharpness. Rather than being slammed into a wall, it feels as if my head is stuck in a closing door. It’s the dull agony of a deadline looming, of a nagging phobia, of going up in a lift as your vertigo builds. But I miss stuff. Parties, dinners, often meanings – I’ll be interviewing somebody in a brightly lit room and will find myself two thoughts behind, my eyes scrunched in concentration, praising Olympus for the reliability of its dictaphones.

I realise, though, that it’s these vibrations on the drum skin of my life that make me me. I see the world through a smoky, migrainous filter. And like somebody teetering on the edge of a depressive episode, not yet fallen, I’m able to stand outside it and look around, curiously. Medicating with Botox seems like an apt metaphor – in ironing out the migraineur’s wrinkles, the doctor smooths their reality. No more hands the size of houses. No more fainting as an effect of sunlight spearing through dark trees. So I’ve learned to embrace this gentle madness. In succumbing to a migraine, I get to test what’s real. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Time’s breastfeeding cover is pure front

May 12, 2012

Time magazine's 'Are You Mom Enough?' breastfeeding cover

A very controversial Time magazine cover .breastfeeding…this is the kind of thing the news media needs to put out in order to maintain sales and profit. So are you really that shocked that for the right price anyone will pose in front of a camera simply for the attention and money? Most of us would probably do the same for the right price…

That’s my comment…pass it on..

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “Time’s breastfeeding cover is pure front” was written by Victoria Bekiempis, for on Friday 11th May 2012 20.19 UTC

When the Time magazine cover for a story on attachment parenting “Are You Mom Enough?” hit the web this week, the reaction ran the full range from troll-friendly to thoughtful. It’s not difficult to see why this headline and design drew so much heat: without even wading into “mommy wars”, compounding Americans’ puritanical discomfort with the body is a cultural taboo over breast-feeding. Recall, for example, the negative reaction to mother mag Babytalk’s breastfeeding cover: 25% of readers polled thought the pic was inappropriate, with some women even calling the image “gross” and shredding the edition.

What also makes for the perfect storm of sales-driving sensationalism: the child in question is three years old and has a model-looking mother, whom some news outlets have inevitably referred to as a “Milf” (from American Pie: “Mom I Would Like to F…”).

Friday, the issue is set to hit newsstands nationwide. While the edition is likely to remain controversial for the obvious issues – that late-stage breastfeeding is/isn’t weird; that child will/will not grow up well-adjusted; and (sadly) that mom pictured is/isn’t hot – the cover is not problematic because it’s polemic. Rather, the way it is presented distracts us from having a meaningful discussion of motherhood and sexuality, which is a discussion we need to have.

We get so caught up in the “weirdness” of the situation that we don’t really address the bigger issue: uneasy Americans flip out whether Mamma Madonna is a goddess or a bitch, and will criticize her if she’s sexed up or completely desexualized. 

Some evidence? Let’s start with Annie Leibovitz-shot Demi Moore Vanity Fair cover. As described by the Los Angeles Times, “It was the photo that spawned all manner of celebrity mom to bare all along with their bellies, among them Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera,” but “at the time, some retailers were so taken aback by the shot that they sold the issue in a brown paper bag as if it were an adult title like Playboy.” Moore said she felt it gave women “permission to feel sexy, attractive when you’re pregnant.” 

But the preg-celeb photo shoots that have followed over the past 20 years, such as the Jessica Simpson’s Elle spread of late, suggest that women still don’t have the permission to celebrate pregnancy or motherhood without charges of indecency.  

Reactions to the frilly lingerie for lactating mothers, as detailed in a New York Times’ article “Nursing Bras That Show Mothers in More than Work Mode” also support this.

There were women who felt that the traditional “matronly” models were sufficient and practical; that the post-partum period was no time to worry about unmentionables’ unattractiveness. There were women who felt bogged down by the demands of motherhood, who wanted to boost their self-esteem with nursing bras and matching thongs. And then, there were women who felt that being a mother in a simple, lingerie-free way was given a bad rap; that they should be thought of as sexual beings even if they’re wearing a white or flesh-toned bra – in the words of one garment maker said: “I love being a mother, but lingerie is not for a mother … It’s for a woman.” As Koa Beck wrote on Mommyish:

“Apparently being a mother is not the same as being woman on the pure basis of undergarment choice. If you’re not wearing a lacy push up bra or matching lingerie set, you’re not a woman to the heads of these bra companies. And motherhood and a fancy balconette bra are just not compatible.”

Adding to the confusion, of course, are the sexless shrew tropes we constantly see on network sitcoms, which send the message that moms are moody but never in the mood, à la Everybody Loves Raymond. Also among the countless, confounding examples in pop culture are the young women of Teen Mom, who sometimes seem more concerned with plastic surgery than their kids. 

The portrayal and perception of motherhood in America is messy, to say the least. Deconstructed, here’s how Time relates to all of this: the cover feels inappropriate not just because of its shock value; instead, the imagery fosters the attitude that breastfeeding is freakish per se, and it then links this notion to society’s complicated, contradictory prescriptions about mothers’ sexuality. 

Some might counter that despite the overt opportunism, this is a liberating, challenging portrayal of breastfeeding. After all, the line of reasoning goes, isn’t the young mother on the cover challenging stereotypes by proudly, publicly defending her choice to breastfeed – while simultaneously embodying a strongly sexual being?

That does not seem to be at play here, though. The Time photo shoot doesn’t set out to challenge taboos so much as exploit them: because it is such an extreme, link-baity example, it prompts a gut reaction based upon what we already believe about appropriate ages for breastfeeding.

Because the “weirdness” element is foregrounded to the exclusion of any other considerations, the Time cover precludes a necessary public debate about the underlying theme: that mothers – be they foxy or frumpy or somewhere in between – should be free to express their sexuality as they so choose, without feeling pressured by shame or constraining stereotypes. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Fat is a prejudice issue

May 4, 2012

Are you fat! It’s a shame that our societies treat people that are over-weight with such disrespect.  This attitude to alienate individuals who are obese continues to linger despite  organizations attempt to educate the ignorant. Isn’t it time we bury discrimination in sand?

thats my comment …pass it on,

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “Fat is a prejudice issue” was written by Susie Orbach, for on Thursday 3rd May 2012 14.10 UTC

A new study shows significant levels of discrimination towards fat people at work. No surprise, perhaps, when we live in a fat-phobic world. Today fat has become not a description of size but a moral category tainted with criticism and contempt.

Fat shaming is a new and vicious sport. Fat youngsters in Georgia have their photos pasted on billboards like mug shots. Children and their parents are being shamed for looking different than the thousands of Photoshopped pictures we see weekly on our screens, phone, computers, laptops and magazines. No wonder society has a thing about fat. Fat people are so rarely included in visual culture that fat is perceived as a blot on the landscape of sleek and slim.

Today our idea of fat is imbued with disease, indulgence, poverty, disregard for personal dignity and sloppiness. In recent characterisations, fat is a signal of determined self-abuse and the cause of preventable diseases such as cancer, heart attacks and strokes.

But is it true? Part of what drives this prejudice is a denial of the evidence that demonstrates that it is not fat per se that is a health problem. Indeed, a 2005 study led by Katherine Flegal of the Centres for Disease Control in the US found that people in the “overweight” category of 25-30 BMI (where Brad Pitt and George Clooney sit) demonstrate a lower death rate than their peers who are of “normal” weight.

Thin isn’t good and fat bad. Stable weight, for example, causes far less stress to the heart than going up and down the scales in weight. Thin people with health issues don’t get demonised for their size. Thank goodness. But then neither should fat people.

When it comes to looking for a job, there is, as this study shows, serious discrimination. Our idea of a healthy body is so destabilised that insecure people have come to bolster their own bodies by deeming others – those with fat bodies – less worthy, less capable and less employable.

Fat people are regarded as less successful at restraint. The paradox of consumer culture is that we should and must consume – our economy depends on it – but we should at the same time do so discreetly and expensively. Fat challenges this idea. Fat dares to show. Fat is disdained because it is read as greed and an inability to choose or say no.

Of course fat doesn’t really say or imply such things, but surrounded by images of perfected bodies, invitingly displaying the hugely expensive and lavishly marketed goodies that we are roused to desire, fat becomes the vehicle on to which we project all the ugly aspects of our over-consumption and hunger for objects. Consumer society tantalises us. We then try within ourselves to control the needs that are being constantly stimulated. We value holding back and then assign to fat people the contempt we can feel for our own longings. It’s not unlike other forms of discrimination. Things we don’t like or discipline in ourselves we choose to see in others, and in another group. In this case, people who have nothing in common except for their size.

Fat looks on the surface as though it is about a failure of restraint. It isn’t actually any more an issue of restraint than it is for many thin or medium-sized people. Most eating problems don’t show. Fat, which may or may not mean an eating problem, does. That doesn’t make it immoral or contemptible. It doesn’t mean the fat individual has faulty judgment or inferior leadership skills. It certainly doesn’t sanction discrimination. What it does demonstrate is that cruelty and stupidity arises when we are pressed to make our bodies into uniform shapes. This creates widespread body anxiety, and makes us search for a scapegoat to feel secure. We know from other forms of discrimination what a fruitless and lousy deal that is. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Why plain packaging will not stop youths smoking

February 18, 2012

Cigarettes on display at an English tobacconists.

Kids want to cool and smoking allows them to go against society rules…I like to call be the James Dean Syndrome . When there’s an opportunity to break the rules and get away with it…this is a source of excitement for youths. So the consequences of their actions does not come into play at the moment, unless they are caught and may aware of their lack of judgement. So as parents we must keep an ever-lasting watch on them.

That’s my comment…pass it on,

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “Why plain packaging will not stop youths smoking” was written by Richard White, for The Guardian on Tuesday 20th September 2011 15.00 UTC

Australia’s health minister Nicola Roxon is aiming for the country to be the first to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes. In what she calls a “courageous” move against the tobacco industry, legislation is expected to come into force on 1 July 2012 that will make all packets a uniform olive green with the name of the brand in small type. The World Medical Association has called on other governments to follow Australia’s example.

Here in the UK, health secretary Andrew Lansley says he wants to look at the idea of introducing plain packaging so that brightly-coloured cigarette packets do not lure youths into smoking. The coalition government will launch an official consultation by the end of the year to discuss introducing plain packaging in England as part of its tobacco control plan. It is unlikely to happen soon, however, as ministers and the Department of Health have stated that they want to judge the effectiveness of the measure in Australia before making a firm decision.

The immediate rhetoric in favour of plain packaging is the protection of children: that by having dull, plain packages, minors, and indeed non-smokers, will not be tempted to buy a packet on impulse, having been enticed by the shiny packet. The measure is an extension of the ban on tobacco companies advertising their products.

No evidence exists, however, to suggest that anyone “impulsively” buys cigarettes, nor is there evidence that the policy would make any difference to smoking rates as no country has yet implemented it. Just as a teetotaller would not be persuaded to take up drinking just because WKD is colourful, there is nothing to suggest that non-smokers start smoking because the packet has fancy emblems. In fact, with large text warnings on the front and graphic pictures on the back taking up a large portion of the packaging, there is little left of the manufacturers’ own designs.

A display ban in England has already been agreed on, which will come into effect from next year for large stores and 2015 for smaller shops such as newsagents, and if tobacco is being hidden then no one, child or adult, will be able to see the packets whether they are plain or decorated with flashing lights.

Behind the counter

We already have measures to stop children smoking. Cigarettes are always, without exception, kept behind the counter so neither child nor adult has any access to buying tobacco without the cashier physically handing it to them. Even if we accept the rationale that people impulsively want to smoke because the packet lures them in like fish to a worm on a hook, minors are still faced with the problem of needing to be in possession of identification proving they are over 18. Unlike alcohol, cigarettes cannot be pinched off the shelf and placed into a minor’s pocket as they hurry out the door and around the back to spark up.

Indeed, if anything, alcohol is a far bigger concern because children can simply pick up a bottle of spirits, place it in their rucksack and walk out. Within minutes, they could suffer alcohol poisoning which could lead to death. There are other dangerous things in a shop that minors can impulsively take, such as paracetamol, but tobacco is not one of them.

As for existing smokers, people still buy alcohol with plain labels so it is unlikely smokers will be deterred by plain packaging. Rather, we may just see an increase in cigarette cases, which would allow minors to be as creative as possible, thus potentially encouraging them to take up the habit.

The NHS Information Centre report, Statistics on Smoking: England, 2011 noted that last year over a quarter of children aged 11–15 had tried smoking while 5% confessed to being regular smokers.

Undoubtedly, plain packaging will fail in reducing youth smoking rates because counterfeit cigarettes are far cheaper and the criminals selling them will not require identification proving the buyer to be over 18 – rates might even increase.

The real danger lies in the smuggling trade. With cigarettes now the most widely smuggled legal product and about 85% of cheap cigarettes sold on London streets being counterfeit, introducing a policy that would only make it easier for criminal outfits to mimic a packet should be cause for grave concern.

• Richard White is the author of Smoke Screens: The Truth About Tobacco and writes about the latest policies on tobacco control. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Sugar: it’s time to get real and regulate

February 13, 2012

Brown Sugar Cubes

We all love it…sugar…with it we can make all sorts of delicious treats…cookies,cakes,frostings,pudding,candy,syrup for our pancakes,ice cream,and many other dishes and recipes right out of the pages of betty crocker…but after years of  spooning  sugar down our gullets, our bodies begin rejecting the very thing that has given us so much pleasure. Our inner metabolism begin experiencing adverse reactions from our sugar coated life styles. New cases of diabetes and diabetic related diseases are on the rise in every country.  Take charge of your health today and start cutting back on sugar and calories…live longer..stick to a plan…make the commitment..

That’s my comment…pass it on,

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “Sugar: it’s time to get real and regulate” was written by Jacqueline Windh, for on Monday 13th February 2012 16.30 UTC

Last week, a trio of American scientists led by Robert Lustig, professor of clinical paediatrics at the University of California, published an article in the journal Nature, outlining the toxic effects that sugar has on humans and arguing for governmental controls on its sale and distribution. While the authors come short of labelling sugar a “poison” outright, in a 2007 interview with ABC Radio about excess sugar consumption, Lustig said: “We’re being poisoned to death. That’s a very strong statement, but I think we can back it up with very clear scientific evidence.”

That evidence has been growing – particularly in the western world, where consumption of sugar is increasing rapidly. Globally, sugar consumption has tripled in the past 50 years. But, it turns out, the greatest threat to human health is one type of sugar in particular: fructose.

In the US, per-capita consumption of fructose, a common food additive there – mainly in the form of high-fructose corn syrup – has increased more than 100-fold since 1970. Although fructose is not a common added sweetener in the UK and other countries, sucrose is; sucrose contains 50% fructose. Lustig and his co-authors note that last year, the United Nations announced that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) had, for the first time, overtaken infectious diseases in terms of the global health burden. Non-communicable diseases now account for 63% of all deaths, and that total is expected to increase by a further 17% over the next decade.

The scientists cite growing evidence that our increasing consumption of sugar is partly responsible for the growth of NCDs: diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and the suite of symptoms known as metabolic syndrome. And they argue that, as for substances known to cause NCDs such as tobacco and alcohol, sales and distribution of sugar should be controlled, and products with added sugar should be taxed.

I used to be a sugar addict. And yes, for those who haven’t found out first-hand, sugar is addictive; perhaps not to the same degree as alcohol and tobacco, but a recent study has shown that sugary foods, or even just the expectation of eating sweets, can trick the brain into wanting more. When I decided to cut my sugar consumption 12 or so years ago, I had no idea of the serious health concerns that excess sugar consumption brings. I only wanted to avoid the so-called “empty calories” that sugar provides. I had noticed that eating cookies and desserts was making me feel lethargic.

Sugar, and in particular fructose, affects metabolism. Unlike glucose, fructose can only be metabolised in the liver. Some of its effects on the human body include increasing levels of uric acid, which raise blood pressure; increased fat deposition in the liver; and interference with the insulin receptor in the liver. This inhibits ability of the brain to detect the hormone leptin, which regulates appetite. So beyond the empty calories that fructose provides, eating it makes you want to eat more.

When I started reducing my sugar intake, I had no intention of cutting it out completely. Reducing my consumption was a gradual process, over many years. Sugar had been used as a reward when I was a child, and sweets were still a comfort food for me. But I found that the less of it I ate, the less I craved it. Today, I barely eat sweetened foods at all. If I were to eat what to most North Americans or Europeans is an “average” dessert serving, I would feel sick. Avoiding sugar is no longer an exercise in willpower; I have developed a revulsion for it. I feel that I have brought my body back to its original state. Sugar, in anything other than small quantities, feels like a poison to me.

Illnesses related to dietary choices do not affect only the individuals who become sick; they affect us all, as a society. The US alone spends $150bn on healthcare resources for illness related to metabolic syndrome. Of course, I would like to think that governmental regulation of a food-item such as sugar is not necessary. I do place value on an individual’s right to choose, and on personal responsibility. But in the case of sugar, it’s time to get real. The incidence of preventable diseases such as Type 2 diabetes is increasing and many health authorities have expressed concern that our current youth may be the first generation that does not live as long as their parents.

Most of us have known for some time that excess sugar is not good for us, but education and knowledge are clearly not enough. Regulation is required. This is no longer an issue of personal responsibility, but one of public expenditure and public health.

• Follow Comment is free on Twitter @commentisfree © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Why I’m off for some vitamin D – until the sun comes out

February 7, 2012


There’s has always been discussion on the pros and cons of vitamin supplementation in our diets. I see no harm in taking vitamin D and other supplements as long one stays within the normal dosage recommedated by physicians and FDA guidelines. Usually common sense dictates following the instructions listed on the bottle or physician’s orders. Never decide to begin ingesting supplements until your have discussed doing so with your family doctor first.  Vitamin D is an important vitamin from strong bones,growth, and for many chemical reactions that occur within our bodies. Moderation is the key to absorbing sufficient Vitamin D. As for sunshine….be careful not be burn ..wear sunscreen protection…

That’s my comment…pass it on…

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “Why I’m off for some vitamin D – until the sun comes out” was written by Ann Robinson, for on Thursday 26th January 2012 18.14 UTC

Vitamin D is in the news again, and while the experts squabble over it, I’m off to buy myself some supplements. The chief medical officer for England has told GPs like me to advise those at risk to take supplements. And since half the adult population of the UK is lacking vitamin D in the winter months and deficiency is being linked to a growing list of health problems, I can’t see a good reason not to take a small multivitamin a day – at least until the sun comes out. I’ll stick to the recommended daily amount as you can have too much of a good thing, even vitamins.

Vitamin D is essential for bone growth and health, and deficiency can cause rickets in the young and a condition called chondromalacia in adults. You wouldn’t think rickets still existed in the UK but it probably never went away and is increasingly recognised as a cause of fractures in susceptible children.

Recently two parents, Rohan Wray and Chana al-Alas, were accused of murdering their four-month-old baby who died two years ago from sudden infant death syndrome (Sids, also known as cot death). The baby, Jayden, was found to have multiple injuries and the parents were accused of shaking the baby to death. But pathologist Dr Irene Scheimberg, based at Royal London Hospital, found evidence of rickets in Jayden at postmortem and the judge directed the jury to acquit.

Since that tragic case, Scheimberg says she has discovered vitamin D deficiency in eight further cases of Sids and in 30 cases of children who have died of various causes and had postmortems. A colleague of hers, Dr Marta Cohen, working in Yorkshire has also found vitamin D deficiency in 18 out of 24 cases of Sids and in 45 babies under the age of one, who died of other causes. Both doctors are calling for further investigation into the implications of vitamin D deficiency and highlighting the need to be aware of rickets in cases of Sids, which can be mistaken for non-accidental injury.

This adds weight to those calling for widespread vitamin D supplementation in the UK. Advice from the chief medical officer for England, Sally Davies, was for at-risk groups – which includes pregnant and breastfeeding women, children aged six months to five years old, people aged 65 or over, people who are not exposed to much sun (the housebound, those who cover up their skin for cultural reasons and people who have darker skin, whose bodies are unable to produce vitamin D as easily) – to take vitamin D. But there have been calls to introduce supplements for all the population in Scotland, because of high levels of multiple sclerosis which may be linked to vitamin D deficiency. Ryan McLaughlin, 13, launched a campaign, Shine on Scotland, in response to his mother’s diagnosis of MS, while Professor George Ebers of the Nuffield department of clinical neurosciences at Oxford University believes the evidence is now good enough to justify dosing the entire population with vitamin D. Professor George Ebers of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences at Oxford University is quoted, saying that he believes the evidence is now good enough to justify dosing the entire population with vitamin D. Last month, his team published evidence of a link between MS and an inherited tendency that leads to vitamin D deficiency.

Scotland’s chief medical officer, however, Sir Harry Burns, says in the same article he thinks there needs to be “broader scientific consensus” before change is considered. He warns that dietary supplements can cause harm and that we need to wait for good randomised studies in large populations. He wants to wait for the conclusions of a review of the evidence by the UK government’s scientific advisory committee on nutrition in 2014.

But Ebers says that is too long. He reflects that there was evidence to support recommending folic acid supplementation for all pregnant women to prevent problems like spina bifida, many years before the public health authorities backed it.

Bruce Hollis, professor of paediatrics and biochemistry at the Medical University of South Carolina, agrees, insisting there’s no point waiting for a large randomised trial because it’s unlikely to ever happen. He says it would be hard to attract funding for an expensive, large scale trial as drug companies would be unlikely to make a profit on cheap vitamin supplements.

The best source of vitamin D is sunlight on the skin. Vitamin D is also found in a small number of foods (oily fish, eggs, cheese and meat) but it is difficult to get enough vitamin D from diet alone. In the UK, all margarines and infant formula milks are already fortified with vitamin D and it is also added, in small amounts, to other foods such as breakfast cereals, soya and some dairy products,. Breastfeeding mothers need adequate vitamin D levels of their own to ensure their babies get enough.

You can buy single vitamin D supplements at most pharmacies and supermarkets. Pregnant women who take vitamin D as part of a multivitamin should avoid supplements containing vitamin A (retinol), which can be harmful in pregnancy.

While the experts continue to debate, we may all be well advised to take a daily vitamin D supplement and expose our skin to whatever weak winter sunshine we can. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Can Kim Jong-un be North Korea’s Deng Xiaoping?

December 20, 2011

A North Korean child is overcome by grief at the death of Kim Jong Il

As the world waits…to see how North Korea’s Deng Xiaoping handles the his country after the passing of his father, South Korea hopes that there will be better opportunities for cooperation between the two Koreas. For now…a son has lost his father…no matter who you are…a very difficult time in the life of a young man.

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony     

Powered by article titled “Can Kim Jong-un be North Korea’s Deng Xiaoping?” was written by Isabel Hilton, for The Guardian on Monday 19th December 2011 22.30 UTC

There is little room for nuance in our view of North Korea. State television parades sobbing citizens and soldiers apparently convulsed with grief at the loss of Kim Jong-il. Western commentators dismiss these scenes as propaganda.

Much of this display is certainly ritual, enacted for the camera and for watching comrades and informers. To fail to grieve for the loss of the “dear leader” is a poor career move. But for some the emotions may be real enough: the regime has cultivated in the people an intense gratitude to the Kim family, from the hero-founder Kim Il-sung, whose centenary will be celebrated next year, to his grandson, Kim Jong-un.

Kim Il-sung died in 1994, a time of terrible famine when there was little to be grateful for in North Korea. But refugees interviewed by the American journalist Barbara Demick – men and women who escaped to the south – reported their own intense feelings of bereavement for a leader whom they had been taught to revere as the embodiment of North Korean resistance, nationalism and independence.

Viewed from Beijing, these displays are easier to read: the death of Mao Zedong, whose tyrannical gifts were more than equal to those of the Kim dynasty, sparked similar scenes in China. Like the North Koreans, Chinese had lived under a regime of intense ideological control with limited information about the outside world, and were taught to regard their leader as the embodiment of national resistance to foreign aggression. Mao has never been dethroned as the regime’s founding father, but as Beijing struggles to maintain its own internal stability, the question it asks of its troublesome neighbour is: will North Korea follow the Chinese path to reform?

In China Deng Xiaoping was waiting in the wings, a military and political veteran who triumphed over Mao by outliving him and doggedly undoing his legacy. North Koreans, instead, are expected to transfer their affections to a chubby 28 year-old who was catapulted to four-star general status in September last year. The customary chestful of medals will doubtless follow.

Kim Jong-il was nobody’s political naif, so we must assume that he judged his third son the best available choice. The fact remains that, beyond the cachet of his DNA, Kim Jong-un has no military or political heft. Whether he has any interest in reform is impossible to gauge; whether it would matter if he did seems unlikely – he will depend on the support of military and the party for his power, and any change of course would have to begin there.

Planning for this transition has been under way since Kim Jong-il’s stroke in 2008 with Beijing taking a close interest. China has muted its irritation at North Korea’s repeated provocations and stepped up economic and trade relations as a buffer against any derailment of the succession planning. For now, Beijing hopes it will go smoothly enough to avoid any disturbance in China’s three north-eastern border provinces.

The Chinese army has well-honed contingency plans to intervene in North Korea in the event of a breakdown, but hopes never to be forced to enact them, standing instead as Pyongyang’s guarantor of investment, and of food and energy supplies. Beijing has no desire to cope with a flood of refugees across its nearly 900 miles of border, or to risk the intervention from US-backed South Korea that a collapse in the north could provoke.

The Chinese press has increasingly questioned what China gets out of the relationship with North Korea. For now, though, China has little choice but to pay the bills, while nudging the regime towards the kind of transformational reforms that Deng Xiaoping launched after the death of Mao.

A leadership change offers the regime an opportunity to shape a new narrative, and China’s experience till now shows that economic reform need not threaten authoritarian power. To date, though, Pyongyang has shown only limited enthusiasm for the Chinese model. Without more radical reform, the already enormous economic gap between North Korea and its neighbours will only grow, and keep the country isolated and paranoid.

North Korean dependency on China is already stark: China provides 90% of the investment and accounts for 80% of North Korea’s trade. China is building power plants, roads and transport infrastructure, Chinese businesses have invested in factories in North Korea’s economic development zones, and exports of iron ore and coal to China from North Korea are important earners.

For both Beijing and Pyongyang, this dependency is a mixed blessing. South Korea, Japan and the US may be the bogeymen invoked to frighten North Korean children, but North Korea is also wary of becoming an economic colony of its giant neighbour. North Korea’s main international weapon is blackmail: waving its nuclear capability in the face of the US and threatening China with instability. It works, after a fashion, but it is not a recipe for early reform. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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How to have a modern Thanksgiving

November 23, 2011

A family celebrates Thanksgiving in America

In my opinion, nothing can replace turkey on Thanksgiving Day…not even chicken! In many parts of the world, turkey is unavailable…simply can not be found ..and all those delicious side dishes…stuffing,cranberry sauce,sweet potato,salad,pumpkin pie,and the list goes on…from the bottom of my heart I would like to wish HAPPY THANKSGIVING DAY to all my students,friends, and family!

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “How to have a modern Thanksgiving” was written by Hadley Freeman, for The Guardian on Tuesday 22nd November 2011 21.00 UTC

As you read this, Americans around the world will be rolling up their sleeves, gearing up to push some readymade stuffing into a dried-out bird while a male relative stands to one side, arms at his waist, poised to make the traditional joke as inscribed in the constitution by the Founding Fathers: “Heh heh – most girls make me buy them dinner before I get to do that!” Heh heh.

Yes, it’s Thanksgiving time in America, that special holiday marking the Anglo-Saxon invasion of someone else’s country, which Americans celebrate by eating sweet potatoes and marshmallows. Mixed together, naturellement.

Pretty much every holiday has, if not downright creepy origins, then ones certainly far away from their Hallmark manifestations today. Most obviously, there’s the disconnect between a night that was once intended to mark the last chance for the dead to wreak revenge on the living before ascending to the next world and its current incarnation in which children dress up like Dora the Explorer and harass adults to give them candy before passing into the world of childhood obesity. OK, bad example.

Conversely, certain fringe elements of the British press fret, sporadically and erroneously, that Christmas will be mugged of its tinsel and sentimentality and reduced to “Winterval”.

Yet even by those standards, Thanksgiving is an interesting holiday. As an American who was born and continues to live in America, I am very happy that the pilgrims rocked up to these shores. Yet the man who should, by rights, be America’s poet laureate, the comedian Chris Rock, long ago summed up the Thanksgiving Problem in his 1999 standup show, Bigger and Blacker: “Nobody got it worse than the American Indian … I went to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade this year and they didn’t have enough Indians. They had three real Indians and the rest was a bunch of Puerto Ricans with feathers in their hair … That’s not Pocahontas, that’s Jennifer Lopez!”

But then, for a country notorious for heightened racial awareness, America has never spent too much time fretting about the feelings of the people who were, basically, robbed on the day Thanksgiving is ostensibly celebrating. Just ask any fan of the football team representing this country’s capital, the Washington Redskins.

Aside from that issue with Thanksgiving, there is another small awkwardness, brilliantly encapsulated in the cover of this week’s New Yorker. Thanksgiving celebrates the arrival of a group of people to a new land, a group of people who, I’m guessing, not only didn’t have any kind of visas but didn’t even have to suffer the routine humiliations and casual aggression that Homeland Security doles out to all visitors to America as soon as they’ve disembarked from their flight. To be honest, immigration is a bit of a touchy subject in this country these days. In fact, at least one presidential candidate has suggested that immigrants should be fried by an electric fence. Happy Thanksgiving!

So how best to celebrate Thanksgiving 2011 to reflect the modern era? Just as Christmas adverts are the staple warmup to that holiday in Britain, Thanksgiving is, predictably, marked by traditional televisual events. Here, women in autumnally coloured cashmere jumpers bedecked with the most extraordinary accessories present “Thanksgiving specials” on daytime TV, teaching the hyperactive studio audience how to do such nonsensical things as “Make a chocolate pilgrim centrepiece!” and “Have a stress-free family meal!”

So for this special holiday season, I shall don my finest tawny-coloured cashmere, affix a turkey brooch to my breast and present my guide to How to Have a Modern Thanksgiving, 2011. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

1. Forget turkey, eat pizza

It’s the national food, you know, what with it being a vegetable and the foodstuff behind the fortune of one of the most extraordinary presidential candidates this country has ever seen, and that really is saying something.

2. The Supercommittee Thanksgiving

This is named in honour of the Congressional so-called supercommittee that, on Monday, failed to come up with a plan to reduce the deficit. So, get your relatives who hate each other most to plan and cook the meal together. They will then, predictably, fall out with one another and produce absolutely nothing. Amazed at this outcome, you’ll end up eating bad Chinese takeaway.

3. Do the Reverse Pilgrim

This is when an American leaves his or her home country and goes to England for “a new start” and this is seen as quite an A-list, classy move. I fully expect to hear reports of Demi Moore “eyeing up properties in Primrose Hill” by Friday. Some people call this “Doing a Gwyneth” but I prefer “the Reverse Pilgrim”, although a friend recently pointed out that it sounds like something out of the Kama Sutra. The colonial version, presumably.

4. Eat nothing

Now things are so bad that Sesame Street has introduced a “Hungry Child” Muppet and one in three Americans are either in poverty or in what is evocatively called “the fretful zone” just above it, not eating at all seems a bit more, let’s say, now than a chocolate pilgrim table setting, let alone lewd jokes about stuffing turkeys. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Now life is beginning again at age 60? Well I guess so….with the divorce rates that have been rising for many years now…people are finding themselves alone. Perhaps its a good thing…rediscover who you really are…try looking on the brighter side of life…you get to start all over again without making the same mistakes the second time around..!

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony 

Powered by article titled “Life begins at 60 for the newly divorced” was written by Yvonne Roberts, for The Observer on Sunday 20th November 2011 00.08 UTC

So divorce has zoomed forcefully into the Zimmer zone now that the only reported rise in the divorce rate – in the most recent, just-published, figures – is in the 60-plus age range. Leave aside the possibility that this is also the group that was most likely to have succumbed to marriage en masse and suddenly the dynamics of family life could begin to take on more subplots than the average soap opera.

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but presumably not when your newly “silver separated”, freshly retired, Pilates-proofed and therefore very fit mother is pursuing the same pool of men as you. And Mother may have the added advantage that she comes with no strings attached, since she’s done babies and orange blossom, has no interest in IVF and no longer seeks a househusband to sort out the domestic engineering while she builds her fledgling career.

Of course, men have long shed housewife number one for a younger uber-model. Now, it seems, women too, better prepared by a lifetime of earning their own money and making their own way in the world of work, are happy to take the step from “I do” to “I definitely don’t any more”. While only 5% of divorces are among the over-60s, the rate of disengagement is growing fast.

Of course, for some divorcees, male and female, loneliness and families fractured beyond repair may ensue. But, ironically, if the marriage has had more of the better moments than the bad, if commitment helped to weather the relationship once romance waned a tad, then that’s exactly the kind of apprenticeship that may help to make the most of whatever life serves up next.

So, many of the more affluent ex-wives, rejuvenated by the liberation of divorce (marginally cheaper than Botox and the average pot of anti-ageing cream) will now rapidly shift those experiential years of retirement from boating in Borneo with the old man and driving the people carrier à deux into diverse rivers in South America.

Instead, they can now wander around the wilder shores of internet dating (so long, that is, that they lie about their age: the rules of this market place are going to have to change) or, revolutionary thought this, they set out to enjoy unbounded adventures totally seule.

A whole new scenario for the family Christmas now begins to open up. Start-over-dad (affectionately known by his grown-up offspring as SOD) is nursing his nine-month-old daughter and contemplating what lies under the tree for a 70-year-old man like himself who has everything, including two marriage certificates and a new wife. Mother, meanwhile, is too busy showing the grandchildren the latest pics of her kayaking classes in the Rocky Mountains to bother about her once traditional place as resident housekeeper.

Meanwhile, her sons and daughters argue with their spouses in the kitchen over Delia or Jamie’s way to cook the turkey while mentally calculating just how much of the family heritage has been spent by Her-No-Longer-Indoors and the old SOD’s new thirtysomething spouse who much prefers Moët to prosecco.

“Selfish, moi?” Mother and Father, amicably divorced, might say. Too damn right – and why not after 30 or 40 years toiling at the matrimonial rock face? It’s never too late to put the fun into the ex-factor. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Breast screening is no longer a no-brainer

October 27, 2011

Breast cancer screening

When we speak about breast cancer our thought wonder to a female member or friend who have lost or won their battle. But it must be made clear that men as well, although rare, can develop breast cancer. One thing is clear is that rountine checks with your family can be life saving. So what are you waiting for? Make your appointment today and win the fight!

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony    

Powered by article titled “Breast screening is no longer a no-brainer” was written by Sarah Boseley, for on Wednesday 26th October 2011 15.00 UTC

It may seem like a no-brainer to turn up at the breast-screening clinic when the summons falls through the letterbox. Most of us are scared of cancer. Most of us have heard that if you catch it early, there is more chance of a cure.

But for some years now, there has been a growing volume of dissent to this orthodoxy – and it hasn’t come from anti-medical campaigners, suspicious of toxic drugs. It has come from within the scientific community. Those who are asking the big question – is breast screening always a good thing? – are from a group with one of the best-respected scientific pedigrees. This is the Cochrane Collaboration, set up to weigh the totality of scientific evidence and tell us what really works and what does not.

They have been publishing their findings in top medical journals, such as the Lancet and the British Medical Journal, and news organisations have run stories – but every time we have asked the NHS screening programme for a comment, the Cochrane findings have been summarily dismissed. Most scientists, we have been told, do not agree with the Cochrane researchers. Studies are cited that show screening saves lives.

I have felt for some time that there has been an element in all this of “don’t frighten the horses” and, personally, I think it underestimates – nay, insults – the intelligence of women. Screening is not like vaccination. We are not going to infect anybody else if we don’t go for breast screening. If a cancer is missed, it is an individual who suffers, not the population as a whole. But the information we are given in NHS screening leaflets, echoing the official rebuttal of the Cochrane studies, barely mentions any possible downsides to going along.

And, yes, there are downsides. Nobody disputes now that there is some “over-diagnosis” and “over-treatment”. What the X-rays show is often not much more than a tiny spot on a screen. Once upon a time, cancer doctors believed every one of those would, if left, turn into an aggressive cancer with the potential to kill. A couple of decades ago, the approach to breast cancer treatment was root and branch – a “Halsted” mastectomy, named after the surgeon who excised as much of the chest as he could in the belief that he was saving lives. That doesn’t happen any more – now surgery is conservative and as limited as possible. Doctors try to deliver the smallest, most effective, amount of surgery, drugs and radiotherapy because of the long-term damage they can cause.

But just as surgeons have backtracked on radical mastectomy, so now it may be time to backtrack on radical diagnosis. According to the Nordic Cochrane collaboration, not every spot on the X-ray will turn into aggressive cancer. Their statistical evidence – looking at the numbers of women screened in a big Swedish trial in the 1980s compared with those who were not – is that less cancers were found in those not screened. That is because, they believe, some early-stage cancers regress – they disappear again without causing any harm. Others, we know, grow so slowly that women will die at a ripe old age of something else.

Breast cancer treatment these days is very much better than when screening began. Survival rates are high. Urgent treatment of an invisible clump of mutant cells may not be necessary. Screening will always be important and should be available for those who want it – especially for women whose family history or other factors put them at high risk. But women should be told of the potential harms as well as benefits so they can make an informed choice – and where the X-ray picks something up, perhaps she can sometimes be given a waiting and watching option, as in men’s prostate cancer.

But whatever the outcome of the review announced by the government’s cancer director, Professor Sir Mike Richards, the most important thing is that it will have happened. Serious issues will be seriously discussed and women, many of them for the first time, will know that breast screening is not, in fact, just a no-brainer and that there are choices that can be made. Hopefully that will not be frightening, but empowering. Thank you, Sir Mike, for that. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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September 19, 2011

Time from Anthony Bendik on Vimeo.

I like the scenery of this promotional Time video and the voice of the narrator. More than a promotional plug for this website, whatever your mind is pondering at the moment, this video sets you on the road to take action. So don’t wait until tomorrow to start making decisions…take action now ..

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony

What’s so great about winning, anyway?

July 27, 2011

Chicago Cubs baseball team, 2010

Do you love to watch baseball? I do…especially if your hometown team has not won a game in weeks…the excitement in the air when my team finally wins…rejoicing that come from behind victory…nothing is more satisfying….well almost nothing….and how about eating a hotdog and drinking a beer while the batter knocks one out into right field..the nostalgia returns just like ” A field of Dreams” or your childhood memories…the sound of fans reacting to a questionable call from the referee…a third strikeout in a row…a player stealing home plate … sharing  moments with your family and friends…the great American pass-time can never be replaced..our heroes will never fade into the dark…no that can never happen to American baseball…..winning or not…

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony


Powered by article titled “What’s so great about winning, anyway?” was written by Clancy Sigal, for on Tuesday 26th July 2011 19.30 UTC

This is town full of losers and, baby, I was born to win.

“Thunder Road”, by Bruce Springsteen

Mrs Thatcher was fond of saying, “Any man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself a failure.” A loser, in other words. Since I spent most of my 30 years in London hopping on and off red Routemaster buses, and also count myself a rabid Chicago Cubs baseball team fan, and, when in England, root for Premier League worst-ever West Ham and Notts County, I fit Mrs Thatcher’s idea of what US high school kids ridicule as a no-hoper.

Who can blame the snotty high schoolers? After all, the Cubs seem almost theologically hexed. I love them, but they’ve not won a so-called World Series in 102 years – the longest drought in American sports history.

I come truly alive only in the 162-game baseball season, from February spring training to the lovely days of autumn in October. That’s when hope and misery so intermingle as to be almost the same stupid emotion. I start my morning with the box scores on the sports pages, and if the Cubs have lost, which is almost always, I go through the rest of the day in a kind of masochistic depression verging on grim satisfaction that the baseball gods indeed continue to reign in hell.

Baseball as “America’s game”, though still vastly profitable via TV franchises, ticket scalping and concessions, has long been supplanted by the more concussive (in all senses) pro football and hoop basketball. Increasingly, fans prefer smash-and-grab blood on the gridiron and floorboards to the balletic longeurs of baseball – to judge by declining attendances. The “endless game of repeated summers”, in the words of poet Donald Hall, is seen as fusty and uncool.

I’m hip to baseball’s dark and seamy side, the surliness of many players, the cheating and intentional “headhunting” by pitchers, signal-stealing by managers and steroid-pumping by ageing players, idiotic free agency trades and sliding into catchers and second basemen spikes high in the manner of the sadistic Ty Cobb. I’ve read my Ring Lardner, Bernard Malamud and confessional memoirs by Jason Giambi and Jim Bouton. Baseball reality is no “Field of Dreams”. So what? Thus it has always been, since rounders in Tudor times and the first American baseball in the 1840s. Nobody’s perfect in this perfect game on a perfect turf-and-grass diamond – especially when played in an older stadium like Chicago’s Wrigley Field with its walls ivy-covered like an Oxford college. Is there anything as beautiful, outside an art gallery, of a perfectly executed double play: Starlin Castro to Blake DeWitt to Carlos Peña?

Baseball owners have traditionally been mean bastards. But compared to yesteryear’s carnival showman Bill Veeck (Cleveland Indians), the tyrannical Charlie Comiskey (Chicago White Sox) and civic saboteurs like Walter O’Malley (Brooklyn and LA Dodgers), today’s owners are amoral Godzillas in the same rogues’ gallery as the geniuses at Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers and Countrywide Finance who crashed our economic system – capitalism run amok. The owners’ looting of the public treasury to build privately-owned, skybox-littered, ugly stadiums, their names sold to corporate sponsors (BankOne, Minute Maid, Enron!), tells the whole story.

Since relocating to Los Angeles, I’ve tried hard to transfer my allegiance to the Dodgers, if only because, back in Brooklyn, they were the first pro team to break the colour bar by hiring the sensational Jackie Robinson. But I didn’t really take to Dodger Blue – until recently, when Frank and Jamie McCourt, the now-divorcing, raging-at-each-other, husband-and-wife, criminally extravagant co-owners hired Vladimir Schpunt, a 71-year-old, Boston-based Russian seer, at a six-figure annual salary, to beam UFO-like mental vibrations 3,000 miles across the country to the bad luck team. And they say musical comedy is dead.

Now that the once-great Dodgers are at the bottom of the National League table, and they must pay female-hormone-ingesting slugger Manny Ramirez $21m for not playing baseball, and the bankrupt owners can’t meet their payroll – except that Jamie McCourt still pays her hair stylist $10,000 a month (no misprint) – they’re touching my heart almost as deeply as the luckless and losing Cubs.

I’m not sure when “you’re a loser” became part of our vocabulary. It’s basically an adolescent trope (see TV’s Glee, Gossip Girl, Freaks and Geeks, etc) although I have run into professional women in their twenties and thirties – graduate students of mine – who candidly admitted they hack into a potential date’s credit rating before going out with him. “You don’t want to waste time with a loser,” is how they put it.

“Losing” was unheard of during the Great Depression because, in a tsunami of mass unemployment and real starvation, everyone outside Park Avenue was a loser. People did turn on each other in families and marriages, blaming whoever for losing their job or pissing away the rent money. (My unemployed father’s outlet was cards.) But back then, the losers fought back, in riots, strikes, protest songs, sitdowns and, above all, mass organisation. Today, with union cards exchanged for credit cards, and unemployment back on a staggering scale, and a liberal Obama administration on the side of the $15,000 skybox suites rather than the $19 bleacher seats, fightback is scattered and unfocused.

It’s ridiculous for a grown person to put so much heart into a losing – or, for that matter, any – sports team. There’s so much sentimentality and nostalgia involved. But it’s a way back into childhood, of staying in touch with the self one left behind in the race to keep up with the winners. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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The space shuttle programme was nothing short of miraculous

July 21, 2011

Space Shuttle Atlantis takes flight on its STS-27 mission

The space shuttle had a great run through the years…we have learn much from traveling to space and I hope that we can continue exploration of this vast universe to further unravel it’s mysteries.

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony



Powered by article titled “The space shuttle programme was nothing short of miraculous” was written by Kevin Fong, for on Thursday 21st July 2011 13.18 UTC

The space shuttle programme drew to a close on Thursday as the wheels of Atlantis slowed to a stop at the Kennedy Space Centre. It is a moment for celebration and for sadness. There is real pain here: thousands of job losses and the disintegration of a unique team of individuals who together have made the programme what it is.

I’m here at Kennedy and while I waited for Atlantis to come home, I watched film footage from Nasa’s archive as it plays on a loop in the press building.

There are hundreds of epic scenes spanning the 30-year history of missions, but the shots that caught my eye were from 1977. They show the space shuttle Enterprise being driven through an ordinary American town on a flatbed lorry. Crowds line the streets, there’s a kid on a BMX bike, a police officer sporting pork chop sideburns. Hell, there’s even a man wearing flares. While the world was still struggling to get to grips with the idea that the 70s were finally coming to an end, here was Nasa serving up the future on the back of a truck.

Enterprise was on its way to the Dryden Flight Research Center. Later it would be mounted onto a jumbo jet and launched into the skies over Edwards Air Force Base to find out whether this stunted, snub-nosed, unpowered vehicle could glide safely and touch down on a runway like a conventional aircraft.

Enterprise was not destined for space. This was its mission: to determine if a vehicle that flies like a safe with its door open can be piloted safely to Earth. It was a step towards the dream of a reusable spacecraft.

Just four years later in 1981, Columbia was launched – effectively an all up test of the most complicated machine the world had ever seen. The shuttle, mounted on an external fuel tank containing hundreds of thousands of gallons of cryogenically stored liquid hydrogen and oxygen, strapped to solid rocket boosters – became known as “the stack”. Fully fuelled it had the explosive capacity of a small nuclear weapon.

It was a design that many people would later come to regard as flawed. Unlike its predecessors it relied upon solid rocket boosters to get to orbit and the vehicle was mounted on the side of the launcher rather than on top. A failure in a solid rocket booster would claim the lives of the Challenger STS 51L crew in 1986 just 73 seconds into flight. And in 2003 a failure in the orbiter’s heat shield, damaged by debris falling from the external tank onto the shuttle as it launched, would kill the crew of Columbia STS 107 during re-entry, 16 minutes from home.

When the shuttle was conceived, the list of engineering requirements was formidable: everybody wanted everything. They asked for a vehicle with a payload bay big enough to accommodate satellites and space station modules, one with the ability to launch and return to a chosen landing site after just one orbit, a vehicle that could be steered while travelling at hypersonic velocities in the upper atmosphere, but one that could also glide unpowered below the speed of sound and return to a runway much like a conventional aircraft.

They wanted all of that and they wanted it to be reusable. That Nasa was capable of delivering a solution which met that outrageous catalogue of demands, and at a time in history when digital watches were still cool, is little short of miraculous. But the design was indeed flawed.

The accidents are burned into the memories of all who worked in the space shuttle programme and Nasa has learned from its mistakes. The shuttle was arguably safer towards the end of the programme than at any other time in its operation. Safer but not safe.

It is not accidents and risk that define the shuttle workforce or the shuttle programme, however. It would be a scandal if, after 30 years of exploration and 135 missions, the legacy of the shuttle were boiled down to the tragedies of Columbia and Challenger. The space shuttle is, and always was, much more than that.

The programme spanned three decades. During that time human space exploration went from being a surrogate battlefield for nuclear war to an endeavour characterised by international cooperation. It brought us state-of-the-art engineering, delivered the Hubble Space Telescope, furthered the United States’ understanding of long-term human spaceflight through the Shuttle-Mir programme, and consolidated that knowledge through the assembly of the International Space Station.

Its programme of exploration changed the way we saw the universe but, more importantly, it changed the way we saw ourselves. The legacy of the space shuttle is to be found in the lives that it touched, the people it inspired and the generation that it taught to dream.

Kevin Fong’s TV documentary Space Shuttle: The Final Mission airs on BBC Two on Sunday at 9pm © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Science fiction opens up the universe

July 14, 2011


Science fiction has always fascinated me because technology has even us the opportunity to convert those ideas into reality. Does the universe hold of God’s presence?  Whether or not it can prove the existence of God or a god-like entity is yet to be discovered.

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony 

Powered by article titled “Science fiction opens up the universe” was written by Ken MacLeod, for on Thursday 14th July 2011 10.46 UTC

The question: What can science fiction tell us about God?

A character in my novel, Learning the World, parodies a certain kind of philosophical argument: “From the principle of plenitude, we conclude that God would have created aliens. From the Fermi Paradox, we conclude that if there are aliens, they would be here. But there are no aliens. Therefore God does not exist. Discuss.”

This is a joke, of course, but the principle of plenitude – that God would have created all he could have created – was once a hot topic, of science as much as of religion. On 30 June the popular SF website ran a fascinating article, titled: Cosmic pluralism: How Christianity briefly conquered the solar system. In the 18th and 19th centuries, many astronomers were persuaded, by this very theological argument, that just about every cosmic body was inhabited by rational beings. Theologians, likewise, were persuaded by astronomers that the scale of the universe was, well, astronomical, and that Christians had better take this into account – particularly as deists such as Thomas Paine were using the plurality of worlds as an argument against Christianity: “The two beliefs can not be held together in the same mind; and he who thinks that he believes both, has thought but little of either.”

Paine’s thrust was parried by theologians including, surprisingly perhaps, some who might now be considered fundamentalist evangelicals: the great Scottish churchman Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) warily admitted the possibility of intelligent beings elsewhere, while the more exuberant but no less orthodox Rev Thomas Dick (1774-1857) estimated that Saturn’s rings sustained 8,141,963,826,080 souls. We may charitably attribute the precision to a rounding error.

These debates make a poignant contrast with their like today. Theology’s relationship to science has become damage limitation rather than enthusiastic embrace. One factor in this change has been not geology or Darwin – which the 19th century churches assimilated within months of the Origin‘s publication – but the ever-widening influence of science fiction.

This isn’t because SF writers are atheist – most aren’t – or because SF is explicitly atheistic in its texts or subtexts. It’s because SF dramatises life in the universe that science has discovered: a universe vast, ancient and indifferent. That discovered universe, and its so-called laws of nature, precisely fit the slot in the human mind once occupied by another infinite, omnipresent, and all-powerful reality: God. And as Spinoza well understood, one infinite reality leaves no room for another. Science fiction is almost the only way that recognition of this vast non-human reality impinges on literature and the arts. In mainstream fiction, unless the plot requires Australia, the Earth might as well be flat. If science is the theology of nature – with the wilder reaches of physics standing in for its scholastic philosophy – SF is its mythology, its folklore, its peasant superstition. Television, film, anime and computer games supply the statues and holy pictures, which (this time) really do move.

SF does more than popularise the natural sciences: it does the same for the similarly subversive discoveries of anthropology and psychology, teaching cultural relativism as much as physical relativity. For a readership mainly – though no longer exclusively – among the colonisers rather than the colonised, it compels at least some recognition of what it would be like for the boot to be on the other foot, or to encounter a completely different set of moral and religious beliefs among people you could hardly dismiss as “primitive” (eg because they have starships, and you have not). Imaginary alien theologies may not trouble sophisticated theologians, but I still remember how, as a nominally devout teenager, they troubled me.

Perhaps one way forward, as congruent with religion as with science, would be to take the plurality of worlds and the apparent absence of intelligent life thereon as an absent or hidden God’s way of telling us something. The various bodies of the solar system and indeed the universe may be uninhabited, but that’s only because God, or Nature, has left it up to us to fill them. In another century, the rings of Saturn may be singing with trillions of electronic intelligences. The Christian cosmic pluralists’ principle of plenitude would then turn out to have been right, but only because we were the intelligences that chose to make it so. Discuss. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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New York must pass the same-sex marriage bill

June 22, 2011

Same-sex weddings

Our world is still hesistant to change, but if enough people support and pursue an idea long enough, then change is inevitable. Same-sex marriages are getting their voices heard on capital hill. 

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony

Your Educational Podcast & Video   

Powered by article titled “New York must pass the same-sex marriage bill” was written by Hadley Freeman, for The Guardian on Tuesday 21st June 2011 19.00 UTC

Along with prizes for everyone and a determined lack of embarrassment that the mascot for an all-girls institution was a beaver, educational documentaries were a mainstay of my schooling in New York City. These documentaries were particularly favoured when we had reached those eternally popular subjects for history students, of school age and beyond: slavery and the Holocaust. They always featured the same ingredients: black-and-white news clips of American people and politicians voicing opinions that were par for the course in the day (“Negros should never own property”, “You can’t trust a Jew”, etc), included to make us, cosseted liberal schoolchildren that we were, gasp. Be grateful you were born now, and not in the unenlightened past, these documentaries cooed. Right?

But in 2011 America, it all too often feels like we are living in a history class documentary. One day, footage of American politicians – from George W Bush to Michele Bachmann – proudly stating their abhorrence of gay marriage as though bigotry was a qualification for political office will sound as shocking as Richard Nixon grouching that “Jews are disloyal”, as retro as the sexual harassment of secretaries in smoky meeting rooms in Mad Men. But that day, it hardly needs stating, is not yet here.

There are some subjects that should be discussed in shades of grey, with acknowledgement of subtleties and cultural differences. Same-sex marriage is not one of those. There is a right answer.

For the past 10 days, the question of whether same-sex marriages will, at last, be legally recognised in New York has been hotly debated. The New York state assembly approved the marriage equality bill, for the fourth time, last week and it is now up to the New York Senate. Two Republican senators, James S Alesi and Roy J McDonald, said that they would vote for the bill and McDonald’s explanation behind his vote proved that he is one hell of a Republican to have on side: “Well, fuck it. I don’t care what you think. I’m trying to do the right thing. I’m tired of Republican-Democrat politics. They can take the job and shove it.”

But, as of writing, it is still undecided, and New York governor Andrew Cuomo is having to negotiate with an intractable religious-tinged right and, as President Obama learned in the first years of his presidency, that is not a group of people willing to compromise.

New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan has been vociferous in his homophobia, claiming last week that gay marriage is “a violation of what we consider the natural law that’s embedded in every man and woman.” His breathtaking blindness to the thought that most people would consider the paedophilia that the Catholic church covered up for so long to be far more of “a violation of the natural law” than legally recognising two adults desiring to make a commitment to one another is indicative of many of the problems within that church. (Incidentally, last week US Roman Catholic bishops voted 187 to 5 to make only the most token of changes to the church’s current policies on the sexual abuse of children, claiming they are sufficiently “effective”, despite tragic evidence to the contrary.)

An idealist I may be but religion should be about providing a sense of inclusiveness and reassurance, not an easy excuse for bigotry, and for anyone in New York, of all places, to use religion as an excuse to cause others misery is unconscionable. The upcoming 10th anniversary of 9/11 should act as a clear reminder, were a reminder necessary.

Yes, the Bible does state that marriage should be between a man and a woman, but the Bible contains a lot of teachings, many of which have been notably cherry-picked out for reasons ranging from practicality to distaste. Polyester, for example, is biblically banned (“You shall not . . . wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together,” Leviticus 19:19), as are tattoos (“You shall not… make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the Lord,” Leviticus 19:28.) Now, I happen to agree with both of those edicts but the point is, much in the Bible turns out to be conveniently negotiable in the modern world.

Moreover, religion has been used in the past as justification for racism, sexism and antisemitism. It still is in some countries, but those are not countries that the US generally wishes to emulate. (In fact, we generally use that as an excuse to bomb them, but that’s another story.)

If New York passes this bill, it will be the sixth and most populated American state to recognise gay marriage. If it doesn’t, I will experience a similar trajectory of feeling to the one I had when George W Bush was re-elected: shock, anger, shame, disenfranchisement, bafflement at how a place that I thought represented one thing betrayed its values.

Progress is not just about what products Steve Jobs grandly unveils this year in California, or how many Twitter followers one has. It is about attaining mental and moral enlightenment.

Our grandparents saw, if not the end of antisemitism then at least an end of it being an acceptable part of mainstream discourse. Our parents saw the beginning of that same moral tide turn against racism and sexism. Now is the time for homophobic legislation and talk to be seen for what it is: as shocking as racism, as unforgivable as antisemitism. If a film director can be banned from Cannes for making a stupid joke about Hitler and a fashion designer can lose his job for drunkenly blathering about Nazism, then politicians and religious leaders who strive to ensure gay people live lives of inequality should face measures far more stringent.

There is no grey area here. This is a black and white documentary. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Robert Winston sawing a pig is fine – but give me a trained teacher any day

March 14, 2011

Jamie Oliver takes a break from his Dream School.

Every teacher has their ideas on effective teaching and trying to reach the student. We as instructors do with what we have to make education as rewarding as possible for our students. Our schools set the policy we must adhere to and follow without question(sometimes). But as soon as the class begins, the students become my responsibility and I will teach the most effective way I can….using all resources and methods I can find to challenge the students to continue their education even beyond the school years.

Pass it on

Dr Anthony   

Powered by article titled “Robert Winston sawing a pig is fine – but give me a trained teacher any day” was written by Suzanne Moore, for The Guardian on Saturday 5th March 2011 09.00 UTC

As our faith in politicians declines, our faith in “experts” soars. Experts, you see, are individuals not bound by party or institution. Or so they often pretend. The nanny state, as it was called, was actually preceded by the nanny culture in which we all sat upon a permanent naughty step.

Popular culture provided us with experts in everything from how to dress, to how to clean our houses, have sex and of course how to eat. These experts went on to make fortunes and are now somehow guiding lights in social policy, the cooks in particular. Heston Bonkers Blumenthal is doing a Jamie Oliver and trying to reform the way we eat in cinemas or on submarines. I’ll pass on this week’s Edible Sperm Shake, ta, Heston. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingly–Posh is doing good with fish quotas, and now bouncing back is hyperactive Jamie Oliver. You have to hand it to him. He is a one man Big Society.

He is a brilliant proselytiser for causes dear to his heart, but now he has become a kind of Essexed-up Michael Gove, I am alarmed. His new series is called Dream School: Brat Camp in a school. With celebs. And Jamie’s struggle. Doubtless, he will soon reform the NHS. “Quadruple heart bypass? Easy mate! Bish bash bosh. Drizzle some oil on it.” I jest, but to say that education is a massively complex subject about which he knows little is not to acknowledge that he cares. But is that enough?

We are certainly failing, as Jamie said. Too many kids still leave school without even five GCSEs. His discussion of his own lack of qualifications was illuminating. Like him, I left school at 16 and often resent that the entire debate on education is conducted by people who did very well in the system. I understand why some kids hate school, as I did, and know what it’s like to come from a place where education is not seen as valuable.

Once again though, what many hate about school is brought back as a radical teaching method. Uniform! The academies do it. The policing of uniform is a full-time job. Educational policy now looks to a rose–tinted past. Grammar schools gave the working-classes mobility (there is much new evidence to contradict this but it is roundly ignored) and then along came awful comprehensives with hippy, pupil-centered learning, mixed-ability classes and no discipline.

Labour messed around with targets and literacy hours and basically lied. Or so the narrative goes. The answer is to go back to the old ways. Desks. Uniforms. Zero-tolerance approach to discipline. The superstar academies select and throw out kids who don’t conform. Those kids still have to be educated somehow. Or do we just give up with them?

Jamie’s Dream School is a dream academy unbound by curriculum and having only 20, not 30, kids in the class. Will these stroppy kids be “inspired” by celebrity” intellectuals”?

Actually the whole project is a vast insult to the teaching profession in that it assumes that subject expertise is enough to teach. Never mind teaching as a skill based on training and experience. I don’t think I can cook as well as Jamie Oliver because I don’t share his background and knowledge about food. Teaching teenagers, I know, is extremely difficult sometimes. Having taught at graduate level and in art schools, I have first-hand experience of how hard it is to hold the attention of those who think visually but aren’t keen on reading.

The energy required is enormous. Even an hour in my youngest’s class wears me out. Cutting stupid cardboard with stupid scissors that don’t cut. Yet I see good teachers break the class into groups, how they reward good behaviour, ignore attention–seeking, but so often are trying to fill in the gaps that are missing at home.

This is why teachers are trained. This is why they need to know about cognitive development, different learning methods and strategies for dealing with difficult behaviour.

This notion of teaching as a skill has bypassed these Dream teachers. They are do-gooders, egos on display . . . or are they being paid a fat fee? As Cherie Booth is to appear, I assume the latter. The kids are obnoxious but clearly engageable. The girl boasting of her ghetto credentials simply went over Simon Callow’s head. Rolf Harris was amiable but ineffectual. Robert Winston was heroic with his Super Mario moustache and gave them rats to dissect, then stunned them by sawing up a pig. An innovative approach.

The reality now is kids don’t do such dissections because there is not the money. The stark raving loony brat of the show was of course David Starkey. Like many who propose strict discipline, he had no idea of how to achieve it. He told the kids they were failures, called one of them fat and then refused to come back. Way to go Starkers!

There will be those cheering on his refusal to go down the touchy-feely route, but that is to miss a valuable point. You cannot teach a child how to manage its own behaviour if you cannot manage yours. Yes, this is a distracted generation, always texting, unable to concentrate. Yes, they are rude and spoilt, but why are the very methods that failed them being used again in this televised and highly funded Pupil Referral Unit?

Next week the scary Alastair Campbell is teaching. What? Dissembling? Dismantling the BBC? I am not sure of his subject, but at least he has championed comprehensive education and knows that education is now a battle of ideologies. The kids simply sit at the back and watch the adults arguing.

I don’t suppose anyone reads Paulo Freire any more with his old-fashioned theories, flowing from Rousseau to John Dewey, that children are not “tabula rasa“, that this banking view of learning in which we deposit facts into empty passive minds is not the answer. We learn through being active participants. Once we know this we can indeed pursue lifelong learning. Maybe Starkey could have done some homework.

The wonderful Mary Beard, who also took part in Dream School, is actually a teacher, albeit at a much higher level, and had the modest aim of getting the kids interested in Latin. Her verdict will not push the right buttons these days. What would have helped these kids the most? “Not, I suspect, a raft of new education initiatives, not any major structural reforms. Just a bit more money in the system . . . to give teachers and kids a bit of space, to fund a little more individual attention, and to pick up those falling through the net.”

That’s not rocket science is it? Certainly not. That’s way too expensive! No, let’s spend the money on faith schools and free schools or just only care about our own individual kids and go private. The dream of good schooling, an affordable degree and a decent job at the end of it remains exactly that right now: a dream. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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