Sunday, 17 August 2014

Islamic State

I believe the international community has made a mistake in not challenging the rise of the Islamic State "caliphate" (formally ISIS) at an early stage.  The fact that the UK and USA made a mistake over Iraq is not really relevant; they might have sown the seeds of this chaos, but it doesn't mean that any subsequent intervention is wrong or likely to be similarly counter-productive - each case needs to be taken on its own merits.  It must have been pretty clear early on that the Iraqi government was impotent (and not helping the situation by being exclusive) and did actually need some help through direct intervention.  There must be ways of intervening directly, but minimising western casualties, whilst supporting Iraqi forces to defend themselves, otherwise our armed forces must be pretty unimaginative!

ISIS is clearly an evil force and cannot ultimately win.  Distracting our law enforcement and border agencies by stopping fundamentalists from going to Syria/Iraq and fighting for ISIS is simply brewing up trouble at home.  Most terrorism is home-grown - remember the Red Brigade, the Bader-Meinhof gang, IRA, PLO, etc - so these people are already radicalised.  Let them go; they will most likely die and, if not, then should not be allowed to return.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Gaza conflict

Interesting argument by ex-Israeli ambassador to US on C4 News tonight.  The argument went like this: we inform Palestinians that they are in danger if they stay where they are and advise them to leave; Hamas tell them to stay and we carry on anyway and blame Hamas.  I would have thought that any compassionate authority would not have carried on knowing that the risk to civilians is the same.  I cannot condone the view that two wrongs make a right - if Hamas is putting people in danger (as they clearly are by provoking Israel), then that does not make it right for Israel also to put civilians at risk.  If Israel wishes to present itself as a superior authority, then it needs to rise above this fallacious argument and treat innocent Palestinians as it would wish its own people to be treated - it can leave Hamas to dig its own grave.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Removal Problems with Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) Ransomware

The current version of this malware does not allow logging in through any form of Safe Mode on Windows XP.  Consequently, most "solutions" will not work with new versions of the virus.  However, in my case, because the malware still allows programs to operate, my Avast Antivirus eventually picked it up and offered to do a boot scan (this was the first time in 3 days that I was actually presented with a screen IN FRONT of the offending malware article).  The consequent scan found and neutralised the virus which was lodged in file Documents and Settings\"My name"\Application Data\Sun\Java\Deployment\cache\6.0\9\5da9d3c9-70af23b2 and an associated file with the same prefix.  It seems that the trojan entered the system through a bogus pop-up inviting me to update Java.  Deleting the offending files by other means (eg, through Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10) may also solve the problem.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Prostatitis

This is a very neglected disease, priority rightly being given to prostate cancer. However, sufferers of prostatitis are often told by the medical profession that "nothing can be done", which is not true, and there seems to be an under-estimation of the prevalence of chronic bacterial prostatitis. This is because traditional urine sampling will generally fail to show up a prostate infection, unless it breaks out into cystitis. In fact, cystitis in men is rarely an isolated condition and should be investigated fully to uncover any possible prostate infection.

There is also a mistaken belief (see Wikipedia) that chronic bacterial prostatitis is symptom-free. Those who have suffered from it will testify that the pain (not discomfort as it is often referred to by doctors and urologists in an attempt to minimise the symptoms) can be a burning sensation in the groin, needle-like pain in the penis and a vice-like grip on the testes. The pain can stretch from the navel to the knee. Also, the sufferer can feel ill, because this is a bacterial infection which the body is trying to control. Antibiotics can help, but there is a risk (as I have experienced) of resistance, particularly after long duration use. Men may not be properly diagnosed with the condition because of the lack of positive urine culture, and could feel ill for years.

Such is the medical scepticism surrounding chronic bacterial prostatitis, that medical professionals may try to convince sufferers that they do not have an infection, and that antibiotics are only helping because they have an analgesic effect. If this were true, then the pain would return quickly after a course of antibiotics whereas, after the correct course and dosage, the pain may well disappear for months or years because the infection has been controlled, albeit temporarily.

But that rarely means that the infection has gone completely. It is known that the type of bacteria commonly associated with prostate infections (eg, E-coli) can produce biofilms which protect the bacteria from the immune system and antibiotics. This biofilm production may explain the relatively pain-free periods, until the bacteria break out into the prostate again. These pain-free periods are often used as an excuse by doctors and urologists to do nothing, in the hope that the problem will go away; it often doesn't!

It is difficult to break out of the cycle of repeated infections followed by a lull in symptoms and a failure to properly diagnose the underlying cause. This year, I became significantly resistant to the antibiotics commonly used for prostatitis. Even though that resistance was apparent over 5 years ago, not a single doctor or urologist considered an alternative approach (such as surgery). Consequently, I have been unable to properly control the infection for almost 8 months, finally resorting to private treatment. As a result, I was able to have 2 consultations and 6 tests done in 3 weeks (2 weeks if it had not been for a prostate flare-up and the weather), which concluded that I had florid granulomatous prostatitis, a rare condition caused by the immune system destroying part of the prostate in a vain attempt to control a severe inflammation caused by repeated infection; only surgery has some chance of correcting the condition. But I suspect that this condition is not as rare as it appears, because most prostatitis sufferers have not had the appropriate tests.

This is an area which I believe needs some serious attention from the NHS. Not everyone has the option of going private - and why should they! After all, my condition was diagnosed from a simple biopsy, suggested because the right prostate lobe was firmer than the left. This imbalance had been known for at least 4 years, and could easily have been diagnosed earlier.

If any readers have a view on this subject, I would welcome their input. I aim to take the issue further in the Health Service and would appreciate any ideas and support.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Muslim veil

I am becoming increasingly alarmed at the somewhat rash approach of some European countries (especially France and Belgium) to the issue of the Muslim burqa and niqab. The argument that these infringe the dignity of women seems very contrived, since most are wearing the veils through choice and would consider them both dignified and proper, particularly in the context of their religion. No more harm is done by wearing veils in public than women wearing trousers or, for that matter, bikinis which would be considered extremely provocative by Muslim women.

It is quite a different argument to suggest that the wearing of a veil whilst teaching or serving a customer is undesirable or even discourteous, since the face is hidden in a situation where eye/facial contact would normally be considered necessarily polite for proper communication.

I'm afraid that the total ban on the veil seems more like a kneejerk reaction to Islamaphobia, rather than attempting to dealing with the latter issue in a more considered way. You can't solve terrorism or Islamaphobia by stopping Muslims from dressing in a particular way, any more than you can stop racism by painting black people white! Muslims exist, they have a dress code (which is not in any way connected to Islamic fundamentalist terrorism) and they are here to stay. The more we accommodate them into our secular society, the less the likelihood of the more disaffected turning to violence. This ill-considered ban is more likely to increase tension and nurture tendencies to violence. I await with interest the inevitable challenge in the European Court of Human Rights.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Bankers' bonuses - a diversion?

The obscenity of bankers' bonuses is once more in the headlines. Many pundits have, quite rightly, pointed out that their improved performance this year has little to do with their own skill, but more the result of improved economic conditions provided by massive government intervention. If anyone deserves the bonuses, it is the taxpayer!

But does the bankers' bonus issue really warrant all the attention it is getting? Is it not a minor problem in comparison with some of the major issues underlying the current economic crisis? Whilst we all need a whipping boy, from time to time, to blame for our ills, we might be in danger of missing the point. The point is that we have collectively borrowed more money than was actually in circulation, meaning that we have to repay a significant debt. Whilst the bankers (and the banking system) have not helped (and in some cases positively encouraged recklessness) this issue of over-indebtedness goes back to the Thatcher era when people were encouraged to own their own houses. Nothing wrong with that, you may think, but that is because we have got used to the idea (popular at the time) that home ownership is an important achievement to be aimed at, regardless of whether this was the best option for everyone, whatever their personal circumstances. Very attractive if you can buy your council house below its market value, but what happens when the availability of rented accommodation is consequently reduced? Well, this produces a further demand for home ownership which, in turn, puts pressure on mortgage lenders, because they need sufficient borrowers to fund the interest of depositors. They could not afford to reduce loans because prospective purchasers would normally be unable to afford mortgage repayments. Hence the boom in ridiculously generous loans (125% of value) which, ultimately, could not be repaid by the borrowers, particularly in the USA.

At the same time, the Thatcher doctrine of the individual's pre-eminence over society led to a mercenary outlook and a climate of spending on easy credit to "keep up with the Joneses". This spending boom continued in the New Labour years under Gordon Brown, when it was perceived as being beneficial to the economy. But this was short-sighted, as it ignored the greed and recklessness of individuals when encouraged to spend money that they didn't have and, as it transpires, was never there in the first place!

When I visit my financial adviser, he always goes through a list of my income and expenditure to make sure that I can afford any investment he suggests. Yet mortgage companies and banks baulk at the idea of asking similar detailed questions when loaning money for a house or credit for other goods. If this continues, then our debt burden, whilst decreasing currently, is likely to expand again in the near future, precipitating a further collapse in the economy. The restraint we need is not confined to a few bankers - it applies to us all.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Kingsnorth Power Station

Whilst I can understand the concern of environmentalists over rebuilding this coal fired power station, it is a pity that E.On has delayed its decision to go ahead when this would have been an ideal opportunity to test the carbon capture and storage proposals. The UK has around 200 years supply of coal reserves, and many other countries have even greater quantities. Even with increased use of renewable sources, we can't be sure whether these will be sufficient in the short-term, and there are plenty of empty gas fields in which to store carbon dioxide. If we delay improvement trials of more conventional energy sources, we may not have enough energy provision by the end of the next decade. What do you think?