Wrong sort of stars
TODAY is a truly sad day. I mean, seriously fucking sad. Here's why:
Madame Tussauds will stop showing the traditional exploration of the solar system at the distinctive green-domed building in Baker Street. Instead visitors will be invited to embark on a voyage "around the worlds of fame and celebrity" at the renamed Auditorium.
I mean, please. What the fuck? What the motherfuck shit cunt tit? This is the most depressing thing I've heard in a while. Yet another example of the public's growing disinterest in science. The London Planetarium is, and has been for years, a bastion of popular science. It has brought the amazing universe of astronomy and cosmology to the masses for years. Most kids loved their trip to the Planetarium. Some children gazed up at the stars and were inspired for life. Like me.
The legend that is Patrick Moore simply said, "it is the most extraordinary thing. I am completely appalled."
The body that runs the Planetarium, Tussauds, is a Dubai-owned entertainment company. They claim that the Greenwich Peter Harrison Planetarium will cater for those who still maintain an interest in the stars and planets, but Greenwich is way over in east London, the Tussauds Planetarium is bang in the middle of town.
In other news - I've been asked to jump on board the new desicritics.org blog, so I'll be updating my blogroll imminently, along with Anthony King and Ethno Techno. Hooray.
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How's it Hanging?
WHAT does the way you wear your stethoscope say about you? The Daily Rhino examines the various stetho styles and finds that like most things in life, it's mostly about sex.
THE STETHOSCOPE was a godsend when it first appeared in 1991. Prior to this, doctors would routinely have to slice open their patients in order to better understand their ailments. This led to a schism between the physicians and the barbershop surgeons, who were a band of wandering lute-playing tramps that cut people open in barbershops. You know, after their short back & sides. This is why we now call physicians ‘Dr’ and surgeons ‘Mr’.
I’m rather a gifted stethoscopist myself, in fact I once diagnosed a double amputation with my stetho. I failed to hear a thoracic rebound echo from the legs and I said to the man “Sir! You have no legs!” It turned out he was dead as well, but hey you can’t diagnose EVERYTHING. After all, I’m learning.
Thanks to Holly Thompson for the photographs.
This look enjoys wide popularity amongst first year clinical students. They’re new on the wards, full of excitement and spreading MRSA about enthusiastically. Sweaty laundry-issued white coats still cause a frisson of excitement in the newbie and he or she fills their pockets full of useless paraphernalia. James models a classic third year pose; head in a book, in preparation for a consultant rogering.
The stethoscope itself is buried, as the newbie feels out of place and does not wish to draw attention to a tool he has no idea how to use. He knows nothing about medicine and should not be polluting the wards with his presence. Doctors wear their stethos around their neck, not rookie scum. Nurses curse him for getting in their way. He will kill at least eight patients on his first firm. Whilst the newbie style is acceptable for a third year, it is deeply offensive if worn by someone who has been on the wards for over a year. They must be ritually beaten and outcast from medical school.
The Classic II
A junior doctor favourite, the Classic II is at its sweetest when adopted using the Littman Classic II, the deputy-gangster of all auscultation apparatus.
Radhika shows off her assets by modelling the Classic II Royale - a variation on the symmetrical Classic II, carried off by only true experts. In the Royale, the chest piece rests lower down than the ear pieces - an immensely controversial move when first unveiled at the World Expo in 1992.
The other variation on the Classic II is the ‘St. George’s McDaddy Big Kahuna’, which positions the chest piece over the second intercostal space. This achieves a near-perfect weight equilibrium, but as it not recommended for women with a cup size over an ‘A’, it tends to be a male preserve.
Skateboarding famously stole this term from the medical profession. Aarany suggestively models this style, which is more popular amongst girls. Goofies are more likely to be left-handed, mentally challenged or from GKT. A NEJM study recently showed that those favouring the goofy tend to be more likely to be admitted to a psychiatric ward or become psychiatrists themselves. It can be tempting to ridicule those wearing the goofy, as they are usually slow and foolish. But don’t be nasty to goofies. They’re not different, they’re special.
Beth demonstrates this unusual noose-like style for us. Those who wear the lasso are a strange bunch. Once again, this is more popular amongst girls. Most stethoscopologists believe this is a cynical attempt to draw attention to their breasts, by focussing the stethoscope’s energy upon their central cleavage chakra point. The girls themselves just giggle and say that’s silly.
Lassoists want to give the impression they are very busy. They want to people to think that their stethoscope NEEDS to be like that as they spend so much time running around. They want people to think they’re hard-working. They want people to admire them. They want people to look at their breasts.
Surgeons are chilled out cats. They bowl up late, wear chinos with no tie and leave as much as they can to their juniors. So it comes as no surprise that the surgeon often forgets his stetho. The firm’s FY1’s most important job is to lend his or her steth to the consultant on at least a daily basis.
Colorectal surgeons need to listen to bowel sounds, cardiothoracic surgeons need to listen for rubs and vascular surgeons need to hear bruits. Orthopaedic surgeons don’t need stethoscopes though - the mess TV usually has surround sound.
Anish models this fascinating style, which stems from our primitive hunter-gatherer roots. When our simian ancestors used to dress up and play doctors and nurses, the biggest, most virile ape used to lead. He would have free reign to impregnate whichever female he wanted. Other apes would know who the leader was by a ceremonial mark made around his groin. Hence male consultants wear their stethoscope in such a manner as to highlight their two weapons - it points from their head straight to their penis, the source of all power.
Originally published in Medical Student Newspaper and subsequently in Quack
Technorati tags: medical school, medicine, medical students, doctor, medical
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How the Whale Became a Londoner and Other Stories
The Book of Rhino 25:17 -
"And lo the gentle visitor came from far above us and he tried to unite us. But how he suffered, and died for our sins"
POOR guy. This seriously-lost whale from up north created an amazing spirit in London, the capital was truly united. Forgive my soppy corniness, but the few days this little fella spent in our filthy river (trust me, I've drunk my fair share of raw Thames) brought people together.
On both banks of the Thames, people rubbernecked to glimpse the whale.
They came, they chatted, they were friendly. All we wanted was for the whale to make it.
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More Medics go on Strike
Sorry about the lack of posting as of late, no time.
BACK in India, yet more doctors and medical students have gone on strike...and just down the road from where this occured. Two days ago, a rumble broke out upon the Allahabad bound Meerut-Nauchandi Express Train, passing near Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, northern India. Young police (provincial armed constabulary) recruits and junior doctors came to blows, allegedly over a dispute involving seat reservation. However the doctors have accused the rookie police of "misbehaving" with some girls on the train.
In a nutshell, it seems the two groups exchanged punches on board the train, but when arriving at Moradabad, the train pulled into the wrong platform, where more police were waiting with truncheons and hockey sticks.
Since the punch-up, the doctors have claimed that five of their party are missing. It is thought they may have been pushed from the train by the coppers. As a result, doctors and medical students have gone on strike across the state of UP, including parties sitting on railway tracks to prevent any trains running. King George Medical University once again came to a standstill just days after its students blocked all entrances in protest of alleged negligence leading to the death of a colleague.
At least nine doctors and eight jawans have been admitted to hospital with injuries, but some of the juniors state up to forty doctors were injured. One of the police recruits was found lying near the tracks somewhere along the route and was admitted in a critical condition.
The group of doctors was returning from sitting the state post-grad registration exam.
Four Government Railway Police (GRP) personnel have been suspended. Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav has ordered an inquiry into the incident, to be conducted by Moradabad District Collector K S Atoria. ‘‘Action will be taken against those found guilty after the probe is complete,’’ said Mulayam.
Famous buffoon, Laloo Prasad Yadav, no longer chief minister of Bihar gave a statement as the Union Railways Minister:
‘‘We have asked the UP Government to immediately dismiss the jawans involved in the outrageous incident. There appears to be no fault on the part of the doctors’’
The state government has suspended four Government of Railway Police constables.
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Medical students go on rampage
MEDICAL students at Lucknow's King George Medical University have ransacked university and hospital property in protest over the death of a classmate.
Second year Deepak Agarwal was injured during a convocation-rehearsal in a building still under construction. He received a blow to the head after falling from a platform and later died in hospital. His colleagues have alleged negligence on the part of the doctors who treating Agarwal, claiming that he received inappropriate treatment.
"KGMU Vice-chancellor Mahendra Bhandari told UNI here today that the incident was unfortunate and the student was given the best available treatment.
"As we were still to install ultra modern medical facilties in our hospital, the injured student was shifted to a well-known private nursing home," he said.
Meanwhile, KGMU Junior Doctor's Association general secretary Devesh Shukla said that Deepak died due to delay in medical treatment provided to him. He demanded that the authorities should also clarify why he was shifted to a private nursing home." [Link]
As the news of his death spread, hundreds of students went on a rampage on campus. They torched vehicles, damaged medical equipment and college records dating back one hundred years - the university is celebrating its century this year.
Rapid Action Force officers had to be called in order to re-establish calm but all roads to the university remain blocked by students, who are demanding 50 lakh damages for Agarwal's family.
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Ten Million Missing Girls
ASIAN women have a long, long way to go in the fight for equality. What's more upsetting is that the perpetrators of crimes against females are often female themselves. Society has managed to convince men and women that females are inferior.
Just yesterday, a PP thread drifted onto the topic of female abortion in Asia. Today The Lancet published an Indian-Canadian study into the horrific practice in India. The Lancet requires a paid subscription for full access to articles, so I thought I'd add to the BBC summary. The study and an accompanying article by Dr Shirish Sheth will go to print next week.
The study, led by Dr Prabhat Jha and Dr Rajesh Kumar (Toronto and Chandigarh respectively), sought to ascertain the reasons for the unequal balance of females to males with specific reference to pre-natal sex determination and abortion. Across India the ratio stands at 933:1000, but is markedly more pronounced in certain areas such as Punjab, Haryana and Tamil Nadu. The study estimates that 500,000 female babies are aborted every year, for no other reason than their gender. However the study discovered that gender screening was most likely to be utilised when the family already had a daughter.
The stats break down like this:
If the first child is a boy, the ratio for the second and third child normalises, to about 1:1.
If the first child was a girl, the ratio of girls to boys rose sharply to 759:1000.
If the first two children were girls, the ratio fell further to 719:1000.
In households with a more educated mother, the chances of a girl following a female first-born were halved.
A correlation to religion was not found - it seems uniform across the main religious groups.
It is apparent that as long as a family has at least one son, they seem happy. This is somewhat surprising as one of the main proposed reasons for female foeticide is to avoid paying dowry. Dowry payments, made by a girl's family to the family of her husband upon marriage, are illegal in India but remain common practice. A poor family is unable to raise a sufficient dowry and a girl remains unmarried - and as far as society is concerned, worthless. It is, undoubtedly a cause of female abortion, but the reason it has not been identified as a major influence is because the abortion of female babies is not most prevalent amongst the poorest members of society.
On the contrary, those with no money are sometimes unable to access the ultrasound screening tests. The study showed that the practice is most common amongst more educated Indians. The study specifically identified the mothers as the variable factor. In a cruel twist of irony, the more educated a mother, the more likely she is to abort her female child - if she already has a daughter. However, I can only presume that the poorest of the poor still kill off female children - but instead of aborting them in utero, they kill newborns when they discover they are girls. I'm not basing this on fact, just speculation. Reliable figures for female infanticide in India are not available and it is thought that babies are often recorded as 'stillborn' when killed soon after birth.
Jha estimates half a million female children are lost every year and wanted to put pay to excuses that the ratio is due to natural disaster or disease:
"If this practice has been common for most of the past two decades since access to ultrasound became widespread, then a figure of 10m missing female births would not be unreasonable."
Jha himself attributed the main motivation as a legacy of when India was an agrarian society where boys were considered an extra pair of hands in the fields but a girl was a liability, a burden.
Sex selection and female feticide remains "rampant" in India, says Dr Shirish Sheth, of Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai. The use of ultrasound to determine sex has been outlawed in India. However, illegal 'back-alley ultrasound clinics' operate widely, even in rural areas. Aborting a foetus based on its gender has been illegal since 1994 and is a crime punishable by a fine, imprisonment and suspension of the doctor's licence. However many operating the machines are not medically-trained doctors but people out to make a quick buck. I can only guess at their accuracy - it's not an easy thing to do.
"In a country bedeviled in many parts by cultural taboos, a boy is preferred because he will continue the family name and bloodline, earn money, look after the family and take care of parents in their old age,"
A woman might be considered a "culprit" for not giving birth to a boy, Dr Sheth says, even though it's the male's sperm that determines the sex of a child. What's more, the cost of a dowry for a daughter can be "phenomenal," forcing many families to borrow to pay for them."
Is anything being done? Thankfully, lots. But India's a big country and it's an uphill struggle to change views held by millions. Some states have offerred free education to families who have only female children. A soap opera has been made by Plan and the government. There are also many religious and charitable organisations working to eradicate a practice of which social activist Swami Agnivesh says:
"There's no other form of violence that's more painful, more abhorrent, more shameful" China is also notorious for its skewed female:male ratio, although with quite different causality. China's one child policy has created a similar absence of girls across the country. The BBC recently showed a charming film entitled Looking for China Girl which presented the human angle to this shameful trend. The Chinese government estimates that within 15 years, 40 million Chinese men will be lifelong bachelors. The Chinese government has also tried to stem the flow of boys by offering free schooling to girls, but it has not stopped the abduction of girls to be sold as brides. In India abduction has not been widely reported, but paying poor families for their daughters as brides has become more common in Haryana. A perverse reverse-dowry.
The BBC has stacks on this issue. You can start with the BBC Best Link or hit any of the links above.
A 1998 survey of fertility and mortality which used almost 7000 units selected to represent the vast country as a whole. The units, in total, comprised 1.1 million households and followed 133,738 births. Based on the natural sex ratio from other countries, the team estimated that around 13.6 to 13.8 million girls should have been born in 1997 in India. However, the actual number was 13.1 million - a deficit of 0.59 - 0.74 million female births.This is a cross post on Pickled Politics.
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The Rise Of Pseudoscience: If It Looks Like A Quack...
I'VE written quite a bit about quackery whilst wearing my medical journalism hat. A recent controversy surrounding India's best-known and most popular yoga master and the allegation he uses human remains in his Ayurvedic concoctions has brought quacks back into the mainstream news. But, as always in India, politics rears its ugly head. Religious political parties in India have leapt to his defence, attacking Western science and medicine. In a trend occurring all over the world, science has become the bad guy.The War on Science™
Like any other medical student, I've heard - and ignored - the phrase ‘evidence-based medicine’, but these three words are central to doctors everywhere. Proof is the cornerstone of science. Without proof, we would prescribe drugs to patients at random and we would perform surgery on people who don’t need it. With time, we have abandoned unfounded beliefs of the past, such as phrenology or using leeches to cure heartburn. Bizarrely, this trend is not universal. In fact what is really happening is that the peddlers of bogus science have merely become more adept at pulling the wool over our collective eyes.
NASA invested over a million dollars in a Russian anti-gravity machine and major power companies have wasted tens of millions on a scheme to produce energy by placing hydrogen atoms below ground state, which has been described as trying to go south of the South Pole. No matter how insane the claim, there will be scientists who will vouch for it and there will be gullible believers.
Pseudoscience can come in different guises. Bad science at best can be sloppy, lazy experimentation or, at worst, a cynical attempt to deceive based on ulterior (read: Financial) motives. A high profile and potentially very damaging example of bad science is the nonsensical furore that erupted after the MMR jab was linked to autism in a deeply flawed paper. Quackery is a medicine-specific term. It may seem curious that medicine has its own word for pseudoscience, but one only has to visit Quackwatch to realise just how much detritus there is polluting the medical waters of the world. Why do we have a current state of affairs in which leeches and arsenic are quackery, but Chinese herbal medicine and homeopathy are treated as science?
The Lancet courted controversy last summer by rubbishing homeopathy, the practice of giving water to patients (a fact acknowledged by homeopathy associations). The Lancet’s article was based on a Swiss-British review of over 100 studies on the topic, which showed that homeopathy had the same efficacy as a placebo. So what? Nobody gets hurt by a little water. Not so. Homeopathy is available on the NHS, a government body that is hardly in a position to splash around cash. If we, as medical practitioners, give our patients the impression that homeopathy is a legitimate, effective therapy, we are guilty of failing to act in their best interests. They may neglect allopathic avenues in favour of something that will most likely be less therapeutic.
Pseudoscience has some telltale traits, but it is getting harder and harder to differentiate fact from bollocks. Pseudoscience predominantly works on anecdotal evidence, it fails to provide experimental possibility of reproducible results, it asserts claims that fail falsifiability and almost always fails to submit results for peer review. Acupuncture is yet another example of an officially unproven modality of treatment, which is available on the NHS, paid for by your tax money. It is the exact equivalent of European Space Agency funding astrologers.
Pseudoscience likes OLD. Traditional Chinese and Indian medicine enjoy a mythical status, O the wisdom of the ancients! Pseudoscience likes COINCIDENCE. I have a headache, I stick a needle in my chakra point and my headache goes away. The needle must have cured me.
But what pseudoscience really likes is RELIGION. Which is why the Republicans rubbish evolution and the Hindu funadamentalists in India poo-poo allopathy. Sanjay Nirupam of the hardline Shiv Sena party has also gone on record to say "One always hears about AIDS and how it's this big problem. But I have personally never come across anyone with AIDS or seen anyone dying of the disease, I think it's just hype." The BJP, the main opposition party, ploughed hundreds of crores into a cow urine-based TB treatment. This bizarre trait is not just restricted to America and India. In Africa, Thabo Mbeki famously denied the link between AIDS and HIV. Villagers reject vaccines and visit the witchdoctor.
This revitalisation in bogus science has not occurred overnight. Whereas in the West, when someone has a sniffle they sip tiger bone tea from the Chinese pharmacy; get even more ill and then go to their GP, both options are not always available in the developing world. It has been a growing trend over the last few decades to regard science, most of which is studied in the West, as some sort of post-colonial imperialist weapon to enslave the poor. When Thabo Mbeki claimed HIV and AIDS were not related, he attacked the “hegemony of Western science” and asserted AIDS is a disease of gays.
Human Remains and India's Holy Man
The person to initially allege that Baba Ramdev was using animal and human remains in his medicines was Brinda Karat, the leader of India's Marxist Communist Party (CPI), so one could argue that politics was involved from the start. Baba Ramdev's daily television show attracts up to a million viewers across India. He is an immensely powerful television figure, as his followers, Hindu and Muslim alike, literally bend and twist to his every command. He claims his ayurvedic medicines cure everything, from baldness to brain damage.
Since then, India's religious right, namely the VHP and Shiv Sena, have rallied to Ramdev's support.
So why have politicians waded into defend someone against a very serious allegation? Allopathic medicine and ayurveda have co-existed in India for generations, both given full recognition by the government. Ayurveda, the longest-running system of medicine in the world - and one of the first ever recorded - has won worldwide respect with many of the traditional treatments standing up well in clinical trials. However this is not to say that it is uniformly trustworthy. Ayurveda can be as close to witchdoctoring as species-depleting traditional Chinese medicine, one of my pet hates.
In recent years, India has seen a marked shift in the political sphere, with the rise of a firebrand, pro-Hindu movement. They don't like allopathic medicine - it's phirangi Western nonsense. Ayurvedic practitioners, buoyed by support from Indian MPs, have launched tirades against allopathic medicine; apparently allopathic medicine is "reactive" in that it reacts once you've taken it, but ayurvedic medicine doesn't. Then how the fuck does it work?! [Link]
The similarities to the Republican War on Science are remarkable, both sad indicators of a worldwide trend of bad-mouthing science. Both the VHP and the Republicans have their army of 'scientists' to back up their claims and both pay no regard to evidence-based-science. If the leader of the free world has chosen to reject science, what hope for the developing world?
Technorati tags: Medicine, Health, Science, India
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Churchill: Let the fakir die
WINSTON Churchill. The man millions of Britons voted 'The Greatest Briton of All Time' at the turn of the millennium, ahead of Newton, Shakespeare, Darwin and Brunel. The man who advocating gassing "recalcitrant Arabs as an experiment".
The man who described Mahatma Gandhi as "a half-naked fakir" who "ought to be laid, bound hand and foot, at the gates of Delhi and then trampled on by an enormous elephant with the new viceroy seated on its back" [Link]. The man who is in the news again - although there isn't too much coverage.
Hitherto unseen government documents have been released, which detail Churchill's stance on several issues. The notes were recorded by deputy Cabinet secretary, Sir Norman Brook, and give the first detailed glimpse into what was discussed at the War Cabinet between 1942 and 1945. They're open to the public just down the road from me at the Public Records Office in Kew, so I took a look. The rather difficult to read shorthand revealed some fascinating facts.
He wanted to send Nazis to the electric chair, without trial. He wanted Hitler executed "like a gangster". Hey, I'm not going to make a fuss about these two.
He thought Gen. Charles de Gaulle was a barrier to a "trustworthy" relationship with France. When de Gaulle fled to Britain, he subsequently asked if he was free to leave in order to visit French troops (de Gaulle remained a popular figure amongst the Resistance) and Churchill said "arrest him if he tries to leave."
Whilst the British Army prided itself on treating black and Asian soldiers with respect (at least in comparison to the Americans), Churchill insisted, "the views of the US must be considered." Black soldiers were told to show respect for the American army's segregation policies.
Churchill went on, expressing a desire to wipe out German villages as revenge for the Ludice massacre.
Perhaps least surprisingly, given Churchill's intense hatred of Gandhi (which is largely ignored by Western historians), is the fact that Churchill was willing to let Gandhi die. Whatever criticisms Gandhi has attracted, his devotion to pacifism stands out dramatically from the history of the world. It was this commitment to non-violence that inspired Martin Luther King to adopt the same approach.
Churchill said he was prepared to let him die if he went on hunger strike whilst imprisoned at the Aga Khan prison in Puné. Gandhi was interned during WWII as a result of the Quit India movement. He denounced Indian soldiers fighting in the war and his called for civil disobedience. At this time his wife and his secretary and close friend, Mahadev Desai, both died. Churchill was also keen to make sure Gandhi was treated "like any other prisoner".
India's viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, had recently sent a telegram claiming he was "strongly in favour of letting Gandhi starve to death" but it has become clear that the British Cabinet were the ones who decided that allowing Gandhi to continue on a strike would simply cause too big a backlash in India, as former viceroy Lord Halifax (then ambassador to America) explained, "Whatever the disadvantages of letting him out, his death in detention would be worse."
But hey, things change. Current Tory leader Dave Cameron quoted Bapu in his new year message:
"As Gandhi said, ‘we must be the change we want to see in the world." [Link]
"A lot of people are waiting for Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi to come back -- but they are gone. We are it. It is up to us. It is up to you."
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