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The great Polish poet and aphorist, Stanisław Jerzy Lec described politics as a Trojan horse race.

It is an analogy that most of us accept implicitly. In fact, so normalised has the idea become that in December 2013 when the then Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources responded to allegations that his party had misled the public by saying ‘Isn’t that what you tend to do during an election?’ the electorate could barely summon a pair of eyebrows between them to raise in despair.

Today’s threat does not come in the form of a ‘horse of mountainous size,‘ however. It would be a far sight better if it did. We might be more wary of it. Instead, our ‘votive offering’ arrives in the shape of a harmless looking treaty that promises much and which, like the horse that sacked the city of Troy, will not reveal the horrors lurking within it’s gut until it is too late.

The TTIP (Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) is essentially a number of bi-lateral trade negotiations between the US and the EU. The largest of these agreements, the TiSA (Trade in Services Agreement) aims to bring together 51 states. It may surprise you that you haven’t heard much about ‘the biggest trade deal in the world‘, but it really shouldn’t. You are not supposed to for reasons that will soon become apparent. Read More

 

The death of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela – the meaning of the middle name is ‘troublemaker’ – only now brings to an end, the closure of the 20th century for the preceding century could never have been seen to have passed while breath remained in the body of it’s leading protagonist. Not merely was prisoner 46664, apartheid’s most determined antagonist or the most resonant cry heard in the 20th century, Madiba was the architect of this century also.

His moral authority was unquestionable. His dignity, humility and courage, exemplary. He was the distillation of a unifying ideal. The distillation of our hopes for a better world. He refined our dreams, then brought them into our waking hours. Read More

With a new review from the University of Southampton urging clinicians to be mindful of the link between prescribed antidepressants and increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, it may be time to persuade psychiatry to seek a ‘check up from the neck up’.

Let me begin by stating that I do not wish to overplay the relevance of this latest study (people taking antidepressant medication often put on weight thereby increasing risk of developing diabetes while antidepressants themselves may yet be shown to be interfering with blood glucose control), but given our increasing over-reliance on antidepressants – 46.7 million scripts for antidepressants were written in the UK in 2011 – the report’s key findings merit careful consideration.

In the US, the increase in antidepressant use is startling. 1 in 10 Americans are now prescribed antidepressant medication. This number leaps to 1 in 4 among women in their 40’s and 50’s.

Such an increase is not a new phenomenon, albeit it’s growth may now be considered exponential. A study of 233,144 adult patient records who made doctor appointments between 1996 and 2007 discovered that the percentage of prescriptions written by non-psychiatrists had more than doubled over the twelve year period, and included close to ten thousand prescriptions for antidepressants given to patients without any diagnosis of depression being present.  Read More

Comment: As the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) releases a twenty year study into the practice of female genital mutilation and finds that 30 million girls are at risk of having their external genitalia forcibly removed in the next decade, isn’t it about time we cast off the shackles of cultural relativism?

The UNICEF report, Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: a statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change, is the most comprehensive review ever undertaken into the tradition of female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C) and reveals that over 125 million women and girls alive today have already been subjected to the brutality and trauma of the practice.

While the report ultimately highlights a slow decline in the number of girls being subjected to this anguish, and reveals that girls and women consistently underestimate the number of boys and men who wish to see an end to FGM/C (in several countries, men now are more opposed to FGM/C than women) it also shows that even among those who wish to end the practice, social pressures exerted upon them are sufficient to ensure the bloodying of blankets continues with scant enquiry.

As defined by the World Health Organisation, female genital mutilation refers to ‘all procedures involving partial or full removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons’. In it’s most extreme form, FGM/C involves the sowing up of the vagina completely. The removal of the external  genitalia may be undertaken with sharp rocks, pieces of glass, scissors or blunted knives and razors. FGM/C is generally carried out without anaesthetic.   Read More

For a Scotsman, residing in Ireland who writes predominantly on topics of Scottish and Irish interest, it was only a matter of time before I sought to bring attention to two of our nations most notorious scoundrels. The names of Burke and Hare are now synonymous with a rare kind of unpleasantness, a wickedness that is at once repulsive and strangely charming. Bringing their exploits to light now however serves a dual purpose, acting as it does as a perfect segue into a hopelessly under-reported travesty.

Burke and Hare were Irish immigrants who arrived in Edinburgh in 1827, five years before the Anatomy Act of 1832 which legitimised the provision of cadavers to a medical profession that previously had relied on bodysnatching or the disinternment of Edinburgh’s deid to supply their demand. ‘Resurrectionists’, as they were so known, were opportunistic thieves who would steal under cover of darkness into graveyards in order to acquire ‘anatomical subjects’ for the doctors teaching at the Edinburgh Medical School.

William Burke and William Hare were more opportunistic than most. When they moved into Tanner’s Close in 1827, and took up residence in Margaret Laird’s lodging house, a sickly guest gave the men an idea they were to embrace with chilling enthusiasm. Read More

Artist: Dipayan Ghosh

Comment: Charles Saatchi’s brutish bullying must bring the necessary public response to what is all too often considered a ‘private’ matter. 

The latest report into domestic violence from the World Health Organisation (WHO) makes for grim reading. In the most wide reaching study of it’s kind, in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Medicine and the South African Medical Research Council, it is reported that 1 in 3 women are victims of sexual or physical violence, and that assault at the hands of an intimate partner or ex-partner are by far the most common.

It is not clear if Nick Clegg considers these findings to be ‘fleeting‘ or not but Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the WHO has correctly described the findings as revealing ‘a global health problem of epidemic problems’.  Read More

President Obama will travel to Boston today to attend an interfaith memorial for the victims of Monday’s attack on the Boston Marathon. On Tuesday, he called the attack ‘heinous and cowardly’ and announced that the FBI were investigating an ‘act of terrorism… Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terrorism’, he continued. His words were picked up by global media outlets and relayed across the world as the insatiable appetite for immediate answers or failing that, prompt suspicion saw no sign of abatement.

The children in the picture above have not been afforded the same degree of sympathy as Martin Richard, the eight year old boy, so tragically killed on Monday. At the time of this writing, the reasons for the attack in Boston and the perpetrator(s) behind the attack are not known. In Pakistan, the perpetrators are known all too well. The children photographed were killed ten days before the attack on Boston by an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) piloted from the opposite side of the world from where they played, and sanctioned by the President himself. Read More

President Barack Obama addresses the House Dem...

President Barack Obama addresses the House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference in Williamsburg, Virginia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Comment: President Obama’s second term hinges on his ability to overcome his own, abject invertebracy. 

So the Senate and the House of Representatives, after the all too familiar posturing and ‘brinkmanship’ have decided to eschew personal responsibility and have once again abdicated all responsibility to those they are charged to represent. On this occasion however, the can has been not so much been kicked down the road as booted off the fiscal cliff itself with little thought to the tide which will inevitably return it with interest. Read More

There are over four hundred different species of poppy. From Prickly to Pygmy, Oriental to Opium, Celandine to Californian, Icelandic, Welsh and Nepalese; to wind poppies and tree poppies; from the hopelessly unimaginative nomenclature of the Corn poppy to the ludicrously imaginative Desert Bearpaw. There can be no species more strange however, or more likely to ignite our all too dormant British passions as that which recently bloomed so precociously across the teleboxes of the nation.

Corn poppy (Papaver rhoeas), Thasos, Greece Tü...

Corn poppy (Papaver rhoeas), Thasos, Greece Türkçe: Gelincikler (Papaver rhoeas); Thasos, Yunanistan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Papaver rhoeas, the wartime remembrance poppy, is more commonly known as the red-flowered corn poppy but it is her ubiquitous, counterfeit cousin which excites the British public most and which has prompted this posting. Read More

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