Saturday, January 15, 2011

Fertile and fresh fields for tobacco in China

This op-ed in The Lancet again highlights that China, while streets ahead of most western countries on some important indicators, has a long way to catch up in other respects, here particularly with regard to the scourge of tobacco.

It sounds like a public health nightmare: a country where smoking is socially acceptable, people can smoke in public places, cigarettes are cheap, cigarette packets are devoid of effective health warnings, government officials use public funds to buy expensive cigarettes as gifts, and the tobacco industry sits on public bodies charged with tobacco control. But this is, in fact, the reality in China today, as detailed in a new report by the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

Given this situation, the statistics contained in the report are, perhaps, unsurprising. China has 300 million smokers and around 740 million non-smokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke: tobacco is the country's biggest killer.

China did ratify WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2005. But the signing of the FCTC seems largely symbolic. The report finds that the country is doing poorly with implementation, with a performance score of only 37 points of 100 possible points. Underpinning this poor performance is lack of political will to tackle tobacco control and the tobacco industry.

According to the report, the tobacco industry in China has a Counterproposal and Countermeasure Scheme against the FCTC, it has distorted the Chinese version of the framework, denied the scientific evidence on the health hazards of smoking, abused public powers of government to counteract tobacco control, and encouraged tobacco consumption through covert advertising and sponsorship.

China's Government has allowed this situation to prevail because the country's tobacco industry is seen as a major taxpayer and employer. Although this is true, the report states that an integrated benefit analysis shows the net benefit generated by the tobacco industry is already below zero. In other words, the rapidly growing medical expenditures and loss of productivity from tobacco-related illnesses outweigh the economic benefits of the industry.

China has shown it can address health threats such as avian influenza and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It is now time China tackles tobacco—its biggest health hazard and a serious economic threat.

For the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention report see

It will be interesting to see how China fares in its struggle against the blood-sucking pushers of tobacco, whose resilience against public health measures in the west has been legendary.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Giving ideas a fighting chance

George Monbiot reports on the lengths some people go to online to propagate their “ideas.”

For his film (Astro)Turf Wars, Taki Oldham secretly recorded a training session organised by a rightwing libertarian group called American Majority. The trainer, Austin James, was instructing Tea Party members on how to “manipulate the medium”. This is what he told them:

“Here’s what I do. I get on Amazon; I type in ‘Liberal Books’. I go through and I say ‘one star, one star, one star’. The flipside is you go to a conservative/ libertarian whatever, go to their products and give them five stars. … This is where your kids get information: Rotten Tomatoes, Flixster. These are places where you can rate movies. So when you type in ‘Movies on Healthcare’, I don’t want Michael Moore’s to come up, so I always give it bad ratings. I spend about 30 minutes a day, just click, click, click, click. ... If there’s a place to comment, a place to rate, a place to share information, you have to do it. That’s how you control the online dialogue and give our ideas a fighting chance.”

The following is how stipulates what it expects from users of its online services:

Visitors may post reviews, comments, photos, and other content; send e-cards and other communications; and submit suggestions, ideas, comments, questions, or other information, so long as the content is not illegal, obscene, threatening, defamatory, invasive of privacy, infringing of intellectual property rights, or otherwise injurious to third parties or objectionable and does not consist of or contain software viruses, political campaigning, commercial solicitation, chain letters, mass mailings, or any form of “spam.” You may not use a false e-mail address, impersonate any person or entity, or otherwise mislead as to the origin of a card or other content.

(my emphasis: JAS)

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Bitter sweet sample-athon

The following video features a mix I threw together of the Verve’s ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ laced with the guitar riff ‘sampled’ from The Rolling Stones’ classic 1965 recording of ‘The Last Time’.

I reckon The Verve should consider releasing this commercially, since one way or another they’re paying for it by way of the peculiar judicially-imposed royalties arrangement explained elsewhere.

The video shows footage of the guitar riff being played by Brian Jones — described by one-time bandmate Keith Richards as “a cold-blooded, vicious motherfucker, only short and blond with it” — who drowned in his swimming pool on the day I turned 12 years old.

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Beer, wine, naked women and the week before Christmas

'T'was the week before Christmas, when all ‘round the ‘Juck
Not a cloud wasn’t pouring, not a few with thunder struck.
The lures were hung by the loop knots with care,
In hopes that fat cod soon would be theirs.

The children with iPods all snug in the cottage,
While visions of monsoons turned lake to porridge.
And Mum with a white and I with a beer,
Had just settled our brains to spend the trip in here.

When out on the lake there arose such a clatter,
As the gale from the south did the porridge batter.
Again another morn’ as the gale did blow,
The Brindabella Ranges did deport in snow.

The moon on the water ne’er did appear
As the lake to the back door crept ever near.
When, finally to my wondering eyes should show,
But a modicum of sun, and above 11 the temperature did go .

With a favourite old diver, on the penultimate day,
Did I plough the topsoil from up Goodradigbee way.
The cav’ plate of the outboard nowhere in sight,
Was eloquent testimony to my luring plight!

When on the final day the summer did return,
The kids round the lake in the ring took turn,
And laying aside all the hardbody baits,
I turned to the spinner-blades without any takes!

I filled up the car and to the family gave a whistle,
And to the chocolate malted lake we waved our dismissal.
But I managed to exclaim, ‘ere I tooled round that switchback,
"Happy fishing to all, and to all I’ll be back!"

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