Friday, July 31, 2009

A very smart pussycat ...

Casper, which is 12 years old, boards the No3 service at 10.55am from outside his home in Plymouth, Devon, and travels the entire 11-mile route before returning home about an hour later.

On the route, the cat passes an historic dockyard and naval base, a city centre, several suburbs and the city's red light district.

He has been making the journey for so long that all First Bus drivers have now been told to look out for him to ensure he gets off at the right stop.

Susan Finden (corr), 65, a care worker who is Casper's owner, said: "Casper has always disappeared for hours at a time but I never understood where he was going.

"I called him Casper because he had a habit of vanishing like a ghost. But then some of the drivers told me he had been catching the bus.

"I couldn't believe it at first, but it explains a lot. He loves people and we have a bus stop right outside our house so that must be how he got started - just following everyone on.

"I used to catch the odd bus too so maybe he saw me and got curious what I was doing.

"Casper is quite quick for his age so he just hops on to the bus before the doors close. He catches the 10.55am service and likes to sit on the back seat."

Rob Stonehouse (corr), one of the drivers on the route, said: "He usually just curls up at the back of the bus. Sometimes he nips between people's legs but he never causes any trouble."

Casper has travelled an estimated 20,000 miles but Mrs Finden says because he is getting old the drivers often have to shuffle him off at the right stop.

A spokeswoman for First Bus said the firm has put a notice up in the office asking them to look after the non-paying passenger.



"I am dismayed by the YouTube attacks on Margaret Williams and wish to place on public record that to my certain knowledge they are both erroneous and defamatory. Those making these unfounded accusations are doing a great disservice to the whole ME community.

People have a right to know the facts. Margaret Williams does occasionally use and has published material using the pseudonym Julia Hamilton.

The exhibits to the witness statement of NICE’s solicitor Stephen Hocking from Beachcroft LLP in relation to NICE’s allegations about Julia Hamilton are also seriously erroneous.

Using the name Julia Hamilton, Margaret Williams did indeed contact NICE and the Legal Services Commission with a legitimate request for information that was in the public interest, but she did not say that she worked for either the LSC or for Leigh Day & Co. She did, however, say she was working with Leigh Day & Co, a fact confirmed by them on 9th February 2009 when Jamie Beagent wrote to her saying: “Your role and involvement….in the legal proceedings is perfectly proper”.

The failure to redact this erroneous information before the Court was entirely the fault of the lawyers involved and was not due to Margaret Williams or any other advisors to the Claimants.

Erroneous information has now entered the public domain and subsequently been used to mount misconceived and unjustified attacks on Margaret Williams’ privacy and character. Those making these attacks are ignorant of all the facts of the case and are acting maliciously.

The alleged misrepresentation of quotations from NICE’s witness Professor Anthony Pinching as set out in Beagent’s first witness statement (which attracted criticism from the Judge) lies with Beagent, not with Margaret Williams. Beagent chose not to heed the detailed quotations sent to him by Margaret Williams and made critical errors in his first witness statement of 8th December 2008. This was entirely Beagent’s own fault.

To the profound concern of the Claimants and all their advisors, the Claimants’ lawyers decided to ignore the 19 witness statements submitted at the last minute by NICE and the witness statement and exhibits of Stephen Hocking. The Claimants and their advisors urged their lawyers that it was imperative to address the issues they contained but their barrister, Jeremy Hyam, advised against doing so.

At the 11th hour, NICE issued very serious threats against both Jamie Beagent and Jeremy Hyam to the extent that, on the first day of the hearing and, without any discussion whatsoever with the Claimants or their advisors, they decided to withdraw a large portion of the Claimants’ evidence against NICE and to apologise to the Court and to NICE. The Claimants and their advisors believe this decision cost them the case which then had no hope of succeeding.

As a consequence, in April 2009 a substantial complaint was served upon both Jamie Beagent and Jeremy Hyam, which is currently before the Legal Complaints Service and the Bar Council Standards Board and is the subject of on-going action.

29th July 2009"

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Weasel words ...

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Weasel words is an informal term for words that are ambiguous and not supported by facts. They are typically used to create an illusion of clear, direct communication. Weasel words are usually expressed with deliberate imprecision with the intention to mislead the listeners or readers into believing statements for which sources are not readily available. Tactics that are used include:

"A growing body of evidence..."[4] (Where is the raw data for your review?)
"People say..." (Which people? How do they know?)
"Studies show..." (what studies?)

Evidence-based research showing pathology that contra-indicates the use of graded exercise in ME/CFS

Margaret Williams 23rd July 2009

There is an extensive literature from 1956 to date on the significant pathology that has been repeatedly demonstrated in ME/CFS, but not in “CFS/ME” or “chronic fatigue”; this can be accessed on the ME Research UK website at and also at .

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wesley's discovery of a lifetime ...

Anthony Wesley was engaged in his favourite backyard pastime of watching Jupiter through his 14.5-inch-wide Newtonian telescope when the amateur Australian astronomer made the discovery of a lifetime – a find that has astonished and enthralled professional planet watchers around the world.

It was just after midnight on Sunday and Mr Wesley, a 44-year-old IT consultant living in the rural town of Murrumbateman near Canberra, was about to call it a night after the clear skies he had enjoyed that evening began to deteriorate and visibility fell.

But having gone inside and got caught up watching golfer Tom Watson almost make history in the Open on television, something made Mr Wesley return to the computer screen of his home-made telescope once more. It was then he saw .....

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Listen to your body after swine flu

Rushing back to work after swine flu could be dangerous. Taking your time to recover is the best way to avoid complications.

However, as with any viral infection, there could be longer-lasting health problems. It is thought that chronic fatigue syndrome, also known as myalgic encephalopathy (ME), can be triggered by viruses, including flu. The symptoms of ME can range from tiredness and recurrent mild illnesses to debilitating conditions that can affect every area of a person's life.

"The causes of chronic fatigue syndrome and ME are unknown but it is accepted that a common triggering factor is acute viral illnesses and or stress," says Professor Leslie Findley, a consultant neurologist who specialises in chronic fatigue syndrome. "It is possible that swine flu could trigger chronic fatigue syndrome in people who are vulnerable to it, and exacerbate symptoms in people who already have chronic fatigue syndrome." But Findley stresses that any viral illness can trigger it, "and we have no evidence that swine flu will be any worse, so you have to keep it in context".

Dr Charles Shepherd, medical adviser at the ME Association, says: "I am comparing swine flu to 'ordinary' flu here, and some people do report that flu was their trigger, but I should say that it doesn't tend to be a major trigger. Most fit adults get over flu and are perfectly healthy. But if there is going to be a major outbreak, some people are going to have post-viral symptoms and may go on to develop ME. So listen to your body. Anyone who still feels under the weather two weeks on should consult their doctor to see if they have got post-viral syndrome coming on. It is important to get appropriate management early on."

There is no drug treatment, but people should take adequate time to rest and recuperate. "We do know that people who force themselves back to work too early seem to be the ones who go on to develop long-term problems."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A curious and extremely ugly styling detail ...

"I dislike conspiracy theories. The smug, self-satisfied, arms-crossed demeanour of those who would have us believe that Neil Armstrong didn’t walk on the moon or indeed anywhere more exciting than a sound stage in Nevada invariably fills me with an uncontrollable need to set them on fire ...."

Couple lose despite backing every greyhound

A married couple took almost £47,000 in cash to back every dog at a greyhound track but what they thought to be a foolproof strategy turned out to have a crucial flaw....

Man given six months to live discovers tumour is harmless abscess

A man diagnosed with terminal cancer and given six months to live is to sue the NHS - after his "tumour" turned out to be a harmless abscess.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fake ...

Why is the UK a swine flu hotspot?

As the global swine flu pandemic gathers pace, one question is puzzling scientists. Why is a small country on the eastern seaboard of the north Atlantic so badly affected?

Britain is among the top half dozen global hot spots for swine flu. Along with Mexico, where the disease orginated, the US, Canada, Chile, Argentina and Australia, we are leading the way in the battle against the bug. We have more cases, and more deaths, than any other country in Europe and the pandemic is growing exponentially here, with 55,000 new cases last week, while it is subsiding elsewhere, notably in Mexico. And because we are in the front line, we are having to learn as we go.

This is not what was expected. Britain is an island nation, accustomed to the security that living within sea borders brings. But when it comes to highly pathogenic viruses, even the English channel cannot protect us.

When the pandemic emerged in Mexico last April, spreading first to the US and then ...

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Professor said no ...

NYC Half-Marathon on August 16th

The Fresh Air Fund is still looking for runners and sponsors to join our Fresh Air Fund-Racers team for the NYC Half-Marathon on August 16th.
This is a great way to participate in NYC's premier summer road race while helping Fresh Air Fund children

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"I regret ever starting medication" ...

The comments of a psychiatrically atypical physician, including thoughts on spirituality, medication, therapy, health, disability, success, loss, biology, memory, and everything else that affects well-being:

"I regret ever starting medication. But now that I’m on them, if I reduce the dose too quickly I get depressed.

Yes, I can tolerate depression, and even see some majesty in understanding how deeply sad and messed up the world is. But after weeks and months of that, suicide starts looking like a really, really nice option. I would have ended my life long ago if not for my wife. Since I don’t want to wreck her world, I choose to increase the dose to give myself at least a little will to live.

I don’t care whether you call it ‘disordered’ or ‘gifted’, it makes it hard to live. So hard that I’m surprised I’ve made it this far. Is it genetic? Probably; my mother killed herself. Is it environmental: Yes; I was horribly abused as a child. Do I care? Not really; all I know is I get very little joy out of life much of the time, and especially if I reduce the medications too quickly. That lack of joy is what led me to take drugs back when I started in 1995. They worked at first, then quit working. Now, like Alice in Wonderland, I need them just to keep from falling deeper, but I don’t get anywhere solid.

Cognitive techniques, acceptance training, meditation, etc all do much more than drugs. And when I practice them diligently I do OK. But my point is that in my case whether it’s a gift or not it wrecks my life. There may be some nobility to that, but I don’t want to be a martyr and accept all the suffering of mankind at the expense of any enjoyment in life.

I don’t hear voices. I had one long episode of florid psychosis, where I had powerful spiritual experiences, some visual hallucinations, and a chorus of angels singing in the background. Very beautiful. Went to the psych ward and had it hammered down to mere ‘delusions’ with haldol. I regret that. I don’t think it was illness, and it truly was a grace. I’d gladly live in that state forever, regardless the consequences to my life.

But if I had voices telling me to kill myself and others, especially if I was trying to practice medicine, I’d probably get tired of it. Maybe those voices are demonstrating the truth: yes, the world is a painful place and what people are doing to it and to each other is brutal and ugly. Maybe suicide and homicide are the natural responses to this place. But for my part I would not want to live with that message being shouted at me day in and day out."

Friday, July 10, 2009

Panic ...

RSM meeting, July 11 - traffic disruption in area

Please note that there will be some disruption to bus and other transport around the W1 area on Saturday morning from 10am onwards due to a procession and rally going from Portman Square to Trafalgar Square. This may affect people attending the ME/CFS conference at the Royal Society of Medicine in Wimpole Street.

More information can be found on the Met Police website events section:

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Environmental campaigner loses legal battle over crop spraying

Georgina Downs has always insisted that residents living close to fields sprayed with pesticides are in danger of suffering from chronic illnesses such as cancer, asthma and neurological conditions.

Last year the High Court concluded that she had produced "solid evidence that residents have suffered harm to their health" and that the Government was unlawfully not following a European safety directive.

However, the ruling was overturned by the Court of Appeal. Her legal battle is estimated to have cost Miss Downs an estimated £100,000.

Outside court she said: "This judgement is a complete whitewash. I think it may well go down in history as being the most bizarre and inaccurate judgement to have ever come out of the Court of Appeal.

"The Government could not have wished for a better result than if it wrote the judgement itself.

"The fact remains that there has never been any assessment for the long-term exposure for those who live, work or got to school near pesticide sprayed fields.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Friendly fire ...

Recent clinical trials have shown that “rebooting” our disease-fighting immune system can dramatically improve the condition of patients with multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. And according to a study published last week, it may even bring relief to patients suffering from the enigmatic condition Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, affecting millions worldwide.

There is a growing sense of excitement about the rebooting technique. But behind it lies an inspiring story of how a pair of scientists overcame indifference to convince the medical community of the merits of what is now called B-cell Depletion Therapy (BCDT).

B-cells are a type of white blood cell which randomly churn out so-called antibodies, many of which prove useful in destroying disease-causing pathogens. Yet, like every defence system, mistakes sometimes happen – and innocent bystanders end up being targeted. During the late 1990s, two medical researchers at University College London began to wonder if this “friendly fire” might hold the key to .......

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Trio walk from Sydney to Brisbane to tackle depression

Brisbane northside residents Jack Clarke, Peter Johnston and Matt Gardner, 22, have started a 23-day walk from Sydney to Brisbane to promote mental health.

A Queensland graphic designer who lost his mother to suicide last year is walking from Sydney to Brisbane with two mates to raise awareness of depression.

Peter Johnston will tell high school students along the 1000-kilometre route where they can find help to deal with their problems.

The 22-year-old video producer, whose mother killed herself after a 10-year battle with depression, joined his friends Matt Gardner and Jack Clarke at the Sydney Opera House early this morning to set off on the 23-day trek.

Mr Johnston grew up with his mum after his parents separated, but she felt isolated as a deaf woman and had attempted suicide several times.

"Being a kid in that situation, you don't know what to do," he said.

"When I was 14 I actually became her legal carer. That makes you grow up pretty fast."

Friday, July 3, 2009

Immunotherapy for ME/CFS

A report in BMC Neurology (July) describes how three people with ME/CFS (one of whom had Hodgkin's disease) experienced a significant degree of improvement during and after the use of two drugs – rituximab and methotrexate –that depress what is called B cell function.

The authors of this paper suggest that there could be a sub-group of people with ME/CFS where immunomodulatory drugs that modify B cell numbers and function could be an effective form of treatment.

Exercise and fatigue.

Ament W, Verkerke GJ.

1: Sports Med. 2009;39(5):389-422. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200939050-00005.

Department of Biometrics, Faculty of Health and Technology, Zuyd University, Heerlen, the Netherlands.

Physical exercise affects the equilibrium of the internal environment. During exercise the contracting muscles generate force or power and heat. So physical exercise is in fact a form of mechanical energy. This generated energy will deplete the energy stocks within the body.

During exercise, metabolites and heat are generated, which affect the steady state of the internal environment. Depending on the form of exercise, sooner or later sensations of fatigue and exhaustion will occur.

The physiological role of these sensations is protection of the exercising subject from the deleterious effects of exercise. Because of these sensations the subject will adapt his or her exercise strategy. The relationship between physical exercise and fatigue has been the scope of interest of many researchers for more than a century and is very complex.

The exercise intensity, exercise endurance time and type of exercise are all variables that cause different effects within the body systems, which in turn create different types of sensation within the subject's mind during the exercise.

Physical exercise affects the biochemical equilibrium within the exercising muscle cells. Among others, inorganic phosphate, protons, lactate and free Mg2+ accumulate within these cells.

They directly affect the mechanical machinery of the muscle cell. Furthermore, they negatively affect the different muscle cell organelles that are involved in the transmission of neuronal signals.

The muscle metabolites produced and the generated heat of muscle contraction are released into the internal environment, putting stress on its steady state. The tremendous increase in muscle metabolism compared with rest conditions induces an immense increase in muscle blood supply, causing an increase in the blood circulatory system and gas exchange.

Nutrients have to be supplied to the exercising muscle, emptying the energy stocks elsewhere in body. Furthermore, the contracting muscle fibres release cytokines, which in their turn create many effects in other organs, including the brain.

All these different mechanisms sooner or later create sensations of fatigue and exhaustion in the mind of the exercising subject. The final effect is a reduction or complete cessation of the exercise. Many diseases speed up the depletion of the energy stocks within the body.

So diseases amplify the effect of energy stock depletion that accompanies exercise.

In addition, many diseases produce a change of mind-set before exercise. These changes of mind-set can create sensations of fatigue and exercise-avoiding behaviour at the onset of an exercise.

One might consider these sensations during disease as a feed-forward mechanism to protect the subject from an excessive depletion of their energy stocks, to enhance the survival of the individual during disease.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Unlocked: the secrets of schizophrenia

A colour enhanced MRI image of the brain shows one of the theories into what may be the chemical basis for Schizophrenia. Researchers have found reduced receptors for dopamine in the brain (areas colourized)

A colour enhanced MRI image of the brain shows one of the theories into what may be the chemical basis for Schizophrenia. Researchers have found reduced receptors for dopamine in the brain (areas colourized)

"Scientists have discovered a remarkable similarity between the genetic faults behind both schizophrenia and manic depression in a breakthrough that is expected to open the way to new treatments for two of the most common mental illnesses, affecting millions of people.

Previously doctors had assumed that the two conditions were quite separate. But new research shows for the first time that both have a common genetic basis that leads people to develop one or other of the two illnesses.

"However, what we've found so far explains only a tiny fraction of the total risk of schizophrenia. Some of us were surprised to find that not only did these genes contribute to schizophrenia but they also contribute to bipolar disorder. So that really suggests that the two disorders are not really as distinct as we thought in psychiatry.""


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

BBC NEWS By David Reid

Patients who are conscious but almost entirely paralysed could be aided by French research that reads their brain activity to help them communicate.

The condition known as locked-in syndrome has many causes but in most cases it leaves its victims fully conscious but unable to move or speak.

French journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby suffered "locked-in syndrome" when he woke up from a coma caused by a massive stroke to find his mental faculties intact, but body inert.

Despite this he managed to write a memoir entitled The Diving Bell and the Butterfly to give the world a rare glimpse into the internal lives of the locked-in.

The stroke left Mr Bauby able only to blink his left eye and he used this to communicate with an assistant who read out the letters of the alphabet to him.

Scientists at France's Institute for Health and Medical Research (Inserm) have come up with a system called OpenVibe to help sufferers of locked in syndrome and to develop understanding of the human brain.

Repairing the Stroke-Damaged Brain

By Emily Singer

A simple, inexpensive device that delivers electrical current to the brain noninvasively could help stroke patients recover lost motor ability. According to a new study, the treatment--transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)--in combination with occupational therapy boosted recovery better than either treatment on its own.

Many patients spontaneously recover some function in the weeks and months after suffering a stroke, as their brains reorganize to compensate for the damaged area. Scientists are searching for ways to both boost and focus this innate plasticity, thus improving neural repair. Electrical activity is one option under study: electrical current applied to the brain can modulate brain-cell activity--a crucial component of neural remodeling.


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