UK housing: Fit for the future? – Committee on Climate Change

This report, by the Committee on Climate Change and its Adaptation Committee, assesses whether the UK’s housing stock is adequately prepared for the challenges of climate change; both in terms of reducing emissions from UK homes and ensuring homes are adequately prepared for the impacts of climate change.

The report’s key findings are that:

  • the UK’s legally-binding climate change targets will not be met without the near-complete elimination of greenhouse gas emissions from UK buildings.
  • emissions reductions from the UK’s 29 million homes have stalled, while energy use in homes – which accounts for 14% of total UK emissions – increased between 2016 and 2017.
  • efforts to adapt the UK’s housing stock to the impacts of the changing climate: for higher average temperatures, flooding and water scarcity, are lagging far behind what is needed to keep us safe and comfortable, even as these climate change risks grow.

Source: UK housing: Fit for the future? – Committee on Climate Change

Angola Bans LGBT Discrimination!

Severe discrimination and harsh penalties against homosexuality in some African countries are well known in the West. Not widely recognised, is that this really is just some countries. A handful of others are the only countries in the world that have never criminalised same-sex behaviour, and still more in recent years have repealed their anti-gay laws. Angola is the latest to have done so – and in the process, went further. They have banned discrimination based on homophobia.

From Deutsche Welt:

As Angola decriminalizes homosexuality, where does the African continent stand?

Angola has done away with criminalizing homosexuality, removing a notorious “vices against nature” provision in its penal code. Other African nations still punish people for same-sex relationships.

    
Südafrika Gay Pride 2012 (picture-alliance/dpa/K. Ludbrook)

Angola has decriminalized homosexuality — 133 years after the passage banning same-sex relations was included in the country’s penal code when the southwest African nation was still a Portuguese colony. The so-called “vices against nature” provision in its law could send same-sex couples to prison.

Parliamentarians who voted to overhaul Angola’s criminal statue books didn’t just remove the passage. They also banned discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The reform has been hailed by human rights activists who have been pushing for equal rights for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in Angola and other African countries.

Read more:  DW | 10.02.2019

Three Years With No Stomach.

Three years ago today, I was in the Royal Free Hospital for surgery to remove a massive GIST (“GastroIntestinal Stromal Tumour”), and with it, all of my stomach and spleen.  So – how has life been, with no stomach?

Prior to surgery, I had been warned that I would have to make substantial adjustments to how I ate (and drank). I was told, on all the websites I checked and on-line support forums. that I would be able to eat adequately, provided that I took only small meals at a time – preferably, six small meals instead of the usual three a day, I was also advised that it would be helpful to have a steady supply of something like nuts to nibble on between meals. Two different nutritionists suggested I should avoid drinking anything at all at the same time as taking my meals, and not to drink anything fizzy – no  carbonated drinks (eg, coke, or mixers), and no beer.  I was also warned that initially at least, there would have to be a gradual adjustment to eating at all – starting with liquid foods, going on to semi-liquids like smoothies, progressing slowly to soft foods, and taking time to get to the full range of conventional solids.

In addition, the standard advice is that after a gastrectomy, there is a real risk of something called the dreaded “dumping” syndrome if ever I ate too much, or too quickly.

In practice, it’s been much easier than that.

The first surprise was that the first week after surgery was even harsher tha expected. Instead of starting on a liquid diet, I was on nothing at all – “nil by mouth”. I was allowed not even water: the closest I could get, was a wet sponge to dampen my lips. Later, earnest entreaties got me permission to take some water into my mouth, provided that I spat it out without swallowing.  However, once I was allowed to start drinking from the eighth day, to my surprise I was told that I could immediately begin eating “soft” foods – and that did not mean semi-liquids, but included things like pasta, a bean and tuna casserole, mashed potatoes and scrambled eggs.

After returning home on the tenth day following surgery, I initially avoided things like toast and roast potatoes, but  it didn’t take long before I was eating the full range of foods.  I started out trying scrupulously to stick to the recommended six small meals a day, but soon found this to be impractical. Instead, on the basis that my usual breakfast and supper are in any case small meals, all I did was adjust my midday lunch, eating half at lunch time, and the rest at mid-afternoon.

I started out avoiding all drinks together with meals, and avoiding fizzy drinks completely. In time however, I found that this precaution was unnecessary. As long as I drink slowly and not too much at a time, I now find that I can easily take any fizzy drinks I like, and also enjoy a drink with meals.  With time, I have even found that on occasion I can eat quite a substantial meal at a time. Although when at home I divide my usual meal into two portions, when away from home and this is not feasible, I can eat something close to a conventional full portion (but still avoid having three courses).

I have also been fortunate in never having experienced anything like the dreaded “dumping” syndrome.  The only problem I’ve yet experienced on the rare occasions when I’ve eaten more than I can cope with, has been a lttle mild discomfort. All I’ve needed to at those times, has been to lie down  and rest for just a few minutes (no more) and that has invariably cleared it.

Other than the small adjustment I’ve made to eating, I have continued with daily imatinib tablets (a form of oral chemotherapy, taken with my breakfast) to guard against a recurrence. Because of the sheer size of my tumour (26cm x 19cm), I’ve been told I will likely remain on the medication for life, Here too, I’ve been fortunate. Some people have difficulty just tolerating the drug, others experience some nasty side -effects. I’ve never had any difficulty taking it, and although I do have a range of side-effects, these are fairly mild and do not particularly interfere with my daily routine.

So, my experience has been quite different to the warnings given in the relevant websites (GIST SupportUK and others). Does this imply that the standard information is flawed – or am I just an “anomaly”, as one respected GIST colleague has said to me? I don’t know – but I do suggest that for anyone else awaiting a gastrectomy, take note of the standard advice, make all the preparations and adjustments recommended.  Understand though, that we all respond differently to surgery and to medicaion. Your experience may turn out to be a pleasant surprise, as it has been to me,.

 

A “Trojan Horse” New Cancer Treatment

From The Independent:

‘Trojan horse’ cancer drug can extend survival where other treatments fail, trials show

Ovarian cancer among the types which responded to tisotumab vedotin treatment, though best effects in bowel and cervical forms
Ovarian cancer among the types which responded to tisotumab vedotin treatment, though best effects in bowel and cervical forms ( WikiMedia )

A cancer drug which uses an unprecedented “Trojan horse” approach to destroy tumours from the inside has shown promising results across six different forms of the disease.

UK researchers have hailed the results from early human tests of the drug, known as tisotumab vedotin (TV), after it stopped or shrank tumours in patients with no other options left.

The treatment combines a cancer-killing chemotherapy agent with an antibody, a biological molecule which binds to markers on the surface of cancer cells and causes the drug to be drawn inside.

Brexit Jitters Hit the Stalled Housing Market

The government’s own declared target is to build 300 000 new homes a year – but instead of building more, the number of new housing starts is down on last year. The number of new homes registered by housebuilders with the National House Building Council (NHBC), representing 80% of the national total, was just 159 617: not much more than half the annual target.

From the Guardian:

Brexit jitters hit London housing market as newbuilds decline sharply

Housebuilding in the UK was down slightly in 2018 on the 2017 figure, from 160,396 to 159,617.
 Housebuilding in the UK was down slightly in 2018 on the 2017 figure, from 160,396 to 159,617. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

Housebuilding declined sharply in London and the Midlands last year as political and economic uncertainty around the shape of Brexit hit the housing market, according to industry figures.

The number of new homes in London registered by housebuilders with the National House Building Council (NHBC) in 2018 fell 10% from the previous year to 16,069, the biggest annual drop since 2016. In the east Midlands and West Midlands, registrations were also down 10%, to 13,447 and 13,087 respectively following two strong years.

Source: Brexit jitters hit London housing market as newbuilds decline sharply | Business | The Guardian

The Myth of “Cancer”: Big Fleas, and Littler Fleas.

Big fleas have little fleas
upon their backs to bite ’em.
And little fleas have littler fleas
… and so, ad infinitum

-Ogden Nash

This is not to suggest that “cancer” does not exist – obviously it does, as I know very well from personal experience. However, it is a myth that “cancer” exists as a single syndrome.  A few weeks ago, I read a newspaper opinion piece by Simon Jenkins, arguing precisely this point: we should stop talking about “cancer” as a generic, and instead speak of a particular cancer.

The more I learn about cancer, with particular reference to my own variant, a GIST (GastroIintestinal Stromal Tumour), the more I am reminded of the above verse by Ogden Nash. Just as “big fleas” have “little fleas”, so “cancer” is an umbrella term for a range of sub-types: carcinomas, lymphomas, and more. Then just as “little fleas” have “littler fleas”, so these divisions in turn have smaller sub-divisions: sarcomas for instance, which I know best, include GISTs, but also bone sarcomas and other soft-tissue sarcomas.  As for “ad infinitum”, GISTs too have a range of variants, based on the specific mutations, such as the c-kit mutations Exon 11 (mine), Exon 9, Exon 13, Exon 17.  In addition, there are a range of mutations to the PDGFRA gene, collectively known as “wild type”, because they are not so easily classified, But this term is itself misleading, because “wild type” is not a single GIST type, but an umbrella term of its own.

“…… and so, ad infinitum”.

Can we now stop thinking in terms of “cancer”, and be more specific with our language?

 

 

 

Revolutionary New Cancer Treatment?

From “The Conversation”:

Cancer growth in the body could originate from a single cell – target it to revolutionise treatment

Cancer remains a frightening and largely incurable disease. The toxic side effects of chemotherapy and radiation make the cure often seem as bad as the ailment, and there is also the threat of recurrence and tumour spread.Cancer treatment still follows a practically medieval method of cut, burn or poison. If the growth can’t be cut out through surgery, it may be burnt away with radiation or poisoned by chemotherapy. As a result, cancer therapy remains a daunting diagnosis for patients and treatment option

Source: The Conversation

 “Wealth Taxes”: Not Easy, but Possible.

From Resolution Foundation:

How wealth taxes can raise billions more without scaring any horses

Raising taxes is never easy. Raising taxes with the government’s slim parliamentary majority is harder still. Raising taxes on wealth in those circumstances, given our diverging senses of fairness is…  not a walk in the park. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need doing, and the good news is that significant progress can be made despite these constraints.

Source: How wealth taxes can raise billions more without scaring any horses – Resolution Foundation

Labour Members Back People’s Vote & Remain

From the Guardian

Most Labour members believe Corbyn should back second Brexit vote

Nearly 90% of party members would opt to stay in the EU in a ‘people’s vote’, finds survey

Jeremy Corbyn is facing pressure from within the party to support a second referendum.
 Jeremy Corbyn is facing pressure from within the party to support a second referendum. Photograph: Sean Smith for the Guardian

Labour members are significantly more opposed to Brexit than Jeremy Corbyn is, with 72% of them thinking their leader should fully support a second referendum, according to a study of attitudes in the party.

The polling, part of an ongoing wider academic study into attitudes in various parties, found that only 18% opposed Labour campaigning for a second referendum, while 88% would then opt for remain if such a vote was held.

Source: The Guardian

Labour’s Brexit Failure

From the New Statesman:

Labour’s refusal to oppose Brexit is becoming a historic error

There are some in the FBPE (Follow Back, Pro-EU) community who claim that Brexit could have been stopped if the Labour leadership had abandoned Brexit. This is either arguable if applied to 2016 or just simply wrong since 2016. But in the turmoil that is likely to follow the vote on the Withdrawal Agreement in January, the Labour leadership will play a crucial role. This post is about what happens if Labour enable Brexit in any way. I am not suggesting they will (and hope they do not), but right now this is a significant enough possibility to be worth writing about

Source: Labour’s refusal to oppose Brexit is becoming a historic error