Sine Qua Non

A couple of weeks back, I was pleased to report that at its Doncaster conference UKIP had announced that:

UKIP will amend the smoking ban to give pubs and clubs the choice to open smoking rooms properly ventilated and separated from non-smoking areas.

Today, in Breitbart UK, UKIP deputy leader Paul Nuttall wrote a piece with the title:

BRITAIN’S PUBS ARE DYING, ONLY RADICAL MEASURES CAN SAVE THEM

 Early in the piece, he wrote:

Certain sectors of the hospitality and leisure industry, such as pubs, have been in the doldrums for over a decade. Indeed, a massive 10,000 have closed since 2002. This is particularly sad because part of our British culture is being destroyed before our very eyes, yet our political class seem at best ambivalent at best towards this loss.

I become livid when I hear politicians try to justify the closures with excuses such as ‘oh well it’s the market’ or ‘people’s tastes have changed’ because both statements are blatant drivel.

The reality is that senseless and harmful legislation, such as the draconian blanket smoking ban in 2007, has led to a dwindling footfall and declining revenue. Indeed, it is the same politicians that use the ‘market’ or ‘tastes’ excuses who told us that more people would actually go to pubs after the ban came into force. However, on the contrary, over fifty a week on average were closing in the first year of the smoking ban.

This is pretty much true. And it’s good to see the blame placed squarely on the smoking ban. Although he points to other reasons as well:

Successive governments have also allowed the pub industry to become dominated by a cartel of large companies who are bleeding the industry dry. These companies, known as PubCos, are making running a pub such an unprofitable job that tenants are simply walking away because they can’t afford to live.

and

Finally, pubs are facing unfair competition from supermarkets, which in some cases are selling alcohol for less than the price of bottled water, thus leaving making it impossible for pubs to compete on price.

Well, alcohol is cheaper in supermarkets, but I think that the idea that in some it’s cheaper than water is a bit of a myth.

It is now clear that something needs to be done. At the moment over 30 pubs a week are closing their doors. This leads to job losses and in some cases the loss of a community’s focal point. If this trend cannot be reversed, then we must at least do something to halt it in its destructive tracks.

So far, so good.

We must make pubs appealing to people once again and the first way to achieve this is by making them affordable, and that doesn’t mean taking a penny off beer duty here and there as the Tories seem happy to do, it means something more radical.

This is why I support a reduction in VAT for the leisure and hospitality industry from 20 percent to 5 percent.

No, no, no, no , no!!!!!

As a smoker, I don’t go to pubs because I can’t afford them. I don’t go go because, since the smoking ban, they no longer have any appeal for me. I’ll only ever go to them on warm sunny days when I can sit in a pub garden like I would have done in the past.

Affordability is not the same as appeal. For even if alcohol in pubs was cheaper than in supermarkets, I still wouldn’t want to spend time inside one. In fact, if they handed out free beer in pubs, I still wouldn’t find them in the least bit appealing.

The price of beer is irrelevant. What matters is to be able to sit on a chair, and drink a pint of beer, and smoke a cigarette.

The smoking ban is what is destroying “part of our British culture”. In fact, smoking bans are destroying a global culture all over the world.

In fact the smoking ban is really nothing but an attack on our culture. There is no medical justification whatsoever for them. The smoking ban is simply a top-down attempt to change people’s behaviour, and make them conform to a set of wholly alien, healthist dogmas. The smoking ban is a fundamental attack on freedom – the freedom of people to live in ways that they themselves choose, rather than some ‘expert’ or ‘authority’ doing the choosing for them.

Of course, Nuttall didn’t actually say that UKIP wasn’t going to introduce smoking rooms. And maybe he wasn’t speaking for UKIP, but just for himself. And maybe he was just thinking of lowering VAT in addition to introducing smoking rooms.

But for me the re-introduction of smoking into Britain’s pubs is the sine qua non of UKIP getting my vote, and the vote of many people like me – who utterly detest what has been happening to our country for the past 7+ years.

UKIP can chop and change all it likes over Europe and immigration. It can raise or lower VAT to its heart’s content. It can do a deal with the Conservatives or Labour or anyone else. It can do more or less anything it likes. But if it ever waters down or drops the promise to bring back smoking to Britain’s pubs, my vote will go elsewhere. Because it’s the only reason why I’ll ever vote UKIP.

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Lifestyle “Improvements” Don’t Work

I’d like to welcome back Klaus K, with a translation of an article by him about the recently-published results of a Danish 10-year random intervention study: “Effect of screening and lifestyle counselling on incidence of ischaemic heart disease in general population: Inter99 randomised trial” (NCBI link). The results – that lifestyle “improvements” have no effect on health – are in line with earlier studies such as the Whitehall and MRFIT studies (described here). Which raises the question: Why, if intervention studies invariably show no improvement in health, are large scale population interventions (such as smoking bans) being undertaken anyway? Obviously not for health purposes! 

Some of the links given are to Danish texts.

Public health failure: Lifestyle improvements do not lead to less disease and death

Translated from Danish article by Klaus K, 180grader.dk:

Sundhedspolitisk fiasko: Livsstilsforbedringer udskyder ikke sygdom og død

“Lifestyle disease”: – Politicians’ eagerness to push the Danes to improve their lifestyles is beginning to look like a gigantic health policy failure. It is now clear that the political focus on the prevention of “lifestyle diseases” will not lead to less disease and death.

Despite the many expert claims that smoking cessation, exercise, and other lifestyle improvements will prevent illness and death, there is actually no proof that this will happen. Even if you could make all Danes stop smoking, it is unlikely to reduce cancer, according to high quality studies.

Experts talk nonsense about smoking again

This is shown by solid evidence from 40 years of costly human trials – the so-called random controlled intervention trials – where health researchers have succeeded in having thousands of healthy subjects switch to healthier lifestyles – including smoking cessation – without any effect on the participants’ disease and death rate over time (12).

The negative results were recently confirmed by a large Danish random trial, the Inter99 study, which examined the effect of medical checkups and “intensive lifestyle advice.” Despite the fact that many of the participants improved their lifestyle, the study ended after 10 years with no effect on morbidity and mortality (3), just like the other studies.

Health checks of the population is money down the drain

And there is reason to pay attention to the results of the random trials. For unlike the comparative statistics of lifestyle and diseases, which is routinely mentioned in the media, random trials can actually tell us something about causes. They are simply of a higher quality than the normal statistical studies, and therefore often called the “gold standard” in statistical studies of diseases (4).

The methodology of these random trials is that the subjects are divided into two groups at random, one group is helped to a “healthy” lifestyle – including smoking cessation – while the other group continues its “unhealthy” lifestyles. Researchers then compare diseases in the two groups over time – for example after 5, 10 or 15 years.

The results have been a big disappointment to the health sector – but they have been clear-cut: Switching to a healthy lifestyle, including smoking cessation, led neither to the reduction of disease nor increased lifespan in healthy subjects. The results of all the trials has been a big round zero.

Result after 10 years of lifestyle improvements in huge Danish study: No effect

At the start of the Inter99-study a team of Danish doctors and health professionals gave intensive assistance to 6,091 locals to get them to improve their lifestyle – with great success: Participants in the “healthy” group stopped or reduced smoking on a large scale (5), they ate more healthily (6) they drank less alcohol (7), and the men did more exercise (8), while the control group continued its “unhealthy” lifestyles.

But alas – after 10 years of lifestyle change, there was no difference between the two groups in any of the measured diseases, neither in heart disease, stroke or in total mortality.

Results: Although significant changes in lifestyle were described among participants after five years, we found no effect on development of ischaemic heart disease, stroke, combined events, or death in the entire study population over a 10 year period.

6.091 people in the intervention group participated at baseline. No significant difference was seen between the intervention and control groups in the primary end point, ischaemic heart disease HR: 1.03, CI 95%: (0.94 – 1.13) or in the secondary endpoints, stroke HR: 0.98, CI: (0.87 – 1.11); combined endpoint HR: 1.01, CI: (0.93 – 1.09); total mortality HR: 1.00, CI: (0.91 – 1.09).

And as the authors note in the article, no one has ever succeeded in reducing cancer in similar trials.

Stop health paternalism – it does not work …!

There is, in other words, still no evidence that it will lead to less cancer and heart disease or fewer deaths if you get people who otherwise are healthy to stop smoking and start living “healthily”. Indeed, there is strong evidence to the contrary: that it will have zero effect.

This evidence is a blow to supporters of the ruling public health paternalism and to successive governments’ health policies focusing on prevention of so-called “lifestyle diseases”.

It has already been shown very clearly that health paternalism does not work: Diseases and hospital admissions in Denmark have skyrocketed since politicians began to interfere in people’s lifestyle – with the smoking law in 2007 as the most significant intervention, and with the other health paternalism that has followed:

alle_indl_graf560c

Significantly more disease in Denmark after smoking legislation and health paternalism

According to some doctors the disease increases may be due to the so-called nocebo effect: When politicians and the media start talking a lot about health and disease, people tend to speculate more about health and disease too, and thus the fear of getting sick increases. This anxiety itself may be causative.

Health Politicians have naively thought that they could be seen as “good” by making the Danes “healthy”. Instead of respecting people’s chosen lifestyles, they have spent billions of tax dollars on an at best completely useless and at worst harmful crusade upon peoples private lives.

This crusade has been organized with advice of pharmaceutical lobbyists who orbit the politicians at Christiansborg on a daily basis. The situation is starting to look like a public health disaster – and pharmaceutical lobbyists have reason to be satisfied. After all, disease is what they feed on.

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The Tobacco Control Mentality

I’m always interested in trying to figure out how antismokers think. And today I came across a Canadian study of antismoking professionals, a number of whom had been interviewed, and their attitudes noted.

One passage describes the ideal “self-managing” individual:

Lupton (1995) argues that public health
discourses both constitute and regulate such phenomena as normality, risk and health. She then notes (in her collaboration with Peterson) that, as a political practice, neoliberalism emphasises approaches to health that are increasingly individualised and focused on ‘the self who is expected to live life in a prudent, calculating way and to be ever-vigilant of risks, self-regulating and productive’…. Lupton further emphasises how health promotion in neoliberal times operates as moral regulation, encouraging people to modify their bodily activities in the pursuit of good health. Of particular concern is how people are enjoined to identify and manage a host of risk factors as part of what Monica Greco (1993) has called the ‘duty to be well’. We orient to tobacco control as an expertise that promotes self-governing, ‘healthy’ subjects by exhorting them to conduct themselves in accordance with expert advice about the health risks of smoking.

For Tobacco Control, it seems that the ideal individual is one who lives life in a prudent, calculating way and is ever-vigilant of risks, self-regulating and productive – and in accordance with expert advice.

The “self-managing” or “self-governing” or “self-regulating” individual is one who exercises iron self-control. He resists the temptation to take up smoking. Or indeed anything else. He doesn’t take risks.

Smokers, by contrast, exhibit lack of self-control. They don’t regulate or govern or manage themselves properly. Worse still, their propensity to engage in risky behaviours like smoking extends elsewhere, as one of the health professionals explains:

“[I]t’s a higher risk population that takes the chance, yeah. I have this one sheet that
shows that smoking can be correlated to skipping, lateness, all kinds of high-risk
behaviours, a whole page of them, early sexual activity, so all of those factors,
although tobacco is also correlated to a lot of other things, like family issues.”

It seems that smokers may have a “biological propensity” for smoking that is linked to poverty:

While the so-called low-hanging fruit were responsive to tobacco control in a rational, self-regulatory and responsible fashion, low class youth, believed to have a biological propensity for smoking linked to poverty, are non-compliant and therefore require specific forms of pharmacological intervention to stop them from smoking.

I must say that, reading all this, Tobacco Control’s ideal “normal” individual, who conducts himself in a “rational, self-regulatory and responsible fashion”, struck me as dreadfully dull. Taking no risks, he wouldn’t smoke or drink, but he also probably wouldn’t gamble, ride motorbikes, surf waves, climb mountains, sky-dive, or do anything that had the slightest degree of risk attached to it. And if he ever was tempted to do so, his iron self-control would immediately cut in, and steer him away.

I also thought that most of the people that I’ve liked in my life have neither been completely averse to any risk, nor exercised iron self-control over themselves. They rode motorbikes, and smoked and drank, and gambled. And they were very often did things spontaneously, without careful planning in advance. And they laughed and smiled and joked in spontaneous ways.

Why should I wish to model myself on the kind of cold, calculating person that I’ve spent most of my life avoiding? Why are such people morally superior to the kind of people that I usually like to surround myself with?

And who really is “self-regulating”? For we have learned in reading this little treatise that the ideal “rational, self-regulatory and responsible” individual is someone who listens to “expert advice”. If he is doing this, then he is not actually regulating himself, but is being regulated by experts or authorities of one sort or other.

Seen this way, the real “self-regulating” individuals are those people who make their own choices for themselves, very often in the teeth of antismoking experts or other moral authorities.

After all, everybody engages in self-regulation of one kind or other. Nobody ever does exactly what they like the whole time.

The real crime of the self-regulating smoker is to disregard experts and other authorities, and be an autonomous individual. And once he has disregarded authority in respect of smoking, it’s quite likely he’ll disregard it in respect of pretty well everything else as well.

Tobacco Control’s ideal individual is one who believes what he’s told, and who does what he’s told, by authorities of one sort or other.

One might say that Tobacco Control is primarily about top-down moral regulation. This used once to be the concern of religions of one sort or other. But with the decline of religious observance, Tobacco Control (or Public Health) has stepped in to fill the moral vacuum. The virtues and vices of the old religions have been adopted wholesale, but renamed.  The bishops and priests have been replaced by “experts” and “researchers”, and the old theology by “reason” and “science”. Good conduct has been replaced by “healthy living”, and failure to conduct one’s life in accordance with its tenets results in “premature death”. The “true believers” in this new pseudo-religion believe everything they’re told, and live in fear of a variety of new hobgoblins in the form of tobacco, alcohol, sugar, salt, fat, and carbon dioxide, which they live as much in fear of as the Devil himself. Much like with the religions that preceded them, it doesn’t really matter if none of these hobgoblins pose any real threat at all – all that matters is that people believe they do. And if the zealots advancing this new religion are filled with self-righteous fervour, it is because they regard themselves as new missionaries come to convert the heathens, and teach them the ways of healthiness.

The new churches of the religion of Public Health are the gyms. Attendance at these is not compulsory yet, but probably soon will be. And gym-goers will also be required to confess list any sins non-compliance (e.g. a bar of chocolate), and be awarded suitable penances  penalties (e.g. 30 press-ups)….

But I’m not sure that this is the lesson that the authors of this treatise wanted me to draw. They instead were making the smaller point that “the tobacco control discourse on youth smoking in Canada appears to be producing and constituting socially marginalised smokers.”

But I already knew that.

 

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Tobacco Plants – year 3

I’ve been growing tobacco again this year. In my first year, growing them indoors (I have no garden) they eventually grew the full height of the window. In my second year, I started them late, and they hardly grew at all. This year I started them earlier, but they’ve only grown about half way up the window. I don’t know why my tobacco plants grow upward. Maybe I should clip off the growing tip to make them grow sideways?

I’m still using seed that Leg-iron sent me three years ago. After last year’s failure, I wondered whether the seeds were no longer quite as viable as in the first year. But given that the same seeds have done better this year than last year, they may be as viable as ever.

I’m a bit surprised that Leg-iron’s seeds are still viable. Because seeds (along with fruits and vegetables like apples and potatoes and carrots and tomatoes) have a very slight metabolism. They’re ‘ticking over’ and burning energy at a microscopic rate. And since tobacco seeds are so small, it’s a surprise to me that they haven’t used up all the energy stored in the tiny seeds.

I’ve also got a plant growing from some seeds that smokingscot kindly sent me. He sent two seed pods. One was a complete failure, but the other was a considerable success, and produced lots of plants. Unfortunately most of them died, and just one plant remains. And it looks different from Leg-iron’s Bulgarian climbing tobacco plants. It has bigger leaves, and hasn’t shown the same tendency to grow upwards. I still have half a seed pod full of these seeds, so next year I’ll see if I can grow some more.

One other experimental plant I’ve got this year is actually one of last year’s plants. It’s been suggested that tobacco is an annual plant, and dies at the end of the year. But I kept one of last year’s small plants, to see how it would do given another summer. And it did very well. In fact it did almost as well as the plants grown from seed this year. Which makes me think that tobacco isn’t an annual plant, and can keep growing from year to year. I’m thinking that I might retain my 2-year-old plant through the winter, and see whether it carries on growing in a third year.

And since one plant has survived for approaching two years, another experiment I might try is to chop down my current crop, and harvest the leaves, but then leave the stumps of the plants in their pots. Because after year 1, I found that many of the stumps left in the pots started growing new leaves before I finally disposed of them. Because if tobacco will just keep growing, year after year, maybe there will be no need for seed. And the same plant may produce new leaves and shoots, and regrow each year. But that’s an experiment for next year.

Several of the plants have flowered. In the past I haven’t kept the seed pods. This year I think I’ll collect them and try to germinate them next year.

Lots of interesting experiments in store!

But I still haven’t figured out what to do with the leaves after I’ve harvested them. Over the past two years, I’ve just tied the cut plants together, and hung them upside down in a cupboard. Doing this, the leaves stay green, but gradually dry out. And I’ve found that if this is ground down into small fragments, it’s perfectly smokeable when added to manufactured rolling tobacco. And in fact all my smokes these days are made up of a confection of various different kinds of tobacco.

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Antismoking Zealotry, Ebola Complacency

People are starting to compare antismoking zealotry with complacency about Ebola.

Example 1: H/T Harley for a Newsmax interview of Dr Jane Orient, the last part of which I’ve transcribed.

Newsmax: Doctor, do you think they know what they’re doing? Does he [Frieden] know what he’s doing? I mean, this is the guy who wanted soda banned, sixteen ounces or more in NYC, because it was a health threat. This is a guy who says you can’t pass by someone in the street, even one, smoking a cigarette because it’s a health hazard. Does he know what he’s doing here with this?

Dr. Jane Orient: That’s a good question, and I don’t think you can really answer it. Maybe he knows what he’s doing, and that’s exactly what he wants to do. But certainly if you look at the precautions against secondhand smoke, which are absurd… I mean, the hazards of secondhand smoke, unless you’re just sensitive to it and it bothers you, are really non-existent. And yet all of this defence in depth against, and expensive restrictions against these non-hazards – and a pathogenic, lethal organism that can infect you with one to ten particles we’re so cavalier about, this just really does not make sense.

Newsmax: You talked about this with me a week ago, but you’ve made some other statements recently. Where are we on droplets? Explain droplets, how they could possibly infect someone with Ebola. Is that airborne you’re talking about?

Dr. Jane Orient: Well, I guess your body fluids have to go through the air unless you touch somebody. You generate an aerosol if you cough or sneeze or vomit or have explosive diareohea, and it makes droplets of different sizes. The ones that are really, really tiny can get through your mask, around your mask, down into your lungs, and they do have receptors for the target cells down in your lungs. And the question I think they’re relying on is that the virus does not survive being dried down to a particle of that size. But there’s experimental evidence that it can survive for as long as 90 minutes on one of those droplets.

Newmax: So it is transmissible through the air in your opinion right now?

Dr. Jane Orient: Theoretically it certainly is. We cannot rule it out. Epidemiologically, if you look at how people got the Ebola, it doesn’t seem to be very important, but just because it’s inefficient… (interview ends)

More and more people seem to be coming round to the idea that there is an airborne route for Ebola.

Anyway, example 2: H/T mntvernon for a piece by Ian Birrell in the Independent:

The most egregious failure is that of the World Health Organisation, the United Nations body meant to show leadership on such matters. It seems incredible that when MSF first warned Ebola was getting out of control in April, it was rebuked on social media by a WHO spokesman. Two months later the spread and scale of the epidemic was obvious to experts – yet it took two more months for this inept organisation to finally concede there was an international health emergency. It blames local officials – yet even last week its boss spent the week discussing tobacco taxes in Russia rather than tackling the crisis.

Heads should roll for such failures. But do not hold your breath, given how the arrogant UN still refuses to apologise for cholera spreading to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, which has so far killed 9,000 people. Now its officials are berating countries for ignoring what has become a global security threat, although this is partly a consequence of their own fatally slow response that delayed more rapid deployment of resources.

The BBC puts a different spin on it, of course:

The World Health Organization (WHO) is the world’s biggest, most important public health body that has had major successes.

It has ensured that millions of children worldwide are free from the danger of polio.

It runs huge programmes aimed at combating HIV/Aids, malaria and tuberculosis, and its Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is ensuring that countries are banning smoking in public places and clamping down on tobacco advertising.

But when it comes to a sudden new health threat, or a danger in an unexpected region, many say the WHO does not really deliver.

That portrays Tobacco Control measures as one of the “major successes” of the WHO. And it portrays Ebola as a “new” health threat, when actually it was discovered way back in 1976. The “unexpected region” line is straight out of the WHO’s ebola excuses playbook, but it makes no sense at all. The 1976 outbreak was in Nzara, South Sudan, which is a sub-Saharan country on the same latitude and on the same continent as Guinea and Liberia and Sierra Leone, where the current epidemic is raging. So isn’t that where you’d expect future outbreaks to appear? The map below from Wikipedia shows the spread of Ebola from 1976 to 2009:

ebola-map

And there had already been an outbreak (Tai Forest, Cote d’Ivoire) in the “unexpected region” in 1994, fully 20 years ago. And Ebola has been marching steadily west and south for the past 40 years. And the outbreaks have been getting larger and more frequent.

But under the leadership of Gro Harlem Brundtland, the WHO was giving priority to rolling out the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and fighting against the non-existent “global tobacco epidemic.” And, judging from the FCTC conference in Moscow last week, that’s still where its priorities lie.

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Government Agencies Under Attack

With CDC Director Tom Frieden facing calls for his resignation, it’s not too hard (H/T Harley) to see more reasons why:

Top public health officials have collected $25 million in bonuses since 2007, carving out extra pay for themselves in tight federal budgetary times while blaming a lack of money for the Obama administration’s lackluster response to the Ebola outbreak.

U.S. taxpayers gave $6 billion in salaries and $25 million in bonuses to an elite corps of health care specialists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since 2007, according to data compiled by American Transparency’s OpenTheBooks.com, an online portal aggregating 1.3 billion lines of federal, state and local spending. The agency’s head count increased by 23 percent during that time, adding manpower and contributing to higher payrolls despite relatively flat funding.

From 2010 to 2013, all federal wages were frozen because of budgetary constraints, but CDC officials found a way to pay themselves through bonuses, overtime, within-grade increases and promotion pay raises.

The Washington Free Beacon and Newsbusters also both cite wasteful programmes funded by the CDC or NIH. Examples:

Telling Taxpayers How to Eat ($15 billion) – Yes, that’s billion with a “b” in front. In a massive overstep of government power, Obamacare carved out $15 billion for CDC to convince Americans to make “healthy” choices through “Community Transformation Grants” (CTG). The CTG program “supports efforts to modify behavior through anti-obesity campaigns, as well as anti-smoking and pro-sin tax regulations and legislation” at the state and local levels, according to the bipartisan Citizens Against Government Waste.

The NIH has also spent $15,313,372 on cessation studies devoted to every kind of smoker imaginable. Current studies are targeted at American Indians ($2,899,954); Chinese and Vietnamese men ($424,875); postmenopausal women ($4,151,850); the homeless ($558,576); Korean youth ($94,580); young schizophrenics ($397,802); Brazilian women smokers ($955,368); Latino HIV-positive smokers($471,530); and the LGBT community ($2,364,521).

Yale University is studying how to get “Heavy Drinkers” to stop smoking at a cost of $571,799. Other projects seek to use Twitter to provide “social support to smokers” ($659,469), and yoga ($1,763,048) as a way to quit.

There are lots more.

With luck, similar questions will soon be asked about the WHO. Probably the answers will be exactly the same wherever they’re asked.

That’s government-funded healthcare. Jo Nova tells how the Bridgestone Corporation in Liberia responded to Ebola:

The rubber plantation has 8,000 workers with 71,000 dependents. It is an hour north-east of Monrovia, surrounded by Ebola outbreaks. The virus arrived on the plantation in March. Knowing that the UN and the Liberian government were not going to save them, the managers sat around a rubber tree and googled “Ebola” and learned on the run instead. They turned shipping containers into isolation units, trucks into ambulances, and chemical cleaning suits into “haz-mat” gear. They trained cleaners, and teachers, they blocked visitors, and over the next five months dealt with 71 infections, but by early October were clear of the virus. There were only 17 survivors (the same 70% mortality rate as elsewhere). But without good management, there could have been so many more deaths.

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Little Confidence

Over the past few weeks I’ve been steadily downgrading, in my own mind, the threat posed by Ebola. Because while it seems to be highly contagious (and maybe slightly airborne) in its final stages, it doesn’t seem to be particularly contagious prior to that stage. The only people who caught the disease (so far) in Dallas were a couple of nurses caring for the Liberian patient. None of the people that the man met or shared a flat with prior to his admission to hospital seem to have developed the disease. So, while it looks like doctors and nurses need better protection, rigorous and forceful measures to isolate Ebola patients should act to stem the progress of the disease outside West Africa.

But I have little confidence that either the WHO or the CDC or the NHS are up to the job. In the first place, while the WHO has admitted that it failed to respond to the Ebola epidemic, it’s now blaming its own ‘incompetent’ West African offices. The same buck-passing has been going on in the USA, with Tom Frieden being very quick to blame the Dallas nurses for not following the correct protocols.

“At some point there was a breach in protocol,” Frieden said. “That breach in protocol resulted in this infection.”

Worse still, President Obama has now appointed a political operative, Ron Klain, as Ebola “czar”.

If Ron Klain sounds familiar to you, it’s because he has a long political pedigree. He has no medical, scientific, or federal agency administrative expertise, but he has a whole lot of political experience.

So Obama is going to treat Ebola as a political problem rather than a health threat. And everyone else is going to blame everybody but themselves for any further failures. He’s probably doing this because the USA is just weeks away from mid-term elections.

So “rigorous and forceful measures” aren’t going to be taken. It will all be spin, perception management, and buck-passing, at least until November 4.

But it’s not just that. This week WHO Director General Margaret Chan gave priority to attending an antismoking conference in Moscow.

“Yes, Ebola is truly an issue of international concern,” Dr. Chan told reporters in Russia, “but tobacco—if we put the evidence on the table—tobacco control is still the most cost-effective and efficient way of reducing unnecessary diseases and deaths arising from using such harmful products.”

And in the UK Lord Darzi has just been busy proposing a London park smoking bans in response to

the “major public health crises” of smoking and obesity.

And Tom Frieden was NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg’s chief architect of the city’s smoking ban:

Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the city’s health commissioner, has turned out to be an active policy advocate among the city’s department heads, the outspoken architect of some of the Bloomberg administration’s more controversial policies. Although Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is more closely associated with a law that bans smoking citywide, the legislation was actually developed by Dr. Frieden, who was also given responsibility for helping to push it through the City Council.

They’re all antismoking activists. And clearly, in their own minds, they regard their principal task as that of fighting the fictional “global tobacco epidemic” and the “obesity crisis” rather than any real contagious disease. Which is, of course, why the West African Ebola epidemic is now out of control. How can people like this be expected to be of any use whatsoever when confronted with a real epidemic?

But there’s also political correctness.

I’ll tell you our problem: Much of our political class is simply uncomfortable with the idea that border and immigration controls should be used vigorously and unapologetically to protect Americans. You can hear the objections now: It would be xenophobic, it might stigmatize West Africans, those countries will object to our State Department that they’re being discriminated against.

And what applies in the USA also applies in the UK and EU, of course. The attitude is exemplified by a guest on a US TV show saying:

“How dare we turn our backs on Liberia, given the fact that this was a country that was founded in the 1820s – 1830s because of American slavery. We have a responsibility to stay connected with them, and help them see this through.”

Add it all up, and what you’ve got is a major Ebola epidemic which, in the absence of politically-incorrect firewalls, is going to be repeatedly flown into the USA and Europe on unrestricted commercial airline flights for the next 6 months or more. And when it does arrive, it’s going to be met by a medical establishment which is fully engaged in fighting the entirely imaginary “global tobacco epidemic” and “obesity crisis”, and which will very quickly pass the buck for any failures onto everyone else but themselves. Add also ordinary incompetence, ignorance, and bureaucratic inertia, and it’ll get even worse. In fact, they can already see it coming:

Ebola will almost certainly hit London, Boris Johnson has warned.

Finally, H/T Brigitte, look at what’s written on the wall of Redemption Hospital in Monrovia (click on pic to watch the video):

clear-the-airYes: “Clear the air, stop smoking.” And next to that a smiling face saying, “I’ve quit smoking.” Isn’t it good to know that they’ve got their priorities right?

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