Zimbabwe deal

Negotiations on the future of Zimbabwe have just ended in the signing of a deal which gives the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai – the real winner of the recent elections – the post of prime minister. The presidency, head of state and control of the army are retained by Robert Mugabe, who:

  • Killed more than 20,000 Ndebele in the Gukurahundi massacres in Matabeleland.
  • LOST the most recent election despite extreme physical intimidation of the electorate in this and previous elections.
  • Arrested opposition MPs since the last election.
  • Used the army to intimidate any previous opposition members
  • Made Zimbabwe, a country rich in natural resources and human resourcefulness into the country with the highest inflation rate in the world and 80% unemployment, due to his corrupt mis-management of the economy.

Am I missing something (maybe it really is the only way for Tsavangirai to get some form of power) or is this not a little unfair? Will the leopard really change his spots if he is allowed to retain such power? Who will control the funds allocated to the army? Will the next election be truly fair and free from violence?

New placebo findings question double blind tests

“An ineffective drug can be better than a placebo in a standard trial” according to a paper by Paul Enck, Fabrizio Benedetti, Manfred Schedlowski – and “Often, an active drug is not better than placebo in a standard trial, even when we can be confident that the active drug does work,”
Double blind tests are supposed to show whether a drug really works, or whether it is just down to the placebo effect because neither the researcher nor the test subject knows they are taking the drug.
This paper totally discounts this methodology because it shows that the very fact of BEING TOLD you are taking a drug has an effect on whether it works or not. The researchers tested a painkiller called a CCK-antagonist, first in a standard double-blind randomised controlled trial. The CCK-antagonist performed better than the placebo. So the CCK-antagonist must be an effective painkiller, right? But when the same drug was given to volunteers without telling them, it had no effect. If it was a real painkiller, there should be no difference compared to the test where subjects are told what they are taking. But if you don’t tell people, the CCK-antagonist is ineffective in relieving pain.
So it seems some drugs only have an effect IN CONJUNCTION with expectation. Interesting stuff…

The scandal of birth in Greece

90% of women with children who have given birth in Greece (at least the ones I meet) have had a Cesarian. Why is this?
1. Doctors get more money for it
2. Doctors can have a regular predictable schedule
Here are some tactics they use:
1. Scaring women and blackmailing them with – what if your baby dies stories.
2. Doctor sees woman in before due-date and says – hey where’s the baby – it’s late – aren’t you worried – I think we’d better induce it. Doctor gives woman drug (or maybe a placebo – this is pure conspiracy theory) to induce baby. Baby doesn’t come so doctor says – oh dear – we have to do a cesarian.
3. Creating a culture where that is the done thing because it is more convenient.
On top of that, they:
1. Make it difficult for fathers to accompany their partners during the birth – you have to make a fuss to be allowed in.
2. Take the baby away almost immediately it is born and put it, screaming in a room with loads of other babies, away from its mother in it during the crucial first day of its life. Mother’s breast milk then does not come and – oh mother has to buy formula milk.
3. Do not allow older children into the hospital to visit the mother/new child, because they have some strange infectious disease which adults apparently do not have.