Thursday, July 24, 2008

Libya vs Switzerland

When international politics and the (Swiss) law collide...

Libya's state shipping company says it has halted oil shipments to Switzerland in protest at the brief arrest of leader Muammar Gaddafi's youngest son. It threatened further action if the Swiss did not apologise for the arrest. Geneva police held Hannibal Gaddafi for two days after he and his pregnant wife allegedly hit two of their staff. The couple face charges of bodily harm, threatening behaviour and coercion. They have denied any wrongdoing over the alleged incident on 15 July.

The stopping of oil shipments comes a day after the Swiss foreign ministry complained of Libya taking "retaliatory measures", such as forcing Swiss firms to close Libyan offices.
In a joint statement with the national port authority, the company said ships sailing under the Swiss flag had been banned from entering Libyan ports. Switzerland imports at least half its crude oil from Libya but Libya owns a large oil refinery in Switzerland.
Libya's influential people's committees have also called for Libya to withdraw its deposits from Swiss banks if an apology for the arrest is not forthcoming.
The Swiss foreign ministry said on Wednesday that Libya had "taken a number of worrying retaliatory measures" for Mr Gaddafi's arrest since he was released on bail on 17 July. It said Swiss companies ABB and Nestle had been ordered to close their Libya offices and that Swiss staff there had been arrested.
Flights between Libya and Switzerland had been reduced, Libya had stopped issuing visas to Swiss citizens and Tripoli had recalled some of its diplomats from Bern, the Swiss foreign ministry said. The ministry also said it had sent a delegation to Libya to explain Mr Gaddafi's arrest. It has advised Swiss citizens not to travel to Libya until further notice.
It is not Hannibal Gaddafi's first brush with the law. In 2005 he was convicted by a court in France of assaulting his girlfriend.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A scientific comparison of diets

The controversial Atkins diet is just as effective and safe as a conventional low-fat diet, a two-year study has found.Researchers found that overweight volunteers shed more pounds on the low carbohydrate regime than they did on an orthodox calorie-controlled diet.A Mediterranean diet with plenty of vegetables, fibre, white meat and fish was equally effective - and just as safe, they found.
The findings come from an experiment involving 322 overweight volunteers carried out by a team of Israeli, America and German scientists.
Lead researcher Dr Iris Shai, from the department of epidemiology at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel, said: 'Clearly there is not one diet that is ideal for everyone.
'We believe that this study will open clinical medicine to considering low-carb and Mediterranean diets as safe, effective alternatives for patients, based on personal preference and the medical goals set out for such intervention.'
Atkin's was the biggest dieting phenomenon in years.
Devised by US heart doctor Robert Atkins, it involves eating plenty of protein while virtually eliminating carbohydrates like sugar, bread, rice and pasta. Controversially, it was high in fat - attracting the ire of doctors.
The diet involves no calorie counting and at its height was particularly popular with men. However, it fell out of favour after concerns that it could increase the risk of heart disease and kidney problems.
By contrast a Mediterranean diet includes a high intake of vegetables and fruits, fish and unsaturated fats like olive oil.
The volunteers in the study, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, were assigned to one of three diets - a low fat calorie-restricted diet; a Mediterranean calorie-restricted diet high in fibre and low in red meat, and a low-carbohydrate diet where volunteers had no limit on calories.
Those on the conventional low-fat diet lost an average of 6.5 pounds in weight over the two years - compared to 10 pounds for those on the Mediterranean diet and 10.3 pounds on the low carb diet.
Most of the weight was lost in the first six months of the trial.
The low-carb diet was best for reducing levels of bad cholesterol, while all three diets had the same beneficial effect on liver and inflammation function, the researchers said.
In the first year, just five per cent of the volunteers dropped out of the study. By the end of the second year, 85 per cent of the volunteers were still on the diet.
The experiment was carried out at the Nuclear Research Centre in Israel where the staff canteen provided suitable dishes for each of the three diets.
Lunch is typically the main meal of the day in Israel. The researchers also gave advice to the families of the volunteers on how to stick to the diets at home.
The researchers concede that the study has some flaws. Around 85 per cent of the volunteers were men - and the effects could be different for women, they say.

more here

Cancer survival rate in the world

There is a huge variation in cancer survival rates across the world, a global study shows.
The US, Australia, Canada, France and Japan had the highest five-year survival rates, while Algeria had the worst, Lancet Oncology reported.Spending on health care was a major factor, the study of 31 countries said.Researchers said higher spending often meant quicker access to tests and treatment.
The research was carried out by more than 100 scientists across the world led by Professor Michel Coleman, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. It involved analysing data on more than two million cancer patients who were diagnosed and treated during the 1990s.
The study showed the US had the highest five-year survival rates for breast cancer at 83.9% and prostate cancer at 91.9%. Japan came out best for male colon and rectal cancers, at 63% and 58.2% respectively, while France faired best for women with those cancers at 60.1% and 63.9%. The UK had 69.7% survival for breast cancer, just above 40% for colon and rectal cancer for both men and women and 51.1% for prostate cancer.
There were also large regional variations within the UK, which were linked to differences in access to care and ability of patients to navigate the local health services. Both are directly linked to deprivation. Algeria, the only African country involved, came bottom in all types of cancer. SurvivalIt meant an American man was four times more likely to survive prostate cancer than an Algerian, while a Japanese man was six times more likely to survive colon cancer. Poland, Slovenia, Brazil and Estonia had survival rates half as good as the best performers.
The results closely mirrored the amount each country was spending on health during the period. While the US led the way with more than 13% of gross domestic product spent on health, Canada, Australia and the best-performing European nations were all spending about 9% to 10%. The UK was spending just over 7% but that figure has now been increased following record rises in the NHS budget to bring it much closer to the likes of France and Germany. Algeria was spending around 4%.The importance of money was further illustrated by an ethnic breakdown of outcomes in the US.
White Americans, who are on the whole wealthier and therefore more able to afford the insurance which underpins the US system, were up to 14% more likely than others to survive cancer.
Professor Coleman said some of the differences could be attributed to variations in "access to diagnostic and treatment services"."This, of course, is associated with the amount of investment in technology such as CT scanners."
Dr Lesley Walker, Cancer Research UK's director of cancer information, added: "The report is the first major study to compare cancer survival across five continents and has highlighted the stark differences in survival between poor and wealthy countries."
more here