helen-louise (baratron) wrote,

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recent news rant

There are various reasons why I try to avoid reading the news. One is that far too many news stories make me angry or sad, and if I'm prone to getting depressed just from my own boring life shit, hearing about everything that's going wrong with the world can make me completely non-functional. Another is that news that makes me angry or sad also gives me the urge to rant, and having seen far too many internet flamewars based on half-formed opinions, I'm somewhat wary of ranting about things I don't properly understand or where I know I don't have all the details. But Richard insists on buying the (now excessively right-wing in my book) Evening Standard every day and bringing it home, so I usually end up reading it anyway. And there have been several news stories lately that I've wanted to comment on.

Like this thing about MRSA in hospitals. Apparently, it is estimated that 5000 people a year die because of it in the UK alone. How ridiculous is that? MRSA was first reported to the public as a problem at least two years ago, and I don't know how much more warning of it hospital managers got. The newspapers blether that hospitals are getting "dirtier" and "people are dying as a result", but is that really the problem? While various papers have had people go undercover as cleaners in hospitals and report back on things like the general lack of training they get, and the number of people being too busy or lazy to do anything that's not explicitly laid out in their job description (and even some borderline racism with cleaners from countries outside Western Europe being blamed for not changing their dirty water often enough), it's still not certain that "lack of hygiene" alone is the only problem. Speaking as a lay person with a reasonable degree of scientific knowledge and a few minutes with reputable web sites, I have no idea how much of the current MRSA problem is genuinely due to a lack of basic hygiene compared to how much is due to too much overprescription of antibiotics for non-bacterial infections in the past 30 years combined with recent indiscriminate use of antibacterial cleaning products. In the meantime, the press are hyping it up, and people are getting panicky. Just what we all need.

There is apparently hope, and information on what everyone can do to help prevent MRSA spreading. But, just like the Butler report, it seems like yet another example of something that's probably everyone's fault, but no one's responsibility.

(Although I was amused by the person who wrote a short-but-sweet letter to the Standard the other day saying "Misled over Iraq? No - I knew Blair was talking cobblers all along.")

I also found the story about the millionaire's widow and the dodgy will interesting, in an I'm-glad-that's-not-my-family sort of way. Having seen it in the papers day in day out, I'm wondering whether anyone is going to ask the obvious question...

Seen in a passing link from the above story, this is good news: HIV, cancer and mental illness are going to be covered by the same anti-discrimination at work laws as physical disabilities. Not sure how much difference it's going to make to my life, and the problem is always having to declare mental illnesses (while I was fairly open at my last job and told the truth if I couldn't go in because of mental illness stuff, I found myself lying out of embarrassment the other week. Hrm).

Miscarriages of justice are one of those things that are annoying and sad but impossible for most people to do anything about. Today's news that a father jailed in 1998 for murdering his teenage foster daughter has been given the right to a retrial suggests this case might be one of those. I remember following the trial at the time and being utterly unconvinced by the evidence against Sion Jenkins. He had, basically, 3 minutes in which to kill his foster daughter. Not impossible, but ... unlikely? Even 7 years ago, there were fairly tight restrictions on who could be a foster parent, aimed at preventing kids being taken out of abusive situations and put in worse ones. OK, they weren't perfect - but was there any evidence of him having been violent in the past? I don't remember any. Do many people go from entirely harmless to murderers without hitting people inbetween?

The prosecution based its case almost entirely on ~150 blood splatters that he had on his clothing, which they claimed had to be caused by him killing her, but the defence claimed were from him finding her and picking her up to try to help her. An expert at the time declared the blood had to have done its splattering when she was still alive, and that was that - no arguing with expert witnesses. Now, we are starting to get more cynical about expert witnesses (what with Roy Meadow, that "delightful" paediatrician and "expert" statistician). What that Evening Standard article doesn't go on to say but the actual newspaper does is that now the forensic evidence has been rexamined by several new experts. There are two new pieces of evidence. One is that the post mortem carried out at the time did not include a fairly trivial test which has since been done, which proves that it was possible for the blood to have been trapped in her lungs and not expelled until she was picked up, and the other is that a blood splatter analyst (?!) has examined the pattern and concluded it is inconsistent with him striking the fatal blows. It doesn't prove for certain that he wasn't the murderer, but at least it gives a slightly less dodgy set of evidence which might prove something... :/

Finally, a piece of news-that-is-good-but-far-too-late-to-help-the-person-concerned that several people have already linked to: murdered transgendered teenager Gwen Araujo has legally been given her right name.

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