Saturday, 23 October 2021

Culture must change for whistleblowers to be believed



from the Irish Times, this article is only for subscribers, so here it is, the full article.

a very interesting read!


Years ago, on the RTÉ current affairs programme Questions and Answers, John Bowman asked me: “Breda O’Brien, why were the whistleblowers not believed?’

It was at the height of the scandals concerning the sexual abuse of children by members of the Catholic Church. The question has stuck in my mind ever since.

I thought about it again when reading Kitty Holland’s account of the alleged sexual abuse of at least 18 intellectually disabled residents by another resident in Ard Gréine, Donegal, a facility managed by the HSE.

According to an as yet unpublished investigation, the alleged abuser, who was given the pseudonym “Brandon”, was engaging in public masturbation and sexual assault, including two alleged rapes.

It is unbelievable that this was allowed to continue from 2003 to 2016, with the full knowledge of staff and management.

Some people did try to stop the abuse. For example, in February 2008, six nurses wrote to management asking for a “satisfactory resolution” for “this very serious situation”. 

Why did nothing happen in 2008? Or in 2011, when a psychiatrist warned that Brandon’s placement with vulnerable learning-disabled adults was completely wrong? Or again in 2011, when a nurse manager made a report to gardaí? Why did it take a whistleblower going to Thomas Pringle TD in 2016 before anything at all was done?

The same psychiatrist warned that failure to inform families about episodes of abuse could be construed as “collusion or complicity”, yet according to some of the families, they were not informed until 2018.

Abuse is most likely to happen when people are vulnerable or powerless. This current case is complicated by the fact that Brandon was also a vulnerable person. No assessments or attempts at education appear to have been undertaken with him.

Dysfunctional institutions

Previous scandals concerned the children of the poor, who were not deemed to be “our” children. They concerned women stigmatised for becoming pregnant outside of marriage, or defenceless elderly people. 

Yet vulnerability and powerlessness alone do not explain why whistleblowers are not believed. For that to happen, you need dysfunctional institutions.

One type of dysfunctional institution is vast and bureaucratic. The lived values of the organisation contradict the named values. Instead of encouraging openness, a culture of ass-covering and buck-passing prevails. Things happen slowly, or not at all. 

By the time something travels up the chain of command, all momentum is lost. These organisations tend to be filled with people rendered cynical by the difficulty of effecting any kind of real change.

Then there are less overtly cynical but still dysfunctional organisations where individuals identify with and want to protect their institutions from what they perceive as external attacks. This makes them reluctant to publicise things that reflect badly on those institutions.

At its worst, the Irish Catholic Church exhibited elements of both types. Slowly, painfully, and in a way that can never be deemed complete, the church has built a culture of safeguarding, mostly through the work of dedicated volunteers.

Medical model

This cannot be said of the HSE. One of the most unbelievable aspects of the Donegal scandal was the way people took refuge in the idea of a medical model.

Allegedly, according to this model residents were viewed as people in need of treatment, rather than operating from a social-care model that would take the whole person and their human rights into account.

This lacks all plausibility. How could anyone live through the early years of this century, when sexual abuse scandals were dissected for months on end, and still claim that it was the medical model of care that was at fault?

The implication of blaming a medical model is that these men with intellectual disabilities were left to suffer because they were not seen as fully human beings who would be traumatised and terrified by an abuser in their midst. But some nurses saw clearly what was happening.

It is much more plausible that the HSE for decades had a culture that actively worked against accountability.

After the Áras Attracta scandal in 2014, where residents with intellectual disabilities were physically abused by staff, Leigh Gath was appointed by the HSE to an office of confidential recipient. Confidential reports could be made to her about vulnerable and elderly adults.

In 2018, her report showed that HSE workers were fearful of reprisals, being discredited or disbelieved if they reported issues of concern.

Her 2019/2020 report showed that while there had been improvements, of 320 reports, 282 concerns were still related to disability services, including older-person services.

Gath has dealt with everything from a woman with a physical disability being obstructed in every way possible from receiving a replacement for an essential power wheelchair to allegations of peer-on-peer physical abuse. 

While Gath does sterling work, no one person can effect a change of culture. Legislation, including vital adult safeguarding legislation, will not be enough, either.

We will still be here in 20 years’ time asking why whistleblowers are not believed unless a whole new set of positive unwritten behaviours are championed by those with the authority to enforce them.


Friday, 22 October 2021

The association between dietary patterns and the novel inflammatory markers platelet-activating factor and lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2: a systematic review

 the full paper is here.

This is a study that supports our work on linking PAF to diet and specific food components.

============


Abstract

Context: Atherosclerosis is a disease of chronic inflammation. Recent research has identified 2 novel inflammatory biomarkers: platelet-activating factor (PAF) and lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2 (Lp-PLA2). Diet has been proposed as a mediator of inflammation, but to date, the focus for these novel biomarkers has been on individual foods and nutrients rather than overall dietary patterns.

Objective: To systematically review the literature on the association between dietary patterns and PAF and Lp-PLA2.

Data sources: The PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, and Cochrane CENTRAL literature databases were searched.

Data analysis: Study quality was evaluated using the Quality Criteria Checklist. Sixteen studies (n = 4 observational and n = 12 interventional) were included and assessed for associations between dietary patterns and PAF and Lp-PLA2.

Conclusion: Study quality varied from neutral (n = 10) to positive (n = 6). Mediterranean, heart healthy, and vegetarian dietary patterns were associated with improved levels of PAF and Lp-PLA2. Conversely, Western dietary patterns were less favorable. A range of well-established, healthier dietary patterns may lower inflammation and the risk of atherosclerosis. More well-designed studies are needed to confirm these findings and identify other dietary patterns that improve inflammation.

Keywords: Lp-PLA2; PAF; cardiovascular disease; dietary patterns; inflammation; lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2; platelet-activating factor.

Thursday, 21 October 2021

Meta-Analysis of Contemporary Trials of Omega-3 Fatty Acids Containing Both Eicosapentaenoic and Docosahexaenoic Acids


Figure

Meta-analysis of contemporary trials of omega-3 fatty acids containing mixed formulations of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).CI = confidence interval; CHD = coronary heart disease; MI = myocardial infarction; MACE = major adverse cardiovascular events.


======================================================


A recent meta-analysis of EPA+DHA trials excluding these older trials and found that EPA+DHA therapy was associated with neither lower cardiovascular mortality (RR: 0.96 [0.90-1.03]; P = 0.30) nor reduced non-fatal cardiovascular outcomes.

the full paper is here.

Friday, 15 October 2021

Πέτα την μπάλα στην εξέδρα

 Πηγή: Το Κουτί της Πανδώρας



Ζω στην Ιρλανδία αλλά παρακολουθώ καθημερινά την ειδησεογραφία στην Ελλάδα. Και οι ειδήσεις δείχνουν ότι και η Κυβέρνηση αλλά και η Αξιωματική Αντιπολίτευση κάνουν ότι μπορούν για να μην ασχολούμαστε με τα πραγματικά προβλήματα της κοινωνίας.

Ο Σύριζα ζήτησε να διερευνηθούν τα πεπραγμένα της Κυβέρνησης με την λίτσα Πέτσα και τα 40.000.000 ευρώ που πήγαν από εδώ και από εκεί και η Κυβέρνηση βρήκε ευκαιρία και ζητά να διερευνηθούν τα σχετικά πεπραγμένα από το 2015.

Μόλις άκουσα τις ειδήσεις αυτές, μου ήρθαν στο μυαλό ποδοσφαιρικές στιγμές που έχω ζήσει σε γήπεδα όπου η ομάδα που προηγείται στο σκορ πετά την μπάλα στην εξέδρα για να κερδίσει χρόνο. Σε απλή μετάφραση, ασχολούμαστε με θέματα που δεν θα κάνουν καλύτερη την ζωή των ανθρώπων αλλά αγοράζουν πολιτικό χρόνο για την ΝΔ και τον Σύριζα.

Σήμερα, δύο από τα μεγαλύτερα προβλήματα που αντιμετωπίζει η κοινωνία δεν είναι η λίτσα Πέτσα αλλά η ακρίβεια και η ανεργία των νέων. Και εξηγούμαι: για την ακρίβεια των τροφίμων είχαμε γράψει στο προηγούμενο άρθρο μας εδώ. Τόσο η ΝΔ όσο και ο Σύριζα τίποτα δεν έχουν κάνει σχετικά και αυτό φυσικά δεν μας εκπλήσσει.

Ας δούμε το άλλο μεγάλο πρόβλημα που υπάρχει στην Ελλάδα, και αυτό είναι η ανεργία των νέων, ηλικίας 15-24 ετών.

Το γράφημα αυτό δείχνει ότι τα μνημόνια που ταλανίζουν την Ελλάδα από το 2010 και θα την ταλανίζουν για πολλά πολλά χρόνια ακόμα είχαν άμεση αρνητική επίπτωση στην απασχόληση των νέων ανθρώπων. Η ανεργία σε αυτή την ηλικιακή ομάδα είναι απλά δυσθεώρητη. Και αντί ως συντεταγμένη πολιτεία να ασχολούμαστε με το πώς θα δημιουργήσουμε νέες θέσεις εργασίας με αξιοπρεπή μισθό, ασχολούμαστε με το θεαθήναι και την λίστα Πέτσα.

Σήμερα, η μετανάστευση νέων ανθρώπων στο εξωτερικό συνεχίζεται και οι νέοι άνθρωποι που φεύγουν έχουν εξαιρετική κατάρτιση. Το λεγόμενο brain drain καλά κρατεί και οι χώρες στις οποίες πηγαίνουν οι Έλληνες φυσικά πετάνε την σκούφια τους από χαρά μιας και έχουν εξειδικευμένο εργατικό δυναμικό χωρίς να έχουν ξοδέψει ούτε ένα ευρώ για την κατάρτισή τους.

Και τα δυο μεγαλύτερα κόμματα απλά παρακολουθούν αυτήν την φυγή...H πλέον πρόσφατη μελέτη του ICAP το 2019 έδειξε ότι το 26% των ανθρώπων που φεύγουν από την Ελλάδα έχουν πτυχίο και το 69% (!!!) έχει μάστερ ή διδακτορικό! Και όσοι άνθρωποι μένουν στην Ελλάδα ίσως να μην είναι από επιλογή τους...

Σύμφωνα με το Politico και την μη κερδοσκοπική Endeavor, το εργατικό δυναμικό είναι η πιο μεγάλη εξαγωγή που γίνεται αυτή την στιγμή. Στις χώρες που πάνε οι Έλληνες παράγουν €12,9 δις και €9,1 δις φόρους ενώ η Ελλάδα έχει ξοδέψει το δυσθεώρητο ποσό των €8 δις για να τους εκπαιδεύσει. Αυτό που θα πρέπει να κάνουμε είναι να χαράξουμε μια Εθνική στρατηγική δημιουργίας νέων θέσεων εργασίας και το κυριότερο να επικαιροποιήσουμε τα πρόγραμματα σπουδών των Ελληνικών ΑΕΙ για να εκπαιδεύουμε τους νέους ανθρώπους σε αυτές τις ειδικότητες που θα αναδειχθούν από την νέα στρατηγική απασχόλησης.

Κατακλείδα: αν δούμε την κατάταξη προσληψιμότητας των αποφοίτων των ΑΕΙ σε παγκόσμια βάση, το ΕΚΠΑ είναι στις θέσεις 301-500 ενώ τέσσερα (4) Ιρλανδικά ΑΕΙ είναι μέσα στα πρώτα 200! Κάτι κάνουμε στραβά στην Ελλάδα αλλά δεν θέλουμε να το δούμε...και απλά πετάμε την μπάλα στην εξέδρα...

* Ο Γιάννης Ζαμπετάκης είναι Πρόεδρος Βιολογικών Επιστημών, Πανεπιστήμιο του Λίμερικ, Ιρλανδία
ioannis.zabetakis@ul.ie
@yanzabet

Thursday, 14 October 2021

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

It’s time to rethink science education

 By Justin DillonLucy Avraamidou20 May 2021



Source: © Boris Séméniako/Ikon Images

It’s time to put science and environment literacy at the forefront of science education

---------------------------------

Unless we reconsider what it means to be scientifically and environmentally literate, science education will continue to fail our current students and future governments

=========================================


Science education has failed. This might seem an extreme argument at a time when scientists have developed vaccines for Covid-19 remarkably quickly. However, the vast majority of the public have not had an education in science that has adequately prepared them for the pandemic or to engage with the far more threatening issue of climate change.

Substantial numbers of people around the world refuse to be vaccinated and we have even witnessed governments paying for advertisements telling us how to wash our hands correctly. Many politicians cannot follow the science on Covid-19 and some do not understand basic scientific concepts or how science works. Climate change denial is also common, and scientists are openly distrusted, abused and undermined by those who should know better.

70% of teachers think the UK curriculum needs radical change to make the education system fit for purpose

Frustration with the current education provision has grown quickly. In the UK, youth-led organisation Teach the Future has called for the government to commission a review into how the formal education system is preparing students for the climate emergency and ecological crisis. Teachers, too, are hugely supportive of change: 70% of primary and secondary teachers surveyed by YouGov agreed that the current UK curriculum needs radical change to make the education system fit for purpose. Worryingly, only 18% said that they had received adequate training to educate students on climate change.

Environmental education

When the national curriculum underwent a major review in 2014, the group director of assessment and research at Cambridge Assessment, Tim Oates, who was leading the effort, argued explicitly against including climate change. His argument was that the curriculum should only involve the ‘core stuff’ and that teachers could teach climate change if they so wanted. However, teachers have unsurprisingly been reluctant to teach anything beyond what is examined. Renewed calls to include climate change education and, more broadly, education about sustainability in the curriculum, are likely to increase, particularly as we approach the COP26 climate change conference in November.

Education needs to be urgently re-envisioned to address contemporary societal challenges

One dimension of the argument for a different education about the environment is the call for a GCSE in natural history or a compulsory course in sustainability. However, we do not believe that tinkering with the curriculum is enough. Instead, we argue that radical, systemic reform is needed. Young people do not just need more or different knowledge, they need a fundamentally different educational experience. The nature and purpose of education needs to be re-envisioned to address contemporary societal challenges, and it needs to be done urgently.

Education has become a preparation for examinations rather than a preparation for life. It is difficult to see who the current examination system fully benefits. Both employers and universities are, at best, lukewarm in their enthusiasm for the specialisation that characterises education in the UK. Many students leave school with the same misconceptions they had when they started, while their interest in STEM subjects has been declining over the past five years. Those who succeed academically under the current system seem happy not to see a change in the status quo despite its obvious failings.

Science in society

The gap between school science and laboratory science continues to grow. While attempts to involve students in authentic science have had some success, we need a better approach to helping students to understand the real value of science to society. One way would be through adopting an issues-based, cross-curricular approach to teaching at secondary level. Our obsession with separate subjects at the expense of interdisciplinarity has stifled education innovation for far too long.

Another part of the answer lies in interactions between students and scientists, particularly those working in the areas of health and the environment. Few young people have any sustained interactions with scientists, whereas they might study an author’s work for a term or more in English literature lessons. Pupils need to know who the scientists are in their immediate locality, their community, their region, their nation and beyond. This engagement would have to involve a certain amount of virtual activity, but it is the only way that we can expect trust in science and scientists to develop. Ideally, students and teachers would engage in long-term health and environment projects that address local issues. These engagements would be supported by local industry, science centres and universities: civic science for sustainability.

Unless we rethink what it means to be scientifically and environmentally literate within the broader social, political and economic context, then science education will continue to fail. If students emerge from 11 or more years of schooling without understanding how science works, then any claim that we are providing an effective science education is nonsense.

WWF: An Environmental and Economic Path Toward Net Zero Dairy Farm Emissions

In this business case, analysis conducted by The Markets Institute @ WWF—based on assumptions and data shared by stakeholders in the dairy industry—demonstrates that achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions for large farms is possible with the right practices, incentives, and policies within five years. If businesses also step up to make investments and collaborate with dairy farmers in their supply chain, the potential to reach these goals can become even more tangible.

Read other business cases for sustainable practices from The Markets Institute.

Η ακρίβεια των τροφίμων


 

Πηγή : Κουτί της Πανδώρας


Τις τελευταίες μέρες όλοι μιλάμε για την ακρίβεια που έχει χαρακτηριστικά καταιγίδας. Άλλοι λένε ότι για αυτό το κύμα ακρίβειας φταίει το πιο ακριβό πετρέλαιο, άλλοι μιλάνε για τον καιρό (καύσωνας) και την επίδρασή του στην αγροτική παραγωγή και άλλοι (στην κυβέρνηση κυρίως) (παρα)μιλάνε για τα υψηλά επίπεδα ρυθμού ανάπτυξης και άρα τιμών του καταναλωτή.

Χωρίς να θέλουμε να επιβεβαιώσουμε ή να απορρίψουμε τα λεγόμενα όλων αυτών, ας μιλήσουμε για τον τομέα των τροφίμων, ένα τομέα στον οποίο διδάσκω ως μέλος ΔΕΠ επί 23 συναπτά έτη.

Η ακρίβεια, κατά την άποψή μας, στα τρόφιμα είναι το συνδυαστικό αποτέλεσμα τριών παραμέτρων. Ας τα δούμε.

 

  1. Ολιγοπώλιο σε διεθνές επίπεδο

  2. Ανύπαρκτη Επιτροπή Ανταγωνισμού στην Ελλάδα

  3. Έλλειψη σοβαρού καταναλωτικού κινήματος στην Ελλάδα.

 

Στο πρώτο σημείο, πρέπει να δούμε πόσες μεγάλες πολυεθνικές εταιρείες λειτουργούν σε διεθνές επίπεδο. Υπάρχουν κολοσσοί (π.χ. Ferrero, General Mills, Grupo Bimbo, Kellogg's, Kraft Foods, Mars, Nestlé, PepsiCo, the Coca-Cola Company και Unilever) που κατέχουν πλήθος εταιρείων και άρα εν δυνάμει ελέγχουν τις τιμές σε πλήθος τροφίμων. Mια απλή αναζήτηση στο διαδίκτυο αρκεί για να δούμε πόσες εταιρείες λειτουργούν κάτω από την ομπρέλα της Unilever. Συνεπώς, θα πρέπει να αναρωτηθούμε αν σε διεθνές επίπεδο οι μεγάλοι κολοσσοί στον τομέα των τροφίμων λειτουργούν υπό καθεστώς πλήρους ανταγωνισμού. Στις 9 Οκτωβρίου 2018, μάθαμε ότι πρόστιμο συνολικού ύψους 27.561.704,7 ευρώ επέβαλε η Ολομέλεια της Επιτροπής Ανταγωνισμού στην εταιρεία Ελαΐς - Unilever, μετά από αυτεπάγγελτη έρευνα για παράβαση των άρθρων 1 και 2 του ν. 703/1977 (πλέον άρθρων 1 και 2 ν. 3959/2011), σχετικά με τις συμφωνίες συνεργασίας της εταιρείας με το λιανεμπόριο και το χονδρεμπόριο για τη διάθεση των προϊόντων μαργαρίνης. Άρα;

Στο δεύτερο σημείο, θα πρέπει να αναρωτηθούμε γιατί η θέση της Επιτροπής Ανταγωνισμού είναι πολιτική θέση, δηλαδή η εκάστοτε κυβέρνηση μπορεί να επιλέγει πρόσωπο της δικής της επιλογής (και επιρροής;) για την θέση αυτή. Κατά την γνώμη μας, αυτή η θέση θα πρέπει να είναι πολυετής και να δίνεται σε άνθρωπο της αγοράς και γνώστη των τεχνοκρατικών και ανταγωνιστικών πρακτικών.

Στο τρίτο σημείο, πρέπει να αποδεχθούμε ότι το να ζητάμε να υπάρξει σοβαρό καταναλωτικό κίνημα στην χώρα της φαιδράς πορτοκαλέας ίσως να είναι ουτοπικό αλλά μόνο αν υπάρξει μια σοβαρή, ανεξάρτητη και δυναμική οργάνωση καταναλωτών, τότε μόνο ο καταναλωτής (δηλαδή όλοι εμείς!) θα μπορέσει να εφαρμόσει πρακτικά πίεση σε εταιρείες που πουλάνε ανεξήγητα ακριβά τρόφιμα.

Αυτά τα τρία στοιχεία θα πρέπει να μας απασχολήσουν αν θέλουμε να ασχοληθούμε σοβαρά με τα αίτια της ακρίβειας στον τομέα των τροφίμων.

Τέλος, για να υπάρξει άμεσα μια ανακούφιση των καταναλωτών θα πρέπει να μηδενιστεί ο ΦΠΑ σε τρόφιμα πρώτης ανάγκης. Και ούτε εδώ δεν χρειάζεται να ανακαλύψουμε τον τροχό, ας δούμε τα ποσοστά ΦΠΑ σε άλλες χώρες της ΕΕ και ας τους μιμηθούμε μειώνοντας τον ΦΠΑ. Απλά και άμεσα. Και μετά, ας δούμε τα παραπάνω τρία σημεία.

* Ο Γιάννης Ζαμπετάκης είναι Πρόεδρος Βιολογικών Επιστημών στο Πανεπιστήμιο του Λίμερικ, Ιρλανδία
(ioannis.zabetakis@ul.ie@yanzabet)

Friday, 8 October 2021

The effect of moderate wine consumption on cytokine secretion by peripheral blood mononuclear cells: A randomized clinical study in coronary heart disease patients


 



Cytokine

Volume 146

October 2021 

Article number 155629

  • aSend mail to Fragopoulou E.,
  • a,
  • a,
  • a,
  • a,
  • a,
  • a,
  • b,
  • c




Highlights

Moderate wine consumption doesn't have adverse effects on basic metabolic markers.

Moderate wine consumption has not effect on soluble protein inflammatory mediators.

Moderate daily tsipouro consumption (ethanol) induces TNFα secretion by PBMCs.

Wine micro-constituents attenuate ethanol effect on cytokine secretion by PBMCs.

-----------------------------------------

This paper shows that the consumption of a fermented drink has a positive impact in relation to cytokine secretion and hence inflammation.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Further reading:

Ethanol effect

Tumor Necrosis Factor

Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC)

In vitro results on the anti-inflammatory effects of beer and tea.