Monday, 26 May 2014

Euro election 2014: handsome is as handsome does

On Thursday we voted in the EU election for MEPs.  After a long internet search, I discovered the candidates, but not how they'd appear on the ballot paper (more of that later).

I'm cynical about election manifestos and party commitments, having seen promises broken every year, including the pledge to hold a referendum on the revised EU constitution.

I'm more interested in how individual MEPs behave when in post.

There are 8 MEPs for the London region:  Charles Tannock (Conservative), Claude Moraes (Labour), Baroness Sarah Ludford (Liberal Democrat), Dr Syed Kamall (Conservative), Jean Lambert (Green), Gerard Batten (UK Independence Party), Mary Honeyball (Labour), Marina Yannakoudakis (Conservative).

I wrote to my MEPs for London on 21 January this year, expressing concerns about Georgia's interest in joining the EU.  In Georgia homosexuality is legal, yet the head of the church's followers advocate killing gays and a young gay man was recently murdered in the capital Tbilisi.

Syed Kamall (Con) responded asking if I'd like him to submit a Parliamentary question to the European Commission about this issue.  I agreed and he sent me a copy of the letter of to the Commission.

Marina Yannakoudakis (Con) twisted my question and answered about the right to gay marriage (which I did not even mention.)  She dismissed the idea that gays are threatened or murdered in Georgia.  I responded with a list of links to articles (gleaned from a cursory Google search), but answer came their none.

['The recognition of gay-marriages is not a pre-condition of EU Membership. If it were, then current EU Members may face problems since some do not recognise such marriages'.  'As for your words on "persecution and killings" of LGBT people in Georgia, I have found no similar reports of such incidents, so I would be grateful if you could provide me with further information so that I can investigate this alleged matter.'

'I'm sorry that you are unaware of the situation in Georgia for gays and lesbians and have been unable to find evidence for my claims.  As for examples of death threats an injury to gays in Georgia, here is a small selection via  cursory Google search:

Crowd led by Priests attacks gay rights marchers in Georgia

Antigay protesters disrupt Georgian rights rally

What was behind Georgia's anti-gay rally?

Terrifying video of rioters attacking gay pride participants in Tbilisi

In Georgia, a grisly murder highlights vulnerability of gay people

Georgia:  time for homsexuality to come out of the closet?

This is the oldest report:

Pride and Prejudice ]

Jean Lambert (Green) responded with a clear and concise account of her position and upcoming vote on the 'Lunacek report', a roadmap against homophobia and discrimination on ground of sexual orientationa nd gender identify for the EU.

Charles Tannock's (Con) response was brief, but asserted his position as a longstanding friend of Georgia who shares my concerns about human rights and civil liberties in Georgia.

Claude Moraes (Lab) sent a long reply, but confirmed his (and the Labour party's) position as committed defenders of human rights.

Mary Honeyball (Lab) acknowledged my email and said she'd get back to me.  Nothing more arrived from her.

Sarah Ludford (Lib Dem) sent a long reply with an extensive history of action in the EU on homophobia and human rights.  She concluded with a paragraph on Liberal Democrat policy on the issue.  This was the most detailed response of all.

 Gerard Batten (UKIP) has still not acknowledged my email or replied to it.

On Thursday I went to my polling station with preferred MEP candidates in this order of preference:  Sarah Ludford, Syed Kamall, Jean Lambert, Charles Tannock = Claude Moraes.

I discovered that I had ONE vote and could only pick a political party.  

I could not, in all conscience, vote Conservative with the views of Marina Yannakoudakis, however much I admire Syed Kamall.  Labour, with one non-response and one party political puff, could not get my vote.  Green, with a good response on this issue, could not be trusted on the economy.  UKIP keep the other parties on their toes, but Mr Batten is not doing his job.  Sarah Ludford sent the most comprehensive response, though I'm not too keen on other aspects of her party's work, particularly in relation to sexual abuse and harassment of staff and constituents.  I'd prefer to be able to vote for people I support and exclude those I don't.

I voted.

Update:  Here are the UK results for the European elections.

Lazy Mary Honeyball and Gerard Batten are still in, but hard working Sarah Ludford is out.

Labour: 806,959
Con: 495,639
UKIP: 371,133
Green: 196,419
Lib Dem: 148,013

MEPs: Claude Moraes (Lab)Sayed Kamall (Con)Mary Honeyball (Lab),Gerard Batten (UKIP)Lucy Anderson (Lab)Charles Tannock (Con)Seb Dance (Lab)Jean Lambert (Green).

N = 1 self experimentation

I've written about the late Seth Roberts, who was famous for self experimentation.  Jimmy Moore has also published results of his experiments to reduce and maintain weight and good health.  Paul and Shou Ching Jaminet also advocate self research in finding your way to optimum weight and good health.

The gold standard for scientific research is the randomised controlled trial.  A statistically significant number of people is divided randomly into two, one group is given the variable (drug, food, other intervention) and the other group is not.  The second or control group may be given a placebo pill, food or other intervention.  Those assigned to each group are numbered and recorded.  The aim is to ensure that neither the test subjects or those working with them know who has the intervention and who does not.  This prevents the researchers and test subjects from skewing the results.  It also eliminates confirmation bias, when humans seek and find results that seem to confirm what they believe.

Using yourself as a test subject is open to criticism, because an individual result cannot be generalised out to the whole population.  On the other hand, it can be useful for the tester to help find solutions to their own health problems not provided by health care professionals or over the counter drugs.  There is even greater risk of confirmation bias and other distortions creeping into n=1 experiments.  Humans are notoriously unreliable when remembering the past and liable to make post hoc rationalisations.

I was asked to participate in trials of a sleep device.  The questionnaire was detailed in asking for feedback on what happened AFTER I tried the device.  It was open to criticism, because it stopped there.

In my view, we need to be systematic in experimenting on ourselves.  Here's my list of things to include when trying out something to improve health, weight or fitness:

1  Keep a notebook or file on computer detailing what happened
2  Before starting the experiment, note down your history of this topic (weight loss, insomnia,  low mood or whatever) to get a baseline starting point.   Record previous attempts to improve the situation and interventions used as well as  your views about factors affecting your progress
3  Start the experiment
4  Identify ONE intervention and make every effort to keep the rest of your life as consistent as possible (eg add more fat to diet or wear orange safety goggles).  Avoid adding other NEW changes to diet or lifestyle.  If you make multiple changes, it's impossible to determine what has caused improvement/deterioration/no change in your state.
5  Note the results each day.  Record numbers wherever possible (eg weight loss/gain; amount of time it took to fall asleep, time slept - light/deep/dreaming sleep, amount and quality of dreams, times woke during the night, time taken to sleep again etc)
6  Record other factors that may have affected progress as well as other notable things (eg external events affecting sleep/stress).

I've run experiments on myself and kept note of food intake, body composition, blood glucose, blood pressure and sleep patterns.  I've noticed how difficult it is to draw definite cause effect conclusions, but have made tentative guesses, often with multiple potential contributory factors (particularly to insomnia).  This helps me to avoid over confident generalisations or assertions and focusses my attention on areas for further investigation.

I've encouraged clients to use self experimentation and notebooks, arguing that these are much more persuasive with their doctors than verbal reports, particularly when GPs dismiss weight loss problems as chronic overeating.  This gives them more confidence in dealing with their own health and communicating with their doctor.

You may not find a single solution, but will gain a clearer sense of your own metabolism and what helps and hinders progress.  I still have insomnia sometimes, but recognise the contributory factors and how I can limit them.

Postscript:  It's useful to identify your goal prior to self experimentation.  For example with insomnia you may want to fall asleep sooner or sleep longer, rather than waking up in the early hours of the morning.  You might want to have deeper sleep.  If you know where you want to go explicitly, it's easier to track progress and alter your experiment later on.

David and Goliath world cup football

In 1950 the world cup final was between Brazil and Uruguay in the Maracana stadium.  Brazil needed a draw to win and their victory was thought to be a foregone conclusion on home turf.

Uruguay has a population of less than 5 million and this dwindled to less than 2.5 million after the military dictatorship.  Brazil has more than 200 million people and is one of the BRICs countries, predicted to surge ahead of traditional Western economic power houses.  In 1950 Uruguay's economy was dominated by meat exports.  Fray Bentos is a town that gave its name to a company famous for corned beef.  In a world recovering from World War 2, meat exports from Argentina and Uruguay had little competition and the European Union hadn't yet established itself nor had the United States of America consolidated its protectionist position, so imports were welcome.

The mayor of Rio de Janeiro spoke to the crowd before the match, saluting the Brazilian team as conquerors before the ball was in play.

Uruguay won 2-1 with a decisive goal by Ghiggia.

Denmark won the 1992 European cup final, having only joined the tournament when Yugoslavia could not play because of the war in Bosnia.

Never underestimate smaller nations in football.