First Brit baby born without cancer gene

January 14, 2009

The first British baby born from an embryo screened to ensure she was free from a genetic risk of breast cancer has been delivered.

The use of this technology is controversial but I understand why propsective parents might choose to use it.

Our sons had degenerative brain disorders the cause of which was never determined but which was almost certainly genetic.

Neither passed any of the developmental milestones which left them with multihandicaps. Tom lived just 20 weeks and Dan died 10 days after his fifth birthday unable to do anything more by himself when he died than he could when he was born.

We decided the one in four risk of having another baby with the same condition was too great.

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) wasn’t available 20 years ago and given no-one knew what to test for wouldn’t have been an option anyway.  But if we could have used it we almost certainly would have.


BSA judgement for free speech

January 14, 2009

The Broadcasting Standards Authority has dismissed a complaint  by Children’s Commissioner Cindy Kiro against talkback host Michael Laws.

Dr Kiro had complained to the BSA the Laws’ remarks on the programme were unbalanced and unfair to her.

She argued that the programme “often cast aspersions on (her) competence” and that she was personally mentioned more than 50 times during the three-hour talkback programme.

But the BSA said listeners would not expect a range of balanced views from Laws’ talkback.

It said the host’s criticisms were not unfair in the robust talkback environment.

“Indeed, it is an essential element of free speech that even the most trenchant criticism of public figures be allowed,” the authority said. “As an appointed official carrying out a public function, Dr Kiro’s work and her conduct were appropriately the subject of scrutiny, comment and criticism.”

The authority agreed with the broadcaster that talkback was a means for the public to express their views on a range of issues. There was no requirement for those views to be well-informed, balanced or considered.

Radio Live, which broadcasts Laws’ show is claiming this judgement as a victory for free speech, as it is.

Like it or not talkback is full of ill-informed, unbalanced and ill considered rants and while it might not seem fair the public, which includes talkback hosts, has the right to criticise people in public positions.


Official rate vs real rate

January 14, 2009

Our first trip to Argentina was in 1997 when the peso was pegged to the $US.

When we returned in 2003 the peso had been floated and was worth about 33 US cents and about 50 NZ cents.

There aren’t many countries where our dollar is worth more than the local currency so we enjoyed the bargains – good wine for about $NZ10 a bottle, quality leather shoes and bags for less than half what we’d pay here and similarly low cost restaurant meals.

Prices and the difference between our dollar and the peso hadn’t changed much when we returned in 2005 and 2007 but when we went back last month our dollar had fallen and Argentinean prices had risen.

Because of that I was suprised to read that the offical inflation rate  had fallen to 7.2%, the lowest level since 2004.

However, I read on and found:

Independent economists have suggested that true inflation was at least 20 percent, but that officials underestimated it to save money on inflation-linked bonds.

That independent assessment is a truer reflection of what we saw than the official version.

Wine and leather cost more  than they had last time we were there, although they were high quality and good value and Argentina is still not an expensive place for travellers. But life is more difficult for locals with the prices of fuel and every day goods in supermarkets much higher than we remembered from previous visits.


Blogging in paradise for $6000 a week

January 14, 2009

They’re advertising it as The Best Job In The World and it certainly sounds alluring – six months in paradise being paid $6000 a week and all you have to do is a weekly blog with video updates and photos:

The Caretaker of the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef is a newly created position. There are a few minor tasks that need to be taken care of, but the most important duty is to report back to Tourism Queensland (and the world) and let us know what’s taking place on the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef.

The successful applicant will be paid $150,000 and get a rent-free three bedroom house for six months for such arduous duties  as:

Explore and report back
There’s so much to see and do, so you’ll have plenty to write about in your weekly blog. And with so much life above and below the water, you’re sure to capture some entertaining moments for your video diary and photo gallery. To keep you busy, Tourism Queensland will organise a schedule of travel and events on the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef. Your schedule could include sampling a new luxury spa treatment at qualia on Hamilton Island, trying out new snorkelling gear on Heron Island, or bushwalking on Hinchinbrook Island.

Feed the fish
There are over 1,500 species of fish living in the Great Barrier Reef. Don’t worry – you won’t need to feed them all.

Clean the pool
The pool has an automatic filter, but if you happen to see a stray leaf floating on the surface it’s a great excuse to dive in and enjoy a few laps.

Collect the mail
You’ll have some time on your hands, so why not join the aerial postal service for a day? It’s a great opportunity to get a bird’s eye view of the reef and islands.

It’s a real job but it’s also a ploy to increase tourism in Queensland and if the interest generated counts, it’s already been successful.

I got on to the sotry via the ODT  but it took me several attempts before I got on to the website. This could be a result of the traffic its getting – it crashed yesterday  after it was overloaded by hits from Britain.


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