I backed the lockdown (and quite enjoyed it). But was I just a mug?

This article first appeared in the Sunday Times.

In June 2020 I went to the local farm shop to buy my vegetables for the coming fortnight. I was not allowed inside the shop — instead a table had been set up outside with the instruction that I was to keep one metre away from it. You told the shop assistants what you wanted and they went and fetched it for you. Handing the stuff over was difficult because of that one-metre rule. You kind of had to lean forward, and on one occasion I fell over.

The shop workers were wearing plastic shopping bags on their feet, tied over their trainers, because of the suspicion, then prevalent, that the coronavirus had a predilection for the soles of shoes — from which, later, it would leap up in a cunning manner and dive into your mouth, and then you’d be a goner. Meanwhile, somewhere in government, they were having a karaoke party.

Downing Street culture exposed

It is difficult to credit the sheer surreal nature of that first lockdown — which, nonetheless, I rather enjoyed. In theory, we were allowed out shopping once every two weeks, and could take a constitutional once a day for one hour, provided we didn’t sit on a bench or talk to anyone else. I had reckoned it all to be a little Ballardian — not least in the stockpiling of lavatory paper and spaghetti. And yet, shockingly, it wasn’t Ballardian, because there was no real breakdown in society: we all did as we were told in an extraordinarily compliant manner. Meanwhile, somewhere in government, they were getting pissed at a party and vomiting, and two civil servants or wonks were trying to kick each other’s heads in.

I had been entirely in support of that first lockdown, in every measure of its severity, craven before the little Hitlers who sprang up to lecture you about keeping a safe distance outside the supermarket, masked-up and with chapped hands from the constant washing, and with the perpetual acrid, alcoholic reek of hand sanitiser in my nostrils. OK, I began having grave doubts later that summer, with the bizarre non-sequiturs about where we were allowed to go and what we were allowed to do — drinks down the pub, fine; visit your dying grandmother, banned etc. But for three months at least, I was a happy, supine, strangely unquestioning camper. My wife remarked to me, in March 2020: “It’s all shite, all of it. None of it will make a difference. It’s about control. And it will go on for ages.” Nonsense, my dear — it will all be over by September, and this is simply a case of ensuring the frailest of us survive, I assured her.

What a terrible thing it is to have to admit, in a national newspaper, that one’s wife was absolutely right, on all counts, and that I was wrong. The government was right too. The ministers, including the prime minister, and the civil servants took not the slightest notice of their own advice. They partied like it was 2019. They were happy to pass on the fatuous injunctions from Sage to the plebs and to ensure that transgressors were fined or shamed or both — but they knew it was all bollocks. Their actions prove this beyond all reasonable doubt.

This is, I think, at least half of the reason the public is so angry about partygate: we are angry at ourselves for being mugs and doing exactly as we were bidden. Yes, we might despise the arrogance and entitlement of Johnson and co, but the real vexation is with ourselves. And the horrible implication that the nutters, the extremists — the people we rather pompously derided and later silenced altogether — were right all along.

The latest study, from (among others) Johns Hopkins University, suggests that lockdown saved the lives of perhaps 10,000 people across Europe and America. That does not take into account the thousands upon thousands who will die as a consequence of lockdown through having missed hospital treatment, nor the ruined lives, the depression and stress, the destroyed economy, the government spending, the children’s education forgotten. Much as with trepanning or the use of mercury as a laxative, the cure was far, far more deadly than the disease.

Another study (from Italy) suggested that the more stringent the lockdown measures, the more likely (by a factor of three) people were to flout them. In retrospect, good for them. I suppose we can console ourselves that at least we weren’t as gullible as the New Zealanders — but it’s thin gruel, isn’t it? The best we can do is address Boris and — especially — Sage directly, now: “Another lockdown? Not on your life. Or mine. They don’t work.” Oh, and can we remove those bloody hand-sanitiser dispensers from all shops, please? We knew by the winter of 2020 that it was nigh-on impossible to catch Covid from a surface. And yet for some reason people cling on, like they cling on to masks, desperate to believe they are doing the right thing.

Rod Liddle writing in the Sunday Times. 

Sebo Vacuum Service and Repairs in Manchester

Sebo Repairs, Spares & Servicing Manchester

We call Sebo “the best vacuum cleaner brand you have never heard of” (as they don’t advertise very much anywhere – they seem to think you must “discover” them). You will only find them at John Lewis and independent vacuum dealers like the Sebo Shop at Manchester Vacs (and they are cheaper than John Lewis).

Sebo produces a range of upright and cylinder vacuum cleaners for domestic and commercial use. Sebo vacuum cleaners are endorsed by Allergy UK (the British Allergy Foundation), recommended by Which? Magazine, recommended by Axminster Carpets and the Good Housekeeping Institute among others.

Sebo has successfully grown to become a major player in the UK commercial vacuum cleaner market despite their low profile in the household market. In 1991 Sebo started in the UK retail market with the Automatic X1 upright and later the X4 and current X7 models.

Sebo repairs & service Manchester

The Sebo Shop at Manchester Vacs are authorised stockists and service agents for Sebo vacuum cleaners and stocks a range of Sebo products including:

  • Sebo commercial uprights
  • Sebo domestic uprights
  • Sebo Duo machines
  • Sebo Dart 3 floor polishers

Manchester Vacs recommends Sebo vacuums because they are probably the most reliable vacuum cleaners and are suitable for both domestic and commercial use. Utilising tried and tested no-nonsense German engineering, their domestic machines carry a five-year warranty and commercial machines a one-year warranty. Sebo is, without doubt, one of the most commonly used vacuums across Europe being used by many cleaning companies and organisations.

Sebo repairs & service Manchester

Sebo Servicing in Manchester

For Sebo repairs in Manchester: Manchester Vacs offer Sebo servicing and Sebo repairs to customers in the Greater Manchester and North West region.

With over thirty-five years of experience, customers can be assured they are receiving the best possible service.

Service labour charges start at just £20 for small jobs rising to £45-49 for a full service including VAT.

Manchester Vacs service is second to none, and you can expect:

  • Free quotation on repairs
  • Fully qualified engineers
  • Fully guaranteed work

Sebo Repairs Near Me in Manchester

Manchester Vacs are the largest Sebo-approved service centre not only in the Greater Manchester region but in the North of England.

Manchester Vacs also provide an economical and professional service for:

  • Schools
  • Universities
  • Colleges
  • Residential nursing homes
  • Commercial cleaning companies
  • Local authorities

Sebo repairs & service Manchester

Customer Review from Trustpilot:

Fantastic service, fixed a snapped belt on my Sebo while I waited.
Very knowledgeable and stock everything you could need. Having a shop like this means you can keep a quality vacuum cleaner running rather than buying a new one, very welcome in this disposable age.- Nigel Barber

Customer Review from Google:

Fantastic professional and friendly customer service. You can tell they have been in the business for a very long time. They were very knowledgeable about the comparable features and benefits of the models and knew the competitors inside out. I had loads of questions that they were more than happy to answer- and they consulted with me to determine which model would suit my needs best. I had done extensive research online and came into the shop with my choice narrowed down to a couple of models, however, they recommended another model that wasn’t even on my radar which is what I ended up going with and it’s even better than I imagined! Thank you 🙂 – Zeina McMillen

Sebo Spares in Manchester

Manchester Vacs stock a wider range of Sebo spares, accessories, and consumables than anyone else in the north such as:

  • Paper and microfibre bags
  • Toothed drive belts
  • Filters
  • Accessories (hoses, tools, etc,)
  • Spare parts (brush rolls, power cords, etc.)
  • Specialist screwdrivers and other tools for DIY repairers

You can also buy spares online at their Sebo Shop online store.

For further information on Sebo repairs in the Greater Manchester area, click the banner below to go to the main repair page.

Click here to visit Manchester Vacs

Where to Buy a 30mph Speed Camera Sign

Buy a 30mph Speed Camera Sign

If you want to buy a UK specification combined 30mph and speed camera sign, we can point you to it.

On its own, a 30mph sign is of limited effect. Similarly, on its own, a camera sign is of limited effect. However, put the two together and psychologists say that the combined effect is a more effective call to action in the brain. That is why local authorities have started using the combined speed limit and camera sign.

You probably live on a road where the traffic is continually speeding, and you’re looking for a sign to slow them down.

If you saw this, would you slow down?

30mph camera sign

I know I would.

Why Buy a 30mph Speed Camera Sign?

You’d imagine it would be a simple matter to get in touch with your local council and ask them to put such a sign up on a road near you, wouldn’t you?

Everyone knows the road has a problem with speeding. You pay your Council Tax, right? Aren’t road signs exactly the type of thing you’d expect the council to do with your money?

You’d think it easy to have a bloke from the Highways Department pop down, stand with you for five minutes while everyone tears by like they’re in Wacky Races, nod in agreement with you, and a few days later, a bloke in a high visibility jacket arrives and up goes the new sign.

It doesn’t work like that.

Putting aside the fact that half the council seems to still be working from home in 2022, the bureaucracy involved in having the council put up a sign like this is mind-numbing.

A case study we know about involves a road in Tameside, Greater Manchester. It’s a very busy cut-through with no signage at all on it. It’s a 30mph limit and everyone tears down it at 50mph+. There’s a zebra crossing and a mini-roundabout on the road that the traffic just tears over as if they’re not there. Putting such a sign up should be a no-brainer.

The Labour-controlled local council disagreed. They said that although there had been many accidents they knew of on the road, there had been no fatalities on that stretch and until there were, they wouldn’t review the signage. Getting the local MP involved didn’t help either.

But let’s imagine you live somewhere the local council might be more responsive.

They will want surveys, reports, and feasibility studies. Groups of blokes with clipboards will make many visits to stand about over many months, and still, you’ll have no sign.

You might wait a year or more and then find out they decided not to bother. They won’t tell you of course.

There’s a faster way: buy a 30mph speed camera sign and erect it yourself.

Buy a 30mph speed camera sign

They’re not hard to fit, they have two rails on the back that two clips slide into.

Buy a 30mph sign

You secure them to any suitable lamp post or pole with the supplied clips and jubilee clip bands.

Buy a speed camera sign

Five minutes with a step ladder and a screwdriver and Bobs your uncle!

Is It Allowed to Erect Your Own Road Signs?

Probably not. But who is going to notice? Councils don’t have a department that drives around looking for road signs that weren’t there yesterday. I think we can safely regard it as a victimless crime. Most councils can’t even sweep the streets properly, they’re certainly not going to notice that you erected a speed limit or camera sign.

If you’re concerned about being asked about or noticed when fitting it, our advice is to do it early on a Sunday morning when the roads are quiet. If you can procure a high visibility jacket from somewhere, certainly nobody would give you a second glance if you did it during Friday night rush hour.

Where to Buy a 30mph Speed Camera Sign?

You can buy one on eBay here: >>buy a 30mph speed camera sign on eBay<<

You can buy from the same seller less the eBay fees on their own site here: >>buy a 30mph speed camera sign<<

It’s a bit cheaper on the second link simply because there are no seller’s eBay fees when you buy direct.

Now you know where to buy a 30mph speed camera sign!

Dedollarisation and Reducing Dollar Hegemony Following the Russian Military Operation in Ukraine

We’ve been writing about dedollarisation here for some time.

Russia and much of the world have been seeking to dedollarise for a while. In the wake of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, one of the outcomes of countersanctions by Russia against the US and the rest of the west is them being forced to use the Russian Rouble to buy oil and gas.

This does something Russia has wanted to do for a while: reduce US dollar hegemony.

When it comes to what we often call dollar hegemony one can get all technical (and often wrong) or we can make things much more simple.

I prefer simple.

So, here’s what dollar hegemony means in simple (and accurate within limits) terms.

Some necessary assumptions:

  • 1) Inflation is a general increase in prices within an economy. Economists differ in the following, but my training is that inflation is a decrease in the value of a currency.
  • 2) If there is no increase in the amount of currency in circulation within an economy and there is no increase in productivity then there can be no inflation. Inflation is based on the supply of money within an economy.
  • 3) If productivity increases (output of the economy per unit labour) at the same rate as the supply of money then there will be no inflation.

As we know, the money supply in the United States has been growing, and the rate of growth has been accelerating hugely in recent years, but even 20 years ago we could see that the money supply was growing faster than productivity was rising. (Increase money supply by 10%  per year and productivity by 7% per year and the result will be 3% inflation.)

The US in various forms recognised the issue. It was why the US came off the gold standard and closed the gold window.

The only way to keep inflation lower than would be expected when productivity does not increase to match is to move money out of the national economy to ‘some other place’. There are tricks that can be employed, but they are short-term and limited in scope.

Clever people in the USA understood the issue. Moving off the gold standard solved the problem of having to pay out ever more dollars per unit of gold but only gave a very short respite. So, the clever people came up with a cunning plan. They came up with a way to permanently export US dollars from the national economy to the rest of the world. The plan was to tie the dollar to Saudi Arabian oil.

The Saudis got stuff in return, but they agreed to not sell oil in Riyals (Saudi currency) but in dollars. So, every country that wanted to buy Saudi oil needed to buy (import) US dollars which limited the number of dollars in circulation in the US national economy. This, in turn, kept inflation at bay – of course, not entirely!

Of course, over time, the dollar became ever more the default currency, after all, every nation had huge bundles of dollars sitting in central bank accounts and this made the process of keeping domestic inflation even more effective.

I will not go into the macroeconomic effect of this process on the global economy, but it has been huge!

OK, so that’s the WHY of dollar hegemony. There are hundreds of entire books written on the topic so please do not criticise me on any point that is generalised for simplicity and brevity!

Dollar hegemony is akin to a drug for the US economy. As soon as one stops taking the drug, the withdrawal effects are painful and possibly fatal!

Every time a barrel of oil is paid for in a currency other than the dollar, those dollars end up, with some delay, back in the US national economy. Each of those dollars serves to increase the money supply within the economy and, from our assumptions, we know that this results in inflation.

The only way to keep those dollars away from the US economy is to keep international purchasing payments in dollars.

I will ignore the fact that even for the exported dollars (often called petrodollars) there are limits because stability depends upon continued economic growth worldwide to ensure that more and more dollars are used in international trade.

The United States is fully aware of the need to keep exported dollars away from the national economy. It has been the cause of wars and regime change. However, it could be seen a couple of decades ago that the process of dollar export was finite. At some point, the export would slow. The slowing of dollar export is good enough to wreck the US national economy. As long as there is less demand for exported dollars than the production of dollars then inflation starts to rear its head.

So, today, what is happening?

I described the current events in respect of US and EU sanctions on Russia as a black swan event – an unpredicted, but a not unpredictable event that causes a rapid and unforeseen change.

For nations to attack another country’s central bank is almost unprecedented (and illegal) and only legal during times of declared war upon the target country. It has happened before, but only to relatively impotent nations and economies such as Afghanistan, Iran, and Venezuela.

This attack is on an economy that is key to the global economy. This has been noticed. Russia has been forced to move away from the dollar as a unit of account for its imports and exports. This has the effect of causing dollars to be repatriated to the United States’ national economy driving inflation (with some delay).

Worse than that are the secondary effects. Dollar hegemony depends upon the United States keeping its promises to pay the bearer on demand. Demonstrating that this promise can be broken due to political will means that trust in the dollar and the issuing central bank is inevitably reduced.

When trust reduces, the tendency to use the currency is reduced. Over time (months or years – possibly weeks), countries that do not have significant economic ties to Russia will make choices about how to hold their reserves. They may not entirely stop using the dollar, but a reduction is a reduction.

This created a negative cycle. Each dollar repatriated to the US national economy adds to inflation within the economy. As inflation increases the number of dollars required to make a purchase increases. That makes the dollar less safe to hold over time and so central banks and governments will reduce their dollar holdings again. Round and round it goes, getting faster at each turn.

In time the devaluation of the dollar and increasing interest rates (which are a product of the value and risk of holding the currency) increase making it harder for the US to take out new and repay old loans. This reduces the spending that the US can undertake – and guess which is just about the most costly part of the US economy? The military!

The US armed forces are the tool sued to enforce dollar hegemony. Without an enforcer, states will make their own free choices in their own best interests.

The shocking thing is that there are plenty of people in the USA who know all this. But the elected government chose to shatter the state’s responsibility to ensure the good performance of the dollar. The sanctions imposed upon Russia have made the very tool that will hasten the end of dollar hegemony.

To repeat once again, this is a very highly simplified account of affairs. There are many complicating factors but if you think of dollar hegemony as being the main mechanism that enables the USA to have relatively low inflation and a standard of living that is not commensurate with its real economy then you will not be off the mark.

You guys sanctioned yourselves by ignoring the advice and protestations of the experts in the various related fields who were not given input into the damaging political decisions.

When I was first writing about dedollarisation and failure of the dollar, I was suggesting that the process was under some form of management by other major economies and possibly even with the tacit agreement with the US Federal Reserve.

The reason for that was the manner in which the process, which was visible, was being managed. Of course I have no proof of this, only empirical observation supported by trained knowledge.

The last thing any economy needs is an unmanaged and chaotic end for the US Dollar dominance. That would occur if central banks chose to dump their dollar assets – cash, treasuries, bonds and other instruments.

It was possible to see a slow downward trend in holdings (with some deviation). Some countries were fastidious about maintaining a dollar peg, even to the detriment of their own national economies (China) and also using cash holdings to buy US-based assets. All activities that supported the idea that the US decline was being managed from outside the United States.

A few years ago, it seemed that any US cooperation came to an end. But the slow overall process continued. China and Russia had no interest in tanking the US economy because the likely outcome would be war as the US sought to gamble big on global domination before the opportunity was lost.

Right now, I think we are at that point. The US is lashing out against ‘the world’ the EU is suffering terribly – the desired outcome. Russia is supposed to be suffering – except for autarky and a very strong economy driven by leadership in many commodity and technical areas. On a side note, I wonder where Russia would be if they had not needed to focus on defence technologies and rebuilding the armed forces almost from the ground up.

Russia is isolating itself from the coming storm and moving toward a hard rouble backed by commodities and energy. China is taking a slightly different direction. India is keen to go along with Russia and whatever China does and all, along with other Eurasian economies, are already well along with an alternative synthetic currency.

Being the global reserve currency (dollar hegemony) is not a magic bullet for an underproductive economy! So nobody wants to take it on – hence a synthetic global (or at least Eurasian) currency.

I also think that Russia and China, along with, possibly, some other states are at about the ‘bugger it’ stage and may now be willing to cut the US loose and damn the short term economic and military cost. Russia has been working toward autarky for almost 20 years.

Oddly, many other countries seem not to have noticed what Russia has achieved (economy smaller than Italy? What are these USAian experts smoking?)

China cannot be an autarky but has been working assiduously on its supply networks to attain independence from the USA. And here again, the US shot themselves in the foot. I mean, what exactly did the US leadership think would happen when they tried to cut China off from the goods and services it needs?

The only thing that could happen is that China would replace those goods and services in the home market. They built up land-based logistics networks, building relationships in Asia, Africa, Eurasia and even Europe.

My only conclusion here is that the USAian leadership was unable to understand the Chinese context, seeing everything in terms of what similar action would bring to the USA. And, yes for the USA it’d be disastrous due to the hollowing out of US manufacturing through providing perverse incentives that made it impossible for manufacturers to remain in the USA. US-based businesses were forced to offshore manufacturing. I saw this first-hand when I was studying at Fudan University, possibly the foremost economics centre of excellence in the field in China.

We were taught and shown what was going to happen in the USA. Those guys knew it. This was back in 2001. To be honest, it was blindingly obvious when one reframed the issues away from a US-centric perspective.

Andrew Wilson writing about de-dollarisation from the RUA discussion forums.

 

He cured type 1 diabetes. It only took 30 years

This article first appeared in the Times.

The first sufferer is now free of the genetic form of the disease thanks to the work of Doug Melton, a US scientist inspired by his baby son’s illness.

When Doug Melton set out to cure type 1 diabetes, it is fair to say he underestimated the scale of the task.

Doug Melton - Type 1 Diabetes Cure

It was 1991 and his six-month-old son Sam had just been diagnosed with the autoimmune condition. The symptoms were terrifying: the tiny baby shaking and vomiting until he was given the insulin that would save his life. But even with treatment the consequences were stark — fingerprick blood tests four times a day, regular insulin injections and the looming threat of sight loss, kidney problems and heart disease.

Melton, a Harvard scientist who until that point had been studying the development of frogs, switched his attention to diabetes. He made his wife Gail a promise.

“I told her that within four or five years, I could figure out how to turn stem cells into beta cells,” he says. That challenge — to take blank embryonic cells and turn them into the type of cells that produce insulin in the pancreas — took 15 years, by which point his daughter, Emma, had also been diagnosed. “It shows you how bad I am at predictions,” he says.

Now, 30 years after Melton set out on his mission, the first patient has received the treatment he dreamt of all those years ago. And the results are better than anything he could have hoped for. In June, Brian Shelton, 64, received an infusion of beta cells. He is now living without insulin injections for the first time in four decades.

“It’s a whole new life,” Shelton told The New York Times in an interview last weekend. “It’s like a miracle.”

Melton, 68, has never met Shelton. Vertex, the multinational pharmaceutical giant which owns the rights to his treatment, informed him last month that the first stage of the trial had worked, but at that point Shelton had been listed as an anonymous trial participant. Seeing his picture in the newspaper, complete with his “First in Human” T-shirt, was an emotional moment.

“I just loved reading about him,” Melton says. “I was hoping that in the first patient there would be at least some evidence that the cells produced insulin. But this was the best possible result. Given that the patient only had half of the target dose, for the first result it just couldn’t be any better.”

Despite his excitement, Melton is circumspect. “Let’s remember this is just one patient. And it is only four or five months on. One has to be cautious about reproducing it with other patients.”

Why has it taken so long to get this far? “I have some good excuses,” Melton says. “The political question about whether you could use embryonic stem cells was a much harder problem than I realised.”

Melton’s strategy relies on using embryonic stem cells, the blank cells present in the first days of gestation which have the potential to become any cell in the human body.

In 2001, President George W Bush, spurred on by the pro-life movement, banned the use of federal funding for research using embryos. Melton had to separate his stem-cell lab from everything else at Harvard. He eventually secured philanthropic funding to set up a separate lab, but it set him back years.

Eventually, having proven his technique worked, he formed a company called Semma Therapeutics — named after Sam and Emma — which in 2019 was bought by Vertex for $950 million (£720 million).

The company is testing the treatment on 17 patients. If it continues to show promising results, it has the potential to change the lives of the estimated nine million people around the world living with type 1 diabetes, 400,000 of them in the UK.

Unlike the more common type 2 diabetes, which is linked to lifestyle, diet and obesity, type 1 diabetes is caused by genetics and environmental factors. Most first get ill when the body’s immune system starts attacking the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. This usually occurs in childhood, but can strike in adulthood, as was the case with Theresa May, the former prime minister.

Without insulin, a hormone that controls glucose, sugar levels rise in the bloodstream to dangerous levels. Until insulin was injected for the first time in January 1922, people who developed type 1 diabetes could be expected to live no more than a year or two. Now they are reliant on constant blood tests and injections.

Advances in technology means this process can be automated, using continuous glucose monitors and insulin pumps. This has improved patients’ lives, Melton says. “But it still means hours every day messing around with the pump in their infusion sets. And I know with my children, putting those infusion sets in is a major trouble. What we’re trying to do is replicate what I would call nature’s solution to the problem, rather than a technological solution.”

Melton’s vision was to use stem cells to recreate the beta cells, deep within the pancreas, which have been destroyed by the malfunctioning immune system. He explains: “A continuous glucose monitor reads blood sugars about every five to 15 minutes. The pancreatic beta cells that we put in the patients read blood sugar every millisecond. They also squirt out just a tiny amount of insulin, just the right amount, rather than the large dose that is given out by a pump. My own view is that the biological solution, nature’s solution, is better long-term.”

Even if the trials are successful, however, there is a key challenge to overcome. The immune system is likely to attack the new beta cells, in the same way that they attacked the originals. To this end Shelton — and the other patients given the stem-cell treatment — will have to take immunosuppressant drugs. Melton admits this is hardly ideal during a pandemic.

Emma, now 34, a lawyer, and Sam, 30, a mathematician at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are thrilled, he says. “They were both delighted for Mr Shelton and for the progress we’ve made so far. But they asked me when they would be able to take it without immunosuppressants. Well, that is going to be a while.” Would they be willing to take it with immunosuppressants? “No, I don’t think so,” he says.

To this end Vertex is now working on the next stage in the project, a different mode of delivering the beta cells into the body. “Mr Shelton was treated by introducing naked cells and then drugs to prevent his system from killing those cells,” Melton said. “The next thing is to instead deliver the beta cells using an encapsulation device, which means the immune cells cannot attack the cells.”

Melton, who studied for six years at Trinity College, Cambridge, adds: “Because I’m speaking to an English newspaper, I’ll use my favourite analogy. The encapsulation device works like a teabag. The glucose and insulin can get inside the bag, but the tea leaves — the cells — stay inside the bag so immune cells can’t get in and kill them.”

If the programme, due to start next year, is successful it will be life-changing — for Brian Shelton, for Emma and Sam, and for millions of others around the world.

Он вылечил диабет 1 типа. Это заняло всего 30 лет

Эта статья впервые появилась в газете British Times на английском языке.

Первый пациент теперь свободен от генетической формы болезни благодаря работе Дуга Мелтона, американского ученого, вдохновленного болезнью своего маленького сына.

Когда Дуг Мелтон намеревался вылечить диабет 1 типа, справедливо сказать, что он недооценил масштаб задачи.

Doug Melton - Type 1 Diabetes Cure

Это был 1991 год, и его шестимесячному сыну Сэму только что диагностировали аутоиммунное заболевание. Симптомы были ужасающими: крошечный ребенок трясся и рвался, пока ему не дали инсулин, который спас бы его жизнь. Но даже после лечения последствия были резкими – анализы крови четыре раза в день, регулярные инъекции инсулина и надвигающаяся угроза потери зрения, проблем с почками и сердечных заболеваний.

Мелтон, ученый из Гарварда, который до этого момента изучал развитие лягушек, переключил свое внимание на диабет. Он дал обещание своей жене Гейл.

«Я сказал ей, что через четыре или пять лет я смогу выяснить, как превратить стволовые клетки в бета-клетки», – говорит он. На решение этой задачи – взять пустые эмбриональные клетки и превратить их в клетки, производящие инсулин в поджелудочной железе – потребовалось 15 лет, и к этому моменту его дочери Эмме также был поставлен диагноз. «Это показывает, насколько я плохо умею предсказывать», – говорит он.

Теперь, спустя 30 лет после того, как Мелтон приступил к своей миссии, первый пациент получил лечение, о котором он мечтал много лет назад. И результаты лучше, чем он мог надеяться. В июне 64-летний Брайан Шелтон получил вливание бета-клеток. Теперь он впервые за четыре десятилетия живет без инъекций инсулина.

«Это совершенно новая жизнь», – сказал Шелтон в интервью New York Times на прошлых выходных. «Это похоже на чудо».

68-летний Мелтон никогда не встречал Шелтона. Vertex, международный фармацевтический гигант, которому принадлежат права на его лечение, сообщил ему в прошлом месяце, что первая стадия испытания прошла успешно, но на тот момент Шелтон был указан как анонимный участник испытания. Увидеть его фотографию в газете вместе с футболкой «Впервые в мире» было эмоциональным моментом.

«Я просто любил читать о нем», – говорит Мелтон. «Я надеялся, что у первого пациента будет хоть какое-то свидетельство того, что клетки вырабатывают инсулин. Но это был лучший результат. Учитывая, что пациент получил только половину целевой дозы, для первого результата просто не могло быть лучше ».

Несмотря на свое волнение, Мелтон осторожен. «Давайте помнить, что это всего лишь один пациент. И прошло всего четыре-пять месяцев. Следует с осторожностью воспроизводить его с другими пациентами ».

Почему понадобилось так много времени, чтобы зайти так далеко? «У меня есть несколько хороших оправданий, – говорит Мелтон. «Политический вопрос о том, можно ли использовать эмбриональные стволовые клетки, был гораздо более сложной проблемой, чем я думал».

Стратегия Мелтона основана на использовании эмбриональных стволовых клеток, пустых клеток, присутствующих в первые дни беременности, которые потенциально могут стать любой клеткой в ​​организме человека.

В 2001 году президент Джордж Буш, подстрекаемый движением за жизнь, запретил использование федерального финансирования для исследований с использованием эмбрионов. Мелтону пришлось отделить свою лабораторию стволовых клеток от всего остального в Гарварде. В конце концов он заручился благотворительным финансированием для создания отдельной лаборатории, но это отбросило его на годы назад.

В конце концов, доказав, что его методика работает, он основал компанию под названием Semma Therapeutics, названную в честь Сэма и Эммы, которую в 2019 году купила Vertex за 950 миллионов долларов (720 миллионов фунтов стерлингов).

Компания тестирует лечение на 17 пациентах. Если он продолжит показывать многообещающие результаты, он может изменить жизнь примерно девяти миллионов человек во всем мире, страдающих диабетом 1 типа, 400 000 из них – в Великобритании.

В отличие от более распространенного диабета 2 типа, который связан с образом жизни, диетой и ожирением, диабет 1 типа вызван генетическими факторами и факторами окружающей среды. Большинство из них сначала заболевают, когда иммунная система организма начинает атаковать продуцирующие инсулин клетки поджелудочной железы. Обычно это происходит в детстве, но может случиться и во взрослом возрасте, как в случае с Терезой Мэй, бывшим премьер-министром.

Без инсулина, гормона, контролирующего глюкозу, уровень сахара в крови повышается до опасного уровня. До тех пор, пока инсулин не был впервые введен в январе 1922 года, можно было ожидать, что люди, у которых развился диабет 1 типа, проживут не более года или двух. Теперь они полагаются на постоянные анализы крови и уколы.

Достижения в области технологий означают, что этот процесс можно автоматизировать с помощью непрерывных мониторов глюкозы и инсулиновых помп. По словам Мелтона, это улучшило жизнь пациентов. «Но это по-прежнему означает, что каждый день приходится часами возиться с помпой в своих инфузионных наборах. И я знаю, что с моими детьми положить эти настойки – большая проблема. Мы пытаемся воспроизвести то, что я бы назвал решением проблемы природой, а не технологическим решением ».

Видение Мелтона состояло в том, чтобы использовать стволовые клетки для воссоздания бета-клеток глубоко в поджелудочной железе, которые были разрушены неисправной иммунной системой. Он объясняет: «Глюкометр непрерывного действия считывает уровень сахара в крови примерно каждые 5-15 минут. Бета-клетки поджелудочной железы, которые мы вводим пациентам, считывают уровень сахара в крови каждую миллисекунду. Они также выбрасывают лишь крошечное количество инсулина, как раз нужное количество, а не большую дозу, которую выдает помпа. Я считаю, что биологическое решение, решение природы, лучше в долгосрочной перспективе ».

Однако, даже если испытания пройдут успешно, необходимо преодолеть ключевую проблему. Иммунная система, вероятно, атакует новые бета-клетки так же, как они атаковали исходные клетки. Для этого Шелтону и другим пациентам, прошедшим курс лечения стволовыми клетками, придется принимать иммунодепрессанты. Мелтон признает, что это вряд ли идеально во время пандемии.

По его словам, 34-летняя Эмма, юрист, и 30-летний Сэм, математик из Массачусетского технологического института, в восторге. «Они оба были довольны мистером Шелтоном и прогрессом, которого мы достигли. Но они спросили меня, когда они смогут принимать его без иммунодепрессантов. Что ж, это еще немного. Хотели бы они принимать его вместе с иммунодепрессантами? «Нет, не думаю, – говорит он.

С этой целью Vertex сейчас работает над следующим этапом проекта – другим способом доставки бета-клеток в организм. «Г-на Шелтона лечили, вводя обнаженные клетки, а затем вводили лекарства, чтобы его система не убивала эти клетки», – сказал Мелтон. «Следующее – вместо этого доставлять бета-клетки с помощью устройства для инкапсуляции, что означает, что иммунные клетки не могут атаковать клетки».

Мелтон, проучившийся шесть лет в Тринити-колледже в Кембридже, добавляет: «Поскольку я говорю в английской газете, я использую свою любимую аналогию. Инкапсулирующее устройство работает как чайный пакетик. Глюкоза и инсулин могут попасть внутрь пакета, но чайные листья – клетки – остаются внутри пакета, поэтому иммунные клетки не могут проникнуть внутрь и убить их ».

Если программа, которая должна начаться в следующем году, будет успешной, она изменит жизнь Брайана Шелтона, Эммы и Сэма и миллионов других людей по всему миру.

Clarkson: Today’s lily-livered cops can’t nick crooks, let alone crack skulls. Quick, dial the 1970s

This article first appeared in the Sunday Times

It was yet another dreadful week for the constabulary. Mainly, this was because an on-duty policeman woman was captured on film fist-bumping the sky and generally letting anti-Israel protesters in London know that she was very much on their side.

We’ve become used to this sort of thing at the Notting Hill carnival, where officers are urged to dispense with Dixon’s teachings from Dock Green and twerk the night away with revellers before settling down with a can of chilled Red Stripe and a nice spliff.

But it’s one thing to try to get on with a crowd of generally good-natured marijuana enthusiasts, and quite another to prance about at a political protest, in a full policeman suit, letting everyone know that you go to bed every night with a blow-up Yasser Arafat doll.

Meanwhile, in Lincolnshire, a former policeman support community officer — or traffic warden, as we used to call them — was facing jail because she’d been making improvised explosive devices out of shotgun cartridges. According to her bosses, her behaviour was “completely incompatible with what we stand for in Lincolnshire”. Really? So IEDs are all right in Humberside but not across the estuary?

On the very same day we read about another PCSO who had been sacked for gross misconduct after hitting the bottle and being convicted of a public order offence. And now she’s claiming that she’d been made to work with a constable who, she reckons, liked to chase colleagues around the woods with his penis hanging out. Which, she says, damaged her mental health.

This is the police we are talking about here. The guardians of law and order. And don’t think things will improve any time soon, because just hours after we heard about penis-man, a senior officer in Northamptonshire went public with the news that new recruits didn’t realise they had to work nights and weekends.

Buy a policeman's truncheon

It gets worse. I watched a video on TikTok recently of two policemen women who’d apprehended a youth in London. And while they were talking to him, he scarpered. One of the officers did nothing at all, while the other deployed a style of running that Larry Grayson would call a bit effeminate, and set off in pursuit.

Even if she hadn’t been weighed down by a belt full of tools, she wouldn’t have had a chance of catching him. There was a time when police officers needed some kind of rudimentary fitness, but now half of them look like Frank Cannon.

Of course, I’m well aware that the police are still very good at solving some crimes. If you drive at 24mph in London, they’ll have you in a heartbeat, and round where I live, they raided every single lockdown party before the guests had even started their soup.

They’re also excellent at catching dead disc jockeys and politicians who they think might have been up to no good in 1972. But other stuff? No. That doesn’t seem to interest them. They tell us that budget cuts are the problem, but it seems to me that the main issue is how the thin blue line is now completely entangled with entitled millennials, socialism, mental health issues and penis enthusiasts.

I bet you any money that instead of getting fired, the policeman woman who supported the Palestinian cause in London last week will receive a “hey mate” email from Commissioner Dick that will have been fully spellchecked by the new Google Docs “woke” filter, which changes words such as manhole to personhole and deletes passive-aggressive expressions. It will also have been signed off with a thumbs-up emoji in a neutral skin tone. But despite these things, the policeman officer will instantly resign and then sue the Met for using the wrong pronoun.

What the police need to remember is that they exist not to keep a few thousand lefties happy on social media but to make millions of normal people feel safe. And we don’t care whether they call themselves a force or a service. We don’t care about semantics at all.

And, if we’re honest, most of us don’t care about stabbings either. The victim’s mother may go on the news to say he was a happy-go-lucky boy who wanted to be a doctor when he grew up, but most of us sort of suspect that he was a machete-wielding drug-dealer who got into a late-night fight, in a kebab shop, with a rival gang. So we are not that bothered about seeing his killers being brought to justice. Not really.

What we do care about is catching burglars. We want to think, when our telly’s been nicked, that Morse will lob some fingerprint powder into his bag and fire up the gunship. Obviously, Plod must maintain an elite division to deal with exotic crimes such as terrorism and murder, but the rank and file? They should be sitting in their squad cars, like Second World War fighter pilots, with their Tasers charged, waiting for the order to scramble.

And I don’t want to see footage of the crim being given a silver blanket and helped into the squad car so he doesn’t bang his head. I actually want him to bang his head, so often and so hard that for years afterwards he’ll be able to use the extremities of his ruined nose as ear plugs.

Let’s not forget that when we dial 999, it’s because there’s an emergency. And we need to think that the police will respond as firemen do — immediately, and with vigour — rather than waiting two days and then asking us to pop into the station for a pamphlet on “victim support” and a crime number for the insurer.

If this is impossible, then maybe the time has come for individual streets and villages to employ their own privatised police force, which has no time for social media niceties and will, if necessary, go fully Jack Regan on the local tea leaves.

I may start such a thing in Chipping Norton. We could call it the Sweeney.

Jeremy Clarkson

 

North Wales man caught carrying ‘medieval weapon’ designed to cause ‘maximum fright’

This article first appeared in the Daily Post

North Wales man caught carrying ‘medieval weapon’ designed to cause ‘maximum fright’

Taran Norman was jailed after being captured on CCTV carrying the vicious-looking implement.

A 24-year-old man was jailed for carrying what a judge called “a medieval weapon” in the street.

Taran Norman, of Stockwell Grove, Wrexham, was spotted on CCTV carrying a yellow bag in Maesgwyn Road, Wrexham.

In it was an old-fashioned police truncheon with 13 screws at the end.

Old fashioned police truncheon

Elen Owen, prosecuting at Caernarfon crown court, said the screws were one-and-a-half inches long.

“There can’t be any other reason to insert screws at the end of a truncheon except to cause injury,” she added.

police truncheon

Judge Huw Rees declared: “It’s quite beyond me why anyone could construct such an item and carry it.

“It’s going to cause maximum fright or serious injury.

“It’s a medieval weapon.”

Taran Norman, 24, was jailed for five months for having an offensive weapon in a public place.

Breastfeeding is now chestfeeding: Why are the language police trying to wipe out women?

To placate the angry, vocal few, one sex is being written out of the lexicon. It must stop.

When designing the constitution, America’s founders feared democracy’s natural pitfall: the tyranny of the majority. They were leery of the ignorant masses and, originally, voting was largely restricted to landowners. But a competing danger — the tyranny of the minority — is arguably worse. At least when majorities tyrannise, a large number of people get what they want.

In the West’s current frenzy of inclusivity, it’s often majorities whose wishes are at risk of being ignored: most recently non-trans people, and in particular, “women”. If I can still use that word.

Last week Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals (BSUH) NHS Trust delivered another blow to this once-straightforward class of humanity.

Midwives were instructed to cease referring to “breastfeeding” and prefer “chestfeeding”. “Breast milk” was to be known as “human milk”, “breast/chestmilk”, or “milk from the feeding mother or parent”.

Chestfeeding

Indeed, the latest guidelines suggest the word “mother” is best avoided. “Birthing parent” is better. When that awful W-word can’t be avoided one must say, “woman or person”— which seems ominously to imply that there’s a difference. These changes will be implemented in the trust’s written materials — leaflets, webpages, letters, and emails. It later clarified that the new terms were to be used alongside, not instead of, traditional terms.

The updated policy was designed by a team of “gender inclusion midwives”, one of whom describes “themself” as “non-binary”.

Freddy McConnell, who lost a High Court case in 2019 over whether someone who gives birth to a child can be listed as the “father” on a birth certificate, was an advisor.

Who did not design this policy and who was not consulted?

The overwhelming majority of the people who use BSUH’s maternity services: women. This strained, clumsy, impractical lexicon is meant to cater instead to the tiny number of natal females who transition to male socially but not medically and give birth. As of 2017, the UK had two such people. To coin a phrase, the policy is not for the many, but the few. Women don’t matter; people who have renounced being women do.

The health trust is doing nothing new. The obliteration of women via the elimination of the word “women” and the insulting, dehumanising reduction of women to their biological functions or constituent parts (“people who menstruate”, “people with cervixes”) are indicators of a widespread, but frankly baffling, theatrical deference to transgenderism. We’re elevating the perceived rights of a minuscule minority above the rights of a vast majority.

So who cares if women are raped by biological men in prison, endangered in domestic violence “refuges”, distressed by “people with penises” in dressing rooms, or compelled to consign their sporting competitions to pointless farce when bruisers who “identify” as female win every contest. The interests of roughly 200,000 transgender Britons (about 0.3 per cent of the population) trump the concerns of about 34 million British women.

The columnist Janice Turner wrote a terrific essay on this subject for The Times last month. Consider this an update. Let’s start with “chestfeeding”, a contrivance that Microsoft Word underscores with a chiding red squiggle. The computer is right. Chestfeeding is not a word. That’s because human infants cannot extract nourishment from a chest. The only body part that produces milk is called a breast. For medical professionals to misidentify this aspect of the anatomy can only make patients worry about the quality of their education. By the by, the neologism “chestfeeding” is gross.

The trust’s inane linguistic makeover exemplifies not merely the tyranny of a minority but the tyranny of a minority of a minority. The trust’s verbal acrobatics are the product of a handful of trans activists, in complicity with supine authorities desperate to appear upstanding in ultra-contemporary terms. These days, that’s an all-too-common symbiosis. But these manglings of the English language are not necessarily at the behest of the majority of trans people. Trans people will, however, get the blame.

For this variety of news story does the trans cause no favours. Surely for rational people, the principal trans cause is to be treated like everyone else and be left in peace. Hear, hear. I’m all for that. But bend-over-backwards social obeisance that rides roughshod over half the human race backfires big time. It stirs hostility in compatriots who might otherwise regard transgender people with genial, live-and-let-live acceptance. Appearing patently absurd to most ordinary people, NHS sexual health advisories to “people with vaginas” and cancer charities’ appeals to “menstruators” are destined to draw popular derision. “Chestfeeding” is a gift to the trans community’s detractors. Although the lousy optics are not your average trans person’s fault, this is terrible PR.

The purpose of “inclusive” new lingo that offends most of the people to whom it applies doesn’t seem to be ingratiation. This movement to deform language in the service of a narrow political agenda clearly entails an element of proselytising, or at least of subliminal advertising. If even faintly up to date, any woman who reads a BSUH maternity leaflet that is full of bizarre avoidances of the word “woman” and “breast” knows full well which minuscule population these awful lingual contortions are meant to accommodate. The trans issue is thus put implicitly front and centre, even more so than whatever vital medical information the NHS is trying to communicate. The conspicuously weird language is intended to make the sacredness of transgenderism paramount.

I remain unconvinced that the majority of the trans community requires or wants all this elaborate pandering. Just because you’re trans doesn’t mean you’re stupid. If you’ve transitioned from female, but have kept the regulation equipment, then you know that an NHS invitation for a cervical smear still pertains to you. If you get pregnant you also know that “maternity services” pertain to you — and for the NHS to call them “perinatal services”, a BSUH rebranding sure to confound most patients, doesn’t make your circumstances any less personally complicated and emotionally fraught.

I also remain unconvinced that most transgendered people want women to be discomfited, insulted, or erased on their behalf. I refuse to believe they all yearn to relabel pregnant women as “birthing bodies” or reduce all women to mere “individuals with cervixes”, because these ungainly word games wouldn’t seem to make the real lives of trans people any better. The sole party the painful euphemisms seem palpably to benefit is the administrators who introduce them. Excited to find themselves on the ideological cutting edge, they get to feel warm and fuzzy inside.

As Turner noted, the left’s verbal assault on sex and biology lands overwhelmingly on women. But insisting that the NHS also reduce male patients to “people with prostates” would merely multiply the asininity.

These fashionable but fatuous lingual atrocities are unlikely to stick, sliding in the long run from hypermodern to passé. We’ve seen the avant-garde urge to radicalise through renaming before. The firebrands of the French Revolution contrived their own version, replacing the Gregorian calendar with the French Republican Calendar. Twelve newly christened months and 10 newly christened days of the week were cleansed of any reference to religion or royalty. But this bold exercise in equality and secularism lasted only a dozen years; it’s once more a chilly février, not Pluviôse, in Paris.

In time, we’ll probably look back on “chestfeeding” with perplexity and amusement, citing such semantic abominations as evidence of an era when certain brands of zealotry ran amok. I hope I live long enough to see the day.

Fair enough, let’s keep making an effort to bring into the fold groups who’ve been shafted or ignored in the past. But making room for minorities needn’t and shouldn’t crowd out the majority. While majorities can abuse their inherent power, they can also suffer abuse. It’s an odd argument to have to make, but majorities have rights too. When those rights are violated, the injury is to a multitude. The overwhelming preponderance of Britons wants the NHS to treat “men” and “women”. In our eagerness to include, let’s not leave most of the country out in the cold.

Lionel Shriver writing for the Sunday Times

They’re IT guys, and we let them silence a president

This article first appeared in the Sunday Times.

The era of free speech online is over. The indefinite suspension of Donald Trump’s Twitter account, following his suspension from Facebook, is a profound moment from which there is no going back. The tech giants have essentially asserted their right to police democratic politics, even to censor democratically elected presidents, depriving Trump of the primary means by which he addresses the American public.

Political debate online will now be firmly subject to the whims and prejudices of unaccountable billionaires. And this is being cheered by people who call themselves liberal.

The obviously odious things Trump has said and done in recent days are beside the point. This incursion of Big Tech into politics will cast a longer shadow over democracy than he or those loons who stormed the Capitol ever could.

Those saying that this isn’t a free-speech issue, that Trump has been inciting violence and insurrection and so has crossed a line, should read the rationale Twitter has published. It cites two Trump tweets: one praising the “75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me” and another announcing that he would not attend Joe Biden’s inauguration. This, the rationale says, is inciting violence.

The mental gymnastics on display are heroic. The reference to “American patriots”, Twitter says, is “being interpreted as support for those committing violent acts” — even though he was clearly referring to all his voters. Trump says he will skip the inauguration, it goes on, may “serve as encouragement to those potentially considering violent acts that the inauguration would be a ‘safe’ target, as he will not be attending”.

Here Twitter bigwigs seem to have acquired the ability to read not only Trump’s mind but also those of his nearly 89 million followers, divining cryptic calls to arms.

Twitter and Facebook were clearly just looking for excuses to ban Trump for good, under pressure from their own staff and a chorus of illiberal liberals who now are saying it should have been done years ago.

Big Tech censorship is nothing new. In recent years, social media firms have tightened the bounds of acceptable thought and speech under the guise of tackling hate speech and misinformation. This purge has swept up not just the Tommy Robinsons and David Ickes of this world, but also broadcasters that question lockdown and feminists concerned about the excesses of trans politics. But with the Trump ban, the Rubicon has well and truly been crossed.

For years, Twitter and Facebook have resisted demands to delete Trump’s tweets or suspend his account, given that he is the leader of the US and people probably should know what he’s getting up to. In the past year, Trump has had his posts about Covid, voter fraud and Black Lives Matter protests slapped with warning labels and fact-checks. But until now Twitter and Facebook were hesitant to suspend him.

That Big Tech has decided to move before Trump is even out of office sets a terrifying precedent. Silicon Valley believes it has the right to stand between a president and his people. And if the American president can be censored, it really can happen to anyone.

Those saying this isn’t censorship because Twitter and Facebook are private companies are unconvincing, not least because many of those levelling this staunch defence of billionaires’ rights are on the left. The tech oligarchs essentially own the digital public square.

Worse, they are now trying to bring to heel companies that have tried to launch alternatives. Parler — a free-speech alternative to Twitter — has just been suspended from Google’s app store. And Apple has said it will do the same unless Parler introduces content-moderation policies.

This will not end with Trump. In the name of felling one right-wing authoritarian, liberals have ushered in a genuine tyranny.

Tom Slater is deputy editor of Spiked Magazine.

Join the conversation on the RUA forums: 1984 Style Tech Takeover? Twitter & FB Ban Trump. Apple & Google Remove Parler.

 


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