A Public Health Disaster in Austria

In 2015 Austria passed a law, like in most EU countries, to ban smoking in bars and restaurants. The law as supposed to be implemented from May this year but the new conservative Austrian government have just scrapped the plans causing outrage from the medical profession.

Dr Manfred Neuberger, professor emeritus at the Medical University of Vienna, says, “The decision is irresponsible. It was a victory for the tobacco industry. The new government made Austria into the ashtray of Europe.”

He’s not far wrong. A survey of 26 countries by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2013 said Austria had the highest smoking prevalence of children aged 15, a position it held since 1994.

Dr Thomas Szekeres, the head of the Austrian and Vienna Chamber of Physicians is baffled by the government’s move, “We know smoking causes severe heart attacks, cancer and we know that in countries where smoking is not allowed in restaurants and bars, employees are protected and the whole population turned out to be healthier.”

In PSHCE lessons at school we talk not only about the health risks of smoking but also its effects on the whole of society.

The annual costs of smoking to wider society

 

With all these horrific facts about smoking you do start to wonder why people are foolish enough to start in the first place. Some people still see smoking as enjoyable, and a social activity.  However, it is never too late to quit.

Quitting the cigarettes will help you

Lent Plastic Challenge

The Church of England is encouraging people to take part in the “Lent Plastic Challenge” that encourages people “to reduce the actions which damage God’s Creation”.

“For Anglicans Lent is the time when we remember the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, facing challenge and temptation. It is a time when we reflect on God’s purpose for our life. This year we challenge you to give up single-use plastics – to reduce the actions which damage God’s Creation,” the church wrote.

Ruth Knight, environmental policy officer for the Church of England, said, “The Lent challenge is about raising our awareness of how much we rely on single-use plastics and challenging ourselves to see where we can reduce that use. It ties in closely with the our calling as Christians to care for God’s creation.”

Anglican Christians can use a special Lent calendar with advice for each day, such as on 15th February it states: ‘Give up disposable cups & drinks in plastic bottles. Carry a travel mug or water bottle. Get a reusable bottle, fill it up with tap water before leaving the house, and refill it wherever you happen to be.’

Lent is connected to the Christian festival of Easter, and is 40 days when people often give something up.

what-is-lent

The Right to Die

This is a really sad and emotional story about Kim Lute’s seriously ill step-father in the USA. Fred had spent three long years in hospital, fighting to keep his kidneys going, and when he finally died it had been his choice to stop life-saving measures like dialysis.

He could have ended his life more dramatically as Colorado is one of seven US states that has what is called a Death and Dignity Statute. This law gives terminally ill patients a right to end their incurable suffering. In the UK we do not have this possibility and we deem that active euthanasia is manslaughter or murder.

The Death and Dignity Statute in Colorado states that in all cases, patients must be terminally ill and have less than six months to live before an accredited doctor would administer a cocktail of drugs, hastening the patient’s death.

Kim Lute believes that, “Ultimately, the right to die, to exercise complete control over one’s physical self, is as fundamental a right as free speech and worshipping whatever God you choose. Just like a woman’s womb is hers alone, a terminally ill patients should have complete autonomy over their bodies. Facing the reality of one’s own mortality isn’t a task for the weakest among us.”

What do some religions think about euthanasia?

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Even though most Christians are against Euthanasia there are some Christian arguments which could be used in sympathy for it:

  • Christianity requires us to respect every human being
  • If we respect a person we should respect their decisions about the end of their life
  • We should accept their rational decisions to refuse burdensome and futile treatment
  • Perhaps we should accept their rational decision to refuse excessively burdensome treatment even if it may provide several weeks more of life

From Ape to Modern Human is not a Linear Line of Evolution

Human evolution is not over, yet it’s impossible to predict how we’re going to turn out. When we look back at history at how we may have got to our current state, there are still lots of parts of the story which we are discovering and trying to understand.

An extensive article in the Guardian looks at how evolution has lead to the modern human. Some main points of interest are:

  • humans closest living relative is the chimpanzee
  • chimpanzees and humans share 98% of their DNA
  • the split between chimpanzee and humans occurred about 4-8 million years ago
  • the hypothetical common ancestor between chimpanzees and humans would have had a mixture of chimp-like traits, human-like traits and primitive traits that both species eventually left behind. So we don’t know if the common ancestor walked on all fours, or been more upright.
  • a big fossil find was “Lucy”, a 3.18m-year-old skeleton, who was excavated in 1974. Lucy is important because she has a unique blend of primitive features – a chimpanzee-sized brain, a powerful jaw and long, dangling arms – and human ones with her legs, knee and pelvis similar to our own anatomy. So it looks like she could walk and run.
  • the earliest evidence of Homo sapiens (us!) comes from fossils dated about 300,000 years ago which were excavated from a cave in Morocco. One of the scientists working on the dig said, “The face of the specimen we found is the face of someone you could meet on the tube in London.”

Studying evolution naturally brings us to Charles Darwin. He was an English naturalist who studied variation in plants and animals during a five-year voyage around the world in the 19th century. You can spot him in the animation The Pirates! when Pirate Captain stumbles upon the unhappy with love scientist Charles Darwin, who then persuades the Captain that the crew’s prized ‘parrot’, Polly, could be bring them lots of money.  In real life Charles Darwin explained his ideas on evolution in a book called, ‘On the Origin of Species’, published in 1859. His ideas were very controversial because they can be seen as conflicting with religious views about the creation of the world and the creatures in it. The basic idea behind the theory of evolution is that all the different species have evolved from simple life forms. A film from 2009 called Creation gives you a clever way to learn about Charles Darwin whilst relaxing with a film!

Evolution+Overview+Charles+Darwin

 

#MosqueMeToo

An Egyptian-American journalist called Mona Eltahawy recently talked about her experience of sexual assault during Hajj in 2013. Since then #MosqueMeToo has started to grow. Muslim men and women from all round the world have been using the hashtag and in less than 24 hours it was tweeted 2,000 times.

Each year about 2 million Muslims undertake Hajj which is one of the five pillars of Islam. Going on this special pilgrimage should not involve being inappropriately touched or having someone rub against you in the crowd, things which have been reported using the #MosqueMeToo on Twitter. Some women have said they were fearful of publicising the harassment and sexual assaults incase it fuelled more Islamophobia.

Reading the BBC article you’ll stumble across key GCSE words such as:

Knowing that Hajj is a pilgrimage and one of the Five Pillars is not enough for the GCSE. You’ll need to know what the different parts of the Hajj are and why pilgrims participate in them. This isn’t a waste of time because by learning about Hajj you’ll understand some key stories of Islam about Ibrahim and discover Muslim beliefs about faith and forgiveness. These short videos from the BBC are a quick way to get that information. Type Hajj into this wordpress’ SEARCH engine and you’ll find previous links for Hajj too.

Umrah is the lesser pilgrimage made by Muslims to Mecca, which may be performed at any time of the year, and isn’t one of the five pillars so you don’t have to do it in your lifetime. In May 2017 football player Paul Pogba went on Umrah to say his thanks for Manchester United’s Europa League win.

Tawaf (Arabic: طواف) is one of the principal actions of the pilgrimage and refers to walking in circles around the Kaaba in an anti-clockwise motion. Seven complete circuits, with each one starting and ending at the Hajar al-Aswad (Black Stone), constitute one Tawaf. It is an act of devotion intended to bring the pilgrim closer to God spiritually. It is the only principal action of Hajj and Umrah which is not associated directly with acts of worship performed by the Prophet Ibrahim.

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The Hijab is one type of headscarf which Muslim women might wear to maintain a modest look so that their hair and body is not on show in public. Some people believe that what a woman wears can affect whether she is harassed in public. In Iran where women have to wear the hijab by law, a popular slogan on the walls of public buildings is “Hijab is not a limitation, it is your protection.”

hijab

 

VW Criticised for Experiments on Monkeys

Reports in the NY Times state that in May 2015 research by the New Mexico-based Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute (LRRI), involved locking 10 Java monkeys in small airtight chambers for four hours at a time. The animals were left to watch cartoons as they breathed in diesel fumes from a VW Beetle. The ultimate aim of the tests was to prove that the pollutant load of nitrogen oxide car emissions from diesel motors had measurably decreased, thanks to modern cleaning technology.

Meanwhile in a second round of tests, the animals were forced to breathe in the fumes of a Ford F-250 used for the purposes of comparison, because the car was an older model with apparently less sophisticated filter technology.

According to some reports in the Süddeutsche Zeitung and the broadcaster NDR, the monkeys were subsequently anaesthetised and intubated, so their blood could be examined for inflammatory markers. Their lungs were then washed out and their bronchial tubes examined.

The German news media also reported that the experiments were carried out on 25 young and healthy human beings. According to the Stuttgarter Zeitung, the experiments were carried out at an institute of the University Clinic Aachen and involved the group having to breath in varying different concentrations of nitric oxide after which they were physically examined for any side-effects.

Trainee Farmer accused of being a Murderer

It must be quite intimidating being called a murderer and rapist when you are going about your job, learning the skills necessary for your chosen career. Trainee farmer Alison Waugh explains that farmers are feeling all this violent pressure, “Which is quite ironic from people that want peace for animals, but then they tell you, ‘I hope you and your family go die in a hole for what you do.”

This animosity to farmers is a growing trend of vegan activists who are calling farmers who have raised animals for generations murderers for killing animals, or rapists for taking their milk. The National Pig Association claims its members “cannot sleep at night” because Save Movement members have allegedly turned up at farms and slaughterhouses at night.

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The Vegan Society describes veganism as “the fastest-growing lifestyle movement,” with demand for vegan and vegetarian food increasing ten-fold last year. Research by Ipsos Mori in 2016 suggested at least 542,000 people – or 1.05% of the 15-and-over population in England, Scotland and Wales – were following a vegan diet. There is also a big rise in teenage vegans.

There is some debate though on whether veganism is as environmentally friendly as you’d think.