Friday, August 22, 2003

Hands tied...

The problem with being the IT manager of an online publication is that when the virus shit hits the proverbial fan, you don't get the time to do more enjoyable stuff.

I'd like to say that the amount of attention these viruses have been getting is over the top, but since everybody I know seems to be affected in one way or another, I can't. Maybe, sometimes, it is worth taking precautions like updating your antivirus software, patching the operating system and not opening attachments.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

More on West Nile Virus

I've written a new article for spiked making the point that the fears about West Nile Virus are exaggerated. It is actually completely harmless for most people, or you might at worse get flu-like symptoms. Less than one percent of infected people become seriously ill.

And the idea that we should be worrying about it in the UK seems laughable.

A viral hurricane?, spiked, 19 August 2003

Monday, August 18, 2003

And the Irish are thinking about it, too...

The gist of this report from the BBC is that smokers are prepared to go along with a ban, on the basis that there will be some kind of area set aside for them to smoke - including outside the door. Not very practical when it is raining though.

But there is a big difference between smoking as a matter of taste - some people absolutely hate it, most people don't really object - and smoking as a health hazard. So, most smokers these days will not light up if they think they will offend someone. And I personally would be quite happy if my clothes didn't smell of fags the day after a session in the local boozer. I don't miss the fog on the top deck of the bus in the winter. But I do have a lot of sympathy for smokers on long-haul flights.

It is the moralising of the 'radical' campaigners and politicians around the issue that is so galling. And it is not surprising to find that the Irish trade unions (like all trade unions these days utterly useless at defending pay and conditions) that have put themselves at the forefront of the campaign.

Ireland calls time on pub smoking, BBC News, 17 August

Pizza Hut ban smoking

It's a hard life being a smoker these days. Just one rung on the ladder below paedophiles and Nazis in the outcast stakes. So, no surprise that a UK nationwide chain of restaurants has decided to ban smoking.

According to the BBC, Brian Rimmer, operations director for Pizza Hut, said: 'Pizza Hut strongly believes that families should be able to take time to have a leisurely meal in a restaurant without exposing their children to other people's smoke. It is equally important that our staff can work in a smoke-free environment.'

The links between second-hand smoke and disease are tenuous. At a common sense level, something that gives you a fraction of the dose of actually smoking should only give you a fraction of the increased risk - if that. At worst, there is an increased risk of lung cancer of about 20-30 percent compared to non-smokers. But the risk for non-smokers is very low. So, 20-30 percent above a very low risk is still a very low risk. And this is probably as high as the risk can be stated. In May 2003, a report reanalysing the biggest study on passive smoking concluded there was no risk to adults at all (see my earlier note about this).

It shouldn't be too hard for smokers, though. After all, who ever lingered in a Pizza Hut?

Pizza Hut bans smoking, BBC News, 17 August 2003