So Bird flu is gripping Suffolk as a Bernard Matthews farm is considered off limits and a cull of birds is set to dent profits for the Turkey magnate. Well it’s nice to know that real turkeys are involved in Bernard Matthews product, from the slices you can buy I had my doubts.

It’s a shame of course, but I can’t help thinking this is being blown out of proportion. Bird flu is not a big killer it merely has the potential to be. I was traveling through Vietnam and other parts of South East Asia two years ago when the initial scares were being publicised in the British press and its fair to say that in those countries bird flu wasn’t a major worry among the general populace. In Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia it is not uncommon for families to actually share their living quarters with chickens and it is in these sort of environments where the virus has actually spread to humans. Regardless of the quality of British farms – be they battery reared or otherwise the proximity between human and poultry does not compare to the Asian situation. Human Deaths from H5N1 stand at 158 in four years http://www.who.int/csr/disease/avian_influenza/country/cases_table_2006_11_13/en/index.html
Hardly a pandemic, these stats also show that almost half of the reported cases actually didn’t prove fatal either and considering these are from lesser developed countries it seems to me likely that the threat has been exaggerated.

Super Casinos and a Culture of Gambling

I watched Louis Theroux’s new show last night – focusing on gambling in Las Vegas. It was a funny but also a cautionary tale of how easy it can be to get sucked into an addiction.
One of the subjects of last nights show used to be a doctor but now retired spends all of her days in the Hilton Casino – having gambled some $4million dollars in the last seven years. Louis visits her house – not that of a millionaire it must be said, and asks her son what he thinks of her gambling away his inheritance. He is diplomatic, she is unrepentant but watching her sitting in front of the flashing slot machines repeatedly pressing buttons in the hope of a big win is depressing in the extreme. She claims to be having fun – and I’m sure there is a certain rush to gambling but at levels like these it does seem to be a debilitating addiction on a par with hard drugs – only without the out of body experiences and fuzzy feeling..

This week the new SuperCasino license was granted for Manchester. I have a horrible image of Wayne and Colleen alikes losing their hard earned money in moments of madness. Then I think, who am I to judge people in this. The trouble is gambling is addictive and if people can’t afford to lose then it is going to create social problems.

As Louis Theroux asked of one of the workers in the Casino who claimed to be a friend of the doctor losing her money – at what point would you step in and suggest she was going too far?

$4 million seems a lot to me…

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