HM Willem Alexander, King of the Netherlands
A Nativity scene is also in the front, but only visible from the inside of the house. A present from our friend Bart de Boer from Amsterdam. Bart will pass here the days around New Year’s Eve and New Year.
They are all there (from left to right): the donkey, the ox, the three Kings from the East, father Joseph, baby Jesus, Mary Magdalene, mother Mary, four sheep and the shepherd.
The permanently offended snowflake generation is ruining Christmas for the rest of us
We’re always being told that Christmas is a “stressful” time of year, which considering that the modern secular season is composed of little more than eating, drinking and looking at various sorts of screens, perhaps tells us how we really feel about the prospect of spending more than a few hours at a time with our nearest and dearest. But in recent years, it seems that Christmas has also become a minefield of public as well as private conflict. Just as people reminisce about The Sexy Years between the invention of the Pill and the intervention of AIDS, we tend to believe there was a brief sunlit upland of tolerance where life really did seem to be Liberty Hall. It was never really like that, though; no sooner had Mrs Mary Whitehouse retired from public life in 1988 than copies of The Satanic Verses were being burned in Bradford. In 1997 the Labour government introduced the Human Rights Act, furthering the idea that every minority group could shut down whatever offended them. Like many things – misogyny, cosying up to oppressive religions, anti-Semitism – censoriousness has moved from the Right- to the Left-wing, and interestingly from the old to the young.
The curmudgeonly old are easily understood; people are naturally nostalgic for a time when they didn’t ache in places they never knew they had and can easily mistake their own disintegration for that of the world. But the curmudgeonly young are more puzzling – and there are so many of them now, the most ubiquitous of the breed being those whose answer to everything they don’t like is “Ban it!”. Compared to the Perpetually Outraged who stalk our social media, Mary Whitehouse was Anaïs Nin. And there are qualities about Mrs Whitehouse which we can admire now we don’t see her as our metaphorical mum forever tutting: “You’re not going out dressed like that!”. She wasn’t thuggish like the No Platformers – no masks and mobs for her, she stood up and did it alone, which took guts. I doubt if we’ll look back on the Perpetually Outraged of today so fondly. For some reason, Christmas is a particularly triggering time for the anti-freedom league, with Santa seen as the ultimate invader of safe space, coming down the chimney shouting “Ho Ho Ho” in a distinctly slut-shaming manner. Scrooge today wouldn’t mistreat his employees and humph “Humbug!”– he’d go around no-platforming opponents and yelling “triggered!”.
Really, where will it end? Will they come next for snowmen (non-inclusive of trans-gendered) or for Merry Christmas Everybody (drunken Santa reference making light of real addiction issues)? Can we just have a few weeks off from fussing and fuming? May your days be merry and bright, may you steer clear of Silent Fright and may all your snowflakes cease to be uptight – if only till a New Year of being endlessly offended is ushered on.
Tiny tummy patch could cut fat by one third in four weeks… without exercise
For those who have overindulged during the Christmas period help may be at hand from scientists in Singapore. A tiny tummy patch has been shown to cut body fat by 30 per cent in just 28 days without the need to exercise. The patch is covered in hundreds of microneedles which are smaller than a human hair and gradually supply a dose of two weight-loss drugs. The drug combination works to transform stubborn white fat into more manageable brown fat, which is burned away as energy by the body to keep warm. Although the patch has so far only been tested in animals, scientists at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) want to move to human trials quickly, and have already received interest from several biotech companies who are keen to develop the device. It is estimated that two thirds of Britons – 36 million – will be overweight of obese by 2025 and weight gain is a risk factor for many health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers. But scientists believe the patch, which costs around £2.50 to make, could help people who struggle to lose weight, without needing to resort to costly surgery. “What we aim to develop is a painless patch that everyone could use easily, which is unobtrusive and yet affordable,” said Prof Chen Peng, a biotechnology and obesity expert at NTU. “Most importantly, our solution aims to use a person’s own body fats to burn more energy, which is a natural process in babies.”
The patch delivers the diet drug ‘Beta-3 adrenergic receptor agonist’ and a thyroid hormone called ‘T3 triiodothyronine’ which is a commonly used for medication for an underactive thyroid gland. When the patch is pressed into the skin for about two minutes, the micro-needles become embedded and the patch can then be removed. As the needles degrade, the drug molecules slowly make their way to the energy-storing white fat underneath the skin layer, turning it into energy-burning brown fat. Brown fats are found in babies and they help to keep the baby warm by burning energy. As humans grow older, the amount of brown fats lessens and is replaced with white fats, which are stored and are difficult to remove. Experiments in mice, which were fed on a high-fat diet, showed that the patch reduced their fat mass by more than 30 percent over a period of just four weeks. It also significantly lowered their blood cholesterol and levels of fatty acid.
Assistant Professor Xu Chenjie of NTU, added: “With the embedded microneedles in the skin of the mice, the surrounding fats started browning in five days, which helped to increase the energy expenditure of the mice, leading to a reduction in body fat gain. “The amount of drugs we used in the patch is much less than those used in oral medication or an injected dose. This lowers the drug ingredient costs while our slow-release design minimises its side effects.” Obesity and diabetes combined already costs the UK more than £5 billion each year and is likely to rise to £50 billion by 2050 according to the World Obesity Federation. Professor Melvin Leow, of NTU, added: “These data should encourage Phase I Clinical studies in humans to translate these basic science findings to the bedside, with the hope that these microneedle patches may be developed into an established cost-effective method for the prevention or treatment of obesity in the near future.”
21 days until Christmas… 🙂 🙂 🙂