April 8th, 2010

empress i

some libertarian maybe kinda somehow gets it?

Up from Slavery
There's no such thing as a golden age of lost liberty

For many libertarians, "the road to serfdom" is not just the title of a great book but also the window through which they see the world. We’re losing our freedom, year after year, they think. They (we) quote Thomas Jefferson: “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.” We read books with titles like Freedom in Chains, Lost Rights, The Rise of Federal Control over the Lives of Ordinary Americans, and yes, The Road to Serfdom.

The Cato Institute's boilerplate description of itself used to include the line, "Since [the American] revolution, civil and economic liberties have been eroded." Until Clarence Thomas, then chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, gave a speech at Cato and pointed out to us that it didn't seem quite that way to black people.

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source is actually not eye-roll-worthy for once
Vitas: Smile


U.S. and Russia Sign Nuclear Arms Pact

Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Obama and President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia signing the treaty in Prague on Thursday.

Published: April 8, 2010
PRAGUE — With flourish and fanfare, President Obama and President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia signed a nuclear arms control treaty on Thursday and opened what they hoped would be a new era in the tumultuous relationship between two former cold war adversaries.

Meeting here in the heart of a once-divided Europe, the two leaders put aside the acrimony that has characterized Russian-American ties in recent years as they agreed to bring down their arsenals and restore an inspection regime that expired in December. Along the way, they sidestepped unresolved disputes over missile defense and other issues.
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franklin sherman

Obama-care Denying medical care "being able to say 'no' is the heart of the issue"

The federal government is now starting to build the institutions that will try to reduce the soaring growth of health care costs. There will be a group to compare the effectiveness of different treatments, a so-called Medicare innovation center and a Medicare oversight board that can set payment rates.

But all these groups will face the same basic problem. Deep down, Americans tend to believe that more care is better care. We recoil from efforts to restrict care.

Managed care became loathed in the 1990s. The recent recommendation to reduce breast cancer screening set off a firestorm. On a personal level, anyone who has made a decision about his or her own care knows the nagging worry that comes from not choosing the most aggressive treatment.

This try-anything-and-everything instinct is ingrained in our culture, and it has some big benefits. But it also has big downsides, including the side effects and risks that come with unnecessary treatment. Consider that a recent study found that 15,000 people were projected to die eventually from the radiation they received from CT scans given in just a single year — and that there was “significant overuse” of such scans.

From an economic perspective, health reform will fail if we can’t sometimes push back against the try-anything instinct. The new agencies will be hounded by accusations of rationing, and Medicare’s long-term budget deficit will grow.

So figuring out how we can say no may be the single toughest and most important task facing the people who will be in charge of carrying out reform. “Being able to say no,” Dr. Alan Garber of Stanford says, “is the heart of the issue.”

It’s easy to come up with arguments for why we need to do so. Above all, we don’t have a choice. Giving hospitals and drug makers a blank check will bankrupt Medicare. Slowing the cost growth, on the other hand, will free up resources for other uses, like education. Lower costs will also lift workers’ take-home pay.

But I suspect that these arguments won’t be persuasive. They have the faint ring of an insurer’s rationale for denying a claim. Compared with an anecdote about a cancer patient looking for hope, the economic arguments are soulless.

The better bet for the new reformers — starting with Donald Berwick, the physician who will run Medicare — is to channel American culture, not fight it. We want the best possible care, no matter what. Yet we often do not get it because the current system tends to deliver more care even when it means worse care.

It’s not just CT scans. Caesarean births have become more common, with little benefit to babies and significant burden to mothers. Men who would never have died from prostate cancer have been treated for it and left incontinent or impotent. Cardiac stenting and bypasses, with all their side effects, have become popular partly because people believe they reduce heart attacks. For many patients, the evidence suggests, that’s not true.

Advocates for less intensive medicine have been too timid about all this. They often come across as bean counters, while the try-anything crowd occupies the moral high ground. The reality, though, is that unnecessary care causes a lot of pain and even death. Dr. Berwick, who made his reputation campaigning against medical errors, is a promising (if much belated) selection for precisely this reason.

Can we solve the entire problem of rising health costs by getting rid of needless care? Probably not. But the money involved is not trivial, and it’s the obvious place to start.

Learning to say no more often will be a three-step process, and if the new agencies created by the health act are run well, they can help with all three.

The first is learning more about when treatments work and when they don’t. “All too often,” the Institute of Medicine reports, the data is “incomplete or unavailable.” As a result, more than half of treatments lack clear evidence of effectiveness, the institute found. It says the most promising areas for research include prostate cancer, inflammatory diseases, back pain, hyperactivity, and CT scans vs. M.R.I.’s for cancer diagnosis.

As part of the health act, a Patient Centered Health Research group will have an annual budget of $600 million. Relative to total health spending, that’s a paltry sum. But it’s real money relative to what’s now being spent on such research.

The second step — and maybe the most underappreciated one — is to give patients the available facts about treatments. Amazingly, this often does not happen. “People are pretty woefully undereducated about fateful medical decisions,” says Dr. Michael Barry of the Massachusetts General Hospital, an advocate for sharing more with patients.

Dale Collins Vidal, a reconstructive breast surgeon at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, told me a story about a patient’s husband who asked to sit in on the medical team’s discussion of his wife’s case. The doctors said no, because they were uncomfortable with him knowing about the uncertainty surrounding the case. “The paternalism is a little more kind-hearted than it was in the past,” Dr. Vidal says, “but it’s still paternalism.”

When patients are given information about potential benefits and risks, they seem to choose less invasive care, on average, than doctors do, according to early studies. Some people, of course, decide that aggressive care is right for them — like the cancer patient (and palliative care doctor) profiled in this newspaper a few days ago. They are willing to accept the risks and side effects that come with treatment. Many people, however, go the other way once they understand the trade-offs.

They decide the risk of incontinence and impotence isn’t worth the marginal chance of preventing prostate cancer. Or they choose cardiac drugs and lifestyle changes over stenting. Or they opt to skip the prenatal test to determine if their baby has Down syndrome. Or, in the toughest situation of all, they decide to leave an intensive care unit and enter a hospice.

The health act requires Medicare and other agencies to help hospitals and doctors give patients more information — which is practically a no-lose proposition. In the course of receiving more control and more choice, two distinctly American values, patients will probably help hold down costs.

The final step is the bluntest. It involves changing the economics of medicine, to reward better care rather than simply more care. Health reform doesn’t go nearly far enough on this score, but it is a start.

The tax subsidies for health insurance will shrink, which should help people realize medical care is not free. And doctors who provide good, less expensive care won’t be financially punished as often as they now are.

None of these steps will allow us to avoid the wrenching debates that are an inevitable part of health policy. Eventually, we may well have to decide against paying for expensive treatments with only modest benefits. But given how difficult that would be for this country, it makes sense to start with the easier situations — the ones in which “no” really is the best answer for patients.

“In the United States, I don’t know that we’re ever going to get to a point where we limit health care spending,” as Dr. Vidal says. “But maybe we could get patients to the same place on their own.”

source, nyt: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/07/business/economy/07leonhardt.html?hp

Transgender Challenge to Rules on Birth Certificates

A SYDNEY transsexual has filed a sex discrimination complaint against state and federal governments over a refusal to change his birth certificate to ''male''.

Conor Montgomery, 50, was born a female in Australia but took male hormones, had a double mastectomy and a chest reconstruction 2½ years ago to become a man.

His passport says he is male but the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages will not convert his birth certificate because he has not had genital surgery.

Mr Montgomery has added the federal government to a claim he is making against the Human Rights Commission. He is arguing under its laws, his conflicting documents may mean he cannot marry. He also presented a petition of 500 signatures in support of his case to the commission.

He said doctors have advised him against further surgery due to ill health.

''It's life-threatening for me to go under any more anaesthetic and the way it stands in NSW, they force us to be sterilised and I'm just not able to do that,'' Mr Montgomery said.

''I know a lot of [transgender] people like me … especially in my age group who can't have further surgeries. I mean, we are a small percentage of the population but I think it's inhumane to force anyone into sterilisation. Does it make me more of a man? I don't believe it does.''

The case follows that of the genderless Sydney activist Norrie, who filed a discrimination claim last month after the Registry issued a Registered Details Certificate without a specified sex - but then withdrew the document following legal advice.

Tracie O'Keefe from the lobby group Sex and Gender Education said the government had failed to implement the commission's report last year which recommended more flexibility for transgender people applying for official documents.

There is a clip of an interview with Montgomery at the source

In the true sense of "OH NO THEY DIDN'T"...

Tuesday morning CNN's Kyra Phillips ran a segment about the repeal of a homophobic and archaic California law (follow the link to Towleroad for video) requiring state health officials to seek cures for homosexuality.

Phillips started the segment by asking, "Homosexuality — is it a problem in need of a cure?" and then led a discussion which included "conversion therapy" expert Richard Cohen. For those not familiar with Cohen, he wrote the book Coming Out Straight which refers to homosexuality as a "same-sex attachment disorder."

In 2001 Cohen was expelled from the American Counseling Association for violating it's ethics standards and he's been widely discredited for his findings and methods.

AfterElton.com contacted CNN to ask A) why Phillips would phrase her question in such an offensive way B) why they deemed it necessary to present both "sides" of whether or not gay people can be "cured" when it's been so widely discredited and C) why they deemed the discredited Cohen — whom they termed a sexual orientation "expert" — as someone qualified to speak about the subject.

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If Conservatives win; women’s rights will suffer

The upcoming election will likely have a major effect on what is traditionally a matter of conscience on which the parties don’t take a position: abortion.

While the political parties don’t officially have a line, it is clear that the Conservatives are more in favour of restricting abortion than Labour.

The LibDems are somewhere in between. Based on the 2008 votes on abortion in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, and making the assumption that the votes of the parties in the Parliament that is now ending is a good guide to the same in the next Parliament, we can say that the probability of a Conservative MP voting to restrict abortion from twenty-four to twenty-two weeks is 0.83; for Labour, the figure is 0.2; for the LibDems, 0.42.

I am taking the figures from the Public Whip for the votes for 22, 20, 16 and 12 weeks.

This gives:

Party p(22 weeks) p(20 weeks) p(16 weeks) p(12 weeks)
Con 0.83 0.77 0.43 0.37
Lab 0.2 0.15 0.07 0.06
LD 0.42 0.24 0.06 0.06

If we use the UK Polling Report’s current average (38 Conservative, 30 Labour, 20 LibDem) and the Baxter Election Predictor, we can use the figures above to calculate the expected vote in favour of restricting.

Party Seats E(22 weeks) E(20 weeks) E(16 weeks) E(12 weeks)
Con 305 254 236 133 112
Lab 259 52 39 18 16
LD 55 23 5 <1 <1
Sum 619 329 280 151 128

In the new Parliament, there will be six hundred and fifty MPs, so the magic number is 325. Based on these figures, it seems there is a very good chance that, should there be a vote on the matter, abortion would be restricted to twenty-two weeks.

This does not include, however, the effect of the other parties. On these figures, another 45 votes would be needed to restrict abortion to twenty weeks; there are only thirty-one seats unaccounted for in my figures, and based on the 2008 votes, you would expect around twenty of those votes to go for restricting abortion.

However, given that these are small parties (in some cases, parties of one) I don’t think it’s a safe extrapolation to make.

Nevertheless, only a small deviation from the figures above, if the incoming Parliament happens to have a few more people in favour of restricting abortion to twenty weeks, would result in a majority for that restriction. The gap for further restriction seems insurmountable.

While it is not party policy (see edit), and while there are Labour MPs in favour of restricting abortion and Conservatives against, in general a vote for the Conservatives is, at least, a vote to restrict abortion to twenty-two weeks and, very likely, possibly to twenty weeks.

Source: Liberal Conspiracy

ETA: David Cameron seems to want it though.

Kyrgystan is a BFD

Seriously I think this is huge. Especially the Russia-US alliance, which will annoy China.

US Russia considering cooperation on Kyrgyzstan
(AP) – 2 hours ago

PRAGUE — U.S. officials said Thursday they're working closely with Russia to respond to the uprising in Kyrgyzstan despite previous conflict over a military base in the Central Asian nation.

President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev discussed the issue before signing an arms treaty in Prague, U.S. officials told reporters later.

Michael McFaul, Obama's senior director for Russian affairs, emphasized that the U.S. did not view the conflict as any kind of proxy struggle between the U.S. and Russia, even though Russia previously tried to lay claim to an air base in the country that the U.S. obtained from the regime now under assault.

The status of the Manas U.S. air base, a supply line to the war in Afghanistan, is now uncertain with a bloody uprising overtaking the Kyrgyzstan capital and the opposition forming an interim government.

"The people that are allegedly running Kyrgyzstan ... these are all people we've had contact with for many years," McFaul said. "This is not some anti-American coup, that we know for sure. And this is not some sponsored-by-the-Russians coup, there's just no evidence of that."

U.S. troops working at Manas base have been restricted to the facility outside the capital of Bishkek, with humanitarian missions and other trips temporarily suspended, Manas air field spokesman Maj. Rickardo Bodden said Thursday. The facility is an important transit point for NATO troops and supplies flying in and out of Afghanistan and those flights have been cut back.

McFaul presented the cooperation over Kyrgyzstan as another sign of improved U.S.-Russia relations. He said Medvedev initiated the discussion with Obama.

McFaul said there was no specific decision on how the two nations might respond, though he raised the prospect of a cooperative measure such a joint statement.

"We're trying to keep the peace right now," McFaul said.

"We talked in general terms of things we've got to coordinate."

Mod Note: Now with Source!

Internet cut-offs, website censorship about to drop on UK

"Wash-up" might sound homely, conjuring visions of a family scrubbing up after a cheerful dinner as the evening descends. But it's also the name of a UK legislative process in which bills can become law through a quick process that bypasses normal debate. Wash-up happens at the end of a parliamentary term, just before new elections, and it is designed to finish non-controversial outstanding business.

But is it appropriate to use wash-up to make major changes to UK Internet access, giving copyright holders tremendous new power to go after P2P pirates and even block entire websites?

The UK's current Labour government thinks so. It is intent on jamming the "Digital Economy" bill through Parliament in the next couple of days by means of the wash-up process after calling a general election for May 6. Chris Marsden, a senior lecturer in the University of Essex's law school, calls the process "an absolute insult to Parliament, to Internet users, and to democracy." He goes on to "add for overseas readers that this Bill is not just anti-digital economy, but very obviously anti-net neutrality as well as against basic rights."

But according to the government, the problems addressed by the bill are so severe that it's simply not possible to wait a few weeks until a new government is in place. The UK's "creative industries" are bleeding, hemorrhaging red ink and jobs, so action must be taken. The bill's "second reading" in the House of Commons took place last night; it is set to pass the committee stage and a third reading at some point today. In a day or two it could become law.

Graduated response and censorship, UK style

What's in it? All sorts of stuff (read the current draft). ISPs will immediately have to send warning letters to accused P2P users, for one thing. After a year of letters, new "technical" measures can come into force that include speed throttling, measures that will prevent subscribers from "using the service to gain access to particular material, or limits such use," and Internet disconnections. (Backers of the bill note that these are only "suspensions," not permanent "disconnections"; the difference between the two seems largely semantic, as a subscriber account is in fact cut off from the Internet, regardless of whether the subscriber himself committed any infringement.)

As for blocking complete websites, the government is on board with that, too. The bill grants the UK's High Court the power to order Web blocks against any site, for a number of vague reasons including "any issues of national security raised by the Secretary of State." Generally, the blocks are meant to target sites where a "substantial proportion of the content accessible at or via each specified online location infringes copyright."

The bill does incorporate protections for these penalties, including an appeals process for Internet subscribers, but taken in total, these are dramatic changes to the current Internet regulatory scheme.

How much debate was taken on these matters in Commons? We found out last night, when less than 40 of the 646 MPs showed up for a few hours of debate on the bill, which then passed its second reading. One of the reasons for the low turnout: debate didn't even get underway until 4:27pm.


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Source: Ars Technica

aaliyah » doin&#39; it for the fame

va. man charged with in-home indecency acquitted

Va. jury: Naked in own home not indecent
Prosecutors, two women say man intended to expose himself

An update to this post.

By Mattew Barakat
Associated Press Writer
updated 8:53 p.m. ET, Wed., April 7, 2010

FAIRFAX, Va. - A man charged with indecent exposure after two women said they saw him naked inside his own home was acquitted Wednesday by a Virginia jury.

Erick Williamson, 29, has argued since his October arrest that he should not be punished for being naked in the privacy of his own home.

Police and prosecutors, as well as the two women who testified against him, said he intended to expose himself and made no attempt to conceal himself in a residential neighborhood filled with children.

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in-home source y'all
*betty draper reading

Austin city council votes to require anti-abortion centers to post signs

Signs must be posted at crisis pregnancy centers, council says

By Sarah Coppola | Thursday, April 8, 2010, 11:09 AM

Pregnancy centers that don’t offer or refer clients to abortion services or birth control services will now have to say that on signs posted at their facilities, the Austin City Council decided in a unanimous vote this morning.

Council Member Bill Spelman (pictured) proposed the idea because he said it can be unclear to visitors to the centers what services they offer. The centers are not medical clinics and typically offer adoption counseling, pregnancy tests and financial assistance to women with unplanned pregnancies, but not other services, Spelman said.

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Akuma River

Gram Negative Bacteria and why the fuck you SHOULD KNOW ABOUT IT!

You can thank Dr. Oz for this post.

Rising Threat of Infections Unfazed by Antibiotics
Published: February 26, 2010

A minor-league pitcher in his younger days, Richard Armbruster kept playing baseball recreationally into his 70s, until his right hip started bothering him. Last February he went to a St. Louis hospital for what was to be a routine hip replacement.

By late March, Mr. Armbruster, then 78, was dead. After a series of postsurgical complications, the final blow was a bloodstream infection that sent him into shock and resisted treatment with antibiotics.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think my dad would walk in for a hip replacement and be dead two months later,” said Amy Fix, one of his daughters.

Not until the day Mr. Armbruster died did a laboratory culture identify the organism that had infected him: Acinetobacter baumannii.

The germ is one of a category of bacteria that by some estimates are already killing tens of thousands of hospital patients each year. While the organisms do not receive as much attention as the one known as MRSA — for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus — some infectious-disease specialists say they could emerge as a bigger threat.
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So the big bad superbug is out there. It is still in the hospital only stages though from the article it looks like it is starting to spread out into communities like MRSA did.

Top 3 tips to prevent contracting it are:
WASH YOUR HANDS (20 seconds) and/or alcohol based hand sanitizer.
Ask your doctor if you really need antiboitics to treat what you have. 10% of doctor visits with a sore throat require it while 75% get it.
Don't stay in the hospital too long. They are pushing you out to prevent you from getting a deadly infection.

I think it is vastly sad (and capitalistic) that to BigPharma life-long drugs are more important than treating infections that constitute certain death without treatment and is rapidly gaining more strength and ground.

Questions? Got more information on it? Share in the comments.

Disclosure & Choice: When Do We Deserve to Know Someone's Sexuality?

Last week, Ricky Martin came out and the blogosphere emitted a collective "duh".

Newsweek issued a slideshow titled "We Already Knew, Ricky" and Gawker gleefully compiled an entire slideshow of people who "need to finally come out of the closet".

Even relatively mainstream media sources like ABC News and Rollingstone.com were sure to mention the "years of scrutiny about his sexuality" and "speculation" that preceded his announcement.

The jokes, puns, and in some cases, ridicule, did not stop there. Headlines like "Ricky Martin decided against a "DUH!!! I Love Dick!" People magazine cover" (DListed) and innumerable "livin la vida blank" puns filled my reader.

After these knee-jerk reactions came the just-plain-jerk analyses. Why did Martin wait so long to come out? Didn't he care about gay rights? How selfish and spineless was he not to have come out at the height of his career? And wasn't *like* Barbara Walters *like* soooo vindicated?!

This week, Julia Baird of Newsweek took it a step further, even going so far as to praise this public reaction as indicative of how tolerant, progressive, even "healthy", our nation has become:

"While it may have been a wrenching decision for Martin personally, there was something refreshing about eye rolling replacing homophobic invective...tolerance of homosexuality is likely to mean we live in a democratic, developed, wealthy country."

This analysis of the public reaction to Ricky Martin- and a plethora of other celebrities- coming out misses the point. Eye rolling isn't replacing the homophobic invective- it is the homophobic invective.

More ranting- with graphic accompaniment- after the jump.

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Colin Farrell supports anti-homophobia campaign

Actor Colin Farrell is supporting an Irish campaign against homophobic bullying.

The 31-year-old star, who is from Dublin, spoke out for LGBT charity Belong To's STAND UP! campaign.

His brother Eamon, 37, is gay and Farrell was the best man at his civil partnership ceremony in 2008.

Farrell said: "I can't remember much about the years of physical and emotional abuse my brother Eamon suffered. I was very small. The thing I do remember though, quite literally, is blood on his school shirt when he came home in the afternoon. The beatings and taunting were very frequent for my him and a constant part of his school years.

"People are often afraid of difference. They feel that anything that causes fear, should be turned away from. My brother represented fear for so many people, but caused joy in my life. From a very young age he made me laugh with his intelligence and wit, made me aspire to his strength and goodness. He was to be embraced.

"To many of the students of his school however he was to be feared. He was to be turned away from. I didn't understand it then, and I still don't know."

Farrell added that bullying was "torture" and "potentially fatal" and should have no place in the world.

The charity's campaign is a week-long event to raise awareness of the issues faced by LGBT young people.

It will run from April 9th – 18th and this year is the first time the event has been held.


An adopted Russian kid was sent packing from the US

A seven-year-old boy arrived at a Moscow airport from the United States on Saturday morning. “I refuse him”, read the note the boy carried with him.

The Russian representative on children’s rights, Pavel Astakhov, says the child was adopted in Russia around six months ago by an American couple.

The fact that a seven-year-old arrived by plane without accompanying adults was revealed only at immigration control. The boy was taken to a police station in Moscow and the hearing representative went there, too, to clarify the situation.

Later in the day Astakhov said the boy’s name is Artyom Justin Hansen. The boy was born in Vladivostok, in Russia’s Far East, and arrived in Moscow from Washington...


The news is making headlines here in Russia. But I think the story will hardly reach the the screens of the US audience.

Jeremy Paxman shunned by Gordon Brown and David Cameron

He has monstered Michael Howard, and harangued Hazel Blears. And his tough- guy interview technique has made political interviews a spectator sport – two possible reasons why Jeremy Paxman may not get the chance to give Gordon Brown and David Cameron the once-over during the general election campaign.

Neither of the two party leaders seems in any rush to sign up for the Paxo treatment, even though invitations to the two men went out months ago.

It was hoped they would appear on Panorama, which intends to run separate interviews with the two men and Nick Clegg in half-hour specials starting next Monday. Clegg snapped up the invitation to be grilled by the Newsnight presenter, and he could be the first up next week.

But Cameron and Brown have been more coy. BBC sources said they had been asked to confirm by today whether they were taking part, but both failed to do so. The Tories, apparently, said they would only do it if Brown agreed. Brown's team have said he is still making his mind up. The Conservatives indicated today they were in no hurry to reply as they are busy preparing for the forthcoming TV debates, which start next Thursday.

However, BBC sources feel the party leaders will never turn the Paxman invitation down formally because of the fuss it would cause.

One insider said: "They are doing GMTV interviews, doing interviews with God knows who. On this they are running scared and using the TV debates as cover." Another added: "It is quite possible that one of the two big leaders will do it when it looks like they are behind in the polls, but right now it doesn't look likely."

The set-piece interviews have been game-changing moments in previous elections, with Paxman getting Tony Blair to say higher income tax voters would not be "clobbered" by a Labour government.

A BBC source said: "This is a tradition that dates back decades and they now risk being chucked away because of the TV debates. But what you'll see is that the TV debates will present the need for one-on-one TV interviews because their format will probably see them getting away with not answering the question."

Alistair Darling might bemoan the loss of the "one to one". In an interview in G2, the chancellor says: "I just sometimes wonder whether the viewers at home wouldn't get far more out of individuals being sat down and grilled for half an hour, an hour ... The interviewer's got to go from him to him to him ... and it can too often become a dingdong."

Source: The Guardian