Trump’s comments on anti-Semitism ‘too little, too late’ as threats spike globally

Speaking at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, President Donald Trump pushed for unity as he responded to a number of bomb threats made to Jewish centres over the past several weeks.

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“The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centres are horrible, and are painful – and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” Trump said.

The FBI has since started an investigation into the threats, with a total of 69 incidents at dozens of centers across 27 US states and one Canadian province. 

An official for the department stated the bureau and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division were investigating “possible civil rights violations in connection with threats to Jewish community centers across the country.”

America is a nation built on the principle of religious tolerance. We must protect our houses of worship & religious centers. #JCC

— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) February 20, 2017

Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, said Trump’s statement was “as welcome as it is overdue.”

“President Trump has been inexcusably silent as this trend of anti-Semitism has continued and arguably accelerated,” he said.

It follows a report by the US-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL), detailing the growth in widespread anti-Jewish posts made on Twitter between August 2015 and July 2016, with some 2.6 million tweets containing language “frequently found in anti-Semitic speech”.

Focusing on 19,253 tweets sent directly to journalists within the USA, the ADL discovered that 68 per cent of the tweets were sent by some 1,600 accounts (out of 313 million existing Twitter accounts), with the words appearing most frequently in the attackers biographies being “Trump”, “nationalist”, “conservative” and “white.”

“The spike in hate we’ve seen online this election cycle is extremely troubling and unlike anything we have seen in modern politics,” ADL chief executive Jonathan Greenblatt said.

“A half century ago, the KKK burned crosses. Today, extremists are burning up Twitter.”

A similar story in the United Kingdom

The Community Security Trust (CST) – a group that works within the UK to reduce anti-Semitism, while providing security to local Jewish communities – this week released data detailing an increase in of incidents over the past 12 months.

Reaching a record high of 1,309 incidents in 2016, this signifies a growth of 36 per cent the previous year, while higher than the previous all-time record of 1,182 incidents in 2014. Of the 1,309 occurrences, 107 were violent assaults, a growth of 29 per cent on the previous year.

Chief executive of the CST, David Delew, voiced his concern that people are feeling increasingly confident in expressing their prejudice in a more public manner.

“While Jewish life in this country remains overwhelmingly positive, this highlighted level of anti-Semitism is deeply worrying and appears to be getting worse,” he said.

“Worst of all is that, for various reasons, some people clearly feel more confident to express their anti-Semitism more publicly than they did in the past.”

While the spike in 2014 was largely attributed to the war in Gaza, no direct trigger has been identified for the rise in 2016, with a series of factors creating “an atmosphere in which more anti-Semitic incidents are occurring.”

Terrorist attacks in France and elsewhere in Europe, allegations of anti-Semitism within the UK Labour Party, as well as an increase in xenophobia after the Brexit vote were all listed as contributing causes to the increase.

The majority of incidents occurred within Greater London and Greater Manchester, where the majority of the UK’s Jewish population live, with London witnessing a 65 per cent increase in the past year.

Anti-Semitism in Australia

Locally there has also been an increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents, with the Executive Council of Australian Jewry noting a 10 per cent overall rise between October 2015 and September 2016, with physical assaults escalating by 50 per cent.

Julie Nathan, who compiled the report, acts as the Research Officer for the Executive Council and told SBS News many incidents of anti-Semitism go unreported.

“Anti-Semitic incidents increased by 10 per cent from 2015 to 2016 in Australia. However, it must be noted that many anti-Semitic incidents are not reported to official Jewish bodies,” she said.

“The increase appears to have been across the board from all the different sources of anti-Semitism – i.e. the left and right of politics, and religious based anti-Semitism. It is therefore not possible to attribute any increase to one particular source.

“It would not be surprising to see an increase in anti-Semitic incidents during 2017 in Australia due to a variety of political factors, including increasing activity by the far-right and the far-left.

“However, the incidents of any anti-Semitism or other forms of racism engendered by such activity can be minimised by condemnations of racism by political and other leaders, by anti-vilification laws, by media opposition to racism, and other means.”

Dutton admits trade-off in US refugee deal

The Turnbull government has finally admitted it expects the United States to accept refugees from Manus Island and Nauru before Australia takes in anyone from Central America.

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Immigration Minister Peter Dutton revealed the trade off on Tuesday night after months of strenuously denying the two refugee deals were linked.

He wouldn’t be “sucked into a silly outcome” such as the doomed Malaysia refugee deal struck under the Gillard government, which saw Australia take in thousands of people but offload nobody in return.

But Foreign Minister Julie Bishop denies it’s a people-swap deal.

“We are seeking to resettle a number of people who came via the people-smuggling trade and have been in Nauru, in particular, with the United States,” she told reporters in Washington after meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence.

“But we will continue to take refugees from across the world, as we’ve always done.”

Fellow minister Dan Tehan wouldn’t utter the words “quid pro quo” when pressed about the US swap.

“You can call it that,” he told Sky News.

“What I would call it is both countries looking to help deal with genuine problems and fixing genuine problems when it comes to ensuring we can have in place proper border security but also deal with the issue of genuine refugees.”

Donald Trump has vowed to honour the deal and Mr Tehan expects the US administration to follow through.

“I think Peter Dutton is just reinforcing that and saying when it comes to Australia we look after our interests but this is a way we can work together as two nations,” he said.

“We can help solve an intractable problem for both countries, and that’s what this is all about.”

Labor frontbencher Richard Marles said the immigration minister had finally “belled the cat” in admitting the taking people from Costa Rica was contingent on America taking those on Manus Island and Nauru.

“Clearly this was a deal, quid pro quo, one for the other … yet we’ve had a government denying that from day one,” he said.

The admission raised serious questions for him about whether the refugee deal was set in stone.

Both countries say the arrangements allow them to reject refugees they believe pose a security risk.

Trump denounces ‘horrible’ anti-Semitic threats

Seizing the moment during his first visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, formally inaugurated just six months ago by his predecessor Barack Obama, Trump called for an end to “hatred in all of its very ugly forms.

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He pushed a message of unity, saying he would work to “bring this country together” as he reacted to the dozens of bomb hoaxes phoned in to Jewish centers in recent weeks — which are now under investigation by the FBI.

“The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible, and are painful — and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” Trump said.

At the weekend, more than 100 headstones were damaged at a Jewish cemetery in St Louis, Missouri, the facility’s director said.

Nearly a dozen Jewish community centers received bomb threats that prompted evacuations on Monday. All of the threats turned out to be hoaxes. Dozens of similar incidents have been reported since the start of the year.

While Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who converted to Judaism in 2009, denounced the threats over the weekend, saying on Twitter that “we must protect our houses of worship & religious centers,” the president had not commented despite repeated direct questions about the issue.

America is a nation built on the principle of religious tolerance. We must protect our houses of worship & religious centers. #JCC

— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) February 20, 2017

When asked specifically about the threats at a press conference last week, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side, the Republican offered a curious answer, promising Americans they would be seeing “a lot of love.”

He also mentioned his close family ties to Judaism: “so many friends, a daughter who happens to be here right now, a son-in-law, and three beautiful grandchildren.” His son-in-law Jared Kushner is now a top White House advisor.

The next day, when an Orthodox Jewish reporter asked Trump at a White House news conference about a post-election surge in anti-Semitic incidents in America, Trump reacted defensively, telling his questioner to “sit down.”  

Trump also said he was “the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life.”

Dozens of threats

Since the start of the year, the Jewish Community Center Association of North America has recorded 69 bomb threat incidents at dozens of centers in 27 US states and one Canadian province.

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said Trump’s statement was “as welcome as it is overdue.”

“President Trump has been inexcusably silent as this trend of anti-Semitism has continued and arguably accelerated,” Pesner said.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said he was dismayed by the fact that “no matter how many times he talks about this… it’s never good enough.”

The National Museum of African American History and Culture, an impressive building on the National Mall near the Washington Monument, brings together thousands of artifacts retelling the history of blacks in America.

Following his visit, Trump also pledged “to do everything I can to continue that promise of freedom for African-Americans and for every American,” and pledged to soon visit the nearby US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Accompanied by Ben Carson, the African American retired neurosurgeon he tapped to head the department of Housing and Urban Development, Trump praised the museum’s work honoring “African American men and women who built our national heritage.”

But it also was clearly intended to assuage concerns raised over Trump’s embrace by white supremacist groups and an “alt-right” movement given a platform on Breitbart, the online news outlet once headed by Trump’s chief White House strategist Steve Bannon.

The White House raised eyebrows on International Holocaust Remembrance Day late last month by issuing a statement that made no mention of the six million Jews killed in the Nazi genocide.

As he toured the museum, he was asked by an MSNBC reporter Tuesday whether he would clear up the confusion by denouncing anti-Semitism, Trump said, “I do all the time.”

“I think it’s terrible or horrible, whether it’s anti-Semitism or racism or anything you can think about having to do with the divide,” he said.

“You don’t know where it’s coming from but I certainly hope they catch the people,” he said.

Quid pro quo … refugee deal looking like a swap

The federal government had previously denied there was a swap of people involved in the deal between the two countries.

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However, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has suggested to Sky News that Australia will not take the asylum seekers from Central America unless the United States keeps its promise.

(Dutton:) “We wouldn’t take anyone until we had assurances that people were going to go off Nauru and Manus.”

(Reporter:) “Oh, right, so it’s quid pro quo — first we lose people, and then they come?”

(Dutton:) “Well, we want an outcome in relation to Nauru and Manus. That’s the most important thing. My job is to argue our case, the US can argue theirs.”

And when Mr Dutton was pushed again for clarification, he responded:

“One of the lessons that we’ve learnt from past arrangements – say, the Malaysia deal, for example, that Julia Gillard entered into – we accepted all the people from Malaysia, not one person went from Australia. So, we’re not going to be sucked into that sort of a silly outcome.”

Opposition defence spokesman Richard Marles has told Sky it is just another example of the Government’s lack of transparency.

“He made it clear that it was contingent, that taking people from Costa Rica was contingent on America taking those from Manus and Nauru. And so, clearly, this was a deal … quid pro quo, one for the other. That is what happened last year. That’s evidently what occurred. And yet we’ve got a Government that’s been denying that from day one.”

But it appears there is dissent within the Coalition about the deal.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, meeting with Trump administration officials in Washington, denies it is a people swap deal.

“That’s not the way I would categorise it. Australia is a very generous nation when it comes to resettling those who are found to be refugees from all over the world, and we’ll continue to do so. We are seeking to resettle a number of people who came via the people smuggling trade and have been in Nauru, in particular, with the United States, but we will continue to take refugees from across the world as we’ve always done.”

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told Sky News the asylum seekers from Costa Rica will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

“Some of the examples that I’ve been given are Christians who are fleeing that part of the region trying to escape gang violence, and so we will look at those individual cases. If we determine that they’re refugees, then we can take them. If we think they’re not, again, it’s our sovereign right. But I won’t be taking in people who I think are a risk to our national security or would detract from our community.”

He says, while he believes the first transfers from Manus and Nauru will get underway in a couple of months, the United States will take the process seriously.

“We decide who comes to our country, and we’re very serious about that, because the US wants to exert the same sovereignty. So they’ll look at the individual cases, they’ll make the ultimate decision, but it’s working well and we’ve got a very good relationship with the people from State and Homeland Security and I’m confident we can get people off Manus and Nauru as quickly as possible.”

Julie Bishop has revealed little on the matter, despite meeting with US vice president Mike Pence.

She says Australia’s offer to resettle Costa Ricans was not discussed, and she remains tight-lipped on a transfer time frame.

“The matter is being dealt with at officials level, and the agreement is still being progressed.”

 

 

Milo Yiannopoulos resigns from Breitbart News amid paedophilia controversy

“I would be wrong to allow my poor choice of words to detract from my colleagues important reporting, so today I am resigning from Breitbart, effective immediately.

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This decision is mine alone.”

At a press conference, Yiannopoulos, 32, said that he used a “poor choice of words” in a 2016 interview.

In the video, a 2016 episode of podcast “The Drunken Peasants,” Yiannopoulos discussed his own experience with sexual assault as a teenager. He argued in the clip that relationships between “younger boys and older men” could be beneficial.

“I regret the things that I said,” he said, while calling the furor over his comments a “cynical media witch hunt.”

“They don’t care about victims, they don’t care about children, they only care about bringing me down,” he said.

He said that  “I’ve never apologized for anything before and I don’t anticipate doing it again.”

He even equated what he does to the humor of standup comedians, as he characterized himself as an entertainer even though he had been a technology editor at Breitbart. He said that his role had “mutated” as he gained attention.

Post by Milo Yiannopoulos.

Donald Trump’s campaign certainly helped boost his profile, as well as Trump’s appointment of Steve Bannon, the chairman of Breitbart, as campaign chairman and later senior adviser in the White House.

The Conservative Political Action Conference had announced over the weekend that he would be their keynote speaker at their upcoming conference. But there was then a backlash against the invite, fueled by a video that resurfaced on a conservative blog in which Yiannopoulos appears to defend pedophilia.

The American Conservative Union, which holds the conference, then disinvited Yiannopoulos, calling for him to “answer the tough questions and we urge him to immediately further address these disturbing comments.”

Later on Monday, Simon & Schuster’s Adam Rothberg announced that the company and its Threshold Editions division would be canceling its publication of Yiannopoulos’ book, “Dangerous.” It was due for release on June 13. At the press conference, he said that other publishers are interested in the title. He also said that he would be launching a new media company.

“I don’t think this is going to harm my profile,” he said, predicting that more people will read what he has to say about free speech.

In a Facebook post in response to the controversy, Yiannopoulos claimed that the video was “deceptively edited,” and said he was “horrified” by allegations that he was an advocate for pedophilia.

“If it somehow comes across (through my own sloppy phrasing or through deceptive editing) that I meant any of the ugly things alleged, let me set the record straight: I am completely disgusted by the abuse of children,” he wrote in the post.

Milo Yiannopoulos speaks during a news conference, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, in New York. AAP

Yiannopoulos recently appeared on HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher,” where he criticized Sarah Silverman, Lena Dunham, and Amy Schumer, and discussed his issues with actress Leslie Jones.

With outrageous insults and comments that have been labelled as sexist and racist,  Yiannopoulos’s appearances triggered protests on college campus, including a demonstration that turned violent at University of California at Berkeley and forced the event’s cancellation. But the furor only seemed to add to the persona that  Yiannopoulos was trying to create, as a defender of free speech against political correctness.

“America has a gigantic free speech problem,” he said, saying that his “rapid rise” is “testament to the fact that America is crying out for somebody who will say the un-sayable.” 

Yet his statements crossed a line with CPAC and his publisher — as well as other platform. Well before the book deal and that speaking engagement he was banned from Twitter after making offensive and disparaging remarks about Jones and her performance in “Ghostbusters.” She complained that it led to a flurry of racist and hateful rhetoric directed her way.

Australian men lose life expectancy crown

Australian men are set to lose their bragging rights as the longest living males on the planet, according to international research.

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Life expectancy projections for developed countries published in The Lancet show South Korea is winning the race for both sexes, knocking Australia from the top spot for men.

Of 35 developed nations, South Korea is likely to see the largest longevity gains by 2030, with female life expectancy likely to break the 90-year mark (90.8 years).

This is attributed to better childhood and adolescent nutrition, low smoking rates and better access to health care.

South Korean men jet to the top of the pack with a projected life expectancy of 84.1 years, just outlasting Australian men.

Australian boys born in 2030, the authors say, can expect to live to 84, four years longer than those born in 2010.

“There is an at least 95% probability that men’s life expectancy at birth in these three countries will surpass 80 years in 2030, and 27% that it would surpass 85 years,” the authors wrote.

As a result of the large gains made in South Korea, the country is likely to take “the life expectancy frontier position from Japan for women and catch up with the current global frontier country Australia for men”, the authors said.

Australian girls born in 2030 can expect to live until they are 87.57 – the sixth-longest projected life span behind South Korea, France, Japan, Spain and Switzerland.

Researchers at Imperial College London used age-specific death rates to calculate life expectancy at birth and at 65 years, and also the probability of dying before 70.

The modelling showed life expectancy is projected to increase in all 35 industrialised countries, with life expectancy projected to reach 90 in some nations.

It also predicts the female life expectancy advantage over men is likely to shrink in every country except Mexico.

Life expectancy in Australia has improved dramatically for both sexes in the past century, particularly life expectancy at birth.

According to data from the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare released in 2016, a boy born in 2013-15 can expect to live to 80.4 years and a girl 84.5 years.

The increasing life spans highlight the successes in public health and health care, said Professor Andrea Maier, a bio-gerontology specialist at the University of Melbourne.

But to ensure the healthcare system doesn’t lose it’s potency, people need to be taught how to live longer in a healthier way, she said.

“Otherwise we are just growing old as patients.”

“It really matters how you behave in early age to prevent disasters at old age,” she said.

I needed to get out of Sydney: Foran

Kieran Foran hailed his decision to escape the Sydney fishbowl existence as he attempts to get his life and NRL career back on track in Auckland.

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The former New Zealand Test playmaker has been cleared by the NRL to return in round three, against Canterbury in Dunedin on March 17, following his public fall from grace last year.

The 26-year-old was admitted to hospital following a prescription drug overdose in the wake of the breakdown of his relationship with long-term partner Rebecca Pope.

Auckland-born Foran also came under scrutiny for his relationship with former brothel owner Eddie Hayson, a key figure in an on-going police investigation into match fixing.

After walking out on his multi-million dollar four-year deal with Parramatta, he linked with the Warriors.

Speaking publicly for the first time since his move, Foran appeared briefly on stage at the Warriors’ season launch on Wednesday.

“It’s been a breath of fresh air really, I needed it,” he said.

“It’s great to get out of Sydney and get home around extended family and just get back to my roots and be around big love and just start afresh at a new club.”

The NRL last week approved Foran’s return, having satisfied the integrity unit he was in a fit and proper state of mind and sorted out his personal life.

He will have to undergo final mental health checks before his return and will face off against the Eels in a round six blockbuster at Mt Smart Stadium.

He said he had already felt some much-needed love and support from the Warriors players and staff and was relaxed and settled in Auckland.

“It’s been brilliant, the boys have made me feel welcome from the get-go and I just think all Kiwis are like that,” Foran said.

“It’s just one big family and it’s no different at the Warriors. I’ve really enjoyed my time so far.”

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Leftist, ex-banker face Ecuador run-off

Ecuador’s presidential election will go to an April run-off between leftist government candidate Lenin Moreno and ex-banker Guillermo Lasso after a nail-biter first round.

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Moreno needed 40 per cent of valid votes and a 10 percentage-point difference over his nearest rival to win outright.

He was the clear leader of Sunday’s election, pocketing 39.21 per cent of valid votes versus 28.34 per cent for Lasso, with 95.3 per cent of votes counted.

With the Andean country on tenterhooks and the opposition protesting for prompt results, the electoral body said the results could not change, although it was waiting for all ballots to be counted before officially proclaiming a second round.

Opposition protesters had massed in front of the electoral council headquarters in mountainous capital Quito since Sunday to denounce what they say were fraud attempts.

The government retorted they were inciting violence and urged patience.

Ecuador’s fragmented opposition is now expected to close ranks around Lasso in a run-off amid anger over an economic downturn and a series of corruption scandals, potentially ending a decade of leftist rule in Ecuador.

Should Ecuador move to the right with a second-round victory for Lasso, it would follow on the heels of Argentina, Brazil and Peru, which have swerved away from the left as a China-led commodities boom ended.

Lasso has campaigned on a platform to revive the economy, which is dependent on exports of oil, flowers and shrimp, by slashing taxes, fostering foreign investment and creating a million jobs in four years.

He has also vowed to remove WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy in London and denounce Venezuela’s socialist government.

Tiny plastic particles from clothing, tyres clogging oceans: report

Unlike the shocking images of country-sized garbage patches floating in the oceans, the microplastic particles that wash off textiles and roadways leave the waterways looking pristine.

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 But they constitute a significant part of the “plastic soup” clogging our waters — accounting for between 15 and 31 percent of the estimated 9.5 million tonnes of plastic released into the oceans each year, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

 In its report “Primary Microplastics in the Oceans”, IUCN found that in many developed countries in North America and Europe, which have effective waste management, tiny plastic particles are in fact a bigger source of marine plastic pollution than plastic waste.

 In addition to car tyres and synthetic textiles, such particles stem from everything from marine coatings and road markings, to city dust and the microbeads in cosmetics.

 “Plastic waste is not all there is to ocean plastics,” IUCN chief Inger Andersen said in a statement, insisting that “we must look far beyond waste management if we are to address ocean pollution in its entirety.” 

“Our daily activities, such as washing clothes and driving, significantly contribute to the pollution choking our oceans, with potentially disastrous effects on the rich diversity of life within them, and on human health,” she warned.

Considerable impact

 While microplastics are hard to spot, they can seriously harm marine wildlife and as they enter the global food and water supplies they are believed to pose a significant risk to human health.

 Karl Gustaf Lundin, who heads IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme, acknowledged that few studies have been done so far on the impact of tiny plastic particles on human health.

 But he pointed out to AFP that such particles are small enough to actually move through our membranes, “so we have to assume that there probably will be considerable impact.”

 IUCN is calling on the makers of tyres and clothing especially to shift their production methods and make products that pollute less.

 Lundin pointed out that tyre makers could for instance revert back to using mainly rubber, while textile makers could stop using plastic coatings on clothes.

 Washing machine makers could also install filters that could catch micro and even nano plastic particles, he said.

 Such steps are vital to limit the damage, he said, warning that the situation is particularly worrying in the Arctic — the biggest source of sea food in Europe and North America.

“It seems the microplastic is freezing into the sea ice, and since you actually lower the melting point of ice when you have small particles in it, you have a quicker disappearance of sea ice,” he said.

Lundin pointed out that when the ice melts, it releases plankton that attracts fish, allowing the plastic particles to “go straight into our food chain.”

Related

Bone healing procedure ‘inefficient’:study

A procedure recommended by health officials to speed up healing for broken bones does not improve outcomes for patients, a new study has found.

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Low intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS) devices are marketed to accelerate recovery from a fracture.

Guidance published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in 2010 says there is “clinical benefit” to using the procedure, particularly among patients with “delayed healing and fracture non-union”.

But a new study, published in The British Medical Journal (BMJ), concluded LIPUS “fails to accelerate return to work, return to full weight-bearing and pain reduction or reduce the need for subsequent operation”.

A linked guideline suggests the LIPUS, which has been used for more than two decades to promote bone healing, does not represent an “efficient use of health resources”.

Experts carried out a detailed analysis of the evidence on the use of these ultrasound devices.

After examining data from 26 trials, they concluded LIPUS did not reduce time to return to work or the number of subsequent operations for patients.

And when only trials at low risk of bias were considered, the technique did not reduce days to weight-bearing or a patient’s pain.

The authors of the linked guideline wrote: “We have moderate to high certainty of a lack of benefit for outcomes important to patients and, combined with the high costs of treatment, LIPUS represents an inefficient use of limited healthcare resources.”

About four out of every 100 people experience a fracture each year and between five per cent and 10 per cent of these cases will experience slow or complicated healing.