Saturday, June 23, 2007


An email from noted British science writer, David Whitehouse []

The new report by the BBC Trust is to be welcomed very much by all those who care for the practical expression of the highest journalistic standards and the fair reporting of climate change and not just the illustration of the consensus viewpoint, as has been happening at the BBC.

Part of the BBC Trust report states: "Climate change is another subject where dissenters can be unpopular. There may be now a broad scientific consensus that climate change is definitely happening, and that it is at least predominantly man-made. But the second part of that consensus still has some intelligent and articulate opponents, even if a small minority."

It's easy to over interpret words but pay attention to the phrase "there MAY be a broad scientific consensus." It will be interesting if this viewpoint by the BBC's ultimate governing body reaches the news bulletins.

The next section of the report is also interesting. "Jana Bennett, Director of Television, argued at the seminar that 'as journalists, we have the duty to understand where the weight of the evidence has got to. And that is an incredibly important thing in terms of public understanding - equipping citizens, informing the public as to what's going to happen or not happen possibly over the next couple of hundred years.'

Roger Mosey, Director of Sport, said that in his former job as head of TV News, he had been lobbied by scientists 'about what they thought was a disproportionate number of people denying climate change getting on our airwaves and being part of a balanced discussion - because they believe, absolutely sincerely, that climate change is now scientific fact."

I don't think anyone would argue that climate change was not a scientific fact or that it is always happening, for one reason or another. But behind those comments one can see that some scientists, or groups of them, have clearly learned the techniques of lobbying the media from political parties in order to get their own viewpoint expressed and limit the viewpoint of those whom they disagree with....

It seems that such lobbying had an effect on BBC News climate change coverage, as they admitted in their own words. In November 2005 the BBC had already decided that the science of global warming was established and that because in their view the number of sceptics was 'dwindling' the contrary viewpoint was irrelevant so that they did not have to report it.....

But now that has changed. The Trust has recognised that the climate change coverage on BBC News was not impartial news coverage but a de facto campaign. The BBC Trust report again:

"The BBC has held a high-level seminar with some of the best scientific experts, and has come to the view that the weight of evidence no longer justifies equal space being given to the opponents of the consensus. But these dissenters (or even sceptics) will still be heard, as they should, because it is not the BBC's role to close down this debate. They cannot be simply dismissed as 'flat-earthers' or 'deniers', who 'should not be given a platform' by the BBC. Impartiality always requires a breadth of view: for as long as minority opinions are coherently and honestly expressed, the BBC must give them appropriate space.

'Bias by elimination' is even more offensive today than it was in 1926. The BBC has many public purposes of both ambition and merit - but joining campaigns to save the planet is not one of them. The BBC's best contribution is to increase public awareness of the issues and possible solutions through impartial and accurate programming."

Personally it is heartening that the BBC Trust recognise what has been going on as I have previously argued that what was happening was bias by elimination. I also hope that the BBC will decide not to use the phrase 'climate change deniers' as it is inaccurate and pejorative.

The BBC Trust report continues: "Acceptance of a basic scientific consensus only sharpens the need for hawk-eyed scrutiny of the arguments surrounding both causation and solution. It remains important that programme-makers relish the full range of debate that such a central and absorbing subject offers, scientifically, politically and ethically, and avoid being misrepresented as standard-bearers."

These are wise words and not before time. The only standard the BBC should be bearing is good journalism and it is good that, in the case of climate change, the BBC Trust has reminded them of that.

Australians tougher than the Brits

Navy men repelled five Iranian boats

THE ADF has confirmed that Australian sailors repelled five Iranian gunboats during an armed four-hour confrontation in the Persian Gulf. A spokesman said the armed stand-off lasted four hours and happened in March 2004.

Earlier today the BBC reported that an Australian Navy crew had aimed its machine guns at an Iranian gunboat in the Persian Gulf which threatened it just weeks before 15 British sailors were captured in a similar incident. According to the report, Iranian forces made a concerted attempt to seize a boarding party from the Royal Australian Navy. The Australians, though, to quote one military source, "were having none of it".

The Australians apparently re-boarded the vessel they had just searched, aimed their machine guns at the approaching Iranians and warned them to back off, using what was said to be "highly colourful language". The Iranians withdrew, and the Australians were lifted off the ship by one of their own helicopters.

The lessons from the earlier attempt do not appear to have been applied in time by British maritime patrols. The 15 Britons were searching a cargo boat in the Gulf when they were captured over a boundary dispute. When Iranian Revolutionary Guards captured the British sailors and Royal Marines in March, it was not exactly their first attempt. The British personnel were eventually released

The circumstances for the Britons in March were slightly different in that they were caught so much by surprise that, had they attempted to repel the Iranians with their limited firepower, they would doubtless have taken very heavy casualties.

But military sources say that what is of concern is that the Royal Navy did not appear to have taken sufficient account of the lessons of the Australian encounter. In an oblique reference to the threat from Iran, Britain's First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, has recently admitted there was a need for greater strategic awareness in the northern Gulf.

RSL state president Doug Formby said if the report was accurate, it reflected the quality of training and dedication of Australian service personnel. "I think that Australians over many years have been recognised throughout the world as being amongst the best trained, best prepared soldiers, sailors and airmen for any (military) commitment, he said. "If this has happened, these fellows have just done whats expected of them and what they were trained to do. "I would like to put it down largely to the training and preparation and professionalism of our service people. If it reflects well on our servicemen, well thats great.


Easiest to enter Britain illegally

Sounds a lot like the USA

HOLIDAYMAKERS who only say they plan to sightsee during a visit to Britain could find their tourist visa applications being refused, a monitoring body said in a report. It is a standard reason given for not granting tourist visas, the Independent Monitor for Entry Clearance Refusals, Linda Costelloe Baker, found in her annual report. Would-be visitors who have never before travelled abroad could also find it difficult to holiday in Britain.

Costelloe Baker cited one case where an applicant had been told by an officer: "You have never previously undertaken any foreign travel before and I can see little reason for this trip." "This is a common reason for refusal," she added. "Entry clearance officers can use some ridiculous reasons when refusing a visa for tourist visits," Costelloe Baker said. She cited one case where an applicant who had previously travelled abroad was refused entry because the countries were "nowhere near the UK". In another case the applicant was told he or she did not have a "sufficient command of the language for the purposes of tourism".

Costelloe Baker said in her report: "Well, if knowledge of the language was a requirement for travel, that would certainly stop lots of British citizens going on their hols." Taking annual vacation in this country was not a good enough reason for one entry clearance officer, while wanting to visit friends near the seaside fell short for another applicant from St Petersburg because he had not said where he wanted to visit.

A would-be tourist who wanted to stay in a hotel in London while visiting friends in Surrey and Kent was turned down because the entry officer had misread it as Cirencester "far from his friends".

Despite such flaws there had been a "significant improvement in quality", she added. The department, UKvisas, formed in 2000 as a joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Home Office initiative, received 2.2 million applications between January 2006 and September 2006, of which it issued 1.8 million visas. Costelloe Baker found 86 percent of refusal notices overall were reasonable and provided correct information about the rights of appeal.


Leftist Jews involved in proposed British academic boycott of Israel

Many of the key players in the escalating British campaign to boycott Israel are Jewish or Israeli, the Jewish Chronicle revealed in an investigation published Thursday. According to the investigation, the Jewish academics justify their stance as part of the struggle for Palestinian rights and ending Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories. The report stated that a high proportion of the academics were deeply involved in UCU, the University and College Union, which last month sparked an international outcry by voting to facilitate a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

Anti-boycott figures suggest that the campaign has been fuelled by a well-organized mix of far-left activists and Islamic organizations, the JC reported. In reality, the main proponents are a loosely knit collection of academics and trade unionists linked to groups such as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Jews for the Boycotting of Israeli Goods, and Bricup, the British Committee for Universities of Palestine.

Israeli Haim Bresheeth, professor of media and culture at the University of East London, seconded the UCU motion, which called for consideration of the morality of ties with Israeli academia and for discussions on boycotting. Prof Bresheeth told the JC that a boycott was not an easy decision. "I am Jewish and an Israeli, and I don't wish harm on either side. But how long can this occupation go on?" Characterizing opposition to a boycott as insincere, he added, "What we are asking for is not violent. It is civil action against a military occupation."

According to the JC, Bricup has a large number of Jewish supporters, among them husband and wife Hilary and Steven Rose. Hilary, a professor of social policy at Bradford University, is Bricup's co-convenor alongside Prof Jonathan Rosenhead. Her husband, an Open University biology professor, is the organization's secretary. They have been active in the boycott movement since 2002. In an online article, Steven Rose wrote, "It really isn't good enough to attack the messenger as anti-Semitic or a self-hating Jew rather than deal with the message that Israel's conduct is unacceptable."


Brits lose another al Qaeda suspect after turning him loose with a "control order" : "A suspected Al Qaeda recruiting sergeant is on the loose in Britain after becoming the seventh control order suspect to abscond. The Iraqi asylum seeker, a follower of dead Al Qaeda warlord Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, vanished from his home on Monday. His disappearance leaves the policy of using control orders to monitor terror suspects in tatters. A minister admitted that the orders cannot prevent "determined" suspects escaping. The missing man is alleged to have been part of a six-man recruitment team sent to Britain by Al Qaeda in Iraq to enlist volunteers to join attacks on British and U.S. troops serving there. He managed to gain a foothold here by claiming to be fleeing persecution in Iraq."

Scottish nationalism peeping out: "This, apparently, is the beginning of Scotland and Northern Ireland becoming a force or, maybe, two forces in the world: asking for more money from the poor benighted English taxpayer. It is at times like this that I begin to appreciate the arguments in favour of an English parliament, though I remain at heart a Unionist. Anyway, so far Alex Salmond, temporary leader of the Scottish Assembly (his share of the vote is considerably less than overwhelming) has not said anything of any interest on his ideas for foreign policy, beyond pointing out that the Nordic countries have an alliance and it has a certain clout in the world. Of course, the Nordic countries pay for their own alliances and diplomatic services. One assumes that is at the heart of this and subsequent statements. Scotland wants its own diplomatic service and its own negotiators. Who will pay for this? Need you ask?"

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