Saturday, August 18, 2007

Matthew Syed says something useful

On 4th., I made a few comments about an article in "The Times" of London by Matthew Syed in which he attacked all mention of race. He has apparently done some reading since then. His latest article is still a rehash of a lot of old stuff but he has got to the point now of attacking Leftists for thinking that interracial differences have to be denied. Bravo Matthew! Keep up your reading.

Stab-proof school uniforms go on sale in Britain to protect pupils from knife attacks

The story below is not the half of it. Some British parents in areas with large black populations send their kids to shool in BULLET-proof vests

Parents are sending children to school in stab-proof uniforms to guard against knife crime, it has emerged. They are paying a firm which makes body armour to line blazers and jumpers with a stab-resistant material called Kevlar. The precautions are aimed at protecting pupils from knife attacks as street crime spills over into schools. A wave of stabbings involving teenagers includes the killing of promising footballer Kiyan Prince, who was knifed just yards from his school gates in north London.

Kevlar is a synthetic fibre that can be spun into fabric five times stronger than steel and is used in armoured vests worn by British troops in Iraq. Essex-based firm BladeRunner produces clothing lined with the material for police and security guards. But inquiries from parents have now prompted it to modfify school uniforms.

Barry Samms, one of the firm's directors, said the company initially produced stab-proof hooded tops that were bought by teenagers. It was then asked by parents about the possibility of strengthening school uniforms with Kevlar. The firm now offers to line blazers and jumpers with the material if pupils send in their uniforms. Blazers cost 120 pounds to stab-proof and jumpers 60 to 70. "The blazers and jumpers have come on the back of the hooded tops which we launched in April," said Mr Samms. "Since then we had a small amount of parents contacting us and asking if we could do something similar with their kids' uniforms so we have been modifying them for them. "We have done blazers and jumpers - we have done about half a dozen so far. It's somehing that we can do and it's something we are offering."

He said parents who had inquired about stab-proof clothing were genuinely fearful for their children's safety. He said: "From what I can gather and from speaking to parents it's just peace of mind for them. "I spoke to a lady yesterday whose son was mugged on a bus coming home from school. She has also got two daughters, but she always sends them to school with no money on them and no jewellery."

Police chiefs said the precautions were an "extraordinary step". "The reality of course is that crimes involving knives are proportionately very very low" Alf Hitchcock, of the Association of Chief Police Officers told BBC News Online. "But we do recognise some parents have that fear and some feel they need to go these steps."

Seven boys under the age of 16 have died in knife attacks in the space of just two months this year. Teachers are also demanding to be equipped with stab-proof vests to protect them from attack as they frisk pupils for knives and guns. New laws which recently came into effect will allow staff to conduct forcible searches of students suspected of carrying offensive weapons. But members of the Professional Association of Teachers are saying they should not be made to carry out searches unless they are provided with body armour.



Journal abstract and Introduction below:

Mistreatment of the economic impacts of extreme events in the Stern Review: Report on the Economics of Climate Change

By Roger Pielke Jr.


The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change has focused debate on the costs and benefits of alternative courses of action on climate change. This refocusing has helped to move debate away from science of the climate system and on to issues of policy. However, a careful examination of the Stern Review's treatment of the economics of extreme events in developed countries, such as floods and tropical cyclones, shows that the report is selective in its presentation of relevant impact studies and repeats a common error in impacts studies by confusing sensitivity analyses with projections of future impacts. The Stern Review's treatment of extreme events is misleading because it overestimates the future costs of extreme weather events in developed countries by an order of magnitude. Because the Stern Report extends these findings globally, the overestimate propagates through the report's estimate of future global losses. When extreme events are viewed more comprehensively the resulting perspective can be used to expand the scope of choice available to decision makers seeking to grapple with future disasters in the context of climate change. In particular, a more comprehensive analysis underscores the importance of adaptation in any comprehensive portfolio of responses to climate change.

Article Outline

1. Introduction: exploiting an excess of objectivity
2. Stern error #1: Selected Reference
3. Error #2: exploiting the unreality of a static society
4. How the Stern Review might have addressed the economics of extreme events: robust science for robust decision making
5. Conclusion: science advisors: issue advocate or honest broker?

1. Introduction: exploiting an excess of objectivity

In a provocative article titled "How Science Makes Environmental Controversies Worse" Daniel Sarewitz explains that scientific research results in an "excess of objectivity" in political debates (Sarewitz, 2004). What he means with this phrase is that in most (if not all) cases of political conflict involving science, available research is sufficiently diverse so as to provide a robust resource for political advocates to start with a conclusion and then selectively pick and choose among existing scientific studies to buttress their case. Simply put, to cherry pick, to take the best leave the rest. An "excess of objectivity," Sarewitz argues, stems not simply from the presence of scientific uncertainty, but also from the fact that, "...nature itself-the reality out there-is sufficiently rich and complex to support a science enterprise of enormous methodological, disciplinary, and institutional diversity., in doing its job well, presents this richness, through a proliferation of facts assembled via a variety of disciplinary lenses, in ways that can legitimately support, and are causally indistinguishable from, a range of competing, value-based political positions. ... from this perspective, scientific uncertainty, which so often occupies a central place in environmental controversies, can be understood not as a lack of scientific understanding but as the lack of coherence among competing scientific understandings."

Accepting Sarewitz's position complicates the challenge of effectively using science, or other facts, to argue for a particular course of action. The main peril is that an advocate for a particular agenda will first decide upon a course of action and then seek science useful in justifying that course of action. Of course, the advocate's political opponent will also settle on a (different) particular agenda and seek out their own justifying science. What then typically happens is that the political debate is transferred to the science used as justifications, rather than taking place explicitly in terms of the values or outcomes at stake that motivated the political controversy in the first place. Scientific debate then becomes a proxy for political debate, and gridlock and inaction often result because science alone cannot resolve political disputes.

One way out of this situation is for advisors to clearly associate scientific understandings with a wide range of possible policy options (Pielke, 2007). Rather than narrowing the scope of possible action justified by appeals to selected science, the point of such advice is to expand, or at least comprehensively map, policy options and their relationship to the diversity of current scientific understandings. Such an approach clearly distinguishes the role of advisor from advocate, and advisor from decision maker.

In the area of climate change, there have been countless efforts to provide scientific advice to decision makers. The Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change is one such effort (Stern, 2007). The Stern Review has already achieved several notable successes. Among them, it has focused attention on the challenge of climate change and helped to redirect attention away from debates over science and toward debates over the costs and benefits of alternative courses of action. However, in making its case for the significant future economic costs of extreme weather events in developed countries the Stern Review commits two significant errors that affect its estimates.

In its Chapter 5 the Stern Review concludes, "The costs of climate change for developed countries could reach several percent of GDP as higher temperatures lead to a sharp increase in extreme weather events and large-scale changes." (Stern, 2007, p. 137). This conclusion cannot be supported by the Review's own analysis and references to literature. One error is a serious misrepresentation of the scientific literature, and the second is more subtle, but no less significant. The serious misrepresentation takes the form of inaccurately presenting the conclusions of an unpublished paper on trends in disaster losses.

The second error is more complex and involves conflating an analysis of the sensitivity of society to future changes in extreme events, assuming that society does not change, with a projection of how extreme event impacts will increase in the future under the integrated conditions of climatic and societal change.

The result of the errors in the Stern Review is a significant overstatement of the future costs of extreme climate events not simply in the developed world, but globally-by an order of magnitude. In light of these errors if the Stern Review is to be viewed as a means of supporting a particular political agenda, then it undercuts its own credibility and this risks its effectiveness. If instead the Stern Review is to be viewed as a policy analysis of the costs and benefits of alternative courses of actions on climate change, then at least in the case of extreme events it has missed an opportunity to clarify the scope of such actions and their possible consequences, and arguably misdirects attention away from those actions most likely to be effective with respect to future catastrophe losses.

In either case, on the issue of extreme events and climate change, the Stern Review must be judged a failure. This short paper documents these errors and suggests how an alternative approach might have been structured.

FULL PAPER at Global Environmental Change, Article in Press, 2007.

Umbilical rethink

Cutting or clamping the umbilical cord immediately after birth could be harmful to the newborn child, doctors say. About half of maternity units are estimated to clamp and then remove the cord between mother and child soon after birth, but this could increase the risk of serious blood disorders, according to research.

Leaving the cord intact for a few minutes can increase blood supply and iron levels in the baby and reduce the risk of anaemia, a common infant condition, the British Medical Journal reports today. Andrew Weeks, a senior lecturer in obstetrics at the University of Liverpool, argues that there are benefits in waiting before clamping or cutting the cord.

A study this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association said that waiting two minutes before cutting the cord reduced the risk of serious blood disorders and benefited the baby in its first few months. The Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists said that there were no guidelines on when exactly the cord should be cut.


British bureaucracy at work: "The external gate of a jail with more than 1,000 inmates was left open at night to allow staff to park in a secure area within its walls, according to a report by the Chief Inspector of Prisons. Anne Owers expressed concern at the general casualness about aspects of security at Ranby jail in Retford, Nottinghamshire. Security staff admitted that they were fighting a losing battle against drugs being smuggled into the prison, where there were difficulties in patrolling the perimeter fence. Ms Owers also highlighted a "large and unexpected" shortfall in the prison's accounts that could lead to delays in dealing with the problems."

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