Tuesday, September 18, 2007

BBC bias again

It was Matt Frei that put me right. On Monday afternoon I watched General David Petraeus testify before Congress. I listened as he went through the facts of the military action in Iraq. I learnt as he outlined the improvements brought about in recent months.

But it wasn't until I heard Frei's take on General Petraeus's words that I realised what had really been going on. The BBC Washington correspondent told us that he had listened "very carefully" - as opposed to his usual half-cocked approach, perhaps? - and gleaned what was actually being said: "Having tried to resist the fragmentation, the creeping partition, ethnic cleansing, the White House now seems to have bowed to that." Forget the reams of pages and the hours of testimony about military strategy and dealing with terrorists. The real story of the general's report is that the White House is to start ethnically cleansing Iraqis.

Frei is also possessed of an astonishing ability to look into the future and canvas an entire nation's views. At 5pm Washington time - just a few hours after Gen Petraeus's report was available - he felt able to report that the US public had a negative reaction to it. One can only marvel at his capacity to discern from his perch in DC what countrywide polling agencies will take days to discover.

One should not be surprised by Frei's warped take. His reports from Washington drip with condescension towards Americans and, most of all, Republicans. He recently called the contest for the Republican nomination - a race that is rather more intriguing than usual - a "panic-stricken hunt". Given his penchant for such creative contempt for the people among whom he lives, it's no wonder that he has been nicknamed Stir Frei.

Awful as Frei may be, he fits the BBC's editorial agenda perfectly. The lead report on Monday's Ten O'Clock News, by the corporation's world affairs editor, John Simpson, went two minutes without mentioning anything said by General Petraeus, offering instead clips of opponents of the war attacking the report. Simpson then sneered that President Bush cares not a jot what is actually happening in Iraq, caring only how US voters perceive it. Only at the end were we permitted a tantalising glimpse of what the general said.

So yesterday's Victoria Derbyshire phone-in on BBC 5 Live was par for the course. The question of the day was: "Do you believe the Americans? Are things improving in Iraq?" For the first half-hour, every single caller informed us that Petraeus was lying about military progress. And don't think the airing of such biased calls was anything other than an editorial decision. I called in to suggest that it was unlikely that the entire US military high command was engaged in a conspiracy to lie to the world. And was I put on air? Of course not.


Guinness 'may be good for you' after all

Ignore the "antioxidant" explanation given below. Antioxidants are the medical equivalent of global warming -- used to explain just about anything. The only interesting thing is whether the study was double blind or not. I suspect not but I have been unable to find the journal article behind the report below. It seems to recycle a 2003 report -- perhaps because the 2003 report has finally reached journal publication. The author would appear to be Prof. J.D. Folts but Medline does not yet list the Guinness article. Prof. Folts is normally a grape-juice enthusiast

The old slogan "Guinness is Good For You" may actually be true, according to new medical research that suggests the stout may help prevent heart attacks. University researchers in the US claim that drinking a pint of the black stuff each day may be as effective in preventing heart attacks as an aspirin because it can reduce heart clots.

Trials at the University of Wisconsin used dogs with narrowed arteries similar to those in people with heart disease to compare effects of drinking stout with those of drinking lager. They found Guinness reduced clotting activity but lager did not. The research concluded that the "antioxidant compounds" found in Guinness are similar to those found in certain fruits and vegetables, making the stout work as well as aspirin in the prevention of heart clots. The researchers said that the most benefit they saw was from taking 24 fluid ounces of Guinness - just over a pint - at meal times.

Blood clots can trigger heart attacks if they lodge in arteries that supply blood to the heart. Many patients at risk of heart attacks are prescribed low-dose aspirin, which reduces the blood's ability blood to form clots.

Guinness was ordered to stop using its famous "Guinness is Good For You" advertising slogan decades ago. The original 1920s campaign stemmed from market research which found that Guinness drinkers felt good after a pint. At one point in England post-operative patients used to be given Guinness, as were blood donors, because of its high iron content. Pregnant women and nursing mothers were also advised to drink the stout - but present advice is against this. Diageo, which now manufactures Guinness said "We never make any medical claims for our drinks" and reiterated their calls for "responsible drinking."

The UK is the largest market in the world for Guinness.


Victorian capitalism unfairly maligned

The plight of child labourers in Victorian Britain is not usually considered to have been a happy one. Writers such as Charles Dickens painted a grim picture of the hardships suffered by young people in the mills, factories and workhouses of the Industrial Revolution. But an official report into the treatment of working children in the 1840s, made available online yesterday for the first time, suggests the situation was not so bad after all.

The frank accounts emerged in interviews with dozens of youngsters conducted for the Children's Employment Commission. The commission was set up by Lord Ashley in 1840 to support his campaign for reducing the working hours of women and children.

Surprisingly, a number of the children interviewed did not complain about their lot -- even though they were questioned away from their workplace and the scrutinising eyes of their employers.

Sub-commissioner Frederick Roper noted in his 1841 investigation of pre-independence Dublin's pin-making establishments: "Notwithstanding their evident poverty ... there is in their countenances an appearance of good health and much cheerfulness."

A report on workers at a factory in Belfast found a 14-year-old boy who earned four shillings a week "would rather be doing something better ... but does not dislike his current employment". The report concluded: "I find all in this factory able to read, and nearly all to write. They are orderly, appear to be well-behaved, and to be very contented."


There is a big new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly incorrect themes of race and IQ.

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