Thursday, October 18, 2007

BBC bombs again

Yesterday, I put up an article by Roger Harrabin, BBC "Environment Analyst", in which he claimed that Al Gore was "an environmental science graduate". I raised my eyebrows when I saw that but did not have time to follow it up. The Devil's Kitchen has however done so and it appears that the claim is totally false. Gore graduated in Government, in fact.

I have found the following summary of Gore's science education:

Mr. Gore's high school performance on the college board achievement tests in physics (488 out of 800 "terrible," St. Albans retired teacher and assistant headmaster John Davis told The Post) and chemistry (519 out of 800 "He didn't do too well in chemistry," Mr. Davis observed) suggests that Mr. Gore would have trouble with science for the rest of his life. At Harvard and Vanderbilt, Mr. Gore continued bumbling along.

As a Harvard sophomore, scholar Al "earned" a D in Natural Sciences 6 in a course presciently named "Man's Place in Nature." That was the year he evidently spent more time smoking cannabis than studying its place among other plants within the ecosystem. His senior year, Mr. Gore received a C+ in Natural Sciences 118.

Africans are less intelligent than Westerners, says DNA pioneer

Fury that anybody would say publicly what every single scientific study of the subject has shown

One of the world's most eminent scientists was embroiled in an extraordinary row last night after he claimed that black people were less intelligent than white people and the idea that "equal powers of reason" were shared across racial groups was a delusion. James Watson, a Nobel Prize winner for his part in the unravelling of DNA who now runs one of America's leading scientific research institutions, drew widespread condemnation for comments he made ahead of his arrival in Britain today for a speaking tour at venues including the Science Museum in London.

The 79-year-old geneticist reopened the explosive debate about race and science in a newspaper interview in which he said Western policies towards African countries were wrongly based on an assumption that black people were as clever as their white counterparts when "testing" suggested the contrary. He claimed genes responsible for creating differences in human intelligence could be found within a decade.

The newly formed Equality and Human Rights Commission, successor to the Commission for Racial Equality, said it was studying Dr Watson's remarks "in full". Dr Watson told The Sunday Times that he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours - whereas all the testing says not really". He said there was a natural desire that all human beings should be equal but "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true".

His views are also reflected in a book published next week, in which he writes: "There is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so."

The furore echoes the controversy created in the 1990s by The Bell Curve, a book co-authored by the American political scientist Charles Murray, which suggested differences in IQ were genetic and discussed the implications of a racial divide in intelligence. The work was heavily criticised across the world, in particular by leading scientists who described it as a work of "scientific racism"....

Anti-racism campaigners called for Dr Watson's remarks to be looked at in the context of racial hatred laws. A spokesman for the 1990 Trust, a black human rights group, said: "It is astonishing that a man of such distinction should make comments that seem to perpetuate racism in this way. It amounts to fuelling bigotry and we would like it to be looked at for grounds of legal complaint."

More here

NHS official condemns NHS

Condemns government meddling

The departing chairman of a hospital trust at the centre of an infection scandal has called for a “root and branch” review of all aspects of nursing across the NHS, in an astonishing letter of resignation. James Lee, the chairman of Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, yesterday became the latest victim of the scandal following the damning report released last week which found that Clostridium difficile infections had caused the deaths of 90 patients at the trust over a two-year period. Mr Lee offered his resignation by letter to the Health Secretary, which Alan Johnson, in a statement to the House of Commons, later announced had been accepted.

But in a separate letter detailing his reasons for stepping down, the senior manager openly condemned a culture of “command-and-control” in the NHS. The comments made by Mr Lee come after the Healthcare Commission found a “litany” of errors in infection control at all levels in the trust’s three hospitals. He said that the pressure of government targets, the desperate financial position of the trust and failings in nursing care contributed to the spate of infections at Maidstone, Kent & Sussex, and Pembury hospitals.

The target to reduce waiting times was “never really achievable at the trust” while it was “struggling with a state that is pretty close to bankruptcy”, he stated. He added: “I would strongly recommend that the NHS needs to have a root and branch review of all aspects of nursing. I am convinced that something has gone badly wrong.”

His letter started: “Dear Secretary of State, by now you will have received my letter of October 14th, offering you my resignation. “The events described in a report by the Healthcare Commission were nothing short of a tragedy . . . I am writing to you now to help you to understand some aspects of the background to this story. “I am very conscious of the fact that this may seem like an excuse. It is not. There is no excuse for what happened. 90 people died. I simply want to place recent events in their proper context and for us all to learn the lessons.”

Mr Lee went on to explain that the trust’s board had to “devote an inordinate amount of time” to targets and finances, at the expense of managing infections. He concluded: “In my opinion, it was never practical to apply the same uniform target to all trusts, regardless of their starting position, their capability, or the ability of local commissioners to fund the necessary growth in capacity. I strongly urge you to consider making these targets more flexible.” He also recommended that the Department of Health reviews the financial position of health authorities in West Kent.

“We knew that the Treasury was pumping money into the NHS, but quite frankly none of this seemed to be getting to the coal-face,” he added. “I am personally convinced that the formula, which is used to allocate funds to local health economies, is very badly flawed. “I describe these pressures, not to justify or excuse the awful tragedy, which befell our patients, but to help you and the public understand the back story to these terrible events.”

Kent County Council has offered the trust a 5 million pound loan to help to restore public confidence in the hospitals where 1,176 patients were infected with C. difficile during two outbreaks of the infection between April 2004 and September 2006. Of those, at least 345 patients later died.

Mr Johnson described the Healthcare Commission report into the outbreaks at the trust as “a truly shocking document” and apologised to affected patients and relatives on behalf of the Government and the NHS. Rose Gibb, the chief executive of the trust, resigned just days before the publication of the damning report. Mr Johson insisted that “the awful failures” were unrepresentative of the standards of care expected and delivered in hospitals across the country.

But in response, Andrew Lansley, the Shadow Health Secretary, said that the outbreaks in Kent were not an isolated occurrence. “We have had other cases and the common link between them is that managers in the NHS have been more focused on the Government’s targets and the Government’s imperatives, than they have on patient safety,” he said. “Alan Johnson must accept the reality that the target culture is compromising patient safety.” Glenn Douglas, the new acting chief executive for the trust, has promised “zero tolerance” of C. difficile.


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