Thursday, May 01, 2008


The Green/Left elite finally notice the workers

Coverage about global warming in UK tabloid newspapers has been significantly divergent from the scientific consensus that humans contribute to climate change. That's according to Max Boykoff and Maria Mansfield of the University of Oxford, UK, who studied papers from 2000 to 2006. "This was surprising, because in other research on the UK broadsheet newspapers I've found that this coverage has been quite accurate," Boykoff told environmentalresearchweb. "We hope that this work will encourage tabloid newspapers to reflect further on the accuracy of their reporting on human contributions to climate change, particularly given their high readership in the UK publics. Contrarian comments in a column by Michael Hanlon in the Daily Mail or Jeremy Clarkson in The Sun may be off-the-cuff or playful at times, but they have a tremendous influence on how readership may understand climate change science and policy."

The team found that the Daily Mail was more divergent from the scientific consensus than other tabloid newspapers. There were generally two main influences behind the tabloids' divergence. "First was reliance on the journalistic norm of balance, where roughly equal attention was placed the view that humans contribute to climate change, and that our contribution is negligible," said Boykoff. "I had found this journalistic norm as influential in other earlier work on US newspaper and television coverage of anthropogenic climate change."

And secondly, almost a third of the divergent coverage was attributed to 'contrarian' views that make claims that humans' role in climate change is negligible. Tabloids have an important influence on public opinion in the UK as they have average daily circulations as much as ten times higher than many broadsheet newspapers. "Assessments of UK media influence on science-policy interactions have tended to focus on the broadsheet or 'quality' press sources - the Guardian, Independent, Daily Telegraph, Financial Times and Times of London," said Boykoff. "However, we argue that these analyses have suffered from a blind spot in considerations, by overlooking what are called the 'tabloid press' - The Sun (and News of the World), Daily Mail (and Mail on Sunday), the Daily Express (and Sunday Express), and the Mirror (and Sunday Mirror)."

And readers of tabloids tend to come from different socio-economic backgrounds to broadsheet consumers, typically being more working class. "While these segments of the population have been of secondary importance in previous science-policy and science-media-policy analyses, such examinations need to take on a more central role, as these citizens make up critical components of potential social movements and public pressure for improved climate policy action," said Boykoff.

Many media workers interviewed for the study highlighted the political and economic constraints they face in reporting climate change. "For example, with little specialist science training it was challenging to cover the intricacies of climate change while they were also covering a broad range of other news 'beats'," said Boykoff. "There remain few science and environment correspondents in the UK tabloid newspapers, and this has been a challenge for accurate climate change reporting."

Boykoff and Mansfield have also been studying how various climate change issues are framed in the UK tabloid press, and the tone of the coverage. "From this, I am examining how these factors influence considerations of market-based and regulatory interventions to grapple with ongoing environmental challenges," said Boykoff. The researchers reported their work in the open-access journal Environmental Research Letters.


NOTE from Benny Peiser, mentioning his skeptical CCNet newsletter: "Max Boykoff seems to blame a lack of scientific understanding among tabloid journalists for their more critical and less compliant climate change reporting. I rather doubt that lack of understanding is the underlying reason why some of these journalists, from time to time, provide more balanced and less one-sided views on climate change issues. After all, there are more than 30 journalists from the four UK tabloids mentioned (Daily Mail, the Daily Express, the Mirror and The Sun) who receive CCNet on a daily basis. I would suggest that many of these journalists are very well informed about the scientific, economic and political controversies that are inherent in the climate debates. It would appear that the main difference between broadsheets and tabloids is that the latter choose to report, from time to time, about conflicting views and research - while the former, most of the time, tend to ignore or stifle them."

It's official: it is now a crime in Britain to be arrogant

The imprisonment of Abu Izzadeen for the `criminal offence' of Talking Bollocks In A Mosque represents a grave assault on free speech

Like me, you probably don't care very much about what happens to Abu Izzadeen, the Radical Cleric Formerly Known as Trevor. He's the ranting mullah best known for heckling former home secretary John Reid in 2006, who was born plain old Trevor Brooks in Hackney, London, and who worked as a BT technician until he decided to convert to Islam and spend his adult life making finger-wagging speeches about evil Jews, British kaffirs, and how `magnificent' 9/11 was. For all I care, Trev can go to hell. In fact, maybe he should make real his promise to become a suicide bomber and `be blown into pieces, with my hands in one place and my feet in another' (1). That sounds like a fitting end for this fancy-dress `terrorist'. just so long as he does it far, far away from other human beings.

However, you should care - a lot - about the implications of the arrest, trial and imprisonment of Izzadeen on charges of `inciting terrorism' and `fundraising for terrorists'. On Friday, Izzadeen was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison at Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Court, after being found guilty of these terrorist offences; five of his cronies received sentences of between two and four years. Reading the coverage of Izzadeen's trial over the weekend, you could be forgiven for thinking that he had literally shaken a tin to collect cash for terrorist groups, and then posted the contents to training camps in Afghanistan or Iraq. In fact, his only `crimes' were crimes of thought and speech - he has been jailed for what he said, and even for how he said it, rather than for anything that he did. His imprisonment represents a new low blow to freedom of speech in Britain.

There was a time when `inciting terrorism' would have meant convincing and cajoling an individual or a group of individuals to commit a terrorist atrocity. And there was a time when `fundraising for terrorists' would have meant, well, raising funds for terrorists: that is, collecting money and handing it over to a terrorist group for the purposes of buying weaponry, semtex, flying lessons or some other item or thing likely to be useful in the commission or execution of an act of terrorism. Not any more. In the trial of Izzadeen and his accomplices, there was not a jot of evidence that anyone had been incited to terrorism by their words, or indeed that their words had been intended as a direct form of incitement, or that Izzadeen, his mates or anyone else who listened to their cranky sermons had sent money to terrorist training camps in Iraq. No, Izzadeen was found guilty and sentenced to four years' imprisonment on the basis of a rambling, incoherent 11-hour `protest sermon' he gave at Regents Park Mosque in November 2004. During the sermon, Izzadeen, who was surrounded by a tiny group of like-minded losers, slated the actions of the American and British armies in Iraq and praised 9/11.

At one point, he also said the following: `Fight the [enemy] with your wealth. Jihad with money, jihad with money. The jihad is to give money for weapons, for tanks, for RPGs, for M16s.' (2) Nasty words, no doubt. But no evidence was presented at Izzadeen's trial to show that those three sentences, delivered during an 11-hour dirge, were part of a broader fundraising campaign, or that anyone sent money to Iraqi insurgents upon hearing Izzadeen's comments. And yet Izzadeen and others were found guilty of `fundraising for terrorists' as surely as if they had been caught red-handed with dollars destined for the coffers of al-Qaeda. Likewise, no evidence was presented to show that Izzadeen's words incited anyone to go to Iraq and blow up some Brits or Yanks; instead it has been argued that his comments `contributed to an atmosphere' in which some Muslims consider killing to be a religious duty (3). Contributed to an atmosphere? When it comes to `indirect incitement', that is about as indirect as it gets.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Izzadeen's real offence was to Talk Bollocks In A Mosque - and whatever you might think of his vile ideas and gruff manner, Talking Bollocks In A Mosque should not be a crime, certainly not one punishable by four years' imprisonment. Izzadeen has effectively been found guilty, not of being a terrorist, but of being a fantasist - of dressing up and adopting the demeanour of a bin Laden-style motormouth mullah who thinks it is big and clever to sing the praises of violent jihad. There's no denying that Izzadeen had a point when he said during his trial that he and his accomplices had used `no other weapon than our tongue' - and so long as you are using your tongue to speak, rather than, say, to poke someone's eye out, then its use should never be a crime (4).

Does the sending down of Izzadeen show that the authorities are using the trials of ugly, unpopular, unctuous Muslim clerics - with whom nobody could possibly sympathise - to experiment with new restrictions on free speech? Certainly, there are good reasons why all of us should be deeply concerned about the precedents set by the imprisonment of this jester-jihadist.

First, the case shows how flabby the category of incitement has become today. Traditionally, in the eyes of the law, incitement involved a close relationship between two parties, where one encouraged, implored or cajoled the other into doing something criminal. Now it seems we can be incited by overhearing the words of a preacher in a mosque, or by watching a DVD of one of his sermons (5). This further erodes the distinction between thought and action, giving rise to the dangerous idea that speech itself is a potentially lethal act, which can easily and unwittingly provoke violence, or the funding of violence, or `create an atmosphere' in which killing becomes more common. Indeed, in Izzadeen's trial, speech and terrorism were treated as one and the same: his words were described as `terrorist fundraising' and as `incitement to terrorism'. In short, words themselves are a form of terror.

The promiscuous redefinition of incitement is bad news for all of us. If the words spoken in a mosque, on a street corner or at a public rally are redefined as violent things in themselves, then that opens up thought and speech to the closer scrutiny and policing of the authorities. Moreover, the new view of incitement calls into question the existence of free will itself. Where the old legal definition of incitement viewed individuals as rational and reasonable, and in need of intense coaxing before they could be said to have been incited, in the current definition of incitement individuals are seen as vulnerable, unthinking automatons who can be provoked into violence upon overhearing a few sentences spoken by a robe-wearing loudmouth. In imprisoning Izzadeen, the authorities are sending a loud and clear message, not only to radical clerics, but to the rest of us too: `We're putting him away to protect your naive, reactive minds from his poisonous terror-words.'

Second, Izzadeen's trial shows how a nervous British elite is using new anti-terror legislation to shield itself from what it sees as political attack and criticism. Bethan David, the Crown Prosecution Service's counterterrorism lawyer, insisted that Izzadeen's imprisonment was not about making it an `an offence to have negative views about Britain and its values and culture'; rather it simply showed that it is an offence to `encourage acts of violence' (6). The lawyer doth protest too much. In making it a crime to `glorify terrorism', and in defining certain words and expressions as terrorist acts, the British authorities' new anti-terror legislation is deeply and politically censorious. When the Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer was asked in 2005 to define what kind of speech would be outlawed by new anti-terror laws, he said that people `attacking the values of the West' could be imprisoned for `long periods' of time (7). It seems contemporary British society is so fragile that it is scared of words; it is so uncertain about what its own core `values and culture' are that it desperately erects a forcefield of censorship around them in the hope that no one will knock them down.

Third, Izzadeen's trial shows how keen the authorities are to police our emotions as well as what we say and what we do. In his summing up, the judge attacked Izzadeen for being `arrogant [and] contemptuous'. To one of the other defendants, the judge said: `You are someone with extremist and dangerous views. Not only the words themselves, but the tone in which they were issued, showed the depth of your fanatical zeal.' So is it now a crime to be arrogant? Is it an offence not only to say certain words but also to say them in a particular tone? Perhaps all of us should watch what we say and how we say it, lest our tone upset one of the law lords. Izzadeen and his cronies were not only found guilty of speech crimes and Thoughtcrimes - they were also sent down for Tonecrimes, for putting the wrong kind of emotion into the words that they dared to speak in public.

The irony of all this is that if anyone provided the odious Izzadeen with a public platform it was Britain's own political and media elite. This buffoon with a miniscule number of followers was invited on to BBC Radio 4's Today programme and BBC TV's Newsnight to comment on 7/7, the war in Iraq and the outlook of British Muslims. Following his heckling of John Reid in an east London mosque in 2006, he was transformed into a media and political bogeyman. His `threat' was discussed at high-level government and police meetings. The DVDs showing him `inciting terrorism' in Regents Park Mosque in November 2004 were discovered during a police raid in 2006 and then made public, later becoming the basis for the trial. Prior to that, Izzadeen would have been lucky if three men and a goat had watched his recorded rantings; it was the police's actions that brought the rants to wider public attention. Given that every report still refers to Izzadeen as `the cleric who heckled John Reid', perhaps his true crime was to Embarrass New Labour In The Media.

Izzadeen's trial was a showtrial; worse than that, it was a showtrial of a straw man. The authorities turned him into a panto villain in recent years, and then made a spectacle of throwing him off the stage while sections of the media whooped and cheered them on. And in the process, free speech, the distinction between thought and action, and free will itself have been further dragged through the dirt. The showtrial of Izzadeen has been more harmful to British democracy and freedom than the idiot Izzadeen could ever have hoped to be.


Greenies goof again

The worldwide effort by supermarkets and industry to replace conventional oil-based plastic with eco-friendly "bioplastics" made from plants is causing environmental problems and consumer confusion, according to a Guardian study. The substitutes can increase emissions of greenhouse gases on landfill sites, some need high temperatures to decompose and others cannot be recycled in Britain. Many of the bioplastics are also contributing to the global food crisis by taking over large areas of land previously used to grow crops for human consumption.

The market for bioplastics, which are made from maize, sugarcane, wheat and other crops, is growing by 20-30% a year. The industry, which uses words such as "sustainable", "biodegradeable", "compostable" and "recyclable" to describe its products, says bioplastics make carbon savings of 30-80% compared with conventional oil-based plastics and can extend the shelf-life of food.

Concern centres on corn-based packaging made with polylactic acid (Pla). Made from GM crops, it looks identical to conventional polyethylene terephthalate (Pet) plastic and is produced by US company NatureWorks. The company is jointly owned by Cargill, the world's second largest biofuel producer, and Teijin, one of the world's largest plastic manufacturers. Pla is used by some of the biggest supermarkets and food companies, including Wal-Mart, McDonald's and Del Monte. It is used by Marks & Spencer to package organic foods, salads, snacks, desserts, and fruit and vegetables. It is also used to bottle Belu mineral water, which is endorsed by environmentalists because the brand's owners invest all profits in water projects in poor countries. Wal-Mart has said it plans to use 114m Pla containers over the course of a year.

While Pla is said to offer more disposal options, the Guardian has found that it will barely break down on landfill sites, and can only be composted in the handful of anaerobic digesters which exist in Britain, but which do not take any packaging. In addition, if Pla is sent to UK recycling works in large quantities, it can contaminate the waste stream, reportedly making other recycled plastics unsaleable.

Last year Innocent drinks stopped using Pla because commercial composting was "not yet a mainstream option" in the UK. Anson, one of Britain's largest suppliers of plastic food packaging, switched back to conventional plastic after testing Pla in sandwich packs. Sainsbury's has decided not to use it, saying Pla is made with GM corn. "No local authority is collecting compostable packaging at the moment. Composters do not want it," a spokesman said.

Britain's supermarkets compete to claim the greatest commitment to the environment with plant-based products. The bioplastics industry expects rising oil prices to help it compete with conventional plastics, with Europe using about 50,000 tonnes of bioplastics a year. Concern is mounting because the new generation of biodegradable plastics ends up on landfill sites, where they degrade without oxygen, releasing methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. This week the US national oceanic and atmospheric administration reported a sharp increase in global methane emissions last year.

"It is just not possible to capture all the methane from landfill sites," said Michael Warhurt, resources campaigner at Friends of the Earth. "A significant percentage leaks to the atmosphere." "Just because it's biodegradable does not mean it's good. If it goes to landfill it breaks down to methane. Only a percentage is captured," said Peter Skelton of Wrap, the UK government-funded Waste and Resources Action Programme. "In theory bioplastics are good. But in practice there are lots of barriers."

Recycling companies said they would have to invest in expensive new equipment to extract bioplastic from waste for recycling. "If we could identify them the only option would be to landfill them," said one recycler who asked to remain anonymous. "They are not wanted by UK recycling companies or local authorities who refuse to handle them. Councils are saying they do not want plastics near food collection. If these biodegradable [products] get into the recycling stream they contaminate it. "It will get worse because the government is encouraging more recycling. There will be much more bioplastic around."

Problems arise because some bioplastics are "home" compostable and recyclable. "It's so confusing that a Pla bottle looks exactly the same as a standard Pet bottle," Skelton said. "The consumer is not a polymer expert. Not nearly enough consideration has gone into what they are meant to do with them. Everything is just put in the recycling bin."

Yesterday NatureWorks accepted that its products would not fully break down on landfill sites. "The recycling industry in the UK has not caught up with other countries" said Snehal Desai, chief marketing officer for NatureWorks. "We need alternatives to oil. UK industry should not resist change. We should be designing for the future and not the past. In central Europe, Taiwan and elsewhere, NatureWorks polymer is widely accepted as a compostable material."

Other users said it was too soon to judge the new technology. "It's very early days," said Reed Paget, managing director of Belu. "The UK packaging industry does not want competition. It's shortsighted and is blocking eco-innovation." Belu collects its bottles and now sends them to mainland Europe. "People think that biodegradable is good and non-biodegradable is bad. That's all they see," said Chris Goodall, environmental analyst and author of How to Live a Low-carbon Lifestyle. "I have been trying to compost bags that are billed as 'biodegradable' and 'home compostable' but I have completely failed. They rely on the compost heap really heating up but we still find the residues."

Bioplastics compete for land with biofuels and food crops. About 200,000 tonnes of bioplastics were produced last year, requiring 250,000-350,000 tonnes of crops. The industry is forecast to need several million acres of farmland within four years.

There is also concern over the growing use by supermarkets of "oxy-degradable" plastic bags, billed as sustainable. They are made of conventional oil-based plastic, with an additive that enables the plastic to break down. The companies promoting it claim it reduces litter and causes no methane or harmful residues. They are used by Wal-Mart, Pizza Hut and KFC in the US, and Tesco and the Co-op in the UK for "degradable" plastic carrier bags. Some environmentalists say the terminology confuses the public. "The consumer is baffled," a Wrap briefing paper said. "It considers these products degradable but ... they will not degrade effectively in [the closed environment of] a landfill site." A spokesman for Symphony Plastics disputed that. "Oxy-bioplastic can be re-used and recycled, but will degrade and disappear in a short timescale", he said.


Sun lamps help unborn babies beat osteoporosis?

This is epidemiology again but it has a reasonable basis in theory. What else characterizes women who give birth at the most favourable time should be investigated, however

Women due to give birth in winter should use a sun lamp during the final three months of pregnancy to protect their child from osteoporosis in later life, doctors have suggested. They made their recommendation as research found that children born to mothers whose final three months of pregnancy included a summer month were 40% less likely to suffer the bone-wasting condition in adult-hood. A mother's exposure to sunlight in that final period ensures the developing baby receives enough vitamin D to form strong bones.

Doctors suggest that women whose last trimester of pregnancy does not fall between May and September should consider taking a holiday in the Mediterranean. As flying is not advised in the late stages of pregnancy, however, they suggest that women may need to settle for a sun lamp or vitamin D supplements.

Dr Marwan Bukhari, a consultant rheumatologist at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary and author of the study presented to the British Society for Rheumatology, said: "You only get good sunlight [when you make vitamin D] between May and September in this country. Pregnant women should have vitamin D supplements or should have lots of good sunshine in somewhere like north Africa or the southern Mediterranean [in winter]." Bukhari added: "Sun lamps are an option. It needs to be the right kind of sun lamp to convert fat under the skin to vitamin D." The doctors are not recommending sunbeds, which give a far higher dose of ultraviolet light than lamps.

Bukhari and colleagues studied 17,000 patients, mostly women and 95% of whom were white. They had all had scans carried out at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary between 1992 and 2004. They found that patients under 50 were 40% less likely to have developed osteoporosis if their mother's last trimester of pregnancy included a summer month. Older patients were 20%-40% less likely to have osteoporosis if their mothers' late stages of pregnancy were in the summer.

The study will revive the debate over whether excessive caution about exposure to sunshine is creating other health problems. Michael Holick, professor of medicine at Boston University in America, said a lack of vitamin D, caused by overzealous avoidance of the sun, was leading to thousands of unnecessary cancer deaths each year and increasing vulnerability to rickets. Bukhari said: "You could get skin cancer from a sun lamp but not if you use a judicious amount. An hour a month will not give you skin cancer."


NHS medical procedures halted by unfit equipment

The NHS is too negligent to supervise the supply of surgical instruments. When the cat's away the mice will play and there is basically NO cat in the NHS. They are all too busy with cups of tea

Operations are being cancelled because of dirty or broken instruments sent back by private companies employed to clean them, the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) said yesterday. Hospitals used to sterilise their operating instruments on site but are being encouraged by the Department of Health to put the job out to private companies. A survey of surgeons found that equipment was often unfit for use, damaged, or late - meaning that operations were cancelled at the last minute, often when patients were already anaesthetised.

Two thirds of surgeons questioned by the RCS were unhappy with the availability and condition of instruments sent away for sterilisation. The survey showed that 70 per cent of paediatric surgeons using outside firms were unhappy about it. The same was true for 82 per cent of neurosurgeons, 79 per cent of ear, nose and throat surgeons and 60 per cent of plastic and reconstructive surgeons. Decontamination of instruments is essential to prevent the spread of infection.

Thirty-two per cent of plastic surgeons were not happy with the level of sterility, as were 30 per cent of ear, nose and throat surgeons, 28 per cent of neurosurgeons and 28 per cent of paediatric surgeons. When it came to equipment being maintained in good condition, 70 per cent of paediatric surgeons were not happy with the service along with 85 per cent of neurosurgeons and 84 per cent of plastic surgeons. Surgeons using in-house decontamination services were not satisfied with some aspects of this equipment care.

The RCS said that although private firms largely succeeded in sterilising kit, too much came back late or went missing. Sensitive, expensive tools were being broken, a statement said. "Without the equipment to do the job, surgeons are forced to cancel or abandon operations - sometimes when patients are anaesthetised and prepared."

Prof Richard Ramsden, who collected the evidence, said: "Operations are delayed because vital tools are not available. Surgeons working with on-site instrument cleaning facilities are getting a better service, enough to warrant an urgent reassessment of what's best for the NHS." Bernard Ribeiro, the RCS president, said: "This is yet another example where something that looks good on paper in Whitehall gets rolled out without adequate professional consultation and piloting." A Department of Health spokesman said that more than £200 million had been invested in improving decontamination services since 2001.


"Immigrant" is racist

From Britain:

"Manchester United's submission to the Football Association is expected to include the claim that Patrice Evra was allegedly called "an immigrant" during the melee with Chelsea groundstaff at Stamford Bridge, The Times understands.

Chelsea and their employees have strenuously denied that any such remark was made and Evra sought at the weekend to distance himself from suggestions that he was racially abused.


I wonder what the "Immigrant" race looks like? Slanty eyes and green skin, maybe?

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