Polonius

To thine own self be true

Archive for February, 2009

BBC News continues downhill (5)

Posted by Polonius on 25 February, 2009

The BBC News Web site currently has a story headlined “Texting death crash peer jailed“. A careful reading of the article reveals that Lord Ahmed was jailed for dangerous driving. Not, as the BBC would like us to believe, for causing death by dangerous driving, because there is no evidence that he was driving dangerously at the time of the fatal accident. Rather, he was considered (indeed pleaded guilty to) driving dangerously some minutes before the accident. I think that makes the “Texting death” part of the headline a blatant lie.

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Andrew Wakefield made it all up?

Posted by Polonius on 8 February, 2009

The Sunday Times has an unfortunate obsession with exclusive stories. It’s unfortunate because the desire to get the story published often takes priority over checking the facts.  The most notorious example was the Hitler’s diaries hoax of 1983. I’m sure they’ve fallen for the odd previously undiscovered Shakespeare work as well but, in characteristic Sunday Times fashion, I can’t be bothered checking.

These hoaxes cause the Sunday Times and its publishers much embarrassment, and the rest of us much schadenfreude. Unfortunately, the paper’s performance on health stories is less amusing. Its sympathetic treatment of Peter Duesberg‘s eccentric views on the causal relationship between HIV and AIDS may be due to incompetence, but was prolonged over an estended period and may have had fatal consequences. Its editorial staff can sleep soundly in their beds in the knowledge that the deaths in the UK as a consequence of their publishing this rubbish have been far fewer than South Africa’s 330,000 from 2000 to 2005.

Against this background, it would be dangerous to assume that a medical story in the Sunday Times would be painstakingly researched and verified. So it is with some misgivings that I recommend reading today’s piece by Brian Deer. If this proves accurate, it will blow away the last vestige of evidence behind the whole preposterous MMR-autism nonsense. Not that the cranks are overly concerned about evidence. Brian Deer has done good work on this issue before; it’s just unfortunate that he chooses to publish in the Sunday Times.

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Charity begins at home

Posted by Polonius on 3 February, 2009

[Resisting the temptation to end the title “…homo”. What a pity many readers would have misconstrued it.]

There’s a bit of a kerfuffle about animal charities in Scotland today. The Scottish SPCA accuses the RSPCA of  allowing Scots donors to believe that the RSPCA spends money in Scotland, when in fact it doesn’t. I’m sure the same confusion exists between the NSPCC and Children 1st (The bloody stupid name doesn’t help.)

But I think there’s a much more shameful comparison to be made here. In 2007, the RSPCA made £114.1 million to the Scottish SPCA’s £11.984 million. In the year to March 2008, the NSPCC made £119.435 million  to Children 1st’s £9.270 million. The real disgrace is that the figures for the children’s charities are much the same as the animal charities’. Aren’t suffering children worth more than suffering of other species?

Gary Larson once did a Far Side cartoon titled “Bobbing for Poodles”. In one of his books, he talked of the number of complaints it had attracted, and expressed his relief that he hadn’t gone with his original title of “Bobbing for Babies”. I have no doubt whatsoever as to which title would have attracted more complaints in the UK, and it saddens me.

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