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Archive for August 2009

Déja vu…

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From Hansard, 28 January 1992

Mr Neil Kinnock (Islwyn)

Will the Prime Minister now give a categoric assurance that he will not impose any increase in VAT? Will he please answer yes or no?

Mr John Major (Huntingdon)

We have no plans to increase value added tax.

From The Independent, 17 January 1997

Mr Clarke denied any lapse of memory about VAT. “The [1992] manifesto did not say we weren’t going to extend it and I have never said we weren’t going to extend it,” he said.

In fact, Mr Major said the Government had “no plans” to raise VAT, before imposing it on domestic fuel, which had been zero rated.

From Press Association 9 August 2009

The Tories have “absolutely” no plans to raise VAT to 20% if they win the next general election, shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley insisted.

Mr Lansley rejected reports that the move was being “very actively considered” and insisted it had not even been discussed at senior levels.

“As far as I am aware we have absolutely no such plan and I know there have been no such senior level discussions,” he told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show.

Written by Richard Wilson

August 9, 2009 at 11:06 am

Recommended reading

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further reading

If you liked “Don’t Get Fooled Again”, then you may also like (or find interesting):

Mistakes Were Made But Not By Me, Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson

A  Mind of Its Own: How your brain distorts and deceives, Cordelia Fine

The Cigarette Century, Allan M Brandt

Flat Earth News, Nick Davies

Mortal Questions, Thomas Nagel

How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered The World, Francis Wheen

In Defence of History, Richard J Evans

Denying Aids, Seth Kalichman

Mortal Combat: AIDS Denialism and the struggle for anti-retrovirals in South Africa, Nicoli Nattrass

Bad Science, Ben Goldacre

Trick or Treatment?, Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst

Second Front, John R Macarthur

Toxic Sludge is Good For You, John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton

In Retrospect, Robert S McNamara

King Leopold’s Ghost, Adam Hochschild

Status Anxiety, Alain de Botton

Real England, Paul Kingsnorth

Counterknowledge, Damian Thompson

Mysticism and Logic, Bertrand Russell (free e-book version available here)

Radical then, Radical Now, Jonathan Sacks

The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins

Written by Richard Wilson

August 8, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Britain’s “rogue state” libel laws strike again…

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Over-rated TV personality threatens to sue journalist for suggesting that he’s stupid and only got his peerage because he was off the telly. Quacklash begins…

From Guido Fawkes

Baron Sugar of Shortarse, you are stupid and the only reason you got your peerage is because you are a telly celebrity. If you weren’t stupid you would realise we all know your chair is raised up in the boardroom so that you don’t look like the chippy, midget tycoon that you really are.

Written by Richard Wilson

August 6, 2009 at 8:27 am

Cat-and-mouse game continues: Alexis Sinduhije re-released

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For more background on this, see yesterday’s post

From Agence France Press

BUJUMBURA — Burundian police on Tuesday freed an opposition leader they had confined to a relative’s house since the weekend for allegedly holding an illegal meeting.

Alexis Sinduhije, a former journalist, had been surrounded by police at a relative’s house in the eastern Ruyigi town since late Sunday, letting no one in or out of the house.

“I do not know why I was detained. I was not questioned and early this morning the police chief called just to say I was free to go and said nothing more,” Sinduhije told AFP by phone.

“The government does what it can to intimidate me because it is afraid of what I stand for. It is scared of losing the 2010 elections,” he added.

Sinduhije, 42, had previously been arrested in November 2008 for contempt against the head of state and freed in March after pressure by the international community.

His Movement for Solidarity and Development was registered as a political party only last month.

He launched the party at the end of 2007 when he stepped down from his job as the director of Radio Publique Africaine, one of the country’s most popular radio stations.

Presidential, national assembly and senate elections are due in Burundi next year. Opposition parties have accused President Pierre Nkurunziza of curbing basic freedoms in recent months in order to secure re-election.

Written by Richard Wilson

August 4, 2009 at 8:23 pm

Charity commission says it has no powers to act against a UK charity putting out dangerous misinformation on AIDS

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I recently blogged about a UK registered charity called the “Immunity Resource Foundation”, whose official objectives include:

“To advance the education of the public in the fields of medicine, health care and medical science”

and

“To relieve sickness and assist sick and disabled persons… by providing them with access to information concerning diseases and medical conditions (and in particular AIDS)…”

But the information promoted on the charity’s website includes the claim that “the AIDS edifice is built upon a false hypothesis”, that AIDS “is not an infectious disease” and that “HIV cannot cause AIDS”. The charity also provides links to a range of AIDS denialist websites, including “Living Without HIV Drugs” – which urges HIV-positive patients to stop taking conventional medications.

As has been well-documented elsewhere, this kind of misinformation around HIV and AIDS has already done enormous damage, with a grim roster of HIV-positive AIDS denialists dying after refusing to take medicines that could have saved their lives, and many thousands more deaths resulting from the application of AIDS denialist ideas by the South African government.

Far from advancing the “education of the public”, any organisation which promotes these ideas is disseminating dangerous misinformation. And far from relieving sickness, the promotion of AIDS denialism under the guise of providing health information can have deadly consequences.

The Charity Commission exists to ensure that charities registered in England and Wales benefit the public interest and act in accordance with their stated objectives.  However, when contacted about the activities of the Immunity Resource Foundation, the Commission stated that:

We do not have the remit or expertise to judge whether they are providing the correct advice. We can only become involved in matters where our regulatory powers permit us to intervene and unfortunately this issue falls outside of that remit.

The upshot of this seems to be that a registered charity is free to make false, misleading and dangerous scientific claims about a major public health issue – even where this runs directly contrary to the charity’s official objectives – because the government body that regulates charities does not have access to the technical expertise necessary to evaluate such claims.

This seems like quite a big loophole, and also something of a double-standard. Whereas a private business that makes false scientific claims about its products is answerable, at least in principle, to the Trading Standards Institute, it would appear that UK registered charities are currently free to disseminate pseudo-science more or less with impunity.

Written by Richard Wilson

August 4, 2009 at 2:38 pm

Naomi Mc on Rent-A-Quote media psychologists

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From Vagina Dentanta

Dr Linda, Celebrity Psychiatrist (sic), is naturally concerned by our consumerist-obsessed society that is fueling dissatisfaction and alienation. Her remedy? Why Lacoste’s new perfume ‘Love of Pink’ for women of course. Just as Dr Linda says:

“The color pink is, in a lot of ways, the essence of what it means to be a young woman – love, romance, femininity and youth are all punctuated by this color. When a young woman wears LACOSTE Love of Pink, she wears the color of love.”

Yeah, Linda, you are totally right. And I realise now that you are the PERFECT person for the government to employ to look into gender stereotypes which are fueling inequality and violence against women.

But it doesn’t stop at perfume, oh no. Remember, this woman is a serious academic. She does SCIENCE. And by science I mean research. And by research I mean stuff that a company makes up to sell shoes. Stuff like, the FACT that women’s heart rate increases when they buy shoes:

“Shoes have a particular draw to women as they are emotionally evocative items to them and they bring out women’s socializing and nurturing instincts,” the Mirror quoted [Dr Linda], as saying.

You know she’s right. A cute pair of Jimmy Choo’s actually makes my womb ache (sorry, she was actually being paid by Brantano, er, who?). In fact there is a direct link between the shoe part of my brain and my genitalia because I’m a woman and therefore incapable of abstract thought.

Written by Richard Wilson

August 4, 2009 at 8:57 am

Alexis Sinduhije detained (again) – reportedly on the orders of Burundi’s “born again” President, Pierre Nkurunziza (again)

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Alexis’s release earlier this year. He was detained again this week.

Alexis Sinduhije is a former Burundian journalist who I’ve been in contact with over my sister’s case for a number of years, and who featured in my first book, Titanic Express. Alexis recently launched a multi-ethnic opposition party, the Movement for Solidarity and Democracy (MSD), and has already spent several months in prison for his troubles, prior to his release earlier this year, following massive international pressure.

This arrived by email this morning via the MSD Facebook group:

The commissioner of police in Ruyigi says that Alexis has not been arrested – he is just in for questions……..

Yesterday Alexis went to Ruyigi and in the evening was in the house of the family of a cousin when the house was surrounded by police. He was then removed and taken to the chef lieu where he has been for questioning – a team has gone to join him in Ruyigi and as we get more details we will tell you. The Governor and the Procurer [public prosecutor] are not answering their phones. When Human Rights Watch called the Police Commissioner he said ” that he was not arrested – but just being asked questions”.

It appears that Nkurunziza and co will keep harassing Alexis – one story on the ground is that it was Peter himself that send the instructions for Alexis to be arrested. They do not want him to be with his supporters in the collines! when will freedom of opinion be tolerated?

Click here for more background on the original arrest from Amnesty International.

Click here for some suddenly-relevant-again hip-hop tunes.

Written by Richard Wilson

August 3, 2009 at 7:21 pm

Posted in Titanic Express

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