Kill human rights workers

More depressing news from West Africa – surely the world’s most unstable region – as Gambia’s Big Man president Yahya Jammeh declares he wants to kill human rights workers in the country. This is what he said:

I will kill anyone, who wants to destabilise this country. If you think that you can collaborate with so-called human rights defenders, and get away with it, you must be living in a dream world. I will kill you, and nothing will come out of it. We are not going to condone people posing as human rights defenders to the detriment of the country. If you are affiliated with any human rights group, be rest assured that your security and personal safety would not be guaranteed by my government. We are ready to kill saboteurs.

And this in the country that is host to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (sic), which was set up by the African Union.  The AU is traditionally lily-livered when it comes to dealing with Africa’s many nefarious leaders, and it will be interesting to see how it responds to this open threat to its staffers.

Tories use girl’s death to score (invalid) points

When the story broke on Monday that a young British schoolgirl, Natalie Morton, had died after receiving the HPV vaccine for cervical cancer, I wondered why it had made the news. After all, she also died after eating her breakfast that morning, and presumably after attending a couple of lessons. Why did the news stories not provide this information, I wondered. Why did they only mention the vaccination – which after all, was just another event in the girl’s schedule that day. And why didn’t they mention any of the other British children who’d also died that day, in road accidents, for example?

The reason, I soon worked out, was that newsmen like to start controversies. Controversies, however unfounded, sell newspapers or help broadcasters sell advertising space. However, this still didn’t tell me why the BBC – a “public service broadcaster” which has no need to sell ads and which is supposed to be a responsible counterweight to the tabloids and the Murdoch TV channels – published the story on its website under the banner, “Schoolgirl dies after cancer jab.” As with the tabloid press, the tone of the article, and of the BBC’s report on the episode in the 10 o’clock news, strongly suggested, without any evidence, that Natalie Morton’s death was caused by the vaccine.  Anyone who did not see the follow-up story, published today, would have reasonably thought that the HPV vaccine was dangerous and may well have decided it was unsafe for their daughters to be immunised. Given that the vaccine is expected to reduce cervical cancer cases by 70%, such a decision would have left thousands of girls at risk of contracting a frequently fatal disease.

Hopefully, the follow-up story, which reports that Ms Morton died of a massive tumour in her chest that affected her heart and lungs, and not because of the vaccine (nor because she ate breakfast or attended lessons that day, for that matter), will receive as much coverage as the initial report and the scare will abate, though I’m not holding my breath. You only have to look at the mountain of coverage received by the MMR scandal (where duff science linked the vaccine to autism) to see that vaccination is not a topic that attracts responsible journalism.

Sadly, it doesn’t attract responsible politics either.

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Brainwave – let’s re-invent the IPCC

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, George Will has a bright idea in today’s column which will, sadly, be read in 350 or so US newspapers this morning: “America needs a national commission appointed to assess the evidence about climate change.”

Brilliant. Truly brilliant. Shame, really, that the world already has the IPCC whose job it is to “assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.”

Of course, Will knows this. In the run up to Copenhagen, he’s simply lobbying for anything that will delay robust steps to cut emissions (RealClimate has a round up of his woeful track record writing about the issue).

What he may not know, however, is that the IPCC itself owes its existence – at least, in part – to a much earlier American attempt to deflect policy action. Alex and I covered this in our paper, State of the Debate:

According to Shardul Agrawala’s fascinating account of the origins of the IPCC, its roots can be found in a workshop held in 1985 in Villach, organized by two United Nations agencies and the non-governmental International Council for Science (ICSU).

At the Villach workshop, a group of scientists, acting in a personal capacity, announced a consensus that “in the first half of the next century a rise of global mean temperature would occur which is greater than any in man’s history.”

The need to deepen, extend and institutionalise this consensus was pushed in particular by the United States government – in part because it wanted to ‘buy time’ and delay a potentially costly policy response. The US wanted an inter-governmental mechanism and that’s what it got.

According to Agrawala, this formal insertion of scientific expertise was of great importance. The result was to pump sufficient shared awareness of the climate problem into the international arena, providing a platform for governments to enter into a serious negotiation.

The IPCC’s dominant position in the debate also became self-reinforcing. “The more credible experts there were already in the IPCC, the more attractive it was for other established experts to join, [and] the more internal strength the institutions had to defend its scientific integrity against political pressures.” An anchor for global understanding of the issue, and perceptions of its seriousness, had been provided.

But, hey, let’s have another review of the evidence! If it takes another thirty years, I am sure that will suit Will just fine…

U.S. Army to topple Obama?

John L. Perry, a right-wing columnist, knows things most of us don’t:

There is a remote, although gaining, possibility America’s military will intervene as a last resort to resolve the “Obama problem.” Don’t dismiss it as unrealistic.

I wouldn’t dream of it.   My face is entirely straight.

Will the day come when patriotic general and flag officers sit down with the president, or with those who control him, and work out the national equivalent of a “family intervention,” with some form of limited, shared responsibility?

Imagine a bloodless coup to restore and defend the Constitution through an interim administration that would do the serious business of governing and defending the nation. Skilled, military-trained, nation-builders would replace accountability-challenged, radical-left commissars. Having bonded with his twin teleprompters, the president would be detailed for ceremonial speech-making.

Military intervention is what Obama’s exponentially accelerating agenda for “fundamental change” toward a Marxist state is inviting upon America. A coup is not an ideal option, but Obama’s radical ideal is not acceptable or reversible.

Unthinkable? Then think up an alternative, non-violent solution to the Obama problem.

Um, let me see… Elections? Congress? The free press? There, that’s three already.

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Pot meets kettle

Nicolas Sarkozy – apparently – believes Barack Obama is “incredibly naive and grossly egotistical – so egotistical that no-one can dent his naivete.” Things are so bad that the French President is now said to be deeply worried about the future of the West.

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Here’s a picture of Sarko and ‘Bama in happier times… Let’s hope the two patch things up.

Update: BTW, Jack Kelly, the Pittsburgh columnist who has passed on this tittle tattle has some fairly fixed views on Obama.  In July, he wrote a column speculating that the US President is suffering from narcissistic personality disorder.

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