Category Archives: Vested interests
Much ado about an OP nerve-agent: but hundreds of British farmers were poisoned – compelled by government to use OP dips
Senior ministers have been told that the nerve agent used to poison Sergei and Yulia Skripal in in Salisbury, on Sunday 4 March 2018 near Porton Down, has been identified by Porton Down experts as the organophosphate Novichock. Porton Down’s research focus has successively been known as Chemical Warfare, Chemical Defence, Chemical & Biological Defence and now Defence Science and Technology. Areas of concern are outlined here. Early British collaboration with American chemical warfare research (aka ‘field studies’) is acknowledged here.
In 2015 the Guardian reported that a cross-party MPs called for an inquiry into the compulsory use of dangerous chemicals called organophosphates (OPs), used to protect livestock from parasites. The Farmers Weekly reported that the Sheep Dip Sufferers Support Group repeated this call in 2016
The problem was first identified by Dr Goran Jamal, a Kurdish-born neurologist working in Glasgow, who later gave evidence of OP-related Gulf War Syndrome. Read Booker’s compelling account in Scared to Death: From BSE to Global Warming: Why Scares are Costing Us the Earth, or extracts from it here.
In his autobiography, BBC Countryfile presenter Adam Henson wrote: “the authorities realized that they were poisoning a lot of farmers”. In Countryfile Magazine (9.6.17) he wrote (snapshot of page, above right)
BBC Countryfile Magazine made the following points below:
- OPs were originally created as a nerve gas and were developed during the Second World War. In 1951 Lord Zuckerman, who would go on to become the government’s chief scientist, warned of the dangers of allowing farmers to use OPs. Zuckerman raised concerns that farmers could absorb the poison through skin or inhalation. Read the legal noticepublished by Minister of Agriculture and Fishery regarding the harmful effects of Ops in 1951. Read a report published by Tim Farron, MP, stating that Government knew about the harmful effects of OPs.
- Zuckerman called for farmers to be given detailed instructions for the use of OPs and for the substance to be labelled as deadly poison, although neither suggestion would be adopted until the 1980s.
- Dipping sheep became compulsory in the late 1970s, and the use of OPs specifically was mandated by the British government until 1992. Read abstract at Small Ruminant Research.
- In 1981 an advice leaflet was produced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that warned against the dangers of using OPs, citing that the chemicals could be absorbed through the skin. A report from the HSE in 1990showed growing concerns over the use of the chemicals.
- UCL’s Dr Sarah MacKenzie Ross reviewed existing scientific evidence in 2013 and found that 13 out of 16 studies showed evidence of neurological problems following long-term, low-level exposure to Ops. Long-term health issues linked to OP poisoning also include multiple sclerosis and memory issues. (Ed; we add her work in Neurotoxicology and Teratology, Volume 32, Issue 4, 2010, abstract here.)
- In April 2014 MPs called for a ‘Hillsborough-style’ inquiry into the sheep-dip poisoning, with Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham called it a “major scandal”. Source: Agri Wales.
A saga of missing medical records
In the Telegraph, Booker pointed out that the health of thousands of farmers and their families had been destroyed by using highly toxic organo-phosphate (OP) chemicals to dip their sheep, as a protection against parasites. When the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) commissioned its own internal study into this disaster, its findings in 1991 were so devastating that they had to be ruthlessly suppressed. The survey, later released under a freedom of information request, said:
“Repeated absorption of small doses [can] have a cumulative effect and can result in progressive inhibition of nervous system cholinesterase.”
The Manchester Evening News published an early photograph of Littleborough farmer, the late Brenda Sutcliff with her husband Harold. She and three family members became ill after using a government-recommended sheep dip. No active, healthy old age for her – but her persistent campaigning was recognised and celebrated by many (below left).
Details of a sheep dipping survey were released by the Health and Safety Executive following a Freedom of Information Request by the Sheep Dip Sufferers Group. The HSE survey examined sheep dipping facilities and practices on a representative sample of 696 farmers across 16 different regions of Britain. See also: Minister pledges to re-examine OP sheep dip files
But in the same month as this report was published internally – May 1991 – the farming minister at the time, John Gummer, was demanding that local authorities clamp down on farmers who refused to use the chemical.
The report found 160 occasions where some form of ill-health occurred after dipping. It also criticised manufacturers for providing inadequate protective clothing and unclear instructions to farmers on how to use the chemicals: “If with all the resources available to them, a major chemical company proves unable to select appropriate protective equipment, what hope is there for an end-user?” Booker commented that ministers were only too aware that the government had forced the farmers to use these chemicals, which its own Veterinary Medicines Directorate had licensed as safe to use and ends:
“Although in 1992, the government quietly dropped the compulsory use of OPs for dipping, without explanation, a succession of Tory and Labour ministers refused to accept publicly that repeated exposure to them could cause irreparable damage – because, it seemed, any public admission that they were as dangerous as the HSE had found them to be might trigger off a major scandal resulting in tens of millions of pounds of compensation claims”.
A more high-profile victim (see illness), former sheep farmer Margaret Mar (right), a life peer in the House of Lords, has spent three decades campaigning in Westminster on the issue.
She said: “I know from private discussions with an advisor at the Department of Health that officials knew about the risks, but couldn’t publicly criticise OPs because they were a government-recommended dip at that time”.
An campaign by the Sheep Dip Sufferers’ Support Group, co-ordinated by Tom Rigby, organic dairy farmer and chair of NFU’s Organic Forum, has an exceptionally accurate and informative website, with a balanced approach, useful links and well-documented interviews and reports with the political establishment – recording reasonable interaction with MPs like Andy Burnham, George Eustice and Paul Tyler.
They deserve the last word:
“We are a group of volunteers campaigning for better diagnosis and treatment for all those affected by organophosphates used in agriculture. We have no membership subscription or outside funding and rely mostly on the collective experience of those who have been bravely battling against the devastating effects of these chemicals for decades.
“We hope 2018 will be the year when the farming community comes to realise the impact these insecticides have had on those involved in disease control and that they finally start to get the help and support they urgently need”.
The BBC World Service radio this morning, Radio 4’s Broadcasting House – and other mainstream media – offered distorted reporting:
- first headlining the “iron fist” threat and repeating this several times, before acknowledging its conditionality ‘if political unrest continues’
- and failing to focus on the far larger rallies supporting the Iranian government
They stressed that the demonstrations erupted over falling living standards, but Iranian interior minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli said that those people in the larger demos realised this was due to imposed sanctions – but the BBC website chose only to report his words about the consequences of damage to public property, disrupting order and breaking the law.
The USA’s use of soft power to foment unrest has been effective with many worldwide
The use of soft power was touched on in a linked site in 2015. We quote: “Hard power is exerted by financial inducements, invasion and remote killing by drone aircraft. Soft power sounds quite benign, but as Joseph Nye points out in The Future of Power (2011, left), it can be wielded for good or ill: Hitler, Stalin, and Mao all possessed a great deal of soft power. He adds: “It is not necessarily better to twist minds than to twist arms”.
An illusion of a free society (‘liberating minds’) is presented and a consumerist culture cultivated. One actor in this drive is the Human Rights Foundation, whose approving Wikipedia entry emphasises its insistence on ‘economic freedom’. In Central and South America and the Middle East it has paved the way for the overthrow of regimes which would not co-operate.
Has it escalated in Iran after its threat to further ‘eliminate’ use of the dollar?
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said to Putin in November: “we can nullify US sanctions, using methods such as eliminating the dollar and replacing it with national currencies”. Forbes earlier reported that this policy would be implemented. Several countries have not fared well after ‘ditching the dollar’:
- In 2002 North Korea’s state-run Korean Trade Bank announced a ban on the use of US dollars in daily payment and settlement for its citizens and foreigners.
- In 2003 Coilin Nunan wondered: “Could one reason for the US wish for ‘regime change’ in Iraq and unprecedented European opposition to such a project be Iraq’s decision two years earlier to accept euros only as payment for its oil, instead of the customary dollars? Could America’s current focus on Iran be similarly explained?”
- In 2004 Fidel Castro decreed that the dollar would no longer be legal for commercial transactions.
It should be stressed that the soft power illusions of total normality, freedom and prosperity are a confidence trick. The unmentioned features of the USA, a country which young Iranians and others have been led by soft power to admire as ‘an ideal state of freedom’, include pollution, child abuse, violent pornography, inequality of opportunity, youth unemployment, high cost housing and military aggression.
The FT reports that senior executives at several of the largest US banks have privately told the Trump administration they feared the prospect of a Labour victory if Britain were forced into new elections.
It then referred to a report by analysts at Morgan Stanley arguing that a Corbyn government would mark the “most significant political shift in the UK” since Margaret Thatcher’s election and may represent a “bigger risk than Brexit” to the British economy. It predicted snap elections next year, arguing that the prospect of a return to the polls “is much more scary from an equity perspective than Brexit”.
Jeremy Corbyn gave ‘a clear response’ to Morgan Stanley in a video (left) published on social media reflecting anti-Wall Street rhetoric from some mainstream politicians in the US and Europe, saying: “These are the same speculators and gamblers who crashed our economy in 2008 . . . could anyone refute the headline claim that bankers are indeed glorified gamblers playing with the fate of our nation?”
He warned global banks that operate out of the City of London that he would indeed be a “threat” to their business if he became prime minister.
He singled out Morgan Stanley, the US investment bank, for particular criticism, arguing that James Gorman, its chief executive, was paying himself a salary of millions of pounds as ordinary British workers are “finding it harder to get by”.
Corbyn blamed the “greed” of the big banks and said the financial crisis they caused had led to a “crisis” in the public services: “because the Tories used the aftermath of the financial crisis to push through unnecessary and deeply damaging austerity”.
The FT points out that donors linked to Morgan Stanley had given £350,000 to the Tory party since 2006 and Philip Hammond, the chancellor, had met the bank four times, most recently in April 2017. The bank also had strong ties to New Labour: “Alistair Darling, a Labour chancellor until 2010, has served on the bank’s board since 2015. Jeremy Heywood, head of Britain’s civil service, was a managing director at Morgan Stanley, including as co-head of UK investment banking, before returning to public service in 2007”.
A step forward?
In a December article the FT pointed out that the UK lacks the kind of community banks or Sparkassen that are the bedrock of small business lending in many other countries adding: “When Labour’s John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, calls for a network of regional banks, he is calling attention to a real issue”. And an FT reader commented, “The single most important ethos change required is this: publish everyone’s tax returns”:
- In Norway, you can walk into your local library or central council office and see how much tax your boss paid, how much tax your councillor paid, how much tax your politician paid.
- This means major tax avoidance, complex schemes, major offshoring, etc, is almost impossible, because it combines morality and social morals with ethics and taxation.
- We need to minimise this offshoring and tax avoidance; but the people in control of the information media flow, plus the politicians, rely on exactly these methods to increase their cash reserves.
But first give hope to many by electing a truly social democratic party.
Is the rainbow suggesting a new party logo?
“As a report in the Blackpool Gazette showed a drone photograph of Cuadrilla’s well pad near Blackpool under inches of water this week, which could lead to fields and watercourses being contaminated with fracking chemicals and drilling muds, there is news of planned incursions elsewhere.
Ineos, Britain’s biggest fracking company, wants to survey sites in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and South Yorkshire.
Clumber Park estate (below) in Nottinghamshire, is now owned by the National Trust which opposes fracking. As the trust has refused to allow Ineos to carry out tests for shale gas on this land, the company is to use legal powers under the Mines Act 1966. It has now applied to the government’s Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) for access to conduct seismic surveys on the 3,800-acre estate in order to gauge the best sites for drilling.
Ineos is also seeking to bypass local councils by using powers created in 2015 to fast-track plans to drill for shale gas in the Midlands without their planning approval. These enable companies to request intervention from ministers to get permission for delayed infrastructure projects deemed to be of national importance. Councils that ’unreasonably delay planning decisions’ can be overruled by Sajid Javid, the local government secretary, via the planning inspectorate.
Ineos plans to apply formally to Mr Javid within days for intervention on two delayed projects in Derbyshire and near Rotherham, South Yorkshire.
As David Powell (NEF) asks “How long can the government push clean and dirty energy at the same time?” He ends with a comment:
“If the Government bows to INEOS’s bolshie demands, it wouldn’t just be an affront to the very concept of democracy. It would also be proof – in a decarbonising, climate-changing world, even as it talks big on a ‘clean’ industrial strategy – that it retains a very misguided sense of which horse to back”.
In last week’s Prime Minister’s Question Time there was a fiery intervention by MP Dennis Skinner who told Theresa May about research showing that the High Speed 2 rail line was going out of its way to stop disruption to “leafy suburbs of the south”:
“[In] the leafy suburbs of the south, the first 140 miles, 30% of it has been dedicated to tunnelling to avoid knocking houses down.
“Yet in the north we are now told that the percentage is only 2% for the whole of the north. “And why? Because HS2 says it’s too costly, knock the houses down.
“Will she arrange for a meeting with people from my area in order to avoid another 30 houses being knocked down in Newtown part of Bolsover.
“Isn’t it high time that this government stopped treating our people like second class citizens?”
Theresa May replied by extolling her government’s service to these second class citizens citing resounding names Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engines; the reality?
The north struggles to attract high-calibre teachers . . . Its secondary schools have, on average, funding of £1,300 less per pupil than those in London. In April this year the FT reported research findings that schools with the poorest children face much greater cuts per pupil than those with the most affluent children under the government’s proposed funding formula. (Brian Groom FT)
Knowsley and Liverpool are two of the most deprived areas of the country: council spend per head in these areas has been reduced by £400 and £390 respectively. In Wokingham and Elmbridge, two of the wealthiest parts of the country, the corresponding totals are £2.29 and £8.14.
A scheme to compensate councils for the council tax freeze, for example, is calculated on the value of properties in the area, meaning that the higher the value of local homes, the larger the relief package: Surrey gets a vastly bigger pay-off than Teesside. (Tom Crewe, LRB essay)
The local authorities with the highest levels of deprivation and more reliant on central government grants, were relatively worse off. Cuts to the poorest metropolitan districts averaged 28% compared with more affluent authorities (2010-2015). National reviews painted a stark picture of closures and restrictions to services. (Steve Schofield, Conservative austerity and the future of local government)
Time for change!
USA & Britain accept profitable onscreen violence and pornography but older civilisations are resisting it
Molly Scott Cato counted the costs of many aspects of contemporary life in Britain (2005, access here); now even so-called family newspapers regularly publish material which encourages voyeurism. Digital Spy recently commented on a Daily Mail article – one of its more harmless offerings – and one wonders what is prompting the “tide of sexual harassment allegations rising against British MPs from all parties” reported by the Financial Times and other media.
A loss of moral focus
Ms Scott Cato referred to ‘a loss of moral focus’ evident in the growth of pornography, “now much more prevalent that previously, perhaps because of the anonymity offered by the internet. Morality, if not moralizing, pervades the issues of hard-core pornography and paedophile pornography”.
Over the years a more casual attitude towards sex has developed, increasing rates of prostitution, and sexually transmitted disease – with chlamydia, asymptomatic in many cases, causing women to become infertile without even knowing they had a disease.
She notes that while society is ‘relaxed’ about pornography exploiting women we are in the midst of a moral panic about the apparent massive increase in child pornography so easily accessed via the internet: “According to the NSPCC, ‘between 1988 and the end of 2001 there was a 1,500% increase in the offences of making and taking or possessing child pornography in England and Wales, from 33 in 1988 to 549 in 2001’. The 81 convictions in 2000 for ‘possessing obscene material for gain’ and the 218 for ‘taking or making indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of children’ are unlikely to reflect the true extent of the problem”.
There is no doubt, Ms Scott Cato concluded, that pornography is big business. ‘The ten bestselling British porn magazines sell about two million copies a month, bringing in a yearly total of about £45 million . . . The newspapers Sport, Sunday Sport and their associated titles are worth close to £500 million.’
As she was writing, India embarked on an anti-porn drive: the Hindustan Times and Reuters articles now only survive on social media. One article related that Indian police stopped the screening of a pornographic movie in the eastern state of Orissa and insisted that the audience do 10 sit-ups each at a public square and then vow not to watch pornography again. Police officer Sanjeev Panda said authorities had attempted to get theatres in district not to show pornography but had failed: “So we decided to crack down on the audience”. Newspapers also reported that police in Orissa planned to adopt these tactics in their general campaign against pornography which is illegal in India, but still screened in many cinemas. The link http://www.nbcnews.com/id/8613157/ was taken down but the article survives on many social media outlets.
The Print Ad titled EXPLOSION was done by Beijing Creative World Advertising advertising agency for product: Violent Network Games Awareness (brand: UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund)) in China.
This week, China’s media regulators said that PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), a smash-hit survival game that has sold over 13 million copies since its release in March, will be unlikely to get a license to be officially launched in China.
The official China Audio-Video Copyright Association has recommended Chinese gaming firms not to develop or distribute such games, and asked domestic live-streaming platforms not to promote the survival genre. It published a notice (link in Chinese) stating that the game contains too much blood and gore. Its online statement said the violently competitive spirit behind them is “against our country’s core socialist values and the Chinese nation’s traditional cultural behaviors and moral principles, and is bad for teenagers’ physical and mental health.”
There is an obvious parallel between the lack of concern shown by the British government for the well-being of vulnerable people most likely to be affected by violent and/or pornographic material and those physically and/or economically vulnerable to their inhumane cuts in welfare payments.