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Archive for January 2009

Poll: Is it right for the Sunday Telegraph to mislead the public about the health risks of asbestos?

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The Sunday Telegraph columnist Christopher Booker has now written at least 41 different articles in which he repeatedly denies, downplays or misrepresents the scientific evidence around the health risks of white asbestos, often echoing the PR messages of the industry-funded “Chrysotile Institute”.

But is it fair for us to expect newspapers and newspaper columnists to tell the truth? YOU DECIDE:

Would you buy a second-hand car from this man?

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Magic man done it?! – Christopher Booker critiques Darwin’s theory of evolution…

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From The Spectator:

The greatest stumbling block to [Darwin’s] argument was that evolution has repeatedly taken place in leaps forward so sudden and so complex that they could not possibly have been accounted for by the gradual process he suggested — the ‘Cambrian explosion’ of new life forms, the complexities of the eye, the post-Cretaceous explosion of mammals. Again and again some new development emerged which required a whole mass of interdependent changes to take place simultaneously, such as the transformation of reptiles into feathered, hollow-boned and warm-blooded birds.

As even Darwin himself acknowledged, these jumps in the story might have seemed to render his thesis ‘absurd’. He might therefore have hypothesised that some other critically important factor seemed to be at work, some ‘organising power’ which had allowed these otherwise inexplicable leaps to take place. But so possessed was he by the elegant simplicity of his theory that, waving such thoughts aside, he made a leap of faith that it must be right, regardless of the evidence — and in the increasingly materialistic mid-19th century, his thesis was an idea whose time had come. Thus has his belief that life evolved solely through a material process continued to possess the minds of scientists to this day.

…and now here’s Robin Ince with an alternative take:

Searchable version of the UK government’s Register of Lords’ interests

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Democracy for sale!

The UK government currently publishes a list of declared interests by members of the House of Lords, but it’s divided into 24 parts, and this means that it’s very difficult to search the entire register all at once.

As a rough and ready way of overcoming this problem, I’ve copy-pasted all 24 sections into one searchable pdf document. Click here for more information on “Buy Back Democracy”.

Poll: Should peers be free to take cash payments to help get laws changed on the quiet?

Poll: Should peers be free to take cash payments to help get laws changed on the quiet?

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Democracy for sale!

Was this the amendment that Experian bribed Lord Taylor to make?

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From the Guardian, September 2002:

Privacy International gave Experian its “Big Brother” award for the company’s intense lobbying campaign to preserve its access to electoral roll data. Last year agencies such as Experian were banned from taking details off the electoral roll after a High Court judge ruled that a council taxpayer in Wakefield would have had his human rights violated if the register was passed on to organisations for commercial gain. But the ban was lifted after the agencies protested that the fight against terrorism and money laundering would be hampered if banks and the police were not able to verify the addressess of customers opening accounts.

From The Telegraph:

Lord Taylor: “Experian are the company. They have a terrific amount of intelligence and information. They are the people who advise banks on your credit worthiness and so on. For example I’ve been working with them on amending a statute that’s coming out, or was coming out, because I’ve got it delayed now, whereby it was going to be difficult for them to get certain information and so on. So I’ve got that amended and you do it quietly behind the scenes you see.”

Buy back democracy – for just £5 a head!

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Democracy for sale!

Join the Facebook group

“I’ll pledge £5 to bribe a peer to table a rule-change outlawing corruption in the House of Lords, but only if 24,000 other people do the same.”

The Sunday Times this week revealed that members of the UK House of Lords are available for hire behind closed doors to help get our laws changed. Prices range from £24,000 to £120,000, depending on seniority, and proximity to government ministers.

The good news for those seeking to buy their own little piece of democracy is that there seems to be little in the rules to stop this from happening. The bad news for everyone else is that this means that arms dealers and corporate snoops are free to use hard cash to go behind the backs of our elected representatives, and buy themselves special favours from our government.

It’s time that this process – previously available only to the rich and cash-happy – was opened up so that ordinary people can participate. By banding together to hire our very own “consultant” in the House of Lords, we can seek to get the law changed in ways that benefit all of us.

For just £120,000 a year, we can buy ourselves a top-quality Lord with a direct line to government ministers, and a proven track record of getting legal changes fast-tracked on the quiet. But the evidence suggests that even as little as £24,000 could make a huge difference. The work can already begin in earnest if just 4,800 people join this pledge – but the more people join, the more we can achieve!