Spin Alert

Although there is already a page for news items appearing in the press, these items are offered for special consideration because they may well be not quite what they seem on the surface. Perhaps they are there to plant certain ideas - not openly stated - in the minds of the public? Certainly, there seem to be more and more "news" items of this type appearing in the media. We are talking about propaganda.

In each case we ask

"What is the real reason for this story to appear just now?"

or

"What would a very cursory reading of this suggest to an uninformed reader?"

and in each case the emphasis is ours in order to point to what is being glossed over or the emotive language that creates an impression not warranted by the facts.


Disease similar to mad cow suspected in woman's death

JournalonLine.com ...Her family may never know if venison played a part in her illness. But across the country, medical experts are trying to determine whether chronic wasting disease has crossed from animals into humans, just as mad cow disease did in Europe(sic). No documented case exists of a person contracting a brain-destroying illness from eating wild animals with chronic wasting disease.

And the only known case of the variant in this country was diagnosed this year in a 22-year-old British woman living in Florida, who is thought to have contracted the disease in England.

Still, some medical professionals fear the variant is already here. The absence of evidence does not mean that evidence is not out there, said Dr. Michael Greger, a general practitioner from Boston considered an expert on mad cow disease.

"When (scientists) say there is no proven link, that is a true statement. But by the time it's proven, it's a little too late," said Greger, who is on a cross-country tour raising awareness of CJD and warning people to avoid venison. "I don't think anyone should be eating venison in North America unless it's been conclusively tested and unfortunately, we don't have conclusive tests."

Nov 24 2002


Throw them to the wolves
Spectator

Michael Hanlon says it is time to abolish the towering evil of farm subsidy
Agriculture is the one Western industry that seems to get away with a pre-Thatcher, pre-Reagan culture of socialist-style state intervention. Britain's 560,000 farmers (less than 1 per cent of the population) wield a terrifying amount of power. They have the support of the right-wing press, despite surviving on state handouts, and this weekend maybe a million of them will come to London braying for mercy from the urban chatterers who are determined to destroy their 'way of life'....
Sept 19/20


EXTENSION OF RULES FOR HILL RAMS IN NATIONAL SCRAPIE PLAN
DEFRA News Release Sept 11

Sheep farmers are to be given greater breeding flexibility as part of planned changes to the National Scrapie Plan. Under plans to go out to consultation this week, type 3 rams - animals that are neither the most resistant nor the most susceptible to scrapie - will now be able to be sold until the end of 2006. Any ram on a scheme farm can be used for breeding purposes until the end of 2008.
The proposals extend the current deadline for selling type 3 rams by two years and breeding from type 3 animals by an additional year. It will enable hill breeds, such as the Scottish Blackface, Welsh Mountain and Swaledale to increase their resistance to TSE's(sic) without losing valuable breeding lines.
Since the National Scrapie Plan was launched in July 2001 about 170,000 sheep have been genotyped. So far, the NSP centre at Worcester has received nearly 10,000 expressions of intent to join the scheme, of which 7,000 have already been converted into firm applications.
Animal Health Minister Elliot Morley said he was very encouraged by the uptake of the Plan. "The Plan has started particularly well among those terminal sire and longwool breeds which are starting with a relatively good genetic profile.
"However, I recognise that some members of other breeds, mainly hill breeds are discouraged from joining the Plan because the current rules for phasing out their type 3 rams may risk losing other important genetic characteristics.
"I am therefore proposing to change the rules to recognise the differing circumstances of individual breeds, including rare breeds. This will maintain the momentum of the National Scrapie Plan by enabling breeds to press forward as is reasonably practical according to their different genetic situations. (sic)
"Once again I do urge eligible sheep farmers to join the NSP to help secure its animal and public health objectives of developing a TSE resistant national flock."


Civic rights

Freedom and security are two essentials that citizens look to the government to provide. Whatever balance is struck, someone will be unhappy. But negative attitudes to the state simply distort the debate

David Blunkett

Saturday September 14, 2002 The Guardian
How to strike the right balance between our privacy and our expectation that the state will protect us and facilitate our freedom is one of the most difficult challenges facing us all. I don't say this lightly. The recent argument about how we regulate official access to communications data was politically embarrassing for the government, serving as a lightning rod for broader public concern about protecting individual privacy, particularly in the light of the enormous growth in mobile phone and internet usage in recent years.
This was despite the object being to use the legislation to restrict, not expand, access with entirely the wrong perception of what the government was attempting to do.
I take this concern seriously. Despite being in public life, I value my own privacy immensely and would be as concerned as anyone else if I thought my mobile phone records could be easily available to officials across government.
Unlike everyone else, as home secretary I am responsible for the domestic security of the UK, charged with ensuring our security and policing services can track terrorists and organised criminals engaged in ever-more complicated global networks. I believe it is impossible to strike the right balance in practice without underpinning it with a broader philosophical discussion about the role of the state in modern society.
Privacy is a right, but as in any democratic society, it is not an absolute right. This is explicit in the European Convention of Human Rights, which permits intervention with an individual's privacy, but only in accordance with the law and where necessary to prevent crime.
This right must be balanced with the right to safety and to live freely - the most basic function that every citizen looks to the state to perform. (sic)
Only the most eccentric privacy campaigners are uncomfortable with the state having the right to tackle terrorists, but I still find it surprising that so many people who consider themselves to be on the left of the political spectrum find themselves instinctively aggressive about the role of the state and insist on their absolute protection against it.
Those of us on the centre left must remember that the state can be a positive force, empowering and enabling people to shape their lives, a collective vehicle to achieve progressive change. Often intrusion is greatest from the private sector.
Only Tory libertarians see the state as an entirely negative influence, constantly intruding on the pure freedoms of the people. It was in opposition to this view that the Labour party was founded, and throughout the 20th century the Tory suspicion of the state inspired their opposition to the major progressive changes such as old age pensions, the NHS and the welfare state.
I prefer a positive view of freedom, drawing on another tradition of political thinking that goes all the way back to the ancient Greek polis. According to this tradition, we only become fully free when we share, as active citizens, in the government of the affairs of the community. Our identity as members of a collective political community is a positive thing. Democracy is not just an association of individuals determined to protect the private sphere, but a realm of active freedom in which citizens come together to shape the world around them. We contribute and we become entitled.
How we balance this entitlement to both liberty and security is more pressing now than at any time since the second world war. On the one hand we have the spectre of global terrorist networks, perpetrating outrages beyond our wildest fears. At the same time we have an explosion in communications, expanding the horizons of our working and personal lives, while offering to a deadly minority greater ability to work across national borders and outfox national security and policing services.
That is why the Data Protection Act 1998 and Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 are important. They ensure the use of communications data is properly controlled and regulated with independent oversight and a proper complaints procedure. None of this regulatory machinery existed properly before, yet covert surveillance and interception of communications is as old as policing itself. It is precisely because this activity can be intrusive and infringe civil liberties that we have introduced a stricter system of regulation.
The Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act, passed in the months following September 11, added to our ability to fight terrorism and crime by requiring communications companies to retain basic details of internet activity longer than at present. We are not talking about the content of emails here, simply the details of what was sent where, as currently retained for billing purposes. Access to this information is strictly in relation to specific enquiries about crime or terrorism with fishing expeditions by the police or intelligence services explicitly forbidden. How long this should be retained for and how best to do it is still being discussed with the industry. (sic)
The standard argument against these Acts is that terrorists and criminals know how to avoid this kind of monitoring and use communications methods that are more difficult to track. This was not the case following September 11 when this type of data was used usefully as part of the investigations in Britain and the US. It is also not feasible to say that because criminals and terrorists will always try and find a way around enforcement measures, we should shrug our shoulders and render ourselves powerless against the fight. By that logic, we would disband the police and the security services on the grounds that they can never win a battle with criminals. I don't believe this for a minute.
There is a broader concern, however, that in tackling the murderous minority, we are trampling over the rights of the peaceful majority, giving the security services powers they have hankered after for years.
I would answer this by pointing to this government's record on matching extension of powers with more protection and regulation.
The civil liberties lobby have pocketed without so much as a thank-you, the Labour Government's Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 1999, the incorporation of the ECHR into British law and the protections and regulation available under RIPA 2000. We also have an independent reviewer of the Terrorism Acts, Lord Carlisle.
Taken together, all this amounts to more protection for the British citizen against the state than virtually anywhere else in the world. I don't resent this, I value it as a citizen. What I occasionally find irritating are self-styled privacy campaigners who denigrate or ignore protections not available to most of our European neighbours.
These debates have further to run - not least as we look at how entitlement cards could help tackle illegal working and ensure easier, more fraud-proof access to government services.
At the end of the day, there is no common ground between the extremes of those who believe the state's intention towards our privacy is always insidious and those on the right who believe that any concern over privacy is bleeding-heart liberalism.
I would like a mature debate which does not take as a given that democratic government is always a threat to our freedoms and which acknowledges that the pressures on those entrusted with safeguarding our society following September 11 are immense.
I am equally clear that fighting the global terrorists does not give us carte blanche to delve into the private lives of our citizens and that our attempts to regulate any investigations have to command public confidence. Surveillance is as old as humanity but we are more capable of it and aware of it than ever before. Getting the balance right is an issue for every citizen but I hope that debate reflects the value of our democratic governance and importance of the regulation of surveillance rather than a Big Brother fear that if government is involved, the liberties of the citizen are automatically at risk.
David Blunkett is the home secretary.


Sept 11 ~a first major victory on the road to war.

Blair shows himself to be a master of illusion. Do we applaud this quality in a Prime Minister? In yesterday's speech to the TUC he turned deep suspicion of the Iraq adventure into a standing ovation for his speech.
Fraser Nelson of the Scotsman, an alerter to spin rather than a purveyor of it, explained how it was done - by giving the impression that war was the "will of the UN" and then smudging everything over with Pavlov Dog references to the Conservative Party:

Extract: "If the challenge to us is to work with and through the UN, we will respond to it," he said. "But let it also be clear that, should the will of the UN be ignored, action will follow." Here, it seemed, Mr Blair was promising to bow to the "will of the UN." In practice, he was preparing his cassus belli. Mr Blair will take on Saddam in the name of the UN - with or without its permission. But it fell short of the hawkishness the newspapers had prepared delegates to expect. This was listened to with only one heckle. Then, Mr Blair started to play to the gallery. The Conservatives had taken unemployment to three million, he said; applause. They would not guarantee union recognition, like Labour has; applause. They would break up the public sector. Health spending is going up; applause. The NHS has brilliant and dedicated staff; applause. Afterwards Derek Simpson, the newly-elected head of Amicus, defended the warm reception he had also given the man he was denouncing as a warmonger. " What we heard was much more considered. He has rowed back." Except he hadn't. It was a careful illusion, performed with Blair charm. And it had brought Mr Blair a first major victory on the road to war. "


Aug 28 ~ The race to boost organic farming is heading up a dead-end street

http://www.thescotsman.co.uk/business.cfm?id=950862002
TO AN outsider our food policy, if we have one, must seem a mess of hilarious contradictions which have just scaled new heights of absurdity in the boost to organic cultivation arising from the Curry Report earlier this year.
That, of course, only applies to Englandshire but it will happen here too, believe me.
...The Scottish Parliament may well follow its UK counterpart and throw money at it, but it will not work and many will feel, like me, that a country that cannot afford to give malnourished children free school meals cannot afford to subsidise the food fad of a self appointed elite. I harbour no animosity towards the monarchy, but I think Prince Charles is abusing his position in promoting a system which he is not qualified to evaluate and which disadvantages so many.
Subsidising inefficiency, pandering to cranks and propping up privilege have contributed greatly to the mess we are now in and we should not compound it by subsidising the absurdity of organic production.


Aug 9 ~AUTUMN CHANGES TO THE ANIMAL MOVEMENTS REGIME

Animal Health Minister Elliot Morley announced today that additional exemptions to the 20-day movement standstill will be introduced at the beginning of September as part of the next set of changes to the interim animal movement regime.
An option will be provided under which sheep and cattle used for breeding this season, which go into a strict on-farm isolation facility for 20 days on arrival, will not from early September trigger a 20-day standstill on the rest of the farm. The announcement follows recent Ministerial exchanges with the NFU and long-running working discussions with industry stakeholders, particularly the National Sheep Association, National Beef Association, Livestock Auctioneers Association and Farmers Union of Wales.
However, the 20-day standstill, which underpins the current animal movement regime, will otherwise remain in place until permanent rules are brought into force early next year.
Mr Morley said there was clear scientific and veterinary advice that the 20-day standstill remained the best way of achieving two key objectives - allowing time for the detection of any new outbreak; and slowing down the spread of any undetected disease in the period between its arrival and its detection.
The benefits of the standstill have been endorsed by the Lessons Learned and Royal Society Inquiries into FMD which reported last month. They emphasised the need for detailed risk assessment and a wide ranging cost-benefit analysis to take place before any substantial permanent move away from the 20-day rule could be contemplated. Industry interests will be closely engaged by Government in those further analyses over the coming months. Mr Morley emphasised that the interim regime for this Autumn was wholly without prejudice to the permanent regime. In the light of ongoing scientific and veterinary advice, the Government recognises there are risks in any relaxation of the 20-day movement restriction. However, it also acknowledges that the restriction places significant burdens on some sections of the livestock industry, particularly during the Autumn sheep breeding period. DEFRA is therefore making these limited exemptions to enable farmers whose businesses would be substantially hit by the 20-day rule, although they will have to meet the conditions and costs involved (who will?).
Mr Morley emphasised that DEFRA was taking the farming community on trust in making the concessions. "This concession has been offered on the clear understanding that the farming community recognises the risks involved in any failure to observe the strict isolation rules, and plays its full part in ensuring that these risks are minimised.
"Any individual farmer that breaks the conditions will lose the exemption. If we find evidence of widespread abuse, we will give very serious consideration to withdrawing these concessions which have been offered to the industry in good faith.
"These restrictions, and the conditions we are placing on exemptions, are in place to protect the livestock farming industry from the risk of another major disease outbreak. It is in the farmers' interests to ensure that the system operates effectively. We call on leading stakeholders to play their part in calling for all farmers to abide by the rules of this scheme," he added.
DEFRA believes that the majority of farmers should be able to work within the 20-day rule. Equally, the Department expects those who apply for exemptions to meet all the criteria laid down for isolation and biosecurity and to fully comply with the specified conditions.
There will be unannounced spot checks on the operation of facilities and the observance of biosecurity rules.
The Government will be discussing with the industry the scope and methodology of the detailed risk assessments and cost-benefit analyses recommended by the Inquiry reports before reaching a view on the standstill arrangements for the longer term. The outcome of those assessments will determine whether the movements regime can be further relaxed, or has in some respects to be tightened.
Mr Morley urged the farming community not to go down the road of illegal movements. "Not only would the individuals involved lay themselves open to prosecution and, if convicted, to significant fines or even imprisonment.
"But, crucially, such actions would be very much against the interests of the industry as a whole. In the event of a fresh disease outbreak, it is vital that our ability to trace movements and take action to control the disease is not compromised. If that were to happen, we would all be the losers, but particularly the livestock industry itself, and those engaging in illegal movements would bear a very heavy responsibility," he said. (Defra Press Release)


Date of letter sent 16th July 2002 - in reply to Ms R's letter of 22nd NOVEMBER 2001



(The Animal Health Bill will give the Secretary of State powers to slaughter any animal, healthy or not, that he sees fit and demand full cooperation from the owners - on pain of their being treated as criminals. The animals do not have to be animals suspected of being diseased - merely "susceptible animals". It is the equivalent of saying all humans are susceptible to cancer; therefore, in the interests of human health, we reserve the right to slaughter any human.

The hurrying through of this bill to give retrospective legality to a massacre that was both callous and unnecessary, shows how much the government realised the illegality of the measures. See how feeble are the answers Lord Whitty gave to Lord Willoughby de Broke when he closely questioned the legality of the cull. The legality of the contiguous cull was NOT upheld in the courts. Once a judge realised the dubious scientific basis for the draconian measures he awarded costs AGAINST Maff and said, "that there is much to be said for the alternative of monitoring and blood testing which Mrs Upton offered in the first place... .."that is the proportionate response to the situation in which we now find ourselves" (page 19 of Upton judgement )


From the same paper that brought us "Carwyn Jones' My Hell" - we have this article on the Royal Society Inquiry. However, it would appear that Hugo Duncan of the Wales Daily Post is performing for the NFU and FUW the same service as Vic Robertson for the Scots unions. Which Report were they reading? This clinging to the idea that "consumers" were responsible for the decision not to vaccinate is surely the last straw to clutch... (See what the National Consumer Council was really saying last year) What the RS report actually said was that animals on an infected farm should still be culled but healthy livestock on neighbouring premises be vaccinated as a "major tool of first resort" to prevent the disease spreading.

Culling is only way to tackle foot-and-mouth

By Hugo Duncan Daily Post Staff FARMERS' unions in Wales last night welcomed the results of a scientific inquiry set up by the Government into foot-and-mouth. The Royal Society report, led by Sir Brian Follett, found the UK should seek to remain free of the disease without using routine vaccination. But it urged the Government to ensure by the end of next year emergency vaccination can be used as a primary means of preventing any future outbreak becoming an epidemic. It was ordered after last year's epidemic claimed the lives of almost seven million animals and cost taxpayers and the private sector more than £8bn. During the crisis vaccination was rejected by farmers (sic) as an alternative to the culling.
A policy of vaccinate-to-live could be adopted in future meaning vaccinated animals not infected are not automatically culled and their meat and meat products are allowed to enter the food chain, although further tests are needed before such a policy could be implemented.
But the Follett Report stressed culling would still be necessary. It said: "For the foreseeable future there is no alternative when an outbreak occurs to the rapid culling of diseased animals and all those that are known, or very likely, to have been infected by them."
NFU Cymru president Peredur Hughes said: "We support the report's recommendation that emergency vaccination should be considered as an option alongside the slaughter of infected animals and dangerous contacts as part of an overall control strategy in any future foot-and-mouth outbreak." The 15-strong panel of the inquiry also considered issues over the export of meat from vaccinated animals and whether consumers would be happy to buy such products.
Mr Hughes said more research was needed on the subject. He said:
"One of the biggest problems we had last time round was that we couldn't sell vaccinated meat because it would be regarded as second class and the public may not accept it. If that is the case we cannot accept vaccination." Farmers Union of Wales president Bob Parry also expressed concern about whether vaccinated meat could enter the food chain safely but was satisfied with the report's recommendations.
Rural Development Minister Michael German welcomed the report, saying key issues raised would be looked at in detail, but Tory AM for Mid and West Wales Glyn Davies described it as part of the Government's whitewash strategy to divert attention from its own culpability for the crisis.


(Some clever damage limitation here from Vic Robertson of the Scotsman, particularly in the choice of headline, on behalf of the NFU However, Mr Robertson here ignores Brian Follett's clear statement:"There are now no insuperable problems with vaccination, whether technical, scientific, trade or cultural," .)

Culling best way to fend off epidemics

Vic Robertson
CALLS for a more robust early warning system and better contingency planning were issued yesterday to prevent the outbreak of serious animal diseases, which have cost the country an estimated £1 billion per year over the past 15 years.
These were the main findings of the Royal Society report into last year's foot-and-mouth epidemic, which puts prevention ahead of cure.

The report, by a committee chaired by Sir Brian Follett, does conclude that the UK should be planning to use emergency vaccination, but it also argues that, for the foreseeable future, there is no alternative to rapid culling of diseased animals and likely contacts.
It lays down issues - both technical and consumer orientated - to be resolved before emergency vaccination could be introduced. These, it says, could be introduced by the end of next year "with a significant effort by Defra", the government's rural affairs department.
Essentially a forward looking document designed to prevent, or more effectively control, future outbreaks of List A diseases, the report nevertheless appears to pre-empt some of the conclusions expected in the scientific report, due to be published next week, of the lessons learned from the outbreak.
The most significant of lessons were the lack of effective animal disease prevention at both national and EU levels and the lack of effective contingency planning by the government.
It urges the government to lay down new contingency plans for parliamentary debate and approval, with an annual practical rehearsal and a triennial review. It also calls for the creation of a pan-European risk and surveillance unit.
It argues that increasing globalisation of the meat industry demands more international co-operation. At a grass-roots level, it calls for more interaction between farmers and veterinary surgeons.
In the event of an outbreak, it majors on co-ordinated, effective action. "Cull infected premises within 24 hours and all identified dangerous contacts within 48 hours," it says.
The use of modelling to develop culling strategies is also mooted. "Emergency vaccination offers an attractive alternative to extensive culling. But... its implementation requires a number of issues to be resolved, not all of which are scientific or technical in nature.
"Once in place, however, we envisage emergency vaccination being employed at an early stage in an FMD outbreak so as to ensure it does not develop into an epidemic."
But, having gone down an emergency vaccination route, the report says this must be matched by an effective exit strategy to insure the country returns quickly to a "disease free" status.
The report's authors fight shy of criticising successive government cuts in financing state veterinary activity and research effort in the area of animal disease, but calls for an additional £250 million to be spent over ten years in this area with the creation of a new National Centre for Animal Disease Research and Surveillance.
The reduction of animal movements to achieve an "optimal balance" between industry concerns is also highlighted. "Ways to minimise movement need to be found, including wider application of standstill quarantine arrangements and ensuring animals are slaughtered as close to the farm as possible," it says.
The report was given a slightly warmer welcome by NFU Scotland for its "practical" approach than the Royal Society of Edinburgh's report, along broadly similar lines, on Monday.
John Kinnaird, union vice-president, said: "The report recommends moving to a position where emergency vaccination could be used in future foot-and-mouth outbreaks in conjunction with the slaughter of infected animals and dangerous contacts and it recognises the obstacles which would have to be overcome before such a policy could be introduced.
"These have been consistently highlighted by NFUS and include the fact that marker vaccines and tests to distinguish between vaccinated animals and infected animals need to be fully validated; trade implications both within and beyond the EU need to be sorted out and retailers and consumers would need to accept products from vaccinated animals."
He added: "This reinforces our conviction that vaccination was not an option last year - but it could become an option."
The immediate priority, he said, were tougher import controls - as recommended by the Northumberland report into the 1967 foot-and-mouth outbreak.


Genetically superior sheep to found next-generation flock....National flock screened for scrapie
Nature

British sheep are at the centre of one of the most ambitious projects in genetic science.
The national flock is being tested for a gene that confers resistance to the brain disease scrapie. The aim is to use genetically hardy rams to breed scrapie resistance into UK sheep - and thwart a repeat outbreak of BSE which occurred when the blight jumped into cattle. (sic)
In a state-of-the-art lab in Oxfordshire, robots are analysing around 10,000 sheep samples a week. The first disease-resistant rams went to market this summer - with certificates confirming their genetic calibre.
The project, called the National Scrapie Plan, is one of several using the latest genetic testing techniques to help farmers breed animals that possess the characteristics they want. These include pigs with succulent meat and hens that lay abundantly.
Future flock
Scrapie has been endemic in the UK flock for more than 250 years. It is thought to have triggered the BSE epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s, when farmers gave cattle food containing sheep remains. This is believed to have passed into humans who ate infected meat products, causing the fatal Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
At the peak of the crisis, "We knew we had to do something", says Ann Nolan, manager of the National Scrapie Plan. The UK government launched the scheme in July 2001 after consultations with scientists and farmers.
.........It's important we don't kid ourselves that by eliminating clinical disease we've eliminated the infectious agent Chris Bostock Institute for Animal Health .........Now, recruited by mail shots, ram breeders are queuing up to have their prize animals screened for scrapie resistance free-of-charge. They sign a contract agreeing to slaughter or castrate animals that turn out to be susceptible to the disease. ...... Orchid BioSciences, based in Princeton, New Jersey, screen the majority of the ram blood samples for a single gene that confers susceptibility or resistance to scrapie. The gene makes the prion protein, which folds up abnormally in the related brain diseases that affect sheep, cows and humans. Sheep with one of the fifteen different types of the gene appear to be completely resistant to scrapie.
The same gene also seems to protect sheep from the bovine form of the disease (sic). There is on-going concern among scientists and the public that BSE might have jumped back from cows to sheep and that eating sheep meat products might also cause human infection. As yet, however, researchers have no actual evidence that this transmission has occurred. Selecting for sheep that carry a BSE-resistant gene, however, is insurance against this possibility. Three weeks on, the genetic results come through to breeders. Scrapie-resistant rams are auctioned to sire hardy flocks. The chosen few "are already showing a premium in sales", says Nolan. .....................
Sheep are not the only animals being SNP-selected. The majority of the US and UK pig industry already commonly check their breeding swine for a gene that causes soft, watery meat. Pig-breeding company Sygen International, based in Berkeley, California, offer around 25 SNP tests for genes associated with litter size, meat quality and susceptibility to disease. They also offer a catalogue of pigs - or their semen - bred to carry various genetic attributes. The company ship animals all over the world: "Different countries have different tastes in pigs," says research manager Alan Mileham. Sygen and other research groups are working on identifying agriculturally useful genes - from disease resistance in poultry broilers to meat quality in cows. Most agree that genetic technology is about to invade the farmyard in a big way. "I think there's tremendous potential," says Bostock.
(5 July 2002) .


Scotland "weak link" if ID card rejected
Scotland on Sunday July 7 2002

..... A spokesman for Blunkett said: "At a time when organised crime and human trafficking are becoming ever more sophisticated, the UK is alone among European countries in not having a national system of ID cards" (warmwell note: Here the Home Secretary has been misinformed. Denmark: No card. Republic of Ireland: No card. Sweden: No card) " Were England, Wales and Northern Ireland to adopt the cards, Scotland could become the weakest link in the fight against fraud . I don't think anyone wants to see that happen.
"There will be a number of issues which we shall have to discuss with the devolved administrations, and that is why we are having a consultation, there's no reason for any conflict in this."
Blunkett also told MPs last week that criminals would flock to Scotland if Holyrood refused to introduce the scheme. He said: "Were we able to introduce a card that dealt with organised fraud, and were Scotland not to have such a card, Scotland would become an absolute haven for fraudsters. Not even the Scottish National Party would want that." ......


The WMN here exposes spin rather than disseminating it. A splendid newspaper and one of our few remaining independent ones. Ian Davidson's - demonstrating the current spin-thinking that vitriolic attack is the best form of defence performance gets the reporting it deserves.

MP ATTACKS 'GRASPING' FARMERS
Western Morning News

09:00 - 04 July 2002 A labour MP yesterday launched an astonishing attack on "greedy, grasping" farmers who he claimed had taken the taxpayer for a ride during last year's foot and mouth crisis.
Ian Davidson, the left-wing Labour MP for Glasgow Pollock, said farmers and others in the rural community had benefited from widespread "profiteering" during the crisis at the expense of the ordinary taxpayer.
Mr Davidson, a member of the Public Accounts Committee, said it was astonishing that "the people responsible for the whole thing" had suffered less financially than the taxpayer or other businesses. He also suggested that farmers had obstructed the slaughter process to get more compensation money for their animals.
Addressing Brian Bender, the top civil servant at the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Mr Davidson said: "I formed the view, perhaps as an urban man, that farmers saw this crisis as an opportunity to make money at the public expense. You were afraid that farmers, unless their mouths were stuffed with gold, would refuse to let you on their land to slaughter their stock.
"All the talk we hear about animal welfare is so much hooey."
Mr Bender pointed out that livestock compensation had to be paid by law, although he hinted that the Government was considering a "compulsory" insurance scheme for farmers. He said that while there was some evidence of "valuation creep" as the crisis went on, spot checks on livestock valuations had found that they could be substantiated.
July 4 02


Not a newspaper article that is itself an example of spin - but one which directs attention to the most frightening spin in an EU document 173 million pounds to be spent on propaganda. Extract from Telegraph 1st July 2002 by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

Brussels follows Labour's spin model
Telegraph

..............A leaked strategy document obtained by The Telegraph outlines a plan to spend 267 million euros (£173 million) over four years to devise a core catechism of "messages", and harness all elements of the European system to "improve the perception that citizens have of the European Union". The new unit will begin operations in early 2003, in time for the expected euro referendums in Britain and Sweden. An "action plan" will start in September involving the use of focus groups in each member state. It will work with the opinion poll departments of each EU government and co-ordinate "informational vigilance".


The trail of the unmarked pig leads to surprising conclusions about our food
"Independent"

29 June 2002
Like a class of guilty schoolchildren, none of the 34 farmers who supplied the slaughterhouse would own up to the unmarked pig that set off last week's scare about foot-and-mouth disease.
The new Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has acted with commendable speed in checking all animals on all the farms and in narrowing down the list of suspects to 17. But it still beggars belief that some farmers have failed to learn from the 38bn disaster of last year's outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, one of the world's largest.
While everyone - not least in the tourist industry, which bore the brunt of last year's losses - will be relieved that last week's suspected case turned out to be a false alarm, there are two general lessons from the incident.
One is that no one should pay too much attention to complaints from farmers about burdensome regulations and red tape.
From the behaviour of the mystery farmer in Leicestershire and that of Bobby Waugh, sentenced yesterday for hygiene offences at the farm where last year's outbreak probably started, it should be apparent that not all farmers can be trusted to behave responsibly. It should be remembered, therefore, that regulation is in the interest not just of responsible farmers but of the rest of us, too.
The other lesson is more sympathetic to the farming industry. Too few people in this country are aware of the economic pressures on Britain's pig industry. This does not excuse the failings of Waugh or the anonymous owner of the unmarked Leicestershire pig. But it is easier to maintain high standards in an industry that is profitable.
The problem pig farmers face is that some regulations - those concerned with animal welfare - are different in different parts of Europe. Britain has better rules on pig husbandry, among other things banning the tethering of sows, than some of its neighbours.
This makes British pork more expensive, and so consumers have been driven by price to cheaper foreign imports. Part of the solution is better food labelling, giving consumers more information about where meat comes from and the circumstances of its production.
But there is a larger issue here, about the nature of a free market in food, which is what the European Union is supposed to be working towards. While the EU struggles towards the reduction of Common Agricultural Policy subsidies - on which it has made absolutely no progress recently, despite the urgent need to reach a deal before 10 new member states can join in 2004 - it has neglected issues of animal welfare.
The question is how to create a wider market in which the incentives are tilted against animal cruelty, rather than encouraging farmers to undercut each other at the expense of animal welfare.
Germany faced another aspect of this dilemma when it unilaterally decided to phase out battery hens altogether, while Britain has so far decided to adopt the new EU-wide "enriched cages" minimum standard.
It may seem a long way from the peasant farmers of Krakow to Leicestershire, but the foot-and-mouth false alarm at the abattoir in Congerstone is a reminder of the connectedness of the European food market. So far, the rhetoric of Europe's leaders about enlargement has been fine, windy stuff. Bringing in 75 million more people, mostly central Europeans, with an average income per head of about a quarter of that enjoyed by the rest of the EU, is right and noble and good and in the long-term interest of all the peoples of this continent. But in the short term there are many practical difficulties that the EU's leaders failed miserably to tackle at their Seville summit last weekend.

(some unprocessed swill here- but its provenance at least is crystal clear. Perhaps it will occur to the "Independent's" readers that you cannot say you own an unmarked pig if you don't own it. The undisguised venom of the attack on farmers is almost laughable and could have come from only one place.)


Battle lines are drawn over farm reforms
The Times

From Rory Watson in Brussels

Big farmers will lose cash as subsidies shift to aid rural revival

THE European Commission is about to unveil far-reaching reforms of its £27 billion-a-year farm policy that aim to end food mountains, curb factory farming and restore the rural environment. Describing the common agricultural policy (CAP) as “no longer acceptable or sustainable”, a 33-page draft strategy paper seen by The Times contains proposals that will change the face of European farming. The reforms - the most radical in the CAP's 40-year history - would cut the cash handouts that encourage relentless increases in production to the detriment of food safety, animal welfare and the countryside.
The paper proposes to shift funds away from the sort of intensive farming that contributed to the foot-and-mouth and BSE epidemics. Instead EU money will be redirected towards programmes to improve the environment and revive rural economies. It would also cap the huge subsidies paid to large farmers, most of whom are in Britain and eastern Germany. The National Farmers Union said 580 farms in England would lose around £62 million.
The general thrust will be welcomed by the Government which has long championed reform of a policy that is widely discredited but accounts for nearly half the EU's budget. However, the paper's publication ....etc
June 28 02

Farm rip-offs hit taxpayers for millions
The Times

By Valerie Elliott, Countryside Editor The Times
New foot-and-mouth outbreak feared as massive fraud is revealed
MILLIONS of pounds of taxpayers' cash was squandered on controlling the foot-and-mouth epidemic in a massive rip-off by contractors, vets, farmers and valuers, the National Audit Office discloses today.
The damning indictment of the Government's handling of an epidemic that cost the country 38 billion emerged amid fears last night that the virus had returned to haunt Britain's farms with the discovery last night of a suspected case in the Midlands.
......... The report highlights poor financial controls, lack of emergency planning and a failure to consider the potential impact on tourism and other rural business in the event of a widespread animal disease alert. The Government is also criticised for not using the Army and for failing to impose a ban on animal movements from the start.
The shortcomings of the former Ministry of Agriculture and the new Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are considered so serious that the National Audit Office has insisted on a review of emergency planning for every department. The report also spells out how vets, valuers, slaughtermen, contractors and farmers all took advantage of the emergency as a Government desperate to bring the epidemic under control paid premium rates. Stock valuations soared as the disaease took hold, so that the average compensation for a cow rose from £500 in February to 31,500 in May. Sheep were valued at £100 on average in March and at £350 four months later. This benefited both farmer and the valuer, who could claim 1 per cent of the value of a farmer's stock, no matter how many animals were involved.
The story was repeated at every level of the operation. The Government paid more than three times the usual rate for land used as burial sites; farm workers and contractors were paid up to £27 an hour to disinfect farms, compared with the £4.77 minimum wage for a farm labourer.
Lack of controls allowed contractors to be paid without submitting invoices, and some firms double charged. A number of fraud investigations are now under way. In the end the epidemic cost the taxpayer 33 billion and the private sector 35 billion.

Rich pickings for contractors as Britain burnt
The Times

By Valerie Elliott, Countryside Editor
VETS, valuers, slaughtermen, farmers and private contractors leapt on to a multimillion-pound gravy train during last year's foot-and-mouth epidemic because of the Government's poor financial controls, the National Audit Office concluded. Ministers were so desperate to bring the disease under control that they were forced to pay top rates to companies and workers employed to deal with the slaughter and disposal of animals and for hiring lorries and construction equipment to dig burial pits and build pyres.
Costs were a secondary importance. The public spending watchdog said: “Ministers believed best value for money would be achieved by eradicating the disease as quickly as possible.”
The lack of a contingency plan meant that officials were frantically scouring the country for suppliers and equipment, the NAO said. Many companies did not want to become involved in the work, thinking it too difficult and potentially hazardous. The Government was in such a panic that it had no option but to agree premium prices.
Multimillion-pound contracts that would normally take months to negotiate were agreed within hours. Deals were done verbally and only confirmed by e-mail.
Invoices submitted by the large companies are now being meticulously scrutinised and the Government is locked in legal wrangles with a number of them.
Firms preparing burial pits had to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to meet tight deadlines and this resulted in high claims for overtime, night and weekend working.
The Government was also forced to pay huge amounts for materials needed for the funeral pyres. There was a shortage of wooden railway sleepers. Their cost varied from £5 to £20, but now the Government is left with 100,000 sleepers worth just £1 to £10.
The Government also had to pay £130 a tonne for coal. Surplus stocks are now worth less than £15 a tonne. ........


Bad farmers cause £1.2bn damage to environment
The Times

By Anthony Browne, Environment Editor
A GOVERNMENT watchdog is calling for a series of punishments to curb bad farmers, saying that they cause more than £1.2 billion worth of damage to the environment each year.
The Environment Agency says that far more farmers should be fined for causing pollution and is calling for on-the-spot penalties and special taxes to encourage them to use fewer pesticides.
In its report, entitled Agriculture and Natural Resources, it suggests that bad farmers should be named in trade newspapers and calls on the Government to consider buying land from farmers for the benefit of the public and the environment.
The environmental damage, mainly from polluting water, soil and air, costs each household in Britain about £50 a year, the report says. Farmers are also accused of increasing the risk of flooding, causing soil erosion, spreading disease and killing fish stocks in rivers. The report, which has been denounced by .......
June 18 02


Blair images 'put off tourists'

BBC

Blair's yellow suit caused problems, says Campbell
Images of Tony Blair at the height of the foot-and-mouth crisis may have frightened off foreign tourists, says the government's media chief. Alastair Campbell is quoted in a think-tank's new report, which says much of the £2bn losses experienced by the British tourist industry during the crisis was due to a lack of communication with the public overseas. Governments do not pay enough attention to the way that stories will be received abroad
The Foreign Policy Centre, which has close links to Downing Street, says the UK must realise that influencing public opinion abroad is as important as talking to diplomats.
Author Mark Leonard says that increasingly, ordinary people can play a key role - from persuading people not to become terrorists to encouraging reform of farming policies.
...Mr Leonard cites the foot-and-mouth crisis as an example of how government departments fail to take account of how news stories will be seen overseas.
Downing Street communications director Mr Campbell, interviewed for the report, said foot-and-mouth saw a "collision" between domestic and foreign audiences.
He recalled when Tony Blair had worn a yellow protective suit when visiting one farm during the outbreak.
Alastair Campbell says links with foreign media could improve
"Part of our message, once we'd focused on it as a crisis management issue being led from the top, was the prime minister was involved, sleeves rolled up, talking to farmers regularly...
"I admit that this didn't cross my mind, you get these dramatic pictures of the prime minister wearing yellow suits and walking around a farmyard and in America they think: 'Christ! He's got to wear a yellow suit! And he's the prime minister!' "
Mr Leonard argues that more information needs to be given to foreign correspondents based in London, who play a key part in forming opinion abroad.
Communication problems
Staff in UK embassies overseas also had difficulty in getting information about foot-and-mouth, says the report.
One official said: "The lines Maff (the then Ministry of Agriculture) produced may have been fine in the UK but they failed to address concerns overseas.
"The 'formal' end of foot-and-mouth was announced at midnight with no notice to embassies."
June 18 02

Farmers are swimming against tide of opinion

By Our Environment Editor (The Times) IN THE battle to keep England, and indeed Britain, a green and pleasant land, the reflooding of the Fens is a victory for the environmentalists. The landscape we see today is the product of thousands of years of increasingly intense farming, which has moulded its habitats and wildlife. It would be almost totally unrecognisable to those who lived here 2,000 years ago.
Gone are the vast wetlands and gone are the deciduous forests that stretched from coast to coast. Gone too is much of the original wildlife, including the beaver and the wolf.
But what do we think it should be like in the future? Environmentalists argue that it is not good enough just to try to conserve the fragments we have left. We should, they say, try to turn back the clock and recreate our primeval habitats and re-introduce the indigenous wildlife. And that brings them into conflict with the other main users of the land - the farmers. When the RSPB produced a report last year proposing to recreate many habitats across Britain, the National Farmers' Union said pointedly that the farmed landscape is the one we know and love, and has become by default the natural landscape of Britain. Hill farmers in the Lake District insist that it is so beautiful because it is grazed by sheep; without them impenetrable gorse would grow across the hills.The Lake District valleys were originally filled with trees, which would hamper the views as people drove along valley roads.
Plans to reintroduce beavers in Scotland have been fought by local farmers worried about the damage that the giant rodents might do. In the South of England, farmers have to shoot troublesome wild boar, which are starting to make a comeback.
Farmers may oppose this back-to-raw-nature trend but they are swimming against the tide of history and public opinion.There seems to be increasing demand for natural landscapes and habitats the public can visit and enjoy.
In the Fens, almost nine out of ten of those asked about the RSPB's plans to recreate the original wetland said they approved.


Disgraced farmer covered up disease

By The Journal
A disgraced farmer was left waiting to learn his fate last night after he was convicted of covering up a devastating outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease at his North-East pig unit.
A judge ruled Bobby Waugh, 56, must have known animals at Burnside Farm in Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumberland, were infected with the disease but ignored the obvious symptoms and deliberately failed to report the outbreak to officials.
The result was that many of his pigs suffered pain and cruelty because of his failure to call in a vet who could have put them out of their misery.
Last night Waugh insisted his conscience was clear. He said: "I didn't know the disease was there, so I couldn't report it, so far as I was concerned I don't regret anything I've done." District judge James Prowse also found Waugh guilty of breaking the laws aimed at preventing diseases such as foot-and-mouth by feeding unprocessed catering waste to his pigs.
Burnside Farm was the first in the North-East where FMD was found and is thought to have been the most likely source of last year's devastating epidemic. Last night, Northumberland County Council - which brought the prosecution - said it did not invite anyone to draw any conclusions from the convictions about the role Burnside Farm played in the national outbreak. National Farmers' Union North-East and Yorkshire spokesman Rob Simpson said: "It is all ifs and buts but if Mr Waugh had notified the authorities earlier things might have been completely different last year.
"Farmers pride themselves on high standards and wherever we hear of instances of cruelty and malpractice we deplore it. Farmers will be glad that someone who has broken the rules has been brought to book.'" Waugh, of St Luke's Road, Pallion, Sunderland, was .........
June 1 02


Horror scenes in the farm of filth

May 31 2002 By The Evening Chronicle
Appalling scenes show the horrific conditions on the farm at the centre the foot and mouth epidemic which devastated the country.
The never-before-seen pictures obtained by the Chronicle show the disgusting conditions which greeted sickened trading standards officers at Bobby Waugh's Burnside Farm in Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumberland, last February.
Sick and ailing pigs lie in a huddled mass, broken crockery lies scattered and festering and the farm dog is allowed to root through the piled-up filth.
It was this farm which the then Agriculture Minister Nick Brown said was the `most likely' source of the outbreak which led to hundreds of thousands of animals being slaughtered.
The conditions were captured by Northumberland trading standards officers and used as part of their evidence against Mr Waugh in his three-week trial.
As revealed in later editions of the Chronicle last night, Waugh, 56, of St Lukes Road, Pallion, Sunderland, was convicted of nine charges of animal cruelty and covering up the disease which ripped through Britain ruining the lives of thousands of farmers.
At South East Northumberland Magistrates Court at Bedlington, Judge James Prowse found Waugh guilty of five counts of failing to notify authorities of the outbreak at Burnside.
He was also found guilty of one count of feeding unprocessed waste to his animals and one of failing to properly dispose of animal by-products.
Waugh was cleared of two counts of causing unnecessary suffering to pigs, one of bringing unprocessed waste on to the farm and three of failing to dispose of animal by-products. A charge of failing to keep records of pig movements was dropped during the hearing.
The case was adjourned for pre-sentence reports. Waugh is expected to be sentenced on June 28. Afterwards Waugh said: "I don't regret anything I did, because I didn't know the disease was there, so I couldn't report it, so far as I was concerned. I don't regret anything what I done."......etc see original story


GM virus restores fertility to male mice

By Mark Henderson, Science Correspondent The Times
A GENETICALLY modified virus has been used to correct a form of infertility in male mice. Scientists in the United States and Japan used the gene therapy to replace faulty DNA in testicle cells that nurture sperm, allowing previously sterile mice to produce viable sperm that could fertilise eggs in a test tube.
The findings indicate that it should be possible to treat some types of male infertility with similar methods. Between 70 and 90 per cent of cases of male infertility are caused by problems with sperm production of the sort that could potentially be corrected by gene therapy, researchers said.
In the study, conducted at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, and the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research in Tsukuba, Japan, a variety of virus known as a lentivirus was engineered to carry an extra gene known as c-kit.
The modified lentivirus was then injected into the testes of mice who had genetic defects in their Sertoli cells - testicle cells that play a vital role in tending sperm to maturity. The virus infected the Sertoli cells, transferring the working copy of the c-kit genes.
After the treatment, the mice began making functional sperm for the first time. While they did not produce enough to fertilise females during sex, it was possible for researchers to fertilise eggs in the laboratory using intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection, according to preliminary research details published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


'Hunt hijack' at RSPCA elections The Times

MEMBERS of the RSPCA, the world's oldest animal welfare charity, were warned yesterday that extremists had infiltrated next week's elections to the ruling council. The hardliners identified in a letter from the charity leadership are supporters of fox-hunting with hounds, not animal rights activists engaged in direct action against vivisection laboratories. The RSPCA opposed hunting in 1996.

The move undermines the Queen's role as patron as she is a supporter of blood sports.

Malcolm Tomlinson, chairman of the RSPCA council, has sent a harsh letter to the 44,000 members warning that the elections could be hijacked. His letter stated: "The society is always at risk of infiltration from people who may not have the best interests of animal welfare or the RSPCA at heart.I suggest that before deciding how to vote, you read carefully the information given by all the candidates."

Mr Tomlinson does not identify the extremists but a telephone call to the members' advice line made clear exactly who the letter was aimed at.

A man on the helpline, who called himself Stewart, said: "We suspect they support hunting with hounds and want to overturn our policy on it. The RSPCA is opposed to hunting and we don't want candidates securing election to the council who will try to overturn it.

"We are not allowed to comment on candidates' manifestos but read them carefully. Hobbies will be listed where it might say if they hunt."

The RSPCA has infuriated leading members such as Sir John Mortimer, the playwright, who is a keen huntsman. "We know who they mean by infiltrators," he said. "They mean us. They have stolen the soul of the society."
ends


( And when the foxes are being gassed, maimed, trapped and shot and the hounds destroyed, the RSPCA - who raised no voice of protest at the policy of contiguous culling and has not pursued any of the 80 cruelty cases we heard about - may be content, but will country life be better for all? This highly emotive topic - in which both sides are so utterly convinced of their humane motives and rightness - has effectively silenced the voice of common sense over the past year. Anyone who thinks a deal was not done appears to us to be very trusting indeed. )


From the Food Standards Agency itself - a report from which a whole flurry of scare reports have been spawned.

Agency consults on BSE and Sheep report


The BSE Stakeholders' Group has advised the Food Standards Agency Board on new precautionary measures against the theoretical risk of BSE in sheep. The Agency's advice to consumers is unchanged. It is not advising against the consumption of lamb, mutton and goat meat. This applies to all age groups, including babies or other groups who may be considered vulnerable.
Recommendations
The BSE Stakeholders' Group, (made up of scientists, farming, food industry and consumer group representatives (warmwell note: WHICH ONES? What, if any, dissent was raised?), considered risk reduction measures that would be proportionate to what remains a theoretical risk. Against a background of scientific uncertainty, their report recommends the following precautionary measures:
Seek European Community-wide removal of all sheep intestine pending further investigation of the effectiveness of sausage casings processing in removing potential sources of infectivity.
Communicate the higher theoretical risk of infectivity in mutton and goat meat from older animals to communities which are more likely to eat such meats (namely Muslim and African Caribbean communities). Doing so would enable them to make their own informed choices. The Muslim community, for instance, eats around 20% of sheep meat, most of which is mutton.The African-Caribbean community is known to eat goat meat.
Continue to advise consumers as a whole on the theoretical risk, including the advice that if BSE were present in sheep, eating lamb rather than mutton is likely to reduce the risk.
Provide parallel advice and information to organisations catering for infants and children (such as local authorities, schools and nurseries) so they can make their own informed choices.
Seek agreement from the baby food industry to introduce voluntary country of origin labelling for baby food containing lamb, so that parents have maximum choice to select from other countries if they wish. The Agency should ask the European Community to accelerate the country by country BSE risk categorisation.
Set a clear priority for the development of a rapid diagnostic test for BSE in sheep. The Agency has already highlighted the urgent requirement to develop a validated rapid test to detect the possible presence of BSE in sheep.
Evolving science
FSA Chair Sir John Krebs said: Ongoing studies of the current sheep flock indicate that no sheep have tested positive for BSE. However, this is an evolving area of science and there are considerable uncertainties. While no sheep alive today are likely to have been exposed to any original source of infectivity, the theoretical risk that BSE could be present in sheep by virtue of transmission, and masked by scapie, remains. The Board of the Agency will examine this report very carefully in deciding what further measures are appropriate in dealing with the theoretical risk of BSE in sheep.
We need to make proportionate choices in acting on what continues to be a precautionary basis.
This report does not change the Agency's advice, which remains that we are not advising against the consumption of lamb and mutton.' Consultation
The report is published for public consultation and will be considered, along with responses, at the Agency's board meeting on June 13 2002.
May 23 2002

May 17 ~ (breathtaking in its would-be doublespeak is this stuff from the political prince of spin paving the way for more radical and sweeping "reforms" especially - since such play is made of decentralisation - in far more red tape imposed from the centre. The Guardian appears touched and moved at such wide-eyed spouting of "mea culpa" - what a pity it is no such thing.)

Mandelson: this timid, tinkering government

Ex-minister critical over inequality, transport - and spin Ex-minister says Labour has failed to deal with inequality
Patrick Wintour, chief political correspondent
Friday May 17, 2002 The Guardian
The Labour government only "tinkered" with social inequality in its first term and lost public trust by "clumsy, crude over-use of spin", Peter Mandelson concedes today in the Guardian. In one of the most honest and compelling assessments to come from a one-time Labour cabinet minister, Mr Mandelson also takes the blame for his role in the "false and damaging" idea that the Dome embodied New Labour's idea of modern Britain.
He defends good media skills, but says the government's character was harmed by allowing spin "to fall into disrepute through over-use, and misuse when in experienced or over-zealous hands ". Jo Moore, the former special adviser to the transport secretary, Stephen Byers, should have left government as soon as her email proposing the burying of bad news was revealed (sic. very revealing slip, this....), Mr Mandelson says. Despite the progress already made, he admits that the "tone of public comment has gnawed at the morale even of the most committed government supporters". He also asserts that transport proved to be the first term's biggest failure of execution and policy. Mr Mandelson's critique, contained in an updated version of his book The Blair Revolution, broadly reflects a wider rethink under way in Downing Street. Urging the government to embrace a less timid brand of politics, building on the political self-confidence of the budget, Mr Mandelson says it must renew itself in office by trumpeting its belief in equality.
In his most damning analysis, he says Labour has failed so far to address social immobility. "Too many of the worst estates and deprived communities in Britain remain unchanged by five years of Labour describing them as bleak ghettos depressing the spirits of all who live in them," he says. He argues that Labour has talked a good game about greater social mobility "including obligatory denunciations of snobbery, racial prejudice, the closed shops of the professions and the restricted access to universities and the civil service". "But has it really taken these citadels by storm and made a difference for the sort of young people who live in my constituency and feel shut out because so many paths are barred to them? The answer is no. We just tinkered." Britain remains a society with too many elites and scarred by poverty of aspirations among the less affluent. He argues that many of the government's present difficulties have their origins in an earlier need to redress Labour's long-standing problems. Many of New Labour's former strengths have turned into weaknesses, he says. "In putting reassurance first(sic), arguably we sometimes lacked boldness. In winning back middle-class support, we caused some heartland confusion and loss of support. In acquiring skills to deal with the media, we created 'spin' . In imposing early, tough financial discipline, we delayed public service delivery. In breaking dependence on trade union finance, we generated allegations of 'sleaze'. In winning business to our side, we lost some workforce confidence."
Some of his harshest and most self critical words are reserved for the government's commitment to media management, an emphasis always associated with his career.
Once in office, he says, "New Labour's 'spin machine' went into action and, having promised less than we thought we could do, we started hyping more than we were actually achieving, with the consequence that the major transformations in British society that the government had put under way were lost in a fog of charge and countercharge, with the media assuming the role of Her Majesty's opposition (sic)". He adds: "Crude clumsy handling of the media by overly controlling and politicised press officers causes more problems than no handling at all, because it undermines trust." He urges the government to go much further in decentralising power. "Apart from the odd elected mayor, too little seems to have happened since 1997 to modernise local government or its capacity to tackle social tensions, urban and social regeneration." Nor has the party unambiguously embraced the constitutional agenda. He claims the government still seems embarrassed by its liberalism. "It is quite a failing to have carried through so much constitutional reform already and yet seemingly demonstrated so little enthusiasm for it."
Mr Mandelson claims the Blair administration has been the most successful Labour government in history, but this does not preclude a constant re-examination and updating. The government, he says, needs "greater realism, greater attention to how we incentivise and empower decentralised institutions to achieve government objectives and targets, and greater honesty about the dilemmas and difficulties of bringing about change, so that expectations are put into perspective".


email sent by Graeme Hunter of the GM Co-ordination Team at the Scottish Executive

to those who object to the The Scottish Parliament's environment committee decision against any further inquiry into genetically-modified crop trials.
.. The Scottish Executive is conscious of the genuine concerns which exist about the possible effects of growing GM crops. That is why, with the co-operation of the biotechnology companies and key environmental groups, the farm scale evaluation programme was introduced and the first Scottish sites identified in spring 2000. It is not a programme which has been embarked upon without regard to public or environmental safety. On the contrary, it is only because we have sought and obtained the necessary reassurances from those best qualified to advise us (Scottish Natural Heritage, the Food Standards Agency , the Health and Safety Executive) that we were prepared to give approval for individual GM crops to be released on a handful of sites in Scotland. All GM crops, prior to their release into the wider environment, are grown in laboratories, greenhouses and small scale plots. The results of these earlier trials are considered carefully by the statutory Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE).

ACRE is an independent expert body, established to provide government with up-to-date scientific advice on the potential impacts (direct and indirect, immediate and delayed) of 'releasing' non-native species, including GM crops. Based on the evidence of over a decade's research on this particular GM crop the Committee has determined that the oilseed rape being grown in the farm scale trials does not pose a threat to public health or the environment. It would be irresponsible and illegal for Scottish Ministers to ignore the unequivocal assurances of their expert advisors and withhold consent on the basis of doubts or concerns which are not supported by the evidence. It remains open for consent for the trial of a GM crop to be withdrawn if evidence emerges to suggest that it would be harmful to proceed. If that was to happen after a crop had been planted, Ministers have powers to order its destruction. However, to do so without sound scientific justification would be in contravention of European law. ......."

(Perhaps Mr Hunter is unaware that on May 6, Belgium's new environment minister Magda Aelvoet invoked the "precautionary principle" to block five field trials of GM oilseed rape. Ross Finnie has the power to ban similar experiments in Scotland - yet he claims he does not have the power "because of the EU". How convenient for the GM companies when politicians are so spineless. Magda Aelvoet has ruled that it was "impossible" to stop leakied genetically modified materialfrom escaping into the environment, despite strict measures designed to protect surrounding wildlife and has warned GM developers that she will introduce a change in her government's policy on the issue, with future trials subject to much tougher rules. Friends of the Earth in Scotland is now calling on Ross Finnie to follow suit. )


Blanket assurance on MMR 'a mistake'

The blanket reassurances on the MMR vaccine were attacked yesterday by a leading scientist who said they risked further undermining the confidence of parents.
The warning by Lord May will put pressure on the Government to quantify the risk posed by the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine - even though it is thought to be tiny - rather than write it off completely.
...Lord May, president of the Royal Society and former chief scientist to the Prime Minister, was speaking at a London seminar on the Challenges of the Future.
He contrasted the health department's stance with the openness of the Food Standard Agency in discussing the risk that BSE had passed to lamb, which remained unknown because of flawed experiments that muddled up sheep and cow brains.
Because the agency presented the public with the uncertainties, rather than a blanket reassurance, there had been relatively little unease about BSE in lamb.
But had the agency said that there was nothing to worry about, and the chairman Sir John Krebs had fed his children lamb-burgers, "it would have provoked such echoes of the mistakes made previously with BSE that there would have been a huge fuss".
Telegraph May 15 2002


Scientist warns against relaxing BSE controls

LONDON (Reuters) - A government adviser on mad cow disease has warned against relaxing rules on the sale of beef from older cattle, just one week after a review of the control was announced.
...But Professor Roy Anderson said the Over Thirty Months Scheme (OTMS) would be better than a test programme, due to uncertainty over the sensitivity of tests when an animal may be incubating the disease.
...Anderson said he did not want to prejudice the review, being conducted jointly by the FSA and SEAC.
Reuters May 15 2002


May 14 ~Sausages a BSE risk, says expert

by Geraint Smith
Pate, sausages, and other processed meat imported from Europe are a BSE loophole that ought to be closed, Britain's leading expert on the mad cow disease epidemic said today.
Professor Roy Anderson, chief epidemiologist at Imperial College London, said. "I've been on and on at the Food Standards Agency for some time. All I can do is keep plugging away at the areas in which I think that there are scientific frailties."
As cases of BSE fall in Britain, they are rising sharply across Europe. However, unlike Britain, there is no requirement in Europe to remove animals aged over 30 months from the food chain. Instead, all animals aged over 30 months are tested for BSE when slaughtered.
"Having the testing is a good thing," said Prof Anderson, "but the sensitivity of the test is an issue that must be addressed."
The risk from imported processed foods was probably "low to negligible" he said, but it was not possible to assess the risk properly. "You have to keep these things in perspective, but as the epidemic continues in Europe it is something you have to keep an eye on." He opposed any change to the UK rule of slaughtering at 30 months, which is now under reconsideration.
This is London May 14 2002


Foot and Mouth Payments - Hansard 10th May 2002

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much money has been paid to farmers in compensation for slaughtered livestock arising from the recent foot and mouth epidemic to date; what is (a) the average amount paid to each farmer and (b) the largest payment to a single farmer; and if he will make a statement. [52545]

Mr. Morley: £1,050m has been paid to farmers in compensation for slaughtered livestock arising from the recent foot and mouth epidemic to date, and the average amount paid to each farmer was £124,755. The largest payment to a single farmer was £4,238,800.


£277 m paid in BSE compensation

The Government's (sic) revealed it has paid almost £280 million in compensation to farmers following the BSE crisis.
Animal health minister Elliot Morley said £277,988,250 was paid out between August 1988 and March 2002 after animals were slaughtered. In a Commons written answer, Mr Morley said £147,872,499 was paid for the slaughter of animals suspected of having BSE, while £121,128,636 was paid out following selective culling, that is animals associated with BSE infected cows between 1989 and 1993.
Ananova May 14 2002