On this morning’s BBC politics-fest the most credible views on Syria I heard were from George Galloway. He was balanced, intelligent, rational and focused on the issue rather than his personal advancement.
Corbyn is a pacifist, whatever he says and that is an untenable position for a leader. I agree with him about the futility of bombing in Syria and that it will create rather than solve problems for us at home in the UK. However, I think he is incredible and incompetent. His confusion about the use of deadly force against marauding terrorists was unforgiveable. He won’t last much longer.
Michael Fallon is a bumptious, Tory fool, better suited to life as a provincial solicitor than as defence minister. Dr Liam Fox would be more use caring for patients than as a warmongering, hard right authoritarian disguised as a friendly GP. Cameron is a liar about there being 70,000 soldiers on the ground ready to support action against Daesh/ISIS, just like Blair was a liar about Saddam Hussein able to launch a WMD attack in 45 minutes. I’m afraid I think his principal motivation is that he wants to be at the ‘top table’ with Obama and Hollande and he feels left out. It’s a pathetic reason but I fear it’s true. It’s his personal prestige he’s most concerned about.
I can see no argument at all that bombing in Syria will make us safer, the reverse is the truth. The story about British forces having greater precision bombing capability with our Brimstone missiles is propaganda. I believe that the US, France, Russia and all modern military powers have at least equivalent if not better capability.
The most convincing argument I can see for bombing in Syria is that our ally, France, has asked for our assistance. I would be more ready to support such action if we were prepared to do the job properly and that means putting in our own ground forces.
I don’t want war but Daesh/ISIS is a evil ideology just like Nazism and we need to destroy it. I think we need to put a substantial force of highly trained professional soldiers on the ground and expect that we will take many casualties but that we will root out the terrorists house by house, room by room until the job is properly done and that includes removing Assad. Thereafter, we need to be ready to stay there for at least a decade until civil society is restored. This is why we have a military and if we don’t use it as necessary then why do we bother?
I am more convinced every day that the election result this year was a disaster for Britain. Cameron is an oily, self-serving creep with no integrity, no backbone and interested only in advancing his own interests. The Tory frontbench is composed mainly of toady yes men (and women) who fail to achieve the intellectual and moral qualities that we should expect from ministers. Personally I blame the Tory dominated press and all those weak, flip flopping voters who turned on the Liberal Democrats. Another coalition would have set Britain on the right course. That we now have a government with a mandate from just 24% of the electorate is absolute proof that British democracy has failed.
I fear that the outcome of all this will be more half measures. then there will be another terrorist outrage, quite probably in the UK, possibly even in America. Then we’ll have more handwringing and the endless cycle of political posturing with no one having the courage to act will resume.
We have no moral justification for our conduct in the Middle East when we support Israel which is the most dangerous terrorist state, responsible for creating much of the hatred amongst followers of Islam and perpetrator of outrages every bit as heinous as Assad, Daesh/ISIS, Al Quaeda, Hussein or Gaddafi.
Let’s either do the job properly or let’s get out of the Middle East entirely.
It’s the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College London, yet again, with another terrifying story about cannabis that is immediately distorted, exaggerated and misrepresented by the scientifically illiterate hacks of Fleet Street.
This time though King’s College itself has reported the results of its own research inaccurately and published false and misleading claims.
Can King’s College explain why its press release is headlined “Study shows white matter damage caused by ‘skunk-like’ cannabis”, when the researcher Dr Dazzan says “It is possible that these people already have a different brain and they are more likely to use cannabis”? The truth is that the study does not show any causative effect. It is merely correlation yet here we have supposedly eminent scientists and scientific institutions reporting results falsely.
I have written to Professor Shitij Kapur, Executive Dean & Head of Faculty of the Institute asking for an explanation.
On a regular basis the team at King’s College publishes research about cannabis that suggests it is far more harmful than real world experience demonstrates. Always these studies contain the vital caveat that no causation can be shown for the various ‘differences’ or ‘changes’ that the researchers observe. Always, without fail, the researchers overlook this fundamental weakness in their work when they talk direct to the press. As a result we get ludicrous, inaccurate and wildly irresponsible reporting, particularly in the extremist rags such as the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph but often extending, as today, even into The Times, supposedly a responsible and authoritative publication.
This latest study was led by Dr Silvia Rigucci of Sapienza University of Rome in conjunction with Dr Paola Dazzan and Dr Tiago Reis Marques from King’s College. Dr Razzan has fallen over herself in an undignified rush to gain media headlines. She is reported as saying: “There is an urgent need to educate health professionals, the public and policy makers about the risks involved with cannabis use.” Of course, in truth, all these people have been systematically misled about cannabis for many years. All that Dr Razaan is doing is contributing to the vast quantity of misinformation already out there by misrepresenting and overstating her own work.
This is a very small study with no proper controls that proves nothing either way about cannabis use. It is exaggerated and misrepresented by both King’s College and the scientists concerned, presumably in an effort to boost funding. This is the state of science on cannabis where vested interests promote misinformation which defies the real world experiences of hundreds of million of cannabis consumers worldwide. The team at King’s College displays all the classic markers of a cult. It pursues a belief in cannabis as the ‘devil’s lettuce’ as a quasi-religion. It dresses up its meaningless observational studies as significant evidence. It reinforces its belief by exaggerating and misrepresenting its work. It considers no alternative explanations and it endlessly repeats itself, its ‘studies’ and its presentation of them as proof of its own conclusions.
No one in their right mind can claim that cannabis is harmless but neither is there any evidence to support claims that it is dangerous. These untruths are promoted by vested interests such as researchers needing more funds, the alcohol industry guarding its monopoly of legal recreational drugs or newspapers seeking sensational stories.
It’s difficult to get hold of a copy of the actual study without paying for it. My advice is read the reports, understand the facts rather than the deliberate misinterpretations and expect more of the same. Remember that unless such evidence is compared with evidence in respect of other substances it is meaningless. All in all there is no evidence to suggest cannabis is any more harmful than coffee.
We really have twisted priorities in our world. Nothing can excuse or justify the events in Paris but much more death, brutality and injustice has been inflicted on Palestine by Israel and its conduct drives much of the extremism that now preoccupies us.
We stand idly by while this outlaw state, in breach of 64 UN resolutions, oppresses a whole nation and routinely uses high technology weapons, phosphorous bombs, F16s and tanks against an heroic resistance armed only with pop guns and fireworks.
Israel defies every decent standard of behaviour, every moral and every ethic that we claim to support in our outrage against the evil that took place in Paris. Why are we not using drones to drop Hellfire missiles on Netanyahu’s head? Why is the Knesset not regarded as the headquarters of an evil, terrorist ‘so-called’ state when that is exactly what it is?
If we took a moral stand, refused to trade with an apartheid state that engages in child murder and land theft, defended the women and children of Gaza, perhaps it would be more difficult for the monsters of Raqqa to recruit supporters?
Until we become more consistent and fair then we can only expect resentment to grow. We can never defeat the evil of a perverted idea of Islam until we root out the murdering terrorists of Israel.
I welcome the breath of fresh air that Jeremy Corbyn has brought to British politics. I was never going to vote for him in a million years but the subversion of our corrupt political and media establishment has been a tonic long overdue.
Eventually though his loony tendencies have got the better of him. His weak and cowardly failure to support the use of lethal force against terrorist violence means he is done for. He will go no further and that is a pity because he has now blown his chance of having any further serious influence because of one simply idiotic but unforgivable mistake.
I believe he has now rendered himself unfit for any high office. We cannot have a leader of the opposition who equivocates about defending our nation and innocent people against violent attack.
There can be no question about this. Any member of the police, army or security services who is authorised to carry a weapon and sees life threatened must shoot and shoot to kill.
There are two important principles here. The first will be clear to anyone who has had any firearms training. If the threshold has passed where you are entitled to open fire then you must stop the target. That means you aim for the centre and you tap twice or three times. Misty-eyed ideas about wounding or disabling are for Hollywood. Anything less than a certain stop is a failure of duty and/or skill.
The second principle is a legal one. If lethal force is justified then anything less means it wasn’t. When that moment arrives you have to take the decision and the shot in sure and certain knowledge that you are justified and that you can rely on full support for your actions.
Corbyn has now changed his position and recognised the self-evident truth. It is too late though. Such a failure in leadership, decisiveness or the ability properly to communicate what he meant is beyond redemption. I am sorry to see him go.
Now, Britain desperately needs someone to challenge the Tory oligarchy. All those who failed to vote Liberal Democrat when they had the chance are to blame. We had an excellent, sincere, honest and able set of experienced politicians who we threw on the scrapheap and gifted our country to tyrants.
Yet another cannabis petition amongst hundreds of similar pleas was filed earlier this autumn. This one though is more tightly focused on removing cannabis from schedule 1, which defines it as having no medicinal value. The petition is also commendably concise but characterises itself as a ‘demand‘ that cannabis be rescheduled, an unfortunate choice of words.
Nevertheless, congratulations are due in that it has exceeded the threshold of 10,000 signatures which means the government must respond. That response is now in and it is predictably dishonest, dismissive and authoritarian in its tone. The Home Office has responsibility for drugs policy so it has drafted the response but it surely must have consulted with the Department of Health.
In fact, I was told only this week by a senior minister that “… the search into the medicinal use of cannabis is something that falls within the jurisdiction of the Department of Health.” That may be a subtle shift in policy from which we can draw some hope. But I fear that the response to this petition offers no hope at all. It is stubborn, obstinate, inaccurate and in denial of evidence and experience.
To be clear, the Home Office has been systematically lying and misleading the British people about cannabis for at least 50 years. The Department of Health is timid on the issue, leaves the public statements to the Home Office heavies and seems more interested in generating fee income for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), than in actually treating patients effectively.
I analyse the response paragraph by paragraph.
“Herbal cannabis is listed in Schedule 1 as a drug with no recognised medicinal uses outside research. A substantial body of scientific evidence shows it is harmful and can damage human health.”
By far the majority of scientists and doctors now recognise that cannabis has real and significant medicinal uses. Of course it is possible that cannabis can cause harm, as can any substance. However, there is no scientific evidence that shows cannabis as being any more harmful than over-the-counter medicines or many common foods. Professor Les Iversen, chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, is on the record saying: “cannabis is a safer drug than aspirin and can be used long term without serious side effects”.
“The Government will not encourage the use of a Schedule 1 controlled drug based on anecdotal evidence. It is important that a medicine is very thoroughly trialled to ensure it meets rigorous standards before being licensed and placed on the market so that doctors and patients are sure of its efficacy and safety. “
It is not the government’s role to encourage the use of any drug as medicine, that is the role of a doctor. Only by removing cannabis from schedule 1 can that decision be placed in doctors’ hands. There is a vast quantity of peer-reviewed, published scientific evidence on the medicinal use of cannabis including human clinical trials. It is false to suggest that only anecdotal evidence is available. See ‘Medicinal Cannabis: The Evidence’. Thousands of doctors and millions of patients are sure of the efficacy and safety of cannabis based on existing research, trials and experience. Many commonly prescribed medicines have nowhere near as much evidence behind them as cannabis.
“Cannabis in its raw form (herbal cannabis) is not recognised as having any medicinal purposes in the UK. There is already a clear regime in place to enable medicines (including those containing controlled drugs) to be developed and subsequently prescribed and supplied to patients via healthcare professionals. This regime is administered by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which issues Marketing Authorisations for drugs that have been tried and tested for their safety and efficacy as medicines in the UK.”
The lack of recognition for the medicinal purposes of cannabis is a grave error with no evidence that supports it. Cannabis is a traditional medicine which recorded history shows has been used safely and effectively for at least 5,000 years. The only thing that stands in the way of cannabis being prescribed by doctors is its schedule 1 status. The MHRA is a diversion and is irrelevant. It exists to trial and regulate new medicines and requires a £100,000 application fee before very costly clinical trials take place. This is an unnecessary obstacle to a traditional medicine which contains more than 400 compounds. The MHRA process is designed for potentially dangerous, single molecule drugs and is not applicable to cannabis.
“It is up to organisations to apply for Marketing Authorisation for products that they believe have potential medicinal purposes so that these can be subject to the same stringent regime and requirements that all medicines in the UK are subjected to.”
Many substances and drugs which have medicinal purposes are regulated either as Traditional Herbal Products or food supplements. It is the schedule 1 status of cannabis which prevents it being regulated and controlled in this way which is far more appropriate given its very low potential for harm and the very wide range of conditions for which it can be useful.
“Since 2010 UK patients can use the cannabis-based medicine ‘Sativex’ for the treatment of spasticity due to multiple sclerosis. ‘Sativex’ can also be prescribed for other conditions at the prescribing doctor’s risk. ‘Sativex’ was rigorously tested for its safety and efficacy before receiving approval, and is distinguished from cannabis in its raw form. It is a spray which is standardised in composition, formulation and dose and developed to provide medicinal benefits without a psychoactive effect. Due to its low psychoactive profile ‘Sativex’ was rescheduled from Schedule 1 and placed in Schedule 4 Part 1 to enable its availability for use in healthcare in the UK.”
Sativex is a massively expensive form of cannabis oil which is not prescribed because of its cost. It is at least 10 times the price of Bedrocan medicinal cannabis as regulated by the Netherlands government which could be immediately made available in the UK. It is a deliberate falsehood to claim that Sativex does not have a psychoactive effect. The statutory document ‘Summary of Product Characteristics’ describes “euphoric mood” as a “common” side effect. The scheduling of Sativex in schedule 4 is a deception requiring 75 words falsely to distinguish it from other forms of cannabis whereas every other drug in every other schedule requires just one word.
“The MHRA is open to considering marketing approval applications for other medicinal cannabis products should a product be developed. As happened in the case of ‘Sativex’, the Home Office will also consider issuing a licence to enable trials of new medicines to take place under the appropriate ethical approvals. “
Cannabis, which contains 400 + compounds is not suitable for MHRA regulation which is designed for single molecule drugs which are potentially dangerous. There is no significant danger from the use of cannabis when prescribed by a doctor. This is already well established in scientific evidence and the referral to the MHRA is a diversion and an excuse for failing simply to put the decision in doctors’ hands.
“In view of the potential harms associated with the use of cannabis in its raw form and the availability of avenues for medicinal development, the Government does not consider it appropriate to make changes to the control status of raw or herbal cannabis. “
The government has offered no evidence of the potential harms to which it gives such weight. No “development” of cannabis is required. It is a traditional medicine consisting of the dried flowers of the cannabis plant.
“The Government’s view is that the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and regulations made under the Act continue to facilitate the development of medicines which are made from Schedule 1 controlled drugs. The legislation is aimed at protecting the public from the potential harms of drugs and is not an impediment to research into these drugs or development of medicines.”
The government’s view is intransigent and as demonstrated by this response is ignorant of the available evidence. This response reinforces the government’s clear intention not to consider the evidence and simply to deny it. The evidence shows that the potential harms of cannabis as medicine are trivial and inconsequential. If its schedule 1 status was not an impediment to research, there would already be a great deal more research into cannabis as medicine.
“In 2013 the Home Office undertook a scoping exercise targeted at a cross-section of the scientific community, including the main research bodies, in response to concerns from a limited number of research professionals that Schedule 1 status was generally impeding research into new drugs.
Our analysis of the responses confirmed a high level of interest, both generally and at institution level, in Schedule 1 research. However, the responses did not support the view that Schedule 1 controlled drug status impedes research in this area. While the responses confirmed Home Office licensing costs and requirements form part of a number of issues which influence decisions to undertake research in this area, ethics approval was identified as the key consideration, while the next most important consideration was the availability of funding.”
The Home Office is entirely untrustworthy and dishonest on anything to do with cannabis. Researchers, scientists, doctors and those already using cannabis as medicine simply do not trust anything it says on the subject based on long experience of its calculated dishonesty and misinformation.
This article started as a comment on an excellent piece in 'The Conversation' byProfessor of Communications, University of Westminster.
The Fleet Street Mafia has successfully subverted and corrupted our political leadership to ensure that Leveson has achieved nothing in bringing the worst excesses of the press under control. In fact, if anything, press regulation is even weaker and less effective than before Lord Justice Leveson first assumed the chair of the inquiry.
The whole exercise has been a farce and a waste of public money. Cameron and his cronies are so terrified of the press that they will do literally anything; change any policy, ignore any evidence, promote any untruth, in order to comply with the wishes of Murdoch, the Barclay Brothers or Paul Dacre.
IPSO, the replacement for the PCC, is even more corrupt, dishonest and fraudulent in its practice than its predecessor. It fails to enforce the Editors’ Code and instead finds excuses for publishers to breach the code as it suits them. It acts in expressly the opposite interest to that which it pretends. It seeks to support the interests of the press over the interests of the public at all stages.
IPSO’s new strategy to deal with troublesome and substantive complaints is simply to dismiss them, even without any consideration. The PCC would have made a play of investigating complaints before dismissing them but IPSO simply closes them down saying they do not raise any possible breaches of the code – even when they consist of blatant inaccuracy and distortion.
The net effect of Leveson is to place the public in a worse position than before it started. We have gone backwards. The press is more powerful, politicians are supine. In the case of weak, corrupt individuals like John Whittingdale, he has become the servant of the press barons, doing their bidding, performing at their wish from inside government where he betrays the electorate and subverts our democracy.
Fleet Street is like the Wild West but with immunity against any consequences of any actions. The only hope that we have is the terminal decline of newspaper circulation and that the power of this unelected elite of editors and proprietors will crumble over time. It would help if our other media, particularly the BBC, would stop letting Fleet Street set the news agenda. We need to accelerate the move to online news content.
The whole corrupt edifice is well illustrated by the regular Sunday morning spectacle of Andrew Marr, a dyed in the wool Fleet Street stooge, interviewing low-rent tabloid hacks such as Amanda Platell or Jane Moore, before another servile chat with a government minister. This defines the shabby, dishonest politicking within and around the Westminster bubble.
We do not have a a ‘free press’, we have an out of control, rampant, vested interest. While we need ‘freedom of the press’, in that journalists may investigate and publish the truth, we also need ‘freedom from the press’ and its bullying, self-serving control of our country and its political system.
On 12th October, after more than 220,000 people had signed a government e-petition, Mike Penning MP, the drugs minister, responded to the debate. He said:
“I have every sympathy for my friends and members of my family who have had MS and the terrible pain and anguish that they go through because of an incurable disease. So I start from the premise of having sympathy. Let us see what we can do in the 21st century to take people out of that environment…we could look carefully… at the research. We need to look at why the research is not taking place and at the effects of certain parts of the legislation…We have cross-party agreement that we will look at research and see how we can help people. I am committed to that…It is crucial that we do not set ourselves in one position but that instead, we ask what research could help take things forward. That is what I have committed to doing and it is very important.”
Then, on 26th October, in response to a written question, he said:
“The government’s position on the medicinal value of cannabis remains unchanged and no discussions are planned.”
This is dishonest and a subversion of our democratic process. However, in the UK, despite its historical role as the mother of parliamentary democracy, government ministers are now entirely unaccountable. Even in their individual role as MPs they answer to the electorate only once every five years, a level of accountability which is ridiculous in the 21st century. Between elections they only need consider their party whips or the more senior ministers who hold power over their careers.
In any other context, in business or in personal affairs, reneging on a promise as Mike Penning has done would have serious consequences. In some instances it might even bring him before the criminal courts. But Penning doesn’t give a damn, faces no consequences and he continues with impunity as any robber baron might have in the Middle Ages or any cowboy outlaw in the Wild West.
I have written to Mike Penning asking for an explanation and I have also written to my MP asking him to obtain an official explanation from the government. I ask you to do the same.