Archive for the ‘The Media’ Category
I resigned from the Liberal Democrats just before the EU referendum because I believed the position the party adopted was a betrayal of fundamental values of liberalism and democracy. I think it was a perfectly respectable position to take to vote remain and there were questionable tactics on both sides during the campaign. However, the bitter, abusive response to the result by many people, particularly Liberal Democrats, has been quite terrible.
Ros Kayes’ behaviour has been shocking. Even worse, she has been dishonest and has tried to cover up her foolish remarks.
She published this comment on Facebook during 23rd June 2016, the day of the referendum:
I responded that this was an act of prejudice, discrimination and bigotry, totally against all Liberal Democrat values and was exactly the reason I had resigned. In return I received these responses:
I have written to Ros, politely asking her to clarify what “unsavoury posts in the last few weeks” and what “unpleasant email to a party member”? I have no idea what she is talking about and I fear she has invented these angry ripostes.
Anyway, I would have let it lie there until I received a phone call from Rachel Stretton a reporter from the Dorset Echo.
Rachel said she was calling me about a lot of complaints the newspaper had received about Ros Kayes’ Facebook posts concerning the referendum. I told her how shocked I was at what I’d seen and she told me about a post containing bad language which, at the time. I had not seen. We ended the conversation with me confirming that Ros Kayes’ behaviour had been the final straw in my resigning membership of the party.
I then discovered the very foolish, childish use of foul language that Roz Kayes had published.
I posted on Facebook about what had happened and there was quite a response. However, I thought it was probably time to let it go. A lot of people were very upset by the result of the referendum. I would have been if it had gone the other way. I think in such circumstances you do have to allow people some leeway. Many people had been up all night, most had probably been drinking as well. A few injudicious remarks are inevitable from tired, emotional and upset human beings!
But next thing I received a message from Rachel Stretton backpedalling as fast as she could about what she had asked when she called me. I was astonished at this! What had spooked the Dorset Echo? Rachel now said “We have not received any complaints about the behaviour of anyone in the run-up to the referendum. Apologies for any confusion.”
Well hang on a minute, why did she call me in the first place then? I didn’t even know about use of the ‘F’ word until she told me and she quite definitely approached me about comments related to the referendum.
Rachel then messaged me to say: “I do of course understand if you wish to change any comment you made in light of this. Again for clarification, Ros has made a statement saying her account was hacked and this, private post, was made public inadvertently.”
What?!! There’s no other way to put this, the Dorset Echo seemed to be involved in helping Ros Kayes to cover up her behaviour. And then I saw the ridiculous article published in the newspaper “Bridport mayor Ros Kayes responds to Facebook post criticism”.
This article is nothing less than insult to the readers of the Dorset Echo and it is a shameful attempt to deceive the electorate. Not only is Ros Kayes telling lies but the Dorset Echo is assisting her! This is a stitch up between a local politician and a local newspaper. There is only one word for it – corruption. In fact I think the greatest shame is on the newspaper. So much for a free, independent press. There are very grave questions to be answered by the editor and I cannot imagine that local businesses will want to be advertising in a paper that is involved in a shabby, corrupt cover-up of a politician’s misdeeds. he story about privacy settings is a story of Ros Kayes own incompetence but the story about her account being hacked is a brazen, bare-faced lie.
Nevertheless, my interest waned again. I was now beginning to learn that Ros Kayes does have an excellent reputation for good work in the community. I have myself been subject to online attack and trolling which caused me great distress and had a real effect on my mental health. There are some very cruel, very spiteful people who use social media to abuse and harass for no reason other than their own perverted self-gratification. The one comfort I had is that when I was under attack I knew it was all based on lies. In this instance, Ros Kayes was the one telling porkies, she was responsible for causing the furore and she is tee occupier of a significant public office, one that even comes with official regalia and privileges. There does have to be some accountability.
However, I really didn’t want to take it any further. This woman obviously does good work and if she’s made one bad mistake, I didn’t want to be vengeful or unkind about it.
Then Ros Kayes responded to my email about her claims of me making “unsavoury posts” and sending an “unpleasant email“. (She had by now already blocked me on Facebook and Twitter). Oh dear!
My “unsavoury post” (there was only one now apparently) was this one “Why I Am Resigning From the Liberal Democrats“. Judge for yourself whether there is anything unsavoury about it. My “unpleasant email” was an email about my change of address which I had already notified the party of, which I explained and wrote “So I don’t really know what else I could be expected to do!”. Not very unpleasant in my book.
Ros also wrote: “I certainly don’t think all Brexit voters are racist – many had perfectly sensible reasons for making the decision they did. And my post did not say that all Brexit voters were racist, simply raised fears about the ones that were.”.
So, once again I was ready to let it go. Perhaps it was one error and it could be overlooked. I was now firmly of the opinion that the more serious matter was the Dorset Echo’s corrupt involvement in a cover up.
And then today, I was provided with a copy of a letter Ros Kayes had published in the Bridport News.
“I fear this election [sic] will be won by those who revel in bigotry. I despair at the number of voters saying ‘I’m not racist but…’ then utter words from the lexicon of Adolf Hitler”
“Please don’t let our country’s future be decided by racist, liars and bigots.”
This is truly terrible. Absolutely unforgivable words from any public figure or politician, particularly one who has the audacity to call herself a ‘Liberal Democrat’.
Such ignorant generalisations from Ms Kayes are every bit as prejudiced and discriminatory as racism. She is a terrible, terrible hypocrite.
So, despite really trying very hard to pull back from this, in the end I decided that I had to publish this story in full.
I expect Ros Kayes to resign. There seems to be a valid case that perhaps she could stay on as a councillor but her position as Mayor is untenable.
As for the Dorset Echo, this is still the far more serious issue of a corrupt, underhand cover up of a politician’s dishonesty. It will almost certainly try to bury this story entirely now. Diarmuid Macdonagh, the editor, should do the honourable thing and explain himself. If he doesn’t, I shall be making a complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, again and again, Masterchef is my favourite TV entertainment programme. Every year it just seems to get better. The producers do an excellent job of adding little twists and new ideas to the format and it never fails to keep me entranced. For the contestants, getting to the final is an almost guaranteed pass into a shot at a restaurant business. That’s how influential it’s become.
I like it in all its varieties: the celebrity show, the professional show but the original, where amateur cooks elevate themselves to a professional standard, remains the best and the most inspiring.
I just love the music, often highlighted with the sound of chopping onions or a blast on a food processor. It’s somewhere between house and trance and I often find myself doing a clumsy boogie around the lounge as I’m watching.
This year has been poignant for me because my mother shared my love of the show and we would watch it together or chat about each episode on the phone. I found myself talking to her about it last night as I watched the penultimate episode and there she was sitting with me on the sofa once again.
My tip for this year’s champion? It’ll be Jack, a very talented young man.
In the last couple of years, even the Daily Mail has shifted its stance on cannabis as it sees opportunities to sensationalise ‘miracle cures’ from medicinal use – the epileptic child now smiling, the cancer patient whose tumour has disappeared. Truth and balance are irrelevant when a dramatic headline is all you’re after.
The Daily Telegraph has become the new home of ‘reefer madness’ with bad science, nasty prejudice and booze-fuelled fear of a safer recreational drug threatening the massive profits of the alcohol industry.
Now, even the Guardian jumps on the ‘skunk scaremongering’ bandwagon with the exaggerated claim that “the risks of heavy teenage cannabis consumption should frighten all of us”. In a backhanded editorial it suggests legalisation because cannabis is dangerous. It claims the consequences of cannabis “abuse are devastating. Psychotic breakdowns smash up lives and can lead to full-blown schizophrenia.” There is little evidence to support such hysteria. In reality, such effects are so rare as to be virtually unheard of and it’s impossible to prove they are caused by cannabis.
Of course we must protect young people, particularly from the high-THC/low-CBD ‘moonshine’ varieties that are a direct result of government policy. However, we cannot compromise facts and evidence for the illusory belief that buying into scare stories will somehow reduce harm. The only way to protect children is by legal regulation with mandatory age limits.
The Guardian makes much of Public Health England’s (PHE) figure that “there are more than 13,000 under-18s in treatment for the consequences of heavy cannabis use in England”. It neglects to mention that PHE also publishes more than 69% are referred by the criminal justice, education and social care systems while only 17% are referred from healthcare and just 11% by themselves or their family. Thus, more than two-thirds are receiving coercive treatment and only 11% actually consider they have a problem.
It is government propaganda that thousands of young people are suffering from mental health problems due to cannabis. Why is The Guardian promoting this myth? Last year, in answer to a Parliamentary question, Jane Ellison MP, minister of state at the Department of Health, revealed there have been average of just over 28 ‘finished admission episodes’ (FAE) for ‘cannabis-induced psychosis’ in young people for each of the past five years.
Of course, each of these 28 cases is a tragedy for the people involved and nothing must distract from that but it clearly shows that in public health terms, ‘cannabis psychosis’ is of negligible significance. To put it into perspective, there are an estimated 3,000 FAEs for peanut allergy each year but we don’t waste £500 million pa on futile law enforcement efforts to ban peanuts!
For 50 years, the Home Office has systematically misled and misinformed the British people about cannabis. Successive generations of young people know they have been lied to. Such dishonest health information is counterproductive. As a result, many children may think that heroin or crack are not as harmful as they have been told.
Cannabis is not harmless but neither is it ‘dangerous’. If you apply that description to it you also have to apply it to energy drinks, over-the-counter painkillers and hay fever remedies. Similarly, whatever scaremongering there is about ‘addiction’, the scientific evidence is that dependency amongst regular cannabis users is slightly less than caffeine dependency amongst regular coffee drinkers – and withdrawal symptoms are similar in nature and intensity.
What we need is evidence-based policy. Government needs to take responsibility for the £6 billion pa cannabis market instead of abandoning our young people and communities to street dealers and criminal gangs. The benefits to be gained from cannabis law reform are reduced health and social harms, massive public expenditure savings, increased tax revenue and proper protection for the vulnerable, including children.
Young people’s statistics from the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS), Public Health England, December 2015
Drugs: Young People. Department of Health written question – answered on 20th March 2015.
Relative Addictiveness of Drugs, Dr. Jack E. Henningfield, NIDA and Dr. Neal L. Benowitz, UCLA, 1994
The subject of cannabis as medicine is certain to rise to the top of the UK news agenda in forthcoming weeks as a new Coronation Street storyline unfolds.
The character Izzy Armstrong (Cherylee Houston) who has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, will be seen suffering when her prescription medicine fails to alleviate her pain. Erica Holroyd (Claire King) will then suggest that she starts using cannabis as an alternative and ends up supplying Izzy with the drug. The programme will look at all aspects of the debate on medicinal cannabis and examine the legal implications and the far reaching consequences of Izzy’s actions for her family.
Now, three of the UK’s most important organisations in the field are joining forces to provide the media with facts, evidence and personal testimonies about medicinal cannabis.
CLEAR is the largest drugs policy reform group in the UK with nearly 600,000 followers. The British Medicinal Cannabis Campaign (BMCC) is an independent group consisting of 4,500 members, all of whom are UK-based medicinal cannabis users. UK CBD is the leading distributor of legal, cannabinoid nutraceuticals including the world famous Charlotte’s Web and Mary’s brands.
Roland Gyallay-Pap, managing director of CLEAR, commented:
“Not for the first time, but at a crucial time in the worldwide debate, the issue of medicinal cannabis will be addressed in a British soap. We have high hopes that this will stimulate the debate and bring the absurdity of the UK government’s position into sharp focus.”
Throughout Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia, Israel and South America, interest in and the use of medicinal cannabis is growing fast. The UK is now virtually isolated amongst first world countries with the stubborn refusal of government even to consider the evidence. However there is a growing clamour from politicians, scientists and doctors that it must address what is a deeply cruel and evidence-free policy. Hundreds of thousands already use medicinal cannabis and risk a criminal record just for trying to improve their health. In addition they have to deal with a criminal underworld and risk violence, contaminated and low quality product all because government refuses to take responsibility.
There is now an overwhelming body of peer-reviewed, scientific evidence on the safety and efficacy of cannabis as medicine. CLEAR published ‘Medicinal Cannabis: The Evidence’ in April 2015 which has received international acclaim and is now also available in a Spanish language edition. Download here in English or Spanish.
Individual briefings will be available on request to journalists, reporters, media organisations and other interested parties. Briefings will be led by Peter Reynolds, one of the nation’s leading experts on the science, medicine and politics of cannabis, Mark Scott, a representative of BMCC and Nicolas Ellis, founder and managing director of UK CBD.
Please contact CLEAR to arrange a briefing at your premises by appointment. Alternatively, a central London venue can be arranged on request.
Could This Be A Breakthrough In The UK Campaign For Medicinal Cannabis?
Cannabis used as medicine has appeared before in UK soaps but the news is that this Coronation Street storyline could be less jokey and trivial and actually deal in science and truth. If so it could be a major breakthrough against an intransigent government that flatly refuses even to consider the evidence.
Coronation Street is the world’s longest running soap opera still in production. Each episode reaches an average of between five and eight million viewers. It is deeply enmeshed in the fabric of British working class culture. If it puts a positive spin on medicinal cannabis it could change public opinion quicker than almost anything else.
Most senior politicians know the truth about medicinal cannabis but refuse to act, leaving millions in unnecessary pain and suffering for fear of a media backlash. But the media is changing too. Aside from a few individual dinosaur journalists and the bigots who edit the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph, the rest of the media is pretty much onside.
The UK government’s position is nothing short of ridiculous, particularly given developments throughout the rest of the world. Look to Australia for the latest progressive, evidence-based change in policy, where very soon 23 million people will gain legal access to medicinal cannabis.
A positive Coronation Street storyline will give the cowards in the Department of Health and the refuseniks in the Home Office a way out. It is inevitable that reform will come. This could mean it is sooner rather than later.
The Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London issued a press release on 27th November claiming that its latest study shows cannabis causes damage to the corpus callosum. This was widely reported across the world and many publications extended what was already an inaccurate claim into saying that this “damage” was a cause of psychosis.
As I have already reported and as confirmed by the NHS, the study showed nothing of the sort. Then, last week, by accident really, I discovered that quietly and with just a small footnote the headline had been changed!
Original: “Study shows white matter damage caused by ‘skunk-like’ cannabis”
Edit: “Study shows white matter damage may be caused by ‘skunk-like’ cannabis”
Professor Shitij Kapur, Executive Dean of the Institute of Psychiatry hadn’t responded to two emails from me, so this time I wrote to the Principal of King’s College, Professor Ed Byrne. He has now confirmed that the press release has been changed but makes the extraordinary and false claim that “By and large the press coverage was a true reflection of the science.”
Dear Mr. Reynolds
Thank you for your email regarding the recent article from King’s.
I have discussed it with Professor Kapur and the authors and we believe it appropriate to change the headline to ‘may be caused by’, which has already been done.
The body of the press release is a fair representation of the paper so needs no amendment. By and large the press coverage was a true reflection of the science in the paper so we do not believe the press release requires further amendments.
King’s is committed to a balanced reporting of science and its work and hence we have changed the headline and acknowledged the change.
Thank you again for your diligence.
Professor Edward Byrne AC
President & Principal
Too late! The sensationalist, scaremongering deceit and exaggeration has already spread like wildfire across the world. Dozens of publications have repeated the falsehood and yet again the Institute of Psychiatry is responsible for misleading millions of people. It has form for such conduct, regularly, repeatedly and deliberately confusing correlation with causation and vastly exaggerating the results of its work. This is deceit and fraud at the highest level and if it took place in another context, financial services for instance, it would merit police investigation.
I have written again to Professor Byrne asking him to do the right and honourable thing.
Dear Professor Byrne,
Thank you for your email. I am grateful that you have had the courtesy and honour to reply, unlike Professor Kapur.
I am disturbed though by how lightly you take this very serious matter. It is absolutely false to say “By and large the press coverage was a true reflection of the science”.
As someone who has observed the Institute’s work for many years, I am now convinced that it is routinely in the business of exaggerating the results of its work, deliberately misleading the media and through it, the public at large. I can only conclude that this dishonesty is connected with raising funding for its work.
This is not a situation that can be allowed to persist. Every year Professor Sir Robin Murray publishes a paper on cannabis and psychosis which is always presented to the media as showing a causal link when the science itself shows nothing of the sort. I have met with Sir Robin on several occasions and spoken alongside him at conferences. In person he is reasonable and accurate but the way his work is presented to the media is dishonest and false, exactly as this latest episode.
This is a matter of huge importance because it is largely the hysteria drummed up by such falsified science that stands in the way of legal access to medicinal cannabis in the UK. Hundreds of thousands of people suffer needlessly in Britain when throughout the rest of Europe, Israel, Canada and the USA, more enlightened policies enable access to the medicine that people need. I hold the conduct of organisations such as the Institute of Psychiatry directly responsble for the pain and suffering caused.
It is disgraceful that Dr Paola Dazzan should enter into the political arena of cannabis policy with blatantly false claims that her study shows a causal link or that the differences observed amount to “damage”. These are nothing less than lies.
This might be the result of a renegade press office which doesn’t understand the science but we have put up with it for decades and I appeal to you to take proportionate steps to stop it. To start with, on this latest incident, you should issue a further press release explaining the errors in the first. You can’t just change the headline surreptitiously, hope no one will notice and expect the dishonesty to be overlooked. The damage has already been done. You must act to make amends.
This is a matter of professional ethics and integrity and I rely on you to take the appropriate steps.
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.