23 December 2009

Was Thomsen An C1=CAsC=C1?

The Times reports, "Libel gag on talk of 'medical hurricane'" and the blogosphere continues with, "GE Healthcare's Idiotic Libel Suit
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The reports both have a theme of big pharma tries to crush noble scientist and prevent him from telling the truth."

C1=CAsC=C1 ?

But here is a link to the particulars of the claim against Thomsen, along with his presentation.

GE claim that Thomsen was saying that they were guilty of knowingly exposing patients to a serious medical condition. Ultimately, as this case continues the court will decide whether or not this is true.

The more I think about the case and as I slowly digest these particulars of the claim, I wonder whether or not GE have a point.

Another two points, perhaps to be developed in another post, is why is only Thomsen being sued instead of both Thomsen and his employer? Surely, they are vicariously liable? And, why wasn't his presentation checked over by lawyers?

Update 10th January 2011. GE Healthcare Settles Libel Lawsuit Over Omniscan With Radiologist. I'm eleven months behind the times but nevertheless the story is still interesting.

"Neither party disclosed details of the settlement, but both [...], made conciliatory statements ...
Thomsen said. “It was not my intention to suggest on the basis of the evidence then available to me that GE Healthcare had marketed Omniscan knowing that it might cause NSF.”
GE officials also said their actions were misunderstood.

“It was not the intention of GE Healthcare by bringing proceedings for libel against Professor Thomsen to stifle academic debate,” said Dr. Lynne Gailey, executive vice-president of GE Healthcare communications. “GE Healthcare objected to statements made by Professor Thomsen which it interpreted as suggesting that it had known from the outset that Omniscan caused NSF. GE Healthcare accepts, however, that Professor Thomsen’s concerns were expressed in good faith. GE Healthcare regrets that these proceedings were necessary to reach the common understanding described in this statement.”

I still think that the fault in this episode lay with the employers of Professor Thomsen. I don't doubt that they supply legal advice and protection with everything else he does with regard to his work: why not with publishing?

They wouldn't let him unwittingly break employment law, health and safety laws, etc - why is defamation law such a blind spot?

I've just read Opinion: “The chill on scientific debate: could an old solution be re-heated?” Godwin Busuttil, particularly the comment by Alastair Mullis,

"Second, while I might have some confidence that some editors / peer reviewers of legal journals would at least have some knowledge of the law of libel and therefore read the article with this in mind, I would not be so confident that those from other disciplines would approach the task in the same way. Why should the fact that two scientists who have peer reviewed a journal submission and described it as scientifically sound mean that it is thereby protected under the law of libel? Would everything in the article be protected (assuming not malicious) or only those statements / imputations directly relevant to the scientific subject matter?"

The 'old solution' was that of providing a statutory privilege for articles written in scientific journals with the provision that, "all journals seeking to rely on it must be approved by and registered with an appropriate authority, " which sounds like a recipe for disaster.

The 'old solution' is what made me think of Professor Thomsen and his spat with GE.

22 December 2009

Strictly Secret?

In a story from the Daily Mail, "Ricky Whittle calls for Beeb to release Strictly Come Dancing voting figures ...

"Strictly Come Dancing runner up Ricky Whittle is calling for the BBC to release the voting figures for the series.

BBC Breakfast sports presenter Chris Hollins clinched the title with partner Ola Jordan on Saturday despite Hollyoaks actor Ricky, and professional Natalie Lowe, being judged as a better dancers technically.

Ricky's call is being taken up by Lib-Dem Lord Tyker,

"Liberal Democrate peer Lord Tyker has tabled a parliamentary question on the issue calling for the BBC to be transparent.

'It's completely ludicrous to claim that the Corporation shouldn't make clear how well each couple did in the Strictly final.

'The technology is there, so why the smoke and mirrors?

While from the BBC,

"A BBC spokesman said the figures would not be released: 'We never reveal exact figures from our shows as we have a relationship of trust with our contestants and it would be unfair to disclose the exact nature of difference in their popularity.'"

So, why doesn't Ricky et al (ie members of the public) submit a Freedom of Information Request for the results?

It appears that the "FOIA applies to the BBC only “in respect of information held for purposes other than those of journalism, art or literature”."

If the voting results for 'Strictly Come Dancing' is information that is held for purposes of journalism, art or literature; the BBC, with this regard, is no longer a public authority and the Freedom of Informatin Act doesn't apply.

As highlighted by Panopticon (above),

"“the BBC has no obligation to disclose information which they hold to any significant extent for the purposes of journalism, art or literature, whether or not the information is also held for other purposes.” (See para. 65 of Sugar)."

I don't think that the voting results in 'Strictly' could be described as being held for the derogated purposes; not even de minimis; of all the people who take an interest in popular TV shows, it is difficult not to believe that one of them would have the wits to submit a freedom of information request.

One to watch; especially if the competition was rigged.

(Sefton Delmer never had this problem.)

21 December 2009

21 Years Today

The Lockerbie Disaster, perhaps made worse by the Lockerbie Case.

Very depressing.

More Twirl With That Sir?

Twirly mol just got better: Noel O'Blog explains the modifications and updates.
So, here's
- smiles: NC(=O)CNC(=O)[C@H](CC(C)C)NC(=O)C1CCCN1C(=O)C2CSSC[C@H](N)C(=O)N[C@H](Cc3ccc(O)cc3)C(=O)N[C@H]([C@H](C)CCC)C(-O)N[C@H](CCC(=O)N)C(=O)N[C@H](CC(=O)N)C(=O)N2 -
note to self: check stereochem

17 December 2009


The best analysis of the JFS case (racial discrimination with regard to admission to a Jewish school) so far on the blogosphere is from ELA.

(Note to self) ...

One point that is of interest to me is the discussion of the objective test of ethnicity. Bear in mind that this is legal objectivity rather than scientific objectivity.

Apology for what?

"David Miliband, the foreign secretary, also phoned Livni, and called his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, to apologise."

The story is well known by now and is covered in, "Outcry over plan to give attorney general veto on war crimes warrants"

A former Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni had to cancel her trip to the UK because someone managed to get a warrant out for her arrest for war crimes.

This may or may not be just depending upon your point of view but what is curious about the affair is Miliband's apology. What could the basis be of his apology? "I'm sorry but in the UK we have the rule of Law? Please accept my apologies that we haven't managed to trash it, yet."

Goldstone Report
Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights

16 December 2009

For how long?

The Guardian has an interesting story in, "UK fury as Germany prosecutes Daniel Ubani, GP who gave fatal dose."

In short, the UK has screwed up its provision of General Practitioners to the populace with the result that locums are being imported from across Europe. A locum from Germany gave a negligently high dose of painkiller to a patient in the UK, who died as a result. The locum returned to Germany and, unknown to the British prosecuting authorities, threw himself upon the mercy of the German courts. These courts found the locum guilty, gave him a nine-month suspended prison sentence and a fine of €5,000.

The CPS are upset that they did not have the chance to prosecute the locum. By the time the European Arrest Warrant had been issued the case was done and dusted. The German and British authorities are arguing the toss as to who should have been allowed to try the case under the European Arrest Warrant system:-

i) should the prosecution take place in the jurisdiction where the offence took place; or,

ii) should it take place under the jurisdiction of the nationality of the offender?

We're still waiting for an answer. (Will update if I have time to find the answer).

Meanwhile ...

"[The Locum's] solicitor, Reinhard Shauwienold, said: "Dr Ubani is practising again, and will continue to do so for a long time to come. No conditions have been attached to his ability to practise. He can work, unrestricted as far as I am aware, both as a cosmetic surgeon and as a GP.""

While ...

"UK medical regulators have suspended Ubani's registration in Britain but German prosecutors said: "The case was not of sufficient severity for the court to have been able to ban him from working.""

The latter action - the suspension - will most probably be illegal.

So, for how long will the locum be suspended? I wouldn't be surprised if he's back in the UK this weekend, injecting someone near you.

Correction ... Anonymous 13:47 points out that, "UK officials say they never expected prosecutors in Germany to take their own action against Daniel Ubani, a German national, after they issued a European arrest warrant to bring him back to Britain on a possible manslaughter charge."

Thanks for the interest and close-reading abilities.

Update - 19th June 2010. Locum GP struck off medical register for fatal overdose, presumably his suspension was in place until he was struck off.

15 December 2009

What's in it for them?

The Department for Children, Schools and Families has prepared a number of webpages about Academies.

Following the links it is possible to find the definition,

"[a]cademies are all-ability, state-funded schools established and managed by sponsors from a wide range of backgrounds, including high performing schools and colleges, universities, individual philanthropists, businesses, the voluntary sector, and the faith communities. Some are established educational providers, and all of them bring a record of success in other enterprises which they are able to apply to their Academies in partnership with experienced school managers.".

One such academy is Castle View who are sponsored to the tune of £1.35 million over five years by Northumbrian Water Limited (NWL).


What's in it for NWL and what do they know about education?

Same old, same old

The Asia Times publishes the, "Trail of Afghanistan's drug money exposed By Julien Mercille" in which the post war tale is told of US involvement in drug smuggling.

We were shocked once, now we wonder why they bother reporting it. Nothing will happen, no one will be indicted. There wont be a trial, no one will be jailed.

Anyway, here's the real McCoy from way back when ...

Sycophancy Towards Power

Ken McDonald, former Director of Public Prosecutions, has shared his thoughts with us regarding the Chilcot inquiry and Tony Blair in an article in The Times, "Intoxicated by power, Blair tricked us into war."

The well written prose is certainly worth reading.

But what is of interest to me is the expression, sycophancy towards power, found in the article.

Interesting because I've met a number of people who have this flaw but I haven't known quite how to articulate it.

I haven't seen this behaviour in a political environment for lack of experience of such; however, I have often seen it in a corporate environment.

Management meetings have been chaired by someone fairly low in the hierarchy at which opinions have been expressed. However, if the process is repeated with a different chair person who is higher in the corporate structure, the previously expressed opinions cannot be relied upon. In these situations some people express a view that is sycophantic toward the chair. The previously expressed opinions are quickly jettisioned in favour of one more conducive to the chair. It's a pernicious form of 'yes-man' behaviour; but worse, since it lacks the transparency of 'yes-man' behaviour.

What's worse, I've also seen this sort of thing in meetings with customers. Not from the customers but towards the customers.

All very strange.

10 December 2009


Section 76 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 allows the Court, in a trial, to decide whether or not a confession is admissible as evidence.

When considering the admissibility of evidence, one has to constantly weight up its probative value (does it tell the court anything) against its prejudicial value.

This is what I thought of when reading the latest note from Mindhacks, "The persuasive power of false confessions".

The article discusses how people begin to disbelieve other evidence that may contradict a (false) confession, since a confession is given a greater weight.

"Imagine if an accused but innocent person falsely confesses and the other evidence doesn't suggest that they have committed the crime. In this situation, it turns out that both lay people and experts tend to change their evaluation of the other evidence and perceive it as being stronger evidence against the accused."

The Mindhacks note (like this post) is derivative and links to, "The Psychology and Power of False Confessions."

This article gives examples of the effect of other evidence being tainted by a confession. One of which refers to fingerprint evidence,

"In 2006, University College London psychologist Itiel Dror took a group of six fingerprint experts and showed them samples that they themselves had, years before, determined either to be matches or non-matches (though they weren’t told they had already seen these fingerprints). The experts were now given some context: either that the fingerprints came from a suspect who confessed or that they came from a suspect who was known to be in police custody at the time the crime was committed. In 17 percent of the non-control tests, experimenters changed assessments that they had previously made correctly. Four of the six experts who participated changed at least one judgment based on the new context. “And that’s fingerprint judgments,” Kassin said. “That’s not considered malleable. And yet there was some degree of malleability and one of the ways to influence it was to provide information about the confession.”"

Mmm, so there we have it. A method of manipulating evidence which will be known to every experienced detective wittingly or otherwise. As soon as the fingerprint examiner supports the detectives hunch, he can't go back on it.

Update 15th Jan 2010 - Mindhacks has dug up another article on false confessions, "...a suspect’s confession sets in motion a virtually irrefutable presumption of guilt among criminal justice officials, the media, the public and lay jurors. A suspect who confesses—whether truthfully or falsely—will be treated more harshly at every stage of the criminal justice process." The Mindhack article is based on, "The Problem of False Confessions in the Post DNA World" [pdf] and illustrates the importance of s76 of PACE.

09 December 2009

Iang on Bowles

Not much to add, iang has said it all here,

"In the very sad story of the Justice System as we know it, a British courts has ruled the beginning of the end."

The note is a story about POCA abuse which is an inevitable consequence of the governance issues surrounding how this legislation works.

Climategate Prosecution?

In an earlier post I discussed whether or not the climategate scientists should be subjected to a private prosecution (for fraud, misconduct in public office and breaches of the Freedom of Information Act, see s77) by one of the UK's Royal Societies.

The call for prosecution wasn't born of malice; rather, to get to the bottom of 1) whether or not there has been any wrong doing, and 2) to restore the reputation of science done by the Climate Research Unit.

It may well be that there is simply smoke and no fire; or none with which to begin a prosecution. An open and transparent process of a private prosecution - because the stakes are so high - would bring some clarity.

07 December 2009

Blawg Award

Employment Law Advocates

The award for impressive blawg goes to ... drum roll ... James Medhurst of Employment Law Advocates.

The blawg is an impressive shop window for what this firm offers.

The award acknowledges the lucid prose, interesting cases and provision of links to judgments.

As usual, I add the hope that my silly drawing doesn't take anything away from the sincerity of this post and the quality of the blawg that I acknowledge.

04 December 2009

The Royal Society and The Royal Society of Chemistry v Phil Jones

Should one of the UK's scientific societies launch a private prosecution against Phil Jones if the East Anglia email hack provides sufficient evidence?

News reports so far suggest that the scientists behind East Anglia University's Climate Research Unit may be liable in fraud, misconduct in public office and s77 of the Freedom of Information Act. Of course, without trawling through all of these emails with a view to building a case against the purported scientists at the centre of this scandal, it is difficult to form a sensible view as to their culpability. The internet provides reasonable arguments saying that they may be guilty of these (and perhaps other) offences; while other arguments suggest that the emails have been quoted out of context and misconstrued such that the people involved appear to be a lot worse than what they are.

I don't know the truth of the matter. Nor does anyone else, at the moment.

Shouldn't one of the prestigious societies take an interest in whether or not it would be possible to prosecute anyone in this case?

It would certainly clear the air if they did.

If a genuine attempt was made, under section 6 of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985, and the Prosecutors Code was applied with a report produced explaining why they were not prepared to prosecute if that was their finding. If, on the other hand, it was thought that there was sufficient evidence, and the facts fitted with the tests in the prosecutors code, then there should be a prosecution.

I think that this process would go a long way to restoring the reputation of the science that is being done in East Anglia.

Reports tells us, "Climategate: UN panel on climate change to investigate claims" but it would be better if one of the societies were to take the lead.

03 December 2009


DOI: 10.1039/b917150a
Extremely impressive paper.

"... the fabrication and the performance of microfluidic paper-based electrochemical sensing devices (we call the microfluidic paper-based electrochemical devices, μPEDs). The μPEDs comprise paper-based microfluidic channels patterned by photolithography or wax printing, and electrodes screenprinted from conducting inks (e.g., carbon or Ag/AgCl). We demonstrated that the μPEDs are capable of quantifying the concentrations of various analytes (e.g., heavy-metal ions and glucose) in aqueous solutions. This low-cost analytical device should be useful for applications in public health, environmental monitoring, and the developing world."

Haven't read the paper since I'm an information have not rather than an information have ... but it looks very impressive from the absract.

01 December 2009

Climate Research Unit and Fraud Act 2006

Simply, are the Climate Research Unit authors of the now, infamous emails, liable under the provisions of the Fraud Act 2006?


"2 Fraud by false representation
(1) A person is in breach of this section if he
(a) dishonestly makes a false representation, and
(b) intends, by making the representation
(i) to make a gain for himself or another, or
(ii) to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss.
(2) A representation is false if
(a) it is untrue or misleading, and
(b) the person making it knows that it is, or might be, untrue or misleading.
(3) Representation means any representation as to fact or law, including a representation as to the state of mind of
(a) the person making the representation, or
(b) any other person.
(4) A representation may be express or implied.
(5) For the purposes of this section a representation may be regarded as made if it (or anything implying it) is submitted in any form to any system or device designed to receive, convey or respond to communications (with or without human intervention)."

The question as to whether or they are liability goes to the question of honesty, or otherwise. If it can be shown that there is dishonesty in these dealings, then they are liable.

The destruction of documents in order to avoid compliance with a freedom of information request would incur liability under, section 77 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 which provides,

"77 — (1) Where—
(a) a request for information has been made to a public authority, and
(b) under section 1 of this Act or section 7 of the M1 Data Protection Act 1998, the applicant would have been entitled (subject to payment of any fee) to communication of any information in accordance with that section,
any person to whom this subsection applies is guilty of an offence if he alters, defaces, blocks, erases, destroys or conceals any record held by the public authority, with the intention of preventing the disclosure by that authority of all, or any part, of the information to the communication of which the applicant would have been entitled.
(2) Subsection (1) applies to the public authority and to any person who is employed by, is an officer of, or is subject to the direction of, the public authority.

Further thoughts to go with Fraud and s77 FOI Act liabilities are ... Misconduct in Public Office,

"The elements of misconduct in public office are:

a) A public officer acting as such.
[surely the CRU 'scientists' are public officers]

b) Wilfully neglects to perform his duty and/or wilfully misconducts himself.
[which will be determined by an equiry of some sort]

c) To such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public's trust in the office holder.

d) Without reasonable excuse or justification.

Scientific Validity

Scientific Validity - does the principle support what it purports to show?

Scientific validity is a difficult and slippery idea; just because the scientific method is being applied, hypothesis followed by experiment to test the hypothesis, doesn't necessarily mean that the conclusion is valid.

Whether or not the process is valid will depend upon the elements that make it up, such as, what hypothesis or model is being used. Is there any bias present, is the data accurate, reliable? Are there any ethical considerations that may have skewed the data?

Hypothesis or Model

Consider the question, is there such a thing as drug addiction? In order to answer the question, we put some rats in a cage and give them two food/water supplies: one clean, one adulterated with something such as an opiate.

In this experimental set up we can collect data which shows that the rats eat the opiate supply in preference to the non-opiate supply. Which proves it, doesn't it?

What if the rats are taking the opiates in order to relieve themselves from living a miserable existence; alone, trapped in a tiny cage as they grow older and die.

What would happen if the rats could live in groups, with lots of space, in a pleasant interesting environment - would opiates be addictive in this case?

This was the situation in Rat Park, follow the link to find out what happened.

Here's another hypothesis - it is possible to tell from the bumps on your head your personality, character and general intelligence. At least, that was what was believed not very long ago.

Are the theoretical underpinnings of the research sound?

For example, is there such a thing as race (in an objective rather than subjective sense)?


Where is the funding coming from? Are you reporting to a political party and would you get sacked if you produced the "wrong" results?


Is the data from a sampling study? Was the sample size large enough, were the samples taken random and so representative of the whole?

Is the data reliable? For example, where and how were the temperatures taken? Is a fraction of a degree real or experimental error?

How about presenting data; is it all there, or has some been left out because it doesn't support the hypothesis?


Drug trials are conducted under ethical rules, instead of testing drugs on people (initially, that is) they are tested on animals. But is the animal an appropriate substitute?

There is a lot more to write than the above, what is written is just a small taste of the problems and difficulty associated with the idea.

Update - Climategate and Scientific Conduct, Derek's post on some work that has questionablel validity.
2nd Dec 2009 - Another note regarding validity from Org Prep Daily.