Inside the system
HOW DO we know whether genetically modified (GM) food is safe? That's a tough question to answer, especially given what the Observer newspaper revealed recently. The paper showed that the results of crucial crop trials, which are backed by the government, have been fiddled.
Internal minutes from the Ministry of Agriculture show that an employee at Suffolk-based firm Grainseed "manipulated scientific data" to make certain trials appear to perform better than they really did. But is the government still relying on Grainseed's trials to make its decisions about GM crops?
Pete Riley from Friends of the Earth says, "How can the public have any confidence in a government decision which is based on scientific data from a company which has been shown to produce fake data?"
Malaria killing through Stealth
HOW MUCH is spent across the world to combat the killer disease malaria? The answer is shocking. But before we spill the beans, consider these facts:
- Malaria kills between one and two million people every year.
- 90 percent of those who die from the disease are in Africa.
- This year's health budget in Nigeria is $3 a head. That scarcely covers the cost of a mosquito net. Most Nigerians cannot afford the 20 US cents it costs to buy a dose of anti-malaria medicine.
And yet global funding to combat malaria is only �82 million. That is less than one nineteenth of the cost of one Stealth bomber. This year Nigeria will spend five times more on servicing its international debt than on health.
UNIVERSITY applications from Scottish students are soaring. The reason is simple. They no longer have to pay up-front tuition fees. They repay their fees once they start working thanks to the Cubie report in Scotland.
Figures released last week show applications have risen by 19 percent. But the year before applications from Scotland showed the biggest decline anywhere in the UK.
Land of the not so free facing defeat
THE MOST comprehensive national survey has revealed shocking levels of racism in the US justice system. In every respect young black people are treated more severely than their white counterparts who commit equivalent offences.
- Black teenagers are six times more likely to go to prison for their first offence than young whites.
- Young blacks are nine times more likely to go to jail in cases of violent crime.
- Young blacks are 48 times more likely to go to jail for drug offences.
Hispanic teenagers are also much more likely to be jailed than whites. The figures come from an officially produced report, "And Justice For Some".
Worked to death
"FLEXIBLE working is the future." How many times have you heard that from Blair or one of his cronies? They should tell it to workers in Japan where overwork is producing record numbers of early deaths and suicides.
The number of Japanese people who committed suicide in 1999 may exceed 30,000 for the second year running, according to government statistics. It is estimated that around 10,000 people die every year from overwork. Some believe the true figure is as high as 50,000. "The situation is getting much, much worse," says Toru Sekiya, the director of a clinic in Japan.
"After the bubble burst, companies started restructuring and letting workers go. Those who are still employed are running around like crazy just trying to stop the decline in profits."
The hard heart
IT IS now impossible for anyone fleeing torture, repression and discrimination to enter this country legally. That is the result of the government's Asylum Act, passed at the start of April. Anyone who carries a passenger by plane, train, lorry, car, boat or helicopter will be fined if the passenger asks for safe haven on arrival in Britain.
There was a debate in parliament about the act where a Tory, of all people, pointed out that asylum seekers are suffocating to death in airtight containers in order to enter the country. The Tory said on one occasion 1,000 migrants were thrown into the sea by a ship's crew anxious to avoid a fine.
New Labour's Geoff Hoon, then a junior minister, stood up. Hoon replied that he "had listened to a great many tedious speeches" in the House of Commons, but he doubted if "anyone had plumbed so deeply the depths of dullness".
DO NOT, under any circumstances, believe a word said about the nuclear industry. The chances are any information about British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) comes from...British Nuclear Fuels. That's what leaks of internal BNFL documents reveal. They show:
- An Irish MP wrote to Tony Blair calling for Sellafield to be closed down.
- The MP received an official reply from energy secretary John Battle. It said fears were "unfounded" but was scripted by BNFL!
- BNFL proposed to "stuff" the environment minister Michael Meacher. The company urged backbench Labour MPs "worried about job losses" to lobby against Meacher's plans for a public inquiry into Sellafield.
- BNFL also buried vital information about trains that carry highly radioactive waste. It obscured its plans to increase the speed of these trains from 45 mph to 60 mph.