Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Reassessing the Chernobyl death toll

Dr Ian Fairlie argues that the health impacts of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster are continuing and are not taken into account by governments and health agencies.

ResponsibleSci blog, 25 April 2016

April 26th marks the 30th anniversary of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in 1986.

In 2005, a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency /World Health Organisation (IAEA/WHO) had stated “The magnitude and scope of the disaster, the size of the affected population, and the long-term consequences make it, by far, the worst industrial disaster on record. Chernobyl unleashed a complex web of events and long-term difficulties, such as massive relocation, loss of economic stability, and long-term threats to health in current and, possibly, future generations…”

This year a new report, commissioned by Friends of the Earth Austria, funded by the Government of Vienna and authored by myself, indicates that the adverse effects from Chernobyl are continuing.

This report is an update of The Other Report on Chernobyl, or TORCH, which had provided an assessment of the health evidence up to 2006, independent of the pro-nuclear IAEA. Since then, thousands of scientific articles have been published on these issues, as listed on academic databases such as PubMed, Medline, Science Direct, British Library and Science Citation Index. Hence my new report, known as TORCH-2016, (120 pages, ~200 references) updates the previous edition by drawing on this new evidence.

It is important to note that the accident had many consequences, including economic, ecological, social and political effects. TORCH-2016 focuses on the health effects, and clearly shows they were and are manifold, severe, widespread, and long-lasting – in a word, devastating – contrary to a recent article in Scientific American.

The main findings of TORCH-2016 are:

·         The Chernobyl accident will cause approximately 40,000 fatal cancers in Europe over the next 50 years.

·         The accident has caused 6,000 thyroid cancer cases to date, with 16,000 more expected.

·         5 million people in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia still live in areas highly contaminated by radioactivity from the accident (>40 kBq/m2).

·         400 million people live in less contaminated areas (>4 kBq/m2).

·         37% of Chernobyl’s radioactive fallout was deposited on Western Europe.

·         42% of Western Europe’s land area was contaminated by this fallout.

·         Increased levels of radiogenic thyroid cancers are expected in Western European countries as a result of the accident.

·         Increased levels of radiogenic leukemias, cardiovascular diseases, and breast cancers due to the accident have been confirmed.

·         New evidence has come to light of radiogenic birth defects, mental health effects and diabetes due to the accident.

·         New evidence has also become available that children living in contaminated areas suffer radiogenic illnesses.

The headline estimate of 40,000 future cancer deaths is derived from the collective dose estimate of 400,000 person-sieverts by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR). This is multiplied in TORCH-2016 by the currently accepted risk of fatal cancer from radiation, which is 10% per sievert, to arrive at an expected 40,000 fatal cancers in future. This is a valid routinely-used estimation method using the official linear no-threshold (LNT) model of radiation risks. The 40,000 figure is the same order of magnitude as other academic estimates, such as Cardis (2015).

Lessons from Chernobyl

The problem with nuclear power is that it is a supremely unforgiving technology: when things go wrong – as at Chernobyl (and Fukushima) – they can go very wrong indeed. Contaminating over 40% of Europe and causing the early deaths of an estimated 40,000 people are pretty disastrous.

It is vital that governments and international agencies learn from the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents. Regrettably, a few governments, including the UK Government, have decided to ignore the lessons from Chernobyl and Fukushima and are planning or constructing more nuclear power stations.


In 2005, the IAEA/WHO stated “What the Chernobyl disaster has clearly demonstrated is the central role of information and how it is communicated in the aftermath of radiation or toxicological incidents. Nuclear activities in Western countries have also tended to be shrouded in secrecy. The Chernobyl experience has raised the awareness among disaster planners and health authorities that the dissemination of timely and accurate information by trusted leaders is of the greatest importance.”

While this is undoubtedly correct, it raises the vexed question of trust in governments and international agencies, which, for many people, does not exist or has been eroded after Chernobyl and Fukushima. To re-establish that trust will be difficult. At a minimum, it will require the following steps.

First, governments need to make clear to their citizens that they will consider safer energy options that do not have the potential for another Chernobyl or Fukushima.

Second, a formal dialogue needs to be set up between agencies such as IAEA, WHO and national governments on the one hand and various NGOs/health charities on the other for exchanges of views on radiation risks and energy policies.

Third, WHO should no longer be required to have its reports on radiation matters vetted by the IAEA, as presently required under the 1959 agreement between the two UN agencies. The particular concern here is that the IAEA is mandated to promote nuclear power.

Fourth, UN agencies WHO, UNSCEAR and IAEA should be required to have scientists independent of nuclear agencies, including those from environmental and health NGOs, as members of their main committees.

Fifth, these agencies should be required to consult on their draft reports, including the convening of meetings with scientists from environmental and health NGOs.

Dr Ian Fairlie is an independent consultant on radiation in the environment with degrees in chemistry and radiation biology. His doctoral studies at the Imperial College (UK) and at Princeton University (USA) examined the health effects of nuclear waste technologies. Dr Fairlie has been a consultant to the UK Government and was Scientific Secretary to the UK Government’s Committee Examining Radiation Risks of Internal Emitters. His website iswww.ianfairlie.org

Friday, April 22, 2016

Submission of Dr Richard Lawson to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Submission of Dr Richard Lawson to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse


I am a retired General Practitioner of medicine, and a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
In 2014/15 I created a website that tried to pull together a large amount of scattered information about child abuse, especially allegations of abuse by people of prominence in public life. The website is here: http://vipcsa.wikidot.com/here. The evidence is generally in the form of links to news or specialist websites, which may or may not be accurate; but the Inquiry will know of many of these cases in more detail. The virtue of the vipcsa site is that it draws together a large amount of information in a concise form.
The text in blue will open a link (using Ctrl-click) if this submission is viewed on a computer.
In the website there are some 50 cases where investigations into abuse were stopped, often as soon as they began to point towards people of public prominence.
In this submission I will detail these cases.
I will also suggest lines of investigation arising out of these cases that may be of use to the IICSA.

Cases where investigations were frustrated or blocked

  1. A report on the Peter Righton case that should have gone to Health Secretary Virginia Bottomley was not acted upon. Det-Constable Terry Shutt's evidence on this (audio). Shutt found a pile of documents in possession of Peter Righton, some leading to senior politicians and clergy. The documents were passed to his superiors. No action was taken.
  2. The  1982 Customs  video seizure showing a Conservative Minister having sex with a child.
  3. The Dickens dossier was handed to Leon Brittan by Geoffrey Dickens MP. No action was taken.
  4. The arrest of Greville Janner MP in 1991 was blocked at the last minute.
  5. The Jillings Report was obstructed as North Wales Police failed to co-operate.
  6. The Waterhouse Tribunal was given a tightly restricted remit.
  7. A Home Office official was ordered to back off from his concerns about Government funding for PIE.
  8. The Kincora inquiry was ordered by Michael Havers to be  kept within tight limits, and was blocked from examining claims that high profile politicians visited that boys home.
  9. Reports of North Wales MPs were ignored by police.
  10. Report into abuse in Rotherham "effectively suppressed".
  11. Mickey Summers, survivor of Nottingham children's home, found his statement to police and his care home records have gone missing.
  12. Taped interviews with survivors from Manchester children's homes were stolen, but recovered.
  13. Officers within the Labour Government engaged in  buck-passing in 2002.
  14. Police dropped a criminal investigation in the 1990s when it looked as if ex-PM Ted Heath was involved.
  15. Bulic Forsythe a social worker was murdered days after he spoke about his suspicions that children were being assaulted by an organised gang at one home that is said to have been visited by the Labour politician. A policeman who shared suspicions about a Labour politician was pulled from the case, which remains unsolved.
  16. A Home Office researcher in Rotherham feared for her life as a result of a threat from police that her name would be passed to perpetrators.
  17. Clive Driscoll taken off the Elm Guest House case when he became suspicious of the involvement of a senior Labour politician.
  18. Det Tasker ordered by Special Branch to stop investigating Cyril Smith MP.
  19. Police incorrectly showed Steve Messham a photo and said it was Lord McAlpine.
  20. Police destroyed photos supplied by Steve Messham. (video, 1:30 in)
  21. Special Branch "found it politically useful to identify people who were paedophiles… I was aware a lot of people in the civil service or political arena had an interest in obtaining information like that which could be used as a sort of blackmail."
  1. A seven year old boy alleged that he was was abused by Greville Janner, he made a complaint and "the police made a mess of it"
  2. Police took no action on adverse reports on Thomas Hamilton, the Dunblane killer.
  3. Police tried to smear Cllr Anna Tapsell when she named a Labour politician.
  4. There was a 16 month delay in passing Canadian information from CEOP to local forces.
  5. Police inquiry into Sir Nicholas Fairbairn halted after evidence was mislaid.
Crown Prosecution Service failures
(there may be some double counting with the following five incidents, but it is helpful to have them grouped).
  1. CPS delayed for 12 months before sending 1970 report on Cyril Smith MP
  2. CPS erroneously drops charges against 2 Fernbridge suspects, but charges later reinstated.

  3. The conclusion from these 50+ cases is that there is a pattern of reluctance to pursue investigations that may have lead towards persons of public prominence.

    A few of these instances may be dismissed as unreliable evidence or on other grounds, but the large number of similar cases does raise the hypothesis that orders were being passed down to block investigations that might lead towards persons of public prominence.

    This has a practical consequence that may be of use in identifying those with an interest in suppressing the truth.

How to make police investigations more efficient.

It is clear that the police service is struggling to deal with the vast load of "historic" sex abuse. Officers working on "historic" cases are inundated with work as more and more victims come forward.
We need to consider how to make this detective work more efficient, because by the very nature of the historic investigation, witnesses are ageing, so it is important to speed up the process of investigatino.
Three suggestions are put forward here, the third, “Identifying the source of the order”, being the most important.

1. Amnesty for witnesses

Survivor of abuse interviewed may be able to give names or descriptions of perpetrators, and also names of care home staff who may have had knowledge of the event, or of the proclivities and character of the perpetrator.

The front line staff so identified may have knowledge of superior officers in their organisation who gave orders that an incident was to be covered up, or that a report should be "lost".

Now these staff members will tend to be on the defensive if they believe that they could be incriminated as a result of telling everything that they know. They will be aware of the suggestion put forward by NSPCC and others that there should be a mandatory responsibility to report any case of abuse. Even though the legislation on mandatory reporting will not be retrospective, it could be perceived as such, and witnesses could fear that they could be caught up in legislation which was in force at the time, such as being an accessory to a crime.
These considerations will almost certainly have the effect of causing staff to be reluctant witnesses, so that they admit only what they are unable to deny. The effect of this is to make the work of detectives significantly harder.
This defensiveness can be overturned by offering an amnesty to all witnesses who may have had knowledge of criminal events.
When all relevant inquiries are complete, the amnesty can be superseded by more rigorous laws and penalties for not reporting abuse, as suggested by the NSPCC.
This carrot-and-stick approach will encourage witnesses who would otherwise hold back out of fear for offending powerful people.
It is possible that this suggestion will initially be unpopular with survivors, who are reasonably and justifiably angry with everyone who connived at their abuse. Understandable though that position is, if the alternative is that the whole exercise is judged to be too costly in resources, seen as unfeasible and therefore ends up abandoned, the survivors may come to accept new suggestions.
The proposal will also not meet the approval of any VIP abusers themselves, who would prefer that the police investigations grind slowly to a halt bogged down within an impossible mound of evidence, in chasing a few ageing paedophile care home managers.
It will also meet rejection from civil servants and politicians who have an intrinsic dislike of any proposal that has not come from within their own ranks.
Whatever the opposition, the amnesty for witnesses deserves to be considered.

2. Delegating routine work

An second way of easing the load on detectives is to create a squad of non-professional police assistants to do the work of data collection. They can take names, dates, places and statements from survivors of abuse as they come forward. They can refer significant events direct to detectives. Detectives can scan the data for frequent names, and set about finding names that crop up frequently.

The model here is the NHS Direct approach to dealing with demand on the NHS, the teaching assistants that have been introduced in schools, and indeed the community support officers for the police. Again, all of these auxiliaries have been criticised by the professionals. It is agreed that auxiliaries are not as good as professionals, but when professionals are overwhelmed, it is irrational for them to refuse help.

A similar form of delegation applies to searching for images of children on computer hard drives. A hard drive taken from a suspected paedophile must first be filtered for images, and then these images, which may exist in huge numbers, must be viewed. This viewing must be time consuming, and also distressing for the officers involved. Is it not possible for this viewing operation to be done automatically by Image Recognition Software, which is now readily available for many tasks? Once the images have been filtered and counted by the software, the officers only have to briefly review and confirm the machine findings. This innovation would free up police time, and relieve stress.

3. Identifying the source of the order

Detective investigators need help and support to work their way up the chain of command in order to identify the senior policemen and senior managers who set up the culture of denial and obfuscation that is detailed in this submission.
Identification of these VIP abusers and their friends is not technically difficult.
It requires the detective to ask these questions of a front line worker,

"Who gave the order that this abuse story was to be set aside and ignored?"
"Who did you hand the lost file to?"
and even simply "Who was your superior officer?"

The detectives can then move up the chain of command until they find the source of the order.
This process is simple and effective.
The problem is not complexity; the problem is political and psychological.
It means that junior officers will be closing in on their own superiors, or retired officers of superior rank. In doing this, juniors will need courage, integrity, and support. The support will have to come from politicians, who similarly will need courage and integrity - qualities that many cynics will immediately say will be difficult to find.
In this case, cynicism actually helps to bring about the situation that the cynic believes in. It is a form of self-fulfilling prophecy. There are decent MPs out there who really want to serve the people. They may not be perfect - nobody is perfect - but we must encourage them and bring them forward.
If we are to tackle the infection of child abuse in the body politic of our nation, it is imperative that we identify and remove from office the powerful paedophiles who are able to hide behind their positions of power, and their friends. If cynics do not want to help in this process, they should at least try not to hinder those that are motivated to get it done,
The sorry tale of Butler-Sloss, Michael Havers, Fiona Woolf and Leon Brittan demonstrates perfectly the mechanism that could be called the "establishment effect". The establishment would prefer that police detectives spend their time in a Sysiphan task of sifting through an ever growing mound of data, than that they should turn their attention to finding and eradicating the powerful politicians, civil servants and establishment figures who have committed serious crimes.
If the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is to be successful, it must support and empower a police effort which is directed efficiently to identify and if necessary root out some people of prominence in the British establishment.

Dr Richard Lawson MB BS, MRCPsych

Brexiteers have lost the economic argument

The Brexiteers have lost the economic argument of authorities.

So far, the following have concluded that the UK (or indeed the world) would be worse off economically if we left the EU:

  1. IMF
  2. World Bank
  3. OECD
  4. Bank of England
  5. Treasury
  6. IFS
Other institutions
  1. President Obama
  2. Prime Minister of New Zealand
Now of course each and every one of these reports from institutions and individuals is met with a barrage of objections from the Two Nigels (Farrage and Lawson), BoJo and Govey etc, but taken as a whole, the collective authority of all these authorities totally outweighs the emotional intensity of the Brexiteers. In fact the pressure to leave is maintained only by day-by-day pressure from the right wing press - Times, Telegraph, Mail, Express, and Sun, who outnumber neutral and pro-EU newspapers by 3 to 1. If the distribution of press opinion were more normal, the Brexiteers would be just a tiny minority.

We can safely conclude from all this that the Brexiteers have lost the economic argument.

This leaves the migration argument. And it is far from clear that leaving the EU would actually reduce migration.

Although if we do vote for Brexit, the subsequent UK economic recession probably would reduce immigration.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

"Scaremongering" - all purpose defence for dodgy policy advocates

Michael Gove ain't afraid of crashing the economy, no way

The Brexiteers have a brilliant all-purpose response to the debate: "SCAREMONGERING".
They are like a drunk adolescent with no driving licence who suddenly wants to take over and drive a bus while it is speeding along a narrow cliff road. When other passengers object, the adolescent throws a tantrum and accuses them all of being scaredy-cats.
So far, the IMF, Bank of England, Treasury, CBI, Price Waterhouse Coopers, Standard & Poors (credit rating agency), NFU, LSE, President Obama and the Prime Minister of New Zealand have all warned that there will be dire economic consequences for England and Wales if we leave the EU.
Against this body of expert opinion, the Leave Campaign can put up Rupert and the Two Nigels (Murdoch, Lawson and Farridge)
What is really amazing that so many people find it so difficult to choose between the two sides. Just shows the power of the pro-Brexit media and that one word "Scaremongering".

Monday, April 18, 2016

Would a Brexit Britain be just like Norway? No it would not

One of the key arguments, if not the key argument, of the Brexiteers is that if Britain came out of the EU, our position would be just like that of Norway.

No it would not.

The EU does not want to break up. They do not want anyone else to follow our example. If England and Wales leave, the EU is going to make life as difficult as possible for us pour encourager les autres. Trade agreement negotiations will be protracted and complex, barriers will be high and difficult to unlock, decision makers will be hard to contact. They want to see us crash and burn.

Neither side of the EU referendum debate will make this argument.
It is not in the interests of the Brexiteers to make it at this point in the game, and the Remain camp feel that it to point it out would paint the EU in a bad light.

It is true nonetheless. Brexit would be an unmitigated economic disaster for us