Sunday, 19 January 2014

More or Less Should be Compulsory Listening

I have commented before on the Radio 4 programme More or Less with Tim Harford, the Financial Times Undercover Economist, which is produced in conjunction with The Open University.  Each week Tim examines statistics and claims which are in the news and usually shows that they are at least misleading and often are just plain wrong.
This week two items caught my attention.  The first was a report published by The Obesity Forum  which stated that the prediction in the Foresight Report on obesity of 2007 that half the UK population would be obese by 2050  was understated . The Forum claimed that clear evidence exists that the situaton would be considerably worse. 
The Foresight Report used UK Data covering the period 1997-2004 but in 2005 new data seemed to indicate that obesity was falling.  This was reinforced over subsequent years up to the latest figures in 2012.   Thus the original perdition was overstated, not understated.
When asked by Tim Harford where their clear evidence came from, the Obesity Forum representative said "We have no actual statistics or figures"  It was quite clear to me that this so-called report had been published to grab some headlines without consideration of the facts. Why would an organisation distort the figures to such an extent?
Perhaps it is worth reading down the list of the Obesity Forum's partners.
  • All-Party Parliamentary Group on Obesity
  • Department of Health
  • National Institute of Clinical Excellence
  • Royal College of Paediatricians
  • Association for the Study of Obesity
  • National Audit Office
  • Korean Academy of Family Physicians
  • National Association of Primary Care
  • LighterLife UK Limited
  • Roche Products Ltd
  • Abbott Laboratories
  • Slim Fast Foods Ltd
  • Safeway Foods plc
  • Tanita UK Ltd
  • Sanofi-Aventis Ltd
  • Mantis Surgical Equipment Ltd
  • GlaxoSmithKline UK Ltd
  • Canderel
  • British Meat Nutrition Education Services
  • Rosemary Conley Enterprises
  • Carlton TV Ltd
  • The Obesity Awareness and Solutions Trust 
I don't suppose any of the companies in bold above would have an interest in diet products, would they?

The second item which attracted my attention was a statement made by Boris Johnson.
He said , in an interview about the recent shooting of a citizen by police, that firearms had been issued in London on 10,000 occasions in the last four years and only used on six of those.
This seemed incredible. 
Tim's investigation showed that, in fact, Boris had understated the situation. Firearms had been issued for planned and emergency incidents on 17,000 cases in this period and only discharged on six occasions with a total of  20 bullets used. These figures do not include regular use of firearms for Royal protection duties and the like and a planned surveillance involving several days was only counted as one incident.
During the same period in USA police shot dead 1600 people.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

A Rewarding Day

Our first visitors this year were our friends Crhis & Paul. You may recall they were selling their narrowboat, Dread On, in France.  If you have been attentive you will also be aware that the boat is sold. What we did not know until today is that the buyer, a Frenchman, found the boat through this blog. That just about made my year. Not quite as good as  the arrival of grandchild number four in August, but close.
I might not have the largest readership - but what quality!


Best wishes for 2014
to all who read this