The Great Debate UK
from The Great Debate:
A lie wrapped in an apology is still a lie. It is a big lie, a particularly offensive lie, coming as it does from the German company Chemie Grünenthal responsible for inflicting its notorious drug thalidomide on hundreds of thousands of women in 52 countries. Some 90,000 babies are calculated to have died in spontaneous abortion, but at least 10,000 mothers are known to have given birth to malformed babies between 1958 and 1961; the most damaged survive today as limbless trunks, others whose legs and arms were reduced to digital “flipper” extrusions from the shoulder, and thousands have severe internal injuries as well.
Grünenthal (now GmbH) was a small private company set up after World War Two as an offshoot of an old family firm that made soaps and detergents. Its first pharmaceuticals were produced under foreign license, but thalidomide (which it called Contergan) was its own, a sedative discovered by accident in the spring of 1954 by a 32-year-old chemist and doctor, Heinrich Mückter. To exploit the postwar sleeping-pill boom, Grünenthal marketed it massively from October 1957 as “completely safe,” “completely atoxic,” and free of the unpleasant side effects of barbiturates. The sales department called it “the apple of our eye” because it was so profitable. From 1958 to 1961 they zeroed in on promoting it for use by expectant mothers.
The apology for the tragedy has come from Grünenthal's new chief executive, Harald Stock, who at the end of last month stood outside the company’s Rhineland offices in the small town of Stolberg to unveil a bronze sculpture of a thalidomide child with foreshortened “flipper” arms. “We ask for forgiveness that for nearly 50 years we didn’t find a way of reaching out to you, human being to human being.”
The emotion and apparent sincerity were appealing, but in the next breath he made forgiveness impossible. “Grünenthal acted,” he said, “in accordance with the state of scientific knowledge and all industry standards for testing new drugs that were relevant and acknowledged in the 1950s and 1960s.” That was flatly untrue, a product of either deep-rooted cynicism, belying his whole apology, or of appalling ignorance. Grünenthal has propagated the big lie for 50 years, retailing the notion that reproductive tests were unnecessary because nobody could possibly have realized in the fifties that a drug could penetrate the placental barrier and reach the fetus. (Stock and the company did not respond to requests for comment on these charges.)
–Andrew Hammond is an Associate Partner at ReputationInc, and was formerly a UK Government Special Adviser, and Senior Consultant at Oxford Analytica. The opinions expressed are his own.–
With the Paralympics now concluded, the curtain has come down on a remarkable London 2012 and Diamond Jubilee Summer that has more than delivered on the “like no other” tagline given to it. Now, significant, urgent effort is required so that the once-in-a-generation opportunity for meaningful economic and reputational legacy is not lost – we need an ‘Economics Team GB’.
The government’s latest plan to boost growth by relaxing planning permission rules has attracted a mixed reaction. In fairness, allowing homeowners who have detached houses to build an 8 metre long-extension is never going to get the UK economy out of the bolt hole it has found itself in. Likewise, the perceived U-turn on the plan to build another runway at Heathrow is unlikely to happen in time for Cameron and Osborne to take credit for the growth boost.
But all is not lost for the government. All it needs to do is to continue its policy of gently loosening the Treasury’s purse strings. “But we are going through a period of fiscal austerity,” I hear you cry. Indeed that is what the government wants us to think, but the economic data just doesn’t support that assertion. The latest GDP data reported that government spending was flat in the second quarter. That is down from the large 1.9% increase in the first quarter. However the UK’s fiscal consolidation effort looks fairly meagre when you consider that government spending has only fallen once in the last six quarters.
By Kristen Silverberg and Dr August Hanning. The opinions expressed are their own.
The case of Standard Chartered Bank has demonstrated that there are still gaps in the international sanctions regime concerning Iran. In the financial sector, the existing regime can be improved. However, the European sanctions targeting the Iranian oil and gas sector also have significant weaknesses. It is necessary to identify these weaknesses and to close them as quickly as possible.
from The Great Debate:
Passing through the maze of lounge chairs at the beach or pool this summer, one best seller and its sequels appear like spots under beach umbrellas; black-sheened paperbacks in the hands of plenty of reclining, rapt women.
Anything that resembles narrative or character in the Fifty Shades series, which starts with the title novel Fifty Shades of Grey, is forgone to get to the meaty stuff; that is, the sex. Our heroine, who is at times compared to the naïve beauty from Tess of the D'Urbervilles (a solitary well-employed allusion in the series), chooses the chiseled, sexy, young Christian Grey for her first, but definitely not her last, sexual experience. Skip to the revelation about Grey’s preferences in the bedroom, and within a hundred pages she is tied up, roped down, spanked, lashed and beaten in the pursuit of Grey’s satisfaction.
By Kathleen Brooks. The opinions expressed are her own.
Standard Chartered is the latest UK-based bank that seems to be getting it in the neck from our friends across the water. Firstly, there was Barclays and the Libor scandal, then there was HSBC which was fined for allowing drug-trafficked money from Mexico to go through its system and now there is Standard Chartered which is charged with “wilfully misleading” the New York Department of Financial Services and clearing $250 billion of Iranian transactions through its U.S. operation.
Two can be a coincidence, but three in as many months? Since the news on Standard Chartered broke there has been a torrent of investors, politicians and even some in the media who have queried whether this is just an attempt by Washington to discredit London and re-establish New York as the world’s financial centre.
Andrew Hammond is an Associate Partner at Reputation Inc, and formerly a UK Government Special Adviser and Senior Consultant at Oxford Analytica. The opinions expressed are his own.
With London 2012 proving a once-in-a-generation global showcase for Britain, a key uncertainty nonetheless remains over whether a substantial, meaningful legacy can be secured in future years from hosting the games. Given that the official public cost of the Olympics is some 9.3 billion pounds (a figure Parliament believes is nearer 11 billion pounds, and Sky News estimates to be a staggering 24 billion pounds) this is a key question, especially as Britain languishes in a double dip recession.
By Laurence Copeland. The opinions expressed are his own.
It will be a long road back to respectable standards in our schools, but for making a start, Michael Gove deserves our respect and gratitude. It takes a lot of bravery to confront Britain’s education establishment.
However, there is one critical issue which I never hear mentioned in any of the fractious debates on education. It hides behind a number of aliases: continuous assessment, assignments, projects, and no doubt many others. Whatever form it takes, the common factor is the incorporation into public qualifications of grades based on work completed outside exam conditions – at home, in the library, in the shopping mall, anywhere except under the eye of an objective invigilator.
** This post is part of AlertNet’s special report on water: The Battle for Water
Bob Sandford is the EPCOR Chair in support of the United Nations Water for Life Decade in Canada and a member of the Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy. He is also an advisor to RBC’s Blue Water Project. The opinions expressed are his own.
Because of its small population, large area, extensive agricultural regions and relatively high per capita availability of water, Canada is considered to be among the world’s most important food-producing nations.