Memory Hole (27 October): What else happened?

Scientific Misconduct Blog Memory Hole: Events of October 27th

Quote of the day

"Much of what passes for government policy today is nothing more than theater designed to create the illusion that the nation's problems are being addressed."

"We're looking for the illusion of due diligence, Mr. Pope. Two criminal acts successfully prosecuted -- it gives us that illusion."

From the Movie Syriana (worth watching)

P&G telephone records

16 years ago today: P&G in another spying case

On 27 October 1991 the New York Times reported on a further incident involving spying by Procter and Gamble.

Phone records were at the center of the scandal. P&G had tried to find who was talking to a journalist by enlisting the Cincinnati police who checked the records of all 800,000 business and home phones.

Legal scholars said First Amendment protections had been violated by accessing thousands of phone records of people who had nothing to do with the company. Procter & Gamble admitted it made "a mistake."

Another case is also discussed where a chemist at the Hanford nuclear store started speaking out about safety problems, and was intimidated and threatened.

See also Procter and Gamble goes dumpster diving

Source: "Sometimes, the Disloyal Are Watched" New York Times, 27 Oct 1991, pE10.

6 years ago today: UK Government says whistleblowing laws are "effective"

On 27 October 2001 "The UK government has acted to dispel fears that NHS staff who report safety concerns may not be protected from reprisals under whistleblowing laws". In the case of Steve Bolsin, "Professor Ian Kennedy said that the "good faith" requirement was problematic because it could easily be argued that the whistleblower acted from mixed motives". "He suggested, for example, that the act might be amended to protect disclosures to the General Medical Council (GMC)".

Hmmmmmm....yes and no .... why would anyone report anything to the GMC? Have the people who say these things spoken to a selection of people who have tried?

Sadly the lay press and public discussion remains the most important and only plausible route for raising concerns of public interest. That was 2001 and things are just much worse.

It's an interesting word that -- "effective".

Law is effective in protecting whistleblowers, report says -- Dyer 323 (7319): 954 -- BMJ

3 years ago today: Legal rules in UK prevent whistleblowing

On 27 October 2004 The UK government faced a row with MPs over new rules for employment tribunals which keep whistleblowing claims over corruption and fraud secret regardless of public safety. The rule change was slipped in on the quiet. The government creates rules ostensibly to protect whistleblowers, and then subverts them to prevent discussion. New Labour democracy in action.

Source: The Guardian, Row over keeping whistleblowing claims under wraps, Oct 27 2004

2 years ago today: 9/11 Intelligence officer bullied

On 27 October 2005 The Hill reported on the case of US Army Reserve Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer who let it be known that the intelligence cell in which he worked identified the Sept. 11 terrorists a year before the attacks, and that related documents had been destroyed.

In exchange the pentagon disciplined him for a series of actions (from misuse of government property to flashing military identification while intoxicated) which had nothing to do with the information he provided. The path to obfuscation is interesting.

Source: The Hill, "Hunter asks for probe of Pentagon actions against whistle-blower" Oct 27 2005

2 years ago today: Lester Crawford FDA - the mystery revealed

On 27 October 2005 the stock dealings underlying the resignation of FDA commissioner Dr. Lester M. Crawford were revealed in the New York Times. He never went to prison.

Source: Ex-Head of F.D.A. or Wife Sold Stock in Regulated Area, NYT, Oct 27 2005, also see Memory Hole 16 Oct and FDA Conflicts of Interest Update.

1 years ago today: UK Government interferes with a research study

On 27 October 2006 the following appeared in Private Eye.
Private Eye # 1170 9 27 October 2006
WHY is no one surprised that Defra [UK - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] is threatening to pull the plug on a detailed investigation into whether farmers exposed to sheep dips suffer serious long-term health damage?

"For more than two years researchers at University College London have carried out extensive psychological testing on farmers who were exposed to organophosphates contained in the pesticides. But their study is now in jeopardy after the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) suddenly expressed concerns last month that the study contains no suitable control for comparison, i.e some other rural group who were not exposed to the nerve gas-related chemicals.

One might think it a bit late in the day to criticise the way the study was composed. After all, it was designed in collaboration with both Defra and the VMD over a four-year period and was approved by both in-house scientists and independent peer reviewers. Twelve different control groups were identified and work was about to start on retired rural police until the VMD lobbed its spanner in the works. In any event the "problem" could easily be remedied by finding a control group that was acceptable."
Good open science as usual. Seems pretty obvious what happened here. I have no idea whether farmers suffer side effects, but it would be nice to see science carried out without government meddling. Private Eye have done a good job exposing bad science, incompetence and cover-up (the Bristol Heart scandal, paternalistic we-know-best-what-you-need-to-know government behaviour over BSE). Whistleblowers take note.

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