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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Sunday 22nd January 2012

I said, yesterday, that I thought I should try and see if I could find further information on any of the poisoning incidents I’ve written about over recent months in the hope that ‘suspected’ poisons could be deemed to be ‘proven’ or ‘unproven’ and I will.

But, today, I thought I’d update three other recent stories, even though only one has any information to update.

Mark Lancaster MP and Khat Imports

I introduced my 17th January blog about UNODC’s misrepresentation of a heroin seizure in Austria by remarking that Mark Lancaster’s website still showed the ’10 million tonnes a week’ claim for khat imports.

That caused a small flurry of interest that led to Danny Kushlick of Transform Drug Policy Foundation contacted Lancaster’s office. As a result, the website was amended. That would be fine, if it had been corrected, but it hasn’t. All that has happened is that the word ‘million’ has been removed.

I noted, on 12th January, that ‘The actual figures [for khat imports] are somewhat confusing’ but cited the Home Office published literature review, ‘Khat: Social harms and legislation’, as giving a very precise figure of 57.7 tonnes. Other sources suggest that is a fair approximation. Saying that khat imports are 10 tonnes a week may be closer to the truth than 10 million but it is still wrong. If an incorrect figure in something I’ve written is pointed out to me, I try my best to make sure that the revised figure is accurate or, if I can’t be accurate, I’ll explain the limits of my estimate.

Mr Lancaster, it seems, doesn’t see that need. Unless there is another reason for the 10 tonnes estimate.

I’m not a scholar of parliamentary procedure but my understanding is that the official record of proceedings, Hansard, can be amended if the speaker can convince the clerks that a simple slip of the tongue occurred and that, for the benefit of future researchers, the record should be corrected. Clearly, it is more credible to say ‘I didn’t mean to say ‘million’ than to suggest that saying ’10 million tonnes’ rather than ‘57.7 tonnes’ was a simple slip-up.

Obviously, I have no way of knowing if that was Mr Lancaster’s thinking, but I do know that the official record now shows Mr Lancaster to have said ’10 tonnes per week’.

Incidentally, BBC Radio4 will broadcast a programme from its ‘The Report’ series at 2000 on Thursday 26th January about khat. The trail I heard said it will look at why the status of khat has been changed in the Netherlands and why it is still legal in the UK.

UNODC and Yury Fedotov’s Tweet about a Heroin Seizure in Austria

That 17th January blog entry I mentioned was actually about the way the UNODC Executive Director tweeted about a seizure of heroin in Austria and over-stated both the weight of heroin seized and the value.

I said that I had tweeted Mr Fedotov to ask for his comment on the difference between news reports of the seizure and his claims.

I’ve had no reply.

I know it’s only me and I don’t count for anything but the UNODC has had a number of challenges to the reliability of its data in recent months. I hope I’ve just been ignored because the alternative, not responding and hoping the problem goes away, would be a foolish policy for the UNODC to adopt.

I’ve rechecked Google News to see if any new reports justify the UNODC claims but found nothing.

Griff Rhys Jones and the Mexican Drug War

Just to show that being ignored is not a new experience for me I thought I’d mention that I’ve had no response from either ITV or Ofcom to my complaint about jokes made during ‘It’ll Be Alright on the Night’ that I found offensive and racist.

You can read the full story in my 2nd January blog entry