February 8th, 2009


Andrew Wakefield's faked research kills children

The Sunday Times has an article finding that Andrew Wakefield faked the research for his 1998 article which found a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. The article also points out that as a result of his frightening parents out of taking up the MMR vaccine, the rate of measles in the UK has gone up by more than 2000% and two children died from it last year alone. Further comment is superfluous.

(Hat-tip to james_nicoll.)

February Books 8) Understanding Somalia and Somaliland, by Ioan Lewis

Where Bradbury's Becoming Somaliland concentrates on the former British colony, now an independent though unrecognised state, Lewis, who has been researching Somali history and culture for five decades, looks at the bigger picture of the failure of the state of Somalia and the pathetic international strategy to try and put things right - a cycle of offering formal international recognition to a series of pseudo-governments with little actual authority and no legitimacy which goes as far back as 1990. Lewis' book was published late last year, just before the latest round in this expensive project of wishful thinking, but there is no reason to suppose that things will be much different this time. Meanwhile the most democratic regime in the region continues to function moderately well, if without international recognition.

Lewis also pays some attention to the wider regional context, particularly (of course) the Ogaden conflict in Ethiopia - the Ogaden are a Somali clan, and advocates of a Greater Somalia still hope to annex them along with northern Kenya and Djibouti (and I wish Lewis had also written a bit more about those two). And there is the question of geopolitics as well: the British administration of all the Somali areas bar Djibouti during and after the second world war; the Soviet support of the "scientific socialism" of Siad Barre's regime, which ended after the Ethiopian revolution brought Addis into the Communist camp; the American bombardment of the country in support of Ethiopia's invasion two years ago in the cause of fighting Islamism (and of course the US and EU are now celebrating the election as president of the same guy they chased out of Mogadishu then).

Lewis doen't mention the curious fact that Berbera, Somaliland's main port, has the longest airport runway in Africa at over 4 km - originally built by the Soviets as part of the scientific socialism project, then improved by the Americans as a potential emergency landing strip for the Space Shuttle. Just thought you ought to know.
doctor who

February Books 9) The Doctor Who Annual 1967

Alas, the 1967 Doctor Who annual is not as good as its predecessor. I remember finding it in an older cousin's house when I was very young, and being gripped by the first story, "The Cloud Exiles", in which the Doctor (or "Dr Who", as he is consistently referred to here) rescues the Ethereals from non-corporeal exile after some initial misunderstandings. On rereading, I still thought it was the best story in the book; the worst is the sole cartoon strip, whose title is "Mission for Duh" (sic). Walter Howarth's graphics are if anything better than the previous year; the stories, however, are not as good on the whole.