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Taking on the crazies 

I find myself increasingly agreeing with Will Hutton on a range of issues. Among other things, this week he takes on the crazies on the MMR vaccine.

“Just consider the alarming fall off in the numbers of children receiving MMR vaccinations, now in some parts of the country below the threshold to ensure against an outbreak of the disease. Such is the public distrust of official medicine that a growing number of parents believe there is a greater risk to their children from having the vaccination than from not. Already the incidence of measles and mumps is rising. We are on the verge of a public-health disaster.

“Yet the best evidence we have is that the alleged link between autism and the MMR vaccine is non-existent and that the probability of risk on individual vaccines is zero. But more members of the public believe differently. Part of this story is that an individualistic, better educated and wealthier population wants to exercise choice; another part concerns BSE, where the scientific community’s advice was incorrect, and so justifies wariness over its alleged certainties.

“But no account of this development can be complete without the way our media report science. The dissident, so-called whistleblower, however dodgy the research on which his or her ‘evidence’ is based, is afforded massive attention; it is taken as axiomatic that the mainstream, evidence-based government-endorsed view will be self-serving and wrong. More than half of us believe the medical profession is divided over the health risks of MMR; in fact, it is more or less united that there is no risk.”


Agricultural subsidies have long been a topic to get my blood boiling. So let’s hope that KickAss (“Kick all agricultural subsidies) gets some traction. It’s a Guardian website, but that isn’t very clear.


I don’t have the easy hauteur of William Boyd (“I can see our two-acre vineyard of cabernet sauvignon grapes” etc), but his piece in The New York Times does capture some of my experience over the last two weeks in southwestern France.

For the first 10 days of our holiday, the daytime temperature didn’t move below 39 Celsius (102 Fahrenheit), and even at night it only cooled to about 34 or 35. We spent every possible minute in the pool or inside the comparatively cool stone walls of our rented farmhouse.

When I was at Oxford, there was a history exam that posed the problem: “Revolutions occur where oranges grow. Discuss.” I can tell you that when it’s hotter than that, no one could possibly have the energy for revolution or anything else.

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