Climatic Research Unit director Phil Jones was being whisked back to his desk at the University of East Anglia by the University’s Russell enquiry yesterday.
But with exquisite timing, the Information Commissioner’s office chose the same day to confirm that CRU had twice broken the Freedom of Information regulations – once by ignoring the request, and twice by refusing the actual data. The breaches carry a civil penalty.
More is to come, as this was one of four complaints by David Holland under consideration by the ICO, which adjudicates on both FOI requests and EIRs, or Environmental Information Regulations. Other bodies include the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Met Office.
Bodies involved in the IPCC’s procedures are obliged to “ensure that the assessment was undertaken on a comprehensive objective open and transparent basis; … ensure that all written expert and government review comments were retained in an open archive for a period of at least 5 years, and ensure that Review Editors who supervised the assessment submitted a ‘written report’ – by the IPCC’s own rules.
The Met Office initially responded to Holland by claiming that it had destroyed the data – it had kept no working papers and no correspondence. Then the Met changed its excuse. It said it hadn’t destroyed the data – but that its Director of Climate Science John Mitchell OBE (who has since left the Met) was conducting his work as Review Editor for the IPCC in a personal capacity, and so it wouldn’t say what he was doing.
When it emerged that the taxpayer had paid for Mitchell to perform his work for the IPCC (the Met even met his expenses), the excuse for refusal changed once more, claming it wasn’t in the public interest.
Holland tried again, under EIR Regulation 11, hoping for a speedier result than the prevarication with which public bodies meet FOI requests. Under FOI they can stall until they are no longer obliged to disclose the information. CRU refused to provide the reviewers’ comments outright.
The Met stalled, at first refusing to consider the request under EIR rules, then claiming a loophole, regulation 2(1) that “These archiving and contribution procedures, instructions and correspondence are administrative information and not environmental information”
The UEA claimed the same loophole as the Met. In yesterday’s ruling, the ICO reminded UEA that the 2(1) could not be interpreted so narrowly, and that public bodies had to interpret it as widely as possible. His notes are here.
The damning archive of emails, source code and station data was called FOIA.ZIP, and is believed to have been to have been compiled by an insider.
In January, the ICO said it had prima facie evidence that CRU academics had broken the law – repeatedly promising to evade requests and asking colleagues to remove data that Holland had requested. The evasion began in 2005, long before the trickle of polite requests became a deluge last year. In one case, Jones even requested Briffa to delete data the very day after one of Holland’s requests.
Remarkably, the Russell inquiry did not ask Jones whether he deleted any email. Russell’s report cites two of the most damning deletion requests, then declares: “There seems clear incitement to delete emails, although we have seen no evidence of any attempt to delete information in respect of a request already made.”
One of the inquiry team, Lancet editor Richard Horton declared in a newspaper article that this would be the “final inquiry”. He’s either being hasty, or optimistic. MP Graham Stringer described the Russell inquiry as inadequate and called for Parliament to re-open an investigation.
The World Cup was bad news for Holland, but that isn’t what I am talking about.
The world’s preeminent climatologist Dr. James Hansen (who is well known for quiet understatement) has forecast that Holland will drown in the next century. Looks like East Anglia is doomed too. Is that a bad thing?
If that isn’t bad enough, NASA’s Cape Canaveral, Key West, and Miami are toast!
Dr. Hansen says :
I find it almost inconceivable that “business as usual” climate change will not result in a rise in sea level measured in metres within a century.
According to the University of Colorado, sea level has been rising at 3.2 mm/yr since 1994, and has generally been slowing down over the last five years (except for the El Niño spike.)
That means it will only take 312 years to rise one metre. Which is not far off from what it has been doing for the last century.
It is imperative that we make plans to protect Holland. First step is to hire Hansen to put his finger in the dike. Second step is to teach their strikers how to kick the ball somewhere besides straight to the goalkeeper.
At least they didn’t lose a penalty shootout this year.
Hundreds of Israeli college professors have signed a petition accusing the education minister of endangering academic freedoms after he threatened to “punish” any lecturer or institution that supports a boycott of Israel.
The backlash against Gideon Saar, a member of the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, comes after a series of moves suggesting he is trying to stamp a more stridently right-wing agenda on the Israeli education system.
The education minister has outraged the 540 professors who signed the petition by his open backing of a nationalist youth movement, Im Tirtzu, which demands that teachers be required to prove their commitment to right-wing Zionism.
Two of Mr Saar’s predecessors, Yossi Sarid and Yuli Tamir, are among those who signed the petition, which calls on the minister to “come to your senses … before it’s too late to save higher education in Israel”.
Mr Saar’s campaign to “re-Zionise” the education system, including introducing a new right-wing Jewish studies syllabus and bringing soldiers into classrooms, has heightened concerns that he is stoking an atmosphere increasingly hostile to left-wing academics and human-rights activists.
Neve Gordon, a politics professor at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva who called for an academic boycott of Israel last year, has reported receiving death threats, as has a school teacher who refused to participate in Mr Saar’s flagship programme to encourage high-school recruitment to the Israeli military.
Daniel Gutwein, a professor of Jewish history at Haifa University, said: “A serious red flag is raised when the education minister joins in the de-legitimisation of the academic establishment. This is a method to castrate and abolish Israeli academia.”
Mr Saar’s sympathies for Im Tirtzu were first revealed earlier this year when he addressed one of its conferences, telling delegates the organisation would be “blessed” for its “hugely vital” work.
The youth movement emerged in 2006 among students demanding that the government rather than ordinary soldiers be held to account for what was seen as Israel’s failure to crush Hizbollah during that year’s attack on Lebanon. It has rapidly evolved into a potent right-wing pressure group.
Its biggest success to date has been a campaign last year against Israeli human rights groups that assisted a United Nations inquiry led by Judge Richard Goldstone in investigating war crimes committed during Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2008. The human rights organisations are now facing possible government legislation to restrict their activities.
Im Tirtzu’s latest campaign, against what it calls “the reign of left-wing terror” in the education system, was backed by Mr Saar during a parliamentary debate last month. He told MPs he took very seriously a report by the movement claiming that anti-Zionist professors have taken over university politics departments and are silencing right-wing colleagues and students.
Mr Saar also warned that calls for boycotts against Israel were “impossible to accept” and that he was talking to higher education officials about taking “action” this summer, hinting that he would cut funds for the professors involved and their institutions.
Yossi Ben Artzi, the rector of Haifa University and the most senior university official to criticise Mr Saar, warned him against “monitoring and denouncing” academics. He added that the Im Tirtzu report “smells of McCarthyism”.
The universities are already disturbed by a bill submitted by 25 MPs last month that would make it a criminal offence for Israelis to “initiate, encourage, or aid” a boycott against Israel and require them to pay compensation to those harmed by it.
The bill is likely to be treated sympathetically by the government, which is worried about the growing momentum of boycott drives both internationally and in the occupied West Bank. Mr Netanyahu has called the emergence of a boycott movement inside Israel a “national scandal”.
Prof Gordon, who wrote a commentary in the Los Angeles Times a year ago supporting a boycott, said Im Tirtzu had contributed to a growing “atmosphere of violence” in the country and on campuses.
Hundreds of students at his university have staged demonstrations demanding his dismissal. He was also recently sent a letter from someone signing himself “Im Tirtzu” calling the professor a “traitor” and warning: “I will reach Ben Gurion [University] to kill you.”
Prof Gordon said: “I have tenure and Im Tirtzu cannot easily get me fired. But they are trying to become the ‘guards at the gate’ to make sure other academics do not follow in my path.”
Only three Israeli academics have so far openly endorsed a boycott, he added, with many others fearful that they will be punished if they do so. But Im Tirtzu and its supporters were using the issue as a pretext for cracking down on academics critical of rightwing policy. He called Israel an increasingly “proto-fascist” state.
Prof Gordon cited the recent case of Assaf Oren, a statistics lecturer and peace activist who had been told he was the leading candidate for a post in Ben Gurion’s industrial engineering department until right-wing groups launched a campaign against him.
In a further sign of what Prof Gordon and others have labelled a McCarthyite climate, MPs in the parliamentary education committee — which has come to closely reflect Mr Saar’s views — summoned for questioning two head teachers of prestigious schools after they criticised official policies.
One, Ram Cohen, has condemned Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians, while the other, Zeev Dagani, has spoken against the programme to send army officers into classrooms to encourage pupils to enlist.
Mr Dagani was the only head teacher in the 270 selected schools to reject the programme, saying he opposed “the blurring of boundaries when officers come and teach the teachers how to educate”. He subsequently received a flood of death threats.
The education ministry has announced a new core curriculum subject of Jewish studies in schools that concentrates on nationalist and religious themes and is likely to be taught by private rightwing and settler organisations.
Avi Sagi, a philosopher at Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv, warned in the liberal Haaretz newspaper that the syllabus offered “an opening for dangerous indoctrination”.
A modern history curriculum published this month has been similarly criticised for leaving out study of the Oslo peace process and Palestinian politics.
Also in the sights of education officials are hundreds of Arab nursery schools, many of them established by the Islamic Movement. Zevulun Orlev, head of the education committee, has accused the schools of “poisoning the minds” of Arab children in Israel.
Mr Saar appointed a special committee last month to inspect the schools and shut them down if they were found to be teaching “anti-Israel” material.
Arab MPs have called the claims “ridiculous”, pointing out that the schools were set up after the education ministry failed to build nursery schools in Arab communities.
- Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.
GEORGETOWN, Guyana — Prime Minister Samuel Hinds said Guyana looks forward to working with Venezuela in resolving the border issue under the aegis of the new mechanism employed by the ‘Good Officer Process’ of the United Nations Secretary General aimed at assisting both countries to find a solution.
Hinds was speaking at the 199th Independence Anniversary of Venezuela on July 8.
The Prime Minister said the commitment to the principle of comity among nations, non-interaction in the internal affairs of sovereign states and the peaceful coexistence of all nations remain the cornerstone of Guyana’s foreign policy.
“We are pleased Venezuela is one of the countries promoting adherence to these standards which is gaining not only expressions of support but growing commitment from the international community.”
Prime Minister Hinds stated that President Bharrat Jagdeo is expected to visit Venezuela on the invitation of President Hugo Chavez and it is hoped that the discussions will provide added political impetus to the development of relations between the two countries.
Guyana eagerly anticipates the convening of the Fifth Meeting of the Guyana/Venezuela high level bilateral commission which has the potential to provide the drive for a more improved programme of functional cooperation, the Prime Minister said.
Venezuela and Guyana signed a rice trade agreement on October 21, 2009 in which Guyana would supply the oil-rich nation with 10,000 tons of white rice and 40,000 tons of paddy. To date over 17,000 tons of paddy has been delivered.
In the energy sector Guyana continues to benefit from the Petro-Caribe agreement with the provision of credit on preferential terms for the purchase of fuel.
Prime Minister Hinds mentioned that the partial financing of fuel purchases under the Petro-Caribe agreement has enabled the government to create a foreign exchange fund from which the latest power generating station of the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) was financed.
That station has been providing a very much needed 20 megawatts of new, reliable power.
Venezuela has also partnered with Guyana in advancing the welfare of vulnerable groups with the construction of the Rehabilitation and Reintegrated Centre at Onverwagt, West Coast Berbice.
When completed the centre would accommodate 200 males and 100 females in separate dormitories and would include medical, recreational, kitchen, conference and dining facilities as well as production mechanism for those desirous of gainful employment.
In relation to agriculture, the Venezuelan Government has aided in improving the life of the underprivileged through the provision of funding from the ALBA Food Fund.
“That assistance, which seeks to further develop and improve the quality of smaller agri producers, including diary producers is timely. It would inevitably contribute to the strengthening of the agri industry thus enhancing food security and helping Guyana increase its potential to export agricultural produce in the region and further a field while at the same time enhancing the livelihood of the poor in rural Guyana,” Prime Minister Hinds declared.
He noted that Venezuela continues to play a vanguard role in the promotion of programmes that would bring direct benefit to the people of South America and the Caribbean especially those in small economic and vulnerable groups within the hemisphere.
“July 5th symbolizes not only the birth of the independent nation of Venezuela but also the celebration of the dreams and aspirations of the regional era for a free and independent hemisphere,” the Prime Minister added.
Today that vision is what gives member states of the continent the determination to further the cause for deeper and closer relationships among Caribbean and South America countries aimed at promoting integration and cooperation among member states, he said.