Tuesday, March 20, 2018

BBC issues false statement in response to their altered image of Corbyn

I have received an inadequate  response to my complaint to the BBC. They did not respond to my point (see previous post), so this is my complaint no 2:

Your response included the line, "Mr Corbyn has been photographed wearing this particular hat and coat many times, and they were not in any way altered or ‘photoshopped’ to appear ‘more Russian.’ "

This statement is false.

As I wrote in my original complaint,  I have closely examined the two images, the original and the Newsnight version, and measured precisely the dimensions of the face and hat, deriving ratios of the breadth and height in four different cuts. (I can show detailed workings if you wish). The ratios of the Newsnight version is 2.9% more narrow than the original, but the height of the Newsnight hat is 13% taller than the original. Therefore the image *has* been altered, and the effect is to make it look as if he is wearing an obviously Russian fur hat.

I will stress that this is a measurement, not an impression or a perception.

Therefore the original photo was indeed altered or "photoshopped", and your response is not true, either because the respondent was just repeating something that they had been told, or with a deliberate intention to mislead. Which was it?

By issuing a false statement, you have compounded the original insult.

Please admit the truth, that someone in the BBC altered the original image.
Reveal who ordered it to be done, and reveal why it was done.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Numerical proof that Newsnight altered Corbyn's image

There has been outrage because of a backdrop of Corbyn put up by Newsnight a couple of days ago. Owen Jones rightly pitched in with an eloquent speech on Newsnight condemning their anti-Labour bias in altering the image to make Corbyn look like a Russian stooge.

The excellent @JohnClarke1980 tweeted thus:

A Twitterspat followed, with outrage met by Putin-like denial, led, unfortunately by the normally reasonable Evan Davis who claimed that the hat was not photoshopped. @BBCNewsPR are making the same claim.

I got unpleasant flack on Twitter from a trio of right-wingers one of whom claimed that the change was a Keystone effect, which happens when a projection is done at an angle to the screen. This would have narrowed Corbyn's face. The contemptuous tone of their arguments persuaded me to take things further.

A Newsnight editor explained that "our excellent and hardworking graphics department had merely changed the colour tones".

So, as it was coming down to perceptions, I decided to do some measurements. 

I downloaded John Clarke's image, put it in MS Paint, and set some reference points (see figure at head of this post) in order to measure the width of face (a), height of face (b), height of hat (c) and width of hat (d)  in both versions.

I counted the dimensions in pixels, and then derived ratios of height to width. The ratio is necessary, because the images are different sizes.

Apologies that I did not include error estimates. Life is short, and in the 51 years since I was taught how to do error bars, I have forgotten how to set about it. If you want to repeat my measurements and calculations, you are welcome to go ahead.

Note that I used the mouth as reference point for (b, bb) the height of face, as it is a more definite point than the beard. I have nothing against beards btw.

Note also that in (c), height of hat, I made a conservative choice of reference point in the original, because Newsnight used the shadow of the original cap on Corbyn's forehead to help create the Russian fur hat.


Ratio of height of face to width of face (H/W):
     Original version       0.448
     Newsnight version   0.461

The difference is 13, or a 2.9% increase in the Height/Width ratio.

This shows that the width of the Newsnight version has effectively been lessened. The face has been compressed sideways, (width is less, so the ratio is greater). which is consistent with the keystone effect, if this was in fact in play. This in itself will contribute to making the height of the hat seem greater in relation to the face.  

But is this enough to explain the change?

Let us look at the dimensions of the hat itself.

Ratio of height of hat to width of hat (H/W)
     Original version     0.423
    Newsnight version  0.488

The difference is 65, which means that there has been a 13.32% increase in the width/height ratio compared to the original. Although the width will have become less, like the width of the face, the height of the hat has definitely been increased.

This proves that the apparent transformation of the hat appearance is not down to the colour tone changes, nor to any Keystone effect, but that the hat has been deliberately stretched vertically to convert it from a cap to a more Russian looking fur hat. 

The irony is that Corbyn has been critical of Putin and his machinations, while the Conservative Party is awash with £3 millions of Russian money, and is resisting Labour's attempts to tighten controls on Russian money.

In coming out to deny what had been done, the Newsnight editor and team not only altered an image to make Corbyn look like a Russian stooge, but also put out a false account of why the image looked different.

The response will come back from Newsnight defenders and their political supporters , "Why in the world are you spending hours measuring cap pixels and ratios when there has been an attempted murder by Putin and a subsequent serious international dispute?"

And the answer is, precisely because this is the kind of media distortion that the likes of Putin will carry out against his opponents, using State controlled media to alter perceptions of political reality. Democracy only works properly if there is a healthy, balanced media, critical of Government and opposition in equal measure.

What Newsnight has done is a serious departure from BBC even-handedness, and the person who took the decision to roll out that image of Corbyn must answer for his or her actions.

Click here to place your complaint: http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/complain-online/

If you find that this application of measurement to a point of political controversy useful, please join in campaigning for use of Interruption Rates in evaluating bias in political interviews.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Is Putin reponsible for Salisbury?

Bing images

Is Putin responsible for the attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury?

Probably, but we do not yet have incontrovertible evidence.

The best evidence would be forensic analysis of impurities in the Novichok used in the attack, which would provide a signature of its origin. This has not been forthcoming, either because Porton Down does not have enough material to get an answer, or for some other reason.

All we know is that Russia invented the damn stuff, and holds an amount of it. But so too do a number of other countries, including us. Craig Murray is looking in detail at this aspect of things.

The next line of evidence is that Putin has form. At least nine of his political opponents have died mysteriously, Litvinenko, Khordovski and Berezovski being the best known, with other less familiar names, and another nine journalists beginning with Politsovkaya. This is a strong pattern, made stronger by the threat that Putin made about his opponents "eating poison" recently.

Then there is the smug, sarcastic, "Prove it!" tone of Russian denials when asked about Salisbury. Innocence would call out a more anxious denial, a roll out of how it could not have been them.

Putin has another flaw, namely his support for Assad and his merciless war in Syria.

So the evidence is pretty circumstantial. If the Government has stronger evidence, they should take Putin to the World Court, the UN's International Court of Justice, and present the evidence. This would take time, but in the time, we could amass more evidence, and the wait, and the court process, would all the time weigh against Putin's character and credibility in the eyes of the world. Legal action can be in addition to any other measures that the Government might want to use. If we believe in the rule of law, we should take this matter to a court of law.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Frack Free North Somerset Submission to Select Committee on Local Government etc

Written Submission to the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government Inquiry
into Planning for Fracking from
Frack Free North Somerset

Submitted by Dr Richard Lawson on behalf of Frack-Free North Somerset

  1. Executive Summary
    1. We are satisfied with the guidance available to us and see no need for an update, apart from a drawing-together of sources into one place
    2. We are strongly supportive of the competence of local democratic institutions to consider this matter, and emphatically reject the idea that a corporate advisor should be embedded in the Local Authority to influence their decision-making
    3. We believe that local environmental conditions, particularly the proximity of the Mendip Hills with their complex and extensive cave systems, and the wetlands of the Somerset Levels, mean that the matter must definitely be left in the hands of the local authority.
    4. Since the impacts of fracking on environmental health (human and animal) would be borne by local people, the matter must be decided by local people.
    5. Our recommendation is that Government should invest in energy conservation, energy storage and biogas as a response to climate change and the coming shortfall in gas supplies
  1. Introduction
    1. Dr Richard Lawson MB BS, MRCPsych is Chair of FFNS, a retired General Practitioner of medicine. Contact rlawson@gn.apc.org 01934 853606
    2. Frack Free North Somerset is a civil society organisation which exists in order to support individuals and groups in the North Somerset areas to protect our local environment from unconventional onshore gas and oil development for reason of public health & safety, economic and environmental risk.
  2. Is there the need to update and improve the guidance available?
    1. The guidance available to us on the Local Plan of our local authority, North Somerset Council, is adequate.
    2. It has been carefully considered over time and arrived at through normal democratic processes.
  3. Is there the need for a comprehensive document incorporating existing and updated guidance?
    1. There is a case for central Government guidance to be brought together in one place, in the name of organisational efficiency.
    2. We would be concerned if any substantive changes were to be made in the process of creating the single document.
    3. In particular, the notion that an “advisor” representing the interests of the fracking industry should be placed in the local authority is absolutely unacceptable.

  1. Should applications for fracking be dealt with as national infrastructure under the 2008 Planning Act?
    1. Our reply is, emphatically, no. Aside from its impact on global climate, the main impact of fracking is on local people, the local economy and the local environment.
      Therefore natural justice demands that local authorities should be the first to consider and decide on any application to drill in our community.
    2. Of particular importance in our county is our proximity to the Mendip Hills, an area of fissured limestone with an extensive interconnected cave network which is an important source of drinking water for our area. This network is by no means exhaustively mapped, and upwellings of fresh water are known to occur miles out in the Severn Estuary, which may well be originating in the Mendips. There is therefore a high probability that fracking fluids injected into shale beds will find their way into the Mendip cave network.
    3. This will result in serious pollution of the network as a whole, affecting not just drinking water but also the health of recreational and scientific cavers, and also the purity of the water of Wells and Bath, which are of great importance to local tourism. For these reasons, any attempt to override or bypass local planning considerations is absolutely unacceptable.
    4. The same considerations apply to the ecologically important wetlands of the Somerset Levels. Even though fracking takes place at a great depth below the surface, the high pressures needed for fracking inevitably mean that gas, water and fracking chemicals will migrate to the surface and contaminate the wetlands, with adverse consequences on the environment of the wetlands and its bird population.

  2. Recommendations
    1. We are mindful of the worsening gap between gas demand and gas supplies in the UK. We are convinced that in view of the reality of anthropogenic climate change, rather than allowing large corporations to exploit a few years of fresh supplies of gas from geological strata where it has been safely stored for millions of years, Government should invest extensively in the following:
      1. Energy conservation
      2. Renewable energy
      3. Energy storage in all its diverse forms - which complements the variability of 5.1.2
      4. Biogas technologies.
    2. We note that the above response to the coming problem of gas supplies will have the following advantages:
      1. They are environmentally benign
      2. They create large numbers of jobs, particularly 5.1.1
      3. They are small scale, dispersed and can be provided by SMEs, who are more likely to pay tax than large fracking corporations
      4. Unlike fracking, they are sustainable. Biogas will deliver gas for the indefinite future, rather than for one or two decades.
    3. We recommend that large fracking corporations should not be encouraged to mine fossil gas as they are likely to export any gas that they produce (20% of our gas production before the last few years was exported) if market conditions are such that they will make more profit by exporting their product.
    4. We note that the promise that fracking will create lower prices for the British consumer is unlikely to be met.
    5. We note that water supply bills are likely to rise in gommunities affectd by fracking.
    6. In the same way, Government should be mindful that at least one of the large corporations holding fracking licenses is a manufacturer of plastic, and will therefore not contribute to the gas grid, but rather will contribute to the global problem of pollution by micro (and macro) plastics.