UK Debates Security vs. Privacy

Photo credit: Wikipedia This just in: An example of what happens when people change conclusions based on the data rather than digging in their heels in favor of a pet hypothesis. In this case, the UK government has reversed a previous decision regarding the 2009-2010 European Pandemrix vaccine for swine flu and its link to narcolepsy , a sleep disorder that can seriously disrupt activities of daily living. As a result, per The Guardian : The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has contacted people turned down for compensation last year to explain that, after a review of fresh evidence, it now accepts the vaccine can cause the condition. The move leaves the government open to compensation claims from around 100 people in Britain, and substantial legal fees if a group action drawn up by solicitors is successful. According to the Guardian, heres why the UK is taking this step: The government U-turn follows a major study of four- to 18-year-olds by the Health Protection Agency which found that around one in every 55,000 jabs was associated with narcolepsy. A spokesman for (vaccine maker) GSK said it had details of around 900 people from 14 countries who had narcolepsy and were vaccinated. Emphasis mine. Its a good example of drawing new conclusions based on new information, otherwise known as the appropriate conduct of science, and then doing the right thing. A total of 100 people among 6 million who received this vaccination in the UK developed narcolepsy, for an adverse event rate of 0.0017%. The death rate from the swine flu in the UK was 0.026% . Put another way, 26 of every 100,000 people who had the flu died; 1.67 people of every 100,000 (1 in every 55,000 according to the study) receiving the vaccine developed narcolepsy. In addition, the vaccine in question evidently was given to groups at high risk for adverse events from contracting the swine flu. The Pandemrix vaccine is no longer in use and was applied for that specific pandemic.

The initiative came following the latest QS World University Rankings, released earlier this month, which showed that four UK universities the University of Cambridge, University College London, Imperial College London and the University of Oxford were ranked in the global top six. The University of Edinburgh and Kings College London were also both placed in the top 20 this year. In addition, the study found that graduates from UK universities are among the most employable, with employers rating five UK universities among the worlds top 10. Sunday nights event also marked the launch of a new campaign by the British Council in Israel to inspire students and young professionals to enrich their education and advance their careers with a UK qualification. Today we start a real effort to reach out to Israeli students and help them understand what the UK has to offer, Gould told The Jerusalem Post before the event on Sunday. To be honest, in terms of numbers of Israeli students in the UK, they are not as big as we want them to be, he added. When I look at potential and then the actual numbers, we are unfortunately nowhere near potential. Gould explained that in addition to UK universities being phenomenal assets for peoples careers, they can especially interest Israeli students for various reasons such as the UK being closer to Israel in comparison to US universities, the English language, and their strength in areas that particularly interest Israeli, including technology, biotechnology and engineering, among other fields. He also pointed out that most British masters programs are completed in one year, which can benefit Israeli students who, because of the mandatory army service, tend to be older than their international classmates. According to the council the United Kingdoms international organization for cultural relations and educational opportunities the UK has hosted some 500,000 international students from about 200 different countries in the year 2012. Gould told the Post that besides what UK education can bring to Israeli students, he believes Israeli students are special. When UK universities recruit Israelis, they get phenomenally high quality, determined, experienced, mature and creative students, he said. Israeli students are special because of what theyve been through before university, because of the economy they come from and because of the country they come from. As an ambassador, this relationship is incredibly important to me, Gould added. It is the single best way to create understanding between the two countries, he explained. When I talk to people in the UK who are friends of Israel and are not Jewish, for most of them the reason why they even started thinking about Israel was because they knew an Israeli student. Some 60 Israeli alumni of UK institutions also spoke to prospective applicants at Sundays reception about their experiences of studying there as well as professional life after their studies. On its website, the councils education organization, Education UK, offers international applicants help concerning English language programs, UK boarding schools for children and teenagers, undergraduate and graduate studies in the UK, single courses applications, as well as information on traveling and student life in the UK.

British Embassy invites Israelis to explore studying in UK

The revelations, published by the Guardian, the New York Times, and ProPublica, show that with the ability to crack encryption codes, the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and its UK counterpart GCHQ can potentially have access to peoples online data and transactions such as medical records, emails, and bank details. In the UK, the debate on governments anti-terrorism efforts and civil liberties had already been intensified recently after David Miranda, partner of the Guardian reporter who extensively covered Snowden, was held by authorities for 9 hours at the Heathrow Airport for questioning. As it stands now, the UK government has made the third highest requests in the world for Facebook and Twitter user data this year, and the highest number of requests for Skype user data in 2012. Imran Awan, a criminologist at the Birmingham City University, says using technology to fight terrorism is not a simple task. Its dangerous because you will inevitably get innocent people caught up in it, Awan says. He says legislative initiatives such as the communications data bill that Home Secretary Theresa May tried to push through last year would make it legal for the government to monger anything and everything, which breeches peoples civil liberties. Snoopers charter The communications data bill, dubbed by some the snoopers charter, would make it mandatory for Internet service providers to track the records of everyones Internet use data such as web browsing history and social networking site messages, and store the data for 12 months, without storing the content. The records could be accessed by the police without a warrant. The bill, which was originally introduced in June 2012, was opposed by the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg who said the bill lacks balance between security and liberty. In a private letter leaked to the Guardian, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo!, and Twitter also wrote to May last April that the bill is expensive to implement and highly contentious, and that they would not voluntarily comply with the bill. But May and Defense Secretary Phillip Hammond and other MPs became keen to revive the bill in the wake of the tragic murder of the 23 year-old British soldier, Lee Rigby, in Woolwich in May this year. They believe that the extension of monitoring powers would help prevent similar extremist attacks. Anthony Glees, a professor of politics at the University of Buckingham and the director of the universitys Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies, says laws such as what the communications data bill is proposing are not about eroding civil liberties, but rather protecting civil liberties. If anyone calls it the snoopers charter is totally idiotic.