313 - Content to explore

This page is currently a collection point for stuff I'd like to explore further. So for example the content now in Essay 314  and 315 started here.


I read about Britain being  something of a centre for money-laundering [1] at the time it was published, July 2019 and, stupidly, thought not much more about it. This article explains what it is that has turned Britain into a place quite perfect for rendering any ill-gotten gains 'clean'. Do read it for yourself, but here's a short version.

Back in 2011, the business secretary, Vince Cable, decided to reform, to 'open up', Companies House. As a result of this so-called reform, anyone, anywhere with an internet connection, could set up a UK company on the very cheap – and no-one would check any part of the information. Indeed, one of the very few prosecuted cases was that of one of the very few people who has tried to alert the authorities to the problem. Companies house simply doesn't have the resources to do any checking, but then that is the fault of their funding and remit. Do read it for yourself.

However, given that I've crossed a rubicon of sorts and no longer give trust to any part of the machinery of national government but the ONS, what is described in source [2], which pads out the story a little more. In  2019 I shrugged and moved on, thinking that the authorities would read, react and fix this. Now, my thinking is rather the reverse and I wonder instead quite who is supplying whom with rewards for continuing to turn a blind eye.  Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?, as Juvenal put it, but I want something stronger, since I want the government not just held to account, I want the deceits stopped at source - as many as are found.

I find this situation coupled, in my mind with the position of 'the most expensive MP", Robert Halfon in his repeated campaigns to prevent any increase in fuel duty. Not least the proposal for feebates [4,5]. See bonus malus.  I wonder who benefits from his campaigns, and therefore who funds them;  I wonder how Halfon himself benefits, since I simply cannot believe he does this only out of conviction. Such is my jaundiced view of the nation state.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/05/how-britain-can-help-you-get-away-with-stealing-millions-a-five-step-guide

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/sep/10/uk-corrupt-nation-earth-brexit-money-laundering

[3] https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/the-budget-puts-petrol-in-the-tories-political-tank if you can see it. try here instead https://capx.co/can-the-tories-win-over-the-workers/

[4] https://bettertransport.org.uk/sites/default/files/research-files/Feebates_report.pdf and 

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/sep/04/treasury-raise-fuel-duty-chancellors-freeze and 

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/sep/09/petrol-and-diesel-cars-could-cost-up-to-1500-more-under-proposals


I discovered, today, that the stoppage of the Feed-in Tariff scheme (FIT) back in March 2019 has been replaced with the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) as of January 2020. If this was announced in Jan 2019, as described, it was done very quietly. I rang my supplier about the whole issue of giving away electricity to the grid for no return and enquired of several other sources, but nothing came back with any positives. I only found others like me frustrated at the situation. I certainly did not find news such as at [7], or I would have reacted immediately.

I wait to see if my application is acceptable and will report back. The legislation demands that suppliers pay something, but does not stipulate a rate. The only good news is that one may 'sell' surplus to someone different from who it is that one buys it. So if I buy from EDF, say, I may apply to sell to E.ON – with good reason, since EDF buys at 3.5p while E.ON does so at 5.5p per KWh. [8] shows a table. My previous attempt at solar panels yielded 50% of I think 9p per unit via the FIT scheme, right between these figures — and I recovered perhaps as much as £700 in a year, though most of that was subsidy. We will see and I shall report. As yet I am not even certain that our meters record what we export, and though one of the smart-meter gadgets does show that we're exporting, it doesn't record running totals. I really cannot be bothered to argue, since my opinion is of no value: it is only the official attitude that counts, so if I do the work that shows me what we've exported, or even succeeded in not buying, that figure will only serve to annoy me. When and if there is a return for supplying the grid has little to do with what I want. I am happy that the system has been returned to something approximating fairness (something is better than nothing); I am unhappy that I've missed the whole summer's gain for no return and I am also happy at the prospect of not having to try so hard to use energy when we are generating. I have been cultivating habit of running around the house turning stuff on so as to use excess power rather than give it away.

[7] https://www.energylivenews.com/2019/10/23/smart-export-guarantee-seg-to-replace-feed-in-tariff-fit-payments/

[8] https://www.solar-trade.org.uk/seg/


Different issue, to do with clarity of use of number. I like Speigelhalter.

This is How dangerous is burnt toast?, David Spiegelhalter, 20170123, Winton Centre, Cambridge University.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) today launched its Go for Gold campaign, encouraging us not to burn our roast or fried vegetables and keep our oven chips at a nice golden colour. The idea is to reduce people’s intake of acrylamide, a chemical that is “created when many foods, particularly starchy foods like potatoes and bread, are cooked for long periods at high temperatures, such as when baking, frying, grilling, toasting and roasting.” (FSA)

Go for Gold

Acrylamide can be, in large doses, a very nasty substance. It is used as an industrial sealant, and workers with very high exposures suffered serious neurotoxicity. Very high doses have been shown to increase the risk of mice getting cancer. The IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) considers it a ‘probable human carcinogen’, putting it in the same category as many chemicals, red meat, being a hairdresser and shift-work.

However, there is no good evidence of harm from humans consuming acrylamide in their diet: Cancer Research UK say that “At the moment, there is no strong evidence linking acrylamide and cancer.

This lack of evidence is not for want of trying. A massive report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) lists 16 studies and 36 publications, but concludes

In the epidemiological studies available to date, AA intake was not associated with an increased risk of most common cancers, including those of the GI or respiratory tract, breast, prostate and bladder. A few studies suggested an increased risk for renal cell, and endometrial (in particular in never-smokers) and ovarian cancer, but the evidence is limited and inconsistent. Moreover, one study suggested a lower survival in non-smoking women with breast cancer with a high pre-diagnostic exposure to AA but more studies are necessary to confirm this result. (p185)

Remember that each study is testing an association with a long list of cancers, so using the standard criteria for statistical significance, we would expect 1 in 20 of these associations to be positive by chance alone.

A standard response might be the over-used cliché: ‘absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’. If there has been a huge effort to find an association, and none has been found, it’s true that this may not be direct evidence of the absence of an effect (though this can never be proved anyway). But it can be considered evidence of an absence of an important effect.

Given the numbers provided by the EFSA and the FSA, it is perhaps unsurprising that no association has been shown in large studies. EFSA estimated the BMDL10 of acrylamide to be 170 µg/kg body weight/day — this means it is unlikely that exposures at this level would cause tumours in mice (technically it is the lower end of a confidence interval for the dose that would cause 10% increased tumours). They then compared this with human acrylamide exposure obtained from multiple detailed dietary surveys. For adults this revealed an average acrylamide exposure of 0.56 and a ‘high’ of 1.1 µg/kg/day, in the sense that 97.5% of people consume less than this. The BMDL10 is then divided by these exposures to give the ‘margin of exposure’, which rather confusingly end up being high for low risks and low for high risks.

Table 1: BMDL10 is the exposure of acrylamide which toxicologists think unlikely to cause increased tumours in mice. The ‘margin of exposure’ is the BMDL10 divided by the estimated exposure.

So, for example, adults with the highest consumption of acrylamide could consume 160 times as much and still only be at a level that toxicologists think unlikely to cause increased tumours in mice (that’s essentially what the ‘margin of exposure’ means).

This all seems rather reassuring, and may explain why it’s been so difficult to observe any effect of acrylamide in diet. But, for cancer, toxicology committees demand a rather arbitrary margin of exposure of 10,000 before considering the chemical essentially acceptable. That’s 33 times higher than the current margin for average adults in the UK — making acrylamide fall short of this very stringent safety standard, and this is the basis for the FSA’s campaign.

Reactions to Go for Gold may range from the extremes of encouraging obsessive concern in the worried-well, to irate editorials on yet another intrusion from the ‘nanny state’. More worrying, people may just consider this yet another scare story from scientists, and lead them to dismiss truly important warnings about, say, the harms from obesity.

Cancer Research UK say that “ researchers estimate that overweight and obesity are behind around 18,000 cases of cancer each year in the UK”. In stark contrast, the FSA provide no estimate of the current harm caused by acrylamide, nor the benefit from any reduction due to people following their advice. To be honest, I am not convinced it is appropriate to launch a public campaign on this basis.

Newly discovered source: Elemental.Medium.com

Email: David@Scoins.net      © David Scoins 2018