Lies, damned lies and Times headlines

Hundreds perish as heatwave takes hold (18.7.13, p 1). The article began "The heatwave has claimed the lives of up to 760 people, ...". Reading further, however, we find that these figures are based not on any reports of increased death rates, but on theoretical models of the effect of climate on mortality.

I got it wrong by breaking promise on rise in tuition fees, Clegg admits (20.9.12, p 7). As both Nick Clegg and the article beneath the headline made perfectly clear, he was apologising for making the promise rather than for breaking it,

Two fifths of primary school pupils fail to make grade in science, maths and English (5.8.09, p 13). The reference is to a DCSF announcement, which shows (in Table 4a) that in 2009 71% of pupils achieved Level 4 or above in English, mathematics and science.
The "two fifths" of the headline might relate to the same table's figure of 61% who achieved Level 4 or above in reading, writing, mathematics and science, with the two halves of the English assessment separated. While the article mentioned that the English test came in two parts with very different pass rates, neither the headline, nor the graph accompanying the article, gave any suggestion that the stiffer bar was being applied.
I note in passing that Table 2 of the DCSF announcement makes it plain that of the four elements reading, writing, mathematics and science, the "writing" test is much the hardest.

Depression drugs don't work, finds data review (26.2.08, p 1). The reference is to a paper `Initial severity and antidepressant benefits: a meta-analysis of data submitted to the Food and Drug Administration' (I.Kirsch1, Brett.J.Deacon, T.B.Huedo-Medina, A.Scoboria, T.J.Moore, B.T.Johnson), PLoS Medicine, February 2008. The relevant extract from the final section of the paper reads `Using complete datasets (including unpublished data) and a substantially larger dataset of this type than has been previously reported, we find that the overall effect of new-generation antidepressant medications is below recommended criteria for clinical significance. We also find that efficacy reaches clinical significance only in trials involving the most extremely depressed patients, and that this pattern is due to a decrease in the response to placebo rather than an increase in the response to medication.' It appears that the drugs do help the most distressed patients, if not others.

George Osborne's plan to cut taxes by £21 billion has been supported by economic analysts (20.10.06, p 32). This is a picture caption rather than a headline, but the principle is the same; it is in bold type and most readers will see it before they read the accompanying article, which runs `George Osborne has categorically ruled out any promises to cut overall taxes before the next election campaign... At the official publication of the Conservatives' independent tax commission's report, Mr Osborne ruled out tax cuts that are funded by cuts in public spending, and insisted instead that they would have to be funded by tax rises elsewhere'.

Muggers and thieves to be fined £100 on the spot (29.9.06, p 1) The following article refers to `proposals drawn up by the Home Office ... after discussions with the Association of Chief Police Officers and other groups'. They had not been seen by the Home Minister.

Tests at 11 to decide places at university (27.2.06, p 1) The Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, a quango set up under Margaret Thatcher's administration, is coordinating a register of 180000 children aged 11-17 based on tests they have taken at the end of their primary education. Sir Cyril Taylor, chairman of the trust, appears to have claimed that they should all get three A's at A-level if they are properly taught at secondary school. Cambridge University has indicated an interest in the list, but only as an indicator of students who could be encouraged to apply to the university.

Top bosses last only 4½ years on average (2.7.05, p 63) It was not made clear in the following article, and matters were muddled further by Robert Cole's commentary (p 57), but in fact the survey by Cantos being quoted showed that 4.5 years (for chairmen of FTSE100 companies) and 4.6 years (for the corresponding CEOs) was the average time that current incumbents had been in their present jobs; which would ordinarily be around half the average time that people held jobs of this kind.

Rapes soar as convictions plummet to a record low (25.2.05, p 1) I had to work hard on this one, as the article itself had very little exact information. It was based on Home Office Research Study 293, itself quoting a 2003 paper by L.Regan and L.Kelly, parts of which can be seen via What is plainly stated in the Research Study (p 25) is that there has been, in recent years, a "continuing and unbroken increase in reporting, and a relatively static number of convictions". The last figures for convictions refer to crimes committed in the year 2002.

Vaccine could wipe out deadly cervical cancer (2.2.05, p 1) The following article makes it clear that under optimistic assumptions concerning both the efficacy of the vaccines, and their uptake among the vulnerable and infection-carrying populations, the vaccines currently under development could reduce cervical cancer in the UK by about 70% (from about 1000 deaths p.a. to about 300).

Speed-trap profits reach £20m as car crime soars (8.12.03, p 8). Later we read that "Theft of, and from, vehicles fell in Britain last year".

Dollar leaps as markets warm to Snow's message (21.10.03, p 23). The "message" in question appeared early on Monday 20 October. Actual rates for the dollar, as reported by, were
Friday 17.100.859845109.57
Monday 20.100.856825110.22
Tuesday 21.100.856458109.69

As the short-lived change in the dollar-yen rate was not matched by any interruption in the decline of the dollar against the euro, it may have owed more to comments from Koizumi.

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