More thoughts on Lockerbie, Compassion, and Truth

I came across a rather thought provoking article directed not at the question of Megrahi's guilt but at the wisdom (or not) of freeing him on compassionate grounds and at the hypocrisy of some of those who criticise this decision.

I tweeted a link to this "interesting" article and a number of fellow tweeters kindly re-tweeted my link. One re-tweeter, however, prefaced her re-tweet with the words: "The right decision". This is not a phrase I should necessarily go along with.

If I thought Megrahi were guilty beyond reasonable doubt of murdering 270 people, I think my feelings about releasing him on "compassionate" grounds would be (at the very least) equivocal - especially given his complete failure to exhibit any remorse or repentance.

The problem is, I am not convinced beyond reasonable doubt that Megrahi is guilty. Nor, I suspect, is Kenny MacAskill or anyone else in the higher echelons of the Scottish or British governments. Even if they are (or at one stage were) the impending second appeal - referred back by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission - must have been concentrating minds.

In a rather silly (for him) article and even sillier follow up comment, Michael White of the Guardian suggests that we should put our trust in the judges (NB not a "conviction by jury" as FBI chief Robert Mueller claims) who originally found Megrahi guilty and that anyone who suggests otherwise is some kind of conspiracy theorist.

In response to Michael White I think it should be pointed out that miscarriages of justice have (historically) been the rule rather than the exception in high profile UK terrorist trials (even going back to the days of the Angry Brigade trials after which one of those convicted said that at least, in his case, "they framed a guilty man") and that the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission do not immediately strike me as being the sort of people who would concoct some kind of "it was all done by the CIA in league with the Martians" scenario.

As this article also argues, it is reasonable to assume that Megrahi was freed in order to avoid an appeal that. at the very least, would have raised serious questions over the Scottish justice system and the Lockerbie inquiry.

I tend to find that what politicians avoid talking about is more instructive than the things they do talk about. It is interesting that there is no mention whatsoever of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission in Kenny MacAskill's statement on Megrahi.

Odd that, is it not?


Lockerbie, Compassion, and Truth

On 1986 April 15, the USA bombed a number of targets in Libya killing 40 people (including Gaddafi's 15-month-old adopted daughter Hanna) and injuring many (including two of Gaddafi's sons). This attack was in retaliation for terrorists attacks such as the Achille Lauro hijacking of 1985 October 7, the Rome and Vienna airport attacks of 1985 December 27, and the 1986 April 5 bomb attack on a West Berlin disco, "La Belle", that killed two American servicemen and a Turkish woman and wounded 200 others. Libya (it was alleged, though this is denied by Libya) had a hand in each of these outrages (ref).

In 1993 October Margaret Thatcher (the UK prime minister from 1979 to 1990 and thus PM during the events related above) published her memoires: "The Downing Street Years". In this book she indicates her support for the bombing of Libya saying that, following this bombing raid "Libya never again mounted a serious attack on the West". Now this is a rather odd thing to say, because in 1988 December 21, flight Pan Am 103 was blown out of the sky half an hour after take-off by a suitcase-bomb (with - according to the "official" account - a long delay "Mebo" timer) allegedly sent from Malta to Frankfurt to London by Libyan intelligence officer Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi. This action resulted in 270 deaths - including that of Jim Swire's eldest daughter, Flora.

When Dr Swire wrote to Margaret Thatcher to ask about this apparent contradiction in her book, he "got a pompous letter back saying she had nothing to add." (ref).

Why has Margaret Thatcher "nothing to add"? The only possible explanation is that she knows something that she is reluctant to talk about.

Since she will not tell us what she knows, we shall have to speculate.

I speculate that she knows that Libya was not behind the Lockerbie attack.

If she knows this, then, I further speculate, so does Gordon Brown.

Let's look at the curious choreography of events: The withdrawal of al-Megrahi's appeal - an appeal that could have continued in spite of al-Megrahi's compassionate release or (alternatively) al-Megrahi's death in custody - followed by al-Megrahi's compassionate release; followed by a deafening silence from Number 10.

Forget "compassion" for someone who supposedly murdered 270 people; forget "oil deals"; the British and Scottish governments (I submit) know al-Megrahi is innocent and they fear that the appeal would have established this - with all the embarrassing consequences that such an outcome would imply. They have chosen the "least-worst" way out.

(Anyone inclined to dismiss all this a some kind of nutty conspiracy theory needs to bear in mind that any skulduggery practised by British and US intelligence was not intended to frame al-Megrahi in a trial that nobody (at the time) thought would ever take place, it was simply intended make Libya look bad. This sort of thing - spreading misinformation for geopolitical ends - goes on all the time. You can read what the chap who played the main role in setting up the al-Megrahi's trail (Robert Black QC) now thinks about the whole thing here: THE LOCKERBIE CASE.)


Should the scientists counter-sue the chiropractors?

Let's just remind ourselves, the British Chiropractors Association is suing science writer Simon Singh because he wrote that the chiroprators don't have any evidence for many of their "treatments" but go ahead and use them anyway. (read Simon's side of the story here)

The BCA insisted that they did have evidence and went on to publish it. This "evidence" was promptly demolished by various bloggers: (see here for one of the demolition jobs and links to others)

But here's the thing:

Simon Singh also pointed out that chiropractic manipulation is not risk free and may, for example, be a cause of stroke

Worse still, manipulation of the neck can damage the vertebral arteries, which supply blood to the brain. So-called vertebral dissection can ultimately cut off the blood supply, which in turn can lead to a stroke and even death. Because there is usually a delay between the vertebral dissection and the blockage of blood to the brain, the link between chiropractic and strokes went unnoticed for many years. Recently, however, it has been possible to identify cases where spinal manipulation has certainly been the cause of vertebral dissection. (ref)

The BCA did not sue Simon over this, but if you go the the site of the General Chiropractic Council, you find a letter from one of their board members to Dr Miriam Stoppard (who had mentioned this danger in a Daily Mirror article):

There is no evidence that examination or manipulation of the neck causes stroke. Journalists, and a few others, routinely confuse association with cause but as a registered medical practitioner you will be aware of the distinction. (ref)

The bit about confusing association and causality is itself confused. Consistent association between A and B does imply causality - it's just that the causality may be from A to B; from B to A; or from C to both A and B.

Moreover the statement that there is "no evidence" is untrue (see for example: here, here, here, and here - Thanks to @Blue_wode for these!)

Perhaps some pro-chiropractic bloggers might like to demolish these references.

But to come (finally) to the point (and leaving aside the question of who is right and who really has evidence) we have here a strange asymmetry:

Scientist accuses chiropractors of having no evidence and chiropractors sue.
Chiropractor accuses scientist of having no evidence and scientists don't sue.

Perhaps we should ;)


At the very least, we should expose their hypocrisy - which I hope I've just done.


How I survived the Aporkalypse

I could be pretentious and describe this as a "case-study", but it is really more a rambling anecdote and, as "eni fule kno" (apart, of course, from the BCA and other assorted purveyors of woo) anecdotal evidence is not the sort of thing you should base health policy on.

The subject of this blog was suggested by @carmenego and, since I am quite incapable of resisting flattery from attractive young women, here it is:

I can only assume that I picked up the H1N1 virus at Manchester Airport when dropping off my wife and kids. They were bound for three weeks in Germany with my parents in law. I was bound for three weeks of peace and quiet back home and chance to get a few things done – like building a garden wall.

First sign that anything was amiss was a slight sore throat a few days later. A couple of days after that, the sore throat was much much worse and accompanied by fever, headache, coughing on a scale I've never previously experienced, and those aches and pains and chills that go though every bone and joint in your body.

I got up to feed the cats and myself every so often, but for five days I could do little more than lie in bed. Couldn’t really enjoy TV (though that could have been to do with the fact that 90% of TV is utter rubbish) or reading or anything. I just didn't have the concentration.

Of course the same flu can affect different people in different ways: anywhere on a scale from not noticing you have it to being dead. It all depends on your immune status and what else might be wrong with you. I am in my early 50s and, like most men, suffer from hypochondria. I wasn’t always a hypochondriac. When I was young, I thought I was invulnerable; but then I started getting all sorts of nasty things wrong with me and this made me start to worry about things like my health.

One thing I had wrong with me was sarcoidosis. I won’t bore you with the gory details, but sarcoidosis is not great for your lungs and the fact of getting it rather suggests that something is awry with your immune system. So I worry about things like flu and new insults to my lungs.

I went on the internet and checked the list of symptoms. Of course, I had all of them and several more besides. I have an encyclopaedia of "Family Health" on my book shelf. I have the symptoms of everything in it. I am just like Jerome K Jerome in this respect, except that I have house-maid’s knee too. As I said, I’m a hypochondriac – though I never go near a doctor unless forced to by my wife.

Of course I have not been tested for the H1N1 virus, but H1N1 seems to be the only virus currently doing the rounds whose constellation of symptoms matches what I had.

Anyway, if you tick all the right boxes on the website, and fill in your details, they give you a reference number to pick up a supply of antivirals from your nearest distribution centre. They also said I should ring my GP, but certainly not go there. So I rang my wife for instructions. She also said I should contact the GP (I decided against this; what would be the point? In any case you can never get through to my GP) and that I should collect the Tamiflu. Max (aged 14) suggested that I re-sell the Tamilflu on the US eBay site (I hope he was joking). I decided to go and lie down instead. When I woke up I felt much worse and I decided that I needed something to supplement my diet of analgesics and tap water – and the occasional rum toddy.

Now it ought to be easy to kill viruses. It’s easy enough to destroy nucleic acids and that’s (by and large) what viruses are made out of. Trouble is, nucleic acid is also what some rather vital bits of us are made of too. Viruses can only work if they get inside your cells. Once they are inside a cell, that cell is basically buggered, but to move on to another cell, each virus (having made squillions of copies of itself inside the cell) has to build itself a new protein envelope and escape from the dying host cell. One of the ways of trying to stop viruses (none of which work terribly well) is to try to interfere with the process I’ve described. This is what Tamiflu does …… a bit.

So I rang up my "flu buddy" (she didn't actually know that she was my flu buddy until I rang her up but she very kindly "stepped up to the plate") and sent her off with my reference number, my photo driving licence (swabbed with CD cleaner); and her photo ID to collect my Tamiflu.

My flu buddy "@fiftynotout" came round, posted the Tamiflu through the letterbox, left me a bag of groceries, and painted a black cross on the door. She has been keeping me supplied with groceries all week since she drives out each day with her daughter who is learning to drive. I gather that if you don’t have anyone who can collect the anti-virals for you, you can arrange for somebody from the NHS (or "Death Panel" as Sarah Palin and co would have it) to drop you some off at your home.

(BTW @fiftynotout does not tweet very much. I think she joined because she had a crush on @StephenFry – though I gather she may have transferred her affections to @ProfBrianCox)

Did the Tamiflu work in my case? Impossible to say of course; it’s like the old joke about the man sprinkling elephant powder. But I did get better after taking it: post hoc but not necessarily propter hoc. The first two doses did seem to make me feel very queasy for while, but I did not actually vomit. From the third dose on, I had no problems – they give you ten doses to last five days.

Of course, given that Tamiflu is not terribly effective, can (like any drug) cause side effects (though these seem to be minimal), and will (sooner or later) almost certainly promote the emergence of resistance in the HIN1 virus, there is still an ongoing debate as to the wisdom of mass distribution. On the other hand, H1N1 can be fatal, Tamiflu may already be saving lives, and H1N1 may suddenly mutate a get a lot worse - if we did not have a working distribution system in place we'd be stuffed when this happened. Also, scientist are busy developing a vaccine - which will be very effective in preventing infection. The use of Tamiflu is just a stop-gap.

How bad is swine flu? Well again, I can only report my experience – which may not be yours. Apart from the coughing, I’d say that the acute symptoms get 8/10 – where the worse flu I ever had gets 10/10. The duration of incapacity and general malaise – eight days and counting – and the coughing are, however, much worse than anything I’ve experienced with normal seasonal flu.

Tweeting certainly helps with flu. It provides the vicarious sensation of having lots of people around expressing concern and interacting with you – not to be sneezed at (hah!) when you are stuck at home on your own. Also, though you can’t concentrate (or, in my case, even stay awake) for long enough to read a chapter of a book or watch a TV programme, you can sit up in bed with your laptop for five minutes and fire off the odd flurry of 140 character messages.

Of course I can’t offer medical advice but, I stayed in bed, drank lots of water and took paracetamol (2x500 mg) every eight hours alternated with ibuprofen. (NB Paracetamol is extremely safe if you stick to the correct dosages and extremely dangerous if you don’t!)

In conclusion: Thanks to my family for their frequent concerned phone calls, thanks to the Death Panel of the NHS for supplying me with free anti-viral drugs, thanks to everyone on Twitter who kept my spirits up during this experience, and a really big thank you to @fiftynotout – the best flu buddy anyone could have had.

The rest of you: Keep washing your hands!


One of the most ridiculous pieces of "journalism" I have ever come across

Heroin laced cannabis heading to Brighton streets, police fear
8:53am Thursday 13th August 2009

By Naomi Loomes

Dealers are lacing cannabis with highly addictive heroin to get users hooked on the deadly drug.

Secret off-the-record discussions between police and a supplier in London have revealed how recreational drug users are being tricked into becoming addicted to Class A drugs.

Officers fear it could lead to a surge in addicts in Brighton and Hove, which is already known as the drug death capital of England.

They believe cannabis users are becoming accidentally dragged into heroin use.

It follows the discovery that potent, paranoia-inducing cannabis, known as skunk, was being sold in large quantities in Brighton and Hove last year.

Detective Sergeant Hari McCarthy, of Sussex Police, said: "People buy it thinking it’s just very strong weed."

"It’s not being sold as skunk, just good weed, but it’s an easy way to get users hooked on heroin."

She added that dealers mixed various chemicals with cannabis before selling it, including tranquillisers and even urine.

There are believed to be 2,300 heroin addicts in Brighton and Hove.

The revelation was made during an inquest in Brighton into the death of 34-year-old electrician Lee Donlan from a heroin overdose.

Clinical and forensic toxicologist Peter Sharpe confirmed that taking mixtures of drugs was becoming more and more common in Brighton and Hove, in particular the highly dangerous combination known as speedballing.

He said: “There’s a mixture called speedballing – it’s heroin with a bit of cocaine, usually injected into the arm or ankle.

"People like the mixture of heroin and cocaine because the cocaine reduces the low that comes after the heroin."

Okay, lets take the first claim:

"Dealers are lacing cannabis with highly addictive heroin to get users hooked on the deadly drug" - an urban myth that I can remember doing the rounds as far back as the early 1970s.

Let's think this one through: I am a cannabis dealer (I'm not BTW, I'm just pursuing a thought experiment). I start somehow mixing heroin (usually a brown powder) with my cannabis (a brown or black resin or - more likely these days - a green herbal substance). I do this in such a way that my customers don't notice the extra brown powder. Because heroin is quite expensive in relation to the profit I normally make on my cannabis and because I am not telling my customers about the heroin and therefore can't charge for it, I am now selling my cannabis at a loss .... but I have a cunning plan. Providing my customers don't notice that the cannabis I'm selling them has a completely different effect from normal cannabis and keep coming back to me to buy their cannabis for several months, I shall, one day be able to say to them: "Ha! I've been giving you heroin all these months and now you are addicted so you will have to keep buying heroin from me now." Okay, they had been regular customers in order for me to get this far, but this will absolutely ensure their continued customer loyalty .. unless, of course, they beat me to a pulp with my bong and go and buy their heroin elsewhere.

I'm sorry, but this is complete and utter nonsense.

Second claim (part of the first one in fact): "heroin is a deadly drug" - at least I assume this is what the author intended to imply. The claim is worded as though she believes that cannabis is the deadly drug.

Heroin causes constipation. That's about it. It's addictive and street heroin (cf the legal kind that addicts could get if we did not have such crazy drug laws) is full of crap. I suppose that the point being made here is that you can overdose on heroin, but, again, much of the problem here arises from the fact that heroin is traded on the black market and there are therefore no controls on strength and purity. Heroin is certainly not a deadly drug in the sense that tobacco is.

I'm not suggesting anyone takes heroin by the way. It's much better to do something worthwhile with your life.

Third claim: "Dealers mix various chemicals with cannabis before selling it, including tranquillisers and even urine"

Tranquillizers usually come as white pills these days. They are far less readily available than they used to be since it was discovered that they can lead to addiction. They are sold on the black (or "grey" - as it is sometimes called) market in their own right as recreational drugs. But, according to this article, some dealers are crushing them up and mixing the resulting white powder with cannabis. I'm not sure what effect the cannabis smokers (who are presumably too stoned to notice the white powder) are supposed to derive from inhaling the smoke from burning valium and lactose, but I can't imagine it's a very peasant effect.

And as for urine.....

So the dealer urinates over his cannabis supply - which he then has to dry out again. To what end? To increase the weight of the weed with a few milligrams of urea? I think I'd just reach for the oregano and sprinkle a bit of that in.

Claim three: "People like the mixture of heroin and cocaine because the cocaine reduces the low that comes after the heroin."

The effects of heroin wear off after several hours. The effects of cocaine start wearing off after about twenty minutes. Hard to imagine cocaine injected at the same time as heroin would help much with any come-down after the heroin wore off.

The rest of the article (which I've not reproduced) goes on to list the names of various people who have died from drug overdoses and includes some confused nonsense about dosages. The correct information is that the LD50 for heroin is between 1 and 5 mg/kg of body weight.

I suppose that there is an argument that, because we all wish to see (especially young people) taking as few drugs as possible and suffering as little harm as possible, it's perfectly okay to write complete nonsense about drugs. Anything that puts people off! But this argument only holds water if we assume that everyone is as stupid as the author of this article. In fact, most young people will read this sort of thing, and fall about laughing. While this would be the most appropriate response in this case, there is always the danger that other articles on the dangers of drugs (written by people who actually know what they are talking about) will elicit a similar response.

There is growing evidence that cannabis in general (and skunk in particular) may have long term deleterious effect on young people whose brains are still developing. (By the way, the problem with skunk is not really its strength - high strength, leads to less being smoked and therefore less lung damage - but the particular balance of psychoactive compounds it contains; though more research is required on this.)

How on earth are we going to get this genuine science across to young people who have grown up on the diet of tripe provided by newspapers like the Brighton & Hove Argus?


Harry Patch, War, and Human Nature

I caught part of "Any Answers" today (2009-08-08) on Radio 4. They were discussing Harry Patch’s misgivings about war – something which had presumably been discussed in the antecedent edition of "Any Questions" which I did not hear.

The first caller opined that the propensity to engage in war was a fundamental part of human nature and that the hope for a future without war was futile. Other callers took the view that human nature was not like this at all.

I think the first caller, rather than the others, was actually correct (at least partially) in his analysis of human nature; but I think his conclusion was false. I think he was making an mistake analogous to one of the mistakes people make when discussing Richard Dawkin’s "selfish gene".

The warlike disposition of groups of hunter-gathers (ancient and modern) is discussed by (inter alia) Stephen Pinker in his excellent book The Blank Slate. I do not agree with everything Pinker says in this book and I think that he somewhat overstates his case when it comes to his forthright rejection of the notion of the notion of the "noble savage". Nevertheless, I think that Pinker is probably right in concluding that humans almost certainly do have an innate disposition to declare "We are tribe X; tribe Y are over there and they are not tribe X; let’s go and kick the shit out of them all".

Variations on this theme have played out throughout human history and we see examples of this disposition even in modern times: in Rwanda; in the behaviour of the (Gentile) German population during Kristallnacht; in Northern Ireland; in the behaviour of football hooligans; and in many other situations.

The good news is that humans are also capable of deciding that, actually, the members of tribe Y are members of “our” tribe after all; and the communication age has made this easier then ever. Of course we still have vile organizations like the BNP, but most British people today cry as many tears over the TV picture of a dying child, with a different skin colour, on the other side of the world as they do over the TV picture of a dying child, with the same skin colour, in the next county.

It is these considerations (and others) that make the segregation of school children along religious lines so utterly pernicious.

Anyway, back to Harry Patch. Does our innate warlike nature (assuming this is our nature) make war inevitable? Let’s take a recent example: the Iraq War. Did the Brits all work themselves up into frenzy and decide: "Let’s go off and kill the Iraqis, they’re not a bit like us."? Urm, "No!". That’s not how it happened. Tony Blair decided to go to war. Okay, he had the support of the Cabinet, but (so far as one could tell) not one single Cabinet member really thought it was a good idea. Tony Blair then got the support of Parliament but, again, one had the impression that most MPs were thinking about their careers rather than baying for Iraqi blood.

Did Tony then lead his tribe into battle with the other tribe? No; he stayed safely at home and made vacuous speeches on TV.

Did the troops behave like a bunch of hunter gatherers intent on murder and mayhem in the enemy "tribe’s" camp? Well actually, in one or two cases, they may have done. But these really were isolated incidents. By and large, they went off to war because they had been ordered to do so and were not driven by a sense of hatred towards the Iraqi people or by a sense that the Iraqis were "other" and therefore worthless.

We could say the same (concerning the gap between the decision makers and the people going off to do the actually fighting) about almost any large scale modern conflict.

In other words, while it may well be true that humans organized in small groups of hunter gatherers - which have little contact with other groups – are genetically predisposed (because of the way we evolved) to violence in certain circumstances; the notion that the genesis of modern wars is somehow an expression of that propensity is highly questionable.

It is rather like the wrong-headed argument that because genes are (metaphorically) selfish and because human behaviour is (to a large extent) determined by our genetic make-up, humans must be innately selfish.

There are lots of reasons why "selfish" genes lead to altruistic behaviour in humans and there are many reasons why an innate propensity for violence toward "the other" in individual humans does not lead inevitably towards war between nation states.

Perhaps Harry Patch’s vision of a future without war will one day be realized.

Let us hope so.


Using Paypal: A cautionary tale

Executive summary:

1) Paypal is a convenient way of transferring money to people who are not set up to receive credit card payments (eg eBay sellers).

2) Paypal purports to be “safer than using your credit card, but this is highly misleading. For payments over £100 you are protected if you use your credit card by something called “Section 75”. You lose this protection if you pay using Paypal – even if your Paypal account draws from your credit card account. (Paypal does offer some protection on purchases within ebay however).

3) Paypal have poor customer service, are not interested in discussing questions about whether their sellers may be engaged in fraudulent activity, and may unilaterally close a dispute thereby preventing further buyer communication with Paypal or the seller complained about.

4) Paypal state that they do not “tolerate fraud or illegal activities”. Judging by my experience, this claim would appear to be untrue.

Our story:

My wife and daughter bought two pairs (a pair each) of “UGG” boots from http://www.australia-ugg-boots.com/ and paid using Paypal. The domain “australia-ugg-boots.com” is registered in Australia:

Whois Record
Jackie Beament
PO Box 3950
Joondalup, Western Australia 6027

Created on: 28-Feb-09
Expires on: 28-Feb-10
Last Updated on: 01-Mar-09

Administrative Contact:
Beament, Jackie
PO Box 3950
Joondalup, Western Australia 6027
894048411 Fax --

Technical Contact:
Beament, Jackie
PO Box 3950
Joondalup, Western Australia 6027
894048411 Fax --

Domain servers in listed order:

And the site makes the following claim:

Australia-Ugg-Boots.com is a family business manufacturing ugg boots here in our home town Melbourne, Australia since 2007. We manufacture high quality sheepskin footwear made from first grade double faced Australian Sheepskin. Australia-Ugg-Boots.com has been successfully wholesaling and retailing to many satisfied customers within Australia and Overseas. Our website was established in 2007 successfully providing customers all over the world with our great product, cheap prices and fast, reliable, friendly customer service.

A complication here (it should perhaps be noted) is that "UGG" is not a protected trade mark in Australia, but it is in the UK and other countries outside Australia.

When we received the boots (we did receive them) the parcel came not from Melbourne but from Shanghai. The boots were perfectly well made, but clearly counterfeit (with counterfeited "UGG" "trademarks" all over them) and lined with synthetic fur rather than sheepskin. The main problem, however, was that both pairs were each a couple of sizes smaller than ordered and than stated on the sewn in labels. Apparently this is one of the features of counterfeit UGG boots – quite why these firms can fake the boots so expertly and yet fail to size them correctly is, to say the least, puzzling. As we have real UGG boots at home we are able to compare like with not-like.

So we raised a dispute on Paypal.

AUSTRALIA-UGG-BOOTS (of China) got straight back and said we could return the boots and get a full refund. Trouble is that this costs rather a lot of money and they take no responsibility if goods are "lost in the post". The Royal Mail will only cover you up to £39 – unless you pay them shed-loads of money first.
Forgive my cynicism and scepticism, but I do not have a great deal of confidence that, if I sent these boots back to Shanghai, I would ever see my boots or my £130 again.

On to Paypal, the "safer" alternative to using your credit card.

It would by an understatement to say that Paypal have been unhelpful. They simply refused to help and then closed the case without consulting me further. This means that I can no longer communicate with them or the seller about this case. More worryingly, Paypal are (it would appear) continuing to trade with this company (which would certainly seem to be committing offences under UK law) and refusing to warn other potential buyers about the pitfalls of buying from the website in question.

As our experience illustrates, the fact that Paypal accepts a seller onto its books is no guarantee (or even indication) that that company is "kosher". In fact, the fact that a company only accepts Paypal and does not accept direct credit card payments may well be an indication that further scrutiny of that company is required before buying from it.

If you make payments over £100 using your credit card– even to companies in China – you enjoy buyer protection. If you use Paypal you lose that protection – it is not "safer" at all.

I shall, in future, use Paypal (if at all) only as a means of last resort to pay for goods and services and I suggest anyone reading this does the same.