Greeks: not fans of Angela Merkel

Department of Health figures show that the number of reported patient safety incidents in the English NHS that resulted in death or severe harm rose by a quarter to 10,102 last year. That’s equivalent to a jumbo jet-load every fortnight. A former mandarin recently told me that in the nuclear industry the error rate is 1 in 100,000 and in air transport 1 in 10,000. In healthcare it is 1 in 10. How we can tolerate such standards?

The new Health Secretary must push to open up NHS data on clinical outcomes says Nick Seddon, deputy director of Reform, the independent think-tank

World’s most bone-chilling adverts? Those ones for Patek Philippe that show a horrid rich man or woman all in tailored cashmere in some vile hotel lobby showing off their watch to a revolting, sleek little child, dressed far too old for its age, with the legend: “You never actually own a Patek Philippe, you merely look after it for the next generation.” And all you can see is the cold dead eyes of the spoilt child hoping that its awful, vain, probably Swiss parent will die horribly in a car accident soon, so that it can get its hands on the watch and whatever other naff bling is coming to it in the will.

As the 2013 Guinness World Records are published, Giles Coren brings us the 14 records that should have been included, but weren’t

There are far harder tests of the conflict between freedom of expression and private offence than a pap snap of the Duchess of Cambridge’s breasts. The film Innocence of Muslims, which fuelled the attack on the US mission in Benghazi in which the American ambassador was killed, is also easy to find online. Innocence of Muslims would be hilarious if its consequences were not so grave. This crudely provocative depiction of the life of Mohammed resembles a bad sequence in Game of Thrones. If only the entire Islamic world could turn around, grip its sides and laugh at the idiocy of the boot-polish make-up, the clumsily super-imposed desert backdrops, rather than gulp down this fat-ball of bait.

The Holy War between the Christian Right and Jihadist Islam rages on over the heads of a horrified world and neither cares about those caught in the crossfire, says Janice Turner

The Hillsborough disaster was unique in being the only catastrophe in which the victims themselves were attacked; in which the asphyxiated were accused of being somehow responsible for their own deaths and their corpses tested for alcohol — even those of children. Has there been another instance in Britain where the newly bereaved, confronted with the still-warm bodies of their children, have been treated with such brutality and contempt by the State as though, being football fans, they were somehow lesser beings?

The families of the 96 who died in the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster have shown incredible dignity despite being kicked in the teeth time and time again, says Carol Midgley

Just in case you’re a) a student and b) a Times subscriber, David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, is currently taking questions on our School Gate blog. Perhaps, y’ know, you have a question or two about £9,000-a-year tuition fees…

The countries that allow assisted dying are careful democracies, just like us. It’s not a free for all. There are rules, rules everywhere. Some time ago I set out to track down every rumour of assisted dying abuse on the planet and when electronically cornered, people making allegations of abuse lamely said that it was on the internet. I think everything on the internet is true, don’t you?

Unfortunately, those irrevocably against assisted dying will continue to muddy the waters and so there will continue to be more tragedies like that of Tony Nicklinson and more people trailing off to Dignitas to the embarrassment of the Swiss and the shame of Britain.

Discworld author Terry Pratchett, a long-time campaigner for assisted dying, writes for The Times today

Both Republicans and Democrats appear to have concluded that their best strategy is to make their supporters feel more intensely committed and thus more likely to vote. For Mr Obama that means women, the young and African-Americans, for Mr Romney it means white working men, evangelicals, talk radio listeners and the better-off.

This is a questionable strategy. Democrats and Republicans have become more polarised and there are fewer of either of them. There has, instead, been a rise in the people that the political scientist James Stimson calls the Scorekeepers: pragmatic, coolly non-ideological, perfectly willing to shift from one party’s candidate to another. Where is the appeal to these people?

Daniel Finkelstein feels that an audacious appeal to the centre could secure the US presidency for either candidate

As fast as staff are being cut back at Department for International Development, consultants are being appointed to fly around the world business class. Duke University has just been handed £5 million to produce a report on effective aid spending; another US consultancy has been given £10 million to advise Indian state governments on how to run their health services; management consultants for Christian Aid have been given a £24 million contract to advise Indians on how to narrow the gap between rich and poor. So while the Chinese, Germans and Americans compete to build roads abroad, the British are still following a paternalistic programme of advice and handouts.

At around £11 billion a year, Britain is second only to the US in terms of foreign aid spending – but we’re not doing the best we can with the money, Alice Thomson believes

Boris Johnson is a super-smart, hard-working and ultra-ambitious politician pretending to be an upper-class buffoon. His is a reputation untested by the competing demands and multifarious pressures of national office. But, for the moment, Brand Boris is stronger than ever. The Mayor is one of the few politicians recognisable by his first name and the only one identifiable from his silhouette.

And the fervour of Boris-mania has helped highlight the flaws in David Cameron’s brand, Rachel Sylvester says today

A Britain run along the lines of the Olympics would not be the traditional worker’s paradise. In fact, it would be more akin to a totalitarian corporate state.

Hugo Rifkind wonders whether unions boss Brendan Barber really wants to rescue the economy with an “Olympics-style national crusade”

George Osborne is so f***ing unpopular that when he went to hand out medals at the Paralympics even the mascots Wenlock and Mandeville were giving him the finger.

Malcolm Tucker of The Thick of It wonders how the Chancellor escaped the guillotine in David Cameron’s Cabinet reshuffle

Sadly, there is nothing in the early autumn air to suggest that the economic crisis is over. Things still look wobbly, messy and somewhat depressing. There is, moreover, one thing to note: a striking sort of unity among Western governments. None of them knows what to do. All are following the great Micawber’s principle: hoping that something will turn up.

And governments are making things worse by sticking obsessively to their austerity programmes, says Bill Emmott, former editor of The Economist

Bill Clinton’s speech had, in spades, all the ingredients that in Britain too we associate with clever and successful political positioning. It had charm, apparent sincerity, affability and guile. But it also had something we’re missing in Britain today. Mr Clinton’s “better together” message to America was a big, strong idea.

Bill Clinton is no saint, says Matthew Parris, but he knows how to strike a chord - an ability that David Cameron has lost

Whatever else Shakespeare’s dramas had to do, they had to attract a late Elizabethan/early Stuart audience of ordinary people to pay money to go to the playhouse. Shakespeare was a ratings chaser. If punters thought his play too slow, too obscure, too difficult, then he would have failed. So his art was not part of a refined world, but a product of popular culture. I think what I’m suggesting here is that the mass of people — whose wishes are often to be understood in what they choose to spend their money on — actually help to provoke the most dynamic and successful art.

Do you agree with David Aaronovitch? Let us know what you think. David was writing after Peter Bazalgette, the TV producer who brought Big Brother to Britain, was appointed as chairman of the rather more refined Arts Council England (read more)

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