2005-02-28

Stats: World Population Predictions

The world's population is expected to rise by 40 per cent, from the current 6_500_million to 9_100_million, by 2050, according to a report from 'The United Nations'. India's population will overtake that of China before 2030, while Britain will be bigger than France by 2025, according to the study -- but one expert warns that Scotland faces a 'worrying' decline. The demographic shifts highlighted by the report depend on fertility, mortality and migration, which can be influenced by government policy and social and economic trends. For example, China has been exercising a rigid birth control policy for many years, although officials there are considering relaxing it over concerns about the ageing population. India's higher rate of fertility will see it overtake China as the world's most populated country. The UN has based its prediction of Britain's population overtaking that of France on the UK having higher inward migration. The countries have similar birth rates. The report also predicts that the population of the developed world will remain stable. By contrast, Scotland faces the reverse problem of population decline, with 'The Registrar General for Scotland' predicting recently that the country's population of 5.05_million could fall to 4.84_million by 2009. Mr.Paul Boyle, a lecturer in geography at 'The University of St.Andrews', said:
'Although the rise of global population is a "serious concern" -- and something that needs to be "kept an eye on" -- the growth rate has, in fact, slowed down in recent years. 'The world's population is still growing -- but not as quickly. 'Global statistics are of interest, but of more concern are the local variations. 'For example, Britain may soon be about to overtake France, but in Scotland the population is in decline and this is much more of a worry. 'Despite the differences in land size, Britain and France have tended to have similar population sizes throughout history'.
The UN estimates there will be 1_395_million people in India by 2025, and 1_593_million by 2050. Meanwhile, China's population will grow to 1_441_million by 2025, before slipping back to 1_392_million in 2050. The UK's population will overtake that of France by 2025, rising from almost 60_million today to more than 67_million by 2050. By then, France's population will have risen from 60.5_million to 63.1_million. Mr.Chris Shaw, a statistician in the government actuary's department, said:
'France and Britain have similar birth and death rates, but the UN assumes that Britain will have a higher rate of inward migration than France. 'I don't think it is of particular concern if Britain's population overtakes France, as it has always been a more densely populated country. 'In fact, if you look back 40 years, Britain had a higher population than France. 'Looking at the global picture, the big concern has to be Africa; the high rates of population growth are problematic, given food shortages'.
The UN's revision of earlier estimates said the population in less-developed countries was expected to swell from 5_300_million today to 7_800_million in 2050. By contrast, the population of richer, developed countries will remain mostly unchanged, at 1_200_million.
In 1950, the world's population stood at 2_500_million, which rose to just over 4_000_million by 1975. In 1999 it was just over 6_000_million and by the start of 2004 had reached 6_300_million.
Mr.Hania Zlotnik, the UN population division's new director, said:
'It is going to be a strain on the world. The expected growth has important and serious implications because it will be concentrated in countries that have problems providing adequate health and shelter'.
Between 2005 and 2050, nine countries -- India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Congo, Bangladesh, Uganda, the USA, Ethiopia and China -- are likely to contribute half of the world's population increase, the report says. The population is projected to at least triple in Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Chad, Congo, the Republic of Congo, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger and Uganda, it said. In southern Africa -- the region with the highest AIDS prevalence -- life expectancy has fallen from 62 years in 1995 to 48 years in 2000-2005, and is projected to decrease further to 43 years over the next decade -- before a slow recovery starts. Mr.Thomas Buettner, the chief of the UN division's estimates and projection section, said China's changing population was due to uprooting people from traditional rural lifestyles into a modern, more urban, economy. Mr.Robert Wright, a lecturer in economics at 'The University of Stirling', said:
'China has an ageing population because of strict birth controls brought in, but the picture is much rosier for India; it has a younger population able to power its economy and fertility rates are slowing down too, so it can cope with the extra people'.
Europe's population, which recently underwent a reversal in growth, is on a downward trend. It will drop from 728_million today to 653_million in 2050. That figure, which incorporates Russia but not Turkey, includes population falls in Italy and Germany. By 2050, there will be a predicted 101_million Turks -- currently the figure stands at 73_million. 'Winners and losers in world of huge population change', Edward Black, The Scotsman, 2005-02-26, Sa Links: General Register Office -- 2001 census GROS -- Annual Review of Demographic Trends 2003

2005-02-27

Health: Misdiagnosed for 8 years, Child is Normal

An eight-year-old girl who has spent her life being fed through a tube into her stomach because British doctors diagnosed a rare eating disorder has now been told there is nothing wrong with her. Ms.Matilda 'Tilly' Merrell has enjoyed her first taste of food after physicians in North America who examined her said they could find no trace of the condition she was supposed to have. Tilly immediately ordered a hot dog and chips and has since eaten a steak, a burger, and tried a variety of sweets. The girl was in North America for treatment after friends and family raised 10_000_GBP to pay for the trip. Last night, 2005-02-25, Tilly's mother, Ms.Amelia Merrell, 36, said she was 'shocked and over the moon' when she was told the news.
Tilly, of Warndon, Worcester was diagnosed shortly after her first birthday as having 'Bulbar Palsy' -- a rare swallowing condition -- and faced a daily ordeal of having liquid food piped directly into her stomach. When she went to school she wore a backpack that held a liquid food concoction that had to be pumped into her stomach three times a day for two hours at a time. She had to be distracted by teachers during snack times and resorted to storing scraps of food in her room just to look at.
Kenneth Cox Last night, 2005-02-25, her family spoke of the joy they felt when Mr.Kenneth Cox, the chief medical officer at 'The Lucile Salter Packard Children's Hospital' in San Francisco, USA, said 'there's nothing wrong down there' after carrying out tests and getting Tilly to sing 'Happy Birthday' to check for obstructions of the airways. Tilly said:
'I'm happy and I want to go to "Tesco" when I get home, and fill up the trolley.
'I want eggs and bacon too.
'Then I want to get a lunch box for school'.
However, the relief is tinged with anger -- and the family said they will be looking for answers from the medical professionals in the UK who were meant to be treating Tilly. Ms.Amelia Merrell said
'Dr.Cox smiled at us and said all he could see were a giant pair of tonsils which looked like they were kissing. Me -- and my mum, who was in the room -- looked at each other -- and said "what do you mean?". 'He shone a light down Tilly's throat and I could see they were absolutely huge.
'After that he gave Tilly bit of food to swallow.
'Her swallowing reflex kicked in and after a little bit of choking when food caught at the back of her throat, she managed fine on her own.
'Tilly was frightened she'd need an operation and didn't understand at first. 'The specialists told us the feeding tube was doing more harm than good and was causing reflux-making liquid to come back up.
'They have made a referral for us to "The Great Ormond Street Hospital" in London for a follow-up appointment'.
Mr.Robert Dicks, spokesman for 'The Lucile Salter Packard Children's Hospital', said:
'There may have been a serious problem caused by the virus when Tilly was young, but this no longer exists.
'Our doctors discovered she could eat normally -- and there was no anatomical reason, ENT problems, or internal problems for this.
'We have this result due to her family's extraordinary struggle.
'Tilly is now having occupational therapy to de- mystify the fear of food'.
Tilly had seen various specialists over the years and her mother -- a single parent -- said they were continually having to argue for tests such as barium meals and were told they were wasting their time. When Tilly last saw a specialist at 'The Worcester Royal Hospital' in 2005-01, her mother encouraged her to tell the physician that people in the local community had got together to raise 10_000_GBP to send her to the USA for tests at the start of 2005-02.
'The doctor turned and looked at Tilly and just said "don't build your hopes up".
'He did not even look at her throat; all he did was to sound her chest.
'That was just typical of what has gone on, it's been all "two steps forward, two back"'.
The 'nightmare' for the family began shortly after Tilly's first birthday when she was taken to hospital suffering from a high temperature and vomiting.
Physicians at 'The Birmingham Children's Hospital' realised food was seeping into her lungs, causing an infection, and immediately began feeding her with a tube down her nose. Shortly afterwards she was diagnosed with the condition, and endured a childhood where the kitchen door was padlocked to keep her out, and where she was once so frustrated that she burst the lock and broke into the 'fridge to eat a bit of cheese. The incident resulted in a life-threatening scare when the cheese went into her lungs.
Tilly's grandmother, Ms.Sonia Merrell, had never given up hope that something could be done for Tilly despite the family telling her she was wasting her time. When she spotted a similar case on the Internet, she got in touch with the hospital at Stanford University and, after e-mailing Tilly's medical notes, they were invited over. 'After seven year wait, Tilly tastes her first real food', Shan Ross, The Scotsman, 2005-02-26, Sa

2005-02-23

Health: Babies & Out-of-Date Vaccines

Health officials in Glasgow have launched an inquiry after 18 children were given out-of-date vaccinations. Parents have been told the injections their children received had 'expired' -- but they face no serious health risk. The youngsters, aged between one and five, received vaccinations between 2003-10 and 2004-08. As a precaution, NHS Greater Glasgow said 16 children are to be re-vaccinated for 'polio' and two will receive the 'MMR' injection. Officials have pledged to investigate how the failure occurred. Detailed rules are normally in place to prevent vaccines being given after they have 'expired'. The health board, which vaccinates 30_000 youngsters every year, said the children would only need one injection each and would not require the full course. 'Investigation into vaccine errors',BBC NEWS, 2005/02/23 11:34:28 GMT

Health & Stats: Exotic Fruit & Veg

With so much home-grown fruit and veg currently out of season, shoppers are turning to the more exotic varieties the supermarkets now stock. But are they good for you? FRUIT Mango Mangoes have been cultivated in India since 2000BC, and are now one of the UK's favourite fruits; the supermarket chain, Waitrose, now sells more mangoes than melons. High in zinc, mangoes also contain potassium, calcium and iron, as well as plenty of Vitamin-A and good amounts of Vitamins-B and -C, all of which are essential for a healthy, balanced diet Pomegranate Originally from Persia, they are about the size of an apple, with leathery, rosy skin.
'Pomegranates offer phenomenal health benefits', says Mr.Gordon Fairbrother, central buyer of fruit for Waitrose.
'When juiced, they have higher levels of antioxidants than green tea and red wine, as well as plenty of Vitamin-C and fibre'.
Passion fruit From Brazil, but now grown throughout tropical regions, including Africa and Australia. They look leathery, wrinkled and unprepossessing when ripe. The seeds, when scooped out and eaten, contain reasonable amounts of protein as well as Vitamin-C. Papaya An exotic version of the melon, they contain carotene -- an antioxidant which mops up free radicals which cause damage to body tissues - as well as Vitamins-B and -C. Also contains papain, an enzyme which helps to digest proteins (papaya has long been used as a meat-tenderiser in tropical countries). Grown in Mexico, Brazil and south-east Asia. Star fruit Or carambola. Bright yellow, waxy fruit with five sharp ribs, below. They do not need to be peeled. They are best sliced across their width, which yields star-shaped slices, then eaten as they are. High in Vitamin-A and Vitamin-C but mainly used for decoration in fruit salads as they don't taste of much. Cultivated in Malaysia, Brazil and tropical Africa. Lychees The lychee, with its white pulp set around a large single stone in a thin shell, is sweeter than its hairier-looking relation, the rambutan. Originally from China, they contain iron and copper as well as Vitamin-C. Guava Gram for gram, guava contains four times the Vitamin-C of an orange.
'They juice well but they are difficult to ripen evenly', says Mr.Fairbrother.
They come from South America. Once ripe they have to be eaten very quickly, so people often find them difficult to deal with. Physalis Also known as the Cape gooseberry, this Peruvian fruit is the size of a cherry and has a rough, papery husk around the small, yellow-orange fruit. The skin is waxy but edible and the fruit is a good source of Vitamin-C.
'They tend to be used for decoration', says Mr.Fairbrother,
'But if you can get past the fact that they look strange, they taste good'.
VEGETABLES Sweet potatoes The most common types of sweet potatoes, which come from the West Indies, have flesh which is yellow, starchy and almost fluffy. High in fibre (if eaten with skins), Vitamin-B6 and potassium, they are a good source of Vitamins-A and -C. Yams Often confused with sweet potatoes because of their shape, they contain more natural sugar than sweet potatoes and have a higher moisture content. A good source of fibre, they also contain Vitamin-C, manganese and potassium. Pak choi Also known as Chinese cabbage, pak choi, below, is high in minerals such as calcium, potassium, manganese and magnesium, and a rich source of Vitamin-A, Vitamin-B6 and folic acid. Plantain Known as 'potatoes of the air' or 'cooking bananas', these have thicker skins than bananas -- to which they are related - and are usually eaten cooked. A good source of fibre, as well as potassium, they are cultivated in South America, Africa, India and Asia. Okra Originally from Africa, okra spread across Asia to India. The green vegetables, known as 'ladies fingers' because of their slender, tapered shape, contain masses of nutrients, including niacin, riboflavin, iron, zinc and copper, together with a good dose of dietary fibre, Vitamins-A, -B6, -C, -K and folate. Beansprouts Shop-bought sprouts tend to be thick, chunky Mung beans. High in protein and minerals as well as Vitamin-C. Grown in South America, Africa, India and Asia. Shiitake mushrooms These Asian mushrooms, above, are high in Vitamin-D, pantothenic acid, copper and selenium. Surprisingly high in protein. Chillis Originally from Central America. If you can take the heat, chillis are good because they help boost the immune system. Research shows that people who eat peppers have lower levels of 'Homocysteine' -- an 'amino acid' linked to health problems including 'heart disease'. 'Will a mango a day really keep the doctor away?', Alice Hart-Davis, The Scotsman, 2005-02-22, Tu.

Money: Council help for New Homeowners

Desperate first-time buyers will be offered interest-free loans by their local council to help them on to the housing ladder, it emerged yesterday. East Lothian Council has become the first Scottish Local Authority to reach out and help new buyers with loans of up to 30_000_GBP, or 25 per cent of the house value. 'The Financial Assistance to House Buyers'' scheme is a response to a drastic shortage of affordable housing in East Lothian -- the average price of a home in the area is 170_000_GBP -- and a rising population. Those hoping to benefit will have to show they have lived in the area for a substantial period of time and are in real need of financial help. Those who have been on the council's housing list, or who are living with parents, will be given priority. Applicants secure permission for a loan initially then, having been given the go-ahead, can apply for homes of a value of up to 125_000_GBP. They will then have to arrange a mortgage for the remaining 75 per cent of the house cost. Loans have to be repaid in full once the person leaves East Lothian. The scheme will be 'rolled' out as a 'pilot project' this autumn, at a cost of 300_000_GBP. Initially, ten to 15 individuals or families will benefit, but if it proves successful it will be expanded. The council's housing convener, Mr.Willie Innes, said:
'It's not just particularly the shortage, it's the cost of housing being built in the county. 'It's excluding people from entering the market.
'We're talking about successful people here, who would be expected to be able to afford a house and move on to the housing ladder. 'But house prices have risen so sharply -- the issue is that property developers are building for an Edinburgh market; they're not addressing East Lothian's housing problems'.
He said the loans were part of a 'raft of measures' to 'tackle the issue', including a two-year rent 'freeze' to encourage people to remain council tenants -- and a 1_000_million_GBP investment in building affordable housing over the next ten years. He said that East Lothian was a 'victim of its own success' with 'large-scale', 'high-quality' housing developments in Dunbar, Aberlady and Inveresk.
'The pressures on the county are acute', he said.
'Many Local Authorities have a housing surplus, we don't have that.
'We've had a lot of people move in from Edinburgh -- attracted by the lifestyle and environment -- and this adds further pressure. But "The Scottish Executive" doesn't reward a growing area as much as deprived ones'.
Further pressures in the form of the recently completed upgrade of the A1 road to Dunbar and an increase in the frequency of trains along the east-coast line make commuting even more viable. Mr.Bruce Black, the executive director of 'Homes for Scotland', which represents building companies, said:
'Due to shortages in supply, the price of land for housing across the whole of Scotland has risen to such an extent that developers are simply unable to build the type of homes needed by first-time buyers. 'We have been arguing for some time that the only way to impact house prices and address the problem of affordability is to release more land'.
Ms.Grainia Long, policy manager for 'Shelter Scotland', said the council's approach highlighted a national problem.
'For so many households, it's impossible to afford even the lowest-cost housing.
'East Lothian seems to be taking a practical approach to this issue, but it is on a small scale.
'"The Scottish Executive" need to be taking the lead'.
A spokesman for 'The Scottish Executive' said:
'We welcome East Lothian Council's interest in the use of shared equity as a means of addressing affordable housing shortfalls and have supported their initiative with funding'.
'Free loans to ease homes crisis', Craig Brown, The Scotsman, 2005-02-23

Intolerance: Public Survey on Bigot Parades

A public consultation on the impact of bigot parades on Glasgow received 3_680 responses -- 3_485 of them from people associated with 'The Orange Order'. All 3_485 were against proposed changes by the city council, which include requiring 28 days' notice for all marches and the paying of a 'behaviour bond'. As a result, they were treated as a single response. The research by Glasgow City Council into bigot parades is published today, based on the responses to the consultation. It was launched in 2004-06, before publication of guidelines for the city's 300 annual processions. The report says:
'The consultation highlighted strong concern, among both organisations and the individual respondents, that some processions harm the city's image, as well as having a negative impact on life in Glasgow'.
The council's breakdown of the figures showed 78 per cent of organisations and 58 per cent of individuals agreed broadly with the council's policy. A total of 91 per cent of organisations and 74 per cent of individuals agreed there should be negotiations with groups such as 'The Orange Order' and Irish 'Republican' associations on the number of parades they can hold. Anonymous comments that individual respondents had included in their responses were included in the report. One 34-year-old man wrote:
'I have lived in Glasgow for four years. 'The only thing that makes me consider moving out again is "Sectarianism". 'I know many other young people who moved to Glasgow feel similarly; who wants to bring up their children watching that every Saturday?'
'3,600 voice views on parades', Craig Brown, The Scotsman, 2005-02-23, We

2005-02-18

How To Rear Children

'The best mothers are the lousy ones', says Ms.Anne Atkins, somewhat paradoxically in light of the fact she is the author of a new book called 'Child Rearing for Fun'.
'Long before I had children, I realised I would be useless at it. 'We will fail, we will "do it wrong" -- and the sooner we realise that, the more we can enjoy it'.
It's this allowance of mistakes which Ms.Atkins prescribes as the antidote to the current vogue for and -- some might say -- over-reliance on so-called child-rearing experts. The success of televised parenting programmes such as 'Super Nanny', 'Brat Camp' and 'Child of our Time' are just a few examples of the media tapping into the anxiety-driven appetite to seek help in raising our kids.
'Even the best mothers in the world feel inadequate', Ms.Atkins says. 'That's why there are bookshops heaving with volumes telling us we are not good enough parents'.
Today's wave of 'paranoid' parenting may stem, at least in part, from the guilt that working parents feel about not spending enough time with their children. However, Ms.Atkins believes this guilt is misplaced.
'If you need to work to provide for your family, then you should applaud yourself -- not beat yourself up about it', is her response to that issue.
Ms.Atkins suggests many factors are at play when it comes to our apparent loss of confidence in our ability to cope alone. She blames government bodies for what she sees as heavy-handed policies interfering with a parent's autonomy to decide what is best for their child. She also laments the fact that the role of parenthood is no longer valued in society. She speculates that this is why parents feel insignificant, disempowered, and are racked with self doubt. The loss of the extended family means that the support networks mothers relied on in the past are no longer there, so they have gone elsewhere for words of wisdom. And, in a 'secular' society, parents have become what Ms.Atkins calls 'safety obsessed'. As a 'Christian' married to a 'clergyman', Ms.Atkins feels that, without the comfort of religion, many parents are so scared about their children's well-being that they cannot relax enough to enjoy the experience. Her feelings led Ms.Atkins to publish 'Child Rearing for Fun', which draws on her own experience of being a mother to five children -- ranging in age from adulthood to 'toddlerdom'.
'If there is one thing I wished I had been told before I had my children', she says. 'It is to trust your instincts and enjoy the experience. 'The human race has been rearing children for millennia. 'By and large, we have done it quite successfully, without any of the help now considered essential'.
Having just 'penned' a book offering such 'help', isn't Ms.Atkins -- who also shares her philosophy on life in a regular slot on BBC Radio 4's 'Thought For the Day' -- guilty of adding to the problem?
'I know there is a nonsensical element about me saying, "you don't need to read a book to know how to raise your child" -- and then writing one myself', she concedes. 'But I think parents need to be told that they are doing the right thing, and be encouraged to keep going. 'We no longer believe in ourselves -- and so feel the need to constantly refer to so-called professionals for guidance and approval. 'There is a sense that because they have a "white coat" on -- or "letters after their name" -- that they know best. 'This is simply not the case; parenting is not a skill you learn by "doing a diploma" -- it is something innate inside you and also something you learn as you go. 'We have lost our confidence. 'Today you would think bringing up a child was an impossible task, but it's not -- anyone can do it'.
What Ms.Atkins may lack in 'letters after her own name' she certainly makes up for in experience. She explains (in between answering the door, making coffee for her 19-year-old and her friends, and screaming after the dog who escapes out the back door) that with five children (Serena, Bink, Alexander, Benjamin and Rosie) their Oxford home is a busy one. One of her children has 'Asperger's syndrome' (a form of 'autism'), and another 'obsessive-compulsive' disorder, so parenting has been 'less than straightforward' for her -- and her and husband, Shaun. Ms.Atkins does not complain, saying:
'God has given us the qualities we need -- the love, commitment and dedication'.
Her faith has provided support through these times and has shaped her view that good comes out of bad. In this way, she argues, we should not seek to shield our children from the outside world, but help them embrace it.
'Everything in the life of a child can help shape a stronger future', she says. 'A childhood in which nothing went wrong would be a woefully inadequate preparation for the rest of life'.
However, one failure which Ms.Atkins believes children should not be exposed to is that of the failed 'marital relationship' and 'divorce'. She is unashamed in her 'Christian' conviction that a child's happiness is heavily dependent on the institution of marriage.
'The first and most obvious service we can perform for our children is quite simply stay married... get married and stay married', she states in her book.
But, although it is peppered with these moments of nearly off-putting frankness, Ms.Atkins has not written this book to tell us 'what' and 'what not' to do; her over-all message is that rearing children is not about instruction from others but following our own intuition and the application of our own commonsense. However, for those who are looking for guidance, she has condensed her own common sense philosophy into three S's: Security, Self-Worth and Significance.
'Making your child feel secure it is the most important yet simplest thing in the world', she says. 'Feed and clothe them, cuddle them and get married. 'They need an environment that makes them feel safe, and these things will give them that'.
Secondly, according to Ms.Atkins, a child needs to have a sense of self-worth which, she explains, stems from feeling loved.
'Never withhold affirmation or affection from them -- even when you are disciplining them', she says.
She also advocates spending time with them -- be it a scheduled day out or an impromptu ten minutes to read them a story. Lastly, she believes that children need to know that they matter.
'To know they are significant they have to learn that their actions matter', she says. 'Society has become terribly embarrassed about punishment -- but a gentle smack or sending your child up to their room is all part of learning cause and effect'.
So there you have it. You don't need experts or books. Just the confidence to trust your instinct and a dose of good oldfashioned common sense. But, to stress her point, Ms.Atkins refers to Mr.Benjamin Spock, the US American paediatrician who is regarded as the pioneer of the parenting books she is so critical of.
'It used to be said that every parent needed a copy of Spock, if only to biff his child over the head with when he was naughty', she says. 'But he was right about one thing when he said: "Trust yourself; you know more than you realise".'
'You would think bringing up a child was impossible. It's not.', Jessica Kiddle, the Scotsman, 2005-02-17, Th

Money: Massive NHS budget Error

'The Scottish Executive' has massively underestimated the amount it needs to spend on NHS staffing costs and will need to pay an extra 270_million_GBP, according to figures released to MSPs last night. News of the sum required to cover salary increases for consultants, GPs, nurses and other health staff casts new doubt over 'The Scottish Executive's' long-term spending plans. Earlier this week, economists said ministers had underestimated the cost of free personal care for the elderly by up to 130_million_GBP. 'The Scottish Executive' has also been warned it needs to find 53_million_GBP to prevent a free eye-check policy failing, and more money is needed for dentistry. But it is the high costs for NHS pay that is threatening to be the most significant unexpected increase. The 270_million_GBP figure arises out of briefing papers sent to Holyrood's audit committee by Mr.Kevin Woods, the new head of NHS Scotland, setting out in detail the escalating cost of pay reforms. He says the salary bill for NHS consultants, which rose by 70_million_GBP in the last financial year -- including 60_million_GBP in backdated payments for new contracts -- will increase by a further 31_million_GBP in 2004-2005. The money will go in higher salaries of up to 90_000_GBP/year which will see 3_400 of Scotland's 3_500 consultants working extra clinical time and payments of time-and-a-third for working out of hours. New hospital physicians will also be employed. The 'Agenda for Change' programme aims to give better pay and conditions to 150_000 NHS staff, from nurses and technicians to porters and cleaners. But Mr.Woods admitted that the final cost of the initiative would not be known until all non-medical staff had been 'assimilated into the new system'. However, he estimated an additional cost of 150_million_GBP to 160_million_GBP for this year alone. Meanwhile, confusion also emerged over the cost of new contracts for GPs. According to Mr.Ian Gordon, who was the acting head of NHS Scotland, 'The Scottish Executive' put the extra costs at 80_million_GBP while 'Audit Scotland', the independent scrutiny body, put the figure at 239_million_GBP. A 'Scottish Executive' spokesman said that the discrepancy was because it had calculated the difference between initial allocations to health boards and the actual sum, while 'Audit Scotland' had added up the total cost. A spokesman for 'Audit Scotland' refused to go into detail, saying only that they were 'in discussions with "The Executive"' to try to resolve the issue. Mr.Brian Monteith, the chairman of the audit committee, said last night that MSPs would be asking some searching questions of 'Scottish Executive' officials over the figures.
'There are significant differences between "The Executive's" figures and those of "Audit Scotland" and we will want to look in detail at the money spent on modernisation', he said.
A 'Scottish Executive' spokesman said:
'Our priority is delivering better services to patients. To get a better-run service, we need to keep the staff in the NHS and ensure that they are working effectively for patients'.
'Executive's �270m error another fiscal black hole', Peter Macmahon, The Scotsman, 2005-02-18, Fr.

Stats & Health: Alcohol Ban in Pregnancy

Women must ignore government advice and give up alcohol completely during pregnancy if they want to safeguard the health of their unborn babies, physicians warned last night. In a hard-hitting editorial, 'The British Medical Journal' (BMJ) said as little as one drink could cause significant damage to a 'foetus'. It said current government guidelines -- that women can safely drink up to two glasses of wine a week -- should be ripped up in favour of a zero tolerance approach to alcohol similar to that taken in many other countries. The authors said the time had come for action from 'The Department of Health' following studies that firmly debunked the myth that 'Foetal' Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) was suffered only by those infants born to mothers who abused drink. The symptoms of FAS can include memory problems, limited attention span, hyperactivity, facial abnormalities and a diminished IQ. Mr.Raja Mukherjee, an expert in FAS at 'St.George's Hospital' in London -- and a co-author of the article challenging the government's stance in the BMJ, said:
'Everyone who drinks during pregnancy is potentially at risk'.
Despite the dire warning from the BMJ -- the journal of the British Medical Association -- a spokesman for the Department of Health said there were no plans to review guidance to women. She said the advice that one or two units twice a week was safe would remain in place. The study in the BMJ warned that the government's message was blurred as many women had no idea how much a single unit of alcohol was. It said:
'A study of alcohol consumption in 321 pregnant women found that when self-selecting drinks, the size of the drinks was up to 307 per cent greater than standard measures. 'The authors conclude that risk based on current assumptions might actually be much higher than previously expected'.
In its editorial, the BMJ said:
'Unlike the position of the Department of Health -- that one to two units a week in pregnancy are safe -- the position adopted increasingly in other countries is that no level of alcohol consumption is known to be safe in pregnancy. 'A health promotion message about a safe amount of alcohol, although designed to protect the pregnant mother and developing child, can be dangerous as it can so easily be misinterpreted. 'This uncertain level of individual risk to the developing foetus together with the possibility of misinterpreting a health promotion message mean that the only safe message in pregnancy is abstinence from alcohol'.
A test carried out on women 25 weeks into their pregnancies was cited as an example of how small amounts of alcohol could affect babies in the womb. A 'buzzer' was sounded on the expectant mothers' abdomens -- and their babies were expected to jump, alerted by the noise, in a healthy response. Physicians say a jumping response shows that the baby's brain and nervous system are working properly. Researchers have found that even among women drinking as little as four units of alcohol a week, significantly fewer babies passed the startle test than those whose mothers drank nothing at all.
In Scotland the chief medical officer, Mr.Mac Armstrong, said he welcomed the BMJ's stance:
'We fully endorse the findings of the BMJ article, which reinforces existing guidance to pregnant women in Scotland. 'Every mum-to-be receives the "Ready Steady Baby" publication early in their pregnancy, which draws attention to the dangers of foetal alcohol syndrome and advises that women avoid alcohol during pregnancy. 'A very occasional drink will not harm the pregnancy -- but the general rule is that pregnant women should not drink alcohol'.
In the USA, women are advised not to drink at all during pregnancy, but more than two-thirds of British mothers-to-be do not totally give up. Ms.Gillian Lenaghan, the Scottish national officer of 'The Royal College of Midwives' (RCM), said last night, 2005-02-17, that the main concern was still over women who drank heavily during their pregnancies. She said:
'I have no doubt if a woman asked any of our members if she should drink alcohol then her midwife would look at it with her on a "one-to-one", individual basis'.
She said the RCM sought to give women all possible information on the issue so they could make an informed decision on whether to drink or not. A spokesman for 'Alcohol Concern' said it would continue to issue the Department of Health's guidelines until they were changed. However, she said it was time for a review in the light of the opinions in the BMJ and the growing debate around the issue. Ms.Belinda Phipps, the chief executive of 'The National Childbirth Trust', said it was important to put mothers at the forefront of the debate and not vilify them for their choices. She said:
'What women need when they are pregnant is information because they have a lot of important decisions to make. 'I welcome the BMJ's clear presentation of their views on alcohol, which will help inform the debate and the choices women make'.
'Pregnant women 'shouldn't drink at all'', Alison Hardie, The Scotsman, 2005-02-18, Fr. Links: Alcohol Focus Scotland Health Education Board for Scotland -- alcohol Alcohol Concern Alcohol Information Scotland

2005-02-15

Intolerance: Summit on Bigotry

The First Minister Mr.JackMcconnell's widely trumpeted summit on 'Sectarianism' (bigotry) became mired in controversy yesterday following a 'war of words' between Roman Christian Church leaders and 'The Orange Lodge of Scotland'. Cardinal Mr.Keith O'Brien, the head of 'The Roman Christian Church' in Scotland, opened a high-profile debate at 'The University of Glasgow' by making a call for The First Minister to 'directly lobby' The Prime Minister Mr.Tony Blair, to repeal the 300-year-old 'Act of Settlement', which bans Roman Christians from the British throne. In reply, 'The Orange Order's' representative at the summit accused 'The Roman Christian Church' of attempting to undermine Britain's religious liberty. It was the recently announced wedding plans of Prince Charles and Ms.Camilla Parker Bowles that provided the spark to ignite Scotland's familiar religious tinder. The Scottish Cardinal told the summit that 'The Act of Settlement' was 'hurtful' and discriminatory, and pointed to the announcement of the Royal wedding. He said:
'It's a matter of regret, surely, that had Ms Parker Bowles been a "Catholic" [Christian], Prince Charles would have lost the right to succession to the throne and, similarly, if they had been going to have children, they would have been excluded from the right of succession -- and that's hurtful'.
Mr.Ian Wilson, the grand master of 'The Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland', retorted that, although he recognised the situation may be hurtful to 'Roman Christians', this sort of 'institutionalised sectarianism' was a historical fact. He went on:
'I wouldn't have thought it was all that unusual for a Protestant [Christian] country like this to have a Protestant [Christian] monarchy. 'The settlement is there for good historical reasons and particularly we see it as a guarantee of our religious liberties. Having a Protestant [Christian] monarchy, under the constitutional arrangements that we have, guarantees everyone's religious liberty'.
However a spokesman for 'The Roman Christian Church' maintained its stance last night 2005-02-14, saying it wanted The First Minister to directly lobby The Prime Minister for the repeal of 'The Act of Settlement'. The First Minister claimed to have achieved a 'historic' consensus on the need to combat sectarianism in Scotland by bringing together more than 40 organisations at yesterday's summit. Representatives joined figures from Glasgow's 'Old Firm' football clubs (Celtic and Glasgow Rangers), their fans, 'Loyalist' and 'Republican' parade groups, police, councils, trade unions, business, and the media to discuss how to tackle the issue of bigotry. The Justice Minister Ms.Cathy Jamieson also attended the talks which focused on inter-faith work, education, sport and parades. The First Minister praised the participants for agreeing to work together on a 'national plan' to combat what he has repeatedly described as 'Scotland's shame'. He said:
'What we have today is a concrete agreement that every organisation represented here will now commit to our discussions and our action to combat "Sectarianism" [bigotry] in Scotland. 'This is a historic event, bringing together people who have never been together in one room before. 'We now have an opportunity, through further dialogue and action, to make a real difference in Scotland and build on the progress that's been made. 'I am delighted by that outcome'.
During the two-hour summit, Mr.Lawrence Mcintyre, the head of Safety at Glasgow Rangers FC, said that 'the 90-minute bigots', who shouted foul religious abuse for the duration of a football match, had to be silenced in order to expose the real bigots. Mr.Peter Rafferty, from 'The Affiliation of Celtic Supporters' Clubs', agreed there a problem. But Mr.Wilson, of 'The Orange Lodge', accused The First Minister of exaggerating the issue. He said:
I think there is a danger of talking it up if we are not careful. I think there are bigger issues for him to tackle. 'People in Scotland would be more interested to see him act on "inner-city poverty", unacceptable "waiting lists", education -- there are far bigger issues for him to tackle'.
'The Scottish Executive' has already introduced laws to provide tougher sentences for crimes motivated by religious bigotry and established a review of contentious bigot parades that looks likely to reduce the number of marches in certain parts of Scotland. But The First Minister has acknowledged that the government can do only 'so much' to tackle the problem. A 'Scottish Executive' spokesman insisted last night that the summit had been 'an important opportunity for all those with an interest in tackling "Sectarianism" to come together' and that The First Minister had expected to hear strong opinions. She went on:
'Of course, there will be strong views expressed.
'This is a sensitive subject, but it is one we are determined will not be hidden away and we are confident that everyone taking part will also be looking for solutions for the future'.
Last month, Mr.David Murray, the owner of Glasgow Rangers FC, accused The First Minister of being 'ill-informed and disrespectful' and of having displayed a 'knee-jerk reaction' to the problem of bigotry. The First Minister has managed to alienate both sides of the bigotry divide in recent weeks. He infuriated 'The Orange Order' by pre-empting an independent report into bigot parades with an announcement about cutting the number of marches. The Roman Christian Church' was subsequently angered by government attempts to give advice on 'contraception' and 'abortion' to children in church schools. 'Sectarian summit only deepens divide', Dan Mcdougall, The Scotsman, 2005-02-15, Tu.

2005-02-13

Science & Gizmo: New Teaching Method Success

A new method of teaching primary school children to read and write has been hailed as a major success after researchers discovered it enabled pupils to surge years ahead of their contemporaries. The groundbreaking programme, known as 'Synthetic Phonics', was created at 'The University of St.Andrew', and has been piloted in Clackmannanshire for the past seven years.
It involves teaching primary one children to read by learning more than one letter sound at a time. Youngsters are taught the initial, middle and final letter sounds so that they quickly learn how to blend them together to form words. Videos and songs are also used to help youngsters spell and read unfamiliar words. The new method differs from traditional teaching, where children are taught one letter sound at a time right through the alphabet.
Ms.Joyce Watson and Ms.Rhona Johnston, who developed 'The Synthetic Phonics Programme', have been carrying out a study into its effectiveness since it was first introduced. The results, published yesterday 2005-02-11, revealed that, by primary seven, pupils were more than 3 years ahead of their peers in reading and almost 2 years ahead in spelling. The study also found that boys outperformed girls in reading and spelling. The report said:
'It is evident that the children in this study have achieved well above what would be expected for their chronological age. 'We can conclude that a synthetic phonics programme, as part of the reading curriculum, has a major and long-lasting effect on children's reading and spelling attainment. 'At the end of the seventh year at school, when the children were around 11.5 years old, they were reading at a 15-year-old level. That is, word reading was 3.5 years ahead of chronological age. Spelling was 1.75 years ahead of chronological age. 'The boys were significantly ahead of the girls in word reading and spelling. Their word reading was 11 months ahead of the girls and their spelling was nearly nine months ahead of the girls'.
Ms.Watson and Ms.Johnston plan to conduct a further study to find out why boys seem to benefit more than girls.
'The Synthetic Phonics Method' involves learning by interaction, with the pupils being able to touch individual letters to form words. In the study, 304 children in primary one were taught to read and spell using the new technique. Each week, they spent 20 minutes a day learning letter sounds and building up a recognition of words containing all of the letters.
'The Synthetic Phonics Method' has been so successful that it is now used in more than 300 schools across 'The United Kingdom'. Last night 2005-02-11, the headteacher at one of the Clackmannanshire schools where it has been piloted described the results as 'remarkable'. Ms.Ronnie O'Grady, the headmaster of 'Menstrie Primary School', said:
'The most noticeable thing about it is the fact that the results have been sustained right through to primary seven. 'The impact it has had on boys' learning has also been fantastic. 'I think the fact that it is "multi-sensory" and allows children to see, touch and hear words makes a big difference as well -- because it makes learning "fun". 'It is also taught at a fast pace, which suits the pupils and the teachers -- there's something in it for everybody'. 'I can't say that "Synthetic Phonics" would be right for every school -- but I think it's important that every school is at least aware of it. 'Schools need to look at their staff and decide whether it would be "appropriate for them", but we will certainly continue to use it'.
Ms.Habe Williamson, 11, is a primary seven pupil at 'Menstrie Primary School' who has been taught using 'The Synthetic Phonic Method'. She said:
'Instead of looking at words and trying to work out what they were, we would sound them out and that helped me to understand it more quickly. 'There were also lots of videos which were fun. I've spoken to my big brother about it and I think it's much better than the way he was taught'.
The Education MP Mr.Peter Peacock, welcomed the study yesterday. He said:
'These results show that innovative approaches to core subjects really can help our children achieve more at school. 'These youngsters have a "head start" in reading and writing -- and this strong foundation will prepare them well for the challenges of secondary school and adult life'.
'New teaching technique goes to top of the class', Kevin Schofield, The Scotsman, 2005-02-12, Sa. Links: Phonics Teaching Web Site Contact: Rhona Johnston Ms.Rhona S. Johnston, B.A., Ph.D. University of Hull Professor of Psychology Tel: 0044 (148) 246 5595 Fax: 0044 (148) 246 5599 Email: r.s.johnston@hull.ac.uk Dr Joyce E. Watson, School of Psychology, University of St Andrews mailto:jew2@st-andrews.ac.uk Reference: Watson, J.E, and Johnston, R.S. (1998) Accelerating reading attainment: the effectiveness of synthetic phonics. Interchange 57, SOEID, Edinburgh.

Health & Stats: Centralised Maternity Care Row

Pregant women are being forced to travel up to 50_km (about 30 miles) to give birth safely because of 'The Scottish Executive's' Maternity Care policies, a 'Scottish New Labour Party' MSP claimed last night. Mr.Duncan Mcneil, who represents Greenock and Inverclyde, clashed with The Health MSP Mr.Andy Kerr after it was revealed that more than three-quarters of women living in Argyll and Clyde now travel to Paisley or Glasgow to have their babies. Mr.Mcneil claimed that pregnant women were making the journey because they did not have confidence in a new service run by midwives without supervision by consultants. But yesterday the health board, The Health MSP -- and 'The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) ' united to defend the new service, claiming that it provided safe, more local care for mothers-to-be. Mr.Mcneil made his comments after it was revealed that 28 per cent of expectant mothers from the 'Vale of Leven' hospital are choosing to give birth in Glasgow hospitals. A further 46 per cent go to Paisley Royal Alexandra Hospital and just 21 per cent go to the new local midwife-led units. Warning of the dangers of centralisation, Mr.Mcneil said:
'It is entirely predictable that women faced particularly with their first child will tend to go to the "consultant-led" unit because they have fears of the experience. 'They want to have the advantage of an epidural; they will be frightened that things go wrong. 'So it would be entirely predictable that women are being forced to make these choices when "consultant-led" units are not available in their locality'.
He was joined in his criticism of 'The Scottish Executive' by Ms.Nanette Milne, 'The Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party' health spokesman. She said:
'This is a typical result of the downgrading of local services and this Labour/Lib Dem Executive's obsession with centralisation. 'I certainly do not deny that midwives do an excellent job, but expectant mothers should have the opportunity to be cared for in a consultant-led unit if they want, without having to travel miles from home. 'Patient choice must be at the centre of the NHS'.
However, the new system of using highly-trained midwives in what are called 'Community Midwife Units (CMUs)' to provide routine maternity care -- which is being introduced throughout Scotland -- was yesterday defended by the health MSP and health professionals. Ms.Cathy Macgillvray, NHS Argyll and Clyde's nursing director, said:
'These "units" provide a good safe "model of care" to mothers and demand is in line with the levels we anticipated for the first year'.
However Ms.Gillian Leuaghan, the RCM's National Officer for Scotland, disagreed about the figures:
'I have just been to visit the area and the midwives there are quite happy; they are providing a very good service. 'They have been going for less than a year and expected 50 deliveries -- they have already had 60'.
Ms.Leuaghan said that the RCM supported the creation of CMUs. There are now 26 across Scotland and all of the midwives receive training to allow them to cope with obstetric emergencies. She added:
'We really despise all this talk of downgrading of the services. 'This is not downgrading. 'It is a change in the model with a highly professional service being given by well-trained midwives. 'It gives greater choice and better service to pregnant mothers'.
A spokesman for 'The Scottish Executive' said that all pregnant women were given a choice of where to have their babies. She added:
'If the local "unit" is a "Community Maternity Unit" -- and midwife-led -- and the mother is not happy with the service offered here, she could opt to deliver in the nearest "consultant-led unit" -- though factors such as travel and accommodation would need to be taken into consideration'.
The Health MSP said:
'This is a new service, it will take its time to bed in. 'I think it is a question of time -- and mothers talking to other mothers about their experiences. 'When the word gets out I think more mothers will become involved and more mothers will participate in the service'.
The row was sparked by the closure of both 'The Rankin Unit', formerly based at 'Inverclyde Royal' Hospital in Greenock, and the loss of maternity services within the 'Vale of Leven' Hospital in Alexandria. 'Expectant mothers are giving new maternity units a miss', Peter Macmahon, The Scotsman, 2005-02-12, Sa. Links: NHS Scotland BMA Scotland NHS 24 Royal College of GPs Scotland Royal College of Nursing Royal Pharmaceutical Society Scottish Executive Health Department

List: BAFTA Film Awards 2005

Film: Winner: 'The Aviator': Michael Mann /Sandy Climan /Graham King /Charles Evans Jr.
Nominated: 'Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind': Steve Golin /Anthony Bregman; 'Finding Neverland' Richard N Gladstein /Nellie Bellflower; 'Diarios De Motocicleta (The Motorcycle Diaries)': Michael Nozik /Edgard Tenembaum /Karen Tenkhoff; 'Vera Drake': Simon Channing Williams /Alain Sarde.
The Alexander Korda Award For The Outstanding British Film Of The Year: Winner: 'My Summer Of Love': Tanya Seghatchian /Christopher Collins /Pawel Pawlikowski.
Nominated: 'Dead Man's Shoes': Mark Herbert /Shane Meadows; 'Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban': David Heyman /Chris Columbus /Mark Radcliffe /Alfonso Cuar�n; 'Shaun Of The Dead': Nira Park /Edgar Wright; 'Vera Drake': Simon Channing Williams /Alain Sarde /Mike Leigh.
The Carl Foreman Award For Special Achievement By A British Director/Producer Or Writer In Their First Feature Film: Winner: Amma Asante (Director/Writer: 'A Way Of Life').
Nominated: Andrea Gibb (Writer: 'Afterlife'); Matthew Vaughn (Director: 'Layer Cake'); Nira Park (Producer: 'Shaun Of The Dead'); Shona Auerbach (Director: 'Dear Frankie').
The David Lean Award For Achievement In Direction: Winner: Mike Leigh: 'Vera Drake'.
Nominated: Martin Scorsese: 'The Aviator'; Michael Mann: 'Collateral'; Michel Gondry:'Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind'; Marc Forster: 'Finding Neverland'.
Original Screenplay: Winner: Charlie Kaufman: 'Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind'.
Nominated: John Logan: 'The Aviator' ; Stuart Beattie: 'Collateral'; James L White: 'Ray'; Mike Leigh: 'Vera Drake' .
Adapted Screenplay: Winner: Alexander Payne /Jim Taylor: 'Sideways'.
Nominated: Christophe Barratier /Philippe Lopes-Curval: 'Les Choristes (The Chorus)'; Patrick Marber: 'Closer'; David Magee: 'Finding Neverland'; Jos� Rivera: 'Diarios De Motocicleta (The Motorcycle Diaries)'.
Film Not In The English Language: Winner: 'Diarios De Motocicleta (The Motorcycle Diaries)': Michael Nozik /Edgard Tenembaum /Karen Tenkhoff /Walter Salles.
Nominated: 'Les Choristes (The Chorus)': Arthur Cohn /Nicolas Mauvernay /Jacques Perrin /Christophe Barratier; 'Un Long Dimanche De Fiancailles (A Very Long Engagement)': Francis Boespflug /Jean-Pierre Jeunet; 'La Mala Educacion (Bad Education)' Agust�n Almod�var /Pedro Almod�var; 'Shi Mian Mai Fu (House Of Flying Daggers)': Bill Kong /Zhang Yimou.
Actor In A Leading Role: Winner: Jamie Foxx: 'Ray'.
Nominated: Gael Garc�a Berna: 'Diarios De Motocicleta (The Motorcycle Diaries)'; Jim Carrey: 'Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind'; Johnny Depp: 'Finding Neverland'; Leonardo Dicaprio: 'The Aviator'.
Actress In A Leading Role: Winner: Imelda Staunton: 'Vera Drake'.
Nominated: Charlize Theron: 'Monster'; Kate Winslet: 'Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind'; Kate Winslet: 'Finding Neverland'; Ziyi Zhang: 'Shi Mian Mai Fu (House Of Flying Daggers)'.
Actor In A Supporting Role: Winner: Clive Owen: 'Closer'.
Nominated: Alan Alda: 'The Aviator'; Jamie Foxx: 'Collateral'; Phil Davis: 'Vera Drake'; Rodrigo De La Serna: 'Diarios De Motocicleta (The Motorcycle Diaries)'.
Actress In A Supporting Role: Winner: Cate Blanchett: 'The Aviator'.
Nominated: Heather Craney: 'Vera Drake'; Julie Christie: 'Finding Neverland'; Meryl Streep: 'The Manchurian Candidate'; Natalie Portman: 'Closer'.
The Anthony Asquith Award For Achievenment In Film Music: Winner: Gustavo Santaolalla: 'The Motorcycle Diaries (Diarios De Motocicleta)'.
Nominated: Howard Shore: 'The Aviator'; Bruno Coulais: 'Les Choristes (The Chorus)'; Jan A P Kaczmarek: 'Finding Neverland'; Craig Armstrong: 'Ray'.
Cinematography: Winner: Dion Beebe /Paul Cameron: 'Collateral'.
Nominated: Robert Richardson: 'The Aviator'; Roberto Schaefer: 'Finding Neverland'; Zhao Xiaoding: 'Shi Mian Mai Fu (House Of Flying Daggers)'; Eric Gautier: 'Diarios De Motocicleta (The Motorcycle Diaries)'.
Editing: Winner: Vald�s �skarsd�ttir: 'Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind'.
Nominated: Thelma Schoonmaker: 'The Aviator'; Jim Miller /Paul Rubell: 'Collateral'; Cheng Long: 'Shi Mian Mai Fu (House Of Flying Daggers)'; Jim Clark: 'Vera Drake'.
Production Design: Winner: Dante Ferretti: 'The Aviator'.
Nominated: Gemma Jackson: 'Finding Neverland'; Stuart Craig: 'Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban'; Huo Tingxiao: 'Shi Mian Mai Fu (House Of Flying Daggers)'; Eve Stewart: 'Vera Drake'.
Costume Design: Winner: Jacqueline Durran: 'Vera Drake'.
Nominated: Sandy Powell: 'The Aviator'; Alexandra Byrne: 'Finding Neverland'; Emi Wada: 'Shi Mian Mai Fu (House Of Flying Daggers)'; Sammy Sheldon: 'The Merchant Of Venice'.
Sound: Winner: Steve Cantamessa /Scott Millan /Greg Orloff /Bob Beemer: 'Ray'.
Nominated: Philip Stockton /Eugene Gearty /Petur Hliddal /Tom Fleischman: 'The Aviator'; Elliott L Koretz /Lee Orloff /Michael Minkler /Myron Nettinga: 'Collateral'; Tao Jing /Roger Savage: 'House Of Flying Daggers (Shi Mian Mai Fu)'; Paul N J Ottosson /Kevin O'connell /Greg P Russell /Jeffrey J Haboush: 'Spider-Man 2'.
Achievement In Special Visual Effects: Winner: Karen E Goulekas /Neil Corbould /Greg Strause /Remo Balcells: 'The Aviator':
Nominated: Rob Legato /Pete Travers /Matthew Gratzner /Bruce Steinheimer: 'The Day After Tomorrow'; John Richardson /Roger Guyett /Tim Burke /Bill George /Karl Mooney: 'Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban'; Angie Lam /Andy Brown /Kirsty Millar /Luke Hetherington: 'Shi Mian Mai Fu (House Of Flying Daggers)'; John Dykstra /Scott Stokdyk /Anthony La Molinara /John Frazier: 'Spider-Man 2'.
Make Up & Hair: Winner: Morag Ross /Kathryn Blondell /Sian Grigg: 'The Aviator'.
Nominated: Christine Blundell: 'Finding Neverland'; Amanda Knight /Eithn� Fennell /Nick Dudman: 'Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban'; Kwan Lee-Na /Yang Xiaohai /Chau Siu-Mui: 'Shi Mian Mai Fu (House Of Flying Daggers)'; Christine Blundell: 'Vera Drake'.
Short Animation: Winner: 'Birthday Boy': Andrew Gregory /Sejong Park.
Nominated: 'City Paradise': Erika Forzy /Ga�lle Denis; 'Heavy Pockets': Jane Robertson /Sarah Cox; 'His Passionate Bride': Sylvie Bringas /Monika Forsberg; 'Little Things': Daniel Greaves.
Short Film: Winner: 'The Banker': Kelly Broad /Hattie Dalton
Nominated: 'Can't Stop Breathing': Ravinder Basra /Amy Neil; 'Elephant Boy': Ren� Mohandas /Durdana Shaikh; 'Knitting A Love Song': Debbie Ballin /Annie Watson; 'Six Shooter': Mia Bays /Kenton Allen /Martin Mcdonagh.
The Orange Film Of The Year -- The Only Film Voted For By Members Of The General Public: Winner:'Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban'. Academy Fellowship: Winner: John Barry.

Money: Utility Bill Increase to Meet Green target

Consumers will face a 5 per cent increase in electricity bills by the end of the decade to help pay for the government's target of generating 10 per cent of the country's energy by 'renewable' sources, according to an official report. 'The National Audit Office' (NAO) said the government was 'on course' to achieve a significant increase in 'renewable power' -- but a number of challenges remained if the target was to be reached by 2010. The cost to the consumer and taxpayer will be more than 1_000_million_GBP/year by the end of the decade, increasing electricity prices by about 5 per cent. The report said the government was on track to meet the 10 per cent figure even though the amount of electricity generated by renewable sources such as wind power was only 2.4 per cent in the 2003-2004 financial year, against a target of 4.3 per cent. Development of different types of renewable energy has been encouraged by the so-called 'Renewables Obligation', which has increased the income renewable generators have received above the market price of electricity. Mr.John Bourn, the NAO head, said:
'The "Renewables Obligation" is increasing the level of "renewable generation", and thus helping reduce "Carbon dioxide emissions"-- though at a price to the electricity consumer. 'The Department [of Trade and Industry] needs to keep track of the scheme's progress in improving the commercial viability of "renewable generation" and ensure that consumers benefit from reductions in generation costs'.
The government aspires to double the level of energy generated by renewables to 20 per cent by 2020. The NAO said in its report:
'The use of renewable energy on this scale would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by between 20 million and 27 million tonnes, and increase the diversity and hence the security of the United Kingdom's energy supplies'.
Public support for the renewables industry is expected to average 700_million_GBP/year between 2003 and 2006. Two thirds of this support will come from the 'Renewables Obligation', the cost of which is met by consumers. A spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry said:
'Energy efficiency alone will not be enough to meet UK "emission targets" in the timescale required. '"Renewable" energy may be more expensive but its development is essential. 'The DTI's current review of the "Renewables Obligation" will look at what scope there is for reducing the level of support provided by the "Obligation" for future projects in some areas. 'But it is essential investor confidence is maintained and the best projects developed'.
Mr.Neil Crumpton, 'Friends of the Earth's' climate campaigner, said:
'We are encouraged that the UK appears to be on course to meet its renewable energy target, but the government is still not doing enough to combat climate change. '"Carbon dioxide" levels have not fallen since [The New] Labour [Party] came to power, and unless it takes tough and urgent action on transport, coal-fired power stations and energy efficiency it will not meet its promise of cutting emissions by 20 per cent. 'The Prime Minister has pledged to put global warming at the top of the international agenda this year. 'He must lead by example and introduce policies to ensure year-on-year cuts in UK "Carbon dioxide" levels'.
'The cost of green energy -- 5% price rise over next five years', Alan Jones, The Scotsman, 2005-02-12, Sa. Links: Scottish Parliament Renewable Energy Group Scottish Renewables DTI -- renewable energy British Wind Energy Association Views of Scotland Wind-farm.org Country Guardian Friends of the Earth Scotland

2005-02-12

Money: Colour Coded Car Fuel Efficiency Labels

Each of the 42 car brands available in the UK has agreed to a new voluntary Fuel-efficiency labelling scheme from 2005-09-01 The colour-coded labels will range from red for 'gas-guzzlers' to green for 'super-economic' 'petrol and electric hybrids'. The scheme is similar to that already employed by electrical retailers for washing machines and other white goods which presents information about how consumers can save money and help the environment. The Transport Secretary Mr.Alistair Darling said:
'The labels will send a clear message to motorists that they can make a real difference by choosing clean, fuel-efficient cars'.
At present 'The Environmental Transport Association' grades vehicles on their fuel consumption and emissions of 'carbon dioxide' per kilometre driven. ''Green' colour code for all new cars', James Reynolds, The Scotsman, 2005-02-11, Fr

2005-02-11

Science: Love, Sex, Mating and Jealousy

Have you ever wondered why you get 'butterflies' in your 'stomach' every time you see your new love? Why you 'fell for' the man that everyone knew was 'trouble', or why you can't stop yourself day-dreaming endlessly about your new girlfriend? Science has the answer. Pick a pop song, any pop song and you can be 99 per cent sure it will be about something to do with love. Songwriters, poets, playwrights have spent centuries trying to capture love's essence. But today it seems it is science that can explain the apparently inexplicable, and this 'science of love' will be the subject of a duo of lectures in Edinburgh tonight 2005-02-10. So, as you survey the talent in the nightclub, your fellow passengers on the train, or simply the people that you bump into in the course of your day, what is it that makes you feel attracted to one particular person and want to get to know them better?
'When you first meet a potential new partner, your senses are "working overtime" -- collecting relevant data about that person's "attributes"', says Mr.Craig Roberts(craig.roberts@liv.ac.uk -Tel: 0044 (151) 795 4514 -Fax 0044 (151) 795 4408) an evolutionary biologist at 'The University of Liverpool'. Craig Roberts 'Of course, appearance is a big consideration -- and is the most immediate thing we've got "to go on". 'We tend to choose people whose appearance tells us that, if we have sex with them (as opposed to someone else), we'll have more -- or healthier -- children'.
There's no suggestion here that every encounter with the opposite sex is intended to be a baby-making exercise, but that is the underlying, unconscious purpose of more or less everything we do. Our 'genes' have survived because they were good at getting themselves reproduced, so whether or not we actually want to become parents, our 'genes' propel us towards that goal. They also tell us what to find attractive in a potential mate. So what should we be looking for?
'The faces of potential partners carry important information about their "genetic" quality that can be passed on to children', says Mr.Roberts. 'Most people prefer symmetrical faces, for instance, which suggest a good "immune" system, and we tend to like faces that are fairly similar to our own. 'Indicators of good health are also attractive, such as clear skin, lustrous hair, bright eyes'.
But when it comes to smell we go for people whose fragrance indicates 'genes' different from ours. Mr.Roberts elegantly demonstrated this effect on Professor Sir Robert Winston's BBC program 'The Human Instinct'. Mr.Roberts gave Mr.Winston T-shirts that were worn by six different women over two nights -- and asked him to sniff them and rate the attractiveness of the lingering smells. It turned out that Mr.Winston found the women's body odour more attractive the more 'genetically' dissimilar he was to them. This makes sense when we consider that children whose parents vary in the 'genes' that produce these smells also tend to have stronger 'immune systems'. But why should we prefer mates who look similar to us but smell different?
'It may all be about striking a balance between inbreeding and outbreeding', says Mr.Roberts. 'By selecting a partner who looks quite like us, we are preserving a suite of "genes" for our children that have worked well for ourselves -- but by using smell to avoid very "genetically" similar mates, we are avoiding deleterious inbreeding that could harm our potential children's health'.
So, you've homed in on your mate of choice. What happens next? The sap rises, as they say. Well, actually, it's the 'hormone' called 'Testosterone', levels of which rise in men as they pursue a new mate. In fact, a study led by Mr.James Roney at 'The University of Chicago' has shown that just a brief chat with an attractive woman can be enough to send this male 'sex hormone' soaring. 'Testosterone' is implicated in making men more willing to take risks. When we are in the first throes of love, there are many 'physiological' changes; the heart races and blood gets diverted to the cheeks and sexual organs, the pupils dilate, and we get that strange feeling in our bellies. During sex the 'hormones' ('Serotonin' and 'Dopamine'), surge into the brain -- both are 'feel-good' chemicals. Brain-scanning studies by Mr.Semir Zeki and Mr.Andreas Bartels, of 'University College London', suggest that love affects our brains in the way a snort of 'Cocaine' would.
Gareth Leng 'That's not really surprising', says Professor Mr.Gareth Leng, (Gareth.Leng@ed.ac.uk Tel: 0044 (131) 650 2869) a neuroscientist at 'The University of Edinburgh'. 'Love and sex feel rewarding because there are systems in our brain which reinforce or change our behaviour by making us feel this way', he explains. '"Recreational" drugs "tap into" these systems and "short circuit" "reward centres"'.
Then comes the attachment phase of the relationship: essential if we are to co-operatively rear children. But how does the 'bonding' come about?
'We know from studies of prairie voles, that "hormones" "Oxytocin" and "Vasopressin" are released by the brain during sexual activity-- with some interesting results', says Mr.Leng. 'In the voles, "Oxytocin" encourages females to bond with their partner, while "Vasopressin" induces jealousy in the males'.
It seems likely that there are similar systems at work in humans.
'We know that "Oxytocin" is produced during human sexual activity, and it is deeply implicated in the human female orgasm', says Mr.Leng.
Indeed, pharmaceutical companies are running trials on drugs called 'Melanocortins'which stimulate 'Oxytocin' production -- and have potential for treating sexual 'problems', including 'Low Libido' in women. Considerable variation exists in the vasopressin receptor gene in humans, according to a study by Mr.Larry Young, of Emory University, Atlanta, in North America. This raises the possibility that men might vary 'genetically' in their ability to stay faithful to one partner.
'It would be interesting to see if different patterns of behaviour correlate with "receptor gene" variants', says Mr.Leng. 'But the way we behave as an adult depends on our experience as we grow up and our environment as well as our "genes"'.
So, can scientific advances help us to control our feelings? In her book, 'Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love', Ms.Helen Fisher, of the department of anthropolgy at 'Rutgers University', New Jersey, USA, describes the behaviour of a 'love-sick' person as resembling someone with 'Obsessive-Compulsive' disorder, characterised by similar low levels of 'Serotonin' in the brain. Helen Fisher Ms.Fisher suggests that taking anti-depressant drugs which keep 'Serotonin' levels higher might even damp down feelings of being in love in the early stages. But once you're 'totally smitten', there's not much anyone can do... Mr.Gareth Leng and Mr.Craig Roberts will talk about their work and ideas at 'The Caf� Scientifique', in 'The Oxygen Bar', 3 Infirmary St, Edinburgh, tonight, 2005-02-10, Th., at 19:30. The event is free of charge, and discussion (and questions) are encouraged. 'Finding the formula for love', Mairi Macleod, The Scotsman, 2005-02-10, Th