2005-07-30

Health: HRT Causes cancer

'Hormone Replacement Therapy' ('HRT') used by millions of women around the world causes cancer, according to the United Nation's cancer agency. It also said yesterday (2005-07-29) that the 'combined contraceptive pill', also used by millions, causes more types of cancers than previously thought. 'The International Agency for Research on Cancer' ('IARC'), which collates existing oncology studies, declared that consistent evidence emerging from studies in the past few years has lead it to reclassify hormonal menopause therapy from 'possibly carcinogenic to humans' to 'carcinogenic to humans'. The agency said studies have convincingly shown that doses of 'oestrogen' and 'progesterone' in combination slightly increase the risk of breast cancer. And 'oestrogen-only' treatment, while posing less of a risk for breast cancer, can cause 'endometrial' cancers. A major US American study into 'HRT' in 2002 established a link to breast cancer, while links to 'endometrial' cancers have long been known. But it is the first time the respected international agency has decisively labelled the treatment 'carcinogenic', effectively ending any remaining doubt. Director of IARC Mr.Peter Boyle said:
'[This report] address exposures that are experienced daily by many millions of women worldwide. 'It is of enormous public health importance that we identify and understand the full range of effects of these products.'
'HRT' is used to treat women suffering from symptoms caused by 'perimenopause' -- the transition before 'menopause' when 'oestrogen' and 'progesterone' levels drop. Symptoms include 'insomnia', 'mood swings', 'hot flushes', reduced mental clarity, vaginal dryness and heavy menstrual 'periods'. In 2000, approximately 20_million women in developed countries used 'HRT', although that number has dropped in recent years as the treatment has been linked to cancer. Many physicians continue to prescribe a low-dose therapy for severe cases, but symptom-specific treatments such as lubricants, blood-pressure medication and anti-depressants are becoming increasingly popular. The report also concluded that the 'combined contraceptive pill' causes more types of cancer than previously thought. Previously, 'The Pill' had been identified as causing liver cancer. Now, further research has demonstrated that it also slightly increases the risk of breast- and cervical- cancer, the agency said. However, the investigation also confirmed that the pill decreases the risk of 'endometrial' and 'ovarian' cancers. Mr.Vincent Cogliano, head of the agency's 'Monographs Department', which is widely regarded as the international authority on which substances cause cancer, said:
'It's a complicated picture. 'It doesn't mean women should stop taking the treatment. 'There are still other reasons to take it. 'Each woman has to discuss it with her doctor and weigh the risks and benefits.'
Worldwide, more than 100 million women -- about 10 per cent of all women of reproductive age -- currently use 'combined hormonal contraceptives'. Commonly known as 'The Pill' -- but also administered through patches and injections -- the treatment prevents pregnancy by stopping 'ovulation' and thickening the 'mucous' of the 'cervix' so 'sperm' cannot get through. 'Combined hormonal contraceptives' can cause weight gain, breast tenderness, depression and a decreased interest in sex. But it has also been shown to reduce the risk of 'Non-cancerous breast cysts', infections of 'The Fallopian Tubes', 'Iron Deficiency Anaemia' and 'ectopic', or 'tubal', pregnancies. 'Fears for millions as UN says HRT causes cancer ', Eben harrell, The Scotsman, 2005-07-30 sa Links: Breast cancer campaign Cancer Research UK HEBS - cancer National Alliance of breast cancer organisations

Money: Fixed prices & Rural First-Time Buyers

One in five Scots favours scrapping the property market's 'offers over' system, according to a survey which reveals the number of buyers willing to pay 'over the odds' for houses has plummeted. Those against Scotland's system fear it will result in their paying too much for a home. The number of property-seekers willing to pay any more than 10 per cent above the offers-over price has dropped from 32 per cent to 14 per cent in a year, according to 'The Clydesdale Bank' research. Some 19 per cent of Scots want the trend for fixed-price sales to become the norm. Mr.Steve Reid, of 'The Clydesdale Bank', sees Scots treading cautiously in the housing market, though interest rates are tipped to fall.
'Scotland has enjoyed continued growth in house prices in recent months, although there are signs this is slowing,' he said. 'This probably has as much to do with limits being reached on what people are able to pay as concerns around price levels themselves. 'Our average mortgage size is around 60_000_GBP -- significantly up on last year 2004. Some people probably feel a switch to fixed prices will help them avoid a temptation to offer too much.'
The recent caution by Scots buyers comes amid wider uncertainty in the property market across Britain. One in six of those surveyed believed the fluctuating market in England & Wales had an impact on buyers in Scotland. And one in five feels it unfair they will not benefit from The Chancellor of the Exchequer's shared equity scheme, which will make it easier for thousands in England to get on the property ladder. 'The Scottish Executive' has promised a 'Homestake' scheme designed to aid low-income families buying a home. Mr.Reid added:
'First-time buyers are essential for a healthy housing market, and even though the government's scheme won't help buyers here, some will benefit from what the Scottish Executive is doing. The scheme benefits those on low incomes who face the hardest challenge to buy a first home.'
More than 400 people were questioned last month for 'The Clydesdale Bank' survey. Another study yesterday (2005-07-29) found first-time buyers are being priced out of the countryside after a surge in the number of rural second homes. First-time buyers have steadily declined from 31 per cent of the total number of housing transactions in Scottish rural areas in 1994 to only 26 per cent in 2004, according to 'The Halifax'. But the problem is more acute in England & Wales, where first-time buyers declined from 27 per cent to 16 per cent of the total all housing transactions. East Lothian has the lowest proportion of first-time buyers in rural Scotland (17 per cent) followed by Aberdeenshire (22 per cent), Perth and Kinross and the Highlands (23 per cent). According to 'The Halifax', the average rural house price in Britain rose by 171 per cent over ten years to 231_053_GBP in 2004, compared with a 166 per cent rise to 197_051_GBP in urban areas. 'The Halifax' Chief Economist Mr.Martin Ellis, said the number of rural first-time buyers was in a 'serious decline', likely to threaten the 'fabric' of local communities and would change the make-up of the traditional rural community. A surge in the number of second homes and a smaller amount of social housing in rural areas contributed to the trend. The survey, the first of its kind by 'The Halifax', showed the least affordable rural area was North Cornwall, where the average house price was 217_276_GBP. 'Buyers at home with 'fixed price'', Alastair Jamieson, The Scotsman, 2005-07-30 Sa

Stats: A Tale of Two Scotlands

Just 150 years ago the average Scot had a one-in-seven chance of dying before his or her first birthday, and was likely to be married by 24 and dead by 40. Today a typical Scot will have only a one-in-100 chance of dying during their first year of life, will 'tie the knot' by the age of 32, and will live to be 74. The huge differences are some of the demographic trends to emerge from the publication yesterday of 'The Registrar General's' '150th Annual Report', which 'paints a picture' of two very different Scotlands... Comparing life in Scotland today with 150 years ago, 'The Registrar General' Mr.Duncan Macniven, said the country had changed beyond recognition.
'Scotland today is a very different place from Scotland in the mid-1850s,' he said. ' 'The total population, in the 1851 census, was 2.89 million compared with 5.08 million in 2004. 'More than 93_000 babies were born in 1855, compared to only 54_000 in 2004 but of course many more would not have lived beyond their first birthday then. 'Since 1855, the death rate has fallen from 24 people/1000 population to 11 people/1000 population in 2004. This was due, in part, to the ending of the epidemics of smallpox, whooping cough and measles, which were of great concern to "The Registrar General" in 1855. The one consistency between the two eras is the fact that "Smith" remains such a common surname.'
Research also showed that average Scots today have two rooms to live in, while 150 years ago they had a one-in-three chance of having to share one room with the entire family. But Professor Mr.Geoffrey Barrow, a former lecturer of 'Scottish History' at 'Edinburgh University', said that many Victorians in Scotland in the mid-19th century would have felt they were living through an age of prosperity.
'If you spoke to a Scot in the 1850s they would have felt that they were quite well off compared to the hardships of Georgian times, when death rates were even higher,' he said. 'The general perception is that "The Industrial Revolution" brought poverty to the United Kingdom but, in fact, it provided quite a lot of prosperity. 'Most people 150 years ago would probably have felt they were living through an age of great improvement, especially with the arrival of such things as the railways. 'Life was certainly tough for Victorian Scots but the perception at the time would have been that they were living in a progressive society.'
Making comparisons with more modern times, the 2004 report found the number of deaths in Scotland had fallen to its lowest level since records began. Scotland's population also rose last year 2004 by 21_000 to 5_078_400.
'Today the "big killers" are "cancer" and "heart disease", and I think the decline we are seeing in death rates for 2004 reflects scientific breakthroughs,' 'The Registrar General' said. '"Lung cancer" is also killing fewer men than it was in the 1980s, which is a sign that many are hopefully giving up "smoking". 'The legislation from "The Scottish Executive" to ban "smoking" in bars and restaurants may also help. "Lung cancer" is still a "big killer" for women, though.'
The number of marriages has also reached its highest level since 1983. A factor in this that 2004 was the second year running in which civil marriages could take place in 'approved places' outside registration offices, which now account for 38 per cent of civil marriages. Last year 2004, 'Gretna Green' -- famed for its tradition of the local blacksmith conducting the ceremony 'over the anvil' -- accounted for more than one in six of the marriages made in Scotland. In 1855, there were only 19_680 marriages compared to 32_154 in 2004. About 5_000 of the 32_154 weddings which took place in Scotland last year were staged at this Dumfries & Galloway venue, according to official figures. But 'The Registrar General' claimed couples were choosing to 'get hitched' at 'Gretna' for practical more than romantic reasons. He said many couples choosing 'Gretna Green' to marry had come from England & Wales.
'It may be partly because in Scotland there's no residence qualification,' he said. 'You don't have to be resident in the place when you give your notice to get married so it's easier if you want a low-key, fairly "impromptu" wedding.'
The report did throw up some similarities, with 'Smith' continually emerging as one of the most popular surname in Scotland for the last 150 years. 'John' and 'Mary' were the most popular first names in 1855, while 'Lewis' and 'Emma' topped the polls today. The number of deaths in 2004 exceeded the number of births by more than 2_000. But the gap narrowed due to a 1_525 increase in births compared to 2003. Deaths were down by 2_285 -- the lowest annual total since civil registration started in 1855. 'The Registrar General' put the increase in the population down to immigration.
'In the year to mid-2004, 26_000 more people moved to Scotland, from within the UK and from across the world, than moved away,' he said. 'It's not grey migration either; Scotland is attracting a lot of young people to come and study here or live as professionals. 'A lot of these people are coming from England. The figures suggest Scotland is clearly seen as a "good place" to study and work.'
Fertility rates in Scotland have remained lower and death rates higher than the rest of the United Kingdom. Scotland's ageing population has also continued to increase over the last ten years, with the number of children under the age of 15 decreasing by nine per cent and the number of people aged 75 and over going up by 16 per cent. 'The Registrar General' said that trend was 'likely to continue' and would contribute to concerns over whether enough of the elderly population had sufficient pensions. Mr.Jim Mather, 'The Scottish National Party' shadow 'Enterprise and Economy' minister, said that while the improvements were to be welcomed, much remained to be done to address Scotland's problems.
'While the 21_000 increase in the population is a "good sign", Scotland is not "off the hook" from her population problems. 'The clock is still ticking, and if the numbers of young and working-age people continue to decline we will have a worsening demographic situation that Scotland cannot afford. 'The estimated increases of 63 per cent in the over-75s and 37 per cent in the over-60s presents some serious issues surrounding our ageing population that we must immediately "tackle head on". 'We should be taking real and serious steps to increase our working-age population, and to make sure that happens across Scotland, not just in our cities.'
Current projections suggest that Scotland's population will fall below five million in 2017. Over the past 140 years Scotland's share of the British population has declined from 12.5 per cent in 1861 to 8.6 per cent in 2001. Wedding Past & Present Until 2002, civil marriages could only be held in registration offices. 'The Marriage (Scotland) Act 2002' allowed registrars to conduct ceremonies in other 'approved places', which covers 600 venues, including castles and hotels. In 2004 there were 5_974 civil marriages -- which account for 19 per cent of all marriages -- meaning that one in five marriages that took place last year 2004 would not have been permitted before the law change. There has been a corresponding decline in the number of religious marriages of 2_129 between 2002 and 2004. More Women Dying From Lung Cancer The gap is narrowing between the sexes when it comes to deaths from lung cancer. Since 1980 the number of men dying of lung cancer has decreased from 119/100_000 population to 88/100_000 population last year 2004. For women, 41 deaths/100_000 population were from lung cancer in 1980 but last year this figure rose to 67. Anti-smoking body 'ASH Scotland' said the trend could be blamed on 'smoking', with teenage girls taking up the habit to enter the 'adult' world. Men were giving up in an effort to embrace a sporty lifestyle. '150 years on... Scots have never been so well', Edward Black, The Scotsman, 2005-07-30, Sa

Stats: By Air, Edinburgh Worst, Glasgow Best

Passengers using 'Edinburgh Airport' have suffered some of its worst-ever delays, because of peak-hour congestion at the fast-growing hub. Demand for flights in the morning and evening rush hours contributed to more than one in four scheduled services arriving or departing late between 2005-01 and 2005-03. Punctuality slumped by 5 per cent to 73 per cent compared with last year 2004 in the joint worst performance -- with Luton -- of any major British airport after Heathrow. 'On time' is measured as flights arriving or leaving less than 15 minutes late. Passengers at 'Edinburgh Airport' suffered average delays of 16 minutes, four minutes more than in 2004, 'The Civil Aviation Authority' (CAA) figures showed. The figures reflect the price of 'Edinburgh Airport's' rapid passenger growth to 8.2_million/year -- double that of eight years ago. Nearly half of its passengers are business travellers -- a much higher proportion than at many airports -- and a high percentage travel to London at peak times. Up to six flights are scheduled to depart at the same time at the height of the peaks, which are from 05:00-07:00 and 16:00-19:00. The timekeeping of charter flights at 'Edinburgh Airport' improved by 1 per cent to 58 per cent, but this remains the worst among major airports. Average delays increased by five minutes to 29 minutes. While charter operations account for a small proportion of total passengers at Edinburgh, they comprised up to 20_000 passengers /month in this period. By contrast, 'Glasgow Airport' was the most punctual -- along with Newcastle. A total of 79 per cent of scheduled flights were on time, although this was 3 per cent worse than a year ago. Charter services scored 76 per cent punctuality, up 3 per cent. 'BAA Scotland', which runs both Edinburgh and Glasgow airports, admitted that the higher concentration of passengers at peak times at Edinburgh was causing 'a real challenge'. While 'Glasgow Airport' is growing almost as fast as 'Edinburgh Airport', just 29 per cent of its passengers are business travellers, compared with 42 per cent at its east coast counterpart. In addition, three-quarters of passengers at 'Edinburgh Airport' are travelling within the UK, many of them to and from London, compared with just over half at 'Glasgow Airport'. Mr.Malcolm Robertson, a spokesman for 'BAA Scotland', said:
'A high volume of business traffic at "Edinburgh Airport" dictates that, at peak times, we are busier than many other airports in the UK.' 'These obvious peaks across the day create a number of operational challenges for the airport, in terms of providing enough capacity and staff to manage the extra demand, but doing so efficiently and economically and in a way which protects the airport's competitive advantage, from which Edinburgh and Scotland benefit.'
Mr.Robertson said that 'BAA' encouraged airlines to operate services at less busy times at Edinburgh, but it would not turn business away if they insisted on peak-time slots. He said:
'If such demand continues, we will have to look hard at what extra investment is required.'
However, he added that 'BAA' was not aware of any concern from airlines already operating at the busiest times. Mr.Robertson said 'BAA' accepted that charter-flight punctuality at 'Edinburgh Airport' was poor, but problems affecting a single airline could have a disproportionate effect on the figures because of the small numbers involved.
'BAA' was spending 'millions of pounds/year' developing the airport, which should improve the current situation, Mr.Robertson added.
'The CAA' figures showed 'Istanbul Airport' was the airport with the worst punctuality among the top 75 destinations from Britain, where just half of flights operated on time. Passengers at 'Toronto Airport' suffered the longest delays. 'One in four flights late at Edinburgh airport ', Alastair Dalton, The Scotsman, 2005-07-30, Sa

Statistics: Favourite Book Prize

Book groups have voted Ms.Barbara Kingsolver's novel 'The Poisonwood Bible', about a US American missionary in 1950s Africa, their favourite read. Mr.Mark Haddon's 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time' came second in the survey of groups entering 'The Penguin/Orange Reading Group Prize', organisers said on Friday 2005-07-29. Works by Mr.Khaled Hosseini, Ms.Andrea Levy and Ms.Tracy Chevalier completed the top five books for reading groups. 'The Poisonwood Bible', published in 1998, earned Ms.Kingsolver accolades at home in the USA and abroad and was nominated for 'The Pulitzer' and 'PEN/Faulkner' awards. It tells the story of a 'Baptist minister' who takes his wife and four daughters from a small town in Georgia, USA, to set up a mission in the Belgian Congo in 1959. More than 160 reading groups, with about 2_500 members, offered their all-time favourite books for the poll. The top of the list was dominated by books published in the last decade. Mr.Mark Haddon's work and 'The Kite Runner', a novel of Afghan-born author Mr.Khaled Hosseini, at number three, were both published in 2003. Ms.Andrea Levy's 'Small Island', in fourth place, won 'The Orange' and 'Whitbread' prizes after being released last year, 2004, while Ms.Tracy Chevalier's 'Girl With a Pearl Earring' came out in 2000. Classics on the list include 'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Mr.Harper Lee at six, Mr.John Steinbeck's 'The Grapes of Wrath' at 12 and Ms.Charlotte Bronte's 'Jane Eyre' at 16. Mr.Guy Pringle, one of 'The Reading Group' Prize judges, said all the novels 'struck a lasting chord with passionate readers'.
'Reading groups have once again made up their own minds about what they want to read -- in spite of publishers' marketing campaigns,' he said. 'Word-of-mouth recommendation is clearly crucial, pushing new titles like "The Kite Runner" instantly on to "The Reading Group" bestseller list alongside old favourites.'
''The Poisonwood Bible' voted top read by book groups', Yahoo! News, 2005-07-29 13:58

2005-07-29

Science: Glasgow on Mars

If you are looking for an out-of-this-world experience, Glasgow is the place to be. That's not Glasgow, Scotland, but the newly named Glasgow, Mars, discovered by NASA's roaming explorer 'Opportunity' and named in honour of 'The University of Glasgow's' research into rocks on the 'Red Planet'.
'We've started using Scottish names and Glasgow is the only one so far,' said Mr.Steve Squires, a NASA scientist who has monitored 'Opportunity' and her sister Mars rover, 'Spirit', since they 'touched down' last year, 2004.
Tradition dictates that areas are named after people and places from Earth -- one rocky outcrop is called 'Voltaire', after the French scientist -- and there are hills carrying the names of the seven astronauts killed in the 2003 'Columbia space shuttle' disaster. 'University of Glasgow' scientists were granted 400_000_GBP to explore whether tiny traces of water trapped in rocks from Mars could reveal secrets of early life on Earth. But don't expect to find a Clydebank, Greenock, Stirling or Paisley anywhere near 'Glasgow' on Mars. Some of its more off-the-wall neighbours, named during the earlier 'Mars Pathfinder' expedition, include 'Scooby-Doo', 'Darth Vader' and 'Yogi Bear'. 'It's official: Glasgow is on another planet ', Richard Luscombe, the Scotsman, 2005-07-29 Fr Links: European Space Agency NASA China National Space Administration British Astronomical Association Beagle 2 Red Rover goes to Mars

Intolerance: University Bans Smoking from September

'The University of Glasgow' is to ban smoking in all its buildings, including its 'student unions', seven months before legislation outlaws lighting-up in public places across Scotland. The proposals -- the first of their kind in Britain --will establish an all-out smoking ban on campus, forcing scholars and academics to seek somewhere else to indulge in the habit. In what will be seen as a triple blow to smokers, the university also wants to stop cigarette sales in its shops and bars, and ban smoking in all university-owned accommodation. University chiefs want the plans to be in place by 2005-09-01, three weeks before the start of the Martinmas autumn term. But officials are bracing themselves for opposition with the university's 'rival' student hang-outs, 'The Glasgow University Union' (GUU) and 'The Queen Margaret Union' (QMU), uniting against the move. They argue that it will harm trade, with students opting to use bars in the nearby trendy West End and the city centre. Mr.Jamie Mchale, the 'QMU' president, said:
'There is only one response we can make to this and that is that we are against it; it will affect our business.'
Mr.Niall Rowantree, president of the 'GUU', added:
'In principle, I am opposed to anything that threatens our finances and hampers the choice we can offer members and other students.'
The 'GUU' board is to discuss the early threat of a smoking ban on 2005-08-02 Tuesday. Legal advice is then likely to be taken.
'We have to see what options remain open to us,' Mr.Rowantree said. 'It should be up to the licence holder to decide if people are allowed to smoke on the premises.'
The university has decided to revise its no-smoking policy following pressure from the 'Students Representative Council' (SRC) since 2004-11 last year. The move towards a campus-wide ban was agreed at a meeting of the university's governing body last month. Until now, the Glasgow institution has allowed fully-ventilated smoking rooms in its buildings and licensed premises. But minutes of the last 'University Court' meeting show that all exemptions are to be removed and the policy extended to all buildings, including the unions, official vehicles, the 'College Club' used by professors and lecturers, and the 'Hetherington Research Club', predominantly frequented by postgraduate students.
'Smoking will not be permitted in any university building, department or official vehicle. All public areas in all buildings will be non-smoking,' the minutes state.
The university also wants to get rid of the sight of people puffing on cigarettes on campus by 'making it more difficult for smokers to congregate at the entrances to buildings' and by placing ashtrays 'some distance' away. Concerns about fewer applications from students using university halls of residence and flats have also been set aside. 'Any such impact is likely to be slight and may even be outweighed by an increase in applications from non-smokers,' the 'University Court' minutes claim. The university is seeking a response from student unions about the proposals by the end of 2005-07. A survey by the 'QMU' last year showed that 35.8 per cent of its customers would not use a non-smoking venue, with a further 4.9 per cent undecided. Mr.Mchale said:
'"Cheesy Pop" --our Friday club night, has 1_000 customers. 'If 350 of those chose another venue due to the smoking ban, it would have a damaging impact on our business. 'We would reasonably expect slightly more than 35 per cent to choose another venue because if one or two people in a group smoke, then the whole group tend not to come.'
Mr.Rowantree added:
'I am glad that they gave us a decent notice period to respond to this. 'There is still time to reach a compromise, because as things stand I don't think we are being given a "level playing field". 'We will lose out to other pubs, bars and nightclubs who will not be affected by the smoking ban until next year.'
But Mr.Dan Guy, the 'SRC' president, said:
'A smoking ban is in the interests of the general public, not just students. 'I do understand that the "unions" may feel that they do not have a "level playing field" if the university brings the ban in from 2005-09-01. 'There will be commercial arguments against a ban but a large number of non-smokers may be keen to use the "unions".'
A Glasgow University spokesman confirmed officials had in principle approved a ban on smoking in all university buildings, departments and vehicles, and a ban on the sale of tobacco products on campus from 2005-09-01. She said:
'A high proportion of the university's research effort is directed at improving the health of Scotland through seeking new treatments for smoking-related illnesses such as cancer, stroke and cardiovascular disease. 'It is all the more appropriate for us then to ban smoking on our campus in advance of the legislation.'
Ms.Maureen Moore, Chief Executive of 'ASH' ('Action on Smoking and Health') in Scotland, welcomed the university's decision. She said:
'The whole idea of the legislation is to protect the workforce and the public, so "Glasgow University" is to be congratulated for moving that forward. 'This will help young people quit smoking.'
However, other Scottish universities are unlikely to follow Glasgow's early implementation of the smoking ban. Officials at the universities of Edinburgh and Aberdeen said that although there had been discussions about how it will affect students and staff, no official policy has yet been decided. ASHES TO ASHES A ban on smoking in bars, restaurants and all public places was approved by MSPs last month 2005-06. 'The Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Bill' will come into force on 2006-03-26. Health Minister Mr.Andy Kerr has said the ban will help smokers give up and protect other people from passive smoking. The ban was approved by 97 votes to 17 with only 'The Conservative and Unionist party' opposed. Attempts to exempt theatre stages and specialist tobacco shops failed. Employers failing to enforce the ban will face fines of up to 2_500_GBP and those caught smoking could be hit with penalties of up to 1_000_GBP. Exemptions include prison cells and residential care centres. The Health Minister said that the smoking bill, first proposed by First Minister Jack Mcconnell in 2004-11, was the most important piece of public health legislation in a generation, and showed that Scotland can lead the rest of the UK. Just 7_000 people in Ireland stopped smoking in the first month of the Irish ban, but tobacco sales have since fallen by only 16 per cent. 'University just weeks from full smoke ban', ARTHUR MACMILLAN, Scotland on Sunday-- amacmillan@scotlandonsunday.com -- 2005-07-29 Links: Scottish Exec smoking in public places consulation Scottish Executive tobacco control action plan ASH Scotland FOREST

Money: RBS moving into China? Sure of 'Shell'?

Plenty of speculative activity around 'Royal Bank of Scotland' at present, and it has a feel of being 'the real deal'. It looks certain that Mr.Tom Mckillop, who has just announced his retirement in 2006-01 from the helm of drugs group 'AstraZeneca', will fetch up at 'RBS' in a vice-chairman's role prior to succeeding Mr.George Mathewson as Chairman at some juncture. And the rumours have become equally deafening as 'The Royal' plays a 'straight no-comment bat' that Chief Executive Mr.Fred Goodwin will imminently announce a major deal in China. Personalities often drive the business news agenda, and Mr.Mckillop's expected appointment also has a strategic dimension for 'RBS'. But the 'hard-headed' 'City' will probably be more interested in the idea that the bank looks set to spend well over 1_000_million_GBP in taking a substantial minority stake in 'Bank of China'. It would be a major geographical departure. 'RBS' over the past decade and more has built itself into a 'top-two' UK bank by profitability (largely through the purchase of 'NatWest'), and amassed a sizeable banking business in the USA that now contributes 1_000_million_GBP/year in profits. There are regular British and European 'bolt-on' acquisitions for 'The Royal', but a move into China would be a major new strategic direction. Everybody knows the Chinese economy is going 'gangbusters', and 'RBS' is not alone in wondering how to get a 'bridgehead' there to get access to its vast population and increasing consumerist aspirations. But the Chinese political and business backdrop is far more volatile and even opaque than the USA's eastern seaboard, and there are bound to be 'siren' voices that there is risk involved and also a danger of management stretch. Mr.Goodwin, whose business style is instinct tempered by a calculation of the percentages, looks to be 'hedging his bets' by only going in for a minority stake with 'Bank of China' (it is believed 10/15 per cent) at this stage. Critics of any such deal -- if it does happen -- will argue it will tie up a big slice of capital without getting enough managerial influence to make a difference. China feels a long way away, both physically and culturally. The thrust of 'RBS's' response may be to say it hasn't messed up a major new geographical move yet, so trust us. The 'City' will probably look 'trust' up in the dictionary, give Mr.Goodwin the benefit of the initial doubt, and hope like hell the bank is not about to enter what the Chinese call interesting times. Not so sure As Mr.Jeroen van der Veer wrapped up the press conference to mark 'Shell's' second-quarter results yesterday, a curious thing happened. The screen behind the Chief Executive began to show a black and white television advert. We were treated to a blast from the past that no doubt delighted older viewers. In the ad., people drive around town in cars and buses, while a jingle chimes:
'You can be sure with "Shell".'
Why the company wanted to remind us of this bit of marketing is a mystery, as what is obvious from yesterday's update is that you quite clearly can't. More than 18 months after The Great Reserves Fiasco that ripped the company's reputation to shreds, investors were told of the second major project delay in as many weeks. 'Bonga', a 1_500_million_GBP deepwater project off the coast of Nigeria, will not start producing until the fourth quarter, as opposed to the third. This after conceding that 'Sakhalin_II' -- its huge gas project in the Pacific Ocean -- would run a staggering 5_700_million_GBP over budget. Irritatingly, 'Shell' was asked whether it would be announcing such a delay just last week, and it said no. How are we to believe when it says 'Bonga' will stick to its budget? It's far more likely that it won't. Mr.Van der Veer went on and on about the need for 'Shell' to:
'improve its project management',
But it was pointed out that at last year's second-quarter results, he said:
'We have taken vigorous action on "Bonga" and "Sakhalin" and are strengthening our project management.'
Same time next year then? Of course, it must be conceded that both set-backs are products of the Mr.Philip Watts era. Perhaps the disgraced Chief Executive was just being shifty with the figures, as he was with the group's oil and gas reserves. Mr.Van der Veer was brought in to correct his predecessor's mistakes, and perhaps he will do a good job. But 'perhaps' is still the key word. 'Shell' is now the biggest company on the FTSE100, but those investors who aren't automatically taking part due to tracker funds should think before buying the shares. Sure of 'Shell'? I think not. 'McKillop eyes RBS chair, as Goodwin sets its targets east', MARTIN FLANGAN and JOHN BOWKER Yahoo! Business News, 2005-07-29 03:00

2005-07-28

Intolerance: The End of The IRA

'The Irish Republican Army (IRA)' has formally ordered an end to its armed campaign and says it will pursue exclusively peaceful means. In a long-awaited statement, the republican organisation said it would follow a democratic path, ending more than 30 years of violence. The 'Sinn Fein party's' President, Mr.Gerry Adams said the move was a 'courageous and confident initiative' and that the moment must be seized. UK Prime Minister Mr.Tony Blair said it was a: UK Prime Minister
'Step of unparalleled magnitude'. 'It is what we have striven for and worked for throughout the eight years since "The Good Friday Agreement",' he said.
'The IRA' made its decision after an internal debate prompted by The 'Sinn Fein Party' Predident's call in 2005-04 to pursue its goals exclusively through 'politics'. Sinn Fein PresidentThe 'Sinn fein Party' President said the statement of 2005-07-28 Thursday was a:
'Defining point in the search for a lasting peace with justice'
-- and also presented challenges for others.
'It means that "Unionists" who are for "The Good Friday Agreement" must end their ambivalence,' he said. 'And it is a direct challenge to "The DUP" to decide if they want to put the past behind them, and make peace with the rest of the people of this island.'
In a joint communique the British and Irish governments welcomed the statement and said if 'The IRA's' words
'Are borne out by actions; it will be a momentous and historic development'. 'Verified acts of completion will provide a context in which we will expect all parties to work towards the full operation of the political institutions, including "The Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive", and "The North-South structures", at the earliest practicable date,' it said.
KEY POINTS OF STATEMENT
  • All 'IRA' units ordered to dump arms
  • Members ordered to pursue objectives through 'exclusively peaceful means'
  • Arms to be put beyond use as quickly as possible
  • Two church witnesses to verify this
  • Statement followed 'honest and forthright' consultation process
  • Strong support among 'IRA' members for 'Sinn Fein's' peace strategy
  • There is now an alternative way to achieve goal of an United Ireland
  • 'Volunteers must not engage in any other activities whatsoever'
'The Independent Monitoring Commission', which examines paramilitary activity, has also been asked to produce an additional report in 2006-01, three months after their next regular report. During 'The Northern Ireland Troubles', 'The IRA' murdered about 1_800 civilians and members of 'The security forces'. 'The IRA statement' issued on 2005-07-28 Thursday said the end of the armed campaign would take effect from 16:00 BST.
'All "IRA" units have been ordered to dump arms. 'All "Volunteers" have been instructed to assist the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means. '"Volunteers" must not engage in any other activities whatsoever. '"The IRA" leadership has also authorised our representative to engage with the "IICD" to complete the process to verifiably put its arms beyond use in a way which will further enhance public confidence and to conclude this as quickly as possible.'
The statement said independent witnesses from 'Roman Christian' and 'Protestant Christian' churches had been invited to see the 'decommissioning process'. It is understood there has already been a meeting between the head of the 'decommissioning' body, General Mr.John de Chastelain, and 'The IRA'. DUP LeaderDUP leader Mr.Ian Paisley greeted the statement with scepticism, saying that 'The IRA' had 'reverted to type' after previous 'historic' statements. he said:
'We will judge "The IRA's" "bona fides" over the next months and years based on its behaviour and activity'.
He said they had also:
'Failed to provide the "transparency" necessary to truly build confidence that the guns have gone in their entirety'.
UUP LeaderUlster Unionist Party's Mr.Reg Empey, told the BBC's 'World at One' it would take time to convince the people of Northern Ireland that this was more than just rhetoric. He said:
'People are so sceptical, having been burnt so many times before'
SDLP leader Mr.Mark Durkan welcomed the statement, saying it was
SDLP Leader'clear, clean and complete', but 'long overdue'.
He called on 'Sinn Fein' to commit to the new policing structures in Northern Ireland, as his party had done. 'Taoiseach' Mr.Bertie Ahern has said he welcomes 'The IRA's' statement that it was ending its 'armed campaign'. Taoisech'The Taoiseach' said the end of 'The IRA' as a paramilitary group is the outcome the governments have been working towards' since the 1994 ceasefire. 'The IRA' pledge was welcomed by the USA Administration as
'An important and potentially historic statement'.
A 'White House' statement said the words must now be followed by actions and acknowledged there would be scepticism, particularly among victims and their families.
'They will want to be certain that this terrorism and criminality are indeed things of the past,' the statement said.
The statement added that it understood from 'The IRA' communique that
'The IRA and its members will no longer have any contact with any foreign paramilitary and terrorist organisations'.
When he made his appeal in 2005-04, The 'Sinn Fein Party' President said it was
'A genuine attempt to drive "The Peace Process" forward'.
'Republicans' had been under intense pressure to end 'IRA' activity after the 26.5_million_GBP 'Northern Bank' raid in 2004-12, and the murder of Belfast man Mr.Robert Mccartney in 2005-01. Political talks last year failed to restore devolution, which stalled amid claims of 'IRA' intelligence gathering at Parliament Buildings, 'Stormont', in 2002. 'The Provisional IRA's' campaign of violence was aimed at forcing an end to the British presence in Northern Ireland, leading to an 'United Ireland'. 'IRA says armed campaign is over ', BBC NEWS, 2005/07/28 20:47:06 GMT

2005-07-26

The Mitchell Library Closed for Refurb

'The Mitchell Library' in Glasgow has closed for six weeks as part of a 2.75_million_GBP refurbishment. The closure will enable work to be carried out on the ground floor and is part of a rebuild due to finish next year, 2006. 'Library closes for £2.75m refurbishment ', The Scotsman, 2005-07-26 Tu

Scottish Airport Expansion Plans

A radical revamp of Scotland's largest airport was unveiled yesterday that will include a major expansion and significant changes to the main terminal building. A glass-fronted railway station could be incorporated into the enlarged 'Glasgow Airport' complex by 2009 to cope with soaring passenger numbers. The 250_million_GBP plan also includes extending the 'check-in hall', with the 'domestic baggage reclaim' area moved to the west side of the building. The front of the terminal will be brought out as far as the multi-storey car park, with a second car park built within ten years. The details are part of a blueprint published by 'BAA Scotland', the airport's operator, to accommodate an expected increase in passengers from 8.7_million to between 12_million and 14_million by 2015, and up to 24_million by 2030. A second terminal could even be created by 2015, although 'BAA Scotland' said it would duplicate resources. Space for a second runway has been set aside, although 'BAA Scotland' believes that this will not be required 'for a very long time', if at all. The government said in 2003 that there was no clear case for one. The airport's 5_500 workforce is projected to rise to 8_200 in ten years and to 12_100 by 2030. The rail link from 'Glasgow Central', expected to be completed by early 2009, would include track curving into a first-floor airport station at the southern end of the existing multi-storey car park. Passengers would transfer to the terminal on 'travellators' along the eastern edge of the car park, with a new bridge over the current vehicle forecourt. The first stage of the expansion of the airport, which celebrates its 40th birthday next year, is a 6_million_GBP extension of The International Wing, which will be completed this autumn (2005). The 'check-in hall' expansion and reconfiguration of the terminal to bring domestic and international baggage together is expected to follow within five years. Vehicle access would be restricted to road loops at either end of the terminal, with links to the M8 motorway improved. By 2015, a second International 'pier' will be added to the west of the terminal to accommodate more aircraft. Glasgow Airport's Managing Director Mr.Stephen Baxter, said he aimed to keep Glasgow 'top of the pile', even though Edinburgh Airport is forecast to outgrow it. He said:
'We have ten times as many "long-haul" passengers than any other airport in Scotland, and that's what we intend to focus on.'
'BAA Scotland's' Managing Director Mr.Donal Dowds, conceded that the expansion would come at a price:
'There is no such thing as a silent, successful airport; it does have an impact on the local community.'
The airport's 'masterplan' says a balance has to be struck between the environmental impact of aviation and its benefits, such as providing jobs. 'BAA Scotland's' Managing Director said new security equipment, including 'X-ray machines', to detect explosives and non-metallic ammunition, was being tested at some of 'BAA's' other airports. 'Glasgow Airport rolls out future as revamp unveiled', Alastair Dalton, The Scotsman, 2005-07-26 Tu Links: BAA Highlands & Islands airports Prestwick Airport

Intolerance: Big Fuss Over Indian Actresses

Ms.Aishwarya Rai 'Bollywood's Good Girls Learn to Be Bad'-- An Article by Anupama Chopra. Halfway through 'Aitraaz' ('Objection'), a 'Bollywood' take on Mr.Barry Levinson's 'Disclosure,' 'Sonia' grabs hold of 'Raj'. Once upon a time, they were lovers. But when 'Sonia', an ambitious model, opted for an abortion instead of child and marriage, 'Raj left her'. Now she is his boss. 'Sonia' starts to undress him, whispering, 'Show me you are an animal.' When he refuses and walks away, she screams: 'I'm not asking you to leave your wife. I just want a physical relationship. If I don't have an objection, why should you?' Ms Priyanka Chopra Ms Priyanka Chopra The actress Ms.Priyanka Chopra had a difficult time playing this scene. A former 'Miss World', Ms.Chopra was a sophisticated, globally fêted celebrity and she had prepared for her rôle by studying the calculated seductiveness of Ms.Sharon Stone in 'Basic Instinct.'But on the day that scene was shot, Ms.Chopra broke down and cried. The directors, brothers who go by the hyphenated Abbas-Mustan, had to spend a few hours convincing her that she was only playing a character. Filming didn't start until late afternoon. Ms.Chopra wasn't just being dramatic; she is a 'Bollywood' actress, and as such, trained to play the role of a virginal glam-doll, not a sexual aggressor. By tradition, a 'Bollywood' heroine is a one-dimensional creation who may wear eye-popping bustiers or writhe passionately during a song in the rain. But she is unfailingly virtuous. Whether girlfriend, wife or mother, she is the repository of Indian moral values. In the ancient epic 'Ramayana,' the hero 'Lakshman' draws a furrow in the earth, 'The Line of Lakshman', which represents the limits of proper feminine behavior, and requests that his sister-in-law 'Sita' not step outside it. As if heeding his exhortation, 'Bollywood' heroines have rarely stepped out of line, even for a kiss. But a decade-long cultural churning has overturned stereotypes in India. In 1991, the threat of fiscal collapse forced the government to introduce wide-ranging economic reforms and allow multinational corporations to operate in India. The same year, satellite television arrived. Today, consumerism, globalisation, the proliferation of semi-clad bodies in print and television, and the emergence of a more worldly audience have redefined the boundaries of what is permissible. Sex has been pulled out of the closet and actors have become more willing to experiment with their images. The latest 'Bollywood' heroines seem to be taking a page out of Ms.Mae West's book: when they are good, they are very good, but when they are bad, they're better. Ms.Mallika Sherawat Ms.Mallika Sherawat Ms.Mallika Sherawat, 24, a statuesque actress, needed little convincing to step out of the stereotype. Ms.Sherawat made her leading-lady debut in 2003 with 'Khwahish' ('Desire'), which grabbed headlines for its 17 kisses. Her follow-up was even steamier. Ms.Mallika Sherawat'Murder,' released last year, a rehash of Mr.Adrian Lyne's 'Unfaithful,' had her playing a lonely housewife in Bangkok who has a passionate affair with an ex-boyfriend. Ms.Sherawat pushed the edge of the sexual envelope as far as the Indian Censor Board would allow. The lovemaking scenes featured bare backs, cleavage and passionate kissing. Bolder still was the idea that a respectable upper-middle-class woman could have sexual desires and cheat on her husband -- and get away with it. 'Murder' made back its investment, approximately 750_000_USD, several times over. Mr.Ashish Rajadhyaksha, a senior fellow at the Bangalore-based 'Centre for the Study of Culture and Society', said the film established Ms.Sherawat as an Indian 'post-Feminist icon.' The self-anointed 'kissing queen of India' now has bigger ambitions. She plays an Indian princess in a coming 'Hong Kong' movie, 'The Myth,' starring Mr.Jackie Chan. After making a splash on Mr.Chan's arm at 'The Cannes Film Festival', she is, she says, negotiating with 'Creative Artists Agency' for representation. Ms.Mallika Sherawat Ms.Mallika Sherawat Ms.Sherawat's journey from a traditional small-town nobody to an international sex symbol is a modern-day fairy tale that has already had an impact. (For Ms.Sherawat, it also has a downside: she says her father refuses to speak her.) Film studios here in Mumbai are over-run with 'starlets' fiercely trading on their sexuality, and even established actresses are now taking chances. In 'Fida' ('Crazy'), released last year, Ms.Kareena Kapoor played a scheming hedonist who beguiles her besotted lover into robbing a bank for her. Ms.Kapoor, a fourth-generation star, is 'Bollywood' aristocracy. Her great-grandfather Mr.Prithviraj Kapoor was a leading man in the 1940's, and her grandfather (Mr.Raj Kapoor), parents, uncles and sister are famous actors. There were audible gasps from audiences when her true character was revealed with a dramatic flourish in 'Fida'; she steps out of the shower with a man who is not her lover. Heroines aren't just discovering sex, they are positively reveling in bad behavior. In a forthcoming, still-untitled film, Ms.Sushmita Sen, a former 'Miss Universe', plays a protagonist who:
'enjoys being negative,' she said. 'She cheats, lies, sleeps with men, even kills them and gets away with it all. 'I want to give this bad woman a tremendous conviction. You have to fear her.'
Ms.Aishwarya Rai also hopes to induce fear. Her ethereal good looks have been immortalised in wax at 'Madame Tussauds' in London. Ms.Aishwarya Rai In the 2005-07 issue of the British magazine 'Harpers & Queen' she is listed as 'The Ninth Most Beautiful Woman In The World'. But in 'Dhoom_2' ('Cacophony_2') to be shot later this year, she is to play a 'vamp'. Ms.Rai won't comment on how badly her character will behave.
'In this film, you can't define heroes and villains, but it's a character I've never played before,' she said. 'Why get pigeonholed?'
Ms.Aishwarya Rai The good-girl heroine isn't the only standard 'Bollywood' type to be transformed. The 'vamp', Hindi cinema's designated 'bad girl', was traditionally just as important a part of the typology. She did things that upright Indian girls weren't supposed to do -- drink, smoke and have sex -- and was usually seen on the villain's arm in garish dens or smoke-filled bars, wearing feather boas and revealing outfits. But in the 70s, a slew of more Westernised actresses appropriated the 'vamp's' glamour for heroines by adopting more flashy clothes and more sexually assertive body language. By the 80s the 'vamp' had disappeared. A decade later, globalisation further scrambled neat moral divisions. 'The heroine,' says Mr.Gyan Prakash, director of 'The Shelby Cullom Davis Centre for Historical Studies' at Princeton University,
'now dressed by a fashion designer and placed in a consumerist mise en scène, was liberated. She could appear in a club and wear revealing clothes without being coded.'
But though she was sexy, she wasn't necessarily having sex. In the last five years, however, the heroine has come full circle and outvamped the 'vamp'. Even the good-girl heroines are becoming more complex. One of the year's biggest is 'Bunty aur Bubli,' a sanitised 'Bonnie and Clyde' about two small-town con artists who go on a looting spree across India. The woman, 'Bubli', unapologetically uses her sexuality to cheat people. But she is not evil or predatory; she's just looking for a good time. Her disdain for the housewife role she is forced to play is comic:
'If I have to make mango pickle one more time, I'll die,' she tells the police officer who arrests the couple.
Interpreting the Hindi cinema heroine's latest avatar as a feminist, however, may be stretching the truth a bit. Earlier films like 'Hunterwali' ('The Woman With a Whip,' 1935) and 'Amar Jyoti' ('Eternal Flame,' 1936) featured more powerful female images -- a whip-wielding, crime-fighting action heroine, and a female pirate who keeps men in captivity. The scriptwriter Mr.Bhavani Iyer dismisses present-day heroines as 'naïve attempts to portray reality,' but admits that they are preferable to the deified women in earlier films. They are, in any case, just a beginning. At present, 'Lakshman's line' may be bent out of shape, but it is still visible. The box office occasionally applauds the sexual daring of a Ms.Mallika Sherawat, but as the director Mr.Karan Johar, who has made several wholesome, family-centered blockbusters, put it:
'In "Bollywood", the No. 1 position will always be reserved for the girl you can take home to mum.'
That's why most actresses are hedging their bets. Ms.Chopra got rave reviews and awards in 'Aitraaz,' but she has followed up with good-girl acts.
'I'm not sure I can play such a sexually aggressive character again,' she says. 'My family and friends were very shocked.'
Ms.Priyanka ChopraPriyanka Chopra 'Bollywood's Good Girls Learn to Be Bad', Anupama Chopra, Mumbai, New York Times, 2005-07-24

Intolerance: Anti-Piracy Verification for Windows OS

'Microsoft' has stepped up its fight against software piracy by requiring users to verify their copies of the 'Windows' operating system. Anyone downloading updates for 'Windows XP' will be required to check that their operating system is genuine. 'Security Updates' are exempt from this in order to prevent people spreading viruses across the Internet. A third of software worldwide is fake, according to industry group, 'The Business Software Alliance'. Losing 'billions' 'Microsoft' said that more than a third of its software is counterfeit, which it says costs it 'billions' of US American Dollars of lost income. With 'Windows' accounting for 90 per cent of operating systems sold worldwide, cracking down on the pirates is one of the few ways for 'Microsoft' to expand its business.
'This is another tool in our arsenal,' said Mr.David Lazar, director of Genuine Windows for 'Microsoft'.
Customers who discover that their copy of 'Windows' is pirated have two options: They can get a free version of 'Windows' if they fill out a counterfeit report identifying the source of the software, providing proof of purchase and returning the counterfeit CD. If they are unable to provide all the information, filling out a report will entitle them to receive a copy of 'Windows XP Home Edition' for the reduced price of 56_GBP or 'Windows XP Professional Edition' for 86_GBP.
Genuine article The new policy is part of 'Windows Genuine Advantage', a scheme set up by 'Microsoft' in 2004-09 to encourage people to use legitimate software. The firm has been offering incentives, in the form of 'freebies' such as photo slide-show software, to persuade people to use the service.
'We want to give customers a reason to purchase the genuine product,' said Mr.Alex Hilton, Anti-Piracy Manager for 'Microsoft'.
So far, 45 million copies of 'Windows' have been verified via the system, although 'Microsoft' has, as yet, no figures to gauge what proportion of these failed the test. Neither has it set a figure on the level it would like to see piracy reduced to.
'Aspirationally we want to remove piracy altogether and we feel the majority of people want to use our software legitmately,' said Mr.Hilton.
He advised anyone looking to purchase 'Windows XP' to make sure they only do so via trusted shops and websites. 'Microsoft steps up piracy fight' , BBC NEWS, 2005/07/26 10:23:26 GMT Windows Preloaded, no OEM CDROMs

'Vista' aka 'Longhorn' Out From Next Month

Windows 2006 'Microsoft', the world's largest software maker, has said the next version of its much-delayed operating system will be known as 'Windows Vista'. The software, until now known by its code name 'Longhorn', is due for release towards the end of 2006, half a decade after the launch of 'Windows XP'. To hit the deadline 'Microsoft' has already taken out a number of features it had promised for the system. A test version will be released by 2005-08-03, the Seattle, USA-based firm said. Once 'Vista' hits the market it will be the longest gap between releases of 'Windows' systems. On Thursday, 2005-07-21, 'Microsoft' announced fourth-quarter nett profits of 2_110_million_GBP for the three months up to 2005-06-30. Chief Financial Officer Mr.Chris Liddell said 'Microsoft' would benefit greatly in the next financial year from new products. Improved security 'Microsoft's' flagship software already runs on about 90 per cent of personal computers worldwide. The firm has promised that 'Vista' will take what for 'Microsoft' is a completely new approach to computing, with security not an 'add-on' but an integral part of the operating system. But to meet the autumn 2006 deadline, 'Vista' will be launched with some key components missing. Once they have been released -- probably in the form of so-called 'service packs' -- the operating system will have a much-improved filing system, a new way to render graphics and much higher internet connectivity. One of its most important features could be the promised seamless integration with a vast range of computing devices -- from media centres to wireless music players. 'Clarity, connectivity' According to Mr.Brad Goldberg, general manager of 'Windows' product development at 'Microsoft', the renaming is in the interests of 'communicating the idea of clarity'. 'That lets users focus on the things they need to focus on,' he added. A video of the launch showed the 'Vista' brand name alongside the slogan 'Clear, Confident, Connected; Bringing clarity to your world'. 'Microsoft' has previously said that 'Vista' will make malicious software that gets onto computers without the users' knowledge 'a thing of the past'. Executives at the firm have said 'Vista', which is likely to run on high-specification computers only, has been designed with security as 'part of the design, not a "bolt-on"'.
MICROSOFT HQ: Redmond, Washington Sales: 36bn_USD (2004) Profits: 8.2bn_USD (2004) Staff: 57_000 Founded: 1975 Chairman: Mr.Bill Gates Chief executive: Mr.Steven Ballmer
'Vista opens on Microsoft Windows', BBC NEWS, 2005/07/22 15:52:50 GMT

Intolerance: New 'Ringtone' Regulation

Rules on 'ringtone' advertising are being 'beefed up' following a deluge of complaints to the 'watchdog' that regulates 'premium rate 'phone services' in the UK. 'Icstis' has welcomed the new safeguards to protect consumers signing up for 'premium rate subscription services', such as 'ringtones' and 'wallpapers'. It says misleading ads. have meant many people have run up large bills because all costs are not spelled out. More than 100 people complained to the 'watchdog' about the 'Crazy Frog ringtone'. 'Teenagers vulnerable' The new rules were draw up by the UK's cell 'phone operators to determine how 'premium rate subscription services' are marketed by content providers. The deadline for complying with them is 2005-08-09. The rules go as far as to dictate font sizes and how prices should be displayed in TV adverts. In recent months, many people have mistakenly run up large bills by inadvertently subscribing to 'ringtone' and 'text' services when they thought they were just buying one tune. The popularity of the 'Crazy Frog ringtone' has led many people to download it to their 'phone without realising that it is only part of a bundle of tunes they will regularly be billed for. 'Teenagers are particularly vulnerable as they do not always fully appreciate the conditions attached to such services,' said Mr.George Kidd, 'Icstis' director. The wildly popular 'Crazy Frog' has made history by becoming the first 'ringtone' to reach the top of the pop charts. It is part of a package of ringtones created by mobile content company 'Jamster', and sold through a mobile service provider called 'MBlox'. Consumers who may think they are buying the 'Crazy Frog ringtone' are signing up for a subscription plan. Each week, they receive a new 'text' message for which they are charged 3_GBP, enabling them to download another 'ringtone'. No small print The new rules, drawn up by cell 'phone operators and backed by 'premium service' 'watchdog', 'Icstis', will force content sellers to make it clear what people have bought and how much ongoing costs are. They demand that details of prices and how often people are billed are prominent in adverts. For TV adverts, scrolling price banners and small fonts are outlawed. In print, adverts prices and conditions must be in the main body of an advert rather than the small print. They also stipulate that as soon as someone has signed up for a service they are sent a 'text message' telling them what they are getting. Customers must also get a reminder of how to unsubscribe every month or every time 20_GBP is spent. Mr.Kidd said the rules built on the universal 'stop' command that was introduced in 2004. This lets people unsubscribe by sending 'stop all' to the short code associated with the service they have signed up for. Mr.Adrian Harris, founder of the 'Grumbletext' website where people log problems with 'phone services, said he welcomed the new safeguards -- up to a point. If all firms complied with the rules then consumers would definitely be better off, he said. But, he said, the big problem was policing 'ringtone' sellers. He called on 'Icstis' to be more active in seeking out offending firms rather than just investigating on a case-by-case basis. At the end of 2005-06 'The Department of Trade and Industry' announced a big increase in fines for firms that break rules on the selling of 'premium rate' 'phone services. After the increase the maximum fine is 250_000_GBP -- more than double the previous upper limit of 100_000_GBP. 'Ringtone ads face stiff controls ', BBC NEWS,2005/07/22 16:38:06 GMT

2005-07-25

Intolerance: Pylon Fuss

The proposed route of a 400_000_V overhead transmission line -- stretching 220_km -- has been published by 'Scottish and Southern Energy'. The new 320_million_GBP route follows 18 months of consultation after the original plans sparked objections. The line will consist of about 600 pylons, some up to 65_m high, which will take power from Beauly, near Inverness, to Denny, near Falkirk. Part of the proposed line will run through the Cairngorms National Park. New pylons 'Scottish and Southern Energy' said that there would be fewer pylons and less transmission lines than currently run through the park area. There will be 76 pylons compared to 128 at present. The company also said that overall there would be 200 fewer pylons than on the existing 132_000_V transmission line, but that they would be bigger. The height of the new pylons will range from 42_m to 65_m. Almost 80 per cent of the pylons will be lower than 57_m. The height of the pylons on the existing line ranges from 25_m to 41_m. Campaigners had urged the company to put the cable underground but 'Scottish and Southern Energy' said this would could cost between six and 12 times as much. The power firm said that about 60 per cent of the line would be built on a route adjacent to the existing line, which it will replace. The upgraded pylon line will carry power produced by new wind farms and hydro schemes in the highlands and islands to customers further south. A spokesman for 'Scottish and Southern Energy' said that the new route was published on its website. He said that anyone concerned about where the line would go should consult the on-line map. An application to build and operate the line would soon be submitted to 'Scottish Executive' ministers, the company said. Spokesman for protest group 'Stirling Before Pylons', Mr.Peter Pearson, said:
'We are massively disappointed to learn there have been no significant changes to the proposed route. 'The proposed line passes almost directly over some houses, and near to many others.'
He pointed out some of the areas most badly hit included Dunblane, Braco, Kinbuck, Ashfield, Sheriffmuir, Logie, and Plean. Mr.Pearson added the pylons were almost as high as Scotland's national landmark, 'The Wallace Monument', and threatened to come within a few hundreds metres of it. He added they would be an 'eyesore' from 'Stirling Castle' and right across the Forth Valley and the structures would damage a 'tranquil and sensitive' area. The protest group called on 'Stirling Council' to object to the 'poorly thought out' proposals and demanded a 'Public Inquiry' into the plans. New power pylon route published', BBC NEWS, 2005/07/25 16:07:16 GMT