2005-04-26

Health & Stats: Fat for a Longer Life?

Be fat and laugh, you might say. The news seemed to fly in the face of all the warnings about obesity with which we've been bombarded over the past few years by governments, nutritionists and celebrity chefs, but research published in the USA last week suggested that people who were 'moderately overweight' were relatively more likely to live longer than those of normal weight. You may have greeted this conclusion, published in 'The Journal of the American Medical Association', with a triumphant shredding of diet sheets and by hurling your exercise bike out of the window. For even as the UK obsesses over television shows such as 'You Are What You Eat' and 'Jamie's School Dinners', US American researchers flung another flummoxing set of facts into the obesity debate. They declared not only that people who were at the bottom end of the obesity scale -- that is with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of between 30 &35 -- stand a better chance of living longer than those of supposedly optimum weight, but that the willowy ranks of the skinny -- those with a BMI of less than 18.5 -- enjoy a slightly increased chance of dying earlier.
BMI is an internationally-recognised scale which uses height and weight measurements to indicate whether your weight falls within a healthy range. On this scale, a BMI of between 27.8 and 31.1 is regarded as 'overweight', while a BMI of over 31.2 is judged to be 'obese'.
According to this latest theory, you have to be grossly obese, with a BMI soaring over the 35 mark, to run a greatly increased risk from your accumulated flab. These findings, from a representative sample of the USA population examined over the past three decades, seemed to suggest the concept of what is normal weight may have to be re-thought. Is it possible, after all, to be fat and still live a fit life? Will headlines which scream: 'Obesity timebomb threatens Scotland' soon be a thing of the past? Are the US Americans telling us that we can up our 'calorie count' and smile as our girth expands without a twinge of guilt? Well, sadly, the answer is 'not really'. You can indeed be fat (according to the BMI charts) -- or perhaps more accurately, heavy, sometimes extremely heavy -- and still be healthy, but it takes more than flexing your fingers on the TV remote to achieve that. At the Scottish Institute of Sport (SIS), Mr.Brian Walker, a former GP who is now a sports and exercise medicine specialist, has his reservations about the research results from the USA, or at least about how we should interpret them.
'It's not all that revolutionary,' he says. 'Like many things in medicine, it's the old bell-shaped curve: at one end of the curve we've got the extremely thin, with their particular problems, and at the other end the extremely obese, and nobody disagrees that they do have significant problems.'
It is an interesting paper, he concedes, but stresses that it focuses on 'mortality rather than morbidity' -- deaths rather than illness.
'And there's still a fair bit of morbidity that still goes even with modest obesity.'
As health officials are always telling us, our risk of 'heart disease', 'stroke' and 'cancer' increase with excess weight, as does our risk of developing 'adult-onset diabetes'.
'The problem with big studies like this is that you still have lots of "confounders" in there,' Mr.Walker continues. 'How many of these people exercised? How many of them had required medical intervention?'
Many specialists regard BMI as of little relevance as an indicator of obesity when it comes to high-performance sport, in which, even in heavyweight sports such as Rugby Union or Highland Games, muscle bulk accounts for much of the weight.
'There are other ways of assessing that,' he adds.
Mr.Walker's colleague at the SIS, sport dietician Ms.Lorraine Cullen, also warns about looking at the US American study too simplistically:
'Everybody's an individual, and if an individual has a "Body Mass Index" of under 18.5, they might be "optimally healthy" but that's also a range that's quite often underweight, so they might be fit but fragile, or have bone problems, or be deficient in nutrients because they're not matching their energy needs.'
So, one up for the fatties? Not really, replies Ms.Cullen.
'We just need to look at the statistics, and Scotland's high instance of coronary heart disease. 'Once you do get into a BMI above 30, there are still factors there. 'Some of this research is saying that's extending life expectancy, but is the quality of life there? 'It's all got to do with the drugs and things we now have to reduce the impact of "heart disease" and prolong life.'
The 'truth' is that many heavy-duty athletes -- 'rugby props', 'weight-lifters', 'heavyweight boxers', for instance -- would register as obese or even grossly obese going by their BMI. But to get to the peak condition they're in, they maintain the kind of gruelling training regimes which would drive their 'beer-bellied', non-exercising, but similar weighted, counterparts 'squeaking under the sofa'. Step forward Mr.Bruce Aitken, last year's 'World Heavyweight Champion' on the Highland Games heavy events circuit, a man who can hurl a 7.3_kg 'hammer' more than 47.5_m, or a 210_kg 'shot' 14.3_m. Despite his formidable bulk, you wouldn't call him fat, in fact you wouldn't feel inclined to call him anything but 'sir'; he stands at 1.955_m and his current weight is approaching 124_kg. By my calculation that gives him a BMI of 32.37, which makes him 'obese' in theory.
'Do I look obese? I haven't got a fat belly. 'It's mostly muscle,' says the 34-year-old athlete, who lives near Laurencekirk, Aberdeenshire. 'When the doctor reads his chart, I suppose it would say I'm obese, but I can skip and run better than most people. 'At my work [he's a plant supervisor in the food industry], there are people who are may be the same weight as me, but they're not as healthy, and if you're running upstairs or whatever, they'll be "puffing and panting" whereas you're not really out of breath at all.'
Mr.Aitken trains hard, working out with 'weights' daily in the current countdown to the games season. Health is not simply to do with weight, but the way you lead your life, he agrees. He also consumes appropriate foods, which in his case includes platefuls of steak and rice pudding.
'I think rice pudding is one of the best things for replacing "carbohydrates" after a training session; it's convenient to eat, and your "energy" is replaced quickly. 'I don't really know "the facts", but I think a lot of these people who do without food to lose weight are actually damaging their bodies because they're not getting the proper nutrients. 'The problem isn't so much eating as keeping yourself fit.'
Someone with first-hand expertise in 'the weight vs fitness' debate, both as a scientist and also as a competitor in Highland Games hill races, is Professor Mr.Mike Lean, head of human nutrition at 'The University of Glasgow'. He says that a far more effective guide to fitness and health risk is waist circumference and trouser size, rather than BMI.
'Over 40 inches [1_m] and the risks mount. 'This level indicates excess fat inside the abdomen around the vital organs.'
And he points to some of the greatest World Championship Heavyweight Boxers -- 'they have a BMI above 30, but none -- except Mr.George Foreman, on his supposed comeback -- had a waist above one metre.
'There is no doubt that people who are active are fitter than those who are inactive, at any level of fatness. 'But our work in Scotland says that obese people can never become as fit as normal-weight people by being active.'
The appropriately named Mr.Lean also has mixed feelings about the news from the USA:
'That research is really to do with dying, and obesity does increase the risk of dying. 'The way the research was done may make it appear less risky if the comparison group is relatively fat already -- that is to say, ordinary Americans -- but my main response is that obesity brings an enormous catalogue of medical, social and psychological problems which are much more damaging than being dead. 'The really good news so far as dying is concerned, is that quite modest weight loss, around five to ten kilograms, will increase life expectancy substantially for obese people, especially those with "diabetes", and similar weight loss will cut the risk of "diabetes" by more than half.'
Someone who welcomes the American survey is Ms.Shelley Bovey, author of 'What Have You got to Lose: the Great Weight Debate and How to Diet Successfully' .
'I think I'm supposed to be eight stone [51_kg], because I'm five foot two [1.575_m], and I'm actually 12 [76.5_kg], but I'm very fit at that weight, and I feel "right". 'Human beings come in all sorts of natural body shapes and sizes, but the standards imposed by insurance companies and the medical profession don't make any allowance for that, nor do they make any allowance for people's "genes".'
Ms.Bovey became an icon of the size-acceptance movement, writing books such as 'Being Fat is Not a Sin' before deciding to lose 38_kg and writing 'What Have You Got to Lose...'. She says she wouldn't like to go back to her old weight, and believes in exercise.
'But if I get below 12 stone [76.5_kg], people start saying that I look ill -- and I know I my face goes all drawn and thin. I had a heart check-up recently and was told by a cardiologist that my weight is not a risk factor. My "cholesterol" is very low and my "blood pressure" is very low.'
Ms.Bovey, now 57, doesn't believe the US American survey could lull people into a false sense of security.
'I'm happy the way I am, but I would not be happy putting on more weight.'
Back in the USA -- a country so concerned with its rampant obesity problem that even 'Sesame Street' touts the merits of exercise and plenty of fresh fruit -- someone widely quoted when the American survey results were announced was Mr.Steven Blair, president of the Texas-based 'Cooper Research Institute', which promotes healthy living.
'I love it,' he said of the report. 'There are people who have made up their minds that obesity is the biggest public health problem we have to face. 'These numbers show that maybe it's not so big.' 'That caught my eye,' remarks Mr.Walker at the SIS. 'Steve Blair has done a lot of work on health and exercise -- and he's also quite "cuddly in shape", so I think it interesting that he was asked to comment. But Blair is also a vigorous exerciser, who has argued long and hard that even if you are a bit "cuddly in shape", exercise will give you a lot of protection. 'And that's certainly the message I would "buy into".'
So 'fat and fit' seems unlikely to be adopted as a maxim by our national health campaigners. 'On yer bike' remains the slogan. 'Exploring the fatty issue', Jim Gilchrist, The Scotsman, 2005-04-26, Tu Links: Health Education Board for Scotland Healthy Eating Association for the Study of Obesity International Obesity Task Force National Obesity Forum

Money: The Cost of Living (Exactly)

The old adage that nothing in life is free has never been more true, with new research revealing for the first time the cost of living a life in modern-day Britain -- a princely sum of more than 1.5_million_GBP. The exact figure of 1_537_380_GBP has emerged as part of research by the investments company Prudential into how people in Britain spend and save over the course of a lifetime. A breakdown shows that more than a third goes into spending on housing, food and clothing -- a total of 550_000_GBP; followed by taxation, which claims 286_311_GBP; while we spend a massive 236_312_GBP on leisure and luxuries. At the very bottom of the public's spending are education and children, which receive just 40_650_GBP during a lifetime. But while the headline cost of living may seem fantastically high, academics believe the figures show that the British public has got its priorities wrong when it comes to spending. Mr.Robert Wright, Professor of 'Economics' at 'The University of Stirling', said the figures showed that the nation was failing to face up to the need to save.
'What is important in this case is that the amount spent on basic provisions is barely 36 per cent of the total amount. That means there's a lot left over and a lot spent on leisure and luxuries. 'To put it in perspective: in some poor countries, all of their income is taken by just day-to-day essentials. It shows that Britain is a very affluent nation. 'These sorts of figures are designed to make people think about saving and putting money in pensions. 'One of the arguments made by some politicians and academics is that people just can't afford to save for their future, but these figures show that we are spending a lot more than we imagine we do. 'But with the "demographic squeeze" of an increasingly ageing population coming, it will come to a point where there isn't going to be much of a state pension left. 'So it will be down to people to save, and while it won't cut into the money required for the basic cost of living, it will probably cut into the leisure and luxuries that we have. 'We have to accept that as a nation, the UK undersaves in comparison with Europe and America.'
Mr.Wright said he believed that the UK as a whole had to come to terms with the idea that they would have to pay to get the service they had expected in the past.
'I don't think that people realise that the future can be different from the past,' he said. 'There's no reason why it should [be the same]: house prices will not go up forever, the "demographics" of yesterday will not be repeated tomorrow. 'It's the same with "The NHS"; people are willing to spend on a "lousy" service because that's what they've expected to have in the past. 'But if those who are in the "highest income brackets" want to receive the best health treatment now, they should be willing to pay for it.'
However, when it comes to the regional breakdown, the report shows that Scots are beaten only by London in cost per life. While the British capital breaches the 2_million_GBP mark, Scotland comes in at 1.499_million_GBP, followed closely by northern England with 1.489_million_GBP. The report also gives an insight into differences between the genders. In terms of taxation, males pay close to twice as much as females, largely due to the combined impact of 'the wage gap' as well as 'career breaks'" and maternity leave. However, in terms of spending on 'luxuries and fripperies', males spend more than two-and-a-half times more than females on 'electronic gadgets' and they outspend females two-to-one in the area of 'hobbies and sports', while 'blowing' more than 40 per cent more on 'socialising' and 'nights out'. They typically spend 66 per cent more on their cars. The biggest concern for females, though, is poor savings habits, with the average female setting aside a mere 59_353_GBP into pensions and investments during her life. The average man saves closer to 124_000_GBP. For Mr.Malcolm Junor, 24, from Edinburgh, the projected cost of his life comes in at 1.7_million_GBP. But having just spent six months in California, USA, in what he describes as a 'late gap year' and having graduated recently from 'The University of Edinburgh' with a law degree, he does not feel that he has to think too hard about his financial situation.
'I'm living at home with my family, so I don't have to think about a mortgage or rent, so over-spending is not a problem, and I'm not particularly "stressed" about money. I'm not thinking about my savings or pensions either, but maybe once I've decided on a career, my spending habits will change.'
Ms.Cynthia Mcvey, Senior Lecturer in 'Psychology' at 'Glasgow Caledonian University', said that the urge to 'blow' such a large proportion of income on 'luxuries and leisure' comes from 'exterior pressures'. She said:
'We are a much more "materialistic" society, and we judge people by their ability to own the large car or the big house, which many of us just can't afford.
'So when it comes to "cheering ourselves up", people will just buy things to make themselves better -- even if they can't afford it. 'Having said that, Scots in my opinion have always tended to be "quite canny" and careful about their money, but perhaps "The Protestant Work Ethic" is beginning to wane a bit.'
The 'total cost of life' calculations were based on an average annual spend at today's prices, across the full age range, multiplied by the average life expectancy, but inflation has not been taken into account. The research was carried out by YouGov and involved a survey of 2_231 adults aged 18 and upwards.
But Mr.Angus Maciver, Prudential UK's Director of Brand, said:
'We certainly aren't suggesting that you shouldn't get another dog or take that trip to New Zealand next year. But we all need to be aware where our money goes and perhaps where we can trim costs. 'The old saying goes that "there are only two certainties in life -- death and taxes", we'd add expense to that small and somewhat grim list. 'The real trick is to plan your expenses and your finances in general.'
'�1.5m is cost of life from cradle to grave', Craig Brown, The Scotsman, 2005-04-26, Tu

2005-04-25

Time to Change Your Personality!

Stepping into a different work situation or being introduced to a new group of people can tempt anyone into presenting themselves in a different light. There can be a real thrill in adopting a new persona, especially if you're tiring of the personality you have long lived with and crave a more exciting or positive image. But while most of us are capable of projecting a different impression of ourselves for a while, is it possible to go deeper than that? Can we develop a different character to go with the superficial changes? Can we change our personality -- or are we stuck with the one we have? Far from adhering to the old adage that 'a leopard never changes its spots' scientists and psychologists now believe we can in fact change our personality at a fundamental level. So if you are fed up of being 'the nervous type', 'too laid-back' or an 'under-achiever', take heart. The first debate which the issue of personality tends to spark is that of 'nature versus nurture' --- are we born with our personality or is it formed by the factors which influence our upbringing? Professor Mr.Robert Plomin, of 'The Institute of Psychiatry', 'King's College', London, who is one of the world's leading experts on behavioural genetics, concludes that any psychological differences between identical twins must be environmental in origin, since they have identical genes. This is good news for anyone who is unhappy with their personality; we might not be able to change the environment of our past -- but we do have the power to change it in the present and the future, be that by moving areas, finding a new job, or distancing ourselves from people who are damaging, or who reinforce elements of our personalities which we do not like. Personality is also a question of perception -- both our own and that of those around us. Many people grow up with a label which was attached to them in early childhood, to the extent that by adulthood it's become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If a child is constantly referred to as 'the quiet one', 'the clever one' or 'the drama queen', how long before they begin to live up to that label, at least on the outside? This can cause problems if the label you are stuck with is in conflict with how you feel emotionally as an individual, especially if you feel the image you are presenting to the world is at odds with the person you feel you should be. If this is the case, don't simply accept the persona others have given you: change it. This might sound like a huge task, but Mr.Oliver James, the psychologist and author of 'They F*** You Up: How to Survive Family Life', believes a complete personality change is indeed possible. And it might be simpler than you think. The crux of his argument is that emotional attachments in our first years of life shape all future relationships, as well as our very sense of self.
'We can have a profound effect on our own personalities,' he says. 'You need to identify what is troubling you and focus on that -- such as why you are in a particular mood, especially if that is negative. 'Look at how patterns are established and aim to change them, even in the smallest ways.'
So on a daily basis, set time aside to concentrate on exactly what it is you want to change, be that your short temper, your absence of motivation to achieve the things you want, or your lack or resourcefulness. Try to work out where these traits came from. For example, if you find yourself frustratingly unable to say no to others as an adult, is that because you were labelled the kind child in the family, a positive image which you lived up to when you were young? If you believe you are not terribly bright, is that because you left school at 16 because you knew you could never live up to the academic brilliance of your elder sister? Be honest about why you are the person you are today, then imagine how you would have been if your family life or circumstances had been different in the past. Then start to make small changes in your behaviour to leave your old personality behind. Maybe you were regarded as 'the duffer of the family', when the truth was that you were lazy, bored, or too distracted to take note in class. So why not start to shed your 'clueless' label by reading half a dozen works of classic literature and take your education on from there?
'You rewrite your own life, and become the personality you want, but it does take work,' says Mr.James.
Ms.Cynthia Mcvey, senior lecturer in 'Psychology' at 'Glasgow Caledonian University', says the desire for such change is very common. She suggests focusing on what we can gain from changing our personalities as a key step to becoming the person we want to be.
'Thinking of the positive results of behaving in a particular and desirable way -- that isn't especially consistent with usual personality -- might reinforce that behaviour and make it easier to produce each time until it is almost natural,' she says.
Mr.Allan Dunn, actor and founding member of the children's theatre group 'The Happy Gang', believes he did just this. He says that he can 'run around like an idiot in front of thousands of people' today, but that as a child he was shy. Actors are often portrayed as being particularly adept at presenting a different face to the public, but Mr.Dunn believes that he changed his personality deliberately to allow him to follow his aspirations.
'When I was small, walking past girls in the bus to get to my seat was almost enough to reduce me to tears,' he says. 'When I left school I studied electronics and got involved in amateur dramatics by chance, and when I auditioned my heart was beating so fast and loudly I thought my chest would burst. 'But I loved it when I got started -- drama lets shy, nervous people become other people for a while and gives you an insight into a completely different world.'
Slipping back and forward into different personas had a profound effect on Mr.Dunn, inspiring him to do his drama degree and become an actor, but it wasn't just his professional life which changed.
'I fought my demons and turned myself into the sort of confident, outgoing personality I wanted to be,' he says. 'It started with learning shortcuts around shyness and introversion and eventually became second nature and, while I'm aware of the traits I had as a child, I know I've become a completely different person. 'I haven't created a "stage persona", but rather become who I always wanted to be.'
'Who do you want to be?', Joan Mcfadden, The Scotsman, 2005-04-25, Mo

2005-04-24

Glasgow Gangland Hit

Murder detectives have stepped up the hunt for the gunman who executed a man in 'broad daylight' in a 'gangland hit'. Mr.James Differ, 42, from Glasgow, is understood to have been shot in the back of the head and leg and thrown from a balcony in the east end of the city. Yesterday teams of officers were patrolling the streets of Garthamlock and conducting 'door-to-door inquiries' in a bid to find vital clues. Detectives were also scouring CCTV footage taken nearby in a bid to catch the gunman. A Strathclyde Police spokesman said:
'The inquiry is continuing and officers are appealing for witnesses or anyone with information to come forward.'
The murder came hours before another shooting in Airdrie, Lanarkshire, which left Mr.Colin Mcphee, 37, fighting for life. Mr.Differ, who was known to police, was found lying in a pool of blood in the back garden of a flatin Garthamlock, on Thursday 2005-05-21. A neighbour tried to help him but he died in hospital. His sister Janice, 48, from Kirkintilloch, said he was killed at a time when he was trying to 'put his life in order'. She said:
'He was a heroin addict but he had "cleaned himself up" and was "getting help" trying to "stay clean" and "go straight". 'He was a very quiet and "kind-hearted" person. James "wouldn't have hurt a fly". He did spend time in jail, but it was only for motoring offences. We must find who did this to do him.'
His brother-in-law Mr.Martin Glen said:
'James was not a "bad guy". I don't know who would have done this to him. He has obviously got mixed up in something. Everyone in his family are shocked. It has been a real blow.'
'Glasgow gangland hit sparks murder hunt', Kizzy Taylor, Scotland on Sunday, 2005-04-24, Su

Eduardo Paolozzi Dead

Sir Eduardo Paolozzi Artist Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, the son of a Leith sweet shop owner who rose to become one of the biggest figures in post-war British art, died yesterday morning (2005-04-22), aged 81. The sculptor, who had been confined to a wheelchair since an illness that left him brain damaged four years ago, passed away in a London hospital. Widely acknowledged as the figurehead of the British Pop Art movement, he was yesterday hailed as the 'greatest artistic genius of our generation in Scotland'. Fellow artist Mr.Richard Demarco said:
Richard deMarco'It is the loss of a father figure for the Italian community. Someone who proved that your destiny was not, inevitably, to be involved in the catering trade.'
Mr.Paolozzi moved beyond 'Pop Art' to become a richly varied sculptor and painter, and a major figure on the international art scene. He exhibited and carried off awards from Europe to the USA and Japan, was made a member of 'The Royal Academy' in 1979 and knighted in 1988. However, he stayed loyal to his Scottish roots long after he moved away. He was remembered yesterday as an artist whose work ranged from paper collages to stained glass to monumental metal sculptures inspired by the machine age, drawing on influences from classical Greek art to cartoons. Sir Timothy Clifford, the Director General of 'The National Galleries of Scotland', said yesterday:
Timothy Clifford'He is the most varied and one of the most distinguished artists that has ever come out of Scotland. I think he is the greatest artistic genius of our generation in Scotland.'
The galleries hold the world's major collection of his work, thanks to gifts from Mr.Paolozzi and his patrons. He literally left his mark on Edinburgh with a series of public artworks throughout the city. Mr.Demarco, another Scots Italian, recalled being shown the young Paolozzi's drawings when he followed in his footsteps at 'Holy Cross Academy' in 1943.
'The art mistress told me she expected a great deal of me as an Italian Scot so I could follow in the footsteps of her favourite pupils,' he said.
'It is the end of an era.'
Mr.Paolozzi's sister still lives in Leith, and he returned to the city regularly to visit her. He is survived by three daughters, of whom Emma nursed him in his final years. Four days ago he paid a private visit to a major retrospective of his work at 'The Flowers East Gallery' in Shoreditch, east London. A gallery spokesman said:
'He came with his daughter and spent 45 minutes here, and he enjoyed the show immensely. We were thrilled he came. We are very saddened to hear of his death.'
In 2005-02 he received an honorary degree from 'The University of Edinburgh' in a ceremony at 'The Royal College of Art' in London. Mr.Eduardo Luigi Paolozzi was born in Crowne Place, Leith Walk, on 1924-03-07, to Italian immigrant parents who ran an ice cream and sweet shop. During the Second World War, the shop was looted, and Mr.Paolozzi briefly interned, but a greater tragedy followed. His father and grandfather were shipped to Canada for internment, but drowned when their transport ship, SS Arandora Star, was sunk by German U-boats. Mr.Paolozzi would later commemorate Italians' involvement in the war in his sculpture, 'The Manuscript of Monte Cassino', outside 'St.Mary's Cathedral' at the top of Leith Walk. In 1943 Mr.Paolozzi became a full-time student at 'The Edinburgh College of Art'. He went on to study in London before moving to Paris after the war. Influences on his early work ranged from Picasso, to his friend the sculptor Giacometti, to Surrealism. Picasso Giacometti By the late 1940s, Mr.Paolozzi was showing collages cut from the pages of American glossy magazines. It was this use of images from consumer culture, celebrated in his famous 1954 lecture, 'Bunk!', that is seen as a foundation of 'Pop Art'. During the 1950s and 1960s he developed his interest in sculpture with work inspired by industrial machinery. In the 1970s he began working with abstract screenprinting, while his split head sculptures would also become a trademark. Sir Angus Grossart, the banker and businessman, was a patron and close friend of Mr.Paolozzi. He recalled how he roved charity shops for objects of all kinds, from toys and model kits to plaster casts and mechanical parts.
Angus Grossart'He saw beauty and creative opportunity in the most unlikely objects,' Mr.Grossart said.
'That was why he could work in so many different mediums, from stained glass to ceramics to bits of paper and mosaic, sculpture, or prints. That is a measure of his genius, and that he had in common with the stars of the Renaissance.'
Mr.Paolozzi's most famous public works in Britain include a series of mosaics at Tottenham Court Road underground station in London and the statue of Sir Isaac Newton in the piazza of the British Library. His bust of John Smith, the former Labour Party leader, was commissioned for 'The House of Commons'. In Edinburgh, his work ranges from the monumental sculpture 'The Wealth of Nations', for 'The Royal Bank of Scotland' building at South Gyle, to the stained glass windows in 'St.Mary's Cathedral'. But his illness left one major work unfinished, a pair of doors planned for the west entrance to St.Giles's Cathedral on the Royal Mile.
'There were sketches and part of a model, it was 80 per cent done, but it was not possible to see how he would finally have pulled it together,' Mr.Grossart said.
'The National Galleries of Scotland's' collection of his work ranges from collages to bronzes to a reconstructed studio at the Dean Gallery. Last year, the gallery held a major retrospective, 'Paolozzi at 80'. Mr.Clifford said Scottish art was often identified with mountains, lochs, the weather and flora and fauna. Paolozzi, by contrast, reached for the art of the machine age.
'This is a man of enormous breadth and he has huge breadth of intellect,' he said. 'He was extremely well read, he was an opera buff, he read the classics, he was interested in philosophy. He was a self-made genius.'
Mr.Duncan Macmillan, The Scotsman's art critic, said Paolozzi shared the international standing of another Scottish artist, sculptor Mr.Ian Hamilton Findlay.
'They are the same age and both tremendously important in Europe and internationally,' Mr.Macmillan said.
In 1971, an early Paolozzi patron and friend, Mr.Michael Spens, commissioned him to produce ceiling reliefs for Cleish Castle, near Kinross, which Mr.Spens then owned. It was a major turning point for the artist. The panels are now in 'The Dean Gallery'.
Michael Spens'He suffered from being pigeonholed as Scottish,' Mr.Spens said.
'That remains something of a sadness. He came from very simple origins in Edinburgh. He kept coming back and his commitment remained unswervingly to Scotland.'
Indeed, while Paolozzi had a one-man show at 'The Tate Gallery' in London in 1971, he was probably better known in Germany, where he taught extensively, than in England. Sir Tom Farmer, the Edinburgh businessman, recalled how Paolozzi invited him to London for a day to explain his art.
Tom Farmer'He was the first person that gave me an understanding that there was more to art than just looking at a pretty picture, that you had to appreciate it, and look behind it and how it was arrived at,' said Mr.Farmer. 'He was a man with an extremely good sense of humour, and he made art out of nonsense, without trying to play it down in any way.'
Mr.Malcolm Mcleod, the vice-principal of 'The University of Glasgow', was curator of an exhibition of Paolozzi's work at 'The Museum of Mankind' in London. It put his work alongside antique materials, masks and tools from Africa and North America.
Malcolm Mcleod'He had an interest in everything and he didn't like all the normal categories,' said Mr.Mcleod.
'It's not Scottish art, it's European art, it's world art.
'He was a major figure, undoubtedly, he was a gigantic figure.'
RELUCTANT FATHER OF POP ART In 1952 Mr.Eduardo Paolozzi gave a slide show in London titled 'Bunk!', which drew on collages where he took photographs and images cut from American glossy magazines and turned them into 'high art'. The work mixed washing machines and war machines, 'Coca-Cola' bottles and cartoons, parodying the post-war consumer society. The idea seems commonplace today, but at its time was revolutionary. The lecture, at 'The Institute of Contemporary Arts', in London, made Paolozzi a pioneer of 'Pop Art' in Britain. Paolozzi's early friend and patron, Mr.Michael Spens, said:
'He wasn't a pop artist, but many of his ideas and discoveries influenced artists who drew ideas from him.'
Peter Blake Mr.Spens cited Mr.Peter Blake, who drew the iconic design for the cover of 'The Beatles'' album 'Sgt.Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'. With close friends in the exploding rock scene of the era, Mr.Blake's collages and screenprints mixed images of Ms.Marilyn Monroe with Mona Lisa. The artist Mr.Richard Hamilton was, like Paolozzi, a founder member of 'The Independent Group' of artists at the ICA. He too is sometimes described as 'the father' of 'Pop Art'. The word itself has been traced to one of Mr.Hamilton's own collages which included a figure holding a lollipop on which the word 'Pop' was written. 'Pop Art' is seen as blossoming from Britain in the 1950s to the United States of America in the 1960s, running from Mr.David Hockney's early work to Mr.Andy Warhol's soup tins and the glaring giant cartoons of Mr.Roy Lichtenstein. As a boy growing up in pre-war Leith, brought up on a diet of US American films, Paolozzi collected cigarette packet cards of Hollywood stars, aircraft and submarines. This launched a lifelong fascination with the mix of humans, machines, and consumer society. Moving to Paris after the war he was fascinated with the magazines that the GIs brought with them. Film-maker Mr.Murray Grigor, a friend of Paolozzi who made a documentary about the artist, said:
Murray Grigor'He was the first artist to take popular culture and fuse it into high art. 'But he always dismissed the fact that he was the daddy of "Pop Art".
'For art historians it was very difficult, because he kept changing courses. He parodied it as well.'
He rejected the 'Pop Art' label, Mr.Grigor said, and always wanted to call himself a surrealist.
'He once said: "Pop Art is diving into a barrel of Coca-Cola bottles"'.
Tim Cornwell, The Scotsman, 2005-04-23, Sa

Health: How Genetics May Help Treat Brain Disorders

Professor Mr.David Price, of 'The University of Edinburgh', is one of only two dozen people in the world working on how genes control the growth of the brain. The latest discoveries have given fresh hope of finding treatments for 'epilepsy', 'motor neurone disease' and 'schizophrenia'. Mr.Price said:
'The human brain is staggeringly complex: 15 billion cells with about a thousand billion connections between them. 'Understanding how the development of such a complex structure is controlled might seem an impossible task, but research in the past 20 years has made us more optimistic. 'In the mid-1980s, research that built on the earlier discovery, in the 1950s, of the structure of DNA and the genetic code, revolutionised our understanding of how simple organisms, such as insects, develop. 'And then a truly remarkable discovery was made -- that the genes and genetic mechanisms which control development of even very simple organisms are retained in humans. 'This gives us hope that research on organisms with rudimentary brains will help us learn a lot about how our own brains develop.'
Mr.Price said that most of the brain's functions would be eventually unravelled, although this would take several decades. Would this even include correcting behavioural flaws in 'serial killers' and 'paedophiles' to make them harmless?
'I think the amount of work that would have to be done before we could even imagine what could be done would be colossal,' he said. 'People don't behave in a totally predictable way, but in theory it should be possible.'
Mr.Price said understanding of the brain had come on in leaps and bounds and he expected the pace of discovery to quicken still further.
'I think the next 20 years will be really exciting,' he said.
One reason is the ability to use genetic engineering to produce mice with tiny differences in their genetic make-up. This allows scientists to see how their brains develop and therefore discover which genes control which areas.
'We can monitor the way the mice's brains develop and what cells turn into, the way they connect up and ultimately you could monitor the behaviour of the animal,' Mr.Price said.
However, one aspect of the mind will probably remain forever unknowable, Mr.Price said.
'Consciousness is not a measurable entity. The awareness of self is not something you can ever measure in anyone else. 'I think that will be forever impossible to understand in terms of the mechanisms of what's going on,' he said.
He said the way a human brain was formed was the product of genetics -- but also its experiences from a very early stage. The once-polarised nature-nurture debate had been resolved in the middle ground, the professor said.
'Cells in the brain are influenced by the environment around them -- other cells and also ultimately outside,' he said. 'Once the embryo is born, the brain has still got a lot of growing to go, it has a lot of connections to make at the time of birth. 'There's tonnes of evidence that the environment is playing an absolutely critical role.'
But despite the growing knowledge of the workings of the brain and increasing technologies, building one in a laboratory would still be an 'astonishing feat of biological engineering'. However, Mr.Price added:
'It's very easy to build a brain -- you just get a male and a female together..!'
'Tapping into the brains behind human behaviour ', Ian Johnston, The Scotsman, 2005-04-23, Sa

2005-04-20

New City Leader

The Leader of Glasgow City Council Mr. Charles Gordon, was yesterday ousted in a bloodless coup which paved the way for a new generation of 'New Labour' councillors to take control of Scotland's largest local authority. In a day of high political drama at the City Chambers in George Square, Mr.Gordon was confronted by his 'New Labour' colleagues, who told him bluntly that he would be defeated if he stood for re-election as their group leader. And it appears certain that Mr.Gordon, 54, will be replaced by Mr.Steven Purcell, 32, who is the city's education convener and seen as one of a younger, more modernising group on the council. Mr.Gordon, whose reputation for straight-talking was said to have caused problems within the ruling Labour group, last night said that he was stepping down because his wife, Emma, was expecting a baby in 2005-07. In a statement, he said:
'I went on record last year that the 'shelf life' of any leader is around seven years. I had recently privately decided to stand down as leader in 2006.'
He claimed that he could have retained the support of the majority of the 'New Labour' group for 'one more year', but said he recognised that 'the speculation would have continued throughout the year, to the detriment of the administration, the council and the city'. Mr.Gordon said that his decision left the Leader's post free to be sought by any member of the group, without needing to use 'negative terms like "challenge" and "faction"'. He added:
'After the new leader is chosen, I urge all Labour group members to close ranks behind our new leader in the best interests of our party, our council and our beloved city.'
Mr.Gordon, who had served in the post for six years, revealed he was set to seek a seat in the Scottish Parliament and was available to serve the administration in the city if he was asked. Last night Mr.Purcell, who has gained a reputation as a moderniser because of taking on the task of closing primary schools with falling rolls, paid tribute to Cllr.Gordon and hinted that he would like to see a shift in the council's focus. Cllr.Purcell, who will be in charge of a budget of more than 2_000_million_GBP/year if he becomes leader, said:
'I wish Charlie Gordon and his family well. He leaves behind an enormous legacy in the regeneration and rebuilding of Glasgow. 'Now we have to carry this work on by focussing on social regeneration, so that all our people can share in the benefits of the city's new buoyancy.'
The 'New Labour' group will elect a new leader at its annual general meeting in late 2005-05 and there could be other challengers. But it is understood that while the nominations for the post will be open on 2005-05-09, Cllr.Purcell is likely be elected unopposed, making him Glasgow's youngest-ever city Leader. Last night 'New Labour' councillors were refusing to comment on the ousting of Mr.Gordon, but it was clear that the councillor for Knightswood Park had lost the confidence of a majority of his colleagues. One insider said:
'The reason Charlie Gordon has left is because he was going to be beaten in the election. Steven and his supporters presented him with the arithmetic and it showed he would not win. This departure was a way of allowing him to go with some dignity.'
Mr.Purcell is a board member of 'Scottish Enterprise' in Glasgow and well thought-of in business circles. It is understood that a change in the make-up of the council towards a younger age group was instrumental in pressing Mr.Purcell to make his bid for control, while Mr.Gordon's desire to leave the seat next year had eroded his support. Rapid rise for former shipyard newspaper seller Taking the reins of Glasgow City Council would make Mr.Steven Purcell one of the most powerful politicians in Scotland. Leading the largest council in the country confers more power than any MSP has -- and probably more than most Scottish ministers. Mr.Purcell's rise has been rapid. The former building society worker is described as being a capable politician with the ability to handle Glasgow's notoriously faction-ridden 'New Labour' group. Tied firmly to a modern style of politics, Mr.Purcell is said to operate in a different way from those raised in the old-school politics of deals done in smoke-filled rooms. He may be new, but he is not exactly 'New Labour'. His origins are rooted in the working class. Having lived in Glasgow's Yoker all his life, he started out on a YTS scheme, earning 27.50_GBP/week, but raised more money by selling newspapers outside Yarrow's Clyde shipyard. Later, he worked for a local building society before moving into politics full-time. He was first elected to the council in 1995-05 for the ward of Blairdardie in the far west of the city and is currently a board member of 'Scottish Enterprise Glasgow', 'Glasgow Royal Concert Hall' and 'The Careers Service Advisory Board' and a member of 'New Labour's' 'Scottish Executive Committee'. Between 1999 and 2003, he was the council's convener of development and regeneration, during which he oversaw the creation of the Glasgow City Plan. In his current role, Mr.Purcell has been instrumental in overseeing the replacement of run-down schools in the region, as well as the more controversial move of merging neighbouring schools with low rolls. 'City council boss ousted to make way for younger 'modernisers' ', Pater Macmahon & Craig Brown, The Scotsman, 2005-04-20, We

2005-04-18

Health & Money: Linking Reservoirs

Engineers will this week drill through solid rock to link Glasgow's two reservoirs with 'Scottish Water's' new 120_million_GBP treatment plant at Milngavie. Mugdock and Craigmaddie Reservoirs currently flow into Milngavie Water Treatment Works, built 150 years ago. But the tunnel, to be completed by 2007, will feed into a new plant at Barrachan. The work by specialist tunnellers, which will take nearly three months to complete, is part of a giant engineering jigsaw that 'Scottish Water' says will bring Glasgow's water supply into the 21st century. Engineers believe the new technology will cut the risk of an outbreak of waterborne bacteria such as 'cryptosporidium'. The bug was found in water at Mugdock three years ago, prompting 'boil water' notices to be issued and a massive health scare, because 'Scottish Water' did not know which areas were supplied with water from the reservoir. Under the plans, miners will drill down 30_m by hand through dolerite rock, sandstone and clay, before working sideways for another 15_m to allow a 15_metre-wide tunnel to reach into Mugdock Reservoir. 'Scottish Water' Chief Executive Mr.Jon Hargreaves said: 'This is one of the most challenging engineering projects "Scottish Water" has ever faced.' The tunnellers will artificially lower the water levels in Mugdock to allow them to work safely on the tunnel. The work will see the water levels in Mugdock lowered by 10_m, often by only 300_mm/day. This will remove 2_900_million_litres. This will mean that Mugdock will be out of commission for around six months, although contingency plans have been put in place to ensure customers' supply continues from Craigmaddie and alternative sources. Project manager Mr.Gus. Watt said: 'This is a very important stage in the largest construction project in Scotland. We are building on the engineering excellence that made this water supply for Glasgow possible in the Victorian age, when much was done for the city.' 'Tunnel link for Glasgow reservoirs', Arthur Macmillan, The Scotsman, 2005-04-17 Su

2005-04-17

Kane To Be Thinker-in-residence at Bristol

He first came to prominence by wowing pop fans with 'Hue and Cry's' hit singles 'Labour of Love' and 'Looking For Linda' in the 1980s. As rector of Glasgow University, however, Mr.Pat. Kane cut a more serious figure, joining writers, painters, poets, actresses and actors to launch a Scottish home rule campaign in 1992. But the former singer's new job promises him an unrivalled platform to live up to his intellectual reputation. The 41-year-old has been appointed as thinker in residence for the city of Bristol. The role, thought to be the first such post in Britain, will be paid for by the lottery and council-funded Bristol Cultural Development Partnership (BCDP) to promote a 'Festival of Ideas' next month. Bristol wants Mr.Kane to 'provoke, challenge and debate with speakers, companies, businesses and artists' in the English city. Mr.Kane is renowned throughout Scotland's arts and media establishment as a man with big ideas. Mr.Pete Irvine, the mastermind of the Edinburgh Hogmanay celebrations, said: 'A thinker in residence - that sounds like a bit of a laugh. Pat. is known for shooting his mouth off, but as long as the people of Bristol just want him to think, and not talk, they should be fine.' The name Mr.Pat. Kane made little impression on locals in Bristol yesterday. Mr.Tom. Mcsweeny, who works for a local radio station, said: 'I have never heard of Pat. Kane. There is someone in the office who recognises the name, but it doesn't mean anything to me.' When asked if he had heard of 'Hue and Cry', Mr.Mcsweeny replied: 'I have heard of them, I don't think I can name any of their songs. I think most people in Bristol will wonder why they couldn't have found a thinker from the city itself.' Yesterday, Mr.Kane said he was looking forward to his new post. 'Bristol wants to be known as a city of ideas and it is an honour to be Britain's first thinker in residence.' It is not the first time that Bristol has provoked controversy when making cultural appointments. Three years ago the city council paid 400_000_GBP/year for three Monty Python-style 'officers for walks'. 'Hue and cry about city's thinker job', Arthur Macmillan & Murdo Macleod, Scotland On Sunday, 2005-04-17, Su

2005-04-16

Money & Intolerance: The Royal Bank of Scotland Turn Around

'The Royal Bank of Scotland' is a world giant, counting profits in thousands of millions. Yet little more than a decade ago, it was on the edge of a financial precipice. BILL JAMIESON and MARTIN FLANAGAN tell a remarkable story IT IS an intense rivalry rooted deep in history. The hostility between 'The Royal Bank of Scotland' and its arch-enemy 'The Bank of Scotland' dates back to the very foundation of 'The Royal' in 1727. It came into being because 'The Bank of Scotland' was thought to have Jacobite tendencies and dirty tricks were never far from the surface in the early days. A favourite ruse was to stockpile the rival's notes, then present them in vast quantities for cash 'payment on demand'. The aim was to induce bankruptcy and 'The Royal Bank of Scotland' proved the more adept at the scam, forcing 'The Bank of Scotland' to close for several months in 1728. This ushered in a ferocious competitiveness between the pair which peaked with the epic battle for 'NatWest' in 1999. The fight was ultimately won by 'The Royal of Scotland' , a victory all the more remarkable considering it had been on the verge of disaster less than a decade earlier. It was 1992. In the words of a senior 'The Royal of Scotland' source: 'The bank was effectively broke. We made zero profit.' The 1992 annual report was very different to the 234-page, full-colour blockbuster that thudded onto doormats last month proclaiming a profit approaching 7_billion_GBP. It ran to just 44 pages and made very depressing reading. The accounts for the year to September 1992 showed 'The Royal Bank of Scotland's' branch banking business had run up losses of almost 11_million_GBP. Pre-tax profits had plunged to just 21_million_GBP, against 262_million_GBP two years before. The bottom line? A loss of 58_million_GBP. What blew a hole in 'The Royal Bank of Scotland's' profits -- and in its share price -- was a 409_million_GBP charge for bad and doubtful debt provisions, fuelled by the property market slump. It was crisis time. So how did a bank on the edge of catastrophe claw itself back from the brink to post 1000_million_GBP profits just six years later? How did this small Scottish bank become the fifth biggest in the world, a corporation bigger than Ford, General Motors, McDonald's and Nike combined? What are the secrets of its extraordinary success? Sir George Mathewson, now Chairman of the bank and one of the architects of the remarkable transformation, has a simple answer -- turning the bank upside down in the early 1990s and consigning its old-style bankers to history. The catalyst for change was 'Project Columbus', an appropriate choice for a bank sailing into a new world. It was the brainchild of Mr.Mathewson, who joined a 'Royal' board (in 1987) in the steely grip of patrician chairman Sir Michael Herries. He oversaw a very Scottish operation, derided by some as an old boys' network which had little time for newcomers. Mr.Herries turned press conferences on annual results into near-monologues with barely-tolerated interruptions. One insider recalls:
'Board meetings were from another age. No-one questioned anything. There was a feeling when new directors joined the board, they couldn't ask questions for a year.'
The late 1980s and early 1990s were one of the blackest periods in the bank's proud history. It was founded by grant of Royal charter and opened for business in Ship Close, Edinburgh in December 1727. Its early years were characterised by innovation; 'The Royal Bank of Scotland' is said to have invented the overdraft (in 1728) by allowing a merchant to take out 1_000_GBP more than he had in his account, while in 1777, it produced Europe's first multi-coloured banknotes to combat fraud, printing the king's head in red and denomination in blue. For many decades, it had only one branch outside its Edinburgh HQ, but this office, in Glasgow, became one of the busiest in the UK, paving the way for 'The Royal Bank of Scotland' to become the dominant force in Scottish banking. By the 1970s, helped by judicious acquisitions, 'The Royal Bank of Scotland' had an estimated 40 per cent market share in Scotland and a sizeable presence in England. The 1980s saw the group diversify, setting up the car insurance company 'Direct Line' in 1985 and acquiring USA-based 'Citizens Financial' in 1988. But it was a solid rather than spectacular operation and its limitations were exposed by the recession of the late 1980s; it was very much in the second division in UK banking and appeared to have no master-plan to escape from the rut. Mr.Robert Law, a banking analyst at 'Lehman Brothers', says 'The Royal Bankof Scotland' was 'at best number five among the big five and many didn't think that counted, it was all about the big four ('Barclay's', 'Lloyds TSB', 'HSBC', 'NatWest'). Ironically, many saw 'The Royal Bank of Scotland' as a takeover target in those days, with 'NatWest' viewed as a likely bidder.' Mr.Mathewson, who became Deputy Group Chief Executive in 1990, recalls the dark days: 'Soon after I joined the board the share price dropped to a low of 128p. It was depressing. The picture inside the bank was not at all good. We did an analysis of the group; it was in bad shape.' Mr.Mathewson describes the bank's old-fashioned structure at the time as 'a series of fiefdoms' -- and it was time for the feudal banklords to go. So he went to Viscount Younger [the former Tory Cabinet minister who became 'The Royal Bank of Scotland' chairman in 1991] with a plan. It was time for the putsch. 'It all happened at a single board meeting [in late 1991],' Mr.Mathewson recalls. 'It was revolutionary and triggered total change -- but the culture of the bank had to change.' The management consultants came in and said radical change was needed. The old guard was old, literally. Mr.Herries was almost 68 and Vice-Chairman Sir Austin Pearce nearly 70. They were two of three board members to step down, although Mr.Herries carried on as a Non-Executive Director for a further year before retiring to his 11_km2 farm near Castle Douglas. Four other board members, including The Earl of Airlie, did not seek re-appointment, as the grandees accepted they had exhausted their options and had no fresh ideas to rescue the bank. Mr.Mathewson took over from Mr.Charles Winter as Chief Executive in 1992-01. The old order had gone; a new one, feisty and impatient for change, had blasted its way in. One senior 'Royal Bank of Scotland' insider says: 'Many of us firmly believe the 'NatWest' deal would never have happened without 'Columbus'. It was that important.' The changes saw 'The Royal Bank of Scotland' become a more aggressive bank. It was more prepared to lend as it came out of the 1990 to 1992 recession and gained market share as a result. Some believe Sir George Mathewson also had an important factor on his side -- luck. The mid -- 1990s saw a strong economic recovery, creating a firm base for banks to thrive. By 1998, 'The Royal Bank of Scotland' was in good shape -- and dynamic in profit terms. That year, it was the first Scottish company to turn in profits of more than 1_billion_GBP -- up 32 per cent that year alone -- with the UK operation turning in profits of 680_million_GBP and 'Citizens' adding 247_million_GBP from the USA. Other big earners included the burgeoning 'Direct Line' insurance company, with two million policies in force and profits of 64_million_GBP. Revving up to go was the group's tie-up with 'Tesco', for which it ran bank accounts, insurance and credit cards under the 'Tesco Financial Services' umbrella. As the group grew, talented new blood was recruited. In 1998, a young face joined the board -- Mr.Fred Goodwin, a former chief executive of the 'Clydesdale' and 'Yorkshire' banks. Few could have predicted how quickly his star would rise as 'The Royal Bank of Scotland' entered a crucial new phase. The bank was on the charge; big changes had been made but far bigger ones were to come. 'The Royal Bank of Scotland' was about to renew its age-old rivalry with 'The Bank of Scotland' -- and to spring the biggest acquisition in its history. BRIEF HISTORY 1727: Founded by grant of Royal charter in 1727-05, opens for business in 1727-12. 1728: Invents overdraft, allowing a merchant to take out of his account 1_000_GBP more than it held. 1777: Produces Europe's first multi-coloured banknotes to combat fraud. 1783: Opens first branch -- in Glasgow. Within 30 years, the branch was doing more business than Edinburgh HQ. 1825: Moves head office from Edinburgh Old Town to Dundas House in New Town. 1864: Acquires 'Dundee Banking Company'. 1874: Opens London branch. 1924: Buys first English bank, 'Drummond' of London. 1939: Buys leading private bank 'Glyn, Mills' of London. 1960: First office in New York. 1963: Orders first computer. 1967: Installs Scotland's first 24-hour cash dispenser at Edinburgh West End. 1969: Merges with 'National Commercial Bank of Scotland', creating 'Royal Bank of Scotland Ltd'. 1974: First Far East office opened in Hong Kong. 1981: Subject of rival takeover approaches from 'Standard Chartered Bank' and 'HSBC', both ruled out by old 'Monopolies & Mergers Commission'. 1985: Sets up 'Direct Line', first UK insurer to use phone as main channel of business. 1988: Acquires 'Citizens Financial' in USA. 1999-11: Enters bidding war for 'NatWest'. 2000-02: Wins 'NatWest'. 2001: 'Citizens' pays 1.33bn_GBP to buy 'Mellon Financial Corp's' retail banking arm. 2003: Buys 'Churchill' for 1_000_million_GBP. 2004-05: Announces it is buying 'Charter One Financial' for 5_800_million_GBP, a significant USA expansion. 'How Royal Bank came back from the brink', Bill Jamieson & Martin Flanagan, The Scotsman, 2005-04-16, Sa Links: Royal Bank of Scotland Scottish Banking

2005-04-11

Health & Stats: High Zinc Diet May Improve Children's Performance

A daily supplement of zinc can boost pupils' performance in the classroom, a study has found. Zinc is a naturally occurring mineral found in many everyday foods, including red meat, shellfish, nuts, seeds and wholegrains. The traditional Scottish breakfast of porridge oats is also rich in zinc, as are raspberries.
Researchers monitored 200 schoolchildren and found that those taking more than double the current recommended daily intake of zinc had faster and more accurate memories. Their attention spans also increased. In the new study, children aged between 12 and 13 were given a specially prepared fruit juice to drink each morning before school. Some of the fruit juices had a 20_mg zinc supplement added, while others had zinc added at the current recommended level of 10_mg. A third set of fruit juices were left without a supplement. The children, their parents and their teachers were unaware of which juice they were being given.
The research team, from 'The Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Centre' in North Dakota, USA (part of the USA's 'Department of Agriculture'), saw an improvement in some children's performance after between 10 and 12 weeks. But no significant improvement was noticed in the children who took the 10_mg supplement or no supplement at all.
The scientists tested the mental and motor skills of the 111 girls and 98 boys in the study before they started taking the fruit juices and again after a number of weeks. The tests included using a computer mouse to follow an object on a screen, matching pairs of objects from a mixed-up group, learning and remembering lists of words or simple geometric patterns, and putting objects into categories.
Mr.James Penland, who led 'The Grand Forks'' team, said:
'Compared to the students who received no additional zinc, students who consumed an additional twenty milligrams of zinc each day decreased reaction time on a visual memory task by twelve per cent versus six per cent, increased correct answers on a word recognition task by nine per cent versus three per cent, and increased scores on a task requiring sustained attention and vigilance by six per cent versus one per cent. 'Those who received only ten milligrams a day (the current recommended dietary allowance for this age group) did not significantly improve performance, however.'
His group found that zinc supplements did not appear to improve motor and social skills among the children. He said dietary guidelines for zinc in the 12-13 age group might have to be changed -- if further studies confirmed his team's findings.
'Such guidelines ultimately affect school breakfast and lunch menus, the food guidance system, nutrition labels on food packages, and other uses,' he said.
Ms.Barbara Golden, of 'TheUniversity of Aberdeen', who conducted research into 'zinc and malnutrition' in Jamaica in the 1970s and 1980s, said:
'Zinc is an essential nutrient -- if you're deficient in zinc, then you won't grow. 'I would speculate that at least some of the children in the study were "zinc deficient" and that, by giving them a supplement, the researchers may have been correcting that deficiency. If you're deficient in an essential nutrient, then putting it back might have a good effect.'
Zinc is essential for a healthy immune system and for helping wounds to heal. Earlier studies have shown it is also vital for the normal growth and sexual development of children. A 'zinc deficiency' in the diet shows itself as white 'blotches' on a person's nails. The latest findings were presented to scientists at 'The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB)' meeting in San Diego, California, USA. 'Extra zinc in diet 'helps pupils do better at school'', Peter Tanscombe, The Scotsman, 2005-04-11, Mo

2005-04-07

Health: The Golden Age of Cancer Treatment

'A golden age' of cancer treatment which should finally overcome the killer disease is just a decade away -- according to leading experts in the field. Scientists believe current research will lead to new drugs that will turn cancer from a fatal condition into one which people can live with for most of their lives. Professor Mr.Karol Sikora, a special advisor to 'The World Health Organisation', said:
'At the moment, most people will die from it once the disease spreads.
'That will stop in about 2015.
'[Cancers] will become controllable illnesses -- you will still have cancer, but you?ll live with it for a long time, rather like diabetes.'
The disease will still need constant treatment -- but new treatments will give sufferers a much better quality of life -- similar to the way diabetics live now -- and avoid the need for harsh alternatives such as 'Chemotherapy'. Mr.Sikora, who is an internationally respected cancer physician based in London's Harley St., is among several experts taking part in a public meeting tomorrow as part of 'The Edinburgh International Science Festival' at 'The Royal College of Physicians'. He said:
'The" golden age" of drug discovery is not far away with targeted treatments to suit an individual patient's needs and tailored therapies to ensure cancers are controlled and pain-free -- long term control of cancer within ten years for the majority of cancers. 'New treatments will stop the cancers growing and they will essentially grow dormant. 'I am confident that living with cancer will be more dignified in the future.
'It will be much better than being on "Chemotherapy", which is quite unpleasant.'
In addition to new drugs, genetic therapy and lifestyle changes would be used to minimise the effect of cancer, which is caused when damaged cells -- by a variety of causes including smoking and sunlight -- stop dying off naturally and reproduce uncontrollably. However, Mr.Sikora said such treatments were likely to be very expensive -- as much as 100_000_GBP/year to treat one patient.
'That's worrying for health budgets all over the world,' he said.
He added that cancer vaccines were another area of development which could result in far cheaper forms of treatment and prevention. However, Mr.Sikora said it would take time for scientists to gradually develop effective treatments for each of the roughly 200 forms of cancer. Last month, scientists at 'The Marie Curie Research Institute' in Oxford -- funded by the St.Andrews-based charity, 'The Association for International Cancer Research' (AICR) -- announced they had managed to put skin cancer cells into a 'coma', stopping them from multiplying and developing into life-threatening tumours. This is believed to be the first time anyone in the world has managed to switch off the basic mechanism of cancer, which causes the infected cells to grow uncontrollably into tumours. Chief Executive of AICR Mr.Derek Napier, which is co-hosting tomorrow's public meeting with 'The Edinburgh Drug Absorption Foundation', said this was a potential step towards the 'holy grail' of a general cure for cancer which would work for all forms of the disease, rather than just one type. The next stage would be to persuade the cancerous cells to die off by restarting the natural process of 'cell suicide'. HEALTHY LIFESTYLE BEST GUARD AGAINST DISEASE Scots must adopt a healthier lifestyle in order to make the most of the development in new cancer treatments, physicians have warned. Mr.Mark Matfield, scientific consultant at the Scottish-based 'Association for International Cancer Research', welcomed new anti-cancer drugs to fight the disease. But he said the best way for Scots to prevent cancer taking hold in the first place and to aid successful treatment is to cut down on such habits as smoking, drinking, sunbathing, and 'fatty' foods.
'We believe science is playing its part but we will only bring about change for the better if the people of Scotland are prepared to play their part and help us prevent the disease from taking a stranglehold in the first place. 'We need to convince more smokers to quit, and that changes in diet, more exercise, covering up in the sun, cutting back on alcohol and turning up for screening appointments will reduce their chances of developing cancer by as much as 50 per cent.'
Mr.Laurence Gruer, a public health consultant, agreed.
'A healthy lifestyle will not cure you but it will prevent a lot of cancers and also play a part in helping you to overcome the cancer.'
'Mankind will beat cancer by 2015, says WHO scientist', Ian Johnston, The Scotsman, 2005-04-06, We

Intolerance: Scots Toddlers Speaking European Languages

Auchencairn Primary School by the shores of the Solway Firth, is about as near to France as you can get in Scotland. It is a rural school, two classes with a combined roll of 35 pupils. At lunchtime on a spring day, children are running about the grassy playground. Sheep graze beyond the school's drystane dykes. Being welcomed into the family atmosphere of the Victorian village school seems strangely familiar. There is a touch of d�j� vu, with more than a hint of the idyllic film, '�tre et Avoir'. When the bell rings after lunch, Mr.David Phin is carrying a box in from his car. We have agreed to speak French as much as possible.
'Bonjour!' says Mr.Phin to the first child in. 'Bonjour', the infant replies in a convincing accent. Several more 'bonjours' from children hurrying by, then one cries: 'Salut'. Another asks me: '�a va?'
Then, pretending I don't speak English, I ask an older boy, just back from France, where exactly he had been. Were the Pyrenees beautiful? How was the weather? He could tell me all this. A girl waits patiently to say that she too had visit�e la France. All this was before we were even inside the classroom. Once in the P4-7 room, the larger-than-life and uninhibited Mr.Phin introduces me and we all launch into his action games and songs. Headteacher Ms.Norma Maxwell and classroom assistant Ms.Janey Crossan join in in good style. Ms.Crossan and six of the pupils will soon be in Paris, part of a group from small local schools. Mr.David Phin insists on correct pronunciation. 'Rrrr' has to be rolled the French way. Su must be � la Fran�ais and not 'soor'.
'You are not describing my face', he quips.
Mr.Phin is a staff tutor for primary modern languages in Dumfries & Galloway. He has responsibility for more than 20 schools spread over a wide area. Mr.Phin is passionate about the learning of French, German and Spanish by means of drama.
'It's about teaching with a purpose, for an end they can enjoy, the performance. Drama is all inclusive'. he says. 'Whether you are a star or say one line, the performance depends on everybody'.
He writes plays, or adapts or translates them. In this school, the language is French. With the agreement of Ms.Norma Maxwell, who had O-Grade French but was game to learn more herself, he introduced French to Auchencairn by basing his teaching on drama. The play had to focus on the vocabulary the children would learn anyway. It might involve numbers, colours, food or clothes. All that was five years ago. In 2002, Auchencairn took their first play to Edinburgh. They had entered it in 'Rencontres Th��trales 2002', an interschool competition organised by 'L'Institut Fran�ais d'�cosse' in Edinburgh, in conjunction with 'L'Alliance Fran�aise, Glasgow'. On its debut, Auchencairn won the 'Prix Victor Hugo' for 'Best Performance (primary and secondary)'. The following year brought further success in the capital. I watched their feisty show win First Prize in 'Rencontres Th��trales 2003' . It was a delight, a musical about a frog. The accents, singing, costumes and humour were 'formidable'. The competition from the big guns of the central belt had been impressive. Far-flung rural schools do not share certain advantages which urban fee-paying academies enjoy. Staff in the independent sector are first to acknowledge the difference that money and proximity to educational, artistic and sporting institutions can make to a school's resources. Specialist staff are the norm at primary level. That is before considering the operation of a selective intake policy. Every single pupil in Auchencairn's P4-7 class -- including those with 'special needs' - takes part in all these performances. Not only that, they travel 150_km there and 150_km back in a day to do it. Later the same year Mr.Phin and his wife, inspired by Rencontres, decided to hold a regional celebration of languages. They called this gathering 'Languages Centre Stage'. Ms.Margaret Phin teaches French and Spanish at Dalbeattie High School. The Phins invited interested primary schools to present a short play in French, German or Spanish. Lochmaben Primary put on a play in both French and German. St Teresa's Primary, Dumfries, and Glenluce Primary were fascinated by each other's productions of a drama about a polar bear that didn't like fish. The former did it in Spanish, the latter in German. The venue for this festival was Dalbeattie High School. On the panel of judges was Ms.Val�rie Drake, Deputy Director and education attach� of the French Institute. Also adjudicating were representatives of the Spanish Consulate and the Goethe Institut. The children themselves have plenty to say about this dramatic way of learning French: first and foremost, it's fun; everybody can join in; it's teamwork; someone comes out with a favourite word of Ms.Phin's: 'synergy'. Energy would be more like it. In May, at the age of 53, he takes 12 days unpaid leave to walk the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, to raise funds for Action Aid. Meanwhile back in Auchencairn every child in P4-7 has opted to join Mr.Phin's after-school French Club. When David Phin first came to the school his belief in inclusion echoed that of the head, Ms.Norma Maxwell. Both feel the importance of this outlook has reached a wider audience through the plays. At the club, Mr.Phin devises little scenes which incorporate mime, props and 'other stage business'. That keeps everyone busy, whatever the level of their language skills. Dumfries & Galloway is a large region and transport costs have to be considered. Ms.Kate Beattie, curriculum development officer [Languages] and Mr.Allan Macmillan, education officer, have recognised the value of making a drama out of a language. Like the parents, they have been supportive of Mr.Phin and the school's initiatives. Their faith has brought not only top prizes four years running, but long-term educational benefits to the pupils of Dumfries & Galloway. 'Fluent French from mouths of primary babes? ', Anne Cowan, The Scotsman, 2005-04-06, We