2005-10-30

Health & Intolerance: Dyslexia Gene

Scientists have identified a 'gene' that may cause 'dyslexia' -- a breakthrough that could help bring earlier diagnosis of the condition. The US American team found a mutation in a particular 'gene' that can be 'passed down' through families in a high proportion of people with reading difficulties. The research was welcomed by experts and 'dyslexics' as proof that the condition is caused by subtle differences in the brain rather than a lack of motivation or emotional difficulties in children. For more than 30 years it has been known that 'dyslexia' is 'passed down' through families. Now Mr.Jeffrey Gruen, of 'The Yale Child Health Research Centre', has found compelling evidence of a 'dyslexia gene'. Researchers mapped the 'genotypes' of 153 families affected by reading disabilities. They located the most likely source of this susceptibility as a missing part of the 'DCDC2 gene'. While the function of this 'gene' is unknown, it is similar to 'DCX', a 'gene' that helps guide 'neuron' migration to the brain. Mr.Gruen explained:
'There is compelling evidence to show that reading occurs in compartmental regions of the brain connected by normal reading circuits. 'The theory is that "dyslexics" have disruption of these brain circuits. 'We hypothesise that this "gene", "DCDC2", is important for the normal function of these reading circuits. 'And when they are disrupted by a deletion, the normal reading process across the pathways is inefficient, making reading difficult.'
Presenting the research at a meeting of 'The American Society of Human Genetics' yesterday, 2005-10-28, Mr.Gruen said he was not looking for a 'cure' for 'dyslexia', because 'dyslexics' have many talents that might also be part of their 'genetic make-up'. He said the message of the research was to show that a reading disability was not the fault of the individual -- and to help identify 'dyslexic' children early enough to provide support.
'There is no reason [why] these children cannot be lawyers or doctors -- they all read eventually,' he said. 'It is just a matter of giving them the tools.'
Between four and five per cent of the British population has 'dyslexia', with about two million people affected -- including celebrities such as film director Mr.Guy Ritchie, the clothes model Ms.Jodie Kidd and former Scottish rugby international Mr.Kenny Logan. Mr.Logan said that many 'dyslexics' had suffered prejudice in the past because the condition was not diagnosed.
'When I was at school they did not know about "dyslexia", they just thought you were "thick". 'But nowadays if someone cannot read or write, teachers say you are "dyslexic".'
Mr.Logan welcomed research banishing this myth, even if it meant confirmation that he might pass on the condition to his own two children, because it is now possible to treat 'dyslexia' effectively. He said he had overcome his own 'dyslexia' through techniques which use physical exercises such as juggling to build concentration and ability.
'If one of my children is dyslexic they will deal with it. 'I am not worried about it,' he said.
Professor Mr.George Thomson, an expert in 'dyslexia' at 'The University of Edinburgh', has believed for some time that 'dyslexia' is the result of subtle neurological differences.
'I am interested but not surprised. 'I have long felt that "dyslexia" is caused by subtle dysfunction in the brain that is exacerbated by other factors, not least the continued sense of failure at not being able to read.'
Mr.Thomson said the research would not only increase understanding, but would help end prejudice against 'dyslexics'.
'More evidence that there are factors in the individual that predispose towards "dyslexia" is a step forward in our understanding of the condition, rather than passing it off as a fashionable middle-class phenomenon,' he said. 'Looking for a cure is less productive than looking at ways of helping the individual to circumvent the problem.'
'Discovery of dyslexia gene offers hope of early support for sufferers ', Louise Gray, The Scotsman, 2005-10-29, Sa

2005-10-29

East European Language Changes

Misha Glenny explores the effect globalisation is having on language in east European countries... The other day I was in the Moldovan capital, Chisinau, seeking a little light relief from my research into organised crime and corruption there (well someone has got to do it!). At the end of a tough day's interviewing, I have long found solace in surfing the channels of what is even by the standards of contemporary broadcasting the peculiarly bland world of European hotel television. First I get through the looped bulletins of 'BBC World', 'CNN' and (for a more parochial touch) 'Sky News'. Then I flick through the mish-mash of soap operas (usually South American dubbed into anything from Greek to Czech) and game shows. I once watched an entire 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire' in Spanish and even though I do not really speak the language, I would have won 32_000_EUR on one contestant's round. And then half-hour long advertisements selling portable body-building equipment, using impossibly well-toned models who are, nonetheless, bafflingly asexual. One voice Some channels I have an aversion to. I am driven bonkers by the Polish and Russian practice of using one person to dub all voices in films (regardless of gender) while the original English rumbles on incomprehensibly in the background. To escape this and other tortures, I soon settle on my two favourites, the German tabloid broadcasters 'RTL' and 'Sat 1'. During the rise of the great American soaps, 'Dallas' and 'Dynasty', I was living either in Germany or Austria where all TV imports are dubbed and not subtitled. Which explains in large part why Germans do not speak English as consistently well as their Scandinavian and Dutch neighbours who all watch TV in the original from infancy. And so now if I ever chance upon a repeat of 'Dynasty' in America or England and Joan Collins raises her hand in a threatening manner, I am always taken aback when she uses English instead of barking, 'Verlassen mein Buro! Aber sofort!' as she throws some beleaguered minor character out of her office. 'Happy wife, happy life' So it is with genuine nostalgia that I sit through the German stations' menu of Jerry Springer-esque talk shows, small claims court cases presided over by a real judge 'Judy', not to mention 'RTL's' equivalent of 'Neighbours', 'Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten'. It was during an interview with Michael Schumacher's wife, whose name, I am afraid, escapes me, that I was struck by something profound. In the middle of a German sentence she said that Michael lived according to the principle, and then she broke into English, of 'happy wife, happy life.' It is not a phrase that I have ever come across in English but the Germans seem to think it is, just as the Austrians (not, however, the Germans) will consistently drop in the English phrase 'last not least' into their sentences, mysteriously leaving out the 'but.' Anglicisms European languages have experienced unprecedented changes in the last 15 years, since globalisation has really kicked in. Most strikingly, many Czechs are losing the ability to communicate in Slovak. I find this most bizarre The upshot is, of course, a huge increase in the use of English but also the import of a host of new anglicisms into most European languages, usually associated with technological or management jargon. Some have now evolved to the point where they no longer mean anything in English. Everyones favourite is the unbeatably ugly anglo-teutonism 'das Handy' for mobile phone in German. But in Eastern Europe, while the same process of English penetration is under way although more slowly (especially in Russian), the re-ordering of Europe has resulted in significant shifts which usually lead to the impoverishment of people's language capacity. Response I can always estimate the age of Macedonians, for example, depending on whether they respond to me in their own language if I address them in Serbo-Croat (which they all understand perfectly). If they reached their majority before 1992 when Macedonia became independent, it usually means that they can, especially the men, as Serbo-Croat was the language of command in the Yugoslav Army. Most strikingly, many Czechs are losing the ability to communicate in Slovak. I find this most bizarre. The two languages are much more closely related than, say, Italian and Spanish and as a Czech-speaker, I can understand Slovak perfectly well, in part because when I studied in communist Czechoslovakia, both languages were spoken in the main evening news and Slovak was heard on the radio and telly almost as frequently as Czech. Not any more. Slovak culture has more or less disappeared from Prague although Slovaks still seem to understand Czech perfectly well. Patronymic But of all the language changes going on, the one I lament the most is the slow but perceptible erosion of the Russian patronymic in public life. The use of the Christian name followed by 'son of' and then the father's Christian name was one of the few cultural devices to bridge the huge divisions of privilege which have plagued Russian society for centuries. It was a system that simultaneously projected informality and respect. For years even non-Russians knew Khrushchev by the more cuddly title Nikitia Sergeyevich. But as Western business practices modernise working life in Moscow and Kiev, the patronymic is being dropped in exchange for the overly familiar blue-skies, out of the box and pushing the envelope world of offices where everyone uses first names even as they are preparing to stab a colleague in the back. Personally I would prefer to be addressed in the more honest manner of Lermontov, Pushkin or Tolstoy: 'Mikhail Mikhailovich, I challenge you to a duel!' From Our Own Correspondent was broadcast on Saturday, 29 October, 2005 at 1130 BST on BBC Radio 4. Please check the programme schedules for World Service transmission times. 'Languages get lost in translation', Misha Glenny, BBC NEWS, 2005/10/29 10:52:29 GMT

Intolerance: Waverley Steps Proposals "A Carbuncle"?

Sir Rocco Forte last night attacked plans for a new station entrance to be built next to his flagship Scottish hotel, describing the design as a 'carbuncle' and an 'eyesore'. Speaking at 'The Balmoral Hotel' yesterday, the 60-year-old businessman said he was angry and upset over 'Network Rail's' attempts to replace the famous 'Waverley Steps' with escalators and a glass lift. He said the 'monstrosity' of steel and glass, which would rise up in front of the windows of the hotel's 'Sir Walter Scott' suite, would obscure the view of 'Edinburgh Castle' as well as invade the privacy of his guests. As the first hotel bought by Mr.Forte, who owns a string of hotels across Europe, he admits feeling nostalgia for the historic building and believes the plans would ruin its facade. If the plans are given the green light in the next week, the 6.6_million_GBP project would begin in 2006-01. Mr.Forte said he at first thought the plans for the new entrance, which he claims will cost the five-star hotel 3_million_GBP/year in lost bookings, were part of a hoax.
'I thought it was a joke but when I was told it wasn't, I said, "You can't be serious."
'The whole thing is the wrong way round for a start; if I was building a hotel I wouldn't start with the door, but this is what they are doing, which seems a strange way to go about it. 'If there were plans to put such a "carbuncle" anywhere else in the world people would be "up in arms" but here there seems to be no objection -- which makes me angry.
'It has "all the hallmarks" of a "rushed job".
'What irritates me is the way it is moving forward in such an unintelligible way.
'It is also ill-considered to have the main entrance on Princes Street as the traffic congestion would be horrendous.
'It is just outrageous.'
He added that he was not against revamping the dark entrance with lights and shelter but the present plans he says go too far by blocking the ground floor windows along the west side.
'The designs need to be considerably modified before these plans can go ahead.
'I ask my advisors daily for the latest developments on these plans as I am very upset about them,' he said.
'The city's head of planning, Alan Henderson, says this monstrosity won't obscure my guests' views.
'Well, I would invite him to come here and I will show him how it reaches three-quarters of the way up the windows. 'It needs to be much lower, with the lifts maybe on their sides, like how they operate in the legs of the Eiffel Tower.'
A Network Rail spokesman said:
'We are hopeful that planning permission for the new entrance to Waverley Station will be granted next week. 'Our architects have been extremely flexible about the designs and have taken on board comments from interested parties including heritage groups and the Balmoral Hotel. We are confident that the steps design will bring benefits to everyone.'
A city spokesman said:
'The report from the head of planning and strategy on the proposal for improvements to the steps at "Waverley Station" has now been passed to the planning committee for consideration.
'This is next due to be heard on Wednesday of next week after a site visit this week.'
A single 'up' escalator for the 12_m ascent from the station is planned, to transport commuters to a new mezzanine plaza off Princes St, while three 'down' escalators will carry passengers in the other direction and provide access to 'The Princes Mall' shopping centre. Councillors will have the final say on the proposals at the meeting on Wednesday 2005-11-02, but planning officials have recommended they give it 'the green light'. Earlier this month, shop owners warned if the plans got the go-ahead, there would be no businesses left on the steps by the time construction is finished in 2007-11. During this week's meeting, rail officials were told they should be trying to create something akin to the art nouveau entrances to 'The Paris Metro', designed by Mr.Hector Guimard from 1899 to 1905. 'Furious Forte says 'carbuncle' plan for Waverley entrance oversteps mark', Angie Brown, The Scotsman, 2005-10-29, Sa

2005-10-28

Intolerance: Women Are Under Attack

Women are under attack -- they can't cook, drive, hack it in business and don't do science or football. But do the myths match the reality? Jessica Kiddle investigates DRIVING THE MYTH: Whether it's claims they drive too slow, accusations they can't reverse park, or jokes about them putting on their lipstick while stopped at traffic lights, men love the fact that women are renowned for being bad drivers, and Formula One driver Mr.Jenson Button appears to be no exception. In a recent interview with lads' mag 'FHM', Mr.Button said
'One week of the month you wouldn't want to be on the circuit with them, would you?' 'A girl with big boobs would never be comfortable in the car.'
THE REALITY: Ms.Fiona Leggate has been speeding around the track at 'The British Touring Car Championships' this year, she says Mr.Button is not the only one who thinks that way.
'As a woman in a male-dominated sport, you get these kind of comments, but, if Button had said that to my face, I would have just laughed at him. 'Anyone who agrees with him should come and see me -- or other top British women drivers such as Susie Stoddart and Katherine Legge -- race and they would soon change their minds. 'Comments like that just make me more determined to succeed and I have dedicated the last three years of my life to racing to get where I am. 'For racing you have to be mentally and physically fit because you have to be able to be give 100 per cent concentration while you are in the car, and you also need determination. 'None of these requirements are gender-specific.'
ADVERTISING THE MYTH: Women are wimps when it comes to the cut-throat world of advertising. So says Mr.Neil French, the former creative head of the world's biggest advertising group 'WPP', who told a conference in Toronto:
'Women don't make it to the top because they don't deserve to. They're crap.'' Mr.French resigned after making his feelings about his female colleagues known, but not before he had lambasted women for always giving up jobs to, as he put it, 'go suckle something'.
THE REALITY:
'It is true that there are fewer women than men high up in the creative sector of advertising but this is not because they can't take the pressure and go off and have babies,' says Ms.Debbie Klein, chief executive of advertising agency 'WCRS', whose client list includes 'BMW', 'Heinz' and 'Volvic'. 'Someone once told me "good ideas don't have genitals", so the suggestion that women are in any way inherently incapable of coming up with good ideas or can't make it in advertising is wrong. 'Part of the reason that there are fewer women than men in the creative sector is that people often hire in their own image and because there are lots of male creative directors they hire male teams. 'But there is no evidence to suggest that women are less creative than men. 'If you have the talent and the commitment, women have got the ability to get to the top. 'It is a notoriously tough industry with long hours and a brutal working culture, so it's not for "wallflowers", but there are more and more female role models in the business, showing that women can do it. 'In fact, some of the hottest young creative talents at the moment are women, but it will take a while for them to work up the ranks.'
COOKING THE MYTH: Women 'can't cook to save their lives' said British celebrity chef Mr.Gordon Ramsay this week in an interview with 'The Radio Times'. Although traditionally it has always been women who occupied the role of home-maker in society, Mr.Ramsay said that it is now men who are becoming the experts in the kitchen while women rely on ready-made meals and only know how to mix a cocktail. THE REALITY:
'While I think Ramsay is a wonderful cook, he is wrong on this point,' says food columnist and chef, Ms.Claire Macdonald, who has a 'Lifetime Achievement Award' from 'The Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland'. 'Women have so many qualities that make them excellent cooks. 'Cooking also goes back to our roots; women are born nurturers and providers and can make good meals from the most basic ingredients. 'We also have a genetic advantage over men in that we can multi-task; women don't find it hard to think of more than one thing at once. 'So, in a restaurant, we can check what orders are coming in, remember how long something has been in the oven, as well as cooking at the same time. 'You don't have to look very far for examples of excellent female chefs either. Sally Clarke's restaurant in London is sublime, and Angela Hartnett is the executive chef at 'The Connaught' in London, which speaks volumes for her competency.'
SCIENCE THE MYTH: Only men are good at science. The view that only men can navigate their way around a 'periodic table', or use a 'Bunsen Burner', was once the a commonly held view in the upper echelons of this male-dominated discipline. Mr.Stephen Hawking, author of 'A Brief History of Time' and Lucasian professor of mathematics at 'Cambridge University', in an interview last month said:
'It is generally recognised that women are better than men at languages, personal relations and multi-tasking, but less good at map-reading and spatial awareness. 'It is therefore not unreasonable to suppose that women might be less good at mathematics and physics. 'It is not politically correct to say such things and the president of Harvard got in terrible trouble for doing so. 'But it cannot be denied that there are differences between men and women.'
THE REALITY: The dean of the faculty of Veterinary Medicine at 'The University of Glasgow', Ms.Andrea Nolan, was the first woman to be appointed dean of any veterinary school in the UK or Ireland. She is also a fellow of 'The Royal Society of Edinburgh' (Scotland's 'National Academy of Science and Letters'). She said:
'I just don't think because of the ways things have been in the past that's the way things are going to be in the future; 'At "Glasgow University", we have Christina Davis, the only female physics professor in Scotland, and bio-scientist Nancy Rothwell, who has recently been made a fellow at 'The Royal Society of London' (the UK's prestigious science academy), is a good female role model for young scientists,' 'It is quite a generalisation to suggest that 51 per cent of the human race isn't good at a certain subject, and it isn't so in my experience. 'Science demands a whole range of skills, including problem-solving, creativity, and the ability to negotiate between disciplines and fields. 'I can't understand why a woman wouldn't be able to meet these demands. 'We all have our strengths, but they are more unique to the individual than to a particular sex. 'I think the lack of women in the field has much to do with our preconditioning -- the idea that science is a man's field has been embedded in our "psyche" from an early age. 'There is also a lack of female role models in science with whom women can identify.'
FOOTBALL THE MYTH: Go into any living room or pub during a football match and you will hear glib comments about how football is a man's game. All men everywhere claim their 'other halves' don't understand the basic rules of the great game and are incapable of comprehending the infamous offside rule, let alone playing the sport. THE REALITY: In a survey conducted by the sports-bar chain 'Walkabout', only 55 per cent of men could correctly identify when a player was offside, compared with 59 per cent of women. Ms.Maureen Mcgonigle, the executive administrator of 'Scottish Women's Football', says this survey just proves how wrong men are.
'The sweeping generalisation that because you are a man you can do something, and because you are a women you can't is just ridiculous,' she says. 'The stuff about women not being able to play or understand football is really just something men like to say to give themselves an ego boost. 'It's a sport that is loved by all -- men love playing it and are passionate when they are watching it, so why shouldn't women feel exactly the same about it? 'Women are now prevalent at all levels in the sport and they are not there out of sympathy. 'They have the skills, knowledge and the expertise to understand the game as well as play it. 'If women's football continues to grow at the pace that it is growing now it will be one of the top sports in the country and both men and women will love, and understand, watching it.'
'Anything you can do', Jessica Kiddle, the Scotsman, 2005-10-28, Fr

Health: 1st Hospital to Beat MRSA Superbug

Clydebank's 'Golden Jubilee National Hospital' has not recorded a single case of the MRSA bug being caught in its wards in the last year. It's believed to be the only major hospital in the country to have achieved the feat -- at a time when rates of the infection are soaring across the country. The milestone is revealed in the hospital's annual report, and the daughter of an MRSA victim today praised 'The Golden Jubilee's' approach, calling for other units to follow its example. Ms.Linda Barr is from Houston in Renfrewshire. Her dad Mr.Albert Hatton died after contracting MRSA while at 'Glasgow Royal Infirmary'. The daughter later had heart tests in 'The Golden Jubilee'. She said:
'The hospital was absolutely spotless.
'When I was in, the staff always cleaned their hands before and after they examined me.
'That's the way hospitals should be.'
A Scottish Executive spokesman praised the hospital but added:
'"The Golden Jubilee" does not have an emergency department and works differently from other hospitals; it is hard to compare MRSA rates.'
She said 'The Scottish Health Service' had won praise for its 15_million_GBP drive against 'superbugs' and added:
'Good hand hygiene, prudent antibiotic prescribing and comprehensive staff training all play a vital role in controlling infection and we now have measures in place for this.'
'The deadly MRSA superbug is being beaten at a Scots hospital.', The Evening Times, 2005-10-28

2005-10-23

Intolerance: Land sale to Fix Castle in Test Court Case

The DE BOYVILLES have been the lairds of Kelburn Estate in Ayrshire for more than 850 years -- a reward for helping William the Conqueror win 'The Battle of Hastings'. But 'The Viscount of Kelburn', 'Baron of Fairlie' and 'the 10th Earl of Glasgow', Mr.Patrick Boyle faces a fight of his own to save the family castle from crumbling. The 66-year-old hereditary peer wants to sell part of his land for housing to help meet a 1.5_million_GBP bill for essential repairs to his 60-room mansion. But he has been forced to launch a court action to prevent his neighbours using 'right-to-buy' legislation and jeopardising the deal. Residents of the nearby village of Fairlie have successfully registered an interest in the 15-acre strip of land under new laws passed by 'The Scottish Executive' in 2003, claiming they want to turn it into a recreation area. It means that if any part of the land is resold, they will have first option to buy. In what will be a test case of the new legislation, Mr.Patrick Boyle is asking the courts to overturn the registration.
'They can't stop the sale to the developer going through, but every time a house is sold they will have an option to buy,' he said. 'This makes the deal much less attractive to the developer. 'Fairlie is a retirement village of reasonably well-to-do, middle-class people and I believe they just do not want more houses to be built there. 'I think new housing will invigorate the place, bringing in families, and give it the lift it needs. I am the goodie in this case, not the wicked landowner.'
The De Boyvilles -- the name was anglicised in the 18th century -- claim Kelburn is the oldest castle in Scotland to have been continuously occupied by one family. It was transformed into a tourist attraction and country park by the present earl, a former filmmaker, in 1977. But visitor numbers to the 3_700-acre estate have dwindled from a peak of 90_000 in 1995. Land has already been sold to help clear large debts, but Mr.Boyle now says he needs to do a housing deal to pay for vital repairs.
'The wiring needs renewing and the chimneys, roof and downpipes are in a serious state of disrepair,' said the aristocrat. 'Architects said it needed 1.5_million_GBP spending on it, but if I can even raise half that, then I can get the work started. 'I really do need this money because I have been putting off the repairs for a long time and just patching things up.'
The land to be sold is next to Fairlie, a picturesque village on the coast opposite Great Cumbrae island. It is currently used for grazing but was, until recently, earmarked by 'The Scottish Executive' for a road bypass. But Kelburn Estate successfully appealed at an official inquiry into this designation last year 2004. In a ruling in 2004-09, 'The Scottish Executive's' 'Reporter' agreed the land could be used for housing, with an unusual caveat. She said she would agree to the change in land use as long as most of the profits flowing to Mr.Boyle were used to support the castle. Mr.Boyle will take a percentage of the takings from each house sold, potentially netting the estate hundreds of thousands of pounds. He is adamant that the community council -- through a newly formed body, the Fairlie Land Acquisition Company -- only declared its intention to register its interest in the land after the housing plan became public knowledge.
'I understand the point of the Land Reform Act,' he said. 'In the past, people who lived and worked on the land as tenants and who genuinely have an interest in the land should have a "right to buy". 'But these people never had any interest in the land whatsoever until they found out about the housing. 'This is not what the "right-to-buy" legislation was about. 'It is there to protect people who have a genuine interest in the land, not those who don't like what's going on over their fence.'
The appeal against the right-to-buy registration will be heard at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court in 2006-01.
'This is something of a test case,' Mr.Boyle said.
Community councillors in Fairlie, which has a population of around 1_500, said they registered their interest in the land because they wanted to use it as a community asset. Council secretary Mr.Steve Graham said:
'We are interested in taking the land into community ownership for a sports field and community woodland or something like that. 'Lord Glasgow has decided he does not like the fact that we are registered and he has taken out a writ against us. If it is rescinded it will give him the green light to go ahead with the housing development. 'But the people in "The Scottish Executive" are sure we will win the case as our claim is properly registered under the law as it stands.'
Mr.Graham claims that the council decided to go ahead in registering an interest in the land before the reporter's recommendations on changing its use emerged in public in 2004-11.
'When we started to carry out a poll of local people, as we had to do under the legislation, the land was still designated to be retained as a bypass. It was low-grade industrial land,' he says. 'This is nothing to do with stopping a housing development. 'We started the "right-to-buy" process before the reporter's views became known.'
He added, however, that development of 115 new homes would swell the village's population by about a third, swamping local services.
'The primary school is already full and the local secondary has to turn people away,' he said.
'Our view is that another 500 people, including 50 or 60 children, will make matters worse.'
'Villagers vow to tackle earl over land sale', Jeremy Watson, Scotland on Sunday, 2005-10-23

Intolerance: Sick & Unemployed to get Therapy to Get Back To Work

The extent of Scotland's 'dependency culture' has been revealed with research shotwing 70 per cent of working-age people in one of the country's most deprived areas are receiving state benefits for ill health. An investigation of a council ward in 'Glasgow's Gorbals' area found that of the 1_900 working-age residents, 1_400 were receiving incapacity benefit (IB) or other sickness benefits. Such is the scale of the problem in the 'Hutchesontown ward' that a private recruitment company has been hired by 'The Department for Work and Pensions' ('DWP') to try to convince claimants that they are in fact able to work. The firm offers such basic help as assistance with buying a suit and advice on how to visit the dentist. IB, paid out at rates of up to 76_GBP/week, is given to working-age people who can prove they are unable to carry out basic physical tasks, and are thus unavailable for employment. In Scotland, 281_500 receive the benefit, amounting to 8.9 per cent of Scotland's working population. But the system has become mired in controversy, with critics claiming that IB has turned thousands of people into dependents upon the state. IB is higher than income support -- a fact which opponents say creates an incentive for jobless people to apply -- and it is also relatively easy to claim. Attention was focused back on the system after 'The Work and Pensions Secretary Mr.David Blunkett', declared last month, 2005-09, that the system was 'crackers', claiming that depressed and stressed people on IB would be better off getting a job than 'sitting at home watching daytime TV'. 'BBC's' 'Frontline Scotland' is devoting a programme to the system on Wednesday 2005-10-26 evening. The recruitment firm working in the Gorbals, 'Reed in Partnership', uses trained psychologists to knock on people's doors in the hope they can persuade them to consider getting a job. They say that many claimants feel unable to consider work because they suffer from rock-bottom self-esteem after years of unemployment. But critics of the IB system say that ministers must now tighten up eligibility rules for benefits. It is claimed that often GPs simply sign off claimants without due checks. Professor Mr.Steve Fothergill of 'Sheffield Hallam University' said:
'Ill health and disability is not necessarily a bar to work.
'Labour Force Survey data shows that around half the adults of working age who report a long-term work-limiting illness do in fact work.
'Only a quarter of male IB claimants say they can't do any work at all.
'For the rest, the limitation is on exactly what work they do, or how much'.
Mr.Mike Weir, the SNP's work and pensions spokesman, said:
'The problem with incapacity benefit is that it was used all through "The Thatcher years" to cover up the unemployment figures and it's now all coming home to roost. Blunkett's approach is to stigmatise everyone on benefit and give the idea that they are having us on, and that policy is completely wrong.
'There are people who should be receiving the benefit. 'Many people on incapacity benefit do want to work but fear that if they go to work and something does not work out then they will be worse off than ever. 'The answer is to have a compassionate system which gets people into appropriate jobs without the risk that people going into work will lose out.'
The radical moves in Glasgow come with the 'DWP' preparing to roll out a pilot programme known as 'Pathways to Work' across Glasgow from the end of this month, 2005-10. The scheme will offer all claimants of IB additional financial and health advice, with the aim of breaking the cycle of dependency. People on IB are also offered pay supplements on top of offered wages, so that it pays to work. Officials say efforts to get people back into work are already paying dividends with the number of claimants in Scotland having fallen by 8_000 since February 2003. Mr.David Carew, an occupational psychologist for 'Reed in Partnership', explained the problems faced in the Gorbals. He said:
'People are in a spiral of unemployment. 'It is corrosive in terms of the effects on self-esteem. 'There is clearly an issue where people spiral downwards the longer they are unemployed. These people have never worked. 'The result is you have to go back to the building blocks.' 'The biggest thing for most people is fear. 'We see a lot of anxiety and depression. 'These people require therapeutic intervention. 'They have been living with conditions which are quite manageable if they are given the right support. 'We will try to meet people in the street and go and knock on their doors to ask them to consider work. 'We try to build their confidence, coach them on a career and put them into a work placement. 'Sometimes we have to help them go out and buy a suit or maybe get their teeth looked at. 'I might help them with things like voice projection.'
A spokesman for 'DWP' said that the new 'Pathways to Work' programme in Glasgow would seek to build on the work in the Gorbals.
'Glasgow will offer a whole range of additional financial, healthcare and job search support to IB customers. 'We want to ensure that we help this group overcome the multiple barriers they face in getting back to work,' he said.
'Makeovers to get sick Scots back to work', Eddie Barnes, Scotland On Sunday,2005-10-23

2005-10-21

Health: Gym Music

Listening to the right kind of music can improve your sporting performance by as much as 20 per cent, according to scientists. Just as specific songs can stir memories that make couples reminisce and feel romantic, experts say a favourite song can motivate an exerciser to keep going and work harder. The tempo of music can enhance the body's motor skills and even teach it new ones as the beat regulates movement and prolongs performance. For fans of rock music, during light exercise the researchers say they might want to listen to Tina Turner's 'Simply The Best', but as they get into more strenuous music they should progress through a rocking playlist of 'Keep On Running' by 'The Spencer Davis Group', 'Born To Be Wild' by 'Steppenwolf' and finally, as they struggle through the final stages of the most strenuous exercise, Glen Frey's 'The Heat Is On'. The traditional view is that up-beat dance music boosts performance by making the exerciser speed up. But, according to the researchers, it is all about individual taste. It is well-known that Scottish tennis sensation Mr.Andy Murray gets himself geared up for the strains of a competitive tennis match with the sounds of 'The Black Eyed Peas'. Olympic rowing champion Mr.James Cracknell is another who has used music to achieve success, as he blasted the classic 'Red Hot Chili Peppers'' album 'Blood Sugar Sex Magik' before helping Britain to a gold medal at Athens last year, 2004. Mr.Costa Karageorghis, of Brunel University's school of sport and education, said:
'It's no secret that music inspires superior performance.
'Just as the association between a first love and 'your song' can be very strong, so is the relationship between music and sporting performance levels.
'However, there's no definitive playlist for today's gym goers or tomorrow's sporting heroes.
'Songs are particular to an individual -- they are not prescriptive.'
Mr.Karageorghis believes specific artists and songs can be selected in whichever musical genre the athlete likes in order to boost their performance levels at different stages of exertion. While pop fans may get an initial boost during light exercise by listening to 'The Lighthouse Family', they should progress to the frenzy of 'Reach' by 'S Club 7' when the going gets tough. Mr.Ray Macdonald, a reader in psychology at 'Glasgow Caledonian University', says that his own research supports the findings, and suggests that music can play an important role not only in improving performance, but also in reducing pain.
'It is very important that people do adapt music to their own personal tastes if they want to maximise performance.
Classical music would not normally be expected to boost sporting performance, but it will boost the performance of classical music fans,' he said. 'Gyms try to cater for their core customers by playing a certain type of music but you still see a lot of people with headphones on.
'This control of our own environment can significantly aid performance.'
However, Mr.Angus Hunter, a lecturer in exercise physiology at 'Stirling University', does not agree that people are only motivated by the genre of music that they like.
'A 65-year-old guy might not like the latest chart music in the gym,' he says.
'But he will find himself picking up on the beats. 'Gyms cannot please everyone but fast beats for step machines do help motivate. Intuitively, the legs start to move at the same pace.'
Ms.Zoe Wilson-Maye, deputy manager at 'LA Fitness' in Livingston, said that the chain had recently introduced a TV system, where members can choose the station they want to listen to. She added:
'Everyone has different tastes and you are more likely to maximise your performance in the gym if you are enjoying your workout.
'Listening to music you enjoy is an important part of that.'
What to play while you work out
  • At 55 per cent heart rate: Rock -- Tina Turner 'Simply the Best'; Pop -- 'The Lighthouse Family' 'Lifted'; Soul -- 'Soul II Soul' 'Back To Life'; Classical -- Vivaldi 'The Four Seasons (Spring)'.
  • 65 per cent: Rock -- 'The Spencer Davis Group' 'Keep On Running'; Pop -- Michael Jackson 'Don't Stop Til You Get Enough'; Soul -- Gloria Gaynor 'I Will Survive'; Classical -- Johann Strauss 'Radetzky March'.
  • 75 per cent: Rock -- 'Steppenwolf' 'Born To Be Wild'; Pop -- 'Artful Dodger' 'Movin' Too Fast'; Soul -- James Brown 'I Feel Good'; Classical -- Prokofiev 'Troika'.
  • 85 per cent: Rock -- Glenn Frey 'The Heat Is On'; Pop -- 'S Club 7' 'Reach'; Soul -- 'The Blues Brothers' 'Everybody Needs Somebody To Love'; Classical -- Rossini 'William Tell Overture'.
'Music boosts sport success by fifth', Michael Blackley, The Scotsman, 2005-10-21, Fr

2005-10-20

Statistics: Italian Demographic Time-Bomb

Italian men become fathers at a later age than any other nationality, and do little or nothing to help their wives once their babies are born...statistics office 'Istat' said 2005-10-20. Italian men have their first child at an average age of 33, against less-than-31 for fathers in Spain, France and Finland, 'Istat' said. Part of the problem was that many Italian men lived with their parents for longer than elsewhere in the world, with 40 percent of 30 - 34 year-old Italian males still staying at home. When they eventually become fathers, Italian women need not expect much help around the house, 'Istat' said, adding that Italian men's dedication to domestic duties was 'non-existent or unsatisfying.' 'Istat' said men who married at the age of 35 were 80 percent less likely to want a child than those who married at 25, while women were only likely not to want children if they were older than their husbands. By contrast with the men, Italian women have their first child at an average age of 27, six months before their Finnish counterparts. These statistics will do little to reassure the Italian government which is worried by a demographic time bomb, with Italians rapidly aging and many couples deciding to only have one child or none at all. Reuters Rome via Yahoo! News, 2005-10-20 Th

2005-10-17

Money: Mail Theft Sparks ID Fraud Fears

Householders in one of the richest streets in Scotland have been targeted by mail thieves believed to be trying to steal documents to use in identity fraud. In what appears to be a coordinated series of raids, thieves have stolen more than 1_000 pieces of mail intended for some of the most affluent addresses in Glasgow and East Renfrewshire, including the city's Albert Drive, the fourth-richest street in the country. Residents of the Pollokshields street, including TV star Ms.Carol Smillie, do not know if the thieves will now attempt to steal their identities through the bank statements and credit cards they are bound to have collected. One resident, Ms.Sandra Middleton, said:
'I've been told they no longer look for discarded rubbish in our bins because everyone is shredding everything. 'Now they are stealing our post before we can receive it.'
Albert Drive has been named as the postal area containing the fourth-highest number of millionaires in Scotland. 'Royal Mail' drivers dump sacks of mail in the grey 'pouch box' opposite Ms.Middleton's detached stone villa, to be collected by the postie later in the morning. But on 2005-09-29, before he/she could do so, the thieves pounced. It is estimated that 650 items of mail, due to be delivered to nearby addresses, were stolen. Hundreds more items were taken from a box four miles away, in Giffnock, East Renfrewshire, at the same time. A spokesman for 'The Royal Mail' in Edinburgh said:
'Our security people are working very closely with "Strathclyde Police" in this matter.'
But Mr.Tom Craig, an expert on identity theft and a former senior officer with 'The Metropolitan Police', said:
'"Royal Mail" should really have notified each one of the customers in that postcode, even though they could not be certain that person has lost mail. 'Envelopes could contain PIN numbers for bank accounts or credit cards.'
'ID fraud fear after mail theft', PAUL DRURY, Scotland On Sunday, 2005-10-16

2005-10-13

Intolerance: Gender Differences Post-Birth

Article by Fiona Mccade Anybody walking down George St in Edinburgh last weekend could have been treated to a rather unusual sight: two mature adults poking and prodding their small, sleeping baby. Eventually, the relentless torment became too much and the baby woke up and started screaming. It was then transformed from a comatose cherub into a shrieking demon. The adults sighed happily, smiled at each other and walked on. It was my fault that 'Beloved' and I were harassing 'Junior' in broad daylight... 'Beloved' had been carrying 'Junior' in a sling, with the baby cuddled into his chest, when he mentioned that 'Junior's' face had been nuzzled into his woollen jumper for ages and how amazing it was that he could breathe at all. 'Beloved' saw no problem with this, but I was instantly startled into action. Some deep primeval terror overwhelmed me and I had to make absolutely sure my child was still respiring. Which is how we came to be standing in the street, desperately trying to provoke a tiny boy into showing some signs of life. I was beside myself with blind panic that while we'd been innocently ambling along 'Junior' had been suffocating silently. Only after we'd woken him from his blissful slumber, and upset him terribly, could I relax. Most mothers will immediately sympathise with me but, interestingly, silent children don't seem to unduly frighten fathers. 'Beloved' didn't really believe anything was wrong and certainly hadn't banked on my fevered reaction. Whereas I feel the need to constantly check on 'Junior' and spend ages tiptoeing around, listening for the reassuring sound of his breathing, 'Beloved' won't put his head around the nursery door unless he hears a scream or two. You see, although men rarely feel moved to put a mirror over their baby's mouth to see if it steams up, they really, really can't stand to hear the baby cry. When it comes to parenting, I think this is one fundamental difference between the genders. Daddy tears his hair out when baby makes a noise. Mummy tears her hair out when it doesn't. Now I've been to quite a few postnatal classes and newparent get-togethers, I'm starting to notice how dissimilar the sexes are in their attitudes to child-rearing. For instance, because it's not so long since we gave birth, the women in such groups still tend to talk about how their labours went. Men, on the other hand, couldn't give a 'flying forceps' about this, preferring to forget the whole excruciating episode and concentrate on how they're coping (or not coping) with fatherhood. Both conversational topics can degenerate into embarrassing examples of one-upmanship. I'm a particularly bad offender, because I deliberately wait until every woman in the room has revealed how long her labour took, then I put on my most pained expression, pull out my trump card ('34 hours!') and sit back smugly as shocked people invariably offer me more tea and biscuits. Only people who had triplets, '12-pounders', or who ended up on crutches get more tea and biscuits than I do. Men do much the same thing, but although they also use suffering as currency, they're usually trying to outdo each other in the sleeplessness stakes. Happy is the father who proves himself an 'alpha male' by boasting to his peers how he can live -- nay, thrive -- on 30 seconds of sleep a night for six months and still win 'The Queen's Award for Industry'. For a dad, coping with 'Junior's' incessant wakefulness is a badge of heroism, worthy of applause. Oddly enough, this same strategy doesn't work for mothers; any woman who admits that her babe is having sleeping problems will instantly get full-on pity from the sisterhood, plus copious advice on how to get her beauty sleep. Modern society works hard at blurring some of the differences between the sexes, but once you have a baby they start to look very stark indeed. At least 'Beloved' and I both agree on one thing -- parenting is already ten times more difficult than we'd ever imagined. And we've only got 18 years left to learn how to do it. 'Why no noise is good noise for only Daddy', Fiona Mccade, 2005-10-13, Th

Science: UK's 1st Woodburning Power Station

A 90_million_GBP biomass power station is to be built in Scotland, the first of its kind in the country and the UK, it was announced yesterday, 2005-10-12. The development, at Lockerbie, Dumfriesshire, will burn natural fuel to power around 70_000 homes when it opens in 2007-12. The energy company 'E.ON UK', which already operates two wind farms in Scotland, said the project would 'generate' more than 300 jobs in the area -- 40 directly and 300 in forestry and farming. All 220_000_tonnes of fuel required for the station every year will come from the local area, the company said, with up to 45_000_tonnes coming from willow trees harvested by farmers.
The plant will also be the largest dedicated wood-burning power station in the UK. Unlike fossil fuels, biomass is renewable energy.
'E.ON', which owns 'Powergen', is working with 'Siemens' and 'Kvaerner' on the power station, to be based at Steven's Croft. The company's chief executive, Mr.Paul Golby, said the development would be a huge boost for Scotland.
'This is a major project for us and for Scotland because biomass is a carbon-neutral fuel with huge potential for both electricity generation and for farmers growing the crops we can burn,' he said. 'Lockerbie is further evidence of our commitment to helping both the UK government and "The Scottish Executive" to meet their tough green-energy targets. 'The project will also be creating hundreds of jobs, both directly and indirectly, in the local area, and we at "E.ON" are committed to using local producers for our fuel needs.'
The enterprise minister, Mr.Nicol Stephen, welcomed the plan.
'This is excellent news for Lockerbie and Scotland,' he said. 'We know that Scotland has an abundant resource to lead the way in biomass development in the UK, providing and sustaining jobs and meeting local energy needs. 'Developments like "E.ON UK's" demonstrate extremely clearly that, by seizing these tremendous opportunities, we can help make Scotland a powerhouse of renewable energy.'
Ms.Elaine Murray, the MSP for Dumfries, said her local constituents supported the plant, and she welcomed the creation of jobs. Ms.Shiona Baird, MSP, 'The Scottish Green Party's' energy spokesman, said:
'The new power station, and the considerable number of jobs that it will create, is good news. 'This move confirms the environmental and economic benefits of developing renewable energy sources.
'I hope it will kick-start demand and help boost confidence in the biomass industry.'
The government wants 10 per cent of energy generated from renewable resources by 2010. Scandinavia, France and Germany have installed thousands of automatic wood-chip-powered heating systems over the past few years. 'Wood-fuelled power station to be UK's first', Edward Black, The Scotsman, 2005-10-13, Th Links: Scottish Parliament Renewable Energy Group Scottish Renewables DTI - renewable energy British Wind Energy Association Views of Scotland Wind-farm.org Country Guardian Friends of the Earth Scotland TreeHugger.com

Intolerance: Modern Manners

Modern manners are now more likely to be judged on how we behave at the gym, write our e-mails and kiss people when we greet them, rather than whether we set the perfect dinner table or send thank-you letters, according to a new guide for women. Changing lifestyles in the new millennium mean that women are now having to navigate their way through a range of new social situations which require their own particular etiquette. The guide to 'noughtiquette' in the magazine 'Good Housekeeping' is aimed at helping readers with modern dilemmas, such as the rising popularity of 'social kissing' when saying hello or goodbye. Women should 'air kiss' if wearing lipstick and avoid kissing anyone on the lips apart from their partner, the guide advises. It also cautions against kissing their plumber, physician, boss or anyone else with whom they have a strictly professional relationship. The report also steers readers through computer etiquette, warning 'never, ever use a smiley face in an e-mail, particularly to someone whose respect you wish to command'. The ever-growing popularity of gym attendance has also led to new questions over behaviour. The guide points out that, while it is perfectly acceptable for a woman to be naked in a communal changing room, doing stretching exercises in the nude is clearly distasteful. A spokesman for 'Good Housekeeping' said:
'"Dress down Fridays", Internet "netiquette", [and] mobile phones -- fewer than 20 years ago these features of modern life did not exist. 'So as these and other realities of life in the "Noughties" have entered our communal consciousness, we've had to fumble our way towards creating new rules of etiquette that take them into account.'
The guide also provides some sharp answers to rude questions. If someone asks:
'Why don't you have children?' it suggests you reply: 'I prefer not to discuss my uterus at parties.'
Other tips include not ogling other men in front of a partner and (despite what they may have seen on 'Sex In The City' the US American TV comedy series) women should not discuss their sex life in graphic detail with 'The Girls'. Finally, it warns that no woman should ever have a 'trendy' ringtone on her mobile phone. Mr.Charles Molsley, spokesman for 'Debrett's', publishers of the definitive 'New Guide to Etiquette and Modern Manners', said fast-changing fashions and technology have left many people confused about polite behaviour.
'It is only six years since our last edition, but we are working on one for next year,' he said. 'Is it acceptable to send messages on your "Blackberry" in the middle of a meal? That is the kind of thing that has to be addressed if western civilisation is not to go into terminal decline.'
Today's social dilemmas The rising popularity of restaurant dining means that quibbling over the bill because you did not have a starter has now replaced using 'The Wrong Knife' as the major dining 'faux pas'. High divorce rates and complicated family set-ups mean that the question of whether to invite your ex-spouse or former stepchildren to your wedding causes more concern than who sits at which end of the table. Increasing alcohol consumption means drinking etiquette revolves around how many bottles of wine you should bring to a dinner party rather than whether you should serve brandy or port at the end of a meal. Smokers must decide whether to suffer withdrawal pangs or go out into the cold, rather than whether to offer round the packet when they light up. 'It's Modern Manners That Maketh The Woman', Fiona Macgregor, The Scotsman, 2005-10-13, Th

2005-10-11

Health & Intolerance: Slimming Pills over The Counter

The slimming drug 'Xenical' is now available without prescription as part of a new initiative designed to combat the epidemic of obesity, but will improved access to these types of treatments help or hinder our ongoing battle against the bulge? 'Xenical' works by blocking the absorption of fat -- roughly a third of the fat, and the kilocalories (energy) it contains, travels straight through someone taking the drug three times a day. Its use on the NHS ( National Health Service) has been approved by 'The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) and shown to be both safe and effective. So, why not make it available over-the-counter? Because 'Xenical' is expensive, its use on the NHS has been largely confined to seriously overweight people who have had to lose weight as a matter of urgency. But this new initiative, which has been piloted by 'Boots', will make the drug available to almost anyone who is obese (a Body Mass Index -- BMI -- of 30 or more) who can stump up 10_GBP/week to pay for it privately. And that worries me because it is yet another step in the inexorable march towards the total medicalisation of obesity. Being overweight is now increasingly perceived as an 'illness'; a new-found status that allows 'sufferers' to dodge responsibility. Their weight is everybody's fault but their own. Diet plans, food manufacturers, school cooks, retailers, doctors and even remote control TVs have all been blamed at some stage. But I am not a 'fattist', just a pragmatist. The reason why most people are overweight is that they eat too much, and/or don't take enough exercise. Weight gain has little to do with your metabolism and all to do with how much you eat and how little you do. Slimming drugs are a useful tool for getting people down to a healthy weight in the short term, but the difficult part is keeping them there. 'The long, short and fat of healthy living', Dr.Mark Porter, The Scotsman, 2005-10-11, Tu

2005-10-09

Intolerance: Madonna Kabbalah Song Offensive

Word that 'Madonna's' upcoming album includes a paean to a 16th-century Jewish mystic has prompted the rabbis who guard his legacy to accuse the pop idol of sacrilege and hint at divine punishment... The 'Confessions on a Dance Floor' collection includes a song titled 'Isaac' -- in reference, entertainment media say, to Rabbi Isaac Luria, founder of 'The Kabbalah School of Mysticism' which counts 'Madonna', 47, as one of its devotees. The custodians of Luria's tomb and seminary in the northern Israeli town of Safed accused her of breaking a taboo.
'There is a prohibition in Jewish law against using the holy name of our master, 'The Sage Isaac', for profit,' the seminary's director, Rabbi Rafael Cohen, told the Israeli newspaper 'Maariv' on Sunday. 'This is an inappropriate act, and one can feel only pity at the punishment that she ('Madonna') will receive from Heaven. The Sage Isaac is holy and pure, and immodest people cannot sing about him,' he said.
Bred a Roman Christian 'Madonna', famed for her racy lyrics and on-stage antics, has drawn frequent censure from ultra-Orthodox Jews who say her embrace of Kabbalah debases their religion. Deemed especially provocative was 'Madonna's' music video for 'Die Another Day', in which she wove 'phylacteries' around her arm, a custom usually reserved for Jewish men, before escaping from an electric chair on which Hebrew letters spelling out one of the 72 names of God appeared.
'This kind of woman wreaks an enormous sin upon "The Kabbalah",' said Rabbi Yisrael Deri, caretaker of Luria's tomb.
'Jewish mystics to Madonna: Lay off our sage!', Reuters via Yahoo! News, 2005-10-09

Health & Money: Record Fines under Health & Safety

Two firms were yesterday fined a total of 13.5_million_GBP for their parts in the Hatfield rail disaster, which a judge described as one of the worst examples of sustained industrial negligence he had ever seen. Mr.Justice Mackay said 750_000 passengers' lives had been put at risk due to the broken rail which caused the derailment of a London to Leeds express on the east coast main line. The crash killed four people and injured 102. 'Balfour Beatty', responsible for track maintenance at the time, was fined 10_million_GBP and 'Network Rail' was fined 3.5_million_GBP for breaking safety rules before the crash in 2000-10. The fines are an English record. The companies were also ordered to contribute 300_000_GBP each to the estimated 8.5_million_GBP prosecution costs following the trial at 'The Old Bailey' in London, England. 'Network Rail' was convicted 2005-09 of breaching 'The Health and Safety Act'. 'Balfour Beatty' admitted the charge earlier. In J2005-07, the court dismissed manslaughter and safety charges against three executives from 'Railtrack' -- 'Network Rail's' predecessor -- and two from 'Balfour Beatty'. The fines compare with the previous English record of 2_million_GBP against 'Thames Trains' after 'The Paddington Crash' in 1999. 'Transco' was fined 15_million_GBP at 'The High Court' in Edinburgh in 2005-08 after a leaking gas main led to the deaths of a family of four in Larkhall, Lanarkshire, also in 1999. Legal experts said the level of yesterday's fines -- and that imposed on 'Transco' -- showed judges on both sides of the border were getting tough over such offences. They added that, while some bereaved relatives would always regard fine levels as too low, such penalties had a major impact on the firms' reputations. 'The Hatfield Crash' led to massive disruption to the entire rail network while detailed checks on the tracks were carried out. A faulty rail at the site was identified 21 months before the crash, but left unrepaired -- although a replacement rail had been delivered and left alongside it for six months. The judge, who has handled similar cases for 30 years, said:
'I regard 'Balfour Beatty' as one of the worst examples of sustained industrial negligence in a high risk industry I have seen. 'Balfour Beatty's failure lay at the top of the scale.'
'Network Rail' has since taken railway maintenance in-house, although it emerged 2005-10-08, that 'Balfour Beatty' had won a 110_million_GBP contract to upgrade electrification equipment on the west coast main line. The judge said:
'No-one can predict the future, but the risks of such a tragedy had been reduced by the action of "Network Rail". 'The elimination of one of the indefensible features of the 1996 [rail] privatisation -- the separation of the ownership and control of the track from its maintenance -- is now gone. 'Perhaps that is one good thing resulting from this disastrous affair.'
TUC general secretary Mr.Brendan Barber, the , yesterday called on ministers to speed up their plans for a new corporate manslaughter law in England. An expert group has just reported on the issue to The Scottish Justice Minister Ms. Cathy Jamieson. Mr.Barber said:
'Today's decision shows the courts are now beginning to take health and safety breaches more seriously. But the families of those killed will still feel cheated that no senior executives are to face punishment as a result of their safety crimes.'
The general secretary of the RMT, Mr.Bob. Crow said:
'Compared with the carnage caused, these fines are a paltry amount -- and this is recycled public money anyway.'
Ms.Audrey Arthur, whose son Steve was killed in the crash, said:
'I don't think justice was done. 'I can take no satisfaction from the fines today. 'Money is nothing, especially to people like this.'
Mr.David Leckie, a partner specialising in health and safety with law firm 'Maclay Murray & Spens', said the fines showed prosecutions under existing laws had been effective. He said a corporate killing law could be more limited in scope, and doubted whether it would have led to higher fines. He added:
'These fines are a big hit, which are not insurable or tax deductible, and the impact on the companies is much more than just financial. 'We are seeing a huge increase in fines for this type of offence, which shows the English and Scottish courts have decided to "beef up" the penalties "dished out".'
He said 'The Health and Safety Act', which was used in both the Hatfield and Larkhall cases, included unlimited fines and the prosecution of individuals. However, he admitted the impact of such fines could fuel the growing risk-averse culture in the rail industry, which has substantially increased costs and delayed new projects. He said:
'Safety is a very difficult balance.'
'Balfour Beatty and Network Rail fined £13.5m over Hatfield crash ', Alastair Dalton, The Scotsman, 2005-10-09, Su Links:

Intolerance: Pistol's Manager Sued over Kill Bill Samples

Mr.Malcolm Mclaren, the former manager of punk rock group 'The Sex Pistols', is being sued for nearly 70_000_GBP in France for allegedly plagiarising a song used in the soundtrack of Mr.Quentin Tarantino's film 'Kill Bill 2'... Mr.Benjamin Béduneau, 29, a French musician who uses the professional name 'Lancelot', claims he was the creator of the song, 'About Her', and that Mr.Mclaren stole his composition, an allegation that the British music producer denies. Mr.Béduneau maintains that 'About Her' is a straightforward copy of a piece of music entitled 'Smith Ballad', which he created in 2002 by sampling the voice of the blues singer Ms.Bessie Smith with the song 'She's Not There' by the rock group 'The Zombies'. He claims he submitted the song to Mr.Mclaren for a tribute project to the designer Mr.Christian Dior, which did not come about. Mr.Béduneau says that instead of producing the promised album, Mr.Mclaren then proposed 'Smith Ballad' to Mr.Quentin Tarantino. 'About Her', which accompanied the final scene of 'Kill Bill 2', starring Ms.Uma Thurman. On the soundtrack, it is attributed to Mr.Mclaren. Mr.Béduneau said:
'A friend who had just bought the soundtrack of the film told me that one of my songs was on it.
'I ran to the record shop to buy it and then I listened to my song, listed as track number 12 on the CD,' he said.
However, appearing before a court in the western city of Angers, Mr.Mclaren's lawyer, Mr.Bruno Ryterband, said his client was the true author of the song and had been the victim of a scam. The song was created from music samples which Mr.Mclaren had asked Mr.Béduneau to compile, he said, adding that the young composer had simply carried out the British producer's instructions.
'In the same way that "Picasso", when he made collages, was considered to be a painter, Malcolm Mclaren is a producer who uses musical collages,' Mr.Ryterband said. 'Benjamin Béduneau did not compose the melodic line of this track, which is inspired by a work by Francis Poulenc entitled "Improvisation Number 13 In Minor",' he added.
However Mr.Ryterband admitted that Mr.Mclaren, 59, could not play the piano nor any other musical instrument. Mr.Béduneau insisted, however, that he was the true author of the song.
'The fact that it was influenced by Francis Poulenc does not alter the problem,' he added.
Mr.Béduneau's lawyer, Mr.Antoine Béguin, said:
'We expected this sort of defence which consists of saying that the creative genius is Malcolm Mclaren while Benjamin Béduneau is nothing more than an executor of lowly works. When in fact it was him who was on the synthesiser and who created the melody. 'I am confident. We have all the proof in our hands. I want it to be known that the author of the unpublished song on the original soundtrack of "Kill Bill 2", which Quentin Tarantino fell for, is French.'
Mr.Béduneau said he registered the score for the song with the French performers' rights body 'SACEM' in 2002-01. A verdict is expected on 2005-11-10. 'Mclaren sued over Kill Bill song ', Susan Bell, The Scotsman, 2005-10-08

Intolerance: Glasgow May Get 4th Lap Dancing Club Shock

Glasgow could become the 'Soho of the north' with the spread of lap-dancing clubs in the city, it was feared today, 2005-10-09. Opponents of the clubs, who say they exploit and demean women, today hit out at plans to open a fourth venue in the city. The new lap-dancing club is planned at 'Seventh Heaven' at Charing Cross, the failed Glasgow nightclub previously owned by ex-Celtic defender Mr.Stephane Mahe. New owner 'Kell Scotland' has lodged an application with the city's licensing board. It wants to turn it into an upmarket club aimed at middle-aged businessmen, with entertainment based on the 'sexed-up' shows of New York's Club 'Cake'. It would be the fourth lap-dancing club in the city after 'The Truffle Club' in Drury Lane, 'Legs & Co' on Maxwell St and 'Diamond Dolls' on Mitchell St. But Mr.Eddie Tobin, chairman of the Glasgow Nightclub 'Forum', warned the city could become 'awash with these places'. He added:
'They could turn Glasgow into the Soho of the north.'
And 'The Scottish National Party's' Glasgow MSP Ms.Sandra White said she was 'horrified' at the plans for a fourth club. She added:
'It's a slap in the face for all the citizens of Glasgow. 'I had hoped all the publicity about Glasgow's views on these clubs would have put people off. 'Charing Cross is a residential area and we are already trying to get rid of saunas in the area.
'So this club is the last thing it needs.'
Mr.Tobin said Glasgow licensing chiefs should be wary of allowing too many lap-dancing clubs to open. He said:
'I wouldn't want to see a flood of lap-dancing clubs opening in the city. 'I've no objection to a lap-dancing club, but a city full of them would not send a good message about Glasgow. 'If there are going to be four how do we know that won't become 30?'
Earlier this year the city told US American lap-dancing chain 'Spearmint Rhino' to stay out of Glasgow after it revealed plans for two clubs in the city. But the 'Seventh Heaven' bid is likely to further embarrass the city council over its policy of opposing all such applications on the grounds that lap-dancing clubs demean and exploit women. That policy proved a failure in 2005-10 after the licensing board ruled an objection by the council against renewing an entertainment licence at 'The Truffle Club' was 'not competent'. As the city has no practical means to block the plan it's likely to be approved next month, and the club is expected to open 2006-03. Plans for a lap-dancing club can only be rejected if the board believes the applicant is not a fit and proper person, or if objections are raised about the site and suitability of the premises. But a city spokesman today insisted it would try to block 'Seventh Heaven's' plans. He said:
'We will continue to oppose these clubs and object to every application.'
A spokesman for the licensing board said:
'The application by "Kell Scotland Ltd" should go before the board in January [2006-01].'
The city has asked 'The Executive' to amend 'The Civic Government Scotland Act' to make it harder to open lap-dancing clubs. It wants to make applicants apply for a specific licence rather than just one for entertainment and liquor. An independent task force is considering the request. If successful, it would allow councils to stipulate how many of the clubs, if any, could open in their area. It would also see more people being allowed to lodge objections to such plans. Only local residents, churches and businesses can currently raise objections. 'Seventh Heaven' went bust with debts of 500_000_GBP in 2004-11, four months after opening. Mr.Mahe and business partner Mr.Franck Hubert were forced to shut the club, which had fewer than 50 customers on some weekend nights. No-one at 'Kell Scotland', based in Pollokshields, was available for comment. 'Glasgow in danger of becoming Soho of the north', Martin Murray, Evening Times, 2005-10-09

Money: Househunter Preference Survey

'The Yorkshire Bank' found that 34 per cent of househunters would think twice about buying a home if the neighbouring property was in a state of disrepair or had an overgrown garden. A further 22 per cent of people said they would avoid buying an otherwise perfect house if it had a strange smell... The figures were highest in the South West, with 47 per cent saying an untidy house next door would put them off and 30 per cent objecting to strange smells. Nearly one in three people said they were looking for a property they could move straight into without the need to carry out any improvements or redecorating. Meanwhile, one in five wanted a place that needed a lot of work doing on it in the hope that they would be able to add some value. Mr.Gary Lumby, head of retail at 'Yorkshire Bank', said:
'When selling their home, most people think of giving it a spruce-up so it looks its best for potential buyers. 'However, our research shows sellers should try giving their neighbours a nudge to do the same.'
'Messy Neighbours Can Put Buyers Off', Yahoo! Bisiness News, 2005-10-09

2005-10-08

Dictionary Needs Your Help

Frustrated dictionary compilers challenged the public yesterday 2005-10-07 to help them in finding the first usage of some of the language's most curious words and phrases. Lexicographers at 'The Oxford English Dictionary' are trying to pin down the history of a list of 50 words and phrases, such as 'boffin', 'codswallop' and 'mullet', and to provide printed evidence of their earliest usage... In association with the BBC, the world-famous English dictionary is appealing to word-hunters across the UK to investigate a list of ten words and phrases so familiar no-one can agree when they first heard them. The public have responded in their droves since the BBC show 'Balderdash & Piffle' launched their search in 2005-06. But the final ten phrases are still proving elusive.
One success pushed the earliest date for 'bomber jacket' back to 1946 from 1973 after an advertising clipping from 'The New York Times' was produced.
'Balderdash & Piffle' presenter Mr.Archie Baron said:
'"The OED" wants a complete history of the English language and they need to appeal to the public to achieve that. 'Record lyrics, film scripts, football programs, diaries and personal letters may hold the kind of evidence we are looking for. 'This is still the most accurate way; in the mid-19th century when "The OED" started up, it appealed to the English reading public to send in words to make up the dictionary. 'Our words and phrases are "The DNA" of our culture. 'As a nation we do really love words; "kids" and" teenagers" are very keen on slang and their usages, and older people may be punctilious and concerned about the rigour of language. 'We have so many words in the English language. 'People boast that we have 650_000 words in regular use compared to the French who have a tenth of that number. 'We "riff" with our language, and people are no longer snobbish about slang. 'Interest in words might be partly due to e-mail as we have moved back to a written culture, with spell check and thesaurus on-line, and blogs and so on.'
The ten words and phrases in the current search, along with the earliest known year they were used, are:
  • 'mullet' (1994),
  • 'full monty' (1985),
  • 'back to square one' (1960),
  • 'ska' (1964),
  • 'codswallop' (1963),
  • 'balti' (1984),
  • 'nite nurse' (1985),
  • 'boffin' (1941),
  • 'mackem' (1991) and
  • 'something for the weekend' (1990).
Language evolution expert Professor Ms.April Mcmahon from Edinburgh University said:
'It is interesting to look at the medium that a word first appears in. Does it crop up in advertising or in a magazine articles?
'You are never completely sure you have caught the first usage.
'There is still a lot of language which is transient and has not been collected. Sometimes the old-fashioned way of looking at menus or other sources will pick up usages which would otherwise be overlooked. 'Language makes us human and distinctive.
'The words you speak and learn and who you learn them from are a huge part of our identity.'
Information about earlier uses of the words can be submitted at www.bbc.co.uk/wordhunt or by e-mail to wordhunt@bbc.co.uk 'Search for meaning leaves the dictionary experts lost for words', Laura Roberts, The Scotsman, 2005-10-08, Sa