2006-01-31

Stats & Health: Riskiest Time of Day To Drive

Motorists driving in the late afternoon are nearly twice as likely to be involved in a fatal accident than at any other time. A four-year study of accident statistics has found that the most dangerous time to be on the road is between 16:00 and 18:00, when drivers are twice as likely to be killed. The survey, conducted by 'Lothian and Borders Police', found 29 fatal collisions happened in the force area during the two-hour slot over the four years to last year 2005, almost double that of any other two-hour period. The figures were published yesterday, at the start of a month-long road-safety campaign, in which police patrols will be stepped up during peak hours. The move follows the force failing to meet Scottish Executive road accident reduction targets. A total of 419 people were killed or seriously injured on the force area's roads between 2005-04 and 2005-12 -- 15 per cent above the target of 365. Road deaths were up two, to 29, while serious injuries increased from 334 to 390. Officers are particularly concerned about casualty rates on main roads in Midlothian and the Borders, including the A1. Patrols will be looking out for speeding and careless driving, videotaping such manoeuvres and playing the recordings back to errant motorists. They will focus on the morning and evening peaks, from 07:00/09:00 and 16:00/18:00. Chief Inspector Mr.Sandy Allan, of the traffic department, said:
'After seeing these figures, we decided a hard-hitting road-safety initiative was needed to highlight the dangers of careless driving and speeding, particularly those drivers heading home at the end of a working day. 'Traffic officers will be maintaining a high-visibility presence on the roads for the next four weeks, stopping careless motorists and showing them footage of their driving, and the impact that could have on their lives if they should crash,' the officer added. 'Midlothian and the Borders are particular areas of concern. The main roads through these areas, including the A1, are highlighted as being particularly high in road casualties and deaths. 'While a great deal of work has been done, it's clear that we needed to vary our approach by putting more officers on the roads at peak times.'
The Head of Policy in Scotland for the AA Motoring Trust Mr.Neil Greig welcomed the new 'clampdown'. He said:
'High-visibility policing is a very good ide; we know that police presence is a determining factor on how people drive and how likely they are to speed. 'Drivers are simply more careful when they know there are police cars around. 'Telling drivers, especially younger ones, that road accidents will kill them often does not seem real to them. It may seem selfish to focus on the cost, guilt or hassle involved in a crash, but it may be more effective. 'Few will ever see a fatal car crash, so you are appealing to things they can more easily imagine.'
The figures come two weeks after 'The Scottish Safety Camera Partnership', which oversees speed and traffic-light cameras, reported that accidents increase by nearly one-fifth on Friday afternoons. Analysts believe the rise is associated with speeding home for the weekend. Figures published by 'The Scottish Executive' yesterday confirmed provisional statistics 2005/2006 that road deaths in Scotland in 2004 fell to their second-lowest level for 50 years -- 306 -- although this was two more than in 2002. The number of children killed or seriously injured more than halved, compared with 1994/1998 averages, to 383. 'Afternoon rush-hour road deaths prompt speeding crackdown', Alastair Dalton, The Scotsman, 2006-01-31

Intolerance: Speed Humps Discriminate Against Disabled

MSPs have called for more research into the use of speed bumps after hearing complaints about the discomfort caused to chronic pain sufferers. Disability rights campaigner Ms.Judith Mccorrie, from Fife, wants humps removed and said she and many others experienced pain driving over them. She launched a petition demanding that 'Fife Council' replace its speed bumps. The council has defended its strategy. Holyrood's petitions committee heard the issue on its visit to Dunfermline. She believes that the use of speed bumps is a form of discrimination against disabled people and has called for the use of other traffic calming measures. Her petition calls on the council to stop using the humps as its default means of slowing down traffic.
'The problem is that when you actually go over the speed humps they always cause a jolt and for people with various disabilities and chronic pain conditions and other medical conditions it is obviously extremely painful,' she said. 'As so many speed humps and speed cushions are being installed throughout Scotland it makes life very difficult. 'A lot of people with disabilities are having to avoid certain roads and areas just because of the pain experience, which I realised was a form of discrimination.'
She said the report which was quoted to justify the use of speed bumps recognised that people with a mobility impairment could suffer extreme discomfort and pain. Ms.Mccorrie said she hoped her petition had raised awareness of the problem. 'Fife Council's' Director ofTransport Services Mr.Bob Mclellan, said it had carried out a number of traffic calming schemes using a range of different measures, including speed bumps and speed cushions. He said the decision on which measures to use was based on the individual site and the response to local consultation.
'If vehicles are travelling at appropriate speeds within the 20 mph area then no discernible discomfort should be afforded to the vehicle user or passengers,' he said. 'These speed reduction schemes are assessed before, during and after implementation and results have already shown in many instances a reduction in speed and accidents.'
'Campaign to end speed bump 'pain'', BBC News, 2006/01/30 17:05:25 GMT

Google Says "No"

The Internet community has been buzzing for the past 10 days about the U.S. American 'Department of Justice's' demand for search data from the world's leading search engines. 'Yahoo',' AOL', and 'Microsoft' have all reportedly complied with the request; however 'Google' refused, paving the way for a major court battle in the months ahead. While much of the focus has been on the privacy implications of the justice department's request, the story highlights a much bigger issue -- the significant risks and rewards that arise from retaining enormous amounts of data. Canadians have become accustomed to protecting their personal information by safeguarding their identification cards, shredding bank statements, or trusting their health provider to protect their medical files. Yet they have limited control over search engines, Internet Service Providers, and e-commerce companies that retain an ever-expanding mountain of data that can reveal personal preferences, interests, and habits. The U.S.A's justice department's demand stems from an attempt to prove that legislation, rather than technologies such as content filtering, would be more effective at blocking children's access to 'harmful' materials. To prove its case, it sought data from leading search engines that would allow it to gauge the amount of available pornography on the Web as well as the frequency with which Internet users search for such content. The authorities' initial data request was stunning for its sheer breadth: Requested were all Web addresses (URLs) contained in 'Google's' database as well as a record of
'all queries that have been entered into your company's search engine between 2005-06-01 and 2005-07-31.'
In other words, they wanted a list chronicling every website in 'Google's' database, with literally every search request over a two-month period. When it faced resistance, the justice department agreed to a narrower request that included a random sample of one million Web addresses as well as a list of every search string during a one-week period. Although none of this data relates to a specific individual -- it covers hundreds of millions of Internet users -- the request has still produced a chilling effect as many begin to question whether search requests thought to be anonymous could ultimately be tracked back to them. In a broader context, the demand also highlights the growing challenge associated with data retention. All companies, particularly those operating online, recognize the value of retaining information about users. Some is essential to providing customer service, while other data can be used to provide users with a customised experience by eliminating the need to re-enter passwords, automatically posting relevant content, or sending permission-based email marketing that accurately reflects the user's interests. The value of information extends beyond personal data. Once aggregated, retailers can spot trends among demographic groups, ISPs can gauge use, and search engines can identify what is on the minds of the world's Internet users. Given its value, it comes as little surprise to find that companies retain such data for lengthy periods, using sophisticated data mining technologies to analyze the information. While these examples illustrate the rewards of data retention (which benefit both companies and their customers), significant risks also exist. The same data can be mined for purposes that extend far beyond the reasons for which it was provided. The 'Google' case provides an illustration, as mere search terms take on new significance in the hands of justice department lawyers. Some data is not consciously provided at all — it is simply gathered automatically with little thought given to its potential uses. For example, private parties may demand ISP server logs that are generated automatically to assist with new defamation or copyright lawsuits. However, one of the biggest risks associated with data retention comes not from requests that proceed through the legal system, but from security vulnerabilities that put sensitive data into the hands of hackers. Last year, more than 50 million people in North America received notification that personal information had been placed at risk due to a security breach. Policy makers worldwide have scarcely begun to reconcile the risks and rewards of data retention. In the immediate aftermath of the 'Google' issue, at least one U.S. American politician has called for legislation to set limits on data retention and establish a positive obligation to destroy data under certain circumstances. In Europe, the debate has centred on mandating data retention to assist law enforcement. While Canadian privacy law establishes general obligations on data retention and destruction, there are few clear legal obligations to either retain or destroy information. In light of recent events, it is time to search for some solutions. 'Oceans of data ripe for abuse', Michael Geist, Toronto Star, 2006-01-30

Intolerance: Infant raped on Saturday

An 11-year-old girl was raped near her home, police said yesterday 2006-01-29. 'Strathclyde Police' said she had left a group of friends with whom she had been playing behind a community centre. Shortly after, the girl was approached by a man, thought to beaged around 18, who carried out what police described as a serious indecent assault. The attack happened in Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, at 21:30 on Saturday. The assailant, who ran off towards a nearby wooded area, is described as 'white' and is believed to have an English accent. He was wearing blue jeans and a black hooded top, with the word 'Umbro' in bold white lettering across the chest. The girl was left extremely distressed by her ordeal, the police said. Detective Inspector Mr.Mike Feighan, leading the investigation, said:
'This was a horrible and terrifying ordeal for this girl, and the man responsible must be caught. 'Inquiries are at an early stage, and any help at this time from the public would be valuable. 'I am keen to hear from anyone who was in the area around 21:30 who may have seen a young man of this description hanging about, and likewise at around 22:00, when the man ran off towards the wooded area,' he added. 'I would appeal to anyone who saw anything suspicious at all, to contact me.'
Last night, one local resident -- who asked not to be named -- claimed there had been on-going problems with gangs of youths congregating at the community centre at night and drinking alcohol. He said:
'I am very sorry to hear something like this has happened. 'But for months now we have been complaining to police about groups of louts and vandals who hang around the centre at night. 'There can be over 20 of them at the weekend and they are always drinking alcohol. It is making our lives a misery.'
'Girl of 11 raped by hooded man, say police', Russell Fallis, The Scotsman, 2006-01-30

Intolerance & Health: Heroin use by Infants

Upto 50 children of primary school age in Glasgow are regularly using heroin, it was claimed last night 2006-01-29. The shocking figure was revealed as it emerged that an 11-year-old girl had collapsed at a primary school in the city last week after smoking heroin. Yesterday 2006-01-29, community leaders, health workers and politicians said the young girl's case highlighted the need to tackle the drugs problem at an even younger age. The girl, who has not been identified, was admitted to Glasgow's 'Royal Hospital for Sick Children' at Yorkhill on Wednesday 2006-01-25, where she was reported to have shown severe withdrawal symptoms. She remained in hospital last night and has been enrolled on an addiction treatment programme, one of the youngest ever to do so in the UK. The girl admitted to social workers that she bought 10_GBP bags of the class-A drug outside a shopping centre in Pollok, in the south of the city. She told physicians she had been smoking heroin for more than two months. Strathclyde Police and Glasgow City Council have launched separate investigations. Last night, 'The Scottish National Party' Deputy Justice Spokesman Mr.Stewart Stevenson, claimed that charities battling Scotland's rampant drug problem had told him they were dealing with dozens of children of a similar age taking heroin. He said the youngsters were more likely to smoke the drug, a practice known as 'chasing the dragon', than inject it. Of the 11-year-old girl, he said:
'Unfortunately, she's far from alone in that there are several dozen identified heroin addicts at primary school age in the Glasgow area. 'I understand there are probably as many as 50 primary school addicts in Glasgow. "The Executive" have spent practically nothing on training teachers in primary and early secondary to deal with this ... I talk to a lot of people working with drug users and this is what I have been told.'
Ms.Gaille Mccann, a Glasgow councillor who helped to set up 'Mothers Against Drugs' after Mr.Allan Harper, 13, died from a heroin overdose in 1998, agreed that the latest case was not an isolated incident. She said:
'This is the harsh reality of the drug problem today, and it must not just become a seven-day story but instead act as a wake-up call to us all, particularly the policymakers in their ivory towers.'
However, Mr.Alistair Ramsay, the director of 'Scotland Against Drugs' ('SAD'), warned against using anecdotal evidence to gauge the scale of the pre-teenage heroin problem. He said 'SAD' had trained thousands of teachers and school heads on how to deal with the effects of child or parental drug users. Mr.Ramsay said:
'Thankfully, incidents like this are very rare, but when they occur they are truly shocking. Parents should not overreact, but if they know their child well they will spot changes in behaviour very quickly, and this will help with an early identification of a problem.'
Last year, experts at 'The University of Glasgow' found that children as young as ten have experimented with heroin and cocaine. The researchers found that children aged between ten and 12 north of the Border were twice as likely to take drugs as their counterparts in England & Wales. Last night, the deputy justice minister, Mr.Hugh Henry, said:
'Everyone is shocked when they hear about such a young person's life being put at risk. 'This story gives further re-inforcement, if any were needed, that we must keep up our broad approach to tackling drug abuse in society.'
Yesterday, residents in Pollok said they were 'shocked but not surprised' at the case. Ms.Marguerita O'Neill, a community health worker, said:
'I know there are drugs in every scheme, but this is horrifying. 'She was only 11 -- it terrifies the life out of me.'
Mr.Neil Williams, a taxi driver, said:
'You can get drugs everywhere, but questions should be asked. Why put a methadone clinic next to a shopping centre? It is only going to attract drug users to the area.'
The New Labour MP for Glasgow South West Mr.Ian Davidson, said the girl's plight showed the importance of 'sweeping up' low-level drug-dealing in the community, as well as the high-profile drug cartels. He said:
'Clearly, it's a great worry to find that any primary school child is using hard drugs. 'We need to identify whether this is a particular issue to this family or, more worryingly, if this is the tip of the iceberg in terms of this sort of drug use among classmates.'
In a statement, Glasgow City Council said:
'An 11-year-old child was admitted to hospital on an emergency basis last Wednesday with what appeared to heroin intoxication. 'We are monitoring the situation, and the ongoing case discussion will continue on Monday.'
'50 primary pupils 'are heroin addicts'', Jonathan Lessware & Laura Roberts, The Scotsman, 2006-01-30

2006-01-29

Intolerance & Stats: Girls and Drinking Problem

More Scottish girls regularly drink strong alcohol than young females in any other country, according to a study by 'The World Health Organization'. Almost 40 per cent of 15-year-olds admitted to drinking spirits each week, compared with 1 per cent in Russia and 7 per cent in The USA. Among 13 and 11-year-olds, only English girls drank more. The study, based on 'The WHO' surveys conducted in 35 countries between 2000 and 2001, said Scots girls get drunk for the first time at a younger age. On average, Scots have their first drink at 12 and get drunk for the first time a year later. A fifth of 13-year-olds in Scotland had been drunk more than once and 6 per cent of 11-year-old boys. Mr.Holger Schmid MD, the author of the report and one of the world's leading authorities on drink and drug abuse, has called for tough restrictions of alcohol advertising which he claims glamorises drinking among the young. He told 'The Sunday Times Newspaper':
'These figures are very serious and send a clear message that action is needed to address this problem.'
Mr.Schmid, vice-director of the Lausanne-based 'Swiss Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Drug Problems', said:
'Scotland is ahead in the statistics and I hope the politicians have seen this as a good reason for action. 'Politicians should present a consistent alcohol policy. 'It is not consistent to restrict access to alcohol on the one hand while allowing alcohol advertising linked to sports and pictures that glamorise drinking in magazines. 'I would advocate a ban [on alcohol advertising] in sport to make drinking less glamorous. 'There is a large amount of research which shows that alcohol advertising is effective and millions of pounds are being spent on this promotion every year.'
' Scots girls 'drink most spirits'', BBC NEWS, 2006/01/29 00:05:26 GMT

2006-01-28

Health: Europe Freezing to Death

Europe's Arctic cold front loosened its deadly grip, but not before claiming at least 60 more lives overnight in Ukraine, Poland and half a dozen other countries battered by a week of below-freezing temperatures. In Ukraine alone 40 people died overnight as a result of extreme cold, bringing to at least 181 the number of deaths since temperatures plunged last week. In Poland, the most recent 24-hour toll was 10, for an eight-day total of 63 dead. There were also deaths reported in Croatia, The Czech Republic and Romania, which registered 45 weather-related fatalities in six days. The situation in Georgia remained critical Thursday 2006-01-26 due to massive electricity failures and a fifth day without natural gas supplies from Russia, which were abruptly cut when an explosion Sunday burst the main pipeline. Most homes in the capital of this former Soviet republic were without gas as overnight temperatures fell as low as minus 10_C. The country's problems were compounded by power cuts across the capital Tbilisi and the rest of eastern Georgia caused by snowstorms and excessive demand. Only key installations such as hospitals were being supplied with emergency electricity, a spokesman for the state-run power company said. Especially hard hit during the last eight days have been eastern Europe's homeless people, accounting for roughly half of all the freezing deaths reported. The dangers of exposure are often compounded by the consumption of alcohol. The aged are also at risk, such as an 85-year-old man from a village near Dobrich, Bulgaria and an 84-year-old woman from another Bulgarian town, both found dead outside their homes Wednesday. In Moscow, at least 500 homeless children are roaming the streets at any given time, according to Ms.Emma Bell of 'Doctors Without Borders', an organisation that provides emergency medical care around the world. There are no firm statistics, but officials estimate that just under half of the 100 or so people killed by cold weather in Moscow over the last eight days were living on the streets. Across most of France, authorities stepped up their vigilance of the homeless. The city of Paris set up shelter for 300 more people on Thursday 2006-01-26. In Albania, where three people died overnight, a 37-year-old mentally-disabled man who had gone missing on Monday 2006-01-23 was found frozen to death near his house in Durres, northwest of the capital Tirana. Two other people, in their late sixties, died of heart-attacks provoked by the cold. Even as the death toll for the week-long deep freeze continued to climb, temperatures eased across most of eastern and central Europe, with normal winter weather forecast for Friday and the weekend. Russia, where hundreds were estimated to have perished in the week-long freeze, was relatively balmy as the thermometer climbed toward 0_C Conditions also improved in Germany and Greece, where schools re-opened and air and sea traffic slowly recovered some semblance of normalcy. Road conditions, however, remained dangerous almost everywhere, with hundreds of accidents reported, some of them fatal. Turkish authorities battled to open blocked roads on Thursday 2006-01-26 as snow continued to fall on the country's biggest city Istanbul. Roads leading to several suburbs on the European side of the Bosphorus Strait remained blocked, the Anatolia news agency said. But city authorities underlined that the main arteries were open as some 3_000 municipal employees worked round the clock to clean up the snow, which has disrupted already chaotic traffic. Education Minister Huseyin Celik announced late Wednesday 2006-01-25 a one-week extension of the mid-term holiday for schools across the country. The weather also continued to bedevil air and maritime traffic, with several domestic flights to the east of the country cancelled and ferry services across the Bosphorus in Istanbul disrupted. Some 10_000 small villages have been cut off from road transport, and several hundred are without electricity or telephone service. 'Cold front continues to take its toll in Europe', Yahoo News AFP, 2006-01-26 Th

M8 Airport/Braehead Bridge Repair to Cause Delays till May

Motorists using the M8 to travel to Glasgow Airport face serious disruption over the coming months, following the announcement of 3.8_million_GBP strengthening and upgrading work on the 'White Cart Viaduct'. The bridge forms part of the M8 next to the airport and is the principal access route to the airport for traffic travelling from the east and west. An estimated 80_000/day vehicles cross it, 8_000 of which are going to (or from) the airport. The work, which will be carried out by 'Amey', who maintain major roads across southern Scotland, is expected to cause serious delays. Beginning on 2006-02-10 and lasting for three months, it will involve closing the slip-road from the airport to the M8 heading east into the city centre, while one lane on each carriageway of the motorway will be shut for the duration of the project. A 40_mph limit will also apply, with temporary speed cameras to enforce it, and a contraflow system will be put in place. In addition, on the first weekend, only one westbound lane will be open and two on the eastbound, coinciding with an Old Firm match between Celtic and Rangers, one of the busiest times on the bridge, and serious delays are anticipated. 'Amey' engineers have estimated that the average delay during the work -- without taking into account unpredictable events such as accidents -- will be at least 20 minutes. Taxi drivers have also warned that customers crossing the bridge during the work will face higher fares due to the delays and diversions. The 'Amey' spokesman Mr.Jim Gilmour said everything was being done to minimise disruption:
'Because of the sensitive nature of the work and the area, the traffic management which results in restrictions down to two lanes, we're very conscious about getting this information out to the public, so they can understand why we're doing it. 'We have chosen this time of year because it is a period when traffic levels are at their lowest for the airport and Braehead shopping centre, and the work will hopefully have the minimum impact possible. 'But no time is a good time.'
A spokesman for BAA Glasgow said:
'We have been working for some time with "Amey" on these plans to ensure we minimise the disruption to our staff and passengers. 'From an operational point of view, the winter months are much quieter in terms of passenger numbers, so this is as good a time as any to carry out these necessary roadworks.'
Ms.Sue Nicholson, of 'The RAC Foundation', urged motorists to plan for delays and consider using public transport. 'Amey' said investigations on the 822 metre bridge had shown repairs were essential to bring the 38-year-old structure up to modern standards. 'M8 motorists warned of delays on bridge', Craig Brown, The Scotsman, 2006-01-27

Europe in Search of "Big Idea"

Salzburg ought to be an uplifting place to discuss the future of Europe, with its colourful churches, snowy peaks and the sunlight dancing on the river Salzach. But on day one of 'The Sound of Europe' conference, organised by the EU's Austrian presidency, it's hard to avoid a feeling that not everyone is talking the same language -- either literally or metaphorically. There is a hint of frustration in the crisp Alpine air as minds fail to meet. The politicians, artists and intellectuals invited here are trying to explain why the EU is in crisis, and to map a way out of it, but while some want to talk about Auschwitz and spirituality, others want to talk about jobs and growth or democratic accountability. Austrian Chancellor Mr.Wolfgang Schuessel has said it is important to talk about European identity and European values -- not to just focus on the economy as the British EU presidency did, in the second half of 2005. 'Intellectual compass' Mr.Rob Riemen, of the Dutch think-tank 'Nexus', which led a similar series of debates during the Dutch presidency in 2004, put it bluntly.
'Without an intellectual compass, everything is worthless,' he said. 'This conference is more important than all the talk our British friends have had this last half year.'
There were no British politicians here to take offence, though lots of speakers have underlined the importance of delivering economic prosperity to keep voters behind the European project. But one problem of this approach to 'winning hearts and minds' in today's Europe is that European citizens now take prosperity for granted -- and peace too, for that matter. Europe needs a new 'Big Idea' to engage with voters -- after the rejection of the constitution in France and the Netherlands last year -- but what? One aim of the conference is to stimulate a public debate, and to let citizens themselves give the answer to this question. Thinkers However, the politicians in Salzburg risk appearing more out of touch than ever. Austrian opposition leader Mr.Alfred Gusenbauer has described the gathering as 'élitist' and an 'absurd theatre'. EU foreign affairs chief Mr.Javier Solana compared it to an 18th Century salon -- though he said he was 'all for it'. Most speakers have taken care to load their speeches with allusions to European thinkers, especially those with an Austrian or Central European flavour. For example, French Prime Minister Mr.Dominique de Villepin, a poet in his spare time, referred to Austrian writers Mr.Robert Musil, Mr.Hermann Broch, Mr.Thomas Bernhard, Mr.Elfriede Jelinek, Mr.Stefan Zweig and Mr.Karl Kraus within the space of a few sentences. He also found space for the father of psychoanalysis Mr.Sigmund Freud and German philosopher Mr.Edmund Husserl, Dutch theologian 'Erasmus', Czech writer Mr.Milan Kundera and 19th Century diplomats Metternich and Talleyrand, to name but a few. 'Favourite things' And one figure everyone feels obliged to mention is 'Mozart', Salzburg's most famous son, now celebrating his 250th birthday. Scenes from his operas, such as 'The Magic Flute' and 'La Clemenza di Tito' have been lovingly recalled. One thing nobody is mentioning is 'The Sound of Music', the 1960s blockbuster which was filmed near Salzburg and helped give the conference its name. The closest we have come to the film is the recitation of what the EU stands for -- freedom, economic prosperity, social cohesion, security, democracy, respect for human rights and environmental protection. Which has something in common with:
'Cream-coloured ponies and crisp apple strudels, Doorbells and sleighbells and schnitzel with noodles, Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings, These are a few of my favourite things.'
As Ms. Julie Andrews said, when we remember these things we don't feel so bad. 'Europeans seek elusive harmony', Stephen Mulvey, BBC NEWS, 2006/01/27 16:56:11 GMT

2006-01-24

Health: On Food Intolerance

Never before have we paid so much attention to what we eat. Never have we read labels so diligently, fretted over so many food scares, gone on so many miracle diets. Once upon a time, food was simply fuel. Now, it's our obsession. Ten years ago, food allergies were rarely mentioned outside medical circles. Now they are believed to be widespread. This week, in Food Allergy and Intolerance Week, the charity 'Allergy UK' (www.allergyfoundation.com) estimates that as many as 40 to 45 per cent of the population suffers from a form of food intolerance. 'Hidden Food Allergies: Is What You Eat Making You Ill?' the new book by nutritionist Mr.Patrick Holford published last week, claims the figure could be as high as 50 per cent. The well-publicised food philosophies of some 'celebrities' have helped catapult the issue into 'the public eye'. There seems no end to 'beautiful' people who claim their lives have been transformed by eliminating a component of their diet: 'gluten' in the case of mathematician-turned-diet-guru Ms.Carol Vorderman, 'lactose' for Ms.Rachel Hunter, 'wheat' for Ms.Geri Halliwell. As our concern over food intolerance has grown, so an industry has grown around it. Practitioners of complementary medicine claim to offer diagnostic tests, while all major supermarkets have launched 'free from' ranges. For perhaps the first time in history, we are paying premium prices for products because of what they do not contain. Meanwhile, GPs question whether the rise of all this food intolerance is just another food fad. A survey of 250 GPs by 'Norwich Union Healthcare' revealed that 73 per cent of GPs believed that patients who claimed to be suffering from a food intolerance were suffering psychological not physical symptoms. They expressed concern at the fact that as many as one in five people were self-diagnosing food intolerance after reading about 'celebrities' in 'gossip' magazines, and warned that cutting out an entire food group without taking medical advice can do more harm than good. Chairman of The Royal College of General Practitioners in Scotland Ms.Mairi Scott, MD, says she would be 'surprised' if as many as 20 per cent of people suffered from a genuine food intolerance:
'People don't tend to come to the "doctor" and say they've got a food intolerance. 'They decide on their own to withdraw something from their diet because they've read about it. 'When you probe into that you find that the reason they've made that decision is often questionable. '"Celebrity" stories have a real influence on what people do. 'When a famous name goes on to produce diets, exercises, healthy eating plans, people buy them, and get further caught up in it. 'Some of it is very useful stuff, some of it is nonsense, but individuals have no way of knowing that.'
She says many people do not know the difference between a food intolerance and a life-threatening allergy.
'We are getting increased reports of significant food allergies, like peanut allergy. 'These are very important and serious allergies and we need to be more aware of them, but people confuse them with food intolerance. 'It makes them even more anxious about what they eat.'
A food allergy happens when the body's immune system attacks a normally harmless dietary protein. Symptoms include coughing, rashes, nausea, shortness of breath, a runny or blocked nose, sore and itchy eyes. The reaction can be immediate or delayed. The most dangerous reaction is 'anaphylactic shock', which happens immediately, causing swelling of the mouth and throat, difficulty in breathing, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting, a drop in blood pressure, and, in the worst cases, collapse and unconsciousness. Slower reactions, known as 'delayed-type hypersensitivity', include coeliac disease, a condition of the gastro-intestinal tract associated with gluten, which affects more than 250_000 people in the UK, and hypersensitivity to cow's milk. Allergies can be tested for quickly and easily by a medical practitioner using a skin-prick test or blood test. 'Food intolerance' is a broader term, less well understood and less easy to pinpoint. Symptoms include bloating, indigestion, lethargy, abdominal pain, diarrhoea or constipation and sudden weight gain. Many believe food intolerance can exacerbate conditions such 'asthma', 'eczema', 'migraine' and 'Irritable Bowel Syndrome'. In some cases, it is caused by the failure of the digestive tract to produce adequate amounts of particular digestive enzymes, such as 'lactase', which is needed to digest 'lactose'. In other cases, the reaction is pharmacological, for example, in the case of caffeine. About five per cent of children experience allergic or intolerant reactions to food at some time, but the majority grow out of them. According to a task-force report by 'The British Nutrition Foundation' ('The BNF') three years ago, the figure for those medically diagnosed with a food intolerance is fewer than 2 per cent of the population, and for those with a truly allergic response fewer still. However, many people who suspect they have a food intolerance never seek medical advice. Ms.Joanne Lunn MD, nutrition scientist with 'The BNF', urges anyone who believes they have a food intolerance to visit their GP.
'If you do have a true intolerance, you will need proper advice on how to make changes. 'By cutting out a whole food group, you immediately reduce the level of micronutrients you get. 'If you don't get them from somewhere else, you could end up with more problems. 'If you cut out lactose, you could end up deficient in calcium.'
Ms.Lunn says food intolerance is easy to misdiagnose.
'If you suddenly cut out all dairy food, that will have a massive effect on the foods you eat. 'You will almost certainly eat more fresh fruit and vegetables in your diet, and that might be what's making you feel better. 'People are not eating as many fruits and vegetables or as much fibre as they should, so it might be a general diet problem rather than specific intolerance.'
The Chief Executive of 'Allergy UK' Ms.Muriel Simmons, says the increase in allergies and intolerance could be due to the changes in our eating habits:
'At one time we all ate according to the seasons. 'Now, with refrigerated lorries and planes, we can eat strawberries at Christmas time. 'If you like something you will eat it all through the year and after a while the body says "I've had enough".'
She advises anyone with an allergy to seek medical advice straight away. Those experiencing milder symptoms might find it helpful to keep a food diary.
'Keep a food diary for three weeks, write down absolutely everything you eat or drink and record how you're feeling each day. 'With food intolerance it can take 24 to 48 hours until the symptoms show. Often it is surprising what it shows, either to the person, or to a GP or dietician.'
Food intolerance testing is not available on 'The NHS'. The only self-test kit which is clinically proven is 'The York Test', available on-line (www.yorktest.com) or in major pharmacies. Ms.Simmons advises anyone concerned about a food intolerance to take a clinically proven test, and not to cut out any major food group without taking professional advice. Ms.Scott says she encourages patients to exercise commonsense:
'If a patient thinks chocolate causes their "migraine" and as a result they rarely eat it, I would have no problem with that. 'But if you're thinking about making a life-long commitment to altering your diet, you need to get professional advice; it's very important to eat a healthy, balanced diet.'
Hypersensitive or oversensitive? Recognise the symptoms Bloated stomach? Muscle cramps? Diarrhoea? General fatigue? If you experience these complaints on a regular basis you might be suffering from a food intolerance. Dairy, wheat and alcohol intolerance are three of the most common in the UK, but medical experts warn that you should never self-diagnose: cutting a major food group out of your diet could leave you deficient in vital nutrients, leading to health problems. The symptoms of allergies could also be indicators of unrelated underlying illnesses, so if you suspect you have an allergy, visit your GP who will be able to refer you to a specialist for advice if necessary. Dairy An intolerance to cow's milk occurs when the body can't process 'lactose', the sugar which naturally occurs in milk. In most people 'lactose' is broken down by the 'enzyme' 'lactase', which is produced by the body in the small intestine. However, if the body is not producing enough'lactase', the 'lactose' cannot be broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream. As a result, large quantities of dietary 'lactose' pass undigested into the large intestine and this can sometimes give rise to flatulence, bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhoea. Some sufferers can eat yoghurt (which have lower levels of 'lactose' than milk) and hard cheese (which has almost none) and are encouraged to do as these are sources of calcium, which is essential for healthy bones and teeth. Wheat Wheat intolerance is a difficulty digesting wheat, or more precisely its 'gluten' -- a protein found in wheat and some other cereals including rye, barley and oats (there is still some debate among nutrition experts whether the list of irritants should include oats). Most people who have this intolerance suffer from 'Coeliac disease', a bowel disease in which the 'microvilli' in the small intestine cannot absorb 'gluten', which can then damage the 'microvilli's' capacity to absorb other nutrients. As a result, sufferers who continue to eat 'gluten'-laden foods can suffer from diarrhoea, abdominal pain and bloating, and malnutrition. To avoid this, a strict adherence to a 'gluten'-free diet may be required. Alcohol A common intolerance among those of Asian origin who can suffer from facial flushing, abdominal pain and headaches soon after ingesting alcohol. This is because many people of Asian origin are relatively deficient in 'alcohol dehydrogenase', the liver 'enzyme' which is needed to break down alcohol. Even small amounts of alcohol can make affected people feel unwell, so sufferers are encouraged to abstain from drinking alcohol altogether. 'So we're allergic to our diet? It's a complaint that's hard to swallow', Susan Mansfield, The Scotsman, 2006-01-23 Mo

2006-01-23

Money & Stats: UK Economy 2006 Revival?

The UK economy is showing signs of reviving in 2006, the influential 'Ernst & Young Item Club' has said. But the body, which uses 'HM Treasury' data in its research, also warned that there are concerns over long-term stability. The group's winter forecast envisages 2.3 per cent growth in GDP in 2006, after what it calls a 'dismal' growth rate of 1.7 per cent during 2005. Strength in house prices, shares and other assets, plus a good Christmas for retailers, will all aid growth. 'Not out of woods' The club also says that in a boost for The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr.Gordon Brown, 'The Consumer Price Index' ('The CPI') level of inflation has fallen back towards its target of 2 per cent faster than 'anyone dared hope'. That, it says, leaves 'The Bank of England's' 'Monetary Policy Committee' ('MPC'), free to cut interest rates again if needed. Yet, according to 'Ernst & Young Item Club's' chief economist Mr.Peter Spencer, there are still worries ahead.
'We are certainly not "out of the woods" yet,' he warned. 'Growth is still "well below par" -- just hitting the Eurozone average -- and with consumer spending dropping and the pressure "piling" on exports "to take up the slack", we could be in for a "bumpy" 2006.'
Mr.Spencer says a fall in the strength of Sterling would help to aid growth in exports and investment, particularly in Europe and the Middle East. Reduced borrowing The club also says data shows the recent UK consumer spree -- much of it fuelled by spending on plastic -- has come to an end. Spending rose by only 1.3 per cent in 2005, the slowest increase in 10 years. In 2005-04 the club had complained that The Chancellor of the Exchequer had created no incentives to make the public spend rather than save. Now it says that over the past 12 months households have reduced their borrowing and increased savings. Debt remained at 'historically high levels' which means there is much less scope for households to support their spending through increased borrowing. 'UK economy 'shows recovery signs'', BBC News, 2006/01/23 00:44:05 GMT

List & Stats: UK's Top Ten Shops

'John Lewis' named the nation's favourite shop in a survey that saw it take the top spot from 'Ikea', whose popularity appears to be finally waning. While upmarket 'John Lewis'was found to have 'no equal' when it came to customer service, the Swedish furniture giant fell from first to fifth place and was beaten by other names which trade on being cheap and cheerful, such as 'Matalan' and 'TK Maxx'. The annual poll of 6_000 shoppers by the analyst 'Verdict' covers all kinds of retail outlets, from DIY stores to shoe shops, and measures satisfaction in a range of categories. This includes price and product quality, on which 'Ikea' scores well, but also the comfort of the shopping experience, where the furniture chain failed this year. It was not helped by a near-riot in north London when it opened a new branch after heavily advertising huge discounts on offer. The 'Verdict' report said:
'"Ikea's" reputation has been damaged by adverse publicity, particularly criticism of the customer shopping experience and the stampede that broke out at its Edmonton store.'
'John Lewis', which prides itself on matching the prices of its rivals and uses the slogan 'never knowingly undersold', positions itself as more upmarket than its competitors. It was top of the satisfaction index and the 'Verdict' report said:
'It has no equal in terms of customer service and scores highly on all other criteria.'
Its closest rival was its own sister company, the supermarket chain 'Waitrose' -- the only grocer to make the top ten and up from 20th position last year. The report found 'Waitrose' had become more popular as the chain expanded and attracted new and soon-to-be loyal customers. Despite the disruption caused by a major fire in its warehouse ,'Matalan' moved up from tenth to fourth, beaten into third place by fellow cut-price chain 'TK Maxx'. The 'Verdict' report stated that 'TK Maxx' had a 'loyal, mainly female customer base who shop there regularly' because of prices which average out at 60 per cent lower than for the same labels elsewhere. 'Matalan' had moved up the table as its customers have to be members and tend to be more dedicated. Also, the standards of service and product had improved over the past year, the report said. The rest of the top ten showed just how much variety there now was in Britain's booming retail market: it included the DIY superstore 'B&Q', the specialist shoe shop 'Shuh'and the on-line retail giant 'Amazon'. The survey, which is in its sixth year, measured categories for the 67 most popular shops used by the consumers surveyed. Customers were asked to rate their most-used stores in terms of range, price, convenience, quality, service, ambience, facilities and layout. The top ten -- with last year's positions in brackets -- was:
  1. (2) 'John Lewis';
  2. (20) 'Waitrose';
  3. (4) 'TK Maxx';
  4. (10) 'Matalan';
  5. (1) 'Ikea';
  6. (14) 'Amazon';
  7. (39) 'Savers';
  8. (31) 'Schuh';
  9. (23) 'Wilkinson';
  10. (7) 'B&Q'.
'John Lewis builds is British shoppers' favourite store'', Rhiannon Edward, The Scotsman, 2006-01-23, Mo

Intolerance & Stats: Violent Children

Almost a third of Scottish girls had been involved in a fight in the last year compared to 13 per cent in Finland, 21 per cent in Russia and a quarter in the United States of America. Experts blamed the 'ladette culture' of binge drinking and drug use. The league table of teenage violence, published in 'The Journal of the American Society of Paediatrics' and based on a survey of 161_082 youths aged 11 to 15, put only 1. England, 2. Belgium, 3. Lithuania, 4. Estonia and 5. Hungary above Scotland when it came to female fisticuffs. The General Secretary of The Headteachers' Association of Scotland Mr.Bill. Mcgregor, said:
'I don't think there is any doubt that violence involving girls is becoming more of a problem and that alcohol is often involved as part of the ladette culture.'
Dr Candace Currie, the director of The Child and Adolescent Health Research Unit at Edinburgh University and co-author of the report by child health experts from Canada, Scotland, Poland, Israel and the USA, expressed her concern at the high level of violence. She said:
'Fighting is an important thing to measure because it is correlated with other forms of risk behaviour such as alcohol use, substance use and smoking.'
The study also revealed that about 60 per cent of British boys had been in a fight over the previous year, compared with 48 per cent in the USA, 40 per cent in Germany and 37 per cent in Finland. Boys in Scotland, England and Wales came 10th, 13th and 26th in the league table respectively. The study concluded that girls are most likely to fight within 'intimate relationships', while boys are much more likely to attack strangers.
'Ladette life has Scottish girls 'among most violent in the world'', Louise Gray, The Scotsman, 2006-01-23, Mo

Health & Stats: Large rise in infant sofa deaths

There has been a four-fold increase in infants dying after falling asleep with a parent on a sofa, research shows. A team at Bristol's 'Royal Children's Hospital' warns 'cot death' does not always mean a cot -- about 30 babies die in the UK/year after sharing a sofa. The researchers say parents should never snuggle up with very young children on a sofa if they feel tired. 'The Lancet' study also found more deaths are occurring among poor families, and among those where the mother smokes. The researchers said a very successful public education campaign had helped to slash cot death rates by 75 per cent since 1991. However, their study suggested the appropriate messages had still not got through to many poor young mothers. It is already known that the risk of 'Sudden Infant Death Syndrome' ('SIDS') is higher for babies that are born premature, or have a low birthweight. Male babies also appear to be more at risk, as do those who sleep on their side or front. Smoking during pregnancy, or in the house after a child is born, is another risk factor. And the latest study, led by Professor Mr.Peter Fleming, underlines that sharing a sofa with a child is also a significant risk. The Bristol team examined data on 369 'SIDS' cases that occurred between 1984 and 2003 in Avon. These were compared to information on 1_300 healthy babies from a study carried out between 1993 and 1996. Deprivation link The researchers found that although the number of deaths in the parental bed had fallen by 50 per cent , the number of deaths on a sofa shared with a parent increased four-fold in recent years. However, there are still about 135 bedsharing deaths a year in the UK, compared to the 30 linked to sharing a sofa. Mr.Fleming said:
'Although the reasons for the rise in deaths when a parent sleeps with their infant on a sofa are unclear, we strongly recommend that parents avoid this sleeping environment.'
The study also found that that the proportion of 'SIDS' deaths among poorer families increased from 47 per cent to 74 per cent . The proportion of deaths in which the mother smoked during pregnancy also rose, from 57 per cent to 86 per cent . The researchers are calling for a standard protocol to aid the investigation of cot deaths and to enable as much relevant information to be collected as possible. Director of the Foundation for the Study of Infant Death Ms.Joyce Epstein, said:
'Over 14_000 lives have been saved in the UK since the advice to reduce the risk of cot death was introduced in 1991. 'But still over 300 babies every year in the UK are dying as cot deaths -- that's more babies over one month old than from any other cause. 'The battle against sudden infant death is far from over. 'It is absolutely vital that we get our safe infant care messages across more forcefully, especially among the more vulnerable sections of society, and that we continue our lifesaving research into the causes of cot death.' >>BBC Comments
'Large rise in infant sofa deaths', BBC News, 2006/01/18 15:59:25 GMT Q&A on Cot Death The unexpected death of a baby must rank among the most tragic and stressful events that anybody can endure. Public education campaigns have helped cut the number of cot deaths in the UK -- but too many people are still suffering terrible loss. What is cot death? Cot death -- known technically as 'Sudden Infant Death Syndrome' ('SIDS') -- is the sudden and unexpected death of a baby for no obvious reason. What causes it? Nobody knows for sure. Most experts believe a number of factors probably contribute. Deaths certainly appear to be more common in households where the mother smokes. Some believe the growth of fungus on a baby's mattress may play a role in some deaths. Another theory is that some cases are linked to infection the common bacterium, Helicobacter pylori, which causes gastric ulcers and cancer in adults. There is also a strong body of research linking cot death to the practice of putting babies to sleep on their stomachs. This might be because babies have not yet developed the upper body muscle strength to keep their heads lifted from the pillow, and their airways unobstructed. How can you reduce the risk? Nobody can completely rule out the possibility of a tragedy. However, there are a number of steps you can take to minimise risk:
  • Both parents should avoid smoking during pregnancy;
  • Don't expose your baby to tobacco smoke -- in particular do not smoke in the same room;
  • Place your baby on their back to sleep;
  • Don't allow your baby to get too hot;
  • Keep your baby's head uncovered -- their feet should be to the foot of the cot to stop them wriggling down under the covers;
  • Never fall asleep with your baby on the sofa;
  • Do not share your bed with your baby if you or your partner: smoke; have been drinking alcohol; are taking medication or drugs that causes drowsiness; or are excessively tired;
  • Put your baby's cot in your bedroom for the first six months;
  • Seek medical advice promptly if your baby is unwell.
Who is most at risk? The risk seems to be greater in boys, premature babies and those of low birth weight. Most cot deaths occur when the baby is under the age of six months. Since 1991, the number of cot deaths has fallen by 75 per cent , but seven babies still die every week as cot deaths in the UK. It is the leading kind of death in babies aged between one month and one year. However, nearly 90 per cent of cot deaths have occurred by six months, and very few occur after a year. At what time of year do cot deaths occur? Cot deaths can occur at any time of year but they tend to be more frequent in the winter months. BBC NEWS, 2006/01/17 17:58:58 GMT

On Naming Babies in the Philippines

Naming a child is often a difficult decision. For many Filipinos, individuality is an important factor, with many choosing unconventional first names. So when the BBC's Ms.Sarah Toms gave birth in the Philippines, could she come up with an original name? In 2006-03, my daughter will be celebrating her second birthday in Manila. Made in the Philippines and born in the Philippines, it seems only yesterday that I was trying to leave hospital with my newborn. The nurses had quickly christened her 'Miss Philippines' because of her long legs. But then I discovered that until I came up with a real name and began her birth registration at the hospital, I would not be allowed to leave. Exhaustion made any decision difficult and I started worrying I would be celebrating her first birthday in the hospital if I did not find a name soon. 'Ace' politician Filipinos place serious importance on finding unique names for their children, most of them injected with a large dose of Philippine humour. Here, there is nothing ironic about a senator called Joker Arroyo -- it is his real name. Joker Arroyo, who is no relation to the Philippine President Gloria Arroyo, has a brother called Jack but there is no word on any other siblings called Queen or King. Another politician however, is known as Ace. Congressman Robert Ace Barbers is always known by his middle name as his two other brothers and late father all share Robert as their first name. One composite name that has become popular is Luzviminda, taken from the three main regions of the Philippines: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. One writer said it is like being called 'Engscowani' for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In this devoutly Roman Catholic country it is not surprising that many have taken on religious names, but with a Philippine twist. Take the mayor of Makati, the financial district in Manila. His name is Jejomar, composed of the first few letters of Jesus, Joseph and Mary. Catholicism started here with the arrival of the Spanish in 1521 and the colonisation of the Philippines. Beyond food and architecture, religion is one of the lasting influences of Spanish rule. And that is at the root of the desire to have a unique first name. Many Filipinos who converted to Catholicism took on surnames with religious references, such as Santos or De la Cruz, for good luck. But this resulted in many people having the same last names. To solve the problem, the Spanish decided to restrict the surnames of Filipinos to a number of acceptable ones. But with a rapidly growing population, it seems there are not enough last names to go round. Originality Security experts say that with so many surnames being the same it can take ages to do background checks. Filipinos encounter their own problems with the country's notoriously poor records system. Getting a bank loan or passport can be a nightmare if someone with the same name is wanted for a crime. With the country ranked as one of the most corrupt in Asia, thousands of Filipinos are forced to walk around with certificates from the National Bureau of Investigation to prove they are not wanted criminals. So a first name with a bit of individuality can help avoid confusion and cases of mistaken identity. Because of that I know a Peachy, a Preciosa and even a Bogi. I also know a Boy and a Girlie, names that often come from being the lone son or daughter in a large family. I even have a female friend called Ken and no one thinks it is odd. Still, I was taken aback when a famous and middle-aged newspaper columnist asked me to call him Babe. Cultural misunderstanding Some of the names are real and some are nicknames, but it is hard to tell them apart. That brings me to the doorbell names: it is not uncommon to call your little one Bing, Bong, Bong Bong and even Ping and Ting. Another category is the rock 'n' roll name. How would you feel being christened Led Zeppelin, Mick Jagger or Nirvana? One journalist friend told me of an interview he had with a Hitler Manila. Mr.Manila, who does not share the Nazi ideology, told him that he was always remembered for his name but it sometimes caused problems. One time, when he was shooting pool with some visiting Germans, the atmosphere became tense after he wrote his name on the blackboard to reserve the next game. Order was not restored until he pulled out his driving licence to prove his name really was Hitler. Still, that experience did not stop him from carrying on the family tradition. His sons are named Himmler and Hess after two of Hitler's closest associates. Deliberation Another friend told me of a couple who named their five daughters Candy, Caramel, Cookie, Peanut and Popcorn. Scott Harrison, an American businessman here, says he has heard of a woman who gave birth to twin girls on either side of midnight, naming them Sunday and Monday. Nothing unusual in that -- my daughter's kindergarten teacher is called Wednesday. So what did I name my daughter? After much deliberation and temptation to join the Philippine name game, I settled for an old French favourite, Elise. Elise is not a strange name by any means, but in the Philippines it is as unusual as you can get. 'From Our Own Correspondent' was broadcast on 2006-01-14, Sa at 1130 GMT on BBC Radio 4. 'The Philippine name game', Sarah Toms, BBC News, Manila, 2006/01/14 13:29:33 GMT

2006-01-22

Money & Stats: Young are Priced Out of Housing Market

Young families and first-time buyers in Glasgow are being priced out of the property market, as a new survey shows that 70 per cent of privately-sold homes are out of reach of people on an average salary. The survey, carried out by Glasgow City Council, revealed the full impact the rise in property development in areas such as the West End, the South Side and Glasgow Harbour has had. A decade ago, just 36 per cent of properties were beyond the reach of those taking home the average wage. The price of a property in the city now averages at more than 124_00_GBP, while the average wage is just over 20_000_GB/year. The 'ripple effect' of property hot spots has meant that prices in once affordable areas like Knightswood and Dennistoun are now beyond many budgets. Glasgow councillorMr.Eamon Fitzgerald, convener of the housing development committee, said:
'Glasgow City Council is very aware that for too long, some Glaswegians have found themselves priced out of the housing market. 'By introducing "The Scottish Executive's" "Homestake scheme" to Glasgow, we hope we can assist people on low incomes who want their own homes but cannot afford to pay the full price. 'We recently bid for and received extra money from "The Scottish Executive" to help buy land in order to build affordable homes in these areas.'
Though piloted in Edinburgh, Glasgow is the first local authority to actually put the full Homestake scheme into practice. In 2005-03, 'The Scottish Executive' unveiled its shared-equity scheme whereby people on low incomes can get assistance from a council-approved local social landlord, like the Glasgow Housing Association, to buy a private property. Buyers can receive up to 50 per cent of the house price. '70 per cent of homes out of reach for average earners', Rhiannon Edward, The Scotsman, 2006-01-21

Science & Health: Wine buyers vs Beer Buyers

People who drink wine are much more likely to eat a healthy diet than those who drink beer, according to a study of supermarket shoppers. Those who had wine in the trolley were also more likely to have bought more olives, fruit, vegetables, poultry, cooking oil, low-fat cheese, milk and meat than those who bought beer. The beer buyers were more likely to have ready meals, sugar, cooked meats, chips, pork, butter, margarine, sausages, lamb and soft drinks. The study from Denmark also found that the wine buyers spent more on average on their basket of food, 27.72_GBP, compared with beer buyers who spent 19.89_GBP. Professor Mr.Morten Gronbaek, of 'The National Institute of Public Health' in Copenhagen, who led the study, analysed 3.5 million transactions over six months, 'The British Medical Journal' reported. 'Wine fans' palate for healthy diet', Celia Hall, The Telegraph, 2006-01-20, Fr

Money & Science: "Standby" Costs The Earth

Great Britons waste the equivalent of around two power stations worth of electricity each year by leaving TV sets and other gadgets on 'Standby'. In 2005-06 Environment Minister Mr.Elliot Morley (New Labour, Scunthorpe - emorleymp@aol.com), responding to an MP's question, revealed that electrical equipment in 'Standby' used roughly 7_TWh of power and emitted around 800_000_tonnes of carbon. The government [www.open.gov.uk] is currently reviewing the options of how to keep on the UK's lights in the future, at the same time as reducing the amount of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere. Energy efficiency groups are urging people to carry out their own personal energy review because homes are set to place an ever increasing demand on power supplies. The number of TVs in the UK is estimated to reach 74 million by 2020, meaning that there will be more televisions than people to watch them. Long haul If so much electricity is wasted by devices being left on 'Standby', one obvious question to ask is: do we need 'Standby' buttons on electronic devices? Definitely not, says The Liberal Democrat's Environment Spokesman Mr.Norman Baker (MP for Lewes) -- [www.normanbaker.org.uk] It was Mr.Baker's parliamentary question to 'The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' ('DEFRA') that led to the admission over emissions. [www.defra.gov.uk] He has calculated that the Carbon dioxide emissions from electrical equipment being left on 'Standby' are equivalent to 1.4_million long-haul flights. To put it another way, the entire population of Glasgow could fly to New York and back again and the resulting emissions would still be less than that from devices left in 'Standby' mode. The figures prompted a flurry of media stories and reports from environmental groups; but seven months on, does Mr.Baker think this coverage fell on deaf ears?
Norman Baker MP'The government actually seemed quite receptive. Elliot Morley paid attention and mentioned it to me; so clearly it got to the government -- a bit. 'What we have not seen yet, of course, is any change in design or change in habits. 'So I would say that it has made no difference yet -- but I have not entirely given up hope that the government may do something in the longer term.'
He told a BBC News website that he supported the idea of removing the option of putting things on 'Standby':
'At the very least, the "Standby" should go off after something like ten minutes. 'You can argue that you can use it while you pop out to put the kettle on but the idea that things are left on "Standby" for weeks while people are on holiday is just bizarre.'
Consumer choice Manufacturers include sleep modes on their products because it is what their customers want, says Mr.Matthew Armishaw from the 'DEFRA's' 'The Market Transformation Programme' ('The MTP') -- [www.mtprog.com] 'For most products, it is purely consumer-driven; it is not a technical issue.' But there are exceptions, explains Mr.Armishaw, a product manager for 'The MTP' -- a government-funded programme that works with the government and manufacturers to limit the environmental impact of products.
'Most set-top boxes need to have power all of the time because they download information from digital transmissions that update their electronic programme guide and software.'
Set-top boxes are becoming a common fixture in most homes across the UK because of plans to switch off the analogue TV signal in the near future. 'The MTP' thinks there could be around 80_million set-top boxes in the UK by 2010, requiring more than 7.3_TWh of electricity (seven point three tera Watt hours, which means 7.3 times ten exponent twelve Watt hours) . The boxes are one example of how technological advances have led to a proliferation of electronic devices in people's homes that have the 'Standby' option. A survey by 'The Energy Savings Trust' found that the average household has up to 12 gadgets left on 'Standby' or charging at any one time. It also showed that more than 740_million_GBP of electricity was wasted by things being left ticking over. So, as fears about global warming and a looming energy crisis dominate the headlines, is it time to say, 'bye-bye to 'Standby'?' It is not that simple, Mr.Armishaw told the BBC, because of the very competitive nature of the global electronic goods market.
'Most electronic goods are made in the Far East, and are designed for several different markets. 'If the UK introduced a mandatory minimum eco-standard for its TV producers [i.e. getting rid of the "Standby" button], costs would increase because a special model would have to be made for the UK market. 'A UK-imposed minimum standard might also fall foul of EU free-trading regulations.'
This could result in any improvements in environmental performance being lost as manufacturers struggle to reduce costs to remain competitive, he says.
'So, most of these things are tried on a voluntary basis at a global level before individual minimum standards are put in place.'
Gentle touch There are a number of EU-wide voluntary 'Codes of Conduct' that give manufacturers an environmental benchmark, including reducing the amount of electricity needed to power their products. 'The International Energy Agency' ('IEA') has launched a global initiative [www.iea.org] called the 'One Watt Plan', and it is something that the UK government is supporting. A 'DEFRA' spokesman told the BBC News website:
'At Gleneagles, "G8 leaders" -- led by the UK -- agreed to promote the application of the "'IEA's" "One Watt" initiative which aims to reduce "Standby" requirements for all new appliances to below "one Watt" by 2010' . 'The government is also moving to adopt the" one Watt" standard as part of our own procurement policy and will press for regulatory action at EU level.'
The gentle touch approach of voluntary measures does seem to be having an effect; figures from 'The MTP' show that the introduction of an agreement to cut set-top boxes' demand for power has delivered results. Products meeting the new eco-standard reduced consumption by around 1_TWh -- enough to power more than 200_000 homes -- and reduced carbon emissions by almost 140_000_tonnes. Mr.Baker MP favours a 'polluter pays' approach to the 'Standby' problem:
'In the end, there has to be costs in the form of manufacturers paying something to recognize the damage they are causing. 'Some of these "Standby" modes for televisions use two-thirds of the electricity that it would if it were on. 'I think some people think that "Standby" is a tiny red dot that has no impact at all.'
'The Energy Savings Trust's' (www.est.org.uk) survey found that one-in-seven people questioned thought putting devices on 'Standby' was actually more energy-efficient than switching them 'On' and 'Off'. Mr. Armishaw clears up any confusion:
'That is largely a myth. 'There may have been some issues with very old electronic components, but it is certainly not the case with today's consumer electronic goods.'
STANDBY EMISSIONS Estimated annual Carbon dioxide emissions from devices left on 'Standby': Hi-Fi/Music/Audio -- 1_600_000_tonnes VCRs -- 960_000_tonnes TVs -- 480_000_tonnes Game Consoles -- 390_000_tonnes DVDs -- 100_000_tonnes Set-top boxes -- 60_000_tonnes (Source: Energy Savings Trust)
'TV's 'sleep' button stands accused', Mark Kinver, BBC News, 2006/01/22 23:43:30 GMT Notes 1_tonne = 1_000_kg and 1_kiloWatt hour is equal to 3.6 MegaJoules which is 1 times ten exponent 3 (Watt hour) = 3.6 times ten exponent 6 (Joules) or 1_000 Watt hour = 3_600_000_Joules thus 1_Watt hour = 3_600_Joules No one knows why electricity is sold in kWh rather than MJ