Stonehenge gets more Mysterious, New Monuments Discovered Underneath it

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The mystery surrounding Stonehenge has suddenly deepened — literally. A first-of-its-kind study suggests that 15 previously undiscovered or poorly understood monuments lie hidden under the ancient stone monument and its surroundings.

For the study, researchers used a variety of techniques — including ground-penetrating radar and 3D laser scanning — to create a highly detailed subsurface map of the entire area. According to a release from the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology, one of the partners in the study, the technologies are notable for being much less destructive than traditional, digging-based exploratory techniques.

A full map of the project’s findings is to be presented September 9 at the British Science Festival in Birmingham, England. (David Preiss)

Continue reading “Stonehenge gets more Mysterious, New Monuments Discovered Underneath it”

Penguins given ‘happy pills’ in soaking Britain


07    Feb   2014
London (AFP)

After weeks of rain and wind, miserable penguins at a marine centre in England are being fed anti-depressants to cheer them up.

The 12 Humboldt penguins at the Sealife Centre in Scarborough, northeast England, were showing signs of stress as they shivered through one of the wettest winters on record. Continue reading “Penguins given ‘happy pills’ in soaking Britain”

Water canon lined up in case of ‘austerity riots’

Water cannon set to be deployed across Britain amid fears of more riots

Senior officers say likelihood of future protests against the Government mean they could need permission to deploy water cannon in mainland Britain for the first time

Police warn they expect water cannon will be required because “the ongoing and potential future austerity measures are likely to lead to continued protest”.

Police warn they expect water cannon will be required because “the ongoing and potential future austerity measures are likely to lead to continued protest”. Photo: Getty Images


David Barrett

By , Home Affairs Correspondent

7:30PM GMT 22 Jan 2014

Concerns about future violent protests over the Government’s austerity measures have prompted chief constables to ask Theresa May, the Home Secretary, for authorisation to deploy water cannon in mainland Britain for the first time.

Chief constables have concluded the machines would be a valuable addition to their armoury after carrying out detailed research, including a scientific analysis of injuries that members of the public can suffer when hit by the powerful water jets.

Documents disclosed by the Association of Chief Police Officers show plans have been drawn up for the cannon to be used against protesters and rioters in the future. Continue reading “Water canon lined up in case of ‘austerity riots’”

Housing double whammy: A whole generation ‘won’t be able to buy or rent a home’ (U.K.)

Unless we build affordable housing, more and more people will be priced out, say experts

Andrew Grice

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

A generation of Britons faces a housing “double whammy” as a growing number of people cannot afford to buy or rent a home, according to a report published today.

The study warns that house prices are set to rocket by 35 per cent by 2020 and that private sector rents are likely to soar by 39 per cent over the same period. It said that the “two broken housing markets” mean an extra 310 working people a day – one every five minutes – turn to the Government for housing benefit.

The average house price in England will rise from £245,879 this year to £331,387 by 2020, according to projections by the respected analysts Oxford Economics. In London, the £452,400 average will rocket to £647,500 – 18 times the average London wage, compared with 16 times now. At the other end of the spectrum, the £146,000 average price in the North-east will rise to £171,400. Continue reading “Housing double whammy: A whole generation ‘won’t be able to buy or rent a home’ (U.K.)”

CIA Cleared on Answer to Telepathy FOIA Demand




SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – The CIA properly handled a man’s demand for records on his 1966 interrogation regarding telepathy and espionage, a federal judge ruled.

Phillip Mosier had sued the agency in San Francisco under the Freedom of Information Act last year, but his case was removed this past April to the Eastern District of California.

The complaint is sparse on details about the nature of the CIA’s alleged interview with him nearly 50 years ago in Lebanon, Mo.

“For years, Mr. Mosier has sought information on the interview from the CIA,” his complaint stated. “Each attempt has been stalled, blocked and thwarted by the Agency.”

Mosier told Sacramento’s ABC News affiliate, however, that the CIA and other government agents had questioned him about his supposed psychic abilities.

In previous interviews, Mosier told the news outlet that “its agents questioned him in the summer of 1966 because he had stumbled upon a secret government program aimed at using telepathy as a tool for espionage.”

Continue reading “CIA Cleared on Answer to Telepathy FOIA Demand”

New research shows clear association between ACE inhibitors and acute kidney injury

Contact: Genevieve Maul 44-012-237-65542 University of Cambridge

These and similar drugs are the second most prescribed on the NHS

Cambridge scientists have found an association between ACE inhibitors (and similar drugs) and acute kidney injury – a sudden deterioration in kidney function. The research is published today, 06 November, in the journal PLOS ONE.

ACE inhibitors and related drugs known as angiotensin receptor antagonists (ARAs or ‘sartans’) are the second most frequently prescribed medicines in UK clinical practice, and are used to treat common conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease and kidney problems, especially in people with diabetes. Although concerns about a link between these drugs and kidney function have been raised in the past, the size of the problem had previously been unknown.

The researchers therefore examined the issue using data from the whole of England. They compared the admission rates for acute kidney injury to English hospitals with the prescribing rates of ACE inhibitors and ARAs. From 2007/8 to 2010/11, there was a 52 per cent increase in acute kidney injury admissions. During this same period of time, there was an increase in the number of prescriptions for ACE inhibitors and ARAs issued by GP surgeries by 16 per cent.

The results show a clear association between the increase in prescriptions and the increase in hospital admissions. The researchers estimate that 1636 hospital admissions with acute kidney injury – which has a mortality rate in the UK of around 25-30 per cent of patients – could potentially have been avoided if the prescribing rate had remained at the 2007/8 levels. They estimate that one in seven cases of acute kidney injury could be due to increased prescriptions for these drugs.

This is the first time that a study has been able to assess the extent to which these medications are linked to acute kidney injury. However, the researchers emphasise that we cannot assume that the medication was a direct cause of the acute kidney injury in this study, and no one should stop taking these medications unless advised by their doctor to do so.

Dr Rupert Payne, senior author of the study from the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Public Health, said: “There has been lots of anecdotal evidence suggesting these drugs may be a contributory factor in patients developing acute kidney injury, and this work gives us an opportunity to estimate the size of the problem, as well as making clinicians and patients more aware of the importance of using these drugs in accordance with current clinical guidelines.

“As both a GP and clinical pharmacologist, it also highlights to me the importance of improving our understanding of the risks and benefits of drugs more generally in the real world of clinical practice, away from the artificial setting of clinical trials.”

Dr Laurie Tomlinson, co-author of the study, added: “As a kidney doctor I have looked after many patients with acute kidney injury who were taking these medications prior to becoming unwell and have often worried that the drugs were doing more harm than good. These results are the first to estimate to what extent these drugs may be contributing to the growing incidence of acute kidney injury. Therefore, they represent the first step of research needed to better define when they can be prescribed safely, which should reduce the growing burden of acute kidney injury and save NHS costs and ultimately lives.”

The researchers will next use large primary care databases to examine the association between the drugs and acute kidney injury for individual patients and, in particular, the role of other medication, patient factors (such as the existence of chronic kidney disease) and infections in causing acute kidney injury.


For additional information please contact:

Genevieve Maul, Office of Communications, University of Cambridge Tel: direct, +44 (0) 1223 765542, +44 (0) 1223 332300 Mob: +44 (0) 7774 017464 Email:

Notes to editors:

The paper ‘ACE Inhibitor and Angiotensin Receptor-II Antagonist prescribing and hospital admissions with acute kidney injury: A longitudinal ecological study’ will be published in the 06 November edition of PLOS ONE.

The live article will be available at

Are you of the Pemberley Darcys? Same ‘elite’ surnames have been at Oxbridge since the Norman Conquest /”social mobility is not much better than it was in medieval times”

Names like Darcy, Mandeville and Neville have attended elite universities for 27 generations

Tom Mendelsohn

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The same elite names have dominated Oxbridge as far back as the Norman Conquest– and there’s no sign that they’re about to be ousted any time soon.

According to new research, old aristocratic names like Darcy, Percy, Mandeville and Montgomery have been represented on the rolls at Oxford and Cambridge for 27 generations, with grave implications for social mobility in Britain.

Despite the many social and technological upheavals in the past millennium, the study found that the names which were at the top of the social pile when William the Conqueror was on the throne are still to be found amongst the social elite nowadays.

What’s more, family names that were poor 150 years ago tend to remain outside society’s upper echelons today. The likes of Boorman, Cholmondley, Defoe and Trevellyan are all still unlikely to penetrate the top social strata.

The research was carried out by Dr Neil Cummins and Professor Gregory Clark at the LSE, who believe that English social mobility is not much better than it was in medieval times – and that social status is even more inheritable than height.

Dr Cummins said: “Just take the names of the Normans who conquered England nearly 1,000 years ago. Surnames such as Baskerville, Darcy, Mandeville and Montgomery are still over-represented at Oxbridge and also among elite occupations such as medicine, law and politics.

“What is surprising is that between 1800 and 2011 there have been substantial institutional changes in England but no gain in rates of social mobility for society as a whole.”

The study looked at rolls of students at Oxbridge dating back to 1170, and compared names featured then to names of today, in an effort to test the currently accepted theory that it takes just five generations for families to fall or rise to the middle of the social ladder.

The poorer names were selected be researchers for their relative rareness, allowing for family lines to be more easily traced.

Rich name, poor name


  • Berkeley
  • Baskerville
  • Darcy
  • Mandeville
  • Montgomery
  • Neville
  • Pakenham
  • Percy
  • Punchard
  • Talbot


  • Boorman
  • Cholmondley
  • Defoe
  • Delmer
  • Goodhill
  • Ledwell
  • Rowthorn
  • Sidwells
  • Tonbridge
  • Trevellyan

Undercover police to be banned from having sexual relationships with targets (U.K.)

New rules will stop undercover officers having intimate relationships with   people they are investigating, following concern over series of cases

Mark Kennedy, a former Scotland Yard officer, is alleged to have slept with a number of women whose activities he was investigating

Mark Kennedy, a former Scotland Yard officer, is alleged to have slept with a number of women whose activities he was investigating
David Barrett

By , Home Affairs Correspondent

7:00PM GMT 29 Oct 2013

Undercover police are to be banned from having sex with individuals they are   investigating following a series of scandals.

Chief Constable Alex Marshall, chief executive of the College of Policing,   said officers responsible for authorising undercover work will be required   to make it clear to their teams that sexual activity is not allowed under a   new code of conduct.

Eight women are currently suing Scotland Yard over claims they were deceived   into having long-term intimate relationships with undercover police officers.

David Winnick MP, questioning Mr Marshall during session of the Commons’ Home   Affairs Select Committee, said: “We’ve had witnesses, female witnesses, that   said undercover police agents had started sexual relationships with them –    and in some cases children had been born – without any knowledge on the part   of the women that they were entering an intimate relationship with police   officers.

“And in their view – as one of them described it – it was a form of sexual   deceit by the state itself.

“Do we take it from this proposed code that undercover police agents will not   enter into such relationships?”

Mr Marshall replied: “They absolutely should not. They would be breaching the   code if they did.”

A new course for senior officers who oversee covert work would make clear that    “sexual activity while undercover is not allowed”, he added.

Mr Marshall’s disclosures contradicted previous statements made by other   officers, and a former police minister, and his comments took a    significantly tougher stance than Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan   Police Commissioner, as recently as last week.

Sir Bernard, Britain’s most senior police officer, said his undercover   operatives may still be involved in sexual relationships with targets of   their investigations.

Although guidelines said it should not take place, the rules could not prevent    “human beings sometimes failing”, Sir Bernard said.

A number of concerns have been raised about undercover tactics since former Pc   Mark Kennedy was unmasked in 2011 as an undercover officer who spied on   environmental protesters.

A £1 million trial of six environmental activists accused of plotting to break   into the Ratcliffe-on-Soar coal-fired power station in Nottinghamshire   collapsed in January 2011 amid questions over Mr Kennedy’s involvement.

In June last year Nick Herbert, then the police minister at the Home Office,   said regulations permitted sexual relationships because otherwise activist   groups, or other targets, could use sex as a way of “outing” potential   undercover officers.

Undercover police have also come under intense scrutiny after it emerged they   had assumed the identities of children who died in infancy.

There have also been allegations that a Scotland Yard undercover officer was   ordered to smear the family of Stephen Lawrence, the murdered black teenager.

Earlier this year the Home Office ordered every police force in England and   Wales to search for evidence of misconduct by undercover officers in effort   by ministers to “clean the stables” after the string of damaging allegations.

The College of Policing last week published its draft code of ethics, which   forbids officers from forming sexual relationships with anyone in the course   of their work, but does not explicitly refer to undercover police.


Unless we change the way we fund universities, our system will collapse ( U.K. )

Soon the only graduates carrying on their studies will be the sons and daughters of the very rich or those who can secure bursaries, scholarships and grants


Graduates in gowns gaze at grey sea

The system of student finance is unsustainable. Photograph: Alamy

England’s universities have been humming as another wave of near 340,000 undergraduates begin their rite of passage into adulthood. University is their gateway to knowledge, a career and a future. But, above all, it is about learning to think for themselves, becoming themselves, even. For them, nothing will ever be the same again.

The university sector is one of the few parts of the English institutional structure that still works. Over the decades ahead, as new technologies, unleashed by digitisation, transform our economic base, the universities could and should be an important asset to the country, both as a fountainhead of knowledge and as a unique space for bringing together people, society, business and ideas.

Instead, the unsustainable system of student finance could so fragment the sector that not only will the standard university be endangered, so will the character of the elite. Neglect and the facile belief that market structures are the solution to everything could undermine a great system.

Complacency surrounds the new regime of £9,000 tuition fees. So far, admissions to university have held up, even if applications have fallen. The effort to persuade students that the repayment of up to £45,000 of debt works more like a graduate tax, affordable because your degree makes you more valuable, has plainly worked. Yet take a closer look and the picture is more disturbing.

Although the proposition was that there would be a range of fees, few universities charge less than £9,000 a year. Indeed, average fees are about £8,400. Accommodation and living costs have to be paid for on top, so that almost whatever university a student attends or whatever the degree taken, he or she will end up with about £45,000 of debt.

Even so, universities such as Oxford, warned its vice-chancellor last week, may have to charge more, given that government support for teaching has been emasculated (full declaration: I am principal of an Oxford college, Hertford, and also chair the Independent Commission on Fees). This is a fragile system that is going to break.

One fatal weakness is that English student debt (Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish students have not been plunged into the maelstrom) comes with interest attached. At the very least, graduates are charged an interest rate equal to the retail price index, scaling up to the RPI plus 3% once their incomes exceed £41,000.

Today, this implies an effective top interest rate of a whopping 6.3%. Only the US has the same cavalier approach, but the average graduate debt there is a mere £15,700, with much lower interest rates, and a good third of American students leave with no debt. The English combination of high interest rates and sky-high debt is a unique double whammy. The impact of compound interest on debt that is only repaid slowly is deadly; only those students who earn very high salaries early in their careers can escape being locked into a debt trap.

There are insufficient jobs that pay enough to allow even a fraction of each year’s 340,000 students to escape the trap. The average salary is £26,500. Only about 10% of the population earn more than £41,000. Even allowing for the fact that wages usually rise faster than prices (though they have not since 2006), it follows that many, perhaps even the majority of, students will struggle to fully pay back their debt.

So far, this realisation has deterred only mature and part-time students, whose applications have fallen by 14% and 40% respectively since the benchmark year of 2010. But the fall-away in the demand for courses, such as languages, that are wrongly felt to be worth less in the labour market, also shows the effect showing through.

Another pressure point is the falling applications from indebted English graduates to study for master’s degrees and doctorates, especially in the humanities, and this is before the first cohort incur the full debt. Soon, the only graduates carrying on their studies will be the sons and daughters of the very rich or those poorer students who can secure one of the inadequate number of bursaries, scholarships and grants.

Yet graduate education is not just the university’s lifeblood, supplying the next generation of academics, it is one of the core elements in any innovation ecosystem. It constitutes the principal pool from which the scientists, technologists, doctors, lawyers and intellectuals of tomorrow will be recruited. A key societal function is under threat.

Universities across the board are in a quandary. The real wages of academics have fallen by 13% since 2008, one of the largest sustained wage cuts any profession has suffered since the Second World War. Yet, unsurprisingly, students incurring the debt want to see some value for their money. Research has to be sustained. What to do?

Unless there is some bold political leadership, the future is becoming clearer. Oxford, Cambridge and a handful of other top English universities will want to charge more than £9,000 to support their expensive teaching ,while trying not to deter applicants by offering even more generous fee rebates and scholarships to undergraduates and graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds.

They would preserve themselves in the short term as premier academic institutions. But they would have caused an interdependent university system to fragment, leaving less strong universities in an impossible position, and further entrenching the noxious class stratifications in English society.

The rest of the university sector would increasingly be devastated: it would have to reconstitute itself around a limited range of digital courses and online learning in order to slash fees as students became more and more aware that the debt could not be justified by any job they are likely to get. The very idea of an interdisciplinary university, across the gamut of expensive disciplines, would become impossible. Our economy and society would be immeasurably weaker.

What is needed is a mixed economy of student finance. Universities create the public good of knowledge and thus more wealth; they should be paid for in part by general taxation and in part from moderate student fees on which negligible interest is charged. Fees in moderation are a good financing principle.

But loading the entire burden for university financing on to the shoulders of the innocent young, who are so inspiring to meet, with their ambitions to change the world, while their elders are washing their hands of responsibility, is a disgrace. England will pay a high price for such arrant selfishness.

Children ‘too embarrassed to read’

12:16am Friday 4th October 2013 in National News

© Press Association 2013

The Duchess of Cornwall is backing the campaign to uncover the nation's literary heroes
The Duchess of Cornwall is backing the campaign to uncover the nation’s literary heroes

Children increasingly see reading as “embarrassing”, with fewer youngsters picking up a book for fun, research suggests.

The number of children who read outside class in their own time is falling, while some say their parents are not bothered if they read, according to a new study by the National Literacy Trust.

It reveals just over a quarter (28.4%) of 35,000 children surveyed said they read in their own time. This has fallen from more than a third (38.1%), who said the same in 2005.

More than one in five (21.5%) children admitted they were embarrassed to be seen reading, up from 16.6% two years ago.

And more than one in four (26.6%) said they do not think their parents care if they read.

The Trust announced it is launching a campaign to find the nation’s literacy heroes.

It is asking the public to vote for individuals who have made a significant impact on others, such as inspiring a love of books or helping to improve reading skills.

Anyone from a parent, teacher or young person who has overcome a personal literacy problem to a favourite author or celebrity can be nominated, the Trust said.

The Duchess of Cornwall, who is supporting the campaign, said: “I firmly believe in the importance of igniting a passion for reading in the next generation. In a world where the written word competes with so many other calls on our attention, we need more literacy heroes to keep inspiring young people to find the pleasure and power of reading for themselves.”

The campaign, which is also backed by authors including Joanna Trollope and Dorothy Koomson, and comedian Miles Jupp, comes the day after new national figures for England showed that almost 180,000 six-year-olds failed to reach the expected standard this year in the Government’s reading check.

National Literacy Trust director Jonathan Douglas said: “Our research not only reveals that children are reading less and developing more negative attitudes towards reading, but also that there is a clear correlation between this and their performance in reading tests.

” As poor reading, writing and communication skills will hold children back at school and throughout life, literacy heroes and reading role models have never been more important.”

:: Anyone wishing to vote can do so through the National Literacy Trust’s website.

:: The Trust’s survey questioned 35,000 eight to 16-year-olds at the end of last year.

Home Office: Drugs must remain illegal to ‘protect society’

Government clashes with one of England’s leading police officers who says Class A drugs should be decriminalised

Charlie Cooper

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Drugs are dangerous and must remain illegal to “protect society” the Government has insisted, after one of England’s leading police officers called for Class A drugs to be decriminalised.

Mike Barton, chief constable of Durham police, said that drugs could be made available to addicts through the NHS, in a controlled supply system that would cut off the income streams of criminal gangs.

His intervention adds weight to growing calls for an overhaul of UK drug policy. Leading figures in health, including England’s chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies, have called for drug addiction to be viewed primarily as a medical, not a criminal, problem. The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and the influential Home Affairs Select Committee have both backed calls for a Royal Commission to look at options for reform.

However, a Home Office spokesman emphasised the dangers of illicit drug use and said that the current approach had seen a decline in drug use.

Writing in The Observer, Mr Barton, who is the Association of Chief Police Officers’ (ACPO) Intelligence lead, said that drug addicts “need to be treated, cared for and encouraged to break the cycle of addiction. They do not need to be criminalised.”

“If an addict were able to access drugs via the NHS or some similar organisation, then they would not have to go out and buy illegal drugs,” he said. Those who encouraged others to take drugs by selling them should still be “tackled” as criminals, he said.

ACPO have distanced themselves from Mr Barton’s comments. Andy Bliss, chief constable of Hertfordshire police and ACPO’s lead on drug-related crime said that questions over drug legislation were “matters for parliament to decide” and appeared to urge caution over the message any softening of drug policy would send.

“Government policy on drugs enforcement is very clear and unambiguous and our job as police officers is to enforce the law…” he said. “We need in particular to be very thoughtful about setting clear boundaries, especially for young people, in relation to drugs, their misuse and criminal activity surrounding them.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Drugs are illegal because they are dangerous – they destroy lives and blight communities…The UK’s approach on drugs remains clear, we must help individuals who are dependent by treatment, while ensuring law enforcement protects society by stopping the supply and tackling the organised crime that is associated with the drugs trade.”

However the drugs policy reform group Transform Drug Policy Foundation welcomed Mr Barton’s comments. “We are delighted to see a serving chief constable who is willing to stand up and tell the truth – prohibition doesn’t work,” said the group’s founder Danny Kushlick.

Thousands of unexplained and unexpected deaths among elderly revealed in leaked Government analysis

Labour calls for “urgent investigation” amid fears more old people are dying because of cuts to public funding

Adam Withnall, Charlie Cooper

Thursday, 25 July 2013

A leaked report has revealed that thousands more elderly people died in the past year than the Government had expected, particularly in poorer areas of the country.

Labour called for an “urgent investigation” into the findings, and said the Coalition needs to “be honest” about whether cuts to social care budgets over the past three years have contributed to the spike in mortality rates.

The increase in deaths has been most striking amongst women aged 85 and over, and that rise is the driving force behind alarming statistics which suggest around 600 more people than expected are dying every week, the analysis revealed.

The document, made public by the Health Service Journal, reveals that number-crunchers at Public Health England have been “tracking the mortality summaries to determine if last year’s unwelcome increase in mortality in older age may be continuing.”

The report found that there has been, “if anything, a further deterioration in mortality”.

In a letter to the health secretary Jeremy Hunt, seen by The Independent, Mr Burnham has called for an “urgent” investigation into the figures.

Official projections estimated there would be around 455,000 deaths in England between the summers of 2012 and 2013. The actual number was almost 25,000 greater than that, an increase of around 5 per cent on top of Office of National Statistics expectations.

The research also broke down the numbers to look specifically at the so-called “Spearhead authorities” – the areas of the country which fare poorest for life expectancy and mortality rates.

It noted that: “Worryingly, female 75-and-over mortality trends appear to have been worse in the Spearhead areas.” There was even a clearly-observable tailing-off of life expectancy in these areas.

Although the reason for the increase remains unknown, some experts have already suggested that cuts to local government social care budgets may be to blame.

Mr Burnham writes: “As you will be aware, the Government has made significant cuts to local authority budgets that pay for social care, which have seen £1.8 billion taken on out of adult social care since 2010, and it is clear that families need immediate action to improve the care system. Are you satisfied that all social care departments have sufficient funding to prevent older people being placed at serious risk?”

Public Health England acknowledged it had carried out the analysis, and in a recent report, which it did publish, it noted the severity of influenza and other viruses over the most recent winter, and observed: “The number of deaths during 2012/13 was high.”

But it could not yet offer a definitive explanation as to why mortality rates rose across the board. A spokesperson for Public Health England said: “We are currently undertaking further work to understand why there was a rise in mortality rates during the earlier months of this year and the causes behind this.”

They added that weekly rates are currently down to within levels expected for this time of year.

Speaking to the Health Service Journal, professor of human geography Danny Dorling said he believed the recent cuts could be to blame for the increase in deaths among the elderly.

He said: “Elevated mortality amongst the elderly is often about people dying two or five years earlier than would be expected given recent rates.

“It is possible that cuts or freezes to services have a particular bad effect on this group – even cuts and freezes that might appear very minor – because the group is so vulnerable.

“Increased anxiety resulting from knowing you might have to move home or even have no home has long been known to be very damaging for the health of very elderly people. The timing of this recent rise in mortality coincides with the crisis in the funding of a large number of care homes.

“It is worth thinking… who gets left a little longer in A&E than they were left when there was funding growing year on year. Who is most neglected when the carer visiting them has only 15 minutes when they used to have 30?”


Expat tycoon argues hatred of British weather makes him immune from divorce courts

The estranged wife of an expatriate property tycoon has failed in her bid to secure part of his fortune, after he successfully argued that his loathing of the British climate earned him immunity from the UK divorce courts.

Ex-pat tycoon argues hatred of British weather makes him immune from divorce courts

Ex-pat couple Maria Saward and her husband Paul getting married in Gibralta in 2009 Photo: Champion News

By Jasper Copping

2:24PM BST 04 Jul 2013

Maria Saward had launched a case through the English legal system for a share of her husband Paul’s property portfolio. But Mr Saward, a keen yachtsman, managed to convince a judge that his dislike of the weather on these shores meant he no longer thought of himself as a UK resident.

The couple met in Majorca, married in Gibraltar, in 2009, and lived near Alicante, on Spain’s Costa Blanca, until Mrs Saward left her husband in June 2011, following a row, with her husband vowing “not to pay her a penny”.

Mrs Saward, 63, turned to the English courts for a divorce, because of their international reputation for securing favourable settlements for the ex-wives of wealthy men.

She managed to secure a decree nisi in November 2011 and proceeded to seek a slice of her 66-year-old husband’s property fortune, on the basis that, whilst he was currently living in Spain, his spiritual home was in Hampshire, where he was from.

Mrs Saward cited evidence that her husband had been disparaging about the country in which he had settled, declaring in emails to friends that he regarded Spain as a “—-hole” and had declared, “the Spanish are pure —-.”

She also stressed that bulk of his property portfolio was in Southampton and the surrounding area, where he has six properties, that most of his family were located in the area, and that his yacht was moored there most of the time.

Indeed, it emerged that when his wife began divorce proceedings, Mr Saward had just bought a yacht in Scotland which he had sailed to Southampton and, in June 2011, was living and sleeping on the boat in Southampton harbour.

However, Judge Lesley Newton, sitting in the High Court Family Division in October last year, overturned the decree nisi after ruling that Mr Saward’s permanent residence was in Spain and that the English courts had no jurisdiction over the couple’s divorce.

The judge observed: “Although the husband may well have expressed a dislike of Spain in forceful terms on many occasions, and whilst he may have contemplated a return to the UK, he had made no concrete plans to do so.”

Finding that Mr Saward’s “permanent and habitual fixed centre of interests” was Spain, the judge said that the key piece of evidence was a letter he wrote whilst staying on his yacht in Southampton, in which he stated: “I have no plans of ever moving back here, I could not put up with the weather … only two days left and I will be home.”

“In June 2011 he clearly saw himself as visiting England and his home being in Spain,” Judge Newton concluded.

Mrs Saward asked the Appeal Court to reverse that ruling, but in a ruling on Thursday, Lady Justice Black upheld the High Court’s findings.

She said Judge Newton had “carefully compared all the factors before and against residence in this country” before ruling that Mr Saward’s permanent home and main sphere of interest was in Spain.

The appeal judge concluded: “The most that might be said is that the judge viewed the facts in some way from the wrong end of the telescope, looking at residency rather than interests. However there is no prospect of convincing this court that the judge was wrong.”

Mrs Saward, outside court, said: “I’m very upset. This marriage ruined my life completely.

“As far as I know the court’s decision means I’m now still married. I don’t know whether my husband has undertaken divorce proceedings in Spain or not.”

She added: “In the region where we live in Spain, when a couple split up any property held in joint names is split equally whether they are married or not. But we had nothing in joint names, it was all in his name, even though we were husband and wife.”

She said she had been a successful businesswoman, running her own company, before meeting her husband, but added: “At this moment I have no income; all my savings were invested in the new house we bought in Spain. Now I have nothing.”

Half of Tamiflu prescriptions went unused during 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic, sewage study concludes

Press release 2013/03 – Issued  by the  Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, UK


A new study concludes that  approximately half of the prescriptions of Tamiflu during the 2009-10 influenza  pandemic went unused in England. The unused medication represents approximately  600,000 courses of Tamiflu at a cost of around £7.8 million to the UK taxpayer.  The novel scientific method used in the study could help measure and improve  the effectiveness of future pandemic flu strategies.

The finding, published online in  the open access scientific journal PLOS ONE, comes from the first study of its  kind to use sewage water to estimate drug compliance rates, the degree to which  a patient correctly follows medical advice to take medication. The study  estimated usage of pharmaceuticals from large populations by sampling sewage  and recovering the active component of Tamiflu thus measuring drugs that were  actually consumed by patients, rather than those that were flushed away without  being consumed.

The work was led by scientists at  the UK’s Centre for Ecology & Hydrology working with colleagues at Uppsala,  Linnaeus and Umeå Universities, Sweden, and the  University of South Bohemia, Czech Republic.

Lead author Dr Andrew Singer, a  Chemical Ecologist from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, says,  “Influenza pandemics are rare, making a study such as this a unique and  important window into how people behave during a public health emergency such  as a pandemic. This study sheds new light on people’s willingness to follow  medical advice on antiviral usage. Importantly, this method could be used to  monitor how many people take certain kinds of medicine in real time and alert  national health authorities to the need for stronger public information  campaigns during pandemic emergencies.”

The research highlights that  despite the central role of antivirals in many nations’ influenza pandemic  preparedness plans, there remains considerable uncertainty regarding antiviral  compliance rates. Poor compliance drains resources by diverting limited  antiviral stocks from those who may need it most. Mis-used antivirals can lead  to antiviral resistance and represents a significant financial cost and health  risk. Previous research on antiviral compliance had focused on small  populations, typically fewer than 200, and used survey-based analyses of drug  compliance, which can be unreliable.

Dr Singer adds, “Our study was the  first compliance study to utilise waste water as an evidence base for whether a  population consumed Tamiflu or not. Because of this unique study design, we  were able to examine populations orders of magnitude larger than previous  studies. One population was just over 6,000 people and the second population  was 208,000. Tamiflu gets transformed into the active antiviral only after  being consumed, and is released into the sewage with every visit to the toilet.  This waste water epidemiology approach is particularly robust for drugs such as  Tamiflu and potentially more reliable than some survey based methods of  assessing compliance.”

Predictions of oseltamivir  consumption from Tamiflu recovered in sewage were compared with two sources of  national government statistics to derive compliance rates. Scenario and  sensitivity analysis indicated an estimated compliance rate between 45-60%,  (between 45 to 60 people out of every 100 people who received Tamiflu completed  the antiviral course, as prescribed).

Dr Singer says, “With  approximately half the collected antivirals going unused, there is a clear need  to improve public health messages so that less antiviral is wasted and that the  duration and severity of infection is reduced. Furthermore, we feel the waste  water epidemiology approach undertaken can potentially help shape future public  health messages, making them more timely, targeted, and population sensitive,  while potentially leading to less mis- and un-used antiviral, less wastage and  ultimately a more robust and efficacious pandemic preparedness strategy.”

Notes to Editors

For further information, or to request interviews with Dr Andrew Singer, please contact the CEH press office.

This research was supported by the  Swedish Research Council Formas, the Natural Environment Research  Council–Knowledge Transfer (PREPARE) Initiative contract NE/F009216/1 to  A.C.S., and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic  CENAKVA No. CZ.1.05/2.1.00/01.0024 and the Grant Agency of the University of  South Bohemia No. 047/2010/Z to R.G. and G.F.F. Hoffman – La Roche Ltd. donated  deuterated OC.

Full paper reference: Andrew C.  Singer, Josef D. Järhult, Roman Grabic, Ghazanfar A. Khan, Ganna Fedorova,  Jerker Fick, Richard H. Lindberg, Michael J. Bowes, Björn Olsen and Hanna  Söderström. ‘Compliance to oseltamivir among two populations in Oxfordshire,  United Kingdom affected by influenza A(H1N1)pdm09, November 2009 – a waste  water epidemiology study’ is published in PLOS ONE. The paper will be available from:

Staff page of Dr Andrew Singer



Increased risk of sleep disorder in children who received swine flu vaccine : Up to 16-fold increased risk

Contact: Emma Dickinson 44-020-738-36529 BMJ-British Medical Journal

Results consistent with findings from Finland and Sweden, but may still be overestimated

The results are consistent with previous studies from Finland and Sweden and indicate that the association is not confined to Scandinavian populations. However, the authors stress that the risk may still be overestimated, and they call for longer term monitoring of the cohort of children and adolescents exposed to Pandemrix to evaluate the exact level of risk.

In 2009, pandemic influenza A (H1N1) virus spread rapidly, resulting in millions of cases and over 18,000 deaths in over 200 countries. In England the vaccine Pandemrix was introduced in October 2009. By March 2010, around one in four (24%) of healthy children aged under 5 and just over a third (37%) aged 2-15 in a risk group had been vaccinated.

In August 2010 concerns were raised in Finland and Sweden about a possible association between narcolepsy and Pandemrix. And in 2012 a study from Finland reported a 13-fold increased risk in children and young people aged 4-19.

But a lack of reported cases in other countries led to speculation that any possible association might be restricted to these Scandinavian populations.

Narcolepsy is a chronic disorder of excessive daytime sleepiness, often accompanied by sudden muscle weakness triggered by strong emotion (known as cataplexy). To evaluate the risk after vaccination in England, a team of researchers reviewed case notes for 245 children and young people aged 4-18 from sleep centres and child neurology centres across England.

Of these, 75 had narcolepsy (56 with cataplexy) with onset after 1 January 2008. Eleven had been vaccinated before onset of symptoms; seven within six months.

After adjusting for clinical conditions, vaccination at any time was associated with a 14-fold increased risk of narcolepsy, whereas vaccination within six months before onset was associated with a 16-fold increased risk.

In absolute numbers, this means that one in 52,000 to 57,500 doses are associated with narcolepsy, say the authors.

They write: “The increased risk of narcolepsy after vaccination with ASO3 adjuvanted pandemic A/H1N1 2009 vaccine indicates a causal association, consistent with findings from Finland. Because of variable delay in diagnosis, however, the risk might be overestimated by more rapid referral of vaccinated children.”

While further use of this vaccine for prevention of seasonal flu seems unlikely, they say their findings “have implications for the future licensure and use of AS03 adjuvanted pandemic vaccines containing different subtypes such H5 or H9.”

And they conclude: “Further studies to assess the risk, if any, associated with the other A/H1N1 2009 vaccines used in the pandemic, including those with and without adjuvants, are also needed to inform the use of such vaccines in the event of a future pandemic.”

Bristol-Myers Squibb need not face claims related to 24 New Jersey residents who died after alleged exposure to toxic substances from the pharmaceutical giant

 Bristol-Myers Fends Off Suit Over Toxic Deaths


(CN) – Bristol-Myers Squibb need not face claims related to 24 New Jersey residents who died after alleged exposure to toxic substances from the pharmaceutical giant, a federal judge ruled.

Around May 2008, more than 100 complaints were filed in state court against Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. over the deaths of people who lived near its New Brunswick, N.J., plant, which allegedly emits toxic chemicals.

After parallel mass tort litigation began in the Atlantic County Superior Court later that year, Bristol-Myers Squibb removed the cases to federal court.

With Cynthia Fuqua leading 23 other estate administrators seeking pecuniary losses, Bristol-Myers Squibb fought the claims under two-year statute of limitations of the New Jersey Wrongful Death Act.

Initially, the state court had given the heirs a chance to show that they may qualify for tolling if “the complainant has been induced or tricked by his [or her] adversary’s misconduct” into missing the filing deadline.

U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson was not as generous and dismissed the wrongful death claims on Feb. 15, saying the discovery rule cannot toll the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims.

“The decedents’ deaths provided these plaintiffs the notice to investigate the cause of death through the means available at the time of death,” Wolfson wrote. “Thus, there is no basis to extend the application of the discovery rule to permit the filing of wrongful death actions beyond the specified statutory period.”

Heirs of the decedents cannot calims that Bristol-Myers Squibb prevented the diligent pursuit of the case by fraudulently concealing the toxic contamination.

“While plaintiffs allege that they were unable to obtain access to the concealed information regarding the contamination, they fail to aver what actions they took to discover that information and, relatedly, the complaints are also devoid of any facts relating to the exercise of due diligence on the part of plaintiffs to discover the existence of fraud notwithstanding defendant’s alleged wrongdoing,” Wolfson wrote. “More particularly, plaintiffs neglect to assert any facts regarding their due diligence in ascertaining the cause of death of the respective decedents as it relates to defendant’s concealment of contamination. Importantly, those allegations should be specific to each plaintiff’s conduct, and not be pled in a generalized manner. In short, these glaring deficiencies preclude the court from applying an equitable tolling doctrine that is generally used sparingly.”

Since 2008, the plaintiffs have failed to uncover sufficient evidence to warrant equitable tolling, according to the ruling.

“Plaintiffs in these federal actions, having had the benefit of the state court litigation – as they are represented by the same counsel – have filed complaints here that are substantially similar to those brought in the state court four years ago,” Wolfson wrote. “No more specifics are included in these complaints to buttress plaintiffs’ claims of fraudulent concealment. Clearly, these pleadings do not meet the requirements of a properly pled concealment defense. Therefore, there is no basis for this court to apply the doctrine to toll plaintiffs’ untimely wrongful death claims. As a result, these claims are dismissed without prejudice.”

The plaintiffs may still amend their claims to argue for application of the equitable tolling doctrine.

Bristol-Myers Squibb’s sales totaled $17.6 billion in 2012, according to its website.

No standard for the placebo? ” placebo ingredients for pills were disclosed in fewer than 10 percent of cases “

2010 study posted for filing

Contact: Debra Kain 619-543-6163 University of California – San Diego

Much of medicine is based on what is considered the strongest possible evidence: The placebo-controlled trial. A paper published in the October 19 issue of  Annals of Internal Medicine – entitled “What’s In Placebos: Who Knows?” calls into question this foundation upon which much of medicine rests, by showing that there is no standard behind the standard – no standard for the placebo.

The thinking behind relying on placebo-controlled trials is this: to be sure a treatment itself is effective, one needs to compare people whose only difference is whether or not they are taking the drug. Both groups should equally think they are on the drug – to protect against effects of factors like expectation. So study participants are allocated “randomly” to the drug or a “placebo” – a pill that might be mistaken for the active drug but is inert.

But, according to the paper’s author, Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, this standard has a fundamental problem, “there isn’t anything actually known to be physiologically inert. On top of that, there are no regulations about what goes into placebos, and what is in them is often determined by the makers of the drug being studied, who have a vested interest in the outcome. And there has been no expectation that placebos’ composition be disclosed. At least then readers of the study might make up their own mind about whether the ingredients in the placebo might affect the interpretation of the study.”

Golomb pointed out these limitations to the placebo in a pair of letters to the journal Nature 15 years ago.

“A positive or negative effect of the placebo can lead to the misleading appearance of a negative or positive effect of the drug,” she said. “And an effect in the same direction as the drug can lead a true effect of the drug to be lost. These concerns aren’t just theoretical. Where the composition has been disclosed, the ingredients of the placebo have in some instances had a likely impact on the result of the study – in either direction (obscuring a real effect, or creating a spurious one). In the cases we know about, this is not because of any willful manipulation, but because it can in fact be difficult to come up with a placebo that does not have some kind of problem.”

Since 15 years have elapsed, the situation might have improved. Therefore, Golomb and her colleagues analyzed just how often randomized trials published in the past two years in each of the top four general medical journals actually disclosed the makeup of placebos.

The answer is not reassuring, according to the researchers, who found that the placebo ingredients for pills were disclosed in fewer than 10 percent of cases. (The nature of the “control” was significantly more likely to be stated for other types of treatments – like injections, acupuncture, or surgery – where people are more likely to question what “placebo” actually means.)

“How often study results are affected by what’s in the placebo is hard to say – because, as this study showed, most of the time we have no idea what the placebo is,” Golomb concluded.


Additional contributors to the study included Laura C. Erickson, BS, Sabrina Koperski, BS, Deanna Sack, BS, and UCSD Department of Medicine; Murray Enkin, MD, Departments of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, McMaster University, Ontario, Canada; and Jeremy Howick, PhD, Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, University of Oxford, England.

Antibiotics no more effective at relieving coughs and colds than a sugar pill



Those taking antibiotics in study reported more side effects including rash, nausea and diarrhoea


Jeremy Laurance


Wednesday, 19 December 2012


The winter may be peak season for coughs and colds but there is no point in taking antibiotics to shift them, experts say.


The largest randomised placebo-controlled trial of antibiotics for acute respiratory infections has shown that they are no more effective at relieving symptoms than taking a sugar pill.

Even older patients given the drugs did not recover more quickly or have fewer symptoms than those who simply waited for the untreated illness to run its course.

The international study run in 12 European countries including England and Wales included more than 2,000 adults with chest infections who were randomly assigned to receive either amoxicillin, the commonest antibiotic prescribed by GPs, or a placebo.

After taking the drugs three times a day for seven days, the two groups were assessed. Little difference was found in either severity or duration of symptoms, even among patients over 60. Those taking antibiotics reported more side effects including rash, nausea and diarrhoea.

Medical authorities around the globe, including Dame Sally Davies, the Government’s chief medical officer in the UK and Dr Margaret Chan, head of the World Health Organisation, have appealed to doctors and patients for restraint in use of the drugs to conserve them for serious conditions.

The world is awash with antibiotics and there is a growing threat from antibiotic resistant bacteria which could transform common infections into untreatable, and potentially fatal, illnesses.

The findings of the latest study, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, lend weight to their appeal.  Paul Little, professor of primary care research at the University of Southampton, who led the study, said: “Using amoxicillin to treat respiratory infections in patients not suspected of having pneumonia is not likely to help and could be harmful.”

A commentary on the findings, published alongside, says: “[The researchers] have generated convincing data that should encourage physicians in primary care to refrain from antibiotic treatment in low-risk patients in whom pneumonia is not suspected.”

A huge database containing the personal details of around eight million schoolchildren is being created without parents’ knowledge, it emerged today.

Warning over secret database featuring 8m children

A new database created by Capita features the personal details of 8m schoolchildren, it has emerged.

A new database created by Capita features the personal details of 8m schoolchildren, it has emerged. Photo: PA

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Graeme Paton

By , Education Editor

5:08PM GMT 11 Nov 2012

IT specialists from one of Britain’s biggest private companies are compiling the system, which features information on pupils’ age, sex, address, exam results, absenteeism and disciplinary record, it was revealed.

The database – set up by Capita – is reportedly being used by around 100 local authorities to act as a single source of information for officials working with children.

But the move raised fresh concerns about data security.

It comes just two years after Labour’s controversial ContactPoint system – containing the personal details of all children in England – was scrapped because of major fears that it was vulnerable to hackers.

Nick Pickles, director of the civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, told The Sunday Times: “It is ContactPoint by another name. Parents will be shocked that they are being kept in the dark about how their child’s information is being gathered and exactly what it is used for.”

According to reports, teachers are currently uploading information on pupils to the “Capita One” database as often as six times a day.

Capita also hires photographers to take pictures of pupils, which are offered for sale to parents before being uploaded onto the database, it emerged.

The data is currently employed by local authorities but it is thought that other organisations working with children, including youth offending teams and police officers, will also be given access.

Capita said the information provided a “single view” of a child in each local area but insisted schools and councils took data protection seriously.

A spokesman told The Sunday Times: “Each local authority holds and manages permission and access to its own information held in its Capita One database. Capita One is not a centralised database for the whole country.”

Armed Forces on stand-by to man prisons in case of strike

British service personnel are on standby to step in for prison and probation officers amid fears of an illegal strike by trade unions over the privatisation of prisons, the Daily Telegraph can disclose.

A strike by prison officers would add to threats already looming from other public sector unions

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said last night: “We aim to avoid any form of industrial action and will continue to maintain close relations and discussions with unions to do everything possible to achieve that.” Photo: GETTY

by Hannah Furness and Matthew Holehouse

10:30PM GMT 02 Nov 2012

Hundreds of Army, Navy and RAF personnel were yesterday being trained to take over duties from prison officers if they stage a walk-out, the Ministry of Defence confirmed.

Servicemen and women are learning how to carrying out “non-prisoner-facing” duties, including security work such as patrolling perimeter fences and monitoring CCTV, in case a strike goes ahead.

The running of seven British prisons, of which six are currently state-run, is up for competitive tender. Decisions are expected within the next few weeks.

Bidders include private security firms G4S, Sodexo and Serco as well as Her Majesty’s Prison Service. It is feared job losses could result in strikes.

The Ministry of Defence tonight confirmed military personnel are undergoing training, saying it was part of long-standing contingency plans to assist the Ministry of Justice in the event of unlawful strike action.

The Daily Telegraph has seen a tasking order sent to RAF officers from Headquarters Air Command that reveals the National Offender Management Scheme (NOMS) has already given the Ministry of Defence notice that assistance is required.

Once deployed, servicemen and women will be given six hours notice to reach prisons in the event of a strike.

It reads: “NOMS has given the MoD official notice in order to force generate and train personnel to undertake non-prisoner-facing duties in support of NOMS in the event of industrial action in prisons in England and Wales.

“From the day of activation, personnel will be held at six hours notice to arrive at identified prisons.

“All personnel will be able to maintain this state of readiness from their parent unit.”

The memorandum instructed contingents of officers and ranks from 12 RAF bases in Britain yesterday to attend a training session at RAF Wittering in Cambridgeshire.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: “The Armed Forces routinely train for a range of contingencies, but such training does not mean that personnel will necessarily deploy.

“The MOD has a long-standing contingency arrangement with the Ministry of Justice to provide assistance in the event of unlawful strike action by prison officers.”

Last night, a spokesman for the Prison Officers’ Association said the implication a strike could be imminent was “news to him”, insisting there was “no planned action at all”.

However prison officers are banned by law from taking industrial action and do not traditionally announce the move in advance, instead launching ‘wildcat’ strikes.

In May this year, prison officers at an estimated 80 per cent of jailed in England, Scotland and Wales took part in a surprise walkout in protest against public sector reforms.

The walkout, organised by the Prison Officers Association, led to inmates being locked in their cells for the morning, with exercise cancelled and only a skeleton staff left to feed prisoners and give them medication.

Criminal trials were halted as prisoners could not be transported to the courts, with guards leaving their posts to protest outside the prison gates.

On that occasion they returned to their roles within a few hours.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said last night: “We aim to avoid any form of industrial action and will continue to maintain close relations and discussions with unions to do everything possible to achieve that.

“The role of the police and military personnel would be limited to providing a support role to those prison staff still working and focusing on non-prisoner contact roles such as perimeter fence security. All forces personnel would have received basic prison familiarisation but they will not be trained as replacement prison officers.

“If an unlawful strike is called, the aim will be to provide a basic regime in prisons whilst legal action is considered against the union, and staff are encouraged to return to work.”

This summer some 18,200 members of the Armed Forces assisted with guarding the Olympic Games, with 4,700 called on at the last minute after security provider G4S admitted it was short of staff.

Pesticides exposure linked to suicidal thoughts

Contact: Melanie Haberstroh
King’s College London

A new study in China has found that people with higher levels of pesticide exposure are more likely to have suicidal thoughts. The study was carried out by Dr Robert Stewart from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London together with scientists from Tongde Hospital Zhejiang Province.

The agricultural pesticides commonly used in China are organophosphates which are in wide use in many lower income countries but have been banned in many Western nations. It is well known that they are very dangerous if ingested as an overdose but there is also biological evidence that chronic low-grade exposure to these chemicals, which are very easily absorbed into the body through the skin and lungs, may have adverse effects on mental health. This study is the first epidemiological evidence to suggest possible effects on suicidal thoughts.

The study was carried out in central/coastal China, a relatively wealthy area with a rapidly developing economy. In a very large survey of mental health in rural community residents, participants were also asked about how they stored pesticides. The study found that people who stored pesticides at home, i.e. those with more exposure, were more likely to report recent suicidal thoughts. Supporting this, the survey also found suicidal thoughts to be associated with how easily accessible these pesticides were in the home and that the geographic areas with highest home storage of pesticides also had highest levels of suicidal thoughts in their populations.

Given the high level of pesticide exposure and the high suicide risk in rural China, clarification of the causal mechanisms underlying this association and the development of appropriate interventions should be priorities for public health and health policy.

Dr Robert Stewart comments: ‘Organophosphate pesticides are widely used around the world although are banned in many countries because of their risk to health. They are particularly lethal chemicals when taken in overdose and are a cause of many suicides worldwide. Our research findings that suggest that higher exposure to these chemicals might actually increase the risk of suicidal thoughts provides further support for calls for tighter international restrictions on agricultural pesticide availability and use.’

Dr Jianmin Zhang, Associate Chief Psychiatrist, Tongde Hospital of Zhejiang Province, and Vice Director, Zhejiang Office of Mental Health, China added: ‘The findings of this study suggested potential causal links and might partially account for the much higher incidence of suicide in rural than urban areas of China. However, further studies particularly with more precisely defined and assessed exposure are critically needed, as awareness of safer access to pesticides is important both to policy-makers and pesticide users.’




Notes to editors

Pesticide exposure and suicidal ideation in rural communities in Zhejiang province, China by Jianmin Zhang, Robert Stewart, Michael Phillips, Qichang Shi & Martin Prince was published in the October issue of the WHO Bulletin. The full article can be accessed on

The analysis involved data from a survey of a representative sample of 9,811 rural residents in Zhejiang province who had been asked about the storage of pesticides at home and about whether or not they had considered suicide within the two years before the interview. The Chinese version of the 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) was administered to screen for mental disorder.

King’s College London

King’s College London is one of the top 25 universities in the world (Times Higher Education 2009) and the fourth oldest in England. A research-led university based in the heart of London, King’s has more than 21,000 students from nearly 140 countries, and more than 5,700 employees. King’s is in the second phase of a £1 billion redevelopment programme which is transforming its estate.

King’s has an outstanding reputation for providing world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise for British universities, 23 departments were ranked in the top quartile of British universities; over half of our academic staff work in departments that are in the top 10 per cent in the UK in their field and can thus be classed as world leading. The College is in the top seven UK universities for research earnings and has an overall annual income of nearly £450 million.

King’s has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, the sciences (including a wide range of health areas such as psychiatry, medicine and dentistry) and social sciences including international affairs. It has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA and research that led to the development of radio, television, mobile phones and radar. It is the largest centre for the education of healthcare professionals in Europe; no university has more Medical Research Council Centres. For more information, visit:

King’s College London and Guy’s and St Thomas’, King’s College Hospital and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trusts are part of King’s Health Partners. King’s Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre (AHSC) is a pioneering global collaboration between one of the world’s leading research-led universities and three of London’s most successful NHS Foundation Trusts, including leading teaching hospitals and comprehensive mental health services. For more information, visit:

Modern alchemy leaches gold from water


A small French start-up company is selling a technology with a hint of alchemy: turning water into gold.

It does so by extracting from industrial waste water the last traces of any rare — and increasingly valuable — metal.

“We leave only a microgramme per litre,” according to Steve van Zutphen, a Dutchman who founded Magpie Polymers last year with a fellow 30-year old Frenchman Etienne Almoric.

“It’s the equivalent of a sugar lump in an Olympic swimming pool.”

Magpie Polymers operates from slightly shabby premises at a factory at Saint-Pierre-les-Nemours 80 kilometres (50 miles) southeast of Paris.

But it is at the leading edge of technology with a procedure developed at the prestigious Ecole Polytechnique in 2007.

The process is based on the use of tiny pellets of plastic resin through which waste water is pumped. Gold, platinum, palladium and rhodium, the world’s most precious metals, little by little stick to the pellets and are thus separated from the waste water.

A single litre of this patented resin can treat five to 10 cubic metres of waste water and recover 50 to 100 grammes of precious metal, equivalent to “3,000 to 5,000 euros ($3,900 to $6,500),” Almoric said.


Mobile phones, catalytic converters and countless other everyday products contain these precious metals.

But once they are scrapped, the problem lies in retrieving the particles of precious metals.

“What is complicated is that the amounts are infinitesimal, so hard to recover,” according to Steve van Zutphen.

Once they have been separated and crushed some industrial waste products have to be dissolved with acid in water. Then the metals in the water have to be recovered whether they are valuable or not.

“There are many technologies to get metal from water that have existed since the 19th century. But there comes a moment when existing technologies are no longer effective or become too expensive,” van Zutphen said.

The chief markets to which the two entrepreneurs are looking are the “refiners”: specialists in the recovery of precious metals, such as British firm Johnson Matthey, the Anglo-French company Cookson-Clal and Boliden of Sweden.

But the technology could also be of interest to mining groups or large water treatment companies such as French Veolia or Suez Environnement.

The timing is good. The economic crisis has revived interest in gold, and thanks to rising demand for platinum and similar metals, combined with increasing shortages, prices have soared. As platinum mines become exhausted, half the metal used worldwide is already recycled.

Magpie’s technology can also be used to leach out harmful metals such as lead, mercury, cobalt, copper and uranium.

“Obviously the amounts are much bigger. The problem is that nobody wants to pay for something that has no value,” said Almoric.

Tougher environmental standards, which would further tighten the rules of waste recovery for businesses, could add further strength to the Magpie model.

The young start-up has already taken on six staff and hopes for a turnover of a nearly a million euros next year and 15 million euros in four years’ time. It has just raised half a million euros from the Fonds Lorraine des Materiaux (51-percent owned by the Caisse des Depots-Region Lorraine, 49 percent by ArcelorMittal).

Magpie does not give the names of its chief clients but is already present in “France, England, Belgium and Switzerland” and soon in Germany and Spain.

Street lights turned off in their thousands to meet carbon emission targets

Huge swathes of Britain are being plunged into darkness as more and more streetlights are switched off by councils and roads authorities.

Motorway lights to be turned off to cut carbon

9:00PM BST 27 Oct 2012

Lights are being turned off on motorways and major roads, in town centres and residential streets, and on footpaths and cycle ways, as councils try to save money on energy bills and meet carbon emission targets. The switch-off begins as early as 9pm.

They are making the move despite concerns from safety campaigners and the police that it would lead to an increase in road accidents and crime.

The full extent of the blackout can be disclosed following an investigation by The Sunday Telegraph – which comes on the day that clocks moved back an hour, making it dark earlier in the evening – and found that:

  • 3,080 miles of motorways and trunk roads in England are now completely unlit;
  • a further 47 miles of motorway now have no lights between midnight and 5am, including one of Britain’s busiest stretches of the M1, between Luton and Milton Keynes;
  • out of 134 councils which responded to a survey, 73% said they had switched off or dimmed some lights or were planning to;
  • all of England’s 27 county councils have turned off or dimmed street lamps in their areas.

The vast majority of councils have chosen to turn lights off at night, at times when they say there is less need for them, while others have installed lamps which can be dimmed.

Local authorities say the moves helps reduce energy bills, at a time when energy prices are continuing to rise. Several of the big energy companies have unveiled price hikes in recent weeks, including British Gas, npower and EDF Energy – which this week said it was increasing its standard variable prices for gas and electricity customers by 10%.

Some councils expect to save hundreds of thousands of pounds by turning off lights at night or converting them to dimmer switches.

However some councils admit they may not see savings for another four or five years because of the cost of installing new lights, dimmer switches and complex control systems.

And some councils – as well as the Highways Agency, responsible for motorways and major A roads – say that the lights are being turned off to meet “green” targets to cut carbon emissions, by reducing electricity use.

Critics say that spending money to meet the targets is a poor use of public funds in a time of recession.

The increasing black-out was criticised last night by safety and motoring organisations, who said the economic and environmental benefits were being over-stated and warned that less street lighting would lead to more accidents and more crime.

A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said: “The presence of lighting not only reduces the risk of traffic accidents but also their severity. Surveys have show that the public are in favour of street lighting as a way of improving road safety and that, if anything, it needs to be improved in some areas.

“There are economic and environmental reasons why some organisations may wish to reduce the amount of lighting. However there are safety reasons why lighting needs to be available.”

Paul McClenaghan, commercial director at Halfords, said: “Poor lighting or none at all can make it very difficult for motorists to see hazards or objects clearly at night. Added to this Government figures show that road accidents increase in the week after the clocks change, so it is clear that extra vigilance is needed at this time of the year, from motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.”

Paul Watters, head of roads policy at the AA, said: “We do know that most accidents happen in the dark, its also comforting for people, especially if they arrive back from somewhere in the night, when they have got a late train. There are also suggestions that it increases crime. So it may save money in terms of energy but then you have to look at the cost in terms of security, safety and accidents, it may actually be more. We have even heard that some milkmen are having more trips and falls, so it has had some implications you might not think about.

“Motorway drivers don’t like changing situations, from light to dark and dark to light, but I don’t think we would argue for no lighting at all. It is extremely comforting for drivers, especially in bad weather.”

The switch-off of motorway lights means that 70 per cent of the network is now unlit at night. Sections of the M1, M2, M27, M4, M48, M5, M54, M58, M6, M65 and M66 are now unlit from midnight.

One of the sections of the M1 is a 15-mile stretch from just north of Luton to the outskirts of Milton Keyns, one of the heaviest-used sections of any british road.

The Highways Agency said the full-switch off had saved it £400,000 last year, while reducing carbon emissions, and said it planned further blackouts.

Meanwhile 98 councils said they have switched off or dimmed lights, or planned to in the future.

In Shropshire, 12,500 – 70 per cent of the area’s lights – are now switched off between midnight and 5.30am, while Derbyshire County Council plans to turn off 40,000 lights at night. In Lincolnshire, some are turned off from as early as 9pm.

Leicestershire County Council expects to save £800,000 a year in energy bills by adapting one third of the country’s 68,000 street lights so that they can be dimmed or turned off at night.

Caerphilly in Wales no longer lights industrial estates overnight and Bradford dims 1,800 of its 58,000 street lights between 9.30pm and 5.30am.

However Worcestershire County Council postponed plans to switch off and dim lights after it found it would cost more money to implement the scheme than it would save. The authority currently pays £2 million a year to run 52,000 street lights but it found that to reduce that bill by £600,000 a year it would need to invest £3.4 million first. It is now running a trial to dim some lights before a final decision is made.

In many areas councils have received complaints from residents.

Caroline Cooney, an actress who complained to Hertfordshire County Council when the lights near her home in Bishop’s Stortford were switched off after midnight, said she faced a “black hole” when she returned home from working in the West End of London.

“My street is completely canopied by large tress and I could not see my hand in front of my face,” she said.

Mrs Cooney, who appeared in Gregory’s Girl and who has also appeared in Casualty, said it was putting people in danger and the council was effectively imposing a “midnight curfew on residents who do not want to take the risk of walking home blind”.

“When I came out of the train station it was just like a black hole,” she said.

“I simply cannot risk walking home in what is effectively pitch blackness.”

However the council told her it could not “provide tailored street lighting for each individual’s particular needs”.

Creepy UK installs CCTV in School’s bathrooms

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Over 200 UK state schools have installed cameras in bathrooms and changing rooms to monitor students, a recent surveillance survey reported. British parents will likely be shocked by the study’s findings.

­The survey is based on a freedom of information request conducted by Big Brother Watch, an anti-surveillance activist group. The group said they were shaken by the results, which was much higher and more extensive than expected.

The report “will come as a shock to many parents”, Nick Pickles, Director of Big Brother Watch said. “Schools need to come clean about why they are using these cameras and what is happening to the footage”.

A total of 825 cameras were installed in the bathrooms and changing rooms of 207 different schools across England, Scotland and Wales, according to data provided by more than 2,000 schools.

It is unknown where the cameras are located in the bathrooms and changing rooms, who is watching the security footage and whether any pupils were recorded while changing.

Video recording in toilets or changing rooms is legal, but recommended only for exceptional circumstances, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) reported. The ICO is an independent authority in the UK, whose duties include promoting privacy.

Research also showed that the extent of CCTV use varied widely from school to school. “With some schools seeing a ratio of one camera for every five pupils,” the report said. “CCTV appears to be used as a quick fix to much more complex problems and issues that simply cannot be solved with passive surveillance.”

UK schools so unsafe that surveillance needed in the most private spaces?

Since the 1990s, the UK’s Home Office has spent 78 percent of its crime prevention budget on CCTV installations, and schools have likewise invested significant resources in their own surveillance equipment, the Big Brother Watch report said.

No significant research has been done into whether CCTV cameras actually lower crime rates.

Big Brother Watch was able to locate a single study by the French Institut D’ Aménagement Et D’Urbanisme, which concluded that theft and burglary continued to increase after the 2007 installation of CCTV in the Île-de-France region. A marginal reduction in disorderly incidents in schools was also reported.

Excess pneumonia deaths linked to engine exhaust

Repost File 2008

Contact: Rachael Davies
BMJ-British Medical Journal

Atmospheric pollutants and mortalities in English local authority areas

Engine exhaust fumes are linked to excess deaths from pneumonia across England, suggests research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The annual death toll is comparable to that caused by the London smog in 1952, suggests the author.

Data on atmospheric emissions, published causes of death, and expected causes of death for 352 local authority jurisdictions in England were combined to calculate the impact of pollution on death rates between 1996 and 2004.

Levels of air pollution varied substantially among the local authorities.

Calculations revealed that pneumonia, peptic ulcer, coronary and rheumatic heart diseases, lung and stomach cancers, and other diseases, were all associated with a range of emissions, as well as deprivation, smoking, binge drinking and a northern location.

Further analysis, allowing for the effects of the social factors, showed that pneumonia deaths were strongly and independently linked to emissions, with the exception of sulphur dioxide from coal burning.

The primary culprits were emissions associated with oil combustion, including vehicle exhaust fumes.

During the eight years of the study there were almost 390.000 deaths from pneumonia.

And 35 local authorities accounted for almost 54,000 of these deaths, or around15,,000 more than would be expected.

“Total annual losses as a result of air pollution probably approach those of the 1952 London smog,” writes the author.

Because the links were so strong across all categories of exposure and deaths were so much higher than would be expected, this suggests that these pollutants directly damage lung tissue, he says.

Excess deaths from the progressive lung disease COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and rheumatic heart disease, both of which are characterised by failing lung function, could also be precipitated by engine exhaust, he adds.