Anti-Colonial Agitator

Friday, October 31, 2003

Almost 60% of Europeans say that Israel is a larger threat to world peace than North Korea, Iran or Afghanistan, according to a poll by the European Commission.

The health problems of mixed race youths.

Racism in the British police.

Penis snatching in West Africa.

Good news for the Irish economy.

Economic problems in Scotland.

Scientists have pinpointed the likely birthplace of Oetzi the famous Iceman. The ancient hunter probably spent his childhood in what is now the Italian South Tyrol village of Feldthurns. Evidence suggests his lifelong travels were confined to a 60-kilometre (37-mile) range south-east of where his body was found. The 5,300-year-old frozen mummy emerged from a melting glacier along the mountainous border between Italy and Austria in 1991. Scientists have been carrying out detailed studies of how he lived and died ever since. The latest research, published in the journal Science, looked at isotopes found in the Iceman's teeth and bones. They were compared with soil and water samples over a wide area of the Alps. Biominerals from the diet are deposited in the body at different times - in the teeth, for example, during childhood, and in the bones in adult life. This allowed researchers in Australia, the United States and Switzerland to deduce where Oetzi lived at various stages of his life. The team believes that his movements were restricted to a few valleys within 60 kilometres south east of where his body was discovered. He never moved north of this point and probably grew up in the Eisack valley, in the southern Tyrol. Several ancient archaeological sites in and around this region have been identified. The scientists think Feldthurns is the Iceman's most likely childhood home: excavations have revealed a standing stone dating back to the Copper Age. Later on in life, he moved further north to the mountains of lower Vinschgau, before travelling to the Otz valley where he met his death at the age of 46.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

A former chief executive for the Ulster Unionist Party has been charged with thirty counts of theft and false accounting in the north of Ireland. Alastair Patterson was questioned in July 2003 by detectives investigating alleged irregularities at the electoral office in Omagh, County Tyrone. Police confirmed that a 58-year-old man had been charged with 17 counts of theft and 13 counts of false accounting.

Bereaved families have called for the publication of a report into allegations that the British secret services helped loyalist terrorists bomb Dublin and Monaghan in 1974. Justice Henry Barron has handed over his findings to the Irish prime minister, Bertie Ahern. On May 17, 1974, three bombs exploded in Dublin, killing 26 people. The same evening another device exploded in Monaghan, killing seven. A further 250 people were injured. The attacks were identified as the work of loyalists, but many suspected that British military intelligence officers had helped the terrorists. The families want a full inquiry and have begun a high court battle to get access to the security files.

The Irish economy grew twice as fast in the second quarter of 2003 than it did in the first three months of the year, driven by stronger consumer spending. Figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show that GDP expanded by 2.1% in the three months to June 2003 compared to the same period in 2002. In the first quarter, GDP grew by 0.7%. GNP, which excludes the repatriated profits of foreign firms with operations in Ireland, rose 3.1% in the second quarter, the CSO said. Consumer spending rose 2.1% year-on-year after rising 1.8% in the first quarter of 2003, as the economy lost fewer jobs than expected in the early part of the year. Jim Power, chief economists at Friends First, has upgraded his forecast for 2004 growth, saying that the relatively low unemployment rate will help to boost spending in 2004. He expects the Irish economy to expand by 2.9% in GNP terms in 2004, up from a July forecast of 1.4%. The Irish economy will grow by 1.3% in 2003, according to Power, after growth of just 0.1% in 2002, which was the slowest growth in 20 years. In GDP terms, Power expects growth of 3.9% in 2004, up from 3.2% in 2003.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Older fathers are more likely to have children with schizophrenia, research suggests. Men aged 50 or over are three times more likely to father a child with the illness compared to men of 25 or under. And men aged between 45 and 49 are twice as likely to have a child with schizophrenia. The scientists behind the research estimate that as many as one in four cases of schizophrenia could be caused by the father being old. The study looked at records of almost 88,000 people born in Jerusalem between 1964 and 1976, and compared them to data from the Israel Psychiatric Register, which is part of the Israeli Ministry of Health. Its findings add further evidence to the theory that older men are more likely to father children with genetic problems.

To see how paranoid the Bush administration has become about Iraq check out their robots.txt file. It pretty much stops search engines from spidering and caching any information relating to Iraq.

Tony Blair's hypocritical position on human rights.

German police have raided 50 properties in a series of raids against the neo-Nazi group Combat 18. More than 300 officers took part in the raids in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein - the historical homeland of the Anglo-Saxons. Police said that they found weapons and arrested several people suspected of forming a politically motivated criminal organization. Homes and meeting places used by the group were among the premises targeted. Combat 18, founded in Britain, takes its name from the position in the alphabet of Adolf Hitler's initials. The group has been blamed for carrying out or motivating racist attacks. The raids were carried out in the cities of Kiel and Flensburg. German politicians have recently warned that the threat to Germany from neo-Nazis had risen to a new level.

An Ulster Unionist Assembly candidate, who has the backing of a number of key Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) figures, attended meetings of the British white supremacist organization the National Front. John Hiddleston, a UUP candidate in the South Belfast constituency, admitted that he had attended several of the meetings in the 1970's. Hiddleston is against the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) and is expected to win the endorsement of UUP president Martin Smyth and other key anti-Agreement unionists. Hiddleston is thought to be deeply opposed to David Trimble's leadership of the UUP and spoke out against his handling of negotiations with Sinn Féin. An article by Smyth, headlined "Paramilitaries must go" appeared in a recent edition of the Ulster Watchman, a magazine edited by Hiddleston. Another article is titled: "Israelis were anti-British terrorists". It claims that the Israeli opposition to British rule in Palestine may have inspired the IRA of the 1970's.

Monday, October 27, 2003

More problems in Iraq for the United States.

The mother of a UDA murder victim has said that plans to commemorate one of the British loyalist terrorist group's dead leaders on Remembrance Sunday were sick and should be abandoned. Marie McColgan, whose son, Danny, 20, was murdered, has attacked a proposed band parade in Larne to remember John Gregg and fellow UDA member Robert Carson. Gregg's South East Antrim brigade was blamed for McColgan's murder at a post office depot in the Rathcoole estate, north of Belfast, in January, 2002. The same group was also believed to have been involved in the killings of Roman Catholic Gerard Lawlor in north Belfast and Protestant Gavin Brett.

The Ibarretxe plan to convert the Basque country into a free associate of Spain. Under the plan the Basque regional government would have the right to call referenda, opening the door to a possible future vote on independence, while removing the authority of the Spanish government to suspend the regional government's powers.

Israel needs fundamental economic reform if it is to recapture the pace of growth it saw in the late 1990s, its finance minister has warned. In testimony to the Science and Technology Committee of the Knesset, the country's parliament, Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel was being overtaken in economic terms by countries such as Ireland and Singapore. The fault, he said, lay in high taxes and an anti-business environment, which was blocking a return to earlier expansion which had been fuelled by the rampant technology industry.

Police investigating British loyalist terrorist drug dealing in the north of Ireland have seized several million pounds (sterling) worth of drugs in Holland. The haul, including 750,000 ecstasy tablets, bulking agents for cocaine and three weapons, was uncovered in an operation near Amsterdam. Two Dutch nationals have been arrested. The PSNI/RUC said that the operation was part of the on-going investigation into drug dealing activities by the Loyalist Volunteer Force. They said it was linked to a number of major drugs seizures in the north of Ireland.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Rumsfeld's doubts about the war on terror.

The German Government has cut its GDP growth forecast for 2003 and 2004 and said its budget deficit will hit a record high in 2003. The federal Government budget deficit is expected to be E43.4bn in 2003, more than double the previous forecast for a deficit of E18.9bn. Finance Minister Hans Eichel said that the deficit will hit 4% of GDP in 2003 and will also breach the European Union's deficit limit of 3% of GDP for a third consecutive time in 2004, in theory putting it in line for fines. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder wants to bring forward E15.6bn worth of income tax cuts by one year to 2004 to boost the economy, which will put further pressure on the deficit. In its Autumn Projections the German Government said that it now expects the economy to effectively stagnate in 2003 and said that real GDP growth is projected to be a "black zero", meaning flat to slightly positive. It had earlier forecast growth of 0.75%. The Economy Ministry also said that it forecasts GDP growth of 1.5-2.0% in 2004, compared with 2.0% previously. Germany's six leading economic institutes have also cut their 2003 forecast to zero from 0.5% previously and their 2004 forecast to 1.7% from 1.8%.

Reports of the death of the Celtic Tiger are greatly exaggerated.

Differences in male and female brains.

The nature of human altruism.

The Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), Bertie Ahern, has told the Forum on Europe that the Irish government has a number of concerns about the proposed European Union (EU) constitution. Ahern said that the proposed constitution does not alter the Irish State's stance on participating in a common defense policy. Ahern reiterated that, under the Irish Constitution, the Government cannot participate in a common EU defense policy without first securing permission to do so in a referendum. But Ahern said that the Irish Government had a number of concerns about the proposed EU constitution, particularly in the area of taxation. He said that security and defense issues also needed more work and added that he supported a controversial campaign to have a reference to God inserted into the constitution.

Don't let your computer kill you!

People look down on you if you have fat friends.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

The German government will cut its 2004 GDP growth forecast to 1.5% from 2.0% when it issues its latest economic projections. Economy Minister Wolfgang Clement will announce that the government aims to achieve growth of between 1.5% and 2.0% in 2004, but that Finance Minister Hans Eichel will use the bottom end of this range as the guide for his budget planning. Eichel indicated that the Government would cut its 2003 growth forecast to zero from 0.75%.

The tax burden in Ireland fell for the second year in a row in 2002, according to a report by the OECD. The latest edition of OECD's Revenue Statistics report shows that in the European Union, tax revenues amounted to 40.5% of gross domestic product in 2002, down from 41.0% in 2001. In Ireland, the tax burden fell to 28.0% from 28.9% in 2001 and 31.2% in 2000. Within the OECD, the sharpest declines were in Ireland, Austria, Hungary, Britain, Canada, Greece and Turkey.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Kurds are losing faith in the new Iraq.

Bad news for monkeys in India.

Will the Next War Be Against the Palestinians?

One form of a common brain protein adversly affects human memory, researchers have discovered. It is a first step towards finding the genes for intelligence. Human intelligence is partly inherited - studies of parents and children show that about half our cleverness, or lack of it, is down to genes rather than environment. Now Dominique de Quervain and colleagues at the University of Zurich in Switzerland have found one of those genes. People who inherit the less common form of a serotonin receptor have poorer short-term memory than people with the more common form. It is not - by itself - a gene for intelligence. But scientists suspect that eventually, a set of such genes will be identified that together make the difference between a smart brain and a dull one. Intelligence is made up of many things including concentration and reasoning, but memory is certainly important. The neurotransmitter serotonin is better known for its involvement in depression, but drugs that block a particular serotonin receptor in the brain, 5HT2a, are known to also block short-term memory. About 9% of people have at least one copy of a gene for 5HT2a that call for the amino acid tyrosine at one point in the receptor protein. The rest call for histamine. People with the tyrosine variant make receptors that are less readily stimulated by serotonin. De Quervain's team compared 70 people with the tyrosine form to 279 with the histamine form. The tyrosine group was 21% worse at remembering a list of five words or simple shapes five minutes after seeing them. Their immediate recall was just as good, showing their attention and motivation were the same, while the difference between the groups was no worse a day later, showing the genetic difference had no separate effect on long-term memory.

The jobs that Britain stole from India are now being returned.

The US budget deficit for the most recent financial year has hit a new record. The Treasury Department has said that the budget gap - the amount by which spending exceeds revenues - grew to $374.2bn in the year to 30 September, 2003. The figure was double the previous year's deficit, and easily outstripped the previous record of $290bn, set in 1992. The US government blamed the imbalance on sluggish economic growth, and the cost of the war in Iraq. Officials warned that the deficit would continue to rise in the months ahead, breaking the $500bn barrier in the current financial year.

The oldest known domesticated rice has been discovered. The handful of 15,000-year-old burnt grains was found by archaeologists in Korea. Their age challenges the accepted view that rice cultivation originated in China about 12,000 years ago. The rice is genetically different from the modern food crop, which will allow researchers to trace its evolution. The oldest known rice was discovered by Lee Yung-jo and Woo Jong-yoon of Chungbuk National University in South Korea. They found the ancient grains during excavations in the village of Sorori in the Chungbuk Province. Radioactive dating of the 59 grains of carbonized rice has pushed back the date for the earliest known cultivation of the plant. DNA analysis shows the early rice sample to be different from the modern intensively farmed varieties, thereby offering scientists the opportunity to study the evolution of one of the world's principal food sources. The region in central Korea where the grains were found is one of the most important sites for understanding the development of Stone Age man in Asia.

The German economy looks set to stage a modest recovery in 2004 after stagnating in 2003, the six leading economic think-tanks in Germany have predicted. In their widely watched autumn report, the institutes forecast that gross domestic product (GDP) in Germany would stagnate in 2003 and only expand moderately in 2004. Real GDP is expected to grow by 1.7% in 2004. The new forecasts represent a downward revision from the institutes' previous report published in the spring, when they had been pencilling in growth of 0.5% for 2003 and a pick-up to 1.8% in 2004. German GDP grew by a meagre 0.2% in 2002 and most economic experts are predicting zero growth for 2003.

Monday, October 20, 2003

The roots of red hair.

The dangers of gene therapy.

Friday, October 17, 2003

After a pioneering seven-year study, Canadian scientists have discovered a new genetic difference in people suffering from severe depression and in those who have committed suicide. The findings by collaborative researchers at the University of Ottawa and the Institute of Mental Health Research, and McGill University's Douglas Hospital, Montreal -- represent a significant step forward in identifying individuals at risk for debilitating depression or even death. The study - "Impaired repression at a 5-hydroxytryptamine -1A receptor gene polymorphism associated with major depression and suicide", published in the Journal of Neuroscience, showed the same genetic difference or 'single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)' in a gene that contributes to the serotonin system which regulates mood cycles in human beings. This SNP in the serotonin-1A gene was two-fold enriched in people with depression, and four-fold enriched in those who had completed suicide, as compared to normal control groups. The studies showed for the first time that the polymorphism of the serotonin-1A gene impacts by inhibiting the function of a protein called NUDR, leading to abnormal levels of serotonin-1A gene expression and decreased serotonin, and a key factor in the incidence of depression.

The Anglican communion is close to schism after the US Episcopal Church rejected an appeal by Anglicanism's worldwide leaders, headed by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, not to proceed with the consecration of the church's first openly gay bishop. Sitting next to Williams and fellow church leaders at a press conference at Church House in London, Frank Griswold, the presiding bishop of the US church, announced that only the second coming would prevent him from attending the consecration of Gene Robinson, a gay cleric who lives with his male partner, as diocesan bishop of New Hampshire.

Being overweight may reduce a man's chances of becoming a father. Scientists in the United States say that they have found a link between a man's weight and the quality of his sperm. They believe that sperm starts to deteriorate as soon as men go beyond a healthy weight for their size. They have suggested that men who become obese may no longer be able to father children because the quality of their sperm is so poor. William Roudebush and colleagues at Reproductive Biology Associates, a private IVF clinic in Atlanta, analyzed the sperm of 500 men. They found a direct correlation between their body mass index (BMI) - a measure of their body fat based on their weight and height - and sperm volume and quality. According to the researchers, becoming obese reduces a man's sperm count below the level needed to fertilize an egg. Even if he does manage to fertilize his partner's eggs there is a far greater chance of miscarriage because the quality of the sperm is reduced. But they also warned that there may be risks for men who are even slightly overweight. Speaking at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine's annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas, the scientists said that their findings may explain why male infertility is on the increase pointing to record rates of obesity in many western countries.

China's first astronaut has blown a myth by admitting that the Great Wall of China cannot be seen from space. This has come as no surprise to Nasa, whose astronauts have said for decades that all that can be seen from space is the white of clouds, the blue of the oceans, the yellow of deserts and a few green patches of vegetation.

Holy Cross and the scars of British loyalist violence.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Psychologists from the University of Toronto and Harvard University have identified one of the biological bases of creativity. The study in the September 2003 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology says that the brains of creative people appear to be more open to incoming stimuli from the surrounding environment. Other people's brains might shut out this same information through a process called "latent inhibition" - defined as an animal's unconscious capacity to ignore stimuli that experience has shown are irrelevant to its needs. Through psychological testing, the researchers showed that creative individuals are much more likely to have low levels of latent inhibition. Previously, scientists have associated failure to screen out stimuli with psychosis. However, Jordan Peterson, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto, and his co-researchers - lead author and psychology lecturer Shelley Carson of Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Harvard PhD candidate Daniel Higgins - hypothesized that it might also contribute to original thinking, especially when combined with high IQ. They administered tests of latent inhibition to Harvard undergraduates. Those classified as eminent creative achievers - participants under age 21 who reported unusually high scores in a single area of creative achievement - were seven times more likely to have low latent inhibition scores. The authors hypothesize that latent inhibition may be positive when combined with high intelligence and good working memory - the capacity to think about many things at once - but negative otherwise. For example, during the early stages of diseases such as schizophrenia, which are often accompanied by feelings of deep insight, mystical knowledge and religious experience, chemical changes take place in which latent inhibition disappears. This research was funded by the Stimson Fund and the Clark Fund at Harvard University and by the Connaught Fund at the University of Toronto.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

A centuries-old Arctic mystery may soon be solved as an Icelandic anthropologist prepares to release his findings on the so-called "Blond Eskimos" of the Canadian North. Stories about Inuit with distinct European features - blue eyes, fair hair, beards - living in the central Arctic have their roots in ancient tales of Norse settlements and explorations. Although those settlements pushed ever westward from Greenland as early as the 9th and 10th century, they had mysteriously disappeared by the 15th. The fate of settlers is unknown. In the first decade of the 20th century, the famed Arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson speculated that some of the Inuit may have been descended from the inhabitants of the vanished Norse settlements. Gisli Palsson of the University of Iceland in Reykjavik, with the help of biological anthropologist Agnar Helgason, has turned the light of DNA testing on Stefansson's speculations. In 2002, he and his team took saliva samples from 350 Inuit in Cambridge Bay and Greenland and they have been comparing them with genetic markers known to have been prevalent in medieval Scandinavia. The last of Palsson's samples are now being analysed. He expects to release his findings in October 2003.

Has the imperial project ended?

A particular gene could explain why some people live longer than others, scientists have said. A certain genetic variation produces particles which carry cholesterol through the blood - and the bigger the particles, the better. The research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, asserts that smaller cholesterol-carrying particles can more easily embed themselves into blood vessel walls. This would contribute to fatty build-ups and lead to heart attacks and strokes, said the scientists at the Institute for Aging Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Chicago. Led by Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute, the researchers found that people in their late 90s and above were more likely to have the gene variation that creates large lipoprotein particles. Some 213 people, aged from 95 to 107, and 216 of their offspring were examined and questioned for the study. A control group of 258 people in their 60s and 70s whose parents did not live to 100 was studied as a comparison. Of those in their late 90s or 100s, 80% had an unusually high proportion of large particles. About half of their children had the large particles, suggesting that the trait could be genetic. Only 8% of the control group had large cholesterol-carrying particles.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

More than one-third of all children in the north of Ireland live below the poverty line, according to a study conducted by professors at two Belfast universities. The study of 3,000 people found that 67% of lone parents and 56% of households containing one or more disabled people were living in poverty. It also found that indigenous Irish Catholics were 1.4 times more likely to live in poverty than British Protestant colonists and that 43% of Sinn Fein voters were economically deprived, compared to only 19% of Ulster Unionist voters.

A new study offers evidence that people on low-carbohydrate diets can actually eat more than people on low-fat plans and still lose weight.

Recent genetic research has shown that the Welsh are markedly different from the English. Geneticist Prof Steve Jones says that the Welsh and Irish are among the most genetically homogenous populations in the world. He and colleagues at University College, London, have spent years creating a genetic map of the Y chromosome, which is passed by males from generation to generation. The results show that the Welsh are related to the Basques of northern Spain and southern France and to native Americans. All are descended from the Kets people of western Siberia. Jones, who was born in Aberystwyth, said that the Y chromosomes showed a marked difference between males on the Welsh and English side of the border. "This shows that in the Dark Ages, when the Anglo-Saxons turned up, there was the most horrible massacre on the English side. They killed everybody and replaced them. The Welsh Y chromosome is similar to that of the Basques. In the male line, at least, the Welsh and the Basques are survivors or relics of a period before huge numbers of farmers filled Europe from the Middle East. There has been much less interbreeding in Wales than you might expect. Wales and Ireland have the most homogenous group of males of anywhere in the world, from the research that's been done so far." Unlike the Welsh and Irish, the Y-chromosomes of Scottish men indicate that many are the descendants of Anglo-Saxons and other Germanic invaders.

EU business group UNICE has cut its forecast for growth in Ireland and the eurozone in 2003. In its Autumn Outlook, the group forecast that gross domestic product (GDP) in Ireland will grow by 2.4% in 2003 and 3.2% in 2004. Earlier this year, UNICE forecast growth of 3.4% for 2003. It said that the eurozone will expand by just 0.5% in 2003, rising to 1.7% in 2004. It added that the survey shows signs of recovery, but that these must be strengthened by measures that enforce European competitiveness, which is being threatened by the rise of the euro against the dollar. The survey shows that the outlook for the labor market is deteriorating and forecast that unemployment in Ireland will rise to 4.6% in 2004 from 4.4% in 2003. It said that unemployment in the eurozone will rise to 8.5% in 2004 from 8.4% in 2003.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Up to 10,000 Iraqi Shias have taken to the streets of a Baghdad suburb to denounce the United States for "terrorism". The protest came during the funerals of two Shias allegedly killed by US soldiers in Sadr City. The US Army says that the deaths followed an ambush on an American patrol in which two soldiers died. Local people say that the dead Iraqis were guarding a Shia cleric, and died in an exchange of fire with American troops searching the area after the ambush. The latest US deaths bring to 94 the number of American casualties in Iraq since the end of major combat operations.

IIB economist Austin Hughes says that an improvement in the Irish economy should last through 2004, but he has pointed to a major change in the way the world's business map is drawn. He told the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants that recent trends in China had put its economy on course to be the world's largest within a dozen years. The economist said that China would become a 'magnet' for low cost production, adding that up to 10,000 job losses in Irish manufacturing were likely in the coming year, as more intensive competition from low wage economies and a strong euro forced domestic firms to rationalize production. But Hughes said that cheap Chinese production should also mean stronger world economic growth accompanied by lower inflation, which could enable the ECB to cut interest rates before the end of the year. He described the Irish economy as unusual, as business would focus new investment on reducing costs rather than adding extra capacity. If competitive pressures are the order of the day, the likely pace of wage increases and economy-wide jobs gains will be modest. So, while household spending will rise, a consumer boom is unlikely to return anytime soon, according to Hughes.

Y-chromosome studies reveal that the Welsh, the Basques, the Gaels of Ireland and Scotland, as well as a tribe called the Kets in Siberia, are all blood brothers.

The Irish economy will grow by 2.2% in GDP terms and by 1.9% in GNP terms in 2003, according to the autumn bulletin of the Economic & Social Research Institute (ESRI). The corresponding growth forecast for 2004 is for the Irish economy to be still significantly below potential, growing at rates of 3.1% for GDP and 3.2% for GNP. The ESRI also said that labor market conditions are deteriorating in 2003, albeit less than previously expected, given the lagged impact of an economy growing below its potential and forecasts the unemployment rate to average 4.7% in 2003 and 5.1% in 2004. Inflationary pressures are expected to continue to unwind and the ESRI expects consumer price growth to decline from an annual average of 3.7% in 2003 to 2.6% in 2004. The ESTI also dismissed fears over the re-emergence of Government deficits, which it said were primarily due to cyclical factors. However, while stating that the deficit did not constitute a problematic development per se, it said such a shortfall would require that Budget 2004 be framed to support the Irish economy in getting back towards its potential growth rates whilst ensuring that all public expenditure constitutes value for money.

Brian Feeney on the latest antics of David Trimble and the UUP.

Being snubbed socially provokes exactly the same brain response as being physically hurt, according to American researchers. Volunteers were asked to play a computer game designed to fool them into feeling excluded, while brain scans were taken at the same time. After the computerised snub, the scan detected activity in an area of the brain linked to physical pain. Experts say the study, from the journal Science, is a hint to the importance the brain places on social ties. The researchers involved in the study, from the University of California at Los Angeles, used an MRI scanner to probe the brains of their test subject as their feelings were manipulated. These scanners can detect subtle changes in blood flow to various parts of the brain - which indicate when the region is active. To provoke the right response, they devised an ingenious computer simulation designed to be reminiscent of a playground game. The participants were shown a screen which gave the appearance of a "ball-throwing" game involving both the volunteer and two other figures, represented by animated characters. The test subjects were told that real people were controlling the other two "people", and the game took the form of throwing the ball in turn between all three of them. Of course, this was an elaborate hoax - there were no other human players, and the other characters in the game were controlled entirely by the computer. At first, the game proceeded as it should, with the ball coming at regular intervals to the player controlled by the human volunteer. However, after a while, the two computer controlled characters started throwing the ball only to each other, apparently excluding the test subject from the game. It was at this point that the brain reactions were measured by the scanner. The researchers noticed one key area of the brain "lighting up" on the scan when this happened. This area, the anterior cingulate cortex, is already known to be associated with the brain's response to the unpleasant feelings linked to physical pain. This was not just a frustrated reaction to not being able to play - researchers had already tested this by having a short period at the start of the game in which the controls appeared not to work properly. The evidence suggests that some of the same neural machinery recruited in the experience of pain may also be associated with social separation or rejection.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

A lawyer in the north of Ireland representing the family of 15-year-old Daniel Hegarty, who was shot dead by the British Army during Operation Motorman, has called for the reopening of the case after it was revealed that erroneous information was supplied to the coroner and the DPP. Patrick McGurk made his call after a reconstruction of the scene, in which the 15-year-old was shot dead, was carried out by the Derry human rights group, the Pat Finucane Center. Daniel Hegarty was shot dead at around 4.15 a.m. on the morning of Operation Motorman on July 31st, 1972. At the time Daniel was accompanied by his two cousins, Thomas and Christopher. Christopher was shot in the side of the head but survived the attack. The blood stains from Daniel and photographs taken shortly afterwards reveal that the shooting occurred outside 114 Creggan Heights with the soldiers being some 7 feet away at the time. But according to the map supplied by the police, the soldiers were 70 feet away when they opened fire with a General Purpose Machine Gun. Daniel Hegarty's sister Margaret Brady said she was hopeful that the case would be reopened so her family could have some peace of mind.

Iraq’s Shiites Under Occupation

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

British loyalists have carried out 160 sectarian bombings, shootings and beatings across the north of Ireland since July 2003. A dossier detailing the extent of the loyalist terror campaign will be sent to the British and Irish governments.

China and Ireland are emerging as important software development destinations that may pose a threat to India's dominance of the sector, according to a report by rating agency ICRA.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

A US appeal court has ruled that a former north of Ireland official caught in an underage sex sting should have received a longer sentence. Stan Mallon, 62, of Belfast was sentenced to 21 months in prison after pleading guilty to using international communication lines to solicit a sheriff's officer posing as a 14-year-old Chicago girl for sex. Mallon, former head of the Ulster-Scots Agency, an organization created under the north of Ireland peace initiative, should have been sentenced to 41 to 51 months, the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago has ruled. The three-judge appeals panel has sent the case back to US District Judge Joan Gottschall for resentencing.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Canada's lagging productivity is the main driver behind the substantial income gap between Canada and the United States, according to a report by the Conference Board of Canada. Canada's income gap -- the difference between the country's real gross domestic product per capita and that of the United States --was $4,779 in 2002. With per capita GDP of $28,344, Canada placed fifth among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations. The United States sat in the No. 1 spot with $33,123, followed by Ireland ($30,910), Norway ($30,127) and Switzerland ($28,684). The report notes that substantial productivity gains have been made in recent years -- without negative repercussions -- by Ireland and Norway, the two countries following the United States on the OECD list of GDP per capita. A series of sweeping reforms -- including ones that promote competition, increased investment in machinery and equipment, innovation, education and openness to international trade -- need to be implemented by policy makers and business leaders if Canada wants to eliminate the income gap between it and the United States. To eliminate the gap by 2015, Canadian productivity would have to grow by an average of 2.8% a year. That would be 1.1% above the average U.S. rate and 1.4% above the rate forecast for Canada.

Israel and war in the Middle East.

Davy Stockbrokers have upgraded their growth forecast for the Irish economy to 1.7% in 2003 from 0.8%, but warned that the conditions for a global recovery were not yet in place. A separate report from PricewaterhouseCoopers painted a mixed picture of the eurozone and Irish economies, saying that growth was likely to remain sluggish in 2003 and 2004. Ireland is tipped to grow by around 2.75% in 2003, well ahead of the euro average of 0.5%. In 2004, Irish growth rates are expected to be around 4% compared to the eurozone projected average of 1.75%. PricewaterhouseCoopers warned that it would be necessary for countries to make effective labor markets reforms and pursue a pro-growth macroeconomic policy if they wanted to see any improvements in their economies.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Iraq will remain impoverished for years to come because oil will not fund public spending, aid will fall short of what is needed and few companies will want to invest there. Even if oil prices are favorable, stability is achieved and debts are largely written off, Iraq's economy will not reach even half the size it was in the 1970s, the US-based Institute of International Finance (IIF) said in a report sent to its members. The report said that Iraq's GDP (gross domestic product) per head would not surpass $3,500 in the next 10-15 years and the country has massive debts which the IIF estimates at $134bn, or 400% of gross domestic product. Reconstruction costs in Iraq are estimated to amount to at least $75bn but so far pledges stand at $20bn from the United States and a mere $230m from the European Union.

The United Nations and the World Bank have provided the first official estimates of the size of the reconstruction task in Iraq, ahead of a major meeting of donor nations. The World Bank says that $35.6bn is needed to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure in 14 key areas, including telecommunications, electricity, and water supply. It also reports that, according to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), an additional $19.4bn investment is needed in other critical sectors, notably investment in the oil industry and improvements in security. Later in October 2003, governments and international agencies will meet in Madrid to discuss financial contributions to rebuilding Iraq. But early indications suggest that few governments other than the United States will make substantial pledges, with just $230m promised from the European Union and no firm commitment as yet from Britain. Even in the United States, Congressional leaders are balking at paying out the $20bn that President Bush has requested for reconstruction. Many Democrats are opposed outright to the huge spending plans, while key Republicans have been suggesting that the money should be a loan, not a grant.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Racist abuse featured on loyalist websites is to be investigated by police in Derry, it has been revealed. The issue was raised by veteran local anti-racist protestor Charlotte Vij. Vij said that she was sickened to see racist filth on websites claiming to represent British loyalism. Vij, who campaigned against the arrival of the National Front in Portrush in the 1980's, said that the emergence of racism in areas near Derry was a worrying development.

British Loyalists are believed to have been behind a gun attack in County Derry, according to the police. Two shots were fired at the house at Rochester Court in the Ballysally area of Coleraine. Damage was caused to a front window and door. It was the second attack on the family. Police said that the house was targeted when a County Tyrone Gaelic Athletic Association flag was removed from the house. The flag was wrapped around a brick which was then thrown through a window of the house. Police are linking the two incidents, which they consider to be sectarian. Former assembly member for East Derry, John Dallat of the SDLP, said that the family, who have lived on the estate for 20 years, have now moved out for fear of further loyalist attacks.

The Y-chromosome evidence for the Middle Eastern and European ancestry of Ashkenazi Levites.

The Irish economy will improve in 2004, but at a slower pace than previously forecast, according to the Irish Central Bank. In its autumn bulletin, it said that improving conditions in the US and Britain, Ireland's two largest foreign trade partners, will boost demand for exports over the coming months. But it warned that there is no guarantee that Ireland will be in a position to fully benefit from the global recovery and the bank cut its growth forecasts for 2004. It said that the Irish Government and industry must prepare for the international upturn though innovation - to fight increased competition from the Central and East European countries that will join the EU in 2004 - and by improving competitiveness. Following GNP growth of only 0.1% in 2002, the bank expects that growth in 2003 will be about 1.5%. It expects GNP growth will rise to 2.75% in 2004, which represents a sharp downgrade from the 3.5% outlook published in June 2003. It also slashed its GDP forecasts for 2003 and 2004, cutting 2003 GDP to 1.75% from 2.75% in June, which was itself a reduction on a 3.25% figure published earlier in 2003. It expects GDP to rise to 3.25% in 2004. GNP is regarded as a more accurate measure of the economy than GDP as it strips out repatriations of profits by foreign firms.

More than two thirds of people in Scotland consider Gaelic to be an important part of Scottish life, according to a survey. Almost 90% of those questioned were in favour of allowing children to learn the language in school. However, a similar number admitted that they did not know how to read or speak Gaelic. The survey was jointly funded by the BBC and Bòrd Gaidhlig na h-Alba, the Gaelic development agency, to identify the need for a multi-media language learning resource. MRUK questioned 1,020 people in August 2003, 87% of whom admitted that they had no knowledge of the language. However, 66% agreed that Gaelic is an important part of Scottish life which needs to be promoted. A majority of those questioned said that there should be more opportunities to learn Gaelic and that more Scots should try to learn the language. There was also support for the extension of bi-lingual education, while 87% were in favour of school children being allowed to learn Gaelic. Bòrd Gaidhlig na h-Alba is preparing the first national plan for Gaelic development in Scotland.

Israel has launched a tender for the construction of 550 new homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Almost all the houses will be built in the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Beitar Elit, near Jerusalem. About 220,000 Israelis live in the West Bank, in settlements widely regarded as illegal under international law. Despite international laws banning settlement in occupied areas, Jewish settlement building has expanded continually since Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, increasing rapidly in the late 1970s when the current Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, was housing minister.

Hostility towards the United States has reached very high levels in the Muslim world, according to a report released in Washington. A panel of experts chosen by the Bush administration found that good will towards the US has plummeted from Jordan to Indonesia. One member of the panel, John Zogby, said that America's standing in the Muslim and Arab world could not get any worse. Entitled "Changing Minds, Winning Peace", the report finds that 15% of Indonesians now view the US favorably - down from 61% in 2002. In the spring of 2003, only 1% of Jordanians took a favorable view of the US compared with 25% in the summer of 2002. The report acknowledges that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and the situation in Iraq are impeding good relations. Surveys indicate that much of the resentment towards the US stems from real conflicts and displeasure with policies, including those involving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and Iraq.

A gene variant that may make people particularly susceptible to the deadly SARS virus, has been identified by scientists in Taiwan. The gene variant is prevalent in people of south Chinese origin, so the discovery may help explain why the disease rampaged across southeast Asia emerging in China's southern Guangdong province in November 2002. The gene produces a protein called HLA-B*4601, which is linked to the immune response and has been linked to a raised risk of suffering more life-threatening reactions to SARS. A research team at Taipei's Mackay Memorial Hospital analysed human leukocyte antigen (HLA) proteins, which are present on the surface of all nucleated cells and are important for the body to distinguish between its own cells and foreign invaders. Previous studies have linked variations in this HLA system to susceptibility or resistance to malaria, tuberculosis, yellow fever, typhoid and HIV. The researchers hoped to discover a gene to use in a future screening program for health care workers at greater risk of contracting SARS. The team examined the HLA genes in 33 probable SARS cases, 28 fever patients who later proved to have SARS, and 101 health care workers exposed but not infected by the fatal bug at Taiwan's Mackay Memorial Hospital and Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital. They compared the results with controls including 190 healthy, unrelated Taiwanese people and found that a gene variant coding for HLA-B*4601 was linked to an increased severity of SARS. Crucially, no cases of SARS were seen in people from the nine indigenous tribes of Taiwan who rarely have the gene variant. All the probable SARS cases were in Taiwanese people of southern Chinese origin. The island's main inhabitants have migrated from China's Guangdong and Fujian provinces over the last few centuries. Only 1.5% of the population are indigenous people. HLA-B*4601/B46 is also seldom seen in European populations and very few cases of SARS infection of individuals of European origin were reported. The SARS epidemic swept across the globe in early 2003, killing over 800 people and causing 8400 infections in about 30 different countries.

The secret of happiness lies mainly in our genes, according to the latest research. Scientists listed the top 10 factors governing happiness and found having a genetic propensity to happiness ranked highest. Marriage came second and having a wide circle of valued friends was third. Not expecting or desiring too much came fourth, followed by doing someone a good turn and having faith, which was sixth in the list. The other keys to happiness were to stop comparing your looks with others, earn more money and grow old gracefully. Little evidence was found linking intelligence with happiness.