Anti-Colonial Agitator

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

A suspected case of a man infected with the SARS virus, has been reported in China. More tests are being carried out.

Ireland's EU presidency will be the best advertisement to small countries of the benefits of joining the European Union.

The British talent for failure.

Monday, December 29, 2003

A recent study has found that older Mexican-Americans are less likely to show symptoms of depression if they live in neighborhoods with a large proportion of other Mexican-Americans. The study - published in the Journal of Epidemiology Community Health - also suggests that their comparatively high rates of employment, family structures and residential stability make them less prone to depression than other ethnic groups. Glenn Ostir and Karl Eschbach, two of the study's authors who teach at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Texas, said their research specifically suggests that Mexican-Americans may have advantages when it comes to psychological health. The authors did the study to better understand the relationship between Mexican-American culture and health. An estimated 109 New Mexicans were among the 2,710 Mexican-Americans involved in the research.

Self-esteem and brain size.

Tony Blair is facing fresh allegations that he had embellished a report into Iraq's ability to produce weapons of mass destruction after the US official running Iraq dismissed out of hand his latest claim that there was massive evidence of a huge system of secret laboratories. The renewed attacks are coming after Paul Bremer - unaware that the claim had been made by Blair - dismissed it as a diversion by someone opposed to military action to undermine the coalition. Bremer is the head of the coalition provisional authority in Baghdad.

The fracturing of the Anglican Church.

Pressure is mounting on the British government to publish reports prepared by Canadian judge, Peter Cory, recommending further inquiries into collusion between loyalist terrorists and the British security forces in the murders of four people in the north of Ireland.

Friday, December 26, 2003

A Chinese family has been forced to flee from British Loyalist violence.

Japan's rapidly aging population will push its public debt to new highs in 2004 despite cuts to defense, foreign aid and public works spending.

Truth and the British security forces.

Loyalist hate doesn't even take a break for Christmas.

Why is Britain so reluctant to track down the Dublin bombers?

The Bush Doctrine.

Chinese workers at an Israeli company have been forced to agree not to have sex with or marry Israelis. According to an employment contact that they are required to sign, male workers may not have any contact with Israeli women - including prostitutes, an Israeli police spokesman, Rafi Yaffe, said. He said that there was nothing illegal about the requirement and that no investigation had been opened.

Neanderthals were shedding their sturdy physique and evolving in the direction of modern humans just before they disappeared from the fossil record. Newly identified remains from Vindija in Croatia, which date to between 42,000 and 28,000 years ago, are more delicate than classic Neanderthals. One explanation is that these Neanderthals were interbreeding with modern humans. Excavations also reveal that the Vindija Neanderthals were developing advanced ways of making stone tools that mirror innovations elsewhere by modern humans (Homo sapiens). Researchers have pieced together a partial Neanderthal (Homo neanderthalensis) skull from fragments found mixed in with animal bones from the site. The skull comes from ground layers dating to between 42,000 and 38,000 years ago. The researchers also found other fragments of Neanderthal bone from later ground layers in the cave. Analysis of this cranium appears to confirm suggestions from earlier finds at Vindija that the Neanderthals there were evolving a more gracile anatomy - less sturdy than classic big-boned Neanderthals. The skull's supraorbital torus - an arching, bony ridge above the eyes - is not as thick and projecting as in other Neanderthal remains. The specimen also has a higher braincase than is typical in Neanderthals. Neanderthals began to evolve in Europe around 230,000 years ago and dominated the continent until around 35,000 years ago when people with a more modern anatomy entered the continent. They were proficient hunters and well-adapted to an Ice Age climate. But their distinctive anatomy has led researchers to classify them as a separate species from us. The Vindija cranium predates the first recorded presence of modern humans in Europe by around 5,000 years.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Israel's weapons of mass destruction.

Obese men diagnosed with prostate cancer may boost their chances of survival by losing weight. Two recent studies have found that the disease hits obese men much harder than others. The studies involving more than 4,000 men found that obese men suffered more aggressive forms of the disease and were more likely to suffer a relapse.

The former British Labor front bench spokesman on the north of Ireland has called on the British and Irish governments to jointly set up an inquiry with full judicial powers to look into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. Labor MP Kevin McNamara believes that the limitations placed on Judge Barron's inquiry into the bombings by the British government's refusal to co-operate make a judicial inquiry imperative.

The reasons why a public inquiry is necessary if we ever want to know the truth about British collusion in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

The British National Party and other far-right groups may be behind a spate of vicious racist attacks in Protestant Loyalist areas of the north of Ireland. The most recent came when a family originally from Uganda and a group of Chinese people (including two heavily pregnant women) were driven from their homes in the Village area of South Belfast. One of the women is due to give birth soon and has been hospitalized.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Britain and the Cory report.

The latest New York Times/CBS News poll indicated widespread support for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage. It also hinted at unease about homosexual relations in general, making the issue a potentially divisive one in the 2004 presidential election. Support for a constitutional amendment extended across a wide swath of the public and included a majority of people traditionally viewed as supportive of gay rights, including Democrats, women and people who live on the east coast of the United States. The poll said that 55% of respondents favored an amendment to the constitution that would allow marriage only between a man and a woman, while 40% opposed the idea. A New York Times/CBS News poll conducted in July 2003 said that 54% of respondents said that homosexual relations should be legal. Only 41% of the respondents in the latest poll said that homosexual relations should be legal.

Getting married may be bad for men's health but good for women. Researchers found that men who get hitched are more likely to suffer mental health problems than those who simply live with their partners.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Civilization and global warming.

The Irish government's Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has predicted economic growth of around 3.5% in Ireland for 2004. In its latest quarterly economic outlook, the ESRI also predicted that unemployment would rise to 5%, but that inflation would fall to around 2.2%. The ESRI said that prospects for the Irish economy in 2004 were good, despite deteriorating competitiveness in recent years. It said that economic growth was expected to be around 2.5% in 2003, while inflation was expected to average around 3% for the year.

Irish children have gathered outside the European Commission offices in Dublin to call for the Irish language to be recognized as an official European Union language. Ireland is the only EU member state whose national tongue is not included in a list of 20 official languages due to be recognized by the EU in May 2004. Campaigners have said that this will leave Irish people at a disadvantage in the European Union.

The United States has warned Israel against taking any unilateral measures to separate itself from Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had outlined a disengagement plan in case the roadmap peace plan failed. But the White House said that the US was committed to a negotiated settlement between the two sides under the American-backed roadmap.

Scotland's population is expected to fall below five million by 2027. The Registrar General for Scotland, Duncan Macniven, said that the biggest impact was the falling birth rate. He said that Scotland's population of 5.05 million in 2002 could fall to 4.84 million by 2027. The figures also predict that there will be a 60% increase in the number of Scots who are at least 75-years-old. Macniven said that the net emigration of about 1,500 people per year played a role in the decline.

London silent as Dublin publishes Cory findings.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

A federal grand jury has indicted a former Superior Court judge accused of possessing child pornography and videotaping himself having sex with a teenage boy in Russia. Prosecutors had filed similar charges against Stephen W. Thompson in August 2003 and sent the matter to the grand jury. Thompson was stripped of his judicial powers April 30, 2003 which was the day authorities raided his homes and seized a collection of child pornography that included at least 13 hard-core tapes and hundreds of photos. Thompson, 57, faces up to 20 years in prison, the maximum sentence, if convicted of the most serious offense - traveling overseas and taping himself having sex with a Russian boy, then transporting the tape back to the United States.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan has called on the British government to publish the Cory Report into four murders in the north of Ireland in the 1980s and 1990s. The report was compiled by retired Canadian judge Peter Cory, who was appointed by the Irish and British governments to investigate six murders where security force collusion was suspected. Two of the murders relate to alleged collusion between the gardaí (Irish police) and the IRA and the report into these killings is due to be published by the Irish Government. The report into the other four killings is in the hands of the British government, which has refused to publish the document, citing legal complications over the rights of the people named. Durkan has accused British Prime Minister Tony Blair of trying to bury the truth about the four murders and said that the families of the victims should not have to wait information. His call for the immediate publication of the Cory Reports was supported by five human rights organizations, including Amnesty International.

Bush backs bar on gay marriage.

The Central Bank of Ireland has published its Quarterly Bulletin for Winter 2003 in which it reported signs of improvement in the international economic environment and corresponding evidence of recovery in the Irish economy. The bulletin states that GNP growth in 2003 is expected to be 2.25%, with GDP expected to grow by 1.75%. In 2004, the Central Bank sees GNP growth of 3% and GDP expansion of around 3.5%. The United States continues to be the main stimulus for activity worldwide with growth in most other regions remaining export-led. Real GDP growth is expected to be about 0.4% in the euro area in 2003, and to average 1.6% in 2004. The gradual nature of the recovery, allied to effects of euro appreciation, suggest that inflation will remain moderate. Looking forward, the report said that the US economy will continue to lead global expansion in 2004, with strong growth there likely to feed through to the other major economies.

British collusion and Britain's contempt for the truth.

Small figurines believed to be carved from mammoth ivory more than 30,000 years ago have been discovered in a cave in southern Germany. Among the earliest undisputed artworks ever found, they are providing new clues into the migration and religious beliefs of early humans. The figurines depict a water bird, what appears to be a horse's head and a lion-man. The lion-man is similar to a larger figurine previously found in a nearby valley, which had been cited as evidence of shamanism - the belief that spirits can be influenced by priests known as shamans. Birds, especially water birds, are known to be shamanistic symbols. The bird is extremely lifelike, with a well-formed head and the neck stretching out as if in flight. The figurine appears to be the oldest known representation of a bird, although an owl depicted in a French cave may be as old. While early man is often seen as brutish, the findings add to evidence that the first modern humans in Europe were in fact quite artistic. The researchers believe that the figurines, found in the Hohle Fels cave in the Ach Valley, were created by early anatomically modern humans and not their Neanderthal predecessors. Radiocarbon dating used to date the carvings is inexact, but the objects were almost certainly made between 28,000 and 35,000 years ago.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Claims that Saddam Hussein had laboratories for developing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) have been dismissed by a former chief UN weapons inspector. Hans Blix was speaking after Tony Blair had said that the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) had uncovered massive evidence of a system of secret laboratories in Iraq. But Blix said that it was pure innuendo to suggest that the laboratories were used for WMD. Blix said that the ISG, led by David Kay, had failed to produce any concrete evidence to support the claim that the laboratories were developing WMD. Speaking at the launch of a new independent commission on WMD, Blix said that it was increasingly clear that Saddam Hussein had not had any when he was ousted by American and British forces.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Jonathan Adair, the son of loyalist terrorist Johnny Adair has been arrested on suspicion of drugs offences in Lancashire, England.

Genetic differences between humans and chimpanzees.

Liam Cosgrave and the Barron report.

Sinn Féin has come a long way since the early 1980s. Just how far Sinn Féin has travelled was highlighted by its seizing an assembly seat in Ian Paisley's own backyard. Sinn Féin's North Antrim victory was a major win of this campaign. It marks the latest stage in Sinn Féin's speedy progress through the late eighties and early nineties as the Irish republican party has eclipsed the SDLP as the main nationalist party in the north of Ireland after its success in the 2001 Westminster election.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Viking blood is pumping through the veins of a group of men in Merseyside in the North West England, DNA tests have revealed. A year-long genetic survey has found the strongest link yet to the ancient invaders. Mouth swabs were taken from 150 men and have been matched to the genes of Scandinavian men living in Norway where the warriors descended from. Scientists can trace back ancestry by testing the male Y-chromosome. Because it is passed down from father to son and does not change its composition it is possible to compare it to chromosomes from other men to find a common genetic history. The Viking credentials of Wirral and West Lancashire residents has never been in question. Research carried out a couple of years ago revealed some genetic links with the invaders but this particular survey targeted men with surnames descended from Vikings and has shown up more matches than ever before. Half of all Wirral men tested had matches and 30% of those surveyed in West Lancashire had a match with the Norwegian conquerors. The results were announced by Stephen Harding, Professor of Bio-chemistry at Nottingham University. The men who took part were all chosen because they had surnames that dated back to the time of the Viking invasion. The highest number of Viking genes were found in Wirral, near Liverpool. The settlers left an indelible mark on the Wirral peninsula and the North West of England, from place names to surnames. Tribes from Norway landed between West Kirby and Meols having been driven out of Ireland following a huge battle with the native Irish population.

The British government, Brian Cowen and the Barron report.

The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog has urged Israel to surrender its alleged nuclear weapons in order to further peace in the Middle East. International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei told an Israeli newspaper that such weapons were not an incentive for security. He also said that Israel should sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Israel has never confirmed being a nuclear power, but is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons.

A court in Pakistan has sentenced a man to be blinded by acid after he carried out a similar attack on his fiancée. The court in the town of Bahawalpur, Punjab province, sentenced Mohammad Sajid under the Islamic Qisas law that matches crime and punishment. Sajid blinded his fiancee after her parents called off the couple's engagement.

Scores of Iraqi civilians were killed or injured needlessly, because Britain failed in its duty as an occupying power, a human rights group has said. Its use of cluster bombs and failure to secure Iraqi munitions dumps have been criticized by Human Rights Watch.

Irish Minister for Justice Michael McDowell and Sinn Fein.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

A former north of Ireland civil servant has had his prison sentence for a child sex offence doubled by an American judge. Stan Mallon must now serve 41 months in jail for arranging to meet a 14-year-old girl for sex in a hotel room in Chicago in 2002. The father-of-five from Crumlin, County Antrim, was jailed for 21 months in March 2003, after admitting to using an internet chatline to contact a girl who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent. He originally escaped the maximum sentence of more than four years in prison after the judge ruled that he was suffering from a "diminished capacity". However, his sentence was extended following an appeal by prosecutors, who argued that the original tariff imposed was too lenient. After receiving his increased sentence, Mallon, who appeared in court via video link, read out a letter in which he described himself as the victim. Mallon was acting chief executive of the Ulster Scots Agency until his arrest in Chicago in March 2002. He will now remain in prison until February 2005.

Red-stained bones dug up in a cave in Israel are prompting researchers to speculate that symbolic thought emerged much earlier than they had believed. Symbolic thought - the ability to let one thing represent another - was a giant leap in human evolution. It was a mental ability that allowed sophisticated language and mathematics. New excavations show that a red color made from ocher was used in burials 100,000 years ago, much earlier than other examples of color association. Qafzeh Cave in Israel is a remarkable site that contains many skeletons of humans who lived there about 100,000 years ago. Archaeologists have recently discovered fragments of red ocher - a form of iron oxide that yields a pigment when heated - alongside bones in the cave. The ocher is only found alongside the bones. The association of red ocher with skeletons found in Qafzeh cave in Israel suggests that symbolic burial rituals were being performed almost 100,000 years ago. This is much older than the 50,000 years that some other scientists believe is the date for the emergence of symbolic reasoning. The association of ocher with burial indicates that the inhabitants had made the mental leap of associating the colored pigment with death. Such symbolic thought spurred human progress allowing the development of sophisticated language and mathematics. Somehow the ability was then lost. After the initial evidence of symbolic behaviour in Qafzeh about 100,000 years ago it disappears, only to emerge again about 13,000 years ago. The research is published in Current Anthropology.

The British government has been accused of creating its own Guantánamo Bay in a report by human rights group Amnesty International. The report said that emergency powers granted to the British Home Secretary, David Blunkett, after the September 11 2001 terror attacks on the United States were being used to detain foreigners suspected of involvement in terrorist plots without trial. Amnesty International said that the powers had created a shadow criminal justice system and that the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act, which came into force in November 2001, failed to meet international standards for a fair trial. The organization also criticized the willingness of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), set up to allow those detained under the act to appeal, to accept evidence obtained by torture at Bagram airbase and Guantánamo Bay.

Tim Pat Coogan on the differing reactions to the Omagh and Dublin/Monaghan bombings.

The British establishment has an obligation to the people of Ireland to come clean, a campaign group representing many of the survivors and victims’ families has said. Greg O’Neill, a lawyer with Justice for the Forgotten, has criticized the reluctance of the British authorities to fully cooperate with Justice Henry Barron. The inquiry had been told that there were some 68,000 files in the Northern Ireland Office and millions in the British Ministry of Defense with possible relevance to it, yet a 10-page letter with a further six pages appended was all that was initially forthcoming. Further requests were made by the inquiry, but, according to the report, only some additional material was provided, and little or no original documentation was supplied.

The British Government was condemned over its contempt for the Barron Inquiry after it emerged that it agreed to furnish only a ten-page summary out of the millions of relevant documents that it held. Judge Henry Barron's 380-page report on the four-year investigation into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings was highly critical of the current British government for its lack of co-operation and of the 1974 Fine Gael-Labor coalition for its inertia and lack of interest in the bombings.

The foolishness of the ID drive of the SDLP.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Jokes act like a verbal drug.

Humans have been causing global warming for at least 8,000 years.

People who are prone to psychological distress are more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease, research suggests. Rush University in Chicago found that people plagued by negative emotions like depression and anxiety were at double the risk of more laid-back individuals. The researchers focused on 797 Catholic nuns, priests and brothers with an average age of 75. The research, published in Neurology, suggests that anti-depressants may cut the risk of Alzheimer's. Lead researcher Robert Wilson said that levels of stress varied widely from person to person, but tended to stay constant throughout an individual's life. He said that chronic stress had been associated with changes in the hippocampal area of the brain, which plays a role in learning and memory. Wilson said that the findings of the latest research were important because evidence has shown that many of the adverse effects of stress on the brain can be blocked by drugs, including antidepressants. The researchers examined the brains of 141 people - including 57 with Alzheimer's disease - who died during the course of the study. They found that those people who were vulnerable to stress did not always show signs of the plagues and tangles of protein in the brain that have been closely linked to Alzheimer's. This enabled them to rule out the theory that high stress levels were simply an early symptom of Alzheimer's. Clive Ballard, director of research at the Alzheimer's Society, said that previous research had also linked Alzheimer's to depression and stress. Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Research Trust, said that it was still not clear exactly what was the relationship between stress, depression and Alzheimer's disease. However, she said there was evidence that stress and depression could damage brain structures which were important for memory and learning.

Is interventionism America's solution or America's problem?

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has said that Ireland is second only to Britain in placing the fewest restrictions on foreign direct investment (FDI). The OECD based the conclusion on an indicator it devised for barriers to inward FDI based on limits on foreign ownership of companies, procedures for the screening of foreign investors and other restrictions such as constraints on the ability of foreign nationals to manage or work in overseas companies. Recently, the Irish Central Statistics Office (CSO) revealed that foreign direct investment (FDI) into Ireland totalled E25.85bn in 2002, an increase of over 140% on 2001, with the US and the Netherlands accounting for the bulk of inflows. Ireland's foreign investment stocks stood at E176.12bn at the end of 2002.

The mass transfer of call center jobs from Europe and North America to India is bad for the subcontinent, a leading Indian newspaper writer has warned. The huge growth in India's call center industry was highlighted again recently, as British company Norwich Union announced that they would be cutting 2,350 British jobs and relocating them. But author Praful Bidwai said that in effect the centers had reduced young Indian undergraduates to cyber-coolies. In just three years, the number of centers has risen from 50 to 800 as Western companies have sought to take advantage of cheaper operating costs - estimated to be about 30-40% lower than in Britain. Average call center salaries in Britain are about $22,000 a year, compared with $2,100 in India. Bidwai said that call centers were exploiting young English-speaking Indians who have an undergraduate degree and nowhere else to go.

The Atkins diet and epilepsy.

The sexually transmitted disease syphilis adapted from a severe, debilitating illness to a milder form in order to survive according to new research. Robert Knell, of Queen Mary's College, London, argues that the disease was too virulent for its own good. Sufferers became so repellent that they were unlikely to have sex. To ensure that they did, and continued to pass on the bacterium, it had to change. Knell's theory is published in the journal Biology Letters. Syphilis in its early form caused disfiguring pustules on the face accompanied by a foul smell. Knell argues that this would have been obvious to any potential sexual partners of a sufferer, enabling people to avoid the infected person and thereby reducing transmission. Other symptoms, such as agonizing pains in the joints, would have effectively disabled the sufferer, or at least distracted them from seeking out new sex partners. As a result, less virulent strains of the disease were transmitted more often which led to changes in the severity of the disease.

The Barron Report into the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings will be a hard-hitting document that will pull no punches in its findings. Informed sources say that Justice Henry Barron’s long-awaited report, which runs to 380 pages, will lay down the clearest possible findings on the circumstances surrounding both atrocities, which claimed 33 lives. The sources said that the report would go a long way towards addressing the issues of who was involved, whether or not there was collusion between the loyalist bombers and British security sources and what authorities in Ireland and elsewhere did and did not do leading up to and following the bombings. Justice for the Forgotten, the organization representing survivors and the families of those who died, said that all the indications pointed to a strong report that would reach strong conclusions. However, it is concerned that a lack of co-operation from the British government may have prevented definitive findings. According to one legal source, there was a strong consensus that the Barron Report’s conclusions would be damning, in spite of the obstacles that the investigation team encountered.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

A new study raises the prospect that shy people might die younger than extroverts. As many as 15% of children are thought to suffer from neophobia — a fear of novel but non-threatening situations such as meeting a stranger or entering a new room. They also have higher levels of stress hormones called glucocorticoids. Now researchers have found that neophobic rats die an average of three months younger than their outgoing brothers — equivalent to ten years shaved off a human life. The scaredy-rats were chosen because they were reluctant to explore new surroundings. Over a lifetime, heightened levels of stress hormones might take their toll, suggest Sonia Cavigelli and Martha McClintock of the University of Chicago. As in frazzled workers who succumb to colds, the immune system might be particularly vulnerable to stress. Whether timid people also meet a premature fate is unknown. Being neophobic or shy might also have advantages such as in helping animals to avoid life-threatening situations.

Is President Bush the new Richard Nixon?

Foreign investment in Ireland totalled more than €90m in 2002, according to figures released by the Central Statistics Office. The figures showed that the United States and the Netherlands were the main sources of foreign investment. The CSO said that the investment could be attributed to the expansion of foreign companies in Ireland.

Laws aimed at preventing electoral fraud have disenfranchised young people and the poor, according to a study conducted by the Electoral Commission in the north of Ireland. The new laws were introduced due to persistent claims about alleged voter fraud, most notably from the SDLP about Sinn Fein. The laws require all individuals to register every year and provide their national insurance number. Previously, the head of a household could register all members of that household as permanent voters. The new laws also require voters to provide photographic ID when voting. The Electoral Commission's study found that these measures had resulted in lower registration among the poor, students, the disabled and people with learning disabilities.

Tony Blair's judicial problems.

The next generation will be the most infertile and the most obese in the history of mankind, British medical leaders have warned. A report on adolescent health by the British Medical Association said that increased drinking, smoking and drug-taking among teenagers was creating a public health time bomb. Their sexual health was also suffering, with as many as one in 10 women aged 16 to 19 infected with chlamydia (a sexually-transmitted disease which can make sufferers infertile). And lack of exercise and poor diet is leading to many more teenagers becoming overweight or obese, with the associated health problems that this brings.

The world's population will be around nine billion by 2300, the United Nations has forecast. But the UN Population Division said that a small shift in fertility levels could have an enormous impact on population, which is now 6.3 billion. The nine billion estimate is based on the two-child family, but as little as one-quarter of a child less or one-quarter of a child more per family would result in world populations in 2300 ranging from 2.3 billion to 36.4 billion. Previous long-range projections put the world population at 10-12 billion in 2200. The new projections are lower, largely due to the continuing decline from high fertility rates in the developing world. The report, World Population in 2300, also foresees far more older people. The median age of the world in 2003 is 26 years. By 2300, it will nearly double to 50 years.

Monday, December 08, 2003

German scientists have found that the secret to shedding the pounds could be as simple as drinking more water. A study by Berlin's Charite University found that people who drank the recommended two liters of water per day burnt off an average extra 150 calories per day. The team led by professor Michael Boschmann said that water stimulated the sympathetic nerve system that regulates metabolism. The increased rate of metabolism was responsible for burning off the excess calories, according to a Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism report quoted in German magazine Men's Health. The team found however that carbonated water as well as all other drinks had a negative effect and only still water worked if people wanted to get the "slimming effect" from drinking.

Hip-hop and the Israeli Right.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Cannibalism and the Internet in Germany.

The number of people signing for unemployment benefits fell for the third consecutive month in November 2003, adding to evidence that the economic recovery is taking hold in Ireland. The standardized unemployment rate fell to 4.3% in November from 4.4% in October 2003. When seasonal factors are taken into account, the Irish Central Statistics Office (CSO) said that the seasonally adjusted total fell by 2,200 to 170,400 in October, surprising analysts, who had forecast a rise to 173,000. Consumer confidence is rising as the outlook for economic growth and employment improves. A number of reports also point to improving prospects in the Irish labor market. The Purchasing Managers Index on manufacturing and the services industry showed that employment in both sectors rose again in November while the IIB/ESRI consumer sentiment index rose to its highest in 16 months.

Archaeologists are delighted by a 2,500-year-old stone statue that offers a rare insight into life in western Europe before the Roman conquest. The stone torso, unearthed at Lattes in southern France, is one of just a few detailed figurines considered to have been made by the ancient Celts. The statue of a male warrior wears a style of armor worn in Spain and Italy and was life-size when it was complete. The "Warrior of Lattes" is described in the scholarly journal Antiquity. It is around 79 centimeters in height and was discovered in the wall of an Iron Age house where it had been used as a building stone. Some time after it was created, the statue was mutilated to be re-used in a door opening. The head was removed, the left leg and arm hacked off and the crest of the warrior's helmet smoothed away. The statue's pose is also unusual for Iron Age sculptures from southern France. Most are shown cross-legged, but the Lattes sculpture was in a crouched position - a pose reminiscent of some Greek sculptures. Experts say that the statue provides a unique insight into early interactions between the inhabitants of western Europe and the classical world prior to the Roman conquest. The style of armor worn by the warrior is similar to that found in graves and on statues associated with the Iberian culture of ancient Spain. However, the Iberians may have adopted this style of armor through links with Italy. This is unusual because the people of the eastern Languedoc region of France, where the statue was found, are generally thought to have had a Celtic culture, different from people from the Iberian zone to the west. Michael Dietler, of the University of Chicago, and Michel Py of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Lattes, France, propose that a cultural elite in the eastern Languedoc may have adopted exotic customs, while the majority of the people held on to their old ways.

Jude Collins on the SDLP's future.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has called for the publication of reports by Judge Peter Cory into allegations of British collusion with loyalist terrorists. Adams, who had an hour of talks with the Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern and Foreign Affairs Minister Brian Cowen, said that he had raised his concerns with Ahern. Adams also reiterated that despite the dominant position of the DUP after the Assembly elections, Ian Paisley's party did not have the right to veto political progress by blocking implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

Ireland has dodged the worst of the global slowdown and is set to return to solid growth. Presenting a cautious budget, Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy has predicted economic growth of 3.3% in 2004. McCreevey's budget is predicated on a government deficit of 1.1% of GDP, or 1.6bn euros. That remains well below the level in much of the European Union - particularly in France and Germany, where it is above the 3% ceiling set by Europe's stability and growth pact. The low deficit is partly the result of higher-than-expected tax revenue, despite Ireland's moves to cut tax rates sharply in recent years. Basic income tax for someone earning 25,000 euros a year is now less than 16%, against about 34% in 1997. Even so, the tax take rose to 31.6bn euros for the first 11 months of 2003, up from 20bn euros in 2002.

Brian Feeney on the success of Sinn Féin and the DUP.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Is it anti-semitic to be anti-Zionist?

The post-occupation power struggle in Iraq may yet be the bloodiest chapter in the conflict.

RUC Special Branch officers handed over a gun to the UDA which was later used in six murders, retired Canadian judge Peter Cory's report is expected to reveal. A Browning 9mm pistol used in six murders had been in the possession of the RUC's Special Branch for two weeks before it was handed back to the UDA and used in two gun attacks. Reliable sources have suggested that Cory's reports into security force collusion with British loyalist terrorists would point to evidence that Special Branch took possession of the Browning 9mm pistol from UDA quartermaster Billy Stobie in late 1989 but two weeks later returned the weapon to the UDA without any apparent attempt to track its movements. Two years later masked UDA men burst into the Devenish Arms in west Belfast on December 22, 1991 and used the Browning pistol to shoot at customers. Twenty-two-year-old indigenous Irish Catholic Aidan Wallace was shot dead. Three others were seriously injured, including eight-year-old Christopher Lawless, who was shot in the face and lost an eye after loyalist terrorists spotted him hiding underneath a table. Less than three months later two UDA gunmen, one armed with the same Browning pistol, burst into Sean Graham's bookmakers on the Ormeau Road and fired nearly 50 shots into the crowded shop. Five people, including 15-year-old schoolboy James Kennedy and 66-year-old pensioner Jack Duffin, were killed in the attack. Mark Sykes, who was shot four times in the attack, and whose 18-year-old cousin Peter Magee was shot dead alongside him, said he was not surprised by the news. Aidan Wallace's mother Betty said she was shocked that the weapon which killed her son may now turn out to have been in police hands. British Police have refused to make any comment in regard to Cory's report or the Browning 9mm pistol.

An Iron Age chariot from about 500 BC has been discovered by engineers working on the new A1 motorway in West Yorkshire. The site at Darrington, near Pontefract, is said to hold articles of great significance. In what seems to be a burial chamber, there are the remains of a man aged about 40 and the bones of 250 cattle, as well as the chariot. It is thought that the cattle could have formed part of a huge funeral feast. Archaeologists say that the chariot appears to have been placed in the pit intact. Nineteen other chariots have been found buried in Britain, but these have all been near the east coast with none as far west as this discovery. The finds will shed new light on the pre-Anglo-Saxon tribes that lived in the north of England 2,500 years ago.

The mother of Peter McBride who was murdered by two Scottish soldiers in Belfast in 1992 has launched a third legal bid to get them thrown out of the British army. Scots Guards Mark Wright and James Fisher served only three years of a life sentence and are still in their regiment despite a majority decision in the Appeal Court that the British army was wrong not to discharge them. Jean McBride, mother of Peter (18) who was shot near his home in the New Lodge area, is challenging the refusal of the Armed Forces Minister to review the soldiers' status in the light of the decision by two appeal judges.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Canadian judge Peter Cory has recommended that the British and Irish governments establish public inquiries into a number of killings during the Troubles. The killings include the murder of indigenous Irish Catholic lawyer Pat Finucane. Cory's report was expected to be published on December 1, 2003. But the British government has asked for its publication to be delayed. Pat Finucane's family has called on the British government to reveal what was in the judge's report.

A lawyer for a Utah man with five wives has argued that his bigamy convictions should be thrown out following a Supreme Court decision decriminalizing gay sex. The nation's high court in June 2003 struck down a Texas sodomy law, ruling that what gay men and women do in the privacy of their homes is no business of the government. It's no different for polygamists, argued Tom Green's attorney, John Bucher, to the Utah Supreme Court. Green, who is not affiliated with any church, was convicted of four counts of bigamy and one count of criminal nonsupport of his 30 children in August 2001. Besides his five-year sentence, he faces up to life in prison after being convicted of child rape for having sex with one of his five wives when she was only 13 years old. Polygamy was renounced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1890 as part of a deal to grant Utah statehood. Polygamy has an estimated 30,000 practitioners in the West.

There were renewed calls for the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant to be closed down following an admission by Britain's Health Minister that the facility is a source of plutonium contamination in children's teeth on both sides on the Irish Sea. New tests carried out on the extracted teeth of more than 3,000 teenagers by health authorities, show that the level of plutonium among those who lived closest to the plant in the north of Ireland and Scotland had twice the amount found in those living 140 miles away. The Green Party leader, Trevor Sargeant, says that some members of Britain's Committee Examining Radiation Risks have cast doubt on research carried out six years ago, which suggested that plutonium posed no health risk. In a recent statement, the Minister for the Environment, Martin Cullen, has vowed to take all steps necessary to ensure that the plant ceases to pose a threat to Ireland's environment, and to its people.

The Stone Age iceman known as Oetzi has been given a new home - a refrigerated igloo in Italy. The world's oldest and best-preserved mummy, believed to be 5,300 years old, was discovered in 1991 by two German tourists on a hiking trip up the Italian Alps. Since then, Oetzi had been kept in a refrigerated cell in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano - where his new display room has also been built. Oetzi's new home is a refrigerated igloo covered with dozens of iced tiles. Visitors will be able to take a peek at him through a porthole. Experts hope that the new location will prevent Oetzi from shedding weight. The mummy, which currently weighs just over 14kg, had been losing five grams per day. Experts hope that the new location will cause the mummified remains to drop just six grams per month.

An arc of buried megaliths that once formed part of the great stone circle at Avebury in Wiltshire has been discovered. A map of Avebury drawn up by William Stukely in the 1720s showed that many of the stones in the south east and north east quadrants of the circle were missing. A survey of these areas by the National Trust has revealed that at least 15 of the megaliths lie buried in the circle itself. The stones show up clearly on computer images and the National Trust has been able to identify their sizes, the direction in which they are lying and where they fit in the circle. It is now considering using ground-probing radar to create three dimensional images of each of the buried stones and raise them as computer images. The stones were erected 4,500 years by the pre-Anglo-Saxon peoples of Britain.

A family tree of Indo-European languages suggests that they began to spread and split about 9,000 years ago. The finding hints that farmers in what is now Turkey drove the language boom - and not later Siberian horsemen, as some linguists reckon. Russell Gray and Quentin Atkinson, of the University of Auckland in New Zealand used the rate at which words change to gauge the age of the tree's roots - just as biologists estimate a species' age from the rate of gene mutations. The differences between words, or DNA sequences, are a measure of how closely languages, or species, are related. Gray and Atkinson analysed 87 languages from Irish to Afghan. Rather than compare entire dictionaries, they used a list of 200 words that are found in all cultures, such as 'I', 'hunt' and 'sky'. Words are better understood than grammar as a guide to language history; the same sentence structure can arise independently in different tongues. The resulting tree matches many existing ideas about language development. Spanish and Portuguese come out as sisters, for example - both are cousins to German, and Hindi is a more distant relation to all three. All other Indo-European languages split off from Hittite, the oldest recorded member of the group, between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago, the pair calculates. Around this time, farming techniques began to spread out of Anatolia - now Turkey - across Europe and Asia, archaeological evidence shows. The farmers themselves may have moved, or natives may have adopted words along with agricultural technology. The conclusion will be controversial, as there is no consensus on where Indo-European languages came from. Some linguists believe that Kurgan horsemen carried them out of central Asia 6,000 years ago.

Monday, December 01, 2003

How sovereignty made the Irish economy a success.

Twenty-year-old men have worse sperm quality than men of 60, according to a new Danish report. Professor Jens Bonde, of the University of Arhus, believes it is because more women now smoke during pregnancy. In a study of 1,000 men of all ages, Professor Bonde and his team found that, on average, younger men had lower quality sperm. The average 20-year-old had half as many sperm as the average 60-year-old, and many of the younger men were close to infertile.

Traffic wardens on the streets of Indian cities are losing their manhood because of pollution, a medical study has revealed. Bhashini Rao, a reproductive biologist who tested policemen in Delhi and Bangalore, said that 80% were suffering from a low sperm count.

The BBC and the two tribes myth.

Two years ago the world watched in horror as British loyalists terrorized indigenous Irish Catholic schoolgirls at Holy Cross school in Belfast. Now one mother forced to flee her home after death threats is suing the British authorities for failing to protect the children.