Anti-Colonial Agitator

Friday, January 30, 2004

It is not safe to be an animal in Sweden.

The British government is facing renewed pressure over the case for war with Iraq after the Bush administration admitted for the first time that Saddam Hussein may never have held stocks of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. The national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, one of George Bush's most trusted lieutenants and a strong advocate of the invasion of Iraq, made the concession during a series of interviews. Backing off from claims that months of inspections by the US-led Iraq Survey Group would unearth hidden caches of illegal weapons, Rice appeared to be swayed by recent testimony from David Kay, the former chief weapons inspector, who resigned his post claiming that such weapons probably never existed. In 2003, Colin Powell presented a dossier of evidence to the United Nations security council alleging that Saddam Hussein had an extensive program of nuclear, chemical and biological laboratories capable of being adapted to produce illegal weapons. However, subsequent investigations have unearthed no real evidence of large-scale weapons productions. The now infamous British government claim in September 2002 that Saddam Hussein had an arsenal of weapons ready to be deployed in 45 minutes was the high watermark of official rhetoric. In his state of the union address earlier this month President Bush referred instead to evidence of weapons of mass destruction program-related activities.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

British loyalist terrorists are using maritime distress flares to kill and terrorize indigenous Irish Catholics. Recently, a flare was used in a booby trap device fixed to the gates of a Gaelic Athletic Association club in west Belfast. The police believe that it was from a batch of 80 taken in a robbery at Dunmurry, south Belfast, in 2003. The device failed to explode, as did another used in a booby trap bomb attack on a west Belfast house. The flares are designed to shoot a powerful light over 1,000 meters into the air and be seen for miles around - but pointed at someone at close range the effects would be deadly. A group of children had gone through the gate of the Lamh Dhearg GAA club for a training session. The device was only discovered, unexploded, after the session ended. The device could have killed the first person through the gate, whether a child or an adult. The police have appealed to the British loyalist community to reveal where the remaining 78 flares were being stored to contact them. There are fears that the flares could be used by British loyalist terrorists in a renewed campaign directed at the indigenous Irish nationalist community.

The SDLP has called on Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble to withdraw recent comments he made about human rights. Speaking at a victims conference in Madrid, Trimble said that the human rights industry was one of the great curses of the world. He accused human rights activists of justifying terrorism and complicity in the murder of innocent people. The SDLP said that the comments were appalling and outrageous given the fact that Trimble has won a Nobel Peace Prize. The party said that it was disgraceful and dangerous to say such things about human rights workers, who often risk their lives and well-being in the course of their jobs. It said that it was astounded that Trimble had not instead criticized bigotry, oppression and discrimination.

Charges against two Irish republicans said to be part of an alleged spy ring that caused the collapse of the Assembly and power-sharing executive, leading directly to the political crisis facing the peace process, have been dramatically dropped. Sinn Fein has accused the British police of political sabotage after the main charges against the party's former head of administration at Stormont, Denis Donaldson, were withdrawn. Similar charges against his son-in-law, Ciaran Kearney, were also withdrawn. The two now face only minor charges of collecting information on a judge, a former British soldier and a loyalist politician. The men are strongly contesting those charges as well, but the withdrawal of the main charges against them means that there was insufficient evidence to sustain the spy ring charges that caused the collapse of the institutions set up under the Good Friday Agreement. At the time, the Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble, threatened to resign from the executive, accusing Sinn Fein of political espionage. To prevent him resigning, the British government reimposed direct rule from London and the Executive and Assembly ceased to operate. Donaldson and Kearney were originally charged with possessing documents of a secret, confidential or restricted nature that originated in government offices. That central charge no longer exists. The men were arrested after a highly publicized police raid, captured by a local television crew. The raid netted nothing and the chief constable, Hugh Orde, later apologized for the very public and heavy-handed operation. This in turn led to the resignation of a former Special Branch police chief who claimed he had been victimized because of his determination to obtain evidence of a Stormont spy ring. Sinn Fein has begun using the term Bogusgate to replace the name given by British journalists to the original claims -- Stormontgate.

Brian Feeney tackles the British security forces.

British security personnel probably colluded with loyalist terrorists to carry out the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, according to Sean Donlon, former Irish ambassador to the United States. Donlon, who was also a former assistant secretary to the Department of Foreign Affairs and was stationed in the north of Ireland during the 1970s, said it was a probability rather than a possibility that the attacks were carried out with the help of the British army or RUC. He said the attacks on May 17, 1974, which killed 34 people, were more than likely part of an effort to bring down the Sunningdale Agreement, a political settlement that was reached between the British and Irish governments on the Six Counties in 1973. Donlon - who was addressing members of a government committee assessing the official report on the bombings - said that he came to the conclusion on collusion after his investigation into the behavior of security personnel in the north of Ireland. The investigation led to the Irish government successfully suing the British government for breaches of human rights (in relation to the interrogation of indigenous Irish Catholics in Castlereagh) in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. When asked how high up the chain of command the collusion went within the British security forces, the former Irish Ambassador said that he didn't know but it would have been at a senior level. Donlon - who was never interviewed by Justice Barron for his official report - was dismayed with the Barron report's findings in relation to collusion because it did not appear to delve into the area to any significant degree.

The Irish economy will record GDP growth of close to 5% in 2005, according to the European Commission. It anticipates that the Irish economy will expand by 3.7% in 2004, more than twice as fast as the 1.6% growth in 2003. Recently, Bank of Ireland economist Dan McLaughlin predicted that the Irish economy will grow by 4.5% in 2004, driven by improved consumer spending and an export rebound.

The Irish economy will create 35,000 jobs a year between 2004 and 2010, according to the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI). The think tank predicted that total employment in the Irish Republic will rise from 1,648,000 in 2001 to 1,963,000 in 2010.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

A study of the skulls of Neanderthals, comparing them to early and modern humans, has concluded that they were unlikely to have been the ancestors of modern humans. Scientists have long debated whether modern people are related to Neanderthals - the powerful hunters who dominated Europe before the arrival of modern humans. The new study, led by anthropologist Katerina Harvati of New York University, measured 15 standard landmarks on the face and skull of Neanderthals, early modern humans, current humans as well as other primate species. The study found that the differences measured between humans and Neanderthals were significantly greater than those found between subspecies of any single group, indicating that Neanderthals were not a subspecies of humans. In addition, the difference was as great or greater than that found between closely related primate species, such as humans, gorillas and chimpanzees. Harvati says that the analysis cannot completely rule out a relationship between humans and Neanderthals, but it strongly suggests that they were separate species.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Evidence is growing that the brain uses sleep time to consolidate memories acquired during the day. Scientists who measured the brain signals of rats found distinctive patterns of activity in certain areas of the brain during sleep. Their analysis suggests that the signals are reverberations lasting up to 48 hours after a novel experience. The finding will help scientists hunting genes key to memory formation.

Low levels of testosterone are linked with a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. In a large group of men, researchers looked at the levels of free testosterone, which is the amount of testosterone circulating in the blood. The researchers found a 26% decrease in the risk of Alzheimer's disease for every 50% increase in the amount of free testosterone measured in the blood. While levels of testosterone do decrease with age, levels dropped significantly more in men who developed Alzheimer's disease. In addition, men who developed Alzheimer's had about half the amount of testosterone compared to men who didn't get the disease. And for some men, this drop in testosterone was found 10 years before Alzheimer's was diagnosed.

Friday, January 23, 2004

The racism of British loyalists.

The British ambassador to Ireland has refused to say if the British Government would co-operate fully with any future independent public inquiry into the 1974 Dublin/Monaghan bombings which killed 34 people. Justice Henry Barron's report on the bombings has criticized the British Government's lack of co-operation and failure to produce more than a handful of documents. And the Barron report did not rule out collusion by members of the RUC, UDR or British Army in the bombings. The report said that there was unsubstantiated evidence from a credible witness that some of those involved in the bombings were working closely with, or were agents of the RUC special branch of British Army Intelligence. Barron said that the British Government refused to make original documents available to the inquiry. Following a trawl of 68,000 files, then Northern Secretary of State Dr John Reid sent a 16-page document to the Barron inquiry in February 2002 nearly 18 months after information was sought.

British loyalist terrorists have urged British Protestant colonists in north Antrim in the north of Ireland to boycott indigenous Irish Catholic-owned businesses. A statement by the Ulster Political Research Group - which offers political analysis to the Ulster Defence Association (UDA ) - congratulated the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on their recent election success. But the statement, which was carried in the local press, also warned British Protestant colonists to be on the alert over the growth in the indigenous Irish Catholic population. It called on British Protestant colonists to think before they shopped because they could be supporting indigenous Irish Catholics.

A Thai chicken butcher suspected of having bird flu has died of pneumonia. The 56-year-old man was one of six people who were being tested for bird flu in Thailand. Five people have already died from the disease in Vietnam since the start of 2004.

Juggling is good for the brain.

Brian Feeney on UDA violence.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

The role of genes in determining human gender.

People who have panic attacks lack a key neurochemical receptor in their brains. New research throws light on the molecular mechanisms that predispose a person to anxiety. A study, led by Alexander Neumeister of the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland, has identified a deficit in the 5HT1A receptor in people with panic disorder. Similar, but smaller deficits have also been found in people with depression.

Tracking the human migration from Africa.

The economic recovery in continental Europe is distinctly weak and could easily be wrecked should the euro continue to rise, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has warned. In contrast, growth in the United States should remain very strong, according to the OECD's chief economist, Jean-Philippe Cotis, who was speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos. He called on eurozone countries and the European Central Bank (ECB) to take every possible action to boost the recovery. And he chided the West's six largest economies - the United States, Japan, France, Germany, Italy and Britain - for failing to keep their budgets under control.

The loyalist terrorist Ulster Defence Association (UDA) cannot seriously be considered to be on ceasefire, the British Security Minister Jane Kennedy has said. She blamed the pro-British terrorist organization for recent hoax bombs across Belfast and attacks on prison officers' homes at a meeting with the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG), which speaks on behalf of the UDA. British Police have said that the UDA was behind a series of security alerts which recently brought parts of Belfast to a standstill. The ceasefires of the UDA/UFF and Loyalist Volunteer Force have not been recognised since October 2001 when the then secretary of state, John Reid, declared them over following a series of sectarian pipe bombings, murder and attacks on the police.

People who regularly oversleep now have a perfect excuse for being late for work. A scientific study found that sleep appears to boost creativity. The discovery helps explain why sleeping on a difficult problem often helps us to find solutions. Volunteers were asked to carry out a task which involved cracking a code made of strings of eight numbers. The German scientists found that after sleeping, participants were twice as likely to work out a rule that enabled the solution to be found much more quickly. Apparently, sleep restructures the memory and helps extract certain pieces of knowledge and insightful behavior.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Scientists say that Neanderthals, the human species that once lived alongside Homo sapiens, were probably frozen out of existence. Mystery surrounds the extinction of the Neanderthals, who abruptly vanished almost 30,000 years ago. The effects of climate and failure to compete with Homo sapiens are two theories that have deeply divided experts. Now a team of scientists, led by lTjeerd van Andel from the University of Cambridge, has pointed to the harsh winters of the last ice age as being the chief reason why the Neanderthals died out. Their study suggests that Neanderthals did not know how to deal with the cold, and there is evidence that the first early modern humans almost suffered the same fate. The team of archaeologists, anthropologists, geologists and climate modellers compiled a vast new set of evidence on life between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago. Ice cores from Greenland showed that Europe's climate varied hugely during the last ice age, especially in the period between 70,000 and 20,000 years ago. Cold glacial periods were punctuated by warmer times, and the average temperature could rise and fall several degrees within a decade. Studies showed that the changes had a tremendous effect on the flora and fauna of the time. Facing temperatures that plummeted in winter, Neanderthals retreated south from the advancing ice sheets. The extent to which the Neanderthals were deterred by the cold surprised the team. But the scientists discovered that the Aurignacian people, the earliest modern humans, who appeared about 40,000 years ago, did not seem able to cope with the cold either. They retreated south too, co-existing with the Neanderthals for several thousand years.

The far-right British National Party (BNP) is to contest the next European election in the north-east of England with one of the region's most prolific cosmetic surgeons standing as its candidate. Alan Patterson, who runs a string of cosmetic clinics, said that one of the reasons he had quit working for the NHS in the north of England was because he became fed up with treating foreign people. Patterson is married with children and was a member of the pro-British Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) when he lived in the north of Ireland.

The human brain solves problems as people sleep.

British loyalist bigotry in the north of Ireland.

The Irish economy will grow by 4.5% in 2004 as exports rebound and consumer spending recovers, according to Dan McLaughlin, chief economist at Bank of Ireland. In his outlook for 2004, McLaughlin claimed that the Irish economy will move closer to its 6% potential growth rate in 2004, reviving the image of the Celtic Tiger.

Modern farming is killing European birds.

Researchers have suggested that amygdala size matters when it comes to sex. According to David Reutens at the University of Melbourne, Australia, a person's sex drive may be proportional to the size of their amygdala, a small emotion center nestled at the base of the brain. Reutens and his colleagues scanned the brains of 45 patients with chronic epilepsy, a condition that typically dampens sex drive. As part of their treatment, they had undergone surgery to remove part of their brain, which freed up the remaining areas to run more normally. The team found that patients with the greater amount of amygdala left intact after surgery had a larger sex drive. Researchers must now test whether this holds true in the general population by comparing amygdala size and sexuality in a large group of people.

The strange secret of the Atkins diet.

Monkeys and their grammar skills.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Danny Morrison on secrets and truths.

Pope-burning in a British town.

The key cognitive step that allowed humans to become the only animals using language may have been identified. A new study on monkeys found that while they are able to understand basic rules about word patterns, they are not able to follow more complex rules that underpin the crucial next stage of language structure.

One person in six was prevented from voting in the November 2003 Assembly elections in the north of Ireland. The voters were either removed from the electoral register or failed to claim their vote under strict new electoral laws. In some areas, almost 90% of potential first-time voters were not entered on the register. Almost 58,000 new voters across the north of Ireland were unregistered on polling day.

The RUC investigation into the 1997 murder of 61-year-old Sean Brown was seriously deficient, incomplete and inadequate, according to the north of Ireland's police ombudsman. The family of the prominent GAA official from Bellaghy has demanded an independent investigation into his death following Nuala O'Loan's scathing findings on the failings of the RUC inquiry into his murder. As she released the 19-page report examining the inquiry, O'Loan highlighted numerous errors and flaws that led her to conclude that no earnest effort had been made by the police to identify those responsible for the murder. The killers still remain at large, and the type of gun used in the attack has been linked with two other loyalist murders in the mid-Ulster area. In addition, two boxes containing files crucial to the murder inquiry went missing from police stations soon after the Ombudsman launched her investigation of the inquiry. Sean Brown was shot dead by loyalist terrorists after being abducted while closing the gates of the Wolfe Tones GAA club.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Immigration in the new European Union.

Sunshine may prevent multiple sclerosis.

Tens of thousands of Iraqi Shia Muslims have demonstrated against American plans for a phased handover of power. The Shias, who are the majority of Iraqis, do not want to be marginalized as they were under Saddam Hussein. Iraq's leading Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, has called for direct elections later in 2004. The coalition says that early elections are not feasible, and proposes an appointed government broadly representing Iraq's diverse religious and ethnic groups. Shia concerns are that the selection process by regional caucuses will ensure representation of minority groups such as the Sunnis and the Kurds from the north, possibly at the expense of the Shias. Direct elections with some form of proportional representation would give power to the Shia majority, but US administrator Paul Bremer says that Iraq's war-torn infrastructure simply could not support general elections by the desired transfer deadline of June 30, 2004.

Germany, the biggest economy in Europe, shrank by 0.1% in 2003, official statistics have shown. It was the German economy's weakest full-year performance since the 1993 recession when it shrank 1.1%. Germany's economic woes and inability to keep its budget deficit within EU limits have triggered a legal challenge from the European Union. Germany racked up a 2003 budget deficit of 4%, missing the ceiling set by the EU's stability pact by a full percentage point. The shortfall was widely expected. The unapologetic stance taken by the German government and fellow offender France has prompted the European Commission to demand a ruling from the European Court.

The UN has warned that Lake Balkhash, the second largest lake in Central Asia after the Aral Sea, could dry up, creating another major environmental crisis in the region. Forty times the size of Lake Geneva, Balkhash lies in eastern Kazakhstan, 250 miles north of the commercial city of Almaty. Just like the Aral Sea, there is less and less water coming into Lake Balkhash resulting in the lake shrinking by over 770 square miles. The Aral Sea, once the world's fourth largest lake, has now turned into two separate water reservoirs surrounded by vast wastelands, as a result of Soviet policy to divert its two feeder rivers for cotton irrigation. Kazakhstan must secure Beijing's cooperation to prevent the crisis, as Lake Balkhash gets the bulk of its water from the river Ili, flowing to Kazakhstan from north-western China.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

A virus similar to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome infected people in Hong Kong 18 months before SARS appeared. A research team led by Bo Jian Zheng, a microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong, analyzed nearly 940 blood samples that had originally been collected in 2001 for a research project on hepatitis B. In the study, 17 samples carried antibodies either to the human SARS coronavirus, to a closely related animal coronavirus, or to both. Most of those who tested positive had a stronger response to the animal version. Such antibodies indicates that the Hong Kong inhabitants were exposed to SARS or to one of its animal cousins long before the disease was identified.

Scientists show that the purpose of disgust is to protect people.

Bird flu could be worse than SARS, if it mutates so that it can spread between humans, experts have warned. Three deaths in Vietnam have been linked to the disease, which is affecting poultry across Asia. Experts say that all cases seen in humans have occurred amongst people in close contact with sick birds. But the World Health Organization has warned that avian flu has a higher mortality rate than SARS.

Genes that promote wound healing may also help cancer to spread. A team at Stanford University found that some tumors activate these genes - turning them from a friend to a foe. The researchers focused on the process of wound healing because like cancer it allows cells to break the normal constraints on their growth. Both trigger the growth of new blood vessels, change the composition of the material around cells, and alter the way cells attach to each other. The Stanford team identified genes involved in wound healing by analyzing cells exposed to clotted blood to trigger the process. They then looked to see if the same genes were active in tumor samples. The researchers found that prostate and liver cancers always activated wound-healing genes, while tumors in the breast, colon and prostate were mixed. In these variable tissues, tumors with active wound-healing genes turned out to be highly aggressive and were more likely to spread to other tissues.

The selfish nature of generosity.

Scientists have identified a gene that appears to have played a key role in the development of the human brain. They believe that it is responsible for the expansion of an area of the brain called the cerebral cortex which controls abstract reasoning. The research, by Howard Hughes Medical Institute, focused on a particular gene, called ASPM, because mutations in its make-up are known to be linked to severe reductions in the size of the cerebral cortex in people who carry them. They compared the make-up of the human form of the gene with that of six other primate species, each of which corresponds to a key stage in the evolutionary path of modern humans. They ranged from the chimpanzee, which is man's closest living relative, to the owl monkey, a relatively primitive creature analogous to an early stage of human evolution. They found evidence that the make-up of the gene changed significantly between the species - and the higher up the evolutionary scale they went, the more changes they found. The biggest difference was found between the human and chimpanzee forms of the gene - confirming that the recent phase of human evolution has been the most speedy and profound. By contrast, when researchers looked at the make-up of the gene in more primitive animals such as cows, sheep, cats and dogs they found little evidence of significant changes between species. This implies that the speed of change was much slower further down the evolutionary ladder. The next stage in the research will be pin down exactly how ASPM functions in the brain. Research has suggested that the gene regulates the rate at which brain cells are produced in the cerebral cortex.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

The Irish unemployment rate dropped for the fifth month in a row after adjustment for seasonal factors, the Central Statistics Office of Ireland has reported. The new total of 169,700 for December 2003 represented 4.7% of the workforce, unchanged from November 2003 and down from a yearly high of 4.9% in July 2003, when an upward trend in unemployment was halted. The latest figures were generally regarded as a signal of a strengthening economic recovery.

School bullies do not suffer from low self-esteem and are often popular with their classmates, a new study has found. The study, which focused on nearly 2000 students, found that while about 7% of 12-year-olds are bullies, more than 20% of students are either bullies, victims or both. Jaana Juvonen, a psychology lecturer at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that bullies were admired by their peers, and thus felt good about themselves. Bullies are popular because their dominance earns them respect among the general student population who tend not to sympathize with the victims. Boys are twice as likely as girls to be bullies, and almost twice as likely to be victims of bullies. Boys are also three times as likely to be in both categories.

An Iron Age chariot unearthed at an Edinburgh building site has been proved the oldest in Britain. Radiocarbon tests on the wheels of the chariot have proved it dates back to 400BC - 200 years earlier than the previous oldest British find. Archaeologists studying it have also discovered that ancient Scots were more in touch with continental Europe than was previously thought. The discovery is the first of its kind in Scotland and believed to be the burial place of a nobleman, or warrior, whose chariot was placed with him as a mark of respect. The style of the burial has shown experts that Scots must have had strong links with Europe and been in tune with continental fads during the Iron Age. The style of burial - where the chariot is buried intact - is similar to burials in Northern France and Belgium. It is a unique find which proves the long-standing Celtic connections between Scotland and Europe. The only other places in Western Europe where similar discoveries have been made are in East Yorkshire and France.

Could animal diseases become the biggest threat to human health?

Scientists have reconstructed the environmental history of a Celtic mining town by digging through a peat bog near Dijon in France in search of lead residues and pollen grains. Their results confirm some historical theories about the settlement says Fabrice Monna from the University of Bourgogne in Dijon, who led the study. But the results also serve as a sobering reminder about how long pollution lasts. Monna's team concludes that about 20% of the lead pollution in the peat in 2004 was introduced before the eleventh century, and about 50% before the eighteenth century. Lead pollution peaked in the first century BC, after a Celtic tribe settled the area to exploit the rich deposits of lead, silver and zinc in the surrounding hills, and once again in the nineteenth century at the height of the Industrial Revolution.

The Irish economy is set to grow at the fastest rate in the eurozone in 2004. Irish gross domestic product (GDP) is set to surge by 5.5%, according to HSBC - more than three times as fast as the 1.7% it expects for the eurozone as whole. Ireland is positioned to rebound on the back of the US and Asian-led global recovery because the Irish economy is extremely open to surging international trade. Ireland’s only rival for leading eurozone growth is Greece, which is expected to perform strongly and to benefit from the Olympic Games in Athens later in 2004. Britain is set to grow by 2.4%, Germany by 1.2%, France by 1.6%, Italy by 1.4%, Spain by 2.9% and the United States by 3.7%.

A report published by the US Army War College has criticized the war against Iraq as a strategic error. It also suggests that the Bush administration's global war on terror may be unsustainable.

Women in Scotland will need to have more children in order to prevent a decline in the Scottish standard of living.

How British loyalist terrorists have made the north of Ireland the race-hate capital of Europe with their links to extreme hate groups such as the British National Party, Combat 18 and the White Nationalist Party.

Retired Canadian judge Peter Cory has gone over the head of the British government to inform the families of Pat Finucane, Rosemary Nelson, Robert Hamill and Billy Wright that he has recommended independent inquiries into their killings. Cory was so annoyed at the British government's delay in releasing his reports into the controversial killings that he personally contacted the families to tell them of his recommendations. Cory informed the families that he urged the British government to hold inquiries into the killings of lawyers Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson, Portadown man Robert Hamill, and Loyalist Volunteer Force leader Billy Wright. The British government has claimed a series of legal reasons for not publishing the reports into the Finucane, Nelson, Hamill and Wright killings. All of the families welcomed Cory's personal actions. Michael Finucane, son of Pat Finucane who was murdered in front of his family by the UDA in 1989 with British security force collusion, said Cory told him that he was motivated in his actions primarily by reasons of humanity and fairness to the families. Cory told the families of his recommendations but did not go into the detail of his report. Finucane said that the British government's stance on the report indicated that he could have little faith that it would order an independent and impartial inquiry. Finucane described Cory as a man of unquestionable integrity. But Finucane said he was concerned that if an inquiry were called, the British government would attempt to restrict its remit.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Economic optimism and the Irish economy.

Jewish voters would overwhelmingly support any major Democratic candidate over President Bush, according to the 2004 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion. Joe Lieberman, the only Jewish candidate, would lead Bush by the largest margin, 71% to 24%, the poll found.

Young children who regularly eat products containing milk fat are less likely to develop asthma, research suggests. Scientists say that the finding provides strong evidence that while asthma may, in part, be a genetic condition, it is certainly influenced by lifestyle factors too.

Tony Blair has indicated that weapons of mass destruction may never be found in Iraq, in his first admission of fallibility over the central justification he gave for going to war with Iraq in the first place.

China's health ministry has acknowledged a third suspected case of the deadly flu-like SARS virus in the southern province of Guangdong. The 35-year-old man has been isolated in hospital for medical observation. One of the suspected cases was previously confirmed but the man has since recovered. The other, a waitress, is in a stable condition.

Welsh people are to finally get recognition as a national category under new guidelines for monitoring racial and ethnic equality. Censuses, opinion surveys and job applications will all carry special boxes in future where the Welsh can officially describe their national heritage. A new manual on Britain's ethnic, religious and national groups has been released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). It follows a fierce campaign fought in Wales ahead of the last 2001 official British census because there was no box on that form designating Welsh as an identity. Plaid Cymru, who were at the head of the campaign, printed 200,000 special stickers for people to put on the forms marking their Welsh identity. Until now, only groups such as Asians, Africans and Irish have been able to denote their ethnic background on official forms.

Will Orangutans soon be extinct?

More heatwaves for summertime Europe?

Asians and the body-mass index (BMI).

British loyalist terrorists in the north of Ireland are forcing black people out of their homes as part of a plan to ethnically cleanse Belfast. With about one attack a day, race crime has risen by more than 900% since the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, as loyalist terrorists try to force the immigrant population out. The attacks have been particularly focused in south Belfast where Asians and Africans have been targeted. In one incident a South African woman, who had survived Soweto during apartheid, was attacked inside her home in the staunchly loyalist Village area of south Belfast. William Faulkner, an estate agent, was told by the Ulster Volunteer Force - a British loyalist terrorist group - to stop renting homes to Chinese and black people. British loyalist terrorists have close links with racist groups such as the National Front and Combat 18. A group called the White Nationalist Party have distributed racist leaflets in several areas with ethnic minorities and the British National Party have recently said that they would field several candidates in the next council elections.

Friday, January 09, 2004

George Bush and the discouraged workers.

A woman whose entire skin peeled off after a rare reaction to a drug has made an amazing recovery. Sarah Yeargain of from San Diego, California, developed the often fatal condition after taking an antibiotic. She developed blisters and swelling on her face and within days, her skin was coming off in sheets. Doctors at the University of California Regional Burn Center in San Diego saved her life by covering her entire body in artificial skin which helped her own skin to heal.

Interesting poll on the psychological effects of war and peace.

The Irish government must foster a new enterprise mindset and invest more in research and development, according to employers' group IBEC. In its submission to the Enterprise Strategy Group, which is developing a blueprint for Ireland's economic development over the next decade, IBEC said that Ireland's record in innovation is weak in comparison with key competitor countries. It said that Ireland must exceed the performance of other developed countries if it is serious about becoming a leading knowledge-based, high value-added economy. The recommendations are among six key priorities highlighted by IBEC in the submission. It urges further development of the education sector, a new infrastructure investment program for beyond 2006 and a new system to encourage start up enterprises in Ireland. IBEC also said that the traditional industry can continue to prosper by identifying niche markets and through innovation.

Using imaging technology to study split personalities.

It is possible to persuade the brain to consciously suppress unwanted memories. Researchers used brain scans to show that people can use willpower to block thoughts in the same way they stop unwanted actions. There has been controversy for years over whether a mechanism exists to hide away unpleasant memories. Experts say that it could help psychiatrists aid people scarred by traumatic experiences. The US research teams from Stanford and Oregon universities seem to have demonstrated that, given the right circumstances, an individual can wipe a memory out - or at least suppress it deeply. In the study, MRI scans were used to measure activity in different areas of the brain. Scientists already broadly know what functions are represented by activity in various different areas, so by testing activity, they can work out what is going on in the minds of their volunteers. A word test was given to the volunteers, involving pairs of words such as ordeal-roach, steam-train and jaw-gum. The participants were ordered to learn the word pairs, then given the first word and either asked to remember its other half or suppress it. Remarkably, when a formal test on the dozens of word pairs was later given, the researchers found that their volunteers had more trouble remembering those they had been asked to suppress than the others. While this suppressing process was going on, the brain scans revealed that the activity in the brain was similar to that spotted when a person sets out to complete a physical manoeuvre, but pulls back because of a perceived danger.

Global warming is apparently a greater threat than terrorism.

What is bad for the Earth is apparently bad for us as well.

Mary McAleese and the new Ireland.

The British identity crisis and the problems of the north of Ireland.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

The latest report on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction is scornful of how intelligence was presented and says that Iraq was not an imminent threat and calls for an end to the US doctrine of pre-emptive war.

Moody's reports on the state of the Irish economy.

Historical figures including Socrates, Charles Darwin, and Andy Warhol probably had a form of autism. Professor Michael Fitzgerald, of Trinity College Dublin believes that they showed signs of Asperger's syndrome. Scientific geniuses Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein have also been previously linked to the condition. Asperger's is associated with poor social skills, and obsessions with complex topics such as music. However, people with the condition are often bright, and have above average verbal skills. Professor Fitzgerald said that the number of people being diagnosed with Asperger's had significantly increased as doctors had become more aware of the condition. He came to his conclusion after comparing the behaviour of his patients with that described in the biographies of the famous. He believes that the author Lewis Carroll, the poet W.B. Yeats and former Irish prime minister Eamon de Valera also showed signs of autism disorders. The claims are made in Fitzgerald's new book: In Autism and Creativity: Is There a Link Between Autism in Men and Exceptional Ability?

Will Ariel Sharon admit that the brutal tactics he has used in dealing with the Palestinian people have failed to bring peace?

Can Japan revive its economy with a dwindling workforce?

Archaeologists are looking very foolish after mistaking a 1940s sunken patio for a 9th century Viking village. Fife County Archaeologist Douglas Spiers said his team concluded that the slabs found in the back garden of a Buckhaven home had originally been hauled by Norse settlers from a nearby beach. Even the discovery of a Second World War gas mask on the plot failed to deter them from their theory that this was the first evidence ever seen of Viking homes built on mainland Scotland.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom has said his government plans to start moving more than 18,000 Ethiopian Jews to the Middle East.

A second suspected case of SARS has been identified in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong. A waitress has been admitted to hospital and isolated. The waitress suspected of having the disease reportedly worked in a restaurant serving wild game in the southern city of Guangzhou. She has been in hospital since December 31, 2003 while 48 people close to her have been placed under quarantine.

A racist attack on a Pakistani family, including a pregnant woman, has been condemned as a hate crime by the police. The family were living in an area of south Belfast that is dominated by pro-British loyalists.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

So much for British technology.

Martin McGuinness was a hero for indigenous Irish teenagers in Derry.

German scientists say that whether the hair on your crown grows clockwise or anti-clockwise could affect the way your brain work. Neuroscientists at Bonn University are studying men's hair and say that very few people have crowns that turn anti-clockwise. They believe that being left-haired could effect the way the brain functions in much the same way that being left-handed is believed to do. The scientists say that they have already managed to confirm earlier theories that men with anti-clockwise crowns are also more likely to be left-handed. Now the Bonn team has set out to research whether the way men's hair turns is also connected to the way their brains handle speech. Normally, the left hemisphere of the brain deals with most language-related tasks but, in left-handed people, research has shown that the right half tends to be dominant in language processing. The Bonn study will determine if this is true for people who are left-haired. The tests will be carried out through magnetic resonance imaging.

The Irish economy is likely to accelerate its GNP growth to 3.1% in 2004, according to research from Davy Stockbrokers. Davy Stockbrokers has also tipped the annual inflation rate to average 1.3% in 2004 and the unemployment rate to rise to 6%. Recently, the Irish Central Bank reported signs of improvement internationally and evidence of recovery in the Irish economy. The Central Bank predicted Irish GNP growth of 3% and GDP expansion of around 3.5% in 2004.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Study into links between skin cancer and hair color.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Jewish feminists demand the right to pray aloud at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall, despite the threat of jail and attacks by Orthodox Jewish men.

The Justice Minister has warned that Israel should re-examine its controversial West Bank barrier to avoid an international boycott. Tommy Lapid said that Israel could be treated like apartheid-era South Africa over the barrier aimed to separate Israelis from Palestinians. The barrier has already been condemned by a number of countries.

British troops will remain in Iraq for years not months, according to British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. Former Armed Forces Minister Doug Henderson said that Straw's comments bore out anti-war MPs' warnings that British troops could become entrenched in Iraq.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that an independent laboratory test has confirmed a case of SARS in Guangdong. WHO officials do not know how the man in southern China contracted the virus. Chinese officials have ordered all local wildlife markets to shut down and called for the extermination of civet cats in Guangdong which was the original location of the 2003 SARS epidemic.

Research showing that sperm counts have dropped by almost a third in a decade, has renewed concerns about human male fertility. A study of 7,500 men, who attended the Aberdeen Fertility Center between 1989 and 2002, showed that average sperm concentrations fell by nearly 30%. Lead researcher Siladitya Bhattacharya said that this was a cause for concern and the reasons behind it needed to be explained. It is believed that sperm counts around the world have fallen by almost 50% since the 1950's. Drug use, alcohol, smoking and obesity are among the factors most frequently blamed for the decline in the number and quality of sperm. Environmental factors such pesticides, chemicals and radioactive material have also been linked to decreases in fertility.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Is China seeing a return of SARS?

Humans lived high above the Arctic Circle during the last Ice Age. New Stone Age artifacts from Yana in northern Siberia have pushed back the human presence in the Arctic by around 16,000 years, surprising many experts. The finds also hint that North America may have been populated much earlier than thought given the dig's relative proximity to the Bering Strait. Vladimir Pitulko from the Institute for the History of Material Culture in St Petersburg, Russia, and others have uncovered numerous artifacts and animal bones in frozen deposits from an ancient terrace by the Yana River. The artifacts, made by modern humans (Homo sapiens), include spear foreshafts and stone tools. The finds suggest that humans may have been hunting big game animals in the region by around 30,000 years ago. The first colonists are thought to have crossed into the New World from Asia when a fall in sea levels at the height of the last Ice Age formed a land bridge between the two continents known as Beringia. To some researchers, the observation that people had adapted to living in the Arctic by 30,000 years ago raises the possibility that settlers could have reached North America even earlier. But the suggestion is highly controversial.