Anti-Colonial Agitator

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Ireland has topped an international index that measures globalization.

Can having many children make men obese?

Can oral sex cause mouth cancer?

People in North America were voyaging by sea some 8,000 years ago, boosting a theory that some of the continent's first settlers arrived by boat. That is the claim of archaeologists who have found evidence of ancient seafaring along the Californian coast. The traditional view holds that the first Americans were trekkers from Siberia who crossed a land bridge into Alaska during the last Ice Age. Researchers conducted an archaeological analysis of 8,000-year-old tools unearthed at Eel Point on San Clemente, one of the eight Channel Islands that lie off the Californian coast. They propose that some tools used by the prehistoric people of Eel Point may have had the same functions as implements employed for boat-building by Chumash Indians in the early 20th Century. Animal remains uncovered at the site show that the inhabitants hunted dolphins, sea lions and seals and collected mussels. Furthermore, Professor Mark Raab points out that the nearby island of San Miguel was occupied by humans 12,200 years ago - circumstantial evidence that sea travel began even earlier. But some researchers reject suggestions that early Americans colonized the continent by coasting along its shoreline in boats. They maintain that the first Americans were the Clovis people, who crossed into the New World from Asia when a fall in sea levels at the height of the last Ice Age created a land bridge, known as Beringia, between the two continents.

Bachelors have more of the hormone that makes men hungry for sex. Scientists found that husbands have less testosterone than men who are free and single, especially when they have children. The effect could be to encourage men with families not to stray. Being less driven by their hormones, they would be more likely to remain responsible and faithful. In monogamous birds, testosterone levels fall in the males after they find a mate and start taking care of offspring. Artificially raising their hormone levels causes them to play the field and become less interested in parenting. Anthropologist Peter Gray and a team of US researchers at Harvard University wondered whether men were similarly influenced. They measured testosterone in the saliva of 58 men who were either single, married, or married with children. In all the men, hormone levels followed the normal cycle of peaking in the morning and falling over the course of the day. But the decrease was greater in married men than bachelors - and even more pronounced in fathers. Experiences such as winning or losing at sport are known to affect testosterone levels, so it is thought that parenting could have an influence as well. Gray hopes to separate the effects of marriage from parenting by studying testosterone in men who have separated from their wives but have joint custody of their children.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

The decline of the Scottish population.

Teen brains show less activity in the regions associated with motivation, reveals a brain imaging study. And adolescents may be more willing to engage in dangerous activities because this crucial part of their brain is under-developed. Teen risk-taking is much higher than in adults - teenagers are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol and take sexual risks - but the reasons for it are hotly debated. Now researchers at US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism have found evidence for a difference in brain chemistry in a part of the brain involved in calculating risk and reward. In adolescents, this part of the brain, known as the right ventrial striatum, appears to be under-active, says James Bjork, who led the study. Perhaps teens seek more extreme behaviours to achieve normal levels of stimulation in this brain region. Bjork and colleagues carried out brain scans on 12 teenagers and 12 adults while they played a specially designed gambling game, where they were given differing financial incentives to hit a target. Although teens and adults rated the rewards equally when questioned, and hit the targets with equal frequencies, their brain scans showed a different story. The right ventral striatum in the adolescents showed significantly less activity than that of the adults. It appears that the brain circuitry in motivation to get rewards is under-engaged in teenagers and so it explains why they need extreme stimuli to achieve the same level of brain activity. The difference in activity may be exaggerated when the reward is not instant, which may explain why teenagers have difficulties achieving long-term goals.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Europe's economic recovery has been dealt a blow by waning confidence in Germany and Italy. The key Ifo poll of German executives fell in February 2004, while a survey of Italian consumers recorded its lowest ever reading. Economists cited the strength of the euro and accounting scandals as some of the reasons behind the mood change.

The United States and Britain created facts where there were none in the run-up to the war in Iraq, according to Hans Blix. The former head of the UN weapons inspections team has repeatedly criticized the US and British handling of information ahead of the war. Blix acknowledged that inspectors would not have gained access to Iraq in late 2002 without US military pressure but added that Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz believed that the inspections were useless. Blix also said that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was a danger to his own people, but not to the world.

Danny Morrison on truth and lies.

The soya bean may play a role in male infertility. Soya contains the female hormone estrogen and too much of it in the diet is being linked to poor quality sperm. Dr Lorraine Anderson established the link in research carried out at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. Anderson said that soya can also damage the reproductive capability of young boys if they eat a lot of it when they are growing up.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Why has the German economy performed so poorly?

A secret report warns of a catastrophe by 2020 due to climate change.

Tony Blair on EU migrants.

Brian Feeney on the SDLP's future.

Friday, February 20, 2004

The ongoing criminal activities of the UDA.

A new poll shows that the Bay Area is the only region in California whose residents favor same-sex marriage. A survey by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 58% of the Bay Area residents said they approved of same-sex weddings while 37% were opposed to such marriages. But statewide, the poll found that the rest of the state's major regions, and most Californians were opposed to allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. The survey of a little more than two thousand people found that 50% of Californians were opposed to allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, while 44% were in favor.

Jude Collins on Irish reunification.

A strong relationship exists between gluten intolerance and schizophrenia. Another study has found that as many as one in 100 children may be affected by celiac disease - an intolerance to gluten found in foods made from flour. Some clinical trials have shown that a cereal-free diet, such as that followed by those with celiac disease, helped with the symptoms of schizophrenia. The most important genetic marker found in the study of celiac disease has also been found to be close to one implicated in schizophrenia. In the new research, a team from the United States and Denmark studied 7,997 people admitted to a Danish psychiatric facility for the first time between 1981 and 1998. For each case they also randomly selected 25 control subjects matched by year of birth and sex. Four patients, five mothers of patients and three fathers of patients were being treated for celiac disease before they were admitted to hospital with schizophrenia - 1.5 per 1,000 patients. Cases among the control group were 0.5 per 1,000 people. The researchers found that a history of celiac disease is a risk factor for schizophrenia. The team, from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and Aarhus University in Denmark, said that an important question was the degree to which removing gluten from the diet would alleviate symptoms in those with schizophrenia and celiac disease.

Taking cocaine could cause irreversible brain damage. Tests on genetically modified mice showed that cocaine inhibited the brain by destroying a key protein responsible for learning and memory. Abusing the highly addictive drug can lead to long-term memory loss and learning difficulties. One of the scientists behind the study said that prolonged abuse could even affect long-term career prospects. Scientists have already shown that cocaine gives users an euphoric feeling by stimulating the area of the brain known as the striatum and leads to a craving for more of the drug. Now, researchers at the University of Edinburgh, the Cambridgeshire-based Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, and US scientists have shown that levels of the protein PSD-95 - directly linked to learning and long-term memory - dropped by half when exposed to cocaine in laboratory tests.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

The Frum-Perle prescription for endless conflict.

Applying the Cyprus solution to the north of Ireland.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Half of all human languages will have disappeared by the end of the twenty-first century, as smaller societies are assimilated into national and global cultures. Some 6,800 unique languages are thought to exist at present. But social, demographic and political factors are all contributing to the rapid disappearance of many mother tongues.

Female fertility, women's behavior and other women.

Tony Blair: human rights windbag.

Brian Hutton and British colonialism in Ireland.

Britain's role in Iraq and the north of Ireland.

Senator John Kerry has criticized President Bush for pushing the north of Ireland peace process down the White House's foreign policy agenda. Kerry - the frontrunner to win the Democratic nomination to fight Bush in the presidential elections - also criticized the DUP for refusing to form a government with Sinn Fein. Kerry accused the Bush administration of failing to build on Bill Clinton's efforts to promote the peace process. Kerry's campaign team said that there had not been a US ambassador to Ireland for more than a year, adding that the Bush administration's lack of urgency in appointing one was clear evidence that Ireland was not a high priority for the president.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

The human brain may have started evolving its unique characteristics much earlier than has previously been supposed. Hominid brains were being reorganized before the growth in brain size thought to have established a gulf between human and ape abilities. The conclusions come from analysis of a small-brained fossil hominid - or human-like primate - from South Africa. Because the brain creates a mirror image of its surface on the inside of the skull, scientists can create a cast - or endocast - by applying several layers of rubber paint to the cavity. When dry, this creates a rubber model of the brain. The researchers studied an endocast of the brain of Stw 505, a hominid specimen belonging to the species Australopithecus africanus that was unearthed in the Sterkfontein caves in South Africa in the 1980s. Stw 505 is between 2 and 3 million years old. When differences in size are discounted, the overall form of human and ape brains are remarkably similar. One of a handful of differences is the position of the primary visual striate cortex (PVC), an area of the brain devoted exclusively to vision. The boundaries of this region are defined by an arching depression in the brain's surface called the lunate sulcus. In the ape brain, the lunate sulcus is situated further forwards than it is in human brains. This means that the PVC is larger in apes. Researchers had claimed that the brain had to increase in overall size before the volume of the PVC was reduced. This could only have occurred when big-brained Homo - the group of hominids to which humans belong - appeared on the scene around 2.4 million years ago. Australopithecines were the forerunners of Homo, but their brains were similar in size to those of chimpanzees. But the brain cast of Stw 505 shows that its lunate sulcus was positioned toward the back of the brain, as it is in humans. The new data suggest that the brains of australopithecines were already evolving towards a more human condition.

The Netherlands looks set to be the latest country to breach the controversial EU Growth & Stability Pact, with a budget deficit of 3.3% of GDP forecast for 2004. The Netherlands would join France, Germany and Portugal in breaching the Pact's rules. Germany and France will break the limits for the third year in a row in 2004.

Women's taste in men could vary depending on whether they are taking the contraceptive pill. Psychologists say that taking the contraceptive may lead to women choosing men with a macho appearance, as opposed to those with more feminine features. During tests, scientists at St Andrews and Stirling Universities showed female subjects different images of men and asked which one they would select as a potential long-term companion. Women who were on the pill were more attracted to men with strong masculine features but the reverse was true of women not taking the contraceptive. The study argues that men with more masculine faces should be perceived to be more attractive as their characteristics suggest that they will provide good immunity genes. But researchers found that in choosing long-term partners, women would subconsciously select men with less-threatening facial features, theoretically indicating honesty and good child-rearing skills. Men with a more rugged appearance, such as a pronounced jawline and cheekbones, were held to be more attractive for women looking for short-term partners. Anthony Little, who conducted the research, said that the pill's disruption on ovulation could lead to women making the wrong choice in long-term partners. Previous research at St Andrews University had suggested that a woman's menstrual cycle was a key factor in deciding preferences between masculine and feminine features in potential partners.

Singapore is launching two new TV shows to promote sex, in an effort to tackle its falling birth rate. The programs' host, Dr Wei Siang Yu, says that he wants to educate the public in "love, sex and baby strategy". One show will give sex therapy, and in the other couples will compete to conceive. Singapore has one of the world's lowest birth rates, with only 1.24 children born to each woman in 2003.

Taking a brisk walk may keep your mind agile later in life. Researchers have found clear evidence that an aerobic exercise program - even a fairly gentle one - may boost performance in key areas of the brain. Other studies have also suggested that keeping physically active could have a benefit on mind power. It is possible that improved blood flow to the brain may be partly responsible, or that exercise stimulates the release of chemicals that influence brain cell growth and activity. The research team, led by Professor Arthur Kramer from the Beckman Institute in Illinois, scanned the brains of volunteers using a magnetic resonance scanner. He then split them up and put some on a cardiovascular fitness program, while the others were sent on non-aerobic stretching sessions. The aerobic exercise was not particularly severe, involving gradually increasing periods of walking over three months, followed by 45 minutes of brisk walking a day for the final three months. After six months, the volunteers were scanned again and given mental tests. The scans showed distinct changes in brain function in two areas - the middle frontal and superior parietal regions. These areas have been linked to the ability to keep the mind on a particular task, and spatial attention in general. When the aerobic exercisers were given mental tests, they improved their scores by 11%, while the volunteers in the other group did slightly worse. In mice, research has suggested that exercise produces increased levels of a molecule called brain-derived neurotrophin factor - which not only protects the brain, but can also increase connections between brain cells.

All domestic purebred dog breeds fall into one of 10 major groupings. A study of genetics and even historical records has revealed how close the breeds are to each other and the order in which they emerged over millennia. Scientists believe that comparisons between dogs and humans will lead to new medical treatments for both species. Virtually all modern purebred dogs are thought to have evolved from just a handful of grey wolves in Asia about 15,000 years ago. Today, Canis familiaris, to give the dog its formal scientific name, shows more variation in shape, size, color and behavior than any other mammal on the planet. The jigsaw of how these remarkable differences emerged has now been pieced together by Deborah Lynch, from the Canine Studies Institute in Aurora, Ohio, and Jenny Madeoy, from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Institute, in Washington State. They looked through ancient texts, historical records, archaeological artifacts, works of art and the latest papers on genetics to develop their map of dog ancestry. Lynch's groupings classify dogs into "sight" and "scent" hounds, "working and guard", "toy and companion", "northern", "flushing" spaniels, "water spaniel/retriever", "pointers" "terriers" and "herding". Each developed according to its functional relationship with human beings.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Has science found a cure for dyslexia?

Menzies Campbell on Israel's wall.

Lower childhood IQ may be linked to the development of dementia later in life. A study based on school records of children born in 1921 has found that those with the lowest scores in IQ tests were significantly more likely to develop dementia. The link with childhood IQ becomes apparent at age 64, is stronger at age 72 and stronger still at age 77. Professor Lawrence Whalley, Dr John Starr and Professor Ian Deary believe their study shows that the same genes that determine intelligence may also be responsible for delaying the onset of dementia. The study suggests that individuals at risk of developing dementia may be targeted for gene therapy in future years.

The connection between creativity and mental illness.

Brian Feeney on the DUP and the Assembly.

An extreme right-wing group has broken away from the British National Party (BNP) and is fighting a byelection in a bid to win its first council seat. England First is contesting a vacancy on Lancaster city council at the end of February 2004, which will be the first public test of the party that was set up in the summer of 2003 by former BNP member Mark Cotterill. Cotterill worked in the United States for two years as chairman of the American Friends of the BNP before returning to Britain and splitting from the party. He is acting as election agent to Paul Bamford, who is standing in the Heysham South ward.

Infant mortality has risen in the United States for the first time in 45 years, new US government figures have revealed. The rise is being blamed partly on the increasing use of assisted reproductive therapies such as IVF by couples with fertility problems. Between 2001 and 2002, the number of US infants dying within their first year for every 1000 live births climbed from 6.8 to 7.0, says the report from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That is equivalent to nearly 500 additional infant deaths. Until now, infant mortality in the US has declined every year since 1958. Most of the increase is due to a higher proportion of babies aged less than 28 days old dying.

The fraction of left-handed people today is about the same as it was during the Ice Age, according to data from prehistoric handprints. They were found in caves painted during the Upper Paleolithic period, between 30,000 and 10,000 years ago. Left-handedness may have conferred prehistoric man advantages, such as in combat. When Stone Age man produced their remarkable cave paintings they often left handprints on the walls produced by blowing pigments from one hand through a tube held by the other hand. Charlotte Faurie and Michel Raymond at the University of Montpellier, France, deduced the prehistoric cave painters' handedness by spraying paint against cave walls to see which hand they pressed against the wall, and therefore did not use for drawing. Looking at 507 handprints from 26 caves in France and Spain, they deduced that 23% of them were right-handed, which indicated that they were made by left-handers. In the general population today about 12% are left-handed, though populations vary considerably, between 3% and 30%. Because handedness has a genetic component the researchers wondered why the proportion of left-handers should have remained so constant over 30,000 years - the age of the oldest cave studied. They suggest that because left-handedness is relatively rare it provides certain advantages over those who are right-handed, such as in solo and group fighting. The researchers say their findings add to the evidence that the evolutionary forces that cause right- and left-handedness are independent of culture.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

The Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) is a de facto intelligence test, according to researchers at Case Western Reserve University.

Archaeologists have dug up more than they bargained for at the site of a company's planned new supermarket in Ballymoney in the north of Ireland. Hoping to discover traces of a medieval castle, believed to have once occupied the site, the archaeologists were amazed when they unearthed remains which date back some 9,000 years. Fragments of clay pottery and flints have been found in what is thought to be the remnants of an ancient settlement from the Neolithic period. Scientists also uncovered a complete axehead and evidence of a possible structure. Peter Bowen, the head archaeologist on the site, claims that the majority of the finds date back to about 3000BC, but he believes that some of their discoveries may even predate that by a further 4000 years, to 7000BC, a period known as the Mesolithic.

A group of scientists have provided strong evidence that a popular hypothesis concerning the origins of a genetic mutation common among people of Northern European ancestry that protects against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is wrong. The hypothesis suggests that the mutation conferred resistance against bubonic plague in the Middle Ages, much as it does against HIV today. This idea was based on the fact that the mutation first appeared around the same time that the Black Death plague epidemic killed a third of Europe's population in the years 1346-1352. Since HIV was not present in Europe at this time, individuals with the mutation must have been protected against some other disease. Professor Donald Mosier and his colleagues performed studies that demonstrate that the mutation does not protect against plague infection in mouse models and that it is unlikely to have offered any protection against the plague in humans during the Middle Ages. The mutation in question is in the C-C chemokine receptor 5 gene, which makes the human receptor protein called CCR5. CCR5 is a seven trans-membrane spanning protein of 332 amino acids that inserts into the cell membranes of human CD4+ T helper cells. HIV particles use CCR5 to gain entry into CD4+ T cells. The CCR5 32 mutation -- a deletion of 32 bases of DNA from the CCR5 gene -- was first identified in 1996 in individuals who seemed to be protected from infection with HIV despite having had multiple high-risk exposures to the virus. The resistant individuals all had the 32-base pair mutation in their CCR5 genes, and that left them with CD4+ T cells with no CCR5 receptors, conferring resistance to HIV infection. Later data showed that individuals who were heterozygous for the mutation had lower CCR5 expression levels, less cell-to-cell infection, and brighter clinical prognoses. In order to test the HIV/plague hypothesis, an attenuated, non-transmissible form of Yersinia pestis, the bacterial cause of plague, was tested on mice both with and without the CCR5 32 mutation. There was no difference in susceptibility between the two groups. The possibility still exists that the CCR5 32 mutation arose due to the influence of some other disease that was prevalent in the Middle Ages, such as smallpox. Mosier plans to address this possibility next.

Jack Straw, the British Foreign Secretary, has revealed that he did not know the British government's claim that Saddam Hussein could unleash weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in 45 minutes of an order to do so referred merely to battlefield munitions until after the Iraq war. Straw's admission puts him in the same camp as the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who has said that he was unaware that the 45-minute claim did not refer to strategic missiles when he took Britain to war in Iraq. This means that, while the British Defense Secretary, Geoff Hoon, and the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, John Scarlett, knew ahead of the invasion that the claim only referred to battlefield munitions, Tony Blair and Jack Straw did not. Recently, Donald Rumsfeld, the American Defense Secretary, has said that he could not remember ever hearing the 45-minute claim, which was made in the British government's September 2002 dossier on Iraq's suspected programs of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

What was the real reason for America going to war in Iraq?

Austria's growing movement to lay claim to the invention of tartan holds more weight than a hefty kilt, according to a recent investigation which determined that tartan likely originated in the land of Lederhosen, rather than in Scotland. For the past thirty years, archaeologists have unearthed evidence of ancient tartan in Austria. The country's recent interest in the checkered design, however, is due to one particular find, a remnant of an early Celtic kilt that may be over 2,000 years old. Tartans have been found as far away as western China on the mummies of fair-haired, Caucasian travelers who perished in the Talkamakan Desert in Xinjiang. The tartan-wearing travelers to Asia could have been Celts from Central Europe so the finds in China could further support Austria's claim to the fabric design. Scotland can lay claim to the use of tartan for clan allegiance and identification since tartan's clan symbolism is a relatively recent invention that originated in Scotland in the 1700s.

Smoking damages almost all aspects of sexual, reproductive and child health, according to a report. The study, by the British Medical Association (BMA), says that smoking has caused impotence in 120,000 men aged 30-50. It is responsible for up to 5,000 miscarriages a year, reduces the chances of successful IVF and is implicated in cases of cervical cancer. The report concludes that the damage inflicted by smoking is evident throughout reproductive life. Not only can smoking prevent people from starting a family, the report says, it can also damage their children. It says that smoking reduces the chances of a woman conceiving by up to 40% per cycle. And women who smoke during pregnancy are three times more likely to have a low birth-weight baby. Low birth weight is closely linked to infant illness and death. Passive smoking is linked to cot death, premature birth, respiratory infection in children and the development of childhood asthma. It is estimated that each year more than 17,000 children less than five years old are admitted to British hospitals because of respiratory illness caused by exposure to cigarette smoke.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Moves to halt Scotland's population decline by attracting migrants with work permits are close to being finalized, it has emerged. First Minister Jack McConnell has warned that, without action, Scotland's working-age population could fall below three million within a generation. The Scottish Executive is working with Westminster to boost the number of migrants settling in Scotland.

A new poll finds that most Americans don't want laws in their states that would legalize gay marriage. The National Annenberg Election Survey found that Americans oppose same-sex marriage laws by 60% to 31% . But 49% of those surveyed opposed a constitutional amendment, while 42% supported it. The poll was taken after the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriages.

Monday, February 09, 2004

The Irish economy is likely to outshine all its Euro-zone competitors in 2004, confirming the superiority of its economic model over the big government policies favored by most other European countries. Fifteen years ago, before the start of its program of reforms, Ireland's gross domestic product (GDP) per person was less than two thirds that of Britain; now it is higher than Britain's or Germany's and is continuing to pull ahead. Economists are predicting that Irish GDP will grow by a healthy 3.8% in 2004, far more than is expected for Britain, Germany, Spain, Italy or France. The European Commission believes that Ireland is on course to return to a growth rate of around 5% by 2005-2006.

The death of a parent has a less harmful effect on children than divorce or separation, according to researchers at University College Dublin. Children of divorced parents performed poorly at school, had less developed social skills and a greater chance of developing depression. It also found that children felt a greater sense of loss when their parents broke up than when one of them had died.

Friday, February 06, 2004

The connection between the Nazis and American eugenicists.

The problems of being an Arab in Israel.

The Irish government, the Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) and Fianna Fáil are showing a modest recovery in support, ending an 18-month period of decline which led them to record low points in 2003, according to the latest Irish Times/TNS mrbi opinion poll. Satisfaction with the Coalition still remains lower than at any stage during its 1997-2002 term of office. However, Fine Gael has failed to record any increase in support and Labor has lost some of the gains it recorded in 2003. Sinn Féin continues a steady climb in support and now stands at 12% of the national vote, its highest ever in an Irish Times/TNS mrbi poll in the Irish Republic. This compares with 6.5% in the 2002 general election. Its support in Dublin is now equal to that of Fine Gael and Labor and it is poised to make significant gains in the local elections in June 2004. Its support is highest among younger voters, urban dwellers, men and the less well off. With Sinn Féin making gains, its president, Gerry Adams, also remains the party leader with the highest public approval. Some 51% are satisfied with his performance, up 8; 24% are dissatisfied, down 6; and 25% have no opinion, down 2.

The British terrorist Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) has stood down a leader in south Belfast, according to loyalist sources. The move follows a recent spate of racial attacks in the area where Chinese and Pakistani families, including pregnant women, have been forced to leave their homes. Loyalist sources have said that they were aware that the UVF had stood down its leader in the Donegall Road and Village areas but, the UVF has not confirmed this and a source said that the group would not discuss internal discipline. Recently, David Ervine of the Progressive Unionist Party, which is linked to the UVF, admitted that some of the organization's members may have been involved in the racial attacks. Police statistics show 226 reported incidents of racism in the Six Counties in the 12 months up to March 2003. But 212 incidents took place in just nine months between April and December 2003. Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland said that three people had recently been arrested over racial incidents with one person charged. He said that there were individuals linked to loyalist terrorists involved in some racial incidents in south Belfast.

Sinn Fein may continue to raise money in the United States, the White House has said. US Officials say that the Provisional IRA (PIRA) is not a terrorist organization. President Bush's spokesman Frederick Jones has said that Sinn Fein can continue to raise money since the PIRA is not on the State Department's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

Jude Collins on the SDLP's problems in Europe.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

The north of Ireland's Deputy Chief Constable Paul Leighton says that the police have an open mind on how the murder of Sean Brown should be reinvestigated. Recently the Police Ombudsman issued a highly critical report on the original RUC investigation and Leighton has accepted that there were significant failings on the part of the police. Brown was shot dead by terrorists from the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF). His family feels that the murder should not be reinvestigated by the PSNI/RUC. The 61-year-old indigenous Irish Catholic was shot dead by the LVF after being abducted outside a GAA club in Bellaghy, County Derry. His body was later found in a burned out car. In January 2004, the office of Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan said that it had upheld two complaints from Brown's family about the RUC inquiry into his murder. These were that the investigation had not been efficiently and property carried out and that no earnest effort was made to identify those who had carried out the murder. Following the ruling PSNI/RUC Chief Constable Hugh Orde ordered a new investigation into the murder by a special team of detectives. Brown's family had wanted an outside force to conduct any new inquiry into the murder due to suspicions of collusion between the police and British loyalist terrorists.

Ireland is the only European Union (EU) member state not to have restricted the rights of citizens from the 10 countries due to join in May 2004. Apparently, Ireland will be the only one of the existing 15 EU members to offer equal work and welfare rights to citizens of the accession states. Britain has become the latest country to take measures to discourage inward migration from the accession states. Fine Gael has called on the Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) to state if he intends to follow Britain's lead and introduce new restrictions.

Brian Feeney on paramilitary racketeering.

More UDA violence?

Scientists say a person's sex drive may be proportional to the size of a part of their brain. Australian researchers from the University of Melbourne believe that the size of the amygdala, a miniature emotion center that is nestled at the base of the brain may determine how much sex a person wants. As small as an almond, the amygdala has long been known to process our reactions to fear. Previous studies have shown, for example, that the amygdala is stimulated by erotic movies, and it's considered vital for mating behavior in many animals. The Australian team, led by David Reutens, scanned the brains of 45 patients who had chronic epilepsy, which is known to reduce sex drive. As part of the treatment for epilepsy, each had undergone surgery to remove part of his or her brain, which freed up the remaining areas to run more normally. Those patients who had the greatest amount of amygdala left intact after the surgery also had the greatest sex drives. Reutens suggests this means that the amygdala boosts the likelihood of a sexual trigger that leads to arousal.

The British National Party (BNP) is on the verge of an electoral breakthrough, with the prospect of winning three European parliamentary seats plus at least one in the London assembly. The racist, far-right party has 17 councilors in Britain and may add to that toll in European, local council and London elections in June 2004. The north-west of England is thought to be the BNP's best chance of electing a member of the European parliament (MEP).

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

A prominent Israeli MP has said that his country's intelligence services knew claims that Saddam Hussein was capable of swiftly launching weapons of mass destruction were wrong but withheld the information from Washington. Another member of the committee, Ehud Yatom, said that Israel had told the Americans it believed the weapons existed but had not seen them. Recently, the former UN weapons inspector, Scott Ritter, told Y-Net, an Israeli newswire, that the Israeli intelligence services reached the conclusion years ago that Iraq no longer had weapons of mass destruction. Another MP, Roman Bronfman, said that if Ritter was correct, it meant the government had misled the Israeli public in the run-up to the war when it ordered people to prepare sealed rooms and gas masks in preparation for a potential WMD attack. However, questions over Israeli intelligence are unlikely to concern the public as greatly as in Britain and the United States. Israelis overwhelmingly welcomed the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Brian Hutton: the Orange judge.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has claimed that British Prime Minister Tony Blair has no intention of publishing an anxiously awaited report on four of the north of Ireland's most controversial killings. Retired Canadian judge Peter Cory has probed the killings of lawyers Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson, Portadown Catholic father of two Robert Hamill and LVF leader Billy Wright. Cory informed the families of all four murder victims that he had recommended inquiries into each of their cases. However the British government has been criticized for failing to release the reports, especially after the Irish Government published reports written by the judge into two controversial killings relating to the Republic. The British government has said it still has legal and security implications to take into consideration before it can publish Cory's findings. But speaking at the House of Commons, where he was meeting the families of people murdered in the north of Ireland amid claims of security force collusion, Adams said he doubted that Blair ever intended to release the report. Up to 100 campaigners who believe that British agencies plotted with loyalist terrorists to kill in the north of Ireland also plan to protest at Conservative Party offices as well as MI5. Victims' representatives organized the demonstration to coincide with the start of new political talks in Belfast to break the deadlocked peace process.

A nuclear winter that plunged people into starvation 1,500 years ago may have been caused by a comet colliding with Earth. Astronomers at Cardiff University say that a 6th century impact caused crop failures, widespread starvation and summer frosts. The team has studied evidence from tree rings which suggests that the Earth underwent a series of very cold summers around 536-540AD. Historical references from the period, known as the Dark Ages, tell of crop failures and summer frosts. Scientists in the School of Physics and Astronomy believe that this was caused by a comet hitting the earth and exploding in the upper atmosphere. Debris would have enveloped the planet in soot and ash, blocking out sunlight and causing very cold weather. The timing of the comet disaster probably just preceded the Justinian Plague, widely believed to be the first appearance of the Black Death in Europe. Researchers believe that the plague took hold so quickly because the population was already weakened by starvation.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Hutton report: the inquiry into the death of David Kelly.

Brain scans and the secrets of human speech.

Tom McGurk on the Hutton report.

Petty politics at the expense of the Irish peace process.

Sinn Fein and its position on policing in the north of Ireland.

The Electoral Register in the north of Ireland is down more than 28,000 electors compared to the one used in the 2003 Assembly elections. A report in December 2003 said that new measures had had a negative impact on young people and the poor. In the past, one form was given to every household, but now everyone has to register individually. The Electoral Commission said that this measure tended to have an adverse impact on disadvantaged, marginalized and hard to reach groups. It meant that young people, students, people with learning disabilities and those living in poorer areas were less likely to register, according to the government-appointed watchdog. The report also called for a review of the special hearings procedure for those who want to be added to the electoral register. It said that the practice was unique to the north of Ireland. Thousands of people who applied to get their names added to the voting register were asked to attend such hearings. The commission says that less than half of them showed up, suggesting that they were put off by the hearings' semi-judicial nature.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Has the war in Iraq made terrorist attacks less likely?

Global warming in the time of the dinosaurs.

What is the secret of the American economic miracle?

Scientists researching cures for alcoholism and hangovers say that they have found a genetic link between Russians' traditional weakness for drink and the marauding Mongol armies of Genghis Khan. As many as 50% of Muscovites are estimated to have inherited Mongol genes that make them absorb more alcohol into the bloodstream and break it down at a slower rate than most Europeans. That means they get more drunk, have worse hangovers and are more likely to become addicted to alcohol. As part of a research study, scientists paid 12 volunteer students to drink 350 grams, about a third of a bottle, of vodka in an hour, and then monitored their behavior. The intoxicated students had to perform a series of tests and had their breath analyzed at regular intervals. After sleeping off the effects in a dormitory at the laboratory - which had a karaoke machine - the students were given a slap-up breakfast before doing more tests to measure their hangovers. The study showed that those with the Mongol genes absorbed 50% more alcohol into the bloodstream at peak levels and metabolized it much more slowly than the other students. The Mongols swept across Asia and Russia and into Europe in the 13th century and ruled Russia for two centuries. Intermarriage with the Slavs and other ethnic groups was common. Scientists have long known that people of Mongol extraction, including Chinese, Koreans and Japanese, have an enzyme for metabolizing alcohol which is different from that of Caucasian Europeans. Vladimir Nuzhny of the health ministry's National Narcology Research Center claims that his study is the first to look at the effect of alcohol on Russians who have inherited Mongol genes. He says that the phenomenon can be explained partly by evolution. The nomadic Mongols, whose only indigenous form of alcohol was fermented mare's milk, evolved with a different enzyme from the settled Europeans with their long tradition of producing stronger grape and grain-based alcohol. Russians drink about 15 liters of pure alcohol a head each year, one of the highest rates in the world, and by some estimates one in seven Russians are alcoholics. Alcohol is largely to blame for a fall in life expectancy to less than 59 since the fall of the Soviet Union.

The Barron report into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings is currently being examined by a Dail (Irish parliament) subcommittee. The committee will report on whether the bombings, which killed 34 people in 1974, should be subject to a public inquiry. However, the report has come in for criticism from a number of quarters. Most notable has been that of retired Irish army intelligence officer Lt. Col. John Morgan. He insists that the attacks had to be carried out with the involvement of the British army and the RUC. Morgan came to his conclusions about the Dublin and Monaghan bombings while in his role as head of security at Irish army intelligence in the 1980s. While the UVF claimed in 1993 that it alone carried out the bombing runs, Morgan, applying his own military analysis to the bombings, concludes that only trained British military figures could have conceived of the plot. He was recently interviewed by Judge Henry Barron as part of his inquiry into the attacks. Morgan maintains that not only is Barron's report significantly lacking in proper, considered analysis, but that it misrepresents his own evidence. He claims that Barron misattributes evidence to him and failed to consult with him prior to publication.