Anti-Colonial Agitator

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Irish Gross National Product(GNP) was 3.3% higher in 2003 compared with 2002. The corresponding growth rate in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the same period was 1.4%, according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO). The output of the Irish economy, as measured by GDP, increased by 2.7% between the fourth quarter of 2002 and 2003, while GNP increased by 5.5% in constant prices in the same period.

Richard Clarke and the War on Terror.

According to new research, both men and women consider a woman's face to be at its most alluring during the peak of her menstrual cycle.

An immigrant family in Portadown in the north of Ireland has suffered a racist attack. The incident was the latest in a series of attacks targeting ethnic minorities in the Six Counties. The attacks have been blamed on British loyalist terrorists, who have a strong presence in Portadown.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

The end of red hair?

The plan to disenfranchise Sinn Fein voters.

How George Bush likes to spend St. Patrick's Day.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Tom Griffin on why Bush is wrong for Irish-America.

Jude Collins on the political situation in the north of Ireland.

Racist attacks in the north of Ireland have surged by 60% in the last year while assaults on gays have doubled. Chinese families, Africans and eastern Europeans have been targeted during a racist campaign which has been particularly intense in the British Protestant loyalist Village area of south Belfast. Police figures for the first three quarters of the current financial year do not include the most recent incidents against ethnic minorities. But they show the number of racist incidents has increased to 267 compared with 167 for the same period in 2003.

German think-tank Ifo is calling for a cut in eurozone interest rates following indications that Germany's recovery is in trouble. Ifo's business climate index, closely watched as a barometer of the health of German businesses, fell for the second straight month in March 2004. In addition, an Ifo survey of 7,000 firms showed a drop in the main climate index to 95.4 from 96.4. The expectations index - which means businesses' confidence about the future - fell to a six-month low of 98.9. Similarly, the measure of firms' assessment of current conditions fell for the first time in six months. The Ifo survey follows hard on the heels of the ZEW survey, which showed a sharp fall in business confidence. Growth in Germany was just 0.2% in the final three months of 2003, a figure which could be merely the result of statistical error.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

The decline of the English language.

Smaller jaws led to larger brains.

Bacteria may cause certain cancers. Alistair Lax, professor of cellular microbiology at King's College London, has said that bacteria may be involved in stomach, renal and bowel cancers. Testing for such bacteria could enable doctors to identify those at risk of cancer much earlier.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Large brains and sophisticated culture may be due to a single genetic mutation that weakened human jaw muscles about 2.4 million years ago. The slack muscles relaxed their hold on the human skull, giving the brain room to grow. Other primates remained stuck with mighty muscles that squeezed the skull in a vice-like grip. Over the past 2.5 million years, human brains have grown enormous compared to those of other primates. Human brains are now roughly three times the size of those of chimps or gorillas. But why did this growth occur in humans and not in other primates? According to Hansell Stedman, an expert on muscle disorders at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, it was a simple mutation in a gene found in human jaw muscles. While studying muscular dystrophy, Stedman and his colleagues were tracking down a gene thought to play a role in muscle contraction using specimens from a macaque. The team found that the same gene was also active in a sample of human bite muscle, but there was one crucial difference. Compared to the macaque gene, the human gene had two missing base pairs in a key region. Stedman's team studied the gene in people from all over the world. They also studied seven species of non-human primates, including gorillas and chimpanzees. Every human had the mutation, whereas none of the animals did. Detailed genetic analysis suggests that the human mutation occurred approximately 2.4 million years ago. Shortly after that, the earliest known members of the genus Homo appeared - with smaller jaws, and larger brains.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Investing in the Celtic Tiger.

Monday, March 22, 2004

The Church of England could disappear within a couple of generations. According a study by the UK Christian Handbook, at current trends membership of all Christian churches will have fallen to just over 5.5 million by 2005, a million fewer than 15 years ago. Although it is Britain’s established church, the Church of England has faced a declining and generally aging congregation over recent decades.

When will Bush admit that the Iraq war was an unnecessary one?

Do you know King Tut's favorite wine?

A link-up between Irish and Welsh soap operas.

Friday, March 19, 2004

When humans started eating meat, evolution served up a healthy bonus – the development of genes that offset high cholesterol and chronic diseases associated with a meat-rich diet. Humans also started living longer than ever before – an unexpected evolutionary twist.

The practice of eating primates can spread diseases to humans.

A woman's genes may sabotage any attempts to give up smoking using a nicotine patch. Oxford University researchers found that nicotine patch therapy had no effect in women with a particular gene type. However genetic makeup appeared to have no effect on men's success in quitting with nicotine patches. The reason why women react to nicotine patch therapy in a different way than men is not known.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Are we headed for mass extinction?

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, a key Washington ally, has said that he may withdraw troops early from Iraq and that Poland was misled about the threat of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. His remarks were his first hint of criticism about the war in Iraq, where Poland currently has 2,400 troops and commands one of the three sectors of the occupation. Kwasniewski said that Poland may start withdrawing its troops from Iraq in early 2005, months earlier than expected. His comments came after Spain's new government, taking power in the wake of Madrid bombings apparently linked to al-Qaida, said it would pull its troops from Iraq by June 30, 2004 unless the United Nations takes over. The 9,500-strong multinational force that Poland commands in south-central Iraq includes the Spaniards.

Damned either way?

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

The secret of Celtic bog butter.

Using teeth to study Anglo-Saxon history.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

The largest-ever study of early human DNA has shown that there was no significant breeding between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens. Researchers compared the preserved remains of four Neanderthals and five early modern humans found throughout Western Europe. DNA from the two sets of samples was distinct enough to rule out large amounts of mixing between the two. Neanderthals vanished from Europe between 30,000 and 40,000 years ago, roughly the time that truly modern man made his first appearance in the region. David Serre of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany and his colleagues examined sequences of mitochondrial DNA taken from fossils. These sequences are passed virtually intact from mother to offspring - if Neanderthals and modern humans interbred, the sequences would be expected to overlap between the two groups. But the sequences were entirely distinct.

Pay levels in Ireland remain among the lowest in western Europe. A survey conducted by the Federation of European Employers found that Irish workers were paid an average of 14.22 euros-an-hour, compared to 16.12 euros in Britain and 27.89 euros in Denmark.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Can the Atkins diet help obese children?

Three British Protestant teenagers responsible for a sectarian attack on a young Irish Catholic boy told him "you look like a fenian, we are going to give you a battering" moments before the assault. The 13-year-old was treated at Altnagelvin Hospital for cuts and bruising after the sectarian assault at the entrance to Lisnagelvin shopping center. SDLP councilor Gerard Diver said that the attack had taken place in front of the youngster's mother. "Minutes earlier the three thugs, aged around 16, had been stalking the child and his mother in the shopping center and made sectarian anti-Catholic remarks to the child," he said. "When the mother and child left the shopping center, the child was viciously attacked in front of his mother by the three boys." The councilor said that the victim's mother had been telephoning her husband when the three youths started beating her son around the head. Since news of the attack broke, Diver said that he has been contacted by the father of another boy who was assaulted in almost identical circumstances. Sinn Fein's Lynn Fleming also called for unionists to speak out about the attack, saying that all sectarian attacks were wrong. "This young boy was attacked in front of his mother for being a Roman Catholic and no other reason," she said.

Friday, March 12, 2004

The number of employed people in Ireland grew by 1.8% in 2003, according to new figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO). The CSO said that employment grew strongly in the final quarter of 2003, as almost 45,000 extra people took jobs. Over 1.8 million people were at work between September and November 2003, the latest period for which figures are available. Three-quarters of the annual increase came from full-time jobs, easing concerns earlier in the year that the bulk of new jobs were part-time. IIB Bank economist Austin Hughes said that the employment figures were exceptionally strong and gave grounds for optimism on the Irish economic outlook. He added that the Irish figures were significantly stronger than those of Britain, France, Germany or the United States. Davy stockbrokers said that the Irish economy had begun its upturn in the second quarter of 2003 and this fed through to improved job creation towards the end of the year. Davy also welcomed the news that labor force participation was the highest on record since the CSO survey began in late 1997. This suggested improved economic conditions and better job prospects as more people of working age came back into the labor force.

It is almost certain that British loyalist terrorists were behind racist leaflets circulated in south Belfast. The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) has been blamed for the leaflets which urge British unionists to expel Chinese people. One of the leaflets claims that Chinese people living and working in the area "undermines the community's Britishness". The Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) has close links to the UVF. PUP leader David Ervine said he was certain that UVF people were involved in the leaflet, but it is not clear if they had approval from the local leadership. Attacks on Asians and Africans in loyalist areas of Belfast rose by 30% in the past year, resulting in many fleeing their homes.

Eggs: a brain food?

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Genes for intelligence and memory?

The genetic history of the Irish.

The Internet's role in spreading syphilis among gay men.

It isn't just old people who like Mel Gibson's new movie.

The conservative views of British teenagers.

The evolutionary role of grandmothers.

Brian Feeney on the Sewel procedure.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Can a high IQ lead to suicide?

Can having older brothers make you gay?

America and the jobless recovery.

Davy Stockbrokers has upgraded its growth forecast for the Irish economy in 2004 from 3.1% to 3.8%. Their economists said that business and consumer confidence have improved, and have increased their consumer demand forecast from 3% to 3.5%. They said that spending will be helped by low interest rates and a sharper than expected fall in the inflation rate to an average of 1.8%. The Davy report said that the public finances are also in better shape, boosted by capital gains tax. The economists say that higher growth rates in the United States and Britain should help sustain a recovery in Irish exports.

Danny Morrison on anti-Catholic policing in the north of Ireland.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

A Viking settlement in lowland Scotland.

A new poll shows that most Florida voters oppose same-sex marriage. The poll was conducted for the St. Petersburg Times and The Miami Herald newspapers on the dates of 03/03/04 - 03/04/04. It found that 65% of voters oppose same-sex marriage. Opposition was most intense in the Tampa Bay area, where 72% of voters are opposed.

China, the most populous nation on Earth, could find itself dealing with as many as 40 million single men by 2020 because its one-child policy is creating a shortage of female babies. In an unusually frank speech on China's looming demographic crisis, Li Weixiong, who advises the country's political consultative conference on population issues, said that a cultural preference for boys was creating an artificial disparity between the number of boys and girls that represents a serious threat to building a well-off society. Li said that the dearth of women would lead to a dramatic rise in prostitution and the trafficking of women. The widespread introduction of ultrasound testing has enabled a much larger number of Chinese couples to choose to abort female fetuses in the hope that the next pregnancy will produce a son. Li said that the gender ratio had stayed relatively normal up until 1982 - two years after the Chinese authorities imposed the one-child rule - at 100 girls born for every 108 boys. But by 2000, the ratio had shifted significantly to about 117 boys for every 100 girls. The disparity is even bigger in rural areas, where the boy-to-girl imbalance is estimated to be as high as 130 to 100. Abortions are not the only cause of the imbalance. There is alarming evidence that the intense pressure on couples to make sure their only child is a boy has prompted a resurgence of female infanticide, despite official attempts to stamp out the centuries-old practice. Despite growing evidence of the enormous social cost of their one-child policy, officials in Beijing insist there are no plans to relax the measure, which they regard as the most important weapon in China's battle to keep its population below 1.6 billion until 2050.

Monday, March 08, 2004

An upsurge in autism cases diagnosed in Silicon Valley may be due to genes more common in its high-tech workers. As many as one in 150 children in the region have some sort of autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), a rate far higher than other areas of the United States. There has been a 273% increase in the number of autistic children attending 21 regional centers in California between 1987 and 1998. Scientists believe that autism is greatly influenced by genetic factors. While children affected by it may lack key social skills, they often have remarkable abilities in other areas. Some doctors now think that workers who have the complex analytical skills needed to succeed in high-tech industry, and who are perhaps slightly awkward socially, may carry a few of the genes that contribute to autism. In Silicon Valley, experts speculate that these genetically-loaded men are more likely to meet partners who also carry autistic genes, raising their chances of having children with the full-blown condition. Boys are far more likely to be autistic than girls, and some scientists believe that the disorders are manifestations of a kind of extreme maleness - an amplification of a slight natural bias in many boys favoring analytical skills rather than social abilities. Autism rates have soared over the past two decades.

A Jihad in the north of Ireland?

There is a genetic recipe that may sift good runners from Olympic gold medalists. Tests on East African Olympic athletes showed that a significant proportion had inherited the same type of gene from their ancestors. Researchers took saliva samples from 114 members of the Ethiopian national athletics team, along with two control groups, both of a similar size. The DNA tests revealed that 14% of the marathon runners tested by the scientists shared the same type of Y-chromosome - the genes we inherit from our fathers. This compared to 4% of the control group selected to represent the Ethiopian population.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Goodbody stockbrokers has predicted Irish GDP growth of 3.5% in its Economics Spring 2004 Review. Economists said that Ireland has been remarkably fortunate in managing to adjust to lower, more sustainable growth levels without the stresses and dislocations normally associated with the aftermath of a boom. The forecast said that inflation pressures have subsided and CPI is expected to be 1.9% in 2004.

Home repair workers in north Belfast have walked out after loyalist terrorist threats to staff. Housing executive chiefs have confirmed that warnings were made in an attempt to force the authority to allocate properties under pressure. Staff at a district office in the city also halted work and have refused to go into the area. Paddy McIntyre, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, said that he did not expect anyone to work amid fears for their safety. The alert followed a telephone call from an ex-Ulster Defence Association (UDA) prisoners' association in the staunchly Protestant Ballysillan district. The caller said that a message had been received from an unknown source that no more vacant properties were to be let out in the area or tenancy repairs carried out. The warning came after the Executive refused demands from a Ballysillan resident to give an empty house next door to her friend. A contractor and maintenance officer were also confronted by a mob who ordered them out as tensions rose. Around 40 employees at an Executive office which deals with Ballysillan staged a walk-out as soon as they learned of the threat.

Smokers are up to four times more likely to go blind in old age. A new study says that cigarettes increase the chances of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The condition is a leading cause of adult blindness and results in severe and irreversible loss of central vision, especially in people over the age of 60. Researchers say that giving up smoking may help reduce the risk of AMD in later life.

Why does time fly when you are having fun?

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Bronze Age treasure find in Wales.

Smart guys do wear glasses.

Sinn Fein spent much less on its campaign for the 2003 assembly election than any other political party. The SDLP spent the most, 234,000 (Sterling), the Ulster Unionist Party's bill came to 170,000 (Sterling), while the DUP spent 147,000 (Sterling). Sinn Fein's election campaign cost the party just 28,000 (Sterling).

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

The role of American elections in British politics.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

There are significant genetic differences between the Irish and the Scots. These differences seem to indicate some Nordic ancestry in the Scottish population and in people of Scottish ancestry.

An EU study has found that the enlargement of the European Union later in 2004 will lead to greater unemployment and lower wages. The study by the European Advisory Body said that migration from the 10 new EU states coupled with the movement of manufacturing industries to eastern European and Baltic nations would lead to a loss of blue-collar jobs in the existing EU countries. The study also said that greater wage flexibility would be necessary in an enlarged EU and that some sectors would have to be allowed to opt out of minimum wage agreements.

Sinn Fein has called on the North's Electoral Commission to scrap legislation requiring voters to register every year. Party spokesman Alec Maskey has pointed out that 211,000 voters have been disenfranchised since the legislation was introduced in 2002. A report published by the Electoral Commission in December 2003 said that the new registration procedures were deterring voters from disadvantaged backgrounds, with people living in poorer areas and those with learning disabilities less likely to secure their vote. The report said that the new rules were also deterring students and young people.

Britain's colonial legacy in Uganda.

Monday, March 01, 2004

The Irish view of the British.

Pat Brosnan on double standards in the north of Ireland.

The voice of the Irish in Britain.

Tim Pat Coogan on Ian Paisley.

Adultery may have forced babies to evolve so that they don't resemble their fathers. A theory suggests that a newborn needs to be anonymous just in case the man of the family doesn't think he's the father. If the child looked nothing like him and more like its real father, fathers may be more likely to neglect or even kill it. The same theory also works for promiscuous males because it allows them to father secret children, which can then be raised in other families. Tests seem to back this up, since neutral observers asked to match infants to their natural fathers do only slightly better than chance. The proposal was devised by Paola Bressen, of the University of Padova in Italy, who also believes that males may have evolved to be gullible. She claims that men are more likely to believe a partner who says a child looks just like him. In this way a man who is unsure about his child is more likely to look after it just in case it is his own. The mother chooses this flattery strategy to make sure the father invests in the child whether it is his or not.