Archive for February, 2011

How much red meat do you eat? According to government scientists the answer for many of us is too much.

The Scientific Advisory Commission on Nutrition, which advises the government, has issued new guidelines recommending that adults should eat no more than 70g of red meat per day.

A 70 gram portion is equivalent to one lamb chop, two slices of roast meat or six slices of salami, the Department of Health said.

Those of us who consume more than about 90 grams per day are at greater risk of getting bowel cancer, which kills 16,500 people in Britain every year. Over 40% of men currently eat more than 90 grams every day on average, compared with just 12% of women.

“We’re not saying men can’t occasionally enjoy a bacon sandwich or some sausages for breakfast — but the evidence tells us we need to think about cutting down on how much red and processed meat we’re eating,” Peter Baker, the Chief Executive of the Men’s Health Forum, said.

The BBC has helpfully provided a guide to how some common meals compare to the new guideline.

Apparently a cooked breakfast with two sausages and two rashers of bacon comes in at 130 grams of red meat. So that would be double your daily allowance before you even leave the house.

The Sunday roast, be it beef, lamb or pork, is estimated at 30 grams per slice. So that’s a limit of just two slices along with the roast potatoes and veg.

And a typical doner kebab comes in at a whopping 130 grams of processed lamb. Who knew there was so much meat in a kebab?

But a Big Mac a day would keep you within the guidelines as it comes in at just 70 grams of meat. Not exactly a healthy diet though, is it?

Like all recommendations these are simply guidelines. The odd steak now and again may exceed the daily limit but it probably won’t kill you. A balanced diet is the key, I’m told.

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T In The Park Bans Neds

After a scare over underground gas piping was overcome this year’s T In The Park festival will go ahead. The Arctic Monkeys, Coldplay and the Foo Fighters will top the bill with dozens of other bands already booked to play over several stages.

But the organisers have run into criticism after Geoff Ellis told the Scottish music scene website The Pop Cop that, “Neds are not welcome.”

He was responding to a question on whether the festival would follow Rock Ness in banning anyone wearing track suits or ned clothes. Ellis said that there would be no dress code.

“It’s not about what you wear, it’s about who you are. Listen, you can be a ned in a suit,” he explained. “If you take a ned to mean somebody who is out to cause trouble, those are people we don’t want to come to T in the Park anyway.”

The remarks have caused something of a stir amongst music fans, who generally see them as disrespectful. But what exactly is a ned? There is no agreement on where the term even comes from, but most definitions are similar to this dictionary one:

“Ned: A person, usually a youth, of low social standing and education, a violent disposition and with a particular style of dress (typically sportswear or Burberry), speech and behaviour.”

So if neds are not defined by their clothes at T In The Park, then how will they recognise one?

Or was Ellis simply saying that he doesn’t want any trouble at the festival? Which is a statement that no one could really disagree with, could they?

The 2011 T In The Park festival will run from 9 to 11 July at Balado in Perth and Kinross. Around  85,000 music fans are expected to attend.

Tickets are now on sale, so get them quickly. Unless you are a ned, of course.

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It has long been suspected that using a mobile phone affects the brain. This has now been confirmed by American research, although they believe that the impact is not harmful.

Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported higher sugar use in the brain, a sign of increased activity, after 50 minutes on the phone.

This was a small scale study using 47 volunteers. They were given two brain scans, each on different days with a mobile phone positioned against each ear. In the first scan, both phones were switched off. But in the second, the phone on the right ear was switched on, muted, and set to receive a lengthy recorded message.

When they compared scans taken in these two different scenarios, researchers discovered a pattern of increased brain activity in the right orbitofrontal cortex and the lower parts of the right superior temporal gyrus.

This showed that the increased brain activity, up by an average of 7%, was localised to the parts of the brain nearest to the mobile phone’s antenna, and wasn’t simply a result of listening to, or thinking about, the message.

There have been previous studies into the impact of mobile phone use. A large scale research project involving 420,000 mobile phone users in Denmark did not shown a link between phone use and cancer.

But many remain unconvinced, and this survey is so small that it merely raises the need for further research.

Professor Patrick Haggard, from the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, said, “The implications for health remain unclear. Much larger fluctuations in brain metabolic rate occur naturally, for example during thinking.”

And Professor Malcolm Sperrin, director of Medical Physics and Clinical Engineering at Royal Berkshire Hospital, said, “More work is required to establish any possible link between RF energy deposition in the brain and a consequential health risk.”

So it seems that using our phones does increase brain activity. And given some of the conversations you are forced to overhear in public places these days that might be no bad thing.

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From 28 February commercial channels, but not those funded through the license fee, will be free to feature brand names in programmes. This follows a change in OFCOM’s rules on product placement on UK TV and radio.

Until now programme makers have had to have their actors hold products at odd angles so that brand names cannot be seen, or invent their own products, as is usually done in soap operas.

But now you could see someone in Coronation Street picking up a particular brand of chocolate in the Kabin – if the makers pay them enough money of course. Celebrity cooking shows could recommend particular brands of products as key ingredients. And who knows what reality tv shows will come up with.

So why the change? Well, it is advertiser driven. It seems the power of the paid advert is diminishing. Remote controls make a quick change of channel easy while many people now use Sky plus and fast forward through the ad break to the next part of the programme.

(Disclaimer: other hard disk based recording technologies are available. This blog receives no funding from Sky Television.)

Even the sponsorship of programmes is not bringing advertisers the return on their investments that they would like, and so product placement is the only place left to go.

Product placement will be allowed in dramas and documentaries, soaps, entertainment and sports shows – but not in children’s tv, news, current affairs, consumer affairs or religious programmes.

And UK legislation already bans product placement for tobacco, alcohol, gambling, foods or drinks that are high in fat, salt or sugar, medicines and formula baby milk. So don’t expect anyone to order a Guinness at the Rover’s Return then.

According to OFCOM, the broadcaster will have to broadcast a logo for three seconds at the start and end of programmes which have been paid to feature particular products. So we all get to play spot the brand name.

Will this make any great difference? Personally I don’t see it. If a company sponsoring a programme and showing its logo at every opportunity doesn’t increase its sales, why should the use of a product within the show itself.

But advertisers must think they will get a return on their investment, or they wouldn’t have pushed for the change.

So if Ken Barlow is sitting eating a packet of Werther’s Originals on a Wednesday evening, will you rush to the shops as soon as the programme is over?

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UK To Adopt European Time?

The coalition government is thought to be preparing a plan to move the UK’s clocks into line with most of Europe, by moving them forward by one hour on a permanent basis.

This would bring lighter evenings but darker mornings, which would be good for tourism, it is argued.

But there is likely to be opposition in Scotland, where the change would mean it would be dark until well into the morning, causing problems for those heading for school during the morning commute.

The National Farmers’ Union in Scotland has been one of the main opponents to the proposal as agricultural workers in the far north of the country would suffer disproportionately during the dark mornings

But a recent report by the Policy Studies Institute argued that children in Scotland would gain up to 200 hours of useful daylight a year if the move was to be adopted. The study, authored by the academic Mayer Hillman, also estimated the change could boost tourism earnings by up to £300m, and save £15m in energy bills for Scots.

The clocks would still move back and forward for British Summer Time, maintaining the equality with the Central European Time (CET) zone, which covers most of Western Europe.

Older readers may remember that this has been tried before. A three year experiment started in 1968, when British Standard Time (GMT+1) was employed all year round. The clocks were put forward as usual in March 1968 and not put back until October 1971.

The Department for Transport’s initial analysis of road casualty data during the experiment suggested that more people were injured in the darker mornings, but fewer people were injured in the lighter afternoons. Not too surprising, is it?

But further analysis suggested that while those living in central England and southern Scotland benefited most from the experiment, northern Scotland saw a net increase in the number of people killed or seriously injured.

Ministers, according to the BBC, want to be satisfied that the country backs the plan before giving the final approval. Last year, Prime Minister David Cameron indicated he was willing to consider a switch.

“The argument will be won when people across the country feel comfortable with the change,” he said in August

The Scottish Government, and many opposition politicians, have opposed this proposal in the past, and are likely to do so again. So this could become a Scotland v England issue very quickly.

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Gary Hooper was the goal scoring hero as Celtic crushed Rangers by 3 – 0. But in truth every player in the hoops put in a superb performance in a comprehensive victory.

Hooper lined up behind Georgious Samaras in a 4-4-1-1 formation, but the movement of the front two meant they interchanged all game long. Rangers started with a 4-5-1 formation, restoring Jelavic and Naismith and bringing on loan Arsenal youngster Kyle Bartley into midfield.

The opening was frantic and Bartley was the first man into the book after a wild lunge on Scott Brown. But Celtic gradually took control of the midfield and began to create chances.

On 17 minutes Gary Hooper took a pass from Kris Commons and beat David Weir with one excellent touch. He then showed his pace, racing in on goal before calmly slotting the ball beneath McGregor in the Rangers goal.

And ten minutes later Hooper doubled the lead, sliding in at the back post to convert Izaguirre’s excellent left wing cross to send the vast majority of the crowd wild.

Rangers started the second half faster than the home side, but could not make more than one clear chance, when Forster saved Diouf’s attempted lob, and gradually Celtic began to play their passing football once more. Papac had to be quick to clear a Brown header off the line. And a third goal was to come to seal the three points.

Gary Hooper fed Kris Commons after some crisp passing. The winger cut inside Bougherra and left McGregor grasping air with a superb swerving shot from the edge of the box.

Celtic cruised through the rest of the match as the away end of the ground steadily emptied. And in the end it was a comprehensive victory for Neil Lennon’s men.

Gary Hooper was the sponsor’s man of the match for his first half brace and all around fine play. He shaded the excellent Samaras, who led the line superbly, and captain Brown who put in a disciplined performance.

But there were no failures for Celtic, who restricted Rangers to one real shot on target. Sound in defence, solid and inventive in midfield and deadly up front, it was a dominant performance.

The only mystery in this match was how Rangers managed to finish with eleven men on the park. A string of fouls resulted in five bookings, but Bougherra and the odious Diouf were both guilty of several fouls and shows of dissent after their yellow cards.

Steven Davis was allowed to get away with a string of bad tackles without ever seeing a card, while Papac kicked out at a Celtic player after the ball had gone. But it was a weak performance from referee Brines.

Celtic are now eight points clear in the title race and in fine form. Their weary looking opponents were no threat today and with a heavy schedule ahead of them will struggle to keep up.

But for today all the plaudits go to Neil Lennon and his fourteen hooped heroes.

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When the marriage of Jim and Diane Morrison broke up after 21 years, a messy court case followed.

Diane demanded £20m from her millionaire husband but later dropped the figure to £10m. And, after 17 days of legal wrangling, a judge at the Court of Session in Edinburgh eventually awarded her £1.6m.

But the amazing part of this story is that the legal fees of both parties were paid for by the taxpayer through the Legal Aid scheme.

The couple were represented by two of Scotland’s most renowned family advocates, Janys Scott, QC, and Morag Wise, QC. The total bill is estimated to run into tens of thousands of pounds.

The Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) has refused to comment directly on why legal aid was awarded in the case, citing confidentiality.

The court was told that the matrimonial property at issue was worth nearly £5.4m and included one account held by Mr Morrison worth £3.7M in cash. He was said to be living in the United States relying on a pension fund worth about £700,000 for income.

It was also claimed that Mr Morrison had other property he had not accounted for and that Mrs Morrison’s lawyers had trouble in obtaining documentation and verifying various transactions.

So it seems that Mr Morrison should have been able to pay for his own lawyers.

Emma Boon, campaign director of The TaxPayers’ Alliance, criticised the decision to award legal aid. “There are serious pressures on public finances at the moment so it seems a disgrace that this man has been able to take advantage of legal aid in this situation,” she said.

The principle of Legal Aid is a good one. No one should be unfairly disadvantaged in a court case simply because they cannot afford adequate representation. But when Legal Aid starts funding the divorce cases of millionaires, something has clearly gone wrong with the system.

Since the case ended, SLAB has indicated that it will now pursue both Mr and Mrs Morrison to reclaim the costs of the case.

Which begs one simple question: quite why did it make the award in the first place?

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In a poll conducted by consultancy firm The Foundation, Scots have named Twitter as the worst breakthrough of the last 10 years.

But we are not a nation of technophobes, as home broadband was our most popular innovation of the last decade, cited by half of all respondents as having the biggest impact on their lives.

So what are we doing on our home computers if not tweeting? Well perhaps the fact that online shopping came second in the poll is a clue. Scots, it seems, love to avoid the shops but presumably don’t tell their friends about it.

Other innovations that we rate highly include on demand television, which came in third place. Surprisingly this failed to make the top ten across the UK as a whole, suggesting that Scots watch television very differently.

Banking security was highly rated in Scotland, with chip and pin cards appearing at fourth, while 24 hour news channels, community recycling and low cost air travel followed. The rest of our top ten were the search engine Google, online comparison sites and better health labelling on food.

At the other end of the scale, the things that we rated as annoying us less than Twitter included paying for plastic bags and those automated menu systems that so many companies now employ.

Across the UK as a whole the most annoying development was reality tv, but in Scotland even the X Factor and the like couldn’t displace Twitter from top place.

What is it we dislike so much about micro-blogging? Perhaps we just have so much to say that it can’t be fitted into a tweet!

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The Cost of Cyber Crime

A report into the cost of cyber crime has for the first time quantified how much IT related frauds and swindles cost the UK in a year.

The figures, published by the Office of Cyber Security & Information Assurance in the Cabinet Office and information intelligence experts Detica, are frightening.

It is estimated that the government alone loses £2.2 billion per year. Individuals are out to the tune of £3.1 billion and businesses suffer losses of £21 billion per annum.

That adds up to a staggering £26.3 billion. As a comparison, the entire annual budget of the Scottish Government is around £29 billion.

And the figure for business losses may actually be an underestimate, as many are thought not to admit to their losses for fear of damaging their reputation.

Security minister Baroness Neville-Jones said that the government was not panicking and has a strategy in place to deal with the problem. We will get to know exactly what that entails over the next few months.

The UK has also opted in to an EU-wide cyber security plan. Much of the thrust is to make laws standard across Europe to promote co=operation. States will have to criminalise, “the production, sale, procurement, import, possession or distribution of any device or tool for the purpose of committing any of the offences” contained in the directive.

Baroness Neville-Jones also explained that some of the cyber crime activity was “state-sponsored” but apparently the government is, “anxious not to get into a barney with friendly countries” over the issue.

I wonder what her definition of friends is.

According to Martin Sutherland, chief executive of Detica, the cost of cyber crime to business is now, “twice as big as the cost to business of traditional physical attack”.

So it seems that the best way to steal money from the bank is by attacking its computer system rather than heading into the local branch in a stocking mask.

Almost half of the £21bn annual cost to business is made up of intellectual property theft, which cost £9.2b. Other major items include industrial espionage at £7.6bn, followed by extortion, which cost £2.2bn, and direct online theft at £1.3bn. Around £1bn was lost through theft of customer data.

The hardest hit areas of industry were pharmaceuticals, biotech, electronics, IT and chemicals.

With so many industries now dependent on their IT systems, protecting against cyber attack must be a major priority. And the government has a responsibility to assist businesses in this fight.

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Formation Dilemma For Lennon

There’s an old saying in football that players win matches, not formations. But Neil Lennon’s mind will be on the latter as he prepares for this weekend’s crucial Glasgow derby.

Celtic have played in a 4-4-2 formation for almost all of Lennon’s time in charge. And in recent weeks the team has found form with a much more solid version of that formation featuring one winger and three genuine midfielders.

But in two visits to Ibrox since the turn of the year, Neil Lennon has lined his team up in a 4-5-1 formation with considerable success: a 2 – 0 league win with both goals from lone frontman Georgious Samaras and a 2 – 2 cup draw despite playing with ten men for a long period.

With several players now back to fitness after time out and midfielder Ki returned safely from international duty, Lennon has options. The manager would always prefer to have difficult decisions to make in terms of team selection, but he knows he must get this one right.

It’s pretty obvious that Rangers will play a defensive formation, flooding midfield and trying to deny space. They would be quite happy with a draw. So how does Lennon best counter this?

With two up front, the potent combination of Gary Hooper and Anthony Stokes would lead the attack. Both are in their first season at the club and are already building a tremendous understanding. And are both on scoring form.

That would leave new signing Kris Commons on the left wing, captain Scott Brown on the right and Biram Kayal teaming up with Joe Ledley in the centre of midfield. Plenty of attacking options there.

If it is to be 4-5-1 then Ki would likely be the additional midfielder. And Samaras must then come into contention for a start. He is the most natural in the lone striker role, while Hooper and Stokes both prefer to play with a partner. But dropping the top two scorers from his line up for a home game may just be a step too far for Neil Lennon.

There might just have been a clue to the likely formation in last week’s win at Dundee United. And it’s a way to solve the dilemma, as the line up on Sunday was more of a 4-4-1-1. It could have been something of a trial run for the derby – and a successful one at that.

At Tannadice Gary Hooper was utilised behind Anthony Stokes, finding space between the opposition’s midfield and defence. He played a number of good balls through for Stokes who worked hard to run the channels and make himself available.

This formation could just cause trouble for Rangers. Against the veteran Weir on two days rest and the positionally undisciplined Bougherra, Stokes could find space in their penalty area.

I have a feeling that this may just be the way Celtic start on Sunday. And with a strong squad of players there would be plenty options from the bench to change things if it doesn’t work out.

But what do I know? Neil Lennon might just have a totally different plan hidden up his sleeve.

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