Saturday, 30 October 2010

How MI5 kept watchdog in the dark over detainees' claims of torture

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/feb/15/how-mu5-kept-watchdog-in-the-dark

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Millions more caught in HMRC tax chaos ...

...as chief executive admits organisation has no idea of the number of mistakes.

Welcome to the technocratic nightmare :

‘The numbers will keep moving. Each time we do another batch we test assumptions against reality and judge what we think is in the rest of the mix.'

Screen time linked to psychological problems in children

(via cryptogon.com & http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-10/uob-stl100510.php)

Children who spend longer than two hours in front of a computer or television screen are more likely to suffer psychological difficulties, regardless of how physically active they are.

The PEACH project, a study of over a 1,000 children aged between ten and 11, measured the time children spent in front of a screen as well as their psychological well being. In addition, an activity monitor recorded both children's sedentary time and moderate physical activity. The results showed that more than two hours per day of both television viewing and recreational computer use were related to higher psychological difficulty scores, regardless of how much time the children spent on physical activity.

The authors of the report, published in the November edition of the American journal Pediatrics, conclude that limiting children's screen time may be important for ensuring children's future health and wellbeing.

According to the activity monitor, the children in the study who spent more time sedentary had better psychological scores overall. Those children who did more moderate physical activity fared better in certain psychological areas, including emotional and peer problems, but fared worse in some areas related to behaviour, including hyperactivity.

Lead author Dr Angie Page from the University of Bristol's Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences said: "Whilst low levels of screen viewing may not be problematic, we cannot rely on physical activity to 'compensate' for long hours of screen viewing.

"Watching TV or playing computer games for more than two hours a day is related to greater psychological difficulties irrespective of how active children are."

Children's psychological wellbeing was assessed on the basis of a strengths and difficulties questionnaire which rated their emotional, peer, conduct and hyperactivity problems.

The children were asked to rate a series of statements as true on a three-point scale, varying from not true, to somewhat true to certainly true. Statements to assess their emotional wellbeing included; 'I am often unhappy, down-hearted or tearful', while statements to assess their peer problems included; 'I am usually on my own', 'I generally play alone or keep to myself'.

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This work was supported by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF UK) and the National Prevention Research Initiative.

Free Education ! (at the point of access)

The Browne review on higher education funding promises free education with no upfront fees at the point of access. A kind of buy now pay later approach which reminds me of a credit card with a 0% interest rate for a year or so - but then watch out.

What slice of income will be taken out of the monthly pay of a graduate earning £21,000 who is repaying a £40,000 debt? How hard will it be to make ends meet from month to month, let alone start thinking about buying a place to live, or even marrying another graduate and doubling the household debt? I'm thinking here of graduates who can't go to the bank of mum and dad for extra funding. The middle of the middle class gets 'kippered' to use the word that Nigel Lawson used when deciding not to press ahead with tuition fees during the last conservative government.

I withhold judgement on the final shape of the plans, because Vince Cable urged me to do so by an email, but societally it will lead to even more compliant graduates who will be desperate to hold onto their jobs. Corporate creatures to whom the thought of going on a demonstration or protest where they might get into trouble would be out of the question. Here lies an answer to why students have not been motivated to protest more against the great recession. They're too busy working at jobs while still at university. Someone doing a humanities degree with a few hours of tutorials and lectures each week has plenty of 'flexibility' to do the low paid service jobs this economy excels in creating. Now that's value for money.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Death squads in Pakistan

From a fascinating summary of Bob Woodward's book Obama's Wars. This worrying escalation of the war into Pakistan will lead to more destabilisation of the region. Remember Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia? It was the Domino theory then, now it's the safe havens for Al Qaeda, however small their actual numbers are...
The CIA created, controls and pays for a clandestine 3,000-man paramilitary army of local Afghans, known as Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams. Woodward describes these teams as elite, well-trained units that conduct highly sensitive covert operations into Pakistan as part of a stepped-up campaign against al-Qaeda and Afghan Taliban havens there.

Wind farms: economic facts

I just want facts on the cost of renewables. Some breakthrough here, thanks to Christopher Brooker

Also lessons from the Spanish Renewables Bubble.

Something I didn't know

By the end of 2009, some 40,000 children living in Poland were receiving British child benefit – which is significantly higher than similar support in their own country. In Poland, the equivalent is about £5 a week.