Wednesday, 25 April 2012

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Reopen Madeleine case, police urge

Scotland Yard has urged Portuguese authorities to reopen the search for Madeleine McCann as detectives said there are 195 potential leads to finding her alive. The detective leading the Metropolitan Police review said the case can still be solved before officers released a picture of what she might now look like as a nine-year-old. Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood said he believes her disappearance was a stranger abduction, as he said there are 195 "investigative opportunities". Police refused to say what evidence they had uncovered to suggest Madeleine is alive. Mr Redwood confirmed that his team of more than 30 officers involved in the case had been out to Portugal seven times, including a visit to the family's holiday flat in Praia da Luz. It will be five years ago next week since the three-year-old went missing as her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, dined with friends nearby. A spokesman for the McCanns said the family was pleased with the image. Mr Redwood said his 37 officers had dealt with 40,000 pieces of information but the "primacy still sits in Portugal" in the attempt to find her. Commander Simon Foy said: "Most significantly, the message we want to bring to you is that, on the evidence, there is a possibility that she is alive and we desperately need your help today to appeal directly to the public for information to support our investigation." Mr Redwood said "evidence that she is alive stems from the forensic view of the timeline" that there was the opportunity for her to be taken. Investigations show "there do appear to be gaps", he added. Detectives in Portugal are also understood to want the case reopened but must gain judicial approval via the courts.

Insecure websites to be named and shamed after checks

Companies that do not do enough to keep their websites secure are to be named and shamed to help improve security. The list of good and bad sites will be published regularly by the non-profit Trustworthy Internet Movement (TIM). A survey carried out to launch the group found that more than 52% of sites tested were using versions of security protocols known to be compromised. The group will test websites to see how well they have implemented basic security software. Security fundamentals The group has been set up by security experts and entrepreneurs frustrated by the slow pace of improvements in online safety. "We want to stimulate some initiatives and get something done," said TIM's founder Philippe Courtot, serial entrepreneur and chief executive of security firm Qualys. He has bankrolled the group with his own money. TIM has initially focused on a widely used technology known as the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). Experts recruited to help with the initiative include SSL's inventor Dr Taher Elgamal; "white hat" hacker Moxie Marlinspike who has written extensively about attacking the protocol; and Michael Barrett, chief security officer at Paypal. Continue reading the main story “ Start Quote Everyone is now going to be able to see who has a good grade and who has a bad grade” Philippe Courtot Many websites use SSL to encrypt communications between them and their users. It is used to protect credit card numbers and other valuable data as it travels across the web. "SSL is one of the fundamental parts of the internet," said Mr Courtot. "It's what makes it trustworthy and right now it's not as secure as you think." Compromised certificates TIM plans a two-pronged attack on SSL. The first part would be to run automated tools against websites to test how well they had implemented SSL, said Mr Courtot. "We'll be making it public," he added. "Everyone is now going to be able to see who has a good grade and who has a bad grade." Early tests suggest that about 52% of sites checked ran a version of SSL known to be compromised. Companies who have done a bad job will be encouraged to improve and upgrade their implementations so it gets safer to use those sites. The second part of the initiative concerns the running of the bodies, known as certificate authorities, which guarantee that a website is what it claims to be. TIM said it would work with governments, industry bodies and companies to check that CAs are well run and had not been compromised. "It's a much more complex problem," said Mr Courtot. In 2011, two certificate authorities, DigiNotar and GlobalSign were found to have been compromised. In some cases this meant attackers eavesdropped on what should have been a secure communications channel. Steve Durbin, global vice president of the Information Security Forum which represents security specialists working in large corporations, said many of its members took responsibility for making sure sites were secure. "You cannot just say 'buyer beware'," he said. "That's not good enough anymore. They have a real a duty of care." He said corporations were also increasingly conscious of their reputation for providing safe and secure services to customers. Data breaches, hack attacks and poor security were all likely to hit share prices and could mean they lose customers, he noted.

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Anti-depressants likely do more harm than good, study suggests

Commonly prescribed anti-depressants appear to be doing patients more harm than good, say researchers who have published a paper examining the impact of the medications on the entire body. See Also: Health & Medicine Pharmacology Birth Defects Mental Health Research Mind & Brain Depression Disorders and Syndromes Psychiatry Reference COX-2 inhibitor Psychoactive drug Seasonal affective disorder Anti-obesity drug "We need to be much more cautious about the widespread use of these drugs," says Paul Andrews, an evolutionary biologist at McMaster University and lead author of the article, published recently in the online journal Frontiers in Psychology. "It's important because millions of people are prescribed anti-depressants each year, and the conventional wisdom about these drugs is that they're safe and effective." Andrews and his colleagues examined previous patient studies into the effects of anti-depressants and determined that the benefits of most anti-depressants, even taken at their best, compare poorly to the risks, which include premature death in elderly patients. Anti-depressants are designed to relieve the symptoms of depression by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain, where it regulates mood. The vast majority of serotonin that the body produces, though, is used for other purposes, including digestion, forming blood clots at wound sites, reproduction and development. What the researchers found is that anti-depressants have negative health effects on all processes normally regulated by serotonin. The findings include these elevated risks: developmental problems in infants problems with sexual stimulation and function and sperm development in adults digestive problems such as diarrhea, constipation, indigestion and bloating abnormal bleeding and stroke in the elderly The authors reviewed three recent studies showing that elderly anti-depressant users are more likely to die than non-users, even after taking other important variables into account. The higher death rates indicate that the overall effect of these drugs on the body is more harmful than beneficial. "Serotonin is an ancient chemical. It's intimately regulating many different processes, and when you interfere with these things you can expect, from an evolutionary perspective, that it's going to cause some harm," Andrews says. Millions of people are prescribed anti-depressants every year, and while the conclusions may seem surprising, Andrews says much of the evidence has long been apparent and available. "The thing that's been missing in the debates about anti-depressants is an overall assessment of all these negative effects relative to their potential beneficial effects," he says. "Most of this evidence has been out there for years and nobody has been looking at this basic issue." In previous research, Andrews and his colleagues had questioned the effectiveness of anti-depressants even for their prescribed function, finding that patients were more likely to suffer relapse after going off their medications as their brains worked to re-establish equilibrium. With even the intended function of anti-depressants in question, Andrews says it is important to look critically at their continuing use. "It could change the way we think about such major pharmaceutical drugs," he says. "You've got a minimal benefit, a laundry list of negative effects -- some small, some rare and some not so rare. The issue is: does the list of negative effects outweigh the minimal benefit?"

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Madeleine McCann, the British girl who went missing while on holiday in Portugal half a decade ago, could still be alive, Scotland Yard said on Wednesday.

Madeleine McCann as she might look aged 9
Madeleine McCann as she might look aged 9  Photo: Teri Blythe

Detectives released a new “age progression” image of the toddler, which they said showed what she would look like today at the age of nine.

On Wednesday, Britain’s biggest police force said that as a result of evidence uncovered during a review “they now believe there is a possibility Madeleine is still alive”.

Officers have so far identified nearly 200 new items for investigation within historic material and are also “developing what they believe to be genuinely new material”.

Scotland Yard urged Portuguese authorities to reopen the search for her amid the new "investigative opportunities".

Police said the image, created ahead of what would have been her ninth birthday on May 12, had been created in “close collaboration with the family”.

Dengue Fever Asian Mosquito Could Invade UK

Asian Tiger Mosquito

The mosquito can carry dengue and chikungunya viruses

 

A mosquito that spreads tropical diseases including dengue fever may be poised to invade the UK because of climate change.

The Asian tiger mosquito has already been reported in France and Belgium and could be migrating north as winters become warmer and wetter.

Scientists have urged "wide surveillance" for the biting insect across countries of central and northern Europe, including the UK.

The mosquito can carry dengue and chikungunya viruses, both of which cause high fevers. The infections usually occur in tropical regions of Africa, Asia and South America.

Scientists led by Dr Samantha Martin, from the University of Liverpool, used climate models to predict how changing conditions might affect Asian tiger mosquito distribution.

They wrote in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface: "Mosquito climate suitability has significantly increased over the southern UK, northern France, the Benelux, parts of Germany, Italy, Sicily and the Balkan countries."

The research shows that parts of the UK could become hot-spots of Asian tiger mosquito activity between 2030 and 2050.

The mosquito has been introduced into Europe from Asia via goods shipments, mainly used tyres and bamboo.

Climate change is now shifting conditions suitable for the insect from southern Europe to central north-western areas.

The mosquito could survive in water butts and vases, and may find winter protection in greenhouses, said the researchers.

Monday, 23 April 2012

exploding the common myths about which foods are good for us

Myth: Salt in your diet causes high blood pressure

In the 1940s, Walter Kempner, a researcher at Duke University, North Carolina, became famous for using salt restriction to treat people with high blood pressure. Later, studies confirmed that reducing salt could help reduce hypertension. But you don't have to avoid salt entirely, says Sara Stanner, of the Nutrition Society. "Adults need a small amount of sodium in their diet to maintain the body's fluid balance."

Average salt intakes have come down in recent years, mainly due to product reformulation. But it's still the case that many of us consume too much salt – around 9g a day instead of the maximum recommended dose of 6g per day – around 75 per cent of which is in processed foods such as soups, sauces, sandwiches and processed meat.

"People often think it's really bad to add salt into cooking or on to your plate, but that forms no more than 10 per cent of your total intake," says Stanner. "So you can get people who never have salt at their table, but have a very high salt intake, while others put salt on most meals, but have a lower intake."

Myth: Carbohydrates are bad for you

"Carbohydrate-rich foods are an ideal source of energy. They can also provide a lot of fibre and nutrients," says Sara Stanner. "Potatoes, for instance, are one of the best sources of vitamin C, yet potato consumption in the UK has fallen considerably."

One of the main reasons carbohydrates have fallen out of favour is that they are perceived to be fattening. "Foods high in carbohydrates have had a rough time in the past few years, thanks to the success of low-carb diets, such as the Atkins diet," explains Juliette Kellow.

"But there's no proof that carb-rich foods are more likely to make us gain weight than any other food. Ultimately, it's an excess of calories that makes us pile on the pounds – and it really doesn't matter where those extra calories come from. More often than not, it's the fat we add to carbs that boosts the calorie content, such as butter on toast, creamy sauces with pasta and frying potatoes to make chips."

Myth: Dairy products are fattening and unhealthy

In a study by the Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Australia, slimmers on low- calorie diets which included cheese, yoghurt and milk lost more weight than those on low-dairy diets. Those on the diet including dairy also had the least stomach fat, lower blood pressure and a significantly better chance of avoiding heart disease and diabetes.

Dairy products are packed with essential nutrients that help keep us healthy, says Juliette Kellow. "As well as being good sources of protein, zinc and some B vitamins, dairy products are packed with calcium, a mineral that helps to build strong, healthy bones – and the stronger the bones are, the less likely you'll be to suffer from osteoporosis in later life."

There are loads of low-fat versions of dairy, such as skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, low-fat yoghurts and reduced-fat cheeses, she says – and low-fat versions don't mean less calcium. "Skimmed and semi-skimmed milk actually contain slightly more calcium than full-fat milk."

Myth: Red meat is bad for you

Publishing what it called "the most authoritative ever report of bowel cancer risk" last year, the World Cancer Research Fund recommended that people limit their intake of red meat to 500g a week, or just over a pound in weight. The net result of such studies is always the same – people panic.

But 500g is roughly the equivalent of five or six medium portions of roast beef, lamb or pork. "Red meat is a valuable source of minerals and vitamins, particularly iron, and we know that large numbers of women have such low intakes of this nutrient that they're at risk of anaemia. There's no need for people to think, 'I should be eating fish' when they have a steak,' provided they eat it in moderation," says Sarah Schenker.

Another myth about red meat is that it's high in fat, says Juliette Kellow, dietitian and advisor to Weight Loss Resources. "Thanks to modern breeding programmes and new trimming techniques, red meat is now leaner than ever.

Processed meat of all kinds, however, should be avoided.

Myth: Fresh is always better than frozen

Frozen fruit and vegetables can be more healthy than fresh. "Research shows that freezing vegetables such as peas as soon as they're picked – when they are at their nutritional peak – means they retain higher levels of vitamins, particularly vitamin C," says Sarah Schenker. "Once frozen, the deterioration process stops, locking in goodness. The fresh variety often travel long distances and sit on grocery shelves and along the way, heat, air, water and time can lead to a significant loss of nutrients."

Frozen or canned fruits and vegetables can also be as nutritious as fresh ones, if not more so. Again, they are often packaged within hours of being picked, retaining their nutritional value. "Always check salt and sugar levels though by comparing labels," says Sarah Schenker, of the British Dietitic Association. Even dried fruit can be healthier than fresh. "When you eat dried fruit you usually eat more than the fresh equivalent – for instance six dried apricots instead of three fresh ones. This is more calorific but you get a bigger amount of nutrients," says Schenker.

Myth: Soy eases menopausal problems

For years, the fact that Asian women have fewer menopausal symptoms has been attributed to high levels of soy in their diet. Soy products such as tofu contain natural plant oestrogens and there have been increasing claims that these might help women going through the menopause whose own oestrogen levels are dwindling.

But a University of Miami study has found that soy does nothing to abate hot flushes and bone-density loss. In fact, the women given soy appeared to experience more hot flushes than those given a placebo.

Experts including Dr Malcolm Whitehead, a menopause expert at King's College Hospital in London, aren't surprised. "In my clinical experience, women say this doesn't work for them," he says, adding that HRT is a safe and effective treatment for most women.

Others point to previous studies showing that soy can work, but the British Dietetic Association's Sarah Schenker, says, "This research has always been weak. People got excited about those early small studies, but the more research that was done, the more doubts appeared."

Myth: Brown bread is better for you than white

A darker loaf of bread does not necessarily mean it's made with whole grains – it could simply contain caramel colouring or such a small amount of whole wheat that its nutritional benefits are no different to white bread. "The real health benefits come from eating wholemeal bread instead of white," says Sarah Schenker.

Wholemeal is made from flour containing all the goodness of wheat grains. The outer husk has not been removed, so the resulting bread is much richer in fibre, protein and vitamins B1, B2, niacin, B6, folic acid and biotin. Brown bread, in contrast, is made from finely milled wheat, from which the bran has been extracted.

Look for the words "whole grain" or "100% whole wheat" on packaging and ensure the first ingredient listed is whole wheat, oats, whole rye, whole grain corn, barley, quinoa, buckwheat or brown rice. Seeded bread is even better, since it contains even more vitamins, minerals and healthy fats.

Myth: Everyone needs a lot of protein

Protein is essential for growth and development, but experts agree that most people eat far too much of it. "The Department of Health recommends that protein should make up around 10-15 per cent of your daily diet – that's around 55g for men and 45g for women," dietitian Azmina Govindji says. "Yet, according to the British Nutrition Foundation, men are probably munching their way through an average of 88g and women around 64g."

So what's fuelling this notion that we need so much? "Some diets, such as the Atkins diet, advocate speedy weight loss on cutting the carbs and piling on the proteins", Govindji says.

Another contributory factor is that in the past, it was believed nobody could eat too much protein. In the early 1900s, people were told to eat well over 100g a day and in the 1950s, health-conscious people were encouraged to boost their protein intake. But high protein can put a strain on liver and kidneys and other bodily systems.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

police hunt for Michael Brown's missing millions

British police are still trying to trace £18m allegedly stolen by the Liberal Democrats' fugitive donor Michael Brown, who is expected to be extradited to Britain within the next 10 days. Brown, 46, was in a holding cell near Madrid airport on Sunday, having been deported from the Dominican Republic, where he had been on the run from UK authorities for three years. Brown, who gave £2.4m to the Liberal Democrats before the 2005 general election, is not expected to challenge a formal move to extradite him to London which has already been set in motion. He was convicted of theft and false accounting in his absence in Britain in 2008 and sentenced to seven years in jail. Detectives are still trying to trace around £18m of Brown's stolen money, which had been moved between his accounts in the US, Britain and Switzerland, the Guardian understands. Brown was estimated to have stolen more than £60m in a number of frauds. Most of his assets have been accounted for in property deals, a Bentley, a yacht and the private jet once used to fly senior Lib Dems across the UK. However, more than £18m has not yet been accounted for. "The file at Interpol on Brown and his associates remains open," a source told the Guardian. Brown's return will be another embarrassing development in the long-running saga over the Lib Dems' biggest single donation. The party has refused to compensate any of Brown's victims, claiming it received the money in good faith and spent it on the 2005 election campaign. Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg welcomed Brown's return to Britain but said on Sunday that the party would not be returning his donation because the Electoral Commission had concluded the money had been received in good faith. The deputy prime minister, who pointed out that the donation was made before he was elected to Westminster, told BBC1's Sunday Politics: "I'm very pleased he's coming back to serve his sentence. This is a convicted fraudster. "I should stress that this is something which happened as far as the Liberal Democrats are concerned before I was even an MP, yet alone leader of the Liberal Democrats. What I've been told is that the Electoral Commission in 2009 looked at this exhaustively – as far as the receipt of that money by the Liberal Democrats from one of his companies. They categorically concluded that the money was received in good faith and all the controls, all the checks that should have been made were reasonably made by the Liberal Democrats at the time. If we'd been shown wanting on those accounts then of course we should pay the money back." But Brown's return will increase focus on the Electoral Commission inquiry into Brown's donations. The inquiry failed to call the Lib Dems' former treasurer, Reg Clark, who resigned over Brown in 2005 and warned advisers to the former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy that Brown should be treated with extreme caution. One of Brown's victims said the Lib Dems should return the money. Tony Brown, managing partner at law firm Bivonas which represents US attorney Robert Mann who lost more than $5m (£3m), said Brown may be asked to give evidence as part of his client's claim against the Lib Dems. "The Lib Dems have refused to repay this money to our client even though they know that this is the proceeds of crime. The Electoral Commission has failed to investigate this properly in our view. So now that Brown is returning to the jurisdiction, we can investigate again and establish the basis on which the Lib Dems received this money." Brown is expected to appear before a Spanish court to confirm his name and will then appear before an extradition hearing within 10 days. City of London police, who first uncovered Brown's fraud, confirmed his deportation. Detective Superintendent Bob Wishart said: "We hope that him facing justice will bring some closure to the victims who suffered as a result of his frauds." A close friend of Brown's told the Guardian on Sunday that he had arrived in Spain on Saturday after "volunteering" for deportation from the Dominican Republic, where he has been hiding for three years under the name of Darren Nally. "He asked to return to Britain. He is going home to face the music," the friend said. Brown appeared to come from nowhere when the party was paid £2.4m in the runup to the 2005 election from his company 5th Avenue Partners. A fast-talking and brash Glaswegian, he had walked into the party's then headquarters in Cowley Street and offered it money. He was not registered to vote, had no interest in politics and had never been a party member, but said he was giving the money to create an even playing field. Brown wined and dined with Charles Kennedy and other party grandees, and used his private jet to fly Kennedy across the country during the election campaign. Former Lib Dem insiders say he dazzled them with stories of Gordonstoun public school, St Andrews University and his connections with royalty and the US government. The truth was that he had attended his local school and completed a City and Guilds in catering at Glasgow College of Food Technology. He had no US government links – although he was wanted in Florida for cheque fraud. He was arrested in late 2005 after four former clients said he had duped them out of more than £40m in a high-yield fraud. His victims included Martin Edwards, the former Manchester United chairman, who had invested £8m with 5th Avenue Partners. The court would later be told that 5th Avenue Partners was wholly fraudulent and Brown had given money to the Lib Dems to give himself an air of respectability while duping his victims. The party had been used as part of his cover story, a judge said. In June 2008, while awaiting trial, Brown fled and a warrant was issued for his arrest. In the weeks before he disappeared, from his Hampstead bail address in north London, he changed his name on the electoral roll to Campbell-Brown and allowed his hair to turn grey. He travelled to the Dominican Republic where he enjoyed a millionaire's lifestyle while on the run. He lived in gated communities yards from some of the most pristine beaches in the Caribbean, drove a series of 4x4 vehicles and was a regular at exclusive golf courses. In Punta Cana, an exclusive resort on the eastern tip of the island, he could often be seen walking his dog – named Charles, after the former Lib Dem leader. He was arrested in Punta Cana in January on unrelated fraud allegations.

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Donaldson enjoyed a lavish lifestyle in Marbella and Tenerife, trafficking accused found hiding in loft with £70k in cash

 A SUSPECTED drug trafficker was found by police hiding in a farmhouse loft in Scotland with a bag stuffed with £70,000, a Spanish court was told last week. Ian Donaldson, 32, is accused of helping fund an international drugs ring smuggling cocaine and speed from Spain to Scotland The former amateur racing driver – who drove a Lamborghini with the distinctive Lambo 88 plate – was tracked down to the farm by officers from the Scottish Crime and Drugs Enforcement Agency. Donaldson – who enjoyed a lavish lifestyle in Marbella and Tenerife– is one of six Brits facing court in Madrid accused of making millions from the drugs trade. Detective Inspector James Wallace of the SCDEA told the court: “I arrested him on February 27, 2009. He was hiding in a loft area in a farm building. We also found £70,000 hidden in a bag.” Eight SCDEA detectives gave evidence to the National Court in the Spanish capital last week via a video link from Edinburgh. The court heard Scottish police mounted a surveillance operation after Donaldson, from Renton, Dunbartonshire, was released on bail. Detectives watched him in a series of meetings in Glasgow and Hamilton in April 2009, as he tried to hide the origins of his fortune, prosecutors allege. Donaldson met with fellow accused Mary Hendry and Joseph Campbell and was observed discussing large sums of money and swapping paperwork for a nightclub in Gran Canaria. It was alleged they were secretly plotting to make it look like Donaldson had made some of his wealth from the club. Meetings took place at supermarkets in Glasgow and Hamilton and the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. DI Wallace told the court: “We saw he (Donaldson) was creating a defence for the Spanish charges. “I believe they (Hendry and Campbell) were both subservient to Donaldson, who instructed them on what to do.” The detective said Donaldson and his company IRD Services were also investigated for money- laundering in Scotland. He added: “There is evidence he purchased seven vehicles in Scotland, worth up to £900,000, between 2006 and 2008.” Mary Hendry told the court she only met Donaldson twice for legitimate business meetings. She said: “Joseph Campbell introduced me to Ian Donaldson because I was trying to sell my restaurant. “I met him the next day and he said he was not interested. I never saw him again.” It is alleged Donaldson was the money man for a gang of drug smugglers based in Tenerife and Marbella, led by Glaswegian Ronald O’Dea, 45. The gang are alleged to have spent millions on luxury villas, fast cars and yachts. In October 2008, police seized a a haul of amphetamines worth £660,000 heading to Scotland after stopping a lorry in Oxfordshire. Donaldson, Hendry and O’Dea share the dock in Madrid with fellow Scot James MacDonald, 62, and Londoners Steve Brown, 45, and Deborah Learmouth, 49. The gang face charges ranging from drug-trafficking to money-laundering. They deny all charges. Two other defendants – Brian Rawlings and Joseph Campbell – failed to show up at the trial. The judges will give their verdict at a later date.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Wayne Rooney launches phone-hacking claim

Wayne Rooney and England rugby union World Cup winner Matt Dawson are among the new wave of high-profile figures suing Rupert Murdoch's News International over alleged News of the World phone hacking. The England and Manchester United football star, his agent Paul Stretford, Dawson, now a BBC rugby commentator and Question of Sport team captain, actor James Nesbitt and Sir John Major's former daughter-in-law, Emma Noble, are among 46 new phone-hacking cases filed at the high court in London. Times Newspapers, the News International subsidiary that publishes the Times and Sunday Times, is also facing its first civil damages claim, from Northern Ireland human rights campaigner Jane Winter, who is also suing NoW publisher, News Group Newspapers. Winter's claim is related to an article in the Sunday Times in August 2006, her solicitor confirmed. A reference to the article was made in a witness statement she submitted to the Leveson inquiry in February. Winter alleged in evidence to the inquiry that her emails to the former British army intelligence officer Ian Hurst were hacked by NoW. A News International spokeswoman said Winter's case would be "defended vigorously". Others who have filed claims in the past few days seeking damages for alleged invasion of privacy from News Group, the News International subsidiary that published the now-closed Sunday tabloid, include former Conservative cabinet minister and chief whip Lord Blencathra and former Fire Brigades Union general secretary Andy Gilchrist. The list of new claimants also features Michelle Bayford, the former girlfriend of the victim of the 2006 so-called "elephant man" drug trial case. Her then boyfriend, Ryan Wilson, spent three weeks in a coma and lost all his toes and parts of his fingers to gangrene. Another claimant, Anne Colvin, was a witness in the Tommy Sheridan perjury trial. At a case management conference at the high court in London , Hugh Tomlinson QC, representing victims of alleged phone hacking, told Mr Justice Vos that he had 44 new cases filed while two others had submitted their claims via another legal representative. The court also heard that law firm Harbottle & Lewis has a number of "sensitive clients" who wish to remain anonymous. It is expected that up to 200 new claims will be filed over the coming months, Tomlinson told the court in a previous hearing. Claims filed in the past week bring the number of new cases against News International to 46. This figure includes earlier claims filed by public figures including Cherie Booth, Alex Best, the former wife of the late footballer George Best, and Colin Stagg, the man wrongly accused of murdering Rachel Nickell. Others who have filed claims include comedian Bobby Davro, actor Tina Hobley's former husband Steve Wallington, TV personalities Jamie Theakston and Jeff Brazier, the former boxer Chris Eubank, and footballers Peter Crouch, Kieron Dyer and Jermaine Jenas. The cases are part of a second wave of civil actions which Vos is managing following the settlement of more than 50 cases earlier this year including claims by Jude Law, Charlotte Church and Lord Prescott. Tomlinson did not disclose the names of the claimants on Friday, but court documents show that new cases submitted to the high court in the past week bring the number of new actions faced by News International to nearly 50, a number that is expected to rise considerably. Tomlinson told the court that News International had received 100 requests for discovery of preliminary disclosure. He said there were 4,791 potential phone-hacking victims, of which 1,892 had been contacted by the police. The police believed 1,174 were "likely victims". Court 30 in the Rolls Building of the high court was packed, with more than 50 law firms acting for victims. Vos said there were 58 firms of solicitors representing only 100 victims, which he told Tomlinson was "unbelievable". The judge added that he wanted to ensure costs are reduced for claimants. "Many of them have seen the light and have instructed lawyers who have specialist knowledge of this case," said Vos. He suggested possible tariffs of costs for each element of the legal action. This would mean fresh claimants could access to information relating to the News of the World's phone-hacking activity already produced on discovery in earlier cases, without incurring the costs associated with a full action. "I will have no sympathy for outrageous cost estimates," he said. "A claimant is entitled to have a solicitor, but what he is not entitled to have is a solicitor who knows nothing about the case and charges the defendant for that."

Friday, 20 April 2012

Britons living overseas defrauded 43 million pounds in benefit fraud in 2011


The British Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, has been visiting the Department of Work and Pensions benefits and healthcare team in Madrid. He warned Britons living abroad not to break the strict rules on what benefits they can and cannot claim. People who are pretending to live in the UK so they can collect benefits, but in fact are living overseas cost the British taxpayer 43 million pounds last year. Most of the reports of such benefit fraud came from Spain. Iain Duncan Smith commented, “We are determined to clamp down on benefit fraud abroad, which cost the British taxpayer around £43 million last year. This money should be going to the people who need it most and not lining the pockets of criminals sunning themselves overseas. The vast majority of British people overseas are law abiding, but fraudulently claiming benefits while living abroad is a crime and we are committed to putting a stop to it.” He also encouraged Britons to use the dedicated Spanish hotline to report benefit thieves. 900 554 440 or you report a benefit fraud here. The hotline has resulted in 100 people being sanctioned or prosecuted, and 134 more cases are currently under investigation. 3.1 million pounds in over payments of benefit have been identified and will be reclaimed. Source – UK in Spain - http://ukinspain.fco.gov.uk/en/news/?view=News&id=754530182 Duncan Smith made the most of his visit to Madrid and took the chance to meet with Health Minister, Ana Mato, and the Mayor of Madrid, Ana Botella. They discussed the response to the crisis with Duncan Smith calling for an end to the culture of ‘unemployment and dependency’, increasing the control on public spending and eliminating ‘the subsidies which don’t resolve problems because in some cases ‘they trap the poor’.

Anti-Corruption prosecutors to be strengthened in Málaga

 

The State Attorney General, Eduardo Torres-Dulce, has said that there are plans to designate ‘one or two prosecutors’ more to the specialist Anti-Corruption section in the province of Málaga. He made the comment at an event where Juan Carlos López Caballero took possession as Chief Prosecutor for Málaga, a job which he was sharing with his post as Delegate from the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor, where three prosecutors work. There have been complaints from prosecutors that only 8% of civil servants who work for the administration of justice do so in the prosecutors’ office, a number described as ‘totally insufficient’.

Health Minister announces crackdown on foreigners using the Spanish Health Service


The cabinet on Friday decided to crack down on foreigners using the Spanish Health Service as part of an additional 7 billion € of cuts. They intend to toughen the conditions for inclusion on the Padrón census. Minister for Health, Ana Mato, said ‘We are going to end the abuses committed by some foreigners’. She is going to change the Ley de Extranjería which intends to put a limit to the so-called ‘health tourism’, which has seen family members of foreign residents to come to Spain ‘exclusively’ to receive health attention. Ana Mato insisted that from now it will not be so easy to come to Spain, sign the Padrón census, and obtain a health card, as it has been. ‘Just getting on the Padrón they all had the right to the health card’, said the Minister. ‘Now there will be a series of additional requirements when the Padrón is issued’. She said to guarantee the universality of the Health Service ‘for all the Spaniards’ it was necessary to stop the illegal and undue use which some foreigners have been making of this service. On Thursday the Minister met with the regions and they agreed on a new article which will ‘explicitly prohibit a person moving regions in search of health attention'. The Minister considers these measures will do away with health tourism and save 1 billion €. Ana Mato also said that she was going to revise some international conventions on the matter, given that ‘many’ countries do not repay the money they owe Spain for the health attention given here to their citizens. Among the other measures approved, the end of paying for some medicaments ‘with little therapeutic value’. A list of included medicines accepted nationally is to be prepared. The Minister said ‘We all have to collaborate with those who having a worse time’.

Ryanair threatens surcharge on flights to Spain

 

Millions of its passengers – who have already booked and paid for their flights in full – may now be asked to pay an extra fee upon departure, or be told they are not allowed to board. The airline sent an email to customers this week warning them of the backdated fare. “We may be forced to debit passengers for any government imposed increases in airport charges prior to your travel date,” its message read. “If any such tax, fee or charge is introduced or increased after your reservation has been made you will be obliged to pay it (or any increase) prior to departure”.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Phone data shows romance 'driven by women'

 

A study of mobile phone calls suggests that women call their spouse more than any other person. That changes as their daughters become old enough to have children, after which they become the most important person in their lives. The study has been published in the journal Scientific Reports. It also shows that men call their spouse most often for the first seven years of their relationship. They then shift their focus to other friends. The results come from an analysis of the texts of mobile phone calls of three million people. According to the study's co-author, Professor Robin Dunbar of Oxford University, UK, the investigation shows that pair-bonding is much more important to women than men. "It's the first really strong evidence that romantic relationships are driven by women," he told BBC News. "It's they who make the decision and once they have made their mind up, they just go for the poor bloke until he keels over and gives in!" But the data shows that women start to switch the preference of their best friend from about the mid-30s, and by the age of 45 a woman of a generation younger becomes the "new best friend", according to Professor Dunbar. Continue reading the main story “ Start Quote Human societies are moving back to a matriarchy” Prof Robin Dunbar Oxford University "What seems to happen is that women push the 'old man' out to become their second best friend, and he gets called much less often and all her attention is focussed on her daughters just at the point at which you are likely to see grandchildren arriving," he says. Prof Dunbar also claims that the findings suggest that human societies are moving away from a patriarchy back to a matriarchy. The aim of the project was to find out how close, intimate relationships vary over a lifetime. This kind of anthropological study is normally very difficult to do because it is hard for researchers to get such a big picture of people's lives. But by looking at an at an extremely large mobile phone database, they were able to track these changes extremely accurately. They had access to the age and sex of the callers, who between them made three billion calls and half a billion texts over a period of seven months. Intensely focussed The team wanted to find out how the gender preference of best friends, as defined by the frequency of the calling, changed over the course of a lifetime and differed between men and women. They found that men tend to choose a woman the same age as themselves - which the researchers presumed to be their girlfriend or wife - as a best friend much later in life than women do, and for a much shorter time. This occurs when they are in their early-30s, possibly during courtship, and stops after seven years or so. Women, however, choose a man of a similar age to be their best friend from the age of 20. He remains for about 15 years, after which time he's replaced by a daughter. The pendulum between the two sexes is swinging back towards women, says Prof Dunbar The researchers say that a woman's social world is intensely focussed a on one individual and will shift as a result of reproductive interests from being the mate to children and grandchildren. According to Prof Dunbar, the data suggests that "at root the important relationships are those between women and not those between men". "Men's relationships are too casual. They often function at a high level in a political sense, of course; but at the end of the day, the structure of society is driven by women, which is exactly what we see in primates," he explains. Many anthropologists argue that most human societies are patriarchal on the basis that in most communities men stay where they are born whereas the wives move. But Professor Dunbar and his colleagues are arguing that this only occurs in agriculturally based societies. "If you look at hunter-gatherers and you look at modern humans in modern post-industrial societies, we are much more matriarchal. It's almost as if the pendulum between the two sexes, power-wise, is swinging (back) as we move away from agriculture toward a knowledge-based economy," he says.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Abbey Crouch appears to have shrunk again while holidaying with hubby


Abbey Crouch looked typically super svelte on Spanish shores in Marbella when her husband Peter whisked her off on yet another foreign trip. The mother-of-one displayed a sunkissed glow in a multiple strap frock. Footballer Peter Crouch's wife's red mini dress skimmed her thighs, showing off her ultra trim legs. The former 'Britain's Next Top Model' contestant teamed the garment with large feather drop earrings as she tottered along on in elegant heels. The sportsman also sported a rather healthy complexion, with his crisp white shirt in stark contrast to his radiating tan. Additionally, it seems like the lovebirds relived some of their wedding memories, as the Scouse beauty tweeted from their vacation. "Sun rose wine wedding song = good times x," the Daily Mail quoted her as tweeting.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Vinnie Jones heads to Marbella


Vinnie Jones is heading to Marbella for a role as a twisted garrotte killer. The British actor and ex-footballer – who was once given a yellow card after just three seconds on the pitch – will play a lead in gangster movie Shill, to be filmed entirely on the ‘Costa del Crime’. “Jones plays Branch, a guitar-playing nutter who chokes his victims with his strings,” said Shill writer and producer Paul Grimshaw, who based the film on his own experiences. The Shill actors will meet investors at Marbella Film Festival in October this year, with filming set for spring 2013. “We’ll be filming over a six-week period which will be a chance for some real star-spotting in Marbella,” said Grimshaw, who has worked as an estate agent in Marbella for 20 years. The film – also likely to star Tom Hardy – focuses on ‘shill bidding’, online fraud which involves falsely inflating prices of goods sold on auction sites such as eBay. Having made ten million pounds in cash, the team embark on a spending spree to Marbella to hide the money from the law. But after Shill makes a deal with crime baron Drake, a bloody and brutal mutiny is unleashed

Friday, 6 April 2012

Man in court on murder bid charge

 

A man will appear in court charged with attempted murder following a bottle attack at a celebrity-packed party thrown by smartphone company BlackBerry. A 37-year-old man remains in a critical condition in hospital following the incident at Pulse nightclub in Southwark, central London. Ashley Charles, 25, of Nevanthon Road, Leicester, will appear at Camberwell Green Magistrates' Court in connection with the incident. The party on Tuesday night was attended by journalists, celebrities including rapper Wretch 32 and stars of The Only Way Is Essex and BlackBerry competition winners. Brit award-winning singer Jessie J had been performing at the party before the bloody brawl and spoke of her shock on Twitter.

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Emails sent to the Big Pictures agency in 2010 and 2011 contained the flight details of dozens of celebrities, including Madonna, Princess Beatrice and Sienna Miller.


Richard Branson's airline Virgin Atlantic is under mounting pressure to explain how an insider was apparently able to pass the confidential flight details of as many as 70 celebrities to a major paparazzi agency. Emails sent to the Big Pictures agency in 2010 and 2011 contained the flight details of dozens of celebrities, including Madonna, Princess Beatrice and Sienna Miller. Some of the figures alleged to be affected are friends of Sir Richard and his family and the allegations could prove hugely embarrassing for the tycoon, who is known for his close ties to the world of show business. A senior employee is understood to have resigned on Thursday after initial allegations that she passed on the flight details of eight celebrities including the singer Cheryl Cole and her former husband, the Chelsea footballer Ashley Cole, singer Robbie Williams and actress Scarlett Johansson. The airline launched an internal investigation and insisted it had "robust processes in place to ensure that passenger information is protected". But yesterday another cache of emails came to light that suggested that dozens more famous passengers may have been subject to the privacy breach. Emails seen by the Press Gazette contained the flight details of dozens of celebrities ranging from film stars Charlize Theron and Kate Winslet to Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson and James May. The emails, sent over several months, suggest a degree of familiarity between the two correspondents. In one, Big Pictures allegedly wrote to the Virgin insider, understood to be a supervisor of Upper-Class passengers, saying it was "trying to sort you out some money with accounts". One email, reportedly containing details of a return flight from Heathrow to Newark taken by Borat actor Sacha Baron Cohen and his actress wife Isla Fisher, included the comment: "They're in economy!!!!!!" Big Pictures also appears to have been given an anonymous tip-off about a flight taken by people referred to as "Madonna's kids". In a statement issued on Thursday, Virgin Atlantic called the allegations "extremely serious" and said it had launched an immediate investigation. Virgin Atlantic's spokeswoman could not confirm whether Virgin Group chairman Richard Branson would be personally apologising to the celebrities affected and refused to comment any further pending the outcome of an investigation. The allegations are hugely embarrassing for an airline that markets itself as a glamorous alternative to other long-haul carriers and is known to be popular with the rich and famous. Branson is yet to comment publicly. Others who appear to have been affected include Rihanna, Russell Brand, Rob Brydon and Jonathan Ross. Legal experts said that such disclosures may not be a criminal offence. However, solicitors for Ashley Cole and Sienna Miller said they were taking legal instructions over the allegations. No representative of Big Pictures, owned by the former Celebrity Big Brother contestant Darryn Lyons, was available to comment.

Virgin Atlantic employee has resigned following allegations she routinely fed information about the airline's celebrity clientele

 

Virgin Atlantic employee has resigned following allegations she routinely fed information about the airline's celebrity clientele — from Madonna to Sienna Miller — to a paparazzi agency. The employee was a junior member of the team that looks after high-profile clients, Virgin said Friday. She quit Thursday before reports published in the Guardian and the Press Gazette alleged that she had passed the booking information of more than 60 celebrities on to the Big Pictures photo agency. Among those allegedly targeted: Britain's Princess Beatrice; singers Madonna and Rihanna; actors Charlize Theron, Kate Winslet, Daniel Radcliffe and Miller; comedians Sacha Baron Cohen and Russell Brand; and a slew of U.K. celebrities and sports figures. The Guardian and the Press Gazette cited messages allegedly sent by the employee to someone at Big Pictures Ltd. as the basis for their stories. The Associated Press had no immediate way of verifying the authenticity of the messages, but the Guardian said it had carried out checks confirming that at least some of the celebrities had traveled to the destinations mentioned in the emails. Calls and emails to representatives of around a dozen of the celebrities mentioned went unreturned Friday, a public holiday in Britain. A representative for Princess Beatrice declined comment, while Kate Winslet's publicist, Heidi Slan, said the star wasn't reachable. In a statement, Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. called the allegations "extremely serious" and said it had launched an investigation. The airline, which is majority-owned by billionaire adventurer Richard Branson, confirmed that high-profile clients were involved but declined to comment on the British newspapers' figures. A man who answered the phone at London-based Big Pictures hung up when an Associated Press reporter identified himself as a member of the media. Emails sent to company founder Darryn Lyons' personal assistant weren't immediately returned, and no one answered the door at Big Pictures' central London office. The Press Gazette said Big Pictures was first approached for comment more than 48 hours ago but has yet to respond. Neither Virgin nor the newspapers identified the employee in question. The Guardian said it had contacted her on Wednesday and that she had declined comment. It was not clear Friday if authorities had become involved. Virgin refused to say whether it had called in the police and a Scotland Yard spokesman said he wasn't aware of the leak. The Information Commissioner's office — which investigates data breaches in Britain — said in a statement that the agency will need to make further inquiries "to establish the precise nature of the alleged incident before deciding what action, if any, needs to be taken." The past year has seen the sometimes underhanded methods of Britain's media thrust into the spotlight by a scandal over phone hacking at the now-defunct News of the World. Paparazzi have come under particular scrutiny, with public figures including Miller alleging aggressive, intimidating or illegal behavior on the part of celebrity-obsessed snappers. Miller, who testified before a judge-led inquiry into media ethics set up in the wake of the scandal, said she had been terrorized by photographers stalking her every move. "I would often find myself — I was 21 — at midnight running down a dark street on my own with ten big men chasing me and the fact that they had cameras in their hands meant that that was legal," she told the inquiry. "But if you take away the cameras, what have you got? You've got a pack of men chasing a woman and obviously that's a very intimidating situation to be in." Lyons, the founder of Big Pictures, told the same inquiry he had "no reason" to believe his photographers broke rules in pursuit of pictures, batting away suggestions that paparazzi victimize their targets. "The fact of the matter is that celebrities court publicity when they want to court publicity and then all of a sudden they want to switch it off very, very soon after," he told the inquiry. "If you are in the public eye, you are looked up to," he added. "We live in a world of voyeurism."

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

New info about statin safety affects millions


U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued new safety information about these cholesterol-lowering drugs that are prescribed to millions of Americans to lower the risk of heart disease. If you're among them, you should understand what the FDA's new guidance means for your health. "Before anyone gets too concerned, you should know that statins are so widely used because they have a long track record of safety and effectiveness," says Dr. Mark Taber, a cardiologist with SSM Heart Institute at St. Joseph Health Center. "All in all, statins have a very high benefit to risk ratio. The widespread use of the drugs, when indicated, probably accounts to a significant degree for the improvement in life expectancy in this country." The FDA called attention to the threat of liver damage as a rare side effect of statins and advised that regular liver enzyme testing is no longer considered useful in predicting or preventing liver injury. "Actually, in general they liberalized the follow up needed for liver function tests on patients taking statins, due to the very low incidence of true liver issues," Taber says. The main warnings related to a slightly higher incidence of developing diabetes while on statins, and a poorly substantiated claim that statins could result in cognitive impairment. Taber points out that cognitive problems, such as confusion or memory problems, were not documented in clinical studies, only by patient reports to the FDA website. "By stating these concerns, the FDA is raising awareness about the potential side effects of statins, but cardiologists already know that there are inherent risks, and we monitor patients appropriately to help ensure that side effects do not occur or are dealt with quickly," Taber notes. "If there is any evidence of a side effect that could be problematic, we can change the medication. But the fact remains that it's important to decrease risk of heart disease, and for many people statins are needed when diet and exercise alone don't result in acceptable cholesterol levels." Whenever a new prescription medication is started, you should look over the package insert to learn about potential side effects. Signs of liver damage, for instance, include fatigue, loss of appetite, right upper abdominal pain, dark urine and jaundice. Any of these symptoms should be reported to your doctor for evaluation. It is important to remember that you should not stop taking a medication without consulting your doctor first. Discontinuing use of a prescribed drug can be far more dangerous than the side effect you're worried about. "All the side effects listed by the FDA are rare, and the risk of heart attack is far more concerning," Taber says. "Some patients may need extra monitoring or may need to try more than one statin before we find the optimal choice, but in general statins are very well tolerated and don't cause problems for the people who take them." The advice above is universal when it comes to your health. Concerns should be discussed with your doctor, and decisions should always be made as part of a team approach to creating a healthy life.

Why don't GPS warn you that statins can harm your memory?


John Holliday had been on a higher 40mg dose of cholesterol pills for only a few weeks when he started to lose his concentration. ‘I’d be watching TV and suddenly find myself unable to follow the plot of a drama,’ says John, 52, a telecoms project manager who lives in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, with his wife Jill, 51, and their two children Adam, 20, and Emma, 16. ‘I’d have to read the same page of a book over and over because I couldn’t take any information in. ‘I’d always been known for my amazing memory — I was great on trivia and had total recall of events that happened 20 years ago, but suddenly I couldn’t remember things and my brain felt fuzzy.’ Just like up to seven million other people in Britain, John had been prescribed a statin to lower his blood cholesterol levels. The drugs are credited by the British Heart Foundation as contributing towards the dramatic 50 per cent fall in deaths from heart attacks in the past ten years. But while there is consensus that statins are lifesavers for people who have previously had a heart attack, concern is growing over their debilitating side-effects. They include muscle weakness, depression, sleep disturbance, sexual dysfunction, muscle pain and damage, gastro-intestinal problems, headaches, joint pains and nausea. Now, official bodies here and in the U.S. have ordered that the drugs must carry warnings for cognitive problems, too. Worryingly, it’s claimed GPs are failing to warn patients of the effect statins can have on the mind — meaning they may mistake them for signs of ageing or Alzheimer’s. ‘When I went back to my doctor after six weeks for a blood test, I told him how dreadful I was feeling,’ says John. ‘But he just said all drugs had side-effects and didn’t mention reducing the dose.’ It's claimed GPs are failing to warn patients of the effect statins can have on the mind - meaning they may mistake them for signs of ageing or Alzheimer's Things came to a head when a friend showed John an electrical circuit he’d built for his car. ‘I’d worked with circuits since I was 16 but it made no sense,’ he says. So John insisted on seeing his doctor again and repeated his concerns about his rapidly declining memory. This time the GP told him he could start on another type of statin when he felt well enough, and so John stopped taking the drugs immediately. ‘It took a few months, but gradually my memory returned and I’ve got my concentration back. I can’t say for sure statins caused these problems, but it seems like too much of a coincidence.’ Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S. ordered statins must carry warnings that some users have reported cognitive problems including memory loss, forgetfulness and confusion. This followed a decision by the UK’s Medicines Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to add memory problems to the list of  possible statin side-effects in late 2009. The FDA said reports about the symptoms were from across all statin products and age groups. Those affected reported feeling fuzzy or unfocused in their thought process — though these were found to be rare and reversible. The FDA also warned, following U.S. research, that patients on statins had a small excess risk of developing Type 2 diabetes — but stressed that the benefits of taking a statin still outweigh this. The MHRA had 2,675 reports for adverse drug reactions connected with statins between 2007 and 2011. Officially, side-effects are rare —affecting only 1 per cent of people on the pills — but some doctors say they are under-reported. Dr Malcolm Kendrick, a GP and author of The Great Cholesterol Con, says he frequently sees patients suffering from mental confusion in his job in hospital intermediary care for the elderly. ‘Many of the patients I see will have been admitted to hospital after a fall or similar crisis,’ he says. ‘If they appear confused I’ll often advise taking them off statins to see if it has any effect — in my experience, about 10 to 15 per cent of people who appeared to have memory problems experienced an improvement in their memory symptoms after being taken off the drug. ‘I had one dramatic case where a lady was admitted to hospital on 40mg a day of simvastatin with such poor memory function her family asked me about power of attorney. 'I suggested taking her off statins and within a week her memory had returned to normal. She went home a fit and independent 83-year-old.’ Dr Kendrick says cholesterol is the main constituent of synapses (structures that allow signals to pass between brain cells and to create new memories) and is essential for brain function. ‘It is still not proven that statins have a significant effect on mortality — it has been calculated that a man who has had a heart attack who took a statin for five years would extend his life by only 14 days. 'Too many statins are being given to people at low risk. ‘Even in the highest risk group you need to treat 200 people a year with statins to delay just one death. 'One day the harm these drugs are doing is going to be obvious — the benefits are being over-hyped and the risks swept under the carpet.’ While Dr Kendrick’s controversial view is in the minority, one large review of 14 studies by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, published by the highly respected Cochrane Library last year, concluded there was ‘little evidence’ cholesterol-lowering drugs protect people who are not at risk of heart disease. This review has been criticised by other doctors who say side-effects are rare and that there are still benefits even for people at lower risk who do not have established heart disease. These defenders of statins include Professor Colin Baigent of the Clinical Trial Service at Oxford University, who published research in 2010 showing statins reduced deaths from all causes by 10 per cent over five years. ‘There is relatively little evidence of cognitive impairment — what evidence there is all comes from observational studies.  ‘People read about side-effects and then put two and two together and blame the statins for their muscle pain or other health problems — it’s just not reliable evidence. ‘If you look at the best-quality randomised controlled trial where patients don’t know if they are taking a statin or placebo, there is no evidence of memory problems. 'Even the FDA says the risks of cognitive problems are very small and go away when statins are discontinued. ‘We’re in danger of forgetting just how effective these drugs are.’ Dr Dermot Neely of the charity Heart UK, and lead consultant at the Lipid and Metabolic Clinic at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, agrees side-effects with statins are rare. ‘I’ve been dealing with patients on statins since 1987 and I can count on the fingers of one hand the number whose memory symptoms turned out to be caused by statins.’ However, he said he often saw patients who had not been told about side-effects. ‘It’s important GPs are clear about the drugs statins can interact with, such as certain antibiotics, as this can get overlooked. ‘If a patient notices an adverse effect after starting statins, they should discuss this with their GP —but not stop their drugs suddenly because this can be dangerous.’ Sonya Porter, 73, decided to stop taking statins after her memory problems became so bad that she walked away from a cashpoint leaving her money behind. ‘I was permanently fuzzy-headed and just couldn’t seem to concentrate,’ says Sonya, a retired PA from Woking, Surrey. Then I started to get scared I might have Alzheimer’s. After reading about memory problems associated with statins, I thought it was at least a possibility. I decided to come off the pills to see if it made any difference. ‘I didn’t ask my GP, I just did it — I’d rather die of a heart attack than Alzheimer’s disease. Within a month I felt normal again and didn’t have any problems with memory. ‘I’m terrified that I could have been misdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s.’ John Holliday is also reluctant to go back on statins. ‘I wouldn’t rule it out completely — my latest test showed my cholesterol levels have gone up,’ he says. ‘But on balance, I’d rather take my chances with heart disease than feel as confused as that again. It’s all very well living slightly longer — but it’s about quality of life, too.’

Monday, 2 April 2012

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Salou, the northern Spanish town where thousands of British students flock every spring for four nights of drunken debauchery.

It was a case of deja vu last night for the long-suffering residents of Salou, the northern Spanish town where thousands of British students flock every spring for four nights of drunken debauchery.

For the twelfth time, the Costa Dorada resort has been overrun by Saloufest, the notorious annual sports tour returning for another round of hard drinking, half-naked partying - and the odd day of volleyball or hockey.

The first pictures released from this year's event paint a familiar picture: packs of fresh-faced revellers in proudly ridiculous fancy dress, their flesh largely bare and arms aloft as they stagger and bellow through the streets.

On the march: British students wrapped in flags as they head out for the first night of parties at SalouFest in Salou, Spain

On the march: British students wrapped in flags as they head out for the first night of parties at SalouFest in Salou, Spain

Fireman's lift: A British student makes off with a fellow reveller as the Saloufest parties spill out on to the streets

Fireman's lift: A British student makes off with a fellow reveller as the drunken Saloufest parties spill out on to the streets

Culture clash: Two young women match geisha-style makeup with pink bum bags for a night out in the Costa Dorada resort

Culture clash: Two young women match geisha-style makeup with pink bum bags for a night out in the Costa Dorada resort

The first 5,000 of a total 8,200 people are said to have made the trip from Britain's universities yesterday, marking an increase of 1,000 on last year.

Police say the first night of the tour passed without any arrests being made - but past form suggests they won't be holding out much hope for an easy ride.

 

Last year's event saw officers launch a crackdown on any students caught drinking in public, putting an end to the days when the locals would turn a blind eye to those flouting Salou's alcohol bylaws.

The town also decided to uphold rules preventing the Saloufest partiers from roaming around town half-naked.

The 2011 tour saw two toga-wearing students hauled off to a police station and fined £265 for breaking the alcohol laws.

This year the local authorities have handed out leaflets warning British visitors not to drink on streets and beaches, while those found stumbling around shirtless can expect to face the consequences.

 

Riot of colour: There's no missing these Brits abroad as they pull on garish tones and leggings for a debauched night in the Catalan village

Riot of colour: There's no missing these Brits abroad as they pull on garish tones and leggings for a debauched night in the Catalan village

Rowdy: Four students holler from the terrace of a nightclub during the first night of booze-soaked parties

Rowdy: Four students holler from the terrace of a nightclub during the first night of booze-soaked parties

Sitting comfortably? A show of bravado sees one British student doing a press-up as another sits on his back

Sitting comfortably? A show of bravado sees one British student doing a press-up as another sits on his back

Spanish media reports that ILoveTour, the firm that organises the festival, has some 30 supervisors on hand to babysit the horde of 18-to-23-year-olds.

One account, from Spanish newspaper El Pais, talks of streets streaked with vomit and urine, disoriented youths, deafening noise and riot vans on standby.

Despite local opposition, hoteliers in the area support Saloufest because it extends the holiday season and is timed so as not to interfere with the influx of Easter tourists. 

In an effort to keep the peace, some of the seven hotels set aside for the event have opted to separate their British guests from other holidaymakers.

The basic festival package sees students shell out £189 for coach travel and four nights in two-star accommodation, with optional extras including day trips to nearby Barcelona and Port Aventura.

Shameless: A passerby cheers as two partygoers get up close and personal outside an Irish-themed bar

Shameless: A passerby cheers as two partygoers get up close and personal outside an Irish-themed bar

 

In the gutter: The week-long tour has barely begun, but Saloufest seems to have taken its toll as these two huddle on the pavement outside a nightclub

In the gutter: The week-long tour has barely begun, but Saloufest seems to have taken its toll as these two huddle on the pavement outside a nightclub

Sin city: Dog collars and a novelty cross pass for fancy dress on the streets of Salou

Sin city: Dog collars and a novelty cross pass for fancy dress on the streets of Salou

 

Tribes: Clusters of UK students stagger through the village in fancy dress. A vague cavewoman theme finds this pair draped in animal print

Tribes: Clusters of UK students stagger through the village in fancy dress. A vague cavewoman theme finds this pair draped in animal print

Bookish? A mob of Saloufest drinkers in 'geek' fancy dress, one of the go-to costume themes for student union club nights up and down the UK

Bookish? A mob of Saloufest drinkers in 'geek' fancy dress, one of the go-to costume themes for student union club nights up and down the UK

 



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