SIRC Media Watch Archive
The Pick – April 2003

Prince’s 'goo' fears are nonsense, say experts. The Prince of Wales was ridiculed by Nobel prize-winning scientists yesterday for raising fears that miniature robots could turn the world into "grey goo". Leading experts, including two of Britain’s Nobel laureates, accused the Prince of ignorance and scaremongering after he expressed his concerns about nanotechnology. Times

That's enough nagging, thank you. This was just another guilt-inducing day for women who are now continuously heckled to within an inch of their openly criticised waistlines about their every choice over their work, rest and play. A woman can now expect to go through each stage of her life with a crowd of misogynist onlookers tut-tutting at her every step and pushing her backwards and forwards like a character in a badly choreographed video game. Observer

Is the Daily Mail bad for your health? The Daily Mail is the parish magazine of Middle England, which it portrays as a Happy Valley from a 1950s sitcom – "the eccentric, the heart-warming and, yes, the downright dotty … anything that adds to life's rich tapestry". A likely story. The Mail has no sense of humour whatever, and is certainly not heart-warming: its purpose is to provoke constant fear and loathing with lurid stories about asylum-seekers ravishing our daughters, wild health scares (is salad bad for you?) and doom-laden pieces about property prices. Telegraph.

A matter of fat. Anyone who takes more than a passing interest in the role of diet in health will inevitably become aware of inconsistencies and contradictions that crop up from time to time. One famous and oft-quoted nutritional anomaly is the so-called French Paradox: while the French consume more than their fair share of fat and tend to run elevated levels of cholesterol in their blood streams, their propensity to heart disease remains stubbornly low…The real explanation for the French Paradox could well be that it is really no paradox at all. Observer

What’s really scary is our need to search for a crisis. I developed a bit of a headache over the weekend. As it coincided with the onset of a slight sore throat I thought it best to take precautions. So I have quarantined myself in one room of my house, while life carries on as normal in the remainder … I am suffering from Sars, or serious annoyance at rampant scaremongering. The symptoms are easy to explain. The headache was induced by reading acres of newsprint about a killer virus which does not appear to be killing very many. The sore throat was caused by shouting at the television reporting of the same. Removal of both should allow me to make a full recovery. Herald.

Medical journals may have had role in justifying war. "I believe that most people in the United States and United Kingdom would have preferred not to launch a military attack on the people in Iraq. To persuade them to do so, they need to believe that they are being attacked.2 Medical journals have (unwittingly) had an important propaganda role in persuading the public that it is being attacked." Professor Ian G Roberts in the BMJ.

Fever pitch – Once it was the chicken virus, then Ebola, now it's Sars. We worry too much. There are no poisonous snakes on Hampstead Heath. We have flashers, pit-bulls, determined sex cruisers and suicide-joggers, but not snakes. So why, walking on the Heath last weekend, did I levitate at the sight of a twisted green stick across my path – I, who have never even seen a snake in the wild? It must, I reckoned, have been one of those rare appearances by the Old Animal inside, a sudden throwback to our hairy days of roaming the rift valley, alert to danger. Observer

Children to be given a Mars a day to aid recovery. Children should be given crisps and Mars bars to eat in hospital to encourage them to enjoy their meals, the Government’s adviser on children said yesterday. Al Aynsley-Green, the Clinical Director for Children, said that attempting to impose a healthy diet on a sick child could be counter-productive. He was publicising new national standards for children’s hospital services, part of the Government’s National Service Framework for Children, Young People and Maternity Services, which recommend that children in hospital be allowed to snack on their favourite foods "around the clock". Times (free registration required).

Shoppers 'misled' over healthy foods. Standard ready meals can be as healthy as 'low-fat' options. Products sold as 'healthy' may contain more fat, salt and sugar than standard products, consumer experts have warned. Healthy options are increasingly popular, but can be expensive, costing up to 200% more than the standard version. BBC.

We've never had it so good – and it's all thanks to science. "For the past century the world has got steadily better for most people. You do not believe that? I am not surprised. You are fed such a strong diet of news about how bad things are that it must be hard to believe they were once worse. But choose any statistic you like and it will show that the lot of even the poorest is better today than it was in 1903. Longevity is increasing faster in the poor south than in the rich north. Infant mortality is lower in Asia than ever before. Decade by decade per-capita food production is rising." Matt Ridley in the Guardian.

Viral scares. As killer viruses go, SARS is destined to be another also-ran. Fifty-eight deaths, at the time of writing, from a virus first breaking sometime last November across a continent of some 2 billion people is a long way from apocalypse. Most experts are taking the view that SARS is not infectious or virulent enough to cause global catastrophe and should not be getting in the way of most people's lives. Spiked.

Playground taunts force children aged nine to go on diet. Children as young as nine are going on diets after being taunted at school about being fat despite the fact that many of them are normal weight for their age, psychologists said yesterday. Such an early initiation into the diet culture can act as a trigger for eating disorders including excessive weight control and bulimia during adolescence in girls, they said. Independent