SIRC – Media Watch 17-06-99
News in Brief
Breakfast chat over GM cereal
Breakfast with Frost, BBC Sunday 06 June – Tony Blair refused to be drawn on whether Cherie disagreed with his stance on GM foods. "I think if I start discussing what Cherie and I talk to each other about at breakfast I'm going to get into a lot of trouble" In the interview he empathises with the public concerns but suggests that this country is on the cutting edge of GM research and technology. The government's caution he sees as sufficient enough to alleviate these concerns. "We are proceeding with a tighter regulatory frame work than virtually any other country in the world and tighter than any other area. Indeed, this government hasn't licensed a single GM product food in this country since the election."
Eighty stone New Yorker, Michael Hebranko was removed from his house by forklift truck after the failure of his latest diet. By comparison, and without relying on too many cultural stereotypes, this country's slightly scaled down and more eccentric version involved Spike the dog. You may be forgiven for thinking that the long arm of the diet police may have extended a little too far when a 55lb cross-breed collie, is taken away from his owner by Hart district council for being overweight. The owner, seventy year old Mr Sumpter is said to be devastated and friends have launched a campaign for his pet's safe return. Both Mr Sumpter and Spike were unavailable for comment but are unlikely to gain much comfort from the fact that a 270lb mastiff is about to enter the Guinness book of records as the world's heaviest mutt.
Take the Biscuit
A flapjack developed by Dundee University could replace blood tests and biopsies. Labelled sodium acetate breaks down after ingestion to form traceable carbon dioxide that can be used to detect gastric abnormalities through a monitoring of a patient's breath.
Quote of the week must be awarded to Liberal Democrat MP Charles Kennedy. After launching a campaign to promote healthy food he is reported in the Times as saying: "That's enough health. I need a fag"
Eau de Toilette?
Scientists from the Norwegian Institute for Air Research have detected traces of perfume in "fresh air" samples. Although some may think that the infusion of fine scents may enhance our air quality, others have greeted the news with a little less enthusiasm. Dr Michael Warhurst, a researcher for Friends of the Earth enlightens us with his opinion on the presence of synthetic musk in the atmosphere: "They stick around, concentrate in fats and contaminate our bodies. We have limited knowledge of the long-term effects. If these compounds are found to be toxic in five years' time, it will be too late – we will all have been exposed." This news must also be of little comfort to the Japanese Gunze Corporation who is about to launch the world's first fragrant, anti-bacterial underwear. As yet there are no plans for the pants to come with an environmental health warning, but they probably won't be available in green.
Tour de Farce
Scientists have found that long distance cycling may be linked to impotence in men. Surveying 1,114 amateur cyclists, German researchers identified a 4% impotency rate compared to 2% experienced by a control group of long distance swimmers. US researchers could not distinguish any significant difference between the type of saddles used in their study so it may transpire that skin-tight cycling shorts represent more than just a dangerous fashion statement.
Scientists from University College Dublin have linked ultrasound scans to abnormal cell development in mice. The lab mice were exposed to a scan lasting 15 minutes. Four and a half hours after the experiment there was a 22% reduction in the rate of cell division and a 50% increase in apoptosis (programmed cell death). Patrick Brennan, leader of the study stressed that the implications on human health were uncertain but believed that it was possible for human tissue to react in a similar way. Ultrasound scans have been widely used for forty years and the scanners are now tuned to reduce the heating of tissue after an American study in the early nineties suggested that they may be responsible for intestinal bleeding experienced once again by lab mice.
According to the Washington Post former lead paint manufacturers are about to become the next big target of the zealous American litigation machine. On the back of a string of recent successes against the large tobacco companies the potent partnership between district attorneys and affluent private trial lawyers continues with their quest to hold corporate America responsible for the country's Medicaid bills. Don Ryan, spokesman for the Alliance to End Childhood Lead Poisoning suggests that "The industries responsible for putting lead in the paint and keeping it there for decades after the dangers were known ought to be held accountable." Admirable though these intentions may be they can not be regarded as entirely selfless or unproblematic for effectively the government is using the American legal system as a way of generating revenue.
Following the spate of recent reports and studies that have questioned the safety of mobile phones the Metropolitan Police this month have advised their staff to restrict the length of their phone calls to five minutes. While this is only offered as a guideline, increased periods of radio silence could result in some rather interesting consequences to the notion of crime prevention; like having to run to the nearest phone box to request backup!