Saturday, July 31, 2010
07/12/2010 Science explains, not describes | Sue Blackmore

The experience of consciousness seems incommunicable and ineffable. Yet science can hope to explain how it arises

The question: Can science explain everything?

When Andrew Brown first posed this week's question to me he asked "Can science describe everything?". My instant, unreflective reply was "No". He implied that this might be a less restrictive question than "Can science explain everything" and yet my instant reaction to this one was "Yes". I'd like to explore this curious difference.

Science can (potentially at least) explain everything because its ways of trying to understand the universe by asking questions of it should not leave any areas off-limits. The methods of openness, inquiry, curiosity, theory building, hypothesis testing and so on can be adapted and developed to explore and try to explain anything.

But what is "everything"? I look out of my window and see green trees and grass and grazing cows, a river, a pond, birds, sky, clouds …. but everything? This is where description becomes so hard. There is just so much stuff in the universe and it's all so complicated. Let me give two examples, a simpler one and a really tough one.

Let's take those cows, or my black and white cat lying here on a comfy chair. There's no way we can even aspire to precisely describing every black and white pattern on every cow and cat in the world. There are billions of them and each is unique. Even if everybody in the world devoted themselves to the task, they could never capture them all. Yet we can explain how genetic information codes for the construction of pigments, and developmental variations lead to the individual patterns.

To take a second example, closer to my heart and my research, there's the "hard problem" of consciousness, of subjectivity, of private experiences, of "what it's like" to be me.

Here I am, sitting at my desk, experiencing all sorts of sounds, sights, touches and smells, but I cannot adequately describe them to anyone else. This is the very essence of subjective experience â€" that it seems to be private to me. To raise old philosophical conundrums, I cannot know whether my experience of the greenness of the grass is anything like yours. What if my green experience were like your beige, and your black and white like my mauve and purple? I cannot describe my sensations (or qualia) of greenness in any other way than to say "it looks green", implicitly comparing it with other colours in the world and using agreed names to do so. In this sense colour experiences (and smells, and noises, and tastes) are ineffable.

Ineffability is even more acute when we come to special states or transcendent experiences. What can I say, for example, about my spontaneous mystical experiences? That I became one with the universeWhat I saw another world that I like to be guided by something I can not describe or name? What can I say about the states I reached through meditation ? How could I see the nature of experience and look at the land of indescribable existence? What can I say about the deep states reached by taking LSD ? That the world was alive and flowing through me, that was not I? I can say all these things, and some people say "Oh yes, I know what it means". But we will probably agree that we have nothing to say, really reflects these experiences.

Science cannot describe these experiences, but will it ever? Those who think the hard problem is real claim that the nature of experience will always remain beyond the grasp of both description and explanation. But those who think it's a "hornswoggle problem", a "non-problem" or an illusion, argue that when we really understand the workings of the brain the hard problem will have gone the way of caloric fluid or the élan vital which was once sought so assiduously to explain the essence of life.

A subtler possibility is that we explain the ineffability itself. One example of this is a framework for thinkingof natural and artificial information processing systems developed Aaron Sloman and Ron Chrisley. They want to explain the "private, ineffable, it seems to us", explaining how and why the ineffability problems arise at all. Their virtual machine (architecture CogAff ) includes processes that classify its own internal states. Unlike words that describe common experiences (such as seeing red in the world) these refer to internal states or concepts that are strictly not comparable from one virtual machine to another â€" just like qualia. If people protest that there is "something missing"; the indefinable quality, the what it's like to be, or what zombies lack, their reply is that the fact that people think this way is what needs explaining, and can be explained in their model.

This and other competing theories suggest a new possibility â€" that conscious experiences may remain ineffable even when science thoroughly understands how and why. In this case I would be right in my intuition that science cannot describe everything but may well be able to explain that which it cannot describe.

Sue Blackmore

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Greeny NEWS
07/17/2010 The oil spill is under control â€" now it's time to count the ecological cost

The US can count itself ecologically lucky that the Deepwater disaster took place in the Gulf â€" but the long-term damage will amount to much more than dead birds and soiled beaches

When BP 's CEO, Tony Hayward said in May that the oil spill from the Gulf was a drop in the ocean â€" "tiny in relation to the total water volume", he was pilloried by Barack Obama and the US press, but he was technically correct.

The US can now look back on the Deepwater spill and count itself ecologically lucky, in many ways. It was not just a mile deep, allowing much of the oil to be diffused in the ocean, but it was 50 miles offshore in a warm sea. Many other oil spills have been far more injurious to wildlife and the marine and terrestrial environments, because oil breaks down much more slowly in cool seas. The 11m gallons spilt from the Exxon Valdez in the Alaskan waters in 1989 still threaten the whole ecosystem. That spill killed at least 36,000 sea birds. So far, Friends of the Earth US reported today, only 1,387 birds, 444 sea turtles, and 53 mammals have been found dead in the Gulf.

Furthermore, the ecological damage done in the last three months is made far more serious because it comes on top of years of man-made degradation of the Gulf environment. Many of the wetlands and estuaries that take the brunt of any oil spilt had already been seriously degraded by man's interference with river flows. These could now disappear even faster if the oil has got into the roots of the grasses.

The oil that gushed also added to natural oil and gas leaks into Gulf waters. These occur all the time from the sea bed, and the US Department of Energy estimates that there may be 5,000 active "seeps" in the northern Gulf alone. One researcher calculated in 2000 that 500,000 barrels of oil â€" 84m gallons â€" naturally gets into the Gulf each year, but is never cleaned up.

The Gulf is also heavily polluted by nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilisers and livestock waste washed down the vast Mississippi river from farms and industry. Every year, a massive oxygen-starved region known as the "dead zone" develops off the coast of Louisiana in which nothing can live. Last month, the US government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said it expected this year's "zone" to be between 6,500 and 7,800 square miles, the 10th largest ever. No one knows yet how the oil spill may affect it. Some marine scientists think the oil may make it larger, but others say it could help to limit its size â€" a scenario that could, absurdly, see BP claiming to be clearing up pollution in the Gulf.

Fish will have suffered, but paradoxically the US government's decision to ban commercial fishing from 88,000 sq miles of the Gulf during the clean-up in order to safeguard human health could actually help regenerate depleted fish stocks. The Gulf is one of the most overfished seas in the world, with many species in serious decline and some fisheries near collapse.

Closing off nearly a third of the waters is likely to have given many species a chance to increase numbers. The oil spill will have killed some fish, but vastly more are caught by industrial fishing operations every year. Stocks of fish such as red snapper and bluefin tuna, which spawn in the Gulf, could benefit greatly.

One wild card yet to be played is a major hurricane tearing through the Gulf of Mexico, as is likely to happen before the end of the season in November. Rough seas will hamper efforts to finally seal the well and clean up the oil. The associated storm surges could also drive oil over barriers and further onto coastal land and into sensitive habitats. But the raging of a storm could also break up the oil slick, allowing the bacteria that break it down to act more rapidly.

Oil spills in figures

$30bn cost to BP

444 sea turtles found dead

85 days that oil gushed into the Gulf.

184m estimated number of gallons of oil leaked

572 miles of shoreline currently oiled

2,700 sq miles of visible slick

83,927 sq miles closed to fishing

1.82m gallons of dispersant chemicals applied

$ 336m The market value of oil spilled

1,387 dead birds

(Source AP, Friends of the Earth)

John Vidal

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Greeny NEWS

Friday, July 30, 2010
06/23/2010 Jennie Rooney's top 10 women travellers in fiction

From eccentric spinster aunts to Alice in Wonderland, the novelist traces the steps of fiction's most engaging female adventurers

Jennie Rooney's new novel The Opposite of Falling, in which Ursula Bridgewater takes Thomas Cook's famous new tour of America after her engagement is broken off, is out now. Her first novel, Inside the Whale, was shortlisted for the Costa first novel award in 2008.

1. Aunt Augusta in Travels with My Aunt by Graham Greene

This is a common friend, an aunt is one of the most important figure in the running genre fiction. In this wonderful novel by Graham Greene phase space Aunt center, allowing it to drag Henry's exit from the suburbs and on the Orient Express to Paris, Istanbul and South America, and show him the way, just how much fun you can have her aunt.

2. Alice in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

The ultimate female traveller, Alice wanders away from a picnic, falls down a rabbit hole, and is whisked away to a fantasy land where things just get curiouser and curiouser. There is a white rabbit who is always late, a smile without a cat, the Mad Hatter and his tea party, and an endless array of creatures and tales.

3. Miss Lucy Honeychurch in A Room With a View by EM Forster

Armed with her Baedeker guidebook, Lucy travels to Italy with her cousin and chaperone, the rather snippy Miss Bartlett. Upon arriving at the Pensione Bertolini, they swap rooms with a father and son whose rooms both have views ("Am I to conclude," asks Miss Bartlett upon receiving the offer, "that he is a socialist?"). Lucy's experiences in Italy open her up to the possibility of love â€" even if it is with a socialist.

April. Wife of Bath in The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

Shcherbaty and chatty, the wife of Bath travel to Canterbury with Chaucer 's mob of pilgrims. It is not limited in its discussion of her five marriages, and especially happy to describe her sexual activity and the ways in which she liked to use it with her various husbands.

5. Hortense in Small Island by Andrea Levy

Hortense knows everything there is to know about England: she has read Shakespeare, uses words such as "perchance", and makes perfect fairy cakes. But when she finally travels there in 1948, she finds that England does not know so very much about her. A fabulous, richly comic voice, exploring the realities of postwar immigration.

6. Isabel Archer in The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

Fearing that marriage will stifle her independence, young American Isabel Archer takes up the offer of a trip to Europe with (of course) her aunt. While in Europe she inherits a fortune, bequeathed to her for the purpose of securing her freedom, but which causes her to become the object of scheming bounty-hunters. Dark and goose-bumpingly sinister.

7. The Lady of Shalott by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Inspired by Arthurian legend, Tennyson's poem recounts the curse of the Lady of Shalott, forced forever to weave a magic web without looking directly out at the world. However, upon glimpsing Lancelot in her mirror, she turns to the window, bringing the curse upon her, so that she dies on her subsequent boat journey to Camelot (cue Lancelot, with one of literature's oddest consolations: "she had a lovely face").

8. Clarissa Dalloway in "Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

An interior journey, this one. Told through a stream-of-consciousness narrative, it is the story of Mrs Dalloway's preparations for a party that evening, and takes place over a single day in June. The action is mainly restricted to flashbacks, but by the end of the book, it is clear that this day has been a journey through Clarissa's mind.

9. Orleanna Price and her daughters in The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Married to a Baptist missionary, Orleanna Price accompanies her husband from America to the Belgian Congo with their four daughters. The novel is narrated by the girls and their mother, each witnessing and responding to their father's actions in different ways. A deeply woven study of misogyny, misplaced religion and the blight of colonial occupation.

10. Wendy Darling in Peter and Wendy by JM Barrie

After sewing Peter Pan's shadow back on in the Kensington nursery, Wendy is recruited by Peter to be his "mother" and he asks her to come back to Neverland with him. She flies out of the window with her brothers, following Peter's somewhat unhelpful travel directions: "Second to the right and then straight on 'til morning!"

• Jennie Wayne Rooney 'new novel, by contrast hit , in which Ursula Bridgewater decides to take Thomas Cook's famous tour of America after she is dumped by her fiance, is out now. Rooney's first novel, Inside the Whale, was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel award in 2008.


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Greeny NEWS

06/28/2010 Appeals panels can save excluded pupils

Torah to get rid of appeals panel, but the fundamental right of children who may have been unfairly excluded from school

He is one of the most successful athletes in the UK, a multi-millionaire role model for millions of people.

But a less well-known fact about the racing driver Lewis Hamilton is that as a 16-year-old in 2001 he was mistakenly expelled from school, and only cleared after his father, Anthony, vigorously fought the headteacher's decision at an independent appeals panel.

The panel concluded it was a case of mistaken identity, with Hamilton wrongly excluded alongside five other teenage boys after a fellow pupil was attacked.

"I knew I was innocent but [the head] did not appear to be interested," Hamilton wrote in his autobiography. He added, of the situation before the panel heard the case: "No one appeared to listen â€" no one either wanted to or had the time. We were on our own and I was out of school."

The case is being put forward as an example of the type of miscarriage of justice that could occur if the government goes ahead with plans, proposed by the Conservatives before the general election, to scrap independent appeals panels.

On the eve of the election, David Cameron told London 's Evening Standard: "Director of Schools shall have the discretion to expel students who behave badly. Currently director of a school can exclude a child who is behaving terribly, and appeals The panel can put the child immediately returned to school. "

Scrapping the panels, three- or five-person bodies that hear pupils' and parents' appeals against exclusion decisions, has been Conservative policy for several years. It is thought the move could commence in an education bill due to start going through parliament in the autumn.

However, a paper being published by the Runnymede Trust charity highlights the Lewis Hamilton case as an example of what could go wrong. The paper, by David Gillborn and David Drew, of London University's Institute of Education, also presents some interesting statistics.

Of the 8110 permanent exclusions in 2007-08, he said, only 710, less than 1 in 11, were challenged in front of the appeals. Of these, the panel ruled in favor of the student in one in four cases: a total of 180 times. This is the principal 's decision to be reversed on appeal only 2% of all cases of permanent exclusion.

More strikingly, perhaps, state figures show, 180 times that a parent or student is successful, only 60 cases as a whole, in 2007-08, not the child actually return to school. In other cases, the decision would be taken to bring the child to another school or division of student directions.

To critics, it seems a lot of political fuss about the disruption potentially caused by 60 pupils, out of a total pupil population in England of 8.1 million (or one pupil in 135,000), returning to classrooms from which the head wanted to expel them.

"[This] hardly constitutes a huge disruption to the flow of exclusions. However, panels are highly significant to the people who hope to find justice," says the paper.

Government guidance published in 2008, said the panel 'does not need to restore a student without a valid reason': cases of mistaken identity, or disproportionate punishment, or when they have no "procedural violations 'school' s exception handling.

Sam Murray, head of policy and information at the Advisory Centre for Education, which works with families affected by exclusion decisions, is concerned. She is particularly worried that the move could take away safeguards for those families with children with special needs, those who are eligible for free school meals andethnic minorities including black Caribbean pupils over-represented in exclusions statistics. She says: "As an adult at work, I would expect to have the right to make my case to an independent body. Why should pupils not have that right?"

Carl Parsons, an expert on exclusions, visiting professor at the University of Greenwich and sometime appeals panel member himself, says that the panels are imperfect, in that the process of fighting a quasi-legal battle can be intimidating for parents. He advocates a system whereby schools and local authorities work to make exclusions unnecessary. He adds: "I would not want to stick up too strongly for the system that we have. But there has to be that right of appeal."

Paper to be published in the journal with the Runnymede Trust, 'also presented new data showing that students from black Caribbean, and from the "any other black" backgrounds were more likely to be expelled from the academy than all other ethnic groups.

Some 0.72% and 0.74% of pupils in these two ethnic groups were permanently excluded from academies in the academic year 2007-08, the figures show, compared to 0.62% and 0.59% in conventional state schools. The permanent exclusion rate for white pupils from academies that year was 0.44%, more than double the figure of 0.2 % for non-academies.

The document states that the ministers who are currently looking academy status for all schools to monitor this situation very carefully.

A Department for Education spokesman says: "Ministers are currently considering the future of independent appeals panels, as part of a wider reform of school discipline. The education and children's bill in the autumn will put heads and teachers back in control, giving them a range of tough new powers to deal with bullies and the most disruptive pupils. We will set out full details in due course."

Warwick Mansell

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Greeny NEWS
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
07/03/2010 Fate of the Amazon hangs in the balance | Siân Herbert

With the Brazilian elections just months away, vested interests are competing to weaken the country's environmental laws

A special committee in the Brazilian parliament is poised to vote on a new report which, if approved, could pave the way for looser regulation on land use and deforestation.

As the mania of the World Cup unfolds on the streets of Rio and election season kicks in, debate on the issue is not getting the attention it deserves. There are growing demands to postpone the vote until next year, when a fairer vote could be held. But there are many interests at play. Political expediency and politicking are rife and the reformed legislation could win approval at the plenary by 16 July this year.

The Brazilian forestry code, established in 1965, is widely touted as one of the most advanced environmental laws in the world. It sets strict limits on land use in areas of high biodiversity. Landowners are required to maintain 80% of their land in its natural state in the Amazon, 35% in the Cerrado (savanna terrain) and 20% in the Mata Atlântica(So-called Atlantic Forest).

The complex issue of re-evaluating the law has caused serious controversy, with strong arguments on both sides. The debates have led to a standoff between the powerful Brazilian agricultural lobby, known as the Ruralistas, and a group of politicians and NGOs who support the original forestry code, known as the environmentalists.

The Ruralistas have been pushing for reform of the forestry code for many years, claiming that it stifles economic development and the agricultural sector's competitiveness. They argue that the code is unfair, making agriculturalists and indigenous people, who are often subsistence farmers, into "environmental criminals".

This is a pertinent issue. The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) estimates that over 30% of Brazilians live in poverty â€" and a disproportionately high amount live in the Amazon. With a population of 20 million, there is an urgent need to raise living standards in the region.

But really, would a reform of the forestry code actually help the Amazon's poorest? Call me a cynic, but the dash to dismantle the forestry code looks like it's more in the interest of agribusiness than anyone else. Also, remember that the degradation of environmental resources disproportionately affects the poor, especially subsistence farmers.

The reality of the situation is that, since inception, the forestry code has not even been successfully enforced. Landowners often fall foul of the regulations and levels of illegal deforestation are high. According to some estimates, one-quarter of the Brazilian Amazon has already been subjected to deforestation or damage.

In an effort to cut down on illegal activity, a new land registry system came into force in January this year. The government now has a photographic database monitoring land use; this includes a system of fines for noncompliance. Considering the rampant disregard for the forestry code, hefty fines hang over the heads of some powerful Brazilian people. It seems somewhat coincidental that just as a system of fines is set up to punish illegal land use, a change to the forestry code is being rushed through.

The special committee's final report, written by the Communist party's Aldo Rebeldo, suggests 11 changes to "relax" the forestry code. These include: allowing federal states to determine land use limits; allowing landowners to cultivate larger areas of land; and offering an "amnesty" to landowners who have already been fined for illegal deforestation. The committee is aiming to push the vote through next week, despite mounting concerns over its inconvenient timing. It is reported that the Ruralistas make up more than half of the members on the committee.

The report has been given the red card by environmentalists who warn that the revised legislation could allow up to 80% of the Amazon to be cut down. Greenpeace and Ipam (Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia) estimate that this could lead to carbon emissions of 25-31 billion tonnes from the Amazon alone. This could jeopardise Brazil's commitment, made at Copenhagen, to reduce carbon emissions by 39% before 2020. They also strongly criticise the idea of an amnesty for illegal deforesters. This would essentially penalise those who originally complied with the law.

The turbulent debates over the past month have also elevated the profile of the Green party presidential candidate, Marina Silva. Silva reiterates the overwhelming concern that polarising legislation must not be voted on in an election year. In the rush to win votes and election funding, politicians are cautious of taking positions on controversial issues.

It's undeniable â€" the debate is being stifled in Brazil. But the fate of the Amazon should not just be swept under the carpet. It's too important for the agriculturalists and the environmentalists alike. It's too important for the future of Brazil.

Sian Herbert

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Greeny NEWS
07/16/2010 Meet the queen's executioner beetle

New identity for Megapenthes lugens reflects location, character and appearance, say judges of competition to give common names to 10 rare UK species

• See the full list of winners
• George Monbiot: Ten species now have an identity we can care about

It began with a stark fact â€" the rapid extinction of animals and plants in England - and has ended with an outpouring of interest, ingenuity, some poetry and even a touch of magic.

The Guardian competition to name some lesser-known and threatened insects, lichens and sea-creatures from around the country received more than 3,000 entries, transforming the Philorhizus quadrisignatus into the intriguing Mab's lantern beetle, Peltigera venosa into the otherworldly pixie gowns lichen, and Haliclystus auricula into colourful kaleidoscope jellyfish.

These were just some of 10 winners in the contest to give common names to species that â€" until now â€" were known only by their official Latin titles. The overall winner met all the judges' criteria by reflecting its location, character and appearance: the queen's executioner beetle. "I've gone for this for the link to Windsor [the only place in the UK that Megapenthes lugens lives] and the royals," said the winner, greenhitman, via the blog. "The executioner is to represent that it kills and eats the larvae of others, and also links to its black colour â€" the hood of an executioner is traditionally black." Runners-up in the same category echoed a similar theme, coming up with the Windsor witch beetle and black prince beetle.

\\ "Judging the competition was very difficult as in any case, at least half a dozen names that deserve to win," said Guardian columnist George Monbiot, who first proposed the competition . "They are not only practical and distinctive, many of them have also captured the magic and mystery of wild Britain '." Monbiot refers to the witches mustache' lichens, winner of the names of medicinal lichen Usnea florida: the name captured its wispy texture, and echoes of the tradition of giving special names to plants and body parts for witches' brews.

The winner that named Philorhizus quadrisignatus as the Mab's lantern beetle refers to the fairy queen, Shakespeare's "fairies' midwife" who gave birth to dreams; lantern to the glowing effect of the pale markings on the insect's back.

The winner for naming Cryptocephalus punctiger was the blue pepper-pot beetle, a name which brilliantly captures the iridescent colour and markings, but also serves as a reminder that this species belongs to the family of pot beetles.

One species, however, has ended up with a name with little or no reference to location or appearance, yet in some indefinable way it seems perfectly appropriate to call the tiny water shrimp, Arrhis phyllonyx , a sea piglet shimp.

Monbiot made his statement to the more common names to capture the public imagination after a report Natural England , the government's countryside and biodiversity agency, revealed that more than two species a year were becoming extinct in England, and nearly 1,000 more were seriously under threat of disappearing.

Natural Englandjointly organized a competition from Oxford University Museum of Natural History and the Guardian. The winners receive certificates and their names will go on display at the museum.

Tom Tew, Natural England's chief scientist, said the agency was "delighted" with the response, and particularly the quality of suggestions, many of which echoed common names of more famous species, but with a modern twist. mustache witch 'lichen resembles the once popular ladies bed straw', used by women for their scent mattresses, while skeetle beetle ( Stenus longitarsis ) Literally describes what he does to escape from predators using natural "Scooter", as the competition entry to describe them.

"As to whether [the competition] is going to do any good," he continued, "it can't do any harm. These names will now enter the lexicon of British wildlife and you can connect so much when they have a name."

The remaining two category winners were the St John's jellyfish (Lucernariopsis cruxmelitensis) and the scabious cuckoo bee (Nomada armata), the last one nominated by Geoff Vincent, from Virginia Water, Surrey. The insect is from the family of cuckoo bees which lay their eggs in other bees' nests, and it feeds on scabious flowers, explained Vincent, who compared the competition to reality TV shows like Over the Rainbow, which searches for singing stars to lead the cast of popular musicals like The Sound of Music. "It's perfect for catching attention, particularly [to] those things no one sees," he told the Guardian.

Juliette Jowit

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Greeny NEWS

07/28/2010 Society 28/07/2010 daily

Thoughts on the Khyra Ishaq case and home schooling; tackling problem pubs, and the dangers of loneliness

Full coverage: the Khyra Ishaq serious case review

Death Khyra '\\ "to prevent the", says review

Extracts from the Khyra Ishaq serious case review

Ministers urged to tighten law on home education

Social workers thwarted by mother's intimidation tactics

Timeline: the tragic last six months of Khyra's life

All Guardian child protection stories

Top SocietyGuardian news and comment

Health Benefits test to face urgent review

Children's court service faces inquiry over post-Baby Peter response

Lansley announces fund for "too expensive" £50m cancer drugs

It costs too much to sack some civil servants, says minister

Residents to get more power to object to "problem" pubs

Loneliness is bad for your health, says study

Roger Graef: the problem with volunteer police

All today's SocietyGuardian stories

Today's SocietyGuardian supplement highlights

Will the reform of the police to private security companies big role?

Don Hawley: ensuring reforms threaten large society '\\'

Derek Wanless: the government is serious about reforming social care

Steven Toft: is state provision in terminal decline?

All SocietyGuardian supplement stories

Other news

• The coalition plans to scrap an informal code guaranteeing public sector terms and conditions for employees transferred to the private sector, reports the Financial Times.

• Disabled people are faced with "wild onslaught" on their livelihoods as a result of coalition reforms, John Knight, Leonard Cheshire Disability's retiring director of policy has told Community Care.

• Local government can deliver £100bn of savings over five years, according to Local Government Association chair Dame Margaret Eaton, reports Inside Housing.

Khyra Ishaq and home education: a few thoughts

Home Schooler parents, who, as a group, so to speak, passionate amateurs, won t ', like it one bit. But Khyra Ishaq independent serious case review asserts that the lack of regulation around home schooling was a major contributory factor in failing to prevent Khyra's death, and demands changes in the law to enable the authorities to properly assess and monitor families who educate their children at home. It calls the current arrangements:

"A major safeguarding flaw."

This could well be true. But was it the major factor in this particular case? Or were individual failures of judgment to blame? The review contains a detailed and persuasive analysis of home schooling legislation and its shortcomings in the context of safeguarding, on pages 79-83 of the review report. It later concludes (page 86):

\\ "No doubt, legal armor of the Education Act 1996, supported by DCSF choice of Home Education Guidelines for local authorities in 2007 included a mother to confront the achievement of professional intervention and said the alleged impotence of professionals to intervene."

But the report also accepts that the home schooling assessment carried out by two Birmingham council Education Otherwise officials was "poor". The framework for assessment is "tick box" and does not enable proper assessment of parental capability or suitability, it says. But in this case, were the officials negligent? Assessment visits are normally carried out by a single official. In this case it seems they knew enough about Khyra's aggressive intimidating mother, Angela Gordon, to go as a pair. Should not this in itself have been a vital sign of her unsuitability?

The review notes (12.5.7) that their subsequent statement giving the formal go-ahead for home education was "worrying". The review points out that a month before approval for home schooling was given, the Education Otherwise adviser had been:

"Provided with information from [an education social worker] on 30 January 2008 to clarify the range of concerns held by the school and the referrals that had been made to children's social care in relation to this family."

This suggests officials approved Gordon's home schooling application, even though they had in their possession a significant body of evidence that this would be a very bad idea. They knew teachers had reported concerns to children's social care that the children had unexplained absences from school, were stealing food from other children and that their appearance was "very slender". They also knew that Gordon was unco-operative and aggressive. So why did Gordon get the green light to take her kids out of school, the only place where their fragile wellbeing could be monitored?

What the review implies is that the official bar for rejecting a home schooling application is so high that even someone as patently questionable as Gordon can sneak in beneath it almost without challenge. What's not clear is whether the officials concerns and ability to act on them were held back by rigidity of the law (which clearly favours Gordon) or whether they still had the means to refuse Gordon's application, but through meekness or misjudgment declined to enforce it.

This first ever serious case review to be published in full may give us a more comprehensive picture of what happened but it does not give us a satisfactory answer to this question.

The education secretary, Michael Gove, fetishises parental choice and abhors regulation of families and private individuals. He will not instinctively welcome the recommendations of the serious case review that tighten the official oversight of some families. On the other hand, he also subscribes to the current highly-regulated "no risk" child protection agenda, and agrees that safeguarding professionals should be free to use their "common sense" to intervene in cases like this. He doesn't want another Khyra tragedy on his watch, but neither does he want to offend the home schooling lobby. How does he respond?

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We are starting to plan this year's Society Guardian Social Enterprise Summit. Last year's summitwas a great success - you can read about it here . Once again we are looking to showcase inspiration, innovation and practical ideas on how social enterprises can deliver public services. Whether you are from the public sector or from a social business, we want you to tell us who you'd like to see and what you would like discussed. Email charmian.walker-smith@guardian.co.uk. You can Follow Guardian Social Enterprise on Twitter.

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Greeny NEWS
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
07/19/2010 My favourite medical graphic novels

Following his blogpost introducing the genre, Cian O'Luanaigh lists the best â€" though often harrowing â€" medical comics and graphic novels

Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary by Justin Green

The book that launched a genre. Green's memoirs of a childhood beset by obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) was the first graphic novel to explore illness from the patient's point of view. When Binky Brown (Green's alter ego) hits puberty after a strict Roman Catholic upbringing, he is plagued by religious guilt and a sexual obsession with the Virgin Mary. The rituals and associations that engulf Binky's life give a stark insight into the difficulty of living with OCD. Be warned: Catholics and church-goers may find much of the imagery offensive.

Epileptic by David B

Dark, disturbing look at what he 's how to live with those who suffer from epilepsy.

Epileptic is visually stunning, combining a world of grim reality with the nightmarish imaginings of a small boy. David's brother Jean-Christophe has regular violent epileptic fits. The condition leads the family on a series of moves between doctors and alternative therapists, health communes and cities. David worries that he may too have the condition, and the endless search for a cure takes its toll on the family.

In Epileptic There is no happy ending, there is no miracle cures, but we are left with a deep understanding of how disease can affect the family. It is not recommended for newly diagnosed patients with epilepsy. Precipitation masterpiece.


Psychiatric Tales by Darryl Cunningham

Cunningham relies on years as a psychiatric nurse to bring us a psychiatric tales, a collection of stories from inside a psychiatric hospital. Each chapter is devoted to various mental health problems, from dementia to depression.

The final chapter focuses on the author's personal struggle with anxiety and depression. "If I was going to be honest about other people's illnesses," said Cunningham, "I had to be honest about mine. It was a difficult chapter to write, the last chapter being about myself, but having put it out there and everybody reading it I realised it's a big weight off my mind really". You can see more of Darryl's work on his blog, Darryl Cunningham Investigates.

Stitches by David Small

With simple brush lines and grey washes, David Small beautifully depicts the somewhat depressing story of his childhood. As a child, Small's unloving father exposed him to X rays in a bid to cure his asthma and sinusitis. The exposure resulted in a lump on David's neck which had to be removed, leaving him mute and scarred: the 'stitches' of the book's title. The author found solace in art, and produced this book as a testimony of his loveless childhood and battle with cancer.

Cancer Vixen by Marisa Acocella Marchetto

"What happens when a shoe-crazy, lipstick-obsessed, wine-swilling, pasta-slurping, fashion-fanatic, single-forever, about to get married big-city girl cartoonist with a fabulous life finds ... a lump in her breast?" Marisa Acocella Marchetto's autobiographical Cancer Vixen provides the answer. The book a self-consciously, humorously self-centred reminder that cancer can happen to anyone, and doesn't necessarily make you a better person. Marchetto imparts everyday wisdom from her experiences as a cancer sufferer, and worries about how she will pay for her treatment without insurance under the US healthcare system. Cancer Vixen is an honest account of how breast cancer will change a woman's life, for better and for worse.

Sofa prose of Philip Parry

Straight from the psychiatrist's couch comes Couch Fiction, a graphic account of the relationship between a psychotherapist and her kleptomaniac client. In a departure from the graphic novel format, Perry adds a technical analysis of the thoughts and actions of her characters underneath the panels. This analysis adds a layer not usually present in a graphic novel, giving a more in depth understanding of the psychiatric issues discussed. Recommended for psychiatry students, or anyone with a general interest in the subject.


I had a Black Dog by Matthew Johnstone

More of a picture book than a comic, I had a Black Dog is a graphic representation of how it feels to be clinically depressed. The 'black dog' metaphor, popularised by Winston Churchill, implies familiarity and an attempt at mastery over the illness. In this book Johnstone illustrates how he felt in his own struggle with depression over the course of 20 years. I would recommend this slim volume to healthcare professionals or people suffering from depression as an original and informative take on the illness.


Blue Pills: A Positive Love Story by Frederick Peeters

An autobiographical love story set in Geneva about Peeters' relationship with a woman called Cati and her child, who are both HIV positive. Peeters does not let the illness get in the way of falling for Cati, but as their relationship develops he reflects on what HIV can mean for a couple's future, and for the future of an HIV-positive child. Blue Pills is a provocative and moving read on the subject of HIV-positive relationships.

Medical Webcomics:

My mother 'Cancer Brian Fies

My mother 'cancer is Brian Fies's account of his mother's battle with metastatic lung cancer. "I wanted to share my family's story" said Fies. "I thought of it as drawing a map so that other people following along behind us and having similar experiences would know what to expect." The Eisner-award winning comic has been praised around the world for its moving and informative portrayal of a family's experience with cancer. It has been used in doctor and patient education and as a teaching aid in medical schools. Creative use of visual metaphors and honest story-telling make this a true masterpiece of the genre. Originally a web comic, it is now available in book form. Essential reading.

Comics nurse MK Czerwiec

MK Czerwiec's simple and direct style makes Comic Nurse a pleasure to read. Sometimes funny, sometimes reflective, and always quirky, Comic Nurse reminds you that in the face of big health problems, it's the little things in life that matter. Collections are periodically published in book form.

Fear of Failure by Thom Ferrier

Fear of Failure by Dr Thom Ferrier shows us what the doctor is thinking while we're standing in his surgery. All the stress and doubts of a GP are intimately revealed in this almost confessional website. Ferrier adds the pages as he draws them, keeping us in suspense about how it will all end. What to know what it's like to be a doctor? Start here.

Darryl Cunningham Investigates

Want to know the truth about homeopathy? Haven't done your homework on MMR? Darryl Cunningham's charming blog gives you all the facts in an accessible and engaging comic book style.

Medical education through comics:

Medikidz

The superhero team 'Medikidz' explain diseases to sick children. Join them on an educational tour of 'Mediland' â€" a planet which bears a striking resemblance to the human body â€" for common ailments explained in an engaging and accessible format.

Cian O'Luanaigh is a graphic artist and science writer based in London. He has a masters in science communication from Imperial College London

Cian O 'Luanaigh

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Greeny NEWS

07/21/2010 Which items have stadiums banned?

Plus: Overnight successes; Wesley Sneijder v Pele; and has a goalkeeper ever been sent off in a penalty shoot-out. Send your questions and answers to knowledge@guardian.co.uk

"With clubs falling over themselves to ban the vuvuzela, I was wondering what other seemingly innocent items have clubs found it necessary to ban over the years,"writes Paul Briscoe.

If there's one thing that football grounds are good at it's banning things. Take Wembley, for example. Along with "any article that might be used as a weapon", spectators are not allowed to take into the ground: unlicensed musical instruments, including trumpets, drums and "other devices capable of causing a disturbance or nuisance"; Flag poles greater than 1m in length; Flares; Bottles, glass vessels, cans and flasks; Frisbees and "similar items"; Dangerous or hazardous items; Illegal substances; Explosives or ammunition; fireworks; Knives, blades or other weapons; Firearms; Scooters, skateboards or other skates; Laser devices; Smoke canisters; Signs or items with corporate or inappropriate branding; Unauthorised fliers; Spray paint or large industrial style marker pens; Prams and push chairs; Transmitting devices; Professional cameras and recording devices; Large suitcases, lap tops, and back packs; Illegal merchandise items; Water bottles; Illegal charity collection utensils; Motor bike helmets; Umbrellas; Darts; Hampers and Cold Boxes; Air horns; Alcohol; and animals (except service dogs and guide dogs).

The craze continued. By February Bristol City arrived for a Littlewoods Cup semi-final with 200 sets of blow up fangs in honour of their manager Joe Jordan. At Wimbledon's Plough Lane, 1,500 Grimsby fans turned up waving haddocks. Blackpool started selling two and a half feet high plastic Blackpool Towers.

Something had to give, and it did at Highbury, where local police deemed that the oversized novelty fruits could, by obstructing spectators' views, incite violence.

"Football has become a leading victim of the British mania for banning things," wrote David Lacey. "The latest absurdity came at Highbury on Tuesday night when police video cameras solemnly scanned the terraces for illicit giant bananas." The Gunners, though, soon relented and the inflatable craze was allowed to die a natural death.

Not only inanimate objects have fallen foul of footballs rulemakers. In May 2006 Vladimir Kisilev was in Moscow to show one of his prize-winning pigs at a farm show and afterwards was keen to head over to the Luzhniki Stadium to watch Spartak Moscow v Zenit St Petersburg. Having nowhere to leave his porcine pal, Kisilev attempted to take it with him, but was stopped by police. "I wanted to see the game, but had nowhere to leave the pig," said Kisilev. "I almost managed to get it into the ground in a big bag, but it started grunting and the police noticed."

"I've never known anything like it in all my football career," said the referee Gary Bailey. "I got a hell of a shock. It was a big game and there were quite a lot of people there. This woman was standing right by the touchline and suddenly unveiled a big cage with this big green parrot in it. I didn't mind at first. But then every time I blew my whistle the bird made exactly the same sound. It was bizarre. The crowd were all laughing. In the end, there was only one thing for it." Mrs Kerrigan and Me-Tu were asked to leave.

FAST-TRACK SUCCESS

\\ "Within two years after their creation by the Irish Sports Fingal FC won the Cup FAI," writes Michael Hallinan. \\ "They are about to play against Maritimo in the second qualifying round of the League of Europe. Has there ever team to success so quickly?" "

Rags to riches for one night? Only in America. Well, not only in America, but the United States is a good place to start "Chicago Fire, coached by the current US national team coach Bob Bradley, won the Major League Soccer title in their very first year of existence," writes Corey Thompson. "One mitigating factor was that this was in 1998, only the third year of the league's existence, so they weren't knocking off 80-year old clubs in order to hoist the championship trophy. This qualified them for the Concacaf Champions Cup the following year, where they were eliminated in the semi-final on penalties."

The Seattle Sounders won the US Open Cup, the equivalent to the FA Cup, in their first season in 2009, while DC United, writes Kári Tulinius, won the Concacaf Champions Cup in 1998, three years after their formation.

Away from MLS, Uzbek side Bunyodkor Tashkent have been rather successful in their five years of existence. "Bunyodkor were founded in 2005 and have since won the Uzbek league twice (2008, 2009) and been runner-up once (2007)," writes Pieter Jordaan. "They also won the Uzbek Cup in 2008 and reached the semi-finals of the AFC Champions League in 2008 and the quarter-finals in 2007. It does, of course, help that they are bankrolled by a rather large company in Zeromax."

Mergers can also bring quick success to newly formed clubs. "FC Amsterdam were established from a merger of two struggling Amsterdam teams in 1972 and played to almost empty crowds in the massive Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam," writes Meir Moses. "They qualified for the 1974-75 Uefa Cup and made it to the quarter-final stage after having defeated the mighty Internazionale in the second round, then Fortuna Dusseldorf before succumbing to FC Koln."

And a similar story can be found in Denmark. "" Copenhagen "won the Danish top division in the first season of existence, 1992-93," says Mathias Stigsgaard. "They merge KB (continental Europe, 's oldest football club) and B1903, and as such took place in the automatic top division, which they won at one point."

MOHAMED SHAWKY: MORE SUCCESSFUL THAN WESLEY SNEIJDER (BUT NOT QIUTE AS SUCCESSFUL AS PELE)

Last week we looked at the players who have won trebles with their clubs before going on to lift international titles with the countries. But, not for the first time, we missed out rather a big name.

"As legendary Paraguayan goalkeeper José Luis Chilavert kept on mentioning on the US channel Univision during the World Cup, Wesley Sneijder would have been the second person to win at least a treble with his club (including a continent's top trophy) and the World Cup in the same year," writes Tim Dockery. "The first (and only) person to do that was Pelé who in 1962 won the Campeonato Paulista (the Campeonato Barsileiro not yet being in existence), the Taça Brasil (a predecessor to the Copa do Brasil) and the Copa Libertadores with Santos and the World Cup with Brazil.

"However, even if Holland had won the World Cup, Pelé would still have bested Sneijder as, in addition to a domestic double and a continent's top club competition, Pelé and Santos also won the world's top club competition in 1962 by beating reigning European Champions Benefica for the Intercontinental Cup."

KNOWLEDGE ARCHIVE

"Has a goalkeeper ever been sent off during a penalty shootout?" wondered Olumide Hassan back in 2007.

Hats off to Tommy Tucker for discovering that Botswana goalkeeper and captain Modiri Marumo was sent off during a Castle Cup shootout against Malawi in May 2003. Having been booked for time-wasting before Malawi scored their third spot-kick, Marumo "reacted to a pat on the shoulder from opposite number Philip Nyasulu by punching him in the face and got a red card". Malawi went on to win 4-1 and reach the semi-finals.

"I over-reacted in an exchange of words between myself and my counterpart," admitted Marumo. "This unbecoming behaviour has not only embarrassed me, but also the organisation that I work for, the Botswana Defence Force (BDF). I hope my apology would be recognised and I pledge my commitment in serving the nation."

For all the knowledge you can manage, and a lot more, head to the Knowledge archive.

Can you help?

"Most of Spain's World Cup winning squad have won a few things or more at club level, except for Álvaro Arbeloa," notes Matt Prior (not that one). "At 27, he now has a European Championship winner's medal and a World Cup winner's medal to his name, but no club trophies. Have any other players won so much with their country, yet so little with their clubs?"

"Who were the last Premier League team to start a season with exactly the same XI with which they finished the last?" ponders Jeremy Dagnall.

Send your questions and answers to knowledge@guardian.co.uk

John Ashdown

guardian.co.uk ? Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds





Greeny NEWS
Monday, July 26, 2010
07/21/2010 Which items have stadiums banned?

Plus: Overnight successes; Wesley Sneijder v Pele; and has a goalkeeper ever been sent off in a penalty shoot-out. Send your questions and answers to knowledge@guardian.co.uk

"With clubs falling over themselves to ban the vuvuzela, I was wondering what other seemingly innocent items have clubs found it necessary to ban over the years," writes Paul Briscoe.

If there's one thing that football grounds are good at it's banning things. Take Wembley, for example. Along with "any article that might be used as a weapon", spectators are not allowed to take into the ground: unlicensed musical instruments, including trumpets, drums and "other devices capable of causing a disturbance or nuisance"; Flag poles greater than 1m in length; Flares; Bottles, glass vessels, cans and flasks; Frisbees and "similar items"; Dangerous or hazardous items; Illegal substances; Explosives or ammunition; fireworks; Knives, blades or other weapons; Firearms; Scooters, skateboards or other skates; Laser devices; Smoke canisters; Signs or items with corporate or inappropriate branding; Unauthorised fliers; Spray paint or large industrial style marker pens; Prams and push chairs; Transmitting devices; Professional cameras and recording devices; Large suitcases, lap tops, and back packs; Illegal merchandise items; Water bottles; Illegal charity collection utensils; Motor bike helmets; Umbrellas; Darts; Hampers and Cold Boxes; Air horns; Alcohol; and animals (except service dogs and guide dogs).

But Wembley is far from alone. And the vuvuzela is not the first noise-maker to face a football ban â€" wooden rattles were banned in the 1970s due to their handy heft for hooligans. Other bans have been slightly odder. In the 1987-88 season Maine Road became populated with a bumper crop of blow-up bananas, named, in honour of striker Imre Varadi, "Imre Banana". Arguably, the finest hour of the City inflatable craze came in September 1988 when the team visited Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea. Away supporters were banned due to trouble in a previous play-off fixture, but some City fans made their way into the ground regardless. "As City scarves and banners would have been a bit of a giveaway," wrote Mike Rowbottom in the Guardian, "a less obvious rallying device was devised. A 7ft inflatable Frankenstein. So simple."

The craze continued. By February Bristol City arrived for a Littlewoods Cup semi-final with 200 sets of blow up fangs in honour of their manager Joe Jordan. At Wimbledon's Plough Lane, 1,500 Grimsby fans turned up waving haddocks. Blackpool started selling two and a half feet high plastic Blackpool Towers.

Something had to give, and it did at Highbury, where local police deemed that the oversized novelty fruits could, by obstructing spectators' views, incite violence.

"Football has become a leading victim of the British mania for banning things," wrote David Lacey. "The latest absurdity came at Highbury on Tuesday night when police video cameras solemnly scanned the terraces for illicit giant bananas." The Gunners, though, soon relented and the inflatable craze was allowed to die a natural death.

Not only inanimate objects have fallen foul of footballs rulemakers. In May 2006 Vladimir Kisilev was in Moscow to show one of his prize-winning pigs at a farm show and afterwards was keen to head over to the Luzhniki Stadium to watch Spartak Moscow v Zenit St Petersburg. Having nowhere to leave his porcine pal, Kisilev attempted to take it with him, but was stopped by police. "I wanted to see the game, but had nowhere to leave the pig," said Kisilev. "I almost managed to get it into the ground in a big bag, but it started grunting and the police noticed."

Irene Kerrigan at least managed to get her pet into the ground. In January 2009 Hertford Heath faced Hatfield Town in a crunch Hertfordshire Senior Centenary Trophy quarter-final tie. Around 150 hardy souls watched a goal-less first half before proceedings took a bizarre twist early in the second half, with play being disrupted by the 63-year-old Mrs Kerrigan's pet Senegal parrot Me-Tu, who, having been a regular at Hertford Heath home fixtures, was demonstrating his new-found ability to mimic the referee's whistle.

"I've never known anything like it in all my football career," said the referee Gary Bailey. "I got a hell of a shock. It was a big game and there were quite a lot of people there. This woman was standing right by the touchline and suddenly unveiled a big cage with this big green parrot in it. I didn't mind at first. But then every time I blew my whistle the bird made exactly the same sound. It was bizarre. The crowd were all laughing. In the end, there was only one thing for it." Mrs Kerrigan and Me-Tu were asked to leave.

FAST-TRACK SUCCESS

\\ "Within two years after their creation by the Irish Sports Fingal FC won the Cup FAI," writes Michael Hallinan. "They are now about to play against Maritimo in the second qualifying round of the Europa League. Has there ever been a team to achieve success so quickly?"

Rags to riches overnight? Only in America. Well, not only in America, but the United States is a good place to start "Chicago Fire, coached by the current US national team coach Bob Bradley, won the Major League Soccer title in their very first year of existence," writes Corey Thompson. "One mitigating factor was that this was in 1998, only the third year of the league's existence, so they weren't knocking off 80-year old clubs in order to hoist the championship trophy. This qualified them for the Concacaf Champions Cup the following year, where they were eliminated in the semi-final on penalties."

The Seattle Sounders won the US Open Cup, the equivalent to the FA Cup, in their first season in 2009, while DC United, writes Kári Tulinius, won the Concacaf Champions Cup in 1998, three years after their formation.

Away from MLS, Uzbek side Bunyodkor Tashkent have been rather successful in their five years of existence. "Bunyodkor were founded in 2005 and have since won the Uzbek league twice (2008, 2009) and been runner-up once (2007)," writes Pieter Jordaan. "They also won the Uzbek Cup in 2008 and reached the semi-finals of the AFC Champions League in 2008 and the quarter-finals in 2007. It does, of course, help that they are bankrolled by a rather large company in Zeromax."

Mergers can also bring quick success to newly formed clubs. "FC Amsterdam were established from a merger of two struggling Amsterdam teams in 1972 and played to almost empty crowds in the massive Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam," writes Meir Moses. "They qualified for the 1974-75 Uefa Cup and made it to the quarter-final stage after having defeated the mighty Internazionale in the second round, then Fortuna Dusseldorf before succumbing to FC Koln."

And a similar tale can also be found in Denmark. "FC Copenhagen won the Danish top flight in their first season of existence, 1992-93," writes Mathias Stigsgaard. "They were a merger of KB (mainland Europe's oldest football club) and B1903 and as such had an automatic spot in the highest division, which they won by one point."

MOHAMED SHAWKY: MORE SUCCESSFUL THAN WESLEY SNEIJDER (BUT NOT QIUTE AS SUCCESSFUL AS PELE)

Last week we looked at the players who have won trebles with their clubs before going on to lift international titles with the countries. But, not for the first time, we missed out rather a big name.

"As legendary Paraguayan goalkeeper José Luis Chilavert kept on mentioning on the US channel Univision during the World Cup, Wesley Sneijder would have been the second person to win at least a treble with his club (including a continent's top trophy) and the World Cup in the same year," writes Tim Dockery. "The first (and only) person to do that was Pelé who in 1962 won the Campeonato Paulista (the Campeonato Barsileiro not yet being in existence), the Taça Brasil (a predecessor to the Copa do Brasil) and the Copa Libertadores with Santos and the World Cup with Brazil.

"However, even if Holland had won the World Cup, Pelé would still have bested Sneijder as, in addition to a domestic double and a continent's top club competition, Pelé and Santos also won the world's top club competition in 1962 by beating reigning European Champions Benefica for the Intercontinental Cup."

KNOWLEDGE ARCHIVE

"Has a goalkeeper ever been sent off during a penalty shootout?" wondered Olumide Hassan back in 2007.

Hats off to Tommy Tucker for discovering that Botswana goalkeeper and captain Modiri Marumo was sent off during a Castle Cup shootout against Malawi in May 2003. Having been booked for time-wasting before Malawi scored their third spot-kick, Marumo "reacted to a pat on the shoulder from opposite number Philip Nyasulu by punching him in the face and got a red card". Malawi went on to win 4-1 and reach the semi-finals.

"I over-reacted in an exchange of words between myself and my counterpart," admitted Marumo. "This unbecoming behaviour has not only embarrassed me, but also the organisation that I work for, the Botswana Defence Force (BDF). I hope my apology would be recognised and I pledge my commitment in serving the nation."

For all the knowledge you can manage, and a lot more, head to the Knowledge archive.

Can you help?

"Who were the last Premier League team to start a season with exactly the same XI with which they finished the last?" ponders Jeremy Dagnall.

Send your questions and answers knowledge@guardian.co.uk

John Ashdown

guardian.co.uk News and Guardian Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is in accordance with our terms and conditions | More Feeds





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07/24/2010 I'm not chasing my own ambulance

The president of the Poetry Society talks to Sarah Crown

Jo Shapcott has an ear for a title. From the jaunty clank of Electroplating the Baby via Phrasebook 's knowing wink to the pointed throat-clearing of 2000's Her Book, she's one of poetry's great encapsulators, able to set the tone of a collection with a choice word or two. "I like titles," she says with a grin, over coffees in a rackety West End café. "With other people's collections, I enjoy reading the title page as if it were a poem itself. For me, I love the process of inventing them: a lot of thought goes in, but they're serendipitous, too. When they come, it's a real thrill. The title is the first sense you get that maybe you've got a book in your hands."

Which is why, when Shapcott unveiled her latest collection, fans knew that something was up. Of Mutability, which was shortlisted this week for the Forward prize, is her first book in almost a decade, and while the title is no less plangent than those that preceded it, an audible tonal shift has occurred; the preposition "of" creates a gap between poet and poem, introducing a new note of reticence. It's lower-pitched than before: less pert, more pensive.

This is a shift of which Shapcott herself is acutely aware â€" and she's in no doubt about its origins. In May 2003, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and underwent the "full gamut" of treatment (her oncology team are named in Of Mutability's acknowledgments). The process took almost a year, and was deemed, in the cautious terms of cancer medicine, to have been a success. But the remedy left its own scars. During the course of her treatment, Shapcott found herself facing "not only physical changes, which were quite profound, but mental and emotional ones". It was, she says, "like being reborn as someone slightly different. And in my case, that meant not only finding out who I was now â€" this new, wobbly person â€" but how that person wrote. The distinctive thing about breast cancer is that you're not cured, you're only ever in remission. You become aware that the body is going in one direction: towards  disintegration. That's true for all of us, of course â€" but now it's at the front of my mind, and that means living with a changed sensibility. I've had to carry out reconstruction on my brain. I've had to remake myself as a poet."

Tender Taxes

They do. Although Shapcott succeeded in its previous incarnation, took the prize ahead in 1999, his third collection, My Life Asleep, and becoming the only poet to win the National Poetry Competition twice, there's a hard-won maturity to her latest poems, coupled with a new and deep attentiveness, that lifts them above anything she has so far written. In former collections, she took vital pleasure in inserting herself into multiple personae, from Marlon Brando to Elizabeth Barrett Browning to her famous "Mad Cow" of the early 90s (best line: "I love the staggers"), switching masks with such enthusiasm that Michael Hofmann, writing in the Times, said of her that "once in disguise . . . pressed into other skins and other perspectives, she howls and sings". In Of Mutability, though, the howling is quieted. These poems, which are as full of greenery and music and fresh air as they are of hospitals and hair loss, are briefer, breathier; their edges, often acid-sharp in previous books, have relaxed and spread. "Look further into the stands of trees / and everything changes", she says in the lovely, lilting "Viral Landscape", in which the collection's themes of physical uncertainty, and the glad embrace of it, are exemplified. "The eye // can't locate an individual shade: / it's all delicate tips and hints / of green rolling in the wind. / We are moving and I can't see a thing."

Shapcott was born in London in 1953 â€" a year she describes in a poem from her debut collection as "myopic . . . full of the coronation illusion". That poem â€" written in the first person and describing events that, Shapcott allows, happened to her infant self â€" raises the question of autobiography, which, for better or worse, hovers over her poetry right up to the present day. "There's a mixture of autobiography and imagination in the poems that I don't quite understand myself," she says, although the suggestion that she might occasionally have dipped a toe into confessional waters is given very short shrift. "Not at all. No. No!" she shudders, laying the blame squarely at the readers' door. "It seems to me that readers tend to relate poems to poets in a way that they don't with novels. And yet poets and novelists share the same dynamic: we make stuff up; we move the point of view around. In Of Mutability, for example, the reader doesn't get an account of my experience with breast cancer. I'm not an autobiographical poet in that sense; I'm not someone chasing her own ambulance. But what you do get is a series of meditations imbued with mortality and mutability, coming from the body, or from the boundaries between the body and the world. The poems are emotionally autobiographical, but not factually so. The 'I' is no more and no less me than it ever was."

A poem towards the end of the collection, balefully entitled "Procedure", handily illustrates her point. In it, the speaker tells of how the heady scent of a cup of almond tea takes her (we presume her) back with a Proustian jerk to "the yellow time / of trouble, with blood tests, and cellular madness, and my presence required // on the slab for surgery". Reading the poem, knowing of her illness, I casually elided the gap between speaker and poet; when I let this slip, she pulls me up. "It shows how complicated the whole business is. When I wrote that poem I wasn't thinking of myself â€" I was imagining the experience of somebody else. In fact, in the first draft, I had a detailed abdominal operation. It really wasn't about me at all."

If her poems aren't precisely autobiographical, though, one can see how her life has guided their focus. When Shapcott was young, her parents left London for Hemel Hempstead, where she grew up, an "unnaturally compulsive reader", quietly doing well at school, and writing her first poems. A pleasantly unexceptional childhood ended abruptly at the age of 18, when both of her parents died suddenly â€" her mother of cancer, her father of a heart attack a month later. Shapcott doesn't court sympathy for this early orphaning ("think how much worse it would have been if I'd been 17, or 16 . . . ") but acknowledges that "a lot of things emerged around that time â€" I guess primarily my interest in the body, its edges, its weaknesses".

Immediately after the death of her parents, she left England for Ireland, heading to Trinity College Dublin to read English. Leaving home for a foreign country so soon after a double bereavement might have been expected to deepen her grief; on the contrary, she says, it was "such a piece of luck in so many ways. The city opened its arms and looked after me in a way that an English city probably wouldn't have done. Everyone from my landlady to my tutors metaphorically cuddled me." One of those tutors was the poet Brendan Kennelly; after Trinity, Shapcott went to Harvard on a Harkness fellowship and studied under Seamus Heaney. While the experience of being taught by such figures was uplifting, it also, temporarily, put the kibosh on any poetic efforts of her own. Not until she was back in the UK, working as an arts administrator at the Southbank Centre, did the poetry begin to resurface. At the time she was a member of a workshop that met at the Lamb pub in Lamb's Conduit Street, and which has since become famous for launching a generation of poets: Don Paterson, Ruth Padel, Matthew Sweeney, Vicki Feaver and Michael Donaghy, among others. "It was quite something," she remembers. "I still show poems to people in that group, though our work is very different; I wouldn't call us a school, as some people have tried to. It's always been the case that poets make great efforts to see each other and talk about poetry â€" Wordsworth had to walk a long way over the hills to do it; we have workshops instead." Her life as a poet seems to be one of deep immersion punctuated by brief surfacings for gulps of air. "It's an odd but very interesting existence. It demands a lot of solitude: to write, I need to be by myself with a towel wrapped round my head. But that makes it far more intense when you do go out and exchange ideas."

Shapcott won the National Poetry Competition for the first time in 1985, for the uproarious "The Surrealists' Summer Convention Came to Our City", and Electroplating the Baby, her first collection, was published in 1988. It was at this point that she began the process of easing over from full-time arts administrator to full-time poet. "I loved working at the Southbank Centre but it was very full-on. It became clear very quickly that it was going to be difficult to sustain both things. Eventually, I jumped into formal teaching." Shapcott is now a professor of creative writing at Royal Holloway, but she began in Newcastle, where she was a visiting professor at the school of English literature in 2001. This allowed her to write a series of lectures on poetry's relationship with the world, due to be published as The Transformers later this year; and she also discovered, in the city, "a brilliant centre of poetry. It was a very exciting time to be up there. Linda Anderson created an amazing department. You'd go down the corridor and see this wonderful litany of names on the doors â€" WN Herbert, Sean O'Brien, Linda France, Julia Darling . . . "

The friendships she fostered during her time at Newcastle proved just as important. O'Brien, who says of Shapcott that she's "an original in contemporary poetry â€" she comes at traditional subject matter as if she's entered the room through a different door", has remained a colleague and valued early reader. And before she died from breast cancer in 2005, Julia Darling offered support of a different kind. "Julia was a great friend to me when I was diagnosed," Shapcott says. "She was always quite jaunty about it, which was an inspiration. She'd write emails saying things like 'drink green tea and eat kiwi!'." At the end of her treatment, Shapcott, like Darling, was prescribed tamoxifen. "Millions of women all over the world take it," Shapcott explains, "and Julia and I were talking about it one day and had a sudden epiphany: an image of all of these women taking this white pill every morning, at the same time. It was a collective act of faith. So we elevated it into a goddess; she became the Goddess Tam."

The female experience â€" what it means, where it fits â€" has always mattered to Shapcott. In Tender Taxes, when she reimagines Rilke's series of rose-poems as being overtly about women ("and more than that â€" petal â€" space â€" petal â€" . . . versions of female genitalia"), she gave the roses their own voice, explaining in her introduction that the poems raised, for her, the question of "who's doing what to whom. And . . . how does a woman poet relate to the poets who have gone before?". Her favourite of all her titles is Her Book, which is, she says, "to do with being a woman in a male poetic tradition. The idea was just to say, OK, this is her book." In Of Mutability, meanwhile, the female body becomes the plain on which many of the poems are enacted. The "presiding spirit of the collection" is, she explains, the artist Helen Chadwick. "I was commissioned by the Barbican to write some poems in response to her work, just when I was finishing my treatment. Her take on gender was fascinating: her work suggested ways of relating the body and the world, which at that moment spoke to me, opened windows and doors, opened the whole house up."

If her poetry has opened up over the past seven years, the rest of life has, too. She was made president of the Poetry Society in 2005 and has found time to indulge her long-held interest in science: the critic Edna Longley, in relation to Shapcott's work, has talked of "the zone where poetry and science meet". Shapcott is now studying for an OU degree in the subject. "Any distinctive language interests me, whether it's that of football or knitting, but scientific language is very beautiful. Each word opens a world. And scientists need metaphor to describe things that they don't fully understand yet."

It feels at times as if her latest collection is performing a similar action. The poems are a groping towards an understanding of her new life, her changed self. Of the ways in which her writing has altered, she says: "I think that's going to be for other people to identify. I just feel very glad that it began again. It's characteristic for people who've been through chemo to experience a sense of euphoria at the end, and that was certainly true in my case: I felt like Dennis Potter when he was talking about the blossomy-ness of the blossom. So when I talk about writing out of a new self, it's not a smaller, more negative self â€" it's uncontrollable, sometimes ecstatic. Even though many of the poems here are concerned with decay and death, they're often cheerful. I guess 'mutability' is the right word for it all. It's rather a wonderful word. I like it because there's no value judgment in it: it suggests that change is glinting and gleaming, whichever way it's going. I think that's what I feel, too."


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Greeny NEWS
Saturday, July 24, 2010
07/18/2010 Tutankhamun goes online

Howard Carter spent years documenting the thousands of artefacts from Tutankhamun's tomb. Now, thanks to the efforts of an Oxford archaeologist, this remarkable archive of pictures and notes can be viewed online

From the circular main hall of the Sackler Library in Oxford, an unassuming corridor leads to a staircase that takes you down below street level. Through a door marked "archive", office ceiling tiles and fluorescent lights stare down on a cheap blue carpet and a row of grey rolling stacks.

The hum of the air-conditioning lets slip that this ordinary-looking room is hiding something special. The temperature is held at 18.5C (65F), several degrees cooler than the sunny July day outside, while a humidifier keeps the moisture level tightly controlled. For those grey stacks contain the forgotten secrets of the most famous find in Egyptology, if not all of archaeological history: the tomb of Tutankhamun.

This is the Griffith Institute â€" arguably the best Egyptology library in the world. One of its most prized collections incorporates the notes, photographs and diaries of the English archaeologist Howard Carter, who discovered Tutankhamun's resting place in 1922. The only intact pharaoh's tomb ever discovered, it contained such an array of treasures that it took Carter 10 years to catalogue them all. Yet despite the immense significance of the discovery, the majority of Carter's findings have never been published, and many questions surrounding the tomb remain unanswered.

Jaromir Malek is the soft-spoken keeper of the archive whose own Tutankhamun project is nearing completion. By making all of Carter's notes available online, Malek wanted to ensure that the public would have access to the full extent of the discovery â€" and to spur Egyptologists into finishing the job of studying the tomb's contents. He has ended up creating a model that other researchers hope will transform the field of archaeology.

The effort has taken even longer than Carter's gruelling excavation. It began in 1993, when Malek says he realised that fewer than a third of the artefacts from Tutankhamun's tomb had been properly studied and published, a situation he describes as "unacceptable".

A total of 5398 objects were found in the tomb, covering all aspects of ancient Egyptian life, from weapons and chariots for musical instruments, clothing, cosmetics and treasured royal castle grandmothers hair. Some, like Tutankhamun 's golden mask funeral, immediately recognizable, but many of them are not known even to specialists.

Part of the reason is that Carter died in 1939, just seven years after his excavation ended, and before he could fully publish his findings. "He started working on the final publication, but he was physically and mentally exhausted after a very hard 10 years," says Malek. By all accounts a difficult man to work with, Carter had no collaborators left to continue his work when he died. And while the artefacts themselves are held in the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo, Carter's notes were donated to the Griffith Institute, where they have lain largely undisturbed ever since.

The sheer size and importance of Carter's haul seems to have discouraged scholars from tackling it. "I often say that the real curse of Tutankhamun is that Egyptologists have tended to shy away from working on the material," says Marianne Eaton-Krauss, an expert who has written three books about objects from the tomb. "These pieces are beautifully made. To study them takes a lot of work, and requires expertise not only on the symbolism, but also the technology."

So Malek decided that the best way to ensure that Carter's discoveries saw the light of day was to post the entire archive online. "We can't make Egyptologists work on the material if they are not inclined to do so," he says. "But we could make sure that all of the excavation records are available to anyone who is interested. Then there will be no excuse."

A simple idea, but still a daunting task, particularly as a lack of funding meant that Malek and his handful of staff had to carry out the entire project in their spare time. Carter recorded his finds on more than 3,500 densely written cards, with additional notes by Carter's chemist and conservator Alfred Lucas, and more than 1,000 images taken by his photographer Harry Burton. There are also around 60 maps and plans of the excavation site, plus hundreds of fragile pages from Carter's journals and diaries.

.

More than 15 years later, the internet has been transformed: a Google search for Egyptology now returns more than 3 million results. And Malek's project is almost complete. Around 98% of the material is available, with the last pages to follow within the next three months.

Among the highlights is Carter's diary from the period in which he discovered Tutankhamun's tomb. When I ask to see it, Malek's assistant Elizabeth Fleming pulls the yellowed notebook from a stiff cardboard case, and with white-gloved hands settles it on a pillow on the table in front of me.

Funded by the Egypt enthusiast Lord Carnarvon, Carter had been searching the Valley of the Kings â€" ancient Egypt's royal burial ground â€" for seven years. A few objects bearing Tutankhamun's name had been found in the area and the two were convinced that his tomb lay somewhere beneath thousands of years' worth of limestone rubble. Yet season after season of arduous digging, during which their workmen cleared large areas of the valley down to bedrock, produced nothing.

Then on Saturday 4 November 1922, the dig revealed a step cut into the rock of the valley floor, beneath the foundations of a group of huts. It was the beginning of a stairway that led to a walled-up doorway: Tutankhamun's resting place had been found. Fleming shows me two words from the next day's entry â€" "seals intact" â€" the crucial sign that the tomb had lain undisturbed since the second millennium BC.

handwriting Carter ", a small, neat pencil offers a disciplined, down-to-earth person, not prone to florid emissions. A typical diary reads simply" asses 2 "- a reference to the carriage that Carter and his assistant went on digging every day.

Elizabeth Fleming also shows me one of Carter's plans â€" the valley's contours, neatly conveyed in sparse yet graceful black-ink lines. The dig site was located in the deepest point of the valley, where floodwater dumps debris when it rains. This, along with the fact that the later tomb of Ramses VI was built almost on top of it, kept Tutankhamun hidden from robbers over the centuries, and from the wholesale dismantling of royal tombs by Ramses XI in the 11th century BC.

The real meat of the archive, however, is in the notes and photographs that record every item found in the tomb in painstaking detail. Any other archaeologist working in the 1920s might have bundled the treasures out of the tomb in a matter of hours, but Carter worked methodically and meticulously.

Burton's black-and-white photographs show the team's progress through the tomb, and these too are available online. Despite the difficult lighting conditions, these images â€" acknowledged as some of the best in archaeology â€" capture the eerie stillness of the tomb when it was first opened. Chairs and chariot wheels have been casually propped against the wall, while statues stand in their linen shawls as if placed there hours before.

I'm struck by how messy and jumbled the objects look. This is partly because Tutankhamun died unexpectedly, so his belongings had to be crammed into a much smaller tomb than would have been intended, and partly because the tomb was robbed shortly after the unfortunate king was buried, and the guards seem to have done a rather careless job of righting the ransacked contents before resealing the doors.

\\ "We can see things missing," says John Taylor, who cares about the collection of Egyptian mummies in the British Museum in London. "We have a plinth of gold statues, but not the actual statues. They broke the gold fittings with furniture. And we can see fingermarks a bank where a robber stuck his fingers and scooped out a sticky mass of valuable aromatic oil."

Burton's photos document each artefact after removal from the tomb: a quick browse of the database reveals some charming treasures â€" from a leopardskin cloak with a golden head and silver claws to a collection of green and blue draughtsmen and even a folding bed. A search for "mummy" returns 68 photos taken at various stages of the unwrapping process, from plump outer bandages to fragile bone.

For Malek, a principal aim of the project is to bring the forgotten details of the tomb to as many people as possible. "We felt this was important because the discovery is so well-known," he says. "This doesn't belong to Egyptologists only, or even to Egypt only. Everybody should have the right to see what's there."

Taylor agrees that the failure of Egyptologists to publish the discovery in its entirety has left the public in the dark about much of what was in the tomb. "A lot of the objects will be very unfamiliar to people," he says. "What is needed is for schools and people with a more general interest to have access to the basic data and see what's there."

In this, the website appears to be succeeding. It has informed countless school projects and even an interactive DVD being produced by the BBC to accompany an Egypt-themed episode of Doctor Who. Semmel, German promoter of the event, used Carter 's technical diagrams make exact copies of many of the treasures of Tutankhamen's tomb with' for the exhibition which is currently touring Europe.

Egyptologists are particularly excited about what the objects from the tomb can tell us about the technology of the ancient Egyptians. "We can study how these objects were made, the materials and techniques that were used," says Malek. "That is quite rare. There is a great difference between being able to look at a representation of a chair on the wall of a tomb or a temple and being able to study that particular object in reality."

Although researchers will always want to study objects directly, gaining access to many of the most priceless items from Tutankhamun's tomb can be difficult. Carter's archive is a useful source of back-up information. But it also provides a lot of data that would be difficult or impossible to glean from studying the objects today.

For a start, Carter recorded exactly where items were found in the tomb, and how they were positioned relative to each other. This has helped researchers to make sense of the jumble of objects in the antechamber. "It seems like just a pile of things, but there is a system," says Malek. "You can see what the thinking behind it was." For example, items of food should have gone into another room but the space was too small, so at the last minute they were placed into the antechamber.

Marianne Eaton-Krauss recently used the Griffith Institute website in a study of how Tutankhamun was buried. "It's a mine of information," she says. Eaton-Krauss was able to tell from Carter's excavation journal that the innermost shrine of Tutankhamun's tomb was too small to fit properly around his sarcophagus, suggesting that the sarcophagus had in fact been intended for someone else â€" something that it is impossible to tell from the objects as they are set up on display in Cairo.

Eaton-Krauss points out that many objects from Tutankhamun's tomb seem to have originally belonged to other kings, and says she hopes the website will stimulate other Egyptologists to investigate further. "If these were all studied, it would be of great historical significance."

Also crucial for researchers is the fact that Carter and his colleagues recorded the artefacts almost immediately after the tomb was opened. "They were the first to see the objects, and therefore saw them in the best condition possible," says André Veldmeijer of the PalArch Foundation in Amsterdam, who used the website in a recent analysis of the footwear found in Tutankhamun's tomb. This is particularly important for finds made of organic material. One pair of leather sandals, delicately embellished with gold leaf and coloured beads, is shown perfectly preserved in Burton's photographs, yet Veldmeijer says his visit to the Cairo museum revealed an oozing black mess. He describes the online archive as "one of the best things in Egyptology".

"You can easily compare different types of object because you have that overview," agrees Veldmeijer. "It's a good example of how you can get so much more from archaeological research." He is now pushing for archaeologists working in other areas to take a similar approach, instead of leaving their dig notes on huge collections of record cards that soon become too unwieldy for anyone to study. Veldmeijer notes a dig at Qasr Ibrim in southern Egypt that is recorded on 20,000 separate cards. "So many excavations have not been properly published," he says.

Sitting in front of those grey rolling stacks, Malek tells me that after going through every single page of Carter's excavation notes he has a new appreciation of the archaeologist's strength of character. "He was not easy to work with," says Malek. "He was quite often short tempered, perhaps not always tactful. But what I find really impressive is that there was this massive task, and in spite of all the difficulties, he finished it." Something that Malek himself hopes to live up to within the next few months.


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