Friday, April 28, 2017

In findings published Tuesday in Nature Communications, a team mostly from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia announced they have successfully created an artificial womb in which premature lambs can be brought to term. The researchers say this technology could develop into a means of helping premature human babies survive, but it has also drawn concern from bioethicists.

According to first author Emily Partridge and her team, previous efforts at creating an artificial womb have failed because the pumps used, to provide oxygen and nutrients to the developing animal, put too much stress on the heart, causing circulatory failure; and because they used open-fluid systems, which were easily exposed to germs. Partridge et al.’s system uses a closed-fluid apparatus, which they’ve called the Biobag. The sound of a maternal heartbeat was played in the room where the fetuses were kept.

The animals housed in the artificial womb showed normal blood gases and their lungs, brains and nervous systems showed normal development. They opened their eyes and grew wool. When they were removed from the circuit and dissected, their brains, lungs and other organs were found similar to those of lambs delivered by hysterotomy (Cesarean section) when nearly full term.

Although lambs often serve as an experimental model of fetal development, the researchers concede that not all of their findings can be translated to humans. While the lambs’ brains appeared healthy, they also develop certain traits much earlier than human brains, so not all of these effects may be attributable to the Biobag system.

The researchers also acknowledge the startling appearance of a fetus wrapped in plastic. “It is important to consider that the comparator is the extreme premature infant on a ventilator and in an incubator,” reads the official paper. “We feel that parents will be relatively reassured that their fetus is being maintained in a relatively protective and physiologic environment.”

One of the researchers, Dr. Alan Flake, also of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, says the apparatus may be ready for testing on human babies in three to five years. The researchers noted premature birth is the leading cause of infant mortality in the United States, with about nine out of ten infants born at 23 weeks gestation or earlier suffering complications such as mental retardation, deafness, blindness, paralysis, and cerebral palsy. When a fetus is removed from the amniotic fluid and placed on a respirator, the shift from liquid to gas can cause the lungs to stop developing. The most common direct cause of death among premature infants is failure of the lungs to properly oxygenate the blood.

Bioethicist Dena Davis of Lehigh University notes this invention raises several ethical issues. “If it’s a difference between a baby dying rather peacefully and a baby dying under conditions of great stress and discomfort then, no, I don’t think it’s better,” she told National Public Radio. She also notes the problem of babies who would otherwise have died surviving with severe side effects and the implications that this has for the abortion debate: “Up to now, we’ve been either born or not born. This would be halfway born, or something like that.” Scott Gelfand of Oklahoma State University worries that women who would otherwise seek abortion could be pressured into putting their fetuses in Biobags instead or that employers would punish mothers who took maternity leave instead of using an artificial uterus.

“I want to make this very clear: We have no intention and we’ve never had any intention with this technology of extending the limits of viability further back,” Dr. Flake said in response to these issues. “I think when you do that you open a whole new can of worms.” He went on to call gestating fetuses younger than 23 weeks “a pipe dream at this point.”

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The automobile manufacturer Toyota has said that it will recall up to 1.8 million cars across Europe, after a problem with the accelerator pedal was discovered.

According to the firm, eight models were affected by the problem — AYGO, iQ, Yaris, Auris, Corolla, Verso, Avensis, and RAV4 — after it was discovered that the accelerator may become stuck in a depressed position, resulting in uncontrollable speeding.

On Thursday, Toyota said it would recall 1.1 million cars in the US; a day previous, it had suspended eight models from sales. Last week, 2.3 million cars in the US were recalled due to the pedal issues.

The chief executive of Toyota Motor Europe commented on the recall. “We understand that the current situation is creating concerns and we deeply regret it,” said Tadashi Arashima. The firm, however, noted that it wasn’t aware of any accidents resulted by the malfunctioning accelerator pedals, and not many pedal problem incidents were reported in Europe. “The potential accelerator pedal issue only occurs in very rare circumstances,” Arashima added.

The National Automobile Dealers Association, meanwhile, commented that Toyota showrooms could lose as much as US$2.47 billion worth of revenue due to the incident.

“Toyota veterans will likely hear the news with disbelief and keep faith in the brand, but new customers could definitely be scared off,” remarked Robert Rademacher, who is the president of the trade group ZDK, as quoted by Business Week. “This recall has a dimension which we’ve never seen before.”

There are concerns that the problem may result in reduced consumer trust in Toyota. Hans-Peter Wodniok, an analyst for Fairesearch GmbH & Co. in Germany, noted: “If this is a one-time event, huge as it is, Toyota may be forgiven. But if something happens again in the next months and years, they will have gambled away customer trust in Europe as well.”

Analysts for Morgan Stanley, however, said they believed Toyota would not suffer much from the incident. “The company’s actions to correct the situation are timely enough to avoid major brand damage,” they remarked in a note to investors.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Today sees the reopening of the National Museum of Scotland following a three-year renovation costing £47.4 million (US$ 77.3 million). Edinburgh’s Chambers Street was closed to traffic for the morning, with the 10am reopening by eleven-year-old Bryony Hare, who took her first steps in the museum, and won a competition organised by the local Evening News paper to be a VIP guest at the event. Prior to the opening, Wikinews toured the renovated museum, viewing the new galleries, and some of the 8,000 objects inside.

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Dressed in Victorian attire, Scottish broadcaster Grant Stott acted as master of ceremonies over festivities starting shortly after 9am. The packed street cheered an animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex created by Millenium FX; onlookers were entertained with a twenty-minute performance by the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers on the steps of the museum; then, following Bryony Hare knocking three times on the original doors to ask that the museum be opened, the ceremony was heralded with a specially composed fanfare – played on a replica of the museum’s 2,000-year-old carnyx Celtic war-horn. During the fanfare, two abseilers unfurled white pennons down either side of the original entrance.

The completion of the opening to the public was marked with Chinese firecrackers, and fireworks, being set off on the museum roof. As the public crowded into the museum, the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers resumed their performance; a street theatre group mingled with the large crowd, and the animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex entertained the thinning crowd of onlookers in the centre of the street.

On Wednesday, the museum welcomed the world’s press for an in depth preview of the new visitor experience. Wikinews was represented by Brian McNeil, who is also Wikimedia UK’s interim liaison with Museum Galleries Scotland.

The new pavement-level Entrance Hall saw journalists mingle with curators. The director, Gordon Rintoul, introduced presentations by Gareth Hoskins and Ralph Applebaum, respective heads of the Architects and Building Design Team; and, the designers responsible for the rejuvenation of the museum.

Describing himself as a “local lad”, Hoskins reminisced about his grandfather regularly bringing him to the museum, and pushing all the buttons on the numerous interactive exhibits throughout the museum. Describing the nearly 150-year-old museum as having become “a little tired”, and a place “only visited on a rainy day”, he commented that many international visitors to Edinburgh did not realise that the building was a public space; explaining the focus was to improve access to the museum – hence the opening of street-level access – and, to “transform the complex”, focus on “opening up the building”, and “creating a number of new spaces […] that would improve facilities and really make this an experience for 21st century museum visitors”.

Hoskins explained that a “rabbit warren” of storage spaces were cleared out to provide street-level access to the museum; the floor in this “crypt-like” space being lowered by 1.5 metres to achieve this goal. Then Hoskins handed over to Applebaum, who expressed his delight to be present at the reopening.

Applebaum commented that one of his first encounters with the museum was seeing “struggling young mothers with two kids in strollers making their way up the steps”, expressing his pleasure at this being made a thing of the past. Applebaum explained that the Victorian age saw the opening of museums for public access, with the National Museum’s earlier incarnation being the “College Museum” – a “first window into this museum’s collection”.

Have you any photos of the museum, or its exhibits?

The museum itself is physically connected to the University of Edinburgh’s old college via a bridge which allowed students to move between the two buildings.

Applebaum explained that the museum will, now redeveloped, be used as a social space, with gatherings held in the Grand Gallery, “turning the museum into a social convening space mixed with knowledge”. Continuing, he praised the collections, saying they are “cultural assets [… Scotland is] turning those into real cultural capital”, and the museum is, and museums in general are, providing a sense of “social pride”.

McNeil joined the yellow group on a guided tour round the museum with one of the staff. Climbing the stairs at the rear of the Entrance Hall, the foot of the Window on the World exhibit, the group gained a first chance to see the restored Grand Gallery. This space is flooded with light from the glass ceiling three floors above, supported by 40 cast-iron columns. As may disappoint some visitors, the fish ponds have been removed; these were not an original feature, but originally installed in the 1960s – supposedly to humidify the museum; and failing in this regard. But, several curators joked that they attracted attention as “the only thing that moved” in the museum.

The museum’s original architect was Captain Francis Fowke, also responsible for the design of London’s Royal Albert Hall; his design for the then-Industrial Museum apparently inspired by Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace.

The group moved from the Grand Gallery into the Discoveries Gallery to the south side of the museum. The old red staircase is gone, and the Millennium Clock stands to the right of a newly-installed escalator, giving easier access to the upper galleries than the original staircases at each end of the Grand Gallery. Two glass elevators have also been installed, flanking the opening into the Discoveries Gallery and, providing disabled access from top-to-bottom of the museum.

The National Museum of Scotland’s origins can be traced back to 1780 when the 11th Earl of Buchan, David Stuart Erskine, formed the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland; the Society being tasked with the collection and preservation of archaeological artefacts for Scotland. In 1858, control of this was passed to the government of the day and the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland came into being. Items in the collection at that time were housed at various locations around the city.

On Wednesday, October 28, 1861, during a royal visit to Edinburgh by Queen Victoria, Prince-Consort Albert laid the foundation-stone for what was then intended to be the Industrial Museum. Nearly five years later, it was the second son of Victoria and Albert, Prince Alfred, the then-Duke of Edinburgh, who opened the building which was then known as the Scottish Museum of Science and Art. A full-page feature, published in the following Monday’s issue of The Scotsman covered the history leading up to the opening of the museum, those who had championed its establishment, the building of the collection which it was to house, and Edinburgh University’s donation of their Natural History collection to augment the exhibits put on public display.

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Selection of views of the Grand Gallery Image: Brian McNeil.

Selection of views of the Grand Gallery Image: Brian McNeil.

Selection of views of the Grand Gallery Image: Brian McNeil.

Closed for a little over three years, today’s reopening of the museum is seen as the “centrepiece” of National Museums Scotland’s fifteen-year plan to dramatically improve accessibility and better present their collections. Sir Andrew Grossard, chair of the Board of Trustees, said: “The reopening of the National Museum of Scotland, on time and within budget is a tremendous achievement […] Our collections tell great stories about the world, how Scots saw that world, and the disproportionate impact they had upon it. The intellectual and collecting impact of the Scottish diaspora has been profound. It is an inspiring story which has captured the imagination of our many supporters who have helped us achieve our aspirations and to whom we are profoundly grateful.

The extensive work, carried out with a view to expand publicly accessible space and display more of the museums collections, carried a £47.4 million pricetag. This was jointly funded with £16 million from the Scottish Government, and £17.8 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Further funds towards the work came from private sources and totalled £13.6 million. Subsequent development, as part of the longer-term £70 million “Masterplan”, is expected to be completed by 2020 and see an additional eleven galleries opened.

The funding by the Scottish Government can be seen as a ‘canny‘ investment; a report commissioned by National Museums Scotland, and produced by consultancy firm Biggar Economics, suggest the work carried out could be worth £58.1 million per year, compared with an estimated value to the economy of £48.8 prior to the 2008 closure. Visitor figures are expected to rise by over 20%; use of function facilities are predicted to increase, alongside other increases in local hospitality-sector spending.

Proudly commenting on the Scottish Government’s involvement Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, described the reopening as, “one of the nation’s cultural highlights of 2011” and says the rejuvenated museum is, “[a] must-see attraction for local and international visitors alike“. Continuing to extol the museum’s virtues, Hyslop states that it “promotes the best of Scotland and our contributions to the world.

So-far, the work carried out is estimated to have increased the public space within the museum complex by 50%. Street-level storage rooms, never before seen by the public, have been transformed into new exhibit space, and pavement-level access to the buildings provided which include a new set of visitor facilities. Architectural firm Gareth Hoskins have retained the original Grand Gallery – now the first floor of the museum – described as a “birdcage” structure and originally inspired by The Crystal Palace built in Hyde Park, London for the 1851 Great Exhibition.

The centrepiece in the Grand Gallery is the “Window on the World” exhibit, which stands around 20 metres tall and is currently one of the largest installations in any UK museum. This showcases numerous items from the museum’s collections, rising through four storeys in the centre of the museum. Alexander Hayward, the museums Keeper of Science and Technology, challenged attending journalists to imagine installing “teapots at thirty feet”.

The redeveloped museum includes the opening of sixteen brand new galleries. Housed within, are over 8,000 objects, only 20% of which have been previously seen.

  • Ground floor
  • First floor
  • Second floor
  • Top floor

The Window on the World rises through the four floors of the museum and contains over 800 objects. This includes a gyrocopter from the 1930s, the world’s largest scrimshaw – made from the jaws of a sperm whale which the University of Edinburgh requested for their collection, a number of Buddha figures, spearheads, antique tools, an old gramophone and record, a selection of old local signage, and a girder from the doomed Tay Bridge.

The arrangement of galleries around the Grand Gallery’s “birdcage” structure is organised into themes across multiple floors. The World Cultures Galleries allow visitors to explore the culture of the entire planet; Living Lands explains the ways in which our natural environment influences the way we live our lives, and the beliefs that grow out of the places we live – from the Arctic cold of North America to Australia’s deserts.

The adjacent Patterns of Life gallery shows objects ranging from the everyday, to the unusual from all over the world. The functions different objects serve at different periods in peoples’ lives are explored, and complement the contents of the Living Lands gallery.

Performance & Lives houses musical instruments from around the world, alongside masks and costumes; both rooted in long-established traditions and rituals, this displayed alongside contemporary items showing the interpretation of tradition by contemporary artists and instrument-creators.

The museum proudly bills the Facing the Sea gallery as the only one in the UK which is specifically based on the cultures of the South Pacific. It explores the rich diversity of the communities in the region, how the sea shapes the islanders’ lives – describing how their lives are shaped as much by the sea as the land.

Both the Facing the Sea and Performance & Lives galleries are on the second floor, next to the new exhibition shop and foyer which leads to one of the new exhibition galleries, expected to house the visiting Amazing Mummies exhibit in February, coming from Leiden in the Netherlands.

The Inspired by Nature, Artistic Legacies, and Traditions in Sculpture galleries take up most of the east side of the upper floor of the museum. The latter of these shows the sculptors from diverse cultures have, through history, explored the possibilities in expressing oneself using metal, wood, or stone. The Inspired by Nature gallery shows how many artists, including contemporary ones, draw their influence from the world around us – often commenting on our own human impact on that natural world.

Contrastingly, the Artistic Legacies gallery compares more traditional art and the work of modern artists. The displayed exhibits attempt to show how people, in creating specific art objects, attempt to illustrate the human spirit, the cultures they are familiar with, and the imaginative input of the objects’ creators.

The easternmost side of the museum, adjacent to Edinburgh University’s Old College, will bring back memories for many regular visitors to the museum; but, with an extensive array of new items. The museum’s dedicated taxidermy staff have produced a wide variety of fresh examples from the natural world.

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At ground level, the Animal World and Wildlife Panorama’s most imposing exhibit is probably the lifesize reproduction of a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. This rubs shoulders with other examples from around the world, including one of a pair of elephants. The on-display elephant could not be removed whilst renovation work was underway, and lurked in a corner of the gallery as work went on around it.

Above, in the Animal Senses gallery, are examples of how we experience the world through our senses, and contrasting examples of wildly differing senses, or extremes of such, present in the natural world. This gallery also has giant screens, suspended in the free space, which show footage ranging from the most tranquil and peaceful life in the sea to the tooth-and-claw bloody savagery of nature.

The Survival gallery gives visitors a look into the ever-ongoing nature of evolution; the causes of some species dying out while others thrive, and the ability of any species to adapt as a method of avoiding extinction.

Earth in Space puts our place in the universe in perspective. Housing Europe’s oldest surviving Astrolabe, dating from the eleventh century, this gallery gives an opportunity to see the technology invented to allow us to look into the big questions about what lies beyond Earth, and probe the origins of the universe and life.

In contrast, the Restless Earth gallery shows examples of the rocks and minerals formed through geological processes here on earth. The continual processes of the planet are explored alongside their impact on human life. An impressive collection of geological specimens are complemented with educational multimedia presentations.

Beyond working on new galleries, and the main redevelopment, the transformation team have revamped galleries that will be familiar to regular past visitors to the museum.

Formerly known as the Ivy Wu Gallery of East Asian Art, the Looking East gallery showcases National Museums Scotland’s extensive collection of Korean, Chinese, and Japanese material. The gallery’s creation was originally sponsored by Sir Gordon Wu, and named after his wife Ivy. It contains items from the last dynasty, the Manchu, and examples of traditional ceramic work. Japan is represented through artefacts from ordinary people’s lives, expositions on the role of the Samurai, and early trade with the West. Korean objects also show the country’s ceramic work, clothing, and traditional accessories used, and worn, by the indigenous people.

The Ancient Egypt gallery has always been a favourite of visitors to the museum. A great many of the exhibits in this space were returned to Scotland from late 19th century excavations; and, are arranged to take visitors through the rituals, and objects associated with, life, death, and the afterlife, as viewed from an Egyptian perspective.

The Art and Industry and European Styles galleries, respectively, show how designs are arrived at and turned into manufactured objects, and the evolution of European style – financed and sponsored by a wide range of artists and patrons. A large number of the objects on display, often purchased or commissioned, by Scots, are now on display for the first time ever.

Shaping our World encourages visitors to take a fresh look at technological objects developed over the last 200 years, many of which are so integrated into our lives that they are taken for granted. Radio, transportation, and modern medicines are covered, with a retrospective on the people who developed many of the items we rely on daily.

What was known as the Museum of Scotland, a modern addition to the classical Victorian-era museum, is now known as the Scottish Galleries following the renovation of the main building.

This dedicated newer wing to the now-integrated National Museum of Scotland covers the history of Scotland from a time before there were people living in the country. The geological timescale is covered in the Beginnings gallery, showing continents arranging themselves into what people today see as familiar outlines on modern-day maps.

Just next door, the history of the earliest occupants of Scotland are on display; hunters and gatherers from around 4,000 B.C give way to farmers in the Early People exhibits.

The Kingdom of the Scots follows Scotland becoming a recognisable nation, and a kingdom ruled over by the Stewart dynasty. Moving closer to modern-times, the Scotland Transformed gallery looks at the country’s history post-union in 1707.

Industry and Empire showcases Scotland’s significant place in the world as a source of heavy engineering work in the form of rail engineering and shipbuilding – key components in the building of the British Empire. Naturally, whisky was another globally-recognised export introduced to the world during empire-building.

Lastly, Scotland: A Changing Nation collects less-tangible items, including personal accounts, from the country’s journey through the 20th century; the social history of Scots, and progress towards being a multicultural nation, is explored through heavy use of multimedia exhibits.

Friday, June 23, 2006

20th Century Fox will produce at least 13 new episodes of the animated series Futurama, scheduled to air on Comedy Central in 2008. Futurama, an animation from The Simpsons creator Matt Groening, was canceled by FOX in 2003.

Comedy Central has recently acquired the rights to the back catalogue of 72 Futurama episodes and any eventual new episodes.

“We are thrilled that Matt Groening and 20th Century Fox Television have decided to produce new episodes of ‘Futurama’ and that Comedy Central will be the first to air them,” announces Comedy Central senior vice president for programming David Bernath.

Voice actors Billy West (Fry, Professor Farnsworth), Katey Sagal (Leela) and John DiMaggio (Bender) are all contracted to return.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

US stock markets dropped to twelve-year lows on Thursday, amidst falling confidence in the financial sector and worries over whether the US automobile manufacturer General Motors will be able to keep operating.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped by 4.08%, or 280.52 points, at the closing bell, reaching a level of 6595.32, a new 12-year low. The Nasdaq Composite lost 54.15 points, or 4%, to 1299.59, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 plunged by 30.27 points, or 4.25%, closing at 682.60.

Every stock in the Dow Jones, other than Wal-Mart, either lost ground or remained even, and all stocks in the S&P 500 index lost ground.

General Motors’ shares lost 15.5% after the auto firm announced that its auditors had “substantial doubt” over whether it would be able to keep operating.

Shares of financial companies were lower by nine percent, with Bank of America losing 11.7% and Citigroup falling by 9.7%.

“What’s most worrisome is that we haven’t hit the crescendo yet,” said Bill Groeneveld, the head trader for vFinance Investments. “Asset-management divisions are getting calls to just liquidate everything, and we haven’t seen the big players come back in at all.”

“This is one of the worst bear markets in the last 100 years; it started out with the credit crisis and the subprime [loans], but it is like a forest fire that has raced across the clearing and ignited other parts: Autos, auto parts, the insurance companies have been hit very hard. The credit crisis is causing an unraveling of industry after industry because the banks don’t lend,” said David Dreman, the chief investment officer of Dreman Value Management.

European markets were also lower today, with the London’s FTSE index losing 3.2% and the DAX index of Germany falling by five percent.

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Sunday, September 9, 2018

On Friday, rapper Mac Miller was found dead in his bedroom at home in San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, California, United States, according to reports. He was 26.

According to news website TMZ, a friend called emergency services from Mac Miller’s apartment, in regard to a cardiac arrest. According to the coroner, Mac Miller was pronounced dead at the scene.

Investigation was ongoing to identify the cause of the death.

Reports said Mac Miller previously abused drugs, which reportedly affected his two-year relationship with singer Ariana Grande. They broke up in May this year.

Mac Miller was an US rapper, singer and record producer. He was born Malcolm James McCormick in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US in 1992. In 2007, at the age of fifteen, he released his first mixtape under the nickname “EZ Mac”. He later switched to name “Mac Miller”.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

This year, four breeds of dogs are competing for the first time in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, at Madison Square Garden in New York City, United States.

The new breeds making their Westminister debuts this year, are the Plott, a hunting hound originally bred by two German immigrant brothers in North Carolina; the Tibetan Mastiff, once described by Marco Polo as “tall as a donkey with a voice as powerful as that of a lion.”; the Beauceron, a herding dog originally bred to herd flocks of sheep in France, later used to sniff out landmines and send messages during the World Wars; and the Swedish Vallhund, a breed dating back to the time of the Vikings, used on farms to catch vermin, herd cattle, and as a guard dog, noted for its double coat and harness markings.

This brings the number of unique breeds competing in the famous dog show to 169.

The Plott, the Beauceron, and the Vallhund were shown on Monday. The Tibetan Mastiff will be shown tonight as part of the Working Group.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Church of Scientology is attempting to block the broadcast of a film on the German television broadcaster ARD, claiming the film is “intolerant” and violates the broadcaster’s guidelines.

The film titled Until Nothing Remains (Bis Nichts Mehr Bleibt) due to be broadcast during prime-time on March 31 tells the fictionalised story of a German family destroyed by their involvement in Scientology. It is based on the true story of former member Heiner von Rönn who lost thousands of euros and his wife and two children who are still members. Von Rönn was a member of the organisation for ten years.

Scientology in Germany claims the movie is top secret propaganda and is attempting to undermine the organisation and its adherents. Scientology spokesman Jürg Stettler told the daily Munich newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, “What they’re planning to show is a violation of ARD’s programming guidelines. The station is required to support religious tolerance, not the opposite.” He added, “The truth is precisely the opposite of what ARD is showing.”

The film was made in total secrecy under the title The Dead Man in the Sound with the script, signs and clapboards bearing the fake title. Despite the attempts by the film crew to obscure the film’s story and intent, it appears the Scientology organisation still found out about the movie. The crew says there were reports of a Scientology spokesman tailing them at one point. Notebooks were also stolen from the trunk of director Niki Stein’s car. Not too long after the theft, Stein received an anonymous call whose caller stated, “We know you’re making a movie about Scientology,” and promptly hung up.

The film highlights concerns in Germany about the organisation which the government considers to a business, an abusive one at that and not a religion. The government is so concerned about Scientology that the group is monitored by the country’s domestic intelligence services. Tensions reached a high during the making of the movie Valkyrie, which starred Tom Cruise, a well known Scientology celebrity in his role as Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, the Wehrmacht officer who attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

Carl Bergengruen, the head of TV movies for Südwestrundfunk (SWR or Southwest Broadcasting), the public broadcaster backing the project defended their secrecy practices saying, “Scientology kept trying to use a variety of methods to find out details about the project. We had reason to worry that the organisation would use all the legal means at its disposal to prevent the film from being broadcast.” He added, [As such, the project was] “kept under wraps for as long as possible for security reasons.”

Meanwhile, Volker Herres, programme director for ARD dismissed the charges leveled by Scientology at the film’s screening saying, “We’re not dealing here with a religion, rather with an organisation that has completely different motives. Scientology is about power, business, and building up a network. Its lessons are pure science fiction, it’s no religion, no church, no sect.”

Scientology has endured further controversy in recent weeks and months. Back in October of last year, Paul Haggis, director of the Oscar-winning film Crash and writer of Million Dollar Baby, which also won an Oscar, quit the Scientology organisation over its stance on same-sex marriage. Then last week, a feature article in The New York Times highlighted fraud and abuse that had occurred to a couple who were members of Scientology’s high ranking Sea Organization or SeaOrg.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

ENGLAND – UK Health Secretary John Reid has proposed widespread legislative and health care changes in a new white paper on public health released Tuesday. Titled “Choosing Health”, the paper details government plans to restrict smoking in public places, limit ‘junk food‘ advertisements to children, make available “lifestyle trainers”, campaign against sexually transmitted diseases and tobacco, and improve food labelling.

The white paper comes after extensive public comment that involved 150,000 people.

Smoking would be restricted in enclosed public spaces, restaurants, workplaces, and some pubs. The ban would be enacted gradually, affecting government and NHS buildings in 2006, enclosed public places in 2007, and private property in 2008. Permanent exemption would be granted to pubs that do not serve prepared food — though not at the bar — as well as private clubs, a decision that has provoked some to call the measure incomplete. Up to 90% of pubs are expected to be affected. The Scottish executive proposed a complete ban on smoking in enclosed public places last week, and Ireland has already banned smoking in pubs and restaurants.

Food advertisements targeted to children would be banned until 9pm, under the White Paper’s proposals. The restriction is a measure to tackle rising rates of childhood obesity. The government also intends to develop voluntary standards on food and drink advertisements to children with industry, only threatening legislation if an acceptable standard is not reached by 2007. Additionally, low income families would receive vouchers for fresh fruit, vegetables, milk, and infant formula. School lunches would also be held to stricter nutritional standards. Reid has warned that unless childhood obesity is tackled, “we face the prospect of children having shorter life expectancy than their parents”.

Food labelling would also be improved, with a “traffic light” system implemented. Packaged food would be evaluated based on its fat, sugar, and salt content.

The paper is unusual for suggesting a more holistic approach to health care, offering for the first time “lifestyle trainers.” The National Health Service would be funding with an additional £1bn to make people’s overall lives healthier, which is expected to save £30bn in preventable illness.

The paper additionally makes mention of reducing accidents, which affected 2.7m people last year and is a leading cause of child death, curb binge drinking, and reduce substance abuse among youths.

The paper has been criticized by many parties. The Tory Shadow Health Secretary has criticized the Labour government’s comprehensiveness and creation of a “new nanny state approach”. He has additionally described it as “gimmicks”. The Liberal Democrats have accused the government of not being comprehensive enough. It has also been criticized by the British Medical Association as being implemented too slowly, saying “When lives need saving, doctors act immediately”.

Mr. Reid has argued against the nanny state label, saying “In a free society, men and women ultimately have the right within the law to choose their own lifestyle, even when it may damage their own health. But people do not have the right to damage the health of others, or to impose an intolerable degree of inconvenience or nuisance on others … This is a sensible solution which balances the protection of the majority with the personal freedom of the minority in England”.

The full white paper “Choosing Health” can be read here.