News & Current Affairs

July 15, 2009

Flintoff quits Tests after Ashes

Flintoff quits Tests after Ashes

England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff has announced he will retire from Test cricket at the end of the current Ashes series against Australia.

The hero of England’s victorious 2005 Ashes campaign has fought a constant battle against injuries and will now concentrate on one-day cricket.

The 31-year-old is currently fighting to be fit for the second Test at Lord’s because of a knee problem.

Flintoff said: “My body has told me it’s time to stop.”

The latest knee injury flared up after the drawn first Test against Australia in Cardiff and Flintoff explained: “It’s been something I’ve been thinking about for a while and I think this last problem I’ve had with my knee has confirmed to me that the time is now right.

“I’ve been through four ankle operations, I had knee surgery just a couple of months ago and had three jabs in my knee on Monday, just to get me right for this Test, so I took that as my body telling me that I can’t cope with the rigours of Test cricket.

“For the next four Test matches I’ll do everything I need to do to get on a cricket field and I’m desperate to make my mark.”

The burly Lancastrian dismissed suggestions that his impending Test retirement would overshadow the remainder of the series.

“An Ashes series is bigger than any one player,” he said. “The focus will be on England trying to win a special series.”

So far Flintoff has played for his country 76 times in an 11-year Test career since his debut against South Africa in a famous England victory at Trent Bridge.

But undoubtedly his finest hours came during the 2-1 series success at home to Australia in 2005, a summer that resulted in Flintoff being hailed for his sportsmanship as well as his cricketing ability.

After a duck and then three in the first Test at Lord’s, he made half-centuries in each innings and took seven wickets as England fought back thrillingly to win by only two runs and level the score at Edgbaston – where his hand-on-shoulder consolation for a beaten Brett Lee became perhaps the iconic image of the whole series.

Flintoff’s maiden Ashes hundred helped bring a second home win in Nottingham and there were more runs and wickets as England regained the urn in a fifth-Test draw at The Oval.

Flintoff retirement surprises Ponting

With 2005 captain Michael Vaughan out injured, Flintoff himself was to lead England in their ill-starred bid to retain the Ashes in 2006-07, a series that ended in a 5-0 whitewash.

He lost the vice-captaincy under Vaughan after his drunken late-night escapade on a pedalo at the start of a notably unsuccessful 2007 World Cup campaign in the Caribbean.

Australia captain Ricky Ponting said his team were “a little surprised” by Flintoff’s decision, but added they will not treat him any differently for the second Ashes Test at Lord’s which begins on Thursday.

“We know how big a figure he is in the England team,” said Ponting. “I think you could even see that last week with his first spell back in the Test side – the whole ground sort of lifted, it changed the real feel around the ground last week.

“I thought we did a good job. We played him very well last week whether it was with the ball when he was bowling or when we had a chance to bowl to him.”

Ponting added: “He’s been a great figure in the game. The way he’s gone about his cricket, the way he’s played the game and how much he’s enjoyed the battle – probably particular in Ashes cricket – is something that’s been very fun to be a part of for me.”

Flintoff’s former Lancashire team-mate Sourav Ganguly said he was paying the price for England’s over-reliance on him.

“I always said England needed to balance his bowling with his batting if they wanted him to survive longer in Test cricket,” said the former India captain.

“With England, every time they are under pressure it is Freddie with the ball because he is their best bowler.

“He’s a big boy and injuries are part and parcel of sport, but there are other fast bowlers around the world who are running in and keep playing and doing well in Test matches.

“I think it more about Freddie Flintoff’s body than the rigours of international cricket. To be honest it’s the amount of bowling he does for England.”

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew said the news was not a surprise and rather than distracting England from the task in hand, it might inspire them in the Ashes.

“It’s interesting that he’s done it now – it’s been talked about a great deal and has been a bit of a distraction,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“Now he’s got it out, he’ll want to enjoy his last Tests so if I was an Australian, I’d think ‘oh dear’, – it might be galvanising for the England camp.”

Some cynics have pointed out that sacrificing his Test career means Flintoff is saving himself for the more lucrative limited-overs formats but Agnew said Flintoff was not being selfish.

“There’s a very lucrative one-day league – the Indian Premier League – for which he’s now fully available,” he added.

“They’re paid per match, so if he goes and plays the whole thing, he picks up all the money.

“But I’m not cynical, he’s been on the bench for the last couple of years and England need to know what’s going and build for the future. If he does have problems with his fitness, that uncertainty is removed from their planning.”

Flintoff

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July 2, 2009

Student maintenance cash frozen

Filed under: Business News, Latest, Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 8:30 am

Student maintenance cash frozen

Graduation ceremony

The system of student finance is different around the UK

Student maintenance grants and loans in England will be frozen for the academic year 2010-2011, the government has announced.

However, loans to cover tuition fees will be raised in line with the increase in the fees themselves.

Tuition fees will increase by 2.04% from September 2010, higher education minister David Lammy said.

He insisted that “difficult decisions” had to be made in the current economic climate.

The full maintenance grant, payable to students whose family income does not exceed £25,000, will remain at £2,906.

Maintenance loans and thresholds will also remain at 2009/10 levels.

Grants available for trainee teachers will also be reduced to be brought into line with amounts available to other students, Mr Lammy said in a written ministerial statement.

He said: “In these difficult economic times, we are continuing to take difficult decisions in the interests of students, universities and taxpayers alike.

“We have therefore decided to maintain the current package of maintenance support for full-time students, reflecting the current low inflationary environment.”

Recession

The Russell Group of 20 leading universities said it was “vital” that income from tuition fees kept pace with inflation.

“The introduction of fees has managed to halt a long-term decline in funding per student but funding for higher education in Britain is still significantly lower than in most other OECD countries,” said its director general, Wendy Piatt.

“The system of student support in England remains one of the most generous – and expensive – in the world.”

But the National Union of Students President, Wes Streeting, said: “Students are already racking up thousands of pounds of debt, and in a recession every penny counts.

“It appears that the inflation rate is being applied where it suits universities, but not where it will improve student support.

“In the context of the current recession, these real terms cuts in student support will be felt in students’ pockets.”

And the General Secretary of the University and College Union, Sally Hunt, said ministers had “failed” to ensure higher education was not a victim of the recession.

Loans

Students in England can apply for a means-tested grant to cover living costs – the value of this depends on their family income.

They can make up any shortfall by applying for a maintenance loan.

In addition, a tuition fee loan to cover fees is paid by the government on behalf of every student directly to the institution they attend.

These are repayable after graduation once annual income reaches £15,000.

Students in Northern Ireland are charged the same fees as in England.

The situation in Scotland and Wales differs – both countries charge higher fees to students from elsewhere in the UK coming to study there.

In Scotland, home students do not pay any fees.

September 22, 2008

Dig pinpoints Stonehenge origins

Dig pinpoints Stonehenge origins

Archaeologists have pinpointed the construction of Stonehenge to 2300 BC – a key step to discovering how and why the mysterious temple was built.

The radiocarbon date is said to be the most accurate yet and means the ring’s original bluestones were put up 300 years later than previously thought.

The dating is the major finding from an excavation inside the henge by Profs Tim Darvill and Geoff Wainwright.

The duo found evidence suggesting Stonehenge was a center of healing.

Others have argued that the monument was a shrine to worship ancestors, or a calendar to mark the solstices.

A documentary following the progress of the recent dig has been recorded by the BBC Timewatch series. It will be broadcast on Saturday 27 September.

Date demand

For centuries, archaeologists have marvelled at the construction of Stonehenge, which lies on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire.

Mineral analysis indicates that the original circle of bluestones was transported to the plain from a site 240km (150 miles) away, in the Preseli hills, South Wales.

This extraordinary feat suggests the stones were thought to harbor great powers.

Trench

The dig was the first inside the ring since 1946

Professors Darvill and Wainwright believe that Stonehenge was a center of healing – a “Neolithic Lourdes”, to which the sick and injured traveled from far and wide, to be healed by the powers of the bluestones.

They note that “an abnormal number” of the corpses found in tombs nearby Stonehenge display signs of serious physical injury and disease.

And analysis of teeth recovered from graves show that “around half” of the corpses were from people who were “not native to the Stonehenge area”.

“Stonehenge would attract not only people who were unwell, but people who were capable of [healing] them,” said Professor Darvill, of Bournemouth University.

“Therefore, in a sense, Stonehenge becomes ‘the A & E’ of southern England.”

Modern techniques

But without a reliable carbon date for the construction of Stonehenge, it has been difficult to establish this, or any other, theory.

Until now, the consensus view for the date of the first stone circle was anywhere between 2600 BC and 2400 BC.

To cement the date once and for all, Professors Darvill and Wainwright were granted permission by English Heritage to excavate a patch of earth just 2.5m x 3.5m, in between the two circles of giant sarsen stones.

In the stone socket

The key was to get organic matter from the bluestone sockets

The dig unearthed about 100 pieces of organic material from the original bluestone sockets, now buried under the monument. Of these, 14 were selected to be sent for modern carbon dating, at Oxford University.

The result – 2300 BC – is the most reliable date yet for the erection of the first bluestones.

Strictly speaking, the result was rounded down to “between 2400 BC and 2200 BC” – but 2300BC is taken as the average.

An even more precise date will be produced in the coming months.

“It’s an incredible feeling, a dream come true,” said Professor Wainwright, formerly chief archaeologist at English Heritage.

“We told the world we were going to date Stonehenge. That was a risk, but I was always confident,” said Professor Darvill.

Intriguingly, the date range ties in closely with the date for the burial of the so-called “Amesbury Archer”, whose tomb was discovered three miles from Stonehenge.

Some archaeologists believe the Archer is the key to understanding why Stonehenge was built.

Analysis of his corpse and artefacts from his grave indicate he was a wealthy and powerful man, with knowledge of metal working, who had traveled to Salisbury from Alpine Europe, for reasons unknown.

Post mortem examinations show that he suffered from both a serious knee injury and a potentially fatal dental problem, leading Darvill and Wainwright to conclude that the Archer came to Stonehenge to be healed.

But without an accurate date for Stonehenge, it was not even clear whether the temple existed while the Archer was alive.

His remains have been dated between 2500 BC and 2300 BC – within the same period that the first stone circle was erected.

“It’s quite extraordinary that the date of the Amesbury Archer is identical with our new date for the bluestones of Stonehenge,” said Professor Darvill.

“These two things happening within living memory of each other for sure is something very, very important.”

Earliest occupation

Professor Wainwright added: “Was the Amesbury Archer, as some have suggested, the person responsible for the building of Stonehenge? I think the answer to that is almost certainly ‘no’.

“But did he travel there to be healed? Did he limp, or was he carried, all the way from Switzerland to Wiltshire, because he had heard of the miraculous healing properties of Stonehenge? ‘Yes, absolutely’.

“Tim and I are quite convinced that people went to Stonehenge to get well. But Stonehenge probably had more than one purpose, so I have no problem with other people’s interpretations.”

Skull

All theories about Stonehenge must follow an accurate dating

Among other key finds, the team uncovered organic material that indicates people inhabited the Stonehenge site as long ago as 7200 BC – more than 3,500 years earlier than anything previously known.

They also found that bluestone chippings outnumbered sarsen stone chippings by three to one – which Wainwright takes to be a sign of their value.

“It could be that people were flaking off pieces of bluestone, in order to create little bits to take away… as lucky amulets,” he said.

The duo are preparing to publish an academic report of their excavation, and will announce their findings to their peers next month, in a lecture at London’s Society of Antiquaries.

Ongoing debate

Experts on Stonehenge said the new date was a major milestone in understanding Britain’s most famous monument.

Dr Andrew Fitzpatrick, of Wessex Archaeology, said: “This is a great result – a very important one.

“The date of Stonehenge had been blowing in the wind. But this anchors it. It helps us to be secure about the chronology of events.

Darvill and Wainwright

Profs Darvill and Wainwright believe their ideas hold true

“The theory that it was a center of healing is certainly a plausible one, but I don’t think we can rule out the other main competing theory – that the temple was a meeting point between the land of the living and the dead.

“I am not yet persuaded that the Amesbury Archer came to Stonehenge to be healed. I favour the interpretation that he was one of the earliest metal workers, who travelled to the area to make a living from his skills.

“In any case, it is still not clear if his burial predated Stonehenge.”

Dave Batchelor, Stonehenge curator at English Heritage, said: “We are pleased that the professors’ precision in targeting that small area of turf and their rigorous standards in archaeological excavations have produced such a rich collection of physical evidence.

“We are looking forward to seeing the results of the full analysis, but from what we understand so far, we believe they have added valuable information to the chronology of Stonehenge.”

September 19, 2008

‘Ibuprofen best’ for child fevers

‘Ibuprofen best’ for child fevers

Baby with father

Most symptoms of a fever in young children can be managed at home

Ibuprofen is better at alleviating childhood fever than paracetamol and should be the drug of first choice, say UK researchers.

The Bristol-based trial involving 156 children aged between six months and six years showed ibuprofen reduced temperature faster than paracetamol.

The British Medical Journal work also says alternating the two drugs could help, which some GPs already recommend.

But experts advised against this, in line with official guidance.

The concern is the relative ease with which children could receive an overdose.

Fever is very common in young children, affecting seven in every 10 preschool children each year.

Parents wanting to use medicines to treat young, unwell children with fever should be advised to use ibuprofen first
Lead researcher Dr Alastair Hay

It can be miserable for the child and cause anxiety for parents. Most fevers will settle by themselves but a few are caused by serious infections such as pneumonia.

Guidelines published last year by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) say either ibuprofen or paracetamol can be used for children unwell or distressed with fever.

But they say that, due to the lack of evidence, the two drugs should not be given together or alternated.

The researchers from the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England, recruited children who had a temperature between 37.8 and 41 degrees centigrade, due to an illness that could be managed at home.

Alternating drugs

Children were randomised to receive either paracetamol plus ibuprofen, just paracetamol, or just ibuprofen.

The medicines were given over a 48-hour period, with the group of children on both paracetamol and ibuprofen receiving them as separate doses.

This group received one dose of paracetamol every four to six hours (maximum of four doses in 24 hours) and then one dose of ibuprofen every six to eight hours (maximum of three doses in 24 hours).

Childhood fever
A normal temperature is between 36-36.8C (96.8-98.24F)
In children, any temperature of 38C (100.4F) or above is considered high and is called a fever
To find out if your child has a fever, place a thermometer under your child’s armpit or use a special ear thermometer

The children’s condition was followed up at 24 hours, 48 hours and at day five.

The researchers found that in the first four hours children given both medicines spent 55 minutes less time with fever compared to those given paracetamol alone.

But giving two medicines was not markedly better than just giving ibuprofen.

However, over a 24 hour period, children given both medicines experienced 4.4 hours less time with fever than those given just paracetamol, and 2.5 hours less time with fever than those just given ibuprofen.

Safety issues

Dr Alastair Hay, consultant senior lecturer in primary health care at the University of Bristol, who led the study, said: “Doctors, nurses, pharmacists and parents wanting to use medicines to treat young, unwell children with fever should be advised to use ibuprofen first.

“If more sustained symptom control over a 24-hour period is wanted, giving both medicines alternately is better than giving one on its own.

“However, parents should keep a careful record of when doses are given to avoid accidentally giving too much.”

We believe parents should keep it simple. We do not see at this moment any need to change the advice
Professor Steve Fields, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners

He said he thought it would be appropriate for NICE to review its guidance in light of the new study, saying the current guidance was too cautious.

In an accompanying editorial in the BMJ, Dr Anthony Harnden from the University of Oxford, warned of the relative ease with which children could receive an overdose.

He said that a “more complicated alternating regimen of paracetamol and ibuprofen may be less safe than using either drug alone”.

A spokeswoman for NICE said the 2007 guidance recommended that more research should be conducted on the effectiveness and safety of alternating doses of paracetamol and ibuprofen in reducing fever in children who remain febrile after the first fever-reducing medicine.

She said: “Any newly published research will need to be thoroughly assessed by independent experts as part of the process of updating clinical guidelines.

“This is essential to ensure that any new evidence is of the highest standards before any potential updates can be made to existing guidance.”

Professor Steve Fields, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, advised parents and carers of children with fever to follow the NICE guidance.

“We believe parents should keep it simple. We do not see at this moment any need to change the advice.

“However, this paper does demonstrate that using ibuprofen initially is more effective at reducing temperature and may demonstrate that using both ibuprofen and paracetamol together could have a positive effect.”

September 18, 2008

Central banks release more funds

Central banks release more funds

Dollar bills

The extra funds are aimed at easing banking sector woes

Global central banks are pumping billions of dollars of extra funds into money markets in a co-ordinated move to lift the amount of credit available.

The move is the fourth such joint effort since December last year. It will see the US Federal Reserve inject a further $180bn (£99bn).

The Bank of England is releasing $40bn, while the European Central Bank is to provide $55bn.

The Bank of Japan and Swiss National Bank have announced similar moves.

‘Appropriate steps’

“These measures, together with other actions taken in the last few days by individual central banks, are designed to improve the liquidity conditions in global financial markets,” said the Bank of England.

“The central banks continue to work together closely and will take appropriate steps to address the ongoing pressures.”

It does help to release some of those immediate tensions that have been building up in the money market
Ian Stannard, currency strategist, BNP Paribas

The central banks of South Korea, India, Canada and Australia have also released extra funds.

The co-ordinated move comes after four days of almost unprecedented turmoil in the global financial industry.

Firstly, US giant Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy protection, while compatriot Merrill Lynch lost its independence in a rescue takeover by Bank of America.

The US government has also had to bail-out insurance giant AIG, while in the UK, thousands of jobs are predicted to go at banking group HBOS following its sale to rival Lloyds TSB.

Major problem

Analysts said the latest move by the central banks should help to ease immediate fears.

“Obviously it does not tackle the underlying root causes of the problem, but it does help to release some of those immediate tensions that have been building up in the money market,” said Ian Stannard, senior currency strategist at BNP Paribas.

Koichi Haji, chief economist at NLI Research in Tokyo, said the co-ordinated move “shows how serious the problem has become”.

“I think the root cause was letting Lehman fail,” he said.

“That made investors reluctant to supply funds to their counterparts, particularly to the smaller banks.”

September 12, 2008

Women ‘more prone to nightmares’

Women ‘more prone to nightmares’

Woman sleeping

Dreaming occurs during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep

Women experience significantly more nightmares than men and have more emotional dreams, research suggests.

In a study of 170 volunteers asked to record their most recent dream, 19% of men reported a nightmare compared with 30% of women.

Researcher Dr Jennifer Parker of the University of the West of England said there was no difference in the overall number of dreams reported.

Other research has shown women tend to have more disturbed sleep than men.

One factor which has been linked to this is changes in a woman’s body temperature during her monthly cycle.

Women’s sleep tends to be more disrupted and they have more insomnia
Dr Chris Idzikowski, Edinburgh Sleep Centre

Dr Parker, a lecturer in psychology, said it has been known for a long time that pre-menstrual women report more vivid and disturbing dreams.

“The consistent finding in this research was that women report more unpleasant dreams than men.”

Traumatic

Women taking part in the study were much more likely to report dreaming about very emotionally traumatic events such as the loss of a loved one.

She added: “In terms of processing emotional information, women may be more prone to taking unresolved concerns into their sleep life.”

Dr Chris Idzikowski, director of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre said he was not surprised the research showed a gender difference but what is difficult to pick out is whether women are having more nightmares or remembering them better.

“This fits in with what’s in the literature.

“Women’s sleep tends to be more disrupted and they have more insomnia.

“And more frequent wakening could cause them to pick up on the dream.

“But it could be that disturbed sleep is contributing to the fears.”

He added that nightmares in everyone were probably more common than people realised as they are quickly forgotten about.

September 10, 2008

Antibiotic resistance rise fears

Antibiotic resistance rise fears

Antibiotic pills

The NHS is being warned about its use of antibiotics

The rise in antibiotic resistance is reaching worrying levels, experts say.

The Health Protection Agency said while the focus on infections such as MRSA had been largely successful, new trends in other bugs were now posing a threat.

For instance, 12% of bloodstream infections by E. coli in England, Wales and Northern Ireland now show some signs of not responding to drugs.

The HPA said the NHS must be careful over antibiotic use and urged industry to look into developing new drugs.

There are two main families of bacteria known as gram-positive, such as MRSA, and gram-negative, which includes E. coli and other less common bugs Acinetobacter and Pseudomonas.

There are some cracks in the system, but they are not big ones yet
Dr David Livermore, of the HPA

The HPA said there had been a drive to tackle MRSA in recent years which had helped reduce infection rates and led to a host of new antibiotics to be developed.

By comparison, the development of antibiotics targeting gram-negative bacteria such as E coli, which can cause a range of symptoms from mild diarrohea to abdominal cramps and kidney damage, was much less common.

The fight against drug resistance is an on-going battle because many bacteria constantly mutate, gaining resistance to current antibiotics in the process.

This is what has been happening in recent years to the likes of E coli.

HPA data shows that there are about 20,000 bloodstream infections of E. coli each year – although the true level of infections would be much higher if urinary tract infections were taken into account.

Of these, 12% show signs of resistance – up from about 4% at the turn of the century.

The infections are mostly not yet resistant to all forms of antibiotics, just what doctors call the first-line.

This means they are having to use back up drugs, which tend to have more side effects and raises the prospect of the widespread emergence of a new strain which is totally antibiotic resistant.

Cases

Indeed, reports have already emerged of such a scenario in Israel and the US, while four cases have been reported in the UK.

Dr David Livermore, an infections expert at the HPA, urged industry to start looking at developing new antibiotics.

But he added: “The NHS must be careful over its use of antibiotics to slow down the development of resistance.

“Hospitals must make sure they use the right dose, for the right length of time.

“GPs should not prescribe – nor patients expect – antibiotics for routine coughs and colds.

“Resistance has been accumulating. We are having to use reserve antibiotics more than previously… that is worrying.

“There are some cracks in the system, but they are not big ones yet.”

September 8, 2008

Spears dominates MTV awards show

Spears dominates MTV awards show

Britney Spears

Spears had been nominated 16 times before but had never won

Singer Britney Spears has swept the board at the MTV Video Music Awards show in Los Angeles, collecting three prizes for her track Piece of Me.

The 26-year-old, whose performance at last year’s ceremony was widely panned, thanked “God first and foremost for just blessing me like this”.

The other winners at the show in Hollywood included the Pussycat Dolls, Linkin Park, Lil Wayne and Chris Brown.

And there were performances from Kanye West, Rihanna and Christina Aguilera.

West left the ceremony – hosted by British comic Russell Brand – empty-handed.

He fell out with MTV after last year’s show when he failed to win any prizes and had vowed never to perform at the awards again.

MTV MUSIC VIDEO AWARDS
Pussycat Dolls
Best video: Britney Spears, Piece of Me
Best pop video: Britney Spears, Piece of Me
Best female video: Britney Spears, Piece of Me
Best male video: Chris Brown, With You
Best rock video: Linkin Park, Shadow of the Day
Best hip-hop video: Lil Wayne, Lollipop
Best dancing: Pussycat Dolls (pictured), When I Grow Up
Best new artist: Tokio Hotel

And in 2006 he publicly complained about not winning best video at the MTV Europe awards.

Spears has suffered a year of health problems and legal difficulties which saw her lose custody of her children, while her father James has taken legal control of her affairs.

Her video for Piece of Me won the main prize – video of the year.

It beat Chris Brown’s Forever, Burnin’ Up by the Jonas Brothers, When I Grow Up by the Pussycat Dolls and the Ting Tings’ Shut Up and Let Me Go to the coveted prize.

The same promo also earned Spears the awards for best video by a female artist and top pop video.

She had been nominated for MTV video awards 16 times before but had never won.

“Wow, thank you, I’m in shock right now,” she said as she collected her third and final trophy.

“I was not expecting this. This is such an honor to have this award right now. I want to thank my fans. This is dedicated to you.”

Presidential race

Brand said the night marked the “launch of a very new Britney Spears era”.

“Consider this the resurrection of Britney Spears,” he said. “If there was a female Christ, it’s Britney.”

During his innuendo-laden opening monologue, Brand discussed the upcoming US presidential election, publicly backing presidential hopeful Barack Obama.

“Some people, I think they’re called racists, say America is not ready for a black president,” he said.

“But I know America to be a forward-thinking country because otherwise why would you have let that retarded cowboy fella be president for eight years.

“We were very impressed. We thought it was nice of you to let him have a go, because, in England, he wouldn’t be trusted with a pair of scissors.”

Last year’s big winners were Justin Timberlake with four awards, including top male artist, and R&B star Rihanna, who won video of the year for Umbrella.

The 2008 ceremony is being broadcast by MTV in the UK on Monday at 2100 BST.

Hong Kong democrats keep veto

Hong Kong democrats keep veto

Pro-democracy candidates Emily Lau of The Frontier Party celebrates

Pro-democracy candidate Emily Lau of Frontier Party celebrates

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp has won more than a third of seats in elections in the territory, and so retains a key veto over future major legislation.

The pro-democracy opposition won 23 out of the 30 elected seats in the Legislative Council.

The other 30 seats in the council are not directly elected, but allocated to special interest groups.

The Pro-Beijing camp had expected to make gains at the polls due to a surge of patriotism after the Olympics.

In fact, even some people on the pro-democracy side had been predicting that they would suffer heavy losses.

Some candidates issued statements on Sunday saying the situation was critical. Others were in tears, expecting to lose.

Analysts had believed pro-government parties would make significant gains after the surge in pro-China patriotism sparked by the Beijing Olympics and the Sichuan earthquake.

China had also promised the region some form of universal suffrage by 2017, blunting the democratic camp’s campaign.

Pro-business resignation

Leading figures such as Emily Lau, Audrey Eu and Leung Kwok-hung, also known as Longhair, each fought off stiff competition to keep their seat.

The pro-government party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, or DAB, has also done well, thanks to its strong organization.

And the pro-China independent Regina Ip won her seat.

But the pro-business Liberal party leader, James Tien lost his, and has resigned.

September 6, 2008

Poland’s finest to rock Wembley

Filed under: Entertainment News, Latest — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 8:35 am

Poland’s finest to rock Wembley

Bajm

Bajm were popular across Eastern Europe before the Iron Curtain fell

Eight of Poland’s top pop and rock acts perform in front of a 10,000-strong crowd at Wembley Arena on Sunday. Billed as the biggest ever Polish music event on foreign soil, what does it mean for Britain’s Polish community?

Crowds of adoring fans will pack Wembley Arena on Sunday to see their favorite superstars perform to a full house.

But it will not be Madonna, Oasis or Jay-Z entertaining more than 10,000 people.

Bajm and Lady Pank may be largely unheard of in the UK but are household names in Poland, where four million viewers are expected to watch the London Live show’s highlights on state channel TVP2.

Tabloid hellraiser

Described as Poland’s answer to Pink Floyd and Red Hot Chili Peppers, their albums have sold three million copies.

Alongside Bracia’s modern grungy-rock and Natalia Kukulska’s soulfull R’n’B, the show even has its own tabloid hellraiser in Doda, who has posed for Playboy and courted controversy by spitting on stage.

Stanislaw Trzcinski, president of promoter STX Records, said: “This is like the O2 Festival, except for Polish music.”

Natalia Kukulka. Photo Wojciech Wojtczak
Performing at Wembley is a great honor
Natalia Kukulska

Guests on stage include Jan Tomaszewski, the goalkeeper whose heroics at the old Wembley Stadium in 1973 helped secure a 1-1 draw to send Poland to its first World Cup at England’s expense.Mr Trzcinski said: “The name Wembley brings back happy memories for Polish people and it remains a special place, so it was the perfect location.”

Kukulska, 32, has performed with tenor Jose Carreras and duetted with British R’n’B star Lemar at the Sopot festival in Poland in 2005.

She said: “Performing at Wembley is a great honor. I hope I will draw energy from the people who have played there in the past.”

After picking up influences of Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston during a year in the US, she blended them with her own style to sell 2.5 million records at home.

Free tickets

“I’m very excited because this is the first time a lot of artists from Poland are performing abroad together,” she added.

Costing almost £1m to stage, the event has been advertised on 30 London buses and is being beamed back to Poland in high definition, thanks to a 100-strong production crew. Tickets were free to those who registered.

More than one million people voted in an internet talent competition giving bands the chance to perform on a second stage outside the arena, where they will be joined by top acts from the UK and Ireland’s Polish communities.

The show’s arrival reflects the remarkable influx of Poles into Britain.

After the Second World War, the Polish Resettlement Act allowed around 200,000 people to remain in the UK. They were mainly Polish troops, who had fought alongside the British, and their dependents.

By 2001, the census recorded just 60,680 Polish-born people living in Britain.

But since Poland’s accession to the EU in 2004, those numbers have swollen to the 405,000 estimated by the government last year, although the numbers arriving has dropped in recent months.

Appetite for rock

At least 100,000 settled in London, with many basing themselves around established Polish communities in western districts like Hammersmith.

There, the Posk cultural centre boasts the largest library of Polish books outside Poland, a gallery, restaurant and 350-seat theatre.

Supermarkets across Britain have started stocking Polish goods and delicatessens have sprung up in many towns.

THE PERFORMERS
Doda
Bajm: Six-piece rock outfit, formed in 1978, their 13 albums all went gold or platinum
Wilki: Hard-rock band, named “Wolves”, have performed in New York and London
Doda (pictured): Daughter of an Olympic weightlifter, gave up athletics to be a pop tearaway
Natalia Kukulska: Began singing aged seven and sold 1.5 million records as a child star
Kayah: Was a backing singer before her solo career in soul, jazz and R’n’B took off
Bracia: Their grunge-rock style made this band – “The Brothers” – favourites with younger fans
Monika Brodka: Her soulful voice was inspired by her idols Erikah Badu and Lauren Hill
Lady Pank: These punk survivors formed in 1982, playing 400 gigs to promote their debut album

But Piotr Grzeskiewicz, station director at Hammersmith-based Polskie Radio Londyn, said there had been little to feed young migrants’ appetite for rock and pop.

“Hundreds of thousands of Polish people in Britain have limited access to modern Polish culture and this is their best opportunity in many years to see some really big Polish bands,” he said.

Organizers hope many Britons will be at Wembley.

However, Mr Grzeskiewicz said: “The language barrier is huge. Only a few of these bands have played abroad and usually only for Polish fans.”

Warsaw-based bank PKO BP financed the event to promote its central London branch, which opened last December to cater both for migrants and British businesses investing in Poland.

Branch manager Katarzyna Cal said the move demonstrated the growing confidence in Poland’s economy and the number of investors keen to do business in the country.

Meanwhile, Dr Jan Mokrzycki, chairman of the UK’s Federation of Poles, admits he prefers the classical works of Chopin to today’s rock.

Vibrant

But the 75-year-old said the event would help build understanding between the established and newly-arrived Polish communities.

Initial tensions between the groups are diminishing, said the dental surgeon whose mother – a former Nazi concentration camp detainee – brought him to Britain in 1948 to escape communism.

“A combination of their youth, enthusiasm and education and our knowledge of the laws and customs of Britain is helping integration,” said Dr Mokrzycki.

“Cultural events of the old community have been traditional, forged from our experiences of pre-war Poland, so involve mostly classical or folk music.

“The new culture is vibrant with jazz and pop and it’s important younger people have access to that.”

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