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Study casts doubt on 'healthy obesity'

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Women who are overweight or obese but otherwise healthy are still at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, a large study suggests.

The analysis tracked the health of 90,257 women in the US for up to 30 years.

Those with excess weight were likelier to have a stroke or heart attack, even if they had normal blood pressure and cholesterol and no diabetes, it found.

Researchers said it showed “healthy obesity is not a harmless condition”.

Obesity affects almost all of the cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, excess cholesterol and diabetes.

But some obese people do not appear to have these metabolic disorders, leading scientists to debate whether or not the excess weight actually raises their risk.

This new study found women who were overweight or obese (BMIs in excess of 25 and 30 respectively) but had none of these risk factors were 20% and 39% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than women of a normal weight (BMI 18.5-24.9) who were metabolically healthy.

However, the authors said it showed an association rather than cause and effect, and was mainly in white women, meaning the findings cannot be generalised to other ethnic groups or men.

“Our large cohort study confirms that metabolically healthy obesity is not a harmless condition, and even women who remain free of metabolic diseases for decades face an increased risk of cardiovascular events,” said Prof Matthias Schulze, from the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke, who led the study.

Women who were a normal weight but metabolically unhealthy were around two-and-a-half times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than women of the same weight who were metabolically healthy.

That risk was even greater in women who were overweight and obese, said the study, published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal.

Experts also found that the majority of metabolically healthy women developed either high blood pressure, excess cholesterol or diabetes as they got older, even if they were normal weight.

Fitness vs fatness

Prof Schulze added: “Our findings highlight the importance of preventing the development of metabolic diseases.

“They suggest that even individuals in good metabolic health may benefit from early behavioural management to improve their diet and increased physical activity in order to guard against progression to poor metabolic health.”

Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, added: “This large scale study confirms that obesity, even if unaccompanied by other warning signs, increases risk of cardiovascular disease in women.”

However, Prof Carl Lavie, from the University of Queensland School of Medicine in New Orleans, who was not involved in the research, said he and colleagues had argued that “fitness is more important than fatness”.

He noted that the study did not have precise data on the participants’ physical activity and their cardio fitness.

He added: “It is prudent to remind ourselves that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.”

BMI and obesity: Where are you on the UK fat scale?

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'Junk food for exams' school head banned

Maths SATs

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Head teacher Karen Parker unfairly helped pupils with their tests, the panel heard

A head teacher has been banned from the profession indefinitely after helping pupils cheat in their SATs.

Karen Parker also bought them junk food for motivation and set off a fire alarm during exams at Robert Bruce Middle School in Kempston, Bedfordshire.

Her actions “ultimately led” to the annulment of the school’s Year 6 SATs results in May 2015, a disciplinary panel said.

Her assistant head was also found to have “provided assistance” to pupils.

Read more Beds, Herts and Bucks stories

Mrs Parker, 55, who had been head at the school since September 2012, was suspended in July 2015 after an investigation by the Department for Education’s Standards and Testing Agency.

The professional conduct panel heard Mrs Parker had given the child answers to mathematical questions “to help him achieve a good grade”.

She also provided another pupil with “more assistance than was appropriate”, with them receiving the chance to sit at least part of a mental mathematics test twice.

Pressure on staff

Another boy claimed the head teacher bought him KFC, Dominos and McDonald’s food “if he took his SATs”.

Mrs Parker denied it was a “bribe”, but agreed pupils were bought food to motivate them to sit tests.

She also admitted setting off a fire alarm during a Year 8 exit exam, claiming it was not her “finest hour”. However, it was not proven she knew pupils were being tested at the time.

Mrs Parker was accused of putting pressure on staff to secure results, warning them they could lose their jobs.

She will be able to apply to have the indefinite teaching ban lifted in two years’ time, it concluded.

In addition, the professional conduct panel said her assistant head, newly-qualified Paul Henry, 33, was also found to have “provided assistance to one or more pupils” during the exams.

The panel said he told colleagues: “I’m not asking you to cheat, but am telling you to do everything you can to get them through.”

Mr Henry was found in breach of professional standards of ethics and behaviour.

Robert Bruce Middle School – which served pupils aged from nine to 13 years – closed and merged with a business college in November 2015 to become Kempston Challenger Academy.

He Fled the Ash That Buried Pompeii, Only to Be Crushed by a Rock

Archaeologists in Italy found the skeleton of a man protruding from a huge block of stone, almost 2,000 years after he died.

The skeleton of a man who died while fleeing the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79 was discovered at the Pompeii archaeological site in Italy.CreditCiro Fusco/ANSA, via Associated Press

LONDON — The man, believed to be in his 30s, was fleeing the spectacular explosion of Mount Vesuvius that buried the Italian city of Pompeii in A.D. 79.

He had an infection of the tibia that may have made walking difficult, archaeologists say. So while he fled the first furious eruption, when the volcano fully rumbled to life after being dormant for more than 1,500 years, he did not get very far.

The man died not in contorted agony, buried in pumice and ash, but by decapitation from a large block of stone that had most likely been propelled through the air by volcanic gases, crushing his thorax and his head.

Officials at the Pompeii archaeological site announced on Tuesday that they had found the man’s remains, almost 2,000 years after he died. They released a photograph showing the skeleton protruding from beneath a large block of stone, believed to have been a door jamb that had been “violently thrown by the volcanic cloud.”

The skeleton showed evidence of a bone infection in one leg, which could have hindered the man’s ability to escape “at the first dramatic signs which preceded the eruption,” officials said.

Archaeologists have yet to find his head, though they believe it may lie “probably under the stone block,” according to a statement sent by email on Wednesday.

Massimo Osanna, general director of the archaeological site, called it “an exceptional find” that contributed to a better “picture of the history and civilization of the age.”

“This discovery has shown the leaps in the archaeological field,” he said in another statement to CNN. “The team on site are not just archaeologists, but experts in many fields: engineers, restorers,” he said, who used technical tools like drones and 3-D scanners.

“Now we have the possibility to rebuild the space as it once was,” he added.

[Scientists Hope to Learn How Pompeians Lived.]

Mount Vesuvius had been rumbling for a while before it erupted, destroying Pompeii and Herculaneum nearby, burying their residents in lava and leaving their remains preserved in fossils of ash.

Yonette Joseph is the London weekend editor. She was previously a breaking-news editor in New York and has worked for The Washington Post and The Miami Herald.

Japanese whale hunters kill 122 pregnant minke

File photo: Three minke whales dead on the deck of the Japanese factory ship Nisshin Maru inside a Southern Ocean sanctuary, according to anti-whaling activists Sea Shepherd, 5 January 2014Image copyright

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Activists have called Japan’s programme “an illegal whale hunt”

Japanese hunters caught and killed 122 pregnant minke whales as part of its Antarctic summer “field survey”.

A report sent to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) reveals hunters caught 333 minkes in total.

The team left Japan in November 2017 for the Southern Ocean and returned in March 2018.

Japan says its whaling programme is for scientific purposes, despite a 2014 UN ruling against its “lethal research” and widespread condemnation.

In a new research plan published after the UN ruling, Japan said it was “scientifically imperative” to understand Antarctica’s ecosystem through collecting and analysing animals.

How many whales did Japan catch?

The country’s New Scientific Whale Research Program in the Antarctic Ocean (NEWREP-A) sent a report to the IWC detailing the 333 minkes caught, 152 male and 181 female, during its “third biological field survey” in the area.

Japan cut down its catch by two-thirds under its new research plan, and has stuck to taking about 330 whales each year.

The data shows that in the 2017/18 hunt, 122 of the female minkes captured were pregnant, while 61 of the males and 53 of the females were not yet adults.

After a few weeks of surveys, the team caught all the whales within just 12 weeks before setting off back to Japan.

The whale meat is then sold to be eaten.

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Japan makes no secret of the fact that the meat resulting from its so-called scientific whaling programme ends up on the plate

Why does Japan hunt whales?

Under Article VIII of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, signed in 1946, countries can “kill, take and treat whales for purposes of scientific research”, and this is the rule Japan says it follows in its hunts.

Aside from its research claims, the Japanese government says whale hunting is an ancient part of Japan’s culture.

Coastal communities in Chiba prefecture and Ishinomaki in northern Japan have long practised coastal whaling, while Taiji in Wakayama prefecture holds annual dolphin hunts.

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Once a staple, now a novelty

However, expeditions to the Antarctic for whale meat only began after World War Two, when the devastated country depended on whales as its main source of meat.

While the meat is still sold, it is increasingly unpopular, with far fewer businesses selling it now than in the past.

Does anyone else hunt whales?

Figures from charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) show that many countries other than Japan still catch whales.

The International Whaling Commission (IWC), which regulates the industry, agreed to a moratorium on commercial whaling from the 1985, with exceptions.

Norway and Iceland still hunt whales for meat, the former rejecting the moratorium and the latter only partially agreeing.

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Iceland still hunts whales

So-called aboriginal subsistence whaling for local communities continues in Greenland, Russia, the USA, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

But Japan remains the only country to send ships to Antarctica to catch whales, under the scientific research exemption.

Is the hunting wiping out Antarctic whales?

Japan says it is conducting its research to show the Antarctic whale population is healthy and can be sustainably fished.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) says there is insufficient data to determine whether the Antarctic minke whale is threatened.

While the number of minkes is “clearly in the hundreds of thousands”, they are investigating a possible decline over the last 50 years.

Depending on how significant the drop is, the Antarctic minke could be classified as Least Concern, or as Endangered.

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Withings to return after Nokia sell-off

Image of watch and weigh scalesImage copyright

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Withings makes connected devices such as watches and weighing scales

Nokia is to sell its health division back to the founder of Withings, a company it acquired in 2016.

The Withings brand name is set to return following the sale, reversing the Finnish company’s decision to axe it.

The business was founded in 2008 and makes connected health devices such as watches and weighing scales.

The sale to company founder Eric Carreel for an undisclosed sum comes after poor earnings for Nokia Health.

Brand return

In a statement posted on the Nokia website Mr Carreel announced his intention to bring back the Withings brand, maintaining coverage for the company’s products.

“I will prepare the return of the Withings brand by the end of the year. I assure you, whether you have been with us for one day or throughout the years, your digital health products and services will continue to be supported,” he wrote.

An industry expert commented on the changing fortunes of Nokia’s health division.

“It looked like Nokia had snapped a bargain when they bought Withings but it’s very expensive to build a brand centred on health. With the benefit of hindsight, Nokia’s rebrand may have been a mistake,” Ben Wood, an industry analyst at CSS Insight, told the BBC.

He added that the landscape in wearable heath had changed dramatically in the two years since Withings was sold to Nokia.

“You’ve got lots of competition from Chinese companies. Margins are being cut,” he said.

Ivor Novello Awards: Rapper Dave wins for political anthem Question Time

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Dave (left) and co-writer Fraser T Smith won best contemporary song

London rapper Dave’s political anthem Question Time, which rages about everything from Grenfell Tower to Syria and the NHS, has won a top prize at the Ivor Novello songwriting awards.

The seven-minute track was named best contemporary song at the ceremony.

Fellow rapper Stormzy, who famously criticised the handling of Grenfell at the Brit Awards, won the album prize.

Ed Sheeran picked up two awards – songwriter of the year and most performed work for Shape of You.

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Stormzy followed up his Brit Awards with the Ivor Novello album prize

Other winners included Manchester band Elbow, whose track Magnificent (She Says) was named best song musically and lyrically.

The Ivor Novello Awards are judged by songwriters, and Dave shared his trophy with Question Time co-writer and producer Fraser T Smith.

Dave (surname Santan), a 19-year-old piano-playing rapper from Streatham, south London, was on the BBC’s Sound of 2017 list and was nominated for best British breakthrough act at this year’s Brit Awards.

His winning song is a state-of-the-nation diatribe that takes aim at politicians including Theresa May, David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn.

‘Terrified’ prime minister

In it, he vents his anger and frustration at why the government spends so much on defence instead of wages for nurses like his mum, and about how the “terrified” prime minister dealt with Grenfell.

He also raps eloquently about his horror when listening to survivors of the fire:

“When I listen to the things that the residents had seen/I was so shocked I couldn’t even speak/Families they know that had died in their sleep/How you choke on the smoke when you’re struggling to breathe/The glow from the fire/The panic when you hear all the sirens/The crackling, the popping and the muffled-out screams.”

The best contemporary song category is for tracks that “capture the moment and/or explore the boundaries of contemporary music”.

Dave beat Stormzy’s Don’t Cry For Me and CamelPhat & Elderbrook’s Cola.

Billy Bragg, picking up the outstanding contribution award, said: “It’s a great privilege to win in the same year as Dave for something so political and powerful. It really fired up my spirit somewhat.”

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Elbow wrote the best song musically and lyrically, the judges decided

The Ivor Novello Award winners in full:

  • Best song musically and lyrically: Magnificent (She Says) – written by Guy Garvey, Craig Potter, Mark Potter and Pete Turner; performed by Elbow
  • Best contemporary song: Question Time – written by Dave and Fraser T Smith; performed by Dave
  • Most performed work: Shape of You – written by Steve Mac, Johnny McDaid and Ed Sheeran; performed by Ed Sheeran
  • Songwriter of the year: Ed Sheeran
  • Album award: Gang Signs & Prayer – written and performed by Stormzy
  • Best television soundtrack: The Miniaturist – composed by Dan Jones
  • Best original film score: Jackie – composed by Mica Levi
  • Best original video game score: Horizon Zero Dawn – composed by Joris de Man, Joe Henson and Alexis Smith
  • International achievement: Billy Ocean
  • Outstanding song collection: Cathy Dennis
  • Outstanding contribution to British music: Billy Bragg
  • Special international award: Lionel Richie
  • Classical music award: Thea Musgrave
  • Inspiration award: Shane MacGowan

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Thai military called in to halt garlic smuggling

Thailand’s military has been called in to tackle garlic smuggling after local prices plunged.

The country is facing an allium crisis as garlic is being illegally moved across its borders from neighbouring countries.

Military officers are working with the customs department and the commerce ministry to try to stamp out the smuggling, Boonyarit Kalayanamit, director-general of the internal trade department, said.

As a result of the contraband vegetable, local farmers are suffering as garlic prices have slumped, falling from 115 baht (£2.70) a kilogram in the same period last year to 77.5 baht (£1.81).

Mr Boonyarit said the three departments were working together “to deal with the issue, particularly garlic smuggled from neighbouring countries”.

Garlic is being smuggled into Thailand, causing local produce prices to plunge
Garlic is being smuggled into Thailand, causing local produce prices to plunge

Anybody found in possession or who moves imported garlic without a permit will face “at least five years” in prison, a fine of up to 140,000 baht (£3,280), or both, he added.

Thailand will produce about 84,000 tons of garlic this year, which is 10.6% higher than last year, due to an increase in growers, especially in the north.

The country relies on importing about 44,000 tons a year to keep up with its healthy appetite for garlic, with about 121,000 tons consumed in Thailand annually.

The Thai military has been called in to help tackle the garlic smuggling
The Thai military has been called in to help tackle the garlic smuggling

The Thai government did not say which countries the smuggled goods are mainly coming from, but China, which is close but does not share a border, is the largest producer of garlic in the world.

The latest figures available show China was responsible for 72.8% of the world’s garlic exports in 2016, with a value of £2bn – ahead of Spain which is the second largest exporter, responsible for 11.4%.

Chinese garlic prices reached an all-time low in March ahead of the harvest, after high prices from 2015 to 2017.

A kilogram of Chinese garlic is priced at about 54p, considerably lower than Thai prices, even after they dropped dramatically.

Kulit Sombatsiri, director-general of the Thai customs department, said they will be inspecting garlic imports from neighbouring nations.

He said the smuggled garlic is mainly entering Chiang Rai which borders Myanmar and Laos and is just 100 miles from the Chinese border.

Matt LeBlanc to leave BBC's Top Gear show

Former Friends star Matt LeBlanc is to leave the BBC’s Top Gear after the show’s next series, he has announced.

He said the motoring programme involved more “time commitment” and travel than he was comfortable with, and had taken him away from his family and friends.

The actor, who played Joey in the 90s sitcom about six New York pals, joined the show in 2016 following the departure of previous hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May.

LeBlanc, known for the catchphrase “How you doin'”, said he had “thoroughly enjoyed working with the whole team” on Top Gear and that the experience had been “great fun”.

He presented the show for longer than former co-host Chris Evans, who left just one series after joining with LeBlanc in 2016.

The most recent team fronting the show included journalists Rory Reid and Chris Harris alongside LeBlanc.

Patrick Holland, controller for BBC2, said he wished LeBlanc “all the best”.

“Matt has thrown himself into the show with real passion, revealing his extraordinary car knowledge and a willingness to get down and dirty,” he said.

Leblanc described his departure from the show as “unfortunate” but said he would not be continuing his involvement.

“I will forever be a Top Gear fan and I wish the team continued success,” he said. “Thanks for a great drive.”

'Hypocrite' Brexiteer applies for French residency

Former chancellor Lord Lawson, a leading Brexiteer, has been accused of hypocrisy after revealing he is applying for permanent residency in France.

The Tory peer, who was a member of the Vote Leave campaign, lives in France and is now working through what he described as “tiresome” paperwork to obtain a permanent residency card – known as a cartes de sejour.

He told expat newspaper The Connexion: “I’ve just started and don’t know how it will work out but am not particularly worried.

“It comes under the category of tiresome rather than serious.

“I understand some people are worried about healthcare cover and hope it will be sorted out.

“Speaking as a Brit in France – and I’m not applying for French nationality – I am not worried.”

Vote Leave has been accused of breaching spending rules
The Tory peer was a member of the Vote Leave campaign

Despite his preparations to stay on the continent, Lord Lawson said he didn’t think protecting the rights of Britons living in the EU would be a “major problem” in Brexit negotiations and “will be sorted out”.

However, he claimed a UK-EU trade deal and solving the Irish border question, which he said was being used for “political reasons”, would be more difficult.

“The problem is trade, where EU negotiators want to punish the UK for leaving, not because most of them are anti-British, but to discourage others,” he said.

“They don’t intend to inflict punishment on UK citizens in France.

“The Irish border is a problem. The border issue is being whipped up by Brussels and Dublin for political reasons.

“There was only a problem when the IRA were active militarily and saw border posts as useful targets. But they were defeated.”

Migrants who won't have their citizenship assured after Brexit want their statuses confirmed
Lord Lawson admitted a UK-EU trade deal was a ‘problem’

Lord Lawson branded Theresa May’s government as “weak” and “not doing a particularly good job” on Brexit – but he suggested leaving the EU “will soon give benefits”.

The Best For Britain group, which wants to keep the UK open to EU membership and is expected to campaign for a second EU referendum, claimed Lord Lawson’s application for residency in France “takes the biscuit”.

Spokesman Paul Butters said: “It seemed to Lawson that no cost was not worth paying to leave.

“But with this news, it seems the cost will be paid by others while the former chancellor suns himself in his luxury home in France.

“The former chancellor looks like a hypocrite.”


Brexit Forensics: Fears UK could miss a vital nuclear deadline

Best for Britain came under fire on Wednesday after the group’s head, former foreign office minister Lord Malloch-Brown, compared Brexit to appeasement of Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Britain’s history as an island nation adjacent to mainland Europe is when we try to, sort of, pull away from Europe’s problems and close ourselves off to them they have a horrible habit of infecting us anyway.

“Appeasement in the 1930s, you name it. For centuries Britain has ignored events on continental Europe at its peril.”

In response to the crossbench peer’s comments, Leave Means Leave boss John Longworth, the ex-director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Leaving the EU isn’t about closing ourselves off.

“It’s about taking back control and becoming a global, more outward-looking Britain.

“The only appeasement that is going on right now is that being conducted by our government in the face of Brussels bullies.”

Carluccio's to go ahead with restructuring

Carluccio’s will go ahead with a restructuring programme that could see dozens of restaurants closed.

Some 91% of creditors approved the Company Voluntary Agreement (CVA), which allows the business to reduce rents while negotiating with landlords.

It is thought around 30 restaurants could close, putting 500 jobs at risk.

The Italian food business, founded by the late Antonio Carluccio in 1999, said it would try to minimise job losses and was relocating staff to remaining outlets where possible.

Mark Jones, chief executive of Carluccio’s, said: “I would like to thank our landlords for their support.

“We now look forward to a positive future and the on-going development of the Carluccio’s business and of course our passionate people.”

Carluccio’s is owned by Dubai-based Landmark Group, which bought it for £90m eight years ago and will invest a further £10m in the coming months.

Will Wright, restructuring partner at KPMG and joint supervisor of the CVA, said: “This is an important step forward for the business, allowing Carluccio’s to complete its financial restructuring plan and embark on a comprehensive operational transformation programme.”

Other restaurants that have undertaken CVAs this year include Byron, Prezzo and Jamie’s Italian.

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