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Alarm over decline in flying insects

Insect huntImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption Losses of rare insects are well documented, but there is little research on insects as a whole

It’s known as the windscreen phenomenon. When you stop your car after a drive, there seem to be far fewer squashed insects than there used to be.

Scientists have long suspected that insects are in dramatic decline, but new evidence confirms this.

Research at more than 60 protected areas in Germany suggests flying insects have declined by more than 75% over almost 30 years.

And the causes are unknown.

“This confirms what everybody’s been having as a gut feeling – the windscreen phenomenon where you squash fewer bugs as the decades go by,” said Caspar Hallmann of Radboud University in The Netherlands.

“This is the first study that looked into the total biomass of flying insects and it confirms our worries.”

The study is based on measurements of the biomass of all insects trapped at 63 nature protection areas in Germany over 27 years since 1989.

The data includes thousands of different insects, such as bees, butterflies and moths.

Scientists say the dramatic decline was seen regardless of habitat, land use and the weather, leaving them at a loss to explain what was behind it.

They stressed the importance of adopting measures known to be beneficial for insects, including strips of flowers around farmland and minimising the effects of intensive agriculture.

And they said there was an urgent need to uncover the causes and extent of the decline in all airborne insects.

“We don’t know exactly what the causes are,” said Hans de Kroon, also of Radboud University, who supervised the research.

”This study shows how important it is to have good monitoring programmes and we need more research right now to look into those causes – so, that has really high priority.”

The finding was even more worrying given that it was happening in nature reserves, which are meant to protect insects and other living species, the researchers said.

”In the modern agricultural landscape, for insects it’s a hostile environment, it’s a desert, if not worse,” said Dr de Kroon.

”And the decline there has been well documented. The big surprise is that it is also happening in adjacent nature reserves.”

The loss of insects has far-reaching consequences for entire ecosystems.

Insects provide a food source for many birds, amphibians, bats and reptiles, while plants rely on insects for pollination.

The decline is more severe than found in previous studies.

A survey of insects at four sites in the UK between 1973 and 2002 found losses at one of the four sites only.

The research is published in the journal Plos One.

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Two-vehicle crash causes congestion

Tom Karen: Meet the man who designed the 70s

Fancy a trip down memory lane? Well 91-year-old Tom Karen – one of Britain’s greatest living designers – can take you.

Karen is famed for his designs which include the Raleigh Chopper bike and The Bond Bug.

And now he’s being celebrated in a new exhibition opening in The Jewish Museum, showcasing British design in the 20th Century.

You can listen to the Today programme weekdays 6am-9am and Saturdays 7am-9am

Chief Constable Hamilton investigated by ombudsman

George Hamilton, PSNI Chief Constable (left), Drew Harris, Deputy Chief Constable (centre) and Mark Hamilton, Assistant Chief Constable (right)Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton (left), Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris (centre) and Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton deny the allegations

Three of Northern Ireland’s most senior police officers are under investigation for alleged misconduct in public office and criminality that could amount to conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Chief Constable George Hamilton and his deputy Drew Harris are being investigated by the Police Ombudsman.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton is also under investigation.

In a statement, the PSNI said they “completely refute the allegations”.

The inquiry focuses on concerns about how the Police Service of Northern Ireland conducted an investigation into allegations of bribery and fraud in 2014.

It includes allegations that entries in police notebooks and journals were changed.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Drew Harris, George Hamilton and Mark Hamilton

In a statement to the BBC, the ombudsman’s office confirmed “a number of allegations” had been made against a range of officers.

BBC News NI has established that those under investigation include:

  • PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton
  • Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris
  • Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton

The nature of the complaints and the seniority of those under scrutiny make this investigation unprecedented.

In terms of current policing issues, it’s considered to be the most serious investigation the Ombudsman’s office has undertaken.

The investigation was launched after the Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, received complaints from seven people questioned as part of an investigation into allegations of bribery and misconduct in public office in the awarding of PSNI vehicle contracts.

They included retired PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland, and the former Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, Mark Gilmore.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption George Hamilton was appointed PSNI Chief Constable in May 2014 – he was previously Assistant Chief Constable

They were questioned in June 2014. Eighteen months later, the public prosecution service informed them that none would face any charges.

The Police Ombudsman has established a dedicated team of six investigators to examine the allegations about the PSNI investigation.

“They include allegations of criminality and misconduct in how this investigation was undertaken,” added the Ombudsman’s statement.

It’s understood the alleged criminality being investigated includes claims that entries in police notebooks and journals were changed.

There are also claims that the PSNI didn’t follow proper procedures to obtain warrants.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Drew Harris was appointed Deputy Chief Constable in October 2014

A solicitor for those who lodged complaints said he believed there were a number of serious flaws in the way the PSNI conducted the investigation against his clients.

“It is our contention that there is evidence of serious criminal activity on the part of members of the PSNI,” said Ernie Waterworth.

“It’s an extremely serious allegation and I have to say my clients thought long and hard before going down this road.”

The PSNI normally does not comment in detail on live investigations by the Ombudsman, but on this occasion has robustly rejected the allegations.

“The Chief Constable, Deputy Chief Constable and other officers completely refute the allegations made against them and are strongly of the view that these complex investigations into the complainants were conducted with professionalism and integrity,” said its statement.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Mark Hamilton was appointed Assistant Chief Constable in July 2013

It said the PSNI “acknowledges and supports the need for office of the Police Ombudsman to investigate these allegations and all officers are co-operating fully with the investigation”.

Explaining its unusual decision to give a more detailed response, the statement said media coverage of the investigation “has the potential to negatively impact on public confidence in policing”.

Sources have told BBC News NI that the PSNI consulted a number of external criminal justice agencies throughout the 2014 investigation, which it was fully satisfied was conducted properly.

The ombudsman has declared the investigation a “critical incident”.

That means it’s considered a matter that “could have a significant impact on the person making the complaint, on the police or on the wider community”.

The PSNI said it had “full confidence” in the ombudsman to complete a thorough investigation, adding that he should be allowed to do so “without ongoing public commentary”.

The investigation is expected to take more than a year to complete.

Harold the dove takes up residence in Long Stratton street

A wild collared dove has been causing a stir in a residential street by pursuing and occasionally perching on visitors.

The bird, named Harold by residents, has become well-known in St Michael’s Road, in Long Stratton, Norfolk.

He took a particular interest when BBC News reporter Dawn Gerber visited.

Abuse common in music industry too – Sir Tom Jones

Tom Jones
Image caption Sir Tom said: “What’s tried on women is tried on men as well”

Sir Tom Jones has said the abuse and harassment alleged to have taken place in Hollywood is also widespread in the music industry.

The singer was discussing the allegations surrounding Harvey Weinstein in an interview with the BBC.

“Things have always happened in the music industry as well,” he said.

“There’s been people complaining about publicists and different things they’ve been expected to do to get a record contract, just like a film contract.”

Asked on BBC Radio 5 live’s Afternoon Edition whether it was something he’d experienced, Sir Tom replied: “Yes. At the beginning, yes.

“There were a few things like that. But you avoid it. You just walk out… But what’s tried on women is tried on men as well.”

‘Justice will out’

Sir Tom said the encounter early in his career made him feel “terrible”.

“But then you think, ‘Well, I’ve got to get away from this person and it can’t be like this.’

“You should know that yourself, you don’t do things just because you think, ‘I should do this.’ Your own mind will tell you that. Not just in showbusiness, but in any thing you’re in.”

He added: “There’s always been that element there that people with power sometimes abuse it, but they don’t all abuse it, there are good people.”

Image caption Sir Tom is currently a coach on ITV’s The Voice

Asked further about his own experience, he said: “It wasn’t bad, just somebody tried to pull… it was a question and I said ‘No thank you.'”

The singer was asked about the number of allegations against major figures in the film industry that have come out in recent days.

He replied: “Things happen in showbusiness, and sometimes things are covered up and then they come to light and other people come forward – it’s like taking the cork off of a bottle.

“Things come out that maybe should’ve come out years ago, who knows. But that’s the way it is with showbusiness, you are in the public eye, and that’s it, you have to take the good with the bad.

“But justice will out. If you’ve done something wrong you’ve got to pay for it, or prove that you haven’t done anything wrong.”


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‘Founder would be proud’ as pharmacy celebrates 175 years

A HISTORIC city centre pharmacy with 175 years of remedying customers’ ailments now faces its own health battle to survive into its next century.

Business partners Sajid Hussain and Qaisar Sheikh, who both trained as pharmacists at Bradford University and re-established the Rimmington’s business after buying the Bridge Street shop from national chain Lloyds, are determined to make it.

With 14 years still left on the lease, Mr Hussain, 39, says it will be a battle to get to the 200th anniversary.

But, with continued and new customer support, the business is in good health.

Market changes, including more GPs having their own on-site pharmacies and supermarkets opening chemists in store, are taking their toll, he says. Reforms brought in by the Department of Health putting prescription ordering back into the hands of patients are also making an impact.

“The Government has put prescription ordering back into patients hands. The problem is they don’t always order, they are not always compliant and we are seeing the effect of this now. We’ve seen about a 20 per cent drop in prescriptions coming through so we need people’s support now more than ever before.

“We want to say thank you to all the customers who are with us in our 175th year and want more to join us to make it to 200 years. They are our life-line,” added Mr Hussain.

Rimmington’s has introduced its own one-step electronic prescription service, relying on people nominating it as their prescription pharmacy for picking up medicines or having them delivered for free to Bradford homes. It also gives free flu jabs to over 18s funded out of its own pocket.

“We are appealing or people’s support. their prescription can preserve the Rimmington’s legacy. It’s part of the city’s heritage. We are now serving third or fourth generation customers. The market place is changing. We can’t say we are comfortable. We have high rates and rents but we will never leave the pharmacy because no one could run it like us. We live off the Rimmington’s ethos of outstanding service. We’ve never had the privilege of location being next to a surgery or hospital but we have got the privilege of being an institution and we want to build on that,” said Mr Hussain.Also investing for the future, Rimmington’s trains up two pharmacy students from the city’s university each year as well as employing an apprentice.

“Our founder Felix Rimmington would be proud,” he said.

Felix Rimmington was a community chemist by day and a crime investigator by night in the 19th century.

He helped in trying to solve the Jack the Ripper murders by working on post mortem examinations of the victims and was also famous for finding the cause of a notorious local accidental poisoning scandal in 1858 which killed 20 children, customers of “Humbug Billy” who made and sold peppermints in Bradford’s Green Market. He also once wrote to the local newspaper advising ladies not to wear poisonous evening gowns after he found a dangerous compound of arsenic and copper was used to colour gowns a parrot green.

Charity protests about ‘unfair impact’ of benefits changes on people with epilepsy

CHARITY Epilepsy Action has highlighted a Bradford couple’s plight as it lobbies Government in protest at benefits changes.

Many people with epilepsy need Personal Independence Payments (PIP) to help them carry out daily tasks safely, from getting to work to bathing and cooking at home, according to the Yeadon-based charity.

Its figures show almost two thirds of people with epilepsy who previously received Disability Living Allowance (DLA) had their award denied or downgraded following a reassessment for PIP.

Epilepsy has the highest refusal rate for people claiming PIP, which are 20 per cent above the national average for all health conditions, it says.

It is submitting written evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee next month ahead of an inquiry into the PIP assessment system.

Ashleigh Dawson, 22, a student nurse in Bradford, was diagnosed with epilepsy ten years ago after she had a seizure at school.

She has not had a tonic clonic seizure, which affects the whole brain, for more than a year, due to her medication, but she does continue to experience partial seizures, which can mean she has blackouts.

She said: “I was asked questions about myself and my hobbies.

“When I received my letter saying that I had been refused the PIP, they had stated that I was able to walk a small distance unaided, I was able to talk independently and intelligently and I was well kept.

“I was extremely annoyed at this answer, as I felt I had been discriminated for being a student and they were being prejudiced as I was wearing make-up and had dressed smartly for the occasion.

“Because I no longer have PIP, I am relying on my husband Simon’s wage to support us both while I study to be a nurse. We were struggling to make ends meet and as a result have had to move in with my parents and pay them rent.

“The PIP – £307 per month – gave me independence and they have taken that from me.”

A Department of Work and Pensions spokesman said: “We are committed to supporting people with disabilities and health conditions, which is why we introduced PIP to replace the outdated DLA system.

“PIP is a better benefit which takes a much wider look at the way an individual’s disability or health condition, such as epilepsy, impacts them on a daily basis.

“Under PIP 29 per cent of claimants receive the highest rate of support compared to 15 per cent under DLA.”

Long-serving Bradford teacher who taught PE to future sports stars retires

A MAN who has taught three generations of students at Bradford’s biggest school is retiring after nearly 40 years.

Derek Radcliffe, 59, will leave Grange Technology College tomorrow after joining as a PE teacher in October 1979, when the school was known as The Grange.

During his time at the school, Mr Radcliffe has taught subjects including PE, maths and art and design and was head of the sixth form for eight years.

He has also taught future sports stars including former Bradford City striker Ian Ormondroyd and boxer Harris Akbar, who this year claimed victory at the England Boxing elite national championships.

His other roles saw him coach the Bradford Boys’ under 19s and the West Yorkshire Schools under 19s football teams, which featured former City midfielder Des Hamilton.

Mr Radcliffe has also undertaken a vast number of additional roles throughout his career, most recently as an achievement leader for the sixth form, where he has developed a successful and growing student leadership programme. This includes a range of charity initiatives and regular support of the Lord Mayor’s Appeal.

His dedication to the role has also seen him recognised with award nominations.

In 2013, he was nominated for the Telegraph & Argus Schools Awards in the secondary teacher category, but missed out on the prize. Last year he was shortlisted for the community hearts awards in the inspirational teacher category.

Mr Radcliffe, of Bingley, plans to spend his retirement developing his interest in art and design, travel and keeping active in the outdoors.

He said: “I have met a lot of amazing youngsters and people through education. What is pleasing is seeing them coming out as rounded young people, ready for life out there.

“My life at Grange has been a journey I have been privileged to have been on.”

Headteacher Alison Mander paid tribute to the dedicated teacher.

She said: “Derek is a true Granger who is widely known and respected in our community.

“His contribution to the school, the teaching profession and most importantly the thousands of young people he has taught, is phenomenal. We all wish him the very best in his retirement.”

Tricks of the trade

Philip PullmanImage copyright AFP

Author Philip Pullman is returning to the world of Lyra Belacqua with his new trilogy The Book of Dust, the first instalment of which is released at midnight.

La Belle Sauvage: The Book Of Dust Volume One is published on Thursday, Pullman’s 71st birthday, and comes 17 years after the last instalment of his previous trilogy.

While Lyra, from His Dark Materials, is one of the key characters, the action takes place when she is six months old. She is being sheltered by nuns but then 11-year-old Malcolm Polstead steps in to protect her on his canoe, La Belle Sauvage.

So what are the tricks of the trade that has made Pullman such a success – and the tips he can pass on to budding writers?

He spoke to the BBC about his lucky pen and why he can work to the sound of a pneumatic drill, but never to music.


Image copyright Anthony Upton
Image caption Philip Pullman: “I like being in a state of doubt”

1. Let characters show themselves

It’s a mysterious process. Of course, part of me must be making them up. But it doesn’t feel like making up – it feels like discovery.

Basically, I sit at my desk and stare at the wall blankly until I find my pen moving over the paper, for want of any better word.

I don’t want to get all mystical about it, but it does feel like discovery rather than invention.

It’s like the story is already there and I’ve got to find the best way to tell it, rather than make it up.

It’s a curious business and I’m not at all sure about it, but I don’t want to be sure about it really. I like being in a state of doubt.

2. There are always more stories

After I’d finished His Dark Materials, I had a sense there were more stories there. Lyra’s story that I tell in His Dark Materials, that’s come to an end, that’s finished.

But there are always other stories. At the end of His Dark Materials, Lyra is only 12 years old, and she’s going to grow up and she’s going to be an adult.

Things are going to happen to her and she’s going to make things happen.

And I was curious about that. At the edge of my vision, so to speak, out of the corner of my eye, I could see other characters which I became interested in.

I gradually found my pen wandering over to that other world again. I had done quite a lot of other things, but this new story became so compelling and so interesting – and the new characters were so attractive to me – that I just couldn’t resist.

Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption Pullman said he “couldn’t resist” the characters in his new book

3. It’s normal not to be confident – but don’t listen to music

I never think it (my writing) is good. The most I think is, “Well, that will do”.

When I’m writing, I’m more conscious of the sound, actually, than the meaning. I know what the rhythm of the sentence is going to be before I know what the words are going to be in it.

That’s a very important factor in the way I write. That’s why I can’t write with music playing.

Some writers do, but I couldn’t begin to do that.

Silence? Yes. Pneumatic drills? Fine. Traffic noise? No problem. But music is an absolute killer. So I have to have silence, so I can hear the rhythm.

4. Tone is more important than structure

I sort of know where things are going – but I don’t know the way to get there.

As for not structuring – well, I do. But structure comes later. Structure is sometimes seen as being a fundamental thing. It isn’t.

Structure is a superficial thing. What is fundamental in a book is tone, the tone of voice, and to change that is to change every single sentence.

But you can change the structure at the last minute. You can say: “I’ll start in the middle”, or whatever. The structure is there, but it comes later.

Image copyright Michael Leckie
Image caption Pullman says he writes with a pen and paper rather than straight on to the computer

5. Choose a favourite pen

I use a ballpoint pen and paper, initially. I do that because I know it works – and I’ve got a lucky pen. It’s a Mont Blanc ballpoint. I use it because it’s a perfect weight and a perfect size.

And it works. I’ve written several books with it. I couldn’t do without it now. If I lost it, I don’t know what I’d do.

So I do that first. Then every chapter or two I put on the computer, because that’s the best editing tool ever invented.

6. Write for yourself

When you’re writing, you have to please yourself because there’s no-one else there initially.

But the book doesn’t fully exist until it’s been read. The reader is a very important part of the transaction – and people have to read things they want to read.

I’m writing for me – I write for all the “me’s” that have been.

From the first me I can remember, the me who first got interested in stories and loved listening to them; to the me who was here at Oxford 50 years ago; to the me who was a school teacher, telling stories to the class.

All of these. I’m writing for me. And I am lucky to have found such a wide audience – and an audience which contains both adults and children is the best of all.


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