Tim Cook one of many to invest in shower head startup Nebia

by Shelton on August 28th, 2015

filed under Personal Funding


Apple CEO Tim Cook is one of many high-profile investors in Nebia, a Kickstarter based water-efficient shower head, according to the New York Times. The shower head atomizes water into millions of small droplets of water which covers a larger surface area, saving 70% water consumption compared to a traditional shower head.

Nebia had an original funding price of $100,000 which has then been surpassed and is now well over $130,000. The project is set to expire on September 11. You will be able to snag one of these at $269 or $299 on Kickstarter, or at $399 once it hits retail stores.

Apple said Cooks funding in the project was a personal funding, however they declined to elaborate on the matter.

Source: The New York Times

Black History Museum offers tours during festival

by Shelton on August 26th, 2015

filed under Personal Funding

The Alliance Historical Black History Museums walls are covered with history and its doors are open to the public this week as part of the Greater Alliance Carnation Festival.

Dyanna Myers, director and founder of the museum, is offering tours of the museum, which she has put together over the last four years.

The house was donated to Myers for the purpose of a museum celebrating black history and all other expenses are paid for by a few donations and Myers personal funding.

The collection consists of artifacts collected by Evelyn Brown, who influenced Myers to start the museum, as well as Myers personal collection and donations from the community.

Exhibits consist of magazines outlining historical black figures, photos and articles of local black people who have risen to prominent positions in the community, and artifacts popular to black culture.

The newest exhibit centers around a quilt narrating the Underground Railroad. Books and artifacts accompany the quilt that depict what the Underground Railroad was like and how slaves would use the system to travel north.

The Alliance Historical Black History Museum welcomes the public to participate more in the purpose of the organization, which is collecting, displaying and teaching history.

We encourage people to dig up their history, go digging in their basements, garages and attics, and bring it in, Myers said. People are just sitting on history.

Since the doors first opened in 2011 the museum has gained momentum. Now Alliance City Schools classes as well as nursing homes take scheduled tours of the museum, but Myers is hoping for even more.

Myers said she put all the work and effort into the museum after being bit by the history bug.

In 2011 I was bit by the black history bug, and it hasnt stopped.

Right now she opens the museum by appointment only since there isnt enough funding to pay someone to be there all the time, although she said she and is planning some fundraising efforts in the near future.

The Greater Alliance Carnation Festival tours are one way the museum is working on getting more notoriety.

The Alliance Historical Black History Museum is open for tours from 1 to 3 pm today through Friday. The entrance fee is $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 12 to 18.

For tours on other days, make an appointment by calling 330-257-5782.

@CShar_AR on Twitter

Should you medicate your kids?

by Shelton on July 9th, 2015

filed under Personal Funding

This decision is stressful for parents who see a child struggling with ADHD but who worry about tampering with brain chemistry.

Web sites offer wildly mixed messages about ADHD meds, studies show conflicting data about whether they work, and doctors don’t always agree. Some friends and relatives can’t imagine “how you could drug your child,” while others wonder why you would reject something that might help.

But clinicians who treat ADHD say the decision is often fairly straightforward.

“I recommend medication when something causes a child to be unable to thrive in his environment,” said Glen Elliott, director of the Children’s Center at Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute in San Francisco and author of “Medicating Young Minds: How to Know if Psychiatric Drugs Will Help or Hurt Your Child.”

Elliott is familiar with the dilemma parents face: His son struggled with ADHD in high school and finally opted to use a stimulant occasionally in medical school.

Stimulants such as Ritalin, Adderall and Vyvanse are nearly always the first medication doctors try, Elliott said, because they have a long, solid safety record, they take effect within minutes and they leave the body within hours.

Timothy Wilens, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, said he weighs factors such as age, severity of symptoms and how the symptoms affect the child’s outlook.

“If I have a child who is relatively younger, with mild symptoms, I am slower to recommend medications. I may first request environmental changes at school, or a different daily structure at school or at home,” he said. “Contrast that with an 11-year-old who is struggling greatly in class, having problems paying attention, getting distracted, and becoming phobic about homework. That child is clearly on a different trajectory than what he should be and would probably benefit from medication.”

(Wilens and Elliott received personal funding from pharmaceutical companies in the past but do not do so now.)

Many ADHD groups and both major US child psychiatry organizations (the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Psychiatric Association) recommend medication for ADHD, usually in conjunction with therapy that teaches strategies to help with skills such as organization and time management.

Managing expectations is key, however, because no drug can cure ADHD. While some people with ADHD naturally become less symptomatic as their brains mature, Elliott said, about a third of people with ADHD will need treatment their entire lives.

Here are some pros and cons of ADHD medication, according to experts:


o In addition to being well-tolerated, approved by the Food and Drug Administration and easy to try out – because they enter and exit the body quickly – stimulants are not addictive in the doses prescribed for ADHD.

o Stimulants can be effective even if taken only occasionally.

o Drugs may reduce some of the longer-term problems associated with untreated ADHD, such as depression and substance abuse.


o Side effects range from mild (and common) – such as irritability, sleep disruption, drowsiness and loss of appetite – to serious (but rare) – such as heart and liver problems and exacerbation of mental health issues.

o Clinicians disagree on whether people build up a tolerance for stimulants.

o No drug has proved effective for executive function problems.

o Some can be stolen or resold, which can lead to abuse.

o Effects are short-term, in that none can cure ADHD.

Stone Puppet Festival Crowdfunder Appeal – Let’s make it happen!

by Shelton on June 28th, 2015

filed under Personal Funding

Stone Puppet Festival Crowdfunder Appeal

Why are we Crowd Funding?

David and I have spent many weeks fundraising and negotiating reasonable fees with all the performers and suppliers by obtaining the very best rates we can.

There has been significant personal funding from both the organizers and generous donations from a number of companies and other individuals. We are also trying to raise money by other means such as Raffles and Ticket Sales but we do need to ask the community for some financial support.

If we can raise £4000 or more, we can make this an affordable event. The shows on the High Street will be free of charge, the exhibitions will be free of charge and the performances in the hotel will be at prices families can afford.

By pledging even just a small amount, not only will you benefit from one of the many exclusive rewards on offer more importantly you will have contributed to a unique and highly creative festival experience that will bring many benefits to everyone who attends, participates and to the town as a whole for a long time to come.


Project aim
We have set three aims for the Festival, these are:

Bring together some of the best Puppetry artists in the UK to create a family friendly event in the heart of Stone. This is a unique experience that will offer a different dimension to our summer programme and will entertain the residents of Stone and the local communities.
To help stimulate the minds of our children in the summer holidays and engage with the local schools by holding puppet workshops with the children based on the curriculum they are studying, as well as bringing some end of year activities to life in the festival parade.
Finally to support the High Street and Stone as a place of interest to the wider community. The festival is being staged right in the heart of the town, we want to show that Stone is a vibrant place to live with much to offer, from fantastic bars and restaurants to our local stores selling everything from ironmongery to holidays.

About the project
The idea for the Festival started with a chance meeting with David Leech.

We got talking and after a while he mentioned that he worked as a puppeteer and puppet amp; toy manufacturer and that he had an idea of bringing a Puppet Festival to Stone, we discussed this and I thought that it sounded like a good event that would bring some entertainment to the Town.

So, after a few weeks of meeting together, we arranged a meeting with Adam Jones the proprietor of Granville’s Brasserie and invited a representative of the Town Council, as well as the Chairman of the British Puppet and Model Theatre Guild. After a successful meeting, everyone agreed that this sounded like a feasible idea and we set the ball in motion moving this forward.

We have had great support from the Town Council, A Little Bit of Stone and the Stone and Eccleshall Gazette.

After many months of meetings, planning’s, ups and downs, we now have in place the following:

Venue in the Crown Hotel to hold shows (Gruffalo, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland)
Use of the High Street to hold shows (Punch and Judy, George and the Dragon, Puppet Circusmany more)
4 Schools involved
A full itinerary of free and chargeable shows
Opening Parade and closing event
Interactive events such as Puppet Making
Thunderbirds and other Puppet Exhibitions

Women in F1: A missed opportunity

by Shelton on April 27th, 2015

filed under Personal Funding

With talk of an all-female F1 championship unlikely to get the support it needs, Kate Walker highlights the plight of Simona de Silvestro 

Formula One suffers from a myriad of problems, many of them with their roots in the sports financing. F1s myopic approach to decision-making has led to all manner of bad news stories in recent years, and much ink has been spilled in covering them on this blog. Its getting rather old.

One individual bad news story that has repercussions on the sport as a whole was the missed opportunity relating to Simona de Silvestro, the only current female racing driver with a viable chance of success in Formula One. Having signed up with Sauber, de Silvestro was unable to provide the funding needed to secure any seat time with the team, and after a year spent out of the cockpit she returned to IndyCar for a one-off race with Andretti Autosport in the hopes of securing a longer-term deal.

Of course, had de Silvestro managed to complete the deal with Sauber last year, the Swiss team would have found themselves with an even greater glut of contracted drivers than was the case at the opening round in Melbourne. In some respects, it represented a lucky escape for the woman who sat out of racing for 2014 with the aim of breaking in to F1.

Im not a victim; I think just that Formula One right now is a lot about money, she told the Tampa Bay Times in the run-up to last weekends IndyCar round in St Petersburg, Florida. Unfortunately I wasnt able to raise that money. Theres a lot of really talented drivers out there who are not really getting a shot right now. I think thats what IndyCar is doing right, they are giving the opportunities. … A lot of us got promised a lot of things that didnt happen [at Sauber]. F1 is a dream, but I want to be racing.

Unlike Lotus development driver Carmen Jorda, Simona de Silvestro has a creditable racing career. In 2009 she finished third in the Champ Car Atlantic championship, collecting four wins, four second-place finishes, and a third place, finishing nine of that years 12 races on the podium. Her IndyCar career has yet to deliver a win, but 50 races have seen a dozen top-ten finishes and one second-place.

Given competitive equipment there is no reason that de Silvestro would not score points in Formula One, even if few would call her a champion in waiting.

A competent female racing driver is exactly what the sport should be seeking at the moment. De Silvestros lack of personal funding would be mitigated by the increased fan and sponsor interest in the sport once it became apparent that the Swiss racer has the talent to back up the inevitable media interest in a woman competing in a mans world.

Susie Wolff receives acres of coverage for her work with Williams, despite her cockpit time being limited to the occasional outing in FP1 and test sessions. To have de Silvestro lining up on the grid in the heat of competition would be broadcasting gold, and any team with the nous to take her on without demanding piles of personal sponsorship would soon find added interest from blue-chip companies keen to trumpet their female-friendly credentials.

Gender disparity is not just found on racetracks, after all, but also in the boardrooms of those companies F1 would like to see as sponsors. Trumpeting support of a female racing driver may not be a replacement for putting women on the board, but it is a handy – and relatively cheap – distraction with which to placate the general news media.

Given his willingness to trumpet F1s need for a talented female competitor, it is a shame indeed that Bernie Ecclestone has chosen to give his support to Carmen Jorda, and not backed the one current contender with a realistic chance of on-track success.

World Economic Forum recommends action for urban growth in India

by Shelton on April 24th, 2015

filed under Personal Funding

The WEF report highlighted the position the personal sector might play to bridge the estimated $ one hundred ten billion funding hole, which might hinder Indias capacity to offer primary urban infrastructure and providers to its quickly rising urban inhabitants.

The report, The Future of Urban Development and Services Initiative has been written in collaboration with Accenture.

Indias 410 million metropolis dwellers make the nation the worlds second largest urban inhabitants. With a comparatively low urbanisation price of 32%, the nation is witnessing accelerated migration from rural areas to cities.

India wants funding of greater than $ 640 billion between 2012 and 2031 to ship primary urban infrastructure to this rising urban inhabitants.

The world is experiencing an unprecedented transition from predominantly rural to mainly urban dwelling. In 1950, a 3rd of the worlds inhabitants lived in cities. Today, the proportion has already reached greater than half. By 2050, metropolis dwellers are anticipated to account for greater than two-thirds of the worlds inhabitants, stated Alice Charles, Head of Urban Development, World Economic Forum.

In the approaching many years, the tempo of urbanization in the creating world will proceed to far exceed that of the developed world. This can be exemplified by India, the place the nations urban inhabitants is forecasted to virtually double to 814 million between 2014 and 2050, he added.

The report consists of greatest follow case research to assist information the Government of India and proposes three strategic suggestions:

First is integrating spatial planning in any respect governmental ranges: national, state and metropolis. The main objective of spatial planning is to combine housing, strategic infrastructure and urban infrastructure, and enhance national and native governance in the context of urban improvement.

Second is to create a secure coverage framework for personal funding in urban infrastructure. Once the correct circumstances for buyers have been created, the Government of India wants to take a look at the varied instruments obtainable akin to public-personal partnerships to allow investments in strategic infrastructure and urban improvement.

And third, create establishments to stimulate capability constructing and appeal to expertise to develop companies. Organizations can be required to assist the personal sector improve the standard of white collar service jobs and to draw funding in manufacturing capability. India additionally wants lighthouse tasks with the potential for interdisciplinary collaboration in the world of urban improvement.

The new Indian administration created an unlimited constructive momentum with the one hundred Smart Cities programme and its different urban improvement campaigns, such because the Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY) or the Clean India Mission. The three strategic suggestions and the case research offered in this report are a sound start line to evaluate how the urban improvement in India can profit from the worldwide enterprise group and vice versa, stated Ajit Gulabchand, Chairman and Managing Director, Hindustan Construction Company.

The earlier government of India sought to foster urban improvement via laws that features the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, and the event of 5 industrial corridors. Indias administration, which took workplace in May 2014, has launched formidable new initiatives such because the Make in India programme and the one hundred Smart Cities programme.

Following the discharge of this report, the World Economic Forums infrastructure and urban improvement business companions hope to proceed partaking in India by means of its Future of Urban Development and Services Initiative.

A roundtable dialogue might be convened in India subsequent month, in collaboration with business companions to help the Government of India with its formidable plans.

The World Economic Forums Future of Urban Development and Services Initiative serves as a associate in transformation to cities all over the world as they search to deal with main urban challenges and transition in the direction of smarter, extra sustainable cities in this quickly urbanizing world. Directed by a steering board and guided by an advisory board, the Future of Urban Development and Services Initiative works in collaboration with native companions.

The World Economic Forum is a world establishment dedicated to enhancing the state of the world by means of public-personal cooperation in the spirit of worldwide citizenship. It engages with enterprise, political, educational and different leaders of society to form international, regional and business Full Text RSS Feed
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Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid, she’s still her own worst enemy

by Shelton on April 22nd, 2015

filed under Personal Funding

When Hillary Rodham Clinton announced she was running for President on 20th January 2007, telling her supporters, I#39;m in, and I#39;m in to win, many believed she already had the Democratic nomination sewn up. Her statement itself symbolised a sense of triumph and entitlement that overshadowed and eventually doomed her campaign, turning her from an agent of change into an establishment figure in the eyes of voters.

With the electorate tired from two long and bloody wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and economic hardship setting in, there was an opportunity to vote for something new and install the first ever female President to bring change to America. It wasnt just a vote for Hillary, it was a vote for her husband Bill who still captured the affections of millions of voters, despite a troubled period in office as President of the United States. What could possibly go wrong?

Step forward Barack Obama, the young and articulate Illinois Senator who had less money and far less experience than the powerful Clinton clan. Not only did Obama campaign on the central issue of change, but as an African American he also physically embodied change, more so than Hillary who was easily typecast as a member of the old political dynasties of the past.

Obama successfully built momentum by targeting smaller states and engaging thousands of grassroots supporters. His campaign advisers, including David Axelrod, managed to secure large amounts of funding from small micro donations from millions of different supporters.

His relentless message of change and hope resonated well with citizens who were crying out for something different and something new. Yet for all the savvy campaign tactics and innovations, it wasnt Obama that defeated the Clinton campaign, it was Hillary herself.

In an election where change was the number one aspiration, Clintons chief strategist Mark Penn foolishly positioned her as the candidate of experience. This made it easy for Obamas campaign team to paint Hillary as an establishment figure from the Washington elite, something the vast majority of Americans didnt want at the time.

Her team overspent early on, forcing her to lend her own campaign millions of dollars in personal funding. This meant that she was unable to pay for TV adverts in key states and was outmanoeuvred on the ground by Obamas powerful grassroots network of volunteers.

Worse still, her biggest asset, husband Bill Clinton, became a liability with a string of poorly judged comments that many described as dog whistle politics. He called Obamas campaign a lsquo;fairy tale and compared him to Jesse Jackson, tactics which left a sour taste in the mouths of many of his wifes supporters.

The loss of trust between her and potential supporters was crystallised when she claimed she arrived in Bosnia landing under sniper fire. Soon after this statement, historic footage emerged of her arriving safely and securely; her version of events at best misleading, at worst a total lie.

Since those dark days, Hillary has served a decent term as secretary of state and published a book which was reasonably well received around the world. She has sorted out her finances, securing millions of dollars in donations and set her eyes on the job that she missed out on seven years ago.

But as the front-runner in this election race will Hillary crumble under the intensive media scrutiny she struggled with last time? Will her short temper get the better of her?

A remarkable woman indeed, but whatever they hype, Hillary is still Hillary. The only question is whether her campaign team can keep the darker side to her character out of sight of the public.

Steven George-Hilley is Associate Editor of The Commentator and a director at the Parliament Street think tank. @StevenGeorgia

Bayou Drive residents speak up at Police Jury meeting

by Shelton on April 21st, 2015

filed under Personal Funding

The central point of discussion at the Morehouse Parish Police Jury meeting held on April 13 was road maintenance, and, in particular, the maintenance of Bayou Drive, which is near Sterlington and part of Morehouse Parish.

The first item on the agenda was the Bayou Drive discussion, which was led by Brittney Durand, and featured input from several other residents of the street over two dozen were present.

Durand launched her discussion with statistical information about the drive, which she stated featured 24 site-built homes with a minimum square footage of 1,600, and asked the jury to keep this information in mind as she read her statements.

I am [informing] you of a safety concern in Morehouse Parish. I live on Bayou Drive in Sterlington. Bayou Drive is a one and four-tenth mile mud and dirt road depending on the weather. The road no longer has a lot of gravel and can no longer be referred to as a gravel road.

Durand stated that since she moved onto the road in June of 2012, the condition has deteriorated, possibly because of a variety of circumstances, including the addition of homes to the area, the need of access to the public boat ramp at the end of the road and the lack of increased maintenance accompanying the increased traffic.

According to Durand, the only time the road receives maintenance is when someone calls the parish highway department to relate the driving conditions on the road. Durand stated that several of her neighbors and her husband have had to invest in vehicle repairs and replace equipment because of damage incurred driving the road.

In discussion with the jury over the issue, several points were addressed, including the condition of the road, gravel needs, the roads width and the need for a solution to the problem to involve the neighbors working together.

Im not asking for a blacktop road…I just want a safe, maintained gravel road, not a mud road, Durand said. Its just a matter of time until a major accident occurs that could have been prevented with proper road maintenance. The parish has a responsibility to provide and maintain a safe road for their citizens.

What she says is completely true, Juror Jack Cockrell told the room. The problem is I know what needs to be done, but we dont have the money. The road needs to be built up. It needs to have ditches. As much gravel as we put on that road, if it were built up, we would have a good road.

According to President Floyd Tomboli, 13 loads of gravel have been put on the road from April 6, 2013 to Jan. 12 of this year, which is a cost of approximately $5,000 over that time period.

Tomboli explained, given the weather so far this year, the highway department had been running behind on their routine maintenance schedule and discussed the steps he and his neighbors went through to get their road improved through their own personal funding. The road was then maintained by the parish system. However, unlike Bayou Drive, this road was not part of the parish system previously. This was met with a question from Durand about whether or not road maintenance taxes would continue to be collected.

Self-expanding transcatheter aortic valve replacement widens advantage over …

by Shelton on April 10th, 2015

filed under Personal Funding

Two-year data show a continued survival advantage for self-expanding transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) over standard surgery in high-risk patients with severe aortic stenosis, according to research presented at the American College of Cardiologys 64th Annual Scientific Session.

Aortic stenosis–a problem that occurs when the valve in the hearts main artery doesnt open fully–forces the heart to work harder to pump blood and is life-threatening over time. Valve replacement is common when this condition becomes severe, but the health profile of many patients makes standard surgical valve replacement especially risky.

In the CoreValve US Pivotal High Risk Trial, patients with a heightened risk of death from open-heart valve replacement were randomly assigned to TAVR or the standard surgical procedure. Death rates at one year were significantly lower for the 390 TAVR patients than for the 357 patients who had open-heart surgery. Year two data include three more patients, two of whom received a smaller second-generation CoreValve that wasnt available earlier.

Survival is statistically better with TAVR and sustained at two years, said Michael J. Reardon, MD, professor and Allison Family Chair of Cardiovascular Research at Houston Methodist Hospital and the studys lead author. We found that the survival advantage actually increases for TAVR–that the absolute difference in all-cause death rates between the two groups has widened, with 4.8 percent more people surviving with TAVR than surgery at one year and 6.4 percent more surviving with TAVR at two years.

The self-expanding device also had significantly lower rates for other endpoints. The rate of strokes was 10.9 percent for TAVR patients and 16.6 percent for surgery patients, and 29.7 percent of TAVR patients had a major adverse cardiovascular or cerebrovascular event compared with 38.6 percent of surgery patients. Results favored TAVR across all subgroups analyzed.

Durability is an issue, and we saw no evidence of TAVR valve deterioration, Reardon said. Effective valve orifice and mean pressure gradients [measures of valve quality] were statistically superior with TAVR at every time point during the trial.

Leaking around the new valve is one area where surgery consistently performs better than TAVR in clinical trials.

Moderate to severe paravalvular leakage with TAVR was low at one year at 6 percent and stayed low at two years at 6.1 percent, Reardon said, noting that, unlike some other TAVR studies, leaks havent had an impact on mortality with this valve. We had very few cases of moderate or more leaks, and this may be why we dont see a mortality signal with leakage.

With these latest findings, Reardon sees reason to revisit current guidelines.

This trial moves the field forward in that ACC/AHA guidelines state that TAVR is a reasonable alternative to surgical valve replacement in high-risk patients, as judged appropriate by the heart team, he said. This trials data suggest that TAVR with the self-expanding valve should be the preferred treatment in patients with symptomatic severe aortic stenosis at increased risk from surgery.

Acknowledging that these are early findings, he said that longer follow-up is needed to confirm that this valve continues to demonstrate benefits over surgery. The CoreValve High Risk trial will follow patients for five years.

The clinical trial was funded by Medtronic, Inc. Reardon serves on Medtronics advisory board but receives no personal funding from the company.

Letters: Osborne’s pragmatic Budget proves that the Tories must stay in power

by Shelton on April 7th, 2015

filed under Personal Funding

SIR #x2013; With record employment, record low inflation, record low interest rates and faster growth than any other advanced economy, George Osborne did not need to pull rabbits out of his Budget hat.

Allotted the task of aligning the economic and political cycles before May, he did so without #x201c;taking public spending back to the levels of the 1930s#x201d; #x2013; just to where it was before Gordon Brown began to think he#x2019;d conquered #x201c;boom and bust#x201d;.

Dr John Cameron

St Andrews

SIR #x2013; The Budget announces more levy from banks (Business, March 19), though #x201c;there will be no direct impact on households#x201d;. Customers face increasing charges and borrowing rates, and no interest on deposits. A new stealth tax?

Jonathan Dixon Smith

Cressing, Essex

SIR #x2013; The Chancellor has, once again, knocked one penny off the price of a pint of beer. Licencees will, as before, ignore this and pocket the difference #x2013; although, after the last budget, one local pub did display a sign that read: #x201c;Drink 320 pints, get one free.#x201d;

Carl S Dobson

Burton in Kendal, Westmorland

SIR #x2013; The Chancellor is to allow farmers the right to average their earnings over five years, for tax purposes. I believe a similar allowance is permitted to authors. Do not logic and equity point to all of us being able to do the same?

Edward Windham-Bellord

Cucklington, Somerset

SIR #x2013; If the Chancellor needs to find #x201c;roller coaster#x201d; spending cuts over the next few years, can there can be a better place to start than HS2?

Bernard Kerrison

London SW4

SIR #x2013; Ed Miliband claims the Conservative Party is that of the #x201c;stinking rich#x201d;. So, will he be voting Tory himself?

David Hall

Banstead, Surrey

Marble extraction

SIR #x2013; The extraction of marble from the Carrara region in Italy (#x201c;Row over the marble that made David#x201d;, report, March 18) has indeed become a problem, and this is mostly because of wholesale extraction for chemicals.

Carrara marble is one of the most pure forms of calcium carbonate and the chemical industry now accounts for a very significant proportion of the material quarried.

Great strides have been made to limit the damage to the local environment. The rivers that run through Carrara were as white as milk 20 years ago. Now the crystal-clear waters attract fishermen, and the constant whirr of saws cutting through blocks of marble has retreated behind closed doors.

There are many opportunities for the environmentalists to work together with the industry and they should be encouraged to do so in order to protect the area and allow the industry to flourish.

John Lloyd
Hungerford, Berkshire

Inclusive universities

SIR #x2013; As a student at Trinity College, Cambridge, in the mid-Sixties, I met people from a wider range of social backgrounds than either before or since (#x201c;Stop using Oxbridge as a scapegoat for social inequality in education#x201d;, telegraph.co.uk, March 17).

This is because places were offered to the best and brightest students, irrespective of social or educational background.

Surely that should be the aim of all of our universities today, supported by the rest of the education system.

Peter Cutler

New coin on the block

SIR #x2013; With the advent of the design for the new £1 coin (report, March 18) we are advised that there are 45 million counterfeit £1 coins currently in circulation.

I thought that putting money into circulation without underlying assets, thus driving down the value of the currency, was known as quantitative easing.

Ian Wallace
Whitley Bay, Northumberland

SIR #x2013; I love this new design, based on the threepenny bit, but will all our machines love it, too?

Deirdre Lay
Ewhurst, Surrey

Paying for the NHS

SIR #x2013; To avoid the pitfall of #x201c;free#x201d; medical services stimulating insatiable demand, patients pay directly for part of the cost of medical services in Singapore, where I trained as a doctor 25 years ago.

The crucial challenge in tax-funded health care is striking a balance between having a universal fund for emergency and essential care, and encouraging personal funding for non-emergency care. The latter might take the form of a tax-exempt deduction from income as a personal health fund, or medical insurance.

Charging an administrative fee for a no-show would limit the waste of time, which happens especially in hospital clinics.

Dr Jeya Balakrishna
Cuffley, Hertfordshire

SIR #x2013; I was very pleased to read that Jim Murley (Letters, March 18) had his cancer diagnosed so quickly, and that it was successfully treated by the NHS.

My son-in-law, then aged 42, went to his GP with a pain in his back, near the spine, and was told #x2013; without undergoing tests of any kind #x2013; that he had a slipped disc.

Six months later, after many visits to the GP, he was finally scanned. Diagnosis: lung cancer. He died at Christmas, aged 46.

Medicine in this country is a lottery.

Jeanne-Marie Marshall
Bognor Regis, West Sussex

Timing: a fine art

SIR #x2013; No doubt Gabriele Finaldi#x2019;s to-do list will be fairly long when he takes up his position as director of the National Gallery (Arts, March 19).

However, I hope he will quickly attend to the odd situation whereby the cloakroom shuts 30 minutes before the gallery.

Last week, I deliberately chose the last entry time of 4.30pm for a special exhibition, hoping that it would mean fewer crowds. It did, but it also curtailed my visit by half an hour, as I had to retrieve my coat at 5.25pm although the gallery closed at 6pm.

Sheila Mortimer
Cuckfield, West Sussex

A cup of tea

SIR #x2013; Apropos the suggestion that a five-minute infusion produces tea that is completely unpalatable as a result of too much tannin being extracted, the solution is a very small pinch of salt. This causes the tannin to fall to the bottom of the cup, leaving an excellent and tasty brew.

James T McG McNie
Rafford, Morayshire

SIR #x2013; If you must use a tea bag in a mug, cover it up while it brews #x2013; with the mug#x2019;s own lid if it has one, or a saucer. I had to prove several times to my husband that I could tell the difference when the teapot had not been used and this compromise makes all the difference.

Jo Newton
Barrowby, Lincolnshire

SIR #x2013; #x201c;Britons are too quick to drink their tea#x201d;? Not in the Royal Navy. In the cadet training ship in the Fifties, tea was brewed after lunch and left to stew, ready for drinking at teatime. I#x2019;m sure some of the 30,000 chemicals contained therein were related to varnish and paint stripper.

J P Briggs
Petersfield, Hampshire

Silent partner

SIR #x2013; While it was interesting to read (March 16) that Tony Blair is expected to stand down as a Middle East Peace Envoy, I cannot help wondering how we will be able to tell when he has stopped.

Stephen Kirby
Charing, Kent

A general election for the nation#x2019;s top bird

Feathers will fly: will the red-legged partridge or the blue tit come out on top?

SIR #x2013; Perhaps the general election could decide the national bird, too.

If hte Conservatives win #x2013; blue tit; Labour #x2013; red-legged partridge; Lib Dem #x2013; yellowhammer; Ukip #x2013; purple heron; Greens #x2013; green finch; SNP #x2013; northern gannet.

David Barlow
Cury, Cornwall

SIR #x2013; Most people only know the red grouse from its depiction on whisky bottles, so it is probably not the best candidate for Britain#x2019;s national bird.

The strongest contender must be the mute swan #x2013; graceful and serene, but very aggressive when threatened.

Major General Bryan Webster (retd)
Ewshot, Hampshire

SIR #x2013; Bruce Giddy (Letters, March 17) suggests that the red grouse should be our national bird, because it is the only bird species endemic to the British Isles. However, many ornithologists consider it to be a subspecies of the willow ptarmigan, which is found widely abroad.

The only real contender for the title of endemic British bird is the Scottish crossbill. This would certainly prove awkward as our national bird if independence were revisited.

Furthermore, it would hardly seem fitting to have an unsustainably raised game bird as the national choice #x2013; particularly one that reflects the appalling injustices wreaked upon the hen harrier.

Ed Hutchings
Colchester, Essex

Single-sex education allows boys to be boys

SIR #x2013; Strange though it may seem, schools are about learning and, as the headteacher of a school of 400 boys, I can say categorically that boys learn better and achieve more in a single-sex environment (report, March 17).

I am a convert. Having previously been the headteacher of two co-ed schools, I became increasingly interested in boys#x2019; achievements relative to those of girls. The traditional generalisations about learning styles are absolutely correct. Boys respond best to a particular style of teaching and their achievements reflect this.

We are non-selective at reception level, and we get a wide range of boys: from the robust and stereotypical to the sensitive and reticent. The robust are allowed to get muddy; the reticent are encouraged and supported to a position of polite confidence.

Gender separation does not mean that boys see girls as fantasy figures, as long as schools provide an environment founded on respect for others regardless of belief, background or gender.

The age of innocence has been curtailed and childhood is getting shorter. The longer boys can enjoy boyhood and school, without social distraction, the better.

Mike Piercy
Sevenoaks, Kent