Watercooler Stories

Feb. 25, 2008 at 6:30 AM
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British doctors accused of drunken antics

LONDON, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- The British Medical Association, known for its impassioned opposition to binge drinking, allegedly has developed a reputation for drunken antics.

Workers and guests at the London headquarters of the doctors' group have been accused of engaging in questionable drunken behavior, while association officials are attempting to control binge drinking by the public, The Sunday Times of London reported.

Local residents have alleged guests of the association, which occasionally rents out it facilities for social functions, are "causing disturbances" with their drunken antics.

The late-night functions also have been linked to a recent spate of automobile vandalism in the area, the newspaper said.

A source in the Department of Health noted some irony in a request by the association for permission to keep the facility open two hours longer at night.

"It's ironic that they want to extend their drinking time by two hours -- patients would be happy if they agreed to work an extra two to three hours," the unnamed source said.

Children advising British government

LONDON, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- A study funded by the British government is focused on surveying children under age 5 on how local services can be improved.

Funded by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, the Young Children's Voice Networks is asking children, toddlers and even babies how to improve services ranging from playtime to scholastic transitions, The Mail on Sunday said.

Sue Owen, who heads up the Early Childhood Unit at the National Children's Bureau, said the effort was actually aimed at gathering youngsters' opinions on social services.

"There's a growing acceptance that asking the very young for their opinions is both possible and important," Owen told the newspaper. "We basically ask them, 'What do you like?' We have done that with older children in the past very routinely, so it seems logical to do it with babies and toddlers as well."

A report will be created based on the youngsters' responses and will be distributed to government officials for review once completed, the Mail reported.

Gaels outraged by 'Gallic hotheads' memo

STORNOWAY, Scotland, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- Residents of the Scottish island of Lewis are outraged by a British Museum memo suggesting that "Gallic hotheads" might try to abduct the Lewis chessmen.

Not only does the memo suggest that the island is full of dangerous hotheads, the writer was also apparently unable to distinguish Gaelic-speaking Scots from the Gallic French.

The memo was written in 2000 when the Uig Community Museum in Stornoway sought a temporary loan of the Lewis chessmen -- among the most spectacular surviving Norse artifacts -- for an exhibit, The Scotsman reported. The document came to light through a Freedom of Information request.

"I thought they were supposed to be scholars and know the difference between Gaels and the French," said Annie MacDonald, a member of the Lewis council. "I'm insulted by the suggestion that they think we are hotheads here. What did they think was going to happen to them?"

The Lewis chessmen were apparently lost at sea while being shipped to Ireland from Norway in the 12th century, and then discovered on a Lewis beach 700 years later.

Most of the 93 pieces are in the British Museum. Ten are in Edinburgh, which Scottish nationalists think is the proper home for the whole set.

Tolls gone, traffic increases

EDINBURGH, Scotland, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- Scottish traffic managers have discovered that removing the tolls on a busy highway bridge has had the predicted effect -- traffic jams are much worse.

The group Trafficmaster monitored the Forth Road Bridge near Edinburgh for five days before and five days after northbound tolls were abolished Feb. 11, The Scotsman reported. The group found that the morning rush hour -- which averaged 61 minutes while tolls were in place -- lengthened to 91 minutes once the bridge was free.

Three of the five days after abolition were school holidays, when traffic in Scotland tends to be light.

Experts warned the government about the effect while the decision was being made. Finance Secretary John Swinney advocated abolition, arguing that it would stimulate the economy.

The results suggest that drivers respond to economic incentives.

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