Cyber-sneezes spread diseases;The week in view

9th July 1999 at 01:00
THE week began with an unexpected triumph for the England cricket team, a disappointment for Henman fans and the vulgar spectacle of the show-biz wedding of the year. Which school will have the pleasure of educating young Brooklyn Beckham?

As the academic year winds down, the Government launches a new health strategy; cyber-stress panic sets in caused by data overload; and village life declines.

But first, two sporting triumphs: Prince William reinforced his growing reputation as a sportsman by helping his team to victory in a triathlon. With two Eton chums the 17-year-old finished the combined swimming, cycling and running event 10 minutes ahead of the runners-up.

Four-year-old Stephanie Hale from Essex became the youngest chess player in the world to compete in a national event. She started playing the game when she was two and played her first match aged three-and-a-half.

It's tough for the young: health ministers want schools to introduce accident prevention classes for 11-year-olds and to teach teenagers how to treat conditions such as asthma and epilepsy, in a major health education programme to cut early deaths, especially among the poor.

Another health hazard looms: machines that drown the human race in e-mails, faxes, pager and voicemail messages, and data from the web, are driving us all to breaking point. Symptoms include sneezing, high blood pressure, aggression, headaches and aches and pains. Bring back the quill pen and pigeon post.

But don't seek refuge in the countryside. The rural idyll is becoming a nightmare of deprivation, according to the National Federation of Women's Institutes. A survey of 8,000 branches found a dearth of shops, pubs, bus services and schools coupled with a rise in vandalism and house prices. The WI hopes the findings will inform the forthcoming rural White Paper.

Another task for the real-life Sir Humphreys of this world. The Civil Service College, where high-flyers study, is to train future permanent secretaries how to develop their emotional IQs. Male officials will learn from women colleagues who are in touch with their intuitive side and will be taught to practice empathising. All part of Blair's modernising Britain. Whatever next?

Even the traditional school report is under threat from a "pick and mix" computer program for teachers who can click on the appropriate comment. "Must do better" can be replaced with the snappy: "I have been disappointed with the standard of his work as it has frequently been the result of too little effort." Ministers reckon the system would speed up report writing and help to personalise reports. Surely a case of cyber-stress.

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