It's OK, Beethoven still beats Dylan;Newsreel;The Week in View

3rd April 1998 at 01:00
With the Government pledging pound;30 million to wipe out the Millennium bug - has the turn of the century really taken the computer industry by surprise? - and the Teacher Training Agency taking everyone to task but itself, we turn to dolphins, Dylan and Diana.

It was a heartwarming start to the week, with the tale of eight-year-old Nikki Brice from Weston-super-Mare, who spoke his first words after swimming with dolphins in a therapy centre in Miami, Florida. Cue Hollywood?

Richard Mason, the 20-year-old Oxford student whose debut novel led to a pound;200,000 deal with Penguin, is already on target. A bidding war has broken out for the film rights to The Drowning People. Meanwhile, the author is studying for his exams.

On a less elevated literary plane, Jim Judges, a chemistry teacher at Sutton College in the West Midlands, has won a supermarket competition to write jokes for Christmas crackers. Example: "What's the most popular wine at Christmas?" "I don't like brussels sprouts." Keep up the day job, Jim.

Heritage Secretary Chris Smith caused some controversy in a Spectator interview where he argued that Keats and Dylan should stand side by side. But he drew the line at equating the former Mr Zimmerman with Beethoven. Well, that's all right, then.

Medical students will soon have to read Shakespeare following research by the Nuffield Trust which showed that studying the arts helped young medics to develop a more compassionate understanding of the individual.

It was a bumper week for research as the British Psychological Society held its annual conference in Brighton. Vitamins don't make children brighter, so don't waste your money, David Benton from the University of Wales, Swansea, told middle-class parents. A tip for our erstwhile cricket captain: poor catchers can improve their skills if they practise in the dark, says Simon Bennett of Manchester Metropolitan University.

No exercise makes Jack a fat boy. Roger Eston, from the Bangor branch of Wales University, reckons he has proved the connection between children's activity rates and weight.

Kellogg's was vilified for cashing in on obesity rates with an advertisement suggesting fat children could lose weight and escape bullying by eating its cereals. The Advertising Standards Authority received complaints from psychologists who said there was no truth in the claim that one of the common causes of bullying was being overweight.

Blame the Spice Girls instead, said Kidscape, the children's charity. Girl power, as advocated by the pop group, causes girls as young as six to be increasingly violent and bullying as young fans confuse assertiveness with aggression, a survey discovered.

Given such sophisticated role models, girls are disappointingly gullible: a study of 3,500 schoolchildren found that females believed that smoking was one of the best ways to attract a boyfriend. They use cigarettes as a badge of maturity, said Kevin Lucas, from Sussex University.

Mature maybe, but some show distressing signs of naivety given health minister Tessa Jowell's plea to teenage magazines to alert girls, and boys,to the dangers of under-age sex as pregnancy rates soared to the highest level for 10 years.

She was touched by letters which were a "poignant and confused cry for help; many girls become pregnant through sheer ignorance". Boys and girls should to be able to talk to their parents about sex. "That means . . . a society where we are more open about sex, less smirking."

At least 16 sets of parents might have cause to smile, or groan, as they view the results of an experiment to test their offspring's reaction to new technology. Researchers will hide miniature cameras in teddy bears, toys or cocoa tins around the house to videotape children's behaviour towards e-mail, computers or the Internet. The results will help industry to design better, user-friendly equipment, said the man from Leeds University.

If this isn't enough to put you off the brave new world, how about the Crawford kindergarten in central London, where parents can monitor their children from home or office through closed-circuit television cameras in the classroom via the Internet?

To cap it all, sailors will soon be able to bond with their unseen newly-born via the Net thanks to the Maritime Studies department of the University of Wales, Cardiff.

And so to the late Princess. A piece of silverware, the Dancing Cup, valued at pound;20, was auctioned by her debt-ridden old school, West Heath,in Sevenoaks, Kent. The Mirror snapped it up for pound;7,000. The heirloom bears the legend: "1976, D Spencer". Now, whatever happened to my old tennis cup . . ?

Diane Spencer

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