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First swine flu death in Europe

A mother of three from Glasgow is the first fatal swine flu case in Europe. Jacqui Fleming, 38, from Glasgow, died only two weeks after giving birth to her premature baby. She had been treated in the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, Renfrewshire, for the past three months due to underlying health problems.
Her family said in a statement: “Our whole family is absolutely devastated and we are doing everything we can to support Jacqueline’s two sons and her partner.” It is understood that her baby, who was born three months early, has not caught the virus.
The death comes just days after the World Health Organisation declared the H1N1 virus outbreak a pandemic. With fatal cases in the Americas, it comes as a shock that the virus has also become deadly in Europe, and let's just hope it doesn't get worse. No doubt this death will put more pressure on European Governments to take drastic measure. Meanwhile our thoughts go to Ms Fleming's family and friends.


Too much for Susan?

Susan Boyle is rumoured to be under pressure again as she has not yet confirmed her appearance on the Britain's Got Talent tour, just hours before the first show which will take place in Birmingham tonight. Susan has felt the strain of celebrity ever since she wowed the crowds with her rendering of "I dreamed a dream" on the show in April. Though her performance was viewed by millions worldwide on youtube, she lost in the final to streedance group Diversity. It was then cracks started to appear on the seemly jovial façade...The singer allegedly broke down at her hotel, claiming she hated the show and threw a glass of water at a member of staff. She was admitted shortly after to the Priory, a favourite with celebs suffering from substance abuse or mental issues. Though she was suffering from stress, she was out within five days. Now rumours are saying that she hasn't turned up for rehearsals for the tour, and one might ask the question, was it too soon for her to leave the clinic?Within just a couple of months she went from being an unknown Scottish spinster to a worldwide celebrity, appearing on Larry King's show and in a Simpsons' episode!The pressure of winning, getting a makeover and appearing in the media every day must surely have taken its toll...Let's just hope Susan will get better and remains the simple woman from Scottland everyone has learned to know and love, and with Simon Cowell backing up her career, she will no doubt have a fabulous album in store for us!


Swine flu outbreak declared a pandemic

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has just announced the swine flu outbreak has become a pandemic, after it emerged 25 more people had been affected in England, bringing the total to 822 cases. Though there have been no fatal cases of the flu, the virus has spread quickly after its first outbreak in Mexico in April.
There has not been a flu pandemic in 40 years and the fact that the H1N1 has been declared a level 6 global pandemic is a bit worrying. It is a bit reassuring to know that the pandemic announcement is due to the virus spreading globally rather than becoming deadly. But with many experts saying the virus will be at its worst next winter, the Government needs to act quickly. How to tackle the virus still seems a bit of a mistery...there are talks of using Tamiflu on at risk groups, but who does that concern?And why do younger people seem more at risk then older ones?Moreover with the media creating a mass panic, it is likely emergency rooms will be filled with people thinking they have the flu when they only have a cold, and that will leave real emergencies,well, waiting...
The next few months will be crucial to finding a solution, and only time will tell if the situation will get better. But with the Government having its hands full with reshuffling and expenses, who knows what its priorities will be?


"No thongs required"

Pole dancing is becoming the latest fitness craze worldwide. But what is it? An erotic dance or a sport?

When people think of pole dancing, the immediate image that comes to mind is that of an exotic busty blond strapping her half naked body around a pole. When people think of pole dancing, they associate it with the city nightlife and sleazy bars. What they do not associate it with is women of any shape or age doing acrobatics on a pole in the middle of the day.
That is however what happens every day at Zea Lann’s Polz Apart fitness club, based in Poole, as pole dancing becomes increasingly popular everywhere.
Zea, who is also a trained dancer in ballet and modern jazz, founder of Polz Apart, insists she never intended to start a company of her own. But what started off as her teaching a couple of her friends how to pole dance in her living room became recurrent busy and loud nights with an increasing number of students. As it was becoming too loud for her four daughters and her husband, she decided to re-mortgage the house and build a studio in the garden. It was an instant hit, and as more and more women found out that pole dancing was a bit more than just a sexy dance, Zea saw more and more students booking classes.

Zea Lann doing an invert in her Ferndown studio

Pole fitness

“To start off with I had three students, and now we have about three hundred and fifty” Zea says, during a break in rehearsals for an upcoming show at her Ferndown studio. In fact, the business has been so popular Zea has had to open four different studios in Ferndown, Parkstone, Wareham and at Bournemouth University. But why has pole dancing become so popular when just years ago it was frowned upon.
An answer to that question might just be those few words printed on every flyer Zea hands out to promote her company “Fun, and no high heels or thongs in sight”. Reading this instantly dissipates any fear students have of being depicted as strippers and they are relieved they don’t have to surrender to the pole dancer cliché. Jane Tran, one of the six instructors at Polz Apart insists that pole dancing is not about sexy dances at all.
“We’re trying to promote the fitness factor, that’s why in our classes we wear trainers, we don’t wear high heels, we don’t do it in our thongs because we are not a strip club, we are a fitness based club”, Jane, 32, insists. She goes on to say that this sport is for everyone, and the club boasts students raging from 16 years old to an impressive 62 years old.

Not all about seduction

Surprisingly enough, when students are asked why they chose pole dancing as a hobby, none of them answer “to seduce a man”. Tony Taylor, a 21 year old finance services student from Bournemouth University, says she chose this sport “ because I already did yoga and went to the gym so wanted to try something a bit different”.
Instructor Jane Tran herself wanted to lose some weight after her second pregnancy, and after trying out belly dancing, line dancing and yoga, all of which she didn’t like, tried pole dancing and was “completely hooked”.
When Zea Lann and Jane are asked what their partners think of their activity, they laugh it off. Zea says it gets boring : “When you first start you’re shit, and by the time you get good they’re so fed up with you going “oh my god you have to see this new move” it becomes all the same really”. She even adds her husband wasn’t too impressed with the couple of black eyes she gave him while trying on new moves on the pole.
Jane’s partner on the other hand thought, like most people, that he was going to get the royal treatment with a sultry routine. But when she started performing, he didn’t quite get what he was expecting : “when I did perform for him and did an invert he was like oh my god what are you doing, be careful!” she laughs.

Jane Tran doing the butterfly in the Parkstone studio

Pole Olympics

He indeed would have been rightly worried at seeing petite Jane swing herself upside down on the pole. Most students who take up pole dancing do not in fact realise how much exercise and technique is required.
“I was surprised by how much fitness was involved”, confirms Toni Taylor, who started taking classes last September. Because pole dancers need to emphasize their upper body strengh and flexibility to work around the pole, Jane gets irritated when her hobby is compared to lap dancing: “Dancing and pole fitness are two different elements”.
She interrupts the interview as boss Zea enters the Parkstone studio to criticise how other pole dancing clubs do not teach lessons appropriately. “They don’t use the pole!” cries Jane “they just do sexy moves around it”, and she goes on to demonstrate exaggerated leg and bum moves. It is a recurrent conversation amongst the pole dancing community that stripping is wrongly associated to what they do. Though the dance acquired its seedy image when it became popular in strip clubs in Canada in the 1980s, it is believed it took its origins in the 12th Century dance May Pole, which represented innocence and fertility. In recent years however it has evolved into an art form that involves much agility and athleticism. It has even now been introduced by The Cirque du Soleil as a Chinese pole act performed by a single male acrobat. To most of the pole dancing community pole dancing remains a fitness based sport, and a worldwide movement has even started to make pole dancing a discipline in the 2012 London Olympics.

Male pole dancing

The discipline is being so much dissociated from sex that even men are taking classes, following the likes of Jude Law, who tried out pole dancing with co-star Natalie Portman on the set of Closer. Several pole dancing clubs are springing up in the country and worldwide, offering male pole dancing lessons which they describe as the “latest craze in men’s fitness”. It is not of course taught in a seductive way, and men, who generally have more upper body strength then women, enjoy the challenges of climbing up the pole and doing aerial manoeuvres. When Zea Lann and her team inaugurated her studio in Bournemouth University, her husband and a few male friends themselves took a spin on the poles. Zea however admits she prefers men to stick to more masculine sports as pole dancing is “too feminine” for them, and it might take a bit of time for women to get accustomed to the idea of male pole dancers.But while some barriers such as gender might not be broken just yet, pole dancing is fast becoming a hobby and sport accessible to everyone, disregarding weight, age or looks. And when Jane is asked why she loves to teach it, she replies “It’s not just about pole dancing it’s about building people’s confidence, making new friends, getting people together. Pole dancing is definitely for everyone”.


Winnenden shooting: what next?

Germany is still recovering from the shock of the school shooting in Winnenden on Wednesday. Seventeen year old Tim Kretschner walked into his school and shot 12 people, including three teachers, and then fled from the scene, killing another three passersby as he was chased by the police. He finally shot himself in the head. He is said to have been angry at bullying and rejection from female pupils (most his victims were girls). After the tragedy, the Bavarian newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung published a statement saying Germany was the second country after the US that was affected by killings. Angela Merkel's government is now asking itself what the next step is. Laws on the sale of weapons had already been tightened in 2002 after two consequetive shootings took place in Erfurt and Freising, claiming the lives of 20 people. The legal age to buy a gun had gone from 18 to 21, and under 25 year olds had to provide a medical certificate to carry a gun. But these changes sadly did nothing to prevent the Winnenden tragedy, as the Tim Kretschmer grew up with a father who was a member of a shooting club. All but one of his father's guns were locked up in a cabinet, and that is the one he used to kill his victims.
A law had also been put in place to prevent minors from buying violent video games, which was thought to be an incentive to violence. But are these laws enough? Is that really where the issues lie? Adolescents being influenced by violent movies and games? Mr Kretschmer was clearly a young man with serious issues that started either in the playground or at home. Not only should laws be toughened even more on guns, but more counselling should be put in place for adolescents in schools. Parents should be more careful of what they preach at home, but also what they bring back. Mr Kretschmer should never have had so easy access to weapons...


President Bling Bling

President "Bling Bling" Sarkozy and his ex-model wife Carla Sarkozi have just created a new wave of uproar after spending thousands of pounds on their Mexican visit. President Sarkozy arrived yesterday to visit his Mexican counterpart Felipe Calderon and discuss the world recession. How ironic. With a mounting economic crisis and high unemployment in France, a designer clad Nicolas Sarkozy and a sparkling Carla (thanks to a diamond necklace and earrings) added a bit of glitter to a state dinner. It is no wonder that they are now being compared to louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who spent their country's money on frivolities while their nation was starving to death. And sadly, we all know how that ended...a trip to the guillotine. This is however the 21st Century, and the Sarkozys are not making a trip to the guillotine. They are instead making trips to the Bahamas, to the Alpes or the USA, all in very good taste with the presidential jet.

The French crowd is in the meanwhile showing its discontent, and everytime Sarkozy's photo appears in a new gossip or style magazine, he dropts down one point in popularity... maybe the presidential couple should take the hint.