Incumbent Liberian President Leading in Early Returns

reuters_liberia_sirleaf_votes First results from Liberia's presidential election show incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf leading her 15 rivals.

Reporting results from just over 16 percent of more than 4,000 polling stations, Liberia's National Electoral Commission says President Sirleaf has more than 44 percent of the vote. Former justice minister Winston Tubman has more than 26 percent, while former rebel leader and current Senator Prince Johnson is running third with about 13 percent.

Vote counting is expected to continue through the weekend, and complete results may not be known for some time as the electoral commission has until October 26 to make a final count.  If none of the candidates wins an outright majority, there will be a run-off election between the top two finishers November 8.

This is Liberia's second post-civil war election but the first that has been run entirely by Liberians after the United Nations supervised the 2005 contest.  U.N. peacekeepers remain in place for this vote, but U.N. mission spokesperson Yasmina Bouziane says the election itself is up to Liberians to decide.

Video games 'can alter children's brains'

Video games 'can alter children's brains' Children should "feel the grass under their feet" rather than play addictive computer games which can harm their mental development, a leading scientist has said.

Baroness Greenfield, the former director of the Royal Institution, said spending too much time staring at computer screens can cause physical changes in the brain that lead to attention and behaviour problems.

Technology that plays strongly on the senses – like video games – can literally "blow the mind" by temporarily or permanently deactivating certain nerve connections in the brain, the Baroness said.

She told the Daily Telegraph last night: "The human brain has evolved to adapt to the environment. It therefore follows that if the environment is changing, it will have an impact on your brain.

"If you play computer games to the exclusion of other things this will create a new environment that will have new effects ... every hour you spend in front of a screen is an hour not spent climbing a tree or giving someone a hug."

Giving a speech earlier yesterday about the addictiveness of screen technologies at the opening of a new £2.5 million science centre at the private Sherbourne Girls' school in Dorset, the Baroness urged pupils “to be outside, to climb trees and feel the grass under your feet and the sun on your face".

"Screen technologies cause high arousal, which in turn activates the brain system’s underlying addiction and reward, resulting in the attraction of yet more screen-based activity, the Baroness said.

Burmese President Visits India as Ties Between Neighbors Deepen

ap_burma_Thein_Sein_13oct11 The Burmese president is in India for a bilateral visit aimed at deepening a relationship that has been growing steadily in recent years. New Delhi wants to nurture ties with its neighbor, whose new, nominally civilian leadership has made tentative moves toward political reforms.

Burmese President Thein Sein visited Buddhist pilgrimage sites in India before arriving in New Delhi to hold talks with senior Indian leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

It is the first visit by the head of Burma’s nominally civilian government, which took office in March this year. He is accompanied by several senior ministers.

Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash says New Delhi is pleased that ties with Burma are gaining momentum. 

“Relationships are a process, it is a building process and I consciously did note that both in terms of content and substance and the sweep of the relationship, certainly it's an upwards trajectory, there is no doubt about that,” he said.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman says New Delhi will deepen ties with Burma in areas ranging from security, trade, energy, and infrastructure development, to education and agriculture. He called Burma an important partner in India’s quest for energy security. He says roads and a port being developed by India in the neighboring country will give remote northeastern Indian states easier access to port facilities and boost their economic development. The two countries also plan to increase bilateral trade from $1.2 billion at present to $3 billion by 2015.

An embedded home hugs its hillside

People have been transforming the rolling landscape of Ontario’s Grey County for more than 150 years. They have mined and logged it, cleared and farmed it, and, more recently, turned it into a much-frequented rural retreat from life in Toronto, dotted with weekend houses.

The architectural results are uneven. As anyone driving around the district can see, builders have occasionally just dropped city homes into the midst of the rural scenery. The more thoughtful designers, however, have engaged in dialogues with the place’s geology and cultural history, and developed solutions that fit, rather than fight (or ignore), the complex beauty of what’s there.

Toronto architect Ian MacDonald has tackled the more exacting task and carried it through to an interesting and expressive conclusion in his house known as Grey Highlands.

Designed as a second residence for a Toronto couple with five children, the 2,950-square-foot building stands on the site of a former farm laid out high up the sloping side of a valley. The visitor coming there drives up a steep dead-end road, then parks on a small pad just off the road.

Surveyed from the vantage point of the pad, the flat-roofed house lies low and broad below, partly embedded into the hillside. In plan, its two limbs describe an L shape. The larger wing contains the more public areas, while the other wing, enclosing the bedrooms, thrusts out toward the distant, opposite side of the valley. This out-bound visual pulse is sharply checked by an old barn that Mr. MacDonald preserved and renovated.

Doctors may downplay pain of disliked patients

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, but patients suffering from pain can wind up with something more like cod liver oil if they’re not on good terms with their doctor.

If a clinician doesn’t like a patient, he or she is likely to rate the patient’s pain as less severe, according to a University of Northern British Columbia professor who is studying the impact of the clinician-patient relationship on professionals’ assessment of pain.

Pain sufferers often take issue with their treatment, and that’s why the research is so important, said psychology professor and pain expert Ken Prkachin.

Specific complaints include “nobody believes me, no one is taking me seriously,” he said. “You really get that sense when you talk to patients, maybe people are being downgraded because they’re also disliked.”

Dr. Prkachin said people with invisible pain – such as bad backs, as opposed to broken legs – may not get adequate treatment for the problem if the doctor disregards their feelings.

“A good case can be made … that that is going to demoralize patients and contribute to very testy patient-professional relationships. What we’re trying to do is understand what’s going on there and how to change that.”

The research, presented in an article co-written by Dr. Prkachin and five other researchers from the University of Ghent in Belgium, was published in the latest edition of the international journal Pain.

BlackBerry: 'We've now restored full services'

111010091750-blackberry-101011-story-top All BlackBerry service has been restored following the largest network outage in that smartphone's history, Research in Motion executives said in a conference call on Thursday morning.

"We've now restored full services," RIM's co-CEO Mike Lazaridis told reporters.

Some BlackBerry users may still see e-mails coming in slowly as the system recovers, he said.

The major outage frustrated customers on nearly every continent who were unable to send and receive e-mails and text messages this week. It also comes at a bad time for RIM, which is facing increased competition from Android and Apple smartphones.

The iPhone 4S is set to be released on Friday, and social media posts suggest some BlackBerry users may switch to other phones in part because of the prolonged break in services.

The outage started on Monday in Europe and spread to North America, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South America over the course of the next two days. A failure at one of the company's messaging servers in Europe, along with the subsequent failure of its backup system, led to a ripple effect that reportedly caused problems for millions of BlackBerry owners.

Executives on Thursday did not answer questions about how many people were impacted by the four-day service outage, but they did say this breakdown was the largest in the company's history.

"We've worked 12 yrs since the launch of BlackBerry to win the trust of our 70 million BlackBerry subscribers and we're going to fully commit to win that trust back -- 100%," Lazaridis said during the press conference.

This is not the first time RIM has faced a major service outage.

"I have been an analyst for 25 years and have watched RIM wrestle with this same outage problem time after time. Every few years we get pinched by yet another major problem," tech analyst Jeff Kagan said in a statement.

This outage, however, comes at a particularly unfortunate time for RIM, since it faces increasing competition in the smart phone market, Kagan says.

BlackBerry users, many of whom use the devices primarily for business purposes, took to the Web to vent their anger about the outage. Twitter and other messaging platforms have been full of complaints since the outage began almost four days ago.


Mohamad Soueid of N.Va. accused of surveilling anti-Assad protests for Syrian officials

A Northern Virginia man has been accused of gathering information about people protesting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and passing it along to Syrian intelligence officials.

Mohamad Anas Haitham Soueid, 47, of Leesburg sought to “undermine, silence, intimidate, and potentially harm” those protesting the Damascus regime and its crackdown on demonstrators, according to a grand jury indictment unsealed Wednesday. He is charged with acting as an agent for a foreign government, making false statements to federal agents and providing false residence information on a gun-purchase form.

The indictment accuses Soueid of working for the Syrian intelligence service, the Mukhabarat, since March by helping it collect audio and video recordings of people protesting in Syria and the United States.

“The allegations in the indictment are extremely troubling,” said Neil MacBride, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “The ability to peaceably assemble and protest is one of the oldest rights in this country, and so the fact that you have an agent for Syrian intelligence who is working with the Syrian government to identify and intimidate U.S. citizens and others is an extremely serious allegation.”

During a brief hearing in Alexandria’s federal court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis Fitizpatrick called Soueid, a Syrian-born naturalized U.S. citizen, “a serious risk of flight,” and a judge ordered Soueid held until a detention hearing Friday.

A National Security Council spokesman said that the allegations reveal a “desperate effort” by the Assad government to stifle protesters.

The mysterious mushroom, sign of a healthy garden

We are in the midst of mushroom madness, the likes of which we haven’t seen in years. This is thanks to a soaking September. Gardeners, who are by nature controlling, just have to go with the flow. You never know when — or where — a mushroom might pop up.

My veggie garden has a wood-chip patio, from which erupted a robust, classically formed mushroom with a cap that was a ruddy-brown. I pulled it to examine the thing: the stem was white and stout, and the gills beneath the cap an ivory yellow and distinctively branched. I’m fairly sure this is a fungus called the burgundy cap, and the guides say that it tastes good when young. The trouble is, when it comes to mushroom foraging, “fairly sure” doesn’t hack it.

The common and tasty meadow agaricus is remarkably similar to the toxic yellowing agaricus. Amanita virosa looks pristine white and delicious, to its victims it is the destroying angel.

Mushrooms, or the darker term toadstools, carry ominous connotations in our mycophobic culture. They are associated with poison and hallucination, the occult, with fairies and the underworld. There is the idea that a toadstool is killing our plants.

A few fungal types do harm garden plants, notably the honey fungus. It is one of the bad guys that feed off living trees (unusually drought stressed). More species feed off wood that is already dead. Here’s the thing about the mushroom. It is merely the fruiting body of a much larger and permanent organism that lives beneath the soil. It is akin to the flower of a plant, dispersing its seed. I like to think of a mushroom as the dorsal fin of some great whale that lives in the depths. It flashes, it is gone, the leviathan passes from our consciousness, but it is still there.

Sex workshop fails to swing

Sex workshop fails to swing But sadly a council’s efforts at launching a “fun” workshop about “sex in later years” have proved a flop.

Organisers of the scheme in Portsmouth have been left embarrassed after they had to cancel it due to a lack of interest.

It had been hoped that the workshop would help break the “taboo” around sex among the older generation.

But it failed to arouse the excitement of the amorous elderly. Perhaps they were too busy playing bowls or looking after their grandchildren to notice.

The move appears to fly in the face of recent surveys indicating that those in their later years were enjoying more carefree times than ever, with attitudes shaped in the swinging Sixties and lifestyles liberated by paying off their mortgages.

Portsmouth City Council had launched the free scheme, called Generation Sex, with the aim of encouraging older people to practise safer sex.

The session was to have been part of the council’s 60+ festival, “aimed at exploring the realities of sex in the 21st century” because “sex over 60 can be largely seen as a taboo subject”.

It was due to be run by Scott Deacon, 45, an NHS sexual health therapist, who said as the scheme was launched: “It’s all about practising and negotiating safe sex. No matter if you are 16 or over 60, it is all the same.”

The event, billed as “frank, fun and factual”, was due to have been held at a library yesterday. While it was a free session, residents would have required proof of age to attend the “interactive” event.

Skoda Superb Estate Greenline review

What is it? This is the most efficient version of Skoda’s Superb Estate.

What is it? This is the most efficient version of Skoda’s Superb Estate. It’s based on the regular 1.6-litre turbodiesel model, but features a host of fuel-saving measures, including longer gearing, engine stop-start and a brake-energy-recuperation system.

They work, too. Average economy rises from 54.3mpg to a whopping 64.2mpg, while CO2 emissions fall from 133g/km to 114g/km, which means the Greenline qualifies for a lowly 13% company car tax rating (down from 19%).

What’s it like to drive? The downside of the Greenline’s longer gearing is that it hurts flexibility. The engine still feels just about eager enough at motorway speeds, but you have to be careful with your gear selection on slower roads – let the revs drop below 1500rpm and it's distinctly flat.

Apple to Launch 'iPad Mini' in Early 2012?

Apple to Launch 'iPad Mini' in Early 2012? Apple may be working on a new entry-level tablet scheduled to launch early next year. 

In a note to investors on Wednesday, Ticonderoga Securities analyst Brian White recounted numerous meetings with technology supply chain companies at a trade show in China this week. White noted a general ominous environment, with the majority of the companies he met with commenting on weakening demand across the industry. 

“The whole world is shrinking,” one company representative told the analyst. 

White’s meetings with Apple suppliers has turned up an interesting note, however. 

“Our research is pointing to the unveiling of a lower priced iPad in the first few months of 2012 that is aimed at expanding the company’s market potential by tapping into a more price sensitive consumer segment,” the analyst wrote. “Essentially, this ‘iPad mini’ will also fend off the recently announced Amazon Kindle Fire that addresses the low-end tablet market with a $199 price tag but could lead to bigger tablet ambitions from the online retailer in the future.”

Corruption activist Hazare's aide assaulted on camera

Corruption activist Hazare's aide assaulted on camera A key aide of India's famed anti-corruption activist, Anna Hazare, was assaulted in his office during a television interview Wednesday, TV footage showed.

A young man was seen slapping, kicking, punching and pulling down lawyer Prashant Bhushan from his chair.

Authorities identified the attacker as Inder Verma, whose group claimed to be upset over remarks Bhushan made about Indian-administered Kashmir.

New Delhi's police spokesman Rajan Bhagat told CNN that two other assailants fled the scene after the assault.

Bhushan told the TV station interviewing him that his attackers were angry over his comments supportive of a referendum in the Muslim-majority Himalayan territory under Indian control.

A military line divides Kashmir between Hindu-majority India and Islamic Pakistan. Both arch-rival neighbors claim the region in its entirety.

BlackBerry blackout enters day three

BlackBerry blackout enters day three Millions of BlackBerry users have entered their third day of an internet blackout, with no word on when services might be restored.

RIM, the Canadian company behind the BlackBerry brand, released limited details of the source of the ongoing problems last night.

"The messaging and browsing delays being experienced by BlackBerry users in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, Brazil, Chile and Argentina were caused by a core switch failure within RIM’s infrastructure," it said in a statement at 10PM.

"Although the system is designed to failover to a back-up switch, the failover did not function as previously tested. As a result, a large backlog of data was generated and we are now working to clear that backlog and restore normal service as quickly as possible.

"We apologize for any inconvenience and we will continue to keep you informed."

It was not immediately clear however if the broken switch - which in the context of internet infrastructure refers to an expensive and specialised piece of equipment that routes traffic in a data centre - was the original cause of the blackout on Monday or a secondary problem.

Captain of ship spilling oil off New Zealand charged

Captain of ship spilling oil off New Zealand charged The captain of a container ship that ran aground on a reef off the coast of New Zealand causing it to leak oil into the sea has been arrested and charged, officials say.

The captain will appear in court on Wednesday on the charge of "operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk."

If convicted, he faces a maximum fine of $7,800, or up to 12 months imprisonment. New Zealand's oil spill response agency, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ), said it is likely more charges will follow.

The Rena, a Liberian-flagged vessel, struck the Astrolabe Reef, about 12 nautical miles off the city of Tauranga, on the North Island, a week ago.

Hundreds of tonnes of fuel oil have leaked from the ship, leading New Zealand's environment minister, Nick Smith, to call the spill the country's most significant maritime environmental disaster.

MNZ estimates that 200-300 tonnes of oil have leaked from the vessel, which was carrying 1,700 cubic meters (450,000 gallons) of fuel. The agency said a "significant" amount of oil is expected to come ashore within days between the towns of Mount Maunganui and Maketu in the North Island's Bay of Plenty.

BMW 3 Series teaser released

BMW has released this teaser image of the all-new 3 Series.

The sketch suggests that the new 3 Series will be strongly influenced by the latest 5 Series, with a similarly curving bonnet line and sculpted sides. BMW is yet to confirm technical details, but the 3 Series is expected to be slightly larger overall.

A range of new turbocharged engines are expected to give lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Currently, the cleanest 3 Series is the 320d Efficient Dynamics, which emits 109g/km of CO2. A sub-100g/km version of the new 3 Series is a tantalising possibility.

Prices are expected to rise slightly, but standard equipment is also likely to be increased.

BMW will release full details on Friday, October 14. We’ll have the full story – including photos and UK prices

What car?

Number of cellphones exceeds U.S. population: CTIA trade group

There are now more wireless devices being used in the United States than there are people, and Americans have doubled the amount of Internet data traffic they generate on smartphones, according to the trade group CTIA.

The number of mobile devices rose 9 percent in the first six months of 2011, to 327.6 million — more than the 315 million people living in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Wireless network data traffic rose 111 percent, to 341.2 billion megabytes, during the same period.

How is this possible? Many adults have more than one wireless device, which include smartphones, tablets, and wireless cards.

Analysts have also pointed to the shorter lifecycle of electronics in U.S. homes, a trend prompted mostly by the availability of high-speed wireless access and more affordable devices.

Another flight of fancy for conspiracy theorists as 'UFO' is caught on camera off Cornish coast

Another flight of fancy for conspiracy theorists as 'UFO' is caught on camera off Cornish coast Spotting a UFO is not the kind of sight-seeing you expect to find when you go on holiday.

But that is exactly what one man chanced upon without even realising it when he thought he was taking a picturesque photograph of the sea.

The witness had been taking a stroll in Black Head at Trenarren near St Austell, Cornwall at around 5pm on August 1, when he pulled out his camera to capture a snap of the sea.

In a strange twist, it was not until he later downloaded the photograph from his digital camera onto his computer that he noticed the mysterious 'flying object' hovering above.

The photograph of the circular object has now been unveiled at the Cornwall UFO Research Group (CUFORG), which was founded by Dave Gillham in 1995.

He said: 'The person who took the photo never saw anything in the area while taking the photo.

'It was only when he got home and downloaded it onto his computer that he saw an object - a disc shaped craft, hovering just above the sea.

Barroso to announce bank plan

Barroso to announce bank plan European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso will announce his plan to recapitalize Europe's banks on Wednesday afternoon, his office told CNN.

The details will come in a speech to the European Parliament, his office said, declining to say what the plan would include.

The announcement comes as the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Commission hinted that Greece would get a much-needed infusion of cash as it struggles to stave off default.

The tranche of 8 billion euros (about $10.8 billion) is likely to be released to Greece in early November if the Eurogroup and IMF executive board approve it, the ECB said Tuesday.

Skepticism Meets Burma's Prisoner-Release Plan

Skepticism Meets Burma's Prisoner-Release Plan Burma has announced it will release thousands of prisoners as part of a general amnesty amid indications that political prisoners could be among those set free. A leading rights group has dismissed the news, though, as a ploy that shows no real change in policy.

Burma’s state TV announced Tuesday that authorities would release more than 6,300 prisoners as part of an amnesty plan.

Myanmar Radio and Television 4 said officials have prepared a list of the prisoners who will be set free, but did not name anyone.

The news reader said prisoners who already have served parts of their sentences with good behavior will be released under a humanitarian amnesty by President Thein Sein. He said 6,359 inmates will be set free beginning Wednesday in accordance with the constitution.

There was no confirmation, however, that any of Burma’s estimated 2,000 political prisoners will be among those given amnesty.

On-screen text during the announcement repeated the official line that Burma has no political prisoners, only criminals. But there have been other indications that some political prisoners are about to be released.

Tuesday’s edition of the official New Light of Myanmar newspaper published a plea from Burma’s Human Rights Commission urging Sein to release “prisoners of conscience.” On Monday, a Norwegian deputy foreign affairs minister told VOA's Burmese service that parliament speaker Thura Shwe Mann assured him political prisoners will be released beginning within days.

Critics of Burma’s government say that even if the political prisoners are freed, that does not indicate a change of policy by authorities.

'Significant' oil leakage from ship aground off New Zealand

oil-clump-horizontal-gallery A "significant" amount of oil is leaking from a container ship that ran aground on a reef off the pristine coast of New Zealand's North Island, officials said Tuesday.

New Zealand's oil spill response agency, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ), said in a statement that the ship has sustained "some damage from current movement and there is a significant amount of oil leaking from the vessel."

MNZ estimates that 130-350 tonnes of oil have leaked from the vessel, which was carrying 1,700 cubic meters (450,000 gallons) of fuel.

The agency said that the vessel was still intact, but was being moved around by strong seas.

Clumps of oil from the leaking ship have been found on Mount Maunganui beach in the Bay of Plenty.

MNZ is advising people to avoid the beach for health reasons.

Oil began leaking from the Rena, a Liberian-flagged vessel, after it struck the Astrolabe Reef, about 12 nautical miles off the coast of Tauranga, on the North Island, on Wednesday, creating a five-km (three-mile) slick.

Efforts to recover oil from the grounded ship, now heading south down the coast, are being hampered by high winds and strong swells.

Libyan NTC: Gadhafi-Backers Cornered in Sirte

Gadhafi-Backers-Cornered-in-Sirte Libya's revolutionary forces say they have loyalist fighters cornered in former leader Moammar Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte, where desperate civilians are still trying to flee the fierce street fighting.

Burned-out vehicles blocked roads Monday as provisional government tanks and artillery pounded pro-Gadhafi positions that NTC fighters said were squeezed into two neighborhoods.

On Sunday, National Transitional Council fighters in Sirte took three important landmarks - the city's main hospital, the university and the Ouagadougou convention center that Gadhafi loyalists had used as their main base of operation.

Most NTC forces attacking Sirte are from other towns, putting them at a distinct disadvantage against the remnants of Mr. Gadhafi's army who know the city well. Many civilians from Sirte also are fighting alongside loyalist fighters.

Air pollution from traffic impairs brain

Air pollution from traffic impairs brain Air pollution in cities and beside roads can impair the way the brain functions, two new studies have revealed.

Scientists have found living in areas with high levels of traffic pollution can reduce people's performance in cognitive tests.

They found that people older than 51 who had lived in polluted areas had lower cognitive scores than those who had been exposed to lower levels of pollution during their life time even after their results had been adjusted for social and educative status.

A second study in animals has also revealed that fine airborne particulates that are typically emitted by diesel engines can lead to learning and memory problems by reducing the growth of neurons in the brain.

Dr Melinda Power, from the department of epidemiology and environmental health at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, said that long term exposure to air pollution related to traffic seemed to affect the way the brain functions.

She said: "Cognitive decline and impairment in the elderly is a huge public health issue. Our study suggests that traffic-related air pollution, particularly diesel exhaust, may play a role.

"Our results suggest an adverse effect of traffic related air pollution on global cognitive function in older men.

"When we explored the potential for effect modification, our results suggest the effect of traffic-related air pollution on cognition may be greater in smokers or overweight and obese individuals.

"Although we looked at the effect in men, I believe the findings are applicable to women as well."

The study examined the average lifetime exposure to traffic-related pollution and the cognitive test scores of 680 men aged between 51-years-old and 97-years-old.

It found that those living in areas that were exposed to twice as much black carbon as low pollution areas were 1.3 times more likely to have lower cognitive scores.

The researchers also found that if black carbon levels doubled in one area compared to another, the effect on the cognitive functions of people from that area were equivalent to ageing by nearly two years.

Dr Power added: "Traffic-related air pollution is a complex mixture of gases and particles.

"Traffic-related air pollution appears to cause inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain. There is also evidence that ultrafine particulates can get into the brain and cause dysfunction."

In the second, separate study in mice, researchers at Ohio State University in Columbus found that exposure to fine particles of pollution known as PM2.5s caused increases in the levels of inflammatory molecules in the animals' brains.

They found that mice exposed to air polluted with the particles for ten months showed signs of impairment of their learning and memory abilities compared to those that been given filtered air.

The researchers found that a part of the animals' brains known as the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and learning, had also suffered decreased neuron growth in the mice exposed to the pollution.

Laura Fonken, from the behavioural neuroscience program at the university, said: "These data suggest that long-term exposure to particulate air pollution levels typical of exposure in major cities around the globe an alter the affective responses and impair cognition."

Particulate air pollution has already been linked with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and scientists have found pollution from diesel engines can harden the arteries and increase the risk of heart attacks.

It is estimated that more than 20 towns and cities in Britain are emitting pollution at twice the levels specified by the World Health Organisation.

An official report by the Committee on the Medial Effects of Air Pollutants said that air pollution in the UK takes around two years off the lives of 200,000 people.

The UK has one of the worst rates of air pollution in Europe and last year the Government was warned it may face a £300 million fine for failing to meet European air quality standards.

The Telegraph