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Why sloths descend from the safety of the trees once a week to go to the toilet has baffled scientists - but one specialist thinks he has the answer

The British Association for the Advancement of Science: First photographs of 'impossible' crystal

A CRYSTAL with a five-fold symmetry, a structure scientists had thought was impossible, photographed by a team from the Natural History Museum in London, which made the discovery. It believes the photographs of the structure are a first.

Wimpey builds profit on housing recovery

A SHARP recovery in profits from the housing division helped Wimpey back into the black in the six months to June. Confirmation of persistently difficult construction markets and a flat dividend, however, pushed the shares 2p lower to 163p.

Asbestos verdict

AN inquest returned an open verdict on Mary Herridge, 76, of Ryde, Isle of Wight, who died from the asbestos related disease mesothelioma, 70 years after she was exposed to the dust when she played outside the Roberts asbestos textile factory in Armley, Leeds.

T&N welcomes American ruling on asbestos deal

T&N, the engineering and motor components group, said a US court ruling on settlement of asbestos illness claims would cause a fall of about 50 per cent in the charges it has been making to cover asbestos-related costs over the next five years.

Where Shall We Meet?: Sherlock Holmes Hotel

Two and a half million people go to Madame Tussauds every year. Why is their business. Assuming that you will not be joining your pet tourist on this particular jaunt you had better take not the first, not the second but the third cab you see to Dr Watson's bar in the nearby Sherlock Holmes Hotel in Baker Street. The walls are decorated with gushing letters from satisfied customers. They can't have used the bar is all I can say. Service is elementary. Spirits pounds 2.50, minerals pounds 1. No wine: 'This isn't a wine bar. The nuts may well be very nice. They never arrived. They are, however, very liberal with the bookmatches which are adorned with a silhouette of the Great Detective and make nice kitsch souvenirs. Pub hours.

Bottom Line: McAlpine plays safe

RAISING pounds 25m for housing land makes sense for McAlpine - it is the only area of the business showing life. The company is also right not to push its luck with a bigger issue, although its high gearing suggests it ought to, with the sector so out of favour.

Chatset more optimistic

CHATSET, the Lloyd's of London insurance market analyst, today will announce revised predictions for the market's 1991 year of account losses to be announced next week. Instead of a pounds 3bn loss Chatset is now expecting nearer to pounds 2.5bn.

Bottom Line: Little power in Wimpey's bounce

A BOUNCE from losses of pounds 112m to a pounds 26m profit looked impressive, but it included almost pounds 10m of non-repeatable items, and an initial 5p rise in Wimpey's shares was soon replaced by a 9p fall to 209p.

Wimpey reverses three-year downturn

George Wimpey, Britain's second- biggest housebuilder, returned to the black in the year to December, benefiting from a 41 per cent increase in house sales and a reduction in costs in construction and minerals.

Bottom Line: ECC confidence looks well placed

ANDREW TEARE, chief executive of English China Clays, is clearly wary of making himself a hostage to fortune. He eschews promises of unlocking shareholder value in his explanation of the planned demerger of the building materials business. Instead, he says, the rationale is to create two more focused businesses.

Health Update: Asthma linked to poor diet

DIET, rather than pollution, could be the chief cause of the increase in asthma among children over the past 20 years, claim researchers from the University Medical School and Rowett Research Institute, Aberdeen. Between 1961 and 1985 the consumption of fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and meat fell significantly, they say. These foods are valuable sources of vitamins and minerals essential for the lungs' defence mechanisms, the researchers argue in Thorax, and low intake raises susceptibility to pollutants and allergens.

Alfred McAlpine shares leap on boost for housing: Disappointing results from minerals and US

SHARES in Alfred McAlpine continued their recent surge, closing 35p higher at 329p after the housebuilder and construction company announced a 43 per cent rise in underlying profits.

SCIENCE / The Great Unsolved Mysteries - Out of the black smoker: 5. The origins of life: Life began on Earth between 3.5 and four billion years ago - but how? Primitive forms probably originated in undersea volcanoes, but what actually got them going? Steve Connor follows the theories from primordial soup to outer space to crystals

GO BACK in time to the dawn of creation, more than four billion years ago, when the Earth was a vast cauldron of volcanic matter. The planet was under intense and destructive bombardment from giant meteorites. There were no oceans and no life.

Staveley sounds growth warning as profits slip

STAVELEY, the measuring equipment and engineering group that also owns British Salt, announced an 18 per cent fall in pre-tax profits for the six months to October and warned that the full-year result is unlikely to be up on last year, writes Tom Stevenson.

City File: Dia Met and Lytton Minerals

AMONG the victims of the great gold ramp earlier this year were Dia Met and Lytton Minerals, two of the smaller companies in the diamond rush in the Canadian Arctic. This is no pipe-dream, for it already involves RTZ, De Beers and Dia Met's backer, the Australian mining giant BHP. First results were highly promising but the gold-share rush cooled enthusiasm.
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Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

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Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game