Kate Green, Partnerships Manager, Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health (IFNH)

One of the farms managed by the University’s Centre for Dairy Research

The shocking fact that 1 in 4 adults in the UK are obese is quite something. This figure has trebled in the last 30 years and is expected to increase to an astounding 1 in 2 by 2050. Do we, as a nation, know what we’re eating when it comes to fat?

This was the question posed by ITV’s Tonight programme (Fat: The Healthy Option?) which asked us to consider what we know about fat and to question the widely held belief that fat is a key opponent in our struggle against weight gain and the health risks that come with this. Professor Ian Givens kicked off the show by challenging the belief that dairy consumption makes you fat, as the evidence from innovative research undertaken by the University of Reading suggests that this is not in fact the case and that in some cases diary consumption can actually enhance weight loss.

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A model box by Peter Snow, the designer of Hall’s 1955 Waiting for Godot

Professor Anna McMullan, Film, Theatre and Television, University of Reading.

The death of Sir Peter Hall on 11th September marks the passing of a major theatre director who shaped post-World War II British theatre. He founded the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1961, and was director of the National Theatre from 1973 – 88, as it moved into its South Bank home. In addition to his landmark productions of Shakespeare and opera, he nurtured the work of contemporary playwrights such as David Hare and Howard Brenton.

All of his obituaries note that the play that propelled the 24 year old director into the public eye was his production of the English language premiere of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot in August 1955 at the Arts Theatre London. While some critics thought that Waiting for Godot was ‘an odd mass of nonsense’ (Ronald Barker in Plays and Players), the influential Harold Hobson and Kenneth Tynan recognised that Godot was taking theatre in a new direction – Tynan noted that the play forced him ‘to re-examine the rules which have hitherto governed the drama; and, having done so, to pronounce them not elastic enough’. That Hall was strongly drawn to Beckett’s theatre anticipated his championing of Pinter when he staged The Homecoming in 1965 at the Aldwych amid considerable opposition. Read the rest of this entry »

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United Nations, Geneva | Creative Commons/by Ludovic Courtès

by Rosa Freedman, School of Law, University of Reading

Vitit Muntarbhorn, the UN’s first Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, has resigned after a just year in his post, citing ill health and caring responsibilities. Before stepping down, he will deliver his second and final report. This is just the latest development in a long-running UN battle over LGBT rights – and it could herald a new attempt to undermine international efforts to protect and promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT individuals.

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By Katherine Harloe, Associate Professor in Classics and Intellectual History, University of Reading & Jessica Stevens-Taylor, LGBT+ Heritage Officer, Support U

An appeal for personal stories from members of the LGBT+ community has been issued as part of a project marking 60 years since the publication of a milestone report in the unfinished path towards equality.

Monday September 4 marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of the Wolfenden Report, which resulted 10 years later in 1967 in the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales. The report was named after former University of Reading Vice Chancellor Sir John (later Lord) Wolfenden, who chaired the ‘Report of the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution’. He was Vice-Chancellor at the University of Reading from 1950 to 1964.

Now, the University and local LGBT+ charity Support U are seeking to mark the anniversary by collecting stories and recollections from those who have witnessed discrimination first-hand, but also felt the positive difference changes to the law over the past 50 years have made to their lives.

Monday’s anniversary comes two days after Reading Pride, and Support U’s partnership with Reading Buses means many will have seen Lord Wolfenden pictured on the side of buses over the weekend. While ‘pride’ was not an item on Wolfenden’s agenda, indeed his view was that gay people should not be visible, without events like Wolfenden’s Report the LGBT+ community would not have had a voice; they would still have been persecuted into the shadows.

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By Professor Donal O’Sullivan, Professor of Crop Science in the School of Agriculture, University of Reading

Unfavourable weather patterns and their impact on crop production have again been a major talking point in farming circles. Bizarrely, whilst the total amount of rainfall in 2017 to date is very close to the historic average, it has been distributed in a very unhelpful way (as data from the University’s Meteorology Department weather station helpfully plotted out in an up-to-the-minute annual graph shows).

Weather data from the University of Reading shows the drought in April and summer deluge

First and foremost, there was almost no meaningful rainfall for a six-week period spanning the calendar month of April, when crops were going through their most rapid phase of growth. But to compound matters, there was an unusual deluge in the second half of July, when dry conditions would have been more conducive to straightforward ripening and harvest.

Assessing the impact of this latest extreme weather episode was the subject of a BBC South Today news piece I contributed to on Tuesday evening. The research team I am leading in the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development may have some answers. We designed a large field experiment designed both to quantify yield losses due to drought and to detect varieties with drought-beating characteristics.

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An MQ-9 Reaper drone on a runway

An MQ-9 Reaper drone on a runway

By Dr Lawrence Hill-Cawthorne,
Associate Professor in Public International Law, University of Reading

A recent BBC news article reported on the development of a new, smaller type of armed drone that is able to aim and fire at targets in mid-flight, close to the ground. The drone is available for private sale, and the article notes the concern that such weapons technology could fall into the ‘wrong hands’ and be employed by terrorist organisations to target civilians. Indeed, it has been reported that Islamic State now uses low-cost drones in lethal ways by attaching explosives to them.

It is right to ask what happens if these weapons fall into the ‘wrong hands’. But whose, then, are the ‘right hands’? The assumption here, of course, is that States will use drones in a more reasonable, limited and law-abiding way. But we must not lose sight of the dangers potentially posed by drones in the hands of States.

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By Dr Simonetta Longhi, Associate Professor of Economics

Despite more than 20 years of anti-discrimination legislation in the UK, ethnic minorities on average are still paid less than the white British majority.  This is not something which is unique to the UK: ethnic and racial wage differentials are common in many developed countries.

But why?

There is no lack of academic research on this issue, so let’s look at what we have we learned. Although it is difficult to quantify, discrimination in the labour market is likely to play a role; but there are likely to be other factors.

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By Dr Matthew Nicholls, Department of Classics, University of Reading

A heated conversation arose on social media on Wednesday surrounding the question of the racial diversity of Roman Britain, or the Roman empire more generally.

The tweet from Alt Right commentator Paul Jospeh Watson, that kicked off the debate

There is plenty of evidence that the Roman empire was relatively diverse, as might be expected from an empire that encouraged trade and mobility across a territory that extended from Hadrian’s Wall to north Africa, the Rhine, and the Euphrates (and which, less positively, enslaved and moved conquered populations around by force).

Rome itself was a melting pot of people from all over the Mediterranean and beyond (satirical poets moan about it, and we have the evidence of tombstones). Outside Italy the Roman army in particular acted as medium for change and movement in several ways.

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By Dr Martin Lukac, School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, University of Reading

Europe’s forests make a very important contribution to current efforts to decrease EU carbon emissions, as it seeks to satisfy its commitments to the Paris agreement.

Under a new proposal, all carbon lost from forests as a result of harvesting will count towards overall emissions. Some of the most forested EU countries argue that forest harvesting operations should not be included, because the total amount of carbon stored in forests will not change much.

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By Dr Rob Thompson, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading

Whitley Wood Lane, South Reading, during heavy rain on 18 July 2017

Last night Reading experienced an immense thunderstorm, like something I’d previously only experienced in the tropics.

Driving conditions were horrendous, with incredibly reduced visibility and water simply unable to clear the roads quickly enough – I had the misfortune to be out in it.

To me, the rain was the impressive thing, but then my research is on rain, so I’m very aware of it. But to others the real experience was the lightning. There was a lot of lightning, both sheet and fork lightning. More than 100,000 strikes over the UK, you can see the strikes on the map below.

But, as I’ve said, the really impressive thing for me was the rain rate, and how sustained it was. Very high rainfall rates are not that uncommon, but lasting more than a few minutes is very unusual.

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