Monday, July 28, 2008


Chris Wood, the towering 20-year-old amateur from Bristol who finished a brilliant joint fifth at The Open eight days ago, has turned professional.

Wood has signed for the International Sports Management group and becomes a stablemate of Ernie Els, Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley and David Howell - and also last year's Open silver medal winner Rory McIlroy.

After taking a week to consider his future, the 6ft 5in Wood said: "Royal Birkdale was the best week of my life and now I am looking forward to an equally exciting and successful future in the professional ranks.

"If I was going to play amateur golf for another year, I'm not sure that at the end of it I would be in a better position than I am now.

"I played with Darren Clarke yesterday and I've spoken to another two professionals and they've all said that I'll be a better player after a year on the tour."

Wood has already received an invitation to the Quinn Insurance British Masters at The Belfry on September 25-28. His management company are the promoters of that event.

McIlroy made his professional debut there last season and a week later came third in the Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews.

Wood is allowed seven sponsor's invites and if he earns around ฃ150,000 from them, he will avoid November's European Tour qualifying school.

"We are thrilled and delighted that Chris has chosen to join ISM when he had several options," said managing director Andrew Chandler.

"He is an extremely talented and likeable young man and proved at The Open that he can perform at the highest level."

Wood partnered Ian Poulter in the final round of The Open and at the start of the back nine was only two off the lead.

Although he slipped back into a tie for fifth, seven strokes behind Padraig Harrington, his performance was easily the best by an amateur in any major since Justin Rose's fourth-place finish on the same course 10 years ago.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Travel advice: Driving abroad

Keep an eye on the road - and your car insurance, says travel expert Sophie Butler.

If you plan to drive your own car on holiday this summer, it’s important to know where things can go wrong. I recently heard from two readers who came a cropper on a long motoring trip in Europe. Because they were touring and only wanted to stay one or two nights in each place, they knew that there would be times when their luggage would be left in the boot.

Aware that some insurance policies won’t cover unattended luggage in cars – even if the boot is locked and the bags are out of view – they were anxious to make sure they would be properly compensated in the event of a break-in. So they talked through their requirements carefully with their insurer before they set off.

Unfortunately, their fears were confirmed and, despite leaving their car locked, alarmed and parked in a residential area, it was broken into in Sicily. The window was smashed and some of their personal belongings were stolen. They contacted the police to obtain a theft report so they could make a claim once they got home.

“We firmly believed we were fully covered on our insurance,” they said. However, this turned out not to be the case. The insurer rejected the claim on two counts: first, because their vehicle was UK-registered and therefore “a target for thieves”; and second, because Sicily is – according to the insurer – one of the poorest places in the world, making cars there particularly vulnerable to theft.

But the readers decided to pursue their claim because nobody from the company had pointed out these exemptions when they bought the insurance. After they threatened to take the case to the Small Claims Court, their insurer eventually agreed to settle the claim.

Good news for these readers, but it could have turned out differently had the insurer decided to dig its heels in. So what other potential pitfalls should you be aware of before you take your car abroad?

To avoid the sort of problem these readers encountered, it’s worth asking your travel insurer whether there are any factors that may disqualify you for cover in the specific countries you are planning to visit. Make a note of whom you speak to and what they advise. If there is any aspect of the cover that is particularly important to you, or needs clarifying, put it in writing.

You should also tell both your travel insurer and your car insurer of your travel dates. Note that some ask for at least two weeks’, or even a month’s notice of departure.

British motor insurance policies are obliged by law to provide third-party cover in all EU countries, but unless you’ve made special arrangements with your insurer, you’re unlikely to have full comprehensive cover, even if you have it at home. Most insurers also provide a European “accident statement” form, which might come in useful for noting on-the-spot details if you have an accident involving another motorist.

Third-party cover won’t cover damage or loss of your car or the cost of getting it home, so you’ll also need separate breakdown cover. This should include roadside assistance, emergency repairs, car hire, the cost of returning your car to Britain and emergency accommodation. Also bear in mind that most insurers will only cover you for a limited amount of time. If you are away for a few weeks, you may need to request an extension to cover the duration of your trip.

Driving abroad: a checklist

Take your driving licence, insurance certificate and vehicle registration document.
Plan your route in advance. There are good online route-finders which are free to use and can save the bother of poring over maps. Visit
Service your car and do the essential checks on oil, tyres, petrol, battery and water (these are the most common causes of breakdown).
Buy headlamp deflector strips and a warning triangle (many countries make this a legal requirement).
Check you have a spare wheel and a jack, first-aid kit, jump leads, a torch, fuse kits, reflective jacket and spare car light bulbs (these are compulsory in some European countries).
Blood-alcohol limits vary and are not always the same as in Britain (typically around 50mg or a single glass of wine on the Continent, compared with 80mg at home). In some countries the limit is 20mg.
Most European Union countries allow higher maximum speeds than Britain but limits are lowered during wet weather.
Readers' queries

PQ, Kent, writes
What are your tips for finding the best-value short ferry crossings this summer? Have I left it too late to find a bargain?

Sophie Butler replies
Fares rise as the ferries fill, so the earlier you book the better. You can find lower prices by booking midweek on late-night or early-morning crossings. Even if you book an hour or two either side of the peak times it can be far cheaper. Compare prices on websites such as and

TO, by email, writes
My friend thinks there’s a hotel dedicated to puddings in the UK.

Sophie Butler replies
She may mean Three Ways House Hotel in Gloucestershire (01386 438429;; from £135), which is the Pudding Club’s headquarters and a good place to sample a range of classic puddings.

KL, by email, writes
Inspired by a recent visit to Vindolanda near Hadrian’s Wall, I’d like to try an archaeological holiday abroad. Can you suggest any operators that organise such trips?

Sophie Butler replies
Try Andante Travels (01722 713800; or Martin Randall Travel (020 8742 3355; Digs worldwide are listed at

Friday, July 18, 2008

Armed robbers busted

An effective collaboration between the Greater Accra and Ashanti Regional Police Commands has led to the arrest of four members of a suspected armed robbery syndicate who have since last month been allegedly terrorising and robbing people of their properties and monies at gun point in Kumasi, Ejisu, Bekwai, Nkawkaw and their environs.

The suspects, Sadat Mohammed, 23, Abdulai Adamu alias Awudu, 23, Rashid Nuru 21, and Kwame Appiah 20 are said to have committed ten robberies in three separate nights from 23rd May, 25th May and 27th June, 2008 in the Ashanti and Eastern Regions.

The robbers, according to the police after committing the robberies immediately flee to Accra, cool off and resurface in Kumasi to continue their acts.

The four have already been remanded to re-appear on July 25 while efforts have been intensified by the police to apprehend those at large.

Kwame Appiah and Nuru Rashid were said to be among a number of suspected armed robbers rounded up by the Nima Police at their hideout on 25th June 2008 in Accra where the police retrieved two pump action guns from them.

At a press briefing yesterday by the out-going 2nd In-Command of the Ashanti Regional Police Service, Bright Oduro disclosed that even though four of the robbers have been arrested, the leader whose name was known to the police as Mayi, alias Burger remains at large.

According to the Police, two other accomplices who also belong to the robbery syndicate are also at large. They are Ramani and Hamidu who are believed to be hiding in Mamobi and Nima in Accra. The police have posted a reward of GH¢2,000.00 for information on Mayi and the others.

Sadat Mohammed, the police stated was arrested by the Accra Regional team together with his girl-friend Agnes Asiem (Hajia) on June 28, 2006 on a tip-off. Hajia has been identified as the source of supply of the weapons from her other boy friend, Moses now in Police custody in Accra.

Bright Oduro further added that Awudu who was in the company of Sadat and Mayi, driving in a snatched Taxi cab for their last operation got arrested by the Kumasi police when the police became suspicious at the extent at which the snatched taxi was speeding which resulted in a hot chase by the police therefore arresting Awudu but the two managed to escape.

After a search by the police, a pump action gun, and an Israeli made 9mm KAREEM MK II pistol were recovered in the abandoned taxi cab.

Enumerating some of the robbers' activities, Mr. Bright Oduro said on the 23rd May at about 2:15 am, Mayi, Rashid Nuru and Sadat Mohammed with two pump action guns as well as a foreign made pistol attacked lodgers at Pink Panther Hotel located at Adiembra in Kumasi and succeeded in robbing them of their 6 mobile phones, 2 lap top computers, and a DSTV decoder. The victims, according to the police were auditors of Cal Bank in Accra and were in Kumasi on assignment.

Another operation by the robbers, according to the police also took place three days later but this time with the inclusion of Abdulai Adama and Kwame Appiah. The police said the robbers attacked one Emmanuel Acquah, driver of a KIA Pride taxi cab with registration No. AS1495Y at Aboabo and later attacked workers of K Ofori Cement and Iron rods Company at Kwamo near Kumasi and took away cash of GH¢4800.

The robbers, the police say, then drove to Nkawkaw in the same night and attacked workers of Galaxy Oil Ghana Ltd, taking away an amount of GH¢15,000.00. They later abandoned the cab and boarded an Accra bound bus.

Mr. Oduro said about a month later, three members of the syndicate, this time made up of Mayi, Awudu and Sadat returned to Kumasi, snatched a taxi at Aboabo from Mark Abedu, driver of car with registration No. AS 2276 W and proceeded to Bekwai with the taxi where they attacked Amansie International Hotel.

He said the robbers, posing as prospective guests succeeded in robbing a foreigner and his workers of their 4 different mobile phones, GH¢3,400 and US$150.00 at the hotel. Mayi also took one of the lady workers into one of the rooms and raped her. The robbers, he said seized a KIA truck with registration No. GT 5561V belonging to the Whiteman and drove off.

Mr. Bright Oduro added that the victims were at Bekwai to install generators for the district office of the National Health Insurance Scheme and would have left for Accra after completing their work later in the day.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

One Way to Higher Fertility Rates: Support Working Mothers

Posted by John J. Edwards III

Yesterday’s New York Times magazine ran a fascinating and disturbing cover story about the deep decline in Europe’s birthrates, which threatens to leave its countries economically stagnant and socially moribund in coming decades. As the article lays out, the entire continent is below the “replacement” birthrate of 2.1 on average per woman, in some places far below. Among the many possible reasons for the baby bust, particularly interesting is a combination of differences in government support for working mothers and social mores about motherhood.

In short, the more juggle-friendly the country, the higher the birthrate tends to be. The article, by Russell Shorto, notes that Scandinavian countries have a relatively high birthrate of 1.8, while southern European countries have some of the world’s lowest rates — 1.33 in Italy, for example. In Norway, the government guarantees 54 weeks of maternity leave and six weeks of paternity leave, plus a payment of €4,000 (about $6,300) upon the birth of a child. In Italy, there’s less state child-care support, and only 50% of women work outside the home, compared with 75% to 80% in Scandinavia, the article says.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has a healthy birthrate of 2.1, despite offering relatively little government child-care assistance. The key here seems to be the flexibility of our labor market and workplaces, coupled with social mores that increasingly encourage fathers to take an active role in child rearing, says the article. Motherhood is thus more attractive to women in the U.S. than in the more economically rigid and socially traditionalist Europe.

Arnstein Aassve, a Norwegian sociologist quoted in the article, sums up the situation this way: “You might say that in order to promote fertility, your society needs to be generous or flexible. The U.S. isn’t very generous, but it is flexible. Italy is not generous in terms of social services and it’s not flexible. There is also a social stigma in countries like Italy, where it is seen as less socially accepted for women with children to work. In the U.S., that is very accepted.”

Readers, what’s your take on this theory and how you’ve seen it play out in your lives and communities? I’m especially curious to hear from readers who’ve lived and worked in Europe, or are there now.