This Way Up for 19 March 2016 Part 1

Crossword- setting plagiarism row, consumer genetics: the legal implications, and technology news.

Crossword-setting plagiarism row

A plagiarism scandal is rocking the normally cerebral and sedate world of the crossword puzzle.

There are claims that a crossword-setting business called Universal Uclick, responsible for thousands of crosswords syndicated around the world, has ripped off and copied other people's work.

An example showing some crossword similarities

An example showing some crossword similarities Photo: (reproduced with permission Of Oliver Roeder)

The crosswords in question appeared online and in some of the world's biggest newspaper titles, including USA Today and the Los Angeles Times, and the allegations have led to the editor at the centre of the controversy stepping down from his job this week, while the claims are investigated.

Simon Morton talks to journalist Oliver Roeder of, who uncovered the story:

Consumer genetics: the legal implications

Colin Gavaghan of the University of Otago

Colin Gavaghan of the University of Otago Photo: Supplied

You can now get your genome sequenced for under $1,000, and that price is dropping by the week.  

So what happens when a technology like genetic sequencing becomes a mainsteam consumer product, and starts cropping up in genealogy, legal evidence, and in medical testing? How will this challenge our existing laws in areas like privacy, criminal law, insurance and intellectual property?

Colin Gavaghan is looking at the legal implications here in New Zealand, and around the world:

Colin Gavaghan is the New Zealand Law Foundation Director in Law & Emerging Technologies at the University of Otago's Law Faculty.

Tech news

Peter Griffin with the latest news from the world of technology.

Tech commentator Peter Griffin.

Tech commentator Peter Griffin. Photo: Supplied

This Way Up for 19 March 2016 Part 2

Science news (air pollution linked to childhood behavioural problems), adult nappies, pet insurance policies, and pthalates: can they harm us?

Air pollution link to childhood behavioural problems

Pregnant belly

Photo: / CC BY 2.0

A link has been revealed between exposure to air pollution during pregnancy and later childhood behavioural problems.

Simon Morton gets the latest from Dr Chris Smith of The Naked Scientists and Columbia University Medical Center researcher Amy Margolis:

Dr Chris Smith says that air pollution has already been identified as a significant public health risk by the World Health Organisation. In 2012 the WHO said that one in eight deaths around the world are linked to poor air quality, describing air pollution as "the world's largest single environmental health risk."

But a study by Columbia University Medical Center researcher Amy Margolis, published this week in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, suggests that premature death is not the only risk arising from breathing bad air.

The researchers followed 462 pairs of mothers and their children over a decade. It found that children who were exposed in the womb to higher levels of emissions from vehicles, coal and oil burning, home heating and tobacco smoke, were at increased risk of developing behavioural problems as they grow up.

"This study indicates that prenatal exposure to air pollution impacts development of self-regulation and as such may underlie the development of many childhood psychopathologies that derive from deficits in self-regulation, such as ADHD, OCD, substance use disorders, and eating disorders" ~ Amy Margolis.

Surge in demand for adult nappies

The market for adult nappies is surging. Nappy-makers like Kimberley Clark and Proctor & Gamble are predicting that sales of adult incontinence garments will match baby diapers in the next ten years.

Adult nappy ad

Adult nappy ad Photo: (Flickr user Ben Goldstein CC by 2.0)

The US adult diaper market is forecast to grow by 48 percent to almost US$3 billion within the next four years while in Japan demand for adult nappies has already outstripped baby nappy sales.

Simon Morton talks with Lauren Coleman-Lochner – a retail and consumer reporter for Bloomberg News in New York:

Adult nappies: Big in Japan

Adult nappies: Big in Japan Photo: (Flickr user Mike Licht CC by 2.0 Attribution Generic)

Choosing the right pet insurance

New Zealand has one of the highest pet ownership rates in the world, but caring for a cat, rat, dog, or rabbit can be costly.

A handful of insurance companies here in New Zealand are offering pet insurance policies, so for a monthly premium you can ease the pain of big vet bills and vaccination costs. Some policies will even pay out to help you find a replacement if the worst happens and your pet dies.

The cover, the premiums and the exclusions can vary widely, so it pays to do your research and read the small print.

Luke Harrison has done just that, comparing New Zealand's pet insurance policies for He tells Simon Morton his findings:

Cute...but you never know when serious illness can strike

Cute...but you never know when serious illness can strike Photo: (CC0 Public Domain)

Luke Harrison of

Luke Harrison of Photo: (Supplied)

Phthalates: can they harm us?

Rubber ducks

Rubber ducks Photo: (Flickr user gaetanlee cc-by-2.0)

Phthalates are a class of chemicals that make plastic flexible; they put the squeeze in your bath toys and help make your cling film cling.

Handy, but are they bad for our health?  Well ingesting too many phthalates over a prolonged period has been linked to disruptions in the body's communication system, our hormones.

So how much is too much? And with phthalates being phased out in some areas are the products replacing them any better for us? Toxicologist Professor Ian Shaw of The University of Canterbury has been weighing up the latest evidence.