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Bollettino della Comunità Scientifica in Australasia
9 Italy between an ageing population and continued immigration
Italy is one of the countries around the globe with the lowest level of reproduction, with the latest nest
leaving, the highest average life expectancy at birth and the highest level of an ageing populationand
immigration is continuously gaining importance. This is the picture that the report on the Italian
demographic situation at the beginning of the 21st century ‘Rapporto sulla popolazione italiana - L’Italia
all’inizio del XXI secolo’ is drawing. The association of Italian demographers in the Italian Statistical Society
The population of Italy continues to grow only due to continuous immigration.
Between 2002 and 2005 Italy’s population grew by 440,000 people per year. As predicted, the natural balance
between births and deaths was negative and close to –15,000 per year. The population growth is due to the
effect of the ‘Bossi-Fini’ law and new immigrants and the regularisation of foreigners residing illegally in Italy
The information regarding immigration is the most interesting evidence presented in the report on the Italian
demographic situation, realised by the association of Italian demographers in the Italian Statistical Society
and edited by Giuseppe Gesano, director of research at the Institute of Research on Population and Social
Policies of the National Research Council, Fausta Ongaro (University of Padova), Alessandro Rosina
(Catholic University of Milan). Several Italian demographers contributed to the report.
Between 2002 and 2005 170,000 children were born to women of non-Italian citizenship, representing about
8 % of all births. The number of foreign births is growing rapidly, like the foreign population: in 1991 the
percentage of the foreign population was below 0.6 %, which quadruplicated to 2.3 % in 2001. Today the
percentage lies between 4.5 % (based on an official foreign resident population of 3.5 millions) and 6.6 %
(based on an estimation of the foreign population including the illegal immigrants).
The foreign population contributes to a reduction of an ageing population in Italy: without them the
population of 65 years and older would represent already more than one fifth of the total population. The
average age of the foreign residing population is 31 years, against the average age of 43 years of the Italian
population. Their reproduction is double the Italian one: in 2004 the women of foreign citizenship had an
estimated total reproduction rate of 2.61 children, whereas the total reproduction rate of Italian women was
From a demographic point of view, the vitality of a population is measured through its capacity of renewal,
or through the fact that each generation is reproducing itself through the same amount of persons. In Italy
this has not happened for the last 30 years, but Italy’s population rather than shrinking is growing weakly due
to (1) the momentum of its age structure with many persons in a reproductive age, (2) the gain in average life
expectancy at birth (8.2 years for men and 7.5 years for women) and (3) the immigration influx.
Italy is the country with the highest percentage of elderly: United Nations estimates put the 65 and older in
2005 at 20 % of the total population, and the latest estimates in 2006 at 19.8 %. Whereas at the beginning
of the 1990’s the percentage of the elderly in the countries of the EU hovered around 15 %, with Italy and
Spain somewhat younger, in 2005 Italy passed Germany and became the country with the highest percentage
of the population at 80 years and older (5.1%). In the future, it is believed, that these percentages will grow.
One important factor of the ageing population is the relatively high level of average life expectancy at birth
with above 83 years in the case of women and 77 years in the case of men.
Fertility in Italy continues to be closely linked to the process of nest leaving and the formation of new
married couples. This process shows a strong and continuous delay. The propagation of higher education
and economic activity among young women is experienced as an obstacle to union formation and
In only 10 years, from 1993 to 2003, looking at the decisive age group of the 25 to 34 years old, the ratio of
men having a family with children diminished from one in three to one in five, and the ratio of women
having a family with children diminished from one in two to one in three. During the last 30 years the age
for first marriages increased by 5.5 years for women and 4.2 years for men, reaching 29.4 and 32.2 years,
respectively. And the majority of the non-married young adults continue to live in the parental home: 38 %
of the 30 to 34 years old men and 21 % of women of the same age group are living with their parents.
The delays accumulated in the process of forming an own family are leading to few and late childbirths: the
mean age at childbirth of women in Italy is 30.8 years (31.1 for Italian women and 27.4 for foreign women).
During the last few years the tendency to have children at a later age continued to grow.
A process of convergence can be observed between the Mezzogiorno (Southern Italy) and Central-Northern
Italy. Regarding reproduction: the traditional disparities disappeared between 1995 (1.06 children per women
in the North against 1.43 in the Mezzogiorno) and 2005, when in both Italian subdivisions women have on
the average 1.32 children. The increase of reproduction in Northern regions is partly due to the contribution
Bollettino della Comunità Scientifica in Australasia
of foreign women. Regarding mortality: the Northern regions managed to remove the disadvantage they had
through an increase in average life expectancy at birth and at older ages (+2.6 years for 65 years old between
1991 and 2005) higher than in the southern regions (+2.1 years). This increase can be attributed
predominantly to the higher reduction of causes of mortality ‘cardiovascular system’ and ‘cancer’ in the
Centre-North. In the Central-Northern regions also life expectancy in good health increased more than the
Southern regions: 65 year old men increased their value during the period of observation by 4 years in the
Centre-North and by 2.8 years in the Mezzogiorno, whereas the corresponding values for women are 3.6
against 2.5 years. This brings the value of life expectancy in good health of the 65 year old men to about 14
years in the North-East and in the Centre, 13.7 in the North-West and 13.1 in the Mezzogiorno, but it is
considerably lower for 65 year old women of the South (13.5 years) compared to the ones living in the
The economic weakness of the Mezzogiorno emerges again with a negative net-migration with Central-
Northern Italy (between –40,000 and –50,000 per year), and with a minor attractiveness regarding
international immigration of foreigners (6.2% of the total population of the Centre-North are foreigners
against 1.5% in the Mezzogiorno). In recent years immigrants are arriving predominantly from Eastern
Europe. Their duration of stay is still short compared to the ‘traditional’ flows of Philippines, Tunisians,
Senegalese and Moroccans. Nevertheless there are some first signs of definitive settlements with the
formation of families and an increasing number of children born in Italy. The second generation of
foreigners, or the persons born in Italy with at least one foreign parent, were estimated to reach 550 to 650
Compared to other European countries Italy is at the vanguard regarding the trends in longevity and fertility,
but the Italian population is following more traditional patterns regarding the trends in household structures
and reproductive models. For example, few young adults are living on their own or are cohabitating. The
cohabitation of unmarried couples, fairly widespread in northern Europe, is still the exception in Italy. Civil
marriages (only one out of three marriages in 2005), separations and divorces are increasing. However, only
one out of seven marriages are ending in divorce in Italy, compared to a third or half in other European
countries. As a consequence, there are few households with small children with a single parent (662
thousand); there are few brides or grooms celebrating a second wedding (8%); and there are few
reconstituted families (721 thousand). The percentage of births to unmarried mothers, which doubled lasting
recent years, is still below 15 %, when in many other European countries this percentage rises above 50 %.
Giuseppe Gesano of Irpps-Cnr concludes that the challenge of an ageing population has to be met with
innovative ideas, leaving behind preconceptions and privileges. Immigrants have to be viewed as a stable
component of the population through measures, which integrate and recognise this population group,
especially the second generation. It is necessary to facilitate and accelerate the passage of the young to
adulthood and autonomy regarding the formation and enlargement of the family, giving space to new family
models. The North-South disparities regarding health care and employment opportunities have to be
Further information: Giuseppe Gesano, Institute of research on Population and Social Policies – Italian
National Research Council (Irpps-Cnr) [email protected]
“Rapporto sulla popolazione italiana - L’Italia all’inizio del XXI secolo, edited by Giuseppe Gesano (Irpps-
Cnr), Fausta Ongaro (University of Padova), Alessandro Rosina (Catholic University of Milan). Bologna: Il
9 TWAS, illycaffè announce Trieste Science Prize winners, 2007
An eminent Mexican biologist, whose research helped to spur the creation of the first genetically modified
plants, and an internationally renowned Indian chemist, whose innovative laboratory techniques have led to
the synthesis of more than 50 natural products, have been awarded the Trieste Science Prize for, 2007.
The Trieste Science Prize, administered by TWAS and funded by illycaffè, provides international recognition
to outstanding scientists living and working in the developing world. Winners share a US$100,000 cash
Luis Rafael Herrera-Estrella, director of the National Laboratory for Genomics of Biodiversity and professor
of plant genetic engineering at the Centre of Research and Advanced Studies in Irapuato, Mexico, helped to
pioneer the field of plant molecular biology and genetic engineering. Plant transformation techniques
developed by Herrera-Estrella and his colleagues have had a significant impact on the commercial
production of genetically modified (transgenic) plants currently grown on more than 100 million hectares
Herrera-Estrella's work has largely focused on crop species of economic importance to Latin America,
including asparagus, maize and papaya. In addition, his analysis of the molecular mechanisms of toxins,
Bollettino della Comunità Scientifica in Australasia
produced by the disease-causing bacterium Pseudomonas syringae pv phaseolicola, has led to the
development of transgenic beans resistant to the disease.
Herrera-Estrella has recently turned his attention to understanding the molecular mechanisms that make it
possible for plants to tolerate toxic concentrations of aluminum and, more generally, that enable plants to
adapt to nutrient-deficient soils. This is a critically important issue in Latin America, where some 500 million
hectares of farmland are deficient in phosphorus, an essential nutrient for healthy plant growth and crop
Goverdhan Mehta, CSIR Bhatnagar fellow and honorary professor at the Department of Organic Chemistry
at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, and distinguished research professor at the University of
Hyderabad in India, is a world-renowned chemist who has made breakthrough contributions in a variety of
His wide-ranging interests include the synthesis of biologically significant and architecturally challenging
natural products; the design of novel molecules; the study of stereoelectronic effects; and super molecular
chemistry. His synthesis techniques have been widely praised for their elegance and originality. Otteliones A
and B, currently being tested for their anti-tumor activity, are among the 50 complex and biologically active
natural products that Mehta and his group have synthesized.
Mehta's work has led to patents for hybrid drugs for the treatment of cancer that combine the drugs'
conventional cytotoxic action with the ability to 'switch on' the drugs in the desired location using light as a
stimulus. He and his group have also synthesized carbon compounds that may have potential applications in
Beyond the laboratory, Mehta has made significant contributions to science education and science policy in
India and abroad. He is currently president of the International Council for Science (ICSU) in Paris, France,
and a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Prime Minister of India.
"Trieste Science Prize winners," says Jacob Palis, president of TWAS, "put a spotlight on the enormous
impact that scientists from the developing world are making to international science. Their efforts are not
only helping their nations to advance but are also making our global community a better place."
"illycaffè," says Andrea Illy, the company's president and chief executive officer, "is pleased to honour
scientists who are making significant contributions to society. The Trieste Science Prize symbolizes
excellence. The success of the recipients has enriched both their societies and ours."
Taken from: http://search.eurekalert.org/
9 A renowned award to a young neuroscientist in Cagliari, Italy
Paola Maccioni, a 28-year-old PhD student at the Institute of Neuroscience, National Research Council
[Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR)], Cagliari, Italy, has been awarded one of the five fellowships
“L’Oreal Italy for women and science –, 2007”.
This fellowship will partially support Dr. Maccioni’s research on the role of the GABAB receptor in the
mediation of several alcohol-motivated behaviors, including drinking and seeking behaviors. Dr. Maccioni
will run her studies using validated techniques of behavioral pharmacology and a rat line, named Sardinian
alcohol-preferring (sP), bred at the CNR Institute of Neuroscience for excessive alcohol consumption. These
rats – that constitute one of the few rat lines selectively bred worldwide for their extremely high alcohol
consumption – represent a unique experimental model for studies aimed at identifying drugs with theraputic
potential in the field of alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Their use has already led to the successful
identification of gamma-hydroxybutyric acid and, more recently, the GABAB receptor agonist, baclofen, as
Dr. Maccioni is currently focusing her research on the characterization of the anti-alcohol properties of a
new class of GABAB receptor ligands: the positive allosteric modulators. These drugs facilitate binding of
the neurotransmitter GABA with its own receptor, in turn potentiating GABAB receptor-mediated
neurotransmission. Data collected to date by Dr. Maccioni and her colleagues suggest that the positive
allosteric modulators of the GABAB receptor reproduce most of baclofen’s effects, including the
suppressing effect on alcohol intake in rodents, without reproducing the adverse effects.
Dr. Maccioni’s work is supervised by Drs. Gian Luigi Gessa and Giancarlo Colombo; other investigators of
the CNR Institute of Neuroscience, including Drs. Mauro Carai and Carla Lobina, contribute to this research
Contact: Dr. Paola Maccioni [email protected]
9 Best Paper Award to Fabrizio Silvestri at the 29th European Conference on
Information Retrieval conference.
Fabrizio Silvestri, a researcher at the “Institute for Information Science and Technologies” of the Italian
National Council of Research (CNR), is the recipient of the Best Paper Award (sponsored by Yahoo!
Research) at the 29th edition of the European Conference on Information Retrieval held in Rome in June,
Bollettino della Comunità Scientifica in Australasia
2007. Fabrizio Silvestri's paper entitled "Sorting Out the Document Assignment Problem" deals with a
common problem in Information Retrieval Indexing: compressing the index structure. The nice feature of
the solution proposed in the paper is that it is very straightforward yet extremely effective. In the case of
collections of Web Documents, in fact, we can enhance the performance of index compression algorithms
by simply assigning identifiers to documents according to the lexicographical ordering of the URLs. Roughly
speaking the paper highlights the correlation between URL string similarities and content similarities. The
solution proposed can, thus, be effectively plugged into existing search systems without any particular pain.
Further information: [email protected]
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