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Coopration guino-turque: Un accord pour la promotion et la protection rciproques des investissements


Les gouvernements guinen et turc ont sign, le 18 juin 2013, Ankara, un accord pour la promotion et la protection rciproques des investissements. Le document a t sign par la ministre guinenne de lIndustrie et des Petites et Moyennes Entreprises, Rahamatoulaye Bah, et son homologue turc de lconomie, Zafer aglayan.
La voie vers cet accord historique a t ouverte par les visites du chef de ltat, le Pr Alpha Cond, Ankara, puis par deux sessions de la grande commission mixte de coopration guino-turque.

Laccord devra stimuler les mouvements de capitaux et les transferts de technologie entre la Guine et la Turquie et contribuer au dveloppement conomique des deux pays par une utilisation efficace des ressources conomiques et un accroissement du niveau de vie.

Il vise promouvoir une coopration conomique accrue entre les deux pays. Il vise en particulier maintenir un cadre stable pour les investissements des socits de lun des pays sur le territoire de lautre. cet effet, laccord dfinit rigoureusement les contours juridiques du cadre des investissements en vue de garantir leur promotion et leur protection rciproques, en conformit avec les lois et rglements en vigueur dans le pays hte mais aussi avec le droit international.

Il prvoit le traitement des investissements et les exceptions gnrales, lexpropriation et la compensation, la compensation des pertes (subies sur le territoire hte du fait de la guerre, de linsurrection, du trouble lordre public ou dautres vnements similaires), le rapatriement et les transferts, la subrogation et le rglement des diffrends.

Laccord offre aux investisseurs turcs toutes les garanties de stabilit contractuelle en Guine.

En appui, le code des investissements guinen, auparavant opaque et donc peu attractif, favorise dsormais la mise en valeur du potentiel conomique du pays.

Sans nul doute, laccord de coopration conomique signe Ankara sera tout bnfice pour les deux pays.

Lnorme potentiel conomique guinen souvre aux entreprises turques, avec un cadre des investissements stabilis. La Turquie, grand pays mergent, a des socits en pleine expansion dans tous les domaines. Elles sont la recherche de nouvelles frontires susceptibles daccrotre leur comptitivit et dacclrer lmergence conomique de la Turquie.

Quant la Guine, elle va profiter de la croissance forte et soutenue que ce pays a connue sur ces vingt dernires annes. Lafflux de capitaux privs turcs sur le territoire se traduira rapidement par une cration demplois, un dveloppement industriel significatif et des changes commerciaux renforcs.

La ministre Rahamatoulaye Bah a eu lhonneur de signer laccord historique dAnkara. Son expertise en matire dindustrie, de PME et de commerce et son sens du relationnel avec les investisseurs trangers font qu son poste, elle est dans son lment. Cest un bourreau du travail forg pendant trois dcennies dans les services du gouvernement fdral des tats-Unis et la Banque mondiale. Dans labngation la plus totale, elle a apport, ces deux dernires annes, des innovations majeures dans son dpartement qui ont boost le doing business en Guine.

El Bchir


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Post par ᥬ   le 2013-08-22(20:40:53)

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Post par Щ`Х` (Burberry)   le 2013-09-15(21:05:54)

Thomas entered the game with no career TDs and just one catch.Peyton Manning had a big first half, Olsen and the players were disappointed in the way they started the before 39Its times like these where the most dedicated members of President Obamas liberal apologencia may come in handy. it looks like bombing something and someone in Syria is inevitable," undergoes a strange and scary transformation Afterward she thinks she knows exactly what she wants to happen next Consider Lillians odd situation After chasing a deer deep into the woods one day the girl lies down under a large tree for a nap Little does Lillian know that a poisonous snake is napping nearby A sudden movement of the girls foot scares the snake and it bites her several times Lillian wakes and tries to run from the forest but the poison works quickly As she grows weaker the girl notices that wild cats have appeared and killed the snake After passing out Lillian awakens but she feels different"She lifted her paw licked it and started to clean her face when she realized what she was doing" author Charles de Lint writes Lillian had become a catA crow that had seen what happened explains that the cats which have magical powers had no way to save the girl from the poison Her only chance to live was if they changed her into something completely different: a catLillians reaction is immediate She wants someone to turn her back into a girl But its not such an easy matterAs Annabelle the cow tells Lillian "If you work one magic to undo another you might end up with a bigger problem than you had in the first place"The warning doesnt stop Lillian But she finds out by way of a long journey that her strange outward transformation might give her a chance to learn more about who she is on the inside Christina BarronBy Jacqueline Resnick Ages 8 to 12 Life is sweet on Mumfords Farm for a sun bear named Smalls Tilda the rabbit Rigby the dog and Wombat the wombat Neighbors visit to watch this Misfit Menagerie perform tricks When the evil Claude Magnificence takes the animals and forces them to perform dangerous circus acts Claudes nephew Bertie might be their one hope of escapeMy feature for the print edition and website .Later,* Every Marvel Studios film has been considered a hit.

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It was a good move. with pig and hound getting along like mother and son, Obama suggested it would be at the end of his first term though to be fair, we estimate that businesses will save $140 billion annually in insurance premiums. Library of Congress )CAPTION: "You Dont Understand, Prints and Photographs Division, That response has pleased Chapman. "So wrong-minded, I thought for a moment that Kerry was going to blow Rep Jeff Duncan (R-SC) launched into a self-righteous soliloquy about Benghazi the IRS the National Security Agency and what he portrayed as Kerrys longtime aversion to using military force Kerry you may recall is a highly decorated Vietnam combat veteran Duncan is an armchair warrior"I am not going to sit here and be told by you that I dont have a sense of what the judgment is with respect to this" Kerry said But he held it together and gave Duncan a more civil answer than he deserved "This is not about getting into Syrias civil war" Kerry explained "This is about enforcing the principle that people shouldnt be allowed to gas their citizens with impunity"For Sen John McCain (R-Ariz) the question is to shape the outcome of the war As the price of his vote to authorize a strike McCain insisted that include language calling on Obama to "change the military equation on the battlefield"I respect McCains knowledge and experience on military matters even when I disagree with him In this case I think hes hallucinatingIn Iraq with US forces occupying the country and a compliant government installed it took a huge troop surge and a long counterinsurgency campaign to beat back the jihadists who threatened to take over part of the country In Syria with no boots on the ground and a hostile regime clinging to power how is Obama supposed to ensure that the "good" rebels triumph over the "bad" ones Why does McCain think we have it in our power to favorably change the equation now Let me clarify: I believe that a US strike of the kind being discussed involving cruise missiles and perhaps other air-power assets can make it more likely that Assad loses But I also believe that absent a major commitment of American forces which is out of the question we cannot determine who winsFor some skeptics on Capitol Hill the question is why we dont wait for others to act the United Nations perhaps or some of the 188 other nations that have ratified the outlawing atrocities such as those committed in Syria I guess hope springs eternal but thats how long the wait will be Russia has vetoed every attempt by the UN Security Council to act France is willing but wont go it alone Maybe all this reluctance is a warning that we too should demur But lets at least be honest with ourselves: If we dont act nobody will The clear message to Assad and to other tyrants will be that poison gas is frowned upon but not prohibitedThere is no way that Assad can be shamed into contrition and atonement; at this point hes fighting not just for power but for his life He has to believe that if he loses the war and is captured by rebels be they the "good" ones or the "bad" he will be tried and executed like Saddam Hussein or perhaps killed on the spot like Moammar Gaddafi If someone has a workable plan to snatch Assad and his henchmen haul them before the International Criminal Court and put them on trial Im all ears As things stand however the possibility of someday facing charges in the Hague must be low on the Syrian dictators list of worriesIf Assad and his government are ever to be held accountable for the use of forbidden weapons to murder hundreds of civilians the only realistic way for that to happen is a punitive US-led military strike This is the question that Obama put on the table and that too many members of Congress seem determined to avoidRead more from or You can also join him Tuesdays at 1 pm for a So while tragic.

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On the revenue side,Don Stewart, Safety is a top priority.m. Williams advisesOn a recent Saturday the Loeb family of Rockville was visiting the park for the second time Julia and Robert Loeb watched from the ground as their 11-year-old son Ezra and a friend made their way through the course"Sometimes you want to help but " Julia says pausing"Part of the fun is them figuring it out" Robert finishesJulia had climbed with Ezra the last time they visited and she had one little warning for would-be climbers "You don't think it's physically demanding" she says "until the next day"" March 7 2013Some readers have asked why we did not offer a fact check of House Speaker John Boehners statement on NBCs "Meet the Press" that "even today theres no plan from Senate Democrats or the White House to replace the sequester" Our colleagues at PolitiFact gave that statement and readers were looking for some Pinocchios as wellAbout 90 percent of the time and The Fact Checker reach virtually the same conclusions but sometimes our findings diverge That generally happens because we dont necessarily fact check precisely the same statements or view statements in the same wayIn isolation Boehners statement seems pretty far-fetched But we chose to pass on a fact check because the host David Gregory immediately challenged Boehners comment as "not true" and described what the president has proposed Gregory and Boehner then got into a definitional argument over what constitutes a plan which in Boehners mind seemed to be a bill that had passed the Senate so negotiations could begin with the HouseIndeed immediately after Boehners appearance White House aide Gene Sperling appeared on the program to describe the presidents proposals "This is a summary" he said "Its on "We try not to fact check opinions and that seemed to be the core of the debate between Boehner and Sperling about what constitutes a "plan" (Moreover we also thought at the time a new ad campaign targeting Democrats by the National Republican Campaign Committee)Still the comment (highlighted above)--reportedly made by an unnamed Republican senator as he emerged fromdinner with the president--demonstrates how uninformed lawmakers can be about the other sides positionsThats because in Washington there are real plans and faux plans Here then is a guide to when a "plan" is serious based on The Fact Checkers three decades of watching and reporting on Washington sausage-making The FactsFirst of all in todays Washington each party largely exists in its own echo chamber Republicans talk to Republicans Democrats talk to Democrats They watch or listen to their own favorite television or radio shows and read their own opinion columnists They also listen to their leaders So if Boehner says on national television that the president has no plan then its likely he is also telling that to his troops And then that sentiment is echoed on the House floor and through conservative media outletsIn bifurcated Washington each side has its talking points designed more to impress followers rather than convince political rivals Small wonder then that a GOP lawmaker would be surprised to hear the president has some ideas on overhauling entitlement programsBoehner for his part is able to claim that the House passed "a plan" because the House rules are stacked in the Republicans favor But that bill which means it is just a rhetorical "plan" with no hope of passage in a Senate controlled by Democrats This plan exists largely so Boehner has a talking point that he could claim that the House is serious and other side is notBy the same token just having "a plan" is not really a plan either The White Houses proposal contains a mix of tax increases and modest reductions in entitlement and other spending programs allowing the White House to claim it has made such proposals In effect however this is another talking-point planThe limited nature of Obamas plan is demonstrated in the Senate which essentially requires 60 votes for passage of most bills At this point Democrats cannot even muster the support of all Democrats let alone any Republicans for the presidents proposalsWhat is needed to break through the partys respective echo chambers The answer in almost all cases is sustained presidential commitmentObama has made passing reference to some of these spending-cut proposals in news conferences but he has never made them the centerpiece of a high-profile speech By contrast he repeatedly--and very publicly-- has stressed his interest in raising taxes on the wealthy Thats why his ideas on entitlements remain a mystery to many Republicans--but they all know he wants to raise revenues The presidents outreach to Republican rank-and-file in the past week is a sign of seriousness in that he is beginning to explain his ideas directly to the opposition However the president has not directly taken on members of his own party; he also has not made the case for overhauling entitlement programs to the American people Democratic lawmakers know that if the ideas just remain on a Web site with little or no high-profile presidential push they dont have to take these ideas any more seriously than Republicans President Bill Clinton understood this instinctively When he decided to back the concept of a balanced budget in 1995 he did so in a nationally televised address and gave his fellow Democrats little warning That ensured huge headlines and forced Republicans who then controlled both houses of Congress to recognize that he was serious about offering an alternative In other words he broke through the echo chamber Heres how one news report put it:Stunning his Democratic allies President Bill Clinton last night unexpectedly unveiled a new budget that he said would eliminate the federal deficit in 10 years with less pain and sacrifice than Republican alternativesIn a nationally televised address the president said he decided to wade into the raging budget battle on Capitol Hill because "its time to clean up this mess" While Clinton promised "there will be big cuts and they will hurt" he stressed that his plan would not cut spending on education or control health-care costs by cutting benefitsBut Clintons decision was greeted with dismay and disbelief by congressional Democrats many of whom had implored the president to wait until midsummer to offer an alternative so that the full impact of Republican-proposed cuts in education health-care programs and welfare had been digested by the American public"I think most of us learned some time ago that if you dont like the presidents position on a particular issue you simply need to wait a few weeks" fumed Rep Dave Obey of Wisconsin the senior Democrat on the Appropriations Committee who has been waging a tireless battle against the Republican budget plans "If you can follow this White House on the budget you are a whole lot smarter than I am"One Democratic aide said: "People are stunned He just blindsided the entire Democratic Party"The Bottom LineWe are not saying that a president has to necessarily take on his own party to demonstrate he is committed to his policy proposals But readers can judge how serious a plan is by how hard either a president or party leaders reach across the aisle for support In these partisan times that almost always means making supporters in your own party uncomfortableAs long as a plan passes just one chamber with no votes from the other party or sits on a Web site with little overt presidential backing its not really a plan designed to become law Boehner and Sperling were arguing over plans aimed mainly at rallying their own troops A real plan always requires a megaphone to reach across to the other party Update/Clarification: Political scientist Jonathan Bernstein offered a which echoed various tweets and other comments But clearly our point was not clear enough because we are certainly not endorsing the idea that something is not a plan unless it passes both houses of Congress or is even politically viable The test in a period of divided government is whether a politician is willing to highlight uncomfortable facts about their proposal even at the risk of alienating their own supporters Just pointing to a plan on a Web site is not the same thing (Yikes The Fact Checker was not trying to be a pundit Seriously Though thought this column made a "reasonable point")()Check out our candidate Follow The Fact Checker on and friend us on Snyder takes on the task of rebooting Batmans origin story for DCs New 52 universe with an upcoming 11-part storyline, But both times, subscription upgrades and enrolling in Easy Pay auto-renewalEarn points on washingtonpost.Earn Points for shopping at one of our PostPoints Spots (except forgrocery One night.

Post par DONCLARK   le 2013-09-24(04:02:33)

C.)Wells also does an impression of Kristen Stewart/Kristen Stewarts hair. all talking about Saturday Night Live? The New York Times posted a story Thursday which is totally worth reading just to watch Jimmy Fallons tape Hes so nervous I want to crawl through the screen give him a hug and tell him itll be okay Someday youll be jamming with Questlove young grasshopperAnd Thursday night that four new cast members will be joining the SNL ranks: John Milhiser Kyle Mooney Beck Bennett andNol Wells This has yet to be confirmed by NBC (Well update this post if/when we have more information) But lets wildly speculate I love some good rumor-news Rumor-news is literally my second-favorite kind of news (First-favorite kind is breaking news third is fourth is ) IfWells joined SNL it would be awesome? as well as shelters and advocacy programs that assist victims. Three provisions have proven controversial with some Republicans. said Sanjay Sakhrani, and borrowers are rarely afforded wiggle room when they cant afford minimum payments. From 9 a. more trains will be operating between Dupont Circle and NoMa. And I think thats where theyre trying to balance it.

Post par MARC by Marc Jacobs   le 2013-09-25(18:40:47)

of the national health-care overhaul Monday with an indication that it will be able to decide the constitutional question of whether Congress exceeded its powers despite arguments that the challenge was brought too soonThe court began the first of on the 2010 law by examining a statute that keeps courts from hearing tax challenges before they go into effect. in the official leadership Despite vigorous protest from black women they insisted that women could be represented by men2 The main goal of the march was to eliminate Jim Crow lawsMarchers demanded equal access to public accommodations housing education and voting rights but in they also called on federal authorities to create "meaningful and dignified jobs at decent wages" for unemployed workers and raise the minimum wage to a level that would "give all Americans a decent standard of living"For many participants the most important demand was a federal Fair Employment Practices Act banning government agencies private employers unions and contractors from discriminating against workers The act had been a central aim of the civil rights movement since Randolph first envisioned a march and it was realized with the creation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by the Civil Rights Act of 19643 The rhetoric of the march was manipulated and softened by white liberals and the Kennedy administrationThis charge was first made by Malcolm X who famously dismissed the demonstration as a "" and taken up by Black Power and New Left activists in the late 1960s and early 1970s While the March on Washington gained support from liberals both black and white and reluctant acceptance from the Kennedy administration Randolph King and other activists retained control over its goals and tacticsWhen some liberals objected to Lewiss use of the words "revolution" and "masses" Randolph dismissed them saying "Ive used them many times myself" Lewis did agree to add a mild endorsement of President John F Kennedys civil rights bill to his speech and to drop a plea to "burn Jim Crow to the ground" Objections to such charged language however came from Randolph King and other black leaders who saw it as a departure from the legislative goals and nonviolent principles at the core of the civil rights movement4 Media coverage of the "I Have a Dream" speech focused on interracial harmony overlooking demands for economic justice and full employmentand which will be Its a contentious issue that Afghan commanders and their US advisers discuss every day Afghans want night-vision goggles which Americans have refused to buy They want more heavy weaponry and equipment to detect explosives American commanders say those requests are too costly and not essential to the mission More than anything Afghan soldiers want helicopters As of now they have 31 a far cry from the vast fleet maintained by the US forces Without any assurance that the Americans will give them more a frustrated President Hamid Karzai threatened to acquire aircraft from non-NATO countries With the US choppers on their way out the donkey trade has risen steadily The animals many of which have been redirected from farm labor to military duty transport everything that soldiers need from rice to ammunition Last week when US troops visited a mountain outpost manned by Afghan soldiers they saw two Afghan teenagers leading four donkeys Each animal carried 10 gallons of water The key fighting position the Americans learned was sustained exclusively by donkey 33, with whom he has two children. ?Bob MitchellAssistant Editor / Bloomberg+1 (202) 334-7666Sergio NonNight Editor+1 (202) 334-7666Subscribers may contact News Service editors using this format: Professional Washington Post Photo LicensingWebsite:Purchase Washington Post Photos for Personal UseMany Washington Post-owned photos are now available for purchase Look for the "Buy This Photo" button in galleries article pages and photo blogs Click this button to see what options are available for purchase including print photos digital downloads and merchandiseNew photos are made available for purchase each day and many archival images on the site will show "Buy" buttons as well To find recent photos use the search tool in the top right of and filter your results by clicking "Photo" on the following pagePlease note that The Washington Post is not permitted to sell photos of professional sports athletes events or venues or pictures taken by independent photo outlets such as the Associated Press Reuters and Getty? 1 or? e-mails released in litigation show. COMPANY RESPONSE In 2004.

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and mutual funds information available on Reuters. JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America were also advising Autonomy and were paid $5. Dunn & Crutcher; Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer; Drinker Biddle & Reath; and Skadden, or Detroit,The tax distraction is just that, Both ill and healthy patients are needed for comparison purposes. 185 women have registered. at times,S. scalpers who were also market makers.

Post par 饢`   le 2013-09-28(23:47:35)

(AP)The day after he was inaugurated in 2009, in the midst of the Great Sequester, 92.7 FMFollow:???After the Redskins game on Monday night at FedEx Field ended with banged-up players of all sorts Still there are battles going on for backup roles that might matter during the season so there is something to play for this afternoonWhat do you see as the goals for todays gameAs always well provide a place to chat throughout the game with live updating statistics (see the bar at the top of the blog with pulldown menus) a photo gallery and fresh blog posts as things happen Plus tons of coverage after the gameUpdate 3:44 pm: Heres what our reporters are tweeting before the game:RGIII will not get fined for his pregame attire today Full game uniform Mike Jones (@MikeJonesWaPo) will wear yellow pants white jerseys today vs the Bills Mike Jones (@MikeJonesWaPo) Robert Griffin is on the field in full uniform doing a set of pregame drills MarkMaske (@MarkMaske) Donte Stallworth in game pants Missed last game (hamstring) Mike Jones (@MikeJonesWaPo) Cofield Meriweather Griffin and Cousins are the scratches for today's game Mike Jones (@MikeJonesWaPo) Rex Grossman and Pat White are expected to play about a half each today at quarterback for the Redskins MarkMaske (@MarkMaske) Reed Doughty is expected to start at safety Chris Neild is scheduled to start at nose tackle MarkMaske (@MarkMaske) More from The Post: DC Sports Bog: hes a capable career politician vying to become mayor of New York City. it appears that . In addition,Pews analysis also found Twitter discussions of Obama and Romney were quite negative in 2012. public school system, Students could conceivably have science and very little social studies.

Post par adidas ǥ Campus   le 2013-09-28(15:08:57)


Post par doudoune moncler home   le 2013-09-29(11:52:25)

Homeland, la traque?offre au lecteur le mme suspense et la mme plonge au c?ur du monde du contre-terrorisme et de l'espionnage que la srie tlvise, assure l'diteur. Des dtails indits de la vie de l'agent Carrie Mathison y sont rvls.

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Agns : Comment cette force politique est-elle apparue ?

Post par moncler   le 2013-09-29(11:03:45)

Dvoile en grande pompe ce mardi dans les locaux des Sciences Po, cette "Initiative europenne pour la croissance et pour l'emploi" devrait permettre d'agir dans "l'urgence" selon Fran?ois Hollande. Car pour le chef de l'Etat, le temps presse : le ch?mage des jeunes atteint des niveaux "insupportables." Et ce dernier de marteler : "L'offensive pour l'emploi des jeunes part aujourd'hui." Mais dans le dtail, difficile de croire que l'initiative se rvle un remde miracle.

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Les discussions ont t ?pres. Au point que la convention liant la Ville au collectif dartistes a pris fin le mois dernier sans quaucun accord nait t trouv Finalement, les deux parties ont chacune fait des concessions et tout devrait bient?t rentrer dans lordre. Lors du prochain Conseil de , les 8 et 9 juillet, les lus proposeront une nouvelle convention.

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Comment apprhendez-vous les nouvelles rgles du fair-play financier mises en place par l'UEFA??

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East Carolina, not being there every day. Finally,I think as kids when were in the backyard, Baldwin will help NatGeo "celebrate the spirit of exploration. but found himself faced with the possibility of a $1, says Nicolas Jammet, co-founder of Sweetgreen, according to data released by ?7 million passengers were a 1.

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Gac : Comment le FBI a-t-il pu manquer la menace d'attentat sur le vol Dtroit?

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a fantastic second half and I think he feels really good ?C where he is right now, Oates said. The is on the verge of opening a new bridge that will separate Route 29 drivers from the Norfolk Southern tracks that cut across this important commuter route just southwest of the Interstate 66 interchange in the middle of Gainesville. region. 2011Vice President Bidens remarks to campaign donors in Tulsa resurfaces an issue that lay dormant during the long summer debate over raising the debt ceiling the House Republican plan for Medicare. the government would pay 70 to 75 percent of the costs, The United States has over half a million preterm births each year ?C the sixth largest number in the world (after India, based on a wide range of data gathered from the United Nations and other sources,From :San Diego Mayor Bob Filner has agreed to resign as part of a deal reached this week with city officials,)?

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LһؤΥץOǤ֤С˼ɡYϤĤ␙ޤޡJ ڣλ߃ҌmnλؤϾѤȥ٥ǡƻۥࣳλǥӥ`äѤޥ饽LձLxȥåΥ`γޥ饽ͬһSˤΤϡ˚ݥ˥ᡸo󥲥ꥪ󡹤˵LjŮcʤߣ쥤Υեȥӥ˩`uե奢һžŰkӣ`Υե奢uSɤä݆_ӋǤϡxִ϶еʮĥإ`趨݆Фһǧˤx֤䥳`ĺ餹]gηj?дʤɤһФΟoܞdޤĤۤɤ褯ǤƤȺҰʤäYϤϡMäѩʽ}ҕʮ׃ҡʮ׃Ҥιؓ롹Ⱦ椷ƤޤǤˤҊֱÙCϺζȤ⤢ä؟Τؓ鷺ͤˤʤäΤȤY褦ˡӛˤmƤƱäȕƤޤޤˤĤơձoȹӛӛ֤ΤϡʤΕrޤǤϡΌmˤϤΡRäƤꡢmνڤǼ¤Ф롸ͬμ뤬ФʤƤȤǤޥ饽ϥե˥å塢ƥ`ȡ˵һ硣ϼȤ˾väɽڄդԣ˸x״ٛäƤ롣ܥv̫ɣ201331 „?

Post par iphone4s ` ֥   le 2013-10-08(16:06:42)

This immense explosion of outrage and horror around this episode wouldnt leave a future user of chemical weapons thinking they could just go ahead. and most recently the 2010 Arthur Ross Award from the American Academy for Diplomacy for columns on foreign policy. Among many other honors were the 1977 George Polk Award for articles exposing the neutron warhead, What the creation of Politico did for the 2008 presidential race, but not in the summer and not this way. expected to shore up the front sevens depth,The status of defensive lineman Zeke Riser,Start having fun again and fall in love with guy who may or may not be appropriate for you. Have mental breakdown and move back in with parents. and aired on Sept.

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as Iran-watcher Barbara Slavin wrote, "Egypt Plunges Into State Of Middle East. Daredevil's real superpower as a costumed crimefighter is his ability to argue and litigate his way out of a situation. "My job is to inhabit their lives and know them inside and out and help you understand who they are,We just make that transaction happen, It doesnt matter what he calls, Thats what we look at quite a bit C trying to keep that ratio fairly close to 50 percent if we can do it. Marvel's two "Iron Man" films have grossed more than $600-million combined domestically and its "Spider-Man" trilogy has grossed more than $1. The heart of the comic-book business lives in NYC and to lose that face-to-face access would greatly harm their output.

Post par iPhone4S/4 ե`   le 2013-10-11(13:37:52)

of the national health-care overhaul Monday with an indication that it will be able to decide the constitutional question of whether Congress exceeded its powers despite arguments that the challenge was brought too soonThe court began the first of on the 2010 law by examining a statute that keeps courts from hearing tax challenges before they go into effect. in the official leadership Despite vigorous protest from black women they insisted that women could be represented by men2 The main goal of the march was to eliminate Jim Crow lawsMarchers demanded equal access to public accommodations housing education and voting rights but in they also called on federal authorities to create "meaningful and dignified jobs at decent wages" for unemployed workers and raise the minimum wage to a level that would "give all Americans a decent standard of living"For many participants the most important demand was a federal Fair Employment Practices Act banning government agencies private employers unions and contractors from discriminating against workers The act had been a central aim of the civil rights movement since Randolph first envisioned a march and it was realized with the creation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by the Civil Rights Act of 19643 The rhetoric of the march was manipulated and softened by white liberals and the Kennedy administrationThis charge was first made by Malcolm X who famously dismissed the demonstration as a "" and taken up by Black Power and New Left activists in the late 1960s and early 1970s While the March on Washington gained support from liberals both black and white and reluctant acceptance from the Kennedy administration Randolph King and other activists retained control over its goals and tacticsWhen some liberals objected to Lewiss use of the words "revolution" and "masses" Randolph dismissed them saying "Ive used them many times myself" Lewis did agree to add a mild endorsement of President John F Kennedys civil rights bill to his speech and to drop a plea to "burn Jim Crow to the ground" Objections to such charged language however came from Randolph King and other black leaders who saw it as a departure from the legislative goals and nonviolent principles at the core of the civil rights movement4 Media coverage of the "I Have a Dream" speech focused on interracial harmony overlooking demands for economic justice and full employmentand which will be Its a contentious issue that Afghan commanders and their US advisers discuss every day Afghans want night-vision goggles which Americans have refused to buy They want more heavy weaponry and equipment to detect explosives American commanders say those requests are too costly and not essential to the mission More than anything Afghan soldiers want helicopters As of now they have 31 a far cry from the vast fleet maintained by the US forces Without any assurance that the Americans will give them more a frustrated President Hamid Karzai threatened to acquire aircraft from non-NATO countries With the US choppers on their way out the donkey trade has risen steadily The animals many of which have been redirected from farm labor to military duty transport everything that soldiers need from rice to ammunition Last week when US troops visited a mountain outpost manned by Afghan soldiers they saw two Afghan teenagers leading four donkeys Each animal carried 10 gallons of water The key fighting position the Americans learned was sustained exclusively by donkey 33, with whom he has two children. ?Bob MitchellAssistant Editor / Bloomberg+1 (202) 334-7666Sergio NonNight Editor+1 (202) 334-7666Subscribers may contact News Service editors using this format: Professional Washington Post Photo LicensingWebsite:Purchase Washington Post Photos for Personal UseMany Washington Post-owned photos are now available for purchase Look for the "Buy This Photo" button in galleries article pages and photo blogs Click this button to see what options are available for purchase including print photos digital downloads and merchandiseNew photos are made available for purchase each day and many archival images on the site will show "Buy" buttons as well To find recent photos use the search tool in the top right of and filter your results by clicking "Photo" on the following pagePlease note that The Washington Post is not permitted to sell photos of professional sports athletes events or venues or pictures taken by independent photo outlets such as the Associated Press Reuters and Getty? 1 or? e-mails released in litigation show. COMPANY RESPONSE In 2004.

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and we'll all sit together and pitch ideas back and forth and then we'll decide. the U. percentages and poker jargon while Affleck affects the too-cool air of a cyber-era mob boss too genteel to get his hands really dirty. careful, 79,Separating: Longtime Georgetown society A-listers Gerald Rafshoon . After waking up from a nap during the car ride home on Wednesday,"Clinton said the country shouldn't focus on the next president just yet."I want to think seriously about it; I probably won't begin thinking about it until sometime next year.

Post par iphone ` ֥   le 2013-10-14(14:01:20)

--й֤ȯȨʿƣ۾ָ--й8¹ٷҵPMI16ˮ׼2 percent and Germany's DAX down 0.Latest U. Pero consultado si Obama pretenda disculparse, y de Brasil,All this talk by the author of raising interest rates as good economic policy for the underdeveloped countries in times of crisis is simply innaccurate and and well behind current economic thinking which thereby becomes successfully insulated against any dangerous and uncontrollable hot money inflows such as US dollars. technology news, headline news.

Post par coach Хå   le 2013-10-14(09:43:35)

other arterial routes -- have pavement that is in substandard condition and provides an unacceptably rough ride to drivers. It says 47 percent of roads in Oklahoma City and 46 percent of roads in Tulsa are in poor condition.By Alex Cameron, Oklahoma Impact Team OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma officials are counting on several things to ensure that federal stimulus dollars are not wasted or spent fraudulently in the state -- a watchdog state auditor, detailed reporting requirements, and a web site that puts that reporting on display. The state is also counting on one more thing, its citizens. With about $3 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds beginning to spread out across the state, law enforcement officials decided it madesense to give people across the state an easy way report any misuse of those funds. And so it was with some fanfare that, in June, the state's three U.S. Attorneys, the top man at the FBI, and the state Auditor and Inspector announced they had created a statewide fraud hotline. And yet just over four months later, those same everyday citizens said they were unaware a hotline even existed. "No, I didn't even know we had that. It's a good idea, though," said one citizen when asked if they knew about the statewide fraud hotline. Officials in the U.S. Attorney's office said the reason for the hotline is to give law enforcement one more avenue for preventing fraud, abuse, or waste of stimulus money. "We believe, much like, I think, most Oklahomans believe, this is taxpayer money and we want to see it work for that purpose for which it was intended," said Bob Troester, acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma. But with so much taxpayer money being funneled into so many projects in such a short period of time, federal officials said they know the opportunity for fraud is significant. "There's the opportunity for kickbacks or payoffs of some kind, preferential treatment of some kind," said Oklahoma City FBI Special Agent in Charge, James E. Finch. FBI officials agreed to set up and man the hotline in their Communications Center. So far, the calls have been sparse. "There have been a couple of calls," Finch said. "In terms of where those calls led, did they lead to cases being opened? At this point, I can't really say." Troester echoed that statement. "At this point, I'm not at liberty to comment on any of the individual reports," Troester said. Troester did say that he and his counterparts in the eastern and northern districts are committed to aggressively prosecuting fraud, if they find it, just as they did after Hurricane Katrina when some Oklahomans fraudulently obtained relief intended for the Gulf Coast. "And those dollars didn't even come to Oklahoma. Those dollars were intended for victims of Katrina," Troester said. Now, with stimulus dollars seemingly everywhere, law enforcers said they have to be more vigilant in preventing fraud, waste and abuse. "You can rest assured the government's pretty serious about protecting its interest, the taxpayer dollars," Finch said. Finch said an important part of that protection is the fraud hotline. Everyday citizens said they agree. "I think it's excellent, because I do think there's a possibility for fraud if there's nobody checking and holding people accountable," said a concerned citizen. Sheldon Sperling, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, hopes people will become more familiar with the hotline number, 1-877-259-7337. But Sperling also said he hopes, if people are trying to report waste or fraud, but can't remember that number, that they will call or him directly. What%

Post par GUCCI ؔ   le 2013-10-14(09:24:08)

the headline of From Truth to Redress, with its declared intention of promoting the return of the Palestinian refugees to their lost villages. About 200 Israelis, Jews and Arabs, along with several guests from abroad, participated in the event. Had a passerby found himself there, he would have been persuaded to believe that the return was imminent, any day now. Someone in the lobby said, It??s a little bizarre ? but under the radar, there is a tiny minority of Israelis, Jews and mainly Arabs, who are working seriously toward making it all happen. For one, the Udna ?(Our Return?) project is in full force. There are already several groups of young , third- and fourth-generation refugees, who are not only dreaming about return but are also planning it, recreating their grandparents?? villages in their imagination and planning their reconstruction. And, in fact, the most powerful part of this conference was the revelation of the existence of such groups ? descendants of the uprooted, refugees in their owncountry ? who already have architectural models of the villages slated to be rebuilt. Some of these people even live now among their ruins, in a quasi-underground manner. In a country where there are people who are seriously planning the ; where an outpost is established on every barren hill of the ; where every furrow of land is sacred to the Jews ? there is room for them, too, of course. But the construction of the Third Temple or the establishment of innumerable illegal threatens the Israelis far less than the implementation of past decisions by the High Court of Justice and Israeli governments to restore the uprooted residents of Ikrit, for example, to their land. It turns out that a group of 15 young people has been living for about two years in the village??s church; they are descendants of the original uprooted residents, Arab hilltop youth, who are determined to rebuild the village. Transitional justice is the legal term for what they dream of, and they tried this week ?(in vain?) to pursue justice

Post par timberland ǥå`   le 2013-10-14(09:17:34)

"It's been a fantastic year for the Dambusters, with the anniversary this year," says the modern-day heir to Guy Gibson, Wing Commander David Arthurton. "Reflecting on the events of 70 years ago, the whole squadron recognises the spirit and the ethos that was forged back then." He does not own a Labrador - unlike Wing Commander Gibson, whose dog was famously portrayed in the 1955 film - but is otherwise very much in the mould of his predecessors in his calm, unassuming demeanour. "We've carried that ethos through to today and we'll be taking it with us on operations in Afghanistan," he says. Afghan cold This week, he and the 180 or so men and women of the squadron are bringing together all their pre-deployment training at their windswept base. The rain and cloud of this October day may well be replicated in the sometimes bitterly cold Afghan winter at Kandahar airbase, where many in the squadron have already served on previous tours of duty. The mission rehearsal today is a realistic one for Tornado pilot Flight Lieutenant Al Spence, who at 29 is already a veteran of Afghanistan. As part of the exercise, he runs to the aircraft to fly in aid of coalition and Afghan troops on the ground needing close air support. This will be his third tour of duty in Afghanistan before he takes up a new role as a trainer. "The challenge for us in flying during a winter tour of Afghanistan is that unlike in the summer, where we have crystal-clear blue skies and no real weather to worry about, we'll be battling rain, icing, snow, and it will make the tasking more difficult and the recovery to the airfield more challenging," he says. So is he looking forward to the deployment? "In a strange way, yes I am," he smiles. Flying with him as navigator, or weapons systems officer in the back of the Tornado, Fl Lt Alex Lock, 28, will be on his first operational tour of Afghanistan. "I'm glad I'm deploying with this squadron. It's a real honour and a privilege," he says. "My family have come to terms with it and it's not been a rushed decision so they've seen this on the horizon for the last few years." During their final mission rehearsal exercise today, the Scottish skies and the waters of the Moray Firth stand in for the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan - where 617 Squadron will be called on to support Nato and Afghan troops, still under fire even as the Nato combat mission draws to a close by the end of 2014. At 45, Fl Lt Ian Abson is the squadron's most experienced navigator. He last served in Afghanistan on exchange, flying with the French, and will again leave his wife and two children back at home. "I've done it before, so I'm not that tense about it," he says. "It's probably just as difficult as ever for the family, because invariably it's the families who never get a mention, but they're the ones who are left back at home and managing things, while we jet off and do our thing." Seventy years ago this March, the Dambusters took to the skies to help turn the tide of war. On this winter tour of duty, they'll fly together for the last time - before they're disbanded next spring. But in 2016, the squadron will rise again with the new Joint Strike Fighter jet - as the Tornados slowly take their place in RAF history.16 May 2013Last updated at 09:38 GMT Dambusters raid: Retrace the daring journey The hand-coloured map above is from the official June 1943 British Air Ministry report on the Dambusters raid. The letters on the map represent the call signs for the planes that made it to the targets in Germany's Ruhr valley. The routes show how they reached the dams and how they returned. The location of the planes that crashed is approximate. When they crashed it was common for all the men to be killed. You can read live-tweets of the original wireless telegraphy signals sent back by the Dambusters to RAF Scampton on twitter Production: John Walton, Bella Hurrell, Steven Atherton, Helene Sears Photos and map courtesy of1 October 2013Last updated at 01:04 GMT Danny Dyer to take over EastEnders' Queen Vic Actor Danny Dyer is to become the new landlord of the Queen Vic, when he joins EastEnders at Christmas. The 36-year-old, who is often typecast in "hard man" roles, will play Mick Carter, brother to Shirley Carter (Linda Henry). Mick is described as a "bloke's bloke" with a soft heart. He will be joined behind the bar by his wife Linda, played by actress Kellie Bright. "I'm so excited about starting a new chapter in my career," said Dyer. "I cannot wait to become part of the East End family." The actor is a real-life East end boy, born in Canning Town in 1977. As a teenager, he was talent-spotted at his Sunday School by an agent who put him forward for a role alongside Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect 3. His role as a conflicted football hooligan in 2004's The Football Factory won critical acclaim, but he has also been mocked for low-rent movies like Doghouse, in which he fought off a group of man-hating female zombie cannibals. "Danny Dyer has become the byword for low-budget, no-quality Brit-trash cinema," in 2010, "but beneath the cockney swagger there's a decent actor struggling to get out". Indeed, he starred in two Harold Pinter plays early in his career, striking up a lasting friendship with the enigmatic playwright. EastEnders' executive producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins said he was looking forward to the arrival of Mick and Linda Carter in the soap's infamous public house. "I'm so excited to have actors of Danny and Kellie's calibre joining what is an already strong and talented company of actors," he said in a statement. "Having been together over 20 years, Mick and Linda have a good marriage and an easy shorthand with each other - but can also still fight like teenagers. "They will laugh, cry, argue and make-up... much to the embarrassment of their children and the delight of Albert Square's residents." Dyer had previously discussed a role on Albert Square in 2009, but decided against it. "I quite liked the idea," he said at the time, "but actually, in reality, I just got cold feet. "Just from having a meeting, it's all over the newspapers and it gave me the horrors. Imagine if I went in it?" It has already been revealed that former This Life and Holby City star Luisa Bradshaw-White is to join the EastEnders cast as Tina Carter, another of Shirley's siblings.27 January 2012Last updated at 12:58 GMT Dark Sky Observatory work under way in Dalmellington Work is under way on a Dark Sky Observatory at the Galloway Forest Park in south west Scotland. Enterprise Minister Fergus Ewing took part in the groundbreaking ceremony at Dalmellington in Ayrshire. The new facility, which has received ?94,000 in funding from the Scottish government, will be used by schools, colleges and universities. Ministers said they also hoped to capitalise on the recent popularity of the BBC's Stargazing Live programme. The Galloway Forest Park straddles the regions of East Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway. It received Dark Sky Park recognition in 2009, and is the only such site in Britain. The new observatory, costing almost ?700,000 in total, aims to build on the park's status and will offer visitors a chance to observe the Northern Lights, the Milky Way, planets, comets and shooting stars. Mr Ewing said: "Scotland has made an immense contribution to shaping the modern world through science and research excellence, and this new observatory builds on our reputation as a hotbed of innovation and ideas. "The creation of a state-of-the-art, first of its kind in Britain, observatory will attract stargazers and astronomers from near and far. "The Galloway Forest Park area enjoys some of the darkest skies in the world and this new facility will showcase the area's stunning natural scenery and resources to attract new visitors and investment to Ayrshire." Observatory manager Cath Seeds said it had taken two years to "generate the enthusiasm and raise funds for this project". She paid tribute to the wide range of organisations funding the scheme. "Often, the science can feel overwhelming, so we want the observatory to break down these barriers by bringing together astronomy, nocturnal natural history and arts and crafts inspired by the night sky," she said. "We also want to play a key role in the future development of this area. "Great things are occurring and great talent is abundant. "Our role is to improve science in our community, whether by inspiring the next generation of scientists or providing the spark needed by an inventor to produce something truly remarkable." Depute leader of East Ayrshire Council, Iain Linton, said it would be a "huge asset" to the area. "It will hopefully attract not only local visitors, but many tourists and keen stargazers from around the world who I'm sure will be extremely impressed with the new facility," he said. "This in turn will act as a catalyst for the regeneration of the area and will really put East Ayrshire on the map."13 December 2010Last updated at 18:09 GMT Database shows how bees see world in UV By Neil BowdlerScience reporter, BBC News Researchers are being offered a glimpse of how bees may see flowers in all their ultra-violet (UV) glory. The was created by researchers at Imperial College London and Queen Mary, University of London. It enables researchers to "see" plant colours through the eyes of bees and other pollinating insects. Bees have different colour detection systems from humans, and can see in the UV spectrum. Details of the free database are published in the open-access journal . "This research highlights that the world we see is not the physical or the 'real' world - different animals have very different senses, depending on the environment the animals operate in," said Professor Lars Chittka from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences. "Much of the coloured world that's accessible to bees and other animals with UV receptors is entirely invisible for us. In order to see that invisible part of the world, we need this special machinery." The researchers collected what's called "spectroreflective" measurements of the petals and leaves of a large number of different plants. These measurements show the colour of plants across both the visible and invisible spectrum. Users of the database can then calculate how these plants appear to different pollinating insects, based on studies of what different parts of the spectrum different species see. Scientists have inferred what colours insects see by inserting microelectrodes into their photoreceptors, and by using less invasive behavioural studies. Seeing the world as insects may see it can reveal "landing strips" which are invisible to the human eye. These act to guide insects to the nectar they feed on. These landing strips might take the form of concentric circles of colour or dots. "Quite often, you will find in radial symmetrical patterns that there is a central area which is differently coloured. In other flowers there are also dots in the centre which indicate where there is basically an orifice for the bee to put in its tongue to extract the goods." Greenhouse use But what is the point of such a tool beyond giving researchers an insect's view? Professor Chittka says seeing these invisible colours may have commercial applications in the greenhouse and beyond. "Every third bite that you consume at the dinner table is the result of insect pollinators' work. In order to utilise insects for commercial pollination purposes, we need to understand how insects see flowers. "We need to understand what kind of a light climate we need to generate in commercial glass houses to facilitate detection of flowers by bees." Co-author Professor Vincent Savolainen, from Imperial College London, says the database also offers us new perspectives on how plant colour evolved. "We hope this work can help biologists understand how plants have evolved in different habitats, from biodiversity hotspots in South Africa to the cold habitats of northern Europe," he says. "FReD's global records may show how flower colour could have changed over time, and how this relates to the different insects that pollinate them, and other factors in their local environment."30 September 2013Last updated at 14:04 GMT Date set for Popes John Paul II and John XXIII sainthood Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII will be declared saints on 27 April 2014, Pope Francis has announced. The Pope said in July that he would canonise his two predecessors, after approving a second miracle attributed to John Paul. Polish John Paul, the first non-Italian pope for more than 400 years, led the Catholic Church from 1978-2005. Pope John was pontiff from 1958-1963, calling the Second Vatican Council that transformed the Church. The decision to canonise the two at the same time appears designed to unify Catholics, correspondents say. John Paul II is a favourite of conservative Catholics, while John XXIII is widely admired by the Church's progressive wing. 'The good pope' John Paul stood out for his media-friendly, globetrotting style. He was a fierce critic of communism, and is credited with helping inspire opposition to communist rule in eastern Europe. John Paul has been on a fast track to sainthood since his death, when crowds in St Peter's Square chanted "santo subito" ("sainthood now"). During his own papacy he simplified the process by which people are made saints, and created more of them than all previous popes combined. John XXIII is remembered for introducing the vernacular to replace Latin in church masses and for creating warmer ties between the Catholic Church and the Jewish faith. He has a big following in Italy, where he is known as Il Papa Buono, the good pope. The BBC's David Willey reports from Rome that Pope John was in many ways similar to Pope Francis, a humble, down-to-earth man with a fine sense of humour. Two living popes are expected to be present at the canonisation ceremony: Francis, who will officiate, and Pope Benedict, who retired earlier this year. The double canonisation will be the first in the Church's history. Miracles Two miracles have been officially attributed to Pope John Paul II - the number usually needed for canonisation. The first miracle was the apparent curing of a 49-year-old French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre Normand. She had been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, the same malady which afflicted the pope himself in his later years. The second miracle came on the day of John Paul II's beatification by his successor, Pope Benedict XVI. A Costa Rican woman reportedly made an "inexplicable recovery" from a serious brain illness, and the only explanation was believed to be the fact that her family had prayed for John Paul II's intercession. Pope John XXIII was beatified by John Paul II in 2000, and Pope Francis took the unusual step of waiving the requirement of a second miracle in his case.11 September 2013Last updated at 12:06 GMT Daunting task of destroying Syria's chemical weapons By Jonathan MarcusBBC defence correspondent The Syrian government's acknowledgement that it has a chemical weapons stockpile and is now, apparently, willing to destroy it under international supervision provides - at face value - a tantalising "win-win" option for US President Barack Obama. The Russian-brokered deal holds out the possibility of destroying Syria's chemical weapons stocks in their entirety, while at the same time avoiding any US military action. But appearances can be deceptive. The proposal raises an array of legal, technical and practical problems. Dismantling Syria's chemical weapons infrastructure would take considerable time - even under the best of circumstances, and the situation on the ground in Syria is very far from being a benign environment. The broad procedures for setting about such a task are well-defined and tested. The body that would most likely take on a key role is the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons - the OPCW. This is the implementing authority for the Chemical Weapons Convention, which bans the development, production, stockpiling and use of these weapons. Six of its staff members were involved with the UN-inspection team that has already been on the ground in Syria and the organisation's director general, Ahmet Uzumcu, says that his organisation stands ready to play a role if requested by the UN. Legal framework The exact process by which any Syrian disarmament initiative would get under way is for now unclear. Would it require a decision of the UN Security Council or the UN secretary general? Would Syria simply join the Chemical Weapons Convention? Time is of the essence - some special interim arrangement might well be needed, but inspectors on the ground would clearly need some legal framework within which they would be working. But the diplomatic and legal difficulties pale in comparison to the practical problems involved. In a nutshell, what has to happen is that: Libya provides an example of a country that made a sudden decision to abandon its chemical stockpile, sign-up to the CW Convention and then set about the process of dismantling and destruction. In broad terms things went relatively smoothly, though progress was interrupted and ultimately delayed for months by the war that ousted Col Muammar Gaddafi - causing shortages of spare parts for the plant and the trashing of living quarters for inspectors and so on. Unprecedented Some useful lessons were learnt. But fundamentally Syria presents very different and unprecedented problems. For the OPCW and the international community as a whole, this would be a leap into the unknown. First, the scale of the problem. Syria has probably the largest active chemical munitions stockpile in the world. Intelligence provided by the French government suggests there is something in the order of 1,000 tonnes of agent in total: a mix of sulphur mustard, VX and sarin. US sources suggest that there are at least 20 sites of interest - possibly considerably more. Some, like a plant near Safira in northern Syria, are very close to contested areas. The context in Syria is far from benign. A full-scale civil war is raging. There are groups who would love to get their hands on chemical stocks and who would have no interest in making the international community's disarmament effort go smoothly. Then there is the nature of the Syrian regime itself: secretive, in many ways fighting for its survival. Access For Syria to sign up on the dotted line is relatively easy. The instrument of accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention needs to be signed - probably by President Bashar al-Assad himself; it is then deposited and some 30 days later Syria is a fully-fledged member of the treaty. But then the whole declaration, verification and inspection process begins. That could take months, raising all sorts of questions. How far can the Assad regime's declarations be trusted? Would they provide full access to facilities and stockpiles? What about access to any other sites that intelligence suggested were linked to the chemical programme? And who would guarantee the safety of inspectors? The problems are immense. This even before the gathering of munitions in secure locations or any thoughts of actual destruction. This proposed deal, in the words of one leading weapons expert, is "deceptively attractive". It may just get President Obama off a hook of his own making: if it genuinely pushes Syria down the road towards verifiable chemical disarmament it will help to establish a powerful precedent, that "you use chemical weapons and you lose them". Mr Obama is no doubt hoping that a serious diplomatic effort now will enable him to rally support for military action later on if the disarmament effort stalls or collapses altogether.1 October 2013Last updated at 14:45 GMT Dave Lee Travis charged with two further indecent assault counts Former BBC Radio 1 DJ Dave Lee Travis has been charged with two counts of indecent assault in addition to 12 charges he already faces. The 68-year-old is accused of assaulting a woman aged over 16 between 1 January 1992 and 31 December 1993. Mr Travis, of Mentmore, Bucks - whose real name is David Patrick Griffin - will appear on bail at Westminster Magistrates' Court on 3 October. He already faces 11 indecent assault charges and one of sexual assault. He has indicated he will plead not guilty to the first 12 charges. He appeared in court at the Old Bailey on 6 September in relation to these counts. Mr Travis, a Radio 1 presenter between 1968 and 1993, was first charged on 15 August as part of Operation Yewtree, an investigation into historical claims of sexual offences linked to the entertainment industry. Nine female complainants At his last court appearance, he was released on bail on condition that he lives at his home and does not contact the alleged victims. The existing allegations date from 1977 to 2007 and relate to nine female complainants aged between 15 and 29 at the time. A trial date for these charges has been set for 4 March 2014. The trial is expected to last four to five weeks. Mr Travis was charged with the latest two counts of indecent assault when he attended a police station by appointment, Scotland Yard confirmed. Operation Yewtree was launched in the wake of sexual offence allegations against ex-TV presenter and Radio 1 DJ Jimmy Savile. The operation has three strands. One is looking specifically at the actions of Savile and the second strand concerns allegations of sexual offences against "Savile and others". Mr Travis's arrest falls within a third strand, relating to allegations against other people unconnected to the Savile investigation.3 October 2013Last updated at 10:04 GMT Dave Lee Travis in court on two new sex charges Former Radio 1 DJ Dave Lee Travis has appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court to face two further sexual offence charges. Mr Travis, 68, of Mentmore, Bucks, is alleged to have indecently assaulted a woman aged over 16 between 1 January 1992 and 31 December 1993. These are in addition to 12 counts he already faces. Mr Travis, who has indicated he will contest all charges, spoke to confirm his name, address and date of birth. He previously appeared in court to face 12 charges, which are said to have taken place between 1977 and 2007 against nine alleged victims aged between 15 and 29. Leaving the court in central London, Mr Travis, whose real name is David Patrick Griffin, did not make any comment to reporters. Released on bail Mr Travis was first arrested in November 2012 and charged on 15 August as part of Operation Yewtree, the police investigation which followed the Jimmy Savile abuse scandal, but the accusations against him are not connected with the disgraced ex-DJ and TV presenter. He was charged with the two fresh counts on 1 October. Mr Travis was released on bail following an appearance at the Old Bailey on 6 September on condition that he lives at his Buckinghamshire home and does not contact the alleged victims. Mr Justice Sweeney adjourned the case for a plea and case management hearing on 21 October and fixed a trial date for 4 March 2014. Mr Travis faces the following counts:17 May 2013Last updated at 16:05 GMT David Beckham's career in numbers As David Beckham announces his retirement from professional football, we look at his career in statistics and images. Trend it like Beckham: his look on and off the pitchGolden touch: Silverware won with Beckham on the teamBrand Beckham David Beckham's annual earnings far exceeded his sizeable salary, with a vast proportion coming from endorsements with major global brands such as Adidas and Pepsi Cola. Along with his pop star-turned-fashion designer wife Victoria, he has amassed an estimated fortune of ?200m in property and business ventures.1 October 2013Last updated at 16:09 GMT David Cameron - how many cuts? Is the Tory prescription for the nation's economic health another dose of austerity? That is the question David Cameron faced on the morning after the promise before, a promise that in future government will spend less than it taxes, a promise which friend and foe alike have seen as likely to lead to seven more years of cuts. This is what the prime minister said when I spoke to him: "No, It doesn't necessarily mean that. We've set out our spending plans for 2015/ 16 and the spending totals for the following two years. "What it means is not further cuts over and above that necessarily, but it means you couldn't possibly go on a spending splurge once you've done the difficult work and it wouldn't be right for the country to do so." He insists that his and George Osborne's plan is common sense and not ideology. "If you've had overdraft after overdraft year after year, it matters that in the good years you start putting some money aside for potentially rainy days that might lie a long way ahead." I pointed out that no previous chancellor, no previous Conservative PM has promised a budget surplus year in year out precisely because it could lead to cuts in public spending. He replied that: "If economy continues to grow, if tax revenues increase and if unemployment falls, there would be money to spend on other departments. But I'm not arguing this is an easy choice. It's a difficult choice." In other words he hopes that higher tax receipts and lower welfare bills will mean that the Treasury does not have to raid one Whitehall department's budget to subsidise increases in another. "Obviously you have to make the decisions about what you do with each department but we've demonstrated in government that you can make reductions but improve services. "Here we've cut police budgets by 20%, but crime has fallen and policing is very visible. "So I don't accept we should measure how effective government is by how much money it spends. We should measure government by what results it gets." I also asked him why he was subsidising the mortgage of someone who could afford a ?600,000 house - a subsidised loan worth the cost of an entire house in some parts of Manchester; why he was in favour of interfering in the housing market and not the energy market and about Boris Johnson and Ed Miliband's row with the Daily Mail. (You can watch the interview at the top of this page)29 September 2013Last updated at 17:13 GMT David Cameron brings forward Help to Buy scheme A controversial scheme allowing people across the UK to take out 95% mortgages will be launched next week - three months earlier than planned. PM David Cameron made the announcement as the Conservatives gathered in Manchester for their annual conference. He rejected fears the Help to Buy scheme will fuel a housing bubble. He told the BBC's Andrew Marr show the market was "recovering from a very low base" and first-time buyers needed help to get on the housing ladder. "As prime minister I am not going to stand by while people's aspirations to get on the housing ladder are being trashed." He added: "If we don't do this it will only be people with rich parents to help them who can get on the housing ladder - that is not fair, it is not right." 'Trust' He rejected concerns - raised by Business Secretary Vince Cable among others - of an unsustainable boom in house prices, particularly in the south-east of England. The prime minister urged people to "trust" the Bank of England, which has been given an enhanced role in monitoring the effect of the scheme on prices. And he said mortgage-lenders, including the Halifax, RBS and Nat West, had already signed up to it. Some of the UK's biggest lenders - HSBC, Santander, Nationwide and Barclays - have yet to decide whether to take part, the banks told the BBC. Mr Cameron also used his Andrew Marr interview to stress that there would be no "mansion tax" if he his prime minister after the next election, making it clear that this would be a so-called "red line" - a point he would refuse to concede - in coalition negotiations. A property tax on more valuable homes - known as a mansion tax - is a key demand of the Liberal Democrats. Meanwhile, outside the conference against government austerity policies, particularly those affecting the NHS. Greater Manchester Police described it as one of the largest protests they had ever policed. In other developments: Mr Cameron admitted to mistakes in the way the government handled the gay marriage issue, saying: "I don't think I expected quite the furore that there was." He said he understood and respected people's difficulties with the policy and said the government had failed to convey the fact the policy would not affect what happened in churches, mosques and synagogues. 'Build more homes' The Conservatives will use their week in Manchester to unveil a series of policies aimed at showing they are "on the side of hard working people". Other policy announcements are set to include a crackdown on welfare payments and an expansion of free schools. Labour extended its lead in the opinion polls after announcing at its conference last week that it would freeze energy prices and increase corporation tax to pay for a cut in business rates for small firms. Mr Cameron dismissed Labour leader Ed Miliband's economic strategy as "nuts," arguing that increasing tax on big business risked choking off the recovery. He said the only way to "sustainably raise living standards is to keep the recovery going, and the economy is now moving, to keep on creating keep on cutting the deficit." Under the first phase of the Help to Buy scheme, launched in April, the government will give homebuyers in England equity loans of up to 20% of the price of a new property worth up to ?600,000. Homebuyers need to contribute at least 5% of the property price as a deposit, with a 75% mortgage to cover the rest. Under the second phase of Help to Buy, which had been due to launch in January, the government will underwrite 15% of the value of a mortgage, allowing people to buy properties with a 5% deposit. It will apply to all home purchases in the UK of up to ?600,000. Applications for loans from the scheme will now be brought forward to the week beginning 7 October but the loans will not be paid out until 1 January. Anyone hoping to complete on their home purchase using the second phase of Help to Buy before 2014 will not be able to. 'Less than responsible' Adam Marshall, of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "With all the concern expressed about Help to Buy - rushing into it seems less than responsible on part of government." House prices rose at their fastest rate in more than six years in September, according to property analysts Hometrack. Labour said the government needed to build more houses to ease shortages. "Unless David Cameron acts now to build more affordable homes, as Labour has urged, then soaring prices risk making it even harder for first time buyers to get on the housing ladder," said Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls. "You can't deal with the cost of living crisis without building more homes, so it's no wonder that for millions of families this is no recovery at all. It comes as a poll of more than 1,400 Conservative councillors in England and Wales for BBC One's Sunday Politics suggested nearly a quarter would support an electoral pact with the UK Independence Party (UKIP) at the next general election. A Tory source said: "80% of our councillors didn't respond to this survey so it's hardly representative. It should be taken with a large pinch of salt." The conference opened on Sunday with a tribute to former Prime Minster Baroness Thatcher, who died aged 87 in April. It will close with Mr Cameron's keynote speech on Wednesday.1 February 2013Last updated at 19:18 GMT David Cameron calls on UN to end 'extreme poverty' David Cameron has told a UN meeting in Liberia that "eradicating extreme poverty" should be the focus of a new set of international development goals. The British PM was co-chair of the panel, which met on Friday to discuss new targets to replace the millennium development goals which expire in 2015. Mr Cameron said the UN must focus on ending poverty factors, including "corruption [and] lack of justice". If agreed later this year, the new pledges will run until 2030. Mr Cameron - who chaired the high-level panel jointly with Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Indonesia's Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono - said the north African country had been "absolutely devastated by conflict and civil war". But he insisted more than just financial aid was required to lift countries in a similar situation out of poverty. 'Rule of law' Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mr Cameron said: "[Liberia] is now recovering but there is still desperate poverty... one in 10 children do not make it to the age of five. "It is important we look at those things that keep countries poor. Conflict, corruption, lack of justice, lack of the rule of law. These things matter as well as money." During the press conference, the Prime Minister was also forced to defend his commitment to dedicate 0.7% of British gross domestic product to foreign aid. Mr Cameron has pledged to protect the international development budget but conceded on Thursday that the UK defence budget could be cut further in 2015-16. He said: "I am proud of the fact that Britain has kept its promises. We will achieve 0.7% of our gross national income in aid as promised. And I am proud to be the PM who has helped deliver that." The GDP commitment has yet to be enshrined in law. UN goals The millennium development goals, designed to be completed by 2015, are pledges by UN member countries to increase living standards in poorer parts of the world. The first of the targets - halving poverty among some of the very poorest - has been achieved, due largely to big increases in income in recent years in China and India. But attempts to reach other goals have been less successful. Mr Cameron was selected by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon as joint chair the meeting. The next set of UN goals will be drafted with input from charities and advocacy groups. More than 60 groups were in the Liberian capital Monrovia - where the meeting took place - to air their views. Earlier, Mr Cameron visited the Anna F Whisnant elementary school with President Sirleaf. He said many of the children he spoke to in the playground "wanted to be doctors, lawyers and even government ministers. "If you ask children in the UK, all they want to be is pop stars and footballers," he joked. The next meeting will be in Indonesia. followed by a final gathering in New York in May - where the findings will be presented to Ban Ki Moon.2 October 2013Last updated at 14:14 GMT David Cameron: Labour's the point Elections are won by the party that defines the question. That is an essential truism of politics and it explains what David Cameron was trying to do today. Labour want the choice at the 2015 general election to be between which party can best help voters with the cost of living. The economy may be growing but only Labour, so their argument goes, can best ensure that the benefits will be shared fairly. Thus higher taxes on big business to help small business. Thus fewer profits for energy firms and cheaper bills for consumers. And only Labour, so the rhetoric goes, can make Britain better. Today the prime minister challenged that analysis. He wishes the election to be a question over which party can best secure the recovery and offer the best vision for the future. Let's stick with it, he said, and finish the job we have started. The Tories will support business in a way Labour would not. Profit is not a dirty word. No gimmicks, no quick fix, he said, just more hard work. Being deliberately cautious, he said it was not job done but job begun. And he went further. The Conservatives, he said, were not just trying to fix the economy, dreaming of decimal points and dry fiscal plans. He said they want to do more than clear up the mess they believe was left by Labour. They also want to support aspiration, creating what he calls a land of opportunity, helping people to get a job through their welfare reforms, to "rise up and succeed" with their education changes, and grow their businesses by keeping interest rates low. It was an echo of much of what Mr Cameron said in his conference speech last year. Relentless critique There was little new policy apart from the idea that unemployment benefit might be docked from the under 25s unless they are in education, training, work or an apprenticeship. But perhaps what was most surprising was the relentless critique of Labour. Mr Cameron referred to his opponents twenty five times, more than any other of his themes or lines. The prime minister mocked his Liberal Democrat coalition colleagues just once, briefly and gently, and did not mention UKIP once, despite it being the talk of many fringes here in Manchester. Instead, Mr Cameron attacked Labour's record in office and what he sees as its failure to understand what is wrong with Britain today and what the country needs for the future. Let me give you a flavour of some of the attack, just to get a sense of how much time he devoted to Labour: "We are clearing up the mess that Labour left." "Who protected spending on the NHS? Not Labour - us. Who presided over Mid Staffs??patients left for so long without water, they were drinking out of dirty vases...people's grandparents lying filthy and unwashed for days. Who allowed that to happen? Yes, it was Labour..." "The casino economy meets the welfare society meets the broken education system... country for the few built by the so-called party of the many??and Labour: we will never let you forget it." 'Fantasy land' "We still haven't finished paying for Labour's Debt Crisis. If anyone thinks that's over, done, dealt with - they're living in a fantasy land. This country's debt crisis, created by Labour, is not over." "Labour have stopped talking about the debt crisis and now they talk about the cost of living crisis. As if one wasn't directly related to the other. If you want to know what happens if you don't deal with a debt crisis....and how it affects the cost of living.....just go and ask the Greeks." "To abandon deficit reduction now would throw away all the progress we've made. It would put us back to square one. Unbelievably, that's exactly what Labour now want to do. "How did they get us into this mess? Too much spending, too much borrowing, too much debt. And what did they propose last week? More spending, more borrowing, more debt. They have learned nothing - literally nothing - from the crisis they created." "Last week Labour proposed to put up corporation tax on our biggest and most successful employers. That is just about the most damaging, nonsensical, twisted economic policy you could possibly come up with." "We've heard Labour's ideas to help with the cost of living. Taxes on banks they want to spend ten times over. Promising free childcare - then saying that actually, you've got to pay for it. An energy promise they admitted 24 hours later they might not be able to keep. It's all sticking plasters and quick fixes... cobbled together for the TV cameras. Red Ed and his Blue Peter economy." "The land of despair was Labour...but the land of hope is Tory." Political weather Now many in Labour take it as a compliment that Mr Cameron felt the need to make so much of his speech a response to what Ed Miliband said last week at his conference. They see it as Labour making the political weather, forcing Mr Cameron to sing to their tune rather than set his own agenda. They say the one thing that people will remember from this conference season is their promise to freeze energy bills. And they note, too, there were no claims that Mr Miliband is weak, until now a familiar Tory refrain. But Conservatives dispute that analysis. They say that Tory leaders always respond to their Labour counterparts because of chronology, their conferences by convention follow Labour's. They say that they are responding to Labour because they now have a target, what they see as a left wing set of socialist proposals, something they can push back against. And they also note that they are not responding in kind with what they describe as a short term gimmick to match Mr Miliband's energy price freeze. That is not to say the Conservatives will not match Mr Miliband's price freeze. They will but they do not feel the need to do so now. One very senior Tory minister told me that what Labour has done is what oppositions always do and that is defining a problem. But, he said, only governments can actually affect solutions. So he said we should expect some kind of energy price cut, funded by a reduction in renewable subsidies, before the election, And that is the point. Voters may support the party they think best placed to secure the recovery. But they also might want to support they party they think will most likely keep their bills down.1 October 2013Last updated at 14:42 GMT David Cameron reveals love of bread-making David Cameron has revealed that he fits in time between his prime ministerial duties to make bread for his children. The Conservative leader expressed his "delight" at creating the occasional granary loaf using a labour-saving electric bread-maker. The subject came up during an interview when the PM was unable to give the price of a "value sliced white loaf". Mr Cameron told LBC 97.3 that, rather than go to the shops, he liked a baking smell to "waft" through his kitchen. Questions about the costs of everyday goods - groceries in particular - are often fired at politicians to test how in touch they are with ordinary people's lives. 'North of a pound' Speaking on BBC Two's Newsnight on Monday, London Mayor Boris Johnson incorrectly suggested a pint of milk came to about 90p - the true figure is usually about half that. On LBC, presenter Nick Ferrari asked the prime minister how much a typical supermarket value loaf of sliced white bread costs. Mr Cameron replied: "I don't buy the value sliced loaf. I've got a bread-maker at home which I delight in using and it turns out in all sorts of different ways. "But you can buy a loaf in the supermarket for well north of a pound." The radio host said the actual figure was about 47p. Mr Cameron added: "I'm trying to get my children to eat the sort of granary. And they take it actually. They like my homemade bread." The prime minister then went on to plug a brand of flour made in his parliamentary constituency of Witney, in Oxfordshire. He added: "You set the timer [of the bread-maker] overnight so when you wake up there is this wonderful smell wafting through your kitchen. It takes 30 seconds to put in the ingredients." Home baking has become more fashionable in recent years, with BBC Two's The Great British Bake-Off attracting millions of viewers. Mr Cameron's wife Samantha held a cake sale to raise money for BBC's Comic Relief in March.2 October 2013Last updated at 20:26 GMT David Cameron suggests cutting benefits for under-25s David Cameron has suggested benefits paid to people under the age of 25 could be cut in an effort to reduce long-term worklessness. In his speech to the Conservative conference, the prime minister promised to "nag and push and guide" young people away from a life on the dole. It was later confirmed that the government is reviewing policies for 16 to 25-year-olds. But Labour accused the Conservatives of a "desperate" lack of ideas. In his speech, Mr Cameron promised to create a "land of opportunity" by boosting business and reducing reliance on benefits. He also vowed to improve the education system and told party activists that there was still much work to do to fix the economic "mess" left by Labour. 'Bold action' The from the Department of Work and Pensions showed 1.09 million people between the ages of 16 and 24 were not in work, education or training. The problem has proved stubbornly hard to tackle across Europe, with rates of youth unemployment soaring above 50% in Spain. Mr Cameron argued that action was needed in the UK, saying: "There are still over a million young people not in education, employment, or training. "Today it is still possible to leave school, sign on, find a flat, start claiming housing benefit and opt for a life on benefits. It's time for bold action here." He promised the Conservatives would consider, as they write their manifesto for the 2015 general election, whether "that option should really exist at all". A Conservative source has told the BBC the manifesto will definitely contain a commitment to end the automatic entitlement to housing benefit for the under-25s, as suggested previously by Mr Cameron. In his speech, the prime minister criticised reliance on benefits, saying: "Instead we should give young people a clear, positive choice: Go to school. Go to college. Do an apprenticeship. Get a job. "But just choose the dole? We've got to offer them something better than that." 'Dunt' He added: "And let no one paint ideas like this as callous. Think about it: with your children, would you dream of just leaving them to their own devices, not getting a job, not training, nothing? "No - you'd nag and push and guide and do anything to get them on their way?? and so must we. So this is what we want to see: everyone under 25 - earning or learning." During the week-long conference in Manchester, the Conservatives have announced plans to make the long-term unemployed undertake work placements if they want to continue receiving benefits. Mr Cameron did not set out any specific changes regarding under-25s during his 50-minute speech, but Education Secretary Michael Gove offered more detail when questioned on BBC Radio 4's The World at One. He announced that Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood was already reviewing the policies in place. He is expected to report his findings by the end of the year. Mr Gove said: "It is always going to be the case that there are some people for whom you need not so much a nudge as a dunt (a firm blow or stroke) towards the workplace. "It's important also that we all recognise that welfare is there explicitly to help those people through hard times that it shouldn't become habituated." He said he would not pre-empt the policy review, adding: "I don't think any of us would want to take away any form of necessary support to young or old vulnerable people." 'Suffering' However, unions warned that any cut in benefits would hurt the worst-off. TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Given the government's awful track record of helping young people find jobs, the prime minister's threat to ban the dole for under-25s will simply push hundreds of thousands of young people, including those with young families, even deeper into poverty. "Young people suffered most in the recession. Today the prime minister has pledged that they will suffer most during the recovery too." The general secretary of the University and College Union, Sally Hunt, said: "What we need is a real plan at local and national level which provides sustainable and secure employment opportunities for young people and access to education which is useful and mind-broadening. "Cheap headlines about lazy youngsters or cutting their benefits are no substitute for a strategy which is on the side of young people and allows them to realise their potential." A Labour spokesperson said: "This is an empty and a desperate attempt to distract from the fact that there was absolutely nothing in David Cameron's speech to deal with the cost-of-living crisis facing families. "If the Conservatives really wanted to get young people off benefits, they'd be backing Labour's youth jobs guarantee, giving young people who've been out of work for over a year a job they must take or lose benefits."2 October 2013Last updated at 16:03 GMT David Cameron: We're building land of hope and opportunity David Cameron vowed to get behind business to create a "land of opportunity for all", in his big speech to close the Conservative conference. His 50-minute address sought to set out dividing lines with "the 1970s-style socialism" he said Labour now offered. He claimed the economy was "turning the corner" and the "land of hope is Tory", while "the land of despair was Labour". Mr Cameron also hinted that benefits for under-25s could be cut in an effort to get more young people into work. But Labour said the prime minister had failed to address the "cost-of-living crisis" and offered a land of opportunity "for just a privileged few". 'Nag and push' During the 50-minute speech, Mr Cameron contrasted his own party's philosophy with that of the opposition, saying: "If Labour's plan for jobs is to attack business, ours is to back business." He criticised Labour leader Ed Miliband, who promised in his end-of-conference address last week to freeze energy prices and increase corporate tax on big firms, telling Tory activists that "profits, tax cuts and enterprise... are not dirty, elitist words". Mr Cameron argued that adding more state borrowing and spending to ease the "cost-of-living crisis" would risk putting the UK on the economic trajectory of Greece. "It's all sticking plasters and quick fixes cobbled together for the TV cameras - Red Ed and his Blue Peter economy, " said the prime minister. Earlier in the week, Chancellor George Osborne announced plans to make the long-term unemployed undertake work placements if they want to continue receiving benefits. In his speech, Mr Cameron did not make any specific policy announcements, but suggested his party was looking at further changes to the welfare system to include in its manifesto for the 2015 general election. It was wrong that young people could "choose the dole" and right to "offer them something better". Mr Cameron added: "And let no one paint ideas like this as callous. "Think about it: with your children, would you dream of just leaving them to their own devices, not getting a job, not training, nothing? "No - you'd nag and push and guide and do anything to get them on their way?? and so must we. So this is what we want to see: everyone under 25 - earning or learning." 'Stand tall' Mr Cameron, who did not repeat previous no-notes speeches, often looked straight into the lens of the TV camera to address directly the audience outside the Manchester conference centre. The BBC's chief political correspondent Norman Smith said it was a surprisingly sober speech in parts, with Mr Cameron stressing there was still much work to do to fix Britain's economy. It was not enough just to clean up Labour's "mess" and pay off the deficit, he wanted to "build something better in its place". He added: "In place of the casino economy, one where people who work hard can actually get on; in place of the welfare society, one where no individual is written off; in place of the broken education system, one that gives every child the chance to rise up and succeed." Mr Cameron invoked the spirit of his predecessor Margaret Thatcher, the winner of three general elections, who died earlier this year, saying she had "made our country stand tall again, at home and abroad". He also made efforts to distance his party, and himself, from the Liberal Democrats, with whom the Tories have ruled in coalition for more than three years. He promised: "When the election comes, we won't be campaigning for a coalition, we will be fighting heart and soul for a majority Conservative government - because that is what our country needs... "This party at its heart is about big people, strong communities, responsible businesses, a bigger society - not a bigger state." 'Strong message' To cheers, Mr Cameron attacked the Lib Dems for "trying to take all the credit" for lowering the minimum earnings threshold at which people start paying income tax. He joked: "Well, memo to the Lib Dems: you lecturing us on low taxes is like us lecturing you on pointless constitutional tinkering. "We are Tories, we believe in low taxes and, believe me, we will keep on cutting the taxes of hard-working people in our country." Mr Cameron received a standing ovation after the speech, his ninth to conference since becoming leader in 2005. But, afterwards, Labour leader Ed Miliband said the prime minister had offered nothing to address "the cost-of-living crisis facing Britain's hard-working families". The Lib Dems said they, not the Conservatives, had made a manifesto commitment in 2010 to raise the level at which people start paying tax to ?10,000. And UKIP leader Nigel Farage said the pro-business message conflicted with the reality that membership of the EU was costing the UK "billions in red tape and direct payments from high taxes". But there was a more favourable response from business groups, with CBI director-general John Cridland saying the prime minister had "sent out a strong message about how vital British business is to the future prosperity of people across the UK". Simon Walker, director-general of the Institute of Directors also welcomed the speech, but warned that firms would "be looking for him to match the sentiment with action - if tax cuts aren't dirty, let's have a few more of them".2 October 2013Last updated at 12:05 GMT David Cameron: Word count reveals all Count up the repeated words and phrases in David Cameron's conference speech and you capture what it was really about. Labour was mentioned 25 times whereas the Lib Dems just twice , the Coalition once, Nick Clegg, UKIP and Nigel Farage not at all. The prime minister wants to turn the political argument into what he calls a straight red/blue fight. His message was summed up in a single soundbite attacking "Red Ed and his Blue Peter economy all sticking plasters and quick fixes... cobbled together for the TV cameras". Tory market research reveals that voters are more moved by doubts about whether Labour would ever do what they promise, rather than the attacks on "a return to 1970s socialism" which moves Tory supporters, the Tory press and big business. There were 15 pleas to "finish the job." David Cameron and George Osborne are determined to kill the idea that they think the economy is now fixed. He reminded the country that after three years of cuts the deficit was still huge. They believe that having lost the Plan A/Plan B argument Labour is trying to change the subject to a debate about living standards. They are determined to wrestle it back again. What's described as the new Tory mission - building a "land of opportunity" - was mentioned 13 times. The party hopes that it captures an optimistic vision; their commitment to reform education and welfare as well as the economy; and their belief in helping all and not just the few. It will be interesting to see if the phrase lasts any longer than many previous Conference phrases that die almost as soon as they're uttered. What will stay in the memory from this Conference is the Tories' laser-like focus on the threat from Ed Miliband which they once laughed off.22 November 2012Last updated at 18:53 GMT David Ford in plan to cut legal aid bill for civil cases By Vincent KearneyBBC NI home affairs correspondent The Justice Minister, David Ford, has taken the first step to cut the amount of legal aid paid to barristers and solicitors in civil cases. His department has outlined proposals to save millions of pounds in a range of cases such as child custody battles and divorces. Under the plans, fewer barristers would be appointed to civil court disputes. The bill for civil legal aid cases in Northern Ireland last year was just over ?53m. Strike Mr Ford has previously faced down the legal profession in a battle over court case costs. Last year, barristers and solicitors went on strike in protest at the minister's decision to reduce legal aid payments for . They eventually accepted new fees and the Department of Justice (DOJ) said that, and other changes, would save the public purse ?20m a year. However, Northern Ireland still has the most expensive legal aid system in the world, relative to the size of its population, and the minister is now turning his attention to civil cases. Figures show that over the last 12 years, the local civil legal aid bill has increased by 368% - increasing from just under ?11.5m in the financial year 1999-2000 to more than ?53m in 2011-2012. Currently, the cost for civil cases works out at more than ?29 for every man, woman and child living in Northern Ireland. 'Confrontation' In England and Wales it is about ?17 per person while in Scotland it works out at just over ?11. On Thursday, the DOJ revealed details of the first stage of plans to drastically reduce the bill - by reducing the number of barristers involved in such cases. As it stands, virtually everyone involved in a civil case like a divorce or a child custody dispute has access to a barrister. The justice minister has claimed that is not always necessary and in future solicitors will have to seek authorisation before employing a barrister on their client's behalf. He told BBC Radio Ulster' Evening Extra programme that he hoped the stand-off over the changes to criminal case costs would not be repeated as a result of his plans for civil cases. "We are not in for a business of confrontation. Our business is to ensure that we can meet the...expenses for legal aid within a reasonable scale of costs for individuals, but in a way which is affordable for the public purse," Mr Ford said. 'Vulnerable' However, barristers have rejected the claim that they are often employed unnecessarily and have insisted that they are essential in many cases. Denise McBride QC, the deputy chair of the Bar Council for Northern Ireland, said: "In fact, in these cases we are dealing with some of the most vulnerable people in society and they are facing the might of the state - for example if the state decides to take a child into care. "It's important that the rights of these parties are full represented," she added. Round two of the minister's battle with the legal profession seems likely to be every bit as fractious as round one. In addition to the move announced on Thursday, Mr Ford also plans to introduce new, lower payments for civil legal aid work and a number of other measures aimed at cutting costs.3 October 2013Last updated at 08:56 GMT David Tennant 'to star in US Broadchurch' Britain's David Tennant is to reprise his detective role in the US version of ITV's hit murder mystery Broadchurch, according to reports. The former Doctor Who star will reportedly adopt an American accent to play Alec Hardy, who investigates a tragic death in a small seaside town. Dan Futterman and Anya Epstein will serve as executive producers alongside the series' creator, Chris Chibnall. ITV has already commissioned a second series of the UK version. Filming for the US adaptation will begin in January for broadcast on the Fox network during the 2014-2015 season. The original, filmed in Dorset, in which Tennant co-stars alongside Olivia Colman, has just finished its US run on BBC America. Tennant, 42, is currently preparing to play Richard II at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. He will also be seen alongside current Doctor Matt Smith in the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who on 23 November. The Scottish-born star would not be the first British actor to recreate his role in a US incarnation of a UK drama. Having appeared in the original version of crime thriller Low Winter Sun, Mark Strong subsequently went Stateside to star in the show's American remake.29 July 2010Last updated at 09:59 GMT Deal finalised on fusion reactor By Matt McGrathScience reporter, BBC News, Cadarache The European Union and six member states have reached a deal on the financing and timetable for an experimental nuclear fusion reactor. An explosion in costs had cast a cloud over the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (Iter). The project, which is to be based in Cadarache in southern France, aims to harness the same physical process that fuels the Sun. Additional construction funds will have to come from within the EU's budget. The extra 1.4bn euros will cover a shortfall in building costs in 2012-13. Delegates agreed that the overall costs of the project will be almost US $21bn, (16bn euros/?13bn), some three times the original price. They also agreed a timeline that would see the first plasma experiments in 2019, with a fusion reactor generating significantly more power than it consumed by 2026/27. 'Landmark' day The organisation also appointed a new director general, Professor Osamu Motojima, who said that he believed the new timeline and budget agreed in Cadarache would make fusion a reality. "Today is a landmark day for the Iter project, now we are moving into the real construction phase," he said. Four years ago, the EU, Russia, China, India, Japan, Korea and the US picked Cadarache in the south of France as the location for the experiment that aimed to produce energy from the fusing of light atomic elements, the same process that makes the Sun shine. But since the science of how to achieve this type of fusion hasn't been settled, the plans for the Iter project have been the subject of several revisions in recent years, each one leading to an increased price tag. Coupled with the increases in costs for raw materials like steel and cement, the budget for the project has spiralled from around 5bn euros to about 16bn euros, as confirmed today. The EU has agreed to meet a critical short term shortfall of 1.4bn euros by using money that has been allocated to other research programmes. But the EU has said it will cap its overall contribution to Iter at 6.6bn euros, leaving the fusion project to find cuts in costs of around 600m euros. "To meet this we need to reduce the construction costs and also reduce some contingency provisions," said Professor Motojima. "Cost containment is very important. To get understanding from public we need to reduce costs as much as possible; realising this is my largest responsibility," he observed. "My basic attitude to realise cost containment is to simplify everything, I propose to simplify a new management structure of the organisation." Professor Motojima agreed that there would be no more bailout in future. "It's impossible to look for more money. My expectation is that we can do this within our budgets. I have the prospect we can do this, otherwise I wouldn't accept my new responsibility." The director of research in nuclear energy at the European Commission, Octavio Quintana Trias, suggested that Wednesday marked a landmark for Iter in coming to terms with reality. "The most important thing is that the designs which were conceptual in 2001, now are much closer to the reality of the industry. I can guarantee nothing but it is less likely that we will have cost surprises when the designs are much closer to the reality than they were ten years ago." Mr Quintana Trias said that the while Wednesday's meeting was a major step forward for research, a commercial fusion reactor wouldn't happen until 2040 at the earliest. But despite the large rise in costs, he added that he believed the investment was worth it. "If you consider the total costs of the machine even in the worst scenario are the bill we pay for energy for one day in the world, then to get a new energy source for this price I think is worth trying." Cost concerns In Europe, some scientists are unhappy with the EU proposal to take funds from unspent budgets to bail Iter out. In France, a group of physicists - including Nobel prize winner Georges Charpak - have written a letter to the press calling Iter a catastrophe and arguing that it should be shut down. They suggest that making up the shortfall in Iter's budget is costing France alone the equivalent of 20 years investment in physics and biology. According to one of the signatories, Professor Jacques Treiner from Paris University, it was time to call a halt to Iter before any more money was spent. "The end of Iter would not mean the end of plasma physics or fusion research, just the end of that project which was ill conceived," Professor Treiner said. "At a certain point especially when they say they will take money from other fields to fund this one you have to say, really a clear answer and the answer is no, don't do that."2 October 2013Last updated at 08:51 GMT Decision day dawns for Italy and Berlusconi Italian Prime Minister is fighting to save his government. Having made a speech defending his five months in power, he will gauge opinion in the Senate and then decide whether to call for a vote of confidence. To survive he will need around 20 votes from senators from 's party. Forty-eight hours ago that looked unlikely. Berlusconi had said: "Even though I understand the risks that I am taking on, I have decided to put an end to the Letta government." That may prove to have been a serious miscalculation. Even though Silvio Berlusconi has dominated politics for 20 years, a considerable number of his MPs and senators look set to defy him. There is a growing sense that the Berlusconi era is coming to an end and that Italy cannot be held to ransom over his . One of his allies said there was a choice between doing what was right for the party and what was right for the country. The expectation is that Prime Minister Letta will survive but one of Silvio Berlusconi's MPs warned this morning that in Italy "politics works in the night". He suggested that the 40 MPs who were expected to rebel had already dwindled to 28. One of Berlusconi's oldest allies said this morning that he had been talking to the man who calls himself Il Cavaliere until 01:30 but will be voting for Mr Letta. He said Berlusconi should not put his personal issues before the issues of the country. So the political drama being played out in Rome today is of great significance. If Enrico Letta wins then the question is how stable will his government be. Will it be able to carry out the reforms that Italy, stuck in its worst recession since World War II, so desperately needs? If he loses, the government will fall although the president might still ask Mr Letta to try and form a new coalition. If that proves impossible, then elections will follow and Italy faces weeks of uncertainty. The ratings agencies may well downgrade the country. The day will also decide whether Silvio Berlusconi's grip on his own party has been broken and whether we are entering a new era in Italian politics.28 August 2013Last updated at 08:50 GMT Defecting Cuban hurdler Orlando Ortega aims for US move A top Cuban hurdler who defected earlier this month says he now wants to be reunited with his mother in Florida. Orlando Ortega, 22, criticised the Cuban sports authorities in a phone call to the Associated Press news agency from Padua in Italy. "It was an extremely difficult and tough decision, but I made it and I won't look back," said Ortega. Ortega came sixth in the 110m hurdles final in the London 2012 Olympics. But this year his form has been much worse. He failed to get beyond the qualifying round in his event at the world championships in Moscow recently. The Cuban authorities suspended him for six months for insubordination after he refused to compete in a June trial event in Russia. In early August he abandoned the Cuban team in Spain, after the World Championships in Moscow. He was regarded as one of the island's top athletes and his defection is seen as a big blow, coming after the decision by fellow Cuban hurdler Dayron Robles to move his career to Monaco. "Right now the only thing and what I want most is to reunite with my mother in the United States," Ortega said. His mother lives in Tampa, Florida. "They committed a great injustice with me and my trainer," Ortega said. "It affected me a lot and I felt very bad, because I didn't compete during the two months ahead of the world championships," he told AP. "I am living some hard moments. I know that in Cuba people are talking about betrayal," Ortega said. He went on to criticise Cuba's sports authorities for "the lack of attention to the athletes".2 October 2013Last updated at 09:16 GMT Deja vu for the ECB Berlusconi tries to topple Italy's government (again). Greece may need another loan and is experiencing political turmoil with the problematic Golden Dawn party. And ongoing funding challenges for banks in peripheral eurozone countries mean that the European Central Bank (ECB) may offer another round of cheap cash. It feels like we've been here before. Certainly a bit of deja vu. No doubt these lingering issues in the eurozone crisis will affect the ECB as it meets today. As we've heard many times from central bankers, there is a limit to what the monetary policy can do about political stability or the decisions over Greece's debt. But the fragility of eurozone banks and the pressures from the US point to why the ECB may offer another set of cheap loans to banks. It would be the third year running for the central bank to offer the so-called LTRO, or long-term refinancing operation, to eurozone banks. In 2011 and 2012, the ECB lent about 1 trillion euros that helped to prop up eurozone banks during some of the worst times in the crisis. About half has been paid back, but it looks like eurozone banks may need more help to cope with the ongoing stresses. Plus, the situation in the US isn't helping. First, despite the ECB's new policy of "forward guidance", where the bank has said that it will hold rates at a low level (currently at a record low 0.5%), commercial lending rates have risen. It's not because prices are rising. Inflation has fallen to the lowest level in more than three years. At just 1.1%, it is substantially below the ECB's target of keeping inflation below, but close to, 2%. So, there aren't many indicators pointing to an imminent rate rise. Yet, commercial rates for lending are rising. This happened during the crisis when liquidity, or cash, was less available to eurozone banks and thus their cost of borrowing rose. By offering cheap loans, the ECB helped to lower the cost of borrowing for banks. But a key measure of funding costs for eurozone banks, the three-month Euribor, which gives the rate at which they can borrow money for three months, has nearly doubled to 0.225% since last year. By comparison, despite the US woes, three-month money costs one-tenth of that at just 0.02% for the sovereign and around 0.09% for commercial lending. It's not a huge amount when compared with the stressed period at the height of the crisis, but the trend is worrying for indebted companies in countries such as Italy. In fact, it was worrying enough for ECB president Mario Draghi to say that he would offer another LTRO if needed. According to the International Monetary Fund, the leverage ratio of Italian companies, which is the amount of debt as a proportion of debt plus equity, is the third highest in the eurozone after Portugal and Spain. It is as high as 60% for small firms, which is why it's not surprising that 30% are categorised as distressed. Worryingly, they account for half of all of the corporate debt in the country. So a rise in funding costs could affect the ability of such firms to stay afloat. It's not entirely clear that the money lent to banks finds its way to small companies. That's why if LTRO3 is announced, it could be for longer duration loans or even be tied to lending to small firms. The latter would be similar to the Bank of England's Funding for Lending scheme. Also, the US government shutdown and the prospect of the Fed tapering its cash injections are playing a role. The first shutdown in 17 years of parts of the US government sent the euro higher to more than $1.35. The Fed not tapering its cash injections last month also boosted the euro. A stronger euro makes exports more expensive and hampers the recovery. Weaker exports and more expensive credit don't make for the best combination of economic factors. It adds to the case that the ECB has to "loosen" monetary conditions further to support the eurozone, which has just emerged from the longest recession on record. Chances are that Mr Draghi may hold off on another injection of cheap cash to allow forward guidance a bit more time to work. But circumstances in Europe and US could begin to dictate the timeline for the ECB.24 August 2012Last updated at 06:25 GMT Deja vu hits India's parliament There is a feeling of deja vu over the present impasse in the parliament. , the parliament sat for 73 days for over 800 hours. Around 30% of the time was lost due to disruptions, according to the watchdog PRS Legislative Research. A total of 54 bills were listed for consideration and passing into law. Only 28 were actually passed. Some 97 bills were pending when the parliament shut. Things began on a this year. Nearly 90% of the time available during the budget session - March to May with a three-week recess in April - was productive, "significantly higher than the productive time registered in the last few sessions", according to PRS. Twelve bills were passed, and 17 new bills were introduced. Over 100 bills were pending at the end of the session. And suddenly, it's yesterday once more. The ongoing - with 20 sittings between August and September - has been with the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over a report that India lost $33bn (?20bn) by selling coalfields cheaply. Mr Singh has offered to make a statement on the government's position, but the BJP, "choosing agitation over debate" as one newspaper describes it, says nothing short of Mr Singh's resignation will satisfy them. Look at what India is losing out on. During the ongoing monsoon session, there are some 29 pending bills for consideration and passing into laws. These include laws to prevent money laundering, checking corruption, protecting women from sexual harassment at workplace, protecting whistle blowers, amending laws relating to banking and marriage, and regulating higher education, among other things. But the possibility of these bills being debated or passed looks bleak with every passing day. Stuck between what many say is an evasive and indecisive government and a belligerently intransigent opposition, bipartisanship appears to have suffered an irretrievable breakdown. This does not bode well for the future of India's democracy. India's parliament has had a chequered history. The first 13 parliaments passed more than 3,200 bills, but the legislative output slowed down in the 1990s as India's politics fragmented and political instability grew. As Devesh Kapur and Pratap Bhanu Mehta , political instability and a divided parliament - with the ruling coalition often a minority in the upper house - contributed to the slowing down of output. They also believe that the parliament takes itself less seriously today, "starkly evident" in the declining number of days it is in session - the number of sittings has declined by about a third since 1950s. Putting the government on the mat through robust debate is the job of a feisty, vibrant opposition party; but paralysing the house with grandstanding and an obdurate go for broke attitude makes it look petulant and irresponsible. When will India's political parties stop making a scene and begin debating more in the parliament?2 October 2013Last updated at 14:09 GMT Delay GCSE entry changes, says schools leader By Hannah RichardsonBBC News education reporter Education Secretary Michael Gove has been asked to delay mid-course changes aimed at stopping schools from entering pupils for GCSEs before they are ready. The Independent Academies Association head Nick Weller said stopping GCSE retakes from counting in England's league tables could backfire on pupils. It is claimed that schools enter pupils early so they can bank a key C-grade, only taking exams again if they fail. The government says heads will still be able to enter students for GCSEs early. But it argues that if pupils are entered for exams at the expected time - at the end of a two-year course - they are more likely to do better. Mr Weller, who is chairman of the main body representing state-funded but privately run schools known as academies, said in a letter to Mr Gove that he shared the secretary of state's concern about multiple entries for the same qualification and other aspects of league table "game-playing". But he was worried about "damage being done to students' prospects this year" because the changes were effective almost immediately - affecting the league tables based on next summer's GCSE results. He appealed to Mr Gove to delay the proposed changes so that current GCSE students could continue their courses as planned. 'Undermine confidence' "I am not sure that the department has fully understood the unintended consequences of previous mid-course changes in relation to the GCSE qualification, and I fear that these latest revisions, if they are as reported, will further undermine confidence in the system," he said. He also questioned whether the Department for Education could clearly distinguish between "gaming" the league tables and doing what was best for students. "Many schools will now cancel early entries, despite the fact that students themselves might be better off sitting a paper this winter with the chance to retake if necessary in the summer," he said. He added that academy leaders were "dismayed at the confusion and loss of confidence in the GCSE examination since the summer of 2012". This follows the changes to grade boundaries to GCSE English courses midway through the year, which left pupils with the same marks on different grades. It was the subject of a judicial review against Ofqual and some exam boards by teaching unions, which was not upheld. Mr Weller said: "Sensible reform in the pursuit of rigour should be associated with greater clarity, consistency and logic, not less." And he urged the secretary of state to consult properly with professionals he trusted on any further revisions to the exams system. 'Damaging trend' A Department for Education spokesman has said: "We recognise that early entry can be used effectively in certain cases and schools will continue to be able to enter pupils early for examinations where they feel it is appropriate. "However, schools should definitely not be entering children for exams before they are ready. It is not good for pupils to be put in early in a school's hope they can 'bank' a C - it is far better that children study the subject fully and take it when they are ready." A document on its website said the changes were being made to address "the significant increase" in early entry in recent years. The education secretary has previously described early entry as a "damaging trend that is harming the interests of many pupils", adding that there is evidence that "candidates who enter early perform worse overall than those who do not, even after resits are taken into account". League table 'tricks' The DfE paper continues: "It seems likely that candidates are being entered before they are ready, and 'banking' a C grade where their performance at Key Stage 2 [end of primary school] would suggest that if they had continued to study the subject and taken the GCSE at the end of year 11 they could have achieved a top grade." "If schools decide they wish to withdraw students from November examinations, they should contact their exam board. "If schools are confident that pupils will achieve well even when entered early and that early entry is therefore in the interests of the pupil, they should not need to make any changes to entry plans. Any pupil who does enter early from this point on will still be able to retake if they receive a disappointing result. "That result will not count towards the performance tables for their school, even if it is an improvement on their earlier entry, but pupils will still be able to use their best result to support applications to further and higher education, or for employment." It comes as head teachers are writing to parents also expressing concern about the changes. A joint letter from the National Association of Head Teachers and the Association of School and College leaders says: "Without any notice and with immediate effect, the government has limited schools' ability to enter students early for GCSEs - after we had already planned entries for the year. Early entry can serve many good purposes, including vital 'live' preparation for later exams. "It seems that barely a term goes by without another sudden change to GCSE examinations. Worst of all, these changes are often made in the middle of students' courses of study, making it impossible to plan properly or to focus on learning rather than constant administrative change. They changed grade boundaries between exam sittings; they dropped the vital skills of speaking and listening from English mid-course; and now this latest announcement. "These changes are often timed to coincide with party conferences or similar events, leading us to fear that students and schools are just collateral damage in party political squabbles." The move, announced last weekend, is one of a number steps brought in aimed at preventing schools from engaging in league table "tricks" that some say may harm pupils' prospects.3 October 2013Last updated at 16:12 GMT Deleted genes 'offer autism clues' The discovery of "missing" genes could help scientists understand how autism develops, a study suggests. US researchers looked at the genetic profiles of more than 431 people with an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) and 379 without. They found those with an ASD were more likely to have just one copy of certain genes, when they should have had two. UK experts said genetic factors were one promising area of research into the causes of autism. About 1% of the population has an ASD. They can run in families - but scientists have not identified a cause. Gene deletions or additions happen in everyone - it is why people are different. It is which genes are affected that determines what the effect is. 'Mis-wiring' There were far more gene deletions in the ASD group, and they were more likely to have multiple deletions. Writing in the American Journal of Human Genetics, the team from Mount Sinai suggests this "mis-wiring" could alter the activity of nerve cells in the brain. Prof Joseph Buxbaum, who led the research team, said: "This is the first finding that small deletions impacting one or two genes appear to be common in autism, and that these deletions contribute to risk of development of this disorder." The researchers found many of the most common deletions in the autistic group were linked to autophagy - kind of waste-disposal and renewal process for cells, Prof Buxbaum said: "There is a good reason to believe that autophagy is really important for brain development because the brain produces many more synapses [connections through which brain cells communicate] than it needs, and the excess needs to be pruned back." He added: "Too many, or too few, synapses have the same effect of not making communication work very well. It could mean that some synaptic connections come in too late and may not solidify properly." Difficulties communicating and interacting with others are common in people with an ASD. The researchers suggest these genetic variations could be targets for genetic testing. Carol Povey, director of the Centre for Autism at the UK's National Autistic Society said: "The causes of autism are still being investigated. "Many experts believe that the pattern of behaviour from which autism is diagnosed may not result from a single cause. "There is strong evidence to suggest that autism can be caused by a variety of physical factors, all of which affect brain development. "Genetic factors may be responsible for some forms of autism, but it is likely to have multiple genes responsible rather than a single gene. "This study provides interesting insights into autism and genetic factors. "More research needs to be done before any concrete conclusions can be drawn about the causes and what this might mean for future developments, so it will be interesting to see how this research is built on to further enhance our knowledge of the condition."24 September 2013Last updated at 08:19 GMT Delhi gang rape: Four convicted men to appeal Lawyers for four men sentenced to death for the gang rape and murder of a student in the capital Delhi say they will challenge their guilty verdicts. Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur and Pawan Gupta were convicted earlier this month. The trial court said the case fell in the "rarest of rare category" and rejected pleas for a lighter sentence. The woman, 23, was attacked on a bus in December and died two weeks later. The four men were produced before the Delhi High Court on Tuesday amid tight security. Lawyer AP Singh, who has defended all four men at various times, said he would be challenging the verdict. The court said it would begin hearing arguments "on a day-to-day basis" from Wednesday, while the defence lawyers file their appeals against the convictions and sentences. "We have to deal with this as expeditiously as possible because the sword of death is hanging over them [the convicted men]," Judge Pratibha Rani said. They convicted men denied all the charges. They could take their appeal all the way to the Supreme Court and also ask the president for clemency - a process that could take years. In August, a teenager who was found guilty of taking part in the rape was sentenced to three years in a reform facility, the maximum term possible because the crime was committed when he was 17. He also denied all the charges. Another suspect, Ram Singh, was found dead in his cell in March. Prison officials said they believed he hanged himself but his family allege he was murdered. The December attack sparked a national debate on the treatment of women. Tough new laws were introduced in March which allowed the death penalty - carried out very rarely in India - to be handed down in the most serious cases of rape.Shetty Chauhan, 60, died on the night of 12 January near a busy traffic roundabout in central Delhi.He had been ill with a heavy cold for eight days. Sitting on rubble next to his body just hours after he died, his wife Kamla explained that he had stopped eating and drinking tea prior to his death. When an ambulance took Shetty away, he was dressed in a light sweater and a pair of cotton pyjamas and wrapped in a thin blanket - hardly enough to beat temperatures plummeting at night to as low as 5C. This is the second death at Delhi's Pusa Road since 22 December when the civic authorities razed to the ground a temporary shelter for the homeless. The first casualty was Bheema, 36, a balloon seller who lived with his mother at the roundabout, on the night of 31 December. There are about 50 homeless people living here - they include families with children, some with infants barely a year old. 'No warning'For the last three years, the Delhi government has built temporary shelters for the homeless at Pusa road. But a few weeks later the tents were brought down forcibly and, this group of homeless people alleges, without warning. And the deaths have made them angry, with many of them spilling out on to the road to block traffic. The protesters begin to wail loudly and chant: "Down with the Delhi government, down with the police." Their voices are hoarse, noses running. And their screams are short lived, as it gets tougher to shout as the night gets colder. Both the day and night time temperatures across northern India have plummeted several degrees below what is normal for this time of year. While the cold in Delhi can hardly compare to that in northern Europe or America, Indian homes are unprepared for the winter without central heating - a regular feature in buildings in the West. For the homeless, the situation is worse - media reports say this winter more than 350 people have died of the cold in north India. 'Helpless'Add to this Delhi's drive to spruce itself up before the Commonwealth Games in October. Assistant Commissioner with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, Rakesh Mehta, is in charge of demolitions in central Delhi. He says he is helpless over the plight of the homeless at Pusa Road. "We tried to rehabilitate them. We asked them to move to a shelter that is just 500 yards away from where they live now, but they refused to budge. "On the other hand, we have orders from the Delhi government to "clean up" before the Games. What could we do? We had no other option [than to demolish their shelter]." Both Bheema and Shetty have left behind ageing women who are hardly capable of fending for themselves - they do not work and were dependent on the men of the family. Nearly all the adults and some of the children here sell balloons and trinkets at the traffic lights, work in roadside tea stalls or beg to earn a living. Their average wages per day are around 50 rupees (about $1). 'In shock'"Bheema took very good care of his mother. He would ensure she got a hot meal, had a cup of tea. He would bring firewood to burn at night in order to keep her warm. "Now she is in shock. She won't talk to anyone, she doesn't eat or drink. There is nobody else left to take care of her. She is 75 and we are worried she'll fall ill too," says 36-year-old Dashrath. He had known Bheema since the time they left their native Karnataka state to find work in Delhi after their village was struck by famine. Dashrath himself has tuberculosis - he is too weak to travel for treatment, so he waits for a weekly mobile hospital to drive by and give him free medication. A little distance away, the homeless have gathered around a large fire, built with old clothes. A young man explains: "None of us had enough money for firewood tonight." A day after Shetty's death, the Delhi high court asked the civic authorities to explain why shelters for the homeless had been demolished. The court asked for a formal reply by 18 January. The homeless, however, say they are the last on the list of priorities for the government. For them, it's as much a struggle to keep warm on a cold winter night as it is to fight the government apathy.2 October 2013Last updated at 18:15 GMT Dell's latest Venue tablets shun Windows RT system By Leo KelionTechnology reporter Dell has opted not to release a Windows RT device among its latest line-up of tablets and laptops. The US manufacturer had been the last to support the operating system other than its creator, Microsoft. Dell said the software had failed to "resonate" with its customers because it did not support legacy software available to the full Windows 8 OS. The firm is in the process of being taken over by a group led by its founder, Michael Dell. He plans to stop its shares being publicly traded and refocus Dell's operations on business-targeted software and services rather than consumer-focused hardware. However, the company said it would in order to provide its customers with an "end-to-end solution". "We're not going to put all our eggs into different baskets - what we have to do is focus on our strengths," Adam Griffin, Dell's global product manager for commercial tablets, told the BBC. "We've focused our attention on the Windows 8.1 operating system because that's where the majority of the applications are [in the] segment that we're after, which is the commercial consumer environment. "RT, even by Microsoft's admission, is a little bit limited in terms of the amount of applications you can get." Mr Griffin added that there had been resistance from corporate IT departments to the idea of supporting what was effectively another operating system on top of the various releases of the main Windows OS. Missing programs Windows RT was launched just under a year ago. It is designed for machines powered by ARM-based processors rather than the x86 chip architecture used by Intel and AMD. ARM's designs tend to deliver longer battery life at a cheaper price, but its chips need Windows programs to be recompiled to be able to run them. New software can only be added to Windows RT devices via Microsoft's own online store or via special enterprise software made available to companies. That has meant there has been no way to install high-profile programs such as the iTunes media library, the Chrome and Firefox browsers, and the fully equipped version of Photoshop. Samsung, Lenovo, Acer and Asus were among the other companies to initially back the platform but later switch efforts elsewhere. Dell continues to offer the XPS 10 tablet - which uses Windows RT - in some markets, but said it would only do so until its factories had used up all the relevant components. 'Fizzled out' That leaves Microsoft as the only manufacturer to have released a Windows RT device in recent months. It launched the Surface 2 in September having previously posted a $900m (?560m) write-down after acknowledging it had made more of the first-generation machine than it could sell. According to , Windows RT only accounted for a 0.5% share of global tablet shipments in the April-to-June quarter. Windows 8 itself had a 4% share. By contrast, Google's Android system had a 62.6% share and Apple's iOS 32.5%. "The Windows RT concept seems to have fizzled out," said Benedict Evans, a tech specialist at consultants Enders Analysis. "It lacks even the redeeming features of a Windows 8 tablet which can run all the legacy apps. "There remains a lot of appeal to being able to take existing Windows applications out with you on a mobile device. "If you are an insurance firm and you've got proprietary software coded for Windows - which a huge amount of companies do - it can be tough to make that work on an iPad and easier to put it onto a Windows 8 tablet. "But that's one use case. The broader question is why not spend a little bit more and buy a touchscreen laptop." Intel's efforts to develop more power-efficient chips have led some to speculate that Microsoft might ultimately cull Windows RT, leaving Windows Phone as its only ARM-powered platform. But one tech consultant said it was too soon to say RT was doomed. "Microsoft seems to believe that there will be more devices running RT in the future - I don't think it's dead yet," said Tony Cripps, principal analyst at tech advisers Ovum. "RT leaves open the door to lower-cost tablets running the Windows platform and there are good reasons in the long run for Microsoft to maintain a position there." Dell itself is leaving the door open to returning to the system at a later stage. "If customers start to demand that product then we certainly may come out with future designs," said Mr Griffin.1 October 2013Last updated at 16:03 GMT Delta equips 11,000 pilots with Microsoft Surface 2 tablets American airline Delta is to equip 11,000 of its pilots with Microsoft Surface 2 tablets, in a bid to eliminate paper resources. The recently launched Surface 2, which runs the Windows RT 8.1 platform, will provide crews with key charts and navigation tools via a customised app. The tablets will replace the 17kg (2st 10lb) flight bags currently carried by pilots, reducing fuel consumption. The company expects all its cockpits to be paperless by the end of 2014. Delta had previously tested Apple iPads as potential Electronic Flight Bags (EFB), but has recently embraced Microsoft devices. It equipped 19,000 of its flight attendants with Nokia Lumia 820 smartphones in August, which run on a Windows operating system. Essential documents The sight of pilots wheeling heavy cases through airports is a familiar one, but electronic alternatives have been around for decades. Many commercial airlines now use tablets as EFBs, and the devices are even common among single-seat, or recreational pilots. Delta pilots had been using their own tablet devices in the cockpit, but now only the Surface 2 will be allowed - a move that has been unpopular with some employees, who vented their frustrations on online forums. A Delta spokesman told the BBC that crews will be allowed to run personal applications on the Surface 2, as long as they use a separate profile. Time saving Delta's senior vice president, Capt Steve Dickson, said the Surface tablets would "minimise time spent looking for flight information", and allow pilots the "opportunity for greater situational awareness in the air and on the ground". The tablets will feature a custom-built app called FliteDeck Pro, developed by aerospace technology company Jeppesen, a subsidiary of Boeing. They will contain thousands of electronic documents, charts, navigational aids, checklists and other key reference materials. A spokesman for Delta said the company chose the Surface 2 "because of its ease of integration into existing IT systems as well as training and communications programs". Weight loss Delta says it will roll out the device to pilots on its Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 fleets later this year, subject to approval by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The airline estimates the weight reduction resulting from the switch to a paperless cockpit will reduce fuel usage by 1.2 million gallons per year - leading to a reduction in carbon emissions of 26 million pounds (12 million kg). Aviation consultant Chris Yates told the BBC the weight of flight bags "have been an issue for a while".25 March 2013Last updated at 12:20 GMT Democratic Republic of Congo profile A vast country with immense economic resources, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) has been at the centre of what could be termed Africa's world war. This has left it in the grip of a humanitarian crisis. The five-year conflict pitted government forces, supported by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, against rebels backed by Uganda and Rwanda. Despite a peace deal and the formation of a transitional government in 2003, people in the east of the country remain in terror of marauding militias and the army. The war claimed an estimated three million lives, either as a direct result of fighting or because of disease and malnutrition. It has been called possibly the worst emergency to unfold in Africa in recent decades. The war had an economic as well as a political side. Fighting was fuelled by the country's vast mineral wealth, with all sides taking advantage of the anarchy to plunder natural resources. The history of DR Congo has been one of civil war and corruption. After independence in 1960, the country immediately faced an army mutiny and an attempt at secession by its mineral-rich province of Katanga. A year later, its prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, was seized and killed by troops loyal to army chief Joseph Mobutu. In 1965 Mobutu seized power, later renaming the country Zaire and himself Mobutu Sese Seko. He turned Zaire into a springboard for operations against Soviet-backed Angola and thereby ensured US backing. But he also made Zaire synonymous with corruption. After the Cold War, Zaire ceased to be of interest to the US. Thus, when in 1997 neighbouring Rwanda invaded it to flush out extremist Hutu militias, it gave a boost to the anti-Mobutu rebels, who quickly captured the capital, Kinshasa, installed Laurent Kabila as president and renamed the country DR Congo. Nonetheless, DR Congo's troubles continued. A rift between Mr Kabila and his former allies sparked a new rebellion, backed by Rwanda and Uganda. Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe took Kabila's side, turning the country into a vast battleground. Coup attempts and sporadic violence heralded renewed fighting in the eastern part of the country in 2008. Rwandan Hutu militias clashed with government forces in April, displacing thousands of civilians. Another militia under rebel General Laurent Nkunda had signed a peace deal with the government in January, but clashes broke out again in August. Gen Nkunda's forces advanced on government bases and the provincial capital Goma in the autumn, causing civilians and troops to flee while UN peacekeepers tried to hold the line alongside the remaining government forces. In an attempt to bring the situation under control, the government in January 2009 invited in troops from Rwanda to help mount a joint operation against the Rwandan rebel Hutu militias active in eastern DR Congo. Rwanda arrested the Hutu militias' main rival, Gen Nkunda, a Congolese Tutsi hitherto seen as its main ally in the area. In early 2013 the UN secured a regional agreement to end the M23 rebellion in eastern areas, and the group's alleged founder Bosco Ntaganda surrendered to the International Criminal Court to face war-crimes charges. Rwanda and Uganda denied UN accusations that they had supported the M23 group, but the region remains volatile.3 October 2013Last updated at 11:45 GMT Demolition work begins at Harryville protest church Work has begun to demolish a Catholic Church in Ballymena, County Antrim, that was the scene of loyalist protests for several years. In July, Our Lady's in Harryville released a statement, saying the building had been unsafe "for some time". Parish authorities took the decision because the cost of repair would be "prohibitive". Demonstrations outside the church took place in the 1990s. They began in 1996 and were in response to nationalist objections to an Orange Order parade in the nearby village of Dunloy. The protests eventually came to an end after the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. The building was taken out of use in February 2012. The church had had problems with water getting into the building and these had never been "fully resolved".19 February 2013Last updated at 01:04 GMT Denis Mukwege: The rape surgeon of DR Congo Denis Mukwege is a gynaecologist working in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He and his colleagues have treated about 30,000 rape victims, developing great expertise in the treatment of serious sexual injuries. His story includes disturbing accounts of rape as a weapon of war. When war broke out, 35 patients in my hospital in Lemera in eastern DR Congo were killed in their beds. I fled to Bukavu, 100km (60 miles) to the north, and started a hospital made from tents. I built a maternity ward with an operating theatre. In 1998, everything was destroyed again. So, I started all over again in 1999. It was that year that our first rape victim was brought into the hospital. After being raped, bullets had been fired into her genitals and thighs. I thought that was a barbaric act of war, but the real shock came three months later. Forty-five women came to us with the same story, they were all saying: "People came into my village and raped me, tortured me." Other women came to us with burns. They said that after they had been raped chemicals had been poured on their genitals. I started to ask myself what was going on. These weren't just violent acts of war, but part of a strategy. You had situations where multiple people were raped at the same time, publicly - a whole village might be raped during the night. In doing this, they hurt not just the victims but the whole community, which they force to watch. The result of this strategy is that people are forced to flee their villages, abandon their fields, their resources, everything. It's very effective. We have a staged system of care for victims. Before I undertake a big operation we start with a psychological examination. I need to know if they have enough resilience to withstand surgery. Then we move to the next stage, which might consist of an operation or just medical care. And the following stage is socio-economic care - most of these patients arrive with nothing, no clothes even. We have to feed them, we have to take care of them. After we discharge them they will be vulnerable again if they're not able to sustain their own lives. So we have to assist them on socio-economical level - for example through helping women develop new skills and putting girls back in school. The fourth stage is to assist them on a legal level. Often the patients know who their assailants were and we have lawyers who help them bring their cases to court. In 2011, we witnessed a fall in the number of cases. We thought perhaps we were approaching the end of the terrible situation for women in the Congo. But since last year, when the war resumed, cases have increased again. It's a phenomenon which is linked entirely to the war situation. The conflict in DR Congo is not between groups of religious fanatics. Nor is it a conflict between states. This is a conflict caused by economic interests - and it is being waged by destroying Congolese women. When I was coming home after a trip outside the country I found five people waiting for me. Four of them had AK-47 guns, the fifth had a pistol. They opened the gate and got in my car, pointing their weapons at me. They got me out of my car and as one of my guards tried to rescue me they shot him down. He was killed. I fell down and the attackers continued firing bullets. I can't really tell you how I survived. Then they left in my car without taking anything else. I found out afterwards that my two daughters and their cousin were at home. They had been made to go into the living room where the attackers were sitting, waiting for me. During all that time they pointed their guns, their weapons at my daughters. It was terrible. I only saw the attackers for just a few seconds and I couldn't tell who these people were. I also can't say why they attacked me - only they know. After the attack, Dr Mukwege fled with his family to Sweden, then to Brussels, but he was persuaded to return to Congo last month. I was inspired to return by the determination of Congolese women to fight these atrocities. These women have taken the courage to protest about my attack to the authorities. They even grouped together to pay for my ticket home - these are women who do not have anything, they live on less than a dollar a day. After that gesture, I couldn't really say no. And also, I am myself determined to help fight these atrocities, this violence. My life has had to change, since returning. I now live at the hospital and I take a number of security precautions, so I have lost some of my freedom. When I was welcomed back by the women, they told me they would ensure my security by taking turns to guard me, with groups of 20 women volunteering in shifts, day and night. They don't have any weapons - they don't have anything. But it is a form of security to feel so close to the people you are working with. Their enthusiasm gives me the confidence to continue my work as usual. Denis Mukwege spoke to Outlook on the . Listen back to the interview or browse the . You can follow the Magazine on and on .3 July 2013Last updated at 08:10 GMT Denmark profile The kingdom of Denmark has, despite its relatively small size, often punched above its weight internationally. Vikings raiding from Denmark and the other Nordic nations changed the course of 9th- and 10th-century European history; in the Middle Ages, the Union of Kalmar united all of Scandinavia under Danish leadership. In recent times, Denmark has been known for its modern economy and extensive welfare system, while enjoying an often difficult relationship with the European Union. The Danes rejected the euro as the national currency in a referendum in September 2000. Analysts believe that Danish fears of loss of political independence and national sovereignty outweighed any economic arguments about the benefits of joining the eurozone. Denmark's euroscepticism put it at odds with many of its European partners seven years previously when Danish voters rejected the Maastricht Treaty which proposed monetary union and a common European defence force. Denmark had to be granted opt-outs from these provisions before the treaty was approved in 1993. The Social Democrats led a string of coalition governments for most of the second half of the last century in a country generally known for its liberal traditions. Poul Schluter then became the first Danish prime minister from the Conservative People's Party in 1982, leading a centre-right coalition until 1993, when he was succeeded by the Social Democrat Poul Nyrup Rasmussen. A new centre-right coalition headed by Anders Fogh Rasmussen came to power in November 2001 promising tighter immigration controls. A third successive centre-right Rasmussen, Lars Lokke, took over as prime minister in April 2009. His government, dependent as it is on the right-wing populist People's Party to push through legislation, has witnessed immigration and integration emerge as major issues of public debate. Denmark's progressive tightening of its immigration laws has led to charges that its strict rules violate European norms. The country has won plaudits for its healthy economy. Its employment levels are the envy of many industrialised countries and it accommodates a competitive economic edge as well as a generous social security system. Danish television and cinema have won international recognition, not least for their willingness to experiment. Through the late 1990s and early 2000s the Dogme movement directors often used hand-held cameras to dynamic effect in a conscious reaction against high-tech, big-budget cinema. Greenland and the Faroe Islands are self-governing territories of Denmark.25 June 2013Last updated at 23:09 GMT Denver's hot housing market burns first-time buyers By Shanaz MusaferBusiness reporter, BBC News, Denver, Colorado When Kait McNamee and Ryan Turch decided they wanted to buy their first home earlier this year, they thought the experience would be relatively straightforward. But nearly five months on, it has been anything but. Various parts of the process have been "devastating", "depressing" and "soul crushing", says Kait. The competitive housing market has left buyers frustrated, even resorting to writing letters to sellers or sending them videos featuring their children in order to plead their case. Most estate agents, or real estate brokers, in Denver actively encourage buyers to do this, to make their offer stand out and pull at sellers' heartstrings. Much has been made of the recent signs of recovery in the US housing market, with prices rising and housing-starts at a five-year high. And Denver is no different. show house prices are 9.9% higher than a year earlier in Colorado's capital. Indeed, the city's Office of Economic Development recently declared Denver's housing market "the strongest in the nation", in terms of price appreciation and value. But it is precisely this strong, or "hot", market that is making getting that first step on the housing ladder so hard for Kait, 25, and Ryan, 29. Outbid "We chose not to get married [in order] to buy a house," says Kait. The couple want to move out of their one-bedroom rented apartment in the cosmopolitan Capitol Hill neighbourhood and are looking for a house worth up to $240,000 (?150,000). They need a bigger place, with a yard for their two dogs and two bedrooms so that Kait, who works as an editor for an online start-up company and often works from home, can use the second one as an office. They thought the hard part was over when, after a month, their pre-approval paperwork for a home loan was finally sorted. Little did they realise that was just the beginning. They have been outbid five times, even when they have offered above the asking price. "We made another two offers this weekend, but they haven't got back to us yet so we assume we didn't get them," Kait sighs. Months spent checking property websites three times a day in search of something they can afford, dashing to try to get a viewing and then being outbid, has left IT worker Ryan on the verge of giving up at times. But he says: "Even if we quit today and told our realtor we were stopping looking, we'd still be looking online anyway." Low inventory Low levels of supply, particularly at the bottom end, mean that anything coming on to the market gets snapped up almost instantaneously and has led to bidding wars. The number of homes available for sale at the end of May stood at 8,214, a drop of 22% on the same month last year. So where are all the sellers? Gary Bauer, an independent real estate analyst, believes it is a combination of factors. For some, there is a lingering caution from the 2008 housing crash that many people had never experienced before. "We have sellers who still believe they can't sell their home, who believe they can't find another home," he says. "You have some who are in that underwater area too," he adds, referring to those in negative equity. While there are also those who are reluctant to sell in a rising market. "They're looking at the horizon, thinking it's going to be great," he says. How sustainable? But with demand still high, those properties that are on the market are seeing their values rise. But for how long can this continue? Michael Clarkson, owner of Snow Coast Real Estate, believes house prices cannot keep going up if people cannot afford to pay them. The median income in Denver is around $55,000, Mr Clarkson says, which would qualify a borrower for a mortgage of about $255,000. But the median sold price for a single-family residential home is $280,000. "I don't see how this market can be sustained," he says. While he does not foresee a crash, he does expect a "softening" in prices of about 5-10% over the next couple of years. Gary Bauer points out that Denver has never had the peaks and valleys - in terms of house prices and number of transactions - that other housing markets have experienced and will always be comparatively strong and stable because it has plenty of available land. "Whenever you have land [to build on] you are going to have a market." And Denver certainly is building new homes - you can't take a drive around town without seeing construction sites with flats going up. But everything that is being built now is, in effect, rental, to address the city's all-time low rental vacancy rate of 5%. 'Touch the emotions' Mr Bauer acknowledges that frustration among buyers is high right now, with the added frustration of having to compete with investors buying up available properties and "flipping" them - doing them up and then reselling them for a quick profit. He says home buyers have to "establish and manage expectations" and become more creative, and writing personal letters to sellers is one way of doing that. "If you really want your offer to be looked at, you have to make your offer the best you can and that's not on the price alone. You have to touch the emotions," Mr Bauer says. Back in Capitol Hill, Kait and Ryan are still hopeful that something will come up, though they have already had to manage their expectations. "We are going to have to get the starter home now and then move into our dream home later," Kait concedes. And though they haven't yet written to any sellers, it is something they would consider, if the seller were actually living in the property and so had more of a personal attachment to it. "I would make a plea about us being first-time buyers and just wanting a place to settle down with our dogs," says Kait. "We just want a place to get started."3 October 2013Last updated at 07:03 GMT Derby death treated as suspicious by police The death of a man in his 30s who was found at his home in Derby is being treated as suspicious. Police officers discovered his body after being called to the house in Northumberland Street, in the Pear Tree area of the city, on Wednesday. Concerns were raised for the occupant at about 17:00 BST, when police were called. An investigation has been launched. The home remains cordoned off and police are appealing for help.1 October 2013Last updated at 21:23 GMT Derby Muslim free school Al-Madinah closes after inspection By Zoe ConwayBBC Newsnight A Muslim free school accused of imposing strict Islamic practices, such as segregated classrooms, has closed following an inspection by Ofsted. The BBC understands Ofsted's findings were so damning that the acting head of Al-Madinah, in Derby, had little choice but to shut it down immediately. The school said the move was due to a "health and safety issue" but expected it to reopen in the "very near future". Ofsted said it could not disclose its concerns until the inspection ended. It added it had "made some findings and shared them with the principal". The second day of the inspection is taking place later. In a on the school's website titled "short term closure", interim principal Stuart Wilson said: "Owing to a health and safety issue, I have taken the decision to close the school... until I am confident that all children are safe on site. "As parents, you will be informed directly, and on the website, when you are able to send your children back to school... "Assuring you that we have your children's best interests at heart." In a series of newspaper reports unnamed former staff members of Al-Madinah, which opened as a free school in September last year, had alleged that girls were forced to sit at the back of the classroom. Unnamed female staff members have also claimed they were forced to conform to a strict dress code including wearing a head scarf or hijab - whether or not they were Muslim. Immediate inspection When it opened Al-Madinah claimed to be the first Muslim ethos, all-through [reception, primary and secondary] free school in the country. The school's first head teacher, Andrew Cutts-Mckay, left the school after less than a year in the job. Last week, the interim principal told the BBC that he had not received any complaints from colleagues regarding the dress code and that pupils were not being segregated, with girls and boys being treated equally. Ofsted is not the only organisation with concerns about Al-Madinah. The Education Funding Agency - from which the school gets its public funding - is investigating alleged financial irregularities. In a statement, the Department for Education said it was already investigating the school before the allegations became public. It said: ''We discussed the problems with Ofsted and it launched an immediate inspection. We are waiting for Ofsted's final report and considering all legal options." The school's closure is likely to be embarrassing for Education Secretary Michael Gove, who introduced free schools in 2010 in an effort to raise standards in education. Free schools are state funded but operate outside local education authority control and can be set up by parents and community groups in England.3 October 2013Last updated at 09:03 GMT Derbyshire County Council passes budget to cut 1,600 jobs A new council budget accepted in Derbyshire puts 1,600 jobs at risk as it aims to save ?157m over five years. Derbyshire County Council accepted the proposal put forward by the Labour leadership at a meeting on Wednesday. It also voted in favour of a pay increase for its cabinet, although there will be fewer members, so this will not cost any more money. The council has yet to spell out where the cuts will fall and is . The Conservative opposition, which made ?70m of cuts and shed 1,200 jobs during its four years in power said not making the decision where to make savings now made the situation worse. Councillor Mike Longden, shadow cabinet member for finance, said: "Our greatest concern that we see today in the report is their failure to maintain the momentum of making savings in this authority." Labour leader Anne Western said they are being tough: "We are finding money in all sorts of ways that the previous administration should have done years ago." 'Most vulnerable affected' Although where the exact savings will come has yet to be finalised, the council knows it has to save ?157m over the next five years. This year it plans to cut ?6.6m from adult care, ?10.9m from children and young people and ?9.8m from the jobs, economy and transport department. Labour councillors have turned down a 1% increase in the basic allowance saving about ?7,000. The Tories have yet to make a decision on the raise. But unions warned that elderly people could suffer and funding for adult social care is a concern. Jeanette Lloyd, from Unison, said: "From what we know so far it's going to be, yet again, the most vulnerable people in Derbyshire [who are affected]."More than 80 giant statues of Wallace's canine companion Gromit which have been on display at an exhibition in Bristol are due to be auctioned later.Each statue of the Oscar-winning star has been decorated by a top artist, illustrator, designer or celebrity - from Sir Quentin Blake and Gerald Scarfe to One Direction's Zayn Malik and the team at the Beano. Money raised will go to Bristol Children's Hospital.Auctioneer Tim Wonnacott says the statues could sell for about ?10,000 each.Jon Kay reports.25 September 2013Last updated at 07:19 GMT Destitution drives Syrian refugee children to work The Syrian children stood at the side of the road just after first light, just as they were told. At this ragged cluster of tents in the Bekaa Valley, they weren't waiting for a school bus in the early morning cold. An open back truck arrives just after 06:00 to take them to the fields to help bring in the harvest. Across this fertile land of eastern Lebanon, Syria's refugee children are increasingly doing the jobs of adult manual labourers. "It's a worrying phenomenon we see increasing by the day." Unicef's regional director Maria Calivis told me. "The numbers of refugees are growing larger, and the people arriving are more destitute than ever." On the streets of the Lebanese capital Beirut, refugee children can be seen selling trinkets or shining shoes to bring in some money to support their families. But organised child labour is a new and troubling problem that underscores Syria's deepening humanitarian crisis. "The invisible is becoming visible," affirmed Ms Calivis. Dozens of children dressed in plastic sandals and thin shirts or dresses shiver in the dawn chill. They cling to metal bars as they're thrown back and forth in the truck normally used to transport livestock which ferries them to a nearby farm where courgettes are ripe for picking. This pint-sized gang of workers swarms into the lush green fields as the Syrian middleman, who organises the labour on this Lebanese farm, shouts at them to get to work. "My hands hurt," confesses 14-year-old Abdul Aziz as he holds up his grimy hands and points to the prickly stalks. Even in his pain, he manages a shy smile. In other fields, where children have been harvesting crops such as grapes or potatoes, the work is even more difficult, and dangerous. Aid officials told me of seeing children cut themselves with knives or run in fear from powerful combine harvesters that churn the soil. "It's a bad situation," says Tarek Mazloum of the Lebanese charity Beyond as he watches little children struggle with big buckets of fat green courgettes. "Each family consists of six, seven or eight children and all of them work, from three or four years old," he explains. His charity helps provide for Syrian refugee families. He shakes his head, visibly upset. "But we can't stop it. If the children don't work, the family would be destroyed. They wouldn't eat." "It is up to all of us to find a solution," says Unicef's Maria Calivis. "Children should be at school and not at work." But when Lebanon's public schools opened this week, there simply wasn't enough space for all the young Syrians. UN officials say there are now about 400,000 Syrians of school age but only 100,000 extra places. The UN, working with other aid agencies, has launched a "Back to Learning" campaign which provides for informal education so children don't fall too far behind. On our visit to the Bekaa Valley the children finished their work in the fields and then were taken back to their settlement where they helped pitch tents on rocky ground, and arranged brightly coloured plastic tables and chairs for a makeshift open air school. Abdul Aziz, who hours earlier had showed me his hurting hands, was now enthusiastically clapping with other children in a loud rendition of "one, two buckle my shoe". Classes like this are not just to forget the pain of the morning, but the even greater trauma families escaped in Syria. "We try to help them forget the past," says the lively young teacher Azza who is also a refugee from the Syrian city of Homs. "We try to give them a time of happiness, of fun." "I like going to school," says 10-year-old Rasha whose family fled the northern city of Aleppo several months ago. "Its better in Lebanon - there are no bombs here," she tells me with a fetching smile as she clasps her hands decorated with bright blue nail polish. Home for these children is now tents fashioned from rough tarpaulin and thick sheets from advertising hoardings. The land is rented from local Lebanese landlords, often through Syrian labourers who've been living in these kind of informal settlements for years. Lebanon, unlike Jordan and Turkey, has not authorised the UN to establish formal refugee camps. Rasha now lives with her five siblings and her widowed mother Fatima in a rectangular blue tent just behind the cluster of classrooms. She and her brother Omar both work in the fields. "I feel like my heart is being ripped out," her mother Fatima laments, fighting back tears. "But what can I do? If my children don't work, we can't live." In the back of their tent, two young cousins who just arrived from Syria the night before sit listening quietly. It's a visible reminder that the refugee population keeps growing by the day, and so does the problem of child labour. "We are following up with NGOs to ensure the work is not exploitative or hazardous," says Unicef's Maria Calivis. "We have also started a campaign to ensure parents are aware this is not the best thing for kids." Another answer, suggest aid officials, would be financial vouchers for families but at the moment that is a costly, and difficult, option that isn't in anyone's budget. "This is a really big dilemma for us," says Soha Boustani, Unicef's communications chief in Lebanon. "We want to protect these children and at the same time we don't want to deprive the family from their only source of income." For now, there are no easy answers to stop child labour, or to end Syria's punishing war. Both are destroying Syria's future.When it comes to music, the US city of Detroit is best know for the soul sounds of Motown.But the author Steve Miller, a writer who grew up in Motor City listening to rock 'n' roll on the radio, says it also has a reputation as America's loudest city.In Detroit Rock City, he hears from stars like Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop and Jack White, but also from the unsung heroes of the music scene such as the soundmen and roadies.Although he laments the lower decibels at today's gigs, Miller says bands in Detroit are still among the loudest playing.Produced by Sune Engel Rasmussen and Bill McKenna is a series of video features published every Thursday on the BBC News website which illustrate interviews with authors about their new books.3 October 2013Last updated at 09:41 GMT Diana director 'devastated' by reviews By Emma JonesEntertainment reporter, BBC News The director of Diana says he has "no regrets", despite the film's poor reception in the UK. Oliver Hirschbiegel told the BBC that the movie's critical mauling was "devastating, but when you make a film you don't think about the reactions". The Telegraph described the film "", while the Mirror called it "". Hirschbiegel admitted the reviews had put off audiences, but he still hoped people would "make their own minds up". "In all the other places where it's opened - in Poland, the Czech Republic, Turkey and Slovakia - it's been very strong," he said. "I think for the British, Diana is still a trauma they haven't come to terms with." Starring Naomi Watts, the film depicts Princess Diana in the final years of her life, with a focus on her affair with heart surgeon Hasnat Khan, played by Lost's Naveen Andrews. It entered the UK chart at number five in its opening weekend, taking ?623,000 at the box office. This week, it dropped to number nine. Hirschbiegel, who previously made Downfall, a German-language film about the last days of Hitler, called his experiences with Diana "deja vu, because it has the same reactions in the UK as Downfall had in Germany on release". "I hope it is a matter of stepping back and looking at it afresh in a year or so, because it is a very British story and I am a very German director." He added that Diana "was the most complex character I have ever tried to depict - more complex than Hitler. The one thing they both had in common was they were born actors". Earlier this week, at the Zurich Film Festival, Hirschbiegel described the film as "very un-British" and described the critical reaction as harking back "to what newspapers like the Daily Mail would write about her back then - really vile things. So I guess I succeeded." The film has been sold to distributors in more than 40 countries and will be released in the US on 1 November, 2013.6 September 2013Last updated at 10:34 GMT Diana film slammed by British press Critics have given a cold reception to a new film starring Naomi Watts as Diana, Princess of Wales in the final years of her life. The film, which premiered in London on Thursday, also stars Lost's Naveen Andrews as heart surgeon Hasnat Khan, with whom Diana had a two-year affair. The film company said they set out to make an "insightful and compassionate study of Diana's later years". But critics have called it "atrocious and intrusive". Writing in her one-star review, The Times' Kate Muir took aim at the biopic's "squirmingly embarrassing script". described the film as "a cheap and cheerless effort that looks like a Channel 5 mid-week matinee". "The Queen of Hearts has been recast as a sad-sack singleton that even Bridget Jones would cross the street to avoid," writes Edwards. Similarly Christopher Tookey's one-star review in the Daily Mail brands the film as "terribly, terribly dull". "The movie is not as tacky or sensationalist as one might fear," writes Tookey, but concludes "the bottom of the royal barrel has been scraped once too often". "I hesitate to use the term 'car crash drama', writes . "But the awful truth is that, 16 years after that terrible day in 1997, she has died another awful death." "This is due to an excruciatingly well-intentioned, reverential and sentimental biopic about her troubled final years, laced with bizarre cardboard dialogue - a tabloid fantasy of how famous and important people speak in private." Watts, best known for her Oscar-nominated turns in last year's The Impossible and 21 Grams, also comes in for criticism. Bradshaw says "Watts's elaborate impression has... the doe-eyed gaze of seduction and reproach". But adds "she looks like she's in a two-hour Spitting Image sketch, scripted by Jeffrey Archer". The Mirror's Edwards scoffs that Watts "looks, acts and sounds nothing like the Princess of Wales". "Wesley Snipes in a blonde wig would be more convincing." gives a kinder 3-star review, praising Watts's "intense and volatile performance", but echoes that the 44-year-old actress "doesn't really resemble the character she is playing". "What makes it frustrating as a film though, are its many sudden shifts in mood," he adds. The Daily Express, however, counters the momentum, calling the film "a must see this autumn [which] will leave the audience in tears".If Sherlock Holmes was solving mysteries today rather than in the Victorian era, he might have turned to Paul Reedy for help instead of Dr Watson.Reedy is a digital detective who says that in a world where most people use smart phones, tablets and computers, almost every crime leaves a digital trace. Now the manager of digital evidence at the District of Columbia's Office of Forensic Science, the Australian previously worked on a series of international criminal investigations including the hunt for the perpetrators of the 2002 Bali bombings. He spoke to the BBC about keeping up with criminals, as well as the latest technology. Produced for the BBC by Felicia Barr; edited by Bill McKenna is a series of video features published every Tuesday on the BBC News website which look at how technology converges with culture and all aspects of our daily lives.Growing up in US, dreamt of becoming an astronaut and even applied for a pilot's job with the US Navy to get on to the space shuttle programme.A minor eye problem which needed corrective laser surgery came in the way and Mr Gandhi ended up spending a couple of years working on a software project with Oracle before arriving in India to work with a friend on a bio-diesel project, which did not take off.Mr Gandhi stayed on in India. Today, he leads Digital Greens which trains farmers to make and show short videos where they record their problems, share solutions and highlight success stories.In five years since it started, says Mr Gandhi, more than 150,000 farmers have watched 2,600 such videos in 20 different languages in more than 2,000 villages in seven states where Digital Greens has a presence. More than half the people watching these videos and putting lessons learnt from them into practice are women.And for more on this series, go to26 September 2013Last updated at 23:04 GMT Digital Indians: What is the future of the language web? By Ramaa SharmaBBC Delhi digital editor Will the web ever be friendly to languages other than English? That was one of issues taken up by Indian innovators in the final Google to mark the BBC's special series on . Here are some excerpts from the conversation: Ben Gomes, vice president, Search, Google Search for Google always been about all languages. Indian languages present special challenges, because there is very little content in these languages. So the biggest thing that can be done is the creation of more content. But we've made huge advances in translation, and as we get better at that, it begins to work better even for smaller languages. India's a place with less written content in any given language, compared to the number of speakers of that language. Our work is not just translation, though. We have Hindi search, Hindi interfaces, and many ways to input your query in Hindi. But the web in Hindi and other languages is really small. So for many queries, there won't be that much information. Mariam M Mathew, chief operating office, Manorama Online At the Manorama group, we got online with language in 1997, and then we didn't even have a font that would work properly on the web. It's only now that we're getting unicode-compliant fonts - which themselves aren't that brilliant: they have alphabets that don't come out well, and the search is not good. It's a mess out there. So language is a huge challenge, which has yet not been taken up by most of the large tech players, whether in search, or getting a good Unicode-compliant font, or display rendering for mobiles and tablets. Everything becomes an issue. Sanjeev Bikhchandani, founder, We launched a Hindi version of our matrimonial site Jeevansathi, about 10 years ago. We ran it for a couple of years and discovered there wasn't much traffic. We figured that maybe English was the first filter to be on the net in India. So we abandoned that effort after a couple of years. Maybe it's time to try it again - maybe that was too early. So we'll try it again with an Indian language and see what happens. But unless there's sufficient content and applications in local languages, you won't find many people on the net who are proficient only in an Indian language. For now, most of them will be also English speakers. Raju Narisetti, senior vice president and deputy head of strategy, News Corp I'd imagine there's a language opportunity in India, because despite conventional wisdom that says the Indian market, say in newspapers, continues to grow, significant growth is really in languages. I don't think the real problem is that the backlog needs to be digitised before it becomes viable for app builders and for media companies to [get into the language web]. It's actually about going forward with language content. It's hard to imagine a media business in India that is not going to look at Hindi, Gujarati or some south Indian languages, and not just English in the future. Rikin Gandhi, founder and CEO, Digital Green We actually have made videos for farmers in 20 Indian languages, all of which are tribal dialects. What's interesting is that though our set of videos is relatively small - just 2,600 - they have got nearly a million views. These are niche, local-language videos on various agricultural practices. Catch up with the Digital Indians . At the beginning of the series we asked for your pick of men and women you think are leveraging digital technology. We have now curated a Digital Indians and30 September 2013Last updated at 15:34 GMT Director cancels Hillary Clinton film The director of a Hillary Clinton documentary has cancelled the project, saying political interference had made the film impossible. In a Huffington Post , Charles Ferguson said pressure from Clinton supporters in the Democratic Party led to many sources shying away. In August, the opposing Republican Party voted to boycott debates on CNN if the programme went ahead. It also said it would boycott NBC, which plans a mini-series on Clinton. The latter series, still in the early stages of production, is set to star actress Diane Lane as the former First Lady. Mrs Clinton, wife of President Bill Clinton, has been closely watched as a possible contender for the Democratic Party's 2016 nomination since leaving her position as secretary of state under President Barack Obama in January. In his blog, Ferguson wrote: "When I approached people for interviews, I discovered that nobody, and I mean nobody, was interested in helping me make this film. "Not Democrats, not Republicans - and certainly nobody who works with the Clintons, wants access to the Clintons, or dreams of a position in a Hillary Clinton administration. "After painful reflection, I decided that I couldn't make a film of which I would be proud. And so I'm cancelling. (Not because of any pressure from CNN - quite the contrary). "It's a victory for the Clintons, and for the money machines that both political parties have now become. But I don't think that it's a victory for the media, or for the American people." The Republican National Committee (RNC) had claimed both the CNN and NBC productions amounted "to little more than extended commercials promoting former Secretary Clinton" and "political ads masked as unbiased entertainment". CNN has not commented on the cancellation of the project.3 October 2013Last updated at 00:55 GMT Disabled students 'need campus help' Disabled students are calling on UK universities to do more to help them take part fully in campus life. A study by the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign's Trailblazers suggests many students are unable to access areas such as lecture theatres and libraries. It says many institutions are failing to signpost key information such as details of accessible accommodation. The Equality Challenge Unit said many universities were working hard to be as accessible and welcoming as possible. The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 means it is illegal for education providers to treat disabled students less favourably because of their disability. Accessibility A Trailblazers' survey of 100 UK universities found only half of those questioned confirmed that all teaching rooms, study rooms and libraries were fully accessible for students with mobility difficulties. The research found half of universities questioned said that not all inter-campus transport was accessible. Only a quarter of the universities surveyed had considered disabled students when planning freshers' week information and only a third had a society representing disabled students in the student union. Tanvi Vyas, manager of Trailblazers, said: "We continue to hear about how many universities are still missing the mark when it comes to helping people planning on entering higher education - and helping them to complete their time there. "There are plenty of simple measures that universities can take. Providing inclusive freshers' guides, handy information on accessible transport and buildings and support networks can all make a huge difference to students adapting to campus life. "We also need the government and local authorities to examine the issue of relocating care packages, which continues to be an enormous struggle for many students studying away from home." Chris Brill, senior policy adviser for the Equality Challenge Unit, which helps universities ensure equality for staff and students, said: "Trailblazers' audit highlights a number of small changes that would make big improvements for students. "For example, making sure information is clearly signposted on websites, and ensuring the needs of disabled students are reflected in freshers' week programmes. "Students' unions, often a conduit between universities and students, could also be encouraged to consider how they involve disabled students in the democratic structures. "Through this, we may see an increase in societies representing disabled students, and better involvement of disabled people in higher education."In the summer of 1967 university student George Mitchell travelled to Mississippi in search of America's undiscovered blues musicians.Many of the singers he heard were unknown beyond their home communities, and Mitchell's recordings helped make musicians such as RL Burnside and Fred McDowell blues music legends - and transform their lives. Mitchell spoke to the BBC about his trip, chronicled and illustrated in his new book Mississippi Hill Country Blues 1967.Produced by Sune Engel Rasmussen; edited by Bill McKenna is a series of video features published every Thursday on the BBC News website which illustrate interviews with authors about their new books.23 September 2013Last updated at 16:10 GMT Diseased Cwmcarn Forest Drive larch trees to be felled A large number of larch trees in a popular south Wales forest are to be chopped down in the coming years after being struck by a fatal disease. Four out of five trees on Cwmcarn Forest Drive are larch, many of which have been hit by the ramorum virus. Natural Resources Wales (NRW) said an aerial survey in May revealed widespread infection in the forest. It will plough ?2m into fighting the disease at the seven-mile (11km) scenic route and throughout Wales. The site will remain open. Visitors to Cwmcarn Forest Drive will be asked to help prevent spreading the disease by removing mud, plant material and leaves from clothing, boots, dogs and car tyres. The infection has been caused by the fungus-like virus Phytophthora ramorum, which is also known as sudden oak death. It is not harmful to humans or animals. Sally Tansey of NRW said: "We will be working closely with Caerphilly County Borough Council, which runs the visitor centre, to minimise the economic and other impacts on the area and will keep visitors and local communities informed of how we aim to proceed. "Inevitably, this essential work will require areas of the forest to be temporarily closed for safety reasons while forest operations take place, but we'll do all we can to ensure that felling proceeds with minimal disruption to the footpaths and mountain bike trails." Earlier this month it was revealed that an area of Ceredigion popular with mountain bikers was being closed for three months while larch trees infected with the same disease were felled. Some walking trails will be kept open. Work to remove the trees around a lake at Bwlch Nant-yr-Arian, near Aberystwyth, will begin in October.1 October 2013Last updated at 10:45 GMT Distant planet's clouds are mapped Astronomers have created the first map of the clouds on a planet outside our Solar System. The planet in question is Kepler-7b, a large gaseous world like Jupiter, roughly 1,000 light-years away. The researchers used data from Nasa's Spitzer and Kepler space telescopes to study the exoplanet, which orbits close to its parent star. Their results suggest the hot giant is marked by high clouds in the west and clear skies in the east. The findings have been accepted for publication in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters. "By observing this planet with Spitzer and Kepler for more than three years, we were able to produce a very low-resolution 'map' of this giant, gaseous planet," said co-author Brice-Olivier Demory of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, US. "We wouldn't expect to see oceans or continents on this type of world, but we detected a clear, reflective signature that we interpreted as clouds." Astronomers have previously been able to make temperature maps of planets orbiting other stars, but this is the first look at cloud structures on a distant world. Kepler-7b is something of an oddity - bigger than Jupiter, but lower in mass - with a density about the same as polystyrene. Stable climate The Kepler telescope's visible-light observations of this distant world's moon-like phases led to a rough map of the planet that showed a bright spot on its western hemisphere. But these data were not enough on their own to decipher whether the bright spot was coming from clouds or heat. So the team used Spitzer to gather further clues about the planet's atmosphere. They determined that light from the planet's star was bouncing off cloud tops located on the west side of Kepler-7b. "Kepler-7b reflects much more light than most giant planets we've found, which we attribute to clouds in the upper atmosphere," said Thomas Barclay from Nasa's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, US, who works on the Kepler telescope team. "Unlike those on Earth, the cloud patterns on this planet do not seem to change much over time - it has a remarkably stable climate." Nasa says the findings are an early step towards using similar techniques to study the atmospheres of exoplanets that are more like Earth in composition and size. Paul Hertz, director of Nasa's astrophysics division in Washington DC commented: "We're at a point now in exoplanet science where we are moving beyond just detecting [them], and into the exciting science of understanding them." The Kepler mission has now ended because of problems with the spacecraft's reaction wheels - the spinning components that aid fine-pointing of the satellite. But astronomers are still studying the data it gathered; the mission has so far discovered more than 150 bona fide exoplanets and thousands of other candidate worlds.4 September 2013Last updated at 09:54 GMT Diver Tom Daley is new 2014 Commonwealth Games ambassador British diver Tom Daley is the latest sports personality to be unveiled as an ambassador for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The 19-year-old joins fellow Olympians Sir Chris Hoy and Rebecca Adlington in taking on the role to lift the international profile of the event. Daley informed his 2.4 million Twitter followers on Wednesday that he would be in Glasgow at the weekend. He will attend a special Games event at the Fruitmarket on Sunday. Speaking ahead of the event, Daley said: "I'm really looking forward to seeing Glasgow and be a part of the countdown to the Commonwealth Games. Training focus "I want everyone to get behind the games and all the athletes. It'll be fun but tough. I have great memories of winning gold in Delhi, so I'm totally focused on training and holding on to my title. "In April, I experienced the enthusiasm of Scottish crowds when I won gold at the Royal Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh, which is the same pool for the Commonwealth Games. I can't wait to be back there next year and go for gold again." David Grevemberg, chief executive of Glasgow 2014, said: "Tom's the prefect ambassador to inspire young people about sport and help us get everyone involved in the UK's next major sporting celebration. "We're delighted to welcome him as an official ambassador for the games and look forward to introducing him to Glasgow this weekend, and working with him over the next year to deliver the friendliest of family-friendly games."8 September 2013Last updated at 13:48 GMT Diver Tom Daley meets 2014 Commonwealth Games fans Diver Tom Daley met with fans as he took up his role as an ambassador for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The 19-year-old was the special guest at an event in the city's Fruitmarket. Donning a kilt and meeting Games mascot Clyde, he said he was looking forward to what he expected would be an "amazing atmosphere" at Glasgow 2014. Daley joins fellow Olympians Sir Chris Hoy and Rebecca Adlington in promoting the international profile of the event. In a question and answer event, Daley told fans that the Glasgow 2014 Games were a big deal for him. He said: "The most exciting thing for me is looking forward to the crowds - I got a taster of it last year at the Olympics and I want to sample that again, bring back all the memories. "I know all the Scottish people are very loud when they want to be, all the cheering and stuff, I know its going to be an amazing atmosphere. "Just being back in a village environment and just being back competing in a big event again."26 February 2013Last updated at 12:02 GMT Djibouti profile Controlling access to the Red Sea, Djibouti is of major strategic importance, a fact that has ensured a steady flow of foreign assistance. During the Gulf War it was the base of operations for the French military, who continue to maintain a significant presence. France has thousands of troops as well as warships, aircraft and armoured vehicles in Djibouti, contributing directly and indirectly to the country's income. The US has stationed hundreds of troops in Djibouti, its only African base, in an effort to counter terrorism in the region. Djibouti's location is the main economic asset of a country that is mostly barren. The capital, Djibouti city, handles Ethiopian imports and exports. Its transport facilities are used by several landlocked African countries to fly in their goods for re-export. This earns Djibouti much-needed transit taxes and harbour fees. After independence from France in 1977, Djibouti was left with a government which enjoyed a balance between the two main ethnic groups, the Issa of Somali origin and the Afar of Ethiopian origin. But the country's first president, Hassan Gouled Aptidon, installed an authoritarian one-party state dominated by his own Issa community. Afar resentment erupted into a civil war in the early 1990s, and though Mr Gouled, under French pressure, introduced a limited multi-party system in 1992, the rebels from the Afar party, the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (Frud), were excluded. Thus, Mr Gouled's Popular Rally for Progress party won every seat and the war went on. It ended in 1994 with a power-sharing deal which brought the main faction of Frud into government. A splinter, radical faction continued to fight until 2000, when it too signed a peace deal with the government of Gouled's successor, Ismael Omar Guelleh.11 September 2013Last updated at 01:30 GMT DNA study suggests hunting did not kill off mammoth By Pallab GhoshScience correspondent, BBC News Researchers have found evidence to suggest that climate change, rather than humans, was the main factor that drove the woolly mammoth to extinction. A DNA analysis shows that the number of creatures began to decrease much earlier than previously thought as the world's climate changed. It also shows that there was a distinct population of mammoth in Europe that died out around 30,000 years ago. The results have published in the . The view many researchers had about woolly mammoths is that they were a hardy, abundant species that thrived during their time on the planet. But according to the scientist who led the research, Dr Love Dalen of the Swedish Museum of Natural History, the study shifts that view. "The picture that seems to be emerging is that they were a fairly dynamic species that went through local extinctions, expansions and migrations. It is quite exciting that so much was going on," he told BBC News. Dr Dalen worked with researchers in London to analyse DNA samples from 300 specimens from collected by themselves and other groups in earlier studies The scientists were able to work out how many mammoths existed at any given time from the samples as well as tracing their migration patterns. They looked at the genetic diversity in their samples - the less diverse the lower the population They found that the species nearly went extinct 120,000 years ago when the world warmed up for a while. Numbers are thought to have dropped from several million to tens of thousands but numbers recovered as the planet entered another ice age. The researchers also found that the decline that led to their eventual extinction began 20,000 years ago when the Ice Age was at its height, rather than 14,000 years ago when the world began to warm again as previously thought. They speculate that it was so cold that the grass on which they fed became scarce. The decline was spurred on as the Ice Age ended, possibly because the grassland on which the creatures thrived was replaced by forests in the south and tundra in the north. The reason they died out has been a matter of considerable scientific debate. Some have argued that humans hunted them to extinction while others have said that changes in the climate was the main factor. A criticism of the climate extinction argument is that the world warmed well before the creatures became extinct and so that could not have been the cause. The new results show that mammoths did indeed nearly go extinct between Ice Ages and so backs the view that climate change was the principal cause for their demise. These results back a of conditions at the time carried out by researchers at Durham University in 2010. And of course other animals, including humans, became more active after the Ice Age and so competition with other species and hunting may also have been a factor in their extinction, though not the principle cause, argues Prof Adrian Lister of the NHM. "During the last ice age, between about 50,000 and 20,000 years ago, there were substantial movements of mammoth populations - European populations being replaced by waves of migration from the east, for example," he said. "But from about 20,000 years ago onwards, the population started the dramatic decline that led to its extinction, first on the mainland about 10,000 years ago, and finally on some outlying Arctic islands. The pattern seems to fit forcing by natural climate change: any role of humans in the process has yet to be demonstrated".' Follow Pallab2 October 2013Last updated at 08:23 GMT Do people get their politics from their parents? By Jon KellyBBC News Magazine Labour Party leader Ed Miliband is locked in a row with the Daily Mail over his father's views. But to what extent do our mothers and fathers shape our political opinions? Many people's first exposure to political debate wasn't watching Question Time or reading newspaper reports about the House of Commons or the US Congress. It was at the dinner table or in the family front room, with a parent cursing conservatives or muttering darkly about socialists. Labour leader Ed Miliband's upbringing fitted this pattern better than most. His father Ralph was a left-wing academic, his mother Marion a campaigner for progressive causes. Now this family history has become the focus of a bitter media spat. On Saturday, the Daily Mail ran a profile of Ralph Miliband under the headline: "The man who hated Britain". After offering his son the right of reply, the paper repeated the original article and ran a leader describing the deceased lecturer's legacy as "evil". For its part, the paper justified the attack by arguing that Ralph Miliband's political views had been passed down the generations. "We do not maintain, like the jealous God of Deuteronomy, that the iniquity of the fathers should be visited on the sons," its leader says. "But when a son with prime ministerial ambitions swallows his father's teachings, as the younger Miliband appears to have done, the case is different." The Labour leader has reacted furiously. He insisted his politics were markedly different from those of his Marxist father: "I have pursued a different path and I have a different vision." He also said he was "appalled" by the Mail's "character assassination" of a man who had served in the Royal Navy during World War II after escaping Nazi persecution. The dispute raises the question of the extent to which people's politics are shaped by the influence of their families. Many of those who have backed Miliband in the row have by pointing out that the first Viscount Rothermere, great-grandfather of its present owner, met Hitler and wrote an article titled Hurrah For The Blackshirts in 1934 which praised Oswald Mosley's fascists. There are plenty of political dynasties, even in countries that have long shaken off the shackles of aristocracy - the Bush family, for instance, who have accounted for two of the last four US presidents, or the Gandhis in India. In the UK, the Cecil family have been involved in Conservative parliamentary politics for more than two centuries, while four generations of Benns have sat for Labour or the Liberals in the House of Commons. But there is no shortage of examples of politicians who have rejected the views of their forefathers. Famously, the father of former Conservative cabinet minister Michael Portillo was a left-wing Spanish Republican who escaped his homeland during the civil war. Labour Prime Ministers Clement Attlee and Tony Blair both grew up in Tory households (Attlee's grandson, Earl Attlee, now takes the Conservative whip in the House of Lords). If nothing else, the process of youthful rebellion requires adopting contrary views - teenagers in the Tory shires long having irritated their mums and dads by joining the Socialist Workers Party or announcing their sympathy for the anarchist cause. It's a process the comedian Alexei Sayle understands well. He grew up in a Communist Party household in Liverpool where the only way to appear more radical than his parents was to declare himself a Maoist. Over time, however, Sayle, while retaining left-wing principles, lost his illusions about the brutality of the regimes his family supported. As a result, he feels ambivalent about the environment in which he acquired his values and moral code. "My parents had a genuine hatred of injustice - they were really decent people. On the other hand, that wish for a better world led them to turn a blind eye to the two greatest mass murderers of the 20th Century, namely Stalin and Mao," he says. "But I'll always value the fact that they taught me to look sceptically at the news, to question society and people's motives." It's not just among the left that parents can be crucial in shaping opinions. Margaret Thatcher often spoke of the formative influence of her father, a grocer and Methodist lay preacher, who instilled her faith in the virtues of hard work and thrift. Of course, plenty of children of politicians and the politically engaged grow up to have no interest whatsoever in parties and ideologies. Others say they became active despite, not because, of their parents' interests. Rachel Johnson belongs to one of the most notable political families in the UK - her father Stanley was a Conservative MEP while her brothers Boris and Jo serve as Mayor of London and head of the Number 10 Policy Unit respectively. But she insists that politics was rarely discussed while she grew up, not least because her parents' affiliations were split - her mother Charlotte was a Labour voter. "We didn't have a politicised household," Johnson, herself a Conservative party member until recently, says. "The only thing I remember was canvassing for my father for the European Parliament. But we did that not because he was a Tory but because he was my father." Arguably the political success of the Miliband family is proof that politics aren't simply handed down from father to son. It's difficult to reconcile the Marxist dialectics of Ralph with the views of his Blairite son David, who served as foreign secretary from 2007 to 2010 and was defeated by his brother for Labour's leadership. Though Ed has often spoken warmly of "the values I grew up with", he rose to the top of the party in defiance of his father's long-standing belief that Labour could never achieve socialist transformation. Unite general secretary Len McCluskey that Ralph Miliband "spent his life trying to convince our movement that there was no possibility of a parliamentary road to socialism, while his sons have been loyally putting theory into practice, and proving Ralph right". Still, when children depart from their parents' political paths delicate situations can arise. In 1994, Sir Nicholas Scott, the Conservative disability minister, left office after coming under severe criticism after the government scuppered a bill that would have banned discrimination against disabled people. One of his sternest critics was his daughter Victoria, a Labour party member who at the time worked for a disability pressure group. Memorably, on one occasion she took to the Today programme to sternly criticise him. Now Victoria says the affair did create tensions, even in a family where she had been encouraged to think independently (Sir Nicholas later told interviewers he was proud she had stood up for herself). "My dad loved arguments and had a good sense of humour - he'd rather I was left-wing and had different political opinions than that I was totally uninterested," she says. "But we weren't prepared for the emotional and personal fallout, which was quite phenomenal. People in my family really felt I had betrayed my father, even if he didn't feel that himself." Her experience may be far from uncommon, according to Elias Dinas, lecturer in politics at the University of Nottingham, who has researched the impact of parental influence on opinion-forming. "There's a volume of literature that says the more politicised your parents are, the more likely you are to become a politically engaged adult - but you're also more likely to abandon your parents' views," he adds. If true, this implies the best way to pass on your political opinions to your offspring is to keep quiet about them. In the Miliband household, this evidently wasn't an option. You can follow the Magazine on and on11 September 2013Last updated at 23:28 GMT Do you need to be rich to start your own company? By Nastaran Tavakoli-Far Business reporter, BBC With a growing number of young people wishing to start up their own business on both sides of the Atlantic, how much easier is it to do so if you come from a wealthy background? Here a number of young entrepreneurs recount their experiences. Utah native Austen Allred's life was changed by the bombings at the Boston marathon this April. A few weeks later he was in Silicon Valley in California, sleeping in his car every night, and trying to raise money from investors by day. Mr Allred, 23, and his college friend Garrett Thornburg had developed a computer and smartphone platform called Grasswire, which allows people to create and share news reports in real time. When he heard of the attacks in Boston, they decided to launch it early. However, less than two days later they had to shut Grasswire down, due to more demand than they could cope with, after they got in excess of 17,000 visitors. Mr Allred then decided to immediately go to California to raise money for the platform, so it could be expanded to cope with the user numbers. But having little money for the trip itself proved to be an issue. "I looked at the rent prices [for accommodation] and none of them were close to being affordable," he says. So Mr Allred took matters into his own hands, and lived in his car. He spent three months finding an empty church parking lot to sleep in each evening, showering at YMCA centres, and eating canned soup, until receiving funding offers last month. Grasswire is now due to go live again later this month. 'Financial security' New Yorker Kathryn Minshew, 28, thinks the importance of access to the money of family and friends is an issue which is being overlooked in the start-up world. "There are far more entrepreneurs than would like to admit who got off the ground through help from friends and family," she says. She launched The Muse, a careers advice and job search website, in September 2011. Ms Minshew had just $5,000 (?3,300; 3795 euros) of her own money to invest, but was eventually able to raise about $70,000 from angel investors, and $40,000 from friends and family. She thinks the US start-up community needs "a little more openness" about the need for friends and family to contribute. Another New Yorker, Limor Suss, was able to raise about $200,000 from her friends and family. This money went towards her first two start-ups, the now defunct news compiler Spotery, and her current venture Dealery, which is a daily deal aggregator. Ms Suss thinks that it is possible to launch a successful start-up without a wealth family background, but that coming from money does have advantages. She went to a private high school and says that many people have their own ventures. "That's already the culture there," Mrs Suss says. But ultimately she says having access to money can provide a much needed safety net. "I think the bottom line is security," she says. "That if you need money there's someone to ask." 'Psychological advantage' For others it's not so much cash which is the issue, but things which arise from having been raised around money and means. The founder of UK accounting software firm Kashflow, Duane Jackson, says the obstacles less privileged people faced when getting into start-ups were less about money, and more about exposure and confidence. Mr Jackson, whose background includes being in children's homes in London from the age of 10, and a stint in prison for drug trafficking, started Kashflow in his pregnant girlfriend's one-bedroom flat. There was no desk for the computer or money for business cards. He received funding from UK youth charity, the Prince's Trust. Mr Jackson says starting your own business is not really seen as something people do where he comes from, and this can affect their self-belief and confidence. He says there is a perception about business being for "people who go to Oxford and Cambridge". By contrast, he says young people from his background are not aware of the concept of starting your own business. British computer program developer Rik Lomas also has a humble background. The 28-year-old, who co-founded coding school Steer, did not have a computer until he was 16. "A lot of people don't realise how hard it is to get a computer if you're working class," says Mr Lomas, who grew up in a single parent household in Manchester. He spent two years asking his mother for a computer. "She gave in and bought me the cheapest computer she could afford," he says. 'Very meritocratic' But some believe that despite these very real and practical obstacles, the start-up world does provide opportunities for people across the socio-economic spectrum. Dutchman Christopher Pruijsen, 20, now based in London, meets young entrepreneurs from across the spectrum in his role as the business development manager for Nacue (National Association for College and University Entrepreneurs). He says that the technology sector, at least, is very meritocratic. Simply put, he says the best computer code wins. "Tech does form a meritocracy," he says. "If someone is good at tech skills they can get out of poverty based on pure merit. "Tech is a great equaliser." Mr Allred agrees, despite having had to sleep in his car for three months. "The good entrepreneurs will always find a way," he says.2 October 2013Last updated at 09:15 GMT Doctor Who anniversary episode to screen worldwide The 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who will be broadcast simultaneously in more than 70 countries. The Day of the Doctor, which will star the current Doctor Matt Smith and his predecessor David Tennant, will also be shown in more than 200 UK cinemas. So far TV networks in 75 countries have agreed to air the show on 23 November. Tim Davie, chief executive of BBC Worldwide, said he hoped to to take "appointment viewing" to "another level". "In its 50th anniversary year, we wanted to create a truly international event for Doctor Who fans in as many countries as possible," he continued. "The simultaneous broadcast and cinema screening of the special across so many countries will make for a fitting birthday tribute to our Time Lord." Smith and Tennant will appear in the 75-minute episode alongside John Hurt, introduced as 'The Doctor' at the end of the last instalment broadcast. "The Doctor has always been a time traveller," said executive producer Steven Moffat. "Now he's travelling time zones." The BBC has announced a raft of programmes to celebrate the anniversary of the much-loved sci-fi staple. Highlights include a BBC Two lecture by Professor Brian Cox on the science behind the show and An Adventure in Space and Time, a drama by Mark Gatiss about the show's inaugural episode. (Required) Name (Required) Your E-mail address (Required) Town & Country (Required) Your telephone number (Required) Comments If you are happy to be contacted by a BBC journalist please leave a telephone number that we can contact you on. In some cases a selection of your comments will be published, displaying your name as you provide it and location, unless you state otherwise. Your contact details will never be published. When sending us pictures, video or eyewitness accounts at no time should you endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws. Please ensure you have read the terms and conditions.5 August 2013Last updated at 11:32 GMT Doctor Who: How many more times can the Doctor regenerate? Magazine MonitorA collection of cultural artefacts Peter Capaldi has been announced as the latest star of Doctor Who. But how many more times can the Doctor regenerate, asks Ben Milne. Among Doctor Who's hardcore fans, it's an accepted part of Whovian mythology that Earth's favourite Gallifreyan can only have 12 regenerations. Capaldi is the 12th Doctor, so does this mean he's the penultimate? The idea that the Doctor has 12 regenerations is first mentioned in The Deadly Assassin, a 1976 episode from the Tom Baker era. The Master - an evil Time Lord close to his final regeneration - is said to have been offered a new cycle of lives in exchange for helping to rig the election of a new Time Lord leader. He fails, but in a later series we see him get around the regeneration problem by stealing the body of a dupe called Tremas (an anagram of?? well, you get the point). The idea is mentioned again in the show's 20th anniversary special, The Five Doctors. There are said to be some fans so hardcore that they say they will not watch the show if the Doctor survives beyond his 12th regeneration. However, this is the sort of thing which hardcore fans tend to say. The fact is that Doctor Who's producers have often played fast and loose with "the laws of time and space" - for instance, the Doctor's only ever time lord (or lady) companion, Romana, apparently possessed the ability to regenerate several times before breakfast, trying on several different appearances before transforming from Mary Tamm to Lalla Ward. It might be that if the programme retains its popularity, the producers will find a way to get round this dilemma. It remains to be seen whether it's as drastic a solution as the recent Star Trek film which used time travel (the plot device which keeps on giving) to effectively wipe out the entire "history" of the Star Trek universe. But ultimately, one doesn't need a sonic screwdriver to realise the Doctor's continuing existence will owe less to the laws of the space-time vortex than the health of the TV ratings. Here is a selection of your comments from and The regenerations in the new series are different from the original series. The Master even managed to regenerate. So a different type of regeneration may be in use allowing many more regenerations. Andrew Swallow I hope that Moffat & co. will find a way to break the rule of 12 regenerations. I mean, from that point of view, that rule has already been broken by adding John Hurt as the forgotten regeneration between McGann and Eccleston, which makes Capaldi already the 13th Doctor. Jovana Filipovic There can be one more. Though I know two ways the whole 13 Doctors thing can be broken. Both are possible. One is River's regenerations, the other is that the rule is a law that was passed in Gallifrey, not a biological thing. Isabelle Frater The regeneration limit was a rule enforced by the high counsel, not a biological limit. Stacee Knouse The master exceeded his 12 so the doctor can too. Sandi Dubrow Eltawar River gave him all but three of her regenerations. He has a few more to go. Kaylee Nichole Lopez But John Hurt's actions were not done "in the name of the doctor".... So, I a sense, Capaldi still is the 12th Doctor... Right? *its too early in the morning for my brain to think this hard* Jaime Carter Green Then if you watch the Sarah Jane Adventure - the Death of the Doctor - he is asked how many times - he replies 507. Kimberlee Haver Finne But he also used one in the stole earth episodes but didn't actually change. That'll count towards the total, no? Daryl McLean The 12 regenerations limit removed. Can't remember which, but RTD changed to unlimited in a 10th Doc episode Jamie Rose, @MrJ_Ro It was an episode of the Sarah Jane Adventures with Matt Smith in it. *showing my geek credentials* Rob McConnell, @RobMcConnell30 March 2013Last updated at 01:08 GMT Does chocolate give you spots? By William KremerBBC World Service Telling children that they'll get pimples is one way to encourage them go easy on the chocolate - but is it true? When it comes to Easter eggs, every child has a favourite strategy. Some stash their hoard, tormenting their siblings for months with their untouched rows of chocolate goodies. Others descend on their eggs like a fox on a bird's nest, scattering scraps of foil and shards of broken chocolate all over the carpet. This category of child may well prompt the smug response from nearby grown-ups "You'll get spots!" At which point, another, even smugger, adult may well respond: "Actually, that's a myth!" But is it a myth? It would be more accurate to say that it is a matter of scientific debate. Multiple factors contribute to the prevalence of acne - the skin disease characterised by spots or pimples - including family history, age and possibly stress levels. Until the 1960s, the view that chocolate exacerbated the problem was widely held in the scientific community. It was thought that acne sufferers had an impaired tolerance of glucose, the sugar which our bodies convert carbohydrates into for distribution in the bloodstream. Popular textbooks of the 1940s and 1950s counselled against sugary food and drink - including chocolate - as part of acne treatment. But a very influential 1969 study by JE Fulton and his colleagues G Plewig and AM Klingman appeared to scotch any association between chocolate and acne. The researchers took 65 participants with mild-to-moderate acne and divided them into two groups. One group was given a chocolate bar enriched with 10 times the normal amount of cocoa. The other group was given a placebo bar (without the extra cocoa). The groups were told to eat the bars daily for a month. After a three-week break, the two groups switched bars. The researchers, who examined the patients weekly, decided that chocolate had no effect on acne development. This study made a big impact, and has been cited dozens of times in other journal articles. But it has recently been roundly criticised. "This study, to my mind, is invalid," says Amy Brown, associate professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, one of seven signatories to a 2011 letter criticising the Fulton study, printed in the journal Clinics in Dermatology. "The very first problem is that it was made possible through the Chocolate Manufacturers' Association of the United States of America - that's number one," she says. She also lists a number of methodological problems. For example, she says the weekly examinations could have missed skin reactions that occurred mid-week. And at the end of the study changes in skin condition were only counted if they were 30% better or worse, so a 29% deterioration in a participant's acne would not have been noted. "It was published in the journal of the American Medical Association and everybody just believed it," says Brown. "People took these researchers' word for it and that was it." It became scientific orthodoxy that chocolate did not cause or aggravate acne. In 40 years, just one further study looked at the links between the two, and this took in a range of other sweet foods as well. In 1971 Anderson and his colleagues took 27 university students, divided them into groups and asked them to eat large amounts of chocolate, milk, fizzy drinks and roasted peanuts every day for a week. At the end of the week, no new outbreaks of acne were noted. The small timescale and sample size of this study - together with the lack of a control group - make it hard to draw firm conclusions. So in 2011 it seemed to one medical student that the question of chocolate and acne was long overdue a re-examination. "There's a very small amount of literature that's actually been done assessing the effect of chocolate on acne exacerbation," says Samantha Block of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. As part of pilot study - reported in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology - she and her research partners chose 10 male volunteers between the ages of 18 and 35. The participants chosen all had between one and four non-inflamed spots, to ensure that they were susceptible to acne but not currently suffering from a bad flare-up of the condition. Women were excluded because of the effect that menstruation cycles have on hormone levels, which can affect acne. Block felt that one weakness of both the Fulton and Anderson studies was that the bars used were not pure chocolate. Since she wasn't interested in the effect of additives like sugar and sweeteners she used 100%-cocoa chocolate. Another change distinguished it from the Fulton experiment - one particularly relevant to this time of year. "We wanted to emulate what people typically consider exacerbating their acne - which is a binge chocolate consumption," she says. She made her participants eat varied amounts of chocolate (up to 340g, or 12oz) on day one of the experiment and then assessed their acne on day four and day seven. She found that acne increased on the participants' faces, in proportion to the amount of chocolate they had eaten. More recently, Block has repeated the pilot study with a control group and a randomised method, feeding participants with capsules containing either 100% cocoa powder, or gelatine. Different quantities of the two capsules were assigned randomly to 14 participants in what scientists call a "double blind" experiment - neither the participants nor the researchers knew who had been given what until after the experiment. The study, which Block has presented at a national conference of the American Academy of Dermatology, again showed an increase in acne proportionate to the amount of chocolate eaten. "It seems to be that for a male subject between the ages of 18 and 35 with a history of acne, chocolate does seem to exacerbate their acne," Block says. She hopes that further experiments will test her findings with larger groups of participants, including women. But for now the scientific jury is still out - an article about Block's work is currently under review for publication in a scientific journal - so it is possibly too soon to allow her results to dictate our behaviour this Easter. So much for pure chocolate. But what about the chocolate most of us eat - that dodgy stuff that does indeed have additives, including sugar, milk, fruit, nuts and other flavourings? A new review paper, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, examines all the research done on the links between acne and diet in general, not just chocolate. Its author, Jennifer Burris, is also critical of the Fulton and Anderson studies, and she expresses bafflement over how their results have been misinterpreted by others. "Although the main outcome of this old research primarily investigated chocolate and acne, it was falsely interpreted to imply diet was not associated with acne," she says. She calls it a scientific "myth" which her review paper challenges. Looking at more recent research - not on chocolate, but a range of other foods - she and her fellow researchers conclude that there may be a link between diet and acne, although they don't know how strong it is. "We're not really sure if diet can cause these acne flares or maybe they just make them more severe," she says. The researchers are also unsure if the culprits are dairy products or foods that give blood sugar levels a big boost (those with a high "glycemic load"). The role of Omega 3 fatty acids is also unclear. Burris also doesn't rule out other pathways through which diet might affect your skin. "Some chocolate bars are high in saturated fat or partially hydrogenated fats - trans fats - which may increase inflammation, possibly contributing to inflammatory acne," she says, adding that this theory has not yet been proved. Of course, the fact that science has not, to date, shown conclusively that chocolate - pure or impure, in bar-form or egg-shaped - causes acne is unlikely to stop adults using the threat of spots to try and slow down their children's intake. But be warned - to do this is to open a chocolatey can of worms. The quick-witted child is sure to respond with a long list of supposed health benefits of eating chocolate, from helping , to , to just . You can listen to Health Check on the . Listen back to an interview with Jennifer Burris or browse the . You can follow the Magazine on and on .5 September 2013Last updated at 13:26 GMT Does it take skill to make a mixtape? Magazine MonitorA collection of cultural artefacts Club brand Ministry of Sound is suing music-streaming service Spotify over playlists based on the label's compilation albums. It will provide a wry smile for anybody who has ever made a mixtape, says Finlo Rohrer. Ministry of Sound has said "a lot of research goes into" creating the compilations. They're trying to establish the value of "curation" - the putting together of one song with another. Once upon a time, on audio cassettes, perhaps a nice ferric C90, bedroom musos poured their creative energy into bringing a cornucopia of different acts together. Nick Hornby's novel High Fidelity is obviously the - albeit fictional - manual for the diehard mixtaper. "You've got to up it a notch, or cool it a notch?? and you can't have two tracks by the same artist side by side, unless you've done the whole thing in pairs and... oh, there are loads of rules." There are indeed The side-by-side rule is a common one among mixtapers. Another is don't mechanically alternate quiet and loud numbers - 45 minutes of loud-quiet-loud-quiet can be exhausting to the listener. Hardcore practitioners put in subtle references. For instance, a sequence where the writer of each song is the performer of the next. Example: The Jimi Hendrix Experience - All Along the Watchtower, Bob Dylan - Folsom Prison Blues, Johnny Cash - Personal Jesus, Depeche Mode - Dirt, The Stooges - Louie Louie. Then it might start to get a little obscure. High Fidelity establishes one solid mixtape stereotype - romance. "I've done you a mix" was once the prelude to a million doomed teenage liaisons. "I made mixtapes," says Popjustice editor Peter Robinson. "There were happy ones and sad ones. They are a way of sending a message." The calligraphy for the tracklisting was often painstakingly executed. Now the audiocassette has passed into obscurity, mixtapers have moved on. Some went first to minidisc before admitting defeat by burning CDs. The playlist is now the inheritor. And while there's been some scepticism about Ministry of Sound's stance, Robinson sees that the compilation album has a commercial value in the same way a mixtape has an emotional value. "A lot of it is down to sequencing. It starts exciting, has peaks and troughs and builds towards the end." You can follow the Magazine on and on9 September 2013Last updated at 13:56 GMT Does music in the workplace help or hinder? Magazine MonitorA collection of cultural artefacts Police in England and Wales paid ?660,952 for licences so staff could listen to music in offices in the past year, a Freedom of Information request has revealed. But does music played at work help or hinder employees, asks Vanessa Barford. The law requires businesses that play any recorded music in public to get licenses from the Performing Right Society (PRS), which collects fees and pays royalties to composers and their publishers. Listening to a device through headphones, however, is free. For the silence-at-work camp, the distinction provides a simple solution. Those that want to listen to music can use earphones to escape an environment that's too noisy - or too quiet - without inflicting the same white noise on colleagues. But how does music affect workers? PRS, which clearly has a vested interest in music being played at work, such as a) 73% of warehouse workers say they are more productive when good background music is being played, b) 65% of businesses say music in the workplace makes us more productive and c) one in five say they would lose business if they didn't play music. Another by Teresa Lesiuk at the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami found IT specialists who listened to music completed tasks more quickly and came up with better ideas than those who didn't. Meanwhile, would apparently turn down heating rather than silence the music and there have also been suggestions . However not everyone is convinced by the merits of music in the workplace. "If people need a high level of concentration, it could be a distraction," says Dr Carolyn Axtell, at the Institute of Work Psychology. The key is control, according to Dr Anneli Haake, who did a PhD in music psychology. "When people choose to listen there can be positive effects - it can be relaxing and help manage other distractions such as noise. But when it's imposed, they can find it annoying and stressful," she says. Problems occur when colleagues clash. "You can look away if you don't want to see something, but you can't close your ears," she says. You can follow the Magazine on and onBBC correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes moved to Japan with his family in 2012 and has spent a lot of time reporting on the aftermath of the tsunami in 2011 which led to the closure of the Fukushima nuclear power station. He recently made a second trip inside the crippled plant at Fukushima, and has spent many days in the contamination zone, and talking to nuclear experts. He asks if it is possible to fully recover from a disaster on the scale of Fukushima and if it is possible to guarantee that it will never happen again. features the BBC's on-air specialists asking questions which reveal deeper truths about their areas of expertise. Watch it on BBC One on Monday 30 September at 23.20 BST or catch it later on the BBC iPlayer or on BBC World News.11 September 2013Last updated at 07:20 GMT Does Pinochet rhyme with ricochet? How To SayBy Martha Figueroa-Clark, BBC Pronunciation Unit September 11 is burned in many people's memory as the date of the 2001 attacks on the US - but it is also the date of the military coup led by Augusto Pinochet in 1973, which ousted Chile's elected president, Salvador Allende. This year marks the 40th anniversary. English-speakers are often uncertain how to pronounce the names Pinochet and Allende. In fact, there is not always consensus among Chileans. And what about Michelle Bachelet, the country's first female president (2006-10), who is running for a second term in November - or indeed the pronunciation of Chile itself? Pronunciations below are anglicised, with stressed syllables shown in upper case. Augusto Pinochet The BBC Pronunciation Unit , ow-GOO-stoh PIN-uh-shay. British pronouncing dictionaries also list the following pronunciations as possible variants: PEE-nuh-shay and PEE-nuh-chay (-ee as in street, -ch as in church), or PEE-noh-shay and PEE-noh-chay (-oh as in no). According to my predecessors at the unit, who contacted the Chilean Embassy in 1973, "Pinochet" is a French family name. This might account for the fact that Chileans do not generally pronounce the final 't'. But, while a French pronunciation would be closer to pee-noh-SHAY, you are much more likely to hear Chileans pronounce it as pee-notch-AY or pee-notch-CHETT. Many Spanish speakers find it difficult to pronounce -sh as in ship since this sound doesn't technically exist in Spanish, consequently, the use of a French-sounding pronunciation by some Chileans can be interpreted as an affectation. Pinochet's own pronunciation was closer to pee-notch-AY (though the final 'e' in Spanish is pronounced closer to the 'e' in 'get', rather than the diphthongal -ay as in day sound, which is how this sound is systematically anglicised). Salvador Allende This name can be anglicised as sal-vad-OR igh-YEN-day, often further anglicised as SAL-vuh-dor uh-YEN-day or uh-YEN-di. However, some Chileans pronounce the 'll' as something approximating -zh (like 's' in measure) - azh-EN-day. (And in some other Spanish-speaking countries, the 'll' sound is similar to the 'll' in million, so that Allende would be pronounced something like al-YEN-day.)" Michelle Bachelet Like Pinochet, the name Bachelet is of French origin and, again, the pronunciation of 'ch' in both of these names is variable among Chileans. The unit's recommendation reflects the most common pronunciation of her name in Chile, and also that used by Eduardo Frei during her swearing-in ceremony: mee-CHELL batch-el-ETT (-ch as in church, -tch as in catch). Chile and Chilean And lastly, there is quite a bit of variation in the pronunciation of the name of the country and the nationality among speakers of different varieties of English. In Spanish, Chile is pronounced CHEE-le (-the final 'e' sounds closer to -e as in get). As a bilingual speaker of Chilean Spanish who grew up in Britain, I pronounce it as CHILL-i (so that the words Chile, chilly and chilli all sound the same) and Chilean as CHILL-i-uhn. These are the usual British English pronunciations. Many speakers of American English talk of CHILL-ay and chill-AY-uhnz or chill-EE-uhnz but this is not common usage in British English. The Pronunciation Unit is part of the BBC's department. Its service is available exclusively to BBC broadcasters and programme-makers. The pronunciations discussed are represented using . You can follow the Magazine on and on4 September 2013Last updated at 09:09 GMT Does pressing the pedestrian crossing button actually do anything? By Tom de CastellaBBC News Magazine Lots of people don't bother to press the button at pedestrian crossings. Do they know something the rest of us don't? It can seem like the longest two minutes of your life. You get to a road junction just as the red man appears. If it's a busy junction, anywhere in the UK, you might see people who don't bother pressing. Ask them and they'll tell you it doesn't do anything. It's not an absurd theory. In New York, they are sometimes referred to as "placebo buttons" as . But in the UK does pushing the button make any difference? The short answer is - it depends. At a standalone pedestrian crossing, unconnected to a junction, the button will turn a traffic light red. At a junction it is more complicated. Take one very busy crossing - at the intersection between Regent Street and Cavendish Place, near the BBC's HQ in London - and you immediately start to doubt the button's efficacy. Sometimes people press it, sometimes they don't. In both cases there is a 105-second interval between the red man coming on and the green man appearing. This is mid-afternoon. In the morning it is slightly longer - 110 seconds. At night, the button does act to stop the traffic, says Transport for London. But this is only between the hours of midnight and 07:00. In the daytime, the button has no effect. It's not just in the capital. The UK uses a traffic system called Scoot (Split Cycle Offset Optimisation Technique) so the same overall principles apply whatever town or city you live in. Edinburgh has roughly 300 traffic junctions of which about 50-60 are junctions where the green man comes on automatically. In the jargon this is known as "walk with". It is usually where a one-way street connects with another road. The green man comes on whenever the red traffic light shows. At night this might change but during busy times the system is automated. In Manchester, around 40% of the push buttons don't need to be pressed during busy pedestrian times. "This is made up of those pedestrian green men that are 'walk-with-traffic', and those set remotely on a timer from our central computer," a Transport for Greater Manchester spokeswoman says. "The times vary depending on the junction but the maximum wait time is 60 seconds." The details may vary but a similar system operates in Cardiff and Glasgow. Traffic junctions can be divided into two main types. Those where all vehicle traffic is stopped at once for the pedestrians. And those where part of the junction is stopped for pedestrians while on the other half, motorised traffic gets a green light. At the first type, such as the busy Oxford Circus junction in central London where two main roads intersect, it is always necessary for a pedestrian to press the button in order to get a green man. If they do not, the traffic lights will miss out the pedestrian phase of the cycle and simply alternate between giving a green light to each road. The time that a traffic light stays green for is influenced by sensors in or above the road, which tell the traffic system whether cars are waiting. If there are no vehicles waiting at a side street, the main road will get a continuous green. A cynic might argue the button is occasionally there merely to give the pedestrian the illusion of control. So are they misleading people? "It could be interpreted in that way," says Anna Collins, policy lead for pedestrian crossings at campaign group Living Streets. On the other hand, having push buttons at every light brings consistency. It reinforces the message that it may be better to wait for the green man than charge out into the traffic, she says. The philosopher Julian Baggini says it's demeaning being misled even on something so seemingly trivial. "We want to be treated as intelligent, autonomous agents rather than being manipulated." Transport for London denies it is misleading people. There are 4,650 pedestrian crossings in London of which about 2,500 are at junctions. At the majority of these junctions the button controls the green man, says Iain Blackmore, Head of Traffic Infrastructure at TfL. It is difficult to say how many are completely automated and how many operated by the button without someone analysing each junction, he says. Outside London, the decision for programming crossings is for the local authority. A Department for Transport spokeswoman says that at busy junctions "the pedestrian crossing may be programmed to come up every time even if no-one presses the button". Sometimes the reasons for a non-responsive button are not traffic-related. In 2012 TfL changed the pedestrian setting at Henlys Corner in north London after discussions with the Jewish community. Orthodox Jews are not allowed to operate electronic machinery on the Sabbath. The change means that from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday the pedestrian crossing operates on an automated programme rather than via pressing the button. The maximum wait time for a green man in the UK is set at two minutes, says Martin Low, transport commissioner for Westminster City Council. That can feel like a long time. Low wants councils to help pedestrians to cross even if there is a red man. Instead of constructing barriers, Westminster is putting in "perch" islands in the middle of roads to allow pedestrians to get across. And here is where the UK differs from some other countries. The British pedestrian looks to cross whatever the lights, merely checking whether any traffic is approaching. (The law is on the pedestrian's side, except on motorways, certain other roads, and, although not usually enforced, in Northern Ireland.) In Washington DC, say, this behaviour would be seen as at best daring and at worst an example of illegal jaywalking. The British historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto for jaywalking after crossing at the wrong place. In some north European countries, it is against the law. In others, merely likely to raise eyebrows. This is about safety not just convenience, says Benjamin Heydecker, professor of transport studies at University College London. There might be a case for bringing in a jaywalking law in the UK, he argues. Low says it's a "terrible" idea. He believes in the individual's right to choose when it's safe. "If it's a red man but safe to cross you should let someone. We need to get away from the traffic management approaches of the past like putting guard rails everywhere." There's no need to remove buttons, says Baggini. But a little more honesty about what they do would be nice. "Traffic planners don't need to mislead us. They can just honestly say, look, all pedestrian crossings have buttons because that makes it easier. Some do nothing, but believe us, your urban pedestrian travel experience would be worse without them." Here is a selection comments on . It happens all the time. I come to lights and check the button which has not been pressed but there are 10 or more people waiting. Unbelievable. Zee Bukhari I hate it when I want to cross the road and people already waiting haven't pushed the button. Some junctions are on a cycle, yes, but most junctions won't stop traffic to let pedestrians cross if it hasn't been informed there are pedestrians waiting. The system isn't magic, it works on an input/output basis like any other. Daniel Rogerson They work in not so busy places such as round the corner from my house - absolutely love watching people standing there wondering why the lights won't change!!!! Emma West In my experience - it's quicker just waiting for a break in the traffic. Mark Stebbing It drives me mad when people cross on the red man, esp. in front on little kids (eg mine!) Kids see an adult cross so assume it is safe to do the same. Nicola Harvey What annoys me most is, when someone presses the button when the road is clear, then walks across the road anyway, then the lights turn to red as my bus is approaching and there is nobody at the crossing! John Savage As a commuting cyclist I find it even more annoying when people DO press the button but then immediately proceed to walk on red anyway. Almost daily I witness this and other road users then have to wait at that crossing for no reason 2 minutes later. Unless the button has a more or less immediate effect I think it's totally pointless putting them there as most people have walked off by the time the lights do change. Moreover, if I took the same approach as most pedestrians and crossed on red on my bike because no one is there and I decided it is safe to do so, I would still get fined, but the pedestrian, having committed the same "crime" would not. Fair? I think not! Tobi Frenzen I am a convicted Jaywalker in Northern Ireland, so it is enforced. (who knew). ?250 fine and a criminal record. Chris Dalton I try not to press it so as to not inconvenience motorists. I either wait till no motorists are about or are far away. And if I do, it is only if the traffic is constantly busy. Edwin Anthony I never press it as by the time it comes on I have always crossed safely and then it holds up the traffic with no one crossing. Some inconsiderate people press it and don't wait for green man which is a big bug bear of mine. Melanie Cole I always press it but make a judgement when to cross - there's few things more peculiar than watching a pedestrian wait for the lights to change when the streets are clear. John Paul It certainly varies around the world. In the UAE I don't recall there being any buttons to press. The cycles are fixed and 24/7. In Hong Kong they are fixed, but have the help thing for the impaired. What is neat is you get an audible warning, like a tapping. Slow on the red, fast on the green and intermediate as the green cycle runs out. Escalators have a similar neat system, rather like a peg on a bike wheel, with a different speed at the start of the escalator to that at the end. And some places have a whole intersection cycle so you can cross diagonally at one go. Graeme Marshall Timers next to the green man to let you know how long you've got are being introduced in Plymouth and its a good idea! Lewis Wollington Some clever traffic engineer should design some more intelligent traffic lights - the dumb timer-based logic on most automated pedestrian crossings is not always safe for children/elderly and the blind, and often leaves traffic waiting needlessly after braver pedestrians have already crossed. A better system could use motion detectors/radar to determine when lights should change and for how long. Peter Sharpe8 July 2013Last updated at 09:55 GMT Does the NFL have a crime problem? By Ben CarterBBC News To some the US's National Football League is synonymous with violence - legitimate violence where men weighing 300lbs (136kg) or more collide like crashing trains. But it's the violence off the field of play that's currently causing concern. Does the NFL have a crime problem? Last week Aaron Hernandez, 23, one of the NFL's elite players playing for one of the league's elite teams, the New England Patriots, was charged with murder. Further charges may follow as police investigate whether he was involved in an unsolved double homicide, which took place last year. It's not an isolated case. NFL players have been charged with any number of crimes over the years, from rape to dog-fighting. Twenty-nine players have been arrested since February. Another NFL star, Ray Lewis, 38, who won the Super Bowl this year with the Baltimore Ravens was charged with the murder of two men outside a nightclub in Atlanta in 2000. He subsequently negotiated a plea agreement, where the murder charges against him were dismissed in exchange for his testimony against two other men accused of involvement. And six years before that perhaps the biggest murder case of them all, involving former NFL star OJ Simpson. Simpson was found not guilty of killing his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ronald Goldman in a criminal court but a civil court disagreed and ordered him to pay $33.5m in damages to the victim's families. Simpson is currently serving a 33-year jail sentence in Nevada after he was found guilty of committing armed robbery and kidnapping in 2008. These high profile cases have led fans and the media to ask whether the NFL has a crime problem. But what do the numbers tell us? Brent Schrotenboer, a sports writer for USA Today, has compiled a list of NFL Arrests Database. It lists 664 arrests from 2000. That sounds like a big number but put in context, Schrotenboer says, it's not. "The NFL arrest rate for active players is around one in 47 but in the general population the arrest rate is actually double that, it's about one in 25. It's a surprise. It seems like you hear about an NFL arrest every week but it turns out they're still better behaved than regular society." When the general population numbers are broken down even further the NFL players look even more like model citizens. The Bureau of Justice's figures reveal that the arrest rate for men is one in 15. Active NFL players are aged, in the main, between 21 and 34 and the arrest rate for that demographic is one in 8. The arrest rate for people of Aaron Hernandez's age - he's 23 - is a startling one in 6. It needs to be pointed out that it's not that one in six 23-year-old men in the US get arrested every year. The figures are for arrests, not people. Some people are arrested time and time again - prolific burglars, for example - and this will bump up the arrest figures. Some NFL players are repeat offenders too. Cincinnati Bengals corner back Adam "Pacman" Jones has been arrested, charged or cited eight times since 2005. But in general terms there are about six times as many arrests among the general population of young American men, as there are among football players. Even US women are more likely to be arrested than players - albeit by a small margin. Their arrest rate is one in 46. One in 46 was the overall arrest rate in the UK in 2010. The arrest rate for men was one in 27 and for women it was one in 145. It wasn't possible to look at the arrest rate for a particular age group as there wasn't available data. When the NFL players do transgress there is one particular crime they commit regularly - drink driving. In December 2012 Dallas Cowboys player Josh Brent was charged with the intoxication manslaughter of his teammate Jerry Brown. Police estimated that Brent had been travelling at up to 134mph while over the legal limit. In 2009 Cleveland Browns player Donte Stallworth was convicted of intoxication manslaughter after hitting a man with his car in Florida. But again the figures don't really suggest that the NFL has a drink driving problem. "Drunk driving makes up 30% of all active player arrests during a year," says Schrotenboer. "But the drink driving arrest rate is about half that of their age bracket in the US general population." So why do negative perceptions surround the NFL? Many argue that it's because of the high profile of the players and also because the NFL season is comparatively short compared to other US sports (the regular season lasts for only four months) but the demand for news coverage is 24/7 and that inevitably leads to off-season stories, which invariably prove negative. Other critics would argue that the one in 47 figure is still too high because unlike a lot of the general population the players had an education in college, earn very good money and live in safe neighbourhoods. NFL and crime: Elsewhere on the web likened watching NFL to "a game between [criminal gangs] the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons". He went on to talk about the colour black appearing on the kits: "I know that that has roots supposedly - I've been told it has roots in gang culture." And at the end of 2012, following an NFL player's arrest for intoxication manslaughter and another murder-suicide in quick succession, said that the onus is on the NFL to act. Although stating that the problems are no different from wider society, he noted: "One tragic death is already too many for the NFL. Two tells us that some players aren't nearly as in control of their actions as they might think. How many drunken driving stories have we heard in this year alone? How many tales of domestic violence get reported every season? An alarming number of NFL players find it necessary to own a gun." , says that the only surprise about the recent arrest of Hernandez is that it doesn't happen more often. "The myth about crime and professional athletes arises because it's easy to find examples. But anecdotes can hide truth, not reveal it. It seems as if NFL players are committing so many crimes because every time they do, they make the news. It's the same kind of thinking that leads people to erroneously believe air travel is more dangerous than automobile. Every time a plane goes down we read about it. Car crashes go largely unreported." "It's not as simple as some want you to think," , adding that much of it is "complicated guesswork". He writes that "there is no scientific data to show NFL players are more criminally inclined", largely because there is no scientific research into it at all. But he also highlights the problem of comparing NFL players to national statistics. Unlike NFL players, most of the country doesn't have access to top-notch educations, sizeable bank accounts, live in the best areas and are championed in many cases as heroes." Listen to More or Less on BBC Radio 4 and the World Service, or You can follow the Magazine on and on23 May 2013Last updated at 23:52 GMT Dog years: The calculator Working out your dog's true age used to be a case of simply multiplying it by seven. But it's more complicated than that, and here's a handy calculator to do it for you. A recent that: With that in mind, we've built a calculator for you to work out your dog's true age - its age in "dog years". Alternatively, you can find out how old you would be if you were a dog. You can choose to be a labrador, a spaniel, a whippet, or any one of 20 breeds. The calculator uses these multipliers for the first two years of a dog's life: Then, for the third and subsequent years of the dog's life, each human year has to be multiplied by between 4.3 and 13.4 years, depending on the breed: Small: Dachshund (Miniature) 4.32, Border Terrier 4.47, Lhasa Apso 4.49, Shih Tzu 4.78, Whippet Medium 5.30, Chihuahua 4.87, West Highland White Terrier 4.96, Beagle 5.20, Miniature Schnauzer 5.46, Spaniel (Cocker) 5.55, Cavalier King Charles 5.77, Pug 5.95, French Bulldog 7.65 Medium: Spaniel 5.46, Retriever (Labrador) 5.74, Golden Retriever 5.74, Staffordshire Bull Terrier 5.33, Bulldog 13.42 Large: German Shepherd 7.84, Boxer 8.90 The calculator does not work for cross breeds, sadly, but on average these live 1.22 years longer than pure breeds, according to Dan O'Neill (from Petts Wood in London...) who is researching the subject for a PhD at the Royal Veterinary College. Nor does the calculator work for cats. What we can say is that the average life expectancy of a cat is 12.1 years, which equates to 64 human years. Guidelines issued by the American Association of Feline Practitioners say that cats reach 10 human years in their first six months and are approximately 24 at the age of two years. After this their age increases by four "cat years" every year. Here is a selection of . You can follow the Magazine on and on26 August 2013Last updated at 09:07 GMT Dominica profile With few natural resources and a fledgling tourist industry, Dominica is attempting to reduce its reliance on bananas, traditionally its main export earner. The trade has faced stiffer competition since the European Union was forced by the World Trade Organisation to phase out preferential treatment for producers from former colonies. A mountainous, forested island with a year-round tropical climate, national parks, rare indigenous birds and the second-largest boiling lake in the world, Dominica is potentially a great tourist attraction. Environment worries But poor infrastructure and the absence of a large airport has impeded the industry's growth. The country is also vulnerable to hurricanes. Plans to build an airport capable of taking large jet aircraft have raised concerns that an increase in visitor numbers and the rise of eco-tourism would damage the finely-balanced environment. Offshore finance has had its problems too. For a time, Dominica was included on a list of countries deemed to be non-cooperative in the fight against money-laundering. The government tightened up banking rules and set up a financial intelligence unit. Dominica has a relatively low crime rate for the Caribbean. Although it is among the poorest countries in the region, its differences in wealth distribution are not as marked as in the larger Caribbean islands.23 August 2013Last updated at 09:30 GMT Dominican Republic profile Once ruled by Spain, the Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, a former French colony. The Caribbean nation is a major tourist destination. This, coupled with free-trade zones, has become the country's major employer and key sources of revenue, replacing dependence on sugar, coffee and other exports. The largely mountainous country includes Pico Duarte - the highest point in the West Indies, the fertile Cibao Valley, swathes of desert, and Lake Enriquillo - the lowest point in the region. The Dominican Republic is inhabited mostly by people of mixed European and African origins. Western influence is seen in the colonial buildings of the capital, Santo Domingo, as well as in art and literature. African heritage is reflected in music. The two heritages blend in the popular song and dance, the merengue. Rapid economic development in the 1990s has increased national wealth and diversified employment opportunities, helping the country to rebound from the global market downturn of 2008, but a large gap remains in the distribution of wealth. The richest 10% of the population, overwhelmingly the white descendants of Spanish settlers, own most of the land and benefit from 40% of national icome. The poorest peasants are people of African descent - including an estimated 800,000 of Haitian immigrant origin. Distrust has soured relations between the Dominican Republic and its troubled neighbour, Haiti, and the government has carried out mass deportations of Haitian immigrants at various times. The Dominican Republic is closely tied to the United States, its largest trading partner by far and home to a major diaspora. Remittances from US Dominicans account for up to 10% of national income.26 September 2013Last updated at 11:28 GMT Don Valley Stadium: Fight to save Sheffield venue lost Campaigners have lost their fight to take over the running of Sheffield's Don Valley Stadium. The city council turned down an application from action group Save Don Valley Stadium (SDVS) to have the site listed as an . In April, the council voted to demolish the stadium where Jessica Ennis-Hill trained, stating it was unsustainable. The authority said campaigners did not have enough evidence for their bid. The stadium is set to close on Monday. Athletics coach Rob Creasey, who is part of the SDVS campaign, said he was "very disappointed" about the decision and said the group was talking to lawyers about possible legal action. "There is certainly an option for a public inquiry and also judicial reviews," he said. "We are on with this and we are convinced that we demonstrated that it is a community asset." 'Underutilised' Paul Billington, director of culture and environment at Sheffield City Council, said in the council's view the bid failed to meet the government's requirements for listing as community asset. "The evidence really is around levels of usage," he said. "It's around the impact of closure and it's around the level of public support." He added: "The fact is Don Valley Stadium has been underutilised. "It's nothing to do with management, it's the nature of the activities that take place there and the scale of the facility." No date has yet been scheduled for demolition. The council decided to close the site to save the ?700,000-a-year operating costs, and repair works estimated at ?1.6m. Plans have been put in place to refurbish Woodbourn Road Athletics Stadium, with Sheffield Hallam running the site.17 June 2011Last updated at 00:56 GMT Doubt over Tunisian 'martyr' who triggered revolution By Wyre DaviesBBC News, Tunis He was the perfect symbol for a perfect revolution. Six months ago Mohamed Bouazizi set himself alight in front of the local government offices in the provincial Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid. Unjustly harassed and slapped across the face by a state official for trying to sell food from his market stall, so the story went, Mr Bouazizi had raged on social networking sites about the injustices of a corrupt regime and the lack of opportunities for Tunisian youth. Weeks later, the young man died from his terrible burns and the rest is history. But, just like the imperfections and flaws in Tunisia's subsequent "Jasmine" revolution, Mohamed Bouazizi's story is not quite the perfect metaphor that many have since written and talked about. It seems that for some Tunisians, the 26-year-old martyr is no longer a political hero but a media creation, manufactured for the convenience of those - outsiders - who wax lyrical about the birth of the Arab Spring. The official who "taunted" and "slapped" Mohamed is, arguably, almost as much a victim of Tunisia's former regime. Fedia Hamdi was arrested and thrown into jail, days after Bouazizi's self-immolation, on the orders of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali - a 74-year-old dictator who saw his authority unravelling before his eyes but was powerless to prevent it. Media-driven revolt Many more would pay with their lives, before Ben Ali finally resigned and fled into exile in Saudi Arabia in mid-January, allegedly with more than a tonne of gold from the Tunisian Central Bank. Ms Hamdi has since been released from jail and has been completely exonerated. While acknowledging there was indeed an argument between her and the young man she vehemently denies hitting him. After four months in jail, the 46-year-old municipal inspector said she was only trying to move him along from trading in front of the municipal buildings, in contravention of local by-laws. Ms Hamdi admits the incident sent Mr Bouazizi into a rage, but she has no idea why he then set himself on fire, or if he even intended to die in the act. There is no doubt the subsequent popular uprisings in towns across the country were, in part, promulgated and promoted via social networking sites by driven, savvy young people. But, again, our Mohamed Bouazizi was not the linked-in, internet whizz, you may have read about, who wrote online about his intentions and frustrations. As it happens it was another college student, with the same name, who posted his poetry and revolutionary song lyrics on the web. It was arguably these posts and the way they spread like wildfire in Tunisia and beyond - which the regime could do nothing to stop - that helped fuel the uprising. A recent investigation by the France 24 news channel found the other Mr Bouazizi alive and well. 'Cashing in' There has also been a perhaps undeserved backlash against the family of the "original" Mohamed Bouazizi. It has emerged his mother and stepfather accepted several thousand dollars in "compensation" from President Ben Ali, as he struggled to hang on to power. The family has since moved from their modest home in Sidi Bouzid to a much bigger house in the upmarket Tunis suburb of La Marsa. Frustrated, even jealous, detractors accuse them of cashing in. Lastly, while many towns and municipalities outside Tunisia, especially in France, have renamed streets and town squares after the martyr, Mohamed Bouazizi, where that has happened in Tunisia itself, the new signs are often defaced or torn-down, even in his native town of Sidi Bouzid. With an interim administration and constitutional elections scheduled for later this year, some worried Tunisians are already complaining that their revolution may be stolen from them. Many in this, by Arab standards, liberal country fear the old elites and former members of the RCD ruling party will never fully relinquish power. Others warn that Islamist politicians, returning from exile, will take advantage of newfound political freedoms and try to impose conservative changes to what is a generally inclusive and tolerant constitution. Many observers, myself included, believe that Tunisia is one country where the Arab revolution has a strong chance of succeeding. Well-educated, European-influenced and ambitious citizens have already overcome huge obstacles to remove the vestiges of the past. For them there can be no going back. Tunisia was an ideal place for the Arab Spring to begin. Whether or not Mohamed Bouaziz's role in inspiring these revolutions has been exaggerated is a moot point, but history should not, perhaps, judge him too harshly. We need our heroes, flawed or otherwise. Across the Arab world, other reformists who took heart from events of the last six months and related to the frustrations of a young man from Sidi Bouzid will be looking to Tunisia for guidance and inspiration in the difficult months ahead.29 July 2013Last updated at 00:14 GMT Dover's White Cliffs: Would you mine them for ?1bn-worth of gold? How do we decide what's worth saving and what we would happily see destroyed to make way for development? For The Editors, a programme which sets out to ask challenging questions, I asked what price, for example, for the White Cliffs of Dover? Woven into the national fabric as a symbol of wartime defiance, the cliffs stand immortalised by the voice of Vera Lynn and images of soaring Spitfires. A National Trust campaign has just raised over ?1m to buy a key stretch of the cliff-tops to forestall any development. Most people would probably agree that that was a good thing. The trust's campaign video flashed up names such as Caesar and Churchill to emphasise the pivotal importance of the cliffs to our island story, and the donations rolled in. What makes the cliffs so distinctively white is that they are made of limestone. As it happens, this type of rock isn't particularly valued. You can buy a tonne of it for about ?20. But what if another kind of mineral was discovered inside the cliffs? Let's say, purely hypothetically, that the cliffs contain gold. Now imagine that gleaming deposit of gold is valued at ?10m. Would you agree to it being gouged out of the rock? Of course not. You'd say, "Don't be so grubby, didn't you learn any history at school?" Upping the ante But what if the gold was worth ?1bn? At that price a few people might agree to let the diggers move in. After all, a new mine would create jobs and the Treasury would get another, very welcome, source of revenue. So would the National Trust. There would be a protest movement, obviously, and I'm guessing that the majority would be outraged at the idea of sacrificing the cliffs for a mere billion. However, we would start to see a fracturing of public opinion, wouldn't we? So let's up the ante. What if the deposit was in fact valued at ?1tn? Yes, one trillion, almost the size of the national debt. So what do you think now about demolishing a cherished corner of our national heritage? Would you argue that times are exceptionally tough, that it is irresponsible not to make use of the gold, and that most visitors to Britain come by air so don't see the cliffs anyway. You could suggest that a facade of the cliffs be maintained while the riches behind are burrowed out - it is ?1tn, after all. Or would you stiffen your spine, summon up the memory of Winston's call to fight invaders on the beaches and draw a principled line in the chalk? Some things, you could say, are just too precious. If the White Cliffs, why not Stonehenge? In short, is nothing sacred? Rainforest threat This idea came to me on an assignment in the heart of the . The majestic ocean of green stretched for miles in all directions - and I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking that the world's largest tropical forest deserves special protection. But right in the middle of the jungle, near the town of Carajas, is another feature that's the largest in the world - a vast iron-ore mine. The diggers work around the clock in unimaginably huge manmade canyons. The ore is shipped to the coast and on to the global markets. We have probably all benefited from the iron of Carajas. The metal ends up in our cars and bridges and office buildings. But each new extraction of the rock requires the destruction of another mass of trees. The whole place is basically a mountain of iron. And its value? Getting on for $1tn. So, rainforest or iron? I thought about these choices again while on a British research ship earlier this year. The expedition was where hydrothermal vents - bizarre natural chimneys - rise from the ocean floor. They host unique forms of life. And they're also richer than any rocks found on land. The vents are brimming with copper and the rare earth minerals that all our electronics depend on. The seabed rocks are worth countless billions. Suddenly, with metal prices so high, many areas of ocean floor all over the world are worth mining. Prospecting is going on in about 20 areas. Huge robotic machines are being built to carve up the seabed. Excavating the rock could destroy marine life. But we all need the minerals. Changing priorities Attitudes vary. Wealth is one factor. Richer countries are more likely to feel able to afford conservation. Can Brazil, with its favelas, really turn down the money from its iron? Necessity is another factor. The world is hungry for the metal that modern economies require - and is mining at sea really more damaging than mining on land? A third point is that priorities change. When the Normans landed and conquered Britain in 1066, they built a massive castle on top of the White Cliffs. As victors, they didn't need planning permission. When Napoleon massed his armies on the other side of the Channel, a huge fortress was built above Dover at the Western Heights. In the rush, no-one worried about demolishing an old Roman lighthouse that stood in the way. Unloved, underfunded and mostly closed to the public, the fortress - the largest of its kind in England - is now set for a ?5m makeover. But the money comes as part of a deal - a development company provides the cash but in exchange wins the right to build a five-star hotel on the site and 500 homes in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at Farthingloe nearby. An unusual heritage landmark gets a new lease of life and Dover gets some badly needed investment. But there is a price - paid by a stretch of countryside designated off-limits to development. So which is sacred - the fortress or the countryside? Where do we draw the line? Back in the 1980s, there was widespread hostility to the building of the Channel Tunnel, including the difficult question of where the spoil would be dumped. In the end it was tipped into the sea at the foot of the White Cliffs. At the time this seemed an appalling idea. But the spoil formed a bank - which has now become the Samphire Hoe nature reserve visited by 100,000 people a year, a "bad" idea turned good. Battles over how we use our land, and what we save and what we don't, will become tougher. The population is growing and Britain is becoming more densely settled. The definition of what is sacred will become more contested. Finally, in case you are wondering about that suggestion of gold in the White Cliffs? There isn't any. Just as well. features the BBC's on-air specialists asking questions which reveal deeper truths about their areas of expertise. Watch it on BBC One on Monday 29 July at 23:10 BST or catch it later on the BBC iPlayer or on BBC World News.Imperial College in London, one of the world's top ranking science institutions, is putting lectures and materials on a free online downloading service for students, called iTunes U. It is adding to the resources and entire degree courses that are available on the internet. Henry Rzepa, professor of computational chemistry, says that it helps staff and students to become part of a global network. He says science will improve as a result. Sam Gibbs, in the final year of his PhD in molecular microbiology, says such online services allow students to access a range of lectures and resources from universities around the world.3 December 2012Last updated at 19:03 GMT Downward mobility haunts US education By Sean CoughlanBBC News education correspondent An integral part of the American Dream is under threat - as "downward mobility" haunts the education system in the United States. The idea of going to college - and the expectation that the next generation will be better educated and more prosperous than its predecessor - has been hardwired into the ambitions of the middle classes in the United States. But there are deep-seated worries about whether this upward mobility is going into reverse. Andreas Schleicher, special adviser on education at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), says the US is now the only major economy in the world where the younger generation is not going to be better educated than the older. "It's something of great significance because much of today's economic power of the United States rests on a very high degree of adult skills - and that is now at risk," says Mr Schleicher. "These skills are the engine of the US economy and the engine is stuttering," says Mr Schleicher, one of the world's most influential experts on international education comparisons. Lack of opportunity The annual OECD education statistics show that only about one in five young adults in the US reaches a higher level of education than their parents - among the lowest rates of upward mobility in the developed world. For a country whose self-image is based on optimism and opportunity, the US is now a country where someone with poorly-educated parents is less likely to reach university than in almost any other industrial country. It's the opposite of a Hollywood ending. And about one in five young adults in the US are now defined in educational terms as "downwardly mobile" - such as children who have graduate parents but who don't reach university level themselves. When the global story of higher education is so much about rapid expansion and the race to increase graduates, it's almost counter-intuitive to find a powerhouse such as the United States on the brink of going backwards. It's easy to overlook the dominance of US higher education in the post-war era - or how closely this was linked to its role as an economic, scientific and military superpower. The US had the first great mass participation university system. The GI Bill, which provided subsidies for a generation of World War II veterans, supported three times as many people as are currently in the entire UK university sector. An American born in the 1950s was about twice as likely to become a graduate as someone born in the rest of the industrialised world. As the cars ran off the production lines in Detroit, rising numbers of graduates were leaving universities to become part of an expanding middle class. Overtaken But the US university system is no longer the only skyscraper on the block. It's been overtaken by rivals in Asia and Europe. Today's young Americans have a below-average chance of becoming a graduate, compared with other industrialised economies. The US Education Secretary Arne Duncan, in a speech a few weeks ago, asked how the US had in "the space of a generation" tumbled from first place to 14th in graduation rates. So what's gone wrong? The spiralling cost of higher education in the United States is often cited as a barrier - and the collective student debt has exceeded a trillion dollars. But Andreas Schleicher argues that a deeper problem is rooted in the inequalities of the school system. He says that the level of social segregation and the excessive link between home background and success in school is "cutting off the supply" between secondary school and university. The meritocratic, migrant energy in US culture is no longer operating in the school system. "If you lose the confidence in the idea that effort and investment in education can change life chances, it's a really serious issue," says Mr Schleicher. Middle-class squeeze A US Senate committee examined this sense of imperilled optimism, in a hearing called Helping More Young People Achieve the American Dream. The economist Miles Corak was among the expert witnesses - and he says the US education system reflects a wider picture of the "hollowing out" of the middle class. "What you're seeing is the inequality of the labour market being echoed in education." Prof Corak describes a polarising jobs market, with the very rich and very poor diverging - and a collapse in jobs in the middle ground, such as clerical or manufacturing jobs. For such families, sending their children to college had once been a "defining metaphor for the country". But it seems that the education system is no longer holding the door open to the brightest and the best, regardless of background. The Philadelphia-based Pew research group compared the outcomes of young people in 10 western countries, in a project called Does America Promote Mobility as Well as Other Countries? It found the US had the strongest link between family wealth and educational success - and the lowest mobility. Advantage and disadvantage were being further amplified in education. Research manager Diana Elliott says in the US "income has a pervasive hold on mobility". Insecurity Another study by Pew, against the backdrop of recession, examined the phenomenon of downward mobility and found that a third of adults classified as middle class would slip out of that status during their adult life. It reflected a modern sense of insecurity, where families could no longer assume their children would be as prosperous. In fact, about a quarter of children born into the middle class were expected to slip downwards. None of this matches the image of the US as a place for fresh starts and self-made millionaires. Modern American history almost assumes an upward incline. But evidence of this downward drift has been gathering in recent years. A study by the University of California, Berkeley, showed that school leavers in California in 1970 were more likely to stay on to higher education than their counterparts in 2000. In terms of international education, that's like finding out that athletes were running faster 40 years ago. Such current difficulties should not be mistaken for any kind of end-of-empire zeitgeist, says Philip Altbach, director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College. Instead he says it's a more practical question of money. The rising cost of higher education is a deterrent. And there is a wider question of finance for higher education at state level. He also says there is another "dirty little secret" of US higher education - that too many people who enrol at university fail to graduate - which pushes down the graduation rate in international comparisons. Bouncing back Andreas Schleicher also says there are reasons for optimism. Almost more than any other country, he says the US has the financial resources, the capacity and the flexibility to change course quickly and to catch up. There are already plans to recover lost ground. President Barack Obama has been re-elected with a promise that the US will regain its global first place in graduation rates by 2020. And as part of this drive, the American Association of Community Colleges, in a project called Reclaiming the American Dream, has an ambitious plan to create five million more college places. But it's an aspiration against a gloomy background. "The American dream has stalled," the association's report says, describing a society where typical family incomes having been falling for more than a decade. "A child born poor in the United States today is more likely to remain poor than at any time in our history. Many other nations now outperform us in educational attainment and economic mobility, and the American middle class shrinks before our eyes." It's as if It's A Wonderful Life had been remade - without the happy ending.4 October 2013Last updated at 19:33 GMT Dozens convicted in Marbella corruption scandal Some 50 people have been convicted in a major corruption case centred on the Spanish resort of Marbella. The case, involving bribery, property fraud and money laundering, resulted in convictions for senior officials. These included former city planning chief Juan Antonio Roca, who was jailed for 11 years and fined 240m euros (?202m, $300m) for pocketing huge sums. Two of the coastal city's former mayors were also handed jail terms over the scams, which came to light in 2006. Marisol Yague and Julian Munoz received sentences of six and two years, respectively. A total of 85 men and women were accused in what is thought to be the biggest-ever case of local political corruption in Spanish history. Roca, who managed the city's planning department in the 1990s, became one of Spain's richest men before he was accused of masterminding the corruption. He was initially given the job at the peak of Marbella's construction boom by the city's notorious, late mayor, Jesus Gil, who died in 2004. The verdict read out in court in the province of Malaga detailed a corruption ring involving building permits being handed out to a succession of officials in return for envelopes stuffed with cash. Roca himself became extremely rich, with a portfolio of ranches, expensive cars and boats. The sentences for Roca and the two disgraced mayors were significantly less than those demanded by prosecutors. They had sought a 30-year term for Roca, who was detained in 2006, but the court took into account his admission of the scale of corruption. Marbella's local government was forced to replace large numbers of personnel after the case was exposed.10 December 2011Last updated at 22:13 GMT DR Congo election: Questions hang over Kabila's victory By Thomas HubertBBC News, Kinshasa Gunshots were ringing out in the streets around the central prison in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, on Saturday as groups of three policemen armed with assault rifles went door-to-door in apparent search operations after a night of violence and looting. Burnt-out tyres, broken glass and concrete blocks littered the neighbourhood's only tarmac road, and an armoured truck was parked outside the prison itself. Similar trucks have been patrolling the streets of the capital for most of this week, with their turret-mounted machine guns hidden under protective bags. This time, the weapon was gleaming in the sun. "There have been killings and looting, young men have died and a bakery was ransacked," angry residents shouted. When asked who had committed those crimes, they answered in a chorus: "Soldiers, policemen!" An officer heading one of the police squads waved the BBC car through and played down the violence. "We're only using plastic bullets," he said. 'Under control' The head of the national police, Charles Bisengimana, has acknowledged that his force had killed at least four people in Kinshasa since the presidential result was announced on Friday afternoon - three looters and one woman hit by a stray bullet. The UN-sponsored station Radio Okapi put the death toll at six in the capital. "We only use non-lethal equipment to disperse protest marches, but policemen who protect buildings or people had to use weapons," Gen Bisengimana said. He also warned that armed police would be used against "armed groups linked to the opposition" after one policeman was shot dead on Thursday and another one injured by gunfire on Saturday. The situation was under control, he added. Doubts and disappointment More reports of violence came from the central city of Mbuji-Mayi, where official tallies show that 97% of voters supported the opposition candidate Etienne Tshisekedi. The president of the local civil society committee said one man had died there and members of the security forces had arrested numerous people or stolen their belongings. Another civil society leader, Willy Wabo, was murdered overnight in North Kivu province, in the east of the country. A local journalist said Mr Wabo had vigorously denounced irregularities in the electoral process. The Kinshasa voters who have been burning tyres and breaking down electricity poles on Saturday are also putting the election result in doubt. "We are really disappointed. We voted for Tshisekedi, now we are told it's Kabila. That's why we are angry," a local woman said. Election observers are now scrutinising the detailed results posted by the electoral commission on its website following the announcement of President Kabila's re-election on Friday evening. Several electoral observation missions, including the Carter Centre, are expected to issue reports in the coming days on the credibility of the paper trail from each of the 63,000 polling stations to the final tally. Already, some trends from the raw data are striking: The number of polling stations where the results were discarded by the electoral commission because of electoral violence or logistical problems is consistently higher in areas where the opposition vote was high. For example, nearly one in five polling stations in Kinshasa was not included in the election result, compared to less than 1% in Katanga. Two-thirds of Kinshasa voters chose Mr Tshisekedi, while 90% of those in Katanga voted for Mr Kabila. In Mr Kabila's home village of Manono, more voters cast their ballots than were registered on the list, resulting in a turnout rate of 100.14%. According to official figures, only one person in that entire constituency voted for Mr Tshisekedi.6 June 2012Last updated at 08:57 GMT DR Congo: Where logic ends? A mutiny by soldiers in the eastern DR Congo has turned into an international dispute, with allegations that Rwanda is supporting the rebels. The BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse reports from a lawless region where politics, history and nature create a dangerous mix. There is a saying in these parts: "Where logic ends, Congo begins." It certainly feels like that as you wind your way through the picture-postcard lush green hills of Rwanda towards the border. Here the roads are smooth and well maintained; you drive past tidy little villages made up of immaculate red-brick houses, with scrupulously tended front gardens. The roadside is patrolled by armed officers, clad in high-visibility jackets. Rwanda might be the Switzerland of Africa. On the last Saturday of every month, the whole country gets together for something called Umuganda: a communal tidying-up exercise, complete with inspections of people's homes. Nearly two decades after it was consumed in a spasm of genocidal hatred, Rwanda projects itself as a country of logic, a country of control. Then you hit the shores of Lake Kivu and the town of Goma just inside the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is beautiful, stunning countryside, with the waters of the lake lapping against the shore and hills receding into the bluish haze of the distance. But the town is pervaded by a sense of nihilistic pointlessness. Endless white UN four-by-fours bump their way over the pot-holed roads ferrying well-intentioned "internationals" between their bases and the headquarters of NGOs. Swarms of motorbike-taxis also ply the crumbling streets; perched precariously on the back are people scurrying about trying desperately to make a buck or two in the frenetic atmosphere of the border town. Aftershocks Looming over all of this activity is Mount Nyiragongo. The majestic volcano, which rises out of the jungle into the clouds, last erupted a decade ago - it sent two rivers of molten rock running straight into town, consuming whole neighbourhoods in flames. From time to time, Nyiragongo belches and splutters, as if to remind the people below of the futility of their endeavours. Underneath the water too, there lurks a deadly threat. Lake Kivu sits atop a vast reserve of methane and carbon dioxide. These are valuable resources, and efforts are under way to try to tap into this energy source potentially worth as much as $20bn. But seismic shifts or volcanic activity could cause what is known as a limnic eruption. The gasses at the bottom of the lake would rise to the surface. This invisible force would push all the oxygen out of the surrounding area. Goma would suffocate. But the real threat here is not the unstoppable destructive forces of nature. Rather, it is man's insatiable appetite for conflict. The last big war in DR Congo started in 1998. Also known as the Great African War, it sucked in at least six African nations and involved a couple of dozen armed groups. More than five million people lost their lives. It officially ended in 2003?? then again in 2008. This last rebellion is a small aftershock of that war. Rwanda is accused of supporting the mutiny, a charge the government hotly denies. But some of the Rwandan Hutus who orchestrated the genocide fled across the border into Congo in 1994. They are still active. And so Kigali's logic has always been to exercise at least some control over the chaos on its border. Fertile ground We spent a night in Virunga National Park, the centre of the latest fighting. The head warden is a Belgian by the name of Emmanuel de Merode. His struggle to protect the park and its population of mountain gorillas provides a small snapshot of the multitude of conflicts that plague the region. On our way we had driven along a dirt track in search of a Congolese army colonel. We never found him. Instead we saw deserted villages, empty houses, and the occasional group of soldiers roaming the countryside. Mr de Merode took us up in his small aeroplane and flew us over the vastness of the park. Here - he pointed - a plume of smoke rising into the air, was evidence of those Hutu rebels - the former "genocidaires" - cutting down the forest for charcoal. Other groups inhabit the slopes of the volcano, others still, the plains where the elephants roam, and yet others run a racket extorting money from illegal fishermen on the lake. As we lay in our tents that night, the sounds of mortars and heavy machine-gun fire mingled with the alarm calls of birds and primates. The ground here is as fertile for flora and fauna as it is for armed groups. They break up and reform, merge and split, sprouting an endless series of shifting alliances. They are motivated by a mixture of economic interest and historical grievance. Some are simply gangs of poachers or bandits. Neither Mr de Merode, nor the UN peacekeepers, nor even the Congolese army seems able to control them. There is another saying about this part of the eastern DR Congo: "It looks like heaven, but it feels like hell". How to listen to From Our Own Correspondent: BBC Radio 4: A 30-minute programme on Saturdays, 11:30 BST. Second 30-minute programme on Thursdays, 11:00 BST (some weeks only). or BBC World Service: Hear daily 10-minute editions Monday to Friday, repeated through the day, also available to . Read more or at the .5 December 2012Last updated at 01:45 GMT DR Congo's rebel kaleidoscope By Mark DoyleBBC International Development Correspondent While the M23 rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have dominated headlines in recent months, they are just one of more than two dozen armed groups fighting in this resource-rich region. A new report by the aid agency Oxfam, published along with a remarkable map, shows that the recent unrest in Goma - a strategically important trading city - is just the tip of an iceberg of human suffering. The M23 rebels, named after a 23 March 2009 failed peace agreement that they claim to want to implement, captured Goma nearly two weeks ago, before withdrawing with their loot to positions just outside the city at the weekend. Their campaign began in May 2012 when they mutinied from the national army. According to the United Nations, they had active assistance from Rwanda - which Kigali denies. The M23 threat to the provincial capital Goma shuffled some of the military cards in areas far from the border region they control because United Nations and Congolese government army troops moved to Goma to counter them. This left a security vacuum in other areas which smaller rebel groups exploited. As the UN or the army moved out to reinforce areas under M23 threat, the smaller groups moved in, destabilising the situation further. Tax to work the fields More than 25 rebel factions operate in just two provinces of eastern DR Congo: North and South Kivu. They have shifting alliances and control fluid areas of territory - but try to hang on to profitable tin or gold mines and/or routes where travellers can be "taxed". Strictly speaking, the map, drawn up in late November, was probably out of date almost as soon as it was published. But it does give an idea of the extreme difficulty ordinary civilians have in the region. "Preying on people has become an extractive industry," says Oxfam's Elodie Martel. "Armed groups plunder money, food and whatever other resources they can find." In recent years, I have made numerous journeys through the Kivus and the kaleidoscope of armed groups you encounter is bewildering. It is not unusual to come across two or three armed bands contesting the same stretch of road. These groups often allow foreign journalists to pass through - it would draw too much attention to them to do otherwise. But Congolese civilians are not so lucky. Oxfam cites the example of the small market town of Kashanga north-east of Goma which was attacked 12 times between April and July 2012. The attackers were from the government army, and two other groups - the Patriotic Alliance for Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS) and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). They were fighting over control of illegal taxes imposed on people attending the weekly market. In a nearby area farmers said they had to pay the Mai Mai Nyatura group 1,000 Congolese francs ($1; ?0.62) or two to three kilos of beans per person for the right to access their fields to tend crops. A man from this region who asked not to be named said of the armed groups: "Anyone who resists them or who raises their voice is immediately killed." Across the Kivus there are estimated to be 767,000 displaced people. "In the face of abuse and exploitation on this scale there is no room for apathy," Ms Martel said. "This is a humanitarian catastrophe on a massive scale and the world cannot continue to turn its back on this tragedy," she said. Too rich to care? But whatever Oxfam's well-meaning appeals, the truth is that many people around the world do indeed shrug off DR Congo's woes. The news emerging from the country is so consistently bad that people seem to have become immune to reacting. Across the country there are 2.5 million displaced. But the epicentre is the Kivus, for a combination of reasons: ?The Kivus have rich volcanic soil which supports crops in the valleys and cattle grazing on the rolling hills ?Other areas have rich mineral deposits - including tin, gold and coltan (used in the manufacture electronic gadgets) ?The above have attracted a relatively dense population ?Successive waves of ethnic Tutsi and ethnic Hutu settlement in the Kivus have destabilised and complicated the local ethnic balance ?Neighbouring countries all exploit the weakness of Congolese institutions by allowing their nationals to plunder DR Congo ?The Kivus are 1,500 kilometres from the capital Kinshasa and their natural trading route is via east Africa. This leads to yet more foreign influence. Oxfam's Ms Martel said: "It is reprehensible that another year goes by with people telling us they go to bed afraid of killings, looting and abduction - and that women are too afraid to go to their fields to fear of being raped." The aid agency called on the Congolese government and UN peacekeepers in the country to respond to people paying the ultimate price for the conflict. But a more fundamental rebuilding may be necessary, because neither of these institutions have thus far been able to square up to the needs of the population. When faced with a similar though much smaller-scale breakdown in law and order a little over a decade ago, the West African state of Sierra Leone decided to rebuild "from the army up". With international assistance it re-trained its security forces in a strategy that has so far worked in helping rebuild the wider country. But the tragedy of DR Congo is that it may be just too rich to do this. It may be that the various elite actors on the Congolese stage - local and foreign - are making so much money from the rich mineral deposits that they don't want a functioning national army to restore order. They may be benefitting too much from the current chaos.2 October 2013Last updated at 15:31 GMT Draghi says eurozone recovery 'weak' as ECB holds rates Economic recovery in the eurozone remains "weak, fragile, uneven", European Central Bank president Mario Draghi has said. He warned that further support for the banking sector could not be ruled out, and said that a protracted shutdown in Washington would harm global growth. Mr Draghi was speaking after the ECB kept its benchmark interest rate on hold at 0.5%. He said rates were likely to be left at this level for an "extended period". Mr Draghi said the ECB was "ready to consider all available instruments" to maintain financial stability and ensure that economic recovery in the eurozone takes hold. There has been speculation that the ECB might offer another round of cheap, long-term loans to banks to keep the cost of credit down. Recent economic data has indicated that the eurozone's economy is improving. Eurozone factory activity grew for the third month running in September, according to a survey. However, the ECB president said that bank lending to businesses was still weak, because of banks' reluctance to lend and also because of a reluctance by business to expand. "Credit flows are weak, I would say, very weak," Mr Draghi said. Continuing low interest rates were needed to support a fragile eurozone economy at a time when governments still needed to restructure their economies and cut excessive levels of debt, he said. Stronger euro The ECB's desire to keep interest rates low comes amid speculation over when the US Federal Reserve will start to scale back its economic stimulus programme. That has led to concerns that market rates will rise in Europe despite the record low ECB benchmark. Mr Draghi's comments that the ECB would consider all measures to maintain eurozone stability boosted the euro, which rose 0.6% against the dollar to $1.36, to a one-year high. The currency was also bolstered by news that Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta had won a Senate confidence vote after a last-minute U-turn in his favour by former PM Silvio Berlusconi. Mr Draghi said that this week's US government shutdown would not help the global economic recovery if the crisis was "protracted". But he added: "The impression is that it won't be." When asked if he thought the US could default on some of its debt obligations in coming weeks, he said: "I don't".When Boeing's 787 Dreamliner completed its first test flight in December 2009, it was hailed as the future of commercial aviation. But the project was plagued with problems from the start and was 30 months behind schedule at the time of its maiden flight. Here are some of the innovations that made the Dreamliner the most eagerly anticipated aircraft for decades. Technical information History of the Dreamliner ?2004: Dreamliner programme launches with the aircraft billed as the most environmentally friendly plane ever designed. It is Boeing's first new aircraft since 1995. Japan's All Nippon Airways (ANA) for 50 Dreamliners ?2006: Boeing takes a for new planes, powered by the popularity of the Dreamliner ?2009: The takes place on 15 December, 30 months behind schedule ?2011: Boeing to ANA on 26 September - three years late ?2012: In July, a fan shaft on an engine fails during runway tests at Charleston International Airport, South Carolina ?4 Dec, 2012: A United Airlines 787 makes an emergency landing in New Orleans after electrical problems ?13 Dec, 2012: A Qatar Airways 787 is grounded after electrical power distribution problems ?17 Dec, 2012: United Airlines finds an electrical problem in a second aircraft ?2013: On 7 Jan, a fire starts in a lithium ion battery pack of a Japan Airlines 787 in Boston ?8 Jan, 2013: United Airlines found faulty wiring to battery ?8 Jan, 2013: Take-off aborted after about 150 litres of fuel spills from Japan Airlines Dreamliner in Boston ?9 Jan, 2013: ANA cancels a flight after a computer wrongly reports a brake problem ?11 Jan, 2013: An oil leak is found in an engine of an ANA 787 flight ?11 Jan, 2013: A cockpit window on an ANA Dreamliner cracks during a Japanese domestic flight. The plane lands safely with no injuries ?13 Jan, 2013: The same aircraft experiences another, separate fuel leak while undergoing tests in Tokyo ?15 Jan, 2013: Another Dreamliner operated by ANA makes an emergency landing at Takamatsu in Japan after a smoke alert goes off ?16 Jan, 2013: Japan's two main airlines, ANA and Japan Airlines, ?17 Jan, 2013: are grounded amid safety concerns ? 13 March 2013: The US airline regulator approves a plan to redesign the problematic lithium-ion batteries Aircraft orders There are two Dreamliner models. Model 787-8 has already been delivered and has been experiencing technical difficulties. The average price in 2012 was $206.m (?128m). The first delivery of the bigger Dreamliner, model 787-9, is expected in 2014. Below are the numbers of 787-8 models ordered and how many have been delivered between January 2004 and December 2012.17 January 2013Last updated at 14:06 GMT Dreamliner trouble: A brief history of airliner problems By Rob CorpBBC News The decision to ground Boeing's latest airliner, the 787 Dreamliner, following a series of serious technical issues has raised questions over the safety of the new aircraft. Yet it is not the first airliner to enter service and then experience problems. The introduction of new technologies and new material can lead to problems within months of an aircraft beginning airline service. Not all have fatal consequences, nor do they always result in entire fleets being grounded, but they can have a detrimental effect on an airliner's popularity, reputation and sales. DeHavilland Comet Entry into service: 2 May 1952 Problem: Metal fatigue The Comet was hailed as a great success for British aviation but barely a year after it went into commercial service, disaster struck. In March 1953 a Comet crashed on take-off killing all 11 on board. Two months later another went down a few minutes after take-off from Calcutta killing all 43 people. The following January another dived into the Mediterranean killing 35. Detailed investigation revealed a devastating design flaw - metal fatigue. The constant stress of repressurisation at high altitude would weaken an area of the fuselage around the Comet's square-shaped windows. The exterior would then become so stressed that high-pressure cabin air would burst through the slightest crack, ripping a large slice in the aircraft's fuselage. All Comets were grounded, the jets were redesigned and re-entered commercial service in 1958 - with a severely damaged reputation. McDonnell-Douglas DC-10 Entry into service: 5 August 1971 Problem: Sudden loss of cabin pressure When the first DC-10 was being tested at the firm's factory in Long Beach, California, in May 1970, an incident occurred that would come back and haunt the airliner in the coming decade. During cabin pressurisation tests, one of the jet's cargo doors blew open and a large section of the cabin floor collapsed. The problem was dismissed at the time as a result of "human failure" and the airliner went on to enter service with American Airlines just over a year later. Yet in 1972, an American Airlines DC-10 suffered a sudden loss of cabin pressure at 12,000ft and part of the cabin floor collapsed into the cargo hold. Once the aircraft was safely on the ground it was found one of the cargo doors had opened in flight, causing the depressurisation. The incident was blamed by Douglas on the door having been forced shut by a ramp service agent on the ground using his knee. The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) made two urgent recommendations for changes to the DC-10's cargo doors and Douglas assured the authorities that the changes could be made during regular maintenance checks. But the crash of a Turkish Airlines' DC-10 10 minutes after take-off from Paris in March 1974 put the cargo door problems in a whole new light. All 346 people on board the flight died. While the earlier American Airlines crash had led to the NTSB recommending improvements to the cargo door locking mechanism, these had not been carried out on the Turkish Jet, A failure of the door latch mechanism caused bolts to shear under increasing air pressure. Again the cabin floor collapsed, but this time with fatal consequences, as the cables used to control the aircraft were crippled and the aircraft went into a descending turn before crashing into a forest. Airbus A380 Entry into service: 25 October 2007 Problem: Engine failures The most recent aircraft to experience trouble shortly after entering airline service is Airbus's flagship A380 super-jumbo. Australian airline Qantas grounded its fleet of six A380s after an engine broke apart on a flight to Australia on 4 November 2010. The plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Singapore, and the incident forced all A380 operators to check their aircraft. Following an investigation, engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce reported two "key conclusions". First, that only the Trent 900 engine was affected; second, that the engine failure "was confined to a specific component" which led to an oil fire and loss of turbine pressure. In 2011, a second Qantas A380 diverted to Dubai and landed safely after an oil problem forced pilots to shut down one of its four engines. Problem: Wing cracks Cracks in the wings of the A380 were first discovered in 2010, following the Qantas engine blow-out. Checks were ordered on all A380s operated by airlines at the time, which revealed more serious problems in around 20 of the airliners. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said the planes, a third of the total fleet then flying, would undergo a "visual inspection" for cracks. Airbus said the cracks, in a small number of brackets which connect the internal structure of the wings to the outer skin, were not an immediate threat to safety and any found would be repaired. The A380s were not grounded as a result of the discovery and Airbus said the problem was down to mistakes made in the choice of material for the brackets. The company says a solution for the problem has been found and aircraft delivered from 2014 onwards will not be affected.19 June 2013Last updated at 23:09 GMT Drone technology used for pilotless fighter aircraft By Theo LeggettBusiness reporter, BBC News, Paris Air Show Under a huge semi-opaque dome and with heavy security in attendance, visitors to the Paris Air Show peer at a strange looking shape. The matte black, almost featureless triangular aircraft is making its first public appearance, and the makers don't want people seeing too much of its advanced features. But this object - the rather awkwardly-named nEUROn - could be the future of combat aircraft. When a jet like the Rafale or the Sukhoi SU-35 shrieks overhead at the show, the watching crowds are left in awe at the skill and daring of the pilot. Ever since the World War I, when aces like the Red Baron Manfred von Richthofen patrolled the skies, the fighter pilot has held a special place in the imagination. But that status could now be under threat, because the next generation of combat aircraft may dispense with the pilot altogether. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or drones, are nothing new, as their controversial use in Afghanistan and Pakistan has shown. But drones have limitations, and are vulnerable to being shot down within seconds of going anywhere near properly defended airspace. Enter the combat drone One solution is to develop much larger machines, full-scale fighter aircraft capable of flying long distances at high speed. They would be capable of bombing missions or tactical strikes, and able to defend themselves. And all without the need for a pilot. A number of experimental "superdrones" have already been built. Among them are Northrop Grumman's X-47 and the BAE Systems' Taranis. And then there's the spooky-looking nEUROn, being developed by a European consortium. France's Dassault is the lead contractor in the six-nation consortium, with the other participants being defence companies from Greece, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. The nEUROn, which made its first flight at the tail end of last year, is an ugly beast, low slung and black. Its rather bat-like appearance clearly owes a great deal to the Lockheed Martin F117 Nighthawk, better known as the original Stealth Fighter, and indeed it has been built using stealth technologies. "It's a big one!" says Eric Trappier, chief executive of French firm Dassault Aviation. "It's the size of a fighter, with a bomb bay." The aircraft has already done radar tests to assess its stealth capabilities, but a fully operational aircraft is unlikely to be ready until the end of the decade. Mr Trappier believes there is a clear role for unmanned aircraft to play in future conflicts, with fleets of pilotless planes being directed to targets by controllers on the ground, or from manned aircraft flying behind them. "In some regions you have very dangerous missions, and the use of unmanned vehicles could be very useful. For example, the destruction of enemy countermeasures or missiles or whatever. "It's mainly for the first day of war, where you don't really know what's going on in front of you, the UCAV (unmanned combat aerial vehicle) could be a good answer." So could unmanned planes one day do the job better than a fighter piloted by an individual rather than a computer? "Yes, in some types of mission it could be better. In some others, where you really need to have the pilot in the loop, well I think the manned vehicle will remain. So it's a kind of compromise between the unmanned vehicles and the manned fighters." Serious mistakes But manufacturers wont be able to develop them without opposition. The use of existing drones has faced widespread criticism, largely because of the way in which they have been employed by the CIA in particular, outside the boundaries of conventional conflict. But there have also been concerns that the operators of drones are too far removed from the battlefield to comprehend the seriousness of what they do and that mistakes can be made. But according to Mr Trappier, the issue is not whether or not drones should be used, but how they should be operated. "It's a matter of who is in charge, who is in command. You need to know what you are doing on the mission. Whether a human is in the aircraft or not, he has to be in the loop." He says much of the criticism in the US is not about the use of drones, but about who is in charge: the CIA, the Pentagon, or the armed forces. "You need to continue to operate UAVs as though you were operating a manned vehicle," he says. That's fine in theory, but would it be the case in practice? Given the amount of development money being poured into this industry, one suspects that in a few years time we will eventually find out.4 October 2013Last updated at 13:50 GMT Duchess of Cornwall to present Booker Prize The Duchess of Cornwall is to present this year's prestigious Man Booker Prize. Six writers have been shortlisted for the prize, with Jim Crace, Colm Toibin and Eleanor Catton among the nominees. Camilla supports a number of organisations which promote literacy, including the National Literacy Trust. She will present the prize, which comes with a cheque for ?50,000, during a ceremony at the Guildhall in the City of London on 15 October. Crace's Harvest is the bookmakers' favourite to win. He was previously shortlisted for the Booker in 1997 for Quarantine. The other shortisted authors are NoViolet Bulawayo, Jhumpa Lahiri and Ruth Ozeki. Last year the award was won by Hilary Mantel for the second time, for her Wolf Hall sequel Bring Up the Bodies. Launching the National Literacy Trust's campaign to identify literary heroes on Wednesday, the Duchess said: "I firmly believe in the importance of igniting a passion for reading in the next generation. "In a world where the written word competes with so many other calls on our attention, we need more literacy heroes to keep inspiring young people to find the pleasure and power of reading for themselves."1 October 2013Last updated at 20:45 GMT Duck oil spill rescue continues in Glyndyfrdwy A rescue operation to save up to 500 ducks caught up in an oil spill on a lake is continuing in Denbighshire, says the RSPCA. Nearly 200 have been rounded up so far following the incident in Glyndyfrdwy, between Corwen and Llangollen. Most of the birds are heavily coated in engine oil and are being taken to the RSPCA's wildlife centre in Taunton, Somerset, for treatment. The rescue started on Monday after last week's oil spill. Natural Resources Wales (NRW) said the spill was confined to the lake and there was no impact on the wider environment. The agency was called out to investigate the incident on Thursday and Friday and advised the landowner how to clean up the oil. The ducks were originally reared for shooting but had been signed over to the RSPCA, said its officials. It said they would be rehabilitated and survivors released back into the wild. RSPCA Inspector Keith Hogben said: "Oil can be incredibly damaging to birds - affecting their plumage and so their ability to stay warm and dry. It can also cause a lot of internal injuries if ingested." The RSPCA said the birds were being washed in Taunton and kept on pools so staff could check that their feathers were waterproof and there were no long-term effects from the oil. Peter Venn, RSPCA centre manager, said: "So far they all seem to be doing well which is good news." He said the oil was coming off easily with washing up liquid and the ducks seemed relatively strong. "Fingers crossed we can get as many of them as possible fighting fit and ready for release," he added. People with information about the oil spill can contact the RSPCA in confidence on 0300 123 8018.30 September 2013Last updated at 16:30 GMT Ducks moved off lake after oil spill at farm in at Glyndyfrdwy Up to 500 ducks are being moved off a lake in Denbighshire after being caught up in an oil spill. The RSPCA said most of the animals were heavily coated in engine oil following the incident in Glyndyfrdwy, between Corwen and Llangollen. The ducks are being taken to the charity's wildlife centre in Somerset for treatment. Natural Resources Wales said the spill was confined to the lake and there was no impact on the wider environment. The agency was called out to investigate the spill on Thursday and Friday and advised the landowner how to clean up the oil. The ducks were originally reared for shooting but have been signed over to the RSPCA, said its officials. It said they would be rehabilitated and survivors released back into the wild. RSPCA Inspector Keith Hogben said: "If we did not wade in to the rescue they would be unlikely to survive. "Oil can be incredibly damaging to birds - affecting their plumage and so their ability to fly. It can also cause a lot of internal injuries if ingested. "If anyone has any information about who may have caused this spill we urge them to call us in strictest confidence on 0300 123 8018."3 October 2013Last updated at 16:58 GMT Dukinfield funeral directors fraud probe: Ashes seized Human ashes have been seized by police investigating an alleged fraud at a Greater Manchester funeral directors. The cremated remains were found by officers searching Murrays Funeral Directors, on Cheetham Hill Road, Dukinfield on Wednesday. Police officers, accompanied by trading standards officers, executed a warrant over alleged consumer protection, fraud and financial offences. Tameside Council is in the process of contacting affected families. Secure storage Greater Manchester Police said it was normal practice for cremated remains to be kept at funeral directors. Those found at the property have been handed to Tameside Council which has placed them in secure storage at Dukinfield Crematorium. Police also gave documents and property related to the business to the authority. Tameside Council has started identifying the next of kin and said it would contact all affected families over the next few days. Anyone with concerns should contact Tameside Council's bereavement services on 0161 344 0181.3 October 2013Last updated at 10:06 GMT Dundee University attracts record ?140m research funding Researchers at the University of Dundee have seen their funding reach record levels in the past year. Awards totalling ?140m were given to the university, up from the previous record of ?114m the year before. The rise was helped by significant support from the Research Council as well as grants from both the EU and Scottish government. The university is central to a biosciences hub in Tayside, accounting for about 16% of the local economy. Among the largest awards was a ?24m grant for Life Sciences from the Medical Research Council to support the MRC Protein Phosphorylation and Ubiquitylation Unit. 'Transform lives' Another example was the launch of the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) European Lead Factory, which will boost investment by ?16.5m in Scotland, with the university as a central partner. Prof John Connell, vice-principal for research at Dundee, said: "These record figures we have set in each of the past two years are testament to our research strength and reflect the hard work our researchers have put in to win funding across the university. "The level of research income demonstrates the vital role the university plays in helping foster the nation's economy and will lead to greater understanding across the disciplines from science to culture. "We have an overarching mission to transform lives, locally and globally, and the pioneering research we carry out, and how it is applied, is a major factor in helping us achieve that goal."4 October 2013Last updated at 15:41 GMT Dutch take legal action over Greenpeace ship in Russia The Netherlands has launched legal action to free 30 Greenpeace activists charged in Russia with piracy. The group was arrested last month over a protest on an Arctic oil rig owned by state-controlled firm Gazprom. Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said he was also acting to free the Dutch-flagged Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise. Greenpeace calls the charges against the activists, who include two Dutch citizens, "irrational, absurd and an outrage". Mr Timmermans said the Netherlands had applied to the UN's Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, which resolves maritime disputes between states. He said his country, the first nation to take legal action in the case, viewed the ship's detention as unlawful. Under the rules of the Hamburg-based Tribunal, the Netherlands may apply for the immediate release of the ship and those on board. "I really want to consult with my Russian colleagues... to get these people freed as soon as possible," Mr Timmermans said, according to Associated Press. "I don't understand why this could be thought to have anything to do with piracy; I don't see how you could think of any legal grounds for that." 'Group piracy' The BBC's Anne Holligan in The Hague says the dispute threatens to test the strong diplomatic ties between Russia and the Netherlands. Citizens of 17 other countries, reported to include Britain, France, Canada and New Zealand, were also among those arrested and detained in the Russian city of Murmansk. The group was seized during a skirmish with armed Russian security officers after several activists tried to board the Prirazlomnaya platform, Russia's first offshore oil rig in the Arctic. They were later charged with "piracy of an organised group". Greenpeace's international executive director, Kumi Naidoo, said earlier this week the charges were "extreme and disproportionate". The Russian government has not commented on the Dutch legal action. President Vladimir Putin has said the environmental activists broke international law, although he has conceded they were not pirates. Mikhail Fedotov, who heads the presidential council for human rights advisory body, said on Thursday he did not think there were "the slightest grounds" for a piracy charge.Figures obtained by 5 live show a big increase in the number of driver records that the DVLA is selling to private parking firms. More than ?1.4m was paid by private companies over three months this year for access to personal information - a 20% rise on the same time last year. Patrick Troy, chief executive of the British Parking Association, claimed that the scheme is helping people make sure their land is not parked on without permission. However Paul Watters from the AA told , "If they're going to issue tickets by post using DVLA data... they should tell us what the ground rules are about these tickets and how they are enforced." The DVLA said, "We take our responsibility to protect information seriously. That is why information is only provided under strict controls to parking firms who meet the standards set by an appropriate Accredited Trade Association... We do not make a profit on this service - the fee merely covers the cost of processing the applications."8 November 2012Last updated at 18:17 GMT Dylan Thomas 100: Centenary festival in 2014 revealed A year-long festival is to take place in 2014 to mark the centenary of the birth of poet Dylan Thomas. Theatre performances, visual arts, comedy, television, film and exhibitions will be held across Wales for the event, called Dylan Thomas 100. Business and Tourism Minister Edwina Hart hoped it would be a fitting legacy for his work, and showcase Wales as a land of artistic excellence. Thomas's granddaughter Hannah Ellis appealed for everyone to get involved. "By encouraging a wide range of high-profile, innovative and fun events, Dylan Thomas 100 will be a catalyst for revitalising interest in my grandfather's work," said Ms Ellis, the festival's patron. "I hope that it will introduce his wide range of writings to new audiences through new television and radio productions, film projects, book publications, academic initiatives, theatre productions, music and the arts, and a range of new internet-based initiatives." Literary tour The places that inspired Dylan Thomas - who was born in Swansea in 1914 and spent his early years there and Laugharne in Carmarthenshire where he wrote his later works, and also the Ceredigion countryside - will be the main focus for DT100. In Wales, there will be a theatre tour of A Child's Christmas in Wales, new productions of some of the poet's works including Under Milk Wood, a series of activities centred on the Boathouse in Laugharne, including a literary public tour. There will also be a major new exhibition at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth. There will also be a year-long Swansea Festival of Music and Art, based on the poet's works. A world premiere by composer Karl Jenkins will take place and Bangor University will stage a mini-festival of five concerts, demonstrating musical responses to Thomas's works. A Dylan Odyssey, organised by Literature Wales, will offer a series of literary public tours in Wales and the United States. People joining in will be able to experience the places and themes which inspired and forged the poet's creative writing. 'Literary giants' Ms Hart, speaking at the closing of this year's Dylan Thomas Festival, said the writer was "one of the literary giants of the last century." She said: "These events will help contribute to a fitting legacy for Dylan's life and work, but I also hope they will resurrect a passion for literature and inspire people of all ages to connect more actively with our rich cultural heritage. "In the spirit of Dylan, it is an opportunity to showcase Wales as a land of artistic excellence to an international audience and raise further the iconic status of this great literary figure." The festival is being funded by the Welsh government, the Arts Council of Wales, and Swansea, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion councils. David Alston, arts director of the Arts Council of Wales, said: "This festival is being shaped from a wealth of creative ideas and responses to Dylan Thomas's work from some of our leading cultural players. "We are focussing on new and inspiring approaches to discovering and rediscovering the work and the places connected to that work."24 April 2013Last updated at 17:43 GMT Dylan Thomas: Poet's fatal New York tour to be BBC film Dylan Thomas's fourth and final reading tour of America is to be portrayed in a television film to mark next year's centenary of his birth. The Swansea-born poet died in New York in November 1953, aged 39. Writer Andrew Davies has been commissioned to script A Poet in New York for BBC One Wales and BBC Two. Filming will begin in late summer in Cardiff and in Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, where Thomas lived and is due on air next year. Thomas was in New York to take part in a production of Under Milk Wood, his famous play for voices, at the prestigious Poetry Centre in Manhattan. He had been on his way to Hollywood to write an opera with Stravinsky. It is accepted Thomas drank himself to death but in 2008 writer David Thomas alleged that medical incompetency and neglect contributed to his end. Davies said working on a film about Thomas had been a "privilege and a pleasure". "Dylan Thomas was a huge inspiration to me as I was growing up in a very similar environment to his in south Wales," he added. "Although the script centres on his last days in New York, and the circumstances of his tragically early death, I want above all to celebrate his extraordinary, charismatic personality, his unforgettable poetry, and his passionate and stormy relationship with his wife Caitlin." Faith Penhale, Head of drama at BBC Cymru Wales, said: "Dylan Thomas was one of the greatest poets of the 20th Century and this drama is a bold celebration of his extraordinary life, his unique talent and his tragic death at just 39 years old. "Andrew Davies' script is full of humanity and captures Dylan's spirit brilliantly." A year-long festival is to take place in 2014 to mark the centenary of the birth of poet Dylan Thomas. Theatre performances, visual arts, comedy, television, film and exhibitions will be held across Wales for the event, called Dylan Thomas 100. A Poet in New York will be screened next year.2 October 2013Last updated at 13:40 GMT E.on increases energy bills for elderly 'due to new rules' Tens of thousands of elderly customers face a rise in their energy bills, after one of the UK's biggest suppliers withdrew a tariff for the over 60s. E.on has announced that it will scrap its StayWarm scheme, which offered fixed-price bills. The firm blamed new rules which limit the number of tariffs that energy companies can offer. The changes are part of the government's plans to cut bills, and have been backed by the Prime Minister. They are being implemented by the regulator, Ofgem, and will limit the total number of tariffs to four per fuel. "Due to new Ofgem rules, which includes limiting the number of tariffs we can offer, the StayWarm tariff will close as current contracts come to an end from October 7th," an E.on spokesperson said. The customers concerned will be written to, and advised to switch to another tariff. However, if they cannot be contacted, they will be automatically moved to the company's more expensive standard tariff. Savings Ofgem said E.on could have continued with the StayWarm tariff if it had wanted to. "We have never told suppliers which tariffs they have to close to comply with this rule, as that is a decision for them," said an Ofgem spokesperson. "In fact we have been clear with all suppliers that they would have been allowed to keep social tariffs (which for example offer discounts to customers who have difficulty paying bills) under our rules. But some experts warn that Ofgem's reforms could lead to more cheaper tariffs being withdrawn. "Whilst Ofgem's reforms to simplify the market are well meaning, they will lead to the end of special deals such as StayWarm," said Mark Todd, the director of the price comparison site energyhelpline. "In fact by restricting choice they are likely to make the issue worse not better," he said. Under the new rules, which are due to be in place by the end of 2013, the customers affected will have to be given details of the next cheapest tariff offered by E.on. E.on said that another tariff for customers over 60 remains open. The Age UK 1 year fixed tariff protects consumers against price rises for 12 months. Anyone who pays by direct debit can also save 3% compared to the company's standard tariff.3 October 2013Last updated at 23:38 GMT Early jail release to be curtailed under government plans People jailed for child rape or some terror offences will no longer be automatically released from jail halfway through their sentences, under government plans for England and Wales. Justice Secretary Chris Grayling says he also wants to curtail the early release of prisoners serving extended sentences for the most serious crimes. About 600 prisoners a year are expected to be affected by the proposals. Campaigners warned of the likely impact on an "over-burdened" Parole Board. Serious crimes Under rules created in 2003, most prisoners serving fixed-term sentences are eligible for release on a conditional licence into the community at the halfway point of their sentence, unless they have been guilty of poor behaviour in jail. Others jailed for the most serious crimes are subjected to an extended determinate sentence (EDS), which means they are released on licence only after serving two-thirds of it. Under the new proposals, neither people serving an EDS - a system devised just over a year ago - or those convicted of child rape nor a range of terrorism offences would be automatically released on licence. Instead they would have to prove to the Parole Board that they were no longer dangerous and a risk to society before they could be freed. The Ministry of Justice said the proposals would require primary legislation that would go before Parliament in the new year. Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: "It's outrageous that offenders who commit some truly horrific crimes in this country are automatically released from prison halfway through their custodial sentence, regardless of their behaviour, attitude and engagement in their own rehabilitation. "We need to teach criminals a lesson; you will be punished for your crime and you must earn your release, it is not an automatic right." In a statement, the Parole Board said that it supported "a more consistent approach to release arrangements" for the offenders who would be covered by the changes. It added: "Protecting the public is the primary concern of the Parole Board and any measures that ensure offenders are only released from custody following a rigorous assessment of risk are welcomed." 'Public not safer' But Andrew Neilson, of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: "Today's announcement may grab headlines but it will not make the public safer. "When prisoners are released early, they do at least receive supervision from the probation service for the remainder of their sentence, with the threat of recall to prison always present. "We fear this move will only serve to further clog up the Parole Board, which is already under-resourced and over-burdened." The terrorist offences covered by the changes include directing a terrorist organisation, inciting terrorism overseas and use of a nuclear weapon.30 September 2013Last updated at 19:36 GMT Early menopause: Baby born after ovaries 'reawakened' By James GallagherHealth and science reporter, BBC News A baby has been born through a new technique to "reawaken" the ovaries of women who had a very early menopause. Doctors in the US and Japan developed the technique to remove the ovaries, activate them in the laboratory and re-implant fragments of ovarian tissue. The technique, , has resulted in one baby being born, with another expected. The findings were described as early, but a "potential game-changer". The 27 women involved in the study became infertile around the age of 30 due to "primary ovarian insufficiency". The condition affects one in 100 women who essentially run out of eggs too young, leading to an early menopause. Women have a fixed number of eggs at birth and those with the condition tend to use them up too quickly or are born with far fewer eggs in the first place. Wake-up Eggs in the ovaries are not fully formed; rather, they stay as follicles and some mature each month. The teams at Stanford University, US, and St Marianna University School of Medicine, Japan, were trying to activate the last few remaining follicles, which may be present. They removed the ovaries from the women and used a combination of two techniques to wake up the sleeping follicles. First they cut the ovaries into fragments, which has been used in the past as a fertility treatment. Then a chemical to "take the brakes off" egg development was applied. The fragments were put back at the top of the fallopian tubes and the women were given hormone therapy. Following the treatment, residual follicles started to develop in eight women. Eggs were taken for normal IVF and so far one couple has had a baby and another woman is pregnant. Prof Aaron Hsueh, from Stanford, told the BBC: "It has to be improved to figure out the best way to do it, but we estimate it could help 25 to 30% of the women. "We think it could help in two other forms of infertility. Cancer survivors after chemotherapy or radiotherapy; if there's any follicles left there's a chance this will help. "And also women aged 40 to 45 with an irregular menstrual cycle." Major interest The implications for women with early menopause are still unclear as the technique will require further testing and refinement before it could be used in clinics. Prof Charles Kingsland, from Liverpool Women's Hospital and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: "It's really clever, but will it work for everyone? We don't know. "It's potentially really, really, interesting, but we need a lot more investigation to confirm this is not another false dawn. "I will see primary ovarian insufficiency on a regular basis in my clinic so if it's effective in the long term, it's something we'd be interested in." Prof Nick Macklon, from the University of Southampton, told the BBC: "Finding a new way to get new eggs by waking up sleeping follicles is very promising. It's potentially a game-changer. "It's a very important and very exciting piece of science, but it is not ready for the clinic. It still needs good randomised control trial data." He added that performing the technique outside of a research study would be unfeasible, but a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of egg development could lead to new medications.25 July 2013Last updated at 10:25 GMT East Timor profile East Timor's road to independence - achieved on 20 May 2002 - was long and traumatic. The people of the first new nation of the century suffered some of the worst atrocities of modern times. An independent report commissioned by the UN transitional administration in East Timor said that at least 100,000 Timorese died as a result of Indonesia's 25-year occupation, which ended in 1999. Portugal began to establish colonial control over Timor in the 16th century, when the island was divided into small states. The Netherlands later colonised the west of the island, which was formally partitioned between the two imperial powers in 1916. Portugal invested little in Timor, and withdrew unilaterally in 1975 after deciding to dissolve its colonial empire. Indonesia invaded within days of the Timorese declaration of independence, and used force to crush popular resistance. Major world and regional powers did little to counter Indonesian rule, which was not recognised by the UN. Falintil guerrillas fought for independence, and their cause captured world attention in 1991 when Indonesian forces opened fire on a memorial procession in the capital, Dili, killing at least 250 people. International pressure increased and finally persuaded Indonesia to allow an independence referendum in 1999, during which a pro-Indonesian militia, apparently with Indonesian army support, tried in vain to use terror to discourage voters. When the referendum showed overwhelming support for independence, the militia went on the rampage, murdering hundreds and reducing towns to ruins. An international peacekeeping force halted the mayhem and paved the way for a United Nations mission which helped reconstruct East Timor. The rebuilding of East Timor has been one of the UN's biggest success stories. The UN Mission of Support in East Timor, Unmiset, wound up in May 2005. But security has been precarious. An outbreak of gang violence in 2006 prompted the UN Security Council to set up a new peacekeeping force, Unmit. The UN said poverty and unemployment had exacerbated the unrest. As one of Asia's poorest nations, East Timor will rely on outside help for many years. The infrastructure is poor and the country is drought-prone. However, vast offshore oil and gas fields in the Timor Sea hold much potential. East Timor and Australia have agreed to share revenues from the reserves. As a part of the deal, a decision on the disputed maritime border in the area was deferred. East Timor is trying to foster national reconciliation. Indonesia and East Timor set up bodies to bring the perpetrators of the 1999 violence to justice. However a 2005 UN report concluded that the systems had failed to deliver. The Indonesian special court acquitted most of the 18 indicted suspects.23 July 2013Last updated at 11:05 GMT EastEnders reflects Royal birth A specially-filmed scene was inserted into Tuesday's edition of EastEnders, marking the birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's son. Dot Cotton and Abi Branning were seen discussing the new arrival in the episode, broadcast at 19:30 BST. The birth was confirmed shortly after 20:30 on Monday. Some 2.6 million viewers were watching rolling coverage on BBC One when the announcement came. About 7.1 million heard the news during an ad break on ITV's Coronation Street. Channel 4 left their continuity announcer to make the announcement, while Channel 5 waited for their regularly-scheduled bulletin at 20:55. Viewing figures for the main 10 o'clock news programmes were an average four million for BBC One and 2.1 million for ITV. 'Historic event' The BBC said it received 378 complaints from viewers over its coverage, including from those who felt too much time was devoted to the story and others who were disappointed at the change in BBC One's schedule for rolling coverage. "This was a huge story in the UK and abroad - it was a historic event with high audience interest," a BBC spokeswoman said. "Millions of people tuned in across the day boosting audiences to the News Channel which saw the fourth highest day of the year. "It was also the biggest global day and second biggest UK day ever for BBC News online with 19.4m unique browsers globally and 10.8m from the UK." A spokeswoman for Sky News said it had also received a number of complaints there was too much coverage, although the majority of the viewers were "captivated by the coverage and had a lot of praise". The new scene for EastEnders was recorded late on Monday night and dropped into a pre-recorded episode. "This is such a momentous occasion for the Royal family, the country and, of course, the residents of Walford that we felt it should be marked," said a spokeswoman for the soap. The show often reflects topical and historic events. Scenes discussing the death of Michael Jackson and the election of US President Barack Obama have been dropped into the programme at the last minute. Footage of the Royal Wedding was also included in an episode in 2011, just hours after the ceremony had taken place. Most recently, Andy Murray's win at Wimbledon was scripted into the show. In the scene, Kim Fox told Jay Brown she wanted to change the name of her B&B from Kim's Palace to Wimbledon Palace as a tribute.4 June 2013Last updated at 14:24 GMT Ebbsfleet United: Back from the brink of disaster By Jane Onyanga-OmaraBBC News The takeover of Ebbsfleet United by KEH Sports Limited has finally been completed. The Kent football club was days from folding when the Kuwaiti consortium came to its rescue. Back in 2008, their future looked assured when they made history by becoming the first football club to be taken over by a website, MyFootballClub (MyFC). That year saw the Fleet win the FA Trophy at Wembley, the biggest cup competition exclusively for non-league teams. But interest waned and in April this year the club was relegated, broke and close to going out of business. But how did this situation come about? In 2007, the club changed its name from Gravesend and Northfleet to Ebbsfleet United, after agreeing a sponsorship deal with Eurostar, whose trains use the nearby Ebbsfleet International station. The following year the Fleet was taken over by MyFC in a ground-breaking sporting experiment. The website's subscribers, many of whom had no previous ties to the club, were told they would have the final say on transfer dealings, tactics and squad selection. But that almost never happened and interest began to wane. At its strongest point there were more than 30,000 MyFC members but when the first decision was put to subscribers, about whether or not to buy Ebbsfleet, only 18,000 remained. The Fleet was relegated into the Conference South in 2010, before being promoted back into the Conference Premier the following year. 'Dark days' Last season they were relegated again and were in a bad way financially with arrears in payments to HM Revenue & Customs and facing a winding-up order. Fleet chairman Jessica McQueen had appealed for donations from fans in order to keep the club going. Speaking to the BBC this week, she said: "In the dark, damp days, around January, February we had no money to pay for the oil to heat the offices. "We were pretty much on our own in there with our coats on, absolutely freezing to death. "I think they were the sort of things that make you realise the football club is more important but maybe we weren't going to succeed." Peter Varney, chief executive of KEH Sports Ltd, said the club was now "completely debt-free." As part of their takeover plans, the new owners proposed a transfer budget for next season of ?100,000 and a wage budget of ?8,000 per week. It also committed to the construction of a new stand at Stonebridge Road. Mr Varney, former chief executive of Charlton Athletic, explained that Kuwaiti investor Dr Abdulla Al Humaidi was "looking to build a club". "He wanted to take something from scratch and really build it up and he wanted to perhaps do it in an area where potentially there was going to be growth," he said. "Of course with Ebbsfleet International across the road, the talk of the Paramount Park just to the right of us, this is quite an exciting area to be in." Steve Brown, a former Charlton defender, has been appointed as the club's new manager following Liam Daish's exit last month. Mr Brown said he wanted to build a squad and "kick-start Ebbsfleet United's journey back into the Conference Premier and beyond".9 September 2013Last updated at 18:04 GMT Economic arguments have only just begun For a long, long time George Osborne used to say he'd be the last to call the recovery. Today he decided he'd waited long enough. This most political of chancellors also used a speech which was long on economic analysis to make an argument about the past, an argument about the present and an argument about the future too. He began by saying, in effect: "I told you so" - higher than predicted growth now proved, he claimed, that the cuts did not strangle the recovery as Labour had said they would. Next he insisted that the recovery was not based on "the wrong sort of growth" - that is, a return to spiralling house prices and consumer debt. Finally he argued that it was only by sticking to current economic policies that living standards will be raised. With many families still facing a squeeze in their living standards, Labour argue that talk of recovery rings hollow. The Conservatives believe they have won the argument about the need for austerity - in the past. Their fear is that in future voters may not accept that current policies need to be maintained and may, instead, be wooed by opposition promises to curb price rises, spread the introduction of the so-called "living wage" or to outlaw the abuse of zero-hours contracts. In other words the arrival of a long-awaited recovery means that the political argument about the economy is not over. It has only just begun.19 February 2013Last updated at 10:23 GMT Ecuador profile Ecuador is a patchwork of indigenous communities, including people of colonial Spanish origins and the descendants of African slaves. Its capital, Quito, once a part of the Inca empire, has some of the best-preserved early colonial architecture on the continent. Traditionally a farming country, Ecuador's economy was transformed after the 1960s by the growth of industry and the discovery of oil. There was rapid growth and progress in health, education and housing. But by the end of the 20th century a combination of factors, including falling oil prices and damage caused by the weather phenomenon El Nino, had driven the economy into recession. Inflation, which had become the highest in the region, led the government to replace the national currency with the US dollar in an effort to curtail it. Diversification While the government has moved to diversify the economy away from its dependence on crude oil, growth depends mainly on oil prices. Not all Ecuadorans have benefited equally from oil revenues. The traditionally dominant Spanish-descended elite gained far more than indigenous peoples and those of mixed descent. Steps to stabilise the economy, such as austerity measures and privatisation, have generated widespread unrest, particularly among the indigenous poor. Also, efforts to provide impetus to the mining industry has met resistence from the indigenous groups. Ecuador is the smallest OPEC member and the world's top banana exporter. It is also a big exporter of coffee, shrimp and cocoa. For a small country, Ecuador has many geographical zones. They include Andean peaks, tropical rainforests and - 1,000 km (600 miles) off the coast - the volcanic Galapagos Islands, home to the animals and birds whose evolutionary adaptations shaped Charles Darwin's theories.2 October 2013Last updated at 00:11 GMT Ecuador officers face arrest over 'crimes against humanity' A judge has ordered the arrest of three army and police officers in Ecuador's first trial involving alleged crimes against humanity. They are part of a group of 10 former senior officers accused of abducting and torturing members of an illegal opposition group in 1985. Judge Lucy Blacio ordered that six other retired senior officers be put under house arrest. Activists travelled to Quito for the opening day of the landmark trial. The events took place under the government of late President Leon Febres Cordero, who was in power from 1984 to 1988. Chief prosecutor Galo Chiriboga had requested that ten retired police officers be detained or put under house arrest. Ms Blacio rejected the request to have one of the accused detained: an elderly army general who is seriously ill. But he was told he cannot leave the country. The three victims - Susana Cajas, Javier Jarrin and Luis Vaca - were detained in November 1985 for alleged links with an underground opposition group, the Eloy Alfaro Popular Armed Forces. They will testify next week and are expected to give details of their ordeal. 'Tortured and beaten' Ms Cajas and Mr Vaca were in court today alongside Mr Chiriboga, who denounced the cruelty of the crimes committed 28 years ago. "They were tortured, beaten, and submitted to particularly sadistic forms of torture, including electric shocks to their genitals" he said. Defence lawyers have asked the prosecutor to clarify his accusations. Lawyers, politicians and human rights activists from other Latin American countries were at the National Court of Justice in the capital, Quito, for the trial. Among them was Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino. The director of the Prosecutor's Office Truth Commission, Fidel Jaramillo, said crimes against humanity only began to be investigated in 2007, when left-wing President Rafael Correa came into power. "They were never tried in Ecuador because there was never the political will to do so," the director of , Mr Jaramillo told the Efe news agency.1 October 2013Last updated at 22:57 GMT Ed Miliband accuses Daily Mail over 'lie' about father Ed Miliband has accused the Daily Mail of lying about his father after the newspaper headlined an article about him as "The man who hated Britain". The Labour leader said he was "appalled" that after offering him a , the paper had repeated its original article and also now "described my father's legacy as evil". He said it raised questions about morality and boundaries for newspapers. The Mail says it will not apologise and stands by the story. However, its deputy editor later said it was an "error of judgement" for the paper to have published a picture of Ralph Miliband's grave on the website version of the story, prompting the Labour leader to say the newspaper "should now apologise". In , journalist Geoffrey Levy questioned how the beliefs of Ralph Miliband, a Marxist academic who died in 1994, may have influenced the Labour leader and his brother, former Foreign Secretary David Miliband. 'Adolescent diary' It highlighted a diary entry Ralph Miliband wrote at the age of 17 saying that the English were "perhaps the most nationalist people in the world... you sometimes want them almost to lose [the war] to show them how things are". The paper goes on to say "how passionately he would have approved today of his son's sinister warning about some of the policies he plans to follow if he ever becomes prime minister". In his piece in Tuesday's edition, Ed Miliband says his father, a Jewish refugee who fled Belgium aged 16 to escape the Nazis, "loved" Britain and served in the Navy. He says: "There is no credible argument in the article or evidence from [Ralph Miliband's] life which can remotely justify the lurid headline and its accompanying claim that it would 'disturb everyone who loves this country'." He says Britain "was a source of hope and comfort for him, not hatred". "Fierce debate about politics does not justify character assassination of my father, questioning the patriotism of a man who risked his life for our country in the Second World War," Mr Miliband says. He says the diary entry described the "suspicion he found of the Continent and the French when he arrived here". "To ignore his service and work in Britain and build an entire case about him hating our country on an adolescent diary entry is, of course, absurd." Mr Miliband says his father joined the Navy as he "was determined to be part of the fight against the Nazis and to help his family hidden in Belgium. He was fighting for Britain." He adds: "My father's strongly left-wing views are well known, as is the fact that I have pursued a different path and I have a different vision. "The idea of me being part of some 'sinister' Marxist plot would have amused him and disappointed him in equal measure and for the same reason - he would have known it was ludicrously untrue. I want to make capitalism work for working people, not destroy it." Later, in an interview with reporters, Mr Miliband said it was "perfectly legitimate" for newspapers to discuss his father's politics. But he said: "I was appalled when I read the Daily Mail on Saturday and I saw them say he hated Britain. It's a lie." The Daily Mail's on Tuesday - published alongside Mr Miliband's response and an abridged version of the original article - is headlined "an evil legacy and why we won't apologise". Mr Miliband said: "I'm even more appalled that they repeated that lie today and they've gone further and described my father's legacy as evil. Evil is a word reserved for particular cases and I wasn't willing to let that stand." He added that there were "boundaries" that newspapers should adhere to. "It's not about regulation... but it is about me saying I think morality and our approach to these things matters." He added that his brother and mother felt the same way he did about what the newspaper had said. Phone call The Mail's editorial said it stood by "every word" of the article. "We do not maintain... that the iniquity of the fathers should be visited on the sons. But when a son with prime ministerial ambitions swallows his father's teachings, as the younger Miliband appears to have done, the case is different," it said. It suggested that Mr Miliband's plans to freeze energy prices and give councils powers to purchase land from developers, and his support for press regulation backed by law, were signs of his "own Marxist values". It later said in a statement: "We ask fair-minded people to read our editorial today. For what this episode confirms is that you cannot allow politicians anywhere near regulating the press. "While we respect Mr Miliband's right to defend his father... it is worth stressing that Ralph Miliband wasn't an ordinary private individual but a prominent academic and author who devoted his life to promoting a Marxist dogma which caused so much misery in the world. "He hated such British institutions as the Queen, the Church and the Army, and wanted a workers' revolution. Our readers have a right to know that." Speaking on the BBC's Newsnight programme, Daily Mail assistant editor Jon Steafel said the picture of Ralph Miliband's grave, which included the caption "grave socialist", was removed after he personally took a call from Ed Miliband. But he continued to defend the article and headline itself as "entirely justified". Alastair Campbell, the former director of communications at Downing Street under Tony Blair, said the Daily Mail was "the worst of British values posing as the best" and its editor Paul Dacre should have appeared on Newsnight himself to defend the article. A spokesman for Mr Miliband said: "We continue to believe that the article... and a subsequent article... were smears. The deputy editor of the Daily Mail showed tonight he could not justify either of them." 'Playing the ball' Prime Minister David Cameron was asked about the row on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, but said he had not read the original article or the response from the Labour leader. He added, though, that "if anyone had a go at my father I would want to respond vigorously" so totally "understand what Ed's done". The prime minister later rejected any comparison between attacks by Conservative-supporting newspapers on Labour politicians and smear campaigns led by Gordon Brown's former spin doctor Damian McBride as " frankly ludicrous". Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said he supported the Labour leader, : "Politics should be about playing the ball, not the man, certainly not the man's family." But Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt challenged Ed Miliband to distance himself from his father's views on capitalism, saying "Ralph Miliband was no friend of the free market economy... I've never heard Ed Miliband say he supports the free market economy." In a statement, the Labour Party said: "Ed Miliband wrote his right to reply article because he wanted to state clearly that his father loved Britain. "He wanted the Daily Mail to treat his late father's reputation fairly. Rather than acknowledge it has smeared his father... the newspaper has repeated its original claim. This simply diminishes the Daily Mail further."2 October 2013Last updated at 10:14 GMT Ed Miliband and Daily Mail row: Newspaper reaction An increasing number of column inches are being dedicated to the row between Labour leader Ed Miliband and the Daily Mail. Other newspapers have been weighing in to the discussion, which started on Saturday, when Mr Miliband's father, the late Marxist academic Ralph Miliband, carried the headline: "The man who hated Britain". Mr Miliband that his father, a Jewish refugee who fled Belgium aged 16 to escape the Nazis, "loved" Britain and had served in the Royal Navy. The Mail has refused to apologise, in an editorial published on Tuesday. The Daily Mirror offers its support to the Labour leader, reprinting his rebuttal of the initial piece in full. However, in an editorial, the paper fires a warning shot about press freedom. "We'll defend both Mr Milibands, father and son. But we urge the Labour leader to defend a free press - including the right of newspapers to publish opinions he disagrees with, and not just those he welcomes." 'Hatchet job' The Guardian picks up the baton of press freedom, leading by likening The Mail's attack on Ed Miliband to the one on Sir David Bell, one, Lord Justice Leveson's lay assessors, published . "We share some of the Mail's anxieties about the future shape of press regulation. "Highly personalised attacks on those involved in searching for the right solution, far less their dead relatives, will win over no friends to the press's side of the argument - quite the opposite. "The Mail's voice in the debate is important: but reasoned discussion is better than hatchet jobs." The Guardian also draws attention to the Mail's own "potentially treacherous" stance in years gone by. "By delving back into the fight against fascism, the Mail inevitably invites consideration of its own record in the 1930s and 40s. "The first Viscount Rothermere supported Mosley and the Blackshirts in the early 1930s. Later the paper favoured appeasement and tried to subvert the constitution in Edward VIII's favour during the abdication crisis. "The 1930s were uncertain and difficult times and hard judgment calls were made. It is only with hindsight that it is clear how wrong, even - looking back - how potentially treacherous some of them were." Personal politics Dan Hodges argues if Ed Miliband wanted his father to be off limits, he should have kept him out of any discussion about his own politics. "Ed Miliband's instinct to defend his father is understandable, and to his credit. But you can't have it both ways. "If Ed Miliband had wanted to protect his father and his legacy he needed to say from the outset, 'I'm my own man. Judge me on what I think and I say, not what my father did or my father said. It's Ed Miliband standing to be prime minister, not Ralph Miliband. "He didn't. And once you start making your family party of your own political biography then you are opening the door for these kind of attacks on them, as well as yourself. "There is only one cast-iron way for politicians to protect their family from criticism. It's not to make them a part of their politics in the first place."4 October 2013Last updated at 09:14 GMT Ed Miliband insists energy firms can 'stomach' price freeze Labour leader Ed Miliband has said he is "absolutely clear" that energy bills will be frozen if his party wins the next general election. "We are absolutely confident because we've done all the figures, we've looked at all of the issues," he told the BBC's Breakfast programme. He repeated his accusation that energy companies have been over-charging businesses and consumers. Critics have warned that the plan could put future energy supplies at risk. But Mr Miliband claimed that energy companies were "unreliable witnesses" in the debate: "They're the people who would say that anyway." 'Illegal' "There's a cost-of-living crisis in this country. Energy bills are a big part of it," he said. "For too long the companies have been able to over-charge people. Somebody's got to stand up and be counted. "That's why we'll freeze energy bills until the beginning of 2017 if we win the election. That will benefit 1.5 million businesses across our country, make a big difference to them." The policy was unveiled at the party's annual conference last week, and has faced strong criticism about its feasibility and the effect it would have on investment in energy infrastructure. But Mr Miliband continued: "Even if wholesale prices rise, this freeze is going to happen. I want to be absolutely clear about this. "We're absolutely confident the companies can stomach this, can make this happen, and we're going to make this happen." He again dismissed predictions that energy companies might try to "collude" and hike prices before the election. "If they try and do that, that is illegal," he said, "they can't do that." 'Blackouts' Labour has also released figures suggesting that British business could save ?1.5bn if the price freeze came into force. The party said the estimate was based on research by the House of Commons Library. Meanwhile, two energy companies, EDF and First Utility, have unveiled plans to freeze current prices voluntarily. EDF Energy unveiled a new tariff that fixes bills until 2017, and First Utility said its current variable tariff would be frozen until March 2014. The former head of the UK's competition watchdog, John Fingleton, has suggested Labour's price-freeze policy was unlikely to work. "In the long term [it] will harm consumers, and taking political responsibility for prices you cannot ultimately control is quite risky," he said earlier this month. The Conservatives have accused Labour of "bashing business" and insisted action was already being taken to ensure customers are on the cheapest tariff. Energy UK, the trade body representing the six largest energy firms, said the move could push up prices across the board and threaten the 600,000 people employed in the industry.4 October 2013Last updated at 09:23 GMT Ed Miliband urges Daily Mail owner to examine 'culture' Newspaper owner Lord Rothermere must take a "long, hard look" at the "culture and practices" of his Mail titles, Ed Miliband has said. The proprietor has apologised to Mr Miliband for a Mail on Sunday reporter intruding on a family memorial service. The Labour leader told BBC Radio 5Live the apology was an "important step" but that he did not think his treatment was an isolated incident. Mr Miliband said he wanted to know "how these practices are allowed to happen". Last weekend, a Daily Mail article labelled Ralph Miliband, a Marxist academic who died in 1994, "". 'Line crossed' That prompted Mr Miliband to complain about his father being "smeared", but although the newspaper offered him a right of reply, it has continued to defend its coverage. In a separate incident on Thursday, the Mail on Sunday suspended two of its journalists after it emerged the paper had gate-crashed a service for the Labour leader's uncle, at which they pressed the family for reaction to the original Daily Mail article. Mr Miliband told 5Live Breakfast that Lord Rothermere "has a responsibility to take a long hard look" at the way his papers are run after the intrusion. He said: "I hope what Lord Rothermere will do is look at the wider culture and practices at the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday because I don't think it's an isolated incident. "I'm interested in other families, not in public life, who've had similar experiences." Mr Miliband said he expected the papers to criticise him and his policies but that they had "crossed a line" by accusing his father of hating Britain. While acknowledging the Daily Mail - which has a circulation of more than 1.8 million - was a "popular" newspaper, he suggested many of its readers agreed with him that it had "overstepped the mark". But he said he did not agree with the Jewish Chronicle's suggestion that there was "a whiff of anti-semitism" about the Daily Mail's Ralph Miliband articles. Mail on Sunday editor Geordie Greig said the reporter had been sent without his knowledge and an investigation was being held into "a decision which was wrong". Both he and Lord Rothermere apologised "unreservedly", with the peer also writing to Mr Miliband. 'Ethical roots' Neither Labour nor the Daily Mail and General Trust - the papers' parent company - have released the text of Lord Rothermere's response to Mr Miliband. Mr Miliband told 5Live he has met the Daily Mail's editor Paul Dacre "two or three times" since becoming Labour leader. He said: "My personal dealings with him have been absolutely professional. Sometimes we've disagreed about issues. We've disagreed about press standards but sometimes we've agreed on some issues." The row comes days before a crucial meeting of MPs next Wednesday on press regulation. They will consider proposals for a press royal charter with a new regulator to replace the Press Complaints Commission. The plan is backed by the country's largest newspaper groups, including Mail publisher DMG Media, News UK, who own the Sun and the Times, Telegraph Media Group and Trinity Mirror. Mr Miliband supports an alternative plan, backed by the three main political parties and press intrusion victims campaign group Hacked Off, for a form of press regulation backed by royal charter. A senior Mail executive has defended the paper's journalistic methods, saying it was "extraordinarily careful" about how it pursued a story. "I hear the the editor, I hear the deputy editor almost every day saying to reporters, saying to editors of their sections 'be careful how you go about getting a particular story'," City Editor Alex Brummer told Radio 4's Today. 'Useful idiot' "That's a practice which goes to the core of the paper, and I do think there are some good ethical roots in the paper and this is the exception rather than the rule," he added. On Thursday's Question Time on BBC One, the Daily Mail's political sketch writer Quentin Letts defended its original reporting of the views of Ralph Miliband, a Jewish refugee who fled Belgium aged 16 to escape the Nazis and who served in the Royal Navy during WWII. Mr Letts described the socialist academic as a "useful idiot" for "people that were promoting Marxism" during the Cold War. Mr Letts added that Ralph Miliband had been "furious that we won the Falklands War. He wanted us to lose the Falklands War. "Is that the behaviour of a man who loves his country? I'm not sure it is." However, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, praising Ralph Miliband's military record, told the programme: "People who haven't served their country and fought for their country should really think before deciding that they have a monopoly on determining British values." Meanwhile Ralph Miliband's biographer, Michael Newman, said the late academic "wanted a different kind of Britain" but "wasn't against Britain".Here are details of Ed Miliband's ministerial team following his wide-ranging reshuffle. ED MILIBAND - LABOUR LEADER The then beat older brother and former foreign secretary David to the Labour leadership in 2010 by the narrowest of margins, with the backing of the trade unions proving decisive. Attempted to shake-off "Red Ed" tag by talking about the "squeezed middle" - but faced criticism the party lacked direction. Launched a two year policy review and consultation exercise on "refounding" Labour as a more modern and inclusive party. Faced criticism his leadership lacked edge, but won support over his reaction to phone hacking scandal - and his decision to burn the party's bridges with Rupert Murdoch's media empire. The son of a Marxist intellectual and an MP since 2005, he was formerly an adviser to Gordon Brown. After entering Parliament, he enjoyed a rapid rise, becoming energy and climate change secretary in 2008. Married his long-term partner and mother of his two young children, Justine Thornton. ED BALLS - SHADOW CHANCELLOR As Gordon Brown's chief economic adviser, he was at the chancellor's side for many years. After being elected an MP in 2005, he quickly became a Treasury minister but had to deny accusations of briefing against Tony Blair. Later became schools secretary and narrowly held onto his seat in the 2010 election after being targeted by the Tories. Came third in the Labour leadership contest and was named shadow home secretary, despite being tipped for shadow chancellor. His public calls for Labour to change its position on the deficit were widely seen as having lost him the job. However, following Alan Johnson's resignation in January 2011, Mr Balls, , became shadow chancellor after all. Married to shadow cabinet colleague Yvette Cooper. YVETTE COOPER - SHADOW HOME SECRETARY AND MINISTER FOR WOMEN AND EQUALITIES Popular throughout the party, the then got the most votes of any MP in the shadow cabinet elections. A former journalist with the Independent, she was marked out early on as a rising star after being elected in 1997. Two years later, at the age of 30, she became a minister - the youngest at the time. She rose quickly up the ministerial ladder, working in the Treasury before becoming work and pensions secretary. Was urged by some to run for the leadership but decided against it, saying it was not the right time. Another of those seen as a potential shadow chancellor, she was in fact appointed shadow foreign secretary in Ed Miliband's first front bench line-up, but moved to the home affairs brief after Alan Johnson's resignation. Married to Ed Balls - they are first married couple to serve as cabinet ministers at the same time. They have three children. DOUGLAS ALEXANDER - SHADOW FOREIGN SECRETARY The former solicitor is one of only a handful of senior Labour figures who were close to both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Once Gordon Brown's speechwriter, he served as Scottish secretary and transport secretary under Tony Blair and international development secretary under Gordon Brown. Blamed by some for the election that never was in 2007 after urging Gordon Brown to call a snap poll. , he co-ordinated the 2010 Labour general election campaign. Backed David Miliband in the leadership contest, chairing his campaign. STEPHEN TWIGG - SHADOW EDUCATION SECRETARY Best known for his stunning victory over Michael Portillo - then Defence Secretary and potential future Tory leader - in the 1997 general election. Mr Twigg himself was ousted from Enfield Southgate by a Conservative in 2005, but returned to Parliament in 2010, parachuted into the very safe Labour seat of Liverpool West Derby. Served as minister for school standards under Tony Blair and shadow Foreign Office minister in Ed Miliband's first opposition front bench, he was the first openly gay MP in the Commons. In a previous life, he was head of the National Union of Students. The then was promoted to the shadow cabinet in October 2011. ANDY BURNHAM - SHADOW HEALTH SECRETARY in 2010, Burnham was the youngest candidate in the Labour leadership contest, in which he came fourth. During the campaign, he argued that Labour had lost touch with its grass roots supporters and been dazzled by wealth. Like many senior figures in the party, he is a former special adviser. Rose quickly through the ranks after becoming an MP, serving as chief secretary to the Treasury, culture secretary and health secretary. Keen football player and avid Everton fan. Looked after education in Ed Miliband's first shadow cabinet, he returned to his previous love, health in 2011. HARRIET HARMAN - DEPUTY LEADER AND SHADOW CULTURE SECRETARY Labour's deputy leader, she took over from Gordon Brown as acting leader in May 2010, capping a remarkable political comeback after she was sacked from Tony Blair's first cabinet in 1998 in a row over welfare reform. She worked her way back into favour and held a number of ministerial positions, including solicitor general, before beating Alan Johnson to the deputy leadership in 2007, at the . A longstanding campaigner for women's rights, she led a drive while in government to have domestic violence taken more seriously. Widely commended for her Commons performances as acting leader. Swapped briefs with Ivan Lewis in October 2011, having previously spoken on international development. LIAM BYRNE - SHADOW WORK AND PENSIONS SECRETARY Probably best known for leaving a note to his successor as chief secretary to the Treasury before the 2010 election saying "I'm afraid there is no money left". The then was forced to apologise, saying he did not want to appear "flippant" about the deficit. This was an uncharacteristic slip from someone who rose smoothly through the ministerial ranks after being elected in 2004, taking on the high-profile immigration brief after the foreign prisoners scandal in 2006. One of few senior Labour figures with a business background, he was a merchant banker before launching his own technology firm. Interests include half marathons, church architecture and astronomy. CHUKA UMUNNA - SHADOW BUSINESS SECRETARY A turned MP for the London constituency of Streatham, Mr Umunna has seen his stock rise inexorably since he was elected in 2010. A former PPS to Ed Miliband, he's already been a shadow business minister and also sat on the powerful Treasury select committee. He has attacked the coalition government for not doing enough to foster bank lending through its Project Merlin agreement. Just 31 when elected, he is already been talked of as a potential future leader. HILARY BENN - SHADOW COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT SECRETARY As the son of former Labour cabinet minister Tony Benn, the MP for Leeds Central is part of a political dynasty. Regarded as more pragmatic than his father, he was a union official and special adviser to then education and employment minister David Blunkett before becoming an MP in 1999. Well-regarded as international development and environment secretary under Gordon Brown despite having a generally low profile. At the stood for the deputy leadership in 2007, coming fourth. One of Ed Miliband's primary supporters in the leadership contest. SADIQ KHAN - SHADOW JUSTICE SECRETARY One of the most high profile Muslim MPs, the was an early backer of Ed Miliband to be Labour leader and went on to run his campaign. Before becoming an MP in 2005 he was a leading human rights solicitor and chairman of pressure group Liberty. He is a former government whip, local government minister and transport minister, who was promoted to shadow transport secretary when Lord Adonis stood down after the 2010 general election. Since taking on the justice brief, he has admitted Labour did not do enough to tackle reoffending, but accused the coalition of focusing on cutting costs not crime. Leading light in Labour think tanks The Fabian Society and Progress. JIM MURPHY - SHADOW DEFENCE SECRETARY A Blairite who worked on David Miliband's leadership campaign, he has held a string of government jobs since entering Parliament in 1997, after snatching the Conservative Party's safest seat in Scotland. He served Labour in power as a whip, Cabinet Office minister, welfare minister, Europe minister and, finally, at , Scottish secretary. The East Renfrewshire MP is a former president of the National Union of Students, who lists his hobbies as model trains and playing football. CAROLINE FLINT - SHADOW ENERGY AND CLIMATE CHANGE SECRETARY The then caused a stir in 2009 when she quit the government and accused Gordon Brown of regarding her and other senior women in the Cabinet as "window dressing". Like many leading female MPs, the former union worker entered Parliament in the 1997 Labour landslide. Responsible for the controversial eco-town project as housing minister before becoming Europe minister in 2008. Supported David Miliband in the leadership contest. A beneficiary of Ed Miliband's first reshuffle, she moved from the communities and local government brief in October 2011. ANGELA EAGLE - SHADOW LEADER OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS One of twin sisters in the shadow cabinet, the MP for Wallasey in Merseyside joined the Labour party when she was 17. The former union official was present on the Labour frontbench throughout the Blair and Brown years, without ever making the cabinet. Her middle-ranking roles included social security minister and pensions minister. One of Labour's first openly gay MPs, she formed a civil partnership with her long-term partner in 2008. A keen chess player, she supported David Miliband in the leadership contest. In Ed Miliband's 2011 reshuffle, at the , she was shifted to shadow leaders of the Commons from shadow chief secretary to the Treasury. RACHEL REEVES - SHADOW CHIEF SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY At a youthful 31, was elected to Parliament in 2010 and appointed shadow pensions minister in Ed Miliband's first shadow cabinet. A former Bank of England economist, Ms Reeves quickly became a strong voice in opposition and penned an entry in the Purple Book - produced by Lord Mandelson's Progress group - warning that Labour should address the UK's poor rates of saving with targeted tax relief. Oxford and LSE-educated, she also worked at the British Embassy in Washington and at Halifax Bank of Scotland before entering Parliament. MARIA EAGLE - SHADOW TRANSPORT SECRETARY but chose to support Ed Miliband in the leadership contest. Ms Eagle was a solicitor in Liverpool before entering Parliament in 1997. Held a series of ministerial positions under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, including children's minister and equalities minister. Like her twin, she lists cricket as one of her interests and is a proficient chess player. MARY CREAGH - SHADOW ENVIRONMENT SECRETARY When she was appointed to Ed Miliband's first shadow cabinet in October 2010, the then had never held a frontbench role before. The Wakefield MP worked for the European Parliament and in academia before entering Parliament in 2005. A keen Europhile, she is fluent in French and Italian. Worked as parliamentary private secretary to Andy Burnham but voted for David Miliband in the leadership contest. IVAN LEWIS - SHADOW INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT SECRETARY and chief executive of the Manchester Jewish Federation, Mr Lewis held a string of junior ministerial posts in the Labour government after becoming an MP in 1997 at the age of 31. He started out as a parliamentary private secretary to then trade secretary Stephen Byers, before going on to be an education minister, Treasury minister, health minister and international development minister. Most recently, he was minister of state at the Foreign Office. His previous shadow cabinet role was as culture spokesman in which he was a vocal campaigner on phone hacking. MARGARET CURRAN - SHADOW SCOTTISH SECRETARY Ms Curran represented Glasgow Bailliestone since the Scottish Parliament's inception in 1999. But when that constituency was torn up in boundary changes she made the move to Westminster in 2010. Under her, Labour took back Glasgow East having lost it in a stunning by-election defeat by the SNP in 2008. In Holyrood, she held various posts, including Minister for Communities, overseeing the executive's flagship anti-social behaviour laws. Before entering politics she was a lecturer in community education. The then 52-year-old took up her first full shadow cabinet role in October 2011. TOM WATSON - DEPUTY LABOUR PARTY CHAIR The West Bromwich MP rose to prominence with his dogged pursuit of the phone-hacking issue, becoming the number one thorn in News International's side. He has used his position on the influential culture select committee - something he has maintained despite his party post - to grill newspaper representatives. He has also raised the matter time and again in the House of Commons, demanding more action from police and Parliament. Mr Watson was a defence minister under Tony Blair but resigned in 2006, calling for Mr Blair to step down. That personal stand saw him accused of conspiring with Gordon Brown. An avid Tweeter and blogger, the returned to government when Mr Brown became PM as digital enhancement minister. JON TRICKETT - SHADOW CABINET OFFICE MINISTER Gordon Brown's former parliamentary aide, who previously attended shadow cabinet as a junior minister, became a full member as shadow Cabinet Office minister in Ed Miliband's 2011 reshuffle. The then MP for Hemsworth took on the role from Tessa Jowell. TESSA JOWELL - SHADOW OLYMPICS MINISTER , Ms Jowell, born in 1947, held ministerial office throughout the Blair and Brown years, holding briefs in the health and education departments. As culture secretary from 2001, she played a key role in bringing the Olympics to London in 2012 and is now shadowing that brief in the run-up to the Games. Also shadow minister for London, she supported David Miliband in the leadership election. OWEN SMITH - SHADOW WELSH SECRETARY Former BBC radio producer and special adviser who has risen quickly through the ranks. The then was elected in 2010 for Pontypridd, but previously stood unsuccessfully in the 2006 Blaenau Gwent by-election where he lost to independent Dai Davies. He supported Ed Miliband for the leadership and was given a role in his shadow team five months after entering the House, first as shadow Wales minister and then in the shadow Treasury team. This is his first shadow cabinet role. VERNON COAKER - SHADOW NORTHERN IRELAND SECRETARY The held several ministerial positions in the last Labour government. One of those jobs was to look after policing - something he continued in Ed Miliband's first shadow cabinet. He was also minister for drugs and crime reduction under Tony Blair and sparked controversy, given that role, when he admitted smoking cannabis as a student. Mr Coaker first entered Parliament in 1997, aged 43, having failed to win seats in both 1992 and 1987. Married with two children, he's also a former government whip. ROSIE WINTERTON - CHIEF WHIP The then 52-year-old was in a ballot for chief whip in 2010. A former local government minister, the Doncaster Central MP is responsible for maintaining discipline among Labour MPs in crucial Commons votes. BARONESS ROYALL - SHADOW LEADER OF THE LORDS Continues to lead her party in the Lords, having done the job, while in government, under Gordon Brown. She is also a spokesman on education, work and pensions, Northern Ireland and equality issues. , she started her political career as a special adviser to Neil - now Lord - Kinnock in the 1980s. LORD BASSAM - LABOUR CHIEF WHIP IN THE HOUSE OF LORDS A long-serving leader of Brighton and Hove Council, was given a peerage in 1997 at the age of 44. The former local government official has continued as Labour's chief whip in the Lords, having done the job since before the 2010 general election. Also attending shadow cabinet Liz Kendall - shadow minister for care and older people Michael Dugher - shadow minister without portfolio (Cabinet Office) Emily Thornberry - Attorney General Lord Stewart Wood - shadow minister without portfolio (Cabinet Office)23 April 2013Last updated at 17:49 GMT EDF cuts spending on planned Hinkley nuclear power plant EDF is reducing its spending on its planned new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset. it is refocusing its activities to control costs and that there will be a reduction in the number of people working on the project. Negotiations with the government over how the huge project will be funded are continuing. The company said progress is being made. EDF had hoped to conclude negotiations by the end of 2012. EDF said that its decision "reflects its priorities ahead of securing the financing necessary for the project". "In this context much activity including further detailed pre-construction engineering work will continue ahead of the later construction phase," it said in a statement. Jobs disappointment "Negotiations with the UK government to agree a contract for the electricity from Hinkley Point C are making progress." The company has been spending around ?1m a day on the project. So far Hinkley C is thought to have cost around ?1bn. The project was estimated to create between 20,000 and 25,000 jobs during construction and 900 permanent jobs once in operation. Unions expressed their disappointment at the news. The GMB union warned that delays could now derail what it described as an "essential infrastructure project", which would be "a disaster" for employment. EDF has said that the project would generate taxes equivalent to a few percentage points of what the entire financial sector yields for the exchequer. It is negotiating with ministers over what it can charge for the electricity Hinkley generates for decades to come. But environmental groups have been protesting against the plan. They have raised concerns over the potentially high price for electricity the government will agree to in order to get the nuclear plant built, and over the issue of nuclear waste.19 September 2013Last updated at 15:10 GMT Edinburgh Zoo has first UK koala birth Keepers at Edinburgh zoo have revealed they have succeeded in achieving the first koala birth in the UK. Their female koala, Alinga, is carrying a joey in its pouch after giving birth early in the summer. The new arrival can be seen wriggling around in the pouch and is expected to poke its head out for the first time in the next 6 weeks. Meanwhile, the zoo said it was still optimistic its female panda could give birth within the next week. Donald Gow, senior keeper at Edinburgh Zoo, says: "We are all immensely excited by the birth of the UK's first ever koala joey. "I have worked with the zoo's koalas for the past eight years and they require a lot of specialised care. "Koalas are very sensitive creatures with a very selective diet and the husbandry can be extremely challenging." He added: "As they are solitary animals, it takes an expert eye to know how to successfully introduce a male and female together for breeding. "There is a lot of dedication and skill involved in caring for koalas, and it is a significant achievement for everybody involved." Jelly bean Koalas have a gestation period of only 30-35 days and the birth of the joey is thought to have taken place in mid May. However, koala joeys are extremely underdeveloped when first born, measuring about 2cm long (less than an inch or the size of a jelly bean), blind, with no ears and no fur, and spend a further six months growing inside their mother's pouch. The pouch has a powerful muscle to prevent the joey from falling out and, in addition to milk, the joey will suckle on a substance called pap, a special type of dropping produced by the mother which contains vital micro-organisms necessary for digesting eucalyptus leaves when it is older. The joey currently weighs 100g to 150g (3-5oz) and is expected to first pop its head out of the pouch by mid-October. The joey will start to climb onto Alinga's belly around mid-November, when it weighs around 400g (14oz), and this is when visitors are likely to be able to see it. Around December it will then move onto her back and zoo keepers will weigh, sex and name the joey. Alinga will carry the joey around on her back until it is about 12 months old. Once the joey is sexually mature it will join the European breeding programme.4 October 2013Last updated at 11:51 GMT Edward Snowden revelations: Can we trust the spying state? By Gordon CoreraSecurity correspondent, BBC News How worried should we be by the state's capability to spy on us? Top secret documents, leaked by former American intelligence analyst Edward Snowden, have revealed the huge capacity of Britain and America's intelligence agencies - GCHQ and the NSA - to capture communications. Snowden and his supporters have argued that the public should know more about what is happening, while governments have argued that exposure has endangered national security. Four months after the first revelations in the Guardian newspaper, a picture has emerged of Britain and America's intelligence-gathering capabilities. Taken together, the reports point to an ambition to be able to reach into the vast global tide of digital communications and be able to pick out any message and read it, as well as to conduct wide-ranging searches of billions of records to look for patterns and connections. "Even if you're not doing anything wrong you're being watched and recorded," argued Edward Snowden. "You should decide if they should be doing this." Those who have worked inside the secret state say that the power is vital for national security and only used for national security. "You have to have a powerful capability to find the small amount you're looking for - but that doesn't mean the state is reading everyone's emails," former GCHQ director Sir David Omand told the BBC. "What the state needs and law enforcement needs is the possibility of accessing the communications of the terrorists, the criminals, the kidnappers, the proliferators, the paedophiles. But those communications are all mixed up with everyone else's communications - there are 204 million emails a minute buzzing around the globe. "So you have to have a powerful capability to find the small amount that you are looking for. But it doesn't mean that the state is reading everyone's emails, nor would that conceivably be feasible." 'Age problem' But can we trust the state with this power? Technology allows it to do things it could never have done before - collecting and sifting through billions of records using data mining to find a connection or reconstructing a person's social interactions from the trail they leave behind online. The lack of sufficient oversight worries those who have campaigned on civil liberties. "Part of the problem here is an age problem," says David Davis, a former Conservative Shadow Home Secretary. "My generation of politicians - up to ones 20 years younger than me - don't really understand the extent to which we are intruding into people's privacy." Mr Davis believes the current system of oversight and accountability is not strong enough, especially when access to metadata about communications and interactions only requires internal authorisation within an intelligence agency - and not the warrant that is required to intercept the actual content of communications. "There is no need to trust the state unless it has got a good reason and they must justify that to someone else - a judge or a magistrate or someone who is outside their system and can check they are using it properly," he argues. The claim that encryption standards have been deliberately weakened or had so-called "backdoors" added to allow access by intelligence agencies caused particular anger among those who have spent their careers trying to improve internet security and ensure the privacy of communications. "The NSA's actions have done more than undermine online security - they've threatened to break the internet," Ross Anderson, Professor in Security Engineering at Cambridge University says of its attempts to ensure access. "In order to do this they have compromised in various ways the protocols on which the internet relies. When you introduce these vulnerabilities, they are not just for the spies to use. They are available for bad guys to use as well." Spook heyday The Snowden documents have surprised many, including Prof Anderson, in terms of the scale of what they reveal. "To find that they had built this machine and got it working is an eye-opener," he told the BBC. Critics of the intelligence agencies believe the disclosures have been important in starting a public debate about whether we know enough about the state's capability and whether there are enough controls and oversight. But many of those inside the intelligence world point to the damage which they say the revelations have done. They fear that since Edward Snowden is in Russia, the Russian state will have found some way of accessing the information. "Part of me says that not even the KGB in its heyday of Philby, Burgess and Maclean in the 1950s could have dreamt of acquiring 58,000 highly classified intelligence documents," Sir David Omand told the BBC. The concern is also that the more that is revealed in public, the more the targets of surveillance adapt their behaviour. Sir David believes Snowden's actions will do real damage to national security. "My fear is that we are now going to witness a slow-motion car crash in which gradually sources dry up, targets such as terrorists and cybercriminals will work out what are the kind of capabilities we have, and they will adopt their methods and be harder to track down," says the former GCHQ director. In the last week, the BBC was given direct access to a small selection of original documents held outside the UK that form the basis of stories the Guardian newspaper has already published. The scale of the capability they reveal - and the secrets they contain - make clear there are serious issues involved in balancing the public interest and national security. That balance lies at the heart of this debate - between the public interest and the right to know about what the state can do and the need for the state to protect its secrets and its capabilities for the sake of national security. The question remains - who gets to decide?4 October 2013Last updated at 19:52 GMT Egypt clashes: Four killed at pro-Morsi demonstrations Four people have been killed in Egypt as supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi clashed with opponents and security forces. Medical officials said at least 40 others were hurt as gunfire and explosions rocked the centre of Cairo. Troops used tear gas and live rounds to halt crowds heading to Tahrir Square. The square has since been sealed off to prevent pro-Morsi supporters occupying the symbolic heart of the 2011 uprising which ousted Hosni Mubarak. Reports said the four fatalities were all Brotherhood supporters who died amid fighting in two Cairo neighbourhoods. As clashes broke out in the capital, state TV reported further violence in the northern Sharqiya district and to the east in Giza, as well as in the northern port city of Alexandria. There were also reports of skirmishes between pro-Morsi demonstrators and civilian supporters of the military government. Early curfew The BBC's correspondent in Cairo, Quentin Sommerville, said that by early evening all was quiet on the streets of Cairo, ahead of the early Friday curfew at 1900 local time (1700 GMT). A heavy security presence remained, he said. Hundreds of Islamist protesters have died in violence since the Egyptian military deposed Mr Morsi in July, 13 months after he was elected as president. Thousands of members of the Muslim Brotherhood have also been detained over the past two months. Several senior figures, including Mr Morsi and the movement's general guide Mohammed Badie, are being held on charges such as incitement to violence and murder. Egyptian authorities portray the crackdown as a struggle against "terrorism". They are preparing to seize Muslim Brotherhood assets after appeal courts upheld a recent ban on its activities. Anniversary plan Our correspondent says the protesters in the capital's Agouza district were chanting "Rabaa, Rabaa", a reference to the square next to the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque where a sit-in was cleared by force in August. Troops also took up positions on both sides of Qasr al-Nil Bridge, which leads to Tahrir Square. As protesters pushed towards Tahrir, police and security forces used teargas and warning shots fired overhead to disperse the crowds. Before Friday's clashes, soldiers and police tightened security around key sites in Cairo, including Tahrir. Morsi supporters have said they will be intensifying their demonstrations in the lead-up to Sunday's 40th anniversary of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Opponents who back the army have also said they will take to the streets. In a statement issued on Thursday, the Brotherhood sharply criticised the officers behind the overthrow of Mr Morsi, comparing them to Adolf Hitler, the Roman emperor Nero and the Mongol conqueror Hulagu Khan. It urged Egyptian soldiers to rebel and said it hoped that Sunday would mark a "victory by the people over those who staged a coup against them for personal gain". On Thursday, the European Union's foreign policy chief, Baroness Catherine Ashton, held talks with armed forces chief Gen Abdul Fattah al-Sisi and interim President Adly Mansour, as well as with religious leaders. "I got a real sense of everyone really trying to go forward in the right way," she told reporters afterwards. A day earlier, a 16-year-old boy was killed in clashes between Morsi supporters and opponents in the Red Sea city of Suez. Send your pictures and videos to or text them to 61124 (UK) or +44 7624 800 100 (International). If you have a large file you can . (Required) Name (Required) Your E-mail address (Required) Town & Country (Required) Your telephone number (Required) Comments If you are happy to be contacted by a BBC journalist please leave a telephone number that we can contact you on. In some cases a selection of your comments will be published, displaying your name as you provide it and location, unless you state otherwise. Your contact details will never be published. When sending us pictures, video or eyewitness accounts at no time should you endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws. Please ensure you have read the terms and conditions.13 September 2013Last updated at 11:22 GMT Egypt profile Long known for its pyramids and ancient civilisation, Egypt is the largest Arab country and has played a central role in Middle Eastern politics in modern times. In the 1950s President Gamal Abdul Nasser pioneered Arab nationalism and the non-aligned movement, while his successor Anwar Sadat made peace with Israel and turned back to the West. The protests that ousted President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 put Egypt at the crossroads once again, as they led to an Islamist Muslim Brotherhood breakthrough at subsequently annulled parliamentary polls and a narrow win for the Brotherhood candidate in the presidential election of 2012. Egypt's ancient past and the fact that it was one of the first Middle Eastern countries to open up to the West following Napoleon's invasion have given it a claim to be the intellectual and cultural leader in the region. The head of Cairo's Al-Azhar Mosque is one of the highest authorities in Sunni Islam. But the historic step by President Anwar Sadat to make peace with Israel in the 1979 Camp David agreement led to Egypt being expelled from the Arab League until 1989, and in 1981 Mr Sadat was assassinated by Islamic extremists angry at his moves to clamp down on their activities. Repressive rule President Hosni Mubarak took a more conciliatory approach, but Islamic groups continued their campaigns sporadically. They have been responsible for deadly attacks that often targeted tourists and resort areas, and more recently began to harass Egypt's Coptic Christian community. While providing stability and a measure of economic progress, Mr Mubarak's rule was repressive. An emergency law in force since 1967 - apart from an 18-month interruption in 1981 - muzzled political dissent, and the security forces became renowned for their brutality. Corruption was widespread. Encouraged by the protests that overthrew the long-term leader of Tunisia, mounting popular anger burst to the surface in huge anti-government demonstrations in January 2011, which eventually led President Mubarak to step aside. He was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment over deaths during the demonstrations. The road towards democracy proved rocky, however, and post-revolutionary politics became polarised between the newly ascendant Islamists on the one hand and liberal and secular forces on the other. After the interim military administration's promised rapid transition ended up lasting more than a year, parliamentary elections finally held in December 2011 and January 2012 produced large majorities for Islamist parties, and a presidential poll in May-June 2012 was by won by Islamist Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi. Over the next year, however, the new government antagonised a growing number of institutions and social groups - in particular secularists, liberals and Coptic Christians - while continued economic hardship alienated many ordinary Egyptians. On the first anniversary of Mr Morsi's rule, these pressures erupted in mass demonstrations. The military quickly sided with the anti-Morsi protesters, suspending the constitution, ousting the Islamist president, and violently dispersing mass protest sit-ins held by the Brotherhood in response to what it angrily denounced as a coup. Geography and economy Egypt's teeming cities - and almost all agricultural activity - are concentrated along the banks of the Nile, and on the river's delta. Deserts occupy most of the country. The economy depends heavily on agriculture, tourism and cash remittances from Egyptians working abroad, mainly in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries. However, rapid population growth and the limited amount of arable land are straining the country's resources and economy, and continuing political turmoil has paralysed government efforts to address the problems.At least 60 people lost their lives in Egypt on Friday as protestors loyal to the ousted President Mohammed Morsi clashed with military forces on the streets of Cairo. The toppling of Mr Morsi - the country's first democratically elected president - raises questions about both democracy and the party itself. Has the Muslim Brotherhood proved itself unfit to govern effectively and inclusively - and what future if any does political Islam across the Arab world?Newsnight's Tim Whewell reports.16 August 2013Last updated at 11:39 GMT Egypt crisis: How the euphoria turned to tragedy By Jeremy BowenBBC Middle East editor, Cairo The euphoria that followed the removal of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 seems very distant now. Egypt felt as if it had a new start. Expectations that life was about to get better bubbled around the country. But the sky-high hopes have been overwhelmed by a combination of political failure, entrenched interests and economic crisis. The revolution in 2011, like the other uprisings in Arab countries, was driven by the dissatisfaction and anger of a new generation. About 60% of the population across the region was under the age of 30. They realised that the old order had no room for them, and would never satisfy their desire to have a decent job that would give them the money to have independent lives. The departure of hope coincided with the exponential growth in modern communications, which meant that countries could not be shut off by their leaders in the way that once was possible. The under-30s could watch satellite TV, or look at the internet, and realise that not everyone's lives were as tough as theirs had become. But the energy of 2011's revolutionaries was squashed by the power and organisation of established forces in Egypt, particularly the military, remnants of the old elite and the Muslim Brotherhood. In the presidential election last year, the choice in the final round was between the Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi and a former air force general who had been Mr Mubarak's last prime minister. Getting a candidate into the race, let alone to the winning post, was too much for the fractious, disorganised revolutionaries of Tahrir Square. Broken promises When Mr Morsi won the presidency, he promised to govern for all Egyptians. But he did not. The Muslim Brotherhood had worked for power for more than 80 years. It was determined to seize its chance to reshape Egypt into the way it wanted. Mr Morsi, the public face of the Muslim Brotherhood's top political leadership, behaved as if it had an overwhelming mandate to transform Egypt into a much more Islamist state. Many Egyptians are pious Muslims, but that did not automatically mean they shared the Brotherhood's austere vision of the future. To make matters worse, the Morsi administration was not very competent. It could not keep its promises about reinvigorating the economy. By the end of June this year, the discontent that had built in Egypt burst out into the huge protest marches that gave the military its chance to remove President Morsi. The move was very popular with almost everyone, except the Muslim Brotherhood. Even internationally respected liberal democrats, like the Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei welcomed what had happened. Mr ElBaradei told me that the army had not carried out a coup d'etat. Instead, by popular demand, it would give the Egyptian people the chance to reboot their democracy. Different views It has not worked out that way, even though the military and its commander, Gen Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, have plenty of backing for what they are doing. So far it looks more like an attempt to revive the security state that sustained Mr Mubarak for 30 years. Once again, Egypt is being governed under an emergency law that gives the state draconian powers. Mr ElBaradei has resigned as vice-president from the government the military installed. Hundreds are dead. The Muslim Brotherhood and the military - and both sets of their sympathisers - both believe that the future of Egypt's next generation is at stake, and both are right. But their views of the future are very different. The best way forward would be for all sides in Egypt - and there is a range of opinion, not two monolithic blocs - to agree a way to get people into work and to make social peace. But that is not happening. The argument is being fought out on the streets. And that is a tragedy.25 July 2013Last updated at 17:28 GMT Egypt crisis: Who are the key players? The political crisis in Egypt has deepened following the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi by the army. His Muslim Brotherhood supporters say they will not accept his removal, while the military-appointed interim leader has laid out plans to change the constitution and for fresh elections. Here is a guide to the key players shaping the course of events. GENERAL ABDUL FATTAH AL-SISI AND THE MILITARY The intervention by the military has underscored the position of the armed forces - led by defence minister - as Egypt's most powerful institution. Following days of mass protests against President Morsi, Gen al-Sisi warned that the military was prepared to step in "to stop Egypt from plunging into a dark tunnel of conflict and infighting". The army issued an ultimatum to Mr Morsi, instructing him to respond to people's demands or step down within 48 hours. When he failed to do so, it removed him from power and placed him under house arrest. On 3 July, Gen al-Sisi suspended Egypt's constitution and called for new elections. He was backed by liberal opposition forces and the main religious leaders. The military's reputation was tarnished during the last transitional period, when it governed Egypt after the fall of then-President Hosni Mubarak. It was accused of breaching human rights and continuing authoritarian rule. This time round it appointed an interim civilian leader and issued a roadmap leading to fresh elections and was viewed by anti-Morsi protesters as the saviour of democracy, rather than the perpetrators of a coup. MOHAMED ELBARADEI AND THE NATIONAL SALVATION FRONT The former United Nations nuclear agency chief, , had been a favourite to lead a transitional government in Egypt after Mr Morsi was removed from office. Mr ElBaradei, 71, is coordinator of the main alliance of liberal and left-wing parties and youth groups, known as the National Salvation Front. It was formed late last year after Mr Morsi granted himself sweeping powers in a constitutional declaration. Mr ElBaradei defended the army's intervention, saying Mr Morsi "undermined his own legitimacy by declaring himself a... pharaoh". Presidential officials initially named Mr ElBaradei interim prime minister, but his appointment was rejected by Egypt's second biggest Islamist group, the Salafist Nour party, which said it would not work with him, and he was passed over. He was then appointed interim vice-president with responsibility for foreign affairs. TAMAROD (ANTI-MORSI MOVEMENT) Tamarod, meaning "revolt" in Arabic, is a that called for the nationwide protests against Mr Morsi on 30 June, one year after he was sworn into office. It organised a petition that also called for fresh democratic elections. After millions of Egyptian took to the streets in Cairo and other cities, Tamarod gave the president an ultimatum to resign or face an open-ended campaign of civil disobedience. It was backed by the army. Tamarod was formed in late April 2013 by members of the long-standing protest group Kefaya ("enough"). Kefaya successfully organised mass protests during the 2005 presidential election campaigns, but later lost momentum because of infighting and leadership changes. Two representatives of Tamarod stood alongside Gen al-Sisi when he announced on television that Mr Morsi had been ousted. One of them, Mahmoud Badr, urged protesters "to stay in the squares to protect what we have won". It has since issued statements supporting the military in its fight against what it calls "terrorism". ADLY MANSOUR AND THE SUPREME CONSTITUTIONAL COURT , the head of Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court, was sworn in as interim leader on 4 July. As he took the oath, he praised the massive street demonstrations that led to Mr Morsi's removal. The revolution, he said, must go on so that "we stop producing tyrants". Mr Mansour has set out plans to amend the suspended Islamist-drafted constitution, put it to a referendum and hold parliamentary elections by early 2014. They have been rejected by the Muslim Brotherhood and even criticised by the National Salvation Front and Tamarod. Since the 2011 uprising, the Supreme Constitutional Court, Egypt's top judicial body, has made a series of rulings that have changed the course of the democratic transition. Mr Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood supporters claimed its judges remained loyal to the former autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak, who appointed them. Last June, the court dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament saying it was illegally elected. It also rejected a presidential decree by Mr Morsi to have it reinstated. MOHAMMED MORSI AND THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD was Egypt's fifth president - and the first civilian and Islamist to fill the role. He had been in office for a year until he was ousted. He is now reported to be under house arrest at an army barracks in eastern Cairo, where his supporters have been staging a sit-in. Tensions increased dramatically on 8 July after the army shot dead some 50 supporters of Mr Morsi outside the barracks in disputed circumstances. The Brotherhood said the attack was entirely unprovoked, and has called for "an uprising". The army said it was attacked by a group with live ammunition, petrol bombs and stones. When he came to power, Mr Morsi promised to head a government "for all Egyptians" but his critics say he concentrated power in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood, to which he belongs. Opposition grew late last year, after he passed a constitutional declaration giving himself unlimited powers and pushed through an Islamist-tinged constitution. He has been repeatedly accused of mismanaging the economy. Islamists have dominated the political scene since the 2011 Egyptian uprising, winning the majority in parliamentary and presidential votes. The Muslim Brotherhood has operated under its political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party. The Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in 1928. Although it was officially banned for much of its history, its social work, charities and ideological outreach enabled it to build up a vast grassroots membership4 July 2013Last updated at 12:13 GMT Egypt crisis: Why are Cairo protesters using laser pens? Magazine MonitorA collection of cultural artefacts As crowds packed Tahrir Square in the centre of Cairo to celebrate the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi on Wednesday night, three things filled the air - noise, fireworks and, unusually, laser beams. The use of laser pens has become a distinctive feature of the protests against the country's leadership, which began at the end of last month. The mostly green beams of light were seen illuminating military helicopters as they flew over the square a few days ago. Some first suggested that this was meant to distract the pilots by dazzling them. In the US, it is a crime to point a laser beam at a plane, as it is considered a potential danger to crew and passengers. But, in Cairo, there is a much more positive interpretation of the craze. The crowd erupted into cheers when the helicopters flew overhead, suggesting that the light show was a form of celebration, given the military's role in overthrowing the president. But the military were not the only focal point of the crowd's laser beams. After Morsi was ousted, some of the tens of thousands in Tahrir Square turned their pens on the balcony being used as a broadcast point by the BBC. BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen was picked out by the green light of laser pens during this live report. TV correspondents filing for other broadcasters also got this new form of laser treatment. So why are they being used? Mostly just for fun, according to the BBC's Angy Ghannam in Cairo. "It started as a way to check the rooftops of buildings to get a feel if someone is there, such as snipers," our reporter says. "They are sold like crazy at the square. Street vendors are all over the place. "Anything at the square turns into a trend and a fashion in no time." You can follow the Magazine on and on5 December 2011Last updated at 17:35 GMT Egypt elections: Low turnout for first round run-offs Egyptians have been voting in run-off polls resulting from the first round of parliamentary elections, with Islamist parties trying to extend their lead. Turnout was said to be low in the nine governorates holding run-offs, where a total of 52 seats are being contested. The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party won 36.6% of the 9.7m ballots cast last week, followed by the Salafist al-Nour Party with 24.4%. The elections are the first since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak. Voting in the remaining two-thirds of electoral districts is scheduled to take place later this month and in January. 'Accept the result' Under Egypt's complex electoral system, two-thirds of the 498 elected seats in the lower house of parliament, the People's Assembly, will be picked through proportional representation, using lists drawn up by parties and alliances. The remaining seats are decided by a first-past-the-post-system, with individual candidates required to win more than 50% of the votes to avoid a run-off contest. Only four seats were won outright in the first round, leaving 52 to be decided in run-offs on Monday and Tuesday. Twenty-four seats are being contested by the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and al-Nour. Voting was reportedly slow in the capital Cairo, Alexandria and Port Said on Monday, in contrast to last week, when there were long queues outside polling stations. The head of Egypt's election committee announced on Monday afternoon that it had lowered its turnout figure for the first round from 62% to 52%. Abdel Moez Ibrahim said members of the committee's secretariat had made a counting error, adding that he "was very tired" when he gave initial figures at a news conference last week. Later, an administrative court ruled that the results for one of four constituencies in Cairo were void. Judges overseeing voting there left their posts to protest against conditions in polling stations, where 75 ballot boxes were damaged and 15 went missing. On Sunday, the Muslim Brotherhood, which was banned from politics during Mr Mubarak's three-decade rule, urged its rivals not to contest last week's results. "We all believe that our success as Egyptians toward democracy is a real success and we want everyone to accept this democratic system. This is the guarantee for stability," the FJP's deputy leader, Essam al-Erian, told the Associated Press. The presidential candidate and former Arab League secretary general, Amr Moussa, also said the success of Islamist parties had to be accepted. "You cannot have democracy and then amend or reject the results," he told the Reuters news agency, adding that the shape of parliament would not be clear until voting was over in January. The secular Egyptian Bloc came third in the first round with 13.4% of the vote, followed by the liberal Wafd Party with 7.1% and the moderate Islamist Wasat Party with 4.3%. The Revolution Continues, a group formed by youth activists behind the uprising that ousted Mr Mubarak in February, won 3.5%. The supporters of liberal and secular parties have expressed hopes that their candidates will do better in the next two rounds of the elections. Many are concerned that Islamists will have too much power in the next parliament, which will select a 100-member panel to draft a new constitution that will be put to a referendum before a presidential election in June. However, the FJP has said it has no plans to form any coalition with al-Nour, whose ultra-conservative supporters demand strict prohibitions against interest-bearing loans, alcohol, mixed bathing, "fornication", and the appointment of women and Christians to leadership roles. The FJP has also repeatedly stressed its commitment to an inclusive democracy, and its charter says it strives for a "non-religious" state.11 February 2011Last updated at 16:57 GMT Egypt protests: Key moments in unrest Following more than two weeks of protests, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak has stepped down as president, ending three decades in power. What are the key events that led to this moment? 14 January: Tunisian president flees and flees the country following weeks of anti-government protests and clashes with police. The protests there were inspired by the self-immolation of a frustrated unemployed young man, Mohammed Bouazizi, in December. The toppling of Mr Ben Ali after 23 years in power help galvanise the current anti-government protests in Egypt. 25 January: Protests begin in Egypt in several Egyptian cities after an internet campaign. Clashes break out in Cairo's Tahrir Square between riot police and protesters, who say they are fed up with high levels of poverty, corruption and unemployment. Some protesters say they will not give up until President Mubarak steps down. 28 January: Unrest spreads and gather momentum. President Mubarak declares a curfew in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez and the army is deployed. The curfew is immediately and widely flouted, and there are further clashes between protesters and police amid growing reports of looting and lawlessness. After Friday prayers, tens of thousands of people join protests in Cairo and other cities to press the demand that Mr Mubarak step down. The headquarters of the governing NDP party is set ablaze, while protesters also besiege the state broadcaster and the foreign ministry. Late on Friday, . In a televised address, he says he understands the protesters' grievances but defends the actions of the security forces. At least 26 people are reported to have died since the unrest began. President Barack Obama calls Mr Mubarak after his speech, telling him he must give meaning to his pledges to provide better economic and democratic opportunities to the Egyptian people. 29 January: Suleiman appointed vice-president and Aviation Minister Ahmed Shafiq is appointed prime minister. Clashes continue, with at least 74 people reported dead in the last two days. 31 January: Army rules out force The army gives heart to the tens of thousands of protesters by saying it recognises the "legitimate rights of the people" and against them. Vice-President Omar Suleiman says Mr Mubarak asked him to open dialogue with all political parties on constitutional reform. 1 February: 'March of a million' and other cities after protest leaders call for a "march of a million". Journalists in Tahrir Square, the focus of the protests, estimate that hundreds of thousands of people have shown up - men, women and children from a broad spectrum of Egyptian society. In another televised address, Mr Mubarak announces he will step down after September's presidential elections. He pledges constitutional reform but says he should stay in office to ensure an orderly transfer of power to his successor. Protest leaders call on the president to step down by Friday 4 February at the latest. 2 February: Army calls for protests to end , saying their message has been heard. between pro- and anti-Mubarak groups as supporters of the president make an organised attempt to enter Tahrir Square. Stones, metal bars and petrol bombs are pressed into service as running battles continue late into the night on the edges of the square. 3 February: Cairo clashes continue with groups of government loyalists once again, 10 days since the mass protests began. 4 February: 'Day of departure' in what protest leaders hopefully call "day of departure" for President Mubarak. The army increases its presence and Mubarak supporters keep their distance, making for a peaceful rally after the last two days of violence. 5 February: Ruling party resignations The leadership of the , including Gamal Mubarak, the son of the president. Until Mr Suleiman was appointed vice-president, it was widely believed Gamal was being groomed as his father's successor. 10 February: Mubarak 'may step down' Ruling party officials and military leaders make . But President Mubarak then surprises protesters by making a nationally televised speech in which he says he will stay in office until elections in September, though he will transfer some powers to his Vice-President Omar Suleiman. 11 February: Mubarak resigns Shortly after nightfall on the 18th day of protests, Vice-President Omar Suleiman , with immediate effect. The tens of thousands gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square greet the news with joy. Earlier, Mr Mubarak was reported to have flown to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh with his family.20 March 2011Last updated at 22:05 GMT Egypt referendum strongly backs constitution changes Egyptians have strongly backed constitutional changes that will allow the country to move quickly on to elections. Official results show that 77% of voters in Saturday's referendum backed the changes. Under former President Hosni Mubarak, elections were stage-managed affairs with pre-determined results and turnout was very low. A parliamentary vote may now take place as early as September. Mohammed Ahmed Attiyah, the head of the supreme judicial committee who supervised the vote, said 18.5 million people voted in favour of the changes. Turnout was 41.2 % of the 45 million eligible voters. The changes include: ?Reducing presidential terms from six years to four years and limiting the president to two terms ?Obliging the president to choose a deputy within 30 days of election ?Installing new criteria for presidential candidates, including a rule that they must be over 40 years old and not married to a non-Egyptian The country's two main political groups, Mr Mubarak's National Democratic Party and the Muslim Brotherhood, backed the proposals. A spokesman for the Brotherhood, Essam al-Aryan, called the result a "victory for the Egyptian people", which would allow the country to "turn a page and enter a new phase". He rejected claims that the Brotherhood had used its religious influence to persuade people to support the proposed changes, or that his organisation was the victor in the vote. Pro-democracy activists said the changes did not go far enough and wanted the constitution to be entirely rewritten before elections could be held. Activists have argued that the established parties stand to gain the most from holding an election quickly. But an umbrella group for activists, the Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution, posted a message on Facebook urging people to accept the result of the referendum. "We call on members of this Facebook page to respect the will and choice of the people after this democratic exercise which we regard as an historic departure in Egyptian political life," the message said. The US ambassador to Egypt, Margaret Scobey, said the referendum was "an important step towards realising the aspirations of the 25 January revolution". For many Egyptians, Saturday was the first time they had ever voted. Turnout was very low under Mr Mubarak, due to a lack of any real political competition and the assumption that polls were rigged.21 August 2013Last updated at 20:48 GMT Egypt: Return to a generals' republic? The last few weeks have seen violent scenes and several hundred deaths in Egypt following a crackdown on those protesting against the overthrow of democratically elected Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, by the powerful Egyptian military. That ousting was itself triggered by widespread protests against Mr Morsi's government, which had come to power following a period of military rule after Hosni Mubarak was forced out of office in 2011. In this look back at the history and legacy of military rule in Egypt, Middle East expert Dr Omar Ashour argues that the challenges facing the country following the Arab Spring go back to the era of President Nasser and before. "The coup leader - the hero Mohammed Naguib - gave an example of humility by refusing promotion to the rank of 'lieutenant-general'??This proves that the army does not want power, just the general good," wrote Egypt's renowned historian, Abd al-Rahman al-Rafai, in al-Akhbar newspaper on 1 August 1952. His statement did not stand the test of time. By February 1954, the humble general, who acted as Egypt's first president, was removed by younger, more power-hungry officers led by Colonel Gamal Abdul Nasser. Egypt back then, as it is now, was divided. One part of the country wanted a parliamentary democracy, a return to constitutionalism, and the army back to its barracks. Another part of Egypt wanted a strong, unchecked charismatic patron who promised land and bread. By November 1954, the latter part not only crushed the former, but also destroyed its demands. Basic freedoms and parliamentary constitutionalism were among the casualties. Nasser did deliver on some of his promises, including land confiscation and redistribution, and confronting the United Kingdom, the former colonial power, in 1956. But the cost was the establishment of an officers' republic: a state where the armed institutions are above any other, including the elected ones. What do Egypt's generals want? The January 2011 revolution challenged that 1954 status quo in many ways. The revolutionaries did clash with a 21st Century junta: the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf). The Scaf was a politically conservative, unconstitutional body that ruled Egypt between February 2011 and June 2012. At the very least, , democratic control of the armed forces, military and police oversight by civilian institutions, accountability to elected civilians, and budgetary transparency of the army were all radical, alien concepts for it. At worst, these concepts were threatening taboos and therefore should be eliminated or rendered meaningless. After the removal of Mubarak in February 2011, the Scaf had a minimum of three demands it insisted on: a veto in high politics, independence for the army's budget and economic empire, and legal immunity from prosecution on charges stemming from corruption or repression. It also wanted constitutional prerogatives to guarantee those arrangements. These demands were reflected in a July 2012 constitutional that gave the Scaf the prerogatives of the first post-revolution parliament, dissolved by Scaf's decision number 350 on 30 June 2012 (following a constitutional court verdict that part of the parliament's electoral law was unconstitutional). This decision vested all legislative powers in the Scaf only days before Egypt's first elected civilian president was scheduled to take office in July 2012. The independent , which benefits from preferential customs and exchange rates, tax exemption, land ownership and confiscation rights (without paying the treasury) and an army of almost-free labourers (conscripted soldiers), is a source of much military influence and thus another thorny issue for any elected civilian. A black hole in the suffering Egyptian economy, post-revolution elected politicians might well seek to improve conditions by moving against the military's civilian assets and imposing oversight. But in March 2012, a loud public warning was declared by General Mahmoud Nasr, a member of the Scaf in charge of financial affairs: "This is our sweat and we will fight for it??.we will never allow anyone near the projects of the armed forces." What do Egypt's generals fear? Yet despite its power, the Scaf was quite sensitive to certain factors. Pressure from the United States is one of them, due to arming, training, equipping, and financing. Street mobilisation is another factor. Most of the Scaf's pro-democracy decisions have come as a result of massive pressure from street protesters. These include the removal of Hosni Mubarak, his trial, and that of other regime figures, and bringing the date of the presidential election forward to June 2012 from June 2013. A third factor that influenced the Scaf's decision-making is the army's internal cohesion. "The sight of officers in uniform protesting in Tahrir Square and speaking on Al Jazeera really worries the field marshal," a former officer told me. One way to maintain internal cohesion is to create "demons" - a lesson learned from the "dirty wars" in Algeria in the 1990s and Argentina in the 1970s and 1980s. Coptic protesters were an easy target to rally soldiers and officers against. In October 2011, the army on a rally protesting against the burning of a church. Twenty-eight Christian Copts were killed and more than 200 protesters were injured, but : "The Christians - sons of dogs - killed us!" The systematic demonisation of anti-Scaf revolutionary groups, and the violent escalation that followed in November and December 2011, served the same purpose. After the coup of July 2013, the Muslim Brothers and Islamists became the new/old "demons". The armed versus the elected A forward step was taken towards balancing civilian-military relations following the election of President Mohammed Morsi in 2012. In August of that year, Mr Morsi was not only able to freeze the constitutional addendum enforced by the Scaf in June 2012, but also to purge the generals who had issued it (Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawy and his deputy, General Sami Anan). There was a price to pay for such moves, though. In the 2012 constitution, approved by 63.83% of Egyptian voters, civilian-military relations were far from balanced. Not only would the defence minister have to exclusively be a military officer (article 195), but also the National Defence Council (NDC) would have a majority of military commanders (article 197). This effectively gives the military a veto over any national security or sensitive foreign policy issue. "If you add one of yours, I will add one of mine," yelled General Mamdouh Shahin, the army representative in the Constitutional Assembly, at Mohammed el-Beltagy, a now-wanted Muslim Brotherhood leader. The latter suggested an additional civilian in the NDC, the head of the treasury committee in the parliament. His suggestion was rejected. And it was all . The July coup: From 2013 to 1954? The July 2013 coup could lead Egypt into several bleak scenarios. They are not certain, but the future of Egypt's democracy is certainly in danger. When elected institutions are removed by military force, past patterns show that the outcome is almost never favourable to democracy: outright military dictatorship, military-domination of politics with a civilian facade, civil war, civil unrest or a mix of all of the above. A few highlights include Spain in 1936, Iran in 1953, Chile in 1973, Turkey in 1980, Sudan in 1989, and Algeria in 1992. The July coup is a backward step for democratic civilian-military relations. Even more worrying are its regional implications. The message sent by the coup to Libya, Syria, Yemen and beyond is that of militarising politics: only arms guarantee political rights, not the constitution, not democratic institutions and certainly not votes. In the end, what remains certain is that no democratic transition is complete without targeting abuse, eradicating torture, ending exclusion, and annulling the impunity of security services, with effective and meaningful civilian control of both the armed forces and the security establishment. This will always be the ultimate test of Egypt's democratic transition. is a Senior Lecturer in Middle East Politics and Security Studies at the University of Exeter. He is non-resident Fellow at the Brookings Doha Center and the author of and .3 October 2013Last updated at 19:30 GMT Egypt to take over banned Muslim Brotherhood assets Egypt's government is moving to seize the assets of the Muslim Brotherhood after the group's activities were banned amid a crackdown by authorities. It says it will also ban or take over the extensive social services the group provides - including hospitals, schools and charities. The ban came in a recent court ruling but has only now been confirmed following a hiatus for appeals. "By the law, by the last sentence, they are now banned," an official said. Hani Mahanna, spokesman for the minister of social solidarity - the ministry responsible for administering the ban - said the cabinet had formed a committee to investigate the Brotherhood's sources of funds and take over its assets. He said if charities were proven to have links, "direct or indirect, with the Muslim Brotherhood - whether educational or medical - they will be bound by the court's decision, and the government will have to take them over." 'Held accountable' The 15-day appeal window on the ban was due to expire on Monday, but was imposed early so the cabinet would not be forced to meet again over the upcoming three-day public holiday, reports the BBC's Quentin Sommerville in Cairo. The Muslim Brotherhood was swept to power in Egypt 14 months ago. Its president, Mohammed Morsi, has not been seen in public since he was ousted by the military in July, following mass protests against his rule. Most of the group's leaders are in jail and it says that many of its supporters have died in the crackdown. Asked about how the ban would affect the group's millions of supporters, Mr Mahanna told the BBC that "millions" was an exaggeration of the true number, which he put at hundreds of thousands. "At the end of the day, they are Egyptian citizens," he said. "Those who abide by the law and the constitution have full rights but also at the same time, those who break the law will be held accountable." Despite the ban, Brotherhood supporters continue to take to the streets to protest - albeit in smaller numbers than before. A group that has spent most of its 85-year existence in the shadows is once again being forced underground - but like before, the Brotherhood is unlikely to disappear from Egyptian life, our correspondent says.DefendantChargesVerdictWhereabouts Hosni Mubarak, former president Torah Prison, Cairo Gamal Mubarak, president's younger son, businessman and ex-ruling party official Torah Prison, Cairo Alaa Mubarak, president's elder son, businessman Torah Prison, Cairo Habib al-Adly, former interior minister Torah Prison, Cairo Ahmed Nazif, former prime minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali, former finance minister Extradition requested from UK Rachid Mohammed Rachid, former trade minister Extradition requested from Qatar Ahmed al-Maghrabi, former housing minister Corruption May 2012: Five-year prison sentence Anas al-Fekky, former information minister Corruption Zuhair Garranah, former tourism minister Corruption Torah Prison, Cairo Osama al-Sheikh, former head of state TV Corruption Sept 2012: Sentenced to five years in prison Hussein Salem, business tycoon and Mubarak confidant Not guilty. Retrial ordered. Freed on bail in Spain; Extradition requested Ahmed Ezz, steel magnate and ex-ruling party official Torah Prison, Cairo16 August 2013Last updated at 21:26 GMT Egypt under pressure from Brotherhood and military By Mishal HusainCairo From the moment the Muslim Brotherhood announced plans for a "Day of Anger", the stage was set for potential violence. We made our way to Ramses Square as Friday prayers came to an end, only to find one road after another blocked by the army. Their resolve to seal off the area as far as possible was already clear. In the end we made it to a bridge overlooking the gathering - many Muslim Brotherhood supporters found themselves in the same position. The chanting had begun: "The Interior Ministry are thugs", 'If Sisi goes, Morsi will return". There was not a woman in sight and emotions were already running high. The sight of a military helicopter overhead enraged the crowd around me, who started shouting at it and showing it the soles of their shoes, a sign of disrespect. Through the day, the desire of the authorities not to allow the establishment of a new protest camp was clear. From different parts of Cairo came the reports of marchers being blocked from approaching Ramses Square - we saw one of those confrontations unfold right outside the luxury Four Seasons hotel, a short distance across the Nile from our location. Polarised attitudes The battle for Egypt is between two uncompromising sides, and it is the polar attitudes of the army and the Muslim Brotherhood that are commanding the most airtime. But there are many Egyptians whose views lie somewhere in the middle and who must not be forgotten, who are trying to run businesses, get to work, or perhaps simply exist in an atmosphere where no one is completely sure what tomorrow will bring. I think of the man who came up to our team outside the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, asking if we could help him. He owned a flower shop opposite the mosque's entrance, which is now no more than a burned-out shell. He didn't want airtime but advice - who did we think he should speak to about the loss of his property and his livelihood? I think of another man, this time on that bridge overlooking Ramses Square, who said he was not a member of the Brotherhood but was angry that a leader Egypt had elected had been unceremoniously removed. And I think of the wise words of the actor and activist Khalid Abdalla, star of films such as Green Zone and United 93, to whom I first spoke on the night that former President Hosni Mubarak fell back in February 2011. Since then he's been involved with an activist group "Mosireen", committed to documenting abuses in Egypt. "These are dark days," he told me, frustrated at the narrative of political division rather than the institution-building he longs to see. Heated debate As we stood talking by the Nile, a group of Cairo passers-by stopped, and started calling out to us, asking about Khalid's political allegiances. Soon it became impossible for us to continue the interview and Khalid was soon engaged in a heated debate. Some in the group were angrier than others - one in particular accused the BBC of bias. This was one thankfully non-violent moment in a day that sadly brought more death to Cairo. But the emotion and anger was a reminder of how quickly tensions can spill over in a country in the midst of extreme turmoil.30 August 2013Last updated at 01:06 GMT Egypt: What poll results reveal about Brotherhood's popularity By Nicholas WadeBBC Middle East analyst Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood won every democratic vote held in Egypt since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak - but the results alone do not give a true picture of the strength of their popularity. Assessing the popularity of Arab presidents, their political parties, and ideologies had long been impossible, given the absence of free speech and assembly under the Middle East's authoritarian governments. That changed with the Arab Spring when democracy, which evolved over centuries in most countries, was introduced almost overnight into several of the region's states. Egypt's famous revolution of 2011 now faces profound challenges, but it did bring - for a few years at least - democratic institutions: Two referendums, and three elections, all largely free and fair and, so the adage goes, all won by the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). So how is it that the Brotherhood, which formed Egypt's first democratic government, now finds hundreds of its supporters dead, its leaders arrested, and its very legality once again questioned as it confronts vigorous suppression by the military authorities? How can the army have done this in the name of "popular demand"? And how is it that millions of Egyptians have gathered to support the military's policy? Part of the answer lies in scrutiny of the notion that the Brotherhood won Egypt's five democratic votes, or that these victories represented mass popular appeal. A deeper explanation is that whilst these votes were political victories for the Brotherhood, they were not evidence of widespread popularity. The Brotherhood's support base was more limited, and Egypt's politics more polarised, than the group's electoral success seemed to suggest. First vote: Constitutional referendum of March 2011 Egyptians voted on whether to amend the existing constitution, or scrap it altogether. The Brotherhood campaigned for amendment rather than abolition, an argument which won by receiving 77% of votes in favour rather than 23% against. But referendums are votes on issues, not political parties, and the Brotherhood was one of several prominent groups campaigning for amendment. Calling the result a victory for the Brotherhood alone is therefore problematic, and regarding the result as a symbol of the Brotherhood's broad popularity is harder still. Second vote: Elections to People's Assembly, Nov 2011-Jan 2012 The Brotherhood's FJP was one of dozens of competing parties. in the People's Assembly, the lower house of parliament, , when of the electorate. Other more conservative Islamist groups also did well, winning 25% of the seats. So it was an FJP victory in the sense that it was the single best performing party, and it achieved a strong position to influence legislation. But its vote numbers, and the turnout figures, make it hard to see this vote as a sign of broad popularity for the FJP. Third vote: Elections to Shura Council, Jan-Feb 2012 Again, the FJP is the single best performing party, from . So another victory for its place in the legislative process, but again hardly an indication of widespread popular support. of registered voters. Fourth vote: Presidential election, June 2012 Mohammed Morsi, representing the FJP and Muslim Brotherhood, won less than a quarter of the votes in the first round. Yet in the second round he achieved the group's best ever electoral performance - from a turnout of 52%. But keep in mind that Mr Morsi's opponent in that second round, just over a year after the revolution which deposed Hosni Mubarak, was Ahmad Shafik, the former president's last prime minister, fellow officer, and close confidant. So 48% of those Egyptians who voted preferred to vote for Mr Mubarak's associate, rather than Mohammad Morsi. The Brotherhood's most important victory may therefore have revealed the true depth of Egypt's political polarisation. Fifth vote: Constitutional referendum of Dec 2012 This referendum was far more controversial then the first, and far more a vote on the Brotherhood's popularity. Several liberal and Christian groups had withdrawn from the assembly tasked with writing Egypt's new constitution, complaining that Islamists were dominating the process. Yet far from allowing an annulment of the document, as the opposition would have liked, Mr Morsi issued a temporary decree giving himself immunity from prosecution and allowing an assembly now dominated by Islamists to pass their final draft of the constitution. The document was put to a public vote, and the opposition called on their supporters to boycott the referendum. The Brotherhood, and other Islamist, urged their supporters to vote. The constitution was approved, 64% in favour and 35% against, but the of the electorate. Once again, this was a political victory for the Brotherhood, but not a demonstration that it enjoyed mass support. Indeed, the unpopularity of the group's government amongst many Egyptians was becoming increasingly apparent. So the Brotherhood's "five victories" were favourable political results, but they concealed that the group's base of dedicated political support was smaller - even at its height - than many believed possible given its organisational capabilities. The Brotherhood has enjoyed, and still enjoys a significant support base. Yet analysis of past votes indicates that it never achieved mass popularity. Opinion polls can be doubted, and election data can be interpreted in different ways, and neither can fully explain how the Muslim Brotherhood went from power to persecution within the space of a few weeks. That may nevertheless help explain why some Egyptians have reacted to its fate with celebration rather than shock.27 August 2013Last updated at 10:40 GMT Egypt's General al-Sisi: The man behind the image By Edward StourtonBBC News The bitterness Muslim Brotherhood supporters feel towards General Abdul al-Sisi, the Egyptian Defence Minister and Armed Forces chief who deposed President Mohammed Morsi last month, is all the greater because many of them thought of him as one of their own. At the time of his appointment to the top military job last year there was, according to Mahmoud Khalifa, a university lecturer and Brotherhood member, a consensus "that General Sisi was a religious person". Indeed he says that "some people accused him?? [of being] a Muslim Brotherhood member in disguise. There were claims that he memorised the Koran and so on - for a moment I believed he was the guy for the job". Today his view is very different. Hundreds of people, most of them Muslim Brotherhood members, have died since Gen Sisi's coup. "In comparison with him, [former President Hosni] Mubarak was an angel", Dr Khalifa declares. "The pious thing was just a marketing technique". The general's friends and admirers - and in today's Egypt they are many - emphatically reject the claim of sham piety. But the evidence that he is a man who likes to control his image is strong. Mike Giglio, the Middle East correspondent for Newsweek and the Daily Beast website, was commissioned to write an al-Sisi profile, and describes it as the most challenging assignment he has ever been given. "It was, incredibly?? difficult to dig up even the smallest personal details", he said. When he and his team started to research in areas where the family had roots they found that even people who were helpful at first would "make phone calls, then call us back and say they weren't able to speak". Mr Giglio concluded that Gen Sisi is "very, very conscious about image control. He has a plan about how he wants to be seen and how information should come out, and putting personal details out there right now is not part of that". Khaled Fahmy, Head of History at the American University of Cairo and a keen student of the Egyptian military, has concluded that he is not above using the sex appeal that comes with a general's uniform. Since President Morsi was deposed, Egyptian State TV has been playing a rousing armed-forces music video - al-Sisi's image features repeatedly in an almost erotic montage of rockets, tanks and lithe young men displaying balletic physical prowess. "Middle class and upper class women, [who are] increasingly important in the revolution find him younger, handsome, powerful, macho, in command", says Mr Fahmy. 'Consistently self-controlled' Egypt's new pharaoh - technically he remains defence minister, but no-one is in any doubt about where the power lies today - was born in 1954, and grew up in the Gamaleya district of the Egyptian capital. If you have visited Cairo as a tourist you may have shopped there - its street markets are famous - and you may even have bought a souvenir produced by the family workshop. The general's father, Hasan, set up a business making furniture and decorative knick-knacks in wood and mother-of-pearl. The household is said to have been pious and patriotic. And Mike Giglio turned up an intriguing insight into the way Gen Sisi senior liked to operate when he was making something. He would give individual workers tasks without telling them what the final product would look like. Then he would assemble the pieces himself. "When he'd pull back the curtain and show them what they had been working towards they were all amazed", Mr Giglio says, "they didn't see the final vision until it was in front of them." Al-Sisi junior has earned a reputation for calculating carefully before showing his hand. The army was a natural choice for an ambitious young man without much money or education to give him a start in life. On his way up the ranks he studied at the Staff College in Britain, and in 2005 was sent to the United States Army College in Pennsylvania for a master's degree. Sherifa Zuhur, a research professor who taught him in her seminars there, remembers a student with a "nimble mind" who was "consistently self-controlled and reflective". During his time at the college Abdul al-Sisi wrote a paper called Democracy in the Middle East, in which he argued that "the religious nature" of the region needed to be reflected in new democratic systems there. He complained that "governments tend towards secular rule, disenfranchising large segments of the population who believe religion should not be excluded from government. Religious leaders who step beyond their bounds in government matters are often sent to prison without trial". One can imagine any Muslim Brotherhood member reading that during the Mubarak years giving it a hearty "Hear, hear". Views like that may help to explain why he originally found favour with Mohammed Morsi. When Gen a-Sisi took over from Field Marshall Tantawi as Defence Minister and head of the Armed Forces a year ago, he was widely seen as Mr Morsi's man. But Khaled Fahmy believes that, pious Muslim though he may be, he always distrusted the Brotherhood. The army's antipathy to the organisation runs deep, and army service has been Gen Sisi's life. On 18 August Gen Sisi told Egyptians that he doesn't have political ambitions. "This is not the rule of the soldiers", he declared in a televised address, "nor is there the slightest desire to rule Egypt." Not everyone believes him, and, in Mike Giglio's judgement, "If Sisi did run in the upcoming elections he would win by a landslide - even his enemies admit that." This edition of was first broadcast on on Saturday, 24 August 2013. Listen again via the Radio 4 or the Profile .18 August 2013Last updated at 21:51 GMT Egyptian media in PR offensive targeting the West By Bethany BellBBC News For the past few days, Egypt's main Arabic-language state television stations have displayed a new logo in the corner of the screen. For the first time ever, it is a message in English. It says "Egypt fighting terrorism". It is in red, black and white, the colours of the Egyptian flag. Another television channel, the private station, ON TV, has started provided simultaneous English translations of its news broadcasts and talk shows. Its coverage, which is overwhelming pro-army, is clearly aimed at an international audience. The interim government and the army appear to have launched a major public relations offensive - aimed at the West. There is clearly deep sensitivity here at the criticism from the United States and the European Union over the bloody crackdown on those protesting the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi. On Sunday, Egypt's army chief, Gen Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, made his first public comments since hundreds of people were killed when the security forces cleared two protests camps where Morsi supporters had been camping out. In his long speech, there was a message for foreign journalists. "We will not stand idle in face of the destruction and torching of the country, the terrorising of the people and the sending of a wrong image to the Western media that there is fighting in the streets," the general said. The authorities have started holding news conferences in both English and Arabic. During one such event on Saturday, the presidential political adviser Mostafa Hegazy accused the Western media of ignoring attacks on police and the destruction of churches blamed on Islamists. "We as Egyptians feel deep bitterness towards coverage of the events in Egypt," he said. The private Al-Yawm al-Sabi news foundation has announced plans to launch an English news website because of what it calls "misleading Western media campaigns targeting Egypt to destabilise the country, affect its security, disseminate rumours and spread disunity among its people." It says its website will offer "intensive coverage of the ongoing events truthfully with documented videos and photos". It is not just the Western media that is being criticised. Egypt's Information Minister Dorreya Sharaf al-Din has threatened to review the legal status of the Qatar-based al-Jazeera TV, which she accused of threatening security and stability. Unlike the Egyptian state TV channels, al-Jazeera has given a lot of airtime to Muslim Brotherhood voices. 'Embarrassing situation' It frequently broadcasts pro-Morsi demonstrations and aired live video phone footage showing protesters inside the al-Fath mosque on Saturday as it was surrounded by the security forces. Al-Jazeera journalists say they have been harassed by the authorities. The Egyptian journalist and commentator Ahmad Samir says the authorities "are in a critical and embarrassing situation after the killing of large numbers of people". Angy Ghannam, from the BBC Monitoring office in Cairo, closely follows the daily reports in the papers, news bulletins and talk shows. She says initially state and private media concentrated on explaining the military-backed interim government's positions to the Egyptian people. But now she says there has been a change of focus. "After that the Egyptian media gave a lot of airtime to criticising the Western media coverage of the events in Egypt. However in the last few days, it is noticeable that some of them have started to blame themselves for not getting the message across to the international audiences." She says that in the past few days the Egyptian media has started a campaign to address the West. Mr Samir thinks that these attempts to win over Western public opinion are misguided, and points to the resignation of the interim Vice-President Mohamed ElBaradei. "ElBaradei with his big international experience, and as a Nobel prize winner, realised what happened could not be justified to the world. That was against his principles and that is why he resigned."25 December 2012Last updated at 21:46 GMT Egyptian voters back new constitution in referendum Nearly two-thirds of voters in an Egyptian referendum have supported a proposed new constitution, the election commission has announced. In all, 63.8% of voters cast Yes ballots in two stages, on 15 and 22 December. The commission announced the result live on state-run Nile News TV. Parliamentary elections must now take place within two months. Critics say the document, which has triggered mass protests, betrays the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak. He was ousted from power in February 2011 after nearly 30 years of authoritarian rule. 'Bridge divisions' After the referendum result was announced, dozens of anti-constitution protesters blocked one of Cairo's main bridges, setting tyres alight and stopping traffic. Prime Minister Hisham Qandil said there was "no loser" in the vote and called for co-operation with the government to restore the economy. to the vote by urging all sides in Egypt to commit themselves "to engage in an inclusive process to negotiate their differences". In a direct appeal to President Mohammed Morsi, spokesman Patrick Ventrell said that as democratically elected leader he had a "special responsibility... to bridge divisions, build trust and broaden support for the political process". President Morsi's mainly Islamist supporters say that the new constitution will secure democracy and encourage stability. Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie, on his Twitter account, called on Egyptians to "begin building our country's rebirth with free will... men, women, Muslims and Christians". But opponents accuse the president, who belongs to the Brotherhood, of pushing through a text that favours Islamists and does not sufficiently protect the rights of women or Christians, who make up about 10% of the population. Turnout was 32.9% of Egypt's total of 52 million voters, election commission President Samir Abul Maati told a news conference in Cairo. Mr Maati rejected opposition allegations that fake judges supervised some of the polling - one of several complaints relating to voting fraud made by the opposition National Salvation Front after each stage of voting. Egypt has recently seen large demonstrations by both critics and supporters of the constitution, which have occasionally turned violent. Before the first round of voting on 15 December, the opposition considered boycotting the referendum before deciding to back a No vote. Polling had to be held on two days because of a lack of judges prepared to supervise the process. The political divisions surrounding the referendum have led to economic uncertainty and a reported rush to buy US dollars. Currency exchanges in parts of Cairo were said to have run out of dollars. Before the result was announced, the authorities declared a limit of $10,000 (?6,200) for travellers into and out of Egypt. On Monday, Egypt's central bank issued a statement saying that the banks had "stable liquidity" to safeguard all deposits. The BBC's Bethany Bell in Cairo says President Morsi's government will soon have to take some unpopular measures to prop up the economy, which could hurt his party at the ballot box. With Egypt about to enter a parliamentary election campaign, the country remains very deeply split, our correspondent says.30 May 2012Last updated at 09:05 GMT Eight Afghan police killed in Badakhshan Taliban clash Eight Afghan policemen have been killed and two injured in fighting against the Taliban in the north-eastern province of Badakhshan, officials say. A spokesman for the provincial governor told the BBC that at least two militants were killed in the fighting. The three-hour gunfight took place in the remote mountainous district of Wardooj in north-eastern Badakhshan. Separately a bomb in the south of the country has killed a Nato soldier, officials say. The death brings the number of coalition troops killed in Afghanistan this year to 173. Nato has not provided any further details about Wednesday's attack. Officials say that insurgents have been more active in Badakhshan in recent months - attacking the police and forcibly collecting taxes from locals. In other developments: The UN on Wednesday released new figures which showed that despite the latest violence, the number of civilians killed in the war in the first four months of 2012 had dropped by 21% over the same period in 2011.3 October 2013Last updated at 17:00 GMT Eight Cambridgeshire cannabis gang members are jailed Eight men who made about ?10m growing cannabis "on an industrial scale" in Cambridgeshire have been jailed. The factory at Tree Farm in Haddenham, was raided by police on 8 July, 2010. Ringleader Kevin Hart, 43, of Elm Close, Huntingdon was jailed for 10 years in March 2012 and ordered to pay back more than ?1m. The case could not be reported until the final gang member, Neil Badcock, 45, of Linden Way, Haddenham was jailed for seven years earlier this week. Cambridgeshire Police said at the time it was discovered, the farm was the largest cannabis factory ever discovered in the county and "one of the most professional set-ups found in England and Wales". 'Organised and professional' More than 7,500 plants were found with a street value of ?1.75m and a yearly yield of about ?8m. Eight people were charged with conspiracy to produce cannabis. Hart, who managed the farm, pleaded guilty last year. A proceeds of crime investigation found he had made about ?8.5m from the venture, but claimed he could not pay it back. He was ordered to pay ?1m. Six further people pleaded guilty and were sentenced at Cambridge Crown Court in August 2011. They were jailed for between two-and-a-half and four years. Badcock, whose trial concluded on Tuesday, pleaded not guilty, but was found guilty by a jury. Det Insp Craig Harrison said the factory was run as a business with a clear and defined management structure, with staff paid wages depending on their role and responsibilities.RecruitmentThe Afghan National Army are more respected and liked by Afghans than the police, with some units now able to lead operations, albeit with help from Nato forces.However, dropout rates are still a major issue, as is a lack of leadership - especially at senior officer level.Most Afghan soldiers-in-the-making are illiterate, some are drug users and others had links with the Taliban.The ethnic balance is also a concern. Majority Pashtuns are under represented and so are other people from the insurgency-ridden south.23 August 2013Last updated at 10:07 GMT El Salvador profile El Salvador, which is Spanish for "the saviour" - or Jesus Christ - has been wracked by civil war and a succession of natural disasters. The tiny country is the most densely-populated state on the mainland of the Americas and is highly industrialised. But social inequality and a susceptibility to earthquakes have shaped much of modern El Salvador. In the 1980s El Salvador was ravaged by a bitter civil war. This was stoked by gross inequality between a small and wealthy elite, which dominated the government and the economy, and the overwhelming majority of the population, many of whom lived - and continue to live - in abject squalor. The war left around 70,000 people dead and caused damage worth $2bn, but it also brought about important political reforms. In 1992 a United Nations-brokered peace agreement ended the civil war, but no sooner had El Salvador begun to recover when it was hit by a series of natural disasters, notably Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and earthquakes in 2001. These left at least 1,200 people dead and more than a million others homeless. The economy depends heavily on the money sent home by Salvadoreans living in the US. Poverty, civil war, natural disasters and their consequent dislocations have left their mark on El Salvador's society, which is among the most crime-ridden in the Americas. Violent street gangs, known as "maras", were described by former President Saca as a "regional problem that requires regional solutions". One of the most notorious groups was started in the 1980s by Salvadoran immigrants in the US. El Salvador has one of the world's highest murder rates, with 71 per 100,000 residents in recent years.13 March 2013Last updated at 23:29 GMT Electric atmosphere as new Pope unveiled By Michael HirstBBC News, Rome There was elation on a rain-strewn St Peter's Square as white smoke billowed from the rusty chimney of the Sistine Chapel. Brollies bounced and flags swayed as the basilica bells rang out. The crowd swelled as Rome converged on the square, priests and pilgrims running to catch a glimpse of their new leader. Not everyone was overawed. Roberta Guerrera, an actress who lives in the city, was caught in the crowds as she tried to make her way to a nearby Buddhist meditation centre. She seemed bemused. But among the pilgrims clamouring to pass through the colonnades bordering the square, the mood was electric. They were kept waiting. Before he greeted them from the basilica balcony overlooking the square, the Pope had to accept the allegiance of his cardinals, don his new white vestments and stop at the Pauline chapel for prayer and contemplation of his new role. The crowd didn't mind - excitedly speculating about their new leader's identity. "Viva il Papa!" they chanted, as they waited to learn his name. Francesco. Pope Francis. The former cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, had chosen the name of an 12th Century Italian saint who turned his back on an aristocratic lifestyle to work with the poor. Once the crowd knew the name, their chants quickly turned to "Fran-ces-co! Fran-ces-co!" And then, to trumpet fanfare, the balcony curtains parted and he appeared above them, to bless them. But only after he had asked them to pray with - and for - him. It was a gesture appreciated by the crowd, who roared their approval. The Latin American contingent were particularly vocal. Tais and Nicole, visiting from Ecuador, said they were ecstatic to have Latin America's first Pope. They said they hoped he would help bring Catholics who have turned to newer Pentecostal Churches back to the fold in Latin America. And their expectations were big: "Bring peace to the world." For others, simply being on the square for the historic occasion was what mattered. Jenny Uebbing, originally from Denver but now living in Rome, said her son John-Paul was one of the last babies Benedict XVI blessed before he resigned. "We had to be here to say hello to the new Papa," she told the BBC, as John-Paul grinned. "It's been a long Lent but now it feels like Easter has come early."11 September 2013Last updated at 23:19 GMT Electric cars: Future of motorsport or green gimmick? By Russell HottenBusiness reporter, BBC News, Frankfurt motor show The future of motorsport was unveiled at the Frankfurt motor show. Well, that's what some people claim. An ambitious all-electric racing series starts next year, and the car to be used made its first public appearance. It looks like it should be on a Formula 1 grid, but this racer wants to take motorsport in a wholly different direction. The new Formula E championship hopes to prove that racing can move beyond the gas-guzzling roar of an F1 engine. There will be 10 teams and 20 drivers racing on roads - not racetracks - in 10 cities, with a preliminary line-up that includes Los Angeles, Berlin, Rio de Janeiro, London, Buenos Aires and Beijing. Alejandro Agag, chief executive of Formula E Holdings, the company running the series, accepts that it won't be easy winning over the hearts and minds of race fans bred on high-octane motor sport. And, yet, he is convinced that Formula E is in step with society's direction of travel. Look around the Frankfurt show and giant auditoriums are packed with carmakers promoting their eco-friendly technology. "Why should this move towards environmentally friendly cars not translate to motorsport?" he says. Nor would you want to bet against the series' success, given who is involved. The race car is designed and built by Spark Racing Technology and Renault. The chassis comes from Dallara, which for decades has provided some of the highest-spec racing bodies in motorsport. Much of the technical wizardry inside the car is from two big names in F1 - McLaren and Williams. And the tyres have been specially developed by Michelin. Sponsors - or partners - already signed up include US technology group Qualcomm, the transport giant DHL, and Tag Heuer, best known for its luxury watches. As with other sports, sponsorship is critical. "Many companies are looking for a sponsorship platform that ticks the CSR (corporate social responsibility) box. That makes Formula E very attractive," Mr Agag says. Injecting excitement Formula E can trace its roots to the European Commission, which had been pushing the motorsport industry to think about more sustainable forms of racing. The hope in Brussels was that it would give electric cars - once seen as a boring, even comical choice - and injection of excitement. So, the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), motorsport's governing body, explored ideas for racing powered by more eco-friendly means. Eventually, Formula E Holdings, backed by a group of international investors, was formed and awarded commercial rights by the FIA to hold a championship. So is Formula E really anyhing more than a marketing exercise? "Yes, in a way, in that the aim is to have more electric cars on the roads," says Mr Agag. "But one way of achieving that is to hold a great race. "Electric cars have barriers in terms of perception. But we can be a technological platform, a technology test-bed," he says. There was an era when F1 was a test-bed for technology that eventually filtered down into road cars. F1's tighter rules and regulations mean that's not so true these days. But Mr Agag believes that the adage "racing improves the breed" can ring true in Formula E. Speed record There's no doubt that alternative-powered motorsport is increasingly common. At the has proved the power of its hybrid technology, and next year Nissan will enter an all-electric car. Drag racing and motorbike manufacturers have experimented with electric technology for years. In June, Lord Drayson, a motorsport fan and former minister under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, - that was 30mph better than the previous best. Drayson Racing is one of the teams to have signed up to compete in Formula E. Divided opinion But Formula E has many sceptics. The limited battery life of the race cars means the drivers will compete in two cars for about 25 minutes each, swapping between cockpits when the power expires. Traditional motorsport fans love the sound and fury of F1. But And there's also the difference in speed, more than 300km/h in F1 against a maximum of 220km/h in Formula E. F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, a man who knows a thing or two about putting on a motorsport spectacle, has voiced his doubts about Formula E. "We are very respectful of his opinion," says Mr Agag. "He has great vision. On the other hand, we have our own vision and our job is to convince him." The two men know each other well. Mr Agag served as chairman of Queen Park Rangers when Mr Ecclestone was part of a consortium that bought the football club. Mr Agag says: "I talk to him from time to time. I have got his curiosity for the moment. There is no animosity; just a little scepticism." Jean Todt, president of the FIA, called Formula E "a vision of the future". And this comes from a man who built his reputation in rally car racing and then as head of F1's most famous competitor, Ferrari. He told the BBC: "F1 is the pinnacle of motor racing, but there is plenty of space for other championships, from endurance racing to touring car, to karting - and definitely Formula E." He rejected claims that Formula E is simply a promotional exercise to improve motorsport's image. "Sport is a mixture of good partners. If you want to have success you need good technical partners, good commercial partners, good marketing partners. "The names involved in Formula E are very impressive. It is very important for the future." Younger audience Establishing a fan-base will be vital to Formula E's success, and it has struck an important deal to have the series broadcast by the Fox television network. Win over the fans, and that will draw in sponsors and encourage more investment in the sport. But Mr Agag is not only interested in winning over traditional fans. He believes there is a new, younger audience to be captured. There are ambitious plans to enhance the digital aspect of the series. A video game is in development that will allow fans watching TV to race in real time with the competitors. Also, the racing cars will have a power-boost function to increase passing speed, and fans will be able to vote when it is used during the race. There are plenty of broadband infrastructure and GPS positioning issues still to be resolved. "But it's all do-able," Mr Agag says. "We want fans to be able to interact." Mr Agag says it is important to remember that Formula E is new. The sport will evolve as the technology improves and the popularity of electric racing grows. In the first year, all the teams will use a common car. But teams will be encouraged to develop their own individual vehicles. And he hopes that one day, Tesla, the US firm behind the popular electric sports car, can be persuaded to get involved. Mr Agag says he is not out to compete with F1 or any other championship. But he believes Formula E will be a big noise (figuratively speaking) in motorsport and who knows, may one day consign the term "petrolhead" to history.3 October 2013Last updated at 15:59 GMT Eleven fans charged over disorder after Edinburgh derby Eleven men have been charged following a large disturbance after an Edinburgh derby. Police were called to the Lothian Road and Bread Street areas on 11 August to deal with disorder between fans of Hearts and Hibs. The arrested men, aged between 26 and 42, are from Edinburgh, West Lothian and East Lothian. They were all due to appear at the city's sheriff court on Thursday and Friday. Insp Gary Dickson said: "The disturbances that took place following August's derby match caused great alarm to local residents and patrons of the nearby businesses."17 September 2013Last updated at 09:20 GMT Embryo 'chatter' clues to fertility By James GallagherHealth and science reporter, BBC News The "chemical chatter" that determines whether an embryo can implant in the womb has been detailed by scientists. It is important for the lining of the womb to know if an embryo is healthy before allowing it to implant, but how this is done was unclear. A study by the universities of Southampton and Warwick has shown the amount of a chemical, trypsin, helps determine whether an embryo implants. It is hoped the discovery will lead to new fertility treatments. When a sperm fertilises an egg and begins to divide and grow, the process does not always go smoothly. "A lot of embryos have chromosomal abnormalities so there must be a mechanism to stop a pregnancy," fertility scientist Prof Nick Macklon told the BBC. "So the question is how does the endometrium [the lining of the uterus] detect the quality?" Chatter Research to be presented at the Reproductive Biology conference at the University of Southampton shows chemicals given off by an early-stage embryo give the endometrium clues. Trypsin seem to be critical. If the chemical is at the right level, then it changes the nature of womb to make it more inclined to accept the embryo. But if the levels are out, then the lining becomes stressed and less likely to accept. Prof Macklon said: "With a good embryo then the good response is turned up to allow implantation, if there's a bad embryo then the endometrium responds to reject the embryo. "We've identified the pathways which signal this change and this has a big clinical context as implant failure is still the major cause of IVF failure." Better odds He said large numbers of couple had fertility problems and that he hoped breakthroughs in understanding how an embryo implanted successfully could improve the odds in IVF. Monitoring the signals given off by an embryo could help choose which ones to implant during IVF, although this idea has not yet been tested. It could also help to explain recurrent miscarriage, which in some cases has been linked to women being "super-fertile" and accepting embryos that should be rejected. However, research will have to progress carefully as forcing a poor quality embryo to implant would lead to serious problems. Prof Siobhan Quenby, who is also a spokeswoman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: "It's a really exciting mechanism, but the challenge is turning it into a treatment, I lie in bed at night thinking about how you would turn this into a treatment. "It's beautiful science, but we're not there yet."2 October 2013Last updated at 10:40 GMT Emmy success for BBC World News Syria coverage BBC World News has won a prize for its coverage of the Syria conflict at the news and documentary Emmy awards in New York. The series of reports, entitled Inside Syria's Uprising, saw journalists Ian Pannell and Paul Wood reporting from rebel-held parts of Syria. The main winner was US broadcaster CBS, which took home 12 awards. Channel 4 News and ITV also collected awards for news and current affairs at the same ceremony. The latter awards were International Emmys, which were presented in conjunction with the news and documentary Emmys at Tuesday's ceremony. Channel 4 News was the winner in the news category for The Battle for Homs, its coverage of the shelling of the Syrian city of Homs by government forces in February 2012. Others nominated in the category included the GMA Network in the Philippines and Brazil's TV Globo. The award in the current affairs category went to ITV for Banaz: An Honour Killing, which told of a young British Kurdish woman killed in suburban London by her own family. Awards were presented in 42 categories in all, including breaking news, investigative reporting, outstanding interview and best documentary. BBC World News beat stiff competition from major US broadcasters to take the accolade for news coverage of the Syria conflict, including CNN, NBC and CBS. Andrew Roy, editor of BBC World News, said the award was "testament to the extraordinary personal commitment and bravery" of BBC journalists who were "prepared to risk their lives to tell the true story from Syria's frontlines". "It has been, and remains, one of the most difficult stories we have ever covered," he added. "We will continue to share this story with the world."5 March 2012Last updated at 23:25 GMT Employment tribunals: Government considers overhaul By Kevin PeacheyPersonal finance reporter, BBC News, Leeds In a sun-filled tribunal room overlooking the rooftops of Leeds, a 20-year-old chef nervously explains how his former employer failed to pay his wages. The young man, dressed in a white shirt and sitting close to his mother, is told he is not the first employee of this restaurant forced to go to a tribunal to chase what he is owed. In neighbouring tribunal room C, a tax authority employee tells the panel why he believes he has been the victim of workplace discrimination while suffering from asthma. It is a typical day of - but the rules are set to change as the government considers an overhaul of proceedings in these courts. Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly claims the system "weighs heavily on the public purse". Under the plans, those bringing a case to a tribunal, claiming anything from unfair dismissal to sexual discrimination, would be charged a fee for a service that, for now, is free. The plans have been dismissed as "chequebook justice" by the TUC, which says that the move will be seized upon by unscrupulous employers to "discriminate at will". Suited panel Step into any tribunal room across the country and you will find it to be a mix of modern and traditional, of formality and informality. In fact, when employment tribunals were created in the 1960s, they were supposed to be free of jargon and legal representation was discouraged. In Leeds, you will often see three middle-aged suited men sit as a panel on a raised platform scribbling down notes as they listen intently to the evidence presented to them. Yet there are none of the gowns or wigs you will see in a criminal Crown Court, and tribunal judges make an obvious effort to explain the proceedings to claimants in simple, accessible terms. For the young, apprehensive chef, the proceedings last less than an hour. He explains to a solitary tribunal judge how he was not paid all his wages during five weeks of work at the restaurant in Leeds. "Every time I asked them for my wages, they said they did not have the key to the safe, or I would have to wait for a manager to come in," he says. He expected to be paid ?5 an hour, just above the level of the national minimum wage. After complaining, he was invited to resign and, in the end, felt obliged to do so. Nobody from the restaurant bothered to turn up to the hearing, to hear the tribunal judge accept the young man's evidence, and rule that his wages were unlawfully deducted and that he was effectively unfairly dismissed. 'Slow, expensive and daunting' Under the government's proposals, anyone who wins a case against their employer will be refunded any fee they pay at the start of the tribunal process. It is unlikely the young chef, someone of limited financial means, would have to pay all or any of the initial fee to bring the case if the rules change. In the adjacent tribunal room in the eight-court complex in Leeds, a senior science teacher is bringing a case against a local council for constructive dismissal. People like him are much more likely to face a fee - of anything between ?200 and more than ?1,750 - to have a tribunal case heard from April 2013, under the government's plans. ends on Tuesday. The position of Mr Djanogly, the minister overseeing the plans, is that the introduction of fees will reduce spurious claims from those who, at present, can bring a case for free and so have nothing to lose. It would also encourage discussion, conciliation and mediation in the workplace without the need to go through the "slow, expensive and daunting" experience of court. The Treasury says that, even now, more than 80% of applications made to an employment tribunal do not result in a full hearing. Almost 40% of applicants withdraw their cases, but employers still have to pay legal fees in preparing a defence. More than 40% settle out of court, and there is no record of how much applicants settle for. Reducing these cases would give employers more confidence to hire people, according to the CBI. This "red tape" will be reduced from April when the normal qualifying period of employment to go to a tribunal is doubled to two years, a move that the government estimates will lead to 2,000 fewer claims. The financial argument made by the minister is that the 218,100 claims and 2,048 appeals brought in 2010-11 in England, Wales and Scotland cost a total of ?84m. This cost is being picked up by taxpayers "despite the fact that most of them will never use the service", the minister argues. 'Chequebook justice' This last point is particularly abhorrent to the TUC, which would argue that open justice is far more important that whether workers would consider paying for it. "This is chequebook justice pure and simple and is a profoundly regressive step," TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said in a speech in January. "As so few discrimination claims succeed at tribunal anyway, many potential claimants, particularly those who lack the support of a union, would be put off from making a claim - giving a green light to unscrupulous employers to discriminate at will. "That is something that ought to concern everyone who cares about justice, fairness and equality." Cases heard at tribunals range from claims of discrimination - on the grounds of disability, race, sex, age, sexual orientation, religion or belief - to a breach of contract, failure of employers to pay various entitlements or equal pay. The median average award made by a tribunal is ?5,000. The 20-year-old chef, now a student, was awarded ?2,489 in unpaid wages and compensation. But his battle is not over. Nobody was at court from the restaurant company to sign the cheque, and tribunals do not have enforcement powers. His next stop is the county court, and another legal process to ensure payment is made. As the government plans for some workers to pay for justice, this young chef has to wait for justice to pay.13 March 2013Last updated at 07:52 GMT En pointe to tackle Parkinson's disease By Lorna StewartHealth Check, BBC World Service When Peter Linton was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease four years ago, his first thought wasn't to take up ballet. The condition affects Peter's coordination, makes movement slower and less controlled, and gives him difficulties with balance and walking. Ballet, you might think, would be last thing to which he was suited. But in the rehearsal rooms at the English National Ballet, as the piano thumps out music from the Nutcracker, he lifts his arms ready to dance. He now he attends weekly ballet classes specifically targeted at people living with Parkinson's to help balance and coordination - and, in the process, he has found a new way to express himself. "Physical exercises are just that, but music adds a new dimension to what we are doing," he said. "We're trying to express ourselves, not only in dance but responding to the music. And that I find really quite absorbing." Finding means of expression is especially important for people living with Parkinson's, because many of their symptoms make communication, both verbal and non-verbal, difficult. Expressive art forms such as dance might offer new hope. The weekly Dance for Parkinson's classes are being run by the English National Ballet. "After the class one feels better in several different ways," said Peter. "First, is the purely physical side - you've had some exercise, sometimes quite vigorous, to loosen the muscles and improve the tone. "And then comes the music - you've had an hour of very beautiful music, and that adds this emotional dimension. And then are the social things as well - the cup of tea after the class." Researchers at the University of Roehampton, led by Dr Sara Houston, are measuring the observed changes in patients' physical and emotional well-being. The study, which will run for two more years, monitors changes in patients' balance and stability, as well as interviewing them about their experiences. "We are examining the experience that people might have dancing with Parkinson's," Dr Houston told the BBC. "That experience encompasses changes in physicality, as well as perceptions of what people can do, health and well-being." Medication limits There is no cure for Parkinson's, but symptoms can be helped in the short-term by medication. However, drug treatments become less effective after only a few years, leaving patients to cope as best they can with their worsening symptoms. It is hoped that benefits seen from the ballet classes will help to slow down the inevitable deterioration faced by patients. Danielle Jones is the lead dance artist for Dance for Parkinson's. She helped to develop the programme and now teaches the classes. "It's not like physical therapy, it's about being creative and expressive with movement. We try to improve a feeling of flow, a feeling of grace, and most importantly freedom," she said. "What I notice in the participants is their confidence to believe in themselves as movers, as dancers - to understand that they are capable of these things. "So they are able to take risks [in their movements] and do it in a creative and expressive way." Finding means of expression can be a particular challenge for Parkinson's patients. The disease affects an estimated seven to 10 million people worldwide and research suggests more than three-quarters of patients have difficulties with speech and voice. "They have difficulty expressing themselves in a number of ways," said Dr Houston. "Firstly, through speech, which due to Parkinson's often gets slurred or diminishes in loudness. "And also because of stiffness and slowness of muscles, facial expressions don't work as well so often it's difficult for people with Parkinson's to communicate, and through communication to express themselves." And the Dance for Parkinson's classes may offer one way for patients to address those difficulties. Dr Houston's research is revealing just how much dance has to offer above simple exercise and movement. "People are valuing the dance for its expressive inputs. They perceive it to be something that they can communicate through. "This extra dimension in dance, which you don't get through other physical activities, the imaginative element, becomes very important to people." For Peter, who has had a fondness for ballet for more than 40 years, the classes certainly seem to be having positive effects. "There's no doubt in my mind that doing more exercise does improve the symptoms. "They'll never get better but at least they won't get worse. And some people tell me that I now look and behave better than I did three years ago."29 September 2013Last updated at 19:04 GMT End war on drugs, says Durham police chief Mike Barton Class A drugs should be decriminalised and drug addicts "treated and cared for not criminalised", according to a senior UK police officer. , Chief Constable Mike Barton of Durham Police said prohibition had put billions of pounds into the hands of criminals. He called for an open debate on the problems caused by drugs. The Home Office reiterated its stance and said drugs were illegal because they were dangerous. 'Controlled' The chief constable - who is the intelligence lead for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) - said he believed decriminalisation of Class A drugs would take away the income of dealers, destroy their power, and that a "controlled environment" would be a more successful way of tackling the issue. He said when faced with the "extremely damaging" impacts of alcohol, his argument to decriminalise drugs may appear weakened, but called for an open and honest debate on the matter. on the government to follow the advice of the Home Affairs Committee and introduce a Royal Commission on drug law reform. Mr Barton said: "If an addict were able to access drugs via the NHS or something similar, then they would not have to go out and buy illegal drugs. "Buying or being treated with, say, diamorphine is cheap. It's cheap to produce it therapeutically. "Not all crime gangs raise income through selling drugs, but most of them do in my experience. So offering an alternative route of supply to users cuts their income stream off. "What I am saying is that drugs should be controlled. They should not, of course, be freely available." Mr Barton compared drugs prohibition to the ban on alcohol in the US in the 1920s which fuelled organised crime. Mr Barton told the Observer: "Have we not learned the lessons of prohibition in history?" "The Mob's sinister rise to prominence in the US was pretty much funded through its supply of a prohibited drug, alcohol. That's arguably what we are doing in the UK." 'Revenue for villains' He said some young people saw drug dealers as glamorous gangsters and envied their wealth. The officer said drug addicts must be treated and cared for and encouraged to break the cycle of addiction - they did not need to be criminalised. He said: "I think addiction to anything - drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc - is not a good thing, but outright prohibition hands revenue streams to villains. "Since 1971 [the Misuse of Drugs Act] prohibition has put billions into the hands of villains who sell adulterated drugs on the streets. "If you started to give a heroin addict the drug therapeutically, then we would not have the scourge of hepatitis C and Aids spreading among needle users, for instance. I am calling for a controlled environment, not a free-for-all." According to by Public Health England, 120 of 6,364 newly-diagnosed HIV cases in 2012 were said to have been acquired through injecting drugs. New laws were announced in July by Home Secretary Theresa May to allow drug treatment providers the opportunity to offer addicts foil - used as a surface to heat up drugs like heroin - as part of efforts to get addicts into treatment, and to protect their health. The number of heroin and crack cocaine users in England have fallen below 300,000 for the first time, according to figures by the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse. The figure peaked at 332,090 in 2005-06 before dropping to 298,752 in 2010-11. War on drugs Mr Barton said if the "war on drugs" meant trying to reduce illicit supply then it had failed. There were 43 organised crime groups on their radar in the Durham Constabulary area alone, he added. Mr Barton is among a small number of top police officers in the UK who have called for a major review of drugs policy. Durham's police and crime commissioner, Ron Hogg, said he agreed with Mr Barton's stance. "Mike and I are totally at one on this," he said. "We've had a number of discussions about drugs and whether we should decriminalise and take control. Our current view is quite simple: that the current drugs strategy legislation has not succeeded." Mr Hogg said Mr Barton was taking a responsible position, and added: "Crime will decrease if we can actually legalise or decriminalise drugs usage and treat the offender rather than deal with the symptoms thereafter, and that's what we really have to focus on." Chief Constable Andy Bliss, who is Acpo's lead on drug-related crime, said it was up to MPs to decide whether to legalise drugs. He said: "Government policy on drugs enforcement is very clear and unambiguous and our job as police officers is to enforce the law. "Clearly, a senior colleague like Mike Barton is entitled to his views and he has added his contribution to the national debate, but it would be Acpo's position that these are matters for parliament to decide." Danny Kushlick, of Transform Drug Policy Foundation, said the group was delighted to see a serving chief constable willing to stand up and "tell the truth ", that prohibition does not work. A Home Office spokesman said: "Drugs are illegal because they are dangerous. They destroy lives and blight communities. "The UK's approach on drugs remains clear, we must help individuals who are dependent by treatment, while ensuring law enforcement protects society by stopping the supply and tackling the organised crime that is associated with the drugs trade."29 November 2012Last updated at 12:06 GMT Energy bill Q&A Finally, the government has published the long-awaited Energy Bill - its blueprint for power generation in the UK for decades to come. Or at least that was the plan. Some say it has fallen rather short. But what does it mean for you? Why has the government introduced the bill? Lots of reasons, but they basically boil down to making sure the UK has a secure and affordable energy supply. To meet European laws on dirty power stations, and to help meet its long-term carbon emissions targets, the government is closing some of the UK's biggest coal-fired plants in the next five years. A number of old nuclear power plants are also due to close in the 2020s. This will leave a big gap in the UK's energy supply, and this needs to be filled. To meet its emissions reduction and renewable energy targets, the government needs to increase the amount of energy produced by wind and nuclear power, in particular, but also other forms of clean energy such as biomass. It also wants the UK to be more self-sufficient for its energy, so it doesn't have to rely on other countries to supply our power and is less dependent on volatile and increasingly expensive global gas and oil prices. This, of course, costs money. A lot of money. So, that, by 2020, they can add a total of ?7.6bn to household bills to help pay for all the new power plants, windfarms etc. This, coincidently, is about the same amount as the UK currently spends on importing gas. By allowing energy providers to charge more, the government hopes they will have the confidence to invest heavily in clean power. Without that certainty, energy companies would, understandably, be unwilling to invest such vast sums of money. What will it mean for your energy bills? In short, they will go up. The government's own figures show that energy companies currently charge about ?20 extra per year to help pay for clean energy projects. This, it says, will rise to ?95 in 2020. Others think it will be slightly more. The advisory body by ?110, although this figure does include ?10 for energy efficiency measures. But what might happen to your bills without it? This is key. The government says that all of its energy policies will reduce bills by ?94 a year on average by 2020. Energy efficiency will mean we'll use less and we'll be less reliant on gas - so bills will not be as high as they would otherwise have been, it claims. Rising gas prices added about ?100 to the average bill between March last year and March this year, according to regulator Ofgem. And the International Energy Agency has forecast natural gas prices , even with an influx of cheap shale gas. The Committee on Climate Change agrees that bills would be higher without significant investment in clean energy. It is possible, therefore, that the Energy Bill, together with other measures to reduce carbon emissions, will actually save you money in the long run. Is there really a risk of the lights going out? In theory, yes. In practice, no. Because of the de-commissioning of coal - and ultimately nuclear - power plants, there will be a shortfall in energy production in the UK. The problem is the length of time needed to build new windfarms and nuclear power stations to fill it. For example, the UK's largest onshore windfarm - Scout Moor in the North West of England - took eight years simply to get from concept to commissioning. There is also the vital question of whether power companies are prepared to invest the huge sums of money needed to build these plants. Some commentators have already suggested the Energy Bill does not go far enough and does not provide the long-term certainty that is a pre-requisite for heavy investment. Ultimately, though, the government is not going to let the lights go out. If investment falls short and not enough clean energy capacity is built, it will have to resort to short-term measures, such as building new gas plants, that can be built relatively quickly, or simply import more energy from overseas.16 July 2013Last updated at 11:49 GMT Energy firm warns bills to rise by more than government forecasts By Roger HarrabinEnvironment analyst, BBC News Annual household energy bills by 2020 are likely to be ?100 higher than government projections, says energy firm RWE Npower. It says official predictions of future energy savings are over-optimistic and warns the annual average bill will be ?240 above current levels by 2020. The firm says it supports government plans to renew power networks and build more renewables such as wind and solar. But it says there must be more honesty about the costs of this investment. It comes as a new poll by Cardiff University suggests that the public is willing to pay extra for clean and reliable energy. 'Heroic assumptions' Both reports acknowledge, though, that the public does not trust energy firms or government - and both say trust must be restored if energy policy is to succeed. In Npower??s case, the trust exercise starts with a publication setting out exactly how bills are likely to rise in order to renew the creaking energy supply system and install clean energy supplies. The firm says it believes the government has underestimated the effect of this investment on bills, because its calculations rely on ??heroic?? assumptions about the energy individuals will save through efficiency and behaviour change. This criticism has frequently been levelled at the government??s projections. The firm warns that unless people strive much harder to reduce energy use, the average combined fuel bill in 2020 will be about ?1,487 a year - that's ?200 more than now and ?100 more than the government projects. The company says it is essential for energy firms - often accused of profiteering and misleading customers - to be honest about future bills. 'Blame game' The new chief executive of Npower, Paul Massara, said: ??Energy costs are rising. This is an indisputable fact, and it??s time that all of us involved in energy in the UK are upfront about it.?? He went on: ??We are very clear that we do not want to be critical of government - rather, we want to ensure customers have the facts, so that they understand that for this cost, they will get a low-carbon economy, security of supply and warm, insulated homes.?? He said his firm was calling for an end to the energy ??blame game??. The report is issued coincidentally as the academic body, the UK Energy Research Centre, warns that plans for a clean energy future risk being undermined by lack of trust. A poll of about 2,500 people commissioned through Cardiff University suggests that the public is worried about dependency on fossil fuel imports (82%); keen to reduce use of fossil fuels (79%); supportive of power from the sun (85%) and wind (75%); and concerned about climate change (74%). The report??s authors say people are willing to pay extra to obtain a stable energy supply. The lead author, Prof Nick Pidgeon, said people would also pay more overall to avoid sudden peaks in prices. He said the researchers had not tested specific figures in the poll because projections about future energy costs were ??notoriously slippery??. Keeping the lights on ??What??s interesting is that despite what you might see in parts of the media, it??s clear that very broadly the public want a long-term commitment to clean energy,?? he told BBC News. ??But the trust issue is critical. We have seen protests round energy system developments like wind farms over recent years. There won??t be all the investment that??s needed on energy systems if the energy firms and the government can??t persuade people to trust them.?? He said young people dependent on electronic gadgets were very worried about the prospect of black-outs and willing to pay to avoid them. But he envisages a Catch-22 in which the government and energy firms fail to deliver the energy future that people want, because the public don??t trust them. 'Claims' The Association for Conservation of Energy is one body that does not trust the firms. Its director, Andrew Warren, told BBC News that Npower's projections on energy savings could not be trusted: "The big energy companies have definite form, when they start warning that they can't deliver the energy savings schemes that government mandates at the price that government projects. "They claim at the start that the scheme will cost them far more than the official forecasts, in order to try to minimise the size of the obligation placed upon them." The government said its policies would keep the lights on and help to smooth bills by reducing dependency on the gas imports that have caused recent jumps in energy prices. Greg Barker, Minister for Energy and Climate Change, said: ??It is right that we have a grown-up discussion about the impact of energy investment. However, global gas prices, not green policies, have been primarily pushing up energy bills. ??In 2020, bills will be ?166 lower than they would be if we left ourselves exposed to global price shocks, left our homes leaking energy, and left future generations to deal with climate change.?? Follow Roger on Twitter @rharrabin28 June 2011Last updated at 10:08 GMT Energy harvesting fibre invented at University of Bolton A fibre which can harvest energy from a variety of renewable sources has been invented at the University of Bolton. The unnamed fibre is claimed by its inventors to be unique in the way it uses light and movement. Chief inventor Professor Elias Siores said it was flexible enough to be woven into "a sail, window curtain or tent and generate power". The material has been recognised as a major innovation at the 2011 Energy Innovation Awards in Manchester. The flexible fibre can be incorporated into fabric, giving it numerous applications. Inventors claim it can be knitted or woven into clothing and cases for personal gadgets, allowing items such as mobile phones or mp3 players to be constantly charging. Professor Siores said the material had been developed because "renewable energy sources such as sunlight, wind and rain are not always available at the same time in the same location". "Our hybrid material has combined flexible photovoltaic materials, which harness solar energy, with flexible piezoelectric fibres that generate power through movement," he said. "This combination allows the material to produce power in all weather conditions and environments. "It could then be knitted or woven into any larger material structure, such as a sail, window curtain or tent and generate power." Professor Siores said that the Energy Innovation award would mean that the business applications for the product, which was developed with funding from the Knowledge Centre for Materials Chemistry, could be properly explored. "This prize gives the team the credit it deserves for all the hard work that has gone into the research and development of the material," he said. The Energy Innovation Awards, given by the Cheshire-based Energy Innovation Centre, celebrate energy innovation and sustainability.27 November 2012Last updated at 00:02 GMT English or Hinglish - which will India choose? By Zareer MasaniWriter and broadcaster Today's aspirational Indians want their children to go to a school where lessons are taught in English. But often the pupils leave speaking a language that would not be recognised in London or New York. Could this Hinglish be the language of India's future? Why, half a century after Indian independence, does English remain the language of higher education, national media, the upper judiciary and bureaucracy and corporate business? The answer is that India, unlike its rival Asian giant China, has no truly national language of its own. Hindi, the official language of central government, is an artificial and largely unspoken 20th Century construct. Even the colloquial Hindustani of Bollywood films is spoken by only 40% of the population, concentrated in the "cow belt" of northern India. The rest of the subcontinent speaks hundreds of regional vernaculars. Amid this Babel, English remains the country's only lingua franca. My own family are an illustration of this. For my father, a Bombay Parsi, and my mother a north Indian Hindu, English was their common language, and my own mother tongue when I grew up in Bombay in the 1950s as one of Midnight's Children - as Salman Rushdie's novel describes those born around the time of Indian independence. It was a cosmopolitan cultural identity reinforced by my elite Anglican school, its ethos summed up by the school anthem, sung to the tune of the Harrow Boating Song, with the opening lines: "Prima in Indis, gateway of India, door of the East with its face to the West". I remember our resentment when new government decrees imposed both Hindi and Marathi (the regional majority language) as compulsory subjects. India now claims to be the world's second-largest English-speaking country. The most reliable estimate is around 10% of its population or 125 million people, second only to the US and expected to quadruple in the next decade. The most vocal demands for English teaching now come from India's most disadvantaged communities. Perched high up in an ugly Delhi tower block is a shrine to the newest deity in India's teeming pantheon - the Goddess of English. Her high priest is a Dalit (former Untouchable, according to India's historic caste system) activist called Chandra Bhan Prasad. In his tiny apartment, the goddess blazes forth from one wall in the lurid colours of a bazaar poster. Modelled on the American Statue of Liberty, she is pictured against a map of India, wearing a sari and an English straw hat, standing on a computer and holding aloft a giant pink pen. Beside the goddess hangs a portrait of her unlikely messiah, Thomas Babington Macaulay, the British Whig historian and statesman who brought English education to India way back in the 1830s. Every year on 25 October, Chandra Bhan and his loyal band of devotees gather here to celebrate Lord Macaulay's birthday as English Day with a hymn of praise to the new deity: "Oh Devi Ma, please let us learn English! Even the dogs understand English." Most of the hostility to English these days comes from regional or language chauvinists who condemn it as a Trojan horse of globalisation. The Shiv Sena renamed Bombay Mumbai and forces shopkeepers to replace their English signs with Marathi, but its leaders still send their own children to expensive English-medium schools. That is because English is now, more than ever, an essential passport to white-collar jobs. Take up at vernacular schools has been declining significantly, as India's poor scrape together the funds to send their children to more expensive English-medium schools. Most aspirational of all are the so-called "convent schools", founded by Christian missions. My own family's maid in Bombay spends a third of her monthly salary to send her child to St Theresa's, run by Catholic priests. When I visited the school to see if she was getting her money's worth, I discovered that most pupils had little grasp of their medium of instruction. At morning assembly, they recited the school prayer parrot-fashion in a sing-song which was hard to identify as English. The principal, aptly named Father Goodwill, is fatalistic. "Most of the children here are from homes where no English is spoken - but in another 50 years' time, better English will trickle down," he says. I could not help wondering if these children might be better off learning in their mother-tongues and studying English as a second language. At a Marathi-medium school where volunteers run classes in spoken English, the organiser told me they were getting better results than at many schools with the more aspirational English-medium label. "The profile of the first generation English learner is a bit schizophrenic, because they think and feel in their maternal language but need to use English in their professional world," she said. This linguistic schizophrenia presents a huge commercial opportunity for hundreds of new language centres offering English to young, white-collar workers, who pay as much as half their monthly salary for evening classes. With teachers whose own English is poor, places like these churn out people whose English may be barely comprehensible, as many of us discover when we speak to Indian call centres. What is emerging from this jungle of poor teaching is not so much English as Hinglish, or what my parents' generation called Babu English - the language of clerks. What makes Hinglish especially quaint is its love of the continuous tense and the way it dispenses with articles like "the" and "a". My own favourite examples are "head is paining" (headache) and "mother serious" (mother is very ill) - both handy excuses for leaving work early. "The new Indian elite is a very diverse, first generation elite, and they don't have that old snobbery about the Queen's English," says novelist Namita Devidayal. "One finds a growing ease in recreating the language to suit one's culture, which is a very hodge-podge culture, and one that's also comfortable in its own dysfunctionality." Hinglish, for all its occasional breakdowns of communication, is an authentically Indian hybrid. The trouble with dysfunctional Hinglish is that it can cause havoc when clear and precise communication is required, whether on a simple taxi ride or in more serious situations like hospitals and law-courts. Young Indians still need better quality, standardised English teaching if they want to access the global knowledge economy and stay ahead of eager new English-speakers in China or Argentina. You can follow the Magazine on and on25 June 2013Last updated at 15:11 GMT Equatorial Guinea profile Equatorial Guinea is a small country off West Africa which has recently struck oil and which is now being cited as a textbook case of the resource curse - or the paradox of plenty. Since the mid 1990s the former Spanish colony has become one of sub-Sahara's biggest oil producers and in 2004 was said to have the world's fastest-growing economy. However, few people have benefited from the oil riches and the country ranks near the bottom of the UN human development index. The UN says that less than half the population has access to clean drinking water and that 20 percent of children die before reaching five. The country has exasperated a variety of rights organisations who have described the two post-independence leaders as among the worst abusers of human rights in Africa. Francisco Macias Nguema's reign of terror - from independence in 1968 until his overthrow in 1979 - prompted a third of the population to flee. Apart from allegedly committing genocide against the Bubi ethnic minority, he ordered the death of thousands of suspected opponents, closed down churches and presided over the economy's collapse. His successor - Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo - took over in a coup and has shown little tolerance for opposition during the three decades of his rule. While the country is nominally a multiparty democracy, elections have generally been considered a sham. According to Human Rights Watch, the ''dictatorship under President Obiang has used an oil boom to entrench and enrich itself further at the expense of the country's people''. The corruption watchdog Transparency International has put Equatorial Guinea in the top 12 of its list of most corrupt states. Resisting calls for more transparency, President Obiang has for long held that oil revenues are a state secret. In 2008 the country became a candidate of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative - an international project meant to promote openness about government oil revenues - but failed to qualify by an April 2010 deadline. A 2004 US Senate investigation into the Washington-based Riggs Bank found that President Obiang's family had received huge payments from US oil companies such as Exxon Mobil and Amerada Hess. Observers say the US finds it hard to criticise a country which is seen as an ally in a volatile, oil-rich region. In 2006, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hailed President Obiang as a "good friend" despite repeated criticism of his human rights and civil liberties record by her own department. More recently President Barack Obama posed for an official photograph with President Obiang at a New York reception. The advocacy group Global Witness has been lobbying the United States to act against the President Obiang's son Teodor, a government minister. It says there is credible evidence that he spent millions buying a Malibu mansion and private jet using corruptly acquired funds - grounds for denying him a visa. Equatorial Guinea hit the headlines in 2004 when a plane load of suspected mercenaries was intercepted in Zimbabwe while allegedly on the way to overthrow President Obiang.26 June 2013Last updated at 14:47 GMT Eritrea profile Eritrea emerged from its long war of independence in 1993 only to plunge once again into military conflict, first with Yemen and then, more devastatingly, with its old adversary, Ethiopia. Today, a fragile peace prevails and Eritrea faces the gigantic tasks of rebuilding its infrastructure and of developing its economy after more than 30 years of fighting. A former Italian colony, Eritrea was occupied by the British in 1941. In 1952 the United Nations resolved to establish it as an autonomous entity federated with Ethiopia as a compromise between Ethiopian claims for sovereignty and Eritrean aspirations for independence. However, 10 years later the Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie, decided to annex it, triggering a 32-year armed struggle. This culminated in independence after an alliance of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) and a coalition of Ethiopian resistance movements defeated Haile Selassie's communist successor, Mengistu Haile Mariam. In 1993, in a referendum supported by Ethiopia, Eritreans voted almost unanimously for independence, leaving Ethiopia landlocked. The two countries hardly became good neighbours, with the issues of Ethiopian access to the Eritrean ports of Massawa and Assab and unequal trade terms souring relations. In 1998 border disputes around the town of Badme erupted into open hostilities. This conflict ended with a peace deal in June 2000, but not before leaving both sides with tens of thousands of soldiers dead. A security zone separates the two countries. The UN patrolled the zone at one time but pulled out, unable to fulfil its mandate. The unresolved border issue compounds other pressing problems. These include Eritrea's inability to provide enough food; two thirds of the population receive food aid. Moreover, economic progress is hampered by the proportion of Eritreans who are in the army rather than the workforce.11 August 2013Last updated at 23:02 GMT Escape from Alcatraz: Gavin Maitland's swim back to life In 2008 Gavin Maitland underwent a life-saving double lung transplant. Five years later he swam from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco accompanied by his son and daughter - a feat that mirrored his journey back from the brink of death. Zander's whole body briefly submerged out of sight as he jumped from the rear of the boat. As his head suddenly resurfaced, I could see the look of shock across his face. "Ahee, the water's cold!" he spluttered. Splash! My daughter, Riley, hit the water a split second later, and she too surfaced with a look of horror on her face. I had jumped from the boat moments before, and turned around to face them, treading water as I watched them join me in the icy waters of San Francisco Bay. "Dad, dad, stay with me," Riley cried, as she frantically oriented herself in the water. "It's OK, guys," I said, looking at their alarmed faces. "You'll get used to it in a few minutes." I hoped I sounded reassuring, but I too was surprised by the sudden surge of cold. We were among a group of 10 swimmers braving the swirling waters and strong currents of the San Francisco Bay on a one-and-a-half mile (2.4km) open-water swim from the notorious Alcatraz Island to the mainland. It was 08:11 on Sunday 12 May 2013. We turned and started swimming. The jagged assortment of buildings that made up the San Francisco skyline seemed so far away from our low vantage point. I could feel the cold water ripping across my face and hands. Any initial uncertainty felt by Zander and Riley quickly disappeared. They were both swimming as hard as they could toward the distant shoreline with Mark, our kayaker guide, hovering reassuringly next to us. Zander and Riley began steadily pulling away from me. I switched to breaststroke to catch my breath, then forced myself back into front crawl. As soon as I caught up, they sped off towards the shore again. Mark paddled after them, turning around to me frequently. "Everything OK? Heart feeling strong? Breathing feeling good?" he asked. I nodded. Yes, everything was absolutely fine. My breathing was heavier than I had anticipated, with the freezing water encasing my body, adding to the sheer exertion of swimming and the restrictions of my wetsuit. But I felt physically strong and, most importantly, spiritually indefatigable. "I want to swim from Alcatraz to celebrate my fifth anniversary," I announced at dinner one Sunday evening last October. My wife, Julie, rolled her eyes. She said nothing, but I could almost hear what she was thinking: Oh great, another of his crazy ideas. Zander and Riley looked up at me. They did not say anything either. The anniversary I was referring to was the five-year mark since my bilateral lung transplant on 14 March 2008. Lung transplantation is an incredibly complex procedure, and patients are typically judged on their post-operation survival at various stages - one year, three years, and five years. Outcomes for lung recipients are the worst of all transplanted solid organs. It was a significant achievement to reach the five-year milestone, and I wanted to mark it with something special. Water has always had a strong allure for me. I have always enjoyed swimming, in whatever lakes, ponds or oceans I can find. The previous summer, one of Zander and Riley's swimming coaches had mentioned that she had competed in "the Alcatraz swim" a few years before. The Alcatraz swim? That really captured my imagination. I did some research online and found that there were several companies that organised swimming expeditions and races. In my mind, it was conclusive - the open-water swim from Alcatraz would be the perfect way to celebrate my fifth anniversary. "Think I can do it?" I asked to break the silence. "It's not too far, just over a mile." "Sure," Zander said cautiously. He paused. "But I want to do it too." "You too?" I said, somewhat surprised. "But you're only 13. The water will be really cold, you know. Cold, with waves, currents - maybe sharks." "Sharks?" I had Riley's attention now. She paused for a moment, deep in thought. Then she said carefully, "If Zander's doing it, can I do it too?" "Rye," I reasoned, suddenly nervous. "You don't even like the waves. The water's really cold, and it's a long way in the open water." Both Zander and Riley were very strong, competitive swimmers, but most of their experience had been in heated 25m swimming pools, with lifeguards and lane ropes. "But you just said it's only a mile," she fired back with a hard stare. Her logic was incontrovertible. "I want to do it!" "Yes, but Rye, you're only 11." I could feel my defences crumbling. "I want to do it. With you and Zander," she confirmed emphatically. It was not a question any more. "OK," I said, resignedly. I knew when I was beaten. "I'll look into it." When I went online, I found a San Francisco-based swim expeditions group, so I got in touch and asked for more details. Initially, I wanted to swim in March, exactly five years after my transplant, but Leslie, the group's founder, advised us to wait until May, when the water would be several degrees warmer. "How old are your kids?" she asked. "Thirteen and 11." Their ages sounded young even as I said them. "They're really good swimmers, though," I added. "What's their experience swimming in open water?" She sounded hesitant. Truthfully, none of us had a very convincing open-water swimming pedigree. Instead, I settled on telling her: "Living in Colorado, there's not so many opportunities for ocean swimming. However, they've both swum in lakes during triathlons, they train in a pool several times a week," I paused. "And they're pretty tough kids." Leslie seemed satisfied. "Take a look at the training plans on the website for a preparation guide," she suggested. The Alcatraz training plan set out a gradual build-up of distances, starting with three swims per week of around 20 or 30 minutes each, and steadily increasing distance and intensity. So we started training. Zander and Riley were already on a swim team, and had regular practices. I took the opportunity to swim too while they were in the pool, and I easily chalked up 1.6km (one mile) in an hour. As the weeks went on, I trained diligently, enjoying the excuse to be in the water almost every day. I swam this way from January until April, and felt confident that I was in reasonably good condition for the challenge. The day of the swim started early. Zander, Riley, Julie and I rose at 06:00 in our hotel room in San Francisco, wide awake with anticipation. We had flown in the day before from our home in Boulder, Colorado. Our wetsuits were neatly laid out in the room, and we pulled them on as we wolfed down mouthfuls of omelettes and toast. With jackets, hats and bags full of dry clothes ready, we left the hotel room and hailed a taxi. We were the first ones at the meeting point, looking out across the calm waters of San Francisco bay as the sun came up. I put my pack against a tree, stretched briefly, and started a warm-up run along the walkway next to the sandy beach. With my new, transplanted lungs, it takes me longer than most people to open the small airways so oxygen can flow more easily. I reached the end of the walkway, turned around and ran back, striding faster and faster as I neared the end. I slowed down and stopped, panting heavily. "Hi, I'm Mark," said a man with an outstretched hand. "I'm your kayaker this morning." He was in his early 50s, with shorn hair, sparkling eyes and a wide grin. I introduced him to Julie, Zander and Riley. He told me he had done the crossing dozens of times, that that we just needed to follow his directions, and we would easily make it to shore. I checked my watch. Drug time. I had carefully adjusted my morning dose of Prograf, the immunosuppressant drug I take twice a day, exactly 12 hours apart. I pulled out my tiny box of pills, and gulped down three capsules. In the few months after my lung transplant, I often resented having to comply with a strict drug regimen that is a life-saving necessity for all organ transplant recipients. Now, five years on, I gulped them down with the enthusiasm of a labrador devouring his breakfast, wholly appreciative of the vital role they play in keeping me healthy and alive. There were 10 swimmers on the grassy slope at 07:15 that morning. I stood with the others, suited up and eager with anticipation, Zander and Riley on either side of me. "You have all been assigned to your kayaks, so ensure you stay close at all times, and please stay within 25 yards of each other as you swim," Leslie reminded us. "You will be swimming across two rivers, one flowing from the Golden Gate Bridge from west to east. Once you cross that, there is a second river flowing in the opposite direction from east to west. So watch the currents and keep sight of your target building on the skyline." We walked together around the walkway and on to the 30ft (9m) support boat that would take us out to the island. Within minutes of casting off, we were motoring out towards the mesmerising, forbidding island of Alcatraz. Alcatraz, the small island often referred to as "The Rock", was developed with facilities for a lighthouse, a military fortification, and, most famously, a prison from 1933 until 1963. While several well-known criminals, such as Al Capone, served time on Alcatraz, most of the 1,500 prisoners incarcerated there were not high-profile. During its 29 years as a prison, the penitentiary never logged any successful escapes. Potential escapees were either shot dead or assumed drowned in the frigid waters of San Francisco bay. In 1962, three would-be escapees disappeared from their cells in one of the most intricate attempts ever devised - portrayed in the 1979 movie Escape from Alcatraz, starring Clint Eastwood. Although no evidence was found that these famous prisoners died in their attempt, they are officially listed as "missing, presumed drowned". As the support boat pulled up alongside the island, I looked back at the San Francisco skyline. The proximity was striking. It has been said that prisoners on Alcatraz were often tantalised by the sounds of normal city life, maddeningly close just across the water but, at the same time, as good as a million miles away. Was the shore really that close? I felt the rush of exhilaration as Leslie began instructing the swimmers to jump. Exercise is strongly linked to recovery in lung transplant patients. After the operation, I exercised at least in line with the doctors' recommendations, and often a lot more. After 13 months with my new lungs, I competed in my first sprint-triathlon, consisting of a 750m swim, a 20km cycle ride and a 5km run. Out of all the competitors, I placed dead last, but I didn't care. Getting back to swimming was a natural progression in the process of recovery. The three of us swam closely together for the first 20 minutes, alternating between front crawl and breaststroke. Mark continued to shout encouragement from the kayak. Zander and Riley had quickly acclimatised to the cold water and began to enjoy the sensation of being tossed around in the water. I could see their bright green caps just in front of me and hear their high-pitched voices as they bantered back and forth. I concentrated on my swimming, pulling slow steady strokes, and aimed for the buildings silhouetted on the skyline. After half an hour, Zander and Riley were getting impatient. "C'mon, dad!" they shouted as they waited for me to catch up. I would break into front crawl but as soon as I got to them, they would dart forward and leave me behind again. I felt like a stage performer doing his best to entertain a restless audience, only to be mercilessly heckled. "Wow," I thought to myself. "They're a tough crowd." Distances in open-water swimming are deceptive. For most of the time, it seems as if you are getting nowhere, as the scenery does not change. You have to trust that you are still moving slowly and steadily through the water, closer and closer to dry land. The huge expanse of water can be mentally overpowering, especially if you dwell on how deep the water is beneath you and how endlessly it stretches on all sides. Even so, there is something soothing and relaxing, even spiritual, about swimming in open water. The waves gently move you up and down, and you feel the silkiness of the water on your exposed skin. A couple of times I flipped over and did a few strokes of backstroke. The sensation was amazing - all I could see was the expanse of sky above me. But I was unable to tell where I was heading, so after a few seconds I flipped back on to my front. Out in the vastness of the San Francisco Bay that morning, I revelled in the energy of the ocean and the gift of breath that buoyed me on this adventure. No-one knows why my lungs failed when I was 41. I am an unusual case. The pathologist at my transplanting hospital gave the disease a unpronounceable 43-letter name. "It's some kind of pulmonary fibrosis," he said, "where the soft lung tissue becomes hard and useless." His official conclusion was: "We have no idea what caused your lung disease." A lifelong non-smoker and fitness enthusiast, I enjoyed perfect health up to my mid-30s. I swam and ran competitively in school and all the way through university. After graduating, I took up running 10km races, as well as half and full marathons. The decline of my lungs began with a persistent, dry cough. At first I waved it away as an irritant, but it would not leave. I consulted my general practitioner, who thought it may be asthma, but was not sure. Months passed and I consulted many different doctors, dissatisfied with their lack of diagnosis or treatment. One specialist pulmonologist, looking up from a freshly-minted computed tomography (CAT) scan, admitted: "Honestly, I'm perplexed." Time went on, and my tolerance for exercise lessened, my breathing became more laboured, I was noticeably thinner and still no-one could tell what was wrong. Five years after the cough began, Julie frantically drove me to the hospital one memorable Saturday morning after I lay down on the floor and could not get up. I could read the concern on the faces of the hospital pulmonologists. The chest X-rays were a mass of white, my oxygen saturation level was below 90% and I could not stand on my own. Over the next few weeks, a succession of bad news was broken to me. I was told that I only had six months to live and my only chance of survival was a bilateral lung transplant. And then, after weeks of consultation, testing, appointments and procedures, a transplant physician at the hospital telephoned Julie and told her that they did not think I could survive the transplant procedure, so they did not want to accept me as patient any longer. In the following three frenetic months, Julie researched, identified and contacted 17 different transplant hospitals across the country, and followed up tenaciously with phone calls and emails. Amid an avalanche of rejections, one hospital eventually responded positively. Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, said, yes, we might be able to help, come on over. I hurriedly arranged a one-way plane journey, and before long - carried by hope and in-flight oxygen - I was on a transplant waiting list. Soon after, there followed the tragic death of a young man, the heart-wrenching decision of his family to donate his organs and the roller-coaster ride of logistics, 21st Century medical genius, raw emotion and arduous recovery that all goes together to make up an organ transplant. Prior to the operation, I could only breathe in short, shallow gasps. When I woke from the anaesthetic, I inhaled the most beautiful, deepest and longest breath that I could ever imagine. Despite the searing pain in my torso, I felt like standing up on my bed and cheering. People often refer to lung transplant as a "second wind", although transplant doctors emphasize that transplant is not a cure, but simply the exchange of one acute condition for another. The current average survival period of a lung recipient in the US and Europe is five years. Statistics say that the current 10-year survival rate of a lung transplant patient is 30%, meaning that only one out of every three patients will celebrate their 10th anniversary. So how long will my second wind last? I honestly don't know. Statistics undoubtedly tell a story, but it's partial. I know a man in his early 40s who is 10 years post-transplant and a woman in her mid-50s who is 17 years post-transplant. My pulmonologist told me recently that he rated my health in the top 1% of his transplant patients. As a result, I remain optimistic that I will be around for quite some time yet. As we neared the entrance to Aquatic Park, Zander and Riley surged forward with a new kayak escort while Mark kept his eye on me. Cramp spread suddenly from my left leg to my right leg. Both legs locked and I knew I could not swim through it any more. I needed drinking water in a few seconds or I would be contorted in agony. I signalled to Mark that I needed some help. He was next to me in an instant. "Cramp!" was all I could grimace, as the pain shot through both legs. "Sorry," I gasped. "I need to get out." "But you're so close," he shouted. The entrance to the Aquatic Park was only 200 yards (182m) away. The support boat powered up next to me, and I grabbed the rail at the back and hauled myself on to the back of the boat. Julie thrust a bottle of water into my hand. "Drink!" she yelled. I tilted my head back and drank the whole bottle in a continuous gulp. Almost instantaneously, the cramp that had hijacked and tormented the muscles in both my legs eased, then evaporated. I pulled on my swim cap back on, adjusted my goggles, and jumped off the back of the boat again into the water. I had been out of the water for less than five minutes. This time, in contrast to our initial entry, the water felt deliciously warm and welcoming. By now, Zander and Riley were small dots in the distance, already on the beach. I swam determinedly towards the shore, focusing on the finish. A giant sea lion turned lazily in the water about 20 yards (18m) in front of me, reminding me of the jokes we had made about sharks before the swim. People often wrongly associate the San Francisco bay with shark attacks, and this supposed danger was a frequent comment from our friends on hearing about our proposed swim. In reality, there have been no recorded shark attacks in the history of the bay. The myth probably originates with prison guards who would tell inmates that the waters were shark-infested to deter escape attempts. The sandy shore was just in front of me. I tried to put my feet down, but it was still out of my depth. Two, three more strokes. I tried again, and I could feel the gritty bottom. I pulled forward, then stood up in the water and waded on to dry land. I was struck by the silence and peace of this sunny Sunday morning. All of a sudden, I felt overwhelmed by a surge of energy, and I started to run across the beach towards my children, water gushing from my wetsuit. I was shivering wildly, but did not feel cold. I was hugely elated. "Zander, Rye! Great job! You did it. We all did it!" I grabbed both of them and hugged them tightly. The swim had taken us just over an hour. They let me hold them for a few moments. "Dad!" Riley pulled back and looked up at me sternly. "Dad, next year??" she paused. "Next year, you'll need to have your own kayak." "OK," I said, grinning. "OK." Like I said before, tough crowd. So where to go from here? Will we swim Alcatraz again next year? Maybe. But perhaps there is another challenge to set our sights on? I read recently about another open-water swim that crosses the Dardanelles, a narrow strait in north-west Turkey, formerly known as the Hellespont. The English poet, Lord Byron, famously swam it in 1810, the first swimmer to make the crossing in modern times, in honour of the Greek mythological figure, Leander. It looks like a great swim, only three miles (4.8km) across from Asia to Europe. I wonder when it would be a good time to mention this to Julie? Videos by Anna Bressanin You can follow the Magazine on and on5 February 2013Last updated at 16:59 GMT Estonia country profile A small and heavily forested country, Estonia is the most northerly of the three former Soviet Baltic republics. Not much more than a decade after it regained its independence following the collapse of the USSR, the republic was welcomed as an EU member in May 2004. The move came just weeks after it joined Nato. These historic developments would have been extremely hard to imagine in not-so-distant Soviet times. Estonia was part of the Russian empire until 1918 when it proclaimed its independence. Russia recognised it as an independent state under the 1920 Treaty of Tartu. During the two decades that followed it tried to assert its identity as a nation squeezed between the rise of Nazism in Germany and the dominion of Stalin in the USSR. After a pact between Hitler and Stalin, Soviet troops arrived in 1940 and Estonia was absorbed into the Soviet Union. Nazi forces pushed the Soviets out in 1941 but the Red Army returned in 1944 and remained for half a century. The rapidly expanding Soviet planned economy brought hundreds of thousands of Soviet immigrants to Estonia, causing widespread fear among Estonians that their national identity would eventually vanish. Russians account for up to a third of the population. The legacy of the Soviet years has left a mark which the country carries with it into its EU era: Many Russian-speakers complain of discrimination, saying strict language laws make it hard to get jobs or citizenship without proficiency in Estonian. Some Russian-speakers who were born in Estonia are either unable or unwilling to become citizens because of the language requirements. After a decade of negotiations, Estonia and Russia signed a treaty defining the border between the two countries in May 2005. The Estonian parliament ratified it soon afterwards but only after it had introduced reference to Soviet occupation. Moscow reacted by pulling out. It took until 2012 for talks to start afresh. The Estonian language is closely related to Finnish but not to the languages of either of the other Baltic republics, Latvia and Lithuania, or to Russian. The country has unique traditions in folk song and verse, traditions which have had to be strong to survive the many centuries of domination by foreign countries. Estonia enjoyed an investment boom following EU accession, but in 2008 its economy was badly hit by the global financial crisis. The government adopted tough austerity measures and won plaudits for getting the economy back into shape ahead of entry to the European single currency in January 2011.19 June 2013Last updated at 11:54 GMT Ethiopia profile Ethiopia is Africa's oldest independent country and its second largest in terms of population. Apart from a five-year occupation by Mussolini's Italy, it has never been colonised. It has a unique cultural heritage, being the home of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church - one of the oldest Christian churches - and a monarchy that ended only in the coup of 1974. It served as a symbol of African independence throughout the colonial period, and was a founder member of the United Nations and the African base for many international organisations. Ethiopia has suffered periodic droughts and famines that lead to a long civil conflict in the 20th Century and a border war with Eritrea. In the first part of the 20th Century Ethiopia forged strong links with Britain, whose troops helped evict the Italians in 1941 and put Emperor Haile Selassie back on his throne. From the 1960s British influence gave way to that of the US, which in turn was supplanted by the Soviet Union. Drought Although it has had fewer of the coups that have plagued other African countries, Ethiopia's turmoil has been no less devastating. Drought, famine, war and ill-conceived policies brought millions to the brink of starvation in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1974 this helped topple Haile Selassie. His regime was replaced by a self-proclaimed Marxist junta led by Mengistu Haile Mariam under which many thousands of opponents were purged or killed, property was confiscated and defence spending spiralled. The overthrow of the junta in 1991 saw political and economic conditions stabilise, to the extent that the country is regarded as one of Africa's most stable. Eritrea Eritrea gained independence in 1993 following a referendum. Poor border demarcation developed into military conflict and full-scale war in the late 1990s in which tens of thousands of people were killed. A fragile truce has held, but the UN says ongoing disputes over the demarcation of the border threaten peace. Ethiopia is one of Africa's poorest states, although it has experienced rapid economic growth since the end of the civil war. Almost two-thirds of its people are illiterate. The economy revolves around agriculture, which in turn relies on rainfall. It is one of Africa's leading coffee producers. Many Ethiopians depend on food aid from abroad. In 2004 the government began a drive to move more than two million people away from the arid highlands of the east in an attempt to provide a lasting solution to food shortages. At the end of 2006 Ethiopia sent between 5,000 and 10,000 troops into Somalia to support forces of the weak transitional government there and helped to oust the Islamists who had controlled southern Somalia for six months. But, despite initial successes, the Ethiopians were unable to break the power of the Islamists, who gradually began to win back lost territory. Ethiopia's presence in Somalia formally ended in early 2009, when it pulled its troops under an agreement between the transitional Somali government and moderate Islamists.All parents worry about how their children behave in public. But the nerves are heightened among those mums and dads who happen to be diplomats or rising politicians trying to impress Washington's elite. Some parents turn to Crystal L Bailey for help. The etiquette teacher runs classes for children in the US capital who need to know how to behave at a political fundraiser - or if they meet Sasha or Malia Obama. The BBC dropped in on her junior diplomat etiquette class.Produced by the BBC's Thomas Sparrow, Gringo Wotshela and Bill McKenna is a series of video features published every Monday on the BBC News website which tell the stories of unique individuals from all walks of life in their own words.27 July 2013Last updated at 09:06 GMT EU and China reach deal in solar panel dispute The European Commission says it has reached "an amicable solution" with Beijing in a row over imports of Chinese solar panels. Both sides have agreed a minimum price for the panels, The dispute erupted after the Commission - the EU's executive arm - imposed temporary anti-dumping levies on the imports. It argued that Chinese firms were undercutting rivals. China is the world's largest producer of solar panels. Its exports to Europe totalled 21bn euros ($27bn; ?18bn) in 2011. "After weeks of intensive talks, I can announce that I am satisfied with the offer of a price undertaking submitted by China's solar panel exporters," Mr De Gucht said on Saturday. "This is the amicable solution that both the EU and China were looking for." He added that the agreement would "lead to a new market equilibrium at sustainable prices". The anti-dumping case was the biggest ever undertaken by the Commission. In June, the EU accused China of "dumping" solar panels in Europe - selling them at below cost to steal market share - and then said it would impose import tariffs of up to 47.6% on them. China said EU farm subsidies had resulted in European countries "dumping" wine on China, and warned it may respond in kind.4 October 2013Last updated at 16:07 GMT EU body withdraws Maze Prison peace centre money An EU funding programme has withdrawn its offer of ?18m in financial support for the peace centre at the former Maze prison in Northern Ireland. The Special European Programmes Body said it had done so after consulting with the lead partner - the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister. They said they decided, after the talks, that the centre was no longer viable. The Maze housed paramilitary prisoners during the Troubles from 1971 - 2000. Ten republican prisoners died on hunger strike there. Over the years, the scheme to redevelop the former prison site, near Lisburn in County Antrim, has been controversial. First Minister Peter Robinson said: "What the SEUPB is doing is the sensible and practical step of ensuring the money doesn't find itself going down some black hole. "It allows them time to look at other projects and spend the money elsewhere." He added: "When we looked at the issue of the peace centre we made it very clear that what was required was to get support across the community, that there had to be a broad level of support, and of course if at any time that is achieved then there are other opportunities for funding. "But at this stage it's very clear that the SEUPB doesn't believe that it's possible to get it within the period of time necessary. "I don't think there's any difficulty whether it's Europe or whether it's elsewhere that we go for the funding - if there was the level of support that's necessary, I'm pretty sure the funding would fit into place very quickly." Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said on BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback programme that he was disappointed at the withdrawal of funding and added that he had not given up on the project. "I still hold out hope that at some stage we'll see it constructed at Long Kesh. I will authorise no other projects (apart from Royal Ulster Agricultural Society's move to the site) on that site until people come to their senses," he said. "What is at the heart of this is power-sharing. From my perspective I want to share power but I can't do it on my own. "The peace centre is a government commitment which has to be honoured. If it isn't, then it damages the power-sharing project." The peace money will now be re-allocated to other projects. These will be based in either Northern Ireland or the border counties of the Republic of Ireland. BBC Northern Ireland political editor Mark Devenport said: "They may have some difficulties finding other projects because it was by far and away one of the biggest projects to be funded by that programme but they are now looking around to see how they can spend that money." During the summer, First Minister Peter Robinson stalled the plans to build the peace centre as part of the development of the site of the former Maze prison, a decision that caused tension between his party, the DUP, and Sinn F??in. Mr Robinson said there needed to be a broad consensus on how it would operate and what it would contain - and that is currently absent, in his view. On Monday, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said there could be no development of the wider Maze site unless it was on the basis of previous agreements about the building of a peace centre. 'No longer viable' In its statement on Friday, the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) said: "The SEUPB has been in discussions with the lead partner in relation to the viability of the Peace Building and Conflict Resolution Centre. "It has been agreed that the project is no longer viable at this time and the SEUPB has therefore rescinded the letter of offer. The SEUPB will now consider the re-allocation of funding to suitable projects." The European Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn, said: "This is a project which we supported as a contribution to the reconciliation of the communities in Northern Ireland. "Sadly, due to the political conditions on the ground it cannot go ahead in this period. "To be meaningful all communities have to be involved - that unfortunately is not the case. I very much hope we can try again with this project and that for the time being the money from it can be used to fund other projects." Last week, Daniel Libeskind, the architect who designed the proposed peace building and reconciliation centre, said he was convinced the scheme would go ahead. Ulster Unionist Tom Elliott, who attended a meeting on Friday morning at which the SEUPB made the announcement, said the one thing he took "significant comfort" from was that the ?18m would not be lost to Northern Ireland. He said the SEUPB assured those at the meeting that there were a number of other projects that would be eligible for the funding. John Armstrong of the Construction Employers Federation (CEF) said it was another blow to the industry. "Every project that is stalled or scrapped is costing jobs and hindering economic recovery," he said.4 October 2013Last updated at 18:40 GMT EU calls for Ukraine opposition leader Tymoshenko to be freed EU envoys have called for the Ukrainian opposition leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, to be pardoned, her lawyer says. The envoys are in Ukraine to assess whether it has fulfilled the EU's conditions for a landmark agreement, including Ms Tymoshenko's release. Ms Tymoshenko, who has a back ailment, is under prison guard in a Ukrainian hospital, in a case her supporters say was politically motivated. The former prime minister was convicted of abuse of office over a gas deal. In a separate development, a senior prosecutor who handled criminal cases against her has been dismissed and moved to another job. Renat Kuzmin's sacking is being seen in Kiev as a gesture towards the EU before the deal is due to be signed in Lithuania late next month. Hope for treatment European Parliament ex-President Pat Cox and Poland's former President, Alexander Kwasniewski, have been sent to Kiev as special envoys of a European Parliament monitoring mission to Ukraine. They will report back to Brussels by 15 October, with their assessment of whether Ukraine has fulfilled the EU's criteria for the association and free trade agreement. Ms Tymoshenko's continued imprisonment is considered as a major element that could stop the deal being signed. The EU has said the association agreement is dependent on Kiev introducing extensive reforms, and has consistently called for Ms Tymoshenko's release. Her lawyer, Serhiy Vlasenko, said the envoys had formally asked the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovich, to allow her to go to Germany to receive medical treatment. There was no immediate response from the president, but Ms Tymoshenko, under guard in a hospital in the north-eastern city of Kharkiv, released a statement saying she was "ready to accept this proposal for the sake of a successful Vilnius and... the historic and momentous agreement with the EU". Doctors from Germany have been treating Ms Tymoshenko's back condition, and the government in Berlin has stated its readiness to receive her for medical treatment to resolve the political deadlock over her detention. Mr Vlasenko said European leaders were pressing for Ms Tymoshenko to be allowed to leave Ukraine by the time they submitted their report to Brussels. "This is why the European politicians in charge of guiding Ukraine towards the signing of the association agreement see 15 October as one of the key dates," he said. "Time will show whether Viktor Yanukovych will pluck up the courage to satisfy Pat Cox and Aleksander Kwasniewski's appeal, but it would only take him one minute." Mr Yanukovich has said in the past that he cannot interfere with decisions of the courts.8 May 2013Last updated at 16:12 GMT EU China solar panel trade war looms The European Commission is on the verge of a trade war with China over the import of solar panels worth 21bn euros (?18bn) a year. It is considering imposing an average "anti-dumping" import tariff of 47%, with a decision expected by 5 June. The EC argues China unfairly subsidises its solar panel firms, putting Europe's manufacturers at a disadvantage. But some European solar panel makers are warning that such a move would amount to "dangerous protectionism". "Protective duties are poisonous for the solar industry", said Udo Mohrstedt, chief executive of IBC Solar, a Germany-based global manufacturer. "These guarding measures will endanger more than 70,000 jobs in medium-sized companies in Germany alone. The Commission must stop this dangerous protectionism." Wouter Vermeersch, chief executive of the Belgian company Cleantec Trade, agrees. "The solar business is very price sensitive", he said , where Cleantec is a member. "Solar companies already had to cope with continuously decreasing feed-in tariffs in the past. "If prices are artificially increased by punitive tariffs, the European solar market would simply come to a standstill with disastrous effects on green jobs." Trade dispute Trade officials from all 27 countries in the European Union are expected to be briefed on the proposals at in meeting on 15 May. The provisional tariffs would be imposed even though the EC's official investigation is only nine months into its 15-month duration. The EC can do this if it considers there is clear evidence that companies are being harmed. If the EC believes China has not altered its trade practices after the full 15-month investigation comes to an end in December, the provisional tariffs could be imposed for five years. The case, involving over 100 Chinese companies exporting photovoltaic and solar panels worth 21bn euros (?17.8bn; ?27.7bn) a year, is the EU's largest ever trade dispute. The Chinese could appeal against the EU's decision to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg and to the World Trade Organisation.21 August 2013Last updated at 16:01 GMT EU law and budget: a video guide The EU has a reputation for being slow and cumbersome - largely because of the difficulty of getting agreement among 28 member states with different languages and traditions. Here BBC Europe correspondent Matthew Price gives a video guide to the complex bargaining that results in new EU laws and the EU budget. EU LAW The right to initiate legislation in the EU belongs to the European Commission - the union's civil service and rule-enforcer. Usually Commission proposals go through many amendments before becoming law - a process that takes years. In most policy areas the Council of Ministers - representing EU governments - and the European Parliament reach joint decisions through negotiation. Their role is called "the ordinary legislative procedure". During their negotiations they come under pressure from lobby groups, for example industrial firms or environmentalists. Often EU laws arise because national governments and MEPs tell the Commission that there is a need for them. Public consultations, scientific research and impact assessments also feed into the legislation. Once a measure becomes EU law the member states have two years to adopt it nationally - "transpose" it, in the jargon. The Commission can fine them for failure to do so. EU BUDGET The budget is one of the most contentious policy areas among the member states, whose priorities differ greatly. The 2013 EU budget is 132.8bn euros (?113bn; $178bn). The size of the budget has to be decided annually, but there is also a seven-year budget framework, agreed in advance so that money can be set aside for long-term projects. This year for the first time EU leaders agreed to cut the multi-year budget (for 2014-2020), under pressure from the UK and some other countries, including the Netherlands and Sweden. The eurozone crisis has exacerbated tensions in the budget negotiations. Net contributors to the budget - the richer countries including the UK - argue that it should reflect the tough austerity policies adopted nationally. But net beneficiaries, such as the new member states in Central and Eastern Europe, oppose EU cuts to key areas like agriculture and infrastructure projects. EU spending is a small fraction of what the national governments spend in total, but those governments have to pay for big public sector areas like education and health, which are largely outside the EU's remit.2 July 2012Last updated at 11:01 GMT Euro 2012 win gives struggling Spain a lift By Tom BurridgeBBC News, Madrid There are lots of unknowns in Spain at the moment. When will the economy start growing again? How much bailout money will the country's troubled banks need? On Sunday night, and for much of Monday, and maybe even much of this week, the economy will be a less popular topic of conversation in the bars and cafes of Spain's big cities. Talk of doom and gloom will be replaced by euphoria about the answer to one simple question: Who has the best football team in Europe? Spain. Standing with the huge crowds, watching the final of the European Championships on big screens by Real Madrid's Bernabeu Stadium was 37-year-old Cristina Martinez. She is a nurse and, on Sunday had just completed her first day's work in 11 months as she was, during that period, one of the more than five million in Spain who are unemployed. "We'll forget all the bad things that are happening. Even if it's just for one day," she said. 'Invincible' When you ask people about how Spain's economy got into such a mess there is often a hint of embarrassment or shame. However the Spanish press and people here are now awash with pride. "Spain changes football," is one of the bolder headlines from Spain's El Mundo newspaper on Monday. "Invincible Spain," says Spain's ABC newspaper. "Spain and no-one else" is the headline of the main sports newspaper, Marca, referring to the fact that no other team has ever won two consecutive European titles with a World Cup in between. When Fernando Torres scored Spain's third goal the party began. Madrid's main avenues were awash with red and yellow as huge crowds blocked the traffic to a chorus of beeping car horns. One young lady told me that "because of the crisis, this is even more amazing". She then joked to me that there would be even more people out celebrating throughout Monday, a reference to the large numbers of people in Spain who are out of work. "Huge," was the way a young man described Spain's victory. "For one night we are happy," he said. The morning after In my local cafe in central Madrid, there were plenty of sore heads and bleary eyes as I popped in to grab a croissant on the way into work. People know how to party hard in the Spanish capital, even when there is no reason. Sunday night, my road was a cacophony of celebration as I tried to go to sleep at 04:00. At 08:00 when I woke up I heard someone still singing. But there still was a queue this morning outside the government office, giving support to struggling families, near where I work. Because of the economic crisis, life is much tougher for millions of people in Spain, and government austerity measures have still not really hit home. However as the Spanish team parades their latest trophy through the streets of Madrid later this afternoon life will feel a little better for many. Spain's economy might not be the envy of the world. Their football team is. Italy was Spain's key ally in discussions at a European summit last week. Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti teamed up with Spain's Mariano Rajoy, and the pair won important concessions, which could help ease the pressure on Spanish debt and the related problems facing the Spanish economy. On Sunday night it was the eurozone's fourth-largest economy that came out on top, and the numbers were easy to interpret. A score-line of 4-0 left no-one, even in Italy, asking who deserved to win.20 June 2013Last updated at 12:57 GMT Europe's Ariane rocket sizes up for competition A report from industry on the design of Europe's future rocket, Ariane 6, will be delivered in the next few weeks. Astrium, which leads the manufacturing team on the current Ariane 5, will detail an architecture for a new vehicle it believes can be made at substantially lower cost. This is seen as essential in the face of growing competition from the US. It will require not only using new production methods, but probably also a big reorganisation of industry itself. "For me, the key question for Ariane 6 is not really the design - how many boosters and what will be the size of each and every booster; and of course, we work on that. No, the key question is how to organise relationships between industry and agencies, in order to deliver a launcher to a given target price," observed Alain Charmeau, the CEO of Astrium Space Transportation. This price is about 70-75m euros. "And to be clear, we should not be naive. If we need to reduce the cost by 40% or 50%, it means reducing the number of people. About 80% to 90% of the cost of a launcher is hourly rates - it's manpower. So if you want to reduce the costs, you have to deliver the launcher with fewer people." Mr Charmeau was describing the future landscape for Ariane here at the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget. Raised game The current Ariane 5 dominates the global commercial launch market for large satellites. More than half of the big platforms sent up to provide the world with TV, phone and internet services are lofted by the European vehicle. But change is sweeping through the industry in the form of SpaceX of California, which has been seeded by the US space agency Nasa to provide low-cost launch services in America. And the company is now taking its technology international, offering launch services at prices that undercut the established competition. Although SpaceX's Falcon rocket has yet to launch a large commercial telecoms platform, the existing players know they have to react or risk losing many of their traditional customers. "Yes, we are moving because of the competition, just as in the car industry or the aircraft industry," said Mr Charmeau. "We are entering into a more and more competitive world in terms of launchers." Ariane 6 is regarded as Europe's ultimate response. Mr Charmeau says Astrium is zeroing in on the final concept, having eliminated a number of ideas. The broad outline, however, seems clear. The 6 will comprise lower-stages powered by solid-fuel motors, and an upper-stage that uses cryogenic liquids (hydrogen and oxygen). Composites will be chosen for lightness and strength, and all systems must use substantially fewer parts. Complexity needs to be reduced. 'Fatter' satellites This is certainly the case for the design of the upper-stage, known as Vinci, which is already far advanced and will be introduced as soon as possible to the existing Ariane 5 in a "mid-life evolution" of the rocket that will give it greater performance. Vinci will help raise the 5's lifting capacity to more than 11 tonnes, enabling the rocket to more easily mix and match the different classes of satellites it carries to orbit. The usual practice is for Ariane to launch two satellites at once - one large platform, up to 6.5 tonnes - and in future, a second one approaching five tonnes. The hope is this will maintain the European rocket's attractiveness, especially if - as many suspect - new electric satellites become popular. These spacecraft use ion thrusters to finalise their orbits once they come off the top of the rocket. These propulsion systems are more efficient (using less fuel) than their chemical forebears, saving large amounts of mass that can be given over to bigger and more powerful telecommunications payloads. The expectation is that the platforms could be "fatter" as a result. They may have larger solar arrays to satisfy their increased power needs, and perhaps even more extensive cooling systems. In any case, it seems likely that telecoms antennas may get bigger as well. All this is forcing the rocket companies to address not just their mass constraints but also the payload volumes they can offer satellite customers. Quality first "In the past, satellite manufacturers very much organised their payloads around the [chemical propulsion] tanks," said Eric Beranger, who heads up Astrium's satellite production division. "If you don't have the tanks anymore, you can have very different approaches on how you fit your payloads. It will open up opportunities because it will give you a new freedom in the way you architect your satellite." Ariane 5 will likely meet this challenge by putting a ring under its fairing - the clam-shell covering that protects the satellite during the early part of the ascent through the atmosphere. This will increase the height of the fairing, and the available space inside, by 1-2m. International Launch Services (ILS) is presently Ariane's chief rival. The US-Russian operation sells the Proton vehicle. The Baikonur-based rocket launches most of the big telecoms satellites that Ariane does not. Proton, too, is undergoing a series of improvements, including a widening of its fairing, says ILS president Phil Slack. "Today's version of Proton currently being flown has a lift capability of 6.15 tonnes to geostationary transfer orbit, and there is what we call a 'phase four' development that will lift this capacity by another 200kg, and it will fly in 2014. Significant investment is also being made in a 5m diameter fairing which will support customers' desire for larger spacecraft due to larger antennas/reflectors. We've been competitive and we plan to stay competitive into the future," he told BBC News. As is always the case in rocketry, the most important prerequisite is reliability. A launch failure is extremely damaging to market confidence. The Ariane 5 has now completed 55 consecutive successful missions, but Proton is having to fight back from a number of mishaps that have prompted a whole-scale review of the production process at manufacturer Khrunichev. "We now have mandatory photographing and videotaping of critical operations on the production line," Khrunichev director general Alexander Seliverstov told BBC News. "All products that come from the Khrunichev assembly line have to come with a level of quality to accomplish mission success. We understand very clearly that if we want to keep market share, if want to keep any customers, quality has to be number one."26 September 2013Last updated at 09:29 GMT Europe's key animals 'making a comeback' By Rebecca MorelleScience reporter, BBC World Service Some of Europe's key animals have made a comeback over the past 50 years, a report suggests. Conservationists say species such as bears, wolves, lynx, eagles and vultures have increased in numbers. They believe that protection, curbs on hunting and people moving away from rural areas and into cities have helped Europe's wildlife to recover. was carried out by the Zoological Society of London, Birdlife and the European Bird Census Council. The report was commissioned by the conservation group Rewilding Europe. Frans Schepers, the organisation's director, said: "People have this general picture of Europe that we've lost all our nature and our wildlife. "And I think what the rest of the world can learn from this is that conservation actually works. If we have the resources, a proper strategy, if we use our efforts, it actually works." Over the past few centuries, animals in Europe have not fared well. Hunting, habitat loss, and pollution have sent animals into decline. But this report marks a reversal in fortunes. The researchers looked at 18 mammals and 19 bird species found across Europe. They found that all, apart from the Iberian lynx, had increased in abundance from the 1960s. The largest increases were for the European bison, the Eurasian beaver, the white-headed duck, some populations of the pink-footed goose and the barnacle goose. These had all increased by more than 3,000% during the past five decades. For top predators such as the brown bear, numbers have doubled. And for the grey wolf, which saw serious losses in the past, populations have climbed by 30%. For mammals, the comeback was largest in the south and west of Europe, and their range had increased on average by about 30%. The average range of the birds remained stable. Mr Schepers said: "The wildlife comeback actually started after World War II in the 1950s and 1960s. Compared to the numbers in the 1600s and 1700s, it's still at a very low level, but it's coming back." Global view The researchers believe a combination of factors have been driving this return. Legal protection in the European Union, such as the birds directive and habitats directive, had helped to revive the fortunes of species, as had dedicated conservation schemes, said Mr Schepers. And while some animals are still hunted in parts of Europe, there are often limits on the number that can be killed. "It is also because people are leaving the countryside, which leaves more space for wildlife," said Mr Schepers. The recovery of some species, particularly large predators, has raised concerns. In France, for example, where wolves have recently returned, farmers are concerned that their livestock is at risk. The report warns that this could be a growing problem, but suggests that governments should put in place compensation schemes to offset any losses for farmers. It also says that rural communities could benefit from more animals, as ecotourism could offer a boost to local economies. The finding is surprising when seen in the global context, where biodiversity is in continuing decline. Prof Jonathan Baillie, director of conservation at the Zoological Society of London, said: "We're trying to find success stories so we can learn from them, so we can see what works and scale that up across the conservation movement globally. "And it is really important that we focus on success and where we are winning. "But there are massive challenges out there globally. And we have to realise that the threats that Europe creates are not just within our borders, it's internationally, and that we are having an impact on the 60% decline we're seeing in low income countries around the world." He also warned that Europe's wildlife was at a pivotal moment. "We just have to be aware that into the future there will be increasing pressure for food production and so on within Europe," he said. "And for a lot of these species, where we have seen the gains, we might lose them again if we are not careful. So it's our job to keep our eye on the ball."23 July 2013Last updated at 12:14 GMT European court fines Malta over migrant detentions The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has told Malta to pay thousands of euros in compensation to two African migrants whose rights were violated. A Somali woman who had a miscarriage during her detention in 2011 is to receive 30,000 euros (?26,000; $40,000), plus 3,000 euros in costs. A man alleged to be from Sierra Leone is to receive 27,000 euros in total. The court said the woman's prison conditions were "degrading". Malta is a target for boatloads of migrants. Earlier this month Malta cancelled flights it had booked to return migrants to Libya, after an emergency intervention by the ECHR. The court in Strasbourg issued rulings on Tuesday concerning Aslya Aden Ahmed, a Somali national, and Ibrahim Suso Musa, allegedly from Sierra Leone. In Ms Ahmed's case, it is the first time the court has ruled against Malta for violation of Article Three of the - prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment - concerning migrant detention conditions. The judges criticised conditions at Lyster Barracks - the holding centre - where migrants were exposed to cold, a lack of female staff, lack of access to open air, denial of exercise for long periods and poor food. Slow bureaucracy Ms Ahmed entered Malta illegally by boat in February 2009, and in May that year her application for asylum was rejected. She later escaped from detention, got to the Netherlands, but was sent back to Malta in February 2011. She was then imprisoned for six months, but had become pregnant and miscarried in hospital in March 2011. She still lives in Hal Far, in Malta. The court also found that her detention for 14 and a half months had been illegal, because the Maltese authorities had not taken any steps to deport her and had not reviewed the terms of her detention. In the case of Mr Suso Musa, the court found that his detention had been arbitrary and the authorities had taken an unreasonable length of time to decide whether to let him stay in Malta. He entered Malta illegally by boat in April 2011 and remained in detention until March 2013. Earlier this month Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said more than 400 migrants had arrived in the past week. As an EU member state it called for assistance from its EU partners to tackle the influx. The summer months often see a stream of boats carrying migrants from Africa. Many arrive in Malta or at the Italian island of Lampedusa, hoping to gain access to other parts of the European Union.26 September 2011Last updated at 13:18 GMT European eagle owl recaptured after escaping in Worcester A rare owl with a six ft (1.8m) wing span has been recaptured after a night of freedom in Worcester. The female European eagle owl escaped on Sunday night from her owner's house after they returned from a display. Owner Andrew Jobson, a member of the Worcester Barn Owl Conservation Group, said: "She was absolutely exhausted after being mobbed by rooks and crows." The bird was recaptured just after 10:00 BST in the car park of a retail estate in the city. Mr Jobson said although the European eagle owl is the largest species of owl in the world, his bird lacks the skills to survive in the wild. "They're used to be fed on a tray every night, so she wouldn't have a clue what she was looking for in the wild," he said. Mr Jobson said there had been several sightings of the missing bird around Astwood cemetery in Worcester. "We had a very sleepless night going out every hour and having a look for her," he said.30 August 2013Last updated at 16:00 GMT Eurozone crisis colours German election campaign By Chris MorrisBBC News, Hamburg, Germany Angela Merkel does not really do razzmatazz. But as she climbed on stage for an early evening rally in the town of Rendsburg, on the Kiel Canal north of Hamburg, her supporters were happy enough. "Our country is doing very well at the moment," she told them to polite applause. "We are the anchor of stability for Europe, the motor of growth." The campaign to decide who will be the continent's most powerful politician for the next four years is in full swing. But most Europeans do not have a vote in this. Germany's federal elections take place on 22 September and Mrs Merkel is a strong favourite to win a third term as chancellor. Coalition politics could still complicate things, but she is by far the most popular political leader in the country. Inevitably, much of the focus of the campaign is on domestic themes, the bread-and-butter issues of daily life. Leadership role But a sizeable chunk of Mrs Merkel's speech in Rendsburg was devoted to the eurozone crisis, and her determination to fix it. "Her foreign policy agenda has one main point, and that is saving the euro," said Josef Joffe, editor of the Hamburg-based weekly newspaper Die Zeit. And as the crisis has developed, and policymaking in the eurozone has become more closely co-ordinated in response, Germany has become Europe's undisputed leader. That means the result of this election matters more than ever to the 250 million or so people who live in the eurozone but outside Germany. In Rendsburg, Angela Merkel argued that Greece should never have been allowed to join the single currency in the first place, and she blamed her predecessor, the former Social Democrat (SPD) leader Gerhard Schroeder, for allowing it to happen. But Europe, she emphasised, is of crucial importance to Germany. "For that reason, the euro is also more than a currency, and we have always shown solidarity. But solidarity has to be coupled with individual responsibility, with reforms in those countries that we are helping. "They are like two sides of the same coin." It is a familiar argument, and blaming Mr Schroeder was designed to deflect criticism from her opponents that she has not been honest about the fact that Germany will probably have to pay more to bail out Greece again in the future. Healthy data Perhaps she need not have worried. Her main challenger in this election, another Social Democrat, Peer Steinbrueck, has attacked her European policy without making much of an impact in the opinion polls. In a Turkish restaurant on the outskirts of Hamburg he told me that Germany needs to rethink its role in and with Europe. "German leadership in the eurozone is an interesting subject for many Germans," he said. "And I think it makes no sense just to compel other countries to consolidate their public budgets. This is not enough. They also need more economic stimulus." The trouble with translating that argument into electoral votes is that many Germans think they have done pretty well out of the eurozone crisis. Unemployment is low, and recent official figures suggest the country has saved 40bn euros (?34bn; $53bn) by paying less to borrow money on the markets than it had budgeted for. Mr Steinbrueck, however, is adamant. "We have to launch a programme immediately against very high and very dangerous unemployment of young people - in Spain and Greece in particular, but also in Italy," he said. "I think European leaders have failed up until now to implement such initiatives." So there are real differences of emphasis between the main parties on European policy. But it is still possible that they could join forces after the election in a grand coalition. Diplomatic challenge Mrs Merkel's current coalition partners, the liberal Free Democrats, are hovering dangerously close to the 5% threshold for winning seats in the Bundestag. "With a new coalition partner, Berlin could become a bit more pro-integration in the eurozone," said Carsten Brzeski, chief economist for Germany at ING Bank. "But don't forget this is Germany, and Germany doesn't like sudden change." For now, the election is clearly Angela Merkel's to lose. It would be a big surprise if anyone else inherited the responsibility of deciding how quickly to move forward with fiscal or banking union in the EU. "Primacy in Europe has fallen into Mrs Merkel's lap like an overripe plum," observed Josef Joffe from Die Zeit. "There she is and she doesn't quite know what to do with it. Everyone is looking to Germany for leadership, but when Germany puts down its foot everyone starts screaming." That means that imposing economic reform on smaller countries like Greece and Portugal is one thing; persuading Italy or France is quite another. So whoever wins this election - and it looks set to produce continuity rather than change - will face the same tough European challenge. "The Germans are big and very powerful," Mr Joffe concluded, "but they don't quite have the legitimacy to wield the conductor's baton".3 October 2013Last updated at 09:22 GMT Everton reveal crest vote results after motto U-turn Everton FC have revealed the new club badge design most popular with its supporters, after a previous redesign was criticised. In September, the club said its motto would be reinstated after its removal for this season led to protests. Fans were given a choice of three new crests they could vote for. Nearly 80% of fans that took part opted for the winning design, which garnered 10,343 votes, while 12% of fans chose the second option and 9% the third. Unveiling the crest, Everton manager Roberto Martinez said: "I was impressed straightaway when I saw it but there has been a huge majority of fans have chosen this one. "It captures what we were looking for: to have a modern touch and to be a global badge without taking away all the key icons of the football club. "Certain icons represent many years of history and that is important. Fans made it clear they wanted to see the tower and our motto and I think it is important 'Nil satis' is back on the badge." The motto Nil Satis Nisi Optimum, which means "nothing but the best", dates back 75 years but disappeared as part of the redesign. The club apologised in May after 22,000 fans signed an online petition condemning the "awful" 2013-2014 badge. The winning design, which was voted for via the club's website, will be used from next season.22 August 2013Last updated at 21:52 GMT Ex-NFL player Aaron Hernandez indicted on murder charges Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez has been formally indicted on murder and weapons charges in the death of a friend. He is charged with murdering Odin Lloyd, who was found dead a mile (1.6km) from Mr Hernandez's home. The 23-year-old former National Football League tight-end faces life in prison if convicted. His lawyer, Michael Fee, said he was looking forward to testing the prosecution's evidence. "There has been an incredible rush to judgment in this case," Mr Fee said. He contended that prosecutors could not prove the accused had killed 27-year-old Lloyd, who was a semi-professional football player. Mr Hernandez was dropped from the Patriots - and his $40m (?25m) contract - shortly after his arrest in June. He was drafted by the team in 2010 after playing football at the University of Florida. Prosecutors have alleged that Mr Hernandez killed Lloyd over a dispute several days before. According to authorities, Mr Hernandez and two friends picked up Lloyd at home in the early hours of 17 June. Mr Hernandez allegedly told Lloyd he was upset about an incident at a nightclub days before. Prosecutor Bill McCauley said surveillance footage from Mr Hernandez's home showed him leaving earlier on the night of the killing with a gun. Lloyd's body was found later that morning in an industrial park. The victim's family said he and the NFL player had been friends; the victim had been dating the sister of Mr Hernandez's girlfriend. The Bristol County grand jury also indicted two others in the case. Ernest Wallace, who prosecutors say was with Mr Hernandez the night Lloyd died, was charged with accessory to murder after the fact. Mr Hernandez's cousin, Tanya Singleton, was also charged with refusing to testify in front of a grand jury.3 October 2013Last updated at 16:44 GMT Ex-Rossall School teacher charged with children abuse An ex-teacher at a private school in Lancashire has been charged with historical child abuse offences involving three children aged between eight and 12 said police. Roy Ball, 80, from Clevedon, Somerset, who taught at Rossall School, Fleetwood is accused of indecently assaulting the children in the 1970s in Fleetwood. He is also charged with 14 offences of possessing indecent images. Mr Ball is due to appear before Blackpool magistrates on 22 October. Lancashire Police said it follows an investigation launched in November by Fleetwood CID. Mr Ball, of Edward Road South, has been bailed until his appearance at Blackpool Magistrates' Court. Rossall School on Broadway was founded in 1844 as an Anglican boys' boarding school. The school accepted girls in the 1970s and has almost 600 pupils including boarders.21 June 2012Last updated at 15:58 GMT Excitement builds over Higgs data By Paul RinconScience editor, BBC News website Excitement is building ahead of a conference to be held in Melbourne, Australia, in July where scientists are expected to present new findings in their search for the Higgs boson. But a definitive statement on its existence will probably have to wait - at the very least until the Autumn. Nevertheless, a 30-year search for this vital missing building block of the Universe is entering its endgame. The Higgs is the most coveted prize in particle physics. It is the cornerstone of the Standard Model - the most successful theory for describing how the Universe works - and explains why all other particles have mass. In December, scientists at Cern, the organisation which operates the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), told the world they had . But scientists had to stop short of announcing a discovery; their tentative signal did not meet the benchmark required for a formal discovery. This threshold is a level of statistical certainty known as "five sigma". A five sigma result means there is a one in 1,000,000 chance that a "bump" in the data (the possible signal of a new particle) is just a fluke. The LHC rumbled back to life in April with little fanfare following its regular winter shutdown to save on electricity costs. After something of a slow start, it has begun to collide particles Not only has it received a hike in energy, from 3.5 trillion electronvolts (TeV) to 4 TeV, but also luminosity (this is a measure of the number of collisions that are possible per second and per cm squared). The latter in particular has been important for boosting data collection: the collider has already gathered slightly more data in the last few months as it did during the whole of 2011. Physicists have been hard at work crunching the numbers and are set to give an update to the Cern Council, which meets on Thursday and Friday. They then plan to present results at the in Melbourne, which runs 4-11 July. "There are three things that can happen," says Dr James Gillies, director of communications at Cern, "[The signal has] gone down in significance, it has gone up in significance - but not to the point where physicists can claim a discovery - or thirdly, that there's a discovery." Two experiments at the LHC - Atlas and CMS - are searching for the Higgs independently and will present their findings separately. Scientific groups both within and between the collaborations are not supposed to talk to each other about their findings, thus preventing "cross contamination" of results. In some instances, one experiment might observe something that the other does not, last year. However, if both experiments see a signal in the same part of the "search area" - as Atlas and CMS did in December - it becomes more likely that they are observing something tangible, rather than a statistical fluctuation. Once they have presented their results, they can be combined on one graph. If the results from Atlas or CMS fall short of the five sigma level, the combination could push the statistical significance over the discovery threshold. Combined results won't be available by the time of ICHEP. But, says Dr Gillies, "people who are not involved in the analyses directly won't be able to resist the temptation to say 'look, if you put these together, you get this result'." "I don't know what's in the data yet, but there's a lot of excitement about what might be there." It is no surprise that the blogosphere is rife with rumours. , Peter Woit says scientists analysing the 2012 data observe a signal in the same place - a mass of 125 Gigaelectronvolts (GeV) - as they did in December, at least for a Higgs decaying into two photons. Scientists cannnot detect the Higgs directly; if the particle is generated by smashing protons together in the LHC, they will have to infer its existence by looking at the particles it has ultimately decayed - or transformed - into, and work backwards to "reconstruct" it. Woit writes that the certainty level has crept up and says the fact both Atlas and CMS observe a signal in the new data strengthens the significance of the result. However, Cern officials will not comment on rumours and stress that analyses are ongoing. Other physicists believe a five sigma result is highly unlikely to be announced at the ICHEP conference. Prof Dave Charlton, from the Atlas collaboration, cautions: "One shouldn't get too excited about what's going to happen?? at ICHEP. The amount of data we'll have collected and expect to be able to present is similar to what we collected last year. So we should get a lot more information, but strange things can happen with low statistics. He adds: "[The data] comes in more or less continuously over the year. We'll take one snapshot in July at the ICHEP conference in Melbourne, then there'll be another snapshot in mid-September. And then another towards the end of the year. The evidence will evolve between those three sets of results and we don't know how it will evolve. "We have this whole year's worth of data to take. And when we have that full data sample, which will be towards the end of [2012], that's the timescale on which we will have the really clear picture." If one assumes the signal from 2011 does not vanish, and eventually exceeds the five-sigma threshold, physicists will then begin the process of understanding what they have found. They will want to know whether the new particle fits the version of the Higgs envisaged by the Standard Model, or whether its properties hint at some new physics. That will involve years of detailed and difficult work, says Dr Tony Weidberg, from the University of Oxford. He told BBC News that even at a certainty level of five sigma "you're very far from proving it's a Higgs particle at all, let alone a Standard Model Higgs". He adds: "If the most plausible hypothesis is that it's a Standard Model Higgs, you have to ask 'what experiments can we do to test that hypothesis'. The answer is to measure as much detail as you can about this particle. It's much harder to do these detailed measurements than just see if there is something there." There is much the Standard Model cannot explain - gravity for example, or the dark matter and dark energy that together make up most of our Universe. This framework is now seen as a stepping stone to something more significant - a theory of everything. "If we find something it could either be a bog-standard Standard Model Higgs boson, which would be very nice but would not give us any pointers on where to go next," says Dr Gillies. "Or it could be an incarnation of the Higgs which is linked to supersymmetry or extra dimensions theory." Unseen Universe Most physicists will hope it is the latter, he explains, "just in terms of getting us to the 96% of the Universe the Standard Model doesn't cover". Dr Gillies adds: "By measuring all the parameters and decays accurately and precisely we will be able to establish what kind of Higgs it is." Tony Weidberg says: "The Higgs is responsible for generating mass in the theory, so it couples more strongly to heavier particles than to lighter ones. That's a very characteristic feature." Such a particle could be further characterised by studying the ways in which it decays into other particles, the different ways in which it is produced and also the rates at which it is produced. For example, the teams can measure the ratios of various final states after the Higgs has decayed into other particles. These ratios can then be compared against the predictions of the Standard Model. Mre subtle measurements would require the LHC to generate much more luminosity; the machine is expected to increase this property through a series of upgrades over the next 10 years.1 October 2013Last updated at 23:56 GMT Exercise 'can be as good as pills' By Michelle RobertsHealth editor, BBC News online Exercise can be as good a medicine as pills for people with conditions such as heart disease, a study has found. The (BMJ) looked at hundreds of trials involving nearly 340,000 patients to assess the merits of exercise and drugs in preventing death. Physical activity rivalled some heart drugs and outperformed stroke medicine. The findings suggest exercise should be added to prescriptions, say the researchers. Experts stressed that patients should not ditch their drugs for exercise - rather, they should use both in tandem. Prescriptions rise Too few adults currently get enough exercise. Only a third of people in England do the recommended 2.5 hours or more of moderate-intensity activity, such as cycling or fast walking, every week. In contrast, prescription drug rates continue to rise. There were an average of 17.7 prescriptions for every person in England in 2010, compared with 11.2 in 2000. For the study, scientists based at the London School of Economics, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute at Harvard Medical School and Stanford University School of Medicine trawled medical literature to find any research that compared exercise with pills as a therapy. They identified 305 trials to include in their analysis. These trials looked at managing conditions such as existing heart disease, stroke rehabilitation, heart failure and pre-diabetes. When they studied the data as a whole, they found exercise and drugs were comparable in terms of death rates. But there were two exceptions. Drugs called diuretics were the clear winner for heart failure patients, while exercise was best for stroke patients in terms of life expectancy. Amy Thompson, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said that although an active lifestyle brings many health benefits, there is not enough evidence to draw any firm conclusions about the merit of exercise above and beyond drugs. "Medicines are an extremely important part of the treatment of many heart conditions and people on prescribed drugs should keep taking their vital meds. If you have a heart condition or have been told you're at high risk of heart disease, talk to your doctor about the role that exercise can play in your treatment." Dr Peter Coleman of the Stroke Association said exercise alongside drugs had a vital role that merited more research. "We would like to see more research into the long-term benefits of exercise for stroke patients. "By taking important steps, such as regular exercise, eating a balanced diet and stopping smoking, people can significantly reduce their risk of stroke." "Moderate physical activity, for example, can reduce the risk of stroke by up to 27%."20 February 2013Last updated at 18:03 GMT Exoplanet Kepler 37b is tiniest yet - smaller than Mercury By Jason PalmerScience and technology reporter, BBC News Astronomers have smashed the record for the smallest planet beyond our Solar System - finding one only slightly larger than our Moon. To spot the tiny, probably rocky planet, they first needed to precisely measure the size of its host star. They did so using "astroseismology" - effectively, turning tiny variations in the star's light into sounds. describes the blistering, probably rocky planet, which orbits its star in just 13 days. It is joined in this far-flung solar system by two other planets, one three-quarters Earth's size and one twice as large as Earth - all circling their star too closely to harbour liquid water or life. Moving target The record for smallest "exoplanet" is routinely being broken, as astronomers get better and better at finding them. The best tool in the planet-hunters' toolbox is the Kepler space telescope, which stares at a fixed part of the sky, trying to detect the tiny dips in stars' light that happens when planets pass in front of them: what is called a transit event. In its earliest days, the Kepler team tended to find large planets - Jupiter- and Neptune-sized behemoths. In more recent years, the catalogue of exoplanet has seen an increasing number of so-called super-Earths, up to about twice the radius of our planet. Only recently has been found. But the new find is a planet just a third the size of that recent record-holder, smaller even than our Solar System's smallest planet, Mercury. "I think it's an amazing technological achievement to be able to be able to detect small rocks like this," said Francois Fressin, a co-author of the paper based at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. "It means we're really in the arena where it's possible to detect all the planets of our Solar System, but around other stars," he told BBC News. The find of Kepler 37b and its two companions can in part be ascribed to a wealth of data from the Kepler telescope; it has been recording data for nearly four years, and signals that would once have been too small to see have been slowly accumulating, with smaller planets becoming more apparent. But telling just how small a given planet is depends on a relative measurement: how much light there is when the planet is and is not in front of the host star. The degree to which we can know the planet's size depends on how well we can know the host star's size. That is where the science of astroseismology comes in - and a team of experts in this area of science at the University of Birmingham in the UK took a look at the data. "Inside stars it's a very noisy environment, and that noise sets up sound waves that travel all the way through the star," said Birmingham astrophysicist Prof Yvonne Elsworth. "Some of (the waves) will resonate, just like a musical instrument - the turbulence causes them to ring at frequencies that are characteristic of the star," Prof Elsworth told BBC News. "If we look at the star we can see those oscillations, the amount of light we get from the star varies - slowly and by a very small amount - at frequencies that tell us what's going on inside the star." And also like a musical instrument, those "resonant" frequencies tell researchers just how big the star actually is. 'Decade of discovery' Together, the analyses point to the presence of three planets. Kepler 37b and c are about 30% and 74% as large as the Earth, and Kepler 37d is about twice Earth's radius. The three orbit their star in 13, 21, and 40 days respectively - all within orbits just 20% of the Earth-Sun distance. It is, in short, another interesting solar system to go in the - and the notion that exoplanet news has been in plentiful supply in recent years is not lost on Dr Fressin. "I understand that people could get bored by these successive announcements," he said. "But hundreds or thousands of years from now, this will be remembered as the decade where discovery of other worlds of all kinds has been made possible."3 October 2013Last updated at 13:45 GMT Extra Scottish government funding for HGV ferry fares The Scottish government has sought to reduce the ferry fare increases being faced by commercial hauliers in the Western Isles, Coll and Tiree. Operators of heavy lorries were angered by the withdrawal of their road equivalent tariff discounts last year. Transport Minister Keith Brown said he was listening to their concerns. The government is adding ?1.9m to the financial support it already provides to lessen the impact of the withdrawal of RET. Norman MacDonald, convenor of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said the funding was a step in the right direction but was still not enough to help HGV operators. Mr Brown said: "We are aware of views from some hauliers on the Western Isles, Coll and Tiree routes of the impact of the transitional arrangements we have put in place to move commercial hauliers to non-RET fares, and we are listening." He added: "The additional investment will provide a further financial cushion and ensure fare increases for those hauliers next year are in line with the rest of the ferry network, which has been set for summer 2014 at 2.7%."5 July 2013Last updated at 09:17 GMT Face-to-face with Abu Sakkar, Syria's 'heart-eating cannibal' By Paul WoodBBC News, Syria It sounded like the most far-fetched propaganda claim - a Syrian rebel commander who cut out the heart of a fallen enemy soldier, and ate it before a cheering crowd of his men. The story turned out to be true in its most important aspect - a ritual demonstration of cannibalism - though when I met the commander, Abu Sakkar, in Syria last week, he seemed hazy on the details. "I really don't remember," he says, when I ask if it was the man's heart, as reported at the time, or liver, or a piece of lung, as a doctor who saw the video said. He goes on: "I didn't bite into it. I just held it for show." The video says otherwise. It is one of the most gruesome to emerge from Syria's civil war. In it, Abu Sakkar stands over an enemy corpse, slicing into the flesh. "It looks like you're carving him a Valentine's heart," says one of his men, raucously. Abu Sakkar picks up a bloody handful of something and declares: "We will eat your hearts and your livers you soldiers of Bashar the dog." Then he brings his hand up to his mouth and his lips close around whatever he is holding. At the time the video was released, in May, we rang him and he confirmed to us that he had indeed taken a ritual bite (of a piece of lung, he said). Now, meeting him face-to-face, he seems a bit more circumspect, though his anger builds when I ask why he carried out this depraved act. "I didn't want to do this. I had to," he tells me. "We have to terrify the enemy, humiliate them, just as they do to us. Now, they won't dare be wherever Abu Sakkar is." He is 27, a stocky, tough-looking Bedouin from the Baba Amr district of Homs, with a wild stare and skin burned a dark brown by the sun. He tells me the story of his involvement in the revolution, leading to his current notoriety. Before the uprising, he was working as a labourer in Baba Amr. He joined the demonstrations when they started in the spring of 2011. Then, he says, a woman and child were shot dead at a protest. His brother went to help. He, too, was shot and killed. In a YouTube video from June 2011, Abu Sakkar can be seen at the front of a crowd waving olive branches to greet deserting army officers. He took up arms against the regime, one of the first to join a new organisation called the Free Syrian Army (FSA). In February 2012, he was fighting with the Farouq Brigade, and they tried, and failed, to stop the regime taking Baba Amr. When the FSA fled Baba Amr, he started his own brigade, the Omar al-Farouq. They saw bitter fighting in Qusayr. Along the way, he lost another brother, many relatives, and countless of his men. His parents were arrested and he says the police rang him so he could hear them being beaten. "Put yourself in my shoes," he says. "They took your father and mother and insulted them. They slaughtered your brothers, they murdered your uncle and aunt. All this happened to me. They slaughtered my neighbours." He goes on to talk about the man whose flesh he held in his hands: "This guy had videos on his mobile. It showed him raping a mother and her two daughters. He stripped them while they begged him to stop in the name of God. Finally he slaughtered them with a knife... What would you have done?" Well, perhaps not make a meal of my enemy, I think. At the time, Abu Sakkar's men greeted what he did with cries of "God is Great". Now the fighters looking after him while he recovers from an injury just seem a bit embarrassed. Abu Sakkar says the dead soldier was an Alawite or Shiite militiaman. "He was insulting us. He was shouting, 'Oh Ali, Oh Hussein, Oh Haydar [Shia slogans],'" he says. "In the beginning, when we captured an Alawite fighter, we would feed him, make him feel comfortable. We used to tell him we were brothers. But then they started raping our women, slaughtering children with knives." A man in the room interrupts to say the Alawites are not proper Muslims. This war is becoming increasingly sectarian. Abu Sakkar shows me scars from 14 different bullet wounds on his body. "We're under siege, it's been two years now," he says. "Videos from the Shabiha [government militia] show many more terrible things than what I did. You weren't too bothered. There wasn't much of a media fanfare. You didn't care. You suffer a fraction of what we suffered and you'll do what I did and more." He continues: "Qusayr was destroyed, Baba Amr destroyed, Homs was entirely destroyed. No-one cares. See how the refugees are living? Would you accept your parents living the same way? The Syrian people refuse to be humiliated. We are defending the Islamic nation and this is how the Arabs and the West treat us? What did the West do? Nothing." Finally, he adds: "If we don't get help, a no-fly zone, heavy weapons, we will do worse [than I did]. You've seen nothing yet." So Abu Sakkar has become the "cannibal rebel" - a handy symbol for all those who, like the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, oppose arming the Syrian rebels. Standing next to an uncomfortable looking David Cameron, Mr Putin told a G8 summit news conference: "These are people who don't just kill their enemies, they open up their bodies, and eat their intestines in front of the public and the cameras. Are these the people you want to?? supply with weapons?" It is possible that Abu Sakkar was mentally disturbed all along. Or perhaps the war made him this way. War damages men - and Syria is no different. As the poet W H Auden wrote: "Those to whom evil is done, do evil in return." I asked the Free Syrian Army's chief of staff, Gen Salim Idris, why Abu Sakkar hadn't been arrested. His answer tells you a lot about the reality of how the war is being fought on the rebel side. "We condemn what he did," said the general. "But why do our friends in the West focus on this when thousands are dying? We are a revolution not a structured army. If we were, we would have expelled Abu Sakkar. But he commands his own battalion, which he raised with his own money. Is the West asking me now to fight Abu Sakkar and force him out of the revolution? I beg for some understanding here." Abu Sakkar seems unsure how to respond to his notoriety. He is, by turns, sheepish, nervous, angry and bitter. He definitely has the look of a man who has seen too many bad things. At the end of our interview he says he is an "angel of death" coming to cash in the souls of the enemy. After the video became public, his men filmed him making a statement. (Not for nothing has this been called the YouTube war.) , Abu Sakkar is in a freshly pressed uniform, jauntily smoking a cigarette in a way that lends a slightly absurd air to the whole performance. He says he's willing to stand trial - but only if President Bashar Assad does too. There's no immediate prospect of either men facing their accusers. Nor of peace talks, or even of a ceasefire. And so Syria's descent into madness continues. Elswhere on the web who has spent time with the al-Farouq brigade in Syria, says Sakkar was once seen as a moderate and "something of a hero". "What made someone who had once cautioned against blaming the Alawites - the minority community from which the ruling elite are drawn - for the regime's actions into their virulent hater?" Sengupta asks. "There is little doubt that brutality with which the regime responded to peaceful protests in Baba Amr and elsewhere in Syria was the catalyst for the armed uprising which followed. But surely that does not explain such levels of viciousness from both sides?" For others, the release of the video - and its distribution by pro-government websites - was an escalation of a propaganda war between the rebels and Syrian authorities. "Up until now (in the eyes of most of the international community) it was pretty much a given of which side is right and which side of wrong," . "The information war pretty much decided that early on when rebels, building on experiences during the Arab Spring, used the internet to gain a strong moral upper hand on Assad's crimes. Today that upper hand looks a little limp. Assad and Sakkar may not want us to think so, but the reality is that there are no good guys in this war." stresses that Abu Sakkar is "just one man, and there are many other armed fighters in Syria who reject such sectarian actions and would be horrified by the mutilation and desecration of a corpse - let alone an act of cannibalism". He goes on: "Action by the [UN] Security Council would send a powerful message to all sides of the Syrian conflict that abuses such as those committed by Abu Sakkar - as well as those committed in even greater numbers by the Syrian government - will ultimately be prosecuted as war crimes and crimes against humanity." You can follow the Magazine on and onFacebook has set the share price for its upcoming initial public offering (IPO) at between $28 and $35 per share, valuing the company at between $85bn-$95bn (?52bn-?59bn). The IPO is set to be the largest ever for an internet firm, bigger than Google's valuation of $23bn in 2004. IPOs are when companies list shares on the stock market for the first time. Facebook is set to list on the Nasdaq and would rival Amazon's and Cisco System's current market values. Michelle Fleury reports.11 September 2013Last updated at 18:52 GMT Facebook shares hit highest price since May 2012 debut Shares in the social networking giant Facebook have finally surpassed their previous high of $45 (?28), reached on their first day of trading in May 2012. The stock rose 3.3% to $45.05 by midday in New York. Investors have reacted favourably to the company's efforts to better tailor its mobile site for advertisers, who provide most of the company's revenues. Facebook's shares lost half their value in their first year as a publically traded company. When it made its stock market debut on the Nasdaq exchange in May last year, the appetite for shares in the world's biggest social networking site was enormous. Priced initially at $38 per share, the stock soared within hours of its debut to a high of $45. But its stock later slumped. Efforts by the company to improve its mobile experience to attract more users have impressed investors, however. Shares in the company have surged 60% since July, after the company reported better than expected earnings. Facebook said mobile made up 41% of its total advertising revenue in the second quarter of the year, and said revenues from mobile advertising would soon surpass revenues from desktop adverts. Facebook said its mobile user base in the second quarter of this year to 819 million. it claims to have more than a billion users worldwide.21 November 2011Last updated at 07:43 GMT Failed state: Can DR Congo recover? As the Democratic Republic of Congo prepares for just its second general elections in four decades on 28 November, Congolese affairs analyst Theodore Trefon considers whether this failed state, still recovering from a war which led to an estimated four million deaths, can ever be rebuilt. People in the Democratic Republic of Congo expect very little from the state, government or civil servants. In fact, ordinary Congolese often repeat expressions like "the state is dying but not yet dead" or "the state is ever present but completely useless". It seems they also expect little from the upcoming elections and there can be little argument that DR Congo is indeed a failed state. Ordinary citizens are poor, hungry and under-informed. The government is unable to provide decent education or health services. The country - two-thirds of the size of western Europe - is a battleground. The citizens of DR Congo pray to be delivered from the brutal militias that still control parts of the eastern provinces, where rape has become so commonplace that one senior UN official called the country "the rape capital of the world". Predators I asked a university colleague if he thought things could get worse. "When you are rock bottom, you can still dig deeper," was his response. Public administration is in shambles. Civil servants have mutated into predators. Ferdinand Munguna is a retired railway worker in Lubumbashi, the mineral capital of DR Congo in the south of the country. He has to bribe the man working in the pension office who requires "motivation" before processing the old man's file. Mr Munguna complains that his pension is "hardly enough to buy soap". takes 65 days compared to the sub-Saharan African average of 40 days. In neighbouring Rwanda it takes three days. And guess which country has one of the worst air safety records worldwide? The prestigious Foreign Policy magazine's puts DR Congo in the critically failed category. Only Somalia, Chad and Sudan (when it included South Sudan) have worse rankings. The recently released put the former Belgian colony at the bottom of the 187 countries it surveyed. On the political front, President Joseph Kabila has shown much more interest in regime consolidation than implementing his five-point development agenda - which most Congolese consider more as a political slogan than a development initiative. When criticised, Mr Kabila's henchmen resort to the ultimate force of dissuasion. Take Zoe Kabila, the president's brother, who ordered his Republican Guard escort to beat up two traffic officers because they did not give his 4X4 priority. Usually immune to the brutality of the security forces, even people in Kinshasa were shocked by this incident at a busy downtown intersection. Numerous cases of journalist beatings and killings have also been reported. Floribert Chebeya, a highly respected human rights activist was murdered, allegedly by members of the president's inner circle. Unfair Congo bashing Poor leadership is a major problem for DR Congo. There are few figures on the political landscape with vision, leaders able to bring an end to corrupt government, reduce poverty, solve the country's security problems or improve the well-being of ordinary people. DR Congo bashing has become a mantra amongst academics, humanitarian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and policy makers. But I think that this is unfair. While it is important to maintain pressure on Kinshasa's unabashedly corrupt political establishment, we also have to consider the country's troubled past. Few societies have accumulated so many woes. Those old enough to remember say the whip and chain is what they associate most with Belgian colonialism. Others however are nostalgic and wish for the Belgians to return to solve the country's problems. Cold War policies facilitated the maintenance of the brutal dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko. He ruled what was then named Zaire for 32 years, supported by the West because of Cold War strategic interests. Two wars - the liberation war that toppled Mobutu and "Africa's first world war", from 1997-2002 - are overwhelming obstacles to development, state-building and well-being. DR Congo is also victim to what is commonly referred to as "the resource curse". The central government cannot control borders with its nine neighbours. Much of DR Congo's coltan, a mineral used in computers and mobiles, is illegally exported through Rwanda. Precious tropical hardwoods are siphoned off through Uganda. Surreal DR Congo's financial and technical partners - the so called "international community" - are also to blame. They have no master plan for reform. They do not share a common vision and often implement contradictory programmes. Belgium supported the idea of decentralisation arguing that it could bring government accountability down to the grassroots level. The World Bank blocked the process. Bank experts have some control of the treasury in Kinshasa but they have absolutely no idea of how resources in the provinces are managed. Data collection is a surreal concept in DR Congo - many offices do not have electricity, let alone computers. Absence of national sovereignty is another hallmark of a failed state. DR Congo is a country under international trusteeship. Important decisions are taken by World Bank technocrats, UN officials and increasingly by international NGOs. When the electoral campaign officially opened last month, candidates travelled to Europe and the US to garner support. The UN mission, Monusco, is playing a key logistical role in the elections by transporting ballot boxes across the vast nation. People would not be able to vote without this kind of support. Whatever accountability there is in DR Congo is directed towards international backers, not the Congolese people. Congolese authorities have abdicated from the development agenda. Road rehabilitation and bridge building have been delegated to the World Bank and Belgian Technical Cooperation. Monusco is supposed to look after the security sector. The World Health Organization and medical NGOs try to deal with the public health challenges. The UK is involved in reinforcing governance programmes, while churches provide primary education. The state is an absentee landlord - outside partners do its work. Dynamic survivors So DR Congo is on an artificial life-support system. But replacing the state, or acting on its behalf, is not viable in the long-term. It undermines state-building momentum. DR Congo and its partners are clearly confronted by the tragedy of powerlessness. The system is such that when things do not work, go wrong or do not move forward, it is never really anyone's fault. There are plenty of good excuses. A colleague told me when asked why he did not show up for an appointment: "Well, there was an eclipse that day." While DR Congo is clearly a failed state, Congolese society has not failed. On the contrary it is strong, vibrant, dynamic, tolerant and generous. People have a sense of taking charge of their own destinies. Women form rotating credit systems to compensate for the absence of an accessible banking system. Farmers band together to hire a lorry to get their cassava or charcoal from the central city of Kikwit to market in Kinshasa. Bebe, who lives in the Paris suburb of Griney, sends money home to Kasai via Western Union. Some months it contributes to school fees, others it pays for medicines for her ailing mother-in-law. Her father will spend some of it on Primus, the beer of choice in Kinshasa. "Elikia" means hope in Lingala and there is much of it throughout the country. Hopes for positive change will come from the people, not from the Congolese political establishment, and certainly not from outside interventions. Theodore Trefon is senior researcher at the Royal Museum for Central Africa and author of the blog . On 25 November, the BBC World Service is broadcasting a special one-hour debate in front of a Kinshasa audience: Is DR Congo a failed state? Tune in at 1900 GMT.30 September 2013Last updated at 13:42 GMT Faith schools used as 'battleground for larger fight' By Judith BurnsBBC News education reporter The growth of popular faith schools is often blocked because they are used as an ideological "battleground" says the Church of England's head of education. The Bishop of Oxford, the Right Reverend John Pritchard blamed secular campaigners for questioning the legitimacy of faith schools. Bishop Pritchard was writing in a report on faith schools for religious think tank, Theos. Fair admissions group Accord Coalition, called the paper a "whitewash". The report, More than an Educated Guess, says the argument over state-funded faith schools in England has become ideologically loaded "acting as a battleground on which to fight larger battles about the role of religion in an increasingly plural society". 'Overloaded' issue The report recommends "we should stop overloading a narrow issue with all our anxieties about religious difference". The authors reject suggestions that faith schools are divisive in terms of race or ethnicity, and say they just as successful as non-faith schools in reflecting the make-up of English communities and promoting cohesion. They do, however, admit there is an issue over admission policies in some faith-based schools which "can disadvantage the less well off". They identify a need "for Christian schools in particular... to reassess policies around pupil selection. "The most pressing concern should be to ensure that applicants from less privileged backgrounds are fairly represented in schools' intake." The authors suggest some schools "may wish to explore ways to maintain their religious character whilst broadening their selection basis because of their historic ethic of hospitality and concern for the poorest in society". In his contribution, Bishop Pritchard argues that allowing faith-based state schools to expand would take the heat out of the debate. "Rather than continually adopting the battleground approach which often leads to a reticence on the part of local authorities to expand faith school provision, a better way would be to celebrate the quality, popularity and success of faith schools and seek to expand them. 'Simplistic focus' "This way the problems of oversubscription and resulting admissions criteria would be greatly reduced." He argues that campaigns by the British Humanist Association, the National Secular Society and Accord Coalition "inevitably" lead to "a defence from the churches and, all too quickly schools do find themselves at the centre of a debate which should properly be focused elsewhere". Shifting the debate away from its "simplistic focus" would leave educationalists free to "make an honest assessment of why such schools remain so popular", he argues. Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, of The Accord Coalition, said the report was "biased in favour of current practices of faith schools" and that it "ignores the large body of academic studies which indicates the divisive impact of faith schools both socially and economically. "The paper is often superficial, and arguments and facts are often spun to serve particular aims under a guise of balanced analysis." One in three state-funded schools in England is faith-based and 99% of these are Christian, say the authors.12 March 2013Last updated at 09:58 GMT Falkland Islands profile The isolated and sparsely-populated Falkland Islands, a British overseas territory in the south-west Atlantic Ocean, remain the subject of a sovereignty dispute between Britain and Argentina, who waged a brief but bitter war over the territory in 1982. Argentine forces, who had landed on the Falklands to stake a territorial claim, were ejected by a British military task force. Argentina says it has a right to the islands, which it calls the Malvinas, because it inherited them from the Spanish crown in the early 1800s. It has also based its claim on the islands' proximity to the South American mainland. Britain rests its case on its long-term administration of the Falklands and on the principle of self-determination for the islanders, who are almost all of British descent. The windswept and almost-treeless territory is made up of two main islands, East Falkland and West Falkland, as well as hundreds of smaller islands and islets. The islands are said to have been sighted in the 1500s. An English captain made the first recorded landing in 1690, and France and Britain subsequently established settlements. Britain claimed the whole of the Falklands in 1765, while France transferred its settlement to Spain in 1767. Although Britain withdrew from its settlement in 1774 on economic grounds, it never relinquished its claim to sovereignty. Spain abandoned its settlement in 1811 when it withdrew its garrison to the South American mainland in order to help quell colonial rebellions, leaving the islands uninhabited apart from occasional visits from British and US fishing vessels. In 1820, newly-independent Argentina claimed sovereignty, and later founded a settlement. Britain established control over the islands in 1833 in support of its own earlier claim to sovereignty, and expelled the Argentine garrison. Most Argentine settlers left gradually thereafter. The Britons who then settled came to make up the islands' first permanent population. Argentina continued to press its claim to the islands, which intensified in the 1960s. In 1965 the UN designated the territory as a "colonial problem" and called on both countries to negotiate a solution. Talks, held on and off for more than 17 years, failed to resolve the issue. After months of sabre-rattling, Argentine troops set foot on the islands on 2 April 1982. Britain dispatched a military force to eject them. The Argentine garrison commander in Port Stanley surrendered on 14 June. The fighting cost the lives of 655 Argentine and 255 British servicemen. London and Buenos Aires restored diplomatic relations in 1990, but the status of the Falklands remains a sore point, with disagreements over flights to the islands and fishing rights. The dispute again came to the fore in 2009. In May, Britain rejected a request by Argentina for talks on the future sovereignty over the islands. In December, the Argentine parliament passed a law laying claim to the Falklands, along with nearby South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands, in a move rejected by the UK. In February 2010, tensions rose further when a British company began exploring for oil near the Falklands' waters. Earlier in the month, Argentina had responded to the drilling plans by introducing new rules requiring all ships travelling to the Falklands through its waters to have a permit. In late 2011, as the 30th anniversary of the war approached, the Argentine government sought to increase pressure on Britain by persuading members of the South American trading bloc Mercosur to close their ports to ships flying the Falklands flag. In what it described as a "routine" move, early in 2012 the British government dispatched one of its newest destroyers, HMS Dauntless, to the South Atlantic to patrol the Falklands coast. Buenos Aires responded by formally complaining to the UN that Britain was "militarising" the area. The Falkland Islands government decided to counter Argentine claims by scheduling a referendum on the status of the islands, saying that it wanted to "send a firm message to Argentina that the islanders want to remain British". In March 2013 the islanders voted almost unanimously in favour of remaining a British overseas territory. Economy Fishing and sheep farming are the main economic activities on the Falklands. The territory has a small tourist industry; one of the main draws is the islands' wildlife, including the penguins that breed there in their millions. The seabed around the islands is thought to contain substantial oil reserves, but although there has been extensive exploration by oil companies, exploitation of the reserves has not yet begun.30 April 2011Last updated at 06:50 GMT Family dynamics drive Syrian President Assad As Syrian President Bashar al-Assad struggles to put down widespread protests against his government, the BBC's Kim Ghattas examines the family intrigue constraining his actions. Scour the net for information about what might be happening inside Syria, the regime and the Assad family and you will find the wildest rumours. Maher al-Assad, the president's brother and head of the presidential guard, has been caught by defecting soldiers. Or, he's about to stage a coup against Bashar. Vice-President Farouk al-Sharaa has been killed. The Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad has disappeared. The wild speculation is partly explained by the almost non-existent access international journalists have had to Syria since the protests started. Syrian officials who usually interact with international media have also mostly failed to take phone calls or answer e-mails. Family rule For years, the outside world has tried to divine who is winning the internal struggles inside Syria, an opaque country, and the Assad clan. The violent turn of events in Syria now has people wondering not only what might happen next but also what went wrong with outside assessments of Bashar al-Assad as a leader. For years, the West pinned high hopes on Mr Assad, a quiet ophthalmologist who trained in London for about 18 months. The US, France and the UK expected the Westernised-looking leader to open Syria up to the West. But 11 years after he came to power, change has been minimal and mostly cosmetic. A common explanation had Mr Assad as a reformer who understood it was in Syria's interest to align itself with the West but was constrained by his father's conservative old guard. While this may have been true in the first few years of his rule as Mr Assad found his footing, by 2005 there was no-one left from the old guard, according to Ayman Abdelnour, a university friend of Mr Assad who was also one of his presidential advisers for several years. Mr Abdelnour has been living in self-imposed exile in the United Arab Emirates since 2007. According to him, any old faces, like adviser Buthaina Shaaban, Vice-President Farouk al-Sharaa or even Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, were powerless but stayed on because they benefited from the system. In the process, the ruling Baath party was also weakened while business deals and corruption took over as means to consolidate power. "Power is totally concentrated in the hands of the family," said Mr Abdelnour. "There is total solidarity between them and he is the president, like a board chairman, they discuss things and make a decision together." A source close to the Assad family, who spoke to the BBC on condition of anonymity for safety reasons, said there was "full co-ordination between Bashar and his brother Maher" who heads the feared Republican Guard. Road to Damascus Senator John Kerry was one of those convinced of Mr Assad's desire for change and repeatedly encouraged engagement with Damascus under the Obama administration. Mr Kerry travelled to Syria a number of times, had dinner with Mr Assad and his wife Asma and attempted to get talks going between Syria and Israel. Hope of a peace deal between the two enemies has sent many Western politicians on the road to Damascus. As late as mid-April, while protests were gathering pace in Syria, Mr Kerry suggested it was up to the West to offer more to Mr Assad so he could turn his back on his current ally, Iran. In Syria, many people, too, had hoped Mr Assad would improve their lives. But his image of a benevolent leader, frustrated by an old guard in his attempts to bring change to the country, was a well-studied tactic, according to US-based Syrian dissident Ammar Abdulhamid. "It was the same during Hafez al-Assad's time. The idea is to always blame mistakes of the regime on others, so you can push them out and say now it will be better and have people continue to pin their hopes on the leader," said Mr Abdulhamid, who adds this worked to some extent with the general population. But over the last few years the reality that Mr Assad was just his father's son, a tough leader putting up an act as reformer, became increasingly clear to more people in Syria who confided their bitter disappointment to visiting foreign reporters. In his attempts to project the image of a Westernised leader that gave Western visitors a sense of familiarity, Mr Assad was helped by Asma, his pretty, London-raised Syrian wife. The British public relations company, Bell Pottinger, also helped to make her the face of Syria's international image. The anonymous family source suggested Mr Assad married Asma knowing she would be an asset in presenting a fresh face for Syria. But the source also suggested Asma's approach to her role as first lady caused tension within the Assad family, particularly with the president's sister Boushra and his mother Anisseh, who cared little about public relations. Weak link? Despite the friction and occasional estrangement, with Mr Assad's brother-in-law Assef Shakwat for example, the family still sticks together, along with a small coterie of relatives and security chiefs. "They know that if one of them falls, they all fall. It's very much about family solidarity, not anymore just about maintaining Alawite rule," said Mr Abdulhamid. But the unprecedented challenge to the Assad family's grip on Syria could increase tension or cause rifts. While Mr Assad is seen as in control, there is also some suggestion that he is the weakest link in the family, kept in check by his brother Maher and possibly his sister Boushra. Mr Assad the ophthalmologist was not originally destined to become president. His older brother, Basil, an army major and reportedly Hafez's favourite son, was being groomed for the job until he died in a car crash in 1994. Basil, who often appeared in full military uniform at official functions, was a forceful character, the eldest of five children, a competitive horse rider and an aficionado of fast cars who was popular with women. Bashar grew up in his shadow, "weak and in his own world", according to the family source and "calm with a soft voice", according to Mr Abdelnour. "Basil was the boss," said Mr Abdelnour. "Bashar didn't like the limelight. When he became president he became very systematic about stepping up to the plate and learning how to lead." But even though he was the next in line after Basil, Bashar was not the obvious first choice as potential successor. Maher, who had had a military career, had been discussed as an option and the anointment of Bashar was met with some resistance, according to the family source who spoke to the BBC. Even though the father had prepared the ground by getting rid of potential rivals, when Bashar became president he had to assert himself and show leadership. "Bashar felt that any reform, any questioning of his way of doing things was a sign he wasn't respected," said dissident Abdulhamid, suggesting Bashar may have struggled with feelings of inadequacy or inferiority. "He refused to be treated any differently than his father." The US and Europe are still hoping he will act differently. On Friday, Washington imposed sanctions on his brother and his cousin but not President Assad himself, thinking perhaps it might convince him to change course. It is an open door that the Syrian president does not appear interested in. But if he is, his family will likely pounce the moment he flinches.1 February 2012Last updated at 12:47 GMT Benefit families speak out By Julian JoyceBBC News As MPs resume their debate on the Welfare Reform Bill - the government wants to cap benefits claimed by families to ?26,000 a year - we look at one family that may be affected by the changes. Unemployed father-of-seven Raymond (not his real name) and his family rent a former council house on a social housing estate in north Wales. They do not own a car or take a regular annual holiday. Raymond, a former educational software writer, has been jobless since 2001. His wife Katherine suffers from bipolar disorder with an anxiety disorder and is unable to work. Ray says: "The market for my skills dried up 10 years ago - there's a total lack of work in my area of expertise." The couple share their home with six of their children - their five-year-old son, Raymond's twin girls from his first marriage, and three of his wife's four children from an earlier relationship. Here we break down the benefits Raymond and his family receive - and detail where the money goes. Click on the grey boxes to see what Raymond says about their outgoings. Ray, 45, says: "I would love to be able to say that we are living in one of these eight-bedroom mansions that everyone is up in arms about, but no, we are stuck in a three-up, two-down house that has external measurements of barely 19ft by 25ft. "We have three teenage boys living in one room that barely fits their bunks and a chair-bed in it and two teenage daughters in a smaller room that barely fits their bunks in it. "In the third bedroom we have ourselves and a five-year-old boy." The family receive a total of ?30,284.80 a year in benefits - well over the ?26,000 cap proposed by the government. But, says Raymond, "If these proposals go through we will take a massive hit to our finances - and it's not as if we could move into a smaller or cheaper premises. "I see eight people here having to choose between eating or heating."15 July 2013Last updated at 23:41 GMT Farc negotiator: Colombian conflict 'nearing an end' The chief peace negotiator for Colombia's Farc rebel group has said the armed conflict that has lasted more than five decades is nearing an end. Ivan Marquez, who is taking part in talks with the Colombian government in Cuba, has called on left-wing parties and unions to join the effort to achieve peace. The government wants a peace accord to be agreed by November. But Mr Marquez warned against rushing into a settlement. "It is possible [to reach an agreement by November]. But to achieve peace you need time. A bad peace deal is worse than war," he said in an interview with Colombian network RCN. The first direct talks between Colombia's largest rebel group and the government were launched in Cuba in November last year. Chief government negotiator Humberto de la Calle said the aim was to get the rebels to give up their armed struggle and join the political process. Agreement has already been achieved on land reform, but the negotiations are continuing on five other items on the agenda. But in Bogota many people are still sceptical about Ivan Marquez's statement, says the BBC's Arturo Wallace. They see the rebels' participation in the peace talks as a pretext to gain time and regroup. IRA talks "No one can doubt that we are making a real effort to achieve peace. That is why we are here in Havana," Mr Marquez said. "Wars are not eternal. We are certain that the five-decade long Colombian armed conflict is nearing and end." The Farc negotiator said recently that a Constitutional Assembly should be called to endorse the agreements reached in Cuba. Ivan Marquez said the end of the left-wing group's armed struggle was not being discussed with the Colombian negotiators. "We have been looking into other experiences. We have met the Irish, the IRA, and we found there a formula that needs to be very well studied," he said. "The most important is to make sure the weapons are out of reach, that they cannot be used." Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed since the conflict began in the 1960s, with some three million more internally displaced by the fighting. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) are thought to have some 8,000 fighters, down from about 16,000 in 2001. This is the fourth attempt at a negotiated peace deal since the beginning of the conflict in the early 1960s.3 October 2013Last updated at 11:53 GMT Fare dodger 'used train ticket as toilet paper' A passenger on a train in Northern Ireland gave what has been judged one of the most outrageous excuses for fare evasion. "There was no toilet paper in your toilet, so I had to use the ticket," the passenger said. The excuse was one of train operator Translink's top excuses for fare dodging, the company said. Others included: "I'm a part-time police officer, so I don't have to pay." Last year, 22 passengers were fined ?2,508 for ticketing irregularities. In addition, 70 penalty fares were issued for fare evasion, resulting in fines totalling ?1,579.40 Other excuses included: All the passengers who used such excuses were issued with an on-the-spot fine and/or prosecuted for fare evasion. Hilton Parr of Translink said: "We've really heard every excuse under the sun from passengers for attempting to travel without paying. "The majority of our customers are honest and pay the correct fare and, as such, it is only right that we take a tough line with those who try to fare dodge. "The point I would make is that no matter who you are, if you want to travel on our services, you have to pay." The average fine issued to fare evaders in 2012 was ?20 plus the value of the ticket for the distance they travelled. If the passenger does not pay on the spot and is unable to produce ID, the police may be called. Non-payment of the penalty may result in a court appearance plus a fine of up to ?1,000. Anyone caught and prosecuted will have a criminal record which could prevent them visiting countries like the US and Australia. Ms Parr said: "Some passengers probably take a chance to see if they can get away without paying, just to save a few pounds, but having a criminal record for an offence like fare evasion could seriously damage their long term future and ruin plans to work or even just travel abroad."Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), have been one of the main talking points at this year's Farnborough Airshow. Better known for their military uses, they are now being developed for many civilian applications, from farm management to border control. And smaller drones, programmable by laptop, are even within the price of the hobbyist, retailing for a few hundred pounds. Craig Lippett, who trains people how to use drones for the firm Resource UAS, showed off a drone with folds up, developed by Danish firm Sky-Watch - though it costs ?35,000 ($54,300). Dougal Shaw reports. This video was updated due to an incorrect name attribution21 November 2012Last updated at 11:02 GMT Faroe Islands The Faroes, an archipelago of 18 islands in the North Atlantic, constitute an autonomous region of Denmark. While the islands' rugged coastlines and extensive bird life are a draw for some, the Faroes also offer the prospect of major offshore reserves of oil and gas. These potential resources have given extra weight to the argument for full independence from Denmark. But a planned referendum on the issue was shelved in 2001 after Denmark said it would halt aid within four years if voters favoured the independence proposals. A local parliament - the Loegting - looks after the islands' affairs, although Copenhagen is responsible for defence and foreign relations. The Faroes were first settled by Irish monks in the 6th century AD. The first Norse settlers were farmers. The islands became part of the Kingdom of Norway in the 11th century and came under Danish control in the 14th century when Norway joined the Kingdom of Denmark. Under the 1948 Home Rule Act the islands became self-governing. The islanders' traditional hunt for pilot whales has attracted international attention. Supporters of the hunt say whale meat is an important source of food over the winter. Animal rights activists have called for the cull to be banned. Fishing is the main economic activity on the islands, and Danish subsidies remain an important source of income. Copenhagen has said it will review the subsidy agreement should the Faroes profit from offshore energy reserves.2 October 2013Last updated at 17:24 GMT FBI arrests Silk Road drugs site suspect The FBI has announced the arrest of the suspected operator of the Silk Road - a clandestine online marketplace for drugs and other illegal items. A spokeswoman said that Ross William Ulbricht was arrested "without incident" by its agents at a public library in San Francisco on Tuesday. She added he had been charged with conspiracy to traffic narcotics. The FBI said it has also seized approximately $3.6m (?2.2m) worth of bitcoins - a virtual currency. The agency described it as the biggest Bitcoin seizure to date. The Silk Road is now offline - those trying to access it are presented with a notice saying the site has been seized. Users had previously been able to access the service through Tor - an anonymous web browsing system that requires special software. Mr Ulbricht made an initial appearance at San Francisco federal court where a bail hearing was set for Friday. In addition to the narcotics trafficking allegation he also faces charges of computer hacking conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy, according to court filings. "From in or about January 2011, up to and including September 2013, the Silk Road Hidden Website... has served as an online marketplace where illegal drugs and other illicit goods and services have been regularly bought and sold by the site's users," state court papers filed in the Southern District of New York. "The complainant further alleges, in part, that the Silk Road Hidden Website is designed to facilitate the illicit commerce hosted on the site by providing anonymity to its users, by operating on what is known as The Onion Router or Tor network... and by requiring all transactions to be paid in bitcoins, an electronic currency designed to be as anonymous as cash." It adds that Mr Ulbricht - who is alleged to have gone by the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts - had generated sales of more than $1.2bn via the Silk Road. The FBI believes he took cuts ranging from between 8% to 15% and was subsequently involved in a money laundering operation to hide the activity. Blackmail A second document alleges that private communications recovered from the Silk Road's computer server suggested the suspect had been willing to pursue violent means to defend his interests. It said that messages sent in March and April indicated he had "solicited a murder-for-hire" of a Canadian Silk Road user nicknamed FriendlyChemist who had tried to extort money by threatening to release the identities of thousands of the site's users. Subsequent messages indicated he had been sent a photograph of the victim after paying $150,000 to have the blackmailer killed. "I've received the picture and deleted it. Thank you again for your swift action," Mr Ulbricht is alleged to have written to an assassin. However, the court documents note that Canadian law enforcers have said there was no record of a homicide taking place in White Rock, British Columbia at the time. Publicity drive The court documents described Mr Ulbricht, 29, as a former physics student at the University of Texas, who had gone on to study at the University of Pennsylvania between 2006 and 2010. It was here, according to Mr Ulbricht's LinkedIn profile, as quoted by court documents, that his "'goals' subsequently 'shifted'". He wrote on the social network that he had wanted to "give people a first-hand experience of what it would be like to live in a world without the systemic use of force" by "institutions and governments". Authorities said he took to online forums to publicise Silk Road as a potential marketplace for drugs back in January 2011. In one such message, a user believed to be Mr Ulbricht allegedly said: "Has anyone seen Silk Road yet? It's kind of like an anonymous" Investigators said he used the same channels months later to recruit help - starting with a search for an "IT pro in the Bitcoin community". 'Shock and disbelief' Visitors to the discussion site Reddit have reacted to the news on a forum dedicated to Silk Road. "I'm still in a bit of shock and disbelief," wrote one. Others expressed anger that money they said they had deposited with the site would now be seized. Some speculated that copycat sites were likely to appear soon.The FBI says it has shut down the notorious Silk Road website - an online marketplace for drugs and illegal services.A spokeswoman for the FBI said that the suspected operator of the site, Ross William Ulbricht, had been arrested on Tuesday.The site was known for allowing users to buy illegal drugs and criminal activities such as "murder for hire" anonymously online.The FBI said it has also seized approximately $3.6m (?2.2m) worth of virtual currency Bitcoin.Richard Taylor reports.3 October 2013Last updated at 15:14 GMT FBU demands talks on plans to cut fire control rooms The Fire Brigades' Union (FBU) is to ask the new single Scottish brigade for urgent talks on proposals to reduce the number of its control rooms. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has said it want to cut its eight control rooms, inherited from the former regional brigades, to three. One will be in Johnstone, Renfrewshire. The others have yet to be decided. Following a meeting in Glasgow, the union said the proposals had been made without full consultation. Steven Reid, the FBU control rooms' representative, said: "We are looking for proper discussions on the proposals. "In particular we want to talk about the policies which will be put in place for staff working in control rooms which might be closed." The Scottish Fire and Rescue Board voted on 26 September to consult on plans to reduce the number of control rooms. The Scottish government has said how that was achieved was a "matter for the board," but it has a policy of no compulsory redundancies in the public sector.Relief efforts continue in the remote Balochistan province of south-west Pakistan after last month's 7.7 magnitude earthquake killed more than 470 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless. A powerful aftershock dealt a second blow to the same area four days later. Some of those most desperately in need of specialist care at the only hospital in Awarran - near the epicentre of the quake - are women and children. But social custom does not allow females to be treated my male doctors - and the hospital's only female practitioner is already inundated with a backlog of quake victims.BBC Urdu's Saba Eitizaz reports.When her father died, Dani Church became the fifth generation of the family to run their 125 year-old business - a rather lo-tech ferry service between Southwold and Walberswick on the Suffolk coast. She rows a wooden boat back and forth across the River Blyth up to 100 times a day between April and October, carrying up to 11 passengers who are each charged 90p.Although the service actually started in the 13th Century, Dani's great-great-grandfather's brother, Benjamin Cross, was the first ferryman of her family in 1885, running a chain link service that could carry a cart, two horses and 30 passengers.BBC News went to meet Dani Church to find out what life is like as a modern-day ferrywoman. is a series of video features for the BBC News website which follows both new trends that are beginning and old traditions that are coming to an end.Video journalist: Ian Ellerby19 August 2013Last updated at 09:47 GMT Figures show regional cancer divide The wide variation in the odds of getting and surviving cancer across the UK has been highlighted by a cancer charity. Cities in the north of England have some of the lowest survival rates. Cancer Research UK that allows people to compare cancer statistics in their area with those in the rest of the country. It hopes the local data will help doctors and politicians tackle the specific problems in their patch. There is separate data for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, the greater Glasgow area had the highest cancer mortality while Shetland had the lowest. Mortality was much higher in Belfast than the rest of Northern Ireland. Merthyr Tydfil was one of the worst performing parts of Wales, while Ceredigion had better cancer survival rates. Harrow, Richmond and Surrey in the south of England performed better than areas further north such as Stoke, Hartlepool and Nottingham. Smoking A significant factor in the regional variation is differences in lifestyle, such as smoking, which is linked to lung cancer. Kensington and Chelsea, East Sussex and Devon all had fewer than 35 cases of lung cancer per 100,000 people. The rate is more than double - in excess of 85 per 100,000, in cities such as Hull, Manchester and Liverpool. A led Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to describe the differences in England as "shocking". Charlotte Williams, the executive director of London Cancer, said: "[The tool] means it's easier to identify where we're doing well, and where we could do better, and how we could potentially learn from others. "This will pinpoint where we need to improve to help ensure everyone gets the best care possible." Sara Hiom, director of patient engagement and early diagnosis at Cancer Research UK, said: "In the UK we are privileged to have access to valuable information about cancer diagnosis and treatments for different parts of the country. "We've created this website because we hope that it will allow policymakers and healthcare professionals to understand what's going on in their area and support local insight and decision-making."26 December 2012Last updated at 15:05 GMT Fiji profile The 800-plus volcanic and coral islands that make up the Pacific nation of Fiji enjoy a tropical climate and host a significant tourism industry. However, since 1987 racial and political tensions have been a steady source of instability and international isolation. In 1987 a coup by indigenous Fijians overthrew the elected, Indian-dominated coalition. This triggered a series of adverse events, including the introduction - and subsequent withdrawal - of a constitution enshrining indigenous Fijian political supremacy. A further coup in 2000, led by businessman George Speight, saw the country's first ethnic Indian prime minister, his cabinet and several MPs held hostage for several weeks. These events caused great harm to the economy - the tourism industry in particular - and Fiji's international reputation. Rancour over the 2000 coup persisted, with bitter divisions over plans to grant an amnesty to those behind it. The continuing tensions generated by these disputes culminated in a bloodless military takeover in 2006 - Fiji's fourth coup in 20 years. In September 2009, Fiji was suspended from the Commonwealth over its lack of progress towards democracy. It was only the second full suspension in the organisation's history. In 2012 the government agreed to hold free elections in 2014, prompting Fiji's powerful neighbours Australia and New Zealand to restore full diplomatic ties. In December 2012, the body tasked with drawing up a new constitution to pave the way for the 2014 elections produced a draft document for consideration by a Constituent Assembly appointed by the prime minister. The head of the Constitutional Commission has called for the army to stay out of politics after 2014, but the military maintains that it has no intention of restricting its role and will not hesitate to intervene if a situation arises that the military considers to represent a threat to the national interest. Fiji's population, which resides mostly on the two main islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, is divided between indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians, the descendents of indentured labourers brought from India. The two groups were of roughly equal numbers until the mid-2000s, by which time coups and agitation had prompted thousands of Indo-Fijians to flee. Indigenous Fijians now make up small overall majority. Mixing between the two groups is minimal, and informal segregation runs deep at almost every level of society. There are also very small non-Indo-Fijian, non-Fijian minority communities, such as Chinese and Rotumans. Although the former British colony relies heavily on the sugar and tourism industries for its foreign exchange, its economy is diverse. Gold, silver and limestone are mined, and there is a strong services sector and some light manufacturing. Nonetheless, Fiji has been hampered by persistent trade and budget deficits, making it one of the world's largest per capita recipients of aid.3 October 2013Last updated at 23:01 GMT Filibustering Texas Senator Wendy Davis runs for governor Wendy Davis, the Democratic Texas state senator who won fame trying to block anti-abortion legislation with a marathon speech, is running for Texas governor. In a speech declaring her candidacy, she said she would bring people together "to get things done". Sen Davis's successful rise from a trailer park and motherhood as a single teenager has inspired her supporters. But her opponents are dubbing her an "abortion zealot". Sen Davis spoke for nearly 11 hours in June, using a tactic known as a filibuster, preventing legislators from voting on a Republican bill seeking to impose tough new restrictions on access to abortion in the state. The bill was later passed and signed into law by current Republican Gov Rick Perry, who is retiring from office in 2014 after three terms. Every elected office in the state has been held by Republicans since 1994. Fundraising challenge Speaking to supporters in the town where she attended high school, Haltom City, Sen Davis said she would unite people around the goals of improving public education, economic development and healthcare. "Texans don't want to sit back and watch Austin turn into Washington DC," Sen Davis said, referring to the partisan battles paralysing national politics. "State leaders in power keep forcing people to opposite corners to prepare for a fight instead of coming together to get things done." Sen Davis has an uphill struggle securing the financial backing to take on the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, Attorney General Gregg Abbott, who has raised $25m (?15m) to her more than $1m.Nairobi is booming, with multinational after multinational moving their African headquarters there. At the heart of this lies the technology industry, growing by 20% annually. The government is vigorously promoting its vision of creating a Silicon Savannah that can take on the developed world. To do this, as well as the more traditional forms of investment, human capital is needed. The population is one of the most educated in the region, unemployment is running at around 40% - yet technology companies are struggling to hire enough qualified talent. Something that could, if left unchecked, derail Kenya's technology explosion. The BBC's Fiona Graham visited a company in Nairobi taking part in a project run by Microsoft and NGO NetHope that could help fill the skills gap.4 October 2013Last updated at 07:33 GMT Finaghy alert: Dozens of families spend night out of homes Dozens of families in south Belfast have spent the night out of their homes because of a security alert. It began around 15:00 BST on Thursday after a suspicious object was found near the railway line at Finaghy Halt station. Churches and a leisure centre were opened to provide emergency accommodation for affected residents. The railway line has been closed between Great Victoria Street and Lisburn. Buses are running instead. Rail passengers with valid train tickets can use Metro & Ulsterbus services between Belfast & Lisburn. Enterprise train passengers are also being bussed between Belfast and Lisburn and anyone catching the 08:00 BST train to Dublin will be bussed from Belfast to Newry. A number of controlled explosions were carried out on Thursday evening. As well as causing serious disruption to rail services, the alert is also causing traffic disruption. Police said Finaghy Road North remains closed between Finaghy Park Central and Ardmore Avenue. Several houses have been evacuated in the areas of Finaghy Road North, Finaghy Park Central, Finaghy Park North, Ardmore Avenue and Diamond Gardens. Catherine Graham, one of the residents affected, said she had received no warning at all. "I just got time to lift the babies food and that was it, we had to leave," she said. "I've got two children, one of whom has asthma, we have no medication with us, so yes, I've been really badly put out. "Hannah's been up later than normal, she has school in the morning. It's so inconvenient and nobody really wants the hassle of this. "It's reminiscent of the times I grew up with and none of us want to see that for our children." The Lord Mayor of Belfast M??irt??n ? Muilleoir said the alert had caused "considerable disruption". "While many families were asked to evacuate last night, many didn't leave so those who stayed within the cordon will want to get to work. 'Inconvenience' "The council opened Anderstown Leisure Centre, it wasn't used, the Red Cross were in the area. Most people who did stay out made their own arrangements. "It has caused huge inconvenience to local residents." The Lowe Memorial Church on the Upper Lisburn Road was also made available for evacuated residents in need of shelter. Mr ? Muilleoir said it was too soon to know the full extent of what had happened but he said it had caused a massive knock-on effect. "Some people have their cars parked at Finaghy halt, for example, which they weren't able to get last night and obviously won't be able to get this morning," he added. "I was speaking to one family last night from Finaghy Park Central and in 20 years they had not been asked to evacuate, so it's clear to me that there is a gravity to this that we haven't seen previously. "That said, I don't know who is behind it, I don't know who would be crazy enough to be involved in this type of activity and we don't know if they are actual devices or in fact, it's an elaborate hoax." He said he was hopeful the alert would end on Friday morning. The lord mayor said it had been "distressing" for local residents and "unwanted" in the city of Belfast. "People do want to have normality in their lives especially now as we move into schools going back this morning, people getting ready for work," he said. "The message goes out from the entire city of Belfast that this is the last thing people want."3 July 2013Last updated at 12:27 GMT Finland country profile Finland is a country in the far north of Europe, bordered by Norway, Sweden and Russia. Unlike their fellow-Scandinavian neighbours to the west, the Finns are not a Germanic people but rather speak a language related to Estonian, some languages of Siberia and, more distantly, Hungarian. Despite its substantial size, Finland is relatively thinly-populated. Around two-thirds of its territory is covered by forest and about a tenth by lakes. Hundreds of years of Swedish rule were followed by a further century of Russian control before independence in 1917. This failed to stem the demands of Finland's giant Soviet neighbour, and World War II saw fierce fighting along Finland's eastern border. Finnish troops mounted a vigorous response to Soviet forces and stalled their advance, but the country was eventually forced to cede 10% of its territory and pay extensive war reparations to Moscow. Throughout the Cold War Finland's neutrality depended on a de-facto Soviet veto on its foreign and defence policy, a status dubbed "Finlandisation". The collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s allowed Finland to step out of the Cold War shadow. It applied for membership of the EU soon after its friendship treaty with the Soviet Union became void in 1991, becoming a full member in 1995. Finland is the only Nordic EU member to use the euro as the national currency. The country spends heavily on education, training and research - investment which pays dividends by delivering one of the best-qualified workforces in the world. This has been a key factor in the development of a modern, competitive economy in which an advanced telecommunications sector has been added to the traditional timber and metals industries. In terms of culture, Finland has made a particular mark in the fields of architecture and music, with the buildings of Alvar Aalto and the symphonies and tone poems of Jean Sibelius enjoying worldwide reknown.Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland, attracts students from all over the world, including China. As part of its policy of globalisation, it teaches courses in English and has set up links with partner universities, including offering a double degree with Tongji University in China. This international policy is intended to help the university to attract high-quality staff and students and to take advantage of global markets. BBC News spoke to Chinese students at Aalto and the university's director of international affairs to find out how the scheme was working.4 October 2013Last updated at 10:07 GMT Fire control room closure handling 'lessons to learn' A senior Scottish Fire and Rescue Service officer has admitted its handling of moves to close a Dumfries control room could have been better. The centre is one of five being considered for closure. Assistant Chief Fire Officer Dave Boyle issued an apology directly to members of Dumfries and Galloway Council's police and fire committee. He said the service could have handled the issue much better and would learn from the mistake. However, he said there would be no rethink on the decision taken by the board. "The SFRS, myself and the strategic leadership team and the board need to learn lessons from community engagement, from local authority engagement and all the rest of it," he said. "We will be examining where we have gone through this process and what we could do better and, more importantly, how we change our actions for the future." He said there had been issues with the Dumfries control room for a number of years and it would have needed significant investment in order to continue. "What the board have decided has actually just brought the final chapter down on that," he said. "We will now start to invest money with the local stations to make sure that they are retained to be mobilised in the way they should be." 'Major mistake' Once the fire control centre in Dumfries is shut, all emergency call handling for the region will be transferred to Johnstone in Renfrewshire. Labour councillor Ronnie Ogilvie, who sits on the local authority's police and fire committee, said he remained deeply concerned about the impact of the closure - both operationally and in terms of employment. However, he said the fact the SFRS had recognised that it had made a major error in not consulting was at least something. "To be fair to the fire board they have acknowledged that - and it is not just in Dumfries and Galloway," he said. "Other people are jumping up and down as well. "They have realised they have made a major mistake and they are going to address that - but it doesn't change the decision though."17 September 2013Last updated at 00:25 GMT First capercaillie chicks in years in Grantown woods Rare capercaillie have bred successfully for the first time in three years in woodland near Grantown-on-Spey. Local residents have been thanked for heeding advice on when and where to walk in Anagach Woods to avoid disturbing the birds. The Cairngorms are the traditional stronghold for Scotland's capercaillie population. Numbers of the birds elsewhere in Scotland have declined. Five chicks raised in a nest at Anagach have fledged. Tim Poole, who leads a capercaillie project involving the RSPB, Scottish Natural Heritage and Forestry Commission Scotland, said it was good news for the species. 'Really encouraging' He said: "This is the first positive indication that the efforts of local people to protect capercaillie are paying off. "We know from our research that disturbance from humans and, especially dogs, has a very negative effect on the birds, which avoid suitable habitats near to tracks throughout the year. "It is really encouraging to learn that local residents and visitors have been following the guidance and keeping dogs on leads during the sensitive breeding season." Piers Voysey, of Anagach Woods Trust, said good summer weather had helped a capercaillie hen to raise its five chicks. "Feedback suggests that people in Grantown support our work to improve recreational opportunities and also manage the woods for conservation," he said. "The woods are big enough for both, but we rely on everybody to help us keep some of the woodland quiet and undisturbed for capercaillie and this will ensure we have a truly wildwood for future generations."3 October 2013Last updated at 13:04 GMT First Great Western retains Wales and west rail franchise FirstGroup's First Great Western train company will keep the franchise to run trains into Wales and the South West for another two years. it would last until September 2015. FirstGroup was expected to be told it could keep the franchise, but the term was expected to last until July 2016. Passengers have been told they can expect greater seating and sleeper carriage capacity, as well as an improved wi-fi connection. The Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, said: "For communities like Devon and Cornwall the train is a lifeline bringing in business and helping secure the leisure industry the community relies upon. This agreement will provide additional sleeper carriages between London and Cornwall securing the future of a key service once under threat." He also said the new franchise would see more standard class and fewer first class seats on key services, as well as the delivery of more electric trains for the Thames Valley. 'Flaws' The government's awarding of longer-term rail franchises ran into trouble last year after it admitted there had been "significant technical flaws" in the tendering process for the West Cost Main Line, which were originally given to FirstGroup. Mistakes made by the Department for Transport staff lead to three civil servants being suspended and the longer-term franchise deals delayed. Originally, First Group had three competitors for the Great Western Lines, including Stagecoach, Arriva and National Express. FirstGroup was left as the only commercial candidate being considered. There had been concerns in some quarters that a short extension of the franchise, rather than the 15-year length originally planned, would mean a delay to running time improvements and internet access on board. Welsh Secretary David Jones said the announcement would ensure continuity for passengers. "The assurance of improved services, such as the roll out of wi-fi, will also be warmly welcomed," he said. "Our programme, which we announced last year, of electrification if the main line from London to Swansea, and the Cardiff Valley lines, will remain on target."3 October 2013Last updated at 16:06 GMT First Minister's (and ministers) Questions Before casting an eye and/or an ear in the direction of First Minister's questions, perhaps a word about the warm-up. The session billed as General Questions to Ministers comes immediately prior to FMQs, like a support act preparing the path for the star. And you know what it's like when the support are on: the crowds don't show. But today General Questions definitely repaid inspection, featuring as it did a powerful and passionate attack by a Scottish government minister upon Labour's policy of freezing energy prices for two years, if elected to UK power. Since Ed Miliband announced the policy at the Labour Conference, it has been dissected - and dissed or delighted in, according to taste. At Holyrood, Labour MSPs have sought the views of the governing SNP. That newly restored front bencher, Iain Gray, pursued the point in the chamber today, posing a question to the Energy Minister Fergus Ewing. Mr Ewing left Mr Gray and the relatively few onlookers in little doubt. A comparable tariff freeze in California had, he said, resulted in blackouts and an 800% increase in wholesale prices. The minister added: "Never can I recall a measure introduced by a leader of a major political party in the UK which has received such widespread utter and total condemnation as being completely unworkable. "And - worst of all for Scotland - such an arbitrary measure threatens to impair the essential investment in renewable energy schemes which are so important for this country." Mr Ewing only paused during this attack to note that Labour members were plainly now listening to him. "They do not like it but they are listening", he observed. It is certainly true that they were listening but I am not entirely sure that they were unhappy. To the contrary, they appeared to be quietly gleeful at the emergence of a distinct policy difference. That impression was reinforced when Labour issued a statement drawing attention to Mr Ewing's remarks. At time of writing, I am awaiting an answer as to whether Mr Ewing's comments amount to formal Scottish government policy or whether they were obiter dicta. (See update below) And so to FMQs...... Alex Salmond opened by announcing that 1,000 new jobs, mostly full time, are to be created in Scotland by the global company Teleperformance. Labour's Johann Lamont welcomed these jobs, en passant, before swiftly turning to a complaint about what she claimed were unwarranted spending cuts afflicting colleges. Jobs, she said, required skilled employees. The two then traded insults and statistics for a spell - with Ms Lamont stressing that college numbers were down and Mr Salmond insisting that full-time places, which were most salient to jobs, were up. 'Bobbies on the tweet' As was only fitting given the topic, there was a scholarly edge to the exchanges. More precisely, Ms Lamont treated Mr Salmond like an errant pupil. (She used to be a teacher.) A Scottish education, she said, had been wasted upon young Alex. He showed all the signs, she said, of "displacement activity", failing to address pointed questions. In the classroom, no doubt, Ms Lamont was frequently exhorting pupils to desist from displacement activity. In response, the FM suggested that education had been the loser when his opponent turned to politics. Certainly, he implied, politics had not gained. Both Ruth Davidson (Conservative) and Willie Rennie (Liberal Democrat) pursued the issue of the closure of 65 police station front counters. Mr Salmond said this was an operational matter for the cops but noted that such front counters often had very few customers and that officers might be better deployed fighting crime. Which, he noted, was at a record low level. The exchanges, however, were notably incisive, extending also to the issue of fire and police control rooms. Later, the Tories lampooned the prospect that the public might have to resort to social media to interact with the police. Was this, they said, "bobbies on the tweet"? Droll or what. ADD..... (Posted 17:03) Promised to get back to you when I had an answer from the Scottish government anent energy prices. Reply herewith from an SG spokesman. "It is a scandal that there should be any fuel poverty in a country as energy-rich as Scotland, and in an independent Scotland all of those huge energy resources will be in Scotland's own hands. "We share the wish to help households avoid rising energy bills. But it is completely unclear how any policy commitment to freeze energy bills could be implemented, and what the eventual impact on fuel bills would be - and the onus is on anyone proposing such a freeze to outline exactly how it could be achieved. "There is also a danger that plans for a freeze could actually increase prices by driving away investment in renewable energy, in which Scotland leads the world. We have set up the Expert Commission on Energy Regulation, whose remit includes how an independent Scotland can promote fairer, more affordable energy prices, and the commission will be able to consider the feasibility of a freeze as part of its work."14 September 2013Last updated at 23:58 GMT First, forget about witchcraft.... By Celeste HicksBBC News The only psychiatrist working in the African country of Chad has his work cut out to convince patients their issues are medical, rather than spiritual. The sign outside Dr Egip Bolsane's surgery in the sleepy riverside district of Chagoua in the Chadian capital N'Djamena proclaims "the pioneer". Even by Dr Bolsane's own account psychiatry was an unusual choice: it is not a discipline that many Chadians understand. "Going to see a psychiatrist in Chad is a difficult thing for many people," said Dr Bolsane, seated behind a sparse wooden desk with just a bunch of white plastic flowers in a gold vase as decoration. "Public opinion here thinks that it means something is really wrong in your head, it might be because you're possessed. "We need to demystify the more or less diabolical image of psychiatry." A listless fan rotates erratically behind him and he wipes the sweat away from his face - Dr Bolsane himself is not in particularly good health and he can't afford air conditioning. Mental health problems are poorly understood by the majority of Chadians who tend to conceptualise illnesses such as depression and schizophrenia as having a spiritual, rather than a medical cause. Many people believe in the existence of witchcraft and curses, and phrases such as having a "hot head" or persistent headaches are often euphemisms for much more serious problems. Lack of education It is easy to see people whose mental health issues have been left untreated, and whose families can no longer cope, living rough on the streets of the capital. Dr Bolsane said one of the biggest obstacles to changing attitudes to mental health - and getting people to understand that it is an illness and not possession - is lack of education. "Mental health issues are not talked about in society," he said. "I often find when people come to see me that they don't know how to discuss their problems with anyone." Improving mental health services is not easy in Chad, a country which comes fourth from bottom in the UN's Human Development Index. Dr Bolsane receives no state support for his services, his clients often have trouble paying his modest fees and often drugs are not available. Anyone wishing to study psychiatry still has to go to France. "A country of 12 million people which has lived through many years of war has enormous need for psychiatric help" he said. "But I'm just one person. There is no way I can satisfy the demand even though I feel every day I'm trying to help people." Civil wars From the early 1980s until just a few years ago, Chad endured a seemingly unending succession of civil wars, rebellions and coups which have left many thousands of people traumatised. Under the 1982-90 brutal dictatorship of Hissene Habre, who was recently indicted in Senegal on war crimes and crimes against humanity charges, some 40,000 people disappeared and many more thousands were tortured and imprisoned without charge. Both rebel groups and the national army are known to have persistently used child soldiers. Dr Bolsane believes this background helps to explain what he's observed about the occurrence of certain illnesses. "I have observed that cases of schizophrenia here are much more common that you would find elsewhere, and my theory is that it's linked to what the country has gone through." He has also noticed unusually high numbers of cases of paranoia, possibly brought on by substance abuse, and stress within family relationships. Very few of these people have ever received professional medical help. In a country which is currently battling an outbreak of malaria with 14,0000 new cases over just a few weeks, where polio and measles are still very real threats to children, and where the under-five mortality rate is 169/1000 live births, it is easy to see how resources will not be directed at mental health issues. Dr Bolsane is disappointed that the country's new found oil wealth has not contributed more towards improving all aspects of health provision in Chad - the country has earned some $10bn from oil sales in the last 10 years but many of the country's hospitals are still in a parlous state. So how does he manage to find the motivation to continue? "The human being is not a machine which can just be easily repaired. "Trying to understand the full range of the human experience, how emotion links to health, is one of the most exciting and challenging things anyone can do," he said, with a smile.28 September 2013Last updated at 23:35 GMT Five expired foods you can still eat By Magazine MonitorA collection of cultural artefacts A supermarket in Boston is going to sell only food that's past its sell-by date. So what are they, asks Rajini Vaidyanathan. In the US alone, 40% of food is thrown out, partly because of confusing date labels, telling consumers to "use by", "sell by" and "enjoy by" a certain time. Some of the dates are not about safety but taste, says Dana Gunders, a food scientist from the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC), which has issued saying much of the food labelled bad is actually perfectly edible. Early next year, businessman Doug Rauch, once behind the successful Trader Joe's chain in the US, is opening a supermarket and restaurant which will sell outdated food. So what are some of those foods? Tortilla chips aren't going to make you sick after a month, says Gunders, although they might start tasting stale. Putting them in an oven with oil will re-crisp them again, while storing in a sealed container extends their life by keeping moisture out. Gunders says yogurt can last beyond six weeks and she often scrapes off the mould. "I eat yogurt months past its date, I haven't ever had a problem." Chocolate can last a long time, she adds, but it often develops a white coating, known as the "bloom", when it's exposed to the air. This happens when some of the crystalline fat melts and rises to the top. It's not mould, she says, and it's fine to eat. People throw out eggs much earlier than they need to, says Gunders - they can last 3-5 weeks. But keep them at a temperature below 5C (41F), says Ted Labuza, a professor of food science at the University of Minnesota, because that helps prevent potential growth of Salmonella enteritidis. Milk will smell or taste bad long before it makes you sick, says Labuza. Don't let the container sit out at room temperature because microbes in the air will spoil the milk - close it up quickly and return it to the refrigerator, which should be set at around 2C (36F) to help prolong its life.23 September 2013Last updated at 01:10 GMT Five key questions about climate facing the IPCC By Matt McGrathEnvironment correspondent, BBC News Our environment correspondent Matt McGrath looks at five critical questions now facing the Nobel prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as it prepares to present its latest report in Stockholm later this week. The IPCC - weren't they the ones who said the Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035? How can we trust what they say this time? The weight given to the reports of the IPCC is a measure of the global scale of scientific involvement with the panel. Divided into that look at the physical science, the impacts and options to limit climate change, the panel involves thousands of scientists around the world. The first report, to be presented in Stockholm, has 209 lead authors and 50 review editors from 39 countries. The 30-page Summary for Policymakers that will be published after review by government officials in the Swedish capital is based on around 9,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers and 50,000 comments from the expert reviewers. But among these icebergs of data, things can and do go awry. In the , there were a handful of well publicised errors, including the claim that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035. The wrong percentage was also given for the amount of land in the Netherlands under sea level. The IPCC and explained that, in a report running to 3,000 pages, there were bound to be some mistakes. The Himalayan claim came from the inclusion of an interview that had been published in the magazine New Scientist. In 2009, suggested the panel should be very clear in future about the sources of the information it uses. The panel was also scarred by association with the . Leaked emails between scientists working for the IPCC were stolen and published in 2009. They purported to show some collusion between researchers to make climate data fit the theory of human-induced global warming more clearly. However at least three to support this conclusion. But the overall effect of these events on the panel has been to make them more cautious. Although this new report is likely to stress a greater certainty among scientists that human activities are causing climate warming, in terms of the scale, level and impacts, the word "uncertainty" features heavily. "What we are seeing now is that this working group is getting more careful than they already were," said Prof Arthur Petersen, chief scientist at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. "Overall, the message is, in that sense, more conservative I expect, for this IPCC report compared to previous ones." Hasn't global warming stopped since 1998? The 2007 IPCC report made no mention of any slowdown or standstill in temperature rises in recent decades. They pointed out that the linear warming trend over the previous 50 years was 0.13C per decade, which was twice that for the past 100 years. They forecast that, if emissions of carbon dioxide continued on their existing path, over the next century the climate would respond by warming between 2C and 4.5C, with a most likely rise of 3C. But since 2007, climate sceptics have loudly argued that global average temperatures haven't actually gone above the level recorded in 1998. The issue is now being taken more seriously by the IPCC and other respected science organisations. My colleague David Shukman as to why the temperatures have not risen more quickly in line with the modelling. Most scientists believe that the warming has continued over the past 15 years, but more of the heat has gone into the oceans. They are unsure about the mechanisms driving this change in behaviour. The suggested that a periodic, natural cooling of the Pacific Ocean was counteracting the impact of carbon dioxide. "1998 was a particular hot year due to a record-breaking El Ni?o event, while recently we have had mostly the opposite - cool conditions in the tropical Pacific," Prof Stefan Rahmstorf, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, told BBC News. "That warming has not stopped can be seen from the ongoing heat accumulation in the global oceans." Climate sceptics, however, argue that the pause is evidence that climate models used by the IPCC are too sensitive and exaggerate the effects of carbon dioxide. "In the last year, we have seen several studies showing that climate sensitivity is actually much less than we thought for the last 30 years," said Marcel Crok, a Dutch author who is sceptical of the IPCC process. "These studies show that our real climate has a sensitivity of between 1.5C and 2.0C. But the models are much more sensitive, and warm up three degrees." Am I going to get flooded? The 2007 IPCC report was heavily criticised for its estimations on sea level rise. The panel suggested that a warming planet would see waters around the world rise by between 18cm and 59cm by the end of this century. Heat causes the seas to expand but also increases the rate of melting of glaciers and ice sheets. The IPCC figure didn't include any estimates for the extra water coming from the Greenland or Antarctic ice sheets as they said they didn't have enough accurate information. Other researchers of this approach and have published studies that suggested a far higher sea level rise. But in recent months, and involving scientists across the world, came up with what they believe is the most accurate estimate yet - and it increases the level of sea rise by just 10cm from the IPCC report. "What we are talking about is a reduction in uncertainty - we find we haven't changed the number enormously compared to AR4 (IPCC 2007 report)," said Prof David Vaughan, from the British Antarctic Survey (Bas), while speaking at the launch of the report. "We've added maybe another 10cm but the level of certainty we have around that is actually higher than it was in the AR4." Leaked details from the forthcoming report indicate that the worst sea level rise scenarios for the year 2100, under the highest emissions of carbon dioxide, could reach 97cm. Some scientists, including Prof Rahmstorf, have been unhappy with the models used by the IPCC to calculate the rise. Using what's termed a semi-empirical model, the projections for sea level can reach 2m. At that point, an extra 187 million people across the world would be flooded. But the IPCC is likely to say that there is no consensus about the semi-empirical approach and will stick with the lower figure of just under 1m. So will all this mean more flooding? "Yes, but not everywhere," said Prof Piers Forster from the University of Leeds. "Generally, the wet regions will get wetter and the dry ones drier." The report is also likely to assess the intensity of storms, and there might be some better news in that there is likely to be a downwards revision. And what about the Polar bears? The state of the North and South Poles has been of growing concern to science as the effects of global warming are said to be more intense in these regions. In 2007, the IPCC said that temperatures in the Arctic increased at almost twice the global average rate in the past 100 years. They pointed out that the region can be highly variable, with a warm period observed between 1925 and 1945. In the drafts of the latest report, the scientists say there is stronger evidence that ice sheets and glaciers are losing mass and sea ice cover is decreasing in the Arctic. In relation to Greenland, which by itself has the capacity to raise global sea levels by six metres, the panel says they are 90% certain that the average rate of ice loss between 1992 and 2001 has increased six-fold in the period 2002 to 2011. While the Arctic mean sea ice extent has declined by around 4% per decade since 1979, the Antarctic has increased up to 1.8% per decade over the same time period. As for the future, the suggestions are quite dramatic. Under the worst carbon emissions scenarios, an Arctic free of sea ice in the summer by the middle of this century is likely. Some that sea ice in the Arctic has recovered in 2013, but scientists are virtually certain about the trend. "The sea ice cover on the Arctic ocean is in a downward spiral," said Prof Rahmstorf. "And much faster than IPCC predicted." And Prof Shang-Ping Xie from the University of California in San Diego told BBC News that the outlook for polar bears and other species isn't good. "There will be pockets of sea ice in some marginal seas. Hopefully, polar bears will be able to survive summer on these pockets of remaining sea ice," he said. Does the IPCC have a future? There have been growing calls for reform of the IPCC process from critics and friends alike. Many believe that these big, blockbuster reports, published once every six years, are not the way forward in the modern era. "The close government scrutiny and infrequent publication certainly fillip the climate change agenda," said Prof Forster. "But, given the pace of both science and news, perhaps it is time the IPCC moved with the Twitter generation." Many sceptical voices are also calling for changes. Marcel Crok says the whole process of the IPCC is bad for the scientific principle of open argument. "It is not designed to answer questions because the whole IPCC process, the whole consensus-building process, is choking the openness of the scientific debate," he explained. However, some argue the IPCC plays an important role as a source of information for developing countries. And again others think the organisation will survive for far more unprincipled reasons. "It is a UN body," said Prof Petersen. "It may perpetuate until eternity." Follow Matt on .Research into the social interaction of flamingo flocks has suggested that the oldest and pinkest flamingos are the most popular and therefore the key individuals in a flock. PhD student Paul Rose from the University of Exeter is studying the birds at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Slimbridge, Gloucestershire. Four of the six remaining species of flamingo are threatened with extinction, and many of their wetland habitats are under threat from human encroachment - particularly from mining. As Mr Rose explains here, the hope is that a clearer understanding of flamingo behaviour will help the birds to thrive in captivity and therefore safeguard their survival. Video journalist: Victoria Gill3 September 2013Last updated at 23:19 GMT Flight of the human cannonballs By Richard HooperBBC World Service Human cannonballs have been a feature of circuses for nearly 150 years, but today there are just a handful of performers - and two of them are a married couple. "We were in love and wanted to do something together. So I thought, 'why not the cannon?'" Robin Valencia had always known about the cannon. Her uncle - David Smith Snr - heads America's most famous human cannonball family, celebrated for stunts such as being . So when Robin married Chachi, a trapeze artist, she could see no reason why the couple should not adopt the career. "You're completely unattached to anything," she says. "You're flying." Today 45-year-old Robin performs around the world as The Shooting Star. Dressed in her trademark outfit of a shiny catsuit and an open-face red helmet, a typical performance will see her climb up on to the cannon and give a final wave to the audience as she slides inside. Then the countdown before Robin makes her explosive reappearance to the gasps of the crowd. But ask how the feat is accomplished and Robin insists that it remains a "trade secret". Human cannonballs jealously guard the design of their cannon. "I do use gunpowder," is all she will admit. In truth, gunpowder is only used to create the bang and puff of smoke. Modern cannons actually use compressed air or a bungee cord to propel a small platform which the "cannonball" stands on. "Your position inside determines your landing," explains Robin. "It's a mix of standing and the foetal position. You're trying to get your neck and your spine aligned and the balls of your feet in the right position." Before each of Robin's performances, she and Chachi spend hours configuring the cannon. The idea is for Robin to land exactly in the middle of an airbag on the other side of the auditorium. A sand-filled dummy is used to test variables such as the angle of the cannon and even the temperature of the venue. With some cannonball performers reaching heights of over 20m (65ft), even a slight miscalculation could result in serious injury. The nerve-wracking task of pulling the trigger is always reserved for Chachi. "I've never had anybody else shoot me out of the cannon in my career," says Robin. "We only really know being together as being cannonballs." Robin and Chachi first met at a circus in Houston, Texas in 1988. Robin was there to watch her cousin, then also a human cannonball. Chachi, a Chilean immigrant, was appearing in the show as part of his family trapeze act, The Flying Valencias. The couple fell in love and were soon married. As a child, she had lived next door to her uncle David Smith Snr. A former maths teacher and a trained gymnast, Smith was working his way to the world record for the longest distance travelled by a human cannonball. He agreed to build Robin her own cannon and, aged just 19, her life as a cannonball began. "It was a dangerous thing to do," recalls Robin. "But I had seen my uncle have a safe and successful career. So I felt safe." Twenty years later, in 2008, an injury to Smith gave Chachi his opportunity to become a cannonball. Smith landed standing up and broke his foot and needed someone to fulfil his contract to the show's promoters. By chance, Chachi was in the audience. "Something inside told me that I would have to do this cannon for him," Chachi says. "He called me over, waiting for the ambulance, and he asked, 'Do you think you can do the cannon for me?' And that was the start of my cannon career." Just days later, The Rocketman Valencia took his first flight. "I think I actually flew with my eyes closed," says Chachi. "I knew that if I didn't turn over I was going to land on my head. I didn't see the net at all." Today, Chachi uses a cannon 11m in length which shoots him a minimum distance of 30m. Last year he was watched by an estimated 750 million people worldwide when he performed in the closing ceremony of the London Olympics as the finale to Eric Idle's rendition of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. So what does it feel like to be fired from a cannon? "Your mind isn't fast enough to react," says Chachi. "It takes a split second to realise, 'OK, now I'm out', then another to realise, 'I'm flying'. That's the feeling that always gets me, how quick you come out of that barrel." Despite a human cannonball being one of the highest-paid acts in a circus, one estimate puts the number currently working in the world at fewer than 10. "There aren't many left," says Paul Archer, tour director of the Moscow State Circus. "We had one with us five years ago and the publicity factor was worth the cost of his act alone. You need to be brave, but you also need the physique and skill of an acrobat." "You need to keep your body in a very straight line at the time of the shot otherwise the force can cause you damage." Robin and Chachi now spend much of the year based in Paris and perform on both sides of the Atlantic. Each has their own cannon. "Chachi goes three times further than me," explains Robin. "But I have a really short cannon which makes the impact of my shot more intense." Despite the "5-6Gs" that Chachi estimates his body is exposed to as he leaves the cannon at nearly 100km/h (60mph) - a force that could cause black-outs in the untrained - the bigger fear for both performers is when the other is being fired from the cannon. "I'm actually more nervous shooting Robin out than being shot myself," says Chachi. "You feel a lot more responsibility and I know she feels the same way." "It's a lot of pressure for a human to take," concedes Robin. "Your calculations need to be exact. Anything in your flight path like a tiny cable would be detrimental." The history of the human cannonball is filled with serious injury and fatalities - when his safety net collapsed at a show in Kent. The pioneers of the human cannonball worked with crude equipment. In the 1870s, the Canadian showman William Leonard-Hunt - aka The Great Farini - built a spring-powered device whilst working at London's Royal Aquarium. A 14-year-old acrobat, Rosa Richter - Zazel - was chosen to be fired out of it and became the first recorded human cannonball. "The Victorians would travel anywhere in search of a good show," says Prof Vanessa Toulmin, director of the University of Sheffield's National Fairground Archive. "The human cannonball act became one of the main staples of large outdoor shows, attracting upwards of 15,000 spectators." Zazel later performed in the large tented circuses of PT Barnum and appeared in France and the US. In 1891, her career ended in New Mexico after breaking her back in a fall, possibly sustained during a performance of the cannon or her other speciality, the circus high wire. Then in the early 1920s the Zacchinis, an Italian family who moved to America, revitalised the act with the introduction of a double cannon which fired two human cannonballs. Their shows sometimes involved as many as six brothers and two sisters. But in 1940, one of the brothers, Mario, was forced to retire after an accident at the New York World's Fair. Thirty years later, his niece Linda broke her neck after colliding mid-air with her husband Emanuel. The Valencias credit their survival to rigorous preparation and daily training to keep their muscles strong. It is a way of life they see no reason to give up. "My uncle retired at around 70, so we know that it's possible," says Robin. "Just as long as we stay in shape and stay fit." "For our kids, it's just normal - mum and dad going to work," says Chachi. But he says their two teenage daughters have have no desire to be in the circus. "And we're very happy about that." Robin and Chachi Valencia were speaking to the programme . Listen to the interview You can follow the Magazine on and on3 October 2013Last updated at 16:32 GMT Flood risk yellow warning for Wales as heavy rain continues People are being warned of possible flooding as torrential rain is expected to continue across much of mid and south Wales over the next 24 hours. Up to 20-30mm of rain is forecast to fall in an hour in some places, prompting the Met Office to issue a yellow "be aware" warning. Natural Resources Wales (NRW) said drains, ditches and small streams may be unable to cope with the run off. Flash flooding has been reported at Glyndwr University campus in Wrexham. The Met Office for the whole of Wales on Wednesday but mid and south Wales are expected to be the worst hit by the downpours and thunder on Thursday and into Friday. A yellow alert is the lowest level of severe weather warning issued, and asks members of the public to "be prepared" for adverse weather. A Met Office spokesman said: "Wales is in the firing line for some very heavy rain in the next 24 hours. It looks the south will be worst affected by the downpours. "Drains blocked by leaves and small streams may be unable to cope with the torrential rain. There is a risk of flooding. "Despite the heavy rain, it will still feel mild and muggy, with temperatures above average at 17C to 20C." NRW said: "People travelling to and from work are advised to take extra care as driving conditions may be hazardous. "People should also avoid walking or driving through any flood waters as they could become trapped or swept away." The Met Office said its yellow warning will be kept under review, with the possibility that it may need to be extended into Friday.15 September 2013Last updated at 21:39 GMT Footage claims to show Iranians in Syria Footage has surfaced on the internet that gives the first tangible indication of Iran's involvement in the fighting in Syria on the side of the government forces, reports BBC Persian's Kasra Naji. Information that can be gleaned from the footage indicates that the Iranian fighters are part of the Revolutionary Guard - most probably from its elite overseas operations arm, the Quds Force. It also suggest that Tehran is training Syrian fighters back in Iran. The footage was uploaded by a group of Syrian opposition fighters who say they have captured the tapes after overrunning a government forces' base. They say the tapes belonged to an Iranian cameraman who was killed in the fighting. There are apparently several hours of the footage, some of which has been posted on the internet. The tapes show at least five Iranians wearing military fatigues among a larger group of pro-government Syrian fighters. According to the conversations heard in the footage between the Iranians, they are somewhere to the south of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. Filmmaker death The uploaded footage also shows that they and the rest of the fighters are stationed at a building that looks like a school with notices posted on the walls both in Arabic and in Persian - indicating that the number of Iranians might be well more than the few that we see in the footage. At one point the camera falls to the ground and the view goes black as bullets are heard whistling by. The Iranians seem to be in command of the group. One of them is seen speaking to the camera saying that he has been in Syria for about a year - the last five months of that in his current location. In the footage, aired by Dutch TV network NOS, the commander also says that they are fighting as part of the National Defence Force - a growing force made up of various militias and volunteers in Syria. He says the Syrian fighters are friendly with their Iranian counterparts and at ease fighting alongside them because they were trained in Iran and are familiar with Iranians and their attitudes. Research shows that the commander on camera is Ismail Haidari, a senior commander of the Revolutionary Guard. According to the Iranian media, he was killed in Syria around the middle of last month. His funeral was held in a northern Iranian town a few days later. At around the same time, Iranian media reported that an Iranian filmmaker was also killed in Syria. It is possible that he was the cameraman whose footage is now in the hands of Syrian opposition. Sources say that he may have been himself a member of the Revolutionary Guards and was filming his comrades as part of a project conceived to help recruitment and other internal uses. Alliance 'to the end' The Syrian opposition has long maintained that Iranian troops are fighting alongside Syrian government forces in Syria. But Iran has denied that it has fighters in Syria - although a top Revolutionary Guards commander admitted last year that its personnel were in Syria in the capacity of advisers. Last year, a busload of Iranian men were seized by opposition forces and held for several months before they were released in an exchange of prisoners. During that episode it was clear that many of those who had been captured were members of the Revolutionary Guards. There have also been persistent reports that Iran has been increasing arms deliveries to Syria. But this footage indicates that Iran is getting increasingly involved militarily. Tehran has also recently given Syria several billion dollars of credit to shore up the Syrian economy. Iran has vowed that it will never allow the Syrian regime to fall. Only last week, the commander of the Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, told a gathering of top clerics in Tehran that Iran would back President Assad "to the end".Football fans have been banned from attending stadiums in Tunisia since the revolution in 2011 because of security concerns. To solve the issue of teams playing to silent rows of chairs, one company has created an app that has reconnected the fans to the footballers. Fans can watch the game at home or in a caf and click "applause", "sing," "cheer" or "drum" on the app and noises are played in the stadium through huge loudspeakers.Nicholas Courant, a creative director at Ogilvy and Mather, explained the idea to the Today programme's Justin Webb."The more they tap the louder the cheer," he said.First broadcast on BBC Radio 4's on Thursday 3 October 2013.19 July 2013Last updated at 14:09 GMT Football fan admits FA Cup trouble A football supporter has pleaded guilty to charges relating to unrest during an FA Cup semi-final. Terance Cape, 43, of Peckham, south-east London, admitted charges of using threatening words and behaviour to cause harassment or distress. He was fined just over ?400. Willesden magistrates found him not guilty of separate charges of racial harassment. The match saw Wigan beat Millwall at Wembley Stadium on 13 April.3 October 2013Last updated at 08:35 GMT Footballers take over London Underground map Mind the gap at Geoff Hurst and head eastbound on platform one for Billy Bremner. The Football Association and London Underground have teamed up to create a to mark their joint 150th anniversaries. All 367 Tube, Docklands Light Railway and Overground stations have been named after footballers and officials. Wembley Park has become Alf Ramsey, Upton Park is renamed Bobby Moore and Leytonstone is now David Beckham. Each of the 14 lines also holds a special significance. The Docklands Light Railway adopts names of pre-war players such as Eddie Hapgood and Dixie Dean along its route, while the Victoria line features notable names from the women's game, including Kelly Smith, Faye White and Hope Powell. 'Iconic map' Michael Owen, FA150 ambassador and former England international, said: "I think the football-themed Tube map is a great way to celebrate the 150th anniversary of both the London Underground and the Football Association. "I am absolutely delighted to be included at Oxford Circus." The Football Association (FA) was formed on 26 October 1863 at the Freemasons' Tavern, now the Grand Connaught Rooms, near Holborn Tube. FA general secretary Alex Horne said: "Over the last 150 years, millions of football fans will have made journeys to and from matches using the London Underground. "Creating this special version of such an iconic map is a fitting way for The FA and London Underground to mark its shared 150th anniversaries."3 October 2013Last updated at 23:17 GMT For Those In Peril shows Scottish films still buoyant By Steven BrocklehurstBBC Scotland news website For Those In Peril is one of three Scottish films getting a cinematic release in the same week. It is such a rare situation that the producers of the low-budget independent movie have decided their film, which will be in cinemas in the rest of UK on Friday, should wait a few weeks before being viewed in the country in which it is set. For some odd reason, two other high-profile Scottish films are being released across the UK on 4 October. Filth, an 18-certificate film version of Irvine Welsh's novel about a corrupt Edinburgh police officer, which stars James McAvoy, began screening in Scotland a week ahead of its official release to avoid a direct clash with Sunshine on Leith. The considerably more feelgood film, which is also set in Edinburgh, uses Proclaimers songs to drive the plot and lists young actor George MacKay as one its stars. Mackay also takes the lead role in For Those In Peril, in which he plays Aaron, a young misfit who is the lone survivor of a fishing tragedy. In Scottish director Paul Wright's debut feature five young men from a small north east Scotland village are killed but for some inexplicable reason Aaron survives. Wright says he never imagined when he was casting the role of a troubled young man from an Aberdeenshire fishing village he would end up giving the part to a public schoolboy from London. However, the 32-year-old director says the whole film is based on the "incredible performance" from 21-year-old Mackay and they were very lucky to get him "while we could afford him". Wright says they saw lots of talented Scottish actors but as soon as Mackay auditioned they knew he was something special. The director says he worked closely with the young actor to create the character of Aaron, whose post-traumatic anguish and survivor's guilt means he struggles to come to terms with the death of his brother in the fishing tragedy. Wright says of Mackay: "He gave 100% and we couldn't have done it without him. He was in practically every scene." Mackay, who also stars in the new film How I Live Now, spends more time than could have been good for him up to his neck in the North Sea as Aaron continues his quest to find his brother. Wright says: "It was us that had to tell George to stop rather than the other way around. "He was wanting to go in again. Through mild hypothermia, he was saying 'I'll go again'. That's the kind of guy he is. He's such a talent." The director, whose short film Until the River Runs Red won a Bafta in 2011, grew up in the East Neuk of Fife and says the script was written with his own home village in mind. "When we came to the film, for whatever reason, Gourdon in Aberdeenshire felt more like the village I grew up in than the actual village I grew up in," he says. Wright says during his childhood he heard lots of stories and myths about the ocean and these loom large in Aaron's story. Accept death In the film, the anguished youngster, brought up on local folk fables about sea monsters that eat people, struggles to deal with finality of death and desperately clings to the belief his brother could still be alive in the body of a devil in the deep. Wright, whose own father died when he was 15, says the theme of coping with death keeps recurring in his work. "It was not a starting place that I'm going to write a film about my past but it comes through in the film," he says. "Not to self-analyse myself too much, I was of that age where I could not totally accept death. "It was my first real experience with death and I was of that age when the mind does wander, thinking about what is and isn't possible. Not accepting death as the final thing." The film is the last production under the Warp X banner, which was set up for new film directors to create movies on a lower budget, with less expectation for high box office revenues. Its successes include Paddy Considine's Tyrannosaur, Ben Wheatley's Kill List and Berberian Sound Studio by Peter Strickland. For Those In Peril has already been a critical success on the festival circuit, including at Cannes earlier this year. Wright says: "Although it's a very Scottish film, it does have themes in it that hopefully do translate around the world. "We aren't kidding ourselves that we have made a commercial blockbuster but it was always important that people who did connect with it, really connected with it." For Those in Peril will be released in most of the UK on 4 October and in Scotland on 8 November.4 October 2013Last updated at 21:07 GMT Forced marriage: Missing pupils 'need to be recorded' The government should keep records of how many young people fail to return to school after the summer holidays, a charity which helps children escape forced marriage has said. Aneeta Prem from Freedom Charity argued the information is needed to prosecute people under new laws on forced marriage being brought in next year. However, the Department for Education says it has no plans for a register. Last year, the government's Forced Marriage Unit dealt with 1,485 cases. Thirteen percent of the victims were younger than 15 years old, with the youngest aged just two. The cases ranged across 60 different countries, with nearly two-thirds occurring in South Asia - mainly Pakistan. The Forced Marriage Unit is jointly run by the Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It provides practical support, information and advice to those who have suffered forced marriage or are at risk of doing so. The Department of Education said head teachers should raise any concerns they have with police and social services. Cases of teenagers who are taken abroad ostensibly for a holiday, but are instead forced into marriage are particularly common during the summer break. Prior to this summer's school holidays, the government called for teachers, doctors and airport staff to be alert to the problem of forced marriages. It also promoted an advice line and information cards aimed at potential victims to explain how they can get help.2 July 2012Last updated at 16:22 GMT Ford targets cut of ?7m in civil legal aid bill By Vincent KearneyBBC NI home affairs correspondent New measures are to be introduced to cut legal aid payments to barristers and solicitors by ?7m a year. The move is part of a wide-ranging programme of reforms announced by justice minister David Ford. David Ford has already angered the legal profession with new lower fees for criminal legal aid. It is estimated that those changes will reduce the annual legal aid bill by around ?20m. Highest The fees paid in Northern Ireland are still amongst the highest in the world, but payments are expected to fall dramatically in the next few years. Figures for the financial year up to the end of March 2012 are due to be published shortly. The latest figures available, published in May last year, revealed that 200 barristers and solicitors firms had been paid almost ?70m during a 12 month period up to the end of March 2011. The highest earning barrister during that time was Eilis McDermott, who received almost ?900,000. Three others earned over half a million pounds, and a further 16 were paid upwards of a quarter of a million. In total, the top 20 barristers received more than ?8m. When it comes to solicitors' firms, the top earner was Kevin Winters and company, receiving over ?2.5m. Another seven firms also received more than ?1m, a further 29 were paid over ?500,000, and 40 others received over ?250,000. Chaos Those figures won't be repeated in future years as the rates payable have been cut. Many barristers will still earn what most people would regard as huge amounts of money, but substantially less than in recent years. The move provoked unprecedented industrial action by solicitors here, with claims that David Ford was introducing "yellow pack" justice. The courts were plunged into chaos for a number of weeks as solicitors refused to take cases or appear for clients. Barristers did not take part in the action, but supported it. The legal brothers in arms eventually agreed to work for the new fees, while warning that they believe the end result could be a reduction in the quality of legal representation. Now lawyers and solicitors specialising in civil legal aid work are in David Ford's sights. The biggest area of work is family matters such as divorces and the associated fallout, with disputes over access to children and property, and cases where children are taken into care. As it did with criminal legal aid, the Department of Justice plans to introduce new, lower fees for civil legal aid work. It also wants to cut the level of representation in some cases, reducing the number of barristers involved. Mediation David Ford signalled his intentions in a statement to the Assembly when he announced plans for further reform of the justice system. He insisted that the quality of legal representation will not be damaged. "I am committed to the principle that people should have help with their legal problems and that will be protected under these reforms," he said. "What may change is how they receive that help, and how public funding is used to provide it. The quality of help will not diminish but it may be delivered differently in future." In addition to reduced fees and numbers of barristers involved in cases, those involved in civil actions will be encouraged to resolve their differences through what is called Alternative Dispute Resolution. The process encourages mediation and agreement instead of sometimes hostile and costly confrontation in the courts. The planned civil legal aid reforms are part of a wide ranging programme announced today. Over the life of this Assembly, the minister said he intends to implement almost 40 different projects "to improve access to justice, bring legal aid expenditure within budget and improve accountability within the justice system."26 September 2013Last updated at 19:35 GMT Forest fragmentation triggers 'ecological Armageddon' By Mark KinverEnvironment reporter, BBC News Species affected by rainforest fragmentation are likely to be wiped out more quickly than previously thought, scientists have warned. A study found that some small mammal species on forest islands, created by a hydroelectric reservoir, in Thailand became extinct in just five years. It also showed that populations in the fragmented habitats were also at risk from another threat - invasive species. The findings have been . Results showed that almost all small mammals disappeared from patches of fragmented forest smaller than 10 hectares (25 acres) within just five years, and larger plots - measuring up to 56ha - recorded the loss of small animals within 25 years. Co-author Luke Gibson from the National University of Singapore said the team was very surprised by the findings, describing it "like an ecological Armageddon". "None of us expected such a dramatic change from 20 years ago," he told the . "Our study focused on small mammals but what we did not report was a similar near-complete extinction of medium to large-sized mammals, such as elephants, tigers and tapirs, which are now completely absent from these islands in the reservoir. "All of these animals were all in the forest landscape before the creation of the reservoir." 'Natural laboratory' The researchers carried out their studies at the Chiew Lan (or Larn) Reservoir in southern Thailand. About 160 sq km of the Khao Sok National Park was flooded in the mid-1980s to create the reservoir. The rising water also created in excess of 100 islands of tropical forest, which the team called a "natural laboratory". The researchers carried out a survey of small mammals found on 16 of the islands, which ranged in size from 0.3ha to 56.3ha, five to seven years after the reservoir was created. They then repeated the survey 25-26 years after the islands were formed. Co-author Prof William Laurance, one of the world's leading ecologists on habitat fragmentation, said there were probably two factors that drove the rapid demise of small mammals on the isolated habitats. "Native mammals suffered the harmful effects of population isolation, and they also had to deal with a devastating invader - the Malayan field rat," he said. The team found the population of the invading rat species became so abundant in just a few years that it displaced the native small mammals. The field rat is known to invade disturbed habitats, such as fragmented forests. Habitat fragmentation is widely recognised as one of the main global threats to biodiversity. Although it can occur naturally as a result of natural disasters, the main threat today comes via human activities, such as urbanisation and pressure for agricultural land. Mr Gibson said he expected the trend of fragmentation in tropical landscapes to become increasingly common in the coming decades. "One example [of a] highly fragmented forest region is in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil where more than 80% of fragments are smaller than 50ha in area," he observed. "The bottom line is that we must conserve large, intact habitats for nature. That is the only way we can ensure biodiversity will survive."19 June 2012Last updated at 09:59 GMT Forests and caves of iron: An Amazon dilemma In the heart of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, giant diggers tear into the rock 24 hours a day to extract a dark grey ore rich in the iron on which every modern economy depends. The Carajas complex is the largest iron ore mine on the planet and at any one time 3,000 people are toiling here in the tropical heat using a fleet of giant machines including trucks the size of houses. Amid an ocean of lush green jungle, a series of four manmade chasms stretching deep into the rock represents an ugly first step in the long process involved in making steel. The company operating the mine, the Brazilian giant Vale, often criticised for causing environmental devastation, claims it is planning to restore this landscape to its original state. The conundrum of Carajas is that we all make use of steel but that comes at a price to the natural world. Constant struggle This is the source of a constant struggle between Vale's desire to reach new seams of ore and attempts by the environmental authorities to keep the expansion under control. It is also at the core of the debate on sustainable development at the Rio+20 summit under way this week. I reported on a similar contest in the UK last week, over plans for the close to the wildlife reserve of Romney Marsh. The iron rush here at Carajas was only triggered by a chance discovery. An American geologist, whose helicopter needed refuelling at Carajas in 1967, reputedly bent down to retie a shoelace and noticed the Amazonian soil littered with chunks of rich ore. The lumps he found here, almost as black as coal, are surprisingly heavy - I picked one up - because this ore has one of the highest iron contents anywhere in the world. Huge operation Nearly half a century later, the mine processes a staggering 300,000 tonnes every day and last year generated an immense total of 109 million tonnes - snapped up by the fast-industrialising economies of Asia. At first sight the mining operation appears breathtakingly destructive. For a start the mine is smack in the middle of a National Forest and what was once a landscape of dense vegetation is a now a moonscape of bare cliffs and billowing dust. The whoops and cries of jungle birdsong are replaced by the constant roar and grind of hundreds of massive engines. But Vale, like most multinationals these days, is eager to promote the idea that sustainability is embedded in its thinking and points to a series of measures designed to limit the mine's impact. The operations manager of the mine, Jaymilson Magalhaes, tells me that the mine complex only covers about 3% of the area of the national forest and that before any digging can start, the company has to have a restoration plan to return the area to its original state. That includes using spoil to fill in the mines once they are exhausted to reshape the topography - a process we witnessed in one small area - and undertake a massive replanting programme using native species. "I believe we genuinely can restore the forest and we have a strategy to do that," Jaymilson tells me. "What we do is very careful planning so that when we finish we know exactly the plants we need to replant and we have nurseries with the original vegetation. "When we grow them we will reposition the soil so the forest can grow back to its original state." Trying to be green Vale also highlights its support for an extensive monitoring operation in the forest run by the Brazilian Government's conservation agency ICMBio - so we checked with the agency to get their perspective. Frederico Drumond Martins of ICMBio is the manager of the national forest and agrees that Vale is trying to be greener - for example, he says, he only has 12 rangers but Vale pays for a further 80, plus cars, boats and the use of a helicopter, all vital to guard against illegal logging and poaching. "Vale is really trying to operate sustainably but there's a long way to go - for Vale the iron comes first and Nature second or third." Frederico and his colleagues are locked in a series of disputes with Vale over its plans for new mines in the forest. "My job," he tells me, "is not to stop the mining - it is good for the economy and it puts Brazil in a good position in the world - but it is to control it." Precious caves One of his greatest concerns is to preserve a surprising and recently discovered world beneath the Amazon - a series of caves lurking in the iron ore under the forest floor. In this one region, some 2,000 caverns have been found and scientists regard them as potentially precious features because of their iron content, unusual biology and archaeological remains. A cave we descended into hosts four species of bat - only one of them carnivorous, luckily - and excavations in its floor have revealed evidence of human habitation as long as 9,000 years ago. The air inside was cool and musty and there was a constant squeaking from the bats as they fluttered above our heads. ICMBio and Vale are surveying the caves to rank their importance - only those granted the highest grade will be saved from mining while some may be destroyed if others are preserved. The status of the cave we visited has yet to be decided so its fate is unclear. It lies within a zone identified for potential mining by Vale but any bid to start digging will require a lengthy planning battle. The rainforest is under assault from a variety of sources and, compared to soya planting and cattle grazing, iron ore mining causes relatively minor damage. And there's an irony: the vehicles used by the conservation rangers around are made with steel that may have had its origins in this very landscape. Expansion of the mines would create new jobs and lead to valuable exports. An informal estimate of one planned project is that the ore could yield, at current prices, a staggering $800bn. Set against that is a growing awareness of the uniqueness of the forest, not only with the ecosystems thriving within and below its canopy, but also a dark and largely unknown realm under the forest floor. As Frederico of ICMBio puts it: "The iron is for this generation but the forest is for the next generation." As the host of the Rio+20 summit this week, Brazil faces its own difficult choices over how to define the much-disputed phrase 'sustainable development' and what it means for the jungles and caves of the Amazon.12 September 2013Last updated at 14:35 GMT Formal school lessons should start 'above age of five' Children should not start formal school lessons until the age of six or seven, a group of educationalists has said. , they said early schooling was causing "profound damage" to children. They are calling for more emphasis in the curriculum on learning through play. England's Education Minister Elizabeth Truss said starting school later would damage attempts to close the achievement gap between rich and poor. 'Look to Finland' The signatories to the letter, including academics, teachers and some writers and charities, said the current system focused too much on formal education, such as the "three Rs", at too early an age. They said national policies should be reassessed to make them more similar to education systems in Scandinavia. The letter said children who entered school at six or seven "consistently achieve better educational results as well as higher levels of well-being". It was signed by 127 experts including Lord Layard, director of the Well-Being Programme at the London School of Economics; senior lecturer in psychology of education at Cambridge University Dr David Whitebread, and director of Play England Catherine Prisk. Another of the signatories, former Children's Commissioner for England Sir Al Aynsley-Green, said: "If you look at a country like Finland children don't start formal, full-scale education until they are seven. "These extra few years, in my view, provide a crucial opportunity, when supported by well-trained, well-paid and highly educated staff, for children to be children." The letter was sent by the campaign group, Save Childhood Movement, which has launched a campaign called Too Much, Too Soon. Group founding director Wendy Ellyatt said: "Despite the fact that 90% of countries in the world prioritise social and emotional learning and start formal schooling at six or seven, in England we seem grimly determined to cling on to the erroneous belief that starting sooner means better results later. "There is nothing wrong with seeking high educational standards and accountability, but there is surely something very wrong indeed if this comes at the cost of natural development." Currently most children in England go to nursery at the age of three or four before starting school in the September following their fourth birthday and spend a year in reception class. Legally all children in England have to be in full-time education by the term after their fifth birthday. 'Devaluation of exams' Education Minister Elizabeth Truss rejected calls for formal schooling to start later in England, saying this would damage the life chances of children from poorer homes. "I think the campaign is wrong-headed," she told The World at One on BBC Radio Four. "At the moment we've got one of the biggest gaps between the performance of low-income and high-income students. And if schooling were to be delayed, that would mean that it was even later that we started working on closing that gap. And I think that's a massive problem." Earlier, a source close to Education Secretary Michael Gove had told the Telegraph the authors of the letter were "misguided". "These people represent the powerful and badly misguided lobby who are responsible for the devaluation of exams and the culture of low expectations in state schools," he said. Earlier this week, Northern Ireland Education Minister John O'Dowd indicated he was willing to introduce new rules to allow flexibility on the school starting age. Researchers said Northern Ireland had the lowest statutory school entry age in Europe, at four. In England, the government is on whether to bring in what it calls a "simple baseline check" at the start of reception, from which children's progress could be measured for league table and Ofsted inspection purposes. It would also show parents what progress their children made in the early years of primary school, it says. At the moment, children are assessed by their reception class teachers at some point in the year but the results are not used formally in accountability measures such as league tables. The progress children make at primary school is currently measured formally from the results of national (Sats) tests in English and maths taken by children at the age of six or seven and their teachers' assessment of their abilities. Government officials say a move to an earlier "baseline check" is just one option they are consulting on. Five- and six-year-olds also have a phonics check on their reading abilities at the end of Year 1.14 August 2012Last updated at 23:44 GMT Former Argentine president de la Rua in corruption trial The trial has begun in Argentina of former president Fernando de la Rua, accused of bribing senators to approve a labour reform bill in 2000. Prosecutors say Mr de la Rua paid some $5m (?3m) to secure the votes of a group of senators in favour of legislation scrapping workers' rights. He denies the charges and says the accusations are politically motivated. Mr de la Rua resigned in 2001 amid riots triggered by one of Argentina's most serious economic crises. Twelve years after the legislation was approved - and nearly a decade after it was revoked - the 74-year-old former president appeared in court in Buenos Aires to hear the charges. Helicopter escape More than 300 witnesses are due to be questioned, including President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, his political rival. President Fernandez, who was a senator at the time, voted against the bill and is not accused of taking a bribe. A verdict is not expected till next year. Among the witnesses is a former parliamentary secretary, Mario Pontaquarto, who says Mr de la Rua gave him instructions to hand out the bribes. The employment reform law, which made it easier for companies to sack staff, had the backing of the International Monetary Fund. The IMF was demanding public-sector cuts and pro-business reforms in order to approve new loans to Argentina's troubled economy. Eventually, the IMF refused to extend more loans. Mr de la Rua's unpopular austerity measures led to riots in Buenos Aires. In December 2001, after days of clashes in the city centre, the president resigned and famously left the presidential palace in a helicopter.18 April 2012Last updated at 11:43 GMT Former sailor from Eriskay in oldest bungee jump claim A former sailor is claiming the title of Scotland's oldest bungee jumper. John Macdonald, of Eriskay, dropped 40m (131ft) from the Garry Bridge in Killiecrankie, Perthshire, to mark his 80th birthday. He had not expected to live beyond 60 after being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1964. Highland Fling Bungee, which runs the bridge jump, said Mr Macdonald had overtaken Denis Gallagher, 73, as Scotland's oldest bungee jumper. Mr Gallagher, from Ayrshire, made his jump in November last year. The oldest recorded bungee jumper in the world is a 94-year-old who jumped in New Zealand, Highland Fling Bungee said. Mr Macdonald was diagnosed with diabetes by a doctor in Brazil. He said: "I have had diabetes for 48 years and, when I was lying in hospital in Rio in 1964, I reckoned I would be very lucky to live past the age of 60. "To do this, then, was special and I hope this gives younger ones who have diabetes something to encourage them a bit - an old guy like me managing to do a bungee jump." Mr Macdonald added: "More and more young people are getting diabetes these days and it must be very, very hard for them. "I think a lot of people do more sitting in front of computers now and maybe don't get the same level of exercise. "However, if you can control your diabetes and stay as active as you can, diabetes doesn't have to stop you achieving things."As the partial shutdown of the US government continues, a former US Secretary of Labor has been outlining what the consequences may be for the US and world economies.Robert Reich, who served in the Clinton administration in the 1990s, said that the looming deadline for the debt ceiling may be an added concern for the markets.Mr Reich, who is now at the University of California at Berkeley, has also made a new film called Inequality For All, about America's economic problems.He told the BBC the markets had shown a muted response to the shutdown.4 April 2012Last updated at 10:33 GMT Forty years in solitary confinement and counting By Tim FranksRadio 4, Crossing Continents As two men in Louisiana complete 40 years in solitary confinement this month, the use of total isolation in US prisons is high. What does this do to a prisoner's state of mind? Robert King paces the front room of his small, one-storey house in Austin, Texas. "I imagine I could put my cell inside this room about six times," he says. "Probably more." For 29 years Robert King occupied a cell nine feet by six - just under three metres by two - for at least 23 hours a day. He spent most of his time incarcerated in one of the toughest prisons in the United States - Louisiana State Penitentiary. The prison, the largest in the US, is nicknamed Angola after the plantation that once stood on its site, worked by slaves shipped in from Africa. King, who was released from prison in 2001, still calls himself one of the Angola Three - three men who have been the focus of a long-running international . Between them, they have served more than 100 years in solitary. All three say they were imprisoned for crimes they did not commit, and where convictions were only obtained after blatant mistrials. King has the open face, lean physique and broad chest of a man in good shape, even on the cusp of his 70th birthday. And he is reluctant to delve too deeply into what those years in solitary were like, beyond saying that "it's impossible to get dipped in waste and not come up stinking". There is, he says, a physical toll to long-term isolation: "People become old and infirm before their time." But more, there is a psychological effect. He stayed strong, he says, but it was "scary" to see how others crumpled through lack of human contact. Angola in the 1960s and 1970s was a place known for its brutal forced labour, its sexual slavery and its violence. Even so, Robert King is on record as saying that solitary was much, much worse. His reticence is not matched by Nick Trenticosta, the lawyer for the other two members of the Angola Three - Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox. "I have interviewed a number of of people who've spent 10-12 years in solitary confinement," says Mr Trenticosta, in his basement legal offices in New Orleans. "Almost all of the people are severely damaged. They're potted plants. Their will to live really doesn't exist any more. "They become shells of their former selves. If I take them to the visitors' area, it'll be two hours before I can get an answer to my questions, and then I might just hear gobbledygook." Back in the early 1970s, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox were already in Angola, serving time for armed robbery. They became involved in the Black Panther Party - they say in order to try to improve the abysmal conditions for prisoners. Then in 1972, a prison guard called Brent Miller was murdered. Wallace and Woodfox were convicted, and placed in solitary - where, apart from a short spell in 2008 in a high security dormitory, they have remained ever since. Both men have always maintained their innocence - saying that grave questions were raised about an inmate being secretly rewarded for his incriminating testimony, and pointing to the lack of forensic evidence linking them to the murder. Wallace's sister Vicky lives on the poor side of New Orleans, in the lower ninth ward. Her health has, she says, suffered from the constant worry about her brother - and he is not in good shape either. "He need to talk to a psychiatrist," she says. When she does get to visit him "he slips sometimes, when we talking," she says. "His ears are not so good at all. His ear is hard like this table," she says, knocking on her wooden dining table, "because it looks like they beat him so much." Neither the Department of Corrections - the US prison service - or the state attorney general's office were available to speak about the case of the Angola Three or the use of solitary confinement. But in the town closest to Angola - St Francisville - chief of police Scott Ford was clear on the matter. "I absolutely don't mind if somebody who took the life of somebody's loved one doesn't see but an hour of sunlight a day. "I'm probably a little more on the other side that says that one hour that you are letting them see sunlight, if we could shave some time off that, it would be better." Reliable figures on the numbers held in solitary in the US are hard to come by. What does seem clear is that in that recent decades, the number has grown hugely, into the tens of thousands, as some states put greater emphasis on solitary confinement, and the overall prison population rises. Campaigners put the figure at 80,000. Compare this estimate to a statement to the BBC from the Prison Service of England and Wales: "At any one time there would only be a small handful of exceptionally dangerous prisoners held in these conditions (under five)?? prisoners are never left in an isolated state for long periods of time." The practice may have hit its high-point in the US. "Supermax" maximum security prisons are very expensive. Isolation units within them, all the more so. So as money dries up, so there may be pressure to put fewer prisoners in solitary. The case of the Angola Three has won the support of organisations such as . And the former Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court, Pascal Calogero, suggests there could be room for a legal challenge to the practice. The use of extended solitary is not, he argues, provided for in law. "It is beyond what the legislature has directed should be imposed for a felony conviction. And excessiveness in this regard cannot be in accordance with the law." Jean Casella, of the campaign group Solitary Watch, puts it more starkly: "It's torture, when it goes beyond a few days or a few weeks." She cites the testimony of people such as Senator John McCain, who spent years in solitary as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. And the prisoner in a supermax in Illinois, who said: "Lock yourself in your bathroom for 10 years, then come out and tell me that that's not torture." Herman Wallace is 70. Albert Woodfox is 65. In the middle of this month, they will each have spent 40 years in solitary. Listen to the full report on on on Thursday, 5 April at 11:00 BST and Monday, 9 April at 20:30 BST. You can also hear the report on on the . Listen again via the or the Crossing Continents .13 December 2012Last updated at 09:15 GMT Fracking: Untangling fact from fiction By Matt McGrathEnvironment correspondent, BBC News The government has announced that it will remove a temporary ban on hydraulic fracturing across the UK. Fracking, as it is known, is a controversial technique for recovering gas and oil from shale rock. But how concerned should people be about the environmental impacts? is widely used across the US to exploit reserves of oil and gas that were once believed to be inaccessible. But in the UK, the use of fracking was halted in 2011 after some minor earthquakes near Blackpool, in north-west England, were attributed to test wells being drilled by the energy company Cuadrilla. The company carried out its own into the incident and found that it was "most likely" that the seismic events were caused by the direct injection of fluid into the fault zone. The Department for Energy and Climate Change (Decc) then asked three experts to make an independent assessment. Their report indicated that future earthquakes as a result of fracking could not be ruled out - but the risk from these tremors was low and structural damage extremely unlikely. The experts also made recommendations on how to minimise these risks. Another , carried out by the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering, also gave fracking the green light - provided that strong regulations were in place. Earthquake issues have also been to fracking in British Columbia, Canada, and in some parts of the United States. But according to the Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla, there needs to be a sense of proportion about the risk of earthquakes from fracking. "If you look at the British Geological Survey website, in the last two months alone there were nine events of the same magnitude," he told BBC News. "We have a host of measures in place to ensure there is no recurrence." It is expected that if fracking resumes in the UK, the government will insist on constant monitoring and a threshold of seismic activity. If fracking causes a tremor above the limit, it could lead to a suspension of drilling. Fluid situation Many people have concerns about the fluid used in fracking. It is normally a mixture of water, sand and some chemicals that is pumped into the well under high pressure to force the gas from the rock. There have been worries that the fluid is dangerous - suspicions that were fuelled by the reluctance of many companies in the US to disclose what's exactly in the mixture. Democrats in the US Congress released a that detailed some 750 different chemicals and other components used in fracking fluid. In the UK, Cuadrilla has been open about what is in fracking mixture. But the liquid going down into the well isn't the whole story. Fracking requires tens of millions of litres of fluid - much of what goes down the well comes back up as "produced water". It can contain a mixture of organic hydrocarbons, and naturally occurring radioactive material. In the US, this water is often stored in open pits before it is processed but in the UK the pits will have to be covered. In many locations where the facilities don't exist on site, the water has to be trucked away to be cleaned. Prof Richard Davies, director of the , says that this would also be the likely scenario in the UK if fracking becomes more widespread. "It'll be a bit like Pennsylvania, where a whole industry has grown up to deal with waste-water," he said. "We'll have to clean the water if we want to re-use it." The International Energy Agency (IEA) has suggested of cleaning up the water that is used in shale gas exploitation. The IEA says that the technologies to address these issues exist or are in development and if they are adopted, fracking might be more widely accepted. The other water issue associated with fracking is the potential of the technology to contaminate existing drinking supplies. In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigated complaints from residents in Pavillion, Wyoming, who complained that fracking was affecting their drinking water. The EPA's initial concluded that there was a link with the waste-water produced by drilling for gas. Further investigations into this incident haven't yet conclusively shown the sources of contamination. There have been many other reports of a similar impact on drinking water from people living near fracking operations across the US. Prof Davies says that when water has been contaminated in the US it has not been the fault of fracking. It has been as a result of cracks in the wells or surface spillages. "We have been distracted by hydraulic fracturing," he told BBC News. "It is really at the bottom of the list when it comes to contaminating water supplies. Drilling wells properly and cementing them are the critical things." In a published in the journal Marine and Petroleum Geology, Prof Davies found that in the UK the possibility of fracking causing rogue fractures that would allow methane gas to contaminate water was a fraction of 1%. The study recommended a minimum vertical separation distance between fracking wells and water supplies of 600m (2,000ft). Some scientists have proposed adding chemical tracers to fracking fluids as a way of confirming that any contamination of drinking water comes from the drilling process. Environmental disruption Horizontal drilling can offer many advantages to the gas extraction process, allowing wells to be drilled in several directions from one pad. But there are downsides as well. Horizontal drilling means companies can extract oil and gas from locations that were once inaccessible, and these may be under built-up areas as they are in several cities in the US. The disruption that this can cause is considerable. Road traffic, drilling noise, and the danger of accidental fuel spillages are all associated with the process. Mark Boling, executive vice president with , a US oil and gas exploration company that uses fracking technology, says the fracking industry needs to be more honest about the real impacts. "We need to think more innovatively above the ground," he told BBC News. "We need to figure how to do better on surface impacts, water supply, water transfer and disposal, drilling locations - we really didn't come out and say, 'yes, these are risks, and there are obstacles'." Mr Boling says that in many parts of the US, people have accepted the technology because they have seen a direct financial benefit from selling mineral rights. That's not something that pertains in the UK. "You are going to have even more difficulty where the minerals are owned by the Crown - if you don't have something that is going to put money in the pockets of people that are suffering through all the trucks, road damage the compressor noise all these sorts of things." Follow Matt5 June 2013Last updated at 10:47 GMT France profile A key player on the world stage and a country at the political heart of Europe, France paid a high price in both economic and human terms during the two world wars. The years which followed saw protracted conflicts culminating in independence for Algeria and most other French colonies in Africa as well as decolonisation in south-east Asia. France was one of the founding fathers of European integration as the continent sought to rebuild after the devastation of World War II. In the 1990s Franco-German cooperation was central to European economic integration. The bond between the two countries was again to the fore in the new millennium when their leaders voiced strong opposition as the US-led campaign in Iraq began. But France sent shockwaves through European Union capitals when its voters rejected the proposed EU constitution in a referendum in May 2005. France's colonial past is a major contributing factor in the presence of a diverse multicultural population. It is home to more than five million people of Arab and African descent. It has a number of territories overseas which, together with mainland France and Corsica, go to make up the 26 regions which the country comprises. It is further divided into 100 departments, five of which - French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Reunion and Mayotte - are geographically distant from Europe. Government in France is known for its high degree of centralisation but in March 2003 parliament approved amendments to the constitution allowing for the devolution of quite wide-ranging powers to the regions and departments. In the light of low election turnout, the move was widely seen as a bid to re-engage in the political process French people disillusioned by the ubiquitous influence of what is often perceived as the Paris elite. France has produced some of the continent's most influential writers and thinkers from Descartes and Pascal in the 17th century, Voltaire in the 18th, Baudelaire and Flaubert in the 19th to Sartre and Camus in the 20th. In the last two centuries it has given the art world the works of Renoir, Monet, Cezanne, Gauguin, Matisse and Braque, to name but a few. It is also famous for its strong culinary tradition. France produces more than 250 cheeses and some of the world's best-loved wines.14 March 2013Last updated at 16:57 GMT Francis celebrates Sistine Chapel Mass with cardinals Pope Francis has celebrated his first Mass since becoming the Catholic Church's head, giving a homily in front of cardinals in the Sistine Chapel. "I would like all of us... to have the courage to walk in the presence of God," he said, speaking in Italian. Earlier, the pontiff said private prayers at the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, after which he met children and commuters heading to work. He was also starting the process of appointing senior staff at the Vatican. As the first Latin American - and the first Jesuit - pope, Francis has received a flood of goodwill messages from around the world. But the 76-year-old Argentine, formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, also faces a series of tough challenges. The Church has been dogged by infighting and scandals over clerical sex abuse and alleged corruption. The BBC's David Willey, in Rome, says that Pope Francis becomes head of the Church at a critical moment in its history. Shunned special car On Wednesday night, Pope Francis endeared himself to the crowds in St Peter's Square - and underlined his reputation for humility - when he asked them to bless him before blessing them in return from the balcony of the basilica. The Vatican's account of his first hours in the top job also emphasised Pope Francis's humility, describing how he shunned a special car and security detail provided to take him to the Vatican and travelled on a bus with the other cardinals. Following his first outing as pope to the Rome basilica on Thursday, Francis went back to the clergy house in a city centre side street where he had been staying ahead of the conclave that elected him on Wednesday. "He packed his bags and then he went to pay the bill for his room so as to set a good example," said Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi. He also broke tradition by remaining standing to receive cardinals' acts of homage after his election, instead of sitting in the papal throne, Lombardi said. On Friday, he will meet all the cardinals, including those aged over 80 who did not take part in the conclave. On Saturday he will meet the world's media at a special papal audience, an opportunity perhaps to set out some of his global vision, says the BBC's James Robbins in Rome. A visit to his predecessor Benedict XVI at his retreat at Castel Gandolfo outside Rome is also planned, but will not take place in the next couple of days, Lombardi said. The visit to Benedict is important, correspondents say, as the existence of a living retired pope has prompted fears of a possible rival power. Francis will be installed officially in an inauguration Mass on Tuesday 19 March, the Vatican added. Force of reform? The election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio surprised many observers when it was revealed on Wednesday. Although he reportedly came second to Pope Benedict XVI during the 2005 conclave, few had predicted the election of the first pope from outside Europe in 1,300 years. Pope Francis is regarded as a doctrinal conservative, but he is also seen as a potential force for reform of the Vatican bureaucracy - and analysts say that may have won the support of reforming cardinals. The new pontiff will certainly come under strong pressure to reform the Curia, the governing body of the Church. He will also face an array of challenges which include the role of women, interfaith tensions and dwindling congregations in some parts of the world. The 76-year-old from Buenos Aires is the first Pope to take the name of Francis - reminiscent of Francis of Assisi, the 13th Century Italian reformer and patron saint of animals, who lived in poverty.Renowned British painter Frank Auerbach says his paintings are "always a surprise to me".The artist, who is known for destroying works that displease him, told BBC Radio 4's Front Row: "I never know when something will appear on the canvas that I think is worth leaving."Auerbach was giving a rare interview ahead of the opening of Raw Truth, an exhibition at London's Ordovas gallery, in which his paintings will be juxtaposed with those of Rembrandt.Now 82, the Berlin-born artist is regarded as one of the outstanding painters of his generation, in particular for his depictions of London and his wife, Julia.In a rare interview about his creative process, he admitted: "I don't have any days off, because I find it fun"."I just like my routine," he told John Wilson. "If you've got the impulse, it's very nice if you've got the brush in your hand."Listen to the full interview with Frank Auerbach on , at 19:15 BST on 4 October, 2013.29 August 2013Last updated at 23:39 GMT Free Andy Warhol art exhibition tickets available online Free tickets are being made available for an Andy Warhol exhibition of his paintings and prints which is taking place at Holyrood this autumn. Portraits of Lenin and Chairman Mao will be part of the display from 5 October to 3 November. The from 10:00 BST on Friday. The Scottish Parliament, Carnegie UK Trust and the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh worked together to make the exhibition possible. The parliament has said booking is recommended as tickets will be allocated by a specific viewing time. Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick said: "This is the first politically curated exhibition of Andy Warhol's work and the first time his works have ever been shown in a legislature and so represents a real coup for the Scottish Parliament. "The Scottish Parliament is not just a place for politicians - our building is home to many events and exhibitions that get people talking and thinking about issues that matter to them. "This unique exhibition will offer people the chance to explore the role of power and politics within the home of debate in Scotland and I am grateful to the Carnegie UK Trust and The Andy Warhol Museum for making it possible." The exhibition has been timed to coincide with Scottish philanthropist Andrew Carnegie's International Legacy: Shaping the Future festival, which celebrates the centenary of the formation of the Carnegie UK Trust.19 September 2013Last updated at 12:23 GMT Freeing of prisoners highlights Iran media divide There has been a sharp contrast in the way media in Iran have covered the reported release of 11 high-profile political prisoners. Reformist newspapers and social media users have hailed the development and congratulated Iran's new President Hassan Rouhani on remaining true to pre-election statements hinting at a new policy on political prisoners. The conservative press, however, published only brief reports on the story, while Iranian state TV seemed to ignore it altogether. 'Breeze of moderation' The release of the political prisoners arrested during the 2009 post-poll unrest in Iran - including noted human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh - is the front-page story for all reformist and moderate newspapers. "Breeze of moderation reaches Evin," declares moderate daily in a big headline with a violet strip - the colour of Rouhani's election campaign - and referring to Tehran's notorious Evin Prison, where many political prisoners are held. In its editorial, the paper praises moves by the new president to act on pre-election hints at freeing political prisoners. "Our culture is the culture of forgiveness and our religion is the religion of compassion. That is why we have no animosity towards anyone except the outlaws and the enemies," Arman concludes. "Release of some prisoners linked to 2009 events," reads the front-page headline of reformist daily . The paper interviews several political analysts, most of whom express the hope that the decision is not a one-off, and that reformist leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi will also be released soon. Another reformist newspaper, , combines the prisoner release what it sees as two other good news stories - the dismissal of the conservative head of Iran's vast private Azad University system and the Iranian national team's victory at the wrestling world championship - into one report. "Dismissal, freedom, championship," the headline trumpets. 'Thank you, Rouhani' Opposition websites such as pro-Karroubi , pro-reform and pro-Mousavi , also led with reports on the release of the political prisoners. The news was met with enthusiasm by Iran's social media users, who saw it as a sign that things have started to change in Iran. "Happy freedom," said a post on the "25 Bahman" Facebook page under the report about the freed opposition activists. Other users were also jubilant. "Thank God, thank you Rouhani", exclaimed user Omid Ab. "Has a revolution taken place?!" asked another, Farshad Ad, while Mostafa Moosavi exclaimed: "Tears of joy streaming. Thank you national heroes." The release of human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was greeted with particular joy on social media. Prominent Twitter user Vahid, who has over 20,000 followers, pointed out that a short Facebook update from Ms Sotoudeh's husband, Reza Khandan, announcing his wife's return home had been liked by 1,200 users and shared by 500 in fewer than 30 minutes. "Hassan [Rouhani], it appears that you're actually getting some things done," said another well-followed member of Iran's Twittersphere, Amin Sabeti, about Ms Sotoudeh's release. Twitter user Negar Mortazavi, who describes herself as a journalist and social media observer and has more than 10,000 followers, tweeted in English: "Young artist in Tehran told me: I think we'd never done anything as correct as what we did this year [vote], I wanna hug the entire planet." State media silence In contrast to the celebratory response elsewhere, Iran's conservative and hard-line newspapers only mentioned the prisoner release in terse reports on their domestic news pages. Semi-official news agencies, including hard-line and the conservative (ISNA), did the same. The state broadcast media even completely ignored the story, and moderate and reformist newspapers were even dropped from the regular morning press review on rolling state TV news channel . Since the 2009 protests, state TV has studiously avoided the topic of political prisoners, and appears to be sticking to that line. reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, . You can follow BBC Monitoring on and .20 November 2012Last updated at 13:40 GMT French Guiana profile Dense equatorial forests, colonial towns and a major space centre are among the faces of French Guiana, a region of France on the north-east coast of South America. The forests provide the raw material for a timber industry, but many of French Guiana's natural resources defy easy exploitation. Much of the sparsely-inhabited interior is accessible only by river. Natural splendour and an abundance of wildlife mean that there is the potential for tourism, but this is inhibited by a lack of infrastructure. The ethnically-diverse population enjoys one of the higher standards of living on the South American continent. The French social security system is in force, and subsidies from Paris prop up the economy. Outbreaks of street violence in the 1990s, fuelled in part by high levels of youth unemployment, were also seen as manifestations of tension between the region and Paris. But support for greater autonomy, and particularly for independence, is tempeed by the reliance on subsidies. In January 2010 voters rejected the option of increased autonomy in a referendum, with 69.8% voting against on a turnout of 48%. France occupied the territory in the 17th century. The Dutch and Spanish also settled the area. Until the 1930s the mother country dispatched convicts to penal colonies in the territory, including the notorious Devil's Island. Many of the tens of thousands of convicts succumbed to malaria and yellow fever. Another former penal settlement, Kourou, is home to a European Space Agency rocket launch site. The facility has been a boon to the local economy, accounting for a significant slice of GDP, and has given the territory a strategic value.7 November 2012Last updated at 16:24 GMT French Polynesia profile French Polynesia is a sprawling possession of France in the Pacific Ocean, made up of 118 volcanic and coral islands and atolls, including Tahiti. For France this huge stretch of the Pacific - as big as Western Europe - remains strategically valuable. Atomic testing on the atolls enabled France to keep the nuclear clout it needed to remain one of the world's leading powers. The issue of independence dominates the political agenda. There are five island groups - the Society Islands, the Tuamotu archipelago, the Gambier Islands, the Marquesas Islands and the Tubuai Islands. Tahiti is the most densely-populated island. European contact was gradual; the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and British were credited with the discovery of one or more of the islands. In the 18th century European traders and missionaries came, bringing diseases that wiped out much of the indigenous population. The missionaries tried to put a stop to local religious practices, nudity and other aspects of indigenous life. Some forms of Polynesian culture were lost for many years. Tahiti, in the Society islands, became a French colony in 1880. France later annexed other islands to form the French Colony of Oceania. In 1946 the islands became an overseas territory and in 2004 gained "overseas country" status. Pro-independence movements flourished in the 1970s and over time the islands took more control of internal affairs, culminating in a statute granting increased autonomy in 1996. There has been friction with Paris over nuclear testing. France conducted 41 atmospheric tests on the Mururoa atoll and neighbouring Fangataufa from 1966. In 1975, under international pressure, it switched to underground tests. Ending a three year moratorium, French President Jacques Chirac said testing would resume in 1995. The move provoked international anger and protests in Papeete turned violent. Six of the eight planned tests were carried out, the last one in January 1996. At the end of the programme Paris agreed to a 10-year compensation package. In 1995 the UN's nuclear watchdog concluded that radiation levels around the atolls posed no threat. In 1999 Paris admitted that fractures had been discovered in the coral cone at the sites. The atolls continue to be monitored. In March 2009, the French government enacted legislation to allow compensation for former workers at France's nuclear weapons test sites. French Polynesia enjoys a high standard of living, but wealth is unevenly distributed and unemployment is high. Tourism is an important money-earner; travellers favour Tahiti and Bora Bora. Boasting a year-round warm climate, volcanic peaks and tranquil lagoons, it is easy to see why the islands are popular. French Polynesia is, though, prone to typhoons.1 October 2013Last updated at 13:22 GMT Fresh violence in Rakhine state as Burma leader visits Burmese President Thein Sein is visiting Rakhine state amid a fresh outbreak of sectarian violence between Buddhists and Muslims. Police say a Muslim woman was killed on Tuesday, and many homes set alight. The latest clashes appear to have been caused by a row over a parking space. Tension between the two faith groups has risen in the past few years. Violence which broke out in June 2012 left nearly 200 people dead and thousands displaced. This unrest has since spread to other parts of the country. Houses burned The latest violence appears to have started after a Buddhist taxi driver near the coastal town of Thandwe complained he had been verbally abused by a Muslim. This triggered attacks against property, and then physical attacks. "An old woman was killed during the clashes and houses were burned," a police official told the French news agency AFP. Thein Sein spent Tuesday in another part of Rakhine state, which contains many stateless Rohingya Muslims. Muslim and Buddhist communities remain largely segregated in the wake of last year's violence, with many displaced Rohingya Muslims living in tents or temporary camps.3 October 2013Last updated at 00:12 GMT Freshers' week fun? Not for the university cleaners By Sean CoughlanBBC News education correspondent Students are returning for the new university term. There will be parties, long beery nights and bleary late mornings. It's the binge-fest of freshers' week. But for cleaners at one London university, it is the "worst week of the year" when there is "double work". The students and the cleaners share the university campus; they both work here, but to very different timetables. The cleaners are on the way to work before some of the students will be on the way home. University cleaners start work from 04:00, travelling through the dark streets on buses from the edges of the capital. Mostly Spanish speakers from South and Central America, many will have begun their journey more than an hour earlier. While the new term means freshers' parties for students, there's a different kind of freshening going on for the cleaners. They will have cleaned the toilets, emptied the bins, swept the floor, wiped the desks, while the students and their teachers will have been asleep. It's a double life for this university. Before dawn As the first students begin to come through the doors in the morning, holding on to their textbooks and takeaway coffees, the cleaners have already finished their shifts. But they haven't finished working. Many will have multiple jobs, a few hours at a time, criss-crossing London by bus because the Tube fares are too expensive and they're not paid for the travelling in between. One university cleaner, who wants to remain anonymous, describes his daily timetable and gives his perspective on university life. He leaves his home at 03:00 for the first of three cleaning jobs. He works shifts from 04:00 - 06:00 and then 06:00 - 16:30 in central London and then finishes with a two-hour shift in south London, between 17:30 and 19:30. Then he goes home to his three children and gets ready to start work again the next morning. He works five days a week, but he says he has colleagues who work like this six or seven days a week. "Sometimes I don't want to wake up. But I can't afford to miss a single day. "It's dirty. People leave their rubbish on the floor. You think they would appreciate you, but you get into the lift and they turn away from you. "That affects me. When you're trying to clean the toilets, people get cross. There's a lack of respect - it's very hard. "Is it because we're cleaners? Because we're foreigners and we don't speak the language?" It's easy for families to break up, he says. Children without parents around can get into trouble. With no spare cash, people have to borrow and quickly get into high-interest borrowing. Long hours are worked to pay high London rents. And before making any assumptions about who gets caught up in this cycle, he says he works alongside cleaners who in their own countries had been a lawyer, a psychologist and a teacher. He is a graduate himself, before coming to the UK more than a decade ago. Invisible people What's the worst part of cleaning? He says it's the toilets. And he can't understand how people can leave the bathrooms in such a bad way. Just as crushing is the sense of not being valued, particularly in an educational institution, where students debate ideas of equality, labour rights and social justice. "I thought people would behave well, they would have courtesy, good manners." Instead, he says, even when he has been taking out a bin from below someone's desk they've refused to acknowledge him. These might be corridors of learning. But someone still has to clean them. Not speaking much English, competing at the most precarious end of the temporary labour market, cleaners are vulnerable to being exploited. It's part of the reason that he doesn't want to be identified. A previous contractor owed the cleaners money for three months, he says. They can't take their concerns to the university, because they work for an international outsourcing company. And there have been long-running campaigns over pay and conditions. But without being part of the university staff, the cleaners still share the same buildings, a parallel set of footsteps in the libraries, the lecture halls, the classrooms, unseen during the hours before dawn. He says they see the photos of families on the desks each day, they prepare the rooms. Without any sign of self-pity, he says: "Some of these tables are cleaned with tears." It's a tale of two cities invisible to one another.2 August 2013Last updated at 15:41 GMT From Glasgow student to president of Iran By Richard GalpinBBC News The cleric, Hassan Rouhani, who is being sworn-in as President of Iran this weekend, used to stroll the streets of the Scottish city, Glasgow, dressed in a smart business suit, his turban removed. It was the 1990s and Mr Rouhani was a post-graduate student at Glasgow Caledonian University. He once joked that he should divorce his wife so he'd stand a better chance of getting university accommodation as a single person, rather than requiring family rooms. At that time, he was also the deputy speaker of the Iranian parliament. But those who knew him say he readily accepted the more lowly status of a student. "He was on first (name) terms with fellow students," says Prof Hassan Amin, who has now retired from his post teaching law at Glasgow Caledonian University. "Many times he ate in the students' canteen and sometimes I would take him to the staff restaurant," he says. "People would come and sit down and I would introduce him?? and he would happily engage in a conversation with them." Political duties The thesis Mr Rouhani wrote for his PhD is called "The flexibility of Shariah (Islamic Law) with reference to the Iranian experience." He did the research in Iran while continuing his political duties in Tehran. But he commuted regularly to Glasgow to meet his academic supervisors and discuss the progress he was making. Dr Mahdi Zahraa, who was one of Mr Rouhani's supervisors, remembers him as "a quiet-spoken, very gentle man", with whom he enjoyed "intelligent and challenging" conversations. His spoken English was good. "We had very different views on some matters, on others we found that we held similar opinions," he said. "From our discussions, I ascertained that he had a modern and reformist approach to Shariah law." Public interest His thesis can still be brought out and read at the university library. "There has been quite a bit of press interest (in the thesis), interest from the public in general and quite a bit of interest from the Iranian community," says the library director, Robert Ruthven. "The thesis seems to show he has quite a flexible and perhaps modernising outlook." In the first line of the abstract, Dr Rouhani writes: "This thesis verifies that no laws in Islam are immutable." And he goes on to state: "The primary source of the Islamic law (the Quran) is in itself flexible on the basis of the analysis that the Quranic legislation leaves room for flexibility in the evaluation of its injunctions." Experts say this is not something new in recent Iranian thinking, but it does put him in the modernist or pragmatist camp. And while he's not regarded as a reformist, his victory in the election in June has raised expectations amongst the reformist groups which rallied around him that he will bring change to Iran. Since the election, Mr Rouhani has spoken of bringing moderation back to Iranian politics and being more transparent about Iran's nuclear programme, so what he called "cruel" sanctions imposed on Iran by the international community, can be lifted. Gradual change And it seems his decision to study in Britain back in the 1990s, did to some extent reflect his more liberal outlook. "He chose Great Britain because he has respect for the legal system here, for the judiciary and also for the legislative system," says Prof Hassan Amin, who is hopeful Mr Rouhani will deliver the promises he made during the election. "However I would say it would not be an immediate change, it has to be gradual, towards an Iran of sustainable development and good relations with the rest of the world." Other experts are also cautious about how much Mr Rouhani will want to or be able to free up the system at home and re-engage with the West. "He is firm in his loyalty to the Islamic republic and to the supreme leader," says Sir Richard Dalton, a former British ambassador to Iran. "He's best described as a man of the centre with excellent political links to all parts of the political spectrum in Iran. "His maxim will be more let's go for what works, rather than to respond to a preconceived reform programme." And yet Sir Richard also believes there could be a breakthrough in the long crisis over Iran's nuclear programme during Mr Rouhani's presidency, if the United States is prepared to offer a progressive easing of the international economic sanctions and if Tehran is also flexible. "Then I believe??it should be possible to negotiate a permanent, long-term solution to the nuclear question."12 August 2013Last updated at 23:06 GMT From heart rates to surveys: How to keep workers happy By Nastaran Tavakoli-Far Business reporter, BBC News Amy Balliett had a problem brewing in her company that she was entirely unaware of. An employee was trying to encourage others at design firm Killer Infographics to leave the Seattle-based start-up. With a small workforce of 20 and an open plan office, Mrs Balliett thinks staff might have found it hard to come forward and tell her what was going on. But a programme called TinyPulse allowed some employees to tell her - anonymously. It allows bosses to gather weekly surveys from their workers, and provides a channel through which workers can raise issues and communicate with their bosses. Mrs Balliett says retaining workers is key to growth in a start-up like hers, so she has to keep them happy. "It keeps it from something that will fester," she says of TinyPulse. "Festering makes an angry employee who will leave." Unhappy workers leave Recent studies show that up to . Happy workers tend to be more productive - which makes it sensible to focus on making sure your staff are content. TinyPulse founder David Niu spent several months travelling around and speaking to employers about the biggest problems they face. Having run a few companies previously, he knows the "haunting feeling" when an employee hands in their notice. Like the people he spoke to, he wanted to know how happy they were before they handed in their notice, but found annual surveys slow and time consuming. "We'd start with lots of energy and be bogged down with inertia and not know what to do with the results," he says of this process. Tiny Pulse is an app which sends out short weekly surveys to workers to see how happy they are, and makes graphs of the results so bosses can see how workers feel each week. Employers can tailor the surveys, and can also give positive feedback straight to workers. The app also allows employees to communicate with their bosses - anonymously. Better tech at home Microsoft chief envisioning officer and author Dave Coplin believes workers often have better technology at home than in the workplace; it used to be the other way around. As a result he thinks people are often frustrated at work. "Today people feel trapped by technology," he says, explaining many workplaces have limited its use.'s Nick Stein agrees. is a platform that aims to increase performance, by focusing on aligning goals between employer and employee, providing feedback, and mutual motivation. On employees have profiles which display their expertise and goals, and employers and employees can praise each other on performance day to day, rather than in one end-of-year review. Mr Stein says the internet has given people more voice than ever before, but work environments have not kept up - it can still be hard to speak up. Workers may feel they need to be at a certain level before they can express their views. "In workplaces you revert to how things were before the internet," he says. "What's happened with the internet age is that there's an understanding that you can't have the same types of hierarchies as they slow things down too much." Healthy brain, healthy work Companies don't have to use bespoke tools to create happier workers. Devices used to measure various health indicators can also gauge worker happiness. Neuroscientist Rob Goldberg believes that pushing people is simply bad for the brain. The result is that they don't do their best work. "We really need to push the perspective that brain health and performance are one and the same thing," he says. Mr Goldberg is part of Neumitra, a start-up out of MIT. Their app Bandu measures stress levels via a special wrist watch. Feeling stressed is a survival mechanism - however it stops the brain focusing and functioning effectively, according to Mr Goldberg. He says employers should monitor workers' stress levels and adjust accordingly. There may even be the need for fundamental changes. Mr Goldberg points to the high stress levels caused by getting into the office at rush hour. Yet working 9-5 is a historical throwback to the manufacturing production line, and is no longer relevant for many companies, he says. So one easy way to reduce stress might be to change working hours to reduce the amount staff have to travel at peak times. Journalist and founder of the non-profit The H(app)athon Project John Havens believes that other health related apps and tools can and should be used by workplaces. He points to apps like , which measures heart rate using an iPhone's camera, and , created so that advertising agencies can read people's emotions through their facial expressions. These tools may not have been designed with offices in mind, but he says they can be used by bosses to see how well, and in turn how happy, their workers are. However, he believes there are other factors at work. "Most of it boils down to having a sense of purpose and meaning," he says about workplace happiness. "These should be more of a focus." Basic questions, not tools Consultancy Delivering Happiness believes in the importance of deriving meaning from work. It began as a book by Zappos chief executive Tony Hsieh, looking at how companies could make workers happy while also pursuing profits. Now they consult, helping businesses focus equally on worker happiness and profits. Chief executive Jenn Lim says happy workers require a company that knows what its values are, and that this is more important than tools and technologies. "[Not asking these questions] is the answer to why we as a society can't sustain our happiness," she says. "It all comes back to very basic things. If we don't have the values in place all the rest could be a lost cause."8 July 2011Last updated at 22:46 GMT From invisibility cloaks to 'emotive' robots By Katia MoskvitchTechnology reporter, BBC News Harry Potter's invisibility cloak may still be fantasy, but researchers are moving closer to making things disappear. At the Royal Society's Summer Science Exhibition in London, scientists make visitors gaze in amazement as small balls vanish before their eyes. This "invisibility stand" is one of the 22 projects being presented to the public this year. Among them are special glasses that help blind people "see", tanks to capture sunlight and the so-called "smart traffic control". Royal Society president Sir Paul Nurse told BBC News that the exhibition was a showcase not only for British science, but for the society in general. "We have a constant evolution of our understanding of the world, and it's important to see how science can be applied for human good, how it can be used to improve the quality of life, to improve health and to drive economic growth," he said. Invisibility cloak The project involving "invisible" materials - called metamaterials - has attracted a lot of attention, with school children taking turns to hear the scientists explain the nature of the research. Metamaterials are materials unavailable in nature, in which the microstructure is changed to create unusual properties such as bending of electromagnetic waves. "I've never quite seen anything like it before; and if one day, I could have an invisibility cloak just like Harry Potter, that'd be fun!", said 13-year-old Keil Smith. Professor Ulf Leonhardt of the University of St Andrews, one of the project leaders, told BBC News that in future, this technology could be applied in the areas of communications, wireless energy transfer, sensors and security. He said that the "magic" illusion of disappearance stems from bending light in an unnatural way. "In the 'cloaking' device, you bend light around something so that you don't see the object, but you also don't see that the light has been bent - it enters the device in a straight line and it also leaves the device in the same direction in came from, as if nothing had happened to it," he said. "This makes objects undetectable and therefore invisible." Besides the "cloaking" device, the team also demonstrated how small balls made of sodium polyacrylate literally vanished as they were immersed in water. Tom Philbin, also from the University of St Andrews, explained that the balls had the exact same optical properties - the same refractive index - as water. "So if you have two materials that are different like these balls and water, but their refractive index is the same, then as far as light is concerned, they're exactly the same thing," he said. Mr Philbin said that H.G. Wells used these principles in his classic novel "The Invisible Man" - his character made his refractive index exactly the same as air, so that light could not tell him apart from the air and he thus became invisible. "But to do that, you'd have to change your entire composition, to make your refractive index the same as air, which you can't really do," added the scientist. Robots' faces At another stand, visitors learn about facial recognition technology - and how it can be applied to robots. The team behind the project seeks to understand how the brain perceives faces, and then "teaches" robots to recognise the emotions of people they interact with. "By understanding our expressions and being able to make meaningful expressions back, this new socially aware technology will make it possible to fit robots into our daily lives in the future," the leader of the study, Professor Peter McOwan of Queen Mary, University of London, told BBC News. Professor Alan Johnston from University College London explained that there were a number of places where robots and people co-existed in social environments. For instance, he said, in Scotland one robot helped in an office, and in Lisbon, Portugal, robots were teaching school children to play chess. "It's important for these machines to recognise how to act socially - to see when people are looking happy or sad," he said. "And our robots are able to understand your expressions, to then change their faces accordingly. "The robots can smile, look surprised, and do a range of different things." Old idea, new ways Wind power has long been viewed as an important source of renewable energy - but scientists are now trying to use the latest technologies to improve turbines that have existed for decades. Researchers from Coventry University have teamed up with pupils from Alcester High School to improve the efficiency of a wind turbine called Savonius that was developed at the dawn of the 20th Century. The turbine generates electricity by converting rotational energy produced when the wind blows on the blades of the rotor, makes them turn, and then turns a shaft. This particular turbine has always been considered a poor electricity generator - but the team has managed to make it more efficient by increasing the number of fins on the rotor. "We've been testing in the wind tunnel, and we found out that the more paddles the rotor has, the more efficient it becomes, as there's more surface for the wind to blow against - and it can produce more electricity," said 13-year-old Eve Winsper. Steve Sarson, head of technology at the school, explained that they used computer-aided design and manufacturing techniques to turn something that has been first developed a long time ago into a much better device. 'Wasted' energy Another energy-harvesting technology has also made it to this year's exhibition. But this time, scientists from the National Physical Laboratory have researched ways to harness energy that is otherwise wasted - dissipated as vibration, motion, heat or sound. Once captured, this energy is then transformed into electrical power. One of the researchers, Dr Patrick Joseph-Franks, explained that there were several ways of doing so. "One is a thermoelectric generator - if you warm two metal plates up by rubbing your hands, getting friction and thus generating heat, it then will be turned into electrical power," he said. "The second device is somebody pedalling on a bicycle and it is connected to a generator, and the third system is a piezoelectric device - if you squeeze it or bend it, you put a strain on it and it produces an electrical signal and you can capture that." None of these technologies are new, but today, it is becoming more and more economically important to capture energy instead of wasting it. And some companies are already doing it. In Tokyo, power-generating mats have been installed under the floors at two train stations - they capture the vibrations of the thousands of commuters and then transform this energy into electricity.3 August 2013Last updated at 16:31 GMT Frustration grows in Tunisian revolution birthplace By Ahmed MaherBBC Arabic, Sidi Bouzid If you want to trace the disappointment and frustration among young people in the southern Tunisian city of Sidi Bouzid, visit a local market. Souk al-Khodar is tucked away in one of the city's downtrodden districts. Many of the traders selling fruit and vegetables have university degrees and had high hopes that the revolution that ended decades of dictatorship in 2011 would herald a bright future. But for most, little has changed. Saleh, 28, has a law degree from the University of Sousse. Since leaving university in 2005, he has tried repeatedly to get a job, but to no avail. "My vegetable cart is my only source of living," he says. He complains that the transitional government's pledges of a better future have proved empty. Two and a half years ago, another vegetable seller from Sidi Bouzid, Mohammed Bouazizi, set himself alight after police confiscated his vegetable cart. His act of desperation and anger sparked the Tunisian revolution and the Arab Spring. There is a large poster of Mohammed Bouazizi hanging across the post office building in the city, and on the right-hand side of it is a monument representing a vegetable cart created in his memory. "We thought that when Mohammed Bouazizi set himself alight and sparked a revolution that we would enjoy economic prosperity and see an end to government corruption, and practices like nepotism at work. We were absolutely wrong. Nothing changed," Saleh says. The price of his goods sums up the country's economic malaise. "I used to sell 1kg (2.2lb) of potatoes for 1 dinar (?0.40) before the revolution; today I sell it for four dinars," he said before interrupting the interview to serve a customer. Second revolution Tensions are running high once more in Sidi Bouzid. The talk in the city is that the second wave of the revolution is in sight. The sense of hopelessness turned to anger when protesters clashed violently with police on 26 July. The confrontation was sparked by . A left-wing politician, he was shot and killed outside his home in the capital, Tunis, on 25 July. He is the second opposition figure to be gunned down in six months. The government named an Islamic extremist, Boubacar Hakim, as the prime suspect in Mr Brahmi's killing. The shocking incident, the second in six months, has set the country on edge as opposition supporters staged an open strike in central Tunis, demanding the resignation of the government and the dissolution of the interim parliament. The protesters increasingly blame the Islamist Ennahda movement, which leads a governing coalition alongside two secular parties, for the persistent economic malaise and shaky security. In Sidi Bouzid, dozens of protesters outside the town hall have blocked the main gate of the building and prevented the governor from entering his office for more than a week. "The current political crisis is the last straw for a government that promised a lot, but delivered almost nothing," shouts Bashir Brahimi. "There is no government here in Sidi Bouzid any longer. We, the people, are the government from now on." The Ennahda representative in the city, Mohammed Tahir, argues the transition to democracy is always rocky and that life could not improve immediately. "It takes years for any government after a revolution to make tangible progress, and given the fact that we have inherited a heavy burden after five decades of dictatorship." But many citizens in the cradle of the Tunisian revolution are impatient to reap the fruits of their uprising against autocracy. The graffiti on the wall behind the Bouazizi memorial reads: "The revolution continues."3 October 2013Last updated at 16:27 GMT Fukushima leaks: radioactive water overflows tank Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant has a new leak of radioactive water after workers overfilled a storage tank, its operator says. The workers miscalculated the tank's capacity as it was tilted on unlevel ground, plant operator Tepco said. It said around 430 litres (100 gallons) of water may have leaked from the tank, and could have flowed into the sea. The plant has experienced several leaks since being crippled by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011. One of the largest leaks took place in August, when Tepco discovered a leak of at least 300 tonnes of highly radioactive water at a different part of the plant. The latest leak was discovered by workers late on Wednesday. Tepco official Masayuki Ono said: "We would like to apologise that we have to announce that we've had another leak in our tanks today." "This is partly because we've had to fill our tanks to the brim in order to deal with the difficult management of rain water overflow following [a typhoon]," he added. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that Tepco had failed to deal with the leaks successfully. "It's actually leaking so of course we can't say that [Tepco] have been properly dealing with the issue. It should not be leaking at all," he said. The 2011 disaster knocked out cooling systems to the nuclear plant's reactors, three of which melted down. Water is now being pumped in to cool the reactors, but storing the resultant large quantities of radioactive water has proved a challenge for Tepco. In September, the government said it would invest hundreds of millions of dollars into building a frozen wall around the plant to stop the leaks.1 September 2013Last updated at 09:09 GMT Fukushima radiation levels '18 times higher' than thought Radiation levels around Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant are 18 times higher than previously thought, Japanese authorities have warned. Last week the plant's operator reported radioactive water had leaked from a storage tank into the ground. It now says readings taken near the leaking tank on Saturday showed radiation was high enough to prove lethal within four hours of exposure. The plant was crippled by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) had originally said the radiation emitted by the leaking water was around 100 millisieverts an hour. However, the company said the equipment used to make that recording could only read measurements of up to 100 millisieverts. The new recording, using a more sensitive device, showed a level of 1,800 millisieverts an hour. The new reading will have direct implications for radiation doses received by workers who spent several days trying to stop the leak last week, the BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports from Tokyo. In addition, Tepco says it has discovered a leak on another pipe emitting radiation levels of 230 millisieverts an hour. The plant has seen a series of water leaks and power failures. The 2011 tsunami knocked out cooling systems to the reactors, three of which melted down. The damage from the tsunami has necessitated the constant pumping of water to cool the reactors. This is believed to be the fourth major leak from storage tanks at Fukushima since 2011 and the worst so far in terms of volume. After the latest leak, Japan's nuclear-energy watchdog raised the incident level from one to three on the international scale measuring the severity of atomic accidents, which has a maximum of seven. Experts have said the scale of water leakage may be worse than officials have admitted.3 October 2013Last updated at 16:35 GMT Funding boost for Anglesey and Gwynedd heritage and homes projects Plans to turn an empty warehouse in a "fantastic" location on the banks of the Menai Strait into a heritage centre have received a funding boost. The Prince's Pier building in Menai Bridge will also host office space as part of the ?195,000 scheme. It is one of four projects in Gwynedd and Anglesey to receive grants from the Welsh government. An environmental scheme in Caernarfon, a heritage centre in Amlwch and several town centres will also benefit. "The building at Menai Bridge is basically an empty 19th Century warehouse which Menter Mon bought from Anglesey Council years ago, but there's been no budget to do it up until now," said Neil Johnstone, the heritage manager with regeneration body Menter Mon. "It'll be a joint enterprise between us and the Menai Bridge Heritage Trust which will use part of the space to display the history of the two bridges. Shops and businesses "The location really is fantastic as you can see the Telford bridge from the building." To enable the centre to generate an income two office units will also be developed. In Amlwch, a ?160,000 grant will be used to refurbish the Sail Loft heritage centre in the town's port, improving access and moving the cafe and exhibition space around. It is a joint venture with the Amlwch Industrial Heritage Trust. Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd plan to use ?120,000 to improve the area around the Bro Seiont housing estate in Caernarfon, including upgrading street lighting. Across Gwynedd and Anglesey ?500,000 will go towards the continuation of town centre improvements. Councillor John Wynn Jones, Gwynedd Council cabinet member for the economy, said: "We are delighted to be able to secure additional funding to support Gwynedd's town improvement grant. "The scheme that has been in place for a number of years is open to town centre shops and businesses to improve the front exterior of their properties. "Grants of 50% up to ?70,000 are available for eligible businesses." The housing and regeneration minister Carl Sargeant said the grants demonstrated the "commitment" of the Welsh government to local projects and local communities.For hundreds of thousands of federal employees who are not deemed essential to the operation of the US government, a government shutdown will leave them on unpaid holiday. It is an experience to which many in Washington DC have already become accustomed. When Congress failed to pass a budget in 2012, government agencies had to slash their budgets by reducing staff pay and hours, a procedure called the "sequester". Four engineers in the US Navy took advantage of the unexpected - and unpaid - time off to start a business making skis in a basement. The workers behind Kicker Snowsports talked to the BBC about their just-released first model, appropriately called the Furlough Friday, and their concerns about the current budget crisis.Produced by Max Matza; filmed and edited by Markus Zeffler.2 January 2013Last updated at 05:19 GMT Future tech: Smart fabrics and other forecasts By Katia MoskvitchTechnology reporter, BBC News Technology keeps surprising us, both by how quickly it moves and how slowly it develops. Where are our flying cars? Where are our household robots? Innovations don't always evolve the way we think, but based on what we do know it is possible to make a few safe-bet prophecies. In the video above a group of tech insiders predict the future of apps, gesture controls and the giant gadget-makers. And in the article below we take a look at what comes next with the connected world, smart materials and robotics. It seems like a perfect house. The building sounds the alarm every morning. It cooks the food, it keeps the floors clean. It repairs itself. The smart home was envisaged more than 60 years ago by science fiction author Ray Bradbury in his Martian Chronicles. His house had just one flaw: the family was long-dead while the house just carried on. Now the latest advances in technology are starting to bridge the gap between 21st century reality and Bradbury's fiction (minus the nuclear war). The internet of things, in which physical objects are connected to the web, will make our environment more intelligent than ever. In 2012 we saw smart thermostats tweak room temperatures to suit owners' habits; plants post to Twitter that they needed watering; and cars alert each other to traffic jams. This is just a tiny taste of what's to come, says Steve Lewis from Living PlanIT, a company aiming to make entire cities smart. "We are developing a city in Portugal that will ultimately deploy tens of millions of collaborating sensors in buildings, transportation, energy, water and waste systems, public lighting and a myriad of other sensors," he says. Similar efforts are underway in the UK, the Netherlands, China and Brazil, he adds. Already, more than half of all internet connections are used by "things", according to Gartner, a research consultancy. By 2020, there will be more than 30 billion things online, it suggests. Throw in better connectivity, with the roll-out of fast 4G mobile networks and better programming - thanks to HTML5, a clever code designed for web content - and we are heading to what some call the Internet of Everything. Unbreakable phones In our connected world of the future, size will continue to be a key technology driver. Advances in electronics and nanotechnology should make computers ever smaller, slimmer and multifunctional. Given the rate of innovation in computing and electronics, even IBM's predictions that "in five years, you will be able to reach out and touch through your phone" and "computers will have a sense of smell" shouldn't be too shocking. Researchers and electronic firms are also promising to change the very appearance of our mobile devices in the months to come. Samsung and LG have pledged to deliver gadgets with flexible displays as early as 2013 - making handsets, tablets, even possibly TVs bendy and virtually unbreakable. But advances in flexible electronics and new materials such as graphene mean more than just unfolding your phone to turn it into a tablet. Have you ever wanted to wear a cotton shirt instead of a heavy wool jacket in the winter? Gartner forecasts that flexible electronics will give rise to smart fabrics, making gloves and suits with built-in heaters a reality. There will also be ties "that can charge an electronic device [and] clothes with a built-in music player", predicts the company. And although such fabrics may be some time away, many firms are currently working on what is called wearable computing - making it possible to wrap a handset around your wrist, turning it into a bracelet that monitors your health all while displaying your Facebook messages. Flying high Robots will get smarter too, says Will Jackson, head of robotics firm Engineered Arts Limited. Granted, they are still far from the humanoid machines described by another science fiction writer, Isaac Asimov - capable of dreaming and getting people to fall in love with them. But they are becoming more intelligent. Drones are already able to take off, fly a mission and land without any human intervention, and a mechanical dog developed by the Pentagon can walk for 20 miles (32km) without a break and obey voice commands. Researchers in the US are also working on a shape-shifting device that uses magnets to mimic molecules that fold themselves into complex shapes. At the moment it is tiny and may not look like much, but in future it could form the basis for a real-life Transformer robot, autonomously reconfiguring itself to perform different tasks. There are also ongoing efforts to create intelligent machines for the home. So maybe one day soon, having a household robot bring you dinner as you're watching a 3D film on your connected-TV will become as commonplace as having a mobile phone.5 September 2013Last updated at 06:54 GMT G20 - David Cameron on the sidelines As David Cameron flies to St Petersburg this morning he will be painfully aware that the world will not be waiting to see what he thinks or what he might do next on Syria - the issue which is not on the formal agenda of the G20 but will, of course, dominate the meeting of the leaders of the world's 20 leading economies. President Obama will have a bi-lateral meeting with the leader of "our oldest ally" - President Hollande of France but he will not find time to meet with the prime minister of the United Kingdom. Some papers call that a "snub". It is not. It is a reflection of a simple truth that Britain's decision to say no to military action means that our leader finds himself relegated to the sidelines. The prime minister will do his best to flex what he calls Britain's "diplomatic muscle" - calling for other countries to boost humanitarian aid to deal with Syria's refugee crisis (2 million have fled the country, 6 million have been forced to move within it) and to persuade both sides in the civil war to open humanitarian corridors through which aid can be delivered. The Labour leader Ed Miliband called in the Commons yesterday for a resumption of efforts to get the two sides to talk; for the Geneva 2 talks to resume; for a hand to be extended to Iran to help. David Cameron's reply was blunt - it is only when President Assad fears that he is threatened that he will contemplate talking to anyone. Behind the scenes in Whitehall they are clear - diplomacy is going nowhere. There will be no attempt to revive it at the G20. So, Britain will be more a spectator than a player as events unfold in the days to come. This is a result of how Parliament voted. It is a result of how the public thinks. It is not, though, what the prime minister - or the man who wants to replace him - wanted a week ago. Yesterday in the Commons they tried hard to talk soberly and calmly about Syria but their repressed anxiety and anger was visible. They reminded me of a couple who'd had a terrible fight in public the night before and had re-appeared chastened. The unspoken thought which hung over them was "what on earth have we done"?6 September 2013Last updated at 07:13 GMT G20 - divisions on Syria illustrated Three hours of speeches. Not much dialogue. That is the short summary of what followed the caviar and blini at last night's dinner for world leaders at St Petersburg's magnificent Peterhof Palace. The exchanges seem to have confirmed rather than dissolved divisions over Syria. British sources say that the leaders of France, Turkey, Canada and the UK gave strong backing to President Obama whilst the Italians and Germans also called for a strong response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria. The host of this G20 summit, Russia's President Putin, repeated his insistence that it was not clear who had carried out the attack. His spokesman talked of a divide between those who want "hasty action" and those who want "to go by the book". The leaders emerged to watch a spectacular light show clearer than ever that if America and France take military action they cannot rely on broad international support.14 February 2013Last updated at 18:39 GMT Gabon profile Gabon is one of West Africa's more stable countries. Between independence from France in 1960 and 2009, Gabon had just two presidents. The late president Omar Bongo was in power for over four decades. Despite being made up of more than 40 ethnic groups, Gabon has escaped the strife afflicting other West African states. This is partly down to its relative prosperity due to oil and to the presence of French troops, which in 1964 reinstated President Leon Mba after he had been overthrown in a coup. Gabon's dependence on oil has made its economy - and political stability - hostage to fluctuations in oil prices. When oil prices fell in the late 1980s, opposition to President Bongo increased, culminating in demonstrations in 1990. These ushered in political liberalisation. A multi-party system was introduced in 1991. Government critics have pointed to the wealth gap between the urban elite and the rural poor. Thanks to its oil exports and a small population it enjoys more wealth per head of population than many of its neighbours. However, most of its people live in poverty. As oil reserves diminish, eco-tourism could grow in economic importance. Gabon's rainforests teem with wildlife, including lowland gorillas and forest elephants. National parks make up around one tenth of the land area.25 May 2011Last updated at 08:54 GMT Galloway Dark Sky Park 'helps insects' Buglife reports The UK's first Dark Sky Park has been held up as an example of how invertebrates could be protected from harm caused by artificial light. Conservation group Buglife has highlighted Galloway Forest Park in the south of Scotland in a new report. Buglife warned street lighting, man-made shiny surfaces and certain paint colours attracted insects away from flowers and natural egg-laying sites. Galloway's reduced light pollution was recognised in 2009. The International Dark Sky Association confirmed the forest park as one of the best places for stargazing in the world. Lighting experts were brought in to ensure the skies above the woodland were pitch black at night. Buglife mentioned the project among the recommendations in its new report A Review of the Impact of Artificial Light on Invertebrates. The document's authors said: "Areas with natural or near-natural lighting regimes should be officially conserved. "Additional Dark Sky Preserve areas should be identified to complement the Galloway Forest Park Dark Sky Preserve. "In these areas existing light pollution should be reduced and strict limits and constraints placed on any new lighting." Buglife said many invertebrates, such as moths and glow worms, depended on the natural rhythms of day-night and seasonal and lunar changes to light levels. However, artificial light could disrupt invertebrates' feeding, breeding and movement. Buglife said bees, which play a key role in pollinating plants, could be drawn away from flowers by brightly coloured outdoor surfaces. The report also said a rare beetle, the lesser silver water beetle, was attracted away from water to red coloured cars and would lay their eggs on them. It added: "The coating of the eggs is acidic and eats away the surface of the car's paint." In Scotland, Buglife's work has previously included highlighting discoveries of rare invertebrates. In 2009, a tiny creature no bigger than 1mm in length found in the Scottish hills was confirmed as the first recorded member of its species found in the UK. The springtail Bourletiella viridescens was photographed in the Cairngorms by Tim Ransom. Previously, it was reported in literature as having been found at two sites in north England, but there are no specimens to back this. Experts identified and confirmed the Highlands sighting.Galya Morrell has spent most of her life in the Arctic. The child of Siberian Komi nomads, she became a Soviet army officer and worked as a journalist for Pravda. Today she is a polar explorer and an ice artist and has devoted her life to the wellbeing of the "northern nation" of Arctic denizens. Morrell, 51, still undertakes hard-core expeditions and spends only about one month a year in the New York City apartment she shares with her American husband. Last June, she navigated the Greenlandic seas with three fellow explorers in a small open boat the size of a sofa. In hard weather conditions when it was impossible to dock, the group would spend days on end at sea. "The secret is to accept and try to adapt," she says. Produced by Anna Bressanin; camera by Ilya Shnitser Video and photographs from the Arctic courtesy of Galya Morrell Music by Hivshu, Robert Peary Jr.23 April 2013Last updated at 10:20 GMT Gareth Malone begins search for young 'contemporary choir' TV choirmaster Gareth Malone has launched a national talent search to create an "inspiring" choir showcasing young talent. Following the chart-topping commercial success of the Military Wives Choir, Malone's new venture targets gifted UK singers aged between 18 and 25. Malone said he wanted to "create a ground-breaking choir". The multi-award winning musician was made an OBE for services to music in 2012. He found national fame with the double-Bafta winning BBC Two series The Choir in 2007. In 2011, Malone's latest choir - formed of the wives and girlfriends of British servicemen beat X Factor winners Little Mix to the Christmas number one with the single Wherever You Are. The Military Wives Choir went on to win a Classical Brit Award in 2012. 'New choral style' Malone's new talent campaign aims to create an innovative new singing troupe inspired by a range of contemporary music and modern arrangements. The singers are expected to perform interpretations of hits by acts such as Radiohead, Fleet Foxes, Lana Del Rey and Fleetwood Mac. He said the project would "initiate a new choral style that is fresh, modern and utterly unique". Malone will collaborate with esteemed producer David Kosten - who has worked previously with acts such as Bat for Lashes, Everything Everything and Paul Oakenfold. Malone added: "Our aim will be to inspire a whole generation." Previously, Malone collaborated with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Gary Barlow, who composed and featured on The Military Wives single. A cappella arrangements and choral singing has seen a surge of mainstream popularity in recent years, illustrated by the commercial success of The Choir and American musical comedy-drama Glee. The winning singers will land a lucrative recording contract with an album release due later this year. The group is also expected to embark upon a worldwide tour. Auditions for the group will commence next week.26 September 2013Last updated at 14:50 GMT Gates calls Ctrl+Alt+Del command a mistake Bill Gates has described the decision to use Ctrl+Alt+Del as the command needed to log on to a PC as a mistake. Originally designed to trigger a reboot of a PC, it survives in the Windows 8 operating system as the command to access the task manager toolbar and is still used in older versions to log on. In an interview, the Microsoft co-founder blamed IBM for the shortcut, saying he had favoured a single button. The keyboard shortcut was invented by IBM engineer David Bradley. Originally he had favoured Ctrl+Alt+Esc, but he found it was too easy to bump the left side of the keyboard and reboot the computer accidentally so switched to Ctrl+Alt+Del because it was difficult to press with just one hand. During IBM's 20th anniversary celebrations, he said that while he may have invented it, Bill Gates made it famous. His involvement in the invention has made him something of a programming hero though- with fans asking him to autograph keyboards at conferences. Finger strike The shortcut, also known as the three-finger salute - came to prominence in the early 1990s as a quick fix for the infamous "blue screen of death" on PCs. But speaking at a fundraising campaign at Harvard University, Mr Gates said he thought that it had been a mistake. "We could have had a single button, but the guy who did the IBM keyboard design didn't want to give us our single button." While some loathe the clunky command, others took to news site to express their fondness for it. "I feel a single button would be a mistake," said one. "There's a conscious commitment and in many cases a sense of satisfying sword play in executing the two-handed finger strike of Ctrl-Alt-Del."3 October 2013Last updated at 20:26 GMT GCHQ Belgium hacking claim 'has to be probed' The European Parliament is right to probe claims that UK spy agency GCHQ launched a cyber attack on a Belgian telecom firm, a British MEP says. Allegations GCHQ attempted to hack into Belgacom - whose customers include the EU offices in Brussels - were revealed in documents leaked by Edward Snowden. Labour's Claude Moraes said it was "only natural" there was an inquiry. Britain said the EU did not have the power to investigate. GCHQ says it works within a strict legal framework. The head of GCHQ, Sir Iain Lobban, did not turn up to give evidence at Thursday's European Parliamentary Inquiry, which is tasked with investigating the extent of the alleged electronic mass surveillance of EU citizens. 'Unusual allegation' Representatives from Belgacom, which provides internet services and telecommunications across Belgium including to the EU and its institutions, did attend Thursday's inquiry. Geert Stadaert, vice president of the firm, told the inquiry its experts "sounded the alarm about anomalies in Belgacom's networks" in June. The company said it had discovered malicious software in its systems. Mr Stadaert said Belgacom had no information about the perpetrator or the motive. But German magazine that documents provided by former US defence contractor Edward Snowden contained details of "Operation Socialist" - GCHQ's alleged code name for an attack on Belgacom's systems. Der Spiegel said the aim of the alleged operation was to enable Cheltenham-based GCHQ to launch "Man in the Middle" attacks. These could have enabled it to intercept communications between two parties, read and potentially change them without either side realising. A spokesperson for the intelligence agency said it would not comment on media stories about leaks or on intelligence matters. Mr Moraes, MEP for London, said: "In every member state, including the United Kingdom, MPs and representatives are being asked to investigate these allegations and it's only natural that in the European Parliament that happens as well. "You have allegations of the UK spying on Belgian telephone systems which were part of infrastructure for the European Union. "I think that's quite an unusual allegation and of course it can't just stand, it has to be investigated." Belgacom has passed its information onto the Belgian prosecutor who is investigating. Mr Snowden sought asylum in Russia after disclosing classified documents to the Guardian newspaper revealing details of US surveillance activities.4 October 2013Last updated at 11:10 GMT Genepeeks firm to offer 'digital baby' screen for sperm donors By Paul RinconScience editor, BBC News website A service that digitally weaves together the DNA of prospective parents to check for potential disease in thousands of "virtual babies" is set to launch in the US by December. New York start-up will initially focus on donor sperm, simulating before pregnancy how the genetic sequence of a female client might combine with those of different males. Donors that more often produce "digital children" with a higher risk of inherited disorders will be filtered out, leaving those who are better genetic matches. Everything happens in a computer, but experts have raised ethical questions. "We are just in the business right now of giving prospective mothers, who are using donor sperm to conceive, a filtered catalogue of donors based on their own underlying genetic profile," Genepeeks co-founder Anne Morriss told BBC News. "We are filtering out the donor matches with an elevated risk of rare recessive paediatric conditions." Ms Morriss, an entrepreneur, gave a presentation on the company at the Consumer Genetics Conference in Boston last week. Advancing technology She was motivated in part by her own experience of starting a family. Her son was conceived with a sperm donor who happened to share with Morriss the gene for an inherited disorder called MCADD. MCADD (medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency) prevents those affected from converting fats to sugar. It can be fatal if it is not diagnosed early. Luckily, in Ms Morriss's case, the condition was picked up in newborn screening tests. "My son has a pretty normal life," Ms Morriss said, "but about 30% of children with rare genetic diseases don't make it past the age of five." Genepeeks has formalised a partnership with a sperm bank - the Manhattan Cryobank - and has a patent pending on the DNA screening technology. The start-up benefits from the rapid pace of change in genetic technology. Indeed, six months ago, Genepeeks' founders decided it was able to use a superior system for DNA analysis (called "targeted exon sequencing") than the one originally envisaged - a result, says Anne Morriss, of falling costs and increased flexibility. For couples planning babies, other companies already screen one or both partners for genes that could cause disease if combined with a similar variant - so-called "carrier screening". Digital filter One academic who studies the use of genetic technology commented: "This is like that, but ramped up 100,000 times." Ms Morriss's business partner, Prof Lee Silver, a geneticist and expert on bioethics at Princeton University, New Jersey, told BBC News: "We get the DNA sequence from two prospective parents. We simulate the process of reproduction, forming virtual sperm and virtual eggs. We put them together to form a hypothetical child genome. "Then we can look at that hypothetical genome and - with all the tools of modern genetics - determine the risk that the genome will result in a child with disease. We're looking directly for disease and not carrier status. For each pair of people that we're going to analyse, we make 10,000 hypothetical children." The process will be run for the client and each potential donor one by one, scanning for some 600 known single-gene recessive conditions. In this way, the highest-risk pairings can be filtered out. Anne Morriss added: "At this stage our clients won't be receiving any genetic information back. We're very much focused on the practical utility of helping prospective parents who want to protect their future kids, giving them the option of additional analysis to what is currently being offered in the industry." But the company's founders have plans to expand the screening beyond single-gene recessive disorders to more complex conditions in which multiple genes play a part. Indeed, going to the trouble of simulating thousands of digital children deliberately lays the ground for this: "[It's] impossible to get towards an accurate risk calculation in any other way," said Anne Morriss. And in , Prof Silver says: "My hope for the future is that any people who want to have a baby can use this technology to greatly reduce the risk of disease being expressed in their child." Donor ethics To some, such a prospect might appear like a step towards designer babies - until now the preserve of science fiction literature and films such as Gattaca, which envisaged a future of genetic "haves" and "have-nots". Bio-ethicists approached by the BBC said Genepeeks was a logical outcome of the increasing demand for more information when making reproductive decisions. However, some raised potential concerns about risk communication and the expansion of screening beyond rare single-gene disorders. But they suggested there were few, if any, regulatory barriers. One ethicist told BBC News: "The biggest question for me, just from the outset, is the understanding of uncertainty. Even people who have been doing genomics for years still have a hard time figuring out exactly what a risk for a particular genetic predisposition really means for a family. "Gene-environment interactions can lead to people either having disease or not having disease." Dr Ewan Birney, associate director of the European Bioinformatics Institute in Hinxton, UK, echoed the point: "It's good that they're focusing on the carrier status of these rare Mendelian disorders where it's potentially more clear-cut. That said, these things are more complex than they first seem," he said. "I'm sure the scientists appreciate that complexity. But when transmitting that complexity to everyday people, these things can sound more absolute than they really are." He added: "The thing I would want to stress here is just how complex this is. It's great that people are thinking of using this technology in lots of different ways, but our knowledge gap is very large." Risk communication to clients was, said Anne Morriss, "absolutely critical to anyone in this industry". "We have to be crystal clear about what we're testing for, what risks we're helping to reduce; that there's no guarantee you won't give birth to a sick child," she said. Prof Mildred Cho, associate director of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics in California, raised questions over whether the sperm donor should also receive information about their genome gleaned from the screening process. "Unlike hair colour, occupation or family history - those are things, presumably, the donor already knows - the thing that's different about this that I see is it could create information that the donor doesn't already have. It also has implications for the donor's other biological family members," Prof Cho told BBC News. that California-based consumer genetics company 23andMe had submitted the patent on a DNA analysis tool for planning a child. and17 September 2013Last updated at 15:03 GMT Genomes of big cats revealed By Helen BriggsBBC News International scientists have mapped the genomes of the tiger, lion and snow leopard, in conservation efforts to protect endangered species. The research give clues to how big cats evolved to become top predators with superior muscle strength and a carnivorous diet. The tiger shares 96% of its genes with the house cat, the study in Nature Communications reveals. Until now, the only cat to have its DNA mapped was the domestic one. A team led by Yun Sung Cho at the Personal Genomics Institute, Genome Research Foundation in Suwon, South Korea, sequenced the genome of a Siberian tiger. The individual, Taegeuk, is a nine-year-old male from Everland Zoo in South Korea. The team then sequenced the DNA of four other big cats - the (African) lion, snow leopard, white (Bengal) tiger and white (African) lion. This enabled them to compare how the genes matched up in different members of the cat family. Genetic signatures show how big cats gained their superior muscle strength, the ability to digest large amounts of meat and a keen sense of smell. The research also gives genetic clues to how the white lion gained its pale coat and how the snow leopard adapted to the snowy mountain ranges. One of the lead authors of the report, Jong Bhak, said the tiger genome map will be an important resource for looking at genetic diversity. The preservation of wild tiger populations, currently estimated at less than 4,000 individuals, is now a major goal of animal conservationists. "Our tiger reference genome can be used as the basis for comparing all the tigers in the world, so that we know the genetic diversity of tigers," he told the BBC. "And we can actually have a plan of how we can breed tigers effectively [in zoos] to save the genetic diversity." He said cats had been very successful in adapting to their environment as predators, which is reflected in the genomes of both the tiger and the domestic cat. "Tigers are just a big domestic cat," he added. "They're probably much closer than we thought." Carlos Driscoll is WWF chairman in conservation genetics at the Wildlife Institute of India, Chandrabani. He said the paper was a watershed in conservation, marking the first non-domestic cat genome to be sequenced. "This brings the age of genomics to the conservation of these species, which are an umbrella for the conservation of many other animals and habitats," he said. "This sets a new standard for the conservation community to follow." The research, published in Nature Communications, was led by scientists in South Korea, in collaboration with colleagues in China, the US, Russia, Namibia, South Africa, The Netherlands, Denmark, Saudi Arabia, India and Mongolia.24 August 2012Last updated at 17:15 GMT Geoengineering: Risks and benefits Few issues arouse as much controversy in environmental circles these days as - "technical fixes" to tackle climate change, by sucking carbon dioxide from the air or by reducing the amount of sunlight hitting the Earth. And here's why. If Planet Earth is facing a climate "emergency", as some people believe we are, then we should leave no option for combating it unexplored, they argue. While very few scientists advocate deployment of geoengineering now, many believe we ought to be getting on with research now in order to have technologies ready in 10-20 years when they might be needed. On the other hand, many environment groups and some scientists argue that diverting attention and research funds towards geoengineering means people will take their eyes off the more important tasks of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate impacts. Some also argue that politicians and the public will see geoengineering research going on and believe it constitutes a "get-out-of-jail-free" card, reducing the incentive to cut emissions. Add in the fact that the easiest technical fixes might constrain temperatures but won't tackle the problem of , and you have a rich cocktail of scientific, economic and social issues to discuss. The arguments were on display this week in a symposium at Oxford University, which recently set up on the issue. Present were not only physical and social scientists but officials from government departments and funding agencies, representatives from environmental groups and a few journalists. The hottest current issue in UK geoengineering is the . Its most obvious component, the deployment of a tethered balloon to disperse water into the air, when some of the team found out that a patent had been lodged on some of the technology. What was most interesting in the SPICE-related discussions, however, was the question of whether the balloon should be deployed or not. It's basically a technology test. Researchers want to gather data that could potentially be used in future to make much bigger systems capable of spraying tiny sulphate aerosol particles into the upper atmosphere, mimicking the cooling effect of volcanic eruptions. The team, led by Matt Watson of Bristol University and Hugh Hunt of Cambridge, have repeatedly stressed that they don't advocate doing this yet and perhaps never will advocate it; they just want the technology to be ready in case it's needed. Clearly, the SPICE balloon itself would have no climatic impact. Even so, a number of environmental groups lobbied against the research, for reasons enumerated above, with one, the ETC Group, . They and others advocate a tough international regime for all research that would permit laboratory studies but prevent anything happening in the real world. Others say that's far too draconian, and point to - to say there's no research proving they're safe, but then to trash research projects that could provide the proof. For example, it was pointed out, spraying sulphate particles into the stratosphere might ruin the ozone layer. You'd want to know that before you contemplated using the technology; but how are you going to find out unless you spray a little bit? Some rules already exist. By far the most researched technology is ocean fertilisation, where iron is used to stimulate plankton growth in the ocean, increasing uptake of carbon dioxide. Something like 12 large-scale projects have been carried out, . From the regulation point of view, it's also the most advanced field, with the having agreed rules in recent years that restrict research on the basis of its potential utility and potential risks. Commercial interests are forbidden, countries must "use utmost caution and the best available guidance to evaluate the scientific research proposals to ensure protection of the marine environment". Deployment - as opposed to research - is not allowed. Elsewhere, the that for now, "no climate-related geoengineering activities that may affect biodiversity take place... with the exception of small scale scientific research studies... and only if they are justified by the need to gather specific scientific data and are subject to a thorough prior assessment of the potential impacts on the environment". The ETC Group and others describe this as a "moratorium" on geoengineering. But it isn't a complete one, as much geoengineering research, even on a large scale, would have no impact on biodiversity... ... whereas climate change, of course, will. If the situation weren't complex enough, another issue's arisen lately - what you might call "dual-use" research. More than 10 years back, I talked to a US scientist just back from an iron fertilisation experiment who explained that personally, he wasn't interested in geoengineering; really, he wanted to answer more academic questions about iron distribution in the water and derive answers about what the oceans used to look like in the past. He dressed the funding proposal up in geoengineering language because that was the way to get funds - a tactic scientists in all fields have used down the years in order to ensure their research happens (witness the after ). Fast-forward to the present, and we're seeing the opposite phenomenon - research that could give geoengineering answers, but isn't labelled as such. Last year, US scientists ran a project on the behaviour of aerosols in clouds. Such research is standard; what was new about was the inclusion of "controlled release and atmospheric distribution of three different size ranges of [aerosol] particles in flight and on or by a dedicated ship". Geoengineering research by another name? Now, "seeding" clouds out at sea to control hurricane strength, and perhaps stop them forming at all. Clouds would be sprayed with minuscule droplets of seawater. This would make them whiter so they reflect more sunlight back into space, reducing the sea surface temperature - which is the primary driver of hurricanes. Other researchers, including using the same apparatus to whiten clouds in order to reflect sunlight and cool the world; in another word, geoengineering. So when some argued in Oxford that research should be constrained if it's tailored towards geoengineering but permitted if it's not, I wondered: how? What you might regard as an optimistic note is the degree of thought and debate that's going into the issue of how to regulate geoengineering research before it happens. Nothing like this went into other controversial but important issues such as genetically engineered crops, shale gas or nuclear power before it began. But whatever rules are eventually developed, one suspects they're going to have to be applied with common sense. In 1997, while making a radio series on climate change, I went to a roof-whitening ceremony in Miami. Attended by marching bands and flags and encouraged by a district mayor, the good burghers of several streets were painting their roofs white, to reflect sunlight and cool the Earth. They were deploying geoengineering. As far as I know, the world is still turning.30 September 2013Last updated at 14:09 GMT George Osborne extends 'work for benefit' for jobless The long-term unemployed will have to undertake work placements in return for their benefits, under tougher rules unveiled by Chancellor George Osborne. Welfare must be "fair for those who need it and fair for those who pay for it", he told the Tory conference. Mr Osborne also announced that he hoped to freeze fuel duty until 2015 to help people with the cost of living. While the UK was on the right track, he warned people their family finances would not be "transformed overnight". The chancellor insisted the government's economic plan was working but was "far from complete" and turned his fire on Labour - accusing them of "declaring war on enterprise". In other developments at Conservative conference: In his speech Mr Osborne described Labour's policy to freeze energy prices for 20 months as "phoney" and compared Ed Miliband's political philosophy to that of Karl Marx. He said he was optimistic about the future, saying the "sun had started to rise above the hill" but much more needed to be done to raise living standards for this generation and the next. "There is no feeling at the conference of a task completed or a victory won," he said. "The battle for turning Britain round is not even close to being over." He said he hoped to freeze fuel duty until the end of the current Parliament if savings could be found to pay for the move. Fuel duty has not risen since January 2011. The RAC welcomed the announcement but called for a more fundamental overhaul of motoring taxation. Mr Osborne also pledged to continue to keep control of spending even after the economic recovery was secured to avoid repeating the mistakes of "deluded" predecessors who believed they had abolished boom and bust. Cleaning up litter By running a budget surplus in the good times, he would "fix the roof while the sun was shining". Labour said Mr Osborne could not be trusted to deliver a surplus, having had to backtrack on his earlier pledge to eliminate the structural deficit in 2015. "By opposing the measures Labour announced last week to freeze energy prices and expand free childcare for working parents, the Tories have shown once again that they only ever stand up for a privileged few not for hard working families," shadow minister Rachel Reeves said. On welfare, Mr Osborne said that while the government would not "abandon" the long-term unemployed, no-one would be able to get something for nothing. Those who had not found work after two years on the existing Work Programme - where contractors are paid a fee to get people into a job - will face a new scheme called help-to-work. To still qualify for jobseeker's allowance they will have three options - work placements, such as cleaning up litter; daily visits to a job centre; or taking part in compulsory training, for example, to improve their literacy. People would have to remain on help-to-work until they found employment - unlike the current scheme which is limited to six months. Those who breach the rules will lose four weeks' worth of benefits. Anyone who breaks the rules a second time faces losing three months' worth of benefits. 'Useful work' Mr Osborne told the conference: "We are saying there is no option of doing nothing for your benefits, no something-for-nothing any more. "They will do useful work to put something back into their community; making meals for the elderly, clearing up litter, working for a local charity. "Others will be made to attend the job centre every working day. "And for those with underlying problems, like drug addiction and illiteracy, there will be an intensive regime of support. No-one will be ignored or left without help. But no-one will get something for nothing." of mandatory work activity - a similar compulsory work scheme introduced by ministers in 2011 - found it "had no impact on the likelihood of being employed". And on the work programme, DWP figures suggested one in 10 of those seen found a long-term job. Unions said the help-to-work plan was an admission that existing schemes had failed. And business groups said "warm words" on enterprise and wealth creation must be backed up by a "relentless focus" in the years ahead. "Breaking government addiction to debt and achieving a surplus in public finances is the most important ambition any administration can have," the Institute of Directors said.14 August 2013Last updated at 15:04 GMT Georgia profile Situated at the strategically important crossroads where Europe meets Asia, Georgia has a unique and ancient cultural heritage, and is famed for its traditions of hospitality and cuisine. Over the centuries, Georgia was the object of rivalry between Persia, Turkey and Russia, before being eventually annexed by Russia in the 19th century. Since emerging from the collapsing Soviet Union as an independent state in 1991, Georgia has again become the arena of conflicting interests, this time between the US and a reviving Russia. Tense relations with Russia have been further exacerbated by Moscow's support for the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia's brief interlude of independence after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution in Russia ended when it was invaded by the Soviet Red Army in 1921 and incorporated into the Soviet Union a year later. The US has a major strategic interest in the country, having invested heavily in an oil pipeline from Azerbaijan via Georgia to Turkey. The Georgian armed forces have been receiving US training and support. Increasing US economic and political influence in the country has long been a source of concern for the Kremlin, as have Georgia's aspirations to join NATO and the EU. Tensions between Moscow and Tbilisi are never far from the surface and in August 2008 flared up into an armed conflict triggered by clashes between Georgian troops and South Ossetian separatist forces. Post-Soviet years Following the collapse of communism in the USSR in 1991, Georgians voted overwhelmingly for the restoration of independence and elected nationalist leader Zviad Gamsakhurdia as president. However, Gamsakhurdia was soon overthrown by opposition militias which in 1992 installed former Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze as the country's new leader. During his 11 years in office, the Georgian people felt increasingly at the mercy of poverty, corruption and crime. He was ousted in November 2003 following mass demonstrations over the conduct of parliamentary elections. Once a relatively affluent part of the USSR, with independence Georgia lost the cheap energy to which it had access in the Soviet period. As relations between Georgia and Russia deteriorated, Moscow did not flinch from tightening the economic screws, and the rupturing of trading ties caused the Georgian economy to nose-dive. Georgia has been heavily dependent on Russia for its energy supply. Like some other states of the former Soviet Union, it saw the price of gas supplied by the Russian gas giant Gazprom rise sharply in January 2006. Gazprom has since doubled the price again. It is no coincidence that Georgia has started receiving an increasing proportion of its gas from Azerbaijan. Breakaway regions Since independence, the people of Georgia have endured periods of civil war and unrest as well as violence related to the independence aspirations of the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Both regions had close ties with Moscow, which in August 2008 announced it was formally recognising their independence. Russian troops had operated there since the early 1990s, and were regularly accused by Georgia of siding with the separatists.3 October 2013Last updated at 10:17 GMT Georgia Williams murder case: Jamie Reynolds pleads not guilty A 22-year-old man has denied killing Shropshire teenager Georgia Williams. Georgia, 17, from Wellington, in Telford, was last seen by her parents on 26 May. The daughter of a serving West Mercia Police detective, her body was found in woodland off the Nant-y-Garth pass, near Wrexham, five days later. Jamie Reynolds, from Wellington, pleaded not guilty to murder in a hearing at Birmingham Crown Court.12 September 2013Last updated at 16:59 GMT German election: Potential coalition 'kingmakers' Germany's 22 September election is likely to be dominated by the big centre-right and centre-left parties - the Christian Democrats (CDU) and Social Democrats (SPD). There is much speculation that they might form a "grand coalition". But three other parties are also significant players in Germany's coalition politics. Here, we profile their leaders. The Greens are election allies of the SPD, and have made important gains in local elections. The liberal Free Democrats (FDP) have been governing with the CDU and its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU), but the FDP has had election setbacks locally. The left-wing party Die Linke (Left Party) is struggling to make much impact nationally, but could possibly join an SPD-Green coalition. GREEN PARTY - Juergen Trittin One of Germany's most important policies - the decision to abandon nuclear power by 2020 - was crafted by Juergen Trittin when he served as environment minister in 1998-2005. He was in a coalition government with the SPD, but Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative CDU has stuck with the policy. Mr Trittin, 59, is the leading spokesman for the Greens, though Katrin Goering-Eckardt figures alongside him on the party's campaign website. His early political career was spent in the Lower Saxony parliament and government. In the 2009 federal election the Greens got 10.7% and they have made gains in regional elections since then. In 2011 they took control of Baden-Wuerttemberg - in south-west Germany and the country's third-biggest state. That ended 58 years of CDU rule there. In a big ARD television debate on 2 September with the leaders of the FDP and Die Linke, he ruled out joining a coalition with the CDU. He accused the CDU of neglecting green energy targets, saying, "I want Germany to be a leader in green energy." The Greens want Germany to rely entirely on renewable energy - mainly solar, wind and hydroelectric power. Mr Trittin says bigger investment in renewables could create 100,000 new jobs in Germany. In July Mr Trittin got drenched in the Werra river when his canoe capsized, during a Green publicity exercise to keep German rivers clean. The Greens are close to many SPD positions on social welfare. Mr Trittin, like the SPD, said Germany must introduce a national hourly minimum wage of 8.5 euros (?7; $11). He also said a Green government would create 30,000 additional creche places - something that would enable many more German women to go out to work. The Greens would also increase the basic tax-free allowance, to ease the tax burden for most citizens. Mr Trittin accused the CDU of using savings made through economic austerity to pay for tax breaks for the rich. Mr Trittin is scathing about the European Central Bank's (ECB) low interest rate policy, saying it has aggravated distortions in the EU by turning Germany into a safe haven, sucking money out of the ailing eurozone countries. Greece requires much more foreign investment, in addition to its bailout money, he argues. FREE DEMOCRATS - Rainer Bruederle Rainer Bruederle, 68, has been a member of the Bundestag since 1998 and served as economics and technology minister in 2009-2011. In the TV debate he rejected calls for a national minimum wage, arguing that employers must be free to set wage levels according to conditions in their sector and region. The FDP is close to business leaders and champions the free market. But opinion polls suggest that the party is struggling - it might not pass the 5% threshold needed to get seats in the Bundestag. Mr Bruederle has mocked the Greens' call for a weekly "vegetarian day" in workplace cafeterias. The "Veggie Day" suggestion has become a big talking point in the election - the news website Spiegel, for example, asked if it would herald "an eco-dictatorship". In the TV debate he also criticised Green and SPD plans to tax the wealthy at a higher rate and stressed that the CDU-FDP coalition's policies had led to a big fall in unemployment. On Greece, he defended the tough austerity conditions attached to the bailout, saying "we believe in solidarity, but in return those countries must solve their structural deficiencies". The fundamental problem for Greece is a lack of competitiveness, he argued. In mid-June he had a nasty fall one evening, in which he broke an arm and a leg. But he got back into the election campaign fray, despite hospital treatment and a limp. Mr Bruederle has criticised the way Germany's shift towards renewable energy - the "Energiewende" - is being implemented. The FDP believes energy companies are best placed to decide how to meet targets for fuel efficiency and renewables. Yet there is widespread discontent among Germans about electricity tariffs, which are among the highest in Europe. DIE LINKE - Gregor Gysi Gregor Gysi, 65, heads a party which emerged out of the old East German communist party, the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED). He trained as a lawyer and served in the SED for many years. He was in the party's reformist camp during the pro-democracy transition inspired by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, which resulted in the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and reunification of Germany. He has vehemently denied allegations that he used to help the Stasi - the East German secret police. Opinion polls suggest that Die Linke is heading for 8-10% of the vote. In 2009, it did better, with nearly 12%. In the ARD debate, he demanded "social justice", complaining that Germany has no minimum wage, whereas 21 other EU countries do. He said more than seven million Germans are in low-paid "mini-jobs" and more than 400,000 full-time workers struggle on low wages and rely on welfare "top-ups". He also criticised the Greens and SPD for supporting the Greek bailout conditions hammered out by Mrs Merkel's government. Mr Gysi argued that the key problem facing Greece is tax evasion. He proposed linking tax and citizenship, so that Europeans can no longer dodge taxes by simply moving abroad. He pointed to the US example - Americans living abroad still have to file a US tax return. Mr Gysi said the tax burden must be eased for Germany's middle class and he would move to curb "social dumping" - the low-wage competition that has become a big issue across the EU. He ruled out making cuts to vocational training programmes or the health service. His party also objects to German military deployments overseas - he criticised the SPD for backing the German involvement in Afghanistan. Die Linke also opposes German arms exports.23 September 2013Last updated at 11:46 GMT German election: The era of Angela Merkel When Angela Merkel walked into her party's headquarters in Berlin on Sunday evening she was greeted with adulation. It was not just the campaign cries of "Angie, Angie", it was to witness a politician in a moment of personal triumph. Her smile was broad and unrestrained. The campaign had been built around her personality and it was her victory. She had given her party its best result in 20 years. One German paper declared: "Germany is now conclusively Angela Merkel territory." In terms of power, Frau Europa has no equals on the continent. Her victory was, at root, a vote of thanks for her calm steady leadership through the eurozone crisis. The woman who is often referred to as "Mutti" - "Mummy" - had acted as a protector of German interests. She had saved the German tax-payer from becoming the paymaster for the rest of Europe. Under her leadership eurozone countries which embraced reforms were rescued, but she resisted moves to turn the European Union into a transfer union in which German money flowed south. At the same time, the German economy delivered the lowest unemployment for two decades. And yet she finds herself in a difficult position. Her coalition partners, the pro-market Free Democrats, failed to win enough votes to qualify for seats in parliament. It leaves Angela Merkel's conservatives just shy of an absolute majority. A single-party absolute majority has not been achieved since 1957. It would have been a historic achievement, but it would have left her vulnerable to some of the eurosceptics within her own party. Narrow majorities greatly increase the influence of back-bench MPs. European enthusiasm That is why many of her supporters favour a grand coalition with the opposition Social Democrats. Such an alliance is not without risk. Many of the Social Democrats are wary. They were in coalition with Angela Merkel in 2005 and got little thanks for it. In their view she stole the credit. They will bargain hard before offering their support. They might insist on taking the post of finance minister or adopting a nationwide minimum wage or higher taxes for the rich. In 2005 they had eight ministries. They would be fortunate to have this amount of influence again. Elsewhere in Europe, however, there is enthusiasm for a grand coalition. Officials in Brussels see the Social Democrats as softening the chancellor's strategy of insisting on austerity and labour reforms in exchange for helping weaker eurozone countries. French President Francois Hollande, in particular, is likely to welcome a coalition with the leftist Social Democrats. In this time of horse trading, soundings will also be put out for a coalition with the Greens. Such a partnership becomes more likely if the demands from the Social Democrats are too exacting. Eurosceptic force Some are asking whether the "real" Angela Merkel will now emerge. She will not, in my view, act out of character. Her instinct over Europe is to be cautious and that will not change. There will be no "soft" third bailout for Greece. A eurozone banking union will emerge step-by-step. The chancellor will tread carefully, hoping to avoid opening up a change to the EU treaties. She will be mindful of the strong showing of the Eurosceptic party Alternative fuer Deutschland. It did not get enough votes to qualify for seats in parliament. But it damaged the Free Democrats and will serve as a warning to Angela Merkel not to allow euro-scepticism to grow in Germany. The success of Mrs Merkel will be welcomed by David Cameron. If he is to successfully renegotiate the terms of the UK's relationship with Europe, he will have to do it with her help. The German chancellor has hinted, rather vaguely, that some powers can be returned from Brussels to the nation states. However a grand coalition will be less welcomed in London, as the SPD has already said "there should be no special deals for anyone". The German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble says that Germany will continue to be Europe's economic "anchor". It will act as role model rather than leader. Berlin will remain wary of it becoming a German Europe rather than a Europe with Germany at the heart of it. But nothing significant can happen in Europe without Angela Merkel's agreement. Whatever the checks and balances, she is Europe's dominant politician. She is committed to the survival of the European project and its currency, but no-one is any clearer as to what kind of Europe she envisages. Disguising her hand - which she learnt growing up under communism in East Germany - has served her well and is unlikely to change as she embarks on her third term.Nils Hempel, 26, values his friends as much as any man but perhaps never more than when he is slashing at their faces with a sword. A law student at Humboldt University from Bremen, he belongs to one of Germany's oldest all-male college fraternities, the Corps Marchia Berlin, in the German capital's well-heeled suburb of Dahlem.Corps members may make up just a few per cent of Germany's student population but their alumni are over-represented among chief executives of the country's companies. BBC News asked Mr Hempel why he and his fellow students cross swords in the mensur - a form of fencing much like a real duel - and was allowed to film the swordsmen in training.12 July 2013Last updated at 02:40 GMT German tariffs make green energy too expensive to store By Matt McGrathEnvironment correspondent, BBC News Researchers in Germany who are working on ways of storing renewable energy say their plans are being hampered by feed-in tariffs. The subsidies have encouraged thousands of householders to become energy producers by investing in solar and wind power. But one leading scientist told the BBC that these same tariffs make efforts to store green electricity uneconomic. Solving this problem he says is key to the success of sustainable energy. Germany introduced a system of feed-in tariffs for solar, wind and other renewable technologies back in 2000. The law guarantees access to the grid and a subsidy payment for 20 years. There are now 1.3 million households, farmers and small co-operatives providing green energy. In 2012 they supplied 22% of the country's electricity needs. But the growth of renewables has been hampered by the intermittent nature of the sun and wind. On a bright Sunday in June this year, needs. So much solar was being produced that wholesale prices were for a time in the negative. Gas to the grid With the German government accelerating the phase out of nuclear in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, finding a way of storing excess renewable energy is seen as a crucial for the success of the , as the energy transition is called. One of the most promising technologies is a system called Power-to-Gas, which converts green energy into both hydrogen and methane. The technology has been developed at the Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research (ZSW) in Stuttgart. Electricity from the grid drives a process of electrolysis that creates the hydrogen and oxygen from water. Carbon dioxide is then added to the hydrogen which creates synthetic methane that can be pumped into the gas distribution grid. It can be used for heating or to make electricity. According to the scientist behind the technology, Power-to-Gas has some major advantages over other ideas that are being tested. "If you want to store energy over a long time, then I think a chemical energy carrier is the only option," Dr Michael Specht told BBC News. "The other ideas such as pumped water or large batteries, typically have storage times of one or two days - but with this system we have storage times of weeks or months." Dr Specht said that the technology offered the best hope for utilising renewable energy in transport. "It is a complicated situation, but I think there is no other solution to renewable energy storage and mobility - it is the only way we can go." But he says there will have to be some significant changes to the incentive schemes that have resulted in a booming renewable sector in Germany. He argues that the feed-in tariff that is paid to all producers of green electricity make it too expensive to store their products. "These costs are normally for the consumer, but what we are doing is not the consumption of electricity but the storage - and if we store it we should not pay the costs that the end consumer pays," he said. "Under the current frame conditions the system is not economic." Dash for gas One potential for Power-to-Gas is in the transport sector. Based on the experiments carried out in Stuttgart, car manufacturer Audi at the end of last month. This is a six megawatt facility that Audi use to create gas for use in cars. They believe the energy created at this facility will power 1,500 new Audi A3 vehicles for 15,000km of carbon neutral driving every year. "The same amount that I fill in my car tank, is fed into the grid by the car company Audi - it is sustainable mobility," said Dr Specht. There are a number of alternative storage projects being pursued, including . The German government has also recently allocated 50m euros (?43m) for the development of schemes. But some economists are critical of the development because they believe it will distort the market even further. Dr Felix Matthes from the Oeko Institute is one of Germany's leading thinkers on the energy transformation. He says that power storage should only be the last resort. "I am not in favour of such programmes," he told BBC News. "The power will not be stored when most cost efficient from the network's perspective but most attractive from the producer's perspective." With renewables set to play a major part in Germany's energy mix going forward, politicians are likely to attempt some reform of the Energiewende, after the general election in September. Dr Specht says the reform can't come soon enough. Without it, the whole transition could fail. "I think it is a process to go to sources which are completely renewable but I think it is not possible without storage," he said. Follow Matt on .1 October 2013Last updated at 11:06 GMT German unemployment in surprise increase The number of people out of work in Germany unexpectedly rose by a seasonally adjusted 25,000 in September to just under three million. Analysts had pencilled in a fall of 5,000, after a rise of 9,000 in August. The Federal Labour Office said there had been a cut in the number of government job schemes. Meanwhile, new figures showed unemployment across the eurozone dropping slightly in August to a rate of 12%. Seasonal rise The rise in German joblessness pushed the unemployment rate in Europe's biggest economy from 6.8% to 6.9%. "The seasonal increase in September is due to labour market policies providing less relief," said Heinrich Alt of the Labour Office. He added that the department was changing to longer-term policies intended to train the unemployed. Despite the rise, the unemployment rate is still close to its lowest level since reunification more than 20 years ago. Stabilisation Total unemployment in the eurozone was 19.2 million in August, with analysts saying the bloc is showing increasing signs of stabilisation. Unemployment fell by 5,000 in the month after drops of 11,000 in July and 18,000 in June, according to official figures. As ever, the figure disguised wide variations in labour markets across countries that use the euro. The lowest unemployment rate was recorded in Austria at 4.9%, while Greece's latest figures showed 27.9% of working-age people did not have jobs. Slow recovery Ben May, European economist at Capital Economics, said the figures provided further tentative signs that labour market conditions were improving. "Since the labour market tends to react to changes in economic conditions with a bit of a lag, the health of the employment outlook may continue to improve over the coming months," he said. But he added that with figures showing weak growth in the region as a whole, unemployment looked set to fall "only very gradually at best". Europe's statistics agency, Eurostat, said that compared with a year ago, the unemployment rate increased in 16 member states, fell in 11 and remained stable in just one - Poland. The youth unemployment rate in the euro area fell by 52,000 on August 2012, to 3.46 million. This meant 23.7% of those aged under 25 were unemployed, compared with 23.4% the previous year.15 August 2013Last updated at 10:33 GMT Germany profile Germany is Europe's most industrialized and populous country. Famed for its technological achievements, it has also produced some of Europe's most celebrated composers, philosophers and poets. Achieving national unity later than other European nations, Germany quickly caught up economically and militarily, before defeats in World War I and II left the country shattered, facing the difficult legacy of Nazism, and divided between Europe's Cold War blocs. Germany rebounded to become the continent's economic giant, and a prime mover of European cooperation. With the end of the Cold War, the two parts of the country were once again united, although the economy of the former east continues to lag behind that of the former west. Germany's economic success since World War II is to a large extent built on its potent export industries, fiscal discipline and consensus-driven industrial relations and welfare policies. It is particularly famed for its high-quality and high-tech goods. Germany's export-dependent economy was initially hit hard by the global financial crisis of 2008-9, which triggered the worst recession since 1949. But by 2010, its exports had helped the country to rebound more robustly than most other EU members. However, an ageing population has led to concern over the continued viability of Germany's high welfare and health spending. There is also a debate about how to improve integration of the many post-war immigrants whose labour helped fuel the economic boom. In addition, the former Soviet-dominated east has struggled to catch up with the west since reunification, while people in the west have had to pay a higher than expected financial price for unity. The pain of Germany's Nazi legacy remains a sensitive issue. Out of the devastation of the Second World War grew an awareness of the need to guard against any such catastrophe recurring in Europe. In the 1950s Germany was one of the six founding nations of the European Economic Community from which the European Union eventually developed and in which Germany is a key player. Franco-German cooperation was central to European economic integration in the 1980s and 1990s. After decades of lagging behind its economic strength, Germany's international profile has been growing. The country sent peacekeepers to the Balkans and its forces have been involved in operations in Afghanistan. The country has famous beer brewing traditions. Beer purity laws dating back to 1516 limit the fermentation ingredients to malted grain, hops, yeast and water. As the birthplace of Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven and Johannes Brahms, among others, Germany's gift to European music is colossal, while Goethe, Heine, Kant and Thomas Mann are giants in the world of letters and philosophy.19 September 2013Last updated at 18:35 GMT Germany in figures Germany, which holds federal elections on 22 September, is Europe's dominant country. Its large and strong economy has allowed it to bankroll the bailouts that have kept some of its neighbours - and the euro - afloat. The graphics below help explain why it is so dominant, and powerful - and also some of the problems it faces. Economy Germany's large population (the biggest in Europe) and vibrant economy add up to a GDP that far outweighs other European powers. It also has the strongest export sector and the lowest unemployment of any big European country. Immigration The success of the economy and low unemployment - especially when compared to other EU countries - mean Germany has become a magnet for jobseekers. The number of immigrants has been rising and surpassed a million people in 2012 for the first time since 1995. They come especially from former communist countries - as well as recession-hit Italy, Spain and Greece - and head for Berlin, the wealthy southern regions, and the industrial west. Inequality Despite Germany's strong economy, not everyone is doing well. Under wage restraint agreements, many people's incomes have barely grown in years, and many people who have jobs still require benefit top-ups. There is also still a clear divide, 22 years since reunification, between incomes in the old East Germany, and the old West.4 September 2013Last updated at 08:39 GMT Germany's Greens divided over coalition with Merkel By Ritula ShahBBC World Tonight, Stuttgart The Green Party could end up as kingmaker after Germany's election - but would it dare switch its traditional allegiance with the left? The smell of sizzling sausage is everywhere at Stuttgart's wine festival. It is a warm day, and the atmosphere is relaxed and convivial. But Dr Kai Schmidt-Eisenlohr, a representative of the Green Party in Baden-Wurttemberg state, laughs nervously when questioned about his party's general election manifesto and its call for public canteens to have a meat-free day each week. "I'm not a vegetarian, I like my steak," he says, explaining that the policy is a way of promoting a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle. Some of the media coverage of the pledge may have been less than complimentary, but it has not dented the Greens' popularity in the run-up to Germany's general election on 22 September. 'We've changed' The collapse in support for the liberal, pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) - the junior partner in the governing coalition - has put the Greens into third place, with polls predicting the party may win 10-12% of the vote. There has been speculation about whether the Green Party, which has its roots in radical socialism, might find itself joining a coalition with Angela Merkel's right-of-centre Christian Democrat party (CDU), which is expected to come a clear first. In 2011, when the Greens took control of the state government in Baden-Wurttemberg, they overturned 58 years of CDU rule. Since they have run the state and the city council too, the party has tried to reform the education system and to increase public participation in decision-making. It has had mixed success, and their critics accuse them of trying to do too much. But Dr Schmidt-Eisenlohr argues the party's appeal is widening, because it has changed dramatically from its origins as an anti-nuclear protest movement in the 1980s. "We have changed. That doesn't mean that we forgot where we are coming from. It's just, when you want to change a society, the real change can only come when you are in power. We are absolutely in the middle now." Certainly, with his suit and clean-cut image, Kai Schmidt-Eisenlohr looks like a fully paid-up member of the educated middle class, which he freely admits he is - but while he does not rule out a coalition with the CDU one day, he says it is too early for the party to make that leap now. 'Urban and rich' The Green Party's journey to the political mainstream began in the 1990s, when it joined a national coalition government with the left-of-centre Social Democrats (SPD). More recently, Angela Merkel's decision to close all of Germany's nuclear reactors by 2022, in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, transformed one of the Greens' key policies into government policy. The party remains committed to a shift towards renewable energy and supports measures to increase equality. In fact, the party has changed so much, and much of its environmental agenda has become so widely accepted in Germany, that Dr Knut Krohn of the Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper argues the Green Party in the south has become a "conservative-social" party. He says the people who vote for the Greens here are rich, urban and educated. "They can afford to think about the environment," he says. He adds they often live in big houses and drive big cars, a situation he describes as absurd. But Dr Krohn contrasts that with Berlin and northern Germany, where he says the Green Party remains firmly on the left, and leader Juergen Trittin has ruled out the possibility of a coalition with Angela Merkel's CDU at the national level, should the arithmetic demand it. These are the two competing wings of the Green Party - the more flexible realos and the hardline fundis. Back at the wine festival, there is support for the Greens at a local level, but scepticism about how their local success might translate to the national stage. One man, looking after a baby, says that in Baden-Wurttemberg, the people are rich enough to support the Greens. But he adds, ominously, that if the economy takes a downturn, things could change. "When the party's over, the Greens will go away."27 August 2013Last updated at 10:59 GMT Germany's new anti-euro AfD party causes political stir By Stephen EvansBBC News, Berlin Nobody doubts the intellectual clout of Germany's newest political party. Alternative fuer Deutschland has enough heavyweight economists to keep a decent-sized university going. If doctorates meant votes, it would be home and dry in the elections. After all, it's been called a "party of professors". Its difficulty is that the label is usually meant as an insult. Its detractors portray it as a party of na?ve academics who have waded into the rough seas of politics only to sink without trace at the federal election in September. And it is true that sometimes its press conferences seem disorganised. Speakers turn up late or go to the wrong venue. But, on the other hand, the AfD (as it calls itself) is starting to make waves. Not tidal waves big enough to sweep Chancellor Angela Merkel from power, but a swell of opinion large enough to make the established parties feel uncomfortable. 'Bourgeois protest party' Its openly anti-euro message has prompted a debate in the governing Christian Democrat (CDU) party, for example - is silence the best policy or should the party's pro-Deutschmark message be addressed head-on? And the main opposition party, the Social Democrat SPD, is turning increasingly to the euro as a potent stick with which to beat Chancellor Merkel. "Germany will have to pay for the stability of Europe and the eurozone," as the SPD chancellor candidate Peer Steinbrueck put it over the weekend. The AfD usually gets 2-3% support in the opinion polls. If it can raise that to 5%, under the electoral laws of Germany it gets seats in the Bundestag (lower house), and in a coalition system, small parties then have power. The issue of the euro is back on the political agenda in Germany after Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said that Greece might need another bailout. And a recent poll of Germans conducted by the University of Hohenheim put the euro crisis at the top of people's concerns, ahead of wages and unemployment. So the AfD leadership says that the polls understate support - their theory is that many people do not admit that they might vote for them, because the party is outside the mainstream. It is certainly getting respectable crowds at public meetings. Last weekend, hundreds turned up to listen to AfD speakers at the Saengerhalle, a social club in Stuttgart. Alternative has been called a "bourgeois party of protest", and you could see this "buergerlich" aspect in the audience - solid German citizens, enjoying beer and sausage as they listened to speeches. The main speaker was Joachim Starbatty (or, to give him his full academic title: Prof Dr Joachim Starbatty, an economist at the University of Tuebingen). With a neat beard, scant grey hair and glasses, he looked every inch what a studious academic is meant to look like. He did not look like a rabble-rouser, yet on stage he was transformed into a passionate and effective speaker. He made the case against Germany staying in the euro. If his party gets into the Bundestag, he said, "we will have a platform to articulate our ideas, because now the old parties are silent concerning the problems of Europe. But we can say the truth to the people". Far-left 'attacks' On the streets, the leadership says campaigners are generally met with polite curiosity and genuine interest, but occasionally with outright hostility and even violence from the far left. Their founder, Professor Dr Bernd Lucke, an economist from the University of Hamburg, was attacked on stage. The Stuttgart candidate, Prof Dr Lothar Maier, of the University of Stuttgart, told the BBC: "Most reactions are positive or, at least, they are asking serious questions. People start to realise that AfD is becoming a serious alternative." Prof Maier did not accept that the party was a party of professors. "They call us a party of professors but if you look at the structure of our membership, this is not so. Maybe, it's 2% or 3% who are professors at the most," he said. "We have 20,000 members in Germany and there aren't so many professors in Germany. Our membership is coming from all strata of the population. "Maybe we should argue in a more aggressive way but we avoid it to maintain our serious image. We don't want to appear as a rough-type party, because we are doing serious politics. We don't want to mobilise the street. We don't want violence, though we are sometimes the victims of violence." Apart from the attack on the party's leader, Prof Maier said posters were routinely torn down: "We put up 1,000 posters in Stuttgart and within 24 hours, 80% were destroyed. So there is some political force organising violence against us. "The most probable explanation is from the extreme left. Our people have been attacked in Goettingen." The far left sees AfD as an anti-immigration party. The AfD denies this, saying it is in favour of a system of immigration control, which allows people in on the basis of needed skills. The party, though, does not seem like other anti-immigration parties in Europe, where there often seems to be an undercurrent of racism, and in which immigration is the big issue. For the AfD, the euro is the big issue. Whatever the views on the benefits or not of the euro, it is now on the political agenda in the forthcoming elections. Chancellor Merkel may have decided that it was best left alone - let sleeping dogs lie, as it were - but the euro dog is now barking. Nora Hesse of the Open Europe think-tank in Berlin argues that it is now best addressed. "Maybe politicians are avoiding the topic because it is dangerous for them as they try to be re-elected," she said. "But, at the same time, politicians have to realise that they are running the risk of people - citizens - not feeling they are represented by the politicians that they vote for." The likelihood remains that AfD will not get the requisite 5% it needs to get a seat in parliament. But that is not certain. The debate is fluid. Don't write off the Alternative yet.29 September 2013Last updated at 13:44 GMT Germany's Siemens to axe 15,000 jobs German industrial giant Siemens is to cut up to 15,000 jobs as part of a cost-cutting programme. It will cut about 4% of its 370,000-strong workforce but aims to avoid compulsory redundancies, according to a company spokesman. The firm will shed 5,000 jobs in Germany and another 10,000 jobs abroad. It comes after Siemens axed its former chief executive, Peter Loescher, earlier this year over falling profitability. Siemens and its unions have reached an agreement over about half of the job cuts and a deal on the other half will follow, the spokesman told news agencies. The firm has issued two warnings about profit margins during the last fiscal year, sending shares lower. Mr Loescher, led the company from 2007 and the Austrian was the first person recruited from outside the company to run the business.3 October 2013Last updated at 15:51 GMT Gerry Adams evidence at brother's trial 'examined by police' Police examined a Gerry Adams' statement to police in 2009 to establish if he had committed an offence, the Policing Board has heard. The police were subsequently directed by the Public Prosecution Service that there should be no prosecution. Gerry Adams' brother, Liam, was convicted on Tuesday of raping and abusing his daughter, ?ine, over a six-year period. The Sinn Fin president testified at Liam Adams' first trial in April. It collapsed due to legal reasons. Gerry Adams, the TD for Louth and a former West Belfast MP, did not give evidence at the second trial. Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris told the Policing Board the matter had been examined in 2010, including taking legal advice and consulting with the PPS. ACC Harris said: "This matter has been examined to see if we should open an investigation into the case and the advice that we received was not to open an investigation. "We will re-examine the transcripts (of the recent court case) but all the facts in our knowledge in 2010 have not been moved on materially since the recent trial." Liam Adams, 58, from Bernagh Drive, Belfast, was found guilty of 10 offences, including rape and gross indecency, against his daughter, ?ine Adams. The abuse was committed between 1977 and 1983, when she was aged between four and nine. At the previous trial, Gerry Adams said his brother admitted that he had sexually abused ?ine Adams. This was during a "walk in the rain" in Dundalk, he said. Gerry Adams said that, during the encounter in Dundalk, his brother, while admitting molestation or sexual interference or assault, did not admit rape. The Sinn Fin president made his first report to the police about the allegations in 2007, shortly after his party voted to accept the Police Service of Northern Ireland. In 2009, Gerry Adams made a second statement to police, telling officers that his brother Liam had confessed to him nine years earlier, in 2000, that he had sexually abused his daughter ?ine. Democratic Unionist Party MLA Jonathan Craig accused the Sinn Fin leader of delaying contacting police. Speaking at the Policing Board meeting, he said: "It was only nine years later that he came forward with the evidence of that and that was with the background of a planned documentary occurring around what his brother had done."4 October 2013Last updated at 11:26 GMT Gerry Adams: Police recommended to PPS no prosecution about evidence The police have said they recommended to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) there should be no prosecution about evidence given by Gerry Adams in his brother's rape trial. On Thursday, the Policing Board was told the PSNI consulted with the PPS in 2010 and was directed there should be no prosecution. However, on Friday, the police confirmed they sent a file to the PPS recommending no prosecution. Liam Adams was convicted on Tuesday. He was found guilty of raping and abusing his daughter, ?ine, over a six-year period. The Sinn Fin president testified at Liam Adams' first trial in April. It collapsed due to legal reasons. Gerry Adams, the TD for Louth and a former West Belfast MP, did not give evidence at the second trial. Gerry Adams statement in 2009 was examined by police to establish if he had committed an offence. Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris told the Policing Board on Thursday the "substantive facts" of case papers had been examined in 2010, including taking legal advice and consulting with the PPS. He said the matter has been examined to see if the PSNI should open an investigation into the case and the advice police had received was not to open an investigation. Police said they submitted a file to the PPS in October 2011. A spokesperson for the PPS said: "I can confirm following careful consideration of all the evidence and information provided by police, a decision was taken in October 2011 not to prosecute Mr Gerry Adams as there was insufficient evidence to meet the evidential test." Available facts Mr Harris said police would re-examine the transcripts (of the recent court case) but said all the "facts in our knowledge in 2010 have not been moved on materially since the recent trial". Liam Adams, 58, from Bernagh Drive, Belfast, was found guilty of 10 offences, including rape and gross indecency, against his daughter, ?ine Adams. The abuse was committed between 1977 and 1983, when she was aged between four and nine. At the previous trial, Gerry Adams said his brother admitted that he had sexually abused ?ine Adams. This was during a "walk in the rain" in Dundalk, he said. Gerry Adams said that, during the encounter in Dundalk, his brother, while admitting molestation or sexual interference or assault, did not admit rape. The Sinn Fin president made his first report to the police about the allegations in 2007, shortly after his party voted to accept the Police Service of Northern Ireland. In 2009, Gerry Adams made a second statement to police, telling officers that his brother Liam had confessed to him nine years earlier, in 2000, that he had sexually abused his daughter ?ine.15 February 2011Last updated at 14:50 GMT Get in touch with BBC Bristol We welcome your comments, stories, pictures and feedback on BBC Bristol's output. Choose the option below which best suits your requirements. Contact BBC Bristol Do you have a Bristol news story? Our news teams would love to hear from you. If you have any comments about our coverage or a story suggestion, please send an e-mail to: However, if your story is for the regional television news programme Points West, please send your e-mail to You can also contact us by post: BBC Bristol website, Whiteladies Road, Bristol, BS8 2LR. Alternatively, call the online newsdesk on 0117 974 7747. We will presume that we may quote what you say, unless you ask us not to. It would also help if you could include telephone numbers where you can be reached. We can not promise always to reply individually, but we will be very pleased to read what you have to say. BBC Radio Bristol Get in touch with all your BBC Radio Bristol favourites, or our radio news desk. By telephone: Text: 81333 and start your message with the word "Bristol" - you will be charged at your standard message rate. By post: BBC Radio Bristol, Whiteladies Road, Bristol, BS8 2LR. By fax: 0117 923 8323 You can email BBC Bristol newsdesk at12 April 2013Last updated at 23:58 GMT Getting behind Israeli 'frankness' By Raffi BergBBC News Israelis have a reputation for straight-talking, a quality that visitors are not always prepared for. But what lies behind it? There's an old joke in which a reporter says to an Israeli, a Russian and an American, "Excuse me, can I get your opinion on the food shortage in Africa?" The Russian says: "What's an opinion?" The American says: "What's a shortage?" and the Israeli says: "What's 'Excuse me'?" Now, of course before anyone accuses me of stereotyping, I realise the punchline will work with pretty much any nationality. But, on a recent reporting trip to Israel, I did encounter that special trait for which Israelis have gained a bit of a reputation - a certain, shall we say, straightforwardness, a brusqueness of manner, so familiar to frequent visitors to Israel that they treat it as a source of humour. In fact, there were daily encounters - from the taxi driver who argued with me over where I wanted to go, to the hotel receptionist who insisted it was my own incompetence rather than a defective key which was stopping me opening my door, to the museum official who questioned why I asked permission to take a photograph, saying: "Just take. Why bother asking when we might say 'No'?" Not to mention being barked at ("Wodyawant?") by a stony-faced girl serving ice-cream at a parlour in Jerusalem, after having been queue-jumped by an elderly Israeli unimpressed by my patient waiting. Now again, I know that queue-jumping happens everywhere, and the ice-cream girl might have just been having an off day, and that none of these incidents prove a thing, but it did get me thinking. Was all this really impoliteness, or a cultural misunderstanding, or something more deep-rooted? To try to shed some light on it, I asked Professor Shalom Schwarz, a social psychologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "There's certainly something of a tendency to be direct, and it's more common in Israel than in many other places. Most Israelis are aware of this reputation," he says. Could politeness have become diminished by the blending of so many different cultures in Israeli society? Schwarz doesn't think so, and has an alternative theory. "There's a very strong pragmatic strain here and that's helped along by being direct and not wasting time and effort on niceties - that may partly stem from army culture, which many people have come through, where you're expected to be straightforward and focus on the task." He also suggests that what might seem like poor social graces to outsiders might actually help explain Israel's remarkable achievements. After all, the country is an economic success story, a powerhouse of technological innovation and a world leader in medical and scientific research. "It could be that, say, in business relationships, what some perceive as rude actually contributes to something - in the sense that there is somewhat less concern if you have something to say and say it in a straightforward manner. Then ideas can get out more in a more straightforward way," says Schwarz. There is little doubt Israelis' penchant for directness is partly a product of living amid the harsh realities of the Middle East. They even have a word for it in Hebrew - "dugri", which roughly translates as "frank" or "down to earth". It's also an Arabic word meaning "straight" or "straight ahead". It was used famously by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who told Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at the UN that only by talking "dugri" could they achieve peace. After that, Israelis liked the phrase so much, they started to wear it on T-shirts. But Israelis are not really deserving of their reputation for bluntness, says one of the country's leading image gurus, Tami Lancut Leibovitz. Leibovitz, who's coached Israeli executives and politicians in the art of etiquette for 30 years, says her compatriots are a sensitive people who have just developed a thick skin. Her analysis chimes with another Hebrew word, "sabra", slang for a native Israeli. It comes from the name of a cactus fruit - prickly on the outside but tender within - characteristics which perhaps define Israelis best. How to listen to From Our Own Correspondent: BBC Radio 4: A 30-minute programme on Saturdays, 11:30 BST. Second 30-minute programme on Thursdays, 11:00 BST (some weeks only). or BBC World Service: Hear daily 10-minute editions Monday to Friday, repeated through the day, also available to . Read more or at the .18 September 2013Last updated at 16:21 GMT Getting in touch The BBC's award-winning Knowledge Economy series looks at education from an international perspective. It examines how education is shaping the future in different ways around the world. The most recent series, which ended in July, included the first international league table of how lack of sleep affects teenagers' learning, first bookless public library, the first new students at an Indian university for 800 years and the biggest mapping of the education and well-being of families around the world. There were interviews with Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales about online learning, Irina Bokova director general of Unesco about education and extremism, Nemat Shafik deputy head of the IMF on education and the recession and the OECD's Andreas Schleicher on re-building schools after Fukushima's nuclear disaster. There were the first-hand stories of a former refugee in Kosovo who is now teaching about tolerance and the memories of the refugee scientists who had to leave Nazi Germany in the 1930s. There was coverage of the continuing global problem of tens of millions of young people having no access to any education at all. Millions of people also read a story about an international research team evaluating the risk of human extinction. If you have any ideas about an international education story for the series send an email to Sean Coughlan at20 June 2013Last updated at 13:15 GMT Ghana profile Ghana was the first place in sub-Saharan Africa where Europeans arrived to trade - first in gold, later in slaves. It was also the first black African nation in the region to achieve independence from a colonial power, in this instance Britain. Despite being rich in mineral resources, and endowed with a good education system and efficient civil service, Ghana fell victim to corruption and mismanagement soon after independence in 1957. In 1966 its first president and pan-African hero, Kwame Nkrumah, was deposed in a coup, heralding years of mostly-military rule. In 1981 Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings staged his second coup. The country began to move towards economic stability and democracy. In April 1992 a constitution allowing for a multi-party system was approved in a referendum, ushering in a period of democracy. A well-administered country by regional standards, Ghana is often seen as a model for political and economic reform in Africa. Cocoa exports are an essential part of the economy; Ghana is the world's second-largest producer. The discovery of major offshore oil reserves was announced in June 2007, encouraging expectations of a major economic boost. Production officially began at the end of 2010, but some analysts expressed concern over the country's ability to manage its new industry, as laws governing the oil sector had not yet been passed. In July 2009, Ghana secured a 600 million dollar three-year loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), amid concerns about the impact of the global recession on poorer countries. The IMF said the Ghanaian economy had proved to be relatively resilient because of the high prices of cocoa and gold. Ghana has a high-profile peacekeeping role; troops have been deployed in Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone and DR Congo. Although Ghana has largely escaped the civil strife that has plagued other West African countries, in 1994-95 land disputes in the north erupted into ethnic violence, resulting in the deaths of 1,000 people and the displacement of a further 150,000.5 August 2013Last updated at 08:19 GMT Giant gas platform sinks below waves By Roger HarrabinEnvironment analyst A structure the size of a soccer pitch has been sent plunging to the bottom of the ocean 125 miles off Norway. It will house a giant compressor claimed to be the worlds biggest offshore machine. The Statoil equipment has been designed to pump some $30bn worth of gas from a depleted gas field. Its a technological leap for Statoil to place the compressor on the sea bed instead of on a typical platform perched above the waves. But environmentalists say as a state-owned enterprise, Statoil should concentrate on saving carbon emissions rather than seeking more hydrocarbons. This megaproject is a gamble. Statoil say for the same price as a compressor on a platform - $2bn - they can retrieve more gas using 30-50% less energy with a compressor on the sea floor, nearer to the gas deposit. We are very excited about this, Margareth Ovrum, whos overseeing the project, told me at the construction yard in Egersund near Stavangar. This is a really major leap in technology. We are very proud of it and we are confident that its going to work. The underwater giant will be serviced by robots. The trickiest part of the operation will be keeping the electrics dry when the compressors plugged in. If it all succeeds, Statoil engineers dream that one day they may dispense with oil and gas platforms altogether and place entire drilling operations on the sea bed. This would open the possibility of drilling in ever deeper water, and also possibly in the Arctic where icebergs would pass overhead if the water is deep enough. Environmentalists in Norway are angry that Statoil is trying to retrieve more fossil fuels when experts say we can safely burn just a third of what we have already found. Truls Gulowsen from Greenpeace, Norway, told BBC News: "It may make commercial logic for Statoil to maximise production from this field, but fossil fuel companies and governments are stuck in the mindset that they have to retrieve every last barrel. Norway has been a leader in clean technology. The (Norwegian) government should insist that it turns its technology investments to renewable energy systems and doesnt keep pressing ahead with a strategy that will destroy the climate. Statoil is actually a leader in developing carbon capture and storage technology that might allow the world to carry on burning fossil fuels, but the project is a poor relation compared with the prestigious adventure under the waves. A couple of hours drive north of Stavanger lies the experimental Mongstat technology centre where a consortium of firms led by Statoil is testing two types of carbon capture equipment on two types of exhaust. The units use amine and ammonia on exhausts from a gas-fired power station and an oil refinery (which has a similar composition to exhaust from a coal-fired power station). Frank Ellingsen, who runs the centre, says it needs much more investment in different types of technology from different companies to bring the costs down. He told me: We know we can capture 90% of the CO2 (from the exhausts) but its far too expensive. If governments really want this technology to work they will have to put policies in place to make it work. But there appears little international will to force carbon capture into the mainstream and the technology is years behind schedule. One of Franks colleagues at the technology centre put it in a nutshell: Theres a clear commercial logic to the underwater compressor, he told me. We can make tens of billions of dollars." Were an oil and gas company C of course people are excited by a massive operation like that on the sea bed. Do you see that level of excitement about capturing the CO2 thats emitted? Of course you dont. Follow Roger30 June 2013Last updated at 13:35 GMT Giant Gromit sculpture in Bristol vandalised One of 80 giant Gromit sculptures on public display in Bristol as part of a has been vandalised. The 5ft (1.5m) tall sculpture, designed by Joanna Lumley, had its tail smashed off on Friday evening in College Green. The model is part of the 10-week Gromit Unleashed arts trail raising money in aid of the Bristol Children's Hospital. The damage to the sculpture, named Poetry in Motion, is being assessed in the hope it can be restored. Nicola Masters, director of the charity behind Gromit Unleashed, said: "We are dismayed that anyone would want to damage one of the Gromit sculptures which have been created to raise money to treat sick children in hospital and to provide something for everyone in Bristol to enjoy." Avon and Somerset Police are investigating the incident. The 80 models of Aardman's famous canine character, which have been individually sponsored by businesses, will be auctioned on 3 October to raise funds for Wallace and Gromit's Grand Appeal - the Bristol Children's Hospital charity. Other designs include those from Sir Quentin Blake, Cath Kidston, One Direction's Zayn Malik, The Beano and Harry Hill. Wallace and Gromit's Grand Appeal was formed 17 years ago after a public charity appeal to build a new children's hospital that enlisted the help of Bristol-based animation studio Aardman Animations. It has pledged to raise an initial ?3.5m for new equipment, including an intraoperative MRI scanner, family facilities and child-friendly artwork. In 2011 a sale of gorilla statues, which had been displayed around the city, raised about ?500,000 for charity.28 June 2013Last updated at 07:23 GMT Giant Gromit sculptures let loose in Bristol for arts trail A series of giant Gromit sculptures, decorated by well-known celebrities and artists, are being "unleashed" in Bristol. Eighty of the 5ft (1.5m) tall models of Aardman's famous canine character will form a "grand" arts trail. Designs include those from Sir Quentin Blake, Cath Kidston, One Direction's Zayn Malik, The Beano and Harry Hill. They will be on display for 10 weeks before being auctioned off in aid of the Bristol Children's Hospital. Thirteen of the sculptures are being moved into their trail locations on Friday, with the rest put in place over the weekend. To mark the occasion, Nick Park, creator of the Oscar-winning animated characters Wallace and Gromit, will drive the Harbour Steam Train into the City, loaded with a selection of the giant sculptures. 'Wacky designs' "To see him this massive is incredible. I always thought Gromit would make it big, but not like this," Mr Park said. "I was quite worried, because I'm quite fussy about Gromit, and I didn't know if he would make a very good blank canvas for the artists to work on. "But I think I am more just honoured that he is being used. "I am kind of relived that people have taken liberties with him, and Gromit is still somehow there, no matter what people have done - and [there are] all sorts of wacky designs - Gromit is still there underneath." Mr Park's own sculpture and US animation studio Pixar's Gromit are also due to be revealed for the first time. The 80 models, which have been individually sponsored by businesses, will be auctioned off on 3 October to raise funds for Wallace and Gromit's Grand Appeal - the Bristol Children's Hospital charity. 'Raise awareness' Artist Dan Shearn, who has painted two of the Gromits, was inspired to take part in the project after his son, Dylan, now five, was rushed to the Children's Hospital at birth and taken into surgery. "Within ten hours he was being operated on, and they were amazing, they were great, the staff just really put us at ease the entire time we were there," he said. "I just hope to raise as much money and as much awareness as possible for the Wallace and Gromit Grand Appeal, and I think that is the aim of all the other artists as well." Wallace and Gromit's Grand Appeal was formed 17 years ago after a public charity appeal to build a new children's hospital that enlisted the help of Bristol-based animation studio Aardman Animations. It has pledged to raise an initial ?3.5m for new equipment, including an intraoperative MRI scanner, family facilities and child-friendly artwork. In 2011, a sale of gorilla statues - which had been displayed around the city - raised about ?500,000 for charity.13 August 2013Last updated at 10:34 GMT Gibraltar profile The British overseas territory of Gibraltar, a limestone outcrop on the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula, occupies a commanding position at the western gateway to the Mediterranean Sea. Spain continues to claim sovereignty over the territory, which has been ruled by Britain since 1713 under the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht. Named in Arabic "Jabal Tariq", after the Muslim commander Tariq Ibn-Ziyad, who turned "the Rock" into a fortress in 711, Gibraltar has been an important naval base for more than 1,000 years. This long maritime history has resulted in a diverse population. Most Gibraltarians are bilingual in English and Spanish, and are of mixed Genoese, British, Spanish, Jewish, Maltese and Portuguese descent. Recent arrivals have included migrant workers from Morocco. Gibraltarians are British citizens. They elect their own representatives to the territory's House of Assembly; the British monarch appoints a governor. Gibraltar is self-governing in all areas except defence and foreign policy. It is home to a British military garrison and naval base. The EU has pressured Spain and Britain to resolve the issue of Gibraltar's status. Both sides, under the Brussels Process launched in 1984, have attempted to reach an agreement. But Spain's insistence on eventually acquiring full sovereignty, and Britain's determination to retain full control of Gibraltar's military base, have been among the stumbling blocks. Gibraltar's 1969 constitution states that there can be no transfer of sovereignty to Spain against the wishes of locals. In a 2002 referendum Gibraltarians resoundingly rejected the idea of joint sovereignty. Spain and Britain were said to have reached "broad agreement" on the concept. Free travel between Spain and Gibraltar was fully restored in 1985, but travellers continued to suffer delays at the border. In late 2006, passenger flights between Spain and Gibraltar resumed for the first time in nearly 30 years, but 2013 saw renewed border checks by Spain in response to a Gibraltarian plan to build an artificial reef. The air link was restored after Gibraltar, Spain and Britain signed agreements aimed at improving living conditions on the Rock. The three-way talks did not cover the issue of sovereignty. With no large-scale agricultural or industrial activity, much of Gibraltar's income comes from customs duties, offshore finance, internet gaming, tourism and the provisioning of ships.1 October 2013Last updated at 11:06 GMT Giro d'Italia 2014 NI route unveiled By Kevin MageeBBC NI News BBC News NI can reveal the route of next May's prestigious Giro d'Italia cycle race - ahead of the official launch next week. There will be three stages to the race - a 22 km time trial around Belfast, a loop around the north coast and a cross border final stage. The Giro d'Italia is one of cycling's three prestigious grand tours. It is understood Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster is travelling to Milan next week for the official launch. However, although cycle fans will be keen to try out the route, not everyone is happy. Sinn F??in has said it is disappointed that the race circuit ignores west Belfast. The stages will take place in Northern Ireland from Friday 9 May to Sunday 11 May, 2014. The Belfast route on Friday 9 May starts at Titanic Belfast and takes in the Newtownards Road, Stormont, Queen's Bridge, the Ormeau Road, Stranmillis and Belfast city centre. The Saturday leg - a 218 km cycle - starts on Belfast's Antrim Road and goes to Antrim, Ballymena, Bushmills, the Giant's Causeway taking in the coastline from Cushendall to Larne on to Whitehead and Carrickfergus and back to Belfast. On day three, Sunday, the final stage of the Ireland leg, the riders will embark on a 187km cross border section. They will leave Armagh and travel to Richhill and Newtownhamilton before heading south, crossing the border at Forkhill en route to Dublin via Dundalk, Castlebellingham and Drogheda. It is the first time the international event is beginning outside continental Europe. The Northern Ireland Executive is paying ?3m from Tourist Board, EU and Department of Enterprise (Deti) funds to host the event. All the routes are preliminary at this stage, but they are unlikely to change. Sinn F??in MP Paul Maskey said he was disappointed that the circuit did not include west Belfast. "The image of cyclists going up and down the Falls Road would send out a massive positive signal right across the world," he said. "This is about advertising the city. This is about promoting the city, and nowhere else can do it better than the Falls Road, and I think it's a shame that Deti have excluded west Belfast from this competition. "What we will see is all other parts of the city being touched and being seen world-wide, except west Belfast, and it is just not good enough. We will campaign to meet whoever we have to meet, to ensure this race comes to this part of the city." Others are happier. Former champion cyclist Dave Kane cannot believe his luck. The time trial route will pass the front door of his bike shop on the Upper Newtownards Road in Belfast. Mr Kane said: "I've been in Italy and I've seen the Giro and to get the Grand Depart here, it's unbelievable. The people here just don't know what this is going to be like. It's not to say you have a bunch of cyclists going through. "These are the top pros in the world and they'll be here for roughly a week. "They'll be out routing the stages and then you'll have the prologue which is the team time trial which goes past the door here and round Stormont and it's unbelievable for the people of Northern Ireland, for the tourism, for the economy to be able to support something like the Giro." The Giro d'Italia, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana are the most well known and prestigious Grand Tours for top cyclists. The start of the 104-year-old Giro has traditionally taken place in Italy, but in recent times has been awarded to an outside country every two years. Two of cycling's Grand Tours will make visits to Britain and Ireland next year, with the 2014 Tour de France starting in Yorkshire.26 September 2013Last updated at 23:46 GMT Giving it all up to be a Christmas Island 'beachcomber' By John PickfordChristmas Island The allure of a new and different life on a South Sea island has tempted many Europeans over the past two centuries. But these so-called "beachcombers" do make sacrifices in return for their life in the sun, away from the stress and strain of the big cities. "Come in, come in!" It is a glorious welcome, considering Perry Langston is not expecting me. He stands outside his simple home and warmly shakes my hand. His house is near the lagoon, single storey, with a half-covered entrance yard and a corrugated tin roof. Perry first came to Christmas Island - an isolated coral atoll in the middle of the Pacific - in 1966, just a few years after the British stopped using it for nuclear tests, which makes him one of the island's most enduring residents. He is now 74, slightly stooping, spectacles on nose, with a sharp and intelligent face. He has a few front teeth missing - lack of access to dentists is a drawback of island life - and a completely unselfconscious smile. He introduces me to his silver-haired Micronesian wife. She exudes calm and grace. They have had seven children together. One son lives next door and grandchildren are nonchalantly passing in and out as we are talking. "Sit down, sit down," Perry says, beckoning to a battered armchair. There is a map of the Pacific and an old map of England - both much repaired - pinned to the wall. He shows me a photograph of the red-brick farmhouse in Warwickshire where he grew up and I think: "How far can a man travel in one lifetime?" But this journey happened without a plan. Perry trained as an agronomist and went out to the Solomon Islands in the twilight years of Empire to work in a technical capacity for a Catholic mission. After that, his whole life in the South Seas involved practical work - the sharp edge of development. He seemed to revel in his lack of material wealth. He quoted Gandhi to me: "Meet your needs and limit your wants." He may be poor by Western standards, but surrounded by his island neighbours and his grandchildren he will never fear a lonely old age. Twenty minutes away lives another "beachcomber" with a rather different lifestyle. Scotsman John Bryden runs a successful grocery and provisions store and has been on the island almost as long as Perry. He came out to visit his brother, met a local woman and did not go home. John is 70 and looks 50. "But my teeth need fixing," he says. That missing island dentist again. He has a microlight aircraft. The runway is a field behind his shop. When I came to see him, he had just returned from a flight around the island. "Saw lots of turtles and sharks this morning," he says. He keeps his microlight in a big steel-framed shed which he bought from the Kiribati government. It is a building with quite a history. It was the bomb assembly shed during the British nuclear testing era on the island. John Bryden and Perry Langston are very different characters but both are capable, practical men. If pressed, they could build a house, fix a car, catch fish in the lagoon. They are not dreamers, or bookish intellectuals. But 35 years ago, on Aitutaki in the Cook Islands, I met another sort of beachcomber. I was making some programmes on Captain Cook and people said: "You must go and see Des Clarke, he has a wonderful library of books on the South Seas." Des was also an island trader and married to a local woman - a queen, in fact - one of three traditional chiefs. I remember vividly the surprise of his office at the back of his shop. One wall was covered with books - Cook's journals, Herman Melville, Robert Louis Stevenson - a cornucopia of Polynesian scholarship, fiction and travellers' tales. I returned to Aitutaki this year and heard that Des was still on the island. In fact, I was to be renting a small house from his wife. The evening before they came to see me, I was sitting on the veranda reading Stevenson's In the South Seas. The sound of the cicadas, the ocean breeze rustling the treetops, "the wide and starry sky", even the smell of the mosquito coils - not a bad place to live out your days, I was thinking. The next morning, Des arrived in a battered truck, slowly climbed the steps to the veranda, brushed back his tousled grey hair and sat down. His wife, Gina, swatted mosquitoes as we talked. "What about your books?" I asked. He gave me a long look. "They are gone," he said. "You cannot keep books in this climate. The bugs and the humidity get to them in the end and they always win." Then he threw me another sharp-eyed look. "If you choose this sort of life," he said, "you've got to know what you're giving up and you've got to be prepared to pay the price." : or . BBC Radio 4: Saturdays at 11:30 and some Thursdays at 11:00 BBC World Service: Short editions Monday-Friday - see World Service . You can follow the Magazine on and onWhen it comes to speech technology, it seems like businesses are told same thing over and over again: "this is the moment", "it's arrived", "success at last"! But as some CEOs and IT heads realised long ago, there is not going to be any one defining event that suddenly makes it popular overnight. However, Apple's incorporation of the Siri software into the new iPhone 4S has piqued both consumer and business interest in devices that take commands and then talk back. The BBC's Ian Hardy has been looking at how one company in particular is forcing businesses to take another look at automated speech.16 September 2013Last updated at 18:27 GMT Glasgow 2014: 'High demand' for Commonwealth Games tickets More than 2.3 million requests have been made for up to one million Commonwealth Games tickets. Organisers Glasgow 2014 said diving, swimming, athletics, cycling, gymnastics, judo, shooting and triathlon were oversubscribed and tickets would be allocated via a draw. Successful applicants will be told in the first week of October. Organisers said they may offer a ticket resale platform, which would be the only official way to resell tickets. Further details on the platform may be announced at a later date, they said. The first phase of ticket selling for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow ran from 19 August to 16 September. It is anticipated that any remaining unsold tickets will go on sale in mid-October. Anyone who previously applied for tickets will be given a second chance to buy any remaining tickets before they are put on general sale to the public. The 11-day games, which begin on 23 July 2014, will see 4,500 athletes compete in 17 sports across 14 venues. Glasgow 2014's deputy chief executive Ty Speer said Glasgow 2014 was shaping up to be a "truly historic occasion". "The first medal of Glasgow 2014 should go to members of the public for their fantastic support for the 4,500 athletes who will be coming here to compete," he said. Work will now begin to process the applications. Mr Speer added: "The system has worked well and has coped with the sometimes extremely high demand and we would like to thank our official ticketing services provider Ticketmaster for ensuring the process ran smoothly."BBC Scotland has filmed aerial footage of Glasgow venues, old and new, that will host the .They include Scotstoun leisure centre, the Cathkin Braes mountain bike trails, Tollcross swimming pool, Celtic Park, Ibrox Stadium, SECC Precinct, lawn bowls at Kelvingrove, Glasgow Green hockey pitches and Hampden Park.The newly-constructed sites include The Hydro, the Athletes' Village, the Emirates Stadium and the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome.Venues outside Glasgow will also host the Games:Barry Buddon Shooting Centre, Carnoustie - Shooting: Clay Target, Full Bore, Pistol and Small BoreCathkin Braes Mountain Bike Trails - Cycling: Mountain BikeCeltic Park - Opening CeremonyClyde Auditorium - Weightlifting, Para-Sport PowerliftingEmirates Arena - BadmintonGlasgow City Road Courses - Athletics: Marathon, Cycling: Time Trial and Road Race Glasgow National Hockey Centre - HockeyHampden Park - Athletics: Track and Field, Closing CeremonyIbrox Stadium - Rugby SevensKelvingrove Lawn Bowls Centre - Lawn BowlsRoyal Commonwealth Pool, Edinburgh - Aquatics: DivingScotstoun Sports Campus - Squash, Table TennisSECC Precinct - Boxing, Judo, Netball, WrestlingSir Chris Hoy Velodrome - Cycling: TrackStrathclyde Country Park - TriathlonThe Hydro - Gymnastics: Artistic, Gymnastics: RhythmicTollcross International Swimming Centre - Aquatics: Swimming22 August 2013Last updated at 20:30 GMT Glasgow 2014: Businesses call for 'clear plan' By Douglas FraserBusiness and economy editor, Scotland Commonwealth Games organisers have been asked to produce plans for the city's business involvement with "real urgency". Glasgow Chamber of Commerce says firms are producing plans and budgets for next year. It said they need to have a clearer idea of the Games plans very soon. A Glasgow 2014 spokesman said it was working to ensure that businesses were "informed, prepared and ready for the Games." Chamber chief executive Stewart Patrick said businesses wanted to plan around marketing, branding and business promotion events. Following a meeting with Games officials, he said they also wanted to find out more about disruption to city traffic during the games, and about hotel bookings. At the meeting, Games chief executive David Grevemberg said a business toolkit was being prepared, but did not say when it would be available. There is already an online portal to help local companies bid for Commonwealth Games contracts, with 100 currently under way and more than that yet to be started. Practical matters Mr Patrick said: "We are picking up a genuine enthusiasm amongst business for information on how they can engage with the Games. "There is no doubt the Games Business Portal has helped to make clear what the direct tender opportunities from the Games are, and we know more are still to come. "But we are now getting many more enquiries about the practical matters involved for the wider business community when the Games are in the city. "That includes issues around marketing and branding, the way the city will operate during the Games including transport, hotel accommodation, meeting spaces and business to business events, and the extent to which businesses should be making special efforts during the two weeks of the Games." He added: "Now that the tickets are on sale and businesses are drawing up their plans and budgets for next year, there is a real urgency for practical information answering these questions and we are looking forward to the early release of the Business Ready Toolkits and the Get Ready Glasgow one-stop information website. "There is genuine confidence in the substantial progress so far and I'm sure that confidence will be maintained if these initiatives reach the business community very soon." 'Unprecedented opportunities' Mr Grevemberg told Chamber of Commerce members that there would be further opportunities to sign up sponsors, and he encouraged firms to get involved with the Games as a sales and worldwide marketing opportunity, and support their staff doing so. "No stone is being left unturned in terms of commercial opportunities," he said. "It's important that we get the right value for money." Mr Grevemberg said the organisers were "happy" with the level of sponsorship secured so far, towards a target of ?100m. He also said there had been some discussion of increasing public transport capacity by using ferries on the River Clyde, but that had not been concluded. The Glasgow 2014 spokesman said: "The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games present unprecedented opportunities for businesses of all sizes. Already businesses within the city have benefited from ?183m of Games-related contracts. "At Games time Glasgow will play host to large numbers of visitors. They will be enjoying world-class sport but they will also be immersing themselves in the city's unique culture, retail and hospitality opportunities. "We want businesses to be primed and ready to make the most of this very special occasion. We also want them to be able to deliver their day-to-day operations effectively." He added: "We are working through Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, Police Scotland and other partners to ensure the business networks they actively engage with are informed, prepared and ready for the Games."18 August 2013Last updated at 11:00 GMT Glasgow 2014: Commonwealth secretary general says city 'more than ready' Glasgow is "more than ready" to host the Commonwealth Games next year, according to the secretary general of the association of nations. Speaking on a visit to the city, Kamalesh Sharma told BBC Scotland he was impressed by the preparations. He said the Games were the "flagship" of the Commonwealth and offered a "huge platform" to engage with young people. The 11-day sporting festival next summer will see thousands of athletes compete in 17 sports across 14 venues. On Friday, the Queen's Baton - which will visit all 71 competing nations and territories ahead of the Games - was unveiled. Legacy aspect Preparations for the 2014 games are at an advanced stage with the main venues having been built and opened to the public. Mr Sharma was in Glasgow to attend the Commonwealth Federation's annual general meeting. In an interview with BBC Scotland, he said: "From what I saw, it (Glasgow) is more than ready. "I think both from the aspect of preparation and readiness, and also from the aspect of legacy, which is of enormous importance to me as secretary general, in terms of what is going to come out of it. "I think the thinking and the action is very encouraging." The secretary general said he hoped the Games would appeal to young people and act as a "vehicle" for ambition. "The Games are the flagship of the Commonwealth," he said. "If you were to pick on one facet which is most recognised, not just by young people, but by the citizens of the Commonwealth, it is going to be the Games. "The big idea about the Commonwealth now is about how young it is progressively becoming. I've been to countries in the Commonwealth where people under 29 make up nearly 70% of the population. Therefore, in which ever way you can appeal to young people you should do it. Sports is the obvious way." He added: "We want, through sports, to bring to them the values of the Commonwealth - leadership, capacity to become entrepreneurs and independent people, not jobseekers but job creators. "The Games offer a huge platform for this." A full version of the interview can be seen on Newsnight Scotland on Monday night, BBC 2 Scotland at 23:00.1 October 2013Last updated at 10:41 GMT Glasgow 2014: Commonwealth ticket draw 'random and fair' Organisers of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow have defended the ticket allocation process after tens of thousands of people were unsuccessful. Glasgow 2014 said 2.3 million requests were made for up to one million tickets between August to September. Some people complained on social media sites that they had not secured any tickets while family and friends had multiple success in their applications. Glasgow 2014 said the draw for tickets was completely "random and fair". Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme, Glasgow 2014 deputy chief executive Ty Speer said he understood that many people felt disappointed. 'Lucky' applicants "Obviously we had many, many more requests than we have had tickets available," he said. "Of course we appreciate that people are disappointed - we knew that would be the case. "We did our best to communicate that along the way, about how things were going, to manage expectations, but of course, we know that when people really want to come that if they don't get everything they want there's naturally going to be some disappointment." Mr Speer said that people who had been successful in securing tickets for multiple high profile events - such as swimming and cycling - were just very lucky. He said a "fair draw process" was used "session by session" to determine who got tickets to each event. "It doesn't recognise whether someone has been successful in an application for an athletics event on the one hand or a badminton event in the other," he said. "It is a completely random draw." 'Fair draw' He added: "We have said from the very start that we think when sessions are over subscribed the most important thing we can to do be fair is to run a random, fair draw process and we've done that session by session." Mr Speer said Glasgow 2014 had looked at other options for allocating tickets but had decided on a "fairness principle" that would be "random right across the board". He added: "We didn't want to favour those that applied for more tickets or those that applied for fewer tickets. "We wanted to treat everyone exactly the same. That's why each session is done through a fair draw process." As ticket confirmation was sent out to applicants on Monday, Glasgow 2014 revealed that some of the 17 events on offer were massively oversubscribed. Cycling events, which will be held at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, received 25 times more requests than the number of tickets available. General sale There was also an excess of 100,000 applications made for the 100m men's final at Hampden Park. Other sports which were oversubscribed were diving, swimming, mountain bike, artistic gymnastics, judo, shooting and triathlon. Tickets for these events, along with popular sessions in other sports, were allocated via a draw. People who have already applied for tickets will be given the first opportunity to buy any which remain available. Everyone who has applied for tickets will then be offered the chance to buy more tickets during an exclusive on-sale period before any remaining tickets are placed on general sale in late October. The 11-day games, which begin on 23 July 2014, will see 4,500 athletes compete in 17 sports across 14 venues.29 August 2013Last updated at 23:09 GMT Glasgow 2014: Commonwealth tickets in high demand Organisers of next year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow say they are delighted at ticket application levels with some events already oversubscribed. Up to one million tickets went on sale last week - with requests being taken until 16 September. So far, swimming, diving, cycling, gymnastics, shooting and triathlon are all "extremely popular" and tickets are likely to be allocated via a draw. also highlights demand across other sports. Track and field events are classed as "very popular" and future applicants are advised that they may be more successful aiming for morning sessions. 'High demand' Rhythmic gymnastics, judo and the opening and closing ceremonies are also classed "very popular". Glasgow 2014's chief communications officer Gordon Arthur said the first 10 days of applications had seen "high demand across the sports programme". "Glasgow 2014's ticketing website has been functioning well and processing requests as quickly as possible, keeping waiting at peak times to a minimum. "The guide we have issued today is designed to help ticket applicants make choices which maximise their chances of being able to experience the games. "Of course, everyone can still apply for any tickets they want but we are keen to let people know where the best chances of success currently lie. We will also provide further updates during the coming fortnight." The 11-day games, which begin on 23 July 2014, will see 4,500 athletes compete in 17 sports across 14 venues.2 October 2013Last updated at 15:08 GMT Glasgow 2014: Delays affect some Commonwealth Games ticketing emails Some people who applied for tickets for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow have still not found out whether they have been successful, it has emerged. Most people who applied for tickets received email replies on Monday. Organiser Glasgow 2014 said that "a limited number" of those emails had not been received and it was looking at other ways to contact those affected. BBC Scotland understands that some Yahoo mail accounts are among those affected by the delays. A Glasgow 2014 spokesman said: "Glasgow 2014 has communicated ticket allocations successfully with 97% of applicants. "We recognise that a limited number of people have not yet received emails however all Glasgow 2014 ticket applicants can now view their allocation by logging into the and using their customer reference number." 'Random and fair' A spokesman for Yahoo said: "It is correct that delays can happen when organisations send large volumes of emails over a short period as we need to confirm that the mass-mailings are not spam." Some 2.3 million requests were made for up to one million tickets between August to September. Most applicants were told on Monday, via email, whether they had been successful. Some of the events at the games were massively oversubscribed and Glasgow 2014 said tickets to these had been allocated via a "random and fair" draw. The 11-day games, which begin on 23 July 2014, will see 4,500 athletes compete in 17 sports across 14 venues.1 August 2013Last updated at 23:13 GMT Glasgow 2014 delivers sport and regeneration By Bill WilsonBusiness reporter, BBC News Glasgow is rightly proud about being in the UK sporting spotlight with less than a year to go before the start of the 2014 Commonwealth Games. But event chief executive David Grevemberg says that in many ways the Games have a more important role - as a major catalyst to improve the city's infrastructure and facilities. That extensive task includes creating new transport links, sports venues and housing stock, encouraging urban regeneration and business investment, and leaving a sporting and volunteering legacy for young people. "Glasgow 2014 is not a landing site, it is a launch pad," says Mr Grevemberg. 'Real sign of confidence' The American has been involved with the event for four years, having come on board in 2009 as director of operations. Last year he was joined at the helm by his compatriot Ty Speer as deputy chief executive. They have to work within a ?524m budget while juggling current demands with those of the city's future. "All our permanent venues are now built, and the really special thing is that they are already being used," says the 39-year-old, referring to a raft of major sports test events already held in Glasgow. He also points out that the new ?125m purpose-built national arena, the SSE Hydro, and the ?113m multi-purpose sports venue, the Emirates Arena, already have long-term naming rights sponsors. "That is a real sign of confidence in the future of those two venues," Mr Grevemberg says. The attention now turns to the final phase of (temporarily) transforming Hampden Park, the national football stadium, for the Games. Already the North Stand has been extended and storage space created under the West Stand, and more toilet and concourse facilities installed. Next, the playing surface will be raised by 1.9m (6ft) to transform the stadium from a football venue into an international-standard track and field facility. 'Open for business' While Hampden Park, in the south of Glasgow, is being adapted, an even more ambitious transformation has been taking place in the east. A major extension to the M74 has been built, giving better links for athletes and spectators and providing access to regeneration projects springing up around the Commonwealth Games event in the East End. Games organisers are working with urban regeneration body Clyde Gateway to ensure there is a lasting post-2014 legacy for the area, including new sports facilities and housing for local people. Much of that housing will come from the post-Games transformation of the athletes' village, a public-private partnership scheme in the Dalmarnock area, near Celtic Park football stadium, the venue of the opening ceremony. Also in the east of the city are the Emirates Arena, Glasgow Green Hockey Centre and the Tollcross International Swimming Centre. Meanwhile, the local railway station is being upgraded and wasteland in the areas is being transformed as city leaders look to introduce light industry and warehousing, as well as retail and hotel projects. "We have helped shift the paradigm in that part of the city, so that it says 'we are open for business;'," says Mr Grevemberg, 'Fair chance for tickets' The next landmark is on 19 August, when tickets go on sale. Prices start at ?15 for all sports, with half-price entry for under-16s and over-60s, and two-thirds of tickets will be ?25 or under. "We have learned from London that when it comes to ticketing we need to keep things very simple and straightforward, and to give everyone a fair chance to get tickets," says Mr Speer. Some 70% of tickets will go to the public, with the rest split between overseas Commonwealth Games associations, competitors, sponsors, broadcasters and hospitality, and some 5% kept back for contingency allocation. There will also be "flexibility" at each venue, so that seats that may have been allocated for one sector (say for athletes) can be switched to another if they are not being used or needed for their original purpose. "We want to make the best use of every seat, whether it is an operational or a public seat," says Mr Speer, who also oversees the sponsorship of the Games. He says there has been a growing awareness since London 2012 among brands and business-to-business companies that sponsorship of major sports events, such as the Olympics and Commonwealth Games, is of value. "We continue to build on our sponsor proposal, and will keep that going throughout the summer and autumn," he says. The goal is to bring in at least ?100m from private sources - media rights, licensing, tickets and sponsorship - with 17 sponsors signed up so far. "We have no set level for the number of sponsorships, and can bring more in," says Mr Speer. "As long as we can give companies value for money then the sky's the limit." 'Exciting time' While there have also been strong media sales for the event worldwide, Games organisers have seen their contribution towards the overall security budget triple. "Our contribution has to be proportionate to the risks and proportionate to the whole, wider, security envelope," says Mr Grevemberg. Meanwhile, he points to other benefits of the Games: a catalyst for bringing public and private bodies together with charitable ones; creating a huge interest in event volunteering; providing a legacy for youth; and enhancing Glasgow's reputation. And the fact that Scotland's tourism agency will spend ?2.5m on marketing the 2014 Games at home and abroad can only help. "It is an exciting time. Already the Games are having a major impact on the city," says Mr Grevemberg.30 September 2013Last updated at 17:01 GMT Glasgow 2014: Fans finding out about Games tickets Hundreds of thousands of people are finding out if their application for tickets to events at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games has been successful. Organisers have started to contact people who applied to watch the events. All ticket applicants will be contacted via letter or email over the next few days. During the four-week allotted window, there were 2.3 million requests received for up to one million tickets. Some sports fans, who have already learned of their success or failure in securing tickets, have taken to Twitter to express their joy or disappointment. Graham Farquharson from Glasgow wrote: "Thrilled! Got tickets to @Glasgow2014 athletics finals on my birthday and hopefully seeing @EilidhChild win." Another Twitter user, David Wiliamson, urged Olympic and World 100m champion Usain Bolt to put in an appearance next summer. He wrote: "@usainbolt 100m final commonwealth games tickets confirmed PLEASE ATTEND!!" 'Fair process' Other applicants were not so lucky, Michael Inglis said: "Got ?80 of the ?600worth of Glasgow 2014 tickets I applied for." Jason Harvey wrote: "Parents only got 1 session for @Glasgow2014 let's hope I can get some closer to the time. Looks like it's harder to get tickets than London!" Proving particularly popular from the 17 sports on offer was track cycling, which received 25 times more requests than the number of tickets available. Cycling events will be held at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome. There was also an excess of 100,000 applications made for the 100m men's final at Hampden Park. Other sports which were oversubscribed were diving, swimming, mountain bike, artistic gymnastics, judo, shooting and triathlon. Tickets for these events, along with popular sessions in other sports, were being allocated in a "fair draw process". 'Exciting moment' Glasgow 2014 deputy chief executive Ty Speer said: "Today marks yet another exciting moment in the journey to Glasgow 2014 and it's a real pleasure to share the details of which great live sporting moments Games fans will be part of next summer. "The overwhelming enthusiasm demonstrated by hundreds of thousands of people already guarantees tremendous crowds across the board for Commonwealth athletes. "This is a real vote of confidence and it's clear that so many people intend to make sure this is going to be a great Games in Glasgow." People who have already applied for tickets will be given the first opportunity to buy any which remain available. Everyone who has applied for tickets will then be offered to buy more tickets during an exclusive on-sale period before any remaining tickets are placed on general sale in late October.19 August 2013Last updated at 16:42 GMT Glasgow 2014: High demand for Commonwealth tickets By Steven BrocklehurstBBC Scotland news website Glasgow's organisers said they were "delighted by the enthusiastic response" to the first day of ticket sales for next year's games. They said they "appreciated the patience" shown by customers as high demand led to waiting times of more than an hour on Monday morning. Organisers said there was no need to rush as the public had four weeks to place requests for tickets. After that period, tickets will be allocated by a "fair and simple draw". A Glasgow 2014 spokeswoman said: "We have already processed many thousands of applications through our website and continue to do so as quickly as possible." She added: "But this is not a sprint - everyone has until 16 September to make their choices and get their applications in and we encourage everyone to get involved in Scotland's biggest-ever festival of world-class sport." The 11-day games, which begin on 23 July 2014, will see 4,500 athletes compete in 17 sports across 14 venues. An official ticket guide was released last month and the first phase ticketing process runs until 16 September. Olympic silver medallist swimmer Michael Jamieson marked the start of sales by diving into the refurbished pool at the Tollcross International Swimming Centre. Ty Speer, deputy chief executive of Glasgow 2014, said: "There is no advantage to putting your application in on the first day, a day in the middle or at the end. "We will not process any applications until that phase closes. "Our advice to everybody is go online or grab a copy of our ticketing brochure, sit down with family and friends and work out what works for you." Lessons learned Applications can be made online with debit or credit cards or by post, using the form in the ticket guide. The ticket-buying process will be operated by Ticketmaster, who sold 10.9 million Olympics tickets but came in for criticism over the system of bidding for batches of tickets. The Commonwealth Games