Thursday, December 28, 2006

Tongan royal mourning is broken

Tradition in Tonga.

Tonga's royal family is preparing to end 100 days of mourning for the late king by releasing 40 royal undertakers from a three-month captivity.

The undertakers, known as nima tapu, meaning sacred hands, are forbidden from using their hands after preparing King Tupou IV's body for burial.

The nima tapu have spent the last three months confined in a special house where they are fed by other people. After an end-of-mourning ceremony, the undertakers are allowed to return home.

Having touched the late king's body during the funeral preparations, the royal undertakers are strictly forbidden from using their hands for any other purpose until the period of mourning is over.

The current generation of nima tapu are more fortunate than their predecessors.

Until 300 years ago they would have been strangled or had their hands cut off following the king's funeral.

Tonga's royal end-of-mourning ceremony is characterised by gift-giving. However, the new King Tupou V has decreed that, in a change of protocol, the traditional gifts of food, pigs and the fermented root drink kava should be presented to his mother Queen Halaevalu Mata'aho rather than to himself.

Correspondents say the break with tradition may indicate King Tupou V's willingness to reshape Tonga's semi-feudal monarchy. King Tupou V has already promised more democratic reforms following pro-democracy rioting in November.
BBC News

Figo to join Saudi Arabian club

Luis Figo is poised to join Al Ittihad for an undisclosed fee from Inter Milan, according to the Saudi Arabian club's team manager.
"It's official now," said Hamad Al Sanie. "Figo will sign on Friday or Saturday and he'll arrive in Jeddah on 5 January when he'll join the team."

The 34-year-old former Portugal winger will sign a 17-month contract.

Al Ittihad are historically one of the most successful Saudi teams and are based in the Red Sea port of Jeddah.

Al Sanie added: "We chose Figo because he's a big star and the coach asked us to look for a midfielder and, after we suggested Figo, he welcomed the idea."

Figo retired from internationals after the World Cup third-place play-off with Germany in July - in which he earned a record 127th cap for Portugal. Before signing for Inter in 2005, Figo played for Sporting Lisbon, Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

US ex-President Gerald Ford dies

Former US President Gerald Ford has died aged 93.
Last month he became the longest-living US president when he reached 93 years and 122 days, passing the record held by Ronald Reagan.

Mr Ford was never elected president. He took office after Richard Nixon resigned over the Watergate scandal in 1974 but lost to Jimmy Carter in 1976.

President George W Bush paid tribute to Mr Ford, a fellow Republican, praising his "integrity and common sense".

Gerald Ford was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and lived with Betty, 88, at Rancho Mirage, about 130 miles (210km) east of Los Angeles in southern California.
The former president suffered ill health this year and he was taken to hospital four times for tests and angioplasty. He suffered a stroke in 2000.

The BBC has published Mr Ford's obituary. Read it here.

How will hi-tech criminals attack Vista?

Vista will be the big event in computer security in 2007, say experts and add that it will have a profound effect on both sides of the security world.

Many organised hi-tech criminals and crime gangs are already tearing the new version of Windows apart looking for ways to exploit its weaknesses, say some.
Others are expecting to see Vista attacked soon after it debuts.

While Microsoft's business customers have been able to buy Vista since 30 November, consumers are being forced to wait until late January 2007 to get their hands on the next version of the Windows operating system.

Microsoft has said that the whole development process of the operating system has been run with better security in mind. Within Vista are several technologies that could stop many people falling victim to the most common sorts of malicious attack, said Kevin Hogan, director of security operations at Symantec.

In particular, he said, the way Vista handles user accounts will limit the freedom malicious programs have to run and install themselves surreptitiously.

Increasingly, said Mr Hogan, hi-tech criminals were booby-trapping benign looking webpages with code that slips through vulnerabilities in the various versions of Windows. It should also help stop people being caught out by malicious attachments on e-mail messages.

"That'll deal with a lot of the current threats we are seeing," said Mr Hogan.

Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at security firm F-Secure, said the warnings that these account controls display when malicious code tries to install itself will prove useful.
"It'll become much more obvious when they get infected," he said.
For more innformation check this BBC News article.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Worship God not technology, Pope says on Christmas

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) –
Mankind, which has reached other planets and unraveled many of nature's secrets, should not presume it can live without God, Pope Benedict said in his Christmas message on Monday.

Speaking to tens of thousands of people in a sunny square, he wished the world a Happy Christmas in 62 languages - including Arabic, Hebrew, Mongolian and Latin - but his speech highlighted his preoccupation with humanity's fate.

In an age of unbridled consumerism it was shameful many remained deaf to the "heart-rending cry" of those dying of hunger, thirst, disease, poverty, war and terrorism, he said.

"Does a 'Savior' still have any value and meaning for the men and women of the third millennium?" he asked in his Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) message to the faithful in St Peter's Square. "Is a 'Savior' still needed by a humanity which has reached the moon and Mars and is prepared to conquer the universe; for a humanity which knows no limits in its pursuit of nature's secrets and which has succeeded even in deciphering the marvelous codes of the human genome?"

He appealed for peace and justice in the Middle East, an end to the brutal violence in Iraq and to the fratricidal conflict in Darfur and other parts of Africa, and expressed his hope for
democratic Lebanon".

For more of the Reuters story

"For Christ's sake, it's Christmas Eve!"

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German taxi driver who shouted "Oh, for Christ's sake, it's Christmas Eve!" when a robber put a gun to his head scared the thief away.

The teenager opened the parked taxi's door in the western town of Bielefeld and demanded money Sunday evening, police spokesman Michael Mehler said.

The driver refused and jumped out, shouting for help. The two scuffled briefly before the thief fled.

"The taxi driver's resistance and reference to Christmas evidently unsettled the bandit," Mehler said Monday.
An 18-year-old and his 16-year-old accomplice were later arrested.
The whole story here.

Chinese students against Western cultural invasion

BEIJING, Dec 22 (Reuters Life!) - Ten doctoral students from three of China's top universities have posted an online petition slamming local Christmas celebrations and calling on people to "resist Western cultural invasion," state media said on Friday.

The students railed against "American and European culture" expanding throughout China along with "their technological and economic domination," the China Daily said.

"Occidental culture has been more like storms sweeping through the country rather than mild showers," the paper quoted the petition -- dated with China's traditional lunar calendar -- as saying.

It was a "failure on the part of the government to maintain Chinese traditions, while encouraging the economy."

The authors criticized retailers for using the festival to boost business and local people for reveling without knowing the origin of the occasion, the paper said.

"On Christmas Eve, people must wait for seats at nearly every restaurant in Beijing and other cities in China," the authors lamented.
For more of the Reuteurs story

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas goes digital for many

Christmas is a time for family but it is also a time for playing with new gadgets and toys received during the festive period.

More than $30 billion (£17bn) in consumer electronics is expected to be bought worldwide in the run up to Christmas and mobile phones have broken into the top 10 most wanted children's presents, according to analysts Deloitte.

The BBC asked six of their panel of technology addicts to reveal how they will be spending their digital Christmas.

Read more here.

My Christmas wish for you

Dear Friends,
This is a beautiful Christmas poem. I don't know its author, but whoever wrote it so simple did a great job. I wish you a Merry Christmas.

My Christmas Wish For You

My Christmas wish for you, my friend
Is not a simple one
For I wish you hope and joy and peace
Days filled with warmth and sun

I wish you love and friendship too
Throughout the coming year
Lots of laughter and happiness
To fill your world with cheer

May you count your blessings, one by one
And when totalled by the lot
May you find all you've been given
To be more than what you sought

May your journeys be short, your burdens light
May your spirit never grow old
May all your clouds have silver linings
And your rainbows pots of gold

I wish this all and so much more
May all your dreams come true
May you have a Merry Christmas friend
And a happy New Year, too …

Saturday, December 23, 2006

London fog, but spectacular views

Thick fog covers the London Eye - one of the main tourist attractions in the British capital.

Fog has caused a lot of trouble all over London in the past few days.
British Airways domestic flights have resumed at Heathrow after being cancelled since Wednesday due to fog. The first flight to take off following the suspension left at 1322 GMT, bound for Newcastle.

Olive oil 'can cut cancer risk'

Adding plenty of olive oil to a diet could help protect against cell damage that can lead to cancer, experts say. A study of 182 European men found those who had 25 millilitres of olive oil per day had reduced levels of a substance which indicates cell damage.

The Danish team said it may explain why many cancer rates are higher in northern Europe than the south, where olive oil is a major part of the diet.

The Copenhagen University Hospital researchers looked at 182 healthy men aged between 20 and 60 from five European countries. The scientists added either virgin, common or refined olive oil to their diets over two weeks.

At the end of study, scientists measured levels of the substance which indicates oxidative damage to cells, called 8oxodG, in the men's urine.

Oxidative damage is a process whereby the metabolic balance of a cell is disrupted by exposure to substances that result in the accumulation of free-radicals, which can then damage the cell.
The men were found to have around 13% less 8oxodG compared with their levels at the beginning of the study.

At the beginning of the study, men from northern Europe had higher levels of 8oxodG than those from southern Europe, supporting the idea that olive oil had a reductive effect.

Olive oil contains a number of compounds, called phenols, which are believed to act as powerful antioxidants.

But the Danish researchers said the men in the study used the three different oils, which had different levels of phenols, so that was unlikely to explain the protective effect.
They said that, instead, the monounsaturated fats in olive oil were probably behind the effect.

The scientists, led by Dr Henrik Poulsen, wrote in the FASEB journal: "These data provide evidence that olive oil consumption explains the difference in cancer incidence between north and southern Europe."

Dr Anthea Martin, science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: "The effect of diet on cancer risk is very complex because of the many different components of the food we eat.

"Although this study suggests that olive oil can reduce DNA damage that could lead to the development of cancer, more long-term research is needed to confirm these effects."

She added: "We do know that a healthy, balanced diet, including plenty of vegetables and fruit and limited amounts of red and processed meat, can help reduce the risk of cancer."

BBC story here.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Europe's 'biggest dinosaur' found

Fossils found in Spain belong to what was probably Europe's biggest ever dinosaur, according to scientists.
Turiasaurus would have been 30 to 37 metres long, and would have weighed between 40 and 48 tonnes.

Writing in the journal Science, researchers say the beast is probably the only member so far discovered of a European group of Jurassic reptiles.

The world's biggest recorded dinosaur is Argentinosaurus, a South American reptile twice as heavy. Like the rest of the giant long-necked sauropods, Turiasaurus riodevensis was a herbivore, despite the fierce appearance of its teeth.

Fossils came to light in 2004 at Teruel in eastern Spain, and the scientists responsible, from the Fundacion Conjunto Paleontologico de Teruel-Dinopolis, have just published a formal analysis.
At 1.79m long, its humerus (upper arm bone) is one of the largest ever recorded, while one of its claws is comparable with a rugby ball or American football.
The discovery site also contains teeth from theropod dinosaurs, Stegosaurus remnants, and fragments from fish and turtles.

By comparing its features with other European dinosaurs, the scientists deduce that it belongs to a previously unknown clade, or grouping, which evolved in the Jurassic period (200 to 145 million years ago).

Teeth excavated in France, Portugal and the UK are similar, indicating that Turiasaurus , or more likely its close relatives, ranged across the continent.
BBC story: Read more here.

Sweet shop boss fired!

The manager of a chocolate shop has been forced to leave Barrow-in-Furness after he outraged locals by branding it rough and boring in an online diary. The town has over 50,000 inhabitants and is a centre of excellence for nuclear submarines.

Steve Beall, 20, moved from his home town to run the new cafe in Thorntons in Barrow-in-Furness. However, his comments about the town on a weblog so annoyed local residents they descended on the shop and the police had to be called. He has now left his post and the head of the chocolate firm has apologised.

When vandals smashed the shop window before it even opened, Mr Beall vented his frustration on a popular file sharing website. He said the town was rough and boring, and had no idea how people could bear to live in it. When the comments were printed in a local paper, residents visited the shop and invited him to go elsewhere.

Mr Beall has now left the town, and Thorntons has apologised to its residents.
Mike Davies, chief executive, said: "On behalf of Thorntons, I would like to apologise for the disparaging comments made by one of our employees about the town of Barrow-in-Furness.
"These comments do not reflect the company's views or those of its other employees."

Councillor Terry Waiting, leader of Barrow Council's Labour group said that Barrow was a very friendly place.
"It's a town that's like a big village, everyone knows everyone else.
"There's also a great location near the sea and the Lake District. It's the best place God made."
BBC story here.

Flu 'could wipe out 62 million'

A global flu pandemic could kill 62 million people, experts have warned.

The 1918 pandemic claimed 50 million lives, and experts predict the toll today would be higher than this, despite medical advances.

The world's poorest nations would be hardest hit, fuelled by factors such as HIV and malaria infections, the Harvard University researchers believe. Yet developing countries can least afford to prepare for a pandemic, they say.

Lethal global flu epidemics tend to occur three or four times a century. Some scientists believe a new one may be imminent and could be triggered by bird flu. So far there have been only 258 cases of the latest strain of avian flu, H5N1, recorded in humans.

But the fear is that this strain could mutate and spread quickly and easily between people, triggering a deadly pandemic. It is estimated between 50,000 and 700,000 people could die in the UK if such an event occurred.
BBC story. Read more.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Smoothies: the new coffee wars?

In the 80s, fast-food burger joints flooded UK town centres.
By the 90s, coffee shops took their place on every street corner.
But now that the noughties are well established, the new fast food fight is on a rather healthier battlefield.

Warnings about obesity and increased awareness of the importance of eating five fruit a day have fuelled a surge in healthy eating.

The UK smoothie market is worth £100m and doubling yearly.
London's Crussh, which opened its 15th branch just off Oxford Street in October, is the UK's biggest smoothie chain. The firm, now eight years old, expects to turn over more than £5m this year.

Boost Juice Bars, which has nearly 200 outlets stretching from Australia to Kuwait, is set to enter the market, with plans to open bars in Manchester, Oxford and Nottingham by March 2007.

The firm recently signed a deal with former Millie's Cookies owner Richard O'Sullivan to bring the brand to the UK.

And although the world's largest smoothie chain, US-based Jamba Juice, has yet to enter the UK market, chains such as Love Juice and Fruit Boost are also expanding.
BBC: Read more here.

Air travel fog ordeal continues

Fog has disrupted domestic and international flights at Heathrow and other airports.
Dense fog is continuing to cause misery for Christmas holiday travellers at Heathrow and other UK airports. Hundreds of domestic flights and some international flights are grounded.

Heathrow has been the worst hit, with 40,000 people affected, and services from Gatwick, Manchester and Cardiff have also been disrupted. Passengers said they were angry about a lack of information.

About 350 flights out of Heathrow have been cancelled on Thursday, a 40% reduction.
Napil Berry, 37, from Nottingham, said he had missed his sister's wedding in Stockholm.
Sitting outside the terminal concourse, he said: "I told my sister I'm not going to make it. She said: 'Try to come in time for Christmas.'

"I'm not angry with BA about it but I am angry and upset I missed my sister's wedding."
The BBC's Lucy Rodgers in Heathrow said that by 1200 GMT the scene in Terminal One seemed to be calming after the morning chaos.

The disruption will continue on Friday, with British Airways announcing it would be operating no domestic flights in and out of Heathrow and a reduced short-haul schedule because of the fog. About 100 flights in total have already been cancelled.
Read more here.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Mourinho makes apology to Johnson

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has apologised for comments he made about Everton striker Andrew Johnson after Sunday's 3-2 victory at Goodison Park. Mourinho claimed Johnson had dived to win a penalty and Everton responded by saying they would make an official complaint to the Football Association.

"Everton, his manager and he deserve my apologies," said Mourinho. Everton chief executive Keith Wyness added: "Common sense has prevailed and this is an end to the matter."

A spokesman for the FA said: "We are pleased this issue has been sensibly resolved.
"It is important to remind everybody in football of the need to respect opponents and other people in the game for the good image of the sport."

Everton initially said they were taking legal advice because the remarks questioned Johnson's "professionalism and integrity".

The incident occurred when Johnson went down after challenging Chelsea keeper Hilario for the ball. Mourinho said that he had now watched the incident again on video and had a different view of it.
BBC story: Read more here.

Interesting stories on December 20th

Two-headed reptile fossil found

Scientists have found what is thought to be the first example of a two-headed reptile in the fossil record. The abnormal animal, belonging to a group of aquatic reptiles, was unearthed in northeastern China and dates to the time of the dinosaurs.

The specimen reveals that it must have been very young when it died and became fossilised, says lead researcher Eric Buffetaut. Details of the fossil appear in the UK Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

This animal was a choristoderan, an extinct reptile that reached a length of one metre in adulthood and was characterised by a long neck - two in this case.

The animal's spinal column divided in two at the point where the neck emerges from the body. This formed two long necks that ended in two skulls.

Choristoderans seem to have been common aquatic reptiles during the Cretaceous Period (144 to 65 million years ago) in what is now northeastern China.
BBC story. Read more …

Discovery space shuttle undocks

The space shuttle Discovery has undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) after an eight-day stay on the orbiting outpost. Early on Tuesday, astronauts fixed jammed solar panel on the ISS during an unscheduled fourth spacewalk.

A US astronaut on the space station has switched places with a member of the seven-person Discovery crew and will travel back to Earth on the orbiter.

Discovery detached from the space station at 2210 GMT.
"We finished all the mission objectives so we are very pleased. It's a great day for the ISS programme and the shuttle programme," said Kirk Shireman, deputy manager of the ISS programme.

The mission had three main objectives: installation of a two-tonne truss to the girder-like ISS structure, the rewiring of the power and thermal systems, and the retraction of an old solar array to allow a new one to collect solar energy.
BBC story.

The first foundation columns have been laid for the Freedom Tower that will replace the World Trade Center in New York.
On September 11, 2001, two hijacked planes hit the two towers and they fell, killing 2,749 people.

Norway tackles toxic war grave

It was not quite the deadly legacy the Germans had in mind when they deployed a U-boat on a daring mission to Japan
In the last desperate months of World War II a German U-boat (U-864) set sail in December 1944, packed with 65 tonnes of weapons-grade mercury destined to help the Japanese win back supremacy over the US in the Pacific - and divert American attention away from Europe in the process.
Neither the cargo nor the 73 men on board made it. The U-boat was torpedoed to the bottom of the North Sea floor by a British submarine.

More than 60 years on, its toxic cargo is slowly leaking into the waters off the coast of Norway, an ecological time bomb threatening marine - and potentially human - life.

Now the Norwegian government is set to act, following recommendations that the wreck be hermetically sealed to prevent any more of the mercury from escaping.

BBC story. Read more.

Are you spending or saving at Christmas?

Are you flashing the cash or counting the pennies in the run up to Christmas? With Christmas just a few days away, the retail world is becoming increasingly polarised.While some companies are performing well others are struggling with sales down.The BBC has been asking people to send them their comments.

Two comments:

I have spent sufficient to keep the family and friends happy.When young, my family did not mention Christmas until half way through the month, and decorations went up on the eve.It now lasts too long, with people trying to outdo each other with expensive gifts, trendy toys and other things that are electrical fashion items.
Jeremy, UK

I spend less at Christmas than at any other time of the year. At the supermarket my usual groceries are sold out. Pubs are closed or full of loud people so better to stay home. I can't understand why people spend, spend, spend. It just annoys me that my workplace closes for a week - so I can't go to work and earn money even though I want to. What is the point of being on holiday from work when the weather is crap.

The BBC has more ...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Robber's gun was a TV remote control

A robber who tried to hold up a Chinese takeaway with a TV remote control has been jailed for four years. William Dunnachie entered the Welcome Inn in Stirling (Scotland) and threatened to "shoot" the owner, Lai Wong.

At the High Court in Edinburgh the 38-year-old, who admitted the attempted robbery in 2005, was told he would be supervised for three years on release.

He received a further two years and three months for admitting being concerned in the supply of diazepam (a drug).
Judge Lady Dorrian also ordered Dunnachie to be supervised for three years after the end of his sentence.
BBC story

Veteran of both world wars dies

The last British serviceman to serve in both World War I and World War II has died aged 106.
Captain Kenneth Cummins served in the Royal Navy in WWI and in the Merchant Navy in WWII.

Until his death at home in Great Bedwyn in Wiltshire on 10 December, he was one of five WWI veterans living in the UK. Dennis Goodwin, chairman of the WWI Veterans' Association, said: "Any death of a veteran of WWI means the end of a unique and special generation."

The four WWI veterans who survive him are: William Stone, 106, of Oxford; Henry Allingham, 110, from Sussex; Philip Mayne, 107, of Richmond, North Yorkshire; and Harry Patch, 108, from Somerset.

In WWII, Mr Cummins survived the torpedoing of his ship, the Viceroy of India, which was owned by P&O but used by the military.

"Ken was one of the icons," said Mr Goodwin.
"It was the likes of Ken and all the vets who survived WWI who put this country back on its feet and made Britain what it is today."
BBC text

Monday, December 18, 2006


BBC News is featuring a series of reports on migration entitled, World on the Move, to coincide with UN World Migrants Day (December 18th).
The material is worthwhile. So what are you waiting for, guys?

Use the link below to find out more on the issues surrounding migration.

There are now more than 191 million migrants, more than ever before, according to the United Nations.
If all these people belonged to the same country it would have the fifth largest population on earth.
People leave their homes for many different reasons. They could be in search of a better job, lifestyle or education, or they could be struggling to escape poverty, famine or war.

Migrant numbers have more than doubled since the 1960s. The country that attracts the most people from abroad is the United States, with 35 million, followed by Russia and Germany on 13.3 and 7.3 million people respectively.
China sees the most people leave, followed by India and the Philippines. About half of all migrants are bound for North America and Europe.
Although migration can benefit the host country by boosting local economies, it is estimated that around 30 million migrants enter the global workforce illegally.

The number of people who fled their own countries to seek sanctuary elsewhere fell by nearly a million over the course of 2005, according to the UN.

The number of refugees now stands at over eight million, with most people being hosted by Pakistan, Iran and Germany. Afghanistan accounts for nearly a quarter of all refugees, but the figure is now dropping.

Refugees are among the most vulnerable of migrants, as are those termed "internally displaced people" or IDPs. The number of IDPs grew during 2005, partly because of violence in places like Iraq and Sudan.

The numbers of migrants, and migrant workers in particular, has reached record levels in the UK.
Over 1.5 million foreign workers were employed here in 2005, according to the Labour Force Survey.
This huge increase is mostly due to workers coming into the UK from the new EU member states in eastern Europe, especially Poland.

The Migration Research Unit at University College London has described the situation as "almost certainly the largest single wave of in-migration (with Poles the largest ever single national group of entrants) that the British Isles have ever experienced".

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Celebrating birthdays is a very old custom

It's my wife's birthday today. Congratulations, darling wife. Happy birthday to you and many many many happy returns of this day.

That's why I've decided to post something about birthdays.

Read this interesting text.

Ancient people did not know the exact day of their birth, yet measured time by using the moon and the seasons. When calendars were developed, they made it easy for people to celebrate important events like birthdays.

Many of the symbols that we associate with birthdays had their roots hundreds of years ago.

There are a few explanations as to why we have birthday cakes. Some say it is because the Greeks used to take cakes to the temple of the goddess of the moon, Artemis. Another view is that the tradition of the birthday cake started in Germany.

Another symbol that is closely tied to the birthday cake is the custom of putting candles on the cake. The Greek people who took their cakes to Artemis placed candles on the cake because it made the cake look as if it was glowing like the moon. The Germans were known as good candle makers and started to make small candles for their cakes. Some people say that the candles were put on for religious reasons. Some Germans place a big candle in the center of the cake to symbolize the "light of life" . Others believed that the smoke from fires would take their wishes up to heaven. Today many people make silent wishes as they blow out their candles. They believe that blowing out all the candles in one breath will bring good luck.

A gathering or party is usually held so that the birthday person can have their cake and blow out the candles. The very earliest parties were held because people thought that evil spirits would visit them on their birthdays. They stuck close to their friends and family so that the evil spirits would not bother them. Later on parties were gatherings where friends and family members would give gifts or flowers to the person having the birthday. Today lots of birthday parties are for fun. If people cannot visit someone on their birthday they often send them a birthday card or call them or send them a message.The tradition of sending birthday cards was started in England about 100 years ago.

If you are interested in this subject you can read more here (teacher link site) or here (Wikipedia).

Quiz: Idioms

Idioms use language metaphorically.
To learn English idioms, BBC English provides you with very good resources. In the meantime, try this quiz.

Fingers and thumbs

1. “John has green fingers.”
a. John’s fingers are the colour green.
b. John has little experience.
c. John is very good at gardening.

2. “She never lifts a finger.”
a. She’s tired.
b. She’s very lazy.
c. She’s ill.

3. After the money was stolen in the office, she pointed the finger at her colleague.
a. She accused her colleague of stealing the money.
b. She hurt a colleague with her finger.
c. She told her colleague he could have stolen her ring.

4. I'll have my fingers crossed for you when you sit your exam.
a. I don’t care.
b. I wish you a lot of pain.
c. I wish you luck.

5. He's really clever. He's got every answer right at his fingertips.
a. He knows the answers without having to think about them.
b. He has written the answers on his fingers.
c. He cheats.

6. You can count the friends she has on the fingers of one hand.
a. She’s got lots of friends.
b. She doesn’t have many friends.
c. She writes her friends’ names on her fingers.

7. You'd better not lay a finger on him!
a. Don't hurt him!
b. Don’t help him!
c. Don’t accuse him!

8. She's got her finger in every pie. I wish she would just concentrate on her own job instead.
a. She’s eating, not working at all.
b. She loves pies.
c. She's over-involved in every project at work.

9. He stuck out like a sore thumb at the wedding.
a. He accused the bride and bridegroom.
b. At the wedding everybody was dressed formally but he was wearing jeans.
c. He cut himself while cutting a slice of cake.

10. She's completely under his thumb.
a. She dominates him.
b. He is taller.
c. She is dominated by him.

11. He's all fingers and thumbs.
a. He’s good at cooking.
b. He’s very clumsy. Don't give him that plate to carry.
c. He is creative.

12. My idea got the thumbs up from the boss.
a. My boss was pleased.
b. My boss was irritated.
c. My boss accused me of cheating.

13. Don't sit there twiddling your thumbs!
a. Help me finish this here!
b. Don’t be afraid!
c. Don’t worry about your debts!

More BBC resources.
More BBC quizzes.

Key: Move your cursor here.>1c - 2b- 3a - 4c - 5a - 6b – 7a - 8c - 9b - 10c - 11b – 12 a - 13 a

Saturday, December 16, 2006

India 'to approve GM potato'

The commercial growing of a genetically modified potato which contains nutrients lacking in the diets of many of the poorest is expected to be approved in India within six months.

The influential head of the Indian Government's Department of Biotechnology, Dr Manju Sharma, said the potato would be given free to millions of poor children at government schools to try to reduce the problem of malnutrition in the country.

The potato contains a third more protein than normal, including essential high-quality nutrients, and has been created by adding a gene from the protein-rich amaranth plant.

But critics describe the plan as risky, naive and a propaganda tool to promote the merits of GM food in India.

The "protato", as it has become known, is in its final stages of regulatory approval which Dr Sharma said she was very confident of getting. She plans to incorporate it into the government's free midday meal programme in schools.

"There has been a serious concern that malnutrition is one of the reasons for the blindness, the vitamin A deficiency, the protein deficiency," Dr Sharma told the BBC.

"So it is really a very important global concern, particularly in the developing world," she added.

One of India's leading industrialists in biotechnology, Dr Balvinder Singh Khalsi, chief executive of Dupont, said the project had enormous potential for the country.

"We see this as a technology for the future, because the real need for India is to feed its growing population. This technology is really going to the benefit of improving the yields, better quality food, larger quantity," Dr Khalsi said.

Coimbra: Pedro and Ines footbridge

Coimbra has got a new footbridge. It’s so beautiful and revolutionary that two British newspapers have published long articles about Coimbra and its new footbridge, called Pedro and Ines.

Read part of the GUARDIAN’s article. Then you can check THE INDEPENDENT.

Early morning in Coimbra, central Portugal, and the sun peeks out over the Rio Mondego before disappearing behind banks of low cloud and squally rain. This bothers Cecil Balmond, the renowned structural engineer. You have to see the bridge before the sun goes down, he says. But by the time I step on to the bridge, it is bathed in the kind of light that would make the most voluptuous baroque church in Portugal look a little dull.

The brand new Pedro and Ines footbridge over the Rio Mondego is a quiet sensation. Coimbra is a small university city reinventing itself with vigour, and if that sounds like a contradiction in terms, then the bridge exemplifies it. Its structure is revolutionary, yet rather than showy; it is effortlessly elegant. It is also the stuff of engineering sorcery.

The bridge is the fourth to cross the river at Coimbra, and it provides a walkway between two expanding new districts in a highly imaginative way. The two spans - one rising from either bank of the river - launch themselves at different points across the water, as if destined never to meet. They do, but only by performing a dance - the twist, you might call it - over the middle of the river. It's as if two separate and parallel bridges had been the order of the day, but, at the last moment, someone had ordered them to join together. This join between the two spans forms a gloriously unexpected public space at the centre of the bridge, encouraging people to stop, look, chat and generally while away the day.

When the sun comes out, the intriguing asymmetrical structure of the footbridge is etched across the Mondego. The ice-cream coloured glass panels running either side of the pedestrian deck light up, splaying kaleidoscopes into the water below, and bathing the bridge and those crossing it in soft pinks, blues, greens and yellows. When the sun retreats, the bridge is decorum itself, cool, white and almost still.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Bizarre: Mouse escape on Saudi plane

More than 100 passengers on a Saudi plane were left panic-stricken by the unexpected appearance of furry fellow flyers - dozens of mice.

The small rodents - about 80 in total, according to a local newspaper - escaped from the bag of a man travelling on the domestic flight.

An airline official said the aircraft was at 28,000 feet (8,500m) when mice began scurrying around the cabin. Some of the mice fell on passengers' heads, Al-Hayat newspaper reports.

The incident occurred on a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight from the capital, Riyadh, to north-eastern town of Tabuk.

The flight landed safely and the bag's owner was detained by police investigating how he managed to get the mice onto the plane. No explanation was given for the man's live cargo.

Prince William's Sandhurst parade

Prince William was among 220 cadets graduating from Sandhurst. Following a 44-week course, they were being commissioned as officers in the British Army.

The Queen stopped briefly in front of William as she inspected the platoons and said a few words, prompting the second-in-line to the throne to smile for a brief moment.

William's girlfriend Kate Middleton watched as the prince took part in the Sovereign's Parade. He is to join the Household Cavalry's Blues and Royals like brother Harry.

BBC story

High IQ link to being vegetarian

Intelligent children are more likely to become vegetarians later in life, a study says.

A Southampton University team found those who were vegetarian by 30 had recorded five IQ points more on average at the age of 10. Researchers said it could explain why people with higher IQ were healthier as a vegetarian diet was linked to lower heart disease and obesity rates.

The study of 8,179 was reported in the British Medical Journal.

Twenty years after the IQ tests were carried out in 1970, 366 of the participants said they were vegetarian - although more than 100 reported eating either fish or chicken.

Men who were vegetarian had an IQ score of 106, compared with 101 for non-vegetarians; while female vegetarians averaged 104, compared with 99 for non-vegetarians.

There was no difference in IQ score between strict vegetarians and those who said they were vegetarian but who reported eating fish or chicken.

Researchers said the findings were partly related to better education and higher occupational social class, but it remained statistically significant after adjusting for these factors.
Vegetarians were more likely to be female, to be of higher occupational social class and to have higher academic or vocational qualifications than non-vegetarians.

However, these differences were not reflected in their annual income, which was similar to that of non-vegetarians.

Lead researcher Catharine Gale said: "The finding that children with greater intelligence are more likely to report being vegetarian as adults, together with the evidence on the potential benefits of a vegetarian diet on heart health, may help to explain why higher IQ in childhood or adolescence is linked with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease in adult life."

However, she added the link may be merely an example of many other lifestyle preferences that might be expected to vary with intelligence, such as choice of newspaper, but which may or may not have implications for health.

Liz O'Neill, of the Vegetarian Society, said: "We've always known that vegetarianism is an intelligent, compassionate choice benefiting animals, people and the environment.

"Now we've got the scientific evidence to prove it. Maybe that explains why many meat-reducers are keen to call themselves vegetarians when even they must know that vegetarians don't eat chicken, turkey or fish."

But Dr Frankie Phillips, of the British Dietetic Association, said: "It is like the chicken and the egg. Do people become vegetarian because they have a very high IQ or is it just that they tend to be more aware of health issues?"

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Would you like to read / listen to a Christmas story to practise your English?

Try this one:

by Chris Rose

Five people, whose lives interrelate, live the build up to Christmas in different ways in different places. A sudden blackout changes their lives forever ...

You can read the story. If you don't understand any word, you double-click on it and you'll see its definition from Cambridge Online.

You can also listen to this story (Download mp3 file or listen on your own PC. You’re given instructions to download it.)

So you can see the text and listen at the same time.
Finally, you can do a comprehension activity, a vocabulary activity or do some writing.
You can also explore the British Council site. Superb!

Blogging 'set to peak next year'

The blogging phenomenon is set to peak in 2007, according to technology predictions by analysts Gartner.

The analysts said that during the middle of next year the number of blogs will level out at about 100 million. The firm has said that 200 million people have already stopped writing their blogs.

Gartner analyst Daryl Plummer said the reason for the levelling off in blogging was due to the fact that most people who would ever start a web blog had already done so. He said those who loved blogging were committed to keeping it up, while others had become bored and moved on.

"A lot of people have been in and out of this thing," Mr Plummer said.
"Everyone thinks they have something to say, until they're put on stage and asked to say it."

Last month blog tracking firm Technorati reported that 100,000 new blogs were being created every day, and 1.3 million blog posts were written. Technorati is tracking more than 57 million blogs, of which it believes around 55% are "active" and updated at least every three months.

Gartner also predicted that:
By 2010, the average total cost of ownership of new PCs will fall by 50%;
By 2010, 60% of the worldwide cellular population will be "trackable" via an emerging "follow-me internet";
By the end of 2007, 75% of enterprises will be infected with undetected, financially motivated, targeted malware.
Read more here.

Prize offered to tag an asteroid

Do you like astronomy?
Would you like to earn some money? Just imagine this huge rock hits our planet in 2029. How old will you be in 2029?

Read this BBC story to know more both about the asteroid and about the prize.

A $50,000 (£25,000) competition has been launched to find the best way to tag Apophis, a 400m-wide asteroid. The space rock is set to make a close pass of Earth in 2029 and scientists would like to confirm that it poses no danger to our world.

The Planetary Society will give a prize to the designers of a mission that would allow the huge asteroid's orbit to be tracked with the most precision. The competition has support from the US and European space agencies. The winning entry or entries will be submitted to space agencies to see if they want to carry the ideas through.

Apophis will come closer to Earth in 2029 than the orbits of many communications satellites - but it will not hit the planet, that is clear.
The concern centres on the small chance that its orbit could be perturbed enough in the flyby to put the rock on a collision path for its return in 2036.

Further investigations with ground telescopes are expected to show beyond doubt that this will not happen and that Apophis represents zero risk.

And the Planetary Society thinks an innovative tracking mission could make doubly sure. Hence, the prize for an individual or team that can put together the best concept for tagging a huge lump of rock.

"You could use a beacon; you could put a reflector on it that you ping; you could put a spacecraft in orbit and track that. There are any number of possibilities and ones we haven't thought of, I'm sure," said Betts.

Already they are considering a number of concept missions that would assess the best way to deflect or destroy dangerous space rocks.

Read more here.

Another bizarre story

World's tallest man saves dolphin

The world's tallest man has saved two dolphins by using his long arms to reach into their stomachs and pull out dangerous plastic shards.
Mongolian herdsman Bao Xishun was called in after the dolphins swallowed plastic used around their pool at an aquarium in Fushun, north-east China. Attempts to use instruments failed as the dolphins contracted their stomachs.

Mr Bao, 54, was confirmed as the world's tallest living man by Guinness World Records last year, at 2.36m (7ft 8.95in). Guinness World Records say Mr Bao was of normal height until 16 but then put on a spurt that doctors were unable to explain, reaching his full height in seven years.

Veterinarians turned to Mr Bao after attempts to extract the plastic shards at the aquarium in Fushun, Liaoning Province, had failed. The mammals had lost their appetite and were suffering depression, aquarium officials said.

The heads of the dolphins were held back and towels wrapped around their teeth so Mr Bao could not be bitten. He then extended his 1.06m-long arm into the mammals' stomachs.

Chen Lujun, manager of Royal Jidi Ocean World, said Mr Bao was successful and the dolphins were "in very good condition now".

Local doctor Zhu Xiaoling told the state media agency Xinhua: "Some very small plastic pieces are still left in the dolphins' stomachs.
"However the dolphins will be able to digest these and are expected to recover soon."
Read the whole BBC text here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Wi-fi worry

Some schools are removing wi-fi networks after complaints from parents that their children suffer headaches.

In what sounds like a repetition of mobile phone radiation panic, is there evidence for harm?

We've always worried about what the technology around us might do to our bodies:
Sitting too close to the TV.
Standing in front of the microwave.
Spending too long on the mobile.
Living under a pylon, or next to a phone mast.

Now, lots of wireless networks are being created in towns and cities. But some are concerned that we don't know enough about the health effects of electromagnetic radiation - the radio waves that allow the computer network to transmit (along with longwave, FM and TV and phone frequencies). For others, headaches and skin rashes - that they feel are due to the radio waves - are prompting a big switch off.

The worry for parents is that children, who have thinner skulls and developing systems, are exposed to more gadgets and gizmos than previous generations. What might these be doing to their bodies?

Health expert advice is to limit mobile phone use among young people as a precaution. The government advises users to keep calls short.

Some reactions:

I think it's a load of scaremongering with uncertainties and coincidences. Denmark has completed the largest survey of mobile phones and cancer rates over 20 years with tens of thousands of people. And the findings - no significant measurable difference.

Wi-fi uses much less powerful signals than mobile phones. Do the maths people.

Scott Andrews, Colwyn Bay, UK

I used to get intense headaches at work all the time. I attributed it to mobile phones at first, and had I heard of this scare I would have also suggested wi-fi. It turned out it was due to drinking any diet/light drink with sweetener!

Sam Hatoum, London

If this was scaremongering and coincidences, then why did all the major mobile phone distributors bring out a radiation protector to slot into the ear piece? Obviously there is some sort of danger, but no one can prove just how much.
Damien McCourt, Belfast

Ten or 12 years ago people claimed to be suffering similar symptoms. The culprit then was the ozone emissions from laser printers.
Nearly 30 years ago the major Bank I worked for was prepared to provide lead aprons(!) for their male employees concerned at being exposed to these new computers.

There appears to be a tipping point and when "new" technology becomes commonplace such health concerns seem to evaporate.

Anne Robins, Guildford, UK

Read more here.

The Arctic may be free of all summer ice in 35 years!

The Arctic midnight sun over Lancaster Sound, Nunavut, Canada.
New computer modelling shows that the Arctic may be free of all summer ice by as early as 2040, according to a team of US scientists who presented their findings to the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco.

Think about it! That'll be in your lifetime!
What will our planet be like by that time without that ice there where it should be for ever?

Weird story: Turkish Airlines workers eat a camel!

A job well done is worth celebrating, but Turkish Airlines say staff went too far when they sacrificed a camel. To mark the last delivery of 100 aircraft, maintenance workers saved some money to buy the beast - and then consume it … together. The sacrifice took place at Istanbul international airport. 700kg of camel meat was distributed among the workers.

"They didn't ask permission," a spokeswoman for the airline told the BBC, adding that the boss of the offending staff had been suspended. He will remain off work while the incident is investigated.

Camel is eaten in Turkey, while the sacrifice of animals - usually sheep - is performed during the Festival of Sacrifice.

"But it wasn't anything to do with that," said Belgin Alisan of Turkish Airlines. "They went too far. We are really quite shocked."

Read the story here.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


The 10th anniversary of Diana's death

A celebrity concert to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, has been announced. Princes William and Harry are organising the Concert for Diana at Wembley Stadium on 1 July, when she would have turned 46.

Sir Elton John, Duran Duran, Joss Stone, Bryan Ferry and hip-hop star Pharrell Williams will perform. Tickets go on sale at 0900 GMT on Wednesday.

A memorial service will also be held in London at a venue to be confirmed. Announcing the concert, Prince William said: "We both wanted to put our stamp on it. We want it to represent exactly what our mother would have wanted.

"So therefore the church service alone isn't enough. We wanted to have this big concert full of energy, full of the sort of fun and happiness, which I know she would have wanted.
"And on her birthday as well, it's got to be the best birthday present she ever had."

Read more here.

Kylie Minogue is returning to the UK

Pop star Kylie Minogue is returning to the UK stage to play a one-off London concert on New Year's Eve. The Australian singer, who recently took time off to receive treatment for breast cancer, will play the 31 December show at Wembley Arena.

"I've been to some great New Year's parties over the years and I can't wait to host what will be the biggest party of all," Minogue said. The concert will start at 2000 GMT and run until midnight.

The newly-announced show comes on the heels of Minogue's Showgirl comeback tour in Australia last month, which received widespread critical acclaim. It will be her first UK show since her cancer diagnosis in May 2005.
Read more here.

Using primates in research

There is a "strong scientific and moral case" for using primates in some research, a report has concluded. It said in certain circumstances, using non-human primates remained the only way of answering important scientific and medical questions.

However, the report made a number of recommendations, including the creation of dedicated primate research centres.

Scientists welcomed the findings, however an animal rights organisation called it a "whitewash".
About 3,300 primates are used in British laboratories each year.

Many researchers say primates' genetic and physiological similarities to humans make them a prime candidate for testing the safety and efficacy of drugs (about 75% of primates are used for this) or for more fundamental biological research.

Read more here.

English black pupils discriminated against

Black pupils in England are three times more likely to be excluded from school because of "systematic racial discrimination", according to a report.

The Department for Education report says the bias is "largely unwitting". It has rejected any suggestions that schools are institutionally racist.

Latest exam results show black pupils continue to lag behind their classmates but some have been narrowing the gap.

The report was ordered by the government last year - there is as yet no publishing date for it.
Read more here.

Murder police find two more dead

The horrific news of the brutal murders of several women by a serial killer (?) in Ipswich has struck people not only in England but also all over the world. And more bodies have been found…

Two more bodies have been found by police investigating the murders of three prostitutes. A woodland area around the village of Levington, near Ipswich (Suffolk, England) has been sealed off by officers.

Police said it is likely the two bodies are those of two missing women - Paula Clennell and Annette Nicholls. The area is close to where another body was found on Sunday. Two other bodies were also found near Ipswich. Ms Clennell, 24, and 29-year-old Ms Nicholls, have not been heard from since Sunday.
Read more here.

British teenagers' poor verbal skills

Recent research suggests that Britain's teenagers risk becoming a nation people held back by poor verbal skills. The top 20 words used, including yeah, no, but and like, account for around a third of all words, the study says.

Lancaster University's Professor Tony McEnery who conducted the research said vocabulary size was defined early on. His study of blogs, questionnaires and speech found teenagers used half the words of average 25 to 34-year-olds.

Read more here.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Weird story: Russian squirrel pack 'kills dog'

Squirrels have bitten to death a stray dog which was barking at them in a Russian park, local media report.

Passers-by were too late to stop the attack by the black squirrels in a village in the far east, which reportedly lasted about a minute. The attack was witnessed by three local people.

They are said to have scattered at the sight of humans, some carrying pieces of flesh.

A pine cone shortage may have led the squirrels to seek other food sources, although scientists are sceptical.

A "big" stray dog was nosing about the trees and barking at squirrels hiding in branches overhead when a number of them suddenly descended and attacked, reports say.

"They literally gutted the dog," said a local journalist. "When they saw the men, they scattered in different directions, taking pieces of their kill away with them."

Mikhail Tiyunov, a scientist in the region, said it was the first he had ever heard of such an attack. While squirrels without sources of protein might attack birds' nests, he said, the idea of them chewing a dog to death was "absurd".

"If it really happened, things must be pretty bad in our forests," he added.
Read the whole BBC story here.

Pope: Christmas Polluted by Consumerism

Vatican City, Dec. 11 - Pope Benedict XVI said Sunday that Christmas festivities have been polluted by consumerism and suggested that assembling the Nativity scene in the home is an effective way of teaching the faith to children.
Nativity scenes are a common sight in Italian homes around Christmas time, and in an annual tradition children came to St. Peter's Square bearing Nativity figures of baby Jesus for the pontiff to bless.

"In today's consumer society, this time (of the year) is unfortunately subjected to a sort of commercial 'pollution' that is in danger of altering its true spirit, which is characterized by meditation, sobriety and by a joy that is not exterior but intimate," the pope said in his traditional Sunday blessing.

"Assembling the Nativity scene in the home can turn out to be a simple but effective way of presenting the faith to pass it on to one's children," Benedict added.

"The Nativity scene helps us contemplate the mystery of the love of God, which is revealed to us in the poverty and simplicity of the grotto in Bethlehem."
Source: Here

Discrimination against women of all ages 'increases poverty'

Unicef surveyed family decision-making in 30 countries around the world. According to the State of the World's Children 2007 report:

1. Equality between men and women is essential to lowering poverty and improving health, especially of children, in developing countries.

2. Inequality at home between men and women leads to poorer health for the children and greater poverty for the family.

3. Where women are excluded from family decisions, children are more likely to be under-nourished.

4. There would be 13m fewer malnourished children in South Asia if women had an equal say in the family.

5. A greater lack of opportunities for girls and women in education and employment contributes to disempowerment and poverty.

6. Where men control the household, less money is spent on health care and food for the family, resulting in poorer health for the children.

7. In many households across the developing world, women are excluded from health-related decisions.

8. Children in these families are more likely to be undernourished as the family spends less on food.

9. Women also work longer hours than men across the developing world, spending much of their time, even when in paid employment, on household chores.

10. In many families where women work, daughters are taken out of school to perform domestic chores and take care of other children.

11. Increasing employment and income-earning opportunities for women would increase women's household power.

12. Women's involvement in government tends to result in policies that are focused on children and families.

13. Women are under-represented in legislatures around the world due to lower levels of education, social attitudes and their greater work burden.

"There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women," said UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

"Discrimination against women of all ages deprives the world's children - all of them, not just the half who are girls - of the chance to reach their potential."
Read the BBC story here.

Who doesn't want to be famous?

Talent helps.
Being in the right place at the right time can be a good option.
There are many things you can do to be put in the public eye or to gain exposure.

But you’d better read this BBC story.

According to the BBC, publicist Max Clifford has created a 10-point guide to becoming famous.
He has advised would-be stars to appear on reality TV shows, date celebrities or Royal Family members, or steal the limelight from a high-profile relative.

People could also fail abysmally on TV talent contests or make the most of being attractive. Being in the right place at the right time was also a good option, Mr Clifford said.

"There's no set route or set of rules to achieving fame. Nowadays it's possible for people to become famous literally overnight," he advised.
"Talent doesn't even really come into being famous any more - it helps, obviously, but most of it is just about being seen and with the right people, and then really knowing how to capitalise on it."
Paris Hilton, Peaches Geldof and Bianca Gascoigne are among those said to have gained exposure by coming from a famous family. Coleen McLoughlin and Kevin Federline are cited as people who have become famous by dating a celebrity. And when it came to being pictured in the right place at the right time, the examples included Liz Hurley and Kelly Brook.

Mr Clifford, 63, said there were "absolutely no limits" about what people would do nowadays "if they think it will achieve their dreams of fame".

The top five ways to be famous:

1. Appear on a reality series
2. Enter a talent contest
3. Be abysmal on a talent show
4. Gain fame by association
5. Date a celebrity

Friday, December 08, 2006

Greece bans mobiles in schools

Greece's education ministry has banned children from using mobile phones while at school. The ruling follows the rape of a 16-year-old girl during a school sit-in which was reportedly videoed by fellow pupils on their mobiles.

Senior school students who repeatedly ignore the new ruling face the prospect of expulsion.
Almost every Greek school pupil over the age of 15 possesses a mobile phone, according to a recent study. They are mainly used for listening to music, sending text messages and playing games but the gang rape of a 16-year-old Bulgarian girl on the island of Evia has convinced the education ministry that children will have to do without their precious status symbols.

The rape was reportedly videoed by some of the girls' female classmates using their mobile phones. This detail, highlighting callous disregard for the victim's plight, horrified Greece.

There has also been a rise in "happy-slapping" incidents where violent assaults by bullies are captured on video and circulated.

Some Greek television stations have broadcast sensational footage obtained in this way and in so doing have inadvertently accelerated the introduction of restrictions. Teachers and psychologists have concluded that the video taping of bad behaviour encourages further disorder as well as competition amongst pupils to create increasingly shocking images.

The education ministry says that children will no longer be able to bring their phones into schools even if they are switched off.

Teachers are expected to lead by example and they have been told to switch off their phones during school hours otherwise they too face the prospect of disciplinary action.

In other European nations parents provide their children with mobile phones because they are worried about sexual predators. However, Greece remains a relatively safe country in that respect and while in some families mobile phones are regarded as an essential lifeline to home, in tens of thousands of others, they are little more than an expensive fashion accessory.
Read the BBC story here.
You can read another story in a Greek newspaper about the same incident here. "It is a shocking moment for our society," said the Greek President Karolos Papoulias.


Pupils skip school. That’s called truancy.

Combating truancy and stopping children skipping school is a major headache for educators throughout the world. But parents in one part of Spain now get a tell-tale text if their child fails to turn up in class.

See this BBC video here.

In Hull, an English town, children who are out of school without a valid reason are being targeted in a truancy crackdown. Education officers and police will question suspected truants. Any found to be out of class without a good reason will be returned.
Read the whole story here.

Snipes arrested in tax fraud case

Actor Wesley Snipes has been arrested in Orlando after surrendering himself to authorities on tax fraud charges.

The 44-year-old flew into an Orlando airport and gave himself up, a spokesman for his new film said.

An arrest warrant was issued in October for the Hollywood star over reports he had dodged millions of dollars in taxes in 1996 and 1997.

He says he is a scapegoat and has been unfairly targeted. If convicted he faces up to 16 years in prison.

Mr Snipes was filming Gallow Walker in Namibia when the arrest warrant was issued. He was not forced to leave the country as the African nation does not have an extradition treaty with the US.

Ian Thompson, a spokesman for Sheer Films, which is producing Gallow Walker, told the Associated Press that Mr Snipes planned to return to Namibia after the court appearance to finish work on the film.

Read more here.