22 August 2013 Last updated at 09:44

As it happened: Thursday's Today programme

Key Points

  • Follow Thursday's Today programme with Sarah Montague and James Naughtie.
  • Including: UN officials describe alleged chemical weapons attacks which Syria's opposition says killed hundreds near Damascus were a 'serious escalation'.
  • Only half of all seven year olds do the minimum recommended amount of physical activity, according to the BMJ and is being an only child bad for you?
  • Comment and join in with the debate on our Facebook page or by using the #r4today hashtag on Twitter.

    Good morning. Sarah Montague and James Naughtie are presenting Thursday's programme, live on Radio 4 until 0900. We will bring you live coverage of the programme plus full reaction. Listen live on the iPlayer here.

    A boy, affected by what activists say was a gas attack, is treated at a medical center in the Damascus suburbs of Saqba. A boy, affected by what activists say was a gas attack, is treated at a medical center in the Damascus suburbs of Saqba.

    Syria: UN weapons inspectors in Syria are trying to access to the scene of what's said to have been a catastrophic chemical weapons attack - but Russian and Chinese opposition on the Security Council in New York blocked a statement that would have demanded access for them. Read the latest report and watch film said to be from Damascus.


    Syria: Dr Mohammed Najjar, of the opposition group the Syrian National Coalition, says: "the world is still carelessly watching babies and children being slaughtered".


    Syria: Dr Mohammed Najjar says there was "absolutely no doubt" the Syrian regime was responsible for the alleged attack as noone else had the capability of committing it.


    Coming up before 0800: Will Egypt's Hosni Mubarak be released on bail, GCSEs results: what to expect, and are children getting enough exercise?


    Coming up before 0900: International reaction to Syria chemical weapons allegations, the Bo Xi Lai trial in China and is being an only child unhealthy?

    Sarah Montague

    Here's Sarah in the studio at New Broadcasting House on a rainy Thursday morning in central London. Remember you can join in the discussion on Twitter, using the #r4today hashtag.

    Lucy Matthews

    tweets: Khalid Abdallah's interview was so full of emotion it was hard to listen to #r4today

    Annemarie Wyley

    tweets: @BBCr4today played clip of kids screaming/doctor describing what he witnessed. And toothless UN does nothing. Nauseating #Syria

    Hosni Mubarak

    Egypt: The former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak could be released on bail later after a court ruled he had served the maximum amount of pre-trial detention. Read about the latest developments here.


    GCSEs: If you're a parent nervously awaiting your teenager's results, here's a guide we wrote last week on what to say on exam day.


    Children's exercise For a hint as to a massive contribution to childhood obesity look no further than the breakfast cereal aisle of any supermarket. No "unhealthy" fat there but chocolate, double chocolate, caramel, and other such sugar-rich adjectives rein supreme. It is almost impossible to find any sugar-free product. What a way to start the day!

    Richard Gray

    tweets: Stop this madness"@BBCr4today: "The Syrian regime is probably going to use these weapons again and again" - Dr Muhammad Najjar #r4today"

    Mark H

    tweets: @BBCr4today no proof yet that it was assad.


    Housing: Almost 400,000 homes in England have been given planning permission but have yet to be built, according to the Local Government Association. Read the BBC story here and the LGA's report in full here.


    Housing: Mike Jones, a Conservative councillor who chairs the Local Government Association's environment and housing board, says councils want the Treasury to remove the artificial cap on what councils can borrow to build new housing.


    Housing: Mr Jones says the problem is the supply is in developers being able to get the finance to build the housing.


    Housing: Mark Prisk, the Housing Minister says the LGA is using out of date and misleading figures from 2011. He says just 60,000 houses are stalled.


    The morning's papers are reporting "outrage" over alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syria. Read more here.

    Nicolas Chinardet

    tweets: this government is supposed to be all about localism. Why not let the councils do what they want with housing? #r4today

    Anna Dickie

    tweets: It didn't hurt Ansel Adams, Al Pacino or Cole Porter #onlychildren

    Laura Wilkes Local democracy think tank

    tweets: Prisk also highlighting role of housing associations in housing supply.#LocalGov &housing associations need to work together better #R4Today

    A cine reel

    Films: How do film-makers know whether their films will make money? Oxford University scientists say the answer may lie in tracking the Wikipedia activity about a film prior to its release. Read the report on Oxford University's website.

    Simon Jack Today business news

    tweets: Banks agree to £1.3 billion compensation fund for people missold card fraud protection. 7m people bought/renewed 23m policies. Are you one?

    Joe Sarling Senior economist at Shelter

    tweets: Isn't it land bought at height of market? MT @BBCr4today:"The problem is in the supply of developers having finance to build" Mike Jones LGA


    Films: Catherine Bray, critic and editor of Film4.com says: "I don't know whether a studio will find it helpful that they've got a flop on their hands a month before release."


    Films: "This is a very complicated area to predict, box office takings are difficult to predict," says Nick Bower, Ingenious Investments, which has backed films like Avatar.


    Exercise: Only half of seven year olds in the UK do the government-recommended levels of physical activity, with Bangladeshi children and those living in Northern Ireland being the least active. Read the BBC report here and full details of the research in the report from BMJ Open.

    Christine Bell

    tweets: It is frightening how early in life we observe a gender difference in rates of physical activity @BBCr4today


    CCP: One listener has replied to Simon Jack's appeal for victims of CCP policy mis-selling, asking what she should do next. Simon says victims will be contacted by their banks in the next few weeks - and that claims management companies are not needed, so ignore any texts.


    Exercise: "Boys often dominate the playgrounds. At well-organised schools, everyone's involved in exercise," Eileen Marchant of the Physical Education Association says.


    Exercise: "What we need to see is a positive attitude to offering choice of activity, and inclusiveness for all children," Carol Dezateux, professor of paediatric epidemiology says.

    Syrian refugees, fleeing the violence in their country,

    Syria: UN officials say alleged chemical weapons attacks which Syria's oppositions says killed hundreds near Damascus were a "serious escalation". See the BBC's gallery of the photojournalism that has come from Damascus where the chemical weapons attacks are alleged to have taken place.


    Syria: And read what the UN's security council have been discussing after the alleged chemical weapon attack, here.

    0812: Jeremy Bowen BBC Middle East editor

    tells the Today programme he spent Wednesday going through the videos on YouTube and what struck him was it was impossible to fabricate. But with the weapons inspectors in town would Assad's regime be daft enough to launch a chemical attack with inspectors in town? Some say yes, others say no.

    0813: Jeremy Bowen BBC Middle East editor

    says at the very least the UN inspectors can find out precisely what chemical was used in the weapons, but they cannot find out who fired them.

    0815: Jeremy Bowen BBC Middle East editor

    says the group in Syria with greatest capacity of doing this was without doubt the Assad regime.


    Syria: Sir Jeremy Greenstock, former British ambassador to the UN, says if the Russians want it to be clear that the regime did not do this they should be supporting an inspection. They know more than we do about going on - why are they not asking for an inspection?


    Syria: Mark Malloch-Brown, former deputy secretary general of the UN, says the Assad regime are badly misreading the West and particularly the US if they think they have a blank cheque to commit an atrocity and have it non-responded to.

    Robert Peston Business editor

    tweets: Being mis-sold credit card protection turns out to have been a good investment, since redress gives victims 8% interest on what they paid

    Fergus Walsh Medical correspondent

    tweets: How do you motivate children to exercise? New blog on the inactivity time bomb affecting the young. Read it here.

    Bo Xilai in court

    China: Disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai has denied one of the bribery allegations against him, as he went on trial in Jinan. Watch film of the the former Chongqing Communist Party leader speaking in court.

    0837: John Simpson World Affairs Editor, BBC News

    tells the Today programme that Bo Xilai is a very charming character. "He's a highly intelligent, fine-minded man, but not a team player."


    Business news with Simon Jack on reports that UK banks are to pay up to £1.3bn in compensation for miss-selling insurance.

    Ten pound notes

    CPP: Chris Skinner from the Financial Services Club says people will be contacted by CPP and the banks will place adverts so customers know about the issue. He says the average claim will be £300.


    Housing: The government has disputed figures from the Local Government Association which suggest almost 400,000 homes in England have been given planning permission but have yet to be built. Read more on what the study has found here.

    Construction work on a housing development in Basingstoke Construction work on a housing development in Basingstoke

    Housing: Roger Harding, head of policy, research and public affairs at homelessness charity Shelter, says bolder solutions from the government are needed. "One of the issues is the developer market is concentrated and they have slowly ramped up the number of homes they are making and their profit margins. We need to see more small and medium sized developers to get into the market," he says.


    Housing: John Stewart, director of economic affairs at Home Builders Federation says house builders have already begun to ramp up their production.


    Housing: Read Shelter's report on its ideas on how to solve the housing problem here.

    Two brothers

    Siblings: Recent research suggesting children with siblings are "healthier, happier and more well-rounded" has led Civitas to urge parents to still consider having more than one child, despite reports on the prohibitive costs. Read the more about the book Sticking Up For Siblings: Who's Deciding the Size of Britain's Families? by Colin Brazier.


    Siblings: Tessa Dunlop, a journalist and historian and mother of an only child, says it seems a spurious and unnecessary argument to be having when the world's population is exploding.

    Martin Foreman

    tweets: Housing problem will never be solved as long as we have exploding population. Only solution is reduce UK population

    Jayne Booth

    tweets: Agree that being an only child is difficult as I am one!!

    Annette Hardy

    Tweets: Only child friend of ours says he has never found sharing difficult because as a child he didn't have to.


    Pride: Insurance workers are proudest of their profession while railway staff are least likely to be satisfied, a new study has claimed. Read more about the study from Randstad that says that workers in property, the media, utilities and leisure also took pride in their sectors, while accountants, nurses and those in retail had below-average pride.

    Commuters on London Bridge
    Sally PC

    tweets: I'm surprised Tessa Dunlop's child has learned how to talk at all. #R4Today #can'tgetawordin

    Rachael Phillips

    tweets: Only Child "debate" on #r4today - this really makes my blood boil. The way they make out only children are somehow sub-standard human beings

    Ruth Livingstone

    tweets: my children used to refer to only children as 'lonely' children. Probably true.

    Daisy Goodwin

    tweets: Fascinated that insurance agents are the most proud of their jobs, especially after another payment protection scandal

    Cecilia Wee

    tweets: spot-on discussion re only child #r4today was depressing growing up as one but now more socially acceptable that only children r human too!


    That's all from us this morning. Our editors today were Monica Soriano and Lewis James. Next up on Radio 4 Inside the Ethics Committee on Genetic Testing in Children. Thanks for reading and all your comments. We'll be back on Friday morning ay 07:00 BST.


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