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Archives for July 22, 2007 - July 28, 2007

10 things we didn't know last week

17:03 UK time, Friday, 27 July 2007

signs_work203.jpgSnippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. There is an itch gene.
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2. More pop stars have been called Paul than any other name.
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3. One-day strikes now account for 55% of industrial stoppages.
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4. Naming an MP is how the speaker of the House of Commons disciplines a member – as happened to George Galloway this week .

5. Only six countries have no scouts - Cuba, Burma, Laos, China, North Korea and Andorra.
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6. Instead of paying inheritance tax, people can donate to museums.
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7. The $100 laptop costs $176.
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8. People who suffer from epilepsy cannot swallow their tongue, despite perceptions to the contrary.
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9. Jerusalem has only one female, Muslim taxi driver.
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10. Obesity is "contagious" - that is people who put on weight lead those around them to think it is OK to be bigger.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Hazel Love for this week's picture of 10 stacked Men at Work signs "stored just outside my office" ).

The Monitor LIVE

11:08 UK time, Friday, 27 July 2007

monitor_live203.gifLunchtime has always been the Monitor's witching hour – an all-too brief spell in the working day when grafters are freed from the 9-5 office slog to indulge in a spot of online loitering (with honourable intent, of course).

But with no caption competition spell to cast its audience under this week, the Monitor is taking a leaf out of the operating manuals of some of its BBC cousins and going LIVE.

Between 12.30pm and 2pm this afternoon, and in place of Friday's letters page*, the Monitor is staging a live and constantly updated extravaganza of comments, conjecture and confabulation submitted by its loyal public. Who knows where it will go, but this, at least, is where it starts - with news that as part of its 10-year strategy for young people, announced yesterday, the government wants to institute "coming of age ceremonies" as a rite of passage into adulthood.

Send your letters on this using the post form above, right and when the half-hour past 12 striketh, hold tight and watch this space.

* Letters already submitted will be considered for Monday's Your Letters page.

---POSTED AT 1401 BST---
MM note: Gone to lunch

---POSTED AT 1400 BST---
I kind of like the whole rites-of-passage idea, but I can't see how it'd be a government thing and work! (and not just because government initiatives rarely seem to work!) From what I gather, from the countries that still have a ceremony for entering manhood have it as very much part of their culture. Whist it may be good if we did have something like that - it could help with a sense of identity, for example - but wouldn't it seem weird having a government run one?
Ben, Aylesbury

Its nearly 1400 is Monitor Live's Cat curling up for a nap yet?
Mike, Nottingham

Yippeee it's Friday
Lynn, Guildford UK

---POSTED AT 1359 BST---
Damn timezones. Missed it.
Cayley, Santiago

It could just be me but on the 'pet detective' story, isn't it just a good chance that - being in a nursing home and all - the population of the home are generally a little closer to death than the rest of us?
basil Long, Newark Notts

---POSTED AT 1358 BST---
The term 'Mummers' will not work on this side of the pond. Philadelphia has Mummers, which are like fancy Morris dancers that perform New Year's and at special events
Candace, New Jersey, US

With regard to the "cat of doom", it's not the first - I used to work in a Hospice and the cat there did exactly the same thing! It was kind of spooky but the patients (who obviously didn't know the story) found his company very reassuring.
Alison, Worthing

---POSTED AT 1356 BST---
A collective noun is a word for a group of things, such as `flock' of sheep. `Mummers' and `monitorites' sound like words for individual readers, to me. I suggest an `imperceptibility' of monitorites.
David Richerby, Athens, Greece

Is it theoretically possible to make marmalade or jam out of a tomato or banana?
Matt Sims, Frome, UK

---POSTED AT 1352 BST---
I can see that Sarah B's comment is all in good jest. But I just wanted to say I am a little offended by the 'daddy's money' comment. I went on a 5 month travels to S America last year all off of my own finances after working full time for 8 months. I have since supported my self through university on those savings plus my student loans without taking a penny off my parents. Please don't lump us all into on box.
Clare, Reading, Berks

I've got a cold at the moment, and was lying on my couch feeling a bit sorry for myself last night. My cat jumped up and cuddled up to me. Having read the cat story earlier that day I jumped up rather fast, and I've now discovered a cat is a far better cure than any of the decongestants/painkillers I've been taking!
Ann H, London, UK

I've heard marmalade is a corruption of "Marie Est Malade" (Mary is sick); Queen Mary ate marmalade as a sort of medicine to cure colds and flu.
S Murray, Chester, UK

Kaz, I've got a killer cat going spare. He's got a perfect record of predicting the deaths of various birds/frogs/mice that he comes across.
Sue, Liverpool

---POSTED AT 1349 BST---
Re Marmalade: The word comes from the Portuguese word for 'quince', which was the original fruit used to make marmalade. The process used to make that is the same process used to make orange (and lime, etc.) marmalade, and is different to the 'jamming' process. Also, marmalade is made with citrus fruits - jam isn't.
Rob,

So is this just a Beta for the new iMonitor then?
Mike, Nottingham

---POSTED AT 1346 BST---
Re Lee Pike's query about the naming of marmalade - in answer to your query I remember my mother telling me it was French and related to malady and made my maman... although she could have been having me on.
sarah b, southampton, uk

Lee - never mind that. Why do Americans call jam 'jelly' when it clearly doesn't wobble?
Michelle, London

Lee - citrus fruits, not just oranges... See this Wikipedia entry
Paul, Glasgow

Where can I get a killer cat?
kaz, cardiff

Re the first letter, from Sarah in Nottingham. Maybe it has something to do with the distances involved?
Lee Pike, Cardiff, UK

---POSTED AT 1342 BST---
Apparently planning the 'ceremonies' will involve lots of young people from different schools - it was in the Metro. Does that mean that they're changing the coming of age to 16 (please no!), if not what about those who aren't at school when they turn 18?
Lee, Manchester

Re Emma's request for a collective noun for Magazine Monitor fans, I think it should be 'Mummers'.
Nona, London

Emma, its Monitorites isn't it?
P.S. Is MJ Simpson on holiday?
Mike, Nottingham

---POSTED AT 1338 BST---
As the letters seem to be a bit slow and not very inspired, I thought I would let you know that the sheep got out of the field yesterday and I had to help shoo them back in.
Linda, Geddington, UK

Why is Marmalade called Marmalade and not Orange Jam?
Lee Pike, Cardiff, UK

Re Catherine O's comment - nNobody says groovy any more. The phrase you're looking for is "Wizard!"
Rob Foreman, London, UK

Re Lydia, Lancaster - you're not the only one, but sadly few of us teens get our letters published.
Sharmina, 18, Manchester

Re Matt's comments on Sara's post - I'm pretty sure the reason Sara was turned away was because she was trying to get a drink...
Rollo Wilkinson, Dorchester

---POSTED AT 1333 BST---
I think it says a lot that "coming of age" these days involves getting absolutely cream-crackered at the local watering hole (and I admit I did that too) whereas much older "coming of age" ceremonies involve chucking you out on your ear with only the shirt on your back and seeing how long you last. I think the latter sounds much more fun! I was recently treated to the story of my local priest (celebrating 60 years of priesthood) whose personal "coming-of-age" involved going to Borneo as a missionary with no money and relying on the goodwill of fellow man to get by. Perhaps the modern equivalent is going to Thailand on a gap year with daddy's money before entering the world of work...
sarah b, southampton, uk

In the article "More Scottish births than deaths" it says "Death rates are also said to be at the lowest total since the introduction of civil registration in 1855." Did civil registration do for a lot of folk, then?
Martin Ruck, Oxford, UK

At Sara from Bristol's comment about being turned away from pubs at 17. According to 'Mock the Week' you can go into a pub at 14 on your own, you just cant drink.
Matt Sims, Frome, UK

---POSTED AT 1330 BST---
What would be the collective noun for a group of Magazine Monitor fans?
Emma Manderson, Cardiff, UK

Ewa.. STEP AWAY FROM THE CAT
Stig, London, UK

---POSTED AT 1322 BST---
Hi, Candace! Don't you ever sleep?
sarah, trieste, italy

Monitor Live on Friday lunchtime? It's a ploy for MM to go home early. Odds on Ten Things being ---POSTED by 4pm?
Ed, Clacton, UK

---POSTED AT 1318 BST---
Apparently wizards come of age at 17. Wish I'd known that line when told to "move on" from pubs at that age.
Sara, Bristol, UK

Yes, we must do more to relate to the nation's teenagers. Groovy!
Catherine O, Maidenhead, UK

The other day, our local paper carried a story about a graduation ceremony from a nursery school for 4-year-olds which seemed a tad premature to me as a rite of passage.
Christina, Bath UK

Kudos to whoever has forfeited their lunch break to run Monitor Live!
Rikki, UK

---POSTED AT 1312 BST---
In my day, the coming of age ceremony was going to the employment exchange to pick up your UB40.
Alan Addison, Glasgow, UK

Re Ian, Bristol - evidently, the same kind of service as those who don't do duvets.
Phil, Cardiff

Maybe these coming of age ceremonies should be inspired by Aboriginal traditions: send teenagers out into the Australian outback for a walkabout for a year or so, living off their own wits. There's plenty of space, and only the brightest and most self-sufficient would come back. That sounds like a ideal coming of age ceremony! :-)
Martin, Bristol, UK

I send this in to celebrate the one time I may ever get my letter published. Plus my friend has just got a kitten and named it Porridge to celebrate MM - FEEL THE LOVE.
Ewa, London, UK

---POSTED AT 1306 BST---
Re coming-of-age ceremonies at 18 - congratulations, they can now pay rent?
Candace, New Jersey, US

Re Sally from London's suggestion, character building for 18-year-olds maybe, but much more fun for everyone would be to get the government to do it?
Simon, Milton Keynes

---POSTED AT 1250 BST---
Could the government perhaps take tips from Bruce Parry's Tribe series? It must be character-building for nudey 18-year-olds to have to jump and run across a line of unruly cattle in front of their entire community.
Sally, London

Surely I can't be the only teenager sick of being stereotyped by a government who are just indignant of their own lost youth?
Lydia, 18, Lancaster

---POSTED AT 1248 BST---
I've been watching this "Going Live" thing for ten minutes now, and there's been not the least sight of a gopher hand puppet, let alone Trevor and Simon. What kind of service is this?
Ian, Bristol

Looking at the prophecy that is the nursery rhyme 'Dr Foster', why did nobody predict these floods years in advance?
Henry Fosdike, Bournemouth

Re coming of age ceremonies… Isn't that when they can legally go into bars and buy alcohol and get smashed instead of illegally doing it?
Peter, Marlow

---POSTED AT 1238 BST---
"Coming-of-age" ceremonies used, aeons ago, to involve "the key to the door". With house prices as they are today, "the key to the shed", perhaps?
Vicki, Stockport

I'm still too freaked out about the killer nursing home cat to contribute fully.
Neil, Chester

---POSTED AT 1234 BST---
This is so thrilling that I am going to add popcorn to my lunch, put my feet on my desk and settle down to watch.
Phil B-C, London

1231, you're late!
Paul, Glasgow

---POSTED AT 1230 BST---
Coming-of-age ceremonies? Don't we already have an archaic ritual for this sort of thing, known by the ancient words 'eighteenth birthday'?
Michelle, London

Apparently British teenagers are more likely to "hang out with other teenagers" than teenagers in other European countries. Who else are they supposed to hang out with? Middle-aged politicians maybe?
Sarah, Nottingham, UK

Paper Monitor

11:01 UK time, Friday, 27 July 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor is all a fluster. With its Magazine cohorts on holiday, and this harebrained idea from its host publication – the Magazine Monitor – to host a live letters page, Paper Monitor has hardly had a moment to digest this mornings daily press pickings.

But enough excuses… the show must go on.

Some two months into Monsoon Britain, the Sun has suddenly latched on to the stark contradiction inherent in its name - hence today's witty masthead rejoinder "…or should it be THE RAIN".

Very droll, but not as cheering as the headline on p28 "From heart op to chart top" heralding an interview with singer Kate Nash.

And just when you thought the paper was coming over all caring and PC, a few pages further comes this gem of arch tabloid sensitivity: "TRANSPOTTING" – "So lads, can you tell the ladies from the ladyboys?" The words grace a double-page spread of 14 over-made-up faces, some with discernibly square jaws chins and obvious Adam's apples.

Paper Monitor scored a dismal three.

Daily Mini-Quiz

10:36 UK time, Friday, 27 July 2007

Thursday's Daily Mini-Quiz dipped a toe into the paradoxical pool of people's assumptions about the United States. The US is the most feared country in the world, according to the Global Opinion Trends survey. But which is the most friendly, it asked? The answer – the United States too. Ten per cent of you answer correctly, while a substantial 39% plumped for New Zealand. Today's DMQ is on the Magazine page.

Your Letters

16:26 UK time, Thursday, 26 July 2007

The top three emailed stories are all about cats this lunchtime. What does that tell us about the state of the nation?
Rich, Bristol, UK

It's not for MM to say, but maybe these will help you work out what it says about the state of the nation Rich.

The top three most emailed stories are currently: 1. US cat 'predicts patient deaths' 2. Tabby cat terror for black bear 3. Unusual car purr was stuck kitten. Are cats taking over the world? Or have they merely discovered how to use the "email this story" link? I think we should be told.
Neil Golightly, Manchester, UK

Regarding the cat that sits by old folk about to die in a retirement home, wouldn't it be a good idea to get rid of the cat and let everybody relax? It's a perfect story for Punorama though.
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

US cat'predicts patient deaths': I think if I were at that nursing home I'd want them to get rid of the cat - it can't be good for moral every time a feline grim reaper sidles into your room. Maybe fear of a supposedly jinxed cat caused heart attacks in weaker residents when they see it coming?
Martin, Bristol, UK

Regarding Cat 'predicts' the deaths of US nursing home residents. Has anyone considered that the cat could be diseased?
Rich, Bristol, UK

Re this psychic Cat has it not occurred to the nursing home that it may a killer cat and actually when it sits down next to someone it is selecting its next victim?!
HannaH, UK

"US cat 'predicts patient deaths'" - would that be prognosis via CAT scan?
Louise Dade, Bedfordshire

Paper Monitor

10:14 UK time, Thursday, 26 July 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

You can almost hear the collective splutter as Guardian readers choke on their outdoor-reared honey-seed morning muesli. The offending article - a G2 picture spread of the annual Turkish oil wrestling championships. While Guardian devotees would doubtless approve of this covering of a little-known ancient indigenous past-time, do they really have to use extra virgin olive oil as their lubricant of choice? Such wanton waste.Think of all those Able and Cole-delivered salad ingredients going wanting...

The Daily Express returns to the Madeline McCann story – announcing "NOW HER PARENTS FACE HATE CAMPAIGN" for a story about how the Leicester Mercury newspaper has closed its message boards on all Madeleine stories. "Madeleine's home town turns against her parents" says the headline inside. What, the entire population of Leicester? The image of several tens of thousands of people hammering out spiteful e-mails is somewhat diminished in the small print (otherwise known as the story itself) where the Mercury's editor blames a "tiny minority of people".

Which reminds Paper Monitor it hasn't been checking on the Daily Mirror's yellow "pray for her" masthead rose for Madeleine. It seems the rose disappeared sometime between 29 June and today.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:43 UK time, Thursday, 26 July 2007

Wednesday was a full marks day for half of Daily Mini-Quizzers. Asked what senior girl guides said was the most important skill they needed to learn for adulthood, 50% answered correctly with financial prudence. Today's Daily Mini-Quiz is on the Magazine page.

Your Letters

15:58 UK time, Wednesday, 25 July 2007

If Girl Guides want advice on safe sex and assembling flat-pack furniture, then my advice would be not to try the former on a self-assembly bed until they are sure they have mastered the latter.
Adam, London, UK

The Footballers in Limo Theft Arrest are said to have been found driving while unfit - to play football or to drive a limo?
Luise, Tamworth

RE: Paper Monitor. Short of Mr Cameron's feet being made of the world's most absorbent sponges that could drain all the flood water, what exactly could he do by being in his constituency that he couldn't do from being in Rwanda?!
Tom Webb, Epsom, UK

I hereby propose the government ban Gymnasia and the use thereof. This should be done along side the proposed prohibition of patio heaters. It is quite clear for all to see, that people who exercise, expel far more CO2 with their speeded up metabolisms, than the rest of us, and therefore fall into the "criminal carbon waster" category and must be stopped immediately. The beauty of this proposal is that these "greenhouse gas emitters" will not live as long, and therefore will not be around to continue polluting the atmosphere for as long! All those in favour, start holding your breath.
D. Read, Surbiton-on-sea - I mean Thames

When I first read Jordan's baby's name I was sure it was Princess Tia Maria. Now I've read its something different I somehow wish that she was named after the liquor!
Liz, London

Emma from Hull and Trish from East Yorkshire (Tuesday's letters). Trish is absolutely right - Kingston-upon-Hull is a city and county in its own right, but until Yorkshire County Cricket Club abandoned its birth qualification to play for the county, Hull was the only place not in Yorkshire that one could be born but still qualify to play for the county.
Mike, Bolton (formerly East Yorkshire)

Please consider: The BBC is not publishing Punorama and the Caption Competition. Monitor readers, deprived of their amusements, turn to work to fill the void. Their work rate increases, causing others in the office to keep up. The increased pace of work increases stress levels in the nation. Levels of stress get so high the entire nation as one turns into gibbering wrecks and sets fire to the country. Therefore, please reinstate the competitions before this once-proud nation is burnt to a cinder.
Phil, Cardiff

So Gordon Brown wants the problems with BBC competitions sorted out quickly... he's obviously missing Punorama too!
Robin, Edinburgh

Paper Monitor

11:44 UK time, Wednesday, 25 July 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Surely it would take only a story of the utmost important to knock flooding from the Sun's front page. Absolutely, and that story is the "new lows" in the lives of Lindsay and Britney. Hmmm, maybe it's an extremely clever tactic to cheer up thousands of water-logged Britons?

You think you've got it bad, at least you're not reportedly babbling in baby talk and vomiting at a photo session like Ms Spears. Flooded out of house and home? Spare a thought for the mother of Ms Lohan's PA, who reportedly had to call the police after being pursued in her car by the actress.

But the paper is doing its bit for people in flood-hit areas. It sent a double-decker bus packed with bottles of water and Page Three girls to hand them out. It says one desperate dad paddled FIVE MILES in a canoe to reach the bus. Wonder if he'd have bothered if John Prescott had been handing out the emergency supplies.

And talking of the flood, things aren't looking good for Conservative leader David Cameron. It's been noted by the media that he's on a visit to Rwanda while his constituents battle with flood chaos. But you know you're in seriously deep water when even the Rwandans ask you why you aren't at home.

The Daily Mail and Guardian report that Rwandan journalists quizzed Cameron on why he was in their country discussing aid when parts of his Witney consituency in Oxfordshire were "devastated by floods".

In his defence he did say that even though he was thousands of miles away he was in permanent contact with the district council for the area. That must have put his constituents' minds at rest.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:29 UK time, Wednesday, 25 July 2007

In Tuesday's Daily Mini-Quiz, we asked how many copies the first six Harry Potter books sold worldwide. The most popular answer - 325 million, said 46% of you - was the correct one. Well done! Today's DMQ is on the Magazine index.

Your Letters

18:06 UK time, Tuesday, 24 July 2007

When other natural disasters occur around the world, the British public are always one of the first to set up charity boxes in shops. However, when natural disasters hit our own land, why is there no charity box to be seen?
Henry Fosdike, Bournemouth

Having discovered that "[a third of parents] struggled with their children's maths homework", I feel my own parents have let me down: I was made to do it myself.
David, Redhill, Surrey

To Emma from Hull, Humberside has not existed for a mere 11 years, not that long really, especially when it existed for a whole 22 years! Also - Hull isn't actually in East Yorkshire. It became a separate unitary authority in 1996, when Humberside ceased to exist. Indeed in 1889, when the country council was set up, Hull wasn't even then part of the East Riding of Yorkshire! However, the Police, and Fire and Rescue services, are still Humberside. Go figure!
Trish - From East Yorkshire (but not Hull, obviously)

To Owen from Stevenage, I'd like to respond along the lines of, "Because it's there." Unfortunately, I think it's a lot more practical than that: the concrete methods developed in answering questions such as the solvability of finite games have applications in other areas of AI research.
Alexander Lewis Jones, Nottingham, UK

I’m no petrolhead, but an ice cream van with only a 1,000cc engine? The judges need to get that lollypop in parc fermé.
Stig, London, UK

Normalcy!? Surely a professor should be aware that we already have a word for this, or is 'normality' just too normal for him?
Emma , Washington DC, USA

Are Jordan and Peter Andre the same species as the rest of us? I'm just asking, that's all.
Chris, Witney UK

A BBC Meteorologist said that "a broad band of low pressure had been sitting across the UK, pushing the jet stream ... further south than usual."Can he please explain how low pressure air pushes anything, or if he can't perhaps James Dyson can?
QJ, Stafford, UK

Daily Mini-Quiz

10:51 UK time, Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Monday's Daily Mini-Quiz asked if the Burj Dubai is claiming to be the world's tallest building, which city is home to the tallest STRUCTURE? The majority (42%) opted for Kuala Lumpur but the correct answer was Toronto. Today's DMQ is on the Magazine index.

Paper Monitor

10:33 UK time, Tuesday, 24 July 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press, featuring, for today only, random acts of flood reporting.

"SIR – Had Bob Geldof or another celebrity announced that houses should be built on flood plains, no doubt the media and the Government would have taken notice" - Letter to the Daily Telegraph on the house-building on flood plains debate.

"The truth about monsoon Britain (and, no, it's not what you might think…) - the Daily Mail's science editor Michael Hanlon. (For those confused about what they should be thinking, "what you might think" refers to climate change.)

The war over Peter Stott:
"Yesterday, the Independent newspaper claimed that a research paper will be published in Nature this week linking this weekend's flooding with climate change," writes Michael Hanlon. "Met Office climatologist Peter Stott stressed that the paper was looking at global annual rainfall changes, NOT seasonal local events like this week's rains. 'This paper does not address the issue of whether summer rainfall is changing,' he told me."

Over to Michael McCarthy, environment editor of the Indie, writing in today's paper: "…yesterday Peter Stott…commented: "It is possible under climate change that there could be an increase of extreme rainfall even under extreme drying".

"WORSE IS YET TO COME.." - the Daily Mirror (cf yesterday's Daily Express headline).

"TEWKS OF HAZARDS" – the Mirror again.

"Oxford stoics set for a degree of discomfiture" – FT's attempt at a pun as flood threat hits the dreaming spires.

Cartoons of political leaders underwater:
- the Times depicts Brown as a white-haired Noah-like figure with the words "RAPID RESPONSE UNIT" on his chest, daintily hammering the first nail into the skeletal frame of an ark.
- the Independent portrays the prime minister swimming naked (it's ok, his modesty is preserved by a large tummy) in pursuit of a note on a fishing hook which reads "HOUSE BUILDING PROGRAMME" a la the cover of Nirvana's Nevermind.
- The Mail shows David Cameron waist-high in a deluge outside a Conservative Party office with the caption "not waving but drowning".

Your Letters

15:35 UK time, Monday, 23 July 2007

Paper Monitor's derision for the hyperbole around Britain's slightly soggy state seems a little unnecessary. I agree that we have a tendency to see our 'disasters' as a lot worse than they are, but that is because we don't normally need to be prepared for the worst. So even "over-zealous thunderstorms" lead to fatalities, wrecked homes and a huge amount of inconvenience. One just suspects that, were it Television Centre surrounded by a lake of brown water instead of that country church, PM's tone might have been a little less scathing.
Susannah, Derby

Note to PM: Tewkesbury has an abbey, not a cathedral. Never mind querying PM's gnder - on the subect of where he/she/they/it hails from -it certainly isn't west of Chiswick
Christina, Bath

Please can I point out to Paper Monitor (and the rest of the BBC) that Humberside does not exist and hasn't for a long time!! Hull is in East Yorkshire!! Thank you, I feel much better for that!
Emma, Hull, EAST YORKSHIRE

I see that a guide has been issued on how to deal with vomiting outbreaks aboard cruise ships. Might I suggest the first page states, in large bold text - "First check the wind direction"
Paul, Manchester, UK

Is it just a coincidence or is there something spooky about Rihanna being at number 1 with umbrella for 10 weeks when it has also been raining that long too? Even spookier is that the last song to be at number 1 for 10 weeks was Wet Wet Wet . . . Let's start a campaign to knock her off the number one spot please then we might get some sunshine this summer!
Katy, Kent, UK

Given the current abnormal weather we're experiencing, imagine my disappointment when I realised this story ('Mars dust storms threaten rovers ') wasn't about a weird chocolate cloud near Tranmere football club.
Lee Pike, Cardiff, UK

Regarding the story about the researchers that investigated the game of draughts over two decades with the use of computers. I have only one question. Why?
Owen, Stevenage, Herts, UK

Re today's Daily Mini-Quiz - what is the difference between a building and a structure ? I would say that a structure is not designed to be occupied by people (eg. chimneys, radio masts etc), and on those grounds, surely the CN Tower qualifies as a building? - it has an observation deck, restaurant and meeting rooms, even if it was originally built as a communications tower. Certainly its own website calls itself the world's tallest building.
Paul Greggor, London, UK

Re 10 things: "School children in England and Wales have the shortest summer holidays in Europe." Not true. I have much shorter summer holidays than any school children.
Adam, London, UK

Paper Monitor

12:18 UK time, Monday, 23 July 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

While the rest of the world must contend with apocalyptic-style natural disasters such as Richter scale-busting earthquakes, volcanoes that wipe out whole civilizations and weather conditions that warrant alphabetised naming systems, Britain, by and large, has to limp along with the effects of over-zealous thunderstorms. But that doesn't stop the papers from adding a Katrina-style spin to the story.

"Looting, panic buying – and a water shortage" runs the Times' front page headline. Now, looting at the expense of distressed and dispossessed people is a highly serious issue, mention of which was made a few weeks ago during the summer floods in Yorkshire and Humberside - although it was hard to stand up any systematic examples.

So what evidence does the Times have for us today? The first paragraph of the story talks of "…the threat of looting…" while 10 paragraphs down this is expanded to "fears of looting in Gloucester" – but evidence of people running amok in abandoned shops and filling trolleys with DVDs and plasma TVs is somewhat ominous by its absence.

"Water, water everywhere but… NOT A DROP TO DRINK!" says the Mail, which reveals just how bad the situation really is by picturing a country church isolated in a lake of brown water.

The Independent runs with the picture of Tewkesbury cathedral poking out from the water. It looks really bad - like an island marooned, as if the rest of the town has been totally submersed. The Telegraph's wider crop reveals that while things are bad – they're not quite as grave as the Indie's picture implies.

What of the Express? It is Monday after all – perhaps Diana can save us from a clean sweep of flood front pages. No such luck – "FLOODS CHAOS: IT WILL GET EVEN WORSE".

Kudos meanwhile to the Sun's back page headline marking Padraig Harrington's victory in a big golf game – "Harri putter".

Daily Mini-Quiz

11:23 UK time, Monday, 23 July 2007

Friday's Daily Mini-Quiz asked what the world's most widely-read blogger – Chinese actress Xu Jinglei – writes about: shopping, eating and drinking or her career? The majority (51%) opted for shopping but the correct answer was eating and drinking.

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