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Archives for December 2, 2007 - December 8, 2007

10 things we didn't know last week

17:56 UK time, Friday, 7 December 2007

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

1. To be declared dead there is no time limit - the seven-year rule only applies in the High Court on the settlement of a disputed estate.
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2. No Briton has been extradited from Panama since an extradition treaty was signed 100 years ago.
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3. JE55USS - and other combinations of letters and numbers with strong religious connotations - cannot be used for personalised number plates. Rude words are also banned.
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4. There are fewer than 50 wild animals performing in UK-owned circuses.
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5. Two-thirds of Ricky Hatton's calorie intake when training for a big fight - and trying to lose excess weight he piles on between bouts - is from meal replacement supplements.
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6. India's "hugging saint" has dispensed 26 million cuddles - her helpers count each off with a clicker.
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7. Books used to be bound in human skin.
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8. Santa Claus, for Dutch and Belgian children, lives in Spain and travels north by steam ship.
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9. One in four children don't count their father as immediate family.
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10. Tango routes are longer routes flown by some airlines to by-pass the expense of flying through several air traffic zones.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Josephine Lewis for this week's picture of 10 French windows.

Your Letters

16:40 UK time, Friday, 7 December 2007

Why is the 7 days 7 questions quiz no longer interactive? It is very boring, and harder to match up the answers to the questions when you're done.
Anne Wolfe, Henley on Thames
Monitor note to Wolfe: We have indeed got new quiz software to make 7 days 7 questions technically accessible to more people. It's possible that some readers with older versions of Flash saw an uninteractive "text only" version but we hope this won't happen again next week.

I scored six on today's quiz. Please supply an alternative quiz on which I will be able to score my usual two or three.
Rob Foreman, London, UK

What on earth would a deity be doing reading a newspaper (Hindu gods get summons from court) tells how a judge has placed adverts in newspapers asking the gods to "appear before the court personally" to help settle a property dispute). Surely the point of a deity is that they already know everything so would not need to find it out from the local rag.
Colin Main, Berkhamsted, UK

How do you correctly pronounce "nuclear"? I know George Bush gets it very wrong - but what is the RP way to say it?
Richard Bunning, Tiverton, Devon

As I read today's random stat I thought "stable", then, thinking it may well have been a trick question, I thought "manger". Would I have been among the 27% although I know perfectly well that it was in Bethlehem?
Hazel Love, Brighton, England

Why are shoppers so shocked that they have bought real fur instead of fake - if you don't like fur, why would you want to buy something that resembles it? It's like vegetarians who eat fake sausages and burgers. I don't like strawberries, but I don't stick pips on raspberries and pretend they're strawberries instead. I just don't understand the thinking here... Should I be getting my (fur) coat?
Rebecca H, Sunny Hastings by Sea

Re Babyshambles fan sings with band: So what exactly is the point of Pete Doherty?
Stoo, Lancashire, UK

So, Punorama and Caption Comp were very naughty last night? Clearly it's time to give them both a job.
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

While reading of Paper Monitor's night of debauchery, my eye strayed right to the subliminally concealed Monitor Features. I have to say I am surprised anyone turned up to the Christmas party, what with not having seen Punorama or Caption Comp since 19 July; Housekeeping since 30 October; How to Say since 26 September; or LBQ since 17 August. I suspect they will all turn up in Panama soon enough.
Dylan, Reading, UK

Paper Monitor identity hint #317: it takes the Victoria line to work. I was similarly stranded by delinquent alarm-pullers this morning - maybe on the same train. Maybe I was even in the same carriage. Maybe it was Paper Monitor's armpit right next to my face...
Rich Thomas, London

Paper Monitor asks which TV character talked of "electrickery". Your reference to Catweazle, played brilliantly by Geoffrey Bayldon in the early 70s, suggests someone in their mid-40s. Familiarity with Dubonnet clearly indicates you are also a girl. Have I blown your cover? Are you Anthea Turner?
Sherlock, Huddersfield

I still use the word "electrickery" to this day, and I've never met anyone else who remembers it.
Alan, Chelmsford, UK

We still refer to the Telling Bone ringing in our house. Catweazle was a children's programme aired in the early 70s - does this give us an insight into Paper Monitor's age.......?
Christina, Bath

No! Please, Paper Monitor, don't use the awful "sat" to tell us you were "sitting on a stalled public transport vehicle". Next you'll be telling us you were "stood" somewhere putting unnecessary brackets around Ann Treneman's goddess-like status.
Suzannah, Glos

Lisa (Thursday letters), to allow a cat to "go" outside should not cause mess for others to clean up as - unlike dogs (man's best friend) a cat will make every effort to go somewhere discreetly and then cover its mess. Somewhat more dignified than a large number of binge drinkers on a Friday and Saturday night I imagine.
Helen, Leeds

Lisa is clearly not a cat owner, as cats meticulously go in a hole that they both dig and fill in. So it's total eco-friendly as excrement in soil is hugely effective fertiliser.
Matthew Burton, London

Diane from Sutton (Thursday letters), you may have just initiated a tidal wave of pedantry with that letter of yours. Pedants with nothing better to do will point out that somewhere in the world, it's Christmas for 48 hours, thanks to different time zones. The cloakroom will be jam-packed. What have you done, Diane, what have you done?
Peter Clarkson, Lerwick, UK

Diana, what you have to take into account is the different time zone, so while it's still Christmas Eve in San Francisco, they're already lighting the BBQs in Sydney. He actually has 40 hours, 34 millionths of a second. I'll get my Christmas hat...
Christian Haythorn, Manchester

I'll get my goat.
(It seems this letter was vandalised by Punorama and Caption Comp on their rampage last night.)
Nicky Stu, Highgate, London

Paper Monitor

10:23 UK time, Friday, 7 December 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

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Urgh. Last night was Christmas party night for the inhabitants of Monitor Towers, and Paper Monitor was persuaded to stay for "just one more" by Punorama and Caption Comp. With no work to get up for of a morning, staying out past bedtime to drink gin and dubonnet (twist of orange peel) and dance on tables is of no concern to those two layabouts.

So Paper Monitor is feeling a little fragile this morning. But, sat on a stalled public transport vehicle after a gang of reprobates carried out a campaign of synchronised alarm pulling, it was just possible to raise a smile while reading Ann Treneman's sketch in the Times. Can there be a better way of describing someone speaking meaningless drivel? (Not Ann obviously - the woman is a goddess - but the subject of her piece about the hunt for a British motto.)

"'The Government had never proposed a British motto!' announced Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. So far, so British. But then Lord Hunt’s mouth kept moving and this is what he said: 'We are focusing on developing a question on whether a statement of British values would be useful.'"

Masterful. And that goes for you too, Lord Hunt.

And turning to look over a fellow commuter's shoulder at Metro - as one does when stalled on the way to work - congratulations to the headline writer who came up with these gems:
• "Fancy 6 Grammys, Amy? That's music awards, not Charlie" - do you see what they did there?
• "Electrickery" - on a story about huge light sculptures created by an amateur boffin using 500,000 volts of electricity (don't, obviously, try this at home).

It's a very very vague memory, not helped obviously by the self-induced haziness. But didn't the word "electrickery" feature in a long long forgotten TV show about a weird bloke with long hair who was a kind of Middle Ages wizard or something who found himself in the modern day? Think he shared the name of a wrestler. Long blond hair. Used to talk about "electrickery" because he couldn't understand what it was. Oh oh oh and also talked about the Telling Bone instead of telephone. Is Paper Monitor alone here?

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Hold on, something is starting to fall into place. Paper Monitor took its leave of Punorama and Caption Comp late last night when they started stealing traffic cones... and this morning the Tube was delayed by alarm-pulling degenerates. If anyone sees those two rascals, tell them that they have been very, very naughty indeed.

Random stat

10:08 UK time, Friday, 7 December 2007

When questioned, more than a quarter (27%) of British adults couldn't name Bethlehem as the place where Jesus was born. Among 18 to 24-year-olds the figure was 36%. The survey of 1,015 adults was carried out by theology think tank Theos.

Your letters

16:10 UK time, Thursday, 6 December 2007

Re A Scottish divorce... who gets the kids?: I assume that those of us south of the border would pretty much have to put up with whatever the Scots say we can have, given that our nukes are all based in Scotland.
Adam, London, UK

Regarding Smith plans 42-day terror limit, I wonder where that leaves all those terrorists who want to terrorise people for 43 days?
David, Aberdeen

Dear Paper Monitor, your "obvious" solution to the litter tray problem simply leaves the non-cat owner to clear up someone else's pet's mess. Not nice. Ethical litter trays all round please!
Lisa, Cambridge, UK

Janet Hayes' letter (Thursday's letters) reminds me of a joke. How do you surpise an elephant? Buy him a present when it's not his birthday. I didn't say it was a good joke. This is what happens when you take away punorama.
Dylan, Reading, UK

So who says Santa (Thursday's Daily-Mini Quiz) is limited to 34 millionths of a second at each stop? The evidence is that he gets it all done in 24 hours, so clearly he's only using 17 millionths of a second per stop. PS I've asked for a coat.
Diane, Sutton

Regarding the random stat that 33% people unaware of hidden Christmas alcohol - was I the only one to read this as a suggestion to check all the cupboards if I fancy a drink when I get home?
Viv, Newcastle

I was told that sherry trifle was invented by the Victorians as a socially acceptable way for women to imbibe without it being apparent that they were..
Rhona, England

Paper Monitor

11:15 UK time, Thursday, 6 December 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

How ethical is wrapping paper? Surely that is the question that should be troubling the Guardian's green columnist Leo Hickman today, as all week the paper is giving away wrapping paper (designed by actual artists).

But no, he's banging on about ethical cat litter (surely the most ethical solution is for the moggy to go outside... in both senses of the word "go"). Given that Leo goes on to suggest a litter that can be composted in the garden - in its own heap - it seems that he's lost sight of the obvious.

We digress.

So it is to the Guardian's digital archive that Paper Monitor turns for advice on wrapping paper. It's one of the biggest sources of waste each Christmas, according to an article published last December, "with more than 8,000 tonnes being used each year - the equivalent of approximately 50,000 trees".

And some of those trees are being cut down as we speak to make tomorrow's Barbara Kruger-designed gift-wrap. Is this a case as do as we say but not as we do? No mention is made of newsprint gift-wrap, but they do suggest using old newspapers. "It may take some imagination to make this look nice - you could dress your gift up with reusable ribbons, or make sure you use an appropriate piece for each person, so using paper looks thoughtful rather than cheap."

Paper Monitor, who wraps gifts in leftover wall charts, has no problem with looking cheap. But is now fully briefed should circumstances call for passing this trait off as concern for the environment.

Kermit was wrong. It's easy being green.

Random Stat

10:57 UK time, Thursday, 6 December 2007

A third of people in the UK are not aware of hidden alcohol units consumed over Christmas, with a typical Christmas pudding or Sherry trifle both containing 2.7 units.

Your Letters

16:13 UK time, Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Last week one MP called for the Welsh Dragon to be added to the Union Flag. This week, another MP calls for "the dragon of political correctness to be slain". Perhaps a fight to the death between the two honourable Members would be in order?
Richard, Newport, Wales

Re How elephants keep tabs on family: "Elephants showed surprise when they encountered the scent of an individual who was actually walking behind them so could not possibly have been there."
How do elephants show suprise?
Janet Hayes, Pontypool, Wales

Now that the BBC website is taking advertising, how come Monitor isn't cashing in? Oatmeal manufacturers alone would surely be enough to fund Monitor's early retirement to Mustique?
Sarah

Today's stat just sums up Christmas - three months of preparation for three days slumped in front of the TV feeling you've overdone it on mince pies and booze.
Helen, Leicester

Oh dear, Paper Monitor, I thought you knew better: "...at 4am in the morning"? As opposed to all the other 4ams in the course of the day?
I'll fetch my morning jacket...
Rob Pallister, Chelmsford, Essex

Martin in Glasgow (Tuesday's letters) complains that the "average family's income" and the "average family's expenditure" don't tie up. Isn't this how consumer debt arises? And doesn't publishing the figures make it worse by making us think we're below average if we don't spend that much?
Warren, Bristol

Paper Monitor

10:26 UK time, Wednesday, 5 December 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Let's kick things off today with a question that is really bugging Paper Monitor. Why does Amy Winehouse only seem to do things at 4am in the morning? Squabble with her husband, walk around the street in her jeans and bra and now move house.

If it's to avoid the paparazzi it's not working. The two dailies unofficially fighting it out for the title of Amy paper - the Sun and the Mirror - have also noticed it's Amy's get-things-done time. Their snappers are always there to get pics of her early-hour shenanigans. The songstress needs to learn there are ways to do things and ways not to do things. At 4am, and with the help of Pete Doherty, is not the way to move house.

Certain papers also need to learn the right way to do certain things, namely good cartoons. Part of the skill of newspaper cartoonists - as is magisterially demonstrated by the Daily Telegraph's Matt nearly every day - is to take one news item and relate it to amusing effect to another. Here's a how to, and a how-not-to, one from Brookes of the Times, one coincidentally from Brook of Metro.

HOW TO: Brookes, Times. Gordon Brown, paddling in a canoe down the Thames, saying: "I just want to forget everything."

HOW NOT TO: Brook, Metro. News billboard says Britain plummeting in education league tables. Man remarking says: "All our best teachers move to the Sudan."

And finally, the Independent scoops today's prize for the feature that leaves you asking what is that all about? The paper takes us inside the Sussex home of Gary Numan. The gothic red walls and huge black Louis XIV bed are pretty much what you'd expect from the abode of an 80s electro-pop star.

But it's the slightly odd tone of some of his comments that grab Paper Monitor's eye. Apparently he could never live in a city because he is "too vulnerable" and "at the mercy" of other people. His south coast refuge is the place he feels "safest". Is he trying to tell us something? Is the man in trouble? Is someone after him? Surely his back catalogue of songs isn't that offensive.

Random Stat

09:42 UK time, Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Sixty per cent of British adults will have dozed off by 4.22pm on Christmas Day. After opening presents, lunch with too much booze, the Queen's Speech and the first hour of the "big movie", over half of us will have nodded off, according to the poll of 3,000 adults by Freeview Playback.

Your letters

16:57 UK time, Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Is Brentwatch back? Am I the first to spot spurious use of Ricky Gervais? Do I win a prize?
James Dawkins, Reading

Re Random Stat (children owning gadgets worth >£500) doesn't that just mean that only 15% of children have their own PC? Hardly a picture of middle England living a lavish child centred life-style, since PCs are now the equivalent of slates and pencils.
Henri, Sidcup

Surely a rolling channel on digital televison telling people how to get television is both pointless and a waste of the airwaves. Then again I suppose this makes sense, the same description applies to quite a lot of the other channels currently available.
Chloe, Chelmsford

Call me a pedant if you like but the tropics cannot expand or contract as suggested in 'Tropics expand' as world warms. The tropics of Cancer and Capricorn are fixed and define the band north and south of the Equator where the Sun may be overhead at noon on one or more days during the year. The climate between the tropics may well vary but not their location.
Jeremy, Aylesbury

Murf (Monday's letters) if you think that Metro is a London paper, then I suggest that you may be guilty of the "bias towards the south" that you accuse the BBC of? According to their website "Metro is distributed in Bath, Birmingham, Bradford, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Derby, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leicester, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Nottingham, Newcastle, Wolverhampton and York covering a combined area with a population of more than 18 million."

This is a regular complaint against the BBC, but I think it's motivated by "London-envy". London, whether you like it or not (and I live in Scotland, where many don't) is the capital of the country and where a great deal of the news comes from. Would you prefer that the BBC spent vast amounts of your license fee sending reporters out to the sticks to report on minority issues?
James, Glasgow

Regarding the story on the death threats to the dog that inherited £12m. Perhaps the BBC News website could have chosen better words than "...the tiny bitch was whisked away under an assumed name after receiving about 20 threats". Surely not jealousy I hear in the tone?
Stephen Ash, Cardiff

According to these stats the 'average family' has an average expenditure of £601.20 a week. This works out as £31,262.40 a year. But the stats claim the average annual income is £32,779 before tax. After tax and NI this will be (very) approximately £25,000. The 'average family' is clearly running at a loss. This can't be right surely?
Martin, Glasgow

Paper Monitor

10:52 UK time, Tuesday, 4 December 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

What the Spice Girls could tell Cerys Matthews about the rocky road from pop star to obliging tabloid fodder…

Still, unlike Ms Matthews, at least the girls are back doing what made them famous: "singing". So what do the papers make of the girls' comeback concert in Vancouver?

Objectivity doesn't look like the Mirror's strong suit, judging by how it by-lines its correspondent as reporting from the "triumphant comeback gig".

But where the Mirror seems to be in thrall to the girls' every move and utterance, the Sun adopts a thankfully more mischievous tone.

"They're back… and bigger than ever," runs the headline, alongside a picture of Posh in a revealing outfit… "and so are the Spice Girls".

The Mirror sticks rigidly to the party line about the girls singing live, but the Sun's man detects some "miming and auto-tuning".

It takes the Daily Star to explain all - while the girls denied they were miming, they 'fessed up to using a backing track to make sure their voices stayed in tune.

So who was the star of the show? The Star gives credit to the "all singing and dancing tiger" Mel B. The Mirror hands joint honours to Victoria and Geri.

Which may be worrying for the other Spices, if Geri were perhaps to repeat her mid-tour vanishing act of 10 years ago. Worry not girls - Paper Monitor has a suggestion for a replacement: enter Cerys, otherwise known as Welsh Spice.

Random stat

10:02 UK time, Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Fifteen per cent of children own a single toy or gadget that is worth more than £500, a survey, commissioned by Lloyds TSB found. One in 20 parents claim the contents of their child's bedroom are worth more than any other room in the house, according to 1,003 people questioned by Ciao! surveys.

Your Letters

15:47 UK time, Monday, 3 December 2007

Regarding today's random stat. Personally, I'm surprised the figure for happy children is as high at 78%. If you asked the average kid "are you happy right now?", you'd most likely get a "no" and one of the following: "I'm hungry" "my best friend isn't talking to me" "They used up all my marker" "I want a " "Mum won't let me "
Then it's all forgotten 5 minutes later.
Aine, London

Wow, that was fast reporting on the dinosaur story! It was only found eight years ago!
Ben Foster, Aylesbury

"Cat, 26, could be record breaker". Well, no. The page itself links to descriptions of two older cats.
Hamish McGlobbie, Leeds

Shouldn't this have been reported in 1999?
Andy, Leeds, UK

Hands up anyone who thought MM and PM were getting political.
Andy, Leeds, UK

Could I suggest a subset of the most e-mailed list for animal-related stories? In the past few days we've had a super-annuated cat, at least two puppies and a confused swan... That way, some non-animal stories might make it onto the list. Not that I'm complaining... if a small animal has its head stuck in something humorous, the public must know!
Claire, Oxford

STOP including Metro in the paper review. The BBC's bias to the south, cities and hence London in particular is legendary and hideously offensive to most of us licence payers elsewhere. National papers only please. Angry of (rural) Essex
Murf, Not London

Just been diagnosed with kleptomania. I'll get somebody else's coat....
Chris Kenny, Southampton, England

Paper Monitor

10:54 UK time, Monday, 3 December 2007

Comments

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Was anyone else shocked - and a bit disappointed, frankly - by just how many clothes Cerys Matthews removed for her front page appearance in yesterday's News of the World? The Daily Mirror shares the feeling apparently (though one can never be sure when rivals criticise each other that they aren't just piqued). It has a thoughtful piece saying: "What has happened to Cerys Matthews? Just two weeks ago she was a genuine music star, a woman who'd survived the heady days of Britpop to emerge, credibility intact, as an acclaimed solo artist.... It's just getting increasingly difficult to remember that the girl posing in her pants used to be one of our most credible music stars."

The headline shows the strength of the genre - at a stroke witty and pointed like a stiletto in the neck: "Bits all over the front page".

So, feeling rather jaded, Paper Monitor chose to read a tabloid which eschewed mention of I'm A Celebrity on its front page but instead reported on a Commons' committee verdict on the state of affairs in Basra, and the extent to which security will be re-established before the area is finally handed back to Iraqi authorities. On page two, this particular paper has a sobering warning about the effect on the British economy of the slowdown in the US. And further in, a cuter-than-cute pic of an orphaned warthog which has been fostered by a generous mummy rhino. Yes, friends, it's Metro! Confounding expectations since 2002. (This is a period of grace for the freesheet - the jury is still out on whether it should be regularly included here. Compelling arguments welcome via the comments button below.)

And lastly, a "There but for the grace of God" moment. It's never ever wise to celebrate anyone's errors. Pride, fall, that sort of thing. So let's just say that the Guardian page 16 story "Chavez on to a winner with referendum gamble" was a good but ultimately wrong guess of the outcome of the story which is reported more correctly on their website as "Chavez loses bid to rule until 2050".

Random Stat

09:57 UK time, Monday, 3 December 2007

Only 78% of children describe themselves as happy, according to a survey done for the BBC's Newsround.

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