BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for January 13, 2008 - January 19, 2008

10 things we didn't know last week

17:27 UK time, Friday, 18 January 2008

smarties203.jpgSnippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. The Scottish crossbill is the only bird unique to the UK.

2. Barack Obama attended a stag party in Wokingham.

3. Nicolas Sarkozy never had dinner at home in eight years, according to his ex-wife Cecilia.

4. Christopher Columbus introduced syphilis to Europe.
More details

5. Carrots used to be purple.
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6. Both men and women find long legs in the opposite sex attractive, but not too long.
More details

7. Rodents used to weigh a tonne and have skulls half a metre long.
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8. MPs can claim up to £250 a month without producing receipts.

9. There is no such thing as pure black.
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10. Brazil has more people of African descent than any country outside of Africa.
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Sources: 1 - Times, 15 January; 2 - Sunday Mirror, 13 January; 3 - Independent on Sunday, 13 January; 8 - Daily Telegraph, 17, January;
Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Hannah Foster for this week's picture of 10 Smarties - "My ten best things I had this week!").

Your Letters

15:55 UK time, Friday, 18 January 2008

Monitor note: Big crop today to make amends.

Re password overload, I have a strategy for generating and remembering guess-proof passwords for any purpose. The only time it doesn't work is when password requirements are unnecessarily prescriptive - length, numerals etc. The Oystercard site is a typical example. Consequently, I'm forced to write down passwords for these particular sites and they are therefore the least secure.
Kelly Mouser, Upminster, Essex

Re Me and my Banksy. The chest of drawers in the Banksy mural posted to a wall at a Bristol Police Station is in fact a cabinet. Its symbolism with Tony Blair is self-evident.
Martin Cooke, Rickmansworth, Herts

Could the chest of drawers be an armoire, and a reference to the fact the authority of the police is backed up by the Army? Or is that too contrived for words?
Lee, Manchester

Re 'Hero' pilot of Heathrow crash drama and neighbour Valerie Firminger describing him thus: "He's absolutely gorgeous. He's all you imagine an airline pilot to be..." I think it's telling that Mr Firminger is mentioned but we don't get a quote from him.
Simon, Milton Keynes

Re Misery creep: Now I feel depressed because I don't understand the title "Professor of epidemiological and liaison psychiatry".
Pix6, Vienna, Austria

So Paper Monitor does not like "wretched combination of abutting consonants", including words such as aluminium.
Er, unlike most of the words in that article ("wretched", "combination", "abutting", "consonants" etc), "aluminium" has no abutting consonants.
Ian Smith, London

I would have thought more controversy about pronunciation could have been generated by - er - controversy, or perhaps certificate, which often seems to get spoken as "sir-stiffy-kate".
QJ, Stafford, UK

Re Paper Monitor's comment about difficult pronunciation, a good method with unfamiliar/awkward words is to cover the word except the last syllable and say it out loud; then move to expose the next syllable and say the two combined; and so on.
Hence:
"ull" (le);
"abul"(able);
"turbabul" (turbable);
"purturbabul" (perturbable);
and finally, "impurturbabul" (imperturbable).
S'easy!
As to meaning, type it in Word, highlight and press shift+F7 and, wahey, the thesaurus gives one the instant answer. That's my new word for the day, then...
Baz, Lingwood, Norfolk

Adam (Wednesday letters) said: "Let's conservatively assume that an average person meets about 100 other people aged within five years either way of themselves during their lifetime." You went to a really small school - indeed, do you ever leave the house?
Charles, Sao Paulo

Re the explanation of octopuses, octopus is indeed of ancient Greek origin, meaning "eight feet". Since the Greek word for "foot", pous, declines in the plural to podes, the plural of octopus should therefore be octopodes.
Jack Wake-Walker, London

Imagine my delight (and the subsequent gasp of horror upon realising that getting out more is now a matter of vital importance) as I watched QI to hear Stephen Fry ask "What is the plural 'octopus'?" According to him, it is indeed octopodes and if Mr Fry says that's what it is, then that's what it is.
Sophie, Belfast, Ireland

Not to detract from the seriousness of the incident at Heathrow, but does anyone else think that "glided" sounds wrong as the past participle of "glide" ? Would "glid" meet with approval ?
Paul Greggor, London, UK

Re Race row over Brazil fashion week: I thought the country with the most African descent would surely be Jamaica? Plus saying Brazil is the most multi-coloured country doesn't sound very PC. Surely the writer should have said multi-cultural or multi-ethnic? Apologies for my pedanticism.
Richard, Oxford

A report examining delays in engineering work which wrecked travel plans for thousands of people over New Year is to be published later (People 'let down' by Network Rail) Well, nobody really expected it to be on time, did they?
Fred, Rotherham

Re the random stat that 12% of people are in a loveless marriage. Call me cynical, but the firm of solicitors that conducted that survey weren't divorce lawyers by any chance?
Edward Green, London, UK

Yay! A six word all-noun headline in the form on "Cooke body parts case plea deal" on the Entertainment page. With these nouns, you are really spoiling us.
Rob Foreman, London, UK

No Mike Harper (Wednesday letters), only a fool would have the Macbook Air as their only machine; it is by its very nature a stripped-down ultra-portable, meant as a companion to your powerhouse desktop. Besides, external DVD drives work with it and it can even piggyback and use nearby computer's optical drives. Not that facts need be considered when there's a conspiracy to unearth.
James Keeling, Cambridge

Paper Monitor

10:39 UK time, Friday, 18 January 2008

Comments

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Shesh. Talk about over-egging the pudding. No-one died in the Heathrow crash-landing, or even sustained what might be termed a serious injury - hence, perhaps, the Independent's decision not to mention it until page five.

But the Daily Mail seems unwilling to let it be the story that it is - a dramatic "what if..." tale, with cracking pics of a wrecked plane. Despite every other media outlet quoting passengers as saying that it seemed no more than a bumpy landing until the oxygen masks dropped - oh, and someone in first class spilt their coffee - the Mail's headline is: "EVERYONE WAS SCREAMING. KIDS WERE CRYING... WE THOUGHT WE WERE GOING TO DIE."

A bit too much hysteria for this time of day, so back to the Independent. In Paper Monitor's younger days, one had a particular affection for the Indie. Maybe it was a generational thing, or youthful idealism perhaps, but the whole exercise seemed somehow noble and fresh.

The years have been harder to the paper than - one hopes - they have been to oneself or indeed any Monitor readers. (Being told one looks as fit and healthy as the Independent is the sort of thing Simon Cowell's brainy brother might say.)

So what to make of the news, denied by the paper's editor, that the paper is considering going free like Metro? If the Indie was free would you pick it up?

Most of the problems with it as a newspaper are that there's not much news or indeed paper. And that quality that originally made it the Independent - its independence from pushing an editorial line - is also long gone in a flurry of dolphin covers. The calculation is that there is more of a market among those people who think of Blair as Bliar and the standby button as public enemy number one than there is among conventional newspaper readers - a calculation on which Paper Monitor is completely unqualified to comment. It initially seemed to be working but, SDP-style, it hasn't led to the breaking of the mould that was the ambition.

Someone out there must be prepared to defend a paper which today didn't put the Heathrow crash on pages 1,2,3 or 4. Which runs a story today about prospects of the Rolling Stones leaving EMI which the Times covered in full yesterday. And which gives the Ipswich murder trial all but a few paragraphs.

Paper Monitor is almost wanting to be convinced there is still a point to the Indie. It still has great characters - Simon Carr for instance - but would some Indie loyalists out there please use the comments field below to explain to the rest of us what it is that still attracts?

Random Stat

09:05 UK time, Friday, 18 January 2008

According to a survey by a firm of solicitors, 12% of adults say they are in a loveless relationship.

Paper Monitor

12:56 UK time, Thursday, 17 January 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Is there a name for those words that look harmless enough on paper but through their wretched combination of abutting consonants, are rendered almost impossible to pronounce. Words such as "statistics", "mechanism" and "aluminium".

And if there is such a term, surely there's a principle in the fabled Headline Writers' Guide to Writing Good Headlines that such words should be avoided?

Paper Monitor can only suppose that such a tome has yet to land on the desk of the Financial Times sub behind this work: "Imperturbable Salmond defends his role in Trump resort".

Im-pert-ur-able… im-pert-rurb-able… im-purt-able… … ... calm.

Kevin Keegan is just about the last person who could warrant the character trait imperturbable. Besides, any red-top sub who so much as considered using such a word in print would likely be taken out and shot.

Meanwhile, here's some nice examples of their handiwork from today's papers regarding Keegan's return to the Magpies' fold.

God on the Tyne – Daily Mirror

Retoon of the Messiah – Sun

Heaven Keegan - Daily Star

The Third coming – Daily Express

Fairytale of Newcastle – Daily Express (again)

Having got through something like seven managers in the past seven years, the omens aren't exactly good for Keegan. Let's hope at least, he lasts until Feb-ru-rary... Feb-u-rary... Feb-roo-ary...

Random Stat

09:48 UK time, Thursday, 17 January 2008

Squirrels pretend to bury food if they think they are being watched, so as to avoid their stash being stolen. Research by the Wilkes University in Pennsylvania found the furry woodland creatures faked burying food up to 20% of the time.

Your Letters

15:36 UK time, Wednesday, 16 January 2008

I've suggested this before and current weather conditions make it necessary to again raise the idea. We need signposted flood escape routes. OK, we get flood warning signs. It's good to know of areas liable to flood, but you can still get trapped in a maze of roads cut off by floods. REMINDER - avoid going through flood water. If you can't, use high revs & low speed via clutch control. This reduces the chance of water getting to your engine and stalling the car.
Colin Nelson, MK, UK

The articles on the floods was interested especially when I read that "In Dorset, a road leading to Bournemouth airport was blocked after a man became stuck in his car in 46cm (1ft 6in) of floodwater." I would have thought 46cm of water alone would have made the road impassable enough myself even without a man in a car in the middle.
Rich

Re Apple announces ultra-thin laptop. Call me cynical, but I don't think that "it does not have a CD or DVD drive in order to save space" because, according to Steve Jobs, it was built to be a wireless machine. It wasn't possibly done so that people couldn't copy music onto it from CD, forcing them to have to download more from the iTunes store and thus more money in Steve's pocket, was it?
Mike Harper, Devon, UK

Whoever is playing Scrabble in the second picture is clearly struggling for ideas and hasn't quite grasped the rules...
Steve, Evesham

With the picture included in the "Facebook asked to pull Scrabulous" article, are you suggesting the the makers of Scrabble should just 'Turn the other cheek?'
C Turner, Southmoor, Oxon

Facebook to pull Scrabble? And still no return of Punorama or the Caption Competition?
What use is an internet connection any more?
Pix6, Vienna, Austria

Re 10 things: "Circumcision does not reduce sexual satisfaction". Sorry to come SO late to the party, but circumcised people would be bound to say that wouldn't they?
Hazel Love, Brighton, England

Would any of your other readers like Tom Cruise's comments on Scientology translated into some semblance of English? On second thoughts, perhaps not.
Clive DuPort, Guernsey

Do you deliberately lay traps in Magazine articles to ensure a steady flow of letters? I think I found one in the Banksy article: "It's very difficult to fake that authentically" Oh rats, you caught me!
Sherlock, London

No, Octopi is a useful plural. A millipede is not a plural of a monopede, but a single creature with many feet. In reverse, an octopus is still an octopus if (sadly) it loses a leg - it doesn't become a septopus. In any case, Octopi is a nice word and deserves to remain in use. Octopie would be delicious too, if anyone ever made one.
Lewis Graham, Pedantville

With all this talk about Greek myths and the plural of octopuses/i/odes, was Paper Monitor exhibiting Tiresias's gift for prophecy with a gnomic reference to Ovid's Metamorphoses in Monday's roundup?
Alex, London, UK

Tuesday's Monitor (Your Letters) - "reckless emoticon useage". - Would that possibly be a reckless way to spell usage? The G-site has no definitions for useage and scrabulous also doesn't allow it.
Anne, Jersey

I think I might be addicted you know. Dreamt about getting letters published last night. It was a really involving dream about the best time to send my letter (I've found earlier in the day is better) and how to judge the level of wit/sarcasm/pedantry. Is there some kind of Magazine Monitor Anonymous I can join?
Kevin Langley, Derby, UK

Simon, Milton Keynes (Letters, Tuesday): my brother got married recently and both him and his wife share exactly the same birthday. Although that is pretty amazing, his previous girlfriend shared his exact birth date as well! Any idea what the chances of that are?
Paul W, Leeds

I wonder if Simon of Milton Keynes could also calculate the chances of any halfway decent female falling in love with me ?
Peter Guide, Bruges

Re Simon, and the likelihood of marrying your twin story - I can't comment on your calculations, and have never been struck by lightning, however when growing up, my next door neighbours had a son with exactly the same birthday as me (was born two hours later) and yes we did date for a while (although no wedding dress was required in the end). So perhaps the story is more statistically realistic than you think - strangely his name was Simon too - it's not you is it ?
Linda

Simon, I think you're overlooking something in your calculations. The people we meet are not randomly picked. Most people tend to gravitate towards people their own age and meet many other people, so meeting someone with exactly the same birthday is actually not at all unlikely. Let's conservatively assume that an average person meets about 100 other people aged within 5 years either way of themself during their lifetime. That's a 10 year age range, with 3562 possible birthdays, and you have 100 chances to meet someone with the same birthday as you. That's about a 1 in 36 chance of meeting someone with the same birthday, considerably less than 1 in 1^6. And as for your figure for meeting and falling in love with your twin, then assuming you have a long-lost twin in the first place and that you fall in love with at least one person in your lifetime, the chances of that person being your twin really can't be any less than 1 in about 6 billion, given that there are only 6 billion people on the planet. And probably much higher than that, given that someone born in the UK is a lot more likely to fall in love with someone else born in the UK than, for example, someone born in Outer Mongolia. However, given the astute observation in James's letter, this is all completely irrelevant anyway.
Adam, London, UK

Paper Monitor

10:51 UK time, Wednesday, 16 January 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The poet laureate Andrew Motion (no wait, bear with us) notes in the latest booklet of the Guardian's series on Greek myths (really, it'll be worth the effort) that "myths become memorable because they tell us fundamental truths about human behaviour".

Fitting, then, that the Times quotes the judge who likened Andy Kershaw's fall from grace as a "Greek tragedy" as he jailed the former Radio 1 DJ for breaking a restraining order.

Greek myths. A judge might be thought to be on sure ground with such a topic, more so than, say, who "Gazza" might be or how to shizzle a nizzle. But the paper's resident brainiac, Philip Howard, pours cold water on High Bailiff Michael Moyle's allusion as "hyperbole".

Whereas Oedipus killed his dad and bedded his mum, "visiting one's ex-partner is a petty offence," says Mr Howard. And when the ancient tragic heroes got drunk and acted up, "they committed monstrous sins, such as killing their children".

Then, in Greek tragedy proper, Nemesis strikes. "Three months in jug are no fun, but they hardly compare with self-blinding or being burnt to death with a poisoned robe (Hercules)... Kershaw's punishment cannot be classified as a Greek tragedy in the extreme acceptance of the words without some risk of terminological inexactitude."

Paper Monitor cannot help but think that for a judge, to be accused of terminological inexactitude by the Times - the Times of London, the paper of record - must feel like angering the gods.

Random Stat

09:11 UK time, Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Environmentally conscious people - those who recycle, buy eco-friendly detergents and belong to green groups - are 7% more likely to take flights than the general population, a poll of 25,000 people by the market research company Target Group Index has found.

Your Letters

17:38 UK time, Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Anyone got any ideas on how to nicely tell my work colleague to eat quietly?
Anon,

Regarding the link: In pictures The dramatic last moments of sinking cargo ship Ice Prince. This might just come across as a general whinge... because it is. I think you'll find that the last moments before an event are usually just a few seconds, or minutes BUT NOT HOURS. I'm fed up with intentionally misleading headlines on the BBC site. Stop it. Stop it now.
Kevin "generally miffed" Langley, Derby, UK

I'm just wondering if think tanks ("Just what is a think tank?") are supposed to think outside the box. And if so, do they still have to think inside the tank?
Adam, London, UK

Re Matthew Cowie's (Your Letters, Monday) explanation of octopuses, there are also quite a few counter-examples where the plural is taken literally from the Greek, such as criteria and crises. Dictionaries aren't much help as they don't agree: Merriam-Webster says octopi is acceptable, the compact OED calls it incorrect. I think this is one where there's no right answer...
Mat, London

On the plural of Octopus, Matthew has it right, but even if "octopus" was of Latin descent, the correct plural form for "eight-foot" would be "octopedes" (think millipedes and centipedes). Octopi indeed!
Craig Thomson, Edinburgh, Scotland

Helen in Bath (Your Letters, Monday), I was taught during my English grammar lessons that it is accepted to use "Yours Sincerely" whether the letter is addressed to a name or not. Apparently "Yours faithfully" is deemed too old-fashioned to be of use in current modern language.
Rachel, Nottingham

I think Helen in Bath may have missed the point. The Magazine is a person; a living breathing person, who likes porridge and Segway scooters, rides the Victoria line to work... So it's perfectly correct for Lee in Manchester's "Dear Magazine" to be followed by "Yours sincerely" because the letter *is* addressed to a named person.
Nicky Stu, Highgate, London

Andi (Your Letters, Monday), it's not a question of being insensitive, it's question of credulity. I think it's fair to assume that if twins are adopted to separate family's they could, geographically, end up any where. The chance of any two randomly picked people with simply the exact same birthday date meeting by chance is really small, it needs a few assumptions (e.g. UK only) but I'd put it at some where around 1/10^6, about your chance of being hit by lightening. The chance then of meeting your twin, at random from the whole population, and getting to know each other and falling in love is astronomically small. It needs so many assumptions it's not really possible to put an exact figure on but I think in the order of 1/10^16 is conservative, it could be a lot worse if you think someone who lives in London is not as likely to meet some one who lives in Manchester. If you want a serious side our government will now no doubt legislate based on this stupidly small risk (all the above ignores that chance of being an adopted separated twin in the first place, which is hardly likely!) to make it law to record biological parents, which will be destructive in so many more circumstances.
Simon, Milton Keynes

Far be it from me to pre-empt PM (This letter was sent at 11:16, before PM let loose his/her words of wisdom) but I feel that the article on the first page of today's G2 may go some way to explaining Luke's position; the twins separation story does indeed appear to be a complete fabrication.
James, Edinburgh, UK

Re Michael from Peterborough's letter on Monday, the Belfast Telegraph would be the ultimate source for your collection of headlines - it crow-bars "Ulster" into every news story it covers, however tenuous the link. Last week we had "Britney - Ulster women give advice". I hope Ms Spears was reading.
Liz, Belfast

Dear MM, I faithfully read you every day, but alas, I do not work in an office and cannot read you till at least 6pm and therefore I suspect that my missives to you lie unread in your email in-tray and deleted as coming too late. Printing this letter would prove otherwise to all those staunch Magazine readers who also work without computers for most of the day...;)

Note: Reader's name has been omitted on the grounds of reckless emoticon useage.

Paper Monitor

13:05 UK time, Tuesday, 15 January 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Never to be shamed on the etiquette front, Paper Monitor wishes to apologise for being late to the crease this morning (ok, if you insist, afternoon). It's just that once you get into a good old Greek myth, it's almost impossible to put it down.

Yes, Paper Monitor is, if you'll forgive the name-checking of a rather dishonourable seam in compilation albums from the 80s, hooked on classics.

And it's all thanks to the Guardian, which is giving away a series of Greek myth booklets each day this week. Regardless of the fact that yesterday's offering, entitled The Power of Love, omitted to mention the substantial contribution of that seminal classical author Hueyos of Neuripodes, Paper Monitor has been engrossed in today's edition which orients itself in the ancient city of Thebes.

Now Paper Monitor makes no secret of its magpie tendencies – a bit of Daily Mail today, a bit of Financial Times tomorrow (actually, make that the day after) – but it's starting to fear for the sanity of your fully paid-up Guardianista.

Having just finished collecting the Official British Army Fitness Programme (last week's series of giveaway booklets), he/she is facing several days of getting up to speed with the exploits of Amphitryon, Actaeon, Alcmene… and that's just the "a"s.

And while we're on the subject of names that warrant a second reading, Paper Monitor is crushed to hear of the alleged backbiting on the set of every Cbeebies fans' favourite alternative universe – In the Night Garden.

If ex-Tombliboo, actor Isaac Blake, who is locked in an employment tribunal, is to believed, this idyllic land which is a televisual metaphor for multi-cultural coexistence, is a seething pit of resentment and bigotry.

Clerk, this needs to be corroborated - call the Ninky Nonk.

Random Stat

12:19 UK time, Tuesday, 15 January 2008

In a survey of Britons' ablutionary habits, 40% said going to the bathroom was the only place they get time to
themselves.

Your Letters

17:44 UK time, Monday, 14 January 2008

Re Luke L's letter (Your Letters, Friday), why is the very serious story of twins separated at birth who subsequently married (Parted-at-birth twins 'married') more suited to April Fools' Day? (Letters, Friday 11th January.) To anyone who was adopted and especially those who were "foundlings" and have absolutely no possibility of tracing their birth parents it is a very real issue. Please don't be so insensitive.
Andi, England

Why in this story Indian & Chinese Troops Co-operate does the picture show one soldier smashing bricks over another soldier's head with a sledge hammer? Is this the new meaning of co-operation for 2008 - should I go smash a few bricks over my manager's heads to foster co-operation there? Sounds good to me.
Pete W, Oban, UK

No, no, no, Lee from Manchester, one only uses "Yours sincerely" when the letter is addressed to a name: Dear Mr Smith, for example. In this case your letter should have finished "Yours faithfully". And this bad grammar being reproduced by the BBC? Shocking.

Helen , Bath

I realise Monitor doesn't have time to check out all the local press (so little time, so many skinny lattes to drink) so can I just bring you up to date on the big news in Northampton, as reported in the headlines of the Chronicle & Echo - "Northampton celebrities avoid Dancing on Ice skate-off." Even the oxymoronic "Northampton celebrities" is straight from the Alan Partridge school of journalism. It's joining my collection of uber-parochial headlines, along with my favourite, from a regional TV news magazine: "The Asian Tsunami - what does it mean for the Midlands?"
Michael, Peterborough

Re : "Monitor Note: 'Patience is a virtue, absence makes the heart grow fonder'" (Your Letters, Friday).
Me: "But the caption comp is a miss, we need pics on which to ponder".
Phil, Angus, Scotland

You forgot "out of sight, out of mind"
Henri, Sidcup

Re Harry Potter in Oxford's Capital of Culture pitch (Your Letters, Friday). I fear this is becoming a common trait. Lincoln Cathedral, according to Ruskin "out and out the most precious piece of architecture in the British Isles" is currently advertised as "home of the Da Vinci Code". Sigh.
Matthew, Lincoln, UK

Nice to see that Andy Murray has decided to follow in Tim Henman's footsteps by "crashing out", rather than by just losing.
Colin, Thatcham

Re 10 things [since corrected] 8. Octopi need mental stimulation. Octopus is derived from Greek. Words derived from Greek are usually pluralised like regular English words. So, 1 octopus, 2 octopuses. Correct Greek plural is octopodes, but like I said, Greek-derivatives are pluralised regularly. Unlike Latin ones.
Matthew Cowie, Cambridge, UK

I wonder if this letter, written at 1720GMT, is the latest-submitted letter ever to have been published.
David Richerby, Leeds, UK


Paper Monitor

11:03 UK time, Monday, 14 January 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's January, the perfect time to change your life and make 2008 your best year ever. As expected, the papers are brimming with suggestions and advice on how to achieve this metamorphosis. Anything and everything, right down to getting a new haircut - yes, it can be that simple.

But Paper Monitor has noticed a bit of one upmanship going on between the papers. It seems just telling us how we can change our lives is not good enough, there's a fierce battle going on to see which paper can change our lives in the shortest amount of time possible.

The Independent can do it in seven days, but the Express is laughing in its face. It can do it in a weekend. Its advice includes having "a long think about your values". Obviously not too long, you only have 48 hours after all.

The Sun has come up with a rather novel twist on the whole X-Factor-style competition format. It's launching Debt Factor in today's paper, where you can win £25,000 to pay off loans, bills and credit cards. All you have to do is tell the paper in 100 words why you deserve the money. The 10 "most moving" stories will be printed and readers will vote on who wins.

There's something quite unsavoury about the whole thing, getting people to beg for cash by revealing the misery of their lives. But maybe we should be thanking the Sun, as there's nothing like reading other people's tragic stories for that smug at-least-my-life's-not-as-bad-as-that feeling. So keep your eyes peeled for the "most moving" stories - this phrase being media shorthand for utterly desperate.

Presumably you will be able to vote by ringing a premium-rate phoneline. Just the way to run up a few debts.

Random Stat

09:16 UK time, Monday, 14 January 2008

According to surveys cited by health minister Ben Bradshaw, 90% of the public favour the use of organ donation to save lives. Only 25% of the population are registered organ donors.

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