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Archives for June 6, 2010 - June 12, 2010

10 things we didn't know last week

17:00 UK time, Friday, 11 June 2010

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

1. The number of snakes in the world is falling.
More details

2. Indigenous Bolivians wear bowler hats because of the English.
More details

3. The top sponsors of the World Cup pay on average £75m.
More details

4. Forty-two people die on South African roads every day, on average.
More details (Daily Mirror)

5. Motor racing is popular in the West Bank.
More details

6. More than one in 10 websites is pornographic.
More details

7. When one police diver is under water, another four remain on dry land.
More details

8. If all the worldwide television coverage of the 2006 World Cup was shown on one channel, it would take more than eight years to watch.
More details

9. Man can beat a horse in a running race, in the right conditions.
More details

10. A seal's whiskers can detect fish movement 100 metres away.
More details

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week.

Your Letters

16:10 UK time, Friday, 11 June 2010

Can a runner outpace a horse in a race? Yes, if the runner is me.
Colin Main, Luton, UK

I love reading the On This Day section because I occasionally run across stories like 1977: Killer perch outwitted by electric rod. I'm sure everyone rested a bit easier after hearing the news.
Lesterina, Santa Barbara, CA, US

You couldn't make it up! Porn sites are "booby-trapped". Well, of course they are.
Cats, Faversham

"Booby-trapped" (chortle).
Mark Williamson, Loughton, Essex

How big a town is 600,000 houses? (Mel's letter and Paper Monitor). Assuming the majority wouldn't be single occupancy, you would be looking at a population somewhere in the region of 1.5 to 2 million. That easily makes it larger than the population of Greater Glasgow, and heading close to that of the West Midlands. Of course, if you believe the Daily Mail, then each house would be filled with illegal immigrants and the population would be closer to 9.5 million.
Tom, Croydon

Re football or soccer (Thursday letters), here in Queensland, football means rugby league. It's all very confusing.
Susan Thomas, Brisbane, Australia

Shane - why not call it soccer? That's what it's called. That's definitely what it is called in countries where there is another form of football - like Ireland, the US and Australia. And since the BBC's remit covers Northern Ireland, it makes complete sense to call it that. Plus, it annoys pedants such as yourself, which is just a bonus.
Aine, Stevenage

Whilst it pains me somewhat to admit this, the term "soccer" originated from these very shores, as the shortened term for "Association Football" - as in "Assoc. Football". The "Assoc" became "Soccer". The term is as old as the game in its current form, and very very English.
Paul Lawrence, Cirencester

Re Friday's Quote of the Day - what size of spoon do you require today, BBC? You are really stirring it up.
Brian Sandison, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire

Are we now referring to Keith Allen as "Lily Allen's dad"? Previously it has always been Keith who has been the primary figure and we have been reminded that Lily is his daughter.
Basil Long, Nottingham

Oh Si (Thursday letters), who urged us repeatedly NOT to look something up, I did. You knew I would, didn't you?
Fran, Brill, UK

Si, why not?
Margaret, Christchurch, NZ

Oh, I see...
Margaret, Christchurch, NZ

Si, that's like saying "here's a big red button... whatever you do, don't press it."
Amy, Glasgow
Monitor note: As Rudy in 3rd and Bird says, "But it's so big and red and pushy."

Paper Monitor

12:59 UK time, Friday, 11 June 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It says a lot about the British hopelessness at learning languages that the moment one of our politicians demonstrates fluency, we glow with pride.

"I find the famous Berlin air very refreshing," was one of the lines in Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg's linguistic charm offensive in Germany.

The Guardian reports that Mr Clegg's fluency prompted the German foreign minister, Guido Westerwell, to tell the assembled British media: "Nick speaks excellent German."

Following Mr Clegg's previously acclaimed efforts at speaking Dutch, one unnamed observer in Berlin added: "We're not used to a British politician speaking better German than our politicians speak English."

The Times says that Foreign Secretary William Hague, who was by Mr Clegg's side, had to use his translation earphones in order to understand what his colleague was saying.

Former PMs (not ex-Paper Monitors, as far as we know) Edward Heath and Tony Blair both spoke French, the Times notes, but it doesn't always pay to be too clever.

Mr Blair, the paper says, has recalled his most embarrassing political moment as the time he said at a press conference in France: "I desire your prime minister in many different positions."

Caption Competition

12:42 UK time, Friday, 11 June 2010


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

The competition is now closed. Full rules can be seen here [PDF].


This week, swans gather outside the Royal Albert Hall in London, to promote the English National Ballet's latest rendition of Tchaikowsky's Swan Lake.

Thanks to all who entered. The prize of a small amount of kudos to the following:

6. Candace9839
"I know, they were a Christmas present."

5. leroyrampa
In this version, the swan dies of embarrassment

4. rogueslr
Just her luck! Somewhere there was a clown trying to squeeze his feet into her ballet points.

3. Vicky S
On hearing the rumour that John Seargeant had been asked to dance the role of the Prince, Camilla decided to take no chances with her future career.

2. NickR
The English National Ballet take no chances in their preparation for their performace at Glastonbury.

1. Jon Lucas
"Right! That's the last time I fall for the 'It's fancy dress' gag!"

Weekly Bonus Question

10:44 UK time, Friday, 11 June 2010


Welcome to the Weekly Bonus Question.

Each week the news quiz 7 days 7 questions will offer an answer. You are invited to suggest what the question might have been.

Suggestions must be sent by submitting a comment BELOW, where it says "Comments". Entries via the "Send us a letter" form on the right will be summarily ignored.

And since nobody likes a smart alec, kudos will be deducted for predictability in your suggestions.

This week's answer is IT'LL TAKE A LOT OF ROCK, WATER AND DIRT.

UPDATE 1730 BST: It's part of the "world's most beautiful tweet" as judged by you-know-who (more details).

Of your woefully wrong efforts, we particularly liked:

  • chopsofdulwich's How do you make a mountain out of a molehill?
  • Suzanne's What's needed to assassinate Snap, Crackle and Pop?
  • Fi-Glos's What's the secret behind the perfect Kiss fancy dress costume?
  • MightyGiddyUpGal's IT staff choose their tug-o-war team for the picnic?
  • and Richard Cleeve's I dont like football or big brother. How can I avoid them for the next month?

Thanks to all who entered.

Friday's Quote of the Day

10:40 UK time, Friday, 11 June 2010

"SNP" - as in Scotland's Not Playing, a slogan T-shirt produced in retaliation to ABE (Anyone But England) shirts.

The St George's flag is flying above Downing St, and David Cameron has called on all MPs to support the England team. But, as the Magazine explains today, not everyone agrees.
More details (Herald)

Your Letters

16:56 UK time, Thursday, 10 June 2010

As well as authorities keeping to a certain standard (Loophole may clear speeding drivers), perhaps the drivers should too. Like, you know... the speed limit?
Sharon, Nailsea, UK

More than 600,000 homes is probably a sizable town (Paper Monitor)? That sounds to me like an extremely large town - there are cities in the UK with less inhabitants, never mind that many "average family homes".
Mel, Newcastle, UK

How unsurprising that the chap in England fan turfs his front room for World Cup lives with his Mum.
Paul, Marlow, UK

Re tip five in Is that woman pregnant or fat?, I believe the technical term for puffy ankles is "cankles".
Ralph Allison, Chatham, Kent

Re the tips for commuters, Jimmy Carr once summed it up perfectly: "It's better to see a pregnant woman stand than a fat woman cry."
Andrew Wall, London

Please, whatever you do, do not (I repeat, DO NOT) look up the origins of the name the "security group" mentioned in this story.
Si, Leeds

Monitor! You should be ashamed of yourself. Those aren't Ugg boots.
Luisa, Frome

I would appreciate it if everybody at the BBC stopped calling football "soccer". Thank you.
Shane, Southampton

John, Ken, and Amanda (Wednesday letters): Sorry, you've lost me there. What World Cup?
Adam, London, UK

Paper Monitor

11:57 UK time, Thursday, 10 June 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Is Paper Monitor the only one to experience a frisson of excitement ever time John Prescott features in the papers? Or, to be really honest, any time he opens his mouth in public. He just never fails to disappoint.

When the Daily Mail is thrown into the mix we're really being spoilt. You simply have to stop what you're doing, pull down the blinds, unplug the phone and fully relish such a treat uninterrupted.

Today the paper tells the tale of a Prezza outburst on BBC Radio 4's Today programme. It was over a Conservative initiative that will make it much harder to turn gardens into housing. Who bore the brunt of this verbal assault? Wet-behind-the-ears Tory MP Zac Goldsmith, the millionaire environmentalist who has some of the biggest back gardens in the country - with several other supersize back gardens in foreign countries.

The Conservatives say the initiative is about clamping down on land-grabbing developers. Not so, says Prezza. It's about class war, as he told Goldsmith in their radio discussion. Well, perhaps discussion is not quite the word:

"It's the old Tory policy, spouted by millionaires like yourself, always for the few and not the many."

But the real delight is in the Mail's treatment of the story. Spread across two pages is a comparison of the pair's homes and calculations of how many average family houses could fit in each back garden - although it doesn't specify what an average family home actually is. Nonetheless, it was a few hours well spent yesterday by some junior hack on the paper.

In the Prezza portfolio is his eight-bed house in Hull, with a back garden that is half an acre. The Mail reckons you could squeeze six houses into it. But most of the page is taken up with the Goldsmith "empire", which includes three bolt holes in the UK, one in Mexico and one in Spain. An estimated total of 607,714 new homes could be squeezed into those back gardens. Paper Monitor calls them back gardens - vast estates might be more appropriate. That's probably the size of a rather sizable town.

And so another useless form of measurement/comparison is born. Forget the swimming pools and elephants - how many average family homes will a space fit?

Thursday's Quote of the Day

09:34 UK time, Thursday, 10 June 2010

"It's the surprise that I've got a bum and legs at all. Presenters are normally hidden behind a desk" - BBC newsreader Fiona Bruce on why she believes she was voted Rear of the Year 2010.

Collecting an award normally handed to pop stars and actors, Ms Bruce insisted her derriere was nothing special. Her triumph has been attributed to a BBC One programme she presented about Queen Victoria's art collection, which included numerous shots of her retreating frame.
More details (Daily Mail)

Your Letters

16:13 UK time, Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Re the adultery charge (Quote of the Day). I would not be happy to have my young child run around a playground and stumble over two adults having nookie on a picnic table. Also, the thought of his or her naked butt on a place where I might have my ham and cheese sandwich totally grosses me out. I am not going to pretend to like this in a way of "oh, look how open minded I am". There is a time and a place for everything and motels come cheap.
Ginou InGinouity Meijer @BBC_magazine

So two of our national stars have had a spat at each other, highlighting the differences in their generational culture. Patrick Stewart echoed all who hold to traditional standards, while James Corden maintained his archetypal attitude. Neither seems to have demonstrated the glamour that the evening required.
Ian Deaville, Solihull UK

Another way that I know about the World Cup is from the magic box in the corner of my sitting-room, which has moving pictures and speaking people on it. Clearly my possession of such a miraculous device is unique, otherwise, if anyone else had one, it would surely have been mentioned in the article.
John Whapshott, Westbury, England

10 ways you can tell it's World Cup time - how about "Magazine articles appear listing 'Ways you can tell it's World Cup time'" as number 11?
Ken, Hemel Hempstead

Here's a way this non-fan knows the World Cup is upon us - six-year-old son coming home from school begging to "watch the World Cup". Fortunately, he's as confused as I am as to where and when it's on. Anybody know if they do edited highlights?
Amanda Bates @BBC_magazine

Tom, (Tuesday letters): while Mike Berners-Lee perhaps didn't call out overpopulation as an environmental problem as directly as does, say, Doug Stanhope ("a Prius with a baby seat is basically a Hummer"), he more than hinted at it with his splendidly grim reminder that, by the time you're worrying about the carbon footprint of your cremation, "you have already done the most carbon-friendly thing possible".
Peter, Cambridge, UK

Population reduction is a very common theme for global CO2 reduction. It was even discussed in this week's Reith Lecture. It is well worth listening.
Mark, Bridge

George (Tuesday letters), my parents once sent me a tea-towel as a souvenir of a Seal Sanctuary they had visited. Proudly emblazoned across the towel was a seal who had been born with a cleft palate, and badly injured by a boats propellors, that the Sanctuary staff had named Lucky. My first use of the towel was to dry my tears of laughter.
Rob, London, UK

Paper Monitor

12:14 UK time, Wednesday, 9 June 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Cuts, cuts, cuts. The papers are full of the plans to reduce public spending and the nation's debt. But the Sun goes a step further today by declaring "war on waste". And we - the paper's "loyal army of readers" - are being given an important job to do - "grass up the offenders".

You will be our eyes and ears as we hunt down the faceless quangos, town hall tyrants and barmy busybodies throwing money around like confetti.

It kicks the campaign off with some real gems, including a government-funded college course to teach young women how to walk in high heels - at a cost of £150 per pupil. There is also a healthy eating guide for footie fans, produced by a government quango. It suggests fans sip fizzy water with a slice of lemon instead of beer during matches. You'll hardly notice the difference - honest.

The paper plans to compile a "mighty dossier" of such "barmy" projects which it will give to the chancellor, George Osborne. But not before its team of heavyweight pundits have had their say. And who are these wise men and women, specially selected to bring some common sense to the debate? The likes of former "Liverpool hardman", Neil Ruddock, that's who. And his view on the healthy-eating guide?

This is absolute rubbish. If I started drinking sparkling water with a lemon down my pub, I'd be kicked out.

Obviously, to get a wide variety of views, the paper also gets a comment from, err, another ex-footballer. This time former West Ham star Julian Dicks:

When people support England, they like to enjoy themselves. I won't be having a vegetable couscous.

Yeah, take that all you couscous-eating, money-wasting busybodies. Your number is up and the Sun, some readers - maybe - and two ex-footballers are coming to get you. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:35 UK time, Wednesday, 9 June 2010

"I've been in the office for 28 years and I recall one other time that we prosecuted somebody for adultery" - New York prosecutor, as a woman is charged after canoodling with her lover in a park.

Yes, adultry is illegal in parts of the United States under a law enacted during the early 1900s, and was once punishable by a prison sentence. The law has rarely been use, but remains on the statute books in 10 states. Arrested for passion on a picnic table with her lover, Suzanne Corona became the 13th person in New York State to be hit with the charge in the past 40 years.
More details (Daily Mail)

Your Letters

15:50 UK time, Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Re: A bad reputation. Based on the fact that 15 tonnes of CO2 is produced per year per person, that means (on average) 1,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide is produced over your lifetime. So, surely the biggest saving, environmentally, is to not have a baby. Although that is almost never mentioned as our carbon solution.
Tom Webb, Surbiton, UK

About plastic bags - more boxes in supermarkets is a good idea, and we should be encouraged to use them and take them back. The almost complete lack of meaningful plastic recycling in this country is nothing short of a complete joke.
Tony Chung @BBC_magazine

I think that half of the problem with all this recession hoo-haa is because all these researchers are declaring that something might happen, people are panicking and then that has a knock on effect that causes it. These people should be shut in a dark room and made to think about what they've done... Rant over... Thank you for your time.
Liam, Northampton

Nominative determinism strikes again! Of course, usually in war films and such, the person (nick)named Lucky is always the one to get killed by a stray bullet in a highly ironic fashion.
George, Edinburgh

When a way of measuring niceness is agreed, has anyone devised a unit for it? Wishing your boss a good morning, would be 0.3 Blastlands. Say give 1m euro to Haiti Relief Fund, we'd have 350 Blastlands, or, 0.25 Ghandis.
Nuno Aragao, Aveiro, Portugal

Hm. Me thinkzs Old Gzr has played Buzz a few times too many - surely the test is if you can even consider the maths involved in calculating the units of alcohol in the glass in front of you, you've had too many.
Rahere, Smithfield

Paul Marlow (Monday's letters), I always thought that the Queen/Kings official birthday dated back further than the Coronation in 1953. Indeed, I always thought it was marked by the Trooping of the Colour, and has been since the 17th century. I thought that this was moved to June at the turn of the 20th Century in the hope of having good weather for it. And really has nothing to do with the Coronation.
Trish, scotland

Paper Monitor

10:52 UK time, Tuesday, 8 June 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The story about two nine-month-old twin girls apparently being mauled by a fox offers newsdesks every device to tug the heartstrings - helpless children, a distraught mother and, of course, ample opportunity to run animal photographs.

That Fleet Street makes the most of this will, of course, be of scant consolation to young Lola and Isabella Koupparis, who were hospitalised on Saturday.

But what intrigues Paper Monitor is the manner in which Reynard the fox has, through his association with the UK's low-level culture war over foxhunting, become the quarry of right-leaning pundits while flushing out sympathisers in the liberal press.

Take the Daily Mail, in which, alongside an image of a glowering, sharp-toothed example of the species, Rory Knight Bruce lambasts modern Britain for being "hopelessly sentimental" and "soft-hearted" about vulpes vulpes - a deficiency blamed, in no small measure, on the last government:

Labour's ban on fox-hunting encouraged a mawkish eagerness to romanticise this aggressive creature - a pathetic instinct that was symbolised when Labour MP Mike Foster held up a furry toy fox outside Parliament to celebrate the passing of the legislation.

The Guardian, by contrast, romanticises away with abandon, commissioning none other than former Really Wild Show presenter Terry Nutkins to offer a heartfelt apologia on behalf of the fox ("if it really was a fox"):

What I am definite about is that this fox did not go "on purpose" to attack the two children; that's simply not what foxes want to do. Any injury it caused those children would have been, in that sense, accidental.... We need to make sure that foxes do not become persecuted.

Nature versus nurture? A debate which will - ahem - fox the commentariat for some time yet.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:38 UK time, Tuesday, 8 June 2010

"Well, Jeez. I don't like this..." - Steve Jobs, whose new iPhone lost internet connection, as he was launching it to the world

It's a frustrating message familiar to millions of iPhone owners: "Cannot open page - Safari cannot open the page because it is not connected to the internet" But Apple boss Steve Jobs wasn't on a train going through a tunnel. He was making the keynote speech at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco

More details (BBC News website)

Your Letters

16:08 UK time, Monday, 7 June 2010

I have a certain amount of sympathy with Hillary Clinton who sent the Queen a birthday message a week early. The Queen's "official" birthday is intended to celebrate the anniversary of the Coronation on 2nd June 1953. As such, the date itself is in all probability a week LATE. In addition, the Queen's birthday has different dates in other Commonwealth countries and more than one in Australia alone!
Paul, Marlow, UK

"Mother finds children on Facebook"? So what - whenever I go upstairs, I find my children on Facebook too.
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

The easiest way to count alcohol units is the volume in litres x percent alcohol - so a 14% 175ml glass of wine (0.175 L) will be 2.45 units not 2.3 as mentioned in the article.
Old Gzr, Colchester

I've actually tried to cut 'n' paste between PCs.
Rachel, Minnetonka

Paper Monitor

14:40 UK time, Monday, 7 June 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Sometimes reading the papers feels like having a dream after a late-night snack of cheese - really quite bizarre.

The first pinch-me-cos-I-think-I'm-dreaming story is in today's Sun's story about US rapper Snoop Dogg recording a video message to wish Coronation Street happy 50th anniversary.

What up dog. It's your boy big Snoop Dogg saying happy 50th anniversary to Coronation Street and all my peoples in Manchester UK gettin' in there doin' it big.

The Daily Mail has another such gem - a bride-to-be who has changed her name by deed poll to include "I Hate Thomas Cook". All because the travel giant charged for changing the surname on her Gambia honeymoon booking to her married name, while her passport still carried her maiden name. According to the paper, in protest she changed her full name to "Mrs Lorraine Darla I Hate Thomas Cook And Its Associates Big Shot Company Treading On The Little Guy Leeks" The travel firm said its rules are that the name on a booking must match the passport.

Paper Monitor's dreams are never as good as this.

Monday's Quote of the Day

10:20 UK time, Monday, 7 June 2010

"For a long time I looked like Ann Widdecombe and I don't think Mo would have approved of that" - Bafta-winner Julie Walters thanks the costume designer who helped her look like Mo Mowlam

Walters' won her sixth Bafta for her performance as the former Northern Ireland Secretary, in Channel 4's Mo. The 60-year-old received her first in 1984 for Educating Rita, and only Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith have more.

More details (Daily Mirror)

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