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Morning news and current affairs. Including Sports Desk, Yesterday in Parliament, Weather and Thought for the Day.

3 hours

Last on

Thu 29 Jan 2015 06:00

Today's running order


Was Michelle Obama making a statement when she was pictured on a visit to Saudi Arabia minus a headscarf? There were tweets from Saudis calling her immodest, although her arms and legs were fully covered. When she visited Saudi Arabia, the Duchess of Cornwall was seen wearing a scarf, and Michelle Obama wore one while visiting Indonesia. We speak to Saudi journalist and academic Najah Al Osaimi.


Oil giant Shell is posting its Q4 and full-year figures at 0700. It will be the first of the large oil companies to do so since the price crashed. BP and Exxon are coming next week. Kamal Ahmed is the BBC’s economics editor.


Secondary school league tables for England published today are expected to show a slight dip in the overall performance of schools. This is because of reforms to the league table system which the government says will prevent schools playing the system by manipulating exam results.  Head teachers say changes to the school league tables have rendered the system a "complete mess" and an "irrelevance."  Only a pupil's first attempt at a GCSE will count in the school's overall exam results so the improved grades of pupils who've taken re-sits won't be taken into account. Russell Hobby is general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers.


Japan is analysing a new voice recording purported to be from a Japanese journalist held hostage by Islamic State militants. It repeats a threat to kill a Jordanian fighter pilot also held captive by the group unless Jordan releases a jailed Iraqi jihadist by sunset on Thursday. Jordan has said it is open to a prisoner swap -- but it won't go ahead unless it receives proof the pilot is still alive. And Jordan has made no mention of the Japanese journalist. Will Geddes is a hostage negotiation specialist.


One of the big fears about the Ebola virus was that it might mutate, if it became airborne for example, that would increase the risk of infection. Scientists have now told the BBC that there have been mutations since the start of the current outbreak, they're investigating whether it has become more contagious and whether the measles vaccine could be modified to protect against Ebola. Our Global Health Correspondent Tulip Mazumdar reports from the Institute Pasteur in France.


Seventeen leading insurance companies have told the BBC they currently have no plans for any products that will help people plan ahead for care needs in their old age. In 2016, the government is introducing a new £72,000 cap on an individual's care costs in England. It was hoped this would lead to insurance companies offering products that people could start pay into long before they needed care. Alex Adamou’s mother has early onset dementia. James Lloyd is director of the public policy think tank the Strategic Society Centre.


Big changes are afoot at the Natural History Museum in London. A re-vamp is planned to coincide with the launch of its new strategy that puts science and research at the heart of the collection.  Science editor Tom Feilden reports.


The UK based drugs firm, Astra Zeneca, has announced a research programme to develop new medicines that treat diseases by, in effect, fixing broken genes. It will be the first concerted use of an emerging technique called Crispr to snip out specific disease genes to discover new drugs. The technique is cheaper, faster and more accurate than current methods. The research will be carried out with four leading academic and industrial gene research centres across the world. Dr Ewan Birney is associate director of the European Bioinformatics Institute.


Secondary school league tables for England published today are expected to show a slight dip in the overall performance of schools (see 0712). Many leading independent schools will see their rankings tumble because the IGCSE qualifications that they teach won't be included in this year's data. It's thought that this year more secondary schools will fall below the government's threshold measure, that's at least 40% of students getting 5 GCSES at grades A* to C including English and Maths. Paul Halcro is principal at Bulwell Academy in Nottingham. Graham Stuart is Conservative MP and chairman of the Education Select Committee.


What drives us when we crave a certain food? Hunger, greed, or perhaps simply habit? A new exhibition at London's Science Museum looks at the science of appetite and taste. Dr Tony Goldstone is a consultant endocrinologist at Imperial College London and involved with the exhibition. Zoe Lauglin is director of the Institute of Making, based at University College London.


Seventeen leading insurance companies have told the BBC they currently have no plans for any products that will help people plan ahead for care needs in their old age (see 0730). Norman Lamb is minister for Care and Support.


Tension is rising in Nigeria ahead of next month's elections.  It's expected to be the tightest race since the end of military rule more than 15 years ago.  President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the South, is facing a big challenge from Muhammadu Buhari a Muslim from the north.  In Nigeria religion is taken extremely seriously and it's been used in the past to cause divisions and violence especially at election time.  Our Nigeria correspondent Will Ross reports from Jos in Central Nigeria.


Earlier this month, David Cameron said he wanted to gain access to the content of messages sent via the social media platforms WhatsApp, Snapchat and iMessage. The companies currently encrypt messages to prevent them being seen by the security services. He promised a "comprehensive piece of legislation" to close the "safe spaces used by suspected terrorists to communicate online with each other". Trushar Barot is apps editor at BBC World Service. Ingrid Lunden is international editor of Techcrunch, a technology news website.

All subject to change.


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