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Reflections From The Circle - New Show on RFD TV

Posted by admin on November 2, 2011

Reflections From The Circle - New Show on RFD TV

November 02, 2011 at 5:06 PM

Country music fans and RFD-TV viewers are about to get a lot closer to some of their favorite country music artists. Reflections From The Circle, premiering on the network on Sun., Nov. 6, is set to feature fan favorites including Trace Adkins, Dierks Bentley, Charlie Daniels, Vince Gill, Kellie Pickler, and Josh Turner reflecting on their personal lives and careers during intimate conversations on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry with TV and WSM radio personality Eddie Stubbs.

The premiere episode of Reflections From The Circle is set to feature Opry and Country Music Hall of Fame member Vince Gill.  All shows are scheduled to air Sundays at 7:00 p.m. EST/6:00 p.m. CST. The show’s first season schedule follows:

Sunday, Nov. 6 – Vince Gill

Sunday, Nov. 13 – Trace Adkins

Sunday, Nov. 20 – Dierks Bentley

Sunday, Nov. 27 – Josh Turner

Sunday, Dec.  4 – Kellie Pickler

Sunday, Dec.  18 – Charlie Daniels

Each show emanates from the Opry stage within the famed six-foot circle of wood, which was moved from the Ryman Auditorium to center stage of the Grand Ole Opry House when the Opry took up residence in its new home in 1974. The circle holds personal significance on innumerable levels for all the artists appearing on the show. Turner was officially welcomed to the Opry family there by Vince Gill, who says he’ll always remember singing his career-making “When I Call Your Name” while the King of Country Music, Roy Acuff, looked on just a foot away. In addition to career highlights on the Opry stage, Adkins took time out from his Opry debut to propose marriage and years later announced from the circle that he and his wife were expecting a baby. Bentley celebrated his official Opry induction inside the circle with his beloved dog Jake. Daniels invited one of his favorite acts, Montgomery Gentry, to join the Opry family while they stood on the circle of wood, then returned with the duo to sing “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” on the night the Opry House re-opened following last year’s Nashville flood.

Host Stubbs is already familiar to many RFD-TV viewers, appearing as the on-camera announcer for the network’s “The Marty Stuart Show” the past three years. He’s a 16-year veteran of country station 650 AM-WSM and of the Grand Ole Opry announcer staff. He was this week named as a 2012 inductee into the Country Radio Hall of Fame.





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Great to see this coming, could not happen to a better person, Eddie Stubbs is the MAN!!! What a talent and an awsome voice. Good luck
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Hooray for RFD. Eddie is great ! We hope to see more of him in the future. He is a VERY PROFESSIONAL personality. BIG asset to RFD.
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I love the concept of the show, but I think one hour is to long. It would be ok if it would have a preformance or two of the weekly guest. To me it gets boring and repetitive after a while.
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In the present invention the distributor provides the subscriber with several variable time allowance intervals for delivery of requested programs. For example, the distributor can offer ??express delivery??, that is, within one hour; ??one day delivery??, that is within a twenty-four hour period; or ??long term delivery??, within seven (7) days. Each time allowance interval is defined by the maximum amount of time it will take for the order to be filled. Longer-term time frames can allow a minimum of time to elapse before delivery. For example, the seven (7) day time frame can be structured so that the program segments will be delivered before the end of seven days, but not before a specified time, for example, twenty-five (25) hours In this way, the subscriber can anticipate his or her future program selections and place them at a much earlier date without prematurely burdening his own storage capabilities. The system of the invention also allows the subscriber to waive the minimum time before delivery in those instances where his own storage capacity would not be overburdened. If the subscriber, for example, chooses a seven (7) day delivery service, he can waive the twenty-five (25) hours delivery minimum and receive delivery anytime within seven (7) days. The subscriber will choose which of these time frames meets his needs on any given occasion. Product prices will vary accordingly. Pricing strategies will encourage distribution during off-peak hours and thereby utilize the system hardware more fully. Not all program segments need to be available for each interval.
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. There are no good statistics yet on how many people are moving from desk jobs to field work, but Kimberley Hart, Karen Sommerlad and Erik Jacobs have all made the transition. Ms Hart gave up making costumes for Broadway productions to grow vegetables on a modest rented farm in upstate New York, while Mr Jacobs left behind his career as a Boston-based freelance news photographer to study as an apprentice farmer. Meanwhile, Ms Sommerlad left a campus planning post at Harvard University to grow everything "from arugula [rocket] to zucchini [courgettes]". The trend seems most noticeable in the north-eastern United States - where all three live - as well as in California, possibly because of the flourishing "eat local" movements and growth of farmers' markets in both areas. 'Viable career' In the US, there are now 456,000 "beginning farmers", defined by the government as those with less than a decade's experience. According to the US Department of Agriculture, they are less likely than established farmers to receive government subsidies, and more likely to be college educated and have jobs off the farm. They also earn less from farming, and work smaller farms - though they aren't necessarily younger than their more established peers. Although official statistics have yet to show an increase in the number of these novice farmers, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence. There are now more than 8,000 farmers' markets across the US, a 38% increase in five years, and up from a few hundred a generation ago. At the Farm School in Athol, Massachusetts, demand for its year-long learn-to-farm programme has jumped from 15-20 applicants five years ago to nearly 50 this year, according to farm director Patrick Connors. He says the Farm School's programme "grew out of this recognition that more and more people were looking to build these [farming] skills". "This has become a viable career," adds Mr Connors. "There's lots of people in New England and California who run successful small businesses on their farms. As it's become a more viable profession, I think more people are considering it." Pupils on last year's class at Farm School ranged in age from 19 to 53. Incoming students this autumn include a lawyer, a doctor, a teacher, and several business executives. Second jobs While no-one is getting rich running a small-scale farm, for Ms Sommerlad and her husband, David Cobb, it supplements their retirement earnings. "We really do it because we love growing food and connecting with the community," says Ms Sommerlad. "The income is secondary." For Ms Hart, her goal for this year is to make a modest $10,000 (?6,400) profit. "Even if we totally mess up, we should be able to make that," she says. Yet virtually all small farmers - both the new and the experienced - supplement their crop earnings, sometimes with added-value products like making cheese from their cows' milk. Often one partner will continue to have a non-farming job in the city, while the other manages the farm full-time. Ms Hart and her husband, Thad Simerly, have this arrangement. He still commutes to New York City for his job in plaster restoration, where he earns far more than they could ever make on the farm. At the Farm School, many graduates use their former careers as a way to supplement their agricultural earnings. Mr Jacobs will continue to take photos for editorial clients, as well as recording his farming experiences on his He plans to work as a salaried farmer this year, while his wife continues her job as a staff photographer at the Boston Globe. The two had their first child, a boy, in May. 'Fickle market' Another thing new farmers learn early - it often makes more sense to lease their acreage than fulfil their fantasy of owning the land themselves. Ms Hart leases her land, and Mr Jacobs is about to, now he has finished his programme at the Farm School. Mr Jacobs says renting instead of owning land will allow him to be free of burdensome debt that he worried would turn working the land into just another job. Ms Sommerlad and her husband own their land, but instead of buying an expensive field, they grow high-value vegetables for restaurants and farmers' markets on just half an acre of their back yard in Sudbury, Vermont. "It's kind of a fickle market, so we decided to stick with what we know we can grow," says Ms Sommerlad. "We worked it out so that if we make money that's terrific. If we don't then we're not going to go hungry. We'll still have a roof over our head." All three novices agree that the joy of farming vastly outweighs its low financial returns - at least so far. Ms Hart says her goal was to be self-sufficient and sustainable. And because she and her husband wanted an escape. "We wanted to make our living from farming to extricate ourselves from the city," she says. Mr Jacobs says: "One of the ways I keep from despairing [about the world] is doing this farming thing. There's a lot of peace in reducing my footprint and living my values."Internet technology, especially mobile, allows us to monitor our resources like never before - in theory making sharing more possible.It is happening on both sides of the English Channel.The website , wants you to turn your kitchen into a restaurant, inviting guests to take part in your meal. The start-up has almost 3,000 users, almost half of whom are in France.The recent LeWeb conference, examined the sharing idea, which it called "Digital Hippydom" and it found that the French public and companies are particularly suited to the online, sharing economy.Meanwhile in Britain, uses apps to encourage people to share their experience of growing their own vegetables. It then allows users to trade their produce and create an online harvest for everyone to share.Video Journalist: Dougal ShawUp Next is a new series of video features for the BBC News website which examines the new developments that could affect all of our lives in the future.20 September 2012Last updated at 08:19 GMT The woman who lost all seven children By Robin BanerjiBBC World Service Sharon Bernardi lost all seven of her children to a rare genetic disease. It has driven her to support medical research that would allow defective genetic material to be replaced by DNA from another woman. Every time Sharon got pregnant she would pray that this time it would be different. She felt fine during pregnancy and the births went well, and then quickly something would start to go wrong. Each of her first three children died within hours of birth and no-one knew why. "It took us a long time to get over the first one and then it happened again. I was bewildered," says Sharon, from Sunderland. "I was in shock." After the third child died, doctors began to suspect that the deaths weren't coincidental. But genetic investigation didn't provide any definite answers. At the same time, her mother revealed that she'd had three stillbirths before Sharon had been born. Further investigations by doctors revealed that members of Sharon's extended family had lost another eight children between them. "I didn't know about my mum's history," says Sharon. "There was no need for me to know. I was my mother's only child. And I think that in her era people didn't really talk about things as they do now." Then along came Edward, Sharon's fourth child. This time the doctors were more prepared. For his first 48 hours, Edward received drugs and blood transfusions to prevent the lactic acidosis (a kind of blood poisoning) that had killed his siblings. Five weeks later Sharon and her husband Neil were allowed to take Edward to their home in Sunderland for Christmas. Edward lived. Although his health was often poor and Sharon had to care for him a lot of the time, he was a cheerful, active boy. At the age of four he started to have seizures. It was then that the doctors were finally able to diagnose Edward's - and indeed Sharon's - problem. Having gone through the history of Sharon's babies, doctors diagnosed Edward with Leigh's disease, a disorder that affects the central nervous system. The disease is caused by a defect in the mother's mitochondria, often referred to as the power plant of the cell. "This is going to sound strange but I was relieved that, at last, I had an answer." Not that the news made life much easier for Sharon. Her doctors told her that Edward could enjoy long periods of remission but that his health could also go down quite quickly. And meanwhile there was always the risk of Edward dying in one of his seizures, which could last for days. "It's hard when you want to have a family, and you finally have a baby like Edward, and you think you're finally getting somewhere with your hopes and your dreams, and then somebody tells you that at any moment your child is going to die." Sharon and Neil Bernardi were told that Edward was going to die before he was five. "Obviously, you either go down or you start fighting," says Sharon. Edward and his mother were fighters. In the end Edward survived into adulthood, dying last year at the age of 21. Sharon and Neil kept on trying for a healthy baby but without luck. Although three more children were born, none lived beyond the age of two. Each time one of their children died, they told themselves that "the death was a one-off". After their last child had a heart attack and died in 2000 they stopped trying. "People ask, what was different about Edward? How come he survived as a baby when he had all the problems that would later build up? I don't know but Edward had some fight in him. He was fighting to survive all his life. I think that was in his personality." The death of all her children put strains on her marriage, and on the wider family. "It also affects the family, the grandparents, their hopes and dreams for their grandchildren." People have accused Sharon and Neil of being selfish for wanting what they cannot have - their own family of healthy children. "I don't think I am selfish," says Sharon. "I wanted my child to be healthy." "In the last year of his life Edward was in chronic pain. He had dystonic spasms caused by things going wrong in his brain. His muscles would go into spasm for up to six hours at a time. Drugs could not help him. Part of Edward's body was beginning to fail." The suffering of Sharon's children has convinced her of the need to pursue the kind of genetic therapies that would allow mitochondrial defects to be remedied. "When you see somebody in pain you don't want to see somebody else in pain. You don't want to see a child who is born only to suffer and die before they're two, or if they do survive to have devastating disabilities." "It's not about being selfish. It's not about wanting designer babies. It's not about doing injustice to people with disabilities. It's about trying to create a healthy baby. It's about trying to give a child a future." Sharon Bernardi was talking to BBC World Service's NewshourWatch the latest World Debates 2012 From Tokyo, Japan From Johannesburg, South Africa From Davos, Switzerland Recorded 27 January 2012 From Paris, France Recorded 6 July 2012 2011 From Mumbai, India Recorded 13 November 2011 From Rome, Italy Recorded 25 September 2011 From Washington, DC Recorded 22 September 2011 From Vienna, Austria Recorded 21 June 2011 From St Petersburg, Russia Recorded 17 June 2011 From Lusaka, Zambia Recorded 16 June 2011 From Jakarta, Indonesia Recorded 13 June 2011 From Washington DC Recorded 24 May 2011 From Nuuk, Greenland Recorded 12 May 2011 From Brussels, Belgium Recorded 26 March 2011 From Johannesburg, South Africa Recorded 12 March 2011 From Istanbul, Turkey Recorded 23 February 2011 From Davos, Switzerland Recorded 29 January 2011 2010 From Luxor, Egypt Recorded December 12 2010 From Dubai, UAE Recorded 30 November 2010 From Marrakech, Morocco Recorded 27 October 2010Discover a world of news in one place. From Monday 14 January 2013, the BBC gathers its news journalism under one roof. On screen, BBC World News looks sharper and more dynamic than ever before, with high definition and virtual reality studios and innovative multi-platform content helping to bring the news to life like never before. The BBC employs more journalists than any other international broadcaster and produces news in 28 languages. The World's Newsroom is a melting pot for the best journalism in the world, using five custom-built studios with new sets and fresh creative graphics and cutting-edge cameras with virtual reality and 3D capabilities to create news that's immersive, dynamic, and more engaging than ever. Watch BBC World News to experience a new era in news broadcasting, and see some photographs of the . You can also hear from fellow on the many languages in which we broadcast, find out more about our new and watch our . Read a about the changes by Andrew Roy, head of news for BBC World News. For the list of all programmes, go to23 June 2012Last updated at 10:51 GMT The world's oldest clove tree By Simon WorrallTernate, Indonesia Indonesia's "Spice Islands" produced more nutmeg, mace, pepper and cloves than anywhere else in the world and on the island of Ternate, one particular tree has an extraordinary history. "Bule, Bule," shout the children excitedly, as our jeep threads its way up a steep road on the side of the volcano. "White man, White man." I am on Ternate, one of Indonesia's fabled Spice Islands. The midday call to prayer mingles with the mosquito-whine of motorcycles. Above us, smoke seeps from the side of Gamalama, the pyramid-shaped volcano that dominates the island. It had erupted only a month earlier, sending a tongue of molten lava pouring down the mountain into the sea. This part of the world is not called "The Ring of Fire" for nothing. I am searching for the world's oldest clove tree. Why it is called Afo, no one knows. Neither is it exactly certain when Afo was planted. But estimates suggest it is between 350 and 400 years old. For millennia, Ternate and the neighbouring island of Tidore were the world's only source of those fragrant, twig-like herbs that love to hide at the back of our kitchen cupboards. Cloves from Ternate were traded by Arab seafarers along the maritime Silk Route as far afield as the Middle East, Europe and China. A Han dynasty ruler from the 3rd Century BC insisted that anyone addressing him chew cloves to sweeten their breath. Their origin was a fiercely-guarded secret until the Portuguese and Spanish burst into the Java Sea in the 16th Century. Our hip, young Indonesian driver is clearly baffled as to why anyone should want to see an old tree. And he clearly has no idea where Afo is. At a roadside stall selling everything from basketballs to fruit, we stop to ask directions. The stallholder points back down the hill. With great difficulty, and reeking brake pads, we turn round and drive back down the volcano. After a few hundred yards, we spot a signboard pointing to some steps cut into the hillside. The path winds upwards through groves of clove trees and bamboo. We are at nearly 1,800m (6,000ft) above sea level. Below us, through the foliage, I can just make out the sea and, beyond it, the island of Tidore. Huffing and puffing up one last flight of steps I find myself under a tree that was probably here when Shakespeare was alive. Afo was once 40 metres tall and four metres round. Sadly, today, all that remains is a massive stump and some bare branches. A few years ago, villagers hungry for firewood even attacked Afo with machetes. A brick wall now surrounds it. If the Dutch had had their way, Afo would not have survived at all. The Netherlands United East India Company, or Voc, was the world's first multinational corporation. And just as corporations today seek to monopolise plant genes in the developing world, the Voc set about seizing total control of spice production. In 1652, after displacing the Portuguese and Spanish, the Dutch introduced a policy known as extirpatie: extirpation. All clove trees not controlled by the Voc were uprooted and burned. Anyone caught growing, stealing or possessing clove plants without authorisation faced the death penalty. On the Banda Islands, to the south - the world's only source of nutmeg - the Dutch used Japanese mercenaries to slaughter almost the entire male population. Like Opec today, the Voc also limited supply to keep prices high. Only 800-1,000 tonnes of cloves were exported per year. The rest of the harvest was burned or dumped in the sea. Somehow, Afo managed to slip through the net. A rogue clove. A guerrilla plant waging a secret war of resistance. Afo would eventually bring down the Dutch monopoly on cloves. In 1770, a Frenchman, appropriately named Poivre, stole some of Afo's seedlings. This Monsieur Pepper took them to France, then the Seychelles Islands and, eventually, Zanzibar, which is today the world's largest producer of cloves. As I stand looking up into its branches, I wonder who planted Afo - and kept its location secret all those years. Or did it just survive because of its remoteness high on the slopes of Gamalama? Either way, this ancient clove tree remains a symbol of the ultimate folly of empire - and the stubborn refusal of nature to be controlled. How to listen to From Our Own Correspondent: BBC Radio 4: A 30-minute programme on Saturdays, 11:30 BST. Second 30-minute programme on Thursdays, 11:00 BST (some weeks only). or BBC World Service: Hear daily 10-minute editions Monday to Friday, repeated through the day, also available to . Read more or at the .30 September 2013Last updated at 19:44 GMT Thief Yafet Askale caught out by 'invisible' dye A thief who broke into a decoy car was caught out due to an "anti-crime" dye that turned his face bright green. Yafet Askale, 28, was sprayed with the substance, which can only be seen under ultraviolet light, when he broke into a police "trap car" in Harlesden, north-west London. Askale denied the charge of theft from a motor vehicle, but was convicted at Hendon Magistrates' Court. Police said that the dye proved Askale had been in the car. He was also found to have a number of stolen items, including a laptop. Askale, of Harlesden Gardens, Harlesden, was sentenced on Friday to 49 hours of community service and was ordered to pay ?400 costs. Brent Police said they had also been providing residents with invisible dye kits so they can mark their property to deter thieves.27 March 2013Last updated at 17:31 GMT This is BBC News BBC News reaches about 40 million adults in the UK every week - its international services are consumed by an additional 239 million adults around the world. The department is the largest in the BBC in terms of staff, with more than 8,500 people around the UK and the rest of the world. BBC News incorporates network news (the newsroom, news programmes such as Newsnight and Newsbeat, political programmes such as the Daily Politics, and the weather team), English Regions and Global News. Material is brought into the BBC by its newsgathering staff, one of the largest operations of its kind in the world, with more than 40 international bureaux and seven in the UK. It is transmitted to audiences on an increasingly diverse range of platforms including tablet computers and mobile phones. NETWORK NEWSROOM The 24-hour newsroom is responsible for the One, Six and Ten O'Clock bulletins, the BBC News channel, radio bulletins and summaries, BBC World, the World Service and the BBC News website. Since 2013, nearly all this output has been produced and transmitted from the new wing of Broadcasting House (NBH) at the north end of Regent Street in central London. It is tucked behind the original Art Deco building that was opened as the BBC's first purpose-built headquarters in 1932. NBH is occupied by 3,000 journalists and production staff in the news division. At the heart of the building, occupying the basement and ground floors, is the multimedia newsroom, the biggest in Europe, which brings together all the BBC's network and global news production for the first time. From here, BBC journalists, many of them specialists, deliver high-quality audio, visual and text accounts of breaking news and significant events with merged teams and shared content to meet the world's appetite for on-demand news. NEWS IN SALFORD BBC Breakfast and Radio 5 live are broadcast from MediaCity UK, in Salford Quays, approximately two miles from Manchester city centre. Radio 5 live news employs about 130 journalists who produce some 75% of the network's output, or about 130 hours a week. NEWS PROGRAMMES The department brings together all the major daily and weekly current affairs programmes, investigative journalism and major interview programmes, including Panorama, Today and Newsnight. The department also includes services focused on distinctive audiences, including BBC World Service news programmes such as Newshour and BBC Radio 1 news programmes such as Newsbeat. This is the home of much of the BBC's original journalism and material is shared across news outlets to enrich content for as many audiences as possible. POLITICAL PROGRAMMES The political programmes department, based within a stone's throw of the Palace of Westminster, reports on the decisions and activities of the UK government, MPs and peers. It makes and broadcasts programmes such as Today (and Yesterday) in Parliament on Radio 4, and BBC Two's Daily and Sunday Politics as well as the BBC Parliament TV channel. It also provides a huge amount of material for BBC network TV and radio outlets, the BBC News website and regional TV and local radio. Elections - local, general and European - are covered by BBC Westminster. The political research unit provides background information and reliable statistics on parties, policies and polling, producing indispensable election guides which are studied and treasured by politics geeks and other staff across the corporation. NEWSGATHERING "Where do you get the news from?" is a question frequently asked by audiences and the answer is, for the most part, BBC newsgathering. Some news is scheduled and planners and staff, known as news organisers, are able to deploy in advance correspondents, producers, camera crews, and on occasion, the BBC helicopter. Even with advanced warning, meeting the demands of all the BBC outlets can present a challenge for reporters, who might face requests for a two-way - or live interview - in the first minutes of the Today programme just after 06:00, frequent appearances on the News Channel and network radio throughout the day, a piece for the website and a package for the Ten O'Clock TV bulletin, with an update for The World Tonight. Newsgathering, home and foreign, must also respond to unpredictable events such as murders, floods, transport crashes, earthquakes and wars and rumours of wars. It can be a dangerous calling. Foreign correspondents, producers, camera crews, fixers and translators frequently risk their lives to draw attention to the history of the world as it unfolds. GLOBAL NEWS BBC Global News includes the BBC World Service, BBC World News television, bbc.com/news (the BBC's international-facing news site) and BBC Monitoring. The BBC's international news services attract a global audience of 239 million in more than 200 countries and territories. Together they represent the voice and face of the corporation to the rest of the world. Residents of Nairobi, for example, are likely to regard as the face of the BBC the Ghanaian journalist Komla Dumor, presenter of Focus on Africa, the daily news programme focusing on African stories. BBC Global is increasingly working with partners to build audiences across the United States, Asia and Africa. AROUND THE UK BBC English Regions, part of the BBC News Group, is made up of 3,000 staff based from the Channel Islands in the south to the border with Scotland in the north. It is split into 12 regions, each broadcasting regional news programmes throughout the day along with weekly politics, current affairs and sport shows from their regional centres. Each region has up to six local radio stations and up to six BBC local websites. There are also teams working in bureaux in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales to provide programming for their own national audiences as well as contributing to network news. The BBC's 40 local radio stations reach more than seven million listeners across the UK. WEATHER The BBC weather centre produces forecasts for TV, radio, online, mobile and Red Button, in partnership with the Met Office. The BBC weather presenters are all trained broadcast meteorologists.15 September 2013Last updated at 23:09 GMT Thomas Flohr: The high-flying multi-millionaire By Will SmaleBusiness reporter, BBC News As international, multi-millionaire jetsetters go, Thomas Flohr certainly looks the part. With his tan, stubble, swept back hair, and jeans and jacket combination, he is the type of man you can picture stepping off a private plane after flying in from somewhere exotic. It is a pretty apt image because Mr Flohr owns a large fleet of private jets. The Swiss national is the founder, boss, and 100% owner of VistaJet, the world's fastest-growing airline you have probably never heard of, and most probably can only dream of affording to use. Founded in 2004, VistaJet now has 35 planes, and is quickly adding to that number. Such is the demand for its services that earlier this year it signed the biggest deal in business aviation history - a $7.8bn (?4.9bn; 5.87bn euros) order for 56 jets, and options for 86 more, from Canada's Bombardier. With claimed revenue growth of 26% a year, Mr Flohr highlights three underlying factors behind VistaJet's success - it only uses the newest and most luxurious planes, it will fly to anywhere in the world no matter how remote, and it targets emerging economies such as China and India. "You have to trust your instincts," he says. "I sensed that the [business jet] market was underserved, and I wanted to challenge the established players. I like a good David versus Goliath fight." Long-distance jets For those of us unaccustomed to the rarefied world of private jets, the market is dominated by a handful of American providers who offer businesses the chance to invest in a fractional stake in a plane, which they then share. In addition, there are a great many smaller providers, who can rent you a plane per journey, with the deal most likely being done via a broker. Mr Flohr's plan was to create a global brand that businesses, wealthy individuals, or even governments, could simply hire a plane directly from when they wanted it. There would be no complicated fractional deals or brokerages. "The fractional system only really operates in the US because that is the only country that offers tax breaks for it," says Mr Flohr. "It makes no sense outside of America, and particularly in China. "Instead they just want to rent a plane, and they want the best possible quality. But if you do this via a broker, you often don't know the level of quality, or otherwise, or age, of the plane that turns up." So with VistaJet businesses go to it directly. And as its fleet contains Bombardier's long range Global 6,000 planes, VistaJet can fly anywhere in the world. It also pledges to be able to fly to any airport with a sufficient runway, be it somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Siberia or Sub-Saharan Africa. "This really sets us apart," says Mr Flohr. "We'll go where our rivals don't want to. If any oil executive needs to go to the back of beyond, we'll get him there. "With the fractional guys, they don't want their planes to do this because they want them to be readily available for the other part-owners." 'Risky move' But as Mr Flohr continues with his ambitious growth plans for VistaJet, how does someone without an aviation background get into the private planes business? After studying business and politics at university in Munich, Germany, he made his fortune working in asset finance in his 20s and 30s. His job allowed him the use of private planes, and he started to question how the industry operated. So thinking he could do things better, he bought his first two planes. Mr Flohr says: "I had two jets and they were paying for themselves, so I went out in 2005 and took the biggest risk of my life - I bought three more aeroplanes. Thankfully I haven't looked back from there." VistaJet now has 170 pilots and carries out more than 10,000 flights per year, including flying to 136 different airports in Africa. "We have been greatly helped by the big growth in the emerging economies," says Mr Flohr. "Even just five years ago, Indian businessmen didn't use private planes, but now they do, the same in China. We are there to serve them, and business is very strong, in Russia too. The so called Bric nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) have helped us greatly." He adds that VistaJet is also benefiting from a resurgence in Western firms wishing to hire his planes again, as their economies recover. Constant traveller Despite Mr Flohr's job seeing him almost constantly travelling the world on VistaJet planes, he does not believe he lives a jet-set life. "I see all the travel as a necessity - I want to meet with my clients in person," he says. And so in one average fortnight he flew from his base in Switzerland to China, Russia, the US, Mozambique, the UK and Italy. When he does get spare time, he likes to race go-karts, spend time with his daughter, and cook meals for friends. But what advice would he give would-be entrepreneurs? "Stop looking at social media websites, and instead work out what contribution you can make to the world, and go and do it," he says. "Find your niche, find what you are good at, and focus on that. And be a good person along the way - if you try to take shortcuts it will just come back and haunt you."4 October 2013Last updated at 23:51 GMT Thousands get set for Great Scottish Run in Glasgow Drivers are facing diversions and delays as thousands of runners take to the streets of Glasgow this weekend for the Great Scottish Run. Some of the world's top athletes will be joining 24,000 club, charity and fun runners for Sunday's 10K and half marathon events. Four junior and family races are being held in the city centre on Saturday. The Great Scottish Run was first held in 1982 with the 2012 event reaching a record high of 24,089 runners. Runners will go along some of the city's most famous landmarks, iconic buildings and Commonwealth Games venues. Both the 10K and half marathon will start at George Square in the city centre and cross the Clyde before heading back to Glasgow Green. Road closures Half marathon participants will cross the Kingston Bridge to the city's southside and Bellahouston Park before crossing the Squinty Bridge and running along the Clydeside Expressway and the Broomielaw to Glasgow Green. Those running in the 10K will also run along the Clydeside Expressway before crossing the Clyde at the Squinty Bridge then heading to Glasgow Green via the same bridge and the Broomielaw. The 10K begins at 09:30 on Sunday with the half marathon following at 11:00. Four junior and family runs will be held around George Square and the Merchant City from 09:45 on Saturday. A number of road closures will be in place over the weekend and diversions set up.The Mexican military has airlifted hundreds of tourists stranded in the flooded resort of Acapulco, after deadly storms hit eastern Tamaulipas state and western Guerrero state.But thousands remain trapped in the city and elsewhere and there are fears the death toll may rise as rescue teams reach remote areas. Tropical storms Ingrid and Manuel swamped large swathes of the country over the weekend, sparking landslides and causing rivers to overflow in several states.Will Grant reports.28 September 2013Last updated at 15:41 GMT Thousands take part in Belfast UVF commemoration parade Thousands of people have taken part in a parade to mark the centenary of the formation of the UVF in west Belfast. A century ago at Fernhill House in the Glencairn area, unionist leader Edward Carson inspected members of the west Belfast section of the Ulster Volunteer Force. More than 10,000 people took part in the march to Fernhill, making it one of the biggest parades of the year. Many of them were dressed in period costume. The parade was a re-enactment of one of the key events of the Home Rule crisis. Some of the drums played are 100 years old and were used at the event the parade is commemorating. The Ulster Volunteer Force was formed to resist plans to make Ireland self-governing, but many members went on to fight in the First World War. The parade was led by a horse-drawn carriage and also featured a vintage car which was used by the IRA in the early 20th century. Progressive Unionist Party leader Billy Hutchinson read extracts of Carson's speech as part of the event.24 September 2013Last updated at 08:48 GMT Thousands visit Gromit statue show in Bristol More than 25,000 people visited an exhibition of Gromit statues in Bristol, organisers said. The show featured all 81 of the models, which were on the streets of Bristol during the summer. It had originally been planned to last five days and close on Sunday but ran for an extra day to cope with the "extraordinary demand". The Gromits are due to be auctioned on 3 October to raise money for Bristol's Children's Hospital. The auction will be hosted by Sotheby's auctioneer and TV antiques presenter Tim Wonnacott, in The Mall pavilion at Cribbs Causeway shopping centre. Huge queues of Wallace and Gromit fans waited up to eight hours outside the venue for the show, in Queen's Road at the weekend. The statues of Aardman Animation's much-loved canine creation, decorated by well-known celebrities and artists, made up an arts trail across the city. The exhibition, which was originally intended to take place at the Royal West of England Academy in Clifton, Bristol, was moved to the nearby former Habitat store to cope with the expected numbers.18 December 2012Last updated at 01:10 GMT Three faces of the new Tunisia It is two years since protests began in Tunisia after Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire outside local government offices in the central town of Sidi Bouzid - the act that sparked the Arab Spring. His death prompted a nationwide uprising that led to the overthrow of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, and hopes of a fairer Tunisia. But two years later, unemployment is even higher than at the time of the uprising, and during recent demonstrations in the town of Siliana, police opened fire on protesters with birdshot. The BBC's Imogen Foulkes has talked to three very different Tunisians about their hopes and fears. Mahjoub El Harbaoui, local government worker from Siliana It was a peaceful demonstration, a legal demonstration. We were making legitimate demands for jobs and better services. Our province has been neglected economically, and our local governor isn't helping. We marched from the trade union offices to the governor's house, but we weren't asking to replace him. We wanted to ask for investment in our region, I mean, if we can't speak to our own governor about that kind of thing, who can we speak to? But we were answered with "cartouches" (birdshot). I got shot in the eye, and I don't know if I will keep the sight in this eye now. I have had an operation, the doctors here are doing their best, but I just don't know. I can't believe this happened, I'm not a "casseur" (hooligan). I was demonstrating peacefully. I am 46 and I have two very young daughters. If I lose my sight I might not be able to work. Siliana is a region that's always been forgotten in Tunisia, and now the economic situation is even worse. There is a feeling that we are just not paid attention to, that no-one cares about our problems here, that no-one really respects us. It's as if we just don't count, as if we are not a factor in any one's equation. And I think you can say that about a lot of Tunisia now. Sonia El Ghoul, police trainer in Tunis I trained originally as a lawyer, but then I took the police examinations as well. I won a competition to get into police officer training. Now I am a superintendent. I am very happy in my job right now, the fact that we are in transition makes it a real challenge. We know we are working to change things and that motivates us. Such things [the shootings in Siliana] can happen anywhere, but it should be a lesson to us and to the people too. It's true that at the moment we don't have a lot of trust from the people, but we are trying, every day, just with little things, to build up confidence. Just the way we talk to people, for example, can help to build up trust. After all, we are dealing with the public every day, so it is important that every police officer knows what human rights are. He or she needs to know that having the confidence of the public is a must - in that respect we do need to change mentalities, of our officers, and of the public. But police officers are people too. There are good ones and bad ones, just like everywhere else. There have been big changes in the last two years, but the biggest is that we have the freedom to say what we think. And there is more respect for the other person's point of view. For the police, it means we discuss things a lot more than we did in the past. We talk about the law, how we must stay within the law, and we can question our superiors. I am an optimist, yes, I am positive about the future. Things are changing in Tunisia every day and, of course, there are difficulties, but I think we will succeed. Tarek Cheniti, UN human rights officer I'm Tunisian, but I was working and studying in the UK when the uprising first began. And I had a fellowship to the United States, but instead I went back and joined the uprising. So I took part in the events that led to the collapse of the Ben Ali regime, and that had a tremendous impact on me personally because I saw men and women getting together to claim their rights and do so in a peaceful way - that's why I took the job I have now. We can make a difference. We can highlight the situation of particular groups of people who might be at risk, the situation of rural women for example, or religious minorities, or indeed any minority. You can talk about all these things in Tunisia now, some of these topics were taboo under the Ben Ali regime, which used to project the image of a progressive and modern political regime but it wasn't the case. So this is a window of opportunity in Tunisia. With Siliana, in a way the events there almost make me hopeful for the future because it was a demonstration against decisions taken in unaccountable ways. People protested against the governor whom they thought did not represent them and that movement was extremely peaceful. At one point they even left the town, and left him alone in the governor's residence, as a way of telling him he did not represent them properly. Things like this are very normal in democratic transitions, and they have to happen. I would be worried if there were no protests. But it's important for the police to recognise that the kind of force they used in Siliana is never an option. So we are working on changing laws, and on changing attitudes. It will take time, but it will happen.20 March 2013Last updated at 15:34 GMT Three-person IVF moves closer in UK By James GallagherHealth and science reporter, BBC News The UK has moved closer to becoming the first country to allow the creation of babies from three people. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has advised the government that there is no evidence the advanced forms of IVF were unsafe. The fertility regulator's public consultation also showed "general support" for the idea as the benefits outweighed the risks. A final decision on whether to press ahead rests with ministers. If the techniques were approved it could help a handful of families each year. Around one in 6,500 children develop serious "mitochondrial disorders" which are debilitating and fatal. Research suggests that using mitochondria from a donor egg can prevent the diseases. However, it would result in babies having DNA from two parents and a tiny amount from a third donor. Concerns have been raised both about the safety and the ethics of creating such babies. The results of a public consultation at the end of 2012 showed there was support for the idea. Prof Neva Haites, who was on the expert panel supervising the consultation, said: "Broadly speaking the public was in favour of these novel techniques being translated into treatments. "They felt that any ethical concerns were outweighed by potential benefits." One of the main issues raised was of a "slippery slope" which could lead to other forms of genetic modification. 'Power stations' Mitochondria are the tiny biological power stations that give energy to nearly every cell of the body. Defects can leave the body starved of energy, resulting in muscle weakness, blindness, heart failure and death in the most extreme cases. The cigar-shaped mitochondria are passed only from mother to child. A father does not pass on his mitochondria through his sperm. Scientists have devised two techniques that allow them to take the genetic information from the mother and place it into the egg of a donor with healthy mitochondria. It is like taking two fried eggs and switching the yolks. How would it work? The result is a baby with genetic information from three people, as mitochondria have their own genes in their own DNA. The implications are not just for the couple and the child. If the therapy was performed it would have ramifications through the generations as scientists would be altering human genetic inheritance. 'Recommendations' The HFEA has advised that any changes to the law should be only for the modification of mitochondria to overcome serious diseases and that there should still be a ban on changes to the main nuclear DNA, which contains the vast majority of a person's genetic code. It also recommended continuing research and that any children born through these techniques, and possible the children's children, be monitored closely. There was vigorous discussion at the HFEA Open Meeting, where the advice to ministers was agreed, around issues of identification. In sperm and egg donation the donor is identified. The meeting agreed to advise ministers that there should be no right for the child to know the identity of the donor, however, the HFEA will tell ministers that public opinion was mixed. Mr Hossam Abdalla, clinical director of the Lister Fertility Clinic in London, told the meeting: "If a child wants to know about that, why are we so restrictive... why are we telling them we they can't have this access?" 'Astounded' Prof Lisa Jardine, chairwoman of the HFEA, said the UK was in one of the most advanced positions in the world. "Other countries are astounded that we're this far on in the discussions," she said. However, she pointed out the techniques would be used only for mitochondrial disorders: "This is not a Rubicon or a slippery slope." One of the pioneers of the field, Prof Doug Turnbull, from Newcastle University, said: "The techniques we are working on could help hundreds of women have healthy children." He said more research was required, but it was now "crucial" that the government approved the techniques in the UK. The Department of Health said mitochondrial diseases could have a "devastating impact" on families and it would consider the HFEA's advice. Making three-person IVF legal would not require a new act of Parliament, but would require a vote in both the Commons and the Lords. Speaking after the meeting Dr David King, the director of Human Genetics Alert, said: "Historians of the future will point to this as the moment when technocrats crossed the crucial line, the decision that led inexorably to the disaster of genetically engineered babies and consumer eugenics. "This was the moment at which they casually tossed the bioethical consensus of the last 30 years into the trash. And for what? "Not so mothers could avoid having sick babies, because they could do that already, through egg donation. It was so that a few dozen mothers who insisted they must be genetically related to their child could be satisfied."13 August 2013Last updated at 11:35 GMT Tibet profile Tibet, the remote and mainly-Buddhist territory known as the "roof of the world", is governed as an autonomous region of China. Beijing claims a centuries-old sovereignty over the Himalayan region. But the allegiances of many Tibetans lie with the exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, seen by his followers as a living god, but by China as a separatist threat. International attention was focused on the territory in 2008 during the run-up to the Beijing Olympics. Fatal clashes between anti-Chinese protesters and the authorities in Tibet were given wide publicity and the torch relay in London, Paris and San Francisco was dogged by pro-Tibet protests and stunts. Tibet has had a tumultuous history, during which it has spent some periods functioning as an independent entity and others ruled by powerful Chinese and Mongolian dynasties. China sent in thousands of troops to enforce its claim on the region in 1950. Some areas became the Tibetan Autonomous Region and others were incorporated into neighbouring Chinese provinces. In 1959, after a failed anti-Chinese uprising, the 14th Dalai Lama fled Tibet and set up a government in exile in India. Most of Tibet's monasteries were destroyed in the 1960s and 1970s during China's Cultural Revolution. Thousands of Tibetans are believed to have been killed during periods of repression and martial law. China accused of repression Under international pressure, China eased its grip on Tibet in the 1980s, introducing "Open Door" reforms and boosting investment. Beijing says Tibet has developed considerably under its rule. But rights groups say China continues to violate human rights, accusing Beijing of political and religious repression. Beijing denies any abuses. Tourism and the ongoing modernisation drive stand in contrast to Tibet's former isolation. But Beijing's critics say Tibetans have little say in building their future. China says a new railway link between Lhasa and the western Chinese province of Qinghai will boost economic expansion. The link is likely to increase the influx of Chinese migrants. 'Reincarnation' Buddhism reached Tibet in the seventh century. The Dalai Lama, or Ocean of Wisdom, is the leading spiritual figure; the Panchen Lama is the second most important figure. Both are seen as the reincarnations of their predecessors. The selection of a Dalai Lama and a Panchen Lama has traditionally followed a strict process. But the Dalai Lama and Beijing are at odds over the 11th incarnation of the Panchen Lama, having identified different youngsters for the role. The Dalai Lama's choice, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, has not been seen since his detention by the Chinese authorities in 1995. There have been intermittent and indirect contacts between China and the Dalai Lama. The exiled spiritual leader advocates a non-violent, negotiated solution to the Tibet problem and accepts the notion of real autonomy for Tibet under Chinese sovereignty. China has questioned his claims that he does not seek independence. China has also accused the Dalai Lama of inciting the dozens of self-immolations that since 2009 have taken place among Tibetans opposed to Chinese rule. He rejects this and has questioned the effectiveness of such protests. Tibet's economy depends largely on agriculture. Forests and grasslands occupy large parts of the country. The territory is rich in minerals, but poor transport links have limited their exploitation. Tourism is an important revenue earner.30 October 2012Last updated at 08:06 GMT Time to heal: The materials that repair themselves By Paul RinconScience editor, BBC News website At some point in the near future you'll wear out those running shoes, break that squash racket, drop your smartphone and crack the screen. They will need to be replaced - at a cost. But what if we made things from materials that can heal themselves - like a plant or animal heals a wound? According to experts, the first products with truly self-healing properties may be just around the corner. Serious proposals for this technology go back at least as far as the 1960s, when Soviet researchers published theory papers on the topic. led by Scott White from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, that really helped to kick-start the field. The group infused a plastic-like polymer with microscopic capsules containing a liquid healing agent. Cracking open the material caused the capsules to rupture, releasing the healing agent. When the agent made contact with a catalyst embedded in the material, a chemical reaction bonded the two faces of the crack together. The polymer recovered some 75% of its original toughness. In the last decade, the team has developed and refined its capsule-based systems, recently demonstrating an electrical circuit that . Microcapsules in the gold circuit released liquid metal in response to damage, swiftly restoring electrical conductivity, and bringing self-repairing electronic chips a step closer. Co-author Dr Benjamin Blaiszik, now at Argonne National Laboratory, explained that the self-healing circuitry could find uses in a military setting where it would be exposed to extreme stresses or in long-term space applications. He adds: "Imagine if there is a mechanical failure of a microchip on the Curiosity rover, due to thermomechanical stresses, or if there had been an interconnect failure during the landing phase. There is obviously no way to manually repair nor replace the probe." The Illinois group is already commercialising their work via a spin-out company, , which has raised about $4m (?2.4m) of investment. Its chief executive, Joe Giuliani, told me the first applications of microcapsule systems are likely to be in coatings, paints and adhesives for environments where corrosion poses a challenge. "Worldwide, corrosion costs over $500bn (?312bn) a year, so it's a huge problem," he told BBC News. Oil and gas is a key area. Re-healable products are likely to find uses on platforms - where the ability to heal drilling parts would be highly desirable - in pipelines and in refineries. They would potentially last several years longer than their conventional counterparts, lengthening the periods between maintenance. "Over the life of that asset, there would be huge savings," says Giuliani. "It is out of commission for a lot less time too, which in the oil and gas business is huge. It can cost them $500,000 (?312,000) or $1m (?624,000) a day if an asset is out of service." Military vehicles, cars and ships are other targets for self-healing coatings. The firm has about 30 products in testing and development and expects to fulfil its first commercial orders in the next six months. Some manufacturers might not welcome the idea of products that last years longer than usual. But paint and coatings producers "know they can get more per gallon of paint they're selling," says Mr Giuliani, "the customers have shown us they're willing to pay the up-charge." Scott White, from Illinois University's Beckman Institute, says that healing structural damage in sports equipment or aircraft components, for example, represents a "mid-term target" for scientists. He told BBC News that the whole area of self-healing has seen an explosion of interest in the last decade, with some 200 academic papers published on the topic last year alone. And scientists are working on everything from re-healable polymers and composites (materials made from two or more different ones) to self-repairing metals and ceramics. Since 2001, two new approaches have joined microcapsules as approaches to self-repair. Taking the circulatory system as their inspiration, vascular methods rely on a network of channels (like capillaries, veins and arteries) within the material to deliver healing agent to the site of damage. Intrinsic systems, meanwhile, exploit the reversible nature of certain chemical bonds to incorporate healing abilities directly into the material. Each of the three approaches has advantages and limitations that come into play when considering applications. Microcapsules are finite: as they get used up, the material loses its healing properties. And intrinsic systems need a stimulus - such as heat or light - to trigger healing, which can be good or bad depending on the application. If the amount of damage is microscopic, capsule-based or intrinsic systems may be the best option. But, says Prof White, "if it's a large damaged volume, then neither of those approaches are going to work and you have to go with a vascular-based system". This is because they allow large amounts of healing agent to be transported to the breached area. But the sheer complexity of vascular networks presents a daunting challenge. Self-healing systems Prof Ian Bond and his colleague Dr Richard Trask at Bristol University are developing vascular networks based on hollow fibres that transmit healing agent through polymer composite materials. "A self-healing aeroplane is the idea," Prof Bond tells me. The composite materials extensively used in the structural elements of aircraft "are inherently damage prone", says Prof Bond, adding: "You often can't see it even though it can have a serious knock-down effect on performance." The Bristol team is targeting known areas of stress build-up inside the skin of a plane. "Self-healing in those sorts of areas is potentially very attractive because you know you're going to get cracks there," he explains. The challenge is likely to be in convincing aviation authorities of the technology's value and safety. So Prof Bond is working to overcome some of the hurdles facing vascular systems. The step up from microcapsules to a network in two or three dimensions, for example, presents a significant manufacturing challenge. Fluid flow - getting the healing agent through the material - represents another problem. Then there is the issue of controlling when healing happens. "If you think of blood, it doesn't clot until it's outside the vessel," he says. "You want something like that, because the danger with simple chemistries is that the whole network, once healing has been triggered, will just solidify." Despite this, says Scott White, vascular networks offer exceptional healing efficiency and vast possibilities. "In some of the laboratory tests we've done, we've been able to show we could heal something 15, 20, 30 times in a row," he says. Prof Stuart Rowan at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, has developed a polymer-based material that in response to an intense beam of ultraviolet light. He says: "What you can imagine is essentially a paint coating on your car that you can heal whenever someone has rubbed a key down the side of it." Unlike conventional polymers, which are composed of long, chain-like molecules, this material (an example of an intrinsic system) is composed of smaller molecules. They are assembled into chains with metal ions acting as "glue" between them. UV light causes these bonds to weaken, turning the solid into a liquid. When the light is switched off, the material quickly solidifies. Prof Rowan told BBC News: "Having proved the concept, we are working on the next generation of films that utilise such concepts for photohealing but where the materials exhibit better properties better designed for a specific application." Meanwhile, Henk Jonkers and Erik Schlangen at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands want to bring self-repair to the world's most used building material: concrete. Concrete has a serious flaw: it is prone to cracks. Small cracks are a routine outcome of concrete hardening. But over time water and chemicals get inside the fractures and corrode the concrete. developed at TU Delft could improve the service life of the structure - promising considerable cost savings. Harmless calcite-producing bacteria, along with nutrients, are embedded in the concrete mixture. When water activates the dormant spores, the microbes feed on the nutrients to produce limestone, patching up cracks and small holes. Longer-term, Scott White envisages materials that respond in a more complex way to damage or wear, renewing themselves over their lifetimes, in much the way that bones do. Self-healing provides a case study in the way that biological systems can drive advances in materials, but Ian Bond says: "There's a lot more we could do with what we have?? the way we currently make composites is with flat layers and fibres all pointing in the same direction - it's that simple. "We're only beginning to understand how nature does what it does with such basic materials."17 August 2013Last updated at 14:57 GMT Timeline: Pro-Morsi protests Once again the Egyptian capital Cairo is seeing bloody clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters. This week's bloodshed is the culmination of weeks of tension at the sites of two sit-in protests mounted by the Muslim Brotherhood of ousted President Mohammed Morsi. Mr Morsi was deposed by the army on 3 July after mass protests against him. 16 August The Muslim Brotherhood calls for a "day of anger" following Friday prayers in response to the bloodshed two days earlier. The focal point for protests is Cairo's Ramses Square. The demonstrations quickly turn violent, with fierce street battles between Morsi supporters and plainclothes police and armed neighbourhood vigilantes who support the military government. Many of the dead and injured are taken to al-Fath mosque, near Ramses Square, which becomes a makeshift field hospital. The Egyptian government says 173 people have died as a result of the day's events. Over 1,000 Muslim Brotherhood members are arrested, and weapons confiscated, according to the interior ministry. 14 August Security forces move in in the early morning on the two sit-in protests where Morsi supporters had been camped out for six weeks. Tear gas is used and gunfire is heard. Armoured bulldozers are used to dismantle the camps. More than 600 people are killed in the operation, authorities say - the Muslim Brotherhood puts the death toll at more than 2,000. Clashes spread to other Egyptian cities, with reports of attacks on churches and against government buildings. The presidency announces a month-long state of emergency. Vice-President Mohamed ElBaradei announces his resignation from the interim government. 11 August Security forces threaten to clear sit-ins. A security official tells BBC Arabic the authorities had hoped the announcement to disperse them would encourage protesters to leave. However, the number of people at the sites increases and the operation is postponed. 27 July More bloody clashes between security forces and pro-Morsi protesters at the Rabaa al-Adawiya sit-in. Doctors estimate that more than 100 people were killed, but the health ministry puts the death toll at 65. Mr Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood blames the military for the deaths, accusing soldiers of shooting to kill. The government has denied this, insisting security forces only used tear gas, not live rounds. But a BBC correspondent in Cairo says the government claim appears to be untrue, given the severity and number of injuries. The Egyptian interior minister warns protesters they will "soon" be dispersed from Rabaa. 8 July At least 51 people die in clashes between pro-Morsi protesters and security forces near the Presidential Guard, where his supporters suspected he was being held. The Muslim Brotherhood said the army raided its sit-in at about 04:00 (02:00 GMT) as protesters were praying, and said that children were among the victims. 4 July Pro-Morsi protesters gather at the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in the eastern suburb of Medinat Nasr and Nahda Square near Cairo University to the the west. Mr Morsi and several other high-profile Muslim Brotherhood leaders are arrested. 3 July President Mohammed Morsi is deposed by Egypt's military after mass protests against him. The military suspends the constitution. A coalition of Islamist parties calls for mass demonstrations to denounce the army's actions.14 January 2011Last updated at 13:05 GMT Timeline: Silvio Berlusconi's political career Italy's pugnacious Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has enjoyed a long political life marked by dazzling highs - and scandalous lows. He was born in 1936, and in the decades before entering politics established a successful business career - first in housing construction and then building an empire of media and corporate interests. Despite being dogged by corruption allegations, verbal gaffes and accusations of affairs with women decades younger than him, Mr Berlusconi has demonstrated remarkable political longevity in a country known for its fractured politics and short-lived governments. January 2011 The Constitutional Court rules that immunity from prosecution enjoyed by Mr Berlusconi as a serving prime minister is not automatic. After a 13 January meeting, the court says individual judges should be allowed to decide whether immunity can be invoked. In an unrelated move the following day, prosecutors announce they are investigating the prime minister for abuse of power over claims that he leaned on police to try to have a 17-year-old nightclub dancer freed from police custody. Reports say the allegations include one involving underage prostitution. Mr Berlusconi's lawyers dismiss the claims as "absurd and groundless". December 2010 Motions of confidence in Italy's lower and upper houses of parliament - the Chamber of Deputies and Senate - decide Mr Berlusconi's fate as Italian leader. On 13 December, Mr Berlusconi makes a calm and measured appeal to legislators not to risk a crisis by voting against him. The following day, he survives as prime minister by just three votes. November 2010 Mr Berlusconi's former ally and fellow founder of the People of Freedom Party (PDL), Gianfranco Fini, urges him to step down at a public rally, citing a "moral decadence" in Italian society after the allegations about the teenage dancer emerge. On 15 November, four members of Mr Berlusconi's government resign in a blow to Mr Berlusconi, who faces yet another vote of confidence in December. September 2010 Mr Berlusconi survives another no-confidence vote, after appealing for national unity and warning that an attempt to bring down the government would risk instability. July 2010 Mr Berlusconi's government survives a confidence vote on an austerity package meant to bolster the country's finances. The prime minister insists he will hold on to power despite a public split with Mr Fini. The following month, he survives a no-confidence vote - but the vote demonstrates the strength of a group of rebel MPs. March 2010 Berlusconi's coalition makes strong gains from the centre-left in regional polls, but in August it loses its majority in lower house of parliament after more than 30 deputies break away from Mr Berlusconi's Party of Freedom. December 2009 Tens of thousands of people rally in Rome, demanding Mr Berlusconi's resignation. Days later, Mr Berlusconi is recovering in hospital after suffering two broken teeth, a minor nose fracture and cuts to his lip after being struck by a souvenir model of Milan cathedral thrown by a man who targeted the prime minister as he walked through the centre of Milan after a political rally. But Mr Berlusconi plays down the attack. October 2009 The Constitutional Court overturns a 2008 ruling granting Mr Berlusconi immunity from prosecution while in office - triggering the reopening of two cases of alleged corruption against him. Mr Berlusconi describes himself as the most persecuted person "in the entire history of the world". Nearly 100,000 Italian women sign a petition expressing anger over Mr Berlusconi's remark to a female politician that she was "more beautiful than intelligent" - in what correspondents say is a rare public outpouring from Italian women. May 2009 Mr Berlusconi comes under pressure to explain his relationship with aspiring model Noemi Letizia, and succeeds in blocking the publication of hundreds of photos said to show scantily-dressed young women attending parties hosted by Mr Berlusconi. Some of the pictures are later published by a Spanish newspaper. He is later forced to deny allegations that he paid prostitutes to attend parties at his official residences, and then that he offered one woman, Patrizia D'Addario, a seat in the European Parliament. April 2009 A month of extremes for Mr Berlusconi. He is praised for his speedy handling of the devastating earthquake which hit the medieval town of L'Aquila - attracting little domestic criticism for a remark in which he urged survivors to see their plight like "a weekend of camping". But later in April comes a very public dressing down - and the event which the BBC's Rome correspondent Duncan Kennedy says may come to be viewed as the turning point in Mr Berlusconi's fortunes. Mr Berlusconi's estranged wife, Veronica Lario, writes an open letter complaining about his behaviour with - and attitude towards - young women. She also confirms she will be filing for divorce. He "consorts with minors", she says in one lacerating phrase, after he attended Ms Letizia's 18th birthday party in Naples. February 2009 David Mills - a British lawyer who had acted on behalf of Mr Berlusconi in the early 1990s - is found guilty of accepting a large bribe, allegedly from Mr Berlusconi, and is sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail. But a year later, his appeal ended with the Supreme Court of Cassation ruling that the statute of limitations had expired. Mr Mills - whose estranged wife was former British cabinet minister Tessa Jowell - is deemed guilty but no longer punishable for the crime. 2008 In January, a no-confidence vote forces Romano Prodi's government to resign, and in a general election in April, Mr Berlusconi wins a third term in office. With the support of the populist Northern League, the PDL enjoys solid majorities in both houses of parliament. A controversial law is passed granting the prime minister, president and two parliamentary speakers immunity from prosecution while in office - triggering the suspension of two court cases against Mr Berlusconi. November 2007 Mr Berlusconi launches his long-planned new centre-right People of Freedom party (PDL), to incorporate his own Forza Italia and the right-wing National Alliance of Gianfranco Fini. April 2006 Narrowly loses general election, coming second to his old rival Romano Prodi. April 2005 The government coalition collapses after suffering a crushing defeat in regional polls; Mr Berlusconi resigns. Days later, he forms a new government after receiving a presidential mandate. December 2004 After a four-year trial Prime Minister Berlusconi is cleared of corruption. 2001 Mr Berlusconi returns as prime minister, in coalition once more with his former partners. He remains in the post for the next five years, the head of what becomes the longest-serving Italian government since World War II. Despite his renewed popularity, allegations of wrongdoing continue to dog him. He is accused of embezzlement, tax fraud and false accounting, and attempting to bribe a judge. A number of cases come to trial. In some cases he is acquitted. In others, he is convicted, but the verdict is overturned on appeal. In others still, the statute of limitations expires before the case reaches its conclusion. Mr Berlusconi's government passed reforms shortening the statute of limitations for fraud. There is controversy in 2002 as parliament approves a bill enabling Mr Berlusconi to keep control of his businesses. Mr Berlusconi asserts that he is the victim of a conspiracy by a politically motivated judiciary. April 1996 He loses an election to the left-wing Romano Prodi. But, as ever, Mr Berlusconi refuses to be deterred and spends the next few years reorganising his party. March 1994 Mr Berlusconi is elected as MP and appointed prime minister in snap elections only a few months after founding his own political party, Forza Italia - Go Italy - named after a chant used by AC Milan fans. He is in coalition with the right-wing National Alliance and Northern League, but rivalries between the three leaders, coupled with Mr Berlusconi's indictment for alleged tax fraud by a Milan court, lead to the collapse of the government just seven months later.Peter Brookes's cartoons for the Times have portrayed David Cameron as an African Dung Beetle and Ed Miliband as Wallace.The Daily Politics looked at some of his images, before the cartoonist explained the "agony" of his work, on the day he published a book.He told Jo Coburn: "Inventing ways of humiliating Clegg by Cameron is one of life's great joys for me."More from the Daily and Sunday Politics: Watch full programmes from the last seven days via ; 'like' us on page or 'follow' us on3 September 2013Last updated at 01:09 GMT Tiny Gardiner's frog listens with its mouth By Victoria GillScience reporter, BBC News Scientists have discovered how one of the world's smallest frogs is able to hear with its mouth. The tiny, earless Gardiner's frog was assumed to be deaf. But this study revealed that it uses its mouth cavity to convey sound signals to its brain. The discovery solves the mystery of why the earless frog produces loud, high-pitched squeaks. The diminutive frogs, which live in the forests of the Seychelles, have no middle ear region at all, meaning they have no resonating eardrum. Researchers had therefore assumed that the animals had no way to amplify and transmit sound waves from the environment into the inner ear and, via nerve cells, to the brain. But this research revealed that the species defied those assumptions. The scientists made recordings of the frogs' calls and played them back to wild frogs in order to observe their behaviour. Justin Gerlach from the and a member of the research team, explained that the frog's call was "one of the characteristic noises in the forest". "It's a very loud high-pitched squeak," he told BBC News. The playback experiments showed that the frogs were able to hear these squeaks. "If you play the call, they respond," explained Dr Gerlach. "Either they change position - they may move to face where the call is coming from - or quite often they will call in response." Lead researcher Renaud Boistel from the French National Centre for Scientific Research added: "It's very funny actually; [the frogs would] even attack the loud speaker." Resonating mouth The next step was to find out how the frogs were able to hear the sound. To investigate this, the team used highly sensitive X-ray imaging techniques at the in Grenoble. This allowed them to examine the frog's anatomy in fine detail and and work out which body parts might play the role of the middle ear - transmitting sound wave signals via nerves to the brain. The team produced simulations of how the frog's head responded to sound waves of the same frequency as the frog's high-pitched call. This confirmed that, at those frequencies, the frogs' mouth cavity resonated like the body of a guitar - amplifying the sound. Gardiner's frogs have also evolved much thinner and fewer layers of tissue between their mouth cavity and inner ear. This allows sound waves to be more effectively transmitted to the "labyrinth" of fluid in the frogs' head and then onto the brain via nerve cells. Dr Boistel said: "This combination of a [resonating] mouth cavity and bone conduction allows Gardiner's frogs to perceive sound effectively without use of a middle ear." He added that he hoped the discovery of this novel hearing mechanism could be applied to help certain types of human deafness. Endangered and isolated Gardiner's frogs only live in the Seychelles. "They're cut off on an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, which makes them one of the most geographically isolated frogs in the world," explained Dr Gerlach. "And they've been isolated there since Seychelles split from Indian 65 million years ago." The species is listed as endangered, primarily because its habitat is being degraded by fire, invasive species, and human activity including agriculture and tourism. Dr Gerlach said: "The possible extinction of these frogs would mean the loss of 65 million years of remarkable evolution: not only are their hearing systems unusual, but they are also among the smallest frogs in the world."30 April 2013Last updated at 13:53 GMT Toba super-volcano catastrophe idea 'dismissed' By Jonathan AmosScience correspondent, BBC News The idea that humans nearly became extinct 75,000 ago because of a super-volcano eruption is not supported by new data from Africa, scientists say. In the past, it has been proposed that the so-called Toba event plunged the world into a volcanic winter, killing animal and plant life and squeezing our species to a few thousand individuals. An Oxford University-led team examined ancient sediments in Lake Malawi for traces of this climate catastrophe. It could find none. "The eruption would certainly have triggered some short-term effects over perhaps a few seasons but it does not appear to have switched the climate into a new mode," said from Oxford's School of Archaeology. "This puts a nail in the coffin of the disaster-catastrophe theory in my view; it's just too simplistic," she told BBC News. The results of her team's investigation are . Glass signature The Toba super-eruption was the biggest volcanic blast on Earth in the past 2.5 million years, and probably further back than that as well. Researchers estimate some 2,000-3,000 cubic kilometres of rock and ash were thrown from the volcano when it blew its top on what is now the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Much of that debris landed close by, piling hundreds of metres deep in places. But a lot of it would also have gone into the high atmosphere, blocking out sunlight and cooling the planet. Sulphurous gases emitted in the eruption would have compounded this effect. Some scientists have argued that the winter conditions this would have induced could have posed an immense challenge to early humans and have pointed to some genetic studies that indicated our ancestors likely experienced a dramatic drop in numbers - a population "bottleneck" - around the time of the eruption. The Oxford team reasoned that if this perturbation was so great, it ought to be evident in the sediments of Lake Malawi. This body of water is some 7,000km west of Toba in the East African Rift Valley, from where our Homo sapiens species emerged in the past 100,000 years or so. The lake is said to retain an excellent record of past climate change which can be inferred from the types and abundance of algae and other organic matter found in its bed muds. Tens of metres of sediments have been drilled to retrieve cores, and it these recordings of past times that Dr Lane and colleagues examined. They identified tiny glass shards mixed in with the muds almost 30m below the lake bed. The shards represent small fragments of magma ejected from a volcano that have "frozen" in flight. "They're smaller than the diameter of a human hair, less than 100 microns in size," explains Dr Lane. "We find them by sieving the sediments in a very long process that goes through every centimetre of core." Chemical analysis ties the fragments to the Toba eruption. Re-timed droughts The shards are present only in traces, but indicate the eruption spewed ash much further than previously thought - about twice the distance recorded in other studies. But the investigation finds no changes in the composition of the sediments that would indicate a significant dip in temperatures in East Africa concurrent with the Toba eruption. What is more, the presence of the shards has allowed researchers to more accurately time other climate events that are seen in the cores. This includes a group of huge droughts previously dated to occur some 75,000 years ago. These have now been pushed back at least 10,000 before the eruption. "All long records like the Malawi cores are very difficult to date, particularly when you get beyond the limits of radiocarbon dating which is 50,000 years. So having a time marker like Toba in the cores is really exciting." Major reductions in population size leave their mark on genetic diversity of modern individuals. For Homo sapiens, such bottlenecks are evident some 100,000 years ago and 50,000-60,000 years ago - both probably related to migrations out of Africa. Dr Chris Tyler Smith studies genetics and human evolution at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK. He said the Toba theory was a popular one a few years ago, but more recent study had led most researchers to move on from the subject. "It was an exciting idea when it was first suggested but it just hasn't really been borne out by subsequent advances," he told BBC News. Dr Lane's team included Ben Chorn and Thomas Johnson from the University of Minnesota, Duluth, US. and follow me on Twitter:6 April 2012Last updated at 09:08 GMT Tobacco display ban 'to curb young smokers' By Nick TriggleHealth correspondent, BBC News A ban on tobacco displays is coming into force in England - with ministers promising it will help curb the number of young people taking up smoking. Cigarettes and other products will have to be kept below the counter in large shops and supermarkets, while small outlets are exempt until 2015. Other parts of the UK are planning similar action to drive down smoking rates. Critics say the ban is discriminatory and will not discourage young smokers. Health Secretary Andrew Lansley told the BBC he hoped the ban would prevent people from taking up smoking and also help those trying to give up. He said: "Firstly, it reduces the visibility of tobacco and smoking to young people. And, of course two-thirds of smokers started smoking before they were eighteen. "So, if we can, literally, arrive at a place where young people just don't think about smoking and they don't see tobacco and they don't see cigarettes - then I hope we can make a big difference." He said the government recognised the pressures on retailers to comply with the ban but added: "We want to arrive at a place where we no longer see smoking as a normal part of life. We're doing it by stages with constant active pressure." 'Colourful displays' A fifth of adults smoke - a figure which has remained steady in recent years after decades of rapid falls. A plan to force manufacturers to put cigarettes into plain packets is also expected to be put out to consultation later this year. The display ban will apply to shops of more than 280 sq m (3,014 sq ft). Public health minister Anne Milton cited evidence from Ireland which suggested the measure could play an important role in discouraging young people in particular from smoking. "We cannot ignore the fact that young people are recruited into smoking by colourful, eye-catching, cigarette displays. "Most adult smokers started smoking as teenagers and we need to stop this trend." Jo Butcher, of the National Children's Bureau, agreed: "It's essential that we create a culture that promotes and protects public health and tobacco legislation is a significant factor in making this happen." Jean King, of charity Cancer Research UK, said the ban would help stop children who are attracted to brightly coloured tobacco packaging from taking up smoking but further action was still needed. "Of course we want to see the pack branding taken away as well. This is not a normal consumer product, it kills people. We want to protect the next generation of children," she said. However, the move has upset the tobacco industry. Moves by Scotland to introduce such a ban have been delayed by legal action taken by Imperial Tobacco. Meanwhile, a spokesman for British American Tobacco said: "We do not believe that hiding products under the counter or behind curtains or screens will discourage people, including the young, from taking up smoking. "There's no sound evidence to prove display bans are justified." He added if anything it could encourage the illicit trade of tobacco products. 'Social lepers' Andrew Opie, from the British Retail Consortium, said it was wrong to believe the legislation would have a major effect on young people and it was supermarkets and other shops which were bearing the brunt of the costs needed to comply with the ban. He said the organisation had calculated that it cost more than ?15m to ensure everything was sorted out before the ban came into place. He said: "Children are more likely to smoke when they're in a household where parents smoke and also they tend to get their cigarettes from either parents, or older peers, not directly from supermarkets. "It's certainly caused a lot of disruption to retailers as they didn't actually get that much notice to comply - and if you think that this is 6,000 shops in England, there are only so many shop-fitters that can do the work." David Atherton from the pro-smoking Freedom to Choose pressure group told BBC Radio 5 live he believed the state should not interfere with people's personal habits and added: "The idea of the anti-smoker groups is to denormalise us and to turn us into social lepers." The display ban was announced by the government last year as part of its tobacco control strategy. Although the legislation allowing it to happen was actually put in place by the Labour government before it lost power in 2010. A number of countries, including Canada, Ireland, Iceland and Finland, have already introduced similar bans. Prof David Hammond from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, said the ban led to a decline in smoking - especially among the young - in Canada. "The declines were greatest in the provinces where the ban had been implemented the longest. And that's consistent with the idea that when you remove something like marketing, it takes some time for the residual marketing to wear out."23 July 2013Last updated at 08:27 GMT Togo profile Togo, a narrow strip of land on Africa's west coast, has for years been the target of criticism over its human rights record and political governance. Tensions spilled over into deadly violence when its strong-arm, veteran leader died in 2005 and a succession crisis followed. Political reconciliation remains elusive. Togo formed part of the Slave Coast, from where captives were shipped abroad by European slavers during the 17th century. In 1884 it became the German protectorate of Togoland. It was seized by Britain and France at the start of World War I, divided and administered under League of Nations mandates. The British-ruled western part was later incorporated into what is now Ghana. France granted independence in 1960 and Togo's first president, Sylvanus Olympio, was assassinated in a military coup three years later. Head of the armed forces Gnassingbe Eyadema seized power in a 1967 coup and dissolved all political parties. Although political parties were legalised in 1991 and a democratic constitution was adopted in 1992, the leadership was accused of suppressing opposition and of cheating in elections. A joint UN-Organisation of African Unity investigation into claims that hundreds of people were killed after controversial elections in 1998 concluded that there had been systematic human rights violations. Gnassingbe Eyadema died in early 2005 after 38 years in power. The military's immediate but short-lived installation of his son, Faure Gnassingbe, as president provoked widespread international condemnation. Mr Faure stood down and called elections which he won two months later. The opposition said the vote was rigged. The developments of 2005 led to renewed questions about a commitment to democracy made by Togo in 2004 in a bid to normalise ties with the EU, which cut off aid in 1993 over the country's human rights record. Moreover, up to 500 people were killed in the political violence surrounding the presidential poll, according to the UN. Around 40,000 Togolese fled to neighbouring countries.29 May 2013Last updated at 16:27 GMT Tokelau profile Three far-flung coral atolls - Atafu, Nukunonu and Fakaofo - make up Tokelau, a Polynesian territory of New Zealand in the South Pacific. Lying between New Zealand and Hawaii, Tokelau has few physical links with the wider world. There is no airport and it takes more than a day at sea to reach its southern neighbour, Samoa. Most of the 1,500 islanders live by subsistence farming. Thousands have chosen to leave, usually for New Zealand or Samoa. The latter has a similar culture and language. The UN has earmarked Tokelau as one of a number of territories where it wants to encourage greater independence. However, Tokelauans have now twice voted to retain their colonial status rather than take on greater autonomy. The territory rejected self-rule in two separate referendums in 2006 and 2007. Tokelau has few resources apart from its fishing grounds, but makes some money from the sale of fishing rights and the use of its internet domain. New Zealand provides around 80% of the territory's budget and has tried to allay fears that it will abandon the atolls should Tokelau become autonomous. Emigrants from other Polynesian islands were the first settlers. Nineteenth-century whalers and missionaries were among the first European visitors to Tokelau, formerly known as the Union Islands. The atolls became a British protectorate in the late 19th century and for a time were part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony. New Zealand administered Tokelau from 1926. Like other low-lying Pacific territories, Tokelau is said to be at risk from rising sea levels. It is also vulnerable to tropical cyclones. In 2009 Tokelau - which had previously been totally dependent on the use of imported diesel for electricity generation - announced its ambition to become completely energy self-sufficient. In November 2012, New Zealand's foreign affairs minister that Tokelau had achieved its renewable energy goal with the completion of a $7m (?4.3m) solar power project. The project coordinator described the development as "a milestone of huge importance" for Tokelau and said it meant that the territory would now be able to spend more on social welfare. At the end of 2011, Tokelau - together with its Pacific neighbour Samoa - took a radical step to improve regional trade links by "skipping" a day and jumping westward across the international dateline to bring it closer in time to its main trade partners Australia and New Zealand.8 September 2013Last updated at 11:40 GMT Tokyo 2020: Japan's capital celebrates Olympics win By Rupert Wingfield-HayesBBC News, Tokyo For months journalists like me have been speculating on whether Tokyoites are really that enthusiastic about getting the Olympics. Well today we got our answer. As the announcement came through from Buenos Aires, venues across the city burst into uproar. I was at the Komozawa Gymnasium in the west of the city where a couple of thousand Olympic enthusiasts had stayed up all night. Japanese people are, by nature, quite reticent, but not this morning. As Jacques Rogge read out the name of the winning city they went berserk, jumping and shouting, crying and laughing. A few hours later, standing in the rain in Shibuya, the city's busiest shopping district, I questioned early morning shoppers coming out of the train station. The ecstasy may have been more subdued, but the sentiment was the same. Hard as I tried I couldn't find anyone who thought it was a bad idea. So much for my journalistic cynicism. Economists say Tokyoites have good reason to be cheerful. There's a lot of building to be done, and a lot of money to be spent. Like any Olympics, the centrepiece will be an extravagant stadium. Tokyo's has been designed by British architect Zaha Hadid. Its futuristic curves fit nicely with Tokyo's Olympic slogan: "Discover Tomorrow." But it comes at a huge price: more than $1.5bn. That is just a small part of the $8bn that will be spent on refurbishing old stadiums and building new ones. So it's all good news for Japan's construction companies, who have long been suckled on the teat of government spending. Fukushima fury But all this money going it to Tokyo may be less good news for other parts of the country, particularly the Tsunami ravaged north-east coast. In many areas re-construction has still barely begun. And then there are the people of Fukushima. A friend of mine who was born there could hardly contain her fury this week when she heard Japan's Olympic committee chief Tsunekazu Takeda reassuring the IOC about Fukushima. "Fukushima is a long way away," he said. "It is no threat to Tokyo." "No threat to Tokyo maybe," my friend said. "But what about the people who live in Fukushima?" About 100,000 people are still unable to go home because of the nuclear disaster that struck the Fukushima Daiichi plant more than two-and-a-half years ago. Many feel that the rest of Japan is already forgetting about them, and that the Japanese government only cares about getting the other nuclear power plants back on line. If there is one positive thing for the people of Fukushima to come from the Olympic decision, it is that the world is now watching even more closely to see what goes on there. The Japanese government has seven years to contain and neutralise the disaster properly.2 July 2013Last updated at 14:24 GMT Tonga profile A group of more than 170 islands spread over an area of the South Pacific roughly the size of Japan, Tonga is the last Polynesian monarchy. A deeply conservative, Christian country, Tonga voted in its first popularly elected parliament in 2010, ending 165 years of feudal rule. A former British protectorate, Tonga became fully independent in 1970, though it was never formally colonised. Tonga has no strategic or mineral resources and relies on agriculture, fishing and the money sent home by Tongans living abroad, many of them in New Zealand. Unemployment is high, particularly among the young. Endowed with tropical beaches, rainforest and active volcanoes, it has a developing tourist industry - its main source of hard currency. Almost all Tongans are Polynesian and its population has remained largely untouched by immigration. This has made it ideal for genetic research into the causes of common diseases. Although Tonga has a highly traditional society, calls by young, Western-educated Tongans for a more democratic constitution had become increasingly hard to ignore. In November 2009, a constitutional review panel recommended a ceremonial monarchy stripped of most of its real political power and a fully-elected parliament in place of the current, largely hereditary body. The king had previously indicated he was wholeheartedly committed to democratic reform. A first tentative step towards reform was taken in early 2005 when elected MPs were appointed to the cabinet - previously handpicked from outside parliament - for the first time. But demand for change became stronger. A public sector strike in 2005, marked by major street demonstrations, expanded into a campaign for political reform. In November 2006, riots erupted in the capital, in which eight people were killed.3 October 2013Last updated at 15:56 GMT Tony Blair joins Albania's campaign to join European Union Tony Blair is to help the Albanian government with its campaign for the country to join the European Union. The former UK prime minister said he would "love" the former Communist nation, one of the poorest in Europe, to be accepted. Albanian leader Edi Rama said Mr Blair, who is not receiving a fee, was "totally" committed to helping. The country has been criticised by EU officials previously for not doing enough to root out corruption. The EU added its 28th member state in July, with Croatia joining. Mr Blair, whose role will include lobbying officials and politicians, said it was "right and proper" for Albania to do the same. 'No illusions' Speaking in the capital, Tirana, he added: "The orientation toward Europe is immensely important, and personally I'd love to see this country join the family of European nations." Albania first applied to do so in 2009, but the European Commission has postponed the opening of negotiations, with officials raising concerns over organised crime and a lack of progress in bringing in democratic reforms. Mr Rama's main campaign pledge ahead of his June landslide election victory was to push for EU integration. Speaking at the same press conference as Mr Blair, he said: "I harbour no illusions. European integration is easy to speak of but very hard to attain." He added that the Albanian government would not be paying for a team of Mr Blair's assistants, who will be stationed in Tirana, and that funding for them would be sought from international institutions. Mr Blair was prime minister from 1997 to 2007 and now works as a UN Middle East peace envoy.3 October 2013Last updated at 14:04 GMT Toomebridge murder: Phelim McNally admits killing ex-partner's sister A 27-year-old man has been sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his former partner's sister. Phelim McNally, from Station Park in Toomebridge, County Londonderry, was also found guilty of attempting to murder the mother of his two children. A jury had been sworn in to hear the case, but McNally changed his plea. Ms O'Neill was shot dead in William Court in Bellaghy in May 2012. Her sister, Brenda, 22, was seriously injured. The jury had been sworn in at Londonderry Crown Court but McNally pleaded guilty before a packed Belfast Crown Court, where his case had been listed at the last minute. Following his pleas, the judge told McNally the only sentence the court could pass, was one of life imprisonment. He said later this month he would "deal with the question of the appropriate tariff", setting out how long he must serve before being considered for parole. The O'Neill family's parish priest, Father Andrew Dolan, said McNally's admission of guilt had taken them by surprise. "I think it took them and it took everybody a bit on the hop that it all ended so quickly," he said. "Yesterday there was no word of any pleas, and certainly not a plea of this kind. And that he admitted to the killing has helped the family immensely, and helped, I suppose, his family too that they don't have to go through the whole torture of a trial."1 October 2013Last updated at 23:10 GMT Top 10 tips for writing a Hollywood blockbuster Tony Gilroy, one of Hollywood's most sought-after screenwriters, is responsible for The Devil's Advocate, Armageddon and the Bourne films, to name just a few. Alison Feeney-Hart met the man whose 2007 film Michael Clayton saw him receive Bafta and Oscar nominations for best original screenplay to find out his Top 10 tips for writing a Hollywood blockbuster. 1. Go to the movies I don't think there is anything you can learn from courses or books. You have been watching movies since you were born. You have filled your life with narrative… and food. It's already way down deep inside you. Going to the movies, having something to say, having an imagination and the ambition to do it is really all that is required. You can learn how to do anything. 2. Make stuff up but keep it real This is imaginative work - screenwriters make things up. Everything I have in my life is a result of making things up. There is one thing that you have to know that is a deal-breaker - human behaviour. The quality of your writing will be directly related to your understanding of human behaviour. You need to become a journalist for the movie that is in your head. You need to report on it; every scene has to be real. 3. Start small Big ideas don't work. Start with a very small idea that you can build on. With Bourne I never read any of the books; we started again. The very smallest thing with [Jason] Bourne was, "If I don't know who I am and I don't know where I'm from, perhaps I can identify who I am by what I know how to do." We built a whole new world around that small idea. You just start small, you build out and you move one step after the next and that's how you write a Hollywood movie. 4. Learn to live by your wits My father was a screenwriter but it's not some pixie dust creative family thing. I learned from watching how hard he worked and learned about the tempo of a writer's life - you have to live by your wits. If you are living with someone who lives by their wits, it seems normal to you, it doesn't scare you as much and you understand the rhythms of it. 5. Write for TV It's getting harder and harder to make good movies. TV is where the ambiguity and shades of reality live, it's where stories can be interesting. A lot of writers are very excited about TV right now and it's a writer-controlled business. When writers are in control, good things happen. They are more rational, they are hardworking, they are more benevolent. Every time writers have been put in charge of entertainment, things have worked out, so with TV maybe we will see a writer-driven utopia. 6. Learn to write anywhere, anytime I have an office at home, I've written in a million hotel rooms, I can write anywhere now. My whole goal is to want to be at my desk. If the writing is going well, I don't want to quit. I'm older and wise enough now that if something is going well, I don't stop. I call and say I'm not coming home for dinner and just keep going. More than anything else, I want to want to go to my desk and to not be afraid of going to work. 7. Get a job I spent six years tending bar while I figured out how to write screenplays. If you want to write, if you are a young writer and nobody knows you, find a job that pays you the most amount of money for the least amount of hours, so that you have the most amount of time left over to write. You want to live some place where you have some sort of cultural connection and can see as many films and be around as many people as possible. You want to be some place where you can just write and write and write. 8. Get a life If you don't have anything to say and if you haven't done anything except see a bunch of movies, then what's the point? You can only write what you know about and that will either limit you or open the possibilities to everything. Be interested in lots of things and stay interested. My knowledge is very wide and incredibly thin. It's much more interesting when journalists and cops and doctors and bankers become screenwriters than 20-year-old film students. There are some exceptions, of course, but if you don't have anything to say, then why are you here? 9. Don't live in Los Angeles I don't think there is any reason to live there, I think LA is probably very bad for you. It's a bad place to feed your head. In LA you are driving around all the time, surrounded by people who are making you depressed. I don't think Hollywood really helps a young writer feel any sense of romance about their life. Even if it's a delusion, you want to feel special when you go to work in the morning. 10. Develop a thick skin and just keep going I have assumed both positions of the Hollywood Kama Sutra - top and bottom. It's very important to be able to handle rejection. I think one of the reasons writers are shy is because we are all very suspicious of our own process because it fails so often. It's no different from being a novelist or a composer or a painter. When you get rejection from the outside world, you either move on or you don't. But I think the hardest times are all the days when nothing happens and everybody who has ever written anything knows what I'm talking about. A great day of writing tops everything. Tony Gilroy was speaking in London where he was taking part in the Bafta and BFI Screenwriters' Lecture Series.This autumn more than a million students are going to take part in an experiment that . Some of the biggest powerhouses in US higher education are designing courses that will be free for students online - testing how their expertise and scholarship can be brought to a global audience. Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have formed an alliance to launch edX - a platform for online courses. Stanford and Princeton are providing courses on the Coursera platform. Irina Khokhlova talks to the president of edX, Anant Agarwal and to the co-founder of Coursera, Andrew Ng. Additional footage courtesy of EdX and Coursera.4 October 2013Last updated at 17:12 GMT Torbay Hospital doctor Suhail Ahmed jailed over secret photos A junior doctor who sexually assaulted and secretly took photographs of female patients has been jailed for 18 months. Suhail Ahmed, 28, of Cyncoed Road, Cardiff, used a hidden mobile phone camera to take over 100 images during examinations at Torbay Hospital. He pleaded guilty to 11 counts of voyeurism and two counts of sexual assault by touching. Exeter Crown Court heard his victims had been left "devastated". The South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (SDHCT), which runs Torbay Hospital, said it was appalled by Ahmed's "abhorrent abuse of power" and reassured the public there was no ongoing concern or risk to patient safety. The trainee surgeon, who was working in the hospital's A&E department, was suspended by the General Medical Council last July. Ahmed touched the women as he removed their clothing in order to get a better view of their bodies for his mobile phone camera. 'Extreme pain' He carried out intimate examinations - claiming his mobile phone was being used to time their heart rate. Some of his patients were in extreme pain or recovering from surgery at the time of his attacks, between March and June last year, the court heard. He was caught and suspended by the hospital when two women separately made complaints about their examinations. A subsequent police investigation uncovered 110 images of patients at the hospital uploaded on to his computer from his mobile phone. Ahmed initially denied any wrongdoing but later admitted the offences in police interview. The court was told the victims had been left devastated by their ordeal, with one unable to leave her house. Sentencing Ahmed, Judge Francis Gilbert QC said: "Your victims describe their distress at what you did and the continued effect it has had upon them." 'Career ruined' Defending, David Martin, insisted the photographs had not been distributed or shown to anyone. "Here is an individual who has in every way ruined his career," Mr Martin said. "It was a tremendous achievement to get to where he had and it has been thrown away in this ridiculous behaviour." Ahmed was also ordered to sign the sex offenders register. After the sentencing Det Ch Insp Nick Wilden, of Devon and Cornwall Police, said: "The behaviour of Ahmed can only be described as one of the most despicable breaches of trust perpetrated by a doctor imaginable."3 October 2013Last updated at 08:05 GMT Tornado damages Galway buildings A tornado has caused structural damage to a number of buildings in the Republic of Ireland, knocking down several trees. There are no reports of any injuries but power supplies were affected around the Clonfert area of Galway on Wednesday evening. Locals described how a "black cloud" was spotted above Clonfert shortly after 18:30 BST. One eyewitness said a cloud was spinning as it moved along. The BBC Northern Ireland weather department said: "When a funnel cloud touches the ground it becomes a tornado." Parish priest Fr John Naughton said the way in which trees had been damaged was "almost indescribable". He said branches had been whipped away and that a number of old trees in the area had been uprooted. A number of old gravestones in the cemetery adjoining St Brendan's Cathedral in Clonfert have been knocked over by the winds. A number of roofs have also been dislodged from farm buildings. It is understood the roof of the tea rooms at the back of the Emmanuel House of Prayer in Clonfert has been badly damaged. Met ?ireann said: "Funnel clouds can form in isolated cases following heavy showers and when this happens they generate locally strong winds, similar to those reported in east Galway."1 October 2013Last updated at 18:26 GMT Torture 'widespread' in Libyan jails - UN report Torture and ill-treatment, sometimes resulting in death, is "widespread" in Libyan jails, a new UN report says. torture is most frequent used "immediately after arrest and during the first days of interrogation". The UN estimates about 8,000 people are still being held in relation to the 2011 conflict which ended in the overthrow of Col Gaddafi. The vast majority are being held without due process, the report says. Torture is being used "as a means to extract confessions or other information", the UN says. The United Nations Support Mission in Libya says it has recorded 27 deaths in custody since late 2011 "where there is significant information to suggest that torture was the cause", with 11 of the cases occurring in 2013. The report does note however that the use of torture is happening "despite the efforts of the Libyan authorities which are committed at the highest level to ending torture and to ensuring the proper functioning of the criminal justice system". It notes that a "major factor" in ill-treatment and torture of detainees is the "current situation of prolonged detention and interrogation at the hands of armed brigades". It recommends that detainees held by the brigades be handed over to "effective state control". Libya's central government has struggled to tackle the presence of armed militias since Col Gaddafi's death in 2011. In June, Libyan army chief of staff Youssef al-Mangoush resigned after 30 people died in clashes between protesters and a militia in Benghazi. Earlier in the year, militiamen surrounded several government ministries in the capital Tripoli.1 October 2013Last updated at 17:46 GMT Tory conference: Hip-hop Hamlet 'racist and evil' By Hannah Richardson BBC News education reporter Teaching Shakespeare with a hip-hop soundtrack is patronising, evil and "viciously racist" to black pupils, the Tory Party conference has been told. Youth mentor and writer Lindsay Johns, a guest speaker invited by Education Secretary Michael Gove, said teachers were "hell-bent on making everything cool or hip". They should "stop genuflecting at the altar of youth", he said. "Hamlet doesn't need a hip-hop sound track for young people to enjoy it." Mr Johns added: "It's been doing just fine for the last 400 years." "It's not only incredibly patronising, but also viciously racist to think that black and brown kids in the inner cities will only 'get Shakespeare' if it's set to a hip-hop beat and presented in three-minute, MTV-Base-style chunks. "It is positively evil to deny inner city kids access to the manifold joys of hearing their national poet's true voice, in essence their birthright, simply because of a culture of low expectations." Mr Johns said he was tired of "vacuous PC [politically correct] educationalists who took great offence at Mr Gove's drive for a national curriculum more focused on English literary classics and the history of Britain. He said: "Young people need more not fewer dead white men - by dead white men I mean the Western literary canon. "You can of course be fiercely proud of your Jamaican, Ghanaian or black British roots and ardently love Horace, Boccaccio and Milton. "The two are in no way mutually exclusive and they certainly don't make you any less black or less brown by reading them." The novels of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens were just as relevant to all young people no matter what colour or creed, he said, adding that it was "positively nefarious" to deny access to them. Mr Johns also attacked "bling culture" and "ghetto grammar", which he said were holding some youngsters back and making them sound like they had had "a frontal lobotomy" "Our aim is for the young people to confound, not conform to stereotypes," he said. Mr Johns, who himself studied French and Italian at Oxford, also said a portrayal of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge as institutionally racist was "actually putting off ferociously bright, black, brown, and white, working-class kids from applying". "Maybe, just maybe, if you didn't keep on discouraging them from applying in the first place with your duplicitous horror stories of how terrible life is there, then levels of representation would actually get better," he said.30 September 2013Last updated at 06:28 GMT Toshiba to halve staff numbers in TV unit Japanese electronics firm Toshiba has said it will halve the number of staff in its TV division to 3,000 as it looks to revamp the unit's operations. The changes will also see the firm close two of its three overseas TV manufacturing facilities. Toshiba said it would focus on emerging markets including Asia and Africa, and end sales in "unprofitable regions". Toshiba, like other Japanese TV makers, has been hit by slowing demand, falling prices and increased competition. The company's digital products division, which includes TV manufacturing, saw its losses widen to 16.3bn yen ($166m; ?103m), in the financial year to 31 March, compared with a loss of 3.3bn yen a year earlier. Toshiba, which makes the Regza brand TV sets, that the changes were aimed "toward improving profitability and strengthening foundations of the business". The firm said it would separate the TV business from its Digital Products & Services Company and merge it with Toshiba Home Appliances Corporation. Ultra high-definition Toshiba said that it would move resources towards making large screen ultra high-definition (HD) 4K LCD TVs "where growing demand is expected". Leading global manufacturers have been looking at this segment, which offers four times the amount of detail as 1080p high-definition TV, as an area of potential growth. Panasonic and South Korea's LG are among the manufacturers that have launched ultra HD TVs. Toshiba's move to focus on the technology also comes as Japan is looking to become the the first country to broadcast 4K programming over satellite from 2014, in time for the football World Cup. Earlier this year, a Japanese telecoms company said that it was carrying out tests to try to prove that 4K-resolution video could be streamed over the internet to television set-top boxes.4 October 2013Last updated at 22:12 GMT Tottenham and West Ham fans warned about 'yid' chants Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United fans have been warned against chanting the word "yid" ahead of their derby clash on Sunday. The Metropolitan Police said fans using the term could be arrested. The warning comes as the north London club has sent a questionnaire asking if the word should be banned from chants. Spurs have a strong Jewish following and have been the target of abuse from opposition fans, however some Spurs supporters use the term themselves. The chairman of the footballers' union, Clarke Carlisle, said fans should be banned for using the word, however Prime Minister David Cameron has said people should not be prosecuted unless it used as an insult. 'Debated at length' The Football Association has warned supporters that the use of such words could result in a banning order or criminal charges. The Met said the term caused harassment, alarm or distress to others, and officers would be taking action to stamp it out. Ch Supt Mick Johnson, the match commander on Sunday, said: "This topic has been debated at length but our position is clear, racism and offensive language have no place in football or indeed in society. "Those supporters who engage in such behaviour should be under no illusion that they may be committing an offence and may be liable to a warning or be arrested." West Ham United also warned supporters that "unacceptable conduct" at Sunday's match could lead to fans being banned from attending games. In a statement on its the football club said: "The club, along with the Metropolitan Police, will continue to adopt a zero tolerance policy towards any form of discriminatory behaviour this year. "Any fan found to be acting inappropriately - including racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic behaviour - will be punished to the full extent of the law and banned from attending matches." In a statement issued late on Friday the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust (THST) said they believed no Spurs fan "uses the term 'yid' in an offensive or insulting way". But it said the distinction between the use of the term as a "badge of honour and a call to arms" and the "anti-Semitic abuse levelled at our fans by supporters of opposing teams appears to have been dismissed by the FA and the Metropolitan Police". The decision to "label the songs our fans have been singing and the chants our fans have been chanting for decades as racist overnight" was, it said, incomprehensible and could be in breach of freedom of expression legislation. The statement ended not by warning fans not to use the term, but urged those at the game "to make their decision as to whether or not to use the term on Sunday equipped with all the information available".19 June 2013Last updated at 15:33 GMT Tour de Congo cycling event begins in Matadi The first cycling tour of the Democratic Republic of Congo has begun in the west of the country in Matadi, a port city on the Congo River. Cyclists from France and across Africa are taking part in the nearly 900km (600-mile) Tour de Congo. Competitors will ride nine stages over 12 days but will not travel to the volatile east of DR Congo, which is the size of Western Europe. It was expected to start on Tuesday, but was delayed for 24 hours. The BBC's Maud Jullien in Kinshasa says organisers postponed the race by a day as they wanted the tour to end in the capital city on 30 June, DR Congo's independence day. According to the UN's Radio Okapi, Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo saw off about 60 cyclists. There are 34 foreigners competing from eight African countries and France, the radio station reports. One of the African teams is from Rwanda, which has had a fractious relationship with its neighbour since the 1994 genocide when many Hutu fighters fled to DR Congo. Rwanda denies UN accusations that it backs rebel forces in DR Congo. The other African teams come from Benin, Burkina Faso, neighbouring Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda. President of the Congolese Cycling Federation, Sylvestre Mutayo, says cycling has always been an important sport in DR Congo Historically it was the most popular sport after football, but because of economic difficulties it lost the "second place" in the last decade, he said. The course - which goes to the more central city of Kikwit before heading west again to Kinshasa - will demonstrate to people that conflict does not affect the whole country, he said. "The tour will show people that we have infrastructure, and that people are friendly and hospitable, open to tourism," he told the BBC. Our reporter says the event has been largely financed by the government with help from private sponsors and will be filmed from the air by a media company using drones. Despite DR Congo's size, transport infrastructure is very poor and it is estimated that of about 153,000km of roads, less than 3,000km are paved.24 June 2013Last updated at 23:00 GMT Tour de France 100 The cyclists taking part in the centennial staging of the world's greatest bike race will cover nearly 3,500 km in 21 stages - as they seek to emulate Sir Bradley Wiggins' 2012 victory. But how does the corporate, science-based Tour of the 21st Century compare to the early days of the competition, when riders lacked gears and were very much on their own? Here, at the start a series of reports looking at the business behind the race, take a nostalgic look back. Hear from Graeme Fife, author of Tour de France, the History, the Legend, the Riders - and Brian Robinson who became, in 1955, the first British man to complete the race. All images subject to copyright. Archive photographs courtesy Getty Images, TopFoto.co.uk and Press Association. Music by Kraftwerk and KPM Music. Slideshow production by Paul Kerley. Publication date 25 June 2013. Related: More audio slideshows:5 July 2013Last updated at 00:01 GMT Tour de France fans follow their heroes By Alex MurrayBBC News, Nice, France The Tour de France remains one of few global sporting events that you can attend for nothing - and stand close enough to the competitors to smell their sweat as they pass. With nearly 3,500km (2,175 miles) of open road available, there's no shortage of space to set up your picnic table and await not just the race, but also the carnival of sponsors' floats that precedes it. Traditionally, cycling fans have made their own way, planning their trip according to their budget and transport, from bicycle touring to motor homes. Some have even attempted to hitch-hike their way around the race on as little as a euro a day. Finding accommodation in or near locations already swamped with the race entourage can require planning and reserving, as far in advance as the preceding October, when the race route is announced. Getting the cheapest prices on travel also involves being willing and able to pounce as soon as journeys become available, many months in advance. For a growing number of fans travelling from Anglophone countries, these logistical challenges, combined with the language barrier, have provided specialist companies with plenty of opportunity to capitalise on the three-week event. 'Complex' logistics With 20 years' experience running cycling trips, Sports Tours International claims to be one of the biggest players in the market. Across the three weeks of the Tour, it offers packages ranging from a 12-day, ?2,000 trip, covering the last 10 or 11 days of the race, to two-night coach trips to Paris for the final weekend, costing from ?349. The numbers can vary from hundreds in the opening week to "thousands" in the climactic final week. A key component for about half of all customers is being able to bring their own bike and ride sections of the race route, as well as riding to find the prime spot to see the race. "On stages, you don't want to be at the start and finish, you want to be on the most exciting mountain, where you have access to the best vantage point. Some of the people ride from the hotel, others might take the coach and walk, or a mixture of the three," says Brendan Fox, Sports Tours International's head of commercial operations. "We might spend three or four nights in the same hotel, which has access to many stages, and then move on. Logistically, it is quite complex." Thanks to the relationships the company has developed with hoteliers, it can sometimes get priority in the fight for the last remaining rooms in a town welcoming Le Tour. Up close and personal At every stage start and finish, you can find fans massed around the team vehicles, hoping for a glimpse of their favourite riders, the chance of an autograph or a piece of team merchandise, caps and water bottles being immensely popular. Some will even hunt out the team hotels in the evening, in the hope of meeting their heroes. As Chris Froome's Team Sky discovered when they tried putting an in 2010, fans see the freedom to watch and engage with the riders as they prepare as central to cycling's appeal, not an aspect that can be dictated to them by the teams. At the team bus in Nice, several hours before the stage began, there was already a crowd of fans waiting for the riders, with a transparent screen in place only at one end of the preparation area. Trek Travel originated in 2003, as part of manufacturer Trek Bicycle, the firm that sponsored now-disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong at the height of his popularity. It was spun off as a separate business in 2006. It derives its cachet from being an official partner of the event and being able to guarantee access to Trek-sponsored teams and riders. The predominantly American group we met in Nice relished the opportunity to explore the Radio Shack Leopard Trek bus, talk with team staff and meet star riders including the 2010 winner, Andy Schleck, at the team's hotel. This comes at a hefty premium, with its clientele paying $7,499 (?5,000) for a six-day itinerary based around the opening four stages of the race. A ride in a team vehicle costs an additional $1,000. For some of the group, the trip was a one-off for various reasons: a birthday present; a father-and-son bonding opportunity; a significant anniversary celebration. Lifelong ambition Freddy Parker, an aircraft mechanic from California, had taken advantage of unused home equity credit to fund his three-week "trip of a lifetime" to see the whole race. A bike race fan since 1987, his being at the Tour represented a lifetime ambition. "From where I'm from in Nicaragua, Central America, I don't think many people get to come here and see this, something special, especially being its 100th edition," he says. As he pressed against the barriers to get the best view and photo of the riders as they hurtled past, his emotions were the same as any other spectator along the route of cycling's biggest event. "Just being here, seeing the riders, the race - even if it's for a few seconds - being in the same town and same locations, that's the exciting part for me." But few will make the financial commitment he has made to follow the entire race. "So far it's cost me $32,000 (?21,000), not including expenses," he admits. Watching Freddy as he explored the team bus and met his favourite rider, Andy Schleck, the price seemed the furthest thing from his mind. He seemed lost in the moment and as excited as the children ahead of him in the line to get a signed cap and a photo with Schleck. Over dinner, he talked with evident emotion about how much being able to speak to Schleck and wish him luck in the race meant to him, as someone who had dreamt of a career as a professional. The story was one he said he would remember for the rest of his life and one he was certain to share with friends and family. For some, the financial cost of such a moment of happiness seems well worth paying. And for the millions who will joyfully line the route throughout July, the spectacle of the Tour de France passing remains remarkably free to watch, as it has done throughout the preceding 99 editions.1 July 2013Last updated at 23:02 GMT Tour de France sponsors reap benefits of TV coverage By Bill WilsonBusiness reporter, BBC News For a sport whose image has taken such a beating in recent years, there appear to be signs that cycling may be getting to the top of what has been a steep climb towards winning back respectability. A decade of drug scandals was rounded off last winter with the biggest of them all - the . It led experts to warn that the sport And one existing long-term sponsor, Dutch bank Rabobank, quit the sport after 17 years, warning that it was no longer sure cycling could be "clean and fair". However, with the disgraced Texan slowly being consigned to memory, and the promise of , it seems the potential benefits of being associated with the sport - and its biggest race, the Tour de France - retain a strong lure. For sponsors, the Tour provides huge on-the ground audiences (with some stages attracting crowds of up to a million people), three weeks of extensive global TV coverage, and a tech-savvy fan base which allows for new media and online marketing. 'Brand awareness' For the Tour's newest team sponsors, - which took over the former Rabobank team - the attractions of backing the sport just before the 100th Tour de France seemed obvious. "Cycling has a great reach from a worldwide perspective," says Chet Pipkin, chief executive and founder of Belkin. "This is a perfect time for us to get increased visibility of our brand around the world, and we think that this cycling team can now take the Belkin name around the world by bike." Major French sportswear brand Le Coq Sportif is another firm which has returned to the Tour in the past 12 months, coming back as a race sponsor and supplier last year after having been associated with the race from 1951 to 1988. It makes the iconic "maillot jaune" or yellow jersey, worn by the race leader. The firm's marketing manager, Cyril Du Cluzeau, points to the fact that the stages are broadcast on more than 200 channels worldwide to an audience of four billion people, and that the Tour de France is the third-largest sporting event in the world. "Le Coq Sportif will benefit from having our logos seen worldwide and we believe it is an opportunity to increase brand awareness on an international scale, as well being able to get back to our roots of being a sports supplier," he says. 'Fantastic value' An indication of the sort of exposure the likes of Belkin and Le Coq Sportif can hope to enjoy can be seen in recent research by Cycling News magazine in conjunction with sports market researchers Repucom. They estimate that the average media exposure for each team taking part in the Tour de France is $70m (?45m), accounting for some 80% of the total such exposure a team can enjoy in a year. For Dr Simon Chadwick, a sports business expert at Coventry University, who has extensively studied sports sponsorship, being involved with the Tour de France is a good deal. "The companies are getting this fantastic worldwide global television audience every day of the tour, not to mention the millions of spectators at each stage - it is just such fantastic value for money," he says. Dr Chadwick believes the drug problems experienced by the sport in the past actually provide another positive attraction for firms wanting to back cycling - mainly because after years of bad publicity there are favourable financial opportunities out there for would-be backers. "I spoke to a cycling sponsor about what they were getting for their money - they said it was fantastic value because cycling as a sport is desperate to get any sponsors they can," he said. However, Belkin's Chet Pipkin denies that this was a prime motivator as far as his firm was concerned, and that it had taken a lot of time looking at potential sponsorships, both in other sports and outside sport. It also looked at the demographics of its customers and which sponsorship would work best before choosing cycling. For another French firm which is a Tour partner, telecoms giant Orange, the event is about extending and pushing its tech capabilities as well as brand exposure. It has been a partner for the past 15 years, supplying communications technology specifically designed for each stage of the competition, according to its length, route and weather conditions. "The Tour de France is a highly prominent international event that is very important for Orange," says Stephane Tardivel, the firm's director of sponsorship. 'Honest approach' But, despite these signs of a sport picking up momentum, some sponsorship challenges remain. Cycling has yet to attract the big global brands such as Coca-Cola, McDonald's or Visa that football, for example, attracts. Rather, the sponsors come from cycling's "heartland nations" in Europe, as seen with Le Coq Sportif and Orange, which is the brand flagship of France Telecom. However, according to Mr Pipkin of Belkin, the future is looking bright. "Like most people I feel uncomfortable when people are working outside the boundaries of what is honest and right," he says. "But there has really been strong and enthusiastic expressions by the team and riders to take a very honest approach to the sport. "Our deal covers three tours, but we hope to be involved with many, many more tours after that."15 July 2013Last updated at 23:01 GMT Tour de France: The race to find the extra inch By Dave LeeTechnology reporter, BBC News "Life's this game of inches. One half-second too slow, too fast and you don't quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us." So said Al Pacino, in his role as Tony D'Amato in the 1999 film Any Given Sunday. He was talking about American football, but the sentiment could apply to any competitive sport - especially cycling, where inches mean champions, yellow jerseys and a place in history. And so it was, in stage four of this year's Tour de France, when . After 26 minutes spent cycling 25km, it all came down to less than a few tenths of a second. Simon Smart had a lot to do with that success. Following 14 years working in Formula One, he brought his biomechanical expertise to cycling and founded Smart Aero Technology - a company based in Brackley, an English town not far from Silverstone racing circuit, and one that lives and breathes motorsport. Mr Smart designed the Scott Plasma, the bike ridden by the Orica GreenEdge team as it triumphed in Nice. The team also used one of Smart Aero's helmets, another crucial factor in shaving off valuable time. 'Tiny details' Like Al Pacino's football coach, Mr Smart has made finding those added inches his obsession, seeking out the smallest of differences to discover what the industry calls marginal, or incremental, gains. Find enough of them - a tweak to a pedal design here, a smooth lump on a helmet there - and you have a winner on your hands. "You're looking for the tiny details," he told the BBC. "You're looking to change the shape of something by maybe 0.1mm, and it's making a difference." Every cycling component, be it the frame, wheels or even the cyclists themselves, is slowing a rider down in some way. The goal, of course, is to minimise that speed loss - known to the experts as reducing drag. Discovering where drag occurs is a highly complex - and expensive - process. "The trick there is in developing the tools that can measure the smallest of differences," Mr Smart explains. "Once you can measure the small differences, you can spot the small gains and add them up." Core to that discovery process is the use of technology known as Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). After designing a bike using computer-aided design software (CAD), Simon is able to simulate what the bike will be like to ride, with the CFD software producing something akin to a heat map of drag. If the CFD shows areas where the air flow faces greater resistance, it means the rider will be slowed down in real life too. But the experimentation doesn't end there. "The downside of that is that it's not the real world, it's on a computer, and it doesn't always give you the true answers." Into the tunnel Being at the home of motorsport has its advantages when you're in need of real-world analysis. On the same site as Smart Aero sits a research and development hub owned by Mercedes, part of which is a wind tunnel used to test the aerodynamics of, among other things, Formula One cars. Specialized, a US firm, and one of Smart Aero's competitors, recently invested in its very own in-house wind tunnel - one which is big enough to accommodate several bikes and riders at a time. As well as testing out the high-end bikes, Specialized also plans to put some of its cheaper models, even commuter bikes, into the tunnel. "Being able to put multiple riders in isn't good just for road studies - we're very keen to do some commuter draft testing, to see the optimal way to draft off of your buddy commuting to work," said Mark Cote, performance, road and tri-manager at Specialized, in an . The fact that this high-end technology is being used to help commuter bikes is a reflection on the cycling industry as a whole. Unlike other sports, such as Formula One, the bikes in the Tour de France have to be full commercial products that are on the market. It means a designer can't simply make a bike that's perfect for one rider in set conditions. It's a big challenge, but one that means the bikes ridden by the pros - and the technology that helped make them - filter down to enthusiasts the world over. For Specialized, having their own wind tunnel is about helping the collaborative designing process, Mark Cote says. "Having an on-site wind tunnel means instead of three to five engineers and product managers going to a wind tunnel test for an idea, literally the entire team can walk down the street and offer up ideas. "So a graphic designer, [who] maybe has never been in a wind tunnel, can see something and say, 'Hey, why don't you do this?' and since we look at this stuff all day, there are often new ideas that come out this way." Stretchy socks By far the most disruptive element in causing drag is one fairly critical to the bike's operation: the rider. By and large, people aren't naturally aerodynamic, and so great efforts are made to smooth out the human body to minimise the adverse effect. Many riders will wear skin suits, tailored exactly to their shape, made from fabrics that are known to react in certain ways at higher speeds. "It's not the easiest thing to make," says Simon Smart. "Because you're trying to avoid the seams that can interrupt the airflow and cause early separation, which increases the drag of the body massively." On a cyclist's feet - below freshly-shaven legs - can be found a pair of overshoes, stretchy plastic-like socks that slip over the rider's shoes, the buckles of which can contribute to drag. Special socks alone won't win a Tour de France, but it is perhaps the simplest manifestation of the marginal gain theory. British cycling's performance director Dave Brailsford, who helped mastermind Team GB's world-beating display at London 2012, made it his obsession to find the 1% gains in every aspect of competition. "There's fitness and conditioning, of course, but there are other things that might seem on the periphery, like sleeping in the right position, having the same pillow when you are away and training in different places," he told the BBC not long after his Olympic success. "Do you really know how to clean your hands? Without leaving the bits between your fingers? "They're tiny things, but if you clump them together, it makes a big difference." Or, as a slightly-censored Al Pacino put it: "We know, when we add up all those inches, that's gonna make the difference between winning and losing." Follow Dave Lee .14 February 2012Last updated at 00:31 GMT Townsend Griffiss, forgotten hero of World War II By Stephen MulveyBBC News It's 70 years this week since the first US air force officer was killed in Europe, following America's entry into World War II. By heading the list of 30,000 USAAF men to lose their lives in the European theatre, Lt Col Townsend Griffiss became a footnote in the history of the war. But who was he and how did he die? There is no memorial to Townsend Griffiss in the UK, but a corner of Bushy Park in west London offers the faintest of reminders. Here, half covered by grass, are a handful of tablets in the earth, marking the various blocks of Camp Griffiss, the British headquarters of the US Army Air Force, set up in the summer of 1942. It's a royal park, and the royal deer help prevent the plaques disappearing into the grass entirely. Overhead, civilian airliners pass by on their way towards nearby Heathrow. From above, the outlines can also be made out of some of the wartime buildings where up to 3,000 US and British servicemen and women toiled in the months before D-Day. The last buildings disappeared in the early 1960s, and another half a century on, the name Griffiss does not mean much to a Londoner. But the fact that the camp was given his name - along with another airbase in upstate New York a few years later - indicates how highly he was regarded by the US military. At the time of his death on 15 February 1942, he was 41 years old, a high-flying officer, returning from the Soviet Union, where he had been sent on a diplomatic mission by US Army Chief of Staff Gen George Marshall. He had earlier been one of the sharpest observers of the Spanish Civil War, sending home crucial information about the capability of German, Italian and Russian aircraft, analysing the role these new forces were playing in the conflict, and forecasting the role they would play in future wars. In mid-1941, he was one of the first US officers sent over as "special observers" to London - officially neutral, but in reality preparing the ground for the military alliance that would become public after Pearl Harbor. In photographs, there is a mischievous glint in his eye, and on his lips, very often, a textbook example of a half smile. The impression that he was a man who knew how to enjoy life is confirmed , full of references to bronzed Dianas and Apollos and the strumming of ukuleles, and occasional allusions to a girlfriend named only as EW. Written during his stint as a fighter pilot on the islands from 1925 to 1928, it makes no explicit mention of his day job, but drops a few hints. "I dare say that very few have ever had the privilege of spending a morning at an Air Corps Flying Field, especially at one having so important a function as Wheeler Field, the home of the 18th Pursuit Group," he writes, tongue possibly in cheek. He also suggests a trip to the islands' other main flying base, Luke Field, adding: "If you contemplate such a visit, I suggest that you call the adjutant." Griffiss himself served at both fields at one time or another, and for a while as adjutant. When he wrote those words, he may have in effect been telling readers to call himself. During his period on the islands, he notes, beachwear became more and more daring, until "ninety-nine hundredths stripping" became acceptable. At an early stage, he writes, "I became obsessed with the idea of acquiring a coat of tan from the top of my head to the tip of my toes." He set out for the then remote spot of Hanauma Bay, only to find, when he reached the final brow and looked down on the beach, a huge Hawaiian family picnic under way. "Disillusioned, furious and reckless," he writes, he drove back to Waikiki and "helped start the... fashion" for near-nude bathing. Griffiss had been brought up in a wealthy family in Coronado, the exclusive beach suburb of San Diego in California. His stepfather, Wilmot Griffiss, was head of the bond department for a leading San Diego bank. His mother, Katherine Hamlin, was a daughter of one of Buffalo's richest men - a horse-breeding sugar magnate - who eloped () with a wealthy businessman's polo-playing son, Ellicott Evans. Griffiss's mother and stepfather mixed in West Coast high society. His sister, meanwhile, lived next door to the future Wallis Simpson and her first husband, Earl Winfield Spencer, first commander of Coronado's Naval Air Station, and both couples attended a party held for the Prince of Wales when he toured the West Coast in 1920. It was thanks to his family's wealth that Griffiss, generally known as Tim rather than Townsend, was able to hire a house within yards of Waikiki beach in Honolulu, and to indulge an expensive passion inherited from his father - polo. The Army team on Hawaii was trained and led by George S Patton, then a major, but later the general whose tanks stormed out of Normandy breaking all records for liberating territory and capturing enemy divisions. "The Major has incited that old fighting spirit which carries the team with a rush to the last gong," writes Griffiss - again, without explaining to readers his personal link to the events described. When, after stints at airfields in California and Texas, Griffiss was sent to Washington DC in 1933, he arrived - to the delight of his two nephews - with three polo ponies. On Sundays the boys went to Fort Myer, near Arlington Cemetery, where the ponies were stabled, and helped to exercise them. "Where Washington National Airport now is there was a big marsh with lots of trails across it that we used for our rides," recalls retired Naval Captain Richard Alexander, who was given the middle name Griffiss in honour of his mother's stepfather. "We had a spoilacious relationship with Uncle Tim. It was easy to become terribly attached to this exciting, dynamic figure." Griffiss's private income also helped to set him up for his next job as an assistant military attache for air in Paris, Berlin and Spain. The qualities selectors took into account included tact, personality and personal appearance, according to a 1938 study by students at the Army War College, and also financial status - as attaches had to maintain a lifestyle their salaries would not support. Arriving in Europe in 1935, Griffiss spent most of his time from 1936-1938 observing the civil war in Spain at close quarters. "The undersigned was fortunate in having spent the night of July 11-12 at his beach house near Perello," he writes in one despatch, adding that it gave him a bird's-eye view of a naval engagement between a cruiser loyal to Gen Franco, and three government destroyers. But it was in his observations of the war in the air that he excelled. The conflict in Spain was widely seen as a test-bed for military technologies that would decide the next world war and the US Military Intelligence Department was hungry for information about how aircraft and tanks were employed, and how well they performed. Griffiss supplied detailed and thoughtful despatches, . US diplomats had better contacts with the Soviet-backed Spanish government forces than with Franco's nationalists, so Griffiss resorted to unusual measures to gather information about the new German planes, according to his nephew. "He convinced them to loan him a Russian fighter plane so he could go up and see what the new Messerschmitt 109s had in them," says Capt Alexander. "He tangled on several occasions with the prototypes of the Me 109, which must have given him good information to post back to this country." One of the lessons Griffiss drew was that work needed to be done to develop air forces suited to working in close co-ordination with commanders on the ground. Another was that the fashionable theory that powerfully armed bombers could win a war by themselves was a mistake. Bombers, at least in the limited way they were being used in Spain, did not cause public panic, he noted. He also concluded that fighters would always be necessary to protect bombers and would "remain the decisive factor" in air supremacy. The "flying fortress" idea had died in Spain, he and military attache Stephen Fuqua wrote in 1937, to the irritation of some leading Air Corps figures in Washington. The war in Europe began five months after the end of the Spanish Civil War. For the first two years the US remained officially neutral, but in September 1940 it agreed to a crucial deal - described by Winston Churchill in his memoirs as "decidedly unneutral" - to provide Britain with 50 badly needed naval destroyers, in return for the lease of military bases in a range of British territories. It was this deal that gave Winston Churchill his cue to tell parliament that "these two great organisations of the English-speaking democracies, the British Empire and the United States... will have to be somewhat mixed up together in some of their affairs, for mutual and general advantage." He went on: "For my own part, looking out upon the future, I do not view the process with any misgivings. I could not stop it if I wished. No-one could stop it. Like the Mississippi, it just keeps rolling along. Let it roll. Let it roll on - full flood, inexorable, irresistible, benignant, to broader lands and better days." It's impossible to know whether Townsend Griffiss had any misgivings about this process, but it formed the backdrop for the last 18 months of his life. He first acted as an adviser from the Air Corps to the US admiral sent to the Caribbean to select the locations for military bases on Bermuda and five West Indian colonies. The wrangling over some of these bases went on until the spring. Then in May 1941 he was sent to London as part of a special observer group (Spobs). This was a military mission by another name. Its members wore civilian clothes, but formed the nucleus of a joint military planning staff, along with a parallel British military mission in Washington. Griffiss was aide to the man in charge in London, Gen James Chaney. As well as holding regular meetings with the British operational planning staff, Spobs had to arrange for the pre-agreed American occupation of Iceland, and oversee the construction of naval and air bases in Northern Ireland and Scotland, for the use of US forces if and when they entered the war. But in November Griffiss was detached from Chaney's staff and sent to Moscow, to negotiate with the Soviet government about the opening of a Siberian supply route for American lend-lease aircraft. American aircraft were being sent to the USSR on Arctic convoys from the UK. They could also be flown to the USSR via the Middle East, but a route from Alaska to Siberia made more sense. Soviet diplomats in Washington gave assurances that Moscow was ready to help set up the delivery route, but embassy staff in Moscow were stonewalled whenever they raised the subject. Gen George Marshall sent Griffiss to sort it out. He spent about two months in the Soviet Union trying to get straight answers, first in Moscow, then, when German forces reached the outskirts of the city, in Kuibyshev, the temporary wartime capital. According to John Alison, then attached to the US embassy in the Soviet Union and later one of the fathers of US Air Force special operations, Griffiss got nowhere. "The Russians were just running us around in circles," . Cold weather delayed Griffiss's departure. From Kuibyshev he went to Tehran, and from Tehran to Cairo, where he boarded an unarmed B-24 Liberator operated by the British Overseas Airways Company (BOAC) for a direct flight to the UK. The flight was the first of its kind. The outward journey had been made on 24 January but strong headwinds repeatedly delayed the return trip. In such conditions, the Liberator would have run out of fuel on the traditional route across the Bay of Biscay around Brittany and and along the English Channel from the west. The captain, Humphrey Page, therefore suggested a direct route across occupied Europe at night. The Air Ministry in London signalled approval for the route. But conflicting messages were received from RAF Transport Command, which was against it, and from BOAC which appeared to be in favour. After asking BOAC to confirm its position, and getting no reply, the Liberator took off on the evening of 14 February. The next morning as it reached the coast of northern France, near St Malo, the aircraft appeared on British radar screens, initially registering as hostile. Two Spitfires from a Polish Air Force squadron in Exeter were sent to investigate. As they closed in on the grey-coloured aircraft, one pilot saw a bright flash coming from a glass turret. At the same time - he told the subsequent inquiry - the aircraft turned and began to dive into cloud. Both Spitfires opened fire, the Liberator's right engine was hit and started smoking, and it disappeared from view. Shortly afterwards, emerging beneath the cloud, the pilots saw a large patch of oil and disturbed water. Among the remains recovered were some socks belonging to the flight's first officer, some bags of diplomatic mail - which should have sunk, but for some reason floated - and a leather bag belonging to Griffiss. The court of inquiry blamed the Spitfire pilots, Stanislaw Brzeski and Jan Malinowski for failing to identify the Liberator as a friendly aircraft before opening fire, and recommended a court martial - but it was later decided there was insufficient evidence to proceed. Controllers who knew that a Liberator would be arriving on a path over occupied France on the morning of 15 February were also reprimanded for not warning the Exeter fighter sector. The question why the Liberator was not immediately identified on radar screens as a friendly aircraft went unanswered - either its friend-or-foe identification transmitter was not working or it was not switched on. The flashes of light from the Liberator were assumed to be a Morse-code message flashed from an Aldis lamp. But technically the Liberator should have signalled its friendly status by firing a colour-coded flare. One of the key lessons learned from the tragedy was that fighter pilots needed better instruction in the recognition of aircraft - both military and civilian. "In view of the important personages carried in civil aircraft, more attention should be paid to the identification of civil aircraft," the court of inquiry recommended. The B24 Liberator was to become one of the most familiar heavy bombers operated by US airmen in Europe, but in February 1942 there were not many around. Stanislaw Brzeski, the first of the Spitfire pilots to shoot, told the inquiry he had never seen a Liberator before. He mistook it for a German Focke-Wulf 200, another four-engined aircraft, usually grey in colour. The dead comprised five crew members and four passengers - Griffiss, a brigadier of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, a Navy lieutenant and a Rolls Royce employee. In the Air Ministry there was great embarrassment. An approach was made to Air Chief Marshal Charles Portal to write to Gen Chaney, to "ease what may be a difficult and delicate situation to overcome". In his letter, Portal offered his deepest sympathy, adding that the Air Staff would feel Griffiss's loss acutely. "He was a personal friend of many of them, and no-one could have been a more helpful collaborator," he wrote. Chaney later communicated the outcome of the court of inquiry to Washington, asking for there to be no publicity. In a message to President Franklin Roosevelt , Gen Marshall described Griffiss as an outstanding officer. "I was bringing him home," he said. Griffiss received the Distinguished Service Medal posthumously for his work in London and in the USSR. The citation said he displayed "rare judgement and devotion to duty" and "contributed materially to the the successful operation of the Special Army Observers Group, London". Just months after Griffiss's ill-fated trip to the USSR, when Britain's hold on Egypt appeared to be weakening and the lend-lease supply route via the Middle East seemed in danger, the Soviet authorities abruptly took a brighter view of the Alaska-Siberia route he had been trying so hard to open up. Starting that summer it became the major pathway for US aircraft deliveries to the Soviet Union - with Soviet pilots collecting the planes from Alaska and flying them home. But if that story quickly acquired a happy ending, members of Griffiss's family lived with their loss for years. His mother died in 1951, while his sister Elizabeth and her husband, Rear-Admiral Ralph Alexander, who had been close to Griffiss, lived until 1982 and 1970 respectively. Captain Richard Alexander, now 89, remembers hearing the news of the accident. He and his brother Bill, both studying at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, were summoned to the telephone in the middle of the night to receive a call from their father. "We heard dad on the phone telling us about Tim's loss. I was probably emotionally closer to Tim than my brother and it was quite a blow," he says. "I can remember those hours very clearly." After the war, he named his son, Townsend Griffiss Alexander. Now a rear-admiral commanding the US Navy's Mid Atlantic region, he too, like his namesake, is generally known as Tim.3 October 2013Last updated at 15:40 GMT Traditional musician Francis McPeake, 71, on child sex charges A Belfast judge has lifted reporting restrictions in the case of a well-known traditional musician and music teacher charged with child sex abuse. Francis McPeake, 71, is facing 12 charges of sexually abusing a child under the age of 16 from 2009 to 2010. The accused had tried to have his identity protected due to fears his life was at risk. He fled his home in the Markets area of Belfast last month after a mob of up to 60 people gathered outside. Riot police had to disperse the crowd, who had arrived after details of the case against him appeared in a Sunday newspaper and on the social networking site Facebook. The offences of which he is accused allegedly took place in Belfast and the Republic of Ireland. They include counts of sexual activity outside the UK and inciting a child to engage in sexual activity. All of them involve the same girl, who was aged under 16 at the relevant times. A temporary ban on identifying Mr McPeake was imposed when he first appeared before Belfast Magistrates' Court, to allow his legal team time to seek a full prohibition. Defence lawyers then argued that naming their client would breach his rights to life and freedom from torture, punishment and inhuman treatment. It was claimed that Mr McPeake is different from other defendants because he is so well-known. The district judge accepted there would be a real and immediate risk to his life were he to return to his home address. But she refused to grant full reporting restrictions on the basis that he has now moved to a different, unidentified location. In a ruling given on Tuesday, the district judge said: "The evidence before me suggests the threat has come from the defendant's immediate locality. "There is no verifiable or objective evidence that the level of threat would be replicated if he were to reside elsewhere." Pointing out that Mr McPeake has already been named in print and social media coverage, she added that the "identity of the defendant is obviously well-known in the Markets area". "In those circumstances it's likely those who are likely to pose a verifiable threat to the defendant already know his identity. "Therefore publishing his name will not materially increase the threat to the defendant." Mr McPeake's lawyers were given until Thursday to decide whether to mount a High Court challenge to Tuesday's ruling. It was confirmed in court on Thursday, however, that no further challenge was being pursued. Mr McPeake, whose new address cannot be revealed, then entered the dock for a preliminary enquiry hearing. With his family members in the public gallery, he declined to give evidence or call witnesses at this stage in the case. The judge granted a prosecution application to have him returned for trial at Belfast Crown Court on a date to be fixed. He was released on continuing bail of ?500 to live at an address known to police and to appear for trial at a date to be fixed.1 August 2013Last updated at 23:07 GMT Traditional technology looms large for luxury companies By Michael MillarBusiness reporter, BBC News It's a tall order to be best dressed at the launch of a tailor in Savile Row, the home of bespoke tailoring in London for almost 200 years. But James Sleater, co-founder of Cad and the Dandy, is doing his best. At a party to mark the arrival of Savile Row's newest resident, he is dressed in a suit with a difference - one made in-store on a 200-year-old loom. The suit was created to showcase the company's in-house talent, but it is unlikely the loom will be fired up again. At nine weeks, the loom-made suit took around 10 times longer to finish as it would take to fashion a suit with the aid of modern technology. Labour-intensive It would also come with a price tag to match. "Our average suit costs around ?1,000 - for this one we would probably be talking around ?10,000 to ?15,000," Mr Sleater says. Bespoke tailoring remains a very labour-intensive and highly skilled process - the cloth-making alone has seven stages and can involve five different companies. But taking tailoring back to its most traditional of roots is simply not viable for cads or dandies, it seems. These days, most intricate procedures can often be performed quicker, more accurately and cheaper than when left to human hands or traditional methods. So other than out of misty-eyed sentimentalism, is there any point in sticking to traditional techniques when machines are often superior? Rug for Obama Far from the grandeur of Savile Row, in the shadow of the Himalayas, overlooking Kathmandu, there is weaving of another kind. Here Nepalese craftsmen are weaving rugs with vertical looms, using the same methods practised for hundreds of years. The rugs they are making for Luke Irwin are destined for the rich and famous. Mr Irwin, who is set to open an eponymous store in New York next year, has even seen one of his rugs given as a gift to President Barack Obama by another head of state. He is quick to accept that a machine can create a rug that is more accurate to a pattern than his Nepalese staff can manage. But to praise such accuracy is to miss the point, he believes. "Computer software can create a rug that is perfect to the nth degree, but you can tell every time which is machine-made," he says. "In our world the customer gets exactly what they want - they have total control - but the joy is the feeling there has been a human interaction with it. It gives the item depth and character." Well-heeled clientele But like the tailors of Savile Row this comes at a price. Mr Irwin's rugs cost an average of ?4,000 for an 8ft x 10ft item. He says you can snap up a similar-sized rug for ?50 when it has been mass-produced. Indeed, time and again when asking whether the old ways still had a place, the companies that replied "yes" were selling products with price tags that restrict them to a well-heeled clientele. On a few occasions companies said they were yet to encounter technology that could replicate the skills of the artisan. For example, at the studio of rare decorative surfaces specialist Decorum Est in India, they practice repousse, a technique whereby malleable metal is hammered into shape. The company says the pattern created by this method imbues a "subtle, inconsistent texture that creates a beautiful play of light that a stamping machine could never produce". Reminiscent of yesteryear Mr Sleater makes a similar observation about human input in the tailoring process. "If you get me to measure you, you will suck in your stomach and puff out your chest - everyone does it," he says. "If I ask people to relax then their waistlines can increase by three inches. "If you rely on a computer to scan you for five seconds for a fitting then you already fail at the first hurdle." In other cases companies are forced to eschew the latest technology for heritage reasons. For example, the vintage British carriages used by the celebrated Orient Express keep not only their traditional interiors but also technology that is ancient in railway terms. Lighting and the main power circuits are still powered off a dynamo run off a pulley attached to the wheels. The traditional frames used underneath the carriages conjure up a more noisy, rough ride, reminiscent of yesteryear. But even a brand as venerable as this has to face up to the technological future, according to chief engineer Julian Clark. "Eventually you just aren't going to be able to get the parts - and the skills to maintain these trains are almost non-existent," he says. "Take the wheels: there are only two companies left in the UK that can fix them." Indeed, so rare are the skills needed to maintain the old technology that the company is starting an apprenticeship scheme to teach them before they die out. But in all these cases we are still at the luxurious end of the market. So perhaps the old ways have a place, but only for those who can afford them. Perfect tonic It's enough to make you turn to drink - for a solution to the problem anyway. Nik Fordham is master distiller at gin brand Bombay Sapphire. His company ships millions bottles of gin annually across the globe. But at the heart of the operation is technology unchanged since 1834. The company uses stills called pots as part of the vapour infusion process used to create the flavour of the gin. Not only are any new stills a direct copy of the 1834 design, the original still remains in operation. "The pot stills are core to our business and there isn't a better way of doing it," Mr Fordham says. "I can't envision a eureka moment when we will find something to replace them." Mr Fordham also has an interesting claim to fame: in the 1990s he did research into the creation of an electric nose. But no matter how hard he tried he couldn't create something to replace the human input required to create products such as Bombay Sapphire. "The electric nose could smell 9,500 different aromas - but it couldn't tell you if something tasted nice," he says. So maybe there is a place for the old ways as technology continues its unstoppable march. But to find the products that result, it seems that more often than not it won't be a case of following your nose, but your wallet.4 October 2013Last updated at 06:15 GMT Trance club Slinky bids farewell to Bournemouth By Roz TappendenBBC South Global clubbing brand Slinky is to hold its final event this weekend, as it is no longer financially viable to run. Director and DJ Lee Haslam said he had been personally financing the Bournemouth-based trance club since saving it from closure in 2010. The most recent event, the 16th birthday party in May, left him with considerable losses despite strong ticket sales. The final Slinky will be held at the O2 Academy Bournemouth on Saturday night. It is the same venue that has hosted the club for 15 years of its 16-year history, although these days the ornate 19th Century theatre is owned by Academy Music Group. In its heyday, Slinky ran club nights in Ibiza, hosted festival arenas, released numerous albums and rivalled superclubs such as Gatecrasher, Godskitchen, Cream, Pacha and Ministry of Sound. Haslam, who joined Slinky in 2007, said: "We were a weekly club, then we went monthly, then quarterly. "The numbers are OK but to survive we need to sell out every event. We have been getting 1,300 to 1,400 [people], which are good numbers, but our costs are high." Painful decision Despite the club's demise, the weekly Slinky Sessions radio show will continue each Saturday on the Digitally Imported website, while the record label, Discover, will carry on releasing music. Haslam has been snapped up by former rival Gatecrasher, where he is booking artists for its Birmingham and Nottingham clubs and events worldwide. "It's business at the end of the day," he said. "It's a very credible brand to work for and I've been lucky enough to work for a few in my career. "When they found out that Slinky was closing they asked me to come on board." Although his services remain in demand, Haslam said the decision to close Slinky was painful. Owners Marcello Alessi and Richard Skaife had intended to close the club in 2010 but, desperate to keep it going, Haslam leased the brand from them and has been financing it ever since. He said: "I'm very upset. I and a lot of other people have put time and effort into Slinky. "It's hard when you are putting two to three hundred man hours into an event - and a few times I have paid for the privilege. "I think there's a new breed of clubber who's not into trance. People are more into EDM and other stuff now." 'Expensive game' As well as a change in the music scene, clubbers' expectations for big names and large-scale productions have not sat well with the recession. Nonetheless, tickets for the final Slinky, costing ?17 each, sold out in just three days in May. "If our other events had sold out as quickly as this one, we wouldn't be having this conversation," Haslam said. "We have tried to keep prices down and have tried other things like the VIP tickets but it costs us ?3,000 to take the venue on. "Then there are the DJs and other people who need paying - it's a very expensive game." Slinky started life in 1997 when the club also owned the venue, which at that time was called the Opera House. In 2005 the club changed hands and the following year the Opera House closed for refurbishment, forcing Slinky to find a new venue at Elements in Bournemouth. Haslam was brought in as head of music in 2007, just as the 1,800-capacity Opera House reopened. Slinky returned to the venue in January 2008. Haslam said: "There are so many memories - we are very fortunate to have the Slinky faithful, and aesthetics of the building are awe-inspiring. "Paul van Dyk in February sold out and we have had some great parties in that venue."31 May 2012Last updated at 14:35 GMT Trans-Dniester profile The separatist region of Trans-Dniester - a narrow strip of land between the Dniester river and the Ukrainian border - proclaimed independence from Moldova in 1990, and is considered one of the post-Soviet space's "frozen conflicts". The international community does not recognise its self-declared statehood, and the territory, which remains in a tense stand-off with Moldova, is often portrayed as a hotbed of crime. In a September 2006 referendum, unrecognised by Moldova and the international community, the region reasserted its demand for independence and also backed a plan eventually to join Russia. In the post World War II carve-up of the region, Moscow created Moldova's forerunner, the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic, from two disparate elements: the mainly Russian-speaking Dniester region, formerly an autonomous part of Ukraine, and the neighbouring region of Bessarabia, which had been part of Romania from 1918-1940. But in the Soviet Union's dying days, alarm grew in the Dniester region over growing Moldovan nationalism and the possible reunification of Moldova with Romania. A 1989 law which made Moldovan an official language added to the tension, and Trans-Dniester proclaimed its secession in September 1990. The breakaway territory's paramilitary forces took over Moldovan public institutions in the area in 1991. Fighting intensified, culminating in a battle on the right bank of the Dniester in June 1992. Up to 700 people were killed in the conflict. A ceasefire was signed in July 1992, and a 10-km demilitarised security zone was established. The settlement was enforced by the Russian 14th Army forces already stationed in Trans-Dniester. Russian presence The ongoing presence of Russian troops has been a stumbling block in peace talks and the West is concerned about the Soviet-era arsenal in the territory. A pull-out began in 2001 but was halted when Trans-Dniester blocked the dispatch of weapons. Subsequent agreements to resume failed to reach fruition. Long-running talks supervised by the OSCE, Russia and Ukraine have yet to yield a political solution. Attempts by Moldova to exert economic pressure on the Dniester authorities have failed to produce the desired result. In 2004 a Russian-brokered plan, which would have made the presence of Russian troops permanent, sparked mass protests in Moldova and was shelved. Conflict resolution talks involving Moldova, Trans-Dniester, Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE resumed under Russian mediation in 2008, after being suspended in 2006. There are disputes over language issues. Though dominated by Russian-speakers, around 40% of the population in Trans-Dniester have Moldovan - which is virtually identical to Romanian - as a first language. Trans-Dniester contains most of Moldova's industrial infrastructure, but its economic potential is limited by its international isolation. It has its own currency, constitution, parliament, flag and anthem. One of the last bastions of Soviet-style rhetoric, the territory has nonethless privatised some of its industrial enterprises. Russia shores up the region with financial assistance and funds a monthly payment to the region's pensioners. The region is plagued by corruption, organised crime and smuggling. It has been accused of conducting illegal arms sales and of money laundering. Poverty is widespread.Transport minister Norman Baker said he does not wear a helmet while cycling, saying he does not feel the need for one, as it was a "safe activity". He agreed with Olympic cycling gold medallist Chris Boardman - who made a without wearing one - who claimed cycling was safer than walking. They agreed that making helmets compulsory could mean fewer people took up cycling. MORE FROM THE DAILY & SUNDAY POLITICS Watch more ; 'like' us on page; watch the , follow us on or watch programmes from the last seven days onTreasury Minister Sajid Javid said the Help to Buy scheme, which aims to get people on the housing ladder was "for everyone" and not just young people.He said most people aspire to own their own home and added: "We want to help them with that aspiration."The Conservative MP said around ?10,000 was needed 10 to 15 years ago for an average mortgage, but that could be up to ?40,000 today, taking potential homebuyers 25 years to save.And he debated claims that the project could fuel house price inflation when he spoke to Jo Coburn, and guests Phil Collins and Sean Worth, on the Daily Politics. More from the Daily and Sunday Politics: Watch full programmes from the last seven days via ; 'like' us on page or 'follow' us on16 October 2011Last updated at 00:28 GMT Trees 'boost African crop yields and food security' By Mark KinverEnvironment reporter, BBC News Planting trees that improve soil quality can help boost crop yields for African farmers, an assessment shows. Fertiliser tree systems (FTS) also help boost food security and play a role in "climate proofing" the region's arable land, the paper adds. Researchers from the World Agroforestry Centre say poor soil fertility is one of the main obstacles to improving food production in Africa. The results appear in the . "In Africa, it is generally agreed that poor soil management - along with poor water management - is most greatly affecting yields," explained co-author Frank Place, head of the centre's Impact Assessment team. He said that despite chemical fertilisers having been on the market for more than half a century, farmers appeared reluctant or unable to buy them. "Therefore, there have been a lot of attempts to bring in other types of nutrients from other systems - such as livestock and plants" he told BBC News. "We have been working quite a lot on what is broadly referred to as 'fertiliser tree systems'." Although it has been known for centuries that certain plants, such as legumes, "fix" nitrogen in the soil and boost food crop yields, Dr Place said that the centre's researchers had been looking to develop a more active management approach such as FTS. "Some farms, for example in Zambia, where the farms are larger, it is possible to rest arable land and allow it to lie fallow," he observed. "But in places such as much of Malawi, where population densities are higher, they cannot afford to fallow their land; so we came up with alternative management systems where they could intercrop the trees with the (maize)." While the technique is not new, Dr Place said that some of the nitrogen-fixing species used by farmers were probably not the most effective. For example, farmers in East Africa had been using Cajanus cajan (also known as pigeon pea). "A lot of the nitrogen was being stored in the trees' seeds; so there was an effort to use other trees that put a greater volume in the soil, such as Gliricidia sepium (one of its common name is mother of cocoa)," he said. "A really nice thing about G. sepium is that we have been coppicing some of those trees for 20 years and they still continue to grow back vigorously." However, he acknowledged that there were a number of challenges that had to be addressed in order to maximise yields. For example, some systems suggested planting rows of trees between rows of crops with mixed results. "We realised that there were a few management problems with that sort of system - what tended to happen was that there was too much competition between the crops and the trees," Dr Place explained. "We developed a new management system where the trees were cut very low to the ground at the time you are planting the crop so then there was no light competition. "The trees go into a dormant state when you cut them like this, so the root system is not competing straight away for the nutrients, so the maize is free to become established. "The trees only really start to come out out of the dormant phase when the maize is already tall." Another challenge was to provide enough seeds in order to have mass-scale planting. He said that balancing the provision of high-quality seeds with large local engagement was another hurdle that had to be overcome. But the rewards in improved yields were noticeable, he added. "Some of the studies have shown that in TFS across Africa as a whole, yields are doubling or more in two-thirds of cases." Where the systems were not delivering such good results, Dr Place said that scientists were looking to refine current practices and modify them to suit the local conditions. 'Climate proofing' As well as helping to boost yields, the use of trees in agriculture has other benefits - such as helping to "climate proof" agriculture land. One example, Dr Place said, was the use of Faidherbia albida (common names include winter thorn and apple-ring acacia) in West African arable landscapes. "It has a deep penetrating tap root, and it can secure a good water supply even in dry years," he explained. "Generally speaking, tree roots do go much deeper than crop roots, so it is recycling nutrients and water from deeper reaches. "There are also studies showing that these roots act as conduits and bring up water to surface root systems (such as those belonging to crops)." The editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, Professor Jules Pretty from the University of Essex, UK, said the study illustrated that there was a growing movement of agricultural innovations across Africa that were increasing yields and at the same time improving the environment. "Trees and shrubs in agricultural systems seem to break some of the rules of agriculture - in this case, farmers are using shrubs to create a diverse rotation pattern rather than year-on-year maize," he told BBC News. "The trees fix nitrogen and improve the soil; the leaves can be fed to livestock; the crops then benefit greatly in subsequent years."29 September 2013Last updated at 21:23 GMT Tremor from Italy amid political crisis Prime Minister Enrico Letta will try to save his government over the next two or three days but Italy is in political turmoil. During the recent election campaign in Germany, the Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said: "The world should rejoice at the positive economic signals the eurozone is sending almost continuously these days." His comments attracted some criticism; after all, rejoicing seemed a touch inappropriate when some countries had youth unemployment around 50%. Others like Mario Draghi, the president of the ECB, had sounded a different note. "I am very very cautious about the recovery," he said. "I can't share the enthusiasm ..." It is hard to know but some of his caution may have had its roots in his native Italy. Italian politics are never far from crisis. The political caste that inhabits the Palazzo Montecitorio revels in intrigue. Italy has had over 60 governments since the World War II. For a long period the comings and goings of prime ministers passed without much comment. Not any longer. Italy is the third largest country in the eurozone. It has debts of 2 trillion euros and is the world's third largest bond market. It remains true that despite the European Stability Mechanism (the eurozone's giant rescue fund) that Italy is too big to be bailed out. The country is still in recession; the longest since World War II. Seven months ago Italy fought an inconclusive election campaign. There was no clear winner. President Giorgio Napolitano, mindful that the markets could turn against Italy, helped forge an unlikely coalition between the left and the right. Crying out for reform Suddenly the Partito Democratico - the social democrats - were in partnership with Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom Party. Italy was crying out for reform. It had a political system that did not function with an over-paid political class. (At the election the comedian Beppe Grillo had won over 20% of the vote on a platform to dismantle political corruption.) Under the previous Prime Minister Mario Monti there was an attempt to free up the labour market but more radical reforms were needed. A start had been made on clamping down on tax evasion but often the actions seemed like high-profile stunts; pulling over Ferrari owners and asking them to explain how they afforded their vehicles. Above all Italy needed growth. The economy had been flat-lining for a decade and had racked up huge debts. From the start the new coalition was a fragile marriage, marked by political bickering. There were uneasy compromises and differences of substance. Berlusconi and his allies fought hard against a property tax but, without it, there was a 5bn euro hole in the finances. Other measures, including an increase in VAT, were needed if Italy was to meet its spending commitments. Whatever the disagreements, Berlusconi seemed to understand that the voters wanted stability and had no appetite for another election. Strains A strained relationship soured after Berlusconi's conviction for tax fraud was upheld by the Supreme Court at the start of August. He faced expulsion from the Senate, house arrest for a year and a ban on holding public office. For the past two months his supporters have been trying to find a way around these penalties. There were numerous threats to bring down the government, although it was never clear how that would help Berlusconi. At times the Letta government seemed paralysed. At the end of last week Mr Letta concluded no further legislation could be enacted unless the political crisis was resolved. He decided to hold a vote of confidence. Berlusconi did not want that and urged five of his ministers to resign their cabinet posts, so bringing down the coalition. Mr Letta called it ' a crazy gesture" to cover up Berlusconi's personal affairs. In his view it had nothing to do with opposition to the increase in VAT. The future is now uncertain. Italian ministers are wary of the response from the markets. Some say if there is a long period of instability then the credit ratings agencies will downgrade Italy. President Giorgio Napolitano says that he will only dissolve Parliament "as a last resort". He is exploring whether another coalition can be scrambled together. Silvio Berlusconi wants a vote "as quickly as possible". On his 77th birthday he seems determined to bet his future on increasing his influence at the polls. Risky It is a risky bet. He may even struggle to hold his party together. Some of his ministers opposed the collapse of the coalition. Almost certainly there will be days of attempted deal-making and a vote of confidence. Italy's Labour Minister Enrico Giovannini said: "If instability were to persist and affect the eurozone, then international authorities could put much stronger pressure on national authorities". It was a warning that Brussels and Berlin could start flexing their muscles if the euro-zone crisis returned. Italy - as it has been for the past year - is protected by Mario Draghi's promise to do whatever it takes to defend the euro. Those words, never tested, have kept the markets at bay, unwilling to bet against the central bank. Mr Draghi will be watching to see whether last year's promise still deters the markets. It has been said many times before that we are witnessing the final act in Silvio Berlusconi's career. His political influence is on the wane and it may just be that the voters are no longer willing to risk stability as part of a battle over his legal convictions. Yet once again the future of Italy is tied into the personal drama of the man who likes to call himself Il Cavaliere, but if the markets turn against Italy, Berlusconi and his allies could yet be forced into making a compromise.17 April 2013Last updated at 14:45 GMT Trinidad and Tobago profile Trinidad and Tobago is one of the wealthiest countries in the Caribbean, thanks to its large reserves of oil and gas, the exploitation of which dominates its economy. Inhabited mostly by people of African and Indian descent, the two-island state enjoys a per capita income well above the average for Latin America. Natural gas - much of it exported to the US - is expected to overtake oil as its main source of revenue. Dependence on oil has made the republic a hostage to world crude prices, whose fall during the 1980s and early 1990s led to the build-up of a large foreign debt, widespread unemployment and labour unrest. As with other nations in the region, Trinidad and Tobago - a major trans-shipment point for cocaine - has become ridden with drug and gang-related violence. This has clogged up the courts and has fuelled a high murder rate and much of the corruption that is reputedly endemic in the police. It also threatens the tourism industry. In response, the government reintroduced capital punishment in 1999, despite strong international pressure not to do so. Trinidad and Tobago hosts the Caribbean Court of Justice, a regional supreme court which aims to replace Britain's Privy Council as a final court of appeal. The council had been seen as an obstacle to the speedy implementation of death sentences. Sighted by the explorer Christopher Columbus in 1498, Trinidad was settled by the Spanish before being taken by Britain in 1797. A succession of European powers laid claim to Tobago. Calypso music and steel drum bands feature in carnival celebrations on the larger island. Relaxed and peaceful in comparison to its densely-populated neighbour, Tobago attracts diving enthusiasts and nature lovers. The island is self-governing.5 March 2013Last updated at 04:33 GMT Triumph of the blues - iconic iguana saved by trade ban The idyllic Caribbean island of Grand Cayman is perhaps best known for the azure tint to the sea lapping against its white sandy shores. But there is another famous Cayman blue - a species of large, long living lizard native to the island. The blue iguana is the island's biggest land animal. But size isn't everything when it comes to survival. Back in 2002 there were just a dozen or so of these giants left. The reason for the decline were the old reliables - the destruction of their habitat and the encroachment of humans. The species was decimated by car accidents and attacks from dogs and cats. At one point it was the most threatened iguana species on the planet. Now though there are around 750 of the creatures, land has been set aside for them, they are being released and are successfully breeding in the wild. To all intents and purposes, the blue iguana has been saved. So how has this happened when so many other species such as the or the have simply disappeared over the same period? One of the factors is a breeding programme run by the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme that protects the young lizards in their first couple of years when they are especially vulnerable. International agreement But another important factor according to Fred Burton who runs the programme, is the influence of an international agreement called the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites). Next week negotiators from 177 countries will meet in Bangkok for the Cites conference of the parties. In the 40 years since the agreement was signed Cites has been much criticised for its shortcomings particularly the inability to stem the trade in ivory and rhino horn. But Fred Burton is still a big fan. "Cites is a powerful force for good, " he said. "These blue iguana are on Appendix One (all trade is banned) and there is no ambiguity about it whatsoever. "If someone was to grab one of these iguanas and take it out of the country they would be in violation of the Cites law here and internationally." "That's really pretty important, even if we get to 1,000 there is no way that we can sustain a harvest for the pet trade," he added. Fred explained that at present their captive breeding facility has razor wire and security cameras and offers solid protection. But the problem is that as more of the creatures are successfully released into the wild there will be a growing temptation to capture and sell these iguanas as high priced exotic pets. "We've had animal smugglers here who have been caught. There is some awareness of the issue here on the island and Cites is the legal foundation for most of that. It is very valuable." Another factor underpinning the success of the blue iguana is that people see the sum of their economic value in the numbers of tourists who come to Grand Cayman to see the cold-blooded but warm-hearted animals. Sadly for many other species that will be subject to discussions next week, their parts are still worth more than their sum. Follow Matt on .13 September 2011Last updated at 12:46 GMT Trollope to rework Austen's Sense and Sensibility Joanna Trollope is to write a contemporary version of Jane Austen's classic novel Sense and Sensibility, which will be published in autumn 2013. It will form part of a series of six HarperFiction novels that will rework Austen's books, although other authors have yet to be announced. "This is a great honour and an even bigger challenge," said Trollope. Trollope, whose novels include The Choir and Friday Nights, is to chair next year's Orange Prize for Fiction. "It's a hugely exciting proposal to attempt the reworking of one of the best novels written by one of our greatest novelists," she said. "This is a project which will require consummate respect above all else - not an emulation, but a tribute." HarperFiction's publishing director Louise Joyner, said: "Joanna Trollope and Jane Austen share an extraordinary ability to combine heart-rending plots with a social acuity which has powerful resonances for contemporary audiences." Sense and Sensibility, which reveals the fortunes of the Dashwood daughters following the death of their father, is one of Austen's most famous novels. It has been adapted for both television and cinema - Emma Thompson won an Oscar for her film version of the novel in 1995. She wrote the script for the movie, in which she co-starred with Kate Winslet. Andrew Davies' 2008 BBC mini-series starred David Morrissey and Dominic Cooper. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Sense and Sensibility.31 December 2012Last updated at 14:05 GMT Troops' role changing as 2012 ends in Afghanistan By Jonathan BealeDefence correspondent, BBC News There has not been a British fatality for more than a month in Helmand. In part, it can be explained by the quieter winter - the insurgency is at its most deadly during the hot summer months. But it also reflects the changing role of the British military as they prepare to pull out. It is the Afghan police and army that are now largely leading the fight, as British forces are lowering their profile. Nearly 60% of the British military bases in Helmand have either been handed over to the Afghans or dismantled. Over the past year the British forces' focus, along with their Nato allies, has been on training up the Afghan security forces, in what is now becoming a more advisory role. It is a task that still comes with risks, and 2012 has seen a dramatic rise in so-called "insider" or "green on blue" attacks, when rogue Afghans in uniform target foreign troops. A quarter of the 44 British troops who have died in Helmand this year have been killed in such attacks. Mission continues The most recent "insider attack" on a British soldier took place at Camp Shawqat in Nad Ali. Capt Walter Barrie was shot dead by an Afghan in uniform as he was playing football on Remembrance Sunday, the last British fatality of 2012. His comrades who witnessed the tragedy are still training Afghans to detect roadside bombs on the same patch of muddy sand on which he was killed. Capt Barrie's friend, Maj Andy Lumley, admits the incident gave his men "pause for thought". But he said in a show of "sheer bloody-mindedness" they were out playing football with the Afghans again the next day. Maj Lumley says the men still grieve for Capt Barrie, but they will not allow one incident to derail the mission. There are, though, some doubts about the mission, which is training up the Afghans to provide their own security. While nearly every soldier in Helmand talked of real progress when asked, there is still a recognition that hard-fought gains could be lost. Kingsman Ben Shaun of 1 Lancs sounded optimistic about the future, but if you read his words carefully you will detect concerns shared by other British soldiers regarding what will happen when they leave. "Hopefully they'll keep to it. Maybe not as much now we're not there observing what they're doing. Maybe they'll slack it a little bit. But hopefully we don't have to come back and do the same job again," he says. 'Huge pride' An Afghan military depot illustrates part of the the problem. Afghan engineers are able to carry out repairs on their old American Humvees, but outside the workshop there are more than 100 idle vehicles, waiting for spare parts. The logistical supply chain has still not been sorted out. How will they cope when international troops leave with all their kit and help? Yet the British commander in Helmand, Brig Bob Bruce, is convinced that it is the right time to hand over control to the Afghan security forces. He says "they're ready and have huge pride in the job". That is certainly shown by the top Afghan Army commander in central Helmand, Brig Gen Sherin Shah. He has been fighting the Taliban for more than a decade and his chin bears a large shrapnel scar to prove it. The insurgency has proved resilient, but so has he. Gen Sherin Shah says he is not worried about the British withdrawal from Helmand, as it is not "sudden" but carefully planned. He insists the 438 British troops who have lost their lives in Afghanistan "have not died in vain". Before the British came, he says, Helmand was a violent province with no security and no democracy. Now 65,000 boys and girls are able to go to school. There are real signs of progress in Helmand. But there are also reminders of the failures of past foreign intervention. Camp Shawqat, where Captain Walter Barrie died, is surrounded by the ruins of an old fort. The sandy mud walls that glow in the winter evening sun were built and occupied by British forces in the second Anglo Afghan War. But they were driven out and defeated in 1882. This time the hope is that Britain will have left a more enduring legacy. But for now it is a "hope" and not a guarantee.9 August 2012Last updated at 19:42 GMT Tropical Storm Ernesto hits Mexico's Gulf coast Tropical Storm Ernesto has hit Mexico for a second time, bringing strong winds and flooding to several areas of the southern Gulf coast. The storm, downgraded from a hurricane, has maximum winds of 110km/h (70mph). Ernesto hit Mexico on Tuesday after drenching parts of Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. After blowing across the Yucatan Peninsula and open sea, it made landfall in Mexico again near the port of Coatzacoalcos, in Veracruz state. Coastal villages have flooded and thousands of emergency shelters have been prepared in Veracruz. The states of Tabasco, Puebla and Chiapas have also been prepared for heavy downpours. A total of 11 states are on alert for Ernesto, Mexican media reported. The storm is expected to lose strength as it moves inland. State oil company Pemex said it was monitoring Ernesto but so far there were no reports of disruptions to its installations. Coatzacoalcos, which is one of Mexico's key oil ports, was closed on Wednesday as a precaution.2 April 2013Last updated at 23:04 GMT Trotting in Rome: Farewell to a sporting way of life By Alan Johnston BBC News, Rome A relaxation of gambling rules means that Italians are betting more than ever - but they are betting less on trotting, a sport with echoes of the chariot races of ancient Rome. As a result, one of the city's most venerable sporting institutions is closing. Sometimes journeys across Rome take me past the Circus Maximus - what was in ancient times, the city's chariot racing arena. All its stone seating is long gone. Today its grandstands are just grassy slopes that sweep down to a gravel track. It's not much more than a bit of green space in the heart of the city, a place to kick a ball about, or for joggers to go wheezing through the summer heat. But just imagine what it must have been like on race days back in the 1st Century AD. The chariots were summoned to the start by trumpets and then they would be off, pounding hooves, whirring wheels, rising dust, the crowd roaring and drivers straining at the reins as they lashed their horses into dangerous turns. The only place where you might have found just the faintest echo of all that in Rome nowadays is out on the edge of the city, at place called Tor di Valle. It was a harness racing, or trotting, track, a place of pace and grace where horses would go striding at speed round a huge oval circuit, trailing behind them the flimsiest little carriages - modern chariots - just big enough for a driver to perch on, and crack a whip. And out at the track they would tell you proudly that their sport has its roots even further back than those Roman race days at the Circus Maximus. Legend has it the origins lay with the charioteers of ancient Greece. For decades, trotting flourished at Tor di Valle. Horses would be flown in from abroad for the biggest races and for the most important there would be a million euros in prize money. But no more. I came to Tor di Valle on what was supposed to be the day of its last race. The track was closing. It has been overwhelmed by the economic troubles that have brought much of horse racing in Italy to its knees. Betting is the sport's life blood, and right now Italians are actually gambling more than ever. But the way they bet has been transformed over the past decade. A liberalisation of gaming regulations has allowed punters to put money on sports and lotteries of all kinds, and the cash has just drained away from the horses. At Tor di Valle they say that their sector of the economy has been disastrously neglected by the government. And so that day at the track, I was watching a whole sporting way of life come to an end. In the utter gloom, even the very last races had to be cancelled. The deeply disgruntled workforce did not have the heart to stage them. Of course trotting was far from the biggest game in town. It had endured years of decline. But to the drivers and stable lads, the track was everything. A man called Fabio sat in the grandstand, surrounded by empty seats. He had worked at Tor di Valle for more than 20 years, but now, like dozens of others, he was bracing himself for unemployment. He had known the track since he was a boy and he said it was like of a world of its own. In that grandstand he had watched people gamble away everything they had, and then carry on gambling and he had seen others get rich. I met a trainer called Roberto walking a horse down a road to the stables. He was a big strong man in his 50s, but his voice broke as he talked of how his life had been steeped in the track. Horses, he said, had been his passion. He and his father, and his grandfather before him, had trained some fine ones. And there was a time when - if you could win a derby - there was enough prize money for a trainer to sort out a good part of his life. But now he said it was a struggle to feed the horses. The best of them, the fastest of them, will survive the closure of Tor di Valle. They'll be sent to other places to race. But some of the animals may have to be put down. Better that, perhaps, than let them end up in the harsh world of the illegal trotting scene run by mafiosi on the country roads in the south of Italy. For an hour or two, the horses were brought out to be exercised. They went fizzing round the track, snorting and stamping, harnesses rattling, drivers shouting. For a while there were echoes of better days at Tor di Valle. But eventually the horses were led back to their stalls, steam rising from their backs in the soft, wintry sunlight. And gradually a silence, and a deep sadness, settled on the lanes between the stables. How to listen to : BBC Radio 4: Saturdays at 11:30 and some Thursdays at 11:00 or . BBC World Service: Short editions Monday-Friday - see World Service .20 June 2013Last updated at 01:41 GMT Troubled path to talks with Taliban After years of secret negotiations, an historic breakthrough in talks with the Afghan Taliban almost came unstuck over a flag and a sign. But by the end of Wednesday, and a personal intervention by US Secretary of State John Kerry, the Taliban flag and their sign reading "The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan" were removed from their new office in the Gulf state of Qatar. After hours of mounting tension, Afghan President Hamid Karzai's spokesman Aimal Faizi told me the president now "wanted to get the wheels moving again." But as much as symbols matter, the substance of any future talks matters far more. Off the record conversations with a number of people involved in the sensitive dialogue that led to this milestone underline continuing uncertainty over what the Taliban leadership is hoping to achieve. "It's still not clear whether they are interested in sharing power, or just taking power again," reflected one source who has been engaged in this process for many years. Another spoke with more cautious optimism about "frank and productive talks," and "changes in rhetoric" that suggested new thinking among the Taliban, who enforced a strict and harsh interpretation of Islam during their rule in the 1990s. 'Prickly paranoia' The row over symbols served to highlight how a movement that once banned television understood the importance of projecting a certain message. For example, the words on the sign, "The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," were those they used to describe their regime that was eventually toppled in 2001. For President Karzai, long suspicious that the Taliban office would be used as base for a "government in waiting" to raise its profile and its fund raising, it only confirmed his worst fears about the Taliban, and his ally, the United States. On Wednesday, he suddenly suspended bilateral security talks with the US, and called off a planned trip to Qatar by his negotiating body, the High Peace Council. "President Obama had given us written assurances this would not happen," explained Aimal Faizi. He also pointed out that there had been more than a month of intense discussions, in person and over the telephone, between senior Afghan and American officials to ensure misunderstandings did not arise this time. Not long before the announcement, President Obama himself called the Afghan leader to ensure he was fully informed of the expected breakthrough. On more than one occasion in the past, President Karzai has scuppered imminent deals, accusing the US and other countries of trying to undermine his authority and his country's sovereignty. Some Western officials, with barely concealed frustration, often dismiss what they see as a prickly paranoia. But in this latest upset, the president's anger seemed justified. In recent months, the Afghan leader has also been invited to Doha, as well as the Norwegian capital Oslo, to discuss ongoing negotiations. The ribbon cutting ceremony at the office on Tuesday came after months of renewed effort involving key roles for Norwegian and British envoys, as well as Qatari officials and Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. German diplomats played a vital a role at earlier stages of the protracted process. One source said the ISI, which is known to exercise influence over many Taliban commanders, "did what it had to do" to get the talks moving again in Doha. Sticking points After months of silence that followed the Taliban suspension of negotiations with the US in March 2012, a new push was made at the end of last year to revive an initiative that has been in the making since 2011. Western diplomats also pressured Qatar to make more of an effort to encourage those Taliban who settled in Doha some time ago - at Qatari expense - to return to negotiations about an office. Diplomats also wielded the UN sanctions list to highlight how some of the Taliban travelling freely were actually still on a black list. But the US also held out sweeteners too. After insisting since the start on what one American diplomat conceded was an "unrealistic demand" for an explicit statement from the Taliban, Washington dropped its pre-conditions which required a written commitment to renounce terrorism and links to Al Qaeda, accept the Afghan constitution, and agree to talk to the Afghan government. Instead, the Taliban spoke of not allowing their soil to be used to threaten other countries, and expressed a commitment to try to find a "peaceful solution to the occupation." One source engaged in talks said the demand for direct talks with the Afghan government "has been a sticking point all the way through." He said: "We think they will agree on this but it is difficult for them to spell it out." Another problem for the negotiators has been to establish whether their main interlocutor, Tayeb Agha, still had the authority conferred on him by the Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Reports last year spoke of power struggles within the Taliban's political office, and Tayeb Agha was reported to have been sidelined. But sources say he is playing a central role again. Recent talks, which have not included direct American participation, are also said to have involved wide ranging discussions on issues including the constitution, human rights, the role of women. "We definitely did not agree on everything," said one Western official who also highlighted that there are still more hard-line elements outside this process. Prisoner controversy American officials say they expect the Taliban's first goal, when direct talks resume shortly with the US, will be to obtain the release of five Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. In exchange, they are to free the only US soldier believed to be in captivity, Bowe Bergdahl. It is understood he is being held by the group known as the Haqqani network, whose representatives have also been involved in negotiations. But this issue is already stuck in the tangled web of US politics. When talks took place in 2012, headed by the then US Special Representative Marc Grossman, leading Republican senators balked at releasing the Afghans. The Pentagon is said to be still opposed while President Obama backs a deal. Significant questions and concerns still hang over a tortuous process that will sit alongside continuing bombings and military battles on the ground. But for the moment, there is a long awaited window to open a channel of negotiations that will, at the least, give departing US-led Nato troops some political cover as they prepare to pull out most of their troops. But that window will only remain open so long as President Karzai, and other key players, do not do everything in their power to shut the door of the office if it seems to be moving in the wrong direction.27 March 2013Last updated at 00:33 GMT Tunisia: Can niqabs and bikinis live side-by-side? Two years after the long-time government was ousted in Tunisia, some women are enjoying their freedom to wear Islamic clothes such as the niqab, while others are afraid of losing their rights, reports Caroline Anning. Arije Nasser greets me in her living room in the dusty, wind-blown Tunisian town of Gafsa with the traditional two kisses on the cheek - but through a swathe of black material. The 22 year-old English student chose to put on the niqab - the full Muslim veil which leaves only the eyes showing - after the Tunisian revolution in 2011. "I feel like a princess when I walk down the street wearing this," she says. "The niqab and even the hijab were forbidden before the revolution, but now we feel more comfortable to practise our religious activities." Ms Nasser, and other conservative Tunisians like her, have benefited from the new-found religious freedom in post-revolutionary Tunisia. With an Islamist party now holding the majority of seats in government, the aggressively secular policies of the old regimes are out, while beards and veils are increasingly in on Tunisia's streets. That has some Tunisian women worried. At a recent demonstration, around 800 people pushed down Avenue Habib Bourguiba in central Tunis, chanting for a "secular state" and against "the party of the Brotherhood". Several middle-aged women were pulling reluctant, gauche teenage girls off the pavement. "March with us - this is your future too" they urged. "Tunisia has always been an advanced country in the Arab world when it comes to women's rights, but now unfortunately our rights are threatened," blogger Lina Ben Mhenni explained, away from the crowd, the Tunisian flag draped over her shoulders. "Before the revolution we used to ask for more rights, for total equality, but now we're just trying to preserve and keep the rights we already have," she said. Topless protest Under President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisian women enjoyed more freedoms than their sisters elsewhere in the Arab world. They can divorce on equal terms and polygamy is banned - in many Muslim countries, men are allowed to take up to four wives - although the law still grants men a greater share of inheritance. The new government, dominated by the Islamist Ennahda party, has not taken away those rights. Said Ferjani, a senior member of Ennahda's political bureau, said it "is not looking to impose a lifestyle on anyone, we are here to defend freedom". The party stepped down in a fight over the wording of the new constitution - the draft text had originally referred to "complementarity" between women and men in the family in line with Ennahda's ideology, but after an outcry from women's groups it was changed to "equality". "Just look at this girl who did a topless protest," said Mr Ferjani. "We protect her rights, but we also protect the rights of women to wear the niqab." Amina, a 19 year-old Tunisian student, is the topless girl he refers to. She created a Tunisian Facebook group for the international feminist movement Femen, which uses nudity as a form of protest, and posted a bare-breasted photo of herself with the words "my body is mine, not somebody's honour" written on her chest in Arabic. Ennahda officials may not openly oppose Amina's actions, but other conservatives do. A prominent Salafist cleric has called for her to be flogged and stoned to death. 'Rediscovering religion' Many Tunisian women feel that their rights are under threat. "I think the situation for women in Tunisia now two years after the fall of the regime is mixed," said Amna Guellali, director of Human Rights Watch in Tunisia. She admitted nothing has changed on the legal level regarding the status of women or indeed in her own life, but said "big changes are happening deep in society". "There are more hardliners, more of these so-called Salafist groups who tend to impose their own vision of society and religion - I think this might have a very strong effect on women." Anecdotally, Tunisia is becoming outwardly more conservative. It remains liberal compared to many of its neighbours; many women are unveiled and even imams and Ennahda officials will often shake a woman's hand. But more people are choosing to wear the veil, which was officially banned under the old regime. It is also now not uncommon to see men wearing the garb of the conservative Salafist Islamists - long beard, skull cap and a thobe. Some women report feeling pressured to start wearing the veil, while young men told me they have been ordered by conservatives to stop drinking or playing dominos. Sheikh Mohammed Moncef Nasser, a schoolteacher and the imam at a local mosque in the central city of Gafsa, said he has seen a resurgence in interest in Islam since the revolution. "People are rediscovering their religion, it's natural," he said. "At dawn prayers I used to only have one row of worshippers - now it's five or six, mostly young people." 'Personal choice' Many secularists see this as evidence of foreign influence, particularly from countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar. But for Tunisian Islamists, it is a case of publicly reclaiming their Muslim and Arab identity after years of being suppressed by the regimes of Mr Ben Ali and Habib Bourguiba. "I was so happy when I was able to wear the niqab," said Ms Nasser. As we chatted, she checked her smart phone for messages from her fiancee using fingers clad in black gloves. This is all because of the presence of her male cousin; when he leaves the room, she lifts the veil to show me her pretty, round face. "I study and I succeed in my studies, I have a love story, I live a normal life," she said. "The niqab is not an obstacle for me. But that is my personal choice - people must be educated in Islam, it can't be forced on them." She revealed that when she first started wearing the niqab, there were only a handful of other women in Gafsa doing the same. "Now, I would estimate there are about 30 of us." 'Giving Salafism a bad name' The fears that secular, liberal women have when they see women like her stems from two things, Ms Nasser believes. One is that people are simply not used to seeing what she called "real Islamists" in Tunisia. The other is that certain groups of Salafists - what are termed here "jihadi", as opposed to "scientific" Salafists - are giving Islamists a bad name. Jamal Bouthouri, a Salafist imam from Kesserine, agrees. Sitting in the small office of the car garage where he works, the 23 year-old says the media have exaggerated problems between women and conservative Islamists. "People in Tunisia are always talking about this, but they are wrong. "The fears of Tunisian women are down to ignorance about our ideology, and there are some Salafists who give Salafism a bad name," he admits. "Our relation with women is based on respect and that each one respects his or her tasks in this life. "What we see today is that we have entered into confusion about men's tasks and women's tasks," Mr Jamal adds. It is remarks like that which have some Tunisian women concerned. There is a pervasive belief among the party's opponents that Ennahda is quietly working with the Salafists. Mr Ferjani tried to calm their fears: "Ennahda believes people can speak out and cherish whatever they wish to, so long as they are peaceful. If you are peaceful, wear the niqab [or] a bikini on the beach. Just don't try to impose your lifestyle on the others," he said. For Samira Aloui, a teacher from Kesserine, and other women like her, those sentiments ring hollow. "Ennahda is two-faced," she said. "We don't know what to believe with them - they use religion as a front. But when it comes to women's rights, we want to go forward not back."1 August 2013Last updated at 10:33 GMT Tunisia profile Home of the ancient city of Carthage, Tunisia was once an important player in the Mediterranean, placed as it is in the centre of North Africa, close to vital shipping routes. In their time, the Romans, Arabs, Ottoman Turks and French realised its strategic significance, making it a hub for control over the region. French colonial rule ended in 1956, and Tunisia was led for three decades by Habib Bourguiba, who advanced secular ideas. These included emancipation for women - women's rights in Tunisia are among the most advanced in the Arab world - the abolition of polygamy and compulsory free education. Mr Bourguiba insisted on an anti-Islamic fundamentalist line, while increasing his own powers to become a virtual dictator. In 1987 he was dismissed on grounds of senility and Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali became president. He continued with a hard line against Islamic extremists, but inherited an economically-stable country. Although Tunisia under Mr Ben Ali introduced some press freedoms and freed a number of political prisoners, the authorities tolerated no dissent. Mr Ben Ali faced reproach at home and abroad for his party's three "99.9%" election wins. The opposition condemned changes to the constitution which allowed him to run for re-election in 2004, and in 2009. Discontent with his autocratic rule erupted in into mass street demonstrations which prompted Mr Ben Ali to step aside in 2011. This inspired uprisings across the region that became known as the Arab Spring. Tunisia is more prosperous than its neighbours and has strong trade links with Europe. Agriculture employs a large part of the workforce, and dates and olives are cultivated in the drier areas. But unemployment is chronic in some regions. Tourism is a key sector of the economy. Visitor numbers dropped following the 2011 uprising, but Tunisia hopes to win back many of the Europeans who flocked to its resorts every year. Secular Tunisians, especially women, are worried about the growing influence of ultra-conservative Islamists since the uprising that toppled Mr Ben Ali. Tunisia's dominant political force, the Islamist Ennahda party, pledges tolerance but has put pressure on the state-run media and proposed a constitution that would reduce women's rights. Militant Islamists have been an issue of concern for the authorities. A suicide bomb attack on an historic synagogue in the resort of Djerba in 2002 killed 21 people. Suspected Islamists were killed in shoot-outs with security forces in 2006-7, and pro-al-Qaeda groups have been active on the Algerian border since 2012.24 October 2011Last updated at 11:39 GMT Tunisia counts votes in historic free election Tunisian election officials are counting votes after Sunday's election, the first free poll of the Arab Spring. More than 90% of registered voters turned out to cast their ballots, officials say. Tunisians are electing a 217-seat assembly that will draft a constitution and appoint an interim president, who will choose the new government. The moderate Islamist party Ennahda is expected to win the most votes but fall short of a majority in the new body. "We are not far from 40% [of the vote] - it could be a bit more or a bit less," Samir Dilou, a senior member of Ennahda, told AFP news agency. The US and EU have praised Tunisia on the peaceful election process, with President Barack Obama saying the vote was "an important step forward". Former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was overthrown nine months ago after mass demonstrations - he had been in power for 23 years. Electoral commission secretary-general Boubaker Bethabet said more than 90% of the 4.1 million registered citizens had voted. No turnout figures were available for another 3.1 million unregistered people who also had the right to vote. 'A step forward' Across the country on Sunday, queues stretching for hundreds of metres formed outside polling stations from early in the morning. Polling stations began to close at 19:00 (18:00 GMT) but people still queuing at that time were being allowed to stay and cast their vote, AFP said. With large numbers of ballot papers to count, election officials said results were expected on Monday or possibly later. In a statement issued by the White House on Sunday, Mr Obama congratulated Tunisia on the election. "Just as so many Tunisian citizens protested peacefully in streets and squares to claim their rights, today they stood in lines and cast their votes to determine their own future," he said. The European Union also praised the elections and promised to support the new authorities. More than 100 parties had registered to participate in the elections, along with a number of independent candidates. Hundreds of foreign election observers and thousands of local ones monitored the poll and will be watching the vote counting. This democratic moment carries an enormous burden of expectation, not just in Tunisia but across the Arab world, says the BBC's Allan Little, in the capital, Tunis. Tunisians led the Arab Spring; they know the world will be watching this key stage in the transition, he says. 'Born again' Many voters emerged from polling stations holding up blue-stained index fingers - proud to show they had cast their ballots. The mother of Mohamed Bouazizi, the young man whose self-immolation last December triggered the Tunisian revolt, told the Reuters news agency the election was a victory for dignity and freedom. "Now I am happy that my son's death has given the chance to get beyond fear and injustice," Manoubia Bouazizi said. "I'm an optimist, I wish success for my country." Unlike its eastern neighbour Libya, Tunisia's transition from authoritarian rule has been largely peaceful. Mr Ben Ali fled Tunisia on 14 January amid the first of several mass uprisings across the Arab world. However, in the nine months since then, the economy has worsened as business and tourists stay away. Campaigning in Tunisia was marked by concerns over splits between Islamists and secularists, party funding and voter apathy. Ennahda, a moderate Islamist party, has sought to allay the fears of Tunisian secularists by stating its commitment to democracy and women's rights. Its closest challenger is expected to be the secular, centrist Progressive Democratic Party (PDP). The new assembly is expected to draft a new constitution within a year.3 October 2013Last updated at 14:20 GMT Tunisia crisis: Fears grow over political paralysis By Ahmed MaherBBC News, Tunis Hope is in rare supply in Tunis. More than two months after the second assassination of a prominent politician from the opposition, politics is paralysed and the economy is drifting deeper into trouble. Not since the overthrow of former strongman Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011 has the country experienced a political crisis so complicated. "You can trace the disappointment of the average people from the anti-government protests that go on almost non-stop here in the capital," said Khansaa Chabaan, a 21-year-old university graduate. Ms Chabaan was at a rally on 2 October outside the headquarters of the government at al-Qasba Square in central Tunis. She is a member of the country's leading youth opposition movement, Tamrood, Arabic for "rebellion", which organised the latest rally. The July of Mohammed Brahmi touched a nerve. It brought supporters of the secular opposition on to the streets to demand the downfall of the government which they accuse of procrastination and having a deliberately lax attitude toward acts of organised political violence blamed on Muslim extremists. "Radical Islamists are left unchecked by Ennahda," said Ms Chabaan, referring to the country's largest Islamist movement, which led a coalition government with two secular parties after emerging triumphant in the parliamentary elections of October 2011. The country's powerful labour union, or UGTT, is championing an initiative with the aim to end the political crisis. The initiative, which by the three-party ruling coalition, basically calls for the resignation of the government, the appointment of an independent politician to form a new non-partisan interim cabinet and holding parliamentary and presidential elections as early as possible. Ennahda leaders, however, ruled out the immediate resignation of the government to head off a political vacuum, saying it would step down only if a proposed national dialogue with political rivals succeeded in reaching a consensus on a new prime minister. The frustration can be sensed in conversations with people from all backgrounds; from young activists and journalists to cab drivers and hotel receptionists. People are fed up with politics and do not care about the talk of rising Islamism or of the al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists the army has been fighting in the Chaambi mountains (west of Tunis) since December 2012. They only care about skyrocketing food prices and the moribund economy. Promises Economic problems were one of the main driving factors behind the 2011 revolution. The governor of the country's Central Bank, Chadi Ayari, said this week the failure of politicians to resolve the political crisis threatens the country's economy. "Every time I meet foreigners looking to invest in Tunisia, they begin asking questions about the political situation. Their problem is not so much economic as political," he told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of Arab central bankers in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates. The first democratically-elected government in Tunisia's modern history says it has inherited a heavy burden from the ousted regime and needs time to make good on its promises of economic prosperity. Critics say it is easier said than done. The unspoken fear in the streets of the capital is that the country is heading towards an Egyptian scenario that saw the overthrow of an Islamist president and his government by a combination of popular rejection and military muscle. People fear the consequences. Many Tunisians are therefore pinning high hopes on national dialogue, and perhaps the country's window of hope has not yet shut.15 June 2011Last updated at 19:15 GMT Tunisia defends 'provocative adverts' to woo tourists Tunisia has defended a controversial advertising campaign to attract tourists who deserted the country after its revolution in January. It includes billboards in London of a woman getting a massage, next to the words: "They say that in Tunisia some people receive heavy-handed treatment." At least 200 people were killed during the Tunisian uprising which began in December. It led to the collapse of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali's regime. Tourism is crucial to Tunisia's economy. With a population of little more than 10 million people, the industry provides about 400,000 jobs and is worth about $2.5bn (?1.5bn) to the economy. 'Nothing but ruins' Syrine Cherif, whose advertising agency Memac Ogilvy came up with the campaign for the Tunisian Tourism Board, said it was intended to create a "buzz" among potential tourists in the UK and other countries. "The idea was to be provocative to address possible fears around the issue of the Arab spring," she told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme. Other advertisements show ancient Roman ruins next to the words: "They say Tunisia is nothing but ruins." She denied the campaign showed insensitivity towards Tunisians who had been jailed, tortured or killed during Mr Ben Ali's rule of 23 years. "This unfair treatment was done by people who were in the dictatorship and now the dictatorship has gone. It's over. Today it's a new Tunisia," she said. "The campaign is for foreigners, not targeting Tunisian people," she added. Tunisia was the first country to be hit by the popular uprisings which have swept across North Africa and the Middle East. Mr Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia in January after losing the support of the military. His trial in absentia, for charges ranging from conspiring against the state to drug trafficking, starts on Monday.27 August 2013Last updated at 09:09 GMT Tunisia head-to-head: What next? Secular protesters in Tunisia, birthplace of the Arab Spring revolutions which swept the region, have embarked on a week of demonstrations calling for the Islamist-led government to resign. They have been emboldened by events in Egypt, where the army ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July. They were also angered by the assassination of Mohamed Brahmi - the second secular politician to be killed in a year. Ennahda, the party which dominates the government following elections in 2011, has offered an all-party "salvation government" but has ruled out dissolving the constituent assembly or removing the prime minister. Here, two figures from the rival camps offer their solutions for resolving the country's worst political crisis since long-time leader President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was toppled in January 2011. Yusra Ghannouchi, Ennahda's international spokeswoman Two years ago, Tunisia's revolution for freedom and dignity was inspirational, sparking the promise of an Arab Spring. The tragic assassination of the martyr Mohamed Brahmi has undeniably been a hard blow to our transition from decades of despotism to a vibrant, stable democracy. Ennahda has been clear in its condemnation of all forms of violence and continues to call on the authorities to do their utmost to identify, arrest and bring to account all those responsible for planning and perpetrating recent assassinations. In fact, that is why Ennahda itself has become a principal target of an extremely hostile discourse from radical extremists who abhor its moderate discourse. However, demands for the dissolution of the ANC (constituent assembly) or calls for the resignation of the government are not the way out of the current impasse. Such proposals not only lack logic, but lack popular support for several reasons. First of all, few Tunisians see the logic of disbanding the assembly, the cornerstone of their democratic transition, the election of which was the principal demand of the Kasba sit-in, in the early months of 2011. Secondly, few are convinced that throwing away all the progress, accumulated over the past two years, will somehow magically beckon a more successful and effective transitional phase. The third reason is that few see the tragic events in Egypt as an attractive prospect for Tunisia. The Egyptian scenario indeed proves that the disruption of a political process only leads to further division, instability, chaos and violence. The only solution is commitment to the current transition process, while demonstrating even greater openness to dialogue, co-operation and compromise. This will accelerate what remains of the transition, namely, adopting the new constitution and holding elections. Thus, ending the transitional phase and establishing a stable democracy in Tunisia will inspire the region just as its revolution did. The coalition government, which includes two secular parties and a number of independent ministers, is aware of the need to accelerate the co-ordination of the completion of the interim phase. The government has indeed, thanks to extensive dialogue in recent months, succeeded in reaching significant agreements on all the key points regarding the drafting of the constitution, the electoral law and the remaining timetable. In addition to these important agreements, promising progress had been made: Completion of the fourth draft of the constitution, formation of fundamental bodies (for example media authority and judicial council) as well as the election of eight out of nine members of the Independent Electoral Commission tasked with organising the coming elections. The interim phase taking longer is, in great part, due to precisely the fact that it has been managed in the spirit of inclusiveness, requiring so much coalition-building, dialogue, compromise and consensus. Finally, we must not let the difficulties and challenges that we face make us forget all the progress we have made so far. Particularly, if we take into account the decades of injustice, oppression and instability we have inherited as well as the economic crisis that is afflicting Europe - Tunisia's main economic partner. Mehdi Said, spokesman for Tamaroud Tunisia The way out of the current crisis in Tunisia is through the implementation of the five points proposed by Tamaroud Tunisia. We are a grass-root "rebellion" opposition movement that came into being after the assassination of opposition figure Mohamed Brahmi on 25 July. We demand, first of all, that the National Constituent Assembly (ANC), and all the bodies emanating from it including the current government, are immediately dissolved. We also call for the dismissal of Prime Minister Ali Larayedh. Secondly, we believe the position of the interim President Moncef Marzouki has become untenable. He has turned from being a prestigious human rights defender into a blind ally of the Islamists. Thirdly, we propose the formation of an alternative national salvation government with the participation of all opposition parties, civil society groups and trade unions, particularly, the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT). We do not accept the solution the Ennahda government is working towards, because we believe that any such government formed from or that includes Ennahda will not differ from one formed after the assassination of the Chokri Belaid, the ANC member who was assassinated earlier this year in February. Fourthly, we demand vigilante groups that became known as "revolution protection committees " be disbanded. They came into being spontaneously and in a peaceful manner back in the days of the revolution in 2011. But they have now turned into militia-type groups responsible for assaults on opposition journalists, artists, public figures and sit-ins. Finally, we call on the authorities to reveal who is behind the recent assassinations. Tunisians will not rest until they find out the masterminds as well as those involved in the assassination of martyrs Belaid and Brahmi. The government of Ennahda has failed miserably in achieving security and safety of its citizens. Tunisians now realise that this party does not care about the best interests of their country, but it only seeks to serve their own interests. I hold the party responsible for the climate of insecurity Tunisians live in today. The discourse espoused by the party's leading figures, including its leader Rachid Ghannouchi, has been characterised by double-speak and ambiguity. The government of Ennahda is on its last legs these days after it failed to achieve its electoral promises starting from reaching a final draft of the constitution to improving the economic situation. The party has long used the excuse of trying to reach a consensus with the other parties as a reason for the continuation of the transitional phase. In reality, Ennahda is only paying lip service to democracy and has no real political will in bringing the transitional period to an end. It could have, for example, established bodies responsible for the elections, the media and the judiciary in the first six months of their rule. They could have also retained the current constitution with some changes that may be enacted by a committee of experts. We are pleased with what our sister Tamaroud [rebellion] opposition movement has achieved in Egypt recently, although with some reservations about the current situation. We are optimistic that our peaceful on-going protests, with the participation of broad segments of civil society, will succeed in achieving our stated demands. Interviews by Abdirahim Saeed, BBC News1 March 2011Last updated at 14:56 GMT Tunisia legalises Islamist group Ennahda Tunisia's interim government has legalised Ennahda, the moderate Islamist group banned under former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. The move paves the way for Ennahda to form a political party to stand in elections expected later this year. Meanwhile, two more ministers have quit the government - meaning five senior figures have walked out this week. Rights group Amnesty has called on ministers to investigate deaths during the protests that toppled Mr Ben Ali. More than 200 people are thought to have been killed during the unrest, and Amnesty says the interim government must hold those responsible to account. Continuing anger But the interim government, tasked with organising elections and restoring order, continues to be rocked by protests and resignations. The cabinet's most prominent opposition leader Najib Chebbi resigned on Tuesday, saying he did not agree with the direction of the government. Another minister also quit, one day after two other ministers walked out. Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi, who had retained the office he held under Mr Ben Ali, resigned on Sunday in a bid to end street protests. But the protesters who helped bring down Mr Ben Ali were furious that so many of his former allies were included in the interim government, and continued their protests. The legalisation of Ennahda was another of the protesters' demands. The group's 69-year-old leader Rachid Ghannouchi (no relation) arrived back in Tunisia at the end of January after more than 20 years in exile. He was greeted at the airport by thousands of his supporters, suggesting the group has maintained some of its popularity. In 1989 Ennahda came second to the ruling party in elections, officially winning about 17% of the ballot in a count widely suspected to favour the ruling party. The party was banned shortly afterwards, and Mr Ghannouchi fled the country during a crackdown by the Ben Ali regime. On his return, Mr Ghannouchi told the BBC that his group would not be fielding a candidate for president in the forthcoming election.12 January 2012Last updated at 11:59 GMT Tunisia one year on: New trend of self-immolations Tunisia's long-time president resigned a year ago in the wake of nationwide protests, which began after the self-immolation of a young market trader. The BBC's Wyre Davies has uncovered alarming statistics which show there has been a huge rise in the number of people setting themselves on fire in Tunisia, despite the advent of democracy. They are mostly young men from poor, rural areas. They are also, generally, unmarried and have only basic education. Most importantly they are out of work and, despite strenuous efforts, they have little prospect of employment. These are the young Tunisians who set themselves alight or self-immolate. They are acts of sheer desperation that usually lead to death within 48 hours or, if they survive, a life of agony for the men and their families. The Tunisian revolution was, famously, initiated by the suicide of Mohamed Bouazizi, a young man in a provincial town who set himself alight in front of the town hall in protest at petty corruption and his inability to make a living. In the six months immediately after Bouazizi's death (he took two weeks to die from his injuries) at least 107 fellow Tunisians tried to kill themselves by setting themselves on fire. 'I've destroyed my life' At the main Trauma and Burns Centre in Tunis I met Hosni - a young man from Gasserine. He was so desperate for work that, like Bouazizi, he poured petrol over himself and lit a match. Hosni survived but has terrible injuries. There are no fingers remaining on his right hand, he has severe facial disfigurement and will need medical attention for the rest of his life. "I had no education, no job and was desperate," Hosni told me in a surprisingly clear voice for someone whose situation seemed so dire. "The whole country seemed to be on fire, so I set myself alight too, but it hasn't made things any better. I've destroyed my life and that of my family." Previously unpublished statistics seen by the BBC show that, in the year since the revolution, there has been a five-fold increase in the number of people setting themselves alight across Tunisia. It is an alarming statistic that threatens to undermine many of the positive gains made in last year's popular uprising. Amenallah Messaadi is the man who has collated the figures and is head of the Burns Centre. "This act [of self immolation] gained notoriety because of what Bouazizi did but it doesn't solve any problems, it only makes things worse for the victims and their families," the doctor told me. Life of torment Across Tunisia, somehow inspired by the story of Bouazizi or driven to desperation by the continued lack of economic opportunity, there are still cases of people pouring petrol over themselves and suffering the consequences. More often than not they have complained, without success, to the local authorities about corruption or the lack of work. Just along the corridor from where Hosni's terrible throat injuries were being dressed - many victims of self-immolation suffer agonising lung and internal chest injuries - another victim had been brought in and was fighting for his life. At 40 years old, the unnamed man was a little older than most but in every other aspect he fitted the pattern - unemployed and (perhaps unrealistically) disillusioned that the revolution had not yet delivered real economic reform. Mr Messaadi said the man would probably survive, but was now destined to a life of physical agony and psychological torment. In the last week alone, at least three people - in towns from the north to the south of the country - have set fire to themselves. One, a father of three from the town of Gafsa, has already died after pouring petrol over himself in front of the municipal building. Again, he was protesting at the lack of jobs for the country's underclass. Mr Messaadi is clearly frustrated with what he calls "this bizarre phenomenon." With no hint of irony he says people shouldn't glorify the act of self-immolation and "should stop adding fuel to the fire". It has been a year since Tunisians overthrew Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in a revolution that was as much about economics as it was about politics. Many people expect that the employment situation will eventually improve. In the meantime doctors urge people, as desperate as they may be, not to resort to self-immolation - an act that never, ever makes things better.18 March 2013Last updated at 09:30 GMT Tunisia profile President: Moncef Marzouki Veteran dissident Moncef Marzouki was installed as president in December 2011, a few months after the popular protests which forced autocratic leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali from power and which inspired the Arab Spring uprisings across the region. Members of the constitutional assembly, the interim parliament, voted to elect Mr Marzouki as president, the second most powerful role after the prime minister. He is widely respected for his opposition to former president Ben Ali, and is seen as a likely counterweight to the Islamist Ennahda party which became the country's dominant political force in the elections of October 2011. A doctor and human rights campaigner, Mr Marzouki was jailed in 1994 after challenging Mr Ben Ali in a presidential election. He only returned home after Mr Ben Ali was toppled. His curt demeanour, hard-hitting speech, craggy face and oversize glasses have made him a cartoonists' delight. While admirers say Mr Marzouki's character is beyond reproach, critics accuse him of being a pawn of the Islamist Ennahda, which has 89 deputies in the new parliament, where Mr Marzouki's Congress for the Republic (CPR) party is in distant second place with 29 seats. Mr Marzouki was elected as part of a power-sharing deal between the Islamist Ennahda party and its two smaller secular coalition partners, Ettakatol and Marzouki's Congress for the Republic. The deal gives the president limited powers. He sets Tunisia's foreign policy in consultation with the prime minister. He is also commander-in-chief of the armed forces but can only appoint or fire senior officers in consultation with the prime minister. Prime Minister: Ali Laaraiedh10 July 2013Last updated at 14:55 GMT Tunisia profile The Tunisian media have relished greater freedoms, and have been in flux, since the 2011 popular revolt. Under the former regime, press and broadcasters were tightly controlled. Since then, the number of broadcast and print outlets has increased, as has their freedom to report and debate political and social issues. State TV - which used to toe the government line - has changed tack, giving airtime to the former opposition. However, some journalists say Ben Ali era-style censorship remains. The state broadcaster has two national TV channels and several radio networks. Egyptian, French and pan-Arab satellite TVs have a large following. Tunisia has a developed telecom environment, with a high rate of mobile phone ownership and relatively cheap broadband. There were around 4.2 million internet users by June 2012 - 39% of the population (Internetworldstats.com). Use of social media during the 2011 protests prompted commentators to describe the events as a "Facebook victory" and a "Twitter revolution". Many Tunisians - 52% - select Facebook as a preferred news source, according to a 2013 market survey. Pervasive filtering ended with the fall of Mr Ben Ali. Since then, officials have blocked Facebook pages set up by cyber activists, and courts have ordered bans on pornographic sites. The press - state-owned daily - state-owned daily - privately-owned daily - privately-owned daily - privately-owned daily Television - state-run - private, via satellite and terrestrially Radio - state-run - private - private - Islamic News agency/internet - state-run, English-language pages - news website, in English30 July 2013Last updated at 14:27 GMT Tunisia profile A chronology of key events: circa 1100 BC - Phoenicians settle the north African coast. The city of Carthage, near the site of present-day Tunis, becomes a naval power. 146 BC - Carthage falls to the Romans. 439 AD - Vandals invade; Roman buildings and artefacts are destroyed. 600s - Arabs conquer the territory of present-day Tunisia. 909 - Berbers wrest the region from the Arabs. Ottoman Empire 1600s - Tunisia becomes part of the Turkish Ottoman empire, but has a high degree of autonomy. 1800s - French and Turkish designs on Tunisia force it to tread a careful path. 1881 - French troops occupy Tunis. France controls economic and foreign affairs; Tunisia is a French protectorate from 1883. 1934 - Habib Bourguiba founds the pro-independence Neo-Dustour Party 1942 - World War II: German troops arrive to resist allied forces in Algeria. Allied forces drive German, Italian troops out in 1943. Independence 1956 20 March - Tunisia becomes independent with Bourguiba as prime minister. 1957 - The monarchy is abolished and Tunisia becomes a republic. 1961 - Tunisia says French forces must leave their base in Bizerte. Fighting breaks out. France pulls out of Bizerte in 1963, after long-running talks. 1981 - First multi-party parliamentary elections since independence. President Bourguiba's party wins by a landslide. 1985 - Israel raids Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) HQ in Tunis; 60 people are killed. The raid is in response to the killing by the PLO of three Israeli tourists in Cyprus. 1987 - Bloodless palace coup: Prime Minister Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has President Bourguiba declared mentally unfit to rule and takes power himself. 1989 - Ben Ali wins presidential elections. He goes on to be re-elected four more times, the last time in 2009. 1999 - First multi-party presidential elections; Ben Ali wins a third term. 2000 April - Habib Bourguiba, the founding father of independent Tunisia, dies. Synagogue bombed 2002 April - 19 people - 11 of them German tourists - are killed in a bomb explosion at a synagogue in the resort of Djerba; Al-Qaeda claims responsibility. 2002 May - President Ben Ali wins a referendum on constitutional changes, paving the way for his fourth term. 2002 September - Jailed leader of Communist Workers' Party, Hamma Hammami, is freed on health grounds. He had been accused of being in an illegal organisation and of inciting rebellion. 2004 October - President Ben Ali wins a fourth term with 94% of the vote. 2005 July - Parliament introduces an upper house - the Chamber of Councillors - which is dominated by the ruling party. 2005 November - Tunisia hosts a UN conference on the global information society. Authorities deny that police have harassed journalists and other delegates. 2006 - October - Authorities launch a campaign against the Islamic headscarves worn by some women. Tunisia moves to close its embassy in Qatar in protest at alleged bias by the Qatar-based al-Jazeera TV channel. The channel broadcast remarks by veteran Tunisian dissident Moncef Marzouki in which he called for peaceful resistance to the Tunisian government. 2006 December - The Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), the main opposition party, elects a woman as leader - a first for Tunisia. She is May Eljeribi. 2007 January - Islamist militants and security forces clash in Tunis. Twelve people are killed. Interior Minister Rafik Belhadj Kacem says the Salafist militants had come from Algeria. 2009 February - French court sentences German convert to Islam to 18 years over attack on Djerba synagogue in 2002. Walid Nouar, brother of suicide bomber, got 12 years for his part in al-Qaeda attack. 2009 July - Police charge nine men, including two air-force officers, with plotting to kill US servicemen during joint military exercises. 2009 October - President Ben Ali wins a fifth term in office. Protests 2010 December - Protests break out over unemployment and political restrictions, and spread nationwide. 2011 January - President Ben Ali goes into exile amid continuing protests. Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi announces an interim national unity government, only partly satisfying protesters. 2011 February - Prime Minister Ghannouchi resigns, responding to demands by demonstrators calling for a clean break with the past. 2011 March - Date for election of a constitutional council set for 24 July. Rally for Constitutional Democracy (RCD), the party of ousted President Ben Ali, is dissolved by court order. 2011 April - Libyan troops cross border into Tunisia during clashes with rebels. Thousands of Tunisians flee by boat to the Italian island of Lampedusa. 2011 May - Curfew imposed amid fresh street protests. 2011 June - Ex-president Ben Ali is tried in absentia for theft. He is sentenced to 35 years in prison. 2011 October - Parliamentary elections. Ennahda Islamist party wins, but falls short of an outright majority. 2011 November - National assembly which will draft a new constitution meets for first time. 2011 December - Human rights activist Moncef Marzouki is elected president by the constituent assembly, Ennahda leader Hamadi Jebali is sworn in as prime minister. 2012 May - Hundreds of Salafi Islamic extremists clash with security forces and attack a police station in Jendouba in a dispute over Salafi attacks on alcohol sellers. 2012 June - Former president Ben Ali is sentenced to life in prison over the killing of protesters in the 2011 revolution. He is living in Saudi Arabia, which refuses to extradite him. The government imposes an overnight curfew in eight areas following riots by Islamists against an art exhibition. One man died after being shot in the head. 2012 August - Thousands protest in Tunis against moves by Islamist-led government to reduce women's rights. Draft constitution refers to women as "complementary to men", whereas 1956 constitution granted women full equality with men. 2013 February - Prime Minister Jebali resigns after his ruling Islamist Ennahda party rejects his proposals to form a government of technocrats after the killing of an opposition anti-Islamist leader. Ennahda rejects opposition allegations that it was behind the killing of Chokri Belaid, whose death prompted violent protests. 2013 May - At least one person is killed in clashes between police and Salafi Islamists of the Ansar al-Sharia group in the Tunis suburb of Ettadhamen, where it was holding a meeting. Police also clashed with protesters in the city of Kairouan, where the government had banned an earlier Ansar al-Sharia meeting on security grounds. 2013 July - Assassination of opposition politician Mohamed Brahmi prompts mass demonstrations, a general strike and calls for the government to resign. Eight soldiers are killed in a suspected terrorist attack near the border with Algeria.1 May 2013Last updated at 12:48 GMT Tunisia's last Jews at ease despite troubled past By Ahmed MaherBBC Arabic, Tunisia Murdokhai Izra will celebrate his 60th birthday next month at his home on Tunisia's south-eastern island of Djerba. A Tunisian Jew, Mr Izra only left the place of his birth when he turned 18 to enrol at the University of Gabes, still not too far away from his roots. "When I left Djerba to study commerce, I felt more and more homesick," said Mr Izra, as we met in Djerba's Ghriba synagogue as Tunisian Jews marked the annual pilgrimage to Africa's oldest Jewish temple. His son and two daughters did not follow in his footsteps. They received their university education in France, which they have since made their home. They are like thousands of other Tunisian Jews, whose number in the country nose-dived from 100,000 in 1960s to around 1,500 today. "They have never complained of discrimination, oppression or racism, as reported in the media. They just wanted to live in a European country - which is France - like many other Muslims and Christians," added Mr Izra. "All Jews in Djerba and those who left it are not rootless. Tunisia gives us all a sense of identity." Mr Izra, who describes himself as a "deeply religious Jew", has been performing the pilgrimage to the Ghriba synagogue for 24 years. For centuries, Djerba has been a focal point for Jews in Tunisia and the Arab world. "The temple has a soul of its own," said Mr Izra, as he lit a candle, a common Jewish ritual used to sanctify occasions. Tunisian Jews consider the synagogue the most sacred Jewish place of worship in Africa. According to tradition, the first synagogue on the site was built with a stone or gate brought from King Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem after it was destroyed in 586BC. 'Media fuss' The story of Tunisian Jewry however has been a troubled one with periods of oppression. In 1940, France fell to the Nazi forces and its former North African colonies of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco came under Vichy rule. As in France, anti-Jewish legislation was passed in Tunisia, which included forcing all Jews to wear Star of David badges, as well as confiscating their property, and thousands were sent to forced labour camps. In 1942, Tunisia became the only Arab country to come under direct German occupation. The head of the Jewish community in Tunisia, Perez Trebelsi, however, questions the narrative of some Western historians that Jews were also persecuted under Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba, the founder of the republic after independence from France in 1956. "Bourguiba put all Tunisians on an equal footing, excluded nationalists, and annulled Sharia-compliant articles in the constitution like the ones related to polygamy and inheritance," Mr Trebelsi says. He insists that "socialist policies, especially in the key agricultural sector, forced many Jewish businessmen to emigrate to Europe for better economic landscapes". "Anti-Jewish sentiments ran high during the [1967] Six-Day War," he recalls. "Some [Tunisian] Jews came under attack but from mobs. It was individual practices really, not systematic". Khodir Hanyna, a native Djerba businessman, wants to dispel stereotypical impressions of Tunisian Jewry. "The way Tunisian Jews are portrayed in the media is greatly exaggerated," he insists, in a mixture of dialectal Arabic and French spoken by all Tunisians. "I found most of the articles written on us were just sensational," adds Mr Hanyna, who spends most of his time of the year dividing his time between Tunisia and France. Waiting for his turn to be blessed by one of the synagogue's rabbis, Mr Hanyna says that although Tunisia is an overwhelmingly Muslim country, Jews never felt forced to leave their motherland. "Tunisia has been and is still an icon of ethnic diversity. Many of its Jews have just pursued better economic conditions abroad," he explains. Shirah Waheeb, a mother-of-three, is fed up with what she calls the "media fuss" about Jews in Tunisia and is irked by questions like "are you Tunisian Jew or Jewish Tunisian?" "The loyalty and identity questions in the media are just nasty," she says. 'Worrying sign' Mrs Waheeb, who makes a living selling traditional necklaces, feels safe in the country and plays down the rise of Islamists in the wake of a popular revolution that toppled long-time President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011. "Everybody has the right to free speech. No?" she asks, adding: "As long as it is not violent." Several media reports spoke about YouTube videos that showed radical Islamists threatening Tunisian Jews. Despite searching extensively, I did not find any of them. The only one I came across was of Tunisian Islamists vowing support to the late al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden. Security has been a big issue at the Ghriba synagogue since a militants linked to al-Qaeda attacked it with a truck bomb, killing 21 people. "The rise of Salafists [ultra-conservative Islamists] in today's Tunisia is a worrying sign - indeed to all Tunisians not just Jews," says Mrs Waheeb. The political unrest and almost absent security in the wake of the 2011 revolution forced authorities to suspend the pilgrimage to the Ghriba synagogue. It resumed the following year but only on a much smaller scale. Generally, the number of visitors from abroad has plummeted since the synagogue was attacked. In the past, it used to attract thousands of Tunisian and other Arab Jews mainly from Europe. Mrs Waheeb is critical of what she terms "religious profiling" in the Arab world. "I really hope to see the day when the Arabs consider us Jews as just Tunisians, no matter what religion we are," she says.6 June 2013Last updated at 08:34 GMT Tunisia's radical divide over Salafi agenda By Ahmed MaherBBC News, Tunis Thirty-year-old Tunisian blogger and secular activist Lina Ben Mhenni is concerned about death threats posted on her Facebook page and sent to her mobile phone. "You see this message is in Arabic, it reads: 'You infidel, we will kill you.'" Pointing to another message, she says: "And this is just as clear: 'We will find you.'" Ms Ben Mhenni has won international awards for her campaign in a popular uprising that ousted Tunisia's long-time leader in 2011. The comments she has received come as a surprise because Tunisia has had a reputation for being one of the most secular states in the Arab world. The women in short dresses and men in designer jeans sitting in bustling cafes that serve beer and wine in Avenue Habib Bourguiba still lend the capital, Tunis, a veneer of Western secularism. But many of the country's more radical religious groups do not like people like Ms Ben Mhenni pushing to keep post-revolution Tunisia liberal and secular. "This is not Tunisia it used to be," she laments "Radical Islamists are flourishing in the new Tunisia. They are a minority but have become very vocal." Ms Ben Mhenni says those who disagree with her do not limit their criticism to Facebook or texts. "I have often been harassed by hardliners on the streets physically and verbally." Online videos Since the revolution, Islamists of every stripe have emerged after years of oppression under the ousted regime of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. They range from moderates like the ruling Ennahda movement to ultra-conservatives known as Salafists. No longer the target of state security agencies, they have founded political parties, charities and their leaders have become regulars on television talk shows. The majority of the Islamists are committed to non-violence, but there is a minority of jihadists who use violence. There are many authentic online videos showing hardliners calling for the assassination of prominent opposition leaders and taking pride in the desecration of ancient shrines, which they consider un-Islamic, and attacks on premises that sell alcohol. They have further held several street protests calling for the enforcement of Sharia and often chanted in support of Osama Bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader killed in a US raid in Pakistan in 2011. In February, Tunis was brought to a standstill by a general strike and mass protests over the assassination of political leader Chokri Belaid, a prominent secular opponent of the Islamist-led government. Ms Ben Mhenni showed me a recent YouTube video of a leader in the hardline Ansar al-Sharia group - which supports the introduction of Islamic law - attacking her on Tunisian TV. "His statements are misleading really and taken out context to frame me," said Ms Ben Mhenni, who teaches linguistics at Tunis University. "He took a photo of my Facebook with me brandishing a toy guy and called me terrorist. It is very naive of him really." Members of the Salafi Ansar al-Sharia hit the headlines in May after violent clashes with security forces in protest at the government's banning of the group's annual conference. The angry demonstrators and special forces turned a Tunis suburb into a battle zone, leaving one person dead and dozens injured. The government is wary of the increasing influence of the group and accuses its leaders of inciting hatred and orchestrating violent incidents, allegedly including the attack on the US embassy last September. An arrest warrant has been issued against the group's leader, Seif Allah Ibn Hussein, also known as Abu Ayadh al-Tunisi, who is still at large. The group is very sceptical of both local and foreign media and have been reluctant to conduct any kind of interview since the confrontation with security forces. But after two weeks of requests, they agreed to talk to the BBC. Suspicious "We are often misreported in the media and our statements misquoted," said Youssef Mazouz, a leader in Ansar al-Sharia's youth arm. He said the group did not support death threats. I met Mr Mazouz, who is his thirties and wears a long beard but casually dressed, on the grounds of the ancient mosque in the coastal city of Sousa, a two-hour drive from Tunis. The city is tourist-friendly but also one of the strongholds of the Salafi group. Many times we were stopped filming by Salafists, who asked us to leave the area after a short argument about the role of media in "stirring up national discord". "I apologise for their behaviour but they are very suspicious of the media, understandably," said Mr Mazouz. He continued: "We agreed to this interview to get our message round the world that we are not a terrorist organisation as portrayed by the government and the West. "We are a peaceful movement preaching for Islam," he said. "Yes we want to apply Sharia and this is our opinion. "We are just preaching and do massive charity in poor areas. "We have made quite an impact there. You can go and check yourself in the regions neglected by the government." I went to Ettadamun slum in southern Tunis where Ansar al-Sharia is quite popular and where there is evidence of deprivation and a lack of social services. Bags of rubbish litter many unpaved streets and the smell of food waste is constantly in the air. It is clear that people here struggle to make ends meet. For needy families in the shanty towns of Tunis, the food, medicine and clothing handed out by Ansar al-Sharia - or any other group - would no doubt be very welcome. Tunisian political pundits point not to the group's way of life or thoughts but to government neglect and poverty as the root of the area's festering problems. "It has become a habit that parties and movements try to establish a strong base especially in areas with staggering unemployment and poverty," said respected author and columnist Qais Saidi. "And the public service work done by Ansar al-Sharia can be easily translated into votes during elections." The government says it inherited a heavy legacy from the former regime and needs time to sort out massive social and economic problems. "We are working according to a five-year plan to fight poverty in the slums and have already mapped the most affected areas across the country," Mohammed al-Zaribi, under secretary at the Ministry of Social Affairs, told the BBC. "There are up to 100,000 families who are living below the poverty line and our campaign is aimed at providing them with official cards to get subsidised and even free basic supplies," he said. Many Tunisians are indeed concerned about scenes that were unimaginable in the past like women wearing niqabs or face veils and men wearing long beards in public. But from her family home overlooking the Mediterranean on the outskirts of Tunis, Ms Ben Mhenni insists secularists "don't have a problem with religious people". "We live in a democracy and everyone has the right to freedom of religion," she said. "But we are campaigning against violent Islamists, who want to impose their evil ideology on society."28 September 2013Last updated at 15:22 GMT Tunisia's ruling Islamists agree to stand down Tunisia's Islamist-led government has agreed to resign after talks with opponents that are to start next week. It is hoped a caretaker government will be negotiated over the next three weeks that will prepare for new elections. The decision marks a breakthrough in weeks of crisis involving the ruling coalition, led by the Islamist Ennahda party, and the secular opposition. Anti-government protests intensified recently after the killing of two opposition figures. The crisis has threatened to disrupt a transition to democracy that began after Tunisians threw out their decades-old authoritarian government at the beginning of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. The talks were announced on Saturday by the powerful UGTT labour union, which will act as a mediator. The union urged both sides to set a date for next week. Under the deal, the Ennahda party has agreed to three weeks of talks, after which it will hand power to an independent transition leadership and set a date for parliamentary and presidential elections. "The dialogue will start on Monday or Tuesday," said Lotfi Zitoun, an Ennahda party official, according to Reuters. "Ennahda has accepted the plan without conditions to get the country out of the political crisis." While Tunisia's uprising spread through the Arab world, efforts to strengthen democracy at home have stalled due to political antagonism. The opposition has accused the Ennahda party of pushing an Islamist agenda in the previously secular nation. Threat of deadlock The rivalry intensified this year after the murders of opposition politician Mohammed Brahmi in July and Chokri Belaid, a prominent leftist, in February. The moderate Islamist government has blamed hardliners for the killings but the National Salvation Front-led opposition has accused Ennahda of failing to rein in radical Islamists. Before the 2011 ousting of Tunisia's longtime leader, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, the country had been known as one of the most secular in the Arab world. The opposition has accused Ennahda of being too tolerant of radical Islamists trends. Analysts say the talks could struggle to break a deadlock if the rival parties are unable to overcome differences over a new constitution and the running of elections.30 January 2011Last updated at 23:48 GMT Tunisian Islamist leader Rachid Ghannouchi returns home The leader of Tunisia's main Islamist movement has returned home after 22 years in exile following the ousting of President Ben Ali earlier this month. Thousands of people went to the airport to welcome Rachid Ghannouchi, 69, as he arrived in Tunis from London. He has said he will not run in the next presidential poll but his party will contest a parliamentary election. Observers say his return is the most potent symbol yet of the change that has swept the country since then. Mr Ghannouchi fled Tunisia after a crackdown President Ben Ali against his banned Ennahda movement. He returned after the interim government's announced that media curbs would be lifted, banned political parties allowed to register and political prisoners given amnesty. Up to 10,000 young men and veiled women packed the arrival hall and car park at the airport, and some climbed trees and electricity pylons to catch a glimpse of Mr Ghannouchi, according to Reuters. Alongside his supporters, the news agency said, was a small group of secularists with banners reading: "No Islamism, no theocracy, no Sharia and no stupidity!" "I myself will not run for the presidency... We (Ennahda) have no intention of fielding a candidate in the upcoming presidential election," he said. Life sentence Mr Ghannouchi told the BBC in a interview last week that officials from Mr Ben Ali's former party, the RCD, should leave the transition government, and that Tunisia could benefit from a coalition government that would build consensus, at least for the next few years. Ennahda aimed to work with other former opposition groups in the October 18 Movement, founded in 2005, towards a democratic transition, he said. "All of these parties operated against the dictatorship regime and [can] co-operate to establish a democratic system in Tunisia." He added that his Ennahda party was committed to a moderate Islamist approach and working within a democratic framework. "We accept democracy without any restrictions and we accept the decision of the people whether they come with us or against us," he said. He rejected comparisons that he said had been made in some Western media reports between him and Ayotollah Khomeini of Iran - who returned to Iran from exile to lead the Islamic Revolution there - comparing Ennahda instead to Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AKP). Officially, Mr Ghannouchi is still subject to a life sentence in Tunisia imposed in his absence for allegedly plotting against the state. But the AFP news agency says that other convicted exiles have been able to return to Tunisia in recent days without hindrance. In 1989 Ennahda came second to the ruling party in elections, officially winning about 17% of the ballot. However allegations of fraud marred the vote and according to some estimates Ennahda's tally was as much as double the official figure.4 October 2013Last updated at 00:50 GMT Tunisian Nizar Trabelsi extradited to US on terror charges A Tunisian man jailed in Belgium in 2003 for planning to attack a Nato air base has been extradited to the US to face further charges. Nizar Trabelsi faces several charges linked to the same plot including conspiring to kill Americans abroad, a US indictment shows. Trabelsi, who used to play professional football in Germany, pleaded not guilty at a court in Washington DC. The indictment says Trabelsi met al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in 2001. Trabelsi, now 43, was arrested in Belgium two days after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US. In 2003 he was convicted by a Belgian court of plotting to blow himself up at the Kleine Brogel base, which housed US soldiers. He was imprisoned in Belgium until his extradition. He now faces charges in the US of conspiring to kill Americans abroad, conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction and supporting a foreign terrorist organisation. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. 'Trained for jihad' Trabelsi's extradition was requested by Washington in November 2008. He had been indicted two years earlier by a grand jury in the US District Court in Washington DC. According to the indictment, Trabelsi had prepared to travel to Afghanistan to train for jihad while living in Germany in 2000. He met Bin Laden in Afghanistan in early 2001 and, at his direction, later spoke with al-Qaeda's chief military planner Muhammed Atef, the indictment says. Trabelsi had strongly resisted extradition to the US, fearing "inhumane" treatment. His last appeal was rejected on 23 September by the Belgian Council of State, the country's highest administrative court. Justice Minister Annemie Turtelboom was quoted as saying by the Belga news agency that Brussels had received "assurances from US authorities" that he would be tried by a civil court rather than a military tribunal and would not be sentenced to death if convicted.25 July 2013Last updated at 20:50 GMT Tunisian politician Mohamed Brahmi assassinated Tunisian opposition party leader Mohamed Brahmi has been shot dead in the capital, Tunis, in the country's second political killing this year. Protesters have gathered in Tunis and other cities across the country calling for the government to resign. Tunisia's largest trade union has called for a general strike on Friday and Tunisair has cancelled all flights to and from Tunisia for that day. Mr Brahmi, 58, led the nationalist Movement of the People party. Prime Minister Ali Larayedh condemned his assassination, but said: "We are against all calls to dissolve the government to create a [power] vacuum." In February, the killing of prominent secular politician Chokri Belaid sparked mass protests and forced Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali to resign. An uprising in Tunisia in late 2010 kick-started a series of revolutions that spread through the Middle East and became known as the Arab Spring. But there has been deep division between Islamists and secular opponents since the revolution, the BBC's diplomatic correspondent James Robbins reports. Many Tunisians, particularly the young, complain that their quest for secular democracy has been hijacked by intolerant Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood which forms part of the current government, our correspondent says. 'Cowardly crime' Gunmen on a motorbike shot Mr Brahmi in his car in front of his wife and daughter on Thursday morning, Movement of the People party officials said. Local media reported the assailants fired 11 bullets at the politician. It is not known yet who was behind the attack. The family of Mr Brahmi has accused the governing Islamist Ennahda party of being behind the killing. The party has not responded to the claim, but released a statement at the "cowardly and despicable crime". Mr Brahmi's wife, Mbarka, and her daughter Belkis were joined by angry Tunisians outside the hospital in Tunis where the politician died. Large crowds also gathered in front of the Ministry of Interior in the capital in protest at the killing. Meanwhile, reports are emerging of police firing tear gas to disperse demonstrators who allegedly stormed a local government office in the southern city of Sfax. And demonstrators are said to have attacked Ennahda's headquarters in Sidi Bouzid, Mr Brahmi's hometown and the birthplace of the Arab Spring. "People have blocked roads and set tyres alight," a local resident told the Reuters news agency. Tunisia's prime minister said Mr Brahmi's murder was aimed at taking advantage of the upheaval in Egypt, where President Mohammed Morsi was recently ousted after mass protests against him and his ruling Muslim Brotherhood. "This is aimed at pushing us into the unknown, whether it is chaos, fighting, civil war, or the return of tyranny," Mr Larayedh said in a televised address on Thursday evening. 'Tide of violence' The killing came as Tunisia celebrated the 56th anniversary of becoming a republic after gaining independence from France. Human rights organisation the killing was a "blow to the rule of law in Tunisia", which was experiencing a "worrying tide of political violence". Mr Brahmi founded the Movement of the People party after the 2011 revolution. He was also a member of the National Constituent Assembly, which is drafting a new constitution. The assembly announced Friday would be a day of mourning. Mr Brahmi was not as big a political figure as Mr Belaid, but he too was a leftist critical of Ennahda. Ennahda came to power following the overthrow of long-term ruler Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. The party has faced growing popular unrest over a faltering economy and a rising extremist Islamist movement. After Mr Belaid's assassination in February, many Tunisians accused Ennahda of not doing enough to stamp out a rise in Islamist violence, with some critics saying the party was actively fomenting it, correspondents say. The party denied the accusations.28 November 2012Last updated at 22:52 GMT Tunisians wounded in Siliana clashes over unemployment More than 200 people have been wounded in a second day of clashes in the Tunisian town of Siliana, medical officials have said. Security forces used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters demanding jobs, with reports of people also being treated for gunshot wounds. Trade unions have called for further protests on Thursday. Tunisia was the birthplace of the Arab Spring, deposing its long-time president in January 2011. Hunger strike During a brief television appearance on Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali rejected protesters' calls for him to step down, saying: "This governor is not quitting." The BBC's Sihem Hassaini in the capital, Tunis, says the unrest in Siliana is the latest in a series of protests by people disappointed by the lack of progress following the revolution. Since the uprising which overthrew Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali unemployment has gone up - and according to official figures stands at about 18%. Siliana residents went on strike on Tuesday, angered that the mayor had failed to create jobs. All offices and businesses in Siliana, which is about 120km (75 miles) south of Tunis, remained closed on Wednesday, as protests continued. According to AFP news agency, several armoured vehicles were deployed as demonstrators blocked roads with barricades and set tyres alight on Wednesday. Trade unions have called for protests to continue on Thursday, it reports. The protestors threw stones and thick clouds of tear gas could be seen over the town centre, our correspondent says. Doctors at Siliana Hospital estimated the number of injured had risen to more than 200 by Wednesday evening. Thirteen serious cases have been transferred to a hospital in Tunis, a medical source told the state-run Tap news agency. David Thomson, a journalist for France24 news channel, where he was being treated for a shotgun wound. He said other patients had been admitted for more serious injuries. Our reporter says the MP for Siliana, Iyed Dahmani, has begun a hunger strike, demanding more opportunities for his constituents. Interior Minister Ali Larayed called for calm during a live television interview broadcast on Wednesday evening. "I ask people in Siliana to calm down, to protest calmly and accept dialogue," he said.10 December 2012Last updated at 15:24 GMT Tunisians' frustrations, two years on Two years ago this month, Mohammad Bouazizi, a young fruit and vegetable seller in the Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid, made headlines around the world when he set himself alight, sparking a revolution in his country and a wave of Arab uprisings. The Tunisian town of Siliana is just as poor, and resident Hamdi Garmzi just as desperate. But no-one is taking much notice. Mr Garmzi, 44, has tried to kill himself many times to escape his life of poverty and pain. A camel brown cloak draped over his hunched shoulders, he's now on hunger strike outside the governor's office in Siliana. The patch of grass around him is strewn with medical certificates, and a folder of grisly photographs from when he set himself on fire years ago. Like Bouazizi, his cart was confiscated by police. Mr Garmzi opens his cloak at the neck to show me some of the scars which cover his body. "Nothing has changed here," he says angrily. "Not even after Bouazizi set himself on fire." Just down the street, the Hollywood Cafe is packed with young unemployed men who feel much the same. "Nothing, nothing has changed," Halmi insists, as he perches on a stool outside the Spartan cafe which does not live up to its glitzy name. "There are no jobs. All the revolution gave us was freedom of expression." "Life is just rubbish," blurts out his friend Adnan with palpable bitterness as he draws a deep breath on yet another cigarette. 'Nightmarish' scenes That anger boiled over last week in protests on the streets of this deprived town in a farming region two hours south of the capital Tunis. Police used tear gas and shotgun fire. Some 300 people were injured and resentment deepened. "The people of Siliana are not violent," remarked local teacher and activist Rachid Kharroubi. "It was nightmarish for me to see how it turned violent so quickly." The streets of Siliana are quiet now but Tunisia's powerful trade union, the UGTT, which organised the protests in several cities, has called for a rare nationwide strike this week. In a country long known for labour activism, it will be only the third general strike since the union was formed in the 1940s. It comes after the UGTT accused the League for the Protection of the Revolution of attacking its recent march in the capital with knives, sticks, and stones. Union leaders describe the league as an armed wing of the ruling Ennahda party, a moderate Islamist group that dominates Tunisia's post-revolution government. It is demanding that the league be disbanded. Ennahda strongly condemned the attack. Accusations are now being hurled in both directions. Government supporters took to the streets in Tunis on Saturday to paint the UGTT as an enemy of the revolution. Some waved copies of an old photograph showing union chief Hocine Abbasi shaking hands with the ousted President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali as proof that remnants of the former RCD ruling party were still active. "The revolution is in danger," one man warned as others shouted the slogan that dominated protests two years ago: "RCD degage! RCD get out!" Identity crisis Many Tunisians regard such pitched political battles as a costly distraction from more pressing issues, including the growing poverty and sense of injustice that fuelled the revolution. In one of the most progressive countries in this region, left-wing and liberal groups are also worried about the rising influence of more hard-line Islamist Salafist groups. Salafists have unleashed their zeal in a series of attacks, including most recently the US embassy in Tunis in September over an anti-Islam film, and against a gallery whose art was deemed offensive. Many Tunisians, in a country regarded as a stronghold of Arab secularism, see the Salafists and more moderate Ennahda as one and the same. "Ennahda came to power legitimately though elections," says retired Ambassador Ahmed Abderraouf Ounaies who served briefly as foreign minister last year. "They tried to impose their views, but they are now fully aware that they have to come to a compromise with modern Tunisian society." Ennahda's leading architect of change, 71-year-old Rachid Ghannouchi told me: "If we want the transition to succeed we need moderates, in all camps, to work together." "We don't believe the state has the right to impose its views on what people wear, eat or drink, what they should believe in," he insisted. Does he worry the revolution he joined when he returned from a 20-year exile in London, might fail? "A revolution is a like an earthquake, it takes time to form a new landscape," he said. Bellwether state But even the icon of the uprising that inspired an entire region is now losing his allure. Mohamed Bouazizi's family was forced to leave Sidi Bouzid as resentment grew over their fame, as well as dashed hopes. "People thought we received billions in money," reflected his indignant mother Manoubia as she prepared dinner in a new home they are now renting in a Tunis suburb. "Now people realise that we didn't get any help from the government, just like everybody else. All the mothers are still grieving." The evolution of Tunisia's "Jasmine Revolution" is often seen as a bellwether for the region. The north African nation was the first to oust its authoritarian leader and the first to hold peaceful elections last October which created a power-sharing agreement between Ennahda and two secular parties which control the presidency and the prime minister's office. "Getting rid of Ben Ali was somehow easy," explained Slim Amamou, one of the radical young activists who played a key role in organising the protests after Mohammad Bouazizi's self-immolation. "It's very tedious work in the long term to change things. "Of course we can lose but we will keep trying," Mr Amamou remarked. "We will win in the end." Mr Ounaies, at 76 a voice of a different generation, shares that confidence. "Tunisia has all the strengths to build a democracy," he said. But for now, each new battle on the streets still shakes the confidence of many in Tunisia and beyond.8 October 2012Last updated at 02:15 GMT Tunisia’s unemployed revolutionaries head to Europe By Louise SherwoodTunis Sofien Dechich, 25, left his home in Tunis, the Tunisian capital, just a few weeks ago with dreams of making his fortune in Italy. Four days later he boarded a fishing boat which sank 12 nautical miles (22km) from its destination Lampedusa; of the between 100 and 140 on board only 56 survived and Mr Dechich's family do not know if he is alive or dead. The night he left he called his father and said: "Please ask God to let me go now and survive." His father told him: "God be with you and take care." Since the tragedy happened the mothers and sisters of the missing young men have been protesting outside government and embassy buildings in Tunis carrying placards and large, framed photos of their sons and brothers. Mr Dechich's family was amongst them. His mother is too distressed to speak but his sisters are desperate to get their story heard. "We want to know what happened. If he is dead we want to see a body. Why are the authorities not telling us everything? We want to know the truth," said Aida Dechich, 31. In Tunisia locals call such attempts to reach Europe "the burning" - young men, driven by unemployment and poverty, risking their lives to illegally enter Italy in the hope of a better life. Mr Dechich is from Jebel Ahmar, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Tunis, a street away from Mutuelle Ville one of the wealthiest suburbs. It is easy to find "burners" in Jebel Ahmar willing to risk their lives on the dangerous boat trip to Europe. "I went to Lampedusa and stayed there for a year," says 21-year-old Walid Trabelsi. "I worked in agriculture and didn't make much money but still life was better," he says. "Then they arrested me because I didn't have any papers and sent me back. Now I'm unemployed. "I need to find about 1,000 Tunisian dinars [$640; ?395] so I can go again. I'm not afraid. I'm already dead here." Italian crackdown Anis Mathlouthi, 29, is one of the few lucky ones. Ten years after arriving in Italy he is married to an Italian, he has work and money and all his paperwork is in order. He is back on holiday and proudly shows off his Italian ID card. He recognises that "without papers you won't get a good job", but it is these success stories, which continue to drive young men to fill already, overcrowded boats. Skandar Laabidi, 24, his arm crisscrossed with recent razor blade cuts from self-harming, made the crossing but was sent back after just two weeks and is now thinking of going once more. "I've been in and out of jail for 10 years and if I stay here I will go to jail again. I'm not afraid about the boat sinking. I'm a good swimmer," he said. The revolution last year brought a dramatic increase in the number of migrants heading for Italian shores after the Tunisia's security forces reduced their patrols. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) recorded 27,000 Tunisians arrivals on Lampedusa out of a total of 60,000 - including those fleeing the Libyan war and migrants from other countries. A crackdown by Italian authorities has meant that this year, many less have successfully made the journey to the island with about 3,300 migrants from all nationalities arriving between January and June. Yet figures are likely to rise again as many Tunisians have been disappointed by the lack of progress following the revolution. On the streets of Tunis opinions are mixed about the benefits it has brought. Bechir Berhouma, 53, a taxi driver, is positive about the change. "Things are not settled yet but I am optimistic. The transitional government has been good," he said. "It is just the opposition that have stopped them getting on with their job and the protests which are slowing things down. "I am also very happy that we have more freedom of speech. Before mouths were shut. "If you had talked to me about this subject two years ago I wouldn't have shed light upon your question. If you had asked me about politics back then I would have answered about football." Yet not everyone is so upbeat. When Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in December 2010, in an act that ignited youth driven revolution across Tunisia and throughout the Arab world, he was rallying against a system that was not only corrupt and repressive but which offered little prospect of decent jobs for young people like himself. 'Revolution regret' Ironically, in Tunisia, it is the youth who have perhaps been most disappointed following the ousting of long-time President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. "I regret the revolution and would give up freedom of speech for more jobs," said Linda Landoulsi, 24, studying for a masters degree in linguistics at the Superior Institute of Languages in Tunis. "When Ben Ali was in power there was a government recruitment scheme for graduates to become teachers [with a monthly salary of 6-800 dinars] but after the revolution it was cancelled," she said. "Now the only option for a graduate is to work in a call centre earning 400 dinars a month plus commission or teaching in a private school where you earn 300 dinars a month." A survey by the Tunisian National Institute of Statistics confirms that unemployment has gone up - with 13% out of work in 2010, rising to almost 19% during the revolution and with the figure now standing at 17.6% or 691,700 people. The price of food has also increased although this is more likely to be a reflection of global trends, rather than the effects of the revolution as many believe. "A year ago chicken was six dinars a kilo. But now it's gone up to nine," said Sami Chaouachi, 52, a local butcher. With high unemployment, the rising cost of living, inflation running at 5.5% and strikes, which were forbidden under Mr Ben Ali's rule, disrupting services such as trains - disillusioned youth are turning once more to "burning". Many of these young men leave from the city of Sfax, which is 275km (170 miles) down the coastline from Tunis it is further away from mainland Italy but closer to Lampedusa - and with less chance of detection by the Tunisian or Italian authorities who patrol the waters. The sleepy neighbourhood of Sidi Mansour, on the outskirts of the city, where fishing boats gently rock against the shore and local men gather in the shade to chat, offers no hint of its clandestine night operations. Yet it is soon apparent that people know what is going on. "They leave here two or three times a month - 100 or 130 people on a fishing boat made for 25," said a local fisherman who wished to remain anonymous. "During the revolution they were leaving almost every night. Since Ben Ali, left security isn't as tight so now no-one's stopping them." Ramzi Makni, 30, a public financial administration worker said his brother left five years ago. "I tried to persuade him not to go. I told him: 'You have a job and a family here.'" He says that whilst his brother was aware of the risks of making the crossing, he had little idea of what life would be like if he made it. "He said: 'As soon as my feet land on Italian soil God will take care of the rest.' But it isn't going well. Sometimes we have to send him money. He wants to come back but he's too ashamed because he hasn't made his fortune." For Mr Dechich's family there is little consolation. "At night I dream of him. In my dream he's alive and telling us that he's ok," his sister Aida Dechich says.2 September 2013Last updated at 15:56 GMT Turkey profile Once the centre of the Ottoman Empire, the modern secular republic was established in the 1920s by nationalist leader Kemal Ataturk. Straddling the continents of Europe and Asia, Turkey's strategically important location has given it major influence in the region - and control over the entrance to the Black Sea. Turkey's progress towards democracy and a market economy was halting in the decades following the death of President Ataturk in 1938. The army saw itself as the guarantor of the constitution, and ousted governments on a number of occasions when it thought they were challenging secular values. Efforts to reduce state control over the economy also faced many obstacles. After years of mounting difficulties which brought the country close to economic collapse, a tough recovery programme was agreed with the IMF in 2002. The austerity measures imposed then meant that by the time the global financial crisis came round in 2008, Turkey was in a better position to weather the storm than many other countries. The level of public debt was already relatively low, and although the effects of the recession were still felt, by 2010 the Turkish economy had started to bounce back - to the extent that by the beginning of 2011, concerns were being raised over whether the boom was sustainable. Rise of AKP Concerns over the potential for conflict between a secular establishment backed by the military and a traditional society deeply rooted in Islam resurfaced with the landslide election victory of the Islamist-based Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2002. The secularist opposition has on several occasions since then challenged the constitutional right of the AKP to be the party of government. In March 2008 the Constitutional Court narrowly rejected a petition by the chief prosecutor to ban the AKP and 71 of its officials, including President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for allegedly seeking to establish an Islamic state. The government has accused military officers of plotting to overthrow it through an alleged secret organisation called Ergenekon (Sledgehammer). Many of those found guilty in the Ergenekon trials - which ran for five years from 2008 - received hefty jail sentences, and critics have accused the government of staging show trials to neutralise the anti-Islamist influence of the armed forces in politics. The chiefs of staff resigned in the summer of 2011 in protest at the arrests of officers, and the government rather than the military appointed their successors for the first time. The government has not had everything its own way. Concerns at creeping Islamisation spilled over into mass protests in various cities in the summer of 2013, to which the police responded with violence and the government with a confusion of bluster and apology. For the first time in his decade in power, Prime Minister Erdogan began to look politically vulnerable. Foreign relations Turkey became an EU candidate country in 1999 and, in line with EU requirements, went on to introduce substantial human rights and economic reforms. The death penalty was abolished, tougher measures were brought in against torture and the penal code was overhauled. Reforms were introduced in the areas of women's rights and Kurdish culture, language, education and broadcasting. Women's rights activists have said the reforms do not go far enough and have accused the government of lacking full commitment to equality and of acting only under EU pressure. After intense bargaining, EU membership talks were launched in October 2005. Accession negotiations are expected to take about 10 years. So far, the going has not been easy. Turkey has long been at odds with its close neighbour, Greece, over the divided island of Cyprus and territorial disputes in the Aegean. The breakthrough in its EU membership talks came just weeks after Turkey agreed to recognise Cyprus as an EU member - though it qualified this conciliatory step by declaring that it was not tantamount to full diplomatic recognition. Several European countries continue to have serious misgivings over Turkey's EU membership, and Germany and France have called for it to have a "privileged partnership" with the EU instead of full membership. Turkey long saw itself as the eastern bulwark of the Nato alliance, and underlined this by having close ties with Israel. But under Mr Erdogan Turkey has taken an openly confrontational approach to Israel, counting on its new prestige in Arab countries to boost its regional standing as a power broker. The outbreak of civil war in neighbouring Syria has seen Turkey's stance move from detente with the Assad government to open support for the rebels, albeit stopping short of military assistance. This has left Turkey exposed within the Nato alliance, which continues to keep the Syrian conflict at arms length, but has further enhanced Turkey's prestige in Arab public opinion. The Kurdish issue Turkey is home to a sizeable Kurdish minority, which by some estimates constitutes up to a fifth of the population. The Kurds have long complained that the Turkish government was trying to destroy their identity and that they suffer from economic disadvantage and human rights violations. The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the best known and most radical of the Kurdish movements, launched a guerrilla campaign in 1984 for a homeland in the Kurdish heartland in the southeast. Thousands died and hundreds of thousands became refugees in the ensuing conflict with the PKK, which Turkey, the US and the European Union deem a terrorist organisation. Kurdish guerrilla attacks briefly subsided after the 1999 capture of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, but soon began to increase again. Partly in a bid to improve its chances of EU membership, the government began to ease restrictions on the use of the Kurdish language from 2003 onwards. As part of a new "Kurdish initiative" launched in 2009, it pledged to extend linguistic and cultural rights and to reduce the military presence in the mainly Kurdish southeast of the country. Although fighting continued, the PKK signalled its readiness to cease fire in 2010. After months of talks, Abdullah Ocalan ordered his fighters to stop attacking Turkey and withdraw from the country from May 2013, effectively ending the insurgency.2 October 2013Last updated at 16:17 GMT Turkey murders: Son found guilty of Graham and Dinsmore murders, father is cleared A man has been found guilty of murdering two women from Northern Ireland who were stabbed to death while on holiday in Turkey. Marion Graham and Cathy Dinsmore were attacked and killed in August 2011. Their bodies were found in a wood on the outskirts of the city of Izmir. Recep Cetin, 24, the ex-boyfriend of Ms Graham's teenage daughter Shannon, was sentenced to life imprisonment. His father, Eyup Cetin, was acquitted of the murders by the court in Turkey. 'Barbaric crime' Ms Graham was stabbed 17 times in the attack and Ms Dinsmore suffered 35 stab wounds. Speaking outside the court, the relatives of the two women said they had got the justice they had been hoping for and could now get on with the rest of their lives. Shannon Graham said the the murders had "ruined" her family and had torn them apart. The teenager added she was "satisfied with the result" of the court case but said she missed her mother every day. George Dinsmore, a brother of Cathy Dinsmore, said: "It's great to get a bit of relief and closure, so we can get on with our lives now." He said he had been "numb" in the courtroom. "I wasn't sure what was going to happen, but very, very relieved we've got a verdict and got closure. That's what we came for and we've got it." Cathy's nephew, Robert Dinsmore, described it as a "barbaric crime". 'Good friends' "I suppose today has brought closure for both the Graham family and ourselves," he added. The two women, who were both in their early 50s, were good friends who had often gone on holiday together. Ms Graham was from Newry city in County Down and Ms Dinsmore lived just a few miles away in the town of Warrenpoint. They were both staying in Ms Graham's apartment in the Turkish resort of Kusadasi at the time of the murders. Recep Cetin worked as a waiter in the area. He had been in a relationship with Shannon Graham since 2010. While his teenage girlfriend was on a short cruise, he offered to take the two women on a shopping trip. During the journey he carried out the knife attack. Recep Cetin was arrested and charged shortly after the bodies were found. He admitted stabbing the victims but had denied murder. Initially, he falsely claimed to be 17 years old in an effort to be tried in the juvenile court, where sentences are lighter. 'Psychiatrically ill' However, the court , that established that he was in his early 20s and would be tried as an adult. The trial was further delayed when Recep Cetin said he was . Further medical examinations showed that he was not. Four judges heard the case in a court in Izmir but only three were involved in the verdict. All three agreed that Recep Cetin was guilty. He may spend the rest of his life in jail but will not be considered for parole for 30 years. But most of the judges thought there was not enough evidence to convict his father of the murders. Eyup Cetin said he would sue for damages after being acquitted.2 October 2013Last updated at 13:59 GMT Turkish holiday that ended in murder of two NI women By Chris PageBBC News NI, reporting from Izmir In Kusadasi, on Turkey's Aegean coast, Northern Ireland accents are everywhere. Bars and restaurants display Gaelic Athletic Association tops and Irish League football shirts and serve Ulster fries. Visitors from Ireland, north and south, are key to the tourist trade and local people do their best to keep holidaymakers coming back time after time. That is what Marion Graham and Cathy Dinsmore did; they loved their holidays in this part of Turkey. Marion Graham's teenage daughter, Shannon, also enjoyed her trips to the family's apartment in Kusadasi. In 2010, she began a relationship with Recep Cetin, who worked for a restaurant there. The next year, he murdered his girlfriend's mother and Cathy Dinsmore in a frenzied knife attack. Recep Cetin offered to take the women on a trip while Shannon was on a short cruise. They went by taxi to Izmir, 100km from Kusadasi. There, in a forest on the outskirts of the city, he killed the women from County Down. Marion Graham was stabbed 17 times. Cathy Dinsmore suffered 35 stab wounds. Shannon raised the alarm after she could not get in touch with her mother. I travelled to Kusadasi the day after news of the murders broke. A police officer showed me the place where his colleagues had found a bag containing Recep Cetin's bloodstained clothes. Recep Cetin was arrested and charged. Witnesses Four judges investigated the murder in Turkey. About every six weeks, they held hearings where witnesses testified. Shannon Graham gave evidence in June 2012. She said that, contrary to media reports, Recep Cetin had not asked her to marry him. But she told the court that her mother had decided their next holiday would not be in Turkey. The trial went on for more than eighteen months. It would not have lasted as long had Recep Cetin been honest about his age. He initially said he was 17. That would have meant he would have been convicted in the juvenile court, where sentences are more lenient. But medical tests proved he was in his early twenties. Then he claimed he was psychiatrically ill. Doctors examined him and found that, too, was not the case. Recep Cetin admitted stabbing Marion Graham and Cathy Dinsmore, but denied murder. Four months after the killings, murder charges were also brought against his father Eyup Eyup Cetin was acquitted by a majority of the three judges who ruled on the case. Throughout the trial, the lawyer for the victims' families, Baris Kaska, said it had been a "very tough case". He said: "One of the problems is that it has never been clear why these murders were committed. We still have no meaningful answer."3 July 2013Last updated at 14:09 GMT Turkmenistan profile Turkmenistan is made up mainly of desert and has the smallest population of the five former Soviet republics in Central Asia. The government is autocratic, but the strict isolation imposed by eccentric dictator Saparmurat Niyazov has lifted somewhat after his death. The country says it has the world's fifth largest estimated reserves of natural gas. Despite its gas wealth, much of Turkmenistan's population is still impoverished. After independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 the country entered a period of isolation that has only recently begun to end. It is a one-party state dominated by the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, which was led by the President Saparmurat Niyazov until his death in December 2006. The late leader styled himself Turkmenbashi, or Father of the Turkmen, and made himself the centre of an omnipresent personality cult. Mr Niyazov, who made himself president for life in 1999, spent large sums of public money on grandiose projects while heavily cutting social welfare. His influence spread into every area of life in the republic. Turkmens were even expected to take spiritual guidance from his book, Ruhnama, a collection of thoughts on Turkmen culture and history. His successor, Kurbanguly Berdymuhamedov, has diluted much of the cult of personality established around Niyazov, but his own promises of political reform in the country remain largely unfulfilled. Turkmenistan is the most ethnically homogeneous of the Central Asian republics. There are some Uzbeks in the east, as well as small populations of Russians, Kazakhs, Tatars and others. In contrast to other former Soviet republics, it has been largely free of inter-ethnic hostilities. However, strong tribal allegiances among the Turkmen can be a source of tension. With foreign investors keeping away, the Turkmen economy remains underdeveloped. The country has been unable to benefit fully from its gas and oil deposits because of an absence of export routes and a dispute between the Caspian Sea littoral states over the legal status of offshore oil. Turkmenistan produces roughly 70 billion cubic metres of natural gas each year and about two-thirds of its exports go to Russia's Gazprom gas monopoly. A protracted dispute between the two countries over the price ended in September 2006 when Gazprom agreed to pay 54% more. Turkmenistan has since made efforts to break out of Russia's hold on its exports. It has opened major gas pipelines to China and Iran, and is considering taking part in the Nabucco pipeline - an EU-backed project designed to provide an alternative to Russian gas supplies to Europe.2 May 2013Last updated at 11:06 GMT Turks and Caicos profile The Turks and Caicos Islands, a British overseas territory, enjoys one of the more dynamic economies in the West Indies. Tourism and offshore finance have replaced salt production as the main sources of prosperity for the low-lying islands and cays. The British government imposed direct rule in August 2009 after a commission of enquiry found evidence of widespread corruption among the ruling elite. Thousands of overseas companies are registered in the islands. In 2002 Turks and Caicos was removed from a list of countries and territories considered to be uncooperative tax havens by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which seeks to end harmful tax practices around the globe. However, by 2009 the islands were still on the OECD's "grey list" of those who say they will comply with rules on sharing tax information but have yet to act. It was not until the spring of 2012 that the territory was deemed by the OECD to have "substantially implemented the internationally agreed tax standard". Home rule was restored later that year. The islands - along with Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Anguilla and Montserrat - signed agreements in May 2013 on sharing tax information with Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain as part of an international drive against tax evasion. Upmarket tourism is centred on Providenciales, nicknamed Provo. Coral reefs and 200 miles of beaches draw holidaymakers and divers, mostly from the US and Canada. But over-development is a concern; some fragile eco-systems, including wetlands and lagoons, are designated as protected areas. There is little agriculture, though the territory is home to the world's only conch farm. The molluscs are exported. Independence moves in the 1980s ended when a pro-dependency government was elected. Islanders have British citizenship. The territory enjoys strong links with Canada, and politicians have occasionally mooted a political and economic union. Once a dependency of Jamaica, the Turks and Caicos Islands became a crown colony on Jamaican independence in 1962. The original inhabitants were Taino indians; later arrivals included slaves, brought from Africa to work on cotton plantations. Their descendants make up a majority of the population. Wealthy retirees are among the more recent settlers. At the other end of the economic scale, migrants come from impoverished Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In turn, thousands of Turks and Caicos citizens take advantage of job prospects in the neighbouring Bahamas.13 August 2013Last updated at 11:18 GMT Tuvalu profile Tuvalu is a group of nine tiny islands in the South Pacific which won independence from the United Kingdom in 1978. Five of the islands are coral atolls, the other four consist of land rising from the sea bed. All are low-lying, with no point on Tuvalu being higher than 4.5 metres above sea level. Local politicians have campaigned against global warming, arguing that climate change could see the islands swamped by rising sea levels. Life on the islands is simple and often harsh. There are no streams or rivers, so the collection of rain is essential. Coconut palms cover most of the islands, and copra - dried coconut kernel - is practically the only export commodity. Increasing salination of the soil threatens traditional subsistence farming. Tuvalu depends on foreign aid, the income from the sale of tuna fishing licences and the interest from a trust fund set up in 1987. The sale of postage stamps also brings in revenues. It is one of a handful of countries to have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which has funded the construction of Tuvalu's largest building - a three-storey administrative headquarters. It is also one of only about half-a-dozen countries to have recognised the independence of Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Tuvalu has shown ingenuity by exploiting another source of income. It has sold its internet suffix - .tv - to a Californian company for several million dollars a year in continuing revenue. The company sells the suffix on to television broadcasters. Some of the money has been used to pave roads - which were formerly made of crushed coral - and to build schools.30 March 2012Last updated at 23:07 GMT TV ad shows danger of 'invisible secondhand smoke' Making houses and cars smokefree is the only way to protect children from second-hand smoke, according to a new government campaign in England. The TV and radio adverts show how pervasive invisible second-hand smoke can be. Breathing it in can damage lungs and cause cancers, research has shown. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health is calling for smoking in cars where children are present to be made illegal. Second-hand smoke is the smoke breathed in from other people's cigarettes. The new TV campaign is based on research which shows that most secondhand smoke is in the form of invisible, odourless gases. It shows a young baby being surrounded by cigarette smoke as her mother smokes by the nearby kitchen door. Another advert depicts children in a car breathing in second-hand smoke from their father's cigarette. He is smoking in the driver's seat with the window down. in 1986 found that 85% of second-hand smoke cannot be seen. This smoke can put other people and children at increased risk of lung disease, meningitis and cot death. 'Protect others' Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said that people do not realise the serious effect of second-hand smoke. "This campaign will raise awareness of this danger and encourage people to take action to protect others from second-hand smoke. He also said the government had plans to do more. "Next week we will end tobacco displays in large shops. We will also be consulting on plain packaging this spring." found that around two million children currently live in a household where they are exposed to cigarette smoke, and many more are exposed outside the home. The damage caused by exposure to the harmful toxins in cigarette smoke results in 9,500 hospital visits in the UK each year costing the NHS more than ?23m annually, the report said. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said it wanted to see smoking in cars made illegal, when children are present. Professor Terence Stephenson, President of the RCPCH, said: "The state does have a duty to protect children's health and intervene where necessary. "Other progressive legislation such as seatbelts in cars and banning drink-driving, once met with scepticism, have proven to make a significant difference. "I have no doubt an outright ban on smoking in cars would have the same positive results." Doctors in Scotland have also urged the government in Edinburgh to ban smoking in cars, while the Welsh government said last year it would consider legislation if attitudes did not change. Prof Dame Sally Davies, England's chief medical officer, said second-hand smoke could cause a range of health problems. "Smoking damages our lungs, causes cancers and is now the biggest risk for cot death. Parents who smoke need to think about the effect it has on their family. "Giving up smoking or making sure you have a completely smokefree home and car is the only way to protect your family." Support and advice is available on the NHS if people want to give up smoking, she said. A survey of 1,000 young people in England by the Department of Health, found that children overwhelmingly want smokefree lives. Eighty-two per cent of children wished their parents would stop smoking in front of them at home and 78% wanted their parents to stop smoking in front of them in the car. BBQs and bonfires Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said: "There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke and children are at risk of a range of diseases such as asthma, ear infections, and potentially fatal meningitis as a result of breathing in second-hand smoke in the home or car." But Simon Clark, director of the smokers' group Forest, said the government had gone too far. "It's only a matter of time before loving parents who smoke in or around their homes are accused of child abuse and risk having their children taken into care. "Tobacco is a legal product. If the government doesn't want children exposed to even a whiff of smoke they will have to amend the smoking ban to allow designated smoking rooms in pubs and clubs. That is the only sensible solution. "Meanwhile, are they going to ban barbecues and bonfires?"15 June 2013Last updated at 06:52 GMT TV professor among Queen's Birthday Honours for Devon Broadcaster and geologist Prof Iain Stewart is among those who have been recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours list. The Plymouth University scientist spent 48 hours inside an airtight chamber, surviving on oxygen produced by plants alone, as part of a BBC Two programme. He has been appointed MBE for services to geology and science communication. Eric Dancer CBE, Lord Lieutenant of Devon has been appointed a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order. The honour is bestowed in recognition of services to the Royal Family. Prof John Scott, FBA, who is pro vice-chancellor for research and professor in sociology at Plymouth University, has been appointed a CBE for services to social science. OBEs appointed in Devon include: Other MBEs appointed in Devon include:5 February 2013Last updated at 00:01 GMT TV's white spaces connecting rural Africa By Fiona GrahamTechnology of business reporter, BBC News "This is the greatest achievement I can say for this school. [The students] are finding it a great favour that they should be the first school in Africa to have this kind of a project. It is very exciting. They wonder how they got there." Beatrice Nderango is the headmistress of Gakawa Secondary School, which lies about 10km from Nanyuki, a market town in Kenya's rift valley, not far from the Mount Kenya national park. The school is situated in a village that has no phone line and no electricity. The people that live here are mostly subsistence farmers. "We don't really have a cash crop, but the farmers do a bit of farming," says Mrs Nderango. "They grow potatoes, a little bit of maize, but we don't do well in maize because of the wild animals. They invade the farms." Although Kenya has fibre optic broadband , most of rural Kenya is not connected and until now getting online would mean travelling to town. But all of this is changing, thanks to technology that uses the unused parts of the wireless spectrum that is set aside for television broadcasters - the white spaces. The colour of television The project is part of the 4Afrika Initiative, an investment programme being announced by technology giant Microsoft, that also includes for the region and investment in help for small businesses on the continent, and in education and internships. For the white spaces project, the company is working with a Kenyan ISP, Indigo Telecom, and the Kenyan government. The ISP is installing wireless 'base stations' - or masts - that are solar-powered, to get round the lack of mains electricity. The base stations act as a link to the nearest main cable connection to the internet, without the expense of extending the fibre-optic network. The signal supplied is much more powerful than normal wifi. "What we are calling TV white space, that is just a different set of frequencies. It is between 400 megahertz and about 800 megahertz, and those radio frequencies will just go further," says white spaces expert Professor Robert Stewart of Strathclyde University. "They can go through walls, they will kind of bend around hills, they will give you much better connectivity. And of course, that's why the TV guys chose that in the first place." Local schools, a healthcare clinic, a government agriculture office and a library have been connected in the first part of the pilot. Ms Nderango says internet will benefit teachers and students alike. "Students will now be introduced to e-learning, they will be able to carry out the assignments, they'll be able to do a lot of research," she says. "To add to that, there is the exposure to the rest of the world." And she believes the wider community will benefit as well. "It will change lives, because on the internet you can access information about skills. "The farmers for example will improve their skills, and learn entrepreneurship." Business networking Microsoft's Fernando de Sousa says getting rural areas online is a crucial part of making them economically viable. "There is... a commercial responsibility that both private and public sector have across Africa to bring technology and bring access that can then drive economic growth, economic development and sustain employability, especially outside of the metropolitan areas," he says. "It is going to significantly increase the ability for innovation and the great ideas that Africans have to actually reach markets and become available for use by consumers... I think that there is a fantastic opportunity for Africa to showcase its own capabilities in the world because of the increased access." The next step is to open the network more generally to the business community in the area. "The commercial viability of actually deploying white spaces on a broad spectrum across the communities, is something that is very important... because a. it can't be a subsidised service; and b. it is not a private government or community network," says Mr de Sousa. "It really needs to be a commercially viable network. Bringing small businesses online and enabling them to use the technology is very, very important." This is not the first time that TV white spaces have been used in this way - in the UK pilots are underway and in Cambridge. In the United States, Wilmington, North Carolina, has a white spaces project in place, and hopes to connect rural college campuses. There are several test beds around the world. More is planned. In Africa, that will connect 10 schools in the Western Cape for six months, that will launch soon. There are obstacles: in many countries this part of the spectrum is licensed, and the way it is used is changing as television services move to digital. National and international regulators are looking at how to allocate space, to avoid having competing services trying to use the same space. For now, and probably in the long term, TV white space networks will be complementary to fibre-optic broadband rather than a replacement. But Strathclyde University's Prof Stewart, one of the men behind the pilot on the Isle of Bute, thinks that for remote rural areas it may be the most cost-effective option. "If we find that rural communities in developing or developed countries can access this without significant expense, then it will make a difference," he says. "It is not going to solve all the problems. It is not for everyone. But it will solve problems for some folks."26 July 2013Last updated at 21:46 GMT Tweets of the week: Royal baby, Carlos Danger and Dominique Strauss-Kahn Tweets of the weekMaking waves in 140 characters or less For the week ending 19 July, here is the news making waves in America - all in 140 characters or less. 1.If Prince William is anything like I was, he's hustling home on The Tube right now to assemble the Ikea crib & changing table. Chances are, NBC's Willie Geist (@) and Prince William do not have much in common. Geist was one of many who followed the birth of the royal baby. 2. Georgie Porgie, George of the Jungle, BY GEORGE, Gorgeous George. I made fun of the royal baby 4 times in 30 seconds. Kid's gonna get teased Jezebel news editor Erin Gloria Ryan (@) worries for the future happiness of the new prince, named George Alexander Louis. 3. Carlos Danger is also the name of the House Republicans' new immigration bill. George wasn't the only much discussed name of the week. Saturday Night Live writer Alex Baze (@) saw a political edge to Anthony Weiner's sexting alias, which was revealed as the New York mayoral candidate admitted to sending more sexually explicit texts. 4. Don't worry you guys, if Weiner does anything shady at least we'll have Spitzer watching the city's money. Red State editor Dan McLaughlin (@) says the news about Weiner shouldn't affect his electoral chances, since former governor Eliot Spitzer - who resigned the governorship for soliciting prostitutes - is running for city comptroller. 5. I'm fairly confident that al-Sisi gave his speech while wearing dark sunglasses because the eyes are the windows to the soul. #Egypt Meanwhile, in Egypt, army chief and new Vice-Prime Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called on Egyptians to take to the streets in protest at terrorism and violence. Islamists in the country warned the speech was a call to civil war, and blogger Karl Sharro (@) seemed to share mistrust of the general. 6. 1.Take stage, applaud 2. Point out allies 3. Tell bad joke 4. Roads & Bridges 5. Demonize Congress 6. Thank you goodnight. The twitter user known as S.M. (@) has noticed a pattern in President Obama's public remarks. The president gave a speech this week in Ohio about the economy. 7. "Aggravated Pimping" was a pretty big hit when it debuted in 2003. It may sound like a hip-hop track, as Mother Jones writer Timothy Murphy (@) noticed. This week, however, it was the charge presented against former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn in France for allegedly being part of a prostitution ring. 8. "Eh, I've been through worse" - paint splattered Abe Lincoln Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutler (@) thought that, on the historical balance of things, maybe the vandalism against the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, wasn't as upsetting as people's immediate reaction suggested. 9. Snowden to be released from Moscow airport, given one hour head start, and hunted by shirtless Putin on horseback. Internet comedian @. Edward Snowden is seeking asylum in Russia, but for now remains trapped in the capital city's airport. 10. BREAKING: George Zimmerman rescues hikers from bear attack and then slips back into the night, unfit to live among civilized man. Comedian Frank Fleming (@) constructs a more noble alter-ego for George Zimmerman, who this week reportedly helped rescue a family from a car crash shortly after he was acquitted of murdering an unarmed black teenager. Some tweets have been edited for clarity and style. You can follow the Magazine on and on2 October 2013Last updated at 22:57 GMT Twenty readers who switched nationalities A Magazine feature on Americans giving up their citizenship led many readers to explain why they have also renounced their citizenship of other nations. An increasing number of expats are because of their frustrations with the tax system. But around the world, many others have renounced the citizenship of their birthplace, and switched nationality, for a host of reasons. Here is a selection of their stories. 1. I gave up my Russian citizenship as a teenager. I became a naturalised Czech citizen which allows me to travel to around 160 countries and territories around the globe without ever needing a visa. But I am living in China now where everybody needs a visa except for the Japanese. A Japanese passport is the most valuable one (not the EU or US one). I Konig, Guangdong province, China 2. I switched from being an Austrian national to British when I was 15 due to two reasons - a) I would have had to serve two years' National Service in the Austrian military and b) I needed British citizenship to enable me to join the Royal Air Force. Guenter Ruckhofer, Brighton, England 3. I had dual citizenship, Turkish and British, but a few months ago I went to the Turkish consulate in London and filled out the forms and applied to have permission to give up my Turkish citizenship. This is because the Turkish government is asking their citizens to pay ?6,000 ($9,700) tax if they are living or born abroad and not willing to do compulsory army service. I am a 38-year-old married man and have been living in the UK for the last 13 years. I don't want to do any army service and can't afford to pay ?6,000 either. So no more Turkish citizenship for me and yes to British citizenship. Atakan Kaya, Bucks, UK 4. I felt that being British in 1975 was like a mental prison. To put it in a nutshell - a backwards-looking rigid society, dependant on its history and old traditions for a sense of identity. I wanted to have European citizenship but settled for being French. I feel I'm also a citizen of Germany, Benelux, Italy... when asked, I say I'm a European. It excites me that that is a "work in progress". The more I return to UK, the more I feel that that decision was the right one - I feel Britain has missed an enormous opportunity to modernise itself mentally and is stuck in a virtual no-man's-land between the dead Empire and the USA. More and more people regret having joined Europe and many friends said the UK should leave. The Brits not only refute Europe intellectually with all sorts of stats about how bad it would be to join the euro etc, but also a large majority of them seem to have some sort of allergy against working in different languages and the concept of compromise for a common gain. Moreover, there appears to be a reluctance to let go of images of past glory. Tony Lark, Neung sur Beuvron, France 5. My wife surrendered her German nationality when we got married in the UK. We are now living in Germany but my wife is unable to recover her German nationality. The authorities say she gave it up voluntarily and cannot get it back. Jim Wood, Oer Erkenschwick, Germany 6. Born and brought up in India, I decided to turn in my Indian passport three years ago and apply for a Hong Kong passport and the accompanying Chinese nationality. This was when I had lived out of India and called HK home for 12 years. My HK passport is something I cherish and feel proud to present in different countries. Quite enjoy telling people I am now technically "Chinese". While I am currently based in Singapore for work reasons, my family is still in HK and I see my own family roots only strengthening in HK. Last but not the least is the issue of the enormous number of visas that Indian passport holders needed. Pretty much every country I travelled to on the Indian passport needed me to have a visa - mostly in advance, sometimes on arrival - making professional travel utterly painful. Anant Deboor, Hong Kong/Singapore 7. As an expat, now living in New Zealand for the past eight years, I used to identify as a proud Englishman. I decided to emigrate for a better life, for my family and children. We chose New Zealand. I have never regretted my decision, especially when I read the UK news. Living here in an area with a high Maori population, you quickly gain a very strong sense that historically "Great Britain" wasn't actually that great after all, and committed enormous harm and damage to Maoridom still felt today. I fear my father in his later years was still caught up in the jingoistic, flag waving of WWII, as I think are still many UK citizens. Whilst New Zealand may not be perfect (it has its social issues too), it's immeasurably a more preferable option than the UK. I will very soon be applying for NZ citizenship for myself and my children, and will be giving up my citizenship of the UK, so I can call myself a proud New Zealander. Paul Ratcliffe, Whakatane, New Zealand 8. I reluctantly gave up my Zimbabwe passport for the British passport because I got fed up of being held back and questioned by the European or British authorities at airports when travelling with my family who hold British passports. Also for every country we travelled to, I would have to have visas which meant travelling to London from the North West which was just so difficult and lots of planning before travelling. Now with a British passport, we can travel without problems. S Khan, UK 9. I've given up my Dutch and French citizenship because I'm old enough to have had to do military service for both. But as a black man, every time I was in the Netherlands or France, I was treated as an illegal immigrant at best, or an eighth-class citizen at worst. But they wanted me to do my military service anyway. Funnily enough, the only citizenship I have left is the USA one, which is a bit problematic now that I don't live there anymore. that I've seen that actually mentions that [tax law] Fatca is the strengthening of existing legislation (good job!), and because the currency of the country in which I live has fallen so much, my assets have me as pretty harmless in the US's eyes. But I can't get a mortgage here, because they're not giving mortgages to US citizens. Ugh. Lee Robertson, Cape Town, South Africa 10. I'm in the process of renouncing my Norwegian citizenship. All the forms are completed. I only need to spend a bit more time here until I fulfil the requirements of citizenship. Mainly because, as a Norwegian, I'm being punished for not being in the EU. Ironically though, the only reason for me being able to afford education in the UK is the Norwegian Student Loan Fund. Tor, London 11. I have given up my SFR Yugoslavia citizenship in 1973 at the time I became the citizen of the US. No regrets. I left Yugoslavia never to return except to visit my parents and my sister. At this time, my sister is the only surviving reason to go back, this time to Serbia, but should she precede me in death, I will no longer have the reason to even come and visit, and I will not. I first left Yugoslavia in 1967. Twice in my life prior to that, I was on the brink of being jailed because of expressing my opinion which was critical of the regime. My anti-Communist indoctrination, if I may call it that, began very early in my life. My father, who was a democrat in his political beliefs, was jailed soon after the communists took over the reins of my country. He was an industrialist before WWII and the communists treated him as a class enemy. He spent a year in hard labour and his property, including his clothes from the closet, was confiscated. Miodrag Kukrika, Pennsylvania, US 12. I was born in Canton after nationalist China had fallen to the Communists. Thankfully I had the chance to emigrate to America and became a US citizen after five years of residence in America. I was overjoyed to sever my link to Communist China. However, I have fancied Great Britain and the typical American way of life has been turning me more and more Anglophile. So while I am happy to hold an American passport, being British is still my dream and passion. Terry, Fairfax, Virginia, US 13. I gave up my British citizenship to attain Dutch citizenship (the Dutch allow themselves to have dual citizenship, but don't allow dual citizenship to foreigners). The British bureaucracy lost my document proving I had given up my British nationality, prompting the Dutch immigration police to threaten to remove my newly obtained Dutch citizenship, leaving me stateless. As a stateless person, I should have had no right to start legal proceedings, as I would not officially exist. In the week the Dutch ultimatum expired, the British Consulate in Amsterdam sent me a copy of the covering letter that accompanied the document the Foreign Office had lost and refused to duplicate. The Dutch accepted the letter, allowing me to continue existing as an official human being. The most ironic situation arose when the Foreign Office refused to help sort out the mess they had created as I am no longer a British citizen! Richard Ireland, Groningen, Holland 14. I gave up my dual citizenship with Ireland last year, to remain solely a British citizen. I did so to apply for a job with DSTL, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory of the Ministry of Defence. The post was restricted for non-dual nationals only. In the end, I didn't get to the interview stage. I find it quite wrong that departments are permitted to make such restrictions before they even consider the applications - and fortunately, as I was born in Ireland I can retrieve my citizenship at any point. Some dual nationals are not so lucky. In terms of identity, giving up my Irish citizenship didn't particularly affect me - I didn't, for example, feel like I was making a big sacrifice. Having grown up in a family with two British parents in Ireland, particularly living in a rural area during my teens, being British was a bigger part of my identity than the Irish half. I had always had UK passports and had lived in the UK since I turned 18, which helped with paperwork - although the Irish embassy in London was extremely disorganised. Apparently they had never dealt with anyone wishing to renounce their citizenship before. Gwen Wordingham, Canterbury, Kent, UK 15. I was 13 when I left India with my family as my father was sent over to UK as a bank manager. Before the move, all my education was in my mother tongue, Marathi. We had English lessons but I skipped them mostly to go play cricket. When I arrived in the UK in mid-September, it was difficult to find a school place. In the meantime, I watched a lot of television and read geographic books in English. Upon starting school, I made a fool of myself many times because of my English language limitations. However, I also managed to find friends who would correct me and try to understand me. I have now been living in the UK for 12 years and it has been around three years since I renounced my Indian citizenship. I have many friends from various backgrounds, I am successfully completing my PhD in ageing at Newcastle University and am very grateful for all the opportunities provided to me by my adoptive country. I truly believe that one cannot choose where they are born but in today's globalised world, you can always find a country that you can call home. Abhyuday Deshpande, Petts Wood, UK 16. I gave up Belgian nationality at age 17 when it was made clear that I would have to do military service. I hardly spoke the language and had no wish to spend two years in the army and having the possibility of having to serve in Belgian Congo. So the only option was to renounce [Belgian nationality] and keep the British one. These days I believe nationality is less of an issue. I have lived for 22 years in Spain, now the last four in Brazil. The world is smaller. My feelings and roots are British 100% but I am a world citizen. Alan C Dens, Araguaina, Tocantins, Brazil 17. I was born in Ireland, and my first passport was a UK passport, based on my father being born in the UK (Northern Ireland) and on my birth before 1947 in the Irish Republic (before officially leaving the Commonwealth). When Ireland and UK joined the EU, I revoked my UK passport, and took an Irish passport. I was born and grew up in Dublin, while my parents were both from the UK. I did not agree with the Irish Republic's stance on making a territorial claim on Northern Ireland (six counties). When they revoked that claim, I felt free to take out the Irish passport. Also, I always felt more Irish than British. I now also have a Canadian Passport and live in Canada as a dual Irish-Canadian citizen. Gordon E Murray, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada 18. I was born and bred in Singapore but moved to the UK when I was 21 and eventually naturalised as a British citizen after seven years here - I am 37 today. I left Singapore because I had no faith in the government there. Singaporean males were discriminated against by the government because of the compulsory national service and many years of reservist obligations afterwards. That is compounded by the fact that the Singapore government is actively wooing skilled migrants to Singapore. Their "foreign talent" programme gives these migrants all kinds of advantages that locals are not entitled to. I gave two years and four months of my life to serve in the army and my reward is to be treated like a second-class citizen. I wasn't prepared to fight the system, so I simply left and settled in the UK instead. Alex Liang, London 19. I have given up my Chinese citizenship after acquiring Australian citizenship. I actually didn't officially renounce Chinese nationality, but according to the Chinese citizenship law, I am deemed to voluntarily renounce the Chinese passport upon becoming an Australian citizen. The most important reason is the convenience and benefit I will be able to enjoy as an Australian. I am now holding an Australian passport which allows me to travel to most parts of the world without having to obtain a visa before travelling. Although I have been naturalised, I know I have never forgotten about my Chinese roots. I still love Chinese dumplings, drink green tea and speak Mandarin when calling mum on the phone. Sadly, these seem to be the only remaining connections I have with China. I am going on holiday in China this Christmas, but this time I will need a visa to go through the Chinese immigration checkpoint. I know this will bring another round of nostalgia, sentiment but excitement to me. Lois, Griffith, NSW, Australia 20. I gave up my Slovak passport this year after I have taken up my Australian citizenship because of the recent law implemented in 2010 disallowing dual citizenship. Although the Slovak law was aimed at preventing ethnic Hungarians living in Slovakia claiming Hungarian citizenship, it currently affects all Slovaks living abroad. I gave it up easily as I can still visit Slovakia/Europe visa-free on my Australian passport and I currently do not intend to reside in Slovakia long-term. It is unfortunate as both of my parents are from Slovakia and I grew up in Europe. Boris Stanislav, Kathmandu, Nepal You can follow the Magazine on and onSocial networking company Twitter has said it plans to raise $1bn (?619m) in its stock market debut in documents filed with US regulators.In the filing, revealed on Thursday, the seven-year-old company said it now has 218 million monthly users and that 500 million tweets are sent a day.It reported a net loss of $69m during the first six months of 2013, on revenues of $254m.Though the company did not say which stock exchange it plans to list on, Peter Esho from Invast Financial Services, told the BBC it was likely to be on the Nasdaq..13 September 2013Last updated at 10:34 GMT Twitter plans stock market listing Twitter says it plans to join the stock market in the most hotly anticipated flotation since Facebook's last year. Referring to the official paperwork needed to join the market, the : "We've confidentially submitted an S-1 to the SEC for a planned [initial public offering]." Investors value Twitter, founded in 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone and Evan Williams, at more than $10bn (?6.3bn). Twitter gave no further details as to the timing or price of the offering. The microblogging service is on track to post $583m in revenue in 2013, according to advertising consultancy eMarketer, up from $288m in 2012. Most of Twitter's funding comes from advertising, with companies paying for "promoted tweets" that appear in users' Twitter feeds. Advertisers are keen to target Twitter's 200 million active users, who send more than 500 million tweets a day. Mobile first But some analysts believe the risk for Twitter post-flotation is that if the drive for greater advertising revenue leads to increased numbers of adverts in and around the site, they could become intrusive and unpopular with users. "There's a few issues [such as] how many revenue streams can be developed beyond just advertising, the impact of more people accessing the service via smartphones," said Colin Gillis, a New York-based technology specialist at BGC Partners. Nearly two-thirds of users access Twitter via mobile devices that have traditionally been difficult for advertisers to reach. This is one reason why Twitter has , a mobile-focused advertising exchange, for a reported $350m. "Twitter was more or less a mobile-first platform from the start and so the company built its experience to work relatively well across devices," Clark Fredriksen of eMarketer told the BBC. "Ultimately, they did a good job of monetising their mobile user base." Learning from Facebook "Twitter is one of the last of the major developed social networks to file [for an initial public offering or IPO] - we've already had Facebook and LinkedIn," said Mr Gillis. Facebook listed on the stock market in May last year. Although it initially created excitement among investors, its share price performed poorly, before recovering this summer. The timing of the IPO is likely to be related to renewed activity in stock market flotations. There have been 131 IPOs priced so far in 2013, according to IPO tracking firm Renaissance Capital - a 44% increase on the same period last year. Activity is climbing back towards the pre-financial crisis levels of 2007, says Renaissance. Andrew Frank, social media expert at technology research company Gartner, said: "[The IPO] gives its investors a way to get some of the money back that they put into the company at the beginning. "It gives the employees a similar kind of event to reward them for the success they've had so far. And it gives Twitter itself extra funds to invest in new projects and innovation." Mr Gillis said it was impossible to say how great the demand for Twitter shares would be until the company released a valuation. Analysts say Twitter must continue to innovate under the scrutiny of public ownership. "One of the things they will have to focus on is making sure that they keep their users very actively engaged," Nate Elliott, an analyst at the tech consultancy Forrester, told the BBC. "One of the things Facebook has done very successfully over the past year-and-a-half has been to show that not only is the number of users growing, but that those users are becoming more active." 'This tweet is going public?' Twitter's tweet announcing its filing immediately went viral - it was re-tweeted more than 8,000 times within an hour of its posting. For many users, it seemed apt that the company would use its own platform to announce the news. "Naturally Twitter announces its IPO via Twitter. What other way?" read. Twitter later sent a follow-up tweet, which read simply: "Now, back to work." Once a company has filed paperwork with US regulators for a planned IPO, it enters a so-called "quiet period" when it is not allowed to speak to the media. According to the Securities and Exchange Commission's website, a company can file a confidential prospectus for a public share sale if it is classified as an "emerging growth company" with revenue of less than $1bn.4 October 2013Last updated at 03:17 GMT Twitter wants to raise $1bn in its stock market debut Social networking company Twitter has said it plans to raise $1bn (?619m) in its stock market debut filed with US regulators. In the filing, revealed on Thursday, the seven-year-old company said that it now has 218 million monthly users and that 500 million tweets are sent a day. It made a loss of $69m in the first six months of 2013, on revenues of $254m. It will be the largest Silicon Valley stock offering since Facebook's listing in 2012. Analysts said that the offering was likely to get a good response. "Social media is red hot," said Internet analyst Lou Kerner. "Twitter is front and centre benefiting from market enthusiasm for all things social, and remarkably strong metrics." Financial details The filing also revealed Twitter's finances for the first time. While the company has never made a profit, its revenue has grown from just $28m in 2010 to $317m by the end of 2012. Around 85% of Twitter's revenue last year came from ad sales; the rest was from licensing its data. The company takes in a significant portion of its ad revenue from mobile devices, an important metric often tracked by analysts. As of 2013, over 65% of the company's advertising revenue was generated from mobile devices. More than 75% of Twitter users accessed the site from their mobile phone during that same time period. Some analysts said that the decision by the firm to raise capital indicated that it was keen on improving the way people enjoy content on its platform and how advertisers connect with its users. "Users should be happy about this," said Zachary Reiss-Davis, an analyst with Forrester. "It looks like Twitter is looking at how to enrich the experience and it understands that to build a successful service, they have to create something people like and want to come back to and spend time on." Peter Esho from Sydney-based Invast Financial Services, added that Twitter's ease to use had seen it increase its user base, making it an attractive option for advertisers. "I think what Twitter has working in its favour is that it's very easy to use: it doesn't eat up too much bandwidth for the average user in places where broadband penetration is low," he said. The filing also revealed that two of the company's co-founders, Evan Williams and Jack Dorsey, own significant stakes in Twitter, and could stand to take in significant sums from the company's stock market listing. Mr Williams owns 12% of shares in the company, while Mr Dorsey owns 4.9%. Benchmark Capital's Peter Fenton, an early investor in the company, is the second-biggest shareholder, with 6.7% of shares. Advantage Nasdaq? Twitter indicated three weeks earlier that it had filed for a public stock market offering. However, under a new law passed by Congress in 2012, it did not have to reveal its financial documents because it had revenue of less than $1bn. But by releasing the documents publicly, it gave an indication that it hopes to complete its stock sale soon. The company plans to list under the stock symbol TWTR, but it did not reveal which stock exchange, the Nasdaq or New York Stock Exchange, it had chosen. However, Mr Esho said that the listing was likely to be on the Nasdaq. "I was to speculate, I think it would have to be Nasdaq," he said. "That really is the exchange that has seen so many tech names come to the market." Goldman Sachs is the lead bank taking the company public, a coveted position that is often fought for amongst the nation's biggest banks. The other banks helping with the offering are Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, BofA Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank Securities and CODE Advisors.3 October 2013Last updated at 20:34 GMT Two bearded pupils in Accrington banned from classroom Two teenage boys have been barred from classes because they refused to shave off their beards. The 14-year-old Muslim pupils were placed in "isolation" from the start of the new term at Mount Carmel Roman Catholic High School in Accrington, Lancashire. Head teacher Xavier Bowers said the decision was not a religious issue. He said it was policy to place pupils in a learning support centre when they do not comply with the school uniform. In a statement issued by the school through Lancashire County Council, Mr Bowers said: "I am fully aware of the sensitive nature of this issue and have done my very best to be as understanding and reasonable as possible when dealing with situations of this nature. "When necessary, we place pupils in our learning support centre who do not comply with our school policy regarding uniform and appearance. "Here at Mount Carmel RC High School, we believe that it's important to maintain high standards in every aspect of school life, including appearance and uniform." He added pupils and parents were frequently reminded of the rules on appearance.19 June 2013Last updated at 13:10 GMT Uganda profile Since the late 1980s Uganda has rebounded from the abyss of civil war and economic catastrophe to become relatively peaceful, stable and prosperous. But the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the north remain blighted by one of Africa's most brutal rebellions. In the 1970s and 1980s Uganda was notorious for its human rights abuses, first during the military dictatorship of Idi Amin from 1971-79 and then after the return to power of Milton Obote, who had been ousted by Amin. During this time up to half a million people were killed in state-sponsored violence. Since becoming president in 1986 Yoweri Museveni has introduced democratic reforms at a steady pace and been credited with substantially improving human rights, notably by reducing abuses by the army and the police. Western-backed economic reforms produced solid growth and falls in inflation in the 1990s, and the discovery of oil and gas in the west of the country boosted confidence. The global economic turndown of 2008 hit Uganda hard, given its continuing dependence on coffee exports, and pushed up food prices. This galvanised the opposition, which disputed Mr Museveni's victory in the 2011 presidential elections and went to to organise street protests about the cost of living and political freedoms. The president has also come under fire for Uganda's military involvement, along with five other countries, in neighbouring DR Congo's 1998-2003 civil war. DR Congo accuses Uganda of maintaining its influence in the mineral-rich east of the country. Uganda says DR Congo has failed to disarm Ugandan rebels on its soil. The cult-like Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has rampaged across northern Uganda for the past two decades and has in recent years spread to neighbouring countries, abducting and killng tens of thousands as well as displacing more than 1.5 million. Its leader Joseph Kony says he wants to run the country along the lines of the biblical Ten Commandments, and is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. Some critics have wondered why the conflict has gone on for so long and questioned Mr Museveni's commitment to ending the insurgency. The government in turn has pointed to progress since 2011, when the US committed itself to tracking down LRA bases in nearby countries. Uganda has won praise for its vigorous campaign against HIV/Aids. This has helped to reduce the prevalence of the virus - which reached 30% of the population in the 1990s - to single-digit figures.30 September 2013Last updated at 07:14 GMT UK A&Es seeing 'drunk children' Nearly 300 children aged 11 or under were admitted to A&E units across the UK last year after drinking too much, a BBC Radio 5 live investigation shows. Revealing UK-wide data for the first time, it said a total of 6,500 under-18s were admitted in 2012-13. Charities and public health bodies say fewer children are drinking overall, but those who do may be drinking more. The five years of data comes from Freedom of Information requests to 125 of the 189 UK NHS organisations. Prof Ian Gilmore, chairman of the UK Alcohol Health Alliance, told the BBC: "I think in under-11s, it's mainly experimenting, but I think we see children in the 11 to 16-year-old range who are beginning to drink regularly." He added: "There are some encouraging signs in that the numbers of under-18s drinking is probably falling, but those that are drinking are probably drinking earlier and drinking more heavily, so we certainly can't be complacent." Over the last five years A&E departments across the UK have dealt with nearly 48,000 incidents where under-18s have been admitted for drink or drug related illnesses. During 2012/13 there were 293 cases of children aged 11 or under attending A&E with alcohol-related conditions - a third more than in 2011/12 when there were 216 cases. 'Hiding away' Among teens, more girls than boys are now being admitted, a reversal of the past trend. Ayrshire and Arran Health Board dealt with the highest number of cases last year - with 483 alcohol-related attendances. Morten Draegebo, an A&E consultant at Crosshouse Hospital in Kilmarnock, said children were exposing themselves to significant danger. He said: "The typical patient may be found in a field. They often need to hide away from any sort of adults in the area so they're picked up by the ambulance service. "They have difficulty locating where they are because the description comes through from a distressed half-drunk teenager potentially saying that they're under a tree somewhere in a large park. "Eventually they're found but even in summer-time in Scotland they're vaguely hypothermic. "They have vomited. The vomit may go down the wrong way into the lungs. They are unable to defend themselves even from assault." Dr Draegebo added: "We have had many cases where teenage, young teenage females have come in saying that they may have been sexually assaulted and they're that intoxicated and are distressed and say, 'I may have been', but they don't even know if they have been or not. "On a humane level that is very distressing. I'm a parent, I would hate for that to happen to my daughter." 'Can't take it' Elaine Hindal, chief executive of Drinkaware, said the incidence of drunkenness among under-11s was "really alarming" and parents must be vigilant. "It's really unlikely that children are buying alcohol. When children talk to us in our research, they tell us they get alcohol from home, primarily from their parents and from friends," she said. "But parents need to simply be aware of the dangers of drinking, particularly with younger children. Their bodies can't take it, they're more at risk of alcoholic poisoning, they are more likely to be a victim of alcohol-related violence." Across the UK, experts agree that fewer children are drinking now than several years ago, but say the amount being consumed by those underage has stayed the same - suggesting those who do drink are consuming more. Public Health England says one in four underage drinkers consumes more than 15 units a week - the equivalent of seven pints of lager. The official advice from the chief medical officers across the UK is that no children should be given alcohol until they are 16, and alcohol should only be given to older teenagers under supervision of a carer or parent, and never on more than one day a week. A Department of Health England spokesman said: "We know that fewer young people are drinking and being admitted to hospital as a result. "But with more than one million alcohol-related hospital admissions overall in the last year we know too many people are drinking too much and that alcohol places a heavy burden on the NHS, costing around ?3.5bn every year. " Hear more on the programme at 10:00 BST on Monday 30 September on BBC Radio 5 Live.18 September 2013Last updated at 15:58 GMT UK enters global online university race By Sean CoughlanBBC News education correspondent The UK's biggest online university project has been launched, with more than 20 universities offering free courses. Students will be able to follow courses on mobile phones as well as computers. The UK's project, called FutureLearn, sees UK universities entering the global market in so-called Moocs - massive open online courses. It could "revolutionise conventional models of formal education", says universities minister David Willetts. Mr Willetts, speaking at the British Library, said that the expansion of access to higher education was no longer necessarily about "bricks and mortar". He said that the FutureLearn partnership would help to serve the unmet demand for university courses, particularly overseas. The launch of FutureLearn sees 21 UK universities, plus Trinity College Dublin and Monash University in Australia, offering courses that are taught and assessed on the internet. The UK universities include Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Nottingham, Warwick, Bristol, Reading, Southampton and the Open University, which has headed the project. The British Library, British Museum and British Council will make material available to students. 'Social architecture' There are 20 short courses announced, with eight starting this year. In this experimental phase, students taking these courses will carry out multiple choice questions, without any formal qualifications. But universities are hoping that many people will be attracted by the chance to follow university-level courses without any travel or cost and at a time that suits them. It will also provide taster courses for youngsters considering their university options. When the University of Edinburgh offered Moocs through a US network it had more than 300,000 students signing up. The University of London international programme had more than 200,000 registrations. FutureLearn will see the UK taking a much bigger step into the rapidly expanding online university market - with claims that higher education is now facing its own online revolution. They are anticipating that each Mooc course will attract 20,000 students. Universities also see the project as a way of recruiting students to degree courses. Martin Bean, vice chancellor of the Open University, described it as a "digital storefront". But Mr Bean says he expects some universities to begin thinking about how to offer formal credits for Moocs. Reading University is going to offer a Mooc course about basic computer programming. "Offering free taster courses online is a no-brainer," says David Bell, the university's vice-chancellor. "Universities shouldn't be afraid to open up teaching and research, either in the UK or beyond. Learning never stops and as the economy's demand for higher skills rises, universities should be in the vanguard when it comes to providing new opportunities. "Making courses accessible online, on mobiles and tablets means that people can fit their studying around their lives, rather than their lives around study." Southampton University is offering a course in web science, Leicester University's course looks at England at the time of Richard III and the University of Warwick has a psychology course. FutureLearn's chief executive Simon Nelson says it will offer a "fresh approach" with all its courses designed to work across all kinds of online platforms, so that a student could begin a course on a laptop at home and then continue on a mobile phone while commuting. He also promises a less isolated experience for students learning at home. He says that it can be a "solitary experience", but that FutureLearn will try to create a supportive online community, with "very strong social architecture". This will allow students to discuss their courses and ask questions, using social networking-style comment pages alongside the lesson content. This consortium will also draw upon the experience in distance learning of the Open University. "Time and again we have seen the disruptive impact the internet can have on industries - driving innovation and enhancing the customer experience. I have no doubt Moocs will do the same for education," says Mr Bean. There were also suggestions from the Department for Education last week that Moocs could be used for vocational courses for students in further education colleges and sixth forms in England. Global race Moocs have already had a major impact in the US, launching last year and spearheaded by alliances of top institutions, including Harvard, MIT and Stanford. Coursera, set up by Stanford academics in California and backed by venture capital, has signed up more than four million students in its first 18 months for courses provided by more than 80 universities. These projects have revealed a high level of demand for courses, but also exposed the difficulty in retaining students, with very high levels of drop-out rates. It has sparked a debate about the cost of higher education and what students are paying for when so much information and so many high-quality university materials are available online. These US online courses have begun to develop ways of giving students formal credits, such as students paying to take invigilated exams. Among the Mooc pioneers has been the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which set up the edX online platform with Harvard. On Tuesday, MIT announced a series of new online courses which will have an identity verification system using webcams and with plans for certification for courses. But there have also been questions asked about the long-term financial viability of online university courses. Last week, William Dutton, professor of internet studies at the University of Oxford, challenged whether many universities could afford to invest in the type of free online courses offered by wealthy institutions such as Harvard and MIT. He suggested that online courses might work better as part of a "blended" course, where students spend some time together in the classroom as well as studying online. Sir Michael Barber, chief education adviser to Pearson and former Downing Street adviser, said that online universities represented an overdue technological advance. "The models of higher education that marched triumphantly across the globe in the second half of the 20th Century require radical and urgent transformation. My fear is that the nature of change is incremental and the pace of change too slow. "The establishment of FutureLearn represents an important step in realising this change and seizing the opportunities technology offers in creating a broader, deeper and more exciting education system." Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: "I encourage all our institutions to explore the opportunities offered by new modes of technology, such as Moocs. This will keep the UK ahead in the global race to deliver education in worldwide markets."28 June 2013Last updated at 10:04 GMT UK forces begin transfer of Afghan detainees The Ministry of Defence says the first group of detainees captured by British forces in Afghanistan has been transferred to the Afghan authorities. Ten have been handed over and the MoD said it planned to transfer the remaining 82 from Camp Bastion "as soon as possible". However, legal challenges prevent the transfer of seven detainees. On Thursday, two men dropped challenges to their detention and can now be transferred, the High Court heard. The court confirmed that, subject to detainees confirming that they did not want legal representation, they could be transferred to the Afghan National Detention Facility, within the US Bagram airbase in Parwan province. Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said he was "very pleased" that the High Court had agreed to vary the ruling that blocked the transfer of the suspected insurgents, who are being held at Camp Bastion without charge. He said: "Terms have been agreed that will allow those detainees who have requested transfer to Afghan custody to be handed over. "Unfortunately, the injunction remains in place for some detainees who are still represented by human rights lawyers." Mr Hammond said UK forces had given the detainees telephone access to UK lawyers. 'Minded to withdraw' On Thursday, the two main plaintiffs cases in a High Court hearing in London due to start on 19 July dropped their challenge. The High Court was told that Niahmutullah Haqim and Mohammed Ismail were "happy to go". Seven other detainees involved in the hearing are to be contacted by their UK lawyers shortly to see whether they want to continue their legal challenge. The judge, Sir John Thomas, was told that another applicant - a Mr Yahyah - was also "minded to withdraw" from next month's High Court hearing. James Eadie QC, appearing for the Ministry of Defence, told the judge the case seemed "on the verge of disappearing". Transfer risks On Thursday night, the first 10 detainees were put on a plane to Parwan within an hour of confirming they wished to be transferred, the MoD said. The group is the first to be moved to an Afghan facility at Bagram airbase, about 700km (450 miles) from Camp Bastion. It is monitored by US forces, and the Ministry of Defence considers there is no risk of mistreatment. The transfer of detainees from the UK's main base in Afghanistan to Afghan authorities was banned in November by Mr Hammond because of fears that they would be abused. However, earlier this month he said that the facility at Parwan had received "positive reports" from humanitarian organisations. The MoD's plan to begin the transfer this week prompted lawyers acting for some of the detainees to apply successfully for an injunction from the High Court. Many of those being held are suspected of involvement in preparing, laying, or facilitating the use of roadside bombs against British forces, or have been picked up at the scenes of shootings of British soldiers.12 July 2013Last updated at 23:32 GMT UK forces in Afghanistan begin vast equipment salvage operation By Caroline WyattDefence correspondent, BBC News It is a car-wash with a difference. In 46.9C heat, British troops at the vehicle wash-down at Camp Bastion use pressure hoses to wash away the dust of Afghanistan from the many heavily-armoured vehicles brought in one by one over the years. And not just the dust - but the grime caked on after years of heavy use through Helmand's mud and sand. Each potential bug that might hitch a lift out of Helmand must be removed from every armoured vehicle before they can come home, under strict UK environmental rules. Lt Col Suzi Donoghue is commanding officer of the Theatre Logistics Group, made up of 550 service personnel. "All the muck has to come off to make sure the vehicles are up to the right standard, and free from explosives," she explains. "And sometimes the muck is almost like cement and it is chiselled on, so for my guys to remove all this takes a lot of time and a lot of effort." Reasonable prices All vehicles must pass a rigorous cleanliness inspection, followed by an engineering inspection, before they can go on to the last stage: a bio-wash, in which a sheen of liquid is applied to seal the process before the armoured vehicles - from Mastiffs to Ridgbacks to Huskies - are flown back. What is happening at Bastion, and across British bases in Helmand since October last year, is one of the biggest challenges for any armed force: getting out in good order towards the end of a campaign. This is deemed to be the biggest logistical exercise for UK forces since the Second World War. Already, 625 vehicles have been returned to the UK, and by the end of combat operations after 2014, almost 3,000 vehicles will have been sent back. And it is not just vehicles that are coming home. Everything worth salvaging is being collected, including some 400 tonnes of brass ammunition casings, which can be sold on at reasonable prices in the UK, as well as 100 pallets of ammunition boxes - valued at a quarter of a million pounds. A committee in the UK decides what is worth saving, and what should be left behind or gifted to Afghan forces. Scrap In Helmand, Air Commodore John Bessell is in charge of the move, as the Commander of Joint Force Support at Camp Bastion. He must ensure that packing up does not interfere with the ability of the 8,000 or so British forces in Afghanistan to fight or sustain themselves. The military still needs bullets, food for the dining halls, and water and ration packs for those in the bases that remain here, down to 13 from the original 137. "It's the logistical challenge of a generation, both in scale and complexity, and because of where we are - in a landlocked country," he says, as we walk around a Merlin helicopter that is packed and ready to be loaded onto a C17 to be flown back to the UK after four years in service here. "With each item, we look to see: is there a need for it here? If not, is there any sense bringing it back to the UK? What will it cost us to bring it back to the UK? If we keep it here, what can we do with it? What can we sell, what can we scrap? We balance all those factors together, in conjunction with our colleagues in the UK." Britain, like other Nato forces in Afghanistan, has the option of using several routes out. The vehicles, and any "warlike stores", are being flown out to the Gulf, on a two-and-a-half-hour flight, and then taken on to a port and out by sea. It is a route used for its security and reliability. ?300m bill Other supplies and less valuable goods are driven out of Afghanistan to Karachi port in Pakistan, then onto Marchwood military port in the UK. Another route now tried and tested is overland to Uzbekistan and then on to Riga in Latvia, from where cargo can also sail home. The journey for Britain's Merlin helicopters is a simpler one: a direct C17 flight to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, which takes about 10 hours. "We have a variety of routes we use to get the best value for money. There are frictions, but we pick the best and send things home as fast as we can," is as close as the Air Commodore gets to mentioning the on-off altercations with both Afghanistan and Pakistan's customs officers, which have held up Nato goods entering and now exiting the country on several occasions over the past years. However, materiel that is sensitive or must not fall into the Taliban's hands is always flown out. In total, the redeployment is expected to cost around ?300m, after well over a decade of British involvement in Afghanistan. The UK has also employed a commercial logistics firm, Agility, with the contract here run by a former head of the Royal Logistic Corps, Chris Murray, helping ensure the best prices are obtained for any military kit sold on abroad. "The key lesson as we were closing Bosnia is that you should think about redeployment on the day that you deploy. "If you're bringing equipment in, you start to plan for its recovery," he says. "The geography here meant it was terribly difficult to bring everything in and a lot of it came by air or over a fairly tortuous and dangerous line of communication and an awful lot of it is going back in exactly the same way. "Because it's also such a long way from home and landlocked it is very, very expensive to move things. So the lesson is: don't take rubbish home. "It's so expensive - and especially from Afghanistan - so if it's going to go into a skip, put it into a skip right here."27 June 2013Last updated at 23:33 GMT UK government backs three-person IVF By James GallagherHealth and science reporter, BBC News The UK looks set to become the first country to allow the creation of babies using DNA from three people, after the government backed the IVF technique. It will produce draft regulations later this year and the procedure could be offered within two years. Experts say three-person IVF could eliminate debilitating and potentially fatal mitochondrial diseases that are passed on from mother to child. Opponents say it is unethical and could set the UK on a "slippery slope". They also argue that affected couples could adopt or use egg donors instead. Mitochondria are the tiny, biological "power stations" that give the body energy. They are passed from a mother, through the egg, to her child. Defective mitochondria affect one in every 6,500 babies. This can leave them starved of energy, resulting in muscle weakness, blindness, heart failure and death in the most extreme cases. Research suggests that using mitochondria from a donor egg can prevent the diseases. It is envisaged that up to 10 couples a year would benefit from the treatment. However, it would result in babies having DNA from two parents and a tiny amount from a third donor as the mitochondria themselves have their own DNA. 'Clearly sensitive' Earlier this year, a public consultation by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) concluded there was "general support" for the idea and that there was no evidence that the advanced form of IVF was unsafe. The chief medical officer for England, Prof Dame Sally Davies, said: "Scientists have developed ground-breaking new procedures which could stop these disease being passed on, bringing hope to many families seeking to prevent their future children inheriting them. "It's only right that we look to introduce this life-saving treatment as soon as we can." She said there were "clearly some sensitive issues here" but said she was "personally very comfortable" with altering mitochondria. Scientists have devised two techniques that allow them to take the genetic information from the mother and place it into the egg of a donor with healthy mitochondria. The result is a baby with genetic information from three people. They would have more than 20,000 genes from their parents and 37 mitochondrial genes from a donor. It is a change that would have ramifications through the generations as scientists would be altering human genetic inheritance. Objections to the procedure have been raised ever since it was first mooted. Dr David King, the director of Human Genetics Alert, said: "These techniques are unnecessary and unsafe and were in fact rejected by the majority of consultation responses. 'Designer baby' "It is a disaster that the decision to cross the line that will eventually lead to a eugenic designer baby market should be taken on the basis of an utterly biased and inadequate consultation." One of the main concerns raised in the HFEA's public consultation was of a "slippery slope" which could lead to other forms of genetic modification. Draft regulations will be produced this year with a final version expected to be debated and voted on in Parliament during 2014. Newcastle University is pioneering one of the techniques that could be used for three-person IVF. Prof Doug Turnbull, the director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research at the university, said he was "delighted". He said: "This is excellent news for families with mitochondrial disease. "This will give women who carry these diseased genes more reproductive choice and the opportunity to have children free of mitochondrial disease. I am very grateful to all those who have supported this work." The fine details of the regulations are still uncertain, yet it is expected to be for only the most severe cases. It is also likely that children would have no right to know who the egg donor was and that any children resulting from the procedure would be monitored closely for the rest of their lives. Sir John Tooke, the president of the Academy of Medical Sciences, said: "Introducing regulations now will ensure that there is no avoidable delay in these treatments reaching affected families once there is sufficient evidence of safety and efficacy. "It is also a positive step towards ensuring the UK remains at the forefront of cutting-edge research in this area."16 July 2013Last updated at 13:54 GMT UK government excited by 'disruptive' Sabre engine The UK government is putting ?60m into the revolutionary Sabre engine, but its inventors will need about four times this sum to produce the final design. Discussions with private investors are now under way to secure the additional funding, says project leader Alan Bond. Sabre is a jet-cum-rocket that could, say its supporters, propel a fully re-usable space plane into orbit. Chancellor George Osborne has witnessed a display of its enabling technology, and is excited by the innovation. He intends to release ?35m in 2014-15 and a further ?25m in 2015-16 to help Mr Bond conclude the power unit's development phase. This would see the construction of a demonstration engine and a blueprint for manufacture. Mr Bond, the chief engineer at Reaction Engines Ltd (REL), said the next nine months should see the extra financing come together. "The value of the next phase of development is of the order of ?200m-plus, and the government's investment represents about 25% of the total. "I cannot go into detail at this time because it's commercially confidential, but I have every belief that the other investment will come along to support the programme," he told BBC News. The Sabre (Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine) concept is for a power unit that can operate like a jet turbine at low speed and then transition to a rocket mode at high speed. It would burn hydrogen and oxygen to provide thrust, but at low altitudes this oxygen would be taken straight from the atmosphere. The approach should save weight and allow Sabre to impel a space vehicle straight to orbit without the need for the multiple propellant stages seen in today's throw-away rockets. Crucial to the engine's performance, however, is a compact pre-cooler heat-exchanger that can take an incoming airstream from over 1,000C to -150C in less than 1/100th of a second. This pre-cooler module contains arrays of extremely fine piping that dump energy very efficiently but also avoid the frost build-up that might otherwise compromise their operation. A series of "proof of principle" experiments has passed an independent audit from European Space Agency (Esa) experts, and Mr Osborne himself has inspected the test rig on the Culham science park in Oxfordshire. The UK government's science minister, David Willetts, said he and Mr Osborne had been very impressed. "It is because of the clear evidence that Reaction Engines has passed crucial technical tests - that the principles have been established; that the technology has been proven - that the British government has taken this very significant decision to invest ?60m in REL. "The technologies that particularly interest us are disruptive technologies that can have a wide effect. "The experts have convinced me that this heat exchanger is not simply for use in the space industry - it has many other applications as well. I've been told, for example, that for desalination plants it could be of great significance." It is conceivable this technology might also be used within the atmosphere to shorten journey times from one side of the globe to the other. Brussels to Sydney could be done in four and a half hours by a Sabre-equipped airliner. This final phase of engine development should get under way in earnest at the start of next year, and, once again, it will be supported by Esa. The agency's propulsion experts will offer their insights on many technical aspects of the programme, but they plan also to provide due diligence to ensure REL delivers against milestones. The desire is to have a full set of engineering drawings completed by the end of 2017 that would enable a real flight model of Sabre to be manufactured. Before then, REL hopes also to have produced a ground demonstrator. "I always liken the demonstrator to a dissected rabbit, with all its organs spread out," explained Mr Bond. "It would not resemble a flight engine, but it will have all the correct features of a real engine, and it will show that it's controllable, that it's self-sustaining and indeed that it can simulate operation from take-off conditions." The head of Esa's mechanical engineering department, Constantinos Stavrinidis, said the agency took the view that Sabre was a realisable technology, but that it might be some years yet before the engine got into the skies. "It took a while before steamships took over from clippers; it took a while before jet engines took over from propellers. But I'm convinced this is the last frontier: utilising oxygen from the atmosphere. This technology - the heat exchanger - has demonstrated that it can work," he told BBC News. Sabre engine: How the recent "proof of principle" experiments were conducted27 September 2013Last updated at 20:23 GMT UK government's Greenpeace crew help "disappointing" The father of a Greenpeace videographer held in Russia is "disappointed" the UK government has not done more to help six Britons held there. Kieron Bryan, 29, has been in custody since 21 September when armed officials stormed the ship Arctic Sunrise. He is among 30 of the crew who face up to two months in custody on suspicion of piracy after two campaigners scaled an offshore drilling platform But the British government said it was providing assistance. Mr Bryan, who is a freelance video producer, is one of three members of the crew with links to Devon currently being held in Russia. Kieron's father Andy Bryan, from Shebbear in Devon, said: "We are quite shocked at the actions the Russians have taken against what is a peaceful organisation. "We were hoping the situation would be higher profile, given there are six Brits in the group. Mr Bryan said he was not aware of any statement or information being issued by the government, which he said he was "surprised and disappointed" about. A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said: "We are providing consular assistance to all six British nationals arrested in connection to the protest by Greenpeace. 'Piracy' inquiry "Consular officials have travelled to Murmansk, raised the issue with Russian authorities and are providing support to the British nationals and liaising with Greenpeace." Alex Harris, 27, who was brought up in Devon, and engineer Iain Rogers, 37, from Exeter, are also being held. Alex's father Cliff Harris, of Winkleigh in Devon, said he was prepared to fly out to Russia if it would help. However, he added he would not be allowed to see his daughter if he did jet out to the country. "She is putting on a brave face but must be going through a terrifying experience at the moment," he said. Coastguards arrested the crew on suspicion of piracy after two people climbed an offshore drilling platform in the Arctic. The activists, who hail from 18 countries in total, are being held in Murmansk in northern Russia. Greenpeace said they were staging a legal, peaceful protest. Mr Harris said "We never expected this sort of reaction from the Russian authorities." Miss Harris, who now lives in Australia, has been working for Greenpeace for about two years as a digital communications worker. Her father said: "She was just looking forward to seeing polar bears and never thought for one minute this sort of thing would happen." Miss Harris sent an email to her parents from a Russian consular office on Thursday saying: "Hi all, still OK. Will get in touch when I can. "Don't worry. I just need some fresh air." Mr Harris said: "She has always been passionate about the environment. "This was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration so this is a totally over-the-top way of handling it by the Russian authorities. "When she heard the news she was going to detained for two months she broke down a little bit, Greenpeace has told us. "She is not a terrorist. She is not a bad person at all. "She has followed her heart and is doing what she wants to do and she has our support." Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the activists are clearly "not pirates" but had broken international law. The charge of piracy carries a prison term of up to 15 years in Russia. Vladimir Markin, spokesman for Russia's Investigative Committee - its equivalent of the FBI - said there was a possibility that the remand orders would be lifted early as investigators clarified what roles those detained had played in the protest. Under Russian law the prosecution can ask a judge to detain people pending further investigation.28 August 2013Last updated at 18:58 GMT UK government's Syria motion in full Downing Street earlier published the UK government's motion on Syria, which proposed waiting for a UN Security Council decision before MPs vote on any military action. The motion reads: "This House: "Deplores the use of chemical weapons in Syria on 21 August 2013 by the Assad regime, which caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries of Syrian civilians; "Recalls the importance of upholding the worldwide prohibition on the use of chemical weapons under international law; "Agrees that a strong humanitarian response is required from the international community and that this may, if necessary, require military action that is legal, proportionate and focused on saving lives by preventing and deterring further use of Syria's chemical weapons; "Notes the failure of the United Nations Security Council over the last two years to take united action in response to the Syrian crisis; "Notes that the use of chemical weapons is a war crime under customary law and a crime against humanity - and that the principle of humanitarian intervention provides a sound legal basis for taking action; "Notes the wide international support for such a response, including the statement from the Arab League on 27 August which calls on the international community, represented in the United Nations Security Council, to 'overcome internal disagreements and take action against those who committed this crime, for which the Syrian regime is responsible'; "Believes, in spite of the difficulties at the United Nations, that a United Nations process must be followed as far as possible to ensure the maximum legitimacy for any such action; "Therefore welcomes the work of the United Nations investigating team currently in Damascus. Whilst noting that the team's mandate is to confirm whether chemical weapons were used and not to apportion blame, agrees that the United Nations Secretary General should ensure a briefing to the United Nations Security Council immediately upon the completion of the team's initial mission; "Believes that the United Nations Security Council must have the opportunity immediately to consider that briefing and that every effort should be made to secure a Security Council Resolution backing military action before any such action is taken. Before any direct British involvement in such action a further vote of the House of Commons will take place. "Notes that this motion relates solely to efforts to alleviate humanitarian suffering by deterring use of chemical weapons and does not sanction any action in Syria with wider objectives."2 October 2013Last updated at 12:53 GMT UK housebuilding activity expanding at a near 10-year high, survey shows UK housebuilding activity grew last month at its fastest pace for almost a decade, a survey has suggested. The for September was 64.8, just below 64.9 in November 2003. The index for construction overall was 58.9 last month, a slight dip from 59.1 reached in August, but still well above the 50 threshold that separates expansion from contraction. Markit also found more optimism about the sector's future growth. The 64.8 mark for residential housebuilding in September was also a big rise on the 61.1 seen the month before. "Construction is no longer the weakest link in the UK economy," said Tim Moore, senior economist at Markit. "The third quarter of 2013 ended with output growth riding high amid greater spending on infrastructure projects and resurgent house building activity." Among managers surveyed, 51% expected output would rise over the next 12 months, with 9% predicting a fall, the highest level of confidence since August 2010. Managers reported that job creation also rose for the fourth straight month. "Having been in the doldrums for so long, builders are using this renewal as a platform to invest, with employment seeing the most dramatic upturn in close to six years," said David Noble, chief executive at the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply. PMI data published on Tuesday indicated that UK manufacturing activity grew at a slower rate than expected in September, but also showed employment picking up.9 September 2011Last updated at 04:34 GMT UK joins laser nuclear fusion project By Jason PalmerScience and technology reporter, BBC News The UK has formally joined forces with a US laser lab in a bid to develop clean energy from nuclear fusion. Unlike fission plants, the process uses lasers to compress atomic nuclei until they join, releasing energy. The National Ignition Facility (Nif) in the US is drawing closer to producing a surplus of energy from the idea. The UK company AWE and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory have now joined with Nif to help make laser fusion a viable commercial energy source. At a and held at London's Royal Society, a memorandum of understanding was announced between the three facilities. The meeting attracted scientists and industry members in an effort to promote wider UK involvement with the technology that would be required to make laser fusion energy plants possible. "This is an absolutely classic example of the connections between really high-grade theoretical scientific research, business and commercial opportunities, and of course a fundamental human need: tackling pressures that we're all familiar with on our energy supply," said David Willetts, the UK's science minister. The idea of harvesting energy from nuclear fusion is an old one. The UK has a long heritage in a different approach to accomplishing the same goal, which uses magnetic fields; it is home to the Joint European Torus (Jet), the largest such magnetic facility in the world and a testing ground for Iter, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. But magnetic fusion attempts have in recent years met , just as Nif was nearing completion. Part of the problem has been that the technical ability to reach "breakeven" - the point at which more energy is produced than is consumed - has always seemed distant. Detractors of the idea have asserted that "fusion energy is 50 years away, no matter what year you ask". But Mr Willetts told the meeting that was changing. "I think that what's going on both in the UK and in the US shows that we are now making significant progress on this technology," he said. "It can't any longer be dismissed as something on the far distant horizon." The Rutherford Appleton Lab is where the idea of fusion energy was first proved, and both that laboratory and the AWE play host to high-intensity lasers that can act as proving grounds for future technology. Ignition keys The laser fusion idea uses pellets of fuel made of isotopes of hydrogen called deuterium and tritium. A number of lasers are fired at the pellets in order to compress the fuel to just hundredths of its starting size. In the process, the hydrogen nuclei fuse to create helium and fast-moving subatomic particles called neutrons whose energy, in the form of heat, can be captured and used for the comparatively old-fashioned idea of driving a steam turbine. The aim is to achieve "ignition" of the fuel for which Nif is named - a self-sustaining fusion reaction that would far surpass breakeven. Nif's director Ed Moses told the meeting that ignition was drawing ever nearer. "Our goal is to have ignition within the next couple of years," he said. "We've done fusion at fairly high levels already. Even on Sunday night, we did the highest fusion yield that has ever been done." Dr Moses said that a single shot from the Nif's laser - the largest in the world - released a million billion neutrons and produced for a tiny fraction of a second more power than the world was consuming. But for ignition, that number would need to rise by about a factor of 1,000. The UK leads the High-Power Laser Energy Research (Hiper), a pan-European project begun in 2005 to move laser fusion technology toward a commercial plant. "We recognised several years ago with Nif... and the ignition that was likely to occur, that the profile of fusion would be raised," said John Collier, the director of Hiper. "We were thinking: 'what would be a way forward, how could Europe define a strategic route for laser power production to take advantage of these developments?' And that was the kernel of Hiper." Both Hiper and Life, a similar effort at Nif, estimate that a functioning laser power plant would need to cycle through more than 10 fuel pellets each second - a million each day. Nif, since its completion in 2009, has undertaken only 305 such shots in its quest for ignition. Professor Collier said the technological challenges that presented were incredible opportunities. "The BMW plant in Oxford is producing one Mini a minute - you think of the complexity of that and you wouldn't think that's possible," he said. "But these are tractable things; Lego bricks, bullets - these things are made in huge quantities and there are huge intellectual property opportunities for those people, those industries that get in."1 October 2013Last updated at 09:33 GMT UK manufacturing continues to grow in September UK manufacturing grew for the sixth consecutive month in September, a survey has indicated, and recorded its strongest quarterly performance for two and a half years. The slipped to 56.7 last month from August's 57.1, but was still above the 50-mark indicating expansion. Growth in output and new orders remained close to August's 19-year high. But export business growth was weak. "UK manufacturing continues to boom. These numbers are encouraging in respect to the rebalancing of the economy, with goods production likely to provide a major stimulus to economic growth in the third quarter," said Rob Dobson, senior economist at Markit. The only weak point in the survey was the slower rise in export orders, which Mr Dobson said was disappointing. "We would expect to be seeing far stronger export gains than companies are currently reporting, especially with the eurozone showing signs of finally pulling out of recession," Mr Dobson said. Both employment and prices rose at their fastest pace in two years, suggesting the UK's economic recovery is gathering steam. Lee Hopley, chief economist at EEF, the manufacturers' organisation, said the figures marked another "solid month" for manufacturing. "Output, orders and employment (are) all up, paving the way for a decent quarter of growth across the sector." Manufacturing accounts for 10% of the UK economy. The sector grew 0.9% in the three months to June, helping the economy as a whole to grow 0.7%. Many economists are forecasting a faster pace of economic growth in the third quarter. "Continued strength in the manufacturing sector will add to the belief that the UK's economy is becoming more 'broad-based', as we progress through the year," said Jeremy Cook, chief economist at currency broker World First.3 October 2013Last updated at 16:17 GMT UK regrets The Gambia's withdrawal from Commonwealth The Gambia's decision to withdraw from the Commonwealth 48 years after joining is something to "very much regret", the UK Foreign Office has said. The west African nation branded the 54-member grouping, which includes the UK and most of its former colonies, a "neo-colonial institution". The withdrawal was announced on state TV but no other reasons were given. Two years ago President Yahya Jammeh accused the UK of backing his political opposition ahead of elections. Commonwealth officials said they only heard about the move through the media and had not yet been contacted by The Gambia. A spokesman said Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma had seen the reports with "dismay and disappointment" and had asked for "clarification" from the country. There is a history of tension between President Jammeh, who came to power in a 1994 coup, and the UK. Earlier this year, a singled out The Gambia for its human rights record, citing cases of unlawful detentions, illegal closures of newspapers and discrimination against minority groups. On Thursday a Foreign Office spokesman said: "Decisions on Commonwealth membership are a matter for each member government. We would very much regret Gambia, or any other country, deciding to leave the Commonwealth." In August last year The Gambia was criticised by Amnesty International and others for executing nine prisoners by firing squad. 'Colonialism extension' The Commonwealth was founded in 1931 but acquired its modern shape after 1949 as former British colonies and protectorates, including The Gambia, started to achieve self-government and varying degrees of independence. According to the Commonwealth's charter, member states should communicate and co-operate "in the common interests of our peoples and in the promotion of international understanding and world peace". In its statement, The Gambian government said it had "withdrawn its membership of the British Commonwealth". It said it had "decided that The Gambia will never be a member of any neo-colonial institution and will never be a party to any institution that represents an extension of colonialism". But Bakary Dabo, former vice president of The Gambia and chairman of the country's campaign for democratic change, said people there are generally "very happy" to be part of the Commonwealth. He said the government had recently begun "picking up war against poorly specified enemies called 'western powers'". Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Dabo said this rhetoric had "accelerated" in recent years and been used when President Jammeh gave a "rambling" speech at the United Nations General Assembly last month Aids claim Also at the UN, President Jammeh said homosexuality was one of the three "biggest threats to human existence". He has also drawn international criticism for claiming he can cure Aids with a herbal body rub and bananas. BBC Africa analyst Farouk Chothia said despite its image as an idyllic holiday destination, The Gambia, and its population of less than two million, were kept under tight control by its eccentric leader. The latest decision was bound to come from him, our analyst added. The Royal Commonwealth Society, an education charity which works in Commonwealth countries, said The Gambia's announcement was unexpected and appeared to be undemocratic. Society director Michael Lake said President Jammeh had made the decision "without consulting The Gambia's people" and the country's withdrawal would be "a loss felt by both its people and the wider Commonwealth network". He added: "Far from being a 'neo-colonial institution', the modern Commonwealth operates on a consensus model and its voluntary membership is predicated primarily on a country's commitment to upholding shared values and principles." The last time a nation left the Commonwealth was in 2003, when Zimbabwe withdrew. The Queen, who is 87, is the head of the Commonwealth, which holds its next heads of government meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka, next month. However, the gathering will be the first that the Queen has not attended since 1971. She will send her son, the Prince of Wales instead. Buckingham Palace said she would make fewer overseas trips because of her age. Three African countries have joined the Commonwealth in recent years. after applying for membership the previous year, while Cameroon and Mozambique became members in 1995.14 March 2013Last updated at 07:13 GMT UK Seabed Resources joins deep-ocean mineral-mining rush A new and controversial frontier in mining is opening up as a British firm joins a growing rush to exploit minerals in the depths of the oceans. UK Seabed Resources is a subsidiary of the British arm of Lockheed Martin. It has plans for a major prospecting operation in the Pacific. The company says surveys have revealed huge numbers of so-called nodules - small lumps of rock rich in valuable metals - lying on the ocean floor south of Hawaii and west of Mexico. The exact value of these resources is impossible to calculate reliably, but a leading UN official described the scale of mineral deposits in the world's oceans as "staggering" with "several hundred years' worth of cobalt and nickel". An expedition to assess the potential environmental impact of extracting the nodules will be launched this summer amid concerns that massive "vacuuming" operations to harvest the nodules might cause lasting damage to ecosystems. With the support of the British government, UK Seabed Resources has secured a licence from the United Nations to explore an area of seabed twice the size of Wales and 4,000m deep. Under the , mining rights on the ocean floor are controlled by a little-known body, the , which since 2001 has issued 13 licences - with another six in prospect. These licences, valid for 15 years, have been bought for $500,000 each by government organisations, state-owned corporations and private companies from countries including China, India, Russia, Japan and South Korea. The high prices fetched for copper, gold and rare-earth minerals are leading to a surge in interest in mining the ocean floor. The idea first surfaced in the 1970s but was dropped because the costs were too high and the technology could not cope. The nodules are known to contain up to 28% metal - 10 times the proportion found on land. A similarly high metal content is found in another target for seabed mining: hydrothermal vents, chimneys formed by extremely hot water, rich in minerals. We reported on the last month. Stephen Ball, chief executive officer of Lockheed Martin UK, owner of UK Seabed Resources, says the engineering experience of offshore oil and gas operations and the trend to rising mineral prices have now combined to make seabed mining feasible. "It's another source of minerals - there's a shortage and there's difficulty getting access, so there's strategic value for the UK government in getting an opportunity to get these minerals," he told the BBC. China's domination of the global production of rare-earth minerals in particular has fuelled the search for other sources of materials essential for everything from electronics to wind turbines. But many marine scientists and conservationists have warned that the implications of this deep-sea gold rush are not yet understood - and that mining nodules or hydrothermal vents could prove catastrophic for seabed ecology. Mr Ball said exploration over the next three years would establish whether a system to vacuum up the nodules could be designed to cause minimal impact. The nodules typically lie in a shallow layer of silt. He said he believed it would be "perfectly feasible to create a benign method to extract these minerals from extreme depths without disturbing the seabed." "But until we've demonstrated that, there will be a debate around that." One risk is that the mining operations could generate huge plumes of sediment that could drift through the sea - choking any marine life that feeds by ingesting water and filtering out its food sources. Michael Lodge, general counsel for the International Seabed Authority, told me that the authority's aim was to encourage a new mining industry to exploit seabed minerals but within strict environmental controls. "The nodules are generally lying in sediment that is between 2-6in (5-15cm) thick that's been there undisturbed for millions of years. We simply don't know the recovery times or the distribution of species - there are lots of uncertainties." He described mining hydrothermal vents as "more invasive" because it would involve breaking up the uppermost metre of the sea floor and piping the rock fragments to the surface. Cold War heritage A Canadian company, Nautilus Minerals, is hoping to be the pioneer of vent mining with plans for operations off the coast of Papua New Guinea. However, work is currently delayed because of a legal dispute. The concern is for the impact mining could have on ecosystems Nautilus would use massive robotic machines, which are being built in Wallsend, near Newcastle-upon-Tyne, by a firm with long experience of marine engineering, Soil Machine Dynamics. Nautilus says that it is devising strategies for minimising the environmental impact, by trying to contain any disturbed sediment and leaving parts of the seabed untouched so the mined area can be recolonised by marine life. A leading biologist, Professor Cindy Van Dover of Duke University in North Carolina, has carried out research for Nautilus and says life might recover after a single mining event but that no-one can be sure. "How do we do this so a hundred years from now somebody doesn't look back at us - at me - and say 'Oh my God, I can't believe they were so stupid and let this happen in a particular way'. "So how do we do it right? How do we do it sustainably? Michael Lodge has also said questions will remain about profitability while the final terms of mining licences are settled. The authority was set up to encourage and manage this new sector but any future business, such as the Lockheed Martin subsidiary UK Seabed Resources, will have to pay royalties to the authority to be distributed to developing countries. The exact details have still to be negotiated. Research into seabed minerals has a long and slightly conspiratorial history, starting in the Cold War with the United States and the Soviet Union surveying the oceans ahead of possible future conflict. Surveys of seabed nodules in 1970s were also used as a cover by the US for the secret retrieval of a lost Soviet submarine. Now, the legacy of all that research and exploration is the growing likelihood of large-scale mining operations, fuelled by rising mineral prices, in many parts of the ocean in the coming decades.3 October 2013Last updated at 10:59 GMT UK services growth reaches 16-year high Activity in the UK services sector grew at its fastest pace since 1997 in the third quarter of the year, a closely-watched survey has indicated. The said the rise was due to growth in financial services, bolstered by the housing market, and the business sector. The survey raises hopes that the economy as a whole saw strong growth in the July-to-September period. The PMI survey showed services continued to grow strongly last month. The activity index for the sector recorded 60.3 in September, which was marginally down from August's near seven-year high of 60.5. Any score above 50 indicates growth. 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Tim Yeo, chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Committee, said: "It is still too soon to call whether shale gas will provide the silver bullet needed to solve our energy problems. "Although the US shale gas has seen a dramatic fall in domestic gas prices, a similar 'revolution' here is not certain." Tony Bosworth, from Friends of the Earth, responded: "This does little to back the case for a UK shale gas revolution. "Fracking is dirty and unnecessary ?C it's little wonder so many communities are in opposition. We should be building an affordable power system based on our abundant clean energy from the wind, waves and sun.?? 'Front and centre' And Jenny Banks from WWF-UK said: "It's simply impossible to keep global warming below 2C and burn all known fossil fuel reserves ?C let alone exploit unconventional reserves like shale gas. "In other words, the climate impacts of new fossil fuel developments must be front and centre of any decision on shale gas, not a secondary concern." But the government's chief energy scientist, David MacKay, has warned that the UK would need to increase its nuclear fleet four-fold or its wind energy 20-fold to decarbonise heavy industry. Both these options appear improbable, so the government is most likely to continue to give gas a prominent role in its energy strategy. Ken Cronin, chief executive of the UK Onshore Operators Group, said: "The industry is pleased that the Committee supports our view that community engagement is key to public acceptance of shale gas exploration and that communities should share in the benefits of development."27 June 2013Last updated at 14:23 GMT UK shale gas resources 'greater than thought' UK shale gas resources may be far greater than previously thought, a report for the government says. The British Geological Survey estimates there may be 1,300 trillion cubic feet of shale gas present in the north of England - double previous estimates. Meanwhile the government has announced measures to enable shale gas drilling as part of its infrastructure plans. Energy Minister Michael Fallon described shale gas as "an exciting new energy resource". The BGS said its estimate for shale gas resources in the Bowland Basin region, which stretches from Cheshire to Yorkshire, represented potential resources, but "not the gas that might be possible to extract". "Shale gas clearly has potential in Britain but it will require geological and engineering expertise, investment and protection of the environment," it said. Drilling companies have previously estimated that they may be able to extract around 10% of this gas - equivalent to around 130 trillion cubic feet. 'Early days' If the estimates are proved correct, that would still suggest recoverable reserves of shale gas far in excess of the three trillion cubic feet of gas currently consumed in the UK each year. Shale gas is extracted through "fracking" - the controversial process of freeing trapped gas by pumping in a mixture of water, sand and chemicals. The process has helped boost the domestic energy industry in the US in recent years, where oil production has risen and gas prices have plummeted. , the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: "Though it is early days for shale in the UK, it has the potential to contribute to the UK's energy security, increase inward investment and growth." The government has unveiled a package of reforms to encourage development in the industry. They include new planning guidelines to make the process of approving new drilling sites more streamlined, and a consultation on tax incentives to encourage exploration. Communities affected by shale gas drilling are also expected to receive ?100,000 in "community benefits" and 1% of production revenues, should sites start producing gas. "Shale gas represents an exciting new potential energy resource for the UK, and could play an important part in our energy mix," said Energy Minister Michael Fallon "Development must be done in partnership with local people. We welcome the commitments from industry on community benefits. "This will provide a welcome boost for communities who will host shale exploration and production as well as offering strong assurances that operators will engage with them and work to the highest health, safety and environmental standards." He said communities hosting shale gas drilling could benefit from cheaper bills, regeneration schemes and new community facilities like playgrounds and sports halls. The incentives are designed to overcome significant scepticism surrounding the process of fracking, which has generated environmental concerns. Critics argue that it can cause earth tremors and pollute water supplies, and that shale gas wells could blight the countryside and affect house prices. They also want investment in green energy sources, rather than fossil fuels. Labour's shadow energy minister, Tom Greatrex, conceded that gas would remain "an important part of our energy mix in the future". But he dismissed the announcement of incentives as "a desperate attempt to draw attention away from the government's cuts to infrastructure investment... and its abject failure to get the economy growing". Power warning Currently the UK's shale industry remains in its infancy, with relatively small energy companies such as IGas and Cuadrilla until recently the only firms with licences to explore share gas resources. Centrica, the owner of British Gas, announced its intention to buy a stake in one licence in the Bowland Basin owned by Cuadrilla earlier this month. The report for the government comes as energy regulator has increased because excess capacity in the power industry has fallen in the UK. The watchdog has twice warned in recent months that the amount of spare power is shrinking, partly due to some gas generators being taken out of service. Centrica has already withdrawn two of its gas plants from operation. In April, SSE confirmed that it too would mothball gas plants and put off investments in new ones. Adam Scorer, of the lobby group Consumer Futures, said: "Projections of ever-tighter capacity margins understandably raise fears of higher electricity prices. "Government and regulator need to agree on the most realistic capacity scenarios, the least-cost ways of reducing demand and, where necessary, of incentivising new generation capacity." Announcing further details of the government's spending review to parliament, Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander said the government had agreed "strike prices" in an effort to boost investment in renewable forms of energy. 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