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Education bill backs India's poor

The Indian government has introduced a bill in parliament to force private universities admit fixed numbers of students from traditionally disadvantaged low castes and tribes. The government wants to amend the constitution which already obliges state-supported colleges reserve places for the country's poorest communities. This report from Mark Dummett:

The congress-led government wants to extend affirmative action for the lowest members of India's hierarchical caste system to private universities. It wants the many independent business, technical and medical colleges to reserve places for students from the traditionally discriminated against and impoverished tribal communities and low castes, also known as Dalits or Untouchables. Government colleges already admit more than a fifth of their students from these groups.

To change the law, the government needs to amend India's constitution, where protection of the so-called scheduled castes and tribes is enshrined. It needs a two-thirds majority to do so, but the main opposition BJP Party, says it won't support the bill unless colleges run by religious minorities like the Muslims, are also included. Some private colleges are also opposed, saying they fear a drop in standards if the law is changed.

Israel's Prime Minister in hospital

Israel's Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, was taken to hospital in Jerusalem last night. He's said to have suffered a mild stroke. But with Israel's general election only three months away, the question now is whether Mr Sharon's health will be a problem. This report from James Menendez:

A hospital spokesman told the BBC that Ariel Sharon had a comfortable night at the Hadassah hospital here in Jerusalem. He's now awake and undergoing further tests and scans, the spokesman said. Mr Sharon was brought into hospital last night and found to have suffered a mild stroke. He's expected to stay for at least another day or so while he undergoes treatment.

The prime minister's political advisors have been keen to stress that he's still running the government and that there's no question of him resigning. But there's little chance that the issue of Ariel Sharon's health will now go away. Israel's general election is just three months away - an election which Mr Sharon recently announced he would fight for a new political party: Kadima. Up until now, Ariel Sharon has been Kadima's biggest electoral asset. He won't want to become a political liability.

Polish anger at EU budget plans

EU newcomer, Poland, is following budget talks in Brussels with close interest. The Polish media has expressed anger at British proposals to cut EU funds to its poorer new members. But there's also surprise at the Polish government's decision to side with France. Adam Easton reports.

Many of today's headlines focus on the new alliance with France. The Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper writes Poland teams up with France against stingy Great Britain. Just two weeks ago, it adds, the Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, told his British counterpart Tony Blair in London, that Poland considers the UK its closest European ally. Now the paper's main headline reads, We love the French again.

The u-turn is particularly surprising because Warsaw and Paris fell out badly over the war in Iraq which Poland supported. Then the French President Jacques Chirac said Poland had missed a good opportunity to shut up. Calling the alliance a spectacular change of strategy, the Rzeczpospolita broadsheet prints a translation of the joint letter the Polish and French foreign ministers sent to Thursday's Financial Times newspaper. That letter said Britain had championed EU enlargement and it should be prepared to cover its costs.

Elsewhere, a prominent opposition politician, Jan Rokita, says the government shouldn't be afraid of vetoing the budget if Poland is offered less than the 60 billion euros on the table six months ago.

Final round of Aceh disarmament

Rebels in the Indonesian province of Aceh are handing in the last of their weapons as part of a peace agreement signed between rebels of the free Aceh movement and the Indonesian government. Itís hoped this will be the end of twenty six years of fighting. Rachel Harvey reports.

In theory the deadline for the decommissioning of rebel weapons is the end of the year but there's always been another date in mind. December the 26th, the anniversary of the tsunami disaster which destroyed huge swathes of Aceh and killed an estimated hundred and sixty thousand people. It was the tsunami which prompted the two sides to get back to the negotiating table.

So far the peace process has gone far more smoothly than anyone expected but there are major obstacles ahead. The first is integrating former rebels back into civilian life. The other is the political future of the province. Under the terms of the agreement the free Aceh movement should be allowed to form a local political party but that requires a change in the law which must be approved by parliament in Jakarta. It's likely to be a lengthy and potentially acrimonious process.

But an event due to take place on Wednesday evening shows how much things have already changed in Aceh. The international monitors overseeing the decommissioning process have challenged the rebels to a football match. Rachel Harvey, BBC news, Jakarta

Cubans remember John Lennon's music

Hundreds of Cubans attended a concert on Sunday to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of John Lennon. Lennon's music, and that of the Beatles, remains very popular in Cuba, but it was disapproved of by the island's communist leadership in the 1960s. This report from Stephen Gibbs:

For some in the crowd, this was an extraordinary event, a reminder of just how much things can change. As the fans sang along to some Beatles classics performed by Cuban musicians, many remembered the days when such an act would have been considered almost counter-revolutionary.


It was prohibited, said this woman, who says she well recalls secretly listening to Beatles recordings in the 1970s.

Just how much the times have changed could be seen from the setting of this concert. It was held in Havana's John Lennon Park, in front of a statue to the former musician which was unveiled five years ago. In the crowd was none other than Ricardo Alarcon, president of Cuba's national assembly. He says he's been a lifelong Beatles fan. He insists that the group was never banned in Cuba, just misunderstood by Cuban officials.


As time passed by, Lennon's dimension has grown, not only here but everywhere and I think that today, he's a real symbol of a better world.

Remembering war dead

In Britain thousands of war veterans have held their annual service of remembrance. Queen Elizabeth The Second led the ceremony in central London and was joined by politicians and representatives of the commonwealth countries. This report from Greg Morsbach.

Under a grey November sky, military and civilian survivors of Britain's wars gathered at the Cenotaph memorial to remember those who died in past conflicts.

At the first stroke of Big Ben at 11 o' clock GMT on this cold morning, the crowd observed a two minute silence. A bugler sounded the Last Post. Then the Queen laid a wreath of blood red poppies at the foot of the stone memorial.

Thousands of men and women, young and old, many with war medals pinned to their suits marched past the Cenotaph and saluted Prince Charles as they walked down the government district of Whitehall. Senior military officer, Air Chief Marshall, Jock Stirrup, was at the ceremony. "This day is not just about the Second World War, or about the First World War. It's about the sacrifice and the contribution of so many people over the years, right up until the present day."

On the outskirts of the Iraqi city of Basra, British soldiers paused for a moment. Thousands of kilometres away from home their thoughts turned towards those they left behind, both on the battlefield and at home in Britain.

Riots continue across France

There was slightly less violence in cities across France on Tuesday night. The government's emergency plan has now come into effect, allowing states of emergency to be declared in certain areas. This report from Alasdair Sandford:

Fewer cars were torched around the country on Tuesday night - just over six hundred - but there were many arrests, according to a spokesman for the Interior Minister. The Paris area was relatively calm but there was trouble in cities like Toulouse and Lyon. The government's emergency decree allowing for widespread new police powers is now in force. Many cities may now impose curfews if the authorities see fit.

The far right leader of the National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, has told the BBC the violence is the consequence of large scale immigration. He's called for troublemakers to have their French nationality withdrawn. The French international footballer, Lilian Thuram, in Martinique where he's due to play for his country later on Wednesday, has criticised the Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, for describing some people on troubled housing estates as scum.

Olympic torch controversy

Organisers of the 2006 Winter Olympics, centred on Turin in northern Italy, are facing the prospect of potentially embarrassing protests over the Games' sponsorship by the American soft drinks giant, Coca Cola. This report from Mark Duff:

With just three months to go the Turin Games' organisers would have hoped to have put most of their headaches behind them. Not so: the last few weeks have seen fresh doubts emerge about the extent of Italian government funding for the Games, as well as heightened fears about possible terrorist attacks, and, most recently, threats by environmentalists to disrupt the games in protest at a new high speed rail link being built between Turin and the French city of Lyon.

Now, the Olympic torch itself is at the centre of a row over Coca Cola's sponsorship of the Games. It's due to start its journey from Rome to Turin next month for the Games' opening ceremony on February the 10th. But even before it's left, two municipal councils in Rome have decided to ban it from passing through their streets in protest at what they say is the bad treatment of Coca Cola workers in Colombia. The leaders of the campaign say more than three hundred other councillors across Italy back them.

The Games' organisers say there simply isn't time to change the torch's path to avoid possible problems. In exasperation, the president of the region which includes Turin has urged the mayor of Rome to, in her words, make the protesting councillors see sense.

Rabid Vampire Bats attack humans in Brazil

Health authorities in northern Brazil are trying to deal with increasing numbers of attacks on humans by vampire bats. More than 1,300 people have been treated for rabies after being bitten by the bats and during the last 2 months, 23 people have died. This report from Tom Gibb:

It's not the first time there's been a wave of attacks by vampire bats in the Amazon, but the authorities say this latest outbreak is unusually serious. Sixteen people died of rabies last month after being bitten by bats in an area of marshlands in the northern state of Maranhao. Seven more have died this month in another municipality of the same state.

Health authorities say they've treated more than thirteen hundred people for rabies after being attacked by vampire bats, almost always at night in their houses. In the affected areas, people have been trying to fill gaps in the walls of their huts with banana leaves to stop the bats getting in.

Some experts have blamed the attacks on destruction of the rainforest, denying the bats of their natural habitat. But others have suggested the vampire bat population may have grown rapidly with the spread of cattle farming in the region providing an ample food supply. Mass attacks on humans have occurred in other cattle regions in Latin America when the cattle are suddenly removed, denying the bats their normal food. The bats drink the blood of other mammals while they're asleep. They're the main carriers of rabies in Brazil.

A test to be British

About ninety thousand adults apply to become British citizens every year. Now each and every one of them will have to take a written test before they can qualify as citizens. This report from Paul Keller

For years those becoming British citizens simply had to swear an oath of allegiance in front of a lawyer and then receive a certificate in the post. But in 2004 Britain introduced a compulsory citizenship ceremony which required new citizens to take a broader oath promising to respect Britain's rights, freedoms and laws and all of this in front of civic dignitaries dressed in full regalia. Now the government is going even further: it's launching a test designed to establish knowledge of the country and its language.

The test contains twenty-four questions on life in the United Kingdom and will last for 45 minutes. If applicants don't pass the first time they can try again and again. The questions range from simple tests of knowledge such as - what's the minimum age for buying alcohol? To exploring more complex cultural issues - How interested are young people in politics? The government believes the test is part of a process that will help new citizens to feel they belong and ease racial tension by removing suspicion of immigrants.

Supporters point to other countries which have similar schemes - particularly the United States where citizenship classes and ceremonies have long been common practice. Opponents however say it's all too nationalistic and puts undue pressure on newcomers to conform, working against the efforts to build a multi-cultural society in Britain.

Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks dies

Rosa Lee Parks, whose refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man started the US civil rights movement in the mid 1950s, has died at the age of ninety-two. Her cause was supported by a little known Reverend, Martin Luther King Jnr. This report from Laura Trevelyan:

Rosa Lee Parks was forty-two years old when she made history. She was sitting on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama, one day in 1955 when a white man demanded her seat. Mrs Parks refused, defying the rules which required blacks to give up their seats to whites. She was arrested and fined. Her treatment triggered a three hundred and eighty one day boycott of the bus system, organised by the Reverend Martin Luther King Junior. The Montgomery bus boycott marked the birth of the civil rights movement. Seven years later, Rosa Parks recalled that momentous day:

The driver said that if I refused to leave the seat, he would have to call the police and I told him just call the police, which he did and when they came, they placed me under arrest.

Wasn't that a pretty frightening thing, to be arrested in Montgomery, Alabama?

No, I wasn't afraid at all.

You weren't frightened, why weren't you frightened?

I don't know why I wasn't, but I didn't feel afraid. I had decided that I would have to know once and for all what rights I had as a human being and a citizen, even in Montgomery, Alabama.

Her public stance made her a symbol of the civil rights movement, but it also made it hard for her to get work in Alabama. She and her husband, Raymond, moved to Detroit, where she worked as an aide in a Democratic Congressman's office. Upon her retirement, Mrs Parks devoted her time to an institute she and her husband founded, aimed at developing leadership among young people. Rosa Parks will be remembered for the way her quiet determination in the face of injustice helped change America.

Brazilians say 'no' to gun control

A proposal to stop the sale of guns in Brazil has been defeated in a referendum by a margin of nearly two to one. Last year, there were thirty-six thousand gun deaths in Brazil, more than any other country. This report from Steve Kingstone:

Brazilians went to the polls to answer a simple question: should the sale of guns and ammunition be banned? They were urged to vote 'yes' by the government, the Catholic church and the United Nations. But instead, by close to two to one, they voted 'no'. Which means gun shops will remain open and, as now, anyone over twenty-five will be able to buy a firearm, subject to background checks.

The result may come as a surprise to outsiders, given the horrific scale of gun violence in Brazil but the 'no' campaign convinced voters that the proposed ban would have no effect on hardened criminals on the grounds that criminals don't buy guns legally in shops.

The referendum was also portrayed in terms of civil rights. The 'no' campaign acknowledged that not every Brazilian would want to buy a gun. But it said that in a crime-ridden society, citizens should have the right to choose how to defend themselves and their families. Organisers of the failed 'yes' campaign admit they were out-manoeuvred. Given the overwhelming opposition to a gun ban, it may be many years before politicians feel able to revisit this issue.

International stem cell bank open

A bank that will create and supply new lines of embryonic stem cells for research around the world has been opened in Seoul, South Korea. This report from Charles Scanlon:

South Korean researchers say they're building a global network so scientists from around the world can share stem cells and research findings. They've set up an international consortium in Seoul which will act as a hub for the production of cell lines. Dr Ian Wilmut, a British cloning pioneer in Korea for the launch said it would open up completely new opportunities.

The technique, developed last year, uses human embryos to grow stem cells which one day may be used to replace tissue damaged by disease. The new centre will make the cells and techniques more widely available and accelerate research to find cures for cancer, Alzheimerís and other degenerative diseases.

Dr Wilmut said he was confident the new cell lines could be produced in Britain by next year. The centre could also make research easier for American scientists who are held back by restrictions on the use of human embryos.

The South Korean team has benefited from liberal regulations and generous government support. President Roh Moo-hyun attended the launch ceremony. He said politicians should make sure the controversy over ethics did not block scientific research and progress.

China's space plans

China has announced that its next manned space mission will take place in 2007. The news comes shortly after the country's second space flight returned safely to earth after five days in space. This report from Daniel Griffiths:

China's wasted no time in setting out the latest plans for its ambitious space programme. A senior official said the next manned mission will be in 2007, when the astronauts will attempt a space walk. After that, scientists will focus on developing the capability to rendezvous and dock with other spacecraft. He added that China also wanted to recruit female astronauts in the near future.

The announcement comes just hours after the country's second manned space mission touched down in the remote grasslands of inner Mongolia. The returning astronauts have been given a hero's welcome, riding in an open car in a nationally televised parade. Thousands of soldiers and groups of schoolchildren lined the route, waving Chinese flags. It's a sign of the great importance China attaches to its space programme, viewing it as a source of national pride and international prestige.

Blatter blasts football's new money men

The head of the governing body for world football has made strong negative comments about the state of the game. Sepp Blatter says that if nothing is done, the future of the game will be threatened. This report from Stephen Evans:

Sepp Blatter runs the body that runs global football. What he says counts - and what he says is scathing, particularly about the super-rich individuals who are buying big clubs single-handedly.

He feels that the game's now like what he calls a wild-west style of capitalism. He contrasts the haves and the have-nots in football. Money is scarce at the grass-roots while a few clubs are richer than ever before. He says the source of the rich clubs' wealth is often, as he puts it, individuals with little or no history of interest in the game.

Having set foot in the sport seemingly out of nowhere, he continues, they proceed to throw pornographic amounts of money at it. What they do not understand is that football is more about grass roots than idols; more about giving entertainment and hope to the many than bogus popularity to the few.

And he concludes: if nothing is done, this new money could suffocate a sport that has 1.3 billion active followers around the world.

Pakistan rescue work

The Pakistani military authorities have increased their relief and rescue work in its administered part of Kashmir. The major focus of the relief and rescue work is still Muzzafarabad, capital of Pakistani Kashmir, which has been severely hit by the earthquake. This report from Zaffar Abbas:

The epicentre of the earthquake was not far from Muzzafarabad and it has turned large parts of the city into ruins. Almost every second building has collapsed and most others have been severely damaged. This has thrown hundreds of thousands of people out on the streets -- many of whom have spent their second consecutive night out in the open. But with the re-opening of a major road link, help has started to pour in.

A number of foreign rescue teams have also arrived and their presence is making a difference. Members of the UK-based charity, International Rescue Corps, have used life-detecting sensors to locate a thirteen-year-old boy from under the rubble. They are now searching for more survivors. Rescue teams from Turkey are also involved in similar work. But with thousands already dead, many here have been highly critical of the government's relief efforts and say it's too little, too late.

New Orleans job losses

The mayor of New Orleans has announced that around half of his employees will lose their jobs in the next two weeks. Mayor Ray Nagin said there wasn't enough money to keep the jobs open given the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. This report from Alistair Leithead:

Mayor Ray Nagin said it was with great sadness that he was forced to sack three thousand people who worked for the city. New Orleans was not able to obtain sufficient funds, the official statement said, pointing out that the request for money had been put into the state and the federal government. Those city workers not contacted to return to work, it added, should consider themselves part of the lay off.

Meanwhile the house to house search for bodies has been brought to an end with the death toll in Louisiana standing at more than nine hundred and seventy. A private company will now assume responsibility for any other reports of bodies being found. The total number of dead, around one thousand two hundred, including those in Mississippi, is considerably lower than the figure of ten thousand talked about in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Tens of thousands of people are still homeless living in shelters, hotels or other accommodation across America. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, has been criticised for not getting evacuees into more permanent housing quickly enough. Trailer parks are being established to home those most in need.

German reunification anniversary

Celebrations are being held to mark the 15th anniversary of German reunification, which came a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall. At the time, there were great hopes that the East would quickly become as prosperous as the West. However, there are still big differences. This report from Ray Furlong:

The Berlin Wall may be history, but the Wall in the mind remains - as the results of the recent election show. The Christian Democrats, for instance, scored 37 percent support in West Germany but just 25 in the East. The new left party, by contrast, won just 4.9 percent support in the West - compared also to 25 percent in the East.

It's a reflection of the fact that living standards in the East are still much lower. Unemployment is almost twice as high, and the population has fallen by 900,000 as people have moved West in search of opportunities. Last year, the population fell by a further 50,000.

In its annual reunification report, the government insists that progress is being made. Net incomes have doubled in the last fifteen years, now reaching 85% of Western levels. Towns and cities have seen their centres repainted and repaved. Work is continuing on improving the motorway and rail network. But the government also admits that great challenges remain.

Since reunification a trillion Euros have been transferred from West to East, to boost the economy there. The government foresees a further 150 billion in subsidies until the year 2019.

Scientists find giant squid

Japanese researchers have taken the first pictures of a live giant squid. Photographs taken by a scientific expedition suggest that the animal was eight metres across and fed 900 metres under the sea. This report from Pallab Ghosh (voiced by Jackie Dalton).

Until now there's been no photographic evidence of living giant squids. But scientists have known of their existence from the remains of dead specimens that have been washed up onto the shore. The largest of these have measured 18 metres across!

They've been hard to capture on film because they live so far under the sea. It's perhaps this mystery that has helped make these creatures part of seafaring folklore. They've been portrayed as monsters of the deep that fight with sperm whales and overturn vessels.

These first ever images should therefore shed some light on what the giant squid is really like. Initial findings suggest that although these tales may have been exaggerated, the giant squid is fierce and fast moving. The pictures show that they use their long tentacles to envelop sea creatures in much the same way that pythons coil around their prey.

Red card for Brazilian referee

Brazil's football season has been thrown into confusion following the arrest of a senior referee. The referee is accused of helping to arrange matches as part of an illegal betting ring. This report from Steve Kingstone:

Over several months the Brazilian police secretly recorded the phone conversations of forty-three year-old Edilson Pereira de Carvalho. The allegation is that he received instructions on how to referee First Division matches from participants in an illegal internet betting ring.

It's claimed that sometimes those instructions would come just moments before kick-off. Mr. Carvalho would then favour one team or the other, allegedly for a fee of between four and six thousand dollars per game. The official has now been questioned by the police and suspended from his duties, along with a second referee accused of fixing lower division matches. On Sunday the Brazilian authorities wrote to football's world governing body, FIFA, recommending that Mr. Carvalho also be suspended as an approved international referee.

With Brazil already two thirds of the way through its football season, there's now heated debate about what the authorities should do next. The eleven games refereed by Mr. Carvalho will almost certainly have to be replayed and amid claims of more widespread match fixing, the Brazilian Football Confederation has promised an independent inquiry.

Growth in air travel harms environment

Climate change experts from the Tyndall Climate Research Centre in Britain have said urgent action is needed to curb the rapid growth in air travel if the government is to meet its commitments on tackling global warming. This report from Stephen Evans:

Falling ticket prices and rising incomes are leading to rapid growth in global air travel. According to the British government, the number of British air passengers, for example, will more than double in the next quarter of a century. Increases of such an order would mean much more aviation fuel being burned and aviation fuel may be more harmful to the environment than other fuels because the resulting smoke is emitted at high altitudes.

A group of scientists at the environmental research group, the Tyndall Centre, says that if Britain is to meet its overall target for cutting damaging emissions, other uses of fuel like for heating homes or driving cars would have to be cut dramatically.

The British government wants the use of aviation fuel covered by international agreement on the environment. The difficulty for any individual government is that taxing fuel used at its own airports might push airlines to move their operations to competing airports in other countries.

Germany's election parties meet

Political parties in Berlin are negotiating after Sunday's general election failed to produce a clear winner. Both Chancellor Schroeder's Social Democrats and the main opposition Conservatives are hoping to lead the next government. This report from Ray Furlong:

Meetings are now under way at the headquarters of Germany's four main parties as Berlin buzzes with speculation. Usually, it's at least clear who the next chancellor will be. But this time, both main candidates say they want the job.

The Conservative candidate, Angela Merkel, is fighting for her political life after one of the worst results in her party's history. Her critics in the party will seize on this, although for now, it's presenting a united front. A senior Merkel aide said they would start negotiations this week with other parties. There were two possibilities, he said; a coalition with the Liberals and the Greens, or a grand coalition with Chancellor Schroeder's Social Democrats.

But Mr Schroeder has said he wants to remain chancellor. One Social Democrat MP said the party's current ruling coalition with the Greens should be expanded to include the Liberals. A further complicating factor is that more than two hundred thousand voters in Dresden will cast their ballots on October 2, because a candidate died during the campaign. This could allow the Social Democrats to draw level with the Conservatives.

England win the Ashes

England have won the Ashes cricket series against Australia for the first time in 18 years. England drew the last match played in London which gave them them a 2-1 victory over Australia in the five match Ashes series.

Every one of the last four games has produced a close and enthralling finish. Grounds have been packed, and for the fifth and final Test, with the result in the balance, every available vantage point was occupied. Some spectators perched precariously on the roofs of adjoining buildings. Apartments overlooking the ground were full of joyous fans to watch a famous England win.

Midway through the afternoon there was nervous anticipation as Australia began to hold the advantage. But a brutal innings from Kevin Pieterson, who hit his first century with fearsome power, swung the game to a position where England couldn't lose.

Many observers regard the series as the greatest ever played and underlines the improvement English cricket has shown over the past few years.

Koizumi achieves clear election victory

The landslide victory of Japan's ruling party, the Liberal Democratic Party or LDP, in Sunday's general election is a strong endorsement of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and his economic reforms at home. This report from Jill McGivering:

Sunday's election was fought on domestic issues. Most voters were accepting or rejecting landmark economic reforms, like plans to privatise the postal system. But the consequences of this decisive victory will be far-reaching. Mr Koizumi now has a degree of political security rare in Japan, where power is usually diluted by the check and balance of rival factions and coalition politics.

He's also fulfilled his promise to broaden the public appeal of the LDP. Although it's been in power almost constantly for decades, its old fashioned image as male, elderly and out of touch with modern Japan alienated many young voters. Mr Koizumi, himself charismatic and popular, has introduced younger, more colourful candidates. Japan now has more female members of the Lower House than ever before.

But Mr Koizumi's continuing rise is likely to cause concern amongst Japan's neighbours. Many in China and South Korea see him as a hawkish nationalist, insensitive to the pain caused by Japan's military history and eager to see Japan expand its role on the world stage.

India EU trade

India and the European Union have signed an agreement for greater cooperation on trade and other issues. It comes after talks between the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and India's Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. This report from Roland Buerk:

Tony Blair described the summit as a significant turning point in the relations between the European Union and India. Speaking after talks with the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, Mr Blair said that Europe must have a relationship of equals with India for mutual benefit.

Just a decade or so ago at a summit like this, Indian leaders would have been asking Europe for a helping hand. But now India is emerging as an economic force with the fastest growth of any democratic nation. The new buying power was underlined by India's announcement to coincide with the talks that it will buy forty three Airbus planes made in Europe. The deal will be worth two-point-two billion dollars.

The two prime ministers also agreed to increase cooperation to tackle global warming and terrorism. Mr Blair said there would be better coordination between police forces in Europe and India to stop terrorist groups crossing borders and to prevent money laundering.

Destruction of coral reefs

The first evidence to show the destruction of deep sea coral reefs has been filmed by scientists. The scientists involved hope their work will help preserve these habitats that are found all over the world. This report from Ania Lichtarowicz:

The footage reveals images of animal species never seen before, but it also shows the complete destruction of the corals caused by deepwater trawling. The reefs, which lie a kilometre below the ocean surface, are literally bulldozed leaving almost nothing behind. This is alarming scientists as the reefs are breeding grounds for many fish, without them stocks will plummet. Dr. Jason Hall-Spencer from the University of Plymouth collected the images. He says that these reefs must be protected to preserve newly discovered wildlife and to safeguard future fishing

Dr. Jason Hall-Spencer
If you want to have fish to eat in the future and you want to have jobs for fishermen in the future then we need to ensure that there's something there to catch. So if you destroy the habitat in which these fish feed and breed then you're going to destroy sustainability of that fishery. So the whole idea really is to protect small parts of the ocean for the benefit of the industries that rely on the ocean.

The deep water reefs are not only found around the west European coast, from Norway, around Scotland, Ireland and right down to Spain, but have also been seen in African waters. Now the scientists have the evidence to show just how devastating deep sea trawlers are to marine life, they hope to be able to prosecute companies that damage the reefs. This they say can be done easily using satellites to track where these large boats go and to ensure they're not destroying wildlife that's almost five thousand years old.

Londoners party at street carnival

Sunday was the climax of Britain's biggest street party - the annual Notting Hill Carnival. A colourful procession of floats, steel bands and dancers moved through crowded streets in west London. This report from Lesley Ashmall:

More people than ever have taken part - fifty-thousand in all. They've danced and strutted for hours in the heat and delighted the crowds. Risabelle is ten years old.

I think the carnival's really good because you see all people in costumes and they're really good.

But partygoers think the crowd is thinner. At its peak, a million people crammed onto the streets over the two-day festival. Yesterday two-hundred-thousand came for the children's carnival and the police think about half-a-million people are here today. Alisha, who's been coming here for years, thinks she knows why people have stayed away.

It's not as busy as when I last come, it's not as busy. I suppose it's what's been happening in July, so that's why people are a bit afraid. But I'm like, police are here, I pay my tax for a reason.

Organisers conceded this could have affected numbers, but say it hasn't spoiled the party. Louis Benn is one of the directors.

With the unfortunate incidents of seven-seven, it has had an impact on people's lives throughout London, but I would say that by looking at the show of people that's come out today from all ethnic backgrounds, across the board, it just goes to show that Londoners will not be beaten by these people.

There have been scores of people arrested for drunken behaviour but overall the police think it's been a good-humoured event and for the hundreds of silver butterflies, the gold lamé-clad gladiators, and even the man with the world on his shoulder, the sequinned papier-mâché version of course, the carnival is a party well worth coming to.

World slow to face bird flu threat

Plans for a global response to a mass outbreak of bird flu in humans are taking shape, but are far from complete. In some places warnings are not being followed. This report from Damian Grammaticus:

On a lake in western Siberia, flocks of ducks and geese are roaming free. Here, people are ignoring warnings from their government that all domestic poultry should be kept indoors because of the risk of bird flu. There have been bird flu outbreaks in dozens of Russian villages in the past fortnight, many in this area. The virus was brought here from Asia by migrating wild birds. Ornithologists in Russia say that wild fowl will soon be moving on from here before autumn comes.

The latest research shows some birds will head towards the Mediterranean and southern Europe. Other flocks will travel towards Germany, Britain and Ireland. It's possible they could carry the bird flu virus with them: and the ornithologists say health officials in Europe should be monitoring the wild birds and preparing to deal with any outbreaks of disease, because if bird flu infects humans, it is in many cases fatal.

Maradona and the 'Hand of God'

The former football star, Diego Maradona, has admitted publicly for the first time that he used his hand to score one of the most controversial goals in the history of the international game. This report from Harry Peart:

There has long been intense football rivalry between Argentina and England, but when the two teams met in the quarter finals of the 1986 World Cup, the disputed goal became one of the most famous in the world. Challenging the England goalkeeper for the ball, the short and stocky Maradona raised his left arm into the air to fist the ball into the net. Television pictures and photographs released later, showed the goal to be illegal.

Maradona claimed it was 'the Hand of God' which had guided the ball, not his own. Argentina went on to win 2-1 and eventually lift the World Cup. Since then the incident has irked English supporters, but given satisfaction to Argentine fans.

Nineteen years later, speaking on his own television show, Maradona has finally admitted a truth which everyone knew. Few will be angered - his second goal against England in the same match was one of the finest individual efforts in World Cup history. The defeated England coach, Bobby Robson, described it as a miracle, which following 'the Hand-of-God' goal seems supremely apt.

Pope's message to youth festival

Before leaving Germany at the end of his first foreign trip, Pope Benedict XVI described a plan for the future of the Roman Catholic Church in a society which he said was turning away from Christianity. This report from David Willey:

At the end of Cologne's Catholic Youth Festival, the Pope gave a basically optimistic yet unusually realistic vision for the future of the Church. Catholic ethics and morals are in constant decline, he said. But this gathering of young people from around the world had challenged and stimulated him to think about the future, both of the Church and of society.

Benedict said young people are asking their pastors to be consistent, united and courageous. They're not looking, he said, for a Church which panders to youth, but one which is truly young in spirit. There can be no compromise, no watering down of the Christian gospel, he insisted. Earlier, in a homily, at the open-air Mass, he rejected what he called do-it-yourself religion.

Australian parliament bans the word 'mate'

One of Australia's best known terms of endearment has been banned in the Australian parliament. Security guards in the building have been ordered not to call people 'mate' but to address them as 'sir' or 'madam'. This report from Red Harrison:

The Prime Minister John Howard was among the first to describe the ban as absurd and ridiculous, and well he might. Mate is one of John Howard's favourite words. He even calls President George Bush 'mate'.

The opposition labour party leader, Kim Beasley quickly saw an opportunity to make political capital - not to call people mate is un-Australian, he says, but it's also a reflection of the elitist culture of the conservative government which is all about masters and servants.

A former labour Prime Minister Bob Hawke says the ban is pomposity gone mad. Mr Hawke says the term mate is also folklore in the Australian labour party because if anyone significant calls you mate you know the knife is about to go in your back. And mate is also handy at official functions when you can't remember a name.

The ban was apparently imposed after a senior official complained of being called mate and security guards were ordered to be more courteous. Now the secretary of the parliamentary services, Hilary Penfold, says courtesy is fine but the ban went too far. It will be revoked later today.

Venezuela plane crash

Emergency services have arrived at the crash site of a Colombian airliner in the Venezuelan mountains. All 160 people on board the West Caribbean Airways flight from Panama to Martinique died in the impact. This is the second accident this year involving West Caribbean Airways. This report from Jeremy McDermott:

All the rescuers found in the mountains of the Sierra de Perija in Venezuela was the scattered wreckage of the plane and the charred corpses of its occupants. There were no survivors.

The plane not only lost both of its engines - a fact revealed from its last radio messages - but the aircraft exploded on impact, producing a fireball that was seen kilometres away. The aircraft's black box has been found and will be analysed by experts from Venezuela and France, which has sent its own investigators to look into the tragedy.

West Caribbean Airways is now under the microscope. The company lost another aircraft in March this year in a crash which killed eight people. The airline is in severe financial difficulties and even before this disaster had been told to tighten up its maintenance programme by the Colombian Aviation Authority. The company's promised to suspend flights until preliminary investigations are completed.

Israel begins Gaza Strip pull-out

The Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip has begun, with soldiers giving Israeli settlers forty-eight hours to leave or be forcibly removed. It's the first time Israel has withdrawn from land claimed by the Palestinians. But will it lead to peace? This report from Roger Hardy:

The withdrawal is important for the Israelis, the Palestinians and the international community, but it poses considerable challenges for all of them. For Israel it's a departure from past policy. It's the first time the country has relinquished territory the Palestinians regard as part of a future independent state, moreover it's done so unilaterally, not as part of a peace agreement. As such, it marks an ideological turning-point for the Jewish state.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the man who's taken this unprecedented gamble, will need to show his people it really has made them safer. For the Palestinians, the pullout offers a chance to show they're ready for statehood. But it's also a test of whether their leaders can control security while also fending off the challenge of the militant Islamic group Hamas, which is anxious to show that the pullout is the result, not of moderation, but of armed struggle.

For the international community, and in particular the Bush administration in Washington, the challenge is to show the Israeli withdrawal really can revive the peace process. Many observers believe that will require time and a degree of outside involvement which has so far been lacking.

Climber rescued from dangerous peak

Pakistani military helicopters have rescued a climber trapped since last Thursday on one of the world's highest peaks. Tomaz Humar, who is Slovenian, was trying to climb Nanga Parbat in Pakistan when he ran into difficulties. This report from Roland Buerk.

Tomaz Humar had spent nearly a week huddled on a ledge six-thousand metres up Nanga Parbat, the world's ninth highest mountain. He was held in his precarious position by ice screws and ropes. The temperature inside his sleeping bag was minus five degrees Celsius. Repeated attempts to rescue him failed because of snow storms and avalanches but on Wednesday two Pakistani military helicopters managed to fly close enough to his perch for one of them to dangle a line to him.

There was nearly a disaster as the Slovenian climber was unable to detach the ropes holding him to the mountain. Luckily they snapped as the helicopter flew away from the peak and after thirteen minutes Tomaz Humar was back in base camp. He is said to be suffering from the effects of cold and hunger but otherwise he's well.

Tomaz Humar is famous for his solo assaults on some of the world's toughest climbs. It was the second time he had tried to get up the Rupal face of Nanga Parbat. His earlier attempt also failed because of bad weather.

Russian submarine rescue

Russia's Defence Minister has offered his thanks to the Royal Navy for saving the lives of seven Russian submariners. This report from Damian Grammaticas

Among Russia's high command there is genuine gratitude for the British rescue effort. Without British help it's clear the seven Russian submariners would have perished at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

At an official reception the Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov presented Commander Ian Riches and two of his men with engraved Russian naval wristwatches. Mr Ivanov is now asking President Putin to give state honours to the British team. It was their Scorpio submersible, flown in from Prestwick that cut through the nets and cables entangling Russia's mini-submarine.

The seven Russians had been trapped inside for three days. Suffering from hypothermia and a lack of oxygen they'd appeared doomed. Commander Riches said when he saw the mini-submarine bob to the surface the feeling of elation was out of this world.

Russia's government has ordered an investigation into why the submarine became trapped, and why Russia's Navy couldn't rescue its own men.

New York subway search

Five people in New York have filed a lawsuit against the city government to stop random bag searches in the city's subway. This report from Stuart Cohen:

The group of five people have been joined in their lawsuit by the New York Civil Liberties Union. They say, in addition to being a violation of privacy, the policy is ineffective, because anybody can refuse the search and then turn around and get into the system at any one of New York's four hundred and sixty seven other subway stations.

Brendan MacWade is one of the five people involved in the lawsuit. He was in one of the World Trade Centre buildings when it was hit by a plane nearly four years ago:


I think it's fair to say that I want to catch real terrorists as much as any politician or law enforcement official. But this policy of random searches without suspicion does not work, and that is why I've joined this lawsuit.

The random search policy was created to avoid any charges of racial profiling while trying to keep potential bombers out of New York's subway system. A lawyer for the city says the searches meet all legal requirements. But the New York Civil Liberties Union calls it a needle in a haystack approach to law enforcement that just doesn't work.

Death of John Garang

The death of John Garang, the Vice President of Sudan, and leader of the southern rebellion for more than twenty years, has plunged the country into turmoil. There is rioting in the capital, Khartoum and trouble elsewhere in the Sudan. This report from Martin Plaut.

John Garang was a towering figure in Sudanese politics ever since he went to put down an incipient southern army mutiny in 1983. But instead of suppressing the rebellion, he joined the mutineers. And just as Yasser Arafat came to symbolise Palestinian aspirations, Mr Garang came to represent the southern yearning for freedom from northern domination.

That doesnít mean that he was universally loved. John Garang ran the Sudan People's Liberation Movement that he founded with an iron hand. He frequently used brutal methods to keep control. And he kept all key decisions in his own hands, which may have served the movement well during the long years of war, but were little suited to the new politics of peace.

His deputy and apparent successor, Salva Kiir, commanded the movement's military wing. He has now called a meeting of the leadership to consider their next move. Commentators say Mr Kiir is a quiet man who could be more of a unifier across the South than Mr Garang. But that is in the future. For the moment, across the vast regions of southern Sudan devastated by long years of fighting, people are in mourning.

Hopes and fears for shuttle Discovery

The space shuttle Discovery is orbiting the Earth after blasting off successfully from Cape Canaveral. However there are growing worries about something which was seen falling from the spacecraft soon after the launch. This report from Jeremy Cooke:

Immediately after Discovery's lift-off NASA officials were in jubilant mood, talking of the power and majesty of the launch and of the mutual congratulations and back-slapping at ground control. But even as the shuttle's commander, Eileen Collins, was reporting from space that this was the smoothest of her four flights into orbit, engineers at Mission Control were trying to assess the significance of an onboard video which apparently shows debris falling from Discovery soon after it cleared the tower.

Fresh in everyone's mind here of course is the Columbia disaster of 2003 when heat-resistant tiles became damaged during the launch. The result was a catastrophic failure on re-entry to Earth's atmosphere two weeks later, with the loss of all seven astronauts on board.

It seems clear that NASA genuinely doesn't know the seriousness of any problem it may face on this current mission. It may take days to assess any damage. But the hope here at Cape Canaveral continues to be that this mission will salvage the agency's battered reputation and help open the way for a continuation of the space programme and eventually a manned flight to Mars.

Australia approves elephant import

The Australian government has approved the importation of 8 elephants. Environmental groups are challenging the decision saying that it is cruel to keep elephants in zoos. This report from Phil Mercer:

The eight elephants destined for zoos in Sydney and Melbourne have been in quarantine in Thailand since last October. After months of deliberation Australia's environment minister, Ian Campbell, has approved their importation and they are due to arrive later this year.

Wildlife campaigners have insisted that scientific evidence has proved that elephants in zoos don't breed well and suffer a wide range of health problems. On top of that, it's claimed they die at a younger age than those living in the wild or kept in parks. Nicola Beynon from the Humane Society International is hoping legal action here in Australia will force the government to reverse its decision:

Nicola Benyon:
Conservation groups, animal welfare groups in Australia, in Thailand and internationally are exceptionally disappointed with this decision. We think the minister has had to bend the rules of his environment laws to make this decision and we're launching an appeal in the administrative appeals tribunal.

The government in Canberra is allowing these Asian elephants into Australia as part of a conservation programme which it believes will help safeguard the species. The population of these magnificent animals has been decimated over the past century. It's estimated that fewer than 34,000 now remain across a dozen countries.

Spain forest fire

At least twelve volunteer firefighters have died in Spain in a forest fire in the central province of Guadalajara and hundreds of people have been forced to leave the area. This report from Marian Hens:

The firefighters, many in their early twenties, had gone out in two groups to battle the blaze but their efforts were hampered by strong winds and summer temperatures of up to forty degrees Celsius.

The local authorities in the central Guadalajara province say three people are still missing. The blaze, which is not yet under control, has destroyed five- thousand hectares of pine woodland and forced hundreds of villagers to leave their homes.

The authorities believe it could have been started by a barbecue which had not been put out properly and have announced that they will be questioning suspects in the morning.

The Spanish deputy prime minister, Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, has gone to the region and met angry locals. They're complaining about the lack of resources to fight this kind of catastrophe.

Forest fires are common in Spain during the summer months but this year the problem has become more acute due to the heatwave and the worst drought the country has experienced since the forties.

Japan textbook back in spotlight

A controversial new edition of a Japanese history text book that provoked anti-Japanese protests in China and South Korea has been chosen by a public school board for use in its schools. The book has been criticised for distorting Japan's militarist past. This report from Chris Hogg.

Listen to the story
This text book is a new edition of a work that has been used for the last four years in a handful of schools around the country. It's been criticised for making just a passing mention of atrocities by Japanese troops in Asia and leaving out the stories of the women sexually enslaved by members of the imperial army.

When the government approved it in April, there were diplomatic protests by China and South Korea. These were followed by anti-Japanese street demonstrations. Japan responded that the text did not represent the government's official view.

The scholars who wrote the book say Japan is too masochistic in its teaching of history. A decision by the Otawara school board is a victory for them. The earlier edition of their work was only used on the margins of the school system. Now, more than two thousand students in the public school system will learn from the new edition. Almost six hundred other communities across Japan will decide whether to use the controversial text over the next few weeks.

Witch trial girl's mother found

The BBC has found a woman in Angola who says she is the mother of the girl in the so called witch trial. Last week three people in London were jailed for torturing a child because they thought she was a witch. The court was told she was an orphan. This report from James Westhead.

The BBC travelled to the Angolan capital Luanda to investigate the prevalence of the belief in child witchcraft after receiving information that the girl's mother was alive. Using family photographs taken in London for verification - a woman in Luanda identified the child as her daughter. The woman said she wanted to resume contact, but the family were currently too poor to take her back. She said she did not believe that the girl was possessed.

The BBC was also told of children being murdered because of the belief in witchcraft and came across first-hand evidence of traditional African healers and Christian pastors submitting children to horrific abuse.

The most disturbing case was that of a desperately ill eight year-old boy subjected to a series of abusive rituals by a traditional healer. Despite repeated pleas for urgent action the Angolan authorities took four days to intervene. They say the boy died later in hospital.

London bomb attacks

Police in London have warned people to remain cautious following the bomb attacks during Thursday morningís rush hour on the city's transport system. The attacks are believed to have killed at least fifty people and injured around seven hundred more. This report from Sanjay Dasgupta.

Speaking on television just hours after the attacks, the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, promised an intense investigation by the police and security services to track down those responsible. Mr Blair also said he knew those behind the attacks had acted in the name of Islam but he stressed that the overwhelming majority of Muslims abhorred the bombings as much as he did.

The first attack came just before nine in the morning on a train close to the main station in the city's financial district; minutes later the worst incident occurred: a bomb exploded in a deep underground line, killing more than twenty people. A third bomb on another underground train tore a hole through a tunnel wall, hurling debris onto an adjacent track and involving a further two trains. The fourth explosion ripped the roof off a bus.

The attacks were timed to cause maximum disruption during the morning rush hour, and with the underground network still shut down the city's workers are faced with a long walk home.

Live 8 performers' profit question

Last weekend's Live 8 concerts, organised to draw attention to poverty in Africa, have had the effect of increasing record sales in Britain for several of the artists involved. This report from Lawrence Pollard:

No one knows what the effect of the weekend's concerts will be on the leaders about to gather for the G8 in Gleneagles in Scotland or on the millions living in poverty in Africa. But we do know what the effect has been on the record sales of several of the rock n roll millionaires who played. They've soared. Sales of Madonna's greatest hits have trebled according to a week on week comparison by one of Britain's biggest chains of record shops. But this is a modest boost compared to an eight fold increase for the veteran rockers The Who and a remarkable fourteen times more copies sold of the latest compilation by Pink Floyd.

This is potentially embarrassing for those involved in the concerts, as the cynics' favourite accusation has always been that rock stars use charity to disguise self promotion.

Perhaps aware of this one of the stars of the London concert has announced that he will not profit from the surge in sales and will donate his royalties to charity. David Gilmour, the guitarist of Pink Floyd is known as a generous donor - again cynics will point out he can afford it, but his is an important gesture in maintaining the moral high-ground of those involved in what was presented as a principled campaign against poverty. Gilmour urged other musicians - as well as their record companies - to make similar donations.

Nasa probe strikes comet

NASA scientists are celebrating after seeing the first deliberate collision between a manmade projectile and a comet in outer space. Deep Impact, as the experiment is called, is intended to excavate material that has remained deep frozen since the solar system was formed four and a half billion years ago. This report from Roland Pease:

CLIP - celebrations

Jubilation at NASA's Jet Propulsion Labs in California, as the first picture of the collision comes in from the Deep Impact mother ship. Just before six o clock GMT, the impactor, weighing a third of a ton, smashed into Comet Tempel 1 at a speed of thirty seven thousand kilometres an hour.

Telescopes across the world, and in Earth orbit, will be watching the giant spray of debris thrown out by the impact. The brightened comet in the constellation Virgo may even be visible to the naked eye, allowing members of the public around the world to join in this historic moment in astronomy.

The next twenty four hours could change our understanding of how the solar system formed, as pristine material from inside the comet is revealed for the first time in four and a half billion years.

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