This week's UK news: 23 January 2009
23 January 2009

The worst Monday morning of all... and a gloomy Friday

Apparently Monday 19 January was officially the most depressing day of the year. This misery is apparently caused by a combination of bad weather, debt, poor motivation and failure to keep resolutions made in the New Year.

It sounds like it ought to be true, and newspapers like writing about it, but it appears that "Blue Monday" was originally invented as part of a publicity campaign for a holiday company.

This year's Blue Monday was particularly miserable because the Government chose that day to inject massive amounts of public money into UK banks to cushion them against bad debts, and so the news was full of financial gloom.

The week did not improve. On Friday the UK officially went into recession and the pound dropped further against the dollar and the Euro.

How Britain is changing

One in ten British children now lives in a mixed race family according to a new survey which seems to show that we are becoming a successfully multicultural nation.

Young people are six times more likely to be of mixed race than their parents, and the change is most obvious in London's primary schools. Here, a quarter of pupils have parents of different races. And in another indication of the ways in which the UK is changing, one child in five now belongs to an ethnic minority.

Lucinda Platt, the author of the report, said the social shifts were "dramatic." 

Survival of the fittest

More British than American passengers died in a famous 19th century shipping disaster because they queued politely for lifeboats, researchers believe.

The Titanic liner, which was believed to be unsinkable, hit an iceberg on its first voyage from Britain to the US in 1912, drowning 1,500 passengers.

David Savage, an Australian academic, says Britons of the time were "gentlemanly" - they would put themselves last -- whilst Americans were more individualist.

He said women with children had a 70 per cent better chance of surviving the accident than British men. Many were put on lifeboats by their husbands, who stayed on the ship as it went down.

The captain apparently shouted "Be British, boys, be British," as the Titanic sank.

A very British scandal

A well-known broadcaster was presenting his chat show again this week after a three-month suspension for bad behaviour.

Jonathan Ross caused huge controversy after the broadcast of rude phone calls he and comedian Russell Brand made to an elderly actor, Andrew Sachs. Originally the radio show, broadcast on the public service BBC, attracted just three complaints but after newspapers reported the story this rose to 40,000.

The incident became a row for several very British reasons.

One is that many newspapers like criticising the BBC because of the way it is funded. Anyone who owns a television must pay a yearly tax which goes to the BBC, even if they only watch commercial channels.

Also, many newspaper owners have television channels or websites which compete with the BBC. So newspapers often attack what is broadcast and how money is spent.

Since Jonathan Ross is both the BBC's highest-paid presenter (he is said to earn £6m a year) and also one whose jokes offend many viewers, the phone calls broadcast led to a long campaign to get him sacked and also to get rid of the television tax.

Newspapers said celebrities would refuse to appear on Jonathan Ross's chat show after the scandal, but his first guest was Hollywood actor Tom Cruise.


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