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Abused Teachers

Teachers have grown used to being abused online by their pupils. Now they're coming under attack from parents, too. In a NASUWT survey, 40% of teachers said they'd been abused by parents on social media in the past year, up from 27% the year before. Some of the posts falsely accused teachers of paedophilia; others abused them for their looks, race or sexuality

Governments love to tinker

The problem with British politics these days, says Simon Jenkins, is that our representatives just can't stop meddling. Where once ideology fired them, now it's the relentless urge to intervene. Police officers, doctors, teachers – all cry out for politicians to leave them alone, if only for a year, rather than launch yet another top-down re-organisation. But ministers can't help themselves. "Change" is their watchword; it's how they justify their existence. "Let's get on with change," as Gordon Brown put it on entering No. 10. Under Thatcher, Parliament passed 1,700 laws a year; now the figure tops 3,000. Much of this activity, like the Tories' ill-fated overhaul of the NHS, is "bitterly regretted in hindsight", yet ministers never seem to learn. How nice it would be were they to copy the example of Lord Salisbury, who wrote in 1877 that his govern­ment would "drift slowly downstream, occasionally putting out a boat hook to avoid collision". If, instead of cramming their manifestos with pointless pledges, today's parties promised to pursue a minimalist agenda that allowed time for the latest round of reforms to bed in, voters would surely thank them for it.

38 minutes to fall through Earth

Suppose you dug a "gravity tunnel" through the Earth, and jumped in, how long would it take you to fall from one side of the planet to the other? The correct answer to this question, which has long been put to physics students, was believed to be 42 minutes, says The Times. But a Canadian scientist has now cut the journey time by four minutes, after noting that the previous figure depended on a flawed assumption – that the planet's density is constant.

Were Earth of uniform density, the only change in gravity would be due to the body's distance from the centre. In fact, the planet's density varies layer by layer, which would affect the gravitational pull experienced as the body fell. "The way the Earth is structured, the gravity increases slightly as you go deeper towards the dense core, to about 110% of its surface value, before getting weaker as you move through the core, reaching zero  at the centre," Dr Alexander Klotz explained. He factored in those changes, and came up with a new journey time of 38 minutes. So the tunnel would provide a quick route to Australia – if not a comfortable one. As it fell, the body would accelerate to 18,000mph, and pass through areas where the temperature reached 7,000°C.

A simple truth that's almost unsayable

I'm not sure I'd dare admit this in print if I were a young man just embarking on a media career, says Charles Moore. But I'm 58, so here goes: I believe that a "heterosexual man and a heterosexual woman, preferably married to one another, are – other things being equal – the best parents". This belief shouldn't be remotely controversial: it is, after all, what people across the world have considered to be no more than "common sense" for hundreds of years. Yet it has become almost unsayable today, unless you want to be branded a bigot. To mention it in an interview for a public-sector job would be fatal. It would also wreck your chances of becoming a Labour candidate, and probably a Tory one too, come to that. Just look at the monstering the designer Domenico Dolce received the other day when he remarked that every child should have a mother and a father. We hear a lot these days about how people's personal choices must always be respected, and about how gay couples have a right to marry and "have children". But it seems this tolerance doesn't extend to people with traditional beliefs who dare to question this approach.

Charles Moore The Daily Telegraph

Retirement of River Dance dancer

Michael Flatley is hanging up his dancing shoes. The 56-year-old Irish-American has made a £191m fortune with his blockbuster dance shows; but 30 years on stage have taken their toll. "I have wrecked my body with dance," he told Louise Gannon in The Mail on Sunday. "I can't say I wasn't warned and I can't say I haven't enjoyed every minute of putting myself into this state. But physically I am a mess. I have a recurring broken bone in my right foot which just spontaneously breaks itself. My hamstrings are ruined, my groin is gone and I've done irreparable damage to two points in my spine – T1 and T6. I am always in pain." Flatley will appear briefly on stage while touring his latest show, Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games – but after that, no more dancing. "It's the end. I'm too long in the tooth, I feel ready to go, happy to let some other really talented, hard-working guys take my place."  

Older people can ward off Alzheimer's

It's never too late to protect yourself against Alzheimer's: according to new research, people in retirement can slow their mental decline by adopting healthier habits. For the study, published in The Lancet, researchers tracked more than 2,600 Finns aged 60 to 77, all of whom were considered to be at risk of  the degenerative condition. Half were given standard advice for maintaining brain function:  eating well, taking exercise, socialising and so on. The others were put on a more intensive  programme with detailed advice about diet, and regular exercise and brain-training sessions. After two years, all the participants were given tests of mental agility. The people who had been on the programme scored 25%  better overall, and 150% higher in tests of their ability to process information. The researchers will now track them for seven years, to see if this manifests in fewer diagnoses  of Alzheimer's.

Self promotion?

Selfie sticks are already becoming passe. Today, the most determined narcissists are using drones to take pictures of themselves standing in front of London landmarks. Drones cost as little as £50 for basic toy models, while those operated by smartphones cost around £500. But it is illegal to fly them near buildings - and with fears that they're being used by terrorists and peeping toms, police are cracking down on what they describe as a growing menace.


We seem to be obsessed with TV cookery shows and we own, on average, six cookery books each, but according to a new survey, most of us just make the same nine meals over and over again - and around 20% of Britons haven't tried a new recipe in over a year.

Leeson's second chance

It is 20 years since Nick Leeson brought down Britain's oldest merchant bank. Then a 27-year-old whizz-kid, heading his division at the Singapore outpost of Barings Bank, he went on the run after losing the company £827m on the stock market. He served four years in jail, during which his first wife divorced him and he contracted colon cancer. But it wasn't all bad, he says. Now, he lives in Galway with his second wife and makes a comfortable living on the after-dinner circuit, speaking to bankers about the incompetence and complacency that allowed his fraud — and many since — to flourish. "The world of banking is always good to me," he told Esther Addley in The Guardian, "because it throws out a bone from time to time by shooting itself in the foot." Recently, he had to have a similar talk with someone closer to home: his ten-year-old son. "The key messages were — I didn't ask for help, you should always ask for help, and you can always ask me anything, and no problem in life is insurmountable. Because I've done most of them, and I'm still here."

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