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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Scary and the Bizarre

How to write the perfect lonely heart
By David Rose, BBC News

Personal ads these days can appear anything but personalWith their abbreviated dialect and cliched appeals, personal ads these days can appear anything but personal. But it doesn't have to be that way.

It's always fun scanning through lonely hearts sections in newspapers and magazines. Whether we're looking for love, or just a little curious, or idling away the time on a train journey, there's something intriguing about small ads. They are windows into other people's lives and many make for compulsive reading.

The first newspaper personal ads started appearing in the 19th Century and many magazines have had thriving columns for decades. Today, lonely hearts are big business.

Agencies that run small ads sections make fortunes by using premium rate phone lines and helping callers to formulate adverts. By asking a couple of choice questions an agency is able to create a brief statement about you that is then used to make your small ad.

And instead of the standard "blonde hair, blue-eyed, likes theatre" formula of other lonely hearts sections, some advertisers use their 30 words to create bizarre hiakus of longing.

However, is it a good way of getting the job done?

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US election ads: Hitting below the belt
By Richard Allen Greene, BBC News, Washington

A blonde woman with no clothes visible alludes to interacial sexNo-one expected the fight for control of the US Congress to be a gentlemanly affair, but as America gets ready to vote in elections that are widely being seen as a referendum on George W Bush's administration, even experts are surprised at how vicious some of the advertising has been.

And one commercial, in the southern state of Tennessee, has set "a new low in American politics", according to John Geer, who studies negative campaigning.

The advert, now removed from airplay, is a satirical attack on the black Democratic candidate for Senate, and it has been accused of "race-baiting" - or playing the race card. Critics say the advert crosses the line when a blonde woman - with no clothes visible - says "I met Harold at the Playboy party", intimating suggestions of interacial sex.

Running in the state where the white-supremacist Ku Klux Klan was founded in the wake of the Civil War, the commercial is intended to stoke "old fears about racial equality", Mr Geer says.

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Transgender MP in toilet fracas
BBC News

Ms Luxuria is Italy's first transgender MPAn Italian opposition MP and former showgirl has expressed outrage after meeting a transgender colleague in the parliament's ladies' toilets.

Elisabetta Gardini, spokeswoman for former PM Silvio Berlusconi's party, said she felt ill after the encounter during a break in Friday's session.

The incident led to heated debate about which toilet the transgender MP, known as Vladimir Luxuria, could use.

Ms Luxuria says she has been using ladies' toilets for years. Using the men's would have created even bigger problems, she said.

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A Fake Hike?
By Hugh Levinson, Producer, BBC Radio 4's The Long Walk

An epic story of human endurance is being challenged. Did wartime prisoners really walk from Siberia to India?

In 1956, a Polish man living in the English midlands published an extraordinary book that became one of the classic tales of escape and endurance.

In The Long Walk, Slavomir Rawicz described how, during the Second World War, he and a group of prisoners broke out of a gulag in the Soviet Union in 1941. They walked thousands of miles south from Siberia, through Mongolia, Tibet, across the Himalayas, to the safety of British India.

The only question is: is it true? From the start, a ferocious controversy has raged about whether anyone really could achieve this superhuman feat.

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Schools targeted over Halloween
BBC News

Police have targeted schools across Sussex to try to reduce the amount of anti-social behaviour at Halloween.

More than 100 egg-throwing incidents were reported in the 24 hours from early on 31 October last year, along with 57 calls about fireworks misuse.

"Egg-throwing, at both property and people, has become a worrying trend," said Insp Richard Newman.

Kent Police are also urging parents and children to ensure the elderly do not feel vulnerable during the festivities.

Pictures courtesy of BBC News online.

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