RSS feed
24 January 2015 Last updated at 11:37 ET

The sheikh who listened to Nazi radio

Man in Sharjah, 1934

Early in World War Two, just after the fall of France, Britain's agent in the Gulf sheikhdom of Sharjah noticed an alarming rise in support for Nazi Germany. Slipping on a disguise he quickly found out who was responsible, reports Matthew Teller.

"I beg to report that lately I received information that the Shaikh of Sharjah had been opening his wireless set on the German Arabic Broadcast so loudly that one could hear it from 200 yards from his palace," wrote the agent, Abdurrazzaq al-Razuki, to his Bahrain-based superior, Hugh Weightman, in June 1940.

"A large crowd gathers there to hear the German news of which they took much interest."

To confirm this he went round to the palace incognito one night and heard both the radio broadcasts and people arguing with each other - for and against Germany.

Extract of letter describing how al-Razuki went undercover

There was other evidence too, that could not be ignored: "Long live Hitler" and "Right is with Germany" had been chalked on walls around the town.

Round the Bend

A series of tales from the days when Britain ruled India and the Gulf, told with documents newly digitised by the British Library

After making further "secret inquiries" al-Razuki determined that the source of dissent was not the Sheikh, but his secretary Abdullah bin Faris - who a few months earlier had requested naturalisation as a British subject, and been refused.

"In order to throw ash into my eyes, he praises the British Government in my presence, [but] acts behind the curtain by inducing ordinary people to spread rumours about defeat," wrote al-Razuki to Weightman.

Even in far-flung Sharjah, British officials knew they could not let pro-German sentiment go unchallenged - not least because Sharjah was a refuelling stop for Imperial Airways flights between London and India.

Imperial Airways fleet refuels at Port Sharjah 1934 An Imperial Airways plane refuels at Sharjah, 1934

Amid a flurry of correspondence "in the hope of frightening the Sheikh", Weightman reminded the Sheikh of his treaty obligations with Britain and demanded punishment for Abdullah.

This produced instant results.

"I and all my people are the loyal friends of His Majesty's Government," the Sheikh wrote.

"We do not listen to the Berlin broadcast because it is the promulgator of falsehood. In this war we are the enemies of Germany and Italy."

Extract from letter defending Abdullah bin Faris

He enclosed a document signed by 48 Sharjah notables testifying to Abdullah's innocence. But then al-Razuki discovered that Abdullah had secured these signatures by deceit, substituting one document for another.

Weightman was in a bind.

The Sheikh "knows less of what goes on in his own town than I do," he fumed. At the same time, he recognised that it was "practically impossible" to force the Sheikh to sack Abdullah.

Fortunately, al-Razuki was soon able to report that the political climate in Sharjah was improving.

"The Sheikh is avoiding all talk about the Germans and is doing his best to show that he is the most loyal friend of the British Government," he wrote on 30 October.

"Abdullah bin Faris also refrained from pro-Nazi talk and is spreading only good news about the British Government."

Might the Sheikh have started blasting out the BBC's Arabic broadcasts instead of Germany's? The tradition of radio for the people certainly continued, it seems.

The fort still stands in Sharjah today The fort still stands in Sharjah today

"In the evening people would mass in front of Sharjah Fort to listen to news broadcasts," Sultan al-Qasimi, the current ruler of Sharjah writes in his memoir, My Early Life - though he was only six at the war's end.

"They could hear the radio from one of the upper-floor windows, where the Sheikh held his [gathering]."

Some of the Sheikh's subjects evidently still supported Germany, possibly remembering the broadcasts heard in 1940, which had promised liberation from colonial rule.

"Half the people supported the Allies and half supported the Axis powers," writes Sultan al-Qasimi.

"We children watched the fighting between the two."

Round the Bend is a series of tales from the days when Britain ruled India and the Gulf, told with documents newly digitised by the British Library. You can explore the archive yourself.

Read British Library curator Louis Allday's essay on Nazi propaganda in Sharjah during WW2

Note of Abdullah bin Faris's application for naturalisation

Al-Razuki's memo detailing Abdullah's disloyalty

English translation of the Sheikh of Sharjah's response to the accusations

Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox.


10 things we didn't know last week

woman praying with crucifix

1. Couples in the Danish town of Thisted are having more babies to keep public services going.

Find out more (Independent)

2. Women are almost two-thirds more likely than men to believe in God.

Find out more (Telegraph)

3. MI5 bars applicants with visible tattoos.

Find out more (Guardian)

4. Nando's is one of the biggest buyers of contemporary South African art.

Find out more (FT)

5. The average life of a web page is about a hundred days.

Find out more (New Yorker)

6. In Ohio, it's illegal to disrobe in front of a man's portrait.

Find out more (Slate)

7. The Greater London Authority owns a cast iron, Grade II-listed pissoir called the Rotunda, although its present whereabouts is unknown.

Find out more (the Times)

8. The collapse of the Soviet Union led to a decline in the number of wild boar, brown bear and moose in most regions of Russia.

Find out more

9. Dagenham is Britain's most burgled town.

Find out more (Daily Telegraph)

10. The sewage from a city of a million people contains about $13m (£8.66m) worth of metal a year - about a fifth of the value comes from silver and gold.

Find out more (Quartz)

Seen a thing? Tell the Magazine on Twitter using the hashtag #thingIdidntknowlastweek

Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox.


Weekendish: The best of the week's reads

Freddie Knoller

A collection of some of the best reads from the BBC News website this week, with an injection of your comments.

Freddie Knoller was offered a job as an interpreter for the Nazis. It was a surprise - he thought he was in the Gestapo office about to be exposed as a Jew. Instead of taking the job, Knoller, now 93, joined the French Resistance to fight his enemy rather than work for them. What followed is a story of dogged determination to survive - he endured interrogation, Auschwitz and a death march in sub-zero temperatures. It was 30 years before he was able to talk about his experiences but now says, "I'm proud to have fought for my life, and proud to be able to tell the world what has happened." CH wrote: "Freddie Knoller has made it his life's work to stop the world from forgetting about the #Holocaust."

The Jew who got a job offer from the Nazis

464 gray line
Complex leader
Churchill statue in Parliament Square

And on to another hero of World War Two. Winston Churchill is regarded by many as the greatest Briton ever, but in a career spanning some 70 years, he had more than a few moments of controversy. As the UK marks the 50th anniversary of his death, the Magazine looked at some of the most common debates that have raged about Churchill's legacy. They range from his stance on race, his treatment of the Tonypandy Riots and the use of poison gas. "There's a danger in Churchill gaining a purely iconic status because that actually takes away from his humanity," says Allen Packwood, director of the Churchill Archives Centre. "He is this incredibly complex, contradictory and larger-than-life human being and he wrestled with these contradictions during his lifetime." Aidan White tweeted: "How journalist, war leader and political warrior Winston Churchill comes up short on the ethical front." Others felt it was wrong to denigrate a great leader. "On the fiftieth anniversary of Churchill dying, the Beeb decide to highlight the bad, instead of the good? Amazing..." wrote Tony Schumacher.

The 10 greatest controversies of Winston Churchill's career

464 gray line
Treasure trove
A rubbish-picker on Gramacho dump

The closure of Brazil's Gramacho rubbish dump in 2012 was widely applauded, but little more than two years on, many of the rubbish-pickers who worked there are sorry it's gone. It was a dangerous job - serious accidents, illnesses and even deaths were common. But there were also rich pickings and strong friendships forged. Rubbish-picker, or catadora, Cleonice Bento found a gold necklace at the dump, sold it and built a two-storey house with the proceeds. Fellow catadora Gloria Cristina dos Santos spent years curating a small library of salvaged books. She credits a passage in Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov for teaching her how to love her daughter. The closure of the dump was welcomed by environmentalists, politicians and many catadores. The pickers received compensation and some were given new jobs with better conditions at a new recycling facility. But they earn only a fraction of what many earned on the dump, and feel that the sense of family has been lost. "No-one will tell you that he misses working there," says Gloria, "but everyone says they miss the companionship." On Twitter Sarah Manvel was moved by the impact of the Dostoyevsky find: "For the rest of my life, if anyone argues with me about the importance of literacy and books, I will give them this".

Striking gold - at a rubbish dump

464 gray line
Old news
Sam Fox

And onto something that everyone thought had been scrapped but hadn't... The Sun newspaper stopped showing topless women on Page Three - for a few days, then they were back. But while readers had a brief break from bare breasts the Magazine asked how Page Three went from being the best-known feature in the nation's most popular tabloid to something that was apparently (and then apparently not) on its death bed. Page Three girls were superstars in the 1980s. Teenager Samantha Fox famously earned more than Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Many have become household names, among them Melinda Messenger in the mid-1990s, who went on to a career as a TV presenter, and of course Jordan - real name Katie Price. But since German Stephanie Rahn posed for the first Page Three in November 1970, attitudes have changed. In an age when pornography became more readily available on the internet, Page Three came to be regarded as old fashioned. The status of women in society had changed, too. "To a new generation, it was rather surreal to open a newspaper and see a pair of bare breasts amid stories about Westminster and the weather," writes Justin Parkinson. Alison Hicks was delighted: "The petition worked! #NoMorePage3 #proudsigner." But Louise Burke wrote: "Musing P3. Bandaid? Modesty does not = equality. More women in control of media would address the root problem."

How Page Three fell out of step with the times

464 gray line
Child on scooter
Whizz kids

Children's scooters have soared in popularity. According to a survey of 75,000 children by the transport charity Sustrans, the proportion of UK pupils regularly scooting or skating to school went up by more than half between 2013 and 2014, from 9.3% to 14.3%. Amazon UK lists almost 3,800 children's scooters and related products, with scooters ranging from about £30 to £300 in price. And it's not just children who are riding them. David Cameron was photographed trying his children's scooter in London's Regents Park in 2013 and Hollywood star Hugh Jackman is a frequent user. But it's younger riders who are increasingly noticeable. While parents may find them a handy way of making the school run go faster, not everyone agrees. "There are a few sore-ankled naysayers who cite them as dangerous to life and limb and one of their biggest bug-bears, but clearly their popularity speaks for itself," says Justine Roberts, chief executive of Mumsnet. A fan, Jennifer Jain, commented: "Our school run is much easier with scooters!" But there were haters. "I hate damn scooters and the middle class parents who permit them," tweeted Julia Harris. ‏

How children's scooters transformed the school run

464 gray line
Here are some things we've enjoyed this week from elsewhere around the web:

The terrifying rise of the all girl gang - The Daily Telegraph

Can a film about an attractive robot be feminist science fiction? - New Statesman

Weegee's Classic Photos of New York City Moviegoers in the 1940s - Slate

Are we all suffering from a Wellness Syndrome? - the Times

What it really feels like to be shot, and how the media got its Charlie Hebdo breaking news wrong - Financial Times

Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox


Go Figure: The week in numbers

Look back at the week in numbers with our Go Figure images, which are posted daily on social media.

Oxfam richest 1% stat

Monday:

line break
child immunisation stat

Tuesday: Rocketing vaccine cost warning

line break
Rio de Janeiro landfill

Wednesday:

line break
Real Madrid rich list

Thursday:

line break
Saudi royal family

Friday: Saudi Arabia's

line break

Find #BBCGoFigure on Twitter and on Facebook


The cigarettes that worry tobacco firms

Manchester cigarette packet

Tobacco companies are warning of an increase in smuggling if the UK passes a law removing branding from cigarette packets. This is what happened when Australia shifted to plain packaging in 2012, it's been reported, and the biggest rise was found in sales of brands known as "illicit whites". Elle Metz asks why.

The most popular illegally sold cigarette brand in Australia is called Manchester, according to a 2013 study by KPMG. It's not a counterfeit - it's not designed to resemble a cigarette manufactured by a different company - but the packet is made to look entirely traditional.

"A rich blend of the finest tobacco result in this smooth and satisfying flavour," reads the blurb on its packages.

"Manufactured under authority from J.S.S. Tobacco Ltd. London - United Kingdom."

The grammar is not perfect, perhaps, but otherwise the packet looks smart. It even carries a health warning.

Experts had predicted that the new rules would lead to a sharp increase in counterfeit cigarette sales - after all, plain packaging is easy to imitate.

Instead the main beneficiaries were these "illicit whites" - cigarettes that may be produced legally but are "typically not sold legally anywhere and are often made exclusively for smuggling", as KPMG puts it.

Cigarettes on sale in Australia In Australia brand names are in a prescribed colour and size - health warnings must cover most of a packet

Overall sales of illicit whites quadrupled between 2012 and mid-2013 according to the KPMG researchers, whose report was commissioned by tobacco companies (and is therefore taken with a pinch of salt by some academics).

The illegal cigarettes sold for about half the price of a popular legal brand such as Marlboro or Winfield, the study noted. Manchester was even found to have ended up with a higher market share than some legal brands.

Other less common illicit whites had names such as Timeless Time, Sunlite and Win.

Dr Crawford Moodie of the University of Stirling points out that illicit whites will generally have a price advantage if they are legal at the point of manufacture, as they often are. Some reports suggest Manchester cigarettes - thought to be legally manufactured in the United Arab Emirates, China and the Philippines - can even be legally sold in some Asian countries.

By contrast counterfeit cigarettes are illegal wherever they are produced, and this introduces risks and extra costs.

Also, in a country of plain cigarette packs like Australia, "fully branded packs are going to stand out," Moodie says. They would be "easy to recognise", and while this may contribute to their appeal it also makes them easier for the authorities to detect.

Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox.


Quiz of the week's news

7 days 7 questions

It's the Magazine's weekly news quiz - an opportunity to prove to yourself and others that you are a news oracle. Failing that, you can always claim you had better things to do than swot up on current affairs.

What do this week's stories look like as told through graphical icons? Try Newsbeat's new emoji quiz.

Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox.


Caption Challenge: Out of the bag

A scene from the "Best Cat of Belarus" event in Minsk

Winning entries in the Caption Challenge.

The competition is now closed.

This week it's a scene from the "Best Cat of Belarus" event in Minsk.

Thanks to all who entered. The prize of a small amount of kudos to the following:

6. David Gilliver:

The budget for Dirty Dancing 3 was lower than initially expected...

5. Angie Jones:

"Toast always lands butter side down, and a cat always lands on his paws - so if we butter his back, he'll spin in perpetuity, creating a new clean source of energy," explains the scientist.

4. Andrew:

Cat Planking Level: Pro

3. Karl Gallagher:

On this occasion, the vet regretted using the long thermometer.

2. David:

Man who has swallowed a mouse attempts drastic remedy.

1. Dave Cotterill:

"My initial diagnosis is that your cat's diet contains too much starch."

This week…Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox.


Just how practical is a traditional Bobby's helmet?

Dixon of Dock Green

West Yorkshire Police have decided to end the use of the traditional police helmet for normal duties. Is this symbol of British law enforcement really so old-fashioned, asks Justin Parkinson.

Police helmets have been worn for more than 150 years in much of England and Wales, but West Yorkshire says peaked caps are "more appropriate and more in keeping" with many of the situations officers find themselves in the 21st Century. They are less likely to fall off heads, it is argued, and can be worn in a car.

A survey of West Yorkshire Police staff found an "overwhelming majority" wanted the wholesale change to caps, which is set to be rolled out over the course of this year. But they will be kept for ceremonial occasions such as Remembrance Day parades or funerals.

First used by the Metropolitan Police in 1863, the "custodian" helmet was based on the spiked Pickelhaube worn by the Prussian army. Stronger and more protective, it replaced the top hats that were formerly in use.

Evolution of the helmet

Originally made of cork covered by felt or serge-like materials, it is now manufactured in reinforced plastic. It is still worn by male constables and sergeants on most forces in England and Wales, which set their own policy on headgear for use on the beat. It is not used by police in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

The Home Office sets standard guidelines for protective head equipment for public order situations, such as riots. But have normal duties such as walking around town centres changed so much over recent years that the old-style helmet is obsolete?

"It's far more practical than people think," says one retired English police officer who does not wish to be named. He argues that it gives "presence", thanks to the sturdy metal badge on the front and the extra height it provides. Police helmets are also padded for extra warmth.

Battle of Orgreave, 1984 Face-off between a miners' picket and lines of police in Battle of Orgreave in 1984

The custodian helmet has changed shape slightly over the years but maintained its basic shape. It has become a cultural icon, featuring in films and TV series, such as Dixon of Dock Green and The Bill. One was famously used to protect the "modesty" of Michael O'Brien, who streaked at Twickenham in 1974, and Erica Roe, who ran topless on to the rugby stadium's pitch in 1982.

From the 1930s to the 1960s, police in Brighton and Hove wore white helmets in the summer, as they kept the head cooler. This discontinued when they became part of Sussex Police.

Like West Yorkshire, Thames Valley Police did away with the custodian helmet almost five years ago. It's up to individual forces whether they want to do the same.

Brighton beach, 1964

Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox


Are machine-written signatures binding?

Gordon Ramsay

TV chef Gordon Ramsay has lost a court case that hinged on the use of a "ghostwriter" device. What does the law have to say about signatures written by machine, asks Justin Parkinson.

Signing a document - what could be easier? It takes a few seconds. But do it several thousand times and the task gets more onerous. The likes of US President Barack Obama and the Queen would spend weeks dealing with documents like Christmas cards and letters, not to mention risking serious repetitive strain injuries.

The answer

  • The constitutionality of US laws signed by ghostwriting machines has been questioned
  • But lawyers in the US and in the UK largely agree it's the intent behind signatures that counts

Many famous people use a device called a ghostwriter, an autopen or a signing machine. It copies the signature from a template and reproduces it many times using a real pen. This is deemed more authentic than simply printing a scanned signature.

But there are questions of legality to consider. Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay has lost a court case after a judge ruled that a signature from a ghostwriter used by an employee, his father-in-law, to sign a £640,000-a-year lease for a pub was genuine in law.

In the early 19th Century, US President Thomas Jefferson used a polygraph, which allowed him to sign two documents at a time by connecting a movable frame to his pen. Usable prototypes of the current technology go back to at least the 1940s.

The polygraph with two pens attached, on Thomas Jefferson's desk The polygraph with two pens attached, on Thomas Jefferson's desk

More recently, Obama has been criticised for "signing off" laws using a machine while away on holiday, with critics questioning the constitutionality of such actions. Yet lawyers in the US and in the UK tend to agree that it's the intent behind signatures, rather than how they are produced, that counts.

But graphologist Margaret White argues originals are better when offered as evidence in court. "The human hand disturbs the paper differently," she says. "The pressure fluctuates, which can be examined when an original signature is used. A machine doesn't do that. I wouldn't use a machine even to sign off £50."

An automatic signature machine

Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox.


Did King John actually 'sign' Magna Carta?

Coin

The Royal Mint has been criticised for featuring a picture of King John signing Magna Carta with a quill on a coin celebrating its 800th anniversary. A wax seal was actually used, but does the mistake really matter, asks Justin Parkinson?

The £2 coin shows King John holding Magna Carta in one hand and a large quill in another. The meaning is obvious - he signed it.

Actually, he didn't. John, like other medieval monarchs, used the Great Seal to put his name to the document, making concessions to England's barons in 1215, following years of arguments over royal power.

The Royal Mint has been accused of making a "schoolboy error". Historian Marc Morris stated that medieval kings "did not authenticate documents by signing them" but "by sealing them".

The Mint has defended itself by saying the scene shown on the coin is not meant to give a "literal account of what actually occurred".

No quill was used, but was the Magna Carta still "signed" in a sense? The Oxford English Dictionary defines the verb "to sign" in this way: "To put a seal upon (a letter or document) as a means of identification or authentication; to stamp with a seal or signet; to cover with a seal." The first use the OED records of the verb used in this way was by King John's son Henry III, saying a document was "sened wiþ vre seel (signed with our seal)".

King John "signing" Magna Carta It wasn't quite like this

So, the idea of signing something predated our more narrow modern sense of a person writing their name or something else to denote their consent - the autograph signature.

Is criticism of the Royal Mint fair? "I think it's pretty harsh," says Jane Caplan, professor of modern history at Oxford University. "The story is pretty complicated and it's not surprising that people make mistakes."

The wording of Magna Carta, a verbal agreement between the king and the barons, was written down later and the seal added by officials. So he didn't seal it himself either. The contents of the copies made were to be read out in public in what was still more of an oral official culture than our own.

The wax seal helped validate the understanding that Magna Carta was the King's true will. "The seal was the conventional way of authenticating a document at that time," says Claire Breay, medieval manuscripts curator at the British Library.

It was not "signed" according to the conventional modern usage of the word, but 1215 was not the modern world.

Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox.


Shakespear of Arabia

Captain William Henry Irvine Shakespear

Britain's ties with Saudi Arabia stem from the exploits of a dashing diplomat, Capt William Shakespear - an explorer and pioneering photographer. If he hadn't met an early death while photographing a desert battle scene, asks Matthew Teller, would we now know him as Shakespear of Arabia?

A hundred years ago this week, the camel-mounted armies of Abdulaziz - known as Ibn Saud, later to become the founding king of Saudi Arabia - were preparing to face their arch-enemies, the Rashidis.

Alongside, in full khaki battledress and pith helmet, stood William Shakespear.

After a glittering early career in the British Indian administration in Bombay, Captain Shakespear had been posted in 1909 to Kuwait.

There, already fluent in Arabic, he forged a close personal relationship with Abdulaziz, head of the House of Saud - but then just the ruler of a desert area in northern Arabia.

Ibn Saud standing in front of his son and followers near Thaj 1911 Ibn Saud standing in front of his son and followers

Then, as now, Gulf diplomacy depended on personal connections - and the two men, both in their mid-30s, seemed to hit it off straight away.

After their first meeting, hosted by the ruler of Kuwait in 1910, Shakespear wrote that Ibn Saud had "a frank, open face, and is of genial and courteous manner".

When Shakespear invited Ibn Saud to dine at the diplomatic residence in Kuwait the next evening, the Bedouin noble sat down to hearty English cooking: roast lamb with mint sauce, roast potatoes and asparagus (tinned, by necessity).

But Shakespear was no stuffed shirt. From his first arrival in the Gulf he had set about learning local ways, embarking on extended journeys into the desert, sketching or hunting with his falcon and pack of Saluki hounds.

Shakespear's party stops for a coffee break in the desert in region of Al-Jawf, 1914 Shakespear's party stops for a coffee break in the desert
Shakespear's camping gear probably in mountains in vicinity of Wadi Rum/Yatun Aqabah, May 1914 Shakespear was known for travelling with a folding table and chairs and dressing for dinner

Shakespear notes how Ibn Saud was surprised by his knowledge of the desert. Growing mutual respect opened the door to a series of meetings, mostly at remote encampments, where the two men held extended conversations often lasting days.

Round the Bend

A series of tales from the days when Britain ruled India and the Gulf, told with documents newly digitised by the British Library

Oil would not be discovered in Arabia for another 25 years. Instead, the conversation turned on Britain's diplomatic priorities: extending colonial influence and outwitting Ottoman Turkey. The latter goal was shared by Ibn Saud, who sought to conquer Arabia by defeating his tribal nemesis, Ibn Rashid, an Ottoman ally.

Shakespear was a keen photographer. He made the first-ever photographs of Ibn Saud using a small Houghton Ensignette, a brand-new camera introduced in 1909 - and captured unique panoramic images of the desert using what writer Peter Harrigan has theorised was a No.1 Panoram-Kodak, a wooden device whose spring-mounted lens moved with a sweeping motion across a 112-degree arc.

Wadi Rum, north-east of Aqabah, looking north (panorama) May 1914 Wadi Rum, a desert valley now in Jordan that was visited by TE Lawrence ("of Arabia") in 1917 and where the movie of Lawrence was filmed in 1961
Breakfast inside Qasr Marid-Dumat al-Jandal- al-Jawf (panorama) April 1914 This panoramic image inside a fort at breakfast-time shows Shakespear's intimacy with local life

Both used the unstable cellulose nitrate film of the day, which had to be processed using tanks of chemicals that Shakespear carried with him into the desert, developing his negatives in a blacked-out corner of his tent.

In 1913 Ibn Saud drove the Ottoman garrison out of the coastal oasis of Al-Hasa. Chafing at the short-sightedness of his government in refusing to back the rising power in Arabia, in February 1914 Shakespear mounted an expedition across Arabia, from Kuwait to Riyadh - where he flouted explicit orders not to meet with Ibn Saud - and then through the Nafud desert to modern Jordan, and across the Sinai desert to Suez and Cairo. Almost two-thirds of Shakespear's 1,800-mile route was uncharted territory, mapped and photographed by him for the first time.

But with the outbreak of World War One in Europe, British priorities shifted. In late 1914, as part of a plan to take Basra from the Ottomans, Shakespear was despatched to negotiate a treaty with Ibn Saud.

The two met on 31 December at Ibn Saud's camp in the desert north of Riyadh, and Shakespear was still with Ibn Saud's Bedouin army - numbering 6,000 - when scouts reported that Ibn Rashid's forces were gathering nearby.

Abdulaziz Ibn Saud's army on the march near Habl 1911 Ibn Saud's army on the march

The two rivals for Arabian power clashed at Jarrab on 24 January 1915 - and Shakespear, standing prominently on a hilltop beside the fighting, was shot and killed.

Reports of the battle varied widely, and the circumstances of Shakespear's death remained unclear, but the British Library recently digitised a first-hand account given by Shakespear's personal cook, Khalid bin Bilal.

As the battle began, Khalid had seen Shakespear carry his camera to a patch of higher ground, but then lost sight of him as the Rashidi forces charged forward. Two days later, having escaped from captivity, he overheard Rashidi fighters discuss the death of the Englishman. He returned to the battlefield and found Shakespear's corpse, marked by three gunshot wounds.

Shakespear was only 37, but he had made his mark. Shortly after the skirmish Ibn Saud and Britain signed the treaty Shakespear had drafted - the first international recognition of Saudi rule in Arabia.

Had he lived to continue his work, it's tempting to speculate that another, more famous, British maverick - TE Lawrence - might never have been dispatched to Arabia. We might today be talking about not Lawrence of Arabia, but Shakespear of Arabia.

Click here to see the originals of the documents referred to above:

Shakespear's photos are part of a collection held at the the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)

The official report of Shakespear's death

Khalid bin Bilal's witness statement on how Shakespear died

An essay, The Death of Captain Shakespear, by British Library curator Daniel Lowe

Round the Bend is a series of tales from the days when Britain ruled India and the Gulf, told with documents newly digitised by the British Library. You can explore the archive yourself.

Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox.


Weekendish: The best of the week's reads

Eco goats in action

A collection of some of the best reads from the BBC News website this week, with an injection of your comments.

They are known as the Eco Goats - and they are very much in demand. A herd of about 70 goats has been gobbling up unwanted vegetation and invasive species growing on America's East Coast. Andy, a tall goat with long, floppy ears, was, like the rest of the herd, originally bought to be butchered. But he had a lucky escape when owner Brian Knox discovered the goats' hidden skills. "We got to know the goats well and thought, we can't sell them for meat," he says. "So we started using them around this property on some invasive species. It worked really well, and things grew organically from there." One of the reasons goats are so effective is that plant seeds rarely survive the grinding motion of their mouths and their multi-chambered stomachs - this is not always the case with other mechanical or chemical techniques, which leave seeds in the soil to spring back. "I'd love to say I invented it, but it's been around since time began," adds Knox.

The goats fighting America's plant invasion

464 gray line
Weight and see
Two stomachs

From feast to famine - scientists say we should forget about the latest weight-loss fad - our genes, hormones and psychology may already have worked out what diet is best for us. The latest weight-loss theory is that instead of reaching for a one-size-fits-all diet, people should follow one that is tailored to their individual needs. For the first time, leading obesity experts and BBC Science have put this theory to the test nationally. Over three months, 75 dieters were put through a series of tests and monitored at home. The study looked at three types of overeaters - feasters, cravers and emotional eaters. The article includes an online test to find which approach would be right for you. Dave Turner on Twitter wrote: "I reached a low point last night. I lied about my height to a BBC diet app. It still told me I was overweight."

In search of a personalised diet

464 gray line
Home shortage
Bricks

In 2007, the Labour government set a target for 240,000 homes to be built a year by 2016. The UK is nowhere near that. As the country faces up to a house building crisis, the Magazine looks at why it has become so hard to build new homes. The planning system and local opposition to building were two of the main reasons cited. The Home Builders Federation says that while things have improved recently, the planning system is "still far too slow, bureaucratic and expensive". A shortage of available land and the lack of state-built council houses have also been blamed as part of the cause. Duncan Shrubsole, tweeted: "Why can't the UK build 240,000 houses a year? Indeed - great analysis via BBC news. Need state to take a lead."

Why can't the UK build 240,000 houses a year?

464 gray line
Rubber glove rebellion
Cleaner, protesting

A group of middle-aged cleaners has become heroes to Greeks hit hard by austerity, for refusing to go quietly when their jobs were cut. Their emblem - a red rubber glove making a fist or victory sign - has become a sign of defiance, springing from decades of low-paid work and hard lives as mothers, wives, widows or divorcees. The women, nearly 600 in total, cleaned the finance ministry's offices around the country but were laid off 16 months ago in public sector cuts. They have camped outside the ministry in central Athens since May and their dogged persistence has caught the imagination - and given the government more than a mild headache.

The women giving vim to Greece's anti-austerity movement

464 gray line
The bad book
Mein Kampf

Dr James Murphy translated the first unabridged version of Hitler's Mein Kampf into English. He was a journalist who had lived in Berlin and written a book about Hitler when he was asked by the Nazis to start work on the Fuehrer's book. What followed was an intriguing story - told here by his grandson John Murphy - of copyright worries, sneaking back into Nazi Germany to rescue manuscripts and a Soviet spy. Liew Zhe Rong tweeted: "Relevant to world situation today: to translate or not translate."

Why did my grandfather translate Mein Kampf?

464 gray line
And if all of that wasn't enough, here are some smaller bites for you to enjoy...

How two climbers scaled the smooth rock face of Yosemite's El Capitan, the secret history of Special Brew and what on earth is thundersnow?

464 gray line
Here are some things we've enjoyed this week from elsewhere around the web:

Roberto Saviano: My life under armed guard - The Guardian

A Wild Goose Chase - www.Eater.com

CrossFit's Annie Thorisdottir: is this the fittest woman in the world? - The Telegraph

Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox


10 things we didn't know last week

Woman about to give presentation

1. Jamaica, Colombia and Saint Lucia are the only countries in the world where a woman is more likely to be a boss than a man.

Find out more (Washington Post)

2. No-one has won a Spot The Ball competition for 10 years.

Find out more (Guardian)

3. You can buy a Lycra outfit for a camel.

Find out more (Niume)

4. Shredded Wheat's early packaging recommended serving it with a poached egg.

Find out more

5. Edwards County, Texas, has roughly one person and 22 goats per square mile.

Find out more (Smithsonian)

6. One in 10 of Britain's train carriages flush toilet waste straight onto the railway tracks.

Find out more

7. Men are less promiscuous when women are scarce.

Find out more (the Times)

8. A recently published image of a thresher shark giving birth may be the only photograph ever taken of an oceanic shark in labour.

Find out more

9. About 30 copies of Charlie Hebdo are sold in the UK in a normal week.

Find out more (Guardian)

10. Thundersnow is like a thunderstorm but brighter, less noisy and with snow instead of rain.

Find out more

Seen a thing? Tell the Magazine on Twitter using the hashtag #thingIdidntknowlastweek

Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox.


Go Figure: The week in numbers

Look back at the week in numbers with our Go Figure images, which are posted daily on social media.

Poker chips

Monday: A new computer program is claimed to be the perfect poker player

line break
Sleeping baby

Tuesday: Babies may be best at learning just before sleep, researchers say

line break
Charlie Hebdo magazine

Wednesday: Charlie Hebdo magazine increases print run as stocks sell out

line break
El Capitan

Thursday: Two men who began free climbing at El Capitan last month reach summit

line break
Beagle2

Friday: Long-lost robot Beagle2 found on Mars, 11 years after launch

line break

Find #BBCGoFigure on Twitter and on Facebook


How to say: Xiaomi

Lei Jun

It's the world's most valuable privately held company, and its third biggest smartphone maker, selling 61 million handsets last year. But how do you pronounce Xiaomi? Jo Kim of the BBC Pronunciation Unit says it's not simple.

Xiaomi may be the market-leader in China, but in most English-speaking countries it's not yet as big as Samsung or Apple, or not yet. This may be why there is so far no agreed English pronunciation.

At the BBC Pronunciation Unit, we have heard all of the following variations in tech reviews and news reports:

  • show MEE (-sh as in ship, -ow as in now, -ee as in street, stressed syllable in upper case)
  • ZHOW-mee (-zh as the "s" in measure, stress on the first syllable)
  • sigh-OW-mee (-igh as in high)
  • zigh-OH-mee (-oh as in no)

However, we recommend to our broadcasters:

  • SHOW mee (-sh as in ship, -ow as in now, -ee as in street, note first syllable stress)

This reflects the pronunciation used by the VP of Xiaomi Global, the Brazilian Hugo Barra, who said shortly after taking up his position in August 2013: "Think of 'show me', and then pronounce the first word as if it was 'shower.'"

Hugo Barra

You can hear him say it on video here.

So that is our recommended Anglicisation of the name. What is the Chinese pronunciation?

This question doesn't have a simple answer either - in Chinese, just as in English, there is a great deal of variation between dialects and accents.

You can hear the president of the company say it here, and the CEO say it here.

Chinese speakers will notice that the two men are using slightly different tones. They also pronounce the X of Xiaomi differently. The president's pronunciation uses a sound anglicised by some as "sh" (as in ship) and by others as "s" (as in sit). The CEO's pronunciation is closer to the "zh" in measure.

Chinese, as a tone language, does not have lexical stress (the stress placed on a syllable) - unlike English - although English speakers sometimes perceive tones as stress.

It's important to note, though, that the pronunciation of a company name and product by English speakers doesn't always follow the creator's pronunciation.

A good example of this is the pronunciations in use for GIF, the image format. One of its creators, prefers a "j" sound (as in Jack) but among the general public it's common to hear a hard "g" (as in get).

Nike trainers Also pronounced in different ways... Nike

Another example is TESLA, the car brand, pronounced TEZ-luh by co-founder Elon Musk, but often TESS-luh by others (in line with the pronunciation of Nikola Tesla, the scientist the company is named after). Even TESLA UK uses the TESS-luh pronunciation on the voicemail.

Then there is Chrysler, which is pronounced differently in British and American English - KRYZ-luhr (-y as in cry, -z as in zoo, -uhr as in over) and KRYSS-luhr (-s as in sit) respectively. And there are two pronunciations in use for Nike in British English alone: NIGH-ki (-igh as in high, final -i as 'y' in happy) and NIGHK (without the final vowel). The company itself prefers the former.

So while Hugo Barra's pronunciation for Xiaomi stresses the first syllable, it is possible that the stress pattern in English might change to final-syllable stress in general usage - as in similar two-syllable Chinese words, Beijing and Shanghai.

The Pronunciation Unit is part of the BBC's Information and Archives department. Its service is available exclusively to BBC broadcasters and programme-makers. The pronunciations discussed are represented using BBC text spelling.

Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox.


How 'stealthy' are the new speed cameras?

M25 with speed camera to left of picture The new speed camera can be spotted at the far left of the picture on a grey pole

There has been alarm about new "stealth" speed cameras. Just how "sneaky" are they, asks Tom de Castella.

It goes by the snappy name Highways Agency Digital Enforcement Camera System 3, or Hadecs 3 for short. The new speed camera system was installed in April 2014 between junctions five and six on the M25 in Kent, near Clacket Lane Services. But it only became operational on 22 October. By 15 January - less than three months later - 1,513 people had been caught. One of the biggest complaints is that they are painted grey rather than yellow.

The Daily Mail warned: "Watch out, new stealth cameras on motorways." It noted that the high tech camera system will soon be expanded to other motorways.

Hadecs 3 differs radically from older systems. It can cover all the lanes of a motorway carriageway from a single camera mounted on the grass verge or a gantry. If the vehicle is breaking the speed limit the camera takes two photographs of the registration number.

In contrast, the average speed system requires a pair of cameras to catch the car entering and leaving a controlled zone. And before Hadecs 3, motorway cameras could only monitor one lane of motorway at a time.

The answer

  • The new cameras are grey and situated on the motorway verge so may be hard to see
  • But there are signs warning drivers of speed cameras ahead

Critics of the new system say that unlike the yellow boxed speed cameras of old, its grey colour makes it hard to spot - "stealthy" even.

The Highways Agency rejects this. It may be grey. But so was predecessor Hadecs 2 - in operation on the M25 near Heathrow. And Hadecs 3 is accompanied by signs warning motorists of speed cameras ahead.

The M25 in Kent has been chosen because it is part of the government's Smart Motorways policy - where the hard shoulder is used and variable speed limits enforced. Similar cameras operate on the M25's northern section between junctions 23 and 27. And they will soon be rolled out to other Smart Motorway sections - the M1 (in Derbyshire and South Yorkshire), M6 (around Birmingham) and a stretch of the M3.

A lot of people have been caught in a short space of time. Of the 1,513 drivers logged by the new cameras, 781 had exceeded a speed limit of 70mph, according to Kent Police. The other 732 had broken a limit of either 40, 50 or 60mph. The Highways Agency says the people caught are a small proportion of the "hundreds of thousands of motorists [who] use this stretch of the M25 every day". But without knowing how many motorists were caught by the old camera systems on a similar stretch of motorway, it's hard to say whether more drivers are being caught by Hadecs 3.

Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox


Caption Challenge: Bear witness

A photographer takes a picture of a preserved panda bear in a display box at Berlin's Museum fur Naturkunde.

Winning entries in the Caption Challenge.

The competition is now closed.

This week a photographer takes a picture of the preserved remains of panda Yan Yan, formerly a resident of Berlin Zoo, at the city's Museum fur Naturkunde.

Thanks to all who entered. The prize of a small amount of kudos to the following:

6. Graham:

Here forever and not even a fig leaf.

5. Adrian Orrom:

"At least that bastard Hirst didn't get me..."

4. Andrew Williams:

"When I asked for a shoot I meant bamboo."

3. Alastair Worters:

I remember when Attenborough was only yay high...

2. Adrian Webster:

"I'm in here how long with David Blaine?"

1. Catherine O:

We think he was brushing his teeth when he died.

This week…Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox.


What workers hate about TV depictions of their profession

Olivia Coleman and David Tennant in Broadchurch

Broadchurch's portrayal of the legal process has irritated lawyers. They complained that the murder trial started within weeks of a not guilty plea, and of witnesses being allowed to watch before giving evidence. But what do other professions hate about their portrayal, asks Tom de Castella.

In Mad Men, Don Draper wins over Kodak with a moving pitch about the firm's new slide projector, using photographs of his wife and young family. "This is not a spaceship, it's a time machine," he says. "It goes backwards and forwards, and it takes us to a place where we ache to go again." His audience are overcome. Draper's colleague Harry Crane starts sobbing and has to leave the room. Kodak immediately cancels its meetings with other agencies.

Advertisers hate television's portrayal of the "genius pitch", says Chris Arnold, founder of the agency Creative Orchestra. Creative directors are depicted as supremely confident auteurs with the gift of the gab, he says. But in reality they are delegators calling on the skills of others. Neither are "creatives" always confident speakers, nor do they use folksy personal stories. And colleagues don't well up when listening to a pitch, he says.

Then there's the finding of the idea. "They always portray it as that wonderful moment - 'that's it, that's the idea!' It's never like that." Instead creatives split up into teams and come up with hundreds of ideas and the best one is chosen.

Plumbing is also beset by inaccurate cliches on TV, says Charlie Mullins, founder of Pimlico Plumbers. "You often see a plumber with their head under the sink, on their knees. They just stay there frozen." In reality they would be moving around, getting tools and trying to fix the problem. Costume departments put them in bibs and braces. They look like painters rather than plumbers, he says. And the tools are wrong. They get an adjustable spanner and a screwdriver. "You can't install a bath with that," Mullins says. In real life they have a van so can carry a heavy toolbox. The jargon is also wrong - plumbers don't talk about U-bends, they'd call it a "trap", he says.

General practitioner Dr Sarah Jarvis has a particular bugbear about medical dramas. "In Peak Practice, the GPs did nothing in between surgeries apart from playing golf or seeing patients at home." The reality for Jarvis is five hours of paperwork a day. Her other pet hate is the way A&E is depicted. "Someone has a cardiac arrest, George Clooney bashes their chest and the patient is fine." That might happen to a young, fit person, but it is not what happens to the majority needing cardiac resuscitation. The Times' Dr Mark Porter says doctors are never busy enough in medical dramas. Doctors amble around, chatting to patients about their relationships, whereas in real life their bleep would be going off and they'd be trying to do five things at once. And on the other hand TV radically compresses life and death. "In drama the patient goes from dead to fine in seconds and minutes. Whereas in the real world people are very ill for hours and days."

What do films and TV dramas get most wrong about your job? Email the.magazine@bbc.co.uk using the subject line: job gripes. Or tweet @bbcnewsmagazine including #theyneverdothat


Who What Why: How do you climb a smooth rock face?

Tommy Caldwell climbs Pitch 15

Two men have free climbed the Dawn Wall of Yosemite's El Capitan rock formation, a feat no-one has ever managed before. The 3,000-foot (914m) sheer granite face is one of the most difficult climbs in the world and frighteningly smooth. How did they hold on?

"The holds are quite literally matchsticks on a vertical face," says Leo Houlding, a professional climber who has climbed El Capitan by a different route.

"Your main point of contact when you are climbing is the tips of your fingers and obviously hanging on to tiny little holds with all your bodyweight, and all the power you can create, starts to shred your fingertips," Houlding says.

"And after a week you have very little skin left."

Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson, the two climbers who completed their epic climb on Wednesday, had been on the wall since 27 December - two-and-a-half weeks.

Graphic showing Dawn Wall of El Capitan

They have both taken occasional rest days for the skin on their fingers to recover from what the climb's media manager John Long describes as "pulling down on razor sharp edges".

The answer

  • The rock face is not totally smooth, it has some cracks, lumps (or "nubs"), rough edges and other irregularities
  • The climbers wear high-friction shoes and climb at night in cooler weather
  • When necessary, they rest fingertips and use treatments to heal broken skin

This is why climbers "tend to use expensive skin care products" Houlding says.

Friction is key to the whole endeavour. The rock face is not quite like a billiard ball, it has some cracks, lumps and rough edges.

"We wear climbing shoes which are very tight-fitting high-friction rubber," Houlding says, "quite stiff so you can stand on tiny little edges and make your way up."

Using headlamps to light their way, Caldwell and Jorgeson often climb at night when the temperature is cooler - this means their hands sweat less, and there is more friction between their rubber shoes and the granite.

Kevin Jorgeson's hands The climbers put chalk powder on their fingers to help them grip

"Even in December or January in California it's still quite warm," says Houlding. "So they're climbing by night to try and find that little bit more friction."

Free climbers don't use ropes to ascend a rock face, though Caldwell and Jorgeson have ropes to catch them if they fall - and to descend to their hanging "portaledges" when they've completed one or more of the 32 sections of the climb.

These portaledges consist of a tent attached to an aluminium frame hanging from an anchor in the rock face. Even while resting inside, the men constantly wear harnesses, which are also tied to the anchor.

"It looks hazardous, but it's really quite safe," says Houlding. "It's good fun. It's beautiful. California at this time of year is amazing."

The Dawn Wall is arguably the toughest rock to climb in the world

Reporting by Elle Metz

Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox.


What is thundersnow?

Snow falls in Omagh, Northern Ireland

Thundersnow has been reported in parts of the UK. What exactly is this dramatic-sounding weather event?

First there was the frostquake. Then the firenado. Now another weather-related portmanteau has seized the headlines. Thundersnow has been reported in parts of Cornwall, South Wales, Tayside and Teesside. It sounds dramatic. What does it entail?

Basically, it is the same as a thunderstorm, except that snow falls instead of rain. It occurs when the atmosphere is unstable and the layer of air closest to the ground is cold enough to create snow, but still warmer than the air above it. "In this instance, the heating is coming from the sea which is still quite warm," says BBC weather presenter John Hammond. As the warm air rises, water droplets condense to form cumulonimbus clouds. Lightning occurs when these rub against each other, and thunder is the sound of the lightning.

The answer

  • Like a thunderstorm, except snow is produced instead of rain
  • Brighter, but less noisy, than a typical thunderstorm

It can look more spectacular than a normal electric storm. When thundersnow occurs during night time, the lightning appears brighter because it is reflected against the snowflakes. But the snowfall also serves to muffle the thunder, which will typically be heard no more than three miles away. We hear it after the lightning strike because sound moves more slowly than light.

Thunderstorms are more likely to occur in warm, humid conditions and during the summer. But while thundersnow is relatively unusual, it is not unheard of, either (and thundersleet - its slushier, drabber cousin). "It's less common in the winter, but it's still quite typical," says Hammond. It was reported in Glasgow as recently as February 2013, and he thinks the UK could witness some more this weekend.

Reporting by Jon Kelly

Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox


The secret history of Special Brew

Tins of Special Brew

Long associated with problem drinkers, Special Brew could now have its alcohol level reduced. But will it alter the super-strength lager's reputation, asks Jon Kelly.

It was first brewed in honour of Winston Churchill. Today "Spesh" or, as it is often referred to in headlines, "tramp juice", is most commonly associated with getting drunk incredibly cheaply. Now Special Brew - which at 9% ABV contains 4.5 units of alcohol per can - will become less potent in 2015. Brewer Carlsberg says that it will sign up to a UK government-led pledge that no drink should contain more than four units, a man's maximum recommended daily intake.

It would be an ignominious fate for a beer whose tin proclaims that it comes "by appointment to the Royal Danish court". Carlsberg says Special Brew was first brewed to commemorate Churchill's 1950 visit to Copenhagen, incorporating "cognac flavours among its tasting notes" in deference to the wartime prime minister's fondness for brandy. The novelist Kingsley Amis was also a fan, mixing it half-and-half with regular Carlsberg pilsner and praising its ability "to create goodwill". It was also immortalised in a top-three hit for ska-pop band Bad Manners.

The brand enjoys 37 million UK off-trade sales each year, says Chris Wisson, senior drinks analyst at Mintel. But recently super-strength lager has come under fire for its social impact. One homeless charity compared such drinks to crack cocaine and, in an effort to tackle anti-social behaviour, shopkeepers have agreed not to stock them in parts of Westminster and Suffolk. Spurred by such complaints, the government raised duty on beers over 7.5% in 2011. InBev, manufacturer of Special Brew's rival Tennent's Super, has already said it will reduce its cans from 500ml to 440ml in order not to exceed four units.

No decision has yet been taken on whether to shrink the cans or ABV of Special Brew and Skol Super, also brewed by Carlsberg UK, but Bruce Ray, the company's corporate affairs director, says it wants to create a "responsible drinking environment". The pledge offers an opportunity to reshape the brand's image. But although the craft beer boom created a market for artisan high-ABV drinks, trends in alcohol sales indicate that, increasingly, "most drinkers want something a little less strong", says Wisson. Who knows what Churchill, an enthusiastic consumer of Pol Roger champagne, would make of it all.

Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox


10 things we didn't know last week

Benedict Cumberbatch

1. Lions enjoy chewing discarded Christmas trees.

Find out more (Daily Telegraph)

2. Barack Obama calls David Cameron "bro".

Find out more (Time)

3. Benedict Cumberbatch and King Richard III are third cousins, 16 times removed.

Find out more (Daily Mail)

4. Parts of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, upstate New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and nearly all of Maine and Minnesota were colder than Mars on Thursday.

Find out more (The Guardian)

5. There is little international trade in onions - about 90% are consumed in their country of origin.

Find out more

6. Islamic State levies a 50% tax rate.

Find out more (Financial Times)

7. The virus behind the common cold is much happier in a cold nose.

Find out more

8. Justin Bieber supports Everton.

Find out more (Daily Mirror)

9. Half of the world's pigs live in China.

Find out more (The Economist)

10. The Queen once gave former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond a successful horse racing tip.

Find out more (The Courier)

Seen a thing? Tell the Magazine on Twitter using the hashtag #thingIdidntknowlastweek

Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox.


Go Figure: The week in numbers

Look back at the week in numbers with our Go Figure images, which are posted daily on social media.

Man playing cricket on sandbank

Monday: Salvage teams board ship run aground on sandbank

line break
The Sun

Tuesday: "Spin clock" uses sun spots to tell the age of stars

line break
Planet

Wednesday: A new planet is now the "most Earth-like alien world"

line break
Baked beans

Thursday: World's largest container ship docks in UK

line break
Green mamba

Friday: Researchers aim to save thousands of snake bite victims

line break

Find #BBCGoFigure on Twitter and on Facebook


Weekendish: The best of the week's reads

Onions piled up

A collection of some of the best reads from the BBC News website this week, with an injection of your comments.

The tangy, tear-inducing onion is eaten and grown in more countries than any other vegetable. Its taste has been enjoyed for centuries - so it's time to show it some appreciation, says the BBC's Marek Pruszewicz. Deep in the archives of Yale University's Babylonian Collection lie three small clay tablets - they are the oldest known cookery books. Covered in minute cuneiform writing, they reveal recipes rich with not only onions, but also leeks, garlic and shallots. "They seem obsessed with every member of the onion family!" says assyriologist and gourmet cook Jean Bottero. Centuries on and the humble bulb is produced in at least 175 countries, well over twice as many as grow wheat. "Please respect the most humble & delicious of all veggies, the onion," tweeted Broadcast Belle.

Three cheers for the onion

464 gray line
The unkillable man
Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart being painted by Mollie Forestier-Walker

Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart was a one-eyed, one-handed war hero who fought in three major conflicts across six decades, surviving plane crashes and PoW camps. He served in the Boer War, World War One and World War Two. In the process, he was shot in the face, losing his left eye, and was also shot through the skull, hip, leg, ankle and ear - and he ripped off his own fingers when a doctor refused to amputate. He was famous for leading from the front - inspiring men with the simple words "follow me". As commanding officer, he was seen by his men pulling the pins of grenades out with his teeth and hurling them with his one good arm during the Battle of the Somme, winning the Victoria Cross. "Carton de Wiart is like Robocop," says Colour Sgt Thomas O'Donnell. David Quainton wrote on Twitter: "Yay! My favourite indestructible human is getting a bit of BBC love."

The soldier who fought on and on and on

464 gray line
Monster ships
The Globe

From a giant of the battlefield to monsters of the sea. The container ship the Globe docked in Britain for the first time this week - shortly after taking the crown as the largest container ship in the world. The stats are jaw-dropping - it's 400m (1,312ft) long, the equivalent of eight Olympic-size swimming pools. It is 56.8m (186ft) wide and 73m (240ft) high, its gross tonnage is 186,000 - the equivalent of 14,500 London buses. Laid end-to-end, the maximum number of containers on board would stretch for 72 miles, the distance between Felixstowe and London, or Birmingham and Manchester. But it isn't expected to hold the title for long because a slightly larger vessel - the Oscar - is about to be launched. How much bigger can these ocean-going behemoths get?

The world's biggest ship - for 53 days

464 gray line
Rapist rehabilitation
Ched Evans

On Thursday footballer Ched Evans issued an apology. "Whilst I continue to maintain my innocence, I wish to make it clear that I wholeheartedly apologise for the effects that night in Rhyl has had on many people, not least the woman concerned," he said. It came a day after the Magazine's article on about what an apology from Evans might mean. Evans was found guilty by a jury in 2012 of the rape of a 19-year-old woman, who was estimated to be two-and-a-half times over the drink-drive limit. The overarching factor cited by all of his critics has been his failure to say sorry. According to criminologist David Wilson, acknowledgement of culpability is absolutely key to making rehabilitation work. "Unless a convicted sex offender admits their guilt, there is absolutely nothing you could do with them in terms of treatment programmes," he said.

What difference would it make if Ched Evans said sorry?

464 gray line
Freedom of speech
Flowers and candles laid close to the Charlie Hebdo offices

Historian and writer Tom Holland was one of those who tweeted Charlie Hebdo's cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad in the wake of the deadly attack on the magazine's office. He explains why in an essay for the Magazine. He turns to Voltaire, who is something of a patron saint in France because of his lifelong campaigning for free speech and tolerance. "Ecrasez l'infâme, Voltaire famously urged his admirers: Crush what is infamous," writes Holland. "Islam, too, makes the same demand. The point of difference, of course, is over how "l'infâme" is to be defined." For Voltaire, the infamous referred to the pretensions of authority - in politics as well as religion. And it was the same for the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists. But for the gunmen, writes Holland, the "infamous" are those who "mock a prophet whom they feel should exist beyond even a hint of criticism." Here, he argues, lies the irreconcilable clash of opposed values. Dave Drabble tweets: "Rare to see such informed, nuanced views in the media."

'Why I tweeted Muhammad cartoon'

464 gray line
All smiles
Man laughing

From the tear-jerking onion to the tricky pursuit of a smile. AL Kennedy looks at how the desire for happiness can make us sad. "The vast advertising industry would have us believe... that acquiring things will make us happy," she writes. "We're shown pictures of crowds responding with apparently exponential panic, if not violence, to pop-up sales, clearance sales, spring sales, end of season sales, Manic Monday and Black Friday." She adds that a recent study from the Yerkes National Primate Research Center has noted that monkeys can give us some important examples of how to achieve happiness. The animals were seen to exchange reciprocal favours without necessarily keeping track of who did what for whom - creating positive interactions and an atmosphere of monkey contentment.

The pursuit of happiness

464 gray line
Here are some things we've enjoyed this week from elsewhere around the web:

The Lives of Ronald Pinn - London Review of Books

The everyday sexism of women waiting in public toilet lines - Time

Vinyl's difficult comeback - The Guardian

The Unbelievable life of Fray Tormenta - Vice

Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox


Firm offering free drycleaning for jobseekers

Twitter picture of Timpsons advert for free dry clearning for unemployed

The High Street chain Timpson is offering to dry clean suits for unemployed people for nothing. It hopes this will help them succeed in job interviews, writes Justin Parkinson.

Interviewers like job candidates to look smart.

Jeans, T-shirts and trainers are generally a no-no in a lot of roles. Wearing a suit is expected for many interviews, even if the job itself does not involve dressing smartly. Clothes stains are said to "turn off" 59% of executives, with the remaining 41% probably ambivalent at best when confronted with the remains of a meal or a night out.

The problem is that getting suits dry cleaned usually costs in the vicinity of £10, which can be prohibitive for unemployed people looking to return to work.

The Timpson chain, which also offers key-cutting and shoe repairs, has put up posters outside its stores proclaiming: "If you are unemployed and need an outfit cleaned for an interview, we will clean it for free."

The offer, in place since 1 January, has been taken up by hundreds of people, Timpson chief executive James Timpson says.

"When people are going for interview it's important to look and feel smart and getting their suit dry cleaned is part of that," he adds. "It makes people more confident and gives them that 2% extra chance of getting a job. We just thought it was a really good idea."

Timpson, which started in Manchester in 1865 and now has 1,395 stores around the UK, is not asking people to prove they are unemployed to get the free drycleaning.

"We just trust customers," says Timpson. "We had one lady who came in with a cocktail dress and we told her to hold on. But that's the only instance of a customer taking advantage."

Dry cleaning on a rack

UK unemployment fell by 63,000 to 1.96 million in the three months to the end of October, according to the latest Office for National Statistics figures.

The government is offering jobseeker's allowance claimants one-off help for people to buy smart clothes for job interviews, alongside assistance with skills such as writing and numeracy and updating CVs. Timpson says its action is part of the same effort to reduce unemployment.

Start Quote

If people are smartly dressed their confidence improves and that helps the way people present themselves”

End Quote Michele Rigby, Social Firms UK

"It's a marvellous offer to make," says Michele Rigby, chief executive of Social Firms UK, an organisation which helps disadvantaged people back into work. "It could make a huge difference to people. It's not just about turning up but about feeling confident about yourself. If people are smartly dressed their confidence improves and that helps the way people present themselves."

The idea has already been tried in the US. Plaza, a dry cleaning firm in Portland, Oregon, has been offering free services for the unemployed ahead of job interviews since 2010.

It has fewer restrictions than Timpson on the type of clothing to be cleaned, agreeing on one occasion to handle two women's bathing suits. The firm has not kept a record of the number of take-ups, but several customers whose job interviews were successful have returned to thank Plaza's staff.

"It isn't us, though. It isn't Plaza. It's our paying customers that make this possible," manager Kathey Butters has said. "If we didn't have our regular customers, we couldn't clean at no charge. That's who deserves thanks."

Rigby says she can't think of anything similar being done by a UK company before Timpson. The firm says there is no time limit on the free dry cleaning offer or any restriction on the number of times an unemployed person can use the service.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform has described James Timpson as "utterly wonderful".

People waiting for job interview

But Timpson, which employs ex-offenders in its stores as part of their rehabilitation into society, admits its thinking is not just based on altruism. James Timpson reasons that people who use the free drycleaning service will move on to paying for it when they get into work.

"It's all about running things the right way," he says. "People get it."

Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox.


The ultimate email disclaimer footnote

Disclaimer stamp

An MP has called for an end to "useless" legal disclaimers at the bottom of emails. Sir Alan Duncan says they result in "forests' worth of paper" being wasted. Jon Kelly drafts the footnote to end them all.

Please think carefully before printing this email, as carefully as you might choose a minibreak destination or the name of a family cocker spaniel. As your fingers hover over the ctrl and P keys, ask yourself: Must this message really exist as physical matter in three-dimensional space? Could I perhaps commit its contents to memory using some kind of mnemonic, or scribble it all down on the back of my hand? What would Daryl Hannah do?

This email is strictly confidential and, if your eyes have accidentally fallen upon its contents without the Company's express permission, please try to forget everything within, as though it were a fleeting but ultimately disastrous love affair. Failing that, you undertake to agree that your brain's frontal lobe and hippocampus become the property of the Company until such time this email fades from your recollection like an internet banking password. Oh, and keep schtum.

Additionally, this email is the property of the Company but any opinions expressed within are entirely the responsibility of the sender, whom the Company will mercilessly hang out to dry in the event of hostile media coverage and/or the merest hint of a Twitterstorm. Unfunny forwarded jokes, passive-aggressive reply-alls and annual round-robin updates on the family triumphs of casual acquaintances are nothing to do with us, guv, honestly, we're sick of them filling up our inboxes too.

If you are unsure about any of this, you can study this disclaimer more closely by highlighting key passages in highlighter ink on a printout. But before doing so, please think carefully.

Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox


Caption Challenge: Strings attached

Sculpture by artist Kerstin Schulz in Hanover, Germany

Winning entries in the Caption Challenge.

The competition is now closed.

This week it's a sculpture by artist Kerstin Schulz in Hanover, Germany.

Thanks to all who entered. The prize of a small amount of kudos to the following:

6. John Rigby:

"Are you all right, dear?" "No, I'm a frayed knot."

5. Siv Angel:

Brenda kept on walking. It was the last time anyone would string her along.

4. Paul Richardson:

"If you see Peter Parker, you can tell him we are so over."

3. Nigel Bryan:

After viewing the initial rushes, the team on the new Thunderbirds TV series suddenly realised that there was still a huge amount of work to do in post-production.

2. Martin Boniface:

"We are going to need an awful lot of Bolognese sauce."

1. Judgement Dave:

"It takes cunning and patience to catch a granny."

This week…Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox.


Is it harder to run in the Sahara Desert or the North Pole?

Runner in Marathon des sables

Polar explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes is to run the Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert. What's the difference between hot and cold endurance tests, asks Tom de Castella.

He once sawed his fingertips off after a bad case of frostbite. But Sir Ranulph Fiennes' next foes are likely to be heatstroke and thirst.

In April he'll take on the Marathon des Sables to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care. A 156-mile (251 km) race through the Sahara Desert, it's the equivalent of running five and a half marathons in six days. It is often called the toughest footrace on earth. Competitors must carry all their gear, including a mirror in case they get lost in a sandstorm and anti-venom kit for the snakes and scorpions. There are water stations along the way but with temperatures reaching 50C competitors need to take their own supply as well.

The answer

  • Easier to wear more clothes to keep warm than for the body to lose heat
  • Heatstroke, dehydration and blisters the main problems with running in the desert

Sir Ranulph is best known for icy challenges. He's the first person to reach both poles by surface means and the oldest Briton to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

So which is harder, hot or cold endurance tests?

Dr Andrew Murray, fellow of the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine, has run both polar races and also the Marathon des Sables. In cold climes, every inch of the body needs to be covered to avoid frostbite. Hypothermia is a threat so spare clothes are necessary. Running in snow saps the energy and then there are dangers like crevasses at the South Pole or polar bears at the North Pole.

The desert is harder though, he says. In the cold you can always wear more clothes to run. "The human body is good at conserving heat. But it is very difficult to shed heat." Heatstroke (when the body goes above 40.6C), is a potential problem. There's the risk of dehydration - fast runners have to slow down to avoid losing more water than they can drink. And then there's the sand. "Blisters can make people's feet look like they've gone 10 rounds with a lawn mower."

Fiennes has had two heart attacks and had to abandon his 2013 attempt to cross Antarctica in the winter. But he is spurred on by his "numerical obsession" with raising £20m - he's currently on £16.8m. Exertion in the heat hits the elderly particularly hard, says Fiennes, who will be 71 by the time the race starts. If he finishes, he'll be oldest Briton to do so. An 80-year-old Frenchman is the oldest.

Ranulph Fiennes undergoes tests ahead of the Marathon des Sables Ranulph Fiennes undergoes tests ahead of the Marathon des Sables

Fiennes expects not to be able to move by the end of the first day. "Physically I'm going to be a wreck pretty quickly." But these challenges are fought in the mind, he says. "There'll be a voice in my head saying I'll have a heart attack, I'll get hyperthermia, I've got a family, it's stupid to carry on. That sort of wimpish voice tries to appear logical, finding reasons for stopping. You have to fight it. I've had it so many times."

Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox


The recurring Facebook privacy hoax

Facebook

Since the start of the year there's been a resurgence of posting of copyright/privacy notices on Facebook. They're based on a two-year-old hoax. Why do they keep coming back, asks Gareth Rubin.

"In response to the new Facebook guidelines, I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, paintings, professional photos and videos, etc (as a result of the Berner Convention)."

Have you seen this status - or a variant - posted to your friends' Facebook profile recently? If so they have fallen for a hoax that has been doing the rounds since 2012 and will not die, no matter how many times it is debunked.

The message suggests that Facebook is planning to grab and sell users' photos and videos. In response, thousands of the social media giant's members have reposted the above status, or a variation. But it is nonsense. Facebook does not own copyright to user's content, it only has to right to distribute it - which is the whole point of the site.

And there is no such thing as the Berner Convention - there is a Berne Convention and it protects copyright. Some of the posts instead mention the Rome Convention.

Facebook's spokesman, Andrew Noyes, has said that under the initial terms and conditions, the company has the right to share and distribute your content. But if you want, you can alter this in your privacy settings. "We wanted to take a moment to remind you of the facts - when you post things like photos to Facebook, we do not own them."

"You should take no notice of these posts, they do absolutely nothing," says Marie Brewis, managing editor of PC Advisor. "It doesn't matter what you put on your profile, you have already signed up to Facebook's terms and if Facebook was going to change its terms and conditions it would tell people."

But people do keep taking notice. "It's one of the things about social media - people see all their friends talking about something and think it must be true," says Brewis. "And everyone wants to be the one who is in the know and to share something before anyone else.

"People think Facebook and Google are sucking up all their personal details so even people who don't have anything to hide get quite worried. And these terms and conditions can be quite hard to get your head around. Most people don't read the terms in the first place when they sign up so there could be anything in there, we just tick a box that says 'OK'."

You cannot retroactively cancel the permission you have granted Facebook when you first signed up. The only way to prevent the company sharing and distributing your content is to entirely deactivate your account.

Dr Maria Michalis of the University of Westminster Centre for Social Media Research says: "It is one of the things about social media - if you see a friend has posted something you tend to believe it. So stories go viral and they cannot be stopped. That's why we will keep seeing this hoax for years."

In response to the privacy postings, many people on Twitter and Facebook itself have commented that the best thing about this notice is that it tells them which of their friends are gullible enough to fall for a hoax that is years old.

Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox


Why does the military insist on saluting?

Prince Harry and Major General Michael S Linnington saluting

The UK's Ministry of Defence has issued a reminder to young officers to salute their superiors. But when did this form of greeting originate and why is it used, asks Justin Parkinson.

The salute is often thought to date back to Roman times, but there is no evidence that soldiers raised their hand as a formal greeting.

Another theory is that it originated in medieval Europe, when knights used their hands to raise their visors, revealing their identity to demonstrate they were friendly. This explanation is also regarded with scepticism.

The answer

  • It is likely to have developed from the custom of lifting one's hat to a superior officer
  • The Royal Navy's "palm down" salute is thought to have started because mechanics and others had dirty hands
  • The US military's salute is thought to have been inspired by this

It later became British Army tradition for privates and non-commissioned officers to remove their hat to greet officers. Junior officers did the same to their seniors. This apparently ended in the 18th Century because of concerns over excessive wear to headgear or hats becoming more cumbersome. A 1745 British order book states: "The men are ordered not to pull off their hats when they pass an officer, or to speak to them, but only to clap up their hands to their hats and bow as they pass."

The British Army developed a salute with the palm facing outwards, also used by the Royal Air Force. The Royal Navy, however, adopted a version with the palm facing downwards, thought to be because many men working on ships had dirty palms and to display them was disrespectful.

The salute works both as a mark of recognition for the Queen's commission awarded to officers and for seniority of rank, says Simon Lamb, of the British Veterans Recognition Card group. It is important that the senior person returns the salute to acknowledge the respect accorded, he argues.

The Royal Navy's form of salute is thought to have influenced the US military, whose version also involves the palm facing downwards.

Etiquette is important. In September last year, US President Barack Obama was criticised for saluting a marine as he left a helicopter while continuing to hold a cup of coffee. "It has been said that a sloppy salute is worse than not saluting at all," says the US Coast Guard Auxiliary, which, like many other non-military organisations, also salutes.

With the UK military becoming increasingly engaged in operations involving two or more of the armed forces, junior officers are said to have become confused over differing ranks and when to salute. So the UK Ministry of Defence has issued a chart explaining rankings and the insignia worn.

"In one's own service the pecking order will be pretty well understood - after all, it is drummed into you from day one of basic training," it says, adding that "protocol might not be so obvious" when services work together.

Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox


Go Figure: The week in numbers

Look back at the week in numbers with our Go Figure images, which are posted daily on social media.

Amazon observation tower

Monday: Brazil builds giant Amazon observation tower

line break
child mortality

Tuesday: Malawi's tale of hope as it reduces child mortality

line break
scotland referendum

Wednesday: Mass rallies mark referendum campaign climax

line break
Alibaba sells more than Amazon and eBay combined

Thursday: Alibaba set to price shares as investors gear up for flotation

line break
Highest  turnout in UK

Friday: Scotland votes 'No' to independence

line break

Find #BBCGoFigure on Twitter and on Facebook


10 things we didn't know last week

Walter White

1. Raisa Gorbachev sent the UK agriculture minister a book of 500 potato recipes.

Find out more (Financial Times)

2. Breaking Bad is the show people most often lie about having watched.

Find out more (Radio Times)

3. There are only seven surviving skeletons of the quagga - a cousin of the zebra that became extinct in 1883.

Find out more (Guardian)

4. Women are now rarely described as "blonde" or "sexy" in conversation.

Find out more (Daily Mail)

5. The threat of being eaten doesn't deter dumpling squid from having sex.

Find out more (Smithsonian)

6. Jamie Oliver turned down a role in the Hobbit.

Find out more (Guardian)

7. It costs £300 to operate on a constipated goldfish.

Find out more

8. Churchill's future sister-in-law wrote to him in 1907 warning him not to become a Muslim.

Find out more (Daily Telegraph)

9. Eating a menu composed of dishes cooked with alcohol in them can push you over the legal drink driving limit.

Find out more (New Scientist)

10. TV comedy Miranda elicited a complaint that the show was biased against tall women.

Find out more (Daily Mail)

Seen a thing? Tell the Magazine on Twitter using the hashtag #thingIdidntknowlastweek

Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox.


Go Figure: The week in numbers

Look back at the week in numbers with our Go Figure images, which are posted daily on social media.

The Interview

Monday: The Interview becomes Sony's most-downloaded title of all time

line break
Luise Rainer dies

Tuesday: Hollywood golden era star dies

line break
Mexico teachers

Wednesday: Mystery of absent Mexican teachers

line break

Thursday: No Go Figure today, Happy New Year

line break
cocoa crop

Friday: Cocoa quarantine centre to safeguard future of chocolate

line break

Find #BBCGoFigure on Twitter and on Facebook


100 things we didn't know last year

Candles in the shape of 100

Interesting and unexpected facts can emerge from daily news stories and the Magazine picks out such snippets for its weekly feature, 10 things we didn't know last week. Here's an almanac of the best of 2014.

1. The Pentagon has a plan for combating a zombie apocalypse.

Find out more (Foreign Policy)

2. Seals like to have sex with penguins.

Find out more

3. Hello Kitty is not a cat - she's a little girl.

Find out more (Jezebel)

4. It's quicker - by about three hours - to read the Hobbit than watch Peter Jackson's movie trilogy.

Find out more

5. There have been lions in London since the 13th Century - arriving either in 1210 or 1235 - although they may have died out briefly under Henry VI in 1436.

Find out more

6. Age renders you less certain as to whether a badger or a baboon would win in a fight.

Find out more (Independent)

7. Dreams get weirder as the night wears on.

Find out more (Smithsonian)

8. Gladiators were mostly vegetarian.

Find out more

9. The release of a track by Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson was delayed more than 30 years because Mercury objected to the presence of Bubbles the chimp at its recording.

Find out more (Daily Mail)

10. It's possible to charge a Nokia Lumia 930 using 800 apples and potatoes connected with copper wire and nails.

Find out more (Daily Telegraph)

11. Watching action films makes you eat more.

Find out more (Daily Telegraph)

12. Sir John Gielgud wrote the script for a gay porn film.

Find out more (Guardian)

13. It's against the law in England and Wales to swallow and regurgitate goldfish, even if they survive, but it may be legal to do the same with an octopus.

Find out more

14. American teachers are allowed to whack children with a paddle (a wooden bat a little shorter and thinner than a cricket bat) in 19 states.

Find out more (Economist)

Woman eating chocolate

15. There is a "right" way to eat chocolate - you pop a piece in your mouth, let it melt between the tongue and the palate, and then breathe in through your mouth and out through your nose.

Find out more (Financial Times)

16. It's actually fairly easy to weigh an ant.

Find out more

17. At least three Google employees have lived for months in their vehicles on the firm's California campus, eating in the staff cafeteria and showering in gyms.

Find out more

18. The bass line of Lou Reed's Walk on the Wild Side cost £17.

Find out more (Guardian)

19. Dollar squiggles on the pavement denote electric cables below.

Find out more

20. The most effective office regime is to work for 52 consecutive minutes and then have a 17-minute break.

Find out more (The Atlantic)

21. Ukraine's navy is equipped with combat sea lions.

Find out more (CNN)

22. A porcupine can fight off a pride of lions.

Find out more (Science Alert)

23. Two per cent of Anglican clergy are not sure whether God is "more than a human construct".

Find out more (The Times)

24. Los Angeles prison inmates have to pass a "gay-dar" test to stay in the safest wing.

Find out more (LA Weekly)

25. Over 88% of individual winners at the Darwin Awards are men.

Find out more (BMJ)

26. At the Starbucks outlet in the CIA's Langley headquarters, baristas aren't allowed to write customers' names on their cups.

Find out more (Independent)

27. When a person's age ends with a nine they are more likely to seek extramarital affairs, sign up for their first marathon, and run marathons faster than when they were slightly older or slightly younger.

Find out more (Guardian)

28. Popping a criminal's phone in a microwave and closing the door (but not switching it on) stops said criminal wiping it remotely.

Find out more

29. In China, Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are known as Curly Fu and Peanut.

Find out more

30. The most expensive pies of any English league football club are to be found at Brighton & Hove Albion - Rochdale's are the cheapest.

Find out more

31. It is almost impossible to take a German-registered car into Japan.

Find out more

Sydney Opera House

32. Olive oil and baking powder are rubbed onto parts of the Sydney Opera House in order to maintain it.

Find out more

33. Tall men get married earlier but short men stay married longer.

Find out more (Daily Telegraph)

34. Dodger Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Dodgers, is the most expensive Major League Baseball ground in which to propose marriage.

Find out more (Swimmingly)

35. There are more bicycles in Copenhagen than people.

Find out more

36. Lawrence of Arabia was offered a job as a nightwatchman at the Bank of England. He turned it down.

Find out more

37. The Indian record for staff absenteeism is thought to have been set by a biology teacher who did not turn up for work for 23 years.

Find out more

38. Senior technology gurus at the White House don't have to tuck their shirts in.

Find out more (The Hill)

39. Elephants can differentiate between men and women, and between different ethnicities, when they hear a voice.

Find out more

40. There is a brown bear living at the Chernobyl site.

Find out more

41. The average length of a Best Picture Academy Award-winning film is two hours and 20 minutes.

Find out more

42. The best way to prevent your headphones from tangling in your bag is to join the ends together.

Find out more (The Times)

43. It is illegal to race rubber ducks in some US states.

Find out more

44. A salmon cannon fires 40 fish a minute.

Find out more (Wired)

45. Simon Cowell has a saying for people editing shots of him on X Factor: Two words - happy and handsome.

Find out more (Financial Times)

46. When making a decision, former England and Derbyshire fast bowler Devon Malcolm asks himself: "What would Margaret Beckett do?"

Find out more (All Out Cricket)

Woman with red hair

47. Yorkshire and Humberside are as red-headed as Ireland.

Find out more (Daily Mail)

48. There is a symphonic Finnish prog-rock concept album about Scrooge McDuck.

Find out more (AV Club)

49. In Somalia, the word for president also means "big head".

Find out more

50. When Richard III was killed he suffered at least 11 injuries, although some of them might have been inflicted after death.

Find out more

51. According to OED, Cornish and Welsh have had less influence on the English language than Hawaiian, Swahili or Zulu.

Find out more (Daily Mirror)

52. The US National Security Agency used to have a Clown Club for staff members.

Find out more (Slashgear)

53. Kenny G's Going Home is used in public spaces in China to tell people to go home.

Find out more (New York Times)

54. Czech deer still avoid the Iron Curtain.

Find out more

55. Sir Bradley Wiggins is a fan of the Archers.

Find out more

56. The largest hunting dinosaur probably ate whole sharks.

Find out more (New Scientist)

57. In Oklahoma, the average marijuana joint costs the same as 2.41 bottles of Bud Light.

Find out more (Washington Post)

58. Group jogging is a crime in Burundi.

Find out more

Owl

59. It would cost £12.6 billion to issue every man, woman and child in the UK with an owl (and £69.3 billion if each was to get its own aviary).

Find out more (Ampp3d)

60. Some nurses in the UK wear fat suits as part of their training for dealing with morbidly obese patients.

Find out more

61. People are more likely to catch yawns from people of their own ethnicity.

Find out more (New Yorker)

62. Putting broken pottery in plant pots doesn't aid drainage.

Find out more

63. When given a date far in the future, William Hague can tell you off the top of his head which day of the week it will be.

Find out more (the Times)

64. Detainees at Guantanamo are allowed to watch the World Cup but don't see it live - it is made available a day later to ensure nothing subversive can be conveyed.

Find out more (Financial Times)

65. Guinness in 1982 came close to re-launching the brand as an English beer brewed in west London.

Find out more (Economist)

66. Prince is very good at ping pong.

Find out more

67. When crows drop stones into water to make food more accessible, they display the reasoning skills of children aged 5-7.

Find out more (New Scientist)

68. People called Eleanor are disproportionately likely to get into Oxford University.

Find out more

69. Hillary Clinton hasn't driven a car since 1996.

Find out more (the Atlantic)

70. Man-eating sharks are nine times more likely to kill men than women.

Find out more (The Wire)

71. Cate Blanchett and her husband share an email account.

Find out more (Sydney Morning Herald)

72. Men whose dating profile pictures are taken outdoors on a sunny day with trees in the background are most popular.

Find out more (The Times)

73. Main characters are more likely to die in children's cartoons than in films for adults.

Find out more (BMJ)

74. The authorities in Oregon, USA, are very, very particular about getting urine in their reservoirs.

Find out more (Oregon Live)

Bat

75. It's possible for a bat in the UK to fly across the sea to continental Europe.

Find out more

76. Richard Nixon was interested in the mating habits of pandas.

Find out more (Time)

77. The code A113 is implanted in every Pixar movie.

Find out more (Huffington Post)

78. The coat of a dead dog called London Jack, whose stuffed remains were used to collect charity donations at railway stations, changed colour twice.

Find out more

79. French trains are fatter than 50 years ago.

Find out more

80. In primates there is a correlation between female infidelity and males having large testicles.

Find out more (Huffington Post)

81. The last British Prime Minister to regularly wear a wedding ring in public was Lady Thatcher.

Find out more

82. Kladdkaka, a flat gooey chocolate cake, is the most googled food in Sweden.

Find out more (The Local)

83. The faces of the fastest riders in the Tour de France are 25% more attractive to women than the slowest 10% of riders, although women on the pill had a reduced preference for quicker riders.

Find out more

84. Early risers are more unethical at night and night owls more immoral in the morning.

Find out more (Harvard Business Review)

85. St Mary's Church is the most ambiguous term on Wikipedia.

Find out more (Slate)

86. Researchers at Michigan Technical University have been looking for the existence of time travellers on the internet.

Find out more (The Register)

87. The sound of a ticking clock can make women keener to have babies younger.

Find out more (New York magazine)

88. Dead passengers on British Airways flights used to be given sunglasses, a vodka and tonic and a copy of the Daily Mail to disguise them from other passengers.

Find out more (Daily Mirror)

89. The Black Death improved public health in subsequent centuries, although no-one knows the exact reason.

Find out more (Smithsonian)

90. There are at least three different approved ways of saying Hyundai, depending on whether you're in South Korea, the UK or US.

Find out more

Leighton Baines and Roy Hodgson

91. England manager Roy Hodgson and player Leighton Baines share a passion for the novelist Haruki Murakami.

Find out more (Daily Telegraph)

92. The Star Wars character Han Solo was partly based on Francis Ford Coppola.

Find out more (New Yorker)

93. The first bar code on a commercial product was on a packet of Wrigley's Juicy Fruit chewing gum.

Find out more (Economist)

94. Pennsylvania is the most linguistically rich US state - it has five dialects, compared with the typical two or three.

Find out more (Slate)

95. There is a once-a-year a bus service from Salisbury Plain to Imber.

Find out more

96. Comedian Les Dawson wrote a secret romantic thriller under the nom de plume Maria Brett-Cooper.

Find out more

97. Congo-Brazzaville has a peat bog the size of England.

Find out more

98. Snakes squeeze tree trunks far harder than necessary.

Find out more

99. Pope Paul VI believed that animals go to heaven.

Find out more (Daily Beast)

100. The dark side of the Moon is actually turquoise.

Find out more (Guardian)

Seen a thing? Tell the Magazine on Twitter using the hashtag #thingIdidntknowlastweek

Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox.


Why are so many drinks flavoured with honey?

Honey

Honey has long been in people's shopping baskets. But why is it increasingly finding its way into bread and alcoholic drinks, asks Luke Jones.

From honey-roasted ham to hot toddies or as a topping on your breakfast porridge, it's a familiar ingredient.

But now honey has experienced something of a surge in popularity. The number of food and drink launches in the UK with honey as a named ingredient has doubled over the past four years to 4%, according to market researchers Mintel.

In October Warburtons launched a "Honey Wheat" loaf. Sugar Puffs were recently rebranded as "Honey Monster Puffs". Drinks such as Jack Daniels' Tennessee Honey and Three Barrels Honey brandy have been "a huge success", says Vince Bamford, food and drink editor at The Grocer magazine. Honey-flavoured meat glazes are increasingly popular, he adds. Honey is having a moment.

It is largely down to "perceptions of health" says David Turner, a food and drink analyst at Mintel. He highlights data from the US where a third of those surveyed believed sugar was bad for their health, but six out of ten thought honey was good for them - which might account for the rise of honey-flavoured meat products, chocolate, ice cream and yoghurts.

But while science does suggest that some high-quality honey has some health benefits, the kind of honey flavouring your cereal is "hardly different to the white sugar on your table", says dietician Sarah Schenker.

The trend started in food production - specifically cereals and food bars, says Turner. They still account for a quarter of food launches containing honey.

It can be seen as indulgent - as in southern barbecue glazes. But it's also portrayed as a natural, organic alternative to "sugar made by men in white coats", suggests Turner. "Customers are starting to see honey as a flavour and not just a sweetener", he says.

line
How does honey compare?
From Left: Stevia plant, jar of honey, leaves of the blue agave From Left: Stevia plant, jar of honey, leaves of the blue agave
  • Honey: Comprises 80% natural sugars, 18% water and 2% minerals, vitamins, pollen and protein.
  • Agave: A syrup which is about 1.5 times sweeter than table sugar and has a similar consistency to honey, it has a much lower glycemic index than that of sucrose
  • Xylitol: Has 40% fewer calories than sugar, 75% less carbohydrates and a low GI (of 7), and it also is thought to inhibit the bacteria in the mouth that causes tooth decay
  • Stevia: A natural sweetener made from the leaves of the stevia plant, a high intensity sweetener, 250-300 times sweeter than sucrose, and comes in liquid or powder form

BBC Food: Sugar alternatives

How did Stevia become mainstream?

line

Food manufacturers know that sugar has negative connotations and that honey has a better image, says Bamford. However, it's not simply a question of them trying to sneak sugar into food in the guise of wholesome-sounding honey. "There is certainly a taste for honey and they are meeting that demand."

The rise is most noticeable in the drinks industry. With alcopops falling out of favour, honey flavouring is being adopted to attract younger drinkers with "a distinct preference for all things sweet" says a Mintel report. But "unlike some fruit flavours, honey has a fairly old-fashioned and nostalgic profile".

The craft beer industry "has been the most likely to incorporate honey flavours during the past year" according to the report. This "clearly fits the millennial preference for sweet flavours".

Honey is also a big trend in whiskey liqueurs, says drinks columnist Alice Lascelles, a drinks columnist. "The spirit world's upper crust is very sniffy about them but proponents argue that they are in the whisky industry's interests, as they serve as a stepping stone to 'proper' whiskey", says Lascelles.

Honey "really taps into that nostalgia, that yearning for homespun authenticity that American whiskey brands like Jack Daniels have exploited with such phenomenal success", Lascelles says. The combination appears to be increasingly to consumers' taste.

line
More from the Magazine
Glass of smoothie

Coffee v smoothie: Which is better for you?

line

Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox.


Our archive

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.