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One of the all-time sporting greats retired
Media Bytes

 "Jonathan Aitkenís fall has been spectacular"
John Pienaar reports on the downfall of a former minister

 "I've had a wonderful time"
Paddy Ashdown, announcing he is to step down as Liberal Democrat leader
Talking Point

Should teachers be allowed sexual relationships with pupils?

"A teacher is in a position of trust and responsibility towards his students and entering into such a relationship is an abuse of that position." John, Japan

"Sexual relationships should be allowed between any two consenting adults. Meaning anyone at least 18 years old and who agrees to be a part of a relationship." Matt, USA


As the new year celebrations got into full swing in Europe, member states of the European Union were gearing up for a new single currency, the euro.

Celebrations in Bill Clinton's household, however, were probably somewhat muted with the US president facing an impeachment trial, the first in the Senate since 1868.

War and conflict across the world were never far from the headlines with some of the worst atrocities seen in the Serbian province of Kosovo and in the West African state of Sierra Leone. Yemen put five Britons and an Algerian on trial on terrorism charges.

During a year of many natural disasters Colombia was first to hit the headlines when at least 1,000 people were killed in an earthquake.

There was some good news for one long-isolated country, Cuba, when the US decided to ease some minor sanctions and for East Timor, which heard from the Indonesian government that it was willing to relinquish control of the territory.

It was a busy month for British politicians.

Prime Minister Tony Blair proved his worth as a life guard while on holiday in the Seychelles when he apparently saved a Danish holidaymaker from being swept out to sea.

While Tony Blair bathed in his 15 minutes of fame away from politics, his Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, was branded an alcoholic adulterer by his former wife.

It didn't require any great effort. It was probably a big deal for him, but it wasn't any great effort for us.

He probably wasn't expecting in the middle of the Indian Ocean to meet the British prime minister in his bathing shorts.

UK Prime Minister
Tony Blair
The former Conservative cabinet minister, Jonathan Aitken, admitted the altogether more serious allegations of perjury and perverting the cause of justice and was jailed.

The Liberal Democrat leader, Paddy Ashdown, also made the headlines when he announced he would be stepping down as party leader in the summer after 11 years in the job. When MPs got down to work in Parliament itself, they voted in favour of lowering the age of consent for homosexuals from 18 to 16.

UK schools' inspector Chris Woodhead got himself in hot water with comments about relationships between teachers and pupils - especially when it was revealed that he had had a relationship with a former pupil.

In business news, the UK stock market suffered its worst points fall with £50m wiped of the value of British companies as bourses across the world fell. Elsewhere, merger mania took off. Britain's largest mobile phone company, Vodafone, bought America's second largest mobile phone group for over £37bn and British Aerospace started talking to Marconi about a £7bn merger that would create the world's third largest aerospace group.

On the internet front, business began to boom with Yahoo buying out GeoCities and the ISP @Home agreeing to buy Excite.

In sport, bribery allegations were rarely off the agenda at the International Olympic Committee. Michael Jordan's retirement was front page news in the US and there was a rare success for English cricket when Darren Gough became the first bowler in 100 years to take a hat trick in an Ashes game.

The Monet exhibition dominated the arts and entertainment world in the UK with record attendances, while the engagement of Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones provided a bit of royal glamour.
UK Politics: Spin Doctor Whelan leaves amid controversy
UK: Ashworth Hospital condemned in government inquiry
UK: Chipperfield Circus owner guilty of cruelty
Entertainment: Boyzone cheer Omagh
Sci/Tech: Furby toys threat to US security
Obituary: Novelist Brian Moore
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