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Page last updated at 05:53 GMT, Tuesday, 23 December 2008
Today: Tuesday 23 December 2008

PLEASE NOTE: We are unable to offer transcripts for our programme interviews. Today is broadcast live and the running order is subject to change.

Police are being called to 40 violent incidents in schools in England every day, according to figures obtained by the Conservatives. The Whittard tea and coffee shops are on the brink of collapse. And what do atheists do for Christmas?

Sir Richard Branson has accused politicians of "tinkering" with infection control in hospitals, and says he wants to help sort out the problem. Sir Richard, who recently became a vice president of the Patients Association, wants all hospital staff, including cleaners, nurses and surgeons, to be screened for MRSA, and treated immediately if they are found to be carrying the bug. He says any disruption from this would be better than the pain, misery and deaths caused by unnecessary infection. Health correspondent Adam Brimelow reports.

Business news with Adam Shaw

China is celebrating 30 years of economic reform and millions of people have moved from the countryside to the cities in search of a better life. But now there are perhaps signs that society is maturing - some of those who moved to cities like Shanghai for good wages in white collar jobs are starting to tire of the rat race, and are abandoning the urban sprawls for a quieter life in the country. Correspondent Chris Hogg has been to meet one couple in their mid-thirties, Gao Hong and Yang Xiaoling, who decided to pack in their lucrative careers in advertising and move to a quiet house in the country.

A man left totally blind by brain damage has astounded scientists by flawlessly navigating an obstacle course without the help of a cane. Professor Beatrice De Gelder, from the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, has been looking at the case.

Manga illustrations are now used to produce a new version of the Bible. The comics usually contain violent or sexual imagery and the idea is to try to get young people interested. Religious Affairs correspondent Robert Piggott has been trying to find out what teachers and children think of it.

Sports news with Rob Bonnet.

Iraq's Parliament has delayed voting on a resolution that would allow non-US troops to remain in the country. If the resolution is not passed before a UN mandate expires on 31 December, non-US troops - including 4,000 from Britain - would have no legal grounds to remain. Defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt reports from Basra.

Today's papers.

Our intrepid correspondent Aleem Maqbool is continuing in the footsteps of Mary and Joseph in the Nativity story. He has reached the Old City of Jerusalem - but is now donkey-less. Not only was it proving difficult to get the donkey into Jerusalem, he was then told that if he wanted to film the donkey in the city he would have to apply for a permit which would take 30 days to approve.

Thought for the day with the Right Reverend James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool.

Russia wants to set up the equivalent of OPEC for gas-producing countries - and is proposing the idea of an alliance to energy ministers from the world's main gas-producing countries. They include countries like Iran, Venezuela and Algeria. So how would it affect prices and supply to Britain? Niall Trimble, from the Energy Contract Company, explains.

As Obama-mania storms the US, the George Bush era limps to its end. Many opinion polls rate Mr Bush as the most unpopular president of all time but how will history judge him? The US ambassador Robert Tuttle was appointed by Mr Bush and evaluates the presidency.

The Pope has said that "saving" humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour is just as important as saving the rainforests. In his end-of-year address to senior Vatican staff he said that defending God's creation is not limited to saving the environment, but also protecting man from self-destruction. Joanna Bogle, a columnist with the Catholic Times, and Cristina Odone, a writer and broadcaster who used to edit the Catholic Herald, discuss the Pope's address.

Sports news with Rob Bonnet.

Sir Richard Branson, who recently became vice president of the Patients' Association, has said the NHS's track record on hospital infections is "horrific" and if it were an airline it would have been grounded years ago. But the British Medical Association says running an airline is different to running a health service. Mark Enright, professor of molecular epidemiology at Imperial College in London, discusses Sir Richard's view.

Next week, five exceptional people from different fields will be guest-editing the Today programme. One of them is the musician, Jarvis Cocker, and one of his ideas was to find out how atheists celebrate Christmas. So does Britain's most famous atheist, Richard Dawkins, eat turkey and open presents - or is 25 December a day like any other?

This year several councils across Britain have set about saving energy and cutting carbon emissions by switching off the street lights at night. It has not been popular with local people. So what about a system that lets you switch them on when you want to by using your mobile phone? A village in Germany, Doerentrup, has tried it and they believe it will cut their bills by a quarter. Steve Rosenberg reports.

Business news with Adam Shaw

The baby boomer generation is approaching retirement. It will cost a huge amount of money to pay for pensions, health care, social care - and everything else old people expect. It will be the young who pay that bill - and author Martin Amis believes that will result in a "kind of civil war". Richard Reeves, director of the think tank Demos, and David Willetts, the Conservative MP, discuss whether old and young are destined to be at odds.



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