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Page last updated at 06:52 GMT, Friday, 26 December 2008
Today: Friday 26 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.

The government says it has met its target for deporting 5,000 foreign criminals from the country, but the Conservatives say many were released early. The world's second biggest economy, Japan, has seen its largest monthly fall in industrial output. And we remember singer and actress Eartha Kitt and playwright Harold Pinter.

0709
Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he will not hesitate to use more force against Gaza if rocket attacks on Israel do not stop. Mark Regev, the Israeli government spokesman, explains.

0713
By next summer, front line British troops will have come home from Iraq. Those who remain will be training Iraqis. There are currently about 4,000 troops in Iraq, mainly in the south of the country. Defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt has been spending Christmas with them, in Basra.

0718
Unbelievably some stores opened their doors in the early hours, to try to make the most of the post-Christmas sales. John Thorne reports from the Trafford Centre in Manchester and Michelle Robinson describes the scene on Oxford Street in London.

0720
NICE, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, faces legal challenges over its decision on dementia drugs, is under pressure to change a ruling on kidney cancer drugs, and has admitted it takes too long to make rulings on drugs. But NICE's head Sir Mike Rawlins says that many other countries see the body as a success story.

0726
Sports news with Jon Myers.

0732
The government says that it has reached its target of removing 5,000 foreign national prisoners from the UK in 2008. It was a public outcry about the number of non-European offenders being freed from prison without being considered for deportation - about 1,000 in in 2006 - that led to the resignation of Charles Clarke as Home Secretary. But the Conservatives claim that the government figures are misleading. Shadow Justice Secretary Nick Herbert and Home Office minister Lord West discuss the news.

0738
Today's papers.

0742
Tributes have been pouring in to Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter, following his death from cancer.

0745
This year, the credit crunch and recession has seen a lot of high achievers brought low. Instead of ambitions, big salaries and big bonuses, people have thought about downsizing and turning to the simple things in life. Which is why instead of an end of year poll on who's been the best, biggest, brightest person over the past year, the Today programme is asking its listeners to nominate the top idlers in life. Tom Hodgkinson, from the Idler Magazine, explains the art of idling.

0747
Thought for the day with Canon Dr Alan Billings.

0750
British soldiers will be leaving Iraq by the end of July. As they leave, how will the withdrawal affect Britain's relationship with Iraq? Christopher Prentice, Britain's ambassador to Iraq, discusses how the UK's standing with the Baghdad government.

0810
The Centre for Economics and Business Research predicts a 2.9% contraction of the UK economy in 2009: the biggest on record. The government figure is 1.25%. And it says that the recession will bite in business investment: with a fall-off of up to a third. Mark Pragnell, the centre's managing director, and John McFall, Labour chairman of the cross-party Treasury select committee, discuss the forecast.

0820
Eartha Kitt died on Christmas Day aged 81. She was a night club singer and dancer whose style remained individual over more than five decades. She was born to a worker on a cotton plantation in South Carolina when the American south was still segregated: her mother was black, but her father was thought to be the son of the white plantation owner.

0825
The National Trust is warning that 180 miles of its coastline in south-west England is disappearing because of coastal erosion. One of the worst affected areas is Studland beach in Dorset. Alison Harper reports.

0828
Sports news with Jon Myers.

0835
The world has changed a great deal in the past 12 months. The rules of financial capitalism have been torn up, the prime minister has gone from fighting for his political life to making Freudian slips about saving the world. So what is 2009 going to bring? The BBC's Home Affairs Editor, Mark Easton, Political Editor Nick Robinson, and Business Editor Robert Peston discuss how the world has changed in the past year - and try to guess what lies ahead.

0840
Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter, who had cancer, died on Christmas Eve aged 78. He wrote more than 30 plays including The Caretaker and The Birthday Party. His film scripts include The French Lieutenant's Woman. The Guardian's theatre critic Michael Billington remembers him.

0845
In September Joe Bageant, a self-confessed "redneck" from rural Virginia explained the appeal of Sarah Palin to so-called heartland voters. Well, with the election over, we asked Joe to send a message, on behalf of those voters, to their new president.

0853
Job losses in the financial sector have continued to rise this year. But could this be a good thing for the worlds of science and engineering? One eminent scientist, Professor Martin Rees, thinks it could be. Our Economics Editor, Hugh Pym, reports.

0857
Has 2008 been all bad? There have been some bright moments and so the Today programme asked the musician Steve Adams from the Broken Family Band to remind us of the high points.


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