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Page last updated at 07:30 GMT, Wednesday, 23 December 2009
Today: Wednesday 23rd December

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

English universities are to face further cuts to their funding, and are being forced to focus on the provision of "fast track" two year degree courses. And two people has been killed and at least 40 injured in a coach crash in Cornwall due to icy weather.


Hospitals are keeping patients in emergency assessment units for too long, according to the Conservative party. The Tories have said that the units, intended for short waits before patients are admitted to wards, are being used as "dumping grounds" to help meet the four-hour maximum waiting targets. Nigel Edwards, policy director at the NHS Confederation and John Hayworth, president of the British Association of Accident and Emergency Medicine, discuss waiting targets.


A British man is to be executed in China next week after losing his appeal against the death penalty. Akmal Shaikh, from London, was arrested two years ago and charged with drug smuggling. He appealed on mental health grounds, saying that he was tricked into carrying the drugs by criminals. Chinese death penalty expert, Professor Christopher Stone of Harvard University, comments on death penalty laws.

Business news with Adam Shaw.


The number of young people sleeping rough this Christmas could rise, according to Depaul UK, the country's largest homeless charity for young people. it says the recession and rising youth unemployment is forcing more people into homelessness. Reporter Tamasin Ford visited a homeless shelter in London.


Icy weather is causing further travel disruption. Correspondent Louise Perry reports on the latest weather conditions.

Sports news with Garry Richardson.


A ban on a range of drugs, known as "legal highs", comes into force in the United Kingdom from today. The newly-banned substances include drugs which which have a similar effect to cannabis. Martin Barnes, who runs charity DrugScope, and Dr John Huffman, a chemistry professor at a University in South Carolina whose students created one of the now banned drugs, debate the new legislation.

The paper review.


Intense rivalry over the dip, humous, have escalated in the Middle East. Lebanese chefs earlier this year claimed that it was an invention of the Lebanese, and set a new world record by making 2 tonnes of the dip. Now the Israeli Arab town of Abu Ghosh is striking back, planning to produce a four-tonne bowl of the food. Middle East correspondent Tim Franks reports on the growing humous debate.

Thought for the day with Reverend Joel Edwards, international director of Micah Challenge.


The government has announced its long-awaited squeeze on universities. Higher education funding is to be cut by £533m and universities have been ordered to start looking at creating "fast-track" degrees, which can be completed in two years. Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University College Union and Andrew Haldenby, director of the think-tank Reform, discuss the proposals.


A British man is to be executed in China next week after losing his appeal on grounds of mental health. His family and lawyers are calling on the prime minister to intervene, saying that Akmal Shaikh's bi-polar disorder should exempt his from the death penalty as he was tricked into smuggling the drugs. Mr Shaikh's daughter, Leila Horsnell describes her father's condition and Jonathan Fenby, China director at the Research Service Trusted Sources, outlines the country's death penalty laws.


President Obama has announced he will delay his Christmas holidays to oversee the passing of his healthcare reform bill through the US Senate. It should be an historic moment, yet Barack Obama's ratings have fallen in the opinion polls, making him the most unpopular president ever at the end of his first year in office. Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, examines the president's problems.

The sports news with Garry Richardson.


The life of one of England's greatest eccentric rock musicians, Ian Dury, has been documented in a new film. Sex and Drugs and Rock n Roll tells the story of how Mr Dury became disabled after contracting polio at the age of eight, to the string of hits with his band, the Blockheads. Reporter James Coomerasamy took a look at the film.


The Greek parliament is to vote today on an emergency budget after ratings agencies downgraded the country's debt. This is seen as the first big test for the Euro since its launch ten years ago. Times writer, Oliver Kamm, and economics editor, Stephanie Flanders, discuss the implications for the eurozone.

Business news with Adam Shaw.


Two British soldiers killed in Afghanistan appear to have been casualties of "friendly fire". Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, discusses how friendly fire occurs.


Demonstrators have been injured in clashes with police in Iran, according to reports on an opposition website. Tehran correspondent Jon Leyne comments on the latest developments.


Gordon Brown's wife, Sarah Brown, has tweeted and posted a photo revealing that she and the Prime Minister are refusing to buy expensive wrapping paper this year. Instead the Brown's are recycling, using old newspaper and a felt tip pen to draw on the ribbon. Lucy Siegle, Green Living columnist on the Observer and the social commentator Peter York discuss whether we should all follow the Browns' lead.


Icy conditions are causing travel chaos around the country. Reporter Louise Perry assesses the latest disruptions.



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