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Page last updated at 07:55 GMT, Thursday, 4 March 2010
Today: Thursday 4 March

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US weapons are being blamed for a rise in birth defects among the children of the Iraqi town of Fallujah. A leading hospital has begun an investigation into the deaths of four children undergoing heart surgery. And the fine art of the political protest song.

A leading hospital in Oxford has suspended children's heart surgery. Leslie Hamilton, president of the National Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery, discusses the investigation into the deaths of four children undergoing heart surgery in the hospital.

All three parties are keen to stress their support for continued funding of the arts, architecture, museums and heritage. BBC arts editor Will Gompertz looks into how big a part art plays on the political agenda.

Young people in England are leaving the countryside because of a lack of affordable housing and jobs, a report has warned. Correspondent Sarah Mukherjee reports from Cinderford in Gloucestershire on the problems facing local residents.

The business news with Adam Shaw.

The substance mephedrone is becoming a popular recreational drug, especially among clubbers and students. It has similar effects to ecstasy and cocaine but it is still legal to buy. BBC correspondent Danny Shaw reports from Guernsey in the Channel Islands where the authorities have banned imports of mephedrone and are considering making it a class A drug.

In memory of Michael Foot, the great parliamentarian who died yesterday, Today is playing archive footage from his illustrious career in the Commons. This archive comes from 1979 - the debate on the confidence motion which led to the fall of the Callaghan government.

Sports news with Rob Bonnet.

There have been "important mistakes" in the UK's terror laws after the 9/11 attacks, but this was probably inevitable. So says Lord Carlile of Berriew QC, the Liberal Democrat peer who was government's independent reviewer of terrorism legislation for eight years. He outlines the reasoning behind his views.

The reason as to why one of the killers of James Bulger is back in custody is still a mystery. David Wilson, professor of criminology at Birmingham University, looks at how the new identity of the killer, Jon Venables, could be leaked in the light of the recent revelation.

The paper review.

The Oscars are taking place on Sunday after the traditional lobbying by award hopefuls. BBC arts correspondent Rebecca Jones examines the role of publicity and marketing during the selection period.

Thought for the Day. With Giles Fraser, Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral.

The Bank Of England is deciding on the interest rate today, a year after rates dropped a historic low of 0.5 per cent. Dr Peter Warburton, director of the consultancy Economic Perspectives, and Danny Gabay, of Fathom Financial, debate the effect of the low base rate over the past year.

BBC world affairs editor John Simpson has discovered a high incidence of deformities among children in Falluja, the Iraqi town which was the scene of fierce fighting following the 2003 invasion. Toxicologist and an expert in chemical weaponry at the University of Leeds, Prof Alastair Hay, talks about the possible connection between these deformities and the presence of phosphorous in the weapons used US forces in the area.

0820 Controversy about the tax status of the Conservative Party deputy chairman, Lord Ashcroft, rumbles on. William Hague, the man who put him forward for a peerage, has revealed that he had known "for a few months" that Lord Ashcroft is a "non-dom", who pays tax on his UK income, but not on the rest of it. The BBC's Nick Robinson brings the story up to date.

The former Labour leader Michael Foot gets a good send off in the obituaries today. Here he is rallying the Labour party faithful at the 1975 annual conference; poking fun at the Chancellor, Geoffrey Howe, in response to the Queen's Speech in the Commons in 1980; and urging a peaceful solution to the Argentine invasion of the Falklands in 1982.

Sports news with Rob Bonnet.

Mephedrone is becoming a popular - and legal - recreational drug, especially among clubbers and students. Dr Les King, former head of the Drugs Intelligence Unit at the Forensic Science Service, discusses whether it should be made illegal and how it should be classed.

Rural areas of England are facing serious problems - low wages, a shrinking working population and economy in decline. Stuart Burgess of the Commission for Rural Communities evaluates the situation.

The business news with Adam Shaw.

There is a fine tradition in politics of songs being sung to further political causes, whatever that cause may be. Professor Neil Collins from University College Cork talks about the best of them.

0845 Northamptonshire is planning to be re-branded as North Londonshire but some of the residents in the area and not very keen. Chief executive of the Development Corporation, Simon Evans and Joan Kirkbride of Northamptonshire County Council debate whether the re-branding should go ahead.

0855 The voice of former Labour leader Michael Foot, who died yesterday, was a huge part of politics for so long. Biographer Lord Morgan and filmmaker Michael Cockerell discuss his impact on the British politics.



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