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Page last updated at 07:24 GMT, Friday, 17 December 2010
Today: Friday 17th December

Government figures show thousands of boys start secondary school scarcely surpassing the reading standards of seven-year-olds. Key targets for the emergency services in the NHS in England are being changed.

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Business news with Lesley Curwen: Douglas McWilliams of the Centre for Economics and Business Research examines the potential vacancies in the public sector job market. And our Friday boss is Jean Stephens, head of the network of independent accounting services RSM International.

Ambulance response time targets in England for all but non-life-threatening cases are expected to be abandoned. National director of Emergency Care, Professor Matthew Cooke, discusses the current targets.

Europe's financial problems could threaten British banks , according to a Bank of England report. Business editor Robert Peston analyses Britian's economic stability.

Business news with Lesley Curwen.

The activist group UK Uncut is staging another protest tomorrow against what it claims is tax evasion by some well-known British businesses. Hugh Pym reports on the debate about how much tax businesses should be paying.

Government figures obtained by this programme show that thousands of eleven-year-old boys start secondary school only able to read at the standard expected of seven-year-olds or lower. Mike Welsh, of the National Association of Headteachers, examines the literacy problem.

Sports news with Rob Bonnet.

EU leaders meeting in Brussels have agreed to set up a permanent mechanism to protect the Euro. Europe editor Gavin Hewitt explains the details of the scheme. And former chancellor Alistair Darling examines the effect of the eurozone crisis on British banks.

Paper review.

The public are being asked to help Oxford University astronomers find planets orbiting other stars which may have been lost in the data fed by NASA over the past 18 months. Science correspondent Tom Feilden explains what happened to the missing planets. And the university's Arfon Smith describes the planet hunter project.

Thought for the Day with Lord Harries of Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity.

President Obama says the US has made enough progress in Afghanistan to start withdrawing its soldiers next July. Former UK ambassador in Kabul, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, analyses the current situation in the country.

Government figures show thousands of boys start secondary school only able to reach the reading standard of seven-year-olds or below. Reporter Sanchia Berg explains the findings. Education Secretary Michael Gove discusses the literacy skills of secondary school boys.

A cast of 150 homeless people will be taking to the stage tonight to perform Fables - A Film Opera. Kevin Woodward, one of the performers, and Matt Peacock of the Streetwise Opera discuss the social benefits of the project.

Sports news with Rob Bonnet.

The group UK Uncut is calling for another day of action tomorrow to highlight what it claims is tax dodging by well known British businesses. UK Uncut spokesman Murray Williams and Steve Davies of the Institute of Economic Affairs examine the morality of tax.

Although it has been nearly a year since Haiti was devastated by a massive earthquake, life in the country has barely returned to normal. Correspondent Mike Thomson spoke to UN's Nigel Fisher about the situation on the island.

Business news with Lesley Curwen.

The Mexican government says the number of people killed in drug-related violence has now passed 30,000 in the four years since President Felipe Calderon began deploying troops to fight the cartels. Correspondent Steve Kingstone travelled to Houston to follow the route of the gun smugglers from the US to Mexico.

Why are we so obsessed with the idea of a white Christmas? Social historian Juliet Gardiner and author Jacqueline Simpson discuss the origins of this expectation.



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