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Keep the kids happy

ENGLISH looks set to rule the world. We're reminded that even Swiss children find it "cool" to chat in English, especially the cyberslang kind on the Internet.

And by the end of the year, 750 million people will speak English well enough to use it for business, and as many as a billion are learning it, says the British Council. A nice little earner then.

Toy shops are expecting a new breed of robotic animals to raise their profits for Christmas. The Poo-chi - a cyber dog - will react with playful hostility when placed next to Meow-chi - the cyber cat. The Teksta, a larger rival, activated by voice, touch and light, is described as a "fully trainable pet". In the absence of a Battersea cyber dogs home, remember a pet is for life. But those new-fangled silver scooters should be the best seller.

Rivalry of a different kind: Bradford, Milton Keynes, Newcastle and Gateshead are vying to become the European Captal of Culture when the title comes up for grabs in Britain in 2008.

Pauline Scott-Garrett, head of Milton Keynes' arts and museums, says: "It cuts me to the core when people laugh at the idea of the town as a cultural centre. The place is so imaginative. We are on the cutting edge of public art commissioning, for a start." (Remember those concrete cows?) People laughed when Glasgow enjoyed the status of City of Culture in 1990 and the place has never looked back.

Geneticists from Stanford University have reached back to Biblical times to discover that an "ancestral Eve" lived in Africa about 143,000 years ago, whereas the ancestral Adam appeared a mere 59,000 years ago. Obviously, she must have met an imperfect male in the meantime, but researchers reckon that the perfect DNA for men took longer to emerge; or as the headline writer for The Times put it: "Even early man was late for the first date."

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