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A tale of two TV adaptations;Sideways look;Briefing;The week in education;News amp; Opinion

FORGET Northern Ireland. This week the really serious issue was the TV battle between Bleasdale and Davies (oh, all right, Dickens and Gaskell)

And Oliver Twist should be recommended viewing for Posh Spice, it seems. According to the Daily Mail the last thing Posh is likely to say right now, is:

"I want some more."

Victoria Adams - dubbed Skeletal Spice by the Mail - is looking worryingly thin. "Should she be a role model for teenage girls prone to anorexia?" the Mail asks. "It is a pity that the message sent to young girls is that a bit of fat is something to dread."

Posh denies she's on a diet, insisting that since the birth of baby Brooklyn she's simply never has a chance to sit down. Anyway, she says, she eats loads - sometimes as much as five packs of low-fat crisps a day.

Aha! Crisps with everything. And that's not all, if we're to believe a new study. Today's children consume nearly twice as much sugar, and less iron, fibre and vitamins than children who grew up in the Fifties.

The good news is that 1990s kids eat fewer calories and less fat, though as the worries over Posh's health demonstrate, that can be a mixed blessing.

If young girls feel pressure to look as thin, young boys are, it seems, being encouraged to have sex at an early age.

A new study by Glasgow University has accused lad magazines such as Front and Playstation of promoting "a sexist view of relationships", with a focus on "booze, bums, birds and breasts". In contrast, girls' magazines were far more responsible and helpful.

What would our Victorian novelists make of all this? Feckless males were no strangers to Dickens, as Oliver shows. But Mrs Gaskell? Would Molly Gibson's modern equivalent be a weight-obsessed girl with a crush on David Beckham and pictures of Posh on her wall? One shudders to think.

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