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Brief Reports

Researchers have discovered that temperatures in Antarctica 50 million years ago were warm enough for palm trees to grow. They also point out that temperatures in Greenland are now warm enough for palm trees to grow. A climatologist commented: ‘Travel companies are missing a trick – I predict Eskimo Sun Tours and Seal-Club 18-30 holidays.’ A local Inuit fisherman added: ‘Phew, what a scorcher. I’m down to my string vest. It’s Arctantastic!’

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The dust has finally settled and the crowds have gone home after the greatest competition of games in the modern era, with a raft of new world records set in jumping over obstacles, throwing things, batting things backwards and forwards, lots of rowing, and endless running round in circles. A spokesman for the G8 said last week: ‘If only we gave out medals it would be just like the Olympics. Otherwise it’s a lot of strenuous effort signifying nothing. Capitalism needs the G8 like a pentathlete needs a groin strain. We may as well make a game out of it.’

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Auditors have found that the Department of Work and Pensions has been paying a company to pass dead people as fit to work. French firm Atos was paid more than £112m in the last financial year to carry out about 738,000 face-to-face medical tests on people who later turned out to be deceased. 80 percent of these dead people were pronounced ‘fit and able to work’. A spokesperson for Atos said it worked very closely with the DWP on a "complex and challenging contract" to "fulfil all our contractual obligations". He added ‘in any large enough sample there will be a statistically significant number of stiffs. Our staff are trained to spot benefit fraudsters, not signs of life.’ Four out of 10 appeals for live claimants are upheld at tribunals.

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Vladimir Putin has intervened to commute the sentences imposed on Pussy Riot activists, on condition their publicity agents come and work for him. A Kremlin aide stated earlier: ‘All that attention over one crap song in a church – who wouldn’t want PR like that?’ Pussy Riot are famous for focussing the media spotlight on a number of derelict cultural icons including Madonna, Sting, Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono.

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In China this month, the sensational trial of Gu Kailai, wife of former Party boss Bo Xilai and alleged poisoner of British businessman Neil Heywood, has been plastered all over no headlines and no internet websites. The controversial trial, which has thrown the Chinese Communist Party hierarchy into serious internal disarray, has not caused a media frenzy in newspapers and editorials have not blazed with wrath over the ‘moral corruption’ at the heart of government. Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo, China’s two Twitter equivalents, have been buzzing with no information whatsoever about the trial. Ms Gu, known as a Communist Party ‘princess’ in China, was unavailable for interview. Foreign journalists say they suspect ‘some censorship’ may be involved.

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US woman Diana Nyad is attempting a world record swim from Havana, Cuba, to Key West, Florida, a distance of 103 nautical miles. Nyad, who first attempted the swim in 1978, told reporters before she set off that this time she was very hopeful: ‘It helps a lot that I’m being followed stroke for stroke by 53,000 of my Cuban fans’.