The truth is out there: 19/12/2009

A weekly look at the world

*Project Honeypot – freely distributed software to help identify spammers – has received its one billionth email. The project began in 2004 and its creators estimate that for each spam email they receive there are 125,000 sent to real victims, meaning 125 trillion spam messages have been sent in the past six years. The data have been used to compile a global list of IT security; Finland came top and China bottom, reported The Tech Herald.

*On the same day that MPs blamed schools' focus on dyslexia for obscuring wider reading problems in the classroom, a group of American scientists presented new data that explain how otherwise bright and intelligent people struggle to read. The study, which will be published in the January issue of the journal Psychological Science, provides a validated definition of dyslexia, said EurekaAlert. It shows for the first time how the relationship between IQ and reading differs over time for typical and dyslexic readers.

*Indian authorities are to change the metallic content of the five-rupee coin to combat a growing smuggling problem on the Bangladeshi border. The coins are melted down to be used as razor blades. A five-rupee coin can make six razor blades, each worth two rupees, reported The Times of India.

*Taiwanese farmers are potty-training their pigs in an attempt to avoid water pollution fines, says AFP. By building faeces-smeared toilets to attract them, some farmers have managed to prevent their pigs from polluting the water, which from 2010 would incur a fine.

*Children ask Santa for far more than toys according to a researcher who studied five years' worth of letters addressed to the North Pole. Carole Slotterback from the University of Scranton analysed nearly 1,200 letters sent between 1998 and 2003. Her findings are described in the book The Psychology of Santa. She said memorable letters included one from a child who wanted to be turned into an elf, some who wanted new mothers and one threatening to kill Santa. She also found less patriotism and less consumerism in the Christmas immediately following 9/11.

*Clothing company North Face has filed a lawsuit against parody manufacturer South Butt. The case will be heard in St Louis and so far South Butt has refused to shy away from the charges of copyright infringement levelled by the international apparel-maker. The comedy fashion brand has seen a surge in profits since the spat first hit newspapers two months ago, according to

*Buddhist monks have defended their right to a contemporary life after photos of a monk skateboarding in one of China's holiest temples caused controversy when leaked on the internet. A spokesman from the monastery at Mount Emei, the highest of the Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains of China, said television had created a false impression of monastic life according to Huaxi Metropolis News.