Top news from The Times, Daily Telegraph, The Indepedent and The Guardian newspapers
‘THERE’S less than four weeks to go and we at Anorak can’t wait.
|An artist’s impression of what the transit will look like|
No, not for the final episode of Friends, the one in which they all get gunned down by a psychopath on the loose in New York, nor even for the start of Big Brother.
In the morning of June 8 (cloud permitting) we will all have the chance to see for the first time since 1283 the planet Venus moving across the face of the Sun.
The Independent says that anyone with a projection telescope (most of us) and a piece of card, or access to the internet, will be able to witness the ‘transit’.
What we will see in the unlikely event of it being clear that day is a small black disc crossing over the face of the Sun.
A similar effect can of course be achieved by getting a fly to walk across the lens of your telescope, and the fly is likely to get to the other side a lot quicker than Venus.
According to the paper, the transit will start at about 6.20am and finish at 12.04pm – and Gordon Brumage, professor of astronomy at the University of Central Lancashire, is as excited as us at the prospect.
‘It’s an extremely rare astronomical event,’ he says. ‘It’s a very special period of six hours and will link people across the world.’
But don’t worry if you miss it – transits are like buses. You wait 721 years for one and two come almost at once. The next will take place in 2247, a mere 243 years away.’
‘READERS of the Telegraph – God bless ’em – are probably still under the impression that two thirds of the map of the world is pink, the rather effeminate colour of the British Empire.
|Laughing all the way to the bank – and from there to prison|
They would certainly be of the opinion that one of those lucky enough to live under the enlightened British yoke, a certain Canadian by the name of Conrad Black, is a model of propriety and moral rectitude.
How could it be otherwise? Does he not have a seat in the House Of Lords next to Lord Archer Of Weston-super-Mare, Lord Ripper of Whitechapel, Lord Lucan Of Tabloid Notoriety and other representatives of the great and good?
But what is this? It seems that a careless paperboy has put the wrong paper through a Telegraph reader’s door – and the news is not so good.
In fact, it appears that Lord Black Of Wormwood Scrubs (coincidentally owner of said Telegraph) is as bent as the proverbial two-bob note.
The Independent reports that Black used his paper’s parent company, Hollinger International, as a ‘cash cow’ to subsidise his extravagant lifestyle and that of his wife, Telegraph columnist Barbara Amiel.
The Guardian also quotes from a $1.25bn writ, which claims that the couple billed the company for charitable donations made in their name.
Such was the couple’s greed, alleges the writ, Lady Black even claimed back the money she used to tip a doorman at the exclusive Bergdorf-Goodman store in New York.
And the Times says that the company jet was frequently commandeered by the Blacks to fly them between their many homes around the world.
In August 2002, the peer sent an e-mail in which he mused: ‘There has not been an occasion for many months when I got on our plane without wondering whether it was affordable.
‘But I’m not prepared to re-enact the French Revolutionary renunciation of the rights of the nobility.’
One of those rights is of course to have his head separated from his body, courtesy of Madame La Guillotine.’
‘OUR beloved leader Tony Blair has told close associates that he will step down as Prime Minister if he becomes an electoral liability.
|‘I said ‘lie ability”|
A YouGov poll for the Mail On Sunday suggests that Labour would fail to win a parliamentary majority if Blair stays on, but would have a 77-seat lead under Gordon Brown.
Ergo, Blair stands aside, Brown takes over, the Tories are comprehensively routed again, the lame throw away their sticks and walk and everything is glad confident morning again.
That is the way it should work, but although (according to the Guardian) the first two statements are true, the PM is having trouble reconciling himself with the logical conclusion.
Indeed, the paper says Blair is privately confident that he remains an election winner and is convinced that he is more in tune with ordinary voters than a hostile media believes.
He also thinks he can walk on water, move mountains and solve the problems of Africa with nothing more than two loaves, five fishes and a roll of double-sided sticky tape.
But, the Guardian says, ‘if unforeseen events were to happen – personal or political – Mr Blair would back his chancellor’s claims as the man best qualified to inherit the mantle so long denied him’.
One such unforeseen event might be the news in the Times that support for Labour in a new opinion poll has fallen to a 17-year low.
The last time it polled as low 32% was early in 1987, just before Maggie Thatcher won her third term.
Altogether now, ‘Tony, Tony, Tony, Out, Out Out!”
‘IN the absence of too much in the way of news about the break-up of the British Empire or its owners scrapes with the law, what is there for the Telegraph to do?
|‘I suppose there’s no chance of a soapy tit wank then…’|
Well, it can shake its head and shrug its dandruff-specked shoulders at the foibles of the modern age.
And one of them is the news that a new generation of nurses is becoming too posh to wash.
That is not to say that said nurses are going days without a bath, but that they are drawing the line at washing their patients.
What is more, the Royal College Of Nursings annual conference was told, theyre not really into feeding patients, cleaning their mouths or providing much in the way of care at all.
Jeremy Bore, a general nurse at Exeter prison, said a significant minority of new generation nurses didnt see providing holistic care as part of their remit.
Washing peoples feet and backsides and keeping peoples mouths clean and fresh, these are tasks that are physically easy to carry out and learn.
As is bringing the patient a copy of the Telegraph every morning…’
‘WERE it not for the disaster that is Iraq, the Labour government would probably now be moving quite smoothly and confidently towards an unprecedented third term in office.
|John Prescott wasn’t keen on the Poll Tax riots|
Michael Howard may have revived the Tory party, but its condition has moved only from critical to stable. There is still very little to commend it to the British people.
Certainly, the Government has made mistakes, but as NHS chief announced last week, the fruits of its unparalleled investment in public services are beginning to show.
But all that is drowned out by Iraq, by arguments over whether we were taken into a war on a false prospectus and concerns about how we are ever going to get out of the consequent mess.
And now the Times reports that the Government is alienating its own MPs by launching a personal attack on Mr Howard in the run-up to the European and council elections.
The advert to be broadcast tonight shows images of poll tax riots and house repossessions, laid over with reminders of Mr Howards jobs in previous Tory government all to Simply Reds If You Dont Know Me By Now.
A Labour strategist disingenuously claims that the adverts are only negative if your judgement of the Tories record is negative.
But what is the Government doing towards the end of its second term dredging up things that happened 15 years ago?
Its like the Tories making adverts about the winter of discontent or even the IMF debacle.
Former defence minister Peter Kilfoyle was just one Labour MP to deplore what he called the Americanisation of politics.
Campaigning now, he said, has often got nothing to do with policies and everything to do with personalities and how theyre represented.
And who was it who said in 1997 that people want to hear about the health service, jobs, education, not nasty, negative, personalised, abusive campaigning?
Step forward, Mr Blair…’
‘ALL teenagers are, by virtue of the fact they are teenagers, annoying so to be dubbed the most annoying teenager on the planet is an accolade indeed.
|Why couldn’t he look at porn like any other teeanger?|
But that is how the Daily Telegraph introduces Sven Jaschan, the 18-year-old German who the paper says has made the lives of Taiwanese postmen and millions of others around the world miserable by insinuating his Sasser worm into their computers.
The paper says Jaschan and his fellow computer geeks claim to be fighting on behalf of the rest of the world at what they see as the evil empire of Microsoft.
And at least one German website was trying to portray the 18-year-old as a hero for his blow against global capitalism, as opposed to the sad inadequate that he really is.
In fact, as the Telegraph reports, the real winners from the Sasser virus are the companies who make security software.
An irony that will probably be lost on Sven Jaschan.’
‘CONTRARY to what Sir Elton John and Blue would have us believe, sorry does not appear to be the hardest word to say.
|Although he’d forgotten why, Gary knew he had to shoot|
In fact, it rolls off Mr Blairs tongue more easily than a booze cruise of Brits rolling off the ferry in Calais.
The Prime Minister was at it again yesterday, following the lead of President Bush and US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in apologising for coalition abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners.
It was what is known as a pre-emptive apology from Mr Blair no definitive proof has yet emerged about British abuse, although it appears to be only a matter of time before some does.
Not so for the Americans every day now they are seeing yet more images in the press and on TV of their repulsive behaviour in the Abu Ghraib jail near Baghdad.
But for all the apologies, there seems a complete lack of willingness to take responsibility for what appears in Abu Ghraib at least to have been systematic abuse.
Far from being the work of a few bad apples, the Guardian says that one soldier who has been charged with mistreating Iraqi prisoners claims she was acting on direct orders from army intelligence officers, CIA operatives and civilian interrogators.
And, despite offering what it calls an unaccustomed apology to Congress, Rumsfeld ducked the question of responsibility.
Republican senator John McCain complained: I did not get answers to some fundamental questions and perhaps the most fundamental aspect of this is what was the chain of command, who was in charge of the interrogators, what was the role of the contractors.
Vice-president Dick Cheney moved to back Rumsfeld, calling him the best secretary of defence America has ever had in which case, wed hate to see the worst.
But support seems to be ebbing away and it is surely now only a mater of time before Rumsfeld goes.
One general put the blame for the post-war debacle in Iraq squarely on the shoulders both of him and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz.
Rumsfeld, he said, refused to listen or adhere to military advice.
And a special forces officer said both Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz should go as a result.
In Britain, pressure is growing on the Government to get out of Iraq altogether, with a poll in the Independent suggesting that 55% think the troops should come home by the end of next month.
That is a staggering turnaround from last month, when 51% said troops should stay in Iraq for as long as necessary and is surely a warning that even Mr Blair will find hard to ignore.’
‘IN September 2001, the planes smashed into buildings; today, Lynnie smashes to pieces our entire morality with just one tug on the leash.
|Oops! Lynnie arrives at the wrong time…again|
So writes Robert Fisk on the cover of todays Independent, in a piece produced beneath the shadow of the grandiose headline: THE DESTRUCTION OF MORALITY.
The veteran reporter is of the mind that the photograph of the US solider dragging her naked and prone captive along by a dog-style lead is as destructive to our collective selves as planes deliberately being flown into the World Trade Center.
The shot, which appears on the papers front page, presents a damning picture of American aggression and racism – as Fisk notes, the victims are brown-skinned Muslims, while the alleged perpetrators are churchgoing white Christians.
But how emblematic of an entire culture can a few boneheads be? Should we all be held accountable for Lynnies actions?
To find out more, we need to find out who Lynnie is, the brown-haired woman who has posed for photographs smoking a cigarette and giving an idiotic thumbs-up while pointing at the groins of stripped Iraqis, and now seen pulling a man along behind her like a dog?
First the bad news, or the even worse news: Lynnies full name in Lynnie England. Its an unlucky quirk of fate that this inadequate should be so easily linked with the British war effort.
We need to learn more, and helping us with our enquiries is Terrie England, Lynnies mom, who speaks to the Telegraph from her trailer park home in West Virginia.
Dismissing the images of her daughter as stupid, kid things pranks, Mom England adds that her daughter was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
She was nothing more than a pen pusher, explains Terrie. She just happened to be there when they took those photographs.
But perhaps its not mere coincidence. Perhaps its something to do with destiny?
Painted on a rock outside the home of one of the six members of the US Armys 372nd Military Police Company facing court-martial, one Charles Graner, is a verse from the book of Hosea.
It says: Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to see the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.
After a hard day a-beating and a-torturing, theres nothing like a good refreshing shower of righteousness to make you sleep at nights.
That Hosea fella sure was one smart cookie. But he was no American solider ’
‘IF it wasnt for US army specialist Joseph Darby, who is the man who released those pictures of the soldiers abusing Iraqis, we might never have learnt what passes for justice in parts of American-controlled Iraq.
|Cluedo: Was it Mr Scarlett on the sofa with the dossier?|
Whether or not the abuse is the tip of an iceberg or not, we might never know. Governments like to hang onto their secrets – however dark, however shameful.
But at least we in Britain now know who keeps ours. Hes called John Scarlett, and, as the Guardian says in its lead story, hes just been appointed as the new head of MI6.
And if you or Tony Blair ask nicely, he might just tell you anything you want to know.
This, after all, is the official held responsible for that Iraq weapons dossier, the dodgy one where we were all 45 minutes from annihilation.
Its pretty clear that what Scarlett tells you might not be right or true, but he will tell you something, and that has to be an improvement on silence.
For this reason, its little surprise that the relatively high-profile Scarlett got the job ahead of the other candidates.
As the Times says, its more normal for the deputy of the service to replace the retiring head, but even though the deputy applied for the post he was overlooked in favour of Scarlett.
Clearly this departure from usual practice has nothing to do with Scarletts dossier, nor his place, as the Guardian puts it, as part of the sofa culture that makes policy not at the cabinet table but in the prime ministers den.
This the man who Lord Hutton, who chaired that investigation into the death of Dr David Kelly, concluded may have been subconsciously influenced by the Governments eagerness to make a strong case for war.
But this is all rumour, and the new C is simply the best man for the job.
As no more impartial figure than Tony Blair says on the Guardians cover, Mr Scarlett is a fine public servant.
I think it is unfortunate if it [Scarletts appointment] gets embroiled in party politics, or people try to make political capital out of it.
Unfortunate? Thats a rather anodyne word, especially when we are 45 minutes from being wiped out.’
‘FOR some, the end of the world has already been and gone. While we in Blighty have to wait a little while longer, the Americans have already seen the final curtain.
|We’re with stupid|
Americans, the Guardian reports, have just witnessed the last episode of the TV series Friends.
Hang the war in Iraq, the wanton abuse of the locals and whether George Bush is sorry or not, what Americans really want to know is if any of the Friends cast will ever work again.
We would like to think not.
But while America chowed down on vats of artichoke dip and ginger ale (the recipe for a perfect Friends farewell, as dictated by the NBC website), plans for a second assault were being finalised.
In the same way that Cheers spawned Frasier (and George and Barbara Bush gave life to Dubya), America is to have a new spin-off feature – not as robust and potent as the first, but just as funny, although not always intentionally so.
The shows retarded Joey character is to have his own series in which he leaves New York to further his acting career in Los Angeles.
And the hot news is that whiles hes learning to act, hell be joined by David Schwimmer.
And when they have both honed their craft and are able to deliver a lie without blinking and an apology with meaning, they will be ready to move into that other world of fantasy: American politics.
Joey for the White House? Why not? Its time to get the campaign started.’
”MY fellow Iraqanians,’ said George Bush yesterday as he spoke directly to two Arabic language TV channels. ‘I come in pieces.’
|The English subtitles are at the bottom of the screen|
The Telegraph looked on as Bush furrowed his brow in that way that makes his forehead look barely big enough to hold all but the most rudimentary brain and issued a humble and at times grovelling apology for his countrymen’s appalling behaviour in Iraq.
Only he didn’t. What he said was that people in Iraq ‘must understand that I view these practices as abhorrent’. Iraqis ‘must understand that what took place does not represent the America I know’.
And, as Donald Rusmfeld might have added, they must understand that if they don’t understand what they must understand, they will be against us and so not with us and, in so doing, place themselves in considerable danger of having electrodes tied to their genitals.
And there was more for the two people left in Iraq who actually have electricity and a working TV set to mull over, as Bush explained all.
‘It is important for the people of Iraq to know that in a democracy everything is not perfect; mistakes are made [see Bush].
‘But in a democracy these mistakes will be investigated and people will be brought to justice.’
Or, as in the case with those dodgy votes, the people concerned will be given the presidency of the United States. But we take Bush’s point, whatever it may be.
However, not everyone is as enthusiastic about the American way as the US President.
The Independent hears from Hayder Sabbar Abd, the man pictured hooded and naked while a dwarfish female American soldier points at his bared genitals.
He gives a bald account of the abuse he withstood, which seems to reveal his tormentors’ obsession with his and the other victims’ genitalia.
‘They [Americans] told us about democracy and freedom. We are happy about that. Then they [the soldiers] did this to the seven of us. I am asking ‘Is this democracy, is that freedom?”
The answer to the question should be a simple ‘No’. Just as Bush’s broadcast should have contained another simple word. That word is ‘sorry’.’
‘WHAT the world must understand is that not all Americans are like George Bush.
|‘It’s called Dumb And Dumberer’|
Some can eat pretzels and think at the same time. And one of them is Michael Moore, the broadcaster, writer and filmmaker.
(In fact, Mr Moore looks like he could eat a whole bag of pretzels for every thought that pops into his brain.)
In his latest movie, the Guardian reports that Moore – winner of an Oscar for Bowling for Columbine, a look at American’s obsession with the gun [see Iraq] – exposes the links between the aforesaid Bush and prominent Saudis.
Fahrenheit 9/11 promises to cast light on the dealings between the Bush clan and those who control the world’s biggest oil reserves in Saudi Arabia, a country not a million miles from Iraq.
The Telegraph says the film looks at a flight that spirited members of the bin Laden family out of America in September 2001 and includes footage of American soldiers criticising their leader.
But the film might never be shown – Disney, which owns Miramax, the firm behind the movie, is blocking its distribution.
Moore’s agent, Ari Emanuel, says the reason for this is that Disney’s involvement could have a negative impact on tax breaks the corporation receives from the state of Florida.
And, yes, that is the same state where Jeb Bush, George’s brother, is governor.
Back in the Guardian, Moore is in thoughtful mood.
‘At some point, the question has to be asked, ‘Should this be happening in a free and open society where monied interests essentially call the shots regarding the information that the public is allowed to see?’
Once more the question calls for a simple answer, although whether it’s a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ depends on whether you’re called Bush or not.’
‘WE all know, or must quickly understand, that, thanks to the sterling work of George Bush and Tony Blair, the world is a much better place to live than it ever was.
|‘If he doesn’t choke, the fat should kill him’|
But the Social Disadvantage Research Centre at Oxford University’s Department of Social Policy and Social Research has found that not every place is of equal happiness.
In some places, like Chorleywood West, the people are happy. They are, in fact, the happiest people in the entire land.
The Times reports that the locals enjoy rude health and high levels of employment, they have been widely educated to degree level and they are likely to own their own homes.
Not for nothing is Chorleywood West the blueprint for the new Iraq.
Sadly, at the moment, Iraq looks more like Harpurhey. The university study describes health in the Manchester locale as ‘appalling’.
What’s more, there are high rates of teenage suicide, heart and lung disease is rife and drug abuse and crime are popular forms of recreation.
As one resident, known as Craig, says: ‘Harpurhey is a dump.’
It is also home to Bernard Manning’s ‘WORLD FAMOUS EMBASSY CLUB’, a venue adorned by a mural of the great man wearing a tuxedo and a syrupy grin.
It’s a bit like Iraq of old, with Manning in the guise of Saddam Hussein.
However, as yet, the place has not been fortunate enough to have been levelled by the Americans and see its leader toppled. But the local residents live in hope…’
‘WHETHER or not members of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment did torture Iraqi captives in their charge is fast losing its importance.
|‘Okay, name Manchester United’s European Cup winning team of 1999′|
The damage caused by those controversial photos and the irrefutable evidence of American abuse has been done.
What the coalition forces would like us believe to be isolated incidents perpetrated by a few bad apples is today placed in a context of sustained and prolonged abuse.
The Times leads with ‘America’s catalogue of ‘torture”, a story based on its reading of an internal American military paper, one marked ‘Secret, No Foreign Dissemination’.
The report details at least 20 ways in which American guards at the Abu Ghraib prison softened up and, in the words of the leaked document, ‘committed egregious acts and grave breaches of international law’.
The list involves such delights as breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; beating them with a broom handle, an implement that may also have been used to sodomize one captive; keeping Iraqi captives naked for several days; piling up naked detainees and then jumping on them; forcing detainees to masturbate themselves while being photographed and videoed; and threatening them with guns and barking dogs.
Those who recall the campaign in Afghanistan may now hanker for the return of Barney The Dinosaur, that lovable purple instrument of American interrogation.
It’s the kind of news that can only harm any efforts to win the much-valued hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.
However, the better news is that some Iraqis do still value our justice system.
Indeed, they hold it in such high regard that the Guardian leads with news of how families of 14 Iraqis killed in the war have decided to see first-hand how well it works by taking their case to the High Court.
The families and their lawyers are challenging the Ministry of Defence’s refusal to consider any legal responsibility for their relatives’ deaths.
And that includes the death of one Baha Mousa, a Basra hotel receptionist who is alleged to have been killed by soldiers from – of all places – the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment.
Culpable or not, the mud, blood and gore is sticking and will prove very hard to remove…’
‘LIKE many, we noted something suspicious when we first saw the shots of British soldiers apparently abusing Iraqi detainees.
|Worth fighting for?|
Forget the lacing of the shoes, the make of rifle and clarity of image, we were shocked to see that one alleged victim was not wearing a Manchester United football kit but that of the Syrian national team.
What’s more, the squaddie in one shot is wearing a floppy hat of the type favoured by Chris Evans.
Where’s his beret? The beret that has been held up as the way to capture the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.
But now, in light of these images, the British Army surely needs new weapons of peace. And the Times has found one that might just work.
The results of the County Flowers scheme, a project by conservation charity Plantlife to find a wild flower for each UK county, are in.
There is little surprise in seeing that the official bloom of Lancashire, home to the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment, is the red rose.
While the Lancashire militia plant one of their emblematic blooms in the muzzle of their guns and encourage Iraqis to step up for a sniff, we look at some other more surprising results.
And chief among those is that the official wild flower of Yorkshire is not the white rose (that came in second), but the harebell.
The flower, described by the Telegraph as possessing a ‘papery beauty’ that ‘belies their extraordinary toughness and resilience’ will appear on local signs and car number plates.
The contest, voted for by the public, awarded the primrose to Devon, Jacob’s Ladder to Derbyshire, the evocative gorse to Belfast and the exotic viper’s burgloss to the equally exotic East Lothian.
But the challenge was not without controversy, says the Telegraph.
The vote was intended to coincide with the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, but so many counties clamoured for the bluebell that the vote was cancelled.
Second time round and the bluebell became automatic choice as the official wild flower of the United Kingdom, and the judges allowed Northamptonshire, Surrey and Worcestershire all to hold the cowslip as their own, lest there be an all-out war and much bloodshed.’
‘IT will doubtless interest you to learn that the official wild flower of London is the rosebay willowherb, the flower of the bombsite.
|‘Orville, who is your very best friend?’ ‘YOU ARE!’|
Look, there’s one there, just under the enormous dry dog turd and to the left of that hypodermic needle and jellified condom.
Now you see it.
And do you hear that? Yes, it’s the sound of true lovers meeting in Mayfair, ready to dine with angels in the Ritz and later to gaze up at the moon lingering in the skies above.
Of course, you didn’t hear a thing, because Berkeley Square is being ruined by the din of nightingales marking out their territories.
The Times says that the constant hum of traffic and mayor Ken Livingstone’s drone is causing nightingales in London and other cities to sing up.
And they are now singing so loudly that they are breaking legal noise levels and could be classified as a sound hazard.
You can even hear them in Berlin. There, scientists have recorded birds warbling next to the Potsdamer Chausee dual-carriageway at an ear-splitting 93 decibels.
‘A nightingale next to your ear would cause severe damage to your ear for a prolonged length of time,’ says Henrick Brumm, a behavioural biologist at Berlin’s Free University.
‘In Germany, you are obliged to wear ear protectors with more than 85 decibels for more than one hour, so working next to a nightingale means you would have to have protection.’
This is a warning to us all, including the British Army, which might be contemplating equipping its forces with nightingales to win over the locals in Iraq.
They should also avoid canaries, which are rumoured to be unreliable, stool pigeons, hawks, Rod Hull’s emu and American bald eagles, all of which might cause offence.
Orville, however, would do just fine…’
‘GETTING the kids to like you, perhaps even to love you, is a challenge that not only parents and the Labour party want to take on.
|‘You can’t pull the wool over my eyes’|
The Times too aims at a younger readership today with its front-page story entitled ‘Bare Truth From World’s Oldest Shearling’.
The story is the inspirational tale of Shrek, the sheep that escaped from a New Zealand farm and roamed free for six years, during which time he grew an enormous matted fleece that was only taken off last week.
In his story, told in his own words, Shrek says how the reason he left the farm in the first place was because his sheep pals used to stand around staring blankly, like those stupid human beings.
And those are the human beings Shrek finds so comical, what with them being unable to grow their own coats.
Shrek then regales us with the time he went to an official dinner. He avoided the ‘mutton dressed as lamb and went for a vegetarian option: grass served on a bed of grass.’
And how when he met with Helen Clark, the New Zealand Prime Minister, he found her chaaaarming. ‘She went baaa and seemed genuinely surprised when I replied in English.’
Having displayed a rare gift for diplomacy, Shrek is now on his way to the Middle East.
There, Shrek will attend another dinner, although he won’t be able to tell you what he’s seen since he and the other guests will have just eaten his eyes.
But don’t cry kids, it’s only a story…’
‘IF the Telegraph’s poll is right and Tony Blair is now no more or less popular with the electorate than Tory leader Michael Howard, New Labour could be in trouble.
|‘Well, that’s four votes in the bag’|
What the party and Tony need is a plan, a way of getting the nation excited once more about the Third Way and all that education.
Tony must have brought up this exact topic of conversation at one of his many children’s parties/focus groups, and the recipe for his return to political dominance soon became clear – give the youth the vote.
Just last month the Electoral Commission decided to oppose any move to lower the age at which people are allowed to put a cross on a piece of paper from 18 to 16 – but what do those old squares know about anything, eh kidz?
So, in spite of the advice given by a group set up by Parliament in 2002 to look into just such matters, the Independent says Labour politicians are throwing their weight behind plans to lower the voting age.
‘The commission does not have a veto,’ says one senior Labour source.
‘We will listen carefully to what is said and we will take account of its arguments. But we will make our own decision.’
It’s the kind of language any 16-year-old can understand, although the words are a little better put than ‘Get out of my life, you old witch. I’m not a child anymore!’
But let’s hear from the 16-year-old kids themselves, the yoof who Tony hopes will get the vote – and so vote for the man who gave them it. And so to the Indy’s ‘VERDICT ON THE STREET’.
‘Not all 16-year-olds are mature enough to vote – but the majority are,’ says Ruth MacKenzie.
‘If we had a say in who governed us we’d take more notice of the arguments,’ posits Idnan Hussain.
‘I don’t have any strong view on anything yet,’ says Vikki Doherty, who already sounds like the ideal Tony Blair fan. ‘I think politics is pretty boring.’
But what better way to spice politics up than with an injection of youth? And why not turn the whole thing into a ‘Countdown 2 Vote’.
As Jodi approaches her 16th birthday on General Election day, the Indy could release pictures of the teenager walking slowly towards the polling station.
When polling day arrives, and with it Jodi’s coming-of-age, she steps into the voting booth and reveals her views to the watching world.
And a tattoo of Tony Blair on each naked breast.’
‘DO you know what it costs to bring up a child these days? No, the answer is not ‘Who cares? I never asked to be born’.
|De rigeur for all middle-class parents|
And neither is the answer, ‘My health, my sanity, my looks’, however worldly-wise that response seems.
The correct answer is £164,000. So, well done to Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard professor no less, and her daughter, Amelia Warren Tyagi, for getting that right.
And what’s more, the pair have put their workings down in the form of a book.
The Telegraph takes a look at their project – The Two Income Trap, Why Middle Class Mothers And Father Are Going Broke – and notes what passes for fact.
The authors say that married American couples with children are twice as likely to file for bankruptcy than those without children, while 75% are more likely to be late paying their bills.
News that mouths cost money to feed is hardly going to blow anyone’s romper suit off.
That children cost money is no sensation, as any American who has ever looked into buying a Chinese baby could attest.
Indeed, the report seems to be one filled with stating the bleedin’ obvious.
For instance, hands up who didn’t know that 16-19 year olds and their demand for ‘cool’ clothes are expensive to run.
But Ray, of Ray and Tina Currey, held up by the Telegraph as the typical middle class couple, thinks he has the spotted the root cause of the cost.
‘The biggest expense is peer pressure,’ says he. ‘We don’t want our sons to grow up spoiled, but neither do we want them to be the ones who didn’t have anything.’
So mum had to have the new off-road Jeep and dad was forced into buying the gold clubs and gym membership lest they should not fit in and cause their children to die of embarrassment.’
‘PRESIDENT Bush emerged yesterday from his three-hour grilling by commissioners investigating the 9/11 attacks and announced that he had enjoyed the experience.
They had a lot of good questions, he said afterwards. And Im glad I did it.
The Telegraph says Bushs announcement (at an impromptu press conference) that he was delighted that he testified was at odds with the White Houses long rearguard campaign against the bipartisan commission.
In the end they did secure certain concessions the interview was conducted in the Oval Office, the President was not under oath, Dick Cheney appeared at his side (with one arm mysteriously stuffed up the back of the Presidents shirt) and there was no transcript.
To make it easier for Bush, the questions were all in a multiple choice format and, despite the absence of a transcript, Anorak managed to get a prior look at some of the questions…
Q1: Mr President, what is the correct way in which to eat pretzels? Do you… A) Chew, B) Suck or C) Collapse to the ground unconscious?
Q2: Mr President, in a democracy, is the winner of an election generally the person with the most… A) Votes, B) Hair, C) Money?
Q3: Mr President, if your country is fighting a war in Vietnam, where can you make most difference? A) Vietnam, B) Alabama, C) In a bar?
Q4: Mr President, if the USA is attacked by terrorists, most of whom are from Saudi Arabia, which country do you bomb? A) Afghanistan, B) Canada, C) Iraq?
Q5: Mr President, which of the following statements did you say: A) ‘Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream’, B) ‘I think if you know what you believe, it makes it a lot easier to answer questions. I can’t answer your question’, C) ‘I will have a foreign-handed foreign policy’?
Q6: Mr President, if the big hand is pointing to the 12 and the little hand is pointing to the 7, what time is it? A) 7 oclock, B) Bedtime, C) Time for another holiday?’
‘PRESIDENT Carter once said that the hardest thing to persuade the American people was that they were not better than everyone else.
|Iraqis are made to audition for Scream III|
He didnt have the photograph on the front page of this mornings Guardian to help.
The picture, which shows an Iraqi prisoner hooded and attached to wires in Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, is one of several showing widespread abuse by American soldiers in Iraq.
Another picture shows a prisoner being attacked by a dog, another shows inmates being forced to simulate sex with each other and yet another shows nude inmates being piled up to form a human pyramid.
Who, one wonders, are the evil folks here?
The photographs came to light in January when a soldier reported the abuse to senior officers.
There are some things going on here that I cant live with, he apparently said.
Six soldiers are now facing a possible court martial and a general is under investigation.
But the paper says the soldiers lawyers claim they are being used as scapegoats for a system in which mercenaries hired by the Pentagon give orders without legal accountability.
One civilian contractor, for instance, has been accused of raping a young male prisoner, but hasnt been charged because military law has no jurisdiction over him.
The Abu Ghraib jail was notorious for torture and executions under Saddam Hussein.
It appears the Americans are being more successful than we thought about getting life back to normal in Iraq.’
‘IN the European playground, its the size of your gang that counts and the good news is that Britains gang will soon be the biggest of the lot.
|Tuscany or bust|
Tony Blair tells the Times that the 10 countries who are about to join the EU, most of whom are East Europeans, will automatically join his gang.
France and Germany will hang around with the likes of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, while there will be another gang led by Italy and including Ireland and the Scandinavians.
Of course, this is assuming Britain is still part of the EU French president Jacques Chirac warned that we may have to leave if we fail to back the new constitution in a referendum.
But the most alarming fact about Mr Blairs vision of a tripartite Europe is that, as things stand at present, we seem to be on our own.
For all the guff over so many years about being at the heart of Europe, using our influence to forge a union of nation states and wresting control from the Franco-German axis, it would seem we are as isolated as ever.
And the results of a poll on the front page of the Telegraph show why most of us know little and care even less about the EU.
Only 36% of the country believes membership is a good thing, while more than half plan to vote against the new constitution in any referendum.
Which, as George Bush knows, is enough for Tonys Yes campaign to win the day…’
‘HOW, without using the mother of all airbrushes, do you turn Michelle McManus into Kirsty Gallagher?
|Two weeks in the life of Slimz-U-Like|
In days gone by, such an operation would have required the following: a tenon saw, two buckets, some Ronseal woodstain and the instruction manual from a VW Polo.
No longer – with Anorak’s new range of Slimz-U-Like creams, available under the counter at all disreputable pharmacies, we can promise that no-one need ever look like Michelle again.
If you don’t believe us, consult the Independent for a second opinion.
It reports on a French test ‘involving the thighs of 200 women’ which has found that our boasts are true: ‘miracle’ slimming creams really do reduce cellulite.
The study by the French consumers’ association – which should be called Quel?, but isn’t – found that the best creams reduced the circumference of women’s thighs by up to 2cm in two weeks.
All very impressive, but even at that rate it could take months or even years before a Michelle became a Kirsty.
With Anorak’s Slimz-U-Like cream, you can shave 2cm off your thigh A DAY – 14 times quicker than with, say, L’Oreal’s PerfectSlim or Elancyl’s Chrono-Actif.
To prove it, we conducted our own test involving the thighs of some lardy girl called Janet whose job in Anorak Towers no-one has ever quite discovered.
We rubbed Slimz-U-Like into one of Janet’s thighs every day for a week and a placebo cream into her other thigh.
The difference was staggering – and so was Janet as she tried to get around with one leg the size of a Giant Redwood and the other a young sapling.
But back to France, where women spend £50 every year on slimming creams, and the Indy reports that the manufacturers are not happy with the results.
Marie-Jeanne Husset, of 60 Million de Consummatuers, said it strengthened the case for regulation.
‘The last thing they want,’ she said, ‘is for slimming creams to be listed as medicines.’
Believe us – it’s better you don’t know what goes to make these creams…’
”EGO tenuis sum, gratia Slimz-U-Like.’ Words that you will hear with increasing frequency when you visit Rome.
|‘No, you can’t be a consul’|
The Times reports that from next months the Italian authorities are to offer free Latin lessons for foreigners wanting to understand the inscriptions on all the old buildings.
The crash courses, which include an introduction to ancient Roman culture, are aimed particularly at the Americans, British and French.
Knowing the facility that certainly the first two groups mentioned have for languages, it is surely now only a matter of time before the forum is once again alive to the sounds of Cicero.
The Times attributes this sudden interest in Latin to the success of Mel Gibson’s flagellation flick, The Passion Of The Christ.
‘Even those of us who learnt some Latin at school have forgotten much of it,’ says Daniele Ciccaglioni, who runs one of the 15 bookshops in Rome that are taking part in the scheme.
Altogether now! Amo, amas, amat…’
‘IT is an accolade that is not given lightly, but Tim Gray, up until recently the head chef at Bonapartes in the Yorkshire town of Silsden, is this morning rejoicing in the knowledge that he is ‘the biggest twat in Britain’.
|The Duke Of Beef Wellington|
What, you ask, has Steve Penk left the country? Has Chris Moyles been set adrift in the North Sea, where he is now a major hazard to shipping?
Sadly not – according to the Guardian, Tim’s claim to the title, bestowed upon him by a friend, was to be publicly humiliated by Gordon Ramsay on TV on Tuesday night.
More than four million people tuned into the programme, in which Ramsay is supposed to provide provincial cooks with tips for success.
What they saw was an expletive-filled hour of television, in which 21-year-old Tim was denounced as an ‘idiot’ who could not even cook an egg.
His speciality dish of black pudding, scallops and hollandaise sauce was described as ‘minging’ by Ramsay, who said it made him feel physically sick.
Not a great advert for Tim’s talents or indeed for Bonapartes restaurant – the former has been sacked and the latter is now deserted.
But some people in Silsden sense a stitch-up.
Sarah, a waitress at Bonapartes, accused Channel 4 of manipulating the facts.
‘They portrayed Silsden as an unsophisticated northern town in the name of reality television,’ she said.
‘We are as sophisticated as people in London. This is an affluent, growing place and I think we all feel insulted.’
Everyone including Bob The Dog, the town mascot, whose antics we can now all follow thanks to the wonders of webcams…’