Top news from The Times, Daily Telegraph, The Indepedent and The Guardian newspapers
‘DONT be too surprised if when the Iraqi people vote for their leader next January, George Bush wins by a landslide.
|Ayatollah Sistani prepares himself for defeat|
A glitch in the American-made voting machines will mean that Ayatollah Sistani, the Shia leader, a man the Independent calls the most powerful Iraqi politician, will appear as G. Bush on some voting slips.
But it might work out for the best – at least this way, Bush will be able to press ahead with his five-point plan for a newer and freer Iraq not from the position of an invading tyrant but as the countrys democratically elected leader.
And thats the bright and rosy future Bush put forward in a speech at the US Army War College.
I sent American troops to Iraq to defend our security, not to stay as an occupying power, says Bush, reinforcing the notion that the Iraq campaign is part of the universal war on terror.
I sent American troops to Iraq to make its people free, not to make them American. Iraqis will write their own history and find their own way.
As George also says: Iraqis are proud people who resent foreign control on their affairs, just as we would.
No arguing with that last point, even if the final part appears to be a little dig at our own beloved leader, the yapping Tony Blair.
The Telegraph says that having been accused by the Opposition and members so of his own party of blindly going along with whatever the Bush administration dictates, yesterday Tony tried to create some light between himself and the US President.
The paper hears Blair say that a new Iraqi government should be allowed to veto military action by the coalition forces. Any operations against insurgents should be carried out only with the Iraqi governments consent.
Only this way will there be a real and genuine transfer of sovereignty on the June 30 deadline, says Tony.
This sounds terribly fair, until you realise, as US Secretary of State Colin Powell does, that it would effectively mean Iraqis controlling the US-led forces.
And anyone who cant spot the flaw with that idea must be stupid. Or with stupid…’
‘THE world is a very complicated place for men who can’t watch TV and chew pretzels at the same time – at least not without losing consciousness at the sheer complexity of the task.
|‘Now, polar bears come from which part of Poland?’|
Iran, Iraq…neighbours separated by a single consonant. North Korea, South Korea…neighbours separated by three consonants (D, M and Z). Ireland and Iceland, Zambia and Gambia, Holland and The Netherlands…
And don’t even get us started on all the ‘stans’.
How’s a little Texan boy with only the most tenuous of grasps on his own language to work out which one he’s supposed to be bombing today?
So let’s not be too surprised by reports in this morning’s Guardian that Iran duped the CIA and White House into invading Iraq.
The paper says an urgent investigation has been launched in Washington into claims that Tehran used the hawks in the Pentagon and White House to topple a hostile neighbour and pave the way for a Shia-ruled Iraq.
Apparently, the CIA has hard evidence that Ahmad Chalabi, leader of the Iraqi National Congress and a former Pentagon favourite, and his intelligence chief Karim Habib passed US secrets to Iran.
Iran also used Chalabi and the INC to pass bogus intelligence back to the US to encourage the administration to invade.
‘It’s pretty clear,’ said one intelligence source, ‘that Iranians had us for breakfast, lunch and dinner.’ And without choking once.
And Larry Johnson, a former senior counter-terrorist official at the US State Department, said Iran had run one of the most masterful intelligence operations in history.
‘It persuaded the US and Britain to dispose of its greatest enemy,’ he said.
If the US people want to dispose of their greatest enemy, the solution is somewhat simpler – they need only punch a hole through the correct piece of paper in November.
Such is the staggering incompetence of this US administration that even a conservative paper like the Telegraph is counting the days until Bush retires to his ranch permanently.
Writing in the paper, historian Niall Ferguson puts forward a persuasive argument that America is suffering from Asperger’s syndrome.
Asperger’s sufferers, we are told, ‘cannot deal effectively with the social world in which we are all, perforce, obliged to live…
‘They do not understand how or why people tick, and invariably offend or alienate friends or acquaintances with their uninhibited and direct ways of interacting.
‘In other words, they do not understand the subtleties of normal social interaction – that intuitive appreciation we have of knowing just how far to push things.
‘People with Asperger’s trample unwittingly on others’ social sensibilities without embarrassment.’
And nor can they watch TV and chew pretzels at the same time…’
‘AT the age of 21, most British women will have been pregnant at least three times, while most British men will be on the run from the Child Support Agency.
Male or female, they will be taking a degree in media studies at the University Of North East Cleveland, hoping for a job presenting T4 on Channel 4 but with only the realistic prospect of a job at the checkout of the local Asda.
And they will have already appeared on at least two reality shows and still be nursing a grudge against that nasty Simon Cowell.
What they’re not doing – unless they’re a High Court judge or live in the Forest Of Dean – is wearing nappies and suckling on their mother’s breast.
This morning’s Guardian reports on the case of the baby boy who was born two years ago from 21-year-old sperm, frozen as the father was facing treatment for testicular cancer.
The paper says the case, reported in the Human Reproduction journal, offers hope to thousands of young people who may lose their fertility through chemotherapy.
‘We believe this is the longest period of sperm cryo-preservation resulting in a live birth so far reported in the scientific literature,’ said fertility consultant Elizabeth Pease.
Despite his advanced age, the baby boy, whose identity has not been revealed, is much like his peers.
The only difference is said to be a worrying tendency to wear make-up, his hair in a quiff and his jacket collar up.’
‘THERE were plenty of the famous ‘egg and bacon’ ties on display at Lord’s yesterday as MCC members watched England beat New Zealand in the first Test of the summer.
|‘And the scarf’s an absolute killer, Doctor’|
We dare say that some of these ties were to be found round the necks of certain members of the medical profession.
But we hope that none of them were called immediately from this cricketing stage to the operating theatre, not only because they would have missed a fine finale but also for their patients’ safety.
A report in this morning’s Times says that egg and bacon is the least of the problems on doctors’ ties – in fact, they have been identified as a breeding ground for potentially lethal infections.
In a study in New York, it was found that almost half of the ties worn by medical staff carried bacteria – and doctors were eight times more likely to have disease-causing pathogens on their ties than non-medical workers.
The British Medical Association agrees.
‘Ties are a hygiene concern because they hang down and can touch patients and they are infrequently washed,’ it says. ‘We feel that doctors should not be obliged to wear ties.’
Or maybe we should insist doctors wear bowties – or maybe a fetching cravat – instead…’
‘IT is worth remembering that had Lucy Pinder not decided to bunk off work last August and spend the day on the beach, the world would be a very different place.
|Lucy put the FF into a DAY OFF|
If nothing else, there would be one more student at King Alfred’s College in Bournemouth and two fewer indentations in the sand on Bournemouth beach.
Maybe it is the hope of following in Lucy’s footsteps that will persuade so many workers to throw a sickie today; maybe it is just the lure of a suntan.
But, according to the Independent, good weather is responsible for large rise in absenteeism with many employees taking ‘unwarranted’ long weekends.
The CBI’s annual absence survey shows that 176 million working days were lost last year – a rise of 10 million on the year before – at a cost to employees of £11.6bn.
And 78% of the more than 500 companies that took part in the survey suspect that staff add unauthorised days to their weekends by calling in sick on Fridays and Mondays.
Presumably, the other 22% knew that staff wagged on those days (or were not in the office when the qustion was asked).
‘Firms understand that the majority of absence is due to genuine minor sickness,’ CBI’s deputy director general John Cridland said when we caught up with him on Blackpool beach.
‘But absence is a serious and expensive concern that is on the increase.’
Public sector workers are the most likely to take a day off sick, averaging 8.9 days on the beach a year compared with 6.9 days in the private sector.
Employees of big companies are also more prone to wag, with workers in organisations of more than 5,000 employees taking 10.2 days off a year compared with just 4.2 days in companies with fewer than 50 staff.
At Anorak Towers, we are pleased to report that absenteeism last year was again 0.
(The last member of staff at Anorak to take a sick day was Mr Shaikh in March 1996 – and it later turned out that he had in fact died over the course of the weekend.)
Interviewed in his penthouse office, old Mr Anorak himself attributed this record to ‘a happy and healthy working environment’.
And to team-building exercises that have since been borrowed by US soldiers in Abu Ghraib prison…’
‘NOT every workplace shares Anorak’s hard-line attitude to absenteeism.
|Class 6b’s double biology class|
But while the CBI and employers are trying to crack the whip and prevent staff from bunking off work, the Government is being pulled in the other direction.
An influential thinktank will this week recommend to ministers that schoolchildren should be taken on weekly safaris or expeditions – to the funfair to study trigonometry, for instance, or to the airport arrivals lounge for a different take on geography.
According to the Guardian, the proposals (put forward in a joint report by Demos and charity Green Alliance) are an attempt to reverse the serious decline in school trips.
The report paints a picture of children ‘frightened by many things adults take in their stride, from busy traffic to news bulletins about terrorism’.
Taking them out of their classroom and into the ‘real’ world would be of great benefit, enabling them to gain a greater understanding of the world around them.
And what better preparation for adult life could there be than abandoning the stuffy classroom at the first sign of sunshine and heading straight for the beach…to learn about, er, the human anatomy, of course.’
‘FOR children these days, school is just one test after another.
|‘He’s trying to make eye contact with you, Sorene’|
‘What ride was your favourite at the funfair?’ ‘Who had the better tan – people returning from Ibiza or Lanzarote?’ ‘Draw a full-scale picture of Lucy Pinder’s breasts…’
But the same is true for teachers, who have to sit for hour after hour invigilating these tests.
So how do the teachers beat the boredom?
The answer, according to the Telegraph, appears to be by playing games, often poking fun at their unsuspecting students.
One game, for instance, is called Ugly, in which the invigilator stands next to the ugliest person in the room until he or she makes eye contact.
Then there is Good Kid, Bad Kid in which an invigilator selects a pupil from his or her class on the exam attendance grid and the other has to guess which category they fall into just by looking at them.
Another favourite is Chicken in which one invigilator deliberately walks between the desks towards an advancing colleague until one takes evasive action.
Finally, there is Where Is Everyone? in which the invigilator looks round the empty exam room and has to try to guess on which beach all his or her students are lying…’
‘SMILE and the world smiles with you should make a fitting epitaph for Tony Blairs political career.
|‘How do I look, Gordon?’ ‘You Loch Fyne, Tony’|
And it would have been a truism had it not been for one dour Scot standing behind him yesterday – oh, and a few thousand Iraqis.
But lets just concentrate on the Scot, as the Times does, the ambitious Gordon Brown, the man who apparently wants the Prime Minsters job so much that hes prepared to share a car journey and a meal with John Prescott to get it.
But the paper is of the mind that Tony and Gordon share a secret.
And Susan Marchant-Haycox, an expert in body language, says she has identified key features which show that the two men are poles apart, politically and personally.
Now, we are not yet experts ourselves, but anyone who has seen that Blair grin and the Brown gulp cannot be of a mind that the men are two of a kind.
But politically estranged? Well, thats another story, and one the Times thinks is worthy of its front page.
MarchantHaycox looks at the shot of the pair, taken at a joint appearance intended to promote Labours economic record in Government before the June 10 European elections, and notes how Browns mouth is shielded behind his hand.
Touching your face means you are disguising something, says Marchant-Haycox. It is as if he is laughing behind his hand.
She then looks at Blair. Mr Blairs stiff posture and fixed smile show he is not happy and has a lot of inner tension. Blair has a jaunty stance that is hiding something.
Her thoughtful, scientific conclusion is that Brown and Blair are sneaky.
Its all deeply fascinating stuff, and weve taken a few pointers from MarchantHaycox, and after a 10minute workshop in body language, weve looked afresh at a few more of todays news photos.
And the stand-out picture is in the Independent, where specialist US servicewomen Sabrina Harman is pictured alongside the corpse of a dead Iraqi detainee (name not given).
The Iraqi (eyes taped up; body packed in ice) lies to one side of Harman, who can be seen leaning over him and giving the thumbs up sign to camera.
Having studied the shot, we can say that Harman has absolutely nothing to hide and possesses a smile that suggests a good dental health regime, as well as a large dose of nastiness bordering on evil.
The man is not her chum and his stiff posture and lack of eye contact show that he is ill at ease in Harmans company.
Of course, there might be a simpler explanation, one based on another kind of language – the Iraqi doesnt get the joke, while Brown, Blair and Harman have heard President Bushs views on the Middle East.’
‘IS it spring?
|‘It’s the wrong kind of sun. It’s beach sun, not work sun’|
Stuck in this disused coal shaft, we at Anorak Towers have no idea when one season moves into the next, and rely on a calendar of convenience.
For instance, we know when winter arrives because our hands freeze to the keyboard and good Mr Youngman gives us all a satsuma (to share).
And we know when summer arrives because the railway workers go out on strike.
And, according to the Telegraph, summer could arrive as early as the first week of June although, what with this being a railway issue, summer might not arrive at all or reach here around October time.
Summer could even be cancelled, unless members of the Rail Maritime and Transport union thrash out a deal with their employers at Network Rail.
The first nationwide rail strike for 10 years (the Tubes strike is an annual event, like the first swallow of spring), will be averted if Network Rail raises wages, offers earnings-linked pensions to new recruits and get this extends free and cheap travel to all employees, says the Guardian.
Yes folks, summer may yet be saved as long as the railway workers are allowed to stand for nothing alongside the commuters waiting for the 6:40 service from Berwick, East Sussex, to London.
We say let them have it. Making the staff drink their medicine should teach them.
Indeed, it proved too much for Simon Taylor, a disgruntled commuter, profiled in the Telegraph.
While waiting for the aforesaid service, Taylor was told over the PA system that the train would not be stopping at the station today.
So Taylor decided hed make it stop, as it had been scheduled to do, and walked back to his car, got in and drove it onto a nearby level crossing.
Which self-confessed staggeringly stupid act caused him to make a stop at the High Court and, after an admission of guilt, suffer a possible two-year delay in prison.
As for the train, well, it was delayed for six minutes, which as Health and Safety ruling 4 sub-section 42a clearly states is horribly early and puts the lives of unsuspecting railway workers in peril.
A strike has been called for. And just as soon as the weather heats up a bit, therell be one…’
‘THE Government wants to put an end to two things that may or may not be linked.
|‘Was the war in Iraq a) a good idea, b) a bad idea or c) no idea?’|
Firstly, the Telegraph says how the Government wants to stop firms offering prize competitions which ask the audience to answer a stupidly simple question via a premium rate phone number.
Take GMTVs recent offer for a two-week family holiday in Spain plus £500 in spending money for answering the poser: Which of these is a traditional Spanish dish? a – Paella; b Pizza; c – Goulash?
The correct answer is, apparently, a Paella, although many Brits will have scratched their bonces and wondered why the options vodka jelly, lager and puke were not given.
And this leads us onto the Governments second policy-of-the-day, namely the drive to curtail binge drinking, something the Guardian hears Tony Blair say is in danger of becoming the new British disease.
Blair wants flexible opening hours in licensed premises, which he thinks will attract a better mix of people in town and city centres at the weekend.
Itll also stop people sitting at home watching Richard & Judy and using up their lifes savings answering expensive questions like: Who will be Prime Minister in November?, Why did Britain go to war in Iraq and How many oysters make up a plot?’
‘WHEN we heard that Ron Davis had interrupted Prime Ministers Questions Time by throwing something, we shuddered.
|‘Badger at 4 o’clock!’|
Ever the pal of the dumb and beastly, we feared the former Welsh Secretary had lobbed a naked badger into the political throng.
But we were wrong. The Ron Davis who yesterday caused a commotion in the Commons is, as the Telegraph reveals, a divorced father fighting for the right to see his children after a five-year struggle.
Hed even spoken with Tony Blair once before in a broadcasted telephone call when the PM held his Big Conversation on Londons LBC radio.
Back then, Davis put his complaint to Blair, who replied: Id just like to have a closer look myself on how the courts are supposed to approach it now [equal rights for fathers] and write to you about it.
But no satisfactory letter ever came, and Davis duly decided on a course of action that would see him and one Guy Harrison lob two flour-filled condoms at the PM.
The Times describes how the first missile fired by the fathers from the Commons Public Gallery at Tony Blair disintegrated in mid-flight.
The second shot, as the Telegraph illustrates with a helpful graphic, came from fully 40ft away and at an awkward angle.
It dipped, swerved and arched its way to Blair. And…a hit! Poof! An explosion of purple flour cascaded down Tonys back.
While politicians cleared the air by flapping papers and brushing down their suits (as the Indys Simon Carr explains, Thats the way to beat anthrax), and the sports minister called the England cricket selectors about a great new talent, people began to wonder how such a thing could have occurred.
The Times has the answer – if you want to gain access to the home of British power and lob purple powder, anthrax, sherbert dib-dabs or grenades at the PM, you just need to bid more than the next bearded man.
The paper says that the tickets to sit in the Public Gallery came from Baroness Goulding, who auctioned two front-row seats for PMs Question Time, with proceeds going to one of the many causes she champions.
She says she thought Davis and Harrison were charity workers of a sort and that she even planned to round off their day by shouting them lunch in the House of Lords.
Events meant that they never got their meal – so there are now two seats in the upper chambers diner up for grabs.
And theyll go to the person who gives the best answer to our tiebreaker.
In 12 words or under, complete the following sentence: Id like to toss a badger because…’
‘IN what the Guardian calls an Oprah Winfrey moment, Jeremy Sivits became the first US soldier to stand trial for the revolting events in the Abu Ghraib jail.
|‘And welcome to the Jerry Sivits Show…’|
Despite the tears and remorse (Ive let everybody down. I love the army. I love the flag. All I wanted to be was a US soldier), Sivits was given the maximum sentence permissible by US military law, and was jailed for one year and dishonourably discharged from the army.
Itd be fitting if that year-long incarceration took Sivits, the man who took the photos of Americans piling up prisoners into a naked human pyramid, to the Abu Ghraib jail, where hed be cared for by some Iraqi prison guards.
But the American way is about justice, not revenge, isnt it? And, as such, Sivits will need to hang around to testify against other soldiers implicated in the scandal.
Soldiers like Staff Sgt Ivan Frederick, who Sivits saw punching a prisoner hard in the chest; Cpl Charles Graner, who Sivits watched punch a captive in the temple; and the as yet unnamed woman jailer who scrawled the word rapist on an Iraqis leg.
And then theres Lynndie England, the most easy-to-despise of all the disgraced soldiers, who, the Times hears Sivits say, stomped on the toes of prisoners, commenting on the size of their penises as she posed for those hellish pictures.
Taking a look at the protagonists, Sivits weeping confession might be akin to what passes for entertainment on the Oprah Winfrey show, but its all surely more Jerry Springer fodder.
Although, maybe not that highbrow ’
‘WHAT we British have long suspected is now one step closer to being pronounced as true.
|Australia has cultural icons of its own to be proud of|
We talk not of George Bush having no brain, nor of Tony Blair being Gods representative on Earth, but that Australians are suffering from self-imposed historical and cultural amnesia.
The Telegraph hears Tony Abbott, the Australian health minister, tell an audience at Victorias Monash University, that the Australian attitude to Britain is like teenagers blowing raspberries at their parents.
While Australians love to portray themselves as pioneering individualists, they have, in reality, a lingering insecurity about being an outpost of Anglo-Saxon culture on the edge of Asia.
It is a topic that is bound to be up for discussion in every bar in London.
Thousands of bar staff can show the Brits (a term Abbott says is every bit as offensive as Japs) photos of the sun bursting through an ozone-free sky back home as they wax lyrical about bugs as big as your head and forest fires the size of Wales, all the while moaning about the British being this that and the other.
And Abbott wants it to stop. He wants Australians to stop whinging about the Poms.
Instead, Abbott wants Australians to celebrate their heritage and stop trying to prove that the British are a bunch of stuck-up snobs.
No matter whether we are better than them or not ’
‘IF John Prescott isn’t careful he may overindulge and so ruin his chances of capturing the heavyweight boxing gold for Britain at the 2012 London Olympics.
|‘Get away, Prescott! They’re not on the menu’|
Rarely has a politician been so associated with food. From scrambled eggs to oysters, Prezza is hungrier than a fleet of Jaguars.
Barely has he digested the meal from his date with Gordon Brown before the Guardian spots the Deputy PM at the Hoxton Apprentice restaurant, where he’s declining a plate of proffered grilled vegetables in favour of some Curry Dusted Fat Chips.
The venue, funded by the Government, Corporation of London and private enterprise, intends to give 48 unemployed people the chance to train as professional caterers each year.
And if that sounds familiar, it should – it’s based on Jamie’s Kitchen, the TV series is which Jamie Oliver performed the same trick with 15 such trainees.
That Jamie Oliver is now dictating Government policy should fill us with fear, dread and a creamy apple sauce, but we remind you that the generously-tongued chef is at least a step up from George Bush.
But what does Prezza make of it all? He tells the assembled diners, and the Times: ‘These young people have found out that a salad is about more than tomatoes and lettuce.’
What it is about we might never know because pukka John stopped short of telling us, although we cannot rule out a Prezza salad being about lashings of cheese, deep-fried Mars bars and some more of those chips in curry sauce.’
‘ONE key difference between the fake photographs of British soldiers abusing Iraqis and those American snapshots is the teeth.
|Brush three times a day after meals|
While our bogus squaddie bows his head in shame, hiding his teeth from view, the Americans beam like the headlights on mom’s Cadillac.
And this has hurt us nearly as much as it’s hurt the Iraqis, taking a bite out of our young people’s confidence, according to the Independent.
And it’s not just Americans, but also our white-toothed celebrities who are making our youth ever more tooth-conscious.
Professor Jimmy Steele, of Newcastle University, has noted how the sight of David and Victoria Beckham’s artificially whitened teeth, and others like them, is encouraging youngsters to opt for special dental procedures.
‘Despite the fact that oral health has been steadily improving over the years,’ writes Prof Steele, ‘young people are more likely to believe they have unhealthy teeth because they compare themselves with the high standards set in the celebrity world.
‘People have developed unreasonable expectations of their dentists.’
Of course, just finding an NHS dentist is even harder than spotting a flaw on Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt’s blindingly white ivories.
So while you look for one, try not to open your mouth and, if you have to, paint your teeth with some Tippex first…’
‘IF anyone asks you why your teeth are covered in Tippex, tell them it’s been done in the name of art.
|Chris Ofili’s reaction to this year’s poo-free shortlist|
The Government will then happily give you a grant and you’ll be shortlisted for the Turner Prize.
Clearly this is a cynic’s view of the prestigious modern art award, and only a philistine would ever question the validity of an award that has featured Chris Ofili’s studies in elephant poo and Tracy Emin’s wallow in her filthy bed.
A sophisticated dilettante would look at this year’s contestants for the £40,000 first prize, hold their chin, narrow their eyes and say something like, ‘Mmmm, it’s amazing what they can do with cheese slices these days.’
But there are no cheese slices, cheese triangles or blocks of cheese in this year’s contest – instead, says the Independent, there are such things as an interactive digital model called The House Of Osama Bin Laden, a sculpture entitled Scramble For Africa and an unnarrated film called Memory Bucket.
They are indeed all worthy candidates, and there is a distinct lack of what former arts minister Kim Howells called ‘conceptual bullshit’.
This year’s contest is, in the words of the Guardian, ‘startlingly sensible’.
Although with no vomit, blood, gore, skid marks and pickled fish, the question remains: Is it art..?’
‘ON days like these, when you can lie back and warm your piercings beneath a radiant sun, you wonder why you ever need to go anywhere.
|‘Next year we’re going to Afghanistan’|
But as good as our beaches are, they can never match the sands of Iraq, which stretch for mile upon mile upon mile in all directions.
So, as the Telegraph says, Tony Blair is offering 3,000 British soldiers the once-in-a-lifetime chance to get away from it all in Iraq.
‘You’ve watched it on the telly,’ says the advert. ‘Now see first hand the bombsites and hear the pump-action sounds of the holiday hot-spot they’re all talking about.’
The full itinerary has yet to be finalised, but Tony Blair Tours are at pains to emphasise that no holidaymakers will be left in the lurch, as happened at Dunkirk all those years ago.
Speaking at a conference in Turkey, Blair vowed that he and his staff would not ‘cut and run’, a phrase he repeated no less than three times during his appearance.
‘Of course it is difficult at the moment,’ he said. ‘But the task of leadership when things are difficult is precisely not to cut and run, but to face the difficulties and overcome them.’
The Turkish Prime Minster, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with one eye on Iraq – and mindful of lessons learned in Faliraki and by the behaviour of American travel reps in Abu Ghraib – replied by addressing Blair as ‘my dear friend’ before voicing a note of caution.
‘We need to be real,’ said he, as the Guardian reports. ‘At the moment in our diagnosis, we can’t say that the developments are going the right way.’
But the Telegraph says that Blair will stay until the job is done – whether that be for one month until the hand-over of power, seven months until the first Iraqi elections or right up to the next General Election and into a third term…and fourth, and fifth.’
‘WHAT we have seen in Faliraki, and now in Iraq, is that the cream of British youth can make a massive impact when they travel abroad.
|‘Fancy a peace of this? Heh-heh!’|
It’s something Gordon Brown has also noticed, and the Times hears the Chancellor suggest that young people from poor backgrounds should be given money from the public purse to take gap years and ‘change the world’.
‘If you take gap years, why is it that only people who have got money can actually take a year off or six months or three months off?’ he asked an audience at Youth Culture Television, a London-based educational charity.
Answers to that poser include, ‘The Job Seekers’ Allowance won’t allow it’, ‘Package tours to Faliraki usually last only two weeks’, and ‘They do, but the Government calls it ‘benefit fraud”.
But Gordon thinks it’s all terribly unfair, and suggests that more British youth should be despatched to places like Africa to sort out ‘the health, the education and other problems’.
So all being well, it won’t be long before the UK Peace Corps’ Jordan and Lance are hosting the Congo’s first Wet T-Shirt Contest and seeing how many Slippery Nipples it takes until you can fill your sandals with vomit.’
‘TONY Blair and the UK Peace Corps are striving to ensure that the map of the world will once more bear the pink of the British Empire, albeit spattered with occasional bits of blood and chunky, carrot-coloured puke.
|‘Titter ye not!’|
But one bit of the planet will be forever Britain, and yesterday Michael Howard visited the place we call Gibraltar.
In response to the Gibraltarians being able to vote in the European elections as part of the South-West of England constituency, the Tory leader flew to The Rock in search of votes.
He vowed to allow the people of Gibraltar to decide their future for themselves and not to enter into any secret negotiations about their future with the Spanish, ‘unlike the present Government’.
And Howard’s words seemed to do the trick, as the Independent watched him moving from shop to shop ‘pulling votes like ripe apples in an orchard’.
Buoyed by the overwhelming support, Howard stopped by busker Paul, who was busy playing ‘Rule Britannia’ on his harmonica.
‘He gave me a few coins,’ says Paul to the Indy. ‘Who is he? Frankie Howerd?’
Titter ye may, but this Howard is going places, leaving no vote untapped as the Tories go for broke.
‘Today Gibraltar,’ as they say in Tory HQ, ‘tomorrow, Yorkshire & The Humber’ – or Iraq West, as it will soon be known…’
‘WHEN Tony Blair leaves Number 10, ascending to the Heavens in a golden chariot, what will his legacy be?
|‘This is not a popularity contest,’ say government’s newest judges|
All politicians, however selfless they appear, must wonder at some time or other how they will be remembered in the history books.
But Tonys legacy is being muddied by the day.
He has been the most voter-friendly Labour politician ever, and that should secure him some bragging rights in the hereafter.
But other things are less certain. Take his plans for the new supreme court.
The Times has had a look at them and noted that the blueprints are to be put in cold storage for ten years because a suitable building cant be found to house the legislative chamber.
Only when a building is ready will the supreme court, a key element of the Governments Constitutional Reform Bill, be ready to dispense justice.
That a lack of building was no problem when is came to housing the devolved assemblies in Scotland and London (and Euan Blair in Bristol) will not escape the eyes of the taxpayer.
But the legal reform, attacked, as the paper reminds us, as ill-thought-out when they were announced, will be put on ice until that pile of bricks and cement can be found.
Lets just hope the Government can house its project somewhere before it disappears in a puff of smoke, like Tony and his plans for cutting the red tape for small businesses, a total ban on fox hunting, an ethical foreign policy, an integrated transport system…’
‘FOR millions of us Tony Blair has been more than a spiritual leader.
To the middle-classes, he has been the epitome of what can be achieved on a simple diet of Tuscan holidays, Jamie Oliver recipes and Paul Smith cuffs.
As a result of his guidance, we now all live better lives, eat better food and have better children called Leo.
And thats created a problem – there are no longer enough Philippino maids to serve our needs.
Every woman from that Asian land is now already employed in the service of Tonys People.
And things are going to get worse before they get better.
The Times reports that Tonys Government will today unveil plans for a new breed of domestic help.
Working parents will be able to claim tax breaks worth up to £140 a week to pay for nannies to look after their little Jacks and Chloes.
All very well and good for Gordon and Sarah, you chime, but where will the new breed come from? Can you get the staff?
Well, the people that brought you Dolly The Sheep have been contacted and Monica The Maid will be in the shops sometime soon…and the bathroom, up a ladder cleaning out the guttering, running the kids to school…’
‘THE fat woman is not yet singing – but the stocky man and his fish-mouthed companion at the next table along are smacking their chops and making lots of noise.
|Prezza strays off message|
John Prescott has been busy saying nothing in a loud voice about how Tony Blairs future could soon coincide with a regime change at Labour headquarters.
Having told the Times over the weekend, ‘I think it’s true that, when plates appear to be moving, everyone positions themselves for it and, Of course there has been speculation over the leadership, but the reality is there’s no race for the prime minister’s position, Prescott sits back and lets the Telegraph chew over his words.
And indeed they are words given added spice by the paper in its story of how plans for life after Tony were discussed between Prescott and Gordon Brown over oysters at the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar in Argyllshire.
Weve checked on the map, and this eaterys a pretty long way from Islington and the Granita restaurant where Gordon once ate at another memorable meeting, that time with Tony Blair.
The location might have been different, but once more it appears that the topic du jour was Gordon Browns elevation to the prime ministers job.
That the Telegraph should give space to what in large part remains speculation is no great surprise, but the story does also appear on the front page of the Guardian where it has been dubbed the Loch Fyne Accord.
There, readers get to learn that either side of the oysters, Brown and Prescott shared a two-hour car journey from Oban to Glasgow after attending a memorial service marking 10 years since the death of former Labour leader John Smith.
The deduction is that anyone choosing to spend two hours in a car with John Prescott must either be stuck in a horrendous traffic jam, his wife on her way to the hairdressers or an ambitious politician hoping to secure the car-lovers support in any leadership bid.
And since Brown has naturally wavy hair and Prescotts integrated transport policy means his cars are the only ones on the near-empty roads, it looks to have been a journey of political beginnings and ends…’
‘AS predicted, Mirror editor Piers Morgan is clinging onto his job like a particularly stubborn barnacle despite the fact that the photos he published of Iraqi prisoners being abused by British soldiers have been shown to be fakes.
|‘Pictures of the Loch Ness monster? Being ridden bareback by Lord Lucan?’|
The Telegraph carries the official verdict from Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram on its front page – namely, that the pictures ‘were categorically not taken in Iraq’.
But, as we forecast, Morgan is refusing to accept the verdict, arguing that the MoD had still not produced ‘incontrovertible’ evidence to support its claim.
What evidence would satisfy the tabloid editor we don’t know. We say the sky’s blue; everyone we know agrees that the sky is blue; but how do we provide incontrovertible evidence to prove the blueness of the sky?
The funny thing is that, despite the fact that they all agree that the sky is blue and the photos were faked, none of the broadsheets calls for Morgan’s head.
Were it a politician that had committed such an egregious error, one can’t imagine them all being so forbearing – but journalists tend to look out for their own.
Only Andrew Gowers, editor of the Financial Times, thinks that this is a resigning issue.
‘This is similar to the Gilligan affair,’ he tells the Guardian. ‘The defence as I understand it is that the pictures may not have been of actual events that took place; and that the story is basically right – when it’s actually wrong.’
Having dug his heels in and insisted on the genuineness of photos which are not even good fakes, Morgan and his organ have nowhere now to turn.
The Guardian thinks the paper should say sorry, arguing that its position regarding possible abuse of Iraqi prisoners by British soldiers would be strengthened, not weakened, by admitting that it had been the victim of a hoax.
Roger Alton, editor of the Observer, tells the paper that Morgan is a first-class editor and the country would be worse off without him.
‘I don’t think journalists should sit in judgement on what other people in the press should do,’ he says, ‘because we don’t know what the circumstances were.’
Not something that prevents journalists sitting in judgement on the rest of the country…’
‘WHAT President Bush is trying to do today, a huge asteroid succeeded in doing 250 million years ago – namely, causing the greatest mass extinction on record.
|A genuine 250 million-year-old photograph of the moment of impact (Source: Mirrorpics)|
And scientists now believe they have found the culprit, hidden (as is the way with so many mass murderers and others of the criminal persuasion) in Australia.
The Independent reports that geologists have located a huge undersea crater off the coast of Western Australia where they think the giant asteroid hit with the force of 1 million nuclear bombs.
About 90 per cent of marine organisms and 80 per cent of land animals and plants died out at the end of the Permian and the beginning of the Triassic periods, the paper says, for reasons that had not previously been explained.
‘Some scientists have suggested that severe volcanic eruptions at the time may have sent soot and ash into the atmosphere and shut out the sunlight for years,’ it says – although the same could be said of Manchester and there is still life of some form there.
‘Others have suggested that climate change, brought about by the formation of a supercontinent, was the cause.’
The great dying at the end of the Permian period is known as the greatest of the five mass extinctions.
An impact crater at Chicxulub in Mexico is thought to be responsible for the disappearance of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
A moron in the White House is doing his best to become responsible for the sixth one…’
‘NOT many people remember now but, in the run-up to the Olympic Games in Sydney, the Australian media was full of predictions of doom and gloom.
|‘And this is where the roof-building contest will take place…’|
There was even a website whose sole job was to list the cock-ups made by contractors, the budgetary overruns and all the other problems attendant on such a massive undertaking.
All that was forgotten by the time the actual event took place and the 2000 games are now reckoned to have been one of the finest on record.
The same will probably be true of Athens, but the Greeks are getting touchy about what they see as hostile publicity in the run-up to this year’s games.
The Times carries a front-page story this morning of how reporter Laura Peek spent two and a half hours yesterday wandering unnoticed and unchallenged inside the so-called Olympic ring of steel – ‘supposed to be one of the most secure places in the world’.
The paper ran the story on its website yesterday, and the response from the Greeks was not polite.
Mega Channel described Peek’s report as ‘completely distorting the facts’; Flash radio station said ‘persistent negative reporting has now grown into negative action’; and Alter TV called the stunt ‘unprecedented and illegal’.
Anyone familiar with the British press could assure the Greeks that it is far from unprecedented – airports in this country are awash with journalists smuggling replica guns onto planes and taking pictures of themselves.
Nor should the Greeks worry about how they come across to the rest of the world.
Peek reports that she started her tour of the Olympic site by asking a security guard if she could look round.
‘Instead of ordering me to leave,’ she says, ‘the guard handed me a beer and showed me the swimming pool, cycling velodrome and agora.’
Can you imagine getting such a friendly welcome from a British security guard?
Anorak wishes the Greeks good luck…and how about a free beer?’