Broadsheets | Anorak - Part 40

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Top news from The Times, Daily Telegraph, The Indepedent and The Guardian newspapers

Boiling With Rage

‘FORGET the real IRA, Hamas and al-Qaeda, a new terrorist force has arrived on these shores. The Lobster Liberation Front is among us.

‘I’m coming after you!’

The Guardian says that the LLF (not to be confused with the Popular Front For The Liberation Of Lobsters) is claming responsibility for an attack on Chapman’s Pool, Dorset.

The paper has a picture of lobster fisherman/murderer Jonathan Lander standing by one the pots smashed by the nefarious and shadowy LLF.

The damage wrought by the LLF will cost £10,000 to repair – and there will be more attacks.

A notice posted on the Internet, and reproduced by the Telegraph, declares: ‘The war against the lobster industry has begun.

‘We will attack anywhere, at any time. Pots will be smashed, boats sunk, and sealife liberated. We are ready, are you?’

The simple answer is that we weren’t, but now we are.

We’ve taken the chance to fortify Anorak Towers with vats of boiling water, pairs of crackers and sprigs of fresh parsley.

If any lobster tries to get in, we’ll boil it alive!’

Posted: 30th, July 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Full Board

‘AFTER hearing of the Church of England’s monetary worries, we humbly suggest that it no longer relies on donations but charges a fixed entry fee on the door.

‘Hooray! We’ve got the honeymoon suite’

Seats at the back of the building will cost less than the front pews.

The elderly organists will be replaced by jukebox-style hymn machines, which will strike up the chords to God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and other favourites with the help of a £2 coin.

Anyone wishing to earn a nod from the vicar and enter Heaven will be required to pay an upfront rental fee.

Space at God’s right hand is at a premium and a seat will only be guaranteed to those paying the full £500-a-year fee, with a discount of 10% if the Day of Judgement occurs in the first five years after death.

It’s much the same already in the prison system the Independent reports that two men wrongly jailed for the infamous murder of newspaper boy Carl Bridgewater in 1978 have been charged rent.

The pragmatic Court of Appeal has ruled that cousins Michael and Vincent Hickey, who each spent 18 years in prison, have to forfeit a quarter of loss-of-earnings compensation for the ‘free food and accommodation’ they received inside.

Porridge doesn’t some cheap, so the Hickeys will have to pay around £60,000 each, roughly £60 for every week they were behind bars for a crime they did not commit.

To us and, perhaps, to the Church of England, this seems entirely fair – the Hickeys should consider themselves fortunate that they are not being charged backdated TV licence fees and 50p for every frame they played on the prison’s pool table.

But Mark Leech, editor of The Prison Handbook, is amazed.

‘It has to be the sickest of all sick jokes,’ says he. ‘Can you imagine Terry Waite getting a bill for the living expenses he saved during his five years wrongly held in the Lebanon?’

Yes, we can – although where the Archbishop of Canterbury’s special envoy would have got the money for his bed and board from is a moot point in clerical circles.’

Posted: 30th, July 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Bed And Boardroom

‘TODAY we learn that Trojans, ants and two million of us suffer from a condition now officially called “work lust”.

‘I have a need for Provigil’

Despite the obvious mental link, the Independent, in reporting on the study by a body called Work Foundation, makes no mention of fancying our secretary or the new office boy.

This is a story about how there are about 2.4 million “workophiles” in Britain who prefer the office to home.

So hard-working are these people – who typically work a 60-hour week – that researchers looking at them were impelled to up their own work rate and so labelled this new group not once but twice.

They might also have branded this workaholic group “journalists”, because members of that noble profession have been skipping long lunches to produce more stories about working hard.

So, adding to the Indy’s story is the Guardian’s front-page report, which says that the Ministry of Defence has just taken delivery of more than 24,000 Provigil pills.

On hearing such news, our eyebrows pop and refuse to go down for a week as the paper tells us how this wonder drug can keep soldiers awake for days.

Suddenly, those proposed cuts to the armed forces don’t look so bad – with Provigil, one squaddie can do the work of three. Take enough and when junior asks his battle-hardened dad what he did in the war, papa can place his hand on his heart and offer the simple and truthful reply: “Everything, son. I did everything.”

But let’s not rest even for a second, because those hacks at the Times have been toiling through the night to tell us about a signalling molecule called Interleukin-6 (IL-6).

A team of scientists at the University of Cape Town have located IL-6, the protein that tells the brain to feel tired.

Paula Robson-Ansley, who led the research, sees this chemical trigger as a “distress flare that says the body’s in trouble, so slow down”.

But no sooner has it been discovered than the Times reports that Robson-Ansley and other scientists are looking into ways of blocking nature’s own clocking-off mechanism.

If they are successful, you’ll soon be able to wave a frantic goodbye to those old-fashioned ways of staying awake, like getting stuck into work or lacing your morning pint of Red Bull with a handful of Provigil pills.

You’ll just block your IL-6 and do away with all feelings of lethargy.

Which could one day mean that we get to live the 24-hour life we crave – working 120-hour weeks, sleeping for only two hours a month and dying at age 15 with our eyes very wide open…’

Posted: 29th, July 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Fag Hags

‘YOU might not have the cheekbones, the poise and the coat-hanger shoulders, but you can have the skin of a supermodel simply by smoking a packet of fags every day.

Kate Moss at her 8th birthday party

By way of a crash course in looking louche and cool, the Times equips its story on how the Chief Medial Officer Sir Liam Donaldson is upset at the link between smoking and fashion with a shot of Kate Moss having a puff.

You, of course, look nothing like Ms Moss, but you can have her breath and, according to Sir Liam, her aging skin.

But unlike a million teenage boys and girls, Sir Liam doesn’t like what he’s seeing and has reiterated his call for a total ban on public smoking.

“The use of smoking in the modelling, fashion and film industries is totally at odds with one of its principal aims – to promote glamour and good looks,” says Sir Liam.

He goes on to say that “beauty is only skin-deep and that smoke and chemicals in cigarette smoke can damage the architecture of the skin for good”.

That they can – but Sir Liam is overlooking the key fact that going against Government advice is part of smoking’s allure and that cosmetic surgery can eradicate those smoke-induced wrinkles and sallow yellow skin.

What’s more, Sir Liam’s other claim – that smoking damages small blood vessels in the face and can make a smoker appear ten to 20 years older than a non-smoker – will hardly discourage the nation’s ten-year-olds who want to look old enough to buy a bottle of vodka.

“No fags: No sale” – as the subliminal message goes…’

Posted: 29th, July 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

NHS Fruitcakes

‘ONE thing that could kill you faster than cigarettes, booze or the MRSA superbug is that sponge cake the women from the Women’s Institute have just brought you.

For the ‘cherry jam’ filling, Cynthia used an old swab and some left over haemorrhoids

The Telegraph says that for years the WI have been baking cakes for the bed-bound, delivering the candied fruits of their labours to the Saffron Walden Community Hospital in darkest Essex.

But no more. Officials at Uttlesford Primary Care Trust, which oversees the clinic, says that, because the WI members’ kitchens cannot be inspected by environmental health officers, ”potential risks cannot be eliminated”.

A spokesman for the Trust was quick to try and sugar the pill (“We are in no way suggesting the cakes the WI has kindly provided us are unsafe”), but the damage has been done.

WI master sponge maker Marion Gillon is upset.

“There has been no disease in my family coming from anything I have cooked,” says she.

“It’s ridiculous,” adds WI member Kath Brown. “We are still allowed to bake for the WI to sell at places like the Essex Show, so what is wrong with the patients eating them?”

What, indeed?

Given that, as the Telegraph’s leader reminds us, a recent survey found that four in ten patients leaving hospital were suffering from malnutrition, the decision to remove a supplementary Victoria sponge from the diet seems odd.

Perhaps the good ladies of Saffron Walden could change their recipe a little to adhere to NHS standards – like adding a dash of listeria here and a splash of operating room floor juice there.’

Posted: 29th, July 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Get Real

‘AS soon as the human voices speaking on behalf of juggling elephants and trampolining lions won over public opinion to the wrongs of circus life, we began to look elsewhere for our thrills.

‘You might be 47, but you’re not too old to go over my knee!’

While American soap operas offered escapism and glamour, we Brits preferred soaps that gave us that chance to look at people worse off than ourselves.

But they lost their way. EastEnders went to pieces. Brookside, Albion Market and Crossroads just went. We needed something to replace the circus.

We needed to laugh at dumb animals behaving in unnatural ways. We wanted it. And we got it. Reality TV was here.

But the Times has noticed that this modern day freak show might have had its day. The animals have wised up, and they are not happy.

In Monday’s Guardian, we learnt that Sue Ray, owner of what was Bonaparte’s restaurant in Silsden, West Yorkshire – an eatery that was rubbished by the eponymous star of Channel 4’s Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares to such a degree that people stopped coming and it shut down – is thinking of suing the show.

Now we hear in the Times that Kevin and Amanda Charles, a couple who allowed TV’s Supernanny Jo Frost into their home, were duped.

The show featured Amanda struggling to cope with her three children who ruled the roost and were pushing their parents into an early dementia.

Then up stepped Supernanny Frost, the kind of woman many men would pay to make them sit on the naughty step. She sorted out the nippers quick smart.

Well, that’s what the programme broadcast. In reality, Mr Charles said that Frost did not move in with them, as advertised on the show.

“They manufactured complete sequences of events that never happened,” says he. “You could see it because when Jacob was told off and taken to another room to be punished, he was suddenly wearing a different outfit.”

Forget Supernanny, this is Super Jacob, who can change his clothes quicker than you can say, “Do it again and you’ll only have one pack of biscuits for tea”.

A spokesman for Channel 4 explains that the show did not “adhere to any chronological procedure”, but was edited to “highlight issues not a timetable of events”.

In other words, it was a “chronological procedure” which strove to “adhere” to “a timetable of events”.

But whichever way you put it, the signs are clear that the dumb animals are growing restless. It’s time to think of new forms of entertainment.

So what about laughing at the disabled? Or another series of Big Brother?’

Posted: 28th, July 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Dead In The Water

‘BANGLADESHIS swimming to work today in that flooded land must be as worried as the rest of us are about the state of the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain.

‘Anyone see a white Fiat Uno float by?’

Over a series of photographs, the Independent shows Bangladeshis buying newspapers and tuning into their radios, eager to hear news of whether the circle of tears will reopen soon.

We have the Times to give us the latest update on the world’s most expensive strip of guttering, and learn that a row is developing among the repair team.

The keepers of the fountain are split on what is to blame for the recent spate of accidents in which three people slipped on the wet granite and ended up in hospital.

A leading ecologist, by the name of Dr Jill Lancaster, says that, given the nutrient-rich water and the sunlight, algae could be the culprit.

“There is bound to be algal growth of some sort,” says she. “It’s going to be very, very slippery. It’s just a natural risk.”

But Theo Moore, a Royal Parks spokesman, says that the problem is not algae because the fountain is given a good scrubbing every Monday.

“It doesn’t look as though algae was the cause of the slippage,” says Moore. “It looks like we need to increase the level of grip on the stone surface.”

It’s a debate that will rage from Kensington to Dhaka, and, for the time being, there is no easy answer…’

Posted: 28th, July 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


‘FORGET the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain and just hurry up and bring back the woman herself.

‘Old actors never die, we just lose some parts, dear boy’

In this age of rapid technological advancement and genetically modified miracles, it cannot be beyond reason to expect the Government to put its money where its mouth is and bring back our Di.

And do not doubt that it can be done. Just listen to the Guardian’s report that the previously dead Laurence Olivier is in the final stages of deworming.

The actor who gave his heart a rest 15 years ago is all set to feature as one of the headline stars in the new Paramount movie Sky Captain And The World of Tomorrow.

Along with Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow (both alive), Olivier – or what the paper calls “ an approximation to him” – will play the evil Dr Totenkopf, who, like all baddies, plans to take over the world.

While we bemoan the shortage of actors that necessitates bringing Olivier out of his retirement, we are interested to know if the same trick can be performed on Di?

Can she too be made virtually real again? Could she return to our TV screens, to support the Government’s road safety campaign or to open the Harrods sale?

Sadly, neither the Guardian nor the Times, which also carries this story, makes mention of the case for waking the Di.

It might be expensive to bring her back (it’ll cost fortune in hats and shows alone), but it’ll be cheaper than her fountain.

And, in a time of terrorism and war, can we afford not to..?’

Posted: 28th, July 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Preparation H Bomb

‘WHEN last week counter terrorism minister Hazel Blears leaked her advice on what to do in the event of worldwide annihilation to the Telegraph, it read like a early warning announcement.

‘After B&Q, we’ll hit Asda…hard’

The smart among us instantly traded in our pensions, peps and Isas in favour of gold bars.

We set about fashioning a nuclear bunker from goods bought at our local DIY saver centres. And we went long on tins of beans, spam and Marks and Sparks ready meals for one.

As a result, thousands, if not millions, of Brits are right now reading this under ground – or at least in the most westerly corner of their studio flats (because any attack is most likely to come from the east).

The few that did not act quickly now get to read, once more via the Telegraph, a more official taster from the Government’s new emergency survival guide, the vital Preparing For Emergencies pamphlet.

Before we crack open the guide’s protective contamination-proof seal and read on, the paper hears a few words from Home Office minister Caroline Flint.

“The message is,” says she, “be prepared, but get on with your everyday life.”

No cub scout could have phrased things better. And reading the list of things to stock up on in case of emergency – water, blankets, snacks and a can of deodorant – we doubt any commuter making ready to board one of the nation’s overstretched trains could have either.

The full list of what to buy and what to do will be dropping through your letterbox with a gunshot-like smack on the mat next month.

But given the general panic that may surely follow this alarmist missive, the Guardian tells its readers what will keep them going in the event of war.

And, by way of interest, the paper compares what we need in the UK with what the US department of homeland security tells its people to stockpile.

Little of interest is revealed, and what passes for life-preserving stuff in Texas and Wyoming is pretty much the same as what a local of Basildon would need.

The better picture comes via the vox pop the paper supplies, in which it asks a few would-be survivalists what they’d take into their shelter.

It’s like Desert Island Discs for pessimists.

Anthony Badger, for instance, billed as a retired sculptor, recommends Fray Bentos meat pies.

Jonathan Russell, a clothes retailer, says he won’t be hoarding stuff, since “the majority of young people aren’t bothered about it – they just want to live for the day.” Or the next four minutes.

And Stephanie Maida, who works in a clothes shop, says she’ll be buying dates, dried food and dried fruit, things she’d never have thought of buying if she did not have children – whom she can of course eat if things get really grim.

Well, it’s either prunes, Jake and Tiffany or a Fray Bentos pie…’

Posted: 27th, July 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

A Theatre Of War

‘WHEN the bombs drop, the Government’s new Preparing For Emergencies brochure advises us to tune into our radios.

‘A sexed-up extravaganza’ – A. Gilligan

Of course, anyone setting the dial on the BBC could be less likely to hear sage advice as they will a looped pre-recorded message from the corporation’s former Director-General Greg Dyke saying, “Told yer so”.

But before that, the Times says that Dyke will be appearing on stage at the Festival Hall, London, in a live interview with Jon Snow, the Channel 4 news anchor.

Just like Alastair Campbell, who had a one-on-one natter with Ross Kemp on stage not so long ago, and Paul Burrell, who talked to his dead boss and a few curious American tourists, Dyke will put his version of events live to the people.

And rather like that toadying former royal lickspittle Burrell Dyke has a book to plug.

The work, entitled Inside Story, will be, in the Times’ opinion (and it’s an opinion based on the happy coincidence that the book’s publisher is owned by News Corporation, parent company of the Times), principally targeted at the aforesaid Campbell.

It promises to be quite a show, especially if Campbell attends and takes part in the post-interview questions from the audience segment.

However, Campbell will have to wait his turn, because many others will have questions they’d like to ask Dyke such as: “Why is Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen still on TV?”; “Do you think EastEnders’ Kat should leave Alfie?” and “What does Anna Ford wear on her lower half while reading the lunchtime news?”’

Posted: 27th, July 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Driven To Distraction

‘ACCORDING to the official Anorak Vehicle Handbook, British drivers upset by another motorist’s antics “should stop, take a deep breath and count to ten thousand”.

A German driver

While this has proven a popular tactic with drivers who routinely use the M25, drivers in Japan prefer a different method.

Over there, any driver deemed to have wronged another motorist is invited to fall up on his own car aerial, sharpened to a point for such a purpose.

But the boffins at Toyota would prefer their most honourable customers to live, and, the Telegraph reports, they’ve come up with a modern new system to achieve their goal.

The “vehicle expression system” will allow cars to “express functions, such as a crying or laughing”, it says on the company’s patent, which will in turn create a “joyful, organic atmosphere” on the congested roadways.

The driver’s mood is picked up on by sensors within the vehicle, causing the car to, say, glow red if it’s been cut up or shed a tear if it’s broken down.

If the driver is happy, the car might “wink” with a quick switch of headlights; and if a pedestrian steps out unexpectedly in front of the car, a light on the bonnet would pulse orange to indicate “surprise”.

And if a pretty girl/Prince Edward walks past, the bonnet will spring up and the car veer uncontrollably into the oncoming traffic…’

Posted: 27th, July 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Cookie Monster

‘IF you are what you eat, than Saddam Hussein is as American as apple pie with a side order of Miracle Whip.

‘And a whites only omelette, hold the salt, a dash of oregano, a pint of lo-cal maple syrup…’

Rather than sheep eyeballs dipped in honey, the Guardian says that the deposed Iraqi despot is passing his time in solitary confinement munching on American muffins and cookies.

Such a diet will enable him to learn more about the Great Satan, while a well-placed pretzel may even make Saddam understand the mind of his nemesis George Bush.

(Although a Bush-like outlook on the world may only be reached if the pretzel lodges in Saddam’s windpipe and so stops oxygen reaching his brain for a few minutes.)

The other benefit of indulging in the American diet is that Saddam should soon put on the weight he lost during his time on the run from the coalition forces.

Indeed, as the paper reports, when Iraq’s human rights minister, Bakhtiar Amin, visited Saddam in his white-walled three metres wide and four metres long cell, he was pleased with what he saw.

Mr Amin says that Saddam “was regaining weight again”, after he had for a period “resisted all fatty foods and had lost 11 lbs”.

The prisoner also has access to a barber, a “personal grooming kit” (soaps, toothpaste, comb, shampoo, deodorant, bronzing powder etc.), a small garden in an outside yard, where he is looking after a few bushes and shrubs and has, as Amin divulges, “even placed a circle of white stones around a small palm tree”.

Add to that the 145 books at his disposal and the lack of a distracting TV, and Saddam should see his period of incarceration as more of restful holiday than a punishment.

And he didn’t even have to suck up to Cliff Richard to get a free room in the sun – unlike Tony Blair.

As the Times reports, Tony Blair is staying for two weeks in Cliff’s Sugar Hill mansion, Barbados, getting away from all thoughts of war and fine-tuning his backhand on Cliff’s tennis court.

But as you look out of the rain-spattered window of your seaside guesthouse, don’t feel too bad about your own summer holidays.

Saddam and Tony may be chilling out in the sun, but they had to play a vital part in the deaths of thousands of people and cosy up to Cliff Richard to make it.

And no holiday, however relaxing, can be worth that much agony. Can it?’

Posted: 26th, July 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Grin And Earn It

‘DID Tony Blair start smiling when his predecessor as Labour party leader John Smith died and, in that passing, open up his path to the top?

‘Have your fivers ready…’

Or did our prime minister always look so happy?

And this is an important question, because, according to the Independent, which has seen a study by academics Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell and Paul Fritjers, it is happiness that makes you rich and successful.

Which means that it may be because of his apparent happiness that Tony Blair has reached the top. The smile came before the success. Indeed, it guaranteed it.

The pair of university researchers, who published their report in the official journal of the UK’s Economics Society, questioned 8,000 people about their lives over the 1990s.

They found that happy people tended to become richer and, what’s more, were also likely to find love in a steady relationship (see Blair and Bush).

On a scale of one to ten, those whose incomes had doubled over the decade reported an increase of just 0.1 in happiness levels.

This means that an individual would need to secure an 8,000 per cent pay rise to move one notch up the “happiness ladder”.

While news that misery finds it hard to pull falls well short of being earth shattering, the suggestion that happiness is something inherent and not a quality attained through money is interesting.

As the authors ponder: “This in itself raises the question of why people expend so much effort in obtaining more income.”

So let’s stop working so hard. Everybody unplug your computers and just start smiling.

And when some unhappy type asks why you’re not performing in your job, just smile.

After all, it works for Tony Blair. So why shouldn’t it work for you?’

Posted: 26th, July 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

The Cradle of Civilisation

‘VISITORS to the British Museum are often amazed that a small collection of islands off the coast of mainland Europe should have spawned so many artefacts of world renown.

Accrington Rock

One thinks of the mummies excavated from the Melton Mowbray pyramids, the Rosetta Stone of Basildon, the Elgin Marbles, saved for posterity from the Parthenon at Peterborough.

All have impressed the thousands of historians who have feasted their eyes upon the best of British.

But sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes people less honourable than the custodians of world history steal things, take them off in the night and claim them as their own.

And we read with a heavy heart that while on loan from the British Museum to the Museum of Victoria in Melbourne, a collection of artefacts by the aborigines of Bournemouth has fallen victim to “cultural hijacking”.

And this glorified theft has been perpetrated not by some white descendent of a deportee from these honest shores, but by the Dja Dja Wurrung.

They are the Australian Aboriginal people who have secured an “emergency declaration order” that prevents the return of artefacts owned by the British Museum and on display Down Under.

And if these pirates get their way, the declaration, under the Aboriginal heritage protection act of 1984, would mean that the quintessential images of the British kangaroo etched on pieces of tree bark and an emu-shaped headdress may never come home.

This is an outrage, and we call upon these so-called aborigines to do the right thing and return what is rightfully ours.

And if they do, in the spirit of fairness, we will give them something arty in exchange. Like Rolf Harris.’

Posted: 26th, July 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Robert Of Orange

‘FROM one great world statesman to another, and the news that Robert Kilroy-Silk, permatanned champion of Little England, made his maiden speech to the European Parliament yesterday.

‘We want our country back!’

Sadly, Anorak was not there to witness such a seminal event in the politics of the continent, so we have to rely on the Times for its report of the historic occasion.

And we are disappointed to learn that a man of Kilroy’s standing (and hue) was only given 90 seconds in which to make his mark.

In the good old days, our orange friend would have had 90 minutes, strolling about the chamber, resting his hand on the knee of a woman from Luxembourg as he interrupted a particularly garrulous Spanish guest.

But Europe is just one giant conspiracy to silence the likes of Kilroy and his friends.

Friends like UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom, whose aim is to encourage European women to spend more time cooking for their men and cleaning behind the continent’s fridges.

And Ashley Mote, who was suspended by UKIP last week for not revealing that he is awaiting trial for housing benefit fraud, and who immediately started talks with French National Front leader Jean Marie Le Pen abut joining his far right coalition.

But even in 90 seconds, Kilroy can make his presence felt.

‘Some 20 years ago, Mrs Thatcher went to Fontainebleu and said, ‘I want our money back’, and she got some of it,’ The Orange One told his dazzled audience.

‘We want our country back, and believe you me, we are going to get it.’

Or at least some of it…’

Posted: 23rd, July 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Cum Dancing

‘YOU may have thought that Britain could not produce a duller spectacle than watching the daily lives of the plankton that are the remaining Big Brother housemates.

‘And Kilroy’s sperm edges into the lead…’

But Endemol thinks it can plumb even greater depths and is considering making a programme in which 1,000 men try to convince a woman that they should be the father of her first child.

Provisionally entitled Make Me A Mum, the programme would then hold an on-air sperm race between the woman’s pick and a second donor chosen on the basis of genetic compatibility in which the whole insemination process would be filmed and broadcast.

If you think that doesn’t sound any worse than listening to a conversation between Michelle and Stuart, the Telegraph reports that the idea has encountered fierce opposition.

Anti-abortion group Life said it sounded like prostitution, adding: ‘It’s exploitation with no consideration for the child that may or may not be created.’

But Remy Blumenfeld, creative director of Endemol subsidiary Brighter Pictures, defended the idea, claiming there was ‘a tremendous amount of science to the show’.

Just as Big Brother is actually a psycho-sociological experiment about the pressures of living together for a long period of time in a confined space, so the new show will be all about Darwinism and the process of natural selection.

The same process of natural selection that gave us Jason and all pigs wings and …’

Posted: 23rd, July 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Brought To Book

‘WHAT chance is there that a President who only read one book as he drunk his way through Yale will actually make it to the end of the 9/11 Commission’s 567-page report?

‘It’s a book, Mr President’

George Dubya certainly didn’t look as if he knew what to do with the document when it was handed to him yesterday in the White House garden by commission chairman Tom Kean.

But the newspapers have been poring over what the Telegraph describes as an ‘objective narrative with the power of a best-selling thriller’.

And such is its power that it is predicted that the half a million copies that went on sale yesterday across America will quickly be snapped up.

The report starts, says the Telegraph, ‘like all the most chilling and gripping of blockbusters in a deceptively languid way’.

‘Tuesday September 11 2001 dawned temperate and nearly cloudless in the eastern United States. For those heading to an airport, weather conditions could not have been better for a safe and pleasant journey…’

Of course, we all know the basic plot, although the report sets down in detail for the first time the exact sequence of events of that terrible day.

We read about the failures in airport security that allowed the hijackers to smuggle weapons on board the planes; we learn of the sequence of events on board American Airlines Flight 11 in the minutes before it was flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center; and we are given a re-enactment of how the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 almost retook the plane before forcing it to crash in a field.

President Bush’s response yesterday was to say that the report only confirmed his own opinion that the government had a duty to look after the security of its citizens.

Hardly words of inspiration for a people who have just been told that attacks of even more catastrophic proportions are ‘possible, even probable’.

As the Independent observes, ‘he did not sound like a man galvanised into action by the report’.

Although then CIA director George Tenet said ‘the system was blinking red’ in the months leading up to 9/11 and US intelligence agencies warned of ‘something very, very, very big’, President Bush reiterated yesterday that he had ‘no inkling that terrorists were about to attack our country’.

One suspects that what the President does have an inkling about could easily be summarised in fewer than 567 pages, so we’ll help him out with one central conclusion of the commission’s report – the whodunit.

It wasn’t Iraq…’

Posted: 23rd, July 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Criminal Inactivity

‘DOORS locked? Windows bolted? Burglar alarm on? Can of Mace to the ready? Personal bodyguard at your side? Okay, you should be safe enough to carry on reading.

An arrestable offence?

You just can’t be too careful these days because Britain is a country teeming with would-be robbers, muggers, rapists and murderers.

You may not have been a victim of a serious crime yourself, but you know people who know people who have been…and, besides, it’s all over the papers.

Only a couple of days ago, for instance, the Telegraph was warning its readers that they would be better off in Baghdad than Blagdon, safer in Kabul than Kettering.

And today the same paper tells us that clear-up rates have fallen despite the extra police that the Government has recruited.

But there are lies, damned lies and the newspapers’ interpretation of official statistics.

And while Telegraph readers cower in their homes and beg everyone who comes to the door not to hurt them, Independent readers wander around with barely a care in the world.

For it appears that the risk of becoming a victim of crime today is the lowest since the British Crime Survey began in 1981.

Over the past decade, there has been a 39% drop in crime across the board and today there are 500,000 fewer victims of violent crime a year than there were in 1995.

‘The last time Britain enjoyed such a sustained fall in crime,’ says the paper, ‘was in 1898 – a decade in which ironically Jack The Ripper was terrorising Whitechapel, east London, murdering and mutilating at least five women.’

So why can’t you open a copy of the Daily Mail these days without learning that your throat is in imminent danger of being slashed by some drug-addled asylum seeker?

It is partly because for papers like the Mail the glass is always half empty.

It is no surprise, for instance, to learn that surveys have found that readers of such papers have the greatest fear of crime and their fears are out of all proportion with reality.

But it is also because the Independent’s story is based on the British Crime Survey (which is based on interviews with 40,000 people and includes even unreported crime), while the Telegraph uses official police records.

The official figures include anyone reporting a crime, even if it completely bogus.

‘An example of how ludicrous that can be,’ the Indy says, ‘is the inclusion this year of a recorded offence of treason made by a resident of Essex against George Galloway, the MP for Glasgow Kelvin, for his anti-war stance.’

But that doesn’t mean Anorak expects the police to ignore our many complaints about TV brainbox Carol Voderman for her numerous – and flagrant – crimes against fashion.’

Posted: 22nd, July 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0


‘IF humans should feel safer this morning knowing that crime is going down quicker than a White House intern, the same sadly cannot be said for flowers.

Now growing in the Anorak garden

The country’s flora will rightly be aquiver today at news in the Times that Britain’s rarest wild orchid has been stolen.

The paper says the lady’s slipper, which has a yellow cup-shaped centre and purple petals, was dug up from its home beside Silverdale Golf Course in Lancashire.

It had flourished in a quarry near Morecambe Bay – one of only two sites in the country where it is known to grow – for the past 80 years…until this week.

Rob Petley-Jones, the English Nature site manager who has cared for the plant for the past 12 of those 80 years, says the flower is ‘beyond price’.

‘People have known about it for generations,’ he says. ‘A thoughtless act of greed or selfishness has taken it away from us.’

And another case file goes into the unsolved drawer…’

Posted: 22nd, July 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Taking Away His Toys

‘LIKE old Uncle Toby in Laurence Sterne’s classic The Life And Opinions Of Tristram Shandy, Tony Blair can’t stop playing with his soldiers.

‘Right then, guys, I’m sending you to look for Bin Laden’

When he became Prime Minister seven long years ago, it was like all Blair’s Christmases had come at once – and for each of them he had got a new regiment or battalion.

During that time, he has sent his soldiers into Kosovo, into Sierra Leone, into Afghanistan, into Iraq and even into London Heathrow.

And this morning we learn from the Guardian that the PM is now drawing up plans to send his troops into the Sudan, scene of a fast-unfolding humanitarian disaster.

So obsessed has Blair become with his war games that his colleagues in government have decided to confiscate his toys until be can start using them responsibly.

Thus we read in the Telegraph of the ‘swingeing’ defence cuts announced yesterday, which will see the number of soldiers at Blair’s disposal cut from 107,500 to 102,000, the number of sailors slashed from 41,300 to 36,000 and the number of RAF personnel reduced from 53,800 to 41,000.

Not only that but bases will close, ships will be decommissioned, orders will be cancelled and regiments will be merged.

General Sir Michael Walker, Chief of the Defence Staff, tells the Times that the cuts mean that Britain will not be able to cope with any additional major operations.

In all, it will only be able to handle one large-scale operation and one secondary peace-keeping role.

Which at least means that next time Blair tries to take the country into a war that it doesn’t want, he won’t have the soldiers to do it.’

Posted: 22nd, July 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Fowl Play

‘WHEN the first torture pictures from Abu Ghraib prison came to light, we were assured that it was an aberration, the work of a few sadistic warders.

‘Hmmm. I fancy battered chicken tonight’

When it became clear that the abuse of prisoners was widespread and officially sanctioned, the White House started talking about rogue elements within the military.

It was, said President Bush, a stain on the things that Americans hold most dear – life, liberty and the belief that they’re better than everyone else.

However, this morning it appears that not only is torture not un-American but it is not confined to foreign nationals either.

The Independent has seen a video shot in West Virginia, which catalogues the most revolting scenes of torture directed against…chickens.

The paper says the film was shot by an undercover investigator from Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) at a plant owned by Pilgrim’s Pride, the second largest processor of chickens in the United States and a supplier to KFC.

Peta claims to have witnessed workers there ‘ripping birds’ beaks off, spray painting their faces, twisting their heads off, spitting tobacco into their mouths and eyes and breaking them in half – all while the birds are still alive’.

And all for what? To try to discover the Colonel’s secret blend of 11 herbs and spices? To find out why they crossed the road? To learn which came first – the chicken or the egg?

The upshot is that Pilgrim’s Pride’s West Virginia plant is unlikely to repeat its 1997 success when it was named KFC’s Supplier Of The Year, presumably for the tenderised chicken that it produced.

For its part, Yum! Brands, which owns KFC as well as Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, said it would require ‘that the employee or employees responsible will be terminated’.

We’re not sure whether this means that the employment will be terminated or that the employee will be terminated.

Even in Bush’s America, we were under the impression that the law frowned upon killing unwanted members of staff, even if it didn’t expressly forbid it.

The tape, which was shot on April 6 this year, will now be posted on a website called

As for KFC, it insists on its website that it is ‘committed to the humane treatment of animals’.

The same sadly cannot be said of humans, as anyone who has eaten at one of their outlets recently would testify.’

Posted: 21st, July 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Brakes On The Jam?

‘THE bad news for drivers this morning comes in reports that they will have to pay up to £1.30 a mile as part of a nationwide congestion scheme proposed by the Government.

‘I haven’t even got up to 5p yet’

The good news is that, given the average speed on Britain’s roads, that only amounts to about £1 an hour. Boom, boom! Or parp, parp (if you’re reading this in a gridlocked car)!

The Times says fuel duty would be reduced or scrapped to compensate for the charges, although the total tax burden on the motorist would rise significantly.

According to a study by a group of experts, journey times would fall by 22% as a result of the tolls, which could be introduced as early as 2014, saving £10bn a year.

About half of all drivers would be better off as a result of the changes, while only 0.5% would pay tolls at the highest rate.

The study claims that a road pricing system (which could cost as much as £3bn a year to operate) would make us think more about the way we travel and how we organise our lives.

‘Paying the family road bill,’ it says, ‘would probably be like paying the phone bill.’

In other words, hours of arguments about who spends most time in the car and who was driving from 10.31am to 11.36am on the 15th…’

Posted: 21st, July 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Paper Money

‘THE American press, like the American people, likes to believe that it is better than its equivalent in other countries.

Who will ever forget President Dewey?

US papers may be as dull as particularly murky ditchwater, but they are so buttock-clenchingly earnest that they could turn a lump of coal into a diamond in a matter of minutes.

Reporters see themselves as heirs to Woodward and Bernstein, when in fact they trace their ancestry to the pamphleteers so brilliantly satirised by Charles Dickens in Martin Chuzzlewit.

All of which only makes their recent fall from grace that much more enjoyable for the rest of us.

In the past year alone, the New York Times has lost its two most senior editors in the fall-out over Jayson Blair, the reporter who admitted fabricating many of his stories.

It has also recently published an extended correction over its coverage of the run-up to the Iraq war.

And USA Today also lost its editor after star foreign correspondent Jack Kelley was found to have made up, or plagiarised, his reports.

However, this morning we discover that fiction isn’t the preserve of the editorial department.

The Guardian reports that the circulation department can also get in on the act, artificially boosting sales figures to increase advertising revenues.

The publishers of New York Newsday and its Hispanic sister paper Hoy have stepped down after an investigation exposed deceit stretching back years.

And the paper says that Newsday has had to revise its circulation down 7% and set aside $35m to repay advertisers.

Under the scam, newsstand vendors were strong-armed into taking papers they didn’t want, papers were delivered to the homes of people who hadn’t requested it and customers were left on the distribution list if they had cancelled their subscription and even if they were dead.

Newsday’s former publisher Raymond Jansen, who resigned yesterday, said: ‘There was a rogue operation – a violation of trust.’

Rogue operation… Now where have we heard that before?’

Posted: 21st, July 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Ten More Years

‘IT is 10 years to the day since a young Tony Blair, all big ears and cheesy grin, became leader of the Labour party and Gordon Brown embarked on the longest sulk since Achilles.

A picture of the modern Republican party

And time has not been kind to the man they used to call Bambi.

According to a poll in this morning’s Guardian, the only two attributes that Blair has more of today than he did when he became Prime Minister are arrogance and experience.

Curiously, he is seen as less tough than he was in 1997, as well as less understanding of normal people and with less personality.

Most people (55%) think he lied over Iraq; almost a third (31%) want him to step down immediately; almost two thirds (62%) see him as too presidential; and more voters (38%) think life has got less fair in Britain under Labour than more fair (22%).

But for all Blair’s problems (as evidenced by a -22% net approval rating), it is the Tories who have most to worry about this morning.

The survey shows that, even with Blair in charge, Labour have a five-point lead – a lead that would more than double if Brown took over before the next election.

On the other side of the Atlantic, President Bush faces a tougher challenge, with latest polls suggesting that he is narrowly trailing Democratic challenger John Kerry.

The problem? Bush is – wait for this – ‘too liberal’, according to a powerful lobby of conservative Republicans.

The Telegraph says that more than half the Republicans in the House of Representatives have signed a letter to the President complaining about the lack of pro-life (i.e. anti-abortion) speakers in prime-time slots in the party’s convention.

And the National Review says the proposed line-up, which includes Rudi Giuliani and Arnold Schwarzenegger, is not ‘a picture of the modern Republican party’.

Or a pretty one…’

Posted: 20th, July 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Bear-Faced Robbery

‘THE Russians have still got a lot to learn from President Bush when it comes to fixing elections.

Vladimir Nikolayev denied having his hand in the honey jar

But if their methods are rather less than subtle, you can’t say that they don’t get results.

The Independent reports that Vladimir Nikolayev, a convicted criminal who goes under the nickname Winnie The Pooh, has become mayor of Vladivostok…after his rival ‘tripped’ on a grenade.

Viktor Cherepkov remains seriously ill in hospital after the unfortunate accident, suffering from concussion, speech loss, a heart attack and temporary deafness.

And, says the paper, his supporters claim he was targeted for assassination after appearing on television and urging voters not to let the city be taken over by criminals.

Mr Nikolayev denies involvement in the attack and such is the life expectancy of journalists in Russia that we are obliged to say that we believe him.

We only note in passing that the new mayor was sentenced in 1999 to three and half years in prison for beating a local official and threatening to kill another.

We are sure that, if Mr Nikolayev, as Russian media was reporting yesterday, was involved in shoot-outs, had dabbled in extortion and was a key player in the Pacific port’s criminal underworld, those misdemeanours were just the result of youthful excess.

And we find no evidence that Mr Nikolayev’s gifts of cash, lottery tickets and cheap fish and sausages to voters could be construed as electoral bribery.

We also believe that pigs can fly, there are WMD in Iraq and President Bush won Florida in 2000 fair and square.’

Posted: 20th, July 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0