Anorak

Broadsheets | Anorak - Part 40

Broadsheets Category

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

Coming A-cropo-lis

‘IT’S embarrassing – Britain’s only medal in this year’s Olympic games so far has been a silver won in the synchronised diving.

The Wheelbarrow Race has been playing to huge crowds

But the good news is that there’s been no-one in Athens over the first two days to witness our shame as one prospect after another fell by the wayside.

The Telegraph’s front page shows a lone spectator in a huge bank of seats for the weekend hockey fixture between Germany and Australia.

And the Guardian publishes similar pictures from a first-round tennis match (in which only a bellboy can be seen) and even from the Beach Volleyball Centre.

Fewer than 400 people attended the table-tennis at the 6,000-seater Galatsi Hall and the preliminary rounds of the boxing took place with just a tenth of the 8,200 seats taken.

‘Athenians,’ says the Guardian, ‘have shown a willingness to follow the home team, but seem reluctant to get behind the visitors.’

The organisers insist they will not resort to giving away tickets as happened in Seoul in 1988.

‘Attendance was not very high with less popular sports,’ said spokesman Michael Zaharatos. ‘We never hid the fact that less popular sports and preliminary rounds would not be a full house.’

This might explain why the tae-kwon-do hasn’t been playing to packed houses, but tennis is hardly a minority sport. And as for beach volleyball…

However, the Telegraph reports that the Greeks may have no choice but to hand out freebies.

‘Broadcasters,’ it says, ‘cringed as television audiences around the world saw tennis, weightlifting, hockey and gymnastics played out in half-empty stadiums.’

The only good news is that the fewer spectators there are in the Greek capital, the fewer there are to witness Britain’s Olympic debacle.

So far, cyclist Nicola Cooke has failed to win an expected medal in the road race after crashing into a barrier; swimmer Sarah Price gashed her leg on a TV camera while warming up for the 100m backstroke and sailor and Sydney gold medallist Ben Ainslie was disqualified in his second race.

But at least we’ve got that silver in synchronised diving, eh?’

Posted: 16th, August 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


The Joke’s On US

‘IF George Bush and John Kerry could only put aside their political differences, they would be a shoo-in for the gold medal in synchronised gag telling.

America’s answer to Hale & Pace

Here’s the Democratic presidential hopeful in California over the weekend sucking up to Republican governor and serial groper Arnold Schwarzenegger.

‘I have a lot in common with your governor out here,’ says Mr Kerry. ‘He and I both married up. He married a woman who is a member of the other party. I married a woman who is a member of the other party. Arnold has massive biceps. I have massive hair…’

And here’s George Dubya just a few hours later in Santa Monica.

‘We both married above ourselves,’ the President says about him and the man they call the Governator. ‘We both have trouble with the English language. We both have big biceps. Well, two out of three ain’t bad…’

Now, Jim Davidson may have to steal jokes, but you would have thought the man billed as the leader of the free world could get someone to write some new gags.

However, American politics is now officially beyond parody – as the Independent reports.

Apparently, a group of protestors turned up at the President’s Santa Monica rally dressed in evening gowns and tuxedos and calling themselves Billionaires For Bush.

Waving placards that read ‘Welfare For The Wealthy’, ‘Free The Fortune 500’ and ‘Four More Wars!’, they were allowed to mingle with the pro-Bush demonstrators because no-one was quite sure if they were serious or not.’

Posted: 16th, August 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


The Flying Squad

‘THE British bobby has never been much of one for solving crime, as countless detective stories recount, but he was always the best in the world at giving directions and telling the time.

A right constable

While American cops spent most of their time shooting the innocent and the rest shooting themselves, there was a limit to how much damage the British copper – armed with only a whistle and a bike – could do.

However, never underestimate the resourcefulness of the humble constable in this regard.

The Guardian has news of how one of the Queen’s prized paintings has been ruined by a policeman entrusted to look after it.

The unnamed officer was apparently attempting to close a window at St James’s Palace when the chair he was standing on collapsed.

‘He flung out his arm, grabbed the curtains and landed in a heap in the drapes,’ a Scotland Yard source confirmed.

‘He then saw a hole in the canvas. He still doesn’t know how he did it. He either stuffed his hand through it or a curtain hook ripped into it.’

Either way, it sounds like an open and shut case of criminal damage to us, although the Royal Family have apparently taken a lenient view.

Had it been by a more important work than that by the 19th Century painter Morley, maybe they would have been less amused.

But it does make you wonder what the Royal Family thinks of the policemen assigned to look after them.

First they usher an Osama Bin Laden lookalike into Prince William’s birthday party, then they started offering guided tours of the Queen’s quarters to undercover reporters and now they start wrecking the Royal Collection.

Perhaps, they should go back to giving directions and telling the time. We could probably still win a gold medal for that…’

Posted: 16th, August 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


National Hearse Service

‘FORGET for a moment fat, smoking, alcoholism and lack of exercise and know that the biggest drain on the NHS resources is ill people.

Shipman’s book is now required reading for medical students

The selfish sick are costing the health service millions of pounds every year.

But, as the Independent reports in a small article on its second page, medical workers fed-up with treating the ill are taking matters into their own hands.

Researchers writing in the British Medical Journal estimate that 40,000 deaths (or ‘adverse events’ in medical speak) in NHS hospitals are down to medical errors.

As the Times says on its front page, this means that one in ten patients admitted to the NHS each year will die at the hands of the NHS.

This is encouraging news for an overstretched service keen to free up hospital beds and slash waiting lists.

And what Dr Harold Shipman begun with such gusto, his colleagues in white coats, filthy hands and rusty scalpels are taking on a stage further.

And GPs like the efficient Shipman are still doing their bit.

A charity called Action Against Medical Accidents tells the Times how the latest figures do not even take into account the work being done in GPs’ surgeries.

That they do not, but there is additional evidence that not all plots to streamline the NHS go to plan. Things can yet be improved.

Take the case of Australian Pat Skinner.

When most people show the folks back home their holiday snaps, they’re of Buckingham Palace, a British bobby and Japanese tourists walking across the shot.

For Pat, the lasting memory is the 4×2 glossy of a pair of scissors left inside his body after surgery.

This is clearly an outrage, and had the NHS not done a stock take, Pat might have managed to slip out of the country with some much needed NHS goods secreted in his pelvis.

But the NHS knows a chancer when they see one and recalled Pat and duly retrieved the scissors.

What happened then to Pat is not revealed. His story ends there.

As such, his holiday snap, reproduced in the paper, should serve as a warning to all that the NHS will not stand for anyone who abuses the system.’

Posted: 13th, August 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Cannon Fodder

‘HAVING saved a fortune in patient aftercare by killing them by the thousand each year, the Government’s drive towards a more efficient use of public funds continues apace.

With airbags fitted as standard

The Telegraph says that five years ago, the Ministry of Defence reached the decision that it would save £90m of the £105bn Eurofighter/Typhoon aircraft project by not having a cannon on board.

The British version of the European jet would not feature this unnecessary and dangerous device. Instead, it would have nothing.

The British Typhoon – like a cheaper model of the same car – would look the same as the top-of-the-range version, but just have a few buttons that did nothing.

The only problem is that, without the gun, the plane’s aerodynamics are affected. And that means something was needed to replace the missing cannon.

Ideally, this something would weigh the same and be shaped just like the declined optional extra.

Lead and concrete weights were tried but neither worked. What was needed was something better suited to the job…like a cannon.

So the MoD ordered a terrific new cannon which looked exactly like the rubbish one they didn’t want at a cost of, er, £90m.

But the even better news is that more money has been saved since these new guns will not come with any bullets…and that will save the MoD a whopping £2.5m.

But why stop there? Why not just fly the jets into the country’s crowded hospitals and so save the country a fortune.

Come on, guys, the taxpayer’s suffered enough…’

Posted: 13th, August 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Veil Of Tears

‘THAT’S not rain outside your window – those are tears from the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain.

Fears for Tears

The Guardian says that the Circle Of Tears is back up and running.

You can just make it out through the hole in the fence, through which they who come to splash sneaked yesterday.

But one park warden was not having it.

‘It’s not open until the 20th,’ he shouted, showing a horrible lack of respect for our dearly departed princess.

‘Excuse me,’ he went on, ‘could you please just imagine there’s an invisible line in the grass there – you cannot step over it.’

To cross the line would be to step into another dimension, to cross over into the afterlife. Something one visitor was keen to emphasise.

John Loughrey is typical of millions of us. Every week, he’s come to the memorial.

‘Diana is a big star in the universe that keeps expanding,’ says he, putting into words what so many of us think.

‘The people keep coming here. Eventually, they will have no choice but to fence it off altogether.’

Or just turn off the tap…’

Posted: 13th, August 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Haway The Clones

‘READING today’s news gives us the sensation that Britain is embroiled in a macabre race against the clock.

‘Blaaaair’

The Times tells us that British leaders are prime targets in an al-Qaeda assassination plot. So too are leaders in Pakistan and the USA.

Indeed, any leaders, politicians, statesmen and, one supposes, newsagents, gardeners, flower arrangers and Big Brother contestants the vile al-Qaeda doesn’t like are marked for murder.

While this is no great revelation (and not exactly a scoop for the Pakistani security services that came upon the information), the fact that such news comes on the day when the papers are awash with stories of human cloning troubles us.

The Telegraph reports that yesterday the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority gave British scientists the go-ahead to clone human embryos for the first time.

Next week, a team of experts at Newcastle University will follow the Telegraph’s six-point guide (with pictures) entitled, “How It Works”.

(We must point out to team leader Professor Alison Murdoch that the paper has crucially failed to print Part 2 of its guide – the part that warns scientists not to use skin from Newcastle United football fans on account of it being permanently frozen through exposure to sub-zero temperatures.)

But no matter, because the Independent has its own SEVEN-point plan to replicate human life, which includes an image of the final product of this cutting-edge science – a small baby with pert ears, eyebrows raised to the point of incredulity and a smug grin.

No it’s, not Dolly the sheep. This one’s called Tony…’

Posted: 12th, August 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Fun And Games

‘SUCH are the advancements in human cloning that can we really be sure the figure who yesterday arrived in Greece for the Olympic Games is George Bush?

‘Who wants chilli sauce?’

Scientists could even miss out the odd chromosome and still replicate the leader of the free world with some ease.

The Telegraph’s story of how the creature that passes for the American president will be staying aboard the yacht of Greek billionaire Spyros Latsis is of interest.

However, the more likely place where leading-edge science and the Olympics will collide is on the athletics track.

Such is the high level of cheating, the feeling is that, if all drugs takers were removed from the sporting arena, the only person left within the cauldron would be the bloke who raises the red and white flags by the long jump sandpit, and even he’s a borderline case.

But let’s not dwell on the negatives – let’s be higher, faster, stronger, and run like Ben Johnson on speed…because the news is that the stadium’s going to flood.

The Times has happened upon some information about what we can expect when the Games opens tomorrow.

Lois Jacobs, a British events expert, is the brains behind the £21m opening ceremony, in which gallons of water will be allowed to flood part of the Olympic stadium and a fireball will race across the surface.

Those still waiting by London’s Tower Bridge for the Millennium River of Fire will be excused for snorting a cynical chuckle.

But Jacobs is confident that she will succeed where four years ago Ken Livingstone and a man with a match and some kerosene failed.

But Jacobs has more worries than just the fire – indeed, anyone planning to be in the stadium when it floods and then catches light should think about their will and the hereafter.

The Times hears from an unnamed Albanian who worked on the stadium, and his words are less than reassuring.

“We have been praying it does not rain because we ran out of concrete half way through,” says the insider. “There is more sand in that stadium than concrete.”

And since he doesn’t mean the aforesaid long jump pit, the concern is that, once flooded, the entire stadium will slip off its foundations and gently roll out to sea.

And if it crashes into George Bush’s boat, causing it to sink, don’t worry – there’ll be another Bush along in a minute…’

Posted: 12th, August 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Order Of The Boot

‘IN a society obsessed with paper qualifications, it was only going to be matter of time…and now it has arrived.

If Germany had won the war…

The Guardian says that Little Hitlers (aka wheel clampers) are being offered the chance to take a BTEC in vehicle immobilisation.

Little Hitlers will be instructed in ways to “handle situations where conflict might arise”.

Before, during and after the Little Hitlers have attached the infamous Denver Boot to a parked car, tethered dog, wheelchair-bound pensioner and, as in Southampton, a minibus dropping disabled volunteers off for a street collection, Little Hitlers will be taught to communicate.

Having studied the 30-hour training course, Little Hitlers will be polite and efficient as they launch your car onto the back of a truck.

Goebbels and Co. will listen attentively while they stick a green metal shoe on your prized motor.

They will smile as they drive away, bowing even as they present you with an extortionate bill and remind you that, if you do not pay, your car will be taken to a field and shot.’

Posted: 12th, August 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Testing Times

‘ANOTHER year and another E minus for the shambolic Department For Education And Skills.

Q1: ‘Would you like an ‘A’, an ‘A-star’ or an ‘AA’?’

We had hoped that the DfES would have learned from its past mistakes, tried harder, done better and paid more attention in class.

But once more the signs are that we have been talking to a brick wall – either Education Secretary Charles Clarke and his witless minions don’t want to learn or else they are unable to.

So today we read in the Telegraph how the department has failed this year’s Key Stage 3 English papers.

Whether or not the 600,000 14-year-olds who sat the exam fared better or worse than their masters we can only guess at because the DfES tells us that the data it gathered from the tests were “not fit for purpose”.

To put that phrase in plain English, the DfES has raised its hand and told ‘Miss’ that it has made a complete hash of marking the papers.

As a result, “hundreds” of schools have complained about haphazard and inconsistent marking of the exams, leading to the DfES’s decision to cancel the publication of this year’s results.

The Times reports that the Secondary Heads Association has complained about “haywire” marking. As of now, 100,000 of those 600,000 papers are “under review”.

This means that experts in the English language are spending time that could be put to better use remarking papers that count for pretty much nothing in the wider world.

And one thing these keepers of the language could be doing is teaching English to people who want to become UK citizens.

The Times says that the Home Office wants all new Britons to speak the language of their adopted country, but has failed to specify who will check what their level of English is.

New rules mean that migrants will be required to have reached Level Three of the English For Speakers Of Other Languages (ESOL) course.

Meanwhile, anyone who claims they can already speak the language will have to produce written confirmation that they have a qualification in English from a person approved by the Home Office.

And since no-one has been approved, as yet, and no ESOL courses have begun, it means none of the wannabe Brits can officially pass the test.

Which is great news for those British patriots who don’t like immigrants. And totally in keeping with the Government’s education policy…’

Posted: 11th, August 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Band Of Brothers

‘MIGRANTS waiting to pass their citizenship tests in English are faced with a problem.

‘And as the great Smokey said…’

Do they learn the English language from watching TV shows like EastEnders – and in so doing begin speaking as badly as most of the people they hope to live among.

Or do they strive to speak like the Queen – and so stand out from the barely literate masses like the proverbial sore thumb?

The new arrivals might prefer to learn English from the radio, or even CB radio, which, the Times reports, is set for a comeback.

Citizen’s Band radio is not as popular as it was in the days before it was legalised 23 years ago.

Back then, hundreds of thousands of bootleggers (illegal users) communicated under false names (handles) over CB.

But things are set to change as Ofcom, the media regulator, yesterday announced plans to legalise the broadcast of religious sermons over the CB airwaves.

Until now, religious figures wanting to broadcast their messages over CB had to break the law.

“Churches were buying CB radio kits, putting [them] next to the minister, and Sellotaping down the broadcast key,” says a spokesperson for Ofcom.

“It may have been great for those who couldn’t make the walk across country, but they weren’t supposed to be doing it.”

But now, the newspaper says, it’s a big ten-four to the cleric in the pulpit, who sill soon be able legally to deliver his words to those unable to attend church.

And geeks, drugs dealers, radio hams, asylum seekers, truckers…’

Posted: 11th, August 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Clear Your Desk

‘HERE at Anorak Towers, lunch is for wimps – well, lunch without a bottle of vodka is, at any rate.

‘I love a man who can clear his desk’

For others, lunch is a chance to drop crumbs from your sandwich into your computer keyboard and spill an energy drink over your work.

More and more office workers eat lunch at their desks. And while that’s good for the employers, it’s not so great for your health.

The Times has seen a report by Connections, a Manchester recruitment firm, which suggests that office workers would be better off eating their lunch in the toilet – where it’s cleaner.

A poll of 500 office drones found that only one on in 10 bothered to clean their desks, computer keyboards and telephones twice a year.

What the rest do is not revealed, but the inference is that they allow their desks to fester under the detritus of hastily-eaten lunches and nose and ear pickings.

And this is not good. Connections points to a recent US report that showed how the typical office desk is home to 400 times more disease-causing organisms than a toilet seat.

Describing its findings as “horrifying”, Connections blamed the increased levels of office filth on employers who have cut costs by no longer hiring professional cleaning services.

Which means that workers must clean their own desks. So make sure you clean yours – especially if you work at the FA and are thinking about getting naked on it…’

Posted: 11th, August 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Starting Guns

‘THE British Olympic shooting team’s abilities to shoot a bullet into a pinhead-sized target with unerring accuracy should mean that security concerns at this summer’s games are at a minimum.

‘Look out, Tony – he’s got a javelin!’

Only the most suicidal terrorist would dare approach British Olympians, among whom are any number of crack shots with gun or bow and arrow?

Add to the shooters the javelin throwers, judo exponents, wrestlers, fencers and ankle-smashing hockey players…and team GB looks more than capable of handling itself in a fight.

But the Greeks are a cautious bunch and the Times reports that they have given permission for British security agents to be armed during the Athens games.

The Greeks have waived a law that forbids foreign personnel from carrying weapons, and now security staff protecting the British, American and Israeli squads will carry live ammunition.

The British Olympic team has a massive special security squad of 130 Scotland Yard staff, but the paper understands that, unlike the Americans, these cops will not be providing close armed protection for athletes, but just for visiting dignitaries.

While the American track team jostles for position on the starting line with sunglass-wearing agents talking into their sleeves, the British cops will be sitting in the stands protecting the likes of Tony Blair.

And do not doubt that dear Tony will be in Athens. If there’s one thing Tony knows, it is how to have a cracking holiday.

Indeed, since his scramble to the top of the political ladder, the Independent says Tony has taken 18 trips where he and his family have “enjoyed the hospitality of well-connected friends who do not expect to be paid for hosting the package-tour-shy occupants of No.10”.

And that’s a shame since the Indy also reports that while Tony is enjoying another freebie in Athens – in between staying at Cliff Richard’s place in Barbados and Silvio Berlusconi’s villa in Sardinia – British travel agents are in the doldrums.

With just three days to go before the big off, only 3 million of the original 5.3 million tickets for the Games have been sold.

The rest – the ‘unsold’ – have been taken up by the Blairs and their entourage, cops on a busman’s holiday and terrorists eager to say, “I was there”.’

Posted: 10th, August 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Olympic Training

‘AS you disembark from your delayed, over-priced jam-packed, sweaty train and race down the platform to finally breast the ticket barrier, your mind will be on the Olympics.

Our Terry gets ready to vault the gap

And you’ll think how unfair it is that such sports as “Seat Judo”, “Baggage Hurdling” and “Briefcase Fencing” are not part of the Olympic dream, three elements of a truly modern triathlon.

If only they were, Britain would once more be a land of champions, and Terry Drone aboard the 7:35 from Newbury to Paddington would be a household name.

And Mr Drone – or Sir Terry OBE, as he will be known – can live the dream if he lobbies hard.

The Guardian reports that the Rail Passengers’ Council is to establish a new call centre in Manchester to process the queries and complaints from Mr Drone and people like him.

Under the initiative, called Passenger Voices, the new centre will give commuters the chance to say what they think about the dreadful trains, leaves on the line and Britain’s Olympic effort.

Indeed, we are at liberty to speak about pretty much anything we like.

And that’s because not all that many people actually complain to the RPC, preferring to address their grievances directly to the train operators.

As such, each call to the centre – which will be run by the suitably-named Ashley Grumble at a cost of £700,000 of taxpayers’ money each year – will absorb £100 of public funds.

That’s a lot of cash for a phone call – but far better value when seen as part of Britain’s Olympic programme.

And if it leads to gold medals, it represents nothing less than a bargain…’

Posted: 10th, August 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


The Exterminator

‘AS we grow older, we have one childhood dream after another cruelly shattered.

‘Kids have got no respect these days…my back’s killing me…the TV’s gone right off…’

We realise that since our local drugs dealer can’t get hold of EPO or THG, our chances of being an Olympic athlete are almost nil.

Our GCSE in media studies will not get us a job as a trainee astronaut at NASA. And ballerinas are rarely if ever a size 16, however graceful.

And today the Telegraph delivers another kick in the guts of our youths as it picks up a can opener and takes a peek inside a Dalek.

The BBC’s new Dr Who series has been attracting attention because of its indecision about whether to include the Daleks or not.

First they were out. Then they were in. Then they out again. And now, we read that if they are to be in, 77-year-old actor John Scott is ready to reprise his famous role.

Yes, actor! The Daleks were not real!

While we weep from this latest shock, that heartless swine Scott shatters one illusion after another.

“There was no special technique to make the move,” says he. “You just trampled around and they glided about on three caster wheels – a bit like supermarket trolley…

“I would frequently topple over and I would be left screaming, ‘Get me out of this thing”.

Surely he means, “Ex…ter…min…ate!”.

“Over the years, I don’t think they have dated that much,” Scott continues.

“I don’t think it will be long before we see kids running around in the streets pretending to be Daleks once again.”

Well, think again, Scott. You’ve just destroyed their fun. What nipper wants to pretend to be a 77-year-old jobbing actor in a painted eggshell suit?

Better to stick at playing at cowboys, kids – at least that way you might get to become something, like ruler of the free world…’

Posted: 10th, August 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


The God Squad

‘CAN Delia Smith do for wafers what she did for the boiled egg?

‘Hands up who wants wafers’

We ask this important question in light of the Telegraph’s news of Delia’s latest recipe for success.

Having taught the nation how to turn on the oven, how to open the oven and also the news that an oven can get “hot”, the country’s favourite cook now wants us to pray.

Smith, who along with her husband is a majority shareholder at Norwich City FC, wants to mark the team’s arrival in the Premier League by following their opening match against Crystal Palace with a Roman Catholic mass.

The paper offers the opinion that it might be better to conduct a service along the lines of the last rites, given Norwich’s slim chances of surviving their first season in football’s top league.

But having taught us how to boil an egg, Delia might just be successful in turning football grounds into genuine places of worship.

“I am very much hoping that it is very well attended. I am hoping very much that many supporters and staff feel able to attend…If it is well attended, we might be able to have it two of three times a season.”

And why not go further and merge some of football’s elements into the ways of the Church.

So stand up if you hate the ways of the Devil.

“We’re on the march with Jesus’ army, we’re all going to Heaven not Hell, and we’ll really shake ‘em up when we sup the communion cup, ‘cos Jesus is the greatest name of all.”

Amen to that.’

Posted: 9th, August 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Flights Of Fancy

‘IF you’ve got a picture of Gordon Brown on your computer, now might be the best time to delete it – the security forces frown upon such things.

Terrorist Target magazine’s Mr August

Muhammed Naeem Noor Khan must wish that he hadn’t found the Chancellor so fiendishly attractive and instead downloaded a photo of Anthea Turner or Osama bin Laden for his screen saver.

But hindsight is a wonderful thing, and the Guardian reports that at the time of Khan’s arrest in Lahore, Pakistan, last month he did indeed have a photo of the Chancellor on his PC.

What he was doing with such a snapshot on his computer is open to debate. But we can make a safe guess that it was being used for something less than wholesome.

It was seized by the US authorities along with 51 discs, on which are contained such things as photos of public and private heliports, helicopter controls, helicopter doors and helicopter cockpits.

It could be that Khan and his gang were using the helicopters to cover up their deeply sensual appreciation of Mr Brown – employing the helicopter shots in much the same way that a copy of Aviation Monthly can be wrapped around a top-shelf title.

Or it could all point to something yet more terrible. But if it does, the Independent says that David Blunkett is not telling.

The Home Secretary’s reluctance to tell us more about Khan’s computers and the 12 suspects who were recently arrested in the UK – and are currently being questioned about their possible links to terror – seems odd to the Conservatives.

David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, says: “For the Government to suggest they cannot tell us about the security risks or the level of terrorist threats without giving the public confidential information is pure rubbish.”

Not so, says Blunkett, who penned his response to such accusations in yesterday’s Observer.

In it, Blunkett writes how he has not said more because speaking would only be feeding the media in “a slack news period”.

“Is that really the job of a senior cabinet minister in charge of counter-terrorism?” he asks. “To feed the media? To increase concern? To have something to say, whatever it is, to satisfy the insatiable desire to hear somebody say something?“

Before we can all really consider his article, he tells us the answer: “Of course not. This is arrant nonsense.”

So let’s not worry – no news is good news. And read in the Times that when Tony Blair arrives in Italy from Barbados next week, he’ll be jetting into a country “in the grip of near hysteria”.

Apparently, the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigade, a group linked to al-Qaeda, have warned that they will unleash “unimaginable hell” on Italy unless Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi withdraws Italy’s 3,000 troops from Iraq by August 15 – the date of the Ferragosto festival.

Perhaps if this vile threat is made horribly real, Blunkett will then tell us more. Only, the danger is that his bulletin will be buried on a day when the papers are to busy to notice.’

Posted: 9th, August 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Thirty Years Of Hurt

‘IF the Government don’t want to talk about terror, perhaps they’d like to discuss the trains.

The Virgin Rocket

And there are things to talk about. Take the Independent’s story that, after many billions of pounds spent updating the west coast main line, the new trains running along the gleaming tracks will go no faster than the old ones did 30 years ago.

The Indy has conducted some analysis and discovered that the new “tilting trains” will be shiny, new and from September 27 this year able to complete the London to Glasgow run in four hours 39 minutes – a full one minute quicker than trains managed 15 years ago!

Here at last is the 21st century rail service this country was been craving.

However, not everything is so rosy and, while the quickest London to Birmingham service will take one hour 21 minutes, other services on the same route will take one hour 35 minutes – the same as they took in 1967.

These new Virgin “pendolino” trains will travel so fast they will actually make passenger believe they are travelling through time.

As the Guardian says, passengers should not be alarmed if they believe the new trains begin to look like 1970s British Rail locomotives.

This is because they are – a fault on the new trains means the toilets don’t work; and, while they are being repaired, Virgin’s customers will be treated to a 1970s theme trip.

So sit back and relax as the train takes the stain – and know that “we’re getting there”…slowly.’

Posted: 9th, August 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Fashion Victims

‘“SHOULD you have been eavesdropping on a group of British men five years ago, you might have heard an analysis of a football game, a discussion of how much they drunk the night before, and then more of the football talk,” says the Guardian.

Brown is the new gay

“Cast an ear towards their conversation today and they are more likely to be discussing the merits of Paul Smith, Helmut Lang, Comme des Garcons and Armani.”

Indeed, we talk of little else here in Anorak Towers.

And the general consensus is…Paul Smith won’t cut it in the Premiership, Helmut Lang is a great signing for Crystal Palace, Comme des Garcons’ last album was shit and Armani is a stupid name for a girl.

And, if you want a decent pair of trousers, don’t look further than Anorak Eazy-Slax, the one-size-fits-all choice of discerning men of all ages.

But sadly British men don’t know quality tailoring when they see it and are spunking away more money than ever on expensive clothes made by foreign johnnies.

(Although Anorak Eazy-Slax are hand-stitched by seven-year-olds in Bangladesh, the design – and the brand – are British through and through.)

The Guardian reports that more British men are now buying designer clothes than British women, with 49% admitting to having bought designer gear in the past year.

“It’s definitely true that men are becoming more effeminate,” says Mintel consumer analyst Jenny (formerly John) Catlin, “and the gap is narrowing.

“There is a general move away from that negative stereotype of men not caring about the way they look and smell.”

It is a trend that is yet to reach Anorak Towers, sadly, where some members of staff have taken full advantage of Eazy-Slax’s Eazy-Wipe technology and not changed their clothes for years.

However, the British man spends only £45 a year on personal grooming products – way behind the poncy Frogs who shell out £68 a year each trying to look good.

For those of you who are metrosexually challenged, the Guardian’s deputy fashion editor Hadley Freeman helpfully provides a list this season’s hottest looks.

And we are delighted to report that the menswear mantra this season is “retro” – the fashion industry’s way of saying it has run out of ideas.

Specifically, 1950s (with V-necked cashmere jumpers like the one Darren wears on Bewitched) and 1920s (with loose suit trousers and golfing jumpers all the rage).

We also hear that homosexuality is very in – or gay is the new black, as the fashion types like to say.’

Posted: 6th, August 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Sex Is ‘In’ Again

‘IF you read the papers, you could only conclude that the sex-mad Brits are bonking morning, noon and night.

‘Fancy a shag?’

Hell, a couple of years over here have thawed even the England football manager’s icy Viking veins and he can barely look at a woman these days without luring her into his bed.

But it turns out that, while Sven’s bedroom may be more packed than an England substitutes’ bench during a friendly match, most of our sex lives are about as exciting as, well, the action on the pitch during an England friendly match.

The Guardian reports on a survey by Prima magazine that suggests married women today are having less sex than their grandmothers did.

Indeed, many are having less sex than their grandmothers even now, but we all knew those old people’s homes were dens of vice.

However, Prima claims that women in the 1950s had sex on average twice a week, while two-thirds of women today complain they are too tired to manage that much.

In fact, the message seems to be that, if people want to maintain a healthy sex life, they should not get married.

Four out of five couples are sleeping together by the fifth date, but as soon as they have walked up the aisle together the passion dies down.

The good news, however, for women is that, if the 1950s are back in fashion, so is sex.

The only problem is that they’ve got to try to fancy the idiot in the brown YSL trousers, Mulberry printed shirt and pointed Helmut Lang brogues…’

Posted: 6th, August 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Sun Seekers

‘SO much for the Guardian’s attempt to portray us all as urban sophisticates, discussing the latest German designers over our skinny lattes.

Shell got a First in Sun Tanning & Strap Line Management

It turns out that we’re more insular than ever we were, with a dramatic slump in the number of British students studying in Europe.

According to the Telegraph, numbers have fallen by a third in the past decade, mirroring a similar fall in the number of people studying foreign languages.

British students prefer to study somewhere hot where the locals speak English, with students favouring America, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

‘These four countries have one thing in common – they are Anglophone,’ says the report commissioned by the Department for Education.

‘Britons are attracted to exchange campuses in California, Florida, New Orleans and Australia. The climactic factor is all too evident.’

But what’s the point of going somewhere cold and landlocked when you’re studying for a BA in Surfing or an MSc in Sun Tanning..?’

Posted: 6th, August 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Idiotic Equations

‘IF there is one story that is even more common than a poll on Dumb Britain, it is the bogus mathematical equation.

‘Agh! And there isn’t even any bubble bath!’

Or, as the Guardian says, ‘the latest attempt by the scientific community to offer algebraic explanations for the seemingly inexplicable’.

Proving that academics are never happier than when prostituting themselves for money, mathematicians at King’s College, London, have been commissioned by Sky Movies to come up with a formula for the ultimate horror film.

For what it’s worth, the equation contains 11 variables – escalating music (es), the unknown (u), chase scenes (cs), the sense of being trapped (t), shock (s), true life (tl), fantasy (f), a small number of characters (a), an isolated setting (fs), the lights off (dr) and gore (x).

And the scariness of a film can be measured thus: (es + u + cs + t) squared + s +(tl + f)/2 + (a + dr + fs)/n + sin x -1.

By this token, The Shining is the scariest film of all time, although a home video of Vanessa Feltz in the bath comes a pretty close second.

Earlier this year, the Guardian reminds us, scientists came up with a formula for perfect happiness: P + (5 x E) + (3 x H).

And Anorak boffins have been working for some time on their own formula for the perfect scientific formula: B + O + L + L + O + C + K + S.’

Posted: 5th, August 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Dumb Britain

‘ANOTHER week, another poll showing just how thick we Brits really are.

Sir Francis Drake

According to the Independent, almost half of all 16 to 34-year-olds in the BBC poll did not know who led the English fleet against the Spanish armada in 1588.

One in five 16 to 24-year-olds thought it was Christopher Columbus, while one in 20 opted for Gandalf, the wizard from Lord Of The Rings.

Asked what battle the Orangemen in Northern Ireland commemorate when they march on July 12, 15% of the same age group said Helm’s Deep, the battle at the end of The Two Towers.

Predictably, the paper says the news has been greeted with dismay by campaigners for a return to a more traditional history syllabus.

‘Some of the results are really surprising,’ said Peter Furtado, editor of History Today.

Surprising perhaps if you were never 18 yourself and seriously think that most teenagers will give an honest answer to a pollster.’

Posted: 5th, August 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Focus Group

‘THE good news is that the IT team are back at their desks in Anorak Towers this morning.

‘And this is what the posties look like in Spain’

We still don’t know the reason for yesterday’s no-show – they muttered something about all catching the MyDoom virus and then started laughing uncontrollably among themselves.

But we suspect their reappearance has something to do with the new incentives Old Mr Anorak has introduced to encourage us to work even harder for his enrichment.

Generously, he has announced that employees who don’t miss a day’s work between now and next Christmas will be in line for a series of rewards.

Unfortunately, these rewards are not as generous as those on offer from Royal Mail, which is offering a similar scheme to try to cut absenteeism.

The Times reports that at any one time 10,000 postal workers are unfit for work – almost 6% of its total workforce of 170,000.

On average, Royal Mail workers are off sick for 12 days a year, compared with the national average of seven – costing the company an estimated £300m a year.

And in a bid to cut this figure, the company will enter the names of any employee who manages to clock up a clean attendance record for six months in a prize draw.

Thirty-four winners will drive away in a Ford Focus, while 68 runners-up will win holiday vouchers worth £2,000.

The carrot approach favoured by Royal Mail is, says the paper, is sharp contrast to other companies.

Tesco, for instance, has said it will no longer automatically pay staff for the first three days of any illness.

And it is a lot more generous than the scheme on offer here at Anorak Towers, where the rewards include not getting the sack and, er, not getting the sack.’

Posted: 5th, August 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment


Tantrum Tamer

‘THERE’S no point kids throwing tantrums just because Dad has given them a good wupping at kick-boxing or bare-knuckle fighting.

‘Okay, Grace. What’s Pi to 40 decimal places?’

They need to put in more hours in the gym, so that as soon as Dad walks in from work he gets put on the floor by a left jab and right uppercut combination.

Save the tantrums for Mum, especially when she’s struggling her way round the supermarket.

But the Times has news that the supermarket tantrum may soon be a thing of the past.

Tesco is working to perfect a trolley called the Tantrum Tamer, which will have an electronic screen attached to play DVDs, CDs and educational games to kids seated at the back.

A prototype should be in shops within a month.

The supermarket giant began the project after a survey found that 84% of parents said they’d like help keeping their kids busy while they were doing the shopping.

At the moment, Tesco recommends parents play things like I Spy or maths games with their kids to keep them amused.

‘Okay, little Jack, see if you can work out 1,567 x 5,209 before dad?”

Posted: 4th, August 2004 | In: Broadsheets | Comment