Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Wikileaks: the new Amnesty

The USA hierarchy is steaming about the Afghan papers put up on the web by Wikileaks. Where Amnesty International trod by raising publicity about whistleblowers and democrats held in prison and/or being tortured, Wikileaks has posted classified information from the aggressor's mouth.

This is The Bourne Identity for real. What price for the US secret services persuing the Wikileaks board and information moles with every thing they have got. Welcome to spying in the 21st century.

Search Amazon.com for Wikileaks

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Dogs' dinners

A dog-friendly pub chain is trying out a new idea: providing meals for dogs while owners scoff their own food. A doggy menu will be provided.

The Brakspear pubs in the trial are the Five Alls near Lechlade, Gloucestershire and the Catherine Wheel in Goring-on-Thames, Berkshire.

What next? Bringing a horse to a watering-hole? Taking an old bull to the Bush? Inviting a cat to the Rat and Parrot? We'll see. It'll depend if the dogs woof the dinners down.

Search Amazon.com for pubs

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Don't believe the type

Primary Care Trusts are due to be abolished, according to a White Paper publishing by the Government and the fall-out commentary in the media.

Not so fast. At a barbecue last night I met a senior LibDem policy wonk who said there were communications issues to be ironed out with the Conservatives, included the supposed demise of the PCTs. Apparently White Papers are little more than a first draft.

Hmm. Either this means there'll be a big fight on this or that the PCT proposal will be kicked into the long grass, beyond the timeframe of the coalition.

In the meanwhile, here's an idea for recycling the White Paper ...

Search Amazon.com for white paper

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Variations on a midlife theme

You can tell you're getting older when ...

Thursday, 15 July 2010

The Prints of Darkness

Peter Mandelson's political memoirs, The Third Man, are shining a torch on to the divisions between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair when in government as New Labour, especially over the inference that Blair promised to hand over prime-ministerial power to Brown in 2003.

But whatever happened to Chatham House Rules? When is it a good time to publish political autobiographies? The best option is immediately after a general election loss, despite the risk of short-term damage. In this case, any furore will have died down by the September party conference, when a new leader will be chosen.

Presumably Lord Mandelson must feel his front-bench career is over to be quite so candid. Whether this is a wise decision or not will become clear in the next few years as the coalition will live or die by the outcomes of their draconian policies.

Search Amazon.com for political memoirs

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Illnesses of convenience

Hmm. It seems that far from being on death's door, the man jailed for the Lockerbie bombing, Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi, has now been told he has made than ten years to live. What a surprise.

Almost as much a coincidence as jailed Guinness fraudster Ernest Saunders miraculous recovery from Alzheimer's disease and Great-train-robber Ronnie Biggs continued respite in a Barnet old people's home.

And we're not talking about untold trips to Lourdes.

The common denominators? Money, infleunce, and politics.

Search Amazon.com for miracles

Monday, 12 July 2010

Separated at birth, go forth and multiply

Hey, what about Batman and Michael Vaughan, former England cricket captain. Never seen in the same room together.

Search Amazon.com for Batman

Sunday, 11 July 2010

The coalition sofa

Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, is about to have a difficult evening. Half-Dutch, his wife Miriam is Spanish, so the World Cup final between the Netherlands and Spain will split the family allegiances.

On the other hand, at least the family will be partially happy whoever wins.

And at least the vuvuzelas can be put in the loft ... until they get banned from Premier League grounds.

Search Amazon.com for soccer fans

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Another con bites the dust

So, another stakeout ends in a blaze of gunfire: Raoul Moat, the Northumbrian killer on the run, has shot himself when cornered.

The sad truth is that this was a predictable outcome. Think of Bonnie and Clyde, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Billy the Kid, John Dillinger, and Adolf Hitler, and a pattern forms. I can only think of Saddam Hussein and Radovan Karadzic as examples of people who came quietly when surrounded.

Perhaps in times of economic uncertainty we are more aware of heinous crimes, as a backdrop to financial hardship. Whether symptom or cause, these cases spring from despair but are magnified by the media. Once such a crime spree starts cascading, the media supplies the oxygen to keep the fire raging: taking the criminal alive would almost seem like an anti-climax.

And how come the most infamous of these episodes always seems to happen in rural idylls? Hungerford, Dunblane, Cumbria and now Rothbury? Why not, say, Birmingam, Cardiff, Edinburgh, or London? After the fuss has subsided, there may be an eerie fascination for a certain type of tourist in visiting the scenes of the crimes.

Search Amazon.com for gun crime

Thursday, 8 July 2010

In an octopus's Berchtesgaden

Tea leaves, I Ching, fortune cookies and spurious past history can all lay claim to predicting World Cup football results.

Paul the octopus can now be added to the list. The newly discovered global star at the Sea Life Aquarium in Oberhausen, Germany has been predicting results at the World Cup, with startling accuracy. Given the choice between mussels in transparent boxes adorned with the flags of countries the playing a match, Paul's predictions are taken as the first box he opens to reach his snack.

Oblivious to all the attention, Paul's success in predicting Germany's results (including losses to Serbia and Spain) has had two outcomes: death threats (from Argentines and, latterly, Germans); and increased soothsaying influence. Punters are placing bets with bookmakers based on Paul's preferences to such a degree that it's skewing the market.

For Paul's own safety, there is a news blackout on his predictions for the final between the Netherlands and Spain: one country or the another is going to blame the octopus, however irrational the thought. CCTV cameras may have to be installed.

Actually, though, with 50:50 odds, Paul's guess is as good as anyone's

Search Amazon.com for octopus

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Life's a drag race

Drug research needs success stories. The recovery of Kaz Aston from the symptoms of multiple sclerosis is a case in point.

Diagnosed in 1995, she was given the drug Tysabri and, recovery in hand, has taken up drag racing to publicise the cause. And to take on new risks to her health.

Biogen Idec Inc., Elan and the MS Trust will be glad of the good publicity and the likely increase in prescription rate of the life-restoring drug.

Search Amazon.com for multiple sclerosis

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Must the show go on?

Pop stars are finding new misfortunes with which to grace the tabloids.

There have been crashes (e.g. Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochrane, Marc Bolan, Sonny Bono), drug meltdowns (e.g. Syd Barrett, Janis Joplin, Michael Jackson), alcoholic binges (e.g. Jim Morrison, Hank Williams Jr, Amy Winehouse), physical injury (e.g. Bono, Keith Richards) and even murders (e.g. John Lennon, Sid Vicious) but Western icons have managed to avoid exotic diseases (except perhaps cancer, e,g, Kylie Minogue, Bob Marley, George Harrison).

Until now. Cheryl Cole has malaria and may be starting a trend. Amir Khan, the boxer, has collapsed with the same mystery disease.

No one famous has recently croaked from tuberculosis, syphilis. polio, cholera or a flu epidemic but with global travel increasing and the losing battle against bug evolution means it may just be a matter of time.

Search Amazon.com for disease

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Let the plane take the strain

Ryanair takes the biscuit for no frills and paid added extras in the low-cost airline business. The latest additions to the rosta of pain are coin-operated loos and 'vertical seats' (i.e. standing room only). What would health and safety make of that?

Where will Michael O'Leary's money-making schemes go next?
If not these, suggestions, there will be others along soon.

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