Don't Panic
  • This week the Daily Mail reported how 'vice girl' (whatever that is) Helen Wood - who'd earned a taste of Z-list celebrity status by kissing and telling on a threesome she'd had with Wayne Rooney and another 'vice girl' - had been gagged, to prevent her talking about another juicy sounding affair with a 'world famous' leading man.

    The actor in question is married with a child (I have already crossed Tom Cruise off my long list for the obvious reason.) Apart from keeping the information from his spouse it's likely that one of his main motivations would have been to protect a carefully constructed, wholesome onscreen persona, which would be torn asunder if the truth got out.

    The Sun also revealed this week how Imogen Thomas (another Z-lister from Big Brother) has been seeing a married footballer who has also managed to conceal his activities from the press with a gagging order, while she is named and shamed as the other woman.

    Not only is it slightly unseemly that these sleazy sagas clog

    Read More »from Sex, Sleaze and the Super Injunction
  • This week the Arts Council cut funding for 206 arts organisations. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt says that they had to take a "share of the pain" in tackling the deficit, although the reduction in funding was 15 per cent lower than the 19 per cent across other government departments.

    Apart from meaning there will be increased competition for waiters' jobs it may not really impact all that much on society. The average person goes to the cinema, stand-up or a musical but would rarely visit the theatre and would give ballet or opera a birth as wide as the fat lady. Surely successful art is funded by the ticket sales and commercial sponsors? If it's any good people will attend and companies will want to be associated with it. Also if it's really unpopular who decides how much money it should receive? Presumably it is someone whose taste is considered inherently better than the average philistine who votes with their wallet and doesn't buy a ticket.

    Of the 1,330 organisations that had

    Read More »from Comment: Why we must still invest in the obscure
  • Defence Secretary Liam Fox got into a dust up with Chief of Defence Staff General Sir David Richards over whether or not it was legal to target Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi for death. The moral question may be irrelevant as if there is a plan to assassinate Gaddafi it is bound to fail.

    Why? Because despotic lunatics seem to be immune from assassination. Hitler survived Von Stauffenberg's briefcase bomb with injuries not even severe enough to prevent him orchestrating revenge on his well intentioned murderers (the lucky ones escaped with just the firing squad.) Hitler cheated the executioner but at least had the decency to expire prematurely, unlike those other premier league harbingers of massive megadeaths Mao and Stalin, who died peacefully in their beds of a stroke and a heart attack.

    Gaddafi isn't in their league, being more on a par with Saddam, who was also targeted by bombing in Gulf War One. Inevitably he survived unscathed. Look up the FBI's Most Wanted website and you'll see

    Read More »from Comment: Why Gaddafi will survive our attacks
  • The Blitz was the last time Britain faced a national disaster on the scale of the Japanese Earthquake. The number of people who remember living through that catastrophe has obviously been declining but despite no firsthand experience of apocalyptic calamity we Brits seem to be genuinely sympathetic to the plight of humans who live in countries more prone to disasters.

    Red Nose Day has proved that the British public underwrite their concern for other countries with cash despite the fact that we don't endure famines and natural disaster because we enjoy (if that is the right word) a mild climate. However our natural disaster-free existence could be under threat if the world learns the wrong lessons from the tragedy, which could make a temperate Britain a much more dangerous place to live. The wrong lessons already seem to have been learnt by Germany, Austria and the brave Swiss (all countries notable for their lack of seismic activity). They have decided that nuclear power is dangerously

    Read More »from Despite what we’ve seen in Japan, nuclear power plants aren’t necessarily a bad thing
  • This week a report by government advisor Lord Hutton stating that public sector workers should work for ten years longer, for less pay, was released on the same day as the Forbes Rich list, which showed that the number of billionaires in the world has risen from 1011 to 1210 in one year. One document was like a mirror image of the other, if you plotted a graph of the wealth of the richest people in the world it would be shooting off the charts, with loads of fat cats looking on, toasting each other and chuffing on cigars. Turn that graph upside down and you have the financial fortunes of the rest of us, standing about looking miserable with our pockets turned inside out, realising we have to work longer for less.

    The fattest feline of the clowder (the collective noun for cats in case you were wondering) is the un-aptly named Carlos Slim. The man from Mexico made a large chunk of his $74 billion pile from telecoms and like bronze placed Warren Buffett he prefers accumulating money to

    Read More »from It’s a rich man’s world
  • WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange was arrested in London this week when he turned himself in to police to answer allegations that he committed sex crimes against two women in Sweden. The pair were only officially identified as Miss A and Miss W. Hacktivists uncovered their identities as part of a concerted effort to pressurise their hero's accusers. The Guardian quotes a blogger's call to arms: "Is [Miss A] a lesbian?", accompanying its text with photographs of Miss A alongside another woman. "If [she] is gay, and she sleeps with Assange, that's a contradiction. So, I'm inviting the blogosphere to look for the evidence. Be a WikiSleuth!" Whatever the truth of the rape allegations, the digital dirt-digging seems like cyber-bullying on a massive scale by people who are very careful to keep their true identities hidden behind hacker names like 'Coldblood' and are actually part of an organisation called 'Anonymous'!

    Victimisation aside, the gross invasion of these women's

    Read More »from Who are hacktivists ‘Anonymous’?
  • I'm typing this Bob Cratchit-style in fingerless gloves due to being betrayed by the office boiler which has sadistically chosen one of the coldest days of the year to blow a gasket, leaving us huddled round one of those plug-in heaters that is more noisy than warm. Old Bertha's not alone as other boilers across the land seem to be engaged in a vicious conspiracy to expire when we're at our coldest, school heaters seem to be in the vanguard, failing as rapidly as England's World Cup bid (much to the delight of 700,000 children across the land).

    The unpredictability of the weather is in stark contrast to the crushing inevitability of its impact on us - alongside boiler failure we'll always suffer the Ground Hog Day-style recurrence of airport closures, mega motorway tailbacks and landing heavily on our coccyxes (our leftover tail) while negotiating an icy pavement, all down to the entirely predictable lack of grit, a situation which dominated the headlines during the last ice age way

    Read More »from Will this country ever be prepared for snow?
  • 'X Factor' star Katie Waissel's 81-year-old Grandma Sheila Vogel-Coupe, aka Grand Dame Cecilia Bird, announced this week she is a prostitute - which probably makes her one of the oldest practitioners of the oldest profession going.

    Despite the leopard-print top, she doesn't fit the 'Band of Gold' stereotype many people imagine, being a rather well-to-do resident of wealthy St John's Wood. She hasn't been at it girl and woman since the war either - she's apparently only been active for two years.

    The Internet enabled her behaviour like a digital pimp, hooking the pensioner up with men willing to pay her handsomely for sex. Her 'granny-grabbing' clients seem to be drawn from a cross-section of the male population; she mentions surveyors, tube drivers and bankers rather than dysfunctional weirdos who wouldn't be able to afford her fees, which she supplements by appearing in adult movies.

    Katie and the rest of the family are obviously appalled (one can only wonder what Christmas is going

    Read More »from Katie’s gran: pioneer or pariah?
  • In a speech this week at the Royal College of Midwives' conference, general secretary Cathy Warwick said the coalition had 'gone back on pre-election pledges to increase the number of midwives.'

    I know it's difficult to believe that anyone associated with The Coalition has gone back on election promises but apparently David Cameron stated "We are going to make our midwives' lives a lot easier. They are crucial to making a mum's experience of birth as good as it can possibly be, but today they are overworked and demoralised. So we will increase the number of midwives by 3,000." The pledge has now been filed away with Nick Clegg's promise to abolish tuition fees, leaving the midwife service close to 'cracking point' as the number of live births in England rose by 107,314 (19 per cent) between 2001 and 2009 to more than 670,000 a year.

    Also this week it was reported that white Britons will be in a minority in the UK by 2066. In an article in Prospect Magazine, Oxford University

    Read More »from Will restrictions on immigration pay off?
  • The European Parliament has voted for a 6% budget rise. David Cameron, supported by 12 EU nations, including France and Germany, is campaigning for a smaller 2.9% increase. The draft 2011 budget set by the European Commission is £112bn. This week research by campaigning organisation Open Europe has revealed where some of this money has been squandered... I mean, spent.

    A Hungarian company got £350,000 of Euro-dosh last year to build new facilities to "improve the lifestyle and living standard of dogs" using hydrotherapy, a project which didn't even materialise. How did this project ever get signed off? What is wrong with Hungarian hounds that water treatment will fix, where did the money go and who is responsible? These questions will probably stay rhetorical due to the EU culture of secrecy, corruption and unaccountability.

    The EU's Rural Development Fund is not just a dog's best friend. Over the border in Austria, Tyrolean farmers got £14,000 to "increase farmers' emotional

    Read More »from Yet more lavish political spending

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