BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for August 9, 2009 - August 15, 2009

10 things we didn't know last week

16:26 UK time, Friday, 14 August 2009

caterpillars226.jpgSnippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. You're as likely to be hit by lightning as be killed by a mentally ill person.
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2. It's illegal for British people to play the UK Lottery while on holiday in Spain and the US.
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3. Tom Cruise has got a 14-year-old son.
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4. Only about one or two in 200 people with autism have a savant talent, or exceptional ability.
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5. There's a 40-year wait for an allotment in one part of London.
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6. A freak wave is one that measures roughly three times higher than other swells on the sea at any one time.
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7. They tend to occur at an incidence of about three waves in every 10,000.
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8. North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il has a water slide in his garden.
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9. Young men in their early 20s are the worst at keeping their NHS appointments.
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10. Les Paul, whose name is synonymous with the electric guitar, also invented the eight-track tape recorder.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Peter Bissell for this week's picture of 10 caterpillars.

Your Letters

16:22 UK time, Friday, 14 August 2009

Re: Questions children ask - how heavy is the sky? I'll let off the contributor from Utah for replying in old-fashioned units, but Boris from the West Midlands (presumably a Brit) has no such excuse and takes the biscuit for the most roundabout, complicated and outdated approach to a simple question. This is exactly the same answer Boris gave, but without the crazy list of conversion factors he needed to use to do it in old units! Boris's children's next questions to him would be "daddy, what's an inch?" and "daddy, what's a pound?" and "daddy, what's a mile?". To which the answer should be "something you learn about in history class"!
Steve Hosgood, Swansea, Wales

Does this story mean that historians of the future will look back on Tony Blair's premiership and say "Yes, but at least he made the trains run on time"?
Adam, London, UK

You wait for one silly story and then two come along at once.
Tom Webb, Surbiton, UK

Re: Daily mini-quiz. Although the guitar on the left is a Les Paul, the one on the left (the Gibson SG) was orginally marketed as a Les Paul and, although he didn't design it, it did originally bear his name. You could have saved all the confusion by using a BC Rich Mockingbird or something.
Mark Williamson, Loughton, UK

I wonder if I'm the only person who waits until 10 Things... has been published to take the 7 Days quiz. It's improved my score more than once. Is this cheating?
Naomi, Gloucester

What are Love Handles called in the USA?
Richard, Bridport

Caption Competition

13:30 UK time, Friday, 14 August 2009

Comments

edinburghkiltedmen_getty.jpgWinning entries in the Caption Competition.

The competition is now closed. Full rules can be seen here [PDF].

This week, a pair of Chippendales top up their tans in Edinburgh ahead of their Fringe show. But what's being said?

Thanks to all who entered. The prize of a small amount of kudos to the following:

6. discom8
A great view of Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh.

5. SeanieSmith
"... and the latest score from Amsterdam is Holland 2 - England 0."

4. rogueslr
Flatulence, the unspoken problem with haggis.

3. Lloyd-Barnes
The Weather Girls wish finally comes true.

2. Rob Falconer
"Of course, the photo's much better since we cut that stupid squirrel out of it."

1. Accidental_ice-cream
"Have you got signal yet?"

Paper Monitor

12:17 UK time, Friday, 14 August 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

There are few things Fleet Street enjoys more than playing Sampson to America's Goliath - especially when a great British institution is under attack. And they don't get much more treasured than the NHS.

Cue a re-run of the American War of Independence with the red tops stepping into the role of Red Coats as they dig in for what, henceforth, will be known as the Battle of Twitter Hill. Yes, Paper Monitor brings you the UK-US health wars.

The Daily Mirror devotes a double-page to supporting the NHS against attacks from critics of Barack Obama's health reforms.

After several days of civilian sniping through the modern-day citizen's blunderbuss of choice - Twitter - it enlists Health Secretary Andy Burnham to fire an official salvo over the Atlantic, through a column, and it interviews the great-nephew of NHS founder Nye Bevan.

The Times and the Independent talk to a British woman who has become one of the stars of the anti-Obama campaign in the US, by criticising NHS care. But the papers represent her feelings differently.

The Times says she claims to have been duped and misrepresented: "What I said has been skewed out of proportion. I am slightly worried that people might think I am taking a negative view of the NHS."

But in the Independent, she says she has no regrets: "Everything I said was truthful and subjective. I knew what their intention was when I did the interview and I was quite willing to be used as an example as to how the system doesn't always work."

The Sun sticks to more familiar ground - the misdeeds of famous footballers.

Paper Monitor would be neglecting its duty were it not to keep abreast of the beautiful game- and is known to closely follow the fortunes of a certain Championship side - but wonders if David Bentley is sufficiently well known to the general population to merit a front-page story in the UK's biggest-selling daily newspaper.

Weekly Bonus Question

10:43 UK time, Friday, 14 August 2009

Comments

Welcome to the Weekly Bonus Question.

Each week the news quiz 7 days 7 questions will offer an answer. You are invited to suggest what the question might have been.

Suggestions should be sent using the COMMENTS BOX IN THIS ENTRY. And since nobody likes a smart alec, kudos will be deducted for predictability in your suggestions.

This week's answer is HIGH-FAT HANGOVER. But what's the question?

UPDATE 1559 BST: The correct question is, how did Dr Gerald Weissmann, editor of the Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology, describe findings that a high-fat diet can lead to short-term memory loss?

Friday's Quote of the Day

09:25 UK time, Friday, 14 August 2009

"In completing the unit the student has demonstrated the ability to walk to the local bus stop" - Using public transport (unit 1), by exam board AQA

Bobby McHale, 15, is the proud owner of a certificate, earned by successfully catching a bus. As well as walking to the bus stop, the curriculum required candidates to "wait for the arrival of a public bus... enter the bus in a calm and safe manner... sit on the bus and observe through the windows..." Bobby's younger brother failed.

Your Letters

17:48 UK time, Thursday, 13 August 2009

Regarding Eddie Izzard's multiple marathon run, Irish singer Johnny Donnelly is running a marathon a month for the next four years. Maybe not as insane as 34 in seven weeks, but four years without a break? That's impressive!
Eileen, Dublin, Ireland

Sorry, the name of the lake is what?
Chris, London

Re Will Fry (Your Letters, Wednesday) this may be a hole in the shape of the symbol for pounds i.e. £
Paul Barratt, Bradford

It could be a rectangle if a pound coin was on its side. A bloated rectangle if referring to 454g of sugar or just the shape of overlapping fists...
Edd, Cardiff


Having read the article on kid's questions, I just had to share this. I overheard this on Christmas Eve on Oxford St as a troop of Envirnomentalists dressed as Santas marched under the banner "Santa's Against Conspicuous Consumption". A seven-year-old girl asked her mother: "What's conspicuous consumption?" After a pause her mother replied "It's when you eat too much Christmas Dinner". Genius.
Phil B-C, London

Erm, Web Monitor it was three laws: 1) a robot must not harm a human or through inaction allow a human to come to harm, 2) a robot must obey any orders given to it by a human, except where this would conflict with the first law, and 3) a robot must protect it's own existance except where this would contradict laws 1 or 2. And the laws were first posited by Frederik Pohl editor of 'Astonishing Stories' and Super Science Stories' magazines, which he then encouraged Asimov to develop in his short stories published in said magazines. I'll get my rocket boots.
Howard, London, UK

Monitor: Erm, confession time folks. There was a letter which predicted just such a response (several readers have e-mailed to tick off Web Monitor), but sought to forestall any criticism by mentioning Asimov's Zeroeth Law. Only, Monitor accidentally deleted it and has tried, but failed, to retrieve it.

Paper Monitor

11:14 UK time, Thursday, 13 August 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The Daily Mail's new-look Femail magazine, as ever, has set Paper Monitor to thinking. "Why DOES Kate Moss look so haggard?" (Does she? Maybe in certain lights, but don't we all?)
"Why do you work, Mummy?" (Perhaps female readers might like to count the ways...)
Finally, and most mystifyingly, who really thinks white trousers are the perfect picnic outfit? (Perhaps Liz Hurley might like to count the ways...)

But Femail's unpicking of the supermodel's shortcomings contains a nugget worthy of 10 things.

If she has had Botox treatment, it's worn off, says a cosmetic surgeon, who can tell because La Moss is able to use her corrugator muscle. "Here we see it working as it should, pulling the whole forehead forward and lowering the brow, which is nature's way of shading the eyes from the sun, far safer than sitting in the sun with a frozen face."

Good for her. Paper Monitor is also rather heartened that the aforementioned cosmetic doctor suggests no nasty procedures to smooth Moss's wrinkles, but "a few glasses of water and some good moisturiser".

The Daily Mirror also piles in to tick off Moss's sins against her flesh:
"Frown lines: Squinting in sun
Broken capillaries: Alcohol
Discoloured teeth: Smoking and alcohol
Dehydrated skin: Smoking/alcohol/sun damage"

Still, she scrubs up well.

Aptly, Poetry Corner with Carol Ann Duffy (a previously undiscovered segment in the Mirror's Your Life section) features the verse Woodbine by Carole Coates.

"Light up. I want to sniff/that first sharp instant/of a cigarette."

But it is no ode to smoking for smoking's sake. It is, Carol Ann says, "both love poem and elegy". But, Kate-watchers, its not about some scruffy troubadour who might benefit from a shower. Its subject is the poet's father, a long-distance lorry driver with a donkey jacket and a spotless hanky.

And finally, back to the topic of holiday snaps, it's rare for a grin 'n' snap shot to make the papers unless there's something unusual about it. Perhaps something like this...

Thursday's Quote of the Day

09:57 UK time, Thursday, 13 August 2009

"Boring" - Dennis the Menace fan Mark Turgoose, 10, on the BBC's makeover of the comic character.

Dennis is no longer the menace he once was after a BBC makeover. Gone are his catapult and peashooter, and he will not be allowed to pick on Walter the Softie. A BBC spokesman says: "Dennis the Menace has been evolving since its creation in 1951 but remains as boisterous and mischievous as ever."
More details (Daily Mail)

Your Letters

16:54 UK time, Wednesday, 12 August 2009

You missed out the main reason for changing your age. To get a job. Earlier this year I sent out 50 copies of my CV and got nada response. I re-did my CV bringing forward my age and the dates of all my qualifications etc by 10 years and voila! The phone was ringing off the hook and I was turning down job offers for weeks... (My new boss said it showed gumption, by the way.)
Sam, France

Why have you started referring to "heists"? Aren't robberies and burglaries exciting enough?
Paul, Ipswich

Re the banning of Speedos by Alton Towers, I found this rather ironic, having been prevented from swimming in pools in France for NOT having Speedos (only swimming shorts) a few years ago.
Tim Collins, Sittingbourne, UK

"Astronomers are advised to lie on a blanket or a reclining chair to get the best view", the meteor shower story tells us. But should we lie on our backs or our fronts? And our eyes, should they be open or closed? If they're going to state the bleeding obvious, they could at least do it properly...
Tim Barrow, London

I read to the end of this article and was still waiting for an explanation for the flying rabbits. Then I realised my mistake. But I am willing to put good money on flying rabbits being just as effective at stopping swine flu and a whole lot cheaper (though animal lovers may get upset at the use of trebuchets).
Chris Clarke, Grenoble, France

It seems to me that the Magazine is following a certain theme today - age. How old? and Village fate seem to suggest that someone is lamenting the passing of the years. Of course, at a mere 19 years of age, I couldn't possibly understand the fear of getting old, as I truly believe that I am going to stay 19 forever.
Helen, Jersey

What is a "pound-shaped hole"? Is it a circle?
Will Fry, London

Does it strike anyone else as interesting that one of the most-searched-for sites is a search engine itself?
Aaron, Reading, UK

Web Monitor

15:58 UK time, Wednesday, 12 August 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Web Monitor is on a marathon trip to go further in search of interesting bits of the web. Share your favourite cuts by sending links via the comment box

eddie226.jpg• First, the looniness of the long-distance runner. Known for his surreal comedy and acting roles, less well know for his physical jerks, Eddie Izzard is currently raising money for Sports Relief by attempting to complete 34 marathons across the UK in 7 weeks. Let us just run that past you again. Eddie Izzard is running 34 marathons in 7 weeks. That's over 1,000 miles in 49 days. So far he has completed 14 in 16 days, and is still in good spirits according to this morning's tweet:

Today is the day to round up all the people you've ever met and get them to sponsor me. No bananas until they comply

You can keep pace with his progress on Twitter along with Caitlin Moran, who asks:

Is Eddie Izzard actually doing these marathons hoping we all go "Christ, Eddie! This is madness! Sit down! Your feet must be mince!"

This also reminds us of Sir Ranulph Fiennes' epic feat in 2003 when he completed seven marathons in seven days on seven continents, and all just four weeks after suffering a heart attack.

Further investigation reveals that there is a healthy community of multiple-marathoneers out there, as evidenced by the existence of The 100 Marathon Club. Then there's 64-year-old San Antonio lawyer Larry Macon, who in 2008 completed 105 marathons to earn himself a new Guinness World Record (for most run in a year). According to Runners World, in his 15 years since he started running, Macon has completed more than 530 marathons and ultras or ultramarathons (anything further than 26.2 miles).

All this puts the seven-flight climb to the top of Monitor Towers into perspective.

• Introducing Esperanto for Robots. MacGregor Campbell in the New Scientist reports that despite the exciting advances in robotics in evidence at the recent International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in California, some roboticists feel that without a common operating system available for use by robot creators everywhere progress is being frustrated.

Step mechanically forward the sensibly-named Robot Operating System or ROS, an open-source set of programs which is being designed by as a common platform for a wide range of robotics research. When ROS boots up on a robot's computer, it asks for a description of the robot that includes things like the length of its arm segments and how the joints rotate. It then makes this information available to the higher-level algorithms.

ROS is currently being developed and used by robotics teams at MIT, Stanford University California and the Technical University of Munich. But is not the only robotic operating system in the lab. Microsoft, with its Robotics Developer Studio, continues to develop its "Windows for robots."

All this robo-talk reminds us of Issac Asimov's Laws of Robotics which propose four basic rules to ensure robots never pose a threat to humanity. Apart from providing the celebrated sci-fi author with endless scope for stories involving more or less trustworthy androids, 70 years on his laws continue to inform the debate on the ethics and practicalities of the human/AI relationship.

Web Monitor is keeping a watchful eye on its various appliances for any signs of nascent self-awareness, though has long harboured suspicions about its keyboard.


Paper Monitor

12:41 UK time, Wednesday, 12 August 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Forget Mandy's blue loafers, that's yesterday's news. Now it's a pair of blue shorts causing excitement in the newsroom of one paper - and what's up them.

It seems where Peter Mandelson leads, Tony Blair follows. In the Daily Mail is a picture of the former prime minister and his family on holiday in Bali. The shorts in question belong to him, but what could be up one of his trouser legs?

To deal with the situation Blair "placed a hand on the female's head ready - as so often during his years at Number Ten - to wriggle out of a tricky situation". But before you start getting jumping to conclusions remember this is a FAMILY holiday. The female in question is Jegeg, a baby elephant, and it's her trunk that's rummaging around.

Random incident of the week goes to the Louvre art gallery in Paris. According to the Sun, a woman hurled a hot cup of tea at the legendary Mona Lisa painting because "culture drives her mad".

The painting escaped unscathed and a museum spokesman said: "It would take more than a well aimed cup of tea to damage it." The nationality of the woman? Russian. No self-respecting Brit would waste a good brew on such a thing.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:37 UK time, Wednesday, 12 August 2009

"My only fear is that they'll wheel me into the O.R. and I'll see that the machine is powered by Dell" - blogging guru (and scourge of one PC manufacturer) Jeff Jarvis, on being diagnosed with prostate cancer

Jarvis, doomsayer of old-style paid-for media - ie newspapers - announced his diagnosis to the world through his blog, before going on to say he had opted for robotic surgery - and voice his fear of said hardware supplier.
More details (BuzzMachine)

Your Letters

16:43 UK time, Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Why do you - and all the other papers - insist on saying Peter Mandelson is "running the country"? Is he baking all the bread, driving all the buses, waiting all the tables, treating all the patients....etc? The country does a reasonable job of running itself.
Jon, London

Re "Optimistic women have a lower risk of death, finds major study" - this was on the front page of BBC News today. I am surprised this isn't the headline story across the world - up until now, we have always believed that death was inevitable, that there was a 100% risk of dying. To discover that optimism can reduce this risk is wonderful; I am thinking of having an optimistic sex change and living forever. Thank you, science.
The Therapist, Portsmouth UK

On today's front page, Optimistic Women Live For Longer, and "NHS spending is 'over-optimistic'". I find it impossible to reconcile these two facts.
Adam K, Chiswick

Erm... Adam from London - this was published in the BMJ on 10th August and is freely available on their website https://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/abstract/339/aug10_1/b3172.
Rachel, Manchester

Re "Autistic impressions", I am the mother of a 7 year old boy with Aspergers living in Vancouver Canada. My son is highly intelligent but not a savant and hates maths! A documentary made here in Vancouver titled "The boy Inside" is probably the most important film made to date on living with Aspergers both from the child and their parents' perspectives. It features a boy called Adam who is just about to go to High School (Secondary). This film has been aired on national TV here and is also being shown in classrooms which include teenagers with Aspergers. Maybe the BBC should air in the UK?
Maria Doyle, North Vancouver, Canada

Re the ex-ministers car being attacked, surely it is a case of criminal damage rather than simply "antisocial behaviour"?

Tom, South Shields, UK

That, Lizzie, was half the joke. I know my Teletubbies and their associated controversies.. (letters, today)
Dodie James, London, UK

Re Lizzie/Monday letters: What about us still with black and white television?
tim mcmahon, pennar/wales

Paper Monitor

13:02 UK time, Tuesday, 11 August 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's day two of Mandy-mania, but already the tone of yesterday's largely reverential coverage is starting to turn. Why such fickleness? What has the business secretary done to irk the scribes of the national press.

In a word, loafers.

In one of those inexplicable examples of Fleet Street group think, Mr Mandelson's unremarkable footwear seems to have prompted collective gasps of astonishment.

The Times and the Daily Telegraph draw particular attention to the articles in question - with close up photos of the shoes, pictured as Mr Mandelson steps off his return flight from Corfu.

The Daily Mail identifies them as blue in colour, but before you go getting the wrong idea, we're not talking Carl Perkins-style electric blue. In the Mail's picture they look more grey than blue.

But that doesn't deter the Daily Mirror from slipping in a Presley pun - like so: "The Business Secretary is usually 'one for the money'."

The "Left-wing" [© Daily Mail] Guardian, though, is a little behind the pace - deconstructing Mr Mandelson's holiday outfit of sandals, wide-legged white trousers and a T-shirt of Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man.

"Is he saying he can be in multiple positions at once?" asks fashion reporter Hadley Freeman.

Away from Mandelson, the Daily Mirror has a nice Michael Jackson follow up, with reporter Ryan Parry tracking down and trying out Jacko's "oxygen chamber".

But Parry fails to stay the course. "The treatment usually lasts up to two hours and is said to leave patients euphoric and energetic although I baled out after five minutes."

Such are the demands of deadlines.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

10:20 UK time, Tuesday, 11 August 2009

They're more suited to Spain than Staffordshire - A spokesman for Alton Towers on why it's banning Speedo-style swimming trunks.

The theme park in Staffordshire is banning all types of tight swimming trunks on grounds of taste. "To prevent embarrassment among fellow members of the public and
to maintain the family friendly atmosphere at the resort, bosses have taken the
extreme measure of banning these tight trunks," a spokesman said.

Web Monitor

16:02 UK time, Monday, 10 August 2009

Web Monitor is on holiday today.

Your Letters

14:23 UK time, Monday, 10 August 2009

This story about the latest research on the use of flu drugs in children, allegedly published in the British Medical Journal, would have been more convincing if there actually had been any research published recently on that topic in the BMJ. But a quick glance at the BMJ website suggests otherwise. Did they really think we wouldn't check?
Adam, London, UK

Re. the Olympic pools debate (Letters, Friday) The UK may have over 20 50m pools but this doesn't necessarily mean that they are Olympic pools. In order to qualify they need to be at least 2m deep throughout and 25m wide. This results in only four or five of the 50m pools in the UK actually being Olympic pools. Obviously the width and depth of the pool probably make very little difference for training purposes.
Sara, Birmingham

How about renaming the Weekly Bonus Question to "How quickly can you enter the answer into the search window and press enter"?
Philly, Wolfsburg

Am I the only reader of this story thinking that you could not find a picture of Dario, but only his brother who is also an Indycar star?
Ralph, Cumbria

Can we have a new category for "Headlines which are not contained in the story".
For example, "Plans to curb who lives next door to you come under attack" [Monday front page] relates to a story on limiting multiple occupancy, nothing to do with the trailer!
Mark Esdale, Bridge

The winning entry in the Caption Comp is flawed to its very core. Tinky Winky was the purple one. If you're going to make cultural references, at least get them right, Monitorites!
Lizzie, Poole

10 things number 2 - are you having a laugh?
Ed, Clacton, UK

Paper Monitor

10:46 UK time, Monday, 10 August 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

One figure dominates the newspapers, in coverage almost bordering on the obsessive.

He has granola and green tea for breakfast and has the initials PM.

Before readers wonder if this is to be a smug, self-referencing vanity column, Paper Monitor can rule itself out by announcing it has a non-gender-specific breakfast cereal in the mornings.

Another minor difference is that the person in question is running the country.

Peter Mandelson is all over the headlines, taking on the EU in the Times, returning from holiday in the Indy and saving the country in the Express.

But it is his portrayal by two papers in opposing political camps that is quite - well, how would the man himself put it - delicious. So here it is in bite-sized chunks.

The Guardian's feature writer Decca Aitkenhead - who interviewed Chancellor Alistair Darling a year ago, and generated some uncomfortable headlines for him as a consequence - now turns her attention to the Business Secretary (among other job titles).

She quickly falls under his spell.

"His skin is dewy, as fresh from a spa facial, and his grooming so flawless he looks almost hyper-real, the cuff links and tie delicately co-ordinated, with their detail inversely echoed in his socks."

This is in stark contrast to the article's description of Tony Blair, whom she meets on her travels - "his face all over the place, a grotesque dance of eyebrows and teeth, manically gurning away".

Everyone Mandelson meets falls in love with him, Aitkenhead reports, mesmerised by his voice, his seductive powers and the "feline" fluidity of his movement.

Everyone, that is, except for a woman on a train who, in a memorable passage, bursts into tears after being told by Mandelson's aides to lower her voice on the phone (see Quote of the Day for more details) .

There's no love-in at the Daily Mail, where its Mandy coverage is equally extensive but markedly less frothy.

Instead of spending a few days travelling with him, getting an up-close relationship, the Mail opts for a more measured and distant approach... through a long lens.

The grainy shot of him topless on his holiday balcony in Corfu provides the front page picture with a double-page "spread" inside.

After the naked flesh of Jack Nicholson (Mail's verdict: "whaleman") and Vladimir Putin (verdict: "hardman"), this time Mandelson's holiday appearance is under scrutiny.

Mail columnist Liz Jones, whose omnipresence was noted in these pages a week ago, has taken off her burkha to give Mandelson a dressing down.

First his outfits get a mauling, then his figure - "A pair of sagging man boobs, the male equivalent of cellulite-pocked thighs, should be kept under wraps."

Her colleague Julia Langdon is equally scathing, describing him as "back cavorting and preening himself with such insouciance on the scene of last year's crime."

Paper Monitor wonders how much one can "cavort" in front of long-lens cameras hidden in bushes while on holiday.

Hang on, what is a holiday?

PS. So much fun with Mandy, PM (the real one) almost forgot to highlight this wonderful analysis of what is thought to be the oldest newspaper advert.

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:45 UK time, Monday, 10 August 2009

"I just want you to know, you've really, really upset me" - crying woman to Peter Mandelson after his aides asked her to lower her voice while talking on her mobile phone

While travelling to London on a train, Mr Mandelson is irked by a woman having a loud conversation on her mobile phone. When his aides request she cut the volume a farcical scene unfolds.
More details (the Guardian)

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