Friday, 18 September 2009

Time to stop........and think

HAVE you ever been stopped and searched? This week the government announced that they’ll be scrapping the lengthy forms that police officers have to fill in when they stop and search people. Previously, coppers had to write pages of details on anyone they searched even if they didn’t arrest them. Now they’ll only have to jot down the suspect’s name, race, and why they were stopped. It’s an attempt to cut red tape and free up bobbies to do what they’re meant to be doing —fighting crime not filling in forms. But there is another side to this. The danger is that less bureaucracy will mean more searches. They’ll be quicker and easier for the cops to carry out so we could end up with them happening even more often. That would be a bad thing. Stop and search is a useful power for combating serious crime and terrorism but should be used very sparingly. It’s been well proved that constantly stopping and searching people turns them against the police. It was one factor which kicked off the Brixton riots back in the 80s and it’s often used by militant Islamists keen to stir up anger against the cops and the government. If we don’t keep a check on stop and search, paperwork will be the least of our problems.
THE Trades Union Congress (TUC) drew a lot of flack this week when they took on the role of fashion police. We’re in recession, trade unionists abroad are being persecuted by dodgy dictators and the government is eroding our civil liberties. But the annual gathering of unions decided to devote a big chunk of their discussion and debate to—high heels. You see, certain unions reckon that women are under pressure to wear high heels to work and that this can damage their health. They tabled a motion and led a big old debate on the merits and pitfalls of various female footwear. Some unionists sensibly argued that people should be allowed to wear what they like without unions sticking their noses in. After all, there are already employment laws that protect anyone from being forced to wear stuff that will cause them health problems and this debate only wasted time that could have been spent on more serious issues. Incredibly the congress voted to condemn high heels. What do they want attractive girls to wear? Overalls? Sensible shoes? Cloth caps? Why don’t they just ban make-up as well, then get the Taliban to run the unions? I gave my good friend Laura Marie Newman a call about all this. She said she’d be happy to leave her high heels at home… when hell freezes over!
HE’S out! This week Muntadar al-Zaidi, the journalist who chucked his shoes at George Bush, was released from prison to a hero’s welcome. Maverick Muntadar has been swamped with offers of cash, land and admiring young Arab ladies desperate to marry him. He’s even been offered a golden horse by the Emir of Qatar. That’s gotta be worth more than the shoes he threw! However, there’s a darker side to this tale. Muntadar claims that during his nine months in the slammer he was, beaten and given electric shocks. These allegations echo Iraq’s brutal past and are a chilling sign that things might not have moved on all that much. I wish Mr al-Zaidi all the best and hope that he can now settle down in peace (with or without his golden animals—and shoes). But, above all, I hope Iraq can move onwards and upwards. Saddam may be gone but torture has to go too.
I’VE recently flagged up some of the whacky ways companies have been trying the get through the recession. Well, get a load of this . . . Last month Premier Inns launched a “£58 honeymoon” to help hard-up newlyweds. For that you get a room, Primark pyjamas, a box of chocolates, a spa set and a bottle of sparkling wine. Not bad! But a hotel on the Caribbean island of Aruba has gone even further—a £180 discount if you conceive a child while you’re there. Take a break at the Westin Resort, indulge in “bedroom athletics” with the missus, get a doctor’s note to prove that the resulting kid was probably conceived there and, voila, 180 smackers cash-back! What a delightful initiative! If the UK government had anything to do with it they’d probably send out a health and safety inspector to observe proceedings, then deport the baby when it was born because it wasn’t conceived in the UK!
IT’S funny that after all this time some people still get wound up about me writing this column. I’m proud to be part of the Daily Sport team and it’s disappointing when people run the paper down. So I was pleased when a fella called Stephen Hill came up to me in the Elephant Castle pub in Newtown and gave the Sport a big thumbs up. People who rubbish the Sport are patronising its readers who have every right to enjoy news, politics and fun in their newspaper. So good on ya, Stephen— in my book you’re King of the Hill

Monday, 14 September 2009

Frogs give swine flu the kiss off

MONTHS on from the first outbreaks, swine flu is still causing havoc around the world. Just this week the vicious virus even made its way into the Opik office and infected my researcher Baz! Interestingly the Tamiflu medicine seems to have made him sicker than the disease. However, he seems to be recovering from the Tamiflu quite well now. With tens of thousands of new cases around Europe every single week some countries are taking extreme measures to try and get things under control.
In France, a country renowned for romance, the government has issued a warning against kissing! Some Paris schools have actively banned their pupils and staff from snogging. A few continental companies have come up with rather a nice idea— giving all their staff a laptop and letting them work from home. This means as well as not catching swine flu you’ve got the added bonus of being able to watch the telly while you work and check your Facebook without the boss breathing down your neck or work in your boxers while enjoying a pint! It could even help the economy as daytime shopping channel revenues
go through the roof!

You’d need to be a mug . . .
WHAT would you do if you saw someone being mugged? Call the cops? Take a photo on your phone? Jump in to help? Unfortunately a new study by the charity Witness Confident reckons that most people would just walk on and turn a blind eye. The group reckon most of us feel so out of touch with the criminal justice system we are reluctant to get involved with reporting or tackling crime, especially on the streets. They suggest that by taking a more active role, like snapping incidents, seeking out police officers and being prepared to give witness statements, ordinary people can play a big role in clamping down on violence. But Witness Confident have also come up with some daft suggestions including staging a series of fake muggings to see how people react. I don’t think that’s a great idea. At best they could end up looking a little silly and at worst some poor actor could be beaten senseless by the local neighbourhood watch!
HAVE you ever stayed up on election night to watch the results? It’s an amazing opportunity to watch history being made and with the future of the country at stake it’s more exciting than the Big Brother final and the Eurovision Song Contest combined! Unfortunately though, we might be denied this chance at next year’s election. Up to a quarter of constituencies plan to announce the results the morning after the poll. That’s ridiculous. We can find out the result of The X Factor final just hours after polls close—but the authorities can’t add up election votes until the day after. Maybe we should let The X Factor decide the general election result and you never know— Chico could end up as PM!
THE saga between the UK and Libya took another turn this week when the government announced that it’ll be supporting the families of IRA victims in seeking compensation from the Libyans. The compensation claims exist because during the 1970s and 80s Libya sold the IRA weapons and explosives which were used to kill British soldiers and civilians. If the government supports these claims it begs the question…where does it all stop? Libya was by no means the IRA’s only supplier – some Americans supplied funds. And there were links to the Palestinians. And since Labour came to power we have sold weapons to countries like Indonesia, and Zimbabwe – places where weapons have been used on civilians. Will we be providing compo to their families? The government has to take a long hard look at the bigger picture...and at itself.
QUEEN Victoria’s underwear has been declared part of our national heritage! A pair of the late monarch’s bloomers have been given “national designated status” by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council –– a special status reserved for artifacts of great cultural importance. Surely the same should go for Daily Sport babe Victoria Lloyd –– after all she’s a modern day legend and queen of our hearts!

Friday, 4 September 2009

Point scoring hides the real issue

THE big political story this week has been the aftermath of the release of Libyan bomber,Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi. In 2001 he was convicted of blowing up a Boeing 747 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. The Scottish courts sent him down for a minimum of 20 years. A couple of weeks ago he was released on “compassionate grounds”, by the Scottish government, because he’s dying of cancer —a move that caused all sorts of arguments. A lot of people think al-Megrahi should never be released, no matter how ill. And some folk in the media got very excited, because they suspected a secret deal: Libyan business contracts in exchange for Megrahi’s release. Others think he wasn’t even a bomber but took the rap. There were even more arguments over the role of the UK government. The PM and his Cabinet kept being dragged into it by the press. Meanwhile, Tory boss David Cameron jumped in and said he thought al-Megrahi should die in prison. What everyone seems to forget is that it was a decision for the Scottish government—not No10. It was embarrassing listening to interviewers getting lost on this point, looking for a scandal where there wasn’t one. Once again, political point scoring has drowned out the real question— whether al-Megrahi should have been released at all.
IT’S officially the end of summer—the sun has gone, the rain has started, everyone is back at work and Gemma Gleeson has packed away her bikini for another year. Many folk are fondly looking back at snaps of their summer holidays and remembering the Ibiza clubs, Greek beaches and Thai ladies, with a ping of nostalgia. But for a lot of British tourists summer wasn’t such a laugh. The boys at the Foreign Office have been taking stock of all the trouble Brits got into abroad. And there was a lot of it. This year, more than 1,000 holidaying Brits ended up in hospital, almost 7,000 were nicked—and a whopping 29,774 lost their passports! An even darker figure shows that some 22 Brits are now in prison and facing the death penalty after allegedly getting involved in dodgy business while on their hols. It certainly ain’t happy reading. It’s no good for Britain’s reputation and even worse for the folk who end up in trouble. Thankfully, our Foreign Office has a great track record for helping tourists who get caught up in sticky situations, but there’s only so much they can do. After all, while the lingo varies from land to land, certain behaviour spells “SIGNOR PLONKER” in any language.
AS a nation we’re in a lotta debt –– but not as much as we were. For the first time since records began, personal debt has actually fallen. This summer, the amount of dosh we borrowed fell by a whopping £600,000,000. A lot of this is down to interest rates falling. But folk are also being a bit more careful with the pennies and taking drastic steps to reduce their debt –– like paying off a bit of their overdraft rather than renewing their football season tickets (which isn’t such a sacrifice in the case of the team I support). It’s not all good news, though. When you add together all our bank loans, mortgages and the like, we still owe nearly one and a half TRILLION quid, which looks like this: £1,500,000,000,000. So really, we’ve paid back a ridiculously little amount. It’s like your mate owing you £150 and paying you back 6p a month. Try going down to your local and offering to repay your bar tab on those terms. And if the landlord agrees, call me immediately.
VIVE la France! Except when it comes to traffic management. There was a whole heap of traffic chaos in Paris this week. But it wasn’t road works, broken down cars or dodgy parking. In fact, the gridlock was caused by political scrapping between two rival mayors. There’s a road called the “D909” that runs between two different bits of Paris. One bit is run by a conservative mayor, Patrick Balkany. The other is run by a socialist mayor, Gilles Catoire. Well, they don’t seem to get on and, sure enough, things came to a head a few days ago. Mayor Balkany made his part of the “D909” a one-way street. Uh oh! It made more traffic trundle through the bit run by Mayor Catoire. So he did the natural thing. He made HIS part of the “D909” a one-way street too—except in the opposite direction! Brilliant! When the two tides of traffic met each other on the district boundaries, everyone started hooting and it caused a bigger stink than the local onions. The cops had to sort out the mess. And They’re still arguing about it.