Monday, 25 January 2010

Real hell in Haiti

WE complain about all kinds of things here in the UK, traffic jams, the weather, the price of food, overcrowded trains. Well, ALL that is nothing compared to the troubles in Haiti. The devastating earthquake left more than 100,000 people dead and the entire country in ruins. Water supplies, houses and hospitals have all been destroyed. Hundreds of thousands are at risk of starvation or dehydration. And many of the injured are simply lying in the street with no medical help and nowhere to go. It’s one of the worst humanitarian disasters of our time. The world’s response has been tremendous. Food,water, troops, rescue workers, engineers, vehicles and medical supplies have been flooding in from around the globe. Amazingly, old foes have put their differences aside to help. For the first time bolshie Cuba has allowed US aircrafts to fly through its airspace so they can reach Haiti faster. The UK public have donated more than £23 million. British charities like Oxfam, CAFOD and Christian Aid are pulling out all the stops to get relief to the people who need it most. There are even British firefighters out in Haiti, searching for survivors and helping with the rescue work. That’s a true human good news story. But it doesn’t take away from the catastrophe. With the ports damaged and roads destroyed loads more people will die. On top of this, a lot of the United Nations workers based in Haiti were killed in the quake so the relief effort has taken a real battering. As if things weren’t bad enough,a strong aftershock on Wednesday wrecked even more buildings and hampered rescue work further still. So here’s mychallenge to all you: if you haven’t donated yet, cut out a couple of pints down the boozer on Friday, log on to and give a few quid to the appeal. By converting your ale into aid, you’re actually going to save yourself a hangover and save some lives in Haiti. If every Sport reader chucks in a fiver that’s over five million quid. We can make a REAL difference—and I hope we do.
DID you hear about that lucky family who won 26 million quid on the lottery this week? It’s more dramatic than the lottery to win tickets for the 80 places to watch former Prime Minister Tony Blair give evidence at the Iraq War inquiry. He’s the Star Witness. The lucky winners will watch Tricky Tony being grilled on why he led the country into a war that killed British soldiers and Iraqi civilians and cost billions. I don’t know what he’ll say,but I’m pretty sure he won’t say “Sorry, I got it wrong” or “We did it for the oil” or “Saddam was asking for it.” But how on earth can he make good the worst decision of his political career? I like Tony.He’s decent, friendly and smart. Which makes it all the stranger he committed us to a war which wiped out hundreds of thousands of lives. If you had the choice of a ticket for the Blair session or the lottery ticket which won the £26m, which would you choose? IF Tony comes clean at the inquiry, it would be a priceless moment in British politics. But what are the chances of that? Put it this way, I’d take the money . . .
THERE’S a storm in Israel at the moment surrounding sexy lingerie model Bar Rafaeli. Busty Bar, famous for her raunchy photo shoots and on-off relationship with actor Leo DiCaprio, is getting flack off the Israeli army for dodging military service! Israel is the only country in the world where women, as well as men, have to do a compulsory stint in the forces. But they can get out of it if they’re married. So the fetching Ms Rafaeli married a man friend, got exempt for the draft, then got a divorce! Cunning. Now the army are calling for a boycott of her products and fellow supermodel Esti Ginzberg — who did do her military service — has joined in the criticism. I don’t know how good a soldier she’d be. Perhaps they should set up a platoon specifically recruiting ladies like Bar and Esti. They’d certainly be model soldiers who’d excel on the front.
THE UK Independence party caused a rumpus this week by calling for a total ban on women wearing burkas. They say this piece of clothing – which completely covers a Muslim lady’s face – is a sign of a “divided Britain”. No, no, no! The fact people are allowed to wear their own religious clothes shows just how tolerant and inclusive Britain is. If we use UKIP’s logic to ban burkas we’ll have to follow it up with a ban on turbans, skull-caps, crucifixes and whatever it is that Jedi Knights wear. We might as well go even further and just give everyone a string vest, rolled up trousers and a hanky for their head so that we can all look “British”. Diversity is the spice of life – it’s one of the things that makes Britain a good place to be. It might be okay to ask people to take off face coverings when they enter a bank or passport control. But
you’d need to be a berk to ban the burka!

Friday, 15 January 2010

Here's to you Mrs Robinson

AS you probably know, Northern Ireland MP Iris Robinson had an affair. The press went bonkers about it because, like in the film The Graduate, Mrs Robinson had got friendly with a much younger chap. This time it wasn’t Dustin Hoffman, but Kirk McCambley – who was 19 at the time. The fiery politician is married to Peter Robinson, head of the Northern Irish Assembly. Some claim that she was involved in financial wheeling and dealing too. Irate Iris is quitting the politics game, and her husband hasn’t managed to dodge the flak either. Poor Peter’s stepped down as boss of the Assembly for the next six weeks while things get sorted out. But is it fair? No! It’s easy – and dopey – to simply ogle an MP’s private life and pretend that it’s about politics. But why the hell should the Robinsons’ marital matters be splashed over the papers as if it’s the biggest story on earth? Iris’ affair is between her and her husband and should not be treated like an episode of EastEnders. And as for the financial stuff, unless we’re now all expected to grass on each other – and our partners – it’s unreasonable to expect Mr Robinson to be his wife’s keeper. Whatever you think of Iris, the current feeding frenzy is more about political journalists who can’t resist a bit of sex gossip. So they dress it up as “political” when 80 per cent of it is tittle tattle. After all, consider this: If a journalist’s wife was caught having an affair with someone else, would the journo resign? Of course not! So stop the hypocrisy guys. Happily, this fine paper took a much more balanced view. For fair reporting you can always trust Daily Sport. And as for my friends Peter and Iris, my advice is: “Don’t give up!”
LAST week I predicted Flash Gordon Brown would survive the Labour party “rebellion’” with ease. I’m pleased to report that – unlike some other pundits – I was absolutely right. The ill-fated coup by ex-ministers Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt was about as successful as a papier mache submarine. Even the Titanic got further on its voyage before sinking – it lasted a few days, while the Hoon-Hewitt collective, hit their political iceberg after just 90 minutes. So Gordo’s still going strong in No.10, Hoon and Hewitt are in the doghouse and the doom-mongers have had to eat their words. However, I fear Gordon’s biggest challenge is still to come. Beating off a few disgruntled backbench MPs was easy enough – but seeing off Davey Cameron and his likely lads in the General Election could prove to be a little bit tougher. Still, the Conservatives were telling anyone who’ll listen that Labour is weak and divided so the Tories ought to win. But I’m not so sure. Last week’s developments showed Gordon’s a fighter and his Cabinet is indeed behind him. So the only real certainty from this episode is that Brown, Cameron and Clegg WILL lead their parties into the Election. Who’ll win is a prediction I’m not making – yet.
I BELIEVE politics and sport should be kept separate. Sadly, once again that hope was smashed by a shower of bullets when gunmen opened fire on the Togo football team bus. It carried top players like Manchester City’s Adebayor to the African Cup of Nations tournament in Angola. The ambush left people wounded and killed. The group responsible is called FLEC. They’re “rebels” fighting for independence for the small Angolan region of Cabinda. In truth, there are some real concerns about how the Angolan Government treats Cabinda. But murdering athletes is a total own goal. The Togo footballers have nothing to do with politics. The attacks raise worries about the safety of athletes, especially in the run-up to this summer’s football World Cup in South Africa. Older readers will recall the 1972 Olympics when terrorists murdered Israeli athletes. More recently, there was terror in cricket when the Sri Lankan team came under attack in Pakistan. When we kick off in South Africa, the focus must be football not politics. That way, regardless of who lifts the trophy on July 11, the tournament will bring the world together, not shoot us apart.
WE’RE through the worst of it folks – or are we? After weeks of frozen roads, closed schools, cancelled trains, salt shortages, abandoned cars and panic buying, the country began to thaw. Then a new deluge came down midweek and it was all white again! People are criticising how badly the UK coped with the snow and ice, but I think we did OK. Communities rallied together to look after the old and ill, while our emergency services worked 24/7 to help. In true Dunkirk spirit, we pulled through. It could even could lead to a reality show – “The Ice-Factor”. Amazingly, over in the USA, sub-zero temperatures didn’t stop folk from celebrating “No Trousers on the Tube Day”. This bizarre occasion sees thousands of commuters ride the tube in their undies Would that work here as a Government initiative? Well, it could be motivating. The hope of seeing Gemma Massey like that on the Bakerloo Line could increase the number of lads commuting to work on the London Underground when it’s below zero. It would certainly bring new meaning to the phrase “Boob Tube”!

Monday, 4 January 2010

Year we go again

SO that’s it folks— tonight we’ll be seeing off 2009 with a load of fireworks, champagne and hugs with random strangers! How’s the year been for you? Politically it’s been one of the most bumpy in a long time! We lost more than a hundred troops in Afghanistan, faced a political crisis over MP’s expenses and sunk into the worst recession for years. Dictators like Robert Mugabe have survived another year and there were riots at the G20 summit and protests at the Copenhagen summit. But nothing really changed — the poor are still poor and we’re still wrecking our planet. All the while most papers were focussing on cheap shots at MPs rather than the real political issues. But there have been some good bits too! We saw off the back of George Bush and the arrival of Barack Obama. Mr.O hasn’t changed the world overnight, but he’s full of promise and things in the USA are beginning to look a bit brighter. Back here,my mate John Bercow became Speaker of the House of Commons and is starting to sort out British politics. Other brilliant moments included the decision to let retired Ghurkas stay in the UK after a campaign led by Joanna Lumley and the Liberal Democrats! So what about 2010? Well I know what I’d like to see — British withdrawal from Afghanistan and a decent deal on climate change. Will either of them happen? Only time will tell. But one thing is for certain. There’ll be a general election, probably on May 6th. And if it all goes wrong at least we’ll still have the pain of losing the World Cup to look forward to! Hope you all have a happy new year.
ON Christmas Eve, just as Pope Benedict was about to host Mass for a few thousand Catholics, a crazy girlie jumped past his security and pulled him to the ground. It was a violent attack which left a Cardinal injured but didn’t hurt the elderly Pope. It came just a week after another angry nutter managed to get close to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi – breaking his teeth and his cheekbone. Incidents like this show the risks that high profile public figures take. A good leader needs to be able to get close to his people, not separated by a thousand bodyguards and a sheet of bulletproof glass. But by doing so it’s never possible for security to keep them 100% safe and they take the chance that loonies will get them. I say fair play to the Pope and to Berlusconi! They’ve shown they care enough about their people to risk their own safety. I don’t envy their position. Thankfully most attacks I’ve had to face are written ones from odd journalists like BBC reporter Vaughan Roderick. While his snipes and one-sided reporting are as irrational as a punch in the face, they’re unprofessional rather than painful. But what connects all these people is an inability to connect with their target in a grown-up and sensible way. It would be nice to think they’ll all wise up in 2010 but I doubt it.
HOMELESS folk around Blackfriars Bridge in London got a shock the other night when they noticed none other than Prince William roughing it in a sleeping bag and woolly hat! The Prince hadn’t been kicked out of Buck House for playing his music too loud – he was trying to experience life on the streets and raise awareness for homelessness charity Centrepoint. Willy accepts that he can never get the full homeless experience. Most people slumming it on the streets don’t have a comfy palace to go home to or an MI5 agent watching their back. But still, he got a taster of the cold, discomfort and destitution that thousands in the UK face every night. And instead of dashing home at the first opportunity he finished off his night on the street by cooking breakfast for a group of young people at a Centrepoint shelter. Good on him! One day he’ll be King and it’s great to know he cares about people on the other end of the spectrum. Now all that’s left for me to say is a Happy New Year to all my readers and I look forward to a lot more fun with you all in 2010 (and maybe a couple of Daily Sport stunnas too!)
HAVE you put on a few pounds over Christmas? With all the turkey, mince pies and boozing it’s no surprise that we all gain an extra couple of inches round the waist! And personally I reckon that’s a good thing. My extremely good friend Katie Green and I are campaigning against the bizarre phenomenon of size zero models and their promotion of eating disorders. And we’re ready to take the fight into 2010! What better place to start than with festive food? Everyone, especially young people, should be enjoying their meals and eating healthily – not panicking about whether that extra roast potato will make them bigger than Kate Moss. So if your missus is going on a crash diet or your sister is starving herself to lose the Christmas pounds, just point her in the direction of Katie! The rate at which her 2010 calendars are flying off the shelves proves that ditching diets and putting on a few pounds hasn’t done her any harm!