Friday, 31 October 2008

Junk Mail

AOL blocks 9.2 million pieces of spam every day.

Now we just need something that blocks AOL.

Round Two


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Aye, another giant Golden Orb Weaver spider, this time tucking into Finch Surprise; done very rare.

Stick that one into your spider album too, Max.

Latest Developments at the BBC

The controller of Radio 2, Lesley Douglas, has resigned over the Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand phone "prank" scandal, saying that she had taken the decision "with enormous regret" but felt she had no choice but to shoulder the blame.

In a letter to the BBC director-general* she wrote:

"The events of the last two weeks happened on my watch. I believe it is right that I take responsibility for what has happened. It is a matter of the greatest possible sadness to me that a programme on my network has been the cause of such a controversy.

I would like to take this opportunity to offer my personal apology to Andrew Sachs and his family and to the audience for what has happened."


I'm not going to judge her, it's her decision to do what she feels right, but it does demonstrate far more character than Ross who has been suspended without pay, for 12 weeks.

Thompson (*Beeb Big Cheese) said Ross's three-month suspension was "an exceptional step" and it is believed the suspension of pay will cost the entertainer more than £1 million.

"He absolutely overstepped the mark. A 12-week suspension is an exceptional step, but I believe it is a proportionate response to Jonathan's role in this unhappy affair.

I believe that he fully understands the seriousness of what has happened. We agree that nothing like this must ever happen again and that tight discipline will be required for the future."


That sounds familiar until yet another inevitable scandal pops up within the BBC. Cut 'em loose; scrap the licence fee and let them earn their money on merit as the independent channels do. This elitist and out dated favouritism has had its day.

More Good News For Spurs

It's been announced that our current ground is to be expanded with an all new 60 000 capacity stadium to be built.

It will no longer be called White Hart Lane, instead, as is the current trend, it will be named after a yet to be decided sponsor.

Levy also confirmed that the January transfer market would not be a cash cow to Redknapp. That rumoured £20 million seems to be much smaller all of a sudden.

The chairman further revealed that for the year ending 30th June turnover was up 11% and the building of a new training centre is expected to start next year.

Revenue was up from £103m to £114.8m with net debt of £14.6m though that figure includes property acquisitions.

More here: BBC

On the Subject of Football

Maradona as new coach/manager for Argentina?

Since his playing career ended in 1997, he has been treated for cocaine abuse and alcoholism, suffered two major heart attacks and undergone gastric bypass surgery.

He's also a cheat.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear...

(Then again, we ended up with Redknapp.)

Virtual Victory

I caught the entire Tottenham versus The Arse game last night on ESPN at 22:30 local time.

OK, we're still utterly poor in certain areas of the pitch, can't keep possession and some "players" don't appear to enjoy being on the ball, returning a pass like a frightened rabbit, but, what a game.

Possibly a goal of the season from Bentley (an ex-Gooner, and wasn't he reminded about that from the crowd?) with another gem from Jenas and a last kick of the game equaliser in the last minute of injury time.

No wonder Wenger was a tad peeved- twice going two goals up and ending up chucking away two precious points.

Liverpool this weekend and that may prove to be more than just a walkover for the league leaders after all.

"Hi" To Noel & Carol

We succeeded in our attempt to stay entirely at our hotel for the whole day yesterday but the itinerary didn't quite go as planned, because we bumped into a quite delightful Australian couple and spent pretty much the entire afternoon swapping travel tales.

The time really simply flew by as we get involved in conversation and we had a marvellous time.

Wishing you all the best on your future travels, folks- the 27 day cruise you'll be on sounds like a winner and we're sure you'll have a grand time in your next stop; Rome.

Send us a postcard!


PS: Our day "in" cost us the princely sum of RM 50 for the two of us, which is just over eight quid. Not bad for a 3* hotel in a capital city, and that included all sustenance.

More OSHC Humour

Last week's match report, ad verbatim. We won 4-2:

Not to be outdone by other club commentators we would like to submit a report of the game from the unofficial Wapping website - Pieman.

SHOCK DEFEAT FOR FIFTH TEAM!

Wapping started the day as clear leaders of Divison 7SE with four comfortable wins out of four. We finished the day having been knocked off our pedestal by an excellent Old Southendian 3rd team who certainly did not play like a team who had only won one game so far. Indeed this writer strongly suspects that this Old Southendian outfit will be a challenge for any of the teams in the league both on the pitch and in the bar where they certainly lived up to their self styled “thirsty thirds” nickname.

This victory for Old Southendian was even more notable as we turned up with 16 players and were able to rotate personnel throughout the game, whereas they had a bare 11 including one or two players clearly beyond their prime.

The game started well for us and we quickly took control with some strong attacking moves against an opposition that looked both disorganised and a little hung-over. We scored a good goal and went into half time with the lead and felt very confident that we would continue our winning streak. I did notice that their captain (a ginger fellow with a leaning towards rough play) was giving his team a serious telling off but they did not seem to be listening.

Second half was a different story. These boys were good. The goal keeper (best described as a Swedish p*rn star) made some terrific saves. Their right back (who the team felt resembled some sort of wild animal) was ransacking down the right hand side taking out everything in his path, even his own players. The ginger one and the rather well spoken fellow in midfield (who had more than a passing resembled to Fabio Capello) began to get the upper hand. The England football manager appears rather reserved and lets his team do the talking but this Fabio had plenty to say for himself and tangled with a number of our players culminating in throwing one of our sticks off the park for which he was only cautioned.

We found ourselves under serious pressure all over the park and before long we were 3-1 down the goals being shared by the grey haired one and the one who obviously likes his pies. A moments respite followed (plus some questionable Southendian defending) and we pulled a goal back but we were never serious contenders to get anything from the game. Our fate was sealed when the “wild animal” scored from the last hit of the game.

Shame to lose our record but we were beaten by the (far) better team and they were a great bunch of guys as well (well mostly!).

:0)

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Dedication

A group of four men have just visited their 14 000th pub in United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, after spending 24 years travelling to every corner of the country and downing an estimated 84 000 pints of real ale.

The men, all from West Bromwich, struck on the idea after getting bored going to their local all the time and initially wanted to visit the 250 pubs in Worcestershire and Herefordshire.

One of the beer warriors said:

"It turned from being a bit of fun to a serious hobby. We have raised thousands of pounds for local hospitals though which has made it all worthwhile.

We have got hundreds of stories to tell from our pub adventures. At times we even slept in a field with sheep after finishing in the pub! Farmers would often let us sleep in their barns."


Now THAT'S a pub crawl. :o)

Blurk Jeans

It's just been suggested that attractive fathers do not pass on their good looks to their sons but they will hand them down to their daughters.

While both parents influence the attractiveness of their daughters, male attractiveness is not inherited and handsome men with masculine looks are likely to pass on masculine features, but not facial attractiveness. It is also said that a mother's beauty makes no difference to the attractiveness of her sons as adults.

The theory suggests it is not unusual for attractive parents to produce a beautiful daughter while failing to pass on the same good looks to a son.

Conversely, does the same theory hold for fugly blurks? I really hope Redknapp doesn't have a daughter...

Price of Being Trendy


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It's not just Norfolk Plod chucking money at a new emblem. The new logo above, has been unveiled for the UK Border Agency, part of the Home Office, which replaced the Border and Immigration Agency.

The revamp includes the slightly amended name and the removal of the crest. Other than that, it is identical. To you, thirty grand, guv'nor.

Marvel-tastic

Robert Downey Jr has mentioned that his rather good Iron Man is to join forces with Captain America, Thor and the Incredible Hulk in a new comic-book film.

That should be worth a visit to the pictures.

It's Pays to Talk

To each other...

A call centre based in Kettering, Northamptonshire, was used to help BT staff to maintain service targets set by the MoD, which paid the telecommunications giant £3 billion to operate the Armed Forces telephone system.

If they had been found to be answering calls too slowly, they would have been liable for a fine under the Defence Fixed Telecommunications System contract and so to avoid the penalty, the staff met their targets by simply phoning each other.

Between May 1999 and February 2005 there were 1.25 million fraudulent calls made at a cost of £197 000.

Following a report by the public spending watchdog, the call centre has been shut down and BT has dismissed the “small number of staff” involved. The company had also paid more than £1 million in service charges, the £122 000 cost of investigating the fraud and the £197 000 cost of the bogus calls.

As the chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee said:

“It says a lot about the MoD's oversight of its contractors that the department's systems failed to spot a serious fraud.”

Oddly enough, BT was unavailable for comment.

Long Distance Revenge

After an Abbey customer telephoned a call centre in India to discuss his overdraft facility, he was less then impressed at the service and said so in a post-call customer satisfaction survey.

The following day he found himself locked out of his account with his bank, his debit card was swallowed by the ATM, his overdraft facility had been withdrawn and he was down on bank records as a 33-year-old Ugandan divorcée.

On following up his concerns, an Abbey manager revealed that "someone" had changed his account details and as a result he had to pay £60 in penalties because six direct debits went unpaid. The unfortunate chap said:

“The phone operator has obviously seen that I've given him bad feedback and decided to change all my details in revenge. I rang up but I couldn't understand a word of what he was saying. He was really unhelpful but he had the cheek to pester me to give him a good rating after the call.

When I heard my details had been changed I was terrified that my account had been emptied and I'd never have my money back. His spiteful actions have caused me a massive inconvenience and I've changed banks because I'm scared he could still access my account.”

The Abbey has now apologised tom the man, who has never been married, let alone divorced, repaid the £60 charges and offered him £200 compensation for his “inconvenience”.

He has declined their offer of compensation saying:

“I am not happy with the service and the fact that the call centre Abbey uses is in India. They offered me £200 compensation but that's not a good apology to me. I've been forced to take lots of time off work which has costs me several day's wages and the stress of it all is really frustrating.”

Funny, I used to bank with the Abbey for over 25 years but prior to leaving the UK found them appalling in their treatment of their customers. Since joining the Nationwide, we have been more then impressed and happily recommend them to anyone.

Just In Case You've Been Away

A timeline of events in the Ross/Brand saga, taken from TTimes:

As the two entertainers bounded about the Western House studio two weeks ago, the adrenalin would have been coursing through their veins as they expressed their outlandish sense of humour. This morning Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand will be more muted. Perhaps even contrite.
Brand has resigned, Ross is suspended, cherished actors have been angered, ministers have spoken, Max Clifford has meddled and the BBC is deeply, deeply embarrassed.
The hurricane engulfing the corporation has its genesis in the Great Portland Street studio, where on October 16 two of the corporation’s brightest stars were recording The Russell Brand Show.The pair bombarded the answer-phone of Andrew Sachs, known around the world as the hapless Manuel from Fawlty Towers, with explicit messages about Brand’s sexual conquest of Sachs’s granddaughter Georgina Baillie, 23. After the recording, in which Sachs could not be reached for a prearranged interview, Nic Philps, the 25-year-old producer, got through to him with a series of extracts for him to review.
Sachs, 78, walking through heavy traffic, could barely hear on his mobile phone, but registered his unhappiness, and agreed to appear on the next week’s programme for a proper interview, expecting the offending segments to be excised. Instead, the offensive material was kept in, authorised by a more senior and as yet unnamed BBC executive and broadcast on Radio 2 two days later, with a warning that it contained offensive material.

Related Link: Brand falls on his sword as sorry Ross taken off air

Of the programme’s 400,000 listeners, only a couple saw fit to complain to the BBC. One of those was Sachs. On the following Wednesday his agent, Meg Poole, sent an e-mail and a letter to Lesley Douglas, the controller of Radio 2, demanding an apology. She and Sachs had listened to the show on the BBC website and had found it highly offensive.
A Sunday newspaper became aware of the material, and Brand was told that a story was likely to appear. In his next show, recorded a week ago, he included a somewhat unconvincing apology to Sachs, adding that he found the prank funny nonetheless. On Sunday the storm broke. What had at first seemed to be a bit of fun soon became a BBC crisis, with angry licence-fee payers filing complaints in their hundreds, and then thousands.
By Monday morning the figure stood at 500, by the evening it had shot up to 1,500. Mark Thompson, the BBC Director-General, was on a half-term holiday with his children. He was kept up to date with developments, authorising an apology in which the BBC accepted that the material was “unacceptable and offensive”.
By Tuesday morning the number of complaints had soared to 4,800. At 10.30am Ofcom, the broadcasting watchdog, announced that it would investigate the calls to see whether they fell foul of the Broadcasting Code regarding harm and offence.
An hour later the BBC Trust, the corporation’s governing body, said that it too would investigate the show, demanding a report from the management at a meeting of the board’s Editorial Standards Committee next week, as well as a “formal report” from Mr Thompson on November 20.
At midday David Cameron called for the BBC to explain properly how the calls came to be broadcast. Two hours later Andy Burnham, the Culture Secretary, joined in, saying that the programme had exhibited a “serious breach of broadcasting standards”.
As complaints passed the 10,000 mark, even the Prime Minister let his view be known, telling journalists on a trip to Paris that the calls were “clearly inappropriate and unacceptable”.
By yesterday morning BBC press officers were announcing that the number of complaints had passed 18,000. Ms Baillie, with the guiding hand of Max Clifford, had appeared in The Sun expressing her disgust at the trick played on her grandfather.
Facing the prospect of a full-scale viewers’ revolt, the BBC finally acted decisively. Mr Thompson cut short his holiday and announced at 11.30am that Brand, 33, and Ross, 47, were to be suspended and all their shows taken off air. Staff from Hot Sauce, Ross’s production company, were sent home after arriving at the BBC to film Friday Night With Jonathan Ross.
The BBC Trust announced that it had summoned Mr Thompson to appear before a hastily convened emergency meeting of its Editorial Standards Committee, to be held today.
At 5pm Ross offered his first public statement on the matter, admitting that he had made a “stupid error of judgment”. Half an hour later Brand announced that he had resigned from the BBC, taking “full responsibility” for the row. Last night the corporation had received 27,000 complaints.


Have I mentioned I am not a fan of Brand's?

Pound Down

Given the frosty relationship between Iceland and England following the collapse of Icelandic banks and the freezing of their financial assets in the UK, does anyone else not find it ironic that Sterling, the Icelandic budget airline has collapsed?

What's in a name, eh?

BBC Director General's Statement in Full

BBC director-general Mark Thompson confirming the suspension of Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand from broadcasting on the BBC:

“I would like to add my own personal and unreserved apology to Andrew Sachs, his family and to licence fee payers for the completely unacceptable broadcast on BBC Radio 2.
“BBC audiences accept that, in comedy, performers attempt to push the line of taste. However, this is not a marginal case.
“It is clear from the views expressed by the public that this broadcast has caused severe offence and I share that view.
“Since Sunday, I have been in regular contact with the senior executives I tasked with handling this issue.
“The investigation that I instructed Tim Davie to conduct is nearing completion, and I am returning to London to review the findings and, in the coming days, announce what action we will take.
“In the meantime, I have decided that it is not appropriate for either Russell Brand or Jonathan Ross to continue broadcasting on the BBC until I have seen the full report of the actions of all concerned.
“This gross lapse of taste by the performers and the production team has angered licence payers.
“I am determined that we satisfy them that any lessons will be learnt and appropriate action taken.
“I have been asked to report to the Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee before the end of this week and will discuss with the Trust the findings of the report and the actions I propose.”


I wonder if he is only prompted by the public outrage and that the complaints have risen from 9 to (at last count) 27 000?

Bye Bye Brand

Russell Brand tonight resigned as a host on BBC Radio 2 amid the ongoing controversy over their prank phone calls to the veteran Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs.

The comedian stepped down from his show hours after the corporation announced it had suspended him along with Jonathan Ross.

Former heroin addict Brand has presented his programme since November 2006 and is thought to be paid more than £200,000 a year by the BBC. Brand said in a statement that he took “complete responsibility” for the incident and that he got “caught up in the moment”.

Full story here: TTimes

I won't be missing the talentless turd in the least. Good riddance.

Leading Nicely To

One of my all time favourite jokes.

Q: How do you turn a fox into an elephant?

A: Marry one.

:oD

Blunt Tool

Within just 100 uses, a pair of scissors will dull to 50% of their original sharpness.

Kuala Gandah

As you'll be aware, m-i-l is arriving on Monday (flying out from Newcastle on Sunday evening arriving on Monday afternoon; 15 hours on the plane, via Amsterdam) and we haven't seen her since she popped in to visit us in Bodrum, Turkey, way back in May of this year.

Since then, she's reached the magnificent landmark of 70 years of age and as a kind of birthday present we have arranged to fulfill a childhood dream of hers and that is to ride an elephant.

Luckily, Malaysia has far better opportunities for arranging such an experience compared to Geordie Land (where they do indeed have a multitude of elephants but m-i-l doesn't really want a tour of the night clubs) and we have Kuala Gandah nearby, approximately 200-250 km away in Pahang.

Here's what the elephant sanctuary is all about:

The national Department of Wildlife and National Parks established the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary in 1989.

The centre is a base for the elephant relocation team, which began the translocation program in 1974. Being the only one of its kind in Malaysia, the team's duty is to track down, sedating and relocating problem elephants from areas whose natural habitats are constantly encroached by human developments, namely plantations.

The captured wild elephants are then relocated to National Parks. Over the past 25 years the 24 strong team has helped the prevent the further decline of the elephant population by relocating more than 500 wild elephants.

The Elephants at the Centre

There are currently 8 residence elephants, 2 of which are from Thailand to assist in the wild elephant relocation exercise namely Cek Mek and Mek Bunga.

Mentompian, a 26-year-old female from Burma, and Abot, a teenage female from Johor, are both being trained to replace the 2 aging elephants.

The center also looks after orphaned elephants, which are unable to survive on their own. Mawar, 2 years old and Chepor (3 years) are such two orphan elephants - found lost and wandering by the relocations team that decided to assume the role of parents to this lovely cute baby elephants!

The one and only male elephant in the center, Chepor will be the star among them.

Taken from here.

We booked up the tour yesterday and have a private car to collect us and return us to the hotel on Saturday, 6th November. This includes:
  • Departure for Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary with arrival at Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary for a light lunch at 01.00 pm
  • Briefing & a 30-minute National Geographic documentary at the Visitors Information Centre at 01.45 pm
  • Followed by feeding, grooming, bathing and riding of the elephants until 04.00 pm, before heading back.
Can't wait and we'll post photos up as soon as we can.

How It Now Is



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Who' Playing Whom

This weekend then?

As mentioned we have Tottenham v Liverpool @ 17:30 and I'm again hoping for a draw, but can see the Scousers either sneaking it 0-1 or by a large margin. I'll still go for 0-0 though.

Southend, who beat Leeds 1-0 at home during the week and are now 7th, will play local rivals Colchester United @ 13:00. Going by current form, the Shrimpers will win, but it won't be easy. Maybe 3-1?

Monday (3rd) sees Newcastle v Aston Villa @ 20:00, but I can't see the Toon winning. 0-2 to the Midlanders.

Which leaves Arminia Bielefeld, who drew on Tuesday against Cottbus 1-1 at home and now face the mighty Bayern Munich in M√ľnchen on Saturday.

OK, the Bavarians haven't been on top form, but Klinsmann's men are rapidly finding their quality and I expect Bielefeld to go down 2-0. Bummer- we're already in 15th place and are heading the wrong way down the league.

Well I'll Be...

4-4 last night against the old enemy, The Arse, in their backyard? Someone sure is writing the nigh on perfect script for Redknapp.

They showed the game live here this morning at 04:00 but figuring we'd lose in a dour game, I didn't bother. However, ESPN regularly run full game repeats and I'll catch up with it sometime during the day and I will be more than looking forward to it. :0)

In the meantime, here's the BBC report:

Aaron Lennon's injury-time equaliser capped a stunning fightback from Harry Redknapp's Tottenham against Arsenal.

David Bentley's brilliant early strike put Spurs ahead, but Mikael Silvestre headed Arsenal level before half-time.

William Gallas put Arsenal in front seconds after the re-start and Emmanuel Adebayor bundled home their third.

Darren Bent pulled one back before Robin van Persie added Arsenal's fourth - but Jermaine Jenas's 89th-minute goal and Lennon's tap-in earned a point.

Bentley's audacious opener gave Redknapp the perfect start to his first official game in charge, but that early optimism soon disappeared as Arsenal took total control of the north London derby.

But once again Arsenal were guilty of their familiar crime of over-elaboration and missing chances, leaving the door open for Spurs to rescue a point from a game that looked lost.


Redknapp restored Jonathan Woodgate to his starting line-up, but lost captain Ledley King because of his long-standing knee injury.

Spurs opened up Arsenal inside two minutes when Tom Huddlestone slid in Gareth Bale, who shot into the side-netting.

But they were ahead after 13 minutes - and it was a piece of genius by former Arsenal midfield man Bentley that gave them the goal.

He took a Huddlestone header and teed himself up for a stunning volley from 40 yards that Arsenal keeper Manuel Almunia touched but could not keep out.

Arsenal took up the challenge and Van Persie was twice a threat in the immediate aftermath of Bentley's goal, forcing Heurelho Gomes into a save low down and then shooting just wide.
Gallas then shot over after a Gomes fumble before both Theo Walcott and Cesc Fabregas tested the Spurs keeper.


An Arsenal equaliser looked on the cards, but Spurs will have been deeply unhappy about the manner in which it arrived eight minutes before the interval.

Spurs felt Bentley had been fouled by Fabregas in the lead up to an Arsenal corner, and their misery increased when Gomes made an awful attempt to deal with Van Persie's corner and Silvestre headed home.

For all Arsenal's trademark pretty passing, they were making inroads at set pieces and scored from another less than a minute after the re-start.

Van Persie whipped in a free-kick from the right and Gallas rose to glance in a header that Gomes could only touch on its way in.

Bentley tested Almunia from long range again before Adebayor extended Arsenal's lead after 64 minutes.

Arsenal took up the challenge and Van Persie was twice a threat in the immediate aftermath of Bentley's goal, forcing Heurelho Gomes into a save low down and then shooting just wide.
Gallas then shot over after a Gomes fumble before both Theo Walcott and Cesc Fabregas tested the Spurs keeper.


An Arsenal equaliser looked on the cards, but Spurs will have been deeply unhappy about the manner in which it arrived eight minutes before the interval.

Spurs felt Bentley had been fouled by Fabregas in the lead up to an Arsenal corner, and their misery increased when Gomes made an awful attempt to deal with Van Persie's corner and Silvestre headed home.

For all Arsenal's trademark pretty passing, they were making inroads at set pieces and scored from another less than a minute after the re-start.

Van Persie whipped in a free-kick from the right and Gallas rose to glance in a header that Gomes could only touch on its way in.

Bentley tested Almunia from long range again before Adebayor extended Arsenal's lead after 64 minutes.

Yes, it is only a point, we remain in last place and we have to play the league leaders, Liverpool on the weekend, but, it's looking a little more promising than it did a week or two ago.

I wouldn't like to be Gomes right now, mind.

Experimental Day

We are really enjoying our hotel and so have decided that we are not going to set foot outside the parameters all day, today and see how we get on.

It shouldn't be too difficult; I imagine we'll take a leisurely breakfast before going to the 10th floor and making full use of the Executive Lounge with its free computers, drinks, snacks and we can print off various documents for our onward travel.

Then I will come back to our room to catch a full repeat of the Spurs v Arse game; no way was I going to wake up at 04:00 to watch us get stuffed- how wrong was I?

A swim in the private, outdoor pool we have on the 2nd floor will also fill in some time, followed by a leisurely perusal of our free newspaper whilst catching some of the sun in plus thirty degrees.

By which we will be a bit peckish and so it'll be time for a late lunch in the dining room (soap and a salad for less than RM 20? In a hotel in a capital city? You try getting that in London for three quid...

All that activity will no doubt wear us out, so maybe a snooze, followed by a catch up on the news through our free internet link, play on the Blog, send some emails, and then greatest indulgence to follow: Room Service.

I believe we have a good film on Cine Movies tonight (two in fact, but who wants to brag?) so dinner in bed with a film or two will quite nicely finish off a day in our hotel and help us look forward to the forthcoming weekend.

How's your day going to go? :o)

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Message in a Bottle

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You can run, but you can't hide.

BLiar Found Wanting. Again

In a report released today by aid groups operating in the region, it says that the international community BLiar represents suffers from a “vacuum of leadership” and has failed to curb the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank or tackle the worsening living conditions of Palestinians, despite pledges made at a US peace summit almost a year ago.

It carries on to accuse the Middle East Quartet, of which BLiar has been the representative for the past year, of “losing its grip” on the peace process and aid officials also said that its failings could have serious ramifications for implementing international law around the globe.

The Quartet (the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia) has “fundamentally failed to improve the situation on the ground,” the director of policy for Save the Children UK, said. He added:

“Unless the Quartet’s words are matched by more sustained pressure and decisive action, the situation will deteriorate still further. Time is fast running out. The Quartet needs to radically revise its existing approach and show the people of the region that it can help make a difference.”

CARE International’s director for the Palestinian territories said:

"We are facing a vacuum in leadership. The Quartet has been unable to hold parties to their obligations. The Quartet’s credibility is on the line and we hope it will use this meeting to show it is able to make a real difference to the lives of Palestinians and Israelis."

Perhaps it's because BLiar is too busy lecturing around the world and earning £12 million since he stepped down as Britain's PM* in the process? Or maybe it's because he prefers to declare war and not peace?

More at TTimes and TTimes




*BLiar receives £84 000 of taxpayers’ money to run a private office and is entitled to an annual pension of £63 468. He has made £4.6 million from his memoirs, an estimated £2 million from JP Morgan Chase (including bonus) and £500 000 from Zurich Financial Services. On top of that he has exceeded the $9.2 million (£5.8 million) that Clinton earned from speeches in his first year outside the White House.

How Delightful

The TV Licensing Authority, responsible for enforcing the BBC TV licence, is launching a crackdown on people watching live/real time programmes on mobile phones and computers.

It said many people wrongly believe they did not need a TV licence if they did not own a television and they pledged to track down offenders and warned they face a £1 000 fine if caught. In particular, students have been identified as one of the main problem areas and will be targeted.

How about they police the contents of the BBC broadcasts first, eh?






NOTE: It's only live broadcasts that are affected, not "catch up" services, such as the BBC iPlayer.

HIPs to Stay

Housing minister, Margaret Beckett, has admitted that Home Information Packs (HIPs) "not working as well as they should", but she ruled out scrapping them.

She said she recognised the £350 packs introduced last year to provide key information to home buyers had their limitations:

"Given all the abuse that Hips suffered I think they've been relatively successful, but that doesn't mean that they're fulfilling their potential. I think that given their limitations they have some degree of beneficial impact but I fully accept that they're not, perhaps, the perfect vehicle we might wish for. I accept they're not working to the potential they could."

So what exactly are you saying, woman?

Industry experts claim they have made the housing market crisis worse by adding to cost and bureaucracy for sellers while consumer groups say they are confusing and of little value, and yet the Government insist on keeping them on?

That just about sums things up- recognising something is wrong but still maintaining it's not, simply to save face. Oh, dear.

Left V Right

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How each side of your brain works. I think I use the back of mine the most...

Hit or Myth

Medical factuals or not...

1. Is money really that dirty? Do I have to wash my hands after touching it?

In one study, 94 percent of bills had pathogenic or potentially pathogenic organisms on them. (Interestingly, another study showed 92 percent tested positive for cocaine.) But at the end of the day, are they dangerous? No. Our skin provides a barrier. Just avoid sucking on dollar bills, and do less cocaine, please.

2. What's the popping sound in my hip (or elbow or knee) when I do certain stretches or exercises?

When you stretch a joint, it creates a vacuum that literally sucks gas out of the fluid inside the joint. Pop. No big deal.

3. Does warm water quench thirst as effectively as cold water?

No. Cold water actually slows gastric emptying, and because the water hangs around longer, it gives your stomach time to tell your brain that you're hydrated.

4. When I notice a new problem, how many days should I wait for it to go away before I talk to a doctor?

If you have crushing chest pain that feels like an elephant is sitting on your chest, maybe see a doctor, because you're having a heart attack. Same if you're passing out. But if you've got diarrhea or the flu, two to three days is very reasonable. Five to seven days for a sprained joint.

5. Carrots: honestly good for the eyes or old wives' tale?

Lutein is the best for eyes -- and it's in leafy, green vegetables. The carrot rumor was started during the Second World War. The Nazis realized that the British were getting a lot of lucky shots on their aircraft, and so the British started the rumor that their pilots were being given carrots to improve their eyesight. Which was hogwash. What they really did was discover radar.

6. I've had lower-back pain for years. Flares up when I run on concrete, like when I play tennis or basketball. Any athletic shoes or equipment that you can recommend to soften the impact?

You want orthotics. They work. I like Zapz (masterfitenterprises.com).

7. My dermatologist asked me how many sunburns I got before I was 18. Is that when I screwed myself with the melanoma?

We used to think you got most of your UV exposure before age 18. Now we know it's more like 25 percent. But even if you burn once, you increase the chance of developing melanoma. But we're talking about blistering burns, like in The Heartbreak Kid. Not just a little redness.

8. What kind of stories do heart surgeons tell at the bar after work?

It's usually jokes. Medical jokes. "You hear the one about the constipated accountant? Worked it out with a pencil."

9. Are fresh berries healthier than frozen ones?

There's not that big a difference -- probably 20 percent -- in the nutrient levels. But the good thing about frozen berries is they don't lose those nutrients over time. Net, frozen berries are a great value.

10. My bum knees mean I can't jog. What are your recommended alternatives? And please don't say elliptical machine. Boredom's worse than joint pain.

Elliptical machine. But if you want something more athletic, cycling or swimming are both high-energy and low-impact.

11. When it comes to vitamins and supplements, can there be too much of a good thing?

Yes. Just go with a complete daily multivitamin plus DHA-omega-3 fats. Add some extra vitamin D if the multi doesn't give you the 1,000 IUs (international units) you need.

12. Do women really have smaller bladders than men, and is that why they have to stop to pee every 17 miles?


Yep.


Mehmet Oz is a heart surgeon and the coauthor of You: Being Beautiful.

10 Most Bizarre UK Court Cases

I think we may already have mentioned some of these previously, but here's what makes the law a lottery of laughs in Britain:

10. Toy car

Cathy McGowan was thrilled when she won a competition on the local radio. She answered the question on Radio Buxton to win a Renault Clio, but, when she arrived at the local radio station, she was presented with a toy car. The radio station was ordered to pay £8,000 as the judge ruled they had entered into a legally binding agreement.

9. Sex rations

In 1980, three judges, Lord Justice Ormrod, Lord Justice Dunn and Mr Justice Arnold ruled that a woman who rationed sex with her husband to once per week was behaving reasonably. Tell that to her husband!

8. Pineapple head

Policewoman, Tracey Ormsby, was hit with a pineapple and then tried to claim £1.5m in damages. She was later awarded £3,000. The judge later said of Ms Ormsby “I consider at best there is a very considerable degree of exaggeration in her account of her disabilities.”

7. Pringles are not crisps

Proctor & Gamble, makers of Pringles crisps saved millions of pounds on VAT after the UK High Court ruled the product is not a crisp. As Pringles aren’t officially crisp they are exempt from the 17.5% tax that applies to “potato crisps, potato sticks, potato puffs and similar products made from the potato, or from potato flour, or from potato starch” defined in the 1994 VAT Act. Now we need the High Court to decide once and for all if Jaffa Cakes are a cake or a biscuit…

6. Mole Man

A man who spent 40 years building a labyrinth of tunnels underneath his home was ordered to pay £300,000 in damages to Hackney Council.

5. Deathstar vs the little guy

A judge ruled that British prop designer, Andrew Ainsworth, could carry on selling replica Star Wars stormtrooper outfits in the UK despite going up against Star Wars creator George Lucas in a row over copyright. We’re guessing that even Lucas wouldn’t have made a fuss over any Ja Ja Binx outfits being sold without his permission.

4. An Inconvenient Lie

The UK High Court ruled that schools must warn children watching Al Gore’s film, “An Inconvenient Truth” that it promotes “partisan political views”. Never mind the warning about promoting partisan views, just make sure it carries the warning “may induce boredom”

3. Virgin Ring

A schoolgirl lost her fight to wear a virginity ring as a sign of Christian faith. Lydia Playfoot, 16, wasn’t allowed to wear the ring as it was against school regulations.

2. He really is dead – look

A mother brought her sons ashes into court to prove he was dead after the DVLA continued to send letters addressed to her dead son two years after his death. Julie Strange, had sent her son’s death certificate to the DVLA, but they issued a court summons. Ms Strange took her son’s ashes into the court room and the prosecution was immediately dropped.

1. Chopping meat too loudly

A butcher appeared before a magistrates court after being accused of repeated breaches of a noise abatement order. Brian Clapton was told that he had to stop chopping meat between 6am to 8am after the council received complaints from a neighbour.
Noise and nuisance officer Timothy Jones (is that even a real job), said: ’sounded like someone was carrying out shop refurbishment, such was the sound in the complainant’s flat’.

Who's Laughing Now?

From BBC:

PM Gordon Brown has criticised Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross for their "inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour" on Brand's radio show.

He said the BBC must take "appropriate action" over a series of prank calls made to Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs, and broadcast on 18th October.

The BBC and watchdog Ofcom have both launched investigations.

For me though, it's Conservative leader David Cameron, that is asking the more pertinent questions by calling for the BBC to be "transparent" about how the programme came to be broadcast.

"The main question is why did they allow this programme to be broadcast, given that it was pre-recorded? So we need to know who made the decision to broadcast it? How high up the editorial chain did it go?"

Let's see what they intend to do about it; an apology is nowhere near good enough.

Trust the Germans

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To resolve parking problems so easily.

Toon Come Good

Congrats to the Black & Whites who, as correctly predicted, beat West Brom 2-1.

Unfortunately it means that they now increase their lead over Spurs (who play The Arse tonight) and also that thug Barton scored- he converted a penalty in his first match since release from prison.

What's the betting Redknapp wants to buy him in January?

Two...Guns

Lara Croft, the heroine of the famous Tomb Raider video game series, has "died" at least 480 million times worldwide.

Most of them with my ham-fisted efforts...

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Interesting

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Where Have All the Beer Mats Gone?

I just trapped a rather large beetle under a glass and have nowt to slide underneath.

*panic*

Passport Problems in the US?

Taken from The Washington Times:

The United States has outsourced the manufacturing of its electronic passports to overseas companies raising concerns that cost savings are being put ahead of national security. The Government Printing Office's (GPO) decision to export the work has proved lucrative, allowing the agency to book more than $100 million in recent profits by charging the State Department more money for blank passports than it actually costs to make them.

The GPO is an agency little-known to most Americans, created by Congress almost two centuries ago as a virtual monopoly to print nearly all of the government's documents, from federal agency reports to the president's massive budget books that outline every penny of annual federal spending. Since 1926, it also has been charged with the job of printing the passports used by Americans to enter and leave the country.

Each new e-passport contains a small computer chip inside the back cover that contains the passport number along with the photo and other personal data of the holder. The data is secured and is transmitted through a tiny wire antenna when it is scanned electronically at border entry points and compared to the actual traveler carrying it.

According to interviews and documents, GPO managers rejected limiting the contracts to U.S.-made computer chip makers and instead sought suppliers from several countries, including Israel, Germany and the Netherlands.

Mr. Somerset, the GPO spokesman, said foreign suppliers were picked because "no domestic company produced those parts" when the e-passport production began a few years ago.

After the computer chips are inserted into the back cover of the passports in Europe, the blank covers are shipped to a factory in Ayutthaya, Thailand, north of Bangkok, to be fitted with a wire Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, antenna. The blank passports eventually are transported to Washington for final binding, according to the documents and interviews.

A 2005 document obtained by The Times states that GPO was using unsecure FedEx courier services to send blank passports to State Department offices until security concerns were raised and forced GPO to use an armored car company. Even then, the agency proposed using a foreign armored car vendor before State Department diplomatic security officials objected.

"The most dangerous passports, and the ones we have to be most concerned about, are stolen blank passports," said Ronald K. Noble, secretary general of Interpol, the Lyon, France-based international police organization. "They are the most dangerous because they are the most difficult to detect."

The State Department is now charging Americans $100 or more for new e-passports produced by the GPO, depending on how quickly they are needed. That's up from a cost of around just $60 in 1998.

Internal agency documents obtained by The Times show each blank passport costs GPO an average of just $7.97 to manufacture and that GPO then charges the State Department about $14.80 for each, a margin of more than 85 percent, the documents show.

The accounting allowed GPO to make gross profits of more than $90 million from Oct. 1, 2006, through Sept. 30, 2007, on the production of e-passports. The four subsequent months produced an additional $54 million in gross profits.

The agency set aside more than $40 million of those profits to help build a secure backup passport production facility in the South, still leaving a net profit of about $100 million in the last 16 months. GPO was initially authorized by Congress to make extra profits in order to fund a $41 million backup production facility at a rate of $1.84 per passport. The large surplus, however, went far beyond the targeted funding.

I wonder how our ID cards and similar are doing?

It's All Go Here

Buttocks became the subject of a hot debate between Malaysian Deputy Transport Minister (Datuk Seri Lajim Ukim) and opposition MPs during a question-and-answer session in parliament rcently. Not only was the word "buntut" (Malay for buttocks) used, the debate then turned into a shouting match, with the deputy speaker having to repeatedly call on those involved to mind their words and stop shouting.

It began when Mr Sirat Abu, a BN MP for Bukit Katil, accused Mr Lajim of "trying to lie" to the House by claiming that the Batu Berendam Airport in Malacca was not competitive enough.

Mr Sirat said the government should upgrade the runways at the airport- a project which would cost RM 40 million, in order to accommodate six flights from budget airlines AirAsia.

Deputy Speaker Wan Junaidi Wan Salleh interjected, saying Mr Sirat "should not use rude words" such as bohong (lie) in the House.

Said Mr Sirat: "I retract what I have said... but this is the BN government, a strong and professional government. If this government cannot do it, do we wait until Pakatan (takes over power) and let them do it?" In his reply, Mr Lajim said the government would consider lengthening the runway.

He also took a jibe at PKR and implied that they could not afford to even build an airport if they did take over the government as the present BN one was able to spend billions of ringgit to build one.

But his reply was interrupted by PKR MP N Gobalakrishan of Padang Serai district, who shouted that lots of money was involved in such projects due to bribes.

In reponse, Mr Lazim asked if there was no corruption when PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim was Finance Minister.

Deputy Speaker Datuk Wan Junaidi Jaafar tried to explain that Mr Lajim was referring to Anwar when he was the Finance Minister and advised the duo to abide by Article 36(6) of the Standing Orders, which states that no MP shall launch personal attacks against another.
But Mr Lajim made things worse by shouting: "Masuk dari buntut (Malay for enter via the buttocks)."

Mr Khalid Abdul Samad, a PAS MP for Shah Alam, joined the fray and asked the deputy speaker for a ruling on whether the word "buntut" could be used in the House.

Mr Gobalakrisnan demanded Mr Lajim to withdraw the word which he said was "harsh".

A commotion ensued with more MPs from both sides going at each other's throats.

At one point, Mr Wan Junaidi had to repeatedly shout to all MPs to respect the sitting and show maturity.

Eventually, he was forced to order Mr Lajim to retract the word.

See? Politics can be exciting.

Pilfed from New Straits Times.

Making an Offer That Can be Refused

A local bread shop owner who had refused to pay protection money to local mafia hoods was puzzled to receive a donkey's head and assumed it was a joke.

Italian Rozzers commented:

"The man didn't know the donkey, he didn't own the donkey, he doesn't care about donkeys. It didn't make sense. It was the work of idiots."




In Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 film The Godfather, mafia boss Don Corleone uses the "gift" of a severed horse's head to intimate film producer Jack Woltz into giving his godson a part. Woltz woke up one morning to find the bloody head lying next to him in his bed, and immediately consented to the request made by the Don, played by Marlon Brando. Here, however the threat made sense as it was the head was of Woltz's prized thoroughbred stallion.

Come and Catch me, Coppers


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An Audi TT with British registration plates (see above) has been repeatedly caught speeding on roads in the Bavarian city of Bayreuth,but due to continental speed cameras being set up for left-hand drive vehicles, the cameras keep missing the driver’s face.

Instead, Deutscher Dibble just keep getting clear views of a Muppet toy sat in the passenger seat but no clear shot of the driver which is required if they wish to prosecute.

A German Plod source said:

“The number plate is not enough. We need clear evidence of who is driving the vehicle too. But because this is a British vehicle we can never get a decent picture. The driver has obviously worked this out because he has placed a large puppet in the passenger seat.

This may be an example of the famous British sense of humour but it is still dangerous driving. The driver has been caught on camera on several occasions and the puppet is on the passenger seat every time. We suspect he positions the toy deliberately before accelerating past the camera.”

Fine effort, indeed. :0D

Health & Safety, Comrades

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How Russian dudes fix a faulty air con unit- this is on the 16th floor...

Spot the Difference

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Norfolk Dibble's coat of arms, surrounded by an eight-point star which previously appeared in colour as seen on the left, has been revamped to a monochrome affair, as seen on the right.

Not a stunning difference in the two, but Plod still deemed it necessary and it's cost them, sorry, you, £35 000 for the exercise.

The Farce, with the motto "Norfolk Constabulary - Our Priority is You", has admitted that it spent £3 000 developing the logo, £6 700 applying it to Rozzer mobiles and a further £25 000 incorporating it on police signs across the county.

A spokesplod offered these gems as sound reasoning for the expenditure saying that the redesign was part of the force's modernisation programme, aimed at cutting red tape and improving front line policing. He added:

"We've refreshed our corporate identity to underpin the direction of travel. We are making people - whether they are customers, witnesses, victims of crime or Bill the Burglar - our priority.


The former multi-coloured crest has been replaced by a smart, modern, monotone marque which is cheaper to reproduce. It was introduced in April to coincide with the reorganisation of operational policing structures which necessitated certain changes such as stationery.

It's introduction and roll-out is being phased, starting primarily with public-facing materials. The new look is being included in all new items, but for existing items, most are being replaced as they come up for renewal or reprint within existing budgets."

Aye- this after they admitted that they were not fully investigating more than 40% of reported crimes as it believed they were unlikely to be solved. They also admitted only immediately responding to more serious crimes like sex attacks, robberies and murders.

Other crimes are "screened out" if there is no obvious line of inquiry such as CCTV evidence, forensic opportunities or a known suspect. The lesser offences are passed to Safer Neighbourhood Teams to visit victims, offer reassurance and crime prevention advice and follow up any local leads.

Makes you feel all warm and toasty, doesn't it?

How Odd

Police in central Japan are trying to find the owner of more than Y6.85 million (~£50 000) in torn banknotes and bent coins that have been discovered at a recycling plant.

The discovery of large amounts of cash that has either been accidentally dumped or deliberately thrown away is not unheard of in Japan, although this latest find is a substantial sum.

Last year residents of an apartment building in a Tokyo suburb found a total of Y1.81 million (~£7 600) in their letter boxes. The money was left in plain, unsealed envelopes and police never identified their mysterious benefactor or the reason for the largesse.

Reports on that incident apparently triggered a wave of other cash windfalls. Some £4 000 inexplicably fell out of the sky in front of a Tokyo convenience store and envelopes of cash were found in public buildings in central Japan, including men's toilets.

How come this kind of stuff never happens when I am around?

Well Shod

More shoes are sold on Fifth Avenue (between fifty-ninth and eightieth street) in New York City than anywhere else in the world.

Well Said

I couldn't find the person responsible for this article from TTimes, but it's rather well written, particularly the end quote. The last post on this (Brand & Ross), I promise- for today...

Some will say that humour that doesn't offend isn't humour. Cutting humour is designed to draw blood. Lenny Bruce drew plenty. But there is a wide gulf between comedy and malice. The problem with the prank played on the actor Andrew Sachs by Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross is not that it was puerile. It was that it wasn't funny. Worse, it showed malice. The sort of malice shown by someone who has the courage to bully his secretary, but not to stand up to his boss.

Great humour laughs with its victims, not at them. Sachs did not deserve to be humiliated before two million radio listeners by two pranksters who allowed their celebrity to trump their judgment. Comics, especially hugely successful comics, have perhaps earned the privilege of being provocative, challenging and mischievous. Sometimes they become so intoxicated by their own fame that they can no longer police their own monologues - not for their impishness, but for their humour. That the editors of the radio show also failed to intervene to axe this tawdry segment should mortify the BBC as much as it should two of its highest-paid stars.

But having brought shame on themselves and on the BBC, these presenters could have done much to make amends by apologising, with sincerity, to Sachs. Instead, the apology given on air by Brand was undercut by his aside: “But it was quite funny.” No, it was not. It was nasty, hurtful and abusive. Does he still not see that?

Far from being an apology, Brand's remark constituted a second insult. As G.K. Chesterton pointed out: “The injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged; he wants to be healed because he has been hurt.”

There's no point even beginning to highlight parts of this as it is all good.

Dans La Merde

A 26 year old Frenchman, who dropped his mobile phone down the bog on a train caused a delay of two hours as his arm became trapped up to the shoulder by the powerful suction flushing system on board the packed high-speed TGV train from Paris to La Rochelle.

Firefighters took more than an hour to free the man, before lifting him from the train on a stretcher with the entire toilet still stuck to his arm.

A fire spokesman said:

"He was cut free from the toilet on the platform and apart from suffering bruising and smelling a bit, he suffered no other injuries."

A spokesman for French rail operator SNCF added:

"The train was two hours late at its destination on Sunday afternoon due to an unlikely accident, and we apologise to passengers for the unavoidable delay."

Brand & Ross Follow Up

As per TTimes, with perhaps a little more info than previously, but still entirely unacceptable (see transcript at the end) to my mind. That is not comedy, nor is it funny. Then again, that describes Brand to a tee.

The BBC issued an unreserved apology to Andrew Sachs, the Fawlty Towers star, yesterday for airing a radio programme in which Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand left the actor sexually explicit telephone messages about his granddaughter.

The corporation, which has received more than 1,500 complaints about the incident, also said that it would investigate how the “unacceptable and offensive” programme, which was recorded, was approved for broadcast.

Ross and Brand, two of the BBC’s highest paid stars, made the comments about Sachs’s granddaughter, Georgina Baillie, on Brand’s Radio 2 show last week, after attempts to telephone the actor for an arranged interview were answered by his voicemail service. Brand told listeners:

“What Andrew doesn’t know is, I’ve slept with his granddaughter.” As he left a message for the actor, Ross, 47, shouted: “He f***** your granddaughter.” Ross also speculated that Brand had “enjoyed” Georgina on a swing, and the pair also joked that Sachs, 78, could kill himself over the incident.

The actor, who played the Spanish waiter Manuel in Fawlty Towers, complained to the BBC about the messages, which Ofcom, the broadcasting watchdog, has been asked to study.
Meg Poole, Sachs’s agent, said the BBC had replied. “It’s a perfectly good apology,” she said. “It is the response we wanted.” Ross and Brand are also understood to be preparing personal apologies.


It emerged yesterday that Baillie is a member of the Satanic Sluts Extreme, a dance troupe that describe themselves as “four of the sexiest depraved London jezebels”, who perform “violent, horrific and sexy burlesque shows”. Baillie, 23, who goes by the name “Voluptua”, has auditioned for The Sun’s Page 3, and has posted images of herself on social networking websites in provocative poses. She describes herself as a “swinger”, who dances in a cage at a nightclub.

Brand has talked about the Satanic Sluts on his radio show. David Baddiel, the comedian and author, who co-hosted the programme for a week, recounted on air how he encountered Baillie at Brand’s home. “So I came round. You were in your pants, yellow Y-fronts. You opened the door in a sort of headmaster’s cape, which was a bit weird. I said, ‘They’re still here, aren’t they?’ You said, ‘They’re still here.’

“So we went upstairs to your study, and the Satanic Sluts every so often would come up and say, ‘Russell, have you finished?’ And you would say, ‘No, no, it’s fine’, meaning, ‘Can you stay here because I shall be visiting you later?’

“The key moment for me was one of the Satanic Sluts said to me that her grandfather was Andrew Sachs . . . She said, ‘Oh don’t tell him I was here’. I thought, ‘That’s not going to happen, is it? I’m not going to ring up Manuel and say, ‘Guess where I saw your grand-daughter?’”

Baillie could not be contacted yesterday. A spokeswoman for Salvation Films, which manages the Satanic Sluts, said she was returning from performing in Vienna and did not wish to comment.

Speaking outside his home in northwest London yesterday, Sachs, 78, said: “People ask me if I’m angry, well, yes, but not half as angry as Georgina. That’s where the apology should be directed.” A spokeswoman for Sachs said that she believed he was aware of his granddaughter’s job. “They’re a very close family,” she said.


Ross and Brand could face a police investigation for making abusive phone calls. A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police was not aware of any complaints.

Transcript of the proceedings here: TTimes

Red Letter Day

Daniel Levy's (Spurs chairman) letter to us, the Tottenham supporters. If you're not a fan or don't like taking the piss out of a team in dire straits, look away now:

"Dear Supporter,

"How quickly things change in football. Our pre-season form, our start to the transfer window and early summer signings had everyone optimistic for the season ahead. The last few days of that window and our poor start to the season has seen all that change. This has been a difficult period for the club and many questions are being asked and much criticism levelled. I should like to update you on some important developments announced a short while ago, to answer some of your questions and also to outline our thinking as we look to improve our position going forward.

"We have faced many key challenges as we have progressed over the last few seasons and we have had to take important decisions at crucial times - without the wonderful benefit of hindsight and always under full public scrutiny. As such, they have been judgement calls. Some of our decisions and judgements may be unpopular with our fans but we always take decisions we believe to be in the best interests of our club, and for the right reasons. In many cases, it is simply not possible or practical for all of the factors involved to enter the public domain and I do understand that this can alter or impair the perception of why something has or hasn't been done.

"Today, as formally announced by the club, I have made one such important judgement call and in doing so I have taken some very difficult decisions. Relieving Juande Ramos, our head coach, and Juande's assistants, Gus Poyet and Marcos Alvarez, of their posts is not something I have undertaken lightly.

"Unfortunately, our record of just three league wins since our memorable Carling Cup victory against Chelsea last February, combined with our extremely poor start to the season, led the board and I to determine that significant change was necessary as a matter of urgency. We are grateful to Juande, Gus and Marcos for all their hard work - they are incredibly professional, committed individuals and I regret that their time in the Premier League has not gone as well as we had all hoped.

"The English Premier League is an unforgiving competition - time was no longer on our side and was a luxury we simply could not afford. We have quite clearly not performed to the best of our ability for many months now and our poor run of form is not something we could allow to continue unchecked.


"In appointing Harry Redknapp as our new manager, we are delighted to have secured the services of someone we have long admired and whose track record and knowledge of all levels of football, including importantly the Premier League, is outstanding. I know Harry is relishing the opportunity of managing a club he knows well - not least from his son Jamie's time here as a player and captain - and of re-invigorating and restoring confidence to a squad of highly talented international players. With his great knowledge of the game and his excellent motivational skills, Harry has inspired his teams to consistently overperform, whilst his attacking style of playing the game sits comfortably with our club's history, heritage and the type of entertaining football our fans want and expect to see.

"We have spent around £175m on new players over the last three years. The purchasing of players is a critical aspect of our club and, given our current position, it is essential that we go into the January transfer window with absolute confidence in the advice being offered to the board. Following a meeting of the directors and a full review of our football management structure, I can also inform you that Damien Comolli has left the club with immediate effect. Damien will not be directly replaced.

"In my opinion, and with the benefit that comes with running our club with and without a sporting director in the past seven years, the successful management of a football club is not about structures or job titles. As in most businessess, it's about people: their personal qualities, their knowledge, their experience, their relationships, communication skills, interaction with colleagues, leadership and, of course, their ability.

"In Harry, we are also accepting with his appointment that now is the right time for us to move back to a more traditional style of football management, one which we believe will be capable of initiating our climb back up the Premiership table and to maintaining our challenge in the UEFA, Carling and FA Cup competitions.

"However, I should stress that we are not in this position because of any single factor or any one individual. Human nature often dictates the need to find someone or something to blame, but in these circumstances we need all our energies to be directed instead to supporting the team and improving our league position. Nothing else matters at this time.

"That said, and without dwelling too much on last summer, I also want to take this opportunity to address some of the other concerns you have raised. Many of the questions I have been asked and much of the reasoning for our poor start to the season has centred on our striker options. I do not believe this to be the sole reason, but I do feel it is important to set out the facts once again regarding the sale of two popular and talented strikers: Keane and Berbatov.

"Robbie Keane's departure was undoubtedly the shock of the summer. I personally had an excellent relationship with Robbie and he was one player that I always thought would end his career at the club. I know you all felt the same. I was as disappointed as any of you when he informed me that he wanted to join what he described as his favourite boyhood club. Against this background and despite his obvious professionalism, our coaching staff felt that it would be very difficult to expect Robbie to continue to be such a positive influence in our dressing room when he so clearly wanted to leave us. The decision to sell Robbie was therefore not a financial one, although in such circumstances it was vital for our club to secure the maximum possible value for a player of Robbie's ability.

"The sale of Dimitar was an entirely different matter. Dimitar first intimated to Martin Jol that he wanted to join Manchester United after just one season at our club - and just ten days before the end of the summer 2007 transfer window. At that time, the coaching staff's preference was to let Dimitar go and for us to replace him. This was not something I would allow - at any price - as I felt that Dimitar's request was completely unreasonable. From that moment on, we obviously knew we had an issue and we spent many hours over the course of the season that followed trying to persuade Dimitar to stay. I rebuffed a number of approaches from clubs, including Manchester United, this May and again in early July. Despite press stories to the contrary, there was no extended period of negotiation with Manchester United and their July offer of £20m was not increased until they contacted us again in the last few days of the transfer window.

"The internal decision to sell Dimitar at the beginning of the window was premised on a suitable replacement being found and on the assumption that Dimitar couldn't be persuaded to change his mind. Under Fifa regulations, if a player signs a contract before his 28th birthday, he has only to serve three years of that contract before he can terminate it and join a new club. Whilst some compensation is payable under such circumstances the level of compensation is set by a third party body in accordance with predeteremined factors, and in Dimitar's case would have been but a small fraction of the fee we received from Manchester United. But even this was not the final determining factor in our decision to part company with him.

"Despite the potential cost to the club and knowing that our efforts to sign an additional, experienced striker had failed, the final decision on whether or not to sell Dimitar was not a financial decision but a footballing one. It was felt that he had not been a positive influence on the pitch or in the dressing room and that this would continue.

"The timing of the actual transfer of Dimitar was completely immaterial and unconnected to our bringing in a replacement for him. We had been aware for a long period that he was likely to leave and our negotiations to get the best fee for him was independent of our work to replace both him (as we did with Pavyluchenko) and Robbie, with experienced strikers.

"The ultimate failure - as I have said before - of our dealings in this summer's transfer window was not about the departure of two good strikers, or because we have operated a structure that happens to have had a sporting director and a head coach, or because our financial parameters are too rigid - after all, let´s not forget that we did bring in much quality to enhance our current squad. Quite simply, we failed because we were not as decisive or as successful in identifying or replacing the two strikers as early as we should have been. Perhaps these insights will help once and for all to debunk the myths that have been perpetuated around these transfers.

"There is also an inaccurate perception that our club is run entirely for profit and that football is secondary. Success on the pitch is the sole determinant to the future of the club and its financial stability, so it would be entirely counter-productive to have anything other than football as our first and foremost priority and it is ridiculous to suggest otherwise. At a time when football clubs are criticised for losing money and for their debt levels, I am surprised that we should be criticised for running our club on a sound commercial basis and for making a profit. Thank goodness we do make a profit because it has significantly supported the progress we have made over the last seven years and has helped to make us one of Europe's most secure clubs. I make no apologies for the fact that we reinvest the club's positive cash flow in both players and infrastructure.

"And so back to looking ahead and to redress our current position.

"Firstly, in Harry, we have secured the services of an excellent manager of proven Premiership quality. Harry will be working with a squad of quality internationals. We must not forget that this team, without the benefit of three additional players at the time (Pavlyuchenko, Corluka, Campbell), gave a more than creditable performance against the current league leaders. I have spoken to the senior players in recent days and I know the players share our frustration and I know they will dig deep to produce the performances we know they are capable of - they have our full support - and support for the team is absolutely critical at this time.

"We have all been subjected to much criticism - myself, the board, coaching staff and players - having now made what I considered to be necessary, sweeping changes to our football management team, we must reassert ourselves, regain our focus, and answer our critics in the best way possible - by winning games again.

"Secondly, we must prepare ourselves to take advantage of the January transfer window. Harry's experience of the UK and international transfer market will be of critical importance and I shall be looking to Harry for clarity on our priorities. As chairman, and as previously in our former structure, I must, ultimately, rely on the knowledge and judgement of my technical staff to give me a clear football-based view and recommendation on our transfer targets.

"I can assure you that everyone here, from the board to our most junior staff member, shares the frustration and disappointment of the season so far, but I can also assure you that all of us in every area of the club are doing what we can to help the players to produce the level of performance and the consistent good results our fans expect and all of us crave.

"We have achieved much over the last seven years - three successive qualifications for Europe, a League Cup win, training centre planning permission - and still more to announce - to allow this to be overtaken and thrown away overnight. We have suffered a setback and we have taken strong action.

"I have received numerous e-mails and letters from supporters offering advice and suggestions on how the club should be run and what we should and should not do. I do appreciate the time people take to write to me and when the e-mails or letters are constructive and not abusive, I can assure you that I read as many as I can. And I do take notice of your views.

"Indeed, I have been heartened that the over-riding response from our supporters has been one of determination to get behind the team. Too often in difficult times supporters can forget that their support is needed even more than ever. The team will tell you how much of a difference it can make to them on the pitch. White Hart Lane needs to once again become the fortress it was not so very long ago. With your tremendous support it can.

"Finally, I know I am sometimes criticised for appearing too business-focused, too uncommunicative, or simply for not being emotional enough when it concerns our team. The majority of our fans know that it's simply not my way to seek a high profile. I do not crave publicity, neither do I believe it is necessary to do my job. I would prefer our team to make the headlines, for the right reasons. We now have a manager who is a great communicator to players, fans and the media alike and I shall also, personally, look to keep you all informed and your questions answered as we progress through the season.

""Your support has never been more important - and we are grateful to so many of you for the messages of support and encouragement the club has received during this difficult period. Now's the time for all of us to pull together and to get behind Harry and the team.

Yours, Daniel"

I've always liked Levy and feel he has always put the club's interest first. I don't see him doing anything else here and believe, that given time, we will see Spurs bounce back. It will be painfully slow but like all good things, it will be worth the wait.

I am also not a fan of Redknapp but desperate times require desperate measures and so I am prepared to again let time take its course and see what transpires. Rumour has he will get around £20 million in January so let's see where the money goes. And don't forget all the rumours about him being involved in football corruption. No smoke without fire, as they say...

A sound goal keeper, a midfield play maker and another forward would be handy. Plus about half a dozen defenders...

OK, a sterner test against the old foe, The Arse, on Wednesday will see what Redknapp is made of- and also see which players really want to be part of the future. I'm hoping for a draw and will be quite delighted if we keep a clean sheet.

This I'd Love to See

From TTel:

Michael Palin is to mark the 20th anniversary of his travel series, Around the World in 80 Days, by attempting to find the Indian sailors who helped him on his journey.

The presenter hopes to be reunited with the crew of the Al-Shama, whose kindness and hospitality moved him almost to tears.

In one of the most memorable sequences from Palin's televised adventure, he sailed across the Persian Gulf from Dubai to Mumbai in a traditional dhow.

Although the impoverished Gujarati crew could not speak English, by the end of the week-long journey they and Palin had become firm friends.

When he waved them goodbye twenty years ago at the Gateway of India, Palin said: "It's almost impossible to accept that I shall never see them again."

In a new BBC1 special, the former Monty Python star, accompanied by his original cameraman, will return to the sub-continent in search of the crew.

The new journey takes in Dubai, Mumbai and the sailors' home island in the Indian Ocean.
Filming is under way and the programme, Eighty Days Revisited, will be broadcast on BBC1 later this year.


A BBC spokesman said: "Michael hopes to make contact with as many as possible of his old shipmates to reminisce and share stories of their slow but happy way from the Middle East to India. This return journey, the first Michael has ever attempted, will no doubt be as much of a challenge as the original, but it is precisely the unknown aspects which make this trip all the more exciting for him."

How Unjustified

More than 100 school heads from Derby attended Hoar Cross Hotel Spa Resort for a two day training event, which included the option of an overnight stay. The hotel describes itself as "a paradise setting", combining "the sumptuous pleasures" of an English stately home with the facilities of a "superb modern spa resort" and its facilities include a golf course, gym, meditation rooms and saltwater swimming pool.

Council bosses said the annual conference, funded by school budgets, was requested by heads and was "good value for money". Really? It cost them £35 000 and was held a mere 20 miles away.

Corporate director for children and young people (and you can bet he just loves himself with such a title) Andrew Flack said:

"Each head chose whether to pay for just attendance or a meal as well, or an overnight stay as well, from their school's training budget. If that money hadn't been spent on this conference, it would have been spent on other training.

Most conferences of this nature cost up to twice as much, whereas ours is organised on a non-profit-making basis.

This was the only available venue near enough and big enough to hold over 100 head teachers plus other delegates with tables, equipment etc*."

And that makes it all right, does it?

"We had to spend the cash because if it was spent on that, it would have been something else" is justification?

I wonder if they've heard of telephone conferences?

His counterpart also seemed to take a dim view. Derby City Council's Conservative group leader Philip Hickson said spending taxpayers' cash on the luxury hotel venue was wrong when other council buildings were available for free. He said:

"I think it plays very badly with local taxpayers to see public money spent in this way. I think there's no justification for it when we have got facilities that could have been used for nothing.

I think the whole thing was highly inappropriate."

I'd say...


*And in my experience the first sign of being on the back foot and trying to muddy the waters is when someone uses etcetera in speech.