Friday, 30 September 2011

C & H

Calvin and Hobbes

Same Old, Same Old

Reported levels of suspected fraud and other "irregularities" in the European Union budget increased to £1.6 billion, up by 25% from last year and the cost of the unaccounted for funding to British taxpayers is £233 million, according to new figures.

Using reports from national authorities, EU officials have calculated that fraudsters stole at least £415 million from Brussels projects in 2010, a figure that is thought to be the tip of the iceberg.  The latest findings come amid a politically heated debate over a demand from the European Commission to increase spending by 11% in the next EU financing period, 2014 to 2020, at a time of national austerity programmes.
The European commissioner responsible for tackling fraud, claimed that the rise was due to new systems for reporting problems and that the EU was getting better at detecting wrongdoing in the administration of funds worth more than £100 billion a year.  He said:

"More irregularities are detected by member states so more misused money can be returned to the EU budget."

My, how reassuring.  Perhaps a more robust approach to actually preventing this theft could be employed too?

More at TTel

Faster is Better

The speed limit on UK motorways will rise to 80 mph, it s due to be announced but more roads in built-up areas will be reduced to a 20 mph limit.  The plans will be presented as part of the ConDem's attempts to boost the economy, with ministers arguing that shorter journeys on major roads will help businesses.

Britain’s speed limits are lower than many other countries in Europe, with France and Italy both imposing a maximum of 81mph, while some roads in Germany have no restriction at all.  

Get ready for all the whiners to come out of the woodwork and chuck in their penny's worth.  Let's hope this does see the light of day.


The Official Dilbert Website featuring Scott Adams Dilbert strips, animations and more

Blue is the Colour, Football is the Game...

Members of the public are being offered the chance to "own" one of 16.7 million colours in a bid to raise £16.7 million for charity.  UNICEF have partnered with paint firm Dulux to let people buy one of the colours which can be displayed on the average computer, via the website

Colour owners are then able to rename it, describe it and have it displayed on a dedicated website, with donations directly to the children’s charity.  "Celebrities" who already Own A Colour include Jemima Khan (CFC Blue), Duncan Bannatyne (Scottish Saltire Blue) and Sir Roger Moore (Swedish Blue).

It's a-Changin'

CollegeHumor [sic] offers us

The X-Men Guide to Puberty

Where to Start?

A new survey has found that Germany is the world’s third favourite destination for international companies, behind China and the United States.

This is the main finding of the annual Global Ambition Survey published Thursday by BDO, an international accounting firm with offices in more than 100 countries.

BDO asked chief financial officers in 13 countries where they see the “greatest opportunities for future growth,” and found that Germany ranks among the highest, despite its relative maturity as a market.

The survey found that in drawing up their expansion plans, corporate executives have to carefully balance increasing risks abroad and potential rewards – especially in volatile countries.

Because Germany’s economy is relatively stable and open, expansion isn’t as challenging as in places like Saudi Arabia, but it carries its own difficulties.

According to the report, the big problems that international companies’ have in Germany include difficulty finding effective managers, too much red tape and stiff local competition from other companies in an already mature market.

Meanwhile, German firms looking to expand abroad - often into huge emerging markets like China or Russia – have very similar difficulties, the report said, although massive currency fluctuations have become a bigger concern recently.

The importance of outward expansion for German firms has been made clear from the rising amount of revenue coming into German firms from outside the country.

The CFOs interviewed expected an average of 48 percent of their companies’ revenue to come from outside Germany in three years' time, compared to the current 42 percent.

The survey was carried out between May and July and covered 50 companies in Germany and 751 firms altogether. It focused on the world’s largest mature and emerging markets, including China, the United States, Saudi Arabia and Australia.

Of the countries surveyed, executives saw the most opportunity in China and the least in Italy. 

The Local

Trust Me

A team of German and British social scientists have published a new study into trust in more than 50 countries. Germany as a whole ranked in the top ten, although those in the western part are more trusting than easterners.

The study, the results of which were released this week by Jacobs University in Bremen, found that trust is generally strongest in western, modernized countries and weakest in poorer countries.

Of the countries surveyed, people in Sweden, Switzerland and Norway trust others the most, while those in Turkey, Rwanda and Trinidad and Tobago are the least trusting.

Germany’s ranking was split, based on past research and how the survey evolved: western Germany placed 7th, while former communist eastern Germany 11th.

Sociology professor Jan Delhey, who co-authored the study, said the researchers were less interested in the differences within Germany, because they wanted to make a bigger international and cross-cultural comparison.

But he said being an ex-communist country is one factor in determining a country’s general level of trust.

“Rule of law is very important in generating and sustaining trust in other people,” Delhey told The Local. “East Germany had the legacy of being a socialist country for at least 40 years. In socialist countries the state is very suspicious of its citizens, instilling a general climate of distrust. That would be our main explanation.”

“If you look at our list of countries, we do see that none of the countries in the upper ranking is a post-communist country,” he said.

The differences between the formerly divided halves of the country are not huge, the professor emphasized: “If you put them together, Germany would be ranked at either 8 or 9,” he said.

For the researchers, there were two main questions that needed answers. First, what is trust?

“The most simple definition of trust is simply an expectation – an expectation that other people behave in a friendly way and do not harm you,” Delhey said.

The second question proved more problematic: Who are "other people"?

Although empirical data on measures of trust and international rankings had been available for several decades, Delhey, along with co-authors Chris Welzel, professor at Leuphana University Lüneburg, and Kenneth Newton, emeritus professor at University of Southampton, were concerned that the measurements were not really comparing the same thing.

“In the past, we relied on one question: ‘Do you think most people can be trusted, yes or no?’ " Delhey said. But individual countries defined ‘most people’ differently. “We’re coming up with an international ranking, which is, for the first time, really comparable across countries and across cultures.”

The study, “How General is Trust in 'Most People'? Solving the Radius of Trust Problem,” is particularly relevant because it showed a changing position of Asia, popularly believed to have a what Delhey called a particularly "wide trust radius."

Actually, “people in Asian countries have a very narrow trust radius, especially South Koreans, followed by Thai and Chinese,” Welzel said. “Their trust is extended toward familiar people, but not to strangers.”

Trust also has several benefits for society, including democracy, civil society and tolerance, Delhey said. Now that the measure of trust has been standardized, he hopes researchers will use it to find out more about the benefits of trust.

The Local

Ig Nobel Winners

Full story at the BBC:

Physiology Prize: Anna Wilkinson, from the University of Lincoln, and colleagues for their study in the journal Current Zoology titled "No Evidence of Contagious Yawning in the Red-Footed Tortoise".

Chemistry Prize: A team led from Shiga University, Japan, that determined the ideal density of airborne wasabi to awaken sleeping people in case of a fire or other emergency, and for applying this knowledge to invent the wasabi alarm. Patent pending.

Medicine Prize: Shared by two teams whose independent research jointly established that people make better decisions about some kinds of things, but worse decisions about other kinds of things‚ when they have a strong urge to urinate.

Psychology Prize: Karl Halvor Teigen of the University of Oslo, Norway, for trying to understand why, in everyday life, people sigh.

Literature Prize: John Perry of Stanford University, US, for his Theory of Structured Procrastination, which says: To be a high achiever, always work on something important, using it as a way to avoid doing something that's even more important.

Biology Prize: Darryl Gwynne and David Rentz for discovering that a certain kind of beetle mates with a certain kind of Australian beer bottle. The pair have published two papers on the topic.

Physics Prize: Philippe Perrin and colleagues for determining why discus throwers become dizzy, and why hammer throwers don't.

Peace Prize: Arturas Zuokas, the mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania, for demonstrating that the problem of illegally parked luxury cars can be solved by running them over with an armoured tank.

Public Safety Prize: John Senders of the University of Toronto, Canada, for conducting a series of safety experiments in which a person drives an automobile on a major highway while a visor repeatedly flaps down over his face, blinding him.

Mathematics Prize: Shared by a group of doom-mongers for teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations -
  • Dorothy Martin of the US who predicted the world would end in 1954
  • Pat Robertson of the US who predicted the world would end in 1982
  • Elizabeth Clare Prophet of the US who predicted the world would end in 1990
  • Lee Jang Rim of Korea who predicted the world would end in 1992
  • Credonia Mwerinde of Uganda who predicted the world would end in 1999
  • Harold Camping of the US who predicted the world would end in 1994 and then later in 2011

Double Standards

Footballer Rio Ferdinand has lost his High Court privacy action over a story in the Sunday Mirror about an alleged affair.  It hinged on whether the newspaper was justified in publishing its story because the public interest was such that its Article 10 right to freedom of expression was of a greater importance than Ferdinand's Article 8 privacy right under the Human Rights Act.

Ferdinand had branded the article "My Affair with England Captain Rio" a "gross invasion of my privacy" and said he had not seen the woman for six years by the time it appeared.  He forgot to add though that the alleged affair took place over a span of some 13 years...

I mention this as I don't like the guy at all and had he not tried to quash the original story with his millions, I doubt I'd even have heard of his antics.  More importantly, if he was so concerned about having his privacy so grossly invaded, why did he have this affair in the first place?

Full sp at the Beeb


Fergie's Having It Both Ways

So Sir Alex Ferguson is complaining about the overweaning power of Television on the Beautiful Game. That, much like the game itself, is a bit rich.

'I tell yer, television is God and it's crucifying me'

The only reason that the top footballers wade into work through a sea of bank notes these days is television. I’m sure Ferguson himself is that little bit wealthier since the advent of Sky Sports.

Those that run the Premier League will point to its enormous operating profits and pronounce it a success. It’s not so much television that rules the roost, it’s money. And television, in the form of walnut-faced mogul Murdoch and his butter-wouldn’t-melt boy James – the result of what would have happened if Steptoe and Son had made it big – pays better than owt else.

But then cos telly gets your ‘brand’ seen across five continents it doesn’t half help your merchandising n all. In fact, the Box is so instrumental in keeping your club afloat that you’d think that Ferguson might be a less grumpy about the whole thing, even if he doesn’t have to resort to the average chief executive’s role of bending over forwards while the EPL stuff in as many fivers as his arse can carry.

Ferguson says ‘Television is God’ (and you were beginning to think it was you, eh, Alex?) If he’s right, then presumably he thinks football is the Virgin Mary, but the only people getting truly fucked by the situation at the moment are those clubs without the emissaries necessary to hook a billionaire with too much time on his hands.

I just picture Bill Kenwright slapping on the lippy, hitching up the stockings and walking the wealthier thoroughfares of major financial centres waiting for someone to wind-down the dark-glassed window of his Rolls-Royce and buy some business.

When Man City played Everton this weekend, you had the two extremes in opposition and you couldn’t help rooting for the poverty-stricken honest Johns against the moneybagses. Unsurprisingly, the Toffees, outmuscled by sheer wealth, opted for the Alamo approach and held out for as long as possible while Mancini chopped and changed his state-of-the-art armouries until a fluky deflection saw the royal blue walls crumble.

'I have this many millionaires on my bench!'

This is the reality of modern-day football. Money will win out. And money comes from two directions – telly and the deep, deep pockets of rich men with nowt much to do.

And there’s no doubt that football’s thirst for cash shows no signs of fading. The whole idea of the Europa League, a great sprawling fat beggar on European football’s landscape, is designed to accrue more bits of change for the football hierarchy.

Ferguson complains about fixture lists being twisted to accommodate the whims of the television companies; surely it’s the whims of the greedy graspers running football that conceived of the Europa League, a competition that distorts your regular Saturday afternoon domestic footy programme more than any other.

Of course Fergie has only just patched things up with the Beeb after some 2004 programme implicated his boy in some sort of brown envelope conspiracy. It took Mark Thompson to go bowing and scraping at his door to get His Puceness back on side. Perhaps the Beeb’s not part of the television godhead. Perhaps Fergie’s an atheist. Or perhaps Fergie’s idea of a divine creator is one that comes and begs you to help Him out.

Add to this the fact that you can go a week without the latest endeavours of Manchester United being emblazoned across our screens, and you have to think SAF is guilty of biting the admittedly unpleasant hand that feeds him. I mean I can’t see that United have suffered in any way, shape or form from its relationship with telly.

All right, sometimes (very rarely) clubs have to play Wednesday night and Saturday lunchtime. But what with all that cash the telly’s bringing in, a club like United can afford to have two pretty decent teams in its squad, with a third one just for show for the Carling Cup. I’m still not sure where you’re losing out.

To his credit, Fergie’s push for football clubs to get more revenue from any renegotiation of the League’s international TV rights deal isn’t wholly self-interested. That money gets split 20 ways equally, so United benefit and so does everyone else. The old leftie in him sees that as ‘fair’. So do I.

Meanwhile, Michael Owen continues to bewilder the average football fan with his career choices. Apparently he’s rather play once every three months with top players than every week with cack ones. I think maybe he’s rather turn up in the League Cup where, given the poorer quality of opposition available, he’ll get more opportunities to tuck away the odd brace.

Certainly the old predatory skills have not deserted him, and he can still scuff one in off a left foot that, after 14 years at the top level, still can’t kick straight.

Owen gets a lot more joy out of his horses, as those who saw his celebrations after his nag Brown Panther won the King George V Stakes at Ascot can testify. You do wonder quite what he’s doing warming benches for a day-job.

Of course he’ll have to make sure his jockeys keep their whips trousered from now on. There are strict rules for whip usage coming up. No more than eight lashes allowed in the final furlong for National Hunt jockeys. Which is a tad muddled. If hitting them is bad, why tell the riders to do it less often? It’s like telling a thief he can only turn over three security vans a month. After that, we get serious.

You should've seen the mess it made of Max Mosley's behind. Allegedly.

Of course if horses enjoy a good thrashing then who’s to tell the likes of Dettori and McGuire what to do in the privacy of their own horse-race. I dunno but me, I suspect the gee-gees might rather watch telly with Sir Alex Ferguson than have an anorexic midget smack em about for a mile and a half. But what do I know?

Rugby WC

I'm hardly a fan of the sport (like F1) but it's obviously popular with many people.  Here's how it's currently standing:

Pool A Table 
  Team P W D L F A PTS
1 New Zealand 3 3 0 0 161 34 15
2 France 3 2 0 1 110 77 10
3 Canada 3 1 1 1 67 89 6
4 Tonga 3 1 0 2 61 84 5
5 Japan 4 0 1 3 69 184 2
Pool B Table
  Team P W D L F A PTS
1 England 3 3 0 0 121 22 14
2 Argentina 3 2 0 1 65 33 10
3 Scotland 3 2 0 1 61 43 10
4 Georgia 3 1 0 2 41 65 4
5 Romania 4 0 0 4 44 169 0
Pool C Table 
  Team P W D L F A PTS
1 Ireland 3 3 0 0 99 28 13
2 Australia 3 2 0 1 105 26 10
3 Italy 3 2 0 1 86 59 10
4 USA 4 1 0 3 38 122 4
5 Russia 3 0 0 3 35 128 1
Pool D Table 
  Team P W D L F A PTS
1 South Africa 3 3 0 0 153 19 14
2 Wales 3 2 0 1 114 34 10
3 Samoa 3 2 0 1 86 36 10
4 Fiji 3 1 0 2 59 101 5
5 Namibia 4 0 0 4 44 266 0

Close Call

From being 1-0 down at half time, Spurs run out 3-1 winners at The Lane against Shamrock Rovers.  We go equal top in the group and manage to rest most of our key players for the Gunners derby.  Hopefully The Arse will not be at their best just yet, but I suspect we could be in for a kicking...

Feet Protection

Of America's floors, 61% are carpet, 21% are linoleum, and 12% are wood.

No marble in the White House?


"It is impossible to imagine Goethe or Beethoven being good at billiards or golf."
- H. L. Mencken

And the Winner Is...

Not us, here it comes:

OK, OK, I Had to Look

Berlin’s Tim Bendzko won the 2012 Bundesvision Song Contest on Thursday evening, defeating 15 other contestants with his song ”Wenn Worte meine Sprache wären” (If words were my language).

The contest is Germany’s domestic answer to the Eurovision Song Contest, where each of the 16 German states fields one contestant, and they go head-to-head on live TV.  Set up in 2005 by German entertainer and Eurovision 2011 host Stefan Raab, the show requires that German-language lyrics make up at least 50% of each song.

If you're really lucky, I'll even locate the video for you...


84% of user-set combination locks are set to the owner's birthday.


"Everybody lies, but it doesn't matter because nobody listens."
- Nick Diamos


Our almost personal banker at the ANZ in NZ has just sent us a message saying she is moving on and will ow be working in Australia (although with the same bank).  I'm hoping it's a promotion as she has been absolutely fantastic for us and we wish her all the best in her career.

Many thanks for all your help over the past couple of years/18 months, Sonia.

Jan Arrives

Although it won't be for a good few hours yet, my cousins husband will be joining us in Izola, later tonight.  Sensibly, as he is only here for a flying visit, the guys have booked themselves into a smart, 5* hotel for three nights (oh, the advantages of discounted travel and accommodation when working in the holiday industry) but we shall be seeing plenty of them both still.

And tomorrow will also see the arrival of our friends from England, Cliff & Denise, who have their own apartment a short stroll away. 

The only thing we can't arrange is the weather but we're hoping it's going to keep as it has been since we arrived, sunny and hot.  That really will be the icing on the cake.

A Night In

And much needed too.  We're just getting too old to keep doing the silly things we could do all night long in our youth.  Instead we cooked a meal and sat back and watched the box, with some dubious Eurovision-style music show, which I originally thought was to find Germany's entry to the competition next year.

Turns out it was just a stand alone contest and the majority of acts were appallingly bad; so bad that it turned out to be a top night in.  We had great fun hurling abuse at what is passed off as music but after the 16 acts had finished, none of us could be bothered to endure the dreary voting and so switched off.

I can't even be arsed to see who won via the web.  :o)

Thursday, 29 September 2011

C & H

Calvin and Hobbes

Hooking Up On-Line

TTel also offers some websites where vegetarians can go to meet up:

1 Telegraph Kindred Spirits (
Obviously the best. Populated by fiercely intelligent, beautiful people with sensible political views; or, put another way, Telegraph readers. Average age is more mature than most sites, but there's a healthy smattering of younger daters, too.
2 Match (
Match claims seven million joiners in Britain since 2005. That's almost one in eight British residents, so it's clearly an exaggeration, but the site is still massive. So it's a good option if you want to meet someone from a different background, and have time to trawl through "millions" of potentials, mostly aged 25 to 45.
3 My Single Friend (
A friend writes your narrative on MSF, then you comment: "Can't believe you mentioned the charity work, the lottery win and the modelling." So, someone else shows off for you, plus there's less of a stigma because you didn't sign yourself up. Clever. With 8,000 to 10,000 new members every month, this is a cracker.
4 Guardian Soulmates (
Telegraph readers don't generally chase Guardianistas but Soulmates is a sensible choice for urban intellectual types, with an average age of 38 and more than 145,000 members. Soulmates' profiles are about the wittiest, so it's certainly worth browsing this site to steal ideas.
5 Lovestruck ( matches urban desk pilots with people in other local offices. The site's new feature is an iPhone application that buzzes when one of Lovestruck's 40,000 members who fits your criteria is nearby.
6 Beautiful People (
You post a picture and members vote whether you're good looking enough to join. If you're a doe-eyed doxy who isn't looking for conversation, or a young man with overwhelmingly greased asymmetrical hair who pouts like an angry fish, this is the site for you.
7 TEE fore TWO (
This site for golfers has, believe it or not, more male than female members. If you're a woman who loves golf, it's a must. If you're just looking for a more mature fellow who likes to get a bit of exercise – the membership tends to be over 40 – you could do a lot worse.
8 Dating Direct (
Another industrially massive, utterly straightforward site. Like, this is useful if you're looking for someone outside your usual cultural boundaries, and favour the shotgun technique over the sniper rifle.
9 Parship (
Complete an in-depth personality test and get matched mathematically with similar people. This might leach out whatever romance was left in online dating, but if you trust in psychoanalysis, it's spot on.
10 Loopy Love (
Are you too zany for conventional sites and looking for a similarly off-the-wall lover? The site claims more than 1.5 million "active" members, so it's clear that there are a lot of funsters out there.

Veg Soc

A dating website for vegetarians has been reprimanded by advertising watchdogs because too many of its members eat meat. Here is a brief history of the Vegetarian Society as per TTel:

The word "vegetarian" was coined by founders when the society was established at a vegetarian hospital called Northwood Villa in Ramsgate, Kent in 1847.
It followed a unanimously passed resolution at the meeting that was presided by Joseph Brotherton, the then MP for Salford. The Vegetarian Society was born and within minutes 150 members had already joined.
The following year, at the Society's first annual meeting in Manchester, its membership base at grown to 265 people aged between 14 and 76. By the late 19th century, Britain boasted two influential vegetarian organisations.
In 1908 amid a surge in popularity of vegetarian movements world-wide, the International Vegetarian Union (IVU) was founded, which succeeded the Vegetarian Federal Union that was almost two decades earlier.
Vegetarian cuisine has continued to flourish through the 20th century, with dozens of restaurant and cookery schools established while a National Vegetarian Week has been celebrated almost every year since 1991.
Famous vegetarians are said to include Adolf Hitler, although some dispute this, Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, the former Beatles, Christine Lagarde, the newly installed French head of the International Monetary Fund, Martina Navratilova, the Czech tennis champion Shania Twain, the Canadian singer, Isaac Pitman, the Shorthand "guru" and Danni Minogue, the Australian pop star.

Odd Road Signs Around the World

From Auto Mobile India:

Image by ~ tukanuk


Image by ~ anes


Image by ~ treefell


Image by ~ stevenm


Image by ~ rileyroxx


Image by ~ richdrogpa


Image by ~ lynnftw



Image by ~ Charlie Harvey


Image by ~ bondseye


Image by ~ ektogamat


Image by ~ jmpk


Image by ~ shinythings


Image by ~ xq311z


Image by ~ mysticwales


Image by ~ doug88888


Image by ~ Newhaircut



Image by ~ thetruthabout


Image by ~ wiredwitch


Image by ~ glassdesk


X Rated and Banned

Britain’s first ever daytime TV advertisement for a sex toy company will aired next week, but some ads were just too controversial for our screens. TTel takes a look:

1. Kylie Minogue's advertisement for lingerie firm Agent Provocateur, in which she rides a mechanical bull, was created specifically for cinema and banned from being shown on television. It showed the singer gyrating on a red velvet rodeo bull in stockings and suspenders to show that underwear line was "the most erotic lingerie in the world". At the end of the short film she challenges the men in the audience to "stand up and be counted".
Despite the clip being banned for being too sexy to show on TV, it was voted the world’s top cinema advertiesment after netting over 350 million hits on YouTube.

2. The first abortion commercial on British television was broadcast to post-watershed viewers last year. The ad, for the Marie Stropes clinic - UK's leading provider of sexual health services outside the NHS - was part of a campaign aimed at breaking one of society's last taboos.
The word abortion wasn't mentioned and the charity offered a number of other services related to pregnancy and sexual health, however, critics complained it was clearly designed to point women towards getting terminations.
Pro-life groups and religious organisations campaigned for it to be banned. Channel 4 stopped the ad from being broadcast in Northern Ireland, where abortion is still illegal.
3. A Halloween radio advert for the adult clothing retailer Ann Summers was banned last year by the broadcasting regulator. The advert, for a range of risqué costumes, had been blocked because regulators fear it might be heard by children.
The commercial begins with the sound of screams which are soon after replaced by screams of sexual pleasure.A sultry voice-over can then be heard to say: "Tight. Short. Low-cut. Ann Summers dead sexy Halloween outfits with £5 off. In stores, online and at parties."

4. The first television advert for the morning-after pill sparked outcry from all corners of the country. It showed a girl waking up next to her lover, remembering a broken condom and then buying emergency contraception from a pharmacy.
Campaign groups warned that young girls would be "particularly susceptible" to the controversial add and should be pulled. Dominica Roberts, of the ProLife Alliance, said: "It is advertised inaccurately as emergency contraception, when in fact its major function is to cause the abortion of an embryo that has already been conceived, not as suggested by the name to prevent conception.
"Young girls will be particularly susceptible to this advertising campaign, and it is foolish to imagine they do not watch TV after the 9pm watershed."

5. The ad to get some of the most complaints in recent times was the fish hook ad which appeared almost everywhere from the television, internet, press and posters as part of the NHS anti-smoking campaign.
The ad described the smokers’ craving for cigarettes by having their cheeks pulled through with a fish hook. Most people’s verdict to the ad was that it was terrifying, distressing and even frightening. ASA maintained that the ad could lead to serious offences and agony in adults and kids alike.
Infact, inspite of the ad having the “ex-kids restriction” that banned controversial ads to be shown in between kids/ programs, two television and poster ads depicting the same found to be both scary and upsetting for kids.

Good Riddance

BLiar's future as Middle East peace envoy was in jeopardy after the Palestinian Authority said it was set to sever all contact with him because of his "bias" towards Israel.

The senior echelons of the Palestine Liberation Organisation are expected to meet in the coming days to discuss a proposal to declare Mr Blair persona non grata, officials said.

Predicting unanimous support for the motion from the entire Palestinian leadership, they said the intention was to isolate the former prime minister to such an extent that his position would become untenable.

Mr Blair has been viewed with an element of distrust by some Palestinians ever since his appointment as the envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East – the mediating body comprising the United States, the EU, the UN and Russia – on the day he left Downing Street in June 2007.

But antagonism has mounted over allegations that he lobbied European powers to vote against a Palestinian bid for statehood submitted to the United Nations in New York last week. "We have been extremely unhappy and dissatisfied with Mr Blair's performance since he became envoy, but particularly in the past few weeks," a senior Palestinian official said.

No formal request for Mr Blair's dismissal has been made to the Quartet, and it is likely the Palestinians will come under intense US and European pressure to change course and desist from making a public pronouncement on his ostracism.

More at TTel

Nothing Changes- Fact

Barclays remains the UK's most complained about bank after notching up 251 563 complaints in just the first half of this year.  In second place was Lloyds TSB with 181 907 and Shitander with 168 888, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) said.

Barclays also led the chart during the second half of last year, with more than 205 000 complaints, but it said the latest figure was 14% down on the same period in 2010.

So that's all right then...

U S of A

Crap UK

People in Britain are getting a "raw deal" on quality of life and cost of living, according to a new study.  Things are so bad that one in ten Brits is considering emigrating, says uSwitch, which put Britain bottom of its quality of life index.  The director of consumer policy for the price comparison website said:

"Last year, our neighbours in Ireland were worse off but now we can’t even console ourselves with that.  We are now officially bottom of the pile. We may still be enjoying the fourth highest household income in Europe but the high cost of living means that we’re living to work."

France and Spain top the index of ten countries.

The table considered working hours, VAT, holidays, health and education costs and hours of sunshine.   British households struggle with the highest food and diesel prices in Europe, while petrol, alcohol and cigarettes cost more than the average on the continent, the report says.

Britons also have the lowest holiday entitlement in Europe and one of the highest retirement ages.  One of our biggest concerns is the "broken society", according to the survey.

The Whole Truth and Nothing But

A barrister stunned a court by calling his client "a thieving little twat", going on to add that it was the 18 year old’s description of himself in a probation report.  He added:

"It’s a little harsh but not far from the truth."

The judge agreed and said the client was to be commended for his insight.  :oD

Taking it to the Grave

From ecosalon:

Last year, the Jack Bell Gallery in London debuted a collection of Paa Joe’s fantasy coffins, called abebuu adekai (literally “boxes with proverbs”), to much critical acclaim. Tomorrow, the gallery, which recently moved to a new space in the West End, is opening a new exhibit called Les Fantomes featuring more of Paa Joe’s works.

I connected with Bell over the telephone this week and he had this to say about Joe’s corpus of work.

“They’re amazing pieces of contemporary art reminiscent of Jeff Koons in terms of scale and materials.”

For the purpose of burial, Paa Joe and other coffin makers sculpt out of locally sourced, often reused, white wood (wawa wawa) or emien, an important material in West African carpentry. Those crafted for export, such that Bell displays in his gallery, are sculpted out of harder and more expensive wood like limba or African Mahogany.

Bell explains that the Ghanaian tradition dates back to the presence of American troops and their jet planes during the 1950s. Paa Joe’s mentor, another famous carpenter who was named Kane Kwei, popularized the abebuu adekai after his mother passed away.

“His mother had always dreamed of going on an airplane, but never got to go. He built her one and it caught on among the Ga people [of the Accra region].”

The coffins can be both figurative and literal. A businessman might be buried in a Mercedes Benz, while a photographer would be buried in a Nikon. A hunter could end up in a lion; a chief would glide into the afterlife inside a Golden African Eagle.

Les Fantomes is on at the Jack Bell Gallery through the end of October. In the United States, an abebuu adekai is on permanent display at the Smithsonian.

Fence Sitters

A drug found to triple a smoker's chances of quitting will not be officially available in Britain for another three years- even though it can be bought now for 12 pence a pill on-line.

Nicotine substitute Tabex cannot be prescribed here although it has helped millions of people in eastern Europe during the past four decades.

The plant-based treatment has no known harmful side-effect and could save the NHS millions of pounds a year, it is claimed, but it will not be cleared for up to three years because of what "experts" claim are "Alice in Wonderland" drug regulations.  Instead, they fear that smokers will buy Tabex on-line despite the internet being flooded with poor quality counterfeit drugs.

The origins of Tabex can be traced to World War II when German and Russian soldiers satisfied their craving for nicotine by smoking laburnum leaves.  It has been extensively tested in eastern Europe but the trials were not considered robust enough to satisfy British regulators.

A new study has now found that people who wanted to stop smoking were 3.4 times more likely to succeed with Tabex.  More than 8% of those given the drug were able to avoid smoking for a year compared with 2.4% of a placebo group, with the trial involving 740 patients.  Cancer Research UK’s Professor Robert West, who led the study, said:

"It’s been available in central and eastern Europe for more than 40 years, we have safety data on millions of people and we know it’s effective but it’s not licensed in Britain.  One of the 'Alice in Wonderland' things about the regulatory system is that it’s not designed for drugs that have been on the market for a long time. It’s designed for drugs you’re bringing from animals to humans.

There’s nothing illegal about buying it on-line but there’s always the risk you might not get what you expect."

He claimed Tabex would be a tenth the price of standard treatment, Champix, which costs up to £150 for a 12 week course.

The Department of Health said the drug "sounds promising", adding they will "look at whether it has prospects for use in the UK to help smokers quit."

Baking Britain

The mercury in the Caribbean hotspot of Nassau is forecast to reach 27 C and Alice Springs in the Australian outback will be cooler than parts of England with a predicted temperature of 25 C, for today, temperatures in the UK are forecast to hit 28 C.

But make the most of the Indian summer, it's predicted to fade away by Tuesday.  Enjoy.

Breast Factor

Sunscreen can double a woman's chances of getting breast cancer.

Typewriter Cocktail Machine

A Russian chap named Morskoiboy, has joined a keyboard to a load tubes which lead to a series of coloured syrups.  A bottle of spirits then gets attached into the top, and you're in the chair.  You simply type in a random cocktail.  He said:

“One day I had this funny idea, and I thought, ‘Well, there’s really nothing stopping me...My machine converts words into cocktails. And, yes, it does work. Now I can literally taste the flavour of my words.”  :o)

His Blog is here:

Take Two

10 Famous Re-Cast Roles as per SL:


Back to the Future launched Michael J Fox’s career into the stratosphere. But it could so easily have been Eric Stoltz. Stoltz shot nearly half the film in the role of Marty McFly, but producer Steven Spielberg and director Robert Zemekis eventually decided something wasn't right and reluctantly gave him the boot. They decided to replace him with someone with more ‘physicality’, as opposed to Stoltz’s more serious, method-based approach. The rest is history. Or the future. One of the two. You can see the Stoltz footage here.


American Psycho was always going to be a thorny project. Mary Harron signed to direct the screen version of Bret Easton Ellis’s ultra-violent capitalist allegory, but backed out when the studio hired Leonardo DiCaprio to star. She wanted Christian Bale as the maniac broker Patrick Bateman. Oliver Stone stepped in to direct. But after protests from feminist groups, and issues with the script, DiCaprio walked, followed later by Stone. Harron returned, and cast Bale. All’s well that ends well.


Odd to think that such a ‘name’ as Van Damme might have played a character completely obscured by make-up, particularly when he was at the height of his high-kicking powers. Indeed, it was just this that proved to be the problem. After landing the role for his agility, he found moving in the alien suit difficult, and quit after two days. He was replaced by the enormous and largely unknown Kevin Peter Hall, who stood at 7’2.5”.


Some roles are so iconic, you can scarcely imagine anyone else doing them. But do them they did, in the case of Apocalypse Now. Harvey Keitel spent two weeks filming in the Philippines with Francis Ford Coppola as Captain Benjamin L. Willard. He was a few down the line too, with McQueen, Redford, Nicholson and Pacino all turning down the role. Checking the rushes, Coppola was unhappy with Keitel’s performance, so he called on Martin Sheen to take the role, after seeing him read for the role of Michael Corleone in The Godfather. He had lost out to Pacino on that occasion, but scooped the role of a lifetime instead.


Filming schedules are buggers. They’ve scuppered many a fine actor’s chances at getting game-changing roles. None more so, perhaps, than Tom Selleck. Having successfully auditioned for both the role of Indiana Jones in Raiders and that of Thomas Magnum in Magnum P.I., he was forced to take on the latter after it emerged the schedules would clash. He’d signed with CBS to do Magnum first, who then refused to let him out of the contract. Bye Bye Indy, then, leaving the door ajar for Harrison Ford and making him one of the biggest film stars in the world. Selleck remained predominantly a TV actor, albeit a very successful one. The onion in the ointment comes, however, when Magnum’s filming was delayed, meaning he could have actually done both. Ouch.


In another scheduling balls-up, the role of Wolverine in X-Men evaded Dougray Scott, who was all signed up but then delayed in his role in Mission: Impossible II. Another actor was sought, with Bryan Singer going for Hugh Jackman, an unknown Australian actor instead. It would be the role that would launch his career and link him inexorably to sideburns.


Lance Henriksen was a long-time friend of Terminator director James Cameron. When he’d written the script, Cameron had envisaged a ‘regular guy’ in the role of the cyborg assassin, to make it more shocking. Henriksen was a shoo-in for the role, but when Arnold Schwarzenegger pitched up to audition for the role of Kyle Reese, he got the part of the terminator instead. Henriksen was given the role of the police detective, but got to play a robot in the end for Cameron – as Bishop in Aliens.


Terrence Howard’s re-casting in the second of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man films was surrounded by rumours over his pay packet. He played Col. Jim Rhodes ably in the first film, but come the second, he’d been replaced by Don Cheadle. Why? Well, according to reports, he was the first person to sign on for the first film, and was paid more than any of the other actors, including the lead Robert Downey Jr. When approached to accept a more modest (arguably realistic) amount for the second, he decided to call the studio's bluff. Bad move.


As nuts as it sounds, Frank Sinatra was all geared up to play trigger-happy cop Harry Callaghan in Dirty Harry. He even appeared on trade adverts in the Hollywood press, announcing the project was in production. But Ol’ Blue Eyes injured his hand, meaning he had to quit. After a few script tweaks and re-writes (and a quick fumble with Paul Newman as a possible lead), director Don Siegel went with Clint Eastwood, gifting him one of the most iconic roles of his career.


Mickey Rourke was seemingly Simpson and Bruckheimer’s first choice to play wise-cracking cop Axel Foley (Al Pacino and James Caan were also said to be in the frame). He pulled out, leaving the slot open for Sylvester Stallone. But Sly, being Sly, wasn’t happy with the role. He even re-wrote the script himself, removing all the humour and making it a straight-up action film. The project went south, and Stallone left, leaving a chaotic project behind him. The film was re-written again, to reinsert all the funny bits, and Eddie Murphy became Axel Foley, one of his career-defining roles.