venerdì, giugno 18, 2004

Where's the Chilled Foods Cabinet?

Finding the coolest part of the Supermarket will be a new skill to be acquired....

"We don't want to put granddad in the supermarket trolley"

Says Donato Greco, coordinator of the new anti-heat campaign" that has just been announced in Italy for the benefit and comfort of Italian pensioners this summer. An odd remark, but the context is just as odd. The plan is to take any pensioners of 65 or over, that are suitably registered with the appropriate authorities (I'm getting the hang of all this bureaucracy now!) and take them to local Supermarkets. Yes, that's correct - I DID say Supermarkets. They aren't going there to do the weekly shopping or anything like that - they are going there because Supermarkets always have good airconditioning!

Sounds like a plan to me!

Now, all we have to come up with is a plan for wintertime and it's sussed!

Silvio, Silvio - Wherefore Art Thou?

Silvio feeling humble before the Union Flag. hahahaha!

EU Elections: Stanca says SMS did not violate privacy

There! That's made us all feel much better, hasn't it! Just when we thought that il Presidente del Consiglio, Silvio Berlusconi was taking us for chumps by sending EVERY single mobile phone owner in Italy an SMS message to encourage them to vote (obviously not for himself! Heaven forbid the thought!) we now have the answer:

The initiatives of the President to send a text message to inform voters on the opening hours at the ballots last Saturday "only anticipated a new way to communicate on a national level, but it certainly did not violate anyone's privacy". And so, the Minister for new technology, Lucio Stanca, who earlier this morning intervened at a conference promoted by the guarantee for the protection of personal data, returned to take on the debate brought up during the last few days. "Perhaps for the first time at a national level, said Stanca, a sort of broadcasting took place via cellular, usually conceived as a point to point connection. Of course, the reaction might have been different if instead of a text message each voter had received a letter. The truth is that the new technology is changing the way of communication not only between people but also in the various institutions dedicated to citizens". No conflicts between privacy and new technology, explains the Minister. On the contrary, "the norms on privacy must be used as an accelerator and not as a stop to the development of new technology. Politics has to capitalise on these opportunities and at the same time reduce risks. We have heavily emphasised the rights on privacy". Stanca still did not hide the fact that "in the trinomial of safety, innovation and privacy there are conflicting aspects and demands, especially in relation to the historical phase in which they are found. Our country still does not seem to realise the vast array of opportunity that comes from innovation and technology. There is indifference, fear and distance, states Stanca. People are illiterate because many do not know how to use computers and small and medium businesses are behind, which has an impact on our modern economy. Our objective is to surpass these obstacles"

So, there!

Big Brother - Reality has a new meaning.

Reality TV show?

There is a huge furore in the UK at the moment about a TV show there called "Big Brother". Why, you may ask? Well, it seems that there was a fight on Wednesday night that resulted in the live feed being cut and the police called. What is going on there? They encourage the greed and ego-seeking side of human nature - then feed it with a mixture of alcohol and fame - then BINGO! - You have a scene from a Hollywood 'B' movie that ends up with the pretty female psychiatrist falling in love with the psychotic muderer! Well, not exactly, but the potential for even more ridiculous TV and film plots, which are just screaming out for production!

The G8 Summit

Not new news, I know, but I just noticed that my copy of the Europa Newsletter shows a photograph on the front cover of the attending Heads of State. Can you spot the missing one there? Is this significant, do you think?

Ahh! That's where he went! Copyright Steve Bell 2004

G8 member Heads of State shown together at the recent Summit held in Sea Island, Georgia, on the 8th and 9th June 2004.

Britain and the EU

Is there always destined to be a power struggle between the French and the English in Europe?

The recent history is, of course, fuelled by the UK row about the increasing growth of the UKIP - a splinter group whose stated intention is to remove the UK from the EU as quickly as possible. They have attracted a considerable number of what would probably have been Tory votes to elect Kilroy-Silk as an MEP, with the support of such illustrious stars as Joan Collins, for example. Well, the largely right-wing owned press in the UK have done their best to cloud all of the issues about Europe and the EU - helped in no small measure by Jaques Chirac, of course - giving the people in the UK a very misty idea as to what it is really all about.

It has now bubbled over into a two-pronged argument - one about the appointment of the next EU President - a post currently occupied by Romano Prodi - and the other about the EU Constitution, with which the UK has raised issues concerning taxation and Social Security.

It's good to see that life goes on as usual here in Italy though. the latest move in the long running farce surrounding the case in Palermo against Marcello dell'Utri, who is a senator in Berlusconi's Forza Italia party and also former head of his advertising company, Publitalia. The case was supposedly coming to a conclusion when a perhaps inevitable 'but' entered into the story though. It transpires that he has being chosen as the country's new delegate at the Council of Europe. By going to Strasbourg to join the 45-strong Council, dell'Utri will automatically gain immunity from legal processes. Dell'Utri will thus escape a verdict in the case which could be only a few weeks away. Once his position in the Council is confirmed, all legal cases against him will be frozen. Why am I not surprised?

Turning once more, briefly, to the US and the saga of the now infamous Congessional Committee Report - Don Cheney had an interesting comment to make to the press; "Asked if he knows information that the 9/11 commission does not know, Cheney replied, "Probably."

Say no more.......

giovedì, giugno 17, 2004

Copyright Steve Bell 2004, with acknowledgements.

Key findings on al-Qaeda

Well, the Congressional Committee has presented it's preliminary report on the reasons for why the US attacked Iraq - and it isn't exactly what the Bush camp would have liked to read.

"Bin Laden also explored possible co-operation with Iraq.

Bin Laden is said to have requested space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded.

We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al-Qaeda co-operated on attacks against the United States."

Now, how could the entire US administration, military, CIA, FBI, whatever else they have policing their security, actually say something else to us? How could they lie? Well, there are a great many theories and possibilities that come to mind, but the BBC were very restrained in their reporting - without giving the appearance of covering up anything known to them either.

However, it is more than sad to see that Mr Tony Blair's special human rights envoy to Iraq, Ann Clwyd, is saying still that despite the Congressional Preliminary Report stating otherwise, Downing Street are still of the opinion that there actually was a link between al-Qaida and the regime of Saddam Hussein. When will they ever actually open their eyes and give up the lying? it is just so ...... un-English!

The commission's final report is expected on 28 July.

Of course, whilst we look at the 'tangled web' that surrounds the US administration, it is interesting to see that there has been no let-up in the on-going investigation into what actually was happening in the run-up to the Twin Towers tragedy. Again, the BBC report is interesting to read.

The Congressional Report examining the reasons for the USA attacking Iraq will make uncomfortable reading for G W Bush - if he reads it, that is. Posted by Hello

Weather Forcasts

No, I'm not about to launch into an "I hate Michael Fish" diatribe - even though the man does rather deserve all of the scorn that has been poured on him over the years - in my humble opinion, that is. No, this is as a result of a friend of mine in the UK telling me how sorry he is feeling for me due to the fact of the weather in the UK being so much warmer than it is here in Milano.

What!? Can that be true? Well, the short answer is a resounding 'NO', which, as I'm sitting in my office looking at an outside thermometer, reading 29C at this moment, makes the expected 21 in London look decidedly on the chilly side.

But why? Why is the weather always forcast so very badly? It doesn't matter where you are in the world, either. It is ALWAYS the same. Always WRONG. But, why is that? I routinely see that the weather forcasters here in Italy - usually a very smart looking Colonel something-or-other - are precise and look completely believable whilst they tell us that it is going to rain in the afternoon, or that the clouds (WHAT clouds? The sun is shining!) will dissipitate by evening. Within the next 15 mins there is then a pretty graphical presentation of the day's weather for those that missed the Colonel and - surprise, surprise - it's different. Wheras the Colonel told us to wrap up and keep our umbrella's handy - the graphics show the sun beating down all day with no hint of any rain this side of the Alps! I like the fact that it is usually preceeded by the horoscope forcast for the day as well. Maybe that sums it all up though - they are both hopeful presentations of our impending day.

mercoledì, giugno 16, 2004

Portugese police dealing with rioting English football fans last night in Albufeira. Posted by Hello

Football Violence again

Another night in Portugal - another opportunity for English football 'fans' to cause even more aggressive mayhem there. They must surely realise that they are creating the situation where England will find itself banned from playing any matches in Europe, as was the case a few years ago. Tony Blair has weighed in with his statement about the 'fans' bringing "shame on our country" and further saying that the situation in Albufeira was "completely intolerable".

With the aggressive violence demonstrated on the pitch by the England squad during the match against France - which they lost - is it a surprise that the fans see violence as acceptable behaviour?

Of course, we might trace the game back to it's medieval origins in England and see how violently it was originally played and how the game developed over the ages. A study by the Sir Norman Chester Centre for Football Research gives an informed English view of the problem, including discussing issues surrounding the violence caused by other European teams, usually called 'Ultra" clubs associated with individual teams. The actual term "Ultra" is generally thought to originate with the Stanley Kubrik film, "Clockwork Orange" that was notoriously effectively banned by Kubrik himself in 1973.

Englishman that was in Verona

This is the way that the blog that was actually appears on all of my computers here. Win2000, NT4, MacOS9, OSX - all identical. Refresh sorts it all out, however. Obviously it's a bit of a problem with Google as I've seen it on several blogs. I have a feeling that restricting the number of posts shown on the page before archiving helps. It's worth a go, anyway!

martedì, giugno 15, 2004

With apologies to Silvio..................or no? Posted by Hello

The Abu Ghraib situation continues;

Just when we thought that things had died down (pun intended) a little, there are fresh revelations about how extreme the torture regime actually was there. The Bush Administration is, naturally enough, trying to blame "one or two bad apples". The only trouble with this theory is that there are lots and lots more photographs taken by the "bad apples", showing how debauched the whole regime of US troops actually were there.

Oh well, I suppose one could say that "all's fair in love and war". But, on the other hand, one could say with far more conviction that the killing and maiming of innocent people is the greatest evil possible.

Tony Blair seems to be missing this point though. He is continuing to try justifying the lies he told at the start of the whole Iraq story. He is maintaining, in the face of almost universal criticism in the UK now, that he was "convinced his decision to go to war in Iraq had been right"

I can't help but feel we are talking about an ex-Prime Minister here.

Football and Hooligans

That was a short lived period of peace and quiet from the English football fans in Portugal, wasn't it. A violent outburst happened in the predominantly tourist area of the Algarve early this morning. Twelve people, 10 Britons, one Portuguese and a Russian, were arrested for public order offences after the fans, who had been drinking heavily, began throwing bottles outside a bar in Albufeira. The attack is reported in The Guardian here. Football violence is probably something that we will have to live with these days as it seems to be spreading throughout Europe. Even the thugs themselves are cashing in on their fame as hooligans though, as witnessed by the re-launch of a book on Football Hooliganism, which was written by a hooligan who was subsequently banned from Goodison Park, home ground of Everton football club, for life.

Let's just hope that the violence in the crowds can be kept away from the football pitch now, although the England press seem to be glorying in the fact that some of the England players were fouling atrociously, including kicking and punching other players. Let's hope that Pierluigi Collina can control their arrogant behavior on the pitch!

A Scouse writer of a book on football hooliganism autographs (or is it steals?) a copy of the book. Posted by Hello

lunedì, giugno 14, 2004

European Elections - continues...

Well, the election results are all in now and interesting reading they make as well. Firstly, I suppose, comment should be passed on the actual turnout of voters. The picture, as a whole, looks pretty poor - but, the main culprits for taking no interest in the European Elections are, surprisingly, the new Member States of SK, SI, PL, EE and CZ - all whom polled less than 30% of the electorate. The UK actually polled far more than in the previous elections, with 38.9% - although the voters seem to have been voting for some complete and utter lunatics and fools. How can someone as ridiculous as Kilroy-Silk have the nerve to say that his aim is to "wreck" the EU when he has stood - and been elected - as MEP for the East Midlands area of the UK! The same man who once was a Labour MP - until offered a job as a TV presenter, where he made himself every middle-aged housewife's 'Dream Boat'! The same man that was recently fired from that same job for making racist comments whilst 'on air'. What ever is the UK coming to?

Whilst thinking about the glories of the British Empire (!) I happened across this article in the Guardian about the reducing profitability of British business. Something that both the Conservative Party and the UKIP would, no doubt, strenuously deny.

But what of the results here in Italy? Well, it looks like the little SMS message ploy rather backfired on Burlesquoni! As did his 'Vote of Confidence' that he had been looking to the Italian electorate for. The leading party is actually Uniti nell’Ulivo, thank goodness! Forse Italia came second, with a resounding 21% of the voting electorate voting for it and Burlesquoni. Oh well - at least we don't have to wonder if Burlesquoni is about to resign his Premiership in order to take his seat in Brussels - but then again, if he did resign, he would, most likely, get arrested for all those naughty things he is alleged to have done over the past 10 years (inside the Statute of Limitations, that is). Better stick to being il Presidente del Consiglio, I think. If you are interested in seeing all of the results of the election across the Member States, take a look here,

Forecasts for the next parliament based on provisional figures from the European Parliament. Posted by Hello

The English Aftermath.

I suppose that the fact there has been very little trouble in Portugal so far could be thought of as either the well-behaved English supporters that have travelled there - or just simply fear of the Portugese police forces. However, the English football supporters made up for their quiet behaviour in Portugal by rioting in England. The BBC reports the story as:

Trouble erupts after England game

The muted atmosphere in Lisbon contrasted with England
Police across England made 83 arrests after fans rioted following England's Euro 2004 loss to France.

Some 400 people were involved in disturbances in Croydon, south London, where police were pelted with missiles and 12 people were arrested.

Another 12 people were arrested in Birmingham after a crowd of 200 caused trouble around the city centre.

This was in sharp contrast to the scene in Lisbon, where England supporters remained peaceful.

One supporter was reportedly arrested for allegedly punching an employee at the Lisbon stadium.

And one was handed a suspended jail term and deported following an earlier attack on a French supporter in Lisbon city centre.

Police in Croydon said disturbances there erupted at about 2215 BST on Sunday and continued for about an hour.

Very sad to see that football violence and mindless hooliganism are still thriving in England. Very sad and very embarrassing for those English that are living or working outside of the UK.

Beckham misses a penalty. Posted by Hello

An Exciting Weekend.

By that, of course, I don't mean the Formula 1 GP in Canada. Surprisingly, Schumaker came first - oh, and second too! I used to do a lot of work for some of the well known F1 teams and it used to be exciting - but, not any more. Is it just my age showing through my seams or is it really as boring these days as I think it is? Well, whatever you think about F1, the Motorcycle GP was REALLY exciting. Definitely worth watching if you are jaded with F1 these days.

The other sporting event was, of course, the Euro 2004 football. Starting off with Greece beating Portugal, the tone was set. That was followed, on Sunday, with the match between France and England. I was absolutely appalled by the match. England played like an unskilled bunch of thugs and lost the game. Quite right too, I think. That sort of fouling should not go unpunished and where did they find that potential BNP candidate, Wayne Rooney, from? What an ignorant, aggressive player. To compare him with Ronaldo, by calling him 'Roonaldo', is an insult to a great player - who, incidentally, is also a Real Madrid team member. The sad thing is that if England could actually get around to playing football, rather than trying to foul their way to every goal opportunity, they might very well have actually won. They have skill for sure, but the skill is swamped by their mindless aggression. Good on France. Good on Real Madrid player, Zinedine Zidane, who accounted for both of the French goals against his erstwhile team mate, David Beckham, sporting a nice new skin-head type hair cut. Maybe that was the trouble after all? The haircuts.

The other news on the English sporting front was New Zealand thrashing the 'World Champions' by 36-3 What a win for the All Blacks against a very poor English side! Match report is here should you want to read about the drubbing.