NEWS MONKEY

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NEW D-G. The appointment of Greg Dyke as the Director-General of the BBC raises an important question: what happened to his beard? Was he forced to shave it off by the Board of Governors, or has it just been digitally retouched out of photos, like Prince William's frown? It's possible that after his glorious ascension to D-G, G D will now try to pretend that he never had a beard, which perhaps isn't such a bad idea. As for that other matter - his pounds 55,000 donation to the Labour Party - the opposition need not worry about bias or undue influence. Everybody knows it takes a lot more than that to turn the Labour Party's head.

TENNIS PARENTS. It's difficult to believe that there's anything wrong with Martina Hingis that $10m in prize money won't fix, but her surprise Wimbledon defeat at the hands of an unknown whose parent was just that tiny bit pushier has prompted a new round of criticism of the tennis parents who destroy the lives of their protege offspring. While the prevailing view of professional tennis as a cruel system of institutionalised forced labour for emotionally abused teenage girls may be a gross exaggeration, it certainly accounts for the very high viewing figures.

BATTLE OF STONEHENGE. The annual solstice showdown between the police and the new age folk at Stonehenge is a very British confrontation. It is about nothing, it achieves nothing, and everyone in the nation picks a side. Even English Heritage's concerns about damage to the monument seem slightly beside the point, since it's already a bit of a wreck. While solutions are proposed from time to time, the best thing to do about this traditional Pigs v Hippies fixture is to let it continue exactly as it is, perhaps letting the hippies have a go with the batons one year.

AITKEN'S POEM. Jonathan Aitken's first prison poem will play a major part in his campaign to make people feel sorry for him, although perhaps not in the way he intended. "A Ballad From Belmarsh Gaol" has already provoked much sympathy, as extracts prove that even critics who pronounced it rubbish were being quite generous. In fact the verse probably isn't good enough to get Aitken into any of Belmarsh's poetry gangs. Perhaps he does have the makings of a good jailhouse poet, but he needs to spend considerably more time in prison.

TODDLER TARGETS. Government proposals to end the days of cutting and pasting for three-year olds in favour of a more structured learning environment don't go far enough, and fail to address the real problem: the children themselves. The average British three-year old is unfocused, immature and moody, generally content to indulge in futile cutting and pasting, while in more competitive countries children of three are knocking up footballs and brand-name shorts before breakfast. Teaching a three-year- old to read won't make him more productive. It will just make him rebellious.

FUGITIVE FRANKEL. It's anybody's guess whether the FBI will ever track down 44-year old fugitive financier Martin Frankel, but the fact that their most recent picture of him is from his high school yearbook is not a particularly good sign. Ironically Frankel's record theft of pounds 2bn comes at a time when home-grown white-collar criminal Nick Leeson returns from four years in a Singapore prison, no doubt armed with some tip-top poetry.

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