NEWS MONKEY

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The Independent Online
SOPHIE'S NIPPLE. The publication of an 11-year-old topless photo of the woman who is about to marry the last Prince in the shop is a good example of the law of diminishing returns applied to royal scandals. The real shock is that such a picture is worth pounds 100,000, and the tangential involvement of DJ Chris Tarrant makes the whole saga seem so very ITV. That even more ink has been shed in the subsequent broadsheet outrage only proves that this whole Kosovo thing is beginning to drag on a bit.

THE TREBLE. After the FA Cup football fans across the nation were briefly able to put aside petty differences and join together in their hatred of Manchester United, but the team's remarkable win over Bayern Munich on Wednesday has spoiled even that. Imagine how we'd feel if Rupert Murdoch had managed to buy them. Whatever your opinion on the increasingly corporate flavour of modern professional football, it's clear that Manchester United belongs in a league all by itself, which might not be such a bad idea.

WAR CRIMES. The Hague indictment of Slobodan Milosevic for crimes against humanity is an oddly timed piece of demonisation, which seems designed to turn him into a more official hate figure, a sort of Balkan David Yelland. Fortunately for Mr Milosevic, the Hague's record on follow-through means that judgment in his case could well be reserved until, well, Judgement Day.

FRENCH TO DIE. At last we can stop worrying about the French living longer than us, since pretty soon they won't. Theories that French longevity was based on garlic and red wine consumption proved to be groundless. It turns that they cheated by eating a lot less fat than Britons, albeit 30 years ago, but their modern diet is no better than ours, and they look set to start kicking off at UK rates any time now. Now that the final brace of the rickety edifice of French supremacy has been kicked away, it's time the National Front all hung up their berets and went out for a Big Mac.

READ MY LIPS. After a long silence, the gaffe-master, Duke of Edinburgh, has come out of retirement. His remarks to members of the British Deaf Association of Cardiff - he pointed to a loudspeaker saying "Deaf? If you are near there no wonder you are deaf," and walked away - may not be Prince Philip at his brick-dropping best, but it does give the newspapers an excuse to reprint his greatest hits. It would be unkind to review them here in any detail, so briefly then, they are: (1) the slitty-eyed one, (2) the pot-bellied Hungarian clanger, (3) the Papua-New Guinea cannibalism remark and (4) the drunk-driving Scotsman comment. Ironically, it seems likely that his latest gaffe came about because Prince Philip is getting a bit deaf.

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION. The Government's new draft Freedom of Information Bill contains a double measure of freedom. The public will have the right to request information on almost anything, and the Government will have a right to say no almost all of the time. The Bill seems craftily designed to allow only the dissemination of information which makes the Government look good, as if we don't hear enough of that already. While purporting to increase choice without ever letting you see any of the stuff you want, and charging you handsomely for the privilege, the Freedom of Information Bill may become the legislative equivalent of Sky Movies.

TIM DOWLING

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