News Monkey

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A simian slant on last week's news ...

TORY MELTDOWN. With "Hooray for Pinochet!' and "Save the Hereditary Peers" as their two main battle cries, one wonders precisely how long the Conservatives mean to stay out of power. Perhaps they mean to get out of politics altogether and open up an antiques shop in Hereford. The Pinochet case has even prompted the return to the fore of former governmental figure of fun Norman Lamont (now Lord Lamont - how'd that happen?) to explain how the General came to be so misunderstood. With hereditary peers now on course to be disappeared ahead of schedule and Pinochet set to hang around for another year or so, William Hague will have ample opportunity to demonstrate his two favourite strategies: the open goal and the own- goal.

TRIMBLE AND HUME. The idea of jointly awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to two people who don't like each other isn't new, but forcing the pair to co-operate in a weird ceremony on Prize Day does herald a new era of Peace Through Humiliation. This week John Hume and David Trimble were made to use one hand each to pick up a peace torch and light a peace beacon in front of 5,000 Norwegian schoolchildren before they could get their medals. Whether or not such gestures actually aid the cause of peace is anyone's guess, but it's all good fun.

BUG UPDATE. According to its own figures, more than half of the MoD's computer systems are still threatened by the Millennium Bug, presenting a real threat to Britain's weapons systems. One somehow imagined they would have sorted all that out before they started issuing warnings to everyone about the clocks on our videos, but perhaps they had a point. This way, if World War III does break-out on New Year's Eve 1999, at least you'll be able to tape it.

SINATRA FILES. After Frank Sinatra's death, it was only a matter of time before "the Chairman of the Board" became known as "The Bag Man For The Mob". This is thanks to the American tabloid TV researcher's best friend, otherwise known as the Freedom of Information Act, and the scrupulous record-keeping of the FBI. Perhaps the reason Britain still lacks such a valuable resource is that freedom of information is always presented as a dry issue about open government and accountability, rather than the fun-filled celebrity gossip-fest the Americans know it to be.

IRAQ CHALLENGE. In a week when Unscom inspectors have been refused access to suspected Iraqi weapons sites, you have to ask yourself: "What week is this?" It is clear that the wily Saddam Hussein has realised that Western Allies don't like starting big wars right before Christmas, and knows that he is safe until about mid-January, when everyone finally gets back into the swing of things at work.