News Monkey: A simian slant on last week's news ...

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The Independent Online
SADDAM CLIMBDOWN. Nowhere is there a better example of flexible employment practices than in the relatively new field of UN Weapons Inspection: one day you're laid off indefinitely, the next you're back at work. Then you hear rumours that the next round of redundancies will almost certainly be permanent. Students thinking of switching from media studies to weapons inspection maybe should think again.

LEWINSKY SPEAKS. Tapes released last week revealed for the first time what Monica sounds like. One somehow knew not to expect Meryl Streep in The French Lieutenant's Woman, but the reality sounds like Drew Barrymore auditioning to star in Oral Testimony: The Monica Lewinsky Story. Perhaps Ms Streep could play Linda Tripp, but one hesitates even to joke about a case in which parody has long since achieved the power of prophecy.

DELIA RULES. First it was cranberries, then yeast, then eggs, then the pan, then the other pan. Reports of supermarkets running out of eggs remind us that a disturbingly large percentage of the population is comprised of poorly organised, suggestible zombies in search of a leader. As long as Delia only uses her power for good there's no real danger, but what happens when she starts telling people to hoard silver, or vote Lib Dem?

SHAYLER FREE. It's obvious that David Shayler deserves whistle-blower status when the very fact that MI5 ever employed him constitutes an indictment of their hiring practices. We shouldn't be surprised that Shayler thinks tattling is OK - this is a man who had to work at MI5 for six years before he realised spying is wrong. Whatever his motives, it's hard not to find his disclosures of MI5 incompetence reassuring. Given the sort of plots they come up with and the people they hire, it's good to know few of their projects ever get off the ground.

DEAD GERMAN. From Hamburg comes proof that Germans are just like us, only worse. Failing to notice that one's neighbour has died is a British tradition, but Germany must hold the new record after the skeleton of Wolfgang Dircks was found in front of the TV with the listings page open for 5 December 1993. The fact that his Christmas lights stayed on for five years didn't arouse suspicion. His nearest neighbours were quite correct in their belief that they didn't know him well enough to check up on him. They only moved in a year after he'd died.