DIARY

What the elk - drop those antlers

As Douglas Hogg (an infelicitous choice of name, surely, for the man delegated to fight for British beef) continues to plead our case in Europe, Eagle Eye has spotted a distraction from the troubles of our own poor cows. The Canadian Agriculture Department has admitted that an elk slaughtered in Saskatchewan in January was suffering from TSE - transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, or Mad Moose Disease.

Although there is no great appetite for elkburgers, this news could have serious repercussions for the trade in antlers, which Canada sells to Asia for use in medicine and aphrodisiacs. We look forward to a declaration from the European Commission of its policy on earrings made from moose- droppings. Our scientific advisers say there is no evidence that humans can catch CJD aurally from the droppings of a mad moose, but you cannot be too careful.

Just prawns in a political game?

And here's another acronym to add to your growing collection: TED, the Turtle-Excluder Device, over which the Thais are getting in a bit of a knot. Thailand, you see, is the biggest exporter of shrimp to the United States, and the US has just passed a law limiting the import of shrimps. It's nothing to do with shellfish protectionism, but all for the good of endangered sea turtles.

Too many shrimp fishermen are refusing to install TEDs in their nets, which would give trapped turtles a way to escape death from drowning. The director general of the Thai Fisheries Department was so upset by it all he refused to meet members of the press to discuss the implications of the new law. Let us hope that someone soon tells him that it applies only to ocean-caught shrimp, not pond shrimps, which account for the vast majority of the $2.5bn earned each year by Thai exports to the US.

They call it turtle love

If you do catch a turtle in your TED, and it's striped, please send it to Zhao Kentang. He's a herpetologist in Jiangsu province, China, with the last spinster striped turtle in captivity.

He, and she, are desperate to find a mate before the species dies out.

Party political goes for the fear factor

A new television phenomenon comes to a conclusion today. Last week and this, the Labour Party has been running a two-part party political broadcast. Those who were terrified out of their wits by last Tuesday's episode, where a nasty giant wearing a pin-striped suit and a blue rosette crashed through Tory Britain, smashing factories and stealing people's houses, will have endured a whole week of nightmares before finding out what happens next. For those who cannot stand the suspense I have ominous news: the storyline gets even more frightening.

In today's episode, not content with causing wanton destruction to property, the giant starts nicking people's money.

Let's hope that the beast is caught in the Tough on Crime and Tough on the Causes of Crime net. Parents who might wish to send their children to bed before the watershed can at least be grateful it's not a mini-series.

Be aware - and then, beware

We were alarmed to be informed that Toxic Shock Awareness Week will shortly be upon us again. Goodness, is it really a year since we were last aware of toxic shock?

According to our calendar of such things we now have awareness weeks for Aids, alcohol, Alzheimer's, arthrogryposis, asthma, autism, back pain, breast cancer, breast-feeding, child safety, children's liver disease, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, cystic fibrosis, deafness, deaf- blindness, dementia, depression, disability, dolphins, domestic violence, Down's syndrome, drugs, dystonia, endometriosis, epilepsy, eye safety, fleas, flu, glaucoma, green transport, homelessness, lupus, male health, meningitis, migraine, miscarriage, mortality, oral cancer, osteoporosis, Parkinson's disease, phobia, psoriasis, Raynaud's & scleroderma, St John Ambulance, Scottish liver, Scottish transplant, stammering, sun, tinnitus, toxic shock syndrome and worms, which makes 51 awareness weeks in all.

The less eagle-eyed among you may have missed some of these, and so, before the last week of awarelessness vanishes from our calendar, may we suggest that it be officially designated "Awareness Week Awareness Week" to give us time to catch up on the other 51. Or if that proposal fails to gain the approval of the Awareness Ombudsman, perhaps we could have it listed and preserved for posterity as "Blissful Unawareness Week", the last sanctuary of ignorance in a depressingly aware world.

Eagle Eye

Thanks a bunch, Gran

Caroline Hook - alias the pensioner chat-show host Mrs Merton - may be going through a sticky period with her husband Peter Hook, but at least she can rely on her mum's enduring affection. When Caroline, 34, collapsed with a near-fatal allergy to anti-histamine tablets, and her co-writer Craig Cash - who is also her co-star in a current British Gas advertisment - saved her life by calling an ambulance, Grandma Merton was quick to show her appreciation. She sent him a thank-you card and a pounds 5 note for his trouble.

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