John Walsh: btw

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The Independent Online

The police who arrested Mafia boss Salvatore Lo Piccolo in Palermo last week must have been delighted with the incriminating documents they found on him. But the oddest was surely a page entitled "Rights and Duties," a check-list of Dos and Don'ts for aspiring Cosa Nostra members. Nothing about whacking informers or decapitating horses but lots of advice suitable for Young Persons: do turn up for appointments; if asked for information, do tell the truth; don't go to pubs and clubs; don't covet friends' wives. Oh, and don't befriend cops. There's an injunction about money ("Money cannot be appropriated if it belongs to others or to other families") which, if applied to the letter, must put rather a damper on extortionist activity. It's rather sweet that Lo Piccolo took his "Rights & Duties" everywhere with him – like a Boy Scout constantly reminding himself of Baden-Powell's rules about scouts always smiling and whistling in adversity.

* The sign outside a new Wetherspoon pub in the Wirral displays the face of a ruminative cove in a toothbrush moustache. Above his face the pub's name is clearly signed – The John Masefield – and in the bar, many pictures explain the former Poet Laureate's roots in, and connection with, the area. But that isn't enough for some dim local grumblers, who have complained that the face in the sign looks disturbingly like Adolf Hitler. They've started calling the place "The Adolf", and Wetherspoons is being pressured to alter the sign. Pray they don't rename it "The Henry James," not with his dramatic resemblance to Mussolini ...

* As Miss World 2007 nears, it's not surprising to find a hardline Islamic scholar condemning beauty contests. Only, what annoys Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Barrak isn't Miss World, it's Miss Lovely Camel. Camel beauty contests are big events among desert tribes in Saudi Arabia. Sponsors shell out 10m riyals (£1.2m) in prizes, and the owners of the beast spend fortunes primping their charges. "Millions of riyals are spent on buying camels just to feel proud, and not for the reasons God created camels, like for food, drink, riding and work," fumed Sheikh Abdul. A sobering thought for all of us, as we contemplate the non-functional, pointless existence of Miss England (currently 80/1) and the favourite, Miss Puerto Rico (a racing cert at 10/1.)

* UKTV Gold has invited viewers to nominate the most ridiculous law on English statute books. In the top 10 is Oliver Cromwell's spoilsport attempt to combat gluttony by banning the eating of mince pies on Christmas Day. This battles for inclusion with a 19th century London by-law, which allowed pregnant women to relieve themselves in policemen's helmets. In second place is the law that'll find you guilty of treason if you post a letter with the stamp (bearing the monarch's head) upside-down. The unanimous winner, though, was the law that bans you from dying in the Houses of Parliament. Anyone who snuffs it in the Palace of Westminster, you see, is technically entitled to a state funeral, and we can't have that, can we?

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