John Walsh: btw

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The Independent Online

In the spring, according to Tennyson, a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. In the autumn, by contrast, it's the turn of the middle-aged Euro-politician. Everyone's talking about how French President Nicolas Sarkozy kept fondling the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, at a recent summit – seizing her arms and kissing her on the cheeks – until passers-by shouted " Prenez une chambre!" and Ms Merkel voiced her annoyance. Now, it seems, Jack Straw has fallen for autumnal lurve vibrations. According to reports, the Justice minister holds a candle for Croatia's Foreign Secretary, a 39-year-old blonde with enormous brown eyes. The daily 24 Sata ran a picture of Mr Straw standing behind the lady, extending a hand as if about to seize her trouser-suited rear. It doesn't help that her name is Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic – practically a compendium of saucy double-entendres.

* Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, is anxious to promote his beloved city as a warm and fuzzy place, full of friendly faces eager to welcome foreign visitors. By no means is it a tough, scary environment where neurotic Manhattanites ignore strangers. Bloomberg's campaign is called "Just Ask the Locals," and, as a walking emblem of New York at its most matey, he's enlisted Robert de Niro's help. Ah yes, the obvious choice. Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, GoodFellas – the life-loving De Niro is just the chap to approach with the words, "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" No way is he going to say, "Are you talking to me?" I hope our new mayor starts a similar campaign for A Friendly London and signs up David Starkey without delay.

* The late Anita Roddick deserved all the praise that came her way this week, but by golly, the owners of her empire know how to make money out of anything. A new Body Shop promotion, arriving this week in an appropriately black envelope, offered a "fabulous treasure trove" of make-up at fabulous prices, with handy "tips" from an "international make-up artist" called Chase. For one treatment, Chase recommends you squirt a face brush with "a moisturising mist – I'm a big fan of The Body Shop Vitamin E Mist ..." For another, he urges, "After you've applied your make-up, take a face wipe. I recommend The Body Shop Vitamin E Gentle Cleansing Wipes ..." Should we be surprised to find Anita's heirs flogging mist and tissues as branded goods?

* Disaster strikes in the all-action world of weights and measures. The kilogram was invented in 1889, and the original one – by which the exact weight of all kilograms is calculated – lives in a triple-locked safe in a chateau in Sevres. Guess what? It's been losing weight. Boffins from the International Bureau of Weights and Measures have checked it against prototypes of the kilogram, made at the same time, and discovered the ur-kilo is 50 micrograms lighter than it should be. They're at a loss to explain it.

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