John Walsh: btw

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The Independent Online

We cannot be sure whether Geoffrey Howe was sleeping, concentrating or praying during the Budget speech, but the spectacle of a slumbering government minister is a common one worldwide. In the Czech Republic, there's a row about the ethics of using a real-life picture in an advertisement. The ads, for the Kamikaze energy tonic, show the Foreign Minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, 70, failing to stay awake during a debate on the country's presidential election. The caption reads, "Stay on your feet longer." Now the Advertising Standards Council has demanded the ads be taken down because they break the rule that forbids companies from using public figures in commercials. Mr Schwartenberg, clearly a good egg, says he had no objection. "Let people have some fun," was his bracing response.

* In an extraordinary throwback to the Middle Ages when they used to put animals – disruptive pigs, marauding sheep, even the woodworm that chewed its way through a church altar – on trial, complete with prosecution and defence attorneys, a bear has been tried in Macedonia, and found guilty. In the town of Bitola, a beekeeper called Zoran Kiesoloski was driven nuts by the bear's raids on his hives. He tried playing folk songs at ear-splitting volume, but the bear always came back for more – so, at the end of his tether, he turned to litigation. The bear was charged with theft and criminal damage, found guilty and fined £1,700. Sadly, the ursine crook wasn't in court to hear its fate, and anyway it belongs to a protected species, so the court ordered the state to pay the fine. It's who you know ...

* 'Meet Samantha... Breathtaking beauty, inspiring conversation and a candid personality make Samantha a peerless companion in a class all her own. When seeking a vivaciously rejuvenating girlfriend experience, Samantha is the obvious choice.' The soft-sell rhetoric used to lure punters like the former New York governor Eliot Spitzer to the Emperor's Club VIP, is a masterpiece of euphemism (don't you love the "vivaciously rejuvenating girlfriend experience"? Or "shag" as it's sometimes called.) But the court case also revealed some "managerial challenges" that face the modern cathouse. One is the unpunctuality of prostitutes. And their unavailability, because they're always away on photo-shoots. A third problem is the phone calls from clients, asking how they should explain the expenditure to their accountants.

* Raised eyes in Amsterdam municipal circles at the news that an alderman plans to allow gay people to have sex in the city's equivalent of Hyde Park. The al fresco rutting will have to observe strict rules (evening and night-time only, steer clear of kids' playgrounds, take rubber items home) but will be legal by the summer. Dog owners are incensed by another new park rule which threatens to fine those who let their animals off the lead, while giving the green light to sodomy in the shrubbery. But then, what do you expect in a place called the Vondelpark?

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