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A Statesman-like approach to news

ONE place where few tears are being shed for the New Statesman is the offices of the gay weekly, the Pink Paper. It had its own libel run-in with the magazine a few years back, specifically with the man who is now the NS chairman, Duncan Campbell. The Pink Paper ran a piece titled 'Sick Statesman', alleging that Campbell's research for a piece on Aids cures was carried out unethically. The case was settled last year, at a cost to the Pink Paper of pounds 20,000 plus costs. In the early stages of the case, Campbell wrote a reproving letter to the Pink Paper: it was being circulated with some hilarity yesterday. Campbell outlined the way that the New Statesman works: 'Taking nothing for granted, checking and rechecking, tracking down the first-hand sources, allowing your subjects every opportunity to comment and correct - none of this is easy, quick or even comfortable at times, but it does produce the kind of journalism that commands the respect of people who know what they are talking about.' This laudable approach, Campbell writes, contrasts with the Pink Paper's 'regurgitation of spiteful invective'. And he adds: 'What does concern me are all those people in the bars and clubs and bookshops up and down the country who saw what you printed and who think that rubbish conveys something real . . . Mud is easily thrown, but hard to eradicate . . .' Quite.

THE Army's latest officer recruiting ad highlights the quality valued above all - backbone - graphically illustrated by a sturdy-looking human spine. For anyone who thinks it's a boy's life in the services, we can reveal that the Army has been informed that the backbone is indisputably a female one.

Sound of scandal

LOOKING for a good and lucrative night out, libel lawyers? Well, why not catch the chart- topping band Soho's gig at the 100 Club in London's Oxford Street on 9 February. They'll be playing and handing out copies of their 'Major Revelation' EP. 'After the refusal of our record company,' writes the band, 'to release our latest LP Thug (which features the contentious song 'Claire's Kitchen') in the UK, we felt it was time to do it on our own. The Major Revelation EP features three songs which take up where 'Claire's Kitchen' left off, detailing the alleged affairs between a 'high- ranking cabinet minister', several women and a bag of sand.' Asked what the relevance of the bag of sand was, the band's manager, Billy Keane, said: 'Mmm. What is a bag of sand? That's the question.' Quite (2).

WHO should we find ahead of us in the immigration queue at Heathrow, fresh from the inaugural festivities in Washington? That star-crossed couple, Mary Matalin and James Carville, who laboured hard during the campaign in high-profile positions for opposing sides: she for Bush, he for Clinton. Mary kindly explained how they coped: 'We've been together for 12 years, and this is just another thing you have to deal with. It's a little like having a mother-in-law you don't like.'

Critical colleagues

AH] The sweet scent of a feud] Victor Lewis-Smith, the London Evening Standard's television reviewer, produced a very interesting appreciation of his colleague, the art critic Brian Sewell, in the paper yesterday. Sewell, appearing on ITV's Entertainment UK, 'sounded, as ever, in need of a full manual evacuation of the vowels'. 'Since,' Lewis-Smith added, 'this was a retrospective exhibition, Mr Sewell treated us to a retrospective of his critical cliches, trotting out the usual tired old art-rage sentiments in a cut-glass accent: 'It's all been done before . . . it has no significance, it means nothing'.' 'He,' Lewis-Smith concluded, 'should know.' Sewell was writing just a few pages away, cut-glass but not cliched: the 19th-century painter Samuel Palmer's Harvesters by Firelight is, he wrote, 'a sickening confection of glutinous marmalades coarse cut'. Quite (3).

NOW that passive smoking is a lucrative pastime, what else could we sue for not actively doing? Passive drinking - for the psychological harm caused by over-exuberant workmates? Or passive sex, when you're kept up all night by energetic neighbours expressing their mutual affection? Suggestions please.


29 January 1963 Ned Rorem, composer and writer, records in his journal: 'There being a strong possibility that Eileen Farrell will be on my song record, I went at dawn to a rehearsal at her sunny Staten Island home. I hardly know her except as America's grandest soprano, as spouse of an Irish cop, and as a devout Roman Catholic. Her approach to my songs is engrossing. Like many a last generation diva she excels at rote more than solfege. As her accompanist plunks out the vocal line, Eileen grasps the notes independently of the text, which she replaces with such personal phonetics as, 'F--- your sister and your brother/F--- your father and your mother.' Well, my vocabulary contains these words too, but I'm startled to hear the melodies with verbal substitutes.'