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Ah, the courting rituals of the American male. First the gridiron legend Brett Favre, then the rap musician Kanye West, now the ambitious Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner. All three have been accused in the last few months of sending lewd pictures of themselves to women, via the social media.

In Weiner's case the object in question, sent from his Twitter account to a female college student, but also briefly to all 45, 000 of his followers, was at least concealed within a pair of bulging underpants. Inevitably, the scandal, which could turn out to be the latest example of career suicide via Twitter, is being called weinergate. Weiner, tipped as a possible successor to Michael Bloomberg as New York City mayor, admits the concealed genitalia could indeed be his. "I don't want to cast this net wider by saying it's someone else," he somewhat confusingly, told a TV interviewer, "so I'm going to say that I can't say with certitude that it's me or it's not."

Weiner also claims he is but another victim of cyberwar. He may be right. A hacker could have been making a very bad joke – for weiner is US schoolboy slang for a penis (the etymology is uncertain; the term is probably a corruption of wiener, a variety of hot dog sausage.) Either way, weinergate exposes the political risks of prolific tweeting.

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