Columnists

Talking Rap

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Blaming hip-hop won't tackle gun crime.

I remember just after the Columbine massacre hearing some right wing American shock-jock being interviewed as to why the massacre had happened. The music of Marilyn Manson, video nasties, and lack of parental control were all cited. When the interviewer asked whether gun control might not help, the shock-jock dismissed this as so much liberal hooey.

New York, New York

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The city that has become an icon offers different views on life.

I remember arriving in New York and having the odd feeling that I'd been there before. Everything was familiar, even the faces on the street. But I'm not a believer in past lives, so I knew it was no echo from a previous existence. I had the same feeling recently watching 'Sex and the City', which now seems to be repeated eight times a week in various slots, and the return of 'NYPD Blue'--not to mention yet another 11 September documentary and 'Gangs of New York' reviewed on several pages of every Sunday paper.

Jams Today, Jams Tomorrow

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London's congestion charge will do little to solve its transport problems.

On 17 February London's mayor, Ken Livingstone, introduces his £5 a day congestion charge for anyone who drives into central London between 7am and 6.30pm. The charge is already generating enormous controversy--and massive speculation as to whether it will work.

The Real Slim Shady

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What have the rail, power and pensions industries got in common? This would be funny if it wasn't such a disaster.

The more Blair fumbles around for anything resembling factual information which might justify laying waste to Iraq, the more he ends up looking like the real Slim Shady. Much the same can be said for our glorious leader's stance on privatisation--sly and deceitful. The yarn that's spun is that everything is going according to plan--the reality is more like it's all going down the pan.

The Dark Side of the Net

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If you have watched the television or read some of the tabloids over the last few weeks, you could be forgiven for thinking that the web has become the realm of the child pornographer and the paedophile.

But this isn't anything new. The reality is that the web has made the distribution and accessibility of pornography very easy, and it was the pornographers who grasped the potential for the internet to make them very rich indeed.

Big on-line retailers, like the booksellers Amazon, waited years for their first profits (if they didn't go bust long before then), but sex sites frequently earn their owners millions of hits and consequently huge profits. See the article at abcnews.go.com for some of the surprising multinationals behind the sex industry.

Great Polls and Ire

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The great and the good form a self-selecting club which ignores the rest of us.

'Madness in great ones must not unwatch'd go' (Hamlet)

Recently, the air has been full of talk of greatness. Churchill, Brunel, Princess Diana, Darwin, Boy George were all candidates for the Great Britons award. It was predictable enough that Churchill ultimately won.

Striking a Bargain

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The role of the trade union leaders is complex and contradictory.

Arguments over reform and revolution are as old as the working class movement. That does not stop people repeatedly confusing the issues at stake. One of the most widespread confusions in Britain is the belief that reformism is embodied in one political formation, the Labour Party, and cannot exist outside it.

Not Another Bloody Makeover!

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What does modernisation of public services actually mean? More managers or more money?

The more you hear about what New Labour means by 'modernisation' of the public services, the more you realise the astonishing degree to which so much government thinking is still in thrall to a past era--of Thatcherism. This was probably most obvious in the first couple of weeks of the firefighters' strike when it was only too apparent that some of Blair's closest associates could hardly wait to get their knives into the FBU and tag leaders of the union as 'Scargillite' at every opportunity.

A Virtual World to Win

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If you were one of the tens of thousands of people who bought a computer game (or indeed other software) for Xmas, then you are probably still smarting from the price you paid.

One icy night in 1855, the celebrated street brawler John Morrissey walked into a Broadway saloon and spat in the face of Bill 'The Butcher' Poole, the even more renowned goliath of the New York streets. Poole, who led a murderous mob of anti-Catholic 'know nothings', was the arch-foe of Morrissey and other Irish gang leaders in the pay of Tammany Hall. Morrissey tried to blow Poole's brains out with his pistol but it misfired and Butcher Bill was preparing to 'bone the Irishman's cutlet' when the police intervened.

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