Opinion

The Whites of their Lies

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A whitewash has rarely been so misjudged as Hutton‘s.

I find there are few things quite as enjoyable as watching a smug, arrogant bully having the smile wiped from his or her face. Imagine then the pleasure I‘ve had seeing a collection of smug, arrogant bullies watch in amazement as their apparent hour of vindication was greeted with indignation, disbelief and downright hostility by all but their most ardent supporters.

For that has been the tale of the shower of New Labour cabinet ministers and spin doctors, ever since the establishment lackey Hutton produced his repo... er, whitewash.

Open or Shut?

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Millions of Windows computers infected with the My Doom virus, major security flaws exposed in some systems and the leaking of some sections of the Windows source code will probably mean that among Microsoft executives February 2004 will be remembered as a bad month.

All this will also make many people question what it is about Microsoft‘s software that makes it so vulnerable. The answer lies partly in its practice of rushing software out so flawed that it requires huge updates as soon as it is installed.

This is why later versions of the Windows operating system continually check Microsoft‘s website for automatic updates - errors, bugs and problems are so common that it is simpler for Microsoft to build in a self update system rather than attempt to release better code.

Mind the (Imaginary) Gap

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Gordon Brown revives a Tory idea about regional pay

One of New Labour's more baffling preoccupations over the past few months has been its apparent fixation with the idea of regional pay. Exactly where the impetus for this is coming from seems a bit of a mystery, since none of the major unions have been campaigning in this direction and there hasn't really been any significant business lobby for regional pay variations either.

Speak Like a Blog

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The phenomenon of internet web diaries (blogs) recently hit the news through the activities of the 'Baghdad Blogger'.

Blogs are personal websites which allow a user to put regular comments, news items or stories online - rather like a public diary.

It's predicted that there will be over 5 million such sites by the time you read this.

A quick internet search puts you at the centre of the blogging community. Blogs attract readers through search engines and links from other blogs. So each blog sits at the heart of a spider's web of links to others of similar tastes or interests - forming an 'online community'.

The Pied Piper of Vermont

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US Democrats want to use anti-war feelings to boost their ratings.

The rapidly growing list of US casualties from the invasion of Iraq now includes the names John Kerry, Dick Gephardt, Joe Lieberman, John Edwards and Wesley Clark. Not ordinary 'grunts' but official Democratic frontrunners, they were severely wounded, if not outright killed in action, on 9 December in Harlem when Al Gore endorsed the candidacy of Howard Dean, the anti-war insurgent from Vermont.

Gore's embrace of Dean, which seemingly caught the other Democrats by complete surprise, was remarkable in at least two respects.

Music, Dreams and Desire

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Mike Gonzalez commemorates the extraordinary music of the Buena Vista Social Club.

The last time I saw Rubén González play piano he finished one tune with a visual joke: running his fingers up the keyboard, he continued beyond the edge of the piano, playing in the air. It was as if his extraordinary dexterity and skill had conquered what was there and needed some new challenges. Bumping into him a little later in a bar near the theatre, I realized how tiny he was, and how bent and arthritic his hands were. It made his artistry even more astonishing.

Oscar Wild

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Pat Stack stakes out the films likely to impress the Academy.

Usually my Xmas combines the following: overeating, which usually involves half a turkey, a whole Christmas pudding, and god knows how many mince pies; wild drinking sessions involving huge amounts of Guinness and crates of Irish whiskey; or romantic interludes (well, drunken lunges) under the mistletoe. This year, though, the new reformed me spent much time in the cinema looking for likely Oscar nominees. Here are my tips:

Count the Cost

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As the number of Iraqi casualties increases on an almost daily basis, mainstream news coverage on the web seems to be restricted to fairly simplistic reports, barely covering the real events of the war.

So it's interesting that recently Yahoo! news has included in its related links a number of surprising websites.

First, the beautifully simple www.iraqometer.com - a site with a few graphics and some startling facts, including the number of bombs dropped on Iraq (39,600), the number of Iraqi soldiers killed (11,000) and the number of billions of dollars spent (98). Of course those figures increase regularly, but one statistic doesn't change - the number of sites of WMDs (0).

Just Call My Number

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Tales of call centre jobs disappearing to India are not the whole story.

Just how serious is the threat of a call centre jobs stampede to India? Over the past few months the media has been full of stories of a wholesale jobs exodus from British call centres - an ideal cue for film crews to descend on Hyderabad or Bangalore and gush about what a wacky old world we are living in when Asian university graduates need to be clued up about EastEnders and learn to talk like Rex Harrison.

Letter from the US: The Scalping Party

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Mike Davis tells the story of a US army responsible for sickening war crimes in Vietnam.

In his dark masterpiece Blood Meridian novelist Cormac McCarthy tells the terrifying tale of a gang of Yankee scalp-hunters who left an apocalyptic trail of carnage from Chihuahua to southern California in the early 1850s.

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