BBC DIRECTOR general Greg Dyke recently joined 14 other staff on a management course in the US costing at least £250,000. The group came out of the 'Make it happen' campaign that Dyke, a Blair appointee, launched last month. It is supposed to make the BBC 'the most innovative and risk-taking place there is'. These risk takers stayed at the exclusive Mansion on Turtle Creek hotel in Dallas where suites cost £1,750 a night. The six-day junket is marketed under the title 'Top Dog' by a London-based training firm What If. A similar trip arranged last year for BBC director of drama and entertainment Alan Yentob and BBC2 controller Jane Root cost £15,950 excluding flights.
Armed robber? Call Nick Ross
ARMED ROBBERS say they use the BBC television series Crimewatch to obtain tips on how to stage hold-ups. The 340 armed robbers interviewed in 12 jails told researchers they had held up banks, security vans and post offices after seeing how 'easy' such offences seemed to be on Crimewatch.
Roger Matthews, professor of criminology at Middlesex University, says, 'Crimewatch provides a regular update of changing techniques and innovations while providing a source of new ideas. It provides a chance for robbers and other criminals to see if any of their friends and acquaintances are featured. Above all it provides some degree of comfort to those incarcerated robbers to know that, despite the fact the robbers have been caught on video, they are still at large.'
In fact many armed robbers commit crimes with very little forward planning and are easily caught. Despite the recent outcry about 'lawless Britain', the number of armed robberies dropped from a high of about 6,000 in England and Wales in 1993 to about 3,000 in 1999.
Operations shrouded in mystery
PATIENTS at Furness General Hospital may not have felt terribly confident when they went for operations recently. Because of a lack of clean linen, patients were sent down for surgery wrapped in corpse shrouds. Managers at the hospital refused to admit that there might be a problem with these procedures. They said patients would not mind, as they were sedated.
HUNTS IN Scotland are to shoot foxes after the chase to try to exploit a loophole in the ban passed by the Scottish Parliament.
Masters of Scotland's ten hunts have hatched the plan. It involves pursuing the fox with dogs but then, instead of the dogs tearing the fox apart, they will drive it towards a line of guns.
A toxic pile-up
MAKING BRITAIN'S nuclear waste safe will cost £1 billion a year for the next ten or 15 years, says the nuclear installations inspectorate. Only 15 percent of Britain's nuclear waste has been properly dealt with so far. There are still tanks of high-level waste that have to be monitored, stirred and cooled round the clock to prevent a nuclear chain reaction.
The inspectorate added that many old storage buildings would fall apart before the waste inside ceased to be dangerous.
The guilty man left standing
A MAN who could have given key evidence about war crimes committed by Israeli leader Ariel Sharon was murdered last week. He is the third person connected with the case who has died in suspicious circumstances in the last two months.
Sharon could be indicted by a Belgian court for his role in the 1982 massacres at the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Lebanon. Israeli troops and right wing Phalangist militiamen combined to murder up to 1,700 Palestinian civilians.
Israel's former friends in the right wing militias have said they might be prepared to testify against Sharon. Then they started to die. On New Year's Day Jean Ghanem drove his car into a tree and died after two weeks in a coma. Later the same month Phalangist leader Elie Hobeika was blown up by a car bomb. He had agreed to testify against Sharon 24 hours earlier. Then last week Michael Nasser, a former associate of Hobeika, was shot dead in Brazil by a man firing a silencer-equipped pistol. Sharon has much to hide.
A Phalangist revealed recently that dozens of Palestinians who survived the massacres were executed at a former barracks near Jounieh after being held in containers for two weeks. Israeli troops had handed over the prisoners to the Phalangists.
A REPORT from the Royal Society, a respected scientific body, revealed last week that since 1991 shells containing 270 tonnes of depleted uranium have been fired in the Gulf and the Balkans. Nearly all the shells have been fired by the US.
The contamination they cause is a significant health risk to children who play where shells have landed, and can pollute water and food.
POLICE have been forced to pay £750 damages in a court ruling after ripping open a child's Christmas presents in a 'drugs raid'.
Three year old Brandon Hindle burst into tears as they tore off the wrapping paper. Six officers had charged into his mother Janie's house. They spotted the presents and started opening them in front of Brandon. They found a Bob the Builder digger, an Action Man and a Thomas the Tank Engine train set. Janie was strip-searched during the raid in Darwen, Lancashire. No drugs were found at any time.
Things they say
'THEY WERE not trained for the kind of fighting we do in the mountains and, in these conditions, their fighting is useless. They were weakening our morale. It was better for them to go.'
ALLAH MOHAMMED, Afghan military commander, on the withdrawal of 400 US soldiers
'IT'S THE virtual end of the Taliban. It is a remarkable achievement in less than just four weeks.'
Foreign secretary JACK STRAW, 8 December 2001
'IT SEEMS that the final collapse of the Taliban is now upon them. They have effectively disintegrated.'
TONY BLAIR, 7 December 2001
'WE WILL be asking them to risk their lives. Their missions will be conducted in hostile terrain against a dangerous enemy. They may suffer casualties.'
Defence secretary GEOFF HOON on the 1,700 British troops being sent to Afghanistan
'THE WHOLE point about being as sickeningly loyal as I am is that when you do rebel, you rebel with a vengeance.'
Labour MP GERALD KAUFMAN on fears that Blair will dump the hunting ban
'IT'S THE only bit of class war we have left.'
LABOUR BACKBENCHER showing a little backbone over hunting
'IF YOU think I am going to support the government on Iraq you are wrong. I will not do it. It's not just MPs-the army are far from happy too.'
Once loyal Blairite MP DEBRA SHIPLEY, who joined a group of Labour women haranguing Jack Straw in the Commons tearoom
'I AM very old, I'm older than the Queen Mother, and I don't want to be turned out of my home.'
102 year old ROSE COTTLE protesting against the closure of her old people's home at Downing Street