SILVIO BERLUSCONI, the hard-right Italian prime minister, has revealed that his chum Tony Blair will be spending two days at his Sardinian villa later this month.
“This will help reinforce the special rapport I have with my English counterpart,” he boasted to MPs from his Forza Italia party last week.
The Blairs are currently staying at Cliff Richard’s luxury villa in Barbados. They will jet off to Berlusconi’s Villa La Certosa on 16 August.
Berlusconi has entertained several world leaders at his Sardinian holiday home, including Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, another of Blair’s friends, and the man responsible for the carnage in Chechnya.
If Tony is really lucky, Silvio might treat him to a rendition of his favourite Neapolitan songs. The Italian premier recorded and released a CD earlier this year—which has been a complete commercial flop.
Blair might be able to find some peace from Berlusconi’s warblings in one of the five swimming pools in the villa, or in the 400-seat amphitheatre, or even in its secret “James Bond” tunnel to the sea.
All these “home improvements” were built recently, ignoring local building regulations. Italian environmentalists have filed complaints with the European Court of Justice over the illegal construction.
Another crony who might tag along with Blair is David Mills, a lawyer who has been up to his neck in Berlusconi’s offshore dealings. Mills has been obliged to testify in Italian courts during some of Berlusconi’s trials.
If you haven’t heard of Mills, maybe you’ve heard of his wife—Tessa Jowell, secretary of state for culture and loyal member of Blair’s inner circle.
A vote to keep the US torture school open
POLITICIANS IN the US from all parties united to deplore the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq as “un-American”
But last week Congress quietly agreed to keep open the US’s most infamous torture-teaching institution, the School of the Americas (SOA).
SOA has taught for many years the kind of illegal physical and psychological abuse of prisoners which the world condemned at Abu Ghraib—and worse. Its graduates field-tested the torture techniques exposed at Abu Ghraib.
SOA graduates have been the shock troops of political repression, propping up a string of dictatorial and repressive regimes favoured by the Pentagon.
The long history of torture by US-trained thugs in Latin and Central America under the command of SOA graduates has been well documented.
And now they can carry on teaching people how to torture.
New Labour reads a Tory script
SPARE A thought for Janet Daley, the Daily Telegraph’s resident right wing commentator. The frustration of supporting a lost cause like the Tories is clearly taking its toll.
“Time to blow the whistle. I’ve been stifling this outburst long enough,” she wrote last week. “For the past seven years, I have been handing out advice to the Conservatives: ideas and policies, arguments and rhetorical scenarios.
“Sure enough, within days of their publication, I would hear many of my words coming out of the mouths of senior politicians. The only problem was that they were politicians from the other side.
“Whole passages of columns I had written on the need for reforming the NHS or schools would emerge almost verbatim in the New Labour script.”
At least Daley’s ideological cousins across the water can still manage to tell the difference between Labour and the Conservatives.
The Republican Party in America has banned all Labour MPs from the floor of its annual convention later this month. Visiting Tory MPs, in contrast, will be given full access.
“They said they didn’t want any politician who wasn’t a conservative on the floor of the convention centre,” said Alan Williams, Labour MP and chair of the British-American parliamentary group.
Makeover TV hits Iraq
IF YOU thought makeover TV was a purely Western phenomenon, think again.
An Iraqi home improvement show is plumbing new depths of taste.
“Labour and Materials” specialises in rebuilding homes destroyed by US bombs.
The show airs on Iraqi satellite station al-Sharqiya.
It has been inundated with requests for help, receiving over 3,000 applications from Baghdad alone.
Viewers donate the goods and material needed to rebuild the blasted houses.
Two houses have been rebuilt so far, with Iraqis supplying washing machines, refrigerators and furniture.
“The rebuilding has a psychological effect on the families,” says Ali Hanoon, the show’s director. “Their memories, their lives, are in these walls.”
Abdul Hassan Kadhim’s house was destroyed in fighting between US and Iraqi forces in April last year.
Now it has been recreated from scratch, thanks to the viewers of “Labour and Materials”.
How long the makeover will last is another matter.
“Just wait,” said Kadhim once the rebuilding was over. “Tonight there will be more fighting and the house will be ruined again.”
Warring brothers bury the hatchet
TIME IS a great healer, they say. So it’s heartwarming to report that former buddies Philip Green and Stuart Rose have patched things up after falling out over Green’s failed attempt to buy Marks & Spencer.
Rose, who opposed Green’s bid, is chief executive of M&S. Last June, Green dragged him out of his car yelling “I’m going to play fucking dirty. I’m going to get you.”
All’s well now though. When Green’s bid finally fell through, Rose responded by sending his old chum a crate of fine white wine. Not any old supermarket plonk though—the dozen bottles cost a cool £1,122.
In this week - 30 years ago - 1974
US president Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace from the White House as a consequence of the Watergate scandal.
Nixon was a right wing Republican who made his name as a witch-hunter of communists in the 1950s.
He became president in 1968, appealing to what he called the “silent majority” of voters who hated the peace and civil rights movements.
Nixon’s spectacular fall from grace was a shock to the US right, who have still not forgiven the “liberal media” for their role in his downfall.
Figure it out - 6.9 million
THE NUMBER in prison or on probation in the US, according to new figures released this week by the Department of Justice That’s one adult in 32.