Inside the system
Ol�! The bulls are on strike
THE SPIRIT of protest is reaching all sorts of places. Spain was in uproar last week after all 13 bulls in a bullfight went on strike. The first six bulls sent into the ring refused to fight. Seven substitutes were then sent in. But in the spirit of solidarity they too refused to fight, with some even staging a sitdown in the ring.
"Not even the oldest in the place could remember anything like this," said the bullfighting correspondent of the El Pa's newspaper. Three cheers for the striking bulls. We only hope the strikers' leaders are not content to limit the action to a one-day protest, or we fear how the tale of brave resistance could end.
Could cop do this?
AN accountancy student arrested by police told a jury last week that she was subjected to vicious racism after being strip searched by officers. The Daily Express reported a court case in which Susanne Okay is claiming damages from the Metropolitan Police for unlawful arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.
She claims police called her a "black bitch", and said that when she was in police cells police told her she should have died to "save some paperwork". Police grabbed Susanne in London's King's Cross station, and she says they believed she had drugs in her mouth. In fact she was sucking a boiled sweet, she told Central London County Court. During her arrest she became unconscious, the jury heard, as officers held her down.
She claims that she was then pushed to the floor of a police van on the way to the station. The case continues.
SOMETIMES people seem destined for a particular job. The European Automobile Manufacturers Association represents the giant car companies. Its assistant secretary general is a Frenchman, with the very appropriate name of Monsieur Bastard.
BT gets double from the poor
BT IS not content with raking in �104 profit every second. It has announced it is to DOUBLE the minimum charge for using pay phones from 10p to 20p.
It has also scraped the previously free calls to directory inquiries from pay phones and is charging a minimum of 20p. Bizarrely, the company cites "competition" from mobile phones for the price rises. Funny-pro-market types are always telling us that competition drives prices down and is good for the consumer.
- BT IS also preventing some of its poorest customers from getting access to cheap calls. BT promises that low-income families can get discounts on their bill under the company's "light user scheme". But anyone on the scheme who then tries to make a cheaper call on his or her own phone through a rival company is finding that BT has blocked them doing so. They get a recorded announcement.
It says, "There is not a fault. To regain access to indirect service providers you must cease membership of the light user scheme." BT's meanness is forcing up the cost of calls for many of the 2.3 million people on the scheme. These include pensioners.
Policeman who laughs too much
DETECTIVE Constable Neil Marsh is probably feeling either very stupid, very pissed off with his police colleagues, or just very pissed. DC Marsh broke down in Rotherham on his way home while off duty. He decided to phone his police mates for help.
Sure enough, they responded to their fellow officer's appeal. The only problem was that DC Marsh, it seems, had been enjoying himself a little too much at a police bash that evening. "Officers smelled drink on his breath," according to a police source. And South Yorkshire police confirmed, "An officer was suspended concerning an issue of drink driving."
BLACK AMERICAN men have a one in eight chance of being legally barred from voting in this year's US presidential election. That's because of various state laws that strip people convicted of any offence of voting rights.
In all, some 3.9 million people are barred from voting under such laws. That's about 2 percent of the population. But the figure for black men is 13 percent. The racism this reflects is worst of all in several Southern US states. In Florida and Alabama almost a third of black men are legally barred from voting. In Mississippi the figure is 29 percent and in Virginia 25 percent.
Private firm gets roasted
A PRIVATE firm which has taken over housing benefits in several councils has been accused of serious financial failing in a report by the official National Audit Office watchdog. The audit office report looked at private firm CSL's record in running the financial department of the Public Health Laboratory Service. It slammed the company for "unnacceptable breakdown in fundamental financial controls". Problems with CSL's system meant that �100,000 was wrongly credited to various accounts. CSL is the firm which stands behind the chaos of privatised housing benefits in councils like Sheffield and Newham.
Things they say
"IT'S ALL very well talking about what educated articulate people did at university, but I'm talking about housing estates where drugs ruin people's lives."
- ANN WIDDECOMBE Tory shadow home secretary, on the use of cannabis
"THE USE of the term zero tolerance in this area was unfortunate because everybody has their own interpretation of what zero tolerance is."
"I HAVE never quite been sure what is meant by that phrase 'social tolerance'."
"THAT'S New Labour's third term guaranteed."
- TORY MP's response to the idea of Ann Widdecombe as Tory leader
"SURELY WE don't need any more funding. We have trouble spending what we've got."
- STUART WELLING, chief executive of Brighton Healthcare Trust, during a visit by the minister for health at the time of Labour Party conference. The next day the Royal Hospital announced it had run out of intensive care beds
"THERE JUST isn't any more slack in the system now. The health service is stretched so tight because the number of beds has been cut down so greatly any increase in demand pushes the service to risky levels."
- BRITISH MEDICAL ASSOCATION on the NHS winter crisis occurring now
"WE ARE the oldest political party in the world!"
- TORY PARTY CHAIRMAN
"WE apologise for delays caused by the passing of the royal train."
- STATION ANNOUNCER at Bristol Parkway
"THE BEST one is called the Warrior. You certainly could run over civilians."
- LADY OLGA MAITLAND praising an armoured car at a Tory party conference fringe meeting