RUN OUT of ideas for Christmas presents? Here's a suggestion from the Evening Standard, self styled voice of Londoners. Dinner for two at the Sketch restaurant is a snip at £450.
The first course, price up to £48, includes langoustine mousseline with Malabar pepper creamed passion fruit butter and dice of langoustine. The main course, up to £75, includes a fillet of charolais (beef), oscietra caviar and cream of avocado with pressed caviar and beetroot sorbet. You could polish it all off with cheese for £30 and dessert for £45.
You may also want to pull some Christmas crackers at the dinner table. Inside the System recommends Renaissance Christmas crackers, whose gifts inside include sterling silver paperweights. That's six crackers for the knockdown price of £1,000. On Christmas Day you could treat someone to stocking fillers like the Baccarat Folie Douce mobile phone holder. It comes in fox fur with crystal pompom at £323.
THE Israeli state is so desperate to stop the real story coming out about the massacre of Palestinians in the Jenin refugee camp in April that it has banned a film about the event. The chair of the Israeli film board said of the documentary,
'This is a propaganda film that presents the side with which the state of Israel is in a state of war, in a one-sided manner, while this war is still going on.' The documentary shows Israeli bulldozers levelling more than 100 homes in Jenin.
They'll always cheer alone
THE NEW Wembley national stadium is meant to unite 90,000 sports fans from every walk of life. But fat cat businessmen are paying tens of thousands to make sure they don't rub shoulders with the rest of us. The stadium, which has already cost £757 million, is set to open for the 2006 FA Cup final.
Corporations are already being encouraged to buy up seats. There will be around 18,000 'premium' seats and 160 executive boxes. The sports marketing company IMG has approached 100 companies about 'corporate hospitality' packages.
All premium seats must be bought for ten years. The most expensive cost £6,100 a year. In addition to the yearly payments individuals and companies will have to make an up-front payment of £18,300 just for the right to buy them.
THE Daily Express, run by pornographer Richard Desmond, was determined to be the first to publish details of Christmas TV schedules. However, its 'complete TV listings guide' left 180 hours of programmes 'to be announced'. Readers were, however, given Television X, Desmond's porn channel.
They build on success
PRIMARY SCHOOLS in Southwark, south London, got the lowest scores in England in the recent national league tables. Could this have anything to do with W S Atkins, the company that took over the council's 104 schools in April last year?
In September this year Atkins announced a freeze on staff recruitment. The next month the company recommended that 20 jobs should be axed among education support staff. Utility companies have demanded money up front to provide gas and electricity to Atkins's Southwark offices because of repeated non-payment of bills. In October Atkins announced a profits warning and admitted its debts have risen by more than double in six months to £120 million. W S Atkins is set to spread its chaos to London Underground as it is also one of the PPP 'partners' lined up to run the tube.
Ego behind ID scheme
DAVID Blunkett's plan for national identity cards has run into a few problems, but the egotistical home secretary shows no sign of backing down. He has used refugees as guinea pigs for the scheme. The Home Office issues some refugees with 'asylum registration cards', which have the refugee's picture and thumbprint.
But some have been found to carry the wrong ID number and the wrong date of birth, leading many agencies to refuse to accept it. Blunkett can rely on the multinational Sodexho to support his scheme. The firm, which distributes cash vouchers to refugees, has told them they will not get the money unless they produce the ID card. Yet only 16,000 refugees out of 90,000 registered with Sodexho even have the ID card.
NEW Labour whips are so desperate to stop anti-war voices among Labour MPs that they have even tried to threaten Tam Dalyell, the highly regarded MP for Linlithgow and Father of the House. The whips told him he should drop his vocal opposition to the war or he could end up not getting a seat in the House of Lords.
The Times reports one backbencher saying, 'The whips were horrified to hear Tam's stern riposte to their attempts at blackmail.' It seems plain talking Tam told them what they could do with their peerage.
Things they say
'THE inspectors may not have the capacity to judge the technical characteristics of a weapon.'
Top US hawk Richard Perle on weapons inspectors in Iraq
'AT SOME point a decision will be made that Saddam has not decided to relinquish weapons of mass destruction. And there will be a war.'
'I HAVE a feeling the whole issue of PFIs and PPPs has already reached its climax and is becoming less of a hot potato.'
John Reid, Labour's party chairman
'MARTIN Sixsmith, to his shame, proclaimed at length that this bore all the hallmarks of 'New Labour's highly professional PR machine'.'
Polly Toynbee in the Guardian, 12 December, on Cherie Blair's speech
'ALASTAIR Campbell and Peter Mandelson helped to write Tuesday's emotional address by Cherie Blair. They were part of a small group of trusted advisers assembled in No 10 to draft Mrs Blair's televised confession.'
Guardian, 13 December
'TONY BLAIR has no strong moral convictions that drive people along.'
Author Ken Follett, one of Blair's most important early backers
'THERE'S only one person who hugs the mothers and the widows, the wives and the kids on the death of their loved ones. Others hug, but I've got an additional responsibility to hug, and that's me, and I know what it's like.'
A confused George Bush on committing US troops to war