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Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Today in Politics: Brown tries new tack on 42 days

By Andrew Grice

Gordon Brown adopted a different approach today as he sought to win over critics of his plan for suspected terrorists  to be detained for up to 42 days without charge. Away from the bearpit of the Commons chamber, the PM made a more thoughtful speech to a small audience brought together by the Institute for Public Policy Research think tank in Westminster. His aides think he performs at his best in such surroundings, when he often speaks without notes and takes questions in order to engage his audience.

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Cyberclinic: Firefox Download Day

FirefoxBy Rhodri Marsden

Firefox 3 is finally released today, and should appear here at 6pm British time (10am PDT). Mozilla has trailed its release for quite a while, and is attempting to set a world record for the most downloads of a piece of software in any 24-hour period.

In the past couple of hours the number of pledges to make the download has risen from 1.5 million to 1.6 million, so it's conceivable that a 2 million target figure could be reached – although, as it's the first record attempt of its kind, there's no set figure that it has to beat. Which makes the record attempt a bit easier, I imagine.

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Shopping Bag: Crystal Ball

Cnv00094 By Clare Dwyer Hogg

Last year, Shopping Bag had a tip-off - a little pub in Crystal Palace called the White Hart had allowed two women to use its abandoned little side-space for a most unusual thing: a vintage clothes shop.

SB duly got in touch with the entrepreneurs (Annette and Dawn), and discovered that she liked what they were doing very very much. Well, it seems that others like it too - even though they've only been going a year (and, ahem, they admit now they'd never actually run a shop before), they appeared in Time Out's 100 best London Shops last month, and their little space, packed with "finds", is becoming beloved by stylists and theatre companies.

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Asian (con)Fusion: Amitav Gosh - A Lost Language

Poppies By Andrew Buncombe

Last night I went to the launch of Amitav Ghosh's new novel, Sea of Poppies, a work that will apparently be the first instalment of a trilogy. I've not read the novel yet but I was pretty interested to hear what Ghosh had to say, because I had read the very impressive A Hungry Tide, a captivating story set in the Sunderbans delta at the mouth of the Ganges.

Ghosh is an inveterate researcher. Indeed, last night in Delhi he said that one of the things he loved most as a writer was the research that went into producing a novel.

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MixTape: Dude looks like a Ladyhawke

In4683607ladyhawke_press By Sonia Zhuravlyova

Ladyhawke is the alter-ego of fast-rising New Zealander Pip Brown. Introduced to music at a tender age by her singer mum and drummer stepdad, Brown went on to play in orchestras and form a punk outfit, only to be reborn as one-woman band Ladyhawke.

She's a child of the Eighties (named after a Matthew Broderick film, no less) and her forthcoming single "Paris Is Burning" is a Gary Numan-esque electro-pop affair. On the infectious "Back of the Van", a download-only single, she sounds like a crazed Cyndi Lauper. Ladyhawke wears her retro influences with pride, but her brand of nostalgia always comes with a twist.

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A Nice Green Leaf: A Nice Green Read

Picture_1By Emma Townshend

There's nothing better on a hot day than gardening. Except maybe sitting in a chair under a tree and reading about gardening.

I whiled away at least an hour yesterday afternoon with The Morville Hours, a great and beautiful book which crosses all kinds of genre boundaries, mixing ecclesiology with garden history, autobiography with the history of the English landscape.

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Monday, 16 June 2008

Diplomatic Licence: Ban the birthday boy

Ban_birthday_boy By Anne Penketh

The UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, had quite an unusual birthday this year. He was 64 on Friday the 13th when he was in London last week, and was wished Happy Birthday by the Queen, and by Gordon Brown before a birthday dinner with David Miliband and his wife at the Foreign Office's country residence at Chevening.

On the following day, he was up at dawn to catch a special flight to Saudi Arabia at the invitation of the king. There were only 15 of us on the Boeing 777 which can carry 365 passengers, kitted out with first class seats, and a bed for the UN chief. The menu was caviar, lobster, lamb, chicken, pasta, ploff and okra. There was also a cake for the birthday boy, who was happy to be photographed with the air stewardesses.

After we had raced diagonally across Egypt on the way to Jeddah, one of the stewards said that we had been given special permission to take a short cut outside normal air traffic lanes. It was all very jolly except for one thing - the irony of the fact that he was flying on an almost empty plane to discuss the effects of climate change with the Saudis was lost on no-one.

Games Master: Battle of the avatars

Xboxavatars160608_2 By Jack Riley

As PR screw-ups go, today's leak of Microsoft's entire line-up for the forthcoming E3 gaming convention has to rate pretty highly. 1Up have the full story on the "random security hole" which allowed gamers to access the otherwise closely-guarded secrets from a marketing company's website, but the real revelations are what, and not how, the cat got out of the bag.

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MixTape: Toe jamming with David Byrne and friends

By Larry Ryan

At first this video might seem like a little bit of cheap smut but quickly its ingenuity is revealed. Whoever said censorship was a bad thing?

The song, "Toe Jam", is by the BPA; a new project from Norman Cook and features the unusual vocal pairing of Dizzee Rascal and former Talking Head David Byrne.

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Sleeping Around: Viagra - the hard facts?

By Catherine Townsend

Today's Daily Mail weighs in yet again on Viagra, this time saying that ever-younger men are taking the drug in an attempt to keep up with the so-called "Sex and the City generation", illustrated by Carrie Bradshaw wearing a man-eating flower.

Isn't this 'trend' story about ten years too late? Men have been taking Viagra recreationally since it was introduced a decade ago for a variety of reasons: they wanted to have multiple orgasms, stay hard for hours or perform long after their erections should have wilted due to alcohol or drug use.

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