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30 October 2006

Another Fine Mess: The testicles have spoken. Now it's up to a judge in Milano.

Dutch cartoonist
Jean Gouders' Berlusconi.

Agence-Vleeptron Presse is pleased to introduce the Vleeptron Mess Index, a rating scale of entertaining political and government phenomena which runs from

0 ............. 10
| ..............|
yawn .......... Thrilling! More! Encore!

This one's a 7.9 . Would have been much higher, but Silvio Berlusconi was defeated for re-election a few months ago. He accused all people who were thinking of voting against him of being testicles, so apparently the majority of Italian voters have proven themselves to be testicles.

So Berlusconi's now just a super-rich Italian Nobody, and UK Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell tossed her husband David Mills out of the house the moment the scandal broke; they're separated. And she was never accused of wrongdoing. (But he's accused of bankrolling their fancy London house on the proceeds of his alleged scheme with Berlusconi.)

When the scandal broke, Tessa Jowell wasn't pressured to leave the Cabinet, but she was temporarily locked out of Cabinet meetings involving classified information. So when the Cabinet was in a closed-door scrum over Tony Blair's partnership in the War in Iraq, the Culture Minister had to sit outside the closed door. For a while, the UK was waging the war without the advice of its Culture Minister.

So it's possible to duck a lot of the damage from a scandal just by doing the most instinctive human thing in the world: Fleeing. The allegations against Berlusconi and Mills haven't changed; if anything, they've firmed to the point of moving to criminal trial. But Berlusconi and Mills are now much farther from the Centres of the Italian and British Cyclones now. Fewer people care about them.

So: If you don't want everyone in two languages to get enormous entertainment about the trouble you're in, Be Nobody. Or Be Less of a Somebody. If your wife still wants to be Somebody --

well i guess if you say so
i'll have to pack my bags and go

hit the road, Jack!
and dontcha come back no more
no more no more no more
hit the road, Jack!
and dontcha come back no more ...

( -- Ray Charles & Betty Carter)


Monday 30 October 2006

Berlusconi and Mills
charged with corruption

by Antonella Ciancio

MILAN (Reuters) -- An Italian judge ordered on Monday that former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi stand trial on corruption charges along with lawyer David Mills.

Milan magistrates had accused Berlusconi of paying Mills, the estranged husband of Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, a $600,000 (315,000 pounds) kickback for not revealing details of Berlusconi's media empire when he testified in two court cases.

Berlusconi's lawyer confirmed that judge Fabio Paparella had ordered both Berlusconi and Mills to stand trial after preliminary hearings that started earlier this year. With the judge's order the two men were officially charged with corruption.

"They have been ordered to stand trial on corruption charges," lawyer Nicolo Ghedini told Reuters.

"The defence can't wait for the start of the debate on March 13 and hopes to have a judge 'super partes' who will exonerate Silvio Berlusconi swiftly," Ghedini said.

Both Berlusconi, who has faced a string of court cases, and Mills have denied the public prosecutor's allegations that Berlusconi paid the British lawyer the kickback in 1997.

The alleged crime carries a possible jail sentence of three to eight years. Italy's statute of limitations -- reduced under Berlusconi's government before the centre right lost elections in April -- means he is unlikely to be prosecuted on this count if the case stretches to 2008.

Mediaset, the publishing and broadcasting empire owned by the former prime minister's family, had no immediate comment. Lawyers for Mills were not immediately available.

Berlusconi and Mills are already standing trial with 12 others in a related case over allegations of fraud at Mediaset.

Prosecutors in that case suspect a U.S. firm sold television and cinema rights to two offshore firms controlled by Berlusconi family holding company Fininvest, which then allegedly sold them on at inflated prices to Mediaset, avoiding Italian taxes.

Berlusconi has faced several legal cases since he entered politics in 1994.

He has been fully acquitted in two, and in the others Italy's statute of limitations has kicked in.

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© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

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