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HindustanTimes Thu,28 Aug 2014
Porn, poker and other vices
Jon Henley/The Guardian
September 05, 2013
First Published: 23:36 IST(5/9/2013)
Last Updated: 23:39 IST(5/9/2013)

Want to get caught doing something you shouldn't when there's something much more important going on to which you, as an upstanding elected member of your country's legislature, should probably be paying attention? There's an app for that.

US senator John McCain, snapped this week by a Washington Post photographer playing poker on his iPhone during a key hearing about the possible use of military force in Syria, has just added his name to the steadily growing list of lawmakers around the world caught whiling away an uninspiring moment in the chamber by using their mobile device for an unauthorised purpose.

At least McCain, the Republican party presidential candidate in 2008, could laugh it off: "Scandal! Caught playing iPhone game at 3+ hour Senate hearing – worst of all I lost!" he tweeted.

Others have not been so fortunate. Three Indian politicians, all ministers in the Karnataka government from the Bharatiya Janata Party, resigned last year after being filmed watching porn clips on a mobile phone during a session of the assembly.

The three, who included the minister for women and child development, had initially insisted they were not 'enjoying' the video so did not need to step down, while one said he was trying to turn the phone off at the time.

Similarly implausible excuses abound. When Simeone di Cagno Abbrescia, a 66-year-old, thrice-married Italian MP, was spotted two years ago browsing pictures of escort girls on his government-issue iPad during a no confidence vote, he insisted he was "looking at my email messages when a window popped up and I couldn't help looking.

We only received the iPads a month ago and my fingers slipped as I was looking for the news pages." (Other Italian politicians have been photographed playing card and football games on their tablets, as well as shopping for watches.)

A Thai MP, Pongpan Sunthornchai, caught ogling what the Bangkok Post described as 'racy' and 'raunchy' photographs of women in swimsuits on his iPad during an important debate on the transport costs of rice, likewise pleaded technological ineptitude.

The paper said he 'pressed the wrong link and accidentally got sexy pictures. Then the wrong link again, and got more raunch. He tried again and again, and he kept getting sexy photos. It was all so confusing.' He now wanted to return his iPad, he said.

French MPs, reportedly including some ministers, have also been snapped making online poker bets, playing online chess, reading adult cartoons, browsing online clothing catalogues and placing orders for fine wines on their iPads and smartphones, prompting a previous speaker of the lower house, Jean-Louis Debré, to install a scrambling device aimed at disabling Wi-Fi in the chamber while debates were in progress.

Florida state senator Mike Bennett was left red-faced when a cameraman filmed him looking at a picture of topless women in G-strings on his laptop during a state abortion debate — while the sext-crazed New York mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner continues to get himself into trouble with his phone.

Thankfully, the Mother of Parliaments — where handheld devices may be used in the Chamber 'provided that they are silent, and used in a way that does not impair decorum' — has yet to witness such indignities. Although with a prime minister who has finished Angry Birds and is now alleged to spend 'a crazy, scary amount of time playing Fruit Ninja on his iPad', it can surely only be a matter of time.


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