Thursday, February 04, 2010 

Diana in outrage hell.

We all know how much I love Twitter, which reading back now, seems to be one of the most staggeringly hypocritical and self-fulfilling statements that I've ever put together here:

... it's a glorified instant messaging service where every stalker and sad sack can follow your ever so fascinating immediate thoughts ...

Err, yeah. Doesn't describe me at all. Sorry.

This though is hilarious (via Anton), although it's doubtless already spreading around like an online version of the clap. The Express, that journal which dedicated itself to keeping the memory of Princess Diana alive by splashing almost every Monday with a new conspiracy theory fresh from the fevered imagination of the owner of a certain fuggin' Knightsbridge department store, has discovered that someone is besmirching their favourite dead ex-royal by pretending to tweet as Diana from heaven. Cue the outrage:

A SICK prankster has set up a social networking website as Princess Diana.

The macabre Twitter page pretends the messages come from heaven. One says: “I can’t talk about Dodi (Al Fayed) for legal reasons.”

The fake Diana criticises the small numbers turning up to her memorial fountain in London, claiming nobody realises it was filled with the Queen Mother’s gin. Referring to the site of her fatal car crash, she says: “Now looking down at Pont de l’Alma tunnel. Bigger turnout than at Memorial Fountain.”

Alan Berry, co-founder of the Diana Appreciation Society, urged Twitter to ban the page. He said: “It’s sick that some people can pretend to be Diana. What respect is that showing?”

Twitter allows people to impersonate others as long as it is clear it is a joke but last night the firm failed to respond to questions about the Diana page.

It seems that @dianainheaven is in the wrong business. Pretend to be someone dead in a humourous fashion on a social networking site and you're sick; pretend to be a journalist and you can become the royal reporter on the Express.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009 

The rise and fall of Richard Desmond.

In the world of catastrophic legal cases, Richard Desmond's humiliation in the High Court must rank up there amongst the very top. Last year's disaster for the News of the World at the hands of Max Mosley seems to be the only really apposite comparison, but the key difference is that was a case brought by Mosley; here Desmond has brought the entire thing upon himself.

Quite why Desmond brought what was such a trivial claim for libel against Tom Bower remains unclear. Bower's QC, Ronald Thwaites, who has somewhat acquitted himself after his disgraceful performance representing the Met at the Jean Charles de Menezes health and safety prosecution, said in court that the real reason was because Desmond's ego couldn't allow him to described as a wimp, "ground into the dust" by Black, even if it was in a book that was unlikely to be read by many in a passage that was hardly remarkable. Others however believe the real reason was to ensure that Bower never had a chance of publishing a supposedly finished manuscript on Desmond himself, provisionally titled Rogue Trader. If it's as damning as Bower's other works, and when you have such a target it's hardly likely not to be, Desmond has far more to fear from that than from claims that Conrad Black had "ground him into the dust".

Surely the only thing that ensured Desmond had anything approaching a chance of victory was our ridiculous and damaging libel laws, where the defendant has to prove their case rather than the accuser theirs. Everyone in the media world knows how Desmond operates: he is a bully, a born liar and someone who surrounds himself only with sycophants and those he has total trust in. Only someone with a personality like Desmond, where the slightest insult can result in a feud lasting for years, could be thin-skinned enough to take offence at being described as a pornographer. Desmond made his money in softcore pornographic magazines, having obtained the licence to publish Penthouse in the UK in 1983. From there he built an empire thanks to his diversifying into most of the more acceptable fetishes, with among his more famous titles the likes of Asian Babes and Skin and Wriggly. This led inevitably to satellite and cable channels broadcasting much the same content, although his channels show the softcore variants of the produced smut; whether he actually owns the companies which produce the hardcore versions is unclear.

For a man who yearns for respectability and to take his rightful place amongst the establishment, owning wank rags and jazz channels is usually a no-no. While decidedly last century, one way to acquire that sort of status is to purchase a newspaper, and while the Daily Star is hardly what most would describe as an educational read, and the Daily Express has been in decline for half a century, his purchase of both ensured that he had finally entered the world of not just business but also political power. Some of course at the time questioned whether such a man should own a newspaper which used to be the biggest seller in the world; happily, a donation by Desmond of £100,000 to the Labour party ensured that no obstacles were placed in his way.

Desmond has since behaved exactly as you would expect a man of his stature to: he has made hundreds of journalists redundant from both papers, turned them even more than they already were into celebrity rags with a side-serving of news, the majority of which is inflammatory and bordering on the openly racist, and paid himself vast sums of money in the process, anything up to £50m a year.

Most modern proprietors of newspapers, like Desmond, deny that they would ever influence anything which their employees write, let alone tell them what to. In court, Desmond's QC Ian Winter said that it was "difficult to think of a more defamatory allegation to make". Most proprietors of course don't have to tell their journalists what to write, for the simple fact that they already know how they think, what their interests are and how to defend them, as Rupert Murdoch's editors do, although Murdoch at least admits that the Sun and News of the World's editorial line is directly influenced by him. Desmond, while also using that kind of influence in the newsroom, is both more brutal and direct. David Hellier, a former media editor on the Sunday Express, described how Desmond was seen in the newsroom "virtually every day between five and seven o'clock" and would regularly demand editorial changes. Any casual reader of Private Eye will have noted down the years Desmond's regular appearances in the Street of Shame, often ordering journalists around and insulting them on their appearance. One more memorable episode was when Desmond apparently told Express editor Peter Hill that his current front page was "fucking shit". Hill, fed up with Desmond's constant interference, finally lost his temper and left, leaving the deputy to redo the paper. Most notoriously, Desmond punched the Express's then night editor, Ted Young, in the stomach after his failure to run an article on the death of an obscure 60's musician. Desmond settled with Young the day before the case was due to go to an industrial tribunal for a six figure sum. Young was prevented from giving evidence in the High Court by Justice Eady, but thankfully his testimony was not needed.

Perhaps the most damning evidence however was given by the person who wrote the offending article which led Black to sue Desmond and consequently "ground him into the dust". Anil Bhoyrul, one of the former Mirror journalists involved in the Viglen shares debacle which was another stain on Piers Morgan's character, wrote the "Media Uncovered" column in the Sunday Express between 2001 and 2003 under the pseudonym Frank Daly. Despite supposedly being a witness for Desmond, Bhoyrul made clear that he was directly influenced in what he wrote by what Desmond "liked and disliked", which was made clear to him by the editor Martin Townsend in phone calls on a Tuesday. Bhoyrul boasted of how he "got a pretty good feel for who, you know, to be positive about and who to be negative about. The impression I got over time was that Conrad Black and Richard Desmond were not the best of friends." Bhoyrul was hardly exaggerating: he wrote around 27 hostile pieces about Black, and attacked the owner of the Independent, Tony O'Reilly, in much the same fashion when Desmond was in dispute with him.

Then there was just the sort of in the public domain knowledge which made Desmond look like an idiot. Three days after Desmond had threatened a business contact down the phone, telling him "[he'd] be the worst fucking enemy you'll ever have", the Sunday Express ran a defamatory article about the contact and his hedge fund, Pentagon Capital Management. When Desmond had to settle the libel claim from Pentagon, a statement was read out in open court that "Mr Desmond accepts that it was his comments in the presence of Sunday Express journalists that prompted the Sunday Express to publish the article." Yet Desmond denied when questioned by Thwaites that he had complained to the editor about his predicament, or in front of the journalists. Unless Desmond was committing perjury, he presumably only agreed to that statement in the libel settlement to get it over with.

Whether in the long run much will come of Desmond's humiliation, apart from the possible publication of Bower's biography, is difficult to tell. Undoubtedly his enemies at the Mail will tomorrow have a field day, as will the others that despise Desmond, but readers of his own papers would never know that he had even lost his claim. The article in the Express doesn't so much as mention it, merely setting out that Desmond "set the record straight", while even more mindboggling is his claim to that it was "worth it to stand up in court". Certainly, the estimated costs of the action, £1.25m, is only about a week's wages to Desmond, but to someone with his sensitivity to criticism and determination to be seen as a honest, generous, philanthropic businessman, he must be secretly devastated. Most damaging to Desmond though is certainly Roy Greenslade's conclusion that he is an even worse newspaper owner than Robert Maxwell was. Greenslade should know: he was Mirror editor under Maxwell (His book, Press Gang, is also a fine post-war history of the British press). Although Desmond has clearly not defrauded the Express in the way which Maxwell did Mirror group, he has stripped it of assets in a similar fashion. The Guardian describes how while Greenslade was giving his evidence, Desmond gripped the table in front of him tightly, while his wife asked whether he was OK. That might yet be nothing on what he does tomorrow when the papers quote Greenslade in an approving fashion.

(Other sources for this apart from the links include the latest Private Eye, 1241, and its report on the trial on page 9.)

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009 

Veiled abuse revisited.

You might, if you've got a very long memory, recall that the Sun and Express were absolutely certain that Mustaf Jama, the Somalian sought in connection with the murder of PC Sharon Beshenivsky fled the country by wearing a niqab while using a stolen passport.

Jama was today convicted of his role in the murder after being seized in Somalia and deported back to this country. As for him wearing a niqab to escape, Jama denied that he had, and it played no part whatsoever in the prosecution case. It does indeed seem, as a spokesman joked at the time, that he may have been equally likely wearing a pantomime horse costume as the Islamic robe.

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Monday, July 06, 2009 

Press Complaints Commission: still weak even when harshest.

Even when at its most critical, the Press Complaints Commission still comes off as appallingly weak. Censoring the Sunday Express for the truly appalling article by Paula Murray on the lives of those who survived the Dunblane massacre, it concludes its ruling with:

Although the editor had taken steps to resolve the complaint, and rightly published an apology, the breach of the Code was so serious that no apology could remedy it.

Presumably then the editor should be handing in his notice? Despite the tough words, the PCC has no powers whatsoever to enforce anything other than the publishing of its ruling. The Scottish Sunday Express editor, Derek Lambie, remains in his job this evening, under the main Sunday editor, Martin Townsend. The News of the World editor Andy Coulson fell on his sword after it transpired that he had presided over the "hacking" into the phone of Prince William, even though he denied having any knowledge of how Clive Goodman (who by coincidence now works for Express sister paper the Star) had obtained the story. Considering that Lambie directly presided over Murray's story, and placed it on the front page, he ought now to be also looking for new employment.

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Monday, March 09, 2009 

Paula Murray is a disgraceful hack.

I have very little to add to the astounding new barrel scraping low from the Sunday Express of stalking the survivors of the Dunblane massacre and analysing their moral purity, except to make a point the others missed: Paula Murray is employed by the man who produces and profits from such essential cultural films as Anal Boutique, Heavy Petting, Favourite Fucks 3, Katie K's Teen Rampage, Omar's Big Tit Virgins 4 and Old Guys Young Thighs 4 (link very nsfw). Quite how Richard Desmond has the nerve to print such outraged invasive cant is amazing in itself.

Update: The Press Complaints Commission already seem to be investigating, and the article has vanished. Lasted slightly more than 48 hours; a new record?

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Thursday, February 26, 2009 

Express-watch: It's the Muslims again.

It's an adage I've doubtless alluded to here before, but it's often been said that no news is a perfect opportunity to make it up. Apart from the topic which the two previous posts have mentioned, there wasn't much news about yesterday, and when you're a journalist on the Daily Express, creative news values are already something which you're more than familiar with. Half the time the Express's dubious news values and journalism aren't worth engaging with, especially when the editors of both the Express and the Star have been apparently instructed by Richard Desmond to go as far to the right as they can without disengaging the more liberal readers of the papers.

The screaming headline "BRITISH MUSLIMS ARE KILLING OUR TROOPS" does however deserve a response, mainly because of just how ancient the main sources for it are. There is no actual evidence provided that any British Muslim has killed a British soldier; rather it instead suggests that if anything, the opposite is the case. In any event:

Last week on a visit to Afghanistan, Foreign Secretary David Miliband was shown Taliban bombs containing British-made components. They had either been sent from Britain or brought from the UK by a home-grown recruit.

This was first reported in the Sun and probably elsewhere last Saturday. It proves precisely nothing: components of a bomb, especially the crude improvised explosive devices made by insurgents will inevitably come from all over the place, just as weapons are manufactured all over the world. The same fighters probably have some American-made guns, although they tend to favour older, more easily serviceable weapons. Likewise, it was revealed previously that a number of soldiers in Basra had been killed with American-made bullets from the same NATO sniper rifle. Drawing conclusions that this immediately proves that British Muslims are directly involved in putting together IEDs is taking things too far.

Tal­­i­ban fighters with Yorkshire and West Midlands accents have also been heard talking in intercepted communications, according to a security agency briefing.

This is even older. The Sun first screamed about Nimrods hearing British accents in February last year, in what was probably propaganda that also revealed that, err, we were listening in.

The former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, Brigadier Ed Butler, said: “There are British passport holders who live in the UK who are being found in places such as Kandahar.

“There is a link between Kandahar and urban conurbations in the UK. This is something the military understands but the British public does not."

All well and good, but Kandahar is in the neighbouring province to Helmand, and is regarded as one of the more stable cities, which the Canadians are currently in charge of. There are plenty of British passport holders who live in the UK that, believe it or not, have perfectly legitimate links with both Pakistan and Afghanistan. They're not automatically jihadists just because they're visiting those areas.

Last night Tory MP and former infantry officer Patrick Mercer, chairman of the ­Commons counter terrorism sub committee, said: “I am aware from the troops I have ­spoken to that there are British-born insurgents working and fighting with the Taliban. "The evidence is principally from intercepting their radio communications. But in Iraq ­British troops found bodies of insurgents and they were as certain as they could be that they were British.

So now we're conflating Iraq with Afghanistan in a desperate attempt to get at some direct evidence that British Muslims are killing British soldiers.

None of this is to deny that there probably are some British Muslims fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan, but that they most likely number in the tens or less rather than anything approaching three figures. Screaming that they're murdering our boys without providing anything approaching actual evidence is hardly likely to help matters.

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Monday, January 12, 2009 

Express and Prince Harry.

What a delightful little juxtaposition on today's Daily Express front page:

Yeah, Harry's going to be reprimanded for a racist slur, but what about these filthy foreigners stealing all our jobs, which is in itself a impossibility, going by the Express's sister's recent front page?

As for Harry himself, as Craig Murray points out, you could pass it off as barracks banter and just soldiers being soldiers, but this wasn't a case of Harry directly addressing the person he called a "Paki" or it being obvious that it was joshing, but him zooming in from a distance and saying "Ah, our little Paki friend Ahmed", without any real evident snide, but not exactly affectionately either. They could of course be great friends, but that also isn't instantly apparent. We shouldn't get too outraged about someone making something which certainly isn't for public consumption and making comments on it which others will find offensive, but we shouldn't necessarily dismiss it either. His use of "raghead" is more jovial, but carries more significance with it, especially considering that St James's Palace saw fit to justify it by describing it as a "term" for Iraqi insurgents or Taliban fighters, when it is of course disparaging to Arabs as a whole, although not as widely used here as in America, where it stands alongside "towelhead", "sand nigger" and "hajji", all routinely used as racist terms for Arabs or by soldiers for Iraqis. No one's going to mind if it is used purely to describe those that Harry fought against in Afghanistan in the heat of the moment, but routine usage is more troubling because of the suggestion that like previous racist terms for those being fought against, such as "gooks" in Vietnam, it becomes used to both demonise and dehumanise. That should be kept in mind before merely passing his language off.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008 

Express-watch: Distorting a government report? Surely not?

Let's keep this one relatively brief, as I have no intention of giving the Express any more hits for their blatant rabble rousing. You might recall last year that the Express distorted a Sheffield council report which was a plan for averting possible tensions in the city into a "ethnic baby boom crisis" which was due to precipitate "race trouble".

They've done much the same thing today, albeit on the front page, with it screaming that even MPs now "FEAR RIOTS IN BRITAIN".

The report which the Express is referring to is from the Communities and Government Committee, available here, entitled "Community Cohesion and Migration". Not once in the entire report is the word "riots" used. Nowhere in the report do the MPs responsible so much as suggest that they fear riots or even mass disturbances will break out as a result of a failure to integrate. About the closest they get is here, in the conclusion:

The continued under-funding of migration pressures at the local level increases the risk of community tensions escalating, particularly given that the majority of people in the UK already believe that some groups, such as immigrants, get unfair priority access to public services.

The Government needs to take immediate action to address public concerns about migration, and to defuse tensions before they lead to disturbances.

The report incidentally debunks that immigrants get unfair priority access to services, something the Express didn't see fit to mention. The committee then suggests that tensions need to be defused before they lead to "disturbances"; not that they fear riots are going to break out. It for instance states this:

Some degree of tension between individuals is not necessarily problematic and can be seen as an indication of a healthy democracy. The problem is when tensions escalate to a point where they negatively affect community cohesion. Open disturbances between migrant and settled communities are rare. Thankfully, to date no disturbances have occurred on the scale of those which took place in Burnley, Bradford, and Oldham in the summer of 2001 between settled Asian and white communities—though there have been localised disturbances in areas such as the Caia Park estate, Wrexham, and Boston, Lincolnshire.

Although they may not be widespread, we are still concerned about tensions between migrants and settled residents, and how through addressing the underlying causes of these tensions disturbances may be prevented from arising. Our evidence, particularly from our visits, indicated that there are many tensions relating to practical issues and fears over the changing nature of communities, and the pace of that change, as well as concerns about the pressures placed on public services from migration.

Again then, they're concerned about tensions which may lead to disturbances, they don't fear that riots are about to break out. The Express is engaging in blatant scaremongering.

Let's go through the Express report in a little more detail:

IMMIGRATION is the single biggest cause of public concern, an influential group of MPs warned yesterday.

Actually, they didn't. Directly above the report introduction, they quote a MORI poll from January 2007 which found that 1 in 5 were most concerned about migration, above even crime and terrorism. To suggest this might now be slightly out of date would be stating the obvious: the current hot concerns are the economy and knife crime, with immigration having taken a back seat, especially as there is ancedotal evidence that suggests that there are now more Poles returning home than coming to work in Britain.

The MPs’ devastating report concluded that migration has had a significant impact on communities and local services – greater even than crime and terrorism.

Again, it doesn't. That's quoting from the MORI poll and not the conclusions of the report at all. The closest in comes is in these two nuggets:

Public concerns about the effects of migration cannot simply be dismissed as racist or xenophobic. Tensions often arise on real practical issues, such as the proliferation of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs). (Paragraph 16)

The rapid pace of change experienced by many communities has led to increased local public concern about migration and can negatively affect community cohesion. (Paragraph 24)

The Express:

It also revealed that tensions were rising between some settled ethnic communities and new arrivals because of increased competition for “race equality” resources.

The report:

The Community Development Foundation (CDF) told us that it was aware of new patterns of racial prejudice and hostility between settled Asian and Caribbean communities and new ethnic minorities, who MAY (my emphasis) resent the increased competition for ‘race equality’ resources.

There are of course problems, as the report makes clear, in some communities where migration has suddenly exploded where previously there was little to none. The Express though for some strange reason doesn't mention that of two of the three places visited by the committee which have experienced problems with migration and tensions as a result, both Burnley and Barking and Dagenham have a large British National Party presence. The BNP have four seats on the Burnley council, while they have 12 in B&D. The BNP might have moved in on such fears, but they could also have helped them to spread through their campaigning. Still, isn't it nice to see the Expresss doing its own bit for community cohesion?

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Friday, June 27, 2008 


Generally, if a story's on the front page of the Daily Express, you can guarantee that the slant they've given it isn't warranted. Whether it's blaming Gordon Brown for something he hasn't done, scaremongering about how we're not going to be able to afford anything shortly due to run-away inflation, or its favourite subject now that Diana has finally been shuffled off the front page, how terrible Muslims are.

Today is no exception. Screaming in bold type, the front page informs us that "SNIFFER DOGS OFFEND MUSLIMS". Tom Whitehead, the Express's Home Affairs correspondent, sets the scene:

POLICE sniffer dogs trained to spot terrorists at railway stations may no longer come into contact with Muslim passengers – after complaints that it is against the suspects’ religion.
A report for the Transport Department has raised the prospect that the animals should only touch passengers’ luggage because it is considered “more acceptable”.

The statement in the first paragraph is immediately withdrawn or proved wrong, a typical tabloid tactic, just four paragraphs later:

British Transport Police last night insisted it would still use sniffer dogs – which are trained to detect explosives – with any passengers regardless of faith, but handlers would remain aware of “cultural sensitivities”.

The Express is referring to a series of trials carried out by the Department of Transport on the suitability of various security measures proposed to be installed at railway and underground stations after 7/7. It took me a while to actually find the reports themselves, as they're nowhere to be found on the DoT's press releases page and are hidden away on the site itself, but I did eventually track them down. There were five trials in total, but the one we're interested in is the sniffer dogs one conducted in London and Brighton, which is here, with both the executive summary and the report in full.

To call this document tedious doesn't even begin to cover how dull the report is, which makes even watching paint dry look exciting by comparison. You have to hand it to the Express on that level - they've at least looked at, or looked at the executive summary, noted that Muslims expressed a couple of concerns, and then managed to get an entire story out of it. Out of the full document, which is brimming over with the views of dozens of people who took part in the trials, here are the few Muslims who expressed specific concerns:

Respondents described how if a Muslim had performed Wudu, then it would not be permissible for them to have direct contact with a dog as this would invalidate the Wudu: ‘… we have what we call Wudu, where we’re just washed and clean for pray, and if a dog sniffs [or] comes near us and touches us … we have to do it again … we try to avoid them [dogs] mostly …

I don’t mind dogs in the park or walking near me, but sniffer dogs, I don’t think that’s right, on the station, the way they use it … I think it’s unacceptable.’

(Interview 11: Male, Asian, 45-59 years old, Muslim, Brighton, had not observed trial)

‘… we are not supposed to have dogs, it is against our religion. It is the culture - it is traditional … at home we are not supposed to have dogs. It is like, when you pray, if you touch a dog your prayer will never happen. It is bad. You are not supposed to touch a dog.’

(Interview 13: Male, Asian, 18-24 years old, Muslim, Brighton, had not observed trial)

By way of emphasising this point, it was mentioned that it was not typical for Muslim families to keep dogs as pets. This lack of contact with dogs seemed to add to Muslim respondents’ fear and worry in relation to the use of sniffer dogs:

‘I am a bit frightened … about dogs, but not all dogs. Small dogs are not a problem. But I am not accustomed to caring for a dog … in my country it is not normal to rear a dog in the house … dogs are not acceptable to be in the house.’
(Interview 03: Male, Middle Eastern, 35-59 years old, Muslim, London)

However, there were Muslim respondents who described how it would generally be acceptable for a sniffer dog to examine their luggage, as long as the dog did not touch them. Therefore the way in which the sniffer dogs were used in London would perhaps be more acceptable to Muslims than how they operated in Brighton, due to the greater likelihood for the dogs to make direct contact with people in Brighton, as opposed to solely luggage.

However, there were Muslim respondents who would be unconcerned if they came into contact with a sniffer dog as they described how they did not follow Islam strictly. This was particularly so for men under the age of 45.

And, err, that's it. The report itself doesn't come to any conclusions on whether because of these concerns that sniffer dogs shouldn't be used around Muslims, it only suggests that they might be more comfortable with them only sniffing their luggage.

In fact, the whole Express story is bollocks, because as the Transport minister Tom Harris made clear in his accompanying statement, based on the reports the government has decided that both bag-screening machines and sniffer dogs will be installed at a "handful" of rail and underground stations from now on. Typically, the view of the first two men who objected are also not necessarily representative - I know of a number of Muslim families who do have dogs to begin with - and their main concern was not that dogs sniffing them was against their religion completely, but concerned in case they had washed in preparation of praying. As some doubtless travel on the underground to get to the mosque to pray, this is understandable.

Back to the Express:

In the Muslim faith, dogs are deemed to be spiritually “unclean”. But banning them from touching passengers would severely restrict their ability to do their job.

Except they're not going to be banned from touching passengers. This article does however give that impression while not claiming directly that they are to be banned.

Critics said the complaints were just the latest example of minority religions trying to force their rules and morals on British society.

Tory MP Philip Davies said: “As far as I am concerned, everyone should be treated equally in the face of the law and we cannot have people of different religious groups laying the law down. I hope the police will go about their business as they would do normally.”

How on earth is seeking the views of Muslims on sniffer dogs and two individuals objecting possibly "minority religions trying to force their rules and morals on British society"? Again, this is a classic tabloid ploy: say "critics" when critics equal the hack himself and then quote someone who's been phoned up and only has the slightest idea of what he's commenting on, and wham, have we got a front page for you!

The article does in fact go on to make most of this clear, quotes someone from the Islamic Human Rights Commission (a laughable organisation) and then a spokesman and Tom Harris himself, all of whom make clear this isn't a problem, but the article's main point has been made with just the first few paragraphs and the banner headline. As someone on Mail Watch comments, he later overheard two colleagues remarking "now they can’t use sniffer dogs on Muslims." Job's a good 'un.

Seeing as we're here, we might as well also carry some of the comments on the story to get a flavour of the sort of thoughts it's inspired:

So it is culturally unacceptable to Muslims to have sniffer dogs get too close? I think that it is culturally and criminally wrong to carry bombs on the Underground and murder 52 human beings and destroy the lives of hundreds of others. What comes first in any sane society; the safety of its citizens to go about their normal lives, or the cultural sensibilities of those who would kill them? I notice that sniffer dogs are quite acceptable to Muslims when they are being used to detect people trapped in building rubble following earthquakes!

welcome to the new longer Gran Britannia.
My dog is seriously offended on HIS religious grounds! HOw dare they say this creature of God is unclean. He insists on a bath everyday! Doggy perfume and brushes his teeth and well...he has lots of little girlie doggie dates.

Seriously though.....this whole muslim demand thing is becoming a very unfunny joke.
So sorry to hear they maybe offended. Our country and our safety comes first. At least it should be the first priority. If they don't like the rules they have the freedom to leave. Heathrow is situated on M4 so hurry now and don't slam the door on the way out. Bye now!!!

Muslims represent 3% of the UK's population yet with their constant demands act more like 90%. Time for them to put up or shut up, there are plenty of countries around who practice their faith though they might find their freedoms curtailed when they get there.

... for a crack down! Are police and goverment gone insane! If muslims object to any laws and practises LEAVE Britain NOW! Or maybe not? Because where you are from there is no such a freedom and you can't object and complain about nothing! BAN women wearing face covers, DEPORT anyone who practisise hatred of non muslims or any other religion! WAKE UP BRITAIN! PS. I don't hate anyone but this is going to far now and will get worse if not dealt with. That includes all other religions which are trying to impose their wievs and practises by force!

his was once a great country that had the freedom of speech,luckily we still have one great freedom left ....the right to LEAVE,so if you don't like our way of life then a.go home and b.tell your muslim brothers not to bother coming here in the future.
you people are slowly turning the people of this great country against you,your own doing.

You get the idea.

In an odd way, you almost have to admire the forces at work here. It would have been easier, like the other papers and the BBC, to simply report the minister's statement and some of the executive summary of the trials and not mention the irrelevant point that a couple of Muslims who had been consulted raised some legitimate issues which have made no real difference to the end result. Instead, the Express took the laudable decision to reject the simple option, and attack a minority simply because it would make for a good story. The truth doesn't enter into it. Possible incitement to racial or religious hatred? Who really cares?

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Thursday, April 17, 2008 

Migrants stole my baby part two.

You can tell just how much the Grauniad's report yesterday on how migrants have not brought a crime wave with them and how, unsurprisingly, they're not committing more offences than anyone else overall has wound up the Daily Mail and Express by the vehemence of their response today. Along with the recent immigration report by the Lords committee that, despite tabloid coverage, concluded migrants had on the whole not significantly benefited or been detrimental to the country, the crime angle is the one sure fire hit which they can rely upon to really fire minds against the current immigration policy, with their impact on public services and negligible use of benefits following closely behind. For it to blown apart just as they appeared to be getting the upper hand could not possibly be tolerated.

Hence why both have come out all guns blazing. The Express leads with "IMMIGRANTS BRING MORE CRIME", which is patently untrue as the report has already made clear, but more interesting is the Mail's account of how the Guardian report supposedly came to fruition.

The liberal Left had been right throughout, and the influx of one million eastern European migrants in less than four years - contrary to the claims of some chief constables - had created little pressure or trouble.

The source was good. A report by the Association of Chief Police Officers, prepared for the Home Secretary, had reached this firm conclusion.

Except it had done no such thing. The report itself, leaked in full yesterday, bore no relation to the BBC or Guardian headline claims.

"EU accession migrants are continuing to present challenges across a range of policing activity," reads one paragraph.

There are "notable changes in crime patterns, including extortion, 'dipping' [pick-pocketing], human trafficking and a growing sex trade", warns another.

Most curious of all, there is not a single mention of a migrant crimewave, let alone about one being "unfounded" or a "myth".

Did it really bear no relation to the BBC or Guardian headline claims? Let's go back to the Guardian's report:

The report says: "While overall this country has accommodated this huge influx with little rise in community tension, in some areas sheer numbers, resentment and misunderstanding, have created problems." It adds that the immigration from eastern Europe has been different to previous arrivals, because it happened much more quickly. The report says that new migrants may be more likely to commit certain types of offences. Polish people are linked to drink-driving, and problems have arisen in central London with some Romanian children being used by adults to commit petty robberies.

There are also problems with people trafficking and exploitation, but while these may be more likely in some migrant communities, other types of offences are less likely to occur.

Well that's strange then, isn't it? The Guardian report did mention nearly all those things that the Mail now reports, just in a different fashion, considering that the Guardian didn't have access to the full document which the Mail and Express now apparently have. The easy way to sort the whole mess out would be if us lower mortals could also get access to the full report, but it seems for now that it'll remain confidential. The Grauniad has also expanded slightly on its original points in today's follow-up:

Peter Fahy, chief constable of Cheshire, who co-authored the study, said: "Migration has had a significant impact on UK communities in past years, but while this has led to new demands made on the police service, the evidence does not support theories of a large-scale crime wave generated through migration.

"In fact, crime has been falling across the country over the past year. Cultural differences such as attitudes to offences like drink-driving may exist, but can be exaggerated.

"The influx of eastern Europeans has created pressures on forces in some areas, including local rumour and misunderstandings fuelling tensions which police have had to be proactive in resolving, and leading to significant increases in spending on interpreters, which can also make investigations more complex."

Back to James Slack's analysis of the original Grauniad report:

Even if accurate, the coverage would have begged several questions, not least who had claimed there was a migrant crimewave in the first place?

Hmm. I wonder who could have done such a thing?

The influx of Romanian migrants has led to an explosion in crime in this country, it emerged last night.

As recent members of the EU, Romanians have had free access to Britain only since January 1.

Yet in the first six months of this year, police say, they were responsible for 1,080 offences.

This is from the Daily Mail, 19th of September last year, written by.... James Slack. The Daily Express also claimed in January that "migrants send our crime rate soaring", which as Fahy points out, they haven't, as crime overall has dropped by 9%.

Cambridgeshire Chief Constable Julie Spence - whose intervention last year was the report's spur - had warned of pressure on her local force, and problems with sex trafficking and eastern Europeans drink driving.

Neither she nor any other respected critic had suggested the new arrivals were committing disproportionate levels of overall crime (indeed, it is widely accepted - not least by the Daily Mail - that the vast majority are here to work hard).

What is true is that the migrants are as likely to be arrested by the police as a British citizen, but - when this happens - consume more resources by virtue of speaking little or no English.

Gosh, could that "the Daily Mail line" be anything to do with the Federation of Poles complaining about the Mail's coverage? Obviously Slack isn't including himself or the Express as respected critics, as both, as we have seen, claimed that new arrivals were committing disproportionate levels of overall crime, the Express claiming that crime by migrants had soared by 530%.

Rather than debunking the Guardian's original article, all Slack is doing is actually confirming that its story was accurate. He agrees that migrants are no more likely to commit crimes than the average British citizen, which was the Guardian report's main point. Where the Grauniad erred slightly was that it didn't put enough emphasis in how when arrested migrants obviously use more police resources, and translation costs therefore come into the equation, something that the report makes clear, but it can hardly be blamed for not doing so when it didn't have the full report in front of them, especially considering that their source was Peter Fahy, the co-author of the report, who should himself have communicated that robustly. In any case, today's follow-up contains a lengthy quote dealing with just that from Mail's favourite police officer, Cambridgeshire's Julie Spence. Its fears that the Guardian's report would affect the extra money the police were asking for from Jacqui Smith today when they met her were also unfounded; new funding was promised.

For the Daily Mail and especially James Slack to be moaning about the Guardian slightly misreporting an important study is the height of chutzpah. Such has been Slack's record in distorting figures and baiting and switching that you can't take a single article he's ever written seriously. This blog and others have on numerous occasions recorded the Mail and Express scaremongering, churning and in some cases downright lying about immigration. It ought to come down to trust; do you regard the Mail or Express to tell the truth or be more accurate about immigration, knowing their track record, or do you overall regard the Guardian, or any "broadsheet", or the BBC to do so? Opinion polls on trust on individuals and organisations in public life show that it's overwhelmingly the latter.

Speaking of lying, to bring it back to the Express, here's how it justifies its "IMMIGRANTS BRING MORE CRIME" super splash:

IMMIGRATION from Eastern Europe has led to a huge surge in crime, police chiefs will tell the Home Secretary today.

Oh, so the report doesn't say that then, there's no evidence whatsoever to back it up, but it must be true because "police chiefs" will say so. Then there's the blatant exaggerations of its content:

The damning report will be presented to Jacqui Smith in a key meeting, at which many chief constables will demand extra funds to cope with the effects of Labour’s open-door policy.

In an alarming message, the report warns: “EU migration has brought with it a huge surge in the exploitation of migrants and organised crime.”


The findings provide yet another devastating sign of the pressure Labour’s immigration policies have had on our towns and communities.

Which just goes to show that you really can make black into white and white into black.

Elsewhere, 5cc clarifies further the claim that 1 in 5 crimes in London are now committed by foreigners with figures from his own freedom of information request.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008 

Making it up with the Express and Sun.

No news, a cartoon character once said, is a great opportunity to make it up. Facing a dearth of any real news over the holiday weekend, the tabloids decided that this ancient nostrum was worth following, except in slightly different flavours. The Sun went for outright fabrication, creating a "news" story where there wasn't one, the Express instead going for that other hardy perennial, distorting an actual story so far that it becomes a "fury" which no one other than the journalist themselves is participating in. Both just happen to involve the same minority.

Not that Muslims have had all the fun to themselves. The Sun yesterday revealed in another non-story that "gipsies" (not gypsies, as this is how the tabloids get around potential censure as the Roma are considered a race and therefore subject to various legislation) had err, moved onto land that they legitimately own which just happens to be in the vicinity of Olympics minister Tessa Jowell's country house, which also led to a usual attack on the "detestable" human rights act.

Even less newsworthy and made-up was today's splash - BAKRI SLUR ON AMIR, which also manages to tick two boxes - attacking a nutjob who in the Sun's twisted reasoning is somehow someone who speaks for Muslims, while glorifying in Amir Khan's proud patriotism. As you're probably aware, Bakri Mohammed left this septic isle for the sunnier clime of Lebanon, only for his presence here to be declared as not conducive to the public good before he could return. Since then he's been broadcasting to his tiny and dwindling band of followers via the interweb, previously using Paltalk, although they might now use alternative services. This is reasonably common knowledge, and doubtless the security services monitor and keep a close eye on Bakri's movements and statements, although it's quite possible that if we hadn't simply kicked him out he could now be sharing a cell adjacent to Abu Hamza's in Belmarsh, with him taken out of the public eye altogether.

The Sun's story then is completely and utterly created, controlled and dictated by them. As the article states:

The rant by 49-year-old Bakri — exiled in Lebanon after being kicked out of Britain — came in an internet exchange with other extremists.

Asked if Amir was setting a bad example by draping himself in the flag, he replied: “I don’t think somebody should really look to Amir Khan as a good example for the youth.

“So now for him to be wrapping himself in British flag is another sign of somebody who is completely jahil. You give him the excuse of ignorance for living among the kuffar. So you can’t call him kuffar but you can call him jahil and deviant person.”

Let's give the Sun the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they didn't personally pose the question to Bakri; maybe that was the job of a gopher, or even just maybe it was part of a question posed about whether Amir was suitably Islamic enough for Bakri's liking. Either way, that conversation found its way to the Sun, and they've taken what by Islamist standards is a mild condemnation and turned it into a front page splash.

While condemning Bakri for everything he's every done, the Sun has the good journalistic grace to phone him up and ask whether the allegations it's making are true:

Last night he went even further when he talked to The Sun from his hideaway in Beirut — attacking Amir for having a Union flag on his shorts.

He said: “Amir Khan is not a good example for Muslims. He wears shorts with the Union Jack. That is a sin.

“He should not be wearing the flag because sovereignty is for God. His only allegiance should be to the Prophet Mohammed.

“The ideal situation would be to have a Muslim team not registered to any state so he can represent the Islamic community.”

Fair enough you might say. Bakri's a twat and newspapers make rubbish up all the time. Where's the harm. That, dear reader, is in the Sun's leader column:

Unlike cowardly preacher Omar Bakri, who is not fit to lick Amir’s boots.

Bakri was also given a home here. He spat on Britain’s hospitality, hailed the 9/11 bombers as “magnificent” and urged misguided young Muslims to follow their violent path.

From exile in Lebanon, where he still lives on British handouts, he has the gall to denounce Amir as “deviant” and “ignorant”.

We hope decent Muslims will denounce this despicable wretch who claims to speak on their behalf.

Ah, there we are. Sun concocts a story which even Melanie Phillips would blanch at, then it demands that "decent Muslims" denounce him. That the entire episode wouldn't have come to light if the Sun hadn't made it out to be some new horrific outrage by an Islamist mad-man on the rates doesn't matter; Muslims who don't agree have to speak out against this "despicable wretch who claims to speak on their behalf", except nowhere has he suggested that his views are anyone's other than his own. Aspiring tabloid hacks take note: this is how journalism works.

At least the Sun article shows some enterprise and effort on the part of the hacks responsible, actual news story or not. The same can't be said for the Express's front page lead:


STATE schools should be forced to open their doors to Islamic preachers teaching the Koran, the largest classroom union demanded yesterday.

The National Union of Teachers’ conference also said existing religious schools – almost all of them Christian – should have to admit pupils from other faiths.

The articles do have one connection - both are pretending that there's righteous anger where there is none. In case you haven't already realised, the Express interpretation of the National Union of Teachers' proposal, because that's what it is, not a demand, is rather different from their own. Here's how the Grauniad reports it:

Union calls for end to single-faith schools

· NUT plan reflects concern over faith segregation
· Heads 'should make space for private prayers'

Schools would offer faith-based instruction, prayer facilities and a choice of religious holidays under a plan developed by the country's biggest teaching union.

Headteachers would bring in imams, rabbis and priests to instruct religious pupils as part of the curriculum in an attempt to satisfy parental demand for religion in schools and prevent the establishment of more single-faith schools.

The National Union of Teachers proposals represent an attempt to rival faith schools. All schools should become practising multi-faith institutions, and faith schools should be stripped of their powers to control their own admissions and select pupils according to their faith, according to proposals in the union's annual report, backed at its conference in Manchester yesterday. The daily act of "mainly" Christian worship required of all schools by law should be liberalised to include any religion, the union says.

The general secretary of the NUT, Steve Sinnott, said the plan represented "more than simply religious education - this is religious instruction.

"I believe that there will be real benefits to all our communities and youngsters if we could find space within schools for pupils who are Roman Catholics, Anglican, Methodist, Jewish, Sikh and Muslim to have more religious instruction. You could have imams coming in, you could have the local rabbi coming in and the local Roman Catholic priest."

Far from it opening the door just then to the local imam and that vicious religious text, the Koran, the NUT is actually proposing an alternative to the segregation that some research suggests faith schools contribute to. I actually think it's an abysmal plan, mainly because it seems to cater for everyone other than the decent percentage of the population that couldn't care less for religion at all. Similarly, you don't respond to the mess of faith schooling by deciding to throw even more faecal matter around, ensuring that some sticks everywhere. That aside, the NUT deserves to have its proposal reported accurately and not used by a third-rate dog-whistling newspaper to stir up yet more hatred towards the Muslim community, which is quite clearly what it hand in mind when it asked a Tory MP for his views on the matter:

But the proposals prompted immediate outrage. Conservative Party backbencher Mark Pritchard said: “This is just further appeasement for Muslim militants.

“We should just follow the existing laws on religious education, which state that it should be of a predominantly Christian character. All this will do is further divide many communities that are already split on religious lines.”

These Muslim militants get everywhere yet they seem to be invisible, don't they? Far from being appeasement towards Muslim militants, the plan if anything is appeasement towards those of a religious bent that just have to their children brought up in a God-fearing environment, although even that's not really true as likely the majority are only pretending so that their darling princes and princesses can go to a good school rather than the falling apart local bog standard comprehensive. As ever, it seems Pritchard has been asked to comment something that he hasn't ever seen or read about, and so has only been given something of the slightest background in order to produce said quote. Or maybe he had and I'm giving him too much credit.

As FCC has discovered, the Express has kindly provided a place to discuss this latest news development. In doing so, it had to chose a photograph of an imam in order to illustrate the finer points of where it thinks the debate should lead. Can you possibly guess whose image they've chosen?

Stupid question really. As FCC also points out, we've become so inured to Muslims getting in the neck, being the current minority singled out for special opprobrium or scrutiny, that this somewhat loses its offensiveness. If the headline had been "FURY OVER PLAN TO TEACH TALMUD IN SCHOOLS" with a photograph of a rabbi used for the discussion, it would be sinister rather than something approaching a joke. Because Islam, or the extremist version of it is currently seen as such a threat, somewhat legitimately, it's become almost accepted that all its practitioners are fair game, simply for exercising their own views.

Two examples of making the news up; one minority directly targeted. Journalists' job: done.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008 

Why I loathe the gutter press.

There are many reasons to dislike the gutter press - its casual attitude towards the truth which it pretends to be both seeking and printing; the way that minorities which don't fit within its accepted norms and values are ridiculed and made to feel as though they're personally to blame for their lot; how it randomly chooses which causes to back and which to dump; the way in which "outsiders", such as recent immigrants are routinely demonised and assaulted; and how on the biggest issues, which can only be discussed, debated and voted upon in a calm manner, it routinely sensationalises and gives the loudest voice to those who, for one reason or another, are seeking the most extreme response.

None of the above though come close to when the press is at its most intrusive, insensitive and unthinking - when someone in a position of authority or fame suddenly either dies or is seriously injured, especially if it's through their own hand, journalists (although technically it's their editors who should get the blame) at large suddenly decide that it's a wonderful opportunity to delve into their past for either demons or affairs. Quite apart from letting the person who has just died lay to rest in something approach peace, the people such reports muses by tabloids, Scum-watch, Sun-watch, Daily Mail-watch, Mail-watch, Express-watch, ost hurt are those left behind, already having to deal with their loss, now also having to field requests from the media to reply to allegations which may or may not be true.

Last weekend saw the death of Carol Barnes, the former ITN newsreader. Widely loved by her colleagues by all accounts, even she was susceptible to this most disreputable media voyeurism. The Daily Mail, the newspaper which routinely finds it acceptable to resort to this very lowest form of journalism, ran an article wallowing in the apparent misery of Barnes's life after the death of her daughter in a sky-diving accident, savouring how she'd apparently turned to drink and been caught drink-driving, all while pretending to care about this woman who was at death's door. This is how the gutter press tries to justify such salacious gossip - both on the grounds of public interest and also on how what it's also doing is in actuality filling in the background, or most disingenuously, that it's celebrating their life, even if their life was apparently one that would drive anyone to the bottle.

The treatment meted out to Barnes was slight compared to what have been handed to two individuals this week. Yesterday Allison Pearson pulled no punches in directly blaming the mother of Scarlett Keeling for her death, despite the fact that Keeling was drugged, raped and murdered, according to the very same newspaper. That however wasn't quite enough for Mail - rather than just accusing a mother seeking justice of deserting her daughter to the hands of the inhuman monsters that apparently stalk Goa just waiting to grab "ripe peaches" like her daughter, it set about descending on Fiona MacKeown's home, which just happens to be a caravan site. Headlined "The truth about 'Good Life' of murdered teenager Scarlett Keeling" it vividly describes how it was apparently anything but. With photographs of the dead teenager's bedroom, it calls it "squalid", with "scruffy" caravans "surrounded by rubbish" with "snarling dogs" the only apparent welcome. Why anyone would welcome journalists who later write such vicious hatchet jobs is uncertain, but the hack's pique doesn't stop there. The judging of a life which seems anathema to the Daily Mail's middle-class family values continues throughout the article, until it comes to this conclusion:

Yesterday her remaining children finally arrived back in Britain where they will be cared for by their grandmother. Fiona remains in Goa, determined to continue her fight.

It is a fight not just for justice for Scarlett, but also to convince a growing army of critics, who believe she fatally let her eldest daughter down.

An army of critics which begins and ends with the Daily Mail, only too happy to profit from the misery of a family which has lost a daughter through no fault of their own.

The other case this week is that of Michael Todd - the chief constable of Manchester police that apparently ended his own life by subjecting himself to the freezing temperatures of Snowdonia on the night of the worst storm of winter. Understandably, there are those who want to know just why he did so. There is however a difference between responsible reporting at a time of grief for his family and salacious digging into his life, exposing his foibles and also his failures. Note here that although the usual suspects of the Sun, Mail and Express are all desperate to find everything out and trump each other, the supposedly higher-minded Guardian Media Group, which publishes the Manchester Evening News, was the one that exposed the first woman allegedly linked to him. The BBC, which has also claims to rise above such gossip, also mentioned the woman in its report on the news at ten. The Sun at the bottom of its article is shameless in urging anyone who knew Todd to ring in and tell them all about why they think he did it, while the Mail, which just a couple of paragraphs previously speculated wildly about Todd's private life, has the audacity to print Todd's widow's plea to the media:

"The whole family is struggling to come to terms with his death and we would ask the media to leave us to grieve in peace."

Something that it has absolutely no interest whatsoever in doing.

Slight update: No surprise that Melanie Phillips is also attacking Karen Matthews and Fiona MacKeown, using their apparent dereliction of duty as parents to conclude that that "at a certain level in British society the most basic rules of nurture, parental duty and civilised values have gone down the tubes along with orderly family life." Who could possibly disagree with the kindest inhabitant of Fleet Street?

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008 

Tabloid-watch: More Sun MySpace antics and Express hilarity.

Amazing news everyone! A Sun page 3 idol contestant has been been lucky enough to be one of those ultra-cool people on the front page of MySpace!

LADS have no problem clicking with sexy Alex Sim-Wise - she's the UK's new MySpace girl.

And what a web-site for sore eyes the former Page 3 Idol finalist is.

The 32E beauty's page has attracted so many hits that bosses have given her the honour of a link on their homepage - alongside other popular users.

And could you possibly believe that nowhere is it mentioned that the Sun and MySpace just happen to share the same owner and that this is an absolutely shameless cross-promotion?

Meanwhile, the Sun and most of the rest of the internet is outraged that a US soldier has supposedly thrown a lickle puppy off a cliff. This would be the same Sun newspaper that reported on the torture and mistreatment at Abu Ghraib just twice. The same newspaper that has used the word "Haditha" just seven times since 2003, and not once in relation to the massacre which occurred there in 2005. Oh, and also the same newspaper that seems to have only used the term "extraordinary rendition" in relation to the allegations against the CIA's torture flights twice. Still online is this poster that offered a reward for the finding of those responsible for throwing a Labrador puppy off a bridge, something given far more coverage than anything involving atrocities/torture committed by either US or British soldiers. Tim and Justin have more.

Finally, the Express doesn't seem to be able to make up its mind. Back in November it claimed that migrants had taken all the new jobs in Britain. Today it splashes on its front page that migrants have taken... 85% of new jobs in Britain. Do you believe one, the other, or none of the above? Stupid question, really. This re-evaluation could be related to how the Express might well be under investigation by the PCC for the "all new jobs in Britain" front page. (Anton Vowl got to this one before me.)

P.S. It's always a jolly read to occasionally peruse the Press Complaints Commission website. The Commission has just announced that Paul Dacre, editor of the Mail, is the new head of the Code Committee, the code being the one which the press is meant to abide by and which the PCC judges complaints on. This would be the same editor who helms the newspaper that according to Nick Davies in Flat Earth News has had the most successful number of complaints made against it - 153, as compared to the Times, Mirror and Sun, all of whom had just over 50 each made against them. This appears to be the equivalent of the late Alan Clark being made the head of a committee into whether extra-marital affairs constitute an acceptable reason for divorce.

Oh, and genuinely finally, on the current first page of the cases section of the PCC site, the Mail makes up six of the 20 entries, with its sister the Mail on Sunday taking up another slot. The most serious of these is that the Mail, along with other papers, claimed that Joanna Rhodes's husband had killed himself a day after seeing the results of their baby's scan. As Mrs Rhodes explains, this was completely untrue, as the date on the photographs from the scans provided was not the day before he committed suicide. The case was resolved with the Mail blaming the news agency (although they should have checked the details, churnalism anyone?) and apologising. Only the Express offered to print an apology in the newspaper itself.

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