Monday, April 22, 2019

Tragedies

'When I was a child my brother would tell me a bedtime story. About the man who murdered our father.' The latest episode of Game Of Thrones, dear blog reader, was less of an episode in its own right but, rather, a beautifully reflective 'eve of the war' collection of sequences. And, it was gorgeous, so it was. Really proper terrific. There were moments of great pathos, great drama, some sexy bits and also more than a few moments of great humour - particularly when Liam Cunningham's usually very reliable Geordie accent suddenly went all weird and Aiden Gillen at one point for no obvious reason. That was funny. Reviews, opinion pieces, live bloggerisationisms and general over-the-top 'squeeing' can be righteously consumed at, well take yer pick - NBC, the Torygraph, the Den Of Geek! website, NME, the Gruniad Morning Star, the Huffington Post, Forbes, Harper's Bazaar, the Daily Scum Mail, the Independent, the Radio Times, the New York Times, the New York Post, the Boston Globe, Deadline, The Atlantic, IGN, Vanity Fair, the Sun, the Black Girl Nerds website, the Evening Standard, Rotten Tomatoes, Business Insider, The Verge, the Washington Post and, just about everywhere else on the Interweb. Simply type 'Game Of Thrones' into Google, dear blog reader and you'll find another three billion at least.
Maisie Williams has revealed that she believed Arya's allegedly 'controversial' scene in the latest Game Of Thrones episode was 'a prank.' The twenty two-year-old was interviewed by Entertainment Weekly immediately after the broadcast of an episode featuring her character's first bare-ass nekked scene featuring The Sex. She explained that she discovered Arya would be having The Sex with her old friend Gendry (Joe Dempsie) the night before the battle against The White Walkers from her friend and co-star Sophie Turner who had, Williams suggested, read the script quicker than her. But, this didn't stop Maisie from initially thinking that the scene was a trick being played on her by showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss who had, apparently, done something similar to Kit Harington in the first series. 'At first, I thought it was a prank,' she claimed. 'I was like, "Yo, good one." And [they were] like, "No, we haven't done that this year."' Williams said it was left up to her to decide exactly how bare-ass nekked she actually got on camera. Following the episode, some people you've never heard of on Twitter apparently expressed 'distaste' at the thought that Williams, who was twelve when the drama began, would have had to undress in front of crew members who have known her since she was in junior school. 'David and Dan were like: "You can show as much or as little as you want,"' Maisie said, adding: 'So I kept myself pretty private. I don't think it's important for Arya to flash. This beat isn't, really, about that.' Reflecting on what the scene means for her character, Williams continued: 'This is something she has stayed away from, an emotion we've never really seen her engage with. David and Dan were like, "It's the end of the world, what else would you have her do?" This may be is a moment where Arya accepts death tomorrow, which she never does. It's interesting to see Arya be a bit more human, speak more normally about things people are scared of.'
The latest episode of Game Of Thrones was uploaded to Amazon early due to an 'error,' the company has claimed. The person who 'erred' has, subsequently, had their knackers fed to The Hounds until they promised never to do it again. Some Amazon Prime members were able to watch the episode several hours before its scheduled release time. 'We regret that for a short time Amazon customers in Germany were able to access episode two of season eight of Game Of Thrones,' an Amazon spokesman weaselled. 'This was an error and has been rectified.' He added that a damned good hard slapping on the Jacob's Cream Crackers with a wet plimsoll was 'involved' in this 'rectification.' Probably. It was taken down soon after it was uploaded, but it was available long enough for 'many' fans to view the whole episode. And, to have a right good sneer about that on social media. As a result, screengrabs and plot details started appearing online before the official broadcast time. This is the second week in a row that Game Of Thrones has appeared online early. The previous week's series eight launch episode was made available to DirecTV Now customers four hours early. Writing in Forbes, Paul Tassi said: 'HBO has to be tearing their hair out that this keeps happening, but this show is so popular and there are so many of these markets to manage, it does almost seem inevitable that something will go wrong. At least we're not dealing with people flat-out stealing episodes like we saw in a breach a few years ago, but this is not great either.'
'Stand your ground!' The trailer for next week's episode, appears to show the popular adult fantasy drama's biggest ever massive fek-off fight, the Battle of Winterfell. The clip shows just about every major player in Westeros preparing for the tool-stiffeningly violent battle ahead. The Night King his very self, Vladimír Furdík, suggested the episode would be 'an historic moment' when interviewed last year. 'Almost the full episode will be about the battle, it will take about one hour,' he said. So, that should be good for a laugh.
'See, this is why you don't have any friends!' Elmo, seemingly, wants to bring peace to Westeros, dear blog reader. Well, good luck with that, mate. In a - very amusing - video released late last week, which emphasises the theme of respect, the Sesame Street favourite tries to encourage level-headed and friendly discourse between warring siblings Cersei and Tyrion Lannister. For those wondering if this is 'canon' or not ... this blogger reckons probably not. But, it is funny. It's worth it, in particularly, for Peter Dinklage's delightful facial expression at a mention of The Cookie Monster!
'I'll just masturbate onto this omelette then, shall I?' As previously noted, dear blog reader, this blogger does not intend to review any episodes of the second series of From The North favourite Killing Eve currently showing in the US until the episodes become widely available in Britain at a later date for fear of spoiling anyone who wishes not to be spoilerised. However, if you're not bothered about any such spoilerising malarkey then, reviews of series two, episode three are available at the Torygraph, for example. And, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Metro and IndieWire. Avoid all of those like The Plague, dear blog reader, if you want to remain unspoilerised. If you're wondering, Keith Telly Topping thought it was great. Though, again, that's not really a spoiler, per se, more of a universal constant.
'With respect, sir, I dispute the lawfulness of your order.' Sunday's fourth episode of Line Of Duty's current fifth series continued to punch regular viewers, hard, in the kisser with shocking - and stunning - twists and turns. Remember, for example, when writer Jed Mercurio killed off a major character half-way-through Bodyguard last year and many viewers suggested 'well, he'll never do that again!' Oh, do you bloody think so? The usual - fanboy and fangirlesque - reviews of the episode at the Gruniad, the Independent, the Torygraph, the Digital Spy website and the Radio Times are there if you want to go looking for them. Once again, if you haven't seen the episode and are worried about being all nastily spoilerised then you'd be well advised to not read any of the above. Just go and watch the episode instead, dear blog reader. Bit of a radical suggestion, this blogger is aware but, you'll probably feel better afterwards. Unlike John Corbett. Who won't.
'Remind me to talk to you about that full pardon!' One episode before its ultimate conclusion, From The North favourite Gotham pretty much tied up all of its various ongoing plotlines in a neat bundle with a bat-shaped bow on top and declared to the audience 'right, it's taken us ninety nine episodes to get this far, where we're going next, for one week only, it somewhere else entirely.' Being set at some indeterminate point in the future (ten year is the figure being widely bandied about on the Interweb) this means, for instance, that the Catwoman who appears in the finale will be played by someone other than From The North favourite Camren Bicondova. Despite that, the trailer for the finale does, undeniably, look great.
But, back to the penultimate episode, They Did What?, which was a rich and beautifully structured engine of destruction from the first moment. One that gave viewers a final, lingering look at the Batman: Year Zero aesthetic Gotham has mined so successful for five years. Reviews of the episode are available for you to be spoilerised by, dear blog reader, here, here, here and here.
Sean Pertwee, meanwhile, has been sharing some - decidedly out-of-character - on-set images from the finale online.
There was an interesting change of pace in this week's episode of From The North's current favourite TV show on the entire bloody planet, Doom Patrol. Hair Patrol combined an atypically mental dip into the Grant Morrison cavalcade of bizarre characters (in this particular case, The Beard Hunter) with a really touching and lyrical back-story for Niles Caulder (Timothy Dalton). The storyline was also notable for teasing the forthcoming debut of another major Doom Patrol comic book character, Flex Mentallo. There are reviews of the episode for you to surf at your leisure, dear blog reader, here, here, here and here.
Meanwhile, the trailer for the next episode - Frances Patrol - promises more good work on the Rita front.
'Sometimes we know the role we're meant to play, sometimes we don't. I'm not sure which is better, to be honest.' The - for the most part uniformly splendid - second series of another From The North favourite, Star Trek: Discovery, came to an end this week. With an episode that, again, managed to tie up the majority of the series' running themes and send most of the regular cast off into a brave new (far) future. Favourable reviews of the episode - and, of the series as a whole - can be read here, here and here.
Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Star Trek: Discovery co-creator and co-showrunner Alex Kurtzman discussed the second series finale in some detail. He also removed any doubt as to where the show is headed: 'We are jumping nine hundred and fifty years into the future for season three,' he confirmed. Kurtzman talked about how the decision to jump the show into the Thirty Third Century frees them up: 'We love playing within canon. It's a delight and a privilege. It's fun to explore nooks and crannies of the universe that people haven't fully explored yet. That being said, we felt strongly that we wanted to give ourselves an entirely new energy for season three with a whole new set of problems. We're farther than any Trek show has ever gone. I also had experience working on the [JJ Abrams] films where we were stuck with canonical problems. We knew how Kirk had died and we wondered how we could put him in jeopardy to make it feel real. That's what led us to go with an alternate timeline; suddenly we could tell the story in a very unpredictable way. That's the same thought process that went into jumping nine hundred and fifty years into the future. We're now completely free of canon and we have a whole new universe to explore.' When asked if characters from other Star Trek series might show up, Kurtzman again noted the time jump puts the show far beyond where any man (or woman) has gone before: 'There will be canonical references to everything that has happened in the various shows; we're not erasing that. But we're so far past that point that all of that is a very distant memory. We're very excited to see how you put the elements of Star Trek in an entirely new universe.' No details were provided on what the crew of the Discovery will have to deal with in this far future, but he did indicate that it isn't going to be smooth sailing: 'All I can tell you is that Control is officially neutralised, but there will be much bigger problems when they get to the other side of that wormhole.' Kurtzman also talked about the expanding Star Trek universe which he oversees, including the buzz around a series set on Captain Pike's USS Enterprise, making it clear they are 'aware' of the clamouring fan-interest: 'The fans have been heard. Anything is possible in the world of Trek. I would love to bring back that crew more than anything. It was a huge risk for us. One of the most gratifying things is to see how deeply the fans have embraced Pike, Spock, Number One and The Enterprise. The idea of getting to tell more stories with them would be a delight for all of us.' The next show to launch will be the Picard series starring Sir Patrick Stewart. Earlier this week, CBS announced three more actors had joined the cast. Kurtzman gave an update on the status of the show: '[The Picard series is] going amazingly. We start shooting soon. It will be really different from Discovery in tone, pace and story. I'm so excited with how our cast came together. Hanelle Culpepper, our director, is absolutely crushing it. We're so excited because it's so different. Yet, I think people who like The Next Generation will recognise that it's made by people who love it equally. It will be really interesting to see how people respond.' The executive producer also briefly discussed the Section Thirty One series planned to go into production after the third series of Discovery: 'If you're a fan of Deep Space Nine, you've probably spent the past two years saying, "What the hell are they doing with Section Thirty One? That's nothing like the Section Thirty One we know." That's exactly right. In Deep Space Nine, they did not have badges or ships. They're an underground organisation. What you see on Discovery and our upcoming show with Michelle Yeoh is how Section Thirty One became that organisation and why it was so underground by the time Deep Space Nine comes around.' Kurtzman's co-showrunner Michelle Paradise discussed Such Sweet Sorrow with Entertainment Tonight, explaining the reasoning behind the solution to how to sync the show with established canon: 'Wrapping this story up and being clear that because of the danger that Control presented, because of the spore drive, because of this time-travelling technology ... for those reasons and to prevent any dangerous entities from trying to access these things again, we must nip it in the bud. The lying about it is a protection for Starfleet. That's the reason that they do it and it is also to make sure that if Section Thirty One has any designs on doing the next version of Control, that it can't get out of control - no pun intended - and create a similar problem in the future. It was about answering the season two story, eliminating the threat of Control so that we, as viewers, understand Control has been eliminated. The goal of this season was to take care of this problem and we have taken care of this problem successfully. And at the same time, that also puts us in line with canon. Those were the reasons that we did that.' The executive producer also provided some background on their approach to wrapping up the story arc relating to Spock and Burnham: 'We had done a lot of work on the Burnham and Spock relationship over the course of this season. We knew from the beginning that we wanted to start them in a place where they were fractured and that the journey of the season would be to bring them back together and heal the wounds between them. Of course, he has to go on the Enterprise at some point, so you bring their relationship to a satisfying conclusion where the hurts of the past have been healed and where they have been able to help, support and influence one another. We talked a lot about what Spock could give to Burnham and what Burnham could give to Spock. Over the course of the season, we see that play out in a number of different episodes, leading to this culmination where they share with one another the ways in which they're better and the ways in which they need one another and the ways in which they are okay knowing that she must go on to do this mission and he must return to the Enterprise. We were trying to find the best possible way to honour their sibling relationship and end them in a positive way.' Paradise also confirmed that when Michael Burnham was advising Spock to seek out his 'opposite,' the writers were alluding to a specific character Spock will encounter in the future: 'Absolutely. That is definitely Kirk.' As previously reported, production of the third series of Discovery is scheduled to begin in early July.
'Wars are coming, Shadow. I have a big role for you.' As with Game Of Thrones, there is, seemingly, a massive fek-off fight coming in From The North favourite American Gods forthcoming finale and the latest - penultimate - episode was full of similar reflective and sorrowful tones to this week's Game Of Thrones. This blogger has always been a right sucker for Mad Sweeney-centric episodes and, given that this one may be the last such episode for some time (if not, ever) then Keith Telly Topping, big surprise, thought it was great. A view which was, seemingly, shared in several reviewers of the episode whose views can be found here, here and here.
Now, dear blog reader, the first in a new semi-regular From The North feature, 'I Thought He Was Dead' and a - really rather good - guest-turn by the great (and, thankfully, not late) Richard Thomas (John-Boy Walton) in the latest episode of From The North favourite The Blacklist.
BBC Studios have announced the forthcoming release of Doctor Who's fourth series of adventures in a Blu-ray Steelbook. Series four marked the arrival of the award-winning actor Catherine Tate as The Doctor's new companion, Donna. The Doctor and Donna travelled back to Pompeii on the eve of the infamous eruption where people are slowly turning to stone, investigated a series of grisly murders with the help of Agatha Christie, journeyed to the home world of The Ood and came face-to-face with an old enemy. And John Barrowman. Series four saw the return of previous companions, Rose Tyler and Martha Jones plus an array of guest cast which included Sarah Lancashire, Felicity Kendal, Fenella Woolgar, Tim McInnerny, yer actual Peter Capaldi, Phil Davis and Tracey Childs. Bonus features exclusive to the release include episodes of Doctor Who Confidential, video diaries, commentaries, the - memorable - Children In Need mini-episode Time Crash (featuring Peter Davison co-starring with his son-in-law, David Tennant), plus trailers and deleted scenes. The steelbook is due to be released on 27 May and is available to pre-order in the UK from Amazon.
Congratulations are very much due to the Gruniad Morning Star's Ellen E Jones (no, me neither) for an article about Gruniad Morning Star arse-lick favourite Fleabag which is sure to draw gasps - gasps, please note - from Gruniad Morning Star readers as they read it over their quiche and/or muesli. Fleabag Is A Work Of Undeniable Genius. But It Is For Posh Girls is the article in question. Fleabag is, actually, neither of those things, but watching the heads of numerous Gruniad Morning Star readers explode at the very suggestion is, undeniably, vastly entertaining.
The BBC Proms will blast into hyperspace this summer, with a series of interstellar concerts marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landings. Alongside classics like Holst's The Planets, the season will include an SF Prom, featuring scores from films such as Gravity and Alien: Covenant. A CBeebies concert will take children on 'a journey to the Moon,' including a close encounter with the cast of Clangers. The season opens in July with a new piece inspired by the first Moon walk. Zosha Di Castri's Long Is The Journey, Short Is The Memory will be premiered on Friday 19 July, under the baton of Karina Canellakis - the first female conductor to oversee The First Night Of The Proms. Meanwhile, art-rock collective Public Service Broadcasting - a particular favourite of this blogger - will play their concept piece Race For Space in a special late night Prom. The record, which combines sparse electronic beats with archive audio recordings from the US-Soviet space race, will be presented in a new arrangement with the Multi-Story Orchestra. Running from 19 July to 14 September, the one hundred and twenty fifth Proms season will also see concerts from cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, West African singer Angélique Kidjo and American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton, who will be the featured soloist on the Last Night Of The Proms. Although the festival was planned as the Brexit deadline approached, Proms director David Pickard said there were 'almost no' plans put in place to ensure foreign musicians could play if Britain left the EU without a deal. 'To be fair, there were a couple of orchestras who raised the issue with us at the end of last year,' he told BBC News. 'But I think the music world is incredibly resilient. Most orchestras I've spoken to have said, "Well, there's probably going to be a lot of extra paperwork and there might be a few more costs, but we'll find a way of doing it somehow." And, what was the contingency plan we could have made? We were trying to second-guess the whole time what the implications would be - but not knowing what the future would hold, there was no contingency that would have been foolproof.' All of this year's concerts will be broadcast live on Radio 3 and twenty five of the shows will be screened on television. Tickets for each of the concerts start at six quid. The Proms will celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of Queen Victoria's birth by transporting her piano from the drawing room of Buckingham Palace for a one-night-only performance. The gilded instrument, painted with cherubs and monkeys, will deliver music by Victoria's favourite composer, Mendelssohn, as well as several songs composed by her husband, Prince Albert. When he's not pushing celebrated - and massively over-rated - miserablists Radiohead in new sonic directions, guitarist Jonny Greenwood has a sideline as an avant-garde composer - most notably on film soundtracks such as There Will Be Blood, Norwegian Wood and the Oscar-nominated Phantom Thread. He makes his Proms debut on 10 September, curating a programme which includes Steve Reich's hypnotic Pulse and Heinrich Biber's Passacaglia In G Minor. The concert culminates with the world premiere of Greenwood's Horror Vacui - which 'aims to simulate electronic sounds using sixty eight string instruments played acoustically.' After bringing Quincy Jones, Charles Mingus and grime to the Proms, conductor Jules Buckley has turned his attention to soul-jazz legend Nina Simone. Titled Mississippi Goddam, after Simone's powerful civil rights protest song, the evening's programme promises to 'explore her background and enduring influence' as a musician, a lyricist and an activist. The concert will feature Selma star Ledisi, amongst others, performing songs like 'I Put A Spell On You', 'My Baby Just Cares For Me' and 'Feeling Good'. Buckley is also in charge of a 'hip-hop Prom,' which will showcase scratch DJs, beatboxing and graffiti art. The singers from musical collective Solomon's Knot will perform four Bach cantatas from memory, without a conductor at a late-night Prom on 14 August. 'They're a young baroque group, who've just sprung up but have quite a big following,' said Pickard. 'Their concerts are incredibly communicative because they're either looking at you or they're looking at each other. It's hard to explain the dynamic but they're a very interesting group.' There is a strong environmental theme to this year's programme, with works such as Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, inspired by his walks in the Austrian countryside and Richard Strauss's Alpine Symphony, which depicts a day's climbing in the Bavarian Alps. The season will also feature the European premiere of In The Name Of The Earth, by Pulitzer Prize-winner John Luther Adams. Inspired by the landscapes of America and humanity's perilous relationship with nature, the work will be performed by eight choirs positioned around the Royal Albert Hall, immersing the audience in the music. Meanwhile, the Lost Words Prom takes its inspiration from Robert McFarlane and Jackie Morris's book, The Lost Words, which 'reclaims' words like 'acorn', 'adder' and 'bramble', after they were expunged from the Oxford Children's Dictionary in favour of modern terms such as 'broadband' and 'celebrity'. The family-focused concert will blend jazz, classical, beat-boxing and sound effects while McFarlane will update his lexicon of 'lost words' with 'a few new entries.'
An age-check scheme designed to stop under-eighteens from viewing pornographic websites will come into force on 15 July. From that date, affected sites will have to verify the age of UK visitors. If they fail to comply they will face being blocked by Interweb service providers. But, critics say that teens may find it 'relatively easy' to bypass the restriction or could simply turn to porn-hosting platforms not covered by The Law. Twitter, Reddit and image-sharing community Imgur, for example, will not be required to administer the scheme because they fall under an exception where more than a third of a site or app's content must be pornographic to qualify. Likewise, any platform which hosts pornography but does not do so on 'a commercial basis' - meaning it does not charge a fee or make money from adverts or other activity - will be unaffected. Furthermore, it will remain legal to use virtual private networks, which can make it seem like a UK-based computer is located elsewhere, to evade the age checks. The authorities have, however, acknowledged that age-verification is 'not a silver bullet' solution, but rather a means to make it 'less likely' that children stumble across unsuitable material online. 'The introduction of mandatory age-verification is a world-first and we've taken the time to balance privacy concerns with the need to protect children from inappropriate content,' claimed the Minister for Digital Margot James. 'We want the UK to be the safest place in the world to be online and these new laws will help us achieve this.' It had originally been proposed that pornographic services which refused to carry out age-checks could be fined up to two hundred and fifty thousand smackers. However, this power will not be enforced because ministers believe the threat to block 'defiant' sites will be 'sufficient' and that trying to chase overseas-based entities for payment 'would have been difficult.' No shit? However, the government has said that 'other measures' could follow. 'We know that pornography is available on some social media platforms and we expect those platforms to do a lot more to create a safer environment for children,' a spokesman for the Department of Digital Culture, Media and Sport told the BBC. 'If we do not see action then we do not rule out legislating in the future to force companies to take responsibility for protecting vulnerable users from the potentially harmful content that they host.' The age checks were originally proposed by the now defunct regulator Atvod in 2014 and were enacted into law as part of the the Digital Economy Act 2017. But their roll-out had been repeatedly delayed. UK-hosted pornographic video services already have to verify visitors' ages, as do online gambling platforms. The British Board of Film Classification - which gives movies their UK age certificates - will be responsible for regulating the effort. It will instruct Interweb providers which sites and apps to block for non-compliance. In addition, it can call on payment service providers to pull support and ask search engines and advertisers to 'shun' an offending business. The pornographic platforms themselves will have freedom to choose how to verify UK visitors' ages. But the BBFC has said that it will 'award solutions' which adopt 'robust' data-protection standards with a certificate, allowing them to display a green age verification symbol on their marketing materials to help consumers make an informed choice. One digital rights campaign group questioned the sense of this scheme being voluntary. 'Having some age verification that is good and other systems that are bad is unfair and a scammer's paradise - of the government's own making,' said Jim Killock from the Open Rights Group. 'Data leaks could be disastrous. And they will be the government's own fault.' Mindgeek, one of the adult industry's biggest players, has developed an online system of its own called AgeID, which it hopes will be widely adopted. It involves adults having to upload scans of their passports or driving licences, which are then verified by a third-party. It has said that all the information will be encrypted and that the AgeID system will not keep track of how each users' accounts are used. High street stores and newsagents will also sell separate age-verification cards to adults after carrying out face-to-face checks, according to the government. Dubbed 'porn passes' by the media, the idea is that users would type in a code imprinted on the cards into pornographic websites to gain access to their content. And then, have a right good wank just as they do now. The BBFC has said it will also create an online form for members of the public to 'flag non-compliant sites' - or, in other words, to snitch them up right good and proper like a filthy stinkin' Copper's Nark - once the new regulations come into effect. 'We want to make sure that when these new rules are implemented they are as effective as possible,' commented the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. 'To accomplish this, it is crucial the rules keep pace with the different ways that children are exposed to porn online.' The age checks form part of a wider effort by the UK's authorities to make the Interweb 'safer' to use for young people. Most recently, DCMS proposed the creation of a new regulator to tackle apps that contain content promoting self-harm and suicide, among other problems. In addition, the Information Commissioner's Office has proposed services stop using tools that encourage under-eighteens to share more personal data about themselves than they would do otherwise. The idea of the government keeping a database of verified porn viewers had sounded like a privacy and ethical nightmare. Luckily it has dodged that bullet. Despite the introduction of a new kitemark-like badge to identify 'cyber-security conscious systems,' there's still a concern that some will suffer data breaches causing people's 'adult interests' to be 'exposed.'
A British man hailed as a hero for helping to stop a global cyber-attack that was threatening the NHS has pleaded very guilty to US malware charges. Marcus Hutchins pleaded guilty to two charges related to writing malware - or malicious software - court documents show. Writing on his website, Hutchins said that he 'regretted' his actions and accepted 'full responsibility for my mistakes.' Hutchins has been held in the US since he was arrested by the FBI in 2017. 'As you may be aware, I've pleaded guilty to two charges related to writing malware in the years prior to my career in security,' he wrote on his website. 'I regret these actions and accept full responsibility for my mistakes. Having grown up, I've since been using the same skills that I misused several years ago for constructive purposes. I will continue to devote my time to keeping people safe from malware attacks.' Hutchins, from Ilfracombe, was credited with stopping the WannaCry malware which was threatening the NHS and other organisations in May 2017. But he was arrested by FBI agents two months later at Las Vegas's McCarran International Airport. He had been attending the Def Con conference - one of the world's biggest hacking and security gatherings.
This blogger's beloved (though unsellable) Newcastle United moved ten points clear of the relegation zone and up to twelfth place in the Premier League after an entertaining win over Southampton at St James' Park thanks to Ayoze Pérez's first hat-trick for the club. This blogger was already fairly certain that United were going to have a good day when, on Saturday morning, he spotted a tiding of Magpies (well ... two of them, anyway), looking for worms in the garden of Stately Telly Topping Manor. One for sorrow, two for joy and all that. Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws subsequent win at Cardiff City on Sunday meant that - with three games remaining - this blogger's bonny Magpies are now mathematically safe. Which was nice. Ralph Hasenhüttl's Saints survived a second-minute appeal for a penalty after Pierre-Emile Højbjerg appeared to handle in the area but, much to Rafa Benítez's chagrin, referee Anthony Taylor, waved away appeals. If Newcastle's manager was mildly irked about that, he must have been downright disgusted, appalled, shocked and stunned when James Ward-Prowse escaped with a yellow card after a horribly cynical and nasty body-check on a rapidly counter-attacking Miguel Almirón. Considering that Ward-Prowse was the only remaining marker between the Paraguayan and Angus Gunn's goal, everyone wearing black and white was convinced it was the denial of a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity and an automatic red card. Given that the bodycheck was so blatant it was arguably worthy of a dismissal in and of itself and there was a real sense of justice being done when Pérez scored two goals in quick succession to put Th' Toon in charge at the break. However, Southampton have also been playing well and they were transformed after half-time, substitute Mario Lemina coolly slotting on to halve The Magpies' lead. After Ki Sung-yueng hit the post for United and Angus Gunn pulled off an outstanding save from Isaac Hayden - and despite losing Almirón and Fabian Schär to injury - Pérez wrapped up the points for Benitez's side. The victory leaves Newcastle with forty one points from thirty four games. Pérez had scored four in his last seven homes games as well as the winner at Leicester last weekend and he continued his fine run of form with a superbly taken hat-trick. His first was a perfectly placed clipped shot, kissing the inside of the far post after Hayden had won the ball back in midfield. He followed that up two minutes later as his determination to meet Salomón Rondón's low cross ahead of Ryan Bertrand bought him a second goal. He completed his hat-trick with four minutes left, poaching a close range header after Matt Ritchie had bravely dived in to win a Southampton clearance. Pérez now has ten Premier League goals this season, the first Newcastle player to do so since Georginio Wijnaldum in 2016. Pérez's burgeoning confidence crowned a strong performance from Newcastle who, after a tenth place finish last season, are chasing down the top-half of the table once again.
Elsewhere, Sheikh Yer Man City returned to the top of the Premier League table on Saturday while Brighton & Hove Albinos inched further away from the relegation zone. Phil Foden's goal gave City victory over Stottingtot Hotshots in the early kick-off to send Pep Guardiola's side one point clear of title rivals Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws. Brighton ended a run of four successive defeats with an unsurprisingly unadventurous goalless draw at Wolves. It moved The Seagulls three points above eighteenth-placed Cardiff. Brighton had goalkeeper Mat Ryan - who played an impressive holding role behind the back ten - to thank for a string of fine saves at Molineux, where the draw meant hosts Wolves slipped to ninth place. Aleksandar Mitrović scored from the spot as already relegated Fulham won at Bournemouth - their first away win of a horrible season for The Cottagers - while Gerard Deulofeu netted twice as Watford saw off bottom side Huddersfield. The Terriers' defeat means that they have now lost fourteen home Premier League games this season, a joint record in the competition's history with Blunderland in 2002-03 and 2005-06. Harvey Barnes grabbed a point for Leicester in an entertaining two-two draw at West Hamsters United, after Lucas Perez had put the Hammers in front with ten minutes to go. Michail Antonio had headed in for the hosts in the first half, before Jamie Vardy's neat finish pulled The Foxes level. On Sunday, Everton gave The Scum a pants-down twanking at Goodison Park, a four-nil thrashing which saw in an incandescent, red-faced Gary Neville on Sky Sports using the words 'shameful,' 'rotten,' 'rancid' and 'embarrassing' in the same sentence and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer issuing a grovelling public apology to The Scum's supporters. So, that was funny. Later, Liverpool's two-nil win at Cardiff left Whinging Neil Wazzcock's Bluebirds mired deep in the relegation clarts. Crystal Palace continued their recent fine form with a three-two win up The Arse.
Incidentally, dear blog reader, this blogger - as he has made clear on many previous occasions on this blog - has what he believes to be a good understanding of the way in which the universe laws of karma can have a way of coming back and biting one, hard, on the arse in relation to football. Very much a case in point; at the start of this current season this blogger's beloved Newcastle had an appalling run of results which meant that, after ten games, they were rock bottom of the Premier League with but three points (gained from three goalless draws). The fact that six of those ten games had been against Sheikh Yer Man City, Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws, Stottingtot Hotshots, The Arse, The Scum and Moscow Chelski FC did not seem to factor into much ill-informed media and Interweb speculation relating to The Magpies' chances of hauling themselves clear of the drop zone. Rafa The Gaffer, at the time, noted that the Premier League is a marathon rather than a sprint but still, in those dark days of late September and early October 2018, one would have been hard-pressed to find many outside of the Greater Tyneside area who didn't have Th' Toon marked down as bankers for the drop. At the same time, this blogger was being bombarded by some, frankly, sneering posts from a - now extremely former - Facebook fiend who wanted to know what Rafa The Gaffer had been playing it at in selling Aleksandar Mitrović to the now former Facebook fiend's own team, Fulham. 'Mitro is our hero,' this individual crowed. 'We can't understand why you let him go.' Six months later and with Fulham about to return to the second tier with but six wins all season and a total of a mere thirty three goals scored (and seventy six conceded) the time is, perhaps, now appropriate to conclude that one man does not make a team. And, that if you're going to have a right sneer about how great your own side are at the expense of someone else, it is probably an idea to wait until towards the end of the season when you're mathematically safe before doing so. The actual reason that Mitrović was sold, of course, at least in part was because he had developed a nasty habit of getting himself suspended - usually for crass and violent off-the-ball incidents - at times when Newcastle could least afford to lose one of the few fit strikers they had available to them. Rafa, to be brutal, seem to feel he could not longer trust Mitrović. Subsequent events suggest he may well have been correct in that assessment.
As the grim spectacle unfolded in San Marino last month - a performance so utterly awful that even the captain Andy Robertson described it as 'rock bottom' - the Scotland fans, already bruised and battered from the calamity in Kazakhstan a few days earlier, started to crank up their anger, from good old fashioned booing to something more vitriolic. They went after the board of the Scottish FA, demanding, rather optimistically, that they all be fired. Mainly, though, their thunder was reserved for Alex McLeish, the beleaguered manager at the heart of another horror-show. 'You're getting sacked in the morning!' the fans hollered. In fact, it took a further twenty eight days before McLeish ultimately left his position. After twelve games in fourteen months featuring forty nine different players and an incalculable amount of negative comment, McLeish this week ifnally lost his job. At some point, soon, some of the same people who tried to appoint Michael O'Neill, whom they reportedly couldn't afford, before turning frantically to Walter Smith, whose patience they exhausted and who then gave the job to McLeish, will appoint a ninth Scotland manager of the millennium. It's fair to say that supporter faith in their judgment headed South a long time ago. Currently, it's residing somewhere in Antarctica. Poor performances did for McLeish, but there was more to it than that, more than mere losses which chipped away at his credibility. Controversial formations, mass player defections, odd pre and post-match comments - it all unravelled quickly. The be fair McLeish needed to be remarkable to win over the doubters from day one, the fans who never wanted him in the first place because he walked out on the Scotland job previously, because his recent track record in club management was poor, because he was seen as an unambitious and uninspired choice by a board - Alan McRae, the president, in particular - who seemed to be putting the appointment of an old pal ahead of the national interest. McLeish did not deserve to be left dangling in uncertainty for the past month - Scottish FA prevarication did him no favours - but there could only have been one sensible conclusion to this who fiasco. The last shred of faith in his ability to take the team forward - and to take advantage of the red carpet to Euro 2020 that is the Nations League - had run out. It was an unhappy fourteen months, pockmarked by bitterness, rancour and suspicion. Before his first game, at home to Costa Rica, McLeish said that he wanted his team to play with the kind of swagger they had in his first incarnation as Scotland manager. They were booed off after a one-nil defeat. In fairness to McLeish, he was never slow in giving players a chance, partly because he had no choice given all the call-offs he experienced. In that Costa Rica game, he gave debuts to Scott McKenna and Scott McTominay. Getting the Manchester United player on board might yet be seen as McLeish's biggest legacy. He won his second game, against Hungary, but then the grim decision-making of his employers conspired against him. An end-of-season trek to Peru and Mexico was needed like a firm kick to the knackers. Key players withdrew in rapid order. Against Peru, McLeish gave debuts to seven players - Lewis Stevenson, Lewis Morgan, Chris Cadden and Dylan McGeouch among them. They lost two-nil to a team readying itself for the World Cup. It finished one-nil against Mexico - another side finishing preparations for the party in Russia. Given the ridiculously trying circumstances, the results were actually quite credible, but they were damaging at the same time. Those two defeats added to the greyness around the Scotland squad. What McLeish could have done with next was a gimme, a handy friendly to boost the morale, not just of his players but of the support. He desperately needed to win them over. What he got was a game against Belgium - the third-best side in the world at the time - and a thumping four-nil loss at Hampden. Four defeats in five games and just one goal scored. Only twenty thousand punters turned up to watch. As was to be so often the case, McLeish didn't exactly help himself before that Belgium game when he said his team were 'good enough to go toe-to-toe' with Eden Hazard and co. Nobody believed him when he said it. It made him look silly when the World Cup semi-finalists, unsurprisingly, took his team to the cleaners whilst barely getting out of first gear. Only then - in September 2018 - did McLeish get his first competitive game, a Nations League tie at home to Albania which Scotland won two-nil. It was a decent performance albeit against a desperately poor side. Perhaps the most revealing thing that night, though, was the size of the crowd - fewer than eighteen thousand. 'I'm building a wall, not papering cracks,' McLeish said. Saying that was all very well so long as people can see the blocks being put in place. A month later, they collapsed to a two-one loss in Israel, a nation with a world ranking that was fifty five places below Scotland. McLeish lost John Souttar to a red card after an hour, but they were in all sorts of trouble even before he exited. The scoreline did not flatter Israel who had only on win in their previous ten games. The only teams they had beaten in their own stadium in four years were Liechtenstein and Andorra. Scotland, frankly, made them look like France. By now the ire of the fans was being directed at the Scottish FA as much as it was at McLeish. They flew the team to Israel the day before the game, then experienced a delayed flight which saw McLeish having to hold a training session at 10.30pm local time. The logistics off the field were almost as wretched as the performances on it. McLeish was getting pelted with flak for persisting with his three-five-two formation, a square-pegs-in-round-holes set-up which made the team looked utterly perplexed as to what they were supposed to be doing. In the aftermath of the Israel loss, a BBC Scotland poll asked if the defeat was the biggest embarrassment in the history of the national team - thirty eight per cent of responders said that it was. Those grey clouds had turned black when Portugal turned up in Glasgow and strolled to a three-one win with what was, effectively, a B-team. It was a sixth defeat in eight games for McLeish in front of a half-empty Hampden. Once more, McLeish was left defending the players who had cried off. Robert Snodgrass, Matt Ritchie, James McArthur and Tom Cairney - one hundred and twenty four appearances between them in the English Premier League this season - disappeared off the Scotland radar. If they did not want to play, why? If they did want to play, then where were they? There was brief respite when Scotland, inspired by James Forrest, won four-nil in Albania before beating Israel three-two at Hampden to top their Nations League group. Even then, though, it was not straightforward. Scotland played pretty well but, in the dying minutes, Allan McGregor had to make a magnificent save from a Tomer Hemed volley to secure the victory. Had Hemed scored, Scotland would have been out of the Nations League and the cries for McLeish to be out of his job would have been deafening. It was only postponing the inevitable. Scotland went to Kazakhstan without some important players, most notably Kieran Tierney, Robertson and Ryan Fraser. It was a footballing Armageddon. Kazakhstan were ranked one hundred and seventeenth in the FIFA rankings, but they were two-nil ahead inside ten minutes and added a third later. Once again a new historic low had been reached. McLeish incredulously claimed that Scotland had 'started the game brightly,' a jaw-dropping suggestion given that his team were two-down so early on. It was another bewildering comment in a long line of them. It provoked anger but then, anger gave way to indifference and apathy. The fans had simply had enough. San Marino was the point of no return, a hopelessly laboured win against the worst team in international football. It was a nervous and timid performance, another day that screamed of the need for a new direction. Now, it is over for McLeish, but having seen him as the solution when so many things told you he wasn't, there will be anxiety about who these people at Hampden come up with next.
Fleetwood Town manager - and arch nutter - Joey Barton says that he 'emphatically denies' allegations he assaulted Barnsley boss Daniel Stendel. Police are currently investigating an alleged tunnel altercation after Barnsley's League One win at Oakwell last Saturday. A man was subsequently arrested on suspicion of a racially aggravated public order offence and racially aggravated assault. He was released on bail. Police did not name the individual involved and, frankly, most people were completely in the dark as this person's identity. Barnsley later complained to the Football Association and English Football League about the alleged incident. After the game, Barnsley player Cauley Woodrow claimed on Twitter that Stendel had been 'physically assaulted' and left with 'blood pouring from his face.' Woodrow later deleted the tweet. In a statement issued on Thursday, Barton said: 'With regards to the alleged incident on Saturday following our game against Barnsley, I emphatically deny the allegations made.' He said it would be 'inappropriate' to make any further comment at this time. The arrested man attended a police station on Wednesday and has been bailed until May. South Yorkshire Police have appealed for any witnesses with footage of the incident to come forward. They said: 'Officers investigating the incident would be keen to speak to anyone who may have caught the incident on camera or who may have mobile phone footage immediately before or after the incident occurred. We would ask members of the media and the public to refrain from speculation in relation to this incident, as it could potentially harm the investigation.'
Millions of punters are reportedly using 'easy-to-guess passwords' on sensitive accounts, a study has suggested. The analysis by the UK's National Cyber Security Centre found '123456' was the most widely-used password on breached accounts. The study helped to uncover the 'gaps in cyber-knowledge' which could leave people 'in danger of being exploited.' The NCSC said that people should string three random but memorable words together to use as a strong password. Much as this blogger does with 'moist', 'lugubrious' and 'floccinaucinihilipilification'. Oh ... did Keith Telly Topping just say that out loud? Forget those three words, dear blog reader. Please. For its first cyber-survey, the NCSC analysed public databases of breached accounts to see which words, phrases and strings people used. Top of the list was '123456', appearing in more than twenty three million passwords. The second-most popular string, '123456789', was not much harder to crack, while others in the top five included 'qwerty', 'password' and '1111111'. The most common name to be used in passwords was 'Ashley', followed by 'Michael', 'Daniel', 'Jessica' and 'Charlie'. When it comes to Premier League football teams in guessable passwords, 'Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws' are champions and 'Moscow Chelski FC' second. 'Blink-182' topped the charts of music acts. People who use well-known words or names for a password put themselves people at risk of being hacked, said Doctor Ian Levy, technical director of the NCSC. Whose own password, if you're wondering, is 'iknowwhatimtalkingabout01'. Probably. 'Nobody should protect sensitive data with something that can be guessed, like their first name, local football team or favourite band,' he said. The NCSC study also asked people about their security habits and fears. It found that forty two per cent of respondents 'expected to lose money' to online fraud and only fifteen per cent said they felt confident that they knew enough to protect themselves online. It found that 'fewer than half' of those questioned used a separate, hard-to-guess password for their main e-mail account. Security 'expert' Troy Hunt, who maintains a database of hacked account data, said that picking a good password was the 'single biggest control' people had over their online security. 'We typically haven't done a very good job of that either as individuals or as the organisations asking us to register with them,' he said. Letting people know which passwords were widely used should drive users to make better choices, he claimed. The survey was published ahead of the NCSC's Cyber UK conference that will be held in Glasgow from 24 to 25 April.
The US heiress Clare Bronfman has pleaded extremely guilty to her role in an alleged sex trafficking operation and now faces the prospect on a jolly lengthy stint in The Joint. Bronfman, the forty-year-old heir to the Seagram alcohol fortune, was accused of using more than one hundred million dollars to fund the suspected sex cult Nxivm. She pleaded guilty on two counts - conspiracy to conceal and harbour illegal immigrants for financial gain and fraudulent use of identification. She told the court in Brooklyn that she was 'truly remorseful. I wanted to do good in the world and help people,' she added. 'However, I have made mistakes.' Six people in total have been accused of being involved with Nxivm. Bronfman is the fifth to plead guilty, with just one defendant - the suspected cult leader Keith Raniere - due to go on trial next month. Bronfman will be sentenced on 25 July. She could face up to twenty five years in The Slammer. Nxivm is a group that started in 1998 as an alleged 'self-help programme' and claims that it has worked with 'more than sixteen thousand people,' including the former Smallville actress Allison Mack, who also pleaded very guilty to charges earlier this month and is also facing a shitload of jail. On its website, Nxivm describes itself as a 'community guided by humanitarian principles that seek to empower people and answer important questions about what it means to be human.' Despite its tagline of 'working to build a better world,' its leader, Raniere, stands accused of overseeing a 'slave and master' system within the group. According to the group's website, it has suspended enrolment and events because of the 'extraordinary circumstances facing the company at this time.' Prosecutors allege the group mirrors a pyramid scheme, in which members paid thousands of dollars for courses to rise within its ranks. Bronfman, a philanthropist and former showjumper, is the daughter of the late Canadian businessman Edgar Bronfman, whose net worth was estimated to be over two-and-a-half billion dollars. Bronfman was on Nxivm's executive board. The millions of dollars she was accused of giving to the group were thought to have been used to pay for fake identities and court summons against perceived enemies. Female recruits were also allegedly branded with Raniere's initials and expected to have The Sex with him, as part of the system. Appearing at a court in Brooklyn, Bronfman admitted 'knowingly harbouring a woman' brought to the US on a fake work visa in order to 'exploit her for labour.' As part of her plea, she agreed to forfeit six million bucks and not to appeal any prison sentence of twenty seven months or less. Raniere was arrested in Mexico last year on sex trafficking charges and is currently being held without bail. He has pleaded not guilty to charges against him. His defence team has argued that the alleged sexual relationships with women were consensual and say he has denied child abuse charges against him.
Three men have been arrested after a large fire took hold on moorland in West Yorkshire. Firefighters tackled flames covering twenty five thousand square miles on Ilkley Moor on Saturday, with helicopters making water drops. West Yorkshire Police said the men, aged nineteen, twenty three and twenty four, 'remain in custody for questioning' while inquiries continue. Bradford Council reiterated a warning for walkers to stay off the moors as crews were 'damping down.' A police spokesperson said that a smaller fire took hold on a different section of the moor on Saturday, with investigations under way to see if it is connected to the larger blaze. West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said the fire was in the White Wells area of the hillside, with smoke still clearly visible from the spa town below. Water jets, beaters and specialist wildfire units are being used in the aftermath, with police describing the blaze as 'under control.' Martin Langan, WYFRS incident commander, said: 'We've managed to die the flames down but there's a significant amount of smoke blowing into Ilkley.' The Met Office confirmed that Saturday was the hottest day of the year so far, with 25.5C recorded in Gosport, Hampshire. Forecasters have predicted the UK is set for 'record-breaking temperatures' over the rest of the Easter bank holiday.
Tesla has said it is investigating a video on Chinese social media which appears to show one of its vehicles spontaneously bursting into flames in Shanghai. In a statement, the carmaker said that it has 'sent a team to investigate the matter' and that there were 'no reported casualties.' The video - published on Twitter, if not anywhere more reliable - appeared to show a stationary car erupting into flames in a parking lot. Tesla did not confirm the car model but social media identified it as Model S. 'After learning about the incident in Shanghai, we immediately sent the team to the scene last night,' according to a translation of a Tesla statement posted on Chinese social media platform Weibo. 'We are actively contacting relevant departments and supporting the verification. According to current information, there are no casualties.' The video showed smoke rising from a parked, white vehicle and seconds later it bursts into flames. The alleged time stamp on the video allegedly shows the alleged incident allegedly occurring on Sunday evening. Previous incidents involving Tesla vehicles catching on fire seem to have happened while the cars were moving. In 2018, a Tesla car driven by British TV director Michael Morris burst into flames, following another such incident involving a Model S model in France in 2016. A series of fires involving Tesla Model S cars took place in 2013.
An Indian voter claimed that he chopped off his own index finger after realising he had voted for the 'wrong' political party. Pawan Kumar says he 'accidentally' ended up voting for the governing Bharatiya Janata Party, in a video which has gone viral on the Interweb. He wanted to vote for a regional party - but was, allegedly, 'confused' by the many symbols on the voting machine. Every voter's index finger is marked with indelible ink after they cast their ballot. He cast his vote on Thursday in Bulandshahr in the Northern state of Uttar Pradesh. This was the second phase of polling in the Indian general erection. 'I wanted to vote for the elephant, but I voted for the flower by mistake,' Kumar can be heard saying in the video. He was referring to the party symbols displayed on the voting machine next to the name of each candidate. While the BJP's symbol is a lotus, the elephant is the symbol of the Bahujan Samaj Party, a regional heavyweight that has allied with two other regional parties against the BJP. Party symbols play a big role in India's erections because they are easy to identify in a country where literacy is low in many parts. There are also numerous regional parties and alliances, which often confuse voters. Kumar is a Dalit (formerly known as The Untouchables) - a crucial vote bank for the BSP. Thursday's vote was seen as important for India's powerful regional parties, which dominate politics in their states and are fronted by charismatic local politicians. The erection is taking place over seven stages, with votes being counted on 23 May. There are nine hundred million eligible voters, making this the biggest election the world has ever seen.
Two students blamed for a large forest fire in the Italian region of Como have each been fined thirteen-and-a-half million Euros. The men, both aged twenty two, were barbecuing at a mountain forest home belonging to one of their grandfathers when the fire broke out on 30 December last year. The huge bill for the two students was calculated by local officials based on a formula used to determine the extent of damage caused by the fire. One of the students told Italian media they were 'scapegoats' for the blaze. Speaking to Italy's La Stampa newspaper, one of the university students claimed that he was 'deeply sorry' but suggested there were 'multiple sources' of the outbreak. 'We are the scapegoats of a fire that cannot be explained,' he said, adding: 'We are the real victims of this story. [We] immediately alerted the fire brigade and threw ourselves at the flames to try and put them out.' Prosecutors, however, were having none of it and traced the path of the fire back to the property. They said it had been started by embers from the barbecue, coupled with extremely dry conditions. The two men were found jointly responsible, along with the owner of the property. The fire lasted for several days, destroying some one thousand hectares of forest on Monte Berlinghera - the damage caused to some one hundred hectares was said to be 'irreversible.' The fine of thirteen million five hundred and forty two thousand Euros was calculated by forest police based on 'an established formula under local laws.' La Stampa reports that the regulation calls for a fine of one hundred and eighteen to five hundred and ninety three Euros per square metre. The damage the two men were liable for was calculated at some six thousand eight hundred and forty square metres, the newspaper said. A lawyer for one of the students told the newspaper that any sentence should be meaningful and have a point. 'What is the sense to impose an administrative sanction ... already knowing that the two boys, still students, cannot pay it?' she wondered. However, the prosecutor told local news outlet Il Giorno Como that the fine was 'a signal that we need to push people to greater responsibility in protecting the environment.' Italian media reports also suggest that the pair could be held liable in separate actions by property owners who were affected by the fire.
Notre-Dame's smallest residents have survived the devastating fire which destroyed most of the cathedral's roof and toppled its famous spire. Some two hundred thousand bees living in hives on the roof were initially thought to have perished in the blaze. However Nicolas Géant, the cathedral's beekeeper, has confirmed that the bees are alive and buzzing. Géant has looked after the cathedral's three beehives since 2013, when they were installed. That was part of an initiative to boost bee numbers across Paris. The hives sit on top of the sacristy by Notre-Dame's South side, around thirty metres below the main roof. As a result, Géant says they 'remained untouched' by the flames. European bees - unlike other species - stay by their hive after sensing danger, gorging on honey and working to protect their queen. High temperatures would have posed the biggest risk, but Géant explained that any smoke would have simply 'intoxicated' them. 'Instead of killing them, the carbon dioxide makes them drunk, puts them to sleep,' he told AP. Beekeepers commonly use smoke to sedate the insects and gain access to their hive. 'I was incredibly sad about Notre-Dame because it's such a beautiful building,' Géant said in an interview with CNN. 'But to hear there is life when it comes to the bees, that's just wonderful. Thank goodness the flames didn't touch them,' he added. 'It's a miracle!' Or, you know, proof that bees can fly.
It is always a very odd thing, dear blog reader, seeing somewhere that you've previously been to featuring on an international news story - particularly one involved a tragedy. This blogger visited Notre-Dame on a trip to Paris is 1999; that, in and of itself, isn't at all unusual - Keith Telly Topping imagined about half-of-the-population of Western Europe can make a similar claim. But, that horrible bus crash near Caniço in Madeira which was all over the news earlier this week which has left about thirty passengers dead occurred not a couple of hundred yards from the hotel that this blogger stayed in with his mum during a holiday in 2003. This photo - which this blogger took during the holiday - was, this blogger believes, taken no more than a few feet from where the bus would have gone off the road. It was a very strange experience seeing the television pictures and thinking, 'I've been there.'
Back in print for the first time in a decade, dear blog reader, is something that yer actual Keith Telly Topping is really quite proud to have his name attached to. The Complete Slayer has recently been republished by those lovely chaps at Telos Publishing (Hi David! Hi Stephen!) and is very available for order. Six hundred and fifty pages of meaty Sunnydale goodness and with a geet sexy new preface. Go on, dear blog reader, you know you want to.
This blogger would also like to wish all dear blog readers a jolly happy Saint George's Day on Tuesday of this week. And, a jolly happy Saint Ringo's Day on Wednesday too ...
And, finally dear blog reader ...

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Beginning Of The End

'The Night King has your dragon. He's one of them now. The Wall has fallen. The dead march South.' So, dear blog readers, congratulations to everyone in the UK with access to Sky who - like this blogger - was daft enough to stay up into the wee small early hours of Monday morning to watch the opening episode of Game Of Thrones' eighth and final series. An episode which some lady of no importance at the Gruniad Morning Star described as 'like a Greatest Hits episode, with brothel scenes, incest and reunions galore.' This blogger thought that the episode - with its redolent themes of reunion and consequence - was great, incidentally. No surprise there, then. Other - mostly gushing - reviews of the episode can be found here. And here. And here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. And, probably at an Interweb full of other places too. Use your search browsers wisely, dear blog reader. There's also a useful round-up of various soundbites and people you've never heard of 'OMGing' on Twitterhere.
The first episode of the much-anticipated final series of Game Of Thrones was set to premiere on Sunday night at 9pm EST on HBO (or, for those of us not in America, at 2am GMT on Sky). But, some lucky fans reportedly got their hands on it a bit early. Hours before the premiere, the episode was live for some users on DirecTV Now, before it was hurriedly taken down. Reports first surfaced that the episode was on the AT&T-owned service around 5pm EST on Sunday, with some users reporting that they received a 'push notification' that the episode was ready to be viewed. 'Apparently our system was as excited as we are for Game Of Thrones tonight and gave a few DirecTV Now customers early access to the episode by mistake. When we became aware of the error, we immediately fixed it and we look forward to tuning in this evening,' a representative for AT&T said.
A UK audience of around 2.3 million watched the premiere of the final series of Game Of Thrones on Monday. That was the total number of viewers who either watched it live when it was first broadcast at 2am (like this blogger), or who viewed a recording later on Monday. The start time was a result of the episode being simultcast with its US premiere. Despite warnings from the Daily Lies, which used Monday's front page to declare - entirely wrongly - that 'millions of Britons will call in sick' after staying up late to watch the episode, it seems that only a relatively small number elected to forgo sleep in order to watch it. Instead, most viewers - far more sensible ones than this blogger, clearly - chose to wait and view the programme during the day. Sky Atlantic's repeat of the episode on Monday night attracted a further seven hundred thousand overnight punters. That was the first British scheduled broadcast of the programme in prime time and the audience has seen a twelve per cent rise from the previously record-breaking finale of series seven in 2017. The series eight premiere was watched by 17.4 million US viewers, the Los Angeles Times has reported. Many more UK viewers are expected to watch the episode on catch-up or video-on-demand in the coming days, while the figures do not take into account individuals who watch the series via Sky's Now TV service, which can be bought by people without a full Sky package. The viewing figures, of course, also do not account for those who will have watched the episode illegally - with some reports suggesting that as many as one hundred and twenty thousand bad, naughty types are sharing versions of the episode online. They enjoyed a better experience than viewers in China, who complained that 'six minutes of sex and violence' were cut from the episode at the whim of the country's censors. Which, presumably, means that Jerome Flynn and his trio of lady-friends disappeared from the episode entirely.
This blogger was not exactly surprised but was, undeniably, more than a bit saddened to read a couple of threads on Facebook this week from people (including one or two whom this blogger had always really rather respected) apparently celebrating the fact that they had never, not never, watched a single episode of Game Of Thrones. Personally, this blogger would like to confirm that he has never roller-skated on the surface of The Moon. Or, indeed, scored a hat-trick at Wembley after licking the chocolate off a dozen Mars' Bars. He'd like to have done both, though. This blogger has to confess, he's never understood the rationale behind, seemingly, taking delight in bragging about something one hasn't done rather than something one has. Not that there is anything, necessarily, wrong with someone never having watched an episode of Game Of Thrones, of course. But, most of these threads also contained a few stray comments which indicated that some of those contributing considered the popular adult fantasy drama to be both 'over-rated' and 'shit'. Quite how any of these people knew either of those things to be true if, indeed, they really have never watched a single episode, they spectacularly failed to explain. Despite a couple of direct queries being asked about exactly that apparent conundrum. Some of the sneering displayed in such threads did, rather, remind this blogger of some similar threads from last year before and during the World Cup from a handful of people who were, seemingly, similarly desperate to let anyone that was interested - and, indeed, anyone that wasn't - know they really didn't like football. And that, as a consequence, they would be spending the next month generally scowling and snarling at any poor miscreant who happened to mention the damn thing in their general vicinity whilst feeling an, apparent, sense of moral superiority because they didn't like something which lots of other people did. Which prompted at least one responder - not this blogger, just to make that very clear - to enquire if they 'wanted a fucking medal' for their lack of interest in - and haughty disdain for - something which other people happened to enjoy. 'I like being different' is one thing; 'I'm going to celebrate my "difference" by deliberately pissing off people that I'm different from by sneering at them about how much better than them I am because I don't like what they do' is, this blogger would suggest, quite another. This blogger feels, however, that the saddest aspect of the recent, 'I've never watched any of that there Game Of Thrones, me' malarkey has been the large percentage of such claimants who are known (and active) members of fandoms of other popular TV series. And, one in particular! All of which does, rather invite the observation in response to any bafflement at other people finding enjoyment in what is, essentially, 'I, Claudius with dragons,' something along the lines of '... and, you're so smart in your own viewing habits, because ... ?' This blogger, it should be noted, didn't get into Game Of Thrones himself until Christmas 2015 (although he had seen a handful of episodes for that) when he finally decided to find out what lots of his friends had been enthusing about for four years and bought a box-set (cheap on e-Bay, let it be noted). And then binge-watched five full series worth of fifty episodes in about four or five days. Then he sort of understood what all the fuss had been about. The point, dear blog reader, is that not watching something does not make one a foolish fool but it does not, necessarily, make one a gloriously insightful sexy golden God either. Neither does the latter apply to anyone who deliberately does not watch something that they could watch but choose not to largely on the grounds that because lots of other people like it, they intend not to on general, sour-faced principle. As for the 'foolish fools' bit, this blogger couldn't possibly comment. Well, he could, but he's not going to. Here endeth this week's From The North editorial whinge!
The Kingslayer's golden hair was a signature part of his look, but Nikolaj Coster-Waldau wanted to trick the Game Of Thrones crew into thinking he'd done to his hair what someone once did to his hand and chopped it off. 'There'd been a lot of talk about Jaime's hair in the early seasons – his long golden locks,' Nik told the Digital Spy website. 'Once he lost his hand, I thought he should maybe have a haircut. And then I thought, "Why don't I just pretend?" This is five, six seasons ago - I sent them an old picture where I had a buzz cut,' he continued. 'I sent a long letter where I explained I'd taken control of my character and I want to be respected. I said that my integrity as an artist was at stake.' Coster-Waldau did not get a response immediately, but he did get a frantic call from an assistant director as he made his way back to Belfast to film again. Apparently, the head hairstylist was already rushing to create a makeshift wig. At this point, the actor revealed that he was joking about his makeover. 'They all believed it,' he said, but not everyone was laughing. 'They'd also called my manager. HBO had started to talk about suing me and it had gotten out of control.'
As noted in the last From The North update, dear blog reader, this blogger does not intend to review any episodes of the second series of From The North favourite Killing Eve currently showing in the US until the episodes become widely available in Britain (probably in late May or early June) for fear of spoiling anyone who wants not to be spoiled. However, if you're not bothered about any such spoilerising then, reviews of episode two are extremely available here, at the Torygraph for example. And, here, here, here and here. Avoid all of these like The Plague if you want to remain unspoilerised, obviously. This blogger will merely - in a wholly non-spoilerising way - congratulate the production on managing to make Basildon exactly like the shitehole this blogger has always found it to be on his two visits there. Oh and this blogger will also note that Keith Telly Topping thought it was great. Though, that's not really a spoiler, per se, more a universal constant.
And, in possibly the least unexpected bit of broadcasting news of the year so far, it was announced over the weekend that Killing Eve is set to return for a third series. Well, of course it is. Charlotte Moore, the BBC's Director of Content, said: 'It's fantastic news that there will be a third series of this award-winning hit drama and we're delighted UK audiences will be able to see Killing Eve exclusively on the BBC. In the mean-time Villanelle and Eve will be returning to BBC1 and BBC iPlayer for a second series soon.' Ish. Series three will be executive produced by Sally Woodward Gentle and Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who adapted the books for series one.
The latest episode of From The North's current favourite TV show on the planet, Doom Patrol - Jane Patrol - was a truly remarkable exploration of abuse survival and mental fragmentation, based heavily on an issue of Grant Morrison's legendary run of the comic during the late 1980s (Going Underground). It was, as with the previous eight episodes of this astonishing adaptation, funny, horrific, mind-bendingly surreal and not far off being indescribable. So, this blogger won't even attempt to do so. Instead, he'll leave that to others. 'Dark and poignant,' according to Den of Geek! 'Complex and haunting,' noted Superherohype. 'Exploring the psyche, the spiritual and the meaning of individuality as it does, the show is one of the most challenging and socially conscious superhero dramas out there,' opined Fansided. So, not indescribable, then. Just ... great.
The trailer for the next Doom Patrol episode, meanwhile, will see Vic and Rita face another classic Grant Morrison character, The Beard Hunter, who has been activated by The Bureau Of Normalcy to find Niles Caulder. One imagines it can't be long before Red Jack, The Brotherhood Of Dada and The Brain and Monsieur Mallah show up to the Doom Patrol party. Which will be nice if an when it happens.
Sunday's third episode of Line Of Duty's fifth series continues to slap regular viewers in the face. With really obvious - and, hopefully, entirely red-herringish - suggestions that fan favourite Ted Hastings (the great Adrian Dunbar) may not be the Olympian honest copper we all previously thought but, rather, a corrupt, murdering bastard. The usual - borderline-fannish - reviews of the episode at the Gruniad, the Independent and the Torygraph are available. As is one from the Radio Times. Although dear blog readers are advised that the latter contains reporting of the witless bleatings of various people that you've never heard of on Twitter. So, you might want to avoid that one if you want to retain your sanity.
Again, this isn't exactly a spoiler, but this blogger could not let the opportunity pass to express his admiration for how utterly superb long time From The North favourite Stephen Graham is in this year's Line Of Duty. In what could have been a rather obvious scenery-chewing role in lesser hands, Graham's John Corbett is a beautifully nuanced realisation of a man, quite literally, on the edge. But then, this is Stephen Graham we're talking about, what would you really expect?
For this week's entry in From The North's Songs This Blogger Really Likes Turning Up On The Soundtrack Of TV Series This Blogger Also Really Likes, we have number six: Lonnie Donegan's 'Gamblin' Man' making a surprise appearance in the latest episode of The Blacklist, Lady Luck.
'Its impact on British pop music cannot be under-estimated; The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie all began playing skiffle.' And, speaking of Lonnie his very self, this blogger had always been a big of Billy Bragg. But, he must place on record how twenty four-carat excellent The Bard Of Barking's BBC4 documentary Rock Island Line: The Song That Made Britain Rock was. Thoughtful, passionate, witty and with a splash of - not entirely unexpected - politics included, it was another of BBC4's impressive contributions to the rock-doc genre that was a notch or two above the norm. Reviews can be found here, here and here and, if you missed it on Friday evening, dear blog reader, keep your eye on the BBC4 schedules on any forthcoming repeat. You will not regret it, trust yer actual Keith Telly Topping on that score.
And, then there's Songs This Blogger Really Likes Turning Up On The Soundtrack Of TV Series This Blogger Also Really Likes. Number seven: Lou Reed's 'Vicious' used in the latest episode of American Gods.
Really jolly splendid episode - Donar, The Great - it was too. As you can read all about it, dear blog reader, here, here, here, here and here. But, only if you don't want to have your very selves spoilerised, of course.
In this week's second semi-final of Only Connect dear blog reader, once again, this blogger managed to get the answer to two questions - both in the sequences round - before either of the teams did. And, he was particularly pleased in so much as The Divine Victoria reckoned that those two were the hardest of the episode. Which either means that year actual Keith Telly Topping is a late developing genius or, more likely, he just got really lucky.
The episode was won by The Dicers on a thrilling tie-break. They will go on to meet From The North favourites The Time Ladies in the final in a couple of week's time. The Ancient Alumni will also be back in next week's (rather pointless) Third Place Play-Off against the other losing semi-finalists, The Poptimists.
This blogger has also been greatly enjoying the opening two episodes of David Olusoga's beautiful documentary series A House Through Time focusing on a lovely-looking Georgian terraced gaff in yer actual Keith Telly Topping's vague neck of the woods, Ravensworth Terrace in Summerhill just to the West of Newcastle's city centre. The series works both as a piece of social history and a lyrical regional think-piece. Indeed David has, previously, described the series as 'a love letter to the North East.' It's certainly that. And, it looks gorgeous too. More - much more - of this sort of thing, please.
HBO has confirmed popular drama series Westworld will return for its much-anticipated third series in 2020, along with the fourth series of Insecure and series ten of Curb Your Enthusiasm. The cable network's new 'comedic thriller' Run also is slated to premiere in 2020. Bob Greenblatt, the recently appointed Chairman of WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-to-Consumer and HBO President of Programming Casey Bloys confirmed the returns as part of an interview with Deadline. Still to be determined are Jordan Peele and JJ Abrams' Lovecraft Country, Joss Whedon's The Nevers and Abrams' Contraband (formerly known as Demimonde). HBO's Perry Mason limited series starring former The Americans lead Matthew Rhys is also yet to have its start date confirmed. Abrams' newly retitled Contraband is described as 'an epic and intimate sci-fi fantasy drama.' Abrams is executive producing with Bad Robot's Ben Stephenson. The Nevers is 'an epic science-fiction drama about a gang of Victorian women who find themselves with unusual abilities, relentless enemies and a mission that might change the world.' The former Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly creator is described as writer, director, executive producer and showrunner of the series. He also makes the tea and tells jokes. Apparently. Lovecraft Country comes from Get Out writer-director Jordan Peele's Monkeypaw Productions, Abrams' Bad Robot and Warner Brothers Television. Based on the 2016 novel by Matt Ruff, Lovecraft Country focuses on twenty five-year-old Atticus Black. After his father goes missing, Black joins up with his friend Letitia and his Uncle George to 'embark on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America to find him.' An 'epic' road-trip presumably since that word seems to appear in every single HBO press release.
BBC Studios have announced that the next release in their Doctor Who: The Collection will be the tenth series, starring Mister Pertwee as The Doctor: 'In 1973, Doctor Who celebrated its tenth anniversary with a very special story reuniting the first two Doctors - William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton - with Jon Pertwee's then-current Doctor. The Three Doctors kicks off an explosive, colourful series of adventures across all of time and space as The Doctor and Jo Grant (Katy Manning) encounter the rogue Time Lord Omega, the terrifying Drashigs, the noble Draconians, fearsome Ogrons, deadly Daleks and slithering giant maggots. Season ten also includes the final appearance of Roger Delgado as The Doctor's arch nemesis The Master, plus adventures alongside Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) and UNIT.' You knew all that, right? The six disc Blu-ray collection includes all five of the stories comprising this series - The Three Doctors, Carnival Of Monsters, Frontier In Space, Planet Of The Daleks and The Green Death - plus a bonus disc of extras. As well as features previously available on the DVD releases, the set will include a brand new feature-length documentary examining the Third Doctor's era, with archival contributions from Mister Pertwee, producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks plus all-new interviews with Katy Manning, The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE) and Mark Gatiss, presented by the very excellent Matthew Sweet. There will also be 'updated special effects' and surround-sound mix for Planet Of The Daleks, five new episodes of Behind The Sofa, featuring Katy Manning, Richard Franklin (Captain Mike Yates) and John Levene (Sergeant John Benton), along with Twenty First Century Doctor Who panel Phil Collinson, Pete McTighe and Joy Wilkinson, Looking For Lennie, a documentary investigating the life of director Lennie Mayne and Keeping Up With The Jones', which sees Katy Manning with Stewart Bevan (Cliff Jones) pay a return visit to the Welsh locations from The Green Death. So, it would seem that, after all these years Jo is still 'up on the slag-heap with the professor.' Plus the set will include the repeat 'omnibus' version of The Green Death unseen since Christmas 1973, rare Panopticon convention footage, HD photo galleries plus scripts, production files and rare documentation provided as PDFs. The set will also include Death Of The Doctor, which featured Katy Manning reprising her role as Jo in The Sarah Jane Adventures. Doctor Who: The Collection, series ten which sounds mighty righteous - is due to be released on Monday 8 July (the day after what would have been Mister Pertwee's on hundredth birthday) and is available to pre-order in the UK already. And, if it's half as good as the previously released series' twelve eighteen and nineteen packages then it'll, one imagines, be right up your straß, dear blog reader.
If you fancy a geet good laugh, dear blog reader, and let's face it, who doesn't, then this blogger's Facebook fiend James Gent's hilariously piss-take article Doctor Who's Rare Grooves at the We Are Cult website should also be right up yer straß.
This blogger's favourite bit: 'A surreal, surely mescaline-induced slice of psychedelia wherein Doctor Who's Zoe (shortly after leaving the series) was persuaded, in her innocence, to recite a thinly-veiled paean to her magnificent, glittery catsuit-coated arse, with lyrics by Michael Moorcock against a noodly noisenik background by members of Soft Machine and Caravan (listen out for Robert Wyatt's whispered "Look at the size of that thing"). It appeared on an International Times flexi-disc in early 1970 and was directly responsible for Padbury turning her back on the alternative scene and marrying Melvyn Hayes. Second only to Blood On Satan's Claw as topics that Dame Padders refuses to discuss at conventions.' Groovy.
Robbie Williams and his wife Ayda Field will not be on the judging panel for the next series of The X Factor, it has been confirmed. In a post on Instagram, the former Take That singer said that the duo would still work with Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads 'on other projects' but that they did not wish to be associated with The X Factor any more. Because, it's shit and no one watches it these days. Williams and Field only joined the show last year. Some fans were initially worried about the US TV actress's lack of experience in the music industry. But Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads said at the series fifteen launch: 'Ayda has been a revelation. I mean, seriously, she's been brilliant.' Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads explained that you do not necessarily need to be an artist or a music manager to be on the show. Or, indeed, be a likeable human being which explains why he, himself, is still on it. 'You have to have taste, good instincts, you have got to like people,' he claimed. 'Ayda has seen the music business from a different point of view so she brings a different perspective to the panel. I think she's amazing.' Field said her years spent with Williams had given her enough experience to be on the show. 'I know that I've helped Rob for twelve years now, I've had to pick him up off the ground and lift him up,' she said. 'I am always incredibly straightforward, I say it with compassion but I stick to my word and carry it through.' Williams filled the vacancy left by long-standing judge Louis Walsh, who quit the show last summer after thirteen years. Williams said at the time that he hoped The X Factor would boost his future TV prospects. 'Selfishly, for me, I've had the most fun that I've ever had in the entertainment industry,' he told This Morning last September. 'It would be incredible to open a new chapter and have this be the start of it. I'm just having a whale of a time. Who knew that I would be a TV personality? I like it though!'
A UK-based TV station has been fined seventy five grand by Ofcom after broadcasting 'hate speech' about the Ahmadi community, amid growing fears that the religious group is facing persecution. Channel Forty Four, an Urdu-language current affairs satellite channel, broadcast two episodes of a discussion programme featuring a guest who 'made repeated, serious and unsubstantiated allegations about members of the Ahmadiyya community,' the broadcasting watchdog said.The guest, who appeared on the Point Of View show, which was made in Pakistan, claimed Ahmadi people had 'committed acts of murder, terrorism and treason as well as undertaking political assassinations.' The same guest also claimed that the Ahmadi community, which has its roots in Northern India in the late Nineteenth Century, was 'favoured in Pakistan at the expense of orthodox Muslims.' The ruling comes during 'ongoing concern' over discrimination against the Ahmadiyya movement, a minority sect of Islam which faces persecution and violence in Pakistan and Indonesia as well as hostility from some orthodox Muslims in Britain. The Ahmadi community moved its global headquarters from Pakistan to South London in the 1980s, after a constitutional amendment declared its followers to be non-Muslims and they were later barred from practising their faith. Some orthodox Muslims regard the Ahmadi as 'heretical' because they do not believe Muhammad was the final prophet sent to guide mankind. During the programmes broadcast by Channel Forty Four in early December 2017, Ofcom - a politically appointed quango, elected by no one - said that the guest 'made remarks that attributed conspiratorial intent to the actions of the Pakistani authorities towards the Ahmadiyya community.' Ofcom found that the channel breached three clauses in its code, covering context of 'offensive material, hate speech and derogatory treatment of religions or communities.' Arguing that Pakistani officials had 'inducted' Ahmadi people into the police and education department, the guest called on the country's people to 'rise up' against this. Among other inflammatory remarks, he also claimed that until the Ahmadi community suffers 'a bad ending, matters will not improve.' City News Network Pvt Ltd, which runs the channel, was fined seventy five thousand smackers and ordered to broadcast a statement about the ruling. The firm expressed its 'regret and sincere apologies for the failings in the compliance for these two programmes.' It described the failings as 'unintentional' and claimed it 'did not intend to cause offence' to the Ahmadi community. Last year, a community radio station was fined ten thousand notes after broadcasting 'abusive and derogatory' statements about the Ahmadis. Radio Ikhlas, based in Derby, suspended a presenter and broadcast an apology after a radio phone-in that discussed the beliefs of the Ahmadi community 'in offensive and pejorative terms.' During the twenty one-minute segment, the presenter described Ahmadi people as 'dangerous, liars, enemies and hypocrites.' In 2013 a TV station was fined twenty five thousand knicker after broadcasting two programmes 'subjecting the Ahmadi community to abuse.' Takbeer TV, a free-to-air Islamic channel, broadcast statements describing Ahmadis as having 'monstrous intentions' and being both 'lying monsters' and 'worthy of elimination' by Allah, 'by using worms and vermin.'
The next Star Wars movie will be titled The Rise Of Skywalker, it has been announced. The title was revealed at a Star Wars celebration event in Chicago, while a teaser trailer was posted on Twitter with the words: 'Every generation has a legend.' Director JJ Abrams said that the movie is set 'some time' after previous film, The Last Jedi. Despite his apparent death at the end of Return Of The Jedi, Emperor Palpatine seems to be making a comeback. His sinister cackle is heard at the end of the trailer and Ian McDiarmid, who plays the character, strolled on stage to loud applause at the announcement. The two-minute trailer, the first footage seen from the new film, also features a brief glimpse of Princess Leia, played by the late Carrie Fisher. She embraces Rey (Daisy Ridley), while Luke Skywalker's voice is heard saying: 'We'll always be with you. No one's ever really gone.' Fisher died in 2016 but the filmmakers were able to use previously unseen footage from The Force Awakens. Abrams told the event in Chicago that it was 'a weird miracle' to be able to continue Princess Leia's story. 'Every day it hits me that she's not here, but it's so surreal because we're working with her still,' he said. 'She's so alive in the scenes and the craziest part is how not crazy it feels. Princess Leia lives in this film in a way that's kind of mind-blowing for me.' Kathleen Kennedy, the president of Lucasfilm - a subsidiary of Disney that makes the Star Wars films - agreed with the event's panel host, Stephen Colbert, that it was 'unprecedented' to tell a story in a nine-film arc. 'What's also fascinating is it's over forty years,' she told the event. 'To keep this relevant and meaningful to the characters and to the people experiencing this story, it has to feel like its of its time. We've taken to heart everything that inspired George [Lucas] and then I think the inspiration that JJ's brought to this has given it even more depth.' Fans welcomed the reappearance of Lando Calrissian, played by Billy Dee Williams, who is seen piloting The Millennium Falcon. The movie also features the return of John Boyega as Finn and Oscar Isaac's Poe Dameron. The trailer opens with Rey on a desert planet as Skywalker, played by Mark Hamill, says in a voiceover: 'We've passed on all we know. A thousand generations live in you now. But this is your fight.' She activates her lightsaber as a TIE fighter bears down on her, flying close to the ground. As it reaches her, she back-flips over it. It's pretty cool. Then we see Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver, slicing through enemies in a blood-red forest. Calrissian appears at the controls of The Millennium Falcon, putting it into hyperdrive as a title card says: 'The saga comes to an end.' The film is due to be released on 20 December.
Prosecutors will seek a sentence of 'four to ten months' in The Joint for actress Felicity Huffman for her part in the college admissions scam, an alleged - though anonymous - law enforcement 'source'allegedly told CNN. Huffman pleaded extremely guilty last week to a charge of conspiracy to commit fraud alongside twelve other parents involved in the Operation Varsity Blues admissions scandal in which parents paid to have people cheat on standardised tests for their children or bribed college administrators and coaches to increase their chances of getting into prestigious universities. Huffman said last week in a statement that she accepts her guilt 'with deep regret and shame over what I have done' and 'will accept the consequences that stem from those actions.' Not that she'll have much choice in the matter, obviously. 'I am ashamed of the pain I have caused my daughter, my family, my friends, my colleagues and the educational community. I want to apologise to them and, especially, I want to apologise to the students who work hard every day to get into college and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices to support their children and do so honestly,' she said in the statement. One or two people even believed her. Under the terms of her plea deal, prosecutors agreed to recommend 'incarceration at the low end' of Huffman's sentencing guidelines range, a twenty thousand bucks fine and one year of supervised release, according to court documents obtained by the Daily News. CNN's allegedly snitchy 'source' allegedly snitched that the prosecutors' decision to seek four to ten months had 'nothing to do with Huffman's public apology.' A federal judge will have the final say on Huffman's sentence. She is due back in court on 21 May for a sentencing hearing.
Intelligence agency GCHQ has cracked 'secret' codes hidden by the man behind Frank Sidebottom. Because, obviously, they didn't have anything more important to do at the time. The late Chris Sievey drew cryptic symbols in artwork around the borders of some of Frank's fan newsletters, football programmes and record sleeves. Sievey died in 2010 and the codes remained secret until the director of a new documentary took them to GCHQ. A crack team of codebreakers revealed that the messages said things like: 'Why does my nose hurt after concerts?' That was a reference to the nose peg that Chris wore under Sidebottom's giant head to give the character his trademark nasal voice. Chris told friends and family that he was hiding 'important messages' in code. But, as with so many things in Chris's extraordinary life, that was just him havin' a laugh. Director Steve Sullivan, whose film Being Frank tells the story of Sievey and Sidebottom, took the rows of symbols to several codebreakers, but none of them could help. Sullivan told BBC News: 'My own attempts to crack it proved absolutely futile. I spent a while just looking at them going, "What could he be saying, what could this mean?" But it was impossible to crack them and it was entirely plausible that there wasn't a code there and that he was just winding people up.' In an attempt to solve the mystery, Sullivan eventually turned to GCHQ. The country's top codebreakers, too, seemed flummoxed until Sievey's son Stirling recalled how his dad would get the children to fill an outer row with random symbols, while Sievey would insert real code into the inner row. 'It meant the outer row triangles is a complete red herring,' Sullivan said. 'Not only did he put a mystery out there, he made it deliberately impossible to crack. By letting his kids add nonsense into the message, it deliberately obscures the chances of anybody - even top mathematicians - being able to crack it. So I reported back to GCHQ that the outer ring is a red herring and then had an email one day saying, "Right, we've cracked it during a light-hearted training exercise." I'm embarrassed to say, on the very next day Chris's very own code grid was found in the back of his address book. It was almost like Chris Sievey was going, "There you go, now we've all had our fun, there's the explanation."' GCHQ told Sullivan that Sidebottom had 'a small but dedicated following' among its own staff. Noticing some repeated pairs of symbols - which represented letters - the first word cracked by GCHQ was Sidebottom's favourite word, 'bobbins'. You know, what The Robins aren't. The full messages didn't turn out to be crucial to national security. They were 'a combination of slightly autobiographical statements and silly statements about Frank's world,' Sullivan said. No shit? As well as 'Why does my nose hurt after concerts?' another typical code translated as: 'The Man From Fish EP is top secret.' Sullivan said he has 'absolutely no idea' what that means. Sievey never told his fans about the existence of the codes, despite the fact that the symbols were inserted into newsletters, music sleeves and football programmes for Timperley Big Shorts, his Sunday league team. 'It was just an exercise in wilful absurdity, which is why he was doing it,' Sullivan said. 'But then all of his work was an exercise in wilful obscurity and absurdity. I think he loved the idea that he was putting communication out but people didn't even know he was communicating.' GCHQ had 'a great sense of humour about the whole investigation,' the director added. A GCHQ spokesperson said: 'As the national authority for cryptanalysis, we're sometimes sent codes which the team will test themselves with in their spare time. They provide us with a great challenge and help build the skills we need to keep the country safe. With its colourful drawings and striking patterns, this code caught our eye and it was satisfying to be able to break it.' All of Sidebottom's codes will be available for fans to work out for themselves when Being Frank is released on DVD on 29 April. Meanwhile, if nothing else, this story gives this blogger the excuse to post a link to his own favourite Frank song, the genius that is 'Estudiantes (Striped Shirts, Black Panties)'.
Police log books for the officers who protected The BeAtles (a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them) from hordes of screaming fans on their first visit to the US have gone on display. The records list the names of the officers who guarded the band in New York as they prepared to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964. The visit saw The Fab Four followed by huge crowds wherever they went. NYPD officer Patrick Cassidy, who found the logs, has donated them to Liverpool's Magical Be-Atles Museum. Detailed as the 'visit of Beatles singing group,' the handwritten police blotter lists Sergeants O'Shea, Jones and McAuliffe, with officers Delgado, De Angelo, Lucarelli and Madden among the NYPD detachment looking after the band. The records also mention The Be-Atles' show at Carnegie Hall on 12 February 1964 and an incident where an officer was 'knocked off balance' and injured outside the Plaza Hotel while 'attempting to restrain the surging crowd.' Of little girls. Cassidy, whose father Edward also served with the NYPD, said he found the logs while searching in police records. 'The Ed Sullivan Theatre is in the confines of my precinct, so one day in 2013, I went into the storage area that holds these books. After fifty years, they clean out and destroy them, so I looked up February 1964 and found the book, which would have been destroyed the following year.' Cassidy said his father had told him he found The Be-Atles to be 'well-dressed and well-behaved' young adults, adding that the band had, modestly, assumed 'the crowds outside the hotel were for someone else.' The Be-Atles had already hit number one in the US charts when they arrived in New York on 7 February 1964 and the levels of anticipation surrounding their arrival were huge. Throngs of screaming fans and reporters shadowed the band's every move, with police on alert for anyone posing as hotel guests or other disguises trying to get close to them. Their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show was watched by a then record audience of seventy three million people, with sixty per cent of televisions in the country tuned in to the show.
New research has shown where William Shakespeare - a popular scribbler of soap operas of the 1590s, you might've heard of him - lived in London when he was writing Romeo & Juliet. It was previously known that the playwright lived 'close' to the site of Liverpool Street station between 1597 and 1598. But theatre historian Geoffrey Marsh has cross-referenced various official records to pinpoint the exact location. Evidence suggests The Bard lived at what is now known as Thirty Five Great St Helen's, a site next to St Helen's Church occupied by an office block. Over a decade of research, Marsh discovered that in the 1590s, Shakespeare was a tenant of the Company of Leathersellers, the guild that organised the Elizabethan leather trade. His home was most likely in a cluster of properties which overlooked the churchyard of St Helen's, yards from where The Gherkin stands today, Marsh said. Marsh, who is also the director of the Victoria & Albert Museum's department of theatre and performance, said: 'The place where Shakespeare lived in London gives us a more profound understanding of the inspirations for his work and life. Within a few years of migrating to London from Stratford, he was living in one of the wealthiest parishes in the city, alongside powerful public figures, wealthy international merchants, society doctors and expert musicians. The merchants had connections across Europe and the doctors were linked to the latest progressive thinking in universities in Italy and Germany. Living in what was one of the power locales of London would have also enhanced Shakespeare's status as he developed his career, sought a family coat of arms and planned to buy an impressive and expensive house in Stratford.'
Ecuador's decision to allow police to arrest Julian Assange inside its London embassy last Thursday followed 'a fraught and acrimonious period' in which relations between the government in Quito and the WikiLeaks founder 'became increasingly hostile,' it has been claimed. In a presentation before Ecuador’s parliament on Thursday, the foreign minister, José Valencia, set out nine reasons why Assange's asylum had been withdrawn. The list ranged from 'meddling in Ecuador's relations with other countries' to having to 'put up with his rudeness' for nearly seven years. Valencia said that Ecuador had been 'left with little choice' but to end Assange's stay in its embassy following his 'innumerable acts of interference in the politics of other states' which 'put at risk' the country's relations with them. His second point focused on Assange's behaviour, which stretched from riding a skateboard and playing football inside the small embassy building to allegedly 'mistreating and threatening' embassy staff and 'even coming to blows' with security workers. Valencia said the fugitive and his lawyers had made 'insulting threats' against the country, accusing its officials of being pressured by other countries. He said that Assange 'permanently accused [embassy] staff of spying on and filming him' on behalf of the United States and instead of thanking Ecuador for nearly seven years of asylum he and his entourage launched 'an avalanche of criticisms' against the Quito government. He referred also to the guest's alleged 'hygienic' problems including one that was 'very unpleasant' and 'attributed to a digestive problem.' But Assange's deteriorating health was also major concern, the minister claimed, as he could not be properly treated in the embassy building. He added the fact that the UK 'would not consider granting him safe conduct' meant Ecuador faced the prospect of him staying 'indefinitely in the diplomatic headquarters.' The minister went on to say that Ecuador could not extend asylum to a person fleeing justice and there was no extradition request for Assange when Ecuador ended his asylum. The UK had offered 'sufficient guarantees of due process' to Assange, Valencia added and that he would not be extradited to a country where he could face torture or the death penalty. Finally, there were 'multiple inconsistencies' in how Assange had been granted Ecuadorean citizenship and his stay had proved 'very costly,' the minister said. Ecuador had spent more five million dollars on its guest's 'security' between 2012 and 2018 and nearly four hundred thousand dollars on his medical costs, food and laundry, he added. Ecuador's president, Lenín Moreno, had made little secret of his desire to evict Assange from the embassy building in Knightsbridge, where he had lived since June 2012. Moreno has variously described Assange as a 'hacker,' an 'inherited problem' and a 'stone in the shoe.' In a video address on Thursday, he accused Assange of breaching the 'generous' asylum conditions offered by Ecuador and of 'meddling in the internal affairs of other states.' Moreno claimed that Assange had installed 'forbidden electronic equipment' in the embassy, had mistreated guards and 'accessed the security files of our embassy without permission.' The final straw came 'two days ago,' Moreno suggested, when WikiLeaks directly 'threatened the government of Ecuador.' On Tuesday Assange's legal team gave a press conference in which they accused Quito of illegally spying on him. 'The patience of Ecuador has reached its limit on the behaviour of Mister Assange,' said President Moreno in a TV address. In retrospect, Assange's fate was sealed in 2017 when Moreno narrowly won Ecuador's presidential election. Moreno's leftist predecessor, Rafael Correa, had given Assange unconditional support and had offered him asylum in the first place. Moreno was the candidate for Correa's Alianza Pais party, but soon distanced himself from his predecessor - apparently viewing Assange as a 'hangover' from the Correa years and an impediment to better relations with the United States. In a tweet on Thursday, Correa, now Moreno's bitter enemy, described him as 'the greatest traitor in Ecuador and Latin America's history.' In particular, Moreno took a dim view of WikiLeaks' release of material that caused 'bilateral embarrassment.' In 2016 WikiLeaks published e-mails hacked by Russia's military intelligence spy agency, according to a 2018 indictment by the special prosecutor Robert Mueller. The e-mails were stolen from the Democratic party during Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Then in 2017 Assange tweeted in favour of Catalan independence - an action which annoyed the Spanish government, and caused difficulties for relations between Madrid and Quito. In March 2018 Moreno restricted Assange's access to the Interweb and insisted he 'abide by new conditions.' Assange complained that he had been cut off from visitors and the world. Then, near the end of last year, Ecuador laid out a stringent new set of house rules for Assange, warning that he had to 'avoid online comments about political issues' and ordering him to clean his bathroom and 'take better care' of his pet cat. By spring of this year it appeared Moreno's patience had finally run out and that his unhappiness with Assange had become personal. In a radio interview earlier this month Moreno complained that 'photos of my bedroom, what I eat and how my wife and daughters and friends dance' had been circulating on social media. The Ecuadorean government said it believed WikiLeaks had shared the photos. WikiLeaks tweeted last week that Moreno had said he would take a decision about Assange's fate 'in the short term' after it had reported on an 'offshore corruption scandal wracking his government.' Known in Ecuador as The Ina Papers, the scandal alleges that Moreno 'corruptly benefited' from an offshore account in Panama. Moreno denies any wrongdoing.
Almost two decades into the Twenty First Century, the days of the Page Three girl look to be finally over, after the Daily Lies announced it would no longer feature pictures of topless women. The alleged 'newspaper' was the last daily print outlet maintaining the British tabloid tradition, after the Sun stopped doing so following political pressure in 2015. So, no more tits for breakfast for you lot. Although the Lies will continue to feature photos of attractive young women in suggestive poses, they will no longer be topless, according to its editor, Jonathan Clark, who suggested it was 'time for a change. The Daily Star is always looking to try new things and improve,' he said. No, it really doesn't. 'In that spirit, we've listened to reader feedback and are currently trialling a covered-up version of page three.' The move potentially brings to an end fifty years of geet big bazoomas in mainstream newspapers. The former Labour minister Clare Short, who was pilloried by the tabloids in the 2000s when she repeatedly proposed banning the feature, told the Gruniad Morning Star that her campaign had, finally, been vindicated. 'Good news. It only took thirty years,' she said. The decision also marks a U-turn for the Lies, which has always taken what the Gruniad described, euphemistically, as 'an idiosyncratic approach' to the newspaper business. When the Sun cancelled its Page Three girls, the Daily Lies responded by increasing on its own commitment to the feature, working on the 'tits sells tabloids' principle. Under the guidance of its former proprietor Richard Desmond, a major UKiP donor and softcore pornographer who previously owned titles such as Asian Babes, it defended the inclusion of such pictures and suggested they were 'a core part of British culture.' Which they might be but, you know, so were bear baiting and cock fighting. 'The Daily Star is proud to continue the great British page three tradition,' the newspaper sneered at the time. 'It brightens the day for our readers during tough times and has launched many successful careers. We will continue to listen to what our readers want and put a smile on their faces with our lovely, bright, talented and independent young ladies. Page Three is as British as roast beef and Yorkshire pud, fish and chips and seaside postcards. The Daily Star is about fun and cheering people up. And that will definitely continue!' Four years later, the newspaper appears to have decided otherwise, seemingly influenced by Desmond's decision to sell the title to the Daily Mirra owner, Reach. The former longstanding Lies editor Dawn Neesom, who once justified page three as something which was 'fun and women look at it as much as men' was, last year, extremely replaced by Clark, a former Daily Mirra associate editor who has brought a new approach to the job. Page Three was introduced to the UK by billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch and Larry Lamb in 1970 shortly after they relaunched the Sun as a tabloid newspaper. It helped make models such as Samantha Fox and Katie Price household names and rivals followed suit with their own equivalents, despite a sustained public campaign against the feature. Topless pictures have not vanished from British newsstands completely, with the Sunday Sport continuing to be distributed in some outlets. Ones that have not shame, anyway. It remains to be seen whether the Lies' decision to end topless Page Three girls will make a substantial difference to the newspaper's sales, which last month fell to three hundred and twenty two thousand copies a day, an eighteen per cent year-on-year decline. The Daily Lies is also, of course, a completely risible rag which specialises in made-up non-stories. As this blog has previously highlighted, many times.
It is, you might think, as British as fish and chips and one of the country's most famous historic sites, but new evidence suggests that the roots of Stonehenge lie in the Mediterranean. Scientists studying DNA from ancestors of those who built the world's most famous prehistoric monument found they journeyed to Britain from what is now Greece and Turkey. When UKiP heard about this they immediately demanded that the stones be dismantled and sent back where they came from in the first place. Which was Wales, as it happens. Arriving in Britain around six thousand years ago, the newcomers virtually replaced the existing hunter-gatherer population, a study published in the journal Nature has claimed. These bloody Neolithic types, they come over here, they take our jobs and what did they ever do for us. Apart from being our ancestors, obviously. Anyway, built in several stages, Stonehenge's first monument was put up about five thousand years ago and the unique stone circle was erected in the late Neolithic period around 2500 BC. The migration was just one part of a large-scale expansion of people out of Anatolia in 6,000 BC which introduced farming to Europe. Researchers from Britain and the US found 'similarities' between the DNA of Britain's early farmers and those discovered in what is now Spain and Portugal, indicating this population arrived in the UK after journeying East to West through the Mediterranean. But some groups of migrants appear to have landed on the Western coast first before spreading to other parts of Britain, suggesting that they didn't cross the English Channel using the shortest possible course but instead sailed into the Atlantic. Well, you know, Cornwall's quite nice in the summer, maybe they fancied a holiday first. Carles Lalueza-Fox, of the Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Barcelona, said that the findings match what is known about the spread of megalithic structures along Europe's Atlantic coast. DNA reveals that Neolithic Britons were 'largely descended from groups who took the Mediterranean route,' either hugging the coast or hopping from island to island on boats. 'This route is a continuation of the Mediterranean coastal dispersal route but of course in much more complicated maritime circumstances,' Doctor Carles Lalueza-Fox said. In contrast with other countries where they settled, these ancient Aegeans do not appear to have mixed well with British locals, as evidenced by their failure to leave much impact on farming relics. Mark G Thomas, a professor of evolutionary genetics at University College London, who co-wrote the study, also found 'considerable variation in pigmentation levels in Europe' during the Stone Age as shown from the genetic samples they examined. Whereas Britain's outgoing hunter-gatherers - including the oldest-known Briton 'Cheddar Man' - likely had blue or green eyes and dark or even black skin, the farming populations migrating across Europe are believed to have had brown eyes and dark to intermediate skin.
The Moon's 'magnificent desolation' is far wetter than scientists had previously imagined. A NASA spacecraft sent to study lunar dust and atmosphere also picked up signs of water being released from the Moon as meteors collide with its surface. This unprecedented detection, reported in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows that tiny impacts release up to two hundred and twenty tons of water per year - much more than should be on the surface based on previously known delivery systems. 'There was so much that the instrument on the spacecraft acted like a sponge, soaking up the water that was moving through the atmosphere,' said study leader Mehdi Benna, a planetary scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre. 'When we turned the instrument on, what we found was extremely exciting.' The discovery offers fresh clues to our understanding of how the Moon formed in the first place and it provides tantalising targets for future human missions, which could one day use the Moon's watery bounty for both hydration and propulsion. Although, if they were planning on drinking it, it might be an idea to boil it first. Just to be on the safe side. 'We always think of the Moon as a very peaceful and desolate place,' Benna says. 'Now with this data, we see that the Moon is actually very active and responsive.' We have long known that there is some amount of water on the Moon, most of it locked up as ice in permanently shadowed craters or hidden deep below the surface. Water can be delivered to the Moon in two ways. Hydrogen from the solar wind can mix with oxygen on the surface and make a chemical relative called hydroxyl which, in turn, interacts with lunar rocks to create hydrated minerals. Comets and asteroids can also deposit water on the Moon when they slam into it. NASA data now suggest that such impacts release 'a surprising amount' of water from the lunar surface. But the new data, collected by a retired NASA spacecraft called LADEE, revealed something unexpected. While LADEE was in orbit around the Moon, it witnessed meteor showers, the same way we do here on Earth. At certain times of the year, our planetary system crosses into the orbits of comets, some of which are strewn with debris. Most of these cometary leftovers burn up in our atmosphere, sparking the annual sky shows the Geminids, the Perseids, the Leonids and others. On the airless Moon, however, these meteor showers bombard the surface. 'Every stream is millions of particles, like a rain of small impactors,' Benna says. 'We saw twenty nine known streams of meteors and each stream is related to a comet.' As these small particles collided with the surface, they kicked up the top layer of fine soil, or regolith, revealing much more water than the team expected to find below the first few centimetres. 'This loss of water can't be compensated for by the solar wind hydrogen implantation or by the water that comes with micrometeorites themselves,' Benna says. 'So there must be more water in the soil of the moon that can’t be replenished by those two known sources. The only way to explain that is to have an ancient reservoir of water that's been basically depleted over geological time.' Benna and his team estimate that the Moon has 'a fairly even amount of water' just a few centimetres below the surface. This means the Moon holds more water than could have been delivered to it over its lifetime by solar wind or comets, which speaks to a problem planetary scientists have been trying to solve for decades. During the early days of our solar system's formation, giant masses of young planets crashed into each other, flinging debris out into space. All the material that created Earth and the Moon swirled around each other in a cosmic ballet. As a result, the Moon and Earth share some history, but it has been hard to explain why the Moon seemed to have so little water in relation to Earth's vast reserves. While the exact connections are unsure, the amount of water could be linked to the Moon's early volcanic history or the exchange of material between the Moon and Earth in the earliest days of the solar system. 'This is an important paper because it's measuring the release of water in the present day,' says Carle Pieters, a planetary scientist at Brown University. 'They have started the discussion about asking, "what happens here? Is the water young? Is it old? Is it related to a surface process or is it an ancient reservoir?" They're the right questions to ask.' The team's data can now inform scientists working on theories for the Moon's origin story and how it might have obtained so much water. In addition, as NASA prepares to send humans back to the Moon, whole missions will be dedicated to mapping lunar water and figuring out how the Moon may supply future crews with the resources they need to survive. 'This is so exciting because they are catching all of this in progress - watching the water move in the exosphere before it either lands back on the surface or is lost to space,' Pieters says. 'This is a really important piece of the story.'
Saturn's moon Titan has something in common with Earth in that it has an atmosphere and rains fall there. However, unlike our planet, it isn't water which falls from Titan's skies but, rather, liquid methane. Scientists have been trying to establish for years exactly how this 'waterless water cycle' happens on Saturn's satellite. Now, two new research recently published in the journal Nature Astronomy may have found an explanation behind Titan's strange weather. While studying data from the Cassini mission, Shannon MacKenzie and her team found what appeared to have been three liquid-filled lakes. However, by the time the spacecraft returned to this area around seven Earth years later, the lakes appeared to have dried up, leading them to believe that the liquid had either evaporated or seeped into the surface. The paper suggested that the 'phantom lakes' were the result of seasonal changes on the moon. While the observations may have been affected by the difference in instruments used by Cassini for the two observations, MacKenzie believes that liquid had been present in the area and disappeared during the transition to winter to spring. Meanwhile, the second research, led by Marco Mastrogiuseppe, a planetary scientist at Caltech, focused on the much larger lakes on Titan. The second research team used Cassini data to determine the depth of some of Titan's lakes, some of which are three hundred and twenty feet deep. Mastrogiuseppe and his colleagues also established that the lakes were 'mostly' composed of liquid methane, similar to Titan's seas. Mastrogiuseppe added that rain had gathered into these lakes and the basins, in turn, 'drain liquid.' As for where the liquid is going exactly, the study suggested that there could be caves under Titan's surface, much like on Earth. Scientists may soon find solid proof of the disappearing lakes and caves if missions to Titan are approved in the future. NASA is reportedly considering launching a mission called Dragonfly named after the Julian Cope song, presumably since The Arch Drude is a particular favourite in Houston - in 2025, which would see a drone landing on Titan's surface and exploring what scientists have called 'the Earth of the outer solar system.' 'At first blush, I think a lot of people think [Dragonfly] sounds like the literal meaning of incredible,' Melissa Trainer, a deputy principal investigator with the mission, told Space.com. 'Not only is this an incredibly exciting concept with amazing, compelling science, but also, it is doable - it's feasible from an engineering standpoint.'
Kepler-47 is a three-and-a-half-billion-year-old star system about three thousand three hundred light years away from Earth. It is one of nine systems that we know of which are 'binary star systems,' which means it has not one star at its heart, but two. And it's the only one we know that has two planets orbiting around it, Kepler-47b and Kepler-47c. Now, a third has been discovered. Scientists have officially confirmed the existence of a third planet orbiting the binary stars and have - appropriately - dubbed it Kepler-47d, Space reported. The newly discovered planet is about seven times larger than Earth, making it the biggest planet in its system, roughly double the size of Kepler-47b and c. The discovery, announced in The Astronomical Journal this week, is big news for the team that discovered it. Kepler-47d's orbit lies in between Kepler-47b's and Kepler-47c's, even though scientists theorised that any additional planets would be found further away from the stars. The Kepler-47 trio is helping scientists learn about so-called 'puffy' planets, which are gas planets with a large size but a very low density. Even the 'puffiest' planet in our own solar system - Saturn - is much denser than any of the Kepler planets. The information we can learn about them will help us understand more of the 'loosely packed, low-density planets' in our solar system, according to Jonathan Fortney, an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Owen Garriott, the astronaut who flew on the first US space station, Skylab and whose son followed him into orbit, died earlier this week at his home in Huntsville, Alabama. He was eighty eight. His death was announced by NASA. The cause was not disclosed. Doctor Garriott served on the second Skylab crew in 1973, spending close to sixty days in space along with Al bean and Jack Lousma, a record at the time. He also was part of the ninth space shuttle mission, flying aboard Columbia in 1983 and operating a ham radio from orbit for the first time. In 2008, Doctor Garriott travelled to Kazakhstan for his son, Richard's, launch into space aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket. Richard Garriott is a computer-game developer who paid the Russians thirty million dollars for a ride to the International Space Station. They were the first US father-and-son space travellers. 'Our adult bonding around the experience of space was a rare treasure we shared,' Richard said on Twitter. 'In fifty years, from my father's Apollo era to our new commercial era, much has been accomplished,' he tweeted. 'Yet, none without the risks undertaken by those early pioneers.' Owen Garriott was born in November 1930, in Enid, Oklahoma. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1953, then served in the Navy. He received master's and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering from Stanford University in 1957 and 1960 and taught at Stanford before being selected as an astronaut in 1965. He was among the first six scientist-astronauts picked by NASA in a group which also included Apollo 17 astronaut Jack Schmitt and Garriott's Skylab project colleagues Joe Kerwin and Ed Gibson. Doctor Garriott later held other positions within NASA, including director of science and applications at Johnson Space Centre in Houston. He left NASA in 1986 and later contributed to books about Skylab and physics. Owen is survived by his second wife, Evelyn and by four children from his first marriage, Randall, Robert, Richard and Linda.
Barnsley have complained to the English Football League and Football Association following an alleged incident involving their head coach Daniel Stendel and Fleetwood boss - and, arch nutter - Joey Barton. The League One club said that they are 'working with South Yorkshire Police' and 'assisting with all enquiries.' Barnsley player Cauley Woodrow wrote on Twitter that Barton 'physically assaulted' Stendel in the tunnel after Saturday's game at Oakwell. Woodrow later deleted the tweet. On Monday, South Yorkshire Police said that they were 'continuing to investigate reports of an assault' at Barnsley Football Club. 'No arrests have been made at this time and enquiries remain ongoing,' the statement added. Fleetwood said that they had 'been made aware of an alleged incident' and were 'currently establishing the facts.' BBC Radio Sheffield reported on Sunday that Stendel was 'okay' but 'suffered facial injuries.' And the claret had, allegedly, been spilled. Sky Sports News showed footage of Barton attempting to leave the ground after the match, but the car in which he was a passenger was stopped by police, before being allowed to proceed some time later. Barton later rejoined the rest of his team for the journey back to Lancashire. The former England midfielder has a history of controversy, including a seventy seven-day spell in The Slammer for common assault and affray following an incident in Liverpool city centre in December 2007. He took over at Fleetwood for his first managerial job last summer - one day after an eighteen-month FA ban for betting ended.
Former The Scum and England midfielder Paul Scholes has been charged with misconduct for allegedly breaking FA betting rules. Scholes is alleged to have placed one hundred and forty bets on football matches between 17 August 2015 and 12 January 2019. The forty four-year-old, who spent thirty one days in charge of Oldham Not Very Athletic between February and March this year, has a ten per cent stake in fifth-tier side Salford City. He has until 26 April to respond to the charge. Scholes, who won eleven Premier League titles with The Scum and was capped sixty six times by England, retired from playing in 2013 and became a part-owner of Salford in 2014 alongside former team-mates Gary and Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs and Nicky Butt.
Crystal Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey 'did not know what a Nazi salute was' when he was charged with making the offensive gesture, according to a Football Association panel. The charge was found 'not proven' this month and Wales international Hennessey will face no punishment. The regulatory commission has published its written reasons for the decision. It said that Hennessey showed 'a lamentable degree of ignorance' about Adolf Hitler, fascism and the Nazi regime. Hennessey was pictured with his right arm in the air and left hand above his mouth in a photo posted on Instagram by German team-mate Max Meyer after Palace's FA Cup win over Grimsby on 5 January. Hennessey denied the charge and said that any resemblance to the Nazi gesture - which, remember, he didn't know anything about - was 'absolutely coincidental.' The charge was found 'not proven' after two members of the three-man panel believed the photograph had been 'misinterpreted.' The other panel member said that the 'only plausible explanation' was that Hennessey made the salute. Hennessey claimed he 'waved and shouted at the person taking the picture to get on with it' and 'put my hand over my mouth to make the sound carry.' And, two people believed him. He submitted photographs to the panel of him making similar gestures during matches to attract the attention of team-mates. The panel said that Hennessey was 'able to corroborate his explanation' with a series of photographs, including one that showed his right arm raised and left hand across his mouth 'in a similar way' to the photo posted on Instagram. Hennessey said 'from the outset' of the hearing that he 'did not know what' a Nazi salute was. 'Improbable as that may seem to those of us of an older generation, we do not reject that assertion as untrue,' said the panel. 'In fact, when cross-examined about this Mister Hennessey displayed a very considerable - one might even say lamentable - degree of ignorance about anything to do with Hitler, Fascism and the Nazi regime. Regrettable though it may be that anyone should be unaware of so important a part of our own and world history, we do not feel we should therefore find he was not telling the truth about this. All we would say (at the risk of sounding patronising) is that Mister Hennessey would be well advised to familiarise himself with events which continue to have great significance to those who live in a free country.' The panel said that other photographs from the evening showed Hennessey's arm 'raised in slightly different but comparable postures' that 'at its lowest' demonstrates he was 'trying to attract the attention of the photographer,' Jordan Bussolini. It said the FA was 'entirely justified' in bringing the case but that 'rather than giving a Nazi salute, we think it more likely that Mister Hennessey was, as he says, trying to shout at and to catch the attention of the waiter.'
'The Federal Office for National Economic Supply has concluded coffee ... is not essential for life,' the Swiss government has said. No shit? Mind you, neither are chips, but life would be a Hell of a lot less worth living without them. 'Coffee has almost no calories and subsequently does not contribute, from the physiological perspective, to safeguarding nutrition.' Since the period between World War I and World War II, Switzerland has been storing emergency food reserves, which include coffee, as well as sugar, rice, edible oils and animal feed in case of war, natural disaster or epidemics. This means that by law in Switzerland Nestlé, the maker of instant coffee Nescafé and other importers, roasters and retailers are required to store bags of raw coffee. Currently, the country has over fifteen thousand tonnes of coffee stored - enough to last three months. But, the government wants to put an end to that, proposing that coffee companies stop stockpiling in 2020. However, not everyone is happy about the proposal. The organisation which oversees Switzerland's food reserves, Réservesuisse, asked the Federal Office to 'reconsider' its recommendation last year. The company said of the fifteen companies with mandatory coffee stockpiles, twelve wanted to continue, partly because it helped reinforce the supply chain. Others - coffee addicts, mainly one suspects - argue that the caffeine drink's 'health benefits,' including antioxidants and vitamins, have been ignored. The Swiss consume about nine kilograms of coffee per person per year, according to the International Coffee Organisation - three times the amount consumed in Britain. The final decision on scrapping coffee stockpiles is expected to be made in November.
The drone attack which caused utter chaos at Gatwick just before Christmas was carried out by 'someone with knowledge of the airport's operational procedures,' the airport has claimed. A Gatwick chief told BBC's Panorama that the drone's pilot 'seemed to be able to see what was happening on the runway.' Sussex Police told the programme the possibility 'an insider' was involved was 'a credible line' of inquiry. About one hundred and forty thousand passengers were caught up in the disruption. The runway at the UK's second busiest airport was closed for thirty three hours between 19 and 21 December last year - causing about one thousand flights to be cancelled or delayed. In his first interview since the incident, Gatwick's chief operating officer, Chris Woodroofe, told Panorama: 'It was clear that the drone operators had a link into what was going on at the airport.' Woodroofe, who was the executive overseeing the airport's response to the attack - the 'Gold Commander' who isn't a character in Captain Scarlet & The Mysterons, apparently - also said that whoever was piloting the drone could either see what was happening on the runway, or was following the airport's actions by eavesdropping on radio or Interweb communications. And, whomsoever was responsible for the attack had 'specifically selected' a drone which 'could not be seen' by the DJI Aeroscope drone detection system that the airport was 'testing at the time,' he added. Despite 'a huge operation' drawing resources from five other forces and a fifty thousand knicker reward, there is still no trace of the culprit. Sussex Police says that its investigation is 'ongoing' and 'expected to take some months to complete.' The first sighting of the drone was at around 9pm on 19 December but it was not until just before 6am on 21 December that flights resumed with an aircraft landing. Gatwick says that it 'repeatedly' tried to reopen the runway but on each occasion the drone reappeared. Airport protocol mandates that the runway be closed if a drone is present. Woodroofe denied claims that the airport 'over-reacted,' describing the situation it faced as 'an unprecedented, malicious and criminal incident. There is absolutely nothing that I would do differently when I look back at the incident, because ultimately, my number one priority has to be to maintain the safety of our passengers, and that's what we did. It was terrible that one hundred and forty thousand people's journeys were disrupted but everyone was safe.' Woodroofe also dismissed the suggestion that the number of sightings had been 'exaggerated' and a theory, circulating online, that there had been no drone at all. These claims have been fuelled by the fact that there are no verified pictures of the drone and very few eyewitnesses have spoken publicly. Police told the BBC they had recorded one hundred and thirty separate credible drone sightings by a total of one hundred and fifteen people, all but six of whom were professionals, including police officers, security personnel, air traffic control staff and pilots. Woodroofe said that many of the drone sightings were by people he knew personally and trusted - 'members of my team, people I have worked with for a decade, people who have worked for thirty years on the airfield, who fully understand the implications of reporting a drone sighting. They knew they'd seen a drone. I know they saw a drone. We appropriately closed the airport.' Panorama has been told witnesses reported seeing 'an extremely fast-moving, large drone with bright lights.' At least one person noted the characteristic cross shape while others described it as 'industrial or commercial' and 'not something you could pop into Argos for,' an airport spokesperson said. Other international airports have installed counter-drone technology and Gatwick has confirmed that, in the days after the attack, it spent five million smackers on 'similar equipment.' Asked whether Gatwick should have done more to protect the airport from drones before the incident, Woodroofe said the government had not approved any equipment for drone detection at that stage. 'The equipment I have on site today is painted sand yellow because it comes straight from the military environment,' he added. Panorama learned that Gatwick bought two sets of the Anti-UAV Defence System anti-drone system made by a consortium of three British companies. AUDS was one of two systems the military deployed at the airport on the evening of 20 December. Woodroofe said he was 'confident' that the airport was now much better protected. 'We would know the drone was arriving on site and we'd know where that drone had come from, where it was going to and we'd have a much better chance of catching the perpetrator.' Every day, he said, the airport sends up a drone to test the detection equipment and 'it finds that drone.' But he added: 'What this incident has demonstrated is that a drone operator with malicious intent can cause serious disruption to airport operations. And it's clear that disruption could be carried over into other industries and other environments.'
Authorities in Florida said that three naked women who were 'seen applying suntan lotion' at a rest stop subsequently led police on a twenty one-mile chase, drove a car at one deputy and threatened another with a bat. The Florida Highway Patrol claimed that when a deputy approached the women at the Interstate Seventy Five rest stop on Wednesday in Dade City, Pasco County, they 'started dressing.' The women told the trooper they had been staying at a relative's home but went to the rest stop 'after an altercation' and 'had nowhere else to go.' The Tampa Bay Times reported that the women claimed they were 'air drying' after washing. They then fled in a car, with troopers giving chase. The women were eventually caught after police managed to blow out their tires and repeatedly rammed their car. One was 'subdued using a stun gun' and marijuana was found in the car. The three women were charged with aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest, fleeing to elude and indecent exposure. The Tampa Bay Times added: 'Though Pasco has been dubbed the nudist capital of the world, the arrest reports do not indicate the women are linked to its many nudist or clothing-optional communities.'
An emu has been caught on camera sprinting along a road in the Scottish Highlands. The bird can be seen running away from traffic on the A82 outside Fort Augustus. It has reportedly been returned safely to its home. The whereabouts of Rod Hull cannot, at this time, be confirmed.
Newcastle Central Station's piano has, reportedly, been 'damaged beyond repair' after 'a mindless group of partygoers decided to destroy it.' Peter Tracey, of the Newcastle Rotary Club, came up with the idea of installing the public piano four years ago after seeing a similar piano in a station in Prague. He told the Evening Chronicle that he was 'deeply disappointed' to see the damage done to an instrument which 'was intended to bring people together.' He said: 'Unfortunately a hen party decided to have a smashing time - literally - and they've damaged the piano beyond repair. They kicked in the the panels under the keyboard out and they've damaged the keyboard by hitting it. It's a real shame, the piano was much-loved by everyone at the station. Lots of people used to use it on a daily basis.' The damage was spotted by security staff at the station, who moved the damaged piano out of public view. It is not believed that any legal action is being taken. Sitting near the entrance to the station with signs inviting people to 'play a tune for Th' Toon', the piano has become a popular feature for commuters and visitors alike. In 2015, it was 'transformed into a shrine to rough sleeper Alan Palmer,' whose beautiful renditions of classical pieces regularly turned the station entrance into a concert hall, before his death. The first piano to be installed eventually wore out from use and this is the second which has stood in the concourse. 'It was deliberately done,' Alan claimed. 'The piano is a lovely thing and it's for the benefit of a charity. I'm very, very sad that this happened. We expected there would be some damage over the years, but it's just sad that the piano has had to be taken out of service.' As well as allegedly 'delighting' visitors and giving people a chance to share their musical talents with the world, the piano helped raise money for a good cause, with players donating more than a thousand knicker for the Children's Heart Unit Foundation at the Freeman Hospital since it was installed. The station, however, won't be left without music for long. Peter has already managed to source a replacement instrument, discovered by a builder acquaintance as he cleared out a local church.
A US man is reportedly suing his parents after they destroyed his 'massive pornography collection,' which he claims was worth twenty nine thousand dollars. His parents admit that they 'dumped' the twelve boxes of films and magazines, which included titles such as Frisky Business and Big Bad Grannys. The forty year-old, from Indiana, moved into their home in Grand Haven, Michigan, in October 2016 after a divorce. In court papers, he said that when he moved out ten months later they delivered his things to his new home in Indiana, but that his pornography collection was 'nowhere to be seen.' The unnamed man's case includes e-mails between him and his father, in which he wrote: 'If you had a problem with my belongings, you should have stated that at the time and I would have gone elsewhere. Instead, you choose to keep quiet and behave vindictively.' His father responded: 'Believe it or not, one reason for why I destroyed your porn was for your own mental and emotional heath. I would have done the same if I had found a kilo of crack cocaine. Someday, I hope you will understand. I did you a big favour by getting rid of all this stuff.' His son, who is seeking triple financial damages of roughly eighty seen thousand bucks, initially filed a complaint with local police, but the Ottawa County prosecutor decided not to press charges. The man allegedly sent one officer forty four e-mails detailing movies that he said were destroyed, listing many as 'valuable out-of-print films,' but the prosecutor again decided not to press charges. His parents wrote: 'We counted twelve moving boxes full of pornography plus two boxes of sex toys as you call them. We began that day the process of destroying them and it took quite a while to do so.' The man's father added: 'I also warned you at that time if I ever found pornography in my house again, I would destroy it.' The identities of the trio have not been released as it is a civil case without any criminal charges.
A judge reportedly gave a serial drink-driver a chance to avoid jail because she is a woman. Victoria Parry, aged thirty, hit three other cars after downing a bottle of wine. Judge Sarah Buckingham said that Parry, an alcoholic who had escaped an abusive relationship, would have gone 'straight down the stairs' to The Slammer if she were a man. Although Parry 'deserved' a prison term, the judge gave her three months to 'address her issues.' The comments are - rightly - being investigated by a judicial watchdog. Prosecutor Tim Sapwell said that Parry caught a van's rear bumper, a Vauxhall Insignia's wing mirror, then the side of a BMW 'very heavily' in the crash. He told Warwick Crown Court it caused her Fiat to spin off the A46 near Stratford-upon-Avon into a wooded area where it then caught fire. An off-duty police officer pulled her from the car and Parry, who was banned from the road at the time, told him she had drunk a bottle of wine and 'shouldn't be driving,' Sapwell said. She was very arrested and registered a reading of almost three times the legal limit at a police station. Lucy Tapper, defending, said Parry had 'a considerable drink problem' after a fifteen-year abusive relationship, but had 'begun to tackle' her alcohol intake. The judge said: 'If Miss Parry was a man, there is no question it would have been straight down the stairs, because this is a shocking case of dangerous driving against a background of two previous convictions for excess alcohol.' But, she said, the offence had been committed in May 2018 and Parry, who had admitted dangerous driving, had not been in trouble since. 'She has clearly got an alcohol problem. She is, whether she admits it or not, an alcoholic,' the judge said. Deferring sentencing for three months, judge Buckingham told Parry she 'richly deserved' an immediate custodial term of eighteen months. 'I want to see whether you can really address the issues rather than paying lip service,' she said. She ordered Parry to abstain from alcohol, attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and pay for private counselling. If Parry complied, she said, the custody would not be made immediate. 'If you don't comply, I will conclude that you are not worthy of the chance,' the judge added. The Judicial Conduct Investigations Office confirmed that it had received a complaint about the remarks attributed to the judge.
A senior judge has revealed he was excused from jury service, because he was due to preside over the case in question. Keith Cutler, the resident judge of Winchester and Salisbury, said he was 'surprised' when he got the call up. But, his reason for not doing his duty was 'initially rejected' when he contacted the Jury Central Summoning Bureau directly to explain. Judge Cutler said the bureau 'realised its mistake' when he called them back. The judge, who served as the coroner for the inquest of Mark Duggan, said that he would have happily served as a juror if it had been appropriate. He told a jury: 'I was selected for jury service here at Salisbury Crown Court for a trial starting 23 April. I told the Jury Central Summoning Bureau that I thought I would be inappropriate seeing I happened to be the judge and knew all the papers. They wrote back to me, they picked up on the fact I was the judge but said "your appeal for refusal has been rejected but you could apply to the resident judge" but I told them "I am the resident judge." I had to phone them up and they realised it was a mistake.' The judge added: 'I would have liked to have done the jury service to see what it was like and whether I would have liked the judge.' A guide to jury summons issued by the Ministry of Justice states: 'The normal expectation is that everyone summoned for jury service will serve at the time for which they are summoned. However, it is recognised that there will be occasions when it is not reasonable for a person to serve at the time for which they are summoned.'
Saving France's eight hundred and fifty-year-old Notre-Dame cathedral came down to a crucial time window of fifteen to thirty minutes, France's deputy interior minister has said. Laurent Nuñez praised the 'courage and determination' of firefighters who 'risked their own lives' to salvage the building's stone structure and its two towers. The fire ravaged the cathedral's roof and caused its spire to collapse in shocking pictures beamed live around the world which resembled a cross between 9/11 and the final scene of The Wicker Man. French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to rebuild the magnificent structure - which this blogger once visited during a trip to Paris in 1999 - within five years. The cause of the blaze is currently unclear. 'We now know it all came down to fifteen to thirty minutes,' Nuñez said, adding that police and fire services would spend the next forty eight hours assessing the security and safety of the structure. Paris public prosecutor Rémy Heitz said his office was 'favouring the theory of an accident,' but had assigned fifty people to investigate the origin of the fire. Other officials have suggested it 'could' be linked to extensive renovation works taking place at the cathedral. Thoughts are now turning to how Notre-Dame will be rebuilt, which Macron promised to make 'even more beautiful. We will turn this catastrophe into an opportunity to come together,' he said. In a televised public address, Macron also heaped praise on the fire services. 'The firefighters stopped the fire by taking the most extreme risks. They were twenty or twenty five, from each corner of France, from each region.' A number of companies and business tycoons have so far pledged about eight hundred million Euros between them to help with reconstruction efforts, AFP reports. Offers of help have also poured in from around the globe, with European Council President Donald Tusk calling on EU member states to rally round. Eric Fischer, head of the foundation in charge of restoring the one thousand-year-old Strasbourg cathedral, told AFP the Notre-Dame may take 'decades' to rebuild. The blaze was discovered at 6.43pm local time on Monday and firefighters were called to the scene. The flames quickly reached the roof of the cathedral, destroying the wooden interior before toppling the spire. Fears grew that the cathedral's famous towers would also be destroyed. But while a number of fires did begin in the towers, Nuñez said that they were 'successfully stopped before they could spread.' Search teams had already begun assessing the extent of the damage when dawn broke over the French capital. The cathedral's blackened stone and charred scaffolding were revealed to onlookers for the first time. Photos appear to show that at least one of the cathedral's famed rose windows has survived, although there are concerns for some of the other stained-glass windows. Christophe Castaner, France's interior minister, warned that while the principal structure had been saved, the building was still unstable. 'We will be standing at [Notre Dame's] bedside,' he added. Nuñez said that 'overall,' the structure was 'in good condition,' but that 'some vulnerabilities' had been identified in the stone vaults and the remainder of the building's ceiling. Experts have not yet been allowed on site to assess the damage and French firefighters have sent a drone to survey the scale of the destruction. Heat and water damage will also need to be assessed. The cathedral's Eighteenth Century organ has not been burned, but it is not clear whether it has been damaged by water, Bertrand de Feydeau, from the French charity Fondation du Patrimoine, told Associated Press. Air France said in a statement that the company would offer free flights to 'anyone involved in the reconstruction.' Billionaire François-Henri Pinault, chairman and CEO of the Kering group which owns the Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent fashion brands, pledged one hundred million Euros, AFP news agency reports. Another two hundred million Euros was pledged by Bernard Arnault's family and their company LVMH - a business empire which includes Louis Vuitton and Sephora, according to Reuters. French cosmetics giant L'Oreal and its founding Bettencourt family have promised to give a further two hundred million. Total, the French oil giant, has pledged one hundred million. Fondation du Patrimoine is reported to be launching an international appeal for funds for the cathedral, a Unesco World Heritage site. Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he was 'happy to send experts' to help restore the cathedral. The British government is also looking into what it can do to help, according to Ed Llewellyn, the UK ambassador to France. Spanish Culture Minister Jose Guirao said his country was also seeking ways to help. Emergency teams managed to rescue many valuable artwork and religious items, including what is said to be the crown of thorns worn by Christ before his crucifixion. A tunic King Louis IX is said to have worn when he brought the crown of thorns to Paris was also saved. Historian Camille Pascal told French broadcaster BFMTV that 'invaluable heritage' had been destroyed. 'Happy and unfortunate events for centuries have been marked by the bells of Notre-Dame. We can be only horrified by what we see.'
Two female fortune tellers were reportedly executed by firing squad in North Korea while a third was jailed for life in a show trial in Pyongyang. An alleged 'source' allegedly told Radio Free Asia that the women formed 'a psychic collective' called The Seven Star Group. They claimed that two children - aged three and five - had the ability to 'channel a spirit oracle' and 'predict the future.' The women were executed in March while thousands of people watched. Radio Free Asia said that 'sources within The Hermit Kingdom' allegedly told them the executions were 'designed to send a message.' Kim Jong-un reportedly 'fears superstition has become too widespread' in the dictatorship and he wants to maintain social order. 'Even high-ranking officials and the families of judicial authorities often visit fortune tellers before arranging weddings or making business deals,' the alleged 'source' allegedly said. In North Korea, any threats - perceived or real - are dealt with severely. Executions are fairly routine in one of the world's remaining Communist countries. 'As a matter of state policy, the authorities carry out executions, with or without trial, publicly or secretly, in response to political and other crimes that are often not among the most serious crimes,' a UN human rights report said. In 2013, Kim Jong-un ordered the execution of his own uncle, Jang Song-thaek, a high-ranking government official, after accusing him of trying to increase his own power.
And finally, dear blog reader, From The North's Headline Of The Week award goes to some wag at BBC News for this cracker.
On the hop, surely?