Sunday, July 24, 2011

Despite All The Amputations

Just in case you missed it, dear blog reader, here's a picture of Sir Michael Parkinson boring the ruddy tits off poor old Benedict Cumberbatch who'd seemingly found himself sitting next to Parky at Lord's yesterday. God, bet that was a fun-filled six hours. 'Did I ever tell you about the time, I had Rod Hull and Emu on my show? And, of course, the funniest man in the world, Billy Connolly. And, the late, great Gene Kelly...' Still, at least the cricket was good!
Rupert Murdoch's News International launched a 'campaign of bullying' against senior Liberal Democrats in an attempt to force through the company's bid for BSkyB, 'high-level sources' have told the Observer.
Lib Dem 'insiders' alleged that NI officials took their lobbying campaign 'well beyond acceptable limits' and even threatened, last autumn, to 'persecute the party' if Vince Cable, the business secretary, did not advance its case. According to one account from 'a senior party figure,' a cabinet minister was told that, if the government did not do as NI wanted, the Lib Dems would be 'done over' by the Murdoch papers, which included the now defunct News of the World as well as the Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times. The accounts are only now coming to light, say 'sources', because the minister involved feared the potential for damage to the party, which was already suffering a dramatic slide in popularity after going into coalition with the Tories. They chime with reports from 'senior figures' in the Labour party who say that Murdoch executives issued threats to Ed Miliband's office after the Labour leader turned on NI when the news broke that murdered thirteen-year-old Milly Dowler's phone had been hacked into by the News of the World. Labour 'insiders' claim that NI executives 'made clear to Miliband's office' that because he had chosen to 'make it personal' they would 'do the same,' implying they would attack him through their media outlets. The pressure on the Lib Dems was at its most intense around the time that Cable decided to refer the BSkyB bid to Ofcom late last year. However, it relented after Cable was removed by David Cameron from responsibility for the bid when he was taped by undercover reporters from the Daily Torygraph attacking Murdoch's ambitions. Cable was recorded saying to the reporters, who were pretending to be his constituents, that he had 'declared war on Mr Murdoch and I think we're going to win.' Which, ultimately, they have - albeit, probably not in a way that anybody expected six months ago. 'Insiders', the newspaper claims, believe that NI's interest then focused on the lack of culture secretary, the vile and odious rascal and spineless coward Hunt, who took over responsibility for the bid from Cable. News International declined to comment on the bullying allegations made by the Observer. The revelations will help to fuel the debate over Cameron's friendship with well-known Crystal Tipps-lookalike Rebekah Brooks, the former NI chief executive who was arrested a week ago. Labour MPs placed Cameron under intense pressure to reveal whether he had discussed the BSkyB bid in any of his many meetings with Brooks or other NI executives since becoming prime minister. It was revealed that Cameron had had twenty six meetings with News International officials since becoming prime minister in May last year. Under sustained questioning in the Commons on Wednesday, he would say only that he had held no 'inappropriate' discussions with Brooks or other NI executives about the bid. Many MPs believe this is an unlikely tale, given the determined approach allegedly mounted to influence the Lib Dems. Formal contacts between News International and the vile and odious rascal and spineless coward Hunt continued right up to last month, during which the question of media plurality was discussed. More details of the links between Downing Street and News International were revealed as it emerged that NI entertained government advisers more than any other organisation during the first seven months of the current government. Figures from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism showed that almost a quarter of all lunches, dinners and hospitality enjoyed by Downing Street's inner circle came from Murdoch's company. Gabby Bertin, Cameron's official spokeswoman, was wined and dined nine times, including a trip to last year's Wimbledon championships. Labour MP Paul Farrelly, a member of the culture, media and sport select committee, said: 'After the phone-hacking scandal we know how deeply News International penetrated Downing Street and the Metropolitan police.' Meanwhile, Strathclyde police gave details of investigations into whether witnesses who gave evidence about phone hacking at the trial of jailed politician Tommy Sheridan – including Cameron's former director of communications, Andy Coulson – may have committed perjury. Coulson, then employed by Downing Street, told the trial in December that he had no knowledge of illegal activities by reporters while he was editor of the News of the World. He also claimed: 'I don't accept there was a culture of phone hacking.' Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton said: 'We will also be looking to see if we can uncover any evidence of corruption in the police service or any other organisation related to these inquiries. However, I must stress that no specific allegations regarding corruption have been presented to us.' A News International spokeswoman said: 'We can confirm that we have been contacted by police on this matter. We can't say anything else.'

Business Secretary Vince Cable has said there should be 'clear' rules on how powerful media groups can be, in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal. He told the BBC having dominant media moguls was 'deeply unhelpful' - partly due to their political impact. There should be market share limits and a 'presumption against' media groups owning both newspapers and TV stations. He was responsible for media ownership rules until he was recorded saying he had 'declared war' on Rupert Murdoch. Following the undercover recording by the Daily Torygraph in December, Cable was stripped of his responsibility for overseeing Murdoch's bid to take full control of broadcaster BSkyB. That bid was withdrawn this month amid new phone-hacking allegations and in the face of political opposition. Lib Dem cabinet minister Cable said that he accepted Murdoch had made 'positive contributions' to the British media landscape - but said plurality, diversity and choice were needed - and had to come from wider ownership. Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry, set up in the wake of new phone hacking allegations against the News of the World newspaper, will make recommendations on media plurality, regulation and cross-media ownership. Cable said he would wait to see what Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry would recommend, but added: 'We have learned from the past that having media moguls dominating the British media is deeply unhelpful, not simply in terms of plurality but because of the wider impact on the political world. What I want to see is a very clear set of unambiguous rules about market shares, that we don't have dominant players and a presumption against cross-ownership between press and television.' Asked if any company could be as dominant as News Corporation in future, he told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show: 'It isn't simply an issue of Rupert Murdoch, there are other big media companies who could have the same influence in future and we've got to stop that happening.' Asked about the Observer claims that Lib Dems had been 'bullied' by News International staff over the BSkyB bid and told the party would be 'done over' by its newspapers if the deal did not go through, Cable said: 'Well there was heavy lobbying but it was perfectly legal. I don't want to dwell on the past and my own role in it - what I do want to focus on is reforming the system of competition and takeovers as it applies to the media, so we have a healthier, more plural system in future.' In separate comments about the global economy, Cable said that 'right wing nutters' in the US were more of a threat than the eurozone's debt crisis.

Surrey Police removed an officer from the inquiry into Milly Dowler's murder after claims information was leaked to the News of the World, it has emerged. The force has confirmed a detective was taken off the case after a complaint he had mishandled confidential data. Thirteen-year-old Milly disappeared as she walked home from school in Walton-on-Thames in 2002. Levi Bellfield was convicted of her murder in June of this year. Surrey Police said that the officer received 'words of advice' over the complaint. Like, you know, 'what the hell did you do that for?' That sort of thing. It also said that the detective constable was 'removed from working on the Operation Ruby team in 2002 following concern raised by a colleague about the conduct of the officer. This related to the inappropriate disclosure of information about aspects of the investigation to a retired police officer friend,' a force spokesman said. 'A serving colleague was told of the inappropriate disclosure by the person who had heard it, and immediately reported it to their senior management team.' Snitchy. Surrey Police said the officer 'received words of advice and was removed permanently from the inquiry' the following day. It said that it had no evidence the officer had passed any information to the News of the World. News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch apologised to the Dowler family earlier this month after it emerged the schoolgirl's mobile phone was hacked by the News of the World in 2002 soon after she went missing. It was claimed the paper intercepted messages left by relatives of the teenager and then deleted some which it had already listened to when the voicemail facility became full, giving her family false hope that she was still alive.

A war of words has erupted between Lord Alan Sugar-Sweetie and full-of-her-own-importance opinion-on-everything Conservative MP Louise Bagashite Mensch on Twitter over comments which Mensch made about alleged phone hacking at the Daily Mirra. Lord Sugar-Sweetie accused the MP for Corby of abusing parliamentary privilege during a culture, media and sport select committee hearing on Tuesday where she, apparently, incorrectly claimed that Piers Morgan had admitted hacking into celebrities' phones when he edited the tabloid. Sugar-Sweetie - no friend of the oily twat Morgan himself - launched the attack after Bagashite refused, in a thoroughly cowardly manner, to repeat her claims outside the hearing because she would not be protected by parliamentary privilege and would leave herself open to being sued. Massively. He wrote: 'Louise Mensch should be fired by Cameron for abuse of parliamentary privilege. Last night on Newsnight shown to be a liar. Media Wannabe.' Mensch responded that Lord Sugar-Sweetie himself should apologise for remarks he made about pregnant mums who are looking for employment, adding: 'Your comments disgrace the Labour party.' She was referring to comments made by Lord Sugar-Sweetie in a 2009 interview. When asked if he would employ an expectant mother, he said: 'Why would anyone give anybody a job knowing, unless it was a temporary job, because if she was pregnant, then within three or four months she wouldn't be able to do the job, so if it was a temp job and you had a need, of course, why not?' Sugar-Sweetie defended his comments and asked Mensch to repeat the comments which she made at the hearing about Morgan. He wrote: 'Now stand by your words, please, don't be a coward. If you didn't lie what you got to lose?' Mensch later accused Sugar-Sweetie of also using court privilege to make accusations about Brian Clough in a 1993 high court hearing in which he claimed that the former Nottingham Forest manager sought financial rewards for helping a transfer deal - that of Steady Teddy Sheringham - go smoothly. She tweeted: 'Saying something under privilege and never repeating outside? Two words: "Brian Clough." Did you ever repeat your allegation?' Sugar-Sweetie reacted angrily to the post, saying that, in fact, he had repeated the claims in his autobiography, What You See Is What You Get. Albeit, it was published in 2010, some years after Clough's death. And, as anybody with an ounce of knowledge about UK libel laws will know, you can't libel the dead. Sugar-Sweetie added: 'I never hid by high court privilege. Who says so other than you? Come clean and stand by your word are you a COWARD or a LIAR.' And, he put this in capital letters just so everybody go the point. The online spat lasted for several subsequent hours before Bagashite ended it by signing off with: 'Grow up. Goodnight.' Thereafter, she maintained a ... I was gonna say dignified silence but I've never seen the words 'dignified' and 'Louise Mensch' in the same sentence so, I'll just stick with silence. Which, it should be noted, is very unusual for Bagashite as she's usually go plenty to say about pretty much everything. To be continued, no doubt ...

The BBC have, finally, broadcast the last 'missing' episode of Qi: XL - Geometry - fifteen months after the thirty minute version of the episode was broadcast, in April 2010, and six months after Dave first broadcast the XL edition. Hidden away after a lengthy (and, to be brutally honest, quite tuneless) Stravinsky concert as part of BBC2's coverage of the Proms, the episode was broadcast on Saturday evening with minimal pre-publicity. If you missed it, it featured Rob Brydon, David Mitchell and Johnny Vegas and was, actually, really rather good.
The Sun have suggested that Doctor Who will return 'next month' (i.e. August). Given that the preview of the next episode, Let's Kill Hitler, is due to be shown at the BFI on the 15 August, that would suggest if the Sun aren't talking out of their hole - as is not unusual - then the second half of the series could potentially begin either on Saturday 20 or, Saturday 27 August. It is possible that the Sun are wrong on this, however. And, I must admit, yer actual Keith Telly Topping has been hearing - from 'sources a wee bit closer to the production than I am although still not that close' - that Saturday 3 September was the most likely start date. Time, of course, will tell. And, in Doctor Who's case, that's really rather reassuring.
The actor Rhys Ifans was arrested for misdemeanor battery during the Comic-Con International convention this weekend in San Diego. Ifans allegedly pushed a female security guard only moments before his appearance on the Amazing Spider-Man panel, after she refused to let a member of his entourage enter the hall. While the guard in question allowed him to complete his panel appearance, she then performed a citizen's arrest on the actor shortly afterwards. 'He was aggressive and belligerent,' Lieutenant Andra Brown told The Wrap following the incident. Well, he's Welsh, what do you expect? It's something in the water down there, I think. 'He was berating everyone from the security staff to the United States of America.' On the latter point, it's hard not to have a bit of sympathy with the chap, to be fair. 'He was cited and released, which is a non-custodial misdemeanor arrest.' A San Diego City Attorney will now determine whether or not Ifans should face criminal charges for his behaviour. Ifans was appearing at Comic-Con to promote Marc Webb's comic book reboot The Amazing Spider-Man, in which he stars as the film's main villain The Lizard. Yesterday, Ifans claimed that there was no truth to the rumours that he will star opposite Daniel Craig in the long-awaited next Bond movie. Representatives for the actor have yet to comment on his arrest.

Radio 1 newsreader Dominic Byrne has had his first crack at stand-up. And, reportedly, just about survived. Byrne, who reads the news on the Chris Moyles show, was dared to give comedy a go at the Laughs In The Park festival in St Albans. He took to the smaller BBC Comedy tent at the Eddie Izzard-fronted event, after which compere Jarred Christmas said he 'got away with it.' However, Byrne apparently didn't do much of his own material but rather stuck to a string of 'pub gags,' linked by game called 'Hug Or Head,' which he proudly told the audience he played with Jennifer Aniston last week. There's probably a joke in there about Jenny giving Dominic head but ... I can't be bothered. The gags were said to be of the 'two Mexicans are in a desert' type – and at one point an audience member shouted out a punchline a good thirty seconds before Byrne got to it. As he approached the end of another long gag, Byrne hurriedly had to add: 'Oh, and he's Irish – should have said that right at the beginning.' Rumours that he told Eddie Izzard the one about the two nuns in the bath and suggested he 'clean it up and put it in your act' cannot, at this time, be confirmed or denied.

ITV Studios has further expanded its drama production unit by hiring Holby City series producer Myar Craig-Brown. Reporting to ITV Studios creative director for drama Kate Bartlett, Craig-Brown will act as an executive producer developing a raft of new scripted programming for sale in the UK and overseas. Craig-Brown joins ITV this month from the BBC, where she has been a member of the production team behind the BAFTA-winning drama Holby City for more than ten years, most recently as series producer. 'As we continue our strategy to grow our drama slate, it is vital that we secure the best talent in the industry,' said Bartlett. 'Myar has an impressive amount of experience and skill across primetime drama content with wide audience appeal and I know she will be an invaluable addition to our great team.' Craig-Brown added: 'I am delighted to be joining ITV Studios at such an important time - the long-term ambitions for drama production provide a fantastic opportunity and I look forward to working with the drama team to develop and create outstanding content.' The appointment of Craig-Brown follows the announcement that Francis Hopkinson, executive producer of DCI Banks and Wallander, is to join ITV Studios to set up a new drama unit to work alongside Bartlett's team.

Former FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed Bin Hammam has been banned from football for life after being found guilty of attempted bribery. The governing body's ethics committee made the decision on Saturday after a two-day hearing. Bin Hammam was accused of attempting to buy votes ahead of last month's FIFA presidential election. The sixty two-year-old Qatari withdrew from the election, leaving Sepp Blatter to be re-elected unopposed. The decision makes Bin Hammam the most senior figure ever to be banned by FIFA in its one hundred and seven-year history. The former head of the Asian Football Confederation is now unable to be involved 'in any kind of football-related activity at national and international level for life,' FIFA ethics committee deputy chairman Petrus Damaseb said on Saturday. Although. apparently, he will still be allowed to take part in a kickabout in the park with his mates, with jumpers for goalposts. A spokesman for Bin Hammam's legal counsel said that they 'rejected' the committee's findings. 'He maintains his innocence,' the spokesman said. 'He will continue to fight his case through the legal routes that are open to him.' Bin Hammam, along with former FIFA vice-president the odious Jack Warner, was suspended after a leaked report revealed that four Caribbean Football Union associations were either offered money, or saw the offence occur, during a meeting in May. It was alleged that cash-stuffed envelopes containing up to forty thousand dollars were handed to the delegates during the meeting in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. The report said there was 'comprehensive, convincing and overwhelming' proof that bribes had been paid to officials to support Bin Hammam's campaign for the FIFA presidency, and that the odious Warner had facilitated this right shite state of affairs. The odious Warner's cowardly resignation from FIFA last month meant that he did not have to face the ethics committee. Two further officials from the CFU, Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester, were each banned from football-related activity for a year for their involvement in the bribery attempt. In a blog post on Friday, Bin Hammam raised fears that he would not recieve 'a fair trial' at the hearing. 'It seems likely that FIFA has already made its decision weeks ago,' he wrote. 'So none of us should be completely surprised if a guilty verdict is returned.' Before the hearing, Bin Hammam suggested that he would be compelled to appeal if the committee found him guilty of the charges. 'Rest assured that justice will eventually prevail whether through the FIFA ethics committee, the Court of Arbitration for Sport or if necessary, through other courts or legal proceedings in courts where we will be equal and no special privileges will be granted to either party,' he wrote. The ethics committee has now asked FIFA's legal department to prepare cases against Caribbean football leaders who are suspected to have knowingly covered up the instances of Bin Hammam's bribery attempts.

Celine Dion's legal team have reportedly managed to shut down a blog called 'Ridiculous Pictures of Celine Dion'. The Tumblr blog featured pictures of the singer making a wide variety of strange facial expressions taken from across her twenty-year music career. 'Celine Dion found our blog and she didn't like it,' the website's administrator Nick Angiolillo wrote. 'We just got a letter from Celine's lawyers that the blog has to be shut down. Though this blog is well within the realm of "fair use," I don't have the money or time to get a lawyer to respond. The dream is over. Thanks for following and being a Celine superfan. I'll always remember you. I'll never let go.' Despite the decision to shut down 'Ridiculous Pictures of Celine Dion', Angiolillo will continue to run the similarly offbeat fansite 'Star Jones In Hats.'

And, so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the day. Now, related to the last story, I was going to feature a Celine Dion single. But, then fortunately I remembered just in time that they're all crap. I also, more seriously, considered having Amy Winehouse's 'You Know That I'm No Good' today, as a tribute to the late, trouble, but certainly not untalented, singer. But, to be honest, I really do think that'd've come over as somewhat tacky, particularly as lots of people who never had much time for the poor lass when she was alive are currently busy squirting salt-water in their eyes on news programmes whilst doing the whole 'oh, the inherent tragedy' routine. So, I'll save that one for a few months time, I think. Instead, here's a little three 45s (and a 33) celebration of the one great city in the world that yer actual Keith Telly Topping still harbours some ambitions of getting to one day. So good they named it twice. Starting with The Ad-Libs.
Continuing with an incredible piece of footage as The Bee Gees go looking for the dirty swine that nicked Robin's wig.
Continuing with - a particular favourite of yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self - Odyssey.
And concluding with the band that, exotically, made New York sound like both the sexiest and the sleaziest gaff on the planet. (Note in the live footage that we do, eventually, get about five seconds of Mo and Sterling, just in case you thought The Velvet Underground were Lou Reed, John Cale and ... 'some other people.')

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