Saturday, January 28, 2012

If You Pay Coppers You Get Arrested. Allegedly

Four former and current Sun journalists and a police officer have been arrested by detectives investigating payments made to police by journalists. Scotland Yard said the men, aged twenty nine to fifty six, were arrested at addresses in London and Essex earlier. The twenty nine-year-old, a serving officer in the Metropolitan Police's Territorial Policing Command, was arrested at his work - a central London police station. News Corporation said it would continue to pursue 'legitimate journalism.' Which some may feel would be a first given their activities in the past. Offices at News International in Wapping are currently being searched. The police were accompanied by lawyers who arrived at the Sun's offices between 6am and 8am this morning. They are there to ensure 'journalist privilege' in relation to sources is not compromised. It is the first time since the phone-hacking scandal erupted that the Sun has been targeted in such a major way but 'sources' stress the dawn raid has nothing to do with voicemail interception and solely relates to paying police for stories. BBC News says that it understands the arrested journalists are ex-deputy editor Fergus Shanahan, ex-managing editor Graham Dudman, crime editor Mike Sullivan and head of news Chris Pharo. The Met said the arrests, part of Operation Elveden, were prompted by information given to police by News Corporation. A BBC 'source' allegedly said this was an effort aimed at 'draining the swamp' so as to restore journalistic integrity at News International titles. That's if such a thing ever existed. Which, again, some may consider to be a resounding 'not likely, guv'nor.' News Corporation and its Management and Standards Committee issued a statement following the arrests saying it had made a commitment last summer that unacceptable news gathering practices by individuals in the past would not be repeated. 'It commissioned the management and standards committee to undertake a review of all News International titles, regardless of cost, and to proactively co-operate with law enforcement and other authorities if potentially relevant information arose at those titles. As a result of that review, which is ongoing, the MSC provided information to the Elveden investigation which led to today's arrests.' News Corporation also said it would 'continue to give its total support to the continued work of the MSC and to ensure that legitimate journalism is vigorously pursued in both the public interest and in full compliance with the law.' Operation Elveden is supervised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission and is being run in conjunction with Operation Weeting, Scotland Yard's inquiry into phone hacking by the now-closed, disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World. A spokesman said that Saturday's arrests and searches related to suspected payments to officers and was not about seeking journalists to reveal their sources regarding information obtained legitimately. The police have said that two men, aged forty eight and fifty six, were arrested at their homes in Essex. A second forty eight-year-old man was detained at his home in North London. Officers are searching their homes. A fourth man, aged forty two, was arrested at 11am when he attended an East London police station. All were being questioned on suspicion of corruption under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906, aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office and conspiracy in relation to both offences. The fifth man to be arrested, a forty two-year-old man attended an East London police station on Saturday morning. He was arrested on suspicion of corruption under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906, aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office and conspiracy in relation to both these offences. The officer was being held on suspicion of corruption under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906, misconduct in a public office, as well as conspiracy in relation to both offences. His home was also being searched. Scotland Yard said the searches were expected to continue into Saturday afternoon. The officer was the second serving officer to be arrested as part of Operation Elveden. The first, a fifty two-year-old woman, was arrested last month and bailed, police said. A total of thirteen people have now been arrested as part of the inquiry. IPCC deputy chair Deborah Glass said that she was satisfied with the 'strenuous efforts being made by this investigation to identify police officers who may have taken corrupt payments.' She added that she had considered the IPCC's role and whether to use its powers directly in relation to the latest suspects, but said 'given the interlocking nature of the investigation and arrests which do not just involve police officers, I believe the priority is not around whose powers should be used, but for an effective investigation that brings wrongdoers to justice. While we continue to provide a supervisory role across Operation Elveden, I will consider each referral on its own merit and we will investigate independently if appropriate.' Among those questioned during the inquiries were former News International chief executive and well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks, ex-Downing Street communications chief Andy Coulson, former Scum of the World managing editor Stuart Kuttner, the paper's former royal editor Clive Goodman, and its former crime editor Lucy Panton. The total number of people arrested in the inquiries now stands at twenty seven. Two were released without further action, and twenty one remain on police bail.

New details have emerged about the upcoming third series of Luther. The BBC crime drama, this blogger's pick for the best TV show of 2001, which stars the great Idris Elba as maverick cop John Luther, will return for four sixty-minute episodes. It has now been confirmed that BBC America will co-produce the new series, which will be broadcast in the UK and US later this year. 'Luther has been integral in establishing our new Dramaville franchise, the home for groundbreaking British drama,' said BBC Worldwide America's Perry Simon. 'We're excited to work once again with the incredibly talented writer Neil Cross and executive producer Phillippa Giles on this new ambitious four-part mini-series.' The entire lead cast from the show's second run will return, including Warren Brown (Justin Ripley), Dermot Crowley (Schenk), Nikki Amuka-Bird (Erin Gray) and Michael Smiley (Benny Silver). Elba recently won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of the show's title character. 'We made our little show in London, and now we're getting this worldwide recognition of it,' said the actor. 'Love it.' The third series of Luther will be written by Neil Cross and directed by Sam Miller.

Alesha Dixon reportedly chose to avoid this week's National Television Awards due to what the Sun describes as 'BBC resentment' over her Strictly Come Dancing exit. Dixon quit the pro-celebrity ballroom talent contest earlier this month in an outbreak of Christine Bleakley-style greed to join rival ITV show Britain's Got Talent. And, allegedly, collecting triple her one hundred thousand smackers Strictly salary from Simon Cowell. It was later claimed that 'bosses' at the corporation were 'unaware' of her plans to leave until she dumped the decision on them. Both shows were nominated for Most Popular Talent Show at Wednesday's NTAs ceremony, with Strictly tipped in some quarters to collect the trophy. This, the Sun claims, left Dixon 'in a quandary' as to 'which side' she would take. 'Strictly had a great year and was tipped to win so it would have been really awkward for her,' an alleged 'source' allegedly told the Sun. 'The BBC aren't exactly happy with her move to BGT so she wouldn't have been welcome collecting the award.' In the event, both programmes ultimately lost out to Cowell's other talent show The X Factor. Dixon claimed at the launch of Britain's Got Talent last week that she had 'always' planned to leave Strictly in 2012. She also denied that her move had been motivated by pure unadultarated greed, saying: 'If it was, I'd have done so many crazy things over the years.'

The BBC has announced that cook Rachel Khoo will takes us on a journey through French cuisine in a new series for BBC2. From her Parisian home, Rachel travels through contemporary French cuisine, dusting each and every classic recipe with her own imaginative touch as she shows us how to create irresistible dinners with only minimal fuss. The British born pastry chef moved to France where she began her training before opening a restaurant. 'We have unparalleled cooking talent here on BBC2 and only the best get to join that stable - Rachel is just that. Her passion, talent and down-to-earth charm make for an effortless education in the food - and city - of Paris,' said Tom Edwards, the executive producer. The Little Paris Kitchen is expected to be broadcast on BBC2 this spring.

ITV has ordered an additional two seasons of game-show The Cube. The Saturday evening series is fronted by Phillip Schofield and has proved to be a popular part of ITV's line-up. The format was originally offered to Channel Four who, after producing a pilot, decided not to peruse the project. ITV however were quick to pick The Cube up and have, so far, broadcast four series. Broadcast magazine reports that ITV has now ordered two more series plus several more celebrity specials. In all fifteen new episodes will be produced for ITV.

Denise Welch had one last confrontation with Celebrity Big Brother nemesis Michael Madsen on the spin-off show Celebrity Big Brother's Bit on the Side. The Loose Women presenter, who won the reality show on Friday night, told Madsen to 'fuck off' in a furious exchange during her post-show interview. As host Emma Willis questioned Welch about her time in the house, the Reservoir Dogs actor began to snore loudly, disrupting her flow. She said: 'Michael, I know you're snoring, and that's just rude. I think it's bad sportsmanship Michael, you know what I mean?' After Madsen warned her to 'take it easy', Welch told him to 'fuck off', before Willis tried to revert the subject back to Welch's victory. Madsen then told Welch to 'have another drink', to which she replied, 'Why don't you have another drink because you took most of the bloody drink every single night?' Natalie Cassidy - who shall, from henceforth, be known as Natalie The Peacemaker - restored calm to the studio when she urged the crowd to 'let Denise speak.' Wlech and Madsen clashed on many occasions during their four-week stay in the Elstree compound. But, one imagines, the cheques they received from soft-core pornographer Richard Desmond would have made their bank managers very happy.

Welch's Celebrity Big Brother win had an overnight audience of peak 3.8m for Channel Five on Froday night, marginally better than last year's final. The ninety-minute episode averaged 3.04m for Channel Five from 9pm. Despite the finale being slightly more popular than Paddy Doherty's 2011 win, the audience has dipped over the entire four weeks. Overall, the 2012 run (2.3m) is down two hundred thousand on Channel Five's debut series last year (2.5m). Frank Skinner's new Room 101 held a respectable 3.59m for BBC1 at 8.30pm, after which Hustle took 4.5m, marginally overtaking Law & Order: UK which had 4.48m on ITV (although the latter had an additional three hundred and two thousand viewers of ITV1).

Only Fools and Horses could be remade in America, it has been reported. Steven Cragg and Brian Bradley, writers and producers of Happy Endings and Scrubs, are said to be adapting the classic sitcom into a pilot for ABC. The US version will reportedly centre around two brothers and their grandfather as they attempt various get-rich-quick schemes to become millionaires, much like John Sullivan's original BBC show, the Radio Times reports. That sounds like a great idea, how come nobody's thought of it before? Oh, hang on, they have.

Allegations of favouritism and financial mismanagement made against BBC Arabic management during the NUJ's long-running dispute with the service were 'largely unfounded', an internal inquiry has found. But it is understood that disciplinary action could now be taken against BBC Arabic staff who posted what are described as 'hostile' comments on social media sites during the heated dispute last summer, when NUJ members staged an unprecedented six-day strike, backed by almost one hundred and seventy of the two hundred-strong editorial team. The walk-out - over alterred shift patterns and range of other issues - hit BBC Arabic TV output during coverage of violence in Syria and the trial of President Mubarak in Cairo. An internal investigation was carried out into the allegations made by the BBC Arabic NUJ chapel in an approach that the BBC says was agreed with the union. Victoria Kibrya, employee relations manager, examined claims of favouritism towards some staff and potential breaches of social media usage policy. Business manager Stephen Tough looked into claims of financial irregularities or mismanagement. Of twenty two claims about financial irregularities, seventeen were found to be false, two unproven and three - duplication offices in Cairo, wasteful outsourcing of video editing and production and duplication of contributors - to be 'partly true.' Doubling up on offices in the Egyptian capital to minimise technical breakdowns had been 'over cautious' but one premises has now been closed down, so duplication of costs in that paerticular case were 'eliminated', an investigation report summary shown to Arabic staff this week concludes. NUJ members claimed that the outsourcing of video editing in the Programmes Unit was 'a waste of money', as sometimes, picture editors booked did not have the right skills: 'Now that long form programmes are more established in the schedule a programme of training has been undertaken to upgrade skills. This problem should reduce over time,' the report says. A further claim was that money was being wasted on contributors because of 'an inability to apply the multi-platform formula.' The report says that contributor spend has been reduced significantly since 2009-10 and so is 'now under control.' Kibrya found 'no evidence of favouritism' in the decisions made by the current BBC Arabic management team but she did report that the former Father of the NUJ Chapel Bassem Kamel felt that 'staff members in the service were very unhappy and mistrustful and that management recognised the morale of some staff was low.' Another claim was that management showed 'strong bias in favour of Lebanese staff' - a difficult allegation to prove, the report suggsts, and Kibrya's review found no evidence of it. Overall, while there was no 'systematic favouritism' identified there were instances where staff did not understand recruitment decisions. The inquiry into whether postings on websites breached BBC policy and guidance recommended that disciplinary action may be necessary in some cases. 'BBC Arabic management will now take this issue forward with the support of HR,' the report says. Recommendations coming out of inquiry include that staff should be given greater clarity about the recruitment process and that formalised feedback be offered to candidates. Staff should be informed and consulted about any changes in the service that affect them and focus groups should be carried out with managers and staff to air problematic issues and find 'practical solutions' for building and maintaining trust. Clear development plans for staff as part of the appraisal process is recommended as well as 'a wiider review of organisational culture, team working, leadership and historical aspects relating to why allegations have been made of favouritism and why there are so many industrial disputes.' In a statement, the BBC described the review as 'an independent internal BBC investigation' which had 'cleared BBC Arabic management of allegations including financial irregularities and favouritism. However, the report did identify a lack of trust between some staff members and management, and a series of historical issues which need to be addressed,' the BBC admitted. 'In response to the report's findings, and in line with the BBC's commitment to ensuring healthy and productive working environments, the BBC will undertake a process of working closely with staff and unions in order to address these concerns.'

The comedian and magician Paul Zenon is at the centre of a lawsuit after writing a newspaper article explaining how so-called psychics can fool their audience. Stage medium Sally Morgan is suing the Daily Scum Mail over an story which Zenon wrote in September headlined: What a load of crystal balls. The piece appeared after an audience member at one of Morgan's shows claimed that he could hear a man's voice relaying information about audience members. The story, was widely reported in the at the time in the media (including this blog) but Associated Newspapers, which publishes the Scum Mail, is the only company named on the writ. Zenon's original article - which is still online – said: 'So was Ms Morgan getting a little help from the real world rather than the spirit world? While she insists absolutely not ... having studied stage psychics for years and been one myself in my twenties, I am sceptical.' He then went on to detail some of the tricks of the trade – such as mining box office information to find background on audience members and cold-reading techniques to pick up on responses to general questions. Zenon concluded: 'If, Heaven forbid, performers like Ms Morgan aren't actually talking to the dead ...  then I think the public has a right to know.' Morgan claims that the story 'caused substantial damage to her reputation,' as well as 'hurt, distress and embarrassment' and is seeking an injunction banning repetition of the allegations. According to the UK Press Gazette, she is also seeking aggravated damages, saying that the allegations were 'serious and offensive', effectively accusing her of 'perpetrating a deliberate fraud on the public.' Morgan – author of Life After Death: Messages of Love from the Other Side and the operator of a £1.53-a-minute premium rate phone-line – also complained in the writ about another article the Scum Mail published on the same day headlined: Only the lonely believe in ghoulish psychics.

At a hometown gig at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle, Ross Noble was once interrupted by a commotion on the balcony, as one woman kept shouting: 'Does anyone know Peter? Does anyone know Peter?' True to his freeform style, Noble started taking the mickey, joking: 'What are you doing? Naming your favourite disciples?' But she kept shouting out, disrupting the gig. Only after a while did it become apparent that Noble had misheard her, and she was shouting: 'Does anyone know CPR?' A man next to her had choked on a Malteser and was struggling to breathe. Luckily all ended well, as at one point the victim managed to laugh at Noble messing about, causing the chocolate flew out of his windpipe and allowing him to breathe again. 'So I almost killed a man and brought him back to life,' the comedian said when recalling the event for BBC Comedy recently.

A large shipment of cocaine was 'mistakenly' delivered to the United Nations' headquarters earlier this month, it has been revealed. At least, that's their story and they're sticking to it. Two bags of the drug with a street value of around £1.3 million set off a security alert at the complex in New York City on 16 January according to AFP. United Nations officials and New York police chiefs explained on Thursday that the drugs were in fake UN bags branded with the organisation's logo, and were shipped via DHL from Mexico. Despite bearing no address details for the senders or a recipient, the packages - containing fourteen hollowed-out books - still ended up at the UN. 'It is my understanding that because there was no addressee, the DHL just thought, "Well that's the UN symbol, so we should ship it on to UN headquarters and let them figure out who it was supposed to go to,"' said NYPD deputy commissioner Paul Browne. 'The working theory now is that possibly it was never meant to have left Mexico at all. Somebody in Mexico is probably in trouble now having let a significant amount of cocaine out of their possession.' UN security chief Gregory Starr said: 'In my humble opinion, this was the work of narcotics traffickers that were trying to ship something into the United States and their plan must have gone wrong.' He added that there was no evidence to link any UN staff to the parcels, and the bags were described as 'obvious fakes' by Deputy Commissioner Browne.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day for today is a cover of a song from The Music Man by The Be-Atles. Popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them. Keep yer head still Paul, fer Christ's sake, it's really annoying.

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