Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Do All Without Doing

Former News International chief executive and well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks is among six people arrested by Scotland Yard detectives in a series of dawn raids on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, as part of the investigation into phone-hacking. Five other people were dragged from their beds and detained, including Brooks' husband, the racehorse trainer and millionaire Old Etonian Charlie Brooks. The arrests took place in Oxfordshire, London, Hampshire and Hertfordshire. Police confirmed that one woman and five men had been held on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice as part of the Operation Weeting probe. The former Scum of the World and Sun editor Brooks was arrested at her home in Oxfordshire. Her husband was also detained and they currently now being held at separate police stations. Officers are said to be 'searching addresses' connected to the arrests. As well as the Brooks, the other people arrested are a thirty nine-year-old man from Hampshire, a forty six-year-old man from West London, a thirty eight-year-old man from Hertfordshire and a forty eight-year-old man from East London. Mrs Brooks was previously arrested under Operation Weeting last July on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications, before being released on police bail. She has also been arrested as part of the Operation Elveden investigation on suspicion of bribery and corruption. Brooks is the only suspect among the six to have been arrested previously as part of the ongoing police operations. All the others are said to be fresh arrests. The Metropolitan Police said that the arrest operation was carried out after consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service. This morning's arrests took place between 5am and 7am. Whether any doors were booted in during the job, or whether anybody got to bellow 'get yer trousers on, you're nicked' is, at this time, unknown. It brings the total number of people arrested in Operation Weeting and its linked inquiries to forty four. The other investigations are Operation Elveden into corrupt payments to police officers and Operation Tuleta into computer hacking. The Gruniad claimed that another of the men arrested is Mark Hanna, the director of group security at News International. A second of those arrested was described by - anonymous - News International sources as being 'a non-editorial employee.' His name was not released by the company. Police said the arrests did not result from information passed to them by News Corporation's management and standards committee. Brooks was also previously arrested on 17 July last year on appointment at a London police station on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications, contrary to Section 1(1) Criminal Law Act 1977 and on suspicion of corruption allegations contrary to Section one of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906. The former Sun and Scum of the World editor and well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike was held in the summer forty eight hours after she resigned as News International's chief executive. Brooks became editor of the Scum of the World in 2000, before moving to the same position at the Sun in 2003. A close confident of Rupert Murdoch in her time at the titles, she was elevated to become chief executive at News International in 2009, until she was forced to resign in July of last year as hacking allegations mounted in the wake of the revelation that a phone belonging to missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler was hacked. Both Rebekah and Charlie Brooks are Oxfordshire neighbours of David Cameron. Their friendship with the Prime Minister came under fresh scrutiny recently after Cameron admitted he rode a retired police horse loaned to Rebekah Brooks by Scotland Yard in 2008. Cameron described his fellow Old Etonian Charlie Brooks as 'a friend of mine of thirty years' standing,' but attempted to draw a line under the so-called 'Horsegate' saga when he said he had not been riding with Brooks since the 2010 election. Charlie Brooks had been hoping to attend the Cheltenham festival on Tuesday, writing in his column for the Daily Torygraph that 'the happiest moment of my year' is about three hours before the first race 'queuing behind Alan Brazil for my, but not his, first pint of Guinness of the meeting.' Sadly, the Guinness will have to wait whilst Charlie helps the poliss with their inquiries.

Doctor Who's Matt Smith and Karen Gillan 'snubbed the local cuisine' while filming in Spain, in favour of Burger King. And this, astonishingly earth-shattering news story was carried not only by the Sun but also, in a really spiteful and utter pointless piece in the good old BBC-lovin' Daily Scum Mail. Which even their own readers complained about as being one of the single most wretched examples of alleged journalism seen in these parts for decades. And considering some of the competition, that really does say a lot. 'The Brits are in the southern city of Almeria shooting a Western episode of the BBC1 drama. They're on the same set used in cowboy classics such as A Fistful Of Dollars,' the Sun excitedly inform their readers in the classically odious 'one syllable or less because nobody reading this tripe understands long words' way of theirs. 'They nipped out during a break to stock up on fizzy drinks and burgers.' The Sun then quote and alleged 'insider' who allegedly said: '"They might have been in Spain but it was fast food they were after.' Given the fact that the Sun was recently exposed by the Chris Atkins documentary Starsuckers as being in the habit of publishing wholly made-up quotes from allegedly anonymous 'insiders' or 'sources' to support stories with little or no substance, how much faith do we put in this alleged 'insider' even existing, dear blog reader? The Scum Mail's article - if you can call it that - also carries some hugely intrusive photos of Arthur Darvill snogging his girlfriend. And then people wonder what the point of the Leveson inquiry is.

ITV's impressive detective drama Scott & Bailey starring the great Lesley Sharp and the equally great Suranne Jones returned for a second series with seven million overnight viewers. Described by the Gruniad Morning Star - in typically fashion - as 'the Cagney and Lacey of Manchester', Scott & Bailey had nearly three times the 2.7 million viewers who watched BBC1's Jeremy Paxman documentary series, Empire. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping, interestingly, watched neither. He had a bad back and, so, had gone to bed with a good book. Empire also lost out to Channel Four's Embarrassing Bodies, but only if one includes Channel Four+1 viewing figures. The medical documentary series had 2.6 million viewers, rising to 3.1 million with +1 viewers taken into account. Embarrassing Bodies had the better of BBC2's London Underground documentary series, The Tube, with 2.1 million viewers. Over on Channel Five, another showing for Guy Ritchie film Revolver had a million viewers between 9pm and 11.25pm. On the day that EastEnders executive producer Bryan Kirkwood announced he was stepping down, the BBC1 soap was watched by 8.1 million viewers between 8pm and 8.30pm. It was sandwiched between two episodes of Coronation Street, watched by 9.9 million and 9.3 million at 7.30pm and 8.30pm respectively. And there, in one sentence, is the main reason for Kirkwood's departure. Corrie is killing Easties at the moment. Ironic, really, since it doesn't seem five minutes since it was Corrie's producer, Phil Collinson that the tabloids were claiming was 'under pressure' over 'declining ratings' and, allegedly, 'unpopular storylines.' Meanwhile, BBC2's sketch show Watson & Oliver, featuring newcomers Lorna Watson and Ingrid Oliver, could only manage seven hundred thousand punters between 10pm and 10.30pm, including thirty thousand watching on BBC HD. It's also reported to be getting very low AI figures - the last two episodes have achieved scores of sixty eight and sixty nine respectively. It's currently the only thing on TV getting lower AI figures than Daybreak! so I wouldn't expect to see a second season of that unless something remarkable happens. Like Lorna and Ingrid having some compromising photos of the odd BBC executive or two. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping did watch an episode of the show last week to see what all the (lack of) fuss was about and, to be honest, I thought it was all right. Nothing startling but I've certainly seen far worse alleged comedy's than that. However, I seem to be in a minority of one on that score. Which isn't the first time. Watson & Oliver, which began with 1.2 million viewers on 20 February, lost out to Channel Four documentary My Phone Sex Secrets which had 1.8 million viewers between 10pm and 11.05pm.

Twatting About on Ice contestant Jennifer Ellison has revealed that she never seems to see her husband anymore. Well, whose fault is THAT, exactly?

The BBC has revealed that Waterloo Road and The Bill actor Alex Walkinshaw is to join the cast of long-running medical saga Casualty as a new nurse. Walkinshaw is making the move to Holby to join the Casualty ED as new nurse Adrian Fletcher. Alex starts filming at the show's new home in Cardiff this month. Alex plays Fletch, a character who brings a sense of humour to the nursing team. 'He's the ultimate cheeky chappy - the kind of entertaining bloke you'd want to go down the pub and have a laugh with, whether you're male or female. He's into football, rugby, beer and beautiful women – only to flirt with and admire though – he's a devoted family man which just makes him all the more attractive. Personally, I can't wait to get to know him better myself,' Alex says. Fletch trained as a mechanic first, but lost his business and found himself with a family to support but no real idea about what to do. When his wife Keila went into labour with their third child and found herself in the emergency department, it was the optimistic nursing staff who were there for her and saw them through. There and then, Fletch decided to retrain as a nurse. So, he arrives back in Holby, the birth place of his daughter and his inspiration. In his opening episode (to be shown in June), Lloyd (Michael Obiora) is assigned as Fletch's mentor but finds his nose is put out of joint when he discovers that Fletch is a self-assured mature nursing graduate with a great sense of humour – far from the naïve timid baby nurse he was expecting.

Susanna Reid has not yet started her daily London-to-Salford commutes to front BBC Breakfast, but the presenter is more than a little tired with all the fuss over her choice of on-air clothing. Reid had a swipe at those tight-arsed viewers who complained about the sight of her cleavage on early morning TV, telling the Radio Times: 'People seem to be shocked that women have breasts. There will be complaints about the fact that there is literally a shadow.' The Daily Torygraph notes that Reid was found scouring the BBC studios for a spare T-shirt to wear under her regular attire just minutes before she went live on air. Let us hope viewers cut her some slack when the 3.30am starts arrive. Poor Susannah. She has her knockers. But, still ...

And, speaking of members of the Walter Jumplet family, female chess players have been warned that they must cover up their cleavages in future European tournaments. The European Chess Union has enforced a new dress code for women to make sure they hide their chests during competitions. ECU general secretary Sava Stoisavljevic explained that 'many of the players were not wearing proper clothes' during games, according to Chessbase News. The ECU has revealed that several spectators have complained about the choice of clothing by some female players, while male competitors have stated that they have been 'distracted' during games. The new rule states: 'In respect to shirts, the second from the top button may also be opened in addition to the very top button.' Men are also given a new dress code, which states: 'The trousers, the jeans as well as the shirts and polo's worn should be crisp and show no excessive wear, no holes and shall be free of body odour.' It also reads: 'For women, sunglasses, glasses, neck ties can be worn during the games, no caps or hats, except for religious reasons. In general, this category of appearance demands a pulled-together, harmonious, complete look with colours, fabrics, shoes, and accessories, for both men and women.' The rules have arrived in time for the European Women's Championships in Gaziantep, Turkey, which takes place this month.

The BBC is set to concede defeat over losing the Grand National, the Derby and Royal Ascot to Channel Four from 2013. Channel Four have made a better offer to take the sport's premium events, which appears to have produced a shrug of resignation from the BBC, where senior figures believe there is neither the budget nor the justification for improving on the initial bid according to the Gruniad Morning Star. The BBC's contract to cover seven and a half million smackers over three years, in exchange for which it shows thirteen days' action per year. It is understood that the Corporation offered an increased sum, in line with increases they have offered when renewing contracts with other sports. Should the BBC be out of the running that would be an additional reason for celebration for those at Channel Four during the week of the Cheltenham Festival, the highlight of its coverage of the sport, which now runs to eighty days per year. But a spokeswoman for Channel Four was keen to stress that negotiations were continuing. 'We remain committed to horse racing and we have made various competitive offers,' she said. 'There is nothing more to be said at this time.' Channel Four, however, is understood to have made the better offer and, the Gruniad claim, the feeling among alleged BBC 'insiders' is that 'something had to give' during the Corporation's drive to reduce its sports rights budget by fifteen per cent.

Anneka Rice believes that Treasure Hunt should return to TV screens with a new presenter. But, thankfully, it's not going to. Phew. Seems we all had one hell of a lucky escape.

Frazer Hines has been drafted in to spearhead a government campaign to raise awareness about cancer. The former Doctor Who and Emmerdale actor, who was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 1999 and finally given the all-clear two years ago following surgery and chemotherapy, met and talked to shoppers in Lincoln, giving them advice as part of the Department of Health's Be Clear On Cancer campaign. He said: 'The thing about bowel cancer is that no-one wants to talk about it. The bowel is only a part of your engine. And if your engine goes wrong, you have got to have something to do with it. I made up this saying last year, when I was interviewed on The Michael Ball Show: "Would you rather a doctor took your trousers off once or an undertaker take them off forever?"'

Behind the Sofa, a limited-edition charity book full of celebrities' reminiscences about Doctor Who, may not now be published following the decision of online payments service PayPal to freeze the account of the project's organiser. All profits from the two hundred-page book were to be given to Alzheimer's Research UK. But payments for pre-orders – which were to be used by editor Steve Berry to fund the manufacture and distribution of the book – have been frozen by PayPal. PayPal had been taking payments directly by credit and debit card, as well as from customers with PayPal accounts. The book was to feature contributions from, among many others: Paul Whitehouse, Michael Grade, Rufus Hound, Stephen Merchant, Charlie Brooker, Hugh Bonneville, Al Murray, Bill Oddie, Chris Chibnall, Jeremy Dyson, Jonathan Ross, Josie Long, Terrance Dicks, Martina Cole, Mitch Benn, Neil Gaiman, Nicholas Parsons, Paul Cornell, Toyah Willcox and Tracy Ann Oberman. Writing on the book's website, Berry said: 'They are asking me for documentation about my business (I am not a business) and proof of invoices/suppliers, etc (which I cannot give, because I am still in the process of completing the final manuscript of the book with design and layout all being carried out by some excellent volunteers).' He added: 'I have been overwhelmed by the generosity and enthusiasm of all those who have pre-ordered a copy of the book. In fact, I set up this site as an experiment in "crowdfunding" after I couldn't find a satisfactory solution elsewhere. Had the book failed to generate enough money to fund the book, I was prepared to do so out of my own pocket. It seems that I will now have to do that.' PayPal told the Radio Times that it would not comment on individual accounts 'because of customer confidentiality. But we are talking to [Berry].' Following some negative publicity online, including Al Murray and Charlie Brooker both challenging PayPal to explain their decision, PayPal did indeed contact Berry. Talking to Radio Times, Berry said the situation was 'confusing' but that the problem lay in the gap between the acceptance of payment and the publication of the book. He said it was possible that PayPal would release half the funds accrued from pre-orders upon receipt of documentation pertaining to the book being printed, but that in order to reach that point he was facing funding the print run himself. 'What really angers me,' Berry said, 'is that they wouldn't talk to me at all about it until I kicked up a stink online – because I know a few [famous] people.' Berry said that he had planned to print extra copies of the book for sale in shops and via online bookstores, in order raise more money for Alzheimer's UK in the long term – but that this was now in jeopardy. No monies paid by fans thus far have been lost – PayPal is retaining the project's funds until the situation is resolved. Berry is currently deciding whether to seek alternative means of taking payments for the book.

Researchers in Italy say they may have found 'traces' of a Leonardo Da Dinci work hidden under a Florentine fresco. Tiny probes, sent through drilled holes in Giorgio Vasari's The Battle of Marciano in the Palazzo Vecchio, found black pigment also used in the Mona Lisa, project workers have claimed. 'These data are very encouraging,' said the project's leader, Maurizio Seracini. But historians at a press conference in Florence stressed their research was 'not conclusive.' They added that further chemical analysis needed to be carried out. 'Although we are still in the preliminary stages of the research and there is still a lot of work to be done to solve this mystery, the evidence does suggest that we are searching in the right place,' said Seracini, who works at the University of California in San Diego. The probes also discovered red lacquer and brown pigment on the hidden wall. The research has been controversial, with some art experts signing a petition to stop the investigation because the drilling is damaging Vasari's existing work. Tomaso Montanari, an art historian who has led the opposition to the research said that he did not 'consider the source of these findings credible.' He added: 'What do they mean by saying the findings are compatible with Leonardo? Any painting from the Renaissance would be. Anything from that era could be painted on that wall. What lacked here is a neutral team that has the scientific authority to evaluate this. It is very complex.' Seracini believes Leonardo's unfinished The Battle of Anghiari lies beneath Vasari's work. It is believed the artist started painting his fresco - which is considered by some to be his finest work - in 1504 but abandoned the project because of problems arising from his experimental oil painting technique. The room was later renovated and Vasari painted his fresco in 1563. Seracini believes Vasari did not want to destroy Leonardo's work and instead bricked it up behind a new wall on which he painted. His theory was stimulated after finding a soldier on Vasari's work holding a small flag bearing the words: 'He who seeks, finds.'

The eyes and brains of astronauts who have spent long periods of time in orbit can develop abnormalities, new research has suggested. Magnetic resonance imaging on twenty seven spacefarers found effects similar to those that can occur in intracranial hypertension, which results in a build up of pressure within the skull. The concern would be that astronauts could suffer eyesight problems. The study is reported in the Journal of Radiology. It was led by Larry Kramer, a professor of diagnostic and interventional imaging at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. His team examined astronauts who had spent more than thirty days of cumulative time in the weightless environment of space. The group found evidence for expansion of the cerebral spinal fluid space surrounding the optic nerve of nine of the astronauts, a flattening of the rear of the eyeball in six, a bulging of the optic nerve in four, and changes in the pituitary gland and its connection to the brain in three individuals. The pituitary gland secretes and stores hormones that regulate a variety of important body functions. The health of astronauts is very carefully monitored. Living in weightless conditions for extended periods can result in a loss of bone density and in muscle wastage. There are also dangers associated with radiation coming from the Sun. It is partly for these reasons that stays on the International Space Station are restricted to six months. If missions to Mars were ever conducted, the period of travel to and from the planet would likely take over a year. US space agency medical staff said they were looking into the latest concerns, but that the scale of abnormalities observed did not have them unduly worried at this stage. William Tarver, the chief of flight medicine clinic at NASA's Johnson Space Center, said the results were suspicious but not conclusive of intracranial hypertension. 'NASA has placed this problem high on its list of human risks, has initiated a comprehensive programme to study its mechanisms and implications, and will continue to closely monitor the situation,' he said.

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. For this one, yer actual Keith Telly Topping draws dear blog reader's particular attention to the simply gorgeous Arabesque sarod work of Aashish Khan and the beguiling interplay of the two Indian flutes, the shehnai and the bansuri (played, respectively, by Hanuman Jadev and Hariprasad Chaurasia). The lyrics, in case you didn't know, were adapted from Juan Mascaró's translation of passages of the Tao Te Ching on his book Lamps of Fire (1958). Oh, and it's by The Be-Atles. A popular 'beat combo' on the 1960s, you might've heard of them.

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