Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Accused

Seven people, including the prime minister's former spin doctor Andy Coulson, have appeared in court charged in connection with phone-hacking. The group, including six members of staff from the now-closed in disgrace and infamy Scum of the World newspaper, appeared a'fore the beak at Westminster Magistrates' Court. They all face one charge of-phone hacking between October 2000 and August 2006 and other related allegations of nefarious skulduggery, naughty shenanigans, dodgy malarkey and terrible doings. If convicted the face the possibility of doing serious jail. All of the accused deny the charges. The case was adjourned until 26 September at Southwark Crown Court. A preliminary hearing will then take place in the case which is alleged to concern as many as six hundred victims. Former Scum of the World editor Coulson, ex-managing editor Stuart Kuttner, former news editor Greg Miskiw, former head of news Ian Edmondson, ex-chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, former reporter James Weatherup and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire face a total of nineteen charges. Coulson is charged with accessing the phone messages of the schoolgirl murder victim Milly Dowler, former Labour ministers David Blunkett and Charles Clarke and George Best's son, Calum. Other alleged victims featured in the charges facing the other defendants include former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, Abi Titmuss, John Leslie, actors Jude Law, Sadie Frost and Sienna Miller and footballer Wayne Rooney. BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said that it took the court clerk twenty minutes to read out all the charges. Each of the men, except Mulcaire, were charged in July with conspiring to intercept the voicemail messages of well-known people and their associates between 2000 and 2006. Daphne Wickham, the deputy chief magistrate, referred the case for the preliminary hearing next month. The seven men spoke only to confirm their names and addresses during the short hearing. They were released on bail on condition that they did not speak to each other or to three other named persons - former Scum of the World editor, News International executive and well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks, Neil Wallis the former Scum of the World executive editor and friend of many policemen and Dan Evans, a former reporter at the disgraced and disgraceful Sunday tabloid. Brooks, Wallis and Evans are also on police bail after being arrested on suspicion of phone-hacking. The men were also told that they must inform the authorities if they planned to travel abroad. Well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks will appear in the same court on 3 September where she will face the general phone-hacking charge and two separate counts in relation to Milly Dowler and the former trade union boss Andy Gilchrist. She - and five others, including her husband, millionaire Old Etonion Charlie - face additional charges related to conspiring to pervert the course of justice. They, also, deny the charges.

Billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch, meanwhile, has launched an 'anti-corruption review' at News Corporation just as a bunch of his former employees were appearing in court. The company will look at its 'compliance with bribery laws in several of its publishing divisions,' including News International, the Gruniad Morning Star reports. The media tycoon told staff that the initiative is 'not based on any suspicion of wrongdoing by any particular business unit or its personnel,' but rather a 'forward-looking review' to improve 'anti-corruption controls' throughout the company. Murdoch said in a memo to staff: 'As you are all aware, our company has been under intense scrutiny in the United Kingdom. I assured parliament and the Leveson inquiry that we would move quickly and aggressively to redress wrongdoing, co-operate with law enforcement officials and strengthen our compliance and ethics programme company-wide. With the support of our board of directors, I am pleased to tell you that we have made progress on each of these important steps. We have already strengthened and expanded our anti-bribery training programmes. To ensure the effectiveness of our entire compliance and ethics programme, we have recently initiated a review of anti-corruption controls in selected locations around the globe.' This blogger is sure than many dear blog readers will be amused by the idea of an 'anti-bribery training programme' even being necessary in any industry or any walk of life. 'Don't bribe anyone, it's illegal and you get sent to pokey for that shit,' would seem to cover it, you don't need a three hour session with flip-charts. 'The purpose of this review is to test our current internal controls and identify ways in which we can enhance them.' Murdoch added that while improving News Corp's compliance procedures will 'take time and resources,' the potential cost of non-compliance would be far greater.

The launch of the latest series of Celebrity Big Brother drew 2.7 million viewers on Wednesday evening. Across the two hours, the reality show was watched by 2.6m live from 9pm on Channel 5, while an additional one hundred thousand sick voyeurs caught it on timeshift. This was a considerable dip from the premiere for the last series, in January, which began with three and a half million punters. An average of 1.7m continued watching from 11pm, with seven hundred and twelve thousand crushed victims of society sitting through Bit on the Side from 11.30pm. ITV's coverage was dominated by international football - England's 2-1 win over Italy in a friendly - which averaged a, really not very good at all, 4.05m. Mind you, it was presented - badly - by Adrian Chiles and featured thoroughly worthless and wretched contributions from Andy Townsend so maybe we shouldn't be too surprised. The peak, of 5.21m, came at 20:35. From 21:00 to 22:00 the coverage averaged 4.21m. On BBC1, The Flowerpot Gang drew 3.43m - and was a thoroughly piss-poor as this blogger had feared - whilst Who Do You Think You Are? attracted 4.7m, down on the last series premier of 5.81m but still enough to give the football a good hiding. BBC2 broadcast Escape to the Country (1.54m), Restoration Home (2.06m), Vexed (a disappointing 1.1m) and The Culture Show at the Edinburgh Festival (four hundred and fifty thousand). Overall, BBC1 secured primetime with 21.5 per cent of the audience share ahead of ITV1's 17.8 per cent.

Christopher Guest is to make a This Is Spinal Tap-style, if you will, mockumentary show for BBC2 and HBO starring The IT Crowd's Chris O'Dowd. Family Tree will feature thirty-year-old Tom Chadwick, played by O'Dowd, who loses his job and his girlfriend only to stumble upon a mysterious box of belongings from a great aunt that he never met. The eight-part, single camera comedy will follow Chadwick's efforts to uncover the unusual stories and characters that make up his family tree, suggesting a comedy take on the BBC's long-running genealogy series, Who Do You Think You Are? Family Tree will be directed and co-written by Guest – whose other credits include Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman and A Mighty Wind – with Jim Piddock. Guest and Piddock will also appear in the show. It was commissioned by BBC2 controller Janice Hadlow and Chris Sussman, executive editor, comedy, and will be broadcast on BBC2 next year and on HBO in the US. Sussman said: 'We are all ludicrously excited about the opportunity to work with Christopher Guest. He has British roots but this is his first ever project over here, and we are very pleased to have it on the BBC.' Family Tree is being made by Lucky Giant, part of NBC Universal International Television. Mario Stylianides, head of comedy at Lucky Giant said: 'We are thrilled to be working with Christopher Guest; it is an incredibly exciting first project for Lucky Giant. Family Tree will feature Christopher's signature style in a humorous look at the ties that bind our families.'

A postbox in Lymington will be repainted gold in honour of Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie, the Royal Mail has said. It had originally only painted a box in Cornwall, where Ainslie grew up. A campaign started after Rob Smith, fifty one, was arrested after painting the postbox in the Hampshire town where the gold medallist lives. Ainslie had described Smith as 'a legend of Lymington.' Smith, a father of three, was arrested on Lymington's High Street early on Saturday on suspicion of criminal damage and later released on police bail. Royal Mail has been honouring British gold medallists by painting boxes gold in their hometowns and initially described Smith's actions as 'vandalism,' saying the box would be repainted red. The company has now said it will strip Smith's gold paint from the box in the next few days and then repaint it gold themselves. Spokesman Nick Martens said: 'We initially picked Restronguet in Cornwall as the place Ben Ainslie grew up and where he first learned to sail. However, after speaking with Ben, we have agreed to repaint the postbox on Lymington High Street at his request, and are delighted to do so. Ben is a local hero in Lymington and now he will be one of the few lucky Team GB gold medallists to have two gold postboxes celebrating his achievement.' The other one was cyclist Laura Trott after the Royal Mail painted one in the wrong town by mistake. 'However, we still highly recommend people leave the painting of postboxes to Royal Mail,' they continued. The gold postbox in Lymington proved popular, with people having their photo taken beside it and a Facebook campaign attracted more than two thousand supporters. Campaigner Ian Watkins said that Royal Mail had 'aved in to the demands of the people. Lymington is a small town with not many heroes - we are very proud of what Ben has achieved,' he said. The four-time Olympic gold medallist has lived in the Hampshire coastal town for twelve years and is an honorary life member of the Royal Lymington Yacht Club. When asked about the postbox at a homecoming event at the club on Tuesday, Ainslie said: 'Obviously the police didn't really like it but it's really nice the Olympics generated that kind of excitement in the nation. To hear the stories of support around the nation made such a huge difference to us as competitors, it was really very, very special.'

Boris Johnson has urged Prime Minister David Cameron to 'stop pussyfooting around' and invest in major infrastructure projects in London. And, in doing so, Boris took his first step towards starting his campaign to be the next Tory leader since he is, frankly, about the only Conservative in the country who is more popular than a nasty dose of scurvy on the gonads. The Mayor of London told the Evening Standard that money should be spent on projects such as Crossrail 2 and extra river crossings. He said he still supported plans for an airport on an artificial island - dubbed 'Boris Island' - in the Thames. A Downing Street spokesman said that Cameron had 'declined to comment.' Presumably, they're all in a darkened room somewhere in the back of No 10 working out how that can cut Boris down to size in an extremely public way. I'd just leave it till his next appearance on Have I Got News For You, guys. he can normally make a fool of himself quite adequately without any help from anyone else. Johnson said: 'This is the time to be ambitious about London and what it can do for Britain. One of the ways of doing that would be to commit to further infrastructure — Crossrail 2, more river crossings, a massive house building programme for the city. The government needs to stop pussyfooting around.' He claimed the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne was 'actually very much up for big ideas like this.' But, he said his Old Etonian chum Cameron was 'not convinced,' blaming the 'institutional inertia of the government.' Johnson dismissed the suggestion he could run for a seat in Parliament while serving as mayor. But he refused to rule out standing as an MP after his term in City Hall came to an end. Recent weeks have shown a boost in his personal popularity during the Olympics, prompting suggestions he may have ambitions of becoming prime minister.

Torchwood actor John Barrowman has signed up for a role on The CW's forthcoming new action drama Arrow. Entertainment Weekly report that yer actual Barrowman his very self has landed a mysterious new role on the new superhero drama. Arrow will premier on The CW in the Autumn and the broadcaster hopes it will be as successful as Smallville. Barrowman will appear in a recurring role which is described as 'a well-dressed man' who is 'as mysterious as he is wealthy.' In July it was revealed that Vampire Diaries actress Kelly Hu would guest star during Arrow's first season.

He made him - briefly - a pop star in the Nineties, but Robson Green has described Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads as 'irresponsible' while lifting the lid on their 'love-hate' relationship. The actor claims that Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads was 'not careful enough' with comments about Green's ex-wife, former glamour model Vanya Seager, in Tom Bower’s controversial book Sweet Revenge: The Intimate Life Of Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads. Robson said of the music mogul, who was in a relationship with Vanya before Green met her: 'I've got my opinion on Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads's habits and I'm saddened by some of the things he said, particularly about my wife. It was deeply unfair and irresponsible.' Wor canny Robson, who was signed by Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads to BMG Records in the early Nineties, met Vanya then a personal assistant to Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads while recording 'Unchained Melody' with Jerome Flynn. It is believed that Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads was 'disappointed' when he learned that the pair had been secretly dating and were due to marry after Vanya became pregnant with Robson's son Taylor. Robson, who remains friends with Vanya despite their split last October after ten years of marriage, also has a - very funny - dig at the most recent series of Britain's Got Talent. The one won by the dog. 'A dog won it just for putting its paws on her bum! Give me a break,' Robson said. 'I used to have a dog, it could catch rabbits, bring newspapers and make the tea!'

NME and Q suffered sales declines of almost twenty per cent year-on-year in a tough first six months of 2012 for the music magazine market. Q was the worst performer in the music magazine sector, with sales down 16.7 per cent compared to the six months to the end of December and 19.7 per cent year-on-year, according to the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations figures released on Thursday. Maybe part of its pipe-and-slippers readership has, simply, died of boredom. A bit like the audience at a Coldplay gig, you know? The Bauer-owned music magazine reported sales of just under sixty five thousand, highlighting the task facing recently appointed editor Andrew Harrison, who took over from the long serving Paul Rees in February. Although, frankly, it's still sixty five thousand too many for a magazine that rather like regular cover-star Sting - mortgage sensible and sucking all of the danger and messy unpredictability out of rock and roll. Bauer stablemates Kerrang! and Mojo fared considerably better. Sales of Kerrang! fell 4.5 per cent period-on-period and 6.6 per cent year-on-year. Mojo, the best-selling paid-for title in the sector, dropped 2.7 per cent period-on-period and 2.4 per cent year-on-year to eight five thousand one hundred and forty nine. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping has it on subscription, dear blog reader. The second biggest faller in the category was IPC Media-owned NME, down 13.5 per cent period-on-period and 17.6 per cent year-on-year to a fraction under twenty four thousand.

Ajax midfielder Vurnon Anita is understood to have had a medical at yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though still unsellable) Newcastle. A fee of around £6.7 million quid is reported to have been agreed between the two clubs and the Magpies now look well-placed to tie up a deal for Anita in time for their opening Premier League game of the season at home to Stottingtot Hotshots on Saturday. The twenty three-year-old has won three senior caps for the Netherlands having played for them at various youth levels, but was not part of their squad for Euro 2012. Able to play in midfield or defence, he came through the academy set-up at Dutch giants Ajax and made his first-team debut in the 2005-06 season. Anita played most of his early matches at right-back for Ajax, but more recently operated as a midfielder. 'I talked to the manager and the coach and they know that I want to play in a defensive midfield place and that's why they brought me here,' he said. 'But I can play at left-back or right-back, so that's also no problem. I won almost everything in Holland so the step was not difficult to make. Now I think we can also win trophies with Newcastle and it's time to do that,' Anita told the club's official website. 'In the Premier League especially, every game is tough so it can help me also to grow in my football skills.' Newcastle manager Alan Pardew believes the versatile Anita will fit straight into his plans. 'He has come through the Ajax youth system which is world renowned for bringing up players the right way, and I am sure he will fit seamlessly into the squad of players we have here,' said Pardew. Anita is the fourth player to arrive at St James' Park since the end of the season. He joins Romain Amalfitano, who signed from Stade de Reims, Gael Bigirimana from Coventry City and former Melbourne Heart defender Curtis Good in moving to the North East.

Noel Gallagher has revealed that he turned down an invitation to play at the Olympics closing ceremony after organisers asked him to mime. The former Oasis guitarist and songwriter told Xfm's Danny Wallace that he was also put off by the secrecy surrounding the ceremony. 'They wanted me to do it acoustically and then they wanted me to mime,' he told Wallace on Wednesday. 'I'm all for miming in TV shows, but if you're in a stadium with eighty thousand people and you're pretending? I can play live! In the end, I was just like, "you know what? I'd rather watch it on the telly."' Gallagher, who launched his solo career fronting The High Flying Birds in 2011, told Wallace he was asked to perform at Sunday's closing ceremony 'ages ago. I was like, "who else is playing?" and they were like, "we can't tell you, you've got to sign a confidentiality agreement." It's like it's the Iran nuclear programme or something. I mean what do they think is going to happen? ITV are going to get hold of it and put on a gig the night before with the same bill?!' Ultimately, Gallagher was replaced by his younger brother - and ex-bandmate - Liam, who performed the Oasis hit 'Wonderwall' with his new band Beady Eye. But the song, originally written by Noel, had to be re-recorded. Noel said he only gave final permission for the performance to go ahead two days before the ceremony. 'I did play a bit of cat and mouse with them for a few days,' he admitted. 'I took it 'til Friday night at ten o'clock before I said yes. I was like "meh ... it's alright ... I'm not sure with this new string arrangement" and they were like, "the gig's on Sunday!" So, I [said] "Okay, alright, you can have it then."' Noel later took a swipe at Beady Eye's performance, dedicating his own performance of 'Wonderwall' to 'Stratford's finest Oasis tribute band' in a gig on Tuesday night.

Robert Wayne Birch, who had recorded and toured with Elton John extensively since the early 1990s, has been found dead in Los Angeles. The bass player and saxophonist died as a result of a gunshot wound to the head, officials said. LA County Assistant Coroner Chief Ed Winter said Birch's body was found in the early hours of Wednesday morning in the San Fernando Valley area. The case is 'being investigated as a possible suicide,' Winter said. Guitarist Birch, fifty six, joined Elton John's touring band in 1992 and worked on four of his albums, as well as the 1997 re-working of 'Candle in the Wind'. Much of his time over the past twenty years had been dedicated to touring with Elton, but he also collaborated with a string of other famous names including Eric Clapton, BB King, Stevie Wonder and Tina Turner. Sir Elt is currently taking a break from touring, and returns to performing in Ontario on 7 September. No comment has been issued regarding the bass player's death. TMZ reported that police did not find a suicide note and there were no apparent signs of drug use. Birch is survived by his wife, Michele, and their son, Jonathan.

A Victorian act of parliament has been used to give speedy permission to the family of Olympic cyclist Laura Trott to hold a street party in her honour. The double gold medallist's family, of Cheshunt, approached the local council to ask what they needed to do to stage the event. Broxbourne Council warned them it could take weeks for permission to be given. But then the council found it could use the 1847 Town Police Clauses Act, which allows 'thronging on the highway.' Nowt like it, they reckon. The Trott family had approached the authority, explaining they had a 'tight time frame' for the event for family, friends and neighbours to celebrate the achievements of the twenty-year-old cyclist, who won the women's team pursuit and the omnium at the Games. Broxbourne Borough Council spoke to Hertfordshire County Council, which said the usual road closure procedure could take weeks because a written application to its highways team was needed. Hertfordshire Council then suggested Broxbourne Council should invoke the 1847 act, which does not require such a long notice period, and permission for the party was granted within forty eight hours. The act is normally used for town centre events, does not allow permanent closure and requires access for emergency vehicles, but can be granted as long as 'reasonable notice is given.' Broxbourne councillor Paul Mason said: 'The red tape process was quite long, so we were asked to intervene under powers that we had. It was a definite "yes." We reacted within hours.' Trott's father Adrian said he was very happy with the way things had gone and that preparations were now under way for the party. 'Everything is complete now and we are ready to roll,' he said. Mason also said the council was reviewing options for a fitting tribute to the athlete, which include building a cycle bridge over the railway or renaming either a street or the leisure centre she used to use. 'Laura is a tremendous role model and has done an absolutely fantastic job,' he said.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, here's something appropriately glacial and Germanic.

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