Friday, May 13, 2016

No Future?

The BBC must put 'distinctive content' - whatever the Hell that deliberate exercise in obfuscation actually means - at 'the heart of its output,' the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale has said. This is part of what was described as 'a major overhaul' of how the BBC is run, which was unveiled by the government on Thursday. The licence fee will continue for at least eleven years and viewers will now need to pay it to use BBC iPlayer. The vile and odious rascal Whittingdale made clear that he was 'emphatically not saying the BBC should not be popular.' The lack of culture secretary was referring to earlier, widespread media speculation - mostly in newspapers which hate the BBC and all it stands for with a sick agenda a mile thick - that the corporation would not be allowed to schedule popular programmes against rivals. Other, possibly inaccurate, reports had claimed that the BBC would be required to scale back its online services, including losing recipe pages and magazine content. The BBC said that it was 'reviewing' its online services but that such claims were 'speculation.' 'Commissioning editors should ask consistently of new programming: "Is this idea sufficiently innovative and high quality?" rather than simply "How will it do in the ratings?"' the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale told the House of Commons. Because, of course, he's such an expert in making TV programmes, isn't he? The vile and odious rascal Whittingdale also said that the BBC will be 'required' to give 'greater focus to under-served audiences, in particular those from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds, and those in the nations and regions.' Because, again, the Tories are huge fans of those particular demographics. 'We want the BBC to be the leading broadcaster in promoting diversity,' he said. Thus, at least Lenny Henry - last funny, briefly, in 1983 - will be kept happy. Which is clearly a massive relief for everyone. 'The BBC is a world-class broadcaster and one of our country's greatest institutions,' an alleged 'government source' allegedly told the Independent. 'Our plans will mean that the BBC will keep making the great programmes we love and will continue to thrive in the future.' Maria Eagle, the shadow lack of culture secretary, said that the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale's views were 'totally out of step with the licence fee-payers who value and support the BBC.' The White Paper states that the Trust governing the BBC is to be very abolished and that a replacement board will be set up to run day-to-day matters, while Ofcom - a politically appointed quango, elected by no-one - will become the corporation's external regulator. The licence fee, which has been frozen at £145.50 since 2010, will now rise with inflation from next year. Measures announced include a new mission statement for the BBC: 'To act in the public interest, serving all audiences with impartial, high-quality, and distinctive media content and services that inform, educate and entertain.' The BBC will have the ability to appoint the majority of its new board, independent of government. Editorial decisions will be explicitly the responsibility of the Director General but Ofcom will be given the power to regulate all BBC services. The salaries of all BBC employees and freelancers who earn more than four hundred and fifty grand will be published. The vile and odious rascal Whittingdale claimed that the White Paper gives the BBC 'more freedom' to manage its budgets in an era when the traditional licence becomes 'less sustainable' in the Internet-age. 'The government therefore welcomes the BBC's intention to explore whether additional revenue could be raised at home and abroad from additional subscription services sitting alongside the core universal fee,' he said. 'We would also like to see BBC content become portable, so that licence fee payers have access when travelling abroad.' Responding to the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale's statement, Eagle said: 'We know the secretary of state is extremely hostile to the BBC. He wants it diminished in size. His views are totally out of step with the licence fee-payers who value and support the BBC.' Eagle said she did not agree that [the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale's] 'obsession with distinctiveness' should be imported into the BBC's mission statement.
Conservative attitudes to the BBC vary widely - from those, including the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale, who believe in the primacy of markets and dislike the BBC because it is not subject to market mechanisms and is funded by a licence fee he once described as 'worse than a poll tax,' to those more pragmatic centrist One Nation Tories who see an organisation that produces very popular programmes, enjoys wide support from viewers and listeners (including many traditional Tory voters), brings the nation together and is widely admired abroad and think if it ain't broke, it is a bad idea to try to fix it. The BBC's current Royal Charter - the agreement which sets the broadcaster's rules and purpose - expires at the end of December and a public consultation into its future was launched last year. The White Paper will be debated by MPs in the autumn before the new Charter is drafted and signed for the next eleven years. Responding to the White Paper, Director General Tony Hall said that it 'delivers a mandate for the strong, creative BBC the public believe in. A BBC that will be good for the creative industries - and most importantly of all, for Britain. There has been a big debate about the future of the BBC. Searching questions have been asked about its role and its place in the UK. That's right and healthy, and I welcome that debate. At the end, we have an eleven-year charter, a licence fee guaranteed for eleven years and an endorsement of the scale and scope of what the BBC does today.' But then, he would say that, wouldn't he? The focus on eleven years does, rather, suggest that Hall's attitude is 'my watch will be okay, in eleven years time it'll be someone else's problem.' But, he added there were 'some areas' where the BBC will continue to talk to the government to address 'remaining issues,' including allowing the National Audit Office to be the BBC's auditor and how the new board is to be appointed. He said: 'We have an honest disagreement with the government on this. I do not believe that the appointments proposals for the new unitary board are yet right.' The vile and odious rascal Whittingdale, speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, had said that media reports ahead of the publication of the White Paper had ranged from 'complete fantasy' to 'quite well-informed,' adding: 'But certainly not informed by me or my department.' One or two people even believed him. An alleged 'government source' had allegedly told The Sunday Times the White Paper was 'intended to set a broad set of principles and guidelines. How that is applied to individual programmes and scheduling is a matter for them. But they will be subject to external regulation.' The Gruniad Morning Star had claimed the licence fee would be subjected to 'top-slicing,' with a portion of it being handed to commercial rivals in areas such as children's programming. That, seemingly, was incorrect, so one has to wonder who, exactly, told the Gruniad this and why they did so. Indeed, there is much speculation currently doing the rounds in the industry that the majority of the truly horrific scare stories which had been appearing in newspapers such as the Daily Scum Mail, the Torygraph and, especially, the Gruniad over the last few weeks, based on suspiciously anonymous alleged 'quotes' by alleged 'sources' have, in fact, been deliberately placed by those close to the government to create the impression of an oncoming apocalypse for the Beeb. So that, when the actual announcement of the White Paper's contents came, the general consensus was 'oh, it's not as bad as we feared it might be. Could've been a lot worse.' The Independent even produced claims of 'a government climb down' over 'contentious' plans. Several newspapers, for example, had speculated that the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale would, in a bid to 'increase transparency', make the BBC publish how much it pays top talent earning more than one hundred and fifty thousand smackers. In the event, that was three times smaller than the actual pay figure announced. It is believed this - extremely small - group of individuals could include Top Gear host and radio DJ Chris Evans, Match Of The Day presenter Gary Lineker and chat-show host Graham Norton. At Sunday night's TV BAFTA awards, Wolf Hall director Peter Kosminsky was one of a number of media figures who spoke out bitterly against alleged government plans. He claimed that ministers were trying to 'eviscerate' the BBC and that now was 'a dangerous time for broadcasting in Britain.' Meanwhile, in a speech at the British Museum, the Prime Minister David Cameron said that the broadcaster was one of 'the most recognised brands on the planet,' whilst the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Lester of Herne Hill warned 'a public protest march' would follow any 'stupid' decisions in regards to the BBC's future. The White Paper had also been expected to address the conclusions of Sir David Clementi's - government-sponsored - report into the BBC Trust, which recommended 'fundamental reform' of the body. The document follows 2015's Green Paper, which was a consultation paper about the future of the corporation. In that, the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale said there was 'a need to ask some hard questions in Charter review if we are to ensure the future success of the BBC and, indeed, UK broadcasting. I believe the BBC can continue to thrive. But to do that it will need to evolve,' he said at the time. But, the story behind the year-long negotiations, launched with a 'declaration of war' on the BBC splashed across the Torygraph when the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale was appointed to the post, was always far more complicated than a vile and odious right-wing minister overruled by his bosses. The White Paper is the result of the government, as many governments of different political persuasions have in the past, attempting to exert more control over the nation's ninety three-year-old broadcaster only to find that fewer people than they expected were on their side. Concerns about what the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale was up to mounted among backbenchers. Up to twenty Tory MPs reportedly threatened a rebellion if BBC's independence was attacked. A day before the White Paper, respected Tories such as Jesse Norman, chair of the media select committee and Damian Green raised questions in the House about the likely impact on the BBC's editorial independence that left the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale squirming and assuring the House that he had no intention of telling the BBC where it had to schedule Strictly.

Following the announcement, the BBC's media correspondent David Silitoe reported, with regard to the publishing of top salaries, 'there is a concern it would make it easier for rival broadcasters to poach stars or that the scrutiny might put some stars off from working for the BBC.' However, what was most interesting, he added, were 'the things that aren't appearing' in the White Paper: 'No sign yet of "top slicing" – giving money away to other rival broadcasters. No mention of meddling in the schedules – telling the BBC when it can or can't put Strictly Come Dancing on a Saturday night.' It was also reported - by the BBC News website, no less - that alleged 'government sources' had allegedly suggested Cameron and George Osborne had been 'heavily involved' in the final draft of the White Paper. That they had 'basically reined in the culture department,' according to Newsnight's political editor Nicholas Watt. '[The government] has decided it doesn't want another row – it's got the junior doctors on its back, it's got the teachers on its back,' he said. 'And, the crucial thing they want to be able to say tomorrow is, "Yes we are protecting the BBC's historic independence."' The Spectator editor Fraser Nelson also speculated that Cameron was, personally, 'quite happy' with the BBC and 'baffled' by some of his more right-wing colleagues who 'loathe it' and everything it stands for. In a piece for the Toryraph, the columnist added that 'Cameron can't be bothered to take on the BBC' and suggested 'the hardest questions that the BBC needs to address will be left for another time.' It had been feared that the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale would only allow the BBC to appoint three of the thirteen-member board. Those plans were allegedly scrapped after Tory backbenchers warned of a revolt 'over attempts to stuff it with government acolytes,' according to Sky News. Another alleged 'government insider' allegedly quoted in the Gruniad allegedly said: 'The aim is for this to land somewhere in the middle. Fundamentalists will say this is a terrible assault on the BBC. The right-wing of the Tory party will say it doesn't go far enough. We will continue to make the case to government. It is vital for the future of the BBC that its independence is fully preserved.'

For an exercise billed as a far-reaching reform, what's most striking about the White Paper - at first glance, anyway - is how little should change fundamentally. At least in the short term. The licence fee remains, indexed to inflation rather than frozen as it has been for the past five years. It will still be a criminal offence not to pay it and this will be extended to cover the growing numbers of people who watch the BBC's iPlayer catch-up service rather than live or recorded television broadcasts, though it is not yet clear exactly how that will be policed. The proposal to abolish the BBC Trust and make Ofcom the corporation's regulator is, largely, uncontroversial despite this blogger's very low opinion of that particular politically appointed quango, elected by no-one. But where the BBC and the lack of culture secretary are still very much at odds is over the appointment by government of 'some' members of the new BBC board. The corporation believes this represents a potential threat to its cherished independence and the Director General said that the government and the BBC have 'an honest difference' on the matter. The BBC's critics, particularly its snitchy commercial rivals will probably be rather disappointed by the White Paper; they may have had hoped for more stringent measures to curb the corporation's ability to compete, especially online. The shadow lack of culture secretary claimed that most of what she called the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale's 'wilder proposals' had been 'watered down' or 'dumped' and that he had been 'overruled' by the Prime Minister and Chancellor. If that speculation is true and he was - which is perfectly possible - that was, perhaps, to avoid a political row which might divide Conservatives in the run up to the EU referendum. But the BBC will be given a new mission statement, not just to 'inform, educate and entertain' as it has done for ninety years, but to do so in a way that is 'impartial, high-quality and distinctive.' And, that brings us back to who, exactly, decides what is 'distinctive' and what isn't. The debate about balancing the BBC's need to be popular - after all, everyone pays for it through the licence fee, so everyone should, in theory, be entitled to get something from it - and its need to be 'distinctive' - because licence-fee funding is a peculiar privilege the BBC must earn by showing it is different from commercial broadcasters - has been going on for decades. This White Paper does not resolve it, nor does it reframe that debate in significantly different terms. So, expect further, in depth, discussions on the subject of 'distinctiveness' over the coming months and years. Peter Kosminsky, for example, said that he was 'not reassured at all' by the government's proposals to radically overhaul BBC governance, saying they could mean the BBC 'drifts dangerously close to becoming a state broadcaster.' The award-winning director told the Gruniad that plans for the government to appoint members of the new unitary board were 'an anathema' and represented 'a direct attack' on the corporation's editorial independence. 'Once we start to have that number of people on the editorial board put there by the government you can kiss goodbye to the BBC's reputation for independence.' To be frank, this blogger is with Kosminsky on that particular score. And, on several others. Some people seem to think that the BBC have, effectively, dodged a bullet with this Charter review. In an interview with Tony Hall, Laura Kuenssberg specifically asked whether Hall felt the Beeb had 'got away with it' on this occasion. Hall denied this but, personally, this blogger is nowhere near so sure. I think, in the small print and the double-speak about 'distinctiveness' we might, just, have seen the BBC's last remaining strands of its Reithian remit severed to within an inch of snapping. And, it seems Keith Telly Topping is not alone in this belief; Robert Peston, for instance, appears to be in broad agreement expression particular concern about the future role of the NAO in BBC policy. It might be a slow, lingering death of a thousand cuts with some fight in it but, come the next date for a Charter renewal, 2027, yer actual Keith Telly Topping wonders whether there will be anything left of his beloved BBC to renew.

Still, at least, the entire saga has kept the Gruniad Morning Star in a non-stop round of articles, op-ed pieces and commentary for the last week couple of weeks, all full of their usual mixture of fence-squatting, organising hard-hitting quiche mornings where Middle Class hippy Communists can whinge about things to their heart's content without having to actually do anything about it, employing full-of-his-own-importance Stewart Lee to talk shit for money and, you know, wilful speculation based - seemingly - on leaks by people with an agenda to mess with their heads. So, no change there, then. See for instance, this one. And this one. And this one. And this one. And this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this and this. Quite a collection, dear blog reader, I'm sure you'll agree. They mustn't have had any real news to report, clearly.

David Cameron has said he will ask the lack of culture secretary to 'investigate' an ITV drama based on the murder of a mother by her husband which has been made without her family's permission. So, it's nice to see the Tories' equal opportunity interference in matters of artistic concern that are absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with them. God save us all from politicians who want to be TV critics. The Secret, starring yer actual James Nesbitt, recounts the story of Bradford's mother, who was initially thought to have committed suicide in 1991 before it was discovered in 2009 that she had, in fact, been murdered by her husband and his lover. Haigh said that she had contacted ITV and regulator Ofcom, but 'as far as I can see no rules have been broken. I don't think anyone in this house can imagine the pain and suffering they have had to endure,' she said. 'They are having to relive this pain because ITV are dramatising the whole ordeal completely against their wishes, using not only the real names of her family but also her own. Does the Prime Minister not agree victims should have a far greater role in any accounting of their story?' Oily Cameron said that he 'remembered occasions' from his own time in the TV industry when 'decisions are made that can cause a huge amount of hurt and upset to families' and said he would ask the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale 'what could be done' about Bradford's case and any 'future instances.' Writing in the Grniad Morning Star earlier this month, Bradford described the 'additional trauma' created by the dramatisation: 'Behind the high viewing figures, whether for fiction or the coverage of real crimes, there are people living with murder-bereavement on a daily basis. And an intrusive media experience can often compound this original trauma. If deemed "a good enough story," private grief becomes public property.' An ITV spokeswoman said: 'ITV has a proud record of broadcasting award-winning factual dramas, based on or representing real events and people. The scripts for The Secret were based on an exhaustively researched book by a highly respected journalist as well as extensive additional research and the documented court cases, which have been widely reported in the media. The programme makers informed the families of the production and gave them the opportunity to see the series prior to broadcast. We have never suggested that they approved or authorised the drama. We do believe that we have conducted the making and broadcast of this series responsibly, in seeking to minimise distress to family members, in so far as we were able to do so, given the subject matter.'

The 'campaign group' Thirty Eight degrees has taken down a whinging petition calling for BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg to be sacked for daring to suggest that Labour didn't have a very good time of it in the local elections last week (which, as it happens, they didn't), saying it had become 'a focal point for misogynist abuse.' The majority of those signing and supporting the petition whinged about what they saw as 'biased reporting' of the Labour party and its leader, Jezza Corbyn, by Kuenssberg. However, some supporters on social media used abusive and sexist language in calling for the BBC's first female political editor to go. Which, incidentally, she's not going to or anything even remotely like it so, as usual, the whole point of online petitions has t be called into question. Thirty Eight Degrees executive director David Babbs said that the petition had been taken down 'with the agreement of the person who had posted it.' He said: 'I am really concerned that a petition hosted on the Thirty Eight Degrees website has been hijacked and used as a focal point for sexist and hateful abuse made towards Laura Kuenssberg on Twitter. That is totally unacceptable and, with the agreement of the petition starter, we've taken the petition down to prevent it being used in this way. There is no place in the Thirty Eight Degrees family for sexism or any form of discrimination or hate speech.' Prior to the petition being taken down, former Independent On Sunday political editor Jane Merrick told the Gruniad that Kuenssberg had faced 'an extra layer' of sexist criticism. 'She has been called "a whore" and "a bitch" on Twitter,' said Merrick. 'Nick Robinson used to be accused of Tory bias but he never experienced this level of nastiness. Of course, not all Corbyn supporters are sexist – far from it – but there is a core of hard-left misogyny that comes out against women when Corbyn is under pressure – such as the abuse against Stella Creasy and Jess Phillips. Jeremy Corbyn said back in September he wanted "a kinder politics" so he should condemn these vile attacks against a respected and experienced journalist.' The original poster of the petition had also tried to distance himself from those using it to make misogynistic attacks, writing in an update that he 'would like to reassure everyone that I am a passionate advocate for equality in all areas, not just gender equality.' Equality in all areas except having a view of the world that is different from his own it would seem. He added: 'This petition has precisely zero to do with Kuenssberg's gender. Regardless of the gender you identify with, there is no excuse for biased reporting and misrepresentation of facts when you represent an organisation that has been famed for its impartiality and balanced approach.'

The 'pathetic' protest against Sadiq Khan by Britain First's Paul Golding has been granted the honour of being so risible it had the piss taken out of it by Mad Frankie Boyle on a rather fine episode of Have I Got News For You on Friday. Mad Frankie, making his first appearance on the BBC in quite a while, said: 'There was quite a sad moment where Paul Golding, who's the head of Britain First, turned his back on Sadiq Khan during his acceptance speech. I thought it'd be good if he'd accidentally turned to face Mecca!'
Comedy line of the episode - and, indeed, the week - however, came from the always-reliable Ian Hislop on the subject of David Cameron calling the Nigerian government corrupt: 'What [the Nigerian President] demanded, he said "I don't want an apology, I'd like some of the money back." Because, most of the Nigerian money flows into Britain through British colonies and ends up in houses in London, schools, cars, dealerships and he's saying "if you could stop our Kleptocrats spending all the money in your tax havens, then perhaps that would be a start." And, at that point, Cameron remembered mum and dad ... and probably went a bit quiet.'
'This is the news that David Cameron and the Queen have been filmed making indiscreet comments about foreigners. This all came despite the fact that we're always being told the Royal Family are great for tourism and business,' added yer man Mad Frankie. 'Perhaps, if we had a country worth visiting we wouldn't have to parade the products of centuries of incest around to try and sell fridge magnets.'
Former Top Gear presenters Jezza Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May's new show on Amazon's streaming video service will be called The Grand Tour. Unveiling the name this week, yer man Clarkson suggested the new show would see them 'hosting each episode in a different country.' The trio, who will front three series on Amazon Prime, said that name suggestions from fans had been 'much appreciated.' Meanwhile, the BBC revealed the new Top Gear series, fronted by Chris Evans, Matt LeBlanc and some other people, will debut on 29 May. The BBC2 show announced its return on Twitter, shortly after The Grand Tour was introduced. The Grand Tour will launch this autumn and will be available to watch exclusively by Amazon Prime members. The 'round-the-world' format will allow customers of different nations to be in the audience as tickets are to be released through prize draws this summer. The name befits the presenters' wish to make a new show noticeably different from what they had presented before, which was mainly studio-based with pre-recorded segments and big set-pieces. Top Gear's long-time producer Andy Wilman also left the BBC last year to join the presenters on the Amazon show. In a tongue-in-cheek statement, Clarkson said: 'We'll be travelling the world hosting each episode in a different country. It's sort of a 'grand tour', if you like. So we've decided to call it The Grand Tour.' In response, Cap'n Slowly remarked that he was 'underwhelmed' by the name and had 'wanted to call it Nigel, or Roger. We needed a name and they're names,' he said. Hammond, by contrast, was more positive, saying: 'I already love camping, but this is something else. We are like our pioneering and prospecting forebears, sallying forth into a new frontier of broadcasting.'
Last Friday saw Chris Evans on the front of both the leading red-tops, as their row continued about whether BBC [is] too scared to stop bully Evans (the Sun) or Chris Evans isn't a bully ... He's a victim of a vile hate campaign (the Daily Mirra). Less keen on the story was the Daily Scum Mail, surprisingly given that it joined fully in the fun over the not-dissimilar predicament of Jezza Clarkson back in the day and is generally keen on anything offering a chance not only to trash egocentric, allegedly out-of-control celebrities with more money than them but, also, to bash the BBC. On the same day, however, it relegated the hullabaloo about Evans (BBC must act on 'vile, bullying' Chris Evans ... says his old friend) to page fifteen, making clear that it was, only reluctantly, following up distasteful red-top fodder by coyly crediting the piece to a - nameless - 'Daily Mail Reporter.' But then, the Scum Mail is awkwardly placed, since Evans is the car reviewer of its Sunday sister paper – indeed it was his Mail On Sunday credentials as much as his broadcasting experience that, it is claimed, put him in, ahem, pole position to be the new Clarkson.
The BBC's Tokyo correspondent, Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, has been expelled from North Korea, three days after he was detained in the capital, for showing disrespect, 'distorting facts and realities' and 'speaking ill' of its leader, Kim Jong-un. So, it's nice to see what it's not just in its own back yard that the BBC is abused by knobcheese dictators. Wingfield-Hayes was detained in Pyongyang on Friday of last week along with producer Maria Byrne and cameraman Matthew Goddard as they were about to leave North Korea, according to the BBC News website. Wingfield-Hayes was not among the dozens of foreign media organisations covering the Workers party's first congress in thirty six years; he had covered an earlier trip of Nobel laureates and had been scheduled to leave North Korea on Friday. China's official Xinhua news agency, which has a bureau in Pyongyang, said that the North's National Peace Committee had held a press conference on Monday saying Wingfield-Hayes had been expelled for 'attacking the DPRK system and non-objective reporting.' O Ryong-il, secretary-general of the committee - who is, obviously, not mental or anything - said the journalist's news coverage 'distorted facts' and 'spoke ill of the system and the leadership of the country.' He added that Wingfield-Hayes wrote an apology, was being expelled on Monday and would not be readmitted into the country. The broadcaster reportedly decided not to report the detention until it became apparent that Wingfield-Hayes and his colleagues would be expelled. The three BBC staff arrived in Beijing after their government minders brought them to Pyongyang airport. BBC reports said that Wingfield-Hayes was questioned for eight hours by North Korean officials and was 'made' to sign the apologetic statement. Reports said that North Korean officials were 'unhappy' about Wingfield-Hayes' coverage of a visit to a children's hospital in Pyongyang along with Nobel prize laureates. In the report, which was broadcast on BBC News last week, Wingfield-Hayes said that the patients at the hospital looked 'remarkably well and there isn't a real doctor in sight.' He added: 'Everything we see looks like a set-up.' Another BBC correspondent in Pyongyang, John Sudworth, said in a broadcast report that there was 'disagreement, a concern over the content of Rupert's reporting,' including questioning the authenticity of the hospital. 'When he reached the airport on Friday, he was separated from the rest of his team, prevented from boarding that flight, taken to a hotel and interrogated by the security bureau here in Pyongyang before being made to sign a statement and then released, eventually allowed to rejoin us here in this hotel,' Sudworth said. 'They were certainly very shaken,' he said, adding that Wingfield-Hayes had 'suddenly' found himself 'under a huge amount of pressure.' In another report, Wingfield-Hayes, who reported from Russia and China before moving to Japan, said of Kim Jong-un: 'What exactly he's done to deserve the title marshal is hard to say. On state TV, the young ruler seems to spend a lot of time sitting in a large chair watching artillery firing at mountainsides.' He didn't say, however, that Kim Jong-un has a very small penis (probably) which might help to explain all those missiles he keeps launching. Compensation, clearly. CNN's Tokyo-based correspondent Will Ripley, who is also in Pyongyang, said that references to Kim, who has ruled the state since late 2011, 'carried risks' for international journalists. 'Obviously, this is a very sensitive issue for all journalists who come into North Korea to report and the North Koreans take very seriously any comments made about their leader,' Ripley told CNN. The BBC's Stephen Evans, who is still in Pyongyang, said the North Korean leadership was 'displeased' with the broadcaster's depictions of life in the country's capital, during which foreign reporters are 'constantly supervised' by government-appointed interpreters. In his first report, Wingfield-Hayes said he was 'hoping for any chance to see North Korea "off script."' He added that on a previous visit to Pyongyang, 'I tried to sneak out to see a bit of Pyongyang street life ... a soldier jumped out of the bushes and ordered me to turn around.' 'We are very disappointed that our reporter Rupert Wingfield-Hayes and his team have been deported from North Korea after the government took offence at material he had filed,' the BBC said in a statement. 'Four BBC staff, who were invited to cover the Workers' Party Congress, remain in North Korea and we expect them to be allowed to continue their reporting.' And, interestingly, the British government said nothing about one of their citizens being detained by a foreign power for doing his job. Nah-thing. Odd that.

Robert Peston's new politics show on ITV attracted just one hundred and sixty six thousand overnight viewers on Sunday morning, a tenth of the 1.6 million punters who watched The Andrew Marr Show on BBC1. A guest line-up including the chancellor, George Osborne, and broadcaster Louis Theroux did not keep viewers indoors on the hottest day of the year. The programme was scheduled to start immediately after its BBC rival, from 10am, during which it also performed worse than BBC1's than Big Questions, which attracted more than seven hundred thousand viewers for an hour-long special on the legacy of the British Empire. The chance to front his own show was one of the deciding factors in Pestinfestation's move from BBC business editor to become ITV's new political editor last year. Reviewers have welcomed a more relaxed approach than its BBC rival, with guests including Osborne appearing without ties and comments Peston on how nervous he was on the show's debut. The programme has also made audience participation central to its attempts to distinguish itself from Marr, with tweets displayed on a TV called Screeny McScreenface in reference to the wholly media-created 'controversy' over the naming of the UK's new research vessel. As Mark Lawson wrote in the Gruniad on Sunday: 'Despite showing promising signs, amid inevitable first-morning nerves, of being lively and likeable, Peston On Sunday risks winning the energy medal but losing the ratings war to the tie-knotted, old technology Marr.' A repeat of Murder She Wrote, which was broadcast from 10.25am to 11.20am in the same slot the previous week was seen by three hundred and thirteen thousand people, nearly double Peston's audience. ITV 'sources' suggested that the heatwave which struck the country had led to many people abandoning the television to head outside, but a repeat of The Jeremy Kyle Show, which immediately followed Peston On Sunday, was watched by two hundred and eleven thousand viewers.

Meanwhile, the political sketch writer Quentin Letts has grovellingly apologised for an article he wrote mocking the disability of Andrew Marr. In a Daily Scum Mail review of Peston On Sunday, Letts described Marr as 'Captain-Hop-Along, growling away on BBC1, throwing his arm about like a tipsy conductor.' Marr, of course, had a stroke in January 2013. Letts tweeted his apology after an article from media commentator Roy Greenslade appeared in the Gruniad Morning Star. Greenslade said in his article, called It Isn't Funny Or Smart For Quentin Letts To Poke Fun At Andrew Marr: 'I don't want to come off all namby-pamby.' (Bit late for that, Roy, mate. You work for the Gruniad, namby-pamby kind of goes with the territory.) 'I understand that no-one should be beyond criticism and that Letts was exercising his right to press freedom. But really Quentin, that was a graceless remark.' He then called for Letts to apologise. Letts admitted his comments about 'the admirable Marr' were 'horrid.' His tweet of apology was met with comments below it, calling him 'utterly disgraceful' and 'appalling.' The Daily Scum Mail article appeared in both the print copy of the newspaper and its online version. Marr's wife, the journalist Jackie Ashley, tweeted about Letts' article, criticising the message it sent out to disabled people. The Stroke Association said: 'A stroke is not a joke. Stroke survivors deserve our respect and support and Andrew Marr deserves an apology,' before encouraging people make complaints to the Independent Press Standards Organisation. In a statement to the BBC, the Independent Press Standards Organisation said: 'we have received a total of eleven complaints about the article. All of the complaints are under Clause twelve (Discrimination), with one or two also citing Clause one (Accuracy) or Clause four (Intrusion into grief or shock). It is IPSO policy not to comment on the identity of individual complainants, so I am unable to confirm the names of anyone who has contacted us on this article.'

A series of letters have been published revealing glimpses into the early life of Sir David Attenborough. The broadcaster, who recently turned ninety, lived on the campus of the former University College Leicester with his family, during the 1940s. The letters written by his father, the college's principal, speak of his son's ambitions and show how David's father withheld consent for David joining the Home Guard. The University of Leicester have shared the documents for the first time. The letter includes the line: 'My second son, David, hopes to be a geologist.' Doctor Simon Dixon from the university's special collections department said: 'We don't know very much about David and Richard back then as no-one knew what they would go on to do. But what's nice about these letters is they tell you about David's ambitions and interest in geology and the way his father supported his career, trying to find opportunities for him.' In one letter sent to Professor Henry Swinnerton of University College, Nottingham, in 1944, Frederick Attenborough speaks of David's love of botany and zoology. Another of Frederick Attenborough's letters reveals how he withheld consent for his son to enrol in the AA Battery of the Home Guard during World War Two. He said: 'He is to take the Higher Schools Certificate Examination shortly and his future plans are uncertain.' Sir David and his brother, the actor and film director Richard, used the campus as their playground and stories abound about what they go up to. Doctor Dixon said that Richard once locked his younger brother in a padded cell of a former Victorian asylum which was on the campus and there is also a story about Sir David selling newts to the zoology department for three pence each.
Charles Gurassa, the new chairman of Channel Four, said that continued uncertainty about its future was 'not helpful,' in comments that could be regarded as critical of the government's handling of the state-owned broadcaster's possible privatisation. And, indeed, are. Addressing his first press conference to launch the channel's annual report this week, Gurassa urged the government to 'make up its mind' after further leaks on Tuesday suggested that 'partial' privatisation was 'still on the cards' as well as a move outside London. 'From a Channel Four perspective what is not helpful is prolonged uncertainty,' he said, adding news that the government was considering privatisation of the commercially funded broadcaster first emerged as long ago as last autumn. 'Prolonged uncertainty is not good for any organisation, it's not good for staff, business partners or advertisers who are all asking the same questions you're asking, what is going to happen. My encouragement to government is you have the information, we will happily engage on any options that you will consider, but it will be good to get to a position where we can move on and be clear,' he said. He refused to discuss the merits of a partial privatisation as the government had not even spoken of these plans. 'The government is said to be looking at various options ... we don't really know what it means.' Appointed earlier this year, Gurassa's previous involvement in privatisations had led to speculation that he may have been brought in specifically to sell off the channel. However, in answer to questions, he offered support for the broadcaster's existing structure, which he described as 'a very good model.' He described Channel Four as 'a brilliant organisation for attracting private capital.' Speaking about mooted plans to sell off the broadcaster's landmark headquarters in Central London, he pointed out that with two hundred and fifty million knicker in reserves the group's finances were 'in good shape.' The Channel Four chief executive, David Abraham, 'declined to comment' on reports that the broadcaster 'could' be made to 'move North,' saying that it had already expanded its operations in Manchester and Glasgow. Channel Four is to present new investment plans before the end of this year.

In an interview with the Dallas Morning News, the actor Harry Goaz has revealed that yer actual David Bowie was set to appear in Showtime's star-studded Twin Peaks revival before his death earlier this year. The Grand Dame her very self previously appeared in a memorable cameo in the 1992 spin-off film the fantastically weird Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me as Agent Phillip Jeffries and would have reprised that role in the 2017 reboot. Other notable musicians in the cast of the revival include Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor (a close friend of The Late Bowmeister), Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder and Sky Ferreira.
Castle, The Muppets and Nashville are among the shows that have been cancelled in a cull by US TV networks. The cancellation of Castle after eight seasons follows a right old load of shenanigans and malarkey over the departure of one of the main cast, Stana Katic amid weeks of bad press and - unconfirmed - reports of some cast members being signed for a potential ninth series and others, not. Anyway, now it's gone. Country music-themed soap Nashville will come to an end later this month after four seasons on ABC. The network also dropped The Muppets, the series set behind the scenes of Miss Piggy's TV talk show, after only one season 'due to poor ratings.' Other cancellations that have been announced include The Family, The Grinder and Bordertown. And, after much speculation, Marvel's Agent Carter, starring Hayley Atwell, has been dropped by ABC after two seasons. The drama gathered a devoted fan-following but did not achieve ratings success in the US. ABC also announced that it wouldn't be proceeding with a planned production of Marvel's Most Wanted - a spin-off to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. CBS announced the cancellation of CSI: Cyber, the network's last remaining CSI series. It is likely that further shows will be dropped by networks in the coming days, in an annual clean-up of schedules as networks make way for new shows. The five major US broadcast channels will pitch pilot episodes for up to one hundred new shows to advertisers later this month. Successful shows will then have full or part series commissioned, which will begin in the autumn. Unsuccessful ones ... won't. Castle told the story of mystery novelist Richard Castle played by Nathan Fillion, who begins working with the police after a copycat murder based on one of his novels is committed. Andrew W Marlowe, the show's creator, said: 'To the whole Castle family - our amazing cast, our remarkable crew, our imaginative writers and our wonderful fans, thank you for eight amazing years.' Hayden Panettiere and Connie Britton play two rival country singers in musical drama Nashville, the final episode of which will be shown in the US later this month. Creator Callie Khouri tweeted: 'With a heavy heart, I thank all our incredible fans for all of your love, huge thanks to the city of Nashville. See you on down the road.' Rob Lowe, who starred in The Grinder, said the show was 'unapologetically original, smart, funny and had a murderer's row of talent. The great news is, that film is forever. And I'm thrilled to have twenty two episodes that were as acclaimed as they were. Time well spent,' he added.

Hayley Atwell fans still reeling from the news that Agent Carter has been axed in this week's annual US TV bloodbath may take some comfort in knowing that she will be back on our screens very soon. While Peggy Carter is no more, Atwell will stay on ABC next TV season in a new drama Conviction, where she plays lawyer and former first daughter Hayes Morrison - and a new trailer has just been released. Hayes is trying to stay out of jail for cocaine possession and also not damage her mother's bid to be elected to the Senate and so accepts a job from the New York District Attorney Wayne Wallis (played by Eddie Cahill).​ Also starring are Shawn Ashmore as Sam Sullivan, Merrin Dungey as Maxine, Emily Kinney as Tess Thompson, Manny Montan as Franklin Rios and Daniel DiTomasso as Jackson Morrison.
One series that hasn't been cancelled is Supergirl which is officially coming back - but it will be moving from CBS to The CW. A network swap was announced on Thursday, meaning Supergirl will now be shown on the same channel as fellow DC Comics shows Arrow, The Flash and Legends Of Tomorrow. Talks between The CW and CBS had been on-going for several weeks, even going past CBS's planned Wednesday deadline for deciding on Supergirl's future. One stumbling block was a potential budget cut in moving to The CW, but producers are now slashing costs by shifting production from Los Angeles to Vancouver. Such a move will mean that Supergirl's production base will be in the same city where Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow all currently shoot. A connection between The Flash and Supergirl was already explored in a crossover episode earlier this series, when Barry Allen became temporarily trapped in Kara's alternate version of Earth. It remains to be seen on which night of the week Supergirl will take up on The CW's already-packed primetime line-up.
Don't be too sad about Michael Weatherly's impending NCIS departure, because he might be back some day. The long-time cast member is set to bow out of the popular CBS procedural drama next week, after playing Tony DiNozzo for thirteen highly-rated seasons. However, he's now telling Deadline that Tony's story 'may' not completely wrap up in next week's episode. 'I believe in the franchise of NCIS very much,' he stressed. 'I would absolutely be open to anything and everything, including things that no-one's even thought of yet.' Weatherly also teased that Cote de Pablo's popular character Ziva David will have a major impact on the episode, even if the actress herself does not appear. 'I think the audience will feel very strongly that she's in the episode in a way that might be a little Shakespearean but it's real, and I think it's going to be a very exciting time for fans of that relationship,' he said. 'Bring a box of whatever you need, bring a change of clothing. You might not be able to go to work the next day. I think it's more than [her being dead or alive after a terror attack], a lot more. I would almost say you're going to finish the episode and then go back and watch it again.' Weatherly is sticking with CBS for the upcoming pilot Bull, a legal drama in which he will play a fictional version of Doctor Phil McGraw.
Still Game is returning almost a decade since its last series. A new six-part series of the popular Scottish comedy written and starring Greg Hemphill and Ford Kiernan will be shown later this year on BBC1, with the original cast returning to their roles. It will be filmed over the summer at a purpose-built set in BBC Scotland's Dumbarton Studios. 'We're super happy to come back with the show - we had no idea how much it had been missed until we played the Hydro,' Kiernan told BBC News. 'Myself and Greg are really excited about getting the gang together again and we are putting our all in to make our fantastic audience feel like we've never been away.'

Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston is to star in a new ten-part science fiction series on Channel Four, called Electric Dreams: The World Of Philip K Dick, from Battlestar Galactica's Ronald D Moore. Cranston, recently seen on the big screen in Oscar-nominated Trumbo, will executive produce and star in the series based on the celebrated SF author's work. Each episode will be a stand-alone drama adapted and made contemporary by a team of British and American writers, 'both illustrating Philip K Dick's prophetic vision and celebrating the enduring appeal of his work.' Dick's novels have long been adapted for both TV and film, including Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which became Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, which was adapted as Total Recall with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Minority Report, which became the film of the same name directed by Steven Spielberg. Another, The Man in the High Castle, was recently adapted by Scott for US on-demand service, Amazon Prime. Cranston said: 'This is an electric dream come true. We are so thrilled to be able to explore and expand upon the evergreen themes found in the incredible work of this literary master.' Moore, who reimagined rotten 1970s SF series Battlestar Galactica to much acclaim - this blogger was a big fan of the remake - will write and executive produce the series along with Michael Dinner (Justified, Masters Of Sex) which will be made by Sony Pictures Television. 'As a long-time fan of Philip K Dick's work, it is a tremendous honour and thrill to be part of this series,' he said. 'His short stories are a treasure-trove of material for artists to draw from and I think this will be a very exciting project.' Channel Four chief creative officer, Jay Hunt, said: 'Philip K Dick's short stories have shaped iconic Hollywood films from Blade Runner to Minority Report. Electric Dreams: The World Of Philip K Dick will adapt and modernise his singular vision for a TV audience. We are thrilled to be partnering with the talented team at Sony Pictures Television on an anthology series that brings together global stars of the calibre of Bryan Cranston and Ronald D Moore.' Channel Four's SF series Humans, starring Katherine Parkinson, Gemma Chan and William Hurt, was the channel's biggest original drama hit for twenty years and will return for a second series later this year. Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror was another Channel Four SF hit, but it will not return to the station after it was bought up my Netflix, much to the broadcaster's chagrin. And, Brooker's delight since this will, presumably, make him loads of coin. Let's see if me makes any trademark cynical comments about that. Another of the new show's executive producers is Dick's daughter, Isa Dick Hackett, who also worked on The Man In The High Castle. 'I'm thrilled to be working with this exceptional team to bring my father's short stories to life,' she said. 'Often the source for big, high concept feature films, these short stories represent some of the most dazzling conceptual work of his career, and the fact that they will be adapted by such a diverse set of creative voices is truly an honour.'

A Japanese court has found an artist not guilty for displaying a kayak based on the shape of her own vagina. The judge ruled that Megumi Igarashi's brightly-coloured kayak sculpture did not 'immediately suggest female anatomy.' However, she was fined four hundred thousand yen after the judge ruled that she broke the law by sharing data from 3D scans of her genitalia, which 'could' be used to 'recreate the shape of a vagina.' Which is illegal, apparently. Who knew? Japan's strict obscenity laws prohibit public displays of genitalia. Igarashi, who goes by the alias Rokudenashiko, or 'good-for-nothing girl,' was very arrested in 2014 after the kayak sculpture was displayed at a sex shop in Tokyo. She was charged under obscenity laws for displaying the sculpture and for distributing the data behind it to those who donated money towards its creation. On Monday, a judge decided that the bright colours and decorations applied to the kayak 'sufficiently disguised' the origin of its shape. But the data, despite having no discernible shape, 'could' be used to faithfully recreate Igarashi's front-bottom using a 3D printer if one was of a mind to do such a thing and, therefore, was obscene, the judge said. Igarashi's fine was only about half the eight hundred thousand yen penalty sought by the prosecution. Igarashi was first arrested in 2014 but released after several days following a legal appeal and a petition signed by more than seventeen thousand people. But police rearrested her shortly afterwards, along with the owner of the sex shop which displayed the offending sculpture. The case has sparked a debate on the nature of censorship and Japan's obscenity laws. Japan has a large - and very - lucrative porn industry but bans the depiction of genitalia, leading adult film distributors to pixellate the offending anatomical areas in their productions.

Atomic oxygen has been detected on Mars by NASA and could lead to scientists learning more about its atmosphere and how other gases escape the red planet. Scientists found the atoms in the upper layers of Mars atmosphere using an instrument on board the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, according to a NASA press release. SOFIA, a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Centre, is a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a one hundred-inch diameter telescope. CNN said the SOFIA jet was able to fly up to forty five thousand feet, above the moisture in Earth's atmosphere that blocks infrared wavelength detection, helping make the discovery. 'Atomic oxygen in the Martian atmosphere is notoriously difficult to measure,' said Pamela Marcum, a SOFIA project scientist. 'To observe the far-infrared wavelengths needed to detect atomic oxygen, researchers must be above the majority of Earth's atmosphere and use highly sensitive instruments, in this case a spectrometer. SOFIA provides both capabilities.' The work on distinguishing oxygen from Earth from the Martian atmosphere was first written about in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics last year. 'For the first time, a far-infrared transition of the atomic oxygen line was detected in the atmosphere of Mars,' said the study. 'The lack of other means for monitoring the atomic oxygen in the Martian upper atmosphere makes future observations with the SOFIA observatory highly desirable.' NASA said that scientists used the German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies (and, yes, the acronym for that is, indeed 'GREAT') to make the recognition between oxygen from Earth and that found in the Martian atmosphere. 'Atomic oxygen affects how other gases escape Mars and therefore has a significant impact on the planet's atmosphere,' NASA said. 'Scientists detected only about half the amount of oxygen expected, which may be due to variations in the Martian atmosphere. Scientists will continue to use SOFIA to study these variations to help better understand the atmosphere of the red planet.'

Yer actual Stone Roses have released their first single in twenty one years, an upbeat psych-rock song called 'All For One'. The song's fluid guitar riff and optimistic lyrics pick up more or less exactly where the band left off in 1995. It debuted on Annie Mac's BBC Radio 1 show at 8pm on Thursday and was made available to buy and stream immediately after. The release ends years of speculation and is expected to herald a third CD by the influential Mancunian band. Hints about the song first appeared at the start of the week, when The Stone Roses' lemon logo appeared on billboards in and around Manchester. On Thursday afternoon, they announced the single's imminent arrival on Twitter, but gave no clues as to the name or style of the song. Band members had discussed new material ever since they reformed in 2011, but nothing has emerged until now. Speaking in 2011, singer Ian Brown said: 'It's not a trip down memory lane, not at all. We are doing new songs.' Last year, bassist Mani said that the band had 'been working on a few bits' and a new CD was coming in '2015 man, 2015!' And, in March 2016, Brown confirmed to the NME that the quartet were in the studio with Paul Epworth who had previously worked with Adele, Primal Scream, Florence & The Machine and Paul McCartney his very self. 'It's going like a dream,' he said. 'It sounds glorious.' Fans who had spotted The Stone Roses visiting Epworth's Church Studios in North London were previously told the band was 'rehearsing for upcoming shows' at T In The Park, Madison Square Garden and Manchester's Etihad Stadium. Supposedly named after a novel by Sarah Gainham (or, according to another legend, The Jam song 'English Rose'), the band were at the forefront of the so-called 'Madchester' indie scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s, which also spawned the likes of The Happy Mondays and The Charlatans. And Candy Flip but, to be fair, they can't be blamed for that. They scored hits with songs including 'Fools Gold', 'One Love', 'I Wanna Be Adored', 'She Bangs The Drums', 'I Am The Resurrection' and 'Love Spreads' - their biggest single, reaching number two in the UK charts in 1994. Their eponymous 1989 LP is - rightly - regarded as a seminal work, combining psychedelic pop and funky rhythms. The Byrds with James Brown's drummer, basically. God, it was good. Legal wranglings as they tried to part company with their original record label kept the band occupied until 1991, after which they took another three years to produce the follow-up, Second Coming, a harder, more dense and overproduced record - Led Zeppelin with James Brown's drummer - though it still had moments of genius. Drummer Reni quit in 1995, followed months later by guitarist John Squire. The band struggled on for another six months with former Simply Red guitarist Aziz Ibrahim and other session men before finally splitting up against a backdrop of internal arguments and legal cases. Frontman Brown went on to pursue a solo career while bassist Mani joined Primal Scream. Squire formed his own band The Seahorses, who were quite successful in the short-term, and has also forged a career as an artist. Their 2011 reunion was triggered by the death of Mani's mother, as well as a détente between Brown and Squire, but recording sessions seemed to have been fruitless - with the band presumably wary of tarnishing their legacy. Nonetheless, they became a bankable live act. Fans snapped up one hundred and fifty thousand tickets for their first two reunion shows in Manchester's Heaton Park in summer 2012 in just fourteen minutes.

What could be more American than chowing down on a nice juicy heart-attack burger? What if there was rat DNA in the mix? In a newly released Hamburger Report by Clear Labs, scientist say that human DNA, rat DNA and 'other discrepancies' were found in some of the burgers they tested. Clear Labs tested two hundred and fifty eight samples from seventy nine brands and twenty two retailers from retailers and fast food chains in Northern California. The sample was, they claim, 'representative of both national brands and brands on the West Coast.' Using next-generation genomic sequencing and 'other third party tests,' Clear Labs screened for authenticity, major, medium, and minor substitution, contamination, gluten, toxigenic fungi and toxic plants, other allergens and missing ingredients. 'We also examine products for nutrition content accuracy, such as calories, carbs, fat, and protein. All of our tests are run through a secondary analysis pipeline and scrubbed for statistical accuracy and error,' said Clear Labs. Of the two hundred and fifty eight samples, Clear Labs says that human DNA was found in one - allegedly 'vegetarian' - burger and rat DNA was found in one fast food burger, one vegetarian burger and one ground meat sample. While unpleasant, it's important to note that it is unlikely human DNA (or rat DNA for that matter) is harmful to consumer health. 'What many consumers don't know is that some amounts of human and rat DNA may fall within an acceptable regulatory range,' said the company, helpfully. Also detailed in the report was the problem with substitution and missing ingredients. 'Our tests revealed evidence of substitution in sixteen products, or 6.6 per cent of all samples. We found beef in five samples, chicken in four samples, turkey in three samples, pork in two samples, rye in two samples and sunchoke in one sample that were not supposed to contain these ingredients.' According to scientists, sunchoke, or also known as 'fartichoke' contains the carbohydrate inulin, which can cause 'serious gas and bloating.' 'Sensitivity to inulin varies from person to person, however our methodology does not reveal how much inulin is in a sample of sunchoke,' said the company. Clear Labs called the absence of ingredients 'an issue of food quality,' and an indication that a brand may have serious gaps in its supply chain. 'This report provides new insights into the burger product industry to give suppliers, manufacturers, and retailers a representative overview of the supply chain at large and provides insights based on an objective molecular analysis into how we can strengthen the good and improve the bad,' said the company.

Italy's highest court has ruled that the theft of a sausage and a piece of cheese by a homeless man in 2011 did not constitute a crime because he was 'in desperate need of nourishment.' The high court judges in the Court of Cassation found that Roman Ostriakov, a young homeless man who had bought a bag of breadsticks from a supermarket but had slipped a wurstel and some cheese into his pocket, had 'acted out of an immediate need' by stealing 'a minimal amount of food' and, therefore, had not committed a crime. The case - which drew comparisons to the story of Jean Valjean, the hero of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables - was hailed in some media reports as an act of humanity at a time when hundreds of Italians are being added to the roster of the country's 'hungry' every day, despite improvements in the economy. One columnist writing in La Stampa said that, for supreme court judges, the right to survive still trumped property rights, a fact that would be considered 'blasphemy in America.' But others commented that the case highlighted Italy's notoriously inefficient legal system, in which the theft of food valued at about €4.70 was the subject of a three-part trial – the first hearing, the appeal and the final supreme court ruling – to determine whether the defendant had in fact committed a crime. 'Yes, you read that right,' an opinion column in Corriere Della Sera said, 'in a country with a burden of €60bn in corruption per year, it took three degrees of proceedings to determine "this was not a crime."' Ostriakov, who was described as a homeless thirty-year-old from Ukraine, had been sentenced to six months in jail and a one hundred Euro fine by a lower court in Genoa, but that punishment was overturned. 'The supreme court has established a sacrosanct principle: a small theft because of hunger is in no way comparable to an act of delinquency, because the need to feed justifies the fact,' Carlo Rienzi, President of Codacons, an environmental and consumer rights group, told Il Mesaggero. 'In recent years the economic crisis has increased dramatically the number of citizens, especially the elderly, forced to steal in supermarkets to be able to make ends meet.' Rienzi said that in such cases the real offence was caused by the state because of its abandonment of the poor, which it turned into food thieves. The decision will likely please Italy's most vociferous champion of the homeless: Pope Francis. The Vatican announced this week that the Pope would be welcoming thousands of homeless people and others who live on the margins of society to Rome in November, which will mark the closing of the jubilee year of mercy. Recent studies found that one in four people in Italy risk poverty or social exclusion. Another report by Noi Italia, based on 2013 data, confirmed the scale of the economic devastation facing Italians following years of recession and economic stagnation.

Even celebrity vegans can't resist pizza every now and again, it would seem - no matter what the consequences may be. Early last year, the staff at New York's now-closed raw-food vegan restaurant Pure Food & Wine walked out of the job, claiming that owner Sarma Melngailis hadn't paid them, or even showed up to the restaurant, in weeks. When Melngailis did resurface, she claimed that during her time away she was 'spending one hundred per cent of every waking moment trying to find a solution' to her financial problems and that, with the help of outside investors, she was going to right the ship. But last August, the owner suddenly vanished again - this time, it seemed, for good. In fact, she had been missing ever since and the lawsuits were piling up in her absence. But this week, detectives in Sevierville, Tennessee, caught up with Melngailis and an accomplice, Anthony Strangis. Authorities say that they were able to track down Melngailis, who has also written several cookbooks, after she and Strangis ordered a Domino's pizza to the hotel where the couple was staying. A vegetarian pizza, one would hope. Now Melngailis is facing charges of grand larceny, criminal tax fraud, scheme to defraud and violation of labour laws. Strangis, meanwhile, faces similar charges.

Sheep privacy matters, too it would seem. At least that's what the West Midlands Police believe. The police force jokingly blurred the faces of a group of stolen sheep found in the back of a truck. In a blog post titled, Sheep rustling suspects behind baa-rs after police chase, the West Midlands Police described the incident, where a group of sheep discovered in the back of a Ford Galaxy was rescued and taken into police care. They chose to blur the sheep's faces. 'The identity of the lambs has been protected due to their age and vulnerability,' the photo caption reads. For anyone who didn't quite get it, they added a helpful '(It's a joke!)' A spokesperson from West Midlands Police explained that the blurred image was originally uploaded to social media by an officer. After receiving requests for the original they took the blurred version down while trying to contact the officer, but due to them being on annual leave they were unable to do so.
In an alleged case of a lacrosse team's bonding being taken to a bloody extreme, the alleged violence was not aimed at humans but at a small animal, possibly a guinea pig. At least ten members of a high school lacrosse team in Michigan have been questioned about the possible guinea pig slaying, Detroit's Fox 2 News reports. A few students purportedly painted their faces with the animal's blood. The Grosse Ile High School lacrosse players, one unnamed source snitched to Fox 2, killed the animal prior to a match. Whatever the Grosse Ile Red Devils were hoping to achieve, it failed, as the rival Dexter Dreadnaughts [sic] won thirteen to six. On Monday, 'an individual' approached the Grosse Ile School District with 'information that one or more members of the District's lacrosse team engaged in cruelty to an animal,' reads a statement from the superintendent, Joanne Lelekatch, which was reprinted by the Detroit-area news outlet Local 4 and, later, picked up by the Washington Post. 'Allegedly, some of the team members got together before a game and killed an animal,' Joseph Porcerelli, the chief of police for Grosse Ile Township, wrote in an e-mail to the Detroit Free Press. 'This incident is an open investigation.' The Grosse Ile Township's police department confirmed via phone to the Washington Post that there is 'an ongoing investigation' into the lacrosse team, but declined to comment further. If the animal was, indeed, a guinea pig or another vertebrate, it is protected from cruelty under Michigan law. According to the state's penal code, the 'owner, possessor, or person having the charge or custody of an animal shall not' beat the animal, nor 'negligently allow any animal, including one who is aged, diseased, maimed, hopelessly sick, disabled, or non-ambulatory to suffer unnecessary neglect, torture, or pain.' Last winter, a Michigan woman plead very guilty to animal cruelty charges after abandoning her pets, including a guinea pig that starved to death. Parents and students in the township told Local 4 that 'several, but not all,' of the lacrosse players were involved in 'a sacrifice' of the animal, going as far to claim that a few smeared their faces with its remains; one member of the Red Devils, according to the allegations, ingested the animal's blood. All further Red Devils lacrosse games have been suspended, said superintendent Lelekatch, pending the results of the police investigation. Grosse Ile local Michael Goddard told television station WJBK, 'If that's what happened, I think maybe more than suspension should happen. That's the serial killer kind of stuff.' It is not the first time high school athletes have been accused of animal sacrifice. In 2011, a pair of teenage baseball players in Texas were charged with animal cruelty after killing two baby chickens. Both were dismissed from the sports team.

A Scotsman who 'provoked outrage' after filming his girlfriend's dog responding to Nazi slogans has been very arrested by Lanarkshire police according to the Torygraph. Earlier this year Markus Meechan uploaded a video of the dog, a pug named Buddah, responding to the phrase 'gas the Jews,' raising its paw in an imitation Nazi salute when it heard the words 'Sieg Heil,' and viewing footage of Hitler giving a speech. In the Youtube clip, titled M8 Yer Dugs A Nazi, Meechan says: 'My girlfriend is always ranting and raving about how cute her dog is so I thought I would turn her into the least cute thing you could think of which is a Nazi.' When the video was first uploaded, Meechan denied being racist and insisted that he had made the video solely to 'annoy' his girlfriend, saying: 'I am so sorry to the Jewish community for any offence I have caused them. This was never my intention and I apologise.' However, a spokeswoman for the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities told the Daily Mirra: 'Antisemitism is not something that can in any degree be regarded as a joke. It is a form of racism which needs to be condemned just as we would any other form of racism, just as we would condemn Islamophobia or anti-African racism.' Ephraim Borowski, director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities added: 'To regard the meticulously planned and industrialised murder of six million people solely on the grounds of their ethnicity as a joke is outrageous and for someone who does so to claim not to be racist, beggars belief.' It has now emerged that Meechan was arrested on 28 April at his house in Coatbridge. He was subsequently released pending further investigations. What, exactly, he was charged with is not, at this time known. Detective Inspector David Cockburn of Lanarkshire CID said: 'This clip was shared online and has been viewed almost one million times. I would ask anyone who has had the misfortune to have viewed it to think about the pain and hurt the narrative has caused a minority of people in our community. The clip is deeply offensive and no reasonable person can possibly find the content acceptable in today's society. This arrest should serve as a warning to anyone posting such material online, or in any other capacity, that such views will not be tolerated.'

Politely holding a door open for a police officer has landed a Massachusetts man in jail. Authorities say that Kayvon Mavaddat was at the Natick Mall on Friday when he held the door for the leaving officer. That officer thought that Mavaddat's face looked familiar and so went to check his car's computer. The officer found there were three warrants out for Mavaddat's arrest - for heroin possession, shoplifting and driving with a suspended license. Unlucky, mate. Still, that's what being polite gets you. The officer immediately returned to the mall and arrested Mavaddat. The MetroWest Daily News reports that twenty eight-year-old Mavaddat was held without bail at his arraignment Monday when his probation officer told the judge he routinely skips court dates, court-ordered drug tests and fails to pay probation fees. Mavaddat's lawyer argued for release, saying he has a job now and can pay the fees.

On 7 May, Marcus Daniel Allen, twenty, from Gainesville, Georgia was 'found passed out drunk' by a family member whilst at home babysitting his three-year old son according to media reports. The toddler was seen to be 'moving lethargically' and 'smelling of alcohol,' the family member thus decided to contact the police. When the police arrived they discovered Allen had been drinking a fruity cocktail through a straw and when he had passed out drunk, his son took sips of the alcoholic beverage, leaving the child in an intoxicated state. Both father and son were taken to the hospital where it had been discovered that the three-year-old's blood-alcohol intoxication level was twice that of the legal driving limit for an adult, which is over 0.16 per cent and another sip of alcohol could have potentially killed the toddler. Reported by WXIA, Gainesville Police Deputy Chief Jay Parrish told the station. 'Had the child ingested more alcohol, it could have been fatal.' Whilst in hospital the father of the child, tried to make an escape through the car park but was apprehended by the police. Allen was subsequently arrested and charged with a felony count of child cruelty and because he is, himself, under the legal drinking age in America, he has also been charged with drinking whilst under the legal age limit. The three-year-old is said to be recovering with his mother.

Radiohead have scored their sixth number one CD with A Moon Shaped Pool. Hopefully, that might help to cheer the miserable buggers up.
Some really sad news to finish this bloggerisationisms update; Tony Cozier - the iconic commentator for the BBC's Test Match Special - has died at the age of seventy five. Tony's death was confirmed on Wednesday by his long-time employer, the BBC. Tony was a batsman and wicketkeeper in club cricket in Barbados prior to becoming one of the sport's leading voices. A familiar and respected broadcaster around the world, the Barbadian will be remembered for a career in TV, radio and journalism spanning almost sixty years. Winston Anthony Lloyd Cozier was born in Bridgetown in 1940, he made his Test Match Special debut in 1966 covering that year's West Indies tour to England. He also wrote many books on the sport. He would later work for both Sky Sports and Channel Nine in Australia throughout his fifty eight-year career. BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew said: 'Tony was the master of going between TV and radio ball-by-ball commentary. He's easily the best I've come across in twenty five years at being able to do both discipline.' The son of a prominent journalist, Jimmy, Cozier studied journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa and began commentating and writing on West Indian cricket in 1958. He played hockey as a goalkeeper for Barbados and cricket as an opening batsman and keeper for two Barbados clubs, Wanderers and Carlton. But he became a household name through his work with major media organisations throughout the world. He first came to England in 1963 on a shoestring and reported on a memorable summer of cricket, in which the West Indies defeated England. He once described this experience of another age of sports journalism. 'Frank Worrell was the captain. Sobers, Hall and Griffith were there. These were fellas who I played with in Barbados at club level so I knew them. A lot of them were my age. I virtually became part of the team.' Tony, though not a first-class cricketer, had opened the batting for the Wanderers which, in the 1960s, required considerable skill and courage. That experience always informed his commentary. In December 2011, he was awarded honorary life membership of the Marylebone Cricket Club for services to the game and the media centre at the Kensington Oval in Barbados is named after him. Aside from his on-air work, he also wrote an acclaimed history of the sport in his home country under the title The West Indies: Fifty Years Of Test Cricket. His is survived by Jillian, his wife of over fifty years, along with their son, Craig, and daughter, Natalie.

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